Last week was a not-so-good week of Mythical Picking; indeed, it could have been worse; most assuredly, it could have been better. The record for the week was 6-7-1 and that brings the record for the year to 41-37-1.
The Best Picks from last week were:
Washington – 3 against Stanford. Washington won 44-6.
Memphis/Ole Miss OVER 67.5. Total score was 76.
The Worst Picks from last week were:
Duke – 3.5 against UVa. Duke lost straight up.
Texas +2.5 against Ok. St. Texas lost by 18 points.
Despite the fact that I know it can be worse this week than last, I choose to keep a positive outlook and press on making these Mythical Picks. Obviously, the results over the past 3 weeks should not entice anyone to put a lot of faith in any of these selections. Nonetheless, I must remind everyone that nothing here is authoritative with regard to NCAA intercollegiate football games. No one should use anything here as the basis for making an actual wager on an actual college football game involving actual money this weekend. Here is how dumb you would have to be to do that:
You think matricide involves pumping a couple of rounds into a mattress.
After losing the second game of their season to even their record at 1-1, the Linfield College Wildcats used a “bye week” to prepare for a game against Lewis and Clark. Whatever they did in that week off must have worked because Linfield prevailed in the game by a comfortable 59-7 margin. That is the first conference game for the Wildcats for this year.
This week, the Wildcats go on the road to Forest Grove, OR to take on the Boxers of Pacific University Oregon. The Boxers bring a 1-3 record to this Northwest Conference game. Go Wildcats!
At Dwight Perry’s suggestion, I am now also following the achievements of WR, Cooper Kupp at Division 1-AA Eastern Washington. The Eagles of Eastern Washington ran their record to 4-1 last week with a comfortable 63-30 victory over UC-Davis. E. Washington trailed at the half 23-14 but found a way to score 35 points in the 3rd quarter to put this game away. Cooper Kupp caught 12 passes for 274 yards and 2 TDs in the game. He also returned 2 punts for 32 yards. Sounds like a productive day to me …
This week the Eagles host Northern Colorado in Yakima, WA. Go Eagles!
I know it is only 4 games into the season, but Ohio State has yet to give up a rushing TD. In the past, you could accuse Ohio State of playing only cupcake opponents as they prepped for Big 10 play, but this year they played Oklahoma in Oklahoma. Moreover, Ohio State has only given up 37 points in 4 games this year. That is the sign of a tough defense…
Take a look at the college football teams that are undefeated and among that list you will find:
When I look at that list, I have to wonder if perhaps Mr. Peabody set the Wayback Machine for some time in the mid-90s… As we head into mid-October, those 5 programs appear to be poised to re-establish themselves as top-shelf football programs in the US. It has been a while since all of them were “on top”.
I will have something else to say about the winless teams in college football as we head toward mid-October later on …
Houston did what it had to do last week; it beat a clearly inferior opponent soundly to maintain its credibility with the CFP Selection Committee. Houston and Louisville have a game later this year that will send one of the teams “Up” in the rankings and the other one “Down”. Last week, Houston handled UConn 42-14. Yes, it was that lop-sided…
BC beat Buffalo 35-3 last week. Neither the score nor the game is particularly interesting; what is interesting is this stat:
Total offense for Buffalo for the entire game was 67 yards!
In SEC action last week, Tennessee rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat Georgia 34-31. That makes 2 weeks in a row that Tennessee has rallied from big deficits to win an SEC game; two weeks ago, they trailed Florida by 21 points and still won the game.
Even more exciting than that comeback is the fact that both Tennessee and Georgia threw TD passes of more than 40 yards in the final 10 seconds of the game. That is the stuff of Hollywood scriptwriters not actual college football games. Tennessee is – for now – in the driver’s seat within the SEC East having wins over both Florida and Georgia. However, the Vols still have Texas A&M and Alabama on their dance card; neither of those games is what you would call a “gimmee” …
LSU beat Missouri 42-7. This is the first game for LSU in the “Ed Orgeron Era”. They did this without the services of Leonard Fournette who has a foot injury; not to worry, RB, Derrious Guice, filled in admirably running for 163 yards and 3 TDs in this game. Not to put too fine a point on it here, but beating Missouri is “expected” by the folks who give the money that determines the direction of the athletic program at LSU. What Ed Orgeron needs to do to establish a real “Ed Orgeron Era” in Baton Rouge is to beat Alabama by something akin to 42-7. Alabama will visit LSU on November 5. If you do not have that game circled on your calendar, let me suggest that Ed Orgeron and the LSU boosters do indeed have that game circled on their calendars.
Florida beat Vandy 13-6 last week. The Gators are a very good defensive team but they just are not balanced.
Texas A&M beat S. Carolina 24-13 last week. The Gamecocks – like the Florida Gators – have major issues on the offensive side of the ball. In this game, the starting QB for the Gamecocks had a total of 34 yards passing before he got yanked. Just to put some perspective on that number, the South Carolina punter had 36 yards passing in the game.
In the Big 10, Indiana beat Michigan State 24-21. This is the second loss of the season for Michigan State and both losses are conference losses. The Spartans lost to Wisconsin two weeks ago; there is surely no shame in that. Losing to Indiana is a slightly different story. In the history of the Big 10 Conference, Indiana has been the conference champion exactly twice. The first time was in 1945; the last time was in 1967.
Iowa lost to Northwestern last week 38-31. Like Michigan St., you have to mark this as a “down year” for Iowa too. Going into this game, Northwestern had already lost to Illinois St., Western Michigan and Nebraska. Two of those losses are in the “should not happen” category. Now Iowa has lost to Northwestern and to N. Dakota St (Division 1-AA) and equally embarrassing they only beat Rutgers 14-7.
Having mentioned Rutgers here, you may have heard that they lost to Ohio State last week 58-0. I said in last week’s NCAA Mythical Picks that this Ponderosa Game would be ugly; I think I got that one right. Oh, by the way, this week Rutgers gets to play Michigan – the week after they had to play Ohio State. Here is the message to the Rutgers football team from the schedule mavens in the Big 10:
Sucks to be you …
Penn State beat Minnesota 29-26 in OT. Minnesota had contained the Penn State offense well for all of regulation time. The Nittany Lions only managed 14 first downs and about 23 minutes’ time of possession. However, in OT, Penn St. held Minnesota to a field goal and in the subsequent Penn St. possession, RB, Saquon Barkley took a handoff up the middle of the Minnesota defense for a 25-yard TD gallop to end the game.
The ACC game that clearly got the most national attention last week was Clemson beating Louisville 42-36. I have to think that this puts Clemson on a clear path to the ACC Championship Game in early December because it would take 2 conference losses for them to fall behind Louisville. I know that anything can happen in college football, but I just do not see that sort of lightening striking twice this year.
Louisville trailed 28-10 at the half but rallied to take the lead in this game; a long kickoff return by Clemson set up the winning score here. Clemson QB, Deshaun Watson threw for 306 yards and 5 TDs; he also threw 3 INTs but not all of them were his fault. Louisville QB, Lamar Jackson threw for 295 yards and 1 TD and also ran for 162 yards and 2 TDs. Do not count out the possibility of Louisville making it into the CFP if they run the table; it could happen. In any event, this is the kind of Clemson performance folks had been expecting since Week 1 but had not seen until Week 5.
In another ACC game that deserves attention, Notre Dame beat Syracuse 50-33. It may not be nice to rain on a victory parade, but that is sort of the stock and trade for a Sports Curmudgeon. The score at the half of this game was 33-27 in favor of Notre Dame; that means the Irish gave up 27 points in 30 minutes to Syracuse; that means the Notre Dame defense continues to be “sub-standard”. And before any Notre Dame fans point to the 50 points the offense scored in this game as “light at the end of the tunnel”, consider the following:
Syracuse has played 4 Division 1-A opponents this year and has given up an average of 45.25 points per game to those opponents.
The Notre Dame scoring output was a mere 5 points better than USF three weeks ago against this same Syracuse defense…
[Aside: Syracuse takes on Wake Forest this week. If Wake Forest scores 50 points in the game, every player on the Syracuse defense should consider his scholarship in jeopardy.]
Virginia beat Duke 34-20. What is interesting about this game is that it was the first road win for Virginia in the last 17 road games. Wah-hoo-wah…
NC State beat Wake Forest 33-16. I know this is hard to fathom, but trust me on this:
Wake Forest was 4-0 going into this game.
UNC rallied to beat Florida State 37-35 on a 54-yard field goal as time expired. This would be a storybook ending all by itself but it is magnified by the fact that UNC had had a PAT blocked earlier in the game. UNC brought a 41 point-per-game scoring average to the contest and Florida State has shown some “defensive issues” earlier this year. The Seminoles moved the ball but were not efficient on third down (4 for 11). Florida State also racked up 120 yards in penalties in the game; that sort of disorganization/lack of discipline costs teams games.
Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times picked this up from the interwebs and put it in his column, Sideline Chatter:
“At SportsPickle.com: ‘UNC earns respect (and probably 3 credits) by beating FSU.’”
In Big 12 action, the most impactful game was probably Oklahoma beating TCU 52-46. TCU as the Big 12 Champion with only 1 loss may have gotten some attention by the CFP Selection Committee. Now TCU has 2 losses and one of them was to the Sooners who also have 2 losses. I suspect that this leaves the Big 12 pinning its hopes on Baylor if they hope to be part of the CFP.
Baylor stayed undefeated beating Iowa St. 45-42. I know a win is a win; but beating a less-than-mediocre team like Iowa St. is not eye-catching in any positive way. Even worse, Baylor needed to score 17 points in the final quarter just to eke out this win.
Before I get nasty commentary from West Virginia fans, I do realize that the Mountaineers are in the Big 12 and that the Mountaineers are undefeated this year too. However, all of the games have been in Morgantown or against BYU in Landover Md. Basically, all of these were home games. Oh and two of their 4 wins came over a truly mediocre Missouri team and then the Mighty Penguins of Youngstown State. Their win over K-State last week by a score of 17-16 goes in the books as a “W” but it is not something that makes me stand up and take notice.
Texas Tech beat Kansas 55-19. Tech QB, Pat Mahomes had to leave the game in the third quarter after throwing 4 TDs in the game. Not to worry; Nic Shimonek took over the reins and threw for 271 yards and 4 more TDs. Tech ran 79 plays in the game and amassed a total of 621 yards on offense – a respectable 7.9 yards per snap.
The Big 12 game that may have the most repercussions down the road was the Oklahoma St win over Texas by a score of 49-31. Texas coach, Charlie Strong is clearly on a hot seat and that hot seat got hot enough to sear his buns last week. He took his defensive coordinator and told him that he needed the former defensive coordinator to go and coach the DBs and that he – Coach Strong – would take over the defense in addition to being the head coach. [Translation: Desperation.] Charlie Strong is known as a “defensive guy” but the Longhorns’ defense this year had been atrocious. Consider:
In 4 games, the only team Texas held under 40 points in a game was UTEP.
Last week, Oklahoma St had almost 400 yards on offense in the first half. Compounding the problems, Oklahoma St, averaged 14 yards per pass play. Charlie Strong needs to take this team on a 180-degree vector change and he needs to do it now if he hopes to evade the wrath of the Texas money folks who pull the strings in the Athletic Department there.
The PAC-12 game that made lots of folks shake their heads last week was Washington demolishing Stanford 44-6. Stanford had been a “big dog” in the PAC-12 North for a while now along with Oregon. This sort of a drubbing announces that there is another big dog in the neighborhood – – the Washington Huskies. Washington appeared to be a full step faster than Stanford at just about every position on the field; the Huskies’ defense recorded 8 sacks in the game and had pressure on the QB on every dropback.
The other “big dog” in the PAC-12 North over the past several years has been Oregon and that program seems heading downhill rapidly. Last week, Oregon lost to Washington St. 51-33. Consider these facts:
Washington State opened the season losing to a Division 1-AA team
Oregon has now lost 3 in a row (Nebraska, Colorado, Washington St.)
I don’t know about you, but I am ready to declare that the Chip Kelly Era at Oregon is completely history as of now. The Oregon defense was never the focus of the team even in its glory days, but last week the defense gave up 280 yards and 6 TDs rushing to a Mike Leach team. To say that a Mike Leach offense has only rudimentary running plays – and probably not a lot of them – is not an exaggeration. That defensive performance is beyond unacceptable…
Cal beat Utah 28-23. Utah’s defense deserves kudos for holding Cal to only 28 points. Cal’s defense deserves kudos for holding a team in the 20s. Prior to this game, Cal was giving up 42.5 points per game. Late in the 4th quarter, Utah had 7 shots at the end zone from inside the Cal 10-yardline and Cal held on to win the game.
USC beat Arizona St. 41-20 last week. My takeaway here is that USC Coach, Clay Helton can breathe easy – – for a week.
Colorado beat Oregon St. 47-6. Colorado has been a doormat ever since getting into the PAC-12 but they seem to be turning a corner this year. In simple terms, this game was an organized ass-kicking but maybe it indicates a turnaround in Boulder:
Colorado’s last bowl game was in 2007. It only takes 6 wins in a season to go to a bowl game.
Colorado led Michigan 21-7 this year in Ann Arbor before Michigan rallied to win the game by a TD. Michigan is a good team; losing to them in Ann Arbor is not embarrassing at all.
Colorado has now beaten Oregon – on the road – and Oregon St. in successive weeks. That never happened before.
The rest of the schedule is very challenging for Colorado, but after 5 weeks of the season, they are not completely overmatched in any of the upcoming games.
Michigan St. has a freshman QB named Messiah deWeaver. He was a highly rated recruit last year from Wayne High School in Huber Heights, OH. All I can say is that he has a tough road ahead of him just living up to his name…
The Ponderosa Games:
Last week, we had 4 Ponderosa Games. The record for the favorites covering in those games was 2-2-0 bringing the season record for favorites covering 25-18-0.
Auburn and Ohio State covered
Alabama and So. Mississippi did not cover.
This week, we have only 3 Ponderosa Games:
TCU – 28.5 at Kansas (64): After a loss last week, the Frogs go on the road to play a miserable opponent and look a “4TD-plus-a-hook” spread in the eye…
Indiana at Ohio State – 29 (59): Indiana beat Michigan State last week; I think they have a tougher assignment this week.
Michigan – 28 at Rutgers (53): Hurricane Matthew could have an impact on this game depending on the storm track. I doubt that Rutgers will have any impact on the game other than showing up to take a pounding.
The SHOE Teams:
It is still too early in the season to start ranking/categorizing the SHOE Tournament teams because there has not been sufficient time for the worst-of-the-worst to identify themselves. However, I can comment on the teams that are winless to this point in the season with regard to how they may project into the SHOE Tournament.
If I have counted correctly, there are 3 Division 1-A teams – out of 128 such teams – that have not yet won a game this season. Arkansas State would have been a fourth team on this list but they beat Georgia Southern Wednesday night by a score of 27-26.
Georgia State: The team is 0-4. Their losses to Wisconsin on the road and to Air Force on the road are excusable. I think this team is better than their record indicates. La-Monroe and Idaho later this year would appear to be winnable games.
Miami (OH): The team is 0-5. Other than a loss in Week 1 at Iowa by 24 points, the Redhawks have been close in their other games. They have Kent St. and Buffalo still on the schedule as potential ways for them to get off the schneid.
Rice: The team is 0-5 and they have a bad loss on the books already. They lost to North Texas two weeks ago in double OT. The Owls have games ahead that are perfectly winnable such as Prairie View, Florida Atlantic, UNC-Charlotte and UTEP. We shall see …
Last week the SHOE Tournament Selection Committee (Me) took note of the Florida International win over Florida Atlantic by a score of 33-31. Both teams are now 1-4; neither one is any good. There is a wrinkle here that is interesting:
FAU is 0-5 against the spread in its 5 games this year.
In a sense, that is just as good as going 5-0 ATS – depending on which side of bet you are on…
Games of Interest:
(Fri Nite) Clemson – 17 at BC (43): This game is almost like a bowl game; I have no idea what sort of mindset will accompany the Clemson team to the field. BC has a good defense; it could actually keep the Eagles in the game if the Clemson offense lets down after last week’s big showing against Louisville. Or that offense could have used the Louisville game to put themselves in gear for the rest of the year. I am confident that the Clemson defense can and will put the clamps on what masquerades as an offense for BC. Watch the game if you have the opportunity to see how Clemson reacts to their big win last week – – but I would not bet on a game like this.
Kent St – 2 at Buffalo (42): This game is interesting to the SHOE Tournament Selection Committee and should not be interesting to anyone else.
BYU at Michigan St. – 6 (49.5): The spread opened at 4 points and has been expanding slowly all week long. Michigan St. is not nearly as good this year as they have been in recent years; BYU – as an independent – has been all over the map taking on opponents on the West Coast and in suburban Washington DC. The “Cougars Around America Tour” stops in E. Lansing this week. All 5 of BYU’s games this year have been decided by 3 points or less. I think this will be a defensive game; I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.
Ga Tech at Pitt – 6 (50): There have been significant line moves here. The spread opened at 8 points and has dropped to 6 just about everywhere. It takes a significant imbalance of wagers for sportsbooks to leave 7 points out there as a potential middle bet, but that is what has happened here. Also, the Total Line opened at 56 points and can actually be found as low as 49.5 at two Internet sportsbooks. I think the oddsmaker had it right with the original Total Line; I like this game to go OVER because I am not confident that either defense can contain the opposing offense.
Iowa St at Oklahoma St – 17 (66.5): This Total Line opened at 63 and jumped to this level quickly. I do not think Iowa State is going to hold the Oklahoma St. offense very well with the game in Stillwater and I do recognize that Iowa State’s offense this year is far more productive than it was last year. I like this game to go OVER.
Army at Duke – 4.5 (47): I think this game comes down to one fundamental question:
Can the Duke defense contain the Army option-run offense that depends a lot on “trickeration”? Duke sees something similar when it plays Georgia Tech but that will not happen until October 29.
This is the softest spot on the schedule left for the Blue Devils. After this, their lineup is Louisville, Ga Tech, Va Tech, UNC, Pitt, Miami (FL). I’ll make this a venue call; I’ll take Duke to win and cover.
Syracuse at Wake Forest – 2.5 (53): This game is interesting only as a way to measure the Syracuse defense (see above). Wake Forest is anything but an offensive juggernaut; they scored a measly 7 points against Tulane in the opener this year. So far this year, Syracuse has held only 1 Division 1-A team under 45 points. Keep an eye on this game but do not bet on it.
Va Tech at UNC – 1.5 (58): I really do not understand these lines at all. Both of these teams score points and neither team is a defensive force. I like the game to go OVER. I also like UNC at home to win and cover.
Notre Dame at NC State – 1.5 (64.5): Notre Dame opened as a 1.5-point favorite in this game and the line has flipped during the week. These teams average 500 yards per game on offense. NC State gives up 322 yards per game on defense while Notre Dame yields 461 yards of offense. That is a big enough difference for me to take NC State at home to win and cover.
Oklahoma – 11.5 vs Texas (73.5) Game played in the Cotton Bowl: This is a big rivalry game and it is an even bigger game for Charlie Strong with regard to his continued tenure as the Head Coach at Texas. A blowout loss here and his agent can begin to figure out the best buyout package for his client come the end of the season. They say that the players at Texas really like Charlie Strong; if that is true, they will show up here and play well – particularly the underachieving defensive players. I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.
Florida State at Miami – 3 (64.5): This is a put-up or shut-up game for Florida State. After opening the season with an impressive win over Ole Miss, the Seminoles have beaten up on lame opponents (Charleston Southern and USF) while losing badly to Louisville and on the final play to UNC last week (see above). Miami is undefeated – albeit not against the toughest schedule you could imagine – and they should be motivated to beat an in-state rival that has owned this series for the past decade or so. I think Florida State shows up to play for real here. I’ll take Florida State plus the points here and I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.
UNC-Charlotte at Florida Atlantic – 13.5 (62): The SHOE Committee is watching this one carefully – – very carefully. Well, at least the Committee would have watched the game carefully if it were being played. The game was cancelled due to Hurricane Matthew. The 2500 or so folks who might have attended the game will have to find something else to do…
UCLA – 10 at Arizona St. (59): The Total Line here was so shocking when I saw it that I had to look into the matter closely. Arizona St. plays racehorse offensive football; they throw it a lot, score a lot and do not prevent the “other guys” from scoring a lot.
Arizona St gives up 504 yards per game (121st in the country)
Arizona St. gives up 35.6 points per game (107th in the country)
Arizona St. scores 43.0 points per game (17th in the country)
Arizona St. gains 467 yards per game (40th in the country)
So, how could the Total Line be so low – and stay at that level? A little reading about last week’s Arizona State/USC game provided a clue. Starting QB, Manny Wilkins was injured in that game and while ASU Coach, Todd Graham, says he will not miss “extended time”, Wilkins is doubtful for the game this week. I cannot like Arizona St. in a game where the defense has to “keep them in it” so that a back-up QB can try to win it. I’ll take UCLA and lay the points.
Air Force – 11 at Wyoming (52): This Total Line opened at 57 and dropped to this level very quickly. Air Force is undefeated this year and comes to this game off a win over Navy which is always an emotional game for the Falcons. Wyoming brings an efficient offense to the game. The Cowboys rank 79th in the country in yards per game (405) but they still score an average of 32.8 points per game which is 57th in the country and one slot below Tennessee. I’ll take Wyoming at home plus the points here.
Tennessee at Texas A&M – 6.5 (57): This is one of the marquee games of the week. As mentioned above, this game – and next week’s game at home against Alabama – are the only real stumbling blocks for Tennessee if they are to get to the SEC Championship game. The Vols have mastered the art of the comeback this year but this is the best team they have played so far this year. If they fall behind by 17 or 21 points as they have in the past two weeks, I am not sure that they can shut Texas A&M down sufficiently to catch up. Totally a venue call here, I’ll take Texas A&M to win and cover.
Vandy at Kentucky – 3 (52): Short and sweet here … I have no idea where 53 points will come from in this game. Therefore, I will take the game to stay UNDER.
Auburn – 3 at Mississippi St. (54.5): This is another game that should be dominated by defense and field position. I like this game to stay UNDER.
Washington – 9 at Oregon (69): People like to refer to the Washington/Washington St. rivalry (The Apple Cup Game) as a huge deal – – and it is. People like to refer to the Oregon/Oregon St. rivalry (The Civil War) as a huge deal – – and it is. In addition, the Washington/Oregon game is a huge rivalry game too; Oregon has had the top hand in that rivalry in recent years but I think the times, they are a changin’ in the Great Northwest. The Washington defense was outstanding against Stanford last week; that defense is both quick and fast and that is what one needs to contain the Oregon offense. However, it is on the other side of the ball where I think things could get out of hand:
Oregon gives up 36.2 points per game (109th in the country)
Oregon gives up 490 yards per game (117th in the country)
Oregon is tied with Florida Atlantic in this category!
Oregon gives up 280.4 yards per game passing (109th in the country.
Washington gains 441 yards per game with a balanced attack
Washington gains 242 yards passing
Washington gains 199 yards rushing
I think Washington will get the lead and then stand on the gas pedal until the final whistle. I like Washington to win and cover on the road. I think this is a statement game for the Huskies.
Colorado at USC – 4.5 (64): The Total Line opened at 58 and has been climbing steadily all week. This game is a test for Colorado. Are they good enough to on the road and hang with one of the blue-blood football programs? Well, they did that in Ann Arbor earlier this year and Michigan is a better team than USC this year. There has not been a lot of national attention focused on Boulder CO recently; this is a “Hey! Look Over Here Game!!” for the Buffaloes. I’ll take Colorado plus the points.
Idaho at La-Monroe – 5 (60): This is an important match-up for the SHOE Tournament Committee. Even the winner could wind up in the SHOE Tournament…
Fla International at UTEP – 4.5 (48.5): This is an important match-up for the SHOE Tournament Committee. Even the winner could wind up in the SHOE Tournament… Is there an echo in here?
Alabama – 14 at Arkansas (49): The Arkansas style of offense relies on power running to control the game. I just do not think that is the best way to attack Alabama. I do not feel comfortable with the spread or the Total Line here so I’ll pass on making a pick. But the game is of interest because of the CFP implications …
Washington St. at Stanford – 7.5 (58): This spread opened at 9.5 points. Stanford was humbled last week; it will be important to see how they attack this game. Washington St. beat Oregon last week by 18 points; as that a fluke or can the Cougars sustain that sort of performance level? A win for Washington St. here would go a long way to remove the bitter taste left by their opening losses to E. Washington (Division 1-AA and Cooper Kupp’s team) and to Boise St. in Week 2. Purely a hunch, I’ll take Washington St. plus the points on the road.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………