College Football Picks: Week 1

Last Season: 86-34

Football’s back. And for that reason, it’s time for me to play spoiler to what’s going to happen week-by-week. I’m going to try and do this every week, but given my schedule, this might not always be possible, but again, I’ll do my best. So enough chit chat, let’s get to picks.

Texas Spring Game

#23 Texas (-13.5) vs Maryland

I think Texas is a little overrated again this year, as they seem to be every year by the preseason AP polls, but I do think they’ll come out with the victory against Maryland. However head coach Tom Herman might have some issues coming his way in the future, as he may have also known about the domestic abuse of a former Ohio State assistant while he was there. Who knows what the future holds?

Projected Score: Texas 38, Maryland 31

Ole Miss vs Texas Tech (-2.5)

Ole Miss got ravaged by the sanctions and aside from tackle Greg Little and receiver AJ Brown, all the talent recruited in the Hugh Freeze era is pretty much gone. Texas Tech will likely be a pushover defensively once again but you can pretty much throw anybody at quarterback there and they’ll throw for 5000 yards. This year, it’s a toss-up as to who will earn the job between JUCO transfer McLane Carter and Jett Duffey, but Texas Tech’s offense had the same success with Nic Shimonek (undrafted) as they did with Pat Mahomes (10th overall pick) so whomever it is, I’m sure they’ll be fine. Texas Tech wins.

Projected Score: Texas Tech 55 Ole Miss 38

#6 Auburn (-2) vs #9 Washington

This is going to be a slugfest. Auburn returns a lot of talent from a top-10 team last year so they’ll be in contention for the SEC crown again this year. Washington is the favorite to come out of the Pac 12 so this could be a potential CFP preview. I think Auburn comes away with this one, though. I think they have more weapons both offensively and defensively and I think this is the year that Jarrett Stidham takes the next step.

Projected Score: Auburn 31 Washington 27

West Virginia v Kansas State

#17 West Virginia (-9.5) vs Tennessee

Will Grier is in the conversation to be the top quarterback taken in the 2019 NFL Draft but I think he’s got a little too much of a gunslinger mentality for me to trust him just yet. But I think he shows plenty of flashes as he takes apart the Volunteer defense.

Projected Score: West Virginia 35 Tennessee 24

North Carolina vs California (-7)

I never know what to expect out of North Carolina on a year-to-year basis. Some years, they’re competing for an ACC title. Others they’re struggling to win 3 games. I think this one leans towards the latter, unfortunately for Tar Heel fans, as they don’t have a quarterback like Mitch Trubisky or the defensive talent to compensate for that. Cal wins and I think they do it handily.

California 42 North Carolina 21

Cincinnati vs UCLA (-15)

The Chip Kelly era at UCLA begins and former Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight will get the start. Not sure how Speight fits Kelly’s system, but Nick Foles had success in it with the Eagles and he has even less mobility than Speight does so I’m sure they’ll find a way to make it work. I think there will be some growing pains, though, and I think I’m going to pick this game as my upset. Cincinnati is always a tricky team and can sneak up on you if you aren’t careful. Cincinnati edges UCLA as Kelly drops his debut.

Projected Score: Cincinnati 31 UCLA 30

Outback Bowl -  Michigan v South Carolina

#14 Michigan vs #12 Notre Dame (-1)

The rivalry is back on and it looks to be a defensive slugfest. Michigan has about as loaded a defense as there is in the country while there is some uncertainty on offense. Former Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson is getting the start and while he has shown flashes, he hasn’t quite materialized like everyone expected when he was a 5-star recruit. As for Notre Dame, there’s a little bit of uncertainty at quarterback. Brandon Wimbush showed a lot of ability but was inconsistent at times while Ian Book looked really sharp in relief. It’ll be interesting to see what Brian Kelly rolls out there Saturday night. But I think Michigan’s defense makes more plays and they win a low-scoring affair.

Projected Score: Michigan 20 Notre Dame 17

Louisville vs #1 Alabama (-24)

Alabama has another high profile game to open their season against Louisville and I’m going to be perfectly honest, that line seems a little generous. ‘Bama is as loaded as ever and Louisville lost Lamar Jackson to the NFL, who was the team the last few years. There is some uncertainty at quarterback for the Crimson Tide as Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa both are vying for the spot, but I think Bama wins the game handily with a steady dose of defense and the ground game with Damien Harris and Najee Harris (no relation).

Projected Score: Alabama 51 Louisville 17

BYU vs Arizona (-11.5)

Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate is one of the most exciting players in the country and he’ll have a full season as the starter under his belt to cement himself as the most dynamic player in the country. I think he runs all over the BYU defense and Arizona wins handily.

Projected Score: Arizona 48 BYU 24

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#8 Miami (FL) (-3.5) vs #25 LSU

Miami had a breakout season last year thanks to the Turnover Chain but they finished pretty slowly, as they ended the season with losses to Pittsburgh, Clemson, and Wisconsin with the Turnover Chain getting destroyed and humiliated. I have a feeling that LSU is going to take this one in a low-scoring turnover-fest.

Projected Score: LSU 17 Miami (FL) 13

#20 Virginia Tech vs #19 Florida State (-7)

Last year could not have gone much worse for Florida State. They start the year ranked 4th, Deondre Francois goes down for the year in Week 1, they struggle to reach a bowl game, and Jimbo Fisher leaves for Texas A&M. On the other side, things could not have gone much better for Virginia Tech as Justin Jackson showed a lot of flashes as a true freshman quarterback. They will look to build on last year’s success as they try and take down the Seminoles and I think they do.

Projected Score: Virginia Tech 31 Florida State 24

BONUS GAME: Indiana (-10.5) vs Florida International

Only I care about this game but screw it, it’s my blog. FIU tends to play Indiana pretty tough for most of the game, as they nearly pulled off the upset each of the last two times they played (2015 and 16, 17 was cancelled due to hurricane). Peyton Ramsey has been named the starting quarterback and I think he’s an efficient passer, albeit limited in terms of skillset. Indiana will win, but it’ll be close.

Projected Score: Indiana 28 FIU 20

Are there any games I didn’t do that you want my thoughts on? Let me know what you think in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Minnesota Twins

The Seahawks traded stud defensive end Michael Bennett and a 7th rounder to the Eagles for a 5th rounder and wide receiver Marcus Johnson. Bennett’s 33 years old but he recorded 8.5 sacks last season which is typically around where he’s at year in and year out. The Eagles currently have an absolutely LOADED defensive front, as if they didn’t already, but that probably means somebody’s getting traded elsewhere, all signs are pointing to Vinny Curry. But I do think the Seahawks seem to have settled here. Bennett’s still a big name and I think he could’ve gotten them more than a 5th rounder and a receiver I’ve never heard of (though Adam Schefter reports that he runs a 4.3). However the Seahawks LOVE their late-round draft picks, hard to blame them since they’ve hit on them so often, but I still think they could’ve gotten as high as a third rounder for Bennett. Also, Richard Sherman is reportedly wishing teammates farewell. So are the Seahawks blowing it up?Anyways, let’s get to the Twins.

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2017 Results:

Record: 85-77, 17 games behind Cleveland Indians, won 2nd Wild Card spot, lost Wild Card game to New York Yankees

Notable Offseason Additions: 1B Logan Morrison, SS Erick Aybar, SP Anibal Sanchez, SP Jake Odorizzi, RP Addison Reed, RP Zach Duke, CP Fernando Rodney, SP Michael Pineda

Notable Offseason Subtractions: CP Glen Perkins, RP Matt Belisle, SP Bartolo Colon, RP Dillon Gee, RP Buddy Boshers, C Chris Gimenez, RP Adam Wilk,

Best Offensive Player: 2B Brian Dozier

Best Pitcher: Ervin Santana

Depth Chart:

C-Jason Castro, Mitch Garver

1B-Joe Mauer, Logan Morrison (DH), Kennys Vargas

2B-Brian Dozier

3B-Miguel Sano

SS-Jorge Polanco, Eduardo Escobar

LF-Eddie Rosario, Robbie Grossman

CF-Byron Buxton

RF-Max Kepler

SP-Ervin Santana, Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Gibson, Phil Hughes

Bullpen-Fernando Rodney (CP), Addison Reed, Zach Duke, Trevor Hildenberger, Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Ryan Pressly

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Paul Molitor (4th season with Twins, 2017 AL Manager of the Year)

Hitting Coach-James Rowson

Pitching Coach-Garvin Alston

1st Base Coach-Jeff Smith

3rd Base Coach-Gene Glynn

Bench Coach-Derek Shelton

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So I mentioned a couple of times that I wrote a paper for a column writing class where I previewed each team’s World Series chances. You may remember that as that time where I accurately predicted the Rockies would have a breakout season. Well in this paper, for the Twins, I wrote “LOL” and left it at that. I mean you can’t really blame me, they were coming off a season where they went 59-103 and they had done absolutely nothing in the offseason to make me think they wouldn’t repeat this futility. Well they made me look pretty stupid, didn’t they? The Twins went 85-77 last season and made the postseason as the second Wild Card team. It was really quite the turnaround. They had been fielding a team mainly of young upstarts and they all seemed to hit their stride at the same time in 2017. Hats off to AL Manager of the Year and MLB Hall of Famer Paul Molitor. Here’s how they’re projected to line up.

1. Byron Buxton-CF

2. Joe Mauer-1B

3. Brian Dozier-2B

4. Miguel Sano-3B

5. Eddie Rosario-LF

6. Logan Morrison-DH

7. Max Kepler-RF

8. Jason Castro-C

9. Jorge Polanco-SS

That’s a pretty talented lineup but pretty much everybody in that lineup is going to have to prove that 2017 wasn’t a fluke if they’re going to make a repeat trip to the postseason. Byron Buxton really caught on late in the season, which was huge for this Twins team. The former #1 overall prospect was dangerously close to being labeled a catastrophic bust before his bat finally started catching up to his defense and baserunning skills. Buxton hit .259 with 16 home runs, 29 stolen bases, and had a 3.5 WAR while winning a gold glove in centerfield. Miguel Sano was also a breakout star for the Twins as he was one of their most dangerous hitters, batting .264 with 28 home runs, though that number was limited due to injury. The biggest threat in this Twins lineup is Brian Dozier, though, who might be the strongest second baseman in the game even though he may not look the part at 5’11 200 pounds. He’s had 4 consecutive seasons with at least 20 home runs, 2 consecutive of at least 30, and he hit 42 in 2016. Second basemen aren’t supposed to hit 42 home runs in a season. And it’s not like he’s some Dan Uggla-type player where he’s a big brute that somehow is playing second base. He’s a decent defender at the position. Despite his recent run of success, Dozier still doesn’t get the credit he deserves all the time and that may be due to the fact that pretty much all the best second basemen are in the American League right now, including reigning AL MVP Jose Altuve, Robinson Cano, and Dustin Pedroia.

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The pitching for the Twins is the part that might have me nervous. There’s some solid names in this rotation, but they’re also guys that haven’t been great of late. Ervin Santana is their ace, but he just turned 35 years old and he’s currently on the shelf with a finger injury and likely won’t be ready for Opening Day. They did acquire Jake Odorizzi and Anibal Sanchez in the offseason, however Odorizzi battled injuries last season while Sanchez hasn’t been a quality pitcher since 2014. Jose Berrios is a guy to watch, though. He’s one of the most talented young pitchers in the game and it appears that the Twins are ready to put their trust in him to be the ace of the future for them. He finished 2017 with a 3.89 ERA but had a 2.41 ERA at home and over 5 on the road. If he can level that out a little bit, I think the Twins will have that ace that they’ve been missing since Johan Santana.

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The Twins completely overhauled their bullpen in the offseason. They signed Fernando Rodney to take over their closers role. It seems like an offseason isn’t complete unless Rodney is signing with a new team to take over their closer position for one year. He’s usually either amazing or downright awful in that role. There’s never any in-between. Rodney turns 41 next week and he’s coming off a season where he was the Diamondbacks’ closer and carried a 4.23 ERA but a 3.03 FIP and had 39 saves while striking out over 10 batters per 9 innings. He won’t ever top his dominant 2012 season with the Rays when he had an ERA of 0.60 and 48 saves, but he can clearly still sling it. If he falters, though, they have Addison Reed as an option, who does have closing experience with the White Sox and Diamondbacks, though he’s done his best work as the 8th inning guy for the Mets and briefly with the Red Sox last season. After those two guys there really isn’t a whole lot to speak of with the Twins’ bullpen.

Overall I think the Twins overachieved last season but they’re very fortunate given the situation with the AL Central right now. They get to play the Tigers, White Sox, and Royals more than any other team, which will pad their win total, but they also get the Indians, who are going to run away with the division. Realistically the Twins will have to vie for the second Wild Card spot again but I don’t think they’ll get it. The first Wild Card spot will likely go to either the Yankees or Red Sox, whomever doesn’t win the AL East, while the Angels have done a lot to improve their postseason chances in the offseason to the point where I think they’re a much more probable candidate than the Twins. I don’t think it’ll be a bad season in Minnesota, but they won’t return to the postseason.

Projected Record: 84-78, 2nd in AL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the New York Mets, who look to finally stay healthy and return to the playoffs after a miserable 2017 season. Let me know what you think of the Twins’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.