9-30-09: More baseball and 2009 College Football Picks: Week 5

Hello again everybody...

I hope you had a chance to check out my companion blog: “The Gettysburg Files”. The second post went up today. If you'd like read more about my trip, click here.

It's mid-week and there are plenty of things yet to be decided.

The AL Central is still up in the air. And suddenly the NL Wildcard is very much in play. There are also plenty of college football lines to sort through and evaluate before arriving at the official Sports Take picks.

So much to do, and so little time.

Okay, there's still a decent chunk of time. But the the first way I wrote it sounds so much more impressive, no?

You're right... we should just get to it.

"We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are."
- Anais Nin (1903 - 1977), Cuban-Spanish-French author

Not bad, but I prefer the Obi-Wan version: "'re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view."

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Well the first 2 games of the Twins/Tigers series were both very different than I thought, and yet eerily similar to what I thought.

How do I explain that apparent dichotomy? I'm glad you asked.

On the one hand, having Monday night's game rained out certainly wasn't amongst the options I'd considered possible. Having that game postponed meant a double header yesterday. That changes a lot of things.

It changes how you set up your line-up for starters. Do you play the same nine both games? Do you mix and match depending on the starting pitchers? Are all nine of your guys healthy enough to answer the bell twice in one day? Does it really matter if they're not? Do you have to send them out there anyway?

I promise you both Jim Leyland and Ron Gardenhire had to answer all these questions going into the early game of the day/night double-header.

It also changes the way you use your bullpen. If you have to use your closer to win Game 1, can he come back if needed in Game 2? What about the rest of your pen? Can you afford to warm a guy up twice in one day? Or, perhaps more importantly, can you afford not to?

All of these wrinkles were things I hadn't considered going into the series, because I was blissfully unaware that Mother Nature was going to throw the proverbial wrench into the works.

And yet, for all of those considerations, the first two games went much as I'd anticipated.

It was crucial for the Twins to win Game 1. And they did. Yes, in nail-biting fashion. But it was a win none the less.

The Twins 3-2 victory in Game 1 took some of the pressure off of Game 2. Yes, they still wanted to win Game 2. Knowing they have to get three of four in this series, winning Game 2 would give them something of a cushion going into Game 3.

However, Game 2 presented the tiny little problem of trying to beat Justin Verlander. Not very many teams have accomplished the feat, and given the gravity of the situation, he was likely to be on his game.

And he was just that. Even with Verlander's outstanding performance, the Twins managed to take Detroit to the limit. What looked like a comfortable lead for the Tigers was reduced to a 6-5 victory as the Twins fought until the last out.

So after the split of yesterday's double-header, we stand exactly where we stood as of Monday's column. The Twins remain two in back of Detroit, but now there are only 5 games left to play.

The upside is two of them are against Detroit. The downside is, unless the Twins win those two, their chances of winning the division are slim and none. And slim just put a down payment on a plane ticket to the off-season.

The pitching match-ups in Games 3 and 4 both favor the Twins. Tiger-killer Carl Pavano goes tonight, and Scott Baker goes on Thursday. Detroit counters with a kid who's got 14 games of Major League experience tonight (Eddie Bonine) and a guy who they didn't trust to start for them for 75% of the season (Nate Robertson) goes tomorrow.

But starting pitching is only part of the equation. Who can grab an early lead? Which bullpen outperforms the other? Which team makes a critical defensive mistake? These are all a part of the grand formula of Major League baseball. And they're why fans will be transfixed by every pitch for the next few days.

Can you tell the intensity's been ratcheted up a notch or two? I thought you might.

6:05pm is first pitch tonight. If the Twins score one, Detroit's got to score two. Let's go boys!

(Aside: I've been staring at a blinking cursor for the better part of 10 minutes trying to think of a clever way to transition from the wonder of the stretch drive, to fake college football wagering with no success... Unless... Yes! I've just done it!)

Wednesday also means the revelation of this week's college football picks. And that means I get to drop the bold italics on you again... here they are... my...

2009 College Football Picks: Week 5

I've got to tell you, it's slim pickin's this week ladies and gentlemen. Oh, I've got four picks for you. But I'll be honest in saying I only have a strong feeling about one. I'll do my best with the rest. Just know going in, that I'm probably saving 4-0 for a later week!

As usual, before I get to the real fake picks, here's a game I passed on...

LSU +3 @ Georgia: My first thought upon seeing this line was, “wow, Georgia's been way to up and down to deserve being favored in this game.” Then I thought some more about it. If it's true that the odds-makers give a team three points for being at home, then they're saying that these teams are pretty much even. Which, upon reflection is probably true. And when you're flipping a coin between teams, you'd better make that your Flier Pick or just stay away all together. Me? I'm going to choose the latter.

Now on to the real thing!

As usual, were I to have the wherewithal to make a worthwhile wager, these are the games I'd be betting on this week:

Wisconsin +2.5 @ Minnesota (11am, ESPN/ESPN2): The Badgers are 4-0 (1-0 in the Big Ten). The Gophers are 3-1 (1-0 in the Big Ten).
(*) - This game is this week's Sports Take Flier Pick of the Week.

The Badgers laid the wood to Michigan State last weekend. The Gophers held on for a solid victory at Purdue.

The Badgers have won 11 of the past 15 meetings for Paul Bunyan's Axe. The Gophers have won 4.

The Badgers bring in a junior quarterback making his first start on the road in the Big Ten. The Gophers bring in a sophomore quarterback who's has a full year-plus of experience in the Big Ten.

Neither team has played a Big Ten game in brand-spanking-new TCF Bank Stadium.

Needless to say, there's a lot we don't know about this game, which is why the line is so low.

When that's the case, I'd usually pass on the game all together. But this is my school against it's most hated rival. How can I pass that up?

I have no clue who will win this game. The only thing that would surprise me is a blow-out either way. If I have to pick a game like that, I'll take the points. On Wisconsin!


Alabama -16.5 vs. Kentucky (11:21am, ESPN Gameplan): The Crimson Tide is 4-0 (1-0 in the SEC). The Wildcats are 2-1 (0-1 in the SEC).

Sixteen and a half are a lot of points to give in an SEC contest. But I like my chances here.

Alabama's for real folks. If the win over Virginia Tech didn't tell you that, then the way they dominated an Arkansas team which was coming off a 40-point week should have.

It's entirely possible that their new quarterback (Greg McElroy) is better than their old quarterback (John Parker Wilson), and he got the Tide to within one game of playing for the National Championship.

I know people are in love with the Gators and Tim Tebow*, but I'm not sure that Alabama isn't the best team in the SEC right now.

(* Aside: we may have to re-evaluate Tebow's nickname. I don't recall Superman ever getting a concussion! Even in Superman 3, when he chose to become human, all he got was a bloody nose! Sorry Tim. Maybe we can call you “Batman” or something. He gets concussed all the time. Plus, he's much more bad-ass. Trust me. This could work for you!)

And speaking of Florida, Kentucky just got done getting whipped by the Gators. At the Swamp followed by at Tuscaloosa?! When did head coach Rich Brooks piss off the schedule makers exactly?

Two brutal games in a row, means Kentucky's in a bad way.

That's why I'm picking 'Bama. And that's why I'll give the Wildcats a 16.5-point head start.


Michigan +2 at Michigan State (11am, Big Ten Network): The Wolverines are 4-0 (1-0 in the Big Ten). The Spartans are 1-3 (0-1 in the Big Ten).

Can someone please explain this to me? How in the name of all that's good about recreational gaming are the Wolverines dogs in this game?!

All they've done is win their first four. Yes, their defense has been sporadic at best. But when a kid like Tate Forcier is on this kind of roll? Betting against him is a bad idea.

And can we be honest? The Spartans suck. I hate to say that, because it tempers my enthusiasm over Wisconsin's win last week, but it's true. Michigan State just plain isn't a very good football team right now. They've lost three in a row, and haven't given me any reason to think that they're close to getting the ship righted.

I know this is an intra-state rivalry game. I know you “throw out the record books when these two teams meet”. Blah-blah-blah. Michigan is better than Michigan State. Period. When you believe that, and you're being offered points, you thank the odds-makers for their gaffe and bet the house.

It pains me to say it... but Hail to the Victors. (Damn you Hammer. I know you're smiling right now.)


Stanford -5 vs. UCLA (2:30pm, ABC/ESPN Gameplan): The Cardinal are 3-1 (2-0 in the Pac 10). The Bruins are 3-0 (0-0 in the Pac 10).

I admitted to you in Monday's Post-Mortem that I bet against Stanford merely out of hope that it'd set up a future wagering opportunity against Washington.

So how can the Cardinal make it up to me? By covering the 5 against UCLA of course! Stanford's at home. They can score points in bunches. And Rick Neuheisel has a ways to go before UCLA's a consistent threat.

I wish I had a whole lot more for you on this game. But that's really it. I don't like UCLA all that much, and Stanford cost me a pick last week. So what the hell! Let's take the Cardinal and root for whatever the hell that Tree mascot's supposed to be!

So there you have them. Four picks for your fake-wagering pleasure. Comments, queries, quibbles or complaints? Please attach a comment below and say so!

That's all for today. I'm back on Friday with a DFTU that will either be jubilant, or distraught. The next 18 innings or so will decide.

Until then, thanks for reading!

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