Lion’s Den: Nostalgiaphile

I know at least one person who we can expect to see at the Iron Bowl.

I know at least one person who we can expect to see at the Iron Bowl.

It seems like just yesterday that the Lion’s Den started with predictions of the College Football Season and here we are at the final weekend of the regular season and the final deluxe full length preview for the Lion.  Being the nostalgiaphile (I made that word up, but it will catch on) that I am, I think it would be fun to revisit the predictions.

Back in August I told you I liked Aaron Murray as my Darkhorse for the Heisman over AJ McCarron. Mr. Murray tore his ACL last week to end his college football career. His injury is the cherry on top of the injury sundae that was the Bulldogs season. I blame his girlfriend, Kaci McDonnell. (Google her).  Meanwhile McCarron keeps chugging along. If I had to vote today I think he would get my Heisman vote.

I told you my favorite teams to ride against the spread were South Carolina, Texas and VT. All were inconsistent this year, although each came up big for me when I needed them. The teams I ended up riding the most were Michigan State, Wisconsin and Missouri.

I wrote about my favorite NFL prospects and I wrote about my favorite players. I have two more that I never mentioned that I want to give a shot out too. Boston College’s RB Andre Williams, from Parkland High in Schwenksville, PA, is having a season for the ages. He is 51% of the team’s offense. In this day and age of pass happy football, this is unheard of. He has run for over 2000 yards in 100 games averaging 6.5 yards per carry. He has rushed for over 200 yards in a game 5 times. He has run for over 250 yards 4 times, and even topped 300 once. He has lead a BC team that won 2 games last year to 7 wins going into this last week against Cuse. He has also made his way to the NFL’s radar. I worry about a guy with this many carries going to the NFL (see Montee Ball), but he deserves a look for his performance. Hats off to that young man. Aaron Donald, a DT from Pitt, has quietly been dominant as well. The 6 foot 285 DT is undersized for the NFL and went under the radar, but his low center of gravity and core strength make him so powerful he is simply un-blockable. From a production standpoint, he is as good as Nix and Hageman.  I watched him several times in the past few weeks and he has won me over. He has won the award people over too as he is a finalist for the Bednarick and Outland trophies. He should be drafted in the first 2 rounds.

There. I feel better now that I gave them the respect they deserve. As sad as I am that we got to this point already, this final weekend of football has some awesome games. They are very tough to bet because they are rivalry games. This does not mean that I won’t do my best to pick them for you.

Best Bets

VTech at UVA +12. As I stated above, VT, while inconsistent, has been a solid team this year ATS and it’s mostly because of their defense. Logan Thomas is one of the biggest busts of all the hyped QBs this year. The Commonwealth of Virginia does get excited for this game most years. This makes this spread seem high, but the Cavaliers are atrocious this year. The Hokies can still get to the ACC Championship game against FSU with a win and a Duke loss. They win and cover here. PICK VT

Duke at UNC -5.5. Duke has a lot to play for, win and they go to the ACC Championship. They have a way better record at 9-3 than the Tar Heels do at 6-5. Why is this spread so pro UNC? If you looked at the past few weeks, I have gone against spreads that don’t make sense and lost. The times I rolled with them,(MD favored at WVU) I have won big. I have learned my lesson and am going to ride with Vegas here. PICK UNC

I also am going to continue to ride with MSU -14.5 at home against Minnesota. They have been my moneymaker.

UNDERDOG of the Week. I don’t love anybody, but following the logic above, Iowa is only +2.5 at Nebraska, and Pitt is only +2.5 at home against Miami. Vegas is daring us to take the favorites like they are daring you to take Duke. No thanks.

Rivalry Games. I love this weekend of football because you get crazy rivalry games with crazy names like the Backyard Brawl (RIP). There is the Egg Bowl (Ole Miss at Miss St), the Apple Bowl (UW at Wazzou), the Lincoln Bowl (Illini v. NW), something between Purdue and Indiana, you get the idea. Here are some of the best ones this week.

Oregon at Oregon St. +21.5. This game is called the Civil War. I find this name great because Oregon can get away with calling this game the Civil War only because Oregon didn’t exist as a state in mid 19th century so it had no part in the real Civil War. Can you imagine if they called WVU v. UVA or Missouri v. Arkansas the Civil War? That would raise some eyebrows no?  Anyway, Oregon played their worst game of the season last week and got walloped by Arizona. Marcus Mariota threw his first two picks of the season and the team collapsed. Here are some interesting facts for you: at midseason, Oregon had covered 13 of 14 games (extending back to 2012). But, in their last five games, the Ducks have covered only once. I don’t like this trend. One of two things will happen this week. Oregon takes out its frustration or the team quits on the season. I am going to say the former, although I hesitate to bet against this high spread. Oregon State got embarrassed by UW last week 69-27 itself, so that is the team I see quitting. PICK OREGON.

Georgia at GT +3.5. Georgia Tech’s fight song includes the lyrics “To Hell with Georgia” in it. So yeah, this game matters despite disappointing seasons for both teams. I honestly have no idea what to expect in this game with Aaron Murray out for UGA. Yet UGA is still favored for some reason. So, I am going to trust Vegas and if I had to take it, I would PICK UGA.

FSU at FL +26.5. Normally this game has two teams fighting for a BCS bowl. This year, Florida is a total disaster. FSU has blown out every team they have played, and must continue to do so to stay ahead of OSU in the BCS rankings. While I want to think the Gators play inspired ball and cover this spread, I can’t. As long as Winston isn’t charged/arrested, I can’t pick against the Noles. This is another spread that I think is too high to wager, but if I had to take it, I would PICK FSU.

OSU at Mich +14.5. This game is traditionally one of the biggest rivalries in the sport. There have been countless articles and documentaries on it. This year Michigan has been absolutely terrible. They still have a chance to ruin the Buckeyes season and their outside shot at the BCS Title game with a win here. Interesting stat, UM has the 14th best rush defense in the nation, OSU has the 6th best. The weather for Ann Arbor Saturday is going to be 34 degrees with 10+ mile an hour winds. I see both teams sticking to the ground because of this and playing into each other strengths. 15 points is just too much. PICK MICH

ND at Stanford -14.5. The Dazzle will tell you I am an ND homer. As much as I try to keep my allegiances out of my analysis, I know ND well enough to know that they cover when they are dogs (see last week against BYU and against ASU) and don’t when they are favorites. No matter what happens this week, Stanford plays ASU for the PAC12 title and a trip to the Rose Bowl. ND’s loss to Pitt assures that the only bowl they can get to is a crappy pre New Year’s Bowl such as the Pinstripe Bowl. This is ND’s bowl game. I don’t expect ND to win necessarily, but I expect this to be a low scoring affair, similar to OSU v. Mich, and I see this evolving into a smash mouth type of game where 15 points is just too much. The past two years the game has been close and low scoring. PICK ND

UCLA at USC -3.5. This will be a great game, probably one of the most enjoyable of the weekend. UCLA always plays USC tough, and this year is one of the few years where UCLA actually has the talent to match the Trojans. This stat is the clincher for me, UCAL could start three freshmen on the offensive line after left tackle Simon Goines had surgery to repair a broken bone in his right leg suffered against Arizona State. Also two of the Bruins best WRs are down. This Offensive Line issue caused Hundley to get sacked 9 times last week. USC has a DL that is much better than ASU’s. While UCLA is battling the injury bug, USC is getting All World WR Marquis Lee back this week after a 3 week absence. Lee is the best in the country when healthy. Last year against UCLA, Lee caught nine passes for 158 yards and a touchdown. Wow. Finally, UCLA is only 1-3 against ranked teams this season. I am going to roll with the Trojan’s here. PICK USC.

Clemson at South Carolina -4.5. There is a lot to play for in the Palmetto Bowl this year. Well, not really. Clemson is stonewalled by FSU from the ACC title game, even though it is number 6 in the country. This week it faces number 10 SC, who can reach the SEC title game with a win and a Missouri loss. The Cocks have won the last 4 of this series. There is some added trash talk in this game from the pre-season. A year ago, Jadeavan Clowney tracked Clemson AB Tahj Boyd all over the field and registered 4.5 sacks in the Gamecocks’ 27-17 victory. He boasted at SEC media days in July, saying Boyd was scared of him. ”I like to pick at quarterbacks. That’s what I do,” Clowney said. ”If they can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen. I’m just playing.” Boyd has largely laughed off the comments, but you know the fifth-year senior does not want to leave Clemson without beating the Gamecocks. Plus Clowney has had a disappointing year. He hasn’t had 4 sacks the whole season. Meanwhile, Boyd has mostly lived up to the expectations. Clemson is a high scoring team with an explosive offense. South Carolina is more defensive oriented and likes to run the ball, both with QB Connor Shaw and the underrated Runningback Mike Davis. For South Carolina to win this game, it will have to shut down or outscore the Tigers. They cannot outscore them. Either Clemson wins outright or South Carolina wins like 17-14. Either way Clemson covers. PICK Clemson.

SEC BARNBURNERS

A&M at Mizzou -4.5. This game is significant for two reasons. The first is Mizzou can clinch a trip to the SEC Title game against the winner of this next game. The second is that this is the final verse in the ballad of Johnny Football. Manziel had one of the worst games of his career as he completed 16 of 41 passes for 224 yards, one touchdown, and  two interceptions at LSU. The truth is, Manziel pads his stats against lesser teams and does not get the job done against ranked competition. The No. 19 Aggies are 0-3 against ranked foes this season. Missouri has been a go to cover team of mine all season. They have a defense every bit as good as the LSU defense that shut down young Johnny last week. Mizzou leads the SEC in sacks and interceptions. A&M cannot stop anybody, they give up more than 30 points a game. Mizzou has a balanced offense, 2nd in the SEC in rushing, and can throw the ball with its elite WRs and above average QB Franklin finally healthy. For this matchup, I have to stay with the hot team. PICK MIZZ

GAME OF WEEK

Alabama at Auburn +10.5. The Iron Bowl. These teams hate each other so much that their fan bases go to jail vandalizing each other’s property. (Google “Toomer’s Corner Poison”). This year, both teams are in the top 10, and the winner goes on to the SEC Title game. In Bama’s case, they are one step closer to repeating as champs. Auburn is the most improved team in the country. They went from not winning an SEC conference game in 12 post Cam Newton and a national championship in 11, to running off a 10-1 season. They have done so behind the second best running attack in the nation. They average 303 yards a game on the ground. They are a multi-headed running attack, with Tre Mason and QB Nick Marshall getting the Lion share (pun intended) of the carries. Across the field they face a Nick Saban coached defense that is #4 nationally against the rush and #8 against the pass. CJ Mosley is the best LB I have seen in the country. I think he will be the first LB taken in April. I see Bama shutting down a one dimensional offense. Nick Marshall has not proven he can pass against even mid-level defenses, let alone the 8th best in the nation. Here is the final kicker stat. Auburn has five wins by eight points or fewer, including their miracle victory against Georgia in their last outing. The luck runs out this week. PICK BAMA.

Good Luck.

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