COLLEGE GAME OF THE YEAR? READ RICK'S "BOTTOM LINE ANALYSIS" WHICH WAS SENT OUT TO HIS SUBSCRIBERS ON FRIDAY MORNING ... Rick's Bottom Line: Both teams have been able to avoid disaster, and each has been battle tested enough to be ready to handle a game like this on the big stage. Notre Dameís defensive front will shut down the FSU running game cold, and itíll stiffen in the red zone. Winston and FSU will move the ball, but there will be way too many Roberto Aguayo field goals, keeping the door open for the Irish. Unlike the last few weeks, Notre Dame will be mistake-free on both sides of the ball, and Golson will overcome a rocky start by picking apart a Seminole secondary that can be beaten deep. The Irish will control the clock and the tempo in the second half, and even though Winston will connect on a few huge plays, everyone will be talking about Golson after the game as he pulls neck-and-neck with Dak Prescott as the Heisman front-runner. I'll TAKE NOTRE DAME to "Beat The Spread" ... and possibly win outright!!



Within one week following a June 13, 2013, race at Belmont Park, the New York State Gaming Commission Equine Drug Testing Program had determined a horse had tested positive for a non-therapeutic drug with a high potential to affect race performance. The horse in question, Wind of Bosphorus, trained by Doug O'Neill, finished second in that race at Belmont. O'Neill said he was informed of the positive within three weeks of the race. The drug, a sedative, is in the highest penalty class (Class A) of the Association of Racing Commissioners' International Uniform Classification Guidelines for Foreign Substances and would seemingly call for swift, decisive action. That wasn't the case. Sanctions in the case, a $10,000 fine and 45-day suspension, weren't announced until early October 2014. The suspension issued by the NYSGC was not scheduled to begin until Nov. 3, 2014, more than 16 months after the race in question. The sanctions were not handed down by the NYSGC; they were the result of a negotiated agreement.

The NYSGC didn't schedule a hearing on the matter for nearly nine months after the race in question when an order to show cause was sent to O'Neill March 10, 2014. The order called on O'Neill and any legal representation to appear before a hearing officer April 29-30, nearly 10 1/2 months after the race in question. The letter to O'Neill notes that he could face license suspension or revocation. In an emailed response to questions about the drawn out time between the positive and the show-cause letter, NYSGC director of communications Lee Park said some of the nine months was used to investigate the finding. In an email, Park cited NYSGC Equine Drug Testing Program protocol. "After the investigation is completed and all other information is gathered and studied, the licensee if appropriate, is assessed a penalty from the state steward or presiding judge," reads the policy in regard to the time frame following a laboratory report of a drug positive. Park also said the O'Neill camp slowed the process.

"The state steward wanted to give Mr. O'Neill a chance to present his side of the story, and his attorney was taking a very long time doing so," Park said. O'Neill said he used some of the time to determine what had happened. He said he was having a difficult time understanding how the positive had occurred and did receive time to look into the matter. He said he didn't make the trip to New York for racing June 13, 2013, and had to interview staff about the matter. He said Oxazepam is not a drug that is used by his stable, and he was trying to determine how the positive occurred. The scheduled April 29-30 show-cause hearing would have been open to the public, but the NYSGC said O'Neill and his attorney, Karen Murphy, "immediately sought a temporary restraining order in State of New York Supreme Court, County of Schenectady." That action prevented the commission from moving forward with the hearing.

The court hearing on the restraining order was conducted May 12, 2014, nearly 11 months after the race in question. The court ruled the commission could move forward with the process. "I think clearly the commission has jurisdiction, and beyond that, they did not in my opinion wrongfully exercise their initiative here under the law as it's stated," ruled justice Barry Kramer. "I think they have a right to go forward. I don't think a writ of prohibition applies." The NYSGC said O'Neill and his attorney then requested a series of adjournments, which were granted by the hearing officer and prolonged any resolution of the matter. The commission began settlement negotiations with O'Neill at that time as well. A hearing finally was conducted Sept. 15, and the hearing officer granted a final two-week adjournment to Sept. 29. Before Sept. 29, an agreement was reached to settle the matter. Under the agreement announced Oct. 2 between the NYSGC and O'Neill, the trainer was levied a 45-day suspension in New York set to begin Nov. 3. The delay between the June 13, 2013, race day in which the positive occurred and the show-cause hearing March 10, 2014, may have benefitted O'Neill.

During that nearly nine-month period from June 2013 to March 2014, O'Neill saddled Goldencents to victory in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) and five other Breeders' Cup starters at Santa Anita Park. This year O'Neill is barred from participating in Breeders' Cup, which prohibits participation of trainers who during the 12 months preceding the World Championships are found by any racing regulatory agency to have violated a racing regulation prohibiting the possession or use of any Class I or II substance (non-therapeutic medications with a high probability of affecting race performance) that falls in the Class A or B penalty guidelines. That Breeders' Cup rule kicks in when final disposition is reached, which allows trainers time for the appeal process. O'Neill's appeal process didn't end until the agreement was announced earlier in October. On Oct. 9 O'Neill received an additional 45 days in California because his positive in New York violated terms of an earlier probationary agreement. The California suspension began immediately, but because some of the dates overlap, the two 45-day suspensions together will actually result in just 70 days on the shelf. The trainer is allowed to return Dec. 19. For O'Neill, this year's California suspension followed a Class 3 violation in 2012 for total carbon dioxide that resulted in a 180-day suspension, with 135 of those days stayed and 18 months of probation. A condition of the stay required O'Neill not to receive any further drug violations at the Class I, II, or III level during the probation. The New York drug positive fell within the probationary time, but New York didn't issue its order to show cause until March 10, 2014, and the NYSGC penalties weren't announced until October. The current suspension from the CHRB also included 90 days that were stayed and an 18-month probation with the same notice that the stayed days could be added if a further Class I, II, or III violation occurs. This time the CHRB made a point of saying the date of a positive test will be the deciding event in the 18-month timeframe, not the date of complaint or adjudication. In an e-mailed response to a series of questions, the NYSGC did not directly answer if other drug positives in the state currently are in the investigative process. In an Oct. 9 statement on his website, O'Neill said he could have pursued the New York matter further but didn't want to involve his owners in the process.

"Fighting these board decisions not only costs a lot of money, but far more importantly to me, I'd have to involve all the horse owners and everybody else I work with," O'Neill said. "I can't tell you how much I appreciate and respect the trusted relationships I am so privileged to have with our team's horse owners. And the last thing in the world I'm going to do is intentionally drag them in the same mud that I've been pulled in to. It's absolutely not fair to them. "I understand why the boards take the actions they do and I'll deal with it on my own." O'Neill suggested a possible reason for the positive could be stall contamination at Belmont. "To that, we will institute some new policies in our barn which will heighten security and will include the professional disinfecting of stalls anytime a horse ships in or switches stalls," O'Neill said.




#6 COAST OF SANGRIA takes a class drop (-6), is the overall speed leader in this claiming field this afternoon sprinting at 6.0 furlongs on the dirt, and has posted a trio of "POWER RUN WINS" in her last five starts. Jockey Jose Ortiz has been in her irons on one previous occasion, posting a win, en route to a 365% return on investment in the process, and is back today for his 2nd ride, gunning for back-to-back "Circle Trips!" #5 KILNOCKAGAIN, a 4-1 shot, has won half of her 8 starts at today's distance on the dirt, including a "POWER RUN WIN" her last time out.

RACING NEWS: HRTV will present comprehensive live coverage leading into, and continuing through, the 31st Breeders' Cup World Championships Oct. 31-Nov. 1 at Santa Anita Park. On both days, the network will televise all of the Breeders' Cup races live (which will also be available via www.hrtv.com), with the exception of the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) as the only domestic horse racing cable channel of the event. "The Breeders' Cup is an unmatched showcase for the sport's greatest performers," said Scott Daruty, president of HRTV. "Our coverage will keep racing fans up-to-date on everything they need to know as the event approaches, and culminates with two brilliant days of racing from Santa Anita Park." HRTV's coverage will include paddock updates, full post parades, up-to-date information, and race-by-race analysis. HRTV will again produce and simulcast the Breeders' Cup Players' Show (formerly the simulcast show) and air all Breeders' Cup races to off-track wagering sites around the globe, and streamed live on www.hrtv.com and breederscup.com. For the first time, HRTV will present the unveiling of the Breeders' Cup pre-entries this Wednesday, Oct. 22 at 11 a.m. EDT. The network will offer the live telecast of the Breeders' Cup post-position draw, in two separate parts on Monday, Oct. 27 (4 p.m. and 7 p.m.). Its "Fasig-Tipton Pursuit of the Cup, Presented by Twinspires" show will be live from Santa Anita and expand to a daily show Saturday, Oct. 25 (11 a.m.), offering the latest on Cup entrants, including live workouts and exclusive interviews. "Pursuit of the Cup" will also offer quick recap shows after each Cup racing day, as well as complete wrap-up show on Sunday, Nov. 2 (11 a.m.). Also, during Breeders' Cup week, HRTV will offer its popular "The Player" on a special, extended Wednesday-Sunday basis during its new time slot (noon). Special Cup-related presentations of the network's weekly staplesó"The Edge," "Against The Odds," and "Across The Board"ówill air throughout the week. Additionally, its daily "Race Day America" show will be presented prominently during Breeders' Cup week.







RaceAnalyser Software

Wagering Mathematics Software

Rick has added these software products to his handicapping arsenal! They use TrackMaster Past Performance Files! Check 'em out!

WagerMate Thoroughbred Handicapping Software

RaceAnalyser Thoroughbred Handicapping Software

Disclaimer: Every attempt has been made to insure accuracy, however since this report is prepared and typed by hand, errors, including typographical and numerical, can be made. It is the responsibility of the end user to "cross check" these selections against the actual entries and program numbers.



RACE #3: #10 BONEY MARONIE is 8-1 in the morning line, takes a class drop (-8), and is the speed leader in this maiden field sprinting at tonight's distance of 5.0 furlongs on the dirt.


RACE #2: The 8-1 shot, #4 THISLADYCANFLY, has nice overall speed for today's 5½ furlong sprint, and has hit the board in "POWER RUN FASHION" in three of her last five starts.

Ultra Longshot Angles

NOTE: The entries listed below have been "found" utilizing TrackMaster's fantastic new product Ultra Angles ... I have utilized this product to scan EVERY TRACK in North America for entries today meeting the following 3 criteria:

a. Odds are at least, 4-1 or greater
b. The entry must be the TOP POWER RATED entry in the field
c. The entry must also have the BEST SPEED in this field for today's distance and surface!

Evangeline Downs - Race #8 - 8:35PM - #8 WAKING UP IN VEGAS 5/1
Finger Lakes - Race #5 - 2:35PM - #4 READING GROUP 8/1

NOTE: Listed Post Times are given in the local time zone of the track.



NOTES ON CLASS: The TrackMaster PLUS software uses a sophisticated mathematical formula to calculate the "class" of a particular race. It is important to note that this calculation is NOT based on purse structure, but on the competitive level of the entries in today's field. Therefore, it is possible (and not uncommon), that an entry may be racing for a higher purse today than in his or her last race, but in a "TrackMaster Sense" is dropping in class, because the overall abilities of the entries in today's race are not as competitive as the entries in his or her last race. The TrackMaster class scale is numeric, and basically ranges from 50 to 100, and is particularly helpful in judging entries that are "shipping" in from another track. In my analysis of a race, I often note that an entry is "dropping in class," or "stepping up in class." Following this statement, you will see a (number in parenthesis). The value of that particular number indicates the degree of the class change. EXAMPLE: "#4 SIN CITY takes a fairly significant class drop (-8) this evening." This indicates that this entry is dropping by 8 TrackMaster Class Levels from his or her last race. It does not necessarily mean that this entry is racing for a lower purse, only racing against a less competitive field.

NOTES: I frequently use the term, "POWER RUN" in this column. It is my terminology for a previous race run at a speed, which if duplicated today, should compete for the winner's circle at the class level in which the entry is competing today. Space requirements do not allow for a thorough discussion of this calculation, however, if you would like a short essay on how the "POWER RUN" is calculated, kindly send me some EMAIL at rneedham1@yahoo.com and I'll send you a copy of my "POWER RUN" file.

Do you want some handicapping tips? Select an "essay" below, and I'll return some comments to you via email!

Kindly enter Your Name:

    Power Run/PowerPonies
    Maiden Starters
    LASIX Runners
    Three Star Sires
    The Value of Class
    Reading PS's
    Exotic Wager BOXING
    Aqueduct's Inner Track
    Down and Dirty Quick Pick Longshots
    How to qualify for The Breeders' Cup
    The Psychology of Pari-Mutual Wagering

Rick Needham - Football 2014-2015



Rick is once again ... "dusting off" his SportsMaster for Football Software ... and his "ancient" Windows Machine ... to for the 8th straight year ... to analyze Professional and College Football for the 2014-2015 season. As he has done in the past .. 100% of the monies for his service are given to his former middle school students who attended The Nativity School of Harrisburg (a middle school for poverty level boys) and are now currently in college. Subscription monies last year purchased text books ... calculators ... lab fees ... etc. for his students.

If you would like to receive his weekly reports .. which include his analysis of N.F.L. Football through the Super Bowl, as well as college football analysis (including his 20 page analysis of the 2015 College Football Bowl Games) ... kindly send a check or money order for $175.00 payable to Richard Needham to ...

Richard Needham
7621 Jonestown Road
Harrisburg, PA 17112

Rick Notes:

1. There is no analysis of pre-season N.F.L. Games

2. Weekly reports are sent via email ... usually on Thursday or Friday of each week. Kindly include your preferred email address with your subscription.

3. Unlike other years ... there is no "free analysis" for the first month of the "season" ... emails will be sent when subscription monies have been received.

4. As in the past ... the "subscription rate" will increase weekly as the football season progresses ... when the N.F.L. season begins ... the subscription rate will be $150.00 ... so it is to your "advantage" to "lock up" your subscription before the N.F.L. season begins!


Notre Dame at Florida State (MINUS 14.0) - Oct. 18, 8:00 ABC

Rick's Overview In so many ways, both good and bad, this epic matchup of two superpowers is the epitome of college football. The sport is loaded with hypocrisy and controversy, and sometimes, itís hard to compartmentalize and simply enjoy the event. But beyond the academic issues at Notre Dame, and even though its starting quarterback spent last year suspended, and even though the reigning Heisman winner is embroiled in yet another controversy, and even though heís going to be under the microscope in a school hearing that could change the entire university, and even with all of the various issues and concerns with both programs, itís undefeated Notre Dame taking on the unbeaten defending national champion in a game that could and should play a big role in defining the national title chase. Itís history that transcends the sport and adds another major chapter to it, one way or another. Itís Notre Dame, the school that came up with the 0-0 tie against 1946 Army to halt a 25-game winning streak. Itís the program that stopped Oklahomaís 47-game winning streak in 1957. Itís the school that beat unbeaten Alabama in the 1974 Sugar Bowl, and the next year beating another undefeated Bear Bryant team in the 1975 Orange. Itís Joe Montanaís team stopping Earl Campbellís national title bid with a 38-10 win over Texas in the 1978 Cotton Bowl, and itís Lou Holtz pulling off a classic win in 1988 top stop a juggernaut Miami programís 16-game winning streak and 36-game regular season run. And, of course, itís the program that halted Charlie Ward and the eventual 1993 national champion Florida State squad in one of the greatest games ever. This isnít nearly the same Notre Dame team as some of the others that pulled off wins for the ages, but head coach Brian Kelly has done a phenomenal job of putting together an unbeaten season so far despite missing five of his key players due to academic issues, and now, with one win, heíll have an honest shot of putting the Irish in the national title mix for the second time in three years. This isnít nearly the same Florida State team as last yearís, either. This is a very good team with a very great quarterback, and despite all the problems and the inconsistencies on the field, and even though the world has turned its eyes to the SEC West and the state of Mississippi, an argument can be made that this is still the No. 1 team in America, or at least in the top three. Winners of 17 in a row and 27 of its last 28, Florida State is finding ways to win. If last yearís run to a national title was a dominant march to greatness, this year is more of a grind through adversity. If the Seminoles can win this, then they really will once again prove they can rise to just about any occasion, but this wonít be the end of the journey with a quirky Thursday night game against Louisville up next, tough home games against Virginia, Florida and Boston College to deal with, and a road date with Miami to fight through, not to mention, most likely, the ACC championship. The Seminoles are 5-2 all-time in the series, with the last win coming in the 2011 Champs Sports Bowl. This time around might not be as big or as good as 1993, but thereís a chance it could be up there Ė and thereís a chance this might be the first of two meetings. There are still plenty of landmines for Notre Dame, but this is the big one. If the Irish can win this, they can win at Arizona State and USC, and they should be able to handle Northwestern and Louisville, but even a close loss could be okay. In the eyes of the College Football Playoff world, an 11-1 Notre Dame might just have enough in the schedule bank to slip into the top four if that one loss is an extremely acceptable tight defeat in Tallahassee. A blowout, though, would probably kill the dream. Meanwhile, FSU can probably lose this, too, and get into the playoff at 12-1 with an ACC title, but then it would be up for debate. So have fun with it. Suspend your belief system for a few hours on Saturday night and enjoy the theater. It should be worth it.

From The Irish Sideline: If you didnít know this was Florida State, youíd swear this was a team fighting just to be around the top ten. To put it bluntly, Clemson fumbled/choked in the Doak, and even though there was a key part of the Seminole puzzle missing, backup quarterback Sean Maquire did just fine throwing for 304 yards. Against the FSU defense, NC State QB Jacoby Brissett looked like the next Russell Wilson, bombing away for 359 yards, and the next week he completed 4-of-18 passes against Clemson. Even the blowouts over Wake Forest and Syracuse were underwhelming Ė the Noles just havenít been sharp, even if theyíve been effective. Whatís the problem? The running game isnít there. Last season, FSU ripped up 5.6 yards per carry with 42 touchdowns on the year with six 200-yard games on the year. This season, the ground game has yet to hit the 200-yard mark against any FBS team, and while it averaged over five yards per pop against NC State and Wake Forest, it hasnít been able to establish much of anything on a consistent basis. The rebuilt Irish defensive front has been outstanding, allowing just 663 yards on the year and doing a great job of holding up against anyone who wants to get physical. Jameis Winston might be a proven winner, but he might have to carry the team on his back all by himself.

From The F.S.U. Sideling: Winston has yet to be stopped cold, but he can be slowed down with steady pressure Ė thatís not really Notre Dame. The line did a great job of giving Stanfordís Kevin Hogan a few problems, and the D has come up with three sacks or more in three of the six games, but this isnít necessarily a defense that manufactures enough of a pass rush to slow down the FSU passing attack. The Irish might come up with a sack on one play, and then Winston will get time and connect on a 3rd-and-17 the next Ė teams have been able to hit him, and it hasnít made much of a difference. The real concern for the Irish revolves around the mistakes. They were able to overcome a five turnover day against Syracuse without much of a problem, but after being a 6 in turnover margin in the first two games, theyíve turned it over ten times in the last four with Everett Golson doing everything possible to give it away last week against North Carolina. Notre Dame has to be flawless, and it wonít be.

Rick's Keep Your Eye On Department: Jameis Winston might be the best player in college football by a ten-mile margin, and he still wonít have a shot at the Heisman because of all of the off-field stuff. Even so, this is the type of game that could cement his already legendary status. 19-0 as a starter, for all of his issues and problems, heís able to focus on what he has to do between the lines. The overall stats arenít there like they were last season, but heís been doing just as much to make the machine go, completing 70% of his passes with 11 touchdowns, throwing for over 300 yards in three of his five games, and it wouldíve been five-for-five but he wasnít needed for the whole game against the Citadel and he threw for 297 against Wake Forest. Despite the problems and errors last week against North Carolina, Golson has been Heisman-worthy, throwing for over 220 yards in every game with 16 touchdowns, four picks, and a game-winner on fourth down to beat Stanford. He hasnít needed to be a dangerous runner, but heís effective when he has to be, taking off for a season-high 71 yards last week. 15-1 as a starter Ė and the one loss to Alabama wasnít his fault Ė heís been dangerous at times, ultra-accurate at others Ė hitting 25 straight throws against Syracuse Ė and the ultimate leader now that heís more mature than he was in 2012. This is his team now, and heís taking to the role.

Rick's Bottom Line: Both teams have been able to avoid disaster, and each has been battle tested enough to be ready to handle a game like this on the big stage. Notre Dameís defensive front will shut down the FSU running game cold, and itíll stiffen in the red zone. Winston and FSU will move the ball, but there will be way too many Roberto Aguayo field goals, keeping the door open for the Irish. Unlike the last few weeks, Notre Dame will be mistake-free on both sides of the ball, and Golson will overcome a rocky start by picking apart a Seminole secondary that can be beaten deep. The Irish will control the clock and the tempo in the second half, and even though Winston will connect on a few huge plays, everyone will be talking about Golson after the game as he pulls neck-and-neck with Dak Prescott as the Heisman front-runner. I'll TAKE NOTRE DAME to "Beat The Spread" ... and possibly win outright!!

Bills at Lions (MINUS 7.0) - Oct 5, 1:00 FOX

Rick's Overview:Five weeks into the National Football League Season and the 2-2 Buffalo Bills may be pushing the panic button a little, benching starting quarterback E.J. Manuel in favor of veteran Kyle Orton, when the Bills travel to Ford Field to take on the red-hot Detroit Lions in an early game Sunday on Fox. With New England showing signs of being ripe for the taking in the AFC East, the Bills are tied atop the division standings in a three-way tie with the Patriots and Miami Dolphins. Usually that is hardly a time to axe the QB, but new head coach Doug Marrone even threw Manuel under the bus with the explanation being ďwe canít keep going in the direction that weíre going.Ē The Bills have played two straight lousy games to get to 2-2, but itís not like their troubles on offense the past two weeks were strictly on the QB play. Manuel was 22-for-44 in the loss at Houston last week, 23-17, but accuracy aside he did throw two touchdowns and two interceptions albeit for limited yardage (225 yards) on short throws. On the flip side, Detroit hopes to keep going in the direction they are going following their second straight impressive performance after beating the New York Jets on the road last week, 24-17. With a chance to stay a game ahead of the pack in the NFC North race, the Lions hope to keep the pedal down and beat up on an indecisive Bills team in front of the home crowd in noisy Ford Field. The Bills sudden change in QB has, of course, altered the point spread for the game on Sunday. The Lions opened as 5-point favorites late on Sunday, then on Monday when the announcement was made it was Ortonís job, the spread shot up to Detroit by a full touchdown -7 at most sportsbooks.

The over/under total opened at 44 and continues to hover around that number currently, although most books have dropped it down to 43.5 to take the push out of play, but some sports books "overseas" now have it at 46.0 ... ! With Orton playing QB all bets are off as to how well the Bills offense will operate. One could argue the two-headed approach at running back with Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller isnít getting either of them enough touches in the ground game. But itís clear that Orton was brought in to upgrade the Bills passing attack (198.5 ypg Ė 31st in NFL), and getting young wideouts Sammy Watkins (17 rec.), Robert Woods (11 rec.) and Mike Williams (7 rec.) more involved in the attack. Theyíll face the No. 1-ranked defense in the league right now, as the Lions are No. 2 versus the pass (186 ypg) and No. 6 versus the run (80.8 ypg) for the season. The Bills defense will have to contend with Mathew Stafford at quarterback, who seems to be starting to show signs of ďchampionshipĒ maturity. Stafford has controlled his interceptions for the most part (3 through 4 games), and the Lions offense has relied on the passing game (276 ypg Ė 7th) to get points on the board this year. Right now Buffalo has been a lousy wager on the road, going 4-9 ATS in their last 12 road games. The best looking betting trend for this matchup is the under, which is 4-0 in the last four head-to-head meetings, and is 4-0 in all four of the Bills games this year, and 3-1 in the Lions four games thus far.

Rick's Bottom Line I fully expect the Lions to win, and theyíll likely win big. There might be a good UNDER (46.0) this afternoon, and I'll also TAKE THE LIONS to win and cover!

L.S.U. at Auburn (MINUS 7.0) - Oct. 4, 7:00 ESPN

Rick's Overview: Here's The Deal: A funny thing happened on the way to one of the biggest games of the college football season Ė Mississippi State was better than LSU. Auburn passed its test with a tough, gut-check win over Kansas State that was more of an indication of how strong the team is under fire than it was an indictment of how the team might have slipped. AU followed it up with a breezy win over Louisiana Tech to set up the SEC West showdown, but it wonít stop here with a trip to Mississippi State up next followed up by South Carolina, at Ole Miss, Texas A&M and at Georgia all before finishing with Alabama. If these Tigers are going to repeat as SEC champs, theyíre going to certainly earn it. The other Tigers came up with a furious rally to try to get back into the loss against MSU, and they almost pulled it off with a late Hail Mary attempt. A blowout win over New Mexico State got the offense rolling, but that was nothing more than a chance for some of the tremendous young players to get a little more playing time. But now this becomes something of an elimination game, even though the SEC West is so brutal that several twists and turns are sure to come. LSU is right back in the fun with a win, but a loss means the other Tigers are two games up on the Bayou Bengal Tigers, and Les Miles is starting to get more and more interested in real estate in the greater Ann Arbor metropolitan area. L.S.U. was the one team to tag Auburn in the regular season last year making it three straight in the series and five of the last six.

From The L.S.U. Sideline: So what did Kansas State do to make it such a close call and to keep the Auburn offense under wraps? For one, the defensive front seven was never, ever caught out of place. Itís hard to stay disciplined against this attack when every instinct says to read and react, when sometimes it really is okay to let the play look like itís running five yards the other way. Kansas State was able to do that and kept the runs to from blowing up into big plays. Can LSU be disciplined enough to handle the misdirection? The speed isnít a problem, and the athleticism is there, but to pull this off, you need a strong running game (check), a defense thatís great on third downs (check), a ball control attack that cam keep possession for over 33 minutes a pop (check), and the turnovers and penalties have to be kept to a minimum (check and check). Basically, LSU is Kansas State, only better.

From The Auburn Sideline: So what did Mississippi State do to rip apart LSUís front seven? Having a bulldozer of a running quarterback like Dak Prescott certainly helped, and being able to run Josh Robinson inside and out was a big plus. Wisconsin was able to use the speed and quickness of Melvin Gordon to put up big numbers for a while, but the real way to handle LSU is to bring the power, and that was the most beautiful part of the Auburn win over Kansas State. When the team needed it, the offensive line kicked it into high gear, forgot about the finesse for a bit, and simply blasted away for grinding, time consuming drives to put the game away. To beat LSU, you need to have an efficient passing game (check) to balance out a dangerous ground attack (check) and you have to be able to control third downs (check). You need to come up with a decent pass rush (check) and the run defense has to be able to hold up for a full four quarters (check). Auburn isnít another Mississippi State, but it might be a whole bunch better.

Rick's "Keep Your Eye On Department: Brandon Harris was this close to being an Auburn Tiger, and now heíll get his first collegiate start for LSU in what has the potential to be a special career. Anthony Jennings was the safer, more experienced choice to start this season, but it was Harris who almost pulled off the impossible against Miss State. When Jennings went 2-of-5 for 11 yards and two picks against New Mexico State, it became an easy call. Harris stepped in and completed 11-of-14 throws for 178 yards and three touchdowns to go along with two rushing scores.

Rick's Bottom Line Welcome to the 16th Annual Not-Funny Groaner guaranteed 100% lock of the year: The Tigers will win! LSU will play far better than it did against MSU. The power of Leonard Fournette and the rest backfield will keep the game under control, but Auburn will have a bit more on offense. It wonít just be the running game; Nick Marshall and the passing attack will unleash the big, talented receivers on the LSU secondary to balance things out just enough to take control early and hang in when Harris comes up with a few outstanding scoring drives. The Auburn Tigers will win and cover!

Eagles (PLUS 5.0) at 49'ers - Sept 28th, 4:25 FOX

Rick's Overview: This Sunday, we will have a great NFC showdown when the Philadelphia Eagles travel west to take on the San Francisco 49ers. Philly comes in undefeated at 3-0, while San Francisco desperately needs to get back on the winning track. The line opens with the 49ers a four point favorites at home, and the total points are set at 50.5. Many believe that this game could be a preview of an NFL Playoff game. I have my own opinions about that, but nonetheless, this is a highly anticipated match-up. It is not very often you see a 1-2 team favored by 4 or 5 points, but then again, this is San Francisco...people are high on them.

For going on three years now, the San Francisco 49ers have been considered one of the better teams in the NFC, as well as the NFL. After they lost to the Seahawks in the NFC Title game last season, I turned to my friend and said "well, the Niners are done for awhile." He thought I was crazy, but here we are. The 49ers are 1-2 and on the verge of being 1-3 if they do not right the ship this week. I predicted before this season started that the NFC West would send two teams to the playoffs (Seattle and Arizona). I called an 8-8 finish for the Niners. Kaepernick in my opinion is an incredible athlete, but I think he makes far too many mistakes at the QB position in big moments. I could be wrong but I predict by 2016, the Niners will begin their search for the next "franchise QB." Okay, anyway, enough about my predictions on this team, but I just do not think they are as good as people seem to think. Currently, San Francisco ranks 17th in the NFL in both passing offense and rushing offense. On the defensive side of the ball, the 49ers are the 7th best team against the run and the 15th best against the pass. In defense of the 49ers, they have played a pretty tough schedule so far. I believe the Bears and Cardinals are both NFC Playoff teams, and the Cowboys are never a pushover in Dallas. The key to this game for t 49ers is to control the ball. They cannot let Philadelphia keep that up tempo offense on the field or it could be a long day for them. On the flip side, not only does San Francisco need to keep the Eagles offense on the sideline, they also need to make sure to slow down the attacking Philly offense. These guys can score at will, and can be very explosive. The Niners must eliminate the big plays and make Philly earn every score.

The Philadelphia Eagles look good, really good. They come into this game 3-0 and 1-0 in their division. Of course the Jacksonville win was a given, but since that week one match-up, the Eagles have taken down the Colts and the Redskins. Philadelphia ranks 2nd in the NFL in passing yards averaging over 310 yards a game. The running game is only ranked 19th in the league, but when you are throwing for over 300 yards, another 110 on the ground is just bonus. This is a solid offense. The weakness in the Eagles however is their pass defense. Opponents are passing for over 280 yards a game. In order to slow down the 49ers, this much improve this week. The running defense is top 15, but they will have their hands full with Frank Gore and Colin Kaepernick. The Eagles goals in this game are the same as San Francisco's...keep the other teams defense on the field. Controlling the clock and keeping the other defense winded will be a big key to winning this one.

Rick's Bottom Line: This is a pure toss up. A four-five point home favorite (depending on yoour "book") versus a 3-0 team. I have always liked the home favorites, especially when a team is traveling cross country, but going east to west is not as big of a disadvantage as it is going west to east. The "earlier" start for the west coast team on the east has a much bigger effect. As for right now, 62% of the action is being laid on Philadelphia to cover the four. This is not a big enough range in order to bet contrary to the public opinion. I took much of this breakdown explaining that I do not think San Francisco is that good of a team this year, and I think this Sunday is when the 49ers fans officially go into panic mode. I like the Eagles to go into California and get a win. Look for the Eagles to win a 27-23 type contest or lose by no more than a field goal. I'll TAKE THE EAGLES to at least ... Beat The Spread!

Oregon State at Southern California (MINUS 9.0) - Sept 27, 10:30 ESPN

Rick's Overview: No. 18 USC returns to work for the first time since getting embarrassed two weeks ago by Boston College. A week off afforded the Trojans an opportunity to take a deep breath, refocus and really teach some of the younger kids. Itíll be interesting to see how Troy responds to the wild swings of emotion that have marked the beginning of the Steve Sarkisian era. Oregon State heads to Los Angeles looking to snap a 22-game Coliseum losing streak that dates back to 1960. The Beavers, like so many unbeaten teams in September, havenít proven a whole lot by taking down Portland State, Hawaii and San Diego State.

From The Beavers' Sideline: The Beaver D is comprised of all juniors and seniors, and itís operating like a veteran unit. CB Steven Nelson and SS Ryan Murphy headline a secondary that has yet to allow a touchdown pass in 2014. Meanwhile, the USC defense is still trying to recover from the whooping it received from the Boston College ground game. This is a week that Oregon State might want to see backs Terron Ward and Storm Woods complementing the passing of Sean Mannion a little more.

From The Trojans' Viewpoint: After being shut down two weeks ago, the Trojans are going to run the ball with something to prove. Expect a huge day from RB Javorius Allen, whoíll be facing a retooled D-line thatís had issues in run defense lately. Oregon Stateís new-look offensive line must also prove that it can keep DE Leonard Williams and the rest of the USC defenders off Mannionís back. Mannion, by the way, will be down a weapon now that starting WR Victor Bolden is out with an injury.

Rick's "Keep Your Eye on Department: Can Nelson neutralize Nelson Agholor, the best wide receiver heíll face in the first month of the season? Agholor has already caught 23 passes from Cody Kessler, three of which produced six points. And if Nelson is fixated on Agholor, how will Oregon Stateís other starting corner, Larry Scott, manage USC rookie sensation JuJu Smith?

Rick's Bottom Line: Nothing USC did in the first three games was expected, but Troy is about to restore some stability to the program, if only for a week. The Trojans will handle Oregon State easier than expected behind a huge day on the ground from Allen and a solid all-around effort from the defense. I'll TAKE U.S.C. to both win and cover!