We live in unusual times. Football Friday falls on a Wednesday this week. The reasons for that calendar anomaly are pretty simple:
- There are a lot of interesting football games scheduled for Thursday this week that would be moot if all of this happened on Friday of this week.
- Given the social aspects of the Thanksgiving Holiday and the status of our visitor for the holiday, I am not nearly certain that I will write anything on Friday – – let alone a football saga.
The downside of writing on a Wednesday is that all references to spreads and Total Lines are subject to major revision as kick off approaches. Any references to those sorts of data need to be taken in the context that we are nowhere near the final numbers. For that reason, I will not try to do a Six-Pack for the week using lines so far in advance of the games.
And so, with that as a prelude, here comes the inaugural “Football Wednesday” for 2018…
NCAA Football Commentary:
This has been an unusual college football season to say the least. In 2018, we have seen more than a few “blueblood” college football programs suffer from unusually bad years. It is not unusual for one or two of those bluebloods to have a “down year” – unless of course we are talking about Alabama under Nick Saban – but there have been a lot more than “one or two” this year:
- Arkansas is 2-9. Among other shellackings, they lost to North Texas by 27 points; Frank Broyles is rolling over in his grave.
- Auburn is 7-4. Some folks expected them to challenge Alabama for SEC West supremacy. Auburn – traditionally – is not a 4-loss team heading into the Iron Bowl game against Alabama.
- Florida State is 4-6. Bobby Bowden would be rolling over in his grave – – if he were actually dead at this moment.
- Miami is 6-5. In the middle of this season they had a 4-game losing streak an none of the victors in that 4-game streak will be in the CFP at the end of the year.
- Penn St. is 8-3. Let me just say that the Nittany Lions’ last 4 wins have not been awe-inspiring…
- Stanford is 6-4. They have lost 3 close games, but it still represents an under-achievement for the Cardinal.
- UCLA is 2-9. They beat USC but have been trounced in five of their losses.
- USC is 5-6. They handed Washington St. its only loss of the year; other than that…
Meanwhile, some teams that have not been powerhouses of late asserted themselves this year:
- Arizona St: The Sun Devils were picked to finish last in the PAC-12 South this year but posted a record of 6-5 including wins over Michigan St. and Utah.
- Purdue: The Boilermakers are a lot better this year than the “Pur-don’t” teams of recent years. They beat Ohio State badly.
- Utah: The Utes are 8-3 and will be the South Division participant in the PAC-12 Championship Game.
- Washington St: The Cougars are 10-1 for the first time in 20 years – – back to the time when Ryan Leaf was their QB.
Kansas hired Les Miles as its next football coach. Miles won a national championship at LSU in 2007 and he was the SEC Champion is 2011. Let me say without fear of contradiction that Kansas is not a school with national championship trophies galore nor expectations that there will be lots of them in the next several years. Kansas is a backwater of college football.
- The Jayhawks last winning season was in 2008.
- Since 2009, the Jayhawks have not won more than 3 games in any single season.
According to reports, Miles will get $2.7M per year for four years to try to build a football program in Kansas. It will not be an easy task…
Michigan avoided its “trap game” last week against Indiana. The Wolverines were sluggish at the start and trailed at the half but rallied to beat the Hoosiers 31-20. Indiana gained 385 yards on offense which is the most yardage surrendered by the Michigan defense all year. This week is Ohio State…
Ohio State barely survived its “trap game” against Maryland beating the Terps 52-51 in OT. That is correct; the Buckeyes surrendered 51 points to Maryland. This week is Michigan …
The Big-10 honchos must be rooting for Michigan in that game because they need Michigan in the conference title game to be sure of a slot in the CFP. Ohio State has a bad loss on its resume to Purdue – and it gave up 51 last week to a mediocre Maryland squad. Michigan also has a loss, but it was to Notre Dame who is undefeated for the season.
[Aside: If you like chaos and controversy, imagine what happens regarding the CFP Selection Committee if Northwestern wins the Big-10 Championship Game with 4 losses – one of them to Akron.]
Penn State beat Rutgers 20-7. In that game, Rutgers gained more yards rushing than Penn State did by a margin of 49 yards. If there were a prop bet on that before the game, I know it would have been at very high odds.
Northwestern beat Minnesota 24-14 in a ho-hum game for both teams. What is noteworthy here is that this is the 8th consecutive road win for Northwestern and that is impressive.
Wisconsin beat Purdue 47-44 in triple-OT. The Badgers’ RB, Jonathan Taylor ran for 321 yards and 3 TDs in the game.
Iowa beat Illinois 63-0.
Notre Dame remained undefeated beating Syracuse 36-3 in Yankee Stadium. Going into this game Syracuse had given up 137 points in 4 road games; their defense does not travel well. The field goal scored by Syracuse came with 10 seconds left in the game and it was a 28-yard attempt meaning the ball was about at the Notre Dame 10 yardline. I guess it looks better to avoid a shutout and kick that field goal rather than admit that the Notre Dame defense was too fearsome on that day. By the way, the Irish averaged 6.3 yards per offensive play in the game.
Pitt beat Wake forest 34-13 to secure a place in the ACC Championship Game against Clemson.
Miami beat VA Tech 38-14. The game was close at the half, but Miami dominated the second half 21-0.
Oklahoma St. beat W. Virginia 45-41 in Stillwater. The winning TD came with 11 seconds left in the game. This is the second loss for W. Virginia and they play Oklahoma this week. Here is a stat/trend to consider:
- Since joining the Big 12 Conference in 2012, the Mountaineers have never beaten the Sooners.
Texas beat Iowa St. 24-10 last week. This game had significance thrust upon it by W. Virginia’s loss. Given the outcomes of this week’s action, Texas may be part of the Big-12 Championship Game.
Oklahoma beat Kansas 55-40. Yes, Kansas scored 40 points in this game against the Sooners’ supposed defense. The Jayhawks generated over 500 yards of offense and RB, Pooka Williams ran for 252 yards and 2 TDs – – averaging more than 16 yards per carry.
UCLA beat USC 34-27 and that means USC will have to beat Notre Dame this week to be bowl eligible. The Irish are favored to remain unbeaten.
Washington beat Oregon St. 42-23. The Huskies led 28-3 after the first quarter. This game was on cruise control after that…
Washington St. beat Arizona 69-28. The score was 55-14 at halftime. Cougars’ QB, Gardner Minshew was 43 for 55 for 473 yards and 7 TDs in the game. The Apple Cup game this week between Washington and Washington St. will determine the PAC-12 North Division champ.
Utah beat Colorado 30- 7. That makes 6 losses in a row for Colorado after starting the season 5-0 against bad opponents. The total offense for Colorado was 196 yards including 34 yards rushing on 34 attempts. Utah is the PAC-12 South champ due to this win and losses by both Arizona and Arizona State last week.
Bowling Green beat Akron last week. Bowling Green was a SHOE candidate 2 weeks ago and have now won 2 in a row. That should take them out of consideration for this year.
W. Kentucky beat UTEP 40-16. Both teams were on the SHOE Watchlist last week. UTEP will stay there for sure.
East Carolina beat UConn 55-21. UConn gave up 55 points in a game for the 5th time this season. The UConn defense his historically bad. I believe the “worst defense” record holder is Kansas in 2015 when the Jayhawks gave up 561 yards per game for the season. [I only looked back to 2000 so that may be wrong. However, before that, college football was not as much an offensive game as it is today.] UConn has allowed 627 yards per game so far this year and there is only one game left. Let this sink in:
- Even if UConn holds Temple to zero yards offense in this week’s game, it will set the record as the worst defense ever in major college football.
The SHOE Watchlist:
Since the SHOE Tournament will only accommodate 8 teams and since this is the last week of the season, it is time to cut the watchlist down from 12 teams to 10 teams. Here they are:
- Central Michigan 1-10
- Georgia St. 2-9
- Kent St. 2-9
- Louisville 2-9
- San Jose St. 1-10
- Rice 1-11
- Rutgers 1-10
- Tulsa 2-9
- UConn 1-10
- UTEP 1-10
NCAA Games of Interest:
(Fri) Texas – 15 at Kansas (49): Texas could be part of the Big 12 Championship game with a win here and a W. Virginia loss to Oklahoma.
(Fri) Oregon – 17.5 at Oregon St. (69.5): They call this rivalry game “The Civil War”.
(Fri) Oklahoma – 2.5 at W. Virginia (83.5): The Mountaineers need a win here to be certain of a slot in the big 12 Championship Game because Texas is likely to prevail over Kansas. By the way, that Total Line is not a typo; it opened the week at 80 points and has been rising all week; one sportsbook has it at 84 points.
(Fri) Washington at Washington St. – 2.5 (49): The winner plays Utah for the PAC-12 Championship.
Kentucky – 17 at Louisville (51): This is a much bigger basketball rivalry than a football rivalry.
South Carolina at Clemson – 26 (59): This is a big rivalry game, but it also looks like a mismatch this year.
Syracuse at BC -7 (57): Will the Syracuse defense make the trip with the team this week?
Michigan – 4.5 at Ohio St. (56): The winner plays Northwestern in the Big-10 Championship Game. Michigan’s defense is ranked first in the country; Ohio State’s defense just gave up 51 points to Maryland…
Ga Tech at Georgia – 17 (59): These games are often much closer on the scoreboard than would be predicted from team records.
BYU at Utah – 11 (44): This is a rivalry game that does not get the same national recognition as many others – – but it is just as real and just as intense.
Florida – 6 at Florida St. (52): This has been a much more important game in previous years.
Purdue – 4 at Indiana (65): This is another rivalry game that does not get all the attention it deserves.
Notre Dame – 10.5 at USC (54): If Notre Dame wins and is undefeated, they will be in the CFP this year because of their impact on TV ratings.
Auburn at Alabama – 24 (52): It is not often you see a spread of this size in the Iron Bowl.
The Saints beat the Eagles 48-7. Last week, I said this game could get ugly; it went well beyond “ugly” and all the way to “grotesque”. The Eagles offense was only 196 yards and Carson Wentz threw 3 INTs. The Saints had 546 yards on offense and have a shot at breaking the NFL team scoring record. That record is held by the 2013 Broncos with 606 points. As of this morning, the Saints average 37.8 points per game and at that pace would score a total of 605 points for the season. They have a shot at the record…
The Colts beat the Titans 38-10. If you doubt the value of Andrew Luck to the Colts compare the way this team plays as opposed to last year’s version of the Colts. While you are at it, check out the play of the Colts’ OL this year. Last year, Colts’ QBs were running for their lives more often than not; this year, Luck has actual time to set up and throw the football. The Titans were just awful in this game and an injury to Marcus Mariotta’s arm is not the only bad thing to come from the game. The Titans’ defense is what carries that team and they were torched on Sunday.
Those two games above were the only blowouts of the week; the rest of the games were close and most went down to the final possession.
The Ravens beat the Bengals 24-21. This was the first start for Lamar Jackson at QB and he ran the ball 27 times in the game. He produced a win but that is not a sustainable offense over the course of a season. Jackson is a talented runner to be sure, but that is not a formula for success in the long term. The Ravens ran the ball for 265 yards in this game just a week after the Bengals fired their defensive coordinator. That helped a lot … Well, maybe there was some improvement there; the Bengals had given up 500+ yards in each of their previous 3 games and last week, they only gave up 403.
The Cowboys beat the Falcons 22-19 with a field goal as time ran out. Ezekiel Elliott produced 201 yards from scrimmage. The Falcons had ample yardage on offense but had to settle for field goals too often. That has been the story of their season…
The Texans beat the Skins 23-21. A game-winning field goal attempt by the Skins with no time remaining fell short. Skins’ QB Alex Smith suffered a season-ending – – and maybe a career-ending – – leg injury in the game. That makes 7 wins in a row for the Texans; their defense carried the day with 5 sacks and a Pick-Six.
The Giants beat the Bucs 38-35. Saquon Barkley ran for 142 yards here; the Bucs defense is not good but some of his runs would have worked against any defense. Eli Manning was 17 for 18 in the game and the Giant’s defense contributed 3 INTs. The Bucs trailed badly and benched Ryan Fitzpatrick giving Jameis Winston the opportunity to try a furious comeback – – when he almost accomplished. Once again, the Bucs had 500+ yards of offense and lost the game; that is the 3rd time that has happened this year.
The Steelers beat the Jags 20-16. Ben Roethlisberger scored the winning TD on a 1-yard run that seemingly took 4 or 5 seconds to happen. Roethlisberger was intercepted 3 times in the first 3 quarters and then he generated 3 TDs in the 4th quarter to pull the game out. The Jags led 16-0 and coughed it up. The Jags ran the ball 49 times in the game indicating to me that they suspected that “Bad Blake” Bortles might show up on that Sunday.
The Lions beat the Panthers 20-19. Panthers’ kicker Graham Gano missed a short FG and a PAT in the game. With a minute to go, Panthers scored a TD to make it 20-19. Riverboat Ron Rivera went for the 2-point conversion to “win the game”; I suspect he was afraid to put Gano out there with the chance to “lose the game” in broad daylight. Cam Newton missed a wide-open receiver in the end zone on that 2-point try and the game was over.
The Broncos beat the Chargers 23-22 on a last second field goal. Philip Rivers threw 2 INTs in the game; that is the first time this year he has done that. Also, the Chargers missed a PAT and lost the game by a single point. Broncos’ QB Case Keenum led the game winning drive going 85 yards in the final 2 minutes to set up the game winning 34-yard FG as time expired.
The Raiders beat the Cards 23-21. The Raiders defense held Cards offense under 300 yards – – first time this year the Raiders’ defense has done that. And the Raiders’ defense had 2 INTs in the game.
The Bears beat the Vikes 25-20. The knock on Kirk Cousins in DC was that he threw INTs at THE most inopportune moments. Well, he did that again Sunday night with a Pick-Six that iced the game for the Bears. Khalil Mack was dominating on defense and Akiehm Hicks from the Univ of Regina in Saskatchewan terrorized the middle of the Vikes’ OL too.
NFL Games this week:
The Rams and the Chiefs get a BYE this week after their Monday night track meet last week. After seeing that game, I would not mind seeing a rematch in the Super Bowl even a little bit. I connected last week that I could not recall ever seeing a Total Line for an NFL game as high as 63.5 points. For perspective, the game went OVER in the 3rd quarter…
(Thurs) Chicago – 3.5 at Detroit (45): The Bears were very impressive against the Vikes last week and now lead the division comfortably. It is a young team with a new coach; it will be interesting to see how they handle this prosperity…
(Thurs) Washington at Dallas – 7 (40.5): The line opened at 9.5 points and dropped quickly to this level. Colt McCoy will be the Skins’ QB and as a backup, the Skins just signed Mark Sanchez. McCoy definitely needs to stay healthy…
(Thurs) Atlanta at New Orleans – 13 (60): This looked like a much more important – and appealing – game back when the schedule makers put it on Thanksgiving night. Falcons’ fans like to urge the team to “rise up”; I suspect that the Falcons are grounded for this season.
Jax – 3 at Buffalo (37): This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. Pay it no attention…
Oakland at Baltimore – 10.5 (43): This is what one of the readers here calls a “Body Clock Game” for the Raiders; they will kick off at 1:00 Pm EST which is 10:00AM on their body clocks. Evidently, the oddsmaker does not believe that the Raiders “turned the corner” with their win last week.
SF at Tampa Bay – 3 (54.5): This is a Body Clock Game for the Niners. Neither team is very good but there is the potential for lots of points here.
Giants at Philly – 6 (46): Odell Beckham Jr. said the Giants would win out (8 games in a row) and make the playoffs. They have now won 2 in a row. Is this #3 …
Cleveland at Cincy – 3 (47.5): I wonder if the right team is favored in this one…? The Bengals defense is non-existent.
New England – 9.5 at Jets (46.5): The Pats had two weeks of practice where the coaches could remind them that their last game was a loss. That had to be fun.
Seattle at Carolina – 3 (47.5): Here is yet another Body Clock Game. The matchup here features two inconsistent teams; the Seahawks are much less predictable on the road and the Panthers are just plain unreliable.
Miami at Indy – 7.5 (51.5): The Dolphins are 5-5 but have been outscored by 57 points this year. The Colts are 5-5 and have outscored opponents by 49 points this year. This game has wild-card implications written all over it.
Arizona at Chargers – 12 (45): The Chargers lost last week but are still in a good position to get the first AFC wild-card slot in the playoffs. They need to focus here.
Pittsburgh – 3 at Denver (47): The Steelers have won 6 in a row and lead their division by a comfortable 2.5 games. The Broncos are 4-6 and a loss here would make playoff contention a fantasy. The Broncos are a lot better at home than on the road; this could be an interesting game. I will label it the Game of the Week.
(Sun Nite) Green Bay at Minnesota – 3 (48): A loss for the Packers would be far more harmful here than a loss for the Vikes. Back in September, these teams played to a tie.
(Mon Nite) Tennessee at Houston – – no lines: Until folks know if Marcus Mariotta can play or if Blaine Gabbert will be the titans’ QB, there will no lines posted for this contest.
Finally, here is a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:
“Receiver Juju Smith-Schuster went trick-or-treating in his Steelers uniform.
“If Bears linebacker Khalil Mack followed suit, just imagine how many sacks he’d bring home.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………