It is Football Friday once again. So, let me get to it and start with college football …
For about the last 15 years, I have tracked the football fortunes of Linfield College – a Division III program in McMinnville OR. The reason I do that is that Linfield has had a winning record in football in every season since 1956; if they do that again this year, it will be their 63rd consecutive winning season; that is the longest stretch of its kind in North American sports. Last weekend, the Linfield Wildcats lost their opening game on the road to Carroll (Montana) by a score of 21-14. Division III schools play a 9-game regular season schedule; so, there is still room for Linfield to recover and post a winning record.
This week the Wildcats are at home to host the Redlands Bulldogs. Redlands brings a 2-0 record to the field. This is Linfield’s final out-of-conference game for the season. Go Wildcats!
Last week, SMU led TCU 9-0 at the end of the first quarter. At that point, my Six-Pack selection from last week (SMU +23) was looking good. However, the fact is that TCU is much the better team and the Horned Frogs woke up starting in the second quarter. The final score had TCU on top 42-12; SMU was shut out in the second half.
My most significant take away from the Clemson/Texas A&M game was that the Clemson DL is REALLY good. Long before the movie, Remember the Titans, Grambling football coach Eddie Robinson was credited with saying that he liked his defenders to be “agile, mobile and hostile”. Well, that is a good description of the Clemson defensive linemen in 2018!
Both Clemson and Texas A&M showed that they are good teams that are well coached. Any time I have a chance to see them play quality opponents this year, I will be tuning in…
Ohio St. beat Rutgers 52-3. Going into this game, the cumulative score for the last two “games” between these schools was Ohio St. 114 and Rutgers ZERO. Maybe the Big-10 needs to consider installing a mercy rule?
Mississippi St. beat Kansas St. in Manhattan, KS last week 31-10. K-state is not a patsy at home by any means, so this may be an indication that Mississippi St. is a team to watch even though it must play in the SEC West – the Division of Death.
Meanwhile, Kansas won a game and did it on the road. That is a milestone because Kansas had lost 46 consecutive road games before last week. Before anyone gets too elated here, the victory came at the expense of Central Michigan – not a school in a Power 5 conference. Hey, at least C. Michigan is a Division 1-A school.
Another of the “directional Michigan schools”, Eastern Michigan upset Purdue 20-19 last week and it was a home game for Purdue. It is an impressive win whenever a team from the MAC beats a team from the Big-10.
The MAC had another good showing last week – even though it did not result in a win over a team in a Power 5 conference. Northern Illinois played Utah to a standstill for about 55 minutes; at that point, a Pick-6 put the game out of reach for the Huskies. Utah won 17-6 but the game was close from the start until that late interception.
Notre Dame took on a MAC opponent last week and beat Ball St.24-16. The Irish led 24-6 to start the 4th quarter and held on as Ball St. rallied in the 4th quarter. Notre Dame was a 35-point favorite here; they never had a chance to cover that number.
Scott Frost’s opening game as the head coach at Nebraska – where he is viewed as the guy who will bring Nebraska back to national prominence in football – was a disaster. Old rival, Colorado, came to Lincoln and beat the Cornhuskers 33-28. I do not know if there is a town in Nebraska called Mudville – – although it would be an appropriate name; if there is, I assure you there is no joy in Mudville, NE either…
Oklahoma beat UCLA like a drum 49-21. The Chip Kelly Era at UCLA is off to a sputtering start and one problem is that Kelly has not found either a QB or a featured RB that fits what he tries to do on offense. To the folks in Westwood, this is going to take a while…
Penn St. beat Pitt 51-6. Actually, it was not nearly that close.
Going into last week’s game, Kentucky had lost 31 straight times to Florida. The Gators were 14-point favorites at home and lost the game 27-16. I saw parts of the game and my impression was that Kentucky was the better team on both offense and defense. As is the case in Westwood, it is going to take time to get things right in Gainesville…
Arizona lost to Houston 45-18 meaning that Kevin Sumlin’s first two games with Arizona have been losses. This game was a spanking; Houston led 31-0 at the half. Sumlin did not take over a disastrously bad program; Arizona won 7 games last year and they have a QB that some thought might be a Heisman contender. [I did not; but that is beside the point since I do not have a vote.] Arizona hosts Southern Utah this week; they need a blowout win – badly.
Colorado St. was 0-2 going into last week’s game against Arkansas – an SEC team and those losses came by a combined 41 points. Yes, the game was in Colorado Springs and yes, Arkansas is not nearly the cream of the crop in the SEC. Nonetheless, the Rams won this game in a dramatic way. Arkansas led 27-9 in the 3rd quarter and Colorado State rallied to win the game 34-27. The Rams scored on their final four possessions of the game and won it with 8 seconds on the clock with a 1-yard TD run. It could be a LONG year for Arkansas’ fans…
Arizona St. beat Michigan St. in Tempe last week. The temperature on the field at kickoff was 105 degrees; and it was a night game. There was an interesting stratagem used by Herm Edwards and Arizona St at the end of the game:
- The score was tied with 2 minutes to play.
- Michigan St. was out of timeouts.
- Arizona St had the ball inside the Michigan St. 10 yardline. Instead of trying to score a TD – which would have given the ball back to Michigan St with a chance to tie the game – Arizona St. took a knee to run the clock down to nothing.
- The Sun Devils called one of their timeouts and kicked the game winning field goal with nothing left for Michigan St.
It may not be “normal practice” for football teams in that circumstance, but Herm Edwards had faith in his kicker and as Edwards always said, “You play to win the game.” They do not award style points…
Games of Interest This Week:
UTEP at Tennessee – 31 (47.5): UTEP is miserable; they could well be in my fanciful end-of-season SHOE Tournament. Tennessee hopes to regain some status in the SEC above that of doormat/laughingstock. This game sets up as a huge feelgood blowout at home. We shall see…
Ball St. at Indiana – 14.5 (57.5): The oddsmakers seem to think that the Notre Dame game last week was an aberration for Ball St. We shall see…
Miami – 10 at Toledo (57): Miami’s offense has not looked good so far this year. Is this the game where it comes to life? Or … is this another chance for a MAC team to upset a Power 5 school?
UCF – 11 at UNC: This game has been postponed due to Hurricane Florence. Frankly, that may be a blessing for UNC coach, Larry Fedora whose team might have gotten their doors blown off here.
Rutgers at Kansas – 2.5 (44.5): Tis a rare occasion indeed where Kansas is a favorite over a Power 5 school. Rutgers should be mightily offended… The loser here should be mortified. There is an important reason not to bet on this game. If you did, you would feel compelled to watch it – – and if you watch it, that would require eye-bleach.
Michigan at Buffalo – 4 (53.5): Last week, E. Michigan went on the road to beat Purdue. (See above). They must feel like the Rodney Dangerfield of college football with this line; they are underdogs to Buffalo?
UMass at Florida Int’l – 4 (60): This game is interesting to me because either or both of these teams might be in the SHOE Tournament down the line…
Georgia Tech – 4 at Pitt (52.5): Both teams come off a loss. Tech lost to USF and gave up 49 points in the process; Pitt gave up 51 to Penn State.
SMU at Michigan – 35.5 (53.5): It is time to see a Jim Harbaugh team show offensive prowess and this is a team they can do that against.
Colorado St at Florida – 20.5 (56): This is two SEC opponents in a row for Colorado St. Are they auditioning?
Oregon St. at Nevada – 4 (70): It would be an embarrassment to the PAC-12 for Oregon St. to get pounded here…
Houston – 1 at Texas Tech (71): Call this a Kardashian Family Reunion Game – – there should be no absence of scoring…
Vandy at Notre Dame – 14 (52): Vandy is 2-0 and the combined margin of victory here is 59 points. The Irish represent a totally different level of competition. Interesting to see how good Vandy might be.
This Week’s College Football Six-Pack
Last week the Six-Pack went 2-4 bringing the season record to 5-7. I’ll try and do better this week. Nonetheless, anyone taking these selections – or the ones that follow in the NFL Sis-Pack – as the basis for making a real world wager involving real money is dumb enough to believe that “bacteria” is the rear entrance to the cafeteria.
Florida St. – 3 at Syracuse (68): I do not get this line at all. If the Total is going to be that high, then FSU is going to have to play lots better offense than they have shown so far this year. If they do that, they should handle Syracuse comfortably. If this is a “field-goal game” I can’t see where the 69th point would come from; the game should be comfortably UNDER. Syracuse comes to the game with a 2-0 record but those wins came over Wagner and W. Michigan – – neither to be confused with big-time football programs. I’ll go with pedigree here and take Florida St. on the road and lay the points. If FSU loses here, I expect that the hounds will be baying for Seminoles’ coach Willie Taggert to be drawn and quartered.
LSU at Auburn – 10.5 (45): I agree with the oddsmaker that this should be a low scoring game. That being the case, I like LSU plus the points.
North Texas at Arkansas – 7 (70): Arkansas had to learn something from that disastrous come-from-ahead loss last week to Colorado State, no? (See above). The coaches should have them fired up for this home game. I like Arkansas to win and cover.
USC at Texas – 3.5 (48): I like this game to go OVER. I am not impressed with the Texas defense at all. Reports say that “pressure is mounting” on Texas coach, Tom Herman. Losing this one at home will take things to DEFCON 3…
Ohio St. – 12.5 vs. TCU (60) [Game is in Arlington, TX]: I mean no disrespect to TCU at all; the Horned Frogs are a very good team. Having said that, I think Ohio St. is a much better team. I’ll take Ohio St, on the road to win and cover.
Washington – 6.5 at Utah (47): Utah is tough at home and Utah has a good defense. This should be a low-scoring game. Therefore, I will take Utah plus the points.
[Aside: I have seen two prognosticators say that Ole Miss will not only cover the 21-point spread in that game but that Ole Miss will beat Alabama outright. If you believe these two “pickers”, the Money Line odds on Ole Miss are +1040 this morning.]
Moving on to the NFL, seven coaches debuted with their teams in Week 1; all seven of those new coaches lost; some of those losses were brutal. You will notice all of this in last week’s rundown…
The Steelers/Browns tie game should have been an interesting game because it was close (obviously) and because it is a rivalry game and because the Browns have not won a game in what seems like forever. However, the fact that both teams missed eminently makeable field goals in the final minutes of overtime leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. The Steelers turned the ball of 6 – – that’s SIX – – times. The Browns were +5 in turnovers and did not win. How unusual is that? Here are ESPN reported data:
- Since the Browns relaunched in the NFL in 1999, there have been 139 games where one team was +5 in turnovers.
- The record for those “+5 teams” is 134-4-1.
- The Browns have been one of those “+5 teams” on 5 occasions.
- The Browns’ record in those “+5 games” is 2-2-1.
The Bills looked positively awful in Week 1 losing to the Ravens 47-3. In the first half of the game – under the leadership of Nathan Peterman – the Bills generated all of 33 yards of offense. As you might suspect, they failed to gain a first down in the first half. Peterman was 5 for 18 for 24 yards with 2 INTs before getting the hook in favor of rookie Josh Allen. I am still at a loss to understand how Peterman could possibly have beaten out AJ McCarron for the role of “Placeholder QB” as the team worked to develop Josh Allen. Bills’ coach, Sean McDermott, gave up the pretense of a “Nathan Peterman Era” in Buffalo announcing this week that Josh Allen would start for the Bills this week. The football situation in Buffalo is a hot mess at best.
The Lions looked almost as bad as the Bills did, losing to the Jets 48-17. This was Matt Patricia’s first game at the helm for the Lions and it was an ugly debut; the Lions lost to a rookie QB by 31 points. [Aside: Matt Patricia was never “svelte”, but it looked to me as if he had put on a lot of weight over the summer. He looked like a bearded version of Andy Reid.] The Lions have the initials “WCF” on their uniform sleeves honoring William Clay Ford, Sr. who owned the Lions’ franchise until his death a few years ago. If the team plays like this all year long, someone will photoshop that uniform and change the initials to “WTF”. Just as the Browns invent ways to focus attention in their ineptitude (see stats above), the Lions do it too. Consider:
- On Monday night, the Lions allowed 31 points to the Jets in the 3rd quarter of the game.
- The last time a team scored 31 points in the 3rd quarter of an NFL game was in October 1950. [Point of reference: President Truman had not yet removed Ge. Douglass MacArthur from command in October 1950.]
- The team last to give up 31 points (or more) in the 3rd quarter of an NFL game was – wait for it – the Detroit Lions.
In Frank Reich’s first game as head coach of the Colts, the Bengals handed the Colts a 34-23 loss. A late 83-yard scoop-and-score magnified the margin of victory here but there was ample reason for Colts’ fans to be unhappy. True, Andrew Luck was back on the field and he played very well throwing for 319 yards and 2 TDs. Not bad for a guy who has been hors de combat for 20 months… In addition, Adam Vinatieri converted a 51-yard field goal in the game which is not bad for a 45-year old guy who has been kicking in the NFL for 23 seasons. [Somewhere in the cosmos, Ponce de Leon wonders if Vinatieri found what Ponce died looking for.] The bad news for Colts’ fans is that they led 23-10 in the middle of the 3rd quarter and then found a way to lose the game from there.
Pat Shurmer’s opening game with the Giants resulted in a 20-16 loss to the Jags. This was not an embarrassing loss – unless you focus on the Giants’ offensive line performance. The margin of victory came on a 4th quarter tipped pass that turned into a Pick Six. The Giant’s defense dominated the second half; until the Jags final possession where they took a knee in victory formation, they Jags has 7 possessions and punted 7 times.
The Dolphins beat the Titans 27-20 spoiling Mike Vrabel’s first game on the Titans’ sidelines. This game was delayed twice for lightening around the Dolphins’ stadium and took more than 7 hours to complete. The Titans have lost TE Delanie Walker for the year; Marcus Mariotta is questionable for this week’s game and OT Taylor Lewan left the game with an injury that put him in the concussion protocol.
Matt Nagy saw his Bears’ team jump out to a 20-0 lead over the Packers in Green Bay; things were looking up for the new head man in Chicago. When Aaron Rodgers had to be carted to the locker room – replaced by DeShone Kizer – you could have heard a mouse squeak in the stadium. The problem for the Bears was that Rodgers was merely hurt and not injured sufficiently to keep him off the field; he returned and led the Packers to a 24-23 come-from-nowhere victory. It almost felt like a “Willis Reed Moment”.
The most celebrated new NFL coach for 2018 has to be Jon Gruden by a mile. His Raiders led the Rams 13-10 at halftime and fans in The Black Hole were celebrating as if the glory days of the Raiders’ franchise had returned. Then they played the second half and the Rams won the second half 23-0. Here are three questions and one observation from that game:
- Question: Did the Raiders avoid throwing the ball in the direction of any of their WRs because the Rams had them covered like a baby in a crib? WR, Amari Cooper was only targeted 3 times in the game. Something is wrong there…
- Question: Was the lack of a pass rush by the Raiders a testament to outstanding OL play by the Rams or are the Raiders incapable of generating a pass rush?
- Question: What were the Raiders working on for the last six weeks in practice? The Raiders had 10 penalties for 145 yards in the first half on Monday night.
- Observation: Jon Gruden’s “Chucky Stare” seems not to have had the same effect as “The Belichick Glower” has been having recently.
The Skins spoiled Steve Wilks’ debut with the Cards winning 24-6 and running the ball for 185 yards in the game. This was an old-fashioned ass-kicking; there is no polite way to describe it. In the first half, the Cards had a total of 11 yards passing. When a team’s offense can be compared to a “Nathan Peterman Offense”, that is not a good thing. The Cards played as if they were on Quaaludes…
The Broncos beat the Seahawks 27-24. The Seattle O-Line remains a mess; Russell Wilson was sacked 6 times in this game; the Seahawks were a mere 2-12 on third down conversions. Th Broncos did not look like world-beaters here, but they did what they needed to do to get the win.
The Panthers beat the Cowboys 16-8 and neither team looked all that impressive. In the first half, the Cowboys never snapped the ball in the Panthers half of the field. The Cowboys offensive line showed its injuries allowing Dak Prescott to be sacked 6 times. Cam Newton led the Panthers is rushing; he ran the ball 13 times for 58 yards.
The Eagles beat the Falcons 18-12 last Thursday night. The game felt like a replay of last year’s meeting between these teams in the playoffs when the Eagles prevailed 15-10. In both games, it was the Eagles’ defense that carried the day. When the teams left the field at halftime with the Falcons leading 6-3, the Philly fans booed, and the announcing team seemed surprised that the Super Bowl champs would be booed after only a half of play. Remember, the fans at The Linc last week are the spawn of the fans who booed Santa Claus and pelted him with snowballs at Franklin Field. To paraphrase Denny Greene:
- They are what we know they are…
The Vikes beat the Niners 24-16. Already, after only one week of the 2018 season, one of my pre-season predictions has come to pass. Jimmy Garoppolo has lost a game as a starting NFL QB. Ta-dah… The Vikes’ defense was the star of the show here forcing Jimmy G to throw 3 INTs. Meanwhile, the Vikes’ new QB, Kirk Cousins, put up a workmanlike performance with 244 yards passing and 2 TDs.
The Bucs beat the Saints 48-40. What happened to the Saints’ defense that was so improved last year? Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 417 yards and 4 TDs in this game. Yes … THAT Ryan Fitzpatrick. Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson each had more than 145 yards receiving. The Total Line for the game was 49.5 points; the game went OVER before halftime.
The Pats beat the Texans 27-20. Father Time must have been a guest in Robert Kraft’s owner’s box for the game. Tom Brady showed no signs of aging/slowing down throwing for 277 yards and 3 TDs.
The Chiefs beat the Chargers 38-28. In a losing effort, the Chargers produced 541 yards of offense; normally, that level of output produces a victory. You can pin this loss on the Chargers’ special teams without fear of contradiction:
- Chargers gave up a 91-yard punt return for a TD. (7 points)
- Fumbled a punt in the 4th quarter giving the Chiefs possession inside the Chargers 5 yardline. (7 points)
- Missed a field goal. (3 points)
- Those plays effected a 17-point swing and the Chargers lost by 10.
Here are some quick comments on this week’s games outside the NFL Six-Pack:
- Panthers/Falcons: This is an important division game early in the season. A Panthers win here gives them a 2-game lead on the Falcons. Falcons lost safety Keanu Neal for the season last week.
- Vikes/Packers: This is the best game of the week – assuming that Aaron Rodgers is somewhere near 100 %. If he can’t play, this could be ugly.
- Chargers/Bills: Both teams have “things to work on” this week. (See above) This is also a long way to travel for the Chargers. It is appropriate at this point to offer condolences to Josh Allen. Call this one the Dog-Breath Game of the Week
- Dolphins/Jets: Both teams won as underdogs last week. One of these teams is likely to be 2-0 on Sunday night. Wow…
- Eagles/Bucs: Eagles should score more than 18 points this week. Bucs should score fewer than 48 points this week.
- Browns/Saints: Who would have guessed that the Browns would take the field here with the better record?
- Cards/Rams: This is the only double-digit spread on the card this week. The Rams play on a short week; it should not matter.
- Pats/Jags: This will be the best game of the week if Aaron Rodgers is not at full strength. The Total Line here is 45.5 and I was tempted to take it UNDER.
- Giants/Cowboys: A division game between two teams that lost their opening games in a somnambulant fashion. If the Cowboys stink it up here, I expect to see steam coming out of Jerry Jones’ ears.
Without further ado, here is the This Week’s NFL Six-Pack:
Indy at Washington – 5.5 (48): The Skins’ running game was most impressive last week and looks to stay on track against a mediocre Colts’ defense here. Keeping Andrew Luck in check will be more difficult than what the Skins faced last week but that running game should keep Luck on the sidelines enough to secure a win. Luck threw the ball 53 times last week; he is obviously not on a pitch-count after his injury I like the Skins to win and cover at home.
Houston – 2 at Tennessee (45): This line did not go up until mid-week and the fact that it is at 2 points says that Marcus Mariotta will be on the field and in condition to play. Nevertheless, I think the Texans are the better team and I think they lost to a tougher opponent last week. I’ll take the Texans on the road and lay the points. [Caveat: If Hurricane Florence turns this game into a “monsoon game” or if the field is a swamp, change this pick to UNDER.]
KC at Pittsburgh – 4.5 (52.5): The Chiefs play their second road game of the season here a sweep in those two games would give the Chiefs a leg up in the AFC West race. I think the Chiefs’ offense will score against the Steelers’ defense and I think the Steelers’ offense will score against the Chiefs’ defense. The Total Line opened at 50; it jumped to 52 almost immediately and then added another half-point. I would not be surprised to see it keep rising. I like the game to go OVER. [Caveat: If Ben Roethlisberger is not fit to play, this wager goes by the board. If Josh Dobbs is the starting QB, I’ll take KC plus the points.]
Detroit at SF – 6 (48): The Lions lost at home to a rookie QB by 31 points last week. The Niners lost on the road to a team that many think will play for the NFC Championship next January. The Lions must travel after a Monday night game. I like the Niners to win and cover.
Oakland at Denver – 6 (46): The Broncos are tough at home; the Raiders do not always show up on the road and make this trip on a short week. If the Raiders front seven cannot pressure Case Keenum – as they failed to do last week against Jared Goff – the Broncos will feast on the Raiders’ secondary. It is going to be a long season for Raiders’ fans. I’ll take the Broncos at home to win and cover.
Seattle at Chicago – 3 (43): The Seahawks were on the road last week and travel again this week. The Bears succumbed to the “Aaron Rodgers magic” last week and need to keep Russell Wilson in check here. I think the Bears’ front seven overmatches the Seahawks’ offensive line by a wide margin. I like the Bears to win and cover at home.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………