Football Friday 11/8/19

It’s been a while.  I hope I haven’t forgotten how to do one of these.  It’s Friday and I have been home for the entire week and that means there needs to be a Football Friday.

Here is the status of the Six-Packs as of the last pickings on 25 October:

  • Overall record:  22-14
  • College record:  11-4
  • NFL record:  11-10

The Linfield College Wildcats travel to Spokane WA this week to play the Whitworth Pirates in a Northwest Conference game.  Linfield is 6-1 for the season and 5-0 in the conference.  Whitworth is 5-2 for the season and 4-1 in conference games.  The outcome here could determine the conference champion.  Whitworth’s only conference loss was against Puget Sound – – a team that Linfield beat 77-22.  Go Wildcats!

 

College Football Comments:

 

Breaking news this morning…  There are reports that Ohio State defensive end, Chase Young, has been suspended indefinitely related to some sort of “NCAA violation” in 2018.  I have not seen any specifics on what that violation might be, but this is important news because:

  • Chase Young is an outstanding player.  Barring amputation of a limb or incarceration without parole, Young will be drafted in the top five of next year’s draft.
  • This is the first “irregularity” that has surfaced during Ryan Day’s tenure at Ohio State.
  • Young’s absence this week against Maryland is not going to affect the outcome of that game and it has not even changed the spread as of this moment.
  • Young’s absence will not affect the outcome of next week’s game against Rutgers either.
  • However, on 23 November Ohio State plays Penn State and on 30 November Ohio State plays Michigan.  If this is not resolved favorably before those games, Young’s absence could affect the outcome(s).

The CFP Selection Committee put out its first rankings this week and put Clemson out of the Top 4.  You might have thought that the Committee had desecrated the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel with spray paint given the shrieks emanating from South Carolina.  Let me try to offer some sound reasoning as to why the committee did that – – and NONE of the reasoning will have anything to do with Clemson’s on-field capabilities.  I believe the Selection Committee is signaling here…

  • Clemson needs to beef up its opponents a bit.  The ACC is not a conference deep in strong football teams – and it has been that way for a while.  There is no reason to have Wofford on the schedule in November; since playing Texas A&M in early September, Clemson has played a string of mediocre teams.
  • The signal sent to Clemson will heal itself so long as Clemson wins its next two ACC games and its rivalry game against South Carolina.  LSU and Alabama play each other this week; the loser will drop out of the Top 4 leaving an opening. Ohio State and Penn State meet down the road; assuming that Penn State handles Minnesota this week, either of those two teams will lose and open another slot in the Top 4.
  • There is room at the top – – so to speak – – in the way the Committee structured its first rankings and aspiring schools in addition to Clemson might want to acknowledge the signal being sent here.  [Aside:  New Mexico State and Western Carolina do not belong on Alabama’s schedule.]

I have not seen as much college football this season as I normally would by this point in the season.  However, if I had to pick my Top 4 teams from what I have seen on TV, here is my list in alphabetical order:

  • Alabama
  • Clemson
  • LSU
  • Ohio State

Minnesota is 8-0 this year and leads the Big 10 West.  Since I mentioned scheduling above, let me point out that the Gophers have not yet played the meat of their schedule.  Their conference wins have come at the expense of teams at or below .500 and their out-of-conference opponents have not been eye-popping.  Here is how the rest of the season looks for Minnesota:

  • Penn State – also 8-0 this year
  • At Iowa – always a difficult place to play
  • At Northwestern – another weak conference foe
  • Wisconsin – could decide the Big 10 West champ.

Two weeks ago, LSU beat Auburn 23-20.  Given that LSU had been averaging 48 points per game prior to that encounter, I think we can conclude that Auburn’s defense is more that merely good.  Up until that game, LSU had never been held under 36 points.

Two weeks ago, Michigan knocked Notre Dame out of contention for a CFP slot with a 45-14 shellacking.  Granted, both of Notre Dame’s losses this year have come against solid opponents (Georgia was the other loss) but the magnitude of this defeat takes the Irish off the CFP radar.

UCLA has won 3 games in a row and has a PAC-12 record of 4-2.  Talk about a team that is “under the radar”, I thought the Bruins were dead and buried a month ago.  The team has this week off with three challenging games remaining:

  • At Utah
  • At USC
  • Cal

If the PAC-12 Championship game matches Oregon and Utah – each with only 1 loss – then the winner of that game could be a serious contender for a CFP slot.  We shall see…

When K-State beat Oklahoma, that did significant damage to the Big-12’s CFP aspirations.  The only undefeated team in the conference today is Baylor and the CFP Committee has Baylor ranked 3 slots behind Oklahoma despite the Sooner’s loss.  I think this is another “strength of schedule signal” from the CFP Committee.  Baylor’s out-of-conference opponents are Stephen F. Austin, Texas-San Antonio and Rice.  For shame …

Georgia’s win over Florida gives it a shot at the CFP if it wins the SEC East and then wins the SEC Championship Game.  The SEC West champion will likely be the winner of this week’s LSU/Alabama game.

SMU lost to Memphis 54-48 in a “defense-optional game”.  That leaves 3 AAC teams with only 1 loss this year – – Cincy, Memphis and SMU.  Should one of them get the “New Year’s Day Bowl bid” this year over Boise St.?  You make the call…

Appalachian St. also lost its first game of the year last week; Georgia Southern beat Appalachian St. 24-21 when a late rally that produced 2 TDs ran out of time.

Here is a stunning statistical circumstance for this season:

  • Maryland is 3-6 this year.
  • The Terps won the first two games of the season scoring 142 points in those 2 games.
  • In the 7 games that followed the 2 opening games, Maryland has scored a total of only 130 points despite scoring 48 points in one of those 7 games.
  • If you ignore the Maryland/Rutgers game – – won by the Terps 48-7 – the cumulative score for the other Big 10 games is Opponents 223 – – Maryland 59.

Boston College is not a fearsome offensive juggernaut.  Nonetheless, against Syracuse last week, the Eagles ran up 496 yards on offense and won the game 58-26.  Syracuse is ranked 92nd in the country in scoring defense as of this morning.

Florida State has 4 wins this year; they need 6 to avoid bowl ineligibility for the second consecutive season.  Next weekend, they have a “gimme game” on the schedule when they host the Alabama State Hornets – a team that is 4-4 playing the likes of Tuskegee and Mississippi Valley State.  Here are the other two games on Florida State’s schedule:

  • At Boston College – – this week.  State is a 2-point underdog
  • At Florida – – Nov. 30.  State will be a significant underdog there

 

The SHOE Tournament Candidates:

 

I explained the concept here last week; the idea is to find the worst team in the nation.  I will end up with 8 teams in an imaginary bracketed tournament – – but for now I will list the “Dirty Dozen” – – those teams that appear to be ready for the shame of being in the SHOE Tournament.  In alphabetical order:

  • Akron:  The Zips have won zero games this season.  Only one of those losses was a one-score game.  The Zips score only 10.2 points per game – – 129th in the nation.
  • New Mexico:  The Lobos are 2-7; one of those wins was over New Mexico St.  The “Land of Enchantment” is clearly not the “Land of College Football” in 2019.
  • New Mexico St.:  The Aggies are 0-8.  The next two games offer a glimmer of hope; they are home games against Incarnate Word and then UTEP.  The Aggies give up 42.4 points per game; only UMass gives up more.
  • Northwestern:  The record is 1-7.  The reason they must be on this list is that they are the worst scoring team in the country averaging a mere 9.8 points per game.
  • Old Dominion:  The Monarchs are 1-8; the lone victory was over Norfolk State.  The problem here is scoring; ODU scores 14.8 points per game.
  • Rice:  The Owls are 0-9.  The problem here is not the defense; it gives up only 28.1 points per game (ranked 70th in the nation).  The problem is the offense which scores only 14.9 points per game (ranked 125th in the nation).
  • Rutgers:  The Scarlet Knights are 2-7 beating UMass and Liberty.  Rutgers ranks 127th in the country in scoring offense (14.7 points per game) and 124th in the country in scoring defense (36.7 points per game).
  • South Alabama:  The Jaguars are 1-7 with the win coming at the expense of Jackson State.  They score an average of 14.6 points per game.
  • UConn:  The Huskies are 2-7.  Those 2 wins came against Wagner College and UMass.  Yuck!
  • UMass:  The Minutemen have won 1 game this year; they beat Akron by 8 points.  UMass has the worst scoring defense in the country yielding 52 points per game.  Note that UMass has lost to several of the teams listed here.  Hmmm…
  • UTEP:  The Miners are 1-7 and the win was a 2-point victory over Houston Baptist.  UTEP plays New Mexico St. and Rice later this year so they could have a significant impact on the SHOE Tournament participants and seedings.
  • Vandy:  The Commodores are 2-7.  They are here because the other team I had on my consideration list was UNLV – – and UNLV beat Vandy by 24 points last month.

 

College Games This Week:

 

Clemson – 32.5 at NC State (53.5):  I assume that the Tigers will come out with the intention to show the CFP Committee that they belong in the Top 4 and they will pound the snot out of NC State – – the team that happens to be on the schedule the week after the Committee sent its signal.  NC State is collateral damage here.

Florida State at BC – 2.5 (63):  The Seminoles need to win this one a lot more than the Eagles do.  It will be interesting to see how Florida State plays for its interim coach…

Notre Dame – 8 at Duke (51):  The Irish needed a late rally to beat VA Tech by one point last week.  Nonetheless, I don’t think Duke can keep up with Notre Dame for 4 quarters.

Maryland at Ohio State – 43.5 (65):  That is a ton of points – – and I would not touch them with a fork.  Maryland has played 3 Big 10 teams ranked in the Top 25 (Penn State, Michigan and Minnesota); the cumulative score in those 3 games is Opponents 149 and Maryland 17.

UMass at Army – 35 (62):  Think about it; Army is a 3-win team and they are a 5-touchdown favorite over UMass.

Illinois at Michigan St. – 15 (45):  Both teams are 5-4; who saw that coming back in August?  Sparty does not score a lot (21.8 points per game/110th in the country).  That seems like a ton of points to me.  I’ll put Illinois plus the points in this week’s Six-Pack.

Penn State – 6.5 at Minnesota (47.5):  Were it not for LSU/Alabama, this would be the Game of the Week.  Both teams are undefeated, and both need a win here.  As noted above, the Gophers have not played a tough schedule yet – – but neither has Penn State.

Vandy at Florida – 27 (49):  If you like playing underdogs, here is one getting a lot of points.  The question here is not who will win the game; the question is how much of a hangover will the Gators suffer after coming up short against Georgia last week?

Purdue at Northwestern – 2 (39):  My SHOE candidate team is favored at home here…

Texas-San Antonio at Old Dominion – 4 (43):  My SHOE candidate team is favored at home here…

Charlotte – 13.5 at UTEP (57.5):  My SHOE candidate team is a big underdog at home here…

Baylor – 2.5 at TCU (48):  Baylor is 8-0 this year; TCU is 4-4.  The spread is only 2.5 points?  Maybe that is because TCU beat Texas in its last home game?  Last time Baylor beat TCU in Fort Worth was back in 2013…

South Alabama at Texas State – 7 (42):  Ho-hum…

LSU at Alabama – 6.5 (63):  This is clearly the Game of the Week.  I think the line is fat.  I’ll put LSU plus the points in this week’s Six-Pack.

New Mexico St. at Ole Miss – 28.5 (63.5):  The Aggies can’t hang with a bottom-feeder in the SEC…

Kentucky at Arkansas – 1 (52.5): If Arkansas loses here, they might be a SHOE candidate next week…

Iowa State at Oklahoma – 14 (66):  If the Sooners lose again, they might be relegated to one of the minor bowl games this year; is that sufficiently motivating?  Meanwhile the coach at Iowa St. has been mentioned as a potential hire by Florida State; is that motivating – or demotivating – for his Cyclones here?

Tennessee at Kentucky – 1 (42):  Both teams have 4 wins and need 2 more for bowl eligibility.  Other than that, there is nothing to see here…

Missouri at Georgia – 16 (48):  Georgia can see its way to the SEC Championship game; that should be enough motivation here; they already lost one conference home game this year and are not about to repeat that performance.

K-State at Texas – 7 (58):  K-State has won 4 in a row beating Texas and TCU in that stretch.  Texas is tough at home…

Iowa at Wisconsin – 9.5 (38.5):  Wisconsin has lost 2 in a row and needs to win here – – and then beat Minnesota down the line – – to have a shot at the Big 10 Championship Game.  Wisconsin averages 216.4 yards per game rushing.  Iowa gives up only 87.7 yards per game rushing (8th best in the country).  I’ll put Iowa plus the points in this week’s Six-Pack.

Washington State – 7.5 at Cal (51):  Check out these opposing stats:

  • Cougars score 42 points per game; Bears allow fewer than 19 points per game
  • Cougars allow 38 points per game; Bears only score 17.4 points per game.

Nevada at San Diego St. – 17 (39):  San Diego State is 7-1 this year and they are winning with defense.  They rank 110th in the country in scoring offense (21.8 ppg) but they are the 8th best scoring defense in the country (14.1 ppg).  The Aztecs single loss this year was to Utah State by a score of 23-17; that is the most points allowed by the Aztecs all season.

 

NFL Comments:

 

What goes around, comes around.  Consider the varying and various intersections of Bill Belichick, the New England Patriots and the Cleveland Browns:

  • Belichick’s first win as a head coach was a win by the Browns over the Patriots.
  • Belichick is the last Browns’ coach to win a playoff game.
  • Two weeks ago, the Pats beat the Browns giving Belichick his 300th NFL victory.

The Antonio Brown saga took a new turn this week.  Recall that Brown “retired from the NFL” after the Pats released him to focus on clearing his name and reputation in the wake of allegations of sexual assault (as yet unproven/unverified).  Then he sued a variety of folks seeking payments he claims he is due based on his contracts with the Raiders and then the Patriots (no rulings forthcoming to date).  He filed some sort of grievance with the NFLPA against the league and I won’t pretend to understand the nuances of that business.  And now…

  • Antonio Brown says that he wants to play in the NFL again and he wants to “make my way back to the NFL asap”.

I have no idea where this is headed or when it might even begin to come back together as a single-threaded issue.  If it makes sense to you, please offer a comment below.

Another NFL saga might be on the verge of resolution.  Trent Williams vowed that he would never play for the Skins again because he claims that the team medical staff misdiagnosed a cancerous growth on his skull that has since been removed.  He has two years left on his contract and he did not report until about a week ago meaning that he could get credit for fulfilling this year on his contract.  He did not pass a physical and did not play last week.

Meanwhile, Skins’ GM, Bruce Allen, has been playing chicken with this matter claiming at first that this is merely a misunderstanding between Williams, the Front Office and the team medics and then that all of this is merely a ploy for Williams to get a lucrative contract extension.  Obviously, all these claims can be true simultaneously just as most of them can be “fabricated”.  The one issue that is objectively provable is that Williams has had that cancerous growth removed from his skull.

I said this may be in the verge of resolution because the Skins chose to put Williams on the “Non-football Injury List”.  That means he can’t be activated to play – which avoids any confrontation between Williams and the coaching staff and the team and the league and the union – – and the Tri-Lateral Commission and Starfleet Command…  It is now at a point where we will find out just how much all of this has been about “saving face” or “showing the other guy who’s the boss”.

  • The Skins could claim that Williams never fulfilled his contract in good faith this season and could try to “toll the contract” – – which is legalese for saying he still has two years of obligation to play for the Skins – – or – –
  • The Skins could treat this as a player hold-out and finish the season with Williams ineligible to play with the ability then to trade Trent Williams in the off-season.

Trent Williams has clearly demonstrated “resolve” in this matter to date.  Bruce Allen has come off as clueless (this was more than a misunderstanding and there have been no contract extension negotiations over the past 6 months).  Both sides can “get what they want/need here” if the Skins choose to play out the season and then trade Trent Williams to the team making the best offer.  It seems to me that the only thing standing in the way is Bruce Allen’s ego…

Some brief comments on games over the past two weeks:

  • The return of Drew Brees was a hit.  He threw for 373 yards and 3 TDs against the Cards.  He looked as if he had not taken even a day off from work.
  • When Chargers beat the Bears 17-16, the ineptitude of the Bears’ offense was on full display.  They had the ball inside the Chargers’ 10-yardline three times and got no TDs.  They had 5 Red Zone possessions and got only 1 TD.  After that game, the Bears ranked 30th in the NFL in yards gained per offensive play.
  • In the Jags 29-15 win over the Jets, Sam Darnold was sacked 8 times.  Those were not ghosts hitting him…
  • The Texans squeaked by the Raiders by 3 points but lost JJ Watt for the season.  DeAndre Hopkins had a great game with 11 catches for 129 yards.
  • Dwayne Haskins got his first NFL start for the Skins against the Bills.  Based on what I saw, former coach Jay Gruden was totally right; Haskins is not yet ready to be an NFL QB; he has the physical gifts but needs a lot of tutelage.  Haskins only attempted 1 pass more than 15 yards downfield and it was incomplete.  The Skins have now gone 13 straight quarters without scoring a TD…
  • The Dolphins beat the Jets.  Actually, the Jets lost to a team that is constructed to lose; think about that.
  • After the Eagles beat the Bears, is it fair to ask if the Bears are even more disappointing this year than the Browns?  The Bears had 9 yards total offense in the first half of that game and only 164 yards of offense for the whole game.
  • The Chiefs beat the Vikes 26-23 without Patrick Mahomes…
  • The Seahawks beat the Bucs in OT.  The theme of this game was “Jameis Winston giveth and Jameis Winston taketh away.”  Winston threw for 335 yards and 2 TDs here.  He also fumbled the ball away in the 4th quarter giving the Seahawks a chance to send the game to OT.  Russell Wilson merely threw for 5 TDs in the game…
  • The Chargers dominated the Packers.  It looked as if Green Bay was sleepwalking through the game.  Total offense for the Packers was a measly 184 yards.
  • The Ravens handed the Pats their first loss of the season and did it by running the ball for 210 yards.  Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram had the Pats’ defense on its heels for the entire game.

 

NFL Games

 

This is the biggest BYE Week of the season; six teams will get some R&R this weekend:

  1. Denver will try to find its offensive rhythm; the defense is coming together.
  2. Houston holds a half-game lead over Indy – – but the Colts play the Dolphins this week and should tie the Texans for the AFC South lead by Sunday night.
  3. Jax will work to adjust to the return of Nick Foles from his injury.
  4. New England will figure out what went wrong last week as it gets ready for Philly next week.
  5. Philly will spend the time focusing on New England’s visit to the Linc next week.
  6. Washington will try to decide who will start at QB next week – – Dwayne Haskins or Case Keenum?

KC – 6 at Tennessee (47.5):  If I knew that Patrick Mahomes was going to play at 90% efficiency, I’d take the Chiefs here – – but I don’t know that.  The game surely means more to the Chiefs than it does to the Titans – – but the titans have this annoying habit of playing up to – and down to – the level of the opponent.

Buffalo at Cleveland – 3 (40):  I know that the Bills have played a pillow-soft schedule and that the Eagles ran the ball down their throats two weeks ago.  I also know that Kareem Hunt is back and eligible for the Browns – – but is that an unmitigated plus?  The Browns have had “issues” with how many times various players get to touch the ball and now they have another competent guy in the huddle who will want – and who will merit – his share of touches.  Here is an interesting circumstance for this game:

  • Browns are 0-3 at home so far this year – – and – –
  • Bills are 3-0 on the road so far this year.

In a game dominated by defensive units, I like to take points, so I’ll put the Bills plus the points in this week’s Six-Pack.

Arizona at Tampa – 4.5 (52): The Bucs are a hot mess; the Cards are nothing special, but they haven’t come apart at the seams.  The Bucs have the league-leading run defense – – but that is a mirage since it is so easy to throw the ball against them.  One of the characteristics of mature NFL QBs is consistency; Jameis Winston is consistent in finding ways to turn the ball over to the opponent.  Just to clarify, that is not a good thing.  I’ll put the Cards plus the points in this week’s Six-Pack.

Giants – 2.5 at Jets (44.5):  This is clearly the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  The NYC tabloids are going to have a feast on Monday jumping all over the loser here.  Neither team is any good, but I can see a lot more sparks in the Giants than I can in the Jets.  For the first time, I will put a “Dog-Breath Game of the Week” in the Six-Pack and take the Giants to win and cover.

Atlanta at New Orleans – 13.5 (51):  The Falcons’ defense is AWOL and the availability and efficiency of their starting QB is in question.  Avert your eyes here…

Baltimore – 10 at Cincy (44.5):  Perhaps the Bengals will win a game this year – but it won’t be this one even if the Ravens suffer an emotional let-down after trouncing the patriots last week.  Andy Dalton goes to the bench in favor of Ryan Finley.  The Bengals rank dead last in the NFL in rushing meaning Finley is likely to have to throw the ball a lot here.  Hey, this has been the Year of the Backup QB so far, right?  Saving you the time to Google it, Finley was the Bengals’ 4th round pick in the 2019 draft; he played college ball at NC State.

Carolina at Green Bay – 5.5 (47):  I can’t believe that Aaron Rodgers will stink out the joint two weeks in a row.  I also believe that Christian McCaffrey will have a big day here.

Detroit at Chicago – 2.5 (41.5):  Taking the Lions is so tempting here because their defense should hold Mitchell Trubisky in check.  But the Lions are just not a reliable road team and have not been so for a long time.

Miami at Indy – 11.5 (44):  I don’t know who will be the QB for the Colts here.  I do know who the straight up winner is going to be here.  Here are some very conflicted trends for anyone sufficiently unhinged to wager on this game:

  • Dolphins are 14-5 to go UNDER in their last 19 games in Week 10 – – BUT – –
  • Colts are 14-6 to go OVER in their last 20 games in Week 10.

And …

  • Dolphins are 9-4 to go OVER in their last 13 games in November – – BUT – –
  • Colts are 7-2 to go UNDER in their last 9 games in November.

Rams – 3.5 at Pittsburgh (44):  The Rams cannot afford to lose here; if they do, they will have 4 losses on the year.  The Steelers somehow have gotten themselves back to .500 but still trail the Ravens by 2 full games.

(Sun Nite) Minnesota at Dallas – 3 (48):  Kirk Cousins does not play well in prime-time games.  Kirk Cousins’ performance with the Vikes has been skewed toward dominating teams with losing records.  If I have counted properly:

  • Cousins and the Vikes against teams with losing records are 12-1
  • Cousins and the Vikes against teams with winning records are 3-8-1

This is a prime-time game against a team with a winning record.

(Mon Nite) Seattle at SF – 6 (48):  This is the Game of the Week.  Given the Niners’ defensive pass rush, I expect Russell Wilson to be scrambling for his life most of the evening – – but that is often when he is the most dangerous.  The Seahawks’ pass defense had better show up more effectively than it has in the past couple of games or the Niners will torch them.  I was sorely tempted to take the OVER in this game for the Six-Pack.

Finally, since I spent so much time talking about the CFP Selection Committee, let me close with this definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

“Committee:  A group of supremely uninteresting people whose sole purpose is to gather together and make sure that nothing of note is ever accomplished.”

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

 

 

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