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October 2001

Oct. 24, 2001

Fearless Rick's Pro & College Football Picks 10/25-29/01
Rick Gagliano
posted by Rick Gagliano

NCAA Football, Saturday, October 27

Ohio St. (4-2) -7 PENN STATE (1-4) - The Nittany Lions finally got the monkey off Joe Paterno's back with their first win of the season, which also tied JoPa for all-time college wins with the legendary Bear Bryant. Penn St. got a great game out of backup QB Zack Mills in its 38-35 road win at Northwestern. Regular QB Matt Seneca was knocked out late in that game, but played very well. Either QB starting would be fine as they both displayed good playmaking talent. As for Ohio State, while their defense is solid, they have no passing game whatsoever and this makes them easy to defend. Since their shocking loss against Wisconsin, 20-17, two weeks ago, the Buckeyes offense has looked tired. They lost that Wisconsin game after relinquishing a 17-point halftime lead, and needed five 2nd-half turnovers to defeat creampuff San Diego State 27-12 last week. I'm looking for a low-scoring defensive game because Ohio State's offense often sputters and their defense is good enough to keep the Lions at bay. I do not see the Buckeyes dominating this game as Penn State will be loose and hungry after tasting the sweet nectar of winning. Take Penn State in this UPSET SPECIAL.

Clemson (4-2) -9 WAKE FOREST (3-3) - Wake Fores is certainly no pushover. They lost by a mere touchdown to Maryland and 3 points to NC State, both pretty good teams. Clemson was absolutely blown away by North Carolina last week (38-3) and must still be smarting from that loss. Clemson has a very shaky defense, prone to giving up big plays, a good sign for the Demon Deacons. Getting 9 points at home - you have to like that just a little.

VIRGINIA TECH (6-0) -17 Syracuse (6-2) - At first glance, this looks like a lock for Syracuse. Virginia Tech will be lucky to even score 17 points against the Orange defense, which is emerging as one of the best in the nation. The Orangemen have rolled up 6 consecutive wins and are tied with VTech and Miami for the Big East lead. With James Mungro running the ball and any success in the passing game, they will pose a threat in this game. As for Virginia Tech, their defense may be THE BEST in the country, having registered three shutouts and and holding the other opponents to 10, 14 and 20 points. They dominate on offense as well, averaging 43 points per game. Most of those wins, and Syracuse's as well, came against average to poor opposition, so this game looms as a real test for both squads. Last year, Virginia Tech won at Syracuse, 22-14 and I see another low-scoring, hard-hitting game on the horizon. Syracuse may not have enough offense to win this game, but turnovers could put them in a great position to pull it off. The 17-point line is too large, mostly because VTech is ranked #5 in the BCS and nobody knows about Syracuse. The key game may have been Syracuse's 31-14 win over Auburn on Sept. 22 (Auburn subsequently beat Florida). It put Syracuse on the map. Look for Syracuse to keep it close and possibly win it outright. I do not see the Hokies covering this line in this UPSET SPECIAL.

Michigan (5-1) -5 1/2 IOWA (4-2) - Michigan WR Marquise Walker is one of the most dominant players in the country, a certain All-American, and a high NFL draft pick and he will have an excellent game against an average Iowa defense. The Hawkeyes have totaled their four wins against Kent, Miami (OH), Penn State and Indiana, not exactly top-notch opposition. The Wolverines, on the other hand, have the ability to dominate Big Ten teams and force mistakes. Their five wins were at an average margin of victory of 19 points and their only loss was 23-18 to Washington. They are the pick to continue on to the Big Ten title and I don't see Iowa stopping them. Michigan in a FOUR STAR PICK.

WISCONSIN (4-4) -4 1/2 Michigan St. (3-2) - Wisconsin is somewhat of a mystery, losing games like 63-32 to Indiana, returning the following week to beat Ohio State 20-17. Last week they lost to Illinois 42-35. Bear in mind that the Illini have a shot at the Big 10 title, so losing to them on the road is not such a negative. A big plus for Wisconsin is if Jim Sorgi starts at QB. He came in last week for injured QB Brooks Bollinger and played exceptionally well and is the team statistical leader. It looks like Barry Alvarez will keep him in the starting role. Michigan State has a number of serious problems entering this game, the first being the injury to QB Ryan Van Dyke who suffered a fractured jaw against Minnesota last week. Jeff Smoker will start and is not very effective throwing the ball downfield and is prone to being picked off. Another is the Spartans' running game, which features T. J. Duckett, a big, bruising back who is only averaging 4 yards per carry. Not good enough. Third, their defense is horrible, especially against the run. In their 28-19 loss to Minnesota last week, the Gophers rolled up 326 yards rushing and now they face the leading rusher in the conference, freshman Anthony Davis (167 carries, 922 yards, 5.5 average). Fourth, the Spartans make too many mental mistakes and commit costly penalties. Fifth, they are on the road for the second week in a row. If they somehow find a way to overcome all of that, they can possibly win this game. I think there is far too much going against them and make Wisconsin a BEST BET.

TENNESSEE (4-1) -7 1/2 South Carolina (6-1) - The Vols are ranked and looked OK against Alabama last week, winning late 35-24. The offense still struggles at times and that will be exacerbated against South Carolina, who has played consistently solid defense all season long. The Gamecocks also can put up points through the air or on the ground. I would not be surprised to see SC dominate this game and cannot make a case for the Volunteers being such a heavy favorite. Some may call this an upset if South Carolina wins, but they seem to have the makings of an SEC title contender.

FLORIDA STATE (4-2) -8 Maryland (7-0) - Florida State is one tough place to play. The Seminoles had reeled of 54 straight home wins before losing to Miami a few weeks back, but Maryland is nowhere near the team Miami is, despite being undefeated. Make no mistake, the Terps are a very good football team and have won some games they were not supposed to, including wins over North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Virginia. Seriously, if they win this game, they could finish undefeated as their remaining opponents are Troy State, Clemson and NC State. But I do not see them getting past the Seminoles, who are an angry team with absolutely nothing to lose, having already gone down twice this season (North Carolina and Miami). Look for Florida State to mess up Maryland's excellent season in a big way. Too much talent, too much defense, especially for the Terps to handle. Seminoles in a THREE STAR PICK.

NEBRASKA (8-0) -4 Oklahoma (7-0) - Throw out all the stats you want on this one and it still comes up as an ultra-tight match-up between the #1 and #2 (according to the BCS) teams in the country. Somebody is going to get a blemish on their record, but it won't be a big one. These two will more than likely match up again in the Big 12 Championship, so, in reality, this game does not carry that much weight. Still, you have to like the Sooners' chances here and the 4 points is a bonus. Oklahoma in a THREE STAR PICK.

BOSTON COLLEGE (5-2) -3 Notre Dame (3-3) - Notre Dame, who began the season with three straight losses, now have won three in a row, but the schedule gets tougher here as they travel to Beantown. The Irish won last week's game against USC with dazzling runs from QB Carlyle Holiday and a stout defense (or it might have been an ineffective USC offense - they looked like they were sleep-walking in the second half - maybe jet lag). Boston College poses a number of challenges for the Irish, notably RB William Green (leads Big East in rushing) and QB Brian St. Pierre (2nd in Big East passing). BC's losses have come against ranked teams Stanford and Virginia Tech and were both on the road. They are 4-0 at home. The Irish wins have all been at home (who gets three straight home games besides Notre Dame?) and are 0-2 on the road. While the Irish are now playing better, one wonders how they will do on the road against a winning program? This is a classic age-old rivalry and an important game for both teams, but the Eagles are 5-2 against the spread and 4-0 in their last 4. BC rates a THREE STAR PICK.

WASHINGTON STATE (7-0) -3 Oregon (6-1) - Look for a wild, wide open game as two of the Pac-10's most potent offenses face off. The Ducks finally had their winning streak ended last week by Stanford, 49-42. proving once again that you cannot win every game just with offense. Washington State's only win against a quality opponent was against Stanford 45-39 (actually a solid defensive effort). Oregon has only one win against a high-caliber team, that being their season opener 31-28 against Wisconsin. Neither team will be able to stop anything on defense, so the best way to go would be to just bet this game over (probable line 63 - but the final could easily be 43-41). Last season, Oregon won 27-24 on the road. An impossible game to pick, I'll side with Washington State at home.

UCLA (6-0) -7 at STANFORD (4-1) - This game looks like it could be one of the great match-ups of the season, though UCLA has basically steamrolled quality opposition, beating Alabama 20-17, Ohio state 13-6 and Washington 35-13. Their defense can step up when it has to and their offense is balanced and virtually unstoppable with DeShaun Foster carrying the ball. A big plus for the Bruins is that Stanford QB Randy Fasani (a Unitas finalist for best college QB) is out for up to four weeks. He was knocked out of last week's game in the 2nd quarter and sophomore Chris Lewis engineered the heroic comeback. However, the Oregon defense is not anywhere nearly as good as UCLA's and that should prove to be the difference. While Stanford is at home, they will need more than 7 points to stay with the Bruins. UCLA rates a FOUR STAR PICK.

LSU (4-2) -10 1/2 Mississippi (5-1) - There aren't many people who took the Ole' Miss program very seriously this season, but they are 5-1 and in the hunt in the SEC West. Of course, the task for LSU is to stop Eli Manning and the Mississippi offense - no easy task. LSU is coming off an unbelievable 42-0 win at Mississippi State, a team that has sorely disappointed all season long. It looks as though the MSU players have pretty much given up on the season, though LSU has plenty of weapons and a solid defense. The Rebels' only loss was to SEC West leader Auburn 27-21. They do not get blown out here and pose too much of a problem on offense for the Tigers. Look for the Rebels to keep this close, possibly pulling off the upset down in the swamp.

NFL, Thursday, October 25

Indianapolis -3 (47 1/2 ) KANSAS CITY - Kansas City hasn't won at home yet this season and the team is struggling to find any kind of offense. The Colts, despite their impressive offensive stats are struggling to find anything resembling a defense, even though they have lost two of their games to New England. What's really troubling, however, is the Indy offense, that manages to drop passes, commit turnovers and costly penalties all the time. The blame lies mostly with Peyton Manning and coach Jim Mora - Manning because he demands excellence from those around him and has not delivered it himself, Mora because he has lost control of the team. Add in injusries to WRs Jerome Payton and Terrance Wilkins (both out), and the Indy offense becomes very predictable. KC can handle this bunch on defense, look for heavy pressure on Manning throughout, so look for the Chiefs to get a win here. THREE STAR PICK.

Sunday, October 28

BALTIMORE -7 1/2 (34) Jacksonville - Well, the Ravens really needed to get back home, as they lost their last two on the road (Green Bay and Cleveland). They will suddenly get very healthy again playing the Jags, who managed to lose to the Bills last Thursday and are on the verge of collapse (they may have already collapsed). The 7 1/2 points should be manageable easily by the Ravens, who should be able to shut down any kind of Jacksonville offense. Almost looks too easy to call the Ravens a FOUR STAR PICK.

TAMPA BAY -3 (38) Minnesota - Tampa Bay is reeling after consecutive losses to Tennessee and Pittsburgh and the problem is still the offense, which has trouble moving the ball in any kind of methodical fashion. Minnesota has righted their ship, especially with the impressive win at home last wekend against Green Bay. The Vikings' defense actually played their best game of the season and may be starting to believe in themselves. The Buccaneers have scored a combined 95 points and nine offensive touchdowns in their last seven games (including playoffs) dating back to 2000 - a very telling stat. If Minnesota comes even close to playing the kind of defense they did last week, this could turn into a rout, though I think Tampa Bay will hold on for a while, but still lose this game. Minnesota has the best offensive talent in the league and should prove it this week against the struggling Bucs.

DETROIT -3 (40) Cincinnati - Cincinnati has lost three of their last four and were shut out by the Bear last Sunday 24-0, a culmination of the lack of momentum after early success. They are as flat as a pancake and are horrible on the road (0-2). Detroit can rely on running back James Stewart for a 100+ yard day here and Charlie Batch picking up the passing game. Detroit is finally getting the hang of the West Coast offense, and have covered the spread in their last two games (Minnesota and Tennessee), pushing the Titans into overtime last week. They are hungry for their first win of the season and rate a THREE STAR PICK.

CHICAGO -2 1/2 (40) San Francisco - Here is the game of the week. Chicago has surprised everyone thus far, and their defense has been dominant. But they face one of the best offenses in the league in the 49ers, who are healthy, rested (bye last week) and play well on the road (2-0). Additionally, the 49ers defesne is pulling together and may put a hurt on the Bears' offense, possibly keeping them out of the end zone throughout. San Fran is very well coached and disciplined and will attack Chicago's outside defense, using speed, traps, roll-outs and short passes. This looks like a defensive struggle and a solid under play as well. The Niners should take this in a close contest. If the line drifts up to 3 by game time, it could be a lock, but even so, the Niners with 2 or 2 1/2 look very good here. THREE STAR PICK.

ST. LOUIS -12 1/2 (49) New Orleans - The Rams had a goal of finishing 7-0 by their bye week, so this game is the last piece of the puzzle. It's hard to bet against them, as they obviously have the best offense and one of the better defenses in the league. The Saints, on the other hand, are up-and-down, and can offer no excuses for blowing a 17 point lead two weeks ago to Carolina before eventually winning it on the last play of the game, and losing to Atlanta AT HOME last week. The Rams are an unstoppable force and will prove to be easily the best team in the league thus far. They should win this one by two tocuhdowns and cover the healthy line.

N.Y. Jets -2 1/2 (39 1/2 ) CAROLINA - After being soundly trounced by the Rams last week, the Jets now have to go on the road and face a dangerous team. Carolina blew a 14-point lead last week and lost to Washington, but at home are a different animal even though they have the worst rushing offense in the league. On the flip side the Jets have the worst rushing defense in the league, so it's a toss up. Carolina getting points at home is a little dumbfounding, and it looks like the Vegas insiders are planning to steal truckloads of New York money by installing the Jets as the favorite. Both of these teams are going nowhere, the Jets have a rookie coach, and the Panthers have absolutely nothing to lose. In a very ugly matchup, I will, as usual, take the home underdog Panthers and see if they can outscore the Jets.

DALLAS -even- (39) Arizona - Another ugly contest. I can't say enough bad things about the Cowboys, nor can I say much good about Arizona, except that they did manage to win at home last week against Kansas City. This is one of those games you should not bet unless you have some inside information, but I will take the Cardinals to pull off the minor upset and get their second road win of the season.

PHILADELPHIA -1 (39) Oakland - Philadelphia pulled out a nearly-miraculous win over the Giants on Monday night, but have to suit up and get ready to play the weel-rested, division-leading Raiders in a premier Sunday clash. The -1 line is testament to the Raiders' well-managed team defense and an offense which manages to get the job done with a minimum of turnovers. However, the Eagles have landed atop the NFC East with their win on Monday night and will ride that high into this contest. Their defense will be able to put the brakes on Oakland's offense, which uses a similar scheme as the Giants - running game and short passes. If the Raiders are unable to sustain an offensive attack, the Eagles will wear down their defense with Duce Staley and the brilliance of Donovan McNabb. The Eagles are certainly a playoff team and may be on their way to at least the NFC Championship. They may be able to dominate on both sides of the ball. I like the Eagles as this week's BEST BET.

DENVER -7 1/2 (44) New England - The injuries have finally caught up to the Broncos, and even though Terrell Davis may get the start at running back, the problem with Denver's offense lies in QB Brian Griese's throwing shoulder. He hasn't looked sharp at all in any of the past three games and it is hurting the entire team. If he stuggles in the first half, coach Mike Shanihan may have to pull him in favor of backup Gus Frerotte, which won't help matters any. The Patriots are playing with some gusto on both sides of the ball and manhandled the Colts last week. This is their second straight road game, normally a serious problem, but New England is showing signs of life in the upside-down AFC. A win here, coupled with a Miami loss could put them alone atop the AFC East. This is a must win game for both teams and any way you slice it, New England is holding all the cards. If they don't win outright, they will at least cover this close contest. Take the Patriots in a FOUR STAR UPSET SPECIAL.

SAN DIEGO -7 1/2 (38 1/2 ) Buffalo - There's plenty of talk about the Doug Flutie-Rob Johnson rivalry, but the Bills are going to learn the hard way that they let go of a winner in Flutie, who may not be the key to this game after all, but will get some level of satisfaction. Lost in the hubub is that Buffalo has still won only one game and is on the road for the second week in a row. San Diego is clicking on all levels and should dominate as they stay home for the second week straight.

Miami -2 1/2 (37) SEATTLE - Miami has yet to prove much of anything except that they can lose to bad teams on the road. Here's another one that's actually not so bad, as long as Trent Dilfer does not start at QB - Matt Hasselbeck is slated to start - the Seahawks cannot win this game. Miami will beat these guys soundly unless Hasselbeck gets injuered early and Dilfer comes in. THREE STAR PICK.

N.Y. Giants -7 1/2 (34 1/2 ) WASHINGTON - The Redskins got their first win of the season last week, but won't have long to relish it with the Giants coming to town. Normally, in games like this, the home underdog gets the nod, but the Giants are a very angry bunch after losing consecutive one-point games. They are going to take it out on the Redskins on both sides of the ball. If Washington even scores on offense it would be a surprise. I make the Giants a FOUR STAR PICK.

Monday, October 29

PITTSBURGH -3 (36 1/2 ) Tennesseee - While the Steelers have strung together four straight impressive wins, the Titans are just barely holding on for dear life and now have to play their second straight road game. They are just completely up against it and nobody in the league - including Tampa Bay, who put eight and nine men in the box - has been able to stop the Bus, Jerome Bettis, and his equally dangerous counterpart, Amos Zerouwe. The Steeler defense has also only allowed 58 points in five games and are ferocious. They are playing with a swagger and confidence and may just put the Titans' post season hopes to rest in this one. Steelers rate a THREE STAR PICK.

Source:Downtown Magazine

Oct. 17, 2001

Fearless Rick's Pro & College Football Picks 10/18 - 10/22/01
Rick Gagliano
posted by Rick Gagliano

NCAA Football
Friday, October 19

FRESNO STATE (6-0) -14 1/2 Boise State (3-3) - This should be a fun game to watch, as both teams are capable of scoring from anywhere on the field. Boise State's losses have been by 19, 21 and 31 points, against South Carolina, Washington State and Rice respectively. Their wins, on the other hand, were 42-17 over UTEP, 45-13 over Idaho, and 41-10 over Tulsa. The star is QB Brian Dinwiddie, who threw for 405 yards and 4 TDs in that Tulsa win. Fresno State is ranked and looking to go undefeated, barely escaping (it was somewhat of a miracle finish) with a 25-22 win at Colorado State. They committed costly penalties and twice in the second half could not get a TD after having first and goal. If the Fresno defense can't stop Dinwiddie, this could be the upset of the year. In any case, I like Boise State to keep it close and maybe pull off the UPSET SPECIAL.

Saturday, October 20

CLEMSON (4-1) -7 North Carolina (4-3) - Both teams are having moderately good seasons, especially Clemson, whose only loss was an upset at Virginia. QB Woody Dantzler had a spectacular day last week against NC State, throwing for 333 yards and running for 184, throwing 4 TD passes and running for another two scores. It was one of the most dominating performances of the season. North Carolina, after opening the season with three consecutive losses, has turned it around and won 4 straight including a big win over Florida State. The matchups here are Clemson's powerful offense against NC's stout defense and NC's so-so offense against Clemson's average defense. Should one unit dominate it will be lights out. My hunch is that Clemson will be able to move the ball effectively and put the Tar Heels in an early hole from which they will be unable to recover. Clemson by 10.

LSU (3-2) -2 1/2 at MISSISSIPPI STATE (1-4) - What a horrible season the MSU Bulldogs are having. Many had predicted them to vie for the SEC title, but they have managed only one win and have an 0-3 record in the conference, so they come into this game playing only for pride and should be a pretty loose team. LSU has posted only one conference win, against Kentucky last week, so they are not having a very good season either. Both of these teams have been pasted by Florida, the class of the conference. What Mississippi State does have this week are a number of advantages. They have nothing to lose, they are at home, and they can still play defense. LSU has the ability to give up points in bunches. I like the Bulldogs to take a bite out of the Tigers. MSU in a mild upset.

BOSTON COLLEGE (4-1) -10 Pittsburgh (1-4) - Boston College is getting the credit it deserves, though this line could go much higher. BC suffered its second loss of the season against Virginia Tech last week, but hung in well and covered the spread. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, has been manhandled by Notre Dame, Miami and last week, Syracuse, who took it to them 42-10. BC is definitely going to a bowl game this season, while the Panthers are just plain going to the dogs. BC wins this one in a romp. BEST BET.

Michigan St. (3-1) -4 MINNESOTA (1-4) - The Minnesota Gophers are living up to their predictions - losing most of their games. They have neither the offense to outscore opponents nor the defensive ability to stop most teams. Michigan State plays solid, hard-hitting football, just what you'd expect from a top Big 10 team. Their only loss was a 27-26 at Northwestern in which K David Schaefer missed three FGs and two extra points. The Spartans could easily be undefeated and an even heavier favorite. Michigan State should be able to overpower the Gopher defense with bruising RB T. J. Duckett, possibly the best power back in the nation. Michigan State ranks a FOUR STAR PICK.

ILLINOIS (5-1) -4 Wisconsin (3-4) - The Illini are having an excellent year, and have the look of a bowl team. They have an offense that can put up plenty of points, led by QB Kurt Kittner and WR Brandon Lloyd. They also offer a variety of running backs who shuffle in and out, confusing the defense and supplying fresh legs. On defense, the Illini can come up big when needed and seem to improve with each game. The only loss for Illinois was at Michigan, nothing to be ashamed of. As for Wisconsin, this is a very unpredictable team. They have losses to Fresno State, Oregon and a shocking 63-32 loss to Indiana on Oct. 6, then they come back last week and beat Ohio State 20-17. Go figure! Oddly enough, they play well on the road, so they will come in here with some confidence, but the Illinois offense will be too much for them to handle. Home win for Illinois.

NOTRE DAME (2-3) -even- Southern Cal (2-4) - USC is a very good football team, and have suffered all four losses to ranked teams by close scores. Notre Dame, after losing their first three games to Nebraska, Michigan State and Texas A & M, has righted the ship somewhat with wins over lollipop opponents, Pittsburgh and West Virginia. The Irish will be unprepared for the speed of the Trojan players and will be routed soundly. This will be one of the darkest days in the land of the golden dome. USC in a solid romp. BEST BET.

Tennessee (3-1) -1 1/2 ALABAMA (3-3) - Why is Tennessee even favored in this game? Alabama has played well enough to win all of its games, (losses to UCLA 20-17, South Carolina 37-36 and Mississippi 27-24) and is extremely tough at home, where they lost to UCLA in the season opener and have won two more since. The Crimson Tide suffered a tough road loss at Mississippi last week, but Tennessee does not pose the same problems as the Rebels did - a great passing game and a loud, wild home crowd. Tennessee has not looked impressive offensively in any of their wins and they must depend on their defense to win this. Alabama will not go down easy, though, and will probably put up more points than the Tennessee offense will be able to produce. The Alabama defense will also be geared up for this huge game and 'Bama will come away with a win. THREE STAR PICK.

TEXAS (5-1) -10 Colorado (5-1) - Texas QB Chris Sims is a throwing machine, but Colorado plays heads-up defense, allowing an average of 16 points points per game against the likes of Kansas State and Fresno State (their only loss, 24-22). Texas, however, has averaged 45 points in their five wins and their only loss was a crusher at home to Oklahoma, 14-3 in which Simms threw 4 ints. The Texas defense is also formidable, allowing only 12 points per game, though the opposition has not been that great. That said, it looks like Texas will have a big offensive day, as usual, and the defense will stuff the Colorado attack. Texas wins in a THREE STAR PICK.

Florida St. (3-2) -11 1/2 VIRGINIA (3-3) - How bad is Florida State? They already have two losses and that falls far short of the expectations for this team. The loss at home last week to Miami was an absolute embarrassment. This team may be headed right into another loss, as players lose their focus. Virginia will be ready, coming off a decent performance against North Carolina (who beat Fla. St. soundly a few weeks ago), losing 30-24. Virginia will want to play a control game and put pressure on the Florida State's skittish offense, but in the end, I cannot see Virginia winning this game. Florida State has too much talent, too much defense and will be an angry mob in this game. The Cavaliers may be turning into the ACC punching bag, already having lost to N. Carolina and Maryland. Take the Seminoles and hope they don't hurt the Virginia players too badly.

OREGON (6-0) -7 1/2 Stanford (3-1) - Get ready for a real barn-burner as these two ranked teams square off in a classic. Oregon is lucky to have the home field, as they will need all the help they can get against the Cardinal. Stanford QB Randy Fasani is the real deal, and he just looks better and better each week. The Ducks have managed close wins over the quality opponents they have faced, which are only Wisconsin (31-28) and USC (24-22). The TD+ line is a little too much to handle in a game that Stanford might easily win. Could be a large upset, and yet another reason to play a tougher schedule, rather than the likes of Utah, Utah State, Arizona and California, over which Oregon won easily. Stanford in the UPSET SPECIAL THREE STAR PICK.

NFL, Thursday, October 18

JACKSONVILLE -9 (38 1/2 ) Buffalo - Jacksonville is wracked with injuries and both teams have had a week off to rest up for the first Thursday night game of the NFL season. The nine points is a very generous line, especially with the Jags coming off a humbling road loss to the Seahawks. I really like the Bills chances of covering this line. They are a young team with plenty of inexperience, and the injuries to Jacksonville are just too much for the Jags to overcome. I think this will actually turn out to be a fairly competitive and enjoyable game. Take the Bills as they should start out well, possibly get an early score and hang in.

Sunday, October 21

INDIANAPOLIS -10 1/2 (48) New England - Sure, Indy looked bad against the Raiders on Sunday night, and the Patriots beat them in Foxboro a couple of weeks ago, but the Colts need to get back on track and New England will have its hands full trying to contain the Colts' offense. I am sure many "wise guys" are drooling over the prospects of New England winning this game or at least covering, but I am not one of them. The Colts are at least two touchdowns better than New England and will prove it on Sunday.

St. Louis -7 (46 1/2 ) NY JETS - This looks like the lock of the week. Maybe it is, even without Marshall Faulk, the Rams still have the best offense in the league. The Jets get to stay home for the second week in a row, and are coming off an emotional win over divisional rival Atlanta. The Rams may be banged and bruised after their titanic clash with the Giants last week, but they are a far superior team and should be able to handle Vinny and the Jets. Make this one a FOUR STAR PICK.

NEW ORLEANS -8 1/2 (42) Atlanta - New Orleans let a 17-point lead slip away last week at Carolina, but still had enough in the tank to win it on a last-second TD by Rickey Williams, who continues to impress every week. The offense continues to improve and the defense of the Saints is as solid as ever. Atlanta is up-and-down and had to have a sinking feeling losing at home last week to the 49ers in overtime. The New Orleans defensive line will put pressure on Chandler and force at least two turnovers, while their offense will mop up against a banged up and average defense. New Orleans, a losing Best Bet last week, gets the nod for winning the game, and another BEST BET this time around.

Baltimore -7 (33) CLEVELAND - Math. That's all this game is about. Divisional opponents getting 6 or more points at home cover nearly 70% of the time. That statistic has been in place for at least twenty years and is one of the most reliable stats in the NFL. Yes, you may lose 30% of these bets, but it is better to take the points the other 7 out of ten times. Besides, Baltimore is on the road for he second week in a row and that's another bad situation. Look at what happened to San Diego. Loss in Cleveland, loss in New England. Cleveland gets my choice for the UPSET SPECIAL.

Carolina -3 1/2 (36) WASHINGTON - Wow! The Redskins really are as bad as their record. Carolina should bury them. As Washington goes to 0-6, I rate this a THREE STAR PICK.

CINCINNATI -1 (36) Chicago - Key game for both teams who are having successful seasons thus far. Nearing the end of last season, the Bears were covering the line almost every week and that solid play has transferred over to 2001. Cincy has played very well at home and they are undefeated there. The Bears' defense is very good, but gave up lots of yards to Arizona, who failed to convert some key third down situations. The problem for Chicago is that their offense is stagnant, while Cincy's is explosive. Give Cincy the nod here in a real head banger.

TAMPA BAY -6 (33) Pittsburgh - Sorry, Steelers. end of the win streak. You are not going to beat the Bucs running Jerome Bettis all day, with Kordell Stewart at QB. The Bucs defense will be keying on Bettis and when Stewart has to pass, they will be in his face. The guy doesn't throw very well as it is, so I am looking for at least two interceptions. The Steelers have a very good defense themselves, but the Bucs have more talent on offense and that will be the difference. I smell BEST BET!

Tennessee -6 (38) DETROIT - Time for the Titans to get even healthier. Their hard-fought win over Tampa Bay last week proves that they are not dead. 1-3, however, is not impressive, but neither is 0-5. Detroit victimized the Vikings weak pass defense and almost came back after being down 31-6. That will not happen against the Titans. This could get ugly early. Tennessee in a FOUR STAR PICK.

Denver -2 1/2 SAN DIEGO - Denver QB Brian Griese has a significant problem in his throwing shoulder and it is unclear whether he will start in this game. If he does, the question is, will he be effective? If he does not start, Gus Frerotte will go for the Broncos. San Diego has suffered two consecutive losses on the road against Cleveland and New England - not exactly top notch opponents. But getting back home always does wonders for a team, and playing against the reigning power in the division also helps. I am going to assume that Greise will sit this one out. Coach Mike Shanahan will devise a game plan that won't put Frerotte in too many situations in which he can make mistakes. And the Denver defense should be able to put the clamps down on LaDainian Tomlinson and Doug Flutie - who hasn't looked too sharp lately. I like the Broncos chances here, even though they are on the road for the second week in a row. The Chargers are stumbling a bit, and Denver needs this win badly. Look for Denver kicker Jason Elam to win this one for the Broncos.

Kansas City -2 (41) ARIZONA - Kansas City has only one win and that was over Washington - not saying much. Arizona also has only one win, over Philadelphia, a divisional team and one they seem to have figured out. I have to say that Arizona getting points at home looks somewhat like a no-brainer, but Arizona's ineffectiveness on offense is a cause for concern. This one could look very much like Monday's Dallas-Washington debacle, where neither team could move the ball with any consistency. KC keeps wanting to throw the ball, despite being able to run with Priest Holmes. Players on both squads are getting antsy about coaching moves, and vocal. Both teams seem to be in disarray. Please don't bet this game. If you must, take the Cards at home with the points.

Green Bay -3 (47 1/2 ) MINNESOTA - Another loss by the Vikings and they might as well kiss their season good-bye, and who better to hand them a loss than Brett Favre and the Packers. If the Vikes couldn't contain Charlie Batch and co., how do they intend to defense the Packers? They will manage a couple of scores, but the Packers come out on top by 4 to 6 points.

Monday, October 22

NY GIANTS -3 (35 1/2 ) Philadelphia - WAR! That's what this game will resemble. The Giants have won seven straight from the Eagles, and are at the top of their game. The biggest difference in this game could be who starts at running back. If Tiki Barber and Ron Dayne are both healthy, that's a big plus for the Giants. Duce Staley is reportedly ready to play and will probably start for Philly - a big plus. Donovan McNabb will put the Giants secondary to the test once again (don't these guys ever get a rest?), and will also test the linebacking corps with his scrambles and roll-outs. There is probably no team in the league which comes into a game better prepared than the Giants, and after playing the Rams to a standstill, could really turn it on against their division rivals. Being at home doesn't hurt and the fans will be a factor. The secret to the Giants is that they expect nothing less than a Super Bowl win this season. They are a confident bunch with possibly the best defense in the league. I would have to take the Giants and under as both teams have superior defenses. THREE STAR PICK.

Source:Downtown Magazine

Oct. 11, 2001

Fearless Ricks College and Pro Picks 10-11 - 10-15/01
Rick Gagliano
posted by Rick Gagliano

NCAA Football
Thursday, October 11

Just a note: I really feel very confident about this week's college picks and actually had to downgrade some of them. This could be a very big week for college players. I always get a little cautious when I'm this confident.

GEORGIA TECH (4-1) -9 1/2 Maryland (5-0) - Huge game for both teams in this ACC showdown. Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen has turned this program around in his first year with the help of QB Shaun Hill and the nation's leading rusher, Bruce Perry. These two fire an offense that can produce points in bunches and have paved the way for their five wins. The Terps defense does give up big plays but they are experts at taking the ball away, with 11 interceptions this season. Georgia Tech has the home field advantage, which is big, and an equally potent offense, but the Maryland coach used to be G-tech's head coach so he knows their tendencies. Georgia Tech also has not beaten anyone of note, and actually lost their first big test to Clemson, at home, 47-44, so the defense can be beaten with a strong attack, which Maryland offers. While Georgia Tech is ranked #15 in the AP Poll, Maryland is #22, and those positions may be reversed. Overall, I don't think Georgia Tech is as good as advertised and Maryland is much better than many assumed, so take the Terps plus the big points in this UPSET SPECIAL!

Saturday, October 12

Miami (4-0) -7 FLORIDA STATE (3-1) - After losing to North Carolina two weeks ago, the Seminoles are a suspect bunch. They really have not been tested in wins over Duke, UAB and Wake Forest, but will be put to the test against Miami, ranked either #1 or #2 in every poll. Florida State has dropped all the way to #14 in the AP poll. When's the last time they were ranked so low? The Miami Hurricanes have everything a national football champion should: scary defense, potent offense and game breaking players, especially QB Ken Dorsey, a legitimate Heisman candidate. This is a statement game, and the Miami defense will make it. I like the Hurricanes to win and cover this handily. FOUR STAR PICK.

VIRGINIA TECH (5-0) -20 Boston College (4-1) - This is a huge line favoring Viginia Tech, and the Hokies are for real, but BC is 4-1 and aren't getting the respect they deserve. Their only loss came at Stanford, a very solid football team. The guide to this game may be in their comparable opponents. BC beat West Virginia 40-10 in their season opener, while V-Tech beat the same team 35-0. Based on what I've seen from the Tech offense, they are a little green, while the BC defense seems to be improving every game, and running back William Green has all the makings of a pro back. If BC can put up only 10-14 points, they should cover this line and possibly pull off the upset. This could be a nice parley play as well, taking BC and under 47 1/2, as this could turn into a defensive struggle and some turnovers are expected. Take BC and the points in this THREE STAR UPSET SPECIAL.

MICHIGAN (4-1) -11 Purdue (4-0) - The Wolverines are a very solid team and are almost a certainty to take the Big 10 title and head to the Rose Bowl, but they are not getting much respect from the oddsmakers. They were only 10-point favorites last week against a horrble Penn State team and now only -11 to Purdue? I don't get it, but I will take Michigan to roll over the Boilermakers, who are 4-0 and not ranked. Why? Simply put they're an average team and will begin rolling downhill. After beating Minnesota in overtime and needing a late TD to put away Iowa last week 23-14, they're sitting on the verge of disaster and this trip to Michigan will be it. Looking for a possible Michigan blowout, led mostly by defense and a grinding Wolverine offense. THREE STAR PICK.

Oklahoma -21 KANSAS - What can you say about the Sooners, who remain undefeated and higly ranked. Last year's National Champion may actually be better this season. I don't like the huge line, especially coming off a big win over Texas, but they are super-solid and Kansas has little with which to oppose them.

Fresno St. (5-0) -7 COLORADO ST. (2-3) - This looks like a mismatch, as Colorado State hasn't beaten anybody even worth mentinoning, while Fresno State has been a pleasant surprise team beating Colorado, Wisconsin and Oregon State. This could be their last real test en route to an undefeated season and a high ranking and nice bowl game. Fresno State has a vicious offensive attack spearheaded by QB David Carr throwing to WRs Bernard Berrianand, Charles Smith and Rodney Wright. RB Paris Gains rolled for 203 yards last week and is a threat to ru or catch short passes in the flat. Fresno State should win this in a romp. FOUR STAR PICK.

Alabama (3-2) -7 MISSISSIPPI (3-1) - This is nothing short of a border war and there's one big gun in the Mississippi arsenal, Eli Manning, who, if given time, can pick apart any pass defense. He has all the tools to be a superstar in a future NFL career. The Rebels haven't beaten any really good teams and their one loss was a norrow one at Auburn 27-21. Alabama has an exceptional defense, tough secondary and a good pass rush, so it's up to the Rebels to protect Manning. Alalbama's two losses came at the hands of UCLA and South Carolina and were close games. The Alabama secondary will be put to the test and their offense, which has sputtered at times, needs to step it up on the road, which may not be a problem against the Rebels' somewhat porous defense. This one could go either way, but I'll side with the Crimson Tide, hoping that they can make life miserable for Manning with a relentless pass rush and solid coverage in the secondary.

UCLA (4-0) -11 1/2 Washington (4-0) - UCLA is playing championship-style football on both sides of the ball - their defense punishing and the offense scoring on the ground and through the air. Three of the Bruins four wins have come on the road, with wins over Kansas, Alabama and Oregon State. Their home win was over Ohio State. With Cory Paus throwing and DeShawn Foster running, they have a wicked offensive attack. Their defesne has yielded only 13 points in the past two games and continues to amaze. As for the Huskies, they could easily be 1-3 instead of 4-0. They needed two late turnovers to beat Michigan in the opener, 23-18, and barely escaped their last two, at Cal 31-28 and at home vs. USC 27-24, winning on a no-time-left field goal. The Huskies have won 12 straight, but that streak is going to end with a thud in this FOUR STAR PICK!

OHIO STATE (3-1) -10 1/2 Wisconsin (3-3) - Nice matchup here in the Big 10, though the Badgers completely fell apart against Indiana last week, losing 63-32, a team Ohio State beat 27-14 just a week earlier. The Buckeyes only loss came on the coast against UCLA, 13-6 and they are a top contender for the Big Ten title and may run the table until their Nov. 24 match-up at Michigan. Ohio State is back to their traditional offense of 3 yards and a cloud of dust, hammering people with a grinding running attack. Unless Wisconsin can get on the board early or score a meaningless late TD, this looks like a romp. THREE STAR PICK.

USC (1-4) -2 1/2 Arizona St. (3-1) - USC is the best 1-4 team you'll ever see and they will find a way to get their second win of the season, mostly via QB Carson Palmer's arm. The Trojans have a very solid team and their four losses have come by a total of 14 points. The teams that beat them: Kansas State (ranked #24), Wahington (ranked #10) and Oregon (ranked #5). Arizona State has wins over San Diego State, San Jose State and UL Lafayette. The loss was at Stanford, 51-28. This game is all about class and condition - like running a stakes winning horse against a cheap claimer. NO CONTEST! The Trojans should win this one easily, and I rank it this week's BEST BET!

Georgia -7 1/2 VANDERBILT (1-3) - After pulling off the stunning upset at Tennessee last week, the Bulldogs find themselves on the road again. Vandy plays everybody tough, with a 12-9 loss to Alabama and a 27-24 (Sept. 29) loss to Auburn on a fake field goal, which, if they kicked it instead, put the game into overtime. You have to question the call by the Vandy coaching staff and how much if affected the players. At least they've had an extra week off to forget it. The Bulldogs only loss was to undefeated South Carolina, 14-9, but they look very solid. Georgia should dominate on defense and let the offense tear up a tiring Vanderbilt defense in the second half. This may be close if the Vanderbilt defense comes to play, which they usually do, but the Bulldogs look too confident to lose this one.

NFL - Sunday, October 14

GREEN BAY (3-1) -even- (34) Baltimore (3-1) - Toughest game of the week to pick as the league's best defense comes into Green Bay against Brett Favre's high flying offense. If anything, Tampa Bay proved last week that the Packers could be stopped, allowing the Packers just 10 points in TBs 14-10 win. The Pack will not have to contend with the heat in Tampa Bay, though the Ravens defense may be even nastier. After a rough game last week, I don't see the Packers being up to this one. The Ravens offense continues to improve each week and that, coupled with their stingy defense, may be the difference.

TENNESSEE (0-3) -3 (33) Tampa Bay (2-1) - The Titans are in real trouble. The offense is sputtering, the defense is no better than ordinary and now they face the Bucs, playing terrific defense. Tampa Bay has found some offense, but one wonders how long Tony Dungy will stick with the 2, 3 and 5 yard passes and runs by Mike Alstott - an attack that can be defensed by almost anyone. As the season progresses, look for more passes from Brad Johnson in the direction of Keyshawn Johnson. Another key is that Warrick Dunn, Tampa's versatile running back, may be available forr this game. Check our update on Sunday morning. Even without Dunn, you have to take the Bucs and points in this THREE STAR PICK.

CHICAGO (2-1) -7 (39 1/2 ) Arizona (1-2) - Chicago has something that other teams wish they had and that's a defense, which they put on display in last week's trouncing of Atlanta. The Cardinals are coming off their first win of the season, on the road against Philly, and they stay on the road for the second week in a row - statstically, a very bad thing. Chicago is playing much better than expected, but they are a very good defensive team and won't let up here. Lay the points, take the Bears.

CINCINNATI (2-2) -2 1/2 (35) Cleveland (3-1) - The Browns own the distinction of being the only team with a perfect record against the spread (4-0) and I see no reason why that should change. The Browns are playing solid defense and the offense is maturing nicely with each game. Their win over San Diego last week showed they are developing a winning attitude and QB Tim Couch is beginning to look like the star many thought he would be. On the other hand, Cincy's QB Jon Kitna can look to Darnay Scott and Peter Warrick, two dangerous deep threats and of course, the Browns need to contain Cory Dillon - not an easy task. The Browns are tied for the Division lead, however, and are playing loose, with as many wins already as they had all of last season. Browns getting points looks like a good thing. FOUR STAR PICK.

MINNESOTA (1-3) -10 (44) Detroit (0-3) - Detorit was embarrassed on Monday night by St. Louis but did show some signs of life. They were able to move the ball fairly well, but made critical mistakes in the red zone and thus were shut out. Minnesota is going to have trouble containing them, as their defense is nothing to write home about, especially against the pass. Detroit's defense is actually ranked lower, but considering the ineffectiveness of the offense, the defense has had to spend a great deal of time on the field. The truth of the matter is that Detorit's run defense has given up a ton of yards, mostly in their first game against Green Bay, but they won't need it against Minnesota. Minnesota averages 84 yards rushing per game, much of that on Dante Culpepper scrambles. Detroit may be able to dictate at the line of scrimage and make it a long day for the Vikes' defense. I see an upset in the making, in a high scoring game. The the Lions to cover at least. Minnesota can't stop their offense.

New Orleans (2-1) -5 (39 1/2 ) CAROLINA (1-3) - Those five points may look tempting, but the Panthers are skidding after their opening-day win at Minnesota. With three straight losses in the book, New Orleans does not like like a team against which they will suddenly turn it around. New Orleans is also coming off a nice win against Minnesota and are about to go on a run. I am hard pressed to find any weaknesses in the Saints, as they have a top-notch defense and an offense which can and will dominate in this game. The Saints should roll over the Panthers in this week's BET BET.

ST. LOUIS (4-0) -10 1/2 (45 1/2 ) N.Y. Giants (3-1) - The Giants will contend in this game, as the Rams' defense is not as good as advertised. They game up plenty of yards to Detroit on Monday night and the Giants have a better offense than Detroit even without Tiki Barber and Ron Dayne. The Giants will have a game plan that exploits the Rams corners on short throws and will be able - if anyone can - control the Rams when they have the ball. There may not be a better secondary in the league than the Giants, and they will be put to the test. The generous line is tempting and worth taking as the Giants will be geared up on defense and the offense may have a field day against the Rams. No doubt the Rams will put up points, but the Giants will be able to keep it close.

KANSAS CITY (1-3) -3 (36) Pittsburgh (2-1) - Pittsburgh is a very odd team. They rely on defense and the running game almost exclusively. Jerome Bettis is running like the Bus he is, but the KC defense can stop him as they have plenty of beef of their own up front on defense. If that's the case, Pittsburgh will have to rely on the second-worst passing offense in the league. Kordell Stewart has not been accurate and is prone to mental and physical mistakes. Pittsburgh is very one-dimensional and have only played Jacksonville (loss), Buffalo (win) and Cincinnati (win), while the Chiefs have losses to Denver, New York Giants and Oakland. The level of competition has been much different. If Kansas City manages and early lead, the Steelers will have a very hard time coming back. Besides, KC has found a running game with Priest Holmes and Jerome Bettis is listed as probable.

San Diego (3-1) -3 (36) NEW ENGLAND (1-3) - As evidenced last week in their humbling loss to Miami, the Patriots cannot generate much offense without ailing QB Drew Bledsoe. This bodes well for the Chargers, who, despite losing on the road to Cleveland last week, and stay on the road this week, boast the league's fourth best defense including 23 takeaways in four games (8 interceptions and 15 fumbles). While they should be able to completely stymie the New England offense, their own offense should be able to make first downs and control the tempo of the game. LaDainian Tomlinson will get plenty of carries, but the key on offense is Doug Flutie who always plays well at his roots in New England. Chargers to roll in this THREE STAR PICK.

San Francisco (3-1) -3 (43) ATLANTA (2-2) - The 49ers are quickly becoming a very solid, well-coached team. While Chris Chandler will start after suffering a concussion against the Bears last week, the Falcons still have a very limited rushing attack and that will hurt. While the 49ers had to go to overtime in the season operner against the Falcons, the teams have gone in different directions. Look for San Francisco to play ample defense, score often and win going away. FOUR STAR PICK.

Miami (3-1) -3 (37 1/2 ) NY JETS (2-2) - This is a mismatch, plain and simple. The Jets barely got away with a win against Buffalo last week and will try to run the ball against one of the league's best defenses. That will not work and Miami's secondary is also one of the best, so that won't work either. On offense, Miami will dictate everything and move the ball at will against the league's second-worst defense. Miami will come away with an easy win here against a team whose weakness on defense will be exposed. This one is a BEST BET.

Denver (3-1) -7 (44) SEATTLE (2-2) - The Broncos are rolling right along, staying even with Oakland in the AFC West lead. While this does not look like much of a matchup, the Seahawks are at home and have a decent defense. They are also a much better offensive team with Trent Dilfer taking the snaps and Shawn Alenxander running the ball. This is a divisional game and the teams know each other well. Getting a touchdown at home is too much for the Broncos to give up against a team that could surprisingly become 3-2. The Seahawks found new life against Jacksonville last week and may pull off the upset.

INDIANAPOLIS (2-1) -3 1/2 (51) Oakland (3-1) - Obviously, this is the game that has attracted the most attention this week, and deservedly so. The high-flying offense that is Indianapolis will put the Raiders' defense to the test. They have to find a way to stop the trio of James, Harrison and Manning, but the Raiders offer an equally potent trio in Garner, Brown and Gannon. The difference in this game comes down simply to defense. The Raiders have one, the Colts do not. Indianapolis has not made the needed improvement on defense and that will hurt them in this game. It may very well be a close contest, but that 1/2 point, if you can get it may be the winning edge. Nevertheless, the Raiders are putting a better team on the field. The Raiders may be able to run the ball at will and control the clock, another very improtant factor. THREE STAR PICK.

Monday, October 15

DALLAS (0-4) -3 (37) Washington (0-4) - This marks the first time ever that two 0-4 teams have ever played on Monday Night Football. Simply put, both of these teams are very, very bad. This may resemble something more along the lines of a division 1-AA game than an actual NFL matchup. It's advisable to not bet this game because neither team has demonstated a winning attitude, though both are getting better. I will go out on a limb and take the Redskins, but only because they are getting points. This game will most likely be decided by turnovers.

Source:Downtown Magazine

Oct. 03, 2001

Fearless Rick's Pro and College Football Picks 10/6-10/8/01
Rick Gagliano
posted by Rick Gagliano

College Football - Saturday, October 6

TENNESSEE (3-0) -11 1/2 Georgia (2-1) - The Vols have yet to lose a game, but did not cover in last week's 26-18 home win over LSU. They get another home conference game here, but against a Georgia squad that can put up points. The Bulldog's only loss came in hard-luck fashion on an underthrown pass that went for a touchdown and the win by South Carolina (14-9). If Georgia's QB David Greene can put together another game like he had last week (298 yards passing), it could be a long afternoon for the Vols. Also, Tennessee's offense has sputtered through the first three games, sometimes showing signs of life, but often unable to move the ball with any proficiency. The big line here is unwarranted as Georgia beat Tennessee last year (in Georgia) by a 21-10 score. Georgia looks prime to pull off the UPSET SPECIAL!

BOSTON COLLEGE (3-1) -13 Temple (1-2) - Boston College has a more than adequate offense, but their defense is going to be the key here as they may be able to completely smother an impotent Temple offense and give their own offense some good field position. Temple is being kicked out of the Big East after this season, and this game might just be a reminder of why that is happening. BC is planning to go to a decent bowl game this season and this will be a stepping stone. Last season, BC won at home 31-7. Looks like deja vu all over again. BC in a BEST BET romp.

Virginia Tech (4-0) -15 WEST VIRGINIA (2-2) - No contest. Virginia Tech is ranked again and West Virginia just does not match up very well, thus the heavy line. Virginia Tech should win this one handily, covering the line by halftime. The Hokies have given up only 24 points in their four wins, recording shutouts against Western Michigan and Rutgers. The telling game was last week's dominating 46-14 win over UCF, a decent team against whom others have struggled. West Va. looks lost on offense and that's not a good sign. Virginia Tech in a FOUR STAR PICK.

AUBURN (3-1) -2 1/2 Mississippi St. (1-2) - After being embarrassed by Florida last week by a 52-0 tally, look for Mississippi State to rebound against a more realistic foe. Auburn has not looked particularly overpowering in any of their wins (and got rolled pretty good by Syracuse 31-14) and are undeservedly sitting atop the SEC West with a 2-0 record. Mississippi State is a better team, having already lost to undefeated South Carolina and Florida. This has all the makings of a minor upset. THREE STAR PICK.

NOTRE DAME (0-3) -6 Pittsburgh (1-2) - The Pitt Panthers put up little fight in their 43-21 loss at home to Miami last week, but managed to cover the line with some last minute heroics. The Pitt offense missed some golden scoring opportunities and will have to play a little more disciplined against the Irish if they want to come out of this game a winner. While the Irish have lost three straight, they were against some good teams - Nebraska, Michigan State and Texas A & M - but they did manage to lose all of those games as neither the offense nor the defense made much of an impression. Pitt has a solid team, and with Notre Dame having already suffered three losses, may be able to take advantage of a dispirited unit. Take Pitt and the points as they look like a team with some promise.

Florida (4-0) -13 LSU (2-1) - at home the Tigers might fare a bit better than if this game was played in Gainesville, but, even then, they are no match for Rex Grossman and the Florida offense, who put up 52 while shutting out a decent Mississippi State team last week. LSU looked very stoppable offensively against Tennessee and scored late in the game to cover the spread. No such luck here as the Gators will bomb away and run up the score as the BCS rankings are still dubious. A win by three touchdowns is almost a certainty. Florida ranks as a BEST BET.

TEXAS (4-0) -3 Oklahoma (4-0) - This game is being played in Dallas, so technically, the Longhorns are the home team, though Texas Stadium is not their home turf. In any case, this game is about as even as one can get. Both teams have superb weapons on offense and defense abilities that put them in an elite class. Oklahoma brings in the nation's longest winning streak and the Longhorns bring plenty of pride and a longstanding tradition. Texas QB Chris Simms may be the best playmaker in the country, though OK QB Josh Hybl really proved himself last week against Kansas State. There is the lingering pain of last season's 63-14 Oklahoma win that is going to be a major motivator for Texas. I like Texas to win this by 6. I'm not crazy about the pick - how can you be against a National Champion? - but Texas may be on their way to a title of their own.

KANSAS STATE (2-1) -10 Colorado (3-1) - Colorado has a pretty nice team this season, but they are unranked and no match for the Wildcats. Kansas State should breeze here. The tandem of QB Ell Roberson and RB Josh Scobey is devastating to defenses. The Buffaloes sport a 3-1 record with their only loss coming at the hands of Fresno State, 24-22. They breezed by Colorado State, San Jose State and Kansas, but the Wildcats are another story altogether. Big win for KSU.

WASHINGTON (3-0) -5 1/2 Southern Cal (1-3) - USC has one of the roughest schedules in college football and it's beginning to show on their record. They haven't lost a game by more than five with losses coming to Kansas State (10-6), Oregon (24-22) and Stanford (21-16). They've only given up 65 points on defense, but the offense has only been able to score that same amount. The Huskies beat Michigan in their opener with two stunning defensive plays in the 4th quarter (blocked punt and interception both returned for touchdowns) and struggled in a 31-28 win over Cal last week. While the Huskies look to extend their 11-game winning streak, USC is very hungry for a win. They've been close in every other game, so I don't see why they can't stay right with Washington and possibly spring the upset. THREE STAR PICK.

Michigan (3-1) -10 PENN STATE (0-3) - Either I'm missing something or the oddsmakers know something we don't. Penn State has not so much as sniffed at a win, while the Wolverines are looking at least at the Big Ten crown and a Rose Bowl appearance.

Oregon (4-0) -5 ARIZONA (3-1) - After getting steamrolled by Washington State last week 48-21, the Wildcats will be equally hard-pressed to stay with the Ducks. This is, however, Oregon's second-straight road game and that has a way of wearing on anyone. Tough call, but I think the Ducks have a little more class than the Wildcats and will come away with a well-deserved win. Take note that last season, the Ducks won at home against Arizona by a 14-10 score. Tread lightly here.

NFL - Sunday, October 7

BALTIMORE (2-1) -3 1/2 (33 1/2 ) Tennessee (0-2) - The Titans find themselves firmly between a rock and a hard place as they travel to Baltimore to face a Championship team that has their number. Not to mention the fact that Steve McNair is a little rusty having missed last week's game, and that RB Eddie George has not proven that he's fully recovered from off-season surgery, but the Ravens put together their best performance of the season against solid Denver team in Mile High last week and seem to have the offense clicking. I'd like to find a way for Tennessee to stay in this game for more than three quarters, but I just cannot. The Ravens look superior in virtually every regard and if Elvis Grbac gets comfortable, look for a huge win.

NY GIANTS (2-1) -14 (36) Washington (0-3) - In case you haven't noticed, the Redskins have nothing. Further, here's some lopsided math. The Giants beat Kansas City 13-3 in KC and the following week Kansas City comes into Washington and thumps the Redskins 45-13. So, the final score should be something on the order of 56-7? Maybe, but if it worked that way, we'd all be rich, right? I see no compelling reason to bet the Redskins, unless there's a blizzard or hurricane forecast for game time. Even then, the Giants would probably win. Even though these are divisional opponents, they hardly match up very well. Washington has put up only 16 points in 3 games. How many can they be expected to score against one of the best defenses in the league? The Giants are on a roll and will win and cover easily in this FOUR STAR PICK.

San Diego (3-0) -3 (35) CLEVELAND (2-1) - Did anyone figure, before the season started, that this would be a premier matchup? Even the Chargers, who went 1-15 last year, might not have imagined this. In what may be the toughest pick of the week, I have to side with the Browns, who have overcome quite a bit in their first two seasons and are beginning to emerge. The Browns linebacking and secondary crew should be able to handle Doug Flutie's passes and scrambles and Tim Couch and the offense will put up enough points to win. Cleveland in a squeaker.

PHILADELPHIA -14 (41) Arizona - In the NFC East, there are two good teams - the Eagles and the Giants - and three bad ones - Washington, Dallas and Arizona. I looked at this preseason and thought that if you took the Giants and Eagles in the 12 games against these three teams, you should come out something on the order of 9-3 or 10-2. The Eagles roughed up Dallas last week, so the bet is 1-0. With this one and the Giants-Redskins game, I'm looking for 3-0. Philly in another blowout.

ATLANTA (2-1) -3 (39 1/2 ) Chicago (1-1) - Two names to watch for in this one, Maurice Smith and Jim Miller. Smith is the Atlanta running back who will have to carry the load for Atlanta after losing the servies of Jamal Anderson for the season. Smith played well against Arizona last week carrying 21 times for 80 yards. He even caught two passes and scored a touchdown. The Falcons may have a nice surprise in Smith. As for Miller, he's the starting QB for the Bears, with Shane Matthews on the bench nursing sore ribs. This is also a good thing for the Bears as Miller is a capable QB with game experience. He won't make big mistakes. Overall, though, the Falcons seem to be the better team and should come out of this with a win. Chris Chandler and Michael Vick will both see some time at QB, so it could get very interesting. The Falcons have one of the more underrated defenses as well, and that may prove to be the difference.

PITTSBURGH (1-1) -6 (35 1/2 ) Cincinnati (2-1) - One of the most improved teams in the league, the Bengals come into Pittsburgh for their second straight road game, which is usually the death-knell for most teams. But this is a different scenario. Cincy is in the hunt for a playoff spot and would like nothing better than to take it to the Steelers on their home turf. Pittsburgh is not a very good team. Their lone win came against Buffalo, and it was mostly a win of attrition. Sure the Bus, Jerome Bettis, got rolling, but mostly, it was a very sloppy, ugly win. The Bengals have much more talent at wideout, running back and the QB comparison is a no-brainer. Jon Kitna is much better than Kordell Stewart will ever hope to be. And that's the difference. Pittsburgh cannot move the ball consistently, making the Bengals a winner in this UPSET SPECIAL.

NEW ORLEANS (1-1) -3 1/2 (44) Minnesota (1-2) - The Vikings may have saved their season with the 20-16 win over Tampa Bay last week, but they will be put to the test in the Superdome against the Saints. The artificial surface favors Minnesota's speed, and if they get an early lead on the Saints, it may be a difficult comeback. The New Orleans offense hasn't exactly been overpowering, but may be able to run the ball against the Vikings. The Saints need to put pressure on Dante Culpepper and they have to get to him. If they rush too hard, he can elude linemen and take off, so they have to play the contain game as well. If the Minnesota line holds up, New Orleans will be in a heap of trouble. I think the Vikings are good enough to win this one and even their record.

MIAMI (2-1) -10 (35) New England (1-2) - Jay Fiedler has been making plays for the Dolphins, despite their lopsided loss to the Rams last week. And while New England did a number on Indianapolis, those kinds of things happen in this league. Peyton Manning had an off day and the Pats capitalized. Being at home for the second straight week didn't hurt either. Obviously, the Vegas linemakers feel the same way. Miami is a better football team and should be able to avoid mistakes and stop any kind of offense the Patriots offer. Look for Miami to return to its winning ways.

DENVER (2-1) -10 (48) Kansas City (1-2) - Last week against the Ravens, admittedly a very tough defense, the Denver offense showed some signs that it was missing Terrell Davis and Ed McCaffrey. The running game was not solid and Brian Griese could not hit receivers he wanted late in the game. Most telling was a high pass for Eddie Kennison, which tipped off his fingertips late in the game. Kennison is MacCaffrey's replacement, and had the same ball been put in the same spot to McCaffrey, it would have been a certain catch and first down. One thing the Kansas City Chiefs can do in this game is play defense and they know Denver and all of their tendencies well. If Trent Green can get the offense in gear (hint: swing passes to Tony Richardson), KC can keep this one close enough to possibly win it, but definitely close enough to cover the generous line.

SEATTLE (1-2) OFF (OFF) Jacksonville (2-1) - No line on this game as Jacksonville is heavily banged up after their loss to Cleveland. QB Mark Brunell is probably out as is Fred Taylor and possibly Tony Boselli and Tony Brackens. For the Seahawks, Matt Hasselbeck is out, replaced by Trent Dilfer at QB and RB Rickey Watters is out, replaced by Shawn Alexander. Don't bet this game unless the line is completely out of whack like 10 points either way. It should come down to Jacksonville -2, or -4 if Brunell plays. He's the difference.

N.Y. Jets (1-2) -4 (36) BUFFALO (0-3) - Two first year coaches with two pretty bad football teams. The Jets looked completely out of sync on Monday against the 49ers and the score did not reflect just how lopsided the game was. NY could not tackle and that could be a problem against the Bills, who do offer at least a solid running back in Travis Henry. The Jets also have no pass rush whatsoever, and given time, Rob Johnson may be able to hit Eric Moulds for a couple of long gainers. The Jets will run Curtis Martin, a very obvious attack that the Bills defense can key on. I think in the battle of first-year coaches, Greg Williams (Buffalo) has the edge over Herman Edwards (Jets) and the Bills will find a way to win this game. This is not a game I would bet heavily, but you might want to take it just for the "I told you so" factor if the Bills actually win.

TAMPA BAY (1-1) -2 1/2 (36 1/2 ) Green Bay (3-0) - A compelling matchup against perennial Central Division foes, this game has all the elements of being a classic. The Packers are playing their best football since their Super Bowl win, and while everyone is singing the praises of Brett Favre (deservedly so), the Packer defense has gone virtually unnoticed. In three games, against somewhat feeble opposition - Detroit, Washington and Carolina - the Packers have given up only 24 points. That's not bad, no matter who you're playing. The Bucs don't exactly scare anyone with their scoring potential either, so you have to think that the Pack is going to whup up on these guys, kind of a payback for the past couple of years. Favre will throw a couple of TD passes and Ahmad Green will outrush the entire TB team. Offense matters and the Packers have it. Look for a final of 24-10 or something like that. Packers look very solid. BEST BET!

SAN FRANCISCO (2-1) -7 (45) Carolina (1-2) - The 49ers looked very impressive in handling the Jets on MNF and should continue their winning ways against this divisional opponent. Carolina looked OK winning against Minnesota, but has looked rather ordinary in consecutive losses to Atlanta and Green Bay. The Niners can run the ball with Garrison Hearst and Kevan Barlow, and for good measure have JJ Stokes, Terrell Owens at wideouts, with the incredible Jeff Garcia calling the plays. If the 49ers defense can hold Carolina to 14 points, they will win this one handily. THREE STAR PICK.

OAKLAND (2-1) -19 (41 1/2 ) Dallas (0-3) - OK, Dallas looks pretty bad, and the Raiders can stomp them easily. 19 points is a bunch, however, and the Dallas defense isn't going to get hammered every week. If the offense can put up 10 points, they will cover, because the Raiders will get lazy with a lead. Lousy game to bet, take the points, what the heck.

Monday, October 8

St. Louis (3-0) -12 1/2 (49) DETROIT (0-2) - Any way you look at this game it comes up as a win for the Rams who will go 4-0. The big advantage for Detroit of being the home team, is negated by the fact that the game is indoors on artificial turf, a surface the Rams - especially QB Kurt Warner and RB Marshall Faulk - enjoy. Don't be worried about the big line, because even if the Rams don't put up 42 points themselves, the Lions' offense, led by Ty Detmer (a proven flop in many other venues), will make their defense look really good. Chalk up an easy win for the Rams here in a FOUR STAR PICK.

Source:Downtown Magazine

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