Despite the fact that there are only a couple of “prime matchups” on this opening weekend of college football, several games are worth attention. In addition, there are a few items of interest regarding college football to consider.
As usual, I have to make sure everyone understands that I am not an “insider” nor can I claim to have made multi-jillions of dollars in each of the last umpty-squat years bringing bookies around the world to their knees in horror at the mention of my name. All I do is offer some commentary here on games that I think are interesting.
With that disclaimer, you would have to be awfully dumb to take any information here and use it as the basis of a real wager involving real money. In fact, you would be dumb enough to believe that a terminal illness involves puking on your computer keyboard.
One of the things I will track throughout the season is the football fortunes of the Linfield College Wildcats. I am not an alum; in fact, I have never seen the campus. However, Linfield has had a winning record in college football every year since 1956. They finished 2010 with a winning record making the streak 55 years in a row. Consider:
Since their streak began, the US has had 12 Presidents while Linfield College has had only 5 head coaches.
To put a bit more perspective on the length of that streak, here are some of the things that happened in 1956 – - when it all began:
Elvis Presley released Heartbreak Hotel.
Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier were married.
Rocky Marciano retired.
“Uncle Miltie” was a television icon.
Legislation creating the Interstate Highway System became law.
Don Larsen threw his perfect game in the World Series.
Dwight Eisenhower was re-elected as President.
Linfield’s season begins on September 10 this season…
I will also track games that have what I have come to call “Ponderosa Spreads” – - those are spreads of 24 points or more and it comes from the old TV show, Bonanza, where the Cartwright ranch was The Ponderosa and it was a “really big spread”. For years I kept track of games like this and marveled at how close to 50% the favorites came in covering. Then in 2008, the favorites went 46-28-3 which was way off the norm; but in 2009, all seemed to be back on track with favorites covering to the tune of 36-38. Then last year, the favorites ran wild again going 56-42-2. So, I will track Ponderosa Spread games again this year.
Since I firmly believe that pre-season polls are about as useful as a chocolate teakettle, I will wait until mid-season to produce my SHOE Rankings. “SHOE” is an acronym for Steaming Heap Of Excrement; I wait until about the mid-October to begin to identify the 8 worst teams in the country to seed them in a mythical tournament at the end of the year to identify THE worst team – - THE SHOE. It is a mythical single-elimination event where the loser has to continue to play…
As the season begins, there is a new rule this year that is going to have an effect on a game somewhere. Excessive celebrations – - as defined by the game officials on the spot – - by a player before he reaches the end zone will be considered unsportsmanlike conduct and will nullify any TD and will be marked from the spot of the foul. Somewhere, some player will be the first to eat one of those flags. How would you like to be the second guy flagged for this after every coach in the country shows the tape of the first guy taking it in the shorts?
If you think that is a huge change, do not worry; there is stability in college football too. Joe Paterno returns to Penn State as the head coach. JoePa will be 85 in December and says he wants to coach 4 more years. If he does that, it will give the folks on ESPN something to cackle about for another 4 years – - but as you listen to them doing their “tut-tutting”, remember this:
Amos Alonzo Stagg – - who kind of knew something about coaching football – - continued to coach until he was 98 years old.
Setting aside the football scandals for a moment, fans at Florida will be focused on the Gators even more than usual in the first month or two of this year to try to figure out the answer to this question:
Is Will Muschamp the next Urban Meyer or the next Ron Zook?
Michigan fans have to hope that Brady Hoke can shake the Wolverines out of their somnambulant state of the past several seasons and get by a shaken Ohio State program. It has been a while since Michigan was “for real”…
Al Golden at Miami has to wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and wonder what he did to piss off the football gods. After turning around a Temple football program that had been horrible for decades, Golden got what looked to be a great gig at “The U”. What he got was a hot seat in the middle of a program that will have more investigators buzzing around the program than it has passing plays.
Randy Edsall had things cooking at UConn but chose to leave Storrs, CT to move to College Park, MD and take over the Maryland program. The ACC is not a great football conference by any stretch of the imagination; but even so, it has been a while since Maryland was a powerhouse there.
Mark Richt will be on a hot seat in Georgia unless the team improves from last year’s 6-7 record. Despite an overall record of 96-34 at UGa, there will be calls for his head on a spear if the Dawgs have another losing season.
How long until UCLA holds Rick Neuheisel’s feet to the fire? These are his recruits and his program now; it is his 4th year at UCLA. He as already played the “fire all the coordinators card” and is looking at an overall record of 15-22 – - and 4-8 last season.
At Washington State, Paul Wulff took over a program in utter disarray and gave it a huge dose of enthusiasm. Nonetheless, in three seasons, the Cougars record is 5-32 and some of those wins have come against Division 1 AA competition. If he breaks even this year, he should be Coach of the Year; if he wins only 4 games, he will probably be looking for work.
In Austin, TX, people are not used to looking back at a 5-7 record for the football team. Mack Brown has plenty of “cred” going for him based on seasons prior to 2010, but the Longhorn faithful might begin to get just a bit anxious if 2011 starts to look like a “break-even season”.
I know this will bring tears to your eyes, but you have to deal with adversity as you live out your adult lives. The Humanitarian Bowl is no more. Instead, the game will be known as The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Get used to it… And no, there is no truth to the rumor that Spud Webb will toss the coin in the first incarnation of this game.
It appears as if UNC-Charlotte will add football to its sporting endeavors starting in 2013. What is the Over/Under on the number of road games they will play in 2013 as the Homecoming opponent?
With Utah now in the PAC-12 and with TCU now in the Big East, it would seem as if Boise State is the clear favorite to get the BCS slot allocated for the highest-ranking team from a non-automatic qualifying conference. To get that slot, Boise State has to be in the top 12 teams in the country so the pressure is on the Broncos.
Games of Interest:
North Texas at Florida Int’l – 13.5 (54): North Texas was terrible last year and has a new coaching staff; FIU did well enough to get its coach a contract extension. A new coaching staff takes a bad team on the road to start the season… Not my kind of recipe for a happy time. I like FIU to win and cover.
Wake Forest at Syracuse – 6.5 (50): The Wake Forest defense was not very good last year and Syracuse seems to be a program on the upswing. I like Syracuse to win and cover here. I also like the game to stay Under.
TCU – 6 at Baylor (56): Baylor wins by outscoring opponents; the TCU defense is too good to let them run wild. What TCU needs to find out is whether or not its offense this year is nearly as high-octane as it was last year. I like this game Under.
Northwestern at Boston College – 3 (45): The game opened at 7 points and plummeted to 3 points due to offensive injuries for the Eagles. I would definitely have taken the Wildcats with a full TD and I still like Northwestern here – - although I would really have preferred the bigger cushion.
BYU – 3 at Ole’ Miss (56): BYU is an independent this year while it looks for a way to get into a conference that can put some money in its till. One way to put themselves in the spotlight would be to go on the road to an SEC venue and win the game. Ole’ Miss is not the top-shelf of the SEC but still… Just a hunch here, but I think BYU will win and cover comfortably here.
Oregon – 3 vs. LSU (55.5): Some folks thought this might be an early season game matching two of the best teams in the country – - and then came investigations and punishments for LSU players. Nevertheless, Oregon is not the same team it was last year having graduated some key contributors. I like LSU with the points here.
Boise State – 3 vs. Georgia (51): A few years ago this would have been a David and Goliath match with Boise state in the role of David. Today, even with Georgia in the SEC, you might not cast the movie that way. Boise State has a new offensive coordinator so all the gimmickery might not be front-and-center in the Broncos’ playbook anymore. I like Georgia with the points here.
The Ponderosa Spread Games:
Given the early season mismatch scheduling that college football permits, there are 29 Ponderosa Spread games this week. This is one fallout of colleges expanding their schedules in addition to the NCAA mandate that a school needs 6 wins to be considered bowl eligible. Lots of schools have loaded up the front end of the schedule with cupcakes.
Murray State at Louisville – 30 (no line): At least both teams are in the same state…
Fordham at UConn – 40 (no line): Honestly, I had forgotten that Fordham played intercollegiate football.
W. Carolina at Ga Tech – 35 (no line): If the pre-game tailgate food is good, why bother interrupting a good time to go watch this contest?
NC Central at Rutgers – 42.5 (no line): The AD at Rutgers who scheduled this game should be ashamed…
Montana State at Utah – 28 (no line): Utah is preparing for its first season in the PAC-12. They won’t lose here…
UNLV at Wisconsin – 35 (53.5): Some folks think Wisconsin can win the Big Ten; no one thinks UNLV is anywhere near that good.
UC-Davis at Arizona State – 35.5 (no line): Another shameful pairing…
Mississippi State – 29 at Memphis (50): Note that the road team is the Ponderosa favorite here. Tell you anything about Memphis…?
Youngstown State at Michigan State – 34 (no line): I am certain that “State” will cover here…
Akron at Ohio State – 34 (48): Ohio State is reeling from scandal; Akron is merely horrible. Even in Columbus, this game has to be a big yawn…
Indiana State at Penn State – 37 (no line): Once again, “State” will cover here…
Tennessee Tech at Iowa – 40.5 (no line): Everyone wants to know the answer to this question: Why is this game on the calendar?
Kent State at Alabama – 38 (45.5): This should be a nail-biter up until the announcement of who won the coin toss.
Appalachian State at Va Tech – 25 (no line): Va tech football is taking scheduling lessons from Va Tech basketball it would seem…
S. Dakota at Air Force – 33 (no line): Ho- hum…
La-Monroe at Florida State – 29 (54.5): Some folks think FSU might play in one of the big BCS bowl games this year; the only way La-Monroe gets to one of those games is to buy up a block of tickets.
Chattanooga at Nebraska – 36 (no line): This game is “avert-your-eyes ugly”…
Sacramento State at Oregon State – 27.5 (no line): Once again, “State” will cover…
Idaho State at Washington State – 28 (no line): That is correct; Washington State is a Ponderosa FAVORITE. Tell you much about Idaho State?
San Jose State at Stanford – 30 (53.5): Stanford may have a new coach but they still have Andrew Luck at QB.
Buffalo at Pitt – 31 (52.5): Really? Pitt is favored by more than 4 TDs?
Liberty at NC State – 29 (no line): Another shameful game…
Montana at Tennessee – 28 (no line): Clearly not a traditional rivalry or a regional rivalry…
Texas State at Texas Tech – 38.5 (no line): Somehow, I doubt this game is for “bragging rights in the state of Texas”…
La-Lafayette at Ok. State – 37 (63.5): Ok. State might cover the total by themselves here.
Florida Atlantic at Florida – 35 (46.5): If the Gators lose here, Will Muschamp will need to hire bodyguards and food tasters.
Missouri State at Arkansas – 42 (no line): Well, it won’t be a long trip for Missouri State.
Tulsa at Oklahoma – 25 (64.5): Some folks have OU as the eventual national champion. If that is the case and if Tulsa covers here, keep your eye on Tulsa for the balance of the season.
N. Arizona at Arizona – 27 (55): At least it is an in-state game…
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………