Jockey Robby Albarado and trainer Steve Asmussen teamed for a four-win day Dec. 20 at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. The duo was on the mark immediately when partnering with Corrine and William Heiligbrodt's multiple stakes-winning 2-year-old Cinco Charlie ($2.80) in the day's first race, the $50,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes. They completed a sweep of the early double when Albarado guided the Asmussen-owned Esscalator ($3.60) to victory in the second race for $5,000 claimers. Albarado and Asmussen teamed again in the fourth race with the Heiligbrodt's maiden claiming winner Pummill ($4.20). They then sprung a starter optional/claiming allowance upset on the turf in fifth race with Council Oak ($31), another runner owned by Asmussen. The pair compiled a 4-for-6 record on the day's card. "I liked the group we had in today," said Asmussen. "Whenever you get to start off the day with a horse like (Cinco) Charlie, it's pretty easy to feel good about the day." Cinco Charlie, a son of Indian Charlie, improved his career line to 5-0-2 from eight career starts and earnings of $272,922 with his 1 1/2-length win in the Sugar Bowl. Albarado added a fifth winner on the card in the $50,000 Letellier Memorial with Myrna and Robert Luttrell's Promise Me Silver, who romped to a 5 1/2-length triumph. The 2-year-old homebred Silver City filly is undefeated in four career starts. "I looked at the (Daily Racing) Form last night and liked them," Albarado said of his mounts for the day. "I don't like to do that to myself and think I'm going to have a big day, but I thought with the right trips I was going to be on five or six live ones." Albarado's five-win effort was the best single-day mark by a rider this season at the New Orleans track, besting leading rider James Graham's four-win performance Nov. 29. Asmussen's four tallies matched Tom Amoss' standard, also set Nov. 29 when he teamed with Graham for a quartet of scores.




#5 FARA'S KID is the overall speed leader in this allowance field tonight, and has hit the board in "POWER RUN FASHION" in three of his last four outings, overall, posting a win in his 4th race back. Jockey Trevor McCarthy and Trainer Michael Trombetta send him to the post ... they've hit the board with 59% of more than 100 entries saddled as a team to date. #7 DEAN THE MAN takes a slight class drop (-1), and has posted a quartet of "POWER RUN PLACE" finishes in his last five starts.

RACING NEWS: Leading Laurel Park jockey Trevor McCarthy sustained a broken right wrist when he was unseated after his mount swerved to miss a fallen horse as both were galloping out following the second race Dec. 20. McCarthy's agent, Scott Silver, who transported the rider to the hospital, confirmed the injury. The fallen horse, Hugger of Trees, won the $10,000 claiming race at seven furlongs over the main track but tripped and fell after crossing the wire. The 4-year-old filly, trained by owner Robert Gamber, was able to get to her feet, walk onto a van, and leave the racetrack. According to the Laurel Park publicity office, Christian Santiago Reyes, the rider of Hugger of Trees, was not injured. He had no more mounts scheduled on the Saturday card. McCarthy's mount, second-place finisher Vente Latte, was caught by outriders and returned to the paddock. With 263 winners this year, McCarthy ranks sixth among leading riders in North America, and he is 19th in earnings with more than $8.1 million. The 20-year-old native of Wilmington, Del., has already wrapped up all three leading rider titles in Maryland this year (Laurel winter, Pimlico spring, and Laurel fall) with only three days left on the 2014 racing calendar.







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 #7: #6 EL TANGO RAY is 9-2 in the morning line, and is the overall speed leader in this claiming field racing at, or about, today's distance of 8½ furlongs on the dirt.


RACE #5: The 4-1 shot, #3 PRIVATE LANE, has better speed ( 6) sprinting at, or about, today's distance of 5½ furlongs on the dirt than the favorite, #4 WICKED FLICKA.

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!

Fair Grounds - Race #9 - 5:20PM - #11 CHARLIE'S RING 20/1
Gulfstream Park - Race #3 - 1:33PM - #3 WHISKY DING 9/2

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
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    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
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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!




- For all the attention paid to Ohio State having to play its third-string quarterback, Utah State was successful with its fourth-stringer Kent Myers came in and was fantastic over the last few games. The Aggies won five games in a row before getting blown away by Boise State. The run defense was one of the best in the Mountain West over the course of the season, and the team was great in turnover margin, but it needs the offense to work against someone with a pulse Ė there werenít a lot of great wins over the second half of the year.

- UTEP came up with a nice year, even if there werenít any impressive wins. Beating Middle Tennessee and Old Dominion shouldnít really count as victories to write home about, but for a program thatís been in the doldrums for a while, getting a bowl bid and having a shot at an eighth victory is a big deal. Thereís no passing game, and the special teams have occasionally been disastrous, but the defense is okay and the team finds a way to win the turnover battle and take advantage of opportunities. Donít expect fireworks, but the Miners will be competitive.

Rick's Reaction This has the potential to be one of the biggest duds on the lot if the UTEP offense doesnít bring anything special. Utah Stateís defense might have been pounded late by Boise State, but the linebacking corps should dominate from the start. I'll TAKE UTAH STATE to win and cover!

Florida State (MINUS 4.0) vs. Georgia Tech Dec. 6, 8:00, ABC

Rick's Overview: After playing with fire for the past three months, Florida State is now hoping to singe those critics whoíve questioned the team every step of the way. The Seminoles have been one of the oddest teams in recent memory. Overrated. Inconsistent. Unworthy. And yet unbeaten, the only FBS program that has not lost a game. The Noles have been a paradox, playing down to the level of the competition before inevitably being carried to a second-half win by QB Jameis Winston. Itís been a season-long theme thatís been simultaneously maddening and exhilarating at the same time. Forget the style points at this point. If Florida State can simply survive one more time, itís advancing to the College Football Playoff. If, however, living on the edge finally catches up to the Noles, itís going to create a gigantic opening in the top four for Ohio State, TCU or Baylor.

Florida State has been the story in the ACC this season. Georgia Tech, though, has been authoring a compelling tale of its own. An afterthought out of the Coastal Division when the season started, the Yellow Jackets have surprised everyone by winning 10 games, capped by a thrilling overtime upset of Georgia Between the Hedges last Saturday. The Rambliní Wreck has rolled to five impressive wins in a row since dropping back-to-back games to Duke and Carolina in October. And if Tech can snap FSUís 28-game win streak, itíll represent the ACC in the Orange Bowl. Even with a loss, the Jackets might get the Orange Bowl nod as the leagueís runner-up.

From The F.S.U. Sideline: No one does winning better than the garnet and gold. The Seminoles know it and so do the guys in the opposing locker room. Evaluating Florida State transcends the matchups. Florida State almost always has more talent than the opposition. What makes Jimbo Fisherís team so doggone tough to dethrone is that it has the muscle memory for survival, and itís consistently clutch when the outcome hangs in the balance. At some point in Saturday nightís game in Charlotte, the Noles are going to need a critical drive to stem Georgia Techís momentum. And thatís when Winston will pilot the charge, picking apart the Yellow Jacket defense with darts to sure-handed WR Rashad Greene and TE Nick OíLeary. Florida State will not be denied. Not here, at least, and not now against a Tech pass defense thatís No. 11 or lower in completion percentage, yards per attempt, pass efficiency D and yards per game.

From The G.T. Viewpoint: The Yellow Jackets have never been more confident. And the Seminoles have never been more vulnerable. After beating rival Georgia in Athens, Georgia Tech will not be intimidated by Florida State, especially after ingesting this seasonís film. The Seminoles do one thing really well, ride the right arm of Winston. But the Jackets have been winning by myriad different means. Paul Johnsonís triple-option has been run masterfully by sophomore Justin Thomas, and itís not as if the Noles have been impenetrable in the front seven this season. On defense, Ted Roofís kids, like CB D.J. White, FS Jamal Golden and linebackers P.J. Davis and Quayshawn Nealy, have been creating mayhem all year. Remember the number 27 this week; thatís Techís ACC-high number of takeaways as well as FSUís ACC-high number of turnovers. If the Yellow Jackets are swarming, Winston has shown on numerous occasions this fall that heíll make poor decisions with the ball.

Rick's "Keep Your Eye On Department: Georgia Tech is going to be without one of its sneaky-good offensive weapons, WR DeAndre Smelter, who tore his ACL last week. Itís a tough loss for an offense that likes to zing defenses that dare Thomas to beat them over the top. Without Smelterís 35 receptions for 715 yards and seven touchdowns, the Yellow Jackets are a little less scary on offense, unless 6-5 senior Darren Waller can pick up more of the slack. Tech is going to grind out yards with physical B-backs Zach Laskey and Synjyn Days, but the star on the ground will be Florida State rookie Dalvin Cook. The true freshman out of Miami has been a revelation in Tallahassee, surpassing Karlos Williams in the pecking order. Cook has been to the Noles what Michael Dyer was to Auburn in 2010, navigating the field with the poise and the vision of an upperclassman. Heís given a jolt to a running game that desperately needed it, and will be a key factor once again versus a Yellow Jacket front seven that can be moved off the ball by the veteran Seminole O-line. No one in America is converting third downs at a higher rate than Georgia Tech, 57.4%, and thatís a problem for the Florida State D, which could be on the field a lot Saturday night. Thomas has been so good at making the right decisions this season, particularly when the Yellow Jackets are looking to extend a drive. He doesnít make many mistakes, mental or otherwise, and at 231 pounds and 218 pounds, respectively, Days and Laskey are always moving forward. The Seminoles have got to win on first and second downs, even if it means selling out to create traffic jams near the line of scrimmage. Again, the absence of Smelter will allow the Florida State defenders to be a little more fearless than usual this weekend. Florida State boasts great athletes on defense. But will those athletes have the patience to contend with Thomas and the nuances of the triple-option? If the Seminoles overrun plays too often, Thomas and his cadre of backs will burn them for chunk yards. Itís incumbent upon the Nolesí better open field tacklers, such as safeties Jalen Ramsey and Nate Andrews and linebackers Terrance Smith and Reggie Northrup to resist the temptation to fly upfield and lose track of whoís handling the ball.

Rick's Bottom Line: Georgia Tech is going to hang around until the final whistle. Florida State will break the hearts of the Yellow Jacketsóand countless othersówith yet another edge-of-the-seat victory in the waning moments. Why in the world should this weekís ACC Championship Game be any different than the Nolesí entire regular season? Tech can beat Florida State, because Johnson has his kids playing extremely well, and because the Seminoles allow just about everyone to be within reach into the third quarter and beyond. But the Nolesí knack for flipping the right switch has become legendary and borderline impossible to counteract. They are clutch, theyíve been here before and they do not flinch in the face of adversity. Florida State will be against the ropesóagain. I'm actually using my Alma Mater - Clemson as the "measuring board" ... The Tigers took F.S.U. into overtime before losing ... and they got the crap kicked out of themselves by Georgia Tech ... I'll TAKE GEORGIA TECH to at least .. beat the spread!

Eagles at Packers (MINUS 5.0) - Nov. 16, 4:25, FOX

Rick's Overview: Each NFL week usually features a marquee game or two and one such matchup from week 11 has the Philadelphia Eagles traveling to Green Bay to take on the Packers. The Eagles sit atop the NFC East but need to keep winning to stay ahead of the Cowboys while the Packers are a game behind the Lions in the NFC North. Considering Green Bay would be out of the playoffs if they started today, this one probably means a little more to the Pack. The winner this week not only improves their playoff standing but will own the tiebreaker edge over the other and that could play a big role at seasonís end. The online betting sites started the week with Green Bay as five-point favorites but the line has moved to six by Wednesday and back to 5.0 at some off-shore books on Thursday. The over/under is set at 54 and a half. The Eagles have struggled against better opponents of late, going 4-12-1 against the spread in their last 17 games against teams with a winning record and they are just 1-4 ATS in their games following a Monday Night appearance. Green Bay is 5-1 ATS in their last six overall and 4-0-1 ATS in the last five games at Lambeau. The favorite has a 5-2 ATS record in the seven games between these teams.

Issue number one for the Eagles is maintaining their offensive production without starting QB Nick Foles. Foles is likely out for the remainder of the year, leaving Mark Sanchez to lead the leagueís 5th best offense in terms of yards gained and the Eagles enter the week 4th in scoring, averaging 31 points per game. Sanchez has played well, throwing for 534 yards and four touchdowns in a little more than one game. The offense seems to be the same as with Foles and Sanchez has even attempted seven rushes so it appears that the full Chip Kelly playbook is in use. We know what kind of weapon the Eagles have in Jeremy Maclin but Jordan Matthews has chemistry with Sanchez from working together on the second team and it showed with a 7-138-2 performance last week. Green Bay is solid against the pass, ranking ninth in yards allowed and intercepting 12 passes but they are just 30thagainst the run and LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles will give them problems in the pass game.

Aaron Rodgers is the gold-standard of quarterbacking right now and enters the game with 25 touchdowns against just three interceptions. He has found Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb for 18 of those touchdowns and that duo has simply been unstoppable in combining for 1,539 yards already. Eddie Lacy should find some room to run against the 19th best rush defense and the Eagles fall to 21st in total yards allowed. There seems little doubt that the Packers will move the ball and score but Philadelphia has had the X-factor all year whether it be defensive or special teams touchdowns.

This is a great contest on paper with the Eagles 6th and the Packers 7th in the Sagarin rankings and both clubs are dealing with very few injuries. There are plenty of playmakers on the field for both sides so this should come down to who can get that key stop or turn the other team over. Green Bay has nine different players with at least one interception and the defensive scheme seems to be changing with Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers wearing multiple hats. Connor Barwin leads the Eagles with 10.5 sacks and gets to go against a Packer offensive line that hasnít performed well at any point this year. Philadelphia leads the league with four defensive touchdowns.

Rick's Bottom Line: Assuming Rodgers and his receivers get their production is a good bet and the Eagles will have to stay close to prevent Green Bay from zeroing in on Sanchez. McCoy should see more success than his current 3.7 yards per carry average and both he and Sproles should give the Packer linebackers fits in coverage. Watch for Zach Ertz and/or Brent Celek to have some impact in this game as Sanchez likes to work inside the numbers. A third option of Andrew Quarless or Davante Adams should emerge if the Eagles can keep either Cobb or Nelson locked down but make no mistake, both teams will get their points this week. The Packers are 4-0 at home this year and pass the ďeye-testĒ as one of the best teams in football regardless of location. Too much Rodgers will ultimately send the Eagles packing with a loss as Sanchez canít be expected to put up the kind of numbers it will take to keep up. Philly keeps it close as the speedy running backs frustrate the Packers early but a late TD and a little Lacy clockwork put this one to bed. I'll TAKE GREEN BAY to both win and cover!

Eagles at Cardinals (MINUS 2.5) - Oct. 26, 4:05 PM FOX

Rick' Overview: Two NFC teams sitting at 5-1 and just a game back of the Dallas Cowboys for the best record in the conference will battle it out on Sunday, when the Philadelphia Eagles travel West to the dry desert heat of University of Phoenix Stadium in a late afternoon game against the Arizona Cardinals on Fox. Despite a host of injuries at quarterback, head coach Bruce Arians has once again pulled the strings like a master in getting the Cardinals to 5-1 thus far. Last week the Cards went on the road and took care of a game they should have won, which is sometimes the hardest to win, beating Oakland by a score of 24-13. Carson Palmer returned to throw two touchdowns and for 253 yards for the Cards, who after seven weeks of play currently have the rest of the ultra-tough NFC West division looking up at them in first place. Just like the Cardinals, the Eagles will enter the contest on Sunday riding a modest two-game win streak, including an impressive, 27-0, dismantling of the rival New York Giants the week before last weekendís bye week. With over a week to put together a game plan, it should be interesting to see how wunder-coach Chip Kelly decides to attack an Arizona defense that is tough to attack at home. With the similarities of how both teams have gotten to 5-1 and where they are at this point in the season, it should be no surprise that the oddsmakers in Las Vegas are letting bettors set this betting line. With the number set just below the key number of 3, almost every sportsbook out there in cyberspace opened this game with Arizona as 2.5-point favorites. Some early sharp money moved it up to Eagles minus -3 at a few books, but despite a slight presence of early public money on the visiting Eagles, the number remains minus -2.5 at most books currently.

As mentioned earlier, the Cards have welcomed Palmer back at QB and back to running the show. Even with five wins, the Cards offense has yet to click this season as their 317.8 yards per game average is 28th in the NFL and has to be among the lowest ever for a team in first place. Theyíll face a Eagles defense that has its warts (allowing 381 ypg Ė 24th), but one that knows how to stiffen and turn up the dial in the red zone since they are 13th in scoring defense at 22 points per game. What could be fun to watch for Philly fans is the Eagles on offense this Sunday. Against an Arizona defense that is tops in the NFL in run defense (allow 72.5 ypg), but 31st in pass defense (285 ypg), its almost too easy to be tricky in the Eagles attack if youíre Kelly this week. The Eagles and QB Nick Foles are already 7th in the NFL throwing the ball each week (262 ypg), so if the Eagles start running the ball and punting three-and-out every series, you know the fix is in. Philly snapped a three-game Arizona win streak in this head-to-head series between these two NFC squads. The Eagle prevailed 24-21 at home at the Linc last year, but prior to that the Cardinals had won three straight in the series and three of the last four played in Arizona (dating back to the 2001 season). The Cardinals, however, have been a way, way, way better bet over the years in this series, going 4-0 ATS in the last four and 5-1 ATS in the last six. The over may also be a solid betting trend play, since the over is 7-3 in the last 10 games played in Arizona, and is 13-6 in the last 19 meetings in the series overall. The over is also 8-3 in the Eagles last 11 road games.

Rick's Bottom Line Iím pretty sure the line for this game has yet to move in both directions before it actually kicks off on Sunday. That said, Iíd lean toward the Cardinals, especially if it stays under 3 or crawls closer to a pick emí. I'll TAKE THE CARDINALS to both win and cover ... and maybe ... a minor wager on THE OVER (46.0) as well!

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!