It’s Friday and it’s football season. Ergo…
Starting with college football, the Linfield Wildcats are off to the worst start to a football season since I started following them about 10-12 years ago. Last week, the Wildcats lost on the road to Whitworth by a score of 19-14. Linfield’s record stands at 1-2 with a conference record of 0-1. This week, the Wildcats are at home to face the Willamette Bearcats who are also 1-2 on the season. Linfield needs to win at least 5 games in order to keep their streak of winning seasons alive; that streak began in 1956. Go Wildcats!
In major college football, there were no blockbuster upsets last week, but there were a few interesting happenings that may have escaped your attention. Two that caught my eye involve the current societal hyper-sensitivity to language. I swear there is a secret society out there called People Spring-Loaded To Be Offended By Anything And Everything. Last week those folks took offense at:
- Ohio State for tweeting that the team would silence the “white noise” in the game at Penn State. Supposedly that had racial overtones. The fact that Penn State’s colors are blue and white and that fans for the game at Penn State had been asked to show up wearing white clothing had nothing whatsoever to do with the content of that tweet. Sigh…
- UMass lost to Ohio University 58-42. There was a controversial call late in the game by the officials and UMass coach, Mark Whipple was most unhappy with it even after the game. He said that the officials “raped us”. The school has suspended Whipple for one game for this offense. I wonder what the school would have done if he had said the officials “f***ed us without our consent”.
[Aside: I have it on good authority that Coach Whipple will spend his one-week suspension relaxing by squeezing the Charmin.]
Ohio St. beat Penn St. 27-26 with a TD in the final 2 minutes of the game. It was an exciting game and a well-played game by both teams. And – – notwithstanding the social sensitivities – – Ohio St. did silence the white noise.
Notre Dame won a game with its offense last week beating Stanford 38-17. The Irish made a change at starting QB and Ian Book threw 4 TD passes in the game.
Clemson beat Syracuse 27-23 and had to come from behind to do it. The Tigers lost their starting QB to a vicious hit in the first half and had to go to the #3 guy on the depth chart because Kelly Bryant decided to leave the team rather than take the demotion to #2. Clemson resorted to the run game and rushed for 305 yards; Travis Etienne accounted for 200 of those yards.
Texas beat Kansas St. 19-14; it was a tale of two halves. Texas won the first half 19-0; K-State won the second half 14-0. This victory was the first one for the Longhorns in Manhattan, KS since 2002.
Alabama beat Louisiana-Lafayette 56-14 but did not cover the spread. The spread was 49.5 when I wrote about it last week; it rose to 50 points by game time. Earlier this week, Nick Saban said that he was disappointed that the student section for the game was half-empty.
- Memo to Nick Saban: If the non-conference opponent had been a worthy opponent for the team ranked #1 in the country, the stands would have been full, and the joint would have been rocking.
Oklahoma beat Baylor 66-33. I guess that score is not all that surprising when you consider that Baylor has the 88th ranked defense in the country and Oklahoma has the 91st ranked defense in the country. Sooners’ QB, Kyler Murray threw for 7 TDs and 477 yards.
In a mirror image game where defense dominated from start to finish, Florida beat Mississippi St. 13-6. Dan Mullen returned to Starkville for the first time since ditching the job as Mississippi St and came away with a win.
Texas Tech lost to W. Virginia in Lubbock last week. That is not all that surprising, but this is:
- Texas Tech has not won a Big-12 game at home in 2 years. Their last home win in a conference game was on September 29, 2016 when they beat Kansas.
- The Red Raiders’ next home game is October 20 and the opponent will be Kansas.
Michigan beat Northwestern 20-17 even though Northwestern jumped out to a 17-0 lead. The Wolverines leaned on their defense – – ranked #1 in the country as of this morning giving up only 232.6 yards per game – – and scored just enough to pull out a win.
Oregon beat Cal 42-24; that was the first loss of the year for Cal and it was a nice rebound win for Oregon after losing to Stanford 2 weeks ago.
Washington dominated BYU 35-7. A couple of weeks ago, BYU went to Wisconsin and beat the Badgers in Madison. Talk about a reversal of form…
Arizona St. dominated Oregon St. 52-24. The Sun Devils ran the ball down the Beavers’ throats all day long; the final stats were 396 yards rushing and 4 rushing TDs. Ladies and gentlemen, that is what I call an organized ass-kicking.
NCAA Games of Interest This Week:
LSU – 2 at Florida (44.5): Both teams rely on defense; points will definitely be at a premium here. Florida gives up only 311 yards per game; LSU yields 334.
Auburn – 3 at Mississippi St. (43): This will be another defense-dominated game. Mississippi St. gives up only 288 yards per game; Auburn yields 305.
Kentucky at Texas A&M – 5.5 (50): Is this the week where Kentucky’s Cinderella-story season crashes? That line is most unusual considering that Kentucky is ranked #13 in the country this morning; Texas A&M is unranked, and its 3 wins have come against sorry-assed opponents (Northwestern St., La-Monroe and Arkansas). Kentucky RB, Benny Snell has been the key to the Kentucky offense; the Aggies rushing defense is the best in the SEC as of this morning. That matchup should be the key to the game…
Alabama – 35 at Arkansas (57.5): In the great sportsbook in the sky, a tear comes to the eye of Frank Broyles…
Vandy at Georgia – 26.5 (54): Georgia is ranked #2 in the country this morning. Perhaps, Vandy is ranked #2 in the state of Tennessee … maybe not.
Florida St. at Miami – 14 (48.5): Twenty years ago, the winner here would be odds-on to win the national championship. Not nearly the case anymore… The oddsmaker thinks this will be a low scoring game given that Total Line; Miami’s second-ranked defense nationally should throttle the Seminoles’ offense.
Kansas at W. Virginia – 28 (61.5): Kansas is 2-3 on the season. If they win one more game this year, they will equal the total number of wins over the last three seasons combined. W. Virginia is in the top Ten as of this morning. The Jayhawks third win of 2018 is not going to come here…
Iowa – 7 at Minnesota (42): With a Total Line that low, both offensive units should be ashamed.
Navy – 3 at Air Force (48): This Total Line in this game is interesting. It opened the week at 55.5 and rose at one point to 57 whereupon there must have been a flood of money on the UNDER because the line plummeted to this level. The public has a propensity to bet OVER and not UNDER in most games; I suspect that pro gamblers saw the potential for a huge win on that bet when the line was in the upper 50s.
Nebraska at Wisconsin – 17 (60): This game should not be close. Nebraska will be 0-5 on Sunday morning.
Washington – 21.5 at UCLA (52.5): This game should not be close. UCLA will be 0-5 on Sunday morning. Is there an echo in here…?
Arizona St. at Colorado – 2.5 (64): Colorado is 4-0 and ranked in the Top 25. Other than long-term residents of Boulder, CO, who saw that coming back in August? Arizona St. is 2-2. I am unimpressed by Colorado’s record; their 4 wins have come at the expense of teams whose combined record is 1-16. The Sun Devil’s two losses have been to San Diego St. and Washington.
Utah St. at BYU – 2 (55): I am surprised by that Total Line. While neither team is a model of consistency this year, both have shown an ability to score points. Interesting game to watch…
The Bears simply demolished the Bucs 48-10. Here is what I said in last week’s version of Football Friday:
“The Bears’ defense has been very good this year and if the Ryan Fitzmagic Season is going to hit a speedbump, this could well be the game.”
I think I had that one right. Mitchell Trubisky threw for 6 TDs in the game and the Bucs pulled Ryan Fitzpatrick and inserted Jameis Winston into the game. As you might conclude from the final score, that move did not amount to much of anything.
The Pats beat the Dolphins 38-7, but the game was not nearly as close as that score might indicate. The game was televised into the DC area, but they switched away from it in the middle of the 3rd quarter because it was such a beatdown. The only Dolphins’ points were produced by Brock Osweiler at a point in the game where the Pats were simply looking to get into the locker room and get showered. Fun fact:
- The Patriots are 15-0 at home against the Dolphins when Tom Brady is the starting QB.
The Packers beat the Bills 22-0 and Aaron Rodgers was unhappy with the offense and its game plan. If there had to be a game with a less-than-satisfactory game plan this would be the one the Packers should have picked. The Packers recorded 7 sacks in the game and held the Bills to 145 yards total offense. That is not the typical way the Packers win football games, but that is what happened here…
The Seahawks beat the Cards 20-17. Earl Thomas left the game against the Cards on a cart with a broken leg; he is on IR for the season. On the way to the locker room, Thomas flipped the bird to someone and the direction was toward the Seahawks’ bench area. All has not been hunky-dory between Thomas and the team this year; last week seems to have put a punctuation mark on that relationship. The Seahawks were 0 for 10 on third down conversions and still won the game; it is not easy to do that. The Cards missed 2 FG tries and lost by 3 points.
The Cowboys beat the Lions 26-24 on a last-minute drive that produced a winning field goal. Dak Prescott threw for 255 yards in the game; it is the first time this year he has been north of the 200-yard mark in a game. Was this the Cowboys’ offense showing signs of life or was this just lifelessness on the part of the Lions’ defense?
The Bengals beat the Falcons 37-36 and the game was fun to watch – – unless you are a Falcons’ fan. [Aside: This is the game CBS switched to in the DC area when the Pats/Dolphins game became a laughingstock.] The only downer in terms of watching was listening to Bruce Arians doing color/analysis. Arians may be insightful, but behind the mic he is about as exciting as day-old toast. The Falcons’ defense has been AWOL recently; that unit has given up 104 points in the last 3 games AND all 3 of those games have been at home! Here is a stat I ran across and did not even begin to try to verify; take it at face value:
- Since 1940, teams at home who scored 36 points or more and did not turn the ball over at all have a record of 402-4.
- The Falcons provided 2 of those 4 losses in the last two weeks.
The Jags beat the Jets 31-12. Just about any rookie QB is going to have problems with the Jags’ top-rated defense and that was indeed the case for Sam Darnold. It should be noted that a rookie QB going up against that defense would have to have a sound running game to keep the defense honest if that rookie QB was going to look anything but overmatched. The Jets ran for all of 34 yards in the game…
The Saints beat the Giants 33-18. The Giants offense has been AWOL for the season; maybe they are off spending time with the Falcons’ defense? The Saints’ defense had been giving up 34 points per game before this one; the Giants scored on their first possession and then went somnambulant.
The Texans beat the Colts 37-34 in OT. This was the first win of the year for the Texans despite the fact that DeShaun Watson was sacked 7 times. Somehow, he still managed to throw for 375 yards in the game. The Texans need to hold tryouts for offensive linemen. Maybe an open tryout for anyone in the Houston area currently employed as a piano mover… Andrew Luck threw 62 passes for the Colts in the game; I think it is safe to say they do not have him on a pitch count.
The Chargers beat the Niners 29-27. CJ Beathard threw for 297 yards and 2 TDs in his first start since Jimmy G went on IR. Not too shabby…
The Titans beat the Eagles 26-23 in OT. The Titans trailed by 3 points in OT and had a drive where they converted on 4th down three times to keep the drive alive. It produced a winning TD at the end.
The Raiders beat the Browns 45-42 in OT. Browns RB, Nick Chubb ran for 105 yards and 2 TDs; Baker Mayfield threw for 2 TDs – – and threw a Pick Six to the Raiders too. Derek Carr threw for 437 yards and 4 TDs and Marshawn Lynch averaged 6.5 yards per carry in the game. Defensive highlights? There were none.
- Note: The Raiders have the worst second-half defense in the NFL. In the second half of 4 games this year, the Raiders have surrendered 89 points. To put that in perspective, 8 teams in the NFL have given up fewer than 89 points total after 4 games.
The Ravens beat the Steelers 26-14. Put simply, the Steelers’ defense is not good, and it has not been good since Ryan Shazier had to be carted off the field with a spinal injury last season. I do not mean the defense is “not good by Steelers’ standards”; I mean the defense is “just plain not good”. I suspect that LeVeon Bell and his agent enjoyed this game because the Steelers ground game amassed a total of 19 yards in the game.
- Note: The Ravens have allowed a total of 9 points in the second half of their 4 games this season. See above…
The Chiefs rallied to beat the Broncos 27-23. An interesting stat for the Chiefs this year is that in 4 games they have only turned the ball over once – – on a lost fumble.
NFL This Week
I know the season is only 25% over but here is an interesting stat. If the playoffs were to start today, the Eagles, Steelers and Patriots would not participate. The last time all three of those teams missed the playoffs was in 2000.
Two teams have their BYE Week this week:
- The Bears sit atop the NFC North and will probably use the time here to find even more maddening ways use Khalil Mack as a QB destruction machine.
- The Bucs are 2-2 and have announced that Jameis Winston will be their starting QB going forward. Winston is playing for his contract offers next year; Ryan Fitzpatrick showed the offense can work; Winston now must show he can make it work – – consistently.
Jax at KC – 3 (49): This could well be the game of the week. The Jags lead the NFL in points allowed; the Chiefs’ offense scores early and often; the Chiefs average 36 points per game. The Jags should be able to run the ball against the Chiefs’ mediocre defense even with Leonard Fournette on the shelf. I think the game comes down to this – – can the Chiefs’ mediocre defense slow down the Jags’ mediocre offense so that Patrick Mahomes has time to work his offensive magic? Here is a stat that surprised me:
- The Jags lead the series against the Chiefs all time 6-5-0.
Tennessee – 5.5 at Buffalo (40): The Titans have won two heart-stopping games in a row and this could be a let-down game since the Bills are not exactly a fearsome opponent. The Titans are clearly the better team; they should not need a “Music City Miracle” to win this one if they are up for the game.
Denver at Jets “pick ‘em” (42): The line for this game is all over the map this morning. You can find it with the Jets as a 1.5-point favorite and you can find it with the Broncos as a 1-point favorite. The Broncos have a long trip to the East Coast for this game after a short week of practice. Here are two stats for you:
- The last 6 times the Broncos played a 1:00 PM game on the East Coast, they are 0-6 against the spread.
- Over their last 11 road games – in any and all time zones – the Broncos are 1-10 against the spread.
Atlanta at Pittsburgh – 3 (58): This is a desperation game for both teams; each of them has only one win for the season; both aspire to make a run in the playoffs for a shot at the Super Bowl. Both defenses are bad (see above) and the Total Line here reflects those defensive shortcomings on both sides. The Steelers and Falcons have met 16 times over the years; the Falcons have never won in Pittsburgh and the Steelers lead the series 13-2-1.
Miami at Cincy – 6 (48.5): Both teams lead their divisions this morning. I surely did not see that happening back in August. I think the Dolphins were exposed by the Pats last week as a mediocre team at best.
Oakland at Chargers – 6 (52.5): If the Browns and Baker Mayfield can score 42 on the Raiders’ defense, Philip Rivers and company ought to be licking their chops. At the same time, the Chargers’ defense has not been stellar; they allow 30 points per game. I must admit, I am tempted by the OVER in this game…
Arizona at SF – 4 (40): This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. Even though it is a division game, I cannot imagine that anyone actually cares about the outcome here. If I look for a reason to pay attention to this game, it would be that this is the first road start for Josh Rosen and he was touted to be the “most NFL-ready QB” in the 2018 draft. Like I said, who cares about this one…
Minnesota at Philly – 3 (46.5): This would be the Game of the Week if you do not think the Jags/Chiefs game earns that moniker. Last year, these teams met for the NFC Championship; as of this morning, neither team would be in the playoffs. If the Eagles win here, that would put Minnesota at 1-3-1 and that would cause fans in Minnesota to say “Yikes” for the Vikes…
Rams – 7.5 at Seattle (50): The Rams are clearly the better team, but the Seahawks are clearly better at home than on the road. The Rams dominated the Vikes last week while the Seahawks eked out a win over the hapless Cards – the only winless team in the NFL.
(Sun Nite) Dallas at Houston – 3 (45.5): The Cowboys really want to run the football; they average 5.8 yards per rush attempt. The Texans’ rush defense only allows 3.5 yards per rushing attempt. This will be a big part of this game. As noted above, the Texans’ OL has been awful this year. However, Texans’ defensive tackle JJ Watt has been spectacular:
- In 4 games, JJ Watt has 5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles.
(Mon Nite) Washington at New Orleans – 6.5 (53): The Skins had last week off to prepare for this game. Drew Brees could reach two milestones in this game:
- If he passes for 201 yards, he will pass Peyton Manning as the all-time leader in passing yardage in NFL history. [Aside: he is third on that list as of this morning; he needs 99 yards passing here to pass Brett Favre.]
- Drew Brees and become the 4th QB in NFL history to throw 500 TD passes if he has 4 of them in this game.
This Week’s Six-Pack of Games:
This week we have 3 NCAA games and 3 NFL games in the Six-Pack:
Northwestern at Michigan St. – 10.5 (43): I do not think either team here is all that good, but I just do not trust Michigan St. to beat any competent opponent by 11 points. I’ll take Northwestern on the road plus the points.
Notre Dame – 6.5 at VA Tech (55.5): This will be a stern test for the Tech defense and it will be a stern test for the Irish as a team. I think Notre Dame is on a roll. I like Notre Dame to win and cover on the road.
Oklahoma – 8 vs Texas (60.5) [Game is in Dallas]: If you like trends, here is one to consider. The last 5 times these two teams met in the Red River Rivalry, Texas was the underdog. In those 5 games, Texas covered every time. I think they will do that again here against a very suspect Oklahoma defense. I’ll take Texas plus the points.
Green Bay at Detroit “pick ‘em” (51.5): Do not overthink this one. The Packers are the better team. The oddsmaker says to pick the winner; I like the Packers to win the game.
Giants at Carolina – 6 (43.5): The Giants could not score on a mediocre-at-best Saints defense at home last week; now, they go on the road to face a good Panthers’ defense. The Giants’ defense may keep the game close for a while, but this looks like a comfortable win for the Panthers to me. I’ll take the Panthers and lay the points. [Aside: The Panthers roster was assembled by Dave Gettleman and then the Panthers fired him. The Giants hired Dave Gettleman to assemble a comparable roster in NYC. He is still a couple of drafts away from doing that.]
Baltimore – 3 at Cleveland (45.5): My only worry here is that this might be a let-down game for the Ravens after an emotional and hard-fought win over the Steelers last week. The spread opened the week at 1.5 points but shot up to 3 points right away and has held steady there. I see this as a defensive game; just a hunch, I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.
Finally, here is a comment from Omaha humor-writer, Brad Dickson:
“If you’re big on stats Kade Warner is the all-time Husker leader in receptions among sons of guys who used to work at grocery stores in Cedar Falls.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………