Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 10/24/15

Last week’s mythical picks were ever so slightly in positive mythical profitability territory. The results were 9-8-1 and that brings the season cumulative record to 55-52-4. The cumulative record is better than .500 and yet it would be in the red against the vig. This is an important lesson for novice sports gamblers to understand and internalize.

The “Best Pick” from last week was the Missouri/Georgia game. I liked Mizzou +15 and I liked the game to stay UNDER 46. Georgia won the game 9-6…

The “Worst Pick” from last week was the Notre Dame/USC game. I liked USC +6.5 and the game to stay UNDER 61. Neither of those outcomes actually happened…

Obviously, no one should consider anything that follows as information worthy of influencing the side to take in a real wager on a real NCAA football game involving real money. Anyone stupid enough to miss that point is also likely to miss this point:

    Fleetwood Mac is not a new breakfast sandwich at McDonalds.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats secured a winning season last week with a 49-7 win over Willamette last week. Division III schools play a 9-game regular season schedule; that was Linfield’s 5th win this year. The last time Linfield had a losing season in football was in 1956. This week, the Wildcats host Whitworth University in an important Northwest Conference game. Whitworth brings a 6-0 record to the contest; in only 1 game have they given up more than 14 points. The winner of this game has the inside tract to be the conference champion. Go Wildcats!

The challenge of finding a Division III football team as a mirror image to Linfield in terms of success is more work than it is worth. First, Finlandia went out and won a game; then I checked on Maranatha Bible College since they lost to Finlandia; last week Maranatha beat Trinity College. Enough, I shall simply track Linfield’s successes…

Surely you have seen the replay of the final play of the Michigan St./Michigan game from last week. As they lined up, I said to myself that the punter should be sure to send the ball out of bounds because the only way to lose here would be on a punt return for a TD. Well, there was indeed another way for Michigan to lose the game… Michigan State won its 7th game of the year and they “won-ugly” once again.

That was the first time this year that Michigan State covered a spread despite winning every game. The reason they covered is that Michigan was a 7-point favorite and they would have covered even without the miracle punt block/return for a TD.

Iowa dominated Northwestern last weekend and would appear to be on their way to winning the Big 10 West Division and a place in the Big 10 Championship Game. That raises a question in my mind:

    Did that division used to be the Legends or the Leaders?

Northwestern has lost 2 in a row now; Michigan shut them out 2 weeks ago. Nevertheless, there has to be some wellspring of talent there. Recall that Northwestern beat Stanford 16-6 in the opening game of the year. Since that game, Stanford has won 5 in a row and has averaged 40 points per game in those 5 wins.

Utah St. beat Boise St 52-26 last week. If something could have gone wrong for Boise St., it did. Utah State recovered 5 fumbles and picked off 3 errant passes in the game. Seven of those eight turnovers came in the first half and it is virtually impossible to beat any team better than Disco Tech when you give the ball away that often. I would love to hear a recording of the halftime speech in the Boise St. locker room after those 30 minutes of football. I imagine it may have peeled the paint off the walls.

Utah St. had lost 12 games in a row to Boise St. prior to last week. With that win, it would seem as if Utah St. could win the Mountain Division of the Mountain West Conference. Here is what Brad Rock of the Deseret News had to say about that game:

“USU forced seven turnovers, made a 51-yard field goal, and completed a 51-yard pass against BSU — in the first half.

“Analysts say the only trick the Aggies left out was deflating the footballs.”

Oklahoma had difficulty getting to the stadium for the game against Kansas State. Mechanical problems with more than one aircraft kept the team cooped up in an airport for more than 8 hours before they could get to Manhattan KS. According to Google Maps, that is a 308 mile trip; had the team chosen to take a bus to the game, they would have been there in less time even if the bus had a flat tire along the way.

The delay seemed not to have had any lingering negative effects on the team; there seemed to be no “hangover” for the Sooners from their surprising loss to Texas two weeks ago. They went out and beat K-State 55-0. In last week’s Mythical Picks, I took that game to go OVER 54 which it did. I must say, however, that was not one of the scenarios I envisioned by which the game would go OVER…

Memphis rallied from a 14-0 deficit to beat Ole Miss 37-24. Memphis QB, Paxton Lynch, was 39-53 for 384 yards and 3 TDs. Until last week, I had never heard of Paxton Lynch so I went to the Memphis football website to see if I could learn something about him. One thing that is clear is that Lynch is a large man; he is listed at 6’ 7” and 245 lbs. He has been the QB at Memphis for two-and-a-half seasons now; and for his career, he has completed just over 60% of his passes. For this season in 6 games, he is averaging 9.6 yards per pass attempt.

    Memo to Self: Check out a Memphis game in the future; is this guy someone to consider for the NFL Draft?

It was only a month ago that Ole Miss beat Alabama 43-37 and ascended to #2 in the polls. Looking at the Ole Miss schedule, it might just be that the win over Alabama was a bolt from the blue. Here are the teams Ole Miss has beaten this year:

    Fresno St.
    New Mexico St.

Here are the teams Ole Miss has lost to:


Let me be polite and say that is not exactly a murderous strength of schedule.

Speaking of teams not playing a murderous strength of schedule, Temple is undefeated at 6-0 meaning they are bowl eligible and it is not yet Halloween. Let me just say that is not a common circumstance on the Temple campus in North Philadelphia…

Alabama beat Texas A&M 41-23. Two Pick Sixes by Alabama dominated the first half but other than those plays, they just ran the ball down the Aggies’ throat for most of the game. Earlier this year, the Aggies surrendered 250 yards rushing to Arkansas but still came away with a win; last week they gave Alabama 232 yards on the ground but could not threaten to win this game at any point in the second half. They do need to find a way to shore up that run defense a bit…

The Alabama special teams seem to have come down with whatever it is that has afflicted the Texas special teams this year. In last week’s game Alabama had:

    A blocked punt
    Another punt returned for a TD against them
    Another return by them resulting in a lost fumble.

Nonetheless, Alabama won the game handily…

The Florida defense “held” Leonard Fournette to 180 yards rushing but LSU still won the game by a TD. The loss for Florida puts them 1 full game up on Georgia in the SEC East and 1.5 games ahead of Kentucky. Georgia and Florida play next week; that game just took on even more importance than the rivalry provides. Should Georgia win that game, the Bulldogs would still have to play Kentucky down the road. The SEC East has loads of possibilities…

In the SEC West, it looks as if it will come down to the LSU/Alabama game on November 7 at Alabama even though Texas A&M and Ole Miss are close enough to pick up the pieces should either Alabama or LSU fall apart. Both Alabama and LSU have next week off to prepare for the game; the fact that neither will play next week also assures that fans will get two full weeks of hype for that game instead of just one.

Washington State completed its sweep of Oregon’s Division 1-A teams last week beating Oregon State 52-31. In the PAC-12 North, Stanford is in charge with a 4-0 conference record but Washington State and Cal only have 1 conference loss. Washington State has a loud and rabid fanbase and I do not want to throw ice water on exuberance but in this case it may be irrational exuberance [/ Alan Greenspan].

Looking at the schedule and results to date:

    Washington State’s wins have come against Rutgers, Wyoming, Oregon and Oregon State. I’ll be polite and say the schedule could have been easier.

    Washington State lost to Division 1-AA Portland State at home. Not good…

    Washington State has already lost to Cal so they lose any tie-breaker situation head-to-head with Cal.

The rest of the schedule for Washington St is harder than what they have played to date:

    At Arizona, at UCLA, at Washington

    Home against Stanford, Arizona State and Colorado.

Yes, Washington State has a path to the PAC-12 title game, but it is a narrow path indeed with no margin for a misstep.

The Ponderosa Games:

Last week we had 4 Ponderosa Games and the favorite covered in 1 of them.

Toledo covered.

Georgia Southern, Texas Tech and Wisconsin did not cover.

That brings the cumulative record for favorites covering in Ponderosa games to 23-28-0.

This week we have 6 Ponderosa Games:

E. Michigan at N. Illinois – 28 (69.5): MAC games with spreads like this are monumentally uninteresting.

Miami (Oh) at W. Michigan – 26 (54): MAC games with spreads like this are monumentally uninteresting. Is there an echo in here…?

Wyoming at Boise St. – 35 (56.5): Boise St. coughed up a hairball last week against Utah St. (see above). This could get very ugly very quickly; Wyoming is a bad football team.

N. Texas at Marshall – 29 (60.5): Surprisingly low spread given that N. Texas lost to Division 1-AA Portland State by more than 50 points just a couple weeks ago.

Iowa St. at Baylor – 37 (81): Baylor needs to win big to stay firmly in the discussion for the College Football Playoff. Baylor cannot point to “strength of schedule” as a reason to get into the bracket so they have to pummel the weak opponents on the schedule.

Kansas at Oklahoma St. – 34 (61): That is a lot of points to expect a good but not great team to cover. Then again, they need only to cover against a bad football team…

The SHOE Teams:

Who is on the Watch List this week? Here are 15 SHOE Tournament possibilities…

    E. Michigan – what’s to like?
    Fresno St – 2 unimpressive wins; several blow out losses
    Idaho – 2 wins but over Wofford and Troy, yuck
    Kansas – actually stayed in a game last week against a real opponent
    La-Monroe – they play Idaho this week; oh joy
    Miami (Oh) – they are 1-6 and are a Ponderosa dog this week
    New Mexico St. – they play Troy this week.
    North Texas – hard to see them missing the SHOE Tournament
    Troy – not much good you can say about them
    Tulane – 2 wins but over Maine and UCF
    UCF – just simply a bad team
    UMass – they play E. Michigan and Miami (Oh) down the road
    UTEP – gave up 52 points to Florida International last game
    UTSA – their only win was over UTEP
    Wyoming – a bad team that could be crushed this week by Boise St.

Games of Interest:

(Thurs Nite) Cal at UCLA – 3 (68): I see this game as a shootout between with two good offenses and two “less than stellar” defenses. I like the game to go OVER.

Indiana at Michigan St – 16.5 (63): Michigan St. seems to be the team of destiny for 2015. When they finally lose a game, it will be in a monumental fashion but I doubt that Indiana has the horses to make that happen. State does not shoot itself in the foot and should win handily here. I like Michigan State to win and cover.

Clemson – 6.5 at Miami (FL) (56): Again, I see two competent offenses going against a pair of defenses that are not equally competent. I like this game to go OVER.

NC State – 9.5 at Wake Forest (46): Wake doesn’t score a lot but they can play defense. They should keep this as a low-scoring game. Is NC State really good enough to be a 9.5-point road favorite in a conference game? That line is fatter than Sally Struthers. I’ll take Wake plus the points at home.

Missouri – 2.5 at Vandy (35): In a college football era where some games have total scores over 100, this Total Line is at 35. Here you have two good defenses and two offenses that strive to be labeled as inept. I will not make a pick here but this is a game of interest just because the Total Line is so low.

Utah at USC – 3.5 (59.5): Utah is undefeated and ranked in the Top 10; USC has lost 3 times this year. USC is favored? Where is the respect? USC’s offense gains 115 yards per game more than Utah’s. Utah’s defense allows 45 yards per game less than USC’s. I like Utah plus the points here.

Tennessee at Alabama – 15 (53): Tennessee has had two weeks to prepare for this game. I think they are badly over-matched here because Alabama knows that it cannot afford another loss if they hope to be in the College Football Championship Playoff. Actually, Tennessee has had two weeks to prepare to get their butts kicked. I’ll take Alabama to win and cover at home.

K-State at Texas – 4 (50): This is a game of interest just to see what is going on in these two programs. State is unusually discombobulated this year; that is not the trademark of a Bill Snyder team. Texas has been awful at times – – and then it rose up and beat Oklahoma. Who knows what is going on with these two programs?

Texas A&M at Ole Miss – 6 (65.5): If you look at the way these guys played against Alabama, you would make Ole Miss a 3 TD favorite. I prefer to look at the schedules the teams have played. I like Texas A&M plus the points here.

Duke at Va Tech – 3 (43): Cutting to the chase, that Total Line looks very low to me. I’ll take the game to go OVER.

BC at Louisville – 7.5 (37): Here is another game with a Total Line in the 30s. Maybe I need to conjure up a list of “Limbo Games” where the question is:

    How low can you go?

Kentucky at Mississippi St. – 11.5 (55): Kentucky still has a shot at the SEC East title (see above). A loss here would pretty much eliminate them, however. I cannot see them winning on the road here but State is hardly a team to inspire confidence to cover a large spread. I do not see where 56 points will come from in this game. I like the game to stay UNDER.

Auburn at Arkansas – 6 (51): Arkansas loves to run the ball; Auburn’s defensive weakness is run defense. I am not sold on either team here but that matchup seems to favor Arkansas rather dramatically. I’ll take Arkansas at home to win and cover.

Texas Tech at Oklahoma – 14 (74): This game is another match-up situation. Texas Tech throws the ball all over the field; they are averaging 49 passes per game this year and 427 yards per game. Oklahoma has had its ups and downs this year but they do play decent pass defense. They only give up 152 yards per game and less than 50% completions. Meanwhile, the Sooners do not have nearly the yardage stats that Texas Tech does on offense, but the Tech defense has given up 554 yards per game this year. I like Oklahoma at home to win and cover here.

Florida State – 6.5 at Georgia Tech (56.5): Tech opened the season with two huge wins over Division 1-AA Alcorn State and SHOE candidate Tulane. Since then Tech has lost 5 in a row and has been outscored by 61 points in those 5 losses. This Florida State team is not the juggernaut of years past for that program but they sure do appear to be better than Georgia Tech. I like Florida State to win and cover.

Ohio State – 21 at Rutgers (no Total Line): The “Chief Logistics Officer” for our annual trip to Las Vegas has proclaimed this game as his “50-Star Mortal-Lock Beat-The-Book-To-Death Game of the Year”. Who am I to argue? I’ll take Ohio State to win and cover.

Washington State at Arizona – 7.5 (74): If Washington State hopes to be the PAC-12 North champion, they can ill afford a loss here. Expect to see a lot of hurry-up offense in this game and most of the play calls to be forward passes. I like this game to go OVER.

Finally, here is a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“In Pac-12 football play this season, the visiting team won 10 of the first 15 conference games.

“Veteran observers say they haven’t seen this much trauma at home since Elin discovered Tiger’s text messages.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………