Drought over somewhere

Just two weeks remain in the 2016 MLB season, and not many people could have predicted what we are seeing right now. The three teams that have a chance at winning it all this year are three teams that haven’t come close in years.

The last time any of the three teams remaining won a World Series title was in 1988 by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Then 40 years before that the Cleveland Indians won it all against the Boston Braves. And we all know about the Chicago Cubs. They have the longest drought of all, going on 108 years.

NLCS PREDICTION

I think this one is going to Game 7. Thursday’s game was the last where the Dodgers will have home-field advantage in the series.

Kenta Maeda’s performance for the Dodgers thus far in the postseason can’t be called anything but below average. Through two starts he’s given up seven earned runs on nine hits in seven innings. He’s struck out six but walked five which has pushed him to a 2.0 walks plus hits per inning pitched. His final two starts in the regular season were poor as well.

Jon Lester on the other hand is a left-handed pitcher. Despite having a lefty-heavy lineup, the Dodgers were one of the worst offensive teams in the league against left-handers this season. I’ve got to give Lester the advantage on the mound.

Game 6 and 7 will be in Chicago, giving the Cubs the home-field advantage, but we are guaranteed to see Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw once more this series. The Dodgers will need to use Kershaw in Game 6 to avoid elimination and force a Game 7. Tied up at 3-3, the series could go to anyone. As a Dodger fan I have to go with Los Angeles, but the numbers continue to favor the Cubs.

WORLD SERIES PREDICTION

Each playoff team’s chances of winning the World Series are: Cleveland Indians, 42.6 percent; Chicago Cubs, 31.2 percent; and Los Angeles Dodgers, 26.2 percent, according to SportsLine as of Thursday morning.

On Wednesday the Cleveland Indians polished off the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 5, making them the first team to advance to the World Series. This is the reason SportsLine has them as the current favorites. But the Indians have been the underdog since we entered the postseason. They weren’t supposed to win the ALCS. Experts went for the Blue Jays, whom the numbers supported but Cleveland proved them wrong. Perhaps it’s the underdog mentality that will carry them to a win.

Once the NLCS is decided, that team will be the favorite to win it all with a 47.4 percent chance. It’s not a huge difference, but it’s significant enough. Defensively I’d have to give the Indians the advantage. On paper either NLCS team would seem to have the edge. While both teams had great regular seasons, in the postseason the mound has been owned by Cleveland. The Indians have gone 7-1 on their road to the World Series with their downright amazing pitching performances leading the way.

Turn to the other side and offensively it’s the two NLCS teams that should dominate. Unlike some teams, Los Angeles has been consistent in scoring runs this postseason and has yet to be shut out. It’s already shown it can perform at the plate against the Nationals and Cubs.

The reason Chicago was the favorite through the regular season and moving into the postseason is the fact that it has the most complete team in the MLB. If they don’t crack under the pressure there seriously is no stopping them. That is if they can get past the Dodgers first.

Prediction: Whoever wins the NLCS will win the World Series. I predict Cubs over Indians in five or Dodgers over Indians in six.

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Weekend watch list

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

The two games on my must watch list this weekend have the potential to really shake up the rankings. As we enter the second half of the season and get closer to playoff season, game outcomes are event more important.

The first Saturday match up is in SEC country with No. 1 Alabama traveling to No. 9 Tennessee.

Tennessee has put up quite the impressive performance this year. It has just one loss and that was in Week 6 against Texas A&M in double overtime. But perhaps the most notable Vol stat is that in five of six games this season, they have turned up the heat in the second half to come from behind and either win or force overtime.

Alabama has been the undoubted favorite since the beginning of the season. Nick Saban’s Roll Tide won’t go down easy, but this is their second straight road trip. Last week they were at No. 16 Arkansas, which actually put up a challenge. Bama only won 49-30.

I believe Roll Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts will decide the game. Hurts has 256 yards of total offense this season and he could be a real struggle for a Vol defensive line down two starters.

The Vols have more on the line with this game than the Tide. If Tennessee loses, the University of Florida is right back in the mix for the SEC East. If that is the case, Tennessee would need Florida to lose one more time. With both teams having two losses, the Vols would own the tiebreaker.

It wouldn’t be a huge deal to Bama if they lost to the Vols. Suffering just one loss the Tide would most likely still be in playoff contention but the pressure would be on to win out the season. Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m.

A few hours later is the biggest match up in the Big Ten: No. 8 Wisconsin versus No. 2 Ohio State. A Badger win could heavily change the playoff picture, but this game is more about the Buckeyes and other Big 10 opponent, University of Michigan, than it is the Badgers.

The Buckeyes need the win in order to cement themselves over the Wolverines until they face off on Nov. 26. Plus a Buckeye win over the Badgers on the road would be much more impressive than the Wolverines’ win over the Badgers at home, 14-7.

The loss to the Wolverines is the only loss for Wisconsin this season. A win over the Buckeyes and winning out the remainder of the season is needed to keep the Badgers’ playoff hopes alive. If Wisconsin wins on Saturday, it will be the third win over a top-10 team this season.

This game will come down to defense (Wisconsin) versus speed (Ohio State). Wisconsin has one of the best defenses in the country, but Ohio State has more playmakers, including one named J.T. Barrett. The Badgers have proved themselves a lot more than the Buckeyes this season as well, with games against LSU, Michigan State and Michigan. Ohio State’s toughest opponent was Oklahoma, who maybe wasn’t as big of a deal as we thought.

MLB

In case you haven’t heard, it’s postseason in Major League Baseball. Friday night starts the race for the American League pennant and Saturday for the National League pennant.

In the American League Championship Series, we have the Toronto Blue Jays and the Cleveland Indians. Both teams are unbeaten in the postseason. Toronto started by having to beat Baltimore in the AL wild card game, and the Indians had to beat the Red Sox at Fenway. This should be a series for the books with both teams red hot, not to mention on July 1 they competed through 19 innings to determine a winner. Cleveland has home field advantage to start, and first pitch is at 6 p.m.

In the National League Championship Series we have the headline winners of the month: the Chicago Cubs. If anyone has heard anything about the MLB postseason, it has most likely been about the Cubs. Chicago had to take down San Francisco in order to enter the pennant race, and not many thought it was possible — it is an even year mind you — but they got the job done. Joining Chicago is the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers and Washington Nationals faced off Thursday night in the NLDS Game 5 with Los Angeles taking it, 4-3.