Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 9/19/15

Last week’s college Mythical Picks were successful in terms that they showed a mythical profit for the week. The record was 9-6-0 for the week bringing the season record to 16-11-0. The “Best Mythical Pick” was taking BYU and getting points as BYU went out and won the game outright – on another final minute TD pass. The “Worst Mythical Pick” was taking Oregon State +15 and seeing them get their doors blown off.

The “winning record” for last week and for the season to date might tempt someone to think that there is a degree of wisdom and insight contained herein that simply does not exist. No one should use anything here as the basis for making an actual bet on an actual college football game involving actual money. Here is how stupid you would have to be if you did that:

    You put clocks under your desk in order to work overtime.

General Comments:

Last Saturday, Linfield College began its Division 3 football season. I track their season here because the last time Linfield had a losing season in football was in 1956. Division 3 teams play a 9-game regular season followed by a championship tournament in December for those teams that qualify. Last week, Linfield defeated Chapman 52-14 to start the 2015 season at 1-0. This week, Linfield hosts Redlands in their final out-of-conference game before they meet 7 consecutive Northwest Conference foes to fill out their season. Go Wildcats!

Going into last weekend, all 7 teams in the SEC West were ranked in the Top 25. Auburn, Arkansas and Missouri did not play like Top 25 teams last week:

    Auburn played Jacksonville St. – a Division 1-AA team from the Ohio Valley Conference that spend the bulk of its time playing against teams such as E. Kentucky, Tennessee St. and Austin Peay. Auburn won the game 27-20 but needed a late TD to tie the game in order to win in OT. Auburn QB, Jeremy Johnson, has thrown 5 INTs in 2 games this season.

    Arkansas lost to Toledo 16-12. Toledo is a MAC team and no one will confuse Toledo with a Top 25 team come December. Arkansas was a 21.5-point favorite and the game was played in Little Rock. While Arksansas dominated the stat sheet and held the ball for almost 38 minutes, they continued to find ways not to score points. One 73-yard drive involved 21 offensive plays and took more than 10 minutes off the clock and resulted in a field goal. Arkansas outgained Toledo 515 yards to 318 yards and still lost.

    Missouri managed to beat a less-than-fearsome Arkansas St. by all of 7 points.

In another SEC West game, LSU beat Mississippi St. 21-19. I watched most of this game and the thing you need to know here is that both of these teams can play very good defense!

Meanwhile, Ole Miss has been beating up on patsies and is averaging 74.5 points per game. This week, the Rebels are on the road against Alabama. I will go out on a limb here and suggest that they will not score 70+ against Alabama…

Over in the SEC East, South Carolina may be in trouble this year. Last week, the Gamecocks lost at home to Kentucky 26-22 snapping a 20-game road losing streak for Kentucky. Added to that, starting QB, Connor Mitch separated his shoulder and might be out for the rest of the season. Next up for South Carolina is a visit to Georgia this weekend and Georgia is a good team as usual.

Florida St. beat USF 34-14 last week. That is not so surprising but what is surprising is that the game was tied 7-7 at the half.

Washington St. beat Rutgers 37-34 last week. In last week’s Mythical Picks, I took this game to stay UNDER 63. At halftime Washington St. led 13-6 and after 3 quarters they led 20-12. Seemed as if that Mythical Pick was in the bag… Then the teams combined to score 39 points in the 4th quarter to take the game OVER. Arrrgh…!

BYU beat Boise St. 35-24 but this was not an easy victory for BYU. Taylor Mangum is the freshman QB for BYU who threw the Hail Mary to beat Nebraska in Week 1. Well he threw a TD pass with about a minute to go in this game to give BYU a 28-24 lead. Then on the next possession by Boise St., BYU intercepted a pass leading to an insurance score. That is not a bad way for a freshman to start his college career…

Notre Dame rallied to beat UVa last week but lost its starting QB, Malik Zaire for the season with a broken ankle. Reserve QB, DeShone Kizer took over and threw a late TD pass to win the game for the Irish. Kizer will get his first start this week against Georgia Tech and that gives Notre Dame two important practice objectives this week:

    Incorporate a new QB into their offense

    Get ready to stop Georgia Tech’s option running attack.

Oklahoma fell behind Tennessee 17-0 at Tennessee. Then OU woke up and rallied to tie the game and send it to OT and the Sooners won 31-24 in double OT. That has to be a downer for Tennessee…

Bowling Green beat Maryland 48-27 last week. Maryland led at halftime 13-6 and things got “offensive” in the second half. Here are some notes about the game:

    Maryland return man, William Likely returned another punt for a TD in the game – this time for 85 yards. Recall that in the first game of the season he gained almost 300 yards in kickoff and punt returns.

    Bowling Green ran 105 offensive plays for a total of 692 yards of offense. Talk about a frenetic pace; these guys would put Chip Kelly and his offense to shame.

    Maryland ran off 59 offensive plays for 341 yards.

    The total number of offensive plays was 164. A typical NFL game will feature 120-130 offensive plays.

Wisconsin beat Miami (Ohio) 58-0. Last week in discussing the Ponderosa Games for the week, I said I was tempted to take the game OVER 53 because I thought Wisconsin might be angry after losing its opener to Alabama and might go over the Total Line by itself. I did not take the OVER but indeed Wisconsin took the game OVER all by itself…

Temple beat Cincy 34-26. Going into the season, more than a few folks thought Cincy would be one of the teams to beat in the American Athletic Conference. Temple is now 2-0 with wins over Penn State and Cincy. This may be an up year for Temple football but I offer a cautionary note here having seen parts of both Temple games:

    Temple’s defense has stopped two teams that did not look organized on offense at all. Maybe it was the defense that made that happen – or maybe these are two not-very-good offensive teams.

UNC/Charlotte beat Presbyterian 34-10 last week. Why is that interesting? This is Charlotte’s first year playing Division 1-A football and they have started out 2-0. They are hardly going to be undefeated at the end of the year, but it has to be a good feeling on campus for now.

The last game from last weekend I want to talk about is the BC win over Howard by a score of 76-0. After the first quarter, the score was 41-0 and at the half the score was 62-0. Howard had 2 first downs in the game; they ran 40 plays for a total offense of 11 yards; that is not a typo… Howard ran the ball 28 times and gained 7 yards on the ground; you can easily do the math here to get their passing stats. Obviously, this game should never have been scheduled and I cannot imagine myself staying in the stands to watch this debacle beyond halftime. However, there is one positive thing to say about the game:

    In the second half, both coaches went to the officials and everyone agreed to play 10-minute quarters in the second half. Essentially, everyone agreed to acknowledge that this game was nothing but a glorified scrimmage.

Bob Molinaro had a comment in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot last week that applies directly to the BC/Howard game:

“Idle thought: Generally speaking, the difference between college football and the NFL this time of year is that pro games are worth watching into the fourth quarter.”

There are two players in college football this year with names that apply to the position they play:

    OU linebacker, Eric Striker, has a very appropriate name for his position.

    Tulane punter, Zachary Block, has a very unfortunate name for his position.

Ponderosa Games:

The favorites are crushing the lines so far this year. Last week the favorites went 7-3-0 against the huge spreads bringing the season total for favorites covering to 14-4-0.

Georgia Tech, Mississippi, Nebraska, Texas A&M, UCLA, USC and Wisconsin covered.

Alabama, Florida St. and Ohio St. did not cover.

This week, we have 12 Ponderosa Games:

(Friday) New Mexico at Arizona St. – 27.5 (65): This line opened at 24 and the next time I looked it was up to this level where it has stayed all week long.

UNLV at Michigan – 34 (49): The money lines for this game are:

    UNLV is plus 10,000
    Michigan is minus 19,500

Kent St. at Minnesota – 24.5 (46): This spread opened the week at 22.5 and has risen steadily over the week. Meanwhile the Total Line opened at 48.5 and dropped all week long. Obviously, the oddsmakers are not thinking Kent St. will be putting too many points on the scoreboard.

Troy at Wisconsin – 35 (58): The big question here is whether Wisconsin took out all of its frustrations against Miami (Oh) last week. If not…

N. Illinois at Ohio State – 35 (67): I doubt this will be a nail-biter of a game…

Tulsa at Oklahoma – 31 (71): Best thing to observe here is that this an intra-state matchup.

Nevada at Texas A&M – 34 (65): The spread here opened the week at 29. If you had laid the points at that level, you could take points here and play for a middle.

Georgia St. at Oregon – 44 (72): The money lines for this game are:

    Georgia State is plus 45,000
    Oregon is minus 135,000

Texas San Antonio at Oklahoma St – 25 (55): Other than alums from each school and their families, I doubt this game is interesting to many folks.

SMU at TCU – 37 (66): These schools are less than 50 miles apart geographically but they are light years apart in terms of football prowess.

Air Force at Michigan St. – 26 (54.5): The Total Line opened the week at 60 points; it dropped to 57 almost immediately and has been dropping from that level all week long.

Wyoming at Washington St. – 24.5 (64.5): Washington State is not very good; they lost their opening game at home to a Division 1-AA school. Yet, they are a Ponderosa favorite here. So what might that tell you about Wyoming…?

Games of Interest:

Florida State – 7.5 at BC (47): These lines have moved a lot this week. The spread opened at 9 points; the Total Line opened at 53. BC steps up in class from Howard last week to a big-boy in a big-boy’s conference. I see this as a low scoring game so I will take BC plus more than a TD’s worth of points.

Temple – 10 at UMass (54.5): I said above that Temple had not yet played a strong offensive team this year. UMass is a team that will try to up-tempo the game but I am not sure that qualifies UMass as a good offensive team. Temple won on the road already this year so that should not be a novelty for them. I’ll take Temple and lay the points.

NC State – 17.7 at Old Dominion (59): I think these teams will score a bunch of points off one another so I like the game to go OVER.

Northwestern at Duke – 3.5 (48): Northwestern beat Stanford in the first SAT Bowl of the year; now they face Duke in another such game. So far, Duke has played Tulane and N. Carolina Central; Northwestern is a step up in class from those opponents. Northwestern played one cupcake last week but faced Stanford in the opener. This should be a defensive game so I’ll take Northwestern plus the points even on the road.

La-Tech at Kansas State – 10 (50): The Total Line opened the week at 55 and has been falling all week. Tech is stepping way up in class this week; their previous opponents have been Div. 1-AA Southern and W. Kentucky. I think K-State demonstrates what a big-time college football programs is like here. I’ll take K-State and lay the points.

South Carolina at Georgia – 16 (52): Steve Spurrier has found ways to torment Georgia for the entire time Spurrier has been in the SEC. Does he have something up his sleeve for this game? Georgia can surely run the football; their passing offense is merely adequate. There are too many question marks in the game to make a pick – even a mythical one – but the game is interesting because it might tell you something about South Carolina down the road.

East Carolina at Navy – 4 (57): East Carolina has played Florida this year so it has seen real competition; Navy beat Colgate and then had a Bye week. The issue here is the ECU defense and its ability to stop Navy’s triple option run offense. That offense is very different from most of the other opponents ECU will face this year so one has to wonder how much time they have devoted to it in training camp. Purely a hunch, I’ll take Navy to win and cover at home.

Auburn at LSU – 7 (48): As noted above, Auburn played terribly against Jacksonville St. last week needing OT to beat that Div. 1-AA school. Moreover, if Auburn QB, Jeremy Johnson, continues to throw INTs at the rate he has, LSU will have a field day. On the other hand, perhaps Auburn was looking past Jax St. knowing that a trip to Baton Rouge was the next item on its dance card. LSU plays tough defense – but its offense did not stand out against a solid Mississippi state defense last week. Auburn can play done “D” too. I like Auburn plus the points – even in Baton Rouge.

Ole Miss at Alabama – 7 (53): Mississippi beat Alabama last year; I suspect that Nick Saban has mentioned that fact to his squad once or twice this week. So far, the Rebels have faced University of Tennessee-Martin and Fresno St; please let us not confuse either of those two defenses with the one Alabama will field this week. I like Alabama at home to win and cover here.

Nebraska at Miami (Fla) – 3 (58): I think Miami is the better team here and they are at home. Laying a field goal is not unrealistic in that circumstance. So, I’ll take Miami to win and cover.

Georgia Tech – 2.5 at Notre Dame (55.5): Notre Dame has lost a RB to injury and the starting QB to injury in the first two games. Tech is a solid team that will bring its option offense to South Bend and dare the Irish to stop it. The key words in that last sentence were “South Bend”. I like the idea of taking Notre Dame at home plus some points and so I shall.

Utah St. at Washington – 6 (44): Utah St. has already played one PAC-12 team (Utah) and lost by 10 points – but covered the spread. Utah is a better team than Washington so things point to taking the road underdog here. The question mark here is Utah State QB, Chuckie Keeton. He is a good QB playing at a school that gets little national exposure; he is also fragile having suffered two season ending injuries in previous years. Moreover, he was thrown around like a ragdoll in that game against Utah last week. I am going to take Utah St plus the points here and hope that Keeton can play his “A game”.

Memphis – 3.5 at Bowling Green (79.5): This game is only interesting because the Total Line started the week at 69.5 and has risen 10 points during the week. I am sure that sort of thing must have happened at some time in the past, but I cannot recall a line move that big for a game only a week away.

USF at Maryland – 7 (51): This game is only interesting to see what kind of return stats Maryland’s William Likely will get.

Florida – 3.5 at Kentucky (53): Florida has two home wins over mediocre to bad opponents – New Mexico St. and East Carolina. Kentucky has beaten La-Lafayette at home and then beat South Carolina on the road (see above). Let me just say that Kentucky’s football program in recent years makes me want to see more than one nice road win before I declare the team fully competitive. On the other hand, Florida has not played anyone yet so I cannot really assess the impact of their new coaching staff in Gainesville. This is another game where you keep your eyes on the game and your money in your pocket.

Cal – 7 at Texas (58.5): You read that spread correctly; Cal is a TD favorite over Texas in Austin. Moreover, the spread opened the week at 3 points and has ballooned to this number over the week. Texas has looked bad so far this year losing to Notre Dame by 5 TDs and then allowing Rice to score 28 points in the second game of the season. They have fired the AD there and Charlie Strong is not going to win a mayoral election in Austin these days. Strong changed play callers and changed offensive coordinators and we are still in September! Here is what Mike Bianchi had to say about that in the Orlando Sentinel:

“Texas coach Charlie Strong already has demoted his offensive coordinator after a season-opening blowout by Notre Dame. As UCF coach George O’Leary told me the other day, ‘When you start getting rid of people like that, you’re usually the next one to follow.’”

Cal’s defense has played well against second-tier opposition (Grambling and San Diego State) so whatever changes Texas has made to its offense will be put to the task here. I smell a defensive game so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

UTEP – 3 at New Mexico St (62): this game is interesting because it matches two bad teams who might be invited to my imaginary SHOE Tournament at the end of the season. Please do not wager on this game…

Stanford at USC – 9.5 (50): Historically, Stanford plays USC tough but this Cardinal team is the one that lost to Northwestern in the opener and then beat a mediocre UCF squad. Granted USC has played Arkansas St. (the halt) and Idaho (the lame) so far this year which means they have never played anyone nearly as good as a PAC-12 foe. I think this will be a low-scoring game so I will take Stanford plus the points.

BYU at UCLA – 16.5 (59): How many times can BYU pull out a game with a heroic finish? They already have two of them under their belts this season winning both games in the final minutes when they were underdogs to start with. UCLA features true freshman QB, Josh “The Chosen” Rosen who has looked good against the likes of UVa and UNLV. BYU’s defense will challenge him a bit more than either of those previous opponents did. I think that line is fat. Even though I doubt BYU can pull this rabbit out of its hat, I will take BYU plus those points even on the road.

San Jose St at Oregon St. – 7 (49.5): Oregon St. beat Weber St. in the opener; whoop-di-damned-doo! Last week, they played like cadavers losing to Michigan by 4 TDs. I do not want to intimate that San Jose St. is a juggernaut by any measure, but after the way they were gashed last week by Michigan, I cannot see how Oregon St is a full TD favorite here. I’ll take San Jose St plus the points here.

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