Combine mania

Have you ever seen so much discussion over hand sizes? We have months to go until the NFL Draft, which mercilessly won’t be held until May this year, and now with the NFL combine the endless talk about the draft is only intensifying. Be prepared for endless scrutiny, and the sizes of body parts will be a big (pun intended) part of it. Good grief.

Here are some of the stats that has everyone talking.

Johnny Manziel – Texas A&M (9 7/8 inches)
Blake Bortles – Central Florida (9 3/8)
Teddy Bridgewater – Louisville (9 1/4)
Tajh Boyd – Clemson (9 5/8)
Derek Carr – Fresno State (9 1/8)
AJ McCarron – Alabama (10)
Jimmy Garoppolo – Eastern Illinois (9 1/4)

Teddy Bridgewater seems perfectly pro ready, but now fans can obsess as to whether his hands are too small. Blake Bortles is a huge guy, but he doesn’t have really big hands. Johnny Manziel seems to have the hands, along with big feet and plenty of confidence, so there’s something for his fans to hang their hats on.

With today’s interviews, now there’s even more to obsess about as reporters, fans and Twitter addicts obsess over every word.

What will the draft order be for the top three quarterback contenders (Manziel, Bortles and Bridgewater) – who knows? If you’re a betting man trying to guess you might have better luck over at gamevillage.com (You can like gamevillage.com on Facebook). Perhaps the combine and then the individual workouts will help clarify the situation, but I doubt it.

Nobody really knows what teams like the Texans, Jaguars and Browns will do. Two of them have new coaches. The Browns have a new everybody, though Ray Farmer was there with the last regime, even if he wasn’t making the decisions.

We also have three guys with completely different style and levels of development. Teddy Bridgewater is the most pro ready. Johnny Manziel is the great college star who can improvise with the best of them, but who runs too much and is at greater risk to get injured in the NFL. Then you have Blake Bortles. The ky is the ceiling with him, maybe, given his size and athleticism. But he ran a read option scheme in college. He ran way too much, and the pro game seems like a huge leap for him.

So this process with be interesting and yet tedious all at the same time. I wish it were over tomorrow.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

College Football Week 7, NFL Week 6 Free Picks

No. 25 Missouri vs. No. 7 Georgia, 12:00PM ET
The Tigers are back in the AP top 25 for the first time in two years and are coming off a 51-28 drubbing of Vanderbilt on the road last Saturday. Quarterback James Franklin has looked sharp in the early going and has weapons at his disposal in Henry Josey and dynamic playmaker Dorial Green-Beckham. On the other side, No. 7 Georgia barely escaped Knoxville with a victory last weekend and is severely banged up offensively. The Bulldogs will be without running backs Keith Marshall and Todd Gurely, as well as recievers Michael Bennett and Justin Scott-Wesley. And while quarterback Aaron Murray has put on a show in back-to-back weeks, the defense still has plenty of holes after losing a handful of starters to the NFL draft back in April. Georgia is tough to beat in between the hedges, but look for Mizzou to keep things tight.
FREE PICK: MISSOURI +7.5

No. 9 Texas A&M vs. Ole Miss, 8:30PM ET
Two weeks ago there was plenty of chatter surrounding the 3-0 Rebels as they headed into Tuscaloosa. But following a 25-0 blanking at the hands of Alabama and a 30-22 upset last week versus Auburn, Ole Miss has once again fallen off the map. On the other side, A&M has completely regrouped following its loss to Alabama. The Aggies thumped a hapless SMU squad 42-13 before out-pacing Arkansas 45-33 two weeks ago in Fayetteville. Kevin Sumlin’s team is well rested coming off the bye and more importantly his defense has started to show signs of life. The spread is too low for this game, as “Johnny Football” and Co. should roll.
FREE PICK: TEXAS A&M -6

Steelers at Jets, 1:00PM ET
It was impressive to watch Geno Smith lead the Jets to a huge road victory over the Falcons on Monday Night Football, but suddenly the national media has made him into Randall Cunningham. Thanks to a rash of injuries the Falcons were without their starting running back, left tackle, middle linebacker, one of their outside linebackers, one of their starting defensive ends and were forced to play a hobbled Roddy White and Julio Jones because their reciveving corps is so thin. In other words, what the Jets did was impressive but they didn’t exactly beat the same Atlanta team that came within 10 yards of going to the Super Bowl last year. The Steelers are coming off their bye and thus, should have had plenty of time to regroup and iron out their issues on both sides of the ball. While it’s shocking to see the Giants at 0-6 on the year, it would be even more surprising to watch the Steelers fall to 0-5.
FREE PICK: STEELERS +1

Rams at Texans, 1:00PM ET
The Texans are in the middle of a freefall because quarterback Matt Schaub can’t protect the football. He’s had an interception returned for a touchdown in four straight games and has seemingly lost his confidence. That said, Houston’s running game has remained effective and its defense still boasts the likes of Brian Cushing and J.J. Watt, who is the best interior defensive lineman in the league. The Rams are coming off a win over the winless Jaguars but they still struggle with penalties, third down conversions on both sides of the ball, and run defense. Sam Bradford has also reverted back into a check-down machine and should be under constant duress in Houston. Look for the Texans to get back on track on Sunday.
FREE PICK: TEXANS -7.5

Offensive explosion in college football

What happened to the notion of defense in college football (or the NFL for that matter)?

The Alabama-Texas A&M game was memorable, with Johnny Manziel working his magic and Nick Saban’s crew putting on a clinic on the offensive side of the ball. Yet meanwhile neither side could play a lick of defense. This is what we’re seeing everywhere in college football, as the new spread offenses have completely changed the game.

We have a number of teams that have not been stopped on offense, with Oregon leading the way. Other offensive juggernauts include Clemson, Louisville, Florida State, LSU and Ohio State tearing up defenses.

We’ll see as the year goes on if any of these teams or the other contenders can put together a defense that can slow down these high octane offenses. That team will have an excellent shot at playing for and winning a national championship.

College Football Week 3 Picks & Predictions

No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 6 Texas A&M, 3:30PM ET
The most anticipated matchup of Week 3 will take place at Kyle Field in College Station today. One thing that has made Nick Saban so successful is his ability to get his team focused on one game at a time. But you know he and the Crimson Tide have circled this date since Johnny Manziel and A&M rolled into Tuscaloosa and upset ‘Bama a year ago. The Aggies are just 1-4 all-time at home against top-ranked teams and since the start of the 2008 season, the Tide are 41-0 when it has fewer turnovers than its opponent. Look for ‘Bama to limit its mistakes, keep the ball on the ground (they’re 51-0 when rushing for at least 140 yards) and generate pressure on Manziel. If they can stay disciplined defensively and maintain good gap responsibility, they should get their revenge.
PREDICTION: ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE -9

Tennessee vs. No. 2 Oregon, 3:30PM ET
Butch Jones tried to ratchet up the tempo this week in practice in order to get his players ready for what they’ll see today in Eugene. But Oregon is too fast, too athletic and too skilled on the perimeter for an overmatched Tennessee squad. The Ducks are 4-0 against the spread in their last four games overall, 4-1 ATS in their last five home games, and 6-1 ATS in their last seven games following an ATS win. The Vols, meanwhile, are 0-4 against the number in their last four games versus the Pac-12 and 0-7-1 ATS in their last eight games following an ATS win. Look for Marcus Mariota and De’Anthony Thomas to run wild on a gassed Tennessee defense in the second half.
PREDICTION: OREGON DUCKS -28

No. 19 Washington vs. Illinois, 6:00PM ET
This game has become more interesting in the past two weeks. Washington turn heads by crushing Boise State in Week 1 and Illinois surprised the masses by routing a previously underrated Cincinnati team 45-17 last Saturday. While quarterbacks Keith Price and Nathan Scheelhaase will receive all of the attention tonight, keep an eye on Huskies junior middle linebacker and defensive leader John Timu (13 tackles vs. Boise), and the duo of Jonathan Brown and Mason Monheim for the Illini. The under is 5-1 in Illinois’ last six neutral-site games and 4-0 in the Huskies’ last four games in September. While defense won’t dominate this game, the combined score should fall under the total.
PREDICTION: UNDER 63

No. 21 Notre Dame vs. Purdue, 8:00PM ET
The Fighting Irish have won five straight games against the Boilermakers but two of those contests were decided on Notre Dame’s final drive. The Irish have new players on both sides of the ball that are growing on the job, which is part of the reason why their defense allowed 411 yards per game over their first two contests. Quarterback Tommy Rees is still trying to find his rhythm as a passer too, so look for this game to be somewhat tight. The underdog is 6-2 against the spread in the last eight meetings between these two teams and the Irish are 2-5 ATS in their last seven games overall.
PREDICTION: PURDUE BOILERMAKERS +18.5

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