Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

2016 NFL Mock Draft

Posted: April 28, 2016 in Browns, Football
Tags: , ,

nfl-draftjpg-378f5ebfae38ab00This mock draft was done by myself and Sean Rhodes, from Phil Steele Publications. With the No. 8 Pick of the 2016 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns select….

  1. Los Angeles Rams (trade via Tennessee): Jared Goff (QB) – California
  2. Philadelphia Eagles (trade via Cleveland): Carson Wentz (QB) – North Dakota St
  3. San Diego Chargers: DeForest Buckner (DL) – Oregon
  4. Dallas Cowboys: Joey Bosa (DL) – Ohio State
  5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jalen Ramsey (DB) – Florida St
  6. Baltimore Ravens: Myles Jack (LB) – UCLA
  7. San Francisco 49ers: Laremy Tunsil (OL) – Mississippi
  8. Cleveland Browns (trade via Philadelphia through Miami): Vernon Hargreaves (DB) – Florida
  9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ronnie Stanley (OL) – Notre Dame
  10. New York Giants: Ezekiel Elliott (RB) – Ohio State
  11. Chicago Bears: Jack Conklin (OL) – Michigan St
  12. New Orleans Saints: Sheldon Rankins (DL) – Lousiville
  13. Miami Dolphins (trade via Philadelphia): Eli Apple (DB) – Ohio State
  14. Oakland Raiders: A’Shawn Robinson (DL) – Alabama
  15. Tennessee Titans (trade via Los Angeles): Taylor Decker (OL) – Ohio State
  16. Detroit Lions: Reggie Ragland (LB) – Alabama
  17. Atlanta Falcons: Leonard Floyd (LB) – Georgia
  18. Indianapolis Colts: Darron Lee (LB) – Ohio State
  19. Buffalo Bills: Shaq Lawson (DL) – Clemson
  20. New York Jets: Paxton Lynch (QB) – Memphis
  21. Washington Redskins: Ryan Kelly (OL) – Alabama
  22. Houston Texans: Corey Coleman (WR) – Baylor
  23. Minnesota Vikings: Laquon Treadwell (WR) – Mississippi
  24. Cincinnati Bengals: Keanu Neal (DB) – Florida
  25. Pittsburgh Steelers: Mackensie Alexander (CB) – Clemson
  26. Seattle Seahawks: Jarran Reed (DL) – Alabama
  27. Green Bay Packers: Andrew Billings (DL) – Baylor
  28. Kansas City Chiefs: Will Fuller (WR) – Notre Dame
  29. Arizona Cardinals: Karl Joseph (DB) – West Virginia
  30. Carolina Panthers: Robert Nkemdiche (DL) – Mississippi
  31. Denver Broncos: Chris Jones (DL) – Mississippi St

 

Note: The New England Patriots forfeited their 1st round pick due to penalties handed down from “Deflategate.”

Now that the Cleveland Browns have added RG3 to their roster, the smart thing to do is to keep both Josh McCown and Austin Davis as well. With three quarterbacks on the roster, there is no need to waste the No. 2 overall pick on any of the quarterbacks that will be available in this years draft.

I’m not saying that RG3 is going to be the franchise quarterback of the future for the Browns, maybe he will, maybe he won’t, but the better selection for this team all along has been to take the best player available.

This Browns team is lacking talent all over their roster. Laremy Tunsil, Jalen Ramsey, or Myles Jack would help this team much more then Jared Goff or Carson Wentz.

There have been 12 quarterbacks taken in the top five of the draft the last 10 years. Just one of those 12 quarterbacks has a record above .500 in the playoffs. Who is that, you ask? That would be Mark Sanchez, who is best known for this particular play and not for being remotely close to a franchise quarterback.

 

Also, the lone playoff appearances for Sanchez were in his first two seasons (’09-’10) as he hasn’t been back since. That’s right. 12 quarterbacks. One with a winning record in the playoffs.

Here’s another reason why the Browns would be foolish to take a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick. Of the last 10 Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, just two were taken in the top five. Those two happen to share the same last name and it doesn’t take a genius to tell that there aren’t any Manning brothers available this year. Four of the ten were not even taken in the first round!

Another position that constantly gets mentioned for the Browns by misinformed fans and media at No. 2 is wide receiver. That would be another mistake. I didn’t agree with former Browns General Manager Ray Farmer on many things, but one thing he was highly accurate about was the wide receiver position. This may be the most overrated position in terms of the type of talent that equates to helping a team win games. The best receiver in the NFL over the last ten years has been Calvin Johnson. In eight of those years, he just so happened to have a quarterback that was taken with the first pick of the draft in 2009. Can you guess how many playoff wins Johnson has? I’ll give you a hint. It’s the same number that you have. ZERO! Just to be more clear about wide receivers taken early, in the last ten years, there have been five taken in the top five, and combined they are 0-6 in the playoffs!

With news that Robert Griffin III (RGIII) was in Cleveland over the weekend, there should be a real possibility that the Browns brass would make an offer to the former No. 2 overall pick from the 2012 draft. The Browns failed in an attempt to trade up in that draft to take the Heisman Trophy winner and now have a chance to get him on their roster.

Make no mistake, RGIII can spin it. Often mistaken for a runner first, passer second, anyone who watched him play while at Baylor, knows he is a quarterback that just so happens to be able to tuck and run when the situation calls for it. Sure, he can run the zone read offense as he did when he was named the NFL rookie of the year in 2012, but that was due to the Redskins trying to take advantage of a skill set that most NFL defenses weren’t used to defending. That also is a recipe for disaster as quarterbacks shouldn’t be taking hits from defenders on nearly every play.

After winning the Heisman Trophy at Baylor of all places, scouts were salivating at RGIII’s skill set. There was some consideration (however brief) as to who would be the overall No. 1 pick, which would eventually (and rightfully so) go to Andrew Luck.

RGIII set a rookie record with a 102.4 quarterback rating, had a phenomenal 20-5 touchdown to interception ratio, and led the Redskins to their first playoff appearance since 2007. After spraining his knee late in the season, RGIII missed one game (against the Browns) before returning for the finale, but then suffered a torn ACL to the same weakened knee in an opening round playoff loss.

Things have gone downhill ever since.

In 2013, despite not playing a single down in the pre-season as he was still rehabbing, RGIII returned for the opener. He ended up throwing for more yards while completing over 60% of his passes on the season, but the Redskins struggled and he clearly wasn’t able to take advantage of his agility as he was less then a year removed from major knee surgery. He was deactivated for the final three games of the season with the reason being to avoid further injury.

RGIII was 100% entering the 2014 season, but suffered a dislocated left ankle in the second game of the season. After missing six games, he returned but was ineffective in three losses and was benched in favor of former Browns quarterback Colt McCoy, who was named the starter over an ineffective Kirk Cousins as Griffin rehabbed his ankle. RGIII returned after McCoy was injured for the final two games of the season, throwing for a season high 336 yards in the finale.

RGIII was in line to be the starter last year, but suffered a concussion in the second preseason game and was inactive the entire year.

A change of scenery is just what RGIII needs. We in Cleveland know about dysfunctional organizations and the Redskins are right up there with the Browns in terms of dysfunction. The Redskins are a team that is having discussions about building a moat around their stadium. I always thought moats were to keep people out, but hey, that’s the Redskins for you. Its not a crazy thought to think that Washington just didn’t know how to handle his personality. Again, the Redskins are far from a stable franchise, having won 10 or more games just once in the last 10 years (2012).

The quarterback position is a fragile one in the NFL. A guy can have all of the physical skills in the world, but it doesn’t matter one iota. Sure RGIII is a bit of a loner, but could it be because he was raised in a military family? I know first hand about that experience. It’s hard to become close with people when you are forced to move every two to three years. That said, he comes from a strong family, with high values, which is the total opposite of what the Browns have had in their locker room the last two seasons.

The Browns have hired EXTREMELY smart people to run their franchise, and I’d be willing to bet that they would do everything in their power to make sure a quarterback with franchise changing skills is comfortable. Also, it’s not as if the Browns would have to offer RGIII a huge contract. They could sign him to an incentive laden deal, where both parties win if he pans out.

By signing RGIII, the Browns then can turn their attention to drafting a player at No. 2 overall that can help them win games right away, as opposed to any of the quarterbacks that all pose major question marks as the whether or not they can even play in this league.

otto graham

After Peyton Manning announced his retirement, among the most frequent questions asked was where he ranked among the all-time greatest quarterbacks. Was he better then Joe Montana? How about Brett Favre? Is he ahead or behind of John Elway, Johnny Unitas, and Terry Bradshaw? Even current players like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees often come up in these types of discussions. I’m not here to say none of the aforementioned quarterbacks weren’t or aren’t all-timers, but one player that consistently gets left out of this discussion is perhaps the GREATEST quarterback of all-time.

Cue the ESPN “30 for 30” theme. What if I told you there was a quarterback that played ten years professionally, went to ten Championship games, winning seven of them, was a first team All-Pro selection eight times, and was a three-time league MVP? And if I asked you to name that quarterback, most wouldn’t believe those stats to be real. Most would probably think that those accolades were built in “Dynasty mode” in the Madden football video game series. Well you would be wrong.

There actually was a quarterback who did ALL of those things! No it wasn’t Montana, Unitas, Elway, Bart Starr, or Joe Namath. As a matter of fact, the quarterbacks that are always mentioned as the all-time greats don’t even come close to having all of those accolades.

Want more? This quarterback, who again, is frequently left out of the discussion for the greatest quarterback ever, led the league in passing yards five of his ten years, led the league in quarterback rating five times, had the most touchdown passes in a season three times, led the league in completion percentage four times, and his 9.0 yards per attempt ranks No. 1 all-time in NFL history! Oh yeah, I already mentioned he took his team to TEN straight championship games, winning seven of them, right?

The quarterback I’m referring to is none other than Otto Graham. Unfortunately, because the NFL wants its fans to believe that football didn’t exist before the advent of the Super Bowl, his name hardly gets a mention. And most media members who draw up these lists, fail to take the time to do some actual research, leaving Graham as an afterthought.

Of course, when the next all-timer retires, the lists will come out again naming the best of all-time, and again, these lists will remain a joke as long as one name doesn’t appear on them. Otto Graham.

  1. With all the news that made the rounds this week, the best was undoubtedly the fact that Cleveland Browns team president Alec Scheiner will be stepping down on March 31st. Scheiner was supposedly in charge of the business decisions and oversaw the recent renovations to the stadium, but for some reason he needed to be included in how to conduct film study, which was baffling to say the least. Scheiner was also one of the many behind the scene voices demanding that the undersized frat boy got on the field, regardless or not if he was ready.

 

  1. Speaking of the spoiled, undersized frat boy, he was in Vegas this weekend taking in the UFC fights and who was with him, none other than the Browns other often troubled player, wide-receiver Josh Gordon.

 

  1. Gordon, currently suspended by the NFL due to drugs, is trying to regain the Browns trust. While he hasn’t had any mishaps during his current time away, hanging with the troubled quarterback should be the last thing on his priority list. Gordon, unlike the frat boy, doesn’t come from oil money and needs NFL paychecks to live the life of luxury he so desires.

josh-gordon-porsche-panamera

 

  1. Is anyone else growing tired of the cryptic messages Lebron James continues to tweet out?

 

  1. I mean, just say what you mean already or just stay silent. All this does is bring unwanted and unneeded attention to an underachieving team that consistently plays to the level of their opposition while finishing 2-5 against the Warriors, Spurs, and Raptors.

 

  1. Speaking of the Cavaliers and Lebron, maybe being the underdog is just what they need. Then again, they were the underdog against the Spurs in 2007 and against the Warriors last year after Kyrie went down and we all know how those series turned out, with both winning the deciding game at the Q. Ouch.

spurs warriors

 

  1. Spring training has begun which means baseball season is right around the corner. Opening day is less than a month away as the Indians will take on the Boston Red Sox. The pitching matchup will be fantastic with former Cy Young winners facing off in Cleveland’s Korey “KluBot” Kluber taking on David Price. Sure the Tribe didn’t sign a major name to help with its lack of power in the lineup, but I, for one, am looking forward to the development of shortstop Francisco Lindor, who just missed out on being named the American League rookie of the year last season. Lindor is a future star that the city will no doubt get behind.

 

  1. It will take some longer than others when it comes to watching soccer, but it is growing significantly both in terms of involvement and television ratings. And why wouldn’t it be? With all the rule changes, player antics, as well as 2.5-3.5 hours of game time from the “Big 3” sports, soccer games last a mere 2 hours and provide plenty of excitement. Plus there is a major league team just two hours away from us. Pipo Higuain, who plays for the nearby Columbus Crew, had the early contender for goal of the year on the season’s opening day!

 

  1. Sure there was a big time UFC pay-per-view this weekend, but let’s not forget about the great knockouts that boxing provides. Here’s what this weekend brought us in the squared circle of the “sweet science.”

 

 

 

 

  1. Speaking of boxing, on this day, March 6th in 1976, future Hall of Famer Wilfred Benitez became the youngest World Champion in history at just 17 years old when he defeated Antonio Cervantes for the WBA Super Lightweight championship of the World.
  1. Also on this day in boxing history, Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker became the WBC Welterweight Champion of the World after defeating James Buddy McGirt in 1993.

 

  1. Speaking of Pernell Whitaker, he will be one of many retired boxers that will be in attendance during the Boxing Hall of Fame induction weekend June 9th thru the 12th. If you have never been, I recommend taking the easy drive to Canastota, NY. You can find all the information you need here: http://www.ibhof.com/index.html

 

  1. Living in northeast Ohio, I try to take advantage of every clear and warm day. I came across this waterfall right by my house in South Lorain just last week. Never knew one was so close.

waterfall

browns helmet

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Many clueless Cleveland media members as well as fans think the Browns should take a quarterback with the No. 2 pick in the upcoming NFL draft. The problem is there isn’t a franchise quarterback available in this years draft and by taking a quarterback at this spot, the Browns will again be reaching, just like they did when they took the undersized frat boy in 2014, Brandon Weeden in 2012, Brady Quinn in 2007, and Tim Couch in 1999. No matter how many years certain media members have covered this team, some just aren’t smart enough to realize this. Just like Tony Grossi from ESPN Cleveland. Here he is spitting his pitiful rhetoric.

http://espn.go.com/espnradio/playPopup?id=14870258

Here’s one from Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Terry Pluto.  Another clueless observation, but at least he is smart enough to agree with me about Joey Bosa.

http://www.cleveland.com/pluto/index.ssf/2016/02/cleveland_browns_should_pass_o_1.html

The Browns decision makers are Harvard educated, but let me tell you this. It doesn’t take a Harvard education to know that there are so many holes on the roster, the smart thing to do would be to trade down and accumulate talent. I know that’s not what Browns fans want to hear, but take your emotion out of the thought process, and you will realize that’s the best route to take.

I know that Josh McCown is not the long term solution for the Browns, but did you know that in the games he started & finished, the Browns averaged 25.8 ppg, which would’ve ranked No. 8 in the NFL? That goes to show what a veteran quarterback that understands the game can bring. Oh yeah, the games that the undersized frat boy started & finished, the Browns averaged 16.2 ppg, which would’ve ranked No. 31 in the league. If the Browns do select a quarterback in the draft (hopefully later on), the offense can still be well above average under McCown, who will also double as a phenomenal mentor to the future starter.

The main issue with the Browns is their defense, and that is the side of the ball that they should focus on in the draft. They finished No. 29 in the league, allowing 27.0 ppg. Oakland had their highest offensive yard output of the season against them. Both the Cardinals and Broncos had their 3rd most yards gained on the season, while the Titans & Chargers had their 4th best offensive yard output against them. In all, seven of the Browns 16 opponents had top 5 offensive yardage performances against the Browns.

Let me say, I’m a HUGE Ohio State Buckeye fan. That said, I also keep it real. If not a quarterback, the other player that mostly comes up at No. 2 for the Browns is Joey Bosa. This would be another reach of a pick. Bosa is a 265 pound defensive end. That’s great for a team that runs a 4-3 defense. The Browns, however, run a 3-4 that utilizes defensive ends that are closer to 300 pounds. Bosa would have to play outside linebacker, a position he never played in college and it would make no sense to use the No. 2 overall pick on a player that the Browns would have to move to a new position. A pick that high needs to contribute right away and Bosa would be learning a new position that he might never even excel at. If the Browns ran a 4-3 defense, I would like them to take him in a heartbeat, but he just doesn’t fit into their scheme.

Let me tell you why bad NFL teams/organizations struggle. They reach for players based on need in the draft, instead of choosing the best player available. Good to great teams that are only a piece or two away can get away with reaching, but bad teams that need help at multiple positions/units would be better served at improving their overall roster. Time and time again, however, teams like the Browns draft based on need, often times reaching for a player that isn’t as good as many still on the board, and time and time again, the results are poor & regimes are turned over once every two to three years. It’s mindboggling that NFL General Managers haven’t figured out this simple concept.

So who should the Browns draft if they keep the No. 2 pick? I’d go with either cornerback Jalen Ramsey from Florida State or inside linebacker Myles Jack from UCLA. The Browns missed badly on Justin Gilbert two years ago, and still need a consistent player opposite Joe Haden, and Ramsey maybe the best overall player in the draft. All-Pro linebacker Khalil Mack was available for the Browns in 2014, but they chose instead to trade down and ended up with one of their worst top 10 picks in franchise history. Jack definitely has All-Pro level talent and also plays a position the Browns desperately need a playmaker at.

The next big “season” in the NFL off-season is the free agent signing period. While the Browns, like every other team will no doubt add players to their roster, there is no need to spend major money and earn the good graces of many unknowledgeable media members. Teams that end up making huge news during this period, don’t end up making news at the end of the season, unless it’s that they are firing their head coach and/or general manager.

Ok, back to quarterbacks. There’s one in this years draft that intrigues me. His name? Kevin Hogan from Stanford. He’s big and surprisingly mobile for his size and extremely smart. Stanford runs a pro-style offense and Hogan could be ready after a year on the bench. He could last until the third round and if he does, I wouldn’t be mad at the Browns for taking him.

fiesta_bowl_infobox

This is just the sixth all-time meeting between these two blue bloods (Ohio State leads 3-2 SU) with the last meeting in the 2005 Fiesta bowl, a 34-20 Buckeye (-4.5) win. Notre Dame has been in the post season every year under head coach Brian Kelly, going 3-2 SU/2-3 ATS, including beating LSU, 31-28 (+8) in last years Music City Bowl. Kelly was 1-2 SU/0-3 ATS in bowls as the head coach at Cincinnati. Ohio State is 2-1 SU/ATS in bowls under head coach Urban Meyer, winning both last year to become the National Champions. Prior to Ohio State, Meyer was 7-1 SU/ATS in bowls while the head coach at Florida and Utah and he was also the wide receivers coach at Notre Dame from 1996-2000.

Ohio State was expected to repeat as National Champions after returning 14 starters, including three All-American’s! The quarterback play was inconsistent as Cardale Jones and JT Barrett alternated the first seven games and the offense unexpectedly struggled (lost offensive coordinator Tom Herman to Houston). Barrett was named the starter against Rutgers, then was suspended versus Minnesota. He returned to start the last three, but struggled in a downpour in the home loss to Michigan State and workhorse running back Ezekial Elliot was underutilized. Elliot was then given a season high 30 carries in a rout over arch-rival Michigan. The Buckeye’s averaged 429 yards per game, and are No. 7 on defense in the FBS, holding their opponents to 97 yards per game less then they average.

Notre Dame returned 17 starters. Malik Zaire won the starting quarterback job, but suffered a broken ankle and was lost for the year after two games. Redshirt freshman DeShone Kizer has done a solid job in relief. Injuries were the norm for the Fighting Irish and Kelly said that nine starters were lost for the year. Notre Dame lost by two at Clemson despite a 141 yard edge as a defensive holding/pass interference was not called on their two point conversion attempt that would’ve tied the game. They then won six straight and in their regular season finale met Stanford. They lost in Palo Alto by two, allowing the game-winning 45 yard field goal with no time left after taking the lead 30 seconds earlier. They are No. 12 in the FBS, averaging 115 yards per game more then their opponents allow on average.

Notre Dame is just a couple of plays from being undefeated and are 5-1 ATS against bowl teams, outgaining them by 78 yards per game, while Ohio State is 3-5 ATS, but outgained their bowl opponents by 98 yards per game. Urban Meyer is arguably the best big game coach in the nation as he is 9-2 in bowls with three National Titles. The Buckeyes could be in a letdown spot as they expected to be in the playoffs, while Notre Dame is 3-0 as a ‘dog this year. Ohio State is the more talented team and this should be a high scoring game.

citrus bowl

These schools have met twice with Michigan winning the 2002 Outback bowl, 38-30 (-1) and the 2007 Capital One bowl, 41-35 (+11). The Wolverines are back in the post season for the fifth time in the last six years after missing out last year. Their last Citrus bowl appearance was a 45-17 (+3) loss to Tennessee in 2001. Head coach Jim Harbaugh was 1-1 SU/ATS in bowl games while the head coach at Stanford. Florida is bowling for the 24th time in the last 25 years. The Gators beat East Carolina, 28-20 (-7) in Last years Birmingham Bowl, despite being outgained 536-339. Head coach Jim McElwain was 1-0 SU/0-1 ATS as the head coach at Colorado State.

Florida returned just 11 starters and brought in a new head coach with new schemes. Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier had the same role with Michigan last year. The Gators began the season 6-0 with redshirt freshman quarterback Will Grier and a defense that McElwain claimed reminded him of Alabama when he was there from 2008-2011. Grier was then suspended (failed drug test) before the LSU game and Treon Harris took over. They lost to LSU, but won the rest of their regular season SEC games, despite poor quarterback play. Florida needed overtime to defeat a three win Florida Atlantic squad and then were embarrassed by Florida State before getting thumped in the SEC Championship game. The Gators only averaged 231 yards per game in their last three contests, but are No. 6 in the FBS on defense, holding their opponents to 111 yards per game less then their average.

Michigan had a home-run hire in Harbaugh and had 15 returning starters from  a 5-7 team. The players bought into Harbaugh’s intense antics. They lost their opener at Utah, but gained respect with their physical play. At 5-1 they were hosting eventual Big Ten Champion Michigan State and appeared to have the game won, but lost when their punter mishandled a last second snap and they lost a game they never trailed a second of in regulation. They then won four straight, but were embarrassed in “The Game” against arch-rival Ohio State. They are No. 4 in the FBS, holding their opponents to 116 yards per game less then their average.

Gainesville is only 112 miles away from this venue, but the Michigan faithful will travel well. Both teams feature average offenses, but top ten defenses. The Wolverines are better on special teams and Harbaugh has more experience as a head coach in big games. Since the loss of Senior nose tackle Ryan Glasgow, Michigan has given up over 300 yards rushing against Indiana and Ohio State. This should be a low scoring game.

orange-bowl-2015_1451610591805_678791_ver1_0

This is the playoff semifinal. These schools are meeting for the fifth time, the third time in a bowl. Clemson embarrassed Oklahoma in last years Russell Athletic Bowl, 40-6 (+5). This is the eight straight bowl game for the Tigers under head coach Dabo Swinney and they’re 4-3 SU/ATS. Oklahoma has been bowling all 17 years under head coach Bob Stoops and are 8-8 SU/6-10 ATS in those.

When the Sooners enter the season under the radar and not ranked in the pre-season Top ten, watch out. The last two times that happened, they won a National Championship in one and finished No. 6 in the other. They returned thirteen starters and brought in new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley to install the “Air Raid” offense and Texas Tech transfer quarterback Baker Mayfield has thrived. They started the season 4-0, but then were stunned in the “Red River Rivalry” as a 16.5 point favorite, losing 24-17 . Oklahoma then won seven straight, including back-to-back-to-back wins over the Big 12 elite of Baylor, TCU, and Oregon State, and arguably are playing the best football of any team. Oklahoma is No. 15 in the FBS, averaging 111 yards per game more then their foes allow on a average and are #5 in the FBS, allowing 115 yards per game less then their foes average.

Clemson returned just three starters on defense and quarterback Deshaun Watson was coming off an ACL injury. They survived a close home game against Notre Dame, winning by two despite being minus 141 yards and then weren’t challenged again until their home game against Florida State, which they passed with flying colors. After that win, the Tigers no longer needed style points, so they won the rest of their regular season games without having to dominate. Clemson beat North Carolina in the ACC Title game, getting some help from the referees when a phantom offside penalty was called on the onside kick. They are No. 4 in the FBS, averaging 160 yards per game more then their foes allow on average and No. 9 in the FBS, holding their opponents to 101 yards per game less then they average. Watson finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting and is a true dual threat option.

Oklahoma’s offense has been on fire since the loss to Texas, as they are averaging 300 rushing yards per game and 293 passing yards per game! The Sooners are a bit of an unknown still, as they beat their strongest conference opponents all without their starting quarterbacks. Clemson should feel disrespected as a ‘dog in this game, despite being ranked No. 1, but Oklahoma typically does well in revenge games under Stoops.

cotton bowl

This is the Playoff semi-final. Alabama won the only prior meeting, 49-7 (-8) in the 2010 Capital One Bowl. The Crimson Tide were in a similar spot last year as they were nearly a double-digit favorite against Ohio State and lost, 42-35 (-8). Head coach Nick Saban is is 5-3 SU/ATS in bowls at Alabama and was 4-5 SU/ATS in bowls while the head coach at LSU and Michigan State (first meeting against Sparty). Michigan State is bowling for the ninth straight season. They beat Baylor, 42-41 (+2.5) in last year’s Cotton Bowl and head coach Mark Dantonio is 6-4 SU/ATS in bowls.

Michigan State entered this year a legit National Title contender and haven’t disappointed. They got past Oregon, despite being outgained by 104 yards and got a miraculous win at Michigan on a blocked punt returned for a touchdown. They lost at Nebraska on a questionable non-penalized touchdown pass (receiver came back from being out of bounds) with under thirty seconds left. Quarterback Conner Cook was injured in the win over Maryland and missed the Ohio State game. Despite alternating two backups at quarterback, the Spartans beat the defending champs, holding them to just five first downs and 132 total yards (game-winning field goal with no time left). They beat Michigan and Ohio State without leading a single second in regulation. Michigan State beat Iowa in the Big Ten Championship game as they went 82 yards in 22 plays, scoring the game-winning touchdown with 27 seconds left. They are No. 13 in the FBS, allowing 88 yards per game less then their opponents average and their strength is along both lines of scrimmage.

Alabama lost to Ole Miss via a deflected pass, but then steamrolled the rest of their foes in a rare down year for the SEC. Running back Derrick Henry broke Herchel Walkers conference record for most rushing yards in a season and won the Heisman Trophy. They are No. 1 in the FBS, allowing 155 yards per game less then their foes average and held eight of their opponents to either their fewest or second fewest yards.

While Michigan State has one of the top offensive/defensive line combinations in the country, Alabama’s is even better. The Crimson Tide have better talent at every position with the exception of quarterback. Dantonio is 12-1 ATS as a ‘dog, winning nine outright! The Spartans also play their best in big games. Oregon, Michigan, Ohio State, and Iowa combined to average 219 (5.2) rushing yards per game, but Michigan State held them to 81 (2.5), so they matchup well against Henry.