Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend of 10/30/10

Here’s what fell out of last week’s tree:

    I said that on national TV last week, Oregon would put on its best show. Oregon beat UCLA 60-13.

    I liked Mich State/Northwestern Over 52.5. The total was 62.

    I liked Penn State Minnesota Over 49.5. The total was 54.

    I liked Texas/Iowa State Under 48. The total was 49.

    I liked Indiana/Illinois Over 54.5. The total was 56.

    I liked Temple minus 7.5 against Buffalo. Temple won by 42.

    I liked Notre Dame/Navy Under 50.5. The total was 52.

    I liked Wyoming +10.5 against BYU. Wyoming lost but covered.

    I liked LSU/Auburn Under 52.5. The total was 41.

    I liked Nebraska minus 5.5 against Ok State. Nebraska won by 10.

    I liked Iowa minus 6 against Wisconsin. Iowa lost straight up.

    I liked S. Carolina/Vandy Under 47. The total was 28.

    I liked Alabama/Tennessee Under 48. The total was 51.

    I liked Oklahoma/Mizzou Over 53. The total was 63.

    I liked Oklahoma minus 3 against Mizzou. Oklahoma lost straight up.

    I liked Air Force + 18.5 against TCU. Air Force lost by 31.

Overall, it was a mythically profitable week of picking. Don’t worry; I will not be spending all my mythical profits in one mythical place at one mythical time. This week I shall be in Las Vegas – - The Mirage Sportsbook to be most specific – - where some of these mythical picks will become actual cash layout wagers.

Nevertheless, no one should misconstrue any of these remarks. Nothing here is authoritative with regard to what side one ought to take in a real wager; these are mythical picks. Following any “advice” here would be stupid – - about as stupid as a person who thinks Franklin Mint is a breath freshener.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats went on the road and beat the previously unbeaten Pacific Lutheran last weekend. That raises the Wildcats’ season record to 5-1 and guarantees them their 55th consecutive winning season in football. Linfield is also 4-0 in Northwest Conference games and has the inside track to the conference championship. Congratulations to the Linfield College football program for maintaining the longest consecutive streak of winning seasons at any level of play in any sport in the US.

This week, the Wildcats play host to Menlo College Oaks. Menlo is 3-5 overall for the season but they have lost each of their last 4 games by a 2 TD margin. Go Wildcats!

In Oregon’s manhandling of UCLA last Thursday night, the Ducks gained a total of 582 yards on offense and scored a touchdown on its first five possessions. They are averaging 55.1 points per game this year and have yet to be held under 40 points in any game. Oregon is very good; UCLA is mediocre at the very best and probably they are a bad team.

Prior to the shellacking at the hands of Oregon, UCLA dropped a squeaker to Cal 35-7. Toss in their mauling by Stanford, and UCLA has dropped those three conference games by a cumulative score of 130-20. Their only conference win was over SHOE Tournament candidate, Washington State.

And somehow, Texas lost to UCLA in Austin Texas… The reason for that is that Texas is also not really a good football team. In fact, Texas got me to thinking about the silliness of pre-season polls. If you were to assume that the pre-season polls had even a scintilla of worth, what team so far this year would be the biggest underachievers and the biggest overachievers?


      Penn State


      Michigan State
      S. Carolina

That’s right; Baylor is a huge overachiever considering they were considered Big-12 roadkill by just about all of the pundits before they started playing any games. Don’t look now, but Baylor is bowl-eligible and it is not yet Halloween. Baylor beat Kansas State 47-42 last week to raise its record to 6-2. The Baylor offense is fired by sophomore QB, Robert Griffin, who can run very well and who last week passed for 404 yards and 4 TDs. For 2010, you cannot call Baylor – - The Bad News Bears.

In BCS doings, there are three undefeated teams in the rankings from the “outsider” conferences – - Boise State, TCU and Utah. Utah and TCU will play each other on November 6 in Salt Lake City so the BCS overlords catch a break here and one of these three “outsiders” will fall by the wayside at the hands of another “outsider”. By the way, if Utah were to come out of the TCU game with a win, they would then take their undefeated record to South Bend Indiana the week after that for a showdown with Notre Dame.

Meanwhile from the “established conferences” there are four undefeated teams – - Michigan State, Missouri, Auburn and Oregon. Oregon has a road date with USC this weekend; Missouri has a road date at Nebraska this week; Auburn still has to face Alabama in the Iron Bowl plus an SEC Championship Game if they remain undefeated that long. Of this group, Michigan State would seem to have the easiest road to an undefeated regular season – - should they get by Iowa at Iowa this weekend.

ESPN Game Day will be in LA for the USC/Oregon game this week. I do not have any stats on this other than recollections of shows I have tuned into and out of over the years. ESPN Game Day does not show up on the Far West Coast very often.

The #1 ranked team has lost in each of the last 3 weeks; Oregon hopes to break that chain of events against USC. Interestingly, all three of the previous #1 teams who took it on the chin did so on the road – - Alabama at S. Carolina then Ohio State at Wisconsin then Oklahoma at Missouri. This week – - Oregon at USC. Just saying…

UConn coach, Randy Edsall, suspended his starting QB for the rest of the year and said that the QB would likely never return to the team. The school cited the kid for “unspecified violations” of school rules. UConn started a redshirt freshman at QB against Louisville last week and he had to leave the game with “concussion-like symptoms”. So, UConn will probably have to go against West Virginia this weekend with someone who was the #3 QB on the team ten days prior.

Speaking of West Virginia, they spit the bit last weekend losing to Syracuse – - a team that had been squashed by Pitt just the week before. West Virginia was at home and led 14-10 after the first quarter; they lost the game 19-14 because Syracuse shut them out for just over 45 minutes. Ouch.

Temple is bowl-eligible for the second season in a row. That has never happened in the history of Temple football. There is one minor problem here. Bowl invitations tend to go to teams who can bring a bunch of fans to the site of the bowl game where the fans will take a mini-vacation and spend some money aiding the local economy. Temple has difficulty consistently drawing 15,000 people to their home games. I wonder what bowl committee will be thrilled to have Temple as one of the participants…

Above, I listed Texas as one of the big “underachievers” of the year. Losing big at home to UCLA is unacceptable; I can look at the loss to Oklahoma as a loss to a good team so that is not awful. Having said that, losing to Iowa State at home is simply not acceptable for a team and a football program that thinks of itself in terms of championship participation. That loss was shameful.

The Texas/Iowa State game did provide an important lesson for all of us. Thanks to the outcome of this game, we have a demonstration why we need to ignore the utterances of politicians when they get on their rhetorical highs. Said Iowa governor, Chet Culver, this game proved that

“Iowa State is a program to be reckoned with.”

Uh, Governor, I hate to be the one to tell you, but Iowa State’s football program does not amount to a pinch of possum pus. Did you forget – - or did you conveniently ignore – - the results of Iowa State’s previous two football games? Let me refresh your memory:

    Oklahoma 52 Iowa State 0.

    Utah 68 Iowa State 27.

The biggest reckoning one needs to do with the Iowa State program is to calculate the cumulative margin of victory of its opponents. With all due respect, Governor, stuff a sock in it.

Notre Dame took the ball on its first possession to the Navy 1-yard line but Navy held. The Notre Dame defense took the field with 99 yards to defend. Six plays later, Navy was in the Notre Dame end zone and – - for all practical purposes – - the game was over. In the end, Navy won by 18 points. The last time Navy beat Notre Dame by more than 18 points they had a quarterback named Roger Staubach in the lineup. Perhaps you have heard of him…

Navy ran the ball 60 times for 367 yards – - 6.1 yards per carry. Navy threw the ball only twice all game and completed both of those passes. Who says you have to have a balanced offense to win a football game?

Alabama beat Tennessee and shut out Tennessee in the second half. Probably not a lot of smiles on Rocky Top this week…

Ohio State beat Purdue 49 – 0 and it wasn’t nearly that close. It was 42-0 at the half and Terrelle Pryor sat the second half.

Pitt beat Rutgers by 20 points. The game was tied at the half; Rutgers quit in the second half.

Here is what I learned watching parts of the Penn State/Minnesota game. Minnesota stinks no matter who the coach on the sidelines wearing the headphones happens to be. That is a football program going nowhere unless it finds a savior…

Northwestern led Michigan State 17-0 early on but Sparty kept on keeping on and won the game 35-27. Michigan State’s offense is good but their pass defense is “highly exploitable”…

Maryland beat BC to raise its record to 5-2. At the same time, make no mistake, Maryland is a truly mediocre football team.

Mississippi State raised its record to 6-2 last week with a win over UAB. I wonder where Mississippi State will go bowling…

W. Michigan beat Akron by 46 points. Akron is now 0-8 and is firmly in position to get a high seed in the SHOE Tournament.

Kent State beat Bowling Green by 24 points. Bowling Green is now 1-7 and looks to be making a strong play for SHOE Tournament participation.

Texas A&M beat Kansas by 5 TDs. Kansas improved the foundation for its claim that it needs to be part of the SHOE Tournament.

UVa beat E. Michigan by 27 points last week. UVa is a bottom feeder in the ACC which is not a top conference. That makes E. Michigan 1-7 for the season and a top SHOE candidate.

Western Kentucky broke its 26 game losing streak beating La-Lafayette last week in Lafayette by 33 points. Not to worry, W. Kentucky can still be a SHOE Team…

The SHOE Teams:

It is still too early to cut the field much below 16 teams who might ultimately vie to see which is the worst football team in the US. Again this week, I will group the teams into three “SHOE Boxes”/categories:

Here are two teams that “fer sure” belong on the list of the 8 worst teams in the country:

    Akron 0-8
    New Mexico 0-7

Here are ten teams who really are not very good and have a good chance to be a SHOE team come Thanksgiving:

    Ball State 2-6 (but against a cupcake schedule!)
    Bowling Green 1-7
    E. Michigan 1-7
    Florida Atlantic 1-5
    Marshall 1-6
    Memphis 1-6
    New Mexico State 1-6
    North Texas 1-6
    UNLV 1-6
    W. Kentucky 1-6

Here are four teams from “major conferences” that are just plain bad:

    Duke 1-6
    Kansas 2-5
    Minnesota 1-7
    Washington State 1-7

There are a bunch of SHOE Team matchups this week – - and games between potential SHOE Teams and other pretty bad schools. The picture should be clearer next week…

The Ponderosa Games:

Last week there were 8 Ponderosa Spread Games. In those games, the favorites covered 5 times and failed to cover in 3 games. That brings the cumulative record for the season for favorites covering Ponderosa Spread Games to 33-31-4.

Ohio State, Oregon, Utah, UVa and Va Tech all covered.

Idaho, San Diego State and Stanford did not cover.

This week we have 7 Ponderosa Spread Games – - including one on Tuesday night.

(Tues Nite) La Tech at Boise State – 37.5 (64): Boise State had a bye week to prepare for this national telecast and probably will not take its foot off the gas. Boise State is – 27,000 on the money line. That is not a typo.

VMI at Army – 34 (53): This is shameful scheduling on the part of the Army Athletic Department. There are no money line quotes on this game.

Akron at Temple – 29 (48.5): I know Temple scored 42 last week shutting out Buffalo, but Temple tends to win with defense and not offense. On the other hand, this is Akron; this is the team leading the SHOE Tournament seeding at the moment… Temple is – 7000 on the money line.

Ohio State – 25 at Minnesota (54.5): Ohio State is -3500 on the money line…

Colorado at Oklahoma – 24 (54): Oklahoma should be angry after last week and Colorado is not all that good. OU is -2000 on the money line.

Utah State at Nevada – 26 (60): Nevada is – 4500 on the money line.

TCU – 34.5 at UNLV (54.5): TCU is – 20,000 on the money line. That is not a typo.

Games of Interest:

(Fri Nite) West Virginia – 6 at UConn (45.5): The best UConn can do here is to start an injured second string QB – - unless you think an uninjured third string QB is a better option. Using those options last week, UConn lost to Louisville 26-0. Granted it took some special teams’ legerdemain by Louisville to open up this margin, but notice that UConn scored zero points. Now notice that West Virginia is better than Louisville and damned well ought to be pissed off after the way they stunk out the joint against Syracuse last week. I’ll take West Virginia here and lay the points.

Clemson – 7 at BC (41): BC is not very good; Clemson is far less fearsome on the road than it is at home. The “Total Line” tells you this ought to be a low scoring contest and in such situations, it is usually a good idea to take a full TDs worth of points. But BC really isn’t very good; they rank 104th out of 120 Division 1-A teams in scoring. Despite the fact that Clemson is always a better pick at home than on the road, I like Clemson to win and cover here.

Northwestern – 3 at Indiana (58.5): Both offenses are competent; neither defense is particularly competent. Both teams aspire to be bowl-eligible; neither is there yet. That might sound like the set-up for a spirited contest that is exciting to see; I think it will be a scoring fest. I’ll take this game to go Over.

Purdue at Illinois – 17 (41): Purdue is not a good football team; make no mistake about that. However, are they really three scores worse than Illinois? I think this will be a low scoring game so 17 points is a very fat line. I like fat; I’ll take Purdue with the points here.

OK State – 6 at Kansas State (69): I want to play this game Under. Let me be clear; that is not an endorsement of the competency of either defensive unit here; both of them are less than spectacular – - to be most polite. Rather, my preference here is based on the fact that I do not think K-State’s offense can hold up its end of the bargain to get the total score up to 70. So what; it’s only a mythical pick…

Tennessee at S. Carolina – 17 (49): Tennessee’s offense is predicated on being able to run the ball to set up advantageous down-and-distance situations. Running on South Carolina is not an easy thing to do. I know that is a lot of points to lay, but I really think Tennessee is overmatched here and the return to action of Gamecocks’ RB, Marcus Lattimore, will be an important element here. I’ll take South Carolina and lay the points.

Tulsa at Notre Dame – 8.5 (62): Let me be clear here; Tulsa is not a good football team and its defense is porous. Having said that, Notre Dame is also not a good football team and its defense is equally porous. After what Navy did to the Irish running the ball 60 out of 62 offensive plays and averaging 6.1 yards per carry on the ground, can anyone taller than a leprechaun think that the Notre Dame defense is adequate? Tulsa can move the ball on offense and I doubt that Notre Dame is going to change that significantly. I like Tulsa plus the points here and I like the game to go Over. I wonder if the total can get into the 80s…

North Texas at Western Kentucky – 6.5 (51.5): If you added up the wins for these teams over the past 3 seasons, I do not think you could come up with the 6 wins needed to get to a bowl game. These are two miserable programs – - here for only two reasons:

    1. It affects the presence and the seedings of teams in my SHOE Tournament.

    2. I am going to Vegas this weekend and hope to play a “Bottom Feeders’ Parlay” where I pick only horrid teams playing other horrid teams.

So, how does this game stack up – - other than it will create an odor that makes a meat packing plant in July smell like a field of wildflowers? North Texas had a bye week to adjust to its interim head coach since the school fired the coach who started the season. W. Kentucky broke its humongous losing streak last week and might actually have its focus on “making a run” to credibility – - something highly unlikely to happen. Assuming the new interim coach at North Texas was not dumb enough to try to institute an entirely new offensive and defensive system on this talent-challenged squad in the bye week, I expect N. Texas to come out and play hard to impress the ‘new guy”. I’ll take the Mean Green of North Texas here with the points…

Florida International – 4 at Florida Atlantic (47): Here are two other bad teams/SHOE Tournament candidates. At this level of “bad” it might be difficult to distinguish between the badness of two squads. However, in this case, I think Florida Atlantic is the less accomplished football team. You can believe this will be one of the games in my parlay of “Bottom Feeders” this weekend. I’ll take Florida International and lay the points.

San José State – 3 at New Mexico State (47): If you believe that strength of schedule has an important place in raking college football teams, you have to prefer SJ State here over NM State. However, the Spartans are hardly a reliable team to take on the road when you have to lay points. I would prefer to consider this game as one to go Under as part of my Bottom Feeders Parlay – - but that will be only if I decide to expand the parlay to 4 games instead of only 3.

New Mexico at Colorado State – 15.5 (52): The CSU offense must read press clippings and believe them. Against good to middling defenses (Colorado, Nevada, Miami (Oh), TCU and Utah), the Rams have averaged 5 points per game. Against bad to middling defenses, (Idaho, Air Force, UNLV) the Rams have averaged just under 40 points per game. New Mexico’s defense can most charitably be described as BAD. I can see Colorado State scoring 40 points here; the question is whether or not the New Mexico offense can stand on its hind legs and put two TDs on the board. I think they can; I like this game to go Over. I also like CSU laying the points.

Arizona – 8.5 at UCLA (49.5): Arizona is a good team who may not be consistently good. UCLA is a sub-mediocre team whose inconsistency makes them difficult to play or play against. I will lean on the advice of one of my “fellow travelers” to Las Vegas this weekend who lives in Arizona and follows Arizona sports closely. My personal feelings are that this will be a low scoring contest and 8.5 points is a very generous helping. Mythically, I will take UCLA with the points – - but I can be talked into a different posture once I am in Vegas by the analysis of someone who has focused on Arizona football far more than I have.

Missouri at Nebraska – 7.5 (55): One of the 5 best games of the weekend here. Mark Missouri down at the Rodney Dangerfield team of 2010. They are undefeated; they just beat the team ranked #1 in the nation and now they are more than a full TD underdog to a Nebraska team that has already one loss on its record – - to one of the great underachieving teams of 2020, Texas. For mythical purposes only, let me take Nebraska at home and lay the points. Just a hunch, but Mizzou might just be in for a classic “deflation game” after its big win last week.

Bowling Green at Central Michigan – 11 (51): Bowling Green is a SHOE candidate – - no question about that. Meanwhile, Central Michigan walks around with 2 wins under their belt for 2010 – - one over Hampton University and the other over SHOE candidate Eastern Michigan. Both teams would prefer to flush this game and this season down the “u-trap” of odor reduction. Ignore this game!

Michigan State at Iowa – 6.5 (50): One of the 5 best games of the weekend here. If Mizzou is not the Rodney Dangerfield team of the 2010, then maybe Michigan State is. The Spartans are undefeated and they go to visit an Iowa team that has lost 2 games and find themselves just under a full TD underdog. If forced to make a pick, I would probably make a venue call and take Iowa and lay the points. But I will not need to do that this weekend because there will be much better wagering opportunities available to me – - even if the game might not be as good as this one. Please remember the important rule of football wagering/money management here:

    It is OK to watch a game without having a bet on that game.

SMU – 7.5 at Tulane (53.5): Two decent offenses and two not-so-great defenses. I like this game Over.

Florida vs. Georgia – 3 (47): This is a neutral site game as it always is. Georgia has won 3 games in a row; I guess that is what makes them the favorite here. I am less than blown away by those wins however because they came at the expense of Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Tennessee; that is not nearly the “cream of the crop” in the SEC. Florida has struggled so far this year but they do come to this game off a bye week. I think the game will be low-scoring so I would be inclined to take Florida just on that basis. However, on top of that, I think Florida is the better team so I will take Florida with those points.

Auburn – 7 at Ole Miss (60.5): One of the 5 best games of the weekend here. Both teams run the ball well and both teams have QBs that can get hot throwing the football. Some folks say that Cam Newton at Auburn is the 2010 version of Tim Tebow; at the collegiate level, that is high praise indeed. Auburn should be focused for the game because they know they have at least two tough games ahead of them and losses now come with big “penalties” in terms of the polls. I like Auburn to win and cover here and I like this game Over.

Washington State at Arizona State – 21 (56): Washington State is a prime contender for the SHOE Tournament and they are on the road. One reason they are a prime contender for the SHOE Tournament is that they cannot stop the run; opposing teams run for almost 6 yards a carry against the Cougars. Check out last week’s Notre Dame/Navy game to see what happens to teams that give up 6 yards per rush attempt… Nevertheless, three TDs is a lot of points to spot even a SHOE team. I will take this game to go Over on the basis that Arizona State will probably get into the 40s all by itself.

Baylor at Texas – 7 (53): Baylor is bowl-eligible with 6 wins but the tough part of their schedule begins this week. Their 6-2 record now might be 6-6 at the end of the year and is not likely to be better than 7-5. If you know which Texas team will show up on Saturday – - the one that lost to UCLA and Iowa State or the one that beat Nebraska in Lincoln – - then you should get that message to Mack Brown because I doubt he knows which team will show up. Purely on a hunch, I’ll take Texas and lay the points here on the basis that they do have more good players than Baylor does and because I suspect Mack Brown has been chewing their butts out all week long.

Stanford – 7 at Washington (63): Both teams bring top-shelf QBs to this game. Stanford can run the ball and throw it well; Washington can do both too – - but not as well. Stanford still has a shot at the Rose Bowl this year on the assumption that Oregon wins out and goes to the BCS Championship Game. Washington is in no such position. I like Stanford to win and cover here and I like this game to go Over.

Utah – 7 at Air Force (54.5): One of the 5 best games of the weekend here. Utah is undefeated and ranked in the Top Ten – - but if you want to criticize a school for building a record on a foundation of cupcake teams, Utah would have to be your poster child. Granted some of it is unavoidable; some of their cupcakes are in their conference; they have no choice but to play them. Nevertheless, wins over Colorado State, New Mexico, San José State, UNLV and Wyoming are to be expected. Two of those teams are on my SHOE list this week; the other three are less than mediocre. Air Force is not one of the top ten teams in the country by any means but they are a huge step up in competition from most of what Utah has faced. Given the venue and the full TD, I’ll take Air Force with the points here.

Oregon – 7 at USC (70): One of the 5 best games of the weekend here. USC would love to extract revenge for last year’s loss at Oregon. Oregon would love to hang a huge number on USC as a punctuation mark on the statement regarding how good their offense really is. USC cannot be a bowl participant this year so this is their version of the BCS Championship game and the coaches there have had 2 weeks to put that idea in the players’ heads. Given the Oregon reliance on speed, you don’t think that USC would have arranged to put some extra sand and/or water on that grass playing surface for this game, do you? Assuming USC does not turn the playing field into a bog, I like this game Over.

Cal at Oregon State – 2.5 (53.5): Cal looks inconsistent – - until you notice that they play well at home and play poorly on the road. They are on the road this week. I like Oregon State to win and cover.

Michigan – 2 at Penn State (52.5): The Penn State offense is anemic; the Michigan defense is anemic. The Michigan offense is robust; the Penn State defense is pretty good – - especially at home. Reports are that Denard Robinson’s shoulder is healed and that he is ready to play again after Michigan had a bye last week. I do not think either team here is as good as its record; I’ll take Michigan and lay the points.

Finally, the first Bowl game will happen on Jan 6, 2011 in Mobile Alabama. It will match one of the juggernaut teams from the MAC (N. Illinois, Toledo, Temple or perhaps Ohio) against one of the juggernaut teams from the Sun Belt Conference (Troy). As a point of reference, at this point in the season Troy is the ONLY team in the Sun Belt Conference to sport an overall winning record; the other 8 teams in the Sun Belt have a cumulative record of 16 – 39. Here is what it will take for me to tune into that compost heap of a game:

    Either Shawn Kemp, Travis Henry or Antonio Cromartie will have to be the Grand Marshall of the GoDaddy Parade and toss the coin to start the game.

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

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  • Marc F  On October 29, 2010 at 10:26 am

    An FYI on Temple:
    Last year, Temple traveled over 20,000 to their Bowl Game, (far more the UCLA) and are averaging over 20,000 fans this year, one of if not the best in the MAC.

    You may want to take back your above comments about Owl fans not traveling to Bowl games.

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On November 2, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Marc F:

    Welcome aboard.

    I have no way to know if Temple really brought 20,000 fans to their Bowl Game against UCLA last year but if you say so, I’ll believe it.

    For the 2010 Temple home games I have checked, I do not see how they are averaging over 20,000. According to ESPN, they had 17,563 for Akron last week and 13,371 for Buffalo two games before that. Bowling Green brought in 23,045 and UConn 18,702.

    The average for those 4 home games is 18,170 and that is not “more than 20,000″.

    Oh, by the way, drawing 20,000 fans every week to Division 1-A college football games is hardly something that is unheard of. Alabama had more than 80,000 for their Spring Football Scrimmage this year!

    I will wait to see how many Temple fans go to their bowl game this year. If they go to the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise Idaho, I’ll bet there are less than 10,000 of them. But until Temple football fans support the team on a week-to-week basis and do not just take winter vacations to warm weather destinations for a bowl game, I feel no need to apologize to them or to retract my remarks.

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