‘Twas the most marginal of mythically profitable weeks last week with the NCAA Mythical Picks. I made 15 selections and the record for the week was 8-7-0. That brings the season record for NCAA Mythical Picks to 85-72-0. Could be better … could be worse …
The Best Picks from last week were:
- Penn St. -7 against Iowa. Penn St. won by 27 points.
- Arkansas +4 against Florida. Arkansas won outright by 21 points.
- Air Force +1.5 against Army. Air Force won outright by 19 points.
The Worst Picks from last week were:
- K-State -3 against Oklahoma St. K-State lost outright by 6 points.
- Nebraska +17 against Ohio State. Ohio State won the game 62-3.
Last week’s meager pickings ought not to entice anyone into thinking positively about the picks for this week. Nonetheless, to be on the safe side, let me remind everyone that nothing herein is authoritative with regard to wagering on college football. Therefore, no one should use anything here as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on an actual college football game. Anyone dumb enough to do that …
…thinks changing your mind is a procedure involving a brain transplant.
The Linfield College Wildcats extended their season record to 7-1 last week with a 33-7 victory over Puget Sound. This week, the Wildcats will conclude their regular season – with the hope of participating in the Division III national playoff – by hosting Pacific Lutheran University. The Lutes come to the game with a 2-game winning streak and an overall record of 5-3. Go Wildcats!
Last week, the E. Washington Eagles beat Cal Poly 42-21. WR, Cooper Kupp, had some unusual stats in this game:
- Kupp caught 11 passes for 154 yards.
- Kupp caught 1 TD pass.
- Kupp threw 2 passes and completed both of them for TDs.
- Kupp returned 1 punt for 28 yards.
This week, the Eagles host the Idaho St. Bengals in the next-to-last game of the regular season. Go Eagles!
Some big-name college football programs have fallen on hard times this season. Here are 3 teams all of whom carry 3-6 records as of this morning:
There is a bit of foreshadowing in that list because a program that has been prominent on the national stage for the last several years is going to make an appearance on the SHOE watchlist later in these comments…
Last week, Navy beat Notre Dame 28-27. This was a big win for Navy in terms of whom they beat and because that was their 6th win of the season making them bowl-eligible. To give you an example of the way Navy controlled this game, Notre Dame only had 2 possessions in the entire second half of the game. Moreover, Navy did not punt at all in the game.
Meanwhile, Air Force beat Army last week 31-12. Air Force dominated the game gaining 444 yards on offense while Army only gained 228. That win makes Air Force bowl-eligible and leaves Army with only 5 wins for the year. Normally, it takes six wins to achieve bowl-eligibility and once a team is eligible, the odds are staggeringly high that they will get an invitation because there are often more bowl slots than there are bowl-eligible teams. The problem for Army is that it has no conference affiliation and many bowl games have contractual ties with conferences to send their 4th place team – – if eligible – – to that game. Army will have to make itself enticing to one of the bowl games that can “freelance” with their invitations. So, here is the rest of the Army schedule for the year. I see one comfortable win there; it might be a lot better for Army’s bowl chances if they could squeeze out another win:
- Vs Notre Dame: The Irish should be angry here; Army is a 14-point underdog.
- Vs Morgan St.: Should be a win against a Division 1-AA opponent.
- Vs. Navy: Hardly a walkover…
Old Dominion University does not have a decades-long tradition of going to bowl games but they will likely be going to one this year. The Monarchs got their 6th win of the season last week beating Marshall 38-14. ODU has 3 games left and it would not be shocking if they won the last 2 giving them a season record of 8-4.
Last week, Florida Atlantic (not a good team at all) beat Rice (not nearly a good team at all) by a score of 42-25. Both teams had been on the SHOE watchlist; this win is not enough to get FAU off the list entirely; this loss is surely sufficient to make Rice a favorite to be one of the 8 teams in the “fantastical” SHOE Tournament.
Colorado St. beat Fresno St. 37-0. Fresno St. was on the SHOE watchlist and you may be certain this result will keep them there. Fresno St. is one of those schools that just had to fire its coach in mid-season. Looking at this result against a 4-loss team, I think it might be appropriate to ask the movers and shakers in the Fresno St. Athletic Dept.:
So, how’d that work out for you?
In SEC country, Alabama beat LSU 10-0. Back in 1958, LSU won the National Championship on the backs of an outstanding defense nicknamed the “Chinese Bandits”. In 10 regular season games – and the Sugar Bowl game that year – the LSU defense held all but one opponent to single-digits on the scoreboard. Duke scored 18 points in one game and other than that, no team scored more than 7 in a game. I mention that because LSU has a long tradition of putting tough and effective defenses on the field. They did it again this year; and in this game, the score was 0-0 at the end of the 3rd quarter.
The problem for LSU was that the Alabama defense is the current day version of the “Chinese Bandits”. They held Leonard Fournette to 35 yards rushing on 19 carries. Alabama won the game 10-0 and was in control for the entire time.
LSU also fired its coach in mid-season. Les Miles was fired and the complaints about him were – in no particular order:
- Can’t beat Alabama. Well, neither did the new guy, Ed Orgeron.
- Played the wrong QB. Well the new guy went 11 for 24 for 92 yards and 1 INT.
- Plays a plodding offense. Well, the new one amasses all of 125 yards on 51 snaps.
Ed Orgeron may be a fine coach but let me just say that all the hype about him changing stuff at LSU in the past month or so seems pretty flimsy now. Before the Alabama game, Orgeron coached against exactly 1 team with a winning record and that team was Southern Mississippi. LSU won that game – but a top-shelf SEC team is supposed to beat Southern Mississippi. As an example of what I mean here, UNC-Charlotte beat Southern Mississippi last week by 11 points and no one in the same zip code with sobriety would think of UNC-Charlotte as a top-shelf SEC team. Once LSU and Orgeron went up against a real top team (Alabama) they got skunked.
By the way, the complaints about LSU’s plodding offense are not completely off target. I read a report that said that LSU has yet to go OVER the Total Line in any game this year; in 8 games their record against the Total Line is 0-7-1.
Texas A&M had been ranked #4 by the CFP Selection Committee in its first rankings of the year; that had been slightly controversial given that the Aggies had lost a game and there were some undefeated teams out there such as Washington. Well, that controversy was dismissed last week by Mississippi St. when the Bulldogs beat the Aggies 35-28. I said in last week’s comments regarding Mythical Picks that this was not a game I wanted to bet on but was a game I wanted to pay attention to. Mississippi St. won by only 7 points but they dominated the game. Consider:
- Total offense: Bulldogs = 574 yards Aggies = 388 yards
- Miss. St. was 11 for 18 on 3rd down conversions
- First downs: Bulldogs = 29 Aggies = 15.
Next up for Mississippi St. this week is Alabama – at Alabama. To put some perspective on the Mississippi St./Texas A&M game last week, Alabama is a Ponderosa favorite over Mississippi St. this week…
Going into last week’s slate of games, Kentucky had the opportunity to be right in the midst of whatever turmoil there would be in the SEC East; they had a path to the SEC Championship Game. They still have that chance – but it is dimmer because Kentucky lost to Georgia last week 27-24. Two weeks ago, Georgia could only produce 165 yards’ offense against Florida; last week, they put out 460 yards’ offense on Kentucky. Georgia lost 3 fumbles in the game thereby keeping things in suspense.
Kentucky is now 4-3 in SEC games; that puts them in second place in the SEC East; they conclude their SEC schedule this week when they go to Knoxville to play Tennessee. That is not a particularly welcoming venue for Kentucky; the last time they won there was in 1984. Even with a win in that game, they will need Florida to stumble down the stretch.
Florida showed last week that they are perfectly capable of stumbling. Against Arkansas, the Gators were dominated in losing 31-10. Arkansas almost doubled Florida in offensive output; the Razorbacks gained 466 yards to Florida’s 241. Florida’s netted only 12 yards rushing on 14 attempts. Like LSU as discussed above, Florida is a team that relies on its defense to control the game and to set up the offense to score. When the defense does not do that, the Gators are in deep yoghurt.
In Big 10 action, Nebraska paid a visit to Ohio State last week. There in Columbus, the Cornhuskers received the football equivalent of a ritual disembowelment losing 62-3 and losing their starting QB, Tommy Armstrong, when his head slammed off the ground after he was knocked out of bounds in the first half of the game. Armstrong left the field and the stadium in an ambulance but was back on the sidelines – in street clothes to be sure – late in the game. Armstrong’s replacement, Ryker Fyfe, was not ready for the Ohio State defense; his final stats showed 5 for 18 for 52 yards.
Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald had this comment about the Ohio St./Nebraska game before the fact:
“On Friday, Ohio State was a 17 ½-point favorite. I’m pretty sure it was the half-point that especially irked Husker players.
“For comparison sake, this weekend the Globetrotters were 16-point favorites over the Washington Generals.”
Nebraska is still in the Big 10 West race; however, the fact that they lost to Wisconsin 2 weeks ago means they do not have that tiebreaker in hand and will need help to get that title. Also in the mix for the Big 10 West is Minnesota who – like Nebraska and Wisconsin – have 2 conference losses. Ohio State has 1 loss in Big 10 play – to Penn St. – and still has the chance to create a 3-way tie in the Big 10 East. It could happen that Ohio St. Penn St. and Michigan could all finish with 1 loss in Big 10 action at the end of the season with each team holding a 1-1 record against the other two. Before anyone asks, I have no idea what the Big 10 tiebreaker rules are in such a situation.
Michigan stayed undefeated pummeling Maryland 58-3 last week. Michigan had 5 possessions in the first half of the game; Michigan scored a TD on all five of those possessions. The score was 45-0 at the end of three quarters. Michigan ran 66 plays and gained 660 yards; no one needs a calculator to realize that is domination.
Penn St. stayed in step with Michigan and Ohio St. in the Big 10 East with a 41-10 win over Iowa. Saquon Barkley gained 167 yards on 20 carries and the ran up 606 yards of offense leaving the outcome of this game in no doubt.
Wisconsin beat Northwestern 21-7. Wisconsin’s defense is for real; Northwestern managed to gain only 39 yards on the ground in this game.
In bottom-feeder Big 10 action, Illinois beat Michigan St. 31-27. Michigan St. was the Big 10 Champion last year and played Alabama in the first round of the CFP. As of this morning their 2016 record stands at 2-7 which is bad on its fact but is even worse considering:
- Michigan St. has lost 7 games in a row.
- Four of those 7 losses have been by double-digits.
- Michigan St. has lost to Indiana, Maryland and now Illinois this year.
How the mighty have fallen…
Moving to the ACC, Wake Forest beat Virginia 27-20. Before anyone asks, this is an interesting result only because this is Wake’s 6th win of the year and it will send them to a bowl game somewhere. That has not happened since 2011. Otherwise, there was nothing interesting about this game.
UNC beat Georgia Tech 48-20 last week and it looked as if UNC might coast its way into the Coastal Division title and a place in the ACC Championship Game. The Tar Heels dominated the game against Tech. Then, UNC played Duke last night and Duke – previously winless in ACC games this year – beat UNC and put the Va Tech Hokies in charge of that division for the moment.
Miami beat Pitt handily by a score of 51-28. Miami had lost 4 in a row going into this game. Both teams are now 5-4 on the season.
Clemson manhandled Syracuse 54-0. Clemson QB, Deshaun Watson, had to leave the game in the first half with a shoulder injury; that did not prevent this game from being an organized ass-kicking. It would appear that Clemson is on a glide path to the Atlantic Division title in the ACC. They have 2 conference games left – Pitt this week and Wake Forest next week. The Tigers should be favored in both games and wins there would put them in the ACC Championship Game.
The Big 12 featured some high-scoring games last weekend but none that had a lot of national impact. Oklahoma beat Iowa St. 34-24. That outcome is not surprising but it is interesting because OU played without its top two RBs – one was injured and the other suspended for a game. Demonstrating “depth at the running back position”, Dimitri Flowers ran for 115 yards and a TD in this game.
Oklahoma St. beat K-State 43-37. K-State dominated the run game 345 yards to 180 yards. Most of the time, that would produce a victory for K-State. However, last week the passing game was even more lopsided. Oklahoma St. threw for 457 yards (almost 12 yards per attempt) while K-state managed to gain a measly 87 yards through the air.
TCU clobbered Baylor 62-22. This is the second loss in a row for Baylor and this one was a beatdown. Going into the game, Baylor had been ranked in the Top 20 nationally and that ranking shows why “strength of schedule” is important. Baylor’s schedule had been softer than a marshmallow. Other than Oklahoma St. – a better than average team but not one that anyone thinks is “championship material” – here is the Baylor schedule prior to last week:
- Northwestern St. – (Div 1-AA)
- SMU – mediocre at best
- Rice – clearly a SHOE team
- Iowa St. – could be a SHOE team
- Kansas – clearly a SHOE team
- Texas – fans looking to fire the coach there
TCU running back, Kyle Hicks, had 192 yards rushing and scored 5 TDs. I think that would fit into the category of a “good game” …
Texas teat Texas Tech 45-37. Texas amassed 658 yards on offense; running back D’Onta Foreman contributed 341 of those yards and he scored 3 TDs too. The Texas’ defense has been a weak link for much of this season and you might look at the stats for this game and think that they were not doing well. Texas gave up 482 yards of offense but that is actually a good showing because Texas Tech was averaging 600.2 yards per game going into this game.
Out west in the PAC-12, Washington St. beat Arizona 69-7. The simple and obvious conclusion from this game is that Arizona is not a good football team. Period.
Colorado beat UCLA 20-10. UCLA is not very good and Colorado is surprisingly good this year. The interesting stat from this game is that Colorado committed 8 personal fouls in the game – and still won. Perhaps they were channeling the Oakland Raiders of the 70s and 80s…?
USC beat Oregon 45-20. Redshirt freshman QB, Sam Darnold, played very well here. Yes, I know that the Oregon defense is pathetic; nevertheless, Darnold played well and threw very accurately in the game. There are lots of “really good athletes” on the USC squad; that was most apparent against an over-matched Oregon team. Perhaps USC is a team on the rise?
Washington remained undefeated with a dominating win over Cal 66-27. WR, Joe Ross had 208 yards receiving and 3 TDs.
If I were going to go to the trouble of putting together my “All-Geography Football Team” for 2016, I would start with these folks:
- Taiwan Deal – RB, Wisconsin
- Bentley Spain – OL, North Carolina
- Dijon Paschal – WR, Arkansas St.
- Newton Salisbury – DE, Florida International and
- River Cracraft – WR, Washington St.
The Ponderosa Games:
Last week we had 9 Ponderosa Games and the record for favorites covering in those games was 3-6-0.
Clemson, Louisville and Michigan covered.
Appalachian St., Auburn, Boise St., Ole Miss, W. Kentucky and W. Virginia did not cover.
The season record for favorites covering in Ponderosa Games now stands at 33-37-1.
This week we have 7 Ponderosa Games:
Ohio St. – 29.5 at Maryland (57.5): Last week, Maryland lost by 56 and Ohio St. won by 59. Either of those outcomes could happen again here…
Wake Forest at Louisville – 34.5 (54.5): Wake Forest became bowl-eligible last week. Given this perception of Wake’s chances against Louisville, consider that they will be headed to a minor bowl game.
Mississippi St. at Alabama – 29 (55): The Bulldogs knocked off the CFP #4 team last week. Can they do the same to the CFP #1 team this week? Unlikely…
North Texas at W. Kentucky – 28 (65): Really? Remind me to check the score of this game on Sunday because I will not be paying attention on Saturday.
Illinois at Wisconsin – 26 (39): The oddsmakers think Wisconsin will win by 26 and the total score will be 39. That does not leave a lot of points to be scored by Illinois…
Tulane at Houston – 25 (51): Another ho-hum game…
San Diego St. – 24 at Nevada (51.5): San Diego St. has a really good RB named Donnel Pumphrey. He broke Marshall Faulk’s career rushing record at San Diego St.
The SHOE Teams:
I will list 12 teams that are the most serious contenders for the SHOIE Tournament this week and 4 more that are on a peripheral watchlist. Making initial appearances this week are 3 teams that normally would be far distant from any such mention. The reasons are explained here:
Arizona: They are 117th in the nation in total defense and 116th in the nation in scoring defense. They give up just over 37 point per game. They are also 115th in the country in scoring offense producing only 22.2 points per game.
Michigan St.: They have lost 7 in a row; three of those losses have been to mediocre at best teams. They score 23.2 points per game; they give up 30.3 points per game.
Missouri: They have lost 5 in a row including home game losses to Middle Tennessee St. and Kentucky. Their 2 wins this year are over E. Michigan and Delaware St.
The 12 teams on the serious SHOE watchlist in alphabetical order are:
- Bowling Green
- Florida Atlantic – they play UTEP this week
- Fresno St.
- Iowa St.
- New Mexico St.
- Rutgers – they play Michigan St. this week
- Texas St.
The 4 teams on the peripheral watchlist in alphabetical order are:
- Michigan St.
Games of Interest:
Penn St. – 7 at Indiana (59): As noted above, Penn St. is in the middle of the Big 10 East Division race. Indiana needs another win for bowl-eligibility but I am not impressed with the teams they have beaten so far this year. I like Penn St. to win and cover – even on the road.
Iowa St. – 10 at Kansas (56): Two SHOE teams play each other and the road team is a double-digit favorite. Please do not bet on this game; in fact, do not watch this game unless you have a blood relative participating in it. The loser here will surely be on the “close watchlist” for the SHOE Tournament next week…
Tulsa at Navy – 2 (69): The Total Line opened the week at 76 points and has been dropping all week. I see lots of points on the board in this game. I do not think either defense will hold the opposition in check. I think this line is moving in the wrong direction; I’ll take this game to go OVER.
Ga Tech at Va Tech – 10 (54): Georgia Tech needs a win to become bowl-eligible; if Va Tech wins out, they will be the ACC Coastal Division champs and will play Clemson (probably) in the ACC Championship Game. There is the motivation for the game. The Hokies are 17th in the country in total defense giving up 327.4 yards per game. Georgia Tech is 64th in the country in total defense giving up 405.4 yards per game. That is where I think the difference lies. I’ll take Va Tech to win and cover here.
Texas Tech at Oklahoma St. – 12.5 (89.5): Believe it or not, that Total Line has dropped slightly during the week; it opened at 91 points. Tech’s prolific offense is all throwing the ball; State’s pass defense is not very good but it is not miserable either. Tech’s defense is 122nd in the country against the pass and 115th in the country against the run. Overall, Techs’ defense is 126th in the country yielding 533.3 yards per game. I like Oklahoma St. at home to win and cover here.
Ole Miss at Texas A&M – 10 (54): The Total Line opened at 63 and dropped almost immediately to 57 and then has drifted down all week long. Once again, I think the line is moving in the wrong direction. I like this game to go OVER.
Auburn – 10.5 at Georgia (48.5): Auburn runs the ball really well producing just under 300 yards per game on the ground. Georgia and Ohio St. are tied for 19th in the country in rushing defense allowing only 118.2 yards per game. I think the game comes down to how well Auburn can run the ball – or not. Neither team is fearsome through the air. Make this a venue call; I’ll take Georgia plus the double-digit helping of points.
Kentucky at Tennessee – 14 (60): Kentucky has been surprisingly good this year winning 5 games already. Tennessee has underperformed expectations this year. The reason for those observations is that some folks had Tennessee winning the SEC East and challenging Alabama for SEC supremacy; no one thought Kentucky would have 5 wins at this point in the season – and maybe not as many as 5 wins at the end of the season. Tennessee’ defense is a bit better but both teams give up around 400 yards per game. Tennessee gives up 5 fewer points per game here. I think the Total Line is low; I’ll take this game to go OVER.
South Carolina at Florida – 11 (37.5): South Carolina is not very good and Florida’s offense is a mess. The oddsmakers see this as a low-scoring game and I fully agree. Therefore, I will take South Carolina with that generous helping of points.
LSU – 7 at Arkansas (46.5): Short and sweet here… I see this game playing out very differently than these lines suggest. I’ll take Arkansas at home plus the points and I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.
Army vs Notre Dame – 14 (51): [Game played in San Antonio, TX]: If Notre Dame loses to Navy – as they did last week – and then to Army this week, I suspect that the Irish will be looking for a new coach starting in December. Nevertheless, that line looks awfully fat to me. I like Army plus the points here.
Cal at Washington St. – 15 (83): These are two teams that have incredible swings in their performances from week to week. This will probably be an entertaining game but neither team inspires enough confidence to make a selection. Watch but don’t bet …
USC at Washington – 9 (62): I asked above if perhaps USC was a team on the rise. Well, if they are, they can demonstrate that with a solid game against a demonstrably good Washington team in Seattle. Purely a hunch; I’ll take USC plus the points.
West Virginia at Texas – 2 (64): Texas is much better at home than they are on the road; four of their 5 wins this year have come at home. The Mountaineers are 7-1 but those 7 wins are not at the expense of any top-shelf opponents.
- Missouri – on the SHOE peripheral watchlist
- Youngstown St. – Div 1-AA
- BYU – good not great
- K-State – not the best K-State team of recent vintage
- Texas Tech – cannot play defense at the high school level
- TCU – good not great
- Kansas – just plain awful.
Make this a venue call; I like Texas to win and cover at home.
Baylor at Oklahoma – 17.5 (79): As noted above, Baylor’s sorta gaudy record comes at the expense of bad teams. Oklahoma is hardly a great team, but this is a much better than usual opponent for Baylor so far this year – – and the game is in Norman, OK. I do not want Baylor in this game nor do I want to lay that many points with an in-and-out Oklahoma team. The game is interesting but not bettable …
Minnesota at Nebraska – 7 (48): Both teams have 2 losses in conference this year and both can still win the Big 10 West Division. Nebraska has lost 2 in a row to Wisconsin and Ohio St. and both games were road games for the Huskers. Make no mistake, Minnesota is an easier opponent that either of those two teams. Nebraska QB, Tommy Armstrong practiced yesterday but is still not cleared to play. With that decision up in the air, this game cannot be a wagering proposition – – but it is a potentially important and therefore interesting game…
Michigan – 21.5 at Iowa (50.5): Get ready for smashmouth football if you are tuning into this one… Iowa lost handily to Penn St on the road last week; Michigan had no difficulty with Penn St. earlier this year. The spread here is more than 3 TDs and it is tempting to take the underdog with those points – – but I will resist that temptation because every once in a while, Michigan goes into orbit and scores 50+ points. Iowa will not come close to doing that against the Michigan defense. I’ll pass…
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………