It’s the start of Labor Day weekend, and I’m kicking back watching Gameday, thinking about college football, the start of the NFL season in five days and the stretch drive of major league baseball. Here’s some general sports predictions covering all three.
These picks have been made, in one form or another, on different spots on TheSportsNotebook, but here’s a summation that brings it all together, with a few brief comments.
MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
American League Playoff Teams: Baltimore, Cleveland, Oakland, LA Angels*, Kansas City*
National League Playoff Teams: Washington, St. Louis, LA Dodgers, Milwaukee*, Atlanta*
World Series: St. Louis over Oakland
The scariest thing about these picks is that the National League picks are exactly as I had them at the start of the year and we need only minor changes in September. The Cardinals and Brewers have to flip spots in the NL Central, and the Braves have to edge out both the Giants and Pirates.
My rationale at the start of the year for giving Atlanta the edge was that the weakness of the NL East would give them a soft enough schedule to survive.
I picked Cleveland to take the AL Central at the start of the year, and one way or another, I think Terry Francona is going to keep them going strong enough to sneak into the postseason. As stacked as Detroit’s rotation is on paper, the arms haven’t done as well when they actually take the mound, especially Justin Verlander. That’s why I felt the Tigers would be edged out in the AL Central at the start of the season and still feel that way now.
I’m giving Oakland the edge over Los Angeles, in spite of the recent strong movement by the Angels, because I think the A’s starting pitching is going to reassert itself, and that same factor pushes them into the World Series. I like Baltimore a lot, but they don’t have a clear ace in the rotation and the lack of Manny Machado at third costs them just enough.
Since I’ve boasted about being in position to run the table on National League picks, I suppose I should point out who my preseason choice to win the AL pennant was…the Texas Rangers. Beware Oakland fans, beware.
My choice of St. Louis is a classic case of giving a great organization the benefit of the doubt. The Cards usually find ways to win at this time of year, they were my preseason choice to win the World Series, Yadier Molina comes back this weekend, so I’ll stick with it.
The picks for the four-team College Football Playoff are self-explanatory. The “Contract Bowls” are the four other big games that will be played on December 31-January 1. They are the Orange, Fiesta, Peach and Cotton. Important notes to remember about these four are…
*They are picked and matched up by the same committee that chooses the playoff
*The ACC is guaranteed a team in the Orange Bowl
*No other conference is guaranteed a spot (since the Rose and Sugar are serving as semi-finals, the Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC have no automatic landing place, and the new rules no longer require their conference champions to be in a major bowl)
*The best of the “Little Five”, the American, Conference USA, MAC, Sun Belt and Mountain West teams is guaranteed a spot.
College Football Playoff: Florida State-UCLA (Sugar), Oklahoma-Georgia (Rose)
Contract Bowls: Clemson-Alabama (Orange), Texas A&M-Houston (Cotton), Oregon-Ohio State (Fiesta), Auburn-Wisconsin (Peach)
National Champion: Florida State
One note—I originally had South Carolina in the contract bowls, but I’ve decided to massively overreact to Thursday night and replace them with A&M, after the Aggies went into Columbia and dropped that 52-28 beatdown.
AFC Playoff Teams: New England, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Denver, San Diego*, Baltimore*
NFC Playoff Teams: Dallas, Green Bay, New Orleans, San Francisco, Seattle*, Tampa Bay*
Super Bowl: New Orleans over New England
I just did these picks earlier this week in a separate post, it’s all self-explanatory and the wild-card teams are asterisked. Drew Brees wins his first MVP award and his second Super Bowl.