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.
I 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.
We 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.
What 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.
Kyle 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.
The 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!