Saturday Evening Toast

The Wolverines & Spartans are likely doomed this week, along with our fantasy picks.

Jeff: All year I've watched my Wolverines with a looming sense of dread. Even if we had pulled out victories against Utah and Toledo, even if we hadn't imploded in spectacular fashion against Notre Dame and Illinois, I knew we were not going to beat Ohio State. This is a difficult thing to deal with. Losing to the Bucks for the seventh time in eight years is not going to be pleasant. Watching Nick Sheridan try to run the offense against one of the better defenses in the Big Ten is going to be painful. I don't think OSU's offense is anything special and under normal circumstances I could see us holding them to 20 or less.

Unfortunately, these are not normal circumstances. Steven Threet, not exactly Pat White on his best day, is out. Nick Sheridan is not a Division I QB. Stephen Schilling, an average RT at best, is out. Brandon Minor will be dinged up if he even plays at all. Who knows where Sam McGuffie's head will be, although he's supposed to play. I see no way we score more than 10 points without Ohio State handing us the ball inside the 20 a few times. The offense will struggle to even string a few first downs together. The defense will wear out sometime in the 3rd quarter, allowing Terrelle Pryor to make a mockery of us. We'll return home the victims of a 42-10 beating. The 2008 season will go into the books as the worst in school history, a status it will probably maintain for decades.

With that said, I'm pretty confident next season will be significantly better. The players will have a full year in the off-season program. Spring practice won't be the mess is was this year. At least a couple of the six offensive linemen who red-shirted this year will be ready to contribute. WRs Junior Hemingway and Terrence Robinson should be healthy. Incoming QBs Tate Forcier and Shavodrick Beaver will, at the very least, push Threet in fall practice. Heck, look at the basketball team. Coming off the worst season in school history, UM hoops upset #4 UCLA in the Garden Thursday night. Maybe these West Virginia coaches just need a year to get things together.

Of course, by next year Terrelle Pryor will be even better than he already is. Let's ignore that terrifying thought and move on to the picks.

Jason: Not so fast my friend.  I'm not all that broken up with Michigan's meltdown this season and the likely spanking they're about to get Saturday.  All year I've watched my Spartans overachieve.  Their offense hasn't overwhelmed anyone and they're sporting a senior quarterback and a running back who was mentioned in the same breath as Heisman into the conference schedule.  Their defense has flat-out gotten it done with smoke and mirrors.  Our favorite game to play around the newsroom is "Name Me an NFL Player on MSU's Roster."  Ringer?  Wiley?  Jones? 

My point is, this isn't a great team despite the fact they have a chance to win the Big Ten title Saturday.  They have a great coach who turned last year's numerous close-game loss lessons into this season's motivational knowledge to gut out close wins.  They have the intangibles which is very valuable.  However, it will take way more than intangibles to win at Happy Valley.  Penn St. owns us there and will likely want a little revenge for our win last year.  My fear-- like Jeff's-- is a beatdown tomorrow for the ages.  Since the Spartans last played all we've heard is "possible Rose Bowl"... "possible Big 10 champs"... "are other schools courting Dantonio?"  I have a bad feeling we're about to get checked by a team that's lost its shot at the National Championship and isn't about to let the Rose Bowl slip away.

Now to the picks.

Jeff's Studs
Jeff Garcia, Antonio Bryant & Warrick Dunn vs. Detroit
It's gonna be ugly.

Lee Evans vs. Kansas City
Seeing Evans put up a goose egg against the weak Cleveland defense last week was stunning. He has a total of six fantasy points in the last three games, so this might be a good time to see if you can get him on the cheap before the trade deadline this week since he has a string of bad secondaries coming at him in the next few weeks.

Derrick Ward vs. Arizona
I don't care how stingy the Cardinals defense is against the run, I watched the Giants humiliate the Ravens front seven a week ago. Now Ward will get the bulk of the carries, assuming Brandon Jacobs doesn't play. Ahmad Bradshaw will also play quite a bit, so he might not be a bad pickup either, but I would imagine Ward will get the goal line carries.

Jason's Studs
Aaron Rodgers at New Orleans
Rodgers and the Pack need this game.  Whether they win it or not, I expect Rodgers to abuse the Saints secondary that is now sans Mike McKenzie for the year.

Terrell Owens vs. San Francisco
First of all, T.O. is way overdue for a 135 yard, 2 touchdown performance.  Second, Romo is back to healthy and ready to sling it til T.O. cries, "That's my quarterback..."  Third, it's T.O.'s old team and no matter which side he's been on, he's always the center of attention when these two teams play. 

Jeff Garcia at Detroit
Speaking of sticking it to your former team.  Like Jeff said, it should be ugly, but I think Garcia will do it on the ground as well.

Jeff's Risk/Reward Players
Justin Gage vs. New York Jets
The Jets have the #4 D against the run, so it seems likely the Titans will have to throw the ball more than usual. Gage has 3 TDs in the last 2 games. That's usually the kiss of death for a free agent pickup (remember when people were scrambling to get Donnie Avery a few weeks ago?) but if you're desperate at WR he might be worth a flier.

Marques Colston vs. Green Bay
The Saints are a really annoying team from a fantasy perspective. They ride Lance Moore for a couple weeks, then switch to Robert Meachem, then David Patton, then Devery Henderson, then Colston, then back to Moore. One of them will have to have a decent game this week, but I wouldn't count on it being Marques against the best pass D in the league.

Peyton Hillis vs. Oakland
Any RB going against the Raiders is usually a great start, but Hillis has a shoulder injury that could flare up. Plus any experienced fantasy player knows that Mike Shanahan is pure evil when it comes to the Running Back By Committee.

Jason's Risk/Reward Players
Jason Witten vs. San Francisco

At one point this year, Witten was Romo's favorite target and ahead of the next tight end in fantasy by 20 points.  A rib injury and 5 weeks later, he's damaged goods that will play, but in how much pain no one knows.  Tough to put him on the bench though.

Brian Westbrook at Baltimore
Westbrook has been either red hot or ice cold this year.  He's facing the Ravens defense this week with a bum knee and ankle.  I'm leaning toward ice cold.

Matt Ryan vs. Carolina
The rookie has looked pretty good this year.  This game should be in his favor being at home against a team he's already seen once this year.  But will the pressure of first place in the division get to the superstar-to-be.

Jeff's Players to Avoid as if They've Been Dipped in Ebola
Chris Johnson vs. New York Jets

CJ looks like he might have hit the rookie wall in the last two weeks. He got nowhere against the Bears and he had a mediocre game against the pedestrian Jags defense last Sunday. Now he has to face the Jets. It's probably a good time to bench him if you have a reasonable alternative.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis vs. Miami
Bill Bellicheck tends to favor his veterans later in the season, and at 5-4 the Patriots have little margin for error the rest of the way. Couple that with Miami having a decent run D and I expect to see a lot of Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk this week.

Kevin Smith vs. Tampa Bay
He's banged up and he's running against one of the better defenses in the league. Leave him on the bench.

Jason's Players to Avoid Like Their Name is Hank Baskett (bass-KETT)
Tim Hightower vs. New York Giants
Edgerrin James is worming his way back into the lineup a little and J.J. Arrington is stealing touches around the goal line.  Plus, if the Cardinals win this week-- which I think they will-- they do it through the air.

Antonio Pittman vs. Chicago
Probably the number one waiver wire pickup this week.  You should be able to spot the fantasy players from pretenders of the ones who own him.  Pretenders are starting him, players will sit him because it's still the Rams and he's up against the Bears.

Kerry Collins vs. NY Jets
How crowded is that Kerry Collins bandwagon?  Yeah.  Let's remember two things: It's still Kerry Collins and the Titans are due to lose.

Jason's Strong Like Bull Picks
Michigan (+20.5) at Ohio St.

Something about the Wolverines upset of UCLA in hoops makes me think they'll put up some sort of fight against the Bucks.  After all, this is their season, right here.

MSU (+15.5) at Penn St.
I know MSU usually soils itself in Happy Valley (see Larry Johnson's 843 rushing yards in the 1st half), but two things make me think they will cover this spread.  Bad weather and MSU's track record of keeping games close under Dantonio.  I don't think they will win but I do think they keep it within 2 touchdowns.

Detroit (+8.5) vs. Tampa Bay
You heard it here first-- THE FIRST WIN FOR YOUR DETROIT LIONS.  I don't want the points, I don't need the points.  The Bucs will shred the Lions D at times, but this is the week Rod Marinelli's boys put it all together and pull a win out of the fire. 

Jeff's Cash Money Picks
Ohio State (-20.5) vs. Michigan

Here comes the pain. And an army of Buck-staches. A commenter in a post earlier this week castigated me for assuming all OSU fans are truckers. He was right. I forgot about the unemployed ex-cons and the guys working at the sewage treatment plant.

Penn State (-15.5) vs. Michigan State
All week I was planning to pick the Spartans, but I keep going back to the MSU-OSU game. Penn State has a much better offense than Ohio State does and they're at home. MSU never seems to play well in Happy Valley.

Tampa Bay (-8) at Detroit
This isn't as much of a lock as it seems. I just don't know how the Lions will have any success moving the ball if Rudi Johnson is the only RB.

Jason's NCAA Picks
Maryland (+1) vs. Florida St.
Getting points at home against an FSU team weaker than Bobby Bowden's bladder is good enough for me.

Texas Tech (+7) at Oklahoma
I think this is Tech's week to lose, but 7 points?  That's a lot for a team that has beaten the best of the best already.

Minnesota (+6) vs. Iowa
Love those home dogs.  Iowa's good, but the Gophers have played well this year, too, and this one's in the dome.

Jason's NFL Picks
NY Jets (+5.5) at Tennessee
The Lions win their first and the Titans lose their first.  It'll be a wacky week in the NFL.

Arizona (+3) vs. NY Giants
The Giants are another team due to drop a game and why not to the high-powered Cardinals on the road?

Green Bay (+2.5) at New Orleans
Aaron Rodgers should torch the Saints secondary, and while Drew Brees will get his, the Packers D is likely to find its way into the endzone too.

Jason's Lock of the Century
Indianapolis at San Diego (+/-49) - take the over

Manning, Wayne, Addai, Harrison versus a weak defense.  Tomlinson, Rivers, Gates versus a weak defense.

2 Weeks Ago: 4-5
Season: 30-37-2
Lock of the Century: 4-3-1

Jeff's NCAA Picks
LSU (-4) vs. Mississippi
I know the whole world is down on LSU because they needed a miracle comeback to beat Troy last week. But come on, they were coming off a heartbreaking loss to Alabama. That kind of thing matters when you're dealing with kids. They'll handle Mississippi with ease.

Utah/BYU +53.5
I like the Utes only giving 7 as well. This is going to be one of those old-school western mid-major shoot-outs. Utah wins and locks up a BCS berth.

Cincinnati (-6) vs. Pittsburgh
When in doubt, always go against the Wann-stache.

Jeff's NFL Picks
Baltimore (-1) vs. Philadelphia
The Eagles seem like a troubled team to me and the Ravens are better than they looked against the Giants last week.

Seattle (+3.5) vs. Washington
Speaking of troubled outfits, say hello to the Washington Redskins. The Seahawks have been playing better as of late and nearly knocked off the Dolphins and Cardinals in the last two weeks. Take the points at home.

Indianapolis/San Diego +49.5
No defenses to be found here. This game is heaven for a fantasy player. At the very minimum, LT, Rivers, Gates, Manning, Wayne, and Addai will be starting in just about every league. Marvin Harrison, Dallas Clark and Chris Chambers are possibilities as well.

Jeff's Lock of the Century
Illinois (-3) at Northwestern
I know the Illini are hit or miss, but Northwestern looked awful against Michigan and only won because Nick Sheridan is Nick Sheridan.

Last Week: 4-4
Season: 38-39
Lock of the Century: 6-3

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