Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 9/26/15

Last week’s Mythical Picks were decidedly in the red – mythically of course. The record for last week was a miserable 5-9-1 bringing the cumulative record for the year to 21-20-1. Those are not inspiring results so far this year – but it better than sitting on a sharp nail. The best pick last week was taking Stanford +9.5 and seeing Stanford beat USC straight up. The worst pick of the week was taking Cal/Texas to stay UNDER 58.5; the teams had 48 at halftime and looked on course to break 90; they slowed down in the second half and the total score was only 89.

Obviously no one would read that last paragraph and think that these picks provide a path to fame and fortune. Indeed no one ought to even consider using any information here as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on a real college football game this weekend – or any other weekend for that matter. Here is how dumb one would have to be to do that:

    It would take you 2 hours to watch 60 Minutes.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats extended their record to 2-0 last weekend in their quest to keep their streak of winning seasons alive. They beat the University of the Redlands 44-7 and begin their Northwest Conference schedule this week. They take a very short trip to Portland, OR to take on Lewis and Clark College. The Pioneers bring an 0-2 record to the game having lost to Claremont College and Pomona-Pitzer. Go Wildcats!

A neighbor who reads Mythical Picks in the Fall told me that he thought it was incongruous for a curmudgeon to revel in the successes of Linfield’s football program without some concurrent following of some obscure team’s utter futility. He has a point there. So, I went searching around and latched onto Division III Finlandia University. In parallel with Linfield, I have no affiliation with the school and know next to nothing about it academically or athletically. Here is what I did find, however:

    For 2015, the Finlandia Lions started the season 0-3. Lots of teams start 0-3 but Finlandia has had 3 epic losses. Here is the cumulative result so far this year:

      Opponents: 195
      Finlandia: 3

This week Finlandia hosts the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point up in the far reaches of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Go Lions!

The folks who brew Guinness and publish the Guinness Book of Records have hit upon a fantastic way to advertise their product at minimal cost to the company. People all over the world with way too much time on their hands go to great measures to get themselves and/or herds of their compatriots into that book. The Guinness folks “certify” the record and that gets the story into hundreds of outlets around the world. What a scam those folks are pulling on us; I would call them despicable scoundrels if they did not brew such a good beer.

Fans of Mississippi State football recently got together to “set a record” thereby giving Guinness some more free advertising. They set a record for “Most People Ringing Cowbells Simultaneously”. The previous record had been 640 bell ringers set somewhere in Switzerland; now that record stands at 5,748. I know you want to have all the details on this monumental achievement, so here is a link.

There is another intersection between college football news and beer this week. I will simply cite Dwight Perry’s item from the Seattle Times for you here:

“TCU defensive end Mike Tuaua and backup wide receiver Andre Petties-Wilson were arrested in Fort Worth on suspicion of accosting a fellow student and stealing his case of Keystone Light.

“They face charges of robbery, bodily injury and questionable taste in beer.”

Up until last weekend, Ole Miss had never beaten Alabama two years in a row. They have now. I heard one of the folks on sports radio saying that this indicated that Alabama was following the same downward path as Notre Dame as an “old-line football power” and that new schools were about to emerge as power programs. He may be right; but I think he is overstating the situation.

First of all, Notre Dame is pretty good this year; they had a few “down years” but they seem to be getting their fair share of football players year over year. Secondly, I think that what this shows is that there are more schools out there that are highly competitive with the traditional top-shelf programs. Rather than indicating a violent shift in the college football hierarchy, I think this points toward more parity in college football and a large part of that parity comes from the reduction in the number of scholarships that schools can give out. Today, there are fewer “blue chip” players riding the bench at the top schools because they are now out there playing for other schools. In fact, I think the rest of the SEC has caught up with Alabama and LSU to the point that when one of them loses a game it is not necessarily a “headline event”.

I mentioned above that my best pick of the week was taking Stanford plus a passel of points and seeing them beat USC straight up. Much has been made of the pressure on Texas coach Charlie Strong and Arkansas coach, Bret Bielema this week. Frankly, I think some of the microscopic attention ought to turn itself to Steve Sarkisian. After embarrassing himself and the school with his “impaired performance” at a booster rally, the team has not looked anything like the shoo-in champion of the PAC-12 (as more than a few folks predicted) nor as a strong contender to be in the Playoff Championship Game (as some predicted). Clearly, it is too early to write USC off, but they really looked ordinary against a Stanford team that lost badly to Northwestern earlier this month.

In its first season as a Division 1-A football program, UNC-Charlotte had won its first two games. Last week they encountered Middle Tennessee State – never to be confused with Alabama, Notre Dame or Ohio State – and lost that game by a score of 73-14. Welcome to Division 1-A…

Texas Tech beat Arkansas last week – at Arkansas no less – by 11 points and then coaches Kliff Kingsbury and Bret Bielema got into a spitting contest that matters not at all. What does matter is that Arkansas has now lost 2 home games in a row to Toledo (!!) and Texas Tech (!). Bielema is a large man with an outsized persona; perhaps he is the Rex Ryan of college football?

Speaking of teams losing badly, how about UCF? Last week, they lost to Division 1-AA Furman; the last time Furman beat a Division 1-A team was in 1999; just a week before the UCF game, Furman lost to Va Tech 42-3. UCF is now 0-3 on the season having also lost to FIU earlier this year. There are reports that George O’Leary wants to get out of the coaching business and take over as UCF Athletic Director. He may get out of the coaching business for other reasons if the team continues to lose games like this. Two years ago, UCF played in the Fiesta Bowl; that is a major game not an irrelevant game. Now, two years later, you have this kind of a team on the field…?

Georgia waxed South Carolina 52-20 last week. It looks as if it will be a loooong season for Gamecock fans. Georgia running back, Nick Chubb ran for 159 yards and 2 TDs in the game last week.

Navy beat E. Carolina last week by 24 points. Unless Navy is REALLY good this year, it may be that ECU is in for a long season also. They do have a win on their record this year over Division 1-AA Towson and they still have Va Tech and BYU on the schedule.

Idaho won a football game last week. Playing at home, they beat Division 1-AA Wofford by 3 points. If that is their only win for the year, they will be in the SHOE Tournament. By the way, Wofford College is in Spartanburg, SC; how much did they have to get paid to take that jaunt across the entire country to beautiful downtown Moscow, ID?

LSU played characteristically well beating Auburn last week 45-21. Going into the game, I did not think LSU could score 45 points nor that Auburn could give up 45 points; I was very wrong. Running back Leonard Fournette gained 228 yards and scored 3 times. He is very big and very fast; absent a traumatic injury, he will be playing Sunday football down the line.

From the same game, it surely appears as if the pre-season hype for Auburn QB, Jeremy Johnson was just that – – hype. Against LSU, Johnson was 11-19 for 100 yards. Word is that he will not start this week…

Missouri had a bad day at the office last week even though they won the game. Playing at home against UConn, Mizzou only won by a score of 9-6. Moreover, UConn had a chance to tie the game at the end with a field goal but UConn set up with a fake field goal that was telegraphed so badly that it looked as if the entire Missouri defense knew it was a fake and where the fake play was going. The pass play was into tight triple coverage and resulted in an INT that sealed the game. Nonetheless, this is an embarrassing result for a team in the SEC West at home against a mediocre-at-best program.

Ohio State beat Northern Illinois by a measly 7 points last week. That result ought to indicate 2 things:

    1. Even very good college football teams struggle to win once in a while – and sometimes they even lose a game as Alabama did last week.

    2. Northern Illinois should have gotten at least a few votes as the #2 team in the country from voters who only check the scores of the games and the stats after the fact.

In addition to holding Ohio State under 300 yards of total offense, Northern Illinois got 5 turnovers in the game. That is why the game stayed as close as it did; even with 5 turnovers, Northern Illinois only scored 7 points in the game. This week, Ohio State faces another MAC team and then the Big 10 season starts. I do not want that to sound too ominous because the first six Big 10 teams on Ohio State’s schedule are not particularly fearsome:

    At Indiana
    Vs Maryland
    Vs Penn State
    At Rutgers
    Vs Minnesota
    At Illinois

That takes Ohio State thru 14 November and if they are indeed the best team in the country, they should be undefeated at that point. Then their season starts in earnest on 21 November hosting Michigan State that weekend followed by a game at Michigan the next weekend.

Temple beat UMass by 2 points last week. The margin of victory came via a blocked extra point that Temple returned all the way to the other end zone for 2 points. That brought Temple to within 1 point of UMass and a very late field goal sealed the win. Temple is now 3-0 on the season.

Kansas State beat La Tech 39-33. The surprise here was the margin of victory (K-State was a 10-point favorite) plus the fact that it took 3 OTs to get the win.

Florida State beat BC 14-0. This was a result of good defense by Florida State and rather inept offense from BC. It seemed as if BC had “second and long” just about all the time.

UCLA beat BYU 24-23 even on a day when freshman phenom QB, Josh Rosen, had a bad game. Rosen was 11-23 for 106 yards and 3 INTs in the game. Nevertheless, UCLAQ found a way to win… Brad Rock juxtaposed Rosen with BYU freshman QB, Tanner Mangum with this comment in the Deseret News:

“UCLA QB Josh Rosen is 18 and BYU’s Tanner Mangum 22, but both are true freshmen.

“Nobody noticed the age difference, last week, until Rosen pulled out his iPhone and Mangum said, ‘Hey, nice Walkman.’”

Miami beat Nebraska 36-33 in OT. The game ended when Miami DB, Corn Elder intercepted a Miami pass. Indeed, the Cornhuskers lost the game when a guy named Corn intercepted a pass. Karma…

Ponderosa Games:

For the first two weeks of the season, the favorites covered an inordinate percentage of the spreads in these games. Last week, the favorites “regressed to the mean. Last week, there were 12 Ponderosa Games and only 1 favorite covered. The record last week was 1-11-0 bringing the season cumulative record to 15-15-0 for favorites covering spreads here.

Oklahoma State covered.

Arizona St, Michigan, Michigan St, Minnesota, Ohio St, Oklahoma, Oregon, TCU, Texas A&M, Washington St and Wisconsin failed to cover.

This week, we have 9 Ponderosa Games:

C. Michigan at Michigan St – 26.5 (54): Games between a “directional school” and a “state school” are often Ponderosa Games.

W. Michigan at Ohio St – 31.5 (61): If W. Michigan gets 5 turnovers from Ohio St. as N. Illinois did last week, they can keep the game close.

    [Aside: If you are wondering why E. Michigan is not a Ponderosa underdog, it is because E. Michigan is playing Army this week.]

Vandy at Ole Miss – 24.5 (54): The Total Line for this game opened at 59 and dropped to this level very quickly.

N. Texas at Iowa – 25 (54.5): Iowa is a Ponderosa favorite?

Rice at Baylor – 34.5 (75): This will be ugly.

LSU – 24 at Syracuse (47): The majority of Ponderosa favorites are home teams; LSU is a Ponderosa favorite on the road here.

UMass at Notre Dame – 29 (59): Maybe the Pope needs to say a mass for UMass here?

La-Monroe at Alabama – 38 (58): Do you think Nick Saban worked the team a bit harder than usual this week?

Hawaii at Wisconsin – 24.5 (50.5): That is a long way to fly to take a beating…

Games of Interest:

(Fri Nite) Boise St. – 2.5 at UVa (49): The Total Line here opened at 55.5 and dropped to this level very quickly. This probably reflects the fact that Boise St. will have to play without their starting QB here plus the fact that UVa has not exactly been an offensive juggernaut this year. I will make this a pure venue call and take UVA plus the points.

(Fri Nite) Stanford – 15.5 at Oregon St. (44.5): Stanford has to suffer at least a small letdown after beating USC on the road last week, no? On the other hand, Oregon St. looked awfully meek when they played Michigan earlier this year. I think the line is fat so I will take Oregon St. plus the points.

BYU at Michigan – 6.5 (44.5): BYU is not in a conference so they get to schedule all of their games without the restrictions that a conference imposes. You cannot accuse the folks there of scheduling only patsies. They have already played UCLA and Nebraska and hoof it all the way to Ann Arbor for this game. Both teams have better defenses than offenses so I see a low scoring game. I’ll take BYU plus the points here.

Missouri at Kentucky – 2.5 (45): Neither team has an offense that scares anyone. I am surprised to see Kentucky favored in a conference game and after UConn held Missouri to 9 points last week, there is no way I would take Mizzou on the road with that few points. Therefore, I will take the game to stay UNDER.

Navy – 7 at UConn (47): Perhaps this game will give an indication of how good Navy might be this year and/or how good UConn might be this year. No wagering interest hear at all, but the game is worth some attention.

Bowling Green – 2.5 at Purdue (75): This line opened with Purdue as a 2-point favorite but the movement has been toward Bowling Green all week. On the road at Maryland a couple of weeks ago, Bowling Green scored 48 points; last week Purdue gave up 51 points to Va Tech. I know that Bowling Green’s defense is nothing to write home about, but I like them to win here by wearing Purdue down. I’ll take Bowling Green on the road and lay the points.

Kansas at Rutgers – 14 (65): Kansas just stinks. Rutgers has coaches suspended and a half-dozen players either kicked off the team or in jail or both. This game is as attractive as a landfill site. Do not wager on this game; do not watch this game. Merely marvel at the fact that Rutgers can be a 2 TD favorite here; how bad must Kansas be?

Ga Tech – 7 at Duke (56): Notre Dame put the brakes on the Ga Tech option offense and forced Tech to throw the ball way more than they wanted to. Can Duke do something similar? Probably not. Nevertheless, this is a game between two good ACC teams and the rivalry had to have heated up last year when Duke beat Ga Tech in Atlanta. Purely a hunch here, but I like Duke at home plus a TD’s worth of points.

Texas A&M – 7 vs. Arkansas (58) Game is in Arlington, TX: Arkansas has lost two consecutive home games (one was in Little Rock) to Toledo and to Texas Tech. Texas A&M is a better squad than either of those teams and while this is a neutral site game, there are likely to be plenty of Aggie fans in attendance. I like Texas A&M to win and cover here.

Tennessee – 1.5 at Florida (48): Florida opened as a 2-point favorite here; the Total Line opened at 53.5. Neither team is great on offense but it appears as if Florida has the better defense. This is completely a venue call; I’ll take Florida plus the points.

Mississippi St. at Auburn – 3 (58): Auburn has changed QBs; is that going to be a plus for the team against a good Mississippi St defense? Miss. St has Dak Prescott at QB and he has good games and bad games seemingly with no pattern. I think this will be a defensive game so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

TCU – 6 at Texas Tech (80): Yes, you read the Total Line correctly; believe it or not, it started the week higher at 81. The team that has the ball last is likely the winner here because neither defense is outstanding and both units will be tired in the 4th quarter. No pick here, but keep your eyes on the crawl at the bottom of your TV screen for a lot of “Score Alerts” here.

Utah at Oregon – 11.5 (64.5): Utah wins when their defense dictates the pace of the game and the field position; Oregon wins when it overwhelms the opposition with speed and quick strikes. Here are a couple of trend angles for the game:

    Since the start of last year, Utah is 7-1 against the spread on the road. They are on the road here.

    Since the start of last year, Utah is 5-1 against the spread as an underdog. They are the underdog here.

Forget the trends, I think Oregon is too fast for Utah to contain for 60 minutes. I’ll take Oregon and lay the points.

Northern Illinois at BC – 4.5 (47): Last week, Northern Illinois lost to Ohio State by 7 points while BC was shut out by Florida State (see above). The spread here suggests a significant offensive rebound for BC and that Northern Illinois left all of itself on the field against Ohio State. I think this will be a low scoring affair and so I’ll take N. Illinois plus the points.

Oklahoma St. – 3 at Texas (59): Last week, Ok.St. beat up on Texas-San Antonio; this week they get just plain Texas. The Longhorns have had plenty of problems this year but they have a decent defense and they are getting points at home. Purely a venue call; I’ll take Texas plus the points.

USC – 5.5 at Arizona St (61): USC played poorly on defense against Stanford last week. Arizona St. wins by outscoring the other guys. I do not see a lot of “three-and-outs” happening here. I like the game to go OVER.

UCLA – 3 at Arizona (66): This may the best game of the weekend. This will be the first real road game for UCLA freshman QB, Josh Rosen, so I expect him to play a tad below his level in the game. UCLA’s defense ought to keep Arizona from running wild too. I like the game to stay UNDER.

Cal – 3 at Washington (60): I am not impressed by either defense here and both teams have shown they can score points on offense. Therefore, I like the game to go OVER.

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