Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 11/29/08

The college football games this weekend are dispersed far more widely than usual. There is one major game on Thursday and about a half-dozen other interesting contests on Friday. That’s why Mythical Picks are out early this week.

Here are some highlights and lowlights from last week’s Mythical Picks:

    “Assuming that Tulsa wants to close out its season at home with a positive game, they should wax Tulane.” Final Score: Tulsa 56 Tulane 7 [Highlight]

    “I like OU (Oklahoma) at home to win and cover and I like this game OVER (77).” Final Score: OU 65 Texas Tech 21 [Highlight]

    “I fully expect Syracuse to lose, but that line looks fat to me.” Final Score: Syracuse 24 Notre Dame 23 [Lowlight]

    “… that is why Washington will win the Apple Cup this year. Moreover, Washington will cover the spread in the process. Final Score Washington State 16 Washington 13 in double OT. [Lowlight]

No one should think of using any information here as the basis for making any wager on a college football game that involves real money and/or any commitment to perform some act that might be abhorrent or embarrassing to him/her. Should anyone even contemplate such silliness, here is a summary of my thinking about such a person:

    I don’t know what makes you so dumb – - but it’s really working.

General Comments:

It is not often that I offer up praise to the NCAA mavens; but when they do something right, I have an obligation to point it out. Last weekend, Myron Rolle – a safety on the Florida State football team – faced a conflict. He had a game scheduled in College Park, Maryland and he had an interview in Mobile, Alabama on the same day for a Rhodes scholarship. The NCAA granted an exemption for Rolle to take a chartered jet from the interview to the game site so that he could do both things on the same day. Technically, that charter jet is a violation of the rules, but the NCAA recognized that Rolle is actually a “student-athlete” and that it was a good idea to make an exception in this publicly known situation. Congratulations to the NCAA.

Oh, by the way, congratulations too to Myron Rolle who won himself a Rhodes scholarship. Rolle is a pre-med student and aspiring neurosurgeon who carries a 3.8 GPA around with him while also playing safety for a major college football team. To be sure, Florida State’s program has come under its fair share of scrutiny for the antisocial behaviors of some of its players, but that program deserves positive scrutiny for Myron Rolle.

I know of three football players at major schools who were also Rhodes Scholars. I am sure there have to have been more than these three prior to Rolle’s achievement. Looking at this list, Myron Rolle is in good company:

    Justice Byron “Whizzer” White (Colorado)

    Pete Dawkins (Army)

    Pat Hayden (USC)

The NCAA Division II football teams have a football playoff. Last weekend in one of the preliminary round games in that playoff, there was a game in which neither defense chose to show up. Abilene Christian beat West Texas A&M in that game by a score of 93-68. There will be more than a few college basketball games this season that will not record that many points…

A week ago Tuesday, Northern Illinois visited Kent State and clobbered the hosts 42-14. The most interesting stat from that game was the announced attendance of 2,267 hardy souls. The weather was bad; Northern Illinois is hardly a draw; Kent State has been well below average this season; I doubt I would have gone to the game had I been anywhere near the stadium. But still… It is hard to believe that a Division 1-A college football game could draw two-thirds less people than a typical WNBA game.

I ran across this statement earlier this week:

“Florida became the first SEC team to score 42 points or more in six consecutive games.”

Here is what that statement means to me:

      This is proof that ESPN has way too many interns digging up stats for them.

Here is a stat that is easy to find and easy to interpret. In the Tennessee win over Vandy last week, the Tennessee passing game was 4-9 for a total of 21 yards and 2 INTs. The new coach at Tennessee has to find a way to make a major improvement in the passing game…

When Syracuse fired Greg Robinson, they still owed him $1.1M. When San Diego State fired Chuck Long this week, they still owed him $1.4M. As the economy weakens, it may be harder for schools to put the arm on alums to come up with hefty buy-out amounts for failed coaches. Alums may figure that it would cost less to buy out the goof in the Athletic Director’s seat who hired the failed coach. Just saying…

Syracuse’s shocking win at Notre Dame last week took the dull moans of unhappiness with Charlie Weis and turned them into roars. I must have read a dozen different columns this week about why Charlie Weis has to be fired from his job in South Bend at whatever cost to the school and/or the boosters. One conclusion that some of Weis’ opponents have begun to draw is that his reputed offensive genius and creativity is a sham because he got that reputation with the Patriots during the days when the Patriots were “stealing” defensive signals. Let me try to be rational about this for a moment here:

    1. There is no immutable law of the universe that assures Notre Dame of football success. The program has stunk before and it can stink now and again in the future. That is permissible.

    2. The recruiting classes at Notre Dame are routinely overrated. The fact that a kid even thinks about Notre Dame gives him a boost in the projected value of him as a player. Notre Dame is not deep in talent and has not been for about the last 6 or 7 years.

    3. It is equally as wrong for columnists/analysts to fawn over Notre Dame as it is to heap abuse on the coach and the team for a mediocre season. Mediocre talent tends to generate 4-8 wins per year; that is the definition of mediocrity.

    4. What Charlie Weis has shown so far is that he is not a spectacular recruiter. If he ever had superior physical talent on the offensive side of the ball and still failed to produce points and wins, then one might begin to conclude that his reputation was earned in a “special environment”.

Having said all of that, here is a situation that would be a delicious irony:

    1. Notre Dame fires Charlie Weis.

    2. The University of Washington hires Charlie Weis – - thereby allowing him to follow in the footsteps of Ty Willingham yet one more time.

    3. Not gonna happen…

Bill Snyder is returning to coach Kansas State football at age 69 after a three-year sabbatical from the job. If I were in Manhattan Kansas, I would be on the lookout for a change in the K-State out-of-conference schedule very quickly. North Texas, Montana State and La-Lafayette are OK; they should provide blowout wins to make Snyder’s team look good early in the year. However, a road game at Louisville will have to come off the charts. Someone in the AD’s office will be on the phone posthaste to the Quad City School for Quadriplegics. That’s Snyder’s MO…

Interestingly, Snyder chastised the press at his introductory press event for breaking this news story before he had the time to let his friends and football contacts know what he was about to do. Snyder told the assembled folks, “I think that’s sad, and also disrespectful.”

    Memo to Coach Snyder: Get over yourself. Breaking news is what reporters get paid to do. If people didn’t care to read/hear such breaking news, you would not have your job at the generous salary you are getting. You are 69 years old; grow up!

In this time of coaching turnover, here is an interesting thing to consider. Since 1976, the University of Oregon has had exactly two head football coaches – - Rich Brooks and Mike Bellotti. With a tip of the hat to Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno who have been in their jobs since 1976 or longer, there are certainly not a dozen schools that can match or exceed that level of stability within the football program.

Iona College is dropping football. Iona had played in the Division 1-AA Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference but six of the MAAC schools dropped football between 2002 and 2007 leaving only Iona and Marist with active programs. Two teams do not a conference make… No word from Marist yet about its football future.

Last Thursday, Georgia Tech spanked Miami 41-23 – - but that score was cosmetically close because it was 41-10 at the end of the third quarter. Greg Cote provided analysis of this game in the Miami Herald:

“Still can’t get over UM giving up 472 rushing yards in Thursday’s loss at Georgia Tech, the most allowed by a Canes team since 1944. You knew it was bad in the fourth quarter when that guy from the Yellow Jackets band busted a long run while carrying his sousaphone.”

“The ”triple option” offense Georgia Tech uses seemed to completely confuse Miami. Aside to UM coaches: Next time, became familiar with the opponent’s offense and then game-plan to, you know, stop it.”

The SHOE Tournament

This will be the final week for most of the really bad teams in the country to play a football game and so this will be the penultimate seeding for my hypothetical SHOE Tournament to identify the worst team in the country – - the Steaming Heap Of Excrement.

    #1 seed: North Texas (again)

    #2 seed: SMU (up a notch this week)

    #3 seed: Tulane (up a notch this week)

    #4 seed: Eastern Michigan (up three notches this week)

    #5 seed: Washington (up a notch this week and winless for the year)

    #6 seed: Miami (Ohio) (making a late appearance here)

    #7 seed: Idaho (again)

    #8 seed: San Diego State (down six notches this week)

The Ponderosa Spread Games:

Last week there was only 1 Ponderosa Spread game. Tulsa was the overwhelming favorite there and Tulsa covered.

That brings the season record for favorites covering to 43-27-3

This week there are three Ponderosa Spread Games:

Texas A&M at Texas – 35.5 (68.5): You can watch this one on Thursday night if you do not get NFLN or if you get bored watching the Eagles/Cardinals game there. The Aggies have beaten Texas the last two years running. Texas cannot allow that to happen this year if they want to be considered for a BCS Bowl game. In fact, Texas is highly motivated to step on the gas and not let up at all. The line started the week at 34 and is already up to 35.5; I would not be shocked to see it at 36 by game time.

Notre Dame at USC – 33 (47): Like Texas, USC will need “style points” if it hopes to find a way into BCS Championship Game consideration. The line opened this week at 28.5 and immediately went to 30. It has climbed inexorably – seemingly by the hour – to its current level. This is a Saturday night game up against Oregon/Oregon State and Oklahoma/Oklahoma State – - so there is no need to watch this train wreck.

Washington State at Hawaii – 29 (55.5): So much for the Apple Cup champion getting respect… Hawaii is a 6-5 team whose last win was by 32 points over a miserable Idaho squad. Unless Washington State can give a better accounting itself, it might just resume its position in the SHOE Tournament along with Idaho. As a sidelight, Washington State has given up 549 points this year; a 51-point outburst by Hawaii could put that total in the “seventh century”…

Games of Interest:

Oklahoma – 7 at Oklahoma State (72): Since losing to Texas, OU has scored an average of 59.2 points per game. The way they do this is to give Sam Bradford enough time to paint a mural back there in the pocket while waiting for receivers to come open. Oklahoma State’s pass defense has shown its vulnerability to high-octane passing attacks so either they must generate a pass rush on Saturday or they will have to figure a way to score more than 50 points to have a chance to win. They have had two weeks to prepare for this game and you know they watched what OU did to Texas Tech last weekend. Oklahoma State knocked OU out of BCS consideration in both 2001 and 2002. They have a shot to do it again here in 2008 but I would not bet on that. I would much prefer to take the game OVER – assuming that there isn’t snow in Stillwater on Saturday.

Colorado at Nebraska – 18 (57.5): Last year, the score of this game was 65-51; that will not happen again this year for the simple reason that Colorado does not score very much. They have only gone over 30 points twice all year – not since September 6 mind you – and the opponents for those offensive outbursts were Colorado State and Eastern Washington. The Nebraska defense is not to be confused with the Steel Curtain, but it should keep Colorado at or near 20 points.

Baylor at Texas Tech – 21.5 (71): Will Texas Tech show up with a hangover from its beat-down last week by OU or will it show up spring-loaded to the pissed-off position? If it is anything even close to the latter, they will clobber Baylor here. Baylor is better this year than in recent years, but do not delude yourself that they are a threat to a Texas Tech team that cares about the outcome of the game. I like Texas Tech to win and cover.

Kansas at Missouri – 16 (69): Missouri will play in the Big-12 Championship game in this same stadium (in KC) very soon. This is a tune-up game for them even though it is a big rivalry. Neither pass defense is very good; both teams can and will throw the ball. I saw what Texas and its passing game did to Kansas; Missouri can do similar things. I would not bet this game for real, but for mythical purposes only, I’ll take Missouri and lay the points.

Florida – 16.5 at Florida State (57.5): Florida has won its last seven games by 28 points or more; that is called being “on a roll”. Florida State can still play for the ACC Championship this year and they have lost their last four games to Florida; so, they have incentive here. The Florida State defense is really good; they rank 7th in the country so I do not think Florida will be able to run up a win by 4 TDs here. The problem is that Florida’s defense is good too and they do not have to stop nearly so fearsome an offense. I like Florida State with the points here.

Georgia Tech at Georgia – 8.5 (48.5): Georgia has a very good run defense; Georgia Tech lives by running the ball in a triple option offense. That is the yin and the yang of this game. I like Georgia to win the game at home but I have a sense that the line is fat…

UNC – 7.5 at Duke (44): The good news for Duke is that they are a lot better this year than they were last year. The bad news for Duke is that UNC was better than Duke was last year and UNC has improved even more than Duke has this year. Technically, UNC has to “travel” to this game but in reality, it’s only a 20-mile trip. I like UNC to win and cover here.

Maryland at BC – 7 (42): Given Maryland’s inconsistency this year, you would be nuts to wager on this game. If there is an angle to be played it is that Maryland’s offense has been “absent” for the past couple of games and BC’s defense is very strong. So, if I had to make a pick – which I don’t – I would take the game UNDER.

West Virginia – 3.5 at Pitt (49): This big rivalry game will mean something in the Big East standings only if Cincy loses to Syracuse this weekend. Pitt’s pass defense has been exposed more than once this year and West Virginia can throw the ball. Pitt relies on a tough running game and they should be able to do that to West Virginia on Friday. I like Pitt at home with the points here; they have a real shot to win this game outright.

Auburn at Alabama -14 (41): Auburn has won this huge rivalry game six years in a row. If you do not think that rankles Alabama fans – and coaches and players –, you are wrong. Auburn needs this game for bowl eligibility so it has a double meaning for them. The essential element of this game is that Alabama has a strong defense and the Auburn offense has been AWOL for most of the year. I think that Alabama wins and covers here.

LSU – 4.5 at Arkansas (52.5): LSU has stumbled for almost a month now but Arkansas is not very good at all. Even on the road here and with nothing approaching BCS invitations to play for, I think LSU wins big here.

South Carolina at Clemson “pick ‘em” (40.5): South Carolina has had two weeks to prepare for this rivalry game and even with their spotty offense, I think the Gamecocks are the better team. I’ll take South Carolina here.

Oregon at Oregon State – 3 (62): This is a big rivalry game; both teams are 8-3; Oregon State goes to the Rose Bowl with a win here; the last time Oregon State was in the Rose Bowl, the Beatles hadn’t begun feuding with each other yet. In 1983, these teams played to a 0-0 tie in a game that “featured” 11 fumbles, 5 INTs and 4 missed field goals. Such ineptitude will not happen this year. Oregon State has injury problems related to their starting QB and RB. The strong Oregon State defense will need to play a top-shelf game Saturday to prevail. If you go looking for this game on your cable system, it’s on Versus. I’ll make this a venue call and take Oregon State to win and cover – - even though I don’t want Oregon State in the Rose Bowl to play Penn State in a rematch game.

Akron at Temple – 2.5 (57.5): Just a hunch here, but I do like Temple to win this game comfortably…

Happy Thanksgiving.

Good luck.

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…

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Comments

  • superdestroyer  On November 27, 2008 at 6:55 am

    I think schools such as Michigan and Notre Dame suffer from the issues created by transferring players. Notre Dame does not take transfers from other schools but several of its recruits transfer out every year. Charlie Weis seems to think that collge players are on contract for four years and that he can bench them or ignore them. Of course, they will transfer somewhere else instead. Look at how Cincinnati has built up its program by using transfers.

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On November 28, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    superdestroyer:

    Thanx for writing…

    I suspect that Notre Dame has this “no-trasnfers” policy based on its long history as a program at the pinnacle of college football. Maybe they think that changing the policy would be an admission that they are no longer even a top-shelf football program – - let alone one of the two or three schools on top of the mountain. But you are correct; they lose players and don’t add any as recruiting classes begin to sort themselves out. Not a good strategy…

    Michigan’s recruiting will have to change dramatically. Rich Rodriguez is going to run his spread offense there with or without players able to excel in that system. I think this year proved that to be the case. So, Michigan will need gobs of new talent over the next couple of years to regain relevancy because the current players just don’t make it in that system.

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