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Friday, September 30, 2016

Tuffy Teaser 2016: Week 5

Tuffy is so hot right now the devil won't get near him for fear of getting burned.  Or perhaps the devil has just heard about Tuffy's penchant for biting.  The Tuffy Teaser hit for the third week in a row, and none of the games were close.

Tuffy Teaser
Cousin Vasyl is angry about Houston's Thursday night games.
But, casinos exist for a reason, so Tuffy and his followers are not resting in their laurels.  In fact, they are downright mad about the college football schedule.  For the second week in a row, the Houston Cougars played on a Thursday night.  And, for the second week in a row, the Cougars were a solid selection.  Sure, it is possible to place a wager on a Thursday evening, but it is darn hard to make a whole column worth of picks by then.  But, Tuffy is not a complainer.  He'll play the hand he is dealt and pick the games that are available.

Tuffy's 2016 Tally:  $19
2016 Record:  3-1
Tuffy's Total Tally:  $42
All Time Record:  9-6

Friday, September 30.  10:15 p.m. EST

Toledo Rockets     +10
BYU Cougars      +2

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.  BYU has taken its lumps this year in terms of actual game results, but the Cougars are now 4-0 against the teased spread.  This week, the teased spread basically only requires BYU to win at home against the Rockets.  Toledo will be traveling across the country and climbing to high altitude for this night game in Provo.  BYU will win this game and keep their streak against the spread alive.

Saturday, October 1.  7:30 p.m. EST

Missouri Tigers     +19.5
LSU Tigers              -7.5

Tuffy selected this game against the advice of his advisors.  The advisors told Tuffy to take Pitt teased to -10 at home against Marshall.  But, Tuffy is a cat that values stability, and LSU has no stability at all.  LSU fired their head coach and offensive coordinator this week.  That will not help this offensively challenged team.  At least not in the short run.  Missouri may not be a great team, but they were able to keep within a 19-point spread against both West Virginia and Georgia.  The Missouri Tigers should be able to do the same even at a night game in Baton Rouge.

Saturday, October 1.  8:00 p.m. EST

Louisville Cardinals     +3
Clemson Tigers           +9

This is the marquee game of the weekend.  Louisville has come out of nowhere to steal the hearts and minds of college football fans.  Meanwhile, the narrative surrounding Clemson has been that the Tigers have underachieved so far this year.  But, Clemson is still undefeated, and this is still a night game in Death Valley.  Louisville might very well win this game, but Clemson will not lose by double digits.

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Friday, September 23, 2016

Tuffy Teaser 2016: Week 4

Tuffy is feeling pretty proud of himself after hitting the Tuffy Teaser for the second week in a row.  Week 3 was fraught with peril due to the many non-conference mismatches on the schedule.  Week 4 has many more conference contests.  Those early match-ups present challenges of their own.  Tuffy was tempted to sit this week out, but he is a cat of action.  He is not a cat of cowardice.  Here are Tuffy's Week 4 recommendations.

Tuffy guards his winnings like a dragon guards his gold.
Tuffy's 2016 Tally:  $11
2016 Record:  2-1
Tuffy's Total Tally:  $34
All Time Record:  8-6

Saturday, September 24.  3:30 p.m. EST

BYU Cougars                           +13
West Virginia Mountaineers     -1

The BYU Cougars are the darling of this column.  In terms of real football, BYU has a losing record. But in terms of the Vegas lines, BYU is 3-0 against the spread.  Most likely West Virginia will win this game at home in Morgantown, but the BYU will keep it close.  For the third week in a row, the Cougars will cover the spread and lift Tuffy to a win.

Saturday, September 24.  3:30 p.m. EST

Pittsburgh Panthers         +13
North Carolina Tarheels     -1

Tuffy truly is a creature of habit.  This is the third week in a row that Pitt appears in the Tuffy Teaser.  Last week, Pitt lost the game on the gridiron, but they did their job by covering the spread.  Pitt has a great chance to upset UNC this weekend.  The Panthers have a rock solid chance to stay within two touchdowns of the Tarheels regardless of the location of the game.

Saturday, September 24.  6:00 p.m. EST

LSU Tigers           +2.5
Auburn Tigers     +9.5

This game is probably a winner with the teased spread regardless of which team you pick.  Both teams have tiger mascots, so Tuffy could have gone either way on this game.  The LSU Tigers do not have the offensive fire power to blowout any top flight opponent.  Auburn may not be the power they were a few years ago, but they are still a legit SEC program.  The Auburn Tigers will not lose by double-digit to a conference foe.

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Anniversary Flashback: Pulled Beef Barbecue

Delicious food is an integral part of the sports viewing experience.  Food was also an an integral part of Banshee Sports in the early days.  The pulled beef barbecue recipe that I posted in September of 2013  continues to be one of the most widely read posts on this site every month.

Check it out this weekend.  You will be glad you did.

Pulled Beef Barbecue

Football season is in full swing.  For a lot of us, this means cooking for a crowd.  This recipe is a crowd pleaser for tailgates and homegates.  And best of all, you can make it ahead of time so that you can concentrate on the game while your guests marvel at your culinary skills.  This takes a little time and planning, but you will never regret the effort.  Click to continue to the recipe.

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Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Chase is On

The Chase is on for the NASCAR championship.  When the engines fire at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday, sixteen drivers will be vying for the championship as NASCAR begins its 10-week version of the playoffs.

It's time to take a look at the the Chase field and make a few predictions.

Tony Stewart victory lane
Tony Stewart's win at Sonoma gave him a Chase spot
Team Effort.  At the beginning of the year, Stewart-Haas Racing seemed to be in disarray, but Tony Stewart snagged a win at Sonoma to get himself a spot in the Chase in his final season.  Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch both put together solid season and easily made the Chase.  Only Danica Patrick failed to qualify from the SHR garage.

Getting three out of four cars into the Chase is solid work, but it is nothing compared to the top-to-bottom greatness Joe Gibbs Racing displayed throughout the regular season.  Although it is not a surprise, it is impressive that JGR got all four teams into the Chase.  Led by the top-seed Kyle Busch, all four Gibbs teams are in the top seven heading into the Chase, and all four teams have a legitimate chance to take home the title.

Young Guns.  Two rookies qualified for the 2016 Chase.  With the Hendrick infrastructure behind him, it is no surprise that Chase Elliott was able to qualify on points.  It is a surprise that Chris Buescher qualified for the Chase by winning at Pocono.  Driving for the single-car team of Front Row Motorsports, Buescher is truly the Cinderella of the field.  Austin Dillon got the iconic #3 Chevy into the Chase on points.  This will be the twenty-six year-old Dillon's first playoff experience.  Kyle Larson will also be making his Chase debut thanks to an emotional win at Michigan late in the year.

With the retirement of Jeff Gordon, the imminent departure of Tony Stewart and the injury to Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it is good for NASCAR to have fresh faces poised to carry the torch.  But their time has not come just yet.  Of all of these young guys, Kyle Larson is the most legitimate threat to make some noise in the Chase.  The other three drivers will have their work cut out for them just to get through the first cut at Dover.

Kyle Busch Homestead
All signs point to a repeat championship for Busch
Predictions.  It would certainly be a fun story to see Tony Stewart make a run at the championship in his final year.  Some love Smoke and some hate Smoke.  But most pay attention when he is running near the front.  Most fans would be happy to see Carl Edwards win his first championship.  With JGR power under the hood, Edwards does have a fighting chance.  Martin Truex, Jr. is a dark horse worth keeping an eye on.  Truex has proven this season that he can have success at a variety of tracks.

But, the 2016 Chase is going to be a two-man race between the top two seeds, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski.  Both men have proven they can win a championship in the Chase era, and both men have had great seasons thus far.  With the overall dominance of JGR and Toyota throughout the year, Busch has the edge and will take home the Sprint Cup championship for the second year in a row.

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Tuffy Teaser 2016: Week 3

It took Tuffy a week to get his college football senses tuned in, but Tuffy's film study from Week 1 paid off in Week 2.  Tuffy got back to his winning ways and got his account back in the black.  Week 3 could prove to be another tough test since there are many mismatched non-conference games on the schedule.  It's hard to predict if a team will keep their foot on the pedal enough to cover a four touchdown spread, so Tuffy stuck to contests between big-time programs.

Tuffy Teaser
Tuffy has his focus back
Tuffy's 2016 Tally:  $3
2016 Record:  1-1
Tuffy's Total Tally:  $26
All Time Record:  7-6

Saturday, September 17.  3:30 p.m. EST

Pittsburgh Panthers            +10
Oklahoma State Cowboys     +2

This line opened with Pittsburgh getting six points on the un-teased line.  The Vegas regulars apparently liked that line as much as Tuffy did.  By the time the weekend rolled around, Pitt was getting two less points.  Nonetheless, Tuffy is taking the Panthers.  Oklahoma State was the victim of terrible strategy, officiating errors and a miraculous hook-and-ladder in their loss at home last week.  But, the Cowboys should not have allowed the likes of Central Michigan to get that close in the first place.  Tuffy is not predicting an outright upset in Stillwater, but the Panthers will keep this close.

Saturday, September 17.  8:00 p.m. EST

Duke Blue Devils               +10
Northwestern Wildcats     +2

Northwestern flopped in the opening week of the season, but Tuffy is not a fickle feline.   One bad week does not scare him away forever.  Northwestern may not be a very good football team, but neither is Duke.  With this teased spread, all Northwestern needs to do is win the game.   The Wildcats should be able to accomplish that in a night game at home.

Saturday, September 17.  10:15 p.m. EST

UCLA Bruins      +2.5
BYU Cougars     +9.5

This pick feels like stealing.  BYU has covered the spread in both of the first two weeks.  Meanwhile, UCLA hasn't done anything in the first two weeks of the season to prove that they can beat the Cougars by double-digits in Provo.  Not only does UCLA have to deal with the elevation and the atmosphere of a night game, they also have to deal with the distractions of their quarterback calling for the workers of the world to unite.  The Cougars will win this game.  If they don't, they will certainly cover this teased spread.

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Tuffy Teaser 2016: Week 2

The Tuffy Teaser got off to a rough start in 2016.  In fact, one might think Tuffy was "just teasing" with those picks (see what I did there?).  The Tuffy Teaser not only failed to hit, but actually went 0-3.  But, there is no use crying over spilled milk.  There is a new slate of games this weekend, and Tuffy has a new recommended teaser for Week 2.

funny cats
Tuffy's followers got taken to the cleaners in Week 1
For those of you who are in need of a refresher about the rules of the Tuffy Teaser, check out last week's column.  Just don't look too closely at the picks.  They might hurt your eyes.

Tuffy's 2016 Tally:  $5
2016 Record:  0-1
Tuffy's Total Tally:  $18
All Time Record:  6-6

Saturday, September 10.  12:00 p.m. EST

Penn State Nittany Lions     +11
Pittsburgh Panthers                 +1

The renewal of this rivalry is long overdue.  These teams haven't met since 2000.  Both programs looked very different in those days.  One thing that doesn't look different is the disdain these two fan bases feel for each other.  This is technically a home game for Pittsburgh, but based on the Panthers' recent attendance figures, Heinz Field is likely to sound a lot like Beaver Stadium West.  But, this game won't be decided by the fans.  The Panthers may very well be a program on the rise, but they are not 10 points better than their big brothers from State College.  Penn State's offense will be more dynamic than the vanilla version they showed in Week 1, and the Lion's defense will be able to keep the Panthers mostly under wraps.  I predict Penn State will win this game outright, but I certainly think the Nittany Lions will cover a teased 11-point spread.

Saturday, September 10.  7:30 p.m. EST

Arkansas State Red Wolves     +26
Auburn Tigers                         -14

Auburn started their season with a hard-fought 6-point loss to a highly regarded Clemson squad.  Meanwhile, Arkansas State opened their season by losing at home by three touchdowns to Toledo.  Auburn is not good enough to look past any opponent, but the Tigers are plenty good enough to beat the Red Wolves by more than 2 touchdowns on their home field.

Saturday, September 10.  7:30 p.m. EST

BYU Cougars     +9.5
Utah Utes             +2.5

This intrastate rivalry is known simply as the Holy War.  Yeah, that name might be a bit melodramatic, but this is a huge game every year for both schools.  Big games tend to stay close.  BYU is coming fresh off an upset win away from home against the Arizona Wildcats.  I expect the Cougars to repeat that performance on the road at Utah.  I certainly expect the Cougars to stay within a touchdown.

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Sunday, September 4, 2016

2016 NFL Preseason Preview

The NFL season is just hours away.  The preseason is over.  Fantasy football drafts are in the rear-view mirror.  It is time for the real NFL games to begin.  It is also time to make some predictions.

AFC East:  Tom Brady is suspended for the first four games of the year.  That means that the untested and unheralded Jimmy Garoppolo will play quarterback for the Patriots for the first quarter of the season.  If this was any other franchise, I would say that spells trouble.  But this is the New England Patriots we are talking about.  The AFC East is a weak division this year.  Bill Belichick will figure out a way to weather the storm.  By the time the season ends, the Patriots will not only win the division, but they will also be in the running for the top seed in the conference.  Division Winner: New England Patriots

AFC North:  Once again, the AFC North is a loaded division.  The only team that does not have a legitimate hope to win the division is the Cleveland Browns, and even the Browns have a flicker of optimism with the arrival of RG3 and a whole new coaching staff.  The Ravens had a disappointing season in 2015.  Baltimore's organization is too solid to be terrible twice in a row, but I do believe they will miss the playoffs again this year.  The Bengals will win double digit games again this season, but that will only be good enough for a wild card this year.  The Pittsburgh Steelers offense is deep enough to survive the early season suspension of running back Le'Veon Bell, and it is explosive enough to carry this team to a division championship.  Division Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers    Wild Card: Cincinnati Bengals

AFC South:  Despite failing to make the playoffs in 2015, Las Vegas still considers the Indianapolis Colts to be the favorite to win the division.  It is true that injuries to Luck contributed greatly to the Colts' struggles last season, but it is also true that the Colts did little in the offseason to address the offensive line that caused those injuries.  Meanwhile, all the other teams in the division improved significantly.  The two teams that improved the most are the Houston Texans and the Jacksonville Jaguars.  The Texans are the reigning division champs, and will defend their title.  Despite losing a home game yet again this season to the NFL's devotion to London, the Jaguars will make their first playoff appearance since 2007.  Division Winner: Houston Texans    Wild Card: Jacksonville Jaguars

AFC West:  That AFC West is home to the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos.  But those Broncos no longer have the legendary Peyton Manning at quarterback.  Instead, it will be Trevor Siemian at the helm for the defending champs.  There is no doubt that when it came to physical skills, the 2015 version of Peyton Manning was a shadow of his former self, but Manning's mental acuity and experience covered a lot of flaws in Denver's offensive line.  It is doubtful that the young Siemian or his rookie backup Paxton Lynch will be able to fill that same role.  That could lead to offensive disaster in Denver.  In contrast, Andy Reid and his Kansas City Chiefs will be steady and solid on both sides of the ball.  That will be good enough to win this division.  The rest of the division will cannibalize itself and allow only one team to the make the playoffs.  Division Winner: Kansas City Chiefs

NFC East:  According to the seers in the desert, no division in football is more of a toss-up than the NFC East.  Prior to Romo's injury, I was all set to put the Dallas Cowboys' helmet next to this prediction.  But then the injury did happened.  Dallas fans are very excited about rookie Dak Prescott's preseason performance, but the preseason is not the real season.  Defenses are vanilla in the preseason, and Prescott does not come from a college system where he was expected to read complex defensive schemes and direct a pro style offense.  However, the Cowboys are a run first team, and Romo should return at some point.  If they can hold things together to start the year, the Cowboys should be able to snag a wild card berth.  But, the division champions will once again hail from our nation's capital.  Kirk Cousins will have a wealth of weapons around him as he enters his first season as the unquestioned leader of the offense, and the addition of Josh Norman to the defense should eliminate some of the disasters in the secondary that plagued the team in 2015.  While they may not be a legit Super Bowl contender, the Redskins will have enough to win this mediocre division.  Division Winner: Washington Redskins     Wild Card: Dallas Cowboys

NFC North:  There is a little air of sadness around this division.  Not only did the Vikings lose Teddy Bridgewater to a devastating injury, but they made things worse by deciding to mortgage their future to replace Bridgewater with Sam Bradford.  Then there is also the abrupt retirement of Megatron from the Lions.  And the Bears are the Bears once again.  That leaves the Green Bay Packers as the lone bright spot in the division.  And the Packers are a very bright spot.  Not only do the Packers have a good team, they have an even better schedule.  In their cross-division games, the Pack get Dallas, Houston and Seattle at home.  The Packers will not only win this division, but they will have one of the best records in the conference.  Division Winner: Green Bay Packers

NFC South:  2015 was a magical season for the Carolina Panthers.  It is unrealistic to expect a repeat of a 15-1 season, but it is very realistic to expect the Panthers to repeat as division champs.  The Panthers will get to pounce on Trevor Siemian in his NFL debut to start the season in Denver. Then they will get to feast on the rest of a weak division.  The Saints and the Falcons cannot seem to figure out what they plan to do on defense, and the Buccaneers are still mired in an eternal rebuild.  All that opens the door for Panthers to challenge once again for the best record in the NFC.  Division Winner: Carolina Panthers

NFC West:  The NFC West has two excellent teams and two terrible teams.  In fact, the two best teams in the NFC might both be in this division.  Those teams are the Cardinals and the Seahawks.  Only one of those teams can win the division, but the other team will surely earn a wild card spot.  I have to make this pick in the preseason, so I have to give the edge to the Cardinals.  That being said, both the Seahawks and the Cardinals will be serious Super Bowl champion contenders.  Division Winner: Arizona Cardinals     Wild Card: Seattle Seahawks

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Friday, September 2, 2016

Tuffy Teaser 2016: Week 1

Football season is back.  So is the Tuffy Teaser.

Cats gambling
Tuffy the gambler
When I changed careers and started the law firm of Wetzel and Washburn, PLLC, I was free from the strictures of government employment and was able to explore the wild and wonderful world of sports gambling.  Wetzel and Washburn survived for a second year, and so has the Tuffy Teaser.

By way of refresher, the Tuffy Teaser is a weekly column.  Each week, I will recommend a three team college football teaser.  It involves a $5 wager with a six-point tease on the spread.  This year, the point spreads will be based on those published by Bovada.  The spreads below include the six-point tease.  In honor of my beloved cat Tuffy, the only games eligible for the Tuffy Teaser are games involving a team with a cat mascot.

Without further ado, here is the first Tuffy Teaser for 2016.

Saturday, September 3.  12:00 p.m. EST.

Western Michigan Broncos      +11
Northwestern Wildcats            +1

Big Ten teams can never take MAC teams for granted.  Especially early in the year.  But with this spread, all I am predicting is that Northwestern wins their home opener.  That is not too much to ask.

Saturday, September 3.  3:30 p.m. EST.

LSU Tigers                 -  5.5
Wisconsin Badgers     + 17.5

This game is being played at Lambeau Field.  Lambeau is in the state of Wisconsin, but it is not Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.  And, this game is being played in September and not November.  So, the game will be played on the balmy grasslands rather than the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.  LSU is simply a better team than Wisconsin, and they will win by a touchdown.

Saturday, September 3.  7:30 p.m. EST.

Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles     + 12.5
Kentucky Wildcats                                 - 0.5

Like the Northwestern pick, this is not a strong vote of confidence for Kentucky.  Kentucky is a member of the vaunted SEC, and Kentucky is supposed to be a program headed in the right direction.  That means that beating Southern Miss on their home turf is imperative for Kentucky.  With the teased spread, that's all I'm asking of the Wildcats.  I think they will get it done.

Before I close out this first edition of the Tuffy Teaser for 2016, I wanted to say a few words in tribute to a furry friend who was a faithful contributor to this column.  Roger Kovalenko was Tuffy's beloved cousin.  Roger a wonderful cat who brought love and laughter to many.  Rest in peace.

Roger Kovalenko (2002-2016)

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