BLOG

It’s that time of year when Thursday becomes the favorite day of the week and Friday the most dreaded (unless you’re insane and like getting beat-up shopping).  Water Cooler Talk always looks forward to Thanksgiving…grilling my bacon-wrapped asparagus as an appetizer, smelling the prime rib cooking, two apple pies in the oven (one for me, one for everyone else), hanging with family and friends, and watching football!  This year is extra special for me, as my Carolina Panthers take the national stage at 4:30 ET.   Seeing as Black Friday and Cyber Monday are right around the corner, Water Cooler Talk has more games than usual to make those bets and get some extra spending dough.  So, with that being said, turn your monitors away from the boss’s view, kick off your shoes for comfort, and prepare to be the sports guru of the office this week.

NCAA FB:

NCAA-College-Football-LogoI want to take a moment to brag on one of my picks from last week.  Michigan State was a 13-point underdog to Ohio State, and as you may recall, I picked the Spartans to win by 3.  Final score from Saturday night, 17-14.  While it didn’t go to overtime, if you took my pick and placed a bet, you made some serious cheddar!  You’re welcome by the way.

While the MSU-OSU outcome is considered an upset, there weren’t too many others to go around from this past week.  We did have a lot of near upsets however, which would’ve changed the landscape of the College Football Playoff Rankings and the AP Top 25.  #4 Notre Dame barely escaped against Boston College in Fenway Park in what was supposed to be a home game for the Irish, but were in BC’s backyard.  #8 Florida needed overtime to beat Florida Atlantic, #17 North Carolina also needed overtime to beat Virginia Tech, and #7 Oklahoma almost blew a 17-point 4th quarter lead to TCU.  Temple and UConn did complete upsets as they beat Memphis and Houston respectively, which assures a change in the bottom half of the AP Top 25.

My top four in the College Football Playoff Rankings for Week 13:

1) Clemson 2) Alabama 3) Iowa 4) Oklahoma

The actual top four in the College Football Playoff Rankings for Week 13:

1) Clemson 2) Alabama 3) Oklahoma and Michigan State

I always look forward to this particular week in college football because of the rivalry games, but also to see who could possibly spoil conference title games and the College Football Playoff Rankings.  Here are a few games I’m keeping an eye on for Friday and Saturday:

WARNING!  Six games picked this week instead of three…so make those bets count!

#15 Navy (-10) at Houston – The Midshipmen are 9-1 on the year and getting little love, but with a win this week and a win against Army next week, we’re looking at a serious bid for a major bowl.  Navy is hard to prepare for and will be too much for Houston, who’s coming off a devastating loss.  Navy wins, 31-21.

#7 Baylor (-10) at #17 TCU  – I wrote off the Baylor Bears, and was I wrong for that or what?  They beat undefeated Oklahoma State within the first 56 seconds of the game of Saturday, leaving the Bears in contention for the top four.  TCU will battle, but Baylor’s depth will prevail.  Baylor wins 35-24.

#8 Ohio State at #12 Michigan (+2.5) – The Buckeyes fell apart during the game and after on Saturday night, but they assure us they’ll rebound for this week.  Jim Harbaugh will frustrate the Buckeyes just like Sparty did, and then we’ll really see the lid blow off in Columbus.  Michigan wins, 18-14.

#11 North Carolina at NC State (+6) – The Wolfpack are riding a hot hand while the Tar Heels look to keep momentum heading into the ACC Championship game against Clemson.  The Tar Heels will be looking too far ahead, letting the Wolfpack get the upset win, 31-27.

#14 Florida State (+3) at #13 Florida – The Seminoles walked through Chattanooga last week while Florida barely defeated FAU.  Florida is already in the SEC Championship game and may be looking too far ahead as they prepare for Alabama.  FSU gets an easy win, 30-20.

#3 Oklahoma (-3.5) at #6 Oklahoma State – Mike Gundy’s squad lost a heartbreaker on Saturday, a game in which would’ve assured them a spot in the top-four.  That loss will prove to be too devastating for the Cowboys, the Sooners get an easy one with a score of 40-24.

And finally, #6 Notre Dame (-2) at #9 Stanford – The Fighting Irish had to travel east to Boston for a “home game” this past week, and now have to take the long flight west to Palo Alto.  Stanford hasn’t made their games pretty much of the year, but neither has Notre Dame.  What I’m saying is, this game could be ugly, but the Irish somehow manage to escape, 20-16.

NCAA BB:

2015-College-Basketball-National-Championship-Odds-and-Predictions-300x282We have a new #1 this week thanks to Northern Iowa defeating the UNC Tar Heels on Saturday afternoon, 71-67.  Now, for the third consecutive year, the Kentucky Wildcats will have held the top ranking at some point throughout the season.  The Wildcats are the clear-cut #1 team right now, and they solidified that notion last week with a double-digit victory over a very good Duke team last Tuesday.

Expect the Tar Heels to come back strong after the defeat.  They are missing PG Marcus Paige who was injured in the preseason with a broken bone in his right hand.  The senior should return next week, which is good timing for the Heels as they face the current #2 Maryland Terrapins in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

NFL:

NFL-logoWhat else needs to be proven for the Carolina Panthers to get the love they deserve?  They didn’t just beat the Redskins, they manhandled them, thanks in part to a defense that forced five turnovers and five touchdown passes from Cam Newton.  Speaking of Mr. Newton, I believe he just became the front-runner for the MVP award.  Next is a matchup with the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving, a Cowboys team that has its swag back now that Romo is under center again.

Sign Brock Osweiler to a long-term contract!  On second thought, let’s hold off on that idea for now.  Replacing Peyton Manning, Osweiler threw for 250 yards and two scores as the Broncos snuck by the Bears.  Can Brock handle the primetime lights against the Patriots this week?  No.

Losing Joe Flacco and Justin Forsett puts a dagger in an already deflating 2015 campaign for the Ravens.  The injuries are still coming fast and furious around the NFL.

I certainly had no intention of watching the game last night, but I did have every intention of falling asleep to it and I did.  I now regret that decision, as apparently ‘WhistleGate‘ occurred.  The Buffalo Bills weren’t the only team robbed however, as the New England Patriots were hurt by the call as well.  Nonetheless, the Patriots got the victory that we all anticipated and remain undefeated on the season.

Seeing as it’s Thanksgiving this week, I’m only going to focus on the Thursday matchups to get you in the turkey mood, and to get you more spending money for Black Friday:

Eagles (-1.5) at Lions – The Lions are on a two-game winning streak and the Eagles are at the end of their rope with Chip Kelly as head coach.  Despite this, the Lions seemingly never win on Thanksgiving, so I’ll take the Eagles to win 21-19.

Panthers at Cowboys (+1.5) – The Panthers are coming off a dominating 28-point victory and the Cowboys are 3-0 with Romo under center, 0-7 without.  Make it 3-1 as the Panthers distract the Cowboys with the ugly color rush uniforms 26-17.

Bears at Packers (-8.5) – I don’t want to say the Packers are back just yet, but if they do anything remotely close to what they did against the Vikings, it’ll be a cakewalk.  Packers annihilate the Bears 28-18.

NASCAR:

NASCAR-logo-268x130Kyle Busch is your 2015 Spring Cup Series Champion after winning at Miami-Homestead in the series finale last night.  Busch overcame incredible odds to earn his first title.  A broken ankle and broken foot sidelined him for nearly one-third of the year at Daytona in February in the Xfinity Series, an injury that takes up to eight months to recover from.  When he had to win, he did.  While fans would’ve liked to have seen Jeff Gordon ride into the sunset as a champion, there’s no arguing that Kyle Busch deserves to be this year’s champion.

Speaking of Jeff Gordon, the ride is over.  He fought hard all night to get the top spot, but just didn’t have the car to get it done.  It’s going to be strange to watch the first few races of 2016 without seeing or hearing Jeff Gordon’s name and car.  Love him or hate him, Jeff Gordon was a great driver (93 wins and 4 championships) and a great spokesperson for the sport.

Jeff, if miraculously you read this, thank you for everything you’ve done in NASCAR and best of luck with your future endeavors.

MLB:

1280px-Major_League_Baseball.svgThe Los Angeles Dodgers have signed their new leading-man, and it’s a name that’s surprising to those who don’t follow baseball closely.  Dave Roberts takes over a very talented, yet current team in flux right now due to free agents and a large salary number.  Roberts, who is most famously known for his steal of second base in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS for the Boston Red Sox, served as the bench coach for the San Diego Padres last season.  In a game where numbers are defining decisions in the front office and the field, Roberts fits the analytical approach the Dodgers are taking, a role in which Don Mattingly didn’t fit which ultimately led to his firing.

Like what you see?  Follow me on Twitter and share your experience of being the sports guru of the office, or even better, let me know if you took any bets this week.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

 

It’s a sad day for Water Cooler Talk. We had to watch the 2015 MLB season come to an end on Sunday night (or Monday morning rather). Today marks the official halfway mark in the regular season of the NFL…weren’t we just getting excited for the preseason? Water Cooler Talk was right on some predictions…but the guilt felt for missing on others weights heavily. Let’s try to turn those frowns upside down, and let’s get Water Cooler Talk on the right track for this week as we prepare you to be the sports guru of the office.

MLB:

1280px-Major_League_Baseball.svgThe series didn’t go seven games as I predicted and Lorenzo Cain didn’t win the MVP despite a phenomenal performance in game five. The bullpens for both sides were the difference, and the Mets were on the losing end of that prediction. Games 1, 4, and 5 were blown by the Mets, but give credit to the Royals, they made opportunities happen when the chances arose.

The Royals just seemed destined to win it all this season after what happened to them last year in the World Series, and after 30 years of waiting, that organization and that patient fan base can now call themselves champions. Now we can look forward to free agency and wonder what will happen with Johnny Cueto. The Royals need an “A” starter on their squad, but the question is whether they’ll be big spenders.  I know the Royals would like to have Cueto back rather than just having him as a three-month rental.  Expect a signing to happen at the Winter Meetings.

Credit has to be given to the Mets as well. No one expected them to win the NL East and no one gave them a chance against the Dodgers in the NLDS. The front office made the right moves during the season to bolster their bench with Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson, and of course made the big splash by acquiring Yoenis Cespedes at the trade deadline. The rebuilding is complete and now it’s time to spend money. Cespedes and Daniel Murphy are free agents, both of which should be priority 1A and 1B to keep on the squad. The Mets should also look to upgrade the bullpen as they need arms that can solidify the 7th and 8th innings and they could probably use a shortstop.  The starting rotation is set for at least the next four years, so the organization can build around that and have little doubt of contending for the NL East crown during that stretch.

NASCAR:

NASCAR-logo-268x130I haven’t given much attention to this sport despite being in the playoff season, and for that I apologize. I’ve failed to mention the drama since the Chase began…until now. Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth got together for the third straight week, resulting in Logano desperately needing a win or top-five finishes in the next two races to compete for the crown at Homestead. Would Logano have won if this incident didn’t occur? It’s hard to say. Jeff Gordon was solid as he usually is at Martinsville, and ultimately did win which assures him he’ll contend for the title at Homestead in the finale.

The drama is exciting for fans like myself and helps with ticket sales and TV ratings. However, a line must be drawn somewhere. If Kenseth isn’t parked for Texas this week I’d be surprised.

NCAAF:

1000px-NCAA_logo.svgTemple held their own on Saturday as they hosted Notre Dame, a game which surprised the “experts”, but not me. I thought Temple would win by two, but lost by four. Still, it’s nice to see small schools contend with the “big boys” of college football and I expect the Owls to win out and contend for a bid in a major bowl. Then there’s the Tar Heels of UNC, who jumped into the AP Top 25 after their defeat of Pitt. The ACC race is getting exciting…and no one is talking about it.

Speaking of an exciting ACC, did you see what happened between Miami-Duke? The officiating crew has been suspended, but if you ask me that crew should never officiate in the ACC again. Perhaps the Southern Conference would be a fitting conference for that crew (and that is not a knock on the SoCon…I’m just speaking hypothetically).

The game to watch for this week is LSU-Alabama.  The 7th ranked Tigers and the 4th ranked Crimson Tide look to secure their spot in the SEC Championship game this week.  Bama has no chance with a loss since they lost to Ole Miss earlier in the season.  LSU and Bama have had fantastic battles over the last several years and I expect the same for Saturday night.  I give LSU the edge because they can control the clock with Leonard Fournette in the backfield and they have the better defense.  LSU wins 28-21.

NFL:

NFL-logoWas I wrong about the Packers-Broncos game or what? Of course I wasn’t the only one, as everyone expected the Packers to win outside of the state of Colorado. That defense is legit, so legit that Aaron Rodgers was held to 77 yards passing…the entire game! Peyton threw for 340 yards and Demaryius Thomas looked like DT again with 8 for 168. The Broncos should cruise to week 12 when they face the Patriots.

It was a rough Sunday for Steelers Nation. First, they watched Le’Veon Bell get carted off the field with what is now a torn MCL, finishing his season. Then they had to watch the Bengals come from behind to win 16-10, which pretty much wraps up the AFC North. I know it’s only week 9, but let’s face it…that division is locked.

We may have seen the end of Steve Smith after he tore his Achilles on Sunday, which ends his retirement season. As a huge fan of Smitty, I hate to see this happen to him. Will 2015 really be his last season? It’s tough for anyone to come back from this injury, let alone a 36-year old player. But if anyone can do it, it’s Smitty, and I wouldn’t be shocked at all if he ‘Iced Up Son’ and came back for a 16-game farewell campaign in 2016.

Scoring is what the fans want, that’s what I’ve heard for years anyway.  Well they got it on Sunday when the Saints and Giants left their defenses in the locker room, as the Saints won the game 52-49.  Drew Brees had 7 TD passes while Eli Manning had 6.  Call me old school, but I like defense and don’t care to see triple-digit points put up in a game.

For the first 50 minutes of the game there wasn’t much to talk about except how the torrential downpour made both teams sloppy.  It was those final 20 minutes that are worth talking about between the Colts and Panthers on Monday Night Football.  Andrew Luck and the Colts looked awful offensively through three quarters, with Luck throwing 2 INTs and losing a fumble while throwing for less than 90 yards.  Then when the Panthers took a 23-6 lead, the Andrew Luck we know and love showed up and made the comeback to force overtime.  After exchanging field goals on the opening possessions, Luck threw his third pick which let Graham Gano kick the game-winning 52-yard field goal to keep the Panthers undefeated at 7-0.

The Colts did make a miraculous comeback by opening up the field and wearing down a thin defensive line for the Panthers.  But the other story of this game was the awful officiating.  They missed offensive pass interference on Andre Johnson in the 4th quarter when he scored a touchdown, called Greg Olsen for a hold that didn’t happen, marked Griff Whalen out of bounds when he was inbounds on the Colts last drive of the 4th quarter, and those are just the big calls.  Trust me…there were more.  That officiating crew will not be at Super Bowl 50.

Now I look ahead to Week 9 and the intriguing matchups just aren’t there this week.  There is however the Packers and Panthers which should be an exciting matchup.  Both teams have injuries, the Packers have linebacker and secondary issues while the Panthers have offensive and defensive line issues.  The Packers haven’t lost to Cam Newton since coming into the league in 2011, until this week.  Carolina moves to 8-0 with a 27-21 win.

That’s all for this week.  Be sure to follow me on Twitter to share your thoughts and to send those pictures of you standing around the water cooler talking to your co-workers.  Have a great week everyone.