This is the first full-fledged Football Friday of the Fall. [ A Hat-tip to the fine folks who live on Sesame Street who allow me to attest that the first sentence of today’s rant was brought to you by the “Letter F”.] There was no “Betting Bundle” from last week; so, there is nothing to calculate from last week; let’s just dive in.
College Football Commentary:
The Linfield College Wildcats open their football season on the road in Granville, OH where they will take on the Big Red of Denison University. That is about a 2500 mile journey for the Wildcats and they will play a team that already has a game under its belt in 2023. Last week, Denison defeated Capital University 45-35. Last year, Denison posted an 8-2 record for the 2022 season. This could be a tough opener for Linfield. Go Wildcats!
Last year when Alabama went to Austin to play Texas, the Longhorns’ ticket mavens decided to seat the Alabama band in the upper deck; Alabama “thanked” the good folks at Texas and left its band at home. Well, this week the Texas/Alabama game is in Tuscaloosa and the Alabama AD had this to say:
“We are able to reciprocate a similar seating arrangement to what we had last year in Austin.”
When you tune in, check for the Texas band to be in the nosebleed seats. It will only be a small version of the Texas band and it will not have any halftime performance. In addition to playing football, the two schools also decided to put on a “Battle of the Bands”.
ABC has acquired the rights to telecast the Division 1-AA championship football game at the end of this season. As is customary when such deals are announced, there are carefully prepared statements by the relevant parties:
“Showcasing the Division I football championship on a Sunday afternoon in millions of homes on ABC shows the tremendous interest in this NCAA championship. We look forward to another exciting championship game and appreciate the support of our great partners in Frisco and at ESPN/ABC.” [Kent Haslam, Chairman, Division I Football championship Committee]
“We’re pleased to work with our NCAA partners to once again present the FCS championship on ABC, continuing the success we’ve had programming college sports in Sunday afternoon windows and solidifying our season-long commitment to FCS football. [Dan Margulis, ESPN Senior Director for Programming and Acquisitions]
When the choruses of Kumbaya have died down, I wonder what the big deal here is. The Division 1-AA championship game will be played in Frisco, TX on Sunday January 7th, 2024, at 2:00 PM Eastern time. You know what else will be happening on that date at that time?
- The NFL will be playing its final set of regular season games.
Maybe, if there are only two or three NFL games with playoff implications on that weekend, there may be a nice audience for the Division 1-AA championship game. But if the NFL schedule is peppered with games that will affect which teams make the playoffs, the good folks at ESPN and the ones involved in selling Division1-AA football will need not worry because their audience will be small.
There is a lot of strangeness involving football and the State of Iowa now. Later I shall point out some guilty pleas made by Iowa and Iowa State players regarding improper wagering activities. Here I just want to point out an interesting clause in the contract of Iowa Offensive Coordinator, Brian Ferentz. [Aside: Yes, he is the son of Iowa head coach, Kirk Ferentz.]
According to multiple reports, Brian Ferentz’ offense must score 25 points per game for him to keep his job. Iowa’s offense last year was pathetic, averaging only 17.7 points per game and ranking dead last in the nation in total offense. Week 1 provides the classic “Good News/Bad News” angle:
- Iowa scored 24 points last week against Utah State. That is right on target for 25 points per game and is up from last year’s productivity.
- Utah State did not present Iowa with a “Big-10 caliber defense”. The Hawkeyes do not have to play Big-10 rivals such as Michigan or Ohio State, but they do have upcoming games against teams with defenses that should be a bit tougher than Utah State.
- Stay tuned …
There were some interesting – – and surprising – – results from Week 1, so let me review:
Rutgers 24 Northwestern 7: I thought this might be interesting to see how Northwestern played considering its ongoing “hazing matters”. They played poorly and lost to a Rutgers team that did not play all that well itself. The total offense by both teams was only 486 yards – – less than Colorado’s passing offense to give you a benchmark. The Northwestern rushing offense was 12 yards on 22 carries. Looks like a long season is in store for fans in Evanston, IL …
Tennessee 49 Virginia 13: The Vols started the season strong but nothing they do prior to their game at Alabama on October 21 and then their game at home against Georgia on November 18 will matter to the good folks on Rocky Top. The Vols dominated this game gaining 499 yards of offense and allowing only 202.
Ohio St. 23 Indiana 3: The Buckeyes were 30-point favorites in this game, but the game was actually in doubt for almost 3 quarters. The good news for Ohio State is that their defense was really good – – something that has not been the case in Columbus in recent years. The bad news is that the Buckeyes’ offense was less than impressive.
Washington 56 Boise St.19: I was not surprised to see the Huskies post a big number here; they won 11 games last year and just about the whole offense is back. I was just a bit surprised they held Boise St. under 20 points. Is the Husky defense really good too – – or were the Broncos just over matched? For example:
- Broncos got 21 first downs on 402 yards total offense.
- Huskies got 22 first dawns on 568 yards total offense.
- Broncos ran 75 plays.
- Huskies ran 61 plays.
Penn St. 38 W. Virginia 15: Penn St was clearly the better team on the field – – but is it because the Nittany Lions are ranked #7 in the country or because W. Virginia is decidedly mediocre? I need more data here, but I am leaning toward the idea that W. Virginia is not very good this year.
Utah 24 Florida 11: Utah had to play without its starting QB, Cam Rising who is still recovering from an injury in last year’s Rose Bowl game – – but the Utah defense clearly showed up ready to play. Florida’s two top rushers were held to 31 yards on 10 combined carries. Utah meets Baylor this week – – a team coming off a shocking upset loss.
Texas St 42 Baylor 31: This is a major upset here; it is the fifth loss in a row for Baylor and the Bears’ schedule does not get easier. The betting line closed at Baylor – 26.5 and the Money Line on Texas St. closed at +1550. Baylor won the stat battle 525 yards on offense versus 441 for Texas St. The difference here is that Texas St scored 6 TDs and Baylor scored 3 TDs and settled for 3 FGs on other scoring opportunities.
Fla State 45 LSU 24: I said this was “must-see TV” – – and it was just that for the first half. Then the Seminoles just dominated play in the second half turning this into a rout. Florida State scored on every possession in the second half. – – save for running out the clock in the final minute or so. Meanwhile, here are the results of LSU’s second half possessions:
- Turnover on Downs
- TD – – meaningless score with 1:26 to go in the game.
The stats for the two teams look even but here are a couple of stats that might explain the score difference:
- Fla State was 9-14 on 3rd down conversions and 1-1 on 4th down conversions.
- LSU was 3-10 on 3rd down conversions and 0-3 on 4th down conversions.
BTW: LSU fans are calling for Brian Kelly to be fired starting “immediately” after this loss.
Duke 28 Clemson 7: Major Upset Here … Clemson was ranked #9 in the early season polls and was the consensus choice to win the ACC this year. Clemson led 7-6 at the half; then Duke shut out Clemson for the second half. Seriously, that actually happened. Clemson won the stat battle 424 yards offense versus 374 yards for Duke. Clemson made 29 first downs to Duke’s 18. Here are the second half possessions by Clemson:
- Blocked FG – – second blocked FG by Duke in the game
- Lost Fumble – – in the Red Zone
- Lost Fumble – – in the Red Zone again
- Turnover on Downs
- Turnover on Downs
The last time Duke beat Clemson was in 2004. This was Duke’s most lopsided win over a ranked team since a 37-13 home win over No. 20 Notre Dame on Dec. 2, 1961. It was also Duke’s first win over a top-10 team since a 21-17 victory over No. 7 Clemson on Sept. 30, 1989. The Closing Line for the game was Clemson – 13 and the Money Line on Duke was +460.
Colorado 45 TCU 42: Maor Upset Here … Coach Prime made his entrance into Division 1-A college football in typical “Prime Time Style”. The Closing Line for the game was TCU – 20.5. The Buffaloes amassed 565 yards on offense – – 510 through the air. Remember TCU was in the CFP Final Game last season; this was not any sort of cupcake scheduling. Shadeur Sanders – – Deion’s son – – is the Colorado QB and here is his stat line from last week:
- 38 of 47 for 510 yards with 4 TDs and 0 INTs
Four different Colorado receivers had 100 yards or more in pass receptions in the game.
Oregon 81 Portland St. 10: I mention this here only because Oregon/Colorado is coming up on September 23rd and that could be a game where the team with the final possession wins the game. I asked the “reader in Houston” where he thought the Total Line for that game might be set. His estimate was in the “low-70s” which surprised me because I was thinking in the “high 70s”.
Games of Interest:
Nebraska at Colorado – 2.5 (60): Nebraska lost last week on a field goal as time expired but held the opponent – Minnesota – to 13 points. Can that sort of defense put the brakes on Colorado’s offense? According to the “reader in Houston”, the preseason spread on this game was Nebraska – 7.5 points. Anyone who took the points there has a nice shot at a middle bet. I have not seen anywhere near enough of Colorado to decide if they won their first game on adrenaline or on overall competence and I saw nothing of Nebraska last week. Deion Sanders and Matt Rhule … the game can be considered a “Border War Game” … lots of reasons to be interested here.
Texas at Alabama – 7.5 (54): The Bottom Line here is that I think this line is fat. For the last couple of years, Alabama has usually put the better QB on the field every week. I do not think that is the case here; Texas QB, Quinn Ewers, will be the better QB on the field. Alabama should enjoy an advantage on defense, but not enough to negate Ewers who played well against Alabama last year until he had to leave the game with an injury. I like Texas plus the points here; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.
UCF – 3.5 at Boise St (60): I think this line is an overreaction. Boise St. was trounced by Washington last week (see above) while UCF stomped all over Kent State to win by 7 TDs. Seriously …? This is a long road trip for UCF, and I suspect that Washington will show out to be a much better team than UCF once the season has developed. I’ll take Boise St. at home plus the points; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.
Arizona at Mississippi St. – 9 (61): There will necessarily be a new offense and new offensive philosophy in Starkville with Zach Arnett replacing Mike Leach as the head coach there. Last week, the Bulldogs actually posted balanced offensive numbers albeit against SE Louisiana State. I would not bet on the game, but it should be an interesting one to check out the stats on Sunday morning.
Kent St. at Arkansas – 38.5 (58): I have this here because I want to see if Kent St. is as bad as I think they are. Considering that I put Boise St. in the “Betting Bundle” this game is interesting to me.
Iowa – 4 at Iowa St. (36.5): Five players (three from Iowa and two from Iowa State) entered guilty pleas this week on gambling charges filed against them. Other players on both teams remain suspended and under investigation. Remember, Iowa needs to average 25 points per game to keep its OC employed. The oddsmakers say this is not going to be one of those offensive outbursts for the Hawkeyes.
Utah – 6 at Baylor (47): Baylor needs this win desperately. A loss here puts them at 0-2 and even with a cupcake next week, the game after that is against Texas. Utah managed the game without their starting QB last week; reports about Cam Rising’s knee rehab are all positive but his availability for this game remains in doubt until kickoff. The thing that Utah brings every week is a rock-solid defense.
Texas A&M – 4 at Miami (51): This looks like a defensive battle where two strong defenses should dominate two middling offenses. I am tempted by the UNDER here but will defer because I do not have enough data yet.
UTEP – 1 at Northwestern (40): UTEP is a road favorite over a Big-10 team! In other news:
- Coup leaders in Sudan/South Sudan share the Nobel Peace Prize
- Greenpeace and the American Petroleum Institute agree on something
- Bigfoot and Nessie are scheduled to address the UN General Assembly.
Lafayette at Duke – 40 (50.5): Was last week’s Duke upset a flash in the pan …???
Nichols St. at TCU – 38 (63): Does TCU takeout its frustrations/re-establish its dominance here …???
At about the 11th hour and the 55th minute, the Niners and Nick Bosa finally reached an agreement to make Bosa the highest paid defensive player in NFL history. Meanwhile, Chris Jones was in the stands watching the Lions beat the Chiefs in the NFL opener last night. The emphasis is on offense in the NFL these days, but teams must play a bit of defense too.
Lions 21 Chiefs 20: This result is not a reason for euphoria or panic depending on where one lives and what team one roots for.
- Good news Lions: They outgained the Chiefs 368 yards to 316 yards.
- Bad news Lions: It took a tipped pass to set up a Pick Six for the Lions to win.
- Good news Chiefs: Their WRs cannot possibly drop more passes than they did last night.
- Bad news Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes was their leading rusher last night.
- Good news Lions AND Bad news Chiefs: Travis Kelce did not play.
Games this Week:
Panthers at Falcons – 3.5 (39.5): Welcome to the NFL, Bryce Young. The Falcons’ offense has people impressed; the Panthers defense – – particularly their D-Line – – is a team strength. This is a good early-season division game that is worth watching. The oddsmakers call this a close game and I agree.
Texans at Ravens – 9 (44): The Ravens have a new offensive coordinator; they have no contract beef ongoing with Lamar Jackson; and, they have an actual top-shelf WR on their roster in Odell Beckham, Jr. Assuming the Ravens’ defense is comparable to last year’s defense, that should be a good starting point for the 2023 season. The Texans are an improving team but are not ready to take on a top team on the road. I like the Ravens to win and cover at home; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.
Bengals – 2 at Browns (47): Another interesting and important division game for Week 1 on the card here. Injury reports say Joe Burrow is good to go; that is a big deal for the Bengals because backup QB, Jake Browning, is a big step down from Joe Burrow. What should we expect from Deshaun Watson? That is a big deal for the Browns. This is a great game to watch – – not wager on …
Jags – 4 at Colts (46.5): The good news in Indy is that Anthony Richardson will be the QB, and he might just be a reincarnation of Cam Newton and/or Randall Cunningham. The bad news in Indy is that Jonathan Taylor is on the shelf and Jim Irsay is still in charge – – meaning something goofy is always just around the corner. I like the Jags as a young team in the improve – particularly if Trevor Lawrence maintains his positive career arc. I like the Jags to win and cover here on the road; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.
Bucs at Vikes – 5 (45.5): I do not trust the Vikes’ defense and I do not believe the Vikes will eke out 9 wins in one-score games again in 2023. Having said that, I also am not comfortable taking Baker Mayfield on the road and getting less than a full TD. Here is another game to watch this weekend …
Titans at Saints – 3 (41.5): Derek Carr is the better QB in the game; Mike Vrable is the better coach in the game. I am tempted to take the points here – – but I will resist that temptation.
Niners – 2.5 at Steelers (41.5): Brock Purdy is ready to go at QB for the Niners; is he ready to resume play at the level he showed last year prior to his arm injury? Kenny Pickett is ready to go for the Steelers; is he ready to pick up where he left off last season? Is Nick Bosa in football condition now? Too many questions to wager on the game but this is a big game between two potentially very good teams that is definitely worth watching this weekend. This game got some consideration for the Game of the Week.
Cards at Commanders – 7 (37.5): If you have something good to say about the Cards, say it now because I got nuthin’. The Commanders with Sam Howell at QB will be a fun team to watch this season and if the Washington defense plays to its hype, the team will be in the playoffs. I like the Commanders at home to win and cover; put that in the “Betting Bundle”. The only reason I won’t also take this game to go OVER is that I am not so sure Arizona can get to double-digits.
Packers at Bears – 1.5 (42): Yes, the Bears are favorites – – albeit short ones – – over the Packers. It’s been a while since that situation obtained. The Packers will finally start a season with Jordan Love under center and the NFL fandom can see if Love has the talent the Packers must have seen in him several years ago to take him in the first round and piss off Aaron Rodgers mightily. The Bears will start Justin Fields at QB; he has been disappointing to say the least in terms of his passing game to date but reports say he has worked hard to improve his accuracy over the off season. Even though this is the oldest and longest rivalry game in the NFL, I am going to label this iteration as The Dog-Breath Game of the Week.
Raiders at Broncos – 3 (44): Don’t you know that this game finished a close second in the “race” to be the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. I have exactly no idea what is going on between the Raiders and Chandler Jones. Just Google that combination and read a couple of reports and if you can figure it out, good for you. By the way, might there be any leftover hard feelings in the Josh Jacobs/Raiders relationship? Meanwhile, on the other sideline we have a new coach returning to the game after “stepping aside”. Yes, Sean Payton was a very good coach but so were returning coaches, Joe Gibbs, Mike Shanahan and Bud Wilkenson; their “second acts” did not come close to living up to the hype.
Dolphins at Chargers – 3 (51): Justin Herbert has his contract extension; the Chargers should be just fine on offense. Has that defense improved? There is plenty of room for improvement there.
Eagles – 3.5 at Pats (44.5): This game got some consideration for Game of the Week. The Eagles’ defense is rebuilt given all the losses from last year’s team to free agency; starting off against Mac Jones as the opposing QB should allow that unit to ease into real NFL play. By the same token, the Pats can expect their defense to remain strong enough to keep the Pats competitive just about every week. I like the Eagles to win and cover here – even on the road; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.
Seahawks – 5 at Rams (46.5): The major bad news for the Rams is that Cooper Kupp will not play this week – – and maybe not next week either. The good news is that both Matthew Stafford and Cam Akers are good to go. The big question mark for the Seahawks is Geno Smith. Did he have a career year in 2022 or does he still have room to improve? This should be an interesting game.
(Sun Nite) Cowboys – 3 at Giants (45): Here is yet another division game in Week 1 of the 2023 NFL season. I think the Cowboys have a significantly better roster than the Giants do. I also think the Giants’ coaching staff is significantly better than the Cowboys’ staff. I think talent will prevail here but I do not trust Mike McCarthy and crew sufficiently to lay points on the road against a division rival. I will sit back and watch this one after dinner on Sunday evening, having a nightcap within reach.
(Mon Nite) Bills – 2.5 at Jets (45): This is my Game of the Week. It is a division game; most prognosticators pick the Bills to win the division but there are more than a handful who think that Aaron Rodgers plus the Jets’ defense will be enough to dethrone the Bills as the Beasts of the East. I think the two QBs light it up here; I like the game to go OVER; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.
This week’s “Betting Bundle” has seven entries:
- Texas +7.5 against Alabama
- Boise St. +3.5 against UCF
- Ravens – 9 over Texans
- Jags – 4 over Colts
- Commanders – 7 over Cards
- Eagles – 3.5 over Pats
- Bills/Jets OVER 45
I also want to offer up some Money Line Parlays for this weekend:
- Jags @ – 230
- Commanders @ – 310
- Eagles @ – 195 $100 to win $187
- Ravens @ – 420
- Titans @ +140 $100 to win $197.
Finally, let me close today with these words from legendary Alabama coach, Bear Bryant:
“I make my practices real hard because if a player is a quitter, I want him to quit in practice, not in a game.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………