As I mentioned yesterday in the NFL flavor of Mythical Picks, this is my week to join friends and family for the Annual Autumnal Pilgrimage to Las Vegas for a football/baseball/horse racing weekend. All I can say is that I hope my “Actual Picking” this week is about as good as the Mythical Picking was last week.
I made 18 NCAA Mythical Picks last week and the record was 14-4-0. Since that outcome is so rare, allow me a moment to preen and to posture and to pretend that I knew that would be the outcome all along … OK, back to reality. That weekly performance brings the season cumulative record to 55-41-0.
The Best Picks of the Week were:
Wyoming +11 against Air Force. Wyoming won outright by 9 points.
Washington – 9 against Oregon. Washington won by 49 points
Washington St + 7.5 against Stanford. State won outright by 26 points
The Worst Picks of the Week were:
UCLA -10 against Arizona St. UCLA lost outright by 3 points.
Oklahoma/Texas UNDER 73.5. Total score was 85.
I shall not get caught up in the euphoria of last week’s 77.8% picking; I urge anyone reading these words to do the same. Let me remind everyone that it would be a stupid mistake for anyone to use anything written here as the basis for making a real wager on a real NCAA football game this weekend should that real wager involve real money. How stupid would that be?
If stupid could fly, that behavior would be the Concorde.
The Linfield College Wildcats came home from their game with Pacific College victorious. The score was 48-10 giving Linfield a 3-1 record for the season as they pursue their 61st consecutive winning season in football. Next up for the Wildcats is a home game against Willamette University. The Bearcats bring a 2-3 record to the game averaging 27 points per game. Go Wildcats!
The Eagles of E. Washington beat Northern Colorado 49-31 last week in Yakima, WA bringing their season record to 5-1. Cooper Kupp had 5 receptions for 59 yards in this game. The Eagles get a week off this weekend before heading off to Bozeman MT to take on Montana St. next week. Go Eagles!
Ohio State started selling beer inside the stadium for their football games this year. You can get a cup of domestic beer for $8 or you can get a cup of Ohio craft beer for $9. Ohio St. has played 3 home games so far this year and the total revenue from beer sales is reportedly $412K. Since Ohio St has 7 home games on the schedule for 2016, that means they will fall about $40K short of the $1M mark set by Texas when they instituted beer sales in their stadium in Austin a couple years ago. I am loath to egg people on here but I suspect that the Ohioans in attendance can belly up and get past that mark. Get chugging, Ohio!
Speaking of Ohio St. football, here is an item from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:
“A poll by Public Policy Polling found 62 percent of those surveyed thought the No. 2-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes could beat the winless Cleveland Browns. An unrelated poll found that 62 percent of people are idiots.”
Or … perhaps … the poll had an inordinate number of respondents who had over-indulged at the last Ohio St. game. I have been called by pollsters more than a few times in my life and never once have they asked me to take a breathalyzer before answering their questions.
A fan at the Arkansas/Alabama game evidently had over-indulged just a bit in some adult beverages and crossed a line. He was shouting profanities at Arkansas coach, Bret Bielema; what he said was not so awful except for the fact that it was horribly inane. According to reports here is an excerpt from the fan’s remarks:
“If I had your record, I’d be [bleeping] fired. [Bleep] you!
Why is that sort of behavior – sober or not – even remotely interesting in the context of fandom at college football games? Well, in this case the inebriated fan who announced these great thoughts to the universe was – – wait for it – – an Associate Professor at the University of Arkansas. He teaches courses in agricultural economics and agribusiness. Perhaps he should take Decorum 101…
Last week, Navy beat Houston 46-40. I had been rooting for Houston to go undefeated for the year so that it would test the judgement of the CFP Selection Committee when it comes to which teams would be allowed in the 4-team playoff system; I had been very transparent about that rooting interest. Well, you can flush those hopes down into the septic tank of the American Athletic Conference. Here was the deal from Day One:
Houston had – and still has – a good team this year.
They had 2 – and only 2 – games on their schedule that were ones that would make people sit up and take notice.
Houston opened with a win over Oklahoma. Good show!
Houston has an upcoming game against Louisville in mid-November.
The other 10 games on their dance card pale in comparison to those two games. If Houston were to be taken seriously in December by the CFP Selection Committee, they needed to win all 10 of those “other games” in a convincing fashion.
That came to a screeching halt last week with a loss to Navy. That loss spells “Not Involved in the CFP in any way.”
I was hoping for Houston to be a Cinderella this year – – sort of like a fusion of Marilyn Monroe, Farah Fawcett and Jennifer Anniston. After the Navy game, I am afraid that Houston is more like Zelda Gilroy. [Google is your friend …]
In Big 10 action, Michigan demolished Rutgers 78-0. As bad as that looks, the domination here may have been even worse. Consider:
Rutgers got 2 first-downs for the entire game.
Rutgers’ first first-down came with about 10 minutes left in the 4th quarter.
Rutgers’ passing offense was 2 for 18 for a total of 5 yards
Rutgers’ total offense for the game was 39 yards.
Rutgers punted 16 times.
Rutgers was 0 for 17 on 3rd down conversions.
Michigan ran the ball 56 times for 481 yards and 9 TDs.
I understand that Michigan has a really good team and that Jim Harbaugh plays the game to the hilt. Nevertheless, that sort of domination is what you might expect if Michigan were playing a sacrificial lamb brought in for a Homecoming Game. Rutgers is – nominally – a Big 10 conference opponent. It has always been transparent that the “value added” brought to the Big10 by Rutgers is the exposure of the conference in the NY/Philly TV market. On that note, I wonder how many TV sets lingered on that game in that broadcast area when the score was 43-0 at the half.
By the way, I have not cherry-picked this rout as a reason to pick on Rutgers – – although now that I look at it, one could make an interesting play on words by referring to the team as “Routgers”. Rutgers has played 3 Big 10 Conference games so far this year:
The cumulative score for those 3 games has been 150 – 7.
Only Cumberland College thinks that is a respectable score.
Dwight Perry took note of this game and Rutgers’ ineptitude on the field this year in the Seattle Times last week:
“Rutgers has already played Ohio State, Michigan and Washington — the 2-4-5 teams in the AP football poll — and lost by an average score of 61-4.
“What, the New England Patriots weren’t available?”
Meanwhile, Ohio State cruised to another easy win last week over Indiana by a score of 38-17. The Ohio State defense dominated here holding Indiana to only 281 yards on offense and just a tad over 4 yards per offensive play. Michigan and Ohio state rank #1 and #2 in the country in total defense at this point in the season. Maybe I should look forward to taking the UNDER when those squads play each other…?
Iowa beat Minnesota 14-7. This was a truly ugly game; I got to see part of it and actually opted to change over to watch Notre Dame/NC State play in the midst of Hurricane Matthew (see below). Minnesota QB, Mitch Leidner, completed on 13 passes on 33 attempts. The score of this game is interesting in the context of the Michigan/Rutgers game.
Iowa beat Rutgers 14-7
Iowa beat Minnesota 14-7.
Minnesota takes on Rutgers on 22 October …
BYU beat Michigan St. – in E. Lansing no less – by a score of 31-14. This season is an ebb tide for the Spartans; recall that they have been a Top Ten team for the last two years. This puts Michigan St. on a 3-game losing streak.
Penn St. beat Maryland 38-14. The Nittany Lions ran the ball down Maryland’s throat gaining 372 yards on the ground. Saquon Barkley gained more than 200 of those rushing yards.
Purdue beat Illinois 34-31. Purdue – sometimes referred to as Pur-don’t or Pur-can’t – has a record of 3-26 in their last 29 Big 10 Conference games. Two of those three wins came at the expense of Illinois AT ILLINOIS. Lovie Smith took over the Illinois program after the Tampa Bay Bucs showed him the door at the end of the NFL season. As of this morning, Lovie Smith’s Fightin’ Illini are 1-4 with the victory coming in Week 1 over Murray State.
A bit of foreshadowing here … this week, Illinois travels east to take on Rutgers in Piscataway NJ.
The number of interested observers for this game could fit in a corner booth at your local Waffle House.
In ACC action, NC State beat Notre Dame 10-3 in the midst of a rain band associated with Hurricane Matthew. TV contracts notwithstanding, this game should not have happened at that time and at that place. The game was a travesty. Attendance for the game was reported as 58,200.
1. Given how many empty seats there were, if 58,200 people were in the stands, then the stadium probably seats at least 150,000.
2. Can there really be that many numbskulls in the State of North Carolina who cannot recognize the need to come in out of the rain?
Clemson beat BC 56-10. This game had an angle to it that failed to materialize. Two weeks ago, Clemson played a tough game against Louisville that went down to the wire. One might imagine that the Tigers might be at something less than “peak emotion” for this game – particularly at the start – and BC does have a good defense. Well, that sort of speculation went down the drain when Clemson ran off to a 21-0 lead at the end of the first quarter…
Pitt beat Georgia Tech 37-34. In the closing minute, Pitt got into field goal territory and – as time expired – kicked a field goal that hit the upright and bounced through the uprights for the winning score. The Pitt kicker is named Chris Blewit. In this case, Chris did not blow it…
Florida State beat Miami 20-19. The margin of victory in this game was a blocked PAT attempt by the Seminoles. Back in the Bobby Bowden Era at Florida State, games between these school were often decided by the kicking game success and failure; Florida State was usually on the short side of those scores back then.
Over in the Big 12, TCU escaped what would have been a huge upset beating Kansas 24-23. TCU was a Ponderosa favorite at 28.5 points. Moreover, it took a 10-point rally in the 4th quarter for the Horned Frogs to eke out this win. As is often the case with bad football teams, they invent ways to prevent themselves from winning. In this contest, Kansas missed 3 field goals in the 4th quarter any one of which would have provided a winning margin.
Oklahoma beat Texas 45-40. That continues the Longhorns’ defensive woes despite the fact that Charlie Strong demoted his defensive coordinator prior to this game and took over the defensive play-calling. If you want to try to put a shine on this, those 45 points allowed by Texas is the lowest total for the year save for a squash-game against UTEP in early September. Look at these offensive stats for 3 Oklahoma players:
QB, Baker Mayfield was 22-31 for 390 yards and 3 TDs
RB, Samaje Perine carried 35 times for 214 yards and 2 TDs
WR, Dede Westbrook caught 10 passes for 232 yards and 3 TDs
Texas ranks 110th in the country in yards allowed per offensive play; they give up 6.38 yards per snap. Here is some perspective for you with regard to that stat:
The team ranked just below Texas in that category gives up 6.40 yards per snap.
The team ranked just below Texas is … Rutgers.
I do not want to let Oklahoma’s win here pass without mentioning that the Sooners’ defense has not been sterling recently. In Oklahoma’s last three games, they have given up 45 points, 46 points and 40 points. The good news is they still managed to win 2 of those 3 games…
K-State beat Texas Tech 44-38. For these two teams, that is a low-scoring game. If someone had told me that was the score with 5 minutes left to play in the 3rd quarter, I would have believed it. K-State had a Pick Six and a kick return for a TD in this game.
Oklahoma St. beat Iowa St. 38-31. [Aside: I just knew that “State” would win this one.] The Iowa St. offense is showing signs of life this year; they led Oklahoma St. by 17 points in the 3rd quarter – as they had against Baylor the week before. Then they found a way to lose the game. However, at least they were still “within shouting distance” as time expired.
In the SEC, Tennessee finally dug themselves a hole they did not crawl out of. They fell behind Texas A&M by 21 points in the 3rd quarter and scrambled back to force the game into double OT. However, the Aggies won 45-38 as the beneficiaries of 5 lost fumbles by the Vols plus 2 INTs thrown. Life does not get any easier for Tennessee this week; Alabama comes calling on Saturday afternoon (see below).
Alabama beat Arkansas 49-30 prompting the Arkansas professor to demonstrate his level of maturity as noted above. Arkansas gained 400 yards in the air for the game; since the Razorbacks are normally a power running offense, you might look at that and think that they were in a good position to win the game. Not so; Alabama was in control here. Alabama averaged 10.1 yards per play in this game.
This year, the Alabama offense is something more than it was last year. In 2015, Bama ranked 49th in the country in yards per play; in 2016 they rank 14th. Now before you think there has been a seismic shift at Alabama, the typical defense you have come to expect there is still on the map. Against Arkansas last week the defense did its part:
Alabama scored 28 points off turnovers.
Fourteen of those points came on a Pick Six and a Scoop-and-Score.
Auburn beat Mississippi St. 38-14. The game was in Starkeville, MS and the score at halftime was 35-0. Kamryn Petway ran 39 times in this game for 169 yards and 3 TDs. Auburn is 4-2 for the year and they have 1 loss in conference play. They have a BYE Week this week and then 4 SEC games before their “scrimmage game” prior to the Iron Bowl Game.
In the PAC-12, Washington made it clear that its big win over Stanford 2 weeks ago was not an aberration; Washington is here to stay. Last week, the Huskies went to Eugene OR and beat Oregon 70-21. Washington amassed 682 yards of offense, 378 yards on the ground and gained 9.4 yards per offensive play; that is a butt-stomping win. After beating Stanford by 38 points last week, this win has to get the attention of the CFP Selection Committee. Even after you acknowledge that Stanford and Oregon may not be as good as they have been for the last couple of years, the Huskies are 6-0 on the season and have outscored their opponents 297-92.
Meanwhile, in the southeast corner of the State of Washington, the Washington State Cougars are attracting attention too. Last week, they beat Stanford 42-16 and they led all the way. As noted above in the “Best Picks” from last week, Stanford was a 7.5-point favorite here. Washington St. controlled the line of scrimmage in the game; in prior years, that was Stanford’s territory. Just as Washington had done the week before, the defensive game plan clearly focused on containing Christian McCaffrey – and it worked again. McCaffrey had only 8 rushes for 35 yards and Stanford had no other productive options to turn to. The blueprint for how to beat Stanford is out there for teams to try to follow.
Circle “25 November” on the calendar. That is the date of The Apple Cup Game between Washington and Washington St. It could be an excellent – and an important – game this year.
USC beat Colorado 21-17 despite turning the ball over 4 times. It would appear as if the power in the PAC-12 resides in the North Division this year and not the South.
Arizona St. beat UCLA 23-20. There is a horribly embarrassing stat for UCLA coming out of this game:
Total yards rushing for the game = minus-1 yard.
Lest you think that Arizona St. conjured up a defense for this game, the Sun Devils gave up 444 yards passing here. Meanwhile the UCLA defense did its job holding Arizona St to 275 yards of offense on 54 offensive plays. There were 7 turnovers in the game – 4 of them by UCLA.
There is a junior WR at Western Kentucky named Necarius Fant. If he had a brother, I wonder if they might have named him Nefarious Fant…?
The Ponderosa Games:
Last week we had 3 Ponderosa games. The favorites covered in only 1 of those games; the weekly record was 1-2-0 bringing the season record for favorites covering in Ponderosa games to 26-20-0.
Ohio St. and TCU did not cover.
This week we have 5 Ponderosa Games:
(Fri Nite) Duke at Louisville – 35 (72): The spread here opened the week at 31 points and it has risen steadily all week. You can find it at 35.5 points at 2 sportsbooks this morning.
Bowling Green at Toledo – 31.5 (71): The spread opened at 24 points and the total Line opened at 67. Just what I want to see on my weekend in Las Vegas – – a Ponderosa Game in the MAC.
So. Mississippi at LSU – 25 (57.5): The Ed Orgeron Era marches on in Baton Rouge.
Kansas at Baylor – 35 (67): Two weeks in a row for Kansas as the dog in a Ponderosa Game. Last week they only lost to TCU by 1-point. This week …?
Colorado St. at Boise St – 31 (60): Colorado State’s green and white uniforms will definitely clash with the blue turf on the field in Boise.
The SHOE Teams:
I got an e-mail from the reader – and sports stat guru – in Houston telling me that CBSSports.com had its own version of the SHOE Tournament. Actually, what CBSSports.com has is a listing of the Top 25 teams each week and another listing of the Bottom 25 teams. The author, Tom Fornelli, has his own math to do the rankings but he does not propose an on-field tournament the way I do where the only way to advance is to keep on losing.
You can find this week’s ranking of the Bottom 25 here.
The SHOE Tournament Selection Committee (Me) is keeping an eye on several games this week and one of them is the Idaho/New Mexico St. game. Yes, I know that Idaho has 3 wins this year but this is a game between two perennial bottom-feeders. Moreover, these are the 2 teams that the Sun Belt is kicking out of that bottom-feeding conference as a step toward upgrading that miserable conference. Tom Fornelli and I may be the only people paying attention to that game…
Games of Interest:
(Fri Nite) Memphis – 11 at Tulane (53.5): If you only look at scores, you would think that Tulane has a good defense; they have given up only 114 points in 5 games. Even more interesting is that Tulane ranks 13th in the country in total defense – one notch below Alabama. However, they have played a pillow-soft schedule – with the exception of Navy. Memphis is 4-1 for the season and while they have not exactly played a string of Top Ten teams, they have played much better opposition. Moreover, they scored 28 points against SEC contender Ole Miss. I think Tulane is over its head here. I’ll take Memphis and lay the points.
(Fri Nite) Mississippi St. at BYU – 7 (58): I do not see where the 59th point will come from in this game so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.
Western Michigan – 11 at Akron 72): W. Michigan is 6-0 for the season and have beaten 2 teams from the Big 10 (Illinois and Northwestern). Akron is 4-2 but those 4 wins have not come at the expense of any recognizable names. Just as my reasoning in the Memphis/Tulane game above, I think the road team here is on a higher plateau than the home team. Akron gives up 467 yards per game; W. Michigan gives up 346.7 yards per game. I’ll take W. Michigan and lay the points.
Iowa – 12.5 at Purdue (50.5): This is a test for Iowa. Purdue is not any good. Iowa has been more than merely disappointing so far this year. After this game, Iowa is looking at Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan in a tandem. They need a big win here to give them some confidence down the road. I’ll take Iowa and lay the points.
Illinois – 6 at Rutgers (53.5): The SHOE Committee has interest in this game. No one else ought to…
Iowa St. at Texas – 13.5 (69): Let me review the Texas defensive stats for a moment:
Texas gives up 477.2 yards per game – – 115th in the country
Texas ranks 99th in the country in pass defense
Texas ranks 64th in the country in rush defense
Texas gives up 39.6 points per game – – 118th in the country.
I am not trying to say that Iowa St. is a great team or that it can go down to Texas and win this game. However, I wonder how Texas is going to slow down the Iowa St. offense and keep them off the scoreboard. I’ll take this game to go OVER.
UNC at Miami (FL) – 7 (64.5): Carolina laid an egg last week against Va Tech on a soggy field. I think the Tar Heels get back to playing their normal football this week which is to say score a bunch and give up a bunch. I like UNC plus the points here.
Northwestern at Michigan St. – 4 (42): Both teams are having disappointing seasons. This game has no wagering interest, but it will be interesting to see which team has fallen the most.
K-State at Oklahoma – 11 (59): I cannot lay that many points because Oklahoma’s defense gives up too many points – but I do think Oklahoma will win the game. So, I’ll take the game to go OVER.
Nebraska – 3 at Indiana (56): The spread opened the week at 7 points and dropped quickly to this level. Indiana is 3-2 with a “surprise win” over Michigan St. and a “dismal loss” to Wake Forest. Nebraska is undefeated (5-0); they have won 4 of those 5 games by double digits. Nebraska gives up 17.6 points per game – 15th best in the country; Indiana gives up 25 points per game – 51st in the country. I like Nebraska to win and cover here.
Missouri at Florida – 13.5 (50.5): I do not think Missouri can score much against a very good Florida defense (11.6 points per game and #3 in the country). By the same token, I do not think Florida will score a whole lot here either; the Gators rank 67th in the country in points per game. I like this game to stay UNDER.
W. Virginia at Texas Tech – 1 (83): Check out a few stats here:
Tech averages 55.2 points per game – – 2nd in the country
WVU averages 29 points per game – – 66th in the country.
Looks like a rout is about to happen … until you look here:
Texas Tech gives up 38.6 points per game – – 116th in the country
WVU gives up 20 points per game – – 27th in the country.
I expect a lot of points in this game – – but I am not going to play a Total Line that high. The game will be interesting to watch but not to wager on.
Florida Atlantic at Marshall – 11 (64): The SHOE Committee is watching …
Texas-San Antonio – 3.5 at Rice (57): The SHOE Committee is focused like laser on this baby …
Alabama – 12.5 at Tennessee (58): The script for a Tennessee game this season has been for the Vols to fall behind by 3 scores in the first half and then rally furiously to win at the end – except for the Texas A&M game last week where it went to OT but the Vols lost. If they fall behind to Alabama by 3 scores, I think they are toast. Tennessee has 1 conference loss so far. Despite being undefeated in SEC games at 3-0, Alabama has to deal with Texas A&M in the SEC West and the Aggies are 4-0 in conference. I will take this game to stay UNDER.
Ole Miss – 7.5 at Arkansas (67): Arkansas rushes for 176.3 yards per game. Ole Miss gives up 215.4 yards per game. That seems to me to be a recipe for the home team to control the clock and the game. I’ll take Arkansas plus the points here.
Arizona St. at Colorado – 13 (60): Arizona St. shut down any semblance of a rushing attack by UCLA last week (see above). As of today, Arizona St. has the 3rd best rushing defense in the country. Colorado is a middling team running the football. If Colorado is to cover here, they will have to do it in the air. The Buffaloes gain 306 yards per game in the air ranking 21st in the country. Arizona State’s pass defense is the worst in the country giving up an average of 404.3 yards per game. I like this game to go OVER.
Florida International – 5 at Charlotte (56): A SHOE Committee game of interest …
Stanford at Notre Dame – 3 (54): Back in August, I thought this might be the Game of the Week. Not even close … Yes, Notre Dame held NC State to only 10 points last week, but please recall that the game was played on a field with standing water and in a driving rain (see above). The Irish defense is still very suspect. Meanwhile, Stanford has lost two in a row and both have been decisive losses. I like this game to go OVER.
Ohio State – 10.5 at Wisconsin (44.5): This is an important game – and it should be a good game. Wisconsin gives up only 12.2 points per game – 4th in the country. Ohio State sees that and raises because the Buckeyes only give up 10.8 points per game – 2nd in the country. Wisconsin is 7th in the country in rush defense; Ohio State is 9th. Passing defense is where there is a discrepancy; Ohio State gives up 148.6 yards per game (5th in the country) while Wisconsin gives up 201 yards per game (35th in the country). Wisconsin always enjoys a home field advantage and that is where the game will take place. Purely a venue call, I’ll take Wisconsin plus the points.
New Mexico St. at Idaho – 5 (67.5): SHOE Committee game between teams not good enough to be part of the Sun Belt Conference …
UCLA at Washington St. – 7 (No Total Line): There is no Total Line – and there are no spreads at several sportsbooks – for this game because the status of UCLA starting QB, Josh Rosen is unknown. He left the Arizona St. game last week and – like Charlie on the MTA – he did not return. If Rosen cannot play, I think Washington St. would be a good play here but we will not know that until sometime on Saturday.
USC – 8 at Arizona (64): This game means something to USC; they are still in the running for the PAC-12 South Division title even with 2 losses in conference. Arizona has little to play for; they are 2-4 for the season and those two wins are over Hawaii and Grambling St. This is not one of the great USC teams but it is a better team than Arizona. I’ll take USC to win and cover here.
Utah – 9 at Oregon St. (43): The Oregon St. offense ranks 104th in the country. Utah’s defense ranks 32nd in the country. Looks like a mismatch there. Compound the problem here with the fact that the Oregon St. defense is similarly inept ranking 92nd in the country. Utah is also in contention in the PAC-12 South Division and they have already beaten USC head-to-head. I like Utah here to win and cover.
Brad Dickson had this comment in the Omaha World-Herald about the Nebraska Homecoming festivities:
The 2016 homecoming theme? “There’s no place like Nebraska.” On the originality scale, this may be slightly lacking. Second choice for a theme was “Go Big Red!” Also in contention? “Football! Red! Yeaaaaa!”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………