Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 11/28/15

Last week’s Mythical Picks were – to put it politely – less than satisfactory. The record for last week was 6-8-0 bringing the season record to 93-89-5.

The “Best Picks” last week were taking Temple +2 (They beat Memphis straight up.) and taking Michigan State +14 (They beat Ohio State straight up.).

The “Worst Pick” last week involved the Cal/Stanford game. I took Cal +11 and they did not cover and I took the game to go OVER 64 and it did not.

As evidenced by last week’s record, no one should take any information herein and use it as the basis for making a real wager on a real college football game involving real money on this weekend or any other weekend. If you are dumb enough to do this:

    You probably think khakis are what you need to start a car in Boston.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats won their first round game in the NCAA Division III football tournament last week beating Whitworth 48-10. That puts the Wildcats in the Sweet 16 and their next opponent will be Cortland State this Saturday in McMinnville, OR. The wildcats are 10-0 for the season; Cortland State will travel cross country from New York for the game and they bring a 9-2 record with them. Go Wildcats!

If someone wrote back in August that we would arrive at Thanksgiving week with 2 undefeated teams and that those teams would be Clemson and Iowa, can you please provide me with a link to that essay. I most certainly would never have predicted that. Yet, that is the case…

Before I get to my personal view of where we stand vis a vis the CFP tournament field, here is what I think about the announcements by Ezekiel Elliot and Cardale Jones that they will not be back at Ohio State next year and that they will declare for the NFL Draft:

    Duh !

    No one expected either of you to be back at Ohio State next year.

Here is how I see the CFP tournament field shaking out:

    Clemson: They have been ranked #1 in all the CFP Weekly Polls but they can ill-afford to lose to S. Carolina (who lost to The Citadel last week) or to UNC in the ACC Championship Game. Dabo Sweeney gets rather exercised when someone refers to “Clemsoning” – the art of losing a game to a team that one ought to beat handily. If they lose either of their next games, Sweeney will hear a bunch of questions about ‘Clemsoning”.

    UNC: They already have a loss to S. Carolina on their record and it stands out like a giant zit on a bride walking down the aisle. If they beat Clemson, they might be in the playoff; otherwise…

    Notre Dame: This is a “quasi-ACC team” given that they play 6 games against ACC opponents. They must beat Stanford this weekend to remain in consideration; if they do, their “claim to fame” is that their only loss came at the hands of Clemson (#1 in the polls) at Clemson by only 2 points in a monsoon.

    Michigan State: This is pretty simple; they need to beat Penn State this weekend because that will put them in the Big 10 Championship Game and then they need to beat Iowa in that game. If they do that, they are in the CFP. Their only loss (to Nebraska) came courtesy of a horribly blown call by the officials in the final moments of that game.

    Iowa: Their status is pretty simple too; they need to beat Nebraska this weekend and then win the Big 10 Championship Game. If they do that, they are in the CFP.

    Ohio State: They can still get in but it is going to take a lot of things to fall just right:

      1. Beat Michigan this weekend

      2. Watch Penn State beat Michigan State. That will put Ohio State into the Big 10 Championship Game.

      3. Beat Iowa in that game handily – similar to the way they beat Wisconsin in that game last year. The reason they need a big win is that the loss to Michigan State is a bad loss.

        They lost at home.
        They lost to a backup QB
        They had 5 first downs in the game.
        They generated 124 yards of offense in the game.

    Oklahoma: They have to beat Oklahoma State this weekend and – if I were on the Selection Committee – I would want to know a lot about the availability of QB Baker Mayfield. He had to come out of the game after taking a head shot in the first half of the game. In the second half, the Sooners were one-dimensional; they could not throw the ball and they looked very mediocre.

    Oklahoma State: They have to beat OU this weekend; one of those teams will be eliminated from CFP consideration by Sunday morning. State did not look good in their loss to Baylor at home last weekend.

    Baylor: They need to beat TCU this weekend; if they lose that game, they are toast. They also need Oklahoma State to beat Oklahoma because if Baylor winds up tied with Oklahoma, they will stay home because Baylor lost to Oklahoma at Baylor by 10 points. On the other hand, they beat Oklahoma State by 10 points at Oklahoma State.

    TCU: I do not think there is any way for TCU with its two losses to get into the CFP since there has to be at least one and possibly two Big 12 teams that will end the season with only one loss. However, they can spoil any chances Baylor has of getting in…

    Stanford: They are a longshot – even if they win out because they already have 2 losses on their record (Oregon and Northwestern). However, if they finish the season beating Notre Dame and then winning the PAC-12 Championship game over either UCLA or USC …

    Alabama: This is simple and straightforward. Bama needs to beat Auburn in the Iron Bowl and then beat Florida in the SEC Championship Game. If they do that, they are in.

    Florida: They need to beat Florida State this weekend and then beat Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. That is a tall order; those are two quality opponents. The “nightmare scenario” for the SEC fanboys would be:

      Florida loses to Florida State giving Florida its second loss

      Florida then beats Alabama meaning no team in the SEC has less than 2 losses on the record.

    Imagine the screeching if the Committee looks at the SEC teams having 2 losses and decides to invite neither of them.

Here are the four teams I think belong in the CFP – in alphabetical order:

    Michigan State

Now, all those four teams need to do is to take care of business…

The other thing I want to talk about this week is the story that folks at LSU want to fire Les Miles because – according to reports:

    He does not develop quarterbacks
    He has not beaten Alabama in 5 years
    He has not had LSU competing for national championships since 2011.

Look, all of those things are true and yet, I would like to offer a cautionary note to LSU folks. Please understand, I have no ties or allegiances to LSU or to any of its rival schools and I do not know Les Miles from Les Brown and his Band of Renown and/or 40 Miles of Bad Road [/Duane Eddy]. Recall in a moment of reflection what happened in these two circumstances:

    Michigan fired Lloyd Carr in 2007. He had won a national championship there; he had won the Big 10 Championship 5 times and his record there was 122-40. That is very comparable to Les Miles’ achievements at LSU. And what happened to Michigan after Carr was run out of Ann Arbor:

      3 years with Rich Rodriguez and an overall losing record.

      The “Brady Hoke Era” emblazoned with mediocrity.

      Then – – Jim Harbaugh 7 years later and a ray of hope.

    Tennessee fired Phil Fulmer in 2008. He had won a national championship there and compiled an overall record of 152-52. That is very comparable to Les Miles’ achievements at LSU. Here is what happened to Tennessee after Fulmer was run out of Knoxville:

      Lane Kiffin lasted a year and went 7-6

      Derek Dooley was there for 3 years and went 15-21 overall

      Butch Jones took over in 2013 and was 11-13 going into this year.

Les Miles will finish his 11th season at LSU this year. He has won a national championship there; he has been in the BCS championship game one other time and lost. In those 11 seasons he will have amassed 7 seasons with 10 or more wins. As of this morning, his overall record at LSU is 110-32. Perhaps he is “the problem” standing in the way of LSU achieving football glory; perhaps not. If the boosters succeed in running him out of Baton Rouge, they had best be right.

The Ponderosa Games:

Last week we had 8 Ponderosa Games and the favorite covered in 5 of them. That brings the cumulative record for favorites covering in Ponderosa Games to 38-46-1.

Auburn, BYU, La Tech, Middle Tennessee St and West Virginia covered.

Clemson, Florida and Kentucky did not cover.

This week we have 3 Ponderosa Games.

E. Michigan at C. Michigan – 24 (56.5): Nothing like a MAC game with a huge spread to convince me to look elsewhere for my football viewing enjoyment.

Oregon St at Oregon – 35 (68.5): This is a huge spread in a huge rivalry game – a game that actually has a name of its own. They call it “The Civil War” and the last time Oregon State won the game was in 2007.

La-Laf at Appalachian St – 24 (60): This spread opened at 21 points; to go up by 3 points would indicate that a lot of money came in early on Appalachian St. Why? I have no idea…

The SHOE Teams:

Barring an unexpected set of circumstances this week, these 6 teams will be in the SHOE Tournament to determine the SHOE Team for 2015 – the Steaming Heap Of Excrement. Final seeding will have to wait another week…

    E. Michigan 1-10
    Kansas 0-11
    La – Monroe 1-10
    N. Texas 1-10
    UCF 0-11
    Wyoming 1-10

That means I believe I will need 2 more teams to round out the field – and then I need to have a couple of other possibilities in the event that one of these teams pulls a big upset this week. So, waiting in the wings will be:

    Hawaii 2-10
    Oregon St 2-9
    Purdue 2-9
    SMU 2-9
    UMass 2-9

Games of Interest:

There are lots of interesting games this week because some games are important in conference standings and/or CFP rankings while others are simply big rivalry games. So, let me get to them…

(Thurs Evening) Texas Tech at Texas – 1 (72): When I was young, Texas always ended its season on thanksgiving weekend with a game against Texas A&M – before the Aggies joined the SEC. This is a “replacement rivalry game” in my mind but it is interesting this year because Texas Tech averages 221 yards per game more on offense than Texas does and Texas is the favorite in the game. That is because while Tech is 3rd in the country in total offense, they are also 126th in the country (3rd for the bottom) in total defense. You can check out this game during the Bears/Packers game or instead of that game if you want to see a points explosion. I like this game to go OVER.

Iowa – 2 at Nebraska (58): Iowa must win here to maintain position in the CFP rankings; losing this late in the season to a 5-6 Nebraska team that has already lost to Purdue and Illinois (shudder), might make Iowa unpalatable to the Selection Committee. It is not often that you see a team with an 11-0 record as only a 2-point favorite over a team that is 5-6. I like this game to go OVER.

Missouri at Arkansas – 14 (46): If Missouri loses this game, it will be Gary Pinkel’s last game on the sidelines. He is retiring to spend time with his family as he fights non-Hodgkins lymphoma. That should provide the team with some motivation but the real need for Mizzou is for the offense to come to life in the game if they are to win it – or even keep it close. The offense has not scored as many as 20 points in a game since October 3rd. The defense for Mizzou is fine; it ranks 11th in the country. I’ll take Missouri plus the points here with the hope that the offense will show up in something other than a semi-conscious state.

Navy at Houston (no lines): The winner here will play in the AAC Championship game. That is why this game is interesting. Houston was undefeated until last week when they lost to UConn. Why there are no lines is a mystery to me…

Washington St. at Washington (no lines): This is a huge rivalry game in the Pacific Northwest. Washington St. leads the nation in passing yardage (407 yards per game). Washington only gives up 209 yards per game passing. Just those stats make this game interesting.

Baylor – 1.5 at TCU (no Total Line): I have no idea why there is a spread but no Total Line for this game but that is the way it is at the moment. Baylor must win to stay relevant for the CFP rankings (see above). Both teams have “injury issues” at the quarterback position so there is no reason to make a pick on this game.

Ohio State at Michigan – 1 (45.5): If you do not realize that this is one of the biggest rivalry games of the year every year, then I wonder why you have been reading this stuff long enough to get to this sentence. Oh, and the winner of this game will be in the Big 10 Championship Game if Michigan State loses to Penn State. I think this will be a defensive game. I like the game to stay UNDER.

Penn State at Michigan State – 11 (46.5): Did Michigan State leave everything they have on the field last week against Ohio State? If so, they could spit the bit here. Otherwise, Michigan State is the better team and should win this game and move forward to the Big 10 Championship Game. Having said all that, given the fact that Michigan State QB, Connor Cook, is still recovering from an injury and that Michigan State has only played close games all year long, that spread looks awfully fat. I’ll take Penn State plus the points – even though I expect Michigan State to win the game straight up.

Duke – 4 at Wake Forest (46.5): This game is interesting simply because I think it will be low scoring. I like the game to stay UNDER.

Va Tech – 3.5 at UVa (51): This is a big rivalry game between two decidedly mediocre squads. A win for Tech will put them in a bowl game; the best UVa can hope for is to finish the season with a win and a 5-7 record. I see this as an offensive game; I’ll take the game to go OVER.

UNC – 5.5 at NC State (65): The spread opened at 7 and the Total Line opened at 61.5. That is a lot of line movement. UNC will be in the ACC Championship Game no matter what. As outlined above, they might catch the eye of the CFP Selection Committee with a win here and win over Clemson in that Championship Game so the game is somewhat meaningful to them. NC State is 7-4 on the season and already knows it will be in a bowl game; the meaningfulness of this game to the Wolfpack is that it is against “those guys” in “that school” about 25 miles from here. I think UNC is significantly the better team. UNC is 7-0 in ACC games; NC State is 3-4 in ACC games. I like UNC to win and cover.

Maryland – 1 at Rutgers (56): This game is interesting because it pits the two newest members of the Big 10 in a game that should remind everyone that neither team belongs in the same football conference with the rest of the Big 10. Neither team is any good; the game is most likely to be lost by one team as opposed to being won by one team. Avert your eyes…

Florida State – 2 at Florida (43.5): Florida had to go to OT to beat a sorry-assed Florida Atlantic team last week. My guess is that they were looking past that game to this one. A former colleague is a Florida alum. He said that he gave $500 to the school alumni fund every year – except in the years when Florida beat Florida State. In those years his contribution was $1000. This game is a big deal to a lot of people. Florida only gives up 14.5 points per game and Florida State only gives up 17 points per game. Since neither team is an offensive juggernaut, I do not know where that 44th point is going to come from. I like the game to stay UNDER.

Georgia – 5 at Georgia Tech (48): Neither team has performed this year up to the standards that fans have come to expect from them in the recent past. I do think that Georgia is the better team here so I’ll take them to win and cover even on the road.

K-State – 20 at Kansas (55): This has been a down year for K-State. However, they are averaging just under 30 points scored per game. This week, K-State goes against the worst scoring defense in the country; Kansas gives up an average of 46.2 points per game. With a win here and a win next week over West Virginia, K-State can still become bowl eligible. Kansas on the other hand will be in the SHOE Tournament. I like K-State to win and cover here.

Texas A&M at LSU – 5 (53.5): The Total Line opened at 50.5 and jumped up to this level in less than 24 hours. This is a “Les Miles Coaching For His Job Game” (see above). The Aggies give up 202.5 yards per game on the ground; LSU will run the ball with Leonard Fournette. I think that is the fulcrum for the game. I like LSU to win and cover.

Alabama – 14 at Auburn (48.5): Auburn’s offense is 377 yards per game and on average 201 of those yards come on the ground. Good luck running the ball for 200 yards on the Alabama Front-7. Meanwhile, Auburn’s defense gives up 181 yards per game on the ground and Derrick Henry will be running at them in this game. I like Alabama to win and cover here.

Clemson – 17 at S. Carolina (55): I know this is a rivalry game that energizes the whole state of South Carolina every year. Nevertheless, Clemson is the far better team and they do have a conference championship game to play next week. I think they are going to use this game as a scrimmage. I’ll take Clemson and lay the points.

Oklahoma – 6.5 at Oklahoma St (69): The lines seem to say that OU QB, Baker Mayfield, is fine and will play his normal game this week. If he does not, these lines are way out of whack. Since I have no idea as to his status, I’ll refrain from a pick here…

Mississippi – 1 at Mississippi St (64): The total Line opened at 60 and jumped quickly to this level. Ole Miss is the faster team and State is the bigger team. Speed kills. I’ll take Mississippi and lay the point.

Notre Dame at Stanford – 4 (55): Notre Dame has a realistic shot at the CFP without direct and obvious Divine intervention; Stanford can get in also but that would require direct and obvious Divine intervention. Notre Dame has a ton of injuries and they seem to have taken their toll. The Irish are 10-1 for the season but they needed a late TD to beat Temple by 4 points and they beat a woebegone BC team last week by only 3 points – and seemingly turned the ball over every other possession. Make this a venue call; I like Stanford to win and cover.

UCLA at USC – 3.5 (63): The winner here plays Stanford in the PAC-12 Championship game. UCLA lost to Stanford by 3 TDs in mid-October; USC lost to Stanford by 10 at the end of September. Overall, USC has played the tougher schedule. I’ll take USC and lay the points.

La-Monroe at Hawaii (no lines): Here is a game between a SHOE team and one of the teams on the watch list to fill out the SHOE Tournament field. Of course it is a game of interest – albeit not wagering-interest…

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