Each week, during college football season DPB’s Kyle Magin and Andrew J. Pridgen pour on the prose with Pints and Picks™. Who to wager and (sometimes) what to drink while doing it. This week: #ican’tbelievehereallysaidgrabthembythep*ssy
Well, it took 11 innings Tuesday night, but I finally caught it… no, it’s not just MLB Playoff fever…it’s worse.
I can’t describe to you the entirety of my symptoms (sweaty palms, lazy eye, chapped lips, rashes on my joints, kind of filmy like I need a shower — even when I’ve just gotten out of the shower) …because, well, that’s just basically my non-pussy-grabbin’ self. The thing is, with this disease, this NEED to watch Edwin Encarnacion hit important bomb after bomb like he’s new episodes of Narcos or outtakes from Step Brothers, has taken over my very being.
It’s like, and how can I say this without offending our friends to the north (are we going to build a Canadian wall btw? And, if we did, could #EE hit a ball over that—I certainly think so.) but seeing a bunch of Canadians packed together and rooting for baseball like it’s 1993 and Pammy Anderson as Tool Time Girl is still their, um, biggest export this side of Rick Moranis, just — well, just makes me happy.
So consider me aboard the Rob Ford (RIP) Big Blue Train.
The San Francisco Giants also avoided the one-game sweep at the hands of last year’s World Series runners-up, the New York Mets. You pointed this out to me Monday via text, but both the Giants and the Mets seem like the most compelling teams in baseball—for a single game. I believe, and I’ll have more on this on the turnaround below, that the Giants’ big three pitchers (Bum, Cueto and Samardzija) is, in reality, exactly what the Cubs DO NOT want to face, especially in a five-game series. Granted, Lester, Hendricks and Arrieta are a three-headed Bartman-exorcising beast all their own… but the pressure in Wrigleyville to win seems almost debilitating to kick off a playoff campaign.
I also want to take this moment to acknowledge the season your Detroit Tigers put together. I have to admit, I sort of penciled them in somewhere behind the perennially rebuilding Twins as sort of a team in transition in 2016 but two key ingredients: The heartening continued maturation of Justin Verlander into one of the most effective if not efficient pitchers (not throwers) in the game along with the emergence of probable rookie of the year Michael Fulmer. Fulmer made Tigers fans all but forgive (and forget) Jordan Zimmermann’s injuries and the fact that the probable NL Cy Young winner is one Max Scherzer. Fulmer from May on was 15 starts out of 21 lasting six innings or more and in that stretch had 10 straight starts allowing two or fewer runs.
It’s hard to say what’s next for the Tigers, they’re an intriguing—almost confounding—mix of guys at the very very very beginning of their careers and guys who should’ve retired or been otherwise moved to Tampa in 2014. I almost feel like your relationship with them has to be one of a couple who comes out on the other side of counseling and is able to see something, some spark, either in themselves or their partner that was there the whole time…or maybe went away for a bit, but is definitely back. It’s important to note that in the always competitive AL Central, a division that could possibly be dominated by Cleveland’s staff for at least the next half-decade, will that spark turn to flame, or simply peter out?
I also started writing a breakout on the only team of record (the Huskies) from the West Coast and why it’s important they efficiently exorcise that Duck demon that’s plagued them since the middle of the W. administration (is it bad that I’m feeling whimsical for that man in this season of madness?) but that turned into its own offering (link.) Instead, I’m going to go with the pair of teams I like to appear in the World Series and, of course, who I think will win as well as a trio of down ballot college games, as well as a fond farewell to a Utah whiskey maker that just sold out to a corporate overlord for $160 million and why that’s kind of important on the other side.
How are things just north of the wall?
I share your fondness for our neighbors to the north. Maybe it was a few youthful trips spent sucking down Molsons and Labatts at the Loose Moose, but TO holds a special place in my heart. I also think that fan base (beer thrower aside…) is a sleeping giant. 90 percent of Canada lives within about an hour-and-a-half of the U.S. border. The #OurMoment hashtag, like #oneteamonecountry last year, lumps the sports hysteria of a whole nation behind the Jays. If they can make a run, you’ll see a country starved for a winner perk up. Nothing is going on with their NHL franchises, and what better way to head into a long winter than with a winner on the north shore of Lake Ontario?
Regarding my Tigers: The club is caught between two worlds. There’s a very competent, even good team in gestation here between Fulmer, shortstop Jose Iglesias, right fielder JD Martinez, infield prospect JaCoby Jones and pitcher Daniel Norris. The established stars–Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, Victor Martinez and Anibal Sanchez–are at best uneven and unquestionably aging. Whether ownership can spend to keep the right kids around when they mature to their second contracts, and the coaching staff can accommodate their grown-up appetite for at-bats and the spotlight is a different story. As of right now, they need health and another starter.
Here in the land of unending summer, on the other hand, San Diego State is about to kick off its Mountain West schedule with a game against UNLV. It’s becoming painfully obvious that the school is a total mismatch for their league, which I expect them to dominate this season. Sure, its sports are funded somewhat on a level with the Nevada schools, Fresno State and maybe Air Force, but SDSU is vastly different and needs to land somewhere better suited for its assets. It’s the only school and program in the Mountain West that:
- Plays in an NFL stadium.
- Plays in its own Top 30 media market.
- Has an enrollment of 35k.
- Could be an asset to a league-owned TV property or RSN.
As-is, the football program is floundering. Don’t get me wrong; it’s good. Aztecs CB Damonte Kazee is the best in the state and maybe the country, a guy you flat should not throw against. They’re 3-1 after a dipshit loss last weekend to the University of Southern Alabama, a monumental setback given the fact that the school was ranked and had already taken out a Pac 12 foe in Cal. Last weekend’s loss proves a point, though. A big-conference school survives to live that one down–SDSU would still have nationally-televised throwdowns with the powers in the Pac 12. In the Mountain West, this relatively attractive program goes under-the-radar through the end of the conference season.
Getting to a big-time conference is as much a necessity for SDSU as any program in the country. They’re not ready facilities-wise (probably why the Big 12 passed when it came time to expand), and they’ve got to fix that soon. But watching a program of this size, with this sort of unrealized potential, flail under the radar, is maddening. The road back starts this weekend at Qualcomm, so look for my pick on that and the throwdown in Miami, in addition to a little baseball when we turn it back around. AJ, #evenyear magic, even in Wrigleyville?
Damn if Johnny Appleseed himself wouldn’t be proud of all that ground you just covered. You took me to that place where the hottest Prime Minister ever snuggles all the pandas, back to Jack Murphy stadium for emerging competitive college football and all the way around the world to the quickly gentrifying streets of the North Side where I can only imagine Jim Belushi and Rob Lowe are pre-gaming at a bar somewhere and trying to slay the likes of Demi Moore and Elizabeth McGovern. “You know what your problem is…your face.”
I too am on sort of femme bot overload when it comes to sports betting this weekend. It’s like where do I even begin? College football is a turgid dance card with a handful of top 10 teams threatened or exalted—starting for me with the imminent 13-years-in-the-making Washington Husky takedown of Oregon.
Couple that with the fact that my entire extended family is wheels down in Chicago right. About. Now. (My sister is running the marathon Sunday and the fact that the Giants are in town just heaped on a big old pile of black and orange cream cheese frosting.) So, jealous digressions aside, I’ve got a couple football picks, a couple baseball futures and then I’m going to go drown my sorrows in some half-assed California deep dish as my sister just sent me this “after” shot from a late lunch at Lou Malnati’s.
To the picks!
Washington -8.5 @ Oregon: I’ve already well-chronicled the whys, hows and whos of U-Dub snapping its 12-game losing streak against Pac NW border rival Oregon in Eugene here, but to recap, Washington is: A National Championship contender. Chris Peterson-coached. Arguably the best defense in the country. Coming off a win at home where they didn’t allow Stanford within 40 feet of the end zone and Christian McCaffrey was more frustrated than a girl after three months on Tinder. Fronted by emerging Heisman candidate in sophomore quarterback Jake Browning…and facing a Brady Hoke 4-3 defense. I feel like the spread isn’t double-digits because, well, there is some emotion the Ducks will play with in their (blue?) uniforms, Royce Freeman is allegedly healthy and neither school has yet to play a complete game. For the sake of this column, it’s Washington and the under 68.5.
Final Prediction: Washington 51, Oregon 12
USC -4 vs. Colorado
This is sort of one of those classic bettors trap games/spreads that normally I’d be wise to avoid, but I can’t help but go back to the Southern California well one more week. To date I have only been burned this season by betting for UCLA…and against USC. I overestimated Arizona State’s offense last week, or rather, underestimated the emerging Trojan defense. So instead of backing off with another home game against Colorado, I’m doubling down. For Southern California, biggest difference isn’t on the defensive side of the ball but with their stunning new offense since they’ve tapped redshirt freshman Sam Darnold as starting playcaller. An emerging spread/West Coast-hybrid offense has, over the last game-and-a-half, moved SC into this century and Darnold looks like USC’s most mobile quarterback since Rodney Peete. This means the power running game has given way to Darnold getting outside the pocket and dumping off or running for the sticks. He was 22-of-33 against ASU with one rushing touchdown and had 41 yards on the ground with a touchdown the week before with limited time against Utah. It’s an exciting, uptempo and maybe job-saving time for SC frontman Clay Helton. Colorado hasn’t been so lucky under center as they’ve had to replace one of the conference’s best QBs, injured senior Sefo Liufau, with the capable but not nearly equal arm strength or mobility of Steven Montez. Look for SC’s tale of two seasons to keep rolling at home Saturday winning by a pair of touchdowns and meeting the over 58.
Final Prediction: USC 42, Colorado 28
Odds to win NLCS:
San Francisco at 6 to 1: I’m a big buyer on this Kyle, and not just because of said #evenyear magic, or because Boch is cooler than Sully at the stick forcing the Mets to land in the Hudson on Wednesday. I think the Giants of October are closer to being the best team in baseball they were in the first half than the third-worst they were in the second. Cueto and Bumgarner are playoff-tested All Star starters. In Samardzija you have as hungry and as tough a competitor as there is in stirrups and you KNOW he’s going to be firing should he get a start (still in question) at Wrigley. The rest of the Giants’ supporting cast are gamers and grinders—experienced marathoners who know their race doesn’t start till mile 20 (= the postseason.) While the Jekyll-and-Hyde Gigantes are as unproven in depth as they’ve been over this last half-dozen years of playoff runs, I do like the ROI on those current odds. And if I’m going to bet on the side, I like Dave Roberts’ Dodgers to be their foes for an all West Coast LCS.
Odds to win the ALCS:
Cleveland at 4/1: These odds may drop sharply if they’re to win game two tonight at home and Boston looks outmanned and outmanaged for Papi’s extended “retirement” party, but I also think it’s the Tribe’s staff that gets them through a seven-game series (even against a Blue Jay buzzsaw) with equal aplomb. Granted, your erstwhile Tiger Rick Porcello (22-4, 233 regular season innings and a Cy Young favorite) is going to be formidable for Cleveland hitters Friday, but if they take the first two at home, I believe they’re in the hole slot for a World Series berth.
So there you go Kyle, I’ve got—and perhaps regretfully for your average baseball fan—a re-imagning of the early summer Cleveland vs. Bay Area NBA finals in the Indians vs. the Giants. I can think of two people (me and my buddy Sudha) who might want to see such a thing…but basically everyone else in this country may be as interested in this matchup as when Joe Buck was talking about Scott Spiezio’s band Sand Frog, in the ‘02 series. Don’t remember that reference? Exactly.
I’ll leave you with this lead-in Kyle. In your opinion, what would be the best and worst WS matchups (from your perspective and a fans’ perspective?)
So that’s tough and a bit subjective, but I’m going to try to science it a bit. Locally, two teams clearly hold their own over the rest of the league—Cleveland (7.03 local primetime ranking) and Boston (6.93 local primetime ranking) (TV ratings source). After that, the Cubs, Giants, Rangers, Nationals and Dodgers (1.32! Which is in the bottom 4 in all of baseball!) round out the rankings. We don’t have ratings data on the Jays, but we can suppose that it’d fall somewhere in the middle given their market size (a whole country).
Attendance-wise, another metric for fan passion, the Dodgers led the bigs with 45k/game. (Source). The Jays were in the top three, at 42k/game, AND registered the biggest year-over-year gain in total attendance at nearly 600k. The Giants more or less maintained at No. 4 with 41k (capacity), while the Cubs (39k) and Red Sox (36k) also played to a full house nearly every night. Texas and Washington played to middling audiences, while Cleveland played to damn near nobody at 19,500/night.
So, I think it’s safe to say Boston and San Francisco bring the most dedicated fans into the postseason. That World Series matchup would take my choice for best, but I’m going with Toronto and Chicago.
My reasoning is that the best sports story in any October that includes a Cubs team is the end of the 108-year old curse. With their inclusion, you appeal to the American sporting public, and sports events that attract the mob’s attention are almost always the most fun. Then, you throw in championship-starved Toronto and Canada, who have demonstrably passionate fans, which will make for great TV.
The worst is easy–anything including some combination of Texas and Cleveland versus Washington. I’ll go with Texas-Washington. Washington’s fans are like LA people who don’t even both to show up between the 3rd and 8th. They have no history and a store-bought squad whose greatest claim to character is being a collection of redasses. Texas may as well be anonymous, and are in the process of getting shot out of a cannon by Toronto for the second straight game as I write this, so we probably won’t have to worry about them.
So there you have it AJ, the best and the worst. For TV’s sake, I bet the league would be happy with any series including Chicago.
Let’s get to the picks.
San Francisco Giants @ Chicago Cubs UNDER 6.5 runs (Friday)
The Cubs and Giants got together seven times this season (4-3 Cubs) and lobbed bombs early in 8- and 9-run total affairs before settling into 5-run games at the back end of a September series. Neither Bruce Bochy nor Joe Maddon are shy about shifting nearly every hitter in the opposing lineup if the numbers call for it and both have tanned, rested and ready bullpens. To add to the run-depression in Wrigley, Jon Lester and Johnny Cueto are the respective teams’ most red-hot starters (Bumgarner having ascended to an incomparable strata) going into tonight’s showdown. I expect quick work from both early before somebody coughs up a big dinger late to one of the opportunistic offenses.
UNLV +17.5 @ San Diego State
The Aztecs desperately need to right the ship as the Mountain West slate begins. They’re unquestionably more talented than UNLV—Kazee and SDSU’s RB Donnell Pumphrey, the nation’s rushing leader—and have the firepower to trounce the Rebels at home. However, all of the team’s goals could go from being in front of them to impossible to achieve with a loss Saturday. That’s why I think the Aztecs will play tight in Qualcomm; securing a lead early and letting Pumphrey and his 7.7 yards per carry average do the heavy lifting against a Rebs D that’s young and porous up front. UNLV’s offense has improved with every outing this season, so look for freshman Reb QB Dalton Sneed to be too usefully stupid to play it close to the vest and air it out against an Aztecs defense that’s on its heels after giving up 42 points in a loss last weekend to an unranked opponent in USA. I think the Aztecs get a lead and sit on it, while Vegas nips at their heels.
Florida State @ Miami -3
Get thee to Hard Rock Stadium (A real place! I wonder if they have Marcus Mumford’s cricket bat hanging up in the atrium?) for the weekend’s best matchup in Miami tomorrow. Listen, the city’s been through a lot in the last two weeks, from the devastating loss of Jose Fernandez to the damage dealt by hurricane Matthew. The ‘Canes have been a bright spot, and it’s showing in ticket sales—the 65k venue is sold out and the secondhand market had single seats available for $155 a pop as of this writing. Miami (4-0, 1-0 ACC) bring in Florida State (3-2, 0-2 ACC) in what feels like one of those emergence games. According to the laws of Sunshine State football, a new power cannot rise until an aging force is smited. The ‘Noles, which have experienced great success during Miami’s extended dead period, feel like they’re marching to a slaughter on Saturday. Miami is ungodly fast, like almost to-their-detriment fast with a no-huddle offense that only controls the ball for about 24 minutes during any given game. But, speed kills. The ‘Canes convert better than 45 percent of their third downs while constricting opponents to 21 percent. They turn the ball over hardly at all with just 2 fumbles and 3 interceptions, and they average 8.2 yards per offensive play as opposed to 3.6 per for opponents. FSU is, true enough, their first real test of the season for Miami, but we’ve already seen what a fast offense can do to the ‘Noles when they were parted-out by Louisville three weeks ago, 63-20.
Alright AJ, after a slow start I’m ready for conference action and primo baseball. Bring on the fast-twitch feats.
And enjoy the weekend!
Last Week: 1 for 4
Overall: 8 for 17
San Francisco Giants @ Chicago Cubs UNDER 6.5 runs (Friday)
UNLV +17.5 @ San Diego State
Florida State @ Miami -3
Last Week: 3 and 3
Overall: 15 for 23
Washington -8.5 @ Oregon
Washington @ Oregon Under 68.5
USC +4 vs. Colorado
USC vs. Colorado over 58
Cleveland 4/1 AL Champions
Giants 6/1 NL Champions