We have rolled around to another Friday meaning it is time for another Football Friday. To get things started, let me review last week’s Six-Pack – which was really only a Five-Pack.
- College: 1-1-0
- NFL: 2-1-0
That brings the season totals to:
- College: 3-2-0
- NFL: 5-1-0
- Combined: 8-3-0
The news of the day – – not all that unexpected – – is that the PAC-12 will emulate the Big-10 and reverse course to play football this Fall. The season will be shortened to 7 games and all those games will be against PAC-12 opponents. No fans will be in attendance for any games – – at lest for now – – and the conference will stage a conference championship game just in time for the CFP Selection Committee to consider a PAC-12 representative in that playoff structure.
The PAC-12 conference has 6 schools in Oregon and California where there have been severe limitations on gatherings of people as a response to community spreading of COVID-19. Those restrictions have eliminated the possibility of football practice or football games but there appears to be an easing of those restrictions in sight allowing the PAC-12 to anticipate a football season. Hopefully, that 2020 season can be seen through to a conclusion.
As I noted above the Big-10 is also returning to action on the football field. There was, however, a hiccough in the events surrounding the announcement of their reinstatement of a football season:
- The day after the announcement of the return of Big-10 football, Wisconsin announced that 40 players on the football roster and the football staff had tested positive for COVID-19.
The Big-10 is not alone in this situation. Notre Dame – – playing an ACC football schedule this season – – had to cancel its game this week against Wake Forest because of a coronavirus outbreak. The city of Boulder, CO has just issued new restrictions that apply to the University of Colorado campus there due to a rash of COVID-19 cases. Even though the motivation behind the various conferences desire to return to football is crassly economic, you have to give the schools credit for trying to put together a patchwork of a season. So, in the absence of disastrous consequences from a return to the field that could have been avoided by sticking to the original plan to sit out the 2020 season, let us not make perfection the enemy of progress. The slogan for the 2020 college football season ought to be:
- Something is better than nothing.
The SEC returns to the field this weekend playing a conference-only schedule. LSU is the reigning national champion. All it must do in order to repeat this year is to navigate a difficult schedule through the SEC West Division while digesting:
- The loss of their Heisman-winning QB
- The loss of their offensive coordinator
- The loss of their defensive coordinator
- The loss of a lot of talent now on display on Sunday afternoons.
It would appear that the SEC West will come down to LSU and Alabama while the SEC East will focus on Florida and Georgia. The Georgia Bulldogs have an interesting QB situationo0n their hands. The presumed starter for this year opted out due to COVID-19; the presumed backup QB has what the team described as a “knee issue” and that has demoted him on the depth chart. So, the starting QB for a team with big ambitions this year is a redshirt freshman named D’Wan Mathis.
- Welcome to the spotlight, son. This is your chance to show everyone you are D’Wan.
There are a couple other SEC-focused items that will be interesting to watch as the season unfolds:
- The two teams in Mississippi have new coaches and both bring reputation with them. Lane Kiffin takes over at Mississippi after a highly successful stint at Florida Atlantic and some other more “controversial” coaching stops along the way in his career. Mike Leach brings his law degree and his fascination with pirates to Mississippi State along with a penchant for wide open passing offenses. Both schools are in the SEC West.
- Arkansas in the SEC West and Vandy in the SEC East do not play each other. Therefore, it is reasonable to keep an eye on both teams to see if they can win a game this year. Arkansas is a 28-point underdog this week against Georgia and Vandy is a 30-point underdog this week against Texas A&M.
I know the season for many schools is only 2 weeks old but there are two teams that have made me take notice – – and not in a good way. The first is Syracuse. Two years ago, Syracuse averaged 40 points per game and close to 500 yards per game on offense. The defense was marginal so the team was not any sort of national powerhouse, but they were interesting, and they were not a team you could count out easily. So, what is the Syracuse status in 2020?
- The team is 0-2 having lost to UNC and Pitt
- In two games Syracuse has scored a total of 16 points – – giving up 52 points
- In two games Syracuse has gained a total of 373 yards on offense.
The other team that has begun the season in a state of disarray is Middle Tennessee. Consider:
- The Blue Raiders lost to Army 42-0 then lost to Troy 47-13. [Aside: In a scheduling oddity, they will play Troy again on November 21st.]
- The Blue Raiders have given up 290 yards rushing per game – – 5 yards per carry.
- Meanwhile, the Blue Raiders’ offense has only averaged a total of 212.5 yards per game.
In case you are wondering, Syracuse and Middle Tennessee do not play each other this year…
The run defense for Middle Tennessee is awful but early season stats can be deceiving. Two of the leading run defenses at this stage of the season belong to Texas (gave up only 1.3 yards per carry against UTEP) and to Texas Tech (gave up only 1.17 yards per carry to Houston Baptist). Texas and Texas Tech meet this weekend and rush defense stats aside, I think the game will be a high scoring affair (see below).
Here are a few quick comments about game results from last weekend:
- Oklahoma St beat Tulsa 17-7. Another Big-12 team that aspires to “national stature” did its reputation no favors here. It is not as bad as than other conference-mates losing to Sun Belt teams, but the game was closer than it should have been if OK St. deserved to be ranked as the #11 ranked team in the country. Tulsa recorded 6 sacks in the game; let me go out on a limb here and suggest that there will not be 2 first round picks from the Tulsa defensive line taken early in the NFL Draft next spring. The Cowboys’ defense played well; they held Tulsa to 7 points and 0-11 on third down conversions and 1-4 on fourth down tries.
- Navy beat Tulane 27-24. The story here is that Navy trailed at the half 24-0 and came back to win with a field goal in the final 5 seconds of the game. Navy may have salvaged their season with that comeback. In the first game of the season, Navy was blown away by BYU 55-3. Navy is off this week and plays Air Force in Colorado Springs next week.
- Pitt beat Syracuse 21-10. Pitt was a 21.5-point favorite in the game; they would not have covered even if the defense had pitched a shutout. Pitt won despite seven penalties, three missed field goals and two turnovers. Aside from a 69-yard touchdown pass, the Panthers defense allowed 102 yards on 55 snaps.
- BC beat Duke 26-6. The stats say the game should have been closer. BC’s offense totaled 384 yards; Duke offense totaled 350 yards. The big difference was turnovers. Duke lost the ball 5 times in the game – – 3 fumbles and 2 INTs.
- UCF beat Georgia Tech 49-21. This result makes the Fla St. loss to Ga Tech in Week 1 look even worse. UCF amassed 643 yards of offense and averaged 7.0 yards per play for the game. Five turnovers by Ga Tech did not help its cause.
- Clemson beat The Citadel 49-0: Trevor Lawrence played the first quarter and one series in the second quarter; then he watched the rest of this game. The score was 49-0 at the half and neither team scored after that. The Clemson defense only allowed 140 yards total offense for the game.
- Miami beat Louisville 47-34. Both teams had exactly 483 yards total offense for the day. Once again, turnovers were important; Louisville turned it over 3 times and Miami did not turn it over at all. It was a sloppy game in the sense that there were 18 total penalties enforced.
- UTEP beat Abilene Christian 17-13. UTEP is now 2-1 for the season. That is a milestone because the total number of games won by UTEP over the last 3 seasons has been 2 games. Granted, the two wins this year have come at the expense of Division 1-AA schools and the loss was a blowout loss to Texas by 56 points, but nonetheless, there are 2 wins in the record books for the UTEP Miners.
College Games of Interest:
Florida St. at Miami – 11 (53): There was a time when this game might de3termine the national champion for the year. Not nearly so in recent years and surely not so this year. Miami scored 47 points against Louisville last week; if they do that here, they will win in a walk. Is the Louisville defense really that bad – – or is Miami really an offensive juggernaut? Perhaps some answers here. The Seminoles will be without head coach Mike Norvell who is in quarantine after texting positive for the coronavirus.
Georgia Tech – 7.5 at Syracuse (53.5): The Syracuse offense has been AWOL so far this year (see above). Georgia Tech has not been an offensive monster this year either. I like this game to stay UNDER; put it in the Six-Pack.
Texas – 17 at Texas Tech (71): As noted above, early season stats for rush defense may be misleading here; this game will have plenty of offense and plenty of scoring. The Red Raiders gave up 500+ yards passing to Houston Baptist in their opening game and still won; Texas has a solid passing game with Sam Ehlinger at QB and I have to think that the Texas defense will be just a tad better than the Houston Baptist defense.
Iowa St. – 3 at TCU (44): Iowa St. disappointed in its opener losing outright to La-Lafayette as an 11-point favorite. TCU is a defensive team, so this does not look like a fortunate situation for the cyclones on the road. This should be a low-scoring game and I like to take points in low-scoring games. I’ll take TCU plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.
K-State at Oklahoma – 28 (60): K-State lost its opener to Arkansas State; Oklahoma is significantly better than Arkansas State. The Sooners’ freshman QB, Spencer Rattler, has completed 82.4% of his passes so far this year. This will be an organized ass-kicking.
Mississippi St at LSU – 17 (57): The Mike Leach Air Raid Offense versus the reigning national champions with plenty of program losses to overcome. Of course, this is a “Game of Interest”…
Surely, you have read about the epidemic of injuries in NFL games last weekend; lots of top-shelf players got hurt last week and some folks have concluded that this injury breakout points to the need for Exhibition Games before the regular season. I do not understand that reasoning on two levels:
- The injuries last week occurred on the field in a game. How would playing “more games” translate to fewer injuries?
- If – I said IF – the argument is that Exhibition Games provide for more
“football fitness”, how would those games benefit the top-shelf players who do not participate in them for more than a series or two?
Teams that harbor playoff hopes for 2020 and who started out 0-2 face a must-win game this week if they are to stay alive in a playoff chase. Starting at 0-3 is a tough handicap to give the other teams in your conference/division. I am looking at the Eagles, Texans and Vikings as teams that are 0-2 but thought they would be in the playoff picture for 2020. On the other hand, teams like the Giants, Jets, Bengals and Lions who are also 0-2 should not have been thinking of themselves as “playoff teams” for this season.
Granted the season is young, but the NFC East is looking like the NFL Least. The Eagles have looked clueless and they have had a lot of injuries; the Cowboys were dumb lucky to avoid an 0-2 start thanks to the Falcons’ propensity to lose big leads; the WTFs are a scrappy bunch of average talent players and the Giants scared no one even before Saquon Barkley went down for the season last week.
The Niners beat the Jets handily 31-13 despite the following injuries that made the Niners seem like the remnants of the Light Brigade after “the charge”.
- Deebo Samuel, Richard Sherman, Dee Ford and George Kittle did not even suit up for the game
- During the game, the Niners lost Raheem Mostert, Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas and Jimmy G suffered an ankle injury that had him sit out the second half.
The Jets are in trouble. Even with the Niners using their JV for much of the game, the Jets’ defense gave up 359 yards to the Niners’ offense. Both teams ran the ball 29 times. The Niners gained 182 yards on those attempts; the Jets gained 104 yards on theirs. Moreover, the game was not nearly as close as the score indicates; the Jets got a meaningless TD in the final 2 minutes of the game.
The Bucs beat the Panthers 31-17. This game was not in doubt; the Bucs led 21-0 at the half. The good news for Panthers is that they put up a fight in the second half. The good news for the Bucs is that their offense looked much more polished than in Week 1. The Bucs defense recorded 5 sacks in the game. Panthers’ QB, Teddy Bridgewater threw 2 INTs and lost a fumble.
The Colts beat the Vikes 28-11. The Vikes looked bad for the second week in a row. The offense was simply a no-show; Kirk Cousins was scrambling for his life – – and he is not much of a scrambler. He was sacked for a safety in the game and threw 3 INTs. The Vikes total offense was 175 yards. Meanwhile, the Colts – – without Marlon Mack out for the season with a leg injury – – ran the ball 40 times in the game and simply dominated the Vikes defense. Vikes’ coach Mike Zimmer said after the game:
“Right now, we’re not very good at anything.”
- Memo to Coach Zimmer: While that is true, that is not something you want the GM and owner to be pondering. Ka-beesh…?
The Titans beat the Jags 33-30. Gardner Minshew threw for 339 yards and 3 TDs in the game keeping it in doubt until the final whistle. The problem for Jags was that Ryan Tannehill threw 4 TDs in the game and Stephen Gostkowski redeemed himself from his Week 1 disastrous performance with 2 long field goals here including a 49-yard game winner with a minute to play.
The Bills beat the Dolphins 31-28. Josh Allen threw for 400 yards here and Stefon Diggs caught 8 passes for 155 yards and a TD. Miami put on its own offensive show with Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing for 328 yards and WR. Mike Gesicki catching 8 passes for 130 yards and a TD. In 2 games, Josh Allen has 729 passing yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions while completing more than 70% of his throws. Impressive …
The Bears beat the Giants 17-13. This game was about as exciting as the score would indicate. These were not great defensive efforts on display; these were marginal offensive efforts. I said last week that this was the Dog-Breath Game of the Week and it lived down to that label.
The Rams beat the Eagles 37-13. The Eagles looked bad for the second week in a row; their defense had no answers here. The Rams ran for 191 yards and amassed a total of 449 yards on offense. Rams forced three turnovers in the game including two more INTs by Carson Wentz.
The Cowboys beat the Falcons 40-39 with a comeback that seemed to come from a Hollywood screenplay. The Falcons’ defense is certified now as ranking somewhere between non-existent and pathetic. The Falcons led 20-0 in first half and 29-10 at the half. This is not as bad as losing the Super Bowl after leading 28-3 – – but its close. Special teams did not help either allowing Cowboys to recover an onside kick that allowed the defense to lose the game at the very end. The Falcons’ defense has given up 953 yards in 2 games along with 78 points. If that is not bad enough for you, consider this:
- The Falcons are the first team in NFL history to score 39 points, commit zero turnovers, and lose the game.
- Before last Sunday, teams with those stats were 440-0.
The Packers beat the Lions 42-21. The Lions scored 14 points early and had a double-digit lead – – again – – and came from ahead to lose the game – – again. At one point the Packers had scored 31 unanswered points. Ouch! I read somewhere that Lions have now had a double-digit lead in 4 straight games and lost them all. That too has ever happened before in the history of the NFL…
The Steelers beat the Broncos 26-21. The Steelers dominated early but the Broncos kept coming back for more even with Jeff Driskel subbing for Drew Lock who was injured in the first quarter. The Steelers’ defense was dominant here with 7 sacks and 2 turnovers.
The Ravens beat the Texans 33-16. The Ravens just ran the ball down the Texans’ throats all day long gaining 230 yards on the ground.
The Chiefs beat the Chargers 23-20 in OT. It took a fourth quarter comeback for the Chiefs to send this to OT even though Chargers had to go with rookie QB Justin Herbert after Tyrod Taylor’s warm-up injury. Herbert threw for 311 yards, threw a TD pass and ran for a TD. That is not a bad debut performance even in a losing effort.
The Cards beat the WTFs 30-15. This game was not as close as it looks. The WTFs scored 2 TDS – – missed PATs both times – – late in the game when the Cards were just waiting for the clock to run down. Kyler Murray had 352 yards from scrimmage and accounted for 3 TDs.
The Seahawks beat the Pats 35-30. This was certainly an exciting game to watch; both teams played well; both teams are very good. Russell Wilson threw about 5 absolutely perfect passes hitting the receiver in stride when the receiver was closely covered. Wilson now has thrown 9 touchdowns and only 11 incomplete passes for the opening two games of the season. Yowza!
The Raiders beat the Saints 34-24 opening their new home field on a positive note. Derek Carr and Darren Waller dominated the game; Waller caught 12 passes for 116 yards and a TD. Not having Michael Thomas, who was sidelined with an injury, obviously affected the Saints’ offense; nonetheless, the Raiders were clearly the better team that night. Louis Riddick pointed out that Malcom Jenkins was not having his best game; that was an understatement; Jenkins was victimized more than a few times on pass plays and run plays. The Raiders had the ball for 36:18 in the game.
As was the case last week, there has been a lot of line movement this week. Maybe that is due to the rash of injuries last week; maybe the books have not figured out the public’s sentiments about various teams yet. I will not try to delve into the mind-reading world and attempt to explain these movements; I will simply note them here.
Las Vegas at New England – 5.5 (47.5): This spread opened at 3.5 points and has climbed slowly to this level over the week; one sportsbook has the game at 6 points this morning. The Raiders have looked good to start the 2020 season, but this is a “body clock” game on the east coast starting at 1:00 PM and the Raiders played last on Monday night giving them a short week. This game was under consideration as the Game of the Week.
Rams at Buffalo – 2.5 (47): Here is another “body clock game” and a second road game in a row for the Rams. Both teams are 2-0 and both have looked good doing it. I like this game to stay UNDER 47 points; put it in the Six-Pack.
Houston at Pittsburgh – 4 (45): This is a must-win game for the Texans; they have lost to the Chiefs and the Ravens in the first two games and now face a defense that is as good if not better than either of the previous foes. I do not trust the Steelers’ offense much, but that defense is legit!
SF – 3.5 at Giants (41.5): The spread for this game opened at 6.6 points and dropped quickly to this level. Both teams have serious injury issues, but I like the Niners’ ability to deal with injuries on their roster better than the Giants’ ability. Here is yet another “body clock game” but still I like the Niners to win and cover here; put it in the Six-Pack.
Tennessee – 3 at Minnesota (50): The Total Line opened at 45.5 points and the spread opened at 1 point. The Vikes’ defense needs to find ways to get off the field. In two games this season, the total time of possession for the Vikes is only 40 minutes; no wonder they are 0-2. Meanwhile, the Titans are 2-0 but have not looked like world-beaters in either victory.
Washington at Cleveland – 7 (45): The spread here opened the week at 4 points, and it has been climbing all week. One sportsbook has it at 8 points this morning. The Browns can run the ball; the WTFs have a good young defensive line. Therein lies the outcome of this game.
Cincy at Philly – 4.5 (47.5): This game got serious consideration as the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. Both teams are winless and neither has looked more than marginally competent in their two losses.
Chicago at Atlanta – 3 (47): This is my Dog-Breath Game of the Week. Here we have an offense guided by Mitchell Trubisky playing head-to-head with a Falcons’ defense that invents new ways to lose games.
Jets at Indy – 11.5 (44): The spread here opened the week at 6.5 points and has been climbing steadily all week; you can even find it as high as 12.5 points at one Internet sportsbook this morning. The Jets are awful, but I do not think the Colts are a value as a double-digit favorite.
Carolina at Chargers – 6 (43.5): The Panthers have lost twice and played hard in both games; but this is a long trip for them, and Christian McCaffrey will not play. I think the Chargers defense will stop the Panthers. I like the Chargers to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.
Detroit at Arizona – 5.5 (55.5): The Total Line opened here at 51.5 points and jumped to near this level very quickly. I cannot see the Lions getting another double-digit lead to squander here nor can I see them winning this game.
Tampa Bay – 5.5 at Denver (42): Tom Brady never plays well in Denver. So what? I simply do not believe that he is allergic to the latitude, longitude and/or elevation of Denver, CO. The QB matchup here is Tom Brady versus Jeff Driskel – – with Blake Bortles as the backup. Yes, the Broncos signed Bortles this week. Sigh…
Dallas at Seattle – 5 (57): Both teams have seriously good offenses; both teams are still working on developing a good defense. This will be an exciting game to watch; there should be points aplenty.
(Sun Nite) Green Bay at New Orleans – 3 (53): The Saints’ home field advantage is seriously diminished with the absence of the fans and the noise. The Saints did not play well last week against the Raiders and have a short week of preparation here. I think the wrong team is favored here. I like the Packers to win outright so I’ll take them plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.
(Mon Nite) KC at Baltimore – 3.5 (54): The Game of the Week is on MNF. There will be two excellent QBs on display here; neither defense will have the luxury of “taking a play off”. Speaking of defenses, I like the Ravens’ defense a little better than the Chiefs’ defense. Just sit back and enjoy this game; I think the Ravens will win and I think we could well see a rematch in the AFC Championship Game in January.
So, let me review this week’s Six-Pack:
- Georgia Tech/Syracuse UNDER 53.5
- TCU +3 versus Iowa State
- Rams/Buffalo UNDER 47
- Niners – 3.5 over Giants
- Chargers – 6 over Panthers
- Packers +3 versus Saints
Finally, Dan Daly offered this observation in a Tweet a couple of weeks ago regarding the ownership situation in Washington:
“Snyder bought Saks Fifth Avenue and in 20 years turned it into the Dollar Store.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………