Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 12/7/14

First, a review of last week’s Mythical Picks:

    I liked Bears/Lions UNDER 47.5. Total score was 51. No!

    I liked Eagles/Cowboys OVER 54.5. Total score was 43. No!

    I liked Seahawks/Niners UNDER 40.5. Total was 22. Yes!

    I liked Skins/Colts OVER 51. Total was 76. Yes!

    I liked Titans/Texans UNDER 43. Total was 67. No!

    I liked Browns +2.5 against Bills. Browns lost by 16. No!

    I liked Ravens -5 over Chargers. Ravens lost the game. No!

    I liked Jags +3 against Giants. Jags won the game outright. Yes!

    I liked Bengals -3.5 over Bucs. Bengals won by only 1. No!

    I liked Rams -7 over Raiders. Rams won 52-0. Yes!

    I liked Steelers -3 over Saints. Steelers lost the game. No!

    I liked Panthers +3 against Vikes. Panthers lost by 18. No!

    I liked Cards -2.5 over Falcons. Cardinals lost the game. No!

    I liked Pats/Packers OVER 58. Total was 47. No!

    I liked Broncos/Chiefs OVER 49.5. Total was 45. No!

    I liked Broncos -1 over Chiefs. Broncos won by 13. Yes!

    I liked Jets +6.5 against Dolphins. Jets lost by only 6. Yes!

That was a revolting mess of Mythical Picks. Last week’s record was 6-11-0 bringing the season record to 88-119-3. Those numbers stink like six-week-old gym socks.

If I had to find a bright spot in last week’s miasma, it would be that my picks did better than the Curmudgeon Coin Flip Games did. Theoretically, a coin flip game should be correct 50% of the time – or relatively close to 50%. Well, last week the coin was 2-4-0, which is ever so slightly worse than 6-11-0, and the season record for the Coin Flip Games now stands at 12-21-0. That is a good distance below .500.

Clearly, no one should think there is any insight contained in any of these picks and no one should think of using information here as the basis for a real wager on an actual NFL game involving real money. Anyo0ne stupid enough to do that might also consider this a good idea:

    Conduct a drive-by shooting while riding a unicycle.

General Comments:

The new owner of the Bills, Terry Pegula, has terminated the Bills’ “experiment” to play some of their home games in Toronto. The idea of playing a home game there – and an exhibition game once in a while too – started in 2008. The idea got a 5-year extension in 2012 but the Bills announced a “postponement” of the effort earlier this year. The word now is that the Bills will stay in Buffalo and play all of their games there.

The Packers used to play one of their games each year in Milwaukee so there is precedent for a team having a “shared home field” in the modern NFL. The Packers called a halt to that in 1994. Now that the Bills have ceased to play some games in Toronto, the only shared home field situation exists with whatever teams donate one of its home games to London each year.

Back in my NFL Pre-Season predictions, I said that the Steelers’ secondary would be a problem for them and I wondered if going into the season counting on Ike Taylor to be “the guy” in the defensive backfield would work. Well, Taylor has been injured and the rest of the secondary is coming apart like a Wal-Mart sweater. Last week, the Steelers gave up 5 TD passes to the Saints and lost 35-32. Things are not looking up in Pittsburgh.

Having said that, the Steelers’ secondary looks as if it has at least 3 Hall of Fame caliber defenders back there when you compare it to the Skins’ secondary. Forget stats for a moment; there were 4 plays in the Skins/Colts game last week where the Colts had a receiver open by a minimum of 10 yards – and in one case, it was probably closer to 25 yards. If one were to describe the Skins’ performance in pass defense last week as “inept” and “amateurish” and “bumbling” and “downright incompetent”, one might begin to convey an image of how bad it really was.

The Bucs lost by a point last week. Late in the game, they had completed a pass that would have set up a chip shot field goal that would have won the game. The problem is that they had 12 men on the field for the play and the refs did not catch it until the replay. [Aside: You might think that with an extra man on offense, the Bucs might have found someone open for a TD; but that is nit picking.] What happened here is that the Bucs invented a new way to lose a game. That is a big part of why the Bucs are 2-10 with 4 games to play.

The Jets “moved on” again – although truth be told, going back to playing Geno Smith as the starting QB seems more like “returning to the scene of the crime” than it does to “moving on”. Of course, the explanation here is that the coaches determined that Geno Smith gave the Jets the best chance to win. Well, the game plan and the play calling would seem to put the lie to that blatheration. All Geno Smith did for 90% of the night was to hand the ball off to a running back or a wide receiver on a misdirection play. They could have had Joe Namath out there on Monday night and he could have executed the offensive game plan the Jets exhibited.

    Memo to Jets’ owner, Woody Johnson:

      1. If you or your GM “ordered” the coaches to play Smith and that is the game plan they executed, they are telling you loudly and clearly that Geno Smith is not competent to play QB in the NFL. If you do not get that message and keep interfering, they may need to resort to mooning you during a game to make their point.

      2. If the coaches decided on their own to play Geno Smith and give it a go with an unorthodox game plan, give them a tad of credit because it almost worked.

      3. No coaches in the history of the NFL – or any other level of football – could get this roster to the playoffs. Either your scouts cannot construct a menu of competent players to draft or your personnel people cannot tell the difference between a player and a poser. Your losing record reflects incompetence in lots of places – including possibly in the owner’s suite at the stadium.

The Broncos beat the Chiefs by running the ball last week. It is not often that a team with Peyton Manning at QB wins by running the ball but that is what happened. CJ Anderson ran 32 times for 168 yards and the Broncos held the ball for almost 39 minutes to win in KC. The Broncos now lead the Chargers by 1 game and the Chiefs by 2 games in the AFC West.

The Chargers beat the Ravens in Baltimore 34-33 with a short TD pass in the final minute of the game. The Ravens are 7-5 – as are the Browns and the Steelers – in the AFC North and are looking up at the Bengals at 8-3-1 with 4 games left. Philip Rivers was 34-45 for 383 yards and 3 TDs in the game.

The Browns threw in a stinker last week losing to the Bills. The Browns led at the half 3-0 but they managed to trail the Bills 26-3 in the fourth quarter when Johnny Football got his first real NFL action. He scored a TD but it was way too little and way too late. And thus, a quarterback controversy comes to Cleveland…

Unless you are an inveterate Pats’ fan, you had to enjoy watching the Packers/Pats game last week. The game was devoid of coaching gaffes, goofball game plans or abjectly ineptitude on the field. If these two teams were to meet again in the Super Bowl, I would not complain even a little bit.

At the other end of the NFL spectrum last week:

    The Jags beat the Giants 25-24. The Giants led 21-0 in the second quarter and 21-3 at halftime. The Giants outgained the Jags by 71 yards for the game and sacked Blake Bortles 7 times. And they still lost…! The Jags had two defensive TDs in the second half along with a game winning field goal with 38 seconds to play.

    The Raiders – building on their victory over the Chiefs the previous week – went to St. Louis and lost 52-0. In Raider history, the only loss more ignominious than that happened in 1961 – back about the time when the Raiders were invented. The Raiders had the ball for almost 37 minutes in this game. How did they lose? Well 5 turnovers (including a Pick Six) played some part in the loss…

The Games:

(Thurs Nite) Dallas – 3.5 at Chicago (51): Here are two unpredictable teams. The Cowboys’ defense looked as if it would be dominant early in the year but it has looked “vulnerable” for the past couple of weeks and then looked bloody awful against the Eagles last week. The Bears at 5-7 have seen their season go from “promising” in August to the outhouse by the end of November. Here are the questions for the game:

    Will “Good Tony Romo” or “Bad Tony Romo” show up?
    Will “Good Jay Cutler” or “Bad Jay Cutler” show up?
    Will the Bears even try to run the football once in a while?
    Which defense – if any – will stop the other guys?
    Will the Cowboys start their annual “December swoon”?

What the hay…? I will turn this selection over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the Cowboys and lay the points. Obviously, the coin knows nothing about the Cowboys tendencies in December…

Baltimore at Miami – 3 (45): The Dolphins beat the Jets last week even though the Jets ran the ball down the Dolphins’ throats for much of the game. The only way the Dolphins put a stop to that nonsense was to put 8 men in the box – and sometimes 9 – and to dare the Jets to throw the ball. If they even think of resorting to that this week, Joe Flacco, Steve Smith and Torrey Smith should torch the defense. The Ravens’ secondary is not a standout unit so there will be opportunities for Miami to show its stuff in the passing game. I like the Ravens plus the points here and I like the game to go OVER.

Pittsburgh at Cincy – 3 (47): This is a must-win game for the Steelers if they harbor any thoughts of winning the AFC North. Neither team distinguished itself last week even though the Bengals got a win over the Bucs. I think this will be a low scoring game so I will take the Steelers plus the points here.

Indy – 3.5 at Cleveland (49): The Colts have a 2-game cushion over the Texans in the AFC South with 4 games to play; the Browns – like the Steelers – need to win this game to stay in contention for the AFC North crown. I do not care whom the Browns decide to play at QB, the Colts will have the best QB on the field. The uncertainty in this game is that the Colts are not nearly as dominant a team on the road as they are in their home dome. This is another Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the game to go OVER.

Houston – 5 at Jax (42.5): The Texans have to have this game to stay near the Colts because at 6-6 their only realistic playoff hope is to win the AFC South. The fact that the Texans travel to Indy next week for a showdown with the Colts could give them incentive to win here to set up that game or it could provide a distraction since the Jags look eminently beatable with their 2-10 record. I have little faith in either team to dominate the other on offense. [Aside: Maybe the Texans should consider starting JJ Watt at QB. He seems to do about everything else for the team…] Statistically, the big difference in this game favors the Houston offense (by 54 yards per game); defensively, the teams are almost dead even. I think this will be a low scoring game so I will take the Jags plus the points.

Giants at Tennessee “pick ‘em” (46): This is the “B.O. Plenty Game of the Week”. The Giants bring a 3-9 record to the game having lost their last 7 games and losing last week to the less-than-formidable Jaguars. The Titans welcome the Giants with a 2-10 record and a 6-game losing streak. Allow me to channel – for the purpose of paraphrasing – the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning from her anthology Sonnets from the Portuguese to express my feelings about these teams:

    How do I disparage thee, let me count the ways…

The Giants lose by an average of 5.1 points per game; the Titans lose by an average of 10.5 points per game. The Giants lose games they tend to keep close; the Titans lose some games by big margins. I will not predict which team will find a way to lose this game but I will count on both defenses to continue to stink. (Giants are 14th in the NFC and Titans are 16th in the AFC) I’ll take the game to go OVER. You should take whatever opportunity you have to change the channel if this game tries to infect your television set…

Carolina at New Orleans – 10 (49.5): Here we have a head-to-head game between two of the miserable teams in the NFC South. The Panthers are 3-8-1 and can still win the division title. The Saints have a huge opportunity here; they are tied with the Falcons atop the division at 5-7 and the Falcons have to go to Green Bay on Monday night where visiting teams have not fared well this year. Normally, I would simply take the Saints as the home team here because historically the Saints are dominant at home. However, the Saints have lost their last 3 games in the Superdome. At the same time, the Panthers are not any better on the road than they are at home this year with a 1-4-1 road record. Here is the contrast in the game:

    Panthers are 11th in the NFC in total offense.
    Saints are 1st in the NFC in total offense.

    Panthers are 8th in total defense in the NFC.
    Saints are 15th in total defense in the NFC.

I hate laying double-digit spreads. Nonetheless, I smell a shoot-out and a blow-out here. I’ll take the Saints and lay the points and I like the game to go OVER.

Tampa at Detroit – 10.5 (41.5): The only thing about this game that I might find interesting is this:

    How will the woebegone Bucs lose this time?

I would need a crystal ball connected to a Ouija Board operated by a communicator with the spirit world to answer that one. Therefore, I’ll just consider this a low scoring game where I want to take a generous helping of points. I’ll take the Bucs plus the points and hold my nose in the process.

St Louis – 2.5 at Washington (44.5): I am going to assume that the Skins’ defensive secondary has had their heads surgically removed from their asses this week and that they will play to a level of merely “less-than-fully-competent” here instead of “are-you-effing-kidding-me awful”. I also suspect that the Rams might just read too much into last week’s 52-0 domination of the Raiders. I see a low scoring game and so I’ll take the Skins plus the points.

Jets at Minnesota – 5.5 (40.5): Statistically, the Jets’ offense is better than the Vikes’ offense by 11 yards per game and the Jets’ defense is better than the Vikes; defense by 21 yards per game. Geno Smith might actually play better in front of a hostile road fanbase than he would in front of his hostile home fanbase. I like the Jets plus the points here.

Buffalo at Denver – 9.5 (47.5): The Bills can pressure the QB. So what? Peyton Manning has seen pressure before and picked it apart. I like the Broncos here to win and cover.

KC at Arizona “pick ‘em” (40): The oddsmakers want me to pick ‘em. OK, I’ll take the Cards at home to win the game. I think they are the better team.

SF – 8 at Oakland (41): Here is the central question regarding this game:

    Will the inept Raiders’ offense (16th in the AFC) outperform the bumbling Niners’ offense (12th in the NFC)?

These geographical neighbors do not play often; since 2002, they have met only 3 times and the Niners have won each time. In 5 of their last 6 games, the Niners have failed to score 20 points; in 6 of their last 7 games, the Raiders have failed to score more than 20 points. This is another Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the Raiders plus the points.

Seattle at Philly – 1.5 (48.5): This is the Game of the Week. These two good teams need a win here for different reasons.

    The Seahawks lead the Niners by a game in the NFC West and they are currently the first wildcard team in the NFC. They play the Niners again next week in Seattle; it would be nice to have that 1-game cushion going into that game because after that the Seahawks have to go on the road to Arizona.

    The Eagles lead the NFC East by a game but they have another game with the Cowboys next week in Philly. They would prefer to have a 1-game cushion for that encounter because the Eagles are on the road for their final two games.

The Eagles are 55 yards per game better than the Seahawks on offense; the Seahawks are 81 yards per game better than the Eagles on defense. I like this game to go OVER.

(Sun Nite) New England – 3.5 at San Diego (50.5): This is the only other game on the schedule this week that deserves consideration as the Game of the Week. The Chargers need this game a whole lot more than the Pats do; the Chargers are at home where they are 5-1 this season; the Pats are on the road – for the second week in a row – where they are 3-3 this season. The signs point to the Chargers and there is that half-point hook on the field goal in the spread. I’ll take the Chargers plus the points at home.

(Mon Nite) Atlanta at Green Bay – 12.5 (55): I may hate myself for this, but I cannot see the Falcons defense throttling the Packers offense for more than a series. I’ll take the Packers and lay that huge spread; I think this game will be a romp.

Finally, here are some inspirational words from Pats’ QB, Tom Brady:

“You never get over losses. I’ve never gotten over one loss I’ve had in my career. They always stick with me.”

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

Not A First Amendment Issue

Much has been made about the 5 St. Louis Rams wide receivers going onto the field last weekend with their hands in the air in support of Michael Brown and the statement in response to that act by Jeff Roorda, a spokesman for the St. Louis Police Officers Association. Of course, some people immediately tried to turn this into a First Amendment issue – which it is not – saying that the players were free to express themselves here. Roorda’s response was that police officers have First Amendment rights too – which is correct – and would that he had left it there. Roorda went on to say that it was the police who kept order at the stadium during games and around the team and that police officers may choose to exercise their own demonstration to show how they feel about the way they have been portrayed in the whole “Ferguson/Michael Brown matter”.

And that is where Mr. Roorda seems to have nudged his way right up to the edge of the limits on free speech if not stepped ever so slightly over that line. I am not a Constitutional scholar by any means, but the First Amendment forbids the government – whether that be State government or the Federal government – from restricting one’s ability to express any opinion at all regarding the government. The Founding Fathers sought to protect political speech; that was an important element of the times surrounding the American Revolution.

What the 5 Rams’ players did was to express an oblique form of political speech; their action allies them with other folks who do not approve of the grand jury decision (grand juries are part of the governance mechanisms of the country) not to indict the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown. That kind of expression by any citizen is protected speech if the person or entity that might seek to suppress that speech is part of the government. I can sit here and type words telling all those people to shut up and get on with their lives and I have not impinged on their free speech even a little bit. [For the record, I am not telling any of those folks to do that; I was simply using myself as a private citizen as an example here.]

Now Mr. Roorda is part of the St. Louis Police Officers Association and while that is not of itself a government entity, the police officers who nominally make up the membership of that Association are part of a government entity. Therefore, when Mr. Roorda asked the NFL to punish/sanction those five players for their act, I think he was edging up to the line where he may have started to infringe on their free expression rights.

Now if it were ever to happen that the police officers chose not to do their duty to maintain order in and around the stadium as a “punishment” or “payback” for the players’ gestures, I think they would then be over the line in terms of obstructing the free speech of the players.

The entire situation in Ferguson, MO is a sad mess. People who riot in the streets and burn cars and loot shops do not make the situation better. Spokespersons for police organizations who imply that police protection might perhaps be contingent on taking the police side in that situation do not make the situation better. Shouldn’t intelligent adults and people of good will have as their objective to “make the situation better”?

Oh by the way, with regard to the request to the NFL for the league to punish or sanction these 5 players somehow, I want to give the league the highest marks possible for saying – politely – that they are not going to do that. Employers can legally and justifiably punish employees for saying things detrimental to the employer’s business but the NFL adroitly decided to stay out of the middle of this situation – one that it cannot resolve and one that is not of their doing. In the current climate of “tough enforcement of the personal conduct policy” by the NFL, it could have chosen to weigh in here; that would have been a huge mistake and I commend the league for letting this one pass them by.

I mentioned above that employers can legally and justifiably punish employees for things they say. Consider the situation earlier this week when a Congressional staff member criticized the President’s daughters for the way they were dressed. The Congressman either accepted the staff member’s resignation or the Congressman fired her. The woman is out of a job. She was expressing her own opinion but the act of that expression was not in line with the way the Congressman wants his operation to be perceived. Hence, this woman is now looking for work.

She has the right to her opinion and has the right to express that opinion. However, the First Amendment does not protect her from any and all recriminations that may arise from her choosing to express that opinion. [For the record, I really do not care how the President’s daughters choose to adorn themselves. At the same time, I think firing someone for criticizing anyone else’s attire is a tad harsh. But what done was legal and justifiable…]

Demonstrating that I have an almost insatiable appetite for football, I tuned in to watch the second half of the Grey Cup game last weekend between the Calgary Stampeders and the Hamilton TigerCats. The Stampeders won the game 20-16 and their QB, Bo Levi Mitchell, was the player of the game. Mitchell threw for over 300 yards and completed more than 70% of his passes. Mitchell played college football at Eastern Washington. I enjoy Canadian football and I very much enjoyed watching the second half of the Grey Cup game but there was this thought running through my mind for the whole telecast after I saw the graphic with the name “Bo Levi Mitchell”.

    Some NFL team needs to give this guy a tryout – because if he can start for an NFL team, think of the marketing possibilities:

      Picture of Mitchell with the caption “I Bo-Lieve in Bo Levi”. That can go on shirts, caps, drink cups etc.

      An area of the stadium can be designated for “The Bo-Lievers

      When he runs out of the tunnel onto the field, the DJ can play the Hallelujah Chorus.

I tell you; this has definite possibilities. Now, if he can only get a shot and make a team…

Finally, with regard to the Raiders’ future coaching situation, here is a comment from Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle:

“Jon Gruden is playing hard to get, but my sources tell me the Raiders believe they have a shot at landing Frank Caliendo.”

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

The Beauty Of Twitter…

After the Seahawks throttled the Niners on Thanksgiving night, Twitter was the venue of choice for Niners’ folk who needed to vent. Team President Jed York used Twitter to “apologize” to Niners’ fans for a game he said was “not acceptable”. Cass Balke, the daughter of the Niners’ GM used her Twitter account to declare that Niners’ offensive coordinator, Greg Roman, should “take a hike” because the Niners’ did not need him.

For the record, Jed York seemed to be channeling his inner Danny Boy Snyder with his pompous – and feckless – message. Cass Balke needs to take a step back and think about how it will affect her cushy lifestyle when – not if – her father is removed from his position within the Niners’ organization because they realize they do not need her father any longer. Lest you think that I am the only person who thinks that way, allow me to point you to Scott Ostler’s commentary in the SF Chronicle last weekend.

You really want to read this commentary in its entirety. It takes these two Twitter-dolts to task efficiently and effectively.

There have been myriad reports about turmoil within the Niners’ organization over the last year or so. If you believe the reports, Jim Harbaugh is unlikely to return to the Niners as head coach and part of the reason is that he and GM, Trent Baalke, do not see eye to eye on just about anything. When there are so many reports on the same vector heading, you start to think that there has to be something real at the root of all that even if that “something” may be exaggerated. Take a look at Jim Harbaugh’s accomplishments with the Niners:

    Prior to his arrival in 2011, the Niners had finished no better than 8-8 in the previous 8 seasons.

    In 2011, the Niners were 13-3 and went to the NFC Championship Game

    In 2012, the Niners were 11-4-1 and went to the Super Bowl.

    In 2013, the Niners were 12-4 and went to the NFC Championship Game

    In 2014, the Niners are 7-5 and might miss the playoffs entirely.

Call it a “downward trend” if you like, but that 4-year record is a whole lot “more acceptable” than any product the Niners put on the field in the 8 years prior to Jim Harbaugh’s arrival in SF. Dan Daly, formerly of the Washington Times, had an interesting retrospective in his blog, Profootballdaly.com, on former NFL QBs as head coaches in the NFL. Let me just say that Harbaugh is one of the successful ones – and not a huge fraction of then were successful at all. In fact, at the time of Daly’s posting, Harbaugh had a winning percentage of .723 and the next best winning percentage was .586 – and that second highest win percentage belongs to John Rauch who quarterbacked the NY Bulldogs and then coached the Raiders and the Bills in the 1960s.

Take a moment to read Dan Daly’s post in its entirety; it is enlightening.

Since I had mentioned Tweeting and Scott Ostler above, let me refer to another point he made last weekend. Someone in the Washington Redskins organization decided that the team needed to “tweet out” some Thanksgiving greetings. So, here is their message – and Scott Ostler’s punctuation mark at the end:

“The team that has a racial slur as a nickname sent out a tweet, “From our family to yours, have a very safe and happy #thanksgiving.”

“ #EnjoyOurGiftToYouOfAFestiveHolidayBlanketWithSmallpox”

I understand that many folks regard the team name as grossly inappropriate. Even so, that response is a tad harsh given the message from the team here despite the nexus of the team name and the Thanksgiving Day holiday…

Several months ago, I mentioned that Shelby Osborne was going to Campbellsville College in Kentucky to play cornerback there and become the first female to play college football as something other than a kicker. Campbellsville is an NAIA school and plays in the Mid-South Conference; this year Campbellsville is the co-champion of the West Division of that conference with an overall record of 7-3. A check of the roster for the school shows that Shelby Osbourne did indeed make the squad as a freshman. The school website does not include statistics for defensive backs or minutes played by each person on the roster, so I have no idea if she started and played in all 10 games or if she ever did anything more than carry her helmet from the locker room to the sidelines.

However, she did make the team. Her player profile on the team website lists her as 5’6” and 140 lbs. Just making it through contact drills and practices at that size tells me that she is plenty tough.

Finally, one more item from Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle regarding the telecast of the Thanksgiving Day game between the Seahawks and the Niners:

“On the telecast of Thursday’s 49ers-Seahawks game, NBC showed a lovely blimp shot of the Golden Gate Bridge. But what’s the connection with the 49ers? They might as well show the Pyramids of Cheops. Or the Santa Clara Library.”

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

NFL Improvements – One More Time

I have done this type of thing multiple times in the past where I make suggestions as to how the NFL could make itself or its product even better than it is. The reason I pick on the NFL here is that it is the best of the US professional leagues in terms of marketing its product and presenting it to its fans. That means finding “areas of improvement” is a tad more difficult that it would be – say – than for Team Tennis or synchronized swimming.

I harbor no illusions that someone on Roger Goodell’s staff is going to print a copy of this rant, make marginal annotations and go running into the Commish’s office to show it to “The Big Guy”. Nonetheless, I think these suggestions would improve the product.

Let me start with a really trivial suggestion. The NFL no longer needs any coin tossing. In baseball, they do not have a coin toss to see who bats first and who does not. All the NFL has to do is decide if the home team or the visiting team will get the choice at the beginning of a game and then give the option to the other team at halftime. The coin toss is a waste of time and energy.

I have anticipated the first objection one might have to that suggestion:

    Yeah, but what about the coin tosses for overtime games. How would you decide who gets to choose what they want to do at the start of overtime?

Actually, the answer to that question is pretty simple and it leads directly to my second suggested improvement:

    Get rid of overtime games. The world does not need overtime games. Having a game end in a tie is not a tragedy or an abomination in the sight of the Lord.

The only time the NFL should play an overtime game is in the playoffs where indeed there needs to be a winner and a loser simply because someone has to figure out which team will be playing the following week and which team will be starting their off-season. So, for those few times when playoff games have to go to OT, you could have established the protocol that the visiting team will get the choice and move on from there.

    [Aside: Phil Luckett might read this suggestion and wonder why it had not been in place for that infamous Thanksgiving Day game where as a ref he flubbed the coin toss in OT.]

The third suggestion is a scheduling suggestion. The NFL needs to stretch out the regular season to 18 weeks – not to increase the number of games in the regular season but to give each team 2 Bye Weeks. Here is how the Bye Weeks would work:

    Any team playing a game on a Thursday will have a Bye Week on the Sunday before that game. That way, no team will be asked to play a game on 3 days’ rest.

    If a team plays twice on Thursdays, that is how they will get their 2 Bye Weeks. If a team plays only once on Thursday, then it will get its Bye Week randomly between Weeks 4 and 12.

That change might be complicated just a tad if the NFL is serious about continuing to play multiple games each year in London – or anywhere else where 5-8 time zones might be interspersed between a team’s home venue and the game venue. There ought to be some kind of “Bye Week Relief” for teams that make that kind of journey – particularly if the game is in London and the team is a West Coast team.

The fourth suggestion is also about scheduling. When teams play on Monday night, they face a shorter week of preparation than their next opponent who had to have played on Sunday – or even on the previous Thursday. There is nothing that can be done to change that but there is something that happens now that can be avoided.

    Teams that play on Monday night will play at home the following week.

If a Monday night team has to go on the road for the next game, it means that their shortened preparation time is shortened even more. Just schedule them at home for the next week…

For “in-game” changes that will improve the product, please consider disallowing any “icing the kicker” calls. This adds exactly nothing to the game; the NFL markets competition and not gamesmanship. Here is a pretty simple rule:

    When a team is lining up for a place kick of any kind (field goal or PAT), the defensive team may not call time out once the play clock is down to 12 seconds.

If a coach wants a time out to map out some stratagem for the imminent kick, make him choose to do that in the first 28 seconds that the play clock runs. This is not difficult…

Another “in game change” that might help – but it should be tested out in the pre-season before it is implemented – would be to clarify what is pass interference and on whom should it be called. How about this rule:

    The receiver and the defender can push, hit, shove, block, elbow each other – not hold but any of the above is OK – until the ball is released from the QBs hand. At that point, no one touches anyone. The first player to initiate contact after that point is guilty of pass interference.

One benefit of this rule would be that when the QB throws the ball on a deep sideline pass down the right side, there will be no need to call “illegal contact” between a defender and a receiver in the right flat 45 yards distant from where the pass was intended.

The final suggestion for an in-game change is a two-pronged suggestion that has to do with penalties marked off as “half-the-distance to the goal line”. The problem with those penalties is that they do not punish the offender to the extent that was intended. Therefore, consider these cases:

    Team in possession of the ball – or the team receiving a punt or kickoff – commits a holding penalty at the ten yardline. Instead of walking off only 5 yards, keep the ball at the ten yardline and move the first down marker an extra 10 yards downfield. In my example here, the offensive team would need to get to the 30 yardline to get the first first-down in its drive. If offensive holding is indeed worthy of a 10-yard penalty, then it should cost the offensive team 10 yards.

    Team on defense jumps offside when the offense has the ball on the 2 yardline. That needs to cost the defensive team 5 yards and not the 1 yard that it is going to cost them now. In this case, you give the offensive team the following choice:

      a. Accept the 1-yard penalty and move on. The team may do this because that 1 yard could give them a first down. Or, they just may do this for some other reason that makes sense to the coach at that moment.

      b. Wait until the next time the team committing the penalty has the ball on offense. In that first possession, position the ball on first down such that it is first-and-fifteen for the offense to start its drive.

One more suggestion here and it has to do with use of the replay cameras. Every once in a while, there is some kind of confrontation on the field that involves pushing/shoving and that sometimes escalates into a melee. Fans do not tune in to watch a melee; this is not pro ‘rassling. Moreover, it is an indictment of the integrity of the game when the announcers can clearly say that the instigator of the situation is not the one being punished because they only “catch” they guy who retaliates. Thus, whenever there is such an incident, the replay cameras should be used to determine the instigator of the situation and to punish him to a greater extent than others who are involved subsequent to the instigation.

I do not expect any of these suggestions to happen any time soon. In fact, I do not expect any of these suggestions to get serious consideration for implementation. Nonetheless, I think each of them would represent a small positive increment in the NFL product. Before anyone asks, no, I have no idea whatsoever how one could improve the synchronized swimming product…

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

Admin Note

The writing schedule for the next week and a half will be sporadic and possibly non-existent. Visits by friends from out of town and two family events in the next 10 days will dominate the schedule here in Curmudgeon Central.

Please check back periodically. I will definitely be back to a more regular schedule starting Monday 8 december.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone…

Stay well.

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 11/30/14

First, a review of last week:

    I liked Chiefs -7 over Raiders. Chiefs lost the game. No!

    I liked Browns +3 against Falcons. Browns won the game. Yes!

    I liked Titans +11 against Eagles. Not enough points. No!

    I liked Lions/Pats OVER 47. Total score was 43. No!

    I liked Pats -7 over Lions. Pats won by 25. Yes!

    I liked Packers -9 over Vikes. Packers won by only 3. No!

    I liked Jags +14.5 against Colts. Colts won by 20. No!

    I liked Bengals +1.5 against Texans. Bengals won the game. Yes!

    I liked Jets +4 against Bills. Bills won by 35. No!

    I liked Bucs +5.5 against Bears. Not enough points. No!

    I liked Seahawks -6.5 over Cards. Seahawks won by 16. Yes!

    I liked Rams +4 against Chargers. Rams lost by only 3. Yes!

    I liked Dolphins +7 against Broncos. Dolphins lost by only 3. Yes!

    I liked Dolphins/Broncos UNDER 49. The game went OVER. No!

    I liked Niners -9 over Skins. Niners won by only 4. No!

    I liked Cowboys -3 over Giants. The game was a “PUSH”.

    I liked Ravens/Saints UNDER 50. The game went OVER. No!

That was another disgusting week of Mythical Picking at 6-10-1. The season record now stands at a putrid 82-108-3. Disgusting…

There were 3 Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Games last week and the coin had a bad week too. The coin went 1-2-0 making the coin 10-17-0 for the season. It seems as if the laws of probability are being stretched here in Curmudgeon Central this season.

Obviously, no person with the intellect of an algae bloom would look at those results and think it was a good idea to use information here as the basis for making real wagers involving real money on actual NFL games this week. For anyone even leaning in that direction, here is what I have to say to you:

    If what you don’t know can’t hurt you, then I would estimate that you are invulnerable.

General Comments:

Staying with the brevity theme established in NCAA Mythical Picks for this week, let me give you a few milestones in the history of NFL football on Thanksgiving Day:

    The 1934 Thanksgiving Day game between the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears was the first NFL game broadcast nationally on radio.

    The 1956 Thanksgiving Day game between the Lions and the Packers was the first time the game was televised.

    In the 1962 Thanksgiving Day game, the Lions sacked Packers’ QB, Bart Starr, 11 times (total loss was 110 yards). The Lions won the game 26-14 and that was the only loss that year for the Packers who finished the season 13-1 and won the NFL Championship Game.

I want to channel Charles Dickens here and paraphrase his opening words from A Tale of Two Cities:

    These were the best of teams and the worst of teams

Consider these Seahawks/Cards game stats for a moment:

    Cards 12 first downs Seahawks 16 first down
    Cards offense = 204 yards Seahawks offense = 293 yards

In that game, you had 10 punts and only 1 turnover. What you had here were two good teams playing good defense against one another.

Now consider these Niners/Skins game stats for a moment:

    Skins 12 first downs Niners 16 first downs
    Skins offense = 213 yards Niners offense = 312 yards

In that game, you had 14 punts and 5 turnovers. Other than the turnovers, the stats of those two games look comparable – except the Niners/Skins game was an exhibition of two brutally ineffective offenses trying desperately to get out of their own ways.

There is a lot of heat being generated nationally about the poor play by RG3 as the Skins’ QB. You have to live here in the DC area, however, to hear how people who already had Griffin booked for induction to the Hall of Fame only a couple of years ago and who were convinced that Jay Gruden as a famed “Quarterback-whisperer” would mold Griffin’s prodigious talents into epic greatness are now calling Griffin an epic waste of organic molecules.

Having watched Griffin for some of his college career and his entire professional career, I have a hypothesis about why he is struggling.

    RG3 is an exceptional athlete. He is very fast; he is quick and he is agile.

    Playing in a spread offense in college, his athletic skills allowed him to do just about whatever he needed to do to succeed. He could use his athleticism to create time for him and for his teammates to make big plays. There was never the need to dissect an opposing defense down to the semi-colons…

    I assume – yes, I know the danger there – that he was similarly a far superior athlete to anyone he played against in high school too.

    In the NFL, however, there are lots of really good athletes on defense and RG3 never had to deal with anything like that before. In the NFL he needs to have a playbook and he needs to play in the context of the details of the game because if he just tries to “wing it” against NFL defenses, he will not succeed. And RG3 has never had to do that in his life…

As soon as he was drafted, RG3 started to establish his “brand”. He was making commercials for bunches of companies before he ever set foot on a practice field. It appears to me that he spends more time refining his brand than he does refining his ability to pick apart an opposing defense. The bad news about that is that if he leaves the NFL, his “brand” is going to take a fatal blow.

Can he adjust to/learn about playing QB in the NFL? Of course he can; he is an intelligent person. Will he adjust to/learn about playing QB in the NFL? Aye, there’s the rub… [Channeling Willy Shakespeare today too…]

The Bucs invented a way to lose a game last week. They led the Bears 10-0 at the half and they held the Bears to 112 yards passing on the day. That sounds as if the Bucs should have come away with the win but 3 turnovers in the 3rd quarter did them in. The Bears rallied to win 21-13.

Losing to the Pats in Foxboro is not something the Lions should be ashamed of; it happens to lots of teams. What the Lions need to worry about is their offensive output. The Lions are 7-3 but they have not scored more than 24 points in any game this year. In the last two games, they have not scored a TD (5 field goals) against two good defenses (Cards and Pats). I know that “defense wins championships” – but you have to score just a bit too…

The Lions have scored 197 points this year. Here are the only teams – and the records of those teams – that have scored fewer points:

    Jags – 161 points – 1 win and 10 losses
    Raiders – 176 points – 1 wins and 10 losses
    Titans – 192 points – 2 wins and 9 losses

If you watched the Ravens/Saints game last night, I think it is time to call bulls[p]it on the “great Saints fans”. As soon as the Saints were down in the score, that building – hyped as being a tough place to play – got deadly quiet. It sounded almost like FedEx Field in Washington on a typical Sunday.

The Raiders won their first game of the year beating the Chiefs 24-20 in a downpour in Oakland. The Chiefs had the lead 20-17 with 9 minutes to play in the game and the Raiders had the ball at their own 20. The chiefs’ defense ranks 8th in the NFL but the defense came up very small at that particular time. The Raiders put together a 17-play drive that consumed 7:21 on the clock and ended in a go-ahead TD. The Chiefs could not come back; the Raiders are off the schneid… The 2008 Detroit Lions popped champagne to celebrate their status as the only team to go winless in a 16-game season. The 1972 Dolphins call them copycats.

Texans QB, Ryan Mallett, will miss the rest of the season with an injury to his right pectoral muscle. That means the Texans will go back to Ryan Fitzpatrick as their starting QB. I wonder if they would consider signing Ryan Leaf as a back up…? Or maybe they should show the team the move, Saving Private Ryan.

The Games:

(Thurs) Chicago at Detroit – 7 (47.5): I have exactly no idea which Bears’ team will show up here and no idea at all if the Lions offense will produce or take a slide in this game. The Bucs hurried and hit Jay Cutler all day last week; the Lions’ pass rush is better than the Bucs’. The week’s picks begins with a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the game to stay UNDER.

(Thurs) Philly at Dallas – 3 (54.5): If you take a bathroom break and the game has not gone to a commercial, you could easily miss 60 yards of offense. The Eagles produce 411.8 yards of offense per game; that is 4th in the NFL. The Cowboys produce 387.3 yards per game; that is 6th in the NFL. It is pretty clear that one of these teams will win the NFC East; if the Eagles win here, they will have a big hammer because the second meeting between these teams will be in Philly. The Eagles lead the NFL in a category they do not want to lead the league in. They have turned the ball over 27 times this year leading to a turnover differential of minus-8. Teams with differentials I that range are generally not anywhere near 8-3 after 11 games. I see this game going up and down the field like a college basketball game goes up and down the court. I like the game to go OVER.

(Thurs) Seattle at SF – 1 (40.5): I hope you like defensive football here. Most folks will be highly dosed with l-tryptophan from the turkey when this game comes on; so if you need an offensive explosion to keep you from nodding off, this may not scratch your itch. The Seahawks give up 296.8 yards per game; that is first in the NFL. The Niners give up 300.1 yards per game; that is second in the NFL. Considering that these teams rank 13th and 19th in the NFL on offense, you have to expect a low score. These teams will play hard because the odds are against both of them making the playoffs unless the Cardinals go completely in the tank for the final 5 games of the year. Oh, and it has to be fun to anticipate Michael Crabtree going against Richard Sherman once again. I like the game to stay UNDER. In fact, I would not be surprised to see the final score something like 13-9. Obviously, I have no inkling which team would have the 13 points in my example here or I would be playing the spread.

Washington at Indy – 10 (51): The Skins are not a good football team; the Colts are a good football team. Nevertheless, I hate laying double-digits in NFL games so I will turn this game over to Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the game to go OVER. Why not?

Tennessee at Houston – 7 (43): The Titans deserve every bit of their 2-9 record; the Texans at 5-6 can still pretend to be a playoff team. However, the Texans will have to go back to Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB and Arian Foster is listed as “Questionable” as of this morning. Already I have to go to the Curmudgeon Coin Flip Protocol for the third time this week and the coin says to take the game to stay UNDER.

Cleveland at Buffalo – 2.5 (41.5): If all that snow in Buffalo melts late in the week, the stadium could be a soggy mess. That may be the best reason to watch because neither team is exciting. The Browns are still “playoff relevant”; the Bills seem to be “giving ground” in the playoff race. I like Cleveland to win the game outright, so I’ll take them here plus the points.

San Diego at Baltimore – 5 (45.5): The Chargers are 1 game behind the Broncos in the AFC West and at 7-4 they are right in the middle of the wild card race. The Ravens are also 7-4, which puts them in a three-way tie for second place – or last place depending on how you look at it – in the AFC North. Historically, the Chargers do not play well when traveling “transcontinentally” and the Ravens are a tough team at home. I’ll take the Ravens to win and cover.

Giants – 3 at Jax (44): This is the “Air Wick Game of the Week” because the stench should be unbearable. What is there to like about this matchup? The Jags are ranked 30th in the NFL in defense; the Giants are ranked 31st. Maybe you would like to see how each squad will invent ways not to stop the other guys? This is yet another Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the Jags’ plus the points.

Cincy – 3.5 at Tampa (44): The Bengals lead the AFC North thanks to their tie-game against the Panthers. Tampa is 2-9 and only 2 games out of first place in the NFC South. The Bengals are a much better team but have to avoid looking beyond a meager foe here at a bunch of division games coming up – plus a game against the Broncos. I’ll take the Bengals and lay the points.

Oakland at St. Louis – 7 (42.5): The Raiders won last week and they beat a respectable team. So maybe they aren’t so bad after all? Wrong. The Raiders stink and there is no way I want to take them on the road. The Rams play hard and they had the Chargers on the ropes last week. I like the Rams to win and cover.

New Orleans at Pittsburgh – 3 (53): The Saints are much better at home than on the road. Nonetheless, the Saints just finished a stretch of 3 straight home games and they lost all of them. The Steelers is a much better team at home than on the road. The interesting twist here is that the Steelers at 7-4 do not lead their division but the Saints at 4-7 are tied for the lead in their division. I like the Steelers to win and cover here.

Carolina at Minnesota – 3 (42): Running a close second for the honor of “Air Wick Game of the Week”, this loses out because the Panthers are actually still a viable contender in the NFC South. Neither team is any good; the only consistent thing about both teams is that they are not any good. Offensively, the Vikes are only better than the Raiders and the Jags; yes, they rank behind the Jets. However, the Vikes enjoy a decided defensive advantage here. This is the fifth Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the Panthers plus the points.

Arizona – 2.5 at Atlanta (44): Indeed, this is a meeting of two division-leading teams. Having said that, this game is nothing but a mystery.

    Can Larry Fitzgerald play?
    Can he play well?
    Can the Cards play well traveling that far East?
    How awful will the Falcons be?

I am getting finger blisters flipping coins here but this is the 6th Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game this week and the coin says to take the Cards and lay the points.

New England at Green Bay – 3 (58): Please do not be shocked; this is clearly the “Game of the Week” even though these teams are in different conferences and both look like shoo-ins for the playoffs. It might – I said MIGHT – be a Super Bowl preview. I think Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady will put on a show here and each will be trying to one-up the other QB in addition to merely winning the game. I like this game to go OVER – despite the fact that 58 is a HUGE Total Line for an NFL game. I will not be shocked if the losing team here scores 30+ points.

(Sun Nite) Denver – 1 at KC (49.5): The Chiefs safety, Eric Berry, has lymphoma. Berry is an excellent football player and by all accounts is a “good guy”. How will that affect the emotions of the Chiefs in a game they really need to win if they want to contend for the AFC West title? The Chiefs’ loss last week to the Raiders had to be disheartening (see above); then came the news on Berry… I like this game to go OVER because I think the Broncos need to get themselves back in their offensive groove and because the Broncos’ defense is vulnerable. I also like the Broncos to win and cover.

(Mon Nite) Miami – 6.5 at Jets (41.5): The Jets are indeed as bad as their 2-9 record indicates. They have given up 126 more points than they have scored in 11 games; they are losing by an average of 11 points per game. Having said that, the Dolphins are banged up and they traditionally do not play well in northern cities late in the season. Rex Ryan was noncommittal regarding who would play QB for the Jets this week; frankly, it does not matter all that much because neither option is a plus. I think this will be a low scoring game and so I’ll take the Jets plus the points.

Finally, after the NFL fined Seahawks’ RB, Marshawn Lynch, $100K for repeatedly refusing to speak to the media as required by league rules – and by the CBA as so I am told – Dwight Perry had this item in the Seattle Times:

“To the surprise of absolutely no one, Lynch had no comment.”

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend of 11/29/14

First, let us see what happened to last week’s Mythical Picks:

    I liked Baylor/Ok. St. OVER 67.5. Total score was 71. Yea!

    I liked Virginia +6 against Miami. Virginia won outright. Yea!

    I liked Tennessee -3.5 over Mizzou. Tennessee lost the game. Boo!

    I liked Mich. St. -22 over Rutgers. State won by 42. Yea!

    I liked Minn/Nebraska UNDER 56.5. Total was 52. Yea!

    I liked Minn +10.5 against Nebraska. Minn won the game. Double Yea!

    I liked Maryland/Michigan UNDER 42.5. Total was 39. Yea!

    I liked Fla St. -17 over BC. Fla St won by only 3. Boo!

    I liked Tex Tech/Iowa St OVER 69.5. Total was 65. Boo!

    I liked Ole Miss/Arkansas UNDER 45. Total was 30. Yea!

    I liked Arkansas +3.5 against Ole Miss. Arkansas won. Double Yea!

    I liked Arizona/Utah UNDER 54. Total was 52. Yea!

    I liked USC +4 against UCLA. Not nearly enough points. Boo!

So last week was a strong showing and a mythically profitable week at 9-4-0. That brings the season cumulative record to 100-95-1, which is still not in the mythically profitable zone.

Notwithstanding last week’s success, no one should use any information here as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on a real NCAA football game this weekend or any other weekend. Here is how dumb you would have to be to do something like that:

    You would rely on your old dog to teach you new tricks.

General Comments:

This will be an abbreviated form of NCAA Mythical Picks. We have out of town guests arriving on Tuesday for Thanksgiving; we have a family event on Saturday; we have another out of town guest arriving on Sunday and staying through Wednesday of next week. The writing schedule will be sporadic and any Mythical Picks for this week and next week will have to be short.

The Linfield College Wildcats advanced to the “Sweet 16” in the Division III football playoff tournament last week beating Chapman University 55-24. Next week, Linfield will travel about 1700 miles to Belton, TX to take on Mary Hardin-Baylor in the next round. Go Wildcats!

By the way, MIT also advanced to the “Sweet 16” of the Division III football playoff tournament last week…

In terms of a review of last week’s games, I would like to quote a passage from last week’s Mythical Picks:

Va Tech – 15 at Wake Forest (39): The only thing that would make this game less watchable than it already is would be a driving rainstorm. This is a game of interest for SHOE Tournament consideration only. Do not watch it; do not bet on it.”

At the end of regulation time, the score was 0-0. In double OT, Wake Forest won 6-3. Here are some stats from the game:

    There were 18 punts in the game;.
    Tech had 254 yards offense; Wake had 234 yards offense.
    Wake ran the ball 42 times for a total of 74 yards (1.8 yards per carry)
    That is higher than Wake’s season average rushing yards per carry.
    Tech averaged 2.8 yards per pass attempt.

Aren’t you glad you missed that game…?

SMU was never in danger of ruining its perfect season last week losing to UCF 53-7.

    SMU recorded 4 first downs in the game
    SMU’s total offense was 116 yards on 42 plays (2.8 yards per play)
    SMU fumbled 3 times and lost the ball each time

Nebraska led Minnesota 21-7 at the half but the Gophers rallied in the second half to win 28-24. Nebraska may get a “more prestigious” bowl bid than Minnesota because Nebraska fans have the reputation of “traveling well”.

Army beat Fordham 42-31. The interesting thing about this game is that each team scored 21 points in the fourth quarter.

Oklahoma demolished Kansas 44-7 on a soggy field. The story of this game has nothing to do with the score; the story is that freshman RB, Samaje Perrine, rushed for 427 yards in the game. That broke the record set by Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin all of one week ago. OU has had some pretty decent running backs in its history; until last Saturday, the school record was 294 yards set by Greg Pruitt 43 years ago. Perrine broke that school record by 133 yards.

Maryland beat Michigan 23-16. Michigan led 16-9 at the end of the 3rd quarter and then came from ahead to lose the game.

It took a field goal at the very end of the game for Florida State to beat BC by 3 points.

Arkansas beat Ole Miss 30-0. That makes two shut outs in a row for the Razorbacks. That completely eliminates Ole Miss from the college football playoff brackets.

Wisconsin beat Iowa 26-24 last week. In response to a comment by a reader last week who pointed out that this game should have been a “Game of Interest”, I said that Wisconsin was favored by 10 points and that line looked fat to me. Nevertheless, I am not counting that as a “successful Mythical Pick.”

UVa beat Miami 30-13. Virginia needs to beat Va Tech in the last game of the year to achieve bowl-eligibility. I wonder if this upset win will be enough to save Coach Mike London’s job…

Missouri stayed in control of its situation beating Tennessee by a score of 29-21. They face the suddenly tough defensive Arkansas team this week. A win there and Mizzou will be in the SEC Championship Game; a loss would send Georgia to that game.

Kansas State beat West Virginia in Morgantown – where it is difficult to win – keeping the Wildcats in a tie with Baylor and TCU for the top spot in the Big 12. All three teams have conference records of 6-1.

    Baylor hosts K-State on 6 December meaning one of them will lose.
    K-State hosts Kansas this week before traveling to Baylor.
    TCU is at Texas this week and hosts Iowa St. on 6 December.

Speaking of TCU – sort of – they have a junior OT on the roster who is a copy editor’s nightmare:

    Halapoulivaati Vaitai (pronounced HAL-uh-POO-lih-VAH-tee VIE-tie)

The Ponderosa Spread Games:

Last week, there were 8 Ponderosa Spread Games. The favorites covered in 5 of those 8 games.

Mississippi St., Oklahoma, Oregon, S. Carolina and UCF covered.

Baylor, Clemson and Ohio St. did not cover.

That brings the season record for favorites covering Ponderosa Spreads to 38-33-1.

This week we have only 2 Ponderosa Spread Games:

Baylor – 25 at Texas Tech (79): Baylor can score points by the bushel; Texas Tech allows points by the bushel…

Kansas at K-State – 28.5 (51.5): K-State can still win the Big-12; Kansas might win the Kansas High School Football Championship.

The SHOE Tournament Teams

Here are the eight teams I would have in the SHOE Tournament if I had to make my picks today:

    SMU: Just a bad football team
    E. Michigan: Lost to Ball St. by 2 TDs last week
    Ga State: Another bad football team
    Idaho: Not good at all
    Kent St. A second MAC team for the SHOE Tournament
    N. Mex St.: The adjective you are looking for is “bad”
    Tulsa: Golden Hurricane is merely a gentle breeze
    Wake Forest: See the stats above for last week’s game…

Still with a chance to stink their way into the SHOE Tournament field are:

    Miami (Oh): A third MAC team for the SHOE Tournament?
    UNLV
    UConn

Games of Interest:

There are tons of huge rivalry games this week. If you are a fan of college football in general, this is the week you have been looking for…

Note that these lines are from very early in the week and there are no lines available for several games at this point. Nevertheless, I shall soldier on…

(Thurs) TCU – 6 at Texas (56.5): TCU is on the fringe of the football playoffs; if that does not motivate them for this game, I have no idea what might. Both teams play good defense. TCU’s offense is more reliable. I like TCU on the road to win and cover here.

(Thurs) LSU – 3 at Texas A&M (49.5): LSU lost at home to Alabama in OT and then got shut out by Arkansas. Question:

    Is this team angry and ready to destroy an Aggies’ team that is good but not great – or has LSU come apart at the seams?

I think it is the former. I’ll take LSU to win and cover on the road.

(Fri) Virginia at Va Tech “pick ‘em” (40.5): Virginia can still be bowl-eligible with a win here. Need I say more about how there are too many bowl games and too many mediocre-at-best teams playing in bowl games? Va Tech is about as efficient on offense as your run of the mill West African government. I think that the Virginia players will play to save Mike London’s job so I’ll take Virginia to win the game.

(Fri) Nebraska at Iowa “pick ‘em” (57): I have had enough picking road teams here; I like Iowa at home to win this game.

(Fri) E. Carolina – 16.5 at Tulsa (66): This game is interesting only because the spread opened the week at 22 points and dropped to this level like an anvil in a swimming pool. No, I do not know why…

(Fri) Navy – 9.5 at S. Alabama (54.5): A Navy win makes them bowl-eligible. South Alabama looks like easy pickings for a Navy team that can score points. I like Navy – on the road – to win and cover.

(Fri) Arkansas at Missouri (no lines): A win by Missouri sets them up to play the SEC West Champion. I do not think Missouri is that good. The Arkansas defense has come to life recently with two consecutive shutouts. I foresee a low scoring game and an Arkansas win here – but I cannot make a pick when the game is off-the-board.

(Fri) Stanford at UCLA – 5.5 (50): UCLA is the PAC-12 South champion if they win this game. I see a defensive battle here. I like the game to stay UNDER.

(Fri) Arizona St. at Arizona (no lines): If UCLA loses, these teams are still alive in the PAC-12 South Division. I cannot pick without lines but I do think Arizona State is the better team here.

(Fri) Colorado State – 7 at Air Force (61): Colorado State is 10-1 this year and looking for a bid to a bowl game you have actually heard of before. Air Force is a good team but I do not think they can keep up with Colorado State. I like CSU to win and cover – on the road.

Michigan at Ohio St. – 20.5 (52.5): A win here saves Brady Hoke’s job. I think Michigan’s chance at winning this game in Columbus is about as likely as seeing a herd of yetis sitting up in Section 525 at kickoff time. I’ll take Ohio State to win and cover at home.

Old Dominion at Florida Atlantic – 3.5 (67): If Old Dominion wins here, it will be their 6th win for the season and they could play in a bowl game for the first time. I like that as an incentive here so I’ll take Old Dominion on the road plus the points.

Minnesota at Wisconsin – 13.5 (51.5): I do believe the winner here is the Big 10 West Champ. It has been a while since Minnesota has had a sniff of anything nearly that prestigious when it comes to football. Both teams like to run the ball meaning the clock will run and keep the score down. I like the game to stay UNDER.

Illinois at Northwestern – 8.5 (52): Both teams are 5-6 so this is a play-in game for bowl-eligibility. Wow, maybe one of these teams can play Virginia in a bowl game. Wouldn’t that be special? [/Church Lady]. Do not watch this game; do not wager on this game.

Washington – 3 at Washington St. (65): This is the Apple Bowl game; it is a huge rivalry out in the Northwest. Washington is the better team so I’ll take them to win and cover on the road.

Ga Tech at Georgia – 13 (66): The only thing on the line here is the rivalry. The Missouri/Arkansas game on Friday lets Georgia know if they play in the SEC Championship Game or if they just prep for a bowl game. Tech knows it will play in the ACC Championship Game despite the outcome here. Georgia is the better team and they are at home. I’ll take the Dawgs to win and cover.

Oregon – 20 at Oregon St. (67): They call this game the “Civil War”. A win for Oregon State makes them bowl-eligible. Oregon needs to win if they want to hang onto a slot in the football playoff bracket. Make this a venue call; I like Oregon State plus the points.

Auburn at Alabama – 9.5 (53.5): Remember last year’s game? Remember that look on Nick Saban’s face? Do you think he remembers? There is no way I want to take Auburn on the road here when Alabama has revenge on its mind AND would love to be the #1 seed in the College Football Playoff bracket. I like Alabama to win and cover here.

Florida at Florida State – 7 (52.5): How cool would it be for Wil Muschamp to beat undefeated Florida State in Tallahassee in his last game at Florida? I like Florida plus the points here even on the road. I will resist the temptation to take Florida on the money line at +250, however.

S. Carolina at Clemson – 4.5 (no Total Line): I seem to like the vast majority of the road teams this week and this game is no exception. I like S. Carolina plus the points here.

Mississippi State – 1.5 at Ole Miss (49.5): State needs a win in the Egg Bowl in order to hold onto that #4 slot in the Selection Committee rankings. Ole Miss has no real shot at getting back into the discussion with regard to the seeding there. Once again, I like the road team in a big rivalry game; I like Mississippi State to win and cover.

Notre Dame at USC – 7 (62.5): Here is another rivalry game but I really do not trust either team enough to play the spread here. On the other hand, I do trust that both defenses will give up points. I like this game to go OVER.

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

Tiger Woods Is Not A Happy Camper

The latest tempest in a spittoon involves Tiger Woods getting his knickers in a knot because Dan Jenkins wrote a satirical piece in Golf Digest about Woods. It purports to be an interview with Tiger Woods but readers may have gotten a clue from the headline that this was not a transcript of a real interview. Here is the headline:

    My (Fake) Interview With Tiger*

    *Or how it plays out in my mind

You can read the whole thing here; trust me, it is not a flattering portrayal of Tiger Woods. Of course, no one who pays attention would have expected it to be flattering. Dan Jenkins has told the story that early in Woods’ career, Jenkins asked for an interview but Woods’ handlers told him they had nothing to gain from doing such an interview so Jenkins could take a hike. Later, when the handlers were trying to rehabilitate Woods’ image after his unfortunate interaction with a fire hydrant and his former wife taking a nine-iron to the window of his vehicle, the handlers contacted Jenkins and asked if he wanted an interview to do a “rehab piece” for Woods. Jenkins no only declined but stated publicly that if Woods thought he had nothing to gain years ago, Woods was not going to use Jenkins now to Woods’ advantage.

With that as the backstory, Tiger Woods took to Derek Jeter’s new website, The Players Tribune, to respond. If you ever witnessed Woods giving a post-round interview with all of his seriousness and dour demeanor, you can recall those times reading what he said. Here is the whole piece; here are a couple of samples:

‘Jenkins faked an interview, which fails as parody, and is really more like a grudge-fueled piece of character assassination.

“Journalistically and ethically, can you sink any lower?”

    Point #1: Since when would Tiger Woods be my go to guy on what consists of proper journalistic behavior?

    Point #2: Should Tiger Woods be the guy wondering if anyone could sink any lower on an ethical scale?

“My representatives and I asked Golf Digest for an explanation, some reason for what I think is journalistically wrong and a pretty cheap shot. Digest responded by saying it was Dan’s humor, and they didn’t think it was unfair or they wouldn’t have run it. Those aren’t great answers.”

    Point #3: Those may or may not be great answers; what Woods is saying here is that those are not the answers he wanted to hear.

    Point #4: Why do Woods and his representatives think they deserve an explanation for a satirical piece? Entitlement much…?

Memo to Tiger Woods: If you are even thinking about carrying on some kind of feud with Dan Jenkins and/or Golf Digest, you might want to heed the advice of Mark Twain:

“Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.”

Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel had a very interesting take on this nascent squabble:

“Did you see where Tiger Woods got angry about quotes attributed to him in a satirical, parody interview written by sportswriting legend Dan Jenkins? That’s right, Tiger claims he was misquoted in a FAKE interview: This is even worse than Charles Barkley saying he was misquoted in his own autobiography.”

The NFL has 7 new head coaches this season; four of them had been coordinators; three are getting a second shot at being a head coach. If I had to grade their level of success so far, here is how I would do it:

    Coordinators moving up a notch:

      Mike Pettine: Browns are competitive this year to a level that they have not been for a long time. Grade A

      Bill O’Brien: Texans are 5-5 (one game behind the Colts) and they have done it with merely adequate quarterbacking. Grade B+

      Mike Zimmer: Vikes – without Adrian Peterson and with a rookie QB – have won 4 games; last year they only won 5. Grade: B-

      Jay Gruden: Skins are only marginally better now than they were as a totally dysfunctional squad last year. Grade D

    Second-time head coaches:

      Jim Caldwell: Lions are playing better – and smarter – than in the past. Grade A

      Ken Whisenhunt: Titans lack sufficient on-field talent; no one could get that squad to a .500 record. Grade C –

      Lovie Smith: Bucs lack sufficient on-field talent. Grade C -.

Finally, here is another observation from Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel regarding the Bills/Jets game that had to be moved due to the “Snowmageddon” in Western NY:

“Because the City of Buffalo has been incapacitated by a blizzard, the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets will have to play their game in Detroit on Monday night. Question: How do you know when the city you live in is too cold? Answer: When you have to go to Detroit to thaw out.”

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

A Soccer Match For The Ages?

A little more than a year ago, the San Marino international soccer team scored its first goal in international competition in more than a 5-year span. Notwithstanding that feat, San Marino failed to win the game; in fact, San Marino has never won an international soccer game. The international team has been in business since 1990 and its record stands at 0-61-1. That tie game happened about a week ago when San Marino and Estonia met in something called “European qualifying” and the game ended at “Nil-Nil”.

Question:

    Given the performance of San Marino over the last quarter of a century, what might they be qualifying for?

For the record, there are 208 international teams recognized by FIFA. San Marino and Bhutan are tied for last place in the FIFA World Rankings. Can you imagine how low on the pecking order at FIFA one would have to be such that one were assigned to go and watch San Marino play Estonia to see if – possibly – there might be a way to put San Marino ahead of or behind Bhutan in the rankings? How much coffee would one need to stay awake during that struggle?

On many occasions, I have demonstrated here my less-than-glowing competence in the field of advertising/promotion/marketing. Nevertheless, I understand the concept that a “promotion” is intended to associate a product with an event (e.g. a movie or a sporting event) in a way that gets patrons of the event to try the product/buy the product. In that sense, the product has to be relatively accessible to the patrons. It is that “accessibility” that was a problem in Philly…

Papa John’s pizza had a promotional deal with the Philadelphia 76ers such that when the Sixers won a game, people could enter some kind of promo code online and get discounted pizzas. It will not take any basketball fan more than about 10 minutes watching the Sixers to realize that they are just not going to win very many games this year; that made the product inaccessible to the patrons. So, Papa John modified the terms of the deal in mid-stream. Now, Sixers fans can get the discounted pizza whenever the Sixers score 90 points in a game. [Aside: If you watch the Sixers for even a single game, you will quickly realize that if they score only 90 points, they are not going to win many games because they play bad defense.]

Frankly, I think Papa John’s should have left the promotional terms alone and just let the whole thing go quietly into the night. Now, people can make the following association in their minds:

    BAD Sixers team – – – Bad pizza

Even I know that kind of association is not what Papa John was aiming for…

The Marlins’ new contract with Giancarlo Stanton (13 years for $325M) was shocking. Marlins’ owner, Jeffrey Loria, normally throws money around the same way he throws grand pianos around. [Recall that the Marlins were rebuked by MLB for pocketing their revenue-sharing dollars and not “reinvesting them” to improve the on-field product.] The Marlins also have a history of letting young players go to other teams as soon as their free agent eligibility kicks in. After getting over the original shock, I started to think about this contract and it raises a few questions in my mind. Let me preface those questions by saying that Giancarlo Stanton is a young player who has the potential to be a superstar for the next decade or so. This is not a guy in his early 30s who is close to the point in his career when the vector heading is turning south. Nonetheless:

    The Marlins drew an average of 21,386 fans per game last year. That put them 27th in MLB. In 2013, the Marlins were 28th in MLB in attendance. I neither year did they come close to drawing 2 million fans. Question:

      Miami fans found ways to do something other than go out to see the team with Giancarlo Stanton playing for the past two years; what is going to convince lots more of them to go to games this year and next year to see the Marlins with Giancarlo Stanton?

    According to reports, the Marlins’ local TV/radio revenue is about 6% of what the top teams – such as the Dodgers and the Yankees – get from that source. Question:

      Is it likely that local radio and TV companies are going to fork over 10 times more money in the next couple of years to show the Marlins? Remember, they did not add players; they are merely paying one of their current players a whole lot more money.

    Now, those two revenue related issues leads me to wonder about this very fundamental question:

      Absent significantly increased revenues, how will the Marlins field a team around Stanton?

I am not saying that the situation in Miami cannot work; I do think that there are other things that have to happen to make it work smoothly and it is not obvious how the team is going to change the “revenue situation” in Miami.

Finally, the college basketball season has begun and we are in the phase of the season where horrible mismatches dominate the scene. Here is an observation from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald to that point:

“Creighton opens its regular season Friday night vs. Central Arkansas, a team that was 8-21 last year and has only one player back and a new coach. In college basketball, this is what’s known as ‘the perfect opening opponent.’”

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 11/22/14

Let me begin by revisiting last week’s Mythical Picks:

    I liked Pitt/UNC UNDER 67.5. Total score was 75. Boo!

    I liked Wake Forest +17 against NC State. Not enough points. Boo!

    I liked Ohio St. -14 over Minnesota. State won by only 7. Boo!

    I liked Nebraska/Wisconsin UNDER 57. Total was 83. Boo!

    I liked Clemson/Ga Tech UNDER 61. Total was 34. Yea!

    I liked Duke -4.5 over Va Tech. Duke lost the game. Boo!

    I liked Utah +8 against Stanford. Utah won in Double OT. Yea!

    I liked LSU +1.5 against Arkansas. LSU lost by 17. Boo!

    I liked LSU/Arkansas UNDER 48.5. Total was 17. Yea!

    I liked Georgia -2 over Auburn. Georgia won by 27. Yea!

    I liked S. Carolina/Florida OVER 57.5. Total was 43. Boo!

    I liked Fla St/Miami OVER 61.5. Total was 56. Boo!

    I liked Missouri +4.5 against Texas A&M. Mizou won the game. Yea!

    I liked Arizona St. -9 over Oregon St. ASU lost the game by 8. Boo!

    I liked Miss St./Alabama UNDER 52. Total was 45. Yea!

    I liked Miss St. +9 against Alabama. Bama won by only 5. Double Yea!

    I liked Texas -2.5 over Ok St. Texas won by 21. Yea!

    I liked Mich. St. -11 over Maryland. State won by 22. Yea!

Last week was a bland week in a plain vanilla season of NCAA Mythical Picking. Last week the picks were 9-9-0. The cumulative record for the year stands at 91-91-1. About the only thing to say about those numbers is

    Whoop-dee-damned-doo!

Noting that the season record would be mythically in the red due to the vig on each wager, no one should be tempted to read further and take any wagering advice here seriously. For those who might find it hard to resist temptation, let me spell it out.

    Anyone dumb enough to take wagering advice from anything written here is also dumb enough to think that holding an ice cream cone in either hand gives you a balanced diet.

General comments:

Last week, the Linfield College Wildcats won the Northwest Conference championship with a 59-0 win over Pacific University. As conference champions, Linfield will participate in the Division III football championship tournament starting this weekend. The Wildcats will host Chapman University – winners of the Southern California Collegiate Athletic Conference. Chapman brings the same 8-1 season record to the field that Linfield brings. Go Wildcats!

Earlier this week, there was a report of a shooting on the Florida State University campus. It is unlikely that any football players were involved in any way with the incident given that it occurred at the university library.

Brady Hoke has had some difficult times as the head coach at Michigan and more than a few folks believe the school will wish him well in all of his future endeavors rather soon. Nevertheless, I have to give Hoke major props for the way he handled an incident this week.

    Frank Clark was a starting defensive end for Michigan and one of its more productive defensive linemen. Hoke dismissed Clark from the team after Clark was arrested on domestic violence charges. Hoke did not wait for the judicial processes to meander to a solution; he looked at the arrest and the statements of eye witnesses and issued the dismissal. Here is his statement:

    “Frank Clark has been dismissed for violating team rules from the Michigan football program. This is a tragic situation. Our student-athletes will be held accountable when their actions fail to meet the standard we have at Michigan. There is a legal process that will occur and we respect that process.”

    Good on Brady Hoke. Clark has his right to his day in court; Clark does not have the right to be involved in college football up until the time of his day in court. That participation is a privilege and said privilege is granted by the school – and by extension the coach.

Michigan is 5-5 with 2 games still to play. The best they can hope for is a minor bowl game and that may be insufficient for the folks in Ann Arbor to keep Hoke in his job. However, if he does lose the job, he still gets “character points” from me for this action.

Florida dropped the first shoe in the Major College Coaching Game of Musical Chairs for the winter. Florida announced that Will Muschamp will not be back in Gainesville next year. Here are some of the major schools that may be looking for new football leadership at the end of the year.

    Florida – definitely
    Michigan – probably
    Illinois – almost assuredly
    Kansas – probably
    Virginia – 50/50
    SMU – definitely but is this a major program any more?

Last week, things got interesting in the ACC Coastal Division. Georgia Tech dominated Clemson 28-6. It ended its conference season with 2 losses; Tech’s only remaining game is against Georgia the weekend after Thanksgiving.

Meanwhile, Duke lost to Va Tech last week 17-16. That was Duke’s second ACC loss but that did not end their conference schedule and it added interest to last night’s Duke/UNC game, which Duke lost 45-20. I believe that cements Georgia Tech as the Coastal Division Champion and the team that will take on Florida State in the ACC Championship Game in December.

NC State beat Wake Forest last week 42-13 making the Wolfpack eligible for a minor bowl game. Last week, I had Wake Forest on my “watch list” for the SHOE Tournament. I received two e-mails from folks who thought that was too harsh. Let me present some stats here because – here is something called foreshadowing – Wake is on the list again this week…

    Wake Forest as a team has amassed a total of 341 yards rushing in 10 games this year. [Aside: More than 200 individual players have rushed for more yards than that.]
    .
    Wake’s passing offense is 112th in the country.

    Wake ranks 126th (out of 128 teams) in total points scored. They only beat out E. Michigan and SMU both of whom are shoo-ins for the SHOE Tournament.

Combine those numbers with the fact that one of their two wins this year came at the expense of Gardner-Webb and you have a team that clearly is in contention for seeding in the SHOE Tournament.

Florida State remained undefeated coming from behind to beat Miami 30-26. As has been the case more than occasionally this year, Florida State played lethargically at first and then rallied late to win the game. Miami led at halftime 23-10.

The only other undefeated team in the country, Marshall, ran its record to 10-0 last week with a comfortable 41-14 win over Rice.

Ohio State beat Minnesota 31-24. The game was not that close; Ohio State was clearly the better team on the field. The game was played in the snow and Ohio State turned the ball over 3 times leading to all the Minnesota TDs. The fact that it was snowing in Minneapolis in November is not a shock. What is shocking is that the Minnesota Vikings actually considered for a while building a new stadium without a roof. Do those folks ever look out the window…?

Wisconsin pummeled Nebraska 59-24. Wisconsin is always tough at home but that does not explain a 5 TD margin here. Wisconsin RB, Melvin Gordon had a record-setting day; he rushed for 408 yards on 25 carries (16.3 yards per attempt) and broke the NCAA record for most rushing yards in a game previously held by LaDanian Tomlinson. Gordon sat out the entire 4th quarter; Wisconsin amassed a total of 581 yards rushing for the day.

They say that timing is everything. Western Kentucky RB, Leon Allen, had a pretty good day last week running the ball too. He gained 345 yards in a win over Army. Given Melvin Gordon’s performance, Leon Allen’s day hardly got a mention…

Penn State beat Temple 30-13 but only led 6-3 at the half. That win makes Penn State bowl eligible. Temple needs to find one more win to “go bowling”. The Owls have this week off and then play Cincy and Tulane after Thanksgiving.

Northwestern beat Notre dame 43-40 in OT. Obviously, there was not a lot of tackling in that game but it was also not an artistic game either. Both teams turned the ball over 4 times in the game.

Cincy beat E. Carolina last week 54-46. Obvioulsy not a lot of tackling in this game either…

Arkansas shut out LSU 17-0 last week. That was the first SEC win for Bret Bielema in 13 tries as head coach there. Arkansas’ last SEC win was back in October 2012 when John L. Smith was the coach. This was a dominating win for the Razorbacks; they held LSU to 124 yards total offense.

Missouri beat Texas A&M 34-27. Mizzou has the SEC East title – and a ticket to the SEC Championship Game – on its racket. All it has to do is beat Tennessee on the road this week and then beat Arkansas at home the day after Thanksgiving.

Georgia hopes Mizzou loses one of those remaining games because Georgia is a game behind Missouri in the SEC East race but holds the tiebreaker over the Tigers. Georgia’s conference schedule is completed. They finished up SEC play last week with a 34-7 win over Auburn. Question:

    Where has that version of the Georgia defense been all season?

Alabama beat Mississippi State 25-20 in a great defensive game by both teams. It was a great game to watch having nothing to do with the fact that the outcome gave me two wins in the Mythical Picks for last week. This game marked the fifth time that a Nick Saban coached team beat the team that was ranked #1 in the country at the kickoff. Mississippi State had the #1 ranked offense in the SEC coming into the game; they are indeed a good football team. Nevertheless, here is how six consecutive possessions for the Bulldogs went:

    Safety, Interception, Punt, Punt, Punt, Punt

    Alabama can play some “D”…

TCU beat Kansas 34-30 after trailing at halftime. A win is a win … but there are zero style points for the College Football Playoff Selection Committee to consider here.

Elsewhere in the Big 12, Texas achieved bowl eligibility with a handy win over Oklahoma State by a score of 28-7. The Texas defense continues to show well; they recorded 7 sacks in that game.

Navy beat Georgia Southern 52-19; Ga Southern was 8-2 coming into that game. Navy needs one more win for bowl eligibility. They have two more chances to get that 6th win against S. Alabama the day after Thanksgiving or against Army on 13 December.

Fact: Colorado State is 9-1 as of today with a game this week against New Mexico.

Fact: Air Force is 8-2 as of today with a game this week at San Diego State.

Fact: Colorado State and Air Force play each other on the day after Thanksgiving.

Fact: Air Force and Colorado State are both in Colorado Springs.

Question:

    Who knew back in August that Colorado Springs was to become an epicenter of college football for 2014?

In Ivy League action last week, Cornell beat Columbia 30-27. Neither team had won a game prior to this one; Cornell managed to get off the schneid. 5,734 hardy souls witnessed this struggle in NYC.

Out west, Utah beat Stanford 20-17. Utah is 7-3 against a difficult schedule. They have had 3 OT games this year and 6 of their games have been decided by 6 points or less. Utah deserves a nice bowl game for this season.

Oregon St. beat Arizona St 35-27. Arizona State had been ranked highly after beating Notre Dame a couple of weeks ago but with the Irish’s loss to Northwestern this week and the ASU loss here, their chances for a berth in the playoff bracket are about as good as slipping a pork chop past a hungry dog. But there may be some good news in this loss for Arizona state from a larger perspective:

    PAC-12 South just got very interesting. Four teams – USC, UCL A, Arizona and Arizona St. – are all bunched together at the top of that division.

    USC and UCLA play each other; Arizona and Arizona St. play each other.

    Big rivalry games with stakes bigger than just the rivalry should make for interesting football.

And in some bottom-of-the-barrel acton:

    W. Michigan 51 E. Michigan 7: It was 48-0 at the half.

    Troy 34 Idaho 17: Idaho was at home for this; they are now 1-9.

    USF 14 SMU 13: SMU is now 0-9 and almost ruined their perfect season here. SMU led 13-0 in the 4th quarter but found a way to give up two 4th quarter TDs – the last one with less than a minute to play – to come from ahead and lose the game.

The Ponderosa Spread Games:

Last week we had 3 Ponderosa Spread Games. The favorites covered in only 1 of the 3 games.

W. Michigan covered.

BYU and TCU did not cover.

That brings the season cumulative record for favorites covering Ponderosa Spreads to 33-30-1.

This week, we have 8 Ponderosa Spread Games:

S. Alabama at S. Carolina – 24.5 (56): Tuning up for Clemson…

Vandy at Mississippi St – 30.5 (53): Hey, it is a conference game not a scheduling abomination.

Indiana at Ohio St. – 34.5 (65.5): Another conference game…

Kansas at Oklahoma – 25 (53): Another conference game…

Oklahoma St. at Baylor – 28.5 (67.5): I do not usually make Mythical Picks in Ponderosa Spread Games. However, Baylor needs “style points” for the Selection Committee and Ok. St.’s defense is not geared to stop Baylor. Ok State is 117th in the country in pass defense; Baylor is 3rd in the country in passing offense. I like this game to go OVER.

Colorado at Oregon – 32.5 (72.5): Yet another conference game…

Georgia State at Clemson – 41 (57): Why bother? Who scheduled this one? Tuning up for S. Carolina… If you think Ga State can win, you can get +32,500 on the money line.

SMU at UCF – 28.5 (47): This too is a conference game…

The SHOE Tournament Teams:

This week I will focus on 10 teams for the 8 slots in the final SHOE Tournament to determine the single worst team in Division 1-A college football for the year. I will once again list them alphabetically – but I will mark the two teams that would not make the field if this were my final vote.

    E. Michigan 2-8
    Georgia State 1-9
    Kent St. 1-9
    Idaho 1-9
    Miami (Oh) 2-9
    SMU 0-9
    Troy 3-8 * not in the SHOE Tournament for now
    Tulsa 2-8
    UNLV 2-9 * not in the SHOE Tournament for now
    Wake Forest 2-8

In putrid game action this weekend:

    E. Michigan is a 17-point underdog at Ball State and to be clear, Ball State is not a good team.

    Wake Forest is a 15-point underdog to Va Tech.

    Tulsa is a 21-point underdog at Houston.

    Georgia State is a 41-point underdog at Clemson (see above).

    SMU is a 28.5-point underdog to UCF (see above).

Games of Interest:

Va Tech – 15 at Wake Forest (39): The only thing that would make this game less watchable than it already is would be a driving rainstorm. This is a game of interest for SHOE Tournament consideration only. Do not watch it; do not bet on it.

Miami – 6 at Virginia (48): I smell a let-down for Miami after Florida State came from way back to beat them last week. I’ll take Virginia at home plus the points.

Missouri at Tennessee – 3.5 (49): Missouri is 8-2 while Tennessee is 5-5. However, statistically, these teams are not that far apart. Tennessee is the better passing team; Missouri is the better running team. Make this a venue call; I’ll take Tennessee to win and cover. Lots of folks in Athens, GA hope I am right on this one…

Rutgers at Michigan St. – 22 (57): When Rutgers plays against the upper echelon of the Big 10, they get hammered. Michigan St. is an upper echelon team. Hence… Moreover, the game is in East Lansing. I’ll take Michigan St. and lay the points.

Minnesota at Nebraska – 10.5 (56.5): Will Nebraska simply roll over and play dead after what Wisconsin did to them last week (see above) or will Nebraska come out breathing fire? Frankly, I think it will be somewhere in the middle of that range and I think that Minnesota will do what it always tries to do and that is run the ball straight at the Nebraska defense. The clock will run; this will be a quick game. I like the game to stay UNDER and I like Minnesota plus the points.

Maryland at Michigan – 5 (42.5): If Michigan wants to go to a bowl game, they need this win. If it does not come here, the only other chance is against Ohio State and that looks mighty unlikely. I know the bet I want and so I went looking for justification and found these trends:

    Michigan is 4-1 to go UNDER in its last 5 home games
    Maryland is 4-1 to go UNDER in its last 5 road games.

I like the game to stay UNDER.

BC at Florida State – 17 (56.5): Interesting statistical matchups here:

    BC rushes for 264 yards per game (12th best in the country)
    Fla St. allows 139.7 yards per game (36th best in the country.

    Fla St. throws for 318 yards per game (11th best in the country)
    BC allows 226.9 yards per game (66th best in the country.

I think Florida State is the better team by far and it seems as if Florida State is better equipped to stop what BC does best as compared to BC stopping what Florida State does best. I like Florida State at home to win and cover.

Texas Tech at Iowa St. – 1.5 (69.5): These are Big 12 bottom-feeders and neither one plays much defense at all. Iowa St. ranks 117th in the country in points allowed giving up 37.8 points per game. However, Texas Tech can “top” that ranking 126th in the country in points allowed giving up 41.6 points per game. I like the game to go OVER.

Ole Miss – 3.5 at Arkansas (45): Short and simple… This will be a low-scoring game. I like the game to stay UNDER and I like Arkansas at home plus the points.

Arizona at Utah – 4 (54.5): Another one that is short and simple… This will be a low-scoring game. I like the game to stay UNDER. I am tempted by Arizona plus the points but will not pull the trigger there.

USC at UCLA – 4 (61): This is an important PAC-12 South Division game in addition to being a long-standing intense rivalry. I do not know why UCLA is the better team here so I’ll take USC plus the points in what I would have expected to be a “pick ‘em” game.

Finally, here is a closing thought courtesy of Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald regarding a “side wager” on last week’s Nebraska/Wisconsin game:

“If Nebraska beats Wisconsin, Rep. Paul Ryan owes Senator-elect Ben Sasse some smoked Gouda cheese. If Wisconsin wins, Sasse has to give Ryan some Lucky Brand beef jerky. There’s a group opposed to this wager; I believe they’re called ‘nutritionists.’ “

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