It is the Friday after Thanksgiving; the turkey carcass is in the process of becoming turkey stock; I have come out from under my tryptophan-induced stupor; and, that means there is just enough time left in the day to do a mini-Football Friday.
There was no Six-Pack last week, so the cumulative results still stand at:
- Overall: 28-18-2
- College: 15-6-1
- NFL: 13-12-1
College Football Commentary:
The Linfield College Wildcats saw their season come to an end last week in the first round of the Division III football playoffs. They lost to Chapman college 68-65 in triple overtime. Linfield ends its season with an 8-2 record; Chapman goes forward in the tournament with a 10-0 record to date.
Bob Molinaro had this college football observation in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot last week:
“The mediocracy: Assuming No. 3-ranked Clemson reaches the College Football Playoff semifinals, a team that’s currently unranked will represent the ACC in the Orange Bowl. Not a good look for an already maligned conference.”
I wondered why that would be the case and did a bit of digging – – and learning. The Orange Bowl and the ACC have a contract that says the ACC will provide its highest rated team to the Orange Bowl with two exceptions:
- If the highest rated ACC team is involved in the CFP, then the second-highest rated team would go to the Orange Bowl. That will be the case this year if Clemson is invited to the CFP as is expected. No other ACC team is ranked in the Top 25; moreover, every other ACC team already has 3 losses or more going into this final weekend of the regular season.
- If the Orange Bowl is slated to be the venue for a first round CFP game, then the Orange Bowl will feature the two teams selected by the Committee.
Looking at the records of the ACC teams involved my lack of keyboarding skills to also look at the records for teams in AAC where there are currently 4 teams with 2 or fewer losses going into the final weekend of the regular season. Those 4 teams are:
- Cincinnati 10-1
- Memphis 10-1
- SMU 9-2
- Navy 8-2
I am not going to suggest that the AAC is a better football conference than the ACC – except that in this particular year, that conference might just be tougher at the top than the ACC. The difference comes at the bottom of the two conferences where I would argue that the AAC is weaker than the ACC.
However, I will cite – and heap scorn upon – several of the ACC teams with “only 3 losses” this year for their cupcake scheduling. If the fans and alums at these schools are not embarrassed, they ought to be:
- Virginia: They scheduled Old Dominion, William and Mary and Liberty.
- Va Tech: They scheduled Old Dominion, Furman and Rhode Island.
- Wake Forest: They scheduled Utah State, Rice and Elon.
One can be upset with some aspects of the CFP and the arbitrariness of the decision ultimately made by the Selection Committee, but the CFP allows for plenty of interesting “debate” and interesting creations of scenarios for what might happen “If…”. So, let me do some flights of fancy here:
- LSU is undefeated and they play Texas A&M this weekend. The Aggies have lost 4 games this year but that is a deceiving stat. The losses have come against Clemson, Auburn, Alabama and Georgia; three of those teams are in the Top 5 and Auburn is ranked 16th in the country. LSU will play Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. If LSU loses both games, they will likely be out of the CFP; if Georgia loses again (Ga Tech this week and then LSU) they will likely be out. The fun will come if Georgia and LSU win this week and then Georgia beats LSU. Would that put two SEC teams in the CFP?
- Oklahoma and Baylor each have one loss in the Big 12. The Sooners lost to Kansas State – a team with 4 losses. Baylor lost to Oklahoma. These two teams will meet again in a conference championship game. Both teams need to win this week to get to that game with only 1 loss because no one from the Big 12 will get a second look from the Selection Committee with 2 losses. In fact, I am not confident that the Committee would put Baylor in the CFP even with a win over Oklahoma in two weeks because of the outrageously soft out-of-conference schedule that the Bears set for themselves.
- Clemson is the only ACC team with any possibility of being in the CFP. They will have to beat South Carolina this week and then beat the winner of this week’s Va/Va Tech game. Those appear to be likely outcomes, so I think Clemson is going to be one of the CFP selections.
- Utah is the only hope for the Pac 12, and I am not sure that they will be selected even with a 12-1 record and the conference championship in their pocket.
- The Big 10 is another interesting conference. Ohio State will be in the conference championship game, but they have Michigan – in Ann Arbor – this weekend; that is a rivalry game against a very good opponent. In the West Division, Wisconsin and Minnesota will decide Ohio State’s opponent in the Championship Game. Suppose it is Wisconsin versus Ohio State AND suppose that Ohio State loses to Michigan. Then if Wisconsin beats Ohio State in the championship game, Ohio State will have two losses and so will Wisconsin. Could that shut out the Big 10 from the CFP?
This sort of thing can never happen in the NFL because there are tiebreakers for teams that come into play when records are the same; there is no “committee”. And that is one of the beauties of college football…
Here is my projection:
- LSU wins out and goes to the CFP. Georgia with 2 losses is out.
- Alabama beats Auburn this week but is not selected by the committee. The cries of anguish will be heard round the world.
- Clemson wins out and goes to the CFP
- Ohio State wins out and goes to the CFP.
- Oklahoma and Utah win out and the Selection Committee picks Oklahoma to be the one-loss team in the CFP simply because Oklahoma has a longer history as a college football “powerhouse”.
If LSU stumbles this week or down the road this year, it will be a strange situation for LSU. For the past decade, LSU has been a team that won on defense and running the ball; this year, they are throwing it all over the place and scoring tones of points – – but the defense is “porous”. LSU is tied for second in the country in scoring averaging 48.5 points per game. However, LSU is uncharacteristically:
- 43rd in the country in scoring defense
- 31st in the country in rushing defense – allowing 129.7 yards per game
- 72nd in the country in pass defense – allowing 232.7 yards per game.
There were two shocking outcomes from last week’s games. The first one had some potential “national consequence”; Arizona State beat Oregon 31-28 giving the Ducks their second loss of the year and ending any chance that they could sneak into the CFP.
The second shocking outcome was Florida International beating Miami (Fla) 30-24. At one point, FIU led 23-3 and held off a Miami rally to win the game. There is a delicious irony here in addition to the shock value of Miami losing this game:
- The FIU coach is Butch Davis – – who was at one point the coach at Miami until he was run out of town by folks who were not satisfied with his wins and losses.
One other game from last week needs a comment. Washington State and Oregon State got together in a game where both coaches must have agreed to leave their defensive units in the locker room.
- Washington State won this game 54-53.
- The total offense by both teams was 1227 yards.
- Oregon State scored 29 points in the 4th quarter to take the lead
- Washington State won on a 2-yard TD run with 2 seconds left on the clock.
I am exhausted just thinking about all that…
The SHOE Candidates:
I will condense the candidate list from 12 to 10 this week. I will also identify a couple of teams that will definitely be in the SHOE Tournament no matter what happens this weekend. Stand by to learn about some bad football teams:
- Akron: Their season is over at 0-12. They are the only winless team in Division 1 college football. Then Zips are IN the SHOE Tournament.
- Arkansas: Their record stands at 2-9 with Missouri on tap this week. Missouri is 5-6 on the year and is a 2 TD favorite over Arkansas who has already fired the coach and will be looking for a miracle worker starting in about two weeks.
- New Mexico: Their record stands at 2-9 and they have just come off a big loss to Air Force.
- New Mexico State: Their record stands at 2-9. I know they are on a 2-game winning streak, but those wins came at the expense of Incarnate Word and UTEP. This week, they are a 14-point underdog on the road to Liberty – a team that has already beaten the Aggies 20-13 in Las Cruces.
- Old Dominion: Their record stands at 1-10 but that win was over a Division 1-AA school. They are a 10-point home dog this week against Charlotte.
- Rutgers: Their record stands at 2-9. They were shut out last week by Michigan State and that is the 4th time the Scarlet Knights have been shut out in a conference game this year. Those two wins, by the way, came over UMass and Liberty.
- South Alabama: Their record stands at 1-10. They lost to Georgia State last week and are a 12-point home underdog to Arkansas State later today.
- UConn: Their record stands at 2-9. They lost last week to a not-very-good E. Carolina team 30-24.
- UMass: Their record stands at 1-10. They are dead last in the country in scoring defense allowing 52.7 points per game. The team ranked second worst in this statistic (New Mexico State) gives up “only” 40.3 points per game. The Minutemen are IN the SHOE Tournament.
- UTEP: Their record stands at 1-10 – – and they lost to New Mexico State last week. They finish their season at home against Rice – a team that has been on this watch list since it started. Rice is a 7-point road favorite…
College Games this Week:
This is rivalry week; there are lots of games where the outcome may not impact the polls or the CFP Selection Committee – – but the outcomes will be a huge deal for alums and boosters.
(Fri) Washington St at Washington – 7 (64): This is the Apple Cup game; basically, it is for bragging rights in the State of Washington.
Georgia – 28 at Georgia Tech (46.5): This is the traditional way for these two teams to close out the regular season. The outcome here does not appear to be in doubt.
Vandy at Tennessee – 23 (46): Tennessee has rallied in the latter parts of this season and will get a bowl bid this year.
UNC – 10 at NC State (56): Big rivalry game and also a meaningless game in terms of the “big picture”.
Ohio State – 8 at Michigan (49.5): This is the Game of the Week. It is an important game for the polls, and it is a huge rivalry game. I like Ohio State to win and cover here so I’ll put that in this week’s Six-Pack.
Clemson – 27 at South Carolina (51): Clemson needs to win – – and they should do so handily.
Indiana – 7 at Purdue (57): I believe this game decides the possession of the old oaken bucket for a year.
Texas A&M at LSU – 17 (64.5): No historical rivalry here – – but a very important game nationally.
Louisville at Kentucky – 3 (52.5): Rivalry game – – but I prefer to watch these two schools go at it in basketball rather than in football.
Alabama – 3.5 at Auburn (50): Normally, this would be the Game of the Week – – but not this year. The oddsmaker sees this game as low scoring; Auburn has a VERY good defense.
Oklahoma – 13.5 at Oklahoma State (69): This is a big rivalry game. The Sooners need the win, but they have to realize that State is much better at home than on the road.
Notre Dame – 14.5 at Stanford (46): I think Stanford has packed it in for the season. I like Notre Dame to win this one comfortably so I’ll put the Fighting Irish in this Week’s Six-Pack.
Florida State at Florida – 17.5 (54): This is as big a rivalry as any on the card for this weekend.
Oregon State at Oregon – 20 (66): They call this game “The Civil War”. Oregon will need to get over its crushing loss to Arizona state last weekend.
Greg Cote recognized the passing of a former kicker in the NFL with this comment in the Miami Herald:
“Former Vikings kicker Fred Cox, who later invented the Nerf football, died at 80. Cannot confirm Fred will be buried in a foam casket.”
There were some disappointing performances in NFL games last week. In no particular order:
- The Raiders played nonchalantly two weeks ago against the Bengals – – but they won. They were beyond nonchalant last week – reaching almost to a state of indifference – and lost to the Jets 34-3.
- The Cowboys coaching decisions and special teams play against the Patriots was better than pathetic – – but not much better.
- The Packers were shellacked by the Niners. Did we overrate them earlier this year?
- The Broncos were dominated by the Bills. Denver had the ball 10 times in the game. They punted 8 times and turned the ball over one other time.
- The Falcons lost to the Bucs 35-22. This is the same Falcons defense that held the Saints to 9 points and the Panthers to 3 points in the previous two weeks. Really?
- The Lions lost to the Skins in Washington continuing their streak of never winning in Washington. Skins’ only TD came on a kickoff return; Lions turned the ball over 4 times in the game. Only descriptor that comes to mind here is UGLY.
With a win last week and another win on Thanksgiving night, the New Orleans Saints have wrapped up the NFC South Championship. They will host a playoff game and remain in contention for a BYE Week and for home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
With a loss last week and another loss on Thanksgiving afternoon, the Cowboys have left the door open in the NFC East. The Cowboys have not looked “alert” in the past two weeks.
NFL Games this Week:
We are finished with BYE Weeks in the regular season. Six teams played yesterday; the other 26 teams will compete this weekend.
Green Bay – 6.5 at Giants (44): Do not be fooled by the ineptitude of the Packers’ offense last week against the Niners. This is the Giants’ defense this week and the Packers should be able to move the ball efficiently and effectively. I like the Packers to win and cover here so I’ll put the Packers in this week’s Six-Pack.
Washington at Carolina – 10 (38): Believe it or not, the Skins at 2-9 can still win the NFC East if a thousand things break their way. After they lose here, that possibility will go away.
SF at Baltimore – 5.5 (45.5): This is the Game of the Week. I am not willing to say it is a preview of the Super Bowl next February, but both teams will deservedly be in the playoffs. Too bad this is a “body clock” game for the Niners; it would be better if this were a late afternoon game in Baltimore…
Tennessee at Indy – 1 (43): The spread opened the week at 3 points and has been dropping all week. One Internet sportsbook has the game at “pick ‘em” today. Who knows which Titans’ team will show up this week?
Philly – 9.5 at Miami (44): Eagles playoff hopes pretty much boil down to winning the NFC East. They can do that if they win out. If they cannot beat the Dolphins, they just do not belong in the playoffs. I’ll put the Eagles in this week’s Six-Pack and lay the points.
Oakland at KC – 10 (51): This would be the Game of the Week if two other things were not operative:
- The Niners/Ravens game may not be a huge division game like this one, but it should be a better game between two good teams.
- The Raiders have underperformed two weeks in a row.
The Chiefs are coming to this game off a BYE Week and Andy Reid’s teams historically play well off a BYE Week. The Chiefs hold a one-game lead over the Raiders in the AFC West and – unusually – the Chiefs are sub-.500 at home this year.
Tampa Bay – 2.5 at Jax (48): Two teams at 4-7 battle it out for supremacy in Northern Florida. Ho-hum …
Jets – 3 at Cincy (41.5): This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. Notwithstanding the Jets’ 3-game winning streak, this game is of no importance. Andy Dalton returns to the starting QB position after Ryan Finley showed he is not ready for the job. I think the Jets’ defense can win this game, so I’ll put the Jets in this week’s Six-Pack and lay the points.
Rams – 2.5 at Arizona (47): Was last week’s utter collapse against the Ravens the signal that the Rams’ time has come and gone? Could be…
Chargers – 3 at Denver (38): This line opened at 1-point and popped up to this level almost immediately. The Chargers had last week off; the Broncos managed to score all of 3 points last week. I’ll put the Chargers in this week’s six-Pack and lay the points.
Cleveland – 2 at Pittsburgh (38.5): The spread opened with the Steelers favored by 2 points. Even now, the line is all over the place from Browns – 3 to “pick ‘em”. Somehow, the Steelers are still involved in playoff discussions. Does Mike Tomlin have any fairy dust left in his pocket to pull this game out?
(Sun Nite) New England – 3 at Houston (46): If the Texans are going to win this game – – and they only lead the Colts and Titans by one game in the AFC South – – every Houston player will need to play at full potential. Remember that the Titans and Colts play Sunday afternoon so a loss for the Texans here will put them in a tie with the winner of that game.
(Mon Nite) Minnesota at Seattle – 3 (50): It should be an excellent MNF game. Russell Wilson is playing at an MVP level this season and Kirk Cousins has played very well the last month or so. However, this is a prime-time game against a team with a solid winning record on the road. Those are not good omens for him and the Vikes.
Let me summarize this week’s Six-Pack. I seem to have taken all favorites this week:
- Ohio State – 8 over Michigan
- Notre Dame – 14.5 over Stanford
- Packers – 6.5 over Giants
- Eagles – 9.5 over Dolphins
- Jets – 3 over Bengals
- Chargers – 3 over Broncos
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports……..