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College Football Week 15, NFL Week 14 Free Picks

SEC Championship Game, 4:00PM ET
Both Missouri and Auburn were predicted to finish near the bottom of their respective divisions in the SEC and yet both shocked the masses by meeting in the SEC title game. Even though this is an even matchup, all anyone can talk about is Auburn after the Tigers pulled off the upset over Alabama last Saturday. A very underrated Mizzou team isn’t getting the attention it deserves. Dorial Green-Beckham and L’Damian Washington create mismatch problems against Auburn’s smaller defensive backs, and Mizzou owns one of the most balanced offenses in the nation led by proficient QB James Franklin. On the other side, Auburn’s rushing attack has been a headache for opponents all season, which includes Alabama and its stout front seven last weekend. That said, Mizzou has an athletic front seven capable of stretching out Auburn’s ground attack and at least limiting its effect. Mizzou won’t be able to contain Auburn because nobody has. But if it can build a lead with its passing game and force Auburn to be somewhat one-dimensional, Mizzou will win this game. Mizzou is 4-0 against the spread in its last four conference games, 13-3-1 ATS in its last 17 games overall, and 7-1-1 ATS in its last nine games following an ATS win.
FREE PICK: MISSOURI +1

Big Ten Championship Game, 8:17PM ET
Based on Michigan State’s vastly underrated defense, many expect this game to be low-scoring. But Ohio State struggled with Michigan’s offense last week despite Devin Gardner’s regression all season. Yes, you can throw out the records when Ohio State and Michigan meet. Thus, it wasn’t shocking that the Wolverines hung with the Buckeyes on their home turf last week. But what was surprising is that Gardner put on a show and a Michigan offense that hadn’t been firing on all cylinders in over a month racked up 41 points on the Buckeyes. Despite Michigan State’s success this season defensively, Braxton Miller and that Ohio State offense will get theirs in the end. Granted, the Big Ten has only held two championship games in its existence. But both games sailed over the total as Wisconsin edged Michigan State 42-39 in 2011 and the Badgers thumped Nebraska 70-31 last year. Look for more fireworks on Saturday night at Lucas Oil.
FREE PICK: OVER 51.5

Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State, 12:00PM ET
The only reason this contest could wind up being close is because its a rivalry game and the Sooners’ defense should keep things interesting, at least at the start. But Oklahoma’s offense has been punchless in big games this season, unless you consider its 38-point outburst over an overrated Texas Tech team back in October. The Sooners could only muster 12 points versus Baylor in early November and scored 20 in a 36-20 loss to Texas in mid-October. If Oklahoma State’s offense is firing on all cylinders, this one should get ugly in the second half. The Cowboys are 6-0 against the spread in their last six conference games and 7-1 ATS in its last eight games following a straight up win of more than 20 points. Look for OK State to roll.
FREE PICK: OKLAHOMA STATE -10

Panthers vs. Saints, 8:30PM ET
The Saints were embarrassed in Seattle on Monday night so look for Sean Payton’s squad to come out fired up with first place in the NFC South up for grabs on Sunday night. Carolina’s defense is criminally underrated but New Orleans’ offense operates at another level at home compared to on the road. Payton is a more aggressive play-caller, Drew Brees is a more accurate passer, and the skill position players are usually unstoppable in their one-on-one matchups. The Saints are 21-6 against the spread in their last 27 home games and 13-3 ATS in their last 16 home games versus a team with a winning road record. The only reason the spread has been set as low as it has is because New Orleans played so poorly on a national stage last Monday. The Saints represent value.
FREE PICK: SAINTS -3

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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Top 25 roundup: Oklahoma, LSU make statements

Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones (12) passes in the 1st half of their NCAA football game in Tallahassee, Florida Sept 17, 2011. The Oklahoma Sooners defeated the Florida State Sminoles 23-13. UPI/Mark Wallheiser

Yes, Texas is young. Yes, the Longhorns were overrated at No. 11 in the country. But the beating Oklahoma put on Texas today was one normally reserved for early-season patsies and not top-15 rivalry opponents.

I figured the Texas offense would struggle, and it did, managing just 10 points (one score came on a kick return) and turning the ball over five times. Freshman quarterback Case McCoy and David Ash combined to go 20-of-36 for 223 yards a touchdown and two interceptions. They had zero help from the run game, as it gained just 36 yards.

I did expect a bit more from the Texas defense, however, which was used and abused to the tune of 453 yards, most of it coming on the arm of Landry Jones (367 yards). All of these yards, and this game was well in hand at halftime.

As impressive as Oklahoma was, the one worry could be the run game, which gained just 86 yards. Texas’ run defense is certainly not as good as what the Sooners will see in a possible national title game against LSU or Alabama. They only had 19 carries, however, and averaged 4.5 yards per carry. Starting running back Dominique Whaley had 83 of those yards on 13 carries (6.4 ypc), so maybe I’m just looking for negatives in a game filled with positives.

This win, combined with the Florida State victory and a preseason No. 1 ranking, is normally good enough to be the consensus No. 1 team in the country. Not this year, however. Read the rest of this entry »

Oklahoma linebacker Austin Box found dead

The Oklahoma football program was rocked on Thursday with the news that middle linebacker Austin Box has died at the age of 22.

According to SI.com, a spokeswoman for the state Medical Examiner’s office confirmed the death. El Reno Police Chief Ken Brown says officers and medics responded this morning to a call of an unresponsive male who was identified as Box. The senior linebacker from Enid was then taken to an El Reno hospital before being transferred by air ambulance to an Oklahoma City hospital where he later passed away.

A police report obtained by KOKH FOX 25 in Oklahoma City shows that Box’s death was “probably” related to an overdose. The report doesn’t reveal what Box took, but it does say that it was a “controlled dangerous substance.” I would caution, however, not to read too much into this report until more details are released. The use of the word “probably” is sketchy at best and the link provided is to the site’s Facebook page (which doesn’t exactly scream “reliable information”). Still, I included the link because of the mention of the police report.

Whatever the cause of death, this is a tragedy and it’s a sad day for Box’s family and friends, as well as the Oklahoma and college football world. At 22 years old, the he had his entire life ahead of him and it’s sad that a young person perished so soon.

My thoughts go out to Box’s family.

2011 College Football Program Power Rankings

Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor hands off the ball to tailback Dane Sanzenbacher in the third quarter at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans during the 77th Annual Allstate Sugar Bowl January 4, 2011. The Buckeyes won 31-26 UPI/Dave Fornell

Almost a year ago we decided to try to quantify the stature of college football programs so that we could rank them against one another. (Click here for the 2010 Rankings.) Then our football guru, Anthony Stalter, wrote a little bit about each program and the direction that it’s headed.

Here’s how the total points are determined — 20 points for a national championship, 10 for a BCS title game loss, seven for a BCS bowl win, five for a BCS bowl loss, five for a BCS conference championship, three for a mid-major conference championship, two for a BCS conference runner-up and one for a major bowl appearance (i.e. a bowl that has a recent payout of more than $2 million, so for 2011 that would be Capital One, Outback, Chick-fil-A, Cotton, Gator, Insight, Holiday, Champs Sports and Alamo.) You’ll see the total points in parenthesis after the team’s name.

We put some thought into the point values for each accomplishment, paying special attention to how the point values are relative to one another. For example, we figured that one national championship would equate to four BCS conference championships, or three BCS bowl wins. We only looked at the last five years, as college football has increasingly become a fluid and fickle sport, and that’s about how far back a recruit will go when deciding amongst a list of schools.

Lastly, since a program is so dependent on the guy in charge, we added or subtracted points if the program saw an upgrade or downgrade at the head coach position in the last five years. A max of 10 points would be granted (or docked) based on the level of upgrade or downgrade. Again, we tried to quantify the hire relative to the program’s other accomplishments. For example, hiring Nick Saban is probably worth two BCS bowl appearances, or 10 points. (Sure, he might lead Alabama to more, but he also might bolt for another job in a year or two.)

So, without further ado, here are the rankings. Every year we’ll go through and update the numbers based on what the program did that year (while throwing out the oldest year of data), so don’t fret if your team isn’t quite where you want them right now. Everyone has a chance to move up.

1. Ohio State (58)

Previous Rank: #2 (+1)
Some college football fans will take issue with the Buckeyes being No. 1 because of their “soft schedule.” But this is a team that has dominated its conference five of the past six years and has finished no worse than second in each of the past six seasons. They’ve also appeared in two title games (though they lost both) and nine straight BCS bowl games, winning the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl in the past two years. They’ve got an interesting season coming up though. Five of their players including quarterback Terrelle Pryor, running back Dan Herron and receiver DeVier Posey will miss the first five games next year after being suspended. Can the Buckeyes stay unscathed until those players return?

2. Florida (51)

Previous Rank: #1 (-1)
If it weren’t for Urban Meyer leaving the program (and their lousy 2010 season), the Gators would probably still be ranked No. 1. They have three conference championships and two national championships in two years, but the lose of Meyer hurts big-time in these rankings. But don’t fret Florida fans, if Will Muschamp gets the program back on the right track then the Gators won’t be at No. 2 for long.

Read the rest of this entry »

Fiesta Bowl Preview: Connecticut vs. Oklahoma

DALLAS - OCTOBER 02: Running back Demarco Murray  of the Oklahoma Sooners celebrates a touchdown with Dejuan Miller  against the Texas Longhorns in the first quarter at the Cotton Bowl on October 2, 2010 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

2011 BCS Bowl Previews: BCS National Championship | Fiesta Bowl | Rose Bowl | Orange Bowl | Sugar Bowl

Date: Saturday, January 1 2011
Time: 8:30PM ET
TV: ESPN

Why Watch: Because it’s Bob Stoops and Oklahoma – anything could happen. This is definitely the biggest mismatch of the five BCS bowl games, but Stoops has a five-game losing streak in BCS bowl games, which includes the Sooners’ shocking loss to Boise State in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. The Huskies are also sixth in the nation in kickoff returns and Oklahoma has allowed three kickoff returns for touchdowns this season, including one in each of their losses. UCONN running back Jordan Todman finished second in the nation in rushing, averaging 143 yards per game. Considering Oklahoma allowed 151 rushing yards per contest in the regular season, maybe the Huskies can play keep away from Landry Jones and the Sooner offense. Just when everyone thinks a blowout is inevitable, the opposite happens so don’t give up on this one.

Game Facts: This will be the Huskies’ fourth-straight bowl appearance under head coach Randy Edsall. They pulled off an upset against South Carolina in last season’s PapaJohns.com Bowl in which they held the Gamecocks to only a touchdown in a 20-7 win. That victory improved UCONN’s all-time bowl record to 3-1. The Sooners are 25-17-1 all-time in bowls, but have lost in their last three appearances in the Fiesta Bowl. They’re also 5-6 overall in bowls under Stoops, who has his team playing in a BCS Bowl for the eighth time in 12 seasons.

Key Player: Zach Frazer, Connecticut
If Connecticut has any chance at pulling off an upset, Frazer better play at another level. None of this “playing within himself” or “not making mistakes” nonsense – he’s going to have to play the best game of his life. Oklahoma is going to stack the box to take away Jordan Todman, which is exactly what a defense should do against a starting quarterback who has a 102.1 rating and has thrown for only five touchdowns all season. He needs to prove that Oklahoma even needs to use defensive backs in this game. Otherwise, we’re in for the snoozer that we all expect.

Read the rest of this entry »

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