Welcome back to the world of Mythical Picks. For the benefit of new readers that have come on board since last Fall, let me tell you what these weekly features will be about. They are formulaic to a large extent. My intention is to write a “weekly thing” that is focused on college football – and on the wagering aspects related to college football. [Aside: I cannot promise that I will not miss a week for the season; I will try not to but sometimes life intervenes …] And that point makes me offer the following declarations:
I make “Picks” in these rants. They are called “Mythical Picks” because I do NOT and would NOT wager real money on all of the “Picks” that I offer here.
I am completely in favor of legalized wagering on sporting events like college football. Having said that, I do NOT advocate illegal gambling in any form.
Even in the situation where one would have access to totally legal gambling on college football games – e.g. you live within walking distance of The Strip in Las Vegas – you should not wager on tens or dozens of games per week. Money management is as important an aspect of gambling as is “picking”.
Here is my rule of thumb for making a real wager on a college – or professional – football game. I am not saying this is the only rule to follow nor am I saying it is the best rule to follow. It is the one that I follow:
I bet on games where I think the line is off by at least 3 points in one direction – and preferably by 4 points.
I will make a lot of Mythical Picks on various games every week and I will begin each week with a summary of how I did on the previous week. Last season, I made Mythical Picks for 212 college football games; the final record for the season was 106-101-5. Here is what that means:
I was right more times than I was wrong.
Had I made the same wager on all 212 games, I would have been a loser given the vig that I would have to have laid to make the wagers.
The lesson from that is that one should only make real wagers on fewer games than you think you have a minor opinion about.
Now, before we go further into the process here, let me be sure that everyone understands what is to follow. No one with an IQ equal to or greater than his/her shoe size would even consider using any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real college football game this week where said wager involves real money. Anyone dumb enough to do that would fall into this category:
You are dumb enough to believe that a microscope is one-millionth of a bottle of mouthwash.
In this section of these rants, I will typically do two things:
1. I will track the progress of the Division III Linfield College football team through the season. The reason for this is that the last time Linfield had a losing record in football was in 1956. It is the longest streak of winning seasons for any team in any major sport in North America. I did not attend Linfield; no one in my family attended Linfield; I visited the campus once just to see their stadium and take some pictures. I track this because I want Linfield to continue their “streak”.
2. I also make “General Comments” about college football here.
Linfield college does not play this weekend; they begin their schedule on September 10; therefore, my comments regarding their progress toward a winning season this week are finished right now.
So, now let me make a few comments regarding the state of college football as most fans know the sport. I think that the College Football Playoff system has had a most positive influence on the sport for one very simple reason:
The Selection Committee who determine which 4 teams ultimately get to compete for the College Football Championship at the end of the year have made it clear – and have backed up their words with actions – that “strength of schedule” matters.
Hallelujah and thanks be to The Selection Committee for this.
That action by The Selection Committee has prodded some of the “big-time” schools in many of the “power conferences” to look at their scheduling prior to conference play and to upgrade it just a bit. The opening week card this year is straight-up evidence to support that assertion and every college football fan should stand and toast The Selection Committee with a “Hear! Hear!” sometime this weekend.
In previous years, there might have been two – or at most three – out-of-conference games on the card where the two teams involved might be of similar quality. Opening weekend often gave the college football fan an overdose of:
Geno’s Barber College at Enormous State University – 45 (52)
Some folks may think games like that represent “betting opportunities” and maybe they actually do. However, for fans who are not going to bet on such a game, the contest itself is uninteresting at best. Even if you are a passionate alum of Enormous State, can you really be excited about the second half of the game if the score is 38-0 at halftime?
As you will see later in this piece, the opening week schedule for the 2016 season is very different. There are plenty of real games involving real teams playing each other. Thank you to The Selection Committee…
There is one game in particular this weekend I want to talk about here. On 3 September (that would be Saturday this week) Oklahoma travels to Houston to play the Cougars. That game can put multiple ripples into the pond of college football. Consider:
1. The Big 12 is looking to expand. The city of Houston is an attractive place for the Big 12 to be simply because of the population of Houston (estimated at 2.2 million by the US Census Bureau). Oklahoma is one of the “big dogs” in the current incarnation of the Big 12.
2. Last year, Houston finished the year with a 13-1 record; and in their bowl game, they beat Florida State handily by 2 touchdowns. The only loss came on the road at UConn. Houston did not play the most difficult schedule in the country by any means last year simply because they were in the American Athletic Conference which is hardly over-burdened with top-shelf football teams. Nonetheless, they were 13-1 and they beat Florida State handily and no one thinks Florida State is the equivalent of the Florida Asthmatics Institute.
3. Look at the schedule for Houston this year. IF – and it is a big IF – they find a way to beat Oklahoma this week, it is POSSIBLE that they will finish the season undefeated at 13-0 and if that happens, what might The Selection Committee do with them when it comes to naming the four teams that play for the College Football Championship?
4. This is an early-season game between one team with a 70-year pedigree in college football against an upstart team. But it is a game that you should not ignore if you think there is a chance that an “upstart team” might someday make it into the Gang of Four competing for the College Football Championship. Larry Culpepper would likely approve…
The sidebar to a win by Houston here has to do with its potential invitation to join the Big 12. Will Oklahoma be willing to admit a team to the league that just beat it? Do they have enough influence among the other schools essentially to “blackball” Houston if they feel vindictive about such a potential loss? That game has meaning on various levels – and it is not even the best game of the weekend by a longshot.
I did a small measure of research about the upgrading of out-of-conference schedules by some of the big-time schools in the power conferences. The results were mixed – but trending is what I perceive to be a positive direction:
Wisconsin and LSU – they are playing each other
Ohio State and Oklahoma – they are playing each other
Michigan State and Notre Dame – they are playing each other
Michigan State (again) and BYU – they are playing each other
Alabama and USC – they are playing each other
Ole Miss and Florida State – they are playing each other
Auburn and Clemson – they are playing each other
Texas A&M and UCLA – they are playing each other
K-State and Stanford – they are playing each other
Texas and Notre Dame (again) – they are playing each other
TCU and Arkansas – they are playing each other
Arizona and BYU (again) – they are playing each other
Michigan will play Hawaii, UCF and Colorado out-of-conference and all at home no less.
Maryland will play Howard, Fla Atlantic and UCF out-of-conference
Kentucky will play So Miss, New Mexico St. Austin Peay and Louisville out-of-conference.
You get the idea here – there are loads of schools that have not yet gotten the memo that upgrading the out-of-conference schedule is trending.
There has already been one college football game; the NCAA seems to be copying the NFL’s move to take their game to other countries. Cal opened the season playing Hawaii – – in Australia. Cal won the game 51-31 and a couple of the stats from the game are sort of interesting:
Cal lost Jared Goff at QB for this season since Goff was the #1 overall pick in the NFL draft. Not to worry, Goff’s replacement – Davis Webb – threw for 441 yards in his first game under center. Do you get the idea that Cal has a potent offensive system?
In that same game, Hawaii ran up a total offense of 482 yards. Do you get the idea that Cal did not do much recruiting for defensive players?
The Ponderosa Games:
About 25 years ago, I started to track games that had big spreads to see if favorites could still cover large numbers at a reasonable rate. What I learned was that in most seasons, the guys who set the lines are very good at coming close to the outcomes. In most seasons, the favorites cover just about half the time and the dogs cover about half the time. I track this because I find it interesting; it is not a “betting system”.
Last year was an unusual year for Ponderosa Games. The favorites covered at an inordinately low rate. The final tally was 38-49-1 for favorites covering.
I call them Ponderosa Games because The Ponderosa was the large ranch owned by the Cartwrights on the old TV western, Bonanza. The Ponderosa was a “big spread”; these games have “big spreads”; get it?
Since this is my creation, I get to make the rules. My definition of a Ponderosa Game is very simple:
The spread has to be 24 points or more.
So, this week we have 9 Ponderosa Games. Please note that the huge favorite is at home in every case; one of the sad features of college football is that when big schools schedule patsies, they do so in a way that makes the patsy do the traveling.
Charlotte at Louisville – 40 (59.5): This line has been relatively stable all week.
Hawaii at Michigan – 40 (54.5): I wonder if Hawaii flew directly from Australia to Michigan for this game or if they stopped off in Hawaii so the players might – you know – go to a class or two.
Miami (Oh) at Iowa – 30 (52): This spread opened at 30 and has been dropping.
Bowling Green at Ohio St – 28 (64): The Total Line opened at 56 and has shot up by 8 points. Bettors must think Urban Meyer is going to run it up this week. He wouldn’t do that, would he?
S. Alabama at Mississippi St – 28 (54): This spread opened at 33.5; it is down 5.5 points. The Total Line opened at 58.5; it is down 4.5 points.
La Tech at Arkansas – 26 (52): This spread opened at 20.5; it is up 5.5 points. The Total Line opened at 56.5; it is down 4.5 points.
UMass at Florida – 36.5 (50): I could understand UMass scheduling a game in Gainesville in late November just to get out of the cold weather. But why they are in Gainesville for a football game that looks to be an organized ass-kicking in August is beyond me.
Rutgers at Washington – 26.5 (54.5): Lots of air miles to play a football game that does not look like it will be interesting after about the first 20 minutes…
Fresno St at Nebraska – 28 (62): Only about half the air miles compared to the game above to play a game that looks like it will not be interesting after about the first 20 minutes.
The SHOE Tournament:
This section will demonstrate the difference between most sports commentators and the commentary you get coming out of Curmudgeon Central. Everyone loves to argue about who is “really” the best team in the country; I enjoy that sort of debate too. However, I also would love to know who is the worst team in the country. And, I came up with a way to do that without any polls; I would love to determine the worst team in the country on the field.
My idea is The SHOE Tournament. At the end of the season a Selection Committee – I would be happy to do this by myself if no one else is interested – will pick a field of 8 bad football teams and seed them from #1 (the perceived worst team) through #8. Then the teams play 4 games according to the seedings and – here is the twist – the winner gets to go home and the loser has to continue to play. Finally, we would have the loser of the final game and we would have the worst team of the year.
Why do I call it the SHOE Tournament? Because the team that “loses out” and is the worst team of the year is dubbed:
The Steaming Heap Of Excrement – The SHOE Team.
There is one caveat here. I think that early season polls for football – and basketball – teams are beyond meaningless. Therefore, in order to be something short of hypocritical here, I will not even begin ranking teams that are in consideration for the SHOE tournament until at least mid-October when the candidate teams will have shown their ineptitude on the field and not merely on paper.
Games of Interest:
Games of interest might be ones that have interesting wagering angles or they might be ones involving two really good teams – or two really bad ones. Or, a game might just be interesting to me for some inexplicable and irrelevant reason. If anyone is looking for some sort of pattern to these games of interest, I suggest that you will find a yeti before you find a pattern here.
By the way, times mentioned here are EDT…
(Thurs Nite) Tulane at Wake Forest – 17 (43.5): Wake Forest was hardly a juggernaut last year but they do return plenty of starting players. Have they improved or have they merely gotten a year older? Tulane was a bad team last year and they have a new head coach who arrived there via Georgia Southern. Purely a hunch; I’ll take Tulane plus the points here because this looks to be a low scoring game and that is a fat line.
(Thurs Nite) South Carolina at Vandy – 4.5 (42.5): The total line opened at 46.5 and has fallen steadily to this level. S. Carolina had a good defense last year and should hold Vandy in check. S. Carolina had a mediocre offense last year and they have a new coach and a new system this year. I like this game to stay UNDER.
(Thurs Nite) Oregon St. at Minnesota – 13 (55.5): Neither team is an “aerial threat” unless one of them recruited a complete unknown to play QB and secretly signed Usain Bolt to play WR. I see this as a grind-it-out game between two middle-of-the-pack (at best) teams in their respective conferences. I like Oregon state plus the points here and I like the game to stay UNDER.
(Fri Nite) Army at Temple – 16 (46.5): Temple won 10 games and went to a bowl game last year. Army was a bad team. I think this year will be much the same for both schools. I like Temple to win and cover here.
(Fri Nite) Kansas St at Stanford – 15.5 (48.5): I think both teams will put good offenses on the field this year so I think that Total Line is awfully low. I like this game to go OVER.
(Sat Morning) Georgia Tech – 3 vs Boston College (44) Game is in Dublin, Ireland: Both coaches love to run the football and sometimes Georgia Tech gets its running game into a rhythm and rolls over the opponent. BC will play tough defense so that steamrollering is not likely to happen. BC will also likely play one of the most tepid offenses in college football this year. Just for giggles, I’ll take this game to stay UNDER.
(Sat Afternoon) Missouri at W. Virginia – 10 (50): Mizzou had a bad year last year and changed the coaching staff. That does not auger well for this year. West Virginia is a good offensive team. I like West Virginia to win and cover here.
(Sat Nite) New Mexico St at UTEP – 9.5 (60): These are two bad teams playing each other. Unless you are an alum of one of these schools or have a blood relative playing on one of the teams, do not waste your time watching this. Moreover, if you even think of placing a wager on this game, get yourself to a 12-Step Program immediately.
(Sat Nite) SMU – 9.5 at North Texas (68.5): Ditto the comments directly above…
(Sat Nite) Clemson – 7 at Auburn (62.5): Clemson lost a bunch of players from their defense to the early rounds of the NFL Draft in April. One question for the Tigers is whether they can replace that many very good defenders in short order. Clemson did not lose Deshaun Watson at QB, however, and that means their offense will be high-powered. Auburn had a down year last season finishing the regular season at 6-6 with two of the wins coming at the expense of Jacksonville State (Division 1-AA) and Idaho (a really bad team). I think they are over-matched here even at home. I like Clemson to win and cover.
(Sat Afternoon) UCLA at Texas A&M – 3 (53.5): Last year, the Aggies morphed from a let-it-fly offensive team in the Johnny Football years to a solid defensive team that did not make the offense feel the pressure to score a TD on every possession. I suspect that will continue to be the case in College Station this year. If I am correct, that should keep this game as a low scoring one so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.
(Sat Afternoon) LSU – 10 vs Wisconsin (44.5) Game is in Lambeau Field in Green Bay: Both teams here live by running the football; both defenses will need to be ready to stop power running from beginning to end. I love LSU running back, Leonard Fournette and I give the edge to LSU even this far from home against a good team. But that line looks awfully fat. I’ll take Wisconsin plus the points.
(Sat Afternoon) UNC vs Georgia – 2.5 (56) Game is at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta: Georgia has Nick Chubb back at RB after surgery and rehab on a bad knee injury from early last year. Georgia also has a new coaching staff. I think UNC will be a good team this year but I like Georgia even more. For no particular reason, I’ll take Georgia and lay the points.
(Sat Afternoon) Oklahoma – 12 at Houston (68): See comments above about why this is an interesting game and a potentially important game. I think this game will light up the scoreboard; I doubt either defense will put the clamps on the opposing offense. I like the game to go OVER. Now I would really like to see Houston win the game outright to stir things up for the rest of the season with regard to rankings and things like that. However, let this be a lesson; you do not wager with your emotions. I can find Houston on the money line at +395 – – but I am not going to make that pick.
(Sat Nite) USC vs Alabama – 11.5 (53.5) Game is in Arlington Texas at the “Jerry Dome”: Alabama lost defensive stars to the NFL Draft in April as they do every season. And if this year is like any other year since Nick Saban took over there, they will have defenders who will be coveted by NFL teams come next April. USC has good athletes on its side of the ball to be sure – – but I do not see USC scoring a whole lot here. I like this game to stay UNDER.
(Sat Nite) BYU at Arizona – 1 (60.5): This game should be in the middle of the 2nd quarter when the USC/Alabama game ends. Consider it the cherry on top of your ice cream sundae for dessert. Purely a hunch, I’ll take BYU plus the point here.
(Sun Nite) Notre Dame – 3.5 at Texas (60): These teams played last year in South Bend and Texas got their lunches handed to them; I suspect that the coaches may have mentioned that a time or two during the pre-season preparation for this game. This game will be closer than last year but I still like Notre Dame to win and cover.
(Mon Nite) Ole Miss vs Florida State – 4 (57) Game is in Orlando, FL: The game will take place in Camping World Stadium which only sounds as if it should be located in the middle of Disney World. Actually, football fans know this venue better as The Citrus Bowl except that it has been massively renovated. I like Florida State this year; I’ll take them here to win and cover.
For new readers, this is an example of what you can expect most every week during the college football season. [Aside: By the way there will be an NFL flavor of Mythical Picks too once the Exhibition Season is over.] I hope you come along for the ride.
Finally, here is a comment from former Purdue head coach, Alex Agase, about why he did not spend a lot of time recruiting in California:
“Any kid who would leave that wonderful weather to come here is too dumb to play for us.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………