Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 10/8/16

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.

General Comments:

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:

    Miami (FL)
    Michigan
    Nebraska
    Tennessee
    Washington

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………

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 10/1/16

As I mentioned yesterday in the NFL flavor of Mythical Picks, last week was about a bland as an oatmeal pizza in terms of picks. I made 18 selections for NCAA games; the record for the week was 9-9-0. That brings the season cumulative record to 35-30-0.

The Best Picks from last week were:

    Auburn +3.5 against LSU. Auburn wins outright.
    Arkansas/Texas A&M OVER 49. Total score was 69.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

    Army – 14 against Buffalo. Buffalo won outright in OT.
    Army/Buffalo OVER 50.5. Total score was 43 even with OT.

Time and tide wait for no man; the next weekend with its slate of NCAA football games approaches. That means I shall press forward with more Mythical Picks; but before I do, I must remind everyone. There is no inside information contained herein; no one should consider anything written here as authoritative. Most importantly, no one should use anything here as the basis for making a real wager on a real college football game involving real money this week or any other week. Here is how dumb you would have to be to do something like that:

    You sprinkle sugar on your pillow to have sweet dreams.

General Comments:

I have to begin with an apology. Last week, I said that the Linfield College Wildcats would host Lewis and Clark College for Homecoming Weekend. Actually, Linfield did not play last week and will host Lewis and Clark this weekend in McMinnville, OR. The Wildcats are 1-1 for the year as they seek their 61st consecutive winning season in football. Go Wildcats!

A couple of weeks ago, I got an e-mail from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times taking note of my “fixation” with Linfield College football. Here is what he said:

“If you want a player to go along with your Linfield fixation, here’s one hidden up here in the Pacific Northwest too: wide receiver Cooper Kupp of Eastern Washington, who has put up staggering numbers playing against Pac-12 schools in each of the past four years – on the road, of course. Eastern has put up at least 42 points in each game and Kupp has scored 11 TDs and amassed over 700 receiving yards in the four games. He won a D-2 national player of the year award last year, so it’s not like he’s an unknown, but his games against Pac-12 teams have been amazing:

2013 EWU 49, #25 Oregon State 46: 5 catches, 119 yards, 2 TDs
2014 Washington 59, EWU 52: 8-145-3
2015 #7 Oregon 61, EWU 42: 15-246-3
2016 EWU 45, Washington State 42: 12-205-3

“His grandfather was ex-NFL lineman Jake Kupp and his father (can’t remember his first name) was a QB at Pacific Lutheran who did battle with Linfield a few times. This guy is like the Steve Nash of the Pacific NW – overlooked by all the big schools.”

Going into the 2016 season – Kupp’s senior year – he had caught 311 passes for 4764 yards (15.3 yards per catch) and 56 TDs. In three games this year – the first of which was a win for E. Washington over Washington State – he has caught 29 passes for 379 yards and 5 TDs. He is listed at 6’ 2” and 215 lbs. I will likely not get to see him on TV here on the East Coast unless E. Washington gets into the FCS Championship Tournament and plays an east coast team but that sort of size and those receiving stats say that he ought to get plenty of consideration in next year’s NFL Draft.

Last weekend’s games started on Thursday night with Clemson beating Georgia Tech handily. That was the first win for Clemson at Georgia Tech since 2003. The score was 26-7 but that does not really explain the dominance here. Georgia Tech’s offensive output for the game was a total of 124 yards. Meanwhile, the Clemson offense began to show signs of life in this game running up a total of 442 yards.

It was not a good week of college football in the State of Georgia last week. The other major football program there – the Georgia Bulldogs – were minced by Ole Miss. The score of that game was 45-14; and like the Clemson/Ga Tech game – the score does not really reflect how badly Georgia was beaten. Ole Miss gained 510 yards on 61 plays. Do the math here; that is 8.4 yards per snap. Georgia ran 81 plays and averaged less than 5 yards per snap. With 5 minutes to play in the 3rd quarter, the score was 45-0.

    Oh, by the way, Georgia Southern also lost last week to Western Michigan by a score of 49-31.

    Perhaps the last time Georgia had such a bad weekend, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman and his troops were on the march?

Memphis beat Bowling Green last week in a game that was anything but a nail biter. The score was 77-3 and here are some numbers from the game:

    Memphis QB, Riley Ferguson, threw 6 TD passes and ran for 1 TD. Looks to me as if Memphis has a replacement for the recently graduated Paxton Lynch…

    Memphis gained 635 yards. Bowling Green gained 235 yards

One other thing to note from that game … Bowling Green also gave up 77 points earlier this year to Ohio State. Somehow, I do not think “Lucky Sevens” is a popular game on the Bowling Green campus these days.

West Virginia beat BYU 35-32 last week. BYU’s record dropped to 1-3 and that probably makes some of the alums unhappy. However, the Cougars have covered against the spread in all four of their games; so if the alums are “getting down” on BYU each week, perhaps the alums are quite satisfied. In college football, there is winning on the field and there is winning at the sportsbook. Optimally, a team will do both…

Houston needed a big win to hold the attention of the CFP Selection Committee because they did not have a quality opponent on the schedule for last weekend. They got the big win they needed crushing Texas St. 64-3 on the road.

Buffalo beat Army 23-20 in OT dropping the Cadets’ record for the year to 3-1. Check the Worst Picks from last week above; I got everything wrong about this game. Army dominated on the field gaining 444 yards of offense to 264 yards for Buffalo and Army had a chance to win in the final seconds but missed a short field goal. Here is an unusual stat from the game:

    There were 9 fourth-down conversion attempts in the game.

    Army was 4 for 6 on fourth down conversions

    Buffalo was 2 for 3 on fourth down conversions.

Louisville beat Marshall 59-28 and Lamar Jackson threw for 417 yards and 5 TDs in the game. The Marshall passing game was anemic at best; they threw the ball 21 times and completed 9 passes for a total of 59 yards. Louisville gained 682 yards and Marshall gained 185 for the game. Louisville turned the ball over 3 times in the game and still won by 31 points.

UCF beat Florida International 53-14 last week and FIU responded to that drubbing by firing head coach Ron Turner. Yes, Ron Turner and Norv Turner are brothers. Ron Turner had been at FIU since 2013 and his record there – including this year’s 0-4 start – was 10-30-0. Let me say politely that a record of 10-30 with C-USA opponents is not a glowing entry on one’s coaching résumé.

Florida led Tennessee 21-0 in the first half but Tennessee dominated the second half to win the game 38-28. Tennessee is now 4-0 for the season and this win is significant because Florida had the top ranked defense in the country going into the game. Coming back from the 3 TD deficit is difficult against almost any team but doing that against a good defense is even more impressive.

Auburn beat LSU 18-13. Les Miles got fired after the game; Gus Malzahn gets to keep his job at least for the time being. Let me just say that this was a close game primarily because neither team played very well. Auburn’s 18 points came on 6 field goals.

Alabama beat Kent St. 48-0. Nick Saban is a Kent St. alum so perhaps he took pity on the Golden Flashes. Alabama did not score in the 4th quarter of the game and played plenty of subs. Here is a measure of the dominance:

    Kent St had 5 first downs in the game.
    Kent St. had a total of 140 yards on offense.

Mississippi St. beat UMass 47-35. Seriously, Mississippi St. allowed UMass to get 35 points in a game. UMass actually led at the half 14-13.

Kentucky beat South Carolina last week 17-10. That has to sting if you are a South Carolina fan. This is the third straight loss for the Gamecocks against Kentucky and it gives South Carolina 2 conference losses already this year. Going into this game, Kentucky had given up 131 points in 3 games (43.6 points per game); South Carolina managed to get 10.

Wisconsin beat Michigan St. 30-6 and shut Michigan St. out for the second half. The Spartans had more yards and more first downs in the game but Wisconsin scored 3 INTs and was efficient when they had to be:

    Wisconsin converted 7 of 16 third down conversions
    Wisconsin converted 2 of 2 fourth down conversions

Michigan pummeled Penn St. 49-10. Michigan ran up 515 yards on offense and held Penn St. to only 191 yards of offense. There isn’t a lot more to say here, right? Well, Michigan intercepted a pass, recovered a fumble and sacked the Penn St. QB 5 times. This was a beatdown.

Iowa beat Rutgers 14-7. Two weeks ago, Iowa lost to Division 1-AA North Dakota State; last week they beat Rutgers by 7 points. I wonder which game is more embarrassing… Rutgers had more total offense and more first downs in the game here – and still managed to lose at home.

UNC beat Pitt 37-36. Pitt’s run defense was very good; it held UNC to 28 yards on the ground. However, the Pitt passing defense was bad last week and has not been good all year. In the last 2 games, Pitt has given up 993 yards in the air. I suspect the defensive backs’ coach at Pitt will be taking some Xanax as he looks at the film for this game. Pitt ran the ball well here gaining 281 yards on 55 carries.

Duke went to South Bend and upset Notre Dame 38-35. In Duke’s 2 games this year against Division 1-A opponents, they had scored a total of 27 points; the Notre Dame defense gave them 38. The game was about as close on the stat sheet as it was on the scoreboard. Consider:

    First Downs: Duke 24 Notre Dame 24
    Time of Possession: Duke 30:35 Notre Dame 29:25
    Offensive Plays: Duke 74 Notre Dame 74
    Total Offense: Duke 498 Notre Dame 534
    Interceptions: Duke 1 Notre Dame 1

Here is one stat that was a bit lopsided:

    Fumbles: Duke 0 Notre Dame 4 (lost 2 of them).

UVa got its first win of the season last week beating C. Michigan 49-35. There were seismic shifts in this game. Virginia led 28-0; then C. Michigan tied the game at 28-28; then Virginia took command again. One stat for the game might be a bit ominous for UVa fans. C. Michigan had 402 yards passing in the game. That does not bode well for UVa once ACC conference games hit their schedule. Several teams in the ACC have potent passing offenses.

Baylor beat Oklahoma St. 35-34. Oklahoma St. had 30 first downs in the game while Baylor only managed to get 20. However, Baylor ran up 517 yards of offense to 466 for Oklahoma St. The reason here is that Baylor executed big plays all day long. Baylor averaged 8 yards per snap compared to 4.6 yards per snap for Oklahoma St.

Out west, Oregon lost to Colorado 41-38. Maybe Colorado is actually a good football team this year. Their record is 3-1 and that loss was to Michigan in Ann Arbor. This is the second loss this year for Oregon.

Stanford beat UCLA 22-13. With 6 minutes left in the game, UCLA led 13-9. Stanford scored to take a 16-13 lead with 24 seconds left to play and then got a Scoop-and-Score for another TD as time expired. This game was closer than the score might indicate.

Utah beat USC 31-27. USC led 27-17 after the first play of the fourth quarter and then gave it up. Leading 27-24 late in the 4th quarter, USC coach Clay Helton elected to punt on 4th and 3 from the Utah 37 yardline. That did not work; Utah got the ball and marched the field for the winning TD. USC is now 1-3 for the season and 0-2 in PAC-12 games. That is not something that USC fans are used to seeing. There have been whispers that Coach Helton is on a hot seat out there despite the fact that this is the first year of his contract. Losing a 10-point lead in the 4th quarter of a conference game is not going to cool down his seat very much.

Arizona St. beat Cal 51-41. The Total Line for the game was a measly 81 points and these teams blew by that comfortably. To give you an idea of the offensive dominance in the game, the teams combined to run 173 offensive plays (almost 3 plays per minute) and gained a total of 1091 yards (6.3 yards per snap). Arizona St. was 10-20 on third down and 2-2 on fourth down conversions. Cal was 7-17 on third down and 1-1 on fourth down conversions.

    In 4 games this year, the Cal defense gave up 31 points to Hawaii in the opener. Since then they have given up 139 points in the next 3 games.

    Arizona St. is 4-0 this year – not necessarily thanks to their defense. In those 4 wins, the defense has allowed opponents to score 137 points (34.25 points per game).

Looking forward to a couple of things this week:

    After Texas St. was crushed by Houston last week (see above), they play down a bit in class this week taking on Incarnate Word. Playing against “big guys” such as Arkansas and Houston, Texas St. was outscored 106-6. From here on out, they are paired with teams of similar stature.

    Florida Atlantic and Florida International (see above) square off this week. This game almost surely has implications for the SHOE Tournament. For the moment let us consider this the Bottom-feeder Bowl.

The Ponderosa Games:

Last week there were only 4 Ponderosa Games and the favorites covered in all 4 of them. That brings the season record for favorites covering to 23-16-0.

Alabama, Houston, Louisville and Temple covered.

This week we have 4 Ponderosa Games.

Rutgers at Ohio St. – 38 (60): This should be ugly.

La-Monroe at Auburn – 32.5 (56): Remember that Auburn won last week without scoring a TD. Here the spread is 32.5. What does that say about La-Monroe?

Rice at So. Mississippi – 24 (59): Rice is 0-4 losing by a cumulative score of 157-73. So. Miss is 3-1 outscoring opponents 165-79.

Kentucky at Alabama – 35 (57): I doubt last week’s win over South Carolina will mean a whole lot here. If you think Kentucky can win, the Money Line odds stand at +13,000 this morning…

Games of Interest:

(Fri Nite) Toledo at BYU – 3.5 (52.5): As mentioned above, BYU has covered in all four games this year. BYU has lost its last 3 games to Utah, UCLA and West Virginia by a total of 7 points. Toledo is not on a par with those teams and BYU is at home. I’ll take BYU to win and cover.

(Fri Nite) Stanford at Washington – 3 (45): This is a heavyweight match in the PAC-12 North. Stanford has injuries in its defensive backfield and Washington can throw the ball a bit. Normally, in low scoring games I prefer to take points. Nonetheless, I make this a venue call and I’ll take Washington to win and cover at home.

Buffalo at BC – 18 (39): BC scored 42 points last week against Division 1-AA Wagner. Earlier this year they scored 26 against UMass. In their other two games against real opponents they scored a total of 14 points. And they are favored by 18 here? I’ll pass…

Memphis at Ole Miss – 14.5 (67.5): The Total Line opened at 64 and has been climbing slowly during the week. Both teams can score; there is not a lot of doubt about that. I think this one will be a shoot-out. I like the game to go OVER.

Tulane – 2 at UMass (42.5): This game has great significance for the upcoming SHOE Tournament…

K-State at W Virginia – 3 (54): K-State is 2-1 this year but those wins are over piddling opponents (Missouri St. and Florida Atlantic). W. Virginia is not an elite team, but they are more than a few rungs up the ladder from the schools K-State has beaten. I like West Virginia at home to win and cover here.

UVa at Duke – 3.5 (62): Virginia is suspect on pass defense (see above); Duke likes to throw the football. UVa has lost 16 consecutive road games; this game is in Durham NC. I like Duke to win and cover.

Notre Dame – 10 at Syracuse (74): The spread here opened at 13 points and fell to this level almost immediately; Meanwhile, the Total Line opened at 69 and shot up in about 48 hours. I do not understand what is going on here so I’ll forego a selection. But the game is still interesting because of these large line moves.

Florida Atlantic – 6.5 at Florida International (53): The SHOE Tournament Selection Committee (consisting of Me, Myself, and I) is focused on the outcome here…

E. Michigan at Bowling Green – 2.5 (66): Bowling Green has given up 77 points to 2 different teams this year and they are a favorite in this game? I would not bet on this game with your bankroll.

Miami (FL) – 7 at Georgia Tech (53.5): Miami had a week off to allow freshman QB, Brad Kayaa to absorb the whole offense while Georgia Tech got stuffed by Clemson (see above). I do not think Miami is back to the very top rung of college football that it inhabited 20 years ago, but Miami is a good team and it is getting better. I like Miami to win and cover on the road.

Wisconsin at Michigan – 10 (45): I can’t remember where I saw this stat so I cannot cite the source but Michigan leads the nation in tackles for a loss and in QB sacks and the Michigan defense has held opponents to 6 for 50 on third-down conversions. That makes them tough to deal with anywhere and this game is in Ann Arbor. I’ll take Michigan and lay the points.

Louisville – 2 at Clemson (68): The spread opened with Clemson as a 2-point favorite but it flipped as the week wore on. I think that Clemson has the kind of defense that might be able to keep Louisville’s Lamar Jackson from running wild; the Clemson defense is fast and athletic. DeShaun Watson and his cohorts on the offense for Clemson have not performed the way people thought they would but there is plenty of talent on that side of the ball. I’ll take Clemson plus the points here and I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

UNC at Florida State – 10.5 (69): I think both teams will move the ball and score against the other team’s defense. I like this game to go OVER.

Tennessee – 3 at Georgia (52): This is a test for the Tennessee coaching staff. The Vols beat Florida last week for the first time in forever in an emotional game. The team is looking toward a shot at the SEC East slot in the SEC Championship Game; they are better than Georgia but not if they let down and start to think this is a piece of cake. I will bank on Butch Jones and his assistants to have Tennessee ready to play. I’ll take Tennessee and lay the points on the road.

Texas at Oklahoma St. – 2.5 (70): Texas had a week off to prep for this game while Oklahoma State had a tough game at Baylor last week losing by 11 points. I like the freshman QB for Texas, Shane Buchele; I wish I liked the Texas defense nearly as much. By the same token, the Oklahoma St. defense is not nearly an elite unit giving up about 6 yards per offensive play. I’ll take the rested Texas squad here plus the points.

Arizona St. at USC – 10.5 (65): Short and sweet here … USC needs to win this game at home badly but that line is FAT. I’ll take Arizona St. plus that basketful of points.

Baylor – 17 at Iowa St. (60.5): I do not understand this line at all; I would have expected Baylor to be a much bigger favorite here – other than the fact that they are actually traveling outside the State of Texas which is a rarity for that program. I’ll just pass on this one and see what happens here…

Oklahoma – 3.5 at TCU (70): Neither team’s offense is reliably good – or bad. I think the defenses will come to life in this game so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

Finally, if you have read these things over the years, you know that I enjoy finding players with unusual names. BYU has a defensive tackle named Handsome Tanielu. Trust me, my parents never considered naming me “Handsome”.

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 10/2/16

Last week was about as bland a week of Mythical Picking as you could have. I made 16 NFL picks and the record for the week was 8-8-0. That brings the season record to 29-20-0.

    [Aside: The reason the entire week of Mythical Picking was bland is that I also made 18 NCAA picks and that record was 9-9-0. Hard to get more plain vanilla than that…]

Meanwhile, in Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Games, the coin had a perfect week going 2-0-0 and bringing the Coin’s record for the year to 3-1-0.

The Best Picks from last week were:

    Broncos +3 against Bengals. Broncos won outright by 12 points.
    Raiders +2 against Titans. Raiders won outright by 7 points.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

    Steelers – 3.5 against Eagles. Steelers lost outright by 31 points.
    Texans – 1.5 against Pats. Texans lost outright by 27 points.

Boring as last week’s selections were, I shall continue to make these selections in upcoming weeks. As usual, I want to remind any reader that he/she should not use anything here as the basis for making a real wager on a real NFL game involving real money this weekend or any other weekend. Here is how dumb you would have to be to something like that:

    You go to an LA Clippers game to get your hair cut.

General Comments:

Last week’s games began with the Texans/Pats game where the Pats were down to their third-string QB who had never seen the field in an NFL game. Not to worry, Pats’ fans; Jacoby Brisset managed the game while the defense pitched a shutout and the result was sufficiently satisfying that Bill Belichick was caught on camera smiling on the sidelines BEFORE the time ran out in the 4th quarter. That happens about as often as a total solar eclipse. The Pats special teams were also dominant. When they were not pinning the Texans inside the 15-yardline with a punt, they were forcing fumbles and recovering them deep in Texans’ territory. The Texans did not snap the ball in Pats territory until 1:15 was left in the third quarter.

That was the good news. The bad news is that Jacoby Brisset injured his thumb late in the game. Word is that both Brisset and Jimmy Garoppolo (injured shoulder) practiced with the team on Tuesday of this week. In vintage Belichick fashion, however, neither QB threw a pass during the portion of the practice session that was open to reporters. It was noted however that Brisset had his thumb and wrist taped during the practice. Who will be the Pats’ QB this week? Maybe they will exhume Babe Parilli …?

The Dolphins beat the Browns 30-24 in OT. Frankly, the Dolphins were fortunate to win this game. The Browns had a chance to win with a final second field goal from 46 yards out but the ball was hooked so far to the left that you could call it a Vladimir Lenin attempt. The kicker who missed that try was Cody Parkey and he was signed by the Browns about 24 hours before the game because the Browns regular kicker injured his leg in practice on Saturday. How typical of the Browns…?

The Browns had another “Cody” in the game; Cody Kessler started as a rookie QB for the team; and while it may look as if he lit it up by putting 24 points on the scoreboard, a closer look will tell you that the Browns’ first offensive TD came in the 4th quarter. As the game went to OT, Cleveland won the toss and elected to kick off; had the Dolphins scored a TD, that would have ended the game. Instead the Browns forced a punt – but could not do anything on offense giving the ball back to the Dolphins…

Oh, and I have to mention Terrelle Pryor here. In the game he threw passes, he ran the ball from scrimmage and he caught passes. More importantly, he did all those things more than once in the game. Too bad he wasn’t the place kicker on the final 46-yard attempt …

The Skins beat the Giants 29-27. On Friday before the game, here is what Bob Molinaro had to say about this game in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Sorting it OUT: Is it too soon to call Kirk Cousins “embattled?” That’s one of the cliché adjectives the media hang on struggling quarterbacks. In two Redskins losses, Cousins was 1 for 8 with two interceptions and zero touchdowns from inside the 10-yard line. Now he goes to the Meadowlands, where last Sunday, the Giants held Drew Brees’ Saints to 13 points. At the same time, the Giants’ offense failed to score a touchdown. I’m picking Gruden’s guys in this one. Not because I think they’ve got their act together, but because the Giants aren’t good enough to run off three in a row.”

That is what you call “prescience”. The Giants were just not good enough to win three in a row. The Giants turned the ball over 3 times and committed 11 penalties costing them 128 yards. That is bad play; there is no other way to describe it. Kirk Cousins had a fine day throwing for 296 yards and 2 TDs. Haters will say that those numbers are not up to the standard one expects from a “$20M QB”. The correct answer to those haters are the words famously ascribed to the late Al Davis:

“Just win, Baby.”

The Giants are 2-1 for the season and all three of their games have been decided by 3 points or less. That has surely kept Giants’ fans on the edge of their seats for the full 60-minutes…

The Bills beat the Cardinals 33-18. Recall last year; the Cards were in the NFC Championship Game; now they are 1-2 in 2016. They lost their opener at home to the Pats who started a QB that had only taken a kneel-down snap in the NFL; last week, they lost to a team that had been 0-2 by 15 points. The Cards’ offense was their selling point last year. Bruce Arians was a great play-caller and the team has pass-catching weapons all over the place. Well, last week, not much of any of that was on display. The Cards amassed a total of 348 yards on offense. If that sounds OK to you, recall that the same Bills’ defense allowed the Jets to amass 493 yards of offense just the week before. Carson Palmer was awful here:

    26 of 50 for 261 yards with 0 TDs and 4 INTs. AND he was sacked 5 times.

Here is a sentence from the cbssports.com summary of this game that gives you an idea that the Cardinals’ offense was AWOL last week:

“The Cardinals combined for just 2 yards net offense and no first downs on their first five possessions.”

The Vikes beat the Panthers 22-10. Recall last year; the Panthers were in the NFC Championship Game with the Cards and then went on to the Super Bowl; now they are 1-2 in 2016. Their losses have come against two of the best defenses in the NFL – the Broncos in Week 1 and the Vikes last week. Here is how dominant the Vikes were on defense:

    Sacked Cam Newton 8 times
    One of those sacks resulted in a safety.
    Panthers’ total offense was 304 yards.
    Vikes intercepted 3 passes.

Meanwhile, the Vikes’ offense did nothing spectacular by any means but what it did was important. It did not invent ways to lose the game. The offense only generated 211 yards of offense but Sam Bradford threw for 2 TDs and did not turn the ball over even one time.

The Raiders beat the Titans 17-10. I guess the Raiders decided to be sure that they packed their defense for this trip. In the first two games, the Raiders had allowed more than 1000 yards to opposing offenses; last week, the Raiders’ defense generated 3 turnovers, held the Titans to 2-for-12 on third down conversions and limited the Titans to 10 points. [Aside: One other possibility is that the Titans’ so-called “exotic-smashmouth offense” is a mirage…] I think the conclusion to draw is that Marcus Mariotta and the Titans’ offense cannot turn the ball over 3 times in a game because it is not good enough to overcome that many setbacks.

Home field is supposed to provide an advantage in the NFL. It would seem that the Titans have decided not to go along with that plan. In their last 18 home games, the Titans are 2-16.

Sebastian Janikowski set an NFL record in this game. His 52-yard field goal in the second quarter was the 53rd time he hit one from 50 yards or more. Until then, he had been tied with former Broncos’ kicker, Jason Hanson for the most long-range field goals. Janikowski has been in the NFL 17 years – all of them wearing silver and black.

The Ravens beat the Jags 19-17. I picked the Jags to win the AFC South; I am now ready to pronounce:

    The Jags are dead.

Blake Bortles loves to throw INTs in the first quarter; he leads the league for his career in that category; that puts the Jags in a come-from-behind mode where he throws a lot to get them back in contention. Sadly, that usually leads to him throwing a pick or two in the 4th quarter to lose the game. I do not want anyone to infer that I think the Ravens are nearly as good as their 3-0 record might indicate. This game was a tire fire; here are some of the happenings in the FOURTH QUARTER of this game:

    4 INTs by the two teams
    1 blocked field goal
    1 muffed punt.

    Can you spell, “YUCK”?

The Jags venture across the pond to London this week to play the Colts. A loss for the Jags would put them at 0-4 with their BYE Week coming next. In the past, teams that have gotten on their flight home from London at 0-4 have gotten off that flight with a fired head coach. Remember Joe Philbin and the Dolphins last year? How about Dennis Allen and the Raiders from a couple of years back? If the Jags lose that game – particularly if they lose it and look ugly doing it – I think there is a good chance Gus Bradley will be looking for work next Monday morning.

The Packers beat the Lions 34-27. The Packers led 31-10 at the half with Aaron Rodgers throwing 4 TD passes in the first half. At that point, the Packers put in on cruise-control. The Lions meanwhile had to try to come back by throwing the ball thereby producing some skewed stats:

    WR Marvin Jones had 205 yards receiving all by himself
    Lions as a team had 50 yards rushing on 23 attempts.

    Not exactly a “balanced offense” …

The Chiefs beat the Jets 24-3. If you need to label this game, call it the “Ryan Fitzpatrick Meltdown Game”. Here are some of the lowlights:

    Jets turned the ball over 8 times
    Of those 8 turnovers, 6 were INTs thrown by Ryan Fitzpatrick.
    Of those 6 INTs, 4 of them came in the 4th quarter of the game.

    Can you spell “YUCK”?

By the way, those 8 turnovers by the Jets are not even a club record. Back in 1976, in a game against the Patriots, the Jets found a way to turn the ball over 10 times. You guessed it; the Jets lost that game too…

There is a cautionary note here for Chiefs’ fans, however. The Chiefs forced 8 turnovers; two of these turnovers resulted in TDs (a Pick Six and a Scoop-and-Score). And with all of that, the Chiefs only managed to put 24 points on the scoreboard. That is unimpressive … I know; a win is a win. However, the likelihood of such largesse coming to the Chiefs more than once in a season is small.

The Seahawks beat the Niners 37-18. Before the game began, here is Tweet from Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle:

“#49ers Breaking News: Kaepernick on DL with anthem knee”

Well, that did not happen, but it was about the only bad thing that did not happen to the Niners as they were dominated in this game; there is no way to sugar-coat that. Russell Wilson had to leave the game in the 3rd quarter with a “mild knee sprain” and it fell to rookie Trevone Boykin to play out the string here. Wilson has been in the league since 2012 and last week was the first time he has missed an offensive snap for the Seahawks.

This makes two weeks in a row that the Niners have lost by exactly 19 points. Those losses have been total team losses; the defense has underperformed and the offense has underperformed. After the Niners shut out the Rams in Week 1, there was probably some glimmer of enthusiasm in the Bay Area that – perhaps – the Niners would be mediocre instead of bad. After the losses in the last two weeks, there is probably some hope in the Bay Area that the Niners will turn out to be merely bad and not dreadful.

Here is what Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle had to say about the Niners in the aftermath of this debacle:

“If you could see any cause for hope for the 49ers in this one, you probably think Monday night’s presidential debate will be a stirring exchange of intellectual thought and political genius.”

Having mentioned the Rams above, they beat the Bucs 37-32 last week. Remember, the Rams had not scored a TD in either of their first two games this year despite the fact that they had won one of those games. Against the Bucs, they score 37 points making you shake your head as you try to figure out how that happened. The team stats do not point to a Rams’ victory:

    First Downs: Bucs 30 Rams 18
    Total Offense: Bucs 472 yards Rams 320 yards
    Turnovers: Bucs 2 Rams 2
    3rd Down Conversions: Bucs 8 for 16 Rams 6 for 13

Even more confusing, put these individual stats next to one another and wonder:

    Case Keenum: 190 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT (and it was a Pick Six)
    Jameis Winston: 405 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT

    Case Keenum was on the winning side…

After 3 weeks, the Rams and Seahawks are tied for first place in the NFC West at 2-1. After the game, Jeff Fisher did a very good imitation of Bill Belichick in his post-game interview saying:

“When you score points, which we did, you’ve got a chance.”

The Broncos beat the Bengals 29-17 last week. This puts the Bengals down at 1-2 for the year and leaves the Broncos undefeated at 3-0 even with Trevor Siemian playing QB. I sure did not think they would look this dominant in my pre-season analysis. Perhaps John Elway knew what he was doing in refusing to offer Brock Osweiler anything in the neighborhood of $18M per year to play QB in Denver? Oh don’t forget that he also jettisoned Mark Sanchez just as the season started assuring that Siemian would be the starter for a while in 2016. The Bengals led this game at the end of 3 quarters and Trevor Siemian led the team back to a win throwing for 312 yards and 4 TDs.

The Colts beat the Chargers 26-22. The game was a nail-biter; Andrew Luck hit T. Y. Hilton with a 63-yard TD pass in the final 2 minutes to win the game. The Chargers suffered 3 self-inflicted wounds in the final two minutes to invent a way to lose this game.

    1. They gave up that 63-yard TD pass to give the Colts the lead.
    2. They lost a fumble after that.
    3. They lost another fumble after that.

Philip Rivers was 29-39 for 330 yards in this game which is not a bad day at the office. However, he got just about nothing in terms of support. The run game generated a total of 37 yards for the day on 17 attempts – and Rivers gained 2 of those yards by himself.

The Eagles beat the Steelers 34-3. Say what? At halftime, the score was 13-3 and it sure seemed as if this would be a game that went down to the final possession or two in the 4th quarter. Not so; the Eagles scored 21 points in the 3rd quarter and shut out the Steelers thereby leaving the winner of the game in no doubt. The Steelers came into the game averaging 31 points per game and the Eagles’ defense dominated. Ben Roethlisberger had one of his bad days here going 24-44 for 257 yards with 1 INT and a lost fumble. He was also sacked 4 times.

Meanwhile, Carson Wentz was poised and workmanlike all game long. He was 23-31 for 301 yards and 2 TDs – – and he has now gone 3 full games without an INT or a fumble.

Granted that the Steelers were well behind in the game and had to throw to try to catch up, but the Eagles’ defense held the Steelers to 29 yards rushing for the game. Oh by the way, the last time the Steelers won a game in Philadelphia was back in 1965. The coach of that Eagles’ team was Joe Kuharich. Several years ago I did a couple of Topical Rants where I offered up my 10 worst NFL coaches of all time. Joe Kuharich was on that list…

The Cowboys beat the Bears 31-17 last Sunday nite. The Cowboys entered the game with an 8-game losing streak at home. They had no trouble winning this one. The score was 24-3 at halftime; and in the first half, the Cowboys had 19 first downs to the Bears 4 first downs. Ezekiel Elliot had his best game of the year gaining 142 yards on 30 carries.

The Bears are a marginal squad. In this game, they had Brian Hoyer throw the ball 49 times. That simply will not work; if the Bears do that, they might go winless for the year.

The Falcons beat the Saints 45-32 in what looked like a college game at times. The Saints cannot play defense. I know they have injuries to deal with on that side of the ball, but still… The Falcons averaged 7 yards per play on offense and it was a perfectly balanced 7 yards per play – – 7 yards per rush and 7 yards per pass. In addition to providing only minimal resistance, the Saints’ defense produced exactly ZERO turnovers in the game. The Saints have now allowed 96 points in 3 games; I wonder how Drew Brees feels before a game realizing he probably needs to put 5 TDs in the books for the team to have a shot at winning – – and even that is not guaranteed…

The Falcons lead the NFC South as of today with a 2-1 record and face the Panthers this week. The Falcons defense is nothing to write home about. They have given up 91 points in their 3 games and surrendered 474 yards of offense to the Saints.

Before I get to the games for this week, let me make a few general statements:

    Cam Newton has been taking a beating in these early games. Yes, the Broncos and the Vikes have exceptional defenses; yes, Cam Newton is a very large and very strong man. Nonetheless, something has to change either with the OL or with the play calling. This kind of physical abuse is not sustainable…

    How long a leash should Chip Kelly give Blaine Gabbert this week? Politics and “optics” aside, Gabbert and the offense have not been able to come close to “getting it done” in the last two weeks. The Niners have been “wolf ugly” in those games.

    The Jets need to get things going in a different direction right away. Their record stands at 1-2 and they lost badly last week. Upcoming on the schedule are:

      Seahawks at home
      Steelers on the road
      Cardinals on the road

      If the Jets play the way they did last week, they could be 1-5 at the end of that stretch…

The Games:

This week starts the season of BYE Weeks for NFL teams. This week we have two teams inactive:

Green Bay preps for 2 straight games against NFC East teams (Dallas and Giants)

Philly preps for 2 straight road games (at Detroit and at Washington)

(Thurs Nite): Miami at Cincy – 7.5 (44): Both teams are 1-2; I get that. Last week, however, the Bengals lost to a very good Broncos team and led at the end of the 3rd quarter. Meanwhile, the Dolphins needed OT to beat the Browns. Using a baseball analogy here because the Browns’ Front Office now houses a bunch of baseball analytics people in positions of authority, the Browns are a Triple A team. The loser of this game will likely be behind the 8-ball in terms of their division so I expect the teams to play as best they can given the short workweek. I wish that hook was not on top of the full TD in the spread – – but it is indeed there. Nonetheless, I’ll take the Bengals at home to win and cover.

(Very Early Sun Morning) Indy – 2.5 vs Jax (48.5) Game is in Wembley Stadium in London: The spread here opened at 1 point and has been expanding as the week progresses. Might it go to 3 points by game time? This is a division game between two significantly flawed teams. The Jags give the ball away far too often and the Colts’ defensive and offensive lines stink. If the Jags cannot score meaningful points against this defense, there should be roster repercussions, coaching repercussions and front office repercussions. At the same time, Andrew Luck ought to be able to light up this defense – – if that offensive line can keep him in a vertical posture for much of the day. I think this will be a high scoring affair so I’ll take the game to go OVER – – without any conviction. Remember I said I would make a pick in every game…

Cleveland at Washington – 7.5 (46): This spread opened at 10 points; it went down to 9 points almost immediately and you can find it at 7.5 points at many sportsbooks as of this morning. I have no idea why Cleveland is taking that much money here; I also doubt the spread will get as low as 7 by game time. When the schedule was announced, I thought this game had an interesting angle to it because it would represent the return of RG3 to FedEx Field. Well he may return to FedEx Field but it will be in street clothes. The Browns are a bad team and this is a second consecutive road game for them. I think the Skins will pound them down; I’ll take the Skins to win and cover.

Buffalo at New England – 4.5 (No Total Line): Not knowing who will play QB for the Pats as of this moment makes any pick in this game at this time nonsensical. However, without a Total Line, I cannot summon the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol to my rescue. Therefore, this is purely a guess based on the presumption that the Pats will have a QB other than Julian Edelman for the game. I’ll make it a venue call and take the Pats to win and cover.

Seattle – 3 at Jets (40): This is a desperation game for the Jets (see above). This game makes the Seahawks fly 3 time zones to play an early game with a QB who suffered a “mild knee sprain” last week. Meanwhile, the Jets’ QB has to blank out last week’s 6 INT debacle. The Seahawks’ weak unit so far this year has been their OL; the most dominant unit for the Jets has been their DL. I think the Jets can win this one outright so I’ll take the Jets plus the points here.

Carolina – 3 at Atlanta (50): A win for the Panthers assures them of a tie for the lead in the NFC South. Yes, this is a road game for them; however, the Falcons’ defense is not nearly what the Vikings’ defense was last week or what the Broncos’ defense was in Week 1. The Panthers should also have revenge on their mind here since their only regular season loss in 2015 came in this building against this team. I like the Panthers to win and cover here and I like this game to go OVER.

Detroit – 3 at Chicago (47): Here is the Dog Breath Game of the Week. I had to pick between this one or the Saints/Chargers game for that “honor”; it was a close call. The Bears have plenty of injuries to deal with and they did not have a great roster to start with. As of this morning, I have no idea if Jay Cutler will be active for the game or what level of proficiency he may have given an injury to the thumb on his throwing hand. Cutler at his best can be Matthew Stafford’s equal; Brian Hoyer is not up to that level. I am calling this one a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the Bears plus the points. Why not, these are only Mythical Picks…

Tennessee at Houston – 6 (41): The spread for this game is all over the place. It opened at 6.5 points; as of this morning it is as high as 7 points at one sportsbook and as low as 4.5 points at one other sports book. You can find it at every level between those two extremes; I picked the spread that is at more sportsbooks than any other. And no, I have no idea where all these spreads will wind up. There was a report yesterday morning that said that JJ Watt re-injured his back last week and that the Texans put him on IR meaning he cannot play for at least the next 8 weeks. The Titans will bring their run-oriented offense to the game; can the Texans without Watt stop it? That pretty much sets the storyline… I think this is going to be a low scoring game so I’ll take the Titans plus the points here – – and hold my breath.

Oakland at Baltimore – 3 (46): The Raiders played in Tennessee last week, flew back to Oakland and now fly to Baltimore for another early game. Amelia Earhart didn’t fly that much. This is purely a venue call – and a jet lag call; I’ll take the Ravens and lay the points.

Denver – 3 at Tampa (44): The Broncos played in Cincy last week, flew back to Denver and now fly to Tampa for an early game. They did not have the same air miles as the Raiders so their jet-lag hurdle is not as high; moreover, the Broncos are playing at a higher level than the Raiders are at this point in the season. I also think the Broncos are better team than the Bucs and that defense should be able to force turnovers from interception-prone Jameis Winston. Even on the road for a second straight week, I’ll take the Broncos and lay the points.

Dallas – 2.5 at SF (46): The Cowboys’ coaching staff has seen the Chip Kelly offense plenty of times in the past; they will be ready for it. By now, teams have 180 minutes of film to review on Dak Prescott so if he has a fundamental weakness, now is the time where defenses will begin to probe/exploit that. I am sure he is not a “perfect QB” but I am confident that the Niners’ defense is not the unit that will expose him and de-pants him. I like the Cowboys to win and cover on the road.

New Orleans at San Diego – 4.5 (53): This game “lost out” in a photo finish for the Dog Breath Game of the week. Neither defense is very good – and the Saints’ defense is downright awful. I think there will points galore here and the team that has the ball last has a good chance to win it all. Even at this elevated Total Line, I’ll take the game to go OVER.

LA at Arizona – 8 (43): The spread for this game is all over the place. It opened at 9.5 points and now ranges from 9 points to 7.5 points. The spread I used here is the one at the greatest number of sportsbooks. The Rams’ defense is good and that means the Cards’ offense will have to play differently than they did last week (see above). The Rams’ offense is not nearly as good as the defense so that means the Cards’ defense needs to show up and keep them in check. Bruce Arians needs to get those messages through or the Cards will find themselves in a 2-game hole in their division early on. I will bank on Arians’ communication skills here and take the Cards to win and cover at home.

(Sun Nite) KC at Pittsburgh – 4.5 (47): My guess is that the Steelers’ coaches have been less-than-laudatory in their discussions with Steelers’ players this week based on the Steelers’ no-show last week (see above). The Chiefs got 8 turnovers last week including 6 INTs off Ryan Fitzpatrick. In case the Chiefs do not already know this:

    Memo to KC Chiefs: This is Ben Roethlisberger you are playing this week. He is a better QB than Ryan Fitzpatrick. You best not count on getting another 6 INTs. Oh, by the way, Le’Veon Bell will be in the backfield this week too…

I like the Steelers to win and cover here.

(Mon Nite) Giants at Minnesota – 5 (43): The Vikes’ defense will have to continue to carry the team here because the Giants’ defense is good enough to keep Sam Bradford and his cohorts in check. For the second time this week, I will go to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol. The coin says to take the Giants plus the points. The coin has been right 75% of the time so far this year; who am I to argue with that?

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 9/24/16

Last week was not a good week of Mythical Picking for college football. The record for the week was 7-9-0 bringing the cumulative record for the season down to 26-21-0.

The Best Picks of the Week were:

    Army – 4 against UTEP. Army won the game 66-14
    Michigan St. +7 against Notre Dame. Michigan State won outright.

The Worst Picks of the Week were:

    Florida St. – 1 against Louisville. Louisville won the game 63-20
    BC + 6 against Va Tech. BC lost by 49 points.

Nothing above should tempt anyone to think of these Mythical Picks as authoritative or in possession of some precious inside information. Lest that message not be sufficiently clear, let me be more direct. No one should even think of using any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real college football game involving real money. Anyone dumb enough to do that …

    … is also dumb enough to think that a semi-colon is what a person has after intestinal surgery.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats took a long trip to Texas to play Mary Hardin-Baylor and Linfield came up very short in the game. The score at halftime saw Linfield trailing 24-20 which is not an insurmountable obstacle; however, the second half was disastrous for the Wildcats as Mary Hardin-Baylor won the second half 42-7 making the final score 66-27. That gives Linfield a 1-1 record so far this year as they commence conference play against Northwest Conference opponents.

This week is Homecoming Week for Linfield and they will host the Lewis and Clark Pioneers. Lewis and Clark bring an 0-2 record to the game and have been outscored 56-20 in those two contests. Go Wildcats!

In last week’s commentary on college football here, I made a passing mention of Texas Tech’s rather miserable defensive record last year. I said that I was too lazy to go and look up the stats, but that I would be shocked to learn if more than 5 teams in the nation (out of the 128 Division 1-A teams) last year had given up more points per game than did Texas Tech. As usual in circumstances such as these, I got a rapid response in an email from the reader in Houston who is a Sports Stat Guru. Let me give you the details; he refers to these teams that allow loads of points as “The Usual Suspects”:

    128th Kansas 46.5
    127th SMU 45.5
    126th N Mex St.45.0
    125th Tex Tech 43.6
    124th Idaho 42.5

My intuition was correct; there were not 5 teams that gave up more points per game than Texas Tech last year but now that I look at that list of 5 teams something else comes to mind:

    Two of the teams (Kansas and Texas Tech) are in the Big 12 – one of the Power 5 conferences.

    Two of the teams (New Mexico St and Idaho) are teams that have been asked to leave the Sun Belt Conference at the end of this season. Before anyone asks, I am not sure what would be a “step down” in prestige from the Sun Belt Conference in Division 1-A football.

Before the games last week, I probably would have said that the best team in the Big 12 in terms of College Football Playoff potential was Texas given that it had a showcase win over Notre Dame and Oklahoma had a loss to Houston on the record. Well, last week Texas lost to Cal, Notre Dame lost again and Oklahoma lost its second game of the year – convincingly. So I don’t know who the Big 12 contender might be this year.

    Oklahoma St has that loss to C. Michigan to deal with. Yes, I know that the loss was due to an officiating error; however, in order for C. Michigan to win on a miracle last play of the game, that means Oklahoma St. wasn’t that much better than C. Michigan on that day. That is not something the Selection Committee is likely to look upon with favor.

    TCU already has a loss on the books. Losing to Arkansas is not nearly as bad as losing to C. Michigan but it was still a home game for TCU.

    K-State has already lost to Stanford in Week 1.

    Baylor is 3-0 to date but has not played any team of consequence yet – – as is the custom in Waco prior to the onset of conference play.

The scheduling in college football for last week provided an unusual circumstance. The Top 3 teams in the rankings all played other ranked teams and all of the Top 3 were on the road. Here is how all that turned out:

    Top ranked Alabama fell behind Ole Miss 24-3 and then stormed back to win 48-43. Actually, that game was not as close as it might look. Ole Miss got two late scores (a TD followed by an onside kick) to make it look like a nailbiter. Actually there was a stretch in the middle of the game where Alabama prevailed by 45-6.

    Third ranked Ohio State pummeled Oklahoma 45-24. People had been “worried” about the lack of experience on the Ohio State team; from what I saw last weekend, these “inexperienced players” can play the game. This makes two losses at home for Oklahoma and I think you can write them off completely in terms of the CFP.

    Second ranked Florida State did not fare so well in their visit to Louisville. The Cardinals beat the Seminoles badly by a score of 63-20; this was an old-fashioned ass-kicking. I had everything wrong about that game. I did not think that the Louisville offense and Lamar Jackson would be able to dominate the Florida State defense. Here is what actually happened:

      Louisville had 521 yards on offense
      Louisville averaged 6.8 yards per carry on 46 rushing attempts
      Louisville’s 63 points came on 9 TDs
      Lamar Jackson ran for 146 yards and 4 TDs
      Lamar Jackson threw for 216 yards and 1 TD

Please welcome Lamar Jackson to any discussion involving the Heisman Trophy for 2016…

With regard to Louisville, circle two dates on your calendar:

    1 October: Louisville plays Clemson at Clemson

    17 November: Louisville plays Houston at Houston

I said last week that I was not sure how the Oklahoma State team would respond to getting screwed over by the officials the week before that. Well, they responded quite well, thank you. Oklahoma St. beat Pitt 45-38 and Cowboys’ QB, Mason Rudolph set a school record throwing for 540 yards in the game. Pitt should have gotten the message that Oklahoma St was ready to play because on the first play from scrimmage, Rudolph completed a 91-yard pass for a TD.

Cal beat Texas 50-43 and the Texas defense gave up 568 yards. That is not a good showing at all for Texas…

Up in the Big 10 part of the country, there was a mixed bag of results.

    Michigan came back from a 21-7 deficit in the first half to beat Colorado 45-28. Not bad…

    Michigan State beat Notre Dame 36-28 and dominated the Irish defense rushing for 260 yards. Notre Dame is now out of consideration for the CFP. Not bad …

    Nebraska beat Oregon 35-32. There is a quirkiness to this win. Oregon tried 5 2-point conversions in the game and failed on 4 of them and lost the game by only 3 points. Not bad …

    Ohio State dominated Oklahoma. Not bad at all…

    Wisconsin beat Georgia St by only 23-17. With 12 minutes to play, Georgia St led the game 17-13. I know a win is a win, but Wisconsin was a 35-point favorite here. Not so good …

    Iowa lost to North Dakota State (Division 1-AA) at home by a score of 23-21. The game was close but the win for N. Dakota St was not a fluke. They beat Iowa the way Iowa usually beats other teams. They held Iowa to 34 yards rushing (1.4 yards per carry) while amassing 239 yards rushing (4.9 yards per carry) for themselves. Bad, bad loss…

      [Aside: It would appear as if N. Dakota St. is still pretty good despite the departure of Carson Wentz for the NFL…]

In some SEC action:

    Tennessee beat Ohio 28-19. Considering that the Vols were 27-point favorites, this was not such a good showing.

    LSU beat Mississippi State 23-20 despite getting shut out for the entire second half. The next meeting of the “Hang Les Miles From The Sour Apple Tree Society” had to be postponed.

    Florida squashed North Texas 32-0. Here is what I mean by “squashed”:

      Florida held North Texas to 66 yards passing. That was the good news…
      Florida held North Texas to minus-13 yards rushing.

Miami beat Appalachian St. 45-10 and may have found themselves a QB in the process. Brad Kaaya threw for 368 yards and 3 TDs in 3 quarters of action.

Va Tech crushed BC 49-0. The BC offense was virtually non-existent gaining a total of 124 yards and amassing the grand total of 6 first downs in this game. Please note that BC had 6 first downs and Va Tech had 7 touchdowns in this game. Adding insult to injury, BC had 124 yards on offense and they were penalized 93 yards in the game. Here is a stat I ran across:

    The last time BC scored more than 17 points in a conference game was in November 2014.

The three Service Academies are off to a cumulative start of 8-0. Air Force had last week off but the other two Academies did well:

    Army ran their record to 3-0 stomping on UTEP 66-14. Army ran the ball 69 times for 419 yards and added 174 yards passing on top of that. Army’s start might make you start thinking about Army in a Bowl Game in December. Army last went to a Bowl Game in 2010. Since then, Army’s cumulative record has been 14-46. This is a significantly different start to a season for the Cadets.

    Navy beat Tulane 21-14 and their record is also 3-0 so far this year. Looking at the game stats it would appear that this game was closer on the scoreboard than it was on the field. For example, Navy converted 9 of 14 third down attempts while Tulane only converted 2 of 12.

Upcoming this week we will see ranked teams playing other ranked teams and ranked teams hosting credible opponents. Here are some of the game that look interesting:

    No. 19 Florida at No. 14 Tennessee.

    No. 11 Wisconsin at No. 8 Michigan State.

    No. 7 Stanford at UCLA.

    No. 17 Arkansas at No. 10 Texas A&M.

    Oklahoma State at No. 16 Baylor.

    No. 12 Georgia at No. 23 Ole Miss.

    Penn State at No. 4 Michigan.

    No. 18 LSU at Auburn.

The Ponderosa Games:

Last week, we had 11 Ponderosa games on the schedule and the record for favorites covering was 5-6-0. That brings the season record for favorites covering in Ponderosa Games to 19-16-0.

Arkansas, Florida, Kansas St., NC State and Washington St. covered.

Arizona, Baylor, Georgia Southern, TCU, Tennessee and Wisconsin did not cover.

This week we have only 4 Ponderosa Games and in 2 of those games, the favorite is on the road:

UNC-Charlotte at Temple – 27 (53.5): There are 128 schools playing Division 1-A football and meaningless as it is, I doubt most folks would think that Temple was in the Top 50 or maybe even the Top 75. That spread tells me that UNC-Charlotte is a bad team indeed…

Louisville – 25 at Marshall (74.5): Marshall has to hope that Louisville spent this week reading its press clippings – and believing them – instead of practicing hard for this game. Otherwise this might be an epic blowout. Marshall’s defense gave up 524 yards – and 65 points – to Akron.

Kent St. at Alabama – 44 (50): For the oddsmaker to be on target with both the spread and the Total Line here, Alabama would have to win 47-3. Could happen… Kent St. lost to North Carolina A&T earlier this year; is there anyone on the planet that thinks they can win this game? The odds on the money line stand at +58,500 for Kent St. and at – 135,000 for Alabama.

Houston – 34.5 at Texas St. (65): Houston needs to win big to keep its name in front of the folks who will be on the Selection Committee. Winning this game 10-7 would be almost as bad as a loss for the Cougars…

Games of Interest:

(Fri Nite) TCU – 21 at SMU (65): According to Google Maps, these schools are about 41 miles apart on Interstate 30. It is a rivalry game. Having said that, these two teams play on different levels of college football. I like TCU to win and cover on the road and I like this game to go OVER.

(Fri Nite) Wyoming – 3 at E. Michigan (63): The game is interesting to me because it could have a bearing on the SHOE Tournament later this year. Other than that …

(Fri Nite) USC at Utah – 3 (46.5): I watched the USC/Alabama game and was unimpressed with USC. I also saw some of the USC/Stanford game and was unimpressed again with USC. I ran across a stat that shocked me:

    USC ranks 107th in the nation in rushing offense.

    Remember the days of “student-body right”?

It appears to me as if the team just cannot get out of its own way; maybe that is a coaching deficiency? No way I will take USC on the road here so I’ll take Utah and lay the points.

Army – 14 at Buffalo (50.5): Army has been bad for the last decade or so on the gridiron so it is good to see them on the upswing (see above). Buffalo is not exactly a powerhouse and Army runs an offense that Buffalo has probably not spent a lot of time practicing against. I like Army to win and cover here and I like the game to go OVER.

E. Carolina at Va Tech – 11.5 (56): Short and sweet … That line looks fat perhaps because of the drubbing Va Tech laid on BC last week. I’ll take E. Carolina plus the points here.

Penn St. at Michigan – 19 (58): Penn St. RB, Saquon Barkley, is really good and getting 19 points with him on your side is tempting indeed. However, I will pass on that pick and take this game to go OVER.

Iowa – 12.5 at Rutgers (56): I suspect that Iowa will come out breathing fire after having to hear about losing to a Division 1-AA school all this week (see above). I think they are going to pound the ball down Rutgers’ throat here. Even on the road, I’ll take Iowa and lay the points.

BYU vs. W. Virginia – 7 (51) [Game to be played at FedEx Field in DC area]: I am sure there is a good reason why this game is being played at this venue – but that good reason surely escapes me. I think this will be a defensive game; I like the game to stay UNDER.

Pitt at UNC – 7 (67.5): Both teams have shown they can score; neither team has shown any proclivity for stopping opponents from scoring. Ergo, I like this game to go OVER.

Oklahoma St. at Baylor – 7.5 (76): This should be a track meet – – with about the same amount of defense as a track meet. I like this game to go OVER.

Wisconsin at Michigan St. – 5 (42.5): This is the football equivalent of a heavyweight boxing match on the undercard of a major promotion. These big guys will stand there and pummel one another from start to finish. Like USC, Wisconsin’s “brand” is a powerful run game; so far this year, Wisconsin is 83rd in the nation in rushing. I like this game to go OVER.

Arkansas at Texas A&M – 6 (49): I do not understand this Total Line at all. The Aggies can score but not defend. Arkansas can score and sorta defends. I think there will be plenty of points to go around here so I’ll take the game to go OVER.

Georgia at Ole Miss – 7 (62): Mississippi has blown two BIG leads this year forging come-from-ahead losses. The first one was against Florida State; the second one was against Alabama. If Mississippi gets that sort of lead here, Georgia may mount a comeback but Georgia is not nearly as good as either Alabama or Florida State. Venue call here; I’ll take Ole Miss and lay the points.

Florida at Tennessee – 7 (43): Florida has won the last 11 meetings between these squads going back to the 2005 season (the Ron Zook Era in Gainesville FL). The wins have generally been convincing too; the average margin of victory has been 12.7 points. This will be a low-scoring game with Florida’s defense keeping the score down and Florida’s offense doing the same. In a low-scoring game, I like to take the points so I’ll take Florida here.

LSU – 3.5 at Auburn (36): You have two coaches on hot seats facing each other here. Auburn coach, Gus Malzahn is 2-12 in his last 14 SEC games; his Auburn teams have lost 6 straight home games to conference foes; that is not a way to keep a job at an SEC school. As you know, Les Miles has one foot out the door and the other on a banana peel. Maybe this game should be played at Dysfunction Junction? Venue call here; I’ll take Auburn at home plus the points.

Cal at Arizona St. – 4 (81): I thought that Ariz. St/Texas Tech couldn’t possibly go over 80 a couple weeks ago. The total then was 123 points. Cal can score; they put 50 on the board last week against Texas. Cal does not defend well however. I think this could be a re-enactment of the Ariz St./Texas Tech game so I’ll take it to go OVER.

Stanford – 3 at UCLA (46.5): Yes, UCLA is the home team and yes, UCLA can play defense. Does not matter to me because I think Stanford is the better team. I’ll take Stanford to win and cover on the road.

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend of 9/17/16

Last week’s Mythical Picks were mythically profitable once again. Last week I made 14 picks and the record was 9-5-0. That brings the cumulative record for Mythical Picks this season to 19-12-0.

The Best Pick from last week was the UNC/Illinois game:

    I liked UNC – 7.5 and Carolina won by 25 points
    I liked UNC/Illinois OVER 58 and the total score was 71

The Worst Pick from last week was:

    I liked Duke – 4.5 over Wake Forest and Duke lost by 10 points

I shall set out to maintain the level of performance demonstrated in the first two weeks of the college football season – – but history here says that such a continuation is unlikely. Therefore, no one should use anything contained herein as the basis for making a real wager on a real college football game involving real money this weekend. Anyone stupid enough to do so also thinks this is true:

    You think “satisfactory” is a place to manufacture satis.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats began the 2016 season with a comfortable 48-14 victory over Chapman University. Since Division III schools play a 9 game regular season schedule, that win moves Linfield 20% of the way toward a winning season – and a winning season would be their 61st consecutive one.

This week, the Wildcats travel to Belton, TX – a town located between Waco and Austin – to play the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusaders. The Crusaders have played twice already this year and are 2-0 having scored 56 points in both games. This could be a “light up the scoreboard game”. Go Wildcats!

Before I review some of the things from last week’s games, let me comment on last night’s Houston/Cincinnati game. It is not a secret that I am rooting for Houston to go undefeated this year to see how the CFP Selection Committee treats them in early December. The Cougars ran their record to 3-0 last night beating Cincy 40-16 – – but the game was not nearly that close. I recorded this game while the Thursday Night Football game was on and then watch the recording until about 1:00 AM. Cincy led 16-12 early in the 4th quarter and Houston’s offense did not show up until the 4th quarter. It was the Houston defense that enabled this win.

Cincy is not a bottom-feeder team by any stretch of the imagination. At the same time, no one – not even the coaching staff there – believes in their hearts that the Bearcats are going to be part of the discussion when it comes to the College Football Playoff. As good as Houston looked beating Oklahoma two weeks ago, this performance dulls their résumé slightly. There may be no such things as moral victories, but this win was not a big win.

Let me start with the Tennessee/Va Tech game which was more of a gala than a football game at the Bristol Motor Speedway in front of about 150,000 fans. Tennessee won 45-24; Va Tech fumbled away the ball 5 times giving the Vols a short field most of the time. Tennessee accepted that largesse and waltzed to an easy win. I do wonder how many of the fans in the nosebleed seats at the track were able to see the ball on the ground for all of those fumbles – or even to see the number of the player who recovered one of them. Here is a comment from Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot on this game:

“Football folderol: Relatively few fans – even with the use of high-powered binoculars – will be able to follow the action between Virginia Tech and Tennessee at the 150,000-seat Bristol Motor Speedway Saturday night. But that’s not the point, is it? As with outdoor NHL games and Final Fours played in indoor football stadiums, what attracts people to a gimmick like this is the chance to tell their friends they were there.”

Pitt beat Penn State 42-39 last week renewing a rivalry that had been dormant for about 15 years. I remember when games between these schools would end 17-13; times have changed. Pitt used turnovers to run out to a 28-7 lead and then Penn State mounted a comeback. Penn State has a running back you should keep an eye out for; Saquon Barkley can play football and will get paid to do so one of these days. It took an interception by Pitt in their end-zone to seal this win.

Penn State and Pitt have three more games scheduled meaning that this rivalry may just take hold again. I think that would be a good thing because a game like this is far more interesting to fans than seeing either team beat up on Fugue State.

Central Michigan “beat” Oklahoma State 30-27 last week but the reason for the “win” is that the officials misinterpreted the rulebook and gave C. Michigan a final play they should not have had. That led to a TD and to an Oklahoma State “loss”. By NCAA rules, once the referee declares the game to be over, there is no going back to correct anything at all. So, Oklahoma State is the “loser” here.

This week, Oklahoma State hosts Pitt. It will be an interesting coaching challenge for the staff in Stillwater. Will the team come out flat or will they come out ready to smack anything in front of them that moves? It will be a game to watch…

Northwestern lost to Illinois State (Division 1-AA) 9-7. This looks like it will be a “cover your eyes season” for Northwestern alums. In week 1, they lost to W. Michigan but this loss is even worse. The Wildcats only scored 7 points against a Division 1-AA team. Here are some stats that will explain Northwestern’s lack of scoring and will provide bad omens for Northwestern fans:

    Total yards of offense against a Division 1-AA opponent = 278 yards
    Passing stats were 17 for 41 for 191 yards
    Rushing stats were 31 carries for 87 yards

Speaking of teams that may be looking ahead to long and disastrous seasons, consider:

    Kent State lost in Week 1 to Penn State by 20 points. That is not such a bad loss until you realize the Kent State lost in Week 2 to North Carolina A&T (Division 1-AA) by a score of 39-36 in 4 OTs.

    Savannah State (Division 1-AA) lost to Georgia Southern in Week 1 by a score of 54-0. Last week, Savanna St. lost to So. Mississippi 56-0. I sure hope those folks got two nice paychecks from those Division 1-A schools to act as a punching bag…

    Ohio beat Kansas 37-21. Remember Kansas students stormed the field after the team beat a Division 1-AA opponent at home in Week 1. Well, Ohio University is not exactly a national powerhouse and they too went to Kansas for a game and came out with a dominant win. The Big 12 season has not begun for the Jayhawks…

    Duke lost to Wake Forest 24-14. Wake is not a good offensive football team so this is not a good showing by the Duke defense. Bad omen …

    Kentucky lost to Florida 45-7. That is not unexpected except for the magnitude of the loss and the fact that the Kentucky TD came in the 4th quarter when it did not matter at all. Recall in Week 1 that Kentucky lost the second half of its game to So. Miss 27-0 to seal a come-from-ahead defeat.

Michigan beat UCF 51-14. Last week, I said that if UCF really wants to be considered seriously by the Big 12, they could not lose this game by 50 points. Well, they succeeded in avoiding that ignominy; they only lost by 37. Michigan blocked 2 punts and 2 field goal tries in the game. Perhaps some special teams blocking drills would be in order in Orlando this week?

BC beat UMass 26-7. If BC cannot get to 30 points against UMass, I wonder if they will get to 30 points against anyone this year.

Nebraska beat Wyoming 52-17 which is not all that unexpected. Here is what was a tad surprising; at the start of the 4th quarter Nebraska only led 24-17.

Clemson was a 36.5-point Ponderosa favorite over Troy last week. Clemson won the game 30-24 which is not spectacular for a team that was considered as the #2 team in the country in the pre-season rankings. Oh, and it is not as if Troy scored late to make it look closer than it really was. At the start of the 4th quarter, Clemson led 13-10.

Notre Dame beat Nevada 39-10 – just covering a 28-point Ponderosa spread.

Alabama beat W. Kentucky 38-10 – just missing a cover on a 28.5-point Ponderosa spread.

Ohio State beat Tulsa 48-3. When the 1st quarter ended, the score was 3-3; then came the deluge. Ohio State pays a visit to Oklahoma this week …

Oklahoma manhandled La-Monroe 59-17 after losing in Week 1 to Houston. The score at halftime was 42-0.

There were some other “squash games” last week:

    Texas beat UTEP 41-7. I said that if Texas lost, Charlie Strong might need to hire a food taster in Austin. Texas took care of business.

    Washington beat Idaho 59-14. As I said last week, at least Idaho did not have to travel very far to get its ass kicked.

    Iowa beat Iowa St. 42-3. I can’t wait for that Big 12 Conference showdown between Iowa St. and Kansas.

Georgia scheduled Nicholls St (Division 1-AA) as a breather for Week 2 but was surprised at hard the win was. The Bulldogs only won 26-24. Just so you know, Nicholls St is not one of those Division 1-AA powerhouses that you might expect to sneak up on a big time school. Since 2010 the overall record for Nicholls St is 13-55…

Mississippi St beat S. Carolina 27-14 last week. This was a nice recovery for the Bulldogs after losing to S. Alabama in Week 1.

The LSU football cauldron came to a simmer last week. In the opening week loss to Wisconsin, the LSU offensive woes were obvious to most observers. This week, LSU hosted Jacksonville St (Division 1-AA) and once again they did not move the ball. Finally, the coaching staff removed starting QB, Brandon Harris and replaced him with Danny Etling who transferred to LSU from Purdue. Under Etling, LSU was able to move the ball against this Division 1-AA defense and ultimately won the game 34-13. I know that there are no “bad wins” in football, but LSU fans tend to expect more against Division 1-AA opponents.

Missouri beat E. Michigan 61-21. What surprised me here was that Missouri could score 61 points on anyone other than Comatose State. Is E. Michigan really that bad?

Utah beat BYU 20-19 in the renewal of The Holy War rivalry. BYU scored a late TD to get within a point and chose to go for 2 instead of going for a tie. The try failed and Utah won the game.

Boise St. beat Washington St. 31-28. The Cougars have dug themselves into an 0-2 hole before PAC-12 conference play begins. Not a good situation there …

San Diego St. beat Cal 45-40. The important outcome of this game was that Aztec running back, Donnell Pumphrey, broke Marshall Faulk’s school rushing record. Pumphrey rushed for 281 yards and 3 TDs against Cal and now has 4,651 yards rushing for his career at San Diego St.

Last week, I took the Texas Tech/Arizona St. game to stay UNDER 80 because I thought it was too early in the season for both offenses to be ready for that kind of output. Here is how wrong I was:

    Final score was Arizona St. 68 and Texas Tech 55
    Tech QB, Pat Mahomes, threw for 540 yards and 5 TDs – – and lost.
    Ariz St. RB, Kalen Balladge, scored 8 TDs (7 rushing and 1 receiving)

Texas Tech was a terrible defensive team last year and it would surely appear as if that is the case again this year. Twice last year, Texas Tech scored more than 50 points in a game and lost that game; they did it again last week. In 13 games last year, Tech surrendered a total of 567 points (43.6 points per game). There are 128 schools that play Division 1-A football; I am too lazy to look it up, but I would be shocked if there were 5 schools that allowed more points per game last year.

Army won again last week and has started the 2016 season at 2-0. It has been 20 years since that happened at West Point and looking at the schedule, it just might be that Army can get to 6 wins and be bowl eligible; there are some games there against weak programs. If you are a fan of the Cadets and you believe in omens, the last time Army started a season at 2-0, it went on to a record of 10-2…

Louisville beat Syracuse 62-28 last week and the Cardinals’ QB, Lamar Jackson, accounted for 610 yards of offense and 5 TDs by himself. Louisville has a big game coming up this weekend against Florida State in Louisville.

There are several other good games on the calendar for this weekend:

    Ohio State/Oklahoma: Surprisingly, this will be only the third time these schools have ever played one another.

    Alabama/Ole Miss: Alabama has lost the last two games against the Rebels; I suspect Nick Saban has reminded the team of that once or twice this week.

    Notre Dame/Michigan St.: Why did these schools stop scheduling one another in the first place?

    USC/Stanford: PAC-12 conference play starts with a key game.

    Oregon/Nebraska: This has the makings of a shoot-out.

You know that I like to find players with unusual names in sports. Today, let me introduce you to Equanimeous Tristan Imhotep J. St. Brown. He is a sophomore WR from Anaheim CA at Notre Dame. I wonder what it is like for him to fit his full name into the fixed boxes on a school application form…

The Ponderosa Games:

Last week there were 15 Ponderosa games. The record for favorites covering in those games was 9-6-0.

Miami, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio St., Texas, Washington and Wisconsin covered.

Alabama, Baylor, Clemson, Oklahoma, Oregon and UCLA did not cover.

That brings the season record for favorites covering in Ponderosa games to 14-10-0.

This week we have 11 Ponderosa Games:

(Fri Nite) Baylor – 31.5 at Rice (66): Another fine example of Baylor’s out-of-conference scheduling…

Iowa St at TCU – 24.5 (61.5): The oddsmaker must not like TCU’s offense here…

Georgia St. at Wisconsin – 35 (51): This game should cease to be interesting in the second quarter.

Florida Atlantic at K-State – 25.5 (48.5): More mediocrity in out-of-conference scheduling…

N. Texas at Florida – 36 (51.5): Oh please…

Texas St. at Arkansas – 30.5 (61): A glorified scrimmage?

Ohio at Tennessee – 27 (58): Ohio beat Kansas by 2 TDs last week; here is an idea of how good Ohio is.

La-Monroe at Georgia Southern – 26 (58): Put this game on TV and I wonder if it would draw an audience of a thousand viewers.

Old Dominion at NC State – 24 (59): One more tune-up for State before conference games begin.

Hawaii at Arizona – 24 (64): Hawaii has given up 150 points in 3 games so far this year.

Idaho at Washington St – 26.5 (68.5): These schools are about 10 miles apart. That is the only thing interesting about this game.

Games of Interest:

E. Michigan – 2.5 at UNC-Charlotte (66.5): I asked above if E. Michigan could be as bad as they looked giving up 61 points to Missouri. Well, Charlotte is definitely not very good and E. Michigan is only a 2.5-point favorite here. Ergo

Florida St. – 1 at Louisville (67): Louisville has averaged 66 points per game in its first two games this year; they are not going to do that against the Florida State defense. This game has CFP implications all over it – for these two schools and for Houston who has to face Louisville down the road apiece. Just a hunch, but I’ll take Florida State to win and cover on the road here.

Temple at Penn State – 8.5 (51.5): Penn State lost soundly to Temple last year; it was the first time that had happened to the Nittany Lions since Steamboat Willie introduced the world to Mickey Mouse. Temple this year seems to be a tad less than it was last year losing in Week 1 to Army; Penn State so far seems to be a better than average team. I like Penn State at home to win and cover.

Colorado at Michigan – 19 (55): Colorado must be improving because when I saw this game on the card, I expected Michigan to be about a 30-point favorite. I will have to pay more attention to Colorado…

New Mexico at Rutgers – 6.5 (57): This game is interesting because New Mexico lost to New Mexico St last week and Mew Mexico St is a bad football team. Here New Mexico has to travel about 2000 miles to play a “Big 10 team” and they are less than a full TD underdog. Cue Arte Johnson here:

    Verrrry interesting …

Florida International – 1 at UMass (47): This game has “SHOE Tournament” written all over it…

Army – 4 at UTEP (46.5): This is one of the Army opponents I referenced above that is not so fearsome. I’ll take Army to win and cover here and to get off to a 3-0 start for the season. Get on the Army bowl-eligibility bandwagon…

BC at Va Tech – 6 (41): It will be a low-scoring game so I will take BC plus the points here.

La Tech at Texas Tech – 10.5 (80): I am 100% certain that Tech will cover here.

New Mexico St. at Kentucky – 21 (67): Kentucky has been embarrassed twice already this year but the Aggies are not nearly as good as either So. Mississippi or Florida. Nonetheless, Kentucky cannot lose at home to this caliber of competition without risking banishment from the SEC. I like the game to stay UNDER because I do not think much of either team’s offense.

Oregon at Nebraska – 3 (74.5): I said above that this game has the makings of a shoot-out; the Total Line here says the oddsmakers agree with me. I’ll take the game to go OVER.

UCLA – 3 at BYU (49.5): In terms of emotion and intensity, this game has to be a come-down for BYU after playing Utah last week. However, that close loss and the way they lost (see above) might get the team fired up. I think this will be a defensive game so I’ll take it to say UNDER.

Miami (Fl) – 4 at Appalachian St (51.5): The Total Line here opened at 55 and dropped to this level almost immediately. Do not be shocked by the low spread here; App St. lost to Tennessee in Week 1 but the game went to OT. App St. is not a football blueblood but this team is pretty good. Miami rarely leaves the state to play an out-of-conference game like this one. Purely a hunch, but I’ll take Appalachian St plus the points at home.

Pitt at Oklahoma St. – 4.5 (61): I do think that the Cowboys will be ready to play here and will have put their “unfair loss” last week behind them. At the same time, I think Pitt will ready to play too after its big win over rival Penn State last week. I like this game to go OVER.

Michigan St. at Notre Dame – 7 (50): Michigan State took last week off; I suspect that they have been pointing to this game for a long time now. Notre Dame looks good on offense but the defense leaves something to be desired. I like Michigan St. plus the points here.

Duke at Northwestern – 3.5 (44.5): One – and possibly both – of these teams is going to have a bad year in 2016. Watch this game the way you would watch a hit-and-run accident…

Ohio St. – 1 at Oklahoma (63): If Florida St./Louisville is not the best game of the weekend, then this one is. If Oklahoma loses here, they are out of the CFP picture absent extraordinary circumstances. Ohio State has tuned up for this game against significantly inferior opponents; they will be challenged here very differently. I like Urban Meyer in this situation more than Bob Stoops; there is no other way to say that. I’ll take Ohio State here and lay the point and I like the game to go OVER.

Alabama – 11 at Ole Miss (55): This spread opened at 9 points and has crept up all week long. I think Alabama will run the ball down the Rebels’ throat here and I think the Alabama defense will make Ole Miss one-dimensional – they are not going to run on that defense. Yes, Ole Miss has beaten Alabama in each of the last two seasons, but I do not think that will come close to happening here. I like Alabama to win and cover here.

Mississippi State at LSU – 14 (45): I agree with the oddsmakers here; this is going to be a low-scoring game and that means this line is fat, Fat, FAT. I’ll take Mississippi St. plus the points here.

USC at Stanford – 9 (52): Short and sweet here, I like this game to go OVER.

Texas – 7 at Cal (81.5): Neither team will win because of its defense but the Cal defense is the one that bothers me more. I’ll take Texas here and lay the points.

Finally, Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel recalled the words of former Florida State coach, Bobby Bowden, discussing one of his “student-athletes”:

“That boy don’t know the meaning of the word fear. In fact, I just saw his grades, and that boy don’t know the meaning of a lot of words.”

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 9/10/16

Last week was a mythically profitable one for Mythical Picks. I made 17 selections and the record for Week 1 was 10-7-0.

The Best Pick for last week was:

    Wisconsin +10 vs. LSU. Wisconsin won the game.

The Worst Pick for last week was:

    Temple – 16 vs. Army. Temple lost by 15 points.

As they say in the TV ads for mutual funds, past performance is not an indicator of future performance. Therefore, I will smile and be happy to have had a good week of Mythical Picks last week – – and get down to the business of making good picks again this week. Assuming that I can …

In any event, no one ought to take anything written here as being informative or insightful with regard to college football games. Even more importantly, no one should use anything here as the basis for making an actual wager on an actual college football game involving real money. Anyone dumb enough to do that probably needs this reminder:

    Do not scratch your watch and wind your butt !

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats begin their football season this weekend. At the moment, Linfield is riding a winning streak that goes all the way back to 1956. For the last 60 consecutive seasons, Linfield has had a winning record in football. Last season they finished the year at 11-1. That loss came in the quarterfinals of the Division III football tournament against St. Thomas (MN).

This week, Linfield will host the Panthers of Chapman University in McMinnville, OR. Last year, Chapman’s record was 4-5. Go Wildcats!

Last week, Clemson beat Auburn for the third consecutive time. It was hardly an artistic performance by either squad; the final score was 19-13. [Note: Clemson was a 7-point favorite and I took them as one of last week’s Mythical Picks. Arrgh…] Clemson lost a couple of defensive players to the NFL as early round selections. Not to worry, this year’s defense allowed only 3.7 yards per offensive play in this game. Clemson has two games on its schedule that could be seriously challenging:

    Clemson has to play Louisville later this year. Louisville opened its season against UNC-Charlotte and beat them 70-14. The score at the half was 56-0. The question here is this

      Is Charlotte that bad or is Louisville that good?
      Or both?

    Clemson has to play Florida State later this year. The Seminoles looked bad for the first 20 minutes against Ole Miss last week. The Seminoles trailed 28-6 in the second quarter and then ran off 30 unanswered points and won the game going away. Yes, Florida State is very good…

Wake Forest was a 17-point favorite against Tulane last week. Wake did win the game but by a score of 7-3. One ought not expect a lot from the Wake Forest offense this year; their longest play of the game was a 16-yard pass completion. Tulane, meanwhile, looked miserable. The Green Wave had the ball for 35 minutes in the game and gained a total of 280 yards.

For those who put any stock at all in “pre-season rankings”, please note that Tennessee was a Top Ten team before anyone teed up to kick off a real game. The Vols needed OT to beat Appalachian State and the Vols trailed at halftime by 10 points.

Vandy led S. Carolina 10-0 at the half and then Vandy coughed up a hairball in the second half as S. Carolina came back to win the game 13-10. It just might be a really long season for both teams here…

I mentioned the Temple/Army game above as my worst pick for last week. Army dominated the game; Army had the ball for 36 minutes; Army had 23 rushing first downs; Army ran the ball for a total of 329 yards. Looks as if the Temple players read too many press clippings from last season …

Florida International led Indiana 13-12 as the 4th quarter of the game began. Then, FIU pulled a disappearing act and lost the game 34-13.

In another El Foldo Game, Mississippi St. led South Alabama 20-7 at the start of the 4th quarter. Mississippi State was a Ponderosa favorite of 28 points in that game. Nonetheless, South Alabama came back and won the game 21-20. As if that were not sufficiently embarrassing, Mississippi State got into position for a chip shot field goal with seconds left to win the game – – and missed the kick. For the record, this is the first time in school history that South Alabama has beaten a team from the so-called “Power Five” conferences.

Northwestern (Big 10) lost at home to Western Michigan (MAC) by a point. Not a good omen there for Northwestern alums…

I said last week that it would be a LONG flight for Rutgers to take to play Washington in a game that would be uninteresting after the first 20 minutes. Well, the score at the half was 34-3 in favor of Washington and the final score was 48-13.

Plenty of Division 1-A teams started the season against Division 1-AA teams and the results were a mixed bag:

    Idaho beat Montana State (Div 1-AA) by a field goal. Hey, it’s a win and Idaho does not have that happen all that often…

    UConn beat Maine (Div 1-AA) by a field goal. For a team that aspires to be invited into the Big 12, that is not a good résumé entry…

    Kansas beat Rhode Island (Div 1-AA) 55-6 and the Kansas students stormed the field. That has to be the most embarrassing field-storming in the history of field-storming… Then again, the last time Kansas won a home football game was back in November of 2014 when they beat Iowa State. And speaking of Iowa State …

    Iowa State lost to Northern Iowa (Div 1-AA) 25-20. Maybe the Big 12 needs to invite 3 new schools into the conference and drop Iowa State?

    Washington St. lost to E. Washington (Div 1-AA) 45-42. This is the second year in a row that Washington St. opened the season with a loss to a Div 1-AA school. Last year, Portland State did the honors. Anyway, Washington St. pulled itself together last year and finished the year at 9-4.

    UVa lost to Richmond (Div 1-AA) 37-20. Yes, the game was as lopsided as the score indicates. Richmond had the ball for almost 40 minutes; Richmond had 524 yards on offense to Virginia’s 302 yards; Richmond held Virginia to 38 yards rushing for the game. UVa has a new coach in Bronco Mendenhall who was very successful at BYU taking them to 11 straight bowl games. This has to be a shock to his nervous system…

Arkansas beat La Tech at home by one point. That is not an impressive performance from an SEC West squad… Arkansas was a Ponderosa favorite of 26 points there.

So. Miss trailed Kentucky 35-17 in the first half. However, the Golden Eagles won the second half 27-0 for a comeback win.

Michigan beat Hawaii 63-3. Recall that the college season opened with a game in Australia where Cal beat Hawaii and scored 51 points in the process. That makes 114 points for opponents against Hawaii so far this year. Just a suggestion here, but maybe the coaches at Hawaii might want to do some tackling drills this week…

With just over 3 minutes to go in the first quarter, San Jose St. and Tulsa were tied 7-7. At the end of the first quarter, San Jose St. trailed 24-7 and the final score was Tulsa 45 and San Jose St. 10.

Penn State unveiled a hurry-up spread offense last week. That had to be a shock to the folks in Happy Valley. The Lions beat Kent State 33-13 which is no big deal. The test for Penn St. comes when Big 10 play commences. I had not realized this until I ran across these stats:

    Penn State lost to Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State by a combined score of 121–42 last year

    Coach, James Franklin, is 0–6 against those schools.

There were some important games in Week 1 matching good teams against one another. Wisconsin and LSU played in Lambeau Field and Wisconsin won the game by 2 points. Frankly, they looked like a much better team. Wisconsin ran 73 plays while LSU ran only 50; Wisconsin gained 349 yards and held LSU to 257. LSU continues to have QB “issues”; Brandon Harris was highly recruited out of high school but he has been erratic at best for LSU. Last week, he was 12-31 for 131 yards AND he threw 2 INTs. Recall last year that LSU “folks” wanted to fire Les Miles and buy him out. Do not be surprised to hear that chorus repeated later this year…

Dwight Perry had this comment about the Wisconsin/LSU game in the Seattle Times last weekend:

“Wisconsin emerged No. 1 in The Princeton Review’s annual rankings of the nation’s top party schools.

“And Badger students probably wrapped up the title for 2017, too, after Saturday’s 16-14 upset of fifth-ranked LSU.”

Georgia beat UNC comfortably but the story in that game was the return of Georgia RB, Nick Chubb. He had surgery to repair a horrific injury last year and spent a lot of time in rehab. People wondered how far back he might be for this season. Well, he carried the ball 32 times last week and gained 222 yards. Chubb is an excellent running back. In his 15 college football games, he has gained 100 yards or more in 14 of them. The one game he did not do that was the one where he suffered that knee injury last year on his first carry of the game.

Alabama looked discombobulated for the first 15-20 minutes of their game against USC. Make no mistake, USC has some good players and great athletes on its squad. However, once Alabama “found itself” the rout was on. The final score was 52-6 and this pair of stats is telling:

    USC ran the ball 30 times for 64 yards
    Alabama ran the ball 45 times for 242 yards

    Takeaways from this game: The game was not close and Alabama’s defense is really good once again.

Oh, I read a report that Joe Namath was “Live-Tweeting” the Alabama/USC game. Question:

    Are you even minimally sorry that you missed out on that commentary?

Brad Rock had this comment on the Alabama/USC game in the Deseret News earlier this week:

“From Sportspickle.com: ‘Lane Kiffin helps Alabama destroy USC program previously destroyed by Lane Kiffin.’”

The Notre Dame/Texas game was about as entertaining a game as you could wish to see. It is a shame that either team had to lose. It took 2 OTs for Texas to prevail.

Ole Miss had a 22-point lead on Florida State and lost by double digits. Yes, Florida State is very good but here are a couple of things the Ole Miss team needs to think about:

    The Ole Miss defense relies on speed. The Ole Miss offense is a hurry-up/tempo offense. By the end of the game, the Ole Miss defenders were gassed. Ole Miss needs to do a bit of clock management when it has the ball.

    One way to do that might be to run the football once in a long while.

    On defense, Ole Miss needs to recruit some defensive backs who can cover opposing pass-catchers.

Florida State defensive lineman, DeMarcus Walker dominated the game with 4.5 sacks and innumerable hurries on the Ole Miss QB.

Oh, Houston went out and did it. They beat Oklahoma by double-digits despite being a 13-point underdog. The win was not a fluke; Houston was the better team on the field. They have an upcoming game against Louisville that will likely be a huge game for both schools. At least for the moment, Houston is in the College Football Playoff discussion.

There will be some interesting matchups and things to look for in the upcoming week.

    1. BC will play UMass. For some reason, UMass dropped out of the MAC to become an independent. I am sure that makes sense to someone at the school but it is not clear to me. BC is not going to run up big scoring totals this year – or just about any year under this coaching regime – but if they are ever going to do so, this is their opportunity.

    2. Penn State will travel to Pitt to renew an old – and bitter – rivalry that has been dormant ever since 2000. However, these schools do have a history; they have met 96 times and Penn State leads the series 50-42-4.

    3. Tennessee will try to look more like a “Top Ten Team” this week against VA Tech. The game will be held at Bristol Motor Speedway – for some reason – and they hope to see 150,000 fans in the seats.

    4. Utah and BYU will renew The Holy War. This is an intense rivalry that was on hiatus for a couple of years. Good to have it back… In the Las Vegas Bowl last year, Utah took a 35-0 lead early on and held on to win the game as BYU came back to make it 35-28. Should be a good game.

    5. Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Ole Miss suffered losses last week that had to hurt. Will these teams be primed to “take it out on someone” this week?

The Ponderosa Games:

There were 9 Ponderosa Games last week and the record for favorites covering was 5-4-0.

Louisville, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State and Washington covered

Arkansas, Florida, Iowa and Mississippi State did not cover.

This week we have 15 Ponderosa Spread Games:

UCF at Michigan – 35.5 (53): UCF wants to join the Big 12. They do not want to lose this game by 50 points; that will not impress the Big 12 folks.

E. Michigan at Missouri – 25 (55.5): I saw a little of the Missouri/ W. Virginia game last week. E. Michigan has to be pretty bad to be a 25-point dog to Missouri.

La-Monroe at Oklahoma – 47 (65.5): The oddsmakers clearly think that the Sooners are going to be pissed and will take it out on whomever is in front of them. Remember, Oklahoma has Ohio State next on the schedule; at best this is a tune-up game; at worst, the Sooners may be looking past this game… Forty-seven points is a bushel basket full of points.

Akron at Wisconsin – 24 (47.5): Wisconsin has to avoid a letdown after an emotional win over LSU last week.

Tulsa at Ohio State – 29 (73): Ohio State is capable of scoring 73 points all by itself here.

Troy at Clemson – 36.5 (63): Granted Auburn is a better team than Troy, but Clemson did not look as if should be more than a 5 TD favorite over anyone last week.

UTEP at Texas – 30 (59.5): If Texas suffers a letdown and loses here, whatever Charlie Strong earned in terms of respect last week will be gone in a flash.

Nevada at Notre Dame – 28 (61): Notre Dame also wants to kick some butt this week…

Idaho at Washington – 37 (60): At least Idaho does not have to travel a great distance to get its ass kicked this week.

W. Kentucky at Alabama – 28.5 (61.5): W. Kentucky will put up a better fight than USC did last week.

UVa at Oregon – 24.5 (70.5): UVa lost to Richmond – handily – last week and now travels about 3000 miles to get stomped by Oregon. It is going to be a LONG year in Charlottesville.

Florida Atlantic at Miami (FL) – 24.5 (61.5): Miami is on the road back to elite status, right?

SMU at Baylor – 32 (76): Will the new Baylor coach run up the score the way the old Baylor coach liked to do?

Wyoming at Nebraska – 24.5 (58): Best thing you can say about this game is that it is a “border war”.

UNLV at UCLA – 26 (58.5): Maybe this game will be interesting to someone, somewhere…

Games of Interest:

BC – 16.6 at UMass (40): You will not see many Total Lines for college football as low as 40. So take a moment and look at it. Do not look at the game and do not bet on the game. Just look at that Total Line …

Arkansas at TCU – 7.5 (59.5): Arkansas did not impress last week but Arkansas is not a bad team. TCU is also a good team. This should be a good game. I think the defenses play well here so I’ll take this game to stay UNDER.

Ohio at Kansas – 3 (59.5): Can Kansas win back-to-back home games here? It is an interesting question – – but not interesting enough to get me to watch the game or bet on it.

Penn State at Pitt – 6 (48): The oddmakers think this will be a low scoring affair and I agree. As is my preference, that means I will take Penn State plus the points even on the road in a “rivalry renewal game.”

Northern Illinois at USF – 15 (57): N. Illinois opened the season flying west a long distance to play Wyoming. Next they fly southeast a long distance to play USF. Is the team sponsored by Travelocity?

Wake Forest at Duke – 4.5 (43.5): Wake had its hands full beating Tulane last week and Tulane just isn’t all that good. I like Duke to win and cover at home.

Kentucky at Florida – 16.5 (49): Kentucky got rolled by So. Mississippi last week. I do not think Florida is championship material but I think they are better than So. Miss. I’ll take Florida at home to win and cover.

S. Carolina at Mississippi St – 6.5 (45): It looks to me as if S. Carolina is in a program rebuilding phase. Mississippi State went through that phase several years ago. However, Mississippi State “screwed the pooch” last week against S. Alabama (see above). I think the Mississippi State coaches will have the team frothing at the mouth for this one and in the end talent will out. I’ll take Mississippi State and lay the points.

VA Tech vs Tennessee – 11 (54) Game to be played at Bristol Motor Speedway: This is season #1 for VA Tech in the “post-Frank-Beamer Era” and it may be too much to ask for them to take on a very talented Tennessee team even though Tennessee underwhelmed last week against Appalachian State (see above). I think the Vols’ offense will be primed to show what it can really do. I like this game to go OVER.

Iowa State at Iowa – 15.5 (52): This is always a big rivalry game and Iowa State has surprised the bigger program guys more than once in a while. I am leery about playing the spread here, but I do think that this game will stay UNDER the Total Line.

UNC – 7.5 at Illinois (58): Short and simple here. I think UNC is the better squad and will dominate here. I’ll take UNC on the road and lay the points. I also think this will be an offensive game. I’ll also take the game to go OVER.

BYU at Utah – 3.5 (45): I think this game will go down to the wire and that half-point hook on top of a field-goal spread makes me interested. I will not be shocked if BYU wins outright so I’ll take BYU plus the points here.

Washington St at Boise St – 10.5 (72.5): Time for Washington St. to wake up after another loss to a Div 1-AA team in the opener (see above). It looks as if the “Washington St. formula” is in place again this year – – passing offense, little defense. I know Boise St is tough at home, but that line looks fat to me. I’ll take Washington St plus the points. I also like the game to go OVER.

Texas Tech at Arizona St. – 3 (80): Going on last year’s form, neither team seemed to grasp the concept of “pass defense” and both teams loved to throw the football. However, it is still a bit early in the season to think that both offenses can be sufficiently dialed-in to reach that Total Line. I like the game to stay UNDER.

Cal at San Diego St. – 7 (61.5): If pre-season polls mean anything – – and they most certainly do not – – people think San Diego St. is going to be very good this year. Cal opened in Australia against Hawaii who also get their lunch handed to them by Michigan last week. Hawaii is clearly not going to be very good this year. I will allow the pollsters to influence my thinking here and take San Diego St. to win and cover at home.

Finally, I just admitted to being influenced by the pre-season polls in my last Mythical Pick. Notwithstanding that fact, I am not a fan of pre-season – or even early season – polls/rankings/whatevers. Steelers’ RB, LeVeon Bell seems to agree with me on that point given this recent Tweet of his:

“think in college football, it shouldn’t be anymore preseason ranks…I feel like teams should earn their spot based of the first 4-5 weeks”

Can I get an AMEN ??!!

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 9/3/16

Welcome back to the world of Mythical Picks. For the benefit of new readers that have come on board since last Fall, let me tell you what these weekly features will be about. They are formulaic to a large extent. My intention is to write a “weekly thing” that is focused on college football – and on the wagering aspects related to college football. [Aside: I cannot promise that I will not miss a week for the season; I will try not to but sometimes life intervenes …] And that point makes me offer the following declarations:

    I make “Picks” in these rants. They are called “Mythical Picks” because I do NOT and would NOT wager real money on all of the “Picks” that I offer here.

    I am completely in favor of legalized wagering on sporting events like college football. Having said that, I do NOT advocate illegal gambling in any form.

    Even in the situation where one would have access to totally legal gambling on college football games – e.g. you live within walking distance of The Strip in Las Vegas – you should not wager on tens or dozens of games per week. Money management is as important an aspect of gambling as is “picking”.

    Here is my rule of thumb for making a real wager on a college – or professional – football game. I am not saying this is the only rule to follow nor am I saying it is the best rule to follow. It is the one that I follow:

      I bet on games where I think the line is off by at least 3 points in one direction – and preferably by 4 points.

I will make a lot of Mythical Picks on various games every week and I will begin each week with a summary of how I did on the previous week. Last season, I made Mythical Picks for 212 college football games; the final record for the season was 106-101-5. Here is what that means:

    I was right more times than I was wrong.

    Had I made the same wager on all 212 games, I would have been a loser given the vig that I would have to have laid to make the wagers.

    The lesson from that is that one should only make real wagers on fewer games than you think you have a minor opinion about.

Now, before we go further into the process here, let me be sure that everyone understands what is to follow. No one with an IQ equal to or greater than his/her shoe size would even consider using any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real college football game this week where said wager involves real money. Anyone dumb enough to do that would fall into this category:

    You are dumb enough to believe that a microscope is one-millionth of a bottle of mouthwash.

General Comments:

In this section of these rants, I will typically do two things:

    1. I will track the progress of the Division III Linfield College football team through the season. The reason for this is that the last time Linfield had a losing record in football was in 1956. It is the longest streak of winning seasons for any team in any major sport in North America. I did not attend Linfield; no one in my family attended Linfield; I visited the campus once just to see their stadium and take some pictures. I track this because I want Linfield to continue their “streak”.

    2. I also make “General Comments” about college football here.

Linfield college does not play this weekend; they begin their schedule on September 10; therefore, my comments regarding their progress toward a winning season this week are finished right now.

So, now let me make a few comments regarding the state of college football as most fans know the sport. I think that the College Football Playoff system has had a most positive influence on the sport for one very simple reason:

    The Selection Committee who determine which 4 teams ultimately get to compete for the College Football Championship at the end of the year have made it clear – and have backed up their words with actions – that “strength of schedule” matters.

    Hallelujah and thanks be to The Selection Committee for this.

That action by The Selection Committee has prodded some of the “big-time” schools in many of the “power conferences” to look at their scheduling prior to conference play and to upgrade it just a bit. The opening week card this year is straight-up evidence to support that assertion and every college football fan should stand and toast The Selection Committee with a “Hear! Hear!” sometime this weekend.

In previous years, there might have been two – or at most three – out-of-conference games on the card where the two teams involved might be of similar quality. Opening weekend often gave the college football fan an overdose of:

    Geno’s Barber College at Enormous State University – 45 (52)

Some folks may think games like that represent “betting opportunities” and maybe they actually do. However, for fans who are not going to bet on such a game, the contest itself is uninteresting at best. Even if you are a passionate alum of Enormous State, can you really be excited about the second half of the game if the score is 38-0 at halftime?

As you will see later in this piece, the opening week schedule for the 2016 season is very different. There are plenty of real games involving real teams playing each other. Thank you to The Selection Committee…

There is one game in particular this weekend I want to talk about here. On 3 September (that would be Saturday this week) Oklahoma travels to Houston to play the Cougars. That game can put multiple ripples into the pond of college football. Consider:

    1. The Big 12 is looking to expand. The city of Houston is an attractive place for the Big 12 to be simply because of the population of Houston (estimated at 2.2 million by the US Census Bureau). Oklahoma is one of the “big dogs” in the current incarnation of the Big 12.

    2. Last year, Houston finished the year with a 13-1 record; and in their bowl game, they beat Florida State handily by 2 touchdowns. The only loss came on the road at UConn. Houston did not play the most difficult schedule in the country by any means last year simply because they were in the American Athletic Conference which is hardly over-burdened with top-shelf football teams. Nonetheless, they were 13-1 and they beat Florida State handily and no one thinks Florida State is the equivalent of the Florida Asthmatics Institute.

    3. Look at the schedule for Houston this year. IF – and it is a big IF – they find a way to beat Oklahoma this week, it is POSSIBLE that they will finish the season undefeated at 13-0 and if that happens, what might The Selection Committee do with them when it comes to naming the four teams that play for the College Football Championship?

    4. This is an early-season game between one team with a 70-year pedigree in college football against an upstart team. But it is a game that you should not ignore if you think there is a chance that an “upstart team” might someday make it into the Gang of Four competing for the College Football Championship. Larry Culpepper would likely approve…

The sidebar to a win by Houston here has to do with its potential invitation to join the Big 12. Will Oklahoma be willing to admit a team to the league that just beat it? Do they have enough influence among the other schools essentially to “blackball” Houston if they feel vindictive about such a potential loss? That game has meaning on various levels – and it is not even the best game of the weekend by a longshot.

I did a small measure of research about the upgrading of out-of-conference schedules by some of the big-time schools in the power conferences. The results were mixed – but trending is what I perceive to be a positive direction:

    Kudos to:

      Wisconsin and LSU – they are playing each other
      Ohio State and Oklahoma – they are playing each other
      Michigan State and Notre Dame – they are playing each other
      Michigan State (again) and BYU – they are playing each other
      Alabama and USC – they are playing each other
      Ole Miss and Florida State – they are playing each other
      Auburn and Clemson – they are playing each other
      Texas A&M and UCLA – they are playing each other
      K-State and Stanford – they are playing each other
      Texas and Notre Dame (again) – they are playing each other
      TCU and Arkansas – they are playing each other
      Arizona and BYU (again) – they are playing each other

    Disrespect to:

      Michigan will play Hawaii, UCF and Colorado out-of-conference and all at home no less.

      Maryland will play Howard, Fla Atlantic and UCF out-of-conference

      Kentucky will play So Miss, New Mexico St. Austin Peay and Louisville out-of-conference.

      You get the idea here – there are loads of schools that have not yet gotten the memo that upgrading the out-of-conference schedule is trending.

There has already been one college football game; the NCAA seems to be copying the NFL’s move to take their game to other countries. Cal opened the season playing Hawaii – – in Australia. Cal won the game 51-31 and a couple of the stats from the game are sort of interesting:

    Cal lost Jared Goff at QB for this season since Goff was the #1 overall pick in the NFL draft. Not to worry, Goff’s replacement – Davis Webb – threw for 441 yards in his first game under center. Do you get the idea that Cal has a potent offensive system?

    In that same game, Hawaii ran up a total offense of 482 yards. Do you get the idea that Cal did not do much recruiting for defensive players?

The Ponderosa Games:

About 25 years ago, I started to track games that had big spreads to see if favorites could still cover large numbers at a reasonable rate. What I learned was that in most seasons, the guys who set the lines are very good at coming close to the outcomes. In most seasons, the favorites cover just about half the time and the dogs cover about half the time. I track this because I find it interesting; it is not a “betting system”.

Last year was an unusual year for Ponderosa Games. The favorites covered at an inordinately low rate. The final tally was 38-49-1 for favorites covering.

I call them Ponderosa Games because The Ponderosa was the large ranch owned by the Cartwrights on the old TV western, Bonanza. The Ponderosa was a “big spread”; these games have “big spreads”; get it?

Since this is my creation, I get to make the rules. My definition of a Ponderosa Game is very simple:

    The spread has to be 24 points or more.

So, this week we have 9 Ponderosa Games. Please note that the huge favorite is at home in every case; one of the sad features of college football is that when big schools schedule patsies, they do so in a way that makes the patsy do the traveling.

Charlotte at Louisville – 40 (59.5): This line has been relatively stable all week.

Hawaii at Michigan – 40 (54.5): I wonder if Hawaii flew directly from Australia to Michigan for this game or if they stopped off in Hawaii so the players might – you know – go to a class or two.

Miami (Oh) at Iowa – 30 (52): This spread opened at 30 and has been dropping.

Bowling Green at Ohio St – 28 (64): The Total Line opened at 56 and has shot up by 8 points. Bettors must think Urban Meyer is going to run it up this week. He wouldn’t do that, would he?

S. Alabama at Mississippi St – 28 (54): This spread opened at 33.5; it is down 5.5 points. The Total Line opened at 58.5; it is down 4.5 points.

La Tech at Arkansas – 26 (52): This spread opened at 20.5; it is up 5.5 points. The Total Line opened at 56.5; it is down 4.5 points.

UMass at Florida – 36.5 (50): I could understand UMass scheduling a game in Gainesville in late November just to get out of the cold weather. But why they are in Gainesville for a football game that looks to be an organized ass-kicking in August is beyond me.

Rutgers at Washington – 26.5 (54.5): Lots of air miles to play a football game that does not look like it will be interesting after about the first 20 minutes…

Fresno St at Nebraska – 28 (62): Only about half the air miles compared to the game above to play a game that looks like it will not be interesting after about the first 20 minutes.

The SHOE Tournament:

This section will demonstrate the difference between most sports commentators and the commentary you get coming out of Curmudgeon Central. Everyone loves to argue about who is “really” the best team in the country; I enjoy that sort of debate too. However, I also would love to know who is the worst team in the country. And, I came up with a way to do that without any polls; I would love to determine the worst team in the country on the field.

My idea is The SHOE Tournament. At the end of the season a Selection Committee – I would be happy to do this by myself if no one else is interested – will pick a field of 8 bad football teams and seed them from #1 (the perceived worst team) through #8. Then the teams play 4 games according to the seedings and – here is the twist – the winner gets to go home and the loser has to continue to play. Finally, we would have the loser of the final game and we would have the worst team of the year.

Why do I call it the SHOE Tournament? Because the team that “loses out” and is the worst team of the year is dubbed:

    The Steaming Heap Of Excrement – The SHOE Team.

There is one caveat here. I think that early season polls for football – and basketball – teams are beyond meaningless. Therefore, in order to be something short of hypocritical here, I will not even begin ranking teams that are in consideration for the SHOE tournament until at least mid-October when the candidate teams will have shown their ineptitude on the field and not merely on paper.

Games of Interest:

Games of interest might be ones that have interesting wagering angles or they might be ones involving two really good teams – or two really bad ones. Or, a game might just be interesting to me for some inexplicable and irrelevant reason. If anyone is looking for some sort of pattern to these games of interest, I suggest that you will find a yeti before you find a pattern here.

By the way, times mentioned here are EDT…

(Thurs Nite) Tulane at Wake Forest – 17 (43.5): Wake Forest was hardly a juggernaut last year but they do return plenty of starting players. Have they improved or have they merely gotten a year older? Tulane was a bad team last year and they have a new head coach who arrived there via Georgia Southern. Purely a hunch; I’ll take Tulane plus the points here because this looks to be a low scoring game and that is a fat line.

(Thurs Nite) South Carolina at Vandy – 4.5 (42.5): The total line opened at 46.5 and has fallen steadily to this level. S. Carolina had a good defense last year and should hold Vandy in check. S. Carolina had a mediocre offense last year and they have a new coach and a new system this year. I like this game to stay UNDER.

(Thurs Nite) Oregon St. at Minnesota – 13 (55.5): Neither team is an “aerial threat” unless one of them recruited a complete unknown to play QB and secretly signed Usain Bolt to play WR. I see this as a grind-it-out game between two middle-of-the-pack (at best) teams in their respective conferences. I like Oregon state plus the points here and I like the game to stay UNDER.

(Fri Nite) Army at Temple – 16 (46.5): Temple won 10 games and went to a bowl game last year. Army was a bad team. I think this year will be much the same for both schools. I like Temple to win and cover here.

(Fri Nite) Kansas St at Stanford – 15.5 (48.5): I think both teams will put good offenses on the field this year so I think that Total Line is awfully low. I like this game to go OVER.

(Sat Morning) Georgia Tech – 3 vs Boston College (44) Game is in Dublin, Ireland: Both coaches love to run the football and sometimes Georgia Tech gets its running game into a rhythm and rolls over the opponent. BC will play tough defense so that steamrollering is not likely to happen. BC will also likely play one of the most tepid offenses in college football this year. Just for giggles, I’ll take this game to stay UNDER.

(Sat Afternoon) Missouri at W. Virginia – 10 (50): Mizzou had a bad year last year and changed the coaching staff. That does not auger well for this year. West Virginia is a good offensive team. I like West Virginia to win and cover here.

(Sat Nite) New Mexico St at UTEP – 9.5 (60): These are two bad teams playing each other. Unless you are an alum of one of these schools or have a blood relative playing on one of the teams, do not waste your time watching this. Moreover, if you even think of placing a wager on this game, get yourself to a 12-Step Program immediately.

(Sat Nite) SMU – 9.5 at North Texas (68.5): Ditto the comments directly above…

(Sat Nite) Clemson – 7 at Auburn (62.5): Clemson lost a bunch of players from their defense to the early rounds of the NFL Draft in April. One question for the Tigers is whether they can replace that many very good defenders in short order. Clemson did not lose Deshaun Watson at QB, however, and that means their offense will be high-powered. Auburn had a down year last season finishing the regular season at 6-6 with two of the wins coming at the expense of Jacksonville State (Division 1-AA) and Idaho (a really bad team). I think they are over-matched here even at home. I like Clemson to win and cover.

(Sat Afternoon) UCLA at Texas A&M – 3 (53.5): Last year, the Aggies morphed from a let-it-fly offensive team in the Johnny Football years to a solid defensive team that did not make the offense feel the pressure to score a TD on every possession. I suspect that will continue to be the case in College Station this year. If I am correct, that should keep this game as a low scoring one so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

(Sat Afternoon) LSU – 10 vs Wisconsin (44.5) Game is in Lambeau Field in Green Bay: Both teams here live by running the football; both defenses will need to be ready to stop power running from beginning to end. I love LSU running back, Leonard Fournette and I give the edge to LSU even this far from home against a good team. But that line looks awfully fat. I’ll take Wisconsin plus the points.

(Sat Afternoon) UNC vs Georgia – 2.5 (56) Game is at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta: Georgia has Nick Chubb back at RB after surgery and rehab on a bad knee injury from early last year. Georgia also has a new coaching staff. I think UNC will be a good team this year but I like Georgia even more. For no particular reason, I’ll take Georgia and lay the points.

(Sat Afternoon) Oklahoma – 12 at Houston (68): See comments above about why this is an interesting game and a potentially important game. I think this game will light up the scoreboard; I doubt either defense will put the clamps on the opposing offense. I like the game to go OVER. Now I would really like to see Houston win the game outright to stir things up for the rest of the season with regard to rankings and things like that. However, let this be a lesson; you do not wager with your emotions. I can find Houston on the money line at +395 – – but I am not going to make that pick.

(Sat Nite) USC vs Alabama – 11.5 (53.5) Game is in Arlington Texas at the “Jerry Dome”: Alabama lost defensive stars to the NFL Draft in April as they do every season. And if this year is like any other year since Nick Saban took over there, they will have defenders who will be coveted by NFL teams come next April. USC has good athletes on its side of the ball to be sure – – but I do not see USC scoring a whole lot here. I like this game to stay UNDER.

(Sat Nite) BYU at Arizona – 1 (60.5): This game should be in the middle of the 2nd quarter when the USC/Alabama game ends. Consider it the cherry on top of your ice cream sundae for dessert. Purely a hunch, I’ll take BYU plus the point here.

(Sun Nite) Notre Dame – 3.5 at Texas (60): These teams played last year in South Bend and Texas got their lunches handed to them; I suspect that the coaches may have mentioned that a time or two during the pre-season preparation for this game. This game will be closer than last year but I still like Notre Dame to win and cover.

(Mon Nite) Ole Miss vs Florida State – 4 (57) Game is in Orlando, FL: The game will take place in Camping World Stadium which only sounds as if it should be located in the middle of Disney World. Actually, football fans know this venue better as The Citrus Bowl except that it has been massively renovated. I like Florida State this year; I’ll take them here to win and cover.

For new readers, this is an example of what you can expect most every week during the college football season. [Aside: By the way there will be an NFL flavor of Mythical Picks too once the Exhibition Season is over.] I hope you come along for the ride.

Finally, here is a comment from former Purdue head coach, Alex Agase, about why he did not spend a lot of time recruiting in California:

“Any kid who would leave that wonderful weather to come here is too dumb to play for us.”

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 12/5/15

This will be the last iteration of the NCAA flavor of Mythical Picks for the season. Please keep the cheering down to a dull roar. I have never – and will not begin now – to try to make picks for bowl games that mean precisely nothing. I may have something to say about college football or have a pick for a single game somewhere down the road. In such a case, I will incorporate it into one of the daily rants. Specifically, I will continue to “report” on the progress of Linfield College football in the 2015 season via daily rants.

Oh, not to worry, the final seedings for the imaginary – yet more interesting than three quarters of the actual bowl games – SHOE Tournament appear below…

Last week’s Mythical Picks were plain vanilla in terms of outcome. The record last week was 9-8-0 leaving the season record at 102-97-5.

The “Best Pick” of the week was taking Texas/Texas Tech Over 72; the total score went north of 90 points.

The “Worst Picks” of the week were all of the 8 losses. Other than the Stanford minus 4 pick, none of them were even close.

No one should use any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real college football game this weekend should such a wager involve real money. If you are dumb enough to do that, you also probably think:

    A love triangle is a problem best solved in geometry class.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats won their third round game in the NCAA Division III football tournament beating Cortland State 38-22. That puts the Wildcats’ record at 11-0 for the season and puts them in the “Elite Eight” for those playoffs. This week, the Wildcats host the next round of the playoffs when the Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusaders bring their 11-1 record to McMinnville. The Crusaders only loss for the year was on Halloween to Hardin-Simmons by 3 points but the Crusaders avenged that loss in the Division III playoffs beating Hardin-Simmons by a score of 37-19. It should be a good game. Go Wildcats!

Last week, Memphis beat SMU 63-0. The interesting stat from the game was that Memphis QB, Paxton Lynch threw for 7 TDs. What makes it even more interesting is that he threw those 7 TD passes in the first half of the game. The score at halftime was 56-0. To say SMU “struggled” in the game is a monumental understatement; obviously, the defensive unit had no clue how to stop Memphis; on the other side of the ball, the SMU offense gained only 97 yards of offense for the day and turned the ball over 5 times. Remember this performance when you see the seedings for the SHOE Tournament below.

In another game that had SHOE Tournament importance, E. Michigan came from ahead to lose to Central Michigan 35-28. E. Michigan led 21-7 at the half – – and then gave up 28 points in the third quarter. You may be sure that you will see E. Michigan in the SHOE Tournament below.

Wyoming beat UNLV last week 35-28 giving the Cowboys 2 wins for the year and dropping their seeding in the SHOE Tournament.

UTEP came from behind to beat N. Texas 20-17. That was UTEP’s 5th win for the year meaning they could not possibly have fit into the SHOE Tournament. But N. Texas has been a fixture for that tournament for quite a while now. Here is how the game was so close:

    UTEP total offense was 256 yards
    UTEP fumbled 6 times and lost 5 of them
    N. Texas total offense was 205 yards
    N. Texas lost 1 fumble and threw 1 INT
    N. Texas penalized 10 times for 112 yards

Aren’t you glad you missed that game?

Akron beat Kent State 20-0 last week but the stats for the game were very lopsided. Akron had the ball for 40:59 in the game; Akron held Kent State to 135 yards total offense; Akron held Kent State to 10 yards rushing on 20 rushing attempts. Adding insult to injury, Akron also recovered three fumbles in the game. Now look at the final score of 20-0 and you will wonder how it could have been so close…

Kentucky led Louisville 24-7 in the first half. The final score was Louisville 38 and Kentucky 24. Not much more to say about that one…

In games that actually mattered last week, Houston disposed of Navy 52-31. At the end of the 3rd quarter, it was 38-17; the outcome here was not seriously in doubt. That victory puts Houston in this week’s AAC Championship Game against Temple (more about that game later). Houston QB, Greg Ward, Jr. led the Cougars’ offense throwing for 308 yards and 3 TDs. Navy gets the week off to prepare for its game against Army next weekend.

Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State 58-23 to win the Big 12 Championship for the year. It turns out that State’s 10-0 record was a mirage…

Ohio State beat Michigan 42-13 but the game was actually still in doubt at halftime when Ohio State only led 14-10. Ohio State’s running game returned to life last week:

    Ezekiel Elliot ran for 214 yards and 2 TDs
    JT Barrett ran for 139 yards
    Total rushing yards for Ohio State were 396 yards
    Total offense for Michigan was 364 yards.

However, Ohio State will not play in the Big 10 Championship Game because Michigan State beat Penn State handily 55-16. This game was also still in doubt at halftime when Michigan State only led 20-10. However, the second half belonged exclusively to Michigan State.

Meanwhile, Iowa beat Nebraska 28-20 running the Hawkeyes’ record to 12-0 and setting up an Iowa/Michigan State game for the Big 10 Championship this weekend.

UNC ran its record to 11-1 beating NC State 45-34. Actually, this game was over very early on. UNC led 35-7 at the end of the 1st quarter. UNC goes on to play Clemson in the ACC Championship Game this weekend.

Clemson played a rivalry game last week beating South Carolina 37-32. The ACC might not have a CFP participant if UNC wins the Championship Game. The Selection Committee has done everything but spell out that UNC’s body of work for the year is not real good. Even though UNC is 11-1, consider:

    The loss is to South Carolina – a 3-win team.
    One win is over North Carolina A&T (Division 1-AA)
    One win is over Delaware (Division 1-AA)

The SEC could be in for turmoil too if Florida were to beat Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Florida has two losses and the last one was to Florida State in which the Florida offense scored no points. However, a win over Alabama would mean that Alabama would have 2 losses also and would not be a conference champion. Let me say this unequivocally:

    If you are someone who desperately wants to see the CFP expanded to 8 teams, you have to root very hard for Florida to win on Saturday. If the SEC has no team in the CFP field, the cries to expand the tournament will hit a crescendo.

    Personally, I like the 4-team field well enough to hope merely for a good competitive game for me to watch.

In rivalry games:

    Washington beat Washington State in the Apple Cup
    Oregon beat Oregon State in the Civil War
    Alabama beat Auburn in the Iron Bowl
    Ole Miss beat Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl


The Ponderosa Games:

Last week there were 3 Ponderosa Games and none of the favorites covered.

Appalachian State, Central Michigan and Oregon failed to cover.

That brings the season record for Ponderosa favorites covering to 38-49-1. That is one of the most unbalanced season records I can recall since I started tracking this sort of thing in the mid-90s.

There are no Ponderosa Games on the schedule this week and the only college game on tap for next week is Army/Navy. Even though Army is not very good this year and Navy is ranked at #23 in the country, I doubt that there will be a Ponderosa number on that rivalry game. I believe the final record for Ponderosa games will be 38-49-1.

The SHOE Tournament:

The CFP determines the National Champion. If there were a SHOE Tournament, it would determine the worst team in the country, the SHOE Team – the Steaming Heap Of Excrement. Here is how that tournament would operate:

    A Selection Committee (me) would pick the 8 teams to contend for this level of ignominy and then would seed the teams where the #1 seed is presumably the worst team in the country. However, that level of sordidness would be determined on the field.

    The seeded teams would play in the normal seeding order #1 hosts #8 and #2 hosts #7 etc. Here is the kicker:

      The winners can stop playing but the losers have to soldier on and play again the following week.

      One team will wind up losing 3 games in the SHOE Tournament and be this year’s SHOE Team.

Without further ado, here are the teams for this year’s Tournament:

#1: Kansas – 0-11, losing margin of 31 points per game, worst defense in the country

#2: UCF – 0-11, worst offense in the country

#3: N. Texas – 1-11, lost to 1-AA Portland State 66-7

#4: La-Monroe – 1-11, win over 1-AA Nichols St., plays New Mex St. this week, so what?

#5: Wyoming – 2-10, losing margin is 15 points per game; lost to E. Michigan

#6 E. Michigan – 1-11, losing margin is 17 ppg, beat Wyoming and lost 10 in a row.

#7: Oregon St. – 2-10, losing margin is 18 ppg; 110th in offense and 117th in defense.

#8: SMU – 2-10; see above for last week’s debacle; a late surge of stink got them here.

Games of Interest:

Texas at Baylor – 20 (68): This is a meaningless game; so why is it a game of interest? Well, the anticipated resurgence of Texas football seems to be delayed just a tad and the Texas fanboys cannot be happy playing a game on a weekend where just about everyone else taking the field has a reason to do so. It looked for a while as if Texas might be bowl eligible and get themselves to a minor bowl game but the bottom fell out of that market over the last month. The Longhorns rank 104th in the country on offense and 86th on defense; that is not a recipe for success. Baylor will go to a bowl game but they had their eyes on something much bigger until losing last week to TCU in a monsoon. I put this game on the list to demonstrate why I do not pick bowl games. Neither team has any burning desire here; neither team will achieve anything of value from a win. So, the question is simple; which team will show up at kickoff playing hard as opposed to going through the motions? The answer to that question usually points to the team that will cover the spread in such a game and the answer to that question is best derived through mind-reading skills.

New Mexico St at La-Monroe “pick ‘em” (59): La-Monroe is a SHOE Tournament team playing a final game against a 3-win team and it is a “pick ‘em” game. People in Monroe, LA must have better things to do than to attend this monstrosity of a game.

W. Virginia – 5.5 at K-State (58): At least K-State has a reason to play hard in this game; the Wildcats have 5 wins and need 6 to be sure of a bowl invitation. I think this will be a high-scoring affair so I’ll take K-State plus the points and I’ll take the game to go OVER.

Temple at Houston – 6 (54.5): The Total Line opened the week at 57 and dropped quickly to this level where it seems to have settled. This is the AAC Championship Game and it matches a team that wins with offense (Houston, ranked 15th in the country) against a team that wins with defense (Temple, ranked 19th in the country). Make this a venue call, I’ll take Houston to win and cover.

USC vs. Stanford – 4.5 (58.5) [Game is in Santa Clara]: The spread here opened at 3.5 and the Total Line at 61. This is for the PAC-12 Championship and a win for USC would lock the PAC-12 out of the CFP. USC enters the game with 4 losses on its sheet; no amount of chaos involving upsets this week will result in a 4-loss team playing in the CFP. USC has a revenge factor going for it here; Stanford beat USC at Stanford earlier this year. I think the Total Line has moved in the wrong direction; I like this game to go OVER.

Florida vs. Alabama – 18 (40) [Game is in Atlanta]: The spread here opened at 15 and has climbed slowly but steadily to this level during the week. I am not a “trend bettor” but Alabama has won the last 4 games between these two teams by a cumulative score of 143-47. The Alabama defense is peaking; they have given up 41 points in their last 4 games. Florida struggles on offense and wins on defense; against Florida State the only points the Gators could muster was via a safety. I doubt Florida can play “grind-it-out-offense” and be even marginally successful here. The question is:

    Do they have a repertoire of “trick plays” they can go to in dire circumstances?

Normally, when I expect a low scoring game, I prefer to take the points particularly three scores worth of points. However, in this case I can easily see Florida scoring only once in the entire game. For two excellent defensive squads, I will just take this game to stay UNDER.

Air Force at San Diego St. – 6.5 (50): The Total Line opened at 52.5 and dropped to this level almost immediately. This game is for the Mountain West Championship. Both teams run the ball most of the time and they both do it effectively as demonstrated here:

    Air Force is 3rd in the country in rushing yards per game (323.2)
    San Diego St. is 15th in the country in rushing yards per game (235.5)

Air Force holds an edge there, but with regard to defending against the run:

    San Diego St. is 4th in the country against the run (95 yards per game)
    Air Force is 34th in the country against the run (139.5 yards per game).

If San Diego St. can limit the Air Force running game, the Falcons do not have a potent pass attack to resort to. For the year, Air Force only averages 138.6 yards per game meaning they rank 120th in the nation. I like San Diego St. to win and cover here.

UNC vs. Clemson – 4.5 (67.5) [Game is in Charlotte]: The Total Line for this game opened at 63 and shot up to this level in about 24 hours. At first glance, this game looks like a shoot-out. Clemson averages 503 yards per game and UNC averages 496. So the ball will just be racing from one end of the stadium to the other, right? Maybe not… The Clemson defense only gives up 288 yards per game and it is on defense where Clemson enjoys the advantage here; UNC allows 395 yards per game. Purely a hunch – and mixed with a bit of a wish for some degree of chaos in the final week for the Selection Committee to deal with – I’ll take UNC plus the points here and I’ll root for them to win the game to produce said chaos.

Michigan St. – 4 at Iowa (51) [Game is in Indy]: The winner here is the Big 10 Champ and will be a shoo-in for the CFP. Right now, Iowa is ranked 4th and Michigan St. is ranked 5th by the CFP Selection Committee so in essence this is a play-in game for the CFP. Iowa finished the season at 12-0; some folks have downgraded that accomplishment saying that Iowa did not have to play any of the best Big 10 teams and was “less than adventuresome” in its out of conference scheduling. Nonetheless, the last time an Iowa team went undefeated for an entire season was back in 1922; so this is a big deal. The expectation here is for an old-time, smash-mouth football game; neither team gets fancy on offense and both teams play tough defense. I smell a low-scoring game here so I’ll take Iowa plus the points.

Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. It is an appropriate way to bring the college football regular season to a close:

“From the ‘Sometimes These Headlines Just Write Themselves’ file:

“B1G awards: U-M’s Butt named Tight End of the Year”

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 11/28/15

Last week’s Mythical Picks were – to put it politely – less than satisfactory. The record for last week was 6-8-0 bringing the season record to 93-89-5.

The “Best Picks” last week were taking Temple +2 (They beat Memphis straight up.) and taking Michigan State +14 (They beat Ohio State straight up.).

The “Worst Pick” last week involved the Cal/Stanford game. I took Cal +11 and they did not cover and I took the game to go OVER 64 and it did not.

As evidenced by last week’s record, no one should take any information herein and use it as the basis for making a real wager on a real college football game involving real money on this weekend or any other weekend. If you are dumb enough to do this:

    You probably think khakis are what you need to start a car in Boston.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats won their first round game in the NCAA Division III football tournament last week beating Whitworth 48-10. That puts the Wildcats in the Sweet 16 and their next opponent will be Cortland State this Saturday in McMinnville, OR. The wildcats are 10-0 for the season; Cortland State will travel cross country from New York for the game and they bring a 9-2 record with them. Go Wildcats!

If someone wrote back in August that we would arrive at Thanksgiving week with 2 undefeated teams and that those teams would be Clemson and Iowa, can you please provide me with a link to that essay. I most certainly would never have predicted that. Yet, that is the case…

Before I get to my personal view of where we stand vis a vis the CFP tournament field, here is what I think about the announcements by Ezekiel Elliot and Cardale Jones that they will not be back at Ohio State next year and that they will declare for the NFL Draft:

    Duh !

    No one expected either of you to be back at Ohio State next year.

Here is how I see the CFP tournament field shaking out:

    Clemson: They have been ranked #1 in all the CFP Weekly Polls but they can ill-afford to lose to S. Carolina (who lost to The Citadel last week) or to UNC in the ACC Championship Game. Dabo Sweeney gets rather exercised when someone refers to “Clemsoning” – the art of losing a game to a team that one ought to beat handily. If they lose either of their next games, Sweeney will hear a bunch of questions about ‘Clemsoning”.

    UNC: They already have a loss to S. Carolina on their record and it stands out like a giant zit on a bride walking down the aisle. If they beat Clemson, they might be in the playoff; otherwise…

    Notre Dame: This is a “quasi-ACC team” given that they play 6 games against ACC opponents. They must beat Stanford this weekend to remain in consideration; if they do, their “claim to fame” is that their only loss came at the hands of Clemson (#1 in the polls) at Clemson by only 2 points in a monsoon.

    Michigan State: This is pretty simple; they need to beat Penn State this weekend because that will put them in the Big 10 Championship Game and then they need to beat Iowa in that game. If they do that, they are in the CFP. Their only loss (to Nebraska) came courtesy of a horribly blown call by the officials in the final moments of that game.

    Iowa: Their status is pretty simple too; they need to beat Nebraska this weekend and then win the Big 10 Championship Game. If they do that, they are in the CFP.

    Ohio State: They can still get in but it is going to take a lot of things to fall just right:

      1. Beat Michigan this weekend

      2. Watch Penn State beat Michigan State. That will put Ohio State into the Big 10 Championship Game.

      3. Beat Iowa in that game handily – similar to the way they beat Wisconsin in that game last year. The reason they need a big win is that the loss to Michigan State is a bad loss.

        They lost at home.
        They lost to a backup QB
        They had 5 first downs in the game.
        They generated 124 yards of offense in the game.

    Oklahoma: They have to beat Oklahoma State this weekend and – if I were on the Selection Committee – I would want to know a lot about the availability of QB Baker Mayfield. He had to come out of the game after taking a head shot in the first half of the game. In the second half, the Sooners were one-dimensional; they could not throw the ball and they looked very mediocre.

    Oklahoma State: They have to beat OU this weekend; one of those teams will be eliminated from CFP consideration by Sunday morning. State did not look good in their loss to Baylor at home last weekend.

    Baylor: They need to beat TCU this weekend; if they lose that game, they are toast. They also need Oklahoma State to beat Oklahoma because if Baylor winds up tied with Oklahoma, they will stay home because Baylor lost to Oklahoma at Baylor by 10 points. On the other hand, they beat Oklahoma State by 10 points at Oklahoma State.

    TCU: I do not think there is any way for TCU with its two losses to get into the CFP since there has to be at least one and possibly two Big 12 teams that will end the season with only one loss. However, they can spoil any chances Baylor has of getting in…

    Stanford: They are a longshot – even if they win out because they already have 2 losses on their record (Oregon and Northwestern). However, if they finish the season beating Notre Dame and then winning the PAC-12 Championship game over either UCLA or USC …

    Alabama: This is simple and straightforward. Bama needs to beat Auburn in the Iron Bowl and then beat Florida in the SEC Championship Game. If they do that, they are in.

    Florida: They need to beat Florida State this weekend and then beat Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. That is a tall order; those are two quality opponents. The “nightmare scenario” for the SEC fanboys would be:

      Florida loses to Florida State giving Florida its second loss

      Florida then beats Alabama meaning no team in the SEC has less than 2 losses on the record.

    Imagine the screeching if the Committee looks at the SEC teams having 2 losses and decides to invite neither of them.

Here are the four teams I think belong in the CFP – in alphabetical order:

    Alabama
    Clemson
    Michigan State
    Oklahoma

Now, all those four teams need to do is to take care of business…

The other thing I want to talk about this week is the story that folks at LSU want to fire Les Miles because – according to reports:

    He does not develop quarterbacks
    He has not beaten Alabama in 5 years
    He has not had LSU competing for national championships since 2011.

Look, all of those things are true and yet, I would like to offer a cautionary note to LSU folks. Please understand, I have no ties or allegiances to LSU or to any of its rival schools and I do not know Les Miles from Les Brown and his Band of Renown and/or 40 Miles of Bad Road [/Duane Eddy]. Recall in a moment of reflection what happened in these two circumstances:

    Michigan fired Lloyd Carr in 2007. He had won a national championship there; he had won the Big 10 Championship 5 times and his record there was 122-40. That is very comparable to Les Miles’ achievements at LSU. And what happened to Michigan after Carr was run out of Ann Arbor:

      3 years with Rich Rodriguez and an overall losing record.

      The “Brady Hoke Era” emblazoned with mediocrity.

      Then – – Jim Harbaugh 7 years later and a ray of hope.

    Tennessee fired Phil Fulmer in 2008. He had won a national championship there and compiled an overall record of 152-52. That is very comparable to Les Miles’ achievements at LSU. Here is what happened to Tennessee after Fulmer was run out of Knoxville:

      Lane Kiffin lasted a year and went 7-6

      Derek Dooley was there for 3 years and went 15-21 overall

      Butch Jones took over in 2013 and was 11-13 going into this year.

Les Miles will finish his 11th season at LSU this year. He has won a national championship there; he has been in the BCS championship game one other time and lost. In those 11 seasons he will have amassed 7 seasons with 10 or more wins. As of this morning, his overall record at LSU is 110-32. Perhaps he is “the problem” standing in the way of LSU achieving football glory; perhaps not. If the boosters succeed in running him out of Baton Rouge, they had best be right.

The Ponderosa Games:

Last week we had 8 Ponderosa Games and the favorite covered in 5 of them. That brings the cumulative record for favorites covering in Ponderosa Games to 38-46-1.

Auburn, BYU, La Tech, Middle Tennessee St and West Virginia covered.

Clemson, Florida and Kentucky did not cover.

This week we have 3 Ponderosa Games.

E. Michigan at C. Michigan – 24 (56.5): Nothing like a MAC game with a huge spread to convince me to look elsewhere for my football viewing enjoyment.

Oregon St at Oregon – 35 (68.5): This is a huge spread in a huge rivalry game – a game that actually has a name of its own. They call it “The Civil War” and the last time Oregon State won the game was in 2007.

La-Laf at Appalachian St – 24 (60): This spread opened at 21 points; to go up by 3 points would indicate that a lot of money came in early on Appalachian St. Why? I have no idea…

The SHOE Teams:

Barring an unexpected set of circumstances this week, these 6 teams will be in the SHOE Tournament to determine the SHOE Team for 2015 – the Steaming Heap Of Excrement. Final seeding will have to wait another week…

    E. Michigan 1-10
    Kansas 0-11
    La – Monroe 1-10
    N. Texas 1-10
    UCF 0-11
    Wyoming 1-10

That means I believe I will need 2 more teams to round out the field – and then I need to have a couple of other possibilities in the event that one of these teams pulls a big upset this week. So, waiting in the wings will be:

    Hawaii 2-10
    Oregon St 2-9
    Purdue 2-9
    SMU 2-9
    UMass 2-9

Games of Interest:

There are lots of interesting games this week because some games are important in conference standings and/or CFP rankings while others are simply big rivalry games. So, let me get to them…

(Thurs Evening) Texas Tech at Texas – 1 (72): When I was young, Texas always ended its season on thanksgiving weekend with a game against Texas A&M – before the Aggies joined the SEC. This is a “replacement rivalry game” in my mind but it is interesting this year because Texas Tech averages 221 yards per game more on offense than Texas does and Texas is the favorite in the game. That is because while Tech is 3rd in the country in total offense, they are also 126th in the country (3rd for the bottom) in total defense. You can check out this game during the Bears/Packers game or instead of that game if you want to see a points explosion. I like this game to go OVER.

Iowa – 2 at Nebraska (58): Iowa must win here to maintain position in the CFP rankings; losing this late in the season to a 5-6 Nebraska team that has already lost to Purdue and Illinois (shudder), might make Iowa unpalatable to the Selection Committee. It is not often that you see a team with an 11-0 record as only a 2-point favorite over a team that is 5-6. I like this game to go OVER.

Missouri at Arkansas – 14 (46): If Missouri loses this game, it will be Gary Pinkel’s last game on the sidelines. He is retiring to spend time with his family as he fights non-Hodgkins lymphoma. That should provide the team with some motivation but the real need for Mizzou is for the offense to come to life in the game if they are to win it – or even keep it close. The offense has not scored as many as 20 points in a game since October 3rd. The defense for Mizzou is fine; it ranks 11th in the country. I’ll take Missouri plus the points here with the hope that the offense will show up in something other than a semi-conscious state.

Navy at Houston (no lines): The winner here will play in the AAC Championship game. That is why this game is interesting. Houston was undefeated until last week when they lost to UConn. Why there are no lines is a mystery to me…

Washington St. at Washington (no lines): This is a huge rivalry game in the Pacific Northwest. Washington St. leads the nation in passing yardage (407 yards per game). Washington only gives up 209 yards per game passing. Just those stats make this game interesting.

Baylor – 1.5 at TCU (no Total Line): I have no idea why there is a spread but no Total Line for this game but that is the way it is at the moment. Baylor must win to stay relevant for the CFP rankings (see above). Both teams have “injury issues” at the quarterback position so there is no reason to make a pick on this game.

Ohio State at Michigan – 1 (45.5): If you do not realize that this is one of the biggest rivalry games of the year every year, then I wonder why you have been reading this stuff long enough to get to this sentence. Oh, and the winner of this game will be in the Big 10 Championship Game if Michigan State loses to Penn State. I think this will be a defensive game. I like the game to stay UNDER.

Penn State at Michigan State – 11 (46.5): Did Michigan State leave everything they have on the field last week against Ohio State? If so, they could spit the bit here. Otherwise, Michigan State is the better team and should win this game and move forward to the Big 10 Championship Game. Having said all that, given the fact that Michigan State QB, Connor Cook, is still recovering from an injury and that Michigan State has only played close games all year long, that spread looks awfully fat. I’ll take Penn State plus the points – even though I expect Michigan State to win the game straight up.

Duke – 4 at Wake Forest (46.5): This game is interesting simply because I think it will be low scoring. I like the game to stay UNDER.

Va Tech – 3.5 at UVa (51): This is a big rivalry game between two decidedly mediocre squads. A win for Tech will put them in a bowl game; the best UVa can hope for is to finish the season with a win and a 5-7 record. I see this as an offensive game; I’ll take the game to go OVER.

UNC – 5.5 at NC State (65): The spread opened at 7 and the Total Line opened at 61.5. That is a lot of line movement. UNC will be in the ACC Championship Game no matter what. As outlined above, they might catch the eye of the CFP Selection Committee with a win here and win over Clemson in that Championship Game so the game is somewhat meaningful to them. NC State is 7-4 on the season and already knows it will be in a bowl game; the meaningfulness of this game to the Wolfpack is that it is against “those guys” in “that school” about 25 miles from here. I think UNC is significantly the better team. UNC is 7-0 in ACC games; NC State is 3-4 in ACC games. I like UNC to win and cover.

Maryland – 1 at Rutgers (56): This game is interesting because it pits the two newest members of the Big 10 in a game that should remind everyone that neither team belongs in the same football conference with the rest of the Big 10. Neither team is any good; the game is most likely to be lost by one team as opposed to being won by one team. Avert your eyes…

Florida State – 2 at Florida (43.5): Florida had to go to OT to beat a sorry-assed Florida Atlantic team last week. My guess is that they were looking past that game to this one. A former colleague is a Florida alum. He said that he gave $500 to the school alumni fund every year – except in the years when Florida beat Florida State. In those years his contribution was $1000. This game is a big deal to a lot of people. Florida only gives up 14.5 points per game and Florida State only gives up 17 points per game. Since neither team is an offensive juggernaut, I do not know where that 44th point is going to come from. I like the game to stay UNDER.

Georgia – 5 at Georgia Tech (48): Neither team has performed this year up to the standards that fans have come to expect from them in the recent past. I do think that Georgia is the better team here so I’ll take them to win and cover even on the road.

K-State – 20 at Kansas (55): This has been a down year for K-State. However, they are averaging just under 30 points scored per game. This week, K-State goes against the worst scoring defense in the country; Kansas gives up an average of 46.2 points per game. With a win here and a win next week over West Virginia, K-State can still become bowl eligible. Kansas on the other hand will be in the SHOE Tournament. I like K-State to win and cover here.

Texas A&M at LSU – 5 (53.5): The Total Line opened at 50.5 and jumped up to this level in less than 24 hours. This is a “Les Miles Coaching For His Job Game” (see above). The Aggies give up 202.5 yards per game on the ground; LSU will run the ball with Leonard Fournette. I think that is the fulcrum for the game. I like LSU to win and cover.

Alabama – 14 at Auburn (48.5): Auburn’s offense is 377 yards per game and on average 201 of those yards come on the ground. Good luck running the ball for 200 yards on the Alabama Front-7. Meanwhile, Auburn’s defense gives up 181 yards per game on the ground and Derrick Henry will be running at them in this game. I like Alabama to win and cover here.

Clemson – 17 at S. Carolina (55): I know this is a rivalry game that energizes the whole state of South Carolina every year. Nevertheless, Clemson is the far better team and they do have a conference championship game to play next week. I think they are going to use this game as a scrimmage. I’ll take Clemson and lay the points.

Oklahoma – 6.5 at Oklahoma St (69): The lines seem to say that OU QB, Baker Mayfield, is fine and will play his normal game this week. If he does not, these lines are way out of whack. Since I have no idea as to his status, I’ll refrain from a pick here…

Mississippi – 1 at Mississippi St (64): The total Line opened at 60 and jumped quickly to this level. Ole Miss is the faster team and State is the bigger team. Speed kills. I’ll take Mississippi and lay the point.

Notre Dame at Stanford – 4 (55): Notre Dame has a realistic shot at the CFP without direct and obvious Divine intervention; Stanford can get in also but that would require direct and obvious Divine intervention. Notre Dame has a ton of injuries and they seem to have taken their toll. The Irish are 10-1 for the season but they needed a late TD to beat Temple by 4 points and they beat a woebegone BC team last week by only 3 points – and seemingly turned the ball over every other possession. Make this a venue call; I like Stanford to win and cover.

UCLA at USC – 3.5 (63): The winner here plays Stanford in the PAC-12 Championship game. UCLA lost to Stanford by 3 TDs in mid-October; USC lost to Stanford by 10 at the end of September. Overall, USC has played the tougher schedule. I’ll take USC and lay the points.

La-Monroe at Hawaii (no lines): Here is a game between a SHOE team and one of the teams on the watch list to fill out the SHOE Tournament field. Of course it is a game of interest – albeit not wagering-interest…

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 11/21/15

Last week’s Mythical Picks were a whole lot better than they have been in previous weeks. The record for last week was 11-4-0 bringing the season record to 87-81-5. One of the successful picks from last week demonstrates the dynamic nature of sports wagering.

    I made my picks late Thursday night and Friday morning last week. I took Oklahoma State/Iowa State to go OVER 61. That was the line at the time.

    About an hour before kickoff, I checked the picks against the current lines because they often move a half-point or sometimes a full point. It does not change any of the Mythical Picks but I often check just for curiosity.

    The Total Line for Ok St/Iowa St had dropped to 56.5 at many sportsbooks and to 57 at the other sportsbooks that I routinely scan.

    The total score for the game was 66 points so the line change made no difference. If you took OVER you won; if you took UNDER you lost. However, it is interesting to note that large line changes can happen in short periods of time – particularly if your wagering is Real and not Mythical.

The “Best Pick” from last week was taking Kansas St/Texas Tech to go OVER 71.5. The total score was 103.

The “Worst Picks” last week were taking Temple/USF UNDER 44.5 (total was 67) and taking LSU and giving 7.5 points (they lost the game straight up).

Notwithstanding last week’s 73% success rate, no one should use any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real college football game involving real money this weekend. You would have to be mighty stupid to do so. Here is how stupid you would need to be:

    You would need two weeks training to learn the route to be an elevator operator.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats completed their regular season last week with a 38-10 victory over Pacific Lutheran. Linfield’s record was 9-0 and they have a place in the NCAA Division III football tournament which begins this weekend. A Selection Committee seeds the teams in this tournament and Linfield’s first opponent is Whitworth. Those two teams – both in the Northwest Conference – met back on October 24 and Linfield won that game 52-10. Go Wildcats!

I received an e-mail from an old friend telling me that I should check out the football record for Division II Cheyney University. He said it was a “curmudgeon’s dream”; of course, that sent me directly to Google.

    This year, Cheyney was 0-11. Oh, but there is more…

    The cumulative scoring for those 11 games was:

      Opponents: 553
      Cheyney: 94

    Cheyney lost 2 games by 62 points and another 2 games by 63 points.

    Last year, Cheyney was also 0-11.

    In 2013, Cheyney was 0-11.

    In 2012, Cheyney was 1-10. Their last win was September 1, 2012 over Lincoln University. Cheyney has lost 43 consecutive games since then.

    Yowza!

Last week, we had four of the teams ranked in the Top Ten by the CFP Selection Committee lose their games outright. Last week saw the Big 12 almost lose its last undefeated team and also saw the PAC-12 play its way out of any slot in the CFP barring a huge number of improbable events. I mention that only because it appears as if this week will be the best week of college football for the season. There are lots of important games on the menu.

I said last week that I was interested to see the rushing stats for Georgia Southern against Troy. Georgia Southern is the top rushing team in the country; Troy’s rush defense was not so good. As you might imagine, Georgia Southern won the game handily 45-10 despite spotting Troy a 10-0 lead in the first quarter; they ran the ball for 325 yards (slightly below their average for the season) and held the ball for 43 minutes in the game.

Baylor was ranked #6 going into last week’s game against Oklahoma and lost by 10 points to the Sooners. Truth be told, they had not played any top-shelf teams in their first 8 games of the year; they played the weaker teams in the Big 12 and an out of conference schedule that might only be weaker if they had scheduled Cheyney University. Given that super-weak out of conference schedule, I suspect that a 1-loss Baylor team will not be part of the CFP Tournament field.

Oklahoma State – ranked #8 last week – had to rally from way behind to beat a mediocre Iowa State team by 4 slim points. The Cowboys are now 10-0 and have their final two games at home in Stillwater albeit against two real opponents. This week, Baylor comes to town; next week, Oklahoma is the opponent. If the Cowboys can win out, they stand a very good chance to make the CFP tournament. The “playoff question” for the Big 12 as a conference is pretty simple:

    Suppose the best record for a Big 12 team is 11-1. Can the conference still have a team in the CFP?

Let us look at the possibilities here:

    TCU: The injuries to QB Trevone Boykin and WR Josh Doctson renders TCU a lesser team than they were early this year. Consider that last week they were a 45-point favorite over Kansas and only won by 6 points.

    Baylor: Their schedule includes only a few quality opponents.

    Oklahoma: They lost to Texas and that is a bad loss because Texas will have to win out “just to be bowl-eligible”, which is a positive way to say “just to be a .500 team.” However, recall that Ohio State had a “bad loss” on its record last year …

    Oklahoma State: Their out of conference schedule is marginally better than Baylor’s but still embarrassing.

Utah was ranked #10 going into last week’s game against Arizona and proceeded to lose in double OT. That is Utah’s second loss for the year and it pretty much eliminates them from the CFP.

Stanford was ranked #7 last week and proceeded to lose at home to Oregon. That is Stanford’s second loss for the year too.

Looking at the PAC-12 standings, you can quickly see that Utah and Stanford are the only teams in the conference with only 2 losses. Those two teams could meet in the PAC-12 championship game meaning one of them would have to come out with 3 losses. I do not think there will be any teams from the PAC-12 in the CFP this year.

LSU was ranked #9 last week. They laid an egg at home against Arkansas losing by 17 points. At one point this season, Arkansas lost 4 out of 5 games including two out of conference games to Texas Tech and Toledo. [Aside: Perhaps the Razorbacks are allergic to the letter “T”…] With that win over LSU, Arkansas has a chance to finish 2nd in the SEC West. Is it fair to say that the SEC West – good as it has been for the last 5 years – may not be as good as it has been recently?

Alabama took care of business last week handling Mississippi State with ease. I said last week that the Front-7 for Alabama was REALLY good. Two weeks ago, they held Leonard Fournette to 31 yards rushing in a game; last week they sacked Dak Prescott – the best QB in the SEC – nine times.

Florida will be the SEC East team in the SEC Championship Game. Last week, the Gators beat South Carolina by 10 points to extend their record to 9-1. You cannot rule Florida out of the CFP completely. If Alabama is their opponent in the SEC Championship Game and the Gators win that game convincingly, it would be difficult to keep them out of the conversation especially since their only loss would be to LSU in Baton Rouge. That is not what one would call a “bad loss”…

Speaking of Florida, this is the first year on the job for Coach Jim McElwain. Last year, Florida finished the regular season at 6-5 and went to the Birmingham Bowl; this year, even with a loss in the SEC Championship Game, Florida will be in a major bowl game. By the way, 4 of those 6 regular season wins last year were against less-than-fearsome opponents such as E. Michigan, Kentucky, E. Kentucky and Vandy. You have to tip your hat to Jim McElwain and the job he has done this year.

In the Big 10 last week, Ohio State cruised to a 28-3 win over Illinois and Michigan State handled Maryland 24-7. It would be hard for you to convince me that both of those teams were looking over under around and through their second-tier opponents last week to their meeting this week.

Meanwhile, Nebraska went east to play Rutgers and won 31-14. That was Nebraska’s 5th win for the year meaning that they will need to win their final game of the season in order to be bowl-eligible. It will not be an easy undertaking; in their final game, the Cornhuskers have to play currently undefeated and fifth-ranked Iowa. Here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha-World Herald to give you some perspective on what a 5-win season for the Huskers means out there in the Heartland:

“There is an apple pie fundraiser in Fremont on Saturday the same time as the Husker game. Remember when there was so much interest in Husker football no one would dare do this? Now, Nebraskans have to make the most difficult choice of their lives: Pie or football?”

Oh, and speaking of Iowa as Nebraska’s opponent next week, here is a cogent observation from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Easy street: Here’s an example of what I love – and by that, I mean hate – about power conferences with division races. Iowa, which somehow appeared at No. 5 in the football playoff rankings this week, can reach the Big Ten title game without playing Ohio State, Michigan State or Michigan.”

Michigan beat Indiana in double OT. Going into the game, Michigan’s rush defense was the third best in the country. Somehow, Indiana RB, Jordan Howard managed to run for 239 yards in that game. You tell me how that happened. That is not a good omen for the Wolverines considering that they still have to face Ohio State and Ezekiel Elliot later this year.

In the ACC, Clemson beat Syracuse 37-27 but there might be some concerns for the Tigers after that game. Syracuse had a backup QB for the game – he was fifth on the depth chart back in July/August – and they had no passing game at all. However, Syracuse ran the ball for 242 yards and 7 yards per carry in the game.

    By the way, in 10 games this year, Syracuse has gone OVER in 9 of them. Just saying…

UNC beat Miami 59-21. That result is interesting from two perspectives:

    1. UNC is 9-1 for the year with the loss coming in the opening game against South Carolina – not a particularly good team this year.

    2. Remember when Clemson beat Miami 58-0? That caused the school to fire Al Golden “on the spot”. Maybe the Miami defense just isn’t good enough to play top-shelf schools this year; maybe it wasn’t the coach…

In the American Athletic Conference, Houston handed Memphis its second consecutive loss despite trailing 34-14 in the 2nd half and having to go with a 2nd string QB. That sets up a game on the day after Thanksgiving when Navy goes to Houston as the one that will determine the West Division champion in the AAC. The winner of the West will play either Temple or USF for the conference championship and that winner will probably be in a New Year’s Day bowl game.

There were more than a few game last week that had impact on my SHOE Tournament teams but one of them bears mentioning by itself. La-Monroe lost at home to Arkansas St. 59-21; that was not the worst loss of the year for the Warhawks; twice they have lost by 37 points. Nonetheless, that was the last straw for the Athletic Director and the powers that be in Warhawk-land; they fired the coach “effective immediately”. The logical consequence of that decisive action is that the team needs an interim coach to finish out the season. To whom did that responsibility fall? Why of course, they gave the job to the defensive coordinator who has been doing such a great job with the defense that the team is 1-10 for the season.

    Ignoring the shutout win over Division 1-AA Nicholls State, the best performance by the La-Monroe defense was giving up 27 points to a miserable Idaho team.

    Five times this year, La-Monroe has given up scores north of 50 points.

    So, the defensive coordinator gets the “promotion”?

The Ponderosa Games:

Last week we had 6 Ponderosa Games and the favorites covered in only 1 of them.

San Diego St. covered.

Boise St, Clemson, Notre Dame, TCU and Tennessee did not cover.

    Boise St lost outright as a 30.5-point favorite.

    TCU was a 45-point favorite over Kansas and won by only 6.

Last week’s 1-5-0 record brings the season total for favorites covering in Ponderosa Games to 33-43-1. This is shaping up to be one of the more lopsided seasons for Ponderosa Games; usually, the season record is within 3 or 4 games of .500 either way.

This week we have 8 Ponderosa Games:

UNC-Charlotte at Kentucky – 24.5 (56): It is not often that you see Kentucky as a Ponderosa favorite.

W. Virginia – 28 at Kansas (58.5): The Total Line opened the week at 64 and has been dropping all week long.

Wake Forest at Clemson – 29 (48): Clemson had a defensive hiccup last week against Syracuse (see above). They could hold Wake Forest to single digits this week.

N. Texas at Middle Tenn. St. – 24 (64): I cannot tell you how little I care about this game…

Fresno St. at BYU – 26 (56): This is BYU’s first appearance of the year as a Ponderosa favorite.

Florida Atlantic at Florida – 31 (46.5): Yes, both schools are in the State of Florida but this is hardly an intrastate rivalry…

Idaho at Auburn – 34 (64): This is a scrimmage for Auburn as they prepare for the Iron Bowl game against Alabama next week.

La-Tech – 25 at UTEP (55): I care about this game ever so slightly more than the N. Texas/Middle Tennessee St game above…

The SHOE Tournament:

There were games last week that had impact on the SHOE Team Selection Committee – that would be me.

    I already mentioned the situation as of last week with La-Monroe. Well, the Warhawks have already played this week; they lost last night to Texas St. That is 3 wins for Texas St probably knocking them out of consideration for the SHOE Tournament.

    Army lost to Tulane by 3 points. Like Texas St. that gives Tulane 3 wins and probably takes them off the SHOE Tournament invitation list.

    Florida Atlantic lost again last week leaving them with a 2-8 record and a game against Florida this week. They are still under consideration.

    N Texas lost to Tennessee 24-0. After the game the coach and some players complained about the condition of the field at Tennessee. If that is their excuse for getting shut out, I would have to say “Shut up!”

    Miami (OH) lost to Akron dropping their record to 2-9.

    UNC-Charlotte lost to UT-San Antonio by 3 points. Both teams have 2-8 records now but UNC-Charlotte is not eligible for the SHOE Tournament because this is their first year playing Division 1-A football. Why is that? It’s my tournament and I make the rules.

    E. Michigan lost to UMass 28-7. That is the 2nd win of the year for UMass and E. Michigan is 1-10. I am pretty sure that E. Michigan is IN the SHOE Tournament.

    SMU lost to Navy 55-14. That makes SMU 1-9 on the year; I am pretty sure that SMU is IN the SHOE Tournament.

    Wyoming lost to San Diego St 38-3. Wyoming is 1-10 for the year; I am pretty sure Wyoming is IN the SHOE Tournament.

I mentioned 3 teams above who are likely participants in the SHOE Tournament and it is highly likely that winless UCF and Kansas will join those three teams. So as of this week I am looking to fill 3 slots from this menu of bad teams:

    Army
    Florida Atlantic
    Miami (OH)
    New Mexico State
    N Texas
    UMass
    UT-San Antonio

Games of Interest:

Rutgers – 4.5 at Army (54.5): That is a surprisingly low spread for a “Big 10 team” taking on a potential SHOE Tournament team. That is the only reason this is a Game of Interest…

Miami (OH) at UMass – 9.5 (55): Winner here is likely eliminated from SHOE Tournament consideration…

LSU at Ole Miss – 6.5 (56.5): Reports this week said that Les Miles is “coaching for his job” in this game and the game next week at home against Texas A&M. I am not sure it would be a great idea to fire him unless the LSU braintrust already has a top-shelf replacement signed sealed and delivered. In any event, if LSU loses here and looks bad doing so, you can count on the long-knives coming out well honed. I think this will be more of a defensive game than the Total Line suggests so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

Memphis – 2 at Temple (58): Temple can ill-afford another loss if they want to be part of the AAC Championship picture. Memphis has lost 2 games in a row. This is probably the best offense that Temple’s very good defense has had to deal with all year long. This is also probably the best defense that Memphis’ very good offense has had to deal with all year long. Make this strictly a venue call; I’ll take Temple plus the points.

UNC – 5.5 at Va Tech (61): This will be Frank Beamer’s final game in Blacksburg after about 3 decades of building the Va Tech football program from abject obscurity to respectability. The Hokies should be sky-high for this game. UNC has gone north of 50 points 3 times this year including each of the last two weeks. Opponents have been able to run on UNC this year (206.1 yards per game) but UNC only gives up 18.8 points per game. Va Tech is not a great running team and I do not think the emotion of the game will turn them into one. I like UNC to win and cover even in this energized road environment.

Northwestern at Wisconsin – 10 (40): Northwestern is ranked #20 and Wisconsin is ranked #25 which might make you think this was an important game. It may be interesting, but it is not important. Northwestern’s last two wins have been unimpressive (by 2 points over Penn St at home and by 7 points over Purdue at home). Wisconsin took last week off to prep for this game and it is in Madison. I like Wisconsin to win and cover here.

Mississippi St at Arkansas – 4.5 (58): Arkansas is the “hot team” after beating LSU on the road last week and they are at home. Ergo, I’ll take Arkansas to win and cover.

Baylor at Oklahoma St. – 1 (77): This game is interesting AND important. Since Baylor lost its starting QB to a neck injury that required surgery, they have not been the sort of team that is always on the verge of scoring 70 points in a game. That is how Baylor tended to beat people because the Baylor defense was not the premier unit on the team. Oklahoma State can play decent defense for a Big 12 team – a conference in which “defense” is considered a dirty word. I think State’s defense will be able to keep Baylor’s offense from going nuts. I like Oklahoma St to win and cover.

Michigan St. at Ohio St. – 14 (53): This game is interesting AND important. Simply put, I think that line is fat. I’ll take Michigan St. plus the points.

TCU at Oklahoma (no lines): There is still some question regarding Trevon Boykin’s availability at QB for TCU. Until that is known, there will be no lines on this game. If Boykin cannot play, I think Oklahoma will win comfortably – say by 15 points. If Boykin can play – and play at something near his normal capability – this game might be in doubt until the final possession… If you look at the Total Line once one is posted, I would count on Oklahoma scoring in the “high-40s”.

Michigan – 3.5 at Penn State (41.5): This is a classic “trap game” for Michigan; they are on the road and they know that they play Ohio State next week. Penn St has had 2 weeks to get ready for the game. I expect a low scoring game so I’ll take Penn St. plus the points here.

Cal at Stanford – 11 (64): In terms of “Rivalry Games” this is the biggest one on the card this weekend. I expect an offensive outburst here so I like the game to go OVER. I also want to take Cal plus the points here; that is a fat line for such a rivalry game.

UCLA at Utah – 2 (55): UCLA averages 498 yards per game and 35.2 points per game. Utah averages 389 yards per game and 33.2 points per game. Why is Utah so much more efficient at points per yard of offense? The Utah defense is stingier giving the offense better field position. I think the Utah defense will prevail here; I like the game to stay UNDER.

Notre Dame – 15 vs BC (42.5) Game is in Fenway Park: The BC defense is the best in the country in terms of yards per game; they give up only 237 yards per game; the next best defense (Michigan) gives up 269 yards per game. BC is particularly strong against the run allowing only 71.7 yards per game. Looking at those stats, one has to wonder how that team can be a 15-point underdog. Well … The BC offense is the worst in the country in terms of yards per game; they only gain 277 yards per game and they score only 17.3 points per game. Moreover, those scoring stats are distorted by an early-season win over Howard by a score of 77-0. In the other 9 games this year, BC has only scored 96 points. Notre Dame does not have a great defense but it has one good enough to hold BC to somewhere between 7 and 14 points. With that as my estimate, I’ll take Notre Dame and lay the points.

USC at Oregon – 4 (71.5): This is nothing more than a hunch but it seems to me as if Oregon has put their offensive house in order over the past 3 games scoring a total of 143 points in those games. The defense continues to allow opponents to find the end zone but now the offense is alive and well. I like this game to go OVER.

Purdue at Iowa – 22.5 (57): Look, Iowa needs to impress the Selection Committee and Purdue is not a good football team. Purdue’s 2 wins have come over Indiana St and Nebraska; in 5 of their 10 games, they have scored 14 points or less. Nonetheless, that spread is too big to ignore. I’ll take Purdue plus the points.

Finally, here is comment from Brad Rock in the Deseret News on the subject of college football:

“A Tempe, Arizona city councilman is suing Arizona State University, saying he injured his back when the team’s mascot leaped on him during a stunt.

“In related news, Bronco Mendenhall is expected to sue BYU for making him carry a monkey on his back ever since the Cougars went independent.”

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