Football Friday 9/9/22

Today is obviously a Sesame Street rant brought to you by the letter “F”.  Today is the:

  • First Full-blown Football Friday of the Fall

The college season started in earnest last week presenting the opportunity for an abbreviated Football Friday; now we have the full breadth of football in its active mode so time’s a wasting.  Let me put this bus in gear…

The first order of business is to look back as last week’s Not-Quite-A-Six-Pack and the Money Line Parlays.  It was not an auspicious start to the season:

  • College = 1-2-0
  • Money Line Parlays = 0-2  Imaginary loss on Parlays = $200

The Linfield College Wildcats opened their season about 2200 miles from home taking on the Huntingdon Hawks.  The Wildcats won the game 41-34.  As a Division III school, Linfield plays a 9-game regular season; this victory in an out-of-conference game is a positive step toward Linfield’s 66th consecutive winning season in football.  The Wildcats have this week off to prepare for a game at home against the University of Redlands Bulldogs on September 17th.

I got an email from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times after last week’s abbreviated Football Friday hit the Internet.  He took note of my “fascination” with Linfield football and wondered if I was aware of another sports connection there:

“ … Ad Rutschman, the patriarch of Linfield sports, is (a)  the grandfather of Orioles rookie catching sensation Adley Rutschman and (b) the only coach in college history at any level to win national championships in two sports, his being football and baseball.”

I was aware that Adley Rutschman’s grandfather – – actually, I thought it was his father – – had been a coach at Linfield but I did not know he had won national championships in two sports.  A little research revealed that Ad Rutschman was the head football coach at Linfield from 1968 until 1991 and was one of the coaches who built the string of winning football seasons that Linfield enjoys today.

 

College Football Commentary

 

            I often criticize powerhouse schools and conferences here for scheduling meaningless cupcake games out of conference.  Humorist and culture critic, Brad Dickson took note of Nebraska’s early season schedule in this Tweet:

“Nebraska opens against Northwestern, North Dakota and Georgia Southern. That means three weeks into the season and the Huskers still will not have played a team ranked no. 1 in its own state.”

Nebraska has no choice but to play Northwestern; they are in the same division in the same conference and play each other annually.  However, the other two are purely by Nebraska’s choice…

Another school – UCLA – achieved some notoriety last week for one of its scheduling choices.  UCLA hosted Bowling Green in the Rose Bowl for its opening game.  The Bruins won handily as was expected by any and all people not a blood relative of a member of the Bowling Green team – – but that was not the issue.  Here is a stat that the UCLA athletic department did not want to see:

  • Attendance for the game was the lowest in UCLA football history in the Rose Bowl.  Only 27,143 fans bought a ticket for the game, snapping a record that has stood for roughly 30 years.   The previous attendance low happened in 1992 when the Bruins only sold 32,513 tix to a game in the Rose Bowl against Oregon State.
  • The Rose Bowl seats 90,888 people.  So, if everyone who bought a ticket showed up, you would expect the stadium to be about 30% full.  Please take a few seconds and follow this link to see a picture of the crowd in the stands at the game.
  • If the stadium is 30% full, lots of people showed up wearing their Harry Potter invisibility cloaks.

Looking at that photo, I would have thought it would have favored Bowling Green – – a MAC team that plays most its games in front of a stadium with attendance filling less than a third of the capacity.  It should have been like old home week…

The folks at UCLA might want to strap themselves in for some more embarrassing attendance moments in the coming weeks.  UCLA has also scheduled South Alabama and then Alabama State as its next two home games.  Those schools ought to be a big draw in the greater LA region.

Granted it is only one week of college football action, but maybe there were a few clear indicators of things to come for the rest of the season:

  • Georgia lost 15 players to the NFL via the Draft last April.  Nonetheless, Georgia opened the season against Oregon – – a Power 5 team that is highly ranked in its conference – –  and blew the doors off the Ducks.  Maybe Georgia is not as good as last year, but they are going to quite good, thank you.
  • NC State was touted as a serious contender in the ACC for 2022.  Well, if that is to be the case, the Wolfpack is going to have to show a lot more than it did in eking out a 1-point win over East Carolina.  ECU gave the game away with a missed PAT, a missed field goal and had a punt blocked resulting in a TD.
  • LSU is the only team in the SEC with a losing record as of today; the Tigers lost to Florida State 24-23 in the opener when a Seminole player blocked a PAT with no time on the clock in the 4th quarter that would have sent the game to OT.  What makes the LSU record all the more embarrassing is that even Vanderbilt has a winning record at 2-0 at this point in the season.
  • The PAC-12 lost two games to SEC schools over the weekend.  Probably the best showing for a PAC-12 team against a reasonable opponent was Oregon State’s 34-17 win over Boise State.  The Beavers dominated here; they forced 5 turnovers on defense, and they had 5 offensive plays of 40 yards or more.

Ohio St.  21  Notre Dame 10:  I wondered aloud last week if the Ohio State defense had been fixed in the offseason.  Based on the small sample of one game, it looks as if it has; that unit held Notre Dame scoreless in the second half of the game.  The defensive stats for the game were impressive.  Notre Dame only gained 253 yards on offense and only managed 12 first downs in the game.

Florida 29  Utah 26:  This was one of the losses for a PAC-12 team against an SEC team last week, but this was a good showing by Utah.  The Utes had a real shot to win the game; trailing 29-26 with a minute and a half left in the game, they drove the field and had the ball second and goal at the Gators’ 6-yardline. At that point it looked as if overtime was the best outcome for the Gators – – until Cam Rising, the Utah QB, threw an INT that ended the game.  Close but no cigar…

Georgia 49  Oregon  3:  This was the other loss by a PAC-12 team to an SEC school.  Oregon is one of the power schools in the PAC-12; that makes this debacle more than just an embarrassment for the school; it is an embarrassment for the conference.  Yes, Oregon was a 17-point underdog; so, the expectation was that they would lose the game – – but not by 46 points.  Georgia scored a TD on its first 6 possessions of the game; can anyone in Oregon spell d-e-f-e-n-s-e?  Georgia was ranked #3 coming into the game behind Alabama and Ohio State; imagine how good those two teams are considered to be.

Arkansas 31  Cincy  24:  Keep the “Cincy Cinderella Narrative” on ice for a while in 2022…

Tennessee 59  Ball St.  10:  The game was never “close”; the score was 45-0 in the third quarter.  Games involving SEC teams against MAC teams often wind up in this sort of situation.  Total offense for the Vols was 588 yards.

UNC 63  Appalachian St.  61:  Obviously there was not a lot of defense in the game.  In the 4th quarter alone, the teams combined to score a total of 62 points.  Total offense in the game was 1216 yards; the teams combined to produce 64 first downs; there were only 3 punts in the game.  In that 4th quarter, I suspect that the field was declared a “Tackle-Free Zone”…

Old Dominion 20  Va Tech 17:  I wondered about this game last week marveling that Tech was less than a TD favorite over Old Dominion.  Well, the oddsmakers were a lot closer to right than I was; Tech lost outright even though they outgained the Monarchs by 134 yards.  Tech also held Old Dominion to 3 of 16 third down conversions and 0 of 2 fourth down conversions – – and they still lost.  It might be a long season in Blacksburg…

Duke 30  Temple 0:  Total offense for Temple in the game was 179 yards.  The passing game for the Owls was 14 for 29 for a total of 114 yards.  So, the Owls’ offense was non-existent.  The Temple defense performed similarly ineffectively allowing Duke to run up 500 yards on offense.  It is definitely going to be a LONG season for Temple.  This week, Temple hosts Division 1-AA Lafayette – – a team that only managed to beat Sacred Heart last week 6-0.  Temple must not lose this game…

Pitt 38  W. Virginia 31:  This is the renewal of a rivalry game known as the Backyard Brawl.  The key play here was a Pick Six by the Panthers in the final 3 minutes of the game to provide the margin of victory.

Penn St. 35  Purdue 31:  Penn St. QB, Sean Clifford, threw for 4 TDs in the game and ran for the Lions’ other score.  He also threw a Pick Six that gave Purdue a 31-28 lead in the middle of the 4th quarter.  As Job said in the Bible, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away…

Iowa 7  S. Dakota St.  3:  This is the odd way to get such a score.  Iowa scored a field goal and two safeties; S. Dakota St. kicked a field goal; that was it.  Total offense for both teams was a meager 293 yards; there were only 16 first downs in the game by both teams; the teams combined to punt the ball 21 times.  The longest drive for S. Dakota St. was 26 yards; the longest drive for Iowa was 57 yards – – and that drive resulted in a lost fumble.  Iowa had trouble scoring last season – it ranked 99th in the country in points per game.  Looks as if that situation may still be in place…

Oklahoma St. 58  C. Michigan 44:  Giving a MAC team 44 points does not speak well of the Oklahoma St. defense…  In fact, C. Michigan outgained Oklahoma State for the game 544 yards to 521 yards.

W. Kentucky 49 Hawaii 17: In its first game, Hawaii gave up 66 points, so I guess this is an improvement?

James Madison 44  Middle Tennessee St. 7:  James Madison announced its presence in the Sun Belt Conference with this dominating performance.  The Dukes gained 548 yards of offense and held Middle Tennessee St. to only 119 yards of offense.  At the half, Middle Tennessee St. only had 24 yards total offense.

Delaware 14  Navy 7:  This is not a good omen for Navy fans.  With James Madison having moved up to Division 1-A, could Delaware be the CAA team to take over the conference?  Villanova might have something to say about that.

 

Games of Interest this Week

 

For the record, I will try to avoid listing any games here with spreads over 30 points – – and there are plenty of them this week.  The heading here is “Games of Interest” and very few games of that sort are even marginally interesting.  There will be a few  however…

Duke at Northwestern – 10.5 (58):  Both teams are 1-0.  Northwestern beat Nebraska two weeks ago in Dublin; Duke beat Temple last week.  Neither Nebraska nor Temple is a football juggernaut in 2022 – – but I suspect that Nebraska would wax Temple if they were scheduled against each other.

Alabama – 20 at Texas (65):  Has Texas ever been a 3-touchdown underdog at home before?  This is the Game of the Week in college football even though it could turn into a rout.

Wake Forest – 12.5 at Vandy (65):  Wake’s starting QB has been cleared of a “non-football medical issue” and may be able to play here.

Tennessee – 6 at Pitt (64.5):  I think there will be lots of points in this one.

Colorado at Air Force – 17.5 (50):  This is not a good look for the Buffaloes as a 3-score underdog to a service academy…

Appalachian St. at Texas A&M – 19 (54.5):  You cannot accuse Appalachian State of cupcake scheduling with UNC last week and the Aggies in week two.

Washington St. at Wisconsin – 17.5 (49):  The Cougars beat Idaho last week by a TD; Wisconsin is a Top 25 team and enjoys a strong home field advantage.  This looks like a problem for Washington St.

Virginia at Illinois – 4.5 (57.5):  Illinois had it’s game in hand against Indiana last week and choked the game away 23-20.  I think UVA is at least as good as Indiana, so I have no idea why the Illini are favored.  I like Virginia to win outright so I will be happy to take them with the points here; put it in the Six-Pack.

Houston at Texas Tech – 3.5 (63.5):  Tech’s QB was injured in last week’s game and has been ruled out for this week and possibly next week with an unspecified shoulder problem.  Houston disappointed me last week, but I still think they are a good team.  So, I’ll go to the well one more time here and take Houston plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

Iowa St at Iowa – 3.5 (40.5):  Always an interesting rivalry game early in the season.  After Iowa had its offense pull a no-show last week, I have no idea what will happen here.

Kentucky at Florida – 6 (51.5):  The Gators looked good playing a strong Utah team last week, but Kentucky is no push-over.  The Total Line began the week at 54 points and has been dropping slowly all week long.

UMass at Toledo – 29 (47.5):  Why even have a football team if you are going to be more than a 4 TD underdog to Toledo?

USC – 8 at Stanford (67):  This is the first conference game for USC under Lincoln Riley sandwiched in between two non-conference opponents.  Both teams opened the season against meaningless competition.

Arizona St. at Oklahoma St. – 11 (58):  Remember, the Cowboys gave up 44 points to a MAC team last week…

Hawaii at Michigan – 52 (68):  Yes, the spread here is 52 points.  Hawaii looks to be that bad and Michigan – under Jim Harbaugh – is not known to coast once they have a game in hand…  In case you were wondering what the Money Line odds for this game are:

  • Hawaii is +135,000
  • Michigan is minus-405,000

BC at Va Tech – 2.5 (45.5):  The Hokies lost at home to Old Dominion last week and are now favored at home against BC?  That is almost blackboard material for BC…

Baylor at BYU – 3.5 (53):  Maybe not the two best teams to play this weekend, but this might be one of the best games of the weekend.

Oregon St. – 1 at Fresno St. (61.5):  Oregon St. looked good beating Boise St, last week; Fresno St. dominated Cal-Poly last week.  Fresno St. is tough at home.  The spread opened the week with Fresno St. as a 1.5-point favorite.

Mississippi St. – 10.5 at Arizona (57.5):  Arizona beat San Diego State and scored 38 points last week.  Mississippi St. under Mike Leach is known for offense and not defense.  I think this game will go OVER; put it in the Six-Pack.

 

NFL Commentary

 

            The real NFL season – – no more Exhibition Games – – began last night with two top teams setting the tone for the season.  The schedule maker knew about Von Miller going from the Rams to the Bills as (s)he was making up the schedule, so maybe this opening match-up as a “Revenge Game” was a way to deflect attention from all the spooky stuff that would follow?

The Bills were dominant last night; beating the reigning Super Bowl champs on the champs’ home field by 3 TDs is a big deal.  Registering 7 sacks in any game is a big deal; converting on 9 of 10 third down attempts is a big deal.  The Bills were far the better team last night.  My only caution here is to point out that this is the first of 17 games that each team will play and things will change for both teams as the season moves on.  Do not consign the Rams to mediocrity just yet and resist the urge to anoint the Bills as the best team in the history of football anywhere in the galaxy.  Having said that:

  • Damn!  The Bills looked spectacular last night.

            For those of you who have a devotion to conspiracy theories, look at the NFL opening week schedule and take a look at all the possible “Revenge Games” on the card.  How did the schedule maker know about all these moves way back in April/May when the schedule was under construction?  Enquiring minds want to know …

The schedule maker was also about as kind as he could have been to the Washington Commanders for the start of the season.  The Commanders have the Jags in Week 1 and then the Lions in Week 2.  The Jags picked first in the Draft last April and then the Lions picked second.  I said in my NFL predictions piece earlier this week that I expected improvement from both teams – – but this is as soft a start as the Commanders could hope for as they ease into what might become the “Carson Wentz Era” – – or not.

Meanwhile the injury bug has already created a blister for the NY Jets.  Earlier this week it was announced that QB Zach Wilson will not be able to play in Week 1 and that, in fact, he would be hors de combat for the first four weeks of the season.  The Jets announced Joe Flacco as the starter for this week’s opener and coach Robert Saleh told reporters:

“To be honest with you guys … the earliest [Wilson] is gonna be available is Pittsburgh.  That’s gonna be the earliest. Now can it change? Sure, I’m always gonna leave that door open. You guys know me, I’m the eternal optimist. But we are gonna make sure that both mind and body are 110 percent and make sure we do right by him, and we feel like, talking to the doctors, it’s gonna be that Pittsburgh week.”

The oddsmakers have played it very cautiously for the first week of the season.  There are no spreads greater than 7 points anywhere on the card for the weekend – – and last night’s game carried a spread of 2.5 points.

 

NFL Games:

 

Baltimore – 5.5 at Jets (44.5):  The spread opened at 5.5 and rose sharply to 7 points after news that Zach Wilson’s injury would have him out of the game; then it settled back to where it started.  At the same time, it created a “Revenge Game” where Joe Flacco goes against one of his former teams and his former coach, John Harbaugh.

New Orleans – 5.5 at Atlanta (42.5):  The Saints will be enigmatic for most of the season because they will have Jameis Winston at QB.  He is the Jekyll and Hyde of QBs; he can throw a team into and out of the same game – – twice.  The Saints are the better team here particularly on defense.  I hope that Jameis Winston has a decent game and avoids one of his blunderful performances because I am taking the Saints to win and cover on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.

New England at Miami – 3.5 (46.5):  The Dolphins enjoy a 3-game win streak against the Pats and there is a ton of hype around Tua and his upgraded offensive counterparts.  The Pats continue to project their businesslike approach to games as prescribed by “The Patriot Way” but this team has more question marks than previous teams.

Cleveland at Carolina – 1 (42):  The line opened with the Browns favored by 4 points for a reason that I cannot understand.  Now the Panthers are favored.  This is another “Revenge Game” as Baker Mayfield  goes against the Browns.  Here is an outlandish stat I ran across:

  • Since 2004, the Cleveland Browns are 0-16-1 in Week 1 games.

Pittsburgh at Cincy – 6 (44.5):  Joe Burrow missed a bunch of training camp as he needed an appendectomy.  Is he ready for the start of the season or will there be some rust to shake off?  Najee Harris played in the final Exhibition Game for the Steelers because he had missed a lot of time in camp due to a sprained Lisfranc tendon in his foot.  Will he be ready for the season opener here?

SF – 7 at Chicago (40.5):  There are two competing factors in this game:

  1. This is Trey Lance’s first start as “The Guy” in SF and it is on the road.  It is not a good idea to take the Niners and lay a full TD with that being the case.
  2. The Niners are significantly more talented than the Bears.  It is not a good idea to take the Bears only getting 7 points with that being the case.

Philly – 4 at Detroit (48.5):  I like the Eagles offense against the Lions’ defense in this match-up.  I’ll take the Eagles to win and cover on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.

Indy – 7 at Houston (46):  The Texans have a new system  under a new coach with a young QB who may or may not be a real QB.  The Colts always seem to have a new QB; in fact, this is the 5th year in a row that the Colts have a new starting QB in Game 1.  I like the Colts to win and cover even on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.

Jax at Washington – 2.5 (44):  The spread here opened at 4 points and has shrunk slowly to this level over the week.  This is a “Sort Of Revenge Game” with Carson Wentz taking on his former coach, Doug Pederson from their days in Philly.  Another angle here is that the Jags beat the Colts – – with Wentz playing terribly – – in Week 18 last year knocking the colts out of the playoffs and making it important for the Colts to have gotten rid of Wentz.  Plenty of mind games at work here…

KC – 6 at Arizona (53.5):  If you like offensive football, this game should be high on your list of must-see TV programming.

Las Vegas at Chargers – 3 (52):  The Chargers needed to improve their defense from last year and they seem to have done so with the addition of JC Jackson and Kahlil Mack; Jackson will miss this game, but Mack makes the Chargers pass rush significantly better than it was.  The Raiders will unveil their new offense under Josh McDaniels.

Green Bay – 1.5 at Minnesota (47)  Vikes’ LB, Za’Darius Smith turned this into a “Revenge Game” saying he wanted to sign with the Vikes so he could get back at the Packers twice a season because they did not treat him well in Green Bay.  Who knows if that is factual?  The question I want answered is this:

  • How long will it take for the Packers’ offense without Davante Adams in the lineup to function as if he were still in the lineup?

I think this is the NFL Game of the Week.

Giants at Tennessee – 5.5 (43.5):  The Titans have been a run-based offense for several years now; the loss of AJ Brown should make them even more run-based.  Can the Giants stop that?  Meanwhile, the Titans lost their best linebacker, Harold Landry, for the year to a torn ACL.  How might the new Giants’ offense under Brian Daboll exploit that?

(Sun Nite) Tampa Bay – 2.5 at Dallas (50.5):  Micah Parsons will give folks an idea of how seriously degraded the Bucs’ OL is this year given all of its injuries.

(Mon Nite) Denver – 6.5 at Seattle (44.5):  This spread opened at 4 points and has been climbing slowly over the week.  This is the biggest “Revenge Game” of the week with Russell Wilson returning to Seattle.

Time to review this week’s Six-Pack

  1. Houston + 3.5 against Texas Tech
  2. Virginia +4.5 against Illinois
  3. Mississippi St./Arizona OVER 57.5
  4. Eagles – 4 over Lions
  5. Saints – 5.5 over Falcons
  6. Colts – 7 over Texans

Here are two Money Line Parlays for the Week:

USC @ minus-300 over Stanford

[email protected] minus-270 over Georgia State

Memphis @ -220 over Navy     Imaginary $100 wager wins $166.00

And …

Eagles @ minus-200 over Lions

Saints @ minus-230 over Falcons

Colts @ minus-310 over Texans    Imaginary $100 wager wins $185.00

Finally, today began with a reference to Sesame Street.  So, let me close with an “inspirational quote” from my favorite Sesame Street character, Oscar the Grouch:

“Just because you’re trash doesn’t mean you can’t do great things.  It called ‘garbage can’, not ‘garbage cannot.’”

[Aside:  Certainly, you are not surprised to learn that Oscar the Grouch was my favorite Sesame Street character…]

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