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.


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:

    Florida Atlantic
    Miami (OH)
    New Mexico State
    N Texas
    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………