My Tuesday Take: Nov. 27, 2018

Last Thursday was Thanksgiving and like every Thanksgiving, people say what they are thankful for, and the Dallas Cowboys have a game. Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones is most likely very thankful that he gave up a first round draft pick for wide receiver Amari Cooper after he had a monster game against the Redskins that night that included touchdowns of 40 and 90 yards.

Cooper was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the first round of the 2015 draft. His first two seasons with the Raiders were great. He had over 1,000 receiving yards in those two years. Cooper struggled in 2017 with an ankle injury. It looked like this year was going to be another down year for Cooper (it looks like that is the case for everyone in Oakland) until he was traded to Dallas on October 22 for the Cowboys’ 2019 first round pick, and his season immediately began to look up.

Amari Cooper has more receiving yards in four games with Dallas than he did in six games with Oakland. I would expect his numbers to keep growing as he continues to learn the offense and becomes quarterback Dak Prescott’s main target. Mr. Jones, you can sleep well at night knowing you found the missing piece your team needed to compete for a playoff spot. Continue to be thankful that everyone else was wrong.

CFP #5 Predictions

The last week of college football brought a ton of excitement and some key upsets. Not only did #8 Washington St go down on Friday to #16 Washington in the snow on Friday, but #7 LSU came up just short to #22 Texas A&M after seven overtimes, and #4 Michigan was embarrassed in The Game by #10 Ohio State on Saturday. LSU and Washington St are both expected to fall out of the Top 10. While #1-3 will stay the same, everything else is up in the air.

Some things to keep an eye on are:

  • How far does Ohio State move up after finally getting their statement win? The committee has held them at #10 for the last few weeks because they struggled against unranked opponents with losing records. With #7 and 8 going down, along with #9 UCF losing starting quarterback McKenzie Milton to a severe knee injury, this could be the week that they see themselves jump up several spots.
  • How much does the committee view teams that are going to play in their conference championships? Texas and Washington have three losses each, and both will play Top 20 teams in their championships next week. That’s one more game for each team to show the committee they deserved to be ranked higher. I specifically want to focus on Texas because they play Oklahoma next week and have already beat them. Two out of three of their losses are to unranked Maryland and Oklahoma St. I don’t have them in my Top 10, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up there.

Without further ado, here are my guesses for this week:

  1. Alabama
  2. Celmson
  3. Notre Dame
  4. Georgia
  5. Oklahoma
  6. Ohio State
  7. UCF
  8. Michigan
  9. Florida
  10. Penn State

My Tuesday Take: Nov. 20, 2018

The Pittsburgh Steelers took on the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on Sunday. What should’ve been an easy win for the Jaguars and would’ve kept them in contention for first place in the AFC South, turned into a heartbreaking loss and most likely ended their chances of getting into the playoffs.

Sunday’s game started off down right awful for two-time Super Bowl champion and future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger, who threw two interceptions in his first 12 pass attempts. The leaders of the AFC North failed to score any points in the first half for the first time in over two years. But because Jacksonville’s offense wasn’t able to turn the interceptions into touchdowns and only scored three field goals in the first half, Pittsburgh was still in the game going into halftime.

The second half still looked ugly for the Steelers, but Big Ben was able to connect with wide receiver Antonio Brown for a 78-yard touchdown pass after Jags’ running back Leonard Fournette scored his team’s lone touchdown. Jacksonville’s offense stalled after their touchdown. Then, Roethlisberger did what he does best in the fourth quarter. He marched the team down the field and found tight end Vance McDonald in the end zone on the plus side of the two-minute warning. The Steelers’ defense came up huge with a three and out on the Jags’ next possession. Pittsburgh took advantage and marched down the field. It looked like all hope was lost when running back James Conner dropped a sure touchdown pass. After a few more plays, Roethlisberger threw what would’ve been his fourth interception of the day had the Jaguars not committed a very obvious facemask penalty that spun wide receiver Ryan Switzer to the ground. Then with five seconds left on the clock, Big Ben ran and dove around an offensive lineman for the game-winning touchdown.

Losing a game that looked like a win from the start begs the question: Do the Jaguars finally realize they need a new quarterback? This question doesn’t come up just because of this one game. It’s been a continuous thing over the last few years, including when starting quarterback Blake Bortles was benched during a game about a month ago. Now, I know that every quarterback can’t be a future Hall of Famer like Ben Roethlisberger, but the Jags desperately need an upgrade. They cannot just hope that their group of running backs will rush for over 200 yards per game, especially when Fournette is injured for half the season. Honestly, Lamar Jackson would’ve been the perfect quarterback for them in last year’s draft because he is the opposite of Blake Bortles. He’s explosive. That may have described Bortles at UCF but not now. Jacksonville has a Super Bowl worthy defense and running back. It’s time they get at least an average quarterback that will put them in a position to try to win a game. Jags, don’t be afraid to take advantage of free agency or the draft, and go get your franchise guy.

CFP #4 Predictions

Last week was the first time ever that the Top 10 stayed the same for two weeks in a row. It looked like that streak would continue for a third week until Oklahoma St ended WVU’s chances at the playoff late in the game. With WVU out, two questions now need to be answered:

  1. Does Ohio State move up to #9 after beating an unranked Maryland team, whose quarterback tore his ACL last week, 52 to 51 in overtime after the Terrapins failed to convert a two-point attempt to win the game. The committee has held the Buckeyes at #10 for close wins to bad teams before, like a then two-win Nebraska gave them a hard time, and Ohio State ended up winning by five points.
  2. Is this the week that UCF finally cracks the Top 10? The Golden Knights took advantage of a College GameDay atmosphere and handled #24 Cincinnati. UCF crawled its way up to #11 last week. I believe they come in at #10 by default because #12 Syracuse lost and #13 and below have too many losses. They will also stay behind Ohio St because of strength of schedule. OSU just has more quality wins.

My predictions for this week are:

  1. Alabama
  2. Clemson
  3. Notre Dame
  4. Michigan
  5. Georgia
  6. Oklahoma
  7. LSU
  8. Washington St
  9. Ohio State
  10. UCF

Potential Super Bowl Preview

Tonight is the game that football fans have been waiting for all season. Maybe the most hyped game of the season is the Kansas City Chiefs versus the Los Angeles Rams. Tonight’s game, which was originally supposed to be played at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, could very well be a preview of the upcoming Super Bowl. Both teams are 9-1 and are currently leading their divisions. The Rams’ and Chiefs’ offenses are averaging the second and third most yards per play in NFL history, respectively, and no one has been able to slow them down. Each team’s lone loss was a shootout. The Chiefs lost to the Patriots 40 to 43. The Rams lost to the Saints 35 to 45.

These teams have playmakers at every position. Kansas City has superstars like quarterback Pat Mahomes, running back Kareem Hunt, wide receiver Tyreek Hill, and tight end Travis Kelce. Mahomes has electrified this offense since the Chiefs traded former starter and very cautious quarterback Alex Smith, who broke his leg yesterday. LA has last year’s offensive and defensive players of the year in running back Todd Gurley and defensive end Aaron Donald. They also have quarterback Jared Goff, who has proved why he was worthy of being selected number one overall after a disastrous start to his career. To top it off, the Rams’ defensive line is made up of four former first round picks.

This really should be the most fun game of the year to watch. These teams match up really well on paper, too. Their offensive and defensive stats per game are very similar. The things to keep an eye on are that the Chiefs average more yards per pass (310.7 to 253.9), and the Rams average more rushing yards (144.8 to 117.6). It could be very interesting to see if Coach Sean McVay allows Goff to open up the field more or if Gurley becomes more of a work horse. Does Mahomes’ star continue to shine or is this the game that he looks like it’s his first year playing?

CFP #3 Predictions

In about 15 minutes the College Football Playoff Committee is going to release its rankings for the third time this year. Every team in the Top 10 won this week, so I can’t imagine any teams moving up or down. The committee also made two things very clear: Notre Dame will continue to be ahead of Michigan unless ND loses and strength of schedule matters. I still stand by that Michigan is the better team and deserves to be #3. Here is my prediction for this week:

  1. Alabama
  2. Clemson
  3. Notre Dame
  4. Michigan
  5. Georgia
  6. Oklahoma
  7. LSU
  8. Washington St
  9. West Virginia
  10. Ohio State

CFP Poll #2 Predictions

The second rankings for the CFP Poll are going to be released tonight. Here are my predictions for the Top 10:

  1. Alabama – They were the #1 team before this week, and all they did was easily beat #3 LSU 29 to 0.
  2. Clemson – The Tigers destroyed Louisville 77 to 16 and had three running backs run over 100 yards each.
  3. Michigan – Yes, I know Notre Dame is undefeated and beat Michigan, but that was the first game of the year. Michigan blew out #14 PSU 42 to 7 and is clearly better than Notre Dame right now. The committee forgives teams for losing a game to an unranked opponent, so why not forgive a loss to a ranked team.
  4. Notre Dame – The Fighting Irish beat an unranked Northwestern by 10 points. That’s not impressive.
  5. Georgia – They beat #9 Kentucky, who will fall out of the Top 10, 34 to 17 to take the SEC East.
  6. Oklahoma – They won an offensive shootout over Texas Tech.
  7. Washington St – They beat a Cal team that upset Washington last week.
  8. Ohio State – The Buckeyes scraped by with a five-point victory over Nebraska, who has only two wins. They move up by default because Kentucky and LSU lost.
  9. LSU – I believe they fall this far because the loss to Bama was their second lost of the season. They stay in the Top 10 because they have a strong schedule.
  10. WVU – This is a toss up between WVU and UCF, who was ranked higher last week. -This is where the strength of schedule could really come into play. WVU, or Country Roads as I like to call them, beat #17 Texas by one point. That looks a lot better than coming back to beat unranked Temple by 12 points. UCF’s schedule is their biggest opponent because it is terribly weak.

Making a Statement

Statement Saturday lived up to its name as the playoff picture began to take shape after some important match-ups took place on November 3rd. These games determined the SEC East and West winners, knocked LSU out of the playoffs, made Michigan the clear front runner for the Big Ten, and dismantled Florida’s, Texas’, and Penn State’s seasons.

The biggest takeaway from this past weekend is that Alabama showed they deserve to be the #1 team in the country after having been criticized for their “cupcake” schedule. They routed #3 LSU, whom many believed were back to their former glory, 29 to 0. The so-called “DBU” stood no chance against Bama’s high-powered and talented offense, especially with linebacker Devin White suspended for the first half because of a controversial targeting call that resulted in his ejection in the second half of LSU’s last game. The Tigers desperately needed to win this game to potentially clinch the SEC West and keep their playoff hopes alive, as no two-loss team has ever made the College Football Playoff. This win for Bama means they’ve clinched the SEC West and will face Georgia, who beat Kentucky to win the SEC East, in the conference championship game.

For once, the biggest event in Kentucky in November wasn’t about horse racing. It was a college football game. Georgia took on Kentucky in the most important football game in Lexington in years. The Wildcats watched their SEC champion hopes disappear as the Bulldogs ran their way to a win. Although Georgia secured the SEC East, Kentucky should be proud of the strides made by their team this year and that they are now both a basketball and football school. Several teams, most notably Florida, Texas, and Penn State, saw their once-promising seasons come to an end as each recorded their third loss. Florida was defeated by unranked Missouri while Texas lost a heart breaker to #13 West Virginia when quarterback Will Grier converted a two-point conversion to take a one-point lead with 16 seconds left. #14 Penn State was blown out by #5 Michigan at The Big House.

The convincing win for Michigan over PSU will propel them into the Top 4 and, possibly, a playoff berth. It means that Michigan holds onto first place in the Big Ten East and controls their own destiny to the Big Ten Championship and CFP. Winning their last three games, especially the last one at Ohio State, means those two goals become a reality, and maybe most importantly, Harbaugh keeps his job.

My Tuesday Take: Oct. 23, 2018

The Big Ten reestablished itself as one of the best conferences in college football over the last few years with strong campaigns in the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Four teams finished in the top 10 in 2016 and five in the top 17 in 2017. However, this season has been a disappointment. Five teams were ranked in the top 14, including an overrated Wisconsin from an extremely weak Big Ten West at #4 ahead of Ohio State in the stronger Big Ten East. Now, as Week 9 approaches, only one of those teams is ranked in the top 10. That one team is a surprisingly strong Michigan.

Michigan has only one loss this year, and that was to Notre Dame, who is currently undefeated and ranked as the third best team in the country. The #5 Wolverines are now, most likely, the Big Ten’s last hope to be represented in this year’s College Football Playoff after #2 Ohio State was blown out by an unranked Purdue and dropped to #11. Michigan faces two ranked opponents in their final four games, a struggling and shaky Penn State at home and the #11 Buckeyes in Columbus. They should take care of the #17 Nittany Lions, as well as the always terrible Rutgers and a .500 Indiana. Their only challenge should be “The Game” in Columbus, and they absolutely have to win it because the CFP committee hasn’t put a two-loss team in the top 14 yet. The saying is that “defense travels” and, boy, do the Wolverines have a good defense.* It will give them a good shot at winning their final game.

 

*Michigan State was held to 94 total yards last week. NINETY FOUR!!!! That’s not a typo.

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