The best word I can think of to describe last week’s NCAA Mythical Picks is “Meh!” I made 16 picks; the record for the week was 8-8-0. Meh! That brings the season record to 63-49-0.
The Best Picks of the week were:
Arkansas +7.5 against Ole Miss. Arkansas won outright by 4 points
UNC + 7 against Miami (FL). UNC won outright by 7 points.
The Worst Picks of the week were:
Iowa St./Texas OVER 69. The Total Score was only 33.
Stanford/Notre Dame OVER 54. The Total Score was only 27.
Last week’s results ought not to entice anyone to be confident that this week’s picks will be anything special. However, in case anyone is new to the party here, let me offer this disclaimer. No one should use anything written here as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on a real college football game this weekend – or any other weekend for that matter. How dumb would you have to be to do such a thing?
Let’s just say you will never be in danger of throwing your back out because it is forced to carry the weight of your brain.
The Linfield College Wildcats extended their season record to 4-1 last week with a 40-0 shutout win over Willamette. That means Linfield is one more victory away from having its 61st consecutive winning season in football. In Division III, Linfield plays a 9-game regular season schedule.
This week, the Wildcats will travel east to take on the Pirates of Whitworth University. The Pirates bring a 5-1 record to the field – including a 5-game winning streak. Only once this year has Whitworth failed to score 45 points in a game. Meanwhile, Linfield has only given up 11.6 points per game this year. Go Wildcats!
Eastern Washington had last week off, so there are no Cooper Kupp exploits to document here. This week, the Eagles go to Bozeman, MT to take on the Montana St. Bobcats. Go Eagles!
North Dakota St. had gotten a lot of attention recently given its status as a Division 1-AA team. Carson Wentz went overall #2 in the NFL Draft a few months ago and North Dakota St. began this season with an upset win over Iowa. However, last weekend, North Dakota State fell to South Dakota St. by a score of 19-17 on the final play of the game. If I counted correctly, that is only the 5th loss for N. Dakota St. in the last 6 seasons.
In non-conference action last week, Stanford rallied to beat Notre Dame 17-10 after the Irish led 10-0 at the half. It was not an offensive explosion by Stanford that won the game; they scored their 17 points on a Pick Six, a safety, a fumble recovered in the end zone and a 2-point conversion.
The good news for Notre Dame is that the defense finally played a good game.
The bad news for Notre Dame is that their record now stands at 2-5.
BYU prevailed over Mississippi St. 28-21 in double overtime. The game was about as even as the score – and duration – would indicate:
Total offense BYU = 314 yards
Total offense Miss St. = 392 yards
Turnovers BYU = 2
Turnovers Miss St. = 2
Third down conversions BYU = 9 for 17
Third down conversions Miss St. = 8 for 19
Down in SEC country, Vandy upset Georgia 17-16. This does not happen all that often; Georgia leads this rivalry 55-20-2. Since 2000, the Bulldogs record in this series is 14-3. I mention those stats to set up this rhetorical question:
Might we add Georgia to the list of schools that fired a pretty good coach simply because the alums and boosters have a higher expectation for the football program than is deserved?
Alabama beat Tennessee 49-10. Tennessee is improved over last year and was better last year than the year before that. Having said that, the score of this game fairly represents the difference between these two teams. Tennessee was simply out-classed…
Florida handled Missouri 40-14. The Gators have 1 loss this year – to Tennessee. However, if Florida can “run the table” they will finish first in the SEC East because Tennessee has 2 conference losses. Let me just say that Florida does not have an easy row to hoe:
Oct 29: vs. Georgia (in Jax for the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party)
Nov 5: at Arkansas
Nov 12: vs S. Carolina
Nov 19: at LSU (make-up of game postponed by Hurricane Matthew)
Nov 26: at Florida State (not a conference game)
Arkansas beat Ole Miss 34-30. Ole Miss trailed 17-6 in the first half but rallied to take the lead at 30-27 with about 9 minutes to play in the game. Arkansas iced the game with a TD around the 2-minute mark.
In Big 10 action, let me start at the bottom. Illinois beat Rutgers at Rutgers by 17 points. Unequivocally, Illinois is not a good team; that statement tells you something important about the Rutgers team. Let me do a bit of foreshadowing here:
You will encounter Rutgers later on when I present the first look at candidates for the SHOE Tournament.
Iowa beat Purdue 49-35. Iowa dominated the first half and led 35-7 at halftime. Then they went to sleep in the second half but Purdue could not make up the 28-point hole they had dug for themselves. This game was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Purdue; they fired their head coach the day after the game.
Nebraska beat Indiana 27-22. Nebraska dominated the game early on and then seemed to take its foot off the gas. Nebraska is now 6-0 for the year and it has been 15 years since the Huskers have opened a season with 6 straight wins.
Northwestern beat Michigan St. 54-40. Who saw that coming? I certainly did not. In fact, it might be one of the most surprising scores of the year. Earlier this year, Northwestern lost to W. Michigan (from the MAC) and also to Illinois St. (Division 1-AA). Moreover, in the loss to Illinois St., Northwestern only scored 7 points. Now in the last two games, Northwestern has beaten Iowa and Michigan St and scored a total of 92 points in those 2 games. This was the 4th loss in a row for Michigan St.; the last time that happened was back in 2006.
Ohio State needed OT to beat Wisconsin 30-23. This was a heavyweight game and it lived up to its advance billing. Wisconsin led 16-6 at the half but Ohio State rallied in the second half to force overtime. The two QBs had almost identical stats:
JT Barrett was 17 for 29 for 226 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT
Alex Hornibrook was 16 for 28 for 214 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT
The running game for the two QBs was a different story. Barrett ran for 92 yards and 2 TDs while Hornibrook ran for minus-34 yards for the game. Wisconsin has now lost two games this year both by 7 points to Ohio State and to Michigan. Recall that Wisconsin also played LSU earlier this year and beat LSU. The Badgers are probably the best 2-loss team in the country.
In ACC action, Louisville beat Duke 24-14. Frankly, it was a lackluster performance by Louisville with far less “excitement” provided from Lamar Jackson than anticipated. Yes, he produced a tad over 300 yards in the game which is laudable indeed; however, he has been producing 400+ yards in games almost routinely this year. The Duke defense kept him well below that sort of output.
Meanwhile, Clemson beat North Carolina St. 24-17 in OT. If you want to see a lackluster performance by an entire team, go check out the replay and watch Clemson. This is not what a “Top 5” team is supposed to look like. Both teams had the same average yards per offensive play (5.6 yards per snap). NC State does not have a “Top 5” offense or defense. Clemson turned the ball over 4 times in the game.
Florida St. beat Wake Forest 17-6. I am not all that surprised that the Seminoles held Wake Forest to less than 10 points; I am surprised that the Seminoles only scored 17 points.
UNC beat Miami (FL) 20-13. UNC is 5-2 and it would not be shocking to see them win 9 games this year. Their losses have been to Georgia and to Va Tech – in a Hurricane Matthew game that should never have been played. I do not know if the Tar Heels will win out, but all of the remaining 5 games are winnable:
Home against Georgia Tech
Home against The Citadel
Home against NC State.
Out there in Big 12 country, Oklahoma beat K-State 38-17. I did not expect K-state to win this game but I also did not expect them to lose by 3 TDs. Oklahoma racked up 510 yards on offense for the day as compared to only 353 for K-State.
West Virginia beat Texas Tech 48-17. So where did West Virginia find a defense all of a sudden? The Mountaineers held Texas Tech to 1.3 yards per rushing attempt for this game.
Baylor beat Kansas 49-7. The score was 42-0 at the half and then Baylor called off the dogs. If Art Briles were still at Baylor, he would not have stopped until Baylor was in the mid-70s…
Texas beat Iowa St. 27-6. Someone must have found a way to take the Ambien out of the drinking water in the Longhorns’ defensive meeting room; the defense actually showed up and played well here. The Iowa St. offense has been decent this year and they had averaged 39 points per game over the 3-game stretch leading up to this one. Iowa St. led 6-3 at the half and Texas had lost 14 straight game when they trailed at halftime. However, this time Texas scored 21 points in the 3rd quarter and the defense pitched a shutout for the 2nd half and the Longhorns won the game. As a measure of the quality of the Texas defensive play here, consider that they held Iowa St. to 280 yards’ offense on 77 offensive plays. That is a meager 3.6 yards per play.
In PAC-12 action last week, USC clobbered Arizona by a score of 48-14. It was 34-0 at the half. This game was no contest…
Colorado beat Arizona St. 40-16 last week. It was not a joyous weekend of college football for fans in Arizona. The rushing stats and the total offense stats tell the story of this game:
Ariz St. ran 28 times for 50 yards
Colorado ran 52 times for 315 yards
Ariz St had total offense of 199 yards
Colorado had total offense of 580 yards.
I believe Colorado is 7-0 against the spread this year meaning there are some happy alums and boosters in and around Boulder CO…
Utah beat Oregon St. 19-14. This game should be held up as a monument to offensive ineptitude. Consider:
Oregon St. had 7 first downs
Utah had 12 first downs
Oregon St. was 0 for 9 on third downs
Utah was 4 for 10 on third downs
Oregon St had total offense of 155 yards
Utah had total offense of 239 yards
Oregon St. ran 36 offensive plays
Utah ran 48 offensive plays
[Aside: Lots of teams run 75 plays in a game routinely and some run as many as 90 plays in a game.]
Oregon State passing offense was 1 for 14 for a total of 1 yard for the game.
Washington St. beat UCLA 27-21. The stats for the game were pretty much even; the only discrepancy was that UCLA turned the ball over 4 times and Washington St. turned it over only twice. Washington St. is 3-0 in PAC-12 games; their 2 losses for the season came in Weeks 1 and 2 when they lost to E. Washington (Division 1-AA) and Boise St. Since then, they have been perfect.
Washington St. kicked a field goal in the first quarter of this game. Why is that interesting? Well, this is the 6th game of the year for Washington St. and this is their first field goal of the year.
UCLA simply cannot run the ball. In this game, they had 25 rushing attempts that gained 43 yards. For the season, UCLA ranks 126th (out of 128 teams) in the country in rushing offense; they average 91.1 yards per game and a mere 2.81 yards per attempt.
Va Tech has a freshman WR named Divine Deablo. Anyone hear old enough to remember The Clovers’ song from the 1950s, Devil or Angel? Just wondering …
The Ponderosa Games:
Last week we had 5 Ponderosa Games. The record for favorites covering in those games was 2-3-0 bringing the cumulative record for favorites covering to 28-23-0.
Baylor and LSU covered.
Boise St., Louisville and Toledo did not cover.
This week we have 5 Ponderosa Games:
E. Michigan at W. Michigan – 24 (58.8): The Total Line opened at 64.5 and has been dropping steadily all week. I presume that this game is a big deal in Michigan and that this is some sort of a rivalry about which I know nothing. To me this is a Ho-Hum Hoedown.
Purdue at Nebraska – 24 (62): Purdue changed coaches; that changes everything. Unless it doesn’t…
Oklahoma St. – 24 at Kansas (61): The student body at Kansas ought to “storm the field” if Kansas loses by only a TD…
Illinois at Michigan – 39 (57): Remember what I said about Illinois above. They are not a good team and Jim Harbaugh has no history of easing up in the midst of a blowout.
Oregon St. at Washington – 36.5 (53): The Total Line opened here at 60 and has dropped a full touchdown’s worth of points in 4 days. Wow!
The SHOE Teams:
The college football season is half over. I believe we now have sufficient evidence to begin the winnowing process to identify the 8 worst teams in the country that would play in my SHOE Tournament if the SHOE Tournament were a real thing. Recall, the idea is to put really bad teams on the field and the losers have to continue to play until there is a single loser identified as the SHOE Team for 2016. I will present 16 teams on my radar at the moment in alphabetical order lest anyone think there is some sort of hierarchy going on here.
Bowling Green: They have 1 win on the year over North Dakota (Division 1-AA) and a 75-point loss to Memphis on the books.
Buffalo: They have 1 win on the year but they also have a loss to Albany (Division 1-AA) and 4 double-digit losses.
Florida Atlantic: They have 1 win on the year over S. Illinois (Division 1-AA). They have losses to FIU and UNC-Charlotte
Florida Int’l: They have 3 wins on the year but all have come over teams that are on this list.
Georgia St.: They have 1 win on the year and it was over Texas St. – a team on this list.
Kansas: They have 1 win on the year and are a Ponderosa underdog again this week.
Kent St.: They have 2 wins on the year but they lost to Miami (Oh) and to North Carolina A&T (Division 1-AA).
Miami (Oh): They have 1 win on the year and they have a game upcoming against Bowling Green. What a stinker that one will be.
New Mexico St: They have 2 wins on the year; the one against New Mexico might take them off this list. However, that loss to UTEP, on the other hand…
Northern Illinois: They have 1 win on the year and it was against Ball St. Buffalo and Bowling Green are their next two opponents.
Rice: They are the only team without a win; they have to be on this list now. They play a Div. 1-AA team this week. A loss there may cement them on this list.
Rutgers: Yes, they have a win. They also have two losses this year each by more than 70 points.
Texas St.: They have 2 wins on the year – over Ohio U and Incarnate Word (Division 1-AA). They have a date with N. Mex St. down the road.
UMass: They have 1 win on the year over Florida International. In all the other games the closest they have been was 12 points.
UTEP: They have 1 win on the year over New Mexico St. They lost to FIU by 2 TDs.
UNC-Charlotte: They have 2 wins on the season – one over Florida Atlantic and the other over Elon Phoenix (Division 1-AA).
This is a fluid list; it will change from week to week and will be pared down as we get into November.
Games of Interest:
(Fri Nite) Oregon at Cal – 3 (89): The Total Line opened in rarefied air at 83.5 points and has gone up from there; two sportsbooks have the number at 89.5 points. Defensive coordinators all around the country weep when they think about this sort of game. No pick here – but the game is interesting and it has a counterpart on Saturday afternoon… Just to give you an idea how b ad these defenses are:
Cal is 121st in the country in total defense allowing 494.7 yards per game
Oregon is 127th in the country allowing 522.3 yards per game.
Cal is 123rd in the country in scoring defense allowing 40.0 points per game
Oregon is 125th allowing 41.8 points per game.
Remember, there are only 128 Division 1-A schools …
Syracuse at BC – 4 (50): The preferred styles could not be more different here. Syracuse wants to play faster than up-tempo and wants to throw the ball all over the place. BC would be happy to slug it out on the ground, play defense and win the game 10-7. The team that is able to play in its preferred mode should win. The contrast makes the game interesting – but not so much that I would want to bet on it.
Rutgers at Minnesota – 18.5 (44.5): The spread for this game opened at 21 points and has dropped to this level. That means that there are folks out there betting real money on Rutgers. I know that Minnesota is a plodding team but why would anyone want to bet on Rutgers?
TCU at West Virginia – 6 (65): West Virginia shut down the Texas Tech offense last week (see above). I wonder if they can do that again to an offense ranked 9th in the country that is far more balanced than Texas Tech. This year did not produce a vintage TCU defense; it gives up- 434 yards per game. I expect a lot of scoring here so I’ll take the game to go OVER.
Indiana at Northwestern – 2.5 (52.5): Indiana has lost 3 games this year; the ones to Ohio State and Nebraska were to be expected but Ohio State did not cover against them and Nebraska only won by 5 points last week. Their earlier loss to Wake Forest was not nearly as noble an effort. Northwestern’s offense exploded in the last two games after meager out puts in the first 4 games this season. I think both teams will score here so I’ll take this game to go OVER.
Wisconsin – 4 at Iowa (42): This game will resemble a heavyweight boxing match confined to a coat closet. When I saw this was the matchup on this week’s card, I immediately thought that I would take the UNDER – – until I saw how low the Total Line is. I like the way Wisconsin has fought in its two losses to Michigan and Ohio State; I like the way Iowa rebounded from what had to be an embarrassing loss to North Dakota State. Make this a venue call for the underdog at home. I’ll take Iowa plus the points.
UNC – 9 at Virginia (69): I do not understand this line at all. I think UNC is a much better team than Virginia and I am not aware that playing games in Charlottesville is a rip-roaring home field advantage. UNC has 3 conference wins over Pitt, Florida State and Miami (FL); it has 1 conference loss to Va Tech in a monsoon. I do not think Virginia can keep pace here. I’ll take UNC to win and cover.
NC State at Louisville – 19.5 (65): Will the real NC State football team please stand up? Last week, NC State lost to Clemson by a TD; earlier this year, NC State lost to E. Carolina. I choose to believe that NC State has figured out how to put its pieces together so they work well together. That means I think they can stay close to Louisville – as they did with Clemson last week – and that their defense can keep Louisville from running wild. I’ll take NC State plus the points and I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.
Washington St. – 7 at Arizona St. (64): The Total Line for this game opened at 70 points and plummeted to this level. Arizona St. ranks dead last in Division 1-A football in pass defense; they allow 384.4 yards per game. Just to be clear; that is a lot of yards given up. Washington State gives up 278.2 yards per game in the air. That is not great by any means, but it is 106 fewer yards than Arizona St. Both teams are statistically better against the run – but perhaps that is because it is so easy to throw the ball against them. I think Washington State is the better team so I’ll take them to win and cover – even on the road.
Oklahoma – 13.5 at Texas Tech (84): The Total Line opened at 87 and has dropped to this level – – sort of the mirror-image of the Oregon/Cal line move noted above. Tech struggled to score last week against a West Virginia defense that was “suspect” going into the game. Oklahoma’s defense is statistically what West Virginia’s is:
West Virginia is 70th in the country giving up 410.6 yards per game.
Oklahoma is 73rd in the country giving up 412.8 yards per game.
If Texas Tech struggles to score again this week, they will be trounced because I cannot see the Tech defense rising up to win the game on its own. I like Oklahoma to win and cover here.
Memphis – 2.5 at Navy (57): Navy had a BYE Week last week after beating Houston 2 weeks ago. If they can perform at that level, they will squash Memphis. The oddsmakers do not think that is a likely event – and neither do I. The game is interesting because all 3 of the Service Academies have 4 wins on the year and all could be bowl eligible this year; that is not a common occurrence. I have no pick in this game but it is a game of interest.
Texas at K-State – 2.5 (54): The Total Line here opened at 60 points. The K-State QB was injured in the game against Oklahoma last week; the drop in the Total Line suggests that if he does play here it will not be at “peak efficiency”. The real question mark in this game is the Texas defense. It actually played well last week, but that was the first time it did that against a team not on the SHOE Tournament watch list above. Has the Texas defense finally gotten its act together? Purely a hunch here, I’ll take Texas plus the points.
Colorado at Stanford – 2 (49.5): I do not understand this line at all. Colorado has the 14th ranked defense in the country giving up only 314.1 yards per game. The Stanford defense gives up 50 more yards per game. Stanford has not shown much on offense all season. Their highest point output was 27 points back in Week 2. I realize this game is in Northern California, but I think Colorado is the better team and I think they will win the game. I’ll take Colorado plus the points.
Michigan St. – 3 at Maryland (51.5): Michigan St. is on a 4-game losing streak and it has soiled itself in 3 of those losses. Maryland won its first 4 games – against a marshmallow-soft schedule – and has lost its last 2 games by 3 TDs each to Penn State and Minnesota neither of which is to be confused with any of the “Top 25”. Neither team here is the “dregs of the Big 10” so long as Rutgers, Purdue and Illinois are around. However, one of these teams will leave this game with its tail between its legs. No wagering here; just interesting to see which team steps up and which team steps down…
Utah at UCLA – 7 (46.5): Short and sweet here. I think the oddsmaker has it right with that Total Line; this will be a defensive game. Therefore, I’ll take Utah plus the points.
Ole Miss at LSU – 6.5 (60.5): Since the departure of Les Miles, LSU seemingly has cast off whatever shackles there were on its offense. Ole Miss has not had anything resembling shackles on its offense. I think the last team with the ball could be the winner here. I’ll take Ole Miss plus the points.
Arkansas at Auburn – 10 (56): I like Auburn but I really wonder if they are 2-scores better than Arkansas. I’ll take Arkansas plus the points.
Ohio St. – 19 at Penn St. (57): Penn St. had a BYE Week to prep for this game. I just do not think they have the horses to hang with Ohio St. – even at home in front of 100,000+ partisans. It is a big spread – not quite a “Ponderosa” – but I think Ohio St will win and cover.
Texas A&M at Alabama – 18 (58.5): This is the Game of the Week. I do not think Texas A&M is going to beat Alabama in Alabama but I think that line is fatter than Sally Struthers after a week in an all-you-can-eat buffet. I’ll take the Aggies plus the points.
La-Lafayette – 6 at Texas St. (66): This game has SHOE Tournament implications for both teams…
Ohio – 3.5 at Kent (46): This game has SHOE Tournament implications for both teams…
Miami (Oh) at Bowling Green – 4.5 (50): Both of these teams are on the SHOE Tournament “watchlist” above.
Prairie View A&M at Rice (no lines): Prairie View A&M is a Division 1-AA team with a 4-2 record. Rice is a Division 1-A team with no wins for the year. The SHOE Tournament Selection Committee (me) will check this one out carefully…
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………