Thursday, December 5, 2013

Dave's LOCKS of the Week: December 5th

Season's Greetings from

Dave's (ring)
LOCKS (ding)
of the Week (bling!)

This week, we're covering NCAA Conference Championship Week.   Three games from College, and three from the pro's.   I was so excited to jump on Conference Weekend that these college selections were made on MONDAY.  So here we go!

First, we go to Hotlanta, where despite the cold climates this time of year, we have a blazing hot game ready to go for the SEC Championship.  Can you believe that Auburn and Missouri represent this game?   We all had our visions of Alabamas and Carolinas dancing in our head, but no!   Instead two teams in the shadows emerge as possible *national championship* contenders.  What a place to be, the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.   What we're looking at is two pretty good defenses, and spread offenses on both sides of the field.   Passing is not a strength for either team, but either Auburn or Georgia can get the job done.   It's nearly an impossible game to pick, but we want to go chalk and here's why.

I select Auburn to win the game and cover -2.5 because unlike Missouri, still new to the SEC and new to the SEC championship game, I think their coaching is a little suspect.  One of my friends, a Missouri Alum, has no confidence in coach Gary Pinkel's in-game strategy.  We'll heed the advice, and the letdown they had against South Carolina, and go with a more experienced program.   Auburn has had it's own lucky breaks and HOW.  Two games decided by final plays in miracle fashion.  One would think their luck runs out, but I don't see it that way.   For the program, who saw a BCS Championship in 2009, I think experience counts.  Technically this is Gus Malzahn's First year as head coach of Auburn, but he was *on* that Championship Auburn team as an Offensive Coordinator.   He'll take all of his fine athletes and enact a spread that should work toe to toe with an athletic series of Missouri linebackers and safeties.  Nick Marshall can make plays too, and despite the limited passing game, he makes passes in key moments.  QB James Franklin isn't too bad either for Mizzou, but nonetheless, I'm going with Auburn.   If there's one thing I can say about Auburn it's that their players are bigger and taller than what I perceive of Missouri's players.   and when you say "Go Tigers!"  you could be rooting for *either* team, but we will select the team in blue.  Auburn -2.5.

It took a while to explain Game #1 because the matchup is just that close.  It's also defenses that play similarly and styles of offense that are almost the same!  Now to a game that will need no explanation, the Big Ten Championship between Ohio State and Michigan State.   The MSU Spartans had a great year.  They really enjoyed a great year and locked down almost every team they played.  but you know what?  They're just not that good.  That team *still*, even after last year or the year before when they had Le'Veon Bell, has a brutal offense.  You'll see a game where they win 17-6 and that's considered "steamrolling the competition."   They can be easily exploited.  Ohio State, their defense isn't all that great, but they certainly have a way of spreading the ball.  Carlos Hyde and Braxton Miller are playing at a very high level and quite honestly, how is Michigan State going to keep pace with Ohio State's scoring.   I don't fashion Michigan State as a team that can handle great team speed.   Nebraska, I don't know if they'd represent a speedy team, and the same applies to Northwestern.   One might think "Oh I have Michigan State taking *out* Ohio State," but I feel like that's overthinking it.  I like Ohio State to dominate in the Big Ten Championship.  Ohio State -6.

Game #3 is the Pac 12 Championship game and ohhhhh am I waiting for this one!  Everyone out there just loves Stanford don't they?   Check this out though.   Arizona State played UCLA and really dominated them physically.   Arizona State went out to Utah and beat them on the road -- Stanford didn't.  Arizona State destroyed SC.  Stanford didn't.   The only blemish with Arizona State is Stanford itself, but here's the kicker -- the game will be hosted at Tempe, AZ.    I'd give Arizona State more than a fair shot to win this game and win by numerous points.   ASU -3.5.

Now to the pros... this week's article is getting extremely long so we'll keep it simple.

First we start with the Jaguars at home.  They won three games this year, after a BRUTAL start.   Would you believe, all of those were on the road?   The Jags look pretty good.  Fill-in QB Chad Henne is getting his timing down and making some pretty sick passes to guys like Cecil Shorts and RB Maurice Jones-Drew.  I'm not sure what sparked the renaissance, but we'll go to the well again, giving the Jaguars a shot at an unprecedented THREE wins in a row!   Believe it!!  The Jags, who already defeated Houston two weeks ago at Reliant Stadium, will try it again in front of whatever home fans they have left.  I like their chances:  Jaguars +3.5.

Next, to the 'stick where the Niners close out their final month at Candlestick Park (barring playoff games at home).   This week, a familiar foe, the Seattle Seahawks.  It's hard to imagine a letdown by the Hawks after a big game on Monday Night BECAUSE this is a chance to really put away the division in SF.  The 49ers, let's face it, have looked shaky in recent weeks, and really haven't beaten a playoff caliber team this season.  There's a chance for things to change, but I'll go with the odds.  I probably SHOULD just play the Seahawks Money Line at +120, but in the spirit of consistency, I'm going w/ the line... Seahawks +2.5.   Who knows?  Maybe they'll win the game on a walk-off safety or something.

Finally, our long journey ends at the Superdome.  The New Orleans Saints host the Carolina Panthers.  The Saints are licking their wounds after a beat-down in Seattle just a few days earlier.   The Panthers are riding quite a streak with wins in their last 8 games.  It would seem that the streak ends HERE, on the road, in New Orleans, and with New Orleans livid after a woeful effort the week before, but no!!!!   What do almost all of New Orleans' losses have in common?  They were all to physical teams.  Even the Jets!  The JETS beat them in the Meadowlands some weeks ago.   Any team with a knack for running the ball and bringing pressure defensively is going to cause problems.   Would you believe, the Panthers are *defined* by their physicality and their defense?   It's true... their defense has been stupendous all year, and despite the statistical odds pointing to "no," it's time to say a resounding "yes" for Carolina.   New Orleans hasn't lost a home game since December 30 2012... against (wait for it) the Carolina Panthers.  This is their time.  We like the Panthers, provided Cam Newton doesn't make too many bad throws up the middle and provided the Panthers emphasize the run.  We believe DeAngelo Williams can be back for duty this week, adding to the contributions of Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert.  It doesn't seem sensible but we LOVE the Panthers to bring the pain.  Panthers +3.5.

Enjoy all the games as we enter "put up or shut up" time.  Here's the recap:   Auburn -2.5, Ohio State -6, ASU -3.5, Jags +3.5 at home, Seahawks +2.5 at SF, Panthers +3.5 at New Orleans.

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