Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend of 11/5/16

Last week saw a rebound from the disastrously bad selections from two weeks ago. I made 15 picks last week and the record was 11-4-0 bringing the cumulative record for the year to 77-65-0.

The Best Picks from last week were:

    Army +7 against Wake Forest. Army won straight up.
    Navy/USF OVER 64.5. Total score was 97.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

    W. Virginia – 3.5 against Oklahoma St. WVU lost by 17 points.
    Penn St./Purdue UNDER 57. Penn St. scored 62 by itself.

Despite the strong showing last week, no one should use any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real college football game this weekend involving real money. Here is how dumb you would have to be to do anything like that:

    You think spoiled milk cones from pampered cows.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats ran their season record to 6-1 last week with a convincing win over George Fox by the score of 50-14. Linfield is 5-0 in the Northwest Conference with 2 games left on the schedule. This week the Wildcats travel to Tacoma, WA to take on the Loggers of the University of Puget Sound. The Loggers are 3-4 overall for the 2016 season and only 1-4 in Northwest Conference play. Go Wildcats!

Meanwhile, the Eagles of Eastern Washington extended their season record to 7-1 (5-0 in Big Sky Conference games) with a win over the Montana Grizzlies 35-16. WR, Cooper Kupp, caught 8 passes for 169 yards and 3 TDs in the game. He also threw one pass and completed it for a 54-yard gain and he returned a punt for 13 yards. There is no mention in the Box Score if he also lined the field prior to the game…

This week E. Washington takes on Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA. The Mustangs are on a 3-game win streak; their season record is 6-2 and they are 4-1 in Big Sky Conference play. Go Eagles!

The first CFP rankings came out this week and undefeated Washington did not make the Top 4. In their place, the one-loss Texas A&M Aggies grabbed the 4th spot and the basis for this is strength of schedule. Schools do not have much control over the strength or weakness of their conference opponents from year to year. However, schools have significant control over the teams they play out-of-conference and Washington scheduled three lowly opponents for this season:

    Portland State – Division 1-AA
    Idaho – getting booted from the Sun Belt this year- will go to Division 1-AA
    Rutgers – a dismal team; a Big 10 team in name only.

Clearly, Washington aspires to return to the upper echelons of college football but if they want that sort of recognition, they are going to have to do better with their out-of-conference scheduling. There needs to be at least one competitive game there. Wisconsin and LSU played each other this year; Ohio State and Oklahoma played each other this year; teams need not load up with Top Ten opponents every week, but at least one out-of-conference game should be something more than a walk-over.

There were 9 undefeated teams going into last week’s schedule. Two of the teams had the week off; of the other 7 unbeatens, 4 lost last week. Baylor, Boise St., Nebraska and West Virginia all lost. It was not a good week to try to stay unbeaten. With Baylor and West Virginia losing a game, I think that pretty much rules out a Big 12 team as a participant in the CFP this year.

The West Division of the Big 10 could get interesting. Nebraska lost to Wisconsin last week but still holds a 1-game lead in the West. However, this week, the Cornhuskers have to play Ohio State in Columbus, OH – hardly a trivial opponent. Nebraska is a 17-point underdog in the game. Minnesota, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Iowa all sit one game behind Nebraska in the West Division. Minnesota plays Purdue this weekend; Wisconsin and Northwestern play each other so one of them is going to lose; Iowa takes on Penn State. Things can get very interesting here…

With regard to the possibility that all three of the Service Academies can be bowl-eligible this year:

    Army beat Wake Forest 21-13 last week for its 5th win of the year. They need one more victory …

    Air Force beat Fresno St. 31-21 last week for its 5th win of the year. They need one more victory…

    Navy lost to USF 52-45. Navy trailed 28-0 at the end of the first quarter; they rallied but could not come all the way back. Navy also has 5 wins for the season. They too need one more victory…

Boise St. lost its first game of the year last week to Wyoming by a score of 30-28. Indeed, the margin of victory was a safety recorded by Wyoming in the final 2 minutes of the game.

Texas A&M had a soft out-of-conference game last week and clobbered New Mexico St. 52-10. New Mexico St. is on the SHOE watchlist; this outcome was never in doubt. Here is an unusual stat from this game. Aggies’ WR, Christian Kirk scored 3 TDs in the game. He caught on pass for a TD and he returned 2 punts for TDs. It is not often that you see 2 punts returned for touchdowns in one game let alone 2 returned for touchdowns by the same guy…

W. Michigan did not play last weekend but did play a MAC opponent on Tuesday of this week. W. Michigan is now 9-0 for the year and the highest-ranking team in a conference other than the so-called Power 5 is guaranteed a slot in one of the major bowl games on New Year’s Day. It had appeared that Boise St. might be that team this year but with Boise’s loss last week and W. Michigan’s 9-0 record, there is the possibility that W. Michigan will be the one let in. W. Michigan’s next two games are against Kent St. and Buffalo; they should not be nail biters. Then W. Michigan closes the regular season at home against Toledo; that could be an interesting game…

Let me start in the SEC this week. I said last week that the Kentucky/Missouri game was interesting because Kentucky had the chance to win a big game on the road – which they have not done with regularity in a long time – and because Missouri had a chance to defend its home turf – the week after they took gas against Middle Tennessee State on Homecoming weekend. Well, Kentucky prevailed easily here by a score of 35-21. That win sets up the following situations for Kentucky:

    1. It means they will be bowl-eligible with one more victory this year. They have not done that since 2010.

    2. It puts Kentucky with a 4-2 SEC record in second place in the SEC East a game behind Florida.

    3. They have 2 SEC conference games left against Georgia and Tennessee – both of which have been unimpressive in recent weeks.

Florida beat Georgia 24-10. The Florida defense shut out the Bulldogs for the entire second half of the game and that win puts Florida in the driver’s seat in the SEC East for now. However, Florida has a much tougher lineup of conference games down the stretch than Kentucky does facing Arkansas and LSU in addition to South Carolina.

South Carolina beat Tennessee 24-21 last week sending the Vols into a tailspin. That is Tennessee’s third loss in a row and it comes only a couple of weeks after their coach was crowing on a national stage about how the Tennessee program was “back” and how other schools were looking to emulate the Tennessee model. Let me be clear, the first two losses in this streak were to Alabama and then to Texas A&M and there is no disgrace in either loss. However, a loss to South Carolina following those two losses is pretty miserable especially when the way the loss occurred was in the wake of 3 bad turnovers. Maybe the mood on old Rocky Top has degraded to Rocky Slop…

Auburn beat Ole Miss 40-29. Ole Miss led 29-27 as the 4th quarter got underway and then Auburn steamrollered them in the 4th quarter. On the stat sheet, Ole Miss came out ahead or even in most categories but not in the 4th quarter then the game was on the line.

In Big 10 action, Minnesota beat Illinois 40-17. I said this was a game of interest because neither team distinguished themselves in the process of beating Big 10 punching bag, Rutgers. Well, that score tells you about what you need to know about Illinois…

Michigan beat Michigan St. 32-23. The Wolverines were a Ponderosa favorite and did not come close to covering that number. This loss means that Michigan St. has lost 6 games for the 2016 season and their chances for a bowl invitation are razor thin. The Spartans would have to win out in their last 4 games to get to 6 wins and here is the lineup:

    At Illinois. Good chance for a win here.
    Vs. Rutgers. Losing this game at home would be humiliating indeed
    Vs. Ohio State. Clearly the underdog in this game
    At Penn St. Should be a slight underdog here.

Penn St. put a whooping on Purdue last week 62-24. Clearly the mid-season coaching change at Purdue was a positive move, right? This game was tied 17-17 at halftime and then Purdue folded like a lawn chair…

Wisconsin beat Nebraska 23-17 in OT. This was another game where an undefeated team lost last week. The stat sheet reflects the fact that this was a game that went to OT; these teams were evenly matched.

Ohio State beat Northwestern 24-10. Frankly, this was an unimpressive performance by Ohio State on the heels of a heartbreaking loss to Penn St. two weeks ago. Ohio State had 437 yards on offense but yielded 414 yards to Northwestern.

In the ACC, Louisville beat Virginia 32-25. Like Ohio State, Louisville was underwhelming here; they did not look like a team that needed to be considered seriously by the CFP Selection Committee based on this outing. Virginia actually led at the start of the 4th quarter here 17-14. Louisville had 225 more yards of offense here; they averaged 7.3 yards per play to only 4.8 for Virginia; the turnovers were equal; and still the game was on a knife edge in the 4th quarter…

BC Beat NC State 21-14. Both teams are now 4-4 on the season meaning that both teams could be playing in bowl games in December. How exciting is that? The big deal about this win for BC is that it snapped a 12-game losing streak in conference games. Other than that, …

Notre Dame beat Miami 30-27 handing the Hurricanes their 4th straight loss after starting the season with 4 straight wins. For a change, the Irish found a way to hold on at the end of a game to win it this year instead of losing in the 4th quarter. Actually, Notre Dame led by 20 points in the game and tried to give it away – – but didn’t.

Clemson beat Florida St. 37-34 in a great football game. Dalvin Cook and Demarcus Walker for Florida St were really impressive in this game despite being on the losing side. Walker is a senior DL who will clearly get drafted into the NFL next April and Cook is a junior RB who ought to take the opportunity to declare for the draft. Clemson won this game in no small measure by dominating the Seminoles’ OL. The Tigers recorded 6 sacks in the game and put more than a few other ferocious hits on Fla St. QB, Deondre Francois.

The Big 12 saw both of its previously undefeated teams take gas last week. West Virginia went to Oklahoma St. and lost 37-20. The Mountaineers amassed almost 100 more yards of offense in this game but 3 turnovers and 6 penalties did them in.

Meanwhile, Baylor also lost last week to Texas by a score of 35-34. Baylor ran 96 offensive plays and gained 655 yards on offense – – and lost the game. Ten penalties and an inability to ice the game and stop Texas in the 4th quarter decided the game in the Longhorns’ favor. Baylor led 34-26 with about 7 minutes to play in the game and coughed it up … These two losses pretty much assure that there will be no Big 12 teams in the discussion when it comes CFP time. Texas is not 4-4 on the season despite all the sturm und drang around Charlie Strong and his coaching status.

Texas Tech beat TCU 27-24 in OT. If you had told me that the score of that game was 27-24 at the end of the first quarter, I would have believed you. Tech gained 800+ yards and scored 59 points the week before; what happened here? Oh, and the Tech defense allowed 800+ yards and 65 points last week; what happened here?

K-State beat Iowa St. 31-26. The score was 31-10 at the start of the 4th quarter and K-State put it in cruise control for the 4th quarter making the game look closer than it was.

Oklahoma beat Kansas 56-3. In terms of net offense, Oklahoma prevailed 585 yards to 184 yards. Oklahoma gained 7.7 yards per play; Kansas gained 2.8 yards per play. This game could not have been even marginally exciting after some point in the second quarter. Oklahoma took its foot off the gas in the 4th quarter; neither team scored in that period.

Out west in the PAC-12, Washington beat Utah 31-24 in a really entertaining game to watch. Washington had bigger plays in the game but Utah kept grinding it out. At the end, Washington had 390 yards on offense and Utah had 385. Yes, the game was that close…

Oregon beat Arizona St 54-35. My question for myself is really simple:

    How did I miss taking this game to go OVER?

Washington St. beat Oregon St. 35-31 and needed a big comeback to do so. Oregon St. led 24-6 at halftime which is the point at which I tuned in. What happened in the 3rd quarter was that the wheels came off the Oregon St. wagon; at the end of the 3rd quarter, Washington St. had the lead 28-24.

Washington and Washington St. are both undefeated at 5-0 in conference play and will meet in the Apple Bowl game later this year. That game should decide the PAC-12 North champion.

Stanford beat Arizona 34-10. The Stanford offense finally woke up in this game – – or was that just ineptitude on the part of the Arizona defense. Perhaps a smidgen of both…

USC beat Cal 45-24. The PAC-12 South remains an interesting race:

    Colorado is 4-1 in conference and 6-2 overall
    Utah is 4-2 in conference and 7-2 overall
    USC is 4-2 in conference and 5-3 overall

The Ponderosa Games:

Last week we had 6 Ponderosa Games and the record for favorites covering was 2-4-0. That brings the season record for favorites covering in Ponderosa Games to 30-31-1.

La Tech and Oklahoma covered.

Louisville, Michigan, Ohio St. and Texas A&M did not cover.

This week we have 9 Ponderosa Games

(Fri Nite) San Jose St. at Boise St. – 29 (57.5): San Jose St has 3 wins this year and 2 of them have been over Nevada and UNLV. San Jose St seems to dominate the State of Nevada. Too bad Boise is the capital of Idaho…

Texas St. at Appalachian St – 31.5 (54): Texas St. is clearly on the SHOE watchlist…

Louisville – 25.5 at BC (56): This is an ACC game with the road team as a Ponderosa favorite.

Syracuse at Clemson – 27 (67): This is an ACC game with the home team as a Ponderosa favorite. This total Line opened the week at 58 points and has been climbing all week to this level.

Kansas at West Virginia – 34 (54): Kansas is very squarely on the SHOE watchlist…

Maryland at Michigan – 31 (54): Maryland won their first 4 games playing absolutely no one. Now their record is 5-3 and after this week’s game at Michigan they get to host Ohio State and then visit Nebraska.

Vandy at Auburn – 26 (44.5): If this is really going to be such a low scoring game, that is an awful lot of points in that spread line…

Georgia Southern at Ole Miss – 27.5 (63): Ole Miss catches a breather here from SEC conference play.

Florida International at Western Kentucky – 31 (67): The best category for this game is “Who Knows/Who cares?”

The SHOE Teams:

Last week, I put San Jose St. on the watchlist at the suggestion of a reader and the team went out and won its 3rd game of the year. So, they come off the watch list for this week but there are some new additions. I will keep the watchlist at 16 teams for one more week and then start a winnowing process:

    Bowling Green (1-7): Lone win is over North Dakota – not North Dakota St.

    Florida Atlantic (1-7): No wins over Division 1-A teams

    Fresno St. (1-8): No wins over Division 1-A teams

    Illinois (2-6): Wins are over Murray St. (div 1-AA) and Rutgers.

    Iowa St. (1-7): Lost to Div 1-AA team and beat only San Jose St.

    Kansas (1-7): Win is over Rhode Island and students stormed the field.

    La-Monroe (2-6): Lost last two games by a combined score of 110-27.

    Marshall (2-6): Wins over Florida Atlantic Morgan St and

    Missouri (2-6): Wins over E. Michigan and Delaware St plus 2 BAD home losses

    New Mex. St.(2-6): One win is over New Mexico with 5 wins. Disqualifying?

    Oregon St. (2-6): One of those wins is over Idaho State

    Rice (1-7): Win is over Prairie View A&M; play FAU this week and UTEP later.

    Rutgers (2-6): Two losses here were by a combined score of 136 – 0

    Texas St. (2-5): Wins over Ohio and Incarnate Word.

    UMass (2-7): Wins over Florida Int’l and Wagner

    UTEP (2-6): Wins over New Mexico St and Texas-San Antonio.

Games of Interest:

Navy at Notre Dame – 7 (64.5): I think Notre Dame has enough athletes on offense to do plenty of damage to the Navy defense and I think the Notre Dame defense will have difficulty containing Navy’s run-first option offense. I see another scoring fest here so I’ll take the game to go OVER.

Air Force at Army – 1.5 (47.5): Neither team will surprise the other with regard to offensive philosophy or execution. The winner of this game will be bowl eligible and I think that Air Force has beaten a better set of opponents. It will be a long flight from Colorado Springs to West Point for the game but folks in the Air Force ought not to be bothered by flying. I’ll take Air Force plus the points on the road.

Florida State – 5.5 at NC State (58): The spread opened at 8 points and has been dropping steadily. Florida State lost a hard-fought game to Clemson last week and Deondre Francois took a pounding (see above). Meanwhile, NC State lost a winnable home game last week to BC meaning they still need to find 2 wins in order to play in a bowl game this year. The team that rebounds from last week’s loss should win this one. Make this a venue call. I’ll take NC State plus the points.

Oklahoma St. at K-State – 3 (57): Oklahoma St. handed an undefeated W. Virginia team its first loss of the season last week in Stillwater, OK. Before getting to excited about that result, recall that K-State lost to W. Virginia by only 1 point earlier this year and that game was in Morgantown WV. K-State is undefeated at home this year. I think they can stay that way so I’ll take K-State to win and cover in Manhattan, KS.

Pitt at Miami (FL) – 3 (57): Pitt scores plenty of points – 38.1 points per game. Pitt allows plenty of points too – 32.4 points per game. Miami’s defense is better than its offense but I think the ball will be moving up and down the field a lot here. I like this game to go OVER.

Georgia – 2.5 at Kentucky (51): Georgia is 4-4 on the year; after a Week 1 win over UNC, the other three wins are underwhelming:

    Nichols St at home 26-24
    At Missouri 28-27
    At South Carolina 28-14.

As noted above, Kentucky is a lot better than usual this year. They have lost 3 games but 2 of them were to Alabama and Florida. If you look at this purely on “football pedigree”, Georgia is the dominant program but the only thing that matters is the 2016 teams on the field. I think Kentucky will win the game so I’ll take them plus the points at home.

Florida – 4 at Arkansas (47): Florida brings the #2 team in Total Defense to the field here; they allow just under 240 yards per game. The Arkansas defensive unit is far more generous ranked 88th in the country allowing 428 yards per game. Here is the rub. Florida’s offense is 75th in the country (398.6 yards per game) clustered with teams not known as offensive juggernauts such as Michigan St., BYU, UNLV and UCLA. I think this will be a defense-dominated game so I’ll take Arkansas at home plus the points.

Washington – 17 at Cal (76.5): Undefeated Washington is the better team here; that spread of 3 scores is clearly justified. The Cal defense – such as it is – ranks 124th in the country and gives up 505 yards per game. The Washington defensive unit is much better, but it will have to deal with a Cal offense that gains 536.5 yards per game and ranks 8th in the country. Washington will make enough stops to win the game – and probably win it comfortably – but I am drawn to the Total Line. I like this game to go OVER.

Oregon at USC – 17 (79): Oregon has lost 5 games this year and when they lose it is because the Oregon defense does not show up. In only 1 of those five losses has the opponent been held to less than 41 points and in 3 of those losses, the defense has given up 51 or more points. USC is still in the running for the PAC-121 South Division championship and a slot in the PAC-12 Conference Championship Game so it has some motivation here. I like USC to win and cover a large spread here.

Texas – 3 at Texas Tech (81): Tech ranks #1 in the country in total offense gaining 603.4 yards per game; they average 500.6 yards per game passing. Texas has had “defensive issues” this year. Looking at this game through the other end of the telescope, Tech’s defense ranks 126th in the country – better only than Oregon and Rice – giving up 518.4 yards per game. I said that Texas has had “defensive issues’ this year; well, they rank a “lofty” 112th in the country. Make this a venue call; I’ll take Texas Tech plus the points at home.

Texas A&M – 13 at Mississippi St. (62): This game is an interesting one but not a betting one. So far this year, it is hard to tell which version of the Mississippi St. team will show up for the game. The Bulldogs have only won 3 games and the 3 vanquished opponents are unimpressive indeed – Samford, UMass and South Carolina. However, Mississippi St. went to Baton Rouge and only lost to LSU by a field goal. If the Bulldogs are going to pull an upset this year, this would be the game to do it – – but which Bulldog team will show up? By the way, next week, Mississippi St. get to go to Alabama for a game; this game here might provide a window for insight into next week’s game…

Iowa at Penn St. – 7 (53): Iowa lost to Wisconsin last week in OT; there is no shame in that. Their other two losses were “down the ladder” a bit to North Dakota St. and to Northwestern. Penn St. has a signature win over Ohio St. two weeks ago and its only bad loss was to Michigan in Ann Arbor; there is no shame in that loss. Purely a venue call here; I’ll take Penn St. to win and cover.

Arizona at Washington St. – 17 (65): Washington St. has won 6 in a row but their scoring output is down in the last three wins. Arizona has lost 5 games in a row and the last 4 have been by double-digits. I think the 108th ranked Arizona defense is just what the doctor ordered to get Washington St. rolling again on offense. I’ll take Washington St. at home to win and cover a big spread.

Alabama – 7.5 at LSU (44.5): This is the best game of the week. I do think Alabama is the best team in the country but watching Leonard Fournette run against the Alabama defense is worth the price of admission all by itself. The Total Line opened at 50 points and dropped quickly to 46 points and then has drifted down from there. I agree this will be a low scoring game and with Alabama on the field, the game could be decided by a turnover or a punt return for a TD. That line looks fat to me; I’ll take LSU at home plus the points.

Wisconsin – 7 at Northwestern (41): Both teams are in the Big 10 West and both teams have a 3-2 record in conference this year. They trail Nebraska by a game but Nebraska has to go to Ohio State this week (see below). The loser is pretty much done in terms of winning that division of the Big 10. Look for a low scoring game here; Northwestern ranks 89th in the country in points per game and Wisconsin ranks 95th. I’ll take Northwestern as the home team plus the points here.

Nebraska at Ohio State – 17 (52): Nebraska lost an OT game at Wisconsin last week and now has to go to Columbus OH to play an Ohio St. team that may or may not be CFP worthy. The Buckeyes’ loss to Penn St. may keep them out of the CFP and perhaps this Ohio St. team is a notch below some of the squads we have seen in recent years. Nonetheless, this is still a very good opponent for Nebraska. I do not expect Nebraska to win this game, but I do think they can keep it within 3 scores. I’ll take Nebraska plus the points.

Finally, Brad Rock had this item in the Deseret News recently regarding a comment from the Iowa St. Athletic Director:

“The athletics director at Iowa State says without Oklahoma and Texas, the Big 12 would become the Mountain West.

“He wishes.

“News flash: The MWC includes road trips to San Diego, Las Vegas and Hawaii. Stop with the silly comparisons.”

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

3 thoughts on “Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend of 11/5/16”

  1. Western Michigan also has the MAC championship game after Toledo. It will be another opportunity to slip up. San Jose State is 0-12 versus Boise and the closest they’ve come is by 14 points in 2008. Much as I’d like to see the Spartans prevail, I’m sure the Broncos playing at home seeing red after a loss means they will be on point this week. I think OSU for their part will be playing angry as well and would be more likely to beat the spread.

    By the way, New Mexico State is also called the “Aggies”.

    I think the Cal team will score but the one thing I’ve seen noted is Washington’s possessing a superior team speed which is how an offense like Cal’s can be stopped. As far as why they scheduled cupcakes, UW 3 years ago was not very good at all. Idaho is an old and close opponent, but the other two… If I remember correctly K-State’s rise was also driven by cupcake scheduling to establish the pattern and expectation of winning, so we’ll see who gets scheduled after the next couple of years. 2017: @Rutgers, Montana (1-AA) and Fresno State (SHOE); 2018: Auburn, North Dakota (1-AA), BYU.

    1. rugger9:

      You are absolutely correct about K-State’s previous habit of scheduling games against the likes of Disco Tech and Comatose State. However, K-State has evolved. They have 3 out-of-conference teams on the schedule this year. There is a Divison 1-AA school and a SHOE watchlist school … and … Stanford. This may be a “down year” for Stanford but the K-State scheduling had no way to know that when those contracts were signed.

      1. True enough, and it would be the next step once the culture of winning is established. Stanford (when scheduled) was a ranked team. I think Petersen in UW is going to ramp this up quickly because the CFP committee is cracking down on cupcake schedules.

        However, one of the things about scheduling the “lesser” teams is that the payout for these teams in a so-called “body bag game” is frequently a substantial portion of the athletic budget, and I think such opportunities should be there. The alternative would be contraction and/or revenue sharing (like the NFL and MLB does). I don’t think any Power 5, Longhorn, ND network, etc. conference would agree to the latter. The former may become necessary since the concussion / injury protection equipment is not inexpensive for 90+ players even before discussing the multiple versions of uniforms and helmets (thanks, Ducks) for marketing purposes.

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