Hot Stove Roundup

Two players from my Top 10 Free Agent Rankings came off the market among several other moves that were made on Friday. Seems that the signing of Shohei Ohtani by the Angels really did open up the floodgates. So let’s take a look at who’s headed where.

Carlos Santana signs with the Phillies

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This was the big surprise move for me, though I can’t say I’m too shocked to see the Phillies actively searching for some talent now that all those albatross contracts are finally off the books. Though I am surprised that Santana chose the Phillies in this situation. Santana signed a 3-year $60 million deal with a $17.5 million club option for a fourth year with the Phillies, who are coming off a last place finish in the NL East and had the second worst record in the National League. Santana was a part of a winning organization in the Indians prior to this, where he was a big part of their lineup that had the best record in 2017 and nearly won a World Series in 2016. Santana has been one of those guys that, along with some good power, has had a keen eye for the plate. He is coming off a season that featured a 13.2% walk rate, which was the lowest of his career but still ranked 18th in all of baseball. He’s got good power if he does get his pitch as well, as he’s hit 57 home runs over the last two seasons while being a well-above average defender at first base, which is where he will likely slot in with the Phillies. Santana will likely supplant the incumbent Tommy Joseph at first, who underwhelmed in the starting role, as he only hit .240 with a .289 OBP though he showed some good pop with 22 home runs. In addition to the signing of Santana, the Phillies are trading shortstop Freddy Galvis to the Padres for a minor league prospect, opening the door for top prospect JP Crawford to take over as the full-time shortstop. Here’s what a potential Phillies lineup would look like with Santana.

1. Odubel Herrera-CF

2. JP Crawford-SS

3. Rhys Hoskins-LF

4. Carlos Santana-1B

5. Aaron Altherr-RF

6. Maikel Franco-3B

7. Jorge Alfaro/Cameron Rupp-C

8. Cesar Hernandez-2B

9. Pitcher’s Spot

Still not an imposing lineup by any stretch, but one that definitely looks a lot better than last year with the addition of Santana and the emergence of Hoskins. Santana’s ability to draw walks gives new manager Gabe Kapler a lot of different lineup combinations to play with, as he often batted leadoff for Terry Francona in Cleveland because of his great eye. With how bad most of the NL East is outside of Washington, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Phillies quietly emerge as the second best team in the division. Though it is equally likely that they could finish last again. Such is the NL East. As for the Tribe, there’s a bit of a hole at first base, though I think part of last year’s Edwin Encarnacion signing was in preparation for this. If they want to have Encarnacion return to first base, that gives Francona a bunch of options at DH, such as Lonnie Chisenhall, Brandon Guyer, or Hell, even Jason Kipnis if you want to go with Jose Ramirez at 2B and Giovanny Urshela at 3B (which is the better defensive rotation). Lots of options for Tito to work with despite losing a big bat.

Zack Cozart signs with the Angels

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Anaheim strikes again. This time, they sign Zack Cozart away from the Cincinnati Reds and will move him from shortstop to third base because of obvious Andrelton Simmons-related reasons. Cozart was a guy I highlighted in my Free Agent rankings and I mentioned that he’s had some really good seasons at the plate the last couple of years that have each been cut short due to injury. But when healthy, Cozart is a pretty underrated hitter who was finally getting some recognition, as he was voted to the All Star Game in 2017. In 122 games, Cozart hit .297 with 24 home runs and 63 RBI and was worth 5 WAR. Had a bigger-name player put up those numbers, they’d be receiving a $100 million contract but because it’s Cozart and he’s not nearly as big a household name, his deal is for 3 years and $38 million. However age might be a concern in the near future, as he is finally truly breaking out at the age of 32, which may explain the lighter contract a little better.I feel like I do this Angels lineup a lot, but here is what the Angels look like with Cozart in the mix.

1. Ian Kinsler-2B

2. Mike Trout-CF

3. Andrelton Simmons-SS

4. Shohei Ohtani-DH/P

5. Justin Upton-LF

6. Zack Cozart-3B

7. Kole Calhoun-RF

8. Albert Pujols-1B

9. Martin Maldonado-C

If you were to tell me back in 2011 that Albert Pujols would be the weakest link in his starting lineup headed into 2018, I’d say that’s about as likely as the Houston Astros winning a World Series. Well well we live in a VERY different world today than we did in 2011 as we can plainly see and this Angels team on paper should compete with anybody in baseball. That being said, the pitching staff NEEDS to stay healthy, that’s the real key here. The Halos will score runs, I have no doubt about that. But preventing runs is going to be a struggle if something isn’t done about their pitching, in the starting staff and the bullpen.

Matt Moore traded to the Rangers

XXX at Chase Field on September 26, 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona.

The San Francisco Giants traded Matt Moore to the Texas Rangers for some prospects in what was likely a salary dump. Moore is set to make $19 million over the next two years and that’s a lot of money to pay the guy who had the worst ERA amongst qualifiers, which is a shame too because this is a guy who showed a lot of promise in Tampa. He was supposed to become their ace, as he started a playoff game so early in his career that he seemed destined for great things. But then injuries became a factor, as Moore underwent Tommy John surgery not long after making that playoff start after only 9 career innings in the Major Leagues. Upon returning, he had a solid season in 2013, going 17-4 with a 3.29 ERA in 27 starts. But injuries struck again as he was only able to make 2 starts in 2014 due to injury. Things just never took off. Eventually, he was traded to the Giants for Matt Duffy. Moore struggled in a Giants uniform, though he managed to stay healthy in his year and a half by the bay. Hopefully this newfound health can help him discover a rhythm and he can find some consistency. If he can, then the Rangers will have a steal on their hands because this guy is as talented as they come.

Yankees are discussing a Gerrit Cole Trade with the Pirates

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Hey, Yankees. Could you fuck off? As if it wasn’t bad enough that the Yankees already acquired Giancarlo Stanton for a bag of peanuts, they’re being linked to the likes of Manny Machado and now Gerrit Cole. Cole has some of the best stuff I’ve seen out of a righty in the Majors. His fastball consistently hits around 96 while his breaking pitches are absolutely ferocious. Cole had a down year in 2017, as he pitched to a 4.26 ERA but that was due in large part to the fact he let up a lot of home runs, as his 1.37 home runs per 9 innings was 15th in the Majors. PNC Park is relatively hitter-friendly in general but if you were to put him in Yankee Stadium, that could spell disaster for the righty. However, in order to hit a home run, you still gotta hit the baseball. Cole is more than capable of 200 strikeout seasons, which he achieved in his excellent 2015 season and nearly achieved in 2017 (196). He missed a large portion of 2016 due to injury. The package being rumored to be involved in a potential Cole trade includes Clint Frazier, who is one of the brighter youngsters the Yankees have in their system. He’s kind of in a logjam in the outfield at the moment, as Judge, Gardner, Ellsbury, Hicks, and Stanton are all likely going to have priority over him. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh’s outfield has underachieved and the Pirates appear to be shopping basically everybody, so there could be an opening for Frazier. Cole was initially drafted out of high school by the Yankees with the 28th pick in the first round of the 2008 draft but he elected to go to college at UCLA and was the number 1 pick of the 2011 draft by the Pirates, so the Yankees do have some familiarity with the righty. I would just hate to have to face him several times a year.

Also Fernando Rodney has a job again, as the Twins signed him to a 1-year deal for $4.5 million with incentives that could push it to $6 million with an option for 2019. This seems to happen every year, as Rodney will have an awful year, hit free agency, get picked up immediately, then have an otherworldly year, then sign with a new team and repeat the process. I’m not even going to try and guess how many times this guy has changed uniforms in the last 5 years. That wraps up another edition of the Hot Stove. Let me know who you think might be next to get off the market in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

College Football Bowl Picks

Regular Season Record: 86-34       Conference Title Record: 8-0        Army-Navy: 0-1

This is going to get interesting. Bowl season is totally unpredictable but I’m going to do my damndest to try. I nailed the conference championship games but the task is a little more daunting this time around, as I’ve got about 40 games to do. For that reason, I’m going to keep this intro short. Let’s get to it.

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Troy (-6) vs North Texas

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Troy is best remembered this season for beating LSU at their Homecoming but they really were a lot better than just that. These guys won the Sun Belt Conference this year and while that’s probably the least impressive conference in all of college football, it still says a lot about the success you’ve had this season. They face a tough offense in North Texas, led by quarterback Mason Fine, who could eclipse 4000 yards passing on the season in this game, which would be the first time in school history that has happened. He’s already CRUSHED the previous school record set back in 1994. I’m going with Troy in this one. They’ve shown they’re capable of winning the big game, North Texas hasn’t (their only win that can be deemed as quality is Army).

Projected Score: Troy 31 North Texas 27

Autonation Cure Bowl: Western Kentucky (-4.5) vs Georgia State

Despite losing former head coach Jeff Brohm to Purdue before the start of the season, Western Kentucky hasn’t lost much of a step in terms of the passing game. Hilltoppers quarterback Mike White should eclipse 4000 yards on the season barring an unbelievable performance from the Georgia State defense, which has been pretty inconsistent this season. They shut out Charlotte for their first win of the season but that came a week after losing to Penn State 56-0. Now yes, it’s Penn State, but that’s still not a good look to have a score like that on your resume. They also only barely beat god-awful Georgia Southern 21-17 towards the end of the season. I’ve got Western Kentucky big in this.

Projected Score: Western Kentucky 41 Georgia State 17

Las Vegas Bowl: #25 Boise State vs Oregon (-6.5)

I find the Las Vegas Bowl often has some pretty good matchups and this year is no exception. Boise State is the first ranked team to play their bowl game this year and they’re playing an Oregon team that’s just a couple years removed from appearing in the National Championship game. Now granted, a LOT has changed for the Ducks in that time, but there are still some players from that team on the current roster. However, not on the roster is head coach Willie Taggart, who was hired away by Florida State. His interim will be Mario Cristobal, who does have some head coaching experience, as he was the head man at FIU from 2007-2012. I don’t think it will help a whole lot, though, I think Boise State is going to come away with this one.

Projected Score: Boise State 28 Oregon 24

Gildan New Mexico Bowl: Marshall vs Colorado State (-5.5)

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If you do manage to catch this game, look out for Colorado State receiver Michael Gallup. He’s among the best there is in the country and doesn’t get a lot of exposure due to the fact he plays for Colorado State. 94 catches for 1345 yards and 7 TDs on the year for the senior from Monroe, GA. I don’t care what your level of competition was, that’s impressive. They face a Marshall team that is ice cold right now, losing 4 of their last 5 games, though 3 of those 4 games were decided by 5 or fewer points and the one that wasn’t was decided by 11. I’m giving the edge to Colorado State, I just think they have too many weapons on offense for Marshall to keep up with.

Projected Score: Colorado State 35 Marshall 28

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl: Middle Tennessee State vs Arkansas State (-4)

What’s Camellia? I’ve never heard that word in my life, but my autocorrect seems to think it’s fine. Seems like an odd thing to name your bowl game, but I’m sure Middle Tennessee State and Arkansas State aren’t complaining, as MTSU had to win their final game of the season to become bowl eligible while Arkansas State had their game against Miami (FL) cancelled due to Hurricane Irma and were put at a slight disadvantage in having to reach the required 6 wins in 11 games. Well they got 7 and will try and carry that season-long success into back-to-back bowl wins. I think they’ll do it, too. They’ve had a lot of success throwing the ball this season and I think MTSU will have some problems defending the plethora of receivers they have.

Projected Score: Arkansas State 38 Middle Tennessee State 27

Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl: Akron vs Florida Atlantic (-18.5)

I’m not going to get too deep into this one. Akron is a team that kind of lucked into a bowl appearance while Florida Atlantic has one of the best rushing attacks in the nation. I think they’re going to stampeded the Zips. This is one of the few bowl lines that is in double digits and there’s a reason for that, Lane Kiffin’s ground attack is too dominant.

Projected Score: Florida Atlantic 45 Akron 14

DXL Frisco Bowl: Louisiana Tech vs SMU (-5.5)

Louisiana Tech is a pretty average team and that’s going to be a problem when you face an offense as potent as SMU’s. Not only can quarterback Ben Hicks sling it, but he’s got two of the best receivers in the nation in Trey Quinn and potential first round draft pick Courtland Sutton. The Mustangs are going to score a ton of points as they also have an effective ground game, as Xavier Jones is over 1000 yards rushing on the season. I’ve actually got SMU in a blowout.

Projected Score: SMU 52 Louisiana Tech 24

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl: Temple (-7) vs Florida International

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl. What a name for a bowl game. I’d argue it’s an even better name than the now-defunct Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl. This game will also be played at my least favorite baseball stadium in Tropicana Field, so that’s about as perfect a combination of complete crap as you could ask for. Classic random-ass bowl games. Oh and there’s a football game that’s going to be played between Temple and Florida International. Temple has very little going for them offensively and defensively they’re not much better. Looking at their overall stats, I’m amazed they made it to 6-6. I think Florida International is going to come away with this one relatively handily.

Projected Score: Florida International 34 Temple 21

Bahamas Bowl: UAB vs Ohio (-8)

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What a journey it’s been for UAB. A few years back they got their football program cut despite going 6-6, which resulted in an exodus from many top players, including Jordan Howard to my Indiana Hoosiers, who as you may know is currently tearing it up in the NFL with the Chicago Bears. There was enough backlash from the UAB faithful that the school brought the program back. Now, in their first year back after a 2-year hiatus, the Blazers are bowl eligible for only the second time in school history. This is probably going to wind up being my favorite storyline of the college football season when the Blazers lift that Bahamas Bowl trophy in their victory over Ohio. Also UAB’s logo is a fire-breathing dragon and that’s awesome. Can’t not subconsciously root for them.

Projected Score: UAB 27 Ohio 21

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Central Michigan vs Wyoming (pick ’em)

This is going to be a battle between two talented quarterbacks. Central Michigan quarterback Shane Morris showed all the talent in the world at Michigan but just couldn’t put it together before transferring to the Chippewas while Wyoming features potential top-10 draft pick Josh Allen. Despite being as talented as he is, Allen didn’t really have that great of a season. That can be due in part to a lack of real talent around him and in part due to the fact that Wyoming didn’t throw it a whole lot. But it is also most likely due to the fact that Allen has been playing on a bum shoulder for much of the season, which of course is a pretty big deal for a quarterback. I’m still looking for that one big performance that tells me that Allen is going to be a successful NFL QB but I just don’t know if that’s going to be in the cards. That shoulder injury is going to hurt Wyoming’s chances.

Projected Score: Central Michigan 31 Wyoming 24

Birmingham Bowl: Texas Tech vs South Florida (-2)

This could be the highest-scoring game of the bowl season. We all know how much Texas Tech likes to throw the ball, it’s been pretty well-documented, but USF’s Quinten Flowers is one of the most dynamic players in the country and has the ability to score on anybody at any time. Add in the fact that the Red Raiders can’t defend for shit and you’ve got the makings of a 5-hour game that ends with both teams over 50 points. I think that’s what we’re going to get and I’ve got South Florida taking home the trophy.

Projected Score: South Florida 55 Texas Tech 52

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: San Diego State vs Army (no line)

If Army’s going to have any shot at this game, they need to keep Rashaad Penny off the field. Penny is a monster with the ball in his hands and Army will need to dominate the time of possession if they’re going to stop him. If any team can do it, though, it’s the men at West Point. Their offense is built around the ground game and controlling the tempo. I think they’ll have some success early, but I think they will struggle to contain Penny and the Aztecs will pull away late.

Projected Score: San Diego State 31 Army 20

Dollar General Bowl: Appalachian State vs Toledo (-8)

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Toledo is among the best mid-major teams in all of college football. Quarterback Logan Woodside is one of the more underrated passers in the game today and while the Appalachian State Mountaineers have a pretty good defense, they’re going to struggle to contain all of Toledo’s weapons. Appalachian State won a share of the Sun Belt title with Troy and it was on the strength of an effective ground game. They’re going to struggle to keep up with Toledo, though.

Projected Score: Toledo 35 Appalachian State 30

Hawaii Bowl: Fresno State vs Houston (-2)

I don’t know why this game is a Christmas Eve tradition, but it is. Usually it’s kind of a shitty matchup but this year it pits two of the best mid-major teams in the country. Fresno State nearly won the Mountain West a year after going 1-11 and Houston has continued to play well despite losing Tom Herman to (arguably) greener pastures in Texas. It’s going to be a defensive battle as Fresno State has one of the toughest defenses in the nation while Houston features perhaps the nation’s best overall defensive player in defensive tackle Ed Oliver. I’m going to give the edge to Houston in this one, as it’s more of a gut feeling than anything at this point.

Projected Score: Houston 17 Fresno State 10

Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl: Utah (-5) vs West Virginia

Utah started out the season so nicely but then face-planted so hard. They started the year 4-0 but finished the season losing 6 of their last 8 and had to win the season finale over Colorado in order to even be bowl eligible. Normally, I would say they’re screwed for their game, but West Virginia isn’t sure if they will have quarterback Will Grier, who is nursing a broken finger on his throwing hand. Had it been his left hand, you could probably wrap it up with another finger and have him go out there, but not when it’s on your right hand where it will directly affect how you throw. But to be honest, his replacement, Chris Chugunov (what a name) didn’t play that badly against Oklahoma in his start. Was he particularly good? No, but he kept West Virginia reasonably in the game. They still ended up losing by 28, but that’s because Oklahoma scored 59 points. Leading your team to 31 points against the second best team in the country isn’t half bad. That’s why I’m going with the Mountaineers in this game, with or without Grier.

Projected Score: West Virginia 38 Utah 24

Quick Lane Bowl: Duke (-3.5) vs Northern Illinois

Duke’s offensive line is going to have their hands full with Northern Illinois. The Huskies have arguably the best pass rusher in the nation in Sutton Smith, who led all of college football with 14 sacks to go along with 28 tackles for loss. Duke started the year 4-0 before losing 6 straight and had to win their last two in order to become bowl eligible, but they were able to pull it off, beating two pretty good teams in Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. But I think Duke is going to struggle to protect quarterback Daniel Jones in this one. They were 80th in the nation in sacks allowed and they go up against the team that led the nation in sacks. I’ve got Northern Illinois taking this one.

Projected Score: Northern Illinois 20 Duke 17

Cactus Bowl: Kansas State (-3) vs UCLA

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Kansas State is going to struggle to throw the football in this one. They used three different quarterbacks this year and none of them were particularly successful. Despite this, they have one of the better defenses in the Big 12, which is saying nothing.  This team is going to get eaten alive by Josh Rosen, though. They simply can’t keep up with him on offense and I think this is going to be the game that solidifies him as the number 1 pick in the Draft.

Projected Score: UCLA 42 Kansas State 24

Walk On’s Independence Bowl: Southern Miss vs Florida State (-15)

Normally, I would wonder how in the Hell this matchup is even legal. But losing Deondre Francois in Week 1 derailed Florida State’s season so hard, Jimbo Fisher skipped town for Texas A&M. They’ve still managed to become bowl eligible, though and will look to try and pick up the win against Southern Miss. Southern Miss has one of the best rushing attacks in the country, led by Ito Smith and his 1300 yards on the ground. The defense has also been solid this year, as they’ve pitched two shutouts. But I’m going with Florida State here, but I don’t think it will be nearly as big a blowout as the line might suggest.

Projected Score: Florida State 27 Southern Miss 24

New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Iowa (-3) vs Boston College

This is the one bowl I’ve ever attended, when Indiana played Duke and Indiana lost in OT after a Griffin Oakes field goal was incorrectly called no good. It traditionally has some pretty good games in their Big Ten-ACC matchup. Iowa has perhaps one of the most damaging victories all season in that their 31-point win over Ohio State most certainly knocked the Big Ten out of the playoff picture. Boston College, meanwhile, has been one of the more up-and-down teams I’ve seen in a while. One week they’ll absolutely DESTROY Florida State and then the next they’ll lose to NC State (not a knock against the Wolfpack, but BC’s offense in particular can’t seem to find a consistent rhythm). I’m going with Boston College for this one, as aside from that one performance against the Buckeyes, Iowa hasn’t been that impressive this year.

Projected Score: Boston College 24 Iowa 20

Foster Farms Bowl: Arizona (-3.5) vs Purdue

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So as you may have read, Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate is my favorite to win the Heisman next season because of the dominant stretches he displayed. However he does need to improve as a passer if he’s going to reach those heights. Purdue is a pretty solid run defense, especially with Ja’Whaun Bentley at linebacker. Tate might need to whip out that passing ability if Arizona is going to keep pace, but I think they will. Tate is such a talented runner that I think overall he’s going to overpower Purdue and Arizona will get the win.

Projected Score: Arizona 28 Purdue 21

Academy Sports+Outdoors Texas Bowl: Texas vs Missouri (-1)

Both teams were quietly pretty solid this season mainly because it was below their traditional standards, but definitely better than the last couple years. Texas showed some promise under Tom Herman but it may be a couple of years before they return to the Longhorns of old. Missouri’s Drew Lock had a fantastic season throwing the football, as he led the nation in passing touchdowns this season. I’m going to give the edge to Texas in this one. It’s a toss up but the game is being played in Houston, where the Longhorns will essentially have a home field advantage, which is big in college sports.

Projected Score: Texas 30 Missouri 27

Military Bowl: Virginia vs Navy (no line)

Virginia actually had a pretty good season this year. After going 2-10 in Bronco Mendenhall’s first season at the helm, the Cavaliers turned it around nicely and find themselves in a bowl game. Also, quarterback Kurt Benkert is getting some looks from the NFL as a result of his successful season. They face a Navy team that lost a heart breaker to Army in the snow and I just don’t know if they have what it takes to take down this surprisingly talented Virginia squad. I’ve got the other Cavs in this one.

Projected Score: Virginia 24 Navy 14

Camping World Bowl: #22 Virginia Tech vs #19 Oklahoma State (-6.5)

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This is too good a matchup to be relegated to the likes of the Camping World Bowl, but at least in most cases by the time the game actually kicks off, you kind of forget which bowl you’re playing in. The number 3 scoring offense in Oklahoma State vs the number 5 scoring defense in Virginia Tech. Something’s gotta give. I think I’m going to give the edge to Oklahoma State here. Yes, I know, a matchup of this type usually ends up favoring the defense, but the Cowboys have far too many weapons that the Hokies have to compete with.

Projected Score: Oklahoma State 35 Virginia Tech 30

Valero Alamo Bowl: #13 Stanford vs #15 TCU (-2.5)

This is going to be a really close game as both teams have the ability to be really explosive on offense while also featuring some of the best defenses in their respective conferences. Heisman runner-up Bryce Love leads the Cardinal to face TCU and their duo of talented defensive ends in Ben Banogu and Mat Boesen. While I do think Love is going to have a big game for the Cardinal, I don’t think it will be enough to compete with the TCU offense. Kenny Hill’s been having a tremendous season for the Horned Frogs and I think he leads them to an Alamo Bowl victory over Stanford.

Projected Score: TCU 28 Stanford 23

San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl: #18 Washington State (-2.5) vs #16 Michigan State

Like the Oklahoma State-Virginia Tech matchup, this game features one of the top offenses in the country in Washington State vs one of the top defenses in Michigan State. The Cougars are the second best passing offense in the nation, trailing only the aforementioned Oklahoma State while the Spartans allowed under 200 passing yards per game this season. It’s going to be a tough matchup but I think Washington State is going to come out on top. Michigan State has been too careless with the football offensively, as they’ve fumbled it more than any team in the country that doesn’t run a run-only offense, which I think the Cougars will find ways to capitalize on.

Projected Score: Washington State 31 Michigan State 24

Belk Bowl: Wake Forest (-3) vs Texas A&M

Wake Forest was quietly a pretty good team this season, as they went 7-5 this season, including wins over a Lamar Jackson-led Louisville team and a late-season win over then-#19 NC State. They take on a Texas A&M team that is getting a major face lift, as they fired Kevin Sumlin only to turn around and hire Jimbo Fisher away from the Florida State Seminoles. Fisher, however, will not be leading the Aggies in this game, as that task will fall on Jeff Banks. I’m actually going to go with the Demon Deacons in this game. There’s too much turmoil going on with the Aggies in this game and I think it could become a distraction, which is the last thing you want when you face a pesky team like this.

Projected Score: Wake Forest 24 Texas A&M 21

Hyundai Sun Bowl: #24 NC State (-6.5) vs Arizona State

Like Texas A&M, Arizona State also hired a new head coach in Herm Edwards, who has previously coached in the NFL with the Jets and Chiefs. It’s an odd situation because despite firing the incumbent Todd Graham, Graham will still be coaching this game for the Sun Devils. This could go one of two ways: Graham could be salty and sabotage this game for his former employer, or he could try and go out with a bang and give his best performance. I don’t think it’ll matter a whole lot what he ends up doing because I think NC State’s Bradley Chubb is going to give a similar performance to what we saw Solomon Thomas give for Stanford in their bowl game last year: a performance that will solidify him in the Top-5 pick discussion. I’ve got the Wolfpack in this game.

Projected Score: NC State 27 Arizona State 20

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Kentucky vs #21 Northwestern (-8.5)

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Kentucky is quietly a pretty good team this year as they went 7-5, including wins over South Carolina, Missouri, and Tennessee. Mark Stoops has done a Hell of a job with his team this year, but I think they’re going to run into some problems against Northwestern. The Wildcats had one of the best seasons in school history, as they went 9-3, including winning each of their last 7 games, including an OT win over Michigan State. Northwestern plays some really sound and fundamental football and I think they’re going to frustrate this Kentucky offense that is predicated on being able to run the football. I’ve got Northwestern in this game.

Projected Score: Northwestern 23 Kentucky 13

Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl: New Mexico State vs Utah State (-3)

The battle of the Aggies, this game might slip under the radar a bit because it’s not a matchup of household names. Which is a shame, because when they’re on, they can be two of the most exciting offenses in college football. New Mexico State’s Tyler Rogers ranked among the best passers in the game with his 3825 passing yards this season while Utah State preferred a more balanced attack that spreads the ball around to various different options. I’m going to go with New Mexico State for this game. Utah State’s defense has had its struggles this season and I think Rogers is going to have a field day.

Projected Score: New Mexico State 38 Utah State 27

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: #8 USC vs #5 Ohio State (-7)

So in an 8-team playoff format, this would be the 4 vs 5 matchup and dammit if I’m not pumped for it. Getting a chance to watch Ohio State live twice this season, I was able to see firsthand just how much better this team got over the course of the season. Their defense, which struggled to contain Indiana’s Richard Lagow and Simmie Cobbs, were lights out in the Big Ten championship, absolutely shutting down Heisman hopeful Jonathan Taylor. Their defense will put potential top pick Sam Darnold to the test, as this will be by far the toughest defense he faces all year. How he performs in this game will go a long way in determining whether he really is the top quarterback everybody projected him to be. I think he will have his struggles, though I don’t think it will necessarily be because of him. I think USC’s offensive line will struggle to protect him against the monster of a front that Ohio State has and they will wreak havoc on the Trojans.

Projected Score: Ohio State 30 USC 20

TaxSlayer Bowl: Louisville (-6) vs #23 Mississippi State

Lamar Jackson may have finished third in the Heisman voting this year, but I would argue that he actually played better in 2017 than he did in his banner 2016 season. Louisville wasn’t quite as good as they were last year and that’s really what hurt Jackson’s Heisman chances. They face a Mississippi State team that can be very dangerous, as they came the closest to beating Alabama before Auburn was able to pull it off in the Iron Bowl. But I think they will struggle to contain Lamar Jackson. Limiting Jalen Hurts is one thing, but Jackson is so much better a passer that it’s going to be too much for the Bulldogs to keep track of.

Projected Score: Louisville 38 Mississippi State 30

Autozona Liberty Bowl: Iowa State vs #20 Memphis (-3)

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Memphis’ Riley Ferguson can sling it with the best of them, as he showed in Memphis’ early-season win over Josh Rosen’s UCLA Bruins, where Ferguson was able to outduel the potential top draft pick. He’s also got a lot of weapons on offense that will cause Iowa State a lot of problems, however if anybody is up to the task, it’s the Cyclones. Iowa State is the only team to beat Oklahoma this season and they also were able to hand TCU their first loss of the season. Both teams ended up playing in the Big 12 title game, so Iowa State does a great job of playing up to their competition. However I think the combination of Ferguson and receiver Anthony Miller is going to be too much for Iowa State to handle and I think Memphis will come away with this one.

Projected Score: Memphis 42 Iowa State 38

Playstation Fiesta Bowl: #11 Washington vs #9 Penn State (-3)

This is a matchup made in heaven. Two teams that boast not only talented offenses, but talented defenses as well. They each had a couple of rough goes, Penn State likely would have played for the Big Ten Title game had JT Barrett not pulled off a miraculous comeback to knock off the then-second-ranked Nittany Lions. Then they lost to Michigan State after a 3-and-a-half-hour storm delay midway through the contest that likely threw off their groove. Washington also had a couple of ugly defeats, as they were upset by Arizona State midway through the season, then a loss to Stanford that effectively eliminated them from Pac 12 title contention. Both teams will be looking for a bit of redemption for their once promising seasons and I think this will go down to the wire. I’m going to go with Penn State to get the win, though. I think their offense is too explosive for Washington to keep up with for four quarters.

Projected Score: Penn State 31 Washington 28

Capital One Orange Bowl: #6 Wisconsin (-6.5) vs #10 Miami (FL)

The Turnover Chain is dead. Clemson buried it.

The Hurricanes are suddenly ice cold as they’ve delivered back-to-back duds to close out their schedule. They lost in embarrassing fashion to Pittsburgh, then got obliterated by Clemson in the ACC Championship game with a playoff berth on the line. Then Dabo Swinney’s bunch destroyed what had been the emblem of the Hurricanes’ season in the Turnover Chain and Miami fans can’t be feeling much lower right now. They take on a Wisconsin team that may have been exposed a little bit in their loss to Ohio State. While the Badgers did manage to keep the game close, it was mainly because Ohio State shot themselves in the foot on multiple occasions. That being said, I think this defense is going to cause a lot of problems for Malik Rosier and company and Wisconsin will come away with the victory.

Projected Score: Wisconsin 24 Miami (FL) 10

Outback Bowl: Michigan (-8.5) vs South Carolina

These two teams have met in the Outback Bowl before.

However South Carolina doesn’t have anybody who evenly remotely resembles JaDeveon Clowney this year. Michigan has had their struggles at the quarterback position this year but if they can get the ground game working, then I think they will be okay. Defensively they’re so good they can practically take over games. I’ve got the Wolverines winning this one.

Projected Score: Michigan 21 South Carolina 17

Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl: #12 UCF vs #7 Auburn (-10)

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Why Auburn is ranked 7th despite being a 3-loss team is beyond me, but it doesn’t really matter anymore as long as they aren’t in the playoff. They looked good to start the SEC Championship game, marching down the field and scoring a touchdown on their first possession. Then Georgia unraveled them and scored 28 unanswered. They face the lone unbeaten team in college football in UCF. Despite being hired by Nebraska, UCF head coach Scott Frost will coach the Knights in this game to close out the season, which I wish more coaches would do. It is for that reason that I think UCF will compete with Auburn, even give them a scare for most of the game, but I think the Tigers will outlast them. Eventually, talent often wins out, though if any team were to be on upset alert for this bowl season, I’d say it’s Auburn.

Projected Score: Auburn 20 UCF 17

Citrus Bowl presented by Overton’s: #14 Notre Dame vs #17 LSU (-2.5)

These are two teams that like to run the ball and play physical defense and on paper are pretty evenly matched. LSU has recovered really well after their homecoming debacle against Troy, as they’ve won 6 of 7 games since that loss, their one defeat being Alabama. The Fighting Irish, on the other hand, ended the season rather meekly, losing 2 of their last 3 after having been in the playoff hunt for much of the season. Granted, those two losses were Miami and Stanford, but both teams ended up getting beaten in their conference title games, Miami pretty soundly while Stanford kept it close. Notre Dame is capable of beating up on good teams, though, and I think the difference is going to be quarterback play. I trust Notre Dame’s Brandon Wimbush more than I do LSU’s Danny Etling and for that reason, I’m picking the Irish.

Projected Score: Notre Dame 31 LSU 27

Rose Bowl: #3 Georgia vs #2 Oklahoma (-1)

The first of the two playoff games, this will be Baker Mayfield’s first game after winning the Heisman Trophy. It will also be an opportunity for him to increase his draft stock even further, as he goes up against a really tough Georgia defense. If he can have a big game, then I think NFL teams will be far more intrigued by the possibility of drafting him high. As for Georgia, they look to break the 3-seed curse, as the team in that slot has yet to win a playoff game (Florida State, Michigan State, and Ohio State have all failed to get the job done). It’s going to be an uphill battle for them, as they will have to ask Jake Fromm to outduel the Heisman-winning Mayfield. It won’t be impossible, as Oklahoma will likely be without stud runningback Rodney Anderson as he faces domestic assault charges, but I don’t see that happening, and I’m picking the Sooners reaching the National Championship for the first time since the 2008 season, when Sam Bradford was outplayed by Tim Tebow.

Projected Score: Oklahoma 31 Georgia 26

All State Sugar Bowl: #4 Alabama (-2) vs #1 Clemson

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Part 3 of this CFP rivalry, though it’s the first matchup in this series that won’t be taking place with the National Championship on the line. Alabama will be very thankful it’s not Deshaun Watson under center for Clemson, as he absolutely lit them up in each of the previous matchups. Kelly Bryant will be tasked with taking on the Crimson Tide defense. He’s not Watson, but he has proven capable of winning big games, as he led Clemson to wins over the likes of Auburn, Virginia Tech, and a blowout of Miami for the ACC title. Offensively, Alabama will have to compete with the most efficient defense in the country in Clemson, as their defensive front that includes the likes of Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, and Clellin Ferrell will make it tough to move the ball. Having seen eachother each of the last few years, I think both Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney will have made the adjustments they will need to come away with the victory. In the end, I think Clemson will come away as the winner of this best-of-3 series and will take on Oklahoma for the National Championship.

Projected Score: Clemson 34 Alabama 31

*Exhales.* Finally, I’ve made all the picks and it only took me 5530 words, more than doubling my previous high word count (which I think was an NFL picks segment). I’m going to wait to do the National Championship game until the night before, as I don’t want to predict a matchup that hasn’t been set up yet. But based on what I’ve predicted, I think that Clemson will beat Oklahoma to win back-to-back championships. I just think they’re more well-rounded than Oklahoma is and I think the Sooners’ deficiencies on defense will come back to haunt them in this one. Agree with my picks? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

The Hot Stove is Heating Up

To kick off, yes, I did say that I’m going to post the college football bowl picks. I’m a little over halfway done with them at the moment and I guarantee that they will be up by Friday. I originally planned to go a day without a blog posted to work more on the picks blog but too many moves in Major League Baseball happened on Wednesday night-Thursday morning that I can’t ignore. So I’m cranking this one out at 1:30 in the morning. I spoil you guys.

Marlins Trade Marcell Ozuna to the Cardinals

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This is obviously the big one here. The Cardinals had a deal in place for Giancarlo Stanton before he exercised his no-trade clause and nixed the deal. However, they were able to land another star outfielder in Ozuna. It’s unclear whether or not the package headed to Miami was the one pitched for Stanton, but regardless I thought the Marlins got a decent haul, certainly a better one than the one they got for Stanton. In the trade, the Marlins received prospects Magneuris Sierra, Sandy Alcantara, Zac Gallen, and Daniel Castano. Sierra and Alcantara are the main focus of this package for the Marlins, as they ranked highly in the Cardinals’ system. So how does this trade affect the Cardinals? Let’s take a look at their potential lineup:

1. Dexter Fowler-CF

2. Paul DeJong-SS

3. Tommy Pham-LF

4. Marcell Ozuna-RF

5. Matt Carpenter-1B

6. Yadier Molina-C

7. Jedd Gyorko-3B

8. Kolten Wong-2B

9. Pitcher’s Spot

There was a bit of a logjam in the outfield for the Cardinals, as Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk are both viable options for them, however shortly after announcing the Ozuna trade, the Cardinals traded Piscotty to the Athletics for an unknown package that may include some relief help. There’s kind of a nice element to this, as Piscotty’s trade to Oakland allows him to be closer to his mother, who is currently battling ALS. Piscotty had a really strong 2016 season but struggled in 2017 after signing a 6-year extension. If he can return to form, Piscotty can be a huge asset for Oakland. As for Ozuna, he was fantastic in 2017, earning his second straight All Star nod as he hit .312 with 37 home runs and 124 RBI while playing Gold Glove defense in left field. He is currently owed about $20 million over the next couple of years before he’s eligible for free agency, which is pretty team-friendly considering the numbers he’s put up the last couple of years. If Ozuna can repeat this performance, he will likely become the face of the St. Louis Cardinals and put them right back in the thick of the playoff race.

Tigers trade Ian Kinsler to the Angels

<> at Comerica Park on September 23, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan.

Kinsler had perhaps his worst year as a pro in 2017, as he only hit a career-low .236, though that could be due to shit luck, as he only hit .244 on balls in play. However he still is a valuable player and can really benefit this suddenly dangerous Angels lineup. As you may remember from my article on Shohei Ohtani, second base was the weakest link for the Angels heading into this season. Well they’ve sure shored that up nicely. Here’s how the potential lineup looks now.

1. Ian Kinsler-2B

2. Mike Trout-CF

3. Andrelton Simmons-SS

4. Shohei Ohtani-DH/P

5. Justin Upton-LF

6. Albert Pujols-1B

7. Kole Calhoun-RF

8. Luis Valbuena-3B

9. Martin Maldonado-C

Suddenly this lineup becomes not only deadly at the plate, but also very competent defensively and I’m pretty excited to see what a double play combo of Simmons and Kinsler might look like. The Tigers received prospects Wilkel Hernandez and Troy Montgomery, who weren’t ranked very highly in the Angels’ system, suggesting that this was more of a salary dump (the Angels will take on all of the $11 million still owed to Kinsler). The Tigers are in full rebuild mode so this trade doesn’t really come as a surprise.

Michael Pineda signs with the Twins

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Pineda has to be one of the most frustrating pitchers to come up in recent memory. Looking like the next big thing when he came up with Seattle, Pineda was traded to the Yankees for Jesus Montero in a swap of top prospects, neither of which really panning out for either side. Pineda was simply never healthy. After a strong rookie performance in 2011, Pineda didn’t make a start for the Yankees until 2014 due to injuries and multiple Tommy John surgeries. His 13 starts in pinstripes that year were excellent, as he pitched to a 1.89 ERA. However after that his ERA never dipped below 4.30. He pitched one full season in 2016, but his ERA was pushing nearly 5. Then there was that whole pine tar incident, where he was caught with the stuff on his neck and using it to doctor the baseballs, which cost him a start due to suspension. A change of scenery is really what this guy needs and if he is able to bounce back, then the Twins will finally have that lockdown ace they’ve been looking for since Johan Santana. Pineda is coming off another Tommy John surgery, which he had in July, so he will most certainly miss the first half of the season at least. It’s low risk, high reward, though, as Pineda signed a 2-year deal worth only $10 million. If he can show improvement on that early promise, the Twins could wind up with the steal of the offseason.

There are talks that the Diamondbacks are looking to trade ace pitcher Zack Greinke in order to free up some money to re-sign JD Martinez

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This was one of the more surprising things I read today, as Greinke bounced back in a big way for the DBacks this year and returned to the form that earned him the $200 million contract he signed to prior to the 2016 season. I know that the Phillies and Yankees have called asking about Greinke and there will likely be many more. I don’t envision him being traded to the Phillies because they simply don’t have the ammunition. However the Yankees are a very real possibility. They still have all their top prospects after they were able to keep them following the Stanton trade (collusion!) so they are definitely a team the DBacks should have open ears to. Of course if they do take on Greinke’s contract, that will be a LOT of money on the payroll, even for the Yankees. Sure they dumped Chase Headley’s contract on the Padres, who are looking to try and flip him, but there are still a lot of massive contracts on the payroll. Another team that could be a candidate to land him is his old team, the Dodgers, especially if they don’t end up re-signing Yu Darvish. Greinke had some of his best seasons in Dodger Blue and the Dodgers have the prospects to offer. Whether the DBacks elect to trade within the division is another story entirely.

Orioles are reportedly shopping Manny Machado

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Well this is one I didn’t expect to see. While Machado is due to hit free agency after the 2018 season, where he will command a MASSIVE contract, I still find it a bit surprising he’s being shopped. He did have a down year for the O’s in 2017, but he was heating up by the end of it. The O’s went where he did and struggled as well in 2017, but there are still plenty of pieces in the lineup to compete in 2018. However, based on moves other teams have made, namely the Yankees in the division and the Angels as potential Wild Card foes, perhaps the Orioles don’t like their chances in 2018 and are hitting the rebuild button sooner rather than later. Which makes sense and could be a very wise move. It’s rumored that the White Sox are the most aggressive suitors, which makes sense given their plethora of prospects. But it’s also rumored the White Sox could flip him, potentially to the Yankees, who have also called about Machado. Don’t even get me started there. I don’t want to think about that. Because I guarantee you the last thing the Orioles would want to do is trade Machado within the division. If the White Sox acquire Machado then flip him to the Yankees, they not only give the middle finger to the Orioles, but to the rest of Major League Baseball. I mean, look at this potential lineup were the Yankees to acquire Machado:

1. Brett Gardner-LF

2. Manny Machado-3B

3. Aaron Judge-RF

4. Giancarlo Stanton-DH

5. Gary Sanchez-C

6. Didi Gregorius-SS

7. Greg Bird-1B

8. Jacoby Ellsbury/Aaron Hicks-CF

9. Ronald Torreyes-2B

Please don’t do this to me.

So that wraps up a busy day with the MLB Hot Stove. On my honor as a Tully, on my honor as a Stark, my college football picks blog will be up tomorrow. What do you think of these moves? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

 

My Heisman Favorites for 2018

Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night, which I’m sure you’re all aware of. I’ve had a lot on my plate these last few days, including finals (which I’m just coming back from two-a-days). So these are coming out a little later than I had intended, but they’re out. So let’s get a look at who I think are the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy. Now, there may be some guys you think I’m missing even though they’ll have eligibility next year. For example, Lamar Jackson will not be on this list mainly because I think he is going to declare for the NFL Draft. Same with Saquon Barkley. Same with Bryce Love. Because I don’t think any of those guys’ draft stock will be any higher than they are right now. So with that in mind, let’s get into my rankings.

5. Ed Oliver-DT-Houston

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I’m opening up with a bit of a long shot here. Don’t get me wrong, Ed Oliver is a PHENOMENAL player. In fact, he’s the best collegiate defensive tackle I’ve seen since Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh, and Suh, in my opinion, is the best defensive tackle college football has ever seen. In his senior season, he had 12 sacks from the defensive tackle position, a position where he was always facing double teams with opponents knowing what kind of threat he was going in. Ed Oliver isn’t quite Suh, but he’s probably the closest we’ve seen since Suh was a Heisman finalist in 2009. Oliver is always living in opposing backfields and has been getting All-American recognition the moment he set foot on campus last year. He was the first ESPN 5-star recruit to ever sign with a non-Power 5 team and although the coach who signed him, Tom Herman, is at Texas now, Oliver continued to dominate. There are two big knocks against him: the fact he plays defense and he plays outside the power 5 conferences. While Houston is a good mid-major program, they still don’t face the same competition and that matters in the eyes of the voters. He also plays defense, which has only ever had 1 Heisman winner, Michigan’s Charles Woodson in 1997, and even then Woodson played on offense and special teams as well. I think that’s a crime, but it is an obstacle regardless. Try and watch the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve, where Houston plays Fresno State. Watch and see what #10 does, I think you’ll see why I have him in the Heisman discussion for next season.

4. Jalen Hurts-QB-Alabama

at Jordan Hare Stadium on November 25, 2017 in Auburn, Alabama.

Hurts is kind of a dark horse. He’s basically a runningback playing quarterback, but the quarterback of college football’s best team is always going to be in the running for the Heisman in some form. Team success is a factor that Heisman voters take into consideration. We’ve also seen some Heisman-caliber moments out of Hurts in the past, such as his 31-yard run for a score in the national championship that would have won the Tide a title had it not been for Deshaun Watson. Which he did as a true freshman. If Hurts takes a step forward as a passer, I don’t think it’s farfetched to think that Hurts could be in the running for the Heisman Trophy. We’ve seen running quarterbacks take the next step in throwing the ball before, Lamar Jackson and Robert Griffin III being prime examples of that. With a coach like Nick Saban, I wouldn’t put it past Hurts to take that step.

3. JK Dobbins-RB-Ohio State

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JK Dobbins really exploded on the scene and I had a front row seat for two of the biggest games of his career. I was there when he set an Ohio State freshman debut record with 181 rushing yards against Indiana on opening night, then when he won Big Ten Championship MVP with his 174 yards on 17 carries against Wisconsin, which has arguably the toughest defense in the nation. Watching this guy hit the hole, it’s amazing anyone can ever catch this guy, he has that good a burst of speed. He’s shifty, too. He had one of the best freshman seasons ever by a runningback and I am more than confident in his ability to build on that early success and turn it into a Heisman-caliber campaign.

2. Jonathan Taylor-RB-Wisconsin

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Taylor was basically Dobbins, but on a bigger scale. Taylor was a legitimate Heisman contender this season and was the focal point of the Wisconsin offense despite being a true freshman. With a strong performance in the Orange Bowl, Taylor could not only break the freshman rushing record, but he could become the first freshman to ever rush for 2000 yards. Now imagine the fact that he could get better. Wisconsin will need to get a little better in the passing game to try and take some of the pressure off of Taylor, or else teams will be able to wisen up and start loading the box on them. Taylor himself also needs to improve in the receiving game, though he never got too many opportunities. I think if Wisconsin found a way to open up their offense a little bit, then it could really jumpstart Taylor’s potential Heisman candidacy, which is already really high, as he finished sixth in the final voting and 4th in my rankings.

1. Khalil Tate-QB-Arizona

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So this is a guy you may not be as aware of, as he was a bit under the radar on the national scene, but he really started gaining notoriety as the season went along. He didn’t become the starter until Arizona’s fifth game of the season against Colorado. In that starting debut he only rushed for 327 yards, no big deal. He rushed for over 200 yards on three separate occasions this season and finished with 1353 yards on 133 carries. Oh and did I mention he’s the quarterback? Granted, Tate’s passing game is practically non-existent, as he rushed for more yards than he threw for (1353 vs 1289). He only threw for over 200 yards once and attempted more than 20 passes only twice. If he can develop more as a passer this offseason, we could see a runaway Heisman performance with how skilled he is as a runner. 1353 yards in only 10 games and 7 starts? That’s pretty damn incredible. He has shown that he is capable of being a good passer, in his starting debut he had a perfect QBR, completing 12 of 13 passes for 154 yards to along with his 327 rushing yards. He just needs to be more consistent.

So those are my premature Heisman rankings for next season. I wouldn’t hold my breath on there being a blog tomorrow, but there’s a reason for that. I’m doing a picks segment for ALL of the bowl games and it may take me a while to do them all. It will likely end up being a two-day process. Doing my usual 12-game blogs usually takes me a little while. This one is about 40. So that’ll be fun. That word count is going to get interesting. So what did you think of my way-too-early Heisman rankings? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman 10 and contribute to my Patreon.

My Problem With the NCAA

So first of all, congratulations to Baker Mayfield for winning the Heisman Trophy. Easily the most deserving player and he did it as a former walk-on. Truly a feat for the ages. That being said, San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny finished fifth in voting after a fantastic season, rushing for over 2000 yards and 19 scores. Penny may have done this for free, but his coach Rocky Long received a $10,000 bonus because Penny made first team All American. So the schools can’t pay their players for their performance, but they can pay their coaches for that player’s performance. Explain to me why that’s fair. Now to set the record straight, Long is a Hell of a coach. San Diego State is perennially among the best non-Power 5 teams in the country and it’s amazing some high-profile school hasn’t tried to sign him away yet (or maybe they have and he’s just turned them down, I don’t know. Wouldn’t surprise me, San Diego is one of my favorite cities and he’s probably in a really good situation there). He’s not the only coach with contract stipulations like this. Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury would receive a quarter of a million dollars if a Red Raider won the Heisman. Those are the only ones I’m aware of but I guarantee you those aren’t the only coaching bonuses in the NCAA for individual player performances.

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The problems start at the top with NCAA head Mark Emmert. This guy makes Roger Goodell look like Yoda in how incompetent he can be at times. This is an unedited quote from Emmert after Lavar Ball pulled LiAngelo from UCLA to “better prepare” him for the NBA:

Is this a part of someone being part of your university as a student-athlete or is it about using college athletics to prepare yourself to be a pro? If it’s the latter, you shouldn’t be there in the first place

So what he’s trying to say is if a player uses college athletics as a stepping stone to go pro, then he shouldn’t be in college in the first place.

This is possibly the worst thing he could have said regarding the whole LiAngelo Ball situation. For a lot of athletes, it’s go pro or bust and they kind of have to prepare that way because they can be cut and lose their scholarship at any time. Being a student, as many of us probably know, is a full-time job. Being a Division 1 collegiate athlete is also a full-time job. So as a student-athlete, these kids are basically balancing two full-time jobs and they can’t receive any compensation for either unless they do make it in the pros, which for most sports isn’t really an option. Hell, NCAA has a tagline that reads “there are over X-number of student athletes and almost all of them will go pro in something other than sports.” By saying what Emmert said, you’re basically devaluing the work a lot of athletes deliver for their schools.

The fact that schools can make millions off of these kids’ performances and get away with not allowing the kids to make any sort of money off their own play is criminal. But the NCAA has put themselves in basically the perfect situation with their defense: “we don’t pay them because they’re amateurs, they’re amateurs because we don’t pay them.” It’s so simple yet it pretty much makes any athlete trying to make money shit out of luck.

Now to be fair to the universities, there will be a huge problem if it becomes mandated that the schools have to pay the athletes: they would have to pay ALL of the athletes. Not just the revenue-generating sports of football and men’s basketball. I mean gymnastics, swimming, water polo, you name it, all have to get paid, otherwise you’re going to create huge problems within your school. Let’s look at Title IX for a moment. Now yes, Title IX was a great innovation that gave women equal opportunities to receive an education and be treated like their male counterparts. But the problem with Title IX was that for every collegiate sport men had, women had to get as well (it’s a little more complicated than that, but that’s the dumbed down version I’m going with). Well whenever a school wants to install a new sport, they need money to pay for uniforms, equipment, a field, coaches, etc. The schools already had lots of money poured into the revenue generators and would need to come up with even more money to accommodate the women. One thing they could have done was try and more evenly distribute the funds dedicated to each sport. But how can a school like Alabama cut down their funding for football when it is probably the biggest attraction the school has to offer? How do you tell a guy like Nick Saban you have to pay him less than what his contract says so that the girls can play volleyball (don’t worry, I’ll get into coach salaries soon)? So what did the schools do? They started cutting male sports and using the funds that had been dedicated to them and repurposing them for the new women’s sports. Wrestling got hit particularly hard by this because let’s face it, outside of staged wrestling, how many women do you really see get into the sport? You can probably count them on one hand, if at all. So many schools cut different male programs and put thousands of students out of a scholarship, possibly killing their chances at a degree and potential career after sports. If the NCAA mandated that the schools had to pay the athletes, I guarantee a similar thing would happen.

One argument I keep hearing in favor of not paying players is that they are paid: with a full ride to college. That’s not 100% accurate. Really only the best of the best get a full ride, the Marvin Bagley’s and Saquon Barkley’s of the world. I’ve talked with several athletes around campus at Indiana who are only on partial scholarship. And don’t even get me started on the walk-ons who have to pay in full, which Baker Mayfield was. Plus, as I mentioned before, players can get cut and in many cases, lose their scholarship, which for many athletes was their one real ticket into college in the first place. Hell, I’ve been paid for my broadcasts with the Big Ten Network’s Student U program and I had about as much to do with the game I’m calling as the guy scalping tickets in the parking lot. If I were to do play-by-play with a current student athlete and they were to get paid to do the same job I just did, that would be an NCAA violation and they could get the school in big trouble even though it’s the Big Ten Network that handles the salary (I think, I’m not 100% sure on that, I kind of just blindly filled out some paperwork to get on payroll).

Another thing I keep seeing is people saying sarcastically “there’s no money to pay the players” when a coach gets signed to a lucrative contract. It kind of goes back to the line about amateurism I referenced before. There isn’t the money for athletes because they pay the coaches so much, they pay coaches so much because there isn’t money for athletes. Not quite the same, but it now puts them in a bind because there is as much as $9 million before incentives (Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh) dedicated towards a single head coach. Now I’m sure there are plenty of coaches who would gladly cut their salaries so that their guys can make money, but that’s just not fair to ask of them. Because you’re paying them so much, they’re now accustomed to a certain life style. Granted, a college football coach probably doesn’t get to bask in that money a whole lot because they’re always on the road either recruiting or coming up with gameplans, but the schools have created this roadblock in coaching salaries that makes it nearly impossible to pay players what they’re worth, which is a ton considering how much money sports can rake in for a university.

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Which brings me to my next point, how much money a university actually profits. It turns out, most schools actually don’t turn a profit from college athletics and are actually operating at a deficit. It’s the major schools such as Texas that actually turn profits. While a school like Texas could probably afford to pay their players (their athletic department rakes in over $180 million a year as of 2016, according to Business Insider), a smaller school such as Ball State can’t. So that creates another conundrum, especially considering players can’t just become free agents and seek larger markets to get a bigger salary for their performance like they can in the pros. Once you pick your school, you’re basically stuck there for three to four years. The only form of leaving is transferring and by NCAA rules you have to sit out an entire season if you do. It also becomes tricky as to how much you should pay each player and whether or not athletes in one sport make more than athletes in another. There are a whole lot of logistical problems surrounding all of this that there’s really only one viable solution that I can come up with in which everybody wins.

Allow players to sign with agents and make money off their own name on their own time. No money has to come out of the pockets of the athletic departments, they can keep paying their coaches their ridiculous sums (Harbaugh makes more than all NFL head coaches) and the players can use their performance to make some money. Now yes, football players and basketball players will likely receive more phone calls than water polo players. But I guarantee you there will be some money to be made from local businesses, such as sporting goods stores, that would love to feature a softball player in their ads and whatnot. The only real concern would be potentially shady agents taking advantage of kids who might not know any better. My response to that is that if the NCAA cares as much about the student athlete as they claim to, then monitor these actions. Have all contracts go through the NCAA offices and be approved by an NCAA official before allowing it to go through so that an athlete isn’t being taken advantage of. I haven’t really heard any horror stories about agents taking advantage of their professional clients, so I doubt this really would become a problem. The shadiest thing I’ve heard is Emmanuel Sanders signed with the Broncos while his agent agreed to a deal with the Chiefs a few years back, which sounds more like a miscommunication than anything. But otherwise I never hear about any real issues regarding agents and their clients. I see no reason why these players can’t make money off their name and likeness. Plus if that happens, then I’ll get my NCAA video games back, which I’ve missed terribly since they were discontinued following the 2013 season. Which really is the important thing here.

Should players be paid by the universities? Should players be allowed to sign with agents and do endorsement deals? Is the current system fine with you? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon. Also, sorry for not posting yesterday. It’s Finals Week at IU and I’ve been pretty busy. I’m going to try and continue my normal posting routine this week, but if I break off of it, it’s because I’ve got exams to worry about.

 

NFL Picks: Week 14

Last Week: 12-4                 Season Record: 103-58

Last week my misses were Giants-Redskins, Lions-Ravens, Buccaneers-Packers, and Eagles-Seahawks. For the Thursday night game, I picked the Saints, who of course lost to the Falcons. So my shot at a perfect week in the NFL still eludes me regardless of how this week goes. Let’s get picking.

Indianapolis Colts (3-9) vs Buffalo Bills (6-6)

With a Bills loss, the Patriots will clinch the AFC East for the ninth consecutive season. They face a Colts team that has been pretty disastrous this season so I don’t think it will be likely, the Patriots will have to earn that division crown with a win on Monday Night against the Dolphins. The Colts have the worst offensive line in football and this potent defense will be living in the backfield.

Projected Score: Bills 27 Colts 10

Minnesota Vikings (10-2) vs Carolina Panthers (8-4)

The Panthers are in a fight for a wild card spot right now, as the Falcons and Seahawks are in a slugfest with them for the final two spots with the Packers potentially lurking with a potential Aaron Rodgers return. The Vikings are about as difficult a team in football to beat, which hasn’t been done since Week 4, so they’ve got their work cut out for them. Both teams pride themselves on tough, physical defenses but I’m going to give the edge to the Vikings. They’ve been much more consistent offensively than the Panthers and I trust them a little bit more to move the ball against a good defense.

Projected Score: Vikings 23 Panthers 20

Chicago Bears (3-9) vs Cincinnati Bengals (5-7)

That was quite an embarrassing loss for the Bears last week. Not only did they lose to the 10-loss 49ers, but all of the 49ers points were scored via field goals kicked by a longtime kicker they had cut in Robbie Gould. Not a good look. The Bengals are also coming off a tough loss against the Steelers that is better remembered for how brutal it was, prayers go out to Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier and his family. The Bengals blew a 17-0 lead and lost 23-20 on a last-second field goal. They nearly lost safety George Iloka to a suspension for this game but he was able to get it reduced to a fine upon appeal. However they will be losing Adam “Pacman” Jones for the rest of the season due to injury. Vontaze Burfict and Joe Mixon will also miss this game due to injury. So a lot to deal with for the Bengals at the moment and for that reason I’m actually going to pick the Bears to get the win.

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Projected Score: Bears 17 Bengals 13

Green Bay Packers (6-6) vs Cleveland Browns (0-12)

This game is interesting mainly because of the shit people in the Browns organization are talking. New GM John Dorsey has gone as far as to guarantee a victory this week! Pretty bold claim coming from a team that’s 0-12. They wouldn’t dare make this claim if Aaron Rodgers were healthy, but Brett Hundley has had a couple nice games during his stint in the starting role. We also saw the Browns compete against a hot Chargers team last week and Josh Gordon looked pretty good in his return from suspension. But I’m still going with the Packers to win.  They’re just all-around better than the Browns. Yes I know, any given Sunday, but come on now. Of course, any time I make a comment like that, it bites me in the ass. Sooooooooo…

Projected Score: Packers 35 Browns 17

San Francisco 49ers (2-10) vs Houston Texans (4-8)

Jimmy Garoppolo won his first start as the 49ers quarterback over the Bears but it came without San Francisco reaching the end zone. That’s going to be an issue because even though the Texans are without many of their stars on defense, they still hold their own very well. I think this is going to be a low-scoring game, both teams have had their struggles on offense and I can’t imagine either team really exploding on the scoreboard. I’m going to give the advantage to the Texans in this one, I trust their defense to make more plays, plus they have more weapons on offense to go to, namely DeAndre Hopkins.

Projected Score: Texans 20 49ers 13

Oakland Raiders (6-6) vs Kansas City Chiefs (6-6)

The last time these two teams met, Derek Carr found Michael Crabtree by the pylon for the win in their fifth attempt at a victory to end that game. Since then, the Chiefs have been in an absolute tailspin, as overall they’ve lost 6 of their last 7 after having started the year 5-0. They haven’t been able to make the needed adjustments and it’s really hurting them. Marcus Peters was suspended by the team for this game after throwing the official’s flag into the stands and that’s going to hurt because they struggled to cover Robby Anderson last week, now you’re asking them to cover Amari Cooper and Crabtree without their best corner. I’ve got the Raiders taking the division lead.

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Projected Score: Raiders 30 Chiefs 20

Detroit Lions (6-6) vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-8)

The Lions come off a bad loss to the Ravens and will look to get back on track against the Buccaneers. They’re on the outside looking in on the playoffs as they’ve lost 6 of their last 9 after a promising start to the season. Tampa Bay has Jameis Winston back but it didn’t matter as they still lost to the Brett Hundley-led Packers. This season hasn’t gone the way either team would’ve liked and they’re both looking for some sort of redemption. I’m going with the Lions this week, Jameis Winston hasn’t been taking good care of the football this season and I think this Lions defense will have ample opportunity to take advantage.

Projected Score: Lions 24 Buccaneers 17

Dallas Cowboys (6-6) vs New York Giants (2-10)

The Giants fired Ben McAdoo shortly after the Giants loss to the Raiders last week and interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo’s first move at the helm was reinserting Eli Manning into the starting role. So basically benching him for Geno Smith was pointless. It’s just a disastrous situation in East Rutherford. The Cowboys are coming off a thrashing of the Redskins but that was more the Redskins playing like shit than the Cowboys being particularly good. I am going to take them this week, though. Say what you will about this season for them, at least there’s some functionality in Big D.

Projected Score: Cowboys 35 Giants 14

Tennessee Titans (8-4) vs Arizona Cardinals (5-7)

Like I said last week, the Titans are probably the weakest team with this good a record I’ve seen in a long time. There’s just no way they should be the 3-seed right now. And now they get a Cardinals team that just got their asses curb stomped by the Rams. But I actually think Arizona is going to win this game. They’re a feisty group that is capable of beating up on the likes of Tennessee, which they did against Jacksonville a couple weeks ago.

Projected Score: Cardinals 27 Titans 24

New York Jets (5-7) vs Denver Broncos (3-9)

The Jets have to be the worst tankers ever. They continue to win their way out of a high draft pick. A lot of credit has to go to Todd Bowles for this season because even though they have a losing record, they’ve far exceeded all expectations. Hell, people were predicting them to go 0-16 for crying out loud. Now they take on the Broncos, who offensively have been an utter trainwreck this year and at this point are playing to try and land either Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold. I’m taking the Jets to come out of Mile High with this one.

Projected Score: Jets 21 Broncos 14

Washington Redskins (5-7) vs Los Angeles Chargers (6-6)

The Redskins were absolutely god-awful on Thursday Night Football last week and they promptly got their asses whipped by the Cowboys. It gets a lot tougher this week when they face the Chargers, who are suddenly one of the hottest teams in football. After starting the year 0-4, they’ve won 6 of their last 8 and are suddenly in a 3-way tie for first place in the division. In fact, the Chargers’ 2 losses during their stretch run were the Patriots and the Jaguars, two teams that will be playing in January. The defense has quietly been one of the best in football, which is a big reason for this in-season turnaround. I’ve got the Chargers winning this one.

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Projected Score: Chargers 28 Redskins 24

Seattle Seahawks (8-4) vs Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4)

This is going to be a really fun game. Both teams have physical and opportunistic defenses that create a lot of turnovers and can deliver some brutal shots. The Seahawks got a big win over the Eagles last week, as Russell Wilson officially entered his name into the MVP discussion. He played out of his mind in that game. The Jaguars have been a ground and pound team all season with Leonard Fournette and have been winning these games despite Blake Bortles not having a particularly strong season. I am going to give the edge to the Seahawks in this game, quarterback play being the deciding factor.

Projected Score: Seahawks 27 Jaguars 21

Philadelphia Eagles (10-2) vs Los Angeles Rams (9-3)

Brace yourselves, commentators comparing Carson Wentz and Jared Goff is coming. But that’s only natural, as Goff and Wentz went 1 and 2, respectively in the 2016 NFL Draft. Their careers will forever be linked, just as Winston and Mariota’s are, or Manning and Leaf’s. Both guys have taken huge leaps forward this season as Carson Wentz is a leading candidate for MVP while Sean McVay has saved Jared Goff’s career after a really poor rookie season. Both teams also have really good defenses so I expect this thing to come down to the wire. But I’m going with the Eagles this week, bouncing back from a loss. This is a gut feeling, as I can really see this thing going either way. Plus, a win here wins the division for the birds.

Projected Score: Eagles 31 Rams 28

Baltimore Ravens (7-5) vs Pittsburgh Steelers (10-2)

The Ravens are coming off a beatdown of the Lions while the Steelers are coming off a Monday Night brawl with the Bengals. Both teams seem to be at their best when they play each other so I’m expecting another good, hard-fought contest between them. The Ravens defense is back to their usual tricks, beating up on the rest of the league as Terrell Suggs continues to defy father time, as he’s over 10 sacks again in his age-35 season. But it’s their offense that worries me. I just don’t think they have the consistency or the weapons to keep up with this explosive Steelers offense, even without the aid of Juju Smith-Schuster, who is suspended for a hit on Vontaze Burfict. I’m going with the Steelers.

Projected Score: Steelers 24 Ravens 13

New England Patriots (10-2) vs Miami Dolphins (5-7)

The Patriots will be without Rob Gronkowski this week, who is serving a 1-game suspension for his cheap shot on Bills corner Tre’Davious White. A lot of people are calling bullshit on that decision and are saying he should’ve gotten more games because his late and clearly intentional hit gave the Bills rookie a concussion, but I’m going to say simmer down to those people. While yes, the hit by Gronk was totally uncalled for and has no place in the game, I think 1 game was the right call. It’s to make up for the fact that the officials didn’t eject him (which they should have). Besides, where were all these calls for heads when AJ Green choke slammed Jalen Ramsey? It’s because Green was ejected in that game (also because Gronk is a member of the Patriots, people will feel that the punishment handed down is never enough). I’m still going to go with the Pats in this one. They’re just the Dolphins’ daddy. If my predictions come true, then the Patriots and Steelers will clash next week with both teams at 11-2. Too hyped.

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Projected Score: Patriots 38 Dolphins 17

That’s it for my picks segment this week. Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

Giancarlo Stanton traded to the Yankees

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What in the actual fuck. This is perhaps the worst way I could’ve woken up this morning, not just for the news. So last night, I was flipping through channels on my TV and found a Star Wars marathon on TNT. It was the end of the Phantom Menace when I got there so naturally I had to watch for that kickass Darth Maul fight (because that’s really the movie’s only saving grace). Attack of the Clones was up next so naturally I figured I’d need some liquor to enjoy it. I decided to do a fun little drinking game where I take a shot of the Kraken rum (94 proof) every time a lightsaber was ignited. I’m paying for it right now. Then I open my blinds and see some snow on the ground. Child me would be absolutely beaming right now but adult me is pissed off because I hate snow. Luckily I have nowhere to be so the roads aren’t a real concern. Then I get a cryptic text from a friend saying “this sucks so much” and somehow I knew what had happened. So I wake up hungover, there’s snow on the ground, and Giancarlo Stanton was traded to the Yankees for basically a washing machine.

So I did a Stanton trade speculation blog a little while ago, which you can read here, and in that blog I did outline the Yankees as potential suitors. But Jesus I didn’t think it would actually happen! I was so convinced it would be the Dodgers because it just seemed too obvious. They had so many prospects to offer. The Yankees have some good ones too, but reports are they’re not even included in the deal! That’s right, it appears that neither Gleyber Torres, Justus Sheffield, or Estevan Florial are involved in this deal. Hey Miami, why the fuck would you accept a trade package for the reigning NL MVP that didn’t include the best prospects the other team has to offer?! It’s unknown what the exact package Miami is receiving in this deal, but reports are that Yankees second baseman Starlin Castro is among those headed to Miami. Okay, fine, he’s a good player and is coming off a good stint in pinstripes. But wasn’t the goal to cut your payroll? Castro is set to make $22.8 million over the remaining 2 years on his contract, averaging out to about $11 million a year. This essentially halves what would have come off the books had the Stanton trade just been for prospects. But the Yankees aren’t even taking on the whole salary either! Sure, they’re taking on the vast majority of it, but over the life of the deal the Marlins will be taking on around $30 million of it (about $3 million a year). Why in the Hell would you trade the guy voted as the best player in the league and still pay him $3 million a year to play for another team? While for an MLB team that’s not much in the grand scheme of things, it’s still baffling how little the Marlins are really receiving for this guy. It’s not like he’s a locker room cancer that they had to get out of there, though to be fair I don’t really know anything about Stanton’s personality but he doesn’t strike me as a toxic dude. The only explanation I can think of is because it’s Derek Jeter in the owner’s box. That’s just the salty Red Sox fan in me speaking, but you can’t deny it looks fishy (see what I did there? Marlins? Fishy? God I don’t know how I’m still single).

I’ve done all this bitching and haven’t even mentioned the fact that it’s going to be Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton hitting back-to-back with Gary Sanchez lurking behind them. Just look at this potential fucking lineup.

1. Brett Gardner-LF

2. Aaron Judge-RF

3. Giancarlo Stanton-DH

4. Gary Sanchez-C

5. Didi Gregorius-SS

6. Greg Bird-1B

7. Chase Headley-3B

8. Jacoby Ellsbury/Aaron Hicks-CF

9. Ronald Torreyes-2B

How the Hell do you pitch to that?! The Yankees scored the second most runs in the Majors last season and they just added the guy who hit the most home runs! The Yankees now have the AL home run king in Judge and the NL home run king in Stanton hitting back-to-back with the best power hitting catcher in Gary Sanchez right behind them. Now yes, both guys do strike out a lot and the Red Sox have the best strikeout artist in the majors in Chris Sale. But that is an imposing duo to have to pitch to. Judge is about 6’7 and 280 pounds while Stanton is 6’6 and 245, both all muscle. Add in the fact that Yankee Stadium has one of the shortest fences in baseball and we may be seeing some records get shattered. The foul poles in both left and right field are 314 feet from home, which Stanton could reach if he were holding the bat with his feet. That’s about 30 feet shorter than the poles at Marlins Park. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but that’s the difference between a flyout and a run on the board. Stanton hit 59 home runs this season while doing much of his damage in a relatively pitcher-friendly park. Now he gets to do it with the walls 30 feet closer? If he doesn’t achieve his goal of passing Roger Maris (who he has stated is the real single season home run king, not Bonds, McGwire, or Sosa), I will be shocked.

Fuck I’m so mad. I’m so mad I dropped more f-bombs in this blog than I had in all my other blogs combined (I try and keep it relatively SFW here). I’m so mad, I’m not even going to bother asking you to leave a comment or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 or even contribute to my damn Patreon. I’m just so steaming right now. This is not going to be a fun season for anybody outside of the Bronx. Sure it will be fun seeing how far these guys can hit it, but they’ll be doing it in the wrong uniforms. FUCK!