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College football picks, bowl games: Michigan State vs. Pitt, Tennessee vs. Vanderbilt among best bets

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The good news is last week’s special Four Pack edition of The Six Pack had a winning week. The bad news is that only three of the four games were played. The Hawaii Bowl was canceled on the eve of the game — which would be Christmas Eve Eve? — and more have gone down since.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise considering what’s happening in every other major American sport. Still, college football was lucky enough this season to largely avoid the postponements and cancelations that were rampant in 2020. Here’s hoping we don’t lose too many more games in the coming week and that all six of the games in this week’s column get played.

Unless the picks are doomed to be incorrect. Any pick likely to be wrong should be postponed. Odds are via Caesars Sportsbook.

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Games of the Week

No. 10 Michigan State vs. No. 12 Pitt 

Featured Game | Michigan State Spartans vs. Pittsburgh Panthers

Peach Bowl: — Thursday, Dec. 30: The biggest story of this game is who isn’t playing. Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett, who finished third in Heisman voting this season, opted out of the game to prepare for the NFL Draft. Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker, fifth in the Heisman voting, has done the same. That undeniably takes some of the appeal out of a New Year’s Six game, but at least everybody who wants the College Football Playoff to expand to 12 teams has more ammo for their argument.

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As if they’re being held hostage and forced to watch.

Anyway, let’s not go off on a tangent. Obviously, they’re two significant absences that make the game a little more difficult to handicap, but while Pickett’s the headliner, he’s not the only noticeable absence for Pitt. Offensive coordinator Mark Whipple left to become the OC at Nebraska, so the Panthers will have a new play-caller and a new QB. Nick Patti should start for the Panthers, and the redshirt senior has thrown 62 passes in his college career. Meanwhile, Jordon Simmons is filling in for Kenneth Walker. It’s not an exact science, but I’m of the mind that a running back is much easier to replace than both your QB and OC — even one as good as Kenneth Walker. I’ll be taking the Spartans. Michigan State 31, Pitt 27 | Michigan State -2.5

No. 14 Oregon vs. No. 16 Oklahoma 

Alamo Bowl — Wednesday, Dec. 29: How did two teams ranked so highly end up in the Alamo Bowl? Well, first of all, the Alamo Bowl is a lovely game that’s featured a lot of good matchups over the years. Secondly, it’s because nobody is left on these teams. Seriously. Oklahoma lost coach Lincoln Riley to USC, and he took a large chunk of the coaching staff with him. The Sooners have also seen a lot of players either enter the transfer portal or declare for the NFL Draft since as well, including names like QB Spencer Rattler, DL Perrion Winfrey, LBs Nik Bonitto and Brian Asamoah, and WR Jadon Haselwood.

This would all be great news for Oregon if it wasn’t going through the same thing. Coach Mario Cristobal left to take the Miami job and offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead was hired as the head coach Akron. The Ducks also had a lot of players enter the portal or start preparing for the draft, so there will be a lot of new faces in important roles for this one. That means we have two possible outcomes, regardless of the victor. Things either get stupid fun and 100 points are scored as nobody knows how to stop anyone, or it’s an ugly mess and nobody can score. I’d bet on the latter before the former. Oklahoma 24, Oregon 16 | Under 60.5

Lock of the Week

Tennessee vs. Purdue 

Featured Game | Purdue Boilermakers vs. Tennessee Volunteers

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Music City Bowl: — Thursday, Dec. 30: Opt-outs impact some teams more than others. For the top teams in the country that have hoarded top recruiting classes, it’s a lot easier to replace key players. Well, Purdue has lost its biggest weapon on offense in receiver David Bell (93 receptions, 1,275 yards, 6 TD) and its most impactful player on defense in George Karlaftis (54 pressures, five sacks). Those are not players the Boilermakers can replace without issue.

Meanwhile, Tennessee is as close to full strength as any team can be at this point of the season. Tiyon Evans has transferred to Louisville, and while the running back had a role in the offense, he isn’t irreplaceable. I don’t know how this Purdue defense gets enough stops without Karlaftis, nor do I know how the Purdue offense can keep up without Bell. Tennessee 34, Purdue 20 | Tennessee -5

Option Team of the Week

Air Force vs. Louisville 

Featured Game | Louisville Cardinals vs. Air Force Falcons

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First Responder Bowl — Tuesday, Dec. 28: I have long been a champion of Service Academy unders when they play during the regular season, but there’s another trend involving the academies I haven’t mentioned much: they crush it in bowl games. Since 2005, service academies have gone 20-9 ATS in bowls. They’re 0-1 this season, but while Army didn’t cover against Missouri, it did win outright. Much like that game, this is a matchup Air Force can exploit.

Air Force ranks seventh in the nation in offensive success rate and 21st in points per possession. Its offense will be up against a Louisville defense that ranks 87th in defensive rush EPA and 105th in success rate against the run. The Cardinals will have success on offense against this Falcons defense, but I don’t trust them to get as many stops as they’re going to need to win. Take the points, but don’t be surprised if Air Force wins outright. Air Force 28, Louisville 24 | Air Force +1.5

Revenge Game of the Week

Minnesota vs. West Virginia 

Featured Game | Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. West Virginia Mountaineers

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Guaranteed Rate Bowl — Tuesday, December 28: When Minnesota went 11-2 in 2019, its offensive coordinator was Kirk Ciarocca. Ciarocca left after the season for the same job at Penn State, but he lasted only a season there before being replaced. For the past year, he’s been an offensive analyst with West Virginia. However, he won’t be with the Mountaineers for the bowl game. 

Instead, he’ll be calling plays for Minnesota! 

Ciarocca recently returned to the Gophers, replacing Mike Sanford. This means Minnesota will have the same person calling plays from that great 2019 season, and that person also has an intimate knowledge of everything the Mountaineers offense does.

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Oh, and West Virginia will be without RB Leddie Brown (1,065 yards rushing, 13 touchdowns, 217 yards receiving) and WR Isaiah Esdale (29 receptions, 362 yards). If all that isn’t enough, Minnesota has won both of its previous bowl games under P.J. Fleck. Considering Fleck is a living can of Red Bull, we can safely assume his team will be showing up ready to play. Minnesota 28, West Virginia 21 | Minnesota -5

Turtles of the Week

Maryland vs. Virginia Tech 

Featured Game | Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Maryland Terrapins

Pinstripe Bowl — Wednesday, Dec. 29: I try not to make a habit of betting on Maryland, especially when it’s favored, but I can’t help doing it here. I’m not even sure the parents of Virginia Tech’s players will recognize the team taking the field at Yankee Stadium for this one. Justin Fuente was fired and replaced by Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry, so it has a new coaching staff. On the player front, the Hokies will be without starting QB Braxton Burmeister (portal) and two leading receivers in Tre Turner (NFL Draft) and Tayvion Robinson (portal). The Hokies will miss starting offensive lineman Lecitus Smith, too. On the defensive side of the ball, they’re without defensive linemen Amare Barno and Jordan Williams, who combined for 57 QB pressures, 9.5 TFL and 6 sacks and are now off to the NFL. Oh, and Jermaine Waller, who led the team with four interceptions, is off to the NFL, too.

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So, yeah, the Hokies are missing a lot of key players. While the Terps have been dealing with injuries all season, they don’t have any known opt-outs of which to speak. They’ll be as close to full-strength as can be expected, so it’s hard to imagine them not winning this game comfortably. Maryland 31, Virginia Tech 23 | Maryland -3.5

Games of the Week

2-1

18-15

Lock of the Week

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0-0

9-6

Overall

2-1

53-40

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Which college football picks can you make with confidence during bowl season, and which underdogs will win outright? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread — all from a proven computer model that has returned almost $3,600 in profit over the past five-plus seasons — and find out.



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Three Stars from Day 3 of WJC: Canada’s McTavish joins elite company – Sportsnet.ca

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Canada and the U.S. dominated in their second game of the tournament while Czechia and Finland went toe-to-toe and needed a shootout to determine a winner on Day 3 of the World Junior Hockey Championship.

The Canadian team rebounded from a sluggish performance with an 11-1 win over Slovakia, a game in which captain Mason McTavish added his name to the country’s record books.

Against Switzerland, the United States took their game to another gear that their opponent could not match as they cruised to a 7-1 victory to improve to 2-0 at the tournament.

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Finland dropped a crucial point as they had to overcome a 2-0 deficit but were able to pick up the shootout win over their rival Czechia.

Here is a look at the top performances from Day 3 of the world juniors.

3rd Star: Luke Hughes, USA

Coming from a great hockey family, Luke Hughes is making most of his opportunity as one of the top defencemen for the U.S. 

The younger brother of Quinn and Jack displayed his mobility and vision against Switzerland with a three-point effort. He now has five points in his first two games of the tournament — more than either of his brothers ever achieved at this event in fewer games.

Hughes leads all defenceman in scoring so far in the tournament and is tied for fourth overall.

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The 18-year-old played 21:18 against the Swiss to lead the U.S. in ice time playing on the top pairing with Brock Faber. His play from this point will be a crucial part of his team’s success given the creativity he displayed, especially on Matt Coronato’s goal in the second period.

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He made another top-notch set up on Thomas Bordeleau’s power-play goal in the third period as he delayed enough to get the defenders to pull towards his side of the ice.

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2nd Star: Carter Mazur, USA

Coming into the tournament, Carter Mazur is looking to build off an impressive season at the University of Denver. 

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While he was in a scoring slump in his first NCAA season, the Detroit Red Wings prospect made a call to his NHL team’s assistant director of player development, Daniel Cleary. After that, he would go on to finish with 14 goals and 38 points in 41 games.

Those tips have now turned Mazur into a scoring machine as he accounted for two of the team’s seven goals and was also named the player of the game as the top line of Mazur, Landon Slaggert, and Thomas Bordeleau had an impressive performance against Switzerland

After a scoreless first period, Mazur wasn’t going to make any mistake on a point-blank chance in front of the net with Mackie Samoskevich making a great pass from behind the net.

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With the Americans looking to add to their lead, Mazur was once again the beneficiary of a great pass from Slaggert as he made no mistake from the front of the net.

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He added another assist on Slaggert’s goal later in the period for his third point of the game. Through his first two games at the world juniors, Mazur has four points and is tied for sixth in scoring.

1st Star: Mason McTavish, Canada

On a night where Canada dominated from start to finish, Mason McTavish joined some elite company with a night he’ll certainly remember for a long time.

The 19-year-old joined Mario Lemieux, Simon Gagné, Brayden Schenn, Taylor Raddysh, Maxime Comtois and teammate Connor Bedard as the only players to score four goals in a single world junior game for Canada. The tournament record for goals in a single game is held by Sweden’s Ola Rosander who had six back in 1987.

With his performance against Slovakia in a dominant win for Canada, McTavish now sits atop the scoring lead with eight points in two games after registering six points in this game.

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McTavish scored his first goal of the game on a breakaway — with Canada already leading 5-0 midway through the second — making no mistake to beat Tomas Bolo, who came into the game after starter Simon Latkoczy was pulled going into the second period.

His second goal came off a great play by Joshua Roy who flipped the puck in the air to Brennan Othmann who then set up McTavish as he finished with a backhander to put Canada up 7-1. McTavish would complete the second-period hat trick, a day after Alexander Blank did the same for Germany, after a selfless pass from Roy on a 2-on-0 break.

Canada would capitalize on a turnover on McTavish’s fourth goal as Othmann set him up alone in front of the net and he made no mistake.

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There was some doubt about whether McTavish would suit up for Canada after playing a fair amount of hockey last season. Making his NHL debut with the Anaheim Ducks, the third overall pick from the 2021 NHL Draft played in a total of 72 games between the NHL, AHL, OHL, Memorial Cup and the Olympics.

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Instead, McTavish decided to join the team in Edmonton and take on the role as captain where he has excelled centring Canada’s top line with Bedard and and a rotation of Roy and Othmann.

Canada will now look forward to a matchup against Czechia with a chance to improve to 3-0.

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Field of Dreams Game 2022: A celebration of baseball memories in an Iowa cornfield

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The Field of Dreams is an opportunity for fans and players alike to reflect on the people and places that taught them to love baseball, Jake Mintz writes.



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Ravens extend NFL record for consecutive postseason wins following Thursday’s victory over the Titans

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USA Today

The No. 21 is now synonymous with the longest winning streaks in NFL regular and preseason history. the 2003-04 Patriots won 21 consecutive games, an NFL record. On Thursday night, the Ravens won their 21st consecutive preseason game after securing a 23-10 decision against the Tennessee Titans

Baltimore has not lost a preseason game since 2016. Joe Flacco was their starting quarterback when the streak began, while Steve Smith Jr., who this past year was eligible for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the first time, was heading into his final NFL season. Baltimore’s roster also included Terrell Suggs, who was entering his second-to-last season with the franchise. 

Along with not losing preseason games, another constant in Baltimore over the past six years has been kicker Justin Tucker, who is entering his 11th season with the Ravens. Tucker’s field goals of 47, 25 and 47 yards on Thursday night helped Baltimore pull out the win after falling behind midway through the second quarter. 

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The Ravens won Thursday’s game by winning the turnover margin while holding the Titans to 1 of 3 red zone efficiency. One of those turnovers was scooped up by Kyle Hamilton, the Ravens’ first-round pick in this past year’s draft. 

Baltimore won despite the efforts of Malik Willis, the Titans’ rookie quarterback who overcame a slow start to score his first NFL touchdown, a 7-yard run early in the second quarter. Speaking of quarterbacks, the Ravens received a strong night from Tyler Huntley, who completed all but two of his 18 pass attempts that included his game-winning touchdown pass to Shemar Bridges



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