College Football Week 13, NFL Week 12 Free Picks

Missouri vs. Ole Miss, 7:45PM ET
Some pundits didn’t expect Mizzou to win six games this season and now the Tigers are knocking on the door of playing in the SEC championship game. They have two more hurdles to overcome, however, as they need to beat Ole Miss on Saturday night and then Texas A&M in their final game of the regular season. Fortunately their starting quarterback James Franklin is set to return from injury to take the place of redshirt freshman Maty Mauk, who filled in admirably while Franklin was out with a shoulder injury. Before he was knocked out of a win against Georgia earlier this season, Franklin was completing 67.7 percent of his passes and was one of the top quarterbacks in the nation from a statistical standpoint. One mismatch that Franklin can take advantage of is the one-on-one issues that the Tigers’ receivers will give the Rebels’ cornerbacks. L’Damian Washington stands 6’4″ while future NFL prospect Dorial Green-Beckham is 6’6″ and Marcus Lucas is 6’5″. Conversely, Ole Miss’ starting corners are 5’9″ (Senquez Golson) and 5’8″ (Mike Hilton). As long as Mizzou’s stout defense can limit Bo Wallace’s ability to freelance and connect for big plays, they should win.

Oregon vs. Arizona, 3:30PM ET
Oregon is back on track to being the top seed from the Pac-12 and it knows style points will count tomorrow in Arizona. The Wildcats, meanwhile, have failed to cover in three straight games and are coming off a lifeless performance versus Washington State last week. The Ducks are 12-2 against the spread in their last 14 road games and 10-4 ATS in their last 14 conference games. Arizona doesn’t have the hosses up front to dominant Oregon in the trenches. These are the types of matchups where the Ducks thrive.

Cowboys vs. Giants, 4:25PM ET
The Giants have won four straight but take a look at the quarterbacks they beat during that stretch: Josh Freeman, who didn’t know the playbook, Nick Foles before he became Nick Foles, a hobbled Terrelle Pryor and then Scott Tolzien last Sunday. Not exactly a Murderer’s Row of signal-callers. Granted, the Cowboys’ defense has been brutal under Monte Kiffin this season but Eli Manning hasn’t been sharp himself. The Cowboys are 4-1 against the spread in their last five games following a straight up loss and 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games overall. Take the dog.

Panthers vs. Dolphins, 1:00PM ET
There isn’t a team hotter right now in the NFL than the Carolina Panthers, which is why they’re probably due for a letdown. They’re coming off back-to-back wins versus the 49ers on the road, and the Patriots at home on Monday night. Seeing as how they’re coming off a short week and now have to make the trip down to Miami, this is a perfect time to fade the Panthers. The Dolphins have been a mess both on and off the field over the past three weeks but they picked up a nice home win last week against the Chargers and are 4-0 against the spread in their last four games versus the Panthers.

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Fade Material: College Football Week 3 Predictions

Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell (C) runs onto the field prior to their NCAA football game against the University of Akron in Columbus, Ohio September 3, 2011. REUTERS/Matt Sullivan (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Well, go figure. I change the name of this column to “Fade Material” and then I start handing out winning picks. If I knew that was all I had to do, I would have changed the title years ago and avoided all the years of .500 or below predictions.

After a 3-1 performance in Week 1, I finished 3-0-1 with my Week 2 picks. Georgia was a push against South Carolina but TCU, Alabama and BYU had no problems covering. I’m still looking for my first sweep of the season, so let’s see if we can’t nail it this week. (Although I admit to having reservations about “Road Test Weekend.” There are some tough games on the board…)

Auburn @ Clemson, 12:00PM ET
Everyone keeps waiting for Auburn to lose and all they’ve done the past two weeks is pull wins out of their backsides. The No. 19 Tigers find themselves once again as underdogs, this time against an unranked Clemson team. Nobody can ever quite figure out Clemson, which either plays the game of its life or sinks to the level of its competition. They’re 1-4 against the spread in their last five home games and 3-7 ATS in their last 10 versus the SEC, while Auburn is 4-1 ATS in their last five road games. Auburn is also 6-0 ATS versus a team with a winning record and 4-0 ATS in their last four games an underdog. I think the Tigers of Auburn keeps this within a field goal, making that 3.5-point spread highly attractive.

Ohio State @ Miami, 7:30PM ET
The Buckeyes face their first road test under new head coach Luke Fickell and while they didn’t look particularly sharp against Toledo last week at home, I like OSU to win outright tonight. They’ll face a quarterback in Jacory Harris, who is coming off a one-game suspension and who was unimpressive against Oho State last year. He threw four interceptions, including three in the first half alone. Granted, that was a different Buckeyes team last season but the defense is still solid and I expect them to give Harris trouble again this time around. The Buckeyes are 11-3 against the number in all games over the last two seasons and 14-4 ATS in road games in September since 1992.

Read the rest of this entry »

How did Arizona beat Duke?

Arizona Wildcats players celebrate during their NCAA West Regional college basketball game against the Duke Blue Devils in Anaheim, California March 24, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Derrick Williams played a nearly perfect first half, and then his supporting cast played a nearly perfect second half.

It’s really that simple.

If not for Williams, Duke might have blown Arizona out in the first 20 minutes. The sophomore forward went 8-for-11 from the field (5-of-6 from 3PT) for 25 points to go along with six rebounds, three steals and a block. That’s all in a half, people. Not a game. A half. His deep three as time expired cut the Duke lead from nine to six, and gave Arizona some momentum heading into intermission.

One category that coaches and statheads both look at is offensive efficiency, which is the number of points per possession that an offense scores in any given game. Since each offensive rebound starts a new possession, one stat I like to look at is the number of points per trip. In the second half, the Wildcats scored 55 points on 35 trips, or 1.57 points per trip. The sign of a good offense is generally 1.0 point per trip, so Arizona’s work in the half was nothing short of outstanding.

Arizona missed just 16 shots in the second half (making 21), but gathered 12 (twelve!) offensive rebounds, so along with three turnovers, the Wildcats only had eight scoreless trips in the second half. That means that they scored on 27 of their 35 (77%) trips in the final 20 minutes. That’s a truly an amazing half of basketball.

Arizona made nearly all its open shots and hit several tough leaners and fadeaways that aren’t typically high percentage shots. They took care of the ball — remember the aforementioned three turnovers — and made every correct decision when Duke’s defense came over to help or trap.

That said, Duke still had a chance to make a run with about six minutes to play. The Blue Devils cut the lead from 14 to 11 and forced an Arizona miss, but Nolan Smith couldn’t convert a semi-tough layup to get the lead under 10. Had that shot gone in, the pressure would have been back on the Wildcats, and the game might have been tighter at the end. But it didn’t fall and Arizona went on a 5-0 run to push the lead back to 16. Wheels off. Game over.

Arizona’s Derrick Williams alley-oop [video]

Top teams make Friday the new day for college football

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 6: Quarterback Cam Newton  of the Auburn Tigers celebrates a touchdown against the Chattanooga Mocs November 6, 2010 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Cam Newton’s done a lot of smiling so far this season. He’s the Heisman Trophy front-runner on the undefeated No. 2 team in the country.

A lot of people, including Vegas, don’t believe he’ll be smiling after today’s Iron Bowl, however.

The Tigers come into today’s game (2:30 p.m. ET on CBS) as a 4-point underdog against their biggest rival, Alabama, despite coming into the game with the undefeated record, Newton and two wins against the teams that have given Alabama its two losses.

It’s the game that is supposed to open the door for Boise State, or perhaps TCU to break into the national title game. It’s the game that’s supposed to save the NCAA from being embarrassed down the road if Newton is found to be ineligible after the Tigers have won a national title.

But will it be? Read the rest of this entry »

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