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Friday, 31 October 2014

#CFBPlayoff Final 4 Announced....#CIS Playoffs Begin (for some)

#NCAA
Last Week: 38-8 (83%)
Overall: 118-48 (71%)
This week all college football fans were on pins and needles waiting for the 1st ever college football playoff final 4 announcement.  Coaches, players, universities and fans have been pushing for a playoff for years so this initial announcement was HUGE.  Of course, people would disagree and argue some teams received preferential treatment, some are overrated, some are underrated....the same arguments we saw during the infamous BCS era.  This is only Week 1 of these rankings though and, given how this season has played out, I wouldn’t expect to see the same 4 teams in the final ranking. 
From here on, I will also report on my Top 4 compared to the selection committee Top 4:
 
Selection Committee                                                                     #TwineTime
        1.       Mississippi State                                                               1.            Mississippi State
        2.       Florida State                                                                      2.            Florida State
        3.       Auburn                                                                               3.            Auburn
        4.       Ole Miss                                                                            4.            Oregon
        5.       Oregon                                                                               5.            Alabama
        6.       Alabama                                                                             6.            Ole Miss

The biggest difference between the two is the placing of Ole Miss.  The strength of schedule (SOS) helped the selection committee place them in the top 4.  While I agree the schedule and numbers are impressive, I have always felt the West coast teams receive little to no love from the selection committee.  Is the SEC good?  Yes.  Do they deserve 3 teams in the playoff?  No.  The knock on Oregon was losing at home to Arizona; however, the Cats were undefeated at the time remember.  This Arizona team is a good team, currently ranked 12th in these rankings.  Oregon also beat Michigan State at home, with the Spartans currently ranked 8th by the committee.  In comparison, yes Ole Miss beat Alabama at home but they no other impressive win.  The road win over Texas A&M looked good until we all realized A&M isn’t as good as we all originally thought.  Ole Miss lost on the road to a good LSU team, but the Tigers have 2 losses and are only ranked 19th.  Oregon vs. Ole Miss seems to be the battle for the last spot right now.  Although, in the long run, it is a mute point if Ole Miss losses to Auburn this weekend and/or Oregon losses to Stanford.  Florida State cemented their Top 4 position last night with a win at Louisville; they shouldn’t lose a game for the remainder of the year.  The question really will be how bad the SEC beats itself up and whether Oregon/TCU/Michigan State/Notre Dame can reap the benefit.  I think two of those teams will, but which ones?
  
Last week was a successful one for me I would say, going 38-8.  A few highlights:

  • LSU beating Ole Miss – I noted last week that I was not buying the Rebels as a playoff team and last week confirmed by assumption.  I think this week will cement it!
  • Utah “upsetting” USC – The Ute’s were the higher ranked team but I think many still doubted they could win, even at home.  Utah is a dangerous team and one Oregon should be a bit worried about in a few weeks (assuming they get by Stanford)
  • Yellow Jacket Sting – I thought maybe I could finally get rid of the Georgia Tech curse but of course they pulled out the win last weekend over Pitt.
  • I like the Friday games, batting a perfect record so far!

      Here are my picks for Week 10:

Cincinnati over Tulane

Memphis over Tulsa

Air Force over Army – The battle for the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy could end this weekend!  Air Force is the favorite to take it home this year, as they should beat Army to follow-up their 30-21 win over Navy.  Navy has won this trophy 9 of the past 11 seasons, including the past 2.  Air Force last won the trophy in 2002.

Iowa over Northwestern – Which Iowa team shows up?  Which Northwestern team shows up?  Taking the home team in this one.

Penn State over Maryland – The Nittany Lions almost pulled off the stunning upset over Ohio State last weekend.  I am thinking they can ride that confidence into a win over Maryland in Happy Valley.

Wisconsin over Rutgers

Rice over FIU

UCF over Connecticut

(23) East Carolina over Temple – Temple is at home and could give East Carolina a scare.  The Pirates have not looked sharp the past few weeks.  Are they prone to an upset?

(24) Duke over Pittsburgh – Tempted to take the Panthers at home but after last week’s game vs. Georgia Tech, not convinced they can beat the Blue Devils.

(18) Oklahoma over Iowa State

Texas A&M over UL Monroe

Miami (Fl) over North Carolina – Tough call on this one but the Hurricanes are coming off a huge W last weekend in Blacksburg.  Plus they have had a longer week to prep as they won last Thursday. 

Virginia Tech over Boston College – Going with a rebound win for the Hokies at home.  Is the team who beat Ohio State going to show up? 

Central Michigan over Eastern Michigan – The battle for directional Michigan title is under way.

Washington over Colorado – Possible upset here with the Buffs playing at home.

Western Michigan over Miami (OH)

Louisiana Tech over Western Kentucky – Who is 4-0 in C-USA?  Yup, that would be LA Tech.

NC State over Syracuse – I am still surprised the Wolfpack are 0-4 in ACC play.  They are not a bad team.  I cannot see them going winless in ACC play this year and the Orange are not that good.

(20) West Virginia over (7) TCU – Last week I bought into West Virginia at home and this week I will do the same.  I like this team.  They could take the Big 12.  They get TCU at home this weekend and Kansas State at home in three weeks.  This team almost knocked off Alabama to start the season and destroyed Baylor, both games at home as well.  TCU better be prepared for a defense they have not seen yet.

Georgia Tech over Virginia – Because why not right?  I never pick them correctly.

Middle Tennessee over BYU – Wow how the mighty have fallen.  Remember the talk of BYU possibly going undefeated this season?  Nope, either does anyone else now.

(15) Nebraska over Purdue

Michigan over Indiana

(11) Georgia over Florida – The Bulldogs are becoming the trendy pick to squeeze out an SEC championship win.  A victory this weekend in Jacksonville over Florida won’t do much for the ranking but will keep them on track.

Appalachian State over Georgia State – The pillowfight of the week.  A 1-7 team travels to a 2-5 team.  Might as well take the 2-5 team at home.

Texas State over New Mexico State

Missouri over Kentucky – 2 teams everyone got excited about a few weeks ago, now after thoughts.  Taking the Tigers at home though as they get ready to face a Wildcat team still smarting from their loss to Mississippi State last weekend.

Houston over South Florida

(13) Baylor over Kansas

UCS over Washington State

Arkansas State over Idaho

South Alabama over LA-Lafayette – The battle for the Sun Belt lead.  I’m going with the 4-1 Jaguars on the road over the 3-0 Ragin’ Cajuns

UNLV over New Mexico – Pillowfight of the Week #2.  Two bottom teams from the Mountain West.   UNLV at home to keep the Lobo’s winless in conference play.

(3) Auburn over (4) Ole Miss – The Rebels at home is a tempting pick but I still have not bought into the hype.  Auburn looks to be the better team on both sides of the ball.  I think the crowd will help keep this game close but the Tigers will find a way to win in the end, possibly in overtime.

Colorado State over San Jose State

UAB over Florida Atlantic

Old Dominion over Vanderbilt – I tried to pick against the Vandy a few weeks ago vs. an FCS team.  I am going against them at home again against a Monarchs team who can put lots of points on the board.  Vandy doesn’t have the defense to stop them.  Does Vandy have the offense to keep up?
(1)    Mississippi State over Arkansas – Sorry Razorbacks, not getting your first SEC win this weekend on the road.

South Carolina over Tennessee

(5) Oregon over Stanford – Heisman hopeful Marcus Mariota needs to finally beat the Cardinal to help his team get over the Stanford curse, help their case for a Top 4 playoff selection and personally help his Heisman drive.

Texas over Texas Tech

(9) Kansas State over Oklahoma State – K-State is the favorite to win the Big 12 right now.  They need this win at home before their two biggest matchups the next two weeks (at TCU and at West Virginia)

(16) Ohio State over Illinois

UTEP over Southern Miss

(10) Notre Dame over Navy

California over Oregon State

(12) Arizona over (22) UCLA

Nevada over San Diego State

Fresno State over Wyoming

Utah State over Hawaii – I said last week it is hard to bet against Hawaii at home and then they go and lose at home vs. Nevada.  Utah State is a stronger team than the Wolfpack so Warriors at home or not, I am going with the Aggies.

(14) Arizona State over (17) Utah – The match-up in the Pac-12 this weekend.  The winner of this game has the inside track to the Pac-12 South and a spot in the Pac-12 championship game (likely against Oregon).  This is a HUGE game for both programs!

#CIS
Last Week: 8-5 (62%)
Overall: 29-14 (67%)

With the start of November brings the start of playoffs for the Ontario and Atlantic conference teams and the wrapping up of the regular season in Quebec and Western Canada.  Ontario usually has some interesting playoff results but I expect status quo for this upcoming weekend.  Next weekend’s conference semifinal games however should be interesting.  In the Atlantic, we have the one semi-final game, basically allowing the winner the luck to go get beaten up by Mount Allison.  Speaking of the Mounties, congrats on them for completing their 1st undefeated season in their history.

Canada West is where all the attention will be this weekend.  Calgary has clinched first and Saskatchewan has second but all 4 of the other teams have a shot at the remaining two playoff spots.  The Regina – Alberta winner should be safe into the playoffs so that game is a de facto elimination game.

We will start our picks this week with the playoff games:

Atlantic Semi-Final:  St. FX over Acadia – St. FX should have no problem with the Axemen at home.

Ontario Quarterfinal 1:  (7) Western over Laurier – A few weeks ago Western was eyeing the top overall seed in Ontario.  Now they find themselves in the quarterfinal.  One has to imagine they are going to be in a bad mood given how the season started.  Not a good situation for Laurier on the road.

Ontario Quarterfinal 2:  (10) Ottawa over Windsor – The Gee-Gees poured in on at the end of the season to make the playoffs, including the upset win over previously undefeated and top seed McMaster last week.  Windsor on the other hand looked like a possible top 2 team in Ontario before struggling at the end of the season.  Playoffs are all about momentum and Ottawa has a ton of it right now.  Even on the road, if Ottawa plays like they did last weekend, Windsor has no chance.  Ottawa must be chomping at the bit for a rematch with McMaster.

Regular season games:

Concordia over McGill
      
      (1)    Laval over (3) Montreal – The big battle of the week.  Can Montreal finally beat Laval and end the Rouge et Or dominance in Quebec?  I don’t think so.

(9) Sherbrooke over Bishop’s

(2) Calgary over Manitoba – The Bisons had a chance to lock up a playoff spot last weekend and looked horrible in their loss to Regina.  Their reward to try and make the playoffs: a road game vs the Dino’s.  Good luck with that.  They can only sit back and hope other results fall their way to sneak into the playoffs.

Regina over Alberta  - The Rams looked like a team left for the dead a few weekends ago.  Nothing was going their way and they couldn’t buy a win even if they tried.  After last weekend’s dominant win over Manitoba, the skies have opened and the Rams have a great shot to salvage their season.  Alberta hadn’t won a game in over two years heading into the season.  Win in Regina this weekend and they will be playoff bound.  Neither of these teams was predicted to make the playoffs at the beginning of the season, one will be heading on the road next weekend, season still alive.  I like the Rams at home.

(8) Saskatchewan over UBC – Can the Huskies help out their provincial rival and knock off UBC, thus eliminating the T-Birds from the playoffs?  Well, the Huskies may not mean to be so generous to their rivals but they may just do so.  The Huskies are looking strong right now but do they possibly rest some of their starters with 2nd place locked up in the conference and a home playoff date looming next weekend?  Even if they do, still too much fire power for UBC.

Welcome to November everyone!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Curling's 1st Grand Slam of the Season: The Masters

Before I get to handicapping my picks for the opening Grand Slam of Curling event, a few notes from this past weekend's action in Gatineau:
  • Team McEwen won again, now going 4 for 4 so far this season.  I picked against them in the final, big mistake!  Can anyone stop this team?
  • While I failed in believing Mikey and crew would continue their dominance, I overestimated Team Edin. A disappointing result for the boys from Sweden.  Although I did receive a tweet and a few RT from Nik Edin himself so I'll call this a draw :)
  • Impressive result for Team Menard in the home province.  The Quebec boys have not been putting up amazing results so far this year but proved that when a team has home ice on their side, never count them out.  My failure as well for not paying attention to the fact Menard has won in Gatineau three previous times.
  • Team Carruthers gets back to their winning ways.  Disappointed I am sure to not be in Selkirk this weekend curling, Reid and the boys showed they should not be taken lightly this season.  A SF loss to McEwen is nothing to get down about, heck doesn't everyone have a loss to them anyways?  The question is whether the week off watching the Masters hurt or inspire this team.
  • What a season for Team Bowser!  Have you heard of this team?  Did you know Bowser is more than just a bad guy character who steals a Princess and has to fight the plumbing duo of Mario and Luigi?  Well if you didn't know them before, you should know them now!  This team has qualified in three of their four events this year, culminating in a season-best SF appearance this past weekend.  Could a dark horse team be emerging in Ontario?
Ok, as in sports, last weekend is over and is nothing but a distant memory now.  Time to refocus, hit the road to Selkirk, MB and get for the opening Grand Slam of Curling event: The Masters!  As a quick reminder on the format, the draw consists of the Top 15 teams (men and women).  Teams are placed into 3 pools of 5 with the top 8 OVERALL teams advancing to the playoffs.  In theory one pool could produce multiple teams qualifying while another pool may only see 1 or 2 teams qualify. 

Of possible interest, my preview of the ladies draw can be found HERE!

Let's see the tale of the tape of the guys on the ice....

MEN

Pool A

Team Brad Jacobs (WCT Rank: 1) - Crazy to think the Olympic champs are still looking for their first grand slam title.  The casual curling fan might already assume this team has at least one under their belts, given how successful they have been the past few seasons.  These boys are hungry for a grand slam title though.  They started the season very strong with a 1st, 3rd and 2nd place finish.  They stumbled a few weekends ago in Portage however, failing to qualify.  Was this a one-off event or is this the small opening for other teams to walk through and catch this team while they are down?  My guess is the first option.
Projection: 3-1

Team Kevin Koe (5) - This is a very stacked team, tons of experience.  Strong results to start the season with a win in Edmonton and a runner-up finish in Portage.  I can't imagine many teams want to see them come playoff time either.  I see Team Koe continuing their great start to the season with another successful weekend.
Projection: 3-1

Team Steve Laycock (12) - #TeamSask has already played 5 events this year, including a victory and runner-up finish, both in Edmonton.  Can Manitoba be as friendly to this team as the City of Champions has been?  Yet to win a grand slam, they do have a semi-final finish at the National last year.  Can this be the big break through?
Projection: 3-1

Team Nik Edin (8) - #TeamSweden stays in Canada for another week ready to hit the ice and hope for better results.  This is a new team, with Nik joining up with 3 of the 4 members of last year's world championship silver medalists.  I mention Laycock playing 5 events already, well Edin has been on the ice even more.  This will be the 8th event of the season for these guys.  It has been a mixed results season, with failing to qualify the past 2 events.  Last week, #TwineTime expected a resurgence for this team when I picked them to win in Gatineau.  I was wrong.  Can they prove me wrong again this week?  I must say though I do appreciate Nik Edin himself tweeting out my blog predictions.  Thanks Nik!!
Projection: 1-3

Team Jim Cotter (15) - Ah Team Cotter, former Team Johnny Mo, former Team Cotter.  How will this team cope with losing their interim skipper of last season John Morris?  Can they find the same success on tour as last year?  One win away from the Olympics.  One win away from a Brier championship.  Nobody can fault them for finding it hard to replicate that success this season, not many teams could.  They have only played 2 tour events this season.  They could be in trouble this weekend.
Projection: 0-4

Pool B

Team Mike McEwen (2) - Hot shot Team McEwen!  These guys can do no wrong this season.  4-0 in events entered.  They have dominated the tour.  Don't be fooled by that #2 ranking next to their name.  These boys are the best team in the world so far this year and the clear favorites to win their 4th career grand slam title.
Projection: 4-0

Team John Morris (6) - Welcome back to the ice Team Morris.  Ok well, mostly defending Team Canada (minus Kevin Koe) and new skip John Morris.  We have not seen this team yet this season.  What a way to come back to tour, starting at a grand slam.  Will the lack of competitive playing hurt them or will the rest prove to be to their advantage?  Time will tell quickly with their first game vs. de Cruz.
Projection:2-2

Team David Murdoch (9) - Another team who started the season with strong results but have faltered as of late.  They head into the grand slam having failed to qualify their past 2 events.  How will they stack up against a red hot McEwen squad, a untested Team Morris and the two Swiss teams?  The talent is obviously there, proven by the silver medal at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
Projection: 2-2

Team Peter de Cruz (11) - This team, skipped by Benoit Schwarz, won the bronze medal at last year's world championships over Team Canada (Team Koe).  They have the talent to run up and down the ice with any team in the world.  The results have not been there this year as many may have expected however.  A better turn out in Portage should give some confidence and they have been drawn into a pool where they could pick up some wins.  Enough to qualify though, tough to say.
Projection: 2-2

Team Sven Michel (13) - The other Swiss team in the field, in the same pool.  Michel won the European Championship in 2013 and big things have been expected of this team since that win.  Unfortunately a disappointing finish in Sochi and tough start to this season is beginning to downplay that European title.  Having failed to qualify in 4 of their past 5 events, with a bright spot runner-up finish in Basel, does not yield a lot of confidence heading into a field of this caliber.
Projection: 0-4

Pool C

Team Thomas Ulsrud (4) - The defending world champions, The Pants The Pants!  What is not to like about this team?  They have been a marketing darling for the sport for years now.  More people may watch this team just to see what pants they wear than for their actual curling ability.  Luckily, they also have the tremendous talent to support their (questionable) fashion decisions.  This is very tough pool for them but something tells me the pants are ready to go.
Projection: 3-1

Team Glenn Howard (7) - Howard, Hart, Mead and Savill.  Yikes!  The names alone could strike fear in an opponent.  This team has tons of experience.  Glenn has 6 (6!!) grand slam titles already, a record.  Glenn comes to play when the grand slam season gets going.  Never to be counted out.
Projection: 3-1

Team Jeff Stoughton (16) - A new team, same results.  Jeff and company have been curling outstanding this season.  They have qualified in 3 of their 4 events this season.  I am just not sure how the young front end will hold up on this grand of a competitive scale.  Although with a skipper like Jeff, one of only four curlers to complete the career grand slam, you can never count him and his team out.  His leadership alone can carry this team to a few wins.
Projection: 1-3

Team Brad Gushue (3) - The "Goo" has Mark Nichols back as his vice and the results have been positive.  They have qualified in all 4 of their tour events this season but have only 1 semi-final appearance.  The opening game vs. Stoughton will tell a lot about the potential for this team to qualify for the weekend.
Projection: 2-2 
Team John Epping (10) - Is it odd to say the 10th ranked team in the world, with 2 runner-up finishes this year already, is considered a huge underdog in this pool?  Not even in this event overall, but in this POOL!  That speaks volumes to the talent and experience in the "Pool of Death" as Mike McEwen called it.  Unfortunately the early season success seemed to vanish recently as this team has failed to qualify in their past 3 events.  I cannot see them turning things around this weekend, not against this field.
Projection: 0-4

Qualifiers: Team McEwen, Team Jacobs, Team Koe, Team Laycock, Team Ulsrud, Team Howard, Team Gushue, Team Morris

Men's Championship: Team McEwen over Team Koe - These two teams played each other in the final in Portage a few weeks back, with McEwen picking up the win.  As mentioned above, this team has been unstoppable.  They are playing in front of home province fans.  They have momentum.  They have confidence.  How can anyone bet against them?  I made that mistake last week and they made me look foolish.  I will not make that mistake this time.
The Masters is Coming...and the Ladies Are Ready!

I admit I have been very one-sided in only talking about the men's action on the World Curling Tour but this weekend is the Masters and I will do my best to breakdown both the men's and women's draw.  This is a huge event with the best teams in the world hitting the ice, both deserve equal attention on #TwineTime.  As a quick reminder on the format, the draw consists of the Top 15 teams (men and women).  Teams are placed into 3 pools of 5 with the top 8 OVERALL teams advancing to the playoffs.  In theory one pool could produce multiple teams qualifying while another pool may only see 1 or 2 teams qualify.

To read my tale of the tape on the men's side, visit HERE!

Let's start with the ladies...

WOMEN

Pool A

Team Jennifer Jones (WCT Ranking: 1) - The Olympic champs are rolling right along and look just as strong.  Similar to the comments made about Team Jacobs this season, these Gold medalists do not appear to have any Olympic-hangover either.  Their draw isn't a cake walk at this event but there is no reason to think they shouldn't win their pool
Projection: 4-0

Team Val Sweeting (7) - The addition of Andrea Crawford (originally from New Brunswick) was a question mark at the beginning of the season as to how she will mesh with this team.  So far I would consider it a positive partnership.  Andrea and Val have opposite personalities that seem to gel quite well together.  This team started the season strong with two finals appearances but has missed qualification their past two events.  Which team shows up in Selkirk?
Projection: 2-2

Team Anna Sidorova (6) - Haven't seen too much of the bronze medalists from last year's world championships this year.  They have qualified in their two previous events but this is a Grand Slam field.  A bit unknown on how they will do coming over from Russia and playing.  This team could finish anywhere from 3-1 to 1-3 in this field.  The positive is they play Team Jones in their final game so they will already know what they need to do....and Jones may already have a playoff spot locked up by then.
Projection: 2-2

Team Heather Nedohin (11) - The addition of Amy Nixon seems to be working for this team.  They have qualified at both of their previous events.  This is a very deep field though so they could be in tough this weekend.
Projection: 2-2

Team Alison Flaxey (15) - Most will probably write this team off in this event, given the field they will compete against.  Not the best results heading into the Masters either.  However, never count out a underdog team not expected to compete.  Any team can beat anyone on any day.  Having said that, unfortunately I do not see this team picking up a win in this pool.
Projection: 0-4

Pool B

Team Rachel Homen (2) - Two-time defending Canadian champ and two-time defending Masters champ.  In fact, this event has only had one winner in its history and they are back for more.  Hard to really bet against this team.  Even with the new line-up this year, they are still rolling along and curling at a high percentage.  Should have no trouble qualifying.
Projection: 4-0

Team Sherry Middaugh (9) - Well if you are looking for a team outside the top 2 coming in on a hot streak, Team Middaugh is the team to look at.  Qualified at their past three events, including a win and runner-up finish, this team is ready to take on a very competitive field.  I think they match up quite well with the teams in their pool and have a very good chance at qualifying.
Projection:2-2
Team Silvana Tirinzoni (5) - A Swiss team capable of winning the entire weekend?  Heck, in this field there are more than one.  Team Tirinzoni have won two of their three events this season (with a SF appearance being their other result).  They know how to score points.  They know how to win on tour.  They have confidence.  This is a very dangerous team who can easily be playing on Sunday.
Projection: 3-1
 
Team Chelsea Carey (16) - Still not sure what to make out of this team.  Chelsea made the big move to Edmonton after a 3rd place finish at the Scotties, formed a new team and started the season strong with an event win in Edmonton.  Unfortunately, that seems like a season ago.  They have not qualified at their past three events.  Given the strength of this field and how successful their competition have been in comparison, it could be a long weekend for Team Carey.
Projection: 1-3

Team Alina Patz (12) - The second Swiss team in the field started the season strong, similar to Team Carey.  A runner-up finish to open the season followed by a top 5 finish seemed like this team was ready to take on the tour.  Unfortunate results in Sweden and at home in Switzerland have this team left wondering how to right the ship.  Can they put up a fight in their games?  Probably.  Can they secure the wins needed to qualify?  Probably not.
Projection: 0-4

Pool C

Team Eve Muirhead (3) - Been a bit of an up and down start to the season for a fan favorite from Scotland.  A runner-up finish to start the season was followed by a disappointing result in Sweden but a qualified result in Basel.  This is a strong international pool they find themselves in so they will be VERY familiar with their opponents.  They lost in the final last year to Homan and would love to get some revenge.  They may not have looked convincing this season so far but never count them out.
Projection: 3-1 

Team Margaretha Sigfridsson (4) - Ah Team Sweden!  Always a threat.  Always curling high percentage.  I think this is one team both Team Jones and Team Homan were happy to avoid in pool play.  This is a team that can play some cat and mouse with wide open ends but then put a ton of rocks in play and end up scoring a 4 spot on you quickly.  Watch out for them.
Projection: 3-1

Team Binia Feltscher (8) - Another Swiss team in the field.  Oh and the defending world champions.  Underdogs, I don't think so.  Dark horse, perhaps.  Although, how many expected them to win the world championship last year?  This team seems quite happy with the dark horse, under the radar role...they may even embrace it.  To be fair, can you really ever call the world champs a dark horse?  In this field, and in this pool, oddly enough yes.  Plus they did just win in Basel.
Projection: 3-1

Team Sherry Anderson (10) - With Stef Lawton taking some time away from the ice, Sherry Anderson takes over.  An experienced skip with an experienced team, the ladies from Saskatchewan can never be counted out.  They show up at tour events every year and come away with very strong results.  They are always a threat.  Unfortunately the new line-up has not yielded the same results from previous years.  This team has yet to qualify in any of their events.  They will be hard pressed to do the same here.
Projection: 1-3

Team Kristy McDonald (25) - The unknown in the pool.  A good recent result in Portage will give this team confidence heading into the Grand Slam event.  Unfortunately, they are in a pool of international death with Olympic and World Champion caliber opponents.  They will be over-matched all weekend.  They will have home province support though, which could help.
Projection: 0-4

Qualified Teams:  Team Jones, Team Homan, Team Tirinzoni, Team Muirhead, Team Sigfridsson, Team Feltscher, Team Middaugh, Team Sweeting

Women's Championship:  Team Homan over Team Jones - The European teams are coming on strong at this event but come on, this is the final we all want and expect.  Team Homan stay undefeated at this event and pick up another Grand Slam victory.

Friday, 24 October 2014

The Playoff is Coming....The Playoff is Coming

#NCAA
Last Week: 32-18
Overall: 80-40

Ok so officially the playoff is still many weeks away from actually coming but next week college football fans will be glued to their television sets, social media and the internet awaiting to see the committee’s opening rankings of the Top 4 teams in the land.  Who will make the first cut?  Who will feel left out?  Honestly, who cares a bit at this point.  If you are team still in the discussion, or a fan who has a team still in discussion, all you can do is hit the field, win your games and hope everything falls into line.  That being said, this is a great opportunity for some teams to show why they deserve to be in consideration of the Final 4.

Not a horrible week of picks but not a great one either.  Overall, my record is not too horrible after two weeks I would say.  On a personal note, I had a blast in Eugene watching the Ducks dominate the Huskies.  It was #HuskieHate week (or #HuckTheFuskies) and it was one I will never forget.  Being at Autzen for the 101st consecutive sellout game was the highlight of the season so far for me.  The trip made me miss my college days and miss how exciting college football season is in person.  We just don’t get the same feel of excitement and rivalry up here in Canada, whether it be CIS or CFL.
A few quick points from my predictions last week:
      1)      Called West Virginia over Baylor! Baylor has been vulnerable the past few weeks and the West Virginia was ready to take advantage
      2)      UMASS wins again!  Back to back W’s for the Minutemen...called it!
      3)      Idaho picked up their 1st win, over New Mexico State.  Another successful prediction.
      4)      FINALLY correctly picked a Georgia Tech result, albeit it was against the Yellow Jackets as I picked North Carolina to beat them, which they did.  Thanks Tar Heels for breaking my GTech curse!
      5)      I also made a few HUGE errors in picks last week.  Shaking my head at you Iowa, Virginia, Bowling Green, BYU and Wyoming, among others.
      
      On to this week’s picks though, no time to dwell on the past.  Welcome to Week 9:

(6) Oregon over California – The Ducks have positioned themselves nicely right back into the Final 4 talk.  The loss to Arizona is a distant memory now.  Cal is not to be taken likely however.  This team has been the biggest surprise in all of college football this season, expected to finish near or at the basement of the PAC-12, the Bears are looking to go bowling.  Oregon has too much to play for though and the Ducks D will be the difference.  Interesting to note though, the game is being played in SanFran at the new Levi Stadium.  Tickets for this game were made available on GroupOn two weeks at a 60% discount!  If only I lived in Oregon or Cal....

Cincinnati over South Florida

South Alabama over Troy

Boise State over BYU – All that talk about how good BYU was, what a mistake!  I am not siding with them anymore, plus Boise is at home.  Blue Turf reigns surpreme.

Arkansas over UAB – Arkansas is a 27 point favorite...27 POINTS! I think UAB can actually keep this game closer than that, depending which Razorbacks team decides to show up.

Memphis over SMU – Stay winless Mustangs!

North Carolina over Virginia – Virginia burned me last week losing to Duke.  North Carolina ended my GTech curse, for those reasons alone I am going with the Tar Heels.

(11) Kansas State over Texas – Umm don’t look now but K-State could actually win the Big 12 and have a chance at the Final 4.  Who thought that was a possibility going into the season with Oklahoma and Baylor receiving all the attention?

Minnesota over Illinois – Still no voter love for the Gophers.  And they keep winning so I don’t think they care.  I’ll stick by them again this week.

Wisconsin over Maryland – So I have to admit Maryland surprised me last week beating Iowa.  They looked good...but also Iowa looked bad.  Plus I think we saw the real Iowa team, nice record but not that good of a team actually.  The Badgers, at home, will not be as easy.

(16) Nebraska over Rutgers – This could get ugly....

Rice over North Texas

Northern Illinois over Eastern Michigan

Navy over San Jose State – Oh you tricky Spartans!  Upset Wyoming last weekend, can you pull it off again?  So much talk about how good Navy was supposed to be this season as well.  They need this win to try and salvage a disappointing season.

Ohio over Western Michigan

Toledo over UMASS – So I picked UMASS the past two weeks and they won their first two games.  This was actually hard to go against them but sorry, head over heart.  Oddly enough, UMASS wins this game and they have a shot in the MAC.  Weird?!

Akron over Ball State

Georgia Southern over Georgia State

(25) UCLA over Colorado – Don’t expect a defensive showing in this game.  UCLA offense too strong though for the Buffs over 4 quarters, even on the road.

Miami (OH) over Kent State – Pillowfight of the week.  1-7 vs. 1-6.  Kent State did pick up their first win last week however.  Tough call...but then again nobody cares right?

Pittsburgh over Georgia Tech – Is the GTech curse over? 

Buffalo over Central Michigan – Chips lost to Ball State last week.  Gotta go with Buffalo at home this week.

Stanford over Oregon State – Oh Stanford, I trusted in you last week and you burned me.  Please do not do it again against the Beavs.  OSU probably is feeling like they should have won last week, unfortunately that mentality means nothing this week.  Low scoring affair in this one but a stronger Stanford D over a weaker OSU O wins out.

(23) Marshall over Florida Atlantic – The Herd continue thundering along the undefeated track...
Louisiana Tech over Southern Miss

(8) Michigan State over Michigan – Always a great rivalry but this shouldn’t be a close game.  Sparty at home, playing to stay in the Final 4 and overall is a much better team.  But hey, rivalry games bring out the best in players and who doesn’t like an upset?  Just not this week...not this rivalry...not these Wolverines.

(22) West Virginia over Oklahoma State – I am on the WVU bandwagon and liking this team!

(10) TCU over Texas Tech – The Frogs still have some hope...

Boston College over Wake Forest – Never picking the Deacons again! EVER!
      
      (1)    Mississippi State over Kentucky – Had Kentucky actually showed up last week and won like I expected them to, I would have considered this upset.  The Wildcats are at home and have a huge opportunity to knock off the #1 team in the country.  But these Bulldogs look too strong and too good.

Missouri over Vanderbilt

Old Dominion over Western Kentucky

Utah State over UNLV

UCF over Temple – UCF making a case for winning the American

(15) Arizona over Washington State – High scoring game coming up here!  Wazzu at home, I am actually tempted to go with the upset here.  These Cougs are not a bad team, way better than their 2-5 record.  They play tough at home as well.  I might be regretting this pick Sunday morning.

Colorado State over Wyoming – I held on the Cowboys chuckwagon for too long.  Not making that mistake again.  I bet against the Rams last week.  Not making that mistake again.

UTEP over UTSA

(21) Clemson over Syracuse

UL Monroe over Texas State

(24) LSU over (3) Ole Miss – The SEC is crazy right now so why not add another level of craziness.  LSU, at home, coming off a huge win, why not?  I am still not buying the Rebels either.

(5) Auburn over South Carolina

(4) Alabama over Tennessee

(13) Ohio State over Penn State

(19) Utah over (20) USC – Well, which of you had the Utes with a shot at winning the PAC-12 South? Yup, as I thought, no hands up on that one.  If Utah can win this game, at home, they have a very real shot.

(14) Arizona State over Washington – Speaking of the PAC-12 South, the Sun Devils are in prime position right now to take that title.  Going on the road to Seattle is never easy but I don’t think this Huskies team is actually as good as a 5-2 record makes them look.  Could be close for awhile but ASU is marching towards that PAC-12 championship game.

Hawaii over Nevada – Lesson learned kids, don’t bet against the Warriors at home.  Always bet against the Warriors on the road. 

#CIS
Last Week: 7-5
Overall: 21-9

Well that was not a good week for me.  Few major upsets I got caught in, namely Manitoba dominating Saskatchewan, Guelph upsetting Western and Carleton beating ranked Windsor.  I like it though.  The big negative on CIS football for years has been how predictable the regular season has become and how we see more blowouts and boring games than competitive or upset games.  This season has had MANY blowouts, yes.  But also some nice upsets and surprises.  Teams are nearing the end of the regular season and looking to solidify a playoff spot or avoid elimination this week.  The Ontario teams will end their regular season this weekend so lots of huge playoff implication games coming up.
      
      (1)    Laval over McGill – Rouge et Or win again...boring!

(7)Mount Allison over St. FX – This is probably the last challenge for Mt. A in their quest to go undefeated.  They have been dominating the Atlantic though and I expect it to continue this weekend and right through the playoffs.

Acadia over Saint Mary’s

(6)Western over Windsor – Two teams who were upset last weekend and looking to regroup as they fight for playoff positions in the competitive upper section in Ontario.  This is a HUGE game with MAJOR playoff implications.  I cannot go against a more experienced, and overall better, Mustangs team.

York over Waterloo – Pillowfight of the season! Two winless teams battle it out to avoid finishing winless on the season.  Waterloo was destroyed by a weak Toronto team last week.  I don’t see them turning it around this week.

(3)McMaster over Ottawa – McMaster playing for an undefeated regular season.  Gee Gee’s playing for their playoff lives.

Carleton over Queen’s – The Ravens continue their drive to the playoffs.  Who saw that coming this season?  A win this weekend, and with some help, the Ravens could end up 4th in the OUA.

(T4)Guelph over Laurier – I bet against Guelph last weekend and paid the price, not this time.

(T4)Montreal over Bishop’s

(10)Saskatchewan over Alberta – This game could decide second place and a Canada West SF home game.  HUGE advantage to the winner.

(9)Manitoba over Regina

(2)Calgary over UBC

(8)Concordia over Sherbrooke

Have a safe and enjoyable college football weekend everyone...#TwineTime

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Challenge Chateau Cartier de Gatineau Time

Fall season is in full swing now.  Leaves are changing colors, temperatures are dropping, people are coughing and sniffling and the curling season is approaching Grand Slam fever.  One week away from the first gland slam of the season, team who have qualified are either taking in one last week of competition before the big event or taking the weekend off to relax, practice and prepare.

I need to thank Team McEwen for backing up my pick last week and coming through with a big win in Portage.  These guys can do no wrong so far this season, 3 wins in 3 spiels.  I would say so far my predictions for the week have been pretty good.  2 correct spiel winners picked out of 3.  We shall see if I can continue the winning trend this weekend with the tour hitting Gatineau.

Favorites

Team Mike McEwen (2 Overall/1 YTD) - Already mentioned above for their perfect winning percentage so far this season, they have to be considered favorites again.  Is there any worry of them peaking too early in the season before the big Grand Slam events or can they continue rolling right along leaving everyone else behind them?

Team Brad Gushue (3/9) - The "Goo" is the defending champion of this event, albeit with a different team lineup.  This team is stronger than last year's winning team though so you cannot count out the defending champs.

Team David Murdoch (9/8) - The current Olympic silver medalists have experienced a tough start to the season.  Last weekend they lost out on their chance to represent Scotland at the upcoming European Championships.  They need a strong showing this weekend to right the ship and get ready for the Masters next weekend.

Team Nik Edin (8/4) - I thought Team Edin would role last weekend but just hit some bumps along the way, namely 2-time Canadian Jr. Champ Matty Dunstone.  Similar to Team Murdoch, Team Edin will be looking for positive results and wins going into Selkirk, MB next weekend.

Watch Out For

Team Reid Carruthers (15/7) - A bit of a stumble last weekend following their big win the previous weekend in Toronto.  Could this be just a simple post-victory hangover stumbling block or was the Toronto victory the peak for this team?  I think they regroup this weekend and we will see them playing into Sunday.  They will be disappointed to not have qualified for next week's Masters event so this could be the perfect opportunity to show-up some of the bigger teams and prove they belong in the upper echelon of the curling world.

Team John Epping (10/3) - Another team who started the season very strong but has come back to Earth the past few weeks.  Their draw is favorable and I think we will see the Epping team from the first few weeks of the season back on the ice.  If any team could use more ice time this weekend, it is this team.  They will want to show the beginning of the season was not a fluke and they deserve their ranking.  Plus a few wins and qualifying this weekend will reestablish some confidence heading into Selkirk.

Dark Horse

Team Sven Michel (13/11) - The Swiss boys have not had a successful season by their standards.  Failing to qualify in 3 of their past 4 events will do that though.  On the bright side, their recent runner-up finish at the Swiss Cup in Basel is a positive sign that hopefully this team has turned around the negative results and is ready to challenge the best again.

The Picks

Qualifiers: Team Gushue, Team McEwen, Team Edin, Team Murdoch, Team Carruthers, Team Epping, Team Michel, Team Menard
Championship: Team Edin over Team McEwen

This is a tough pick as I see Edin, McEwen, Murdoch and Gushue all being very even.  They all have favorable draws and any of these teams could get hot and go on a roll to win.  Given McEwen's start to the season, it is hard to pick against them but one has to think this roll cannot last forever.  A tough final loss this weekend will only make them hungry to pick up the win next week in the hometown province.  I think Edin and Team Sweden are due for a win.  They have qualified in their past 4 spiels, twice losing in the semi-final.  Here is the season break through win I think.

Given the recent events in Ottawa, thoughts and prayers go out to everyone in the Ottawa-Gatineau region.  Special thoughts go out to the family and friends of fallen soldier Nathan Cirillo.  This was a tragic event.  Be safe out there curling teams and fans.  Let's enjoy the action on the ice, be thankful for the opportunities and blessings we have in life and be nice to one another. 
 

Friday, 17 October 2014

Off to Eugene this weekend...plus other college football picks/thoughts

#NCAA
Last Week: 36-17
Overall: 48-22

So last week I ventured out and picked every game on the slate (for Friday and Saturday).  Overall I would say not too bad of a result, going 36-17, a 67.9% winning percentage.  Not great, but not embarrassing.  Some weekly highlights included picking UMass to get their first win of the season and Iowa State finally winning at home.  I had a few bad picks though as well, such as betting against both Mississippi schools.  I am still not of the belief both these schools will sustain their high quality of play over the remainder of the season.  I was also duped with Troy picking up their first win of the year and I tried to go out on a limb and picked against Vanderbilt.  Lessons learned I suppose....

I am VERY EXCITED for this week of college football action.  The main reason is I finally will return to Autzen Stadium to watch my beloved Ducks battle the much-hated Washington Huskies, otherwise known as #HuskieHateWeek.  It is also alumni weekend in Eugene so the atmosphere is going to be amazing.  It has been a few years since I have been to a game at UO, I cannot tell you how incredible it is.  The stadium is loud, you have no voice by halftime and you are on your feet all game.  I cannot wait to just look around and soak it all in again!

Week 8 should see more fantastic match-ups as teams are jockeying for position within their conference, with a handful of teams still in the hunt for the big Final Four playoff.  A few teams should have their dreams of a national championship season dashed this weekend.  The real question is will any team finally look like the best in the country and solidify themselves as the favorite?  I doubt it...

Here are my Week 8 picks:
Boise State over Fresno State – As a Ducks fan, I dislike Boise State still...but I like their chances at home.

Temple over Houston – So Houston burned me last week with their upset win vs. Memphis on the road no less.  Which Cougs team shows up this week though: the one who beat Memphis or the one who lost to UTSA?  Houston has gone L-W-L-W-L-W this season, why mess with the trend?

South Florida over Tulsa

UCF over Tulane

Wake Forest over Syracuse – The combination of Wake’s D plus home field advantage is enough to make me pick a mild upset here. 

West Virginia over (4) Baylor – This has trap game written all over it.  Baylor coming off an emotional win last weekend and looking like the best team in the Big 12.  West Virginia is also coming off a nice win and is playing at home.  A few years ago West Virginia was one win away from playing in the national championship game and was upset by an inferior Pitt squad.  Could they turn the tables on Baylor this week?  Baylor has looked vulnerable the past few weeks and the Mountaineers look ready to pounce.

(11) Oklahoma over (14) Kansas State – I am very tempted to go with the Wildcats but the Sooners are at home.  They play the same time as Baylor so they will not know how the Bears are doing, which could be a good thing.  I just cannot see the Sooners losing at home, they are too good of a team to suffer another loss.

Iowa over Maryland – Another Big 10 game where either team can win...or is either team is capable of losing?  No idea on this one.  Maryland is at home.  Iowa doesn’t give up a lot of points.  Why not go with the surprise Hawkeyes to continue winning and go to 6-1?  Still no love from the polls though.

Minnesota over Purdue – A Big 10 team everyone is rallying behind and excited about?  Well, how about them Gophers?  Big matchup at home against a weak Purdue team should send them to 6-1 on the season.  Who would have thought that one?  Might be time to give them some love in the polls.

Western Kentucky over Florida Atlantic

Louisiana Tech over UTSA

South Carolina over Furman – SEC vs inferior opponent?  Middle of the season?  Yup, that sounds about right!

Virginia over Duke – Duke looked great last week in its win over GTech.  I think Virginia is a better team though.

Akron over Ohio

Bowling Green over Western Michigan

UMASS over Eastern Michigan – Can UMASS put together a two-game winning streak?  They are playing at home and this is a winnable game.  Why not?

Troy over Appalachian State – The trend continues.  A team coming off their first win of the season last week, wins again this week.  I bet against you last week Troy, I will not make that mistake again this week.

(21) Texas A&M over (7) Alabama – Ok so how would have thought at the beginning of the season the Aggies would be glad to get out of the state of Mississippi and be excited to venture into Alabama?  Mississippi was not kind to the Aggies but I think Alabama will be.  The Tide have not looked good all season.  They are lucky to have only one win and could very easily be 3-2, not 5-1.  The Aggies are playing to save their season and I think they can take advantage of a weak ‘Bama squad.

UCLA over California

Air Force over New Mexico

Army over Kent State – Kent State is winless and just lost to UMASS.  Even at home, I am not taking them to finally crack the W column.

Central Michigan over Ball State

(13) Ohio State over Rutgers – Sure Rutgers record of 5-1 looks good, but come on now.  This week will show just how ready for Big 10 play Rutgers really is.  Ohio State at home, this game should be over by halftime.

Middle Tennessee over UAB

Louisville over NC State – Can you believe NC State s 0-3 in the ACC?  I feel like they should have at least one win already (probably against Florida State).  But they are too inconsistent.  Take Louisville at home!

Cincinnati over SMU – Stay winless Mustangs!

(24) Clemson over Boston College – The Eagles could pull off the upset this week.  This feels like the USC game all over again.

(8) Michigan State over Indiana – Sparty wins big on the road..ho hum!

Texas Tech over Kansas

(12) TCU over (15) Oklahoma State – A battle of one-loss teams with hopes of still making the Final Four.  One will have their dream end this weekend. 

Arkansas over (10) Georgia – This is my upset special of the week.  Yes Georgia looked very good last weekend in beating Mizzou.  But Arkansas looked more impressive in their loss.  The Hogs are 0-3 in the SEC but I think they are due for a conference win and what bigger way than knocking off a 5-1 Bulldogs team at home?

Wyoming over San Jose State – Oh Cowboys, I went with you last week when I knew I shouldn’t when you are on the road in Hawaii.  Don’t make me wrong with this one!

Idaho over New Mexico State – New Mexico State game Troy their first win of the year last week.  Why not do it again and give the Vandals their first win?  Plus Idaho is at home and the favorite actually.

Northern Illinois over Miami (OH)

(25) Marshall over FIU – The Herd continue their run towards an undefeated season.  Glad to see them finally get ranked at least.

(22) USC over Colorado

(3) Ole Miss over Tennessee – My bad Rebels for picking against you last week.  I have learned my lesson!

Missouri over Florida

Southern Miss over North Texas

Utah State over Colorado State

North Carolina over Georgia Tech – UNC looked very good last week in almost knocking off the Irish.  Georgia Tech, as I mentioned last week, wins when I bet against them and suffers a loss when I finally pick them.  With this pick, expect Tech to go to 6-1. 

(19) Nebraska over Northwestern

South Alabama over Georgia State

Kentucky over LSU – Time to take the Wildcats serious.  LSU is a 10 point favorite in this game but Kentucky can go on the road and knock off the Tigers.  This would be a huge upset, given just the history of both programs.  Imagine the Wildcats at 6-1.

(9) Oregon over Washington – My game of the week, mostly because I will be there!  Huge rivalry game.  Both teams 5-1 and 1-1 in the Pac-12.  The Ducks looked like their old selves last week on the road against UCLA.  The Ducks have won the last 10 games vs. the Huskies.  Those trends should continue.  The Huskies will keep it close at halftime but the Ducks will pull away in the second half.

Texas over Iowa State

(2) Florida State over (5) Notre Dame – I do not think either of these teams have looked impressive this season.  The bad news here is whoever does win will be a huge favorite to make the playoff, when neither team looks like a top 4.  I will roll with the Seminoles at home though.  I think the Irish have been overrated all season.  Prove me wrong Irish!?

BYU over Nevada

San Diego State over Hawaii

(23) Stanford over (17) Arizona State – Playing in AZ is never easy but I think the Stanford D will be the difference in this game.

#CIS
Last Week: 4-2
Overall: 14-4

Last week was a quiet one on the CIS front given the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  Full schedule of action this week though.  Teams are getting into the playoff grind with only 2 or 3 weeks of the season remaining (depending on the league).  Here are my thoughts:

(8) Saskatchewan over Manitoba – The Bisons last game was an upset loss against UAlberta Golden Bears.  They need to turn their season around and fast.  The Huskies on the other hand are trying to stay with Calgary for tops in Canada West.  The Huskies are the better team and, although Winnipeg is not an easy place to play, I think the better team can win on the road this week.

(7) Mount Allison over Acadia – Continue destroying the Atlantic, Mounties!

St. FX over St. Mary’s – I thought the X-men would win last week, I was wrong.  Will they prove me wrong again this week and hand the Huskies their first win of the season?  I don’t think...

(3) McMaster over Laurier

(10) Windsor over Carleton – The Ravens are having a surprisingly good season but the Lancers are even better.

Sherbrooke over McGill

Queen’s over York – Pillowfight of the Week #1.  1-5 Queen’s vs. 0-6 York.  Queen’s won their first game last week, why should the winning ways stop against a winless York team?  Queen’s for the winning streak!

(4) Western over (6) Guelph – Battle of two 5-1 teams should be the highlight of the week.  Both teams have strong defences, two of the best in the country.  The difference is the offense.  Western has a high-octane offense.  It may not be able to put up as many points as usual but it will have enough firepower to make at least one extra score to squeak out the win.

Waterloo over Toronto – Pillowfight of the Week #2.  1-6 Toronto vs 0-6 Waterloo.  I never expect 
Toronto to win, as I mentioned last week.  Time to see Waterloo pick up their first win of the season.

(2) Calgary over Alberta – Last time they played, Alberta put up 70 points.  Then they had their win stripped from them due to an academic ineligible player.  I think Calgary is going to take out some frustration on their provincial rivals this week.

Regina over UBC – The Rams are trying to make a playoff push.  UBC has not looked good all season.  I expect a Rams road victory.  Both teams are 1-4 and Regina is on a 4 game slide.  Time to right the ship.  The loser of this game will basically be eliminated from playoff contention.  Sidenote: hoping to see another outstanding game for my cousin #21

      (1) Laval over Bishop’s – The top ranked team in the country demolishes another weak Quebec team....and the sun comes up in the morning and the moon comes up at night.  Boring!
As an aside, there is always talk about the jersey combinations for NCAA teams but CIS teams also have some great looks.  For those unfamiliar with the CIS and some of the teams, take a look at this great article by Sportsnet personality Donnovan Bennett (@donnocanbennett) breaking down the Top 10 CIS looks.

Enjoy the action this weekend!  I know I will from Eugene, OR :)