This week’s iteration of NCAA Mythical Picks has to use early week lines on the games and less information in injury reports than usual. The reason is that I am making my Annual Autumnal Pilgrimage to Las Vegas this weekend and have to get these done earlier than usual.
The Linfield College Wildcats are not satisfied with the assurance that they will have a winning football season for the 54th consecutive year. Last week, they took their record to 6-0 by annihilating Lewis and Clark College 59-14. The score was 28-0 with time left in the first quarter. This week, Linfield travels to Salem, Oregon to play Willamette College – the defending Northwest Conference champion and a team that has beaten Linfield the last three seasons. Both teams are undefeated in conference play this year. A place in the Division III playoffs could be at stake here. Go Wildcats!
Here are some notes related to last week’s NCAA Mythical Picks:
I said I thought Arkansas would have trouble getting “past the mid-teens” in scoring against Florida last week. Final Score: Florida 23 Arkansas 20.
I liked South Florida with the points against Cincinnati. Ooops.
I liked Pitt/Rutgers UNDER. The teams obliged.
I liked Oklahoma with 3.5 points. The hook got me the win there.
I liked Iowa/Wisconsin UNDER 48.5. This game was UNDER by more than 2 TDs.
I liked Ohio State to win and cover 13.5 points against Purdue. Ohio State lost the game by 8 points. BIG Ooops.
I liked Texas Tech/Nebraska to go OVER 59.5. They missed that target by 19 points. Ooops.
I liked Va Tech to win and cover 3 points against Ga Tech. They neither won nor covered. Ooops.
I liked San Diego State with the points against BYU. State covered even though they lost.
I liked Alabama/South Carolina to go UNDER 46.5. They scored all of 26 points.
I liked Navy/SMU to go OVER 56. Final score: Navy 38 SMU 35.
Despite some apparent success in the selections above, it would take a truly stupid person to use any information here as the basis for selecting a side to back in a real wager on college football this weekend. How stupid, did you ask? Well, you would probably believe that male zebras are the ones with the black stripes and female zebras are the ones …
Ohio State lost to USC this year. There is no shame in that. However, they won a game against Wisconsin in which they were dominated for most of the game and used turnovers to win the game. Then last week, they lost to a bad Purdue football team. So, riddle me this: How did they stay in the Top 25 in the polls this week? Perhaps the voters in those polls are going on “name value” and “history” instead of 2009 performance on the field?
By the way, has the Ohio State coaching staff improved Terrelle Pryor’s throwing mechanics even 1% yet? I don’t think so…
Now that we are near the halfway part of the college football season, it is time to look at four teams that have been very pleasant surprises for their fans/alums. In alphabetical order:
Idaho has been a doormat for a while now; their last winning season was in 1999. They are now bowl-eligible and it is still October.
Miami started out the season with four games against ranked teams. They could have gone 0-4 and into the tank; they went 3-1 and are ranked in the Top 10.
SMU has been horrible since getting the NCAA “Death Penalty” in the 1980s. They are 3-3 now.
Wyoming just plain stunk last year. This year they are 4-3.
In terms of teams that have disappointed their fans and alums, there is really one team that stands out in that category sufficiently that I shan’t make a list:
Florida State began the year in the Top 20 in most polls – - adding evidence to the lack of value in such early season polling. Their record now is 2-4 and they are 0-3 in a truly mediocre ACC. By the way, if you chance to look at the FSU schedule, four of their final six games are road games…
Penn State shut out Minnesota last weekend. Joe Paterno has been the head coach at Penn State for a tad over 40 years and that was the 40th time Penn State has shut out an opponent under JoePa’s tutelage. I continue to believe that Penn State is not as good as the polls make them out to be but the defense is good – - as usual.
I said before that folks needed to pay more attention to Florida’s defense and stop fawning all over Tim Tebow. The first part of the Florida schedule was a joke; ignore all those gaudy offensive numbers for a moment. Against Tennessee, LSU and Arkansas, Florida has not averaged 20 points per game – - but they won all three. The Florida defense did that.
Two years ago, Illinois was in the Rose Bowl – - where they were hammered but that’s not the point – - and sophomore QB, Juice Williams, was the guy who led them there. It looked then as if Ron Zook had brought the Illinois program back to relevance. So, what happened? Juice Williams was benched this year; Ron Zook is 19-35 overall at Illinois; the Illini lost by 2 TDs to Indiana last week.
The last time Temple won 4 consecutive football games was 24 years ago; Ronald Reagan was President. Last week, Temple beat Army for their fourth straight win this year. Just a week before that, Army had beaten Vanderbilt.
Vanderbilt – in addition to losing to Army – has played 4 games in the SEC and has averaged 7.25 points per game there. That is not a formula for success.
Three Big 12 teams provided negative surprises last week.
Nebraska lost at home by 3 TDs to Texas Tech. Losing to Texas Tech is not an embarrassment, but by 21 points and at home…?
Kansas lost to a truly mediocre Colorado team last weekend. Sheesh!
Texas A&M lost to Kansas State 62-14 after trailing 59-0 in the third quarter. To put perspective on that game, Kansas State lost to Texas Tech two weeks ago by 52 points. Yuck!!
Georgia Tech beat Va Tech last week even though the Yellow Jackets only completed one pass in the entire game. They ran for 309 yards against the Va Tech defense…
Rick Neuheisel came to UCLA to revive what had come to be seen as a dull and second-fiddle program in SoCal. Notwithstanding that perception, UCLA had been to bowl games for five consecutive years – albeit not major bowl games. Last year, UCLA was “home for the holidays”; and at 3-3 this year, they are hardly a mortal lock to go to a bowl game in 2009.
Oklahoma has lost three games this year. All of them have been close games; Sam Bradford has not played the whole game in any of the losses; all of the losses have been away games. [Yes, I know that the Red River Rivalry game is played at a neutral site. Nevertheless, it was not in Norman, Oklahoma.]
USC hosts Oregon State this week in a big revenge game given what Oregon State did to USC last year. The game provides a reason to look at some arcane stats:
USC leads this series by a commanding 58-10-4 record. However, Oregon State has won two of the last three games.
USC has won 46 of their last 47 games at home in the Coliseum.
On the other hand, USC has not won a football game of any kind in the State of Oregon since 2005.
There was only one Ponderosa Spread game last week. Florida did not come close to covering in that game.
The record for favorites covering Ponderosa Spreads this year now stands at 13-20.
This week, we have 4 Ponderosa Spread games. Interestingly, the favorite is on the road for 3 of those games:
Washington State at Cal – 34.5 (56): Cal has been good at times and Cal has been bad at times this year. Washington State has pretty much been bad for the last couple of years…
Florida – 24 at Mississippi State (48.5): About once a year, the Bulldogs pull a huge game out of their “helmets” against a superior SEC team and it is always a game in Starkville. Just saying…
Fresno State – 24 at New Mexico (54.5): Fresno State is a decent team. New Mexico is a SHOE team…
Boise State – 25 at Hawaii (57.5): Boise State is ranked such that it will get a BCS bowl invitation if they can stay where they are. Hawaii is not a highly regarded team so Boise State needs a convincing win.
The SHOE Teams:
I will continue to list candidates for my ten worst teams alphabetically for the time being. There are still embarrassing losses to come from teams on this list. Here are this week’s contenders for the putative SHOE (Steaming Heap Of Excrement) Tournament:
Ball State 0-7
Eastern Michigan 0-6
Fl Atlantic 1-4
Fl Int’l 1-5
Miami (Oh) 0-7
New Mexico 0-6
North Texas 1-5
W. Kentucky 0-6
Big name schools that are knocking on the door to get onto this list include Illinois, Washington State, Maryland and Vandy…
Games of Interest:
Rutgers – 10 at Army (40): I agree this will be a low scoring game; and in those circumstances, I usually take the dog with the points. However, Army relies on running the ball and even though Rutgers was gashed by Pitt’s running game last week, Army is not likely to do anything similar this week. Make no mistake, I do not think Rutgers is a very good team, but I think they can win and cover this number comfortably.
Minnesota at Ohio State – 17.5 (43.5): Minnesota did not score last week at Penn State; they should not score very much this week in Columbus. If Ohio State does not find a way to put points up against Minnesota, the natives could start to get restless. This smells like a huge blowout win for Ohio State – - assuming that Terrelle Pryor really is a blue-chip player and not an over-hyped prospect…
Illinois at Purdue – 10 (53.5): Purdue is not a good team; Illinois appears to be close to a SHOE team. Do not bet on this game…
Arkansas at Ole’ Miss – 5.5 (53): Jevan Snead has also been underwhelming as a QB this year for Ole’ Miss, but he has a chance to get well here against a defense that does not always show up. After last week’s big effort against Florida, my guess is that the Arkansas defense never gets off the team bus. The Rebels win and cover here…
Iowa State at Nebraska – 17.5 (52): Nebraska will play better this week than last week. Even losing to Texas Tech last week, they held a high-powered offense to less than 300 yards of offense and 31 points. Iowa State presents no such challenge. Nebraska wins and covers here.
Ball State – 3 at Eastern Michigan (47): Check the SHOE listing above. Ball State is 0-7; they are on the road and they are a 3-point favorite. Eastern Michigan is also on the list at 0-6. It is not a guarantee that the winner will come off that list next week. Under no circumstances should you wager on this game.
Maryland at Duke – 5.5 (55.5): It surely has been a while since Maryland has been an underdog to Duke in a football game. Here are two mercurial football teams – - neither of which is all that good. Do not bet on this game.
Penn State – 4.5 at Michigan (48.5): Purely a hunch, but I like Michigan with the points here…
Akron at Syracuse – 10.5 (47): Akron is a SHOE team this week. Syracuse is not far off that list. Do not bet on this game.
Oregon – 10 at Washington (52): Oregon wins the PAC-10 if they win out – - but that means they have to beat USC next week to do that. This is a rivalry game to be sure, but Oregon might just be thinking about USC as much as Washington this week. As a venue call, I like the Huskies with the points.
Tennessee at Alabama – 15 (44): This will be a low scoring game and that line is too fat for a low scoring contest. I like Tennessee with the points here and I think the game will indeed go UNDER.
Oklahoma – 7.5 at Kansas (53.5): Assuming Sam Bradford does not play, I like Kansas with the points here.
Air Force at Utah – 9.5 (41): This will be a low scoring game and that line is too fat for a low scoring contest. I like Air Force with the points here.
Temple at Toledo – 3 (54.5): Temple is going to win their fifth in a row here. I’ll take them with the points as gravy. In addition, I do not see this game getting near the 50s as a total so I like the game to go UNDER too.
Iowa at Michigan State “pick ‘em” (43.5): I am not in love with either team here, but I do think Iowa is the superior team. They have gotten plenty of breaks this year so the worm will turn one of these days. I will assume this is not the week and take Iowa to win here.
Florida International at Arkansas State – 11 (56.5): FIU is a SHOE Team this week; Arkansas State did not make the list but they were under consideration… Do not bet on this game.
TCU – 2.5 at BYU (50): This game is the battle of the “TLAs”. What is a “TLA”? Why of course it is a Three-Letter Acronym. Last year, TCU took BYU out of BCS contention with a win at home. Will BYU “return the favor” this year? I think so. I like TCU to win and cover.
Texas – 13 at Missouri (50.5): The best way for Texas to be sure of playing in the BCS Championship game is to win every week. They got past OU last week; they need to stay focused and continue to win. They should to that against Missouri this week.
Oregon State at USC – 21 (50.5): Talk about a “revenge game”… However, USC is not a high-flying offense this year. I do not like them laying 3 TDs here and I do not like Oregon State. I’ll watch the game with no financial interests at stake.
Finally, here is a college football observation from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:
“Marc Siegel, Virginia Tech’s football team physician, was charged with felony property damage after police say he damaged a colleague’s vehicle in a hospital parking lot, the Roanoke Times reported.
“Though defense lawyers are trying to plea-bargain it down to 15 yards for unnecessary roughness.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…