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NFL 2020 Travel

This week’s Issue #3 of the Green Sheet newsletter will be all about the 2020 NFL schedule which was released in early May.

One aspect we always like to consider is the travel mileage for each team. While this total can be overstated at times, it is useful when comparing teams and the wear they could accumulate at certain points in the season.

This 2020 NFL Travel Chart doesn’t provide a perfect picture as often teams are able to combine back-to-back road games and airport mileage isn’t always precise, but it does give you a snapshot of which teams have the most time in the air ahead and which teams could have more potential disruptions to their week-to-week plans.

Football is looking more and more likely this fall and the 2020 Green Sheet subscription will cover the entire campaign from now through the Super Bowl in the NFL and college football. Don’t miss this week’s NFL schedule issue and all past and future issues this season!

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2020 NFL Schedule

Green Issue #3 will be out in late May with a comprehensive look at the recently released NFL schedule.

Here is the 2020 Schedule Chart giving you every team’s path in one page!

Get more great content like this as a 2020-21 Nelly’s Green Sheet subscriber. We’ve already posted our NFC and AFC Coaching Reference Guides.

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NFL Draft Props

The NFL Draft starts tonight and a welcome look back into the sports schedule.

We’ll have some NFL Draft grades in Green Sheet Issue #2 next week, along with our NFC Coaching Reference Guide. Get the AFC Coaching Reference Guide in Green Sheet Issue #1, sent out in mid-April to our subscribers.

The $99 Green Sheet season subscription rate will expire at the end of April, sign up now for the best price for the 2020-21 football season.

Total Wide Receivers Drafted in Round 1

Under 6.5 (-240)

The depth of this year’s Wide Receiver group has been well publicized and while there may be seven or more players with the potential to be a 1st Round pick, there aren’t likely to be seven actually picked. Six teams don’t have a first round pick while several others have multiple first rounders so the amount of viable spots for a top wide receiver to land is diminished. There appears to be four clear 1st round wide receivers while the grouping of the receivers that most generally grade 5th through 9th is tightly packed and teams will likely be patient to wait on a run of receivers to start. Several teams in the market for a receiver also have early second round options and seem likely to see if they can get away with waiting. 

Total Alabama Players to be Drafted in the First Round

Under 5.5 (-130)

Jedrick Wills, Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, and Terrell Lewis seem likely to be mid-to-late 1st round selections while most assume Tua Tagovailoa will be an early 1st round pick. Coming off an injury Tagovailoa looks like one of the more polarizing projections in the draft and could be a candidate for a major slide, even to round 2 as he is likely only a clear fit for a few teams. Finding a sixth Alabama first rounder is difficult as while Trevon Diggs is a highly rated player, he grades 5th or 6th among cornerbacks in a deep draft at the position while likewise safety Xavier McKinney will likely slip as no safety was picked in the 1st round last season. 

Total ACC Players Drafted in the First Round

Under 3.5 (-230)

As loaded as Clemson has been the Tigers only have two clear 1st round picks ahead in this draft with defensive stars Isaiah Simmons and A.J. Terrell, with only Simmons a lock to be an early pick. Louisville offensive lineman Mekhi Becton looks like the only other obvious 1st round option for the ACC and he could slide after acknowledging a failed drug test. In a normal year Tee Higgins could be a first round pick but the wide receiver block is so deep this year, there isn’t room for him in round 1 as the third Clemson player to be drafted. Cam Akers from Florida State could be next from the ACC but it is questionable whether any running back will be taken in round 1 and Akers isn’t at the top of that position list. 

More first round picks, the SEC vs the Field

All other conferences (-120)

LSU and Alabama could combine to reach double-digits for players taken in the first round while Auburn, South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia all have a single player to contribute among those nearly universally projected in round 1. A lot of mock drafts call for a big run of SEC players late in the first round but those picks are also frequently traded as teams scramble to land a coveted player that has slipped from the predicted chart. The depth from Alabama and LSU isn’t coming from scarce positions as teams aren’t likely to send a lot of draft capital to move into the back of round 1 to grab a wide receiver or defensive back. Most of the fringe first rounders that could be chased with those late 1st round picks will be edge rushers and offensive linemen, or even a quarterback that slides, and most of those candidates in that range of the draft are coming from outside the SEC. 

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Green Sheet Early Look

Check our a short preview of our first off-season issue of the 2020-21 Green Sheet.

Click Here for a Green Sheet Early Look

The Green Sheet for the 2020-21 season and that will be an online only subscription released in the middle of each week. The subscription will start with several off-season issues in early to mid-April. We’ll have a $99.00 season subscription rate available until the first issue comes out in April.

Support us in this lean period of the calendar by signing up in advance for next season at a greatly discounted rate.

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March Update

We wish we had NCAA Tournament picks to post for you this week but the sports world is on hold and unfortunately our successful 2019-2020 basketball season has been cut short. We’ll hope the NBA playoffs will return at some point this summer and we’ll be preparing for an abbreviated MLB season and hope that football can stay on schedule this fall.

It is a difficult time for everyone right now and our business will certainly be greatly impacted by the absence of a sports schedule. We have parked our Free Pick Phone line and PIN system lines for the time being and will plan to activate those lines when the action returns.

We do plan to move forward with a Green Sheet for the 2020-21 season and that will be an online only subscription that will start with several off-season issues in mid-April. We’ll have a $99.00 season subscription rate available until the first issue comes out in April. Support us in this lean period of the calendar by signing up in advance for next season at a greatly discounted rate.

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NCAA Contender Concerns

NCAA Contender Concerns

Selection Sunday is less than two weeks away and some of the top contenders for the NCAA Tournament are clear. Many expect a wide open field this season however and here some possible concerns for 11 teams that have a good shot to wind up seeded in the most favorable spots on the bracket.  

Kansas: Bill Self’s past tournament failures

With a long winning steak heading into the final week of the regular season including a late February win at Baylor, Kansas is a near-certain #1 seed and currently in position to be the #1 overall seed in the tournament. The statistics are very compelling with the top rated defense in the country while Silvio De Sousa is set to rejoin the team next week. This team has great size and talent and a quality track record featuring five top 20 caliber wins, four of which have come away from home while being a one-point and a two-point loss away from being 28-1.

It is impossible to ignore Bill Self’s disappointing NCAA Tournament track record however. Kansas did win the 2007-08 championship but they had a favorable path in terms of opponents and locations on that run, including beating a #12 seed in the Sweet 16 and a #10 seed in the Elite 8. Recall they also trailed by nine in the championship game with just over two minutes to go before Memphis collapsed including missing four of its final five free throws while failing to foul up by three in the final seconds of regulation.

Since that championship season Kansas has been a #1 seed six different times while at least a #4 seed in every other year and yet Self and the Jayhawks have been back to the Final Four just twice in those in 11 seasons while failing to escape the opening weekend six different times in Self’s tenure, all as a top four seed. Kansas is a bad free throw shooting team and has limited depth with the roster getting a scare with a possible injury to Udoka Azubuike last weekend. Kansas has the profile of a top contender and this is Self’s best defense since the championship season but we’ve seen plenty of great Jayhawks teams falter in March in recent years as it will be an uncomfortable choice to write Kansas six times in your bracket.

Gonzaga: Not a championship caliber defense

A run to the national title game in the 2016-17 season has legitimized Gonzaga as a program that can win it all and this year’s team could be a #1 seed for the fourth time in the past eight years. Gonzaga has made at least the Sweet 16 each of the past four seasons and this year’s team grades as the top offensive team in the nation. There is great size on the roster and this is an experienced veteran team even with significant turnover from last season’s squad that fell just short of the Final Four.

Gonzaga doesn’t have a ton of weight in its non-conference campaign however as wins over Texas A&M, Washington, Arizona, and North Carolina didn’t pan out to be overly meaningful results despite the past track records of those programs. A one-point overtime win over Oregon is the best non-conference win for the Bulldogs but that result was cancelled out the next day in the Bahamas with an 18-point loss to Michigan.

With BYU and Saint Mary’s expected to also be in the NCAA Tournament field the WCC is as good as it has been in several years but it will still be a big leap in competition for the Bulldogs in March. This is also Mark Few’s worst defensive efficiency team since 2010-11 when Gonzaga earned just a #11 seed and was bounced in the round of 32. The Gonzaga team that lost in the championship to North Carolina graded as the nation’s best defense, this year’s team barely cracks the top 40, a range almost no championship teams emerge from historically.

San Diego State: A long layoff without quality opposition

It took a comeback win in Saturday’s regular season finale for San Diego State to avoid losing for a second time in three games, pulling out a comeback win at Nevada to finish 28-1. Some will argue it was better for the Aztecs to not enter the tournament with the pressure of being undefeated but another issue for San Diego State is that the Mountain West tournament starts this week and there will be at least an 11-day layoff before the Round of 64 game for a team that could still earn a #1 seed if they are victorious this week in Las Vegas.

November wins over BYU, Creighton, and Iowa have put some meat on the great record for San Diego State but from a possible Round of 32 game it will have been three and half months since the Aztecs have faced a top 40 caliber opponent. The Mountain West hasn’t performed very well in recent NCAA Tournaments and this looks like a down year for the conference as whole, grading as the 10th best conference in the nation when as recently as 2012-13 the conference cracked the national top four.

That season produced five NCAA Tournament teams from the conference but those teams collectively wound up 2-5 in the Big Dance despite four of five teams being seeded #8 or better. Last year the conference produced just two teams in the field and both lost badly in the Round of 64 as favorites. This year Utah State has a shot at earning one of the final at-large bids but if the Aztecs roll through the conference tournament it will likely be a one-bid conference. The Aztecs have been a great story but the track record of success for teams from this conference has been poor. This team also often becomes too reliant on low percentage shots from Malachi Flynn while by major conference standards this group is going to have a hard time matching up size-wise against most power conference foes.

Baylor: Rebounding and free throws

The #1 team in the polls most of the season with a 23-game winning streak Baylor could still earn a #1 draw even with losses in two of past three games. Two opportunities for quality wins finish the regular season slate and the Bears will hope to fare well in the Big XII tournament, though they are 0-3 in the past three seasons in the conference tournament.

Baylor has a top 20 offensive and defensive efficiency ranking and as one of the nation’s top defensive teams this team has a championship pedigree even with some offensive lapses at times. Baylor is a bottom four team in the Big XII in two-point scoring and free throw shooting but the deliberate pace and the mix of zone defense can be challenging for opponents, particularly in a short scheduling turnaround in a tournament setting. Scott Drew’s team made the Elite 8 in 2009-10 and 2011-12 but hasn’t advanced past the Sweet 16 since but under Drew the Bears have never drawn better than a #3 seed, which they almost certainly will this season.

Baylor is not a good defensive rebounding team and opponents were handed the perfect formula for beating the Bears by a marginal TCU group last week. Keep pace with Baylor on the boards and turning the game into a free throw shooting contest with Baylor struggling at the line outside of MaCio Teague. Davion Mitchell is a primary ball handler for the Bears despite being a 68 percent free throw shooter and a 31 percent 3-point shooter and without a starter above 6’9” the Bears don’t have as imposing of a front court as they have had in years past.

Dayton: Marginal defense with quality wins absent

On paper there is a lot to like about Dayton sitting at 27-2 with both losses away from home in overtime against high-quality competition. Dayton grades as one of the best offensive teams in the nation including the top 2-point shooting percentage in the nation as the Flyers rarely have scoring droughts. Obi Toppin is a future NBA lottery pick that is capable of being one of the stars of the tournament as well.

The highest rated win for Dayton is against Saint Mary’s however as while the Atlantic 10 has pretty good depth with a handful of decent teams, it ultimately is at risk to be a one-bid league should the Flyers win the conference tournament. Dayton has also been pushed with single-digit wins in six straight road games as the Flyers have had some good fortune to escape unblemished in league play.

Dayton will certainly be the worst defensive team to land in the top three seed lines in the tournament field. If the Flyers can win out they could earn a favorable venue draw with Cleveland a possible landing spot and if they end up in the Midwest the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games are in Indianapolis as the Flyers have a chance to be ahead of every Big Ten team as well as Kentucky, teams that would normally be considered to snag the top billing in Cleveland. Getting the Midwest draw would likely mean being the #2 seed in the Midwest behind Kansas however as if Dayton lands a #1 seed, they would likely land in the New York region for a more daunting path in terms of locations.

Duke: Youth and road woes

The Blue Devils haven’t resembled a #1or a #2 seed lately dropping three of the past four games but wins over Kansas and Michigan State are going to keep Duke in the mix for a great seed should they finish strong. As usual Duke seems likely to land a close-to-home draw in Greensboro, particularly with the other major Tobacco Road power not likely to even be in the field barring a miracle ACC tournament run.

It has been a down year for the ACC but Duke is one of only a handful of teams with a chance to finish as a top 10 offensive and defensive efficiency team and in great contrast to last year’s popular title contender that fizzled in the Elite 8, this year’s team is a good outside shooting team and an improved free throw shooting team. Coach K’s mixed NCAA Tournament track record deserves scrutiny but the program has made the Elite 8 four of the past seven years though Duke hasn’t won a title from outside of a #1 seed since Krzyzewski’s first championship in 1990-91.

Duke is also just not as talented as last year’s team that featured three players drafted in the top 10 of the 2019 NBA Draft. Vernon Carey is considered a borderline lottery pick but the youth of this team has shown up with very marginal results on the road in ACC play including four losses and a few other narrow escapes. New York has been kind to Duke as a Greensboro-New York draw could be very appealing for this group but a strong finish will be needed for Duke to still have a shot at a preferred seeding placement given the recent slide.

Michigan State: Inconsistent performances all season

The preseason #1 didn’t look the part most of the season with nine losses by mid-February after a stretch of losing four of five early in February including two losses in East Lansing. With three straight wins including a huge win at Big Ten leader Maryland last weekend, Michigan State has put itself back in play for a decent seed on Selection Sunday, possibly even a #2 spot even with a high loss count. With some help, Michigan State can still win a share of the Big Ten title though the remaining games with Penn State and Ohio State will be challenging.

Tom Izzo has been to eight Final Fours and most impressively is that the past five trips have come seeded at #5, #2, #5, #7, and a #2 as this team hasn’t needed a favorable path to get the job done. Less important than seeding could be locations for the Spartans as drawing a #2 or #3 seed in Indianapolis would be very appealing if the Spartans finish strong, though there will be great competition for those spots from teams like Maryland, Seton Hall, Dayton, Kentucky, and Louisville.

The Spartans have quietly joined the top 15 of the efficiency rankings on both sides of the ball to sit in rare company and the Spartans are the #1 effective field goal rate team on both sides of the ball in the highly competitive and tightly-packed Big Ten. The conference grind has hurt Michigan State’s record but could have team prepared for a March run but the inconsistency of a team that returned three starters from last year’s Final Four team will make this group difficult to trust. While Izzo’s Final Four appearances stand out, Michigan State has also lost in the opening weekend of the tournament three of the past four years.

Seton Hall: Late season health and not living up to its size

The Pirates don’t have the credentials to earn a #1 seed with seven losses and only a win over Maryland standing out on the non-conference schedule despite what will be a stand-alone Big East title with one more win. Size and experience will make Seton Hall a team that many will pencil into the Final Four even if the Pirates are in a tougher seeding position than most of the other teams on this list. Winning out could put the Pirates as a #2 seed in a favorable venue draw and Myles Powell is the kind of player the team can lean on to carry the load for a big run.

Kevin Willard has done well to put Seton Hall into the NCAA Tournament for now a fifth straight season but trusting him to advance deep into the tournament is difficult with Willard 2-4 in the NCAA Tournament including a blowout loss to Wofford last season in Jacksonville. The only quality non-conference win for Seton Hall last season was also against Maryland and this team has had a few recent ugly spells on offense, notably in the recent losses to Creighton and Providence.

Despite the experience of this team, turnovers can be a problem for this team and this is also a marginal 3-point shooting team, ranking seventh in the Big East at just 32 percent. Seton Hall also routinely struggles to dominate on the glass despite having more height than just about any team in the country. The roster could also enter March at less than full strength with Anthony Nelson and Tyrese Samuel missing recent games and Powell battling knee pain the last few weeks. The potential for a #2 seed could also be erased in the next week as well with two difficult games remaining facing Villanova and Creighton to close the regular season.

Maryland: Poor results outside the Big Ten vs. major conference foes

Somewhat via attrition Maryland looks likely to stand as the Big Ten regular season champions, though the gap with Maryland at #1 down to Ohio State and Michigan at #7 and #8 in the standings is miniscule. Maryland ultimately had one of the weaker Big Ten schedules with only single meetings vs. Penn State, Wisconsin, and Purdue, while they still haven’t faced Michigan who they will end the season against next weekend.

If you are looking for a top 25 win from Maryland in the non-conference schedule, you’ll have to keep looking as only a neutral site win over Marquette is close to that range as the overall record looks inflated. Maryland also won 12 of its 13 Big Ten wins by 12 or fewer points as this team could easily have a few more losses, notably last week’s narrow escape at Minnesota, a game the Terrapins trailed by 17 in and were still down four in the final minute.

Maryland has been patient with Mark Turgeon but in this his ninth season, the program has one Sweet 16 appearance in that span despite a lot of high-profile recruits coming through College Park. This year’s team has three potential NBA players in big roles but Turgeon’s team hasn’t held up against quality major conference foes as his four NCAA Tournament wins in nine seasons have come vs. Valparaiso, South Dakota State, Hawai’i, and Belmont while getting bounced by Big XII, Big East, and SEC teams, the caliber of teams Maryland rarely beats in the non-conference season either. It also needs to be said that despite the strong rating of the Big Ten, not since 1999-2000 has a Big Ten team actually cut down the nets, though in fairness Maryland did so as an ACC team in 2001-02.

Kentucky: Not a typical Calapari Wildcats team

Kentucky has three players that could be drafted in this summer’s NBA draft but almost certainly no lottery picks as this isn’t the usual John Calapari Kentucky team that has more talent than almost every opponent. It shows in the numbers as well as while the Wildcats have rallied to 24-5 and a SEC regular season title, the current numbers grade this unit as Calapari’s worst defensive team since the #4 seeded 2015-16 team that lost in the Round of 32 to Tom Cream and Indiana. Kentucky also hasn’t ranked this low nationally on offense since the 2012-13 NIT season. This year’s team is pretty good at everything but not great at anything even in a year where the SEC ranks as the worst of the major conferences.

The current eight-game winning streak features six wins by single-digits as there have been close calls along the way and Kentucky only had to play LSU and Mississippi State once in the league draw. Kentucky beat Louisville and Texas Tech for impressive non-conference wins but both results required overtime and damaging losses to Evansville and Utah will likely prevent the Wildcats to climbing to the #2 line unless they win out and see some other contenders for those spots stumble.

Given plenty of other teams in the mix for favorable seeds that would like to land in Dayton, Cleveland, or St. Louis it seems likely that the Wildcats could be sent to a far away spot in the opening weekend, especially with the SEC Championship not until the afternoon of Selection Sunday. The only way Kentucky would be able to claim a #2 seed would be with that title, something the committee may simply not have time to adjust for.

Louisville: Reliance on 3-point shooting and struggles vs. top teams.

Chris Mack is clearly a good coach and he has Louisville back in the mix as a contender in just his second season with the Cardinals even after stepping into a difficult situation following the toxic exit of Rick Pitino leaving the program in a tough position for a few years. Mack was a #1 seed and a #2 seed at Xavier however and didn’t win in the Round of 32 either year however and Mack’s postseason debut at Louisville was a bit of a humiliating result with a double-digit loss to Minnesota and Richard Pitino a year ago.

Louisville played one of the weakest non-conference schedules among teams in the mix for top seeds in the field and that metric could keep the Cardinals out of consideration for a top two spot barring titles in both the ACC regular season and the ACC tournament. Louisville has also played one of the weakest ACC paths with the entire resume built on the big win at Duke in January, a game Wendell Moore didn’t play in.

Louisville is ultimately 2-5 vs. top 40 caliber teams this season and without a defense that grades as championship caliber it is very difficult to envision this team running off several high quality wins in a row in March. Louisville is one of the better 3-point shooting teams in the nation with Jordan Nwora a 40 percent shooter beyond the arc but relying on those outside shots in unfamiliar venues can be a risky formula.

This feels like a year where the eventual champion could come from anywhere as top seed lines may not be as strong as usual and there will be contenders lurking all over the board. There are concerns with each of the teams currently in play for #1 and #2 seeds though the past five champions have all been seeded #1 or #2 with 10 of the past 13 champions being a #1 seed. The jockeying for those top four spots in the next two weeks will likely be critical in determining the champion in Atlanta April 6.

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Fiesta Bowl Preview

Fiesta Bowl CFP Semifinal – Dec. 28

Clemson and Ohio State meet in Saturday’s Fiesta Bowl in a pairing of undefeated teams for the College Football Playoff semifinals. Both teams are far from home in Glendale but both programs have College Football Playoff Championships in the five years of the existence of the playoff format and this is perhaps the most highly anticipated game of the bowl season as dominant 13-0 programs face off.

Match-up: Clemson Tigers vs. Ohio State Buckeyes

Venue: At State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona

Time/TV: Saturday, December 28, 8:00 PM ET ESPN

Line: Clemson -2, Over/Under 63

Last Meeting: 12/31/2016 Fiesta Bowl CFP Semifinals Clemson (+1) 31, Ohio State 0    

Three seasons ago these teams met in this same stadium in the 2/3 matchup of College Football Playoffs. The spread was nearly even and Clemson delivered a blowout win 31-0 with a huge production edge of 470-215. Deshaun Watson and J.T. Barrett had a pair of interceptions each but the Clemson running game had a clear edge while the Tigers were able to hit a few big plays in the air. Clemson would go on to beat Alabama in the championship game for the first of now two titles for Dabo Swinney.

Clemson also beat Ohio State in the 2013-14 Orange Bowl a year before the playoff format and Clemson enters this game on a 29-game winning streak, completing a perfect 15-0 championship season last year and this year again unblemished with only one close call back in late September in Chapel Hill with a one-point escape.

The Tigers didn’t look like a dominant team early in the season as coming off brilliant championship performance last season, quarterback Trevor Lawrence battled interceptions early in the season. The Tigers closed the season on a dominant run with Lawrence combining for 16 touchdowns and no interceptions in the final five games of the season. 1,500-yard rusher Travis Etienne has often been overlooked despite an amazing 8.2 yards per carry average this season as the Tigers scored 605 points this season for more than 46 points per game.

Clemson is the #3 seed however having played through a light ACC schedule and high-quality wins are absent from the schedule with the best results coming over 7-5 Texas A&M, 9-4 Virginia, 8-4 Wake Forest, 7-5 Louisville, and 6-6 North Carolina. The Tigers did technically beat seven bowl teams when you add Charlotte and Boston College to the mix but behind Clemson it was a clear down year for the ACC. The Tigers beat two SEC teams but Texas A&M and South Carolina both had disappointing seasons and like many ACC teams, Clemson also played a FCS foe to pad the numbers.

Swinney is 9-5 S/U and 10-4 ATS in his bowl and playoff games but after starting 1-3 S/U and ATS the Tigers have been on a roll in the postseason under his watch with the only ATS loss in that span being the 2017-18 Sugar Bowl vs. the eventual national champion Alabama. Clemson has actually been an underdog in nine of the past 10 postseason games with the lone exception last season’s 30-3 win over undefeated Notre Dame in the semifinals.

In contrast to Swinney’s amazing resume, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day will be a head coach for the first time in a postseason game. Day filled in for Urban Meyer for three wins early last season and is now 16-0 as a head coach for the Buckeyes for an amazing start to his career. Day has only been with the program since 2017 as an assistant with past experience in the NFL as well as with Temple and Boston College. Despite his success, his first season will ultimately be judged on this game alone with the Buckeyes back into the playoffs after narrowly missing out as Big Ten champions the past two seasons.

Controversially Ohio State was flipped from the #1 seed in the playoff rankings to the #2 seed, passed up by LSU following the respective Big Ten and SEC championship wins. LSU was more impressive vs. a higher rated foe on championship Saturday but Ohio State’s overall resume bested LSU’s in many of the counts that the selection committee values.

On championship Saturday four teams that Ohio State defeated in the regular season were playing in championship games as the Buckeyes wound up with nine wins over bowl teams. Ohio State was penalized for a poor first half vs. Wisconsin in Indianapolis as well as not getting as much credit for beating a highly regarded Wisconsin team twice compared to if they defeated two distinct similarly highly rated teams. Ultimately Ohio State has five wins over teams rated higher in the playoff rankings than Clemson’s best win over #24 Virginia, including four wins vs. the top 14.

Day was not the only new piece for the Buckeyes, led by Georgia transfer Justin Fields at quarterback. Fields left Georgia last season after not getting a great opportunity behind Jake Fromm. In his first season as a starting quarterback he delivered an incredible campaign finishing third in the Heisman voting with an amazing line of 40 touchdowns and one interception while also rushing for nearly 500 yards. J.K. Dobbins eclipsed 1,800 yards rushing and along with star defensive end Chase Young, that trio comprised half of the top six in the Heisman voting. Ohio State outscored foes 633-163 on the season with dominant numbers, though the defense allowed 17 or more points in each of the final four games following seven straight games allowing 14 or fewer points.

Ohio State has not been an underdog in the postseason since winning the initial College Football Playoff championship game 42-20 vs. Oregon in January 2015. The Buckeyes have been the Rose Bowl champion the past two seasons and this is the first playoff trip since the ugly loss in Glendale vs. Clemson.

Ohio State has been an underdog six times since the start of the 2012 season going 6-0 S/U and ATS including winning 62-39 vs. Michigan last season in the only instance getting points since the 2014-15 national championship. Clemson has rarely been in the small favorite role under Swinney going 4-5 S/U and 3-6 ATS as a favorite of 3 or fewer points, though all but one of those games was a regular season contest.

Clemson wound up 10-3 ATS this season including 10-2 ATS in FBS games, going 7-0 ATS in FBS games since October started for an incredible run, as a lot of folks fared well supporting the Tigers even at inflated prices including a 30-point spread in the ACC Championship. Ohio State wound up 9-4 ATS this season but lost ATS in three of the final four games including missing the spread in big games vs. Penn State and in the Big Ten championship after an 8-0 ATS run September to early November, with the Buckeyes also faring extremely well in first half numbers.

The victor of this game will head to New Orleans for the national championship in what could be a very hostile environment depending on the Peach Bowl outcome but either team will be a serious threat for the title as this semifinal figures to live up to the billing and hype as one of the best playoff pairings in the history of the format.

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NFL Close Calls Wk15

NFL Close Calls – Week 15

12/16/2019

Glancing at the scoreboard won’t tell you the whole story in most games. Here are some of the games that went down to the wire relative to the spread or total in the fourth quarter last week in Week 15 of the NFL regular season including two late defensive scores that made a great impact.

Baltimore Ravens (-17) 42, New York Jets 21 (44): The Ravens wrapped up this game with a 35-7 edge through three quarters but a blocked punt touchdown in the fourth put the Jets back in the conversation against the heavy underdog spread. A touchdown halfway through the fourth put the Jets within 21 after a successful two-point conversion and New York got the ball back at midfield with still five minutes remaining. On 4th-and-1 a Sam Darnold throw fell incomplete and Baltimore was able to run out the remaining clock with Robert Griffin III in the game.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-6) 38, Detroit Lions 17 (46): The Buccaneers stormed out to a 21-0 lead in this game but the Lions slowly climbed back in the picture, completing a long touchdown drive on the first play of the fourth quarter to trail by only seven on a spread that climbed as high as +6 by kickoff. Tampa Bay missed a field goal on its next possession as the Lions were a live upset threat but with about five minutes remaining David Blough was intercepted with a 70-yard return for a touchdown. The Lions had to go for it on 4th down short of midfield on its next drive and the Buccaneers added another score to pull away for a somewhat misleading 21-point final margin. Three fourth quarter touchdowns also shifted a possible ‘under’ with 34 points through three quarters to a clear ‘over’.

Philadelphia Eagles (-6½) 37, Washington Redskins 27 (38): The Redskins led at halftime and erased a three-point deficit through three quarters with an early fourth quarter touchdown run from Adrian Peterson for a four-point lead as a home underdog. The fourth quarter would feature 33 points to soar ‘over’ the total and Philadelphia was able to set-up next week’s NFC East clash by going in front with 26 seconds to go, leading by four for the largest lead of the game for the Eagles. That would change with no time on the clock however as in desperation mode just across midfield an attempted lateral wound up going the other way for a late Eagles touchdown to flip the spread result.

Green Bay Packers (-4½) 21, Chicago Bears 13 (40½): After a low-scoring first half the Packers went in front 21-3 with two third quarter scores. The Bears added a field goal early in the fourth and later a touchdown while forcing five consecutive Green Bay punts with only one first down allowed. Down eight the Bears had three late possessions ending in an interception, stopped on downs in Green Bay territory with a failed pass interference challenge, and then delivering an incredible final play that nearly shifted the spread and total results and could have sent the game to overtime. The Bears had one second on the clock from the Green Bay 34-yard-line and opted for a short pass rather than a deep throw to the end zone. Against loose coverage Tarik Cohen had a lateral back to Mitchell Trubisky who sent the ball to Jesper Horsted who rumbled inside the 10-yard-line. Horsted failed to send the ball back one more time even with two Bears with an opening down the sideline in what could have been a score for Chicago to set-up a possible tying two-point conversion.

Houston Texans (+3) 24, Tennessee Titans 21 (50½): The Texans had a 14-0 lead in the huge AFC North contest with some big momentum swings early in this game. Deshaun Watson was intercepted for a touchback on the opening drive but Houston would block a field goal attempt for a scoreless first quarter. The play of the game was a deflected Ryan Tannehill pass to the edge of the end zone deflecting for an interception and an 86-yard return to set-up a Houston touchdown. Up 14-0 Houston stopped the Titans on downs later in the first half but Tennessee managed to score back-to-back touchdowns to tie the game around an interception of Watson in the end zone to thwart another scoring opportunity. Houston would respond with a touchdown on the next drive and later a field goal to lead by 10 but Tennessee added a score just ahead of the two-minute-warning to stay in play while keeping those on the ‘over’ in the mix for a late miracle. The Titans wouldn’t get the ball back until just 17 seconds remained and Ryan Tannehill was sacked to end the threat, narrowly avoiding a potential defensive score.

Seattle Seahawks (-6) 30, Carolina Panthers 24 (49): The Seahawks seemed to be in complete control going up 30-10 with about seven minutes remaining in the game. Those on the ‘over’ and taking the points found late life however with the Panthers scoring with about five minutes remaining on a Christian McCaffrey run while the defense then forced a quick 3-and-out. Just over minute later the Panthers were in the end zone again to send the total ‘over’ while allowing many Carolina tickets to be cashed at +6½. The scoring stopped there as Seattle was able to take a knee to eventually burn over three minutes of clock, moving to the #1 spot in the NFC.

New York Giants (-3½) 36, Miami Dolphins 20 (46½): The Dolphins trailed by one late in the third quarter despite botching two early scoring opportunities with a missed field goal while being stopped on downs at the 10-yard-line as well. A false start pinned Miami deep and a safety followed while the Giants got a good kickoff return and scored a few plays later to turn a one-point edge into a 10-point edge in quick order. Miami’s offense disappeared from there and the Giants pulled away while a 10-7 game at halftime turned into a clear ‘over’ with 39 second half points.

Buffalo Bills (+1) 17, Pittsburgh Steelers 10 (37): The Steelers led 10-7 through three quarters as a very slight favorite but the second of eventually four Devlin Hodges interceptions handed the Bills a field goal to tie the game. Buffalo didn’t have a productive offensive game but Josh Allen led the Bills 70 yards in six plays in the middle of the fourth quarter with Buffalo surviving a fumble in the red zone. Down seven the Steelers had a new set of downs at the Buffalo 26-yard line with three minutes to go but went backwards with a penalty and a sack before a fourth down interception in the end zone. Hodges would be intercepted in the end zone again in the final seconds as the Bills defense came through to send Buffalo into the postseason.

Jacksonville Jaguars (+6½) 20, Oakland Raiders 16 (46½): Oakland appeared to have a good sendoff underway with a 16-3 lead at halftime though settling for three short field goals left the door open. The Jaguars added three in the final seconds of the third quarter to trail by 10 before the Raiders offense faltered in the fourth with a costly sack near midfield forcing a punt and then a missed field goal. The Jaguars would get two touchdowns from Gardner Minshew to Chris Conley with the go-ahead score coming with only 31 seconds to go. Oakland got a 33-yard pass interference call to have a reasonable shot late but the final two deep throws fell incomplete.

Atlanta Falcons (+10) 29, San Francisco 49ers 22 (49): The score was just 13-10 through three quarters in favor of the 49ers with the underdog points and the ‘under’ looking safe. San Francisco would score with 10 minutes remaining but missed the PAT in a key play with +10 a common number late in the week in this game. That wound up not mattering as the Falcons scored a touchdown with five minutes to go and San Francisco added a field goal after the two-minute warning for a five-point margin. Atlanta had a touchdown called back on review in the final seconds but on the final play Matt Ryan hit Julio Jones right at the goal line. Ruled short on the field, review gave Atlanta the score for the win. The Falcons did not add the conversion to lead 23-22 as the ‘under’ held but a disastrous 49ers kickoff return lateral situation after time expired would result in a fumble recovery in the end zone as Atlanta added six more points and the ‘over’ was cleared.

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Bobby Dalton wins Eliminator

The 2019 Eliminator Contest is complete!

Each handicapper submits two selections each week, a single 1-point play and a double 2-point play. Each contestant is awarded points for losses and eliminated at 10 points.

The 2019 ELIMINATOR CONTEST IS COMPLETED – Congratulations to Bobby Dalton!

CLICK HERE for the 2019 Eliminator Final Standings

The Double Plays can be purchased for just $9 each week, or for $50 for the duration of the contest! 

Bobby Dalton takes the title going 16-6, to beat Weekly Wizard in Week 11! Dalton won his single play last week with the Buffalo Bills and that was enough for this year’s title in the final week. Weekly Wizard had another great showing with a runner-up finish after winning the title last season. Rocketman Sports also had a great campaign lasting 10 weeks to finish third.

Thank you to all the handicappers for participating and thanks for following along this season!

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4Q Covers NCAA Wk 13

4th Quarter Covers – NCAA Week 13

11/24/2019

Glancing at the scoreboard won’t tell you the whole story in most games. Here are some of the games that went down to the wire relative to the spread in the fourth quarter last week in the 13th and second-to-last full weekend of the college football season. Each week there are several teams that cover despite not necessarily deserving it, as well as other teams that played much better than the final score shows.

Georgia Tech (+2½) 28, NC State 26: The Yellow Jackets opened as a slight favorite but Thursday afternoon the line flipped to leave the Wolfpack as a slight road favorite in the underwhelming ACC prime time matchup. Georgia Tech came to play with a 14-0 edge early and also delivered a touchdown on a short field in the final minute before halftime. Another score late in the third quarter seemingly put the game away with a 28-10 edge for the Yellow Jackets but early in the fourth quarter NC State was back within one-score down by eight, making the most of an extra opportunity off a fumble. With about five minutes remaining NC State completed a lengthy drive for a touchdown but the two-point conversion attempt failed and Georgia Tech was able run off the remaining time to hold on.

Wyoming (-4) 17, Colorado State 7: The Friday night home favorite line crashed down to -4 from -7 or -6½ much of the week and in chilly conditions in Laramie it was a 7-7 tie at halftime. Out of the break Colorado State went for it on 4th-and-short on its own side of the 50 and came up short with Wyoming able to take advantage of the short field for a touchdown drive to lead by seven heading into the fourth quarter. After the aggressive call backfired earlier in the game Mike Bobo opted to try a 50-yard field goal on 4th-and-2 early in the fourth quarter down by seven for a puzzling move that also failed to work out. The Rams later failed going for it on 4th-and-6 just across midfield and also came up short for another missed opportunity. Wyoming added a field goal to lead by 10 and the final Colorado State threat ended in an interception as the Cowboys managed to win and cover despite totaling just 17 points and 273 yards.

Kent State (+3) 41, Ball State 38: In a bowl elimination game Ball State led 24-21 at halftime as a slight road favorite in a game where both teams wound up with big yardage totals. Kent State score 10 points in the third quarter but Ball State answered twice in the fourth to keep the game tied at 31-31 and then 38-38 with four minutes to go. The Flashes were able to work the field and the clock, kicking the game winner with 19 seconds to go for a minor upset, with 6-6 still in reach next week.

Oklahoma State (-7) 20, West Virginia 13: With Spencer Sanders injured, Hawai’i transfer Dru Brown stepped in at quarterback for Oklahoma State. The road favorite trailed in Morgantown through three quarters but consecutive scoring drives put the Cowboys up by seven in the fourth, even with the closing number although much of the week the line was down to -6 and even -5½ though it briefly hit as high as -7½ early in the week. Needing a touchdown to tie West Virginia was a late threat, reaching the 17-yard-line in the final minutes but the Mountaineers got stuck in a long downs and distances and could not finish the drive.

BYU (-42) 56, Massachusetts 24: The Cougars had a 49-0 edge at halftime and with little at stake in the second half, Massachusetts was able to get a muffed punt for short field to set up a score to get on the board. BYU still led by 46 heading into the fourth quarter and stopped the next UMass drive at the goal line to keep points off the board. The Minutemen would still add two late touchdowns with the game out of hand to secure the underdog cover with the massive price.

Minnesota (-16) 38, Northwestern 22: Tanner Morgan being cleared to play for the Gophers pushed this line upward but the Gophers turned in a 21-0 edge by early in the second quarter. Northwestern would stay in the game however and is was only a 28-16 score through three quarters. Minnesota would add 10 points in the fourth to lead by 22 but with about two minutes to go Northwestern completed a 77-yard drive and down 16 went for two in a key play for some with the late rise on the spread. The conversion failed as Minnesota cleared the number for all but the latest backers who left with a push.

UCF (-8) 34, Tulane 31: UCF had a 31-17 lead through three quarters and a field goal made the margin 17 with about 10 minutes remaining. Tulane didn’t mail it in however and added a touchdown with seven minutes to go. Rather than adding a field goal UCF went for it on 4th down late in the game and didn’t get there, leaving time for the Wave. After an earlier 4th down conversion Tulane faced 4th and goal from the 7 with 26 seconds left down by 10 and converted for the spread-stealing score.

Michigan State (-21½) 27, Rutgers 0: Michigan State looked to snap its losing streak and got in front of Rutgers 17-0 by halftime. The Spartans only added a field goal in the third quarter but got the ball right back with an interception. Michigan State added a touchdown four plays later and forced two late Rutgers punts to preserve the shutout and road favorite cover.

Air Force (-24½) 44, New Mexico 22: Air Force had only a 14-10 lead at halftime as the heavy favorite cover looked unlikely. The lead was just 21-16 after exchanging touchdowns but a blocked PAT gave Air Force two points after New Mexico’s touchdown. A few minutes later the Falcons hit on a 59-yard pass play to lead by 14. Air Force added two more scores both in the air in the fourth quarter to lead 44-16 but New Mexico would eventually answer with fewer than two minutes remaining. Down 22, the Lobos went for two and failed to leave the margin there at 22 on a spread that climbed from 21½ to 24½ during the week.

Georgia (-12) 19, Texas A&M 13: Georgia never really got going on offense but managed to lead by 13 into the second half even with only one of four scoring drives going further than 23 yards. Field goals were exchanged as early in the fourth Georgia still led by 13 but the Aggies converted a pair of 3rd-and-longs on the way to a touchdown with 11 minutes remaining. Texas A&M reached the Georgia 43 on a late drive down six but opted to punt on 4th-and-11 with still more than four minutes remaining and three timeouts left but the Bulldogs never gave the ball back.

USC (-12½) 52, UCLA 35: USC scored four straight touchdowns in the middle of this game to lead by 24 but UCLA trimmed the margin to 10 by the start of the fourth quarter. Seconds into the final frame USC connected for a 49-yard touchdown to go back up by 17 but UCLA was able to answer. Defensive stops weren’t common in this rivalry game and USC was back in the end zone a few minutes later on the way to amassing 643 yards in the game. Down 17 UCLA went for it on 4th-and-7 in field goal range came up short late in the game leaving the deficit at 17 despite producing 540 yards in the game.

California (-1½) 24, Stanford 20: The Game was knotted at 17-17 halfway through the fourth quarter before Stanford connected for a 44-yard field goal with just 2:23 remaining. Chase Garbers led the Bears 75 yards in just six plays, finishing the drive with a 16-yard run to go in front and the Bears held on defense for the win, eliminating Stanford from bowl contention.

Navy (-3) 35, SMU 28: SMU led 21-10 at the half but Navy was within one by the start of the fourth quarter. Just seconds into the fourth the Midshipmen delivered the go-ahead touchdown and got the two-point conversion to lead by seven. SMU didn’t take long to answer hitting a 61-yard touchdown pass but Navy had a 70-yard touchdown run a few minutes later. SMU reached the Navy 12-yard-line in the final minutes before being stopped on 4th-and-4.

UAB (-6½) 20, Louisiana Tech 14: The Blazers led 20-7 through three quarters but Louisiana Tech spoiled the cover with a 14-play touchdown drive in the fourth quarter following a UAB interception in the end zone. There was little production either way in the final eight minutes as the final margin landed on six with a push a common result as well and results both ways possible depending on the timing.

New Mexico State (-7) 44, UTEP 35: The Aggies led 21-16 through three quarters before scoring exploded in the fourth. UTEP would briefly take the lead 22-21 but then New Mexico State added the next 16 points including a defensive score to lead by 15. UTEP closed to within eight but The Aggies answered with a 53-yard touchdown run. As time expired UTEP would find the end zone but it wasn’t quite enough with a nine-point final.

Wake Forest (-6) 39, Duke 27: Wake Forest had a convincing yardage edge and a 10-point lead heading into the fourth quarter but Duke was able to stay within striking distance with a touchdown early in the fourth and then held the Demon Deacons to a short field goal. Duke then delivered 98-yard kickoff return touchdown to suddenly take the lead. Wake Forest would answer in only three plays but couldn’t get the conversion and led by just five on a favorite spread that fell from -7½ to just -6 by kickoff. Duke wasn’t able to pick up a first down but the defense had a chance to get the ball back as Wake Forest went for it on 4th down just outside of field goal range. An 11-yard run followed and the Demon Deacons were into the end zone two plays later for the 12-point final margin.

Cincinnati (-8½) 15, Temple 13: The Bearcats led 13-0 through three quarters in this game despite several scoring chances for Temple in the first three quarters and a substantial production edge for the underdog Owls. The favorite spread for Cincinnati crashed from -10½ to -8½ on Saturday and the favorite cover still seemed possible after Temple finally got on the board as the PAT was blocked and returned the other way to keep Cincinnati ahead by nine. Temple forced a 3-and-out on defense and converted two third downs on the way to another touchdown to trail by two with seven minutes to go. Cincinnati missed a field goal on the next drive to give the Owls a great shot at the upset. A play after converting a 4th down, Temple quarterback Anthony Russo was intercepted taking a shot into Cincinnati territory as the Bearcats survived to stay perfect in AAC play.

Arkansas State (-1) 38, Georgia Southern 33: Big plays were the name of the game for Arkansas State with four early touchdowns on passes for 27 or more yards plus a 94-yard kickoff return touchdown, taking a 35-10 lead. Georgia Southern produced a massive rushing edge in this game however and while more methodical in its pace, found a way back in the game. A touchdown and a two-point conversion in the third quarter brought the Eagles within 11 and the defense caught a break with a missed Red Wolves field goal. With about five minutes left in the game Georgia Southern scored to climb within five and Arkansas State again missed a kick trying to extend the lead to eight. In the final two minutes Georgia Southern reached the Arkansas State 33-yard-line before taking a sack and a 4th-and-11 scramble netted only 10 yards as the Red Wolves escaped.

LSU (-41) 56, Arkansas 20: Two Arkansas field goals early in the game seemed possibly enough for the underdog cover with a massive spread in this contest. LSU managed two touchdowns late in the first half however and took over in the third quarter, eventually leading by 50 early in the fourth quarter. Arkansas would score twice in the fourth however including a short field score following a successful on-side kick to take the spread win.