You may recall that I said last week that I had a hunch that Ball State might just rise up and beat Indiana. Pardon me while I gloat; Ball State won by 22 points. Before the season started, Jason Whitlock – - a Ball State alum – - said they might be a sleeper team for the year. So far, so good. The Cardinals are 4-0.
I do not want anyone to misinterpret anything from that first paragraph. No one should use any information here to help them to decide to make a wager on any NCAA football game on this weekend or any other weekend. Moreover, no information here should be misconstrued as authoritative with regard to which side in a wager might be the winning side after the game results are final. Anyone doing that would be very dumb – - dumb enough to try this out as a pick-up line at a bar:
“Wanna go halfsies on a bastard child?”
Lots of folks have not been watching Tulsa this year but Tulsa has been blowing opponents away all year long. Granted they played bottom-feeders, UAB and North Texas, for the first two games and mediocre New Mexico in the third game. [Keep in mind that New Mexico did beat PAC-10 Arizona this year.] In those three games, Tulsa has scored 45 points once and 56 points twice. Their smallest margin of victory has been 23 points. Senior QB, David Johnson, has completed just under 70% of his passes so far this year for over 1200 yards with 15 TDs and 2 INTs. Tulsa’s next five games will be Central Arkansas, Rice, SMU, UTEP and Central Florida. If they win all of them, Tulsa will be 8-0 on November 1 when they pay a visit to Arkansas.
BYU shut out Wyoming last week 44-0 after shutting out UCLA the week before 59-0. I don’t care if they were playing Nevada Barber College and the College of Cardinals; two big shutouts like that in a row are impressive.
Northwestern is 4-0 top start the season; that is the first time they have done that since 1962. Last week they beat Ohio U 16-8. In the process, they blocked two field goal attempts and held Ohio U to 4 yards rushing for the game. Northwestern alums should be looking to put flexibility in their calendars in December because Northwestern looks like it may be heading to a bowl game this year.
The PAC-10 continues to melt down this year. Oregon lost to Boise State last weekend in Oregon and Arizona State got plastered by Georgia. After the Arizona State/Georgia game – - where Georgia held ASU to 4 yards rushing for the game – - here is what ASU Coach, Dennis Erickson had to say about his OL:
“It has to get better.”
USC will suffer mightily if it “goes to sleep” in a PAC-10 game this year and loses it. Remember, they did that against Stanford as a 41-point favorite last year. If they do that this year, they may get hammered – rightfully – in the polls.
Play a little “what if” here for a moment… What if BYU loses to TCU and then beats Utah. Alternatively, suppose Utah loses to TCU and then beats BYU. Oklahoma should beat TCU this week; that would give all three of those teams a loss. Fresno State has already lost; Eastern Carolina has already lost. So who might be the non-BCS conference “media darling” in December? Boise State? Tulsa? Ball State? If no minor program can emerge, that will mean the BCS conferences can just belly up to the money-trough one more time unimpeded…
West Virginia won 32 games in the last three seasons; no matter how you slice it, that is not bad. Now they are sitting on a two game losing streak. The luster is off the program; but if you look down the road, they have a “redemption game” in late October. If the Mountaineers can beat Auburn in October, they will have restored the program’s stature.
Hasn’t the expansion of the ACC worked out just swell? As mediocre as the PAC-10 is this year, the ACC is worse. In fact, I think the Big East is better than the ACC this year and I am not convinced that the ACC is better than C-USA this year.
Duke has been the football doormat in the ACC for a long while now. This year Duke is 2-1 losing only to undefeated Northwestern. This year Virginia looks as if it might be headed for “doormat” status in the conference. Duke and Virginia play this weekend.
Believe it or not, Duke started the week as a full touchdown favorite to beat Virginia. Duke has lost 10 or more games in each of the last three seasons. Moreover, if you look at Virginia’s schedule, there are no “patsies” left on the schedule. If Virginia loses here, they might go 1-11 for the season. Virginia coach, Al Groh, is a decent coach; but let’s just say that in the area of “charisma with fans and the media”, he has a few deficiencies. UVa is not a hotbed of football; if this season heads into the sewer, look for people in Charlottesville to abandon the program…
Paul Johnson left as the coach of Navy after last season to take his option offense to Georgia Tech. It seems to have taken hold there. Last week, Georgia Tech ran for 438 yards against Mississippi State whose defense held Auburn to 161 yards.
Last week, I said that Temple should never have had to play Penn State. The game was not in doubt after about the first 10 minutes. Here is the history of that “rivalry”. Temple actually won three of the first four games these schools played between 1931 and 1941. However, since 1941, Penn State is 33-0-1 against Temple and the Owls have not been within 17 points of the Lions in the last 14 contests.
Given the Notre Dame loss last weekend, some people said that Notre Dame had been exposed as a bad team. I think the schedule points to Notre Dame winning 6-8 games which will make them bowl eligible this year – - and I can’t imagine them turning down a bowl bid other than the Congressional Bowl. So, keep this in mind:
The last time Notre Dame won a bowl game was in 1993.
Notre Dame is no longer the University of Football In North America – - as Tony Kornheiser is wont to call it.
Perspective: Wake Forest is not a storied football program by any means but it has won 3 bowl games since 1993.
Georgia plays Alabama this weekend. That makes two weekends in a row where the SEC gives us a game between two Top 10 teams. Thank you to the SEC for this early season present…
One last thing here – - the Richmond Spiders are ranked #1 in Division 1-AA this week. Their only loss this year came to Division 1-A Virginia. Go Spidey…
Looking toward who may be involved in my imaginary tournament at the end of the year to determine the worst team in Division 1-A (call it the SHOE for the Steaming Heap Of Excrement), here are some teams that may have put themselves in consideration.
Last week Utah State beat Idaho by 25 points. Going into last weekend, both were strong contenders for the eight-team SHOE tournament. It looks as if Utah State is off the radar for the moment. However, Idaho is definitely there having also lost a game 70-0 earlier this year.
Florida International continues on its quest to be named Flopida International. To give you an idea of how feckless their offense is, they have only completed 40 of 86 passes this year for a total of 355 yards with zero TDs and 5 INTs.
Last week, New Mexico State beat UTEP by one point. Both were on the radar for the tournament; both should remain on the radar for the tournament.
SMU under June Jones figures eventually to try to win games by piling up points and hoping the defense can hold the opposition under 40. Well, the offense has not clicked yet and the SMU defense is bad. How bad, you ask? They are dead last in the nation surrendering just over 530 yards per game. In their last two games, SMU has lost by a combined score of 91-14.
Syracuse has been bad for the last two years and they may be worse than that this year. In the past two seasons, Syracuse was 3-20. Coach Greg Robinson’s three-year tenure at Syracuse shows them with an overall record in Big East games of 2-19. And this year, they may be even worse than before…
I am hesitant to put Rutgers on this watch-list just yet but they have started out 0-3; their QB took a swing at a teammate after last week’s loss; the coach did not discipline the QB. Rutgers has Morgan State coming up this weekend. If they lose to Morgan State at home, Rutgers will be prominent on the SHOE watch-list. If they eke out a win then by less than a TD, they will still probably go on the list…
Last week the favorites covered 4 times out of 6 Ponderosa Spread games.
BYU, Penn State, TCU and Texas covered.
Missouri and South Florida did not cover.
That brings the record for favorites covering this year to 19-9-1.
This week we have 6 Ponderosa Spread Games
USC – 24.5 at Oregon State (51.5): Oregon State lost to Penn State earlier this year by a score of 45-14. USC is better than Penn State…
Army at Texas A&M – 28.5 (41.5): Army had two weeks to prepare for this game. Unless the NCAA allows them to deploy flamethrowers on the offensive and defensive lines, I do not think the extra week of preparation will matter at all. Texas A&M has already been disappointing this year. If they lose to a bottom-feeding Army team, the natives may ride new coach, Mike Sherman, out of town on a barbecue skewer.
Arkansas at Texas – 28 (59): Once upon a time, when Richard Nixon was President, this would have been a game between the #1 and the #2 teams in the country. The spread then would not have been 28 points…
Colorado State at Cal – 27 (59): I smell an OVER here…
UAB at South Carolina – 25 (48): If South Carolina gets their offense rolling, do not expect Steve Spurrier to take his foot off the gas. The South Carolina defense is very good; do not expect UAB to put up too many points here.
Mississippi State at LSU – 24 (38): Mississippi State can play defense so that’s a lot of points to spot an opponent – - even one that is as good as LSU. On the other hand, Mississippi State’s offense managed to get zero points against Auburn in a 3-2 loss and LSU’s defense could duplicate that accomplishment. No way I bet on this game.
Games of Interest:
SMU at Tulane – 18 (49): SMU cannot stop anyone; Tulane is not a powerhouse. That is the most polite analysis you will read anywhere about this sad sack football game. If you offered to pay my airfare to New Orleans and offered me a 50-yardline seat to this game, I would ask for a couple of “Ben Franklin portraits” too before giving the offer a moment’s consideration. The loser here takes a big step toward the SHOE tournament; the winner could get back into consideration given the likelihood of future blowouts. I suspect this game will go OVER.
Pitt – 15.5 at Syracuse (46.5): Pitt has a huge talent advantage, which they ought to parlay into a 3 TD win. But I would never lay more than 2 TDS on the road backing a Dave Wannstedt coached team…
Minnesota at Ohio State – 18 (46.5): Minnesota has won in Columbus exactly one time since 1965. Minnesota is 4-0 at the moment and has played exactly zero opponents who are any good. Ohio State should win here in a walk.
Memo to Ohio State: Beating these guys on a late field goal will drop you even further in the polls. If you really are a team worthy of being in the Top 10, you should win this game by at least 4 TDs.
Maryland at Clemson – 11 (48.5): Maryland is 3-1 having beaten no one important and having lost to Middle Tennessee State. The only team the Terps held under 24 points was Division 1-AA, Delaware. Clemson can pass and Maryland has a “less than spectacular” pass defense. Assuming that Clemson pays attention here, they should win and cover.
Memo to Clemson: The ACC stinks; you can still be the conference champion. Do you copy?
Virginia at Duke – 6.5 (44): Does the UVa football program sink to the ocean’s abyssal plain after this week? I think it will. Nevertheless, I would not bet on this game with your money. If Duke wins and goes to 3-1 on the season, it might cause as much giddiness in Durham as a bonfire with a ton of marijuana at the core of the blaze…
Kent State at Ball State – 18 (59.5): Just want to put this here so you keep Ball State in mind as a potential surprise team for the year. In addition to claiming Jason Whitlock as an alum, Ball State also gave us David Letterman.
Tennessee at Auburn – 6.5 (37.5): Both teams lost last week so one of them will have two SEC losses on the books by Sunday morning. Neither set of fans will be happy with that. Tennessee’s offense has been “challenged” this year and Auburn does play very good defense. On offense, recall that one of Auburn’s wins came in a 3-2 game against Mississippi State. If you do not like low scoring defensive football, do not tune in this game.
Colorado at Florida State – 7 (41.5): FSU managed all of one field goal with 7 turnovers and 12 penalties last week against Wake Forest. Colorado is 3-0 but has not exactly played a murderous schedule. This is another game shaping up as a defensive game. That makes the spread look fat and this an interesting UNDER bet.
Marshall at West Virginia – 14.5 (51.5): A long term reader of these rants – and a Marshall alum – said two weeks ago that this was the year Marshall would beat WVU. Granted WVU has lost two in a row but Marshall starts a freshman QB and the game is at WVU. On top of that, Marshall’s pass defense ranks 115th in the country so far this year. No way I take Marshall on the money line.
Fresno State – 6.5 at UCLA (46.5): There is no polite way to say this; UCLA has stunk so far this year. Yes, they beat Tennessee; they pulled a rabbit out of their collective asses that night; frankly, that is what they will need to do to win games this year. However, in order to pull that rabbit out of their collective asses, they need to remember to stick a rabbit in there before the game starts. Fresno State goes to LA and wins the game. When do you think it will be when UCLA finds it in their heart to travel to Fresno for a game? The Twelfth of Never?
Houston at East Carolina – 11 (56): If ECU wants to stay relevant as a potential BCS bowl game player, an eleven point win over Houston is not good enough…
Navy at Wake Forest – 16 (53.5): Sorry, but I have to root for Navy to lose their third game of the season here. Do not be surprised if Wake is flat for this game; they played Florida State last week and that has to be a “bigger game” in their minds than a date with Navy. I think this game will go OVER 53.5
Bowling Green – 3 at Wyoming (41): Who scheduled this game? Do not tell me anyone thinks this is going to blossom into one of the great intersectional rivalries in college football…
North Texas at Rice – 18 (69): Rice is not off the radar completely for the SHOE tournament so what might you conclude from the fact that they are 18 point favorites over North Texas?
Oregon – 21 at Washington State (58): Oregon lost at home to Boise State last week giving up 386 yards passing and 3 TDs through the air. In addition, they lost another QB in the process. Washington State beat Portland State last week and got a good performance from a freshman QB against Portland State. So WSU will now start that freshman against Oregon this week. Here is the stat that matters most. Washington State has given up 7.4 yards per rushing attempt this year – - and that includes a full game against Portland State. Look for Oregon to gain at least 250 yards on the ground in this game.
TCU at Oklahoma – 18.5 (56.5): OU is scoring 54.7 points per game this season; TCU has the #1 ranked defense in the nation so far this season. OU has won 20 straight at home; TCU was the last team to beat OU in Norman OK. This will be an excellent game! TCU will not “sneak up” on Oklahoma and the Sooners are a good football team. Given the TCU defense, this game looks like an UNDER to me.
Alabama at Georgia – 7 (44.5): The best game of the weekend is right here. Here is a stat I found astonishing. The last time Alabama beat Georgia was in 1995. Make this a venue call; Georgia wins and covers.
Va Tech at Nebraska – 7 (45.5): Two inconsistent teams with lots of question marks. Can someone explain to me why this game is getting national TV coverage? If Nebraska wins, they will have run the table on their non-conference opponents. I think they can win and cover here.
UCF – 5 at UTEP (53): The SHOE tournament selection committee will be paying close attention here.
Stanford at Washington – 4 (52.5): This game is about more than a single win or loss. Washington has not been good since Ty Willingham got there and time may be drawing short for him to show something positive on the field. So far in 2008, the Huskies are 0-3; later in their PAC-10 games, they have USC, Arizona State, Oregon and Cal. Even if they win everything else, they need one win against those four teams to become bowl eligible. They are actually favored in this game; they cannot lose it or it could get ugly in Seattle.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…