Fab 4 picks
As we head to the back half of the college football schedule — yes typing that sentence made me sad — we are going to enter Week 7 with answers.
Like the answer to this question: Can Gus Malzahn win consistently with a cement-footed quarterback? The answer is yes, but only if he has a 30-plus-carry bell cow who actually looks better in the NFL than he did in college. Otherwise, the answer is no.
Or has the first-year narratives of hot-shot coaching hires cooled the seat of some embattled coaches around college football? That's quite possible. In fact, there are several factors that play into the lack of hot seat buzz. First, it's only halfway. The struggles of Willie Taggart, Chip Kelly and Scott Frost to name a few certainly gives ADs some pause. So too might the perseverance that Kentucky showed Mark Stoops and the dividends that has cashed in Lexington. There's also the transfer concerns and the monetary buy-out dollars (Hi Gus). The bigger question for the guys on a hot seat at good to big-boy jobs like UNC, Louisville and maybe even a USC is will anyone kick the tires on Hugh Freeze when the changes start happening? Hmmmmmmmm. Mr. Freeze, are you ready for a return?
Or maybe, how in the name of Sweet Odin's Raven has Tua Tagovailoa has done all of that — remember 20 TD passes, 25 incompletions — with a sprained knee? Well, we have some answers.
Who are we kidding? Cold hard facts — well outside of Tuscaloosa because we know the Tide is going to do Tide things — are hard to come by when you are dealing with 18-to-22 year-old dudes trying to deliver in a billion-dollar BID-ness.
To the picks.
Hawaii-BYU over 56. Hey, what about Cole McDonald? Great question. The Hawaii quarterback who is second in the nation in passing even though he missed last week's game has been upgraded to probable Saturday against the Cougars. With McDonald and his 24-to-2 TD-to-INT ratio the Rainbow Warriors have scored 43, 59, 43, 21, 42 and 44 points. Plus, Hawaii is not exactly the Steel Curtain and allows 33.9 points per game. Yes please.
Georgia minus-7 over LSU. Are we going to buy the half here? Of course we are. Do I worry about these Tigers being the Clemson version from 2011? Yes, yes I do. For you long-time regulars, when we first started the Fab 4 picks full-time back in 2011, we caught an insane heater from mid-September to Halloween. We hit better close to 70 percent of all games over six weeks — now that's "Goodfellas" level of entertaining folks — but still managed to go 0-3-1 against Clemson. Nuts. Well, we're rolling against the Fighting' Coach Os this week. Georgia has a shift-gears-and-drop-hammer performance coming, and we believe it will be Saturday afternoon in Death Valley. Stupid Clemson.
Boston College minus-13.5 over Louisville. Is there concern about laying this many points with the unknown status of BC star running back A.J. Dillon. Not really. Here's why: Louisville is a house of Cards that has already collapsed. Period. End of discussion. Plus, when your coaches are facing a tough spot, guys like Bobby Petrino and Brian Van Gorder — two screamers who will never be confused for Stuart Smalley anytime soon — can lose the entire locker room. We think Louisville is there. And this is a dreadful match-up for a team looking to phone it in. A 12:30 kick at Boston College. A physical, down-hill style from the Eagles, who are top-25 in the country in rushing. This one screams 35-10 friends.
Florida minus-7 at Vandy. Are we going to buy the half here? Of course? Are we tempted to double-dip here with the under 51? Yes, we're tempted. But we also know that the Florida defense has found ways to force turnovers and turn them into points — like last week's total-busting pick six in the final 90 seconds. There's an extreme amount of confidence coming from these Gators, who have found enough plays in Dan Mullen's offense and are really starting to craft a defensive front seven that is pretty salty.
Central Florida minus-4.5 over Memphis. Yes, two of the nation's top six offenses. The total here is 81, and you know what, that seems about right if not a little bit low. Memphis has a sneaky good home-field edge, but sneaky is not enough against a UCF team that has the nation's longest winning streak at 18 games. And if you need a sneaky edge, well, UCF's pass defense is ranked No. 16 nationally, which could challenge Memphis' passing game.
Penn State minus-13.5 over Michigan State. This is a nightmare spot for the Spartans. MSU is coming off an extremely disappointing 29-19 home loss to Northwestern. Penn State had last week off to marinate in a heart-breaking one-point loss to THE Ohio State. (And be reminded how important going to class and remembering to take notes can be when you are trying to be an elite football team.) Michigan State is great against the run but dreadful against the pass. And man, this feels like the game that James Franklin takes out some frustrations of THE loss to THE Ohio State. When the score on the scroll read, "PSU 38, MSU 7, 3rd Quarter" remember who loves you baby.
Utah State minus-27 over UNLV. Greeson, are you Benedict Arnold? Yes, fortune and favor can turn just that quickly. UNLV was a darling around these parts with a true QB-running spread system triggered by Armani Rogers that was the nation's top rushing offense. Well, Rogers broke his foot and his replacement last week finished 15-of-35 passing and rushed nine times for minus-43 yards. And that was against New Mexico State. which lost to Liberty the week before. This week comes a trip to a Utah State bunch that is slap salty. Seriously. USU is 5-0 against the number and 3-0 overall at home with an average margin of victory of 39.3. This is biggest mismatch on the slate — yes even more than Alabama vs. anyone — and the spread is only going to continue to go up. (It started at 23.5 and is at 27 as of this morning, and rising.)
Last week: 4-2 against the spread (66.7 percent)
This season: 23-16-1 against the spread (58.9 percent)
College football items of interest
Halfway through. It's amazing to think that we are hitting the halfway point of the college football season. This is Week 7, and there are 14 weeks, including the conference championship weekend. Yes, halfway through. Coach of the year: Gus Malzahn. HAHAHAHAHAHA. Kidding. Coach of the year: Brian Kelly, Notre Dame. Yes, he is, by all accounts, an absolute tool bag. But having the Irish on track for the playoff after losing that many offensive line dudes, and making a ballsy QB change while being undefeated is high quality. Halfway Heisman: Tua. Duh. Halfway disappointment: Bryce Love, Stanford. Yes for me, it's an Auburn team that has been dreadful. But Love was a Heisman frontrunner and could have been one of the first three RBs off the board last spring before deciding to come back to school.
Playbook expansion. I know the picks covered a little of this, but here's betting we get an extended look at Justin Fields this weekend for a slew of reasons. First, LSU DC Dave Aranda is going to challenge the Georgia offensive line, which is par for the course for the nation's highest paid DC who is down his best edge rusher and blessed with a secondary filled with NFL dudes. (Side note: That's fine and well against Auburn's wide outs, but let Mecole Hardman and Terry Godwin get even and they are leavin' friends.) Yes, the road atmosphere will be insane, and in a perfect world for Johnny Bulldogs Fans everywhere this one plays out a lot like the September BID-ness trip to Williams-Brice. But in a match-up of extreme athletes, Fields may be as good as any of them. Dude is going to be Tua-like next year, and if the UGA offense bogs down in Death Valley, we may see a sneak preview Saturday afternoon.
Upset alerts. There are a lot of teams making scary road trips this weekend. There are nine ranked teams packing their white uniforms and taking their show on the road Saturday. A handful of them — unbeaten West Virginia, UCF and Colorado — have huge goals in front of them. And several of them could be vulnerable. Could No. 16 Miami and its freshman quarterback be in danger at Virginia? Could Colorado, which is road underdog, fall at USC? We know this: The point spreads on the games featuring some of those ranked visitors stink. Out loud. West Virginia minus-6.5 at Iowa State. Miami a 6.5-favorite at UVa?
Painful losses. Auburn fans are used to them. So are gamblers. As for gambling Auburn fans, well, we suffer through a special type of emotional anxiety that forces too many of us to ponder Maalox or Co-Colas on a regular basis. (We are a glutton for punishment. We are headed — by choice — to Auburn-Tennessee for Saturday's tickle fight between two teams that have frustrated more fans than Van Halen.) As for the gambling stores out there, we offer you appointment reading. (Yes, the Bad Beats segment on the SVP show is money, too.) Meet the SI Backdoor Cover Jinx. This treasure trove of gambling heartaches is worth your time. Among the ones discussed from last weekend include, BC (+5.5) being down 28-3 late in the third quarter and blocking a late punt and recovering it for a TD in a 28-23 loss/cover at N.C. State, the Dolphins (+6) giving up a 17-3 fourth-quarter lead, and the capper, UC-Davis laying 13.5 and leading 42-10 after three quarters and 49-10 with 9:15 remaining before an epic collapse. The details of North Colorado's comeback are mind-blowing: A fourth-and-4 conversion led to a TD and two-point conversion (49-18, 6:42), UC-Davis kick return caught the ensuing kick with his knee down at the 2 and two plays later NC got a safety (49-20, 5:52), a fourth-and-15 conversion paced another TD drive and two-point conversion (49-28, 3:15), NC Bears recover the onside kick, convert on third-and-32 on the way to another TD drive. So now it's 49-34 and another two-point conversion crushes the souls of every bettor who had UC-Davis laying 13.5 in a 49-36 win. Yes, that's three TDs, three two-point conversions, a safety, a disaster on a kick return, two fourth-down conversions and a third-and-a-mile conversion in the final 9:15. That may be the baddest beat of all time.
OK, let's do this.
We'll start with the schedule.
In the NLCS:
Game 1 is Friday at 8:09 on FS1;
Game 2 is Saturday at 4:09 on Fox;
Game 3 is Monday at 7:39 on FS1;
Game 4 is Tuesday at 9:09 on FS1;
Game 5 (if necessary) is Wednesday at 5:05 on FS1;
Game 6 (if necessary) is Oct. 19 at 8:39 on FS1;
Game 7 (if necessary) is Oct. 20 at 9:09 on FS1.
In the ALCS:
Game 1 is Saturday at 8:09 on TBS;
Game 2 is Sunday at 7:09 on TBS;
Game 3 is Tuesday at 5:09 on TBS;
Game 4 is Wednesday at 8:39 on TBS;
Game 5 (if necessary) is Thursday at 8:09 on TBS;
Game 6 (if necessary) is Oct. 20 at 5:09 on TBS;
Game 7 (if necessary) is Oct. 21 at 7:39 on TBS.
OK, got it? Good.
Now, let's review the biggest players for each team.
For Milwaukee it's Lorenzo Cain. Yes, the Brewers have a lot of power in their line-up and that's become a baseline prerequisite for postseason positivity. But Cain hit better than .300 and stole 30 bases. Great side note here: Cain has been in eight postseason series in his career; his team has won seven of those.
For the Dodgers, it's Clayton Kershaw. Dude had his best postseason start of a checkered postseason career against the Braves. He will get the ball in Game 1 in Milwaukee and if he delivers another gem, the mood of the entire series completely changes.
Prediction: Dodgers in 6. The L.A. bench will help balance the Brewers' awesome bullpen, which will have to expend a lot of energy to get the series back to Milwaukee.
MVP: Kershaw, who gets two wins. and is ready to go in Game 6 to close it out if needed.
As for the ALCS, let's review:
For Boston, we'll go with Mookie Betts. He won the AL batting crown. He will bat lead-off against that awesome Astros rotation. He needs to start things quickly and try to help Boston get into the Houston bullpen as quickly as possible.
For Houston it's Jose Altuve. He has battled injuries and will surely play in the ALCS. And the Astros need him. They are a completely different team with Altuve on the field. Since Altuve returned from injury, Houston is 30-9.
Prediction: Boston in 7.
MVP: Chris Sale , who gets three wins (Game 7 in a Pedro-esque relief appearance) and delivers us a L.A.-Boston series.
This and that
— Heard this stat and it blew my hair back. Heading into Sunday night's potential mega-slugfest between Kansas City and New England, this number simply does not lie. In his career with New England, Bill Belichick has gone against an opposing starting quarterback 25-years-of-age-or-younger 23 times. Belichick is 23-0 in those games. (Patty Mahomes is 23 in case you were wondering.)
— Eagles-Giants tonight in a loser has to face its own fans in a dark alley match.
— Lakers beat Warriors in a preseason game last night. Yep, the Warriors are done. Cooked. Finished. LeBron and the Lakers are going to cruise this year.The kings are dead. Long live the King.
— Here is Justin Thomas backing Jim Furyk in the Ryder Cup beef started by Patrick Reed. Hmmmm, here's betting that there's not a slew of folks falling all over themselves to play a practice round Mr. Reed.
— We had the Falcons in the bottom five of our power poll earlier this week. This CBSsports.com guy concurs and says the Falcons could be in line for the No. 1 overall pick. Egad.
It's Oct. 11, and we have some days.
National Southern Food Heritage Day. World Sight Day. National Sausage Pizza Day. National Coming Out Day.
Wow on this day in 1975, SNL debuted with George Carlin as its host. SNL has jumped the shark several times, and we have had many SNL Rushmores. There was a time that SNL was appointment TV for a younger 5-at-10. (Side note: On that exact same day, Bill and Hillary Clinton were married. So there's that.)
Henry John Heinz was born today. We're tempted by a Rushmore of condiments but I think we've done that one too.
Luke Perry, of Beverly Hills 90210, is 52 today.
What about a Rushmore of TV shows with a number in the title? Go and remember the mailbag and the Survivor Pool.