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Author Archives | Brian Polking

2016 College Football Picks & Predictions: Top Non-Conference Games

2016-College-Football-Picks-and-Predictions2016 College Football Picks & Predictions: Top Non-Conference Games: While a majority of the top rivalries in college football are between conference opponents, out-of-conference battles between top teams can be just as exciting. The need for a signature out-of-conference win has only become more important with the advent of the College Football Playoff, and if two conference champs are both vying for one spot, a big win against a power team from another conference can often tip the scales. With that in mind, here is a closer look at the top non-conference games on tap for the 2016 college football season. Don’t forget to check out NSAwins.com all season long for the nation’s best 2016 college football picks and expert college football predictions against the spread.

2016 College Football Picks and Predictions: Top Non-Conference Games

  1. Alabama Crimson Tide vs. USC Trojans

The defending champs will take on a traditional power September 3 in Arlington, Texas, and believe it or not, this will be the first time the Crimson Tide have faced a Pac-12 team since 2001. Former USC coach turned Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin adds some extra drama, but this game is all about which side opens the year with a statement win. Alabama will be favored, but the Trojans will be playing with nothing to lose, and an upset could fuel a USC resurgence while an Alabama loss would all but force Nick Saban and company to run the table in the vaunted SEC in order to reach the College Football Playoff.

  1. Ohio State Buckeyes at Oklahoma Sooners

This September 17 showdown between national title hopefuls could have major playoff implications down the road, especially if both sides slip up once in conference play. Bottom line, a win will be a huge resume booster for whichever side comes out on top. Oklahoma will be playing at home with a ton of firepower back from last year’s playoff team, but despite losing a ton of talent to the NFL Draft, underestimating the retooled Buckeyes would be a huge mistake. Digging deeper, Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield and OSU QB J.T. Barrett could also use the game to jumpstart a serious Heisman push.

  1. Ole Miss Rebels vs. Florida State Seminoles

In another opening weekend battle of juggernauts, the Rebels and Seminoles will meet September 5, in Orlando, Florida. Both teams are in similar spots this year with FSU looking up at Clemson in their division and Ole Miss stuck in the brutal SEC West. However, a big out-of-conference win could give both sides some wiggle room to make the playoffs with one loss, particularly the Rebels. Plus, Florida State RB Dalvin Cook and Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly should put on a show as they try to bolster their own Heisman resumes while helping their teams notch a huge statement win.

  1. Clemson Tigers at Auburn Tigers

The last time Clemson took the field, the Tigers fell short of defeating Alabama for the national title. When Clemson opens this season, they will again face an SEC West foe. Of course, the Auburn Tigers aren’t exactly the Crimson Tide, and Clemson should and will be favored in this game. The question is can Deshaun Watson and company take care of business on September 3, or will Auburn use home-field advantage to fuel a massive upset and potentially derail Clemson’s title hopes before it begins. Watson and Clemson better come ready to play.

  1. Oklahoma Sooners vs. Houston Cougars

The Sooners are coming off an appearance in the College Football Playoff, and they have the pieces in place to make a return trip. However, the Houston Cougars represent a potentially tricky opponent in a September 3 opener. Keep in mind that Houston went 13-1 last year, knocking off Florida State in a bowl game. Of course, Oklahoma has better athletes, but if an underdog is going to spring an upset, the first game of the year is the perfect time to do it. Houston could easily run the table in the AAC, and if they also have a win over the Sooners on their resume, a playoff spot is a real possibility.

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2016 College Football Predictions: Ohio State Buckeyes 2016 Football Team Preview

2016-College-Football-Picks-and-Predictions2016 College Football Predictions: Ohio State Buckeyes 2016 Football Team Preview: The Buckeyes entered the 2015 season with visions of back-to-back national titles. However, a slip up against Michigan State ultimately kept them out of the Big Ten title game and out of College Football Playoff. An impressive win over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl validated the Buckeyes as one of the best teams in the country, but given the expectations, last season was a bit of a letdown for Urban Meyer’s bunch.

The situation is different heading into 2016. There were a lot of Buckeyes that heard their names called during this year’s NFL Draft, so after returning nearly everyone last year, there will be a lot of new faces starting on both sides of the ball. The question for Ohio State is whether the lack of experience will keep this group from being in contention for both the Big Ten and a national championship.

2016 College Football Predictions: Ohio State Buckeyes 2016 Football Team Preview

The Good News

A quarterback controversy hovered over the Buckeyes throughout last season, and it likely had a lot to do with why the offense never seemed to click. This time around, dual-threat weapon J.T. Barrett is the unquestioned starter, and the last time he had the reins of the offense, he finished fifth in the Heisman voting. While Barrett will lead the offense, linebacker Raekwon McMillan will provide will serve as a playmaker and leader for a revamped defense. Perhaps most importantly, Meyer has been accumulating a wealth of talent in Columbus, so while the Buckeyes will have a lot of new starters, they also have as much natural talent and athleticism as any team out there.

The Bad News

The Buckeyes didn’t just lose a bunch of starters. The lost a lot of high-end talent. Ohio State sent 14 players to the NFL, including five in the first round. Losing running back Ezekiel Elliott and defensive end Joey Bosa leaves the Buckeyes without their biggest playmakers on both sides of the ball, and perhaps more concerning, the secondary was absolutely gutted. For a team looking to break in new pieces, Ohio State’s schedule doesn’t do any favors. The Buckeyes will go on the road to face Oklahoma in a huge out-of-conference matchup, and they also travel to Wisconsin and Penn State before November. Meanwhile, rivals Michigan State and Michigan are waiting to close the regular season.

Bottom Line

It is never easy to overcome massive personnel losses, but Ohio State is one of the few teams that has the talent to remain competitive while rebuilding. Barrett should shine as the leader of the offense, and the team as a whole should only improve as the year goes on. Unfortunately, the Buckeyes don’t have a lot of time to improve before facing some tough tests, and the lack of experience on the offensive line and in the secondary could be particularly troublesome. Going on the road and beating Oklahoma in the first month of the season seems like a longshot, and back-to-back road games against the Badgers and Nittany Lions could result in another defeat. A still expect Ohio State to reach double-digit wins, but I think a run at a title will have to wait until 2017.

Prediction: 10-2, 2nd in Big Ten East Division

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2016 College Football Expert Picks: Oklahoma Sooners 2016 Football Team Preview

2016-College-Football-Picks-and-Predictions2016 College Football Expert Picks – Oklahoma Sooners 2016 Football Team Preview: Just when people were beginning to question whether or not Bob Stoops and the Sooners were slipping a bit on the national scale, Oklahoma captured the Big 12 title in 2015 and earned a spot in the College Football Playoff. Granted, the Sooners went down to Clemson in the semifinals, but with plenty of talent back from last year’s group, expectations are sky high for the Sooners heading into the 2016 season. Now, Stoops and company just have to be able to back up the all the preseason hype.

2016 College Football Expert Picks: Oklahoma Sooners 2016 Football Team Preview

The Good News

Quarterback Baker Mayfield emerged as a dual-threat weapon last year and ended up finishing fourth in the Heisman voting. He is back under center for what should be one of the top offenses in the country, and with running back Samaje Perine also back in the mix, defenses will have to pick their poison when deciding who to try to shut down. The offensive line should also be better since both tackles will have a year of experience after being thrust into the fire as freshmen last year. Defensively, the secondary should be one of the best around, and the Sooners should have a rock solid defensive unit overall. Last but not least, Austin Seibert proved to be clutch and reliable in the kicking game last year, and he was only a freshman.

The Bad News

As good as Mayfield was for the Sooners last year, he did suffer a couple of concussions. Part of what makes him special is his ability to make plays with his legs, especially in the red zone. If he has to miss extended time with an injury, Oklahoma’s high-powered offense will become a lot less intimidating. The Sooners will also have to replace their two best pass-rushers, and if Oklahoma can’t put some pressure on opposing quarterbacks, it is going to be bad news in the pass-happy Big 12. The conference schedule is actually favorable, but out-of-conference matchups against Houston and Ohio State within the first three weeks of the season make for a ridiculously tough start to the year. If the Sooners start slow, their title hopes will be over before they even begin.

Bottom Line

Oklahoma returned to prominence last season, and while reaching the College Football Playoff was a feat in its own right, the Sooners have all the pieces in place to return to the playoff this year and win the whole thing. The Sooners have balance on both sides of the ball, and they also have balance on offense thanks to Mayfield and Perine. Over the course of the year, there are going to be games when a team just doesn’t fire on all cylinders, but when a team has balance, they can still win those games.

Yes, Oklahoma faces a tough schedule, but getting Ohio State early on benefits the Sooners more than the Buckeyes since Urban Meyer’s bunch just lost 14 starters to the NFL. An early road game against TCU is also to Oklahoma’s benefit since the Horned Frogs lost their four best offensive weapons, including quarterback Trevone Boykin. Meanwhile, the Sooners get Baylor and Oklahoma State at home, and who knows what state the Bears will be in after all the controversy swirling around that program. I wouldn’t rule out one misstep along the way, but Oklahoma is the team to beat in the Big 12.

Prediction: 11-1, Big 12 Champions

Get updated 2016 College Football odds for the 2016 season daily on NSAwins.com including updated odds to win the 2017 National Championship. NSAwins.com’s is America’s premier website for the best college football picks from the best football handicappers.

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2016 College Football Bowl Predictions: Predicting the New Year’s Six Matchups

2016-College-Football-Bowl-Picks-and-Predictions2016 College Football Bowl Predictions: Predicting the New Year’s Six Matchups: The 2016 college football season is still more than a month away, but it is never too early to fast forward to the end of the year and predict which teams will earn the coveted spots in the New Year’s Six bowl games, including the four spots in the College Football Playoff. Granted, injuries and upsets can change the picture in a hurry, but in the meantime, here is a closer look at my early college football bowl predictions.

2016-2017 College Football Bowl Predictions: Predicting the New Year’s Six Matchups

Peach Bowl (College Football Semifinal): Clemson Tigers vs. Michigan Wolverines

After coming up just short of a national title last year, I expect Clemson to be back with a vengeance in 2016. More importantly, I don’t see them losing a game with dynamic dual-threat quarterback Deshaun Watson leading what should be one of the most explosive offenses in the country. The Tigers can run the table and enter the College Football as the No. 1 team. I am much less confident about their potential opponent, but Michigan’s defense should be downright nasty. Meanwhile, I trust that Jim Harbaugh will find a serviceable quarterback and turn the Wolverines into one of the most physical teams in the country. With Ohio State and Michigan State rebuilding a bit, Michigan could roll through the Big Ten and in the playoff.

Fiesta Bowl (College Football Semifinal): Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Oklahoma Sooners

A loaded schedule will likely present one hurdle that the Crimson Tide can’t overcome, but the same loaded schedule will allow the defending champs to again make the College Football Playoff as a one-loss team. The Sooners are in a similar situation. Even if Baker Mayfield and company can’t completely run the table, an out-of-conference matchup against Ohio State and a solid Big 12 schedule will still allow Oklahoma to grab a playoff spot with a loss. The Sooners made the College Football Playoff last year, and this year’s team is probably even better.

Orange Bowl: Florida State Seminoles vs. LSU Tigers

I wouldn’t be surprised if Louisville ends up grabbing the ACC’s bid with Clemson occupying a playoff spot, but I’ll give the nod to Florida State. The Seminoles don’t have the quarterback play to take down Clemson, but thanks to an elite defense and running back Dalvin Cook, I still think FSU ends up being the second-best team in the conference. LSU is basically a mirror image of Florida State. Leonard Fournette will head a powerful rushing attack for the Tigers, and there are a bunch of starters back on defense. Quarterback issues will make it tough for LSU to take down Alabama in the SEC, but the Tigers should still be ranked high enough to snag an at-large spot.

Cotton Bowl: Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Houston Cougars

Notre Dame was two very close losses to two excellent teams away from an undefeated regular season last year, and the Fighting Irish have two different quarterbacks that could put them back in the mix for a title this year. Plus, you know Notre Dame is going to get the nod from the selection committee as an at-large pick if it is close. Meanwhile, Houston has to be considered the frontrunner to grab the automatic bid as the non-Power 5 team ranked the highest. The Cougars only loss last year came when quarterback Greg Ward Jr. was hurt, and they easily have the best strength of schedule among the top non-Power 5 teams.

Rose Bowl: Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Stanford Cardinal

Facing a tough schedule just a year after losing a ton of talent to the NFL, I don’t see how the Buckeyes can run the table to make the College Football Playoff. That being said, I don’t expect them to fall far with quarterback J.T. Barrett running the offense. There is no clear No. 1 team in the Pac-12, but Stanford’s power style and muscle in the trenches have allowed them to remain a steady force in the conference. I expect the Cardinal to emerge with the Pac-12 title when all is said and done.

Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. Tennessee Volunteers

When last season ended, I fully expected the Big 12 to boil down to Oklahoma versus Baylor. However, I can’t see how the Bears stay focused amid the issues the program is facing, and the Cowboys have the offensive firepower to take advantage. I have the Sooners in the College Football Playoff, which leaves their in-state rival to grab the conference’s bid. Along the same lines, I like Tennessee to grab the SEC’s bid since I have the Crimson Tide in the playoff. The Volunteers have a surplus of talent, and while I don’t think they can win the conference, I do think they can win double-digit games and win the SEC East.

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2016 New Hampshire 301 Odds, Free Picks & Predictions – Favorites and Contenders

2016-New-Hampshire-301-Odds-and-Predictions2016 New Hampshire 301 Odds, Free Picks & Predictions – Favorites and Contenders: The Sprint Cup Series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend for the first of two trips to the 1.0-mile track. Nicknamed “The Magic Mile,” New Hampshire is one of the flat tracks on the schedule, and in many ways it is a double-sized version of Martinsville Speedway.

Like Martinsville, New Hampshire’s flat corners are hard on brakes, and passing in general is difficult. As a result, pit strategy and fuel mileage often plays a huge role in deciding the outcome of races at the track. In fact, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Tony Stewart are just a few of the drivers that have run out of gas while leading in the closing laps in recent years.

It takes a fast car, a patient driver and a savvy crew chief to win at New Hampshire, and with that in mind, here is a closer look at the drivers to watch in Sunday’s New Hampshire 301.

2016 New Hampshire 301 Odds, Free Picks & Predictions – Favorites and Contenders

The Favorites

He was cruising to his second career win at New Hampshire last fall, but Kevin Harvick ran out of gas while leading with two laps to go after leading 216 of the 301 laps. Harvick finished third in his previous two starts at the track, and he has led more than 50 laps in three straight races here, leading a series-high 379 laps during the stretch.

In the last 10 races at New Hampshire, Brad Keselowski boasts a series-best 8.5 average finish. During the same span, he has finished seventh or better seven times, picking up a win and a pair of second-place finishes. Keselowski led the most laps at New Hampshire in the summer race last season, and he has led more than 70 laps in three of the last four races at the track.

He is the defending winner of this weekend’s race, and Kyle Busch is no stranger to contending for victories at the track. He is a two-time winner at New Hampshire for his career, and since 2013, he has a win and three second-place finishes in six starts, leading more than 50 laps three separate times during the stretch.

After posting mediocre results at New Hampshire for much of his career, Matt Kenseth has become of the best in the business at the track since joining Joe Gibbs Racing. He has five top 10s in six starts at New Hampshire with JGR, picking up a pair of wins.

The Contenders

Although it has been several years since Jimmie Johnson has visited victory lane at New Hampshire, his three wins at the track are still tied for the most among active drivers. More importantly, he remains one of the more consistent drivers here. Over the last 10 races, his seven top-10s at New Hampshire are tied for the most in the series.

He actually used fuel mileage to pick up a win at New Hampshire as a rookie, but Joey Logano has been using pure speed to dominate the track recently. He has reeled off three straight top-five finishes at New Hampshire, compiling a 2.7 average finish and winning the fall race in 2014.

While he has been in a bit of a slump at New Hampshire, Kurt Busch could break out in a big way this weekend. After all, his three wins at the track are tied for the most among active drivers, and he has consistently been one of the strongest drivers in the series this year, posting a series-high 15 top-10s through 18 races.

His 10.3 average finish at New Hampshire leads all active drivers, and Denny Hamlin accomplishments at the track include two wins and four second-place finishes. He also owns the second-best driver rating at New Hampshire, and over the last 10 races here, no driver has led more laps.

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2016 College Football Predictions: Alabama Crimson Tide 2016 Football Team Preview

2016-College-Football-Picks-and-Predictions2016 College Football Predictions: Alabama Crimson Tide 2016 Football Team Preview: Stop me if you have heard this before. The Alabama Crimson Tide enter the 2016 on the heels of yet another national title. The Crimson Tide overcame an early loss to Ole Miss, rallying to win the vaunted SEC West and the conference crown. They then overwhelmed Michigan State in the College Football Playoff semifinals and outlast Clemson in a thrilling national title game.

A power rushing attack and a ferocious defense has been Alabama’s calling card during its current run of dominance, and you will be hard-pressed to find a team that is more physical in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Year in and year out Nick Saban’s bunch finds a way to be in the mix for a championship, and it could be more of the same this year.

2016 College Football Predictions: Alabama Crimson Tide 2016 Football Team Preview

The Good News

Alabama is returning plenty of starters on one of the country’s top defenses. In fact, you could easily make the argument that the Crimson Tide have the best defensive front and the best linebacking corps, and the secondary is a top-five unit, as well. Led by stud left tackle Cam Robinson, Alabama is just as loaded along the offensive line, and Calvin Ridley leads a dangerous group of receivers that will make sure defenses can’t load up on Alabama’s ground game. Not to mention the fact that offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin knows how to get the most out of his offensive personnel. Another top-ranked recruiting class won’t hurt the cause either, and when it comes to overall talent, the Crimson Tide have as much as any team in the country.

The Bad News

The Crimson Tide must again break in a new starting quarterback. Yes, they have some talented options to choose from, but none of those options have any experience playing in big games. Alabama will also be replacing Heisman-winning running back Derrick Henry, and while the Crimson Tide have been able to churn out power backs, there is always uncertainty when breaking in a new starter. The schedule doesn’t do Alabama any favors either. An out-of-conference matchup against USC isn’t a walk in the park, and road games LSU, Ole Miss and Tennessee are even tougher. Don’t underestimate the loss of defensive coordinator Kirby Smart either.

Bottom Line

Alabama’s success under Saban starts and ends in the trenches, and this year’s group is loaded along both lines. Of course, there is the matter of breaking in a new quarterback, but three out of the last four times the Crimson Tide have had a first-year starter under center, they have gone on to claim the national title. Thanks to an abundance of talent on the defensive side of the ball and a rock solid offensive line, it should only take serviceable quarterback play to put them back in contention.

As has been the case in recent years, one slip up during the course of a brutal schedule seems likely. However, the Crimson Tide should still pile up more than enough quality wins to claim the SEC West title and put themselves in position to reach the College Football Playoff by claiming the conference crown.

Prediction: 11-1, SEC West Division Champions

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2016 AutoLotto 200 Odds, Free Picks & Predictions – Favorites and Contenders

2016-Xfinity-Series-Odds-Free-Picks-Predictions2016 AutoLotto 200 Odds, Free Picks & Predictions – Favorites and Contenders: The XFINITY Series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend for a companion event with the Sprint Cup Series at the flat, 1.0-mile oval. The Cup Series teams will be back at New Hampshire in the fall, but for the XFINITY teams, Saturday’s AutoLotto 200 is the only chance they have to pick up a win at a track nicknamed “The Magic Mile.”

With the Cup Series also in town, it is no surprise that a few big names are pulling double duty. That being said, the field is overloaded with Cup drivers, and given the importance of track position at a flat track like New Hampshire, the XFINITY regulars have a good opportunity to steal a win with proper pit strategy.

With that in mind, here is a closer look at the drivers to watch in this weekend’s AutoLotto 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

2016 AutoLotto 200 Odds, Free Picks & Predictions – Favorites and Contenders

The Favorites

His 4.0 average finish at New Hampshire is the best of any driver in the field this weekend, and Brad Keselowski has finished in the top 10 in all seven of his XFINITY Series starts at the track. More importantly, he has finished third or better five times, winning two of the last three races.

Fresh off his series-leading fifth win of the season, Kyle Busch will try to add to his impressive resume at New Hampshire. He has seven finishes of fourth or better in his last eight starts at the track, and he has made four trips to victory lane over the same stretch, making him the winningest driver in the field this weekend.

Although he has never won at New Hampshire, Austin Dillon has certainly been in the mix for some wins at the track. He has finished third or better in three of his four starts here, logging a career-best second-place finish in last year’s race.

The Contenders

He enters the race as the point leader, so Daniel Suarez is no stranger to running near the front this season. He also made an impressive debut at New Hampshire last season. Suarez was the highest-finishing series regular in last year’s race, logging a fifth-place finish. He should be even more of a factor with another year of experience under his belt.

No series regular has shown more upside on a consistent basis than Erik Jones. Entering Saturday’s race, he leads all XFINITY drivers with two wins, and his nine top-five finishes are tied with Cup Series star Kyle Busch for the most of any driver. Jones will be making his track debut this weekend, but the talented youngster hasn’t let a lack of experience slow him down yet.

The sample size isn’t big, but Ty Dillon has made solid progress at New Hampshire. He finished 12th in his track debut in 2014, and last year, his sixth-place run made him the second-highest finishing series regular. Dillon’s third start at the track could result in a true breakout performance.

He has been showing some serious muscle in recent weeks, and Justin Allgaier looks poised to return to victory lane sooner rather than later. He has six top-10s in his last eight races, and he has four top-five finishes during the same stretch, including a near win at Talladega. Allgaier owns a respectable 10.0 average finish in five races at New Hampshire, so his recent surge could certainly continue this weekend.

The Sleeper

While he is only a part-time driver, Alex Bowman has proven he can be a contender when he jumps behind the wheel of the JR Motorsports No. 88 machine. In four starts this season, he has compiled a 6.3 average finish and has yet to finish outside the top 10. Bowman also has a pair of top-five runs and has led laps in two of his four starts. He logged a top-10 at New Hampshire last year in his track debut and could be a surprise factor for the win Saturday.

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Odds to Win 2016 AutoLotto 200
Kyle Busch -150
Erik Jones +500
Brad Keselowski +500
Daniel Suarez +800
Austin Dillon +800
Ty Dillon +1200
Alex Bowman +1500
Justin Allgaier +1500
Elliott Sadler +2000
Darell Wallace Jr +6000
Brendan Gaughan +6000
Field +2000

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2016 Quaker State 400 Odds, Free Picks & Predictions – Favorites and Contenders

2016-Quaker-State-400-Odds-Free-Picks-Predictions2016 Quaker State 400 Odds, Free Picks & Predictions – Favorites and Contenders: The Sprint Cup Series visits Kentucky Speedway this weekend, and all the drivers and teams have to be wondering exactly what to expect in Saturday night’s Quaker State 400.

This weekend’s race will be just the sixth Cup Series event at Kentucky, but the track has been repaved and slightly reconfigured since the 2015 race. There is slightly more banking in Turns 1 and 2, and in addition, the racing groove has been narrowed in those corners. Meanwhile, the track’s famously bumpy surface will likely be smooth and fast following the changes.

There is a little bit of mystery surrounding this weekend’s race, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some frontrunners. Check out a closer look of the drivers to watch this weekend.

2016 Quaker State 400 Odds, Free Picks & Predictions – Favorites and Contenders

The Favorites

Not only did Kyle Busch win at Kentucky last year, but he has been the most dominant driver at the track since it became part of the Cup Series schedule. He is one of two drivers with two wins here, and his 3.8 average finish, 438 laps led and four top-five finishes are all the best in the series. He has also led more than 100 laps in four of his five starts at Kentucky.

He won at Kentucky in both 2012 and 2014, and Brad Keselowski has managed four top-10s in five starts here to go along with a 9.6 average finish. More importantly, his 408 laps led are the second most of any driver, and he has led more than 60 laps four times.

As his 4.6 average finish at Kentucky would suggest, Matt Kenseth has a pretty good feel for the 1.5-mile oval. He has finished seventh or better in all five starts at the track, and he has finished in the top five in all three starts since joining Joe Gibbs Racing, winning the 2013 event.

The Contenders

While he has never won at Kentucky, Jimmie Johnson is one of three active drivers that have finished in the top 10 in all five races at the track. His 7.4 average finish here ranks third overall, and he has also led the third-most laps of any driver at Kentucky.

Since joining Team Penske in 2013, Joey Logano has become a force to be reckoned with at Kentucky. He has a 5.0 average finish in his last three starts here, logging a pair of top-five finishes. In fact, he has led a combined 60 laps in his last two trips to Kentucky, finishing second in last year’s race.

His record at Kentucky up to this point isn’t great, but Martin Truex Jr. has been next to unstoppable at the 1.5-mile tracks in 2016. His 739 laps led in the five races at 1.5-mile ovals this year are 696 more than any other driver, and he has led the most laps in the last three races at 1.5-mile tracks.

Although Kentucky hasn’t been his best track, Kevin Harvick has cracked the top 10 in both starts since joining Stewart-Haas Racing. He has also finished in the top 10 in all five races at 1.5-mile tracks this year, so he is a safe bet to be in the hunt Saturday night.

A couple of wrecks hurt his average finish, but Denny Hamlin has shown plenty of muscle at the track overall. He has led laps in three of his five races here, and his third-place run last year was his second top-three finish at the track.

He has been as reliable as any driver at the 1.5-mile track for more than a year now, and this weekend at Kentucky, Kurt Busch will try for his 14th straight top-10 finish at a 1.5-mile oval. Plus, he has been solid at Kentucky, finishing 12th or better in four of his five starts and compiling an 11.2 average finish.

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Odds to Win 2016 Quaker State 400
Kyle Busch +600
Kevin Harvick +600
Joey Logano +800
Jimmie Johnson +700
Martin Truex Jr +700
Brad Keselowski +800
Carl Edwards +800
Matt Kenseth +1200
Denny Hamlin +1200
Kurt Busch +2000
Dale Earnhardt Jr +2000
Chase Elliott +2000
Kyle Larson +1500
Tony Stewart +4000
Austin Dillon +3500
Kasey Kahne +4000
Ryan Newman +7500
Field +2500

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2016 NBA Picks & Predictions – Draft Recap: Winners and Losers

2016-NBA-Draft-Picks-and-Projections2016 NBA Picks & Predictions – Draft Recap: Winners and Losers: The 2016 NBA Draft is in the books, and while every team goes into the night hoping to improve their team and get one step closer to contending for a title, the truth is that for every team that hits a home run on draft night, there are two more that strike out. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the winners and losers from the 2016 NBA Draft.

2016 NBA Picks & Predictions – Draft Recap: Winners and Losers

Winners

When the Boston Celtics decided to pass on Providence PG Kris Dunn, he fell into the lap of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Sure, Minnesota failed to complete a deal to land a proven veteran, but Dunn represents a sizeable upgrade over current point guard Ricky Rubio, especially on the defensive end. Dunn gives Minnesota another dynamic athlete to pair with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, and he should also provide a much-needed shutdown defender on the perimeter. The Timberwolves are now stockpiled with three young players that could all be All-Stars within a few years, and with Dunn on board, Rubio or Zach LaVine could be moved to add a veteran presence.

It is one thing to have three picks in the top 20 like the Denver Nuggets, but it is another thing to convert on all three picks. Denver’s excellent haul started by snagging combo-guard Jamal Murray, and his deep range and all-around scoring ability make him the perfect complement to the more athletic but less offensively polished Emmanuel Mudiay. The Nuggets then added Juan Hernangomez, a stretch forward with the skills to act as a point forward at times. Malik Beasley was the last piece to the puzzle, and he is an athletic sharpshooter that should add some perimeter firepower.

One of the reason that great teams remain great is because the front office does its job as well as the players on the court. Despite picking last in the first round, the Golden State Warriors managed to grab a potential contributor in Damian Jones. The 7-footer is an incredible athlete, and he could be on the receiving end of lots of alley-oops in that offense. Golden State then worked a trade to land Patrick McCaw, a polished wing that can shoot from deep, defend multiple positions and pass well. In other words, he is a perfect fit for the Warriors’ system, and he will allow the Warriors to maintain their backcourt depth even if they lose some bench players in free agency.

Losers

The Charlotte Hornets appeared to have made a solid selection in shooting guard Malachi Richardson. He has great size and athleticism for his position, and he could develop into an explosive scorer. Unfortunately, Charlotte shipped Richardson to the Sacramento Kings for veteran wing Marco Belinelli. Yes, the Hornets are playoff-caliber team, so adding a veteran would make sense. However, Belinelli is well past his prime, and he is no longer the outside shooting threat he once was. Charlotte may not have even won this trade for this coming season, and they certainly lost this deal in the long run.

Going into the draft, the Boston Celtics made it clear that they wanted to add a proven veteran that could put them over the top in the Eastern Conference. Instead, they made Jaylen Brown the surprise No. 3 pick and kept their plethora of picks, selecting a bunch of high-upside prospects. Sure, some of the picks could eventually pan out, but for a team that wanted to turn into a title contender sooner rather than later, this draft class is unlikely to help reach that goal.

The entire draft for the Los Angeles Clippers was a bit confusing. Forward Brice Johnson is ready to contribute now, but he is tweener with a limited ceiling. Second-round pick David Machineau wasn’t even expected to be drafted, and fellow second-rounder Diamond Stone is another low-ceiling player. Yes, Stone has a polished back-to-the-basket game, but with DeAndre Jordan already in town and the Clippers’ reliance on athleticism in their offense, Stone seems out of place. The bottom line is that Los Angeles doesn’t look any better on paper after this draft.

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2016 College Football Picks & Predictions: Impact Freshmen

2016-College-Football-Picks-and-Predictions2016 College Football Picks & Predictions – Impact Freshmen: Recruiting is a crucial part of the success of any college football team, and it is no secret that the power programs in the country are always at or near the top of the recruiting ranks. Sometimes, a strong class simply ensures depth and future success, but there always a few special freshmen that make any immediate impact because of raw talent and team need. With that in mind, here is a closer look at the freshmen that should make the biggest impact for their teams during the 2016 college football season.

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2016 College Football Picks & Predictions: Impact Freshmen

  1. Jacob Eason, QB, Georgia Bulldogs

It’s no secret that the quarterback is the most important position on a football team, and Eason will be under center for the Bulldogs sooner than rather than later, possibly in Week 1. He threw for 244 yards in Georgia’s spring game, and the top five recruit, offers far more upside than any quarterback returning for the Bulldogs. George has had no issues running the ball, but they need a quarterback that can test teams deep in order to compete with the top teams. Life in the SEC won’t be easy, but Eason will likely be charged with trying to guide Georgia into contention in the SEC East.

  1. Gregory Little, OT, Ole Miss Rebels

Expectations are suddenly high for the Rebels, but replacing four starting offensive linemen won’t easy, especially when one of those starters was stud left tackle Laremy Tunsil. Enter Little, who was one of the highest-rated tackles coming out of high school and will no doubt enter 2016 as a starter, potentially as the team’s starting left tackle. Ole Miss is going to lean heavily on QB Chad Kelly this year, and Little will play a big role in keeping him upright and productive.

  1. Nate Craig-Myers, WR, Auburn Tigers 

While Auburn doesn’t throw the ball a ton, it is impossible to overlook the fact that their leading returning receiver managed just 13 catches. Craig-Myers was rated as a top five player at his position, and he has the size and speed to be the field-stretcher the Tigers need to help open up their high-octane ground game. Auburn needs a go-to weapon and a big-play threat in the passing game, and Craig-Myers could fill that role as a freshman. He might not be the most productive freshman in terms of numbers, but he should be one of the most important newcomers.

  1. Oluwole Betiku, DE/OLB, USC Trojans

Departures across the defensive front will force Betiku into a major role immediately for the Trojans. Fortunately for USC, the top 10 prospect has the speed and athleticism to be a force off the edge, and he has a chance to be one of the defense’s biggest playmakers. He can line up at defensive end or stand up as a linebacker, but regardless of where he plays, Betiku will be asked to play a lot and do a lot for the Trojans.

  1. Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson Tigers

The Tigers welcome back plenty of playmakers on offense, but the defense lost a pair of dynamic defensive ends. Lawrence will play on the interior if the line, but his size, strength and quick first step will allow him to be a disruptor at the point of attack, making life easier for Clemson’s pass-rushers. Lawrence was the No. 2 overall prospect coming out of high school, and he has the frame and athleticism to be a major factor from the outset.

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