Last week was the full-blown start of the college football season; this week has both college and NFL football being played in earnest. Therefore, today is the first full-fledged Football Friday for 2021. So, let’s get it rolling…
The Linfield College Wildcats open their season this week at home against Simon Fraser University. Neither school played any football games in 2020 but Simon Fraser opened its season last week in a less-than-impressive manner. Simon Fraser was on the short end of a 68-0 loss to Idaho. Go Wildcats!
College Football Comments:
Six Division 1-AA teams beat their bigger brothers in last week’s games.
- Holy Cross beat UConn 38-28 and the Huskies coach “retired” after the game.
- Montana beat Washington 13-7; Washington was ranked #20 in the nation.
- E. Tennessee St beat Vandy 23-3; could be a long year for the Commodores.
- UC-Davis beat Tulsa 19-17.
- E. Washington beat UNLV 35-33 in double OT.
- S. Dakota St. beat Colorado St. 42-23; a late TD by the Rams made this less horrific a loss.
Washington was not the only Top 25 team to lose out in Week 1. Some of these games will be mentioned later but Indiana, UNC, Miami, LSU and Wisconsin all lost as ranked teams – – and Oklahoma looked anything but the #2 ranked team in the country beating Tulane by only 5 points. The Sooners were supposed to play Tulane in New Orleans – – but Hurricane Ida forced the game to be moved to Norman OK. Nevertheless, the Sooners were only able to eke out a win 40-35. Oklahoma led 37-14 at the half but could only manage a field goal in the second half. One major hang up about Big-12 football has been its lack of defense. OK, so OU gave up 35 points to Tulane; that should put a stop to that narrative…
Indiana – ranked #17 – opened the season with a 34-6 blowout loss on the road against Iowa – ranked #18.. Indiana QB, Michael Penix, threw two Pick-Sixes, and that did not help the Hoosiers’ cause even a little bit. Indiana was the only Big Ten East team to lose last weekend.
Penn State opened with a nice road win at Wisconsin 16-10. If you like defensive football, this was a game for you; the score was 0-0 at the half.
Rutgers opened its season with a thrashing of Temple by a score of 61-14. Yes, Rutgers was the team delivering the ass-kicking here.
Texas-San Antonio beat Illinois 37-30. Recall that Illinois beat Nebraska the week before last. It is going to be a long season in Lincoln NE.
Alabama opened its season taking on one of the ACC’s better teams in Miami. Some folks in the South Florida media had high hopes for an upset – or at least a competitive game here. Sorry about that but the final score was Bama 44-13. Alabama gained 510 yards for the day; Miami gained 266. Alabama QB, Bryce Young was tremendous with 344 yards passing and four touchdowns. His passing yardage was 78 yards more than Miami’s total offense for the day.
Mississippi St. trailed La- Tech 31-14 at the start of the 4th quarter. However, the Bulldogs rallied for 3 TDs in the final quarter to scratch out a 35-34 victory.
Auburn beat Akron in a mismatch 60-10. The score was 54-0 at the start of the 4th quarter. This game should not have been scheduled in the first place.
Georgia beat Clemson 10-3. Georgia got its TD on a Pick-Six. You simply had to like the defensive play in this game. Georgia held Clemson to 2 yards rushing for the game and Clemson’s total offense was 180 yards. Kirby Smart was the defensive coordinator for 8 years at Alabama under Nick Saban; it looks as if he brought his dominating style of defense to Athens, Ga this season.
UCLA beat LSU 38-27 last week. UCLA’s defense held LSU to 53 yards rushing for the game and only 1,9 yards per carry for the Tigers. The Bruins’ offense was balanced gaining 210 on the ground and 260 through the air.
Tennessee dominated Bowling Green 38-6 from start to finish in Josh Heupel’s opening game in Knoxville.
La-Lafayette was ranked 23rd in the country last week and went to Texas to play the 21st ranked Longhorns. The spread was a meager 7.5 points, but Texas put a hurting on the Ragin’ Cajuns 38-18. Texas Bijan Robinson had 24 touches in the game and produced for 176 yards from scrimmage and 2 TDs.
E. Illinois surprised Ga Tech 22-21.
Va Tech beat UNC 17-10. This is a big win for the Hokies over the Tar Heels who were ranked 10th in the country at the kickoff. Tech had 3 INTs in the game and held UNC to only 2 for 10 on third down conversions.
UNC-Charlotte beat Duke 31-28. The Duke defense was very bad last year, and this result does not indicate to me that it got a whole lot better over the summer.
Utah St. beat Washington St. 26-23. Is this a bad omen for the entire state of Washington? Here the Cougars lost their opener, and the Huskies lost their opener to a Division 1-AA team. Not a happy weekend in the Greater Northwest…
Notre Dame beat Fla St. 41-38 (OT). ND played very uncharacteristically here. The Irish gained only 71 yards rushing and allowed 269 yards rushing. The Irish led 38-20 starting the 4th quarter and gave up 18 points in the 4th quarter to send the game to OT. Is Fla St. that good – – or is ND not as good as had been advertised?
Kansas won its season opener last week beating South Dakota 17-14. South Dakota actually outgained Kansas in the game 263 yards to 244 yards. The game was about as even as the score and the offensive outputs would indicate. Neither team turned the ball over and neither team had even a single yard in the return game.
San Diego State beat New Mexico State 28-10. New Mexico State led 10-0 at the half but were blown away in the second half. The stats for the game are out of balance. NM St had more offense for the game; and almost all of it came in the passing game; Aggies were held to 48 yards rushing. On the other side, San Diego State gained only 76 yards passing and ran the ball for 252 yards.
College Games of Interest:
Oregon at Ohio State – 14 (64): This is a big interconference game. It is my second choice as the Game of the Week.
Pitt – 3 at Tennessee (57): This will be an interesting test for Tennessee and an important game for Pitt to uphold the “honor” of the ACC.
Tulsa at Oklahoma St – 12.5 (51): Tulsa lost to UC-Davis last week; I would have expected this line to be north of 21 points. This is a very strange line…
Rutgers – 2 at Syracuse (52): Rutgers may not be the doormat they have been in recent years.
Air Force – 6 at Navy (41): On the 20th anniversary of 9/11…
Temple – 6.5 at Akron (53): Both teams were humiliated in Week 1. What happens now?
Buffalo at Nebraska – 14.5 (54): Buffalo is one of the MAC contenders – – but if Nebraska loses to them at home this week, there could be an uprising in Lincoln… I doubt that Buffalo can win this game, but they just might be good enough to come in comfortably under that spread. I’ll take Buffalo plus the points. Put it in the Six-Pack.
Iowa at Iowa St. – 4.5 (47): This will be Iowa’s second ranked opponent in two games this year. The Hawkeyes blasted Indiana last week; I think that can propel them this week. I’ll take Iowa plus the points. Put it in the Six-Pack.
Appalachian St at Miami – 9 (54): Alabama was way too much for Miami last week. Appalachian St. had better not be too much for the Hurricanes this week…
NC State – 2 at Mississippi St (55.5): I was tempted to take the OVER in this game…
Vandy at Colorado St – 7 (51): Both teams lost to Division 1-AA opponents last week. One of them is going to be extremely unhappy on Sunday morning…
Utah – 7 at BYU (49): The “Holy War” is my the Game of the Week in college football.
San Diego St at Arizona – 2.5 (46.5): State had problems with a less-than-fearsome New Mexico State team last week (see above), but they won the game. Arizona had a win total prop bet of 2 games for this year and struggled on defense in their opening game. That line is mysterious to me…
Alabama State at Auburn – 51.5 (57.5): Auburn clobbered Akron last week. This week they will clobber Alabama State. Are they playing schools that begin with the letter “A” as a way to prepare for Alabama later this year?
Of course, I watched the Bucs beat the Cowboys last night and here are my takeaways from that experience:
- I think I am going to like Drew Brees a lot as a TV commentator.
- I think NBC has too many “faces” and “voices” at the studio end of their programming.
- I said I did not think Dak Prescott really had a shoulder injury. Last night did nothing to change my mind.
- The Cowboys’ offense is indeed potent, and their defense is still porous.
- The Bucs’ running game was unimpressive at best.
Quarterbacks get inordinate amounts of attention considering that football is truly a team game. Nevertheless, I think there are several NFL QBs who will have a chance this year to “change the narrative” that surrounds them. Let me suggest four of them here:
- Sam Darnold (Carolina): He has been under intense scrutiny and has taken a ton of criticism in his first several years in the NFL. The media and the fans in NYC soured on him rather quickly and never missed an opportunity to point out that Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson and Nick Chubb were all available when Darnold was taken at 33. I do not think Sam Darnold is the second coming of John Unitas nor do I think he is a stumblebum. I think he can change the way fans see him in 2021.
- Matthew Stafford (LA Rams): He has spent what must feel like an eternity playing with rosters that were outmanned from the start. Because the Lions were often way behind early in games, Stafford’s stats are inflated to some degree by game circumstances. Some have even dubbed him as “Padthew Statford” because the think he has been the motive force for padding his stats. I do not think that is the case and I think Stafford will lead the Rams to the playoffs this year. Time will tell…
- Carson Wentz (Colts): He has developed a reputation as a diva and as a player who does not always get along with teammates. Last year, his game fell apart and he was benched – as he should have been. However, according to reports, his reaction to being benched was to stop talking to his coaches. Winning cures almost all ills and Wentz heeds to show fans and teammates in Indy that he is a winner and not a pain in the ass. This season would be a good time for him to start on that quest…
- Jameis Winston: His narrative is simple; he throws the ball to “the other guys” far too often; he “makes bad decisions”. Well, now he is working under the tutelage of a certified offensive maven in Sean Payton, and he has the makings of a running game that will take some of the offensive burden off his shoulders.
Pittsburgh at Buffalo – 6.5 (48): I think the Steelers are a good team if they have a sound and solid Ben Roethlisberger at QB. I am confident that the Bills are a very good team so long as Josh Allen does not regress significantly from last year’s performance level. The Steelers’ defense will make the Bills earn their points; I do not know what to expect from the Bills’ defense here. Last year the Bills’ defense was mediocre until about mid-season and then became a very good unit. Is that the formula for 2021 too …?
Jets at Carolina – 4 (44): When the Jets’ defense takes the field, they will see Sam Darnold’s face smiling back at them. This is a game ripe for fan over-reaction at the end no matter who wins or which QB “shines” or “struggles”. I think the Panthers are the better team all around, but I am not confident in either of them enough to put this game in the Six-Pack.
Jax – 3 at Houston (46): Indubitably, this is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. I am about to offer a litmus test for the sanity of any and all football fans who play in survival pools.
- Any one of them who takes either the Jags or the Texans as their Survival Pool pick of the week should be institutionalized.
One of these two teams will be in first place – or tied for first place – in the AFC South as of Monday morning. Imagine that…
Arizona at Tennessee – 3 (52): There should be points aplenty in this game; neither team is going to succeed this season based on its defensive prowess.
Chargers at Washington “pick ‘em” (44.5): I gave this game consideration as the Game of the Week. This will be an early season test for Justin Herbert and the new Chargers’ staff and system. The Washington defense is for real…
Philly at Atlanta – 3.5 (49): The question I would like to begin to answer here is simple:
- The Eagles have used first round picks to acquire speedy WRs in each of the last two Drafts. Are Jalen Reagor and DeVonta Smith going to “pay off” in the NFL?
The Eagles’ OL is a team strength and the Falcons’ DL has been a team weakness over the past few years. If those trends continue to obtain, the Eagles can control the game with a running attack and a short passing game utilizing their two excellent tight ends.
Seattle – 3 at Indy (49): Call this the “Oscar Game”. The two starting QBs here created an over abundance of drama in the offseason and raised passive-aggressive behavior to an art form. One of them will be victorious here so we can give them an “Oscar” for their performance. Russell Wilson is the better QB; the Colts’ defense is the better unit.
Minnesota – 3 at Cincy (47.5): The return of Joe Burrow is a plus for the Bengals, but he did not get a lot of playing time in the Exhibition Games as he should not have. I like the Vikes to control this game with Dalvin Cook grinding out yardage. I’ll take the Vikes on the road to win and cover. Put it in the Six-Pack.
SF – 8 at Detroit (45): Cutting to the chase here… I think the Lions are the worst team in the NFC. While I do not think the Niners are the best team in the conference – or not necessarily the best team in their division – I am picking against the Lions competency here. I like the Niners to win and cover on the road. Put it in the Six-Pack.
Cleveland at KC – 5.5 (54): The Total Line opened at 52 points and shot up to this level very quickly. I cannot see either defense asserting itself here. If the Browns decide to slow play the game with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt controlling the clock, the game could go Under but if both teams come out winging it, this game go OVER by the end of the 3rd quarter. The only reason this is not the Game of the Week is because the Packers/Saints game is on the same week.
Miami at New England – 3 (43.5): The word is that the Patriots have “revamped the defense”. That is not all that surprising to me since Bill Belichick cut his teeth as a defensive coach and the Pats’ defense for the last two years has not been as good as at times in the past. If that defense is truly revamped and noticeably better, I think the Dolphins will struggle here. So, on a hunch, I’ll take the Pats at home to win and cover. Put it in the Six-Pack.
Denver – 3 at Giants (41.5): Absent a bunch of turnovers giving offenses short fields, this game should not produce a lot of points. It will, however, produce a lot of punts because these are good defenses and mediocre offenses.
Green Bay – 3.5 vs New Orleans (49.5) Game is in Jax: This is my Game of the Week. This game has playoff implications, and this game will start to give insight into questions about how the season will unfold for both teams. Is Aaron Rodgers’ head in a good place after an offseason full of nonsense? Has Jameis Winston begun to learn from his new coaches?
(Sun Nite) Chicago at Rams – 7.5 (46.5): I think the question here is basic:
- Can the Bears protect Andy Dalton against the pass rush of the Rams?
The Bears’ running game is not going to distract the Rams’ defense; so, the onus is on the Bears’ OL. I think the Rams can run away and hide in this game, so I’ll take them at home to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.
(Mon Nite) Baltimore – 4 at Las Vegas (50): One of the football gods has obviously decided to hex Ravens’ RBs this year. Before the first snap of the season, the Ravens have lost their top two RBs to season ending injuries. The two projected workhorses here are LeVeon Bell and Latavius Murray and both have been signed in the past ten days or so. Before this rash of injuries, I would have taken the Ravens in this spot but now, I shall pass on that opportunity.
So, here is the first Six-Pack of the year:
- Iowa +4.5 against Iowa State
- Buffalo +14.5 against Nebraska
- Vikes – 3 over Bengals
- Niners – 8 over Lions
- Pats – 3 over Dolphins
- Rams – 7.5 over Bears.
Finally, here is a view from Bob Molinaro regarding one of the “burning questions” in the NFL for 2020:
“The whittled list of new names for the Washington Football Team, according to CBS Sports, includes Armada, Brigade, Commanders, Defenders, Presidents, Redhogs and Redwolves. This is an easy one for me. I hate them all.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………