Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 10/17/15

Last week’s Mythical Picks could have been better but they were still ever so slightly mythically profitable. The record was 9-8-0 bringing the season record to 46-44-3.

The “Best Picks” last week were two OVER bets. I took Iowa St/Texas Tech to go OVER 73 and the total was 97 and I took TCU/Kansas State OVER 63 and the total was also 97.

The “Worst Pick” from last week was taking Oklahoma – 16.5 against Texas and watching Texas win the game outright.

No one should consider anything written here as worthy of consideration when it comes to choosing a side in making a real wager on a real college football game where real money is on the line. Anyone doing that would be just about this dumb:

    He/She thinks a thesaurus is a well-spoken dinosaur.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats ran their record to 4-0 (2-0 in conference) with a massive 77-10 win over Pacific University (Oregon). One more win will keep their streak of winning seasons alive; Division III teams play 9 game schedules. This week, the Wildcats go on the road to face Willamette University. The Bearcats are 1-3 on the season but 2 of their 3 losses came at the expense of a total of 7 points. Go Wildcats!

Maranatha Baptist University had last week off to prepare for this week’s road game against Trinity Bible College in Ellendale, ND. Maranatha Baptist is 0-5 as is Trinity Bible College. If you have been following my quest to find the polar opposite of Linfield as a Division III team to follow, you know that Maranatha lost to Finlandia two weeks ago. Well after Trinity plays Maranatha, Trinity plays Finlandia and then Finlandia and Maranatha play each other again. This is getting much too complicated…

Last week, the Wake Forest/Boston College game set back college football about 75 years. The final score was 3-0 but that only begins to tell the tale of ineptitude in the game. Consider just a few stats:

    There were 18 punts in the game combined.
    There were 5 fumbles (4 of them lost) in the game combined.
    Each team had akin INT.
    The total offense for both teams combined was 412 yards. (Wake had 142)
    BC got 5 first downs by penalty in the game.
    Combined passing stats were 17-45 for 183 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs.

If you have concluded that the team to make the last mistake would lose that game you would be correct because BC botched the end-of-game possession in epic fashion. I will try to summarize:

    BC is losing 3-0 as the clock is winding down. They have the ball at the Wake Forest 1-yardline with a first down and no timeouts.

    The ball is snapped with 18 or 19 seconds on the clock and the play call was a run.

    The runner never got close to the end zone. That is not good.

    What is even worse is that BC could get lined up to spike the ball and stop the clock and if you watch the final seconds of that game expire (Google is your friend) your eyes will get very wide and your jaw will drop. It looks like a Keystone Kops flick.

I enjoy defensive games more than most folks do. That was not a defensive game as the 3-0 score might intimate; that was a blunderingly inept game.

Last week we saw Steve Spurrier resign and Steve Sarkisian get fired. It was not a good week for coaches with names beginning with the letter “S”. [Yes, I know Randy Edsall was fired too but including him in the sentence above does not fit the narrative…] There was another college coach firing last week that received far less attention than the others. North Texas fired Coach Dan McCarney last week right after the Mean Green lost to Portland State 66-7. Portland State is a Division 1-AA school; earlier this year, Portland State beat Washington St. by a TD in the opening game of the season. Nevertheless, that loss dropped North Texas to 0-5 and the school decided to “go in a different direction”.

Division 1-AA schools rise up and beat Division 1-A every once in a while. Many folks recall when Appalachian St. went to Ann Arbor and beat Michigan 34-32. That was about 10 years ago and it is often mentioned as one of the great upsets of all time. However, note that the score differential was 2 points; in most Division 1-AA victories over Division 1-A teams, the score is close enough that the loser still considers that it has a shot to win sometime in the second half. Not so last week in the Portland St./North Texas game:

    Portland State led 45-0 at the half.
    Portland State led 59-0 after three quarters.
    Portland State outgained North Texas 670 yards to 198 yards.

I do not have the time or the inclination to do the research to find out if this is the biggest butt-kicking ever administered by a Division 1-AA team to a Division 1-A team; suffice it to say that this was so monumental a rout that it justified firing the North Texas coach on the spot.

Oh, by the way, in another exemplar of the minimal importance one should attach to coaching changes in mid-season, North Texas played their next game last night. They did a lot better than they did against Portland State where they lost by 59 points; last night they only lost by 27 to W. Kentucky.

In a more uplifting piece of news last week, the nation’s longest losing streak came to a halt. Columbia beat Wagner 26-3; prior to that game, Columbia had lost 24 games in a row; their last win was in November 2012 over Cornell. Columbia has been known to go on losing streaks before. Back in the 1980s, they once lost 44 games in a row – the longest losing streak on record in college football. The losing streak that ended last week did not come close to the school record on the college football record.

Texas beat Oklahoma 24-17 and that ought to quiet down the “Fire Charlie Strong” chorus for at least a week. That victory was the first win for Texas over a ranked team since Charlie Strong took over the program. Here is a measure of the dominance in the game:

    Texas had 313 yards rushing
    Oklahoma had 67 yards rushing.

More importantly, there were no humongously embarrassing gaffes by any of the Texas Special teams units in the game; that seemingly had become a refrain for the Longhorns this year. It would be far too much of a feelgood story to say that Texas has turned the corner and is on its way back to greatness on the basis of one dominant win. Upcoming for Texas are K-State, Iowa St. and Kansas. Texas is 2-4 today; after those 3 games they should be 4-5 at the worst. Oh, and Baylor is still down the road for them later this year…

TCU and Kansas State went on an offensive bender last week. K-State led by 18 at halftime but TCU rallied to win 52-45. TCU QB, Trevone Boykin, had an amazing second half running for two TDs and throwing the winning TD pass in the 4th quarter. In the opening game of the season, TCU beat Minnesota 23-17. In the five games since that one, TCU has gone over 50 points in every game averaging 56.6 points in those 5 games.

Tennessee beat Georgia for the first time since 2009 last week. Nick Chubb suffered a season-ending knee injury on his first carry of the game and Chubb is more than just a really good RB; he is what makes the Georgia offense go. Georgia led 24-3 in the first half and managed to lose 38-31. The Vols ran up 512 yards of total offense on a Georgia defense that has not looked nearly that bad all season long. Some folks may want to ascribe this loss to the hangover sustained from the clobbering that Alabama put on Georgia 2 weeks ago; I think it was more about the loss of Nick Chubb. And, that has implications for Georgia and the SEC East going forward. More on that later…

Florida beat Missouri 21-2 last week. If ever there was a game that deserved the label “winning ugly” this would be it. There were 18 punts in the game and at one point there were 7 consecutive 3-and-outs. The Florida offense last week – and truth be told all season long – has been a unit using training wheels. It has been the defense that has carried the team to its 6-0 record. And the job for that defense just got harder because starting QB, Will Grier, will sit out a 12-month suspension imposed by the NCAA because he flunked a PED drug test.

Look at the SEC East today:

    Florida leads with a 4-0 record.
    Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee and Vandy all have 2 losses already.
    South Carolina is irrelevant here.

Florida’s next two games are against LSU and Georgia. If they lose both, all of those 2-loss teams in the SEC East become “contendas” again.

Michigan pitched its third consecutive shutout last week beating Northwestern 38-0. Michigan returned the opening kickoff for a TD; that was an omen; the score was 21-0 at the end of the first quarter and the game was clearly over at that point. Northwestern is an unbalanced team; they have a good defense and a sub-standard offense. Consider these stats:

    Total offense for Northwestern was 168 yards.
    After the first quarter, Northwestern never snapped the ball in Michigan territory.

Ohio State beat Maryland as expected by 3 TDs but that margin might be a bit deceiving if you are grading on the style points scale. The score of this game was tied in the second half. Maryland is not nearly good enough to be tied with the #1 team in the country in the second half…

Out west in the PAC-12, Utah beat Cal 30-24. Jared Goff’s NFL résumé took a hit in the game because he threw 5 INTs in the game. [He has only thrown 4 INTs for the season until last week.] I have been impressed by Utah’s defense since their opening week win over Michigan and last week it looked even better than it did then. However, Utah also has a running back who is not getting a lot of attention in a year when Leonard Fournette, Nick Chubb and Ezekiel Elliot have dominated headlines. Devontae Booker carried 34 times against Cal and gained 222 yards; he is one tough runner.

Utah now leads the PAC-12 South standings; USC and UCLA had been considered the co-favorites in that division but both of them now have 2 conference losses; Utah is undefeated. Arizona State has 1 loss and Arizona St and Utah play each other this weekend…

Interesting fact that may or may not have any significance:

    In PAC-12 Conference games this year, the road teams are 10-5 straight up.
    Is that a trend that might continue or just an anomaly based on a small sample size?

Oregon – like USC – has two losses at home already this year. Last week, Oregon lost at home in double over-time to Washington State – the “other Division 1-A team” that Portland State defeated this year. Sitting at 3-3 with at least 3 tough games remaining on the schedule, the question is whether this year represents a “precipitous decline” in Oregon football or “an implosion”. Chip Kelly has been gone sufficiently long that virtually none of his recruits are left on the team – and coincidentally, the team is not nearly as successful as it was then. Coincidence – – or causality?

UConn beat UCF last week 40-13; the game is of no real consequence except that it means that in starting out this year with an 0-6 record, UCF has managed to lose to an impressive array of lower-tier football programs to include Florida International, Tulane, Furman and now UConn…

The alums at Central Michigan are probably not thrilled by the team’s 2-4 record this year. However, sports bettors – or “punters” as they are known in the UK – love C Michigan because they are 6-0 ATS (against the spread). Just saying…

Conversely, the alums at Michigan State have to like the team’s 6-0 start but the fact is that Michigan State is 0-6 ATS…

The Ponderosa Games:

Last week we had 4 Ponderosa Games and the record for favorites covering was 2-2-0.

Baylor and Ole’ Miss covered. Interestingly, both teams covered 45-point spreads

Mississippi St. and Ohio St. did not cover.

For the season the cumulative record for favorites covering Ponderosa spreads stands at 22-25-0.

Once again, this week, we have 4 Ponderosa Games

E. Michigan at Toledo – 28 (60): Oh swell… A MAC game that looks as if it will be a blowout. Remind me not to set my DVR to record that one…

New Mexico St. at Georgia Southern – 30.5 (65): You read that right. This is not Georgia or Georgia Tech that is the 30.5-point favorite here…

Purdue at Wisconsin – 24 (50.5): I am sure the coaches and players care about the outcome here. As for me…

Texas Tech – 31.5 at Kansas (78): This line opened at 28 points and has been climbing steadily all week…

The SHOE Tournament Teams:

It is still too early in the season to start ranking the teams that will earn their way into my imaginary SHOE Tournament at the end of the year to determine the single worst Division 1-A football team in the country. However, it is getting to be the time to identify about a dozen teams that have made themselves known to the SHOE Selection Committee (me). In alphabetical order, here are teams that might be known eventually as the SHOE Team – the Steaming Heap Of Excrement for 2015:

    E. Michigan
    New Mexico State
    North Texas (see above)
    Texas – San Antonio

Games of Interest:

(Fri Nite) Houston – 20 at Tulane (58): I do not see either defense being able to stop the other guys reliably so I like this game to go OVER.

(Fri Nite) UNLV – 6.5 at Fresno St. (50): These are two bad teams. It is a Game of Interest because the loser will surely go on the SHOE Tournament Watch List and the winner may not be excluded from that list either.

USF at UConn – 2.5 (45): These are two bad teams. They are not bad enough to be considered at this time as SHOE contenders but they are still bad. If you took the family and friends of the players and coaches out of the stands for this game, might there be less than 2500 folks there?

BC at Clemson – 16 (35.5): After Wake Forest shut out BC last week, no one should expect BC to have an offensive explosion against a Clemson defense that is at least as good as Wake Forest’s. BC does play good defense, so I do not expect Clemson to get into 30s here. The question is if BC can get into double-digits. Because that Total Line is incredibly low, I’ll take the game to go OVER and hope BC can score 10 points here.

Iowa – 1.5 at Northwestern (41.5): Iowa plays very good defense particularly against the run. Michigan showed last week what a really good defense can do to Northwestern (see above). Iowa is not as good on defense as Michigan but they will prevent the modest Northwestern offense from doing a lot of scoring or a lot of clock control. Moreover, they may a bit of a “hangover” on the Northwestern side from the shellacking they took last week. I like Iowa to win and cover on the road here and I like the game to stay UNDER.

Alabama – 4 at Texas A&M (53): This should be a great game to watch; both teams are ranked in the Top 10. The Aggies have had 2 weeks to prep for this game and I suspect that the coaching staff has mentioned to the team the results of last year’s game with Alabama when The Tide won 59-0. The game sets up this way:

    Alabama relies on its defense
    Texas A&M has scored 28 or more points in every game this year.

The Aggies’ defense can be exploited by a good running game and Ezekiel Elliot is a very good RB. The question here is if the Aggies can run on Alabama enough to keep that defense guessing. I like Alabama to win and cover here.

Florida at LSU – 7 (45.5): Here is another SEC game pairing highly ranked teams. This may not be an “artistic game” but it is very important for Florida if they want to stay firmly in control of the SEC East (see above). The Florida defense has been dominant this year but they have not yet seen anyone like Leonard Fournette across the line of scrimmage. Florida yields only 99 yards per game on the ground; Fournette averages 205 yards per game rushing. Can Florida keep him under some semblance of control? That is the essential question for this game. I think defense is the order of the day and I like the game to stay UNDER.

Missouri at Georgia – 15 (46): The loser here is pretty much out of the SEC East race; it will be that team’s third conference loss. Missouri plays without their suspended starting QB; Georgia plays without RB, Nick Chubb. Missouri’s chance to win rests with shutting down the Georgia running game and forcing whatever QB Georgia puts on the field to win the game throwing the ball most of the time. I think this will be a low scoring game so I’ll take Missouri plus all those points and I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

Oklahoma – 4 at K-State (54): Short and sweet here… I like this game to go OVER.

Michigan St. at Michigan – 7 (42): Here is another game with two ranked teams that ought to be a good one; this rivalry may not be as intense as the Michigan/Ohio State rivalry, but it is still an emotional game every year. Michigan State has not played well despite winning every game this year; last week, they escaped against Rutgers and no one would confuse Rutgers with Michigan. Michigan has been on a roll since that opening loss to Utah and as of last week they looked like a superior football team. I fully expect Michigan’s shutout streak to end here but I think the Michigan defense will be the dominant unit in the contest. I’ll take Michigan and lay the points.

West Virginia at Baylor – 21 (76): Baylor scores points by the bushel (see above); their “closest tussle” was a 63-35 win over Texas Tech; that is a 28-point win just in case your calculator batteries are low. West Virginia has lost its last two games and has turned the ball over 9 times in those two losses; if they do that here, they might lose to Baylor by 50 points. West Virginia is not a scoring machine in the same conversation with Baylor, but this is not a team that rarely finds the end zone either. I think there will be lots of scoring here so I’ll take the game to go OVER.

Vandy at South Carolina – 2.5 (43): No way would I bet on this game but it is interesting to see how South Carolina reacts to the new coaching situation there. Neither offense is any good; both defenses are just good enough to stifle the opposing offense. Over/Under for punts in the game is around 16…

Arizona St. at Utah – 6.5 (55): Arizona St. is the team in the PAC-12 South with only 1 conference loss. A win for Utah here would give them a 2-game cushion in that division; a win for Arizona St. would put them in first place in that division because they would have beaten Utah head-to-head. This may not be a great rivalry game like Michigan/Michigan St. but this is a very important game. I love the Utah defense but I am not in love with the Utah offense. That line looks fat to me so I’ll take Arizona St. plus the points.

Arizona – 7.5 at Colorado (67): Colorado can score points and the Arizona defense is not nearly the strength of the team. Meanwhile, the same situation obtains in reverse. That leads me to take the game to go OVER.

TCU – 20.5 at Iowa St. (73): The spread started out at 22 points and has been dropping. That means there was an excess of “Iowa State money” hitting the windows. There is no way that I think Iowa St. has a defense that is going to hold TCU to anything significantly less than 50 points. Therefore, if I believe that Iowa St. can get 3 TDs in the game, it will go OVER. That is exactly what I believe; I like the game to go OVER.

USC at Notre Dame – 6 (61): This is an interesting match-up having nothing to do with college football tradition or anything like that. USC comes to South Bend to play a rivalry game with new leadership on the sidelines. Coaches always say they need to rid the team of distractions; well, this week will be a test for the new coaching structure at USC. Notre Dame is 5-1 for the season; their loss was to Clemson in a monsoon. However, Notre Dame has not played much of a schedule outside of Clemson. Wins over Texas, Virginia, Georgia Tech, UMass and Navy are nice but they are not compelling. I like the game to stay UNDER and I like USC plus the points here.

Penn St. at Ohio St. – 19 (48): Normally, when I think a game will be low-scoring I like to take the points – especially if there are 19 of them to take. However, in this case I am loathe to do that because I am not sure that Penn St. will score more than 10-12 points. I do think the game will stay UNDER so I’ll take that. However, I will pass on any bet against the spread.

Oregon at Washington – 3 (60): This is a big rivalry game and Washington has been on the wrong side of the score for more than a few years now. Oregon is not the team it has been (see above) but I don’t think that Washington deserves to be favored here. I think Oregon will win the game outright so I’ll happily take them with the points here.

Finally, here is a college football observation from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Regrouping: Cardale Jones, so special for Ohio State in his three starts at the end of last season, has been pretty ordinary this year. He might be wondering if he made a mistake by not turning pro last winter when his stock was through the roof. With rare exceptions, no quarterback coming off a spectacular season has ever enhanced his draft prospects by returning to college.”

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