Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 10/10/15

Last week was another middling week of Mythical Picks; the record was 10-9-0 bringing the season total to 37-36-3. The “Best Pick of the week was taking Iowa +7 points and seeing Iowa win the game straight up. The “Worst Pick” from last week was taking Minnesota +4 points and watching them get shut out by Northwestern to lose by a meager 27 points.

Undaunted, I shall soldier on… Nonetheless, no one should read these words of deathless prose and think even for a moment of using the content here as the basis for making a real wager on a real college football game involving real money this weekend. Here is how dumb you would have to be to do that:

    You would be dumb enough to try to kill a fish by drowning it.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats extended their record to 3-0 last week by crushing Lewis and Clark College by a score of 73-0. This week, Linfield hosts the Pacific University (Oregon) Boxers in a Northwest Conference game. Pacific brings a record of 3-1 to this game. Go Wildcats!

My rapid search for a miserable D-III team to follow in juxtaposition with Linfield appears to have been too hasty. My “discovery”, the Finlandia Lions, had been steamrollered and left for dead in their first three games but rallied last week to defeat Maranatha Bible College by a score of 30-14. Finlandia won a game – – but they left behind a winless Maranatha squad that lost to a team previously outscored 272-9. Therefore, I shall track the fortunes – or misfortunes – of Maranatha Bible College at least until Halloween. You may recall from last week that in an unusual twist of scheduling Finlandia and Maranatha will meet again on Halloween.

The Maranatha Sabrecats’ record now stands at 0-5; they have been outscored for the season 223 – 41. The team has this week off to prepare for their next game which will be on the road in Ellendale, ND a week from Saturday.

Last week, Ohio State rallied to beat Indiana by a slim 7-point margin. Other than Ezekiel Elliot who ran for 275 yards, the team just seemed to be going through the motions. Cardale Jones never seemed to get into anything resembling a comfortable zone in the game. At the end, it was the Ohio State defense that stopped Indiana and preserved the win. Ohio State did not look like the best team in the country last week.

Two weeks ago, Alabama lost to Ole Miss and many pundits/analysts left them dead and buried. Last week, they went to Georgia to take on a team that looked like the favorite to win the SEC East; Georgia was favored in the game. Alabama manhandled Georgia 38-10. There is no really polite way to put it; this was an organized ass-kicking. The fact that Georgia can still win the SEC East means that they should be motivated to play hard in the rest of their games, but this game was so lopsided that people who vote in polls will need to remember it in the coming weeks. People had been saying that Alabama’s offense was not what it was supposed to be due to a weakness at QB. Well, folks, Georgia has some QB issues of its own:

    Starter Greyson Lambert played the first half. He was 10-24 for 86 yards. Late in the second quarter he went to the bench, took off his helmet and looked like a lost puppy.

    Reliever Brice Ramsey took over in the second half. He introduced himself to the contest by throwing a Pick Six.

Meanwhile in other SEC action, Florida beat Ole Miss by the same 38-10 score that Alabama dropped on Georgia. At kickoff time, Ole Miss was ranked #3 in the country; they sure did not play that way last week. The Florida defense looked very fast and very strong; Gator’s QB, Will Grier, had a “decent day”.

    He was 24-29 for 271 yards and 4 TDs. That will do…

Speaking of teams that have had “up days” and “down days” this season, consider Oklahoma. Earlier this year, the Sooners gave up 600 yards to Tulsa. Last week, they held West Virginia to 24 points and recorded 7 sacks.

Meanwhile, Va Tech lost at home to Pitt by a score of 17-13. In the game, Tech managed to accumulate the grand total of 101 yards on offense. The Hokies record is now 2-3 and things are not looking good at all in Blacksburg…

In Big 10 play, Michigan recorded its second consecutive shutout beating Maryland 28-0. Since losing its opening game to Utah, Michigan has allowed the next 4 opponents a total of 14 points. It is a well-established fact that if a team shuts out the opponent, the team will not lose the game. Last week’s win was indeed a dominant defensive performance:

    Total Maryland offense was 105 yards.

    Maryland rushing stats were 26 carries for 29 yards.

    Maryland had 15 possessions; on 10 of them they went 3-and-out.

Maryland’s record is deceiving at 2-3. The wins have come over Division 1-AA Richmond and a bad USF team that has not beaten a Division 1-A team yet this year. Meanwhile, the 3 losses on the record have been embarrassing:

    Lost to Bowling Green 48-27
    Lost to West Virginia 45-6
    Lost to Michigan 28-0.

Bowling Green and West Virginia sped up the game and Maryland could not keep up. Michigan did not play frenetic football; they just overpowered Maryland which raises the question:

    If they cannot keep up with the “speed teams” and they cannot stand up to a “power team”, just what kind of team are they built to beat?

Rumors are circulating that Coach Randy Edsall is going to be fired early next week after a game against Ohio State in Columbus where Ohio State is a 33-point favorite because the Terps have next week off. If those rumors turn out to be correct – and I have exactly no inside info to add to the mix here – here are my reactions:

    Changing the coach will not cure the talent deficiency on the field. The new coach will have to be a miracle worker to get the Terps to bowl-eligibility this year.

    A firing in mid-season will make the suits in the institution in College Park feel as if they are powerful and that they have done something to “address the situation”. In reality, the team will continue to flounder.

    If they do fire Edsall, someone ought to remind those folks in the administration that it was they who gave randy Edsall a 3-year contract extension – wait for it – in June 2015. How smart where they then if they have to fire him now and pay him for three years not to darken their doorsteps?

I am not in favor of rumor-mongering and find mid-season removals for coaches feckless. Nonetheless, I wonder if the folks in Tennessee have begun to take a look at Butch Jones’ accomplishments there. Tennessee beats teams that tend to reside under the left side of the bell curve and does not beat teams that are generally good ones. Consider the Vols performance under Jones:

    Overall record is 14-16 which is neither horrible nor really good.

    Only 5 of the 14 wins have been against SEC teams. That is not good.

    Of the 5 SEC wins, the opponents were Kentucky (twice), South Carolina (twice) and Vandy. That is not the crème de la crème of the SEC…

Tennessee is 2-3 this year; the wins came over Bowling Green and W. Carolina; 2 of the 3 losses are to SEC opponents with Georgia and Alabama up as the next two events on the schedule. It would not be shocking to see Tennessee lose 6 SEC games this year.

In a Big 10 conference game, the nominal #2 team in the country, Michigan State, edged out a pretty mediocre Purdue team by a field goal. For the record, Michigan State is 5-0 straight up this year and 0-5 against the spread this year. For some Michigan State alums, that is not satisfactory…

Northwestern continued its undefeated season shutting out Minnesota 27-0 last week. Minnesota is not an offensive juggernaut, so one could downplay this accomplishment but you need to look at Northwestern’s “body of work” this year. The Northwestern defense is really good.

    In 5 games, Northwestern has not given up 20 points in any game.

    In 5 games, Northwestern has given up a total of 35 points.

    Stanford and Duke were two of Northwestern’s opponents in those games.

Last week, Illinois beat Nebraska 14-13. That is not a misprint; it actually happened. The last time that happened was in 1924 and Calvin Coolidge was the President. When Nebraska fired Bo Pellini at the end of last year, the nominal reason was that Nebraska was tired of only winning 9 games in a season; they wanted a “return to glory”. So, how’s that working out in Lincoln? Well the Cornhuskers have wins over South Alabama and Southern Mississippi; they have lost their other 3 games; they will need to “win out” to get to 9 wins this year. That is not happening…

By the way, the winning TD for Illinois was caught by WR, Geronimo Allison; for the record, Geronimo was an Apache and not an Illini. There are several other interesting player names on the Illinois roster:

    Chunky Clements is a defensive lineman
    Jihad Ward is a defensive lineman
    Man Berg is a wide receiver – – and the most interesting name – –
    Jeff George, Jr. is a freshman quarterback

Clemson beat Notre Dame 24-22 in an absolute deluge. The Notre Dame receivers had a particularly tough time catching the football; I counted 4 passes that hit receivers squarely in the hands that were dropped. Nonetheless, it was an exciting game to watch…

In Big 12 action, TCU pounded the bejeepers out of Texas winning by 6 TDs. After two straight weeks of special teams’ screw-ups, you would think that the Texas special teams units would have been drilled to do what they need to do. And if you thought that, you would have been very wrong. Not that it would have changed the outcome of this rout, but here is what the Texas special teams “accomplished” last week:

    Missed two field goals
    High snap from center resulted in a safety for TCU

Moreover, here is a tidbit from last week’s game that ought to make the Texas fans a bit upset. TCU scheduled Homecoming for the Texas game; schools often schedule homecoming around a football game they expect to win so that the alums who show up can go home feeling good and proud and – hopefully – generous with regard to the university. Texas has been a national champion and a contender for the national championship many times and now they are considered a potential Homecoming opponent. Sic transit gloria mundi…

Baylor and Texas Tech demonstrated that it is possible to play 60 minutes of football without playing defense. The final score was 63-35. You may recall that the Total Line for that game was 88 points (and 88.5 at one Internet sportsbook) when I did last week’s Mythical Picks. I do not recall ever seeing a Total Line that high – and these guys went over that number by 2 scores. Baylor QB, Seth Russell accounted for 6 TDs by himself – running for 2 and throwing 4 TD passes. At halftime, the score was 49-21. At that point, the teams were on pace to score 140 points in the game. They must have gotten exhausted in the second half.

The PAC-12 is inscrutable this year. Arizona St. had lost badly to Texas A&M and then lost to USC; a win for the Sun Devils over Cal-Poly was nothing to write home about. UCLA had been beating up everyone and so, naturally, Arizona St. went to UCLA and beat UCLA. Makes sense, right? Then, last night USC lost a second game to Washington. That sets up a big game this weekend (see below).

UCF lost by 14 points to Tulane last week dropping their record to 0-5. Looking at their schedule, there are not a lot of teams down the line that are significantly weaker than Tulane. They get UConn this week and USF much later this year. Other than that… It is going to be a long year for college football in the Orlando area…

Auburn has tossed D’haquille Williams – a really good WR – off the team. This is not a suspension; he is gone. Auburn has had more than a few problems with its passing offense this year so ditching a talented WR is not something you would expect them to do. Of course the explanation for this move was “violation of team rules”; my suspicion is that it was either a monstrous violation or the accumulation of a load of other violations that got them to this point.

Speaking of suspensions, Missouri QB, Maty Mauk remains suspended for this weekend’s game against Florida. Freshman Drew Lock who started against S. Carolina last week will be under center again this week. Mauk’s suspension is “indefinite”…

I mentioned Tennessee and their problems winning SEC games above. Last week, the program was in the news for a player suspension situation; WR, Pig Howard, was suspended for “violation of team rules”. Not to worry, the Tennessee roster is not devoid of great names even if Pig Howard is not dressed for the game:

    Shy Tuttle is a defensive lineman; he need not be shy about getting to the opposing QB.

    Joe Young is a running back; if he runs over a defender, I would give him the nickname “Mighty Joe Young”.

    Colton Jumper (linebacker) and Will Jumper (TE) are from the same high school so I assume they are related. But shouldn’t they be on the basketball team?

The Ponderosa Games:

Last week, we had 4 Ponderosa Games and the favorite covered in only 1 of them. That brings the season record for favorites covering to 20-23-0.

Boise St. covered.

Appalachian St,. LSU, and Penn State did not cover.

This week, we again have 4 Ponderosa Games:

Maryland at Ohio St. – 33 (54): Maryland is currently +7000 on the money line. That money line is much lower than I would have expected it to be.

Troy at Mississippi St. – 30.5 (56): Troy is +5500 on the money line. That too is surprisingly low… Mississippi St. has not run the ball well this year; if they cannot run the ball in this game they are probably in deep yogurt against the SEC teams remaining on their schedule.

New Mexico St. at Ole Miss – 45 (66): There have been two very large line moves for this game. The spread opened at 40.5 and has been expanding all week; it could be higher by game time. Meanwhile, the Total Line opened at 71.5 and dropped very quickly to 67 and then has inched down to this level. I mention this only because I cannot imagine there is enough interest in this potential blowout to bring in enough money to move either line that much – let alone both of them. By halftime, I suspect many of the Ole Miss alums will have repaired to their vehicles in the tailgate area to down a cocktail or three.

Baylor – 45 at Kansas (79): The spread opened at 38 and has expanded all week by a full TD. More interesting than the outcome of this game will be to watch how close Baylor comes to taking the game OVER all by themselves.

Games of Interest:

(Fri Nite) NC State at Va Tech – 3 (45.5): Neither team is very good but I just have a sense that the wheels are falling off the wagon at Va Tech to a greater extent than they are at NC State. Tech has 2 wins this year over Furman and Purdue – unimpressive. State has wins over Troy, E. Kentucky, Old Dominion and South Alabama – equally unimpressive. Purely a hunch here; I’ll take NC State plus the points.

Oklahoma – 16.5 vs. Texas (59): [Game is in Dallas] I said above that Oklahoma is as unpredictable as any team this year from week to week but we seem to be able to count on Texas to find ways to embarrass themselves week after week after… That is a lot of points but I think Oklahoma is a lot better than Texas. I’ll take Oklahoma to win and cover.

Indiana at Penn State – 7 (55): Indiana only lost to Ohio St. by 7 last week and Penn State struggled against Army despite being a 25-point favorite. This line looks like a set-up to me. However, I suspect this will be a defensive game; so just for fun, I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

Duke – 12 at Army (47): Sometimes teams take time to adjust to Army’s options run offense because defenses see it so rarely. However, Duke already saw it against Georgia Tech so they should be prepared for it from the start. Here is a trend stat for those of you who like such things:

    Duke is 8-2-1 against the spread in its last 11 games on the road.

I think the Duke offense shows up big here; I like Duke to win and cover on the road.

Illinois at Iowa – 10.5 (46): Both teams won conference games last week as underdogs. If Illinois is going to get any business done on offense, it will probably be by throwing the ball because Iowa has an outstanding run defense. Iowa is not an explosive team, but they are steady. I like Iowa at home to win and cover.

Wake Forest at BC – 7.5 (37): Last week there was a Total Line at 88 and I had never seen one that high. Here the Total Line is similarly minuscule but not the lowest one of the week (see below). I have a feeling that if you like to observe and dissect the nuances of “the punting game”, this is the game for you. No pick here but a prop bet on the OVER/UNDER for number of punts in the game might be interesting…

Arkansas at Alabama – 16 (48): Arkansas likes to run the ball with a power running attack; that is not likely to work well against Alabama. However, I see this game as a defensive game and not a runaway so that is an awfully fat line. Just a hunch, but I’ll take Arkansas with those points.

Washington St. at Oregon – 17 (71): I am surprised by both of these teams this year. Washington St. is better than I thought they would be and Oregon is not as good as I thought they would be. Having said that, I do not see this as a defensive game so I’ll take the game to go OVER.

Georgia – 3 at Tennessee (59.5): The Vols could surely use a win over a good SEC team (see above) and they host Georgia here the week after Alabama disemboweled Georgia at home. Georgia can surely use a win here too; they can still win the SEC East because they still have Florida on the schedule even if no one else can find a way to beat Florida. Neither team has a reliable quarterbacking situation so the comparison here would seem to be the running game and the run defenses. That gives Georgia the edge so I’ll take Georgia and lay the points.

Miami at Florida State – 9 (51): Back in the day, these teams would both be in the Top 5 and this was the game that would set up the winner to be the national champion. Not this year… Miami fans want to fire Coach Al Golden; Florida State is undefeated so far this year but they have only been able to crush Texas State in the manner that FSU fans used to expect. That line looks fat to me so I’ll take Miami plus the points on the road.

Northwestern at Michigan – 7.5 (34): A top-shelf matchup here… That is a stunningly low Total Line for a college or an NFL game but indeed these are two excellent defensive teams and neither one is scary on offense. I can imagine this game ending with a 13-9 score either way; I can also imagine this game getting both teams to 20 points or so. I think that a spread of more than a TD is too big to pass up in this game; I’ll take Northwestern plus the points.

Georgia Tech at Clemson – 7 (54.5): Will Clemson suffer a let-down after beating Notre Dame last week? I think that is the only real question here because Tech has shown that it is “vulnerable” this year. I will not make a pick here because I have a creepy feeling about this game. Clemson might blow Tech out of the stadium by 4 TDs – – or Clemson might “pull a Clemson” and lose outright…

Cal at Utah – 7 (61): Perhaps the best game of the weekend. Cal is 5-0 and Utah is 4-0; raise your hand if you saw that coming back in August. I surely did not. Cal QB, Jared Goff, is getting a lot of publicity as the top QB for next year’s NFL Draft; he needs to be sure that he does not come to believe that those press clippings make him invincible because Utah has a good defense. I like this game to go OVER.

UConn at UCF – 2.5 (39): Here is a team that UCF might actually beat this year (see above). Do not bet on this game and do not bother watching it either. It is interesting here because soon I shall start checking to see what teams belong in the SHOE Tournament…

Florida – 3.5 at Missouri (40): Florida beat Ole Miss last week in a big game in Gainesville. This is a young team and now they go on the road with potentially swelled heads. Missouri has a good defense but will be without starting QB, Maty Mauk (see above). I like Florida to win and cover even on the road here and with it being Homecoming Weekend for Missouri.

Syracuse at USF – 2 (47.5): Short and simple here… Syracuse is not very good on the road and out of their dome. USF is not very good anywhere. I have no idea where 48 points will come from so I like the game to stay UNDER.

TCU – 10 at Kansas State (63): Short and simple here… I think both teams will be able to score on the opponents’ defenses. This is the best opponent either team has seen all season. I like this game to go OVER.

Iowa St. at Texas Tech – 10 (73): Tech’s offense has shown that it can score points in bundles; State’s defense does not seem to be able to throttle that back. Tech’s defense has not shut down anyone recently. I like this game to go OVER.

Michigan St. – 13.5 at Rutgers (54.5): Why is the spread here so low? Is it because Rutgers had last week off to prep for this game? Big deal. Is it because folks think State will ignore this opponent because Michigan is up next? Possibly. I do not know if Michigan St. is indeed a Top 5 team as it has been in the polls all season long, but I do know that Rutgers is a hot mess. I’ll take Michigan St. to win and cover here purely because they are the much better team.

Wisconsin at Nebraska – 1.5 (49): Both teams lost last week as solid favorites. However, Wisconsin lost to a better team (Iowa) than Nebraska did (Illinois). I’ll take Wisconsin plus the points here.

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