By Rob Steingall
Frank Francisco, Mets: After a few hiccups in the early stages of May, Francisco has been rock solid, converting his last five save chances without giving up a run. On the season, he's 14-for-16, which is certainly effective. The Mets aren't an offensive juggernautand will be in their share of close games, which should allow Francisco to have a plenty of opportunities to pick up saves for the remainder of the year.
Addison Reed, White Sox: There are always growing pains from rookies who are thrust into ninth inning duty, but Reed has handled his first few weeks as the White Sox closer exceptionally well. He's a perfect 7-for-7 in save chances, and he's striking out overa batter per inning. While he doesn't have name value just yet, that doesn't mean he can't net you a hefty profit the remainder of the season.
Ernesto Frieri, Angels: Outside of the Reds' Aroldis Chapman, I don't think there has been a more dominant reliever in the majors than Frieri. His numbers are extraordinary (26 IP, 1.04 ERA, 4815 KBB), and now he's picking up saves. He's good enough to lockdown this job and be one of the most dominant closers in the American League.
Alfredo Aceves, Red Sox: The nice thing about Aceves is that manager Bobby Valentine has no problem calling on him for multiple inning saves, allowing him to collect more strikeouts and help your ratios. He picked up two saves last week, and has a secure holdon the ninth inning gig.
Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners: With the saves landscape constantly changing, you need to chase every last handshake, which brings us to Iwakuma. He closed out two games last week, and while the Mariners bullpen situation is in a state of flux, you have to go withthe hot hand.
Bowl games are technically neutral-site affairs, but it sure won't feel that way for the Huskers.
Nebraska will be on the wrong end of a distinct home-field advantage when it takes on Tennessee in the Music City Bowl, played Dec. 30 in Nashville.
The Volunteers will be playing in front of their home-state fans, Nashville just a couple hours' drive from campus in Knoxville.
This is the Huskers' second straight bowl trip in as many seasons under Mike Riley. Despite a 5-7 regular-season finish last year, Nebraska beat UCLA in the Foster Farms Bowl to finish Riley's first season in Lincoln on a positive note. This season, the Huskers finished the regular season at 9-3, losing three of their last five games to Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa.
Tennessee finished the season at 8-4, losing games throughout the season to Texas A&M, Alabama, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. Only one of those teams finished the season ranked — the No. 1 Crimson Tide — but the Volunteers stayed in the rankings, ending the year at No. 21.
This will be the fourth meeting between these two programs, the previous three all coming in bowl games. Nebraska beat Tennessee in the Orange Bowl to close out the 1997 national-championship season and won in the Fiesta Bowl to finish off the 1999 campaign.
Fresh off the resignation of its head coach, Indiana will have a mighty tough task in its bowl trip.
The Hoosiers will go up against the Utah Utes in the Foster Farms Bowl, a 6-6 squad from the Big Ten battling a top-25 team from the Pac-12. The game, played at the home of the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif., will kick at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 28.
Kevin Wilson resigned last week, and Indiana promoted defensive coordinator Tom Allen to the permanent head-coaching position. Allen’s defense made quite the transformation in his first year in Bloomington, changing from the conference’s worst unit to one that can actually cause problems for opposing offenses.
But Utah is no small challenge, one of the best teams in the Pac-12. The Utes finished their regular season 8-4 with three losses in their last four games. Utah fell to both participants in last week’s Pac-12 Championship Game, Washington and Colorado, but own a win over top-10 USC.
Still, any bowl appearance is a positive for Indiana, which will make back-to-back bowl trips for the first time in 25 years. Last year’s appearance in the Pinstripe Bowl was the program’s first postseason game since 2007 and just its second since 1993.
The initial reason given for Wilson’s departure amid the success was “philosophical differences” between him and athletics director Fred Glass. Though reporting over the weekend revealed that Glass ordered multiple investigations into the football program after complaints of student-athlete mistreatment.
Regardless, the Hoosiers will play this postseason, attempting to start the Allen Era off right.