The new season is upon us and 2016-2017 may provide a repeat of last year. Alabama lost a lot of talent off of last year’s National Championship team however at Alabama they do not rebuild, they reload. The offensive line should punish defenses and provide gaping holes for a bevy of runners to field running room. However, the Tide may have lost too much from last year’s title team to repeat. Clemson on the other hand is looking to capitalize on having Heisman hopeful Deshaun Watson back for another year. Watson will have to put up a ton of points week after week because the Clemson defense will not be as stout as last year. Michigan has been everyone’s preseason darling but may still be one more Harbaugh recruiting class away from making it to the final 4.
LSU returns nearly everyone this year and it definitely helps having a beast at running back that LOVES the college experience. LSU gets both Ole Miss and Bama on their home turf which could be the big difference when it’s all said and done. LSU will represent the SEC in the playoffs this year and eventually bring the trophy back to Louisiana. What better way to boost the community than to bring a trophy home and give the great fans of Louisiana something to cheer for. LSU National Champion - +900
Florida State returns an entire offense from a team that was tough to stop last year. This consistency will help the Seminoles play for a National Championship this year but unfortunately for the ACC fans out there, the SEC takes another crown this year. Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield will march the Sooners back to the big 4 but they will not survive the semifinals again this year. The fourth spot is really up for grabs and could go in one of several directions. If UCLA or Stanford can survive a tough schedule this year, they will represent the Pac12 in the final 4. Notre Dame has had several issues in the offseason to deal with which will prove to be too much to overcome, leaving them on the outside looking in again this year. Tennessee will represent the other half of the SEC in the SEC title game and if they do not get embarrassed they could give the SEC two representatives in the final 4. If Houston can somehow beat the Sooners week 1, look for them to play spoiler and crash the party!
National Championship Play – LSU +900 Darkhorse Play – Florida State +1600
Other Props – Ohio State will NOT play in Final 4 Odds: -210; Oklahoma WILL play in the Final 4 Odds: +160; Heisman winner Leonard Fournette Odds: +500
AAC will be Houston’s to lose, returning 8 defensive starters and reloading on offense. South Florida will make a run at the title with Marlon Mack carrying the mail but ultimately the Cougars are too deep and well coached not to take this Conference title. Current Line is even money Houston takes the title.
ACC on the outside looking in appears to be a two horse race between Clemson and Florida State. Based on earlier projections, the pundits will be shocked if one of these two teams isn’t the conference champ however, keep Louisville on your radar because Lamar Jackson is going to turn some heads and put up some monster games this year. Louisville is getting a huge price to win the conference so feel free to dabble on that if you’re so inclined.
Big 12 is Oklahoma’s to lose and gets to take advantage of a down year for Baylor, a rebuilding unit in Texas, a civ like defense in West Virginia and inexperienced offensive unit at TCU. Oklahoma State will be a tough out because of all the returning starters but ultimately the Sooners win the conference title. Current odds are Oklahoma -150.
Big 10 will be a changing of the guard year. The Wolverines are loaded from top to bottom and Ohio State lost nearly everyone but the water boy to the draft. It’s now or maybe never for Michigan to get a title back to Ann Arbor and continue to build the brand while winning the recruiting battle across the country. Iowa’s defense will be tough but big picture this is the year Michigan fans have been waiting for a long time. Current Line has Michigan at +150 to bring the hardware home.
Conference USA is really up for grabs this year. Throw a dart at the list of teams if you’re so inclined. If forced to make a selection the lean would be on the ultimate dark horse Rice. Rice is returning a ton of starters and current price is +1800. Good money for a random wager.
The MAC will be another up and down battle across the board and Western Michigan will be looking to survive a tough non-conference schedule. As long as their confidence doesn’t wane they will have enough in the tank to compete for the West Division title and play for the Conference title. Kent State on the East side will be a tough out this year after being the Conference doormat last year. Kent State takes the Conference Title and pays you a handsome +1200.
The Mountain West will more than likely come down to Boise State in the Mountain Division and San Diego State bouncing back after a bad year last year to represent the West Division. Boise State returns to form and brings home a title at a decent price of +140.
The Pac12 will be the most exciting brand of football you will watch all year. The trick will be for anyone on the East Coast to stay awake to see these high flying games. Christian McCaffery (Stanford) will once again be a human highlight real but he may not be able to go at it alone. If you asked a few years ago will Washington State ever be back, the answer may have been no. But the Cougars are back and appear to be in a good position to take the North Division. Utah will be a tough out on the South side of the division but “Chosen” Rosen and the UCLA Bruins will represent the South. UCLA is the play to take the Conference crown at a decent +400 price.
The SEC will once again be the premier conference in all of college football and will ultimately be a playoff weekend every weekend for the majority of the teams within the conference. As mentioned LSU takes the Conference Title but Tennessee, Ole Miss, Georgia and Arkansas will all be tough outs week after week. Alabama will look to repeat but has lost too much from last year’s dominant defense. LSU is currently +250 to take the title.
Pittsburgh Repeat? We don't think so! The greatest thing about the NHL is unlike some leagues, ahem NBA, there is a ton of parody to the league. Right now at VegasInsider.com the largest odds for anyone to win the Stanley Cup is 75/1 between 3 teams (Hurricanes, Maple Leafs and Canucks). In the other 3 major sports odds can get as high as 200-1, I have even seen them at 500-1 but thats usually just the Cleveland Browns!
The 2016-17 NHL season sets up to be a great regular season with down to the wire drama for wild card sports and the Presidents Trophy. With just over a month to go until the World Cup of Hockey we look forward to the NHL season with some bold predictions to award winners, conference winners and the 2016-17 NHL Stanley Cup winner! Lets begin:
James Norris Memorial Trophy (Best Defenseman)
Winner: P.K. Subban
Now this may not be BOLD in many minds since he won this trophy in 2012-13 with the Canadiens but I think many of us can agree that was not warranted considering he has very mediocre stats and the Canadiens got spanked by the Senators in the 1st round of the playoffs. The Montreal Canadiens did him a favor by trading him to the Nashville Predators. The Canadiens are heading in the complete opposite direction that the Preds are and with the success Nashville has had in the defense over the last couple of seasons and what I will call a very mediocre career will blossom into finally a career year for P.K. He has only reached 60 points once, and is averaging 10+ goals a game in his 1st full 6 seasons with some minor injuries during those years he still hasn't performed where he should be. He is a 25+ goal scorer. He gains most of his points in the assists but with the addition of Josi on his line this year his scoring chances should go up and the Predators Power Play which was 10th in the league last year will be at least a top 5 team this upcoming season!
Art Ross Trophy (Points Leader)
Winner: Steven Stamkos
In the 8 seasons that Stamkos has been in the league he has lost more than half the season twice due to injury and just last year missed just about all of the Lightning's playoffs due to injury. Even in 6 full played seasons, in three of them he has over 90 points, which compared to PTS leader totals over the last 10 years is just about where he need to be to make a run at the Art Ross Trophy. The Lightning have keep the entire core of the franchise in tact for the upcoming season (still waiting on Nestorov which will make or break this prediction) and with a healthy and hungry Stamos in the lineup putting up 100 PTS should be attainable. The real question is- Who becomes that guy out of nowhere to start off on a record pace...maybe Benn?
Vezina Trophy (Best Goaltender)
Winner: Jake Allen
In the last 10 years in the NHL the Vezina Trophy winner has averaged 2.084 GAA. While Allen is well above that at 2.34 GAA (a little bit skewed with his 1st season in the league abbreviated) his Save Percentage, Wins, Shutouts, basically every other statistical category has increased.each year. The only thing that has held him back is the fact that he has been plagued by injury and even though there were talks of Elliot winning his spot back, its not going to happen! Allen this season if healthy will post a sub 2.10 GAA with a Save Percentage around .950. on his way to his first (but not last) Vezina Trophy.
Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP)
Winner: Evgeni Malken
Some may say that Malken is the most overrated player in the NHL, we think Malken is the most overshadowed player in the NHL. On a team with Crosby, Kessel, Fluery that also had greats like Lemieux and Jagr its easy to not think of one of the biggest components of the Pittsburgh Penguins.Evgeni Malken has been a recipient of this trophy in the 2011-12 NHL season so this isn't quite that much of a stretch. What will be the stretch is if he can play in enough games to be eligible. It feels like a common theme in our BOLD predictions, but once again we have another player that has been bitten by the injury bug. Malken has only played in over 70 games in an NHL season four times in the 10 years he has been in the league. Three of the four years he played in 70+ games he has scored over 100 points, had 59+ assists and scored 47+ goals. Here is our equations 75+starts= Hart Memorial Trophy.
Now some really BOLD predictions:
Eastern Conference Champions
Winner: New York Islanders
The Islanders took a step in the right direction last year with. Lets start with right off the bat they signed Chimera, what a great offensive weapon to add to the 11th best offense in the NHL. That signing should propel them into the top 10 this year. In the past decade the thing that has kept the Islanders mostly in a position to win a Conference Championship has been their defense and goaltending, and shocker, Halak was out 28 games last year with injury including the entire playoffs, who knows maybe with Halak in goal they beat Tampa.....and with a 4-1 record over the Pens in the last 2 years....maybe just maybe this happens last year. However, it did not, but we love them representing the East in the Stanley Cup Final this upcoming season!
Western Conferene Champions
Winner: St. Louis Blues
We first want to say that like the Islanders pick the key to success in winning a Conference Championship, or even a Stanley Cup at that matter is goaltending. With our Vezina Trophy winner pick with Allen this can't come to as a shock, but it is an interesting pick as the West is very deep and last year we saw the emergence of some new teams like Dallas and Nashville. The Blues offense was the one thing that needs improvement if they are wanting to win the West, but additions like Perron (staying healthy), the resigning of Schwartz (staying healthy) and getting rid of and overrated Backes (Boston) will help what was a very bad 5v5 team. Don't get us wrong, the Power Play was great, actually 6th in the NHL but after teams figured out that penalties were not a good thing to take against the Blues it was all over! Look for a great core to come back with a much improved offense and stellar goaltending (even when Allen is out, Hutton is great too.) to take the West!
Stanley Cup Champions
Winner: St Louis Blues
Two Words- Jake Allen.
You can never see more chaos of a trade deadline in any other sport than the MLB. This year in particular was rather hectic. Contenders were in a minute to minute battle trying to match each other move in a baseball chess match! We saw things this past weekend that we have never seen before, like the Yankees selling and waving the white flag! Although, they will never admit they waived the white flag trading there two best back end relievers as well as their top RBI leader it was very obvious to everyone else. The Indians must have felt a little bit of the Cavs championship running through their veins as they went out and got the Bullpen help they needed, and fellow American League 1st place Rangers made a huge splash catapulting them to the odds on favorite to win the AL Pennant. The Cubs, Indians, and Rangers all made huge splashes at the trade deadline but those teams were already on a collision course to make the playoffs and make some noise, lets take a look at some teams that positioned themselves to make a run at October baseball:
San Francisco Giants
The Giants were on the verge of being a team that was guaranteed to be in October but the Dodgers and a slew of wild card teams are not too far behind so they made a couple small but very fortuitous moves. The greatest part of playing at PNC Park is that its a pitchers park, however, you need pitchers who can keep the ball in the yard! Cain and Samardzjia respectfully are not a #3 starting pitcher in the league, even despite some stellar seasons in previous years. Cain is averaging 1.67 HR/9inn and Samardzija is not much better at 1.28 HR/9inn. Thus the need to go out and acquire Matt Moore from the Rays with giving up almost nothing in return with Duffy/ Santos and Fox. Duffy was hitting .250 this season and with Gillaspie ready to take the everyday 3rd base duties so the upside of Moore is a steal in this trade. With many teams trying to find postseason baseball success the bullpen is always an aspect to look at and they found a great guy in Will Smith (no not the Fresh Prince of Bel Air) but a middle reliever who has paid his dues to the Brewers. Smith's numbers are not that great this year, but he will be a great addition to help with holds/ setup Casilla especially since all they had to do was give up a couple of mid-level prospects! Look for the Giants to slowly pull away from the Dodgers and lock up that division by mid-September!
Toronto Blue Jays
O'Canada.....you decided that this is going to be the year you go for it! Although last year would have been a great year to go for it as well, just saying. I digress, the Blue Jays made quite a bit of mediocre moves near the trade deadline but all of those acquisitions put them in line to overtake the Orioles. The Blue Jays took the " Low Risk, High Reward" with obtaining a lot of "old" players who might still have a little left in the gas tank. Lariano, Scott Feldman and BJ Upton.....excuse me....Melvin Upton Jr. were three great acquisitions to add some veteran leadership to the AL East contender especially with little given up in Hutchinson and some prospects! I know what your thinking, how do you give up Hutchinson? I think we can all agree that the Blue Jays bats are FINE! What they got was some great leadership and some October arms, not starters, but some mid to late inning bullpen arms that might be what they need to get over the hump over mediocracy which probably seems a little ironic!
These two teams look to make a deep postseason run in their respective leagues. Who knows maybe the chalk will prevail in the end, but we guarantee this: If these two teams do not win the World Series, both pennant winners will go through these teams come October!