Tomorrow will be Pearl Harbor Day – – but until tomorrow, today is Football Friday. This is the weekend that will crown the conference champions and will determine the four teams that will participate in the College Football Playoff and will set in motion the activities to populate the seemingly endless number of other bowl games. If I have counted correctly, there will be 41 bowl games this year requiring 82 teams. There were 130 Division 1-A teams aspiring to a bowl slot back in August meaning that only 37% of the teams failed to “make the post season”. College football advocates like to say that every game matters; well, when 63% of the teams “make it to the post-season”, one can wonder…
Last week, the Six-Pack broke even at 3-3. Here is the cumulative record for the season:
- Overall: 31-21-2
- College: 17-6-1
- NFL: 14-15-1
College Football Commentary:
Earlier this week, I ran through a bunch of the schools that will be looking to hire a new coach over the next several weeks. One school has already made a “splashy” hire. Rutgers signed Greg Schiano to an 8-year contract for $32M. This is a coming-home event for Schiano; he is a self-identified “Jersey-guy” and he has been the coach at Rutgers before. When he took the job last time, the program had sunk into the mire; over the previous 5 seasons, Rutgers went 11-44.
Schiano did not work miracles back then; he slowly built the program to the point where Rutgers went to a bowl game in 6 of his final 7 seasons there. He was not fired from his job then; he left to become the head coach of the Tampa Bay Bucs in the NFL.
He is not going to work miracles this time either for a couple of reasons, but the major reason is this:
- When he last took over the job in 2001, Rutgers was in the Big East where the dominant teams were Miami and Va Tech. Now Rutgers is in the Big 10 East where every year they know they will face the likes of Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State.
Rutgers has lost 21 consecutive Big 10 games dating back to November 2017. This year Rutgers was 0-9 in conference games and lost by an average of 35 points per game. Since joining the Big 10 in 2014 Rutgers’ conference record is 7-45 losing by an average of 23 points per game. It will take any coach anywhere a bit of time to climb out of that abyss – – if such a climb is even possible.
There were a few surprising results from last week’s rivalry games:
- It was no surprise that Ohio State beat Michigan; Ohio State is the better team. However, the surprise was the 29-pooint margin of victory.
- The margin of victory was a surprise also in the Kentucky/Louisville game. The Wildcats won by 32 points.
- Wisconsin beat Minnesota soundly 38-17.
- Auburn beat Alabama 48-45. Alabama was favored in the game, so it was technically an “upset”. The surprise to me is that Auburn scored 48 points against the Bama defense. This year, Auburn had offensive outbursts against the likes of Samford, Arkansas and Kent State – – not the likes of Alabama.
- LSU beat Texas A&M 50-7. LSU is the better team to be sure, but 43 points better?
- Florida beat Florida State by 23 points after leading 30-7 at halftime.
- Oklahoma beat a ranked Oklahoma State team by 18 points in Stillwater where Ok. St. is much tougher.
- UVa beat VaTech 39-30 earning the “privilege” of facing Clemson this weekend.
- Memphis beat Cincy 34-24. These two teams will play again this week in the AAC Conference Championship game.
- Washington beat Washington State 31-13 in the Apple Cup. Washington’s coach “stepped down” and Washington State gave its coach a contract extension. Say what?
The SHOE Tournament:
Here are the teams vying to be crowned as “The SHOE” – – The Steaming Heap Of Excrement – – for 2019. The idea is to imagine them playing one another in this 8-team bracket where the loser of a game must continue to play on. The #1 Seed in this tournament is the team that appears now to be the worst in the country – – but you never know…
As with the CFP at the other end of the college football spectrum, the seeding here is done by a committee. The difference is that the SHOE Tournament seedings are done by a committee-of-one, namely me.
- #1 Seed Akron: This seeding is almost by default; Akron is the only Division 1-A team out of 130 such teams to go winless in 2019. They closed out the season losing to Ohio – – not Ohio State – – by a score of 52-3.
- #2 Seed UMass: I’m not so sure that UMass can win a Division 1-A game because its defense is legendarily bad. The Minutemen gave up 52.7 points per game this year; that is 11.7 points per game more than the next-worst scoring defense in the country.
- #3 Seed Old Dominion: The Monarchs finished the year at 1-11. That lone win came in Week 1 by 3 points over a Division 1-AA opponent.
- #4 Seed UTEP: The Miners finished with a 1-11 record. Their lone win was also in Week 1 by 2 points over a Division 1-AA opponent.
- #5 Seed New Mexico State: The Aggies were 2-10 this year. On November 23, the Aggies beat UTP by 11 points; that means they deserve a lower seeding here.
- #6 Seed UConn: The Huskies were 2-10 this year also. The two wins were over a Division 1-AA opponent and UMass.
- #7 Seed Rutgers: The Scarlett Knights were 2-10 in 2019. The two wins came at the expense of Liberty and UMass. See above for more details on Rutgers’ stinkitude…
- #8 Seed Arkansas: The Razorbacks were 2-10 this year. From October 19 through November 23, Arkansas played 5 games and gave up a total of 254 points. Two of the teams in that run were Western Kentucky and Mississippi State – – not exactly offensive powerhouses.
College Games this Week:
(Fri Nite) Oregon vs Utah – 6.5 (46.5): The two best defensive teams in the PAC-12 will play for the conference championship; that is not normally the case out west. The Utes have a shot at the CFP with a solid win here; Oregon already has two losses; I cannot imagine a scenario where Oregon gets into the CFP this year. Everyone who follows college football has heard of Oregon QB, Justin Herbert – a first round pick in next year’s NFL Draft. It is time for folks to get to recognize Utah RB, Zack Moss. That guy can play…
Miami (OH) vs C. Michigan – 6 (54): This is for the MAC Championship and there are some oddities here:
- Miami is 7-5 while C Michigan is 8-4 – – and one of them will be a conference champion on Sunday morning
- C Michigan won only 1 game last year and is playing for the conference championship this year.
- Both teams lost to W. Michigan in MAC games – – yet W. Michigan isn’t in the championship game.
Baylor vs Oklahoma – 9.5 (65.5): Both teams are 11-1. Oklahoma beat Baylor but lost to K-State. In their game against Baylor, the Sooners rallied from a 28-3 deficit to win. No matter the outcome here, you have to tip your hat to Matt Ruhle as the coach at Baylor. He took over a program in shambles as Art Briles was escorted out of town and Jim Grobe took over for one year as an interim coach back in 2017. The Bears were 1-11 that year; they are 11-1 this year.
UAB vs Florida Atlantic – 8 (49.5): The interesting aspect of this game is Lane Kiffin, the coach at FAU. He has been linked to the job openings at both Arkansas and Mizzou in the SEC. While those jobs may not be easy “turn-arounds” given the conference opponents, the SEC is at or near the top of the college football food chain in terms of coaching. A loss here would not help Lane Kiffin’s candidacy for either of those jobs…
Cincy vs Memphis – 9 (57.5): They met last week, and Memphis prevailed by 10 points. The winner will be the AAC champion.
Hawaii at Boise St. – 13 (65): This is the Mountain West championship game and it is being played on the “Smurf-Turf” in Boise. Weather.com says it should be raining and in the 40s for this game; that is not Hawaii weather. I’ll put Boise St. in this week’s Six-Pack to win and cover at home.
Georgia vs LSU – 7 (55.5): LSU has the most prolific offense in the SEC scoring 46.7 points per game. Georgia has the stingiest defense in the SEC allowing 10.4 points per game. That alone makes this game worth watching…
Wisconsin vs Ohio State – 15.5 (56.5): The Buckeyes beat the Badgers by 31 points in late October scoring 28 unanswered points. The spread here is only half of that margin of victory. I suspect that spread is where it is because Ohio State QB, Justin Fields, tweaked his knee in last week’s game; that level of uncertainty is why I am not taking Ohio State to win this one big.
UVa vs Clemson – 28 (57): Just so you know, Virginia is +2375 on the Money Line here. In case you had not noticed, Clemson ranks first in the country in scoring defense allowing only 10.1 points per game. I think Clemson pours it on here. I’ll put Clemson in this week’s Six-Pack and lay the points.
I want to say something about last night’s Cowboys/Bears game. The Cowboys were listless on offense and awful on defense. The quick narrative here is that this is the fault of the coaching staff etc. There is, however, a large measure of blame to be put on the players here. These are professional athletes – some of them are making multiple millions of dollars per year to ply their trade. Real motivation comes from within a person; I think it is an overstatement to say that all motivation comes from within, but I believe most of it resides there.
The Cowboys have talent – lots of talent. What they seem to lack this year is a sense of their responsibility to put all that talent on display for 60 full minutes of a football game. Is that a coaching flaw?
The Cowboys were listless two weeks ago losing to the Pats and then were merely lethargic on Thanksgiving Day in a loss to the Bills. Last night’s seeming indifference on the part of the Cowboys is not news. Those who conclude that all of this falls at the feet of the coaching staff wonder aloud how and why Jason Garrett continues to be the head coach in Dallas after almost 10 years that have produced 2 playoff wins and 4 winning seasons. Here is my theory:
- Jason Garrett is very good at taking the blame without lashing out.
- Jerry Jones needs someone to pin the blame on when the Cowboys team that he assembles annually does not meet expectations.
- Jason Garrett likes his job; Jerry Jones like having a coach who can absorb blame like a sponge.
- I am no psychologist, but it looks to me as if there is a tad of codependency at work here.
Last week’s NFL games showed some ups and some downs. Here are some of the “ups”:
- The Skins rallied from a 14-0 deficit to beat the Panthers. The Skins’ defense produced 4 takeaways in the game and sacked Kyle Allen 7 times.
- Derrick Henry ran for 149 yards and 1 TD against the Colts.
- Drew Lock won his first start as a Bronco. It was certainly not pretty – – but the Broncos won the game with a field goal as time expired.
- The Dolphins offense had 4 trips inside the Red Zone against the Eagles and came away with 4 TDs.
- The Rams amassed 549 yards total offense.
- The Bengals held the Jets to 6 points getting their first win of the season. The Bengals’ defense had been giving up 417.2 yards per game; the Jets only managed to gain 271.
Here are some of the “downs”:
- The Pats’ offense continued to look anemic on Sunday night against the Texans.
- The Eagles’ defense was awful. The Eagles scored 31 points on the Dolphins and managed to lose.
- Nick Foles was benched – not injured but benched – in favor of Gardner Minshew. The Jags have to be shaking their head at the 4-year and $88M contract they gave to Foles last Spring.
- Daniel Jones threw 3 INTs in the Giants’ loss to the Packers
- The Colts’ field goal unit allowed two tries to be blocked – – and one was returned for a TD.
- Sam Darnold and Jets’ OL played miserably as Jets lost to Bengals. The Jets never snapped the ball in Bengals’ Red Zone.
[Aside: In Game 8 this year, the Jets lost to the previously winless Dolphins. In Game 12 this year, the Jets lost to the previously winless Bengals. How charitable of them…]
By the way, the Skins with their 3-9 record can still make the playoffs this year as the NFC East champions. A lot of things must fall just fight, but they are “still in the hunt”. Here is what must happen:
- Skins must win out over the Packers, Eagles, Giants and Cowboys.
- Cowboys must lose out against Rams Eagles and Skins
- Eagles must lose twice to the Giants, once to the Skins and beat the Cowboys.
Danny Boy Snyder is reading that and thinking, “So, you’re telling me there’s a chance…”
NFL Games This Week:
Baltimore – 6 at Buffalo (44): You could make the argument that this is the Game of the Week. It will certainly be a challenge for the Bills – a team that has not beaten an opponent with a better than .500 record. The Bills defense is very good, but it has shown some vulnerability to the run – – and the Ravens love to run the ball and will certainly try to run the ball here.
Washington at Green Bay – 12.5 (41.5): The spread opened at 14.5 points and has been dropping all week indicating that there is a preponderance of “Skins money” showing up at the betting windows. The Skins have won two in a row beating the Panthers last week as a double-digit underdog. If you believe that will happen again, you can get +550 on the Money Line for the Skins to win straight up.
Denver at Houston – 9 (42.5): The Texans need this game; the Broncos are playing out the string. One interesting thing here is to see if Drew Lock’s first road start can be as productive as his first home start was last week when the Broncos beat the Chargers.
SF at New Orleans – 2 (44): This is The Game of the Week. Potentially, this game could decide who gets home field advantage in the playoffs. Other than that, you have the excellent Niners’ defense going against Drew Brees in the Superdome. This game is in the early Sunday time slot; if it is on in your viewing area, don’t miss it.
Cincy at Cleveland – 7 (41.5): Other than labeling this game as half of the annual “Battle of Ohio”, this game is meaningless.
Carolina at Atlanta – 3 (47): Let’s review the bidding here:
- Panthers are 5-7 and have already fired their coach.
- Falcons are 3-9 and most people think their coach has one foot out the door already.
- Falcons beat the Panthers in Carolina 3 weeks ago by a score of 29-3.
To me, that adds up to a ho-hum game…
Detroit at Minnesota – 12.5 (43.5) The Vikes are a game behind the Packers in the NFC North race and are in good position for a wildcard berth in the playoffs. This is a team they should beat and did beat 42-30 back in late October. The Vikes get one more shot at the Packers on December 23. The Lions are out of it at 3-8-1 and will play a rookie QB against a solid Vikes’ defense. Also, the Vikes are 5-0 at home this season. I’ll put the Vikes in the Six-Pack to win and cover – – even though I hate double-digit spreads in the NFL. I can hear that back-door cover approaching…
Miami at Jets – 5 (46): This is The Dog-Breath Game of the Week. It is a “revenge game” – if you must – since Miami beat the Jets to get its first win of the season back in October. Jets are 4-8 with a point differential of only 76 points. Dolphins are 3-9 with a point differential of 177 points – – worst in the NFL by far.
Indy at Tampa Bay – 3 (47): The Total Line here opened at 50.5 and dropped quickly to this number. The Colts need this game badly to stay within hailing distance of the Texans and the Titans in the AFC South. The Colts have been miserable the last couple of weeks while the Bucs’ defense has shown improvement in the last couple of weeks.
Chargers – 3 at Jax (43.5): The label on this game should be WGARA – standing for Who Gives A Rat’s Ass.
KC at New England – 3 (48.5): This may not be the Game of the Week, but it ought to be an entertaining matchup that recalls last year’s playoff meeting between the teams. Here is an interesting stat I ran across:
- In their last 53 games after a loss, the Pats record against the spread is 37-16.
- The Pats lost last week.
Until the Chiefs show they can stop the run without putting 10 men on the line, I expect the Pats to run and throw short passes to control clock and keep Patrick Mahomes on the bench.
Pittsburgh – 2 at Arizona (43.5): The Cards’ defense is the worst in the league giving up 426.3 yards per game and they give up 29.1 points per game. Also, the Cards surrender 118.8 yards per game rushing and that is important because rookie QB, Duck Hodges, may need to lean on a running game here. The Steelers hold a playoff slot as of this week; they need this game. I’ll put the Steelers in the Six-Pack and lay the points even though I am backing a rookie QB on the road as a favorite.
Tennessee – 3 at Oakland (47.5): The Titans have been on a roll recently but find themselves in a “sandwich game situation” here. Last week, they played – and beat – a division rival in the Colts; next week, they have a critical game against the Texans that could be a significant of the AFC South race. Meanwhile, the Raiders laid two eggs in a row in two road games losing them by a combined score of 74-12. The Raiders are back home this week… Here are my questions about this game:
- Can the Raiders rebound at home?
- Do I trust the Titans to maintain consistency this week in a “sandwich situation”?
- Since both teams rely on the run, which defense will stop the run best?
I’ll put the Raiders plus the points in this week’s Six-Pack.
(Sun Nite) Seattle at Rams “pick ‘em” (47): The spread for this game has been all over the map. It opened with the Seahawks as 2-point favorites. You can still find them as a 1.5-point favorite at one sportsbook; most of the sportsbooks have this as a “pick ‘em” game, and another one has the Rams as a 1-point favorite. The Seahawks won the first meeting here by a point in Seattle; in that game, they stacked the line to stop the run and dared Jared Goff to beat them through the air. He did not. I would not be surprised to see the Seahawks to play similar defense here; so, what wrinkles can the Rams come up with in the passing game? This is a game you want to see on Sunday Night Football.
(Mon Nite) Giants at Philly – 9.5 (45): Eli Manning returns to the field for this game; Daniel Jones gets to rest his injured leg. The Eagles will win the NFC East if they win out. The Eagles stunk out the joint last week losing to the Dolphins and have lost 3 in a row. Not to worry though, the Giants have been stinking out the joint since the end of September and have lost 8 in a row. Notwithstanding all that gloominess, the game has playoff implications. I think both defenses are vulnerable here, so I’ll put this game in the Six-Pack to go OVER.
Let me review this week’s Six-Pack:
- Boise State – 13 over Hawaii
- Clemson – 28 over UVa
- Vikes – 12.5 over Lions
- Steelers – 2 over Cards
- Raiders + 3 against Titans
- Eagles/Giants to go OVER 45 points
Finally, here is an NFL observation from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times that I endorse completely:
“Not that football needs another rule or anything, but any player who goes nutso celebrating a first down, a touchdown or a turnover — when his team is trailing by three or more scores — should get flagged 15 yards for stupidity.”
Can I get an AMEN! here…
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………