Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend of 8/30/14

It is time to resuscitate my college football Mythical Picks. I closed last year’s set of collegiate mythical picks saying:

“Good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise; I’ll do these again next year.”

Well, I am still vertical and taking nourishment; and the last time I looked, the creek remains within its banks. So, away we go…

For new readers, here is what goes on in Mythical Picks. I will start by making a few comments about last week’s games and how the Mythical Picks turned out and/or some general commentary on college football. I will keep everyone abreast of the Linfield College Wildcats in McMinnville, OR – not because I have any ties or association with the school but because they have not had a losing season in football since 1956. If they win 5 games this year, it will be their 59th consecutive winning season; that is amazing…

I will identify games I call “Ponderosa Spread Games”. These games all have spreads of 24-points or more. I picked that number out of the air and since it is a “big spread”, I named them after the “big spread” owned by the Cartwright family in the old TV series, Bonanza. I find it interesting that in most years, neither favorites nor underdogs cover sufficiently regularly to earn a profit over the season. I track this just because I feel like doing so…

Starting around the end of October – after there is some on-field evidence on which to draw conclusions – I will begin to try to identify the 8 worst teams in the country. The reason I do that is that in the final iteration of these weekly “things”, I will place those teams in a mythical tournament to identify the single worst team. That tournament would be single elimination where the loser has to continue to play; the winner can go home and avoid further ignominy. I call it the SHOE Tournament because SHOE is my acronym for the ultimate losing team; they would be:

The Steaming Heap Of Excrement

Then I will identify “Games of Interest” for the week. These might be games involving two top teams; these might be games involving two bottom-feeders or they could be games where the spread makes the game interesting. I will make a wagering prediction for some – but not all – of the “Games of Interest”. The important thing to keep in mind is that these are games that are interesting to me. If I do not have on the list a game that is interesting to you, I apologize in advance.

Let me take a moment to speak to the issue of gambling on college football games. I know that the subject will cause NCAA folks and loads of politicians to lapse into hysteria with regard to how gambling pollutes the purity of amateur athletic endeavors. That is patent buncombe [Hat Tip to H. L. Mencken for that word.]. Here is a simple fact that the NCAA mavens and the politicos can never come to grips with:

    People will always gamble on college football games because people want to do so and there is nothing that the NCAA or the pols can do to stop them.

I am not here to try to convince you to wager real money on actual football games. My selections against the spread and commentary on spreads and “over/unders” merely reflect the reality that I am not opposed to gambling and I am willing to offer my opinion on various games.

Having said that, I assure everyone here that I have exactly no “inside information” or “well-placed sources” inside or near various football programs that serve to funnel information to me for these picks. I do this for fun. No one should assign any weight to my Mythical Picks because they are indeed “Mythical”; I am NOT making wagers on all of the games I mention here.

To drive that point home, no one should take any information here as even a small part of the basis for making a wager on a college football game. For anyone who might do so, I have one question:

    Just how big a bowl of “STUPID” do you eat for breakfast every morning?

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats play their opening game on September 13th. The Wildcats will be on the road for their first three games; the first two games will be in Southern California. I will pick up on their season in a couple of weeks…

    [Aside: When I was on my month-long road-trip this summer, one of the stops we made was at Maxwell Field where Linfield plays its home games. It was only a minor detour from our travel path and we stopped to look and get a few pictures. It is certainly not a big stadium – I would guess it could hold about 3500 folks – but it was interesting to see the place where Linfield has amassed and continued its streak of winning football seasons. If I knew how to post pictures on this platform, I would put one here…]

Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle is a most insightful person in addition to being an outstanding writer. Recently, he had the following suggestion; and if it were adopted, it would be a step in the right direction for college football:

“How about if we make this adjustment in college stats: Any individual stats are null and void if you ring ‘em up in a game your team wins by more than four touchdowns. You shouldn’t win a Heisman Trophy for throwing seven touchdown passes against Schmidlap State.”

I mention that suggestion because it relates to this next observation. Many folks are worried about how badly the injury to Ohio State QB, Braxton Miller, will hurt the Buckeyes’ chances at getting into the college football playoffs at the end of this year. Remember, only 4 teams will be invited. So, I went to look at the Ohio State schedule for this year and my conclusion is that Ohio State ought to be ashamed of itself. Out of conference, they play:

    Navy (on a neutral field)
    Va Tech (in Columbus)
    Kent State (in Columbus)
    Cincinnati (in Columbus)

Too bad Comatose State dropped football last year or they would surely have been on the Ohio State dance card here. Moreover, it does not get a whole lot better once Ohio State begins Big 10 Conference play. Check out the remaining schedule:

    Maryland (at College Park): The Terps are not a good team.
    Rutgers (in Columbus): The Scarlet Knights are not a good team.
    Penn State (at State College): The Lions are improving, but still…
    Illinois (in Columbus): The Illini are good about once a decade.
    Mich St. (at East Lansing): The Spartans are a good program
    Minnesota (at Minneapolis): The Gophers usually stink.
    Indiana (in Columbus): The Hoosiers always stink.
    Michigan (in Columbus): The Wolverines will be up for the game.

It is difficult to see how Ohio State can do worse than 9-2 for the season and they could run the table against that schedule given the absence of even back-to-back difficult games. And so, even before the kickoff for the college football season here is something I would wish for come December:

    1. I would want Ohio State to have a 12-1 record having won the Big 10 Championship Game.

    2. Then I would want the Playoff Selection Committee to leave them out of the playoff tournament to play in a meaningless bowl game AND for the Committee to say directly that it was “strength of schedule” that left the Buckeyes on the outside looking in.

If anyone involved in the College Football Playoff structure cares about minimizing games against sacrificial lambs, that would be a message immediately received and understood by school athletic directors who might be hearing from alums who would not want to be “left out” sometime in the future because of a cupcake schedule.

It is not going to happen, of course. But I can wish for it…

Now before someone accuses me of “hating on Ohio State”, the same could easily be said of Oklahoma (weak out of conference schedule and a mediocre conference) and of Baylor (pathetic out of conference schedule and a mediocre conference).

Speaking of the College Football Playoff, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN.com, on the new college football playoff format: ‘I’m going to miss the Bowl Championship Series — much the same way I’d miss second-hand smoke, cellphones at dinner and people who examine their own earwax.’ “

Here is a note from Charlie Walters in the St. Paul Pioneer-Post that will give you an idea of what you should expect from Big 10 football officials this year:

“Big Ten football officials will receive $2,700 per game this season and add an eighth official to the backfield.”

The officials are taking down $21.6K per game; remember that as you watch those games and decide for yourself if you – or the conference – is getting its money’s worth…

Something to keep watch on this season will be the Boise State program. Chris Petersen is gone to the University of Washington and the Broncos’ former OC, Bryan Harsin steps up to the head role. It is not easy following a coach as successful as Petersen had been at a place like Boise St. but at least Harsin has a bunch of Petersen’s recruits on hand to man the starting positions for him. This season – and next year’s recruiting efforts – will set a tone for Harsin’s stint in Boise.

One more thing to look for this season is an evolving debate as to the best conference in the country. The SEC has had that distinction for quite a while now; but this year, do not ignore the teams in the PAC-12. Here on the East Coast, TV viewers who choose to stay up late on Saturday night will get to see some very good games.

Did you know that Western Kentucky has a DB on the roster named Prince Charles Iworah? Maybe W. Kentucky should have found a way to play one of their games in London this year. They could win by “royal decree”… The Hilltoppers also have a DB on the squad named Wonderful Terry; I wonder if he has a brother named Beautiful Bobby?

The Ponderosa Spread Games:

This week we have 10 Ponderosa Spread Games:

(Fri) UNLV at Arizona – 24 (60): UNLV was much improved last year but find themselves in the NCAA penalty box now. They are over their heads here and Arizona’s offense is not one to let up and play ball control late in the game.

Florida Atlantic at Nebraska – 24 (51): I do not think the Owls showed great wisdom putting this game on the schedule…

Marshall – 24 at Miami (Oh) (59): Miami was the #1 seed in last year’s SHOE Tournament; their record was 0-12; the average margin of loss was 26 points. They have to be better this year, right? The Miami defense needs to be a lot better here because one thing Marshall can and will do is score points. I like Marshall to win and cover here.

Idaho at Florida – 36 (51): If Florida merely wins this game by 20 points, there will be calls to boil Will Muschamp in oil…

N. Texas at Texas – 25 (52): If Charlie Strong wants to see how fast a honeymoon can end, all he has to do is lose to N. Texas this weekend…

So. Miss at Miss St. – 31 (56): Last year, So. Mississippi was 1-11. Mississippi State was only 6-6 last year but three of their losses came in successive weeks to So. Carolina, Texas A&M and Alabama. Later this season, So. Miss will play Alabama; who thought that would be a good idea?

Appalachian St. at Michigan – 34.5 (54): It is not going to happen here, but recall that App.St. has gone into “The Big House” and won outright on the opening weekend of the season. This looks like a “payback game”…

Alabama – 26 at West Virginia (55.5): You probably recall the look on Nick Saban’s face as Auburn ran back an unsuccessful field goal attempt for a TD to win their game. You will not see that same look on his face this weekend…

La Tech at Oklahoma – 38 (52): Another shame of a game…

(Sun) SMU at Baylor – 33 (73): Neither team plays a lot of defense but both teams do play offense. Art Briles offense at Baylor has been spectacular the last couple of seasons; SMU plays June Jones’ “Run ‘N Shoot”. Lots action for the scoreboard operator here…

Games of Interest:

(Thurs) Texas A&M at South Carolina – 10.5 (58.5): This game matches the Aggies “new QB” against the “ol’ Ball Coach”. If the Aggies’ offense is tentative and adjusting to someone other than Johnny Football at QB, this could be an easy UNDER because Steve Spurrier teams tend to start slowly and get better as the year goes on. Of course, the Aggies will not have to contend with the likes of Jadeveon Clowney on defense for the Gamecocks this week. I’ll take the UNDER here.

(Thurs) Ole Miss – 10 vs Boise St. (Atlanta GA) (54): An interesting opener for both teams… The Rebels have won bowl games in each of the last two seasons and their offense should be very good this season; as noted above, Boise State has a new coach at the helm. I like Ole Miss to win and cover here initiating a mass case of agita in Boise.

(Thurs) Wake Forest – 2.5 at La-Monroe (45.5): Wake’s teams have fallen on hard times in recent years so there is no way I would take them on the road and giving points. Just for fun, I’ll take La-Monroe plus the points here.

(Fri) BYU – 17 at UConn (50.5): If you like hunch bets – which I do not –, consider that this game will happen on the 137th anniversary of the death of Brigham Young himself. More often than not, such occurrences are more coincidence than omen. I prefer reason to omens… UConn was not very good last year; BYU was not as good as they have been in previous years but not as bad as UConn. This is long journey for the Cougars and they will play without their best RB, Jamaal Williams who is suspended for this game. I think this will be a low scoring affair so taking 17 points is the way I would play it. I’ll take UConn plus the points.

(Fri) Colorado State at Colorado – 3 (60) (Denver, CO): This game is “interesting” because you are not going to see Colorado installed as a favorite very often this year…

(Sat) Penn State vs. Central Florida – 1.5 (48) (Dublin Ireland): Penn State begins the James Franklin Era “across the pond”; UCF’s history is that it plays up or down to the level of its opponent. UCF had Blake Bortles at QB last year; he will be playing on Sundays this year. Christian Hackenberg was a most pleasant surprise for Penn State fans last year; the question now is how much better he can become. The most interesting thing about this game is that it ought to give an indication as to the capabilities of Penn State for other games later in the season.

(Sat) Ohio St. – 13.5 vs. Navy (Baltimore, MD) (55.5): In terms of athletic abilities, this looks to be a mismatch… Navy runs the ball more than just about any other college team and Ohio State’s front 7 on defense is going to be very good. I like Ohio State to win and cover.

(Sat) UCLA – 21.5 at UVa (57.5): The Bruins are a good team. Mike London is a coach on a hot seat in Charlottesville. If UVa gets stomped here, it could set a negative tone for the rest of the season for Virginia; and if that happens, Mike London will be job hunting in December. Watch this game for indications of future performances by these teams…

(Sat) BC – 17 at UMass (48): Last year was a down year for BC. Last year was a disaster for UMass. Their record was 1-11 and that lone win came over Miami (Oh) who was abjectly awful. Watch this game for indications of the future for both teams. My hunch is that neither of them will be very good and that UMass will be terrible. We shall see…

(Sat) Rice at Notre Dame – 21 (51): Given all the suspensions and investigations – talk about the “dreaded distractions” – at Notre Dame you can understand why this line opened at 24.5 and dropped like a rock to this level in no time flat. Notwithstanding all that, Notre Dame is bigger and faster than Rice and should win this game. I’ll take Notre Dame to win and cover.

(Sat) Arkansas at Auburn – 20.5 (57.5): Auburn is not going to be as good this year as they were last year when they played in the BCS Championship Game. They do have QB, Nick Marshall returning and that means they will still be very good. The only thing to say about Arkansas right now comes from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald:

“The University of Arkansas has trademarked ‘Woo Pig Sooie!’ OK, Charlie Rose, no more leading off your show with the phrase.”

(Sat) Clemson at Georgia – 7.5 (58): Purely a hunch here but I cannot see where 58 points will come from in this game. I like the game to stay UNDER.

(Sat) Florida St. – 17.5 at Oklahoma St. (63) (Arlington, TX): Florida State is going to be “real good” this year but OK St. is not a bunch of stumblebums. Perhaps the best game on the card this weekend? I’ll take the Cowboys plus 17.5 points here.

(Sat) LSU – 4.5 at Wisconsin (50): Both of these teams will run the ball at one another until one of the defenses shows it can stop the other guy. If Fla St/OK St is not the best game of the weekend, then this one is. I like Wisconsin at home plus the points here.

(Sun) Utah St at Tennessee – 6 (51.5): The Aggies were very good last year before QB Chuckie Keeton went down. Well, he’s back now and he is a difference-maker. I like the Aggies plus the points here. In addition, I’ll take Utah State on the money line at +200.

Finally, Brad Rock had this item in the Deseret News recently about Utah St. QB Chuckie Keeton:

“Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton on whether he’s bigger than he was last season: ‘Yeah, I am. ‘ I got up to 207 this summer, so seven pounds more. Thanks for noticing.’

“He has a point.

“How come nobody notices when an O-lineman gains seven pounds?”

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

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Comments

  • Kurt Weber  On August 28, 2014 at 9:35 am

    You may be already aware of this, but the LSU / Wisconsin game may be technically a UW home game, but they will meet in Houston at Reliant Stadium, which may favor LSU. I’ll be interested to see a blimp camera show whether more folks are wearing purple or red. Cheers and continued thanks for your column.

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On August 28, 2014 at 9:43 am

      Kurt Weber:

      My mistake. I should have noted that the game was in Houston. I’ll still take Wisconsin plus the points…

  • Joe  On August 28, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    Sorry to dissapoint but an August game in Houston should have Reliant’s (NRG) roof closed so no blimp shots except for the hugely interesting parking lot.

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On August 28, 2014 at 9:19 pm

      Joe:

      If they had the roof open at this time of the year, they would also need about three tank cars full of mosquito repellent for the stadium. Either that or be sure that all the mosquitoes were equipped with landing lights…

  • Doug  On August 29, 2014 at 6:15 am

    Your Thursday picks look pretty good on Friday morning. I don’t think anyone predicted 52 points against the SC defense.

    Given all the scoring last night, I am expecting the Clemson – Georgia game to go over.

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On August 30, 2014 at 11:05 am

      Doug:

      I don’t know if the A&M offense is that good or if the S. Carolina defense is that bad – – or perhaps a bit of both.

  • Price  On August 30, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    Professoir F: Come on – give FSU a break! They are no longer the “Criminoles”; well maybe an accidental shoplifting by the man.

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On August 31, 2014 at 2:56 pm

      Price:

      Good to hear from you again. I have no issues with FSU; I merely thought they would not beat Oklahoma State by 17.5 points – and they did not. They won the game which for them is a lot more important than not covering the spread, but in Mythical Picks, the spread is the thing.

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