Last week was very profitable – mythically of course – for the NCAA selections. I made 12 picks and the record for the week was 9-3-0. Since the start of the 2016 season, the record for NCAA Mythical Picks is 106-88-0.
The Best Picks from last week were;
- Air Force +9 against Boise St. Air Force won straight up by 7 points.
- Washington -6 against Washington St. Washington won by 28 points.
The Worst Picks from last week were:
- Georgia/Georgia Tech UNDER 49. Total Score was 55.
- Ohio St. -6.5 against Michigan. Ohio St. won by only 3 in 2 OTs.
As we enter the final week of the college football season, I want to be sure that no one looks at the season record for picks and mistakenly believes that there is any great insight offered here. Only a dumbass would use any information here as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on a real college football game this weekend. How dumb would one need to be?
If an idea were to pop up into such a person’s mind it would be a very lonely idea indeed…
The Linfield College Wildcats’ football season ended last weekend with a loss to Mary Hardin-Baylor in the second round of the Division III football playoffs by a score of 27-10. For the season, Linfield was 10-2 with both losses were to Mary Hardin-Baylor. Nevertheless, congratulations to the Linfield team for extending the school record of consecutive winning seasons in football that started back in 1956.
The Eastern Washington Eagles play the Central Arkansas Bears in the Division 1-AA playoffs this week. E. Washington had a BYE in the first round of the tournament; Central Arkansas is here thanks to a win over Illinois St. last week by a score of 31-24. I have been following the statistical accomplishments of Cooper Kupp at E. Washington at the suggestion of Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. Since there are no stats from last week to report, let me review his career stats at E. Washington. Remember, he is a wide receiver first and foremost:
Passing stats: 7 for 9 for 180 yards with 4 TDs and 0 INTs
Rushing stats: 15 carries for 71 yards and 1 TD.
Punt returns: 25 returns for 426 yards and 3 TDs
Kick returns: 4 returns for 71 yards
Receiving stats: 402 catches for 6061 yards and 68 TDs
The hiring of Tom Herman by Texas to be their next head football coach has created a bit of news. I am not talking about the whining that came from someone on the University of Houston Board of Regents; that has all of the gravitas of a leaf blowing in the winter wind. More interesting to me are the economics involved here.
If the reporting is correct, Texas still owes Charlie Strong $11M despite the fact that he will not be coaching at Texas next year or the year after that or … If all of the assistant coaches are also terminated – probably a good “football move” if not a good “economic move” – the university would be on the hook for another $7M. So, the cost of “cleaning house” is $18M which indicates to me that the folks who rushed out to hire Charlie Strong a few years ago when he was the hot young-and-upcoming coach out there might have dabbled in what Alan Greenspan labeled “irrational exuberance”. Oh, but the economic revelations from this story are not over with that…
Reports say that Tom Herman will make a base salary of $6M a year under the contract that he got from Texas. Let me be clear; I have no idea if that number is accurate; I have no access to the contract or to anyone who was involved in negotiating that contract. However, I want to assume for now that he will indeed make $6M per year simply because I want to put that number in context.
On 27 October 2016, USA Today published a list of the “Pay for FBS Coaches” and that listing showed for every school the base pay and the total compensation for all 128 coaches in what I continue to call Division 1-A football. The listing broke out the compensation as “School Pay” (obvious what that means), “Other Pay” (from other athletic related activities) and “Total Pay”. The listing also reports the maximum bonus that each coach might earn; I would like to ignore those bonuses because there is no way to know how they are structured in all of the 128 deals here. I want to focus simply on “Total Pay” – the sum of “School Pay” and “Other Pay”.
Tom Herman will reportedly make $6M per year in “Total Pay”. I want to assume that is what he will take down next year to coach the Texas Longhorns to put that number in perspective. Where might $6M in “Total Pay” rank among the 128 coaches on the USA Today list?
- Jim Harbaugh – Michigan – $9,004,000
- Nick Saban – Alabama – $6,939,395
- Urban Meyer – Ohio St. – $6,094,800
- Tom Herman – Texas – $6,000,000
That is way up there where the air is rare for a coach who has had exactly 2 years of head coaching experience in a “non-Power 5 conference.” Indeed, he made Houston into a much better team than it had been previously; his record there was 22-4 and Houston won the AAC Championship in 2015 – Herman’s first year on the job.
I think that sort of pay scale for football coaches says two things:
- There is a lot of money pouring into schools and conferences from successful college football teams justifying – to some degree – the sorts of salaries that top-shelf coaches can demand and can get. When you juxtapose the recognition of the magnitude of those revenue streams, it becomes a bit annoying to recognize also that the US Tax Code allows schools and conferences to be categorized as “non-profits”.
- Many people like to worship at the altar of “pay for performance”. In the situation at Texas – now and with Charlie Strong a couple of years ago – the primary issue certainly appears to be “pay for potential performance” as opposed to “pay for actual performance”.
Good luck to Tom Herman in his Texas endeavors. I have no reason to root for or against him in those endeavors. I would note however, that if the big-money boosters there are willing to eat $18M to “clean house” this year, they may just be willing to do it again in a couple of years if the results are not up to the “potential performance” that they think they are buying with this deal.
In other coaching news, LSU hired Ed Orgeron on a permanent basis. But that raises a question. When Mike MacIntyre took over at Colorado, the team was bordering on a laughingstock and was completely outclassed in the PAC-12. This year, Colorado is the PAC-12 South Division champ and will play Washington this weekend for the PAC-12 championship. In the past 3 years, Colorado won a total of 10 games; this year they are 10-2 with the 2 losses coming on the road at Michigan and at USC. So, why is Mike MacIntyre not one of the “hot coaching prospects” this year but Tom Herman and Ed Orgeron and Jeff Tedford are?
About 50 years ago, Simon and Garfunkel sang:
“Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?
Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you …”
Based on last week’s college football results, they might think about updating those lyrics to something along these lines:
“Where have you gone football defenses?
Have you done any tackling drills this year …?”
I want to review a few game scores and present some of the stats from those games to provide some reason for Simon and Garfunkel to think about new lyrics.
Navy beat SMU 75-31. SMU led 24-21 late in the first half; then, Navy scored 47 unanswered points. Total offense for both teams was 1051 yards; Navy ran the ball for 496 yards.
Middle Tennessee St. beat Florida Atlantic 77-56. Total offense combined in this game was 1346 yards; the combined rushing yardage was 794 yards; the teams combined to make 63 first downs in the game.
New Mexico beat Wyoming 53-35. Total offense combined in this game was 1139 yards; New Mexico ran the ball 46 times for 568 yards (a mere 12.3 yards per carry); the teams combined to be 14 for 22 on third down conversions.
Memphis beat Houston 48-44 in what was not a great send-off for Tom Herman. Total offense in this game was 1243 yards; the defenses allowed 31 points combined in the 4th quarter of this close game.
Texas Tech beat Baylor 54-35. Total offense combined in this game was 1310 yards; the two starting QBs threw for 9 TDs with only 1 INT in the game.
Arizona beat Arizona St 56-35. Arizona ran the ball for 511 yards on only 46 carries (a mere 11.1 yards per carry).
LSU beat Texas A&M 54-39. Total combined offense in this game was 1109 yards; the defenses combined to allow 42 points in the fourth quarter of the game.
Considering all of those games, they pale in comparison to the ACC game between Pitt and Syracuse. Pitt won this monument to defensive ineptitude – or defensive apathy if that makes you feel better – by a score of 76-61. There were 20 touchdowns scored in this game; that is an average of 1 TD every 3 minutes of playing time. The total score (137 points) is the most ever scored in a Division 1-A football game; it is more than will be scored in more than a few Division 1-A basketball games this winter. Pitt only had the ball for 24 minutes and 18 seconds in this game; that means they scored at a rate of 1 point every 19.2 seconds. The teams saved plenty of fireworks for the end of the game; in the fourth quarter, the teams scored a combined 47 points.
There is a great irony in the Pitt/Syracuse result. Pitt’s coach, Pat Narduzzi, got the job at Pitt based on his consistent success as a coordinator at Michigan State. Narduzzi was the defensive coordinator there…
There was one game last week that was a bastion of defensive football. Ohio beat Akron 9-3 giving Ohio an entry into the MAC Championship game against undefeated W. Michigan. In the Ohio/Akron game last week, the two teams combined for 563 yards total offense. [Note that is less yardage than New Mexico rushed for in the New Mexico/Wyoming game.] Akron was held to 95 yards rushing on 32 attempts. All the scoring in the game came on field goals.
With Boise St. losing to Air Force last week, that probably eliminates Boise St. from getting the reserved slot in a New Year’s Day bowl game for the “highest ranked conference champion from a non-Power 5 conference”. Boise St. is now 10-2 and it appears that the competition for that slot comes down to:
- Navy: The Middies are 9-2 and will play Temple for the AAC Championship this week and then will play Army next week. The Middies have scored 60+ points in each of the last 2 weeks and there could be an edge for them that is not reflected by on-the-field play. Navy is a team with a wide-following and it “travels well”. The bowl organizers want a “good team” on the field but more importantly, they want a team that will bring lots of fans to the game and to the host city for a day or so before and after the game. Navy can and will do that…
- W. Michigan: The Broncos are 12-0 and will play Ohio in the MAC Championship Game tonight. As of this morning, W. Michigan is ranked 2 notches above Navy. Rankings are purely subjective and there can certainly be “non-football influences” placed on the anonymous voters. It will be interesting to see what happens if W. Michigan wins tonight and Navy wins out … By the way, when W. Michigan hired PJ Fleck, his first team went 1-11; that was 3 years ago and now they are 12-0. According to USA today, PJ Fleck’s “Total Pay” is $820,360.
The Ponderosa Games:
Last week, there were 8 Ponderosa Games. The record for favorites covering in those 8 games was 3-5-0. For the season to date, the record for favorites covering in Ponderosa Games is 45-50-1.
Clemson, Troy and W. Kentucky covered.
Louisville, K-State, Pitt, Stanford and Tulsa did not cover. Louisville lost straight up as a 26.5-point favorite.
Normally, there are no Ponderosa Games in the final week of the college football regular season because the final week schedule is dominated by Conference Championship Games. That is not the case this year.
Alabama – 24 vs. Florida (41): The SEC Championship Game between Alabama and Florida is a Ponderosa Game. I never recall that happening since the origin of the SEC Championship Game. The spread opened the week at 21.5 points and has climbed to this level steadily. I do not normally make selections in Ponderosa Games but since this is the SEC Championship Game, I want to make a pick. The Florida offense is over-matched going against the Alabama defense. Without forcing a few turnovers or scoring in the return game, I would not be surprised to see Florida struggle to score 6 points. Meanwhile, the Florida defense is solid; yes, they gave up points to Florida St. last week, but the defense has carried the Gators this far. I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.
Arkansas St. – 24 at Texas St. (54): When Texas St. loses – as it has done 9 times already this season – it tends to lose by wide margins. That is a major reason why Texas St. is in the SHOE Tournament for 2016 (see below).
The SHOE Teams:
Here is the final seeding of the 8 worst teams in the country. Remember, the idea behind the SHOE Tournament is to determine on-the-field which team is the worst team of the year. The acronym, SHOE, stands for Steaming Heap Of Excrement. The teams would nominally play each other in standard seeding format but the loser has to play on and to continue to abide its own stench; victors can go home and pretend this season never happened. After 3 rounds, the loser of the final game would be the SHOE Team for 2016.
#1 Seed: Fresno St. 1-11 and that win was over a Division 1-AA school
#2 Seed: Texas St. 2-9 with a game to play. 8 losses to date are by 20+ points.
#3 Seed: UMass 2-10 Since 1 Oct they have lost 7 games and gave up 30+ points each time.
#4 Seed: Rutgers 2-10 Lost 4 shutouts by a combined score of 224-0.
#5 Seed: Buffalo 2-10 One of those losses was to a Division 1-AA school (Albany)
#6 Seed: UConn 3-9 They lost their last 4 games by a combined 136-16.
#7 Seed: Rice 3-9 None of the wins is even marginally impressive
#8 Seed: Virginia 2-10 Twas a bleak first season for coach Bronco Mendenhall at UVa.
Games of Interest:
(Fri Nite) Ohio vs. W. Michigan – 17 (59) [Game is in Detroit]: The spread opened at 19 points and has been dropping slowly all week long. This game is for the MAC Championship. Yes, Ohio held Akron to 3 points last week (see above) and did so because the Ohio defense is a good one at the level of MAC competition. W. Michigan has dominated MAC opponents this year; only one conference game was as close as 14 points. I like W. Michigan to win and cover here.
(Fri Nite) Colorado vs. Washington – 8.5 (57.5) [Game is in Santa Clara, CA]: This is for the PAC-12 Championship. The Total Line opened at 60 points and has been dropping slowly all week. I think this is going to be a defensive game so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.
Baylor at W. Virginia – 16.5 (68): Baylor has lost 5 games in a row and W. Virginia is ranked #14 this week in the AP poll. I think this is a giant mismatch and I do not think Baylor is going to show up and play with any vigor. Their 6-0 start to the season is a dim memory. I like W. Virginia to win and cover.
Oklahoma St. at Oklahoma – 11 (77): This will decide the Big 12 Champion for 2016 which means something in terms of what bowl game these teams will play in. Neither one is going to be in the CFP. Both teams bring offensive weapons to this game but I don’t think this will be a shoot-out because this is an intense rivalry and because this game determines the conference champion. I like this game to stay UNDER.
Temple at Navy – 2.5 (61): This is for the AAC Championship. Navy has scored more than 60 points by itself in each of its last two games but the Temple defense looks to be good enough to prevent that sort of outburst. The game is in Annapolis and that is a good home field advantage for Navy. I like Navy to win and cover. It is worth noting that Temple is 11-1 against the spread this year so I am definitely bucking a trend here…
Va Tech vs. Clemson – 10 (58) [Game is in Orlando, FL]: Clemson is a Top 10 team to be sure and perhaps a CFP participant. I can’t get past the fact that Va Tech is in this game because other teams in their Division found ways to crash and burn at points during this season – – eyes staring in the direction of Chapel Hill for example. I’ll take Clemson to win and cover here.
Penn State vs Wisconsin – 3 (47) [Game is in Indy]: The winner here is the Big 10 Champion. Note that both Ohio St. and Michigan are sitting home watching football on TV this weekend. This is purely a hunch. Saquon Barkley – RB, Penn State – is a very under-appreciated player and I think he is probably the best skill-position player on the field. I think he can be the difference here so I’ll take Penn State plus the points.
Finally, just for what it is worth… I know what the CFP polls say and I have heard the various arguments about who should be in the Top 4 and who should be out. Here is the way I would rank teams on the basis of who looks to be the strongest teams at this point in the season:
#1 Seed: Alabama
#2 Seed: Michigan – they outplayed Ohio St. and lost to the zebras
#3 Seed: USC
#4 Seed: Clemson or Washington – flip a coin between these two.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………