Yogi Berra Has A Message For Baseball

Yogi Berra is famous as a Hall of Fame baseball player and as a person whose verbal malaprops made him a comedic figure.  MLB and the MLBPA should pay attention to one of Berra’s alleged statements:

  • “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

Baseball is at – or very near – a fork in its path as part of the US sports landscape; the owners and the union have to decide the direction they want to take.  Most importantly, they are really must take the same path because there is no baseball without owners and there is no baseball without players.  Let me get that on the record here from the start; neither of these two entities can exist for long without the other.

On December 1st, 2021, – a little over 6 months from now – the extant CBA signed by the owners and the union will expire.  If someone suggests that this is no big deal because a new CBA is not really needed until around February 1st when preparations for Spring Training kick into high gear, consider the environment that exists today.  Other than certainties governed by physical laws – – night follows day, things fall down to the ground and not up into the air, you get the idea – – the owners and the union agree on just about nothing.

In this time frame where both sides should be marshaling and honing their arguments in favor of various sections/clauses in the CBA to be hammered out, it is rather clear that there is a preference to look backward as a way to flick the scab off a prior wound that certainly seemed to have been healing quietly.  Consider:

  • Just last week, the MLBPA filed a grievance against the league asserting that MLB did not bargain in good faith last year to play as many games as possible in the shortened 2020 season.
  • The grievance seeks an award of $500M which approximates what players would have earned had the season been 20 games longer than it was.

Two facts jump out at me from those statements:

  1. Of course, it would have been possible to play more than 60 games last  season; I cannot fathom how one would assert it was impossible.
  2. Unless I am a mind reader – or the panel of arbitrators that will decide tis grievance has one – I do not know how it is possible to know if the bargaining was done in good faith.

I have no interest in going back to look over the “facts” there; as far as this matter is concerned, I want it to be resolved quickly either by some sort of settlement between the parties or by a fast-paced hearing by the arbitration panel who makes its ruling quickly.  Moreover, I do not care even a little bit who might prevail in this matter; just get it over and done with. 

[Aside:  this three-person panel is a mirage.  One person is picked by the union, the other is picked by the owners and the third person is someone both parties agree to accept in the role.  I would say the odds of a unanimous decision either way are prohibitive; the decision of the mutually appointed arbitrator will be the decision that carries the day.]

The reason I take the position that speed is important here is simple.  So long as this $500M matter is pending, it is a Sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of the negotiations that need to happen in order to get a new CBA without a work-stoppage.  And given the state of animus that exists between the union and the league, there will need to be plenty of time available to those negotiators to get to a deal.  With that as an overlay, let me be as clear as I can on this next environmental factor:

  • If the two sides cannot reach an agreement in time to start Spring Training and also the regular season in 2022, both sides are dumber than some jamoke who thinks Mount Rushmore is a rock band.
  • Fans had “other things” on their minds last  year; there was a pandemic and a Presidential election.  The 60-game season seemed concocted, and it was not really until late in the playoffs that fan interest came to life.  In that social environment, the owners and the players waged a PR battle that delayed the start of the season – – and perhaps the length of the season? – – when people in lockdown situations would have liked to be able to see MLB on TV.  Brilliant!
  • This year, fans are showing more interest – – but in many venues, attendance is severely limited.  As more venues open to greater percentages of capacity, some astute marketing should be able to get fans revved up for this year’s playoffs.
  • Notwithstanding merely fans’ cumulative interest in baseball games, there is a general economic overhang here.  Even with various waves of government relief checks, there are lots of people – and families – who are in economic trouble not wholly of their doing.  A spitting contest between the billionaire owners and the millionaire players will not sit well with people living paycheck to paycheck – – if the have paychecks – – or with people dealing with eviction processes.

I have argued here many times involving many sports that owners and unions get crosswise with each other over things that should not be deal-breakers.  The owners and the union are partners in presenting a product that people like enough to do two things:

  1. Come to the ballpark and spend some of their discretionary money on.
  2. Watch it on TV in sufficient numbers that networks pay handsomely for broadcast rights.

That is why billionaire Steve Cohen bought the Mets.  That is also why players are getting guaranteed long-term deals in the $350 – 450M range.  Steve Cohen and his fellow owners will not make money if either of those two conditions above does not obtain; baseball superstars like Bryce Harper and Mike Trout and Francisco Lindor will not make a third of what their contracts are worth if either of those two conditions above does not obtain.

The thing that makes the most sense – meaning it is one of the least likely things to happen early on – is for the owners AND the players to tell the CBA negotiators to put a lid on their personal egos and get a deal done that neither side loves but one that both sides can live with.  The negotiations cannot be a pitched battle over every semi-colon in the CBA; the two sides must walk down the same path in the future – – preferably hand-in-hand but I would settle for them merely being in step with each other.

I am on record here as one who hates the DH.  Do no try to change my mind.  However, putting the DH into the National League is not sufficiently horrid to me that I would let it stand in the way of a CBA.  Players do not want expanded playoffs because the way the owners want it structured will line the pockets of the owners far more than it lines the players’ pockets.  I get that.  I also get that making that a sticking point jeopardizes a lot more money that flows to the players than could be recouped in expanded playoff money for the next 50 years.

There are lots of issues to be ironed out; each one cannot become a hill to die on:

  • Service time manipulation
  • Setting up an international draft
  • Tweaking the arbitration procedures for player salaries
  • Pandemic-induced rules (7-inning doubleheaders and “ghost runners” on second base in extra innings)

Those issues just come off the top of my head; surely there are others; the goal must be to resolve them and not to fight pitched battles over each of them.  After the $500M arbitration grievance is resolved one way or the other, the two sides will need to come together rather quickly and get down to productive negotiating.  That will be much easier for the side that wins the $500M arbitration as compared to the side that loses that arbitration.  But somehow all of that had better come to pass because here is the worst outcome:

  • MLB and the MLBPA come to that fork in the road hellbent to prevail in the next round of CBA negotiations to the point that the desire is to crush “the other guys”.
  • In that circumstance, the two sides take the fork in the road – – but each takes a different path.
  • If you like baseball and if you care about baseball as a major item in the US sports landscape, that is what you do not want to have happen.

Finally, here is a comment from Dwight Perry about one of the issues that faces MLB in addition to all the upcoming CBA negotiations:

“For perspective’s sake, soccer’s ill-fated Super League lasted about 48 hours — or roughly a dozen Yankees-Red Sox games.”

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



Mythical Picks – NFL And NCAA CFP – Weekend Of 1/8/17


Last week was a boring week of mythical picking.  For the semi-finals of the CFP, the two Mythical Picks were 1-1-0. Not very exciting to say the least.  That took the season record for NCAA Mythical Picks to 110-94-0 with one game left to play where I might make as many as two picks.  It is going to be a “mythically profitable year” for NCAA Mythical Picks.

In the NFL, the mythical picks were just a tad less wonderful.  I made 16 selections and the record for the week was 7-9-0.  Certainly, that is not laudable; but it takes the NFL Mythical picks into the playoffs with a season record standing at a most comfortable 134-89-5.

The Coin Flip Protocol continued to be hot, Hot, HOT last week.  I used the coin flip to make 3 selections and the coin went 2-1-0 for the week bringing the coin’s record for the year to a surprisingly positive 19-12-2.

The Best Picks from last week were:

  • Vikes -5 against Bears.  Vikes won by 18 points.
  • Clemson +3 against Ohio St.  Clemson won the game outright 31-0.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

  • Texans – 3 against Titans.  Texans lost the game outright.
  • Skins – 7 against Giants.  Skins lost the game outright.
  • Rams +6.5 against Cards.  Rams lost by 38 points.

Notwithstanding the fact that both the NCAA and NFL Mythical Picks will end the season in “Mythically Profitable Territory”, one would need to be extraordinarily dumb to conclude that there is any great insight or expertise that went into these selections.  No one – and I mean NOBODY – should use anything here as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on a real football game this weekend.  Here is how extraordinarily dumb one would need to be to do that:


You probably think that a person without common sense (scents) is a woman who wears $2000 per ounce perfume.


General Comments:


Regarding NCAA football, I think that the Selection Committee for the CFP this year demonstrated that their votes/selections had as much to do with football pedigree as it had to do with selecting the teams that were playing the best football at the end of the season.  Let me try to explain what I mean without weasel-wording any of it:

  • Ohio St. was in the playoffs only because it was Ohio St. and Ohio St. has a long tradition of being an elite football team.  They did not win their division within their conference; they were not eligible to play for their conference championship; their “signature wins” included one that happened in September.  They were not the team in the Big 10 playing the best football in November/December.  That team would be Penn State.
  • Washington should not have been in the CFP based on the fact that USC dominated them late in the season.  Yes, USC lost 3 games last year but those were early in the year and by the end of the season the “eyeball test” would have told almost anyone that USC was the best team in the PAC-12.  But the Selection Committee did not apply the “eyeball test” and gave us Washington.

Do NOT infer here that I think Ohio St and/or Washington is a bad football team; they are not.  However, they are not as good in December/January of this season as are Penn St/USC and the CFP Selection Committee just plain blew it.  Washington lost to Alabama 24-7.  I took Washington +14 points in last week’s Mythical Picks; but at halftime with the Huskies trailing by only 10 points, I knew that Alabama would have to be shut out in the second half for me to “cash in” that mythical pick.  Washington was simply outclassed and it was painfully obvious for all of the second half.

Yes, I know that Alabama dominated USC back in September; the thing is that was in September and this is December/January.  USC is a significantly better team now that it was then.  If the Selection Committee had bothered to pay attention to games on the field, I would have expected them to see that clear and present status.  They simply did not.

Ohio St. was depantsed by Clemson.  Even a rabid Ohio St. fan or alum had to recognize somewhere in the second quarter that this was going to be an embarrassing time for the Buckeyes. They did not belong in that game on that big a stage.  If the Big 10 team with Ohio St’s résumé had been Indiana – only one loss but not the division winner in the conference – there is no way on Planet Earth that Indiana would have been in the CFP semi-finals.

One last thing…  I am NOT implying that either USC or Penn St. would have beaten Alabama or Clemson.  I am not implying – I am saying it directly – that USC and Penn St. would have put on a better show than Washington or Clemson put on.

On to NFL commentary …

I have grown tired of NFL coaches and commentators saying that a team underachieved because they suffered an injury to their starting QB.  Sure, that is a big deal; no team wants that to happen.  Nevertheless, such a happenstance is not a one-way ticket to the NFL boneyard.  It is not uncommon for a team to have to fill in for a starting QB for 4 games in a season and in that circumstance, let me point out how one team managed to muddle through such a situation this year:

  • The New England Patriots started 3 – not 2 but 3 – different QBs this year; two of those starters had never started an NFL game in the past.  The Pats managed to survive to the tune of a regular season record of 14-2.  They will not play this week as they sit at home and get ready to host the lowest-seeded team to survive the AFC wild card round this weekend.

Oh, let me give you another example…  There is a team that lost its starter in one of the meaningless exhibition games back in the summer and had to start a rookie QB who was taken in the 4th round of last year’s draft.  That team was surely doomed … except that the Dallas Cowboys finished the regular season with a 13-3 record and will have home-field advantage in every NFC playoff game that they play in this year.

Quarterbacks are extremely important; bad quarterbacking can – and usually does – relegate a team to second-rate or even third-rate status.  However, it is not a certainty and commentators should stop giving teams that “easy way out” to explain underachievement…

Oh, while I am at it, can we agree for at least a moment to stop calling it “underachievement” and call it – more accurately – “failure to perform”?

The last week of the regular season should have been designated as “Backup QB Matt Week”.  Consider these starting QBs who were backups for their teams:

  • Matt Barkley – Bears
  • Matt Cassel – Titans
  • Matt McGloin – Raiders
  • Matt Moore – Dolphins

The Bills started a backup QB (EJ Manuel) too last week – and then sat him down to let their third-string guy (Cardale Jones) get some time on the field.  The Bills lost handily to the Jets 30-10 and the play of that QB tandem must bear some of the responsibility for the loss.  Combined, that duo produced this stat line:

  • 15 for 31 for 182 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs

No one would mistake that sort of production with the descriptor “a key ingredient for winning football”.  However, I want to describe one play in the game here simply to suggest that the rest of the Bills’ team may not have been ”fully engaged” in the game.

  • Leading 23-3, the Jets lined up to kick off to the Bills.  The kick bounced along into the end zone where the Bills just stood over it and watched it come to rest in their end zone.  They watched as Jets’ special teamer, Doug Middleton, fell on the ball for a Jets’ TD making the score 30-3.
  • You can file this event under “bad coaching” or under “lack of concentration” or even under “not giving a rat’s ass about the game”.  You cannot, however, pin this blunder on “bad quarterbacking”.

That meaningless Bills/Jets game also leads to the observation that Darrelle Revis can no longer play cornerback.  It is not that he is no longer a “shut-down corner” or that receivers on his side of the field are out on “Revis Island”; Darrelle Revis cannot play the position anymore; Father Time has caught up with him.  He is probably smart enough to make a transition to safety and play there if he wants to, but if he insists on being a cornerback and being paid like a top-flight cornerback, his career may be over.

When Niners’ owner/operator, Jed York, addressed the media to announce/explain/justify the firings of Trent Baalke and Chip Kelly, he said:

“I just think it’s time for us to re-establish a championship culture…”

Would that it were as simple to do that as it is to say that…  As the Niners proceed in their coaching/GM search, here is an interesting view from the outside.  The Niners won 2 games all last year – both against the Rams who are also sniffing around and looking for a new coach.  The inescapable conclusion here is that the Niners were 0-14 against the rest of the league and it is 100% certain that the Niners will have to play 14 games against the “rest of the league” next year and the year after that and …

The Raiders lost more than their final game of the season last week.  Their backup QB, Matt McGloin, had to leave the game with an injury to his left shoulder – his non-throwing shoulder – and did not fully participate in practice on Wednesday this week.  His availability for this week’s playoff game is up in the air.  The Raiders needed this game to keep alive the hope of getting the #1 seed in the AFC and they needed this game to assure that they would hold onto the #2 seed in the AFC.  They lost out on both of those positionings too.  And one way that they lost those seedings was because they lost any connection they may have had to “Pride and Poise”.  In a game they needed to win and playing with a backup QB, consider this:

  • Total offense in the first half = 50 yards
  • Penalty yards assessed in the first half = 90 yards

Granted, the Raiders’ QBs did not cover themselves in glory last week, but the Raiders lost as a team in Denver…

Amid the uncertainty regarding QB availability for the Raiders in their upcoming playoff game this week, the team went out and signed Garrett Gilbert.  He was a 6th round pick by the Rams in 2014 and has never thrown a pass in the NFL.  However, he does have a Super Bowl ring; he was on the Pats’ practice squad in 2014 when the Pats beat the Seahawks in the Super Bowl.  Gilbert was on the Raiders’ practice squad in 2015 so he, presumably, has some familiarity with the offense.  Other than that, I have no rays of sunshine to pump up the butts of Raiders’ fans for this weekend…


The Games:




(Mon Nite) Clemson vs. Alabama – 6.5 (51):  Last week, I said that this year’s Clemson team plays up to or down to the level of its opponent and that is why I took them with 3 points against Ohio State.  The Tigers won the game in a walk.  Once again, Clemson will face a very good opponent and I fully expect Clemson to play well and to play hard.  I just think, however, that Alabama is the better team on the field and I do not think that the absence of Lane Kiffin calling plays for Bama is such a big deal.  I’ll take Alabama to win and cover.




(Sat Afternoon) Oakland at Houston – 3.5 (37):  The oddsmakers are looking at this game as if it will be a 3-yards-and-a-cloud -of-dust throwback to the old Woody Hayes/Bo Schembechler college games.  Indeed, no matter how you might do a mix-and-match of the possible QBs in this game, you come up with a faceoff between “Who’s He?” and “Who’s That?”  These teams met earlier this year in Mexico City and the Raiders won by a TD then.  That was before Derek Carr’s leg broke…  Let me be very clear here:

  1. I have no faith in either Brock Osweiler or Tom Savage as dominant players.
  2. I have no faith in any of the 3 available Raiders’ QBs as dominant players.
  3. I have no faith in the Raiders’ defense – other than the Texans’ offensive ineptitude.
  4. I have minimal faith in the Texans’ defense – given the likely Raiders’ offensive ineptitude.

With exactly no conviction, I will take the Texans and lay the points here simply because they are less likely to go through a team meltdown as the Raiders have done a couple of times this year.


(Sat Evening) Detroit at Seattle – 8 (44):  The spread here opened at 4 points and shot up to this level very quickly.  The Lions come roaring into this game on a 3-game losing streak.  Now, they have to play outdoors – something they do not do well – and they have to play in Seattle – where opponents tend to struggle.  The Seahawks are not exactly on a roll here either.  In their last 3 games, they have beaten the Rams (Whoop-di-damned-do!), lost to the Cards (ugh) and then beat the Niners by 2 points (ugh, again).  Everyone talks about the injury to Earl Thomas and its effect on the defense.  I think the injury to Tyler Lockett is also important because it affects the Seahawks’ return game and the passing offense.  I see a defense dominated game here so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.


(Sun Early Afternoon) Miami at Pittsburgh – 10 (45.5):  I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games.  With that out of the way, these teams played each other earlier this year (in Miami) and the Dolphins won that game in a walk.  Ben Roethlisberger limped his way through about half the game and that had something to do with the outcome to be sure; last I saw, he is no longer limping.  The Steelers rested Roethlisberger, LeVeon Bell and Antonio Brown last week so they should be ready to welcome the warm-weather Dolphins to January-in-Pittsburgh-weather.  Saturday night the low is forecast to be 11 degrees and on Sunday it will warm up all the way to 18 degrees with 15 mph winds.  The Dolphins are a much improved team this year and had a 9-game win streak at one point in the season.  However, the Dolphins schedule was not exactly a killer.  I think the Steelers are much the better team here.  I like the Steelers to win and cover at home and I like the game to go OVER.


(Sun Late Afternoon) Giants at Green Bay – 4.5 (44.5):  This is the best NFL game of the weekend.  When the Packers were 4-6, Aaron Rodgers said that the team would “run the table” and make the playoffs – – and then the Packers did exactly that.  The Giants fielded a defense this year that kept them in games even when the offense – how to put this politely? – sputtered.  The last two times the Giants had a playoff date in Lambeau Field, the Giants not only won the game there, they went on to win the Super Bowl later in the playoffs.  The Packers’ secondary has so many injuries that the players on the field may be calling each other by number instead of by name.  Meanwhile, the Giants’ secondary – as a unit – is probably the best defensive backfield in the league this year.  This looks like a balanced game:

  • Red hot QB playing really well against a top-shelf defensive unit.
  • “Sputtering” offense against a significantly depleted defense.

Not surprisingly, it will be cold in the late afternoon in Green Bay with temps dropping into the single digits as the game proceeds.  I think this will be a low-scoring game so I’ll take the Giants plus the points.


Finally, here is how The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm defines Spam:

“Spam:  Pork shoulder meat, ham, and gelatinous ooze in a can.  Is America a great country or what?

“Spam:  Unsolicited e-mail.  Proof of the existence of something even more heinous than the product it is named after.”

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



Mythical Picks – CFP & NFL Combined – Weekend Of 1/1/17


This will be a joint entry of NCAA Mythical Picks (for the CFP games this weekend) and of NFL Mythical Picks for the games scheduled for Week 17 of this regular season.  Notwithstanding the fact that this will be a “joint entry” my calendar requires that this will be an abbreviated entry.  Let me set the stage for these selections with nominally relevant data.

NCAA Mythical Picks ended the season back at the start of December with a cumulative record of 109-93-0.  If I had wagered the same amount on each of the 202 picks here, I would have come away with a profit for the season.  If I had wagered on each of the 202 picks here, I should have been put in restraints and not allowed anywhere near the betting windows.


[Apropos of nothing, the favorites did not fare well in Ponderosa Games this year.  The final record for favorites covering in Ponderosa Games was 46-51-1.]


NFL Mythical Picks last week was about as inane as they could be.  I made 17 selections in the 16 NFL games and the week’s record was 8-8-1.  Meanwhile, the season record for NFL Mythical Picks now stands at 135-88-6.  While that record is comfortably in the “profitable zone”, it still would have been ridiculous for me to have considered for even a millisecond making those 229 wagers over the course of the season.

The Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol was 1-2-0 last week.  Nonetheless, the coin flipping has been “hot” this year with a cumulative record to date of 18-13-2.

The Best Picks from last week were:

  • Dolphins +4 against Bills.  Dolphins won outright.
  • Niners +4 against Rams.  Niners won outright.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

  • Titans – 4.5 against Jags.  Titans lost by 14 points.
  • Panthers +3 against Falcons.  Panthers lost by 17 points.

With all that data on hand, no one should take anything written here as sufficiently informative or insightful so as to use any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real football game (NCAA or NFL) this weekend.  Anyone dumb enough to do that also thinks:


You can never become addicted to brake fluid because you can – obviously – stop anytime you want.


General Comments:


My only comment this week about NCAA football is short and simple; I should have included it in one of the earlier iterations of NCAA Mythical Picks.

  • The Arkansas State Red Wolves have a player on their roster named Dee Liner.
  • You guessed it; he plays defensive line…  How perfect is that?

Last week in the NFL was Underachievement Week.  Bad teams surprisingly won games; good or better-than-average teams lost games they should have won even though a loss would be devastating to their season.  One such underachievement got another coach fired with a game left to play.  Rex Ryan is out in Buffalo – and his brother Rob is out as defensive coordinator too.  So, let me start with that game from last week…

The Bills lost to the Dolphins 34-31 in OT.  That is not such an embarrassing loss that you would think that it would end a coaching tenure with one week left to play in a season where the Bills will be out of the playoffs for the 17th consecutive time.  What this says to me is that the Bills’ ownership had made up their mind to fire Ryan as soon as the season was over and this home loss was just a bit more than they needed to bear.

Basically, the Bills found ways to lose this game – and that has not been an unknown set of circumstances for the team over the past 2 seasons with Rex Ryan at the helm.  The Bills trailed 28-24 in this game and fought their way back to lead the game 31-28 with less than 2 minutes to go in the game.  Then the defense allowed the Dolphins to get into a position to kick a tying field goal with 6 seconds on the clock.  Then in OT, the defense allowed RB. Jay Ajayi to rumble for 57 yards to set up a chip shot field goal by the Dolphins to win the game.  The Bills missed 2 field goals in regulation time that would have won the game.  It was a sh*tshow of a game in front of the home fans and the Bills’ ownership decided that it had seen enough.

Cry no crocodile tears for Rex Ryan.  If my calculations are correct, the Bills owe him a tad over $16M over the next 3 years for him to stay home and not coach NFL football…

The Chargers lost a game last week; since the Chargers have only won 5 times this year, you might wonder why I put them in the conversation about teams that should not have lost last weekend.  The answer is simple:


The Chargers lost to the Browns 20-17.


That embarrassing loss ought to make it a bit easier for fans in San Diego to let go of their team as the Chargers opt to move to LA soon after the regular season ends this weekend.  Making this loss even more hard to swallow, the Chargers recorded a total of 9 sacks in the game – – and still found a way to lose.  That does not happen very often.

Chargers’ coach Mike McCoy was on a hot seat before this game.  Now I would suspect that he is sitting on a pool of lava…

The Titans lost to the Jags 38-17 eliminating the Titans from the playoffs.  Making matters worse, QB, Marcus Mariota, broke his fibula in the game and is expected to be out of action for about 4 months. That injury, however is NOT the reason the Titans took gas last week; they trailed 24-10 in the game when Mariota was injured.  Look, the Titans were 2-14 last year and they have already won 8 games this year.  That is a MAJOR improvement and it needs to be acknowledged and applauded.  Having said that, the Titans lost a hugely important game last week to a bad football team.

The Bucs lost to the Saints 31-24 in a game the Bucs had to have to stay “playoff relevant”.  The Saints led in time of possession and ran for 129 yards on a nominally maturing Bucs’ defense.  The only way to deal with this game is to label it as a game where the Bucs laid an egg.

In the context of these underachieving/shocking games, there were other surprises on the card for last week.  As noted above, the Brown and Jags won games outright last week.  Well, so did the Niners; they beat the Rams 22-21.  All three of those carrion-feeders won on the same weekend; my guess is that no one in Las Vegas had a parlay on the money line for Browns, Niners and Jags all to win last week.

The Niners had the worst run defense in the NFL going into last week’s game; the Rams have a very good running back; you might expect the Rams to pound the ball down the Niners’ collective throats.

Not so fast my friend … [/Lee Corso]

  • Todd Gurley gained 67 yards and averaged only 2.9 yards per carry.
  • Rams gained 99 yards rushing – which sounds good until you realize that the Niners have given up 200+ yards rushing in previous games this year.

The Rams have already fired their coach and have nominally begun their coaching search.  I suspect that this miserable showing will assure that interim coach John Fassel will get only a cursory call/interview once the season is over – – unless of course he and all the rest of the coaching staff is fired within 24 hours of the final whistle in the final Rams’ game this weekend.

The Texans beat the Bengals last week to secure the AFC South division title and a spot in the playoffs.  The score here was 12-10 and the offensive prowess on display by both teams was perfectly indicated by the score.  To say it was uninspired would be to say that Pavarotti could carry a tune.  The Bengals averaged a measly 6.5 yards per pass attempt in the game but even that meager accomplishment is distorted.  One short pass went to Brandon LaFell who turned it into an 86-yard TD catch-and-run.  Absent that one play, the Bengals averaged 3.95 yards per pass attempt.  Yowza!

I said this would be an abbreviated version of Mythical Picks due to Holiday festivities and social commitments.  Therefore, even though some of the other games from last weekend would normally have merited some comment, they will be anonymous here – with one exception.

The Raiders won last week beating the Colts 33-25 but they lost QB Derek Carr to a broken fibula.  Carr has had his surgery and instead of projecting a 4-month R&R schedule, some are holding out hope that he could be back in time for the Super Bowl just 5 weeks after the injury and the surgery.  I do not think the Raiders will make it that far without Derek Carr under center but if they do, I surely hope that any decision on his part or on the part of the Raiders’ braintrust to put him in that game does not do long-term detriment to Derek Carr’s career.  I think he has the potential to be a special player…


The NCAA CFP Semi-Final Games:


(Sat Afternoon) Washington vs. Alabama – 14 (54):  The Total Line opened at 58 for this game several weeks ago, but it has seemed to settle in at this number for more than a week now.  These teams have a common quality opponent in USC and the temptation is to look at those two games and to conclude that Washington is simply overmatched here.  However, from the games I saw this year, USC was a far better team late in the season when they beat Washington than they were in September when Alabama waxed them.  I do not think Washington will win this game; if I did, I would take the Huskies on the Money Line at +475.  However, I do think Washington is good enough to stay within 2 TDs of Alabama on the assumption that Jake Browning does not throw a bunch of INTs to give Bama short fields to work with.  I’ll take Washington plus the points.


(Sat Evening) Ohio St. – 3 vs. Clemson (59):  My observation about Clemson is very simple:

  • They play up to or down to the level of their competition.

Their opposition here plays at a high level and so I expect Clemson to do the same.  Ohio St coaches and players have certainly heard some of the commentary that they are only in this playoff due to their institutional reputation since they did not even win their division within their conference this year.  That should give them a small shot of adrenaline.  I agree this will be a close game but I think Clemson is the better team.  I’ll take Clemson here plus the points.



The NFL Games:



Houston at Tennessee – 3 (40):  This game would have been meaningful had the Titans not imploded last week.  In the current state of affairs, this game is as meaningless as a forest fire in the Gobi Desert.  Presumably, the Texans will use the game to get new QB, Tom Savage, some expanded familiarity with their playbook.  Perhaps the Titans will play to attain the team’s first winning season since 2011.  The game is not a big deal.  I do not want to imply that I think Tom Savage is a polished NFL QB because he is not but I do wish to imply that I do not want to pick a team with little reason to play hard with Matt Cassel as the QB.  I’ll take the Texans and lay the points.


Buffalo – 3.5 at Jets (42):  The spread here opened at 5 points and dropped immediately to this level and has stayed there all week.  In a week of meaningless games, this one is the worst of the lot in my opinion and so it gets the Final Dog-Breath Game of the Week designation for the 2016 season.  No matter the outcome here, this has been a season of misery for both teams.  The Jets have looked to me like quitters for the past several games; and if my conclusion is even half correct, I see no reason for them to get excited about this final game.  I like the Bills to win and cover here – even on the road.


Baltimore at Cincy – 2 (41.5):  Back in August/September, this looked like it might be a critical game in the AFC playoff picture.  In reality, it is as meaningless as dust.  The Ravens lost out on playoff contention on a late TD by Antonio Brown last week; Cincy lost out on playoff contention about month ago on boneheadedness on the field.  I will turn this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the game to stay UNDER.


Giants at Washington – 7 (44):  The spread here opened the week at 5 points and has risen steadily to this level; in fact, you can find it at 8 points at one sportsbook this morning.  The Skins have something to play for; if they lose, they are out of the playoffs; if they win, they are in barring a tie in the Lions/Packers game.  The Giants are assured of a wild-card slot no matter what happens.  I like the Skins to win and cover here.


(Sun Nite) Green Bay – 3 at Detroit (49):  This is the Game of the Week not because these are the two best teams playing each other but because one of these teams is going to be the NFC North champion and the other will be at loose ends for the month of January.  NBC recognizes that this is the game of the week because they flexed it to the Sunday Nite time slot instead of putting the Cowboys in a national TV game yet again.  I like the Packers to win and cover here.


Jax at Indy – 4.5 (47):  The spread opened at 7 points and dropped to this level rather quickly.  I have no idea why anyone would be betting enough money on this game to move the line even a little bit.  This game is as meaningless as a political candidate’s promises.  Because I said I’d make a pick in all the games, I’ll take this game to go OVER.


Dallas at Philly – 3.5 (43):  The Cowboys are in the playoffs with the #1 seed in the NFC bracket; the Eagles are out.  The line favoring the Eagles by more than a field goal says that the oddsmakers – and the bettors to some extent – believe that the Cowboys will be resting some of their key players for at least part of this game.  I will make this a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip game and the coin says to take the game to go OVER.


Chicago at Minnesota – 5 (41):  This is a game to ignore.  The Bears aren’t any good; the Vikes folded their cards for the season at least a month ago.  I prefer the talent level of the Vikes and I like the fact that this game is in Minnesota so I’ll take them to win and cover here.  However, do not infer from that comment that I will pay much attention to the game other than the score.


Carolina at Tampa – 5 (46):  The spread opened at 3.5 points and has expanded all week long; you can find it at 6 points at one sportsbook this morning.  Neither team can be in the playoffs making this game as meaningless as the face of a corpse [hat tip to Joseph Conrad].  Either or both of these teams could show up at kickoff merely to go through the motions.  Purely a venue call, I’ll take the Bucs and lay the points.


Cleveland at Pittsburgh – 7 (43):  This spread opened at 12.5 points and plummeted when the Steelers let it be known that Ben Roethlisberger would have the day off.  Say hello to a quarterback face-off between Landry Jones and Cody Kessler.  Whoo-Hoo!  The Total Line opened at 45.5 and also dropped with that same announcement.  The Steelers will be dealing with playoff opponents down the line and the Browns are not of that caliber.  However, the Browns are coming off their first win of the Hue Jackson Era in Cleveland and might just show up with a smidgen of enthusiasm.  Again, only because I said I would make a pick in every game, I’ll take the Browns plus the points.


New Orleans at Atlanta – 7 (56):  The Falcons are the AFC South champs and the Saints are out of the playoffs.  There is a small measure of meaning in this game because the Falcons might get a first round bye in the playoffs or not depending on what happens here and in SF this week.  Big deal…  The most interesting thing about this game is the Total Line; the oddsmaker obviously sees this as a final game offensive showdown between two potent offenses and two less than potent defenses.  For no good reason, whatsoever, I’ll take the Saints plus that generous helping of points.


New England – 10 at Miami (44.5):  I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games.  This spread opened at 6 points and expanded to this level quickly.  It is at 10.5 points at one sportsbook this morning.  The Pats have incentive in this game; a win assures them home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.  The dolphins are locked into a wild card slot no matter what.  I shall invoke the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol for this inscrutable game and the coin says to take the Pats and lay the points.  The coin has spoken…


Arizona – 6.5 at LA (41):  I gave serious consideration to this game as the Dog-Breath Game of the Week but ceded that dubious honor elsewhere.  The Cards have been huge disappointments this year; the Rams have been just plain bad for most of the year.  This game is so meaningless that it nudges up to the boundary between meaninglessness and absurdity.  Venue call; I’ll take the Rams plus the points.


KC – 5.5 at San Diego (44.5):  The game means nothing to the Chargers; they could have packed their bags and taken a Caribbean cruise about a month ago.  For the Chiefs, this game has meaning.  Depending on the outcome here and the outcomes in Denver and in Miami, the Chiefs could be either the #2 seed (meaning a BYE week) or the #5 seed or the #6 seed in the AFC playoff bracket.  Trust me; it is not worth the keystrokes to go thru all the possibilities.  I like the Chiefs’ roster better than the Chargers’ roster and I prefer their motivation here.  I’ll take the Chiefs and lay the points – even on the road.


Seattle – 10 at SF (43):  I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games.  I’m sorry, but the Niners are a bad team at home as well as on the road.  I can’t even make this a venue call.  I know that the Seahawks’ offense in road games has tended to go dormant this year but the Niners’ defense is flat out awful – despite their win last week over the Rams.  I’ll take the Seahawks and lay the points.


Oakland at Denver – 1 (40):  The reason this is not the Game of the Week is that the Lions/Packers game can be fateful for both teams; in this game, only the Raiders can benefit or lose based on the outcome.  Nevertheless, this game should be “contentious”.  The Broncos’ defense ought to have sued the Broncos’ offense for non-support and/or nonfeasance about a month ago.  The Raiders’ offense needs to turn to the Raiders’ defense and say – ever so politely but firmly – that the offense has carried the load for the first 15 games this year and now it is time for the Raiders’ defense to double-clutch their collective asses into gear.  Remember, the Raiders can still be the #1 seed in the AFC playoff bracket if they win here and the Pats lose in Miami.  The Raiders can also lose the AFC West championship with a loss here and a Chiefs’ win in San Diego.  I think the tangible benefits for the Raiders are the better motivators here.  I like the Raiders plus the point. 


Happy New Year to everyone.  Next week’s writing schedule remains up in the air but Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, there will be Mythical Picks late next week.

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


Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 12/3/16


Last week was very profitable – mythically of course – for the NCAA selections.  I made 12 picks and the record for the week was 9-3-0.  Since the start of the 2016 season, the record for NCAA Mythical Picks is 106-88-0.

The Best Picks from last week were;

  • Air Force +9 against Boise St.  Air Force won straight up by 7 points.
  • Washington -6 against Washington St.  Washington won by 28 points.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

  • Georgia/Georgia Tech UNDER 49.  Total Score was 55.
  • Ohio St. -6.5 against Michigan.  Ohio St. won by only 3 in 2 OTs.

As we enter the final week of the college football season, I want to be sure that no one looks at the season record for picks and mistakenly believes that there is any great insight offered here.  Only a dumbass would use any information here as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on a real college football game this weekend.  How dumb would one need to be?


If an idea were to pop up into such a person’s mind it would be a very lonely idea indeed…


General Comments:


The Linfield College Wildcats’ football season ended last weekend with a loss to Mary Hardin-Baylor in the second round of the Division III football playoffs by a score of 27-10.  For the season, Linfield was 10-2 with both losses were to Mary Hardin-Baylor.  Nevertheless, congratulations to the Linfield team for extending the school record of consecutive winning seasons in football that started back in 1956.

The Eastern Washington Eagles play the Central Arkansas Bears in the Division 1-AA playoffs this week.  E. Washington had a BYE in the first round of the tournament; Central Arkansas is here thanks to a win over Illinois St. last week by a score of 31-24.  I have been following the statistical accomplishments of Cooper Kupp at E. Washington at the suggestion of Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times.  Since there are no stats from last week to report, let me review his career stats at E. Washington.  Remember, he is a wide receiver first and foremost:


Passing stats:  7 for 9 for 180 yards with 4 TDs and 0 INTs

Rushing stats:  15 carries for 71 yards and 1 TD.

Punt returns:  25 returns for 426 yards and 3 TDs

Kick returns:  4 returns for 71 yards

Receiving stats:  402 catches for 6061 yards and 68 TDs


The hiring of Tom Herman by Texas to be their next head football coach has created a bit of news.  I am not talking about the whining that came from someone on the University of Houston Board of Regents; that has all of the gravitas of a leaf blowing in the winter wind.  More interesting to me are the economics involved here.

If the reporting is correct, Texas still owes Charlie Strong $11M despite the fact that he will not be coaching at Texas next year or the year after that or …  If all of the assistant coaches are also terminated – probably a good “football move” if not a good “economic move” – the university would be on the hook for another $7M.  So, the cost of “cleaning house” is $18M which indicates to me that the folks who rushed out to hire Charlie Strong a few years ago when he was the hot young-and-upcoming coach out there might have dabbled in what Alan Greenspan labeled “irrational exuberance”.  Oh, but the economic revelations from this story are not over with that…

Reports say that Tom Herman will make a base salary of $6M a year under the contract that he got from Texas.  Let me be clear; I have no idea if that number is accurate; I have no access to the contract or to anyone who was involved in negotiating that contract.  However, I want to assume for now that he will indeed make $6M per year simply because I want to put that number in context.

On 27 October 2016, USA Today published a list of the “Pay for FBS Coaches” and that listing showed for every school the base pay and the total compensation for all 128 coaches in what I continue to call Division 1-A football.  The listing broke out the compensation as “School Pay” (obvious what that means), “Other Pay” (from other athletic related activities) and “Total Pay”.  The listing also reports the maximum bonus that each coach might earn; I would like to ignore those bonuses because there is no way to know how they are structured in all of the 128 deals here.  I want to focus simply on “Total Pay” – the sum of “School Pay” and “Other Pay”.

Tom Herman will reportedly make $6M per year in “Total Pay”.  I want to assume that is what he will take down next year to coach the Texas Longhorns to put that number in perspective.  Where might $6M in “Total Pay” rank among the 128 coaches on the USA Today list?

  1. Jim Harbaugh – Michigan – $9,004,000
  2. Nick Saban – Alabama – $6,939,395
  3. Urban Meyer – Ohio St. – $6,094,800
  4. Tom Herman – Texas – $6,000,000

That is way up there where the air is rare for a coach who has had exactly 2 years of head coaching experience in a “non-Power 5 conference.”  Indeed, he made Houston into a much better team than it had been previously; his record there was 22-4 and Houston won the AAC Championship in 2015 – Herman’s first year on the job.

I think that sort of pay scale for football coaches says two things:

  1. There is a lot of money pouring into schools and conferences from successful college football teams justifying – to some degree – the sorts of salaries that top-shelf coaches can demand and can get.  When you juxtapose the recognition of the magnitude of those revenue streams, it becomes a bit annoying to recognize also that the US Tax Code allows schools and conferences to be categorized as “non-profits”.
  2. Many people like to worship at the altar of “pay for performance”.  In the situation at Texas – now and with Charlie Strong a couple of years ago – the primary issue certainly appears to be “pay for potential performance” as opposed to “pay for actual performance”.

Good luck to Tom Herman in his Texas endeavors.  I have no reason to root for or against him in those endeavors.  I would note however, that if the big-money boosters there are willing to eat $18M to “clean house” this year, they may just be willing to do it again in a couple of years if the results are not up to the “potential performance” that they think they are buying with this deal.

In other coaching news, LSU hired Ed Orgeron on a permanent basis.  But that raises a question.  When Mike MacIntyre took over at Colorado, the team was bordering on a laughingstock and was completely outclassed in the PAC-12.  This year, Colorado is the PAC-12 South Division champ and will play Washington this weekend for the PAC-12 championship.  In the past 3 years, Colorado won a total of 10 games; this year they are 10-2 with the 2 losses coming on the road at Michigan and at USC.  So, why is Mike MacIntyre not one of the “hot coaching prospects” this year but Tom Herman and Ed Orgeron and Jeff Tedford are?

About 50 years ago, Simon and Garfunkel sang:

“Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?

Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you …”

Based on last week’s college football results, they might think about updating those lyrics to something along these lines:

“Where have you gone football defenses?

Have you done any tackling drills this year …?”

I want to review a few game scores and present some of the stats from those games to provide some reason for Simon and Garfunkel to think about new lyrics.

Navy beat SMU 75-31.  SMU led 24-21 late in the first half; then, Navy scored 47 unanswered points.  Total offense for both teams was 1051 yards; Navy ran the ball for 496 yards.

Middle Tennessee St. beat Florida Atlantic 77-56.  Total offense combined in this game was 1346 yards; the combined rushing yardage was 794 yards; the teams combined to make 63 first downs in the game.

New Mexico beat Wyoming 53-35.  Total offense combined in this game was 1139 yards; New Mexico ran the ball 46 times for 568 yards (a mere 12.3 yards per carry); the teams combined to be 14 for 22 on third down conversions.

Memphis beat Houston 48-44 in what was not a great send-off for Tom Herman.  Total offense in this game was 1243 yards; the defenses allowed 31 points combined in the 4th quarter of this close game.

Texas Tech beat Baylor 54-35.  Total offense combined in this game was 1310 yards; the two starting QBs threw for 9 TDs with only 1 INT in the game.

Arizona beat Arizona St 56-35.  Arizona ran the ball for 511 yards on only 46 carries (a mere 11.1 yards per carry).

LSU beat Texas A&M 54-39.  Total combined offense in this game was 1109 yards; the defenses combined to allow 42 points in the fourth quarter of the game.

Considering all of those games, they pale in comparison to the ACC game between Pitt and Syracuse.  Pitt won this monument to defensive ineptitude – or defensive apathy if that makes you feel better – by a score of 76-61.  There were 20 touchdowns scored in this game; that is an average of 1 TD every 3 minutes of playing time.  The total score (137 points) is the most ever scored in a Division 1-A football game; it is more than will be scored in more than a few Division 1-A basketball games this winter.  Pitt only had the ball for 24 minutes and 18 seconds in this game; that means they scored at a rate of 1 point every 19.2 seconds.  The teams saved plenty of fireworks for the end of the game; in the fourth quarter, the teams scored a combined 47 points.

There is a great irony in the Pitt/Syracuse result.  Pitt’s coach, Pat Narduzzi, got the job at Pitt based on his consistent success as a coordinator at Michigan State.  Narduzzi was the defensive coordinator there…

There was one game last week that was a bastion of defensive football.  Ohio beat Akron 9-3 giving Ohio an entry into the MAC Championship game against undefeated W. Michigan.  In the Ohio/Akron game last week, the two teams combined for 563 yards total offense.  [Note that is less yardage than New Mexico rushed for in the New Mexico/Wyoming game.]  Akron was held to 95 yards rushing on 32 attempts.  All the scoring in the game came on field goals.

With Boise St. losing to Air Force last week, that probably eliminates Boise St. from getting the reserved slot in a New Year’s Day bowl game for the “highest ranked conference champion from a non-Power 5 conference”.  Boise St. is now 10-2 and it appears that the competition for that slot comes down to:

  1. Navy: The Middies are 9-2 and will play Temple for the AAC Championship this week and then will play Army next week.  The Middies have scored 60+ points in each of the last 2 weeks and there could be an edge for them that is not reflected by on-the-field play.  Navy is a team with a wide-following and it “travels well”.  The bowl organizers want a “good team” on the field but more importantly, they want a team that will bring lots of fans to the game and to the host city for a day or so before and after the game.  Navy can and will do that…
  2. W. Michigan: The Broncos are 12-0 and will play Ohio in the MAC Championship Game tonight. As of this morning, W. Michigan is ranked 2 notches above Navy.  Rankings are purely subjective and there can certainly be “non-football influences” placed on the anonymous voters.  It will be interesting to see what happens if W. Michigan wins tonight and Navy wins out … By the way, when W. Michigan hired PJ Fleck, his first team went 1-11; that was 3 years ago and now they are 12-0.  According to USA today, PJ Fleck’s “Total Pay” is $820,360.


The Ponderosa Games:


Last week, there were 8 Ponderosa Games.  The record for favorites covering in those 8 games was 3-5-0.  For the season to date, the record for favorites covering in Ponderosa Games is 45-50-1.

Clemson, Troy and W. Kentucky covered.

Louisville, K-State, Pitt, Stanford and Tulsa did not cover.  Louisville lost straight up as a 26.5-point favorite.

Normally, there are no Ponderosa Games in the final week of the college football regular season because the final week schedule is dominated by Conference Championship Games.  That is not the case this year.


Alabama – 24 vs. Florida (41):  The SEC Championship Game between Alabama and Florida is a Ponderosa Game.  I never recall that happening since the origin of the SEC Championship Game.  The spread opened the week at 21.5 points and has climbed to this level steadily.  I do not normally make selections in Ponderosa Games but since this is the SEC Championship Game, I want to make a pick.  The Florida offense is over-matched going against the Alabama defense.  Without forcing a few turnovers or scoring in the return game, I would not be surprised to see Florida struggle to score 6 points.  Meanwhile, the Florida defense is solid; yes, they gave up points to Florida St. last week, but the defense has carried the Gators this far.  I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.


Arkansas St. – 24 at Texas St. (54): When Texas St. loses – as it has done 9 times already this season – it tends to lose by wide margins.  That is a major reason why Texas St. is in the SHOE Tournament for 2016 (see below).


The SHOE Teams:


Here is the final seeding of the 8 worst teams in the country.  Remember, the idea behind the SHOE Tournament is to determine on-the-field which team is the worst team of the year.  The acronym, SHOE, stands for Steaming Heap Of Excrement.  The teams would nominally play each other in standard seeding format but the loser has to play on and to continue to abide its own stench; victors can go home and pretend this season never happened.  After 3 rounds, the loser of the final game would be the SHOE Team for 2016.


#1 Seed:  Fresno St.  1-11 and that win was over a Division 1-AA school

#2 Seed:  Texas St.  2-9 with a game to play.  8 losses to date are by 20+ points.

#3 Seed:  UMass 2-10 Since 1 Oct they have lost 7 games and gave up 30+ points each time.

#4 Seed:  Rutgers 2-10  Lost 4 shutouts by a combined score of 224-0.

#5 Seed:  Buffalo  2-10  One of those losses was to a Division 1-AA school (Albany)

#6 Seed:  UConn 3-9  They lost their last 4 games by a combined 136-16.

#7 Seed:  Rice 3-9  None of the wins is even marginally impressive

#8 Seed:  Virginia 2-10 Twas a bleak first season for coach Bronco Mendenhall at UVa.


Games of Interest:


(Fri Nite) Ohio vs. W. Michigan – 17 (59) [Game is in Detroit]:  The spread opened at 19 points and has been dropping slowly all week long.  This game is for the MAC Championship.  Yes, Ohio held Akron to 3 points last week (see above) and did so because the Ohio defense is a good one at the level of MAC competition.  W. Michigan has dominated MAC opponents this year; only one conference game was as close as 14 points.  I like W. Michigan to win and cover here.


(Fri Nite) Colorado vs. Washington – 8.5 (57.5) [Game is in Santa Clara, CA]:  This is for the PAC-12 Championship.  The Total Line opened at 60 points and has been dropping slowly all week.  I think this is going to be a defensive game so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.


Baylor at W. Virginia – 16.5 (68):  Baylor has lost 5 games in a row and W. Virginia is ranked #14 this week in the AP poll.  I think this is a giant mismatch and I do not think Baylor is going to show up and play with any vigor.  Their 6-0 start to the season is a dim memory.  I like W. Virginia to win and cover.


Oklahoma St. at Oklahoma – 11 (77):  This will decide the Big 12 Champion for 2016 which means something in terms of what bowl game these teams will play in.  Neither one is going to be in the CFP.  Both teams bring offensive weapons to this game but I don’t think this will be a shoot-out because this is an intense rivalry and because this game determines the conference champion.  I like this game to stay UNDER.


Temple at Navy – 2.5 (61):  This is for the AAC Championship.  Navy has scored more than 60 points by itself in each of its last two games but the Temple defense looks to be good enough to prevent that sort of outburst.  The game is in Annapolis and that is a good home field advantage for Navy.  I like Navy to win and cover.  It is worth noting that Temple is 11-1 against the spread this year so I am definitely bucking a trend here…


Va Tech vs. Clemson – 10 (58) [Game is in Orlando, FL]:  Clemson is a Top 10 team to be sure and perhaps a CFP participant.  I can’t get past the fact that Va Tech is in this game because other teams in their Division found ways to crash and burn at points during this season – – eyes staring in the direction of Chapel Hill for example.  I’ll take Clemson to win and cover here.


Penn State vs Wisconsin – 3 (47) [Game is in Indy]:  The winner here is the Big 10 Champion.  Note that both Ohio St. and Michigan are sitting home watching football on TV this weekend.  This is purely a hunch.  Saquon Barkley – RB, Penn State – is a very under-appreciated player and I think he is probably the best skill-position player on the field.  I think he can be the difference here so I’ll take Penn State plus the points.


Finally, just for what it is worth…  I know what the CFP polls say and I have heard the various arguments about who should be in the Top 4 and who should be out.  Here is the way I would rank teams on the basis of who looks to be the strongest teams at this point in the season:


#1 Seed:  Alabama

#2 Seed:  Michigan – they outplayed Ohio St. and lost to the zebras

#3 Seed:  USC

#4 Seed:  Clemson or Washington – flip a coin between these two.


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



Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 11/26/16


Last week’s NCAA Mythical Picks were pretty boring – continuing a trend of monotony for the last 3 weeks.  Last week the record was 6-6-0 – hardly very exciting.  Over the past 3 weeks, the record has been 20-20-0 – hardly very exciting.  For the entire season, the cumulative record is just a tad less boring standing at 97-85-0.

The Best Picks from last week were:

  • Iowa St. +3 against Texas Tech.  Iowa St won the game 66-10.
  • Michigan St. +22 against Ohio St.  Ohio St. won by 1 point.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

  • Utah – 14 against Oregon.  Utah lost the game straight up.
  • Oklahoma St/TCU OVER 70.5.  Total Score was 37.

Despite the ennui that has set in over the past 3 weeks regarding these picks, I shall soldier on.  Let me take a moment, however, to remind anyone and everyone reading these picks that one would have to be extremely stupid to use any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real college football game involving real money.  How stupid?

You might name your cell phone Titanic because it is always syncing.


General Comments:


The Linfield College Wildcats won their first-round game in the Division III national playoffs beating Hardin-Simmons 24-10 in Abilene, TX.  That makes the Linfield record for the season 9-1 and this week they get to avenge that single loss.  This week, the Wildcats go back to Texas – this time to Belton, TX – to take on Mary Hardin-Baylor.  When those teams met back on September 17th in that same stadium, Mary Hardin-Baylor prevailed comfortably by a score of 66-27.  Here is a perspective on that score:

  • Mary Hardin-Baylor scored 66 points in 60 minutes (1.1 points per minute).
  • In the other 9 games (540 minutes), Linfield allowed a total of 109 points (0.2 points per minute).

Go Wildcats!

The Eagles of Eastern Washington concluded their regular season at 10-1 with a win over Portland St. last weekend.  The Eagles have a BYE into the second round of the Division 1-AA playoffs as the second seed in the 24-team tournament.  Next week they will meet the winner of the Central Arkansas/Illinois St. game this week.

Eagles’ WR, Cooper Kupp had a mundane game as compared to some of his other performances.  He caught 6 passes for 67 Yards.  That’s it; no more and no less…  Go Eagles!

Western Michigan extended its record to 11-0 last week with a 38-0 beatdown of the Buffalo Bulls.  I am not trying to suggest that W. Michigan belongs in the CFP because I think they do not based on the strength of their schedule.  However, I doubt that any team in the middle echelon of one of the “power five” conferences would want to play them this week or next week for a winner-takes-all purse from the game…

The PAC-12 probably had the most interesting action last week.  Colorado beat Washington St putting Colorado in control in the PAC-12 South race.  The Buffaloes have only 1 conference loss; if they win this week against Utah, they will be the PAC-12 South representative in the PAC-12 championship game because USC has 2 conference losses.  Colorado is 9-2 for the year and its two losses are respectable:

  • They lost to Michigan in Ann Arbor but led in the game.
  • They lost to USC once the Trojans got themselves in a groove.

Most of the attention in the PAC-12 this year has been focused on Washington and USC; I think Colorado’s season has been underappreciated – particularly considering their 9 wins this year compared to their 10 wins in the past three seasons combined.  The CFP Selection Committee will not consider this stat, but there are lots of Colorado boosters and lots of football fans of the “Las Vegas variety” who are impressed by the fact that:

  • Colorado is 10-1 against the spread this year.

Arizona lost to Oregon St. last week 42-17 in a game that had no meaning whatsoever in terms of the PAC-12.  However, those fans of the “Las Vegas variety” took note of the score because Arizona is the mirror-image of Colorado in two ways:

  1. Arizona is at the bottom of the PAC-12 standings not at the top
  2. Arizona is 1-10 against the spread this year.

Utah lost in the final couple of seconds last week to Oregon is a huge upset.  The Utes were 14-point favorites and I took them in last week’s Mythical Picks thinking they would run a way and hide from Oregon.  That loss eliminates Utah from the possibility of playing for the PAC-12 championship and opens the door for USC – should Colorado lose this week.

USC handled UCLA 36-14.  The story of this game is contained in these two stats:

  1. USC total offense = 537 yards
  2. UCLA total offense = 266 yards

Down in SEC country, Florida beat LSU to win the SEC East and give itself a date to play Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.  Florida won by 6 points and had to put up a goal line stand in the final seconds to preserve the win.  LSU had 2 tries from the 1 yardline and could not get in at the end of the game.  LSU dominated the stat sheet:

  • LSU total offense = 423 yards
  • Florida total offense = 270 yards

However, LSU was inefficient in the Red Zone.  Twice they had the ball inside the Florida 10 yardline and came away totally dry; on a third visit, LSU had the ball first and goal at the 3 yardline and had to settle for a field goal.  Given the final score was 16-10, that Red Zone inefficiency lost the game for the Tigers in Baton Rouge.

In the Big 10, Ohio St. escaped an upset by Michigan St. by a score of 17-16.  Michigan St. tried and failed to convert a 2-point try with less than 5 minutes left in the game.  That would have provided the margin of victory for the Spartans but Ohio St. held.

Penn St. kept itself on track to be the Big 10 East representative in the Big 10 Championship Game beating Rutgers 39-0.  If Penn St. wins this week against Michigan St. and if Ohio St. beats Michigan, Penn St. goes to that playoff game because it beat Ohio St. head-to-head.  If that were to happen, it would give the CFP Selection Committee agita.

In the Big 12, Oklahoma St. beat TCU 31-6.  The upshot here is that the final regular season game between Oklahoma and Oklahoma St. in Norman, OK will be a big deal.  The championship of the Big 12 will be decided there.

Oklahoma put itself in that position by continuing to lead the Big 12 with an easy win over West Virginia 56-28.  Oklahoma led 28-0 in the first half and coasted home.  West Virginia turned the ball over so many times, it might appear that they put that sort of thing into their game plan:

  • They fumbled a punt away.
  • Twice they lost fumbles inside the Oklahoma 10 yardline in the 2nd quarter.
  • They threw a Pick Six.

K-State beat Baylor 42-21.  This makes 4 losses in a row for Baylor even though they led this game 14-7 at halftime.  Then the air went out of the Baylor balloon…

In the most surprising result of the week in Big 12 games, Iowa St. beat Texas Tech 66-10.  That is not a typo; that was really the score.  At halftime Iowa St. led 45-3.  Tech entered the game ranked third in the country in points per game (46) and had games where their passing offense was north of 500 yards.  Against Iowa St. – a team that was on the SHOE watchlist – the Tech total offense was only 306 yards and they were 4 for 14 on third down conversions.

This week Texas Tech and Baylor meet.  The ultimate question for that game is:


Which team is on the steeper downhill slope about now?


The Ponderosa Games:


Last week we had 10 Ponderosa Games and the record for favorites covering in those games was 4-6-0.  For the season, the record for favorites covering in Ponderosa games stands at 42-45-1.

BYU, Penn St., Western Michigan and Wisconsin covered.

Appalachian St., Boise St., Michigan, Texas, Texas A&M and Washington did not cover.

This week we have 8 Ponderosa Games:


(Fri Nite) Cincinnati at Tulsa – 24 (63):  There are about a dozen games on tap for the day after Thanksgiving.  Surely you can find a more interesting one than this…


Carolina at Clemson – 24 (50): A big rivalry game known as the Palmetto Bowl. Clemson is one of the best teams in the country – probably Top 5; South Carolina is a mediocre team – probably Top 75…


Syracuse at Pitt – 24.5 (67):  This game has the potential to be a high-scoring shootout.  Neither defense is memorable…


Kansas at Kansas St. – 26.5 (54):  If Kansas pulls another straight-up win as a Ponderosa underdog this week, someone needs to analyze their sideline Gatorade…


Troy – 27 at Texas St. (59):  Why is this game interesting?  It surely is not important but I cannot even find a reason to say it is interesting.  Oh, it is a Sun Belt Conference game.  Big deal…


W. Kentucky – 24 at Marshall (65): This is a C-USA game. Other than that, it is a “Who Cares Game”…


Rice at Stanford – 36 (54):  High SAT scores on the field and in the stands for this contest …


Kentucky at Louisville – 26.5 (75):  These schools are far more equally matched in basketball than they are in football…


The SHOE Teams:


Kansas has to come off the list for this week after winning as a Ponderosa underdog over Texas last week.  A blowout loss at Kansas St. this week might put them back on the list, but for a week they get a reprieve.

Here are by 8 SHOE Tournament candidates as of this week:


Bowling Green: 3-8 against MAC competition

Buffalo: 2-9 against MAC competition and they lost to Kent St. by 24 points

Fresno St.:  Record is 1-10.  Enough said…

Kent St.: 3-8 against MAC competition and they lost to Bowling Green by 35 last week

Rutgers: 2-9 record and 4 shutouts where they lost by a total of 224-0.

UMass: 2-9 record and 7 losses by double digits

UTEP:  3-8 and lost to Rice last week by 20 points.


Here are 6 teams that are still bad enough that I cannot be sure they will not sink to the level of a SHOE Tournament invitation:


  1. Arizona
  2. Kansas
  3. New Mexico St.
  4. Rice
  5. Texas St.
  6. Virginia


Games of Interest:


(Fri afternoon) Buffalo at Bowling Green – 13.5 (59):  Two SHOE Teams in a pillow-fight of a football game…


(Fri evening) Toledo at W. Michigan – 9 (69):  W. Michigan tries to extend its record to 12-0 for the season.  Toledo is 9-2.  The winner advances to the MAC Championship Game.  There should be lots of offense in this game; both teams score around 40 points per game on average.  Just for fun, I’ll take the game to go OVER.


(Fri afternoon) TCU at Texas – 3 (69):  Can a win for the Longhorns here save Charlie Strong’s job?  How big would that win have to be?  No pick in this game but it might have an interesting outcome.


(Fri afternoon) Boise St. – 9 at Air Force (64):  These teams bring a combined 18-4 record to this game.  Boise St. still hopes to be the “Non-Power Five” invitee to the Cotton Bowl game.  Air Force is also going to a bowl game but not that one.  Make this a venue call, I’ll take Air Force plus the points.


(Fri afternoon) Washington – 6 at Washington St (64.5):  This is the Apple Cup game; it is a major rivalry game in the great Northwest.  On top of the rivalry this year, the winner of this game will be the PAC-12 North champion and will play either Colorado or USC in the PAC-12 Championship game.  Washington’s loss for the year has been to a very good USC team.  Washington St. lost to a very good Colorado team and to Boise St.  I can deal with those…  The problem is that it lost to E. Washington – a very good Division 1-AA team but nonetheless a 1-AA team.  I like Washington to win and cover here.


(Fri evening) Texas Tech at Baylor – 5 (85):  Both teams probably cannot wait for this season to end.  This game is interesting only because it could represent a train wreck for one – or both – teams…


(Fri evening) Arizona St. – 3 at Arizona (68):  A big rivalry game between a mediocre Arizona St team and a bad Arizona team.  A blowout loss for Arizona could put them on the SHOE list…


Rutgers at Maryland – 13.5 (52):    Maryland needs a win to be bowl-eligible.  This game is at home against a SHOE Team.  If Maryland loses this game, the Big 10 should kick them out of the conference.  Of course, the Big 10 should kick Rutgers out no matter what the outcome here.


W Virginia – 7 at Iowa St. (57):  Is the Iowa St that clobbered Texas Tech last week the team that is going to show up here?  Can they catch lightening in a bottle again?  I don’t think so.  I like West Virginia to win and cover here.


Michigan St. at Penn St – 12.5 (54.5):  The question here is if Penn St. can keep its Big 10 Championship Game hopes alive.  If they win the Big 10 East, it will be fun and games for the CFP Selection Committee…


Minnesota at Wisconsin – 15 (44):  A Wisconsin win will assure that they will be in the big 10 Championship Game to take on whoever comes out of the East division.


Georgia Tech at Georgia – 4 (49):  A big rivalry game here…  These teams prefer to run the ball at one another meaning the clock should be running a lot.  I like this game to stay UNDER.


Virginia at Va Tech – 18 (54.5):  A big rivalry game here …  Even so, I am surprised that this line is so low.  Virginia is not a good team; they could be a SHOE Team.  Va Tech is not a great team but they are 8-3.  I like Va Tech to win and cover at home.


Auburn at Alabama – 17 (45.5):  A humongous rivalry game here …  Auburn lives and dies with its run game.  I don’t think they can do much business running the ball against Alabama.  I’ll take Alabama to win and cover at home.


Oregon – 3 at Oregon St. (71.5):  A big rivalry game here; they call it the Civil War.  I don’t think either team is any good so it is interesting only because of its rivalry status.


Utah at Colorado – 10 (54):  As noted above, a win for Colorado puts them in the PAC -12 championship Game against the winner of Washington/Washington St.  Utah took themselves out of contention for that slot with its loss to Oregon last week.  I think this will be a defensive game so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.


Florida at Florida St. – 7.5 (45.5):  A big rivalry game here…  Given the Florida St. defense and the lack of an offense by Florida, I can see the Gators putting 10-13 points on the scoreboard.  The Florida defense is very good so I do not see Florida St. running wild but they should be able to muster 20 points.  I’ll take Florida St. and lay the points.


Tennessee – 7.5 at Vandy (54):  A big rivalry game here …  Tennessee has been disappointing this year after conjuring up enough hype to have folks think they were a top 10 team early on and might just challenge Alabama for SEC dominance.  Yeah, right!  The Tennessee defense ranks 98th in the country giving up 446.7 yards per game.  Vandy gives up 401.3.  This is a rivalry game where the team at home has the better defense and the home field advantage AND it is getting more than a TD’s worth of points.  I like Vandy plus the points at home.


Michigan at Ohio St – 6.5 (45.5):  A humongous rivalry game here … Michigan will have to play spectacular defense here to win this game; their starting QB for most of the year will not suit up for the game.  I do not think they can do that for 60 minutes against Ohio St in Columbus.  I like Ohio St. to win and cover.


Notre Dame at USC – 17.5 (57):  A big rivalry game here …  Normally, the spread for this game does not get into “three possession territory”.  However, this Notre Dame team has been anything but dominant this year beating only the likes of Nevada, Syracuse, Army and Miami (FL).  Meanwhile, USC is playing top-shelf football at the end of this season; they lost 3 early games but have not lost since September.  Purely a hunch here; I’ll take Notre Dame plus the points.

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



Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 11/19/16


Last week was a minor speedbump for Mythical Picks.  I made 13 selections and the record for the week was 6-7-0.  That leaves the cumulative season record standing at 91-79-0.

The Best Picks from last week were:

  • USC +9 against Washington.  USC won straight up by 13 points.
  • Georgia +10.5 against Auburn.  Georgia won straight up by 6 points.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

  • Va Tech -10 against Ga Tech.  Va Tech lost the game by 10 points.
  • Texas -2 against W. Virginia.  Texas lost straight up.

No one ought to use any information here as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on a real NCAA football game this weekend.  Looking at last week’s results should make the folly of doing anything like that plain and obvious.  However, should anyone need convincing on that point, here is how stupid you would need be to do something like that:

You think a Roman Numeral is a number that cannot stand still.


General Comments:


The Linfield College Wildcats finished their regular season last week with a 27-10 victory at home over Pacific Lutheran.  The Wildcats record for the year is 8-1; they won the Northwest Conference going undefeated in conference games; they are going to be participants in the Division III football playoffs.  This week the team travels to Abilene, TX to take on Hardin-Simmons.  Interestingly, Hardin-Simmons has only 1 loss this year too and both Linfield and Hardin-Simmons lost to the same team – Mary Hardin-Baylor.  Go Wildcats!

The Eastern Washington Eagles also won last week defeating Idaho State 48-17.  That gives the Eagles a 9-1 record for the season with one game remaining before the Division 1-AA playoffs begin.  This week, the team visits Portland State.  The Eagles are scoring an average of 45.9 points per game this year.

Eagles’ WR, Cooper Kupp had another “versatile day” last week:

  • He caught 7 passes for 70 yards.
  • He ran the ball twice for 3 yards and 1 TD.
  • He was 1 for 1 in passing for 21 yards.
  • He returned a punt for 76 yards and a TD.

Just another day at the office…

After the first week of the college football season this year, Houston had upset then #3 ranked Oklahoma.  I – and others – thought an undefeated Houston team might crash the CFP events after the season was over and looked ahead to last night when Houston met Louisville.  It appeared to be the game on the Houston schedule that could trip them up.  A loss to Navy and then an inexplicable loss to SMU took Houston out of the running for any sort of consideration for the CFP and last night’s game with Louisville lost a lot of its glamor.

Last night is an example of why God inspired someone to invent the DVR.  I was able to watch the Saints/Panthers game and record the Houston/Louisville game at the same time.  Then I was able to watch the college game without ads or replay stoppages after the NFL game.  Life is good…

Houston demolished Louisville 36-10 and the domination was the Houston defense shutting down the vaunted Louisville offense and forcing turnovers.  Louisville’s net offense for the game was 313 yards and Houston recorded 11 – that is ELEVEN – sacks in the game.  Louisville came out of this week’s CFP Selection Committee deliberations ranked #5.  With Michigan and Ohio State in the Top 4 slated to play one another down the line, Louisville was “next in line” for an invitation.  After watching the way Louisville was rolled last night, I do not see any way for Louisville to make the playoffs.  That game was supposed to have the potential to welcome Houston as an outsider into the playoffs; what happened was that the game dismissed Louisville from playoff consideration.

At the upper echelon of college football, the CFP Selection Committee had to deal with three of its previous 4 top ranked teams losing last week.  Washington dropped out of the Top 4 and Ohio State jumped into the Top 4.  As of this moment here are the rankings:

  1. Alabama
  2. Ohio State
  3. Michigan
  4. Clemson

That order is highly unlikely to prevail to the end of the season since there is a game between Ohio State and Michigan still on the dance card.  Of course, one team could prevail by a point in a game that was tight from start to finish and that might leave things as they are – – but that is not likely.  So, some change is to be expected.  However, that is not the most interesting thing about these rankings from my point of view.

In previous years, the CFP Selection Committee has put a lot of weight on teams that win their conference championship; and to my mind, that is a good thing.  However, given the situation in hand, it is possible that neither Ohio State nor Michigan will make it to the Big 10 Championship Game let alone be the conference champion.  Let me explain:

  • If Penn State wins out (the final 2 games are against Rutgers and Michigan St. both of whom are at the bottom of the Big 10 standings), Penn State would finish the season with a conference record of 8-1 in the East Division.
  • If Ohio State beats Michigan St. this week and then beats Michigan, Ohio State will also have a conference record of 8-1 in the East Division.  However, Ohio State will not be in the conference championship game because its one loss was to Penn State.
  • If Ohio State beats Michigan, then Michigan will have 2 losses in conference and will not be in the conference championship discussion.

In that scenario, half of the current Top 4 will not win its division within its conference let alone the conference championship.  Holy conundrum, Batman!

A couple of weeks ago, I pointed out that a 3-way tie could happen in the Big-10 East Division but Michigan’s loss to Iowa last week makes that situation infinitesimally probable.  I mention it here not to go through how it might happen – or to suggest that I think it might happen.  Rather, a couple of weeks ago, I said that I did not know how the Big 10 would resolve such a 3-way tie and that I was too lazy to go and find that information.  Naturally, the reader from Houston who is the maven on sports stats and history provided me with the answer.  Let me take this opportunity to thank him for the information and to outline it here for everyone’s edification:


If the three teams are tied and are 1-1 against each other, then the following steps are used until a determination is made.  If only two teams remain tied after any step, the winner of the game between the two tied teams is the winner:

The records of the three tied teams will be compared within their division.

The records of the three teams will be compared against the next highest placed teams in their division in order of finish (4, 5, 6, and 7).

The records of the three teams will be compared against all common conference opponents.

The team with the best overall winning percentage [excluding FCS games] shall be the winner.

Finally, they draw straws to determine the winner.


If I were making the rules, I would modify this so that when you get to “Step 5” above, the school Athletic Directors would play Rock-Paper-Scissors in a round-robin format to determine the winner.  You could televise that on the Big 10 Network.

Enough about the CFP rankings and related matters; things will sort themselves out over the next couple of weeks.  In on-field results last week, Notre Dame beat Army convincingly 44-6; this was Notre Dame’s 15th consecutive win over Army.  The Irish have to win out (against Va Tech and then USC) to get to 6 wins for the year and eligibility for a minor bowl game.  I wonder if Notre Dame would “stoop to” accepting an invitation to play a “Sun Belt opponent” in a game with no tradition or import.  Given their schedule, I do not think Notre Dame will have to worry about such things.  Army still needs at least one more win to be bowl-eligible; if they get an invitation, they will take it.

Michigan beat Kent St. 37-21 in MAC action last week. This is interesting because W. Michigan and Alabama are the only two undefeated teams in Division 1-A football.  In this game, Kent St. took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter but then W. Michigan put the clamps on.  The W. Michigan defense held Kent St to 293 yards’ offense for the game; meanwhile, the W. Michigan offense gained 329 yards running the ball.  I am not trying to suggest that W. Michigan belongs in the CFP Top 4 or that the two undefeated teams – Alabama and W. Michigan – should play one another.  However, W. Michigan is 10-0 and after beating Northwestern by a single point in Week 1, their smallest margin of victory since then has been 14 points.

Idaho beat Texas St. 47-14 last week.  Idaho won its 6th game of the year making it bowl-eligible and that is a tad ironic.  Idaho is being kicked out of the Sun Belt Conference this year – along with New Mexico State – and the speculation was that Idaho would drop down from Division 1-A football to Division 1-AA football.  Division 1-AA does not do bowl games; those events are solely the province of Division 1-A schools.  Therefore, the possibility exists for Idaho to play its final Division 1-A game as a bowl game before it drops to a level where bowl games do not exist.

In games from last week with SHOE Tournament implications:

  • FAU beat UTEP 35-31.  Both teams are now 3-7
  • Rice beat UNC-Charlotte 22-21.  Rice is 2-8 and it just beat a 4-win team. Hmmm…
  • La-Monroe beat Georgia St. 37-21.  Georgia St. is now 2-8.

Starting in the ACC this week, Miami (FL) beat Virginia 34-14 last week.  The game was about as lopsided as the score would lead you to believe.  Virginia’s record this year now stands at 2-8.  I am tempted to put Virginia on the SHOE watchlist but the two wins are over Duke and over C. Michigan – a team with 6 wins already this year.  Verry interesting …

Ga Tech beat Va Tech 30-20 last week.  Basically, Ga Tech just ran the ball and ran the ball and then ran the ball some more.  The Yellow Jackets gained 310 yards on 56 carries for the game; the Yellow Jackets’ passing game had this stat line:

  • 2 for 7 for 34 yards

Had Va Tech won, they would have guaranteed their slot in the ACC Championship Game but 4 turnovers and a missed chip shot field goal postponed that situation.

Duke beat UNC 28-27 last week.  The Blue Devils could still gain bowl-eligibility if they win out over the next two weeks.  UNC had a shot at repeating as ACC Coastal Division Champ this year but they needed to win out and have Va Tech lose a game.  Tech obliged but the Tar Heels did not keep up their end of the bargain.  UNC had an early 14-0 lead but could not seal the deal…

There were some shocking ACC results from last week but none was as big a surprise as Pitt beating Clemson 43-42.  Two weeks ago, I suggested some possible additions to the English language building on the relatively common jargon of “Clemsoning” which has come to mean Clemson losing a game to an inferior team for no good and discernable reason.  Here is a link to that commentary.

It is not as if Clemson just had a bad day here.  DeShaun Watson threw for 580 yards and 3 TDs.  He also threw 3 INTs and one of them came in the 4th quarter with Clemson leading 42-34.  Pitt got a TD from that turnover but missed on a 2-point conversion.  Pitt then had one more possession and turned into a field goal by Chris Blewitt with 6 seconds to play and a 43-42 win for the Panthers.  Let me point out two excellent performances by 2 Pitt offensive players:

  • RB, James Connor ran for 137 yards and 1 TD
  • QB, Nathan Peterman was 22 for 37 for 308 yards with 5 TDs and 0 INTs

In Big 12 games last week, Iowa St. beat Kansas 31-24.  Clearly, this was a SHOE Team Showdown.  They are both “on the list”.  Here is why it will take a miracle in the final games of 2016 for Kansas to come off the list:

  • Kansas has lost 23 consecutive games against Division 1-A opponents.

Here is why Iowa State is unlikely to come off the list:

  • The last time Kansas beat a Division 1-A opponent, it was Iowa St.
  • Iowa St. has a loss this year to a Division 1-AA team.

Oklahoma St. beat Texas Tech 45-44 last week.  With 1:39 left in the game, Tech had just scored a TD to make the score 45-44.  It looked as if this game was destined for OT that could go on for a while and send both teams’ scores into the 60s or maybe the 70s before there was a winner.  Then the Tech kicker missed the PAT; it wasn’t blocked; he just missed it.  Hi-ho!  There was a distinct lack of defense in the game; combined, the two teams gained 1155 yards for the game.

Oklahoma beat Baylor 45-24 sending the Bears down to defeat for the third game in a row.  Making thins much worse for Baylor is that they have lost QB Seth Russell for the rest of the year with a “severely dislocated ankle” that required him to be carried from the field last week.  Oklahoma QB, Baker Mayfield was 20 for 25 for 300 yards and 2 TDs in this game.

Oklahoma is leading the Big 12 at the moment with a 7-0 record in conference.  However, there are two teams with only 1 loss in conference games – West Virginia and Oklahoma St.  Oklahoma’s two remaining games are against West Virginia – this week – and Oklahoma St. after that.

West Virginia put itself into this contending position beating Texas last week 24-20.  West Virginia played good defense keeping Texas’ offensive aces RB D’Onta Foreman and QB Shane Buchelle from running wild.  Even though the West Virginia offense turned the ball over 4 times, the defense kept the Mountaineers in the game to the end.

This loss for Texas allowed the “Fire Charlie Strong Chorus” to get an encore performance in Austin.  Texas needs one more win to be bowl-eligible in 2016; the Longhorns were 5-7 last year and did not go to a bowl game.  This week, Texas travels to Kansas to play the Jayhawks.  If they lose that game, it would not shock me to see someone else coach Texas for the final game of the year against TCU.  The big-money boosters would probably view a loss to Kansas about as fondly as they would view the loss of an oil-field…

Moving on to Big 10 happenings, I mentioned above how Penn St. can be the East Division Champion this year.  They stayed on that track last week by beating Indiana 45-31.  Indiana led at the end of the 3rd quarter, 24-21 but Penn State scored 2 TDs and a field goal in the final 4 minutes of the game to salt it away.

Going into last Saturday’s game, Michigan St. and Rutgers were the only two teams who were winless in Big 10 conference games.  The outcome here – a 49-0 shellacking by Michigan St. – demonstrates that Rutgers is a Big 10 team in name only.  In seven Big 10 games this year, the cumulative score is:

Opponents: 290          Rutgers:  73

            The degree of dominance by the Spartans last week is shown by this one stat from the game; Michigan St. outgained Rutgers 440 yards to 149 yards.

Wisconsin leads the West Division in the Big 10 on the basis of holding a head-to-head tiebreaker with Nebraska; if the Badgers win out, they will be in the Big 10 Championship Game.  Last week they clobbered Illinois 48-3.  That score shows two things:

  • The Wisconsin defense is for real.
  • Illinois just stinks.

Ohio St. beat Maryland 62-3 last week.  Two weeks ago, Ohio St. beat Nebraska by the identical score.  The Maryland score for the day came in a situation where the Terps had the ball first and goal on the Ohio St. 3 yardline but managed to go nowhere on 3 downs.  So, they kicked a field goal.  Not that it mattered that they did not get a TD then…  Maryland began the year with 4 consecutive wins over Howard, FIU, UCF and Purdue; then some real opponents showed up for kickoff and the Terps are now 5-5.  To be bowl eligible, they need to win one of their last two games:

  • At Nebraska this week – – Maryland is a 2TD underdog
  • Vs Rutgers next week – – If they lose that one at home, shame on them.

Iowa beat Michigan 14-13; and frankly, that was the biggest shock of a shocking week of college football to me.  A 33-yard field goal with 3 seconds on the clock won the game for Iowa.  Two surprising stats from the game:

  • Michigan ran the ball 35 times and only gained 98 yards rushing.
  • Iowa QB, CJ Beathard, was 8 for 19 for 66 yards and Iowa won the game.

That is the fourth consecutive time Michigan has gone to Iowa and come home as a loser.  Compounding the agony, Michigan lost its QB, Wilton Speight, with a broken collarbone in this game.

The SEC produced some surprises and some interesting scores last week too.  Alabama did not succumb to the fate of the other 3 teams in the Top 4; instead of losing last week, Alabama smothered Mississippi St. 51-3.  It was one of the “early start” games on Saturday and I sat down thinking it would be a better game than I usually get to watch in that time slot.  I had to turn away; it was too lopsided to pay attention to.  Alabama gained 615 yards in this game and Mississippi St. gained 275; as I said it was too lopsided to watch.

Tennessee beat Kentucky 49-36.  Kentucky had a shot at the SEC East Division title but this was their 4th conference loss and that puts them out of the picture.  Tennessee, however, is squarely in the picture for that division title and a chance to go to the SEC Championship Game to play Alabama one more time this year.  Here is how Tennessee wins the SEC East:

  1. The Vols must win their final 2 games against Missouri and Vandy.  Hardly impossible…
  2. Florida must lose this week to LSU in Baton Rouge.  Hardly impossible…

Tennessee ran the ball for 376 yards last week averaging 9.2 yards per carry.  Normally, when a team does that, they have dominated the stat sheet with regard to rushing.  Not last week – – Kentucky ran the ball for 443 yards in that game; they averaged 8.1 yards per attempt.

Ole Miss beat Texas A&M 29-28; that is the 3rd loss in conference games for the Aggies.  Ole Miss had to use a redshirt freshman at QB, Shea Patterson, because starting QB, Chad Kelly, is out for the season with a knee injury.  Patterson turned in a performance that had to encourage the Ole Miss coaching staff; Patterson was 25 for 42 for 338 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT.  The Aggies led 21-6 as the 4th quarter began and found a way to lose the game.  Ole Miss is 5-5 and needs a win for bowl-eligibility; they will go looking for that status against Vandy this week.

LSU demolished Arkansas 38-10.  LSU ran the ball for 391 yards here; recall two weeks ago against Florida, the Arkansas defense allowed a total of 12 yards rushing in that game.  The dominant running back was not Leonard Fournette.  Yes, he gained 98 yards in the game and scored 3 TDs but the dominant running back was Derrius Guice who carried 21 times for 252 yards and 2 TDs.

Florida goes to Baton Rouge this week coming off a 20-7 win over S. Carolina.  Florida needs the win to assure the SEC East Division crown.  Last week against S. Carolina, the Florida defense controlled the game only giving up 256 yards.  Florida has injuries galore; potentially 9 of the team’s 22 starters might be inactive for the LSU game.  That compounds a problem the Gators had from the start of the season; the Florida offense no big deal even when they had all those starters on the field.

Georgia beat Auburn 13-7.  The Auburn defense did its job; the only Georgia TD came on a Pick Six.  The Auburn offense was AWOL; consider:

  • Passing offense was 8 for 22 for 37 yards – – and that Pick Six.
  • Zero first downs in the second half of the game
  • Total offense in second half of the game was 34 yards.
  • Total offense for the entire game was 164 yards.

TV analyst for SEC games, Gary Danielson, said that Auburn’s offense in the second half was “one of the worst” he had seen…

In the PAC-12, Stanford beat Oregon 52-27.  The loss drops Oregon to 3-7 for the season and they cannot get to bowl-eligible status this year with only 2 games left to play.  Stanford jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and led 52-13 after three quarters; two late TDs by Oregon made the score as minimally acceptable as it is.  AS you may imagine, Oregon coach, Mark Helfrich is on a very hot seat.  Brad Rock recognized that with this comment in the Deseret News:

“Oregon booster Phil Knight is rumored to be offering $10 million annually for a new football coach.

“At that price, they should hire Denzel Washington and really get something done.”

Washington St. beat Cal 56-21 and took the lead in the PAC-12 North Division race.  QB, Luke Falk was 36 for 50 for 373 yards with 5 TD passes (including 3 to WR, River Cracraft) and 1 INT.  The Cougars offense was not one-dimensional; they also ran the ball for 254 yards in the game.

The big shock in the PAC-12 was seeing Washington lose convincingly to USC by a score of 26-13.  Simply put, USC freshman QB, Sam Darnold had a better stat line than did Washington QB, Jake Browning:

  • Darnold:  23 for 33 for 287 yards with 2 TDs and 2 INTs
  • Browning: 17 for 36 for 259 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs

USC lost 3 games early in the season and was left as roadkill then.  However, the Trojans are 6-2 in the PAC-12 South with one conference game left to play (against UCLA this week).  Colorado is 6-1 in conference play leading USC by a half-game.  The Buffaloes have to play Washington State (undefeated leader of the PAC-12 North) this week and then close out the regular season with a visit by Utah (the other PAC-12 South team with only 2 conference losses).  This could get very interesting but I do have to say that USC looked really good against Washington last week and will be a tough out down the road.


The Ponderosa Games:


Last week we had 7 Ponderosa Games.  The record for favorites covering in those Ponderosa games was 5-2-0 bringing the season record for favorites covering to 38-39-1.

Alabama, Ohio St., San Diego St., W. Kentucky and Wisconsin covered.

Houston and Louisville did not cover.

This week we have 10 Ponderosa Games:


(Fri Nite) UNLV at Boise St. – 28.5 (66):  UNLV beat Wyoming in triple OT last week; that means Boise St. has a shot at the Mountain West Championship which could also mean a shot at the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day.  The way for Boise St. to take advantage here is to turn around and beat the team that put them in this advantageous position.  Look for it to happen…


La-Monroe at Appalachian St. – 25.5 (53):  La-Monroe has won 2 in a row but still needs to win its last 2 games to be bowl-eligible.  Looks like that is not gonna happen…


Wisconsin – 28 at Purdue (48):  Looks like an easy win for Wisconsin …


Tex-San Antonio at Texas A&M – 27.5 (57.5):  Texas A&M has lost 2 SEC games this year and has LSU coming up next.  Consider this a scrimmage for the Aggies…


UMass at BYU – 28 (56):  There are not a lot of independents in college football.  This is a match between two of them…


Indiana at Michigan – 24 (51.5):  Michigan should be upset by the way it lost last week to Iowa but on the other hand, they have to play without their starting QB.


Arizona St. at Washington – 27 (65):  Washington should be upset by the way it lost last week to USC and Arizona St is not very good this year…


Buffalo at W. Michigan – 35 (58):  W. Michigan rolls on to 11-0 here – – unless of course this game is against the Buffalo Bills…


Texas – 24 at Kansas (63):  If Texas loses this game, I would not be surprised to read that Charlie Strong was fired in the locker room and had to rent a car to drive home to Texas.  If Texas wins but does not cover, the team will be happy and the students will be happy but the boosters will not…


Penn St. – 28 at Rutgers (57.5):  If Penn St. loses this game, they may need to rename Happy Valley permanently…


The SHOE Teams:


This week, I will give you my 8 SHOE Tournament participants and then a list of “Also getting votes” …

In alphabetical order, here are the 8 worst teams as of this week:


Bowling Green: 2-8 in the MAC

Fresno St: 1-9 and that win was over Sacramento St.

Kansas: 1-9 (see above)

New Mexico St.: 2-7 and getting kicked out of the Sun Belt conference

Rice:  2-8 but one of those wins was over Prairie View A&M.

Rutgers: 2-8 (see above)

Texas St. 2-8 and some of those losses have been huge ones

UMass 2-8 but the wins are over FIU and Wagner


The other teams under consideration this week in alphabetical order are:


Arizona 2-8

Georgia St. 2-8

Iowa St. 2-8

Virginia 2-8



Games of Interest:


UConn at BC – 9 (37):  This is not a betting game but it is interesting because of the numbers here.  The oddsmaker is telling us there will not be a lot of scoring here and yet if you want to back BC here you have to lay more than a TD.  No thank you …


UTEP at Rice – 1.5 (57.5):  Clearly a game of interest for the SHOE Tournament Selection Committee …


Texas Tech – 3 at Iowa St. (75):  Tech needs to win out to become bowl-eligible; Iowa St. has no such aspirations having already lost 8 games this year.  Iowa St. is on the SHOE list but they have the better scoring defense this year.

  • Iowa State allows 31.7 points per game (91st in the country)
  • Texas Tech allows 42.1 points per game (125th in the country)

The question here is this:  Can Iowa St. defend the pass well enough to keep Texas Tech from running up 50+ points?  The Cyclones’ pass defense ranks 60th in the country which is neither bad nor good.  Purely a hunch, I’ll take Iowa St. plus the points here as Iowa St.


Oklahoma – 3.5 at West Virginia (66):  Oklahoma has a potent offense indeed; West Virginia has – for the Big 12 – a very good defense.  Oklahoma leads the Big 12; West Virginia needs a win here to stay alive in the Big-12 championship race.  This game is about as important a game as any on the card this weekend.  Given the West Virginia motivation and the home-field venue, I’ll take West Virginia plus the points.


Va Tech at Notre Dame – 1 (54):  Notre Dame needs to win out to make it to a bowl game so there is plenty of motivation there.  Va Tech is going to go to the ACC Championship Game and probably get pounded by Clemson.  There is no history between these schools; they have never met on a football field before this weekend.  Again, a venue call; I’ll take Notre Dame to win and cover.


K-State – 1 at Baylor (59.5):  As mentioned above, Baylor will be without their starting QB, Seth Russell, for the rest of the season.  That is not a good twist for Baylor because the Baylor defense is not a unit that has shown it can carry the team very far; it gives up 412.7 yards per game.  I like K-State’s chances with its first string offensive players against Baylor’s chances with a backup QB.  I’ll take K-State and lay the point.


Texas St. at New Mexico St. – 9 (66):  Two SHOE Teams play each other…


Washington St. at Colorado – 6 (59):  Colorado is in first place in the PAC-12 South with 1 loss in conference games.  Washington St. is in first place in the PAC-12 North and is undefeated in conference games.  The line opened at 3.5 points and has climbed slowly all week long; the money is going to Colorado.  I like this game to go OVER.


Stanford – 11 at Cal (64):  This is a big rivalry game but it really has very little luster this year.  Stanford’s offense woke up last week and Stanford has the significantly better defense here.  I tend not to like to do this, but I’ll take Stanford and lay all those points – even on the road.


Ohio St. – 22 at Michigan St. (51):  Ohio St. has its sights set on Michigan – not Michigan St. – in the finale of Big 10 action.  Michigan St. is 1-6 in conference play – that win was last week over lowly Rutgers! – and it will play hard to find a way to salvage a smidgen of pride from this disastrous season.  This smells like a trap game to me and that is an awful lot of points.  So, I’ll take Michigan St. at home plus the points.


Clemson – 22.5 at Wake Forest (47):  No selection here but this game is of interest because a Clemson win puts them in the ACC Championship Game…


Missouri at Tennessee – 16.5 (67):  Tennessee is in a must-win situation to keep alive chances in the SEC East (see above).  Missouri just isn’t any good.  I think both teams will be able to move the ball on the opposing defense so I’ll take the game to go OVER.


USC – 13 at UCLA (52.5):  USC looked like world-beaters against Washington last week; UCLA has lost its starting QB and did not look all that great when they had him upright and playing.  Laying that many points in a bit rivalry game is not something I like to do (Stanford/Cal above notwithstanding) so I’ll pull for the two defenses to get the job done here and take the game to stay UNDER.


Oklahoma St. at TCU – 4.5 (70.5):  Oklahoma St. still has a chance to win the Big-12; it will take a lot of dominoes to fall in the right way, but they have a chance.  TCU needs one more win to become bowl-eligible.  TCU gives up 410 yards per game; Oklahoma St. gives up 451.2 yards per game.  I think two motivated offensive units will have their way in this game.  I’ll take the game to go OVER.


Oregon at Utah – 14 (70):  Short and simple here…  Utah is a good team that might be the PAC-12 South champion and/or the PAC-12 champion.  Oregon is 3-7 on the season but two of those wins were over Davis – (Division 1-AA) and UVa (on the SHOE watchlist).  I like Utah at home to win and cover.


Florida at LSU – 14.5 (37.5): Florida needs a win here to lock down the SEC East title and a date to play Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.  That is the importance focus for the game.  An interesting – but monumentally unimportant – aspect of the game is that the two starting QBs for these teams used to go to Purdue and both transferred out.  Hi-ho!  That total line is awfully low even for these stout defenses and prosaic offenses.  I like the game to go OVER.


Finally, earlier this week, Brad Rock had this comment regarding Tennessee football in the Deseret News.  I doubt that Messr. Rock will be very welcome in Knoxvillle, TN should anyone there read it:

“An Oceanside, California, man was elected city treasurer, despite having passed away Sept. 23.

“Isn’t that like voting for Tennessee in the top 25 after it lost three straight games?”

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


Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 11/12/16


‘Twas the most marginal of mythically profitable weeks last week with the NCAA Mythical Picks.  I made 15 selections and the record for the week was 8-7-0.  That brings the season record for NCAA Mythical Picks to 85-72-0.  Could be better … could be worse …

The Best Picks from last week were:

  • Penn St. -7 against Iowa.  Penn St. won by 27 points.
  • Arkansas +4 against Florida.  Arkansas won outright by 21 points.
  • Air Force +1.5 against Army.  Air Force won outright by 19 points.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

  • K-State -3 against Oklahoma St.  K-State lost outright by 6 points.
  • Nebraska +17 against Ohio State.  Ohio State won the game 62-3.

Last week’s meager pickings ought not to entice anyone into thinking positively about the picks for this week.  Nonetheless, to be on the safe side, let me remind everyone that nothing herein is authoritative with regard to wagering on college football.  Therefore, no one should use anything here as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on an actual college football game.  Anyone dumb enough to do that …

…thinks changing your mind is a procedure involving a brain transplant.

General Comments:


The Linfield College Wildcats extended their season record to 7-1 last week with a 33-7 victory over Puget Sound.  This week, the Wildcats will conclude their regular season – with the hope of participating in the Division III national playoff – by hosting Pacific Lutheran University.  The Lutes come to the game with a 2-game winning streak and an overall record of 5-3.  Go Wildcats!

Last week, the E. Washington Eagles beat Cal Poly 42-21.  WR, Cooper Kupp, had some unusual stats in this game:

  • Kupp caught 11 passes for 154 yards.
  • Kupp caught 1 TD pass.
  • Kupp threw 2 passes and completed both of them for TDs.
  • Kupp returned 1 punt for 28 yards.

This week, the Eagles host the Idaho St. Bengals in the next-to-last game of the regular season.  Go Eagles!

            Some big-name college football programs have fallen on hard times this season.  Here are 3 teams all of whom carry 3-6 records as of this morning:

  • Notre Dame
  • Oregon
  • UCLA

There is a bit of foreshadowing in that list because a program that has been prominent on the national stage for the last several years is going to make an appearance on the SHOE watchlist later in these comments…

Last week, Navy beat Notre Dame 28-27.  This was a big win for Navy in terms of whom they beat and because that was their 6th win of the season making them bowl-eligible.  To give you an example of the way Navy controlled this game, Notre Dame only had 2 possessions in the entire second half of the game.  Moreover, Navy did not punt at all in the game.

Meanwhile, Air Force beat Army last week 31-12.  Air Force dominated the game gaining 444 yards on offense while Army only gained 228.  That win makes Air Force bowl-eligible and leaves Army with only 5 wins for the year.  Normally, it takes six wins to achieve bowl-eligibility and once a team is eligible, the odds are staggeringly high that they will get an invitation because there are often more bowl slots than there are bowl-eligible teams.  The problem for Army is that it has no conference affiliation and many bowl games have contractual ties with conferences to send their 4th place team – – if eligible – – to that game.  Army will have to make itself enticing to one of the bowl games that can “freelance” with their invitations.  So, here is the rest of the Army schedule for the year.  I see one comfortable win there; it might be a lot better for Army’s bowl chances if they could squeeze out another win:

  1. Vs Notre Dame:  The Irish should be angry here; Army is a 14-point underdog.
  2. Vs Morgan St.:  Should be a win against a Division 1-AA opponent.
  3. Vs. Navy:  Hardly a walkover…

Old Dominion University does not have a decades-long tradition of going to bowl games but they will likely be going to one this year.  The Monarchs got their 6th win of the season last week beating Marshall 38-14.  ODU has 3 games left and it would not be shocking if they won the last 2 giving them a season record of 8-4.

Last week, Florida Atlantic (not a good team at all) beat Rice (not nearly a good team at all) by a score of 42-25.  Both teams had been on the SHOE watchlist; this win is not enough to get FAU off the list entirely; this loss is surely sufficient to make Rice a favorite to be one of the 8 teams in the “fantastical” SHOE Tournament.

Colorado St. beat Fresno St. 37-0.  Fresno St. was on the SHOE watchlist and you may be certain this result will keep them there.  Fresno St. is one of those schools that just had to fire its coach in mid-season.  Looking at this result against a 4-loss team, I think it might be appropriate to ask the movers and shakers in the Fresno St. Athletic Dept.:

So, how’d that work out for you?

In SEC country, Alabama beat LSU 10-0.  Back in 1958, LSU won the National Championship on the backs of an outstanding defense nicknamed the “Chinese Bandits”.  In 10 regular season games – and the Sugar Bowl game that year – the LSU defense held all but one opponent to single-digits on the scoreboard.  Duke scored 18 points in one game and other than that, no team scored more than 7 in a game.  I mention that because LSU has a long tradition of putting tough and effective defenses on the field.  They did it again this year; and in this game, the score was 0-0 at the end of the 3rd quarter.

The problem for LSU was that the Alabama defense is the current day version of the “Chinese Bandits”.  They held Leonard Fournette to 35 yards rushing on 19 carries.  Alabama won the game 10-0 and was in control for the entire time.

LSU also fired its coach in mid-season.  Les Miles was fired and the complaints about him were – in no particular order:

  • Can’t beat Alabama.  Well, neither did the new guy, Ed Orgeron.
  • Played the wrong QB.  Well the new guy went 11 for 24 for 92 yards and 1 INT.
  • Plays a plodding offense.  Well, the new one amasses all of 125 yards on 51 snaps.

Ed Orgeron may be a fine coach but let me just say that all the hype about him changing stuff at LSU in the past month or so seems pretty flimsy now.  Before the Alabama game, Orgeron coached against exactly 1 team with a winning record and that team was Southern Mississippi.  LSU won that game – but a top-shelf SEC team is supposed to beat Southern Mississippi.  As an example of what I mean here, UNC-Charlotte beat Southern Mississippi last week by 11 points and no one in the same zip code with sobriety would think of UNC-Charlotte as a top-shelf SEC team.  Once LSU and Orgeron went up against a real top team (Alabama) they got skunked.

By the way, the complaints about LSU’s plodding offense are not completely off target.  I read a report that said that LSU has yet to go OVER the Total Line in any game this year; in 8 games their record against the Total Line is 0-7-1.

Texas A&M had been ranked #4 by the CFP Selection Committee in its first rankings of the year; that had been slightly controversial given that the Aggies had lost a game and there were some undefeated teams out there such as Washington.  Well, that controversy was dismissed last week by Mississippi St. when the Bulldogs beat the Aggies 35-28.  I said in last week’s comments regarding Mythical Picks that this was not a game I wanted to bet on but was a game I wanted to pay attention to.  Mississippi St. won by only 7 points but they dominated the game.  Consider:

  • Total offense:  Bulldogs = 574 yards  Aggies = 388 yards
  • Miss. St. was 11 for 18 on 3rd down conversions
  • First downs:  Bulldogs = 29    Aggies = 15.

Next up for Mississippi St. this week is Alabama – at Alabama.  To put some perspective on the Mississippi St./Texas A&M game last week, Alabama is a Ponderosa favorite over Mississippi St. this week…

Going into last week’s slate of games, Kentucky had the opportunity to be right in the midst of whatever turmoil there would be in the SEC East; they had a path to the SEC Championship Game.  They still have that chance – but it is dimmer because Kentucky lost to Georgia last week 27-24.  Two weeks ago, Georgia could only produce 165 yards’ offense against Florida; last week, they put out 460 yards’ offense on Kentucky.  Georgia lost 3 fumbles in the game thereby keeping things in suspense.

Kentucky is now 4-3 in SEC games; that puts them in second place in the SEC East; they conclude their SEC schedule this week when they go to Knoxville to play Tennessee.  That is not a particularly welcoming venue for Kentucky; the last time they won there was in 1984.  Even with a win in that game, they will need Florida to stumble down the stretch.

Florida showed last week that they are perfectly capable of stumbling.  Against Arkansas, the Gators were dominated in losing 31-10.  Arkansas almost doubled Florida in offensive output; the Razorbacks gained 466 yards to Florida’s 241.  Florida’s netted only 12 yards rushing on 14 attempts.  Like LSU as discussed above, Florida is a team that relies on its defense to control the game and to set up the offense to score.  When the defense does not do that, the Gators are in deep yoghurt.

In Big 10 action, Nebraska paid a visit to Ohio State last week.  There in Columbus, the Cornhuskers received the football equivalent of a ritual disembowelment losing 62-3 and losing their starting QB, Tommy Armstrong, when his head slammed off the ground after he was knocked out of bounds in the first half of the game.  Armstrong left the field and the stadium in an ambulance but was back on the sidelines – in street clothes to be sure – late in the game.  Armstrong’s replacement, Ryker Fyfe, was not ready for the Ohio State defense; his final stats showed 5 for 18 for 52 yards.

Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald had this comment about the Ohio St./Nebraska game before the fact:

“On Friday, Ohio State was a 17 ½-point favorite. I’m pretty sure it was the half-point that especially irked Husker players.

“For comparison sake, this weekend the Globetrotters were 16-point favorites over the Washington Generals.”

Nebraska is still in the Big 10 West race; however, the fact that they lost to Wisconsin 2 weeks ago means they do not have that tiebreaker in hand and will need help to get that title.  Also in the mix for the Big 10 West is Minnesota who – like Nebraska and Wisconsin – have 2 conference losses.  Ohio State has 1 loss in Big 10 play – to Penn St. – and still has the chance to create a 3-way tie in the Big 10 East.  It could happen that Ohio St. Penn St. and Michigan could all finish with 1 loss in Big 10 action at the end of the season with each team holding a 1-1 record against the other two.  Before anyone asks, I have no idea what the Big 10 tiebreaker rules are in such a situation.

Michigan stayed undefeated pummeling Maryland 58-3 last week.  Michigan had 5 possessions in the first half of the game; Michigan scored a TD on all five of those possessions.  The score was 45-0 at the end of three quarters.  Michigan ran 66 plays and gained 660 yards; no one needs a calculator to realize that is domination.

Penn St. stayed in step with Michigan and Ohio St. in the Big 10 East with a 41-10 win over Iowa.  Saquon Barkley gained 167 yards on 20 carries and the ran up 606 yards of offense leaving the outcome of this game in no doubt.

Wisconsin beat Northwestern 21-7.  Wisconsin’s defense is for real; Northwestern managed to gain only 39 yards on the ground in this game.

In bottom-feeder Big 10 action, Illinois beat Michigan St. 31-27.  Michigan St. was the Big 10 Champion last year and played Alabama in the first round of the CFP.  As of this morning their 2016 record stands at 2-7 which is bad on its fact but is even worse considering:

  • Michigan St. has lost 7 games in a row.
  • Four of those 7 losses have been by double-digits.
  • Michigan St. has lost to Indiana, Maryland and now Illinois this year.

How the mighty have fallen…

Moving to the ACC, Wake Forest beat Virginia 27-20.  Before anyone asks, this is an interesting result only because this is Wake’s 6th win of the year and it will send them to a bowl game somewhere.  That has not happened since 2011.  Otherwise, there was nothing interesting about this game.

UNC beat Georgia Tech 48-20 last week and it looked as if UNC might coast its way into the Coastal Division title and a place in the ACC Championship Game.  The Tar Heels dominated the game against Tech.  Then, UNC played Duke last night and Duke – previously winless in ACC games this year – beat UNC and put the Va Tech Hokies in charge of that division for the moment.

Miami beat Pitt handily by a score of 51-28.  Miami had lost 4 in a row going into this game.  Both teams are now 5-4 on the season.

Clemson manhandled Syracuse 54-0.  Clemson QB, Deshaun Watson, had to leave the game in the first half with a shoulder injury; that did not prevent this game from being an organized ass-kicking.  It would appear that Clemson is on a glide path to the Atlantic Division title in the ACC.  They have 2 conference games left – Pitt this week and Wake Forest next week.  The Tigers should be favored in both games and wins there would put them in the ACC Championship Game.

The Big 12 featured some high-scoring games last weekend but none that had a lot of national impact.  Oklahoma beat Iowa St. 34-24.  That outcome is not surprising but it is interesting because OU played without its top two RBs – one was injured and the other suspended for a game.  Demonstrating “depth at the running back position”, Dimitri Flowers ran for 115 yards and a TD in this game.

Oklahoma St. beat K-State 43-37.  K-State dominated the run game 345 yards to 180 yards.  Most of the time, that would produce a victory for K-State.  However, last week the passing game was even more lopsided.  Oklahoma St. threw for 457 yards (almost 12 yards per attempt) while K-state managed to gain a measly 87 yards through the air.

TCU clobbered Baylor 62-22.  This is the second loss in a row for Baylor and this one was a beatdown.  Going into the game, Baylor had been ranked in the Top 20 nationally and that ranking shows why “strength of schedule” is important.  Baylor’s schedule had been softer than a marshmallow.  Other than Oklahoma St. – a better than average team but not one that anyone thinks is “championship material” – here is the Baylor schedule prior to last week:

  • Northwestern St. – (Div 1-AA)
  • SMU – mediocre at best
  • Rice – clearly a SHOE team
  • Iowa St. – could be a SHOE team
  • Kansas – clearly a SHOE team
  • Texas – fans looking to fire the coach there

TCU running back, Kyle Hicks, had 192 yards rushing and scored 5 TDs.  I think that would fit into the category of a “good game” …

Texas teat Texas Tech 45-37.  Texas amassed 658 yards on offense; running back D’Onta Foreman contributed 341 of those yards and he scored 3 TDs too.  The Texas’ defense has been a weak link for much of this season and you might look at the stats for this game and think that they were not doing well.  Texas gave up 482 yards of offense but that is actually a good showing because Texas Tech was averaging 600.2 yards per game going into this game.

Out west in the PAC-12, Washington St. beat Arizona 69-7.  The simple and obvious conclusion from this game is that Arizona is not a good football team.  Period.

Colorado beat UCLA 20-10.  UCLA is not very good and Colorado is surprisingly good this year.  The interesting stat from this game is that Colorado committed 8 personal fouls in the game – and still won.  Perhaps they were channeling the Oakland Raiders of the 70s and 80s…?

USC beat Oregon 45-20.  Redshirt freshman QB, Sam Darnold, played very well here.  Yes, I know that the Oregon defense is pathetic; nevertheless, Darnold played well and threw very accurately in the game.  There are lots of “really good athletes” on the USC squad; that was most apparent against an over-matched Oregon team.  Perhaps USC is a team on the rise?

Washington remained undefeated with a dominating win over Cal 66-27.  WR, Joe Ross had 208 yards receiving and 3 TDs.

If I were going to go to the trouble of putting together my “All-Geography Football Team” for 2016, I would start with these folks:

  1. Taiwan Deal – RB, Wisconsin
  2. Bentley Spain – OL, North Carolina
  3. Dijon Paschal – WR, Arkansas St.
  4. Newton Salisbury – DE, Florida International and
  5. River Cracraft – WR, Washington St.


The Ponderosa Games:


Last week we had 9 Ponderosa Games and the record for favorites covering in those games was 3-6-0.

Clemson, Louisville and Michigan covered.

Appalachian St., Auburn, Boise St., Ole Miss, W. Kentucky and W. Virginia did not cover.

The season record for favorites covering in Ponderosa Games now stands at 33-37-1.

This week we have 7 Ponderosa Games:


Ohio St. – 29.5 at Maryland (57.5):  Last week, Maryland lost by 56 and Ohio St. won by 59.  Either of those outcomes could happen again here…


Wake Forest at Louisville – 34.5 (54.5):  Wake Forest became bowl-eligible last week.  Given this perception of Wake’s chances against Louisville, consider that they will be headed to a minor bowl game.


Mississippi St. at Alabama – 29 (55):  The Bulldogs knocked off the CFP #4 team last week.  Can they do the same to the CFP #1 team this week?  Unlikely…


North Texas at W. Kentucky – 28 (65):  Really?  Remind me to check the score of this game on Sunday because I will not be paying attention on Saturday.


Illinois at Wisconsin – 26 (39):  The oddsmakers think Wisconsin will win by 26 and the total score will be 39.  That does not leave a lot of points to be scored by Illinois…


Tulane at Houston – 25 (51):  Another ho-hum game…


San Diego St. – 24 at Nevada (51.5):  San Diego St. has a really good RB named Donnel Pumphrey.  He broke Marshall Faulk’s career rushing record at San Diego St.


The SHOE Teams:


I will list 12 teams that are the most serious contenders for the SHOIE Tournament this week and 4 more that are on a peripheral watchlist.  Making initial appearances this week are 3 teams that normally would be far distant from any such mention.  The reasons are explained here:

Arizona: They are 117th in the nation in total defense and 116th in the nation in scoring defense.  They give up just over 37 point per game.  They are also 115th in the country in scoring offense producing only 22.2 points per game.

Michigan St.:  They have lost 7 in a row; three of those losses have been to mediocre at best teams.  They score 23.2 points per game; they give up 30.3 points per game.

Missouri:  They have lost 5 in a row including home game losses to Middle Tennessee St. and Kentucky.  Their 2 wins this year are over E. Michigan and Delaware St.

The 12 teams on the serious SHOE watchlist in alphabetical order are:

  1. Arizona
  2. Bowling Green
  3. Florida Atlantic – they play UTEP this week
  4. Fresno St.
  5. Iowa St.
  6. Kansas
  7. Marshall
  8. New Mexico St.
  9. Rice
  10. Rutgers – they play Michigan St. this week
  11. Texas St.
  12. UMass

The 4 teams on the peripheral watchlist in alphabetical order are:

  1. Buffalo
  2. Michigan St.
  3. Missouri
  4. UTEP

Games of Interest:

Penn St. – 7 at Indiana (59):  As noted above, Penn St. is in the middle of the Big 10 East Division race.  Indiana needs another win for bowl-eligibility but I am not impressed with the teams they have beaten so far this year.  I like Penn St. to win and cover – even on the road.


Iowa St. – 10 at Kansas (56):  Two SHOE teams play each other and the road team is a double-digit favorite.  Please do not bet on this game; in fact, do not watch this game unless you have a blood relative participating in it.  The loser here will surely be on the “close watchlist” for the SHOE Tournament next week…


Tulsa at Navy – 2 (69):  The Total Line opened the week at 76 points and has been dropping all week.  I see lots of points on the board in this game.  I do not think either defense will hold the opposition in check. I think this line is moving in the wrong direction; I’ll take this game to go OVER.


Ga Tech at Va Tech – 10 (54):  Georgia Tech needs a win to become bowl-eligible; if Va Tech wins out, they will be the ACC Coastal Division champs and will play Clemson (probably) in the ACC Championship Game.  There is the motivation for the game.  The Hokies are 17th in the country in total defense giving up 327.4 yards per game.  Georgia Tech is 64th in the country in total defense giving up 405.4 yards per game.  That is where I think the difference lies.  I’ll take Va Tech to win and cover here.


Texas Tech at Oklahoma St. – 12.5 (89.5):  Believe it or not, that Total Line has dropped slightly during the week; it opened at 91 points.  Tech’s prolific offense is all throwing the ball; State’s pass defense is not very good but it is not miserable either.  Tech’s defense is 122nd in the country against the pass and 115th in the country against the run.  Overall, Techs’ defense is 126th in the country yielding 533.3 yards per game.  I like Oklahoma St. at home to win and cover here.


Ole Miss at Texas A&M – 10 (54):  The Total Line opened at 63 and dropped almost immediately to 57 and then has drifted down all week long.  Once again, I think the line is moving in the wrong direction.  I like this game to go OVER.


Auburn – 10.5 at Georgia (48.5):  Auburn runs the ball really well producing just under 300 yards per game on the ground.  Georgia and Ohio St. are tied for 19th in the country in rushing defense allowing only 118.2 yards per game.  I think the game comes down to how well Auburn can run the ball – or not.  Neither team is fearsome through the air.  Make this a venue call; I’ll take Georgia plus the double-digit helping of points.


Kentucky at Tennessee – 14 (60):  Kentucky has been surprisingly good this year winning 5 games already.  Tennessee has underperformed expectations this year.  The reason for those observations is that some folks had Tennessee winning the SEC East and challenging Alabama for SEC supremacy; no one thought Kentucky would have 5 wins at this point in the season – and maybe not as many as 5 wins at the end of the season.  Tennessee’ defense is a bit better but both teams give up around 400 yards per game.  Tennessee gives up 5 fewer points per game here.  I think the Total Line is low; I’ll take this game to go OVER.


South Carolina at Florida – 11 (37.5):  South Carolina is not very good and Florida’s offense is a mess.  The oddsmakers see this as a low-scoring game and I fully agree.  Therefore, I will take South Carolina with that generous helping of points.


LSU – 7 at Arkansas (46.5):  Short and sweet here…  I see this game playing out very differently than these lines suggest.  I’ll take Arkansas at home plus the points and I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.


Army vs Notre Dame – 14 (51): [Game played in San Antonio, TX]:  If Notre Dame loses to Navy – as they did last week – and then to Army this week, I suspect that the Irish will be looking for a new coach starting in December.  Nevertheless, that line looks awfully fat to me.  I like Army plus the points here.


Cal at Washington St. – 15 (83):  These are two teams that have incredible swings in their performances from week to week.  This will probably be an entertaining game but neither team inspires enough confidence to make a selection.  Watch but don’t bet …


USC at Washington – 9 (62):  I asked above if perhaps USC was a team on the rise.  Well, if they are, they can demonstrate that with a solid game against a demonstrably good Washington team in Seattle.  Purely a hunch; I’ll take USC plus the points.


West Virginia at Texas – 2 (64):  Texas is much better at home than they are on the road; four of their 5 wins this year have come at home.  The Mountaineers are 7-1 but those 7 wins are not at the expense of any top-shelf opponents.

  • Missouri – on the SHOE peripheral watchlist
  • Youngstown St. – Div 1-AA
  • BYU – good not great
  • K-State – not the best K-State team of recent vintage
  • Texas Tech – cannot play defense at the high school level
  • TCU – good not great
  • Kansas – just plain awful.

Make this a venue call; I like Texas to win and cover at home.


Baylor at Oklahoma – 17.5 (79):  As noted above, Baylor’s sorta gaudy record comes at the expense of bad teams.  Oklahoma is hardly a great team, but this is a much better than usual opponent for Baylor so far this year – – and the game is in Norman, OK.  I do not want Baylor in this game nor do I want to lay that many points with an in-and-out Oklahoma team.  The game is interesting but not bettable …


Minnesota at Nebraska – 7 (48):  Both teams have 2 losses in conference this year and both can still win the Big 10 West Division.  Nebraska has lost 2 in a row to Wisconsin and Ohio St. and both games were road games for the Huskers.  Make no mistake, Minnesota is an easier opponent that either of those two teams.  Nebraska QB, Tommy Armstrong practiced yesterday but is still not cleared to play.  With that decision up in the air, this game cannot be a wagering proposition – – but it is a potentially important and therefore interesting game…


Michigan – 21.5 at Iowa (50.5):  Get ready for smashmouth football if you are tuning into this one…  Iowa lost handily to Penn St on the road last week; Michigan had no difficulty with Penn St. earlier this year.  The spread here is more than 3 TDs and it is tempting to take the underdog with those points – – but I will resist that temptation because every once in a while, Michigan goes into orbit and scores 50+ points.  Iowa will not come close to doing that against the Michigan defense.  I’ll pass…

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











Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend of 11/5/16

Last week saw a rebound from the disastrously bad selections from two weeks ago. I made 15 picks last week and the record was 11-4-0 bringing the cumulative record for the year to 77-65-0.

The Best Picks from last week were:

    Army +7 against Wake Forest. Army won straight up.
    Navy/USF OVER 64.5. Total score was 97.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

    W. Virginia – 3.5 against Oklahoma St. WVU lost by 17 points.
    Penn St./Purdue UNDER 57. Penn St. scored 62 by itself.

Despite the strong showing last week, no one should use any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real college football game this weekend involving real money. Here is how dumb you would have to be to do anything like that:

    You think spoiled milk cones from pampered cows.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats ran their season record to 6-1 last week with a convincing win over George Fox by the score of 50-14. Linfield is 5-0 in the Northwest Conference with 2 games left on the schedule. This week the Wildcats travel to Tacoma, WA to take on the Loggers of the University of Puget Sound. The Loggers are 3-4 overall for the 2016 season and only 1-4 in Northwest Conference play. Go Wildcats!

Meanwhile, the Eagles of Eastern Washington extended their season record to 7-1 (5-0 in Big Sky Conference games) with a win over the Montana Grizzlies 35-16. WR, Cooper Kupp, caught 8 passes for 169 yards and 3 TDs in the game. He also threw one pass and completed it for a 54-yard gain and he returned a punt for 13 yards. There is no mention in the Box Score if he also lined the field prior to the game…

This week E. Washington takes on Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA. The Mustangs are on a 3-game win streak; their season record is 6-2 and they are 4-1 in Big Sky Conference play. Go Eagles!

The first CFP rankings came out this week and undefeated Washington did not make the Top 4. In their place, the one-loss Texas A&M Aggies grabbed the 4th spot and the basis for this is strength of schedule. Schools do not have much control over the strength or weakness of their conference opponents from year to year. However, schools have significant control over the teams they play out-of-conference and Washington scheduled three lowly opponents for this season:

    Portland State – Division 1-AA
    Idaho – getting booted from the Sun Belt this year- will go to Division 1-AA
    Rutgers – a dismal team; a Big 10 team in name only.

Clearly, Washington aspires to return to the upper echelons of college football but if they want that sort of recognition, they are going to have to do better with their out-of-conference scheduling. There needs to be at least one competitive game there. Wisconsin and LSU played each other this year; Ohio State and Oklahoma played each other this year; teams need not load up with Top Ten opponents every week, but at least one out-of-conference game should be something more than a walk-over.

There were 9 undefeated teams going into last week’s schedule. Two of the teams had the week off; of the other 7 unbeatens, 4 lost last week. Baylor, Boise St., Nebraska and West Virginia all lost. It was not a good week to try to stay unbeaten. With Baylor and West Virginia losing a game, I think that pretty much rules out a Big 12 team as a participant in the CFP this year.

The West Division of the Big 10 could get interesting. Nebraska lost to Wisconsin last week but still holds a 1-game lead in the West. However, this week, the Cornhuskers have to play Ohio State in Columbus, OH – hardly a trivial opponent. Nebraska is a 17-point underdog in the game. Minnesota, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Iowa all sit one game behind Nebraska in the West Division. Minnesota plays Purdue this weekend; Wisconsin and Northwestern play each other so one of them is going to lose; Iowa takes on Penn State. Things can get very interesting here…

With regard to the possibility that all three of the Service Academies can be bowl-eligible this year:

    Army beat Wake Forest 21-13 last week for its 5th win of the year. They need one more victory …

    Air Force beat Fresno St. 31-21 last week for its 5th win of the year. They need one more victory…

    Navy lost to USF 52-45. Navy trailed 28-0 at the end of the first quarter; they rallied but could not come all the way back. Navy also has 5 wins for the season. They too need one more victory…

Boise St. lost its first game of the year last week to Wyoming by a score of 30-28. Indeed, the margin of victory was a safety recorded by Wyoming in the final 2 minutes of the game.

Texas A&M had a soft out-of-conference game last week and clobbered New Mexico St. 52-10. New Mexico St. is on the SHOE watchlist; this outcome was never in doubt. Here is an unusual stat from this game. Aggies’ WR, Christian Kirk scored 3 TDs in the game. He caught on pass for a TD and he returned 2 punts for TDs. It is not often that you see 2 punts returned for touchdowns in one game let alone 2 returned for touchdowns by the same guy…

W. Michigan did not play last weekend but did play a MAC opponent on Tuesday of this week. W. Michigan is now 9-0 for the year and the highest-ranking team in a conference other than the so-called Power 5 is guaranteed a slot in one of the major bowl games on New Year’s Day. It had appeared that Boise St. might be that team this year but with Boise’s loss last week and W. Michigan’s 9-0 record, there is the possibility that W. Michigan will be the one let in. W. Michigan’s next two games are against Kent St. and Buffalo; they should not be nail biters. Then W. Michigan closes the regular season at home against Toledo; that could be an interesting game…

Let me start in the SEC this week. I said last week that the Kentucky/Missouri game was interesting because Kentucky had the chance to win a big game on the road – which they have not done with regularity in a long time – and because Missouri had a chance to defend its home turf – the week after they took gas against Middle Tennessee State on Homecoming weekend. Well, Kentucky prevailed easily here by a score of 35-21. That win sets up the following situations for Kentucky:

    1. It means they will be bowl-eligible with one more victory this year. They have not done that since 2010.

    2. It puts Kentucky with a 4-2 SEC record in second place in the SEC East a game behind Florida.

    3. They have 2 SEC conference games left against Georgia and Tennessee – both of which have been unimpressive in recent weeks.

Florida beat Georgia 24-10. The Florida defense shut out the Bulldogs for the entire second half of the game and that win puts Florida in the driver’s seat in the SEC East for now. However, Florida has a much tougher lineup of conference games down the stretch than Kentucky does facing Arkansas and LSU in addition to South Carolina.

South Carolina beat Tennessee 24-21 last week sending the Vols into a tailspin. That is Tennessee’s third loss in a row and it comes only a couple of weeks after their coach was crowing on a national stage about how the Tennessee program was “back” and how other schools were looking to emulate the Tennessee model. Let me be clear, the first two losses in this streak were to Alabama and then to Texas A&M and there is no disgrace in either loss. However, a loss to South Carolina following those two losses is pretty miserable especially when the way the loss occurred was in the wake of 3 bad turnovers. Maybe the mood on old Rocky Top has degraded to Rocky Slop…

Auburn beat Ole Miss 40-29. Ole Miss led 29-27 as the 4th quarter got underway and then Auburn steamrollered them in the 4th quarter. On the stat sheet, Ole Miss came out ahead or even in most categories but not in the 4th quarter then the game was on the line.

In Big 10 action, Minnesota beat Illinois 40-17. I said this was a game of interest because neither team distinguished themselves in the process of beating Big 10 punching bag, Rutgers. Well, that score tells you about what you need to know about Illinois…

Michigan beat Michigan St. 32-23. The Wolverines were a Ponderosa favorite and did not come close to covering that number. This loss means that Michigan St. has lost 6 games for the 2016 season and their chances for a bowl invitation are razor thin. The Spartans would have to win out in their last 4 games to get to 6 wins and here is the lineup:

    At Illinois. Good chance for a win here.
    Vs. Rutgers. Losing this game at home would be humiliating indeed
    Vs. Ohio State. Clearly the underdog in this game
    At Penn St. Should be a slight underdog here.

Penn St. put a whooping on Purdue last week 62-24. Clearly the mid-season coaching change at Purdue was a positive move, right? This game was tied 17-17 at halftime and then Purdue folded like a lawn chair…

Wisconsin beat Nebraska 23-17 in OT. This was another game where an undefeated team lost last week. The stat sheet reflects the fact that this was a game that went to OT; these teams were evenly matched.

Ohio State beat Northwestern 24-10. Frankly, this was an unimpressive performance by Ohio State on the heels of a heartbreaking loss to Penn St. two weeks ago. Ohio State had 437 yards on offense but yielded 414 yards to Northwestern.

In the ACC, Louisville beat Virginia 32-25. Like Ohio State, Louisville was underwhelming here; they did not look like a team that needed to be considered seriously by the CFP Selection Committee based on this outing. Virginia actually led at the start of the 4th quarter here 17-14. Louisville had 225 more yards of offense here; they averaged 7.3 yards per play to only 4.8 for Virginia; the turnovers were equal; and still the game was on a knife edge in the 4th quarter…

BC Beat NC State 21-14. Both teams are now 4-4 on the season meaning that both teams could be playing in bowl games in December. How exciting is that? The big deal about this win for BC is that it snapped a 12-game losing streak in conference games. Other than that, …

Notre Dame beat Miami 30-27 handing the Hurricanes their 4th straight loss after starting the season with 4 straight wins. For a change, the Irish found a way to hold on at the end of a game to win it this year instead of losing in the 4th quarter. Actually, Notre Dame led by 20 points in the game and tried to give it away – – but didn’t.

Clemson beat Florida St. 37-34 in a great football game. Dalvin Cook and Demarcus Walker for Florida St were really impressive in this game despite being on the losing side. Walker is a senior DL who will clearly get drafted into the NFL next April and Cook is a junior RB who ought to take the opportunity to declare for the draft. Clemson won this game in no small measure by dominating the Seminoles’ OL. The Tigers recorded 6 sacks in the game and put more than a few other ferocious hits on Fla St. QB, Deondre Francois.

The Big 12 saw both of its previously undefeated teams take gas last week. West Virginia went to Oklahoma St. and lost 37-20. The Mountaineers amassed almost 100 more yards of offense in this game but 3 turnovers and 6 penalties did them in.

Meanwhile, Baylor also lost last week to Texas by a score of 35-34. Baylor ran 96 offensive plays and gained 655 yards on offense – – and lost the game. Ten penalties and an inability to ice the game and stop Texas in the 4th quarter decided the game in the Longhorns’ favor. Baylor led 34-26 with about 7 minutes to play in the game and coughed it up … These two losses pretty much assure that there will be no Big 12 teams in the discussion when it comes CFP time. Texas is not 4-4 on the season despite all the sturm und drang around Charlie Strong and his coaching status.

Texas Tech beat TCU 27-24 in OT. If you had told me that the score of that game was 27-24 at the end of the first quarter, I would have believed you. Tech gained 800+ yards and scored 59 points the week before; what happened here? Oh, and the Tech defense allowed 800+ yards and 65 points last week; what happened here?

K-State beat Iowa St. 31-26. The score was 31-10 at the start of the 4th quarter and K-State put it in cruise control for the 4th quarter making the game look closer than it was.

Oklahoma beat Kansas 56-3. In terms of net offense, Oklahoma prevailed 585 yards to 184 yards. Oklahoma gained 7.7 yards per play; Kansas gained 2.8 yards per play. This game could not have been even marginally exciting after some point in the second quarter. Oklahoma took its foot off the gas in the 4th quarter; neither team scored in that period.

Out west in the PAC-12, Washington beat Utah 31-24 in a really entertaining game to watch. Washington had bigger plays in the game but Utah kept grinding it out. At the end, Washington had 390 yards on offense and Utah had 385. Yes, the game was that close…

Oregon beat Arizona St 54-35. My question for myself is really simple:

    How did I miss taking this game to go OVER?

Washington St. beat Oregon St. 35-31 and needed a big comeback to do so. Oregon St. led 24-6 at halftime which is the point at which I tuned in. What happened in the 3rd quarter was that the wheels came off the Oregon St. wagon; at the end of the 3rd quarter, Washington St. had the lead 28-24.

Washington and Washington St. are both undefeated at 5-0 in conference play and will meet in the Apple Bowl game later this year. That game should decide the PAC-12 North champion.

Stanford beat Arizona 34-10. The Stanford offense finally woke up in this game – – or was that just ineptitude on the part of the Arizona defense. Perhaps a smidgen of both…

USC beat Cal 45-24. The PAC-12 South remains an interesting race:

    Colorado is 4-1 in conference and 6-2 overall
    Utah is 4-2 in conference and 7-2 overall
    USC is 4-2 in conference and 5-3 overall

The Ponderosa Games:

Last week we had 6 Ponderosa Games and the record for favorites covering was 2-4-0. That brings the season record for favorites covering in Ponderosa Games to 30-31-1.

La Tech and Oklahoma covered.

Louisville, Michigan, Ohio St. and Texas A&M did not cover.

This week we have 9 Ponderosa Games

(Fri Nite) San Jose St. at Boise St. – 29 (57.5): San Jose St has 3 wins this year and 2 of them have been over Nevada and UNLV. San Jose St seems to dominate the State of Nevada. Too bad Boise is the capital of Idaho…

Texas St. at Appalachian St – 31.5 (54): Texas St. is clearly on the SHOE watchlist…

Louisville – 25.5 at BC (56): This is an ACC game with the road team as a Ponderosa favorite.

Syracuse at Clemson – 27 (67): This is an ACC game with the home team as a Ponderosa favorite. This total Line opened the week at 58 points and has been climbing all week to this level.

Kansas at West Virginia – 34 (54): Kansas is very squarely on the SHOE watchlist…

Maryland at Michigan – 31 (54): Maryland won their first 4 games playing absolutely no one. Now their record is 5-3 and after this week’s game at Michigan they get to host Ohio State and then visit Nebraska.

Vandy at Auburn – 26 (44.5): If this is really going to be such a low scoring game, that is an awful lot of points in that spread line…

Georgia Southern at Ole Miss – 27.5 (63): Ole Miss catches a breather here from SEC conference play.

Florida International at Western Kentucky – 31 (67): The best category for this game is “Who Knows/Who cares?”

The SHOE Teams:

Last week, I put San Jose St. on the watchlist at the suggestion of a reader and the team went out and won its 3rd game of the year. So, they come off the watch list for this week but there are some new additions. I will keep the watchlist at 16 teams for one more week and then start a winnowing process:

    Bowling Green (1-7): Lone win is over North Dakota – not North Dakota St.

    Florida Atlantic (1-7): No wins over Division 1-A teams

    Fresno St. (1-8): No wins over Division 1-A teams

    Illinois (2-6): Wins are over Murray St. (div 1-AA) and Rutgers.

    Iowa St. (1-7): Lost to Div 1-AA team and beat only San Jose St.

    Kansas (1-7): Win is over Rhode Island and students stormed the field.

    La-Monroe (2-6): Lost last two games by a combined score of 110-27.

    Marshall (2-6): Wins over Florida Atlantic Morgan St and

    Missouri (2-6): Wins over E. Michigan and Delaware St plus 2 BAD home losses

    New Mex. St.(2-6): One win is over New Mexico with 5 wins. Disqualifying?

    Oregon St. (2-6): One of those wins is over Idaho State

    Rice (1-7): Win is over Prairie View A&M; play FAU this week and UTEP later.

    Rutgers (2-6): Two losses here were by a combined score of 136 – 0

    Texas St. (2-5): Wins over Ohio and Incarnate Word.

    UMass (2-7): Wins over Florida Int’l and Wagner

    UTEP (2-6): Wins over New Mexico St and Texas-San Antonio.

Games of Interest:

Navy at Notre Dame – 7 (64.5): I think Notre Dame has enough athletes on offense to do plenty of damage to the Navy defense and I think the Notre Dame defense will have difficulty containing Navy’s run-first option offense. I see another scoring fest here so I’ll take the game to go OVER.

Air Force at Army – 1.5 (47.5): Neither team will surprise the other with regard to offensive philosophy or execution. The winner of this game will be bowl eligible and I think that Air Force has beaten a better set of opponents. It will be a long flight from Colorado Springs to West Point for the game but folks in the Air Force ought not to be bothered by flying. I’ll take Air Force plus the points on the road.

Florida State – 5.5 at NC State (58): The spread opened at 8 points and has been dropping steadily. Florida State lost a hard-fought game to Clemson last week and Deondre Francois took a pounding (see above). Meanwhile, NC State lost a winnable home game last week to BC meaning they still need to find 2 wins in order to play in a bowl game this year. The team that rebounds from last week’s loss should win this one. Make this a venue call. I’ll take NC State plus the points.

Oklahoma St. at K-State – 3 (57): Oklahoma St. handed an undefeated W. Virginia team its first loss of the season last week in Stillwater, OK. Before getting to excited about that result, recall that K-State lost to W. Virginia by only 1 point earlier this year and that game was in Morgantown WV. K-State is undefeated at home this year. I think they can stay that way so I’ll take K-State to win and cover in Manhattan, KS.

Pitt at Miami (FL) – 3 (57): Pitt scores plenty of points – 38.1 points per game. Pitt allows plenty of points too – 32.4 points per game. Miami’s defense is better than its offense but I think the ball will be moving up and down the field a lot here. I like this game to go OVER.

Georgia – 2.5 at Kentucky (51): Georgia is 4-4 on the year; after a Week 1 win over UNC, the other three wins are underwhelming:

    Nichols St at home 26-24
    At Missouri 28-27
    At South Carolina 28-14.

As noted above, Kentucky is a lot better than usual this year. They have lost 3 games but 2 of them were to Alabama and Florida. If you look at this purely on “football pedigree”, Georgia is the dominant program but the only thing that matters is the 2016 teams on the field. I think Kentucky will win the game so I’ll take them plus the points at home.

Florida – 4 at Arkansas (47): Florida brings the #2 team in Total Defense to the field here; they allow just under 240 yards per game. The Arkansas defensive unit is far more generous ranked 88th in the country allowing 428 yards per game. Here is the rub. Florida’s offense is 75th in the country (398.6 yards per game) clustered with teams not known as offensive juggernauts such as Michigan St., BYU, UNLV and UCLA. I think this will be a defense-dominated game so I’ll take Arkansas at home plus the points.

Washington – 17 at Cal (76.5): Undefeated Washington is the better team here; that spread of 3 scores is clearly justified. The Cal defense – such as it is – ranks 124th in the country and gives up 505 yards per game. The Washington defensive unit is much better, but it will have to deal with a Cal offense that gains 536.5 yards per game and ranks 8th in the country. Washington will make enough stops to win the game – and probably win it comfortably – but I am drawn to the Total Line. I like this game to go OVER.

Oregon at USC – 17 (79): Oregon has lost 5 games this year and when they lose it is because the Oregon defense does not show up. In only 1 of those five losses has the opponent been held to less than 41 points and in 3 of those losses, the defense has given up 51 or more points. USC is still in the running for the PAC-121 South Division championship and a slot in the PAC-12 Conference Championship Game so it has some motivation here. I like USC to win and cover a large spread here.

Texas – 3 at Texas Tech (81): Tech ranks #1 in the country in total offense gaining 603.4 yards per game; they average 500.6 yards per game passing. Texas has had “defensive issues” this year. Looking at this game through the other end of the telescope, Tech’s defense ranks 126th in the country – better only than Oregon and Rice – giving up 518.4 yards per game. I said that Texas has had “defensive issues’ this year; well, they rank a “lofty” 112th in the country. Make this a venue call; I’ll take Texas Tech plus the points at home.

Texas A&M – 13 at Mississippi St. (62): This game is an interesting one but not a betting one. So far this year, it is hard to tell which version of the Mississippi St. team will show up for the game. The Bulldogs have only won 3 games and the 3 vanquished opponents are unimpressive indeed – Samford, UMass and South Carolina. However, Mississippi St. went to Baton Rouge and only lost to LSU by a field goal. If the Bulldogs are going to pull an upset this year, this would be the game to do it – – but which Bulldog team will show up? By the way, next week, Mississippi St. get to go to Alabama for a game; this game here might provide a window for insight into next week’s game…

Iowa at Penn St. – 7 (53): Iowa lost to Wisconsin last week in OT; there is no shame in that. Their other two losses were “down the ladder” a bit to North Dakota St. and to Northwestern. Penn St. has a signature win over Ohio St. two weeks ago and its only bad loss was to Michigan in Ann Arbor; there is no shame in that loss. Purely a venue call here; I’ll take Penn St. to win and cover.

Arizona at Washington St. – 17 (65): Washington St. has won 6 in a row but their scoring output is down in the last three wins. Arizona has lost 5 games in a row and the last 4 have been by double-digits. I think the 108th ranked Arizona defense is just what the doctor ordered to get Washington St. rolling again on offense. I’ll take Washington St. at home to win and cover a big spread.

Alabama – 7.5 at LSU (44.5): This is the best game of the week. I do think Alabama is the best team in the country but watching Leonard Fournette run against the Alabama defense is worth the price of admission all by itself. The Total Line opened at 50 points and dropped quickly to 46 points and then has drifted down from there. I agree this will be a low scoring game and with Alabama on the field, the game could be decided by a turnover or a punt return for a TD. That line looks fat to me; I’ll take LSU at home plus the points.

Wisconsin – 7 at Northwestern (41): Both teams are in the Big 10 West and both teams have a 3-2 record in conference this year. They trail Nebraska by a game but Nebraska has to go to Ohio State this week (see below). The loser is pretty much done in terms of winning that division of the Big 10. Look for a low scoring game here; Northwestern ranks 89th in the country in points per game and Wisconsin ranks 95th. I’ll take Northwestern as the home team plus the points here.

Nebraska at Ohio State – 17 (52): Nebraska lost an OT game at Wisconsin last week and now has to go to Columbus OH to play an Ohio St. team that may or may not be CFP worthy. The Buckeyes’ loss to Penn St. may keep them out of the CFP and perhaps this Ohio St. team is a notch below some of the squads we have seen in recent years. Nonetheless, this is still a very good opponent for Nebraska. I do not expect Nebraska to win this game, but I do think they can keep it within 3 scores. I’ll take Nebraska plus the points.

Finally, Brad Rock had this item in the Deseret News recently regarding a comment from the Iowa St. Athletic Director:

“The athletics director at Iowa State says without Oklahoma and Texas, the Big 12 would become the Mountain West.

“He wishes.

“News flash: The MWC includes road trips to San Diego, Las Vegas and Hawaii. Stop with the silly comparisons.”

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 10/29/16

If I had to attach a descriptor for last week’s NCAA Mythical Picks, I would probably begin with adjectives such as “appalling”, “atrocious”, “dreadful”, “ghastly”, “hideous” and/or “revolting”. I made 15 selections last week and the record for the week was 3-12-0. That takes down the season record to 66-61-0.

The Best Picks of the Week were – not that there were many to choose from:

    Utah +7 against UCLA. Utah won straight up by a TD.
    Colorado +2 against Stanford. Colorado won straight up by 5 points.

The Worst Picks of the Week were – among the many:

    NC State +19.5 against Louisville. NC State lost by 42 points.
    Ohio State – 19 against Penn State. Ohio State lost straight up.

If you have read this far, I should not have to tell you that no one ought to use anything herein as the basis for making a real wager on a real college football game this weekend involving real money. Here is how dumb you would have to be to do that:

    If stupid were dirt, you would be 40 acres.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats beat Whitworth last weekend by a score of 45-31. That gives Linfield its 5th win for the season and it assures them a winning season in football for the 61st consecutive season. At the moment, their record in the Northwest Conference is 4-0; winning that conference title will likely put Linfield in the Division III playoffs. Their 3 remaining games are all conference games.

This week, Linfield hosts the Bruins of George Fox University. The Bruins bring a 3-game winning streak, a 3-3 record and a 3-1 record in the conference to McMinnville this weekend. Go Wildcats!

Continuing to follow the exploits of Cooper Kupp at WR for the E. Washington Eagles, the team went on the road to play Montana St. last week and came home with a 41-17 wins. Kupp caught 13 passes in the game for 154 yards and 1 TD. For the 2016 season, he has caught 59 passes for 866 yards and 8 TDs in 6 games.

This week, E. Washington hosts the Montana Grizzlies. Montana brings a 5-2 record to the game and an offense that has scored more than 40 points in 5 games this year. Go Eagles!

Notre Dame had last week off – and they needed it. Consider this summary of their season to date from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Pretzel logic: Try wrapping your head around the very real possibility that Bobby Wilder’s ODU team will play in a bowl this season, while Notre Dame will not. The reeling Irish (2-5) have games against Miami, Navy, Virginia Tech and Southern Cal remaining. They may not be favored in any of them.”

Speaking of bowl games, it is hardly commonplace for all three of the service academies to go to bowl games in a given year. All three have a shot at bowl-eligibility this year albeit two of the academies made things a bit harder for themselves by losing last week:

Army lost to North Texas 35-18. This was a self-inflicted wound; Army lost 2 fumbles and threw 4 INTs in the game. Army’s record is now 4-2 and they have to find 2 more wins with this upcoming schedule; it is not going to be easy:

    At Wake Forest
    Vs. Air Force
    At Notre Dame
    Morgan St. (Division 1-AA)
    Vs. Navy

Meanwhile, Air Force lost last week to Hawaii 34-27. Somehow, the Flyboys need to generate 2 wins from this remaining schedule:

    At Fresno St.
    At Army
    Colorado St
    AT San Jose St.
    Boise St.

Air Force has an easier glide path to 6 wins than does Army. Fresno St. is on the SHOE watchlist this weekend with a 1-7 record and a new coach; San Jose St is also on the SHOE watchlist this week thanks to an e-mail from a reader who noted correctly that I did not have them on the watchlist last week and wondered how they had escaped such notoriety. The reason is that I had not realized that they were as bad as they were.

Navy won last week beating Memphis 42-28. That gives Navy 5 wins for the year and a clear path to bowl eligibility.

Boise St. remained unbeaten last week beating BYU 28-27. BYU had a chance to win the game with a short field goal at the end of the game but it was blocked. BYU recovered the ball and since it never crossed the line of scrimmage and it was not a 4th down attempt, the cougars had one last shot at victory with a Hail Mary pass. That prayer went unanswered and Boise St. came out of the game with a 7-0 record.

Boise St. turned the ball over 5 times in the game and was minus-5 in the turnover stats. The fact that they won the game anyhow is surprising. Here is a stat I ran across to show how unusual that is:

    Since 2004, teams that are minus-5 in the takeovers have a record of 9-231.

W. Michigan beat E. Michigan last week 45-31 and that gives W. Michigan a record of 8-0 for the 2016 season. Could they run the table here? Here is the remaining schedule for the Broncos:

    At Ball State – record is 4-4 with no “signature wins”.
    At Kent St. – record is 2-6 and on the SHOE watchlist
    Vs. Buffalo – record is 1-6 and on the SHOE watchlist
    Vs Toledo – record is 6-1; this will be an interesting MAC game.

SMU beat Houston 38-16 last week. Houston’s loss to Navy knocked them out of any consideration for the CFP. This loss to a less-than-fearsome SMU team may accomplish one of more of these things:

    1. It may give a really minor bowl game a shot at a Houston team that got loads of publicity earlier this year. Maybe the Bahamas Bowl or the Pinstripe Bowl?

    2. It may drive down the price that Houston coach, Tom Herman, can demand on the football coaching carousel this winter.

Rice beat Prairie View A&M (Division 1-AA) last week 65-44. That means that all 128 teams in Division 1-A now have at least 1 win. That win by itself will not get Rice off the SHOE watchlist, but a loss would have put them in the SHOE Tournament for certain. Congrats to the Owls for keeping alive the possibility of avoiding the SHOE Tournament.

In another bottom-feeder game, UTEP beat UT-San Antonio 52-49. But it took 5 OTs to get that job done…

In Big-12 action, K-State beat Texas 24-21. K-state led this game 24-7 in the 3rd quarter and then developed a bad habit of turning the ball over and let the Longhorns back into the game. State held on to win at the end.

Oklahoma St. beat Kansas 44-20. It was 17-13 at halftime; Kansas was within hailing distance. Then the clock struck midnight …

West Virginia beat TCU 34-10. I guess West Virginia is for real and that their defense has figured out how to play the game. They held TCU to only 317 yards of offense and a measly 148 yards passing. The fact that TCU turned the ball over 3 times did not help the Horned Frogs’ cause even a little bit.

Oklahoma beat Texas Tech 66-59. No, that is not a basketball score. Let me give you some stats here to show that the game was well-balanced:

    Baker Mayfield (OU): 26 for 35 for 541 yards with 7 TDs and 0 INTs
    Pat Mahomes (Tech): 44 for 77 for 655 yards with 4 TDs and 1 INT

      Obviously, the Tech coaching staff did not have Mahomes on a pitch-count for this game…

    Oklahoma: 864 yards total offense
    Texas Tech: 856 yards total offense

      Did the defenses have 11 men on the field all the time?

    Oklahoma converted 6 of 10 third-down situations
    Texas Tech converted 20 of 25 third-down situations

      Tackling drills anyone …?

    Oklahoma: 11.4 yards per offensive play
    Texas Tech: 7.9 yards per offensive play.

Wow! Simply … Wow! An Arena League Football game broke out in Lubbock last week…

In the ACC, VA Tech handed Miami (FL) its third loss in a row last week, 37-16. Tech and UNC now each have 1 conference loss in the Coastal Division of the ACC but Tech holds that tiebreaker having beaten UNC earlier this year. Miami QB, Brad Kaaya was sacked 8 times in this game losing 55 yards in the process.

Louisville beat NC State 54-13. Here is what I said in last week’s Mythical Picks about this game. Could I have been more incorrect?

“… I choose to believe that NC State has figured out how to put its pieces together so they work well together. That means I think they can stay close to Louisville – as they did with Clemson last week – and that their defense can keep Louisville from running wild. I’ll take NC State plus the points and I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.”

Louisville led 44-0 at the half. Louisville rolled up 572 yards of offense compared to NC State’s 256. This was an ass-kicking extraordinaire

UNC beat UVa 35-14 holding Virginia to only 265 yards of offense. Virginia needs to win 4 of its last 5 games to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2011. Things are not looking up on that front because next up for the Cavaliers is Louisville.

In Big 10 action, Minnesota beat Rutgers 34-32 and it took a 28-yard field goal with 10 seconds left in the game for Minnesota to win this one. I know that a win is a win, but this one ought to be embarrassing. Minnesota led 21-3 at the end of the first quarter and let Rutgers – a team on the SHOE watchlist to be sure – come back to lead the game in the final minute of play. Minnesota also allowed Rutgers to convert 10 of 19 third-down tries. Minnesota has 5 wins for the year and will probably be bowl-eligible. However, if I were a “bowl-game honcho” and was looking to find an invitee, I would consider this game as a justification to look for another dance partner.

Northwestern beat Indiana 24-14 but the game was closer than it might appear. Northwestern led 24-3 at the half but they were shut out in the second half. Consider;

    Northwestern had 408 yards total offense
    Indiana had 403 yards total offense.

Wisconsin beat Iowa 17-9. It was a defensive game and Wisconsin had the better of it for most of the time. This was Iowa’s 3rd loss this year; at least, this one was not as surprising as the other two were – – North Dakota State and Northwestern.

Nebraska beat Purdue 27-14 after Purdue led at halftime 14-10. Nebraska is 7-0 for the season with two really tough road games coming up in the next two weeks:

    At Wisconsin this week
    At Ohio State next week.

Michigan beat Illinois 41-8 but it was not that close. The Wolverines led 31-0 at the half; Michigan gained 578 yards while Illinois only managed 185; Michigan ran 87 offensive plays and Illinois only snapped the ball on offense 38 times.

Maryland beat Michigan St. 28-17. The last time Maryland beat Sparty was in 1950. To put that in perspective for you, Harry Truman had not yet fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur in 1950.

In the most shocking result of the Big 10 season to date, Penn State used a blocked field goal that was returned for a TD to beat Ohio State 24-21. Ohio State dominated the stat sheet gaining 446 yards (to Penn State’s 278 yards) and the Buckeyes ran 83 plays (to Penn State’s 60). Ohio State also won the turnover battle 1-0. Nevertheless, the scoreboard shows Penn State as the winner and the scoreboard is all that matters.

Lots of analysts said in the aftermath of this game that Ohio State still controlled its destiny. Ignoring the fact that destiny cannot – by definition – be controlled, Ohio State does NOT “control its destiny”. If Ohio State wins out, they will have 1 conference loss. But if Michigan loses before facing Ohio State and if Penn State wins out, then Ohio State will not make it to the Big 10 Championship Game – – let alone the CFP. Remember, Penn State owns the tiebreaker with Ohio State.

    Do I think Michigan will lose before playing Ohio State? No.

    Do I think Penn State will win out? If they beat Iowa in 2 weeks they might.

It may not be likely, but you cannot say the Ohio State controls its destiny if in fact their ultimate success depends on the successes and failures of a bunch of other teams.

Down in SEC-land, Alabama remained unbeaten for the year handling Texas A&M easily 33-14. This was the 10th consecutive game for Alabama where they scored a defensive and/or a special teams’ TD. That is such a long streak that you can no longer ascribe it to “luck” unless you also admit that what appears to be “luck” is often the outcome of “planning and practice”. Alabama gained 285 yards rushing and averaged 5 yards per carry. They were clearly the better team here.

Auburn beat Arkansas 56-3. Here is what I said about that game in last week’s Mythical Picks:

“I like Auburn but I really wonder if they are 2-scores better than Arkansas. I’ll take Arkansas plus the points.”

My wonderment is over. Auburn was not 2-scores better than Arkansas, they were 8-scores better. Auburn had 632 yards offense and dominated every phase of the game. Arkansas had to punt 10 times here. The only Arkansas score was a 54-yard field goal with 4 seconds remaining in the first half. Perhaps Auburn/Alabama will be a great way to end the regular season in the SEC this year?

Kentucky beat Mississippi St. 40-38. There was about as much joy in Starkeville on Saturday as there was in Mudville back when Casey took gas in the bottom of the ninth. A 50-yard field goal as time expired took Kentucky from losing to winning. Kentucky led 34-24 in the 4th quarter but surrendered that lead until the final seconds. Kentucky needs 2 more wins to be bowl-eligible for the first time since 2010. Here is their schedule:

    At Missouri – underdog on the road but the game is winnable
    Vs. Georgia – underdog at home but the game is winnable
    At Tennessee – not much hope for this one
    Vs. Austin Peay – they have to win this game and they will
    At Louisville – Fuhgeddaboudit !!

I mentioned Missouri as this week’s opponent for Kentucky so let me remind you what Missouri did at home last week. It was Homecoming and they had scheduled a nice “Homecoming Opponent” in Middle Tennessee State. Then Missouri took the pipe and lost the game 51-45. Missouri ran 104 offensive plays and generated 629 yards on offense. That usually wins football games. The problem was that Missouri lost 2 fumbles (leading to 10 points for the opposition) and did not do much on defense allowing Middle Tennessee State to amass 584 yards offense of its own. Oh, and those 13 penalties for 125 yards walked off against Missouri did not help either.

LSU beat Ole Miss 38-21. Welcome back to the field, Leonard Fournette. After sitting out two games with an injury, he dominated the Ole Miss defense in this game. Check these stats:

    12 carries for 254 yards and 3 TDs

That is not a lot of work for a RB, but that is a lot of offensive output. LSU’s record now stands at 5-2 despite all the fussing and fuming in Baton Rouge earlier this year. However, the 4 opponents left for the Tigers are:

    Alabama – in Baton Rouge
    Arkansas – in Fayetteville
    Florida – in Baton Rouge (the postponed Hurricane Matthew game)
    Texas A&M – in College Station

LSU could win out – but it won’t be easy…

Way out west in the PAC-12, Colorado beat Stanford 10-5. The last time Colorado beat Stanford was in 1990. Colorado is bowl-eligible now and is not out of the running for the PAC-12 South Division title and a slot in the PAC-12 Championship Game. Coach Mike MacIntyre’s agent just might be fielding calls from ADs at some of the blue-blood schools that will be seeking coaches in the offseason such as USC, Texas, LSU, Notre Dame… Stanford turned the ball over 4 times in this game; Colorado seemingly tried to keep the game as close as possible by missing 3 field goals and having a TD called back for a penalty. Stanford has now lost 3 of their last 4 games and is not a shoo-in for bowl eligibility. Since September 24, Stanford has not scored more than 17 points in a game; over that 4-game span, they scored a total of 44 points – – 11 points per game.

Utah beat UCLA 52-45. Here is what I said about this game in last week’s NCAA Mythical Picks:

“Short and sweet here. I think the oddsmaker has it right with that Total Line; this will be a defensive game. Therefore, I’ll take Utah plus the points.”

Well, I got the game right in the end, but not for anything related to the reason I took Utah in the first place. That proves that it is better to be lucky than smart. The game started with Utah returning the opening kickoff for a TD and what followed was a “Points-a-Palooza”. Utah RB, Joe Williams, scored 3 TDs in the game on runs of 43 yards, 55 yards and 64 yards. He totaled 332 yards and 4 TDs on 29 carries. UCLA threw 4 INTs and lost a fumble in the game; nonetheless, they only lost by a TD. It was as if a Big-12 game broke out in Southern California…

Cal beat Oregon 52-49 – – but it took double OT for them to get to that score and to cover a Total Line that got all the way to 90 points by kickoff. Cal recorded 40 first downs and 640 yards in the game; Oregon had 27 first downs and 456 yards offense. Cal ran 118 offensive plays and Oregon ran 85. Fans got their money’s worth in Northern California for this game…

Washington remained unbeaten cruising to a win over Oregon State 41-17. The Huskies averaged 7.5 yards per offensive play and the outcome was never in doubt. The score at the half was 31-0.

Washington State beat Arizona State 37-32. Washington State had 398 yards passing in the game which is only slightly above the average yardage allowed by the Sun devils in a game (386.1 yards per game). And yes; that is the worst pass defense in the nation. It still appears as if the Apple Bowl game at the end of the season between Washington and Washington State will determine the PAC-12 North division winner.

This week’s slate of games has an interesting twist to it. As of today, there are still 9 undefeated teams in Division 1-A football. Two of those teams, Alabama and Western Michigan have BYE Weeks this week. Here is the schedule for the other 7 undefeated teams:

    Baylor (6-0) is AT Texas
    Boise St. (7-0) is AT Wyoming
    Clemson (7-0) is AT Florida State
    Michigan (7-0) is AT Michigan State
    Nebraska (7-0) is AT Wisconsin
    Washington (7-0) is AT Utah
    West Virginia (6-0) is AT Oklahoma State

That’s right; all seven of the undefeated teams playing this week are on the road. Even more interesting is the range of spreads on these games. Michigan is a Ponderosa Favorite on the road at Michigan State while Nebraska is an 8-point underdog at Wisconsin. Should be interesting …

The Ponderosa Games:

Last week there were 5 Ponderosa Games and – just as it was a bad week for Mythical Picking – it was a bad week for favorites covering in Ponderosa Games. The record for favorites covering last week was 0-4-1. That brings the season record for favorites covering in Ponderosa games to 28-27-1.

Western Michigan was a PUSH.

Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma St. and Washington did not cover.

This week, there are 6 Ponderosa Games:

New Mexico State at Texas A&M – 44 (72): If the Aggies go by bus to get to this game, they will have to travel about 750 miles across some bleak parts of West Texas just for the opportunity to get a mud-hole stomped into their collective butt.

Kansas at Oklahoma – 40 (68): Hey, don’t blame OU for scheduling this one; it’s a conference game.

Louisville – 33 at Virginia (70): Hey, don’t blame Louisville for scheduling this one; it’s a conference game.

Northwestern at Ohio State – 27.5 (53.5): This spread opened the week at 21.5 points; it jumped to 24 points almost immediately and has climbed quickly to this level. One sportsbook has it at 28 points. Oh, and it is a conference game.

Rice at La Tech – 28.5 (72): Rice won its first game last week playing down a level against a Division 1-AA opponent. Welcome back to Division 1-A…

Michigan – 24.5 at Michigan St. (54): This is one of the games with an undefeated team on the road this week. This too is a conference game… Remember, however how Michigan lost to Michigan St. last year and ask yourself if Jim Harbaugh has reminded his team of that disastrous ending to that game.

The SHOE Teams

The Watchlist of 16 teams has a few modifications this week based on play from last week and from a reader making me aware that I had completely ignored the poor play by San Jose St. I will just list the teams here in alphabetical order; the blanket assessment is that not one of them has earned “mediocrity” as a label.

    Bowling Green
    Florida Atlantic
    Fresno State
    Iowa State
    Kent State
    Oregon State
    San Jose State
    Texas State

Games of Interest:

(Fri Nite) Navy at USF – 6.5 (64.5): I think both defenses can be exploited here and that both teams will move the ball efficiently and effectively. If Navy can win “Time of Possession” convincingly, they will win the game and may even cover. What I am more confident about is that there will be lots of scoring by both teams. I’ll take the game to go OVER.

(Fri Nite) Air Force – 14.5 at Fresno St. (54): Fresno will play its first game under its interim coach. The team played well – while losing – against San Diego St. and if the new guy can get the team excited to play, they might make this very interesting at home. Purely a hunch, I’ll take Fresno St. plus the points.

Army at Wake Forest – 7 (41): Low scoring game upcoming here. In low-scoring games, I generally like to take points. Ergo, I’ll take Army plus the points.

Minnesota – 9 at Illinois (no Total Line): I will not make a pick here but the game is of interest because Minnesota just squeaked by Rutgers last week in Minnesota with a field goal in the final seconds (see above). Two weeks ago, Illinois beat Rutgers handily at Rutgers. So, why is this a 2-score game in the spread? Illinois is a bad team; Minnesota is marginally better. I’ll just watch for the results to come in…

Texas Tech at TCU – 9.5 (86.5): Texas Tech is the second-highest scoring team in the country with the top-rated passing offense and the top-rated passing offense in the country. Nonetheless, Texas Tech is 3-4 for the year and its wins have been over unimpressive company:

    Stephen F. Austin (Div 1-AA) by 52 points
    La Tech by 14 points
    Kansas by 36 points

Not a lot of top-shelf opponent points in that mix. The TCU pass defense ranks 106th in the country so it would seem that Tech is destined to put points on the board in large quantity. I think the line is fat; I’ll take Texas Tech plus the points.

Penn State – 13 at Purdue (57): The $64,000 Question here is this:

    Can the Penn State coaches keep the players grounded after the amazingly emotional win over Ohio State in Beaver Stadium last week?

I think this will be a defensive game and I do not see where the 58th point will come from. I like this game to stay UNDER.

Clemson – 4.5 at Florida St. (60): This is one of the games with an undefeated team on the road this week. Florida St. had a BYE Week last week presumably used to get its defense right; there is plenty of physical talent there but the defense has taken lots of “time off” in games this year. Against Clemson, that would be fatal. Clemson allows only 166.1 yards per game passing and FSU’s QB is a freshman. Moreover, Clemson only allows 15.3 points per game. I think Clemson is too much here so I’ll take them to win and cover even on the road.

K-State – 6.5 at Iowa St. (50.5): Iowa St. is not very good on either offense or defense – but neither is K-State. My first reaction here would be to take the underdog at home but I just do not trust Iowa St. I do think that both teams can score on the opposing defenses. So, I’ll take the game to go OVER.

W. Virginia – 3.5 at Oklahoma St. (64.5): This is one of the games with an undefeated team on the road this week. The West Virginia defense has made a believer out of me over the past couple of games. I think they are the better team here and I’ll take them to win and cover on the road.

Miami (FL) – 2 at Notre Dame (58): The spread opened with Notre Dame as the -1point favorite but it has flipped to this number. If you are old enough, you remember when a Miami/Notre Dame game had serious weight when it came to determining the National Champion for a season; often those games were referred to as Catholics vs. Convicts. That is not the case here; neither team will get a millisecond of consideration for the CFP. As noted above, Miami has lost 3 games in a row and has really looked discombobulated doing so. As lackluster as Notre Dame has looked this year – particularly on defense – I just cannot take Miami as a road favorite against anything other than a Sun Belt team. Purely a venue call, I’ll take Notre Dame plus the points.

Baylor – 3.5 at Texas (72): This is one of the games with an undefeated team on the road this week. Baylor had last week off and it seems as if the Baylor offense is getting back in gear about now. That means the Texas defense – such as it is – will be under duress and that means the Texas offense will have to play fast just to keep up. Texas ranks 94th in the country in Total Defense and Baylor ranks 16th. On the other side, Texas ranks 34th in the country in total offense whereas Baylor ranks 4th. All the signs point to Baylor here; I’ll take Baylor to win and cover.

Washington St. – 13 at Oregon St. (57): This Total Line opened the week at 65.5 points. The current line represents a huge line movement and it likely reflects the fact that Oregon St. will play without its starting QB in this game and possibly in all the games for the rest of the season. Oregon St. was a poor team with the starting QB; it just seems unlikely that they will improve with whoever comes in to play QB. What is interesting here is that while the Total Line was dropping, the spread was also dropping from 15.5 points last weekend to the current level here. I have no idea what that reflects so I’ll make no pick here but I will watch for the results.

Stanford – 6 at Arizona (49): Stanford’s offensive woes are outlined above. In Total Offense, Stanford ranks 128th – that is DEAD LAST – in the country with 299.1 yards per game. [The Cardinal scoring offense rating is slightly better at 126th in the country topping such powerhouse programs as Buffalo and South Carolina.] However, maybe the Arizona defense is coming to Stanford’s rescue. The Wildcats’ defense ranks 114th in the nation giving up 474.6 yards per game. I will refrain from a pick here but I want to see if Stanford can indeed move the ball and score on a mediocre-at-best Arizona defense.

Nebraska at Wisconsin – 9 (43): This is one of the games with an undefeated team on the road this week. Wisconsin has the better defense here (9th in the country giving up 300.6 yards per game) but the Nebraska defense is not chopped liver (21st in the country giving up 342.9 yards per game). On offense, Nebraska is averaging 10 more points per game than Wisconsin. I know that Wisconsin enjoys a big home field advantage but that line looks obese to me. I like Nebraska plus the points here.

Georgia “at” Florida – 7.5 (43) [Game is in Jax]: The spread opened at 5.5 points and shot up to this level quickly. Florida is a defense-driven team; that defense needs to stop the Georgia run game here. I think they can do that. Georgia’s QB, Jacob Eason, is a freshman and I do not think he is ready to beat a good Florida defense by throwing the ball a lot. I am certainly not enamored with the Florida offense but I think it is good enough – Florida scores an average of 30 points per game thanks to contributions from its defense and special teams – to beat a rebuilding Georgia team. I’ll take Florida and lay the points here.

Auburn – 4.5 at Ole Miss (63): Auburn is on a 4-game winning streak and Ole Miss has dropped 2 in a row. Of late, the Auburn offense has become a monster; early in the year it was a squeaky little mouse. Ole Miss does not win with its defense. I think the game sets up just right for Auburn. I’ll take Auburn to win and cover even on the road.

Boise St. – 13.5 at Wyoming (64.5): This is one of the games with an undefeated team on the road this week. Wyoming brings a 5-2 record to this game with one of the wins over Air Force; moreover, Wyoming is undefeated in the MWC as is Boise St. obviously. I like the Boise St. defense to control this game so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

Kentucky at Missouri – 6 (70): This game is interesting only because Kentucky needs a win somewhere to be in bowl-eligible mode. Both teams are bottom-feeders in the SEC. Do not wager on this game but watch for results to see if Kentucky can win an important game on the road. Oh, by the way, after losing last week at home for Homecoming, it may also be interesting to note if Missouri can beat a mediocre opponent at home.

Washington – 10.5 at Utah (54): This is one of the games with an undefeated team on the road this week. In fact, I think it is the Game of the Week. Washington has been dominating opponents this year. Except for a 7-point win over Arizona a month ago, Washington has won the other 6 games by 24 points or more. However, Utah brings a 7-1 record to this game and they have won games by slugging it out on defense and by playing helter-skelter games too (see above for last week’s UCLA game). Fortunately for me, this game will kick off at 6:30 Eastern Time meaning I will not have to stay up until 2:30 AM to see its conclusion. I like Utah at home plus that generous helping of points.

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 10/22/16

The best word I can think of to describe last week’s NCAA Mythical Picks is “Meh!” I made 16 picks; the record for the week was 8-8-0. Meh! That brings the season record to 63-49-0.

The Best Picks of the week were:

    Arkansas +7.5 against Ole Miss. Arkansas won outright by 4 points
    UNC + 7 against Miami (FL). UNC won outright by 7 points.

The Worst Picks of the week were:

    Iowa St./Texas OVER 69. The Total Score was only 33.
    Stanford/Notre Dame OVER 54. The Total Score was only 27.

Last week’s results ought not to entice anyone to be confident that this week’s picks will be anything special. However, in case anyone is new to the party here, let me offer this disclaimer. No one should use anything written here as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on a real college football game this weekend – or any other weekend for that matter. How dumb would you have to be to do such a thing?

    Let’s just say you will never be in danger of throwing your back out because it is forced to carry the weight of your brain.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats extended their season record to 4-1 last week with a 40-0 shutout win over Willamette. That means Linfield is one more victory away from having its 61st consecutive winning season in football. In Division III, Linfield plays a 9-game regular season schedule.

This week, the Wildcats will travel east to take on the Pirates of Whitworth University. The Pirates bring a 5-1 record to the field – including a 5-game winning streak. Only once this year has Whitworth failed to score 45 points in a game. Meanwhile, Linfield has only given up 11.6 points per game this year. Go Wildcats!

Eastern Washington had last week off, so there are no Cooper Kupp exploits to document here. This week, the Eagles go to Bozeman, MT to take on the Montana St. Bobcats. Go Eagles!

North Dakota St. had gotten a lot of attention recently given its status as a Division 1-AA team. Carson Wentz went overall #2 in the NFL Draft a few months ago and North Dakota St. began this season with an upset win over Iowa. However, last weekend, North Dakota State fell to South Dakota St. by a score of 19-17 on the final play of the game. If I counted correctly, that is only the 5th loss for N. Dakota St. in the last 6 seasons.

In non-conference action last week, Stanford rallied to beat Notre Dame 17-10 after the Irish led 10-0 at the half. It was not an offensive explosion by Stanford that won the game; they scored their 17 points on a Pick Six, a safety, a fumble recovered in the end zone and a 2-point conversion.

    The good news for Notre Dame is that the defense finally played a good game.

    The bad news for Notre Dame is that their record now stands at 2-5.

BYU prevailed over Mississippi St. 28-21 in double overtime. The game was about as even as the score – and duration – would indicate:

    Total offense BYU = 314 yards
    Total offense Miss St. = 392 yards
    Turnovers BYU = 2
    Turnovers Miss St. = 2
    Third down conversions BYU = 9 for 17
    Third down conversions Miss St. = 8 for 19

Down in SEC country, Vandy upset Georgia 17-16. This does not happen all that often; Georgia leads this rivalry 55-20-2. Since 2000, the Bulldogs record in this series is 14-3. I mention those stats to set up this rhetorical question:

    Might we add Georgia to the list of schools that fired a pretty good coach simply because the alums and boosters have a higher expectation for the football program than is deserved?

Alabama beat Tennessee 49-10. Tennessee is improved over last year and was better last year than the year before that. Having said that, the score of this game fairly represents the difference between these two teams. Tennessee was simply out-classed…

Florida handled Missouri 40-14. The Gators have 1 loss this year – to Tennessee. However, if Florida can “run the table” they will finish first in the SEC East because Tennessee has 2 conference losses. Let me just say that Florida does not have an easy row to hoe:

    Oct 29: vs. Georgia (in Jax for the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party)
    Nov 5: at Arkansas
    Nov 12: vs S. Carolina
    Nov 19: at LSU (make-up of game postponed by Hurricane Matthew)
    Nov 26: at Florida State (not a conference game)

Arkansas beat Ole Miss 34-30. Ole Miss trailed 17-6 in the first half but rallied to take the lead at 30-27 with about 9 minutes to play in the game. Arkansas iced the game with a TD around the 2-minute mark.

In Big 10 action, let me start at the bottom. Illinois beat Rutgers at Rutgers by 17 points. Unequivocally, Illinois is not a good team; that statement tells you something important about the Rutgers team. Let me do a bit of foreshadowing here:

    You will encounter Rutgers later on when I present the first look at candidates for the SHOE Tournament.

Iowa beat Purdue 49-35. Iowa dominated the first half and led 35-7 at halftime. Then they went to sleep in the second half but Purdue could not make up the 28-point hole they had dug for themselves. This game was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Purdue; they fired their head coach the day after the game.

Nebraska beat Indiana 27-22. Nebraska dominated the game early on and then seemed to take its foot off the gas. Nebraska is now 6-0 for the year and it has been 15 years since the Huskers have opened a season with 6 straight wins.

Northwestern beat Michigan St. 54-40. Who saw that coming? I certainly did not. In fact, it might be one of the most surprising scores of the year. Earlier this year, Northwestern lost to W. Michigan (from the MAC) and also to Illinois St. (Division 1-AA). Moreover, in the loss to Illinois St., Northwestern only scored 7 points. Now in the last two games, Northwestern has beaten Iowa and Michigan St and scored a total of 92 points in those 2 games. This was the 4th loss in a row for Michigan St.; the last time that happened was back in 2006.

Ohio State needed OT to beat Wisconsin 30-23. This was a heavyweight game and it lived up to its advance billing. Wisconsin led 16-6 at the half but Ohio State rallied in the second half to force overtime. The two QBs had almost identical stats:

    JT Barrett was 17 for 29 for 226 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT
    Alex Hornibrook was 16 for 28 for 214 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT

The running game for the two QBs was a different story. Barrett ran for 92 yards and 2 TDs while Hornibrook ran for minus-34 yards for the game. Wisconsin has now lost two games this year both by 7 points to Ohio State and to Michigan. Recall that Wisconsin also played LSU earlier this year and beat LSU. The Badgers are probably the best 2-loss team in the country.

In ACC action, Louisville beat Duke 24-14. Frankly, it was a lackluster performance by Louisville with far less “excitement” provided from Lamar Jackson than anticipated. Yes, he produced a tad over 300 yards in the game which is laudable indeed; however, he has been producing 400+ yards in games almost routinely this year. The Duke defense kept him well below that sort of output.

Meanwhile, Clemson beat North Carolina St. 24-17 in OT. If you want to see a lackluster performance by an entire team, go check out the replay and watch Clemson. This is not what a “Top 5” team is supposed to look like. Both teams had the same average yards per offensive play (5.6 yards per snap). NC State does not have a “Top 5” offense or defense. Clemson turned the ball over 4 times in the game.

Florida St. beat Wake Forest 17-6. I am not all that surprised that the Seminoles held Wake Forest to less than 10 points; I am surprised that the Seminoles only scored 17 points.

UNC beat Miami (FL) 20-13. UNC is 5-2 and it would not be shocking to see them win 9 games this year. Their losses have been to Georgia and to Va Tech – in a Hurricane Matthew game that should never have been played. I do not know if the Tar Heels will win out, but all of the remaining 5 games are winnable:

    At Virginia
    Home against Georgia Tech
    At Duke
    Home against The Citadel
    Home against NC State.

Out there in Big 12 country, Oklahoma beat K-State 38-17. I did not expect K-state to win this game but I also did not expect them to lose by 3 TDs. Oklahoma racked up 510 yards on offense for the day as compared to only 353 for K-State.

West Virginia beat Texas Tech 48-17. So where did West Virginia find a defense all of a sudden? The Mountaineers held Texas Tech to 1.3 yards per rushing attempt for this game.

Baylor beat Kansas 49-7. The score was 42-0 at the half and then Baylor called off the dogs. If Art Briles were still at Baylor, he would not have stopped until Baylor was in the mid-70s…

Texas beat Iowa St. 27-6. Someone must have found a way to take the Ambien out of the drinking water in the Longhorns’ defensive meeting room; the defense actually showed up and played well here. The Iowa St. offense has been decent this year and they had averaged 39 points per game over the 3-game stretch leading up to this one. Iowa St. led 6-3 at the half and Texas had lost 14 straight game when they trailed at halftime. However, this time Texas scored 21 points in the 3rd quarter and the defense pitched a shutout for the 2nd half and the Longhorns won the game. As a measure of the quality of the Texas defensive play here, consider that they held Iowa St. to 280 yards’ offense on 77 offensive plays. That is a meager 3.6 yards per play.

In PAC-12 action last week, USC clobbered Arizona by a score of 48-14. It was 34-0 at the half. This game was no contest…

Colorado beat Arizona St. 40-16 last week. It was not a joyous weekend of college football for fans in Arizona. The rushing stats and the total offense stats tell the story of this game:

    Ariz St. ran 28 times for 50 yards
    Colorado ran 52 times for 315 yards

    Ariz St had total offense of 199 yards
    Colorado had total offense of 580 yards.

I believe Colorado is 7-0 against the spread this year meaning there are some happy alums and boosters in and around Boulder CO…

Utah beat Oregon St. 19-14. This game should be held up as a monument to offensive ineptitude. Consider:

    Oregon St. had 7 first downs
    Utah had 12 first downs

    Oregon St. was 0 for 9 on third downs
    Utah was 4 for 10 on third downs

    Oregon St had total offense of 155 yards
    Utah had total offense of 239 yards

    Oregon St. ran 36 offensive plays
    Utah ran 48 offensive plays

      [Aside: Lots of teams run 75 plays in a game routinely and some run as many as 90 plays in a game.]

    Oregon State passing offense was 1 for 14 for a total of 1 yard for the game.

Washington St. beat UCLA 27-21. The stats for the game were pretty much even; the only discrepancy was that UCLA turned the ball over 4 times and Washington St. turned it over only twice. Washington St. is 3-0 in PAC-12 games; their 2 losses for the season came in Weeks 1 and 2 when they lost to E. Washington (Division 1-AA) and Boise St. Since then, they have been perfect.

Washington St. kicked a field goal in the first quarter of this game. Why is that interesting? Well, this is the 6th game of the year for Washington St. and this is their first field goal of the year.

UCLA simply cannot run the ball. In this game, they had 25 rushing attempts that gained 43 yards. For the season, UCLA ranks 126th (out of 128 teams) in the country in rushing offense; they average 91.1 yards per game and a mere 2.81 yards per attempt.

Va Tech has a freshman WR named Divine Deablo. Anyone hear old enough to remember The Clovers’ song from the 1950s, Devil or Angel? Just wondering …

The Ponderosa Games:

Last week we had 5 Ponderosa Games. The record for favorites covering in those games was 2-3-0 bringing the cumulative record for favorites covering to 28-23-0.

Baylor and LSU covered.

Boise St., Louisville and Toledo did not cover.

This week we have 5 Ponderosa Games:

E. Michigan at W. Michigan – 24 (58.8): The Total Line opened at 64.5 and has been dropping steadily all week. I presume that this game is a big deal in Michigan and that this is some sort of a rivalry about which I know nothing. To me this is a Ho-Hum Hoedown.

Purdue at Nebraska – 24 (62): Purdue changed coaches; that changes everything. Unless it doesn’t…

Oklahoma St. – 24 at Kansas (61): The student body at Kansas ought to “storm the field” if Kansas loses by only a TD…

Illinois at Michigan – 39 (57): Remember what I said about Illinois above. They are not a good team and Jim Harbaugh has no history of easing up in the midst of a blowout.

Oregon St. at Washington – 36.5 (53): The Total Line opened here at 60 and has dropped a full touchdown’s worth of points in 4 days. Wow!

The SHOE Teams:

The college football season is half over. I believe we now have sufficient evidence to begin the winnowing process to identify the 8 worst teams in the country that would play in my SHOE Tournament if the SHOE Tournament were a real thing. Recall, the idea is to put really bad teams on the field and the losers have to continue to play until there is a single loser identified as the SHOE Team for 2016. I will present 16 teams on my radar at the moment in alphabetical order lest anyone think there is some sort of hierarchy going on here.

    Bowling Green: They have 1 win on the year over North Dakota (Division 1-AA) and a 75-point loss to Memphis on the books.

    Buffalo: They have 1 win on the year but they also have a loss to Albany (Division 1-AA) and 4 double-digit losses.

    Florida Atlantic: They have 1 win on the year over S. Illinois (Division 1-AA). They have losses to FIU and UNC-Charlotte

    Florida Int’l: They have 3 wins on the year but all have come over teams that are on this list.

    Georgia St.: They have 1 win on the year and it was over Texas St. – a team on this list.

    Kansas: They have 1 win on the year and are a Ponderosa underdog again this week.

    Kent St.: They have 2 wins on the year but they lost to Miami (Oh) and to North Carolina A&T (Division 1-AA).

    Miami (Oh): They have 1 win on the year and they have a game upcoming against Bowling Green. What a stinker that one will be.

    New Mexico St: They have 2 wins on the year; the one against New Mexico might take them off this list. However, that loss to UTEP, on the other hand…

    Northern Illinois: They have 1 win on the year and it was against Ball St. Buffalo and Bowling Green are their next two opponents.

    Rice: They are the only team without a win; they have to be on this list now. They play a Div. 1-AA team this week. A loss there may cement them on this list.

    Rutgers: Yes, they have a win. They also have two losses this year each by more than 70 points.

    Texas St.: They have 2 wins on the year – over Ohio U and Incarnate Word (Division 1-AA). They have a date with N. Mex St. down the road.

    UMass: They have 1 win on the year over Florida International. In all the other games the closest they have been was 12 points.

    UTEP: They have 1 win on the year over New Mexico St. They lost to FIU by 2 TDs.

    UNC-Charlotte: They have 2 wins on the season – one over Florida Atlantic and the other over Elon Phoenix (Division 1-AA).

This is a fluid list; it will change from week to week and will be pared down as we get into November.

Stay tuned…

Games of Interest:

(Fri Nite) Oregon at Cal – 3 (89): The Total Line opened in rarefied air at 83.5 points and has gone up from there; two sportsbooks have the number at 89.5 points. Defensive coordinators all around the country weep when they think about this sort of game. No pick here – but the game is interesting and it has a counterpart on Saturday afternoon… Just to give you an idea how b ad these defenses are:

    Cal is 121st in the country in total defense allowing 494.7 yards per game
    Oregon is 127th in the country allowing 522.3 yards per game.

    Cal is 123rd in the country in scoring defense allowing 40.0 points per game
    Oregon is 125th allowing 41.8 points per game.

    Remember, there are only 128 Division 1-A schools …

Syracuse at BC – 4 (50): The preferred styles could not be more different here. Syracuse wants to play faster than up-tempo and wants to throw the ball all over the place. BC would be happy to slug it out on the ground, play defense and win the game 10-7. The team that is able to play in its preferred mode should win. The contrast makes the game interesting – but not so much that I would want to bet on it.

Rutgers at Minnesota – 18.5 (44.5): The spread for this game opened at 21 points and has dropped to this level. That means that there are folks out there betting real money on Rutgers. I know that Minnesota is a plodding team but why would anyone want to bet on Rutgers?

TCU at West Virginia – 6 (65): West Virginia shut down the Texas Tech offense last week (see above). I wonder if they can do that again to an offense ranked 9th in the country that is far more balanced than Texas Tech. This year did not produce a vintage TCU defense; it gives up- 434 yards per game. I expect a lot of scoring here so I’ll take the game to go OVER.

Indiana at Northwestern – 2.5 (52.5): Indiana has lost 3 games this year; the ones to Ohio State and Nebraska were to be expected but Ohio State did not cover against them and Nebraska only won by 5 points last week. Their earlier loss to Wake Forest was not nearly as noble an effort. Northwestern’s offense exploded in the last two games after meager out puts in the first 4 games this season. I think both teams will score here so I’ll take this game to go OVER.

Wisconsin – 4 at Iowa (42): This game will resemble a heavyweight boxing match confined to a coat closet. When I saw this was the matchup on this week’s card, I immediately thought that I would take the UNDER – – until I saw how low the Total Line is. I like the way Wisconsin has fought in its two losses to Michigan and Ohio State; I like the way Iowa rebounded from what had to be an embarrassing loss to North Dakota State. Make this a venue call for the underdog at home. I’ll take Iowa plus the points.

UNC – 9 at Virginia (69): I do not understand this line at all. I think UNC is a much better team than Virginia and I am not aware that playing games in Charlottesville is a rip-roaring home field advantage. UNC has 3 conference wins over Pitt, Florida State and Miami (FL); it has 1 conference loss to Va Tech in a monsoon. I do not think Virginia can keep pace here. I’ll take UNC to win and cover.

NC State at Louisville – 19.5 (65): Will the real NC State football team please stand up? Last week, NC State lost to Clemson by a TD; earlier this year, NC State lost to E. Carolina. I choose to believe that NC State has figured out how to put its pieces together so they work well together. That means I think they can stay close to Louisville – as they did with Clemson last week – and that their defense can keep Louisville from running wild. I’ll take NC State plus the points and I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

Washington St. – 7 at Arizona St. (64): The Total Line for this game opened at 70 points and plummeted to this level. Arizona St. ranks dead last in Division 1-A football in pass defense; they allow 384.4 yards per game. Just to be clear; that is a lot of yards given up. Washington State gives up 278.2 yards per game in the air. That is not great by any means, but it is 106 fewer yards than Arizona St. Both teams are statistically better against the run – but perhaps that is because it is so easy to throw the ball against them. I think Washington State is the better team so I’ll take them to win and cover – even on the road.

Oklahoma – 13.5 at Texas Tech (84): The Total Line opened at 87 and has dropped to this level – – sort of the mirror-image of the Oregon/Cal line move noted above. Tech struggled to score last week against a West Virginia defense that was “suspect” going into the game. Oklahoma’s defense is statistically what West Virginia’s is:

    West Virginia is 70th in the country giving up 410.6 yards per game.
    Oklahoma is 73rd in the country giving up 412.8 yards per game.

If Texas Tech struggles to score again this week, they will be trounced because I cannot see the Tech defense rising up to win the game on its own. I like Oklahoma to win and cover here.

Memphis – 2.5 at Navy (57): Navy had a BYE Week last week after beating Houston 2 weeks ago. If they can perform at that level, they will squash Memphis. The oddsmakers do not think that is a likely event – and neither do I. The game is interesting because all 3 of the Service Academies have 4 wins on the year and all could be bowl eligible this year; that is not a common occurrence. I have no pick in this game but it is a game of interest.

Texas at K-State – 2.5 (54): The Total Line here opened at 60 points. The K-State QB was injured in the game against Oklahoma last week; the drop in the Total Line suggests that if he does play here it will not be at “peak efficiency”. The real question mark in this game is the Texas defense. It actually played well last week, but that was the first time it did that against a team not on the SHOE Tournament watch list above. Has the Texas defense finally gotten its act together? Purely a hunch here, I’ll take Texas plus the points.

Colorado at Stanford – 2 (49.5): I do not understand this line at all. Colorado has the 14th ranked defense in the country giving up only 314.1 yards per game. The Stanford defense gives up 50 more yards per game. Stanford has not shown much on offense all season. Their highest point output was 27 points back in Week 2. I realize this game is in Northern California, but I think Colorado is the better team and I think they will win the game. I’ll take Colorado plus the points.

Michigan St. – 3 at Maryland (51.5): Michigan St. is on a 4-game losing streak and it has soiled itself in 3 of those losses. Maryland won its first 4 games – against a marshmallow-soft schedule – and has lost its last 2 games by 3 TDs each to Penn State and Minnesota neither of which is to be confused with any of the “Top 25”. Neither team here is the “dregs of the Big 10” so long as Rutgers, Purdue and Illinois are around. However, one of these teams will leave this game with its tail between its legs. No wagering here; just interesting to see which team steps up and which team steps down…

Utah at UCLA – 7 (46.5): Short and sweet here. I think the oddsmaker has it right with that Total Line; this will be a defensive game. Therefore, I’ll take Utah plus the points.

Ole Miss at LSU – 6.5 (60.5): Since the departure of Les Miles, LSU seemingly has cast off whatever shackles there were on its offense. Ole Miss has not had anything resembling shackles on its offense. I think the last team with the ball could be the winner here. I’ll take Ole Miss plus the points.

Arkansas at Auburn – 10 (56): I like Auburn but I really wonder if they are 2-scores better than Arkansas. I’ll take Arkansas plus the points.

Ohio St. – 19 at Penn St. (57): Penn St. had a BYE Week to prep for this game. I just do not think they have the horses to hang with Ohio St. – even at home in front of 100,000+ partisans. It is a big spread – not quite a “Ponderosa” – but I think Ohio St will win and cover.

Texas A&M at Alabama – 18 (58.5): This is the Game of the Week. I do not think Texas A&M is going to beat Alabama in Alabama but I think that line is fatter than Sally Struthers after a week in an all-you-can-eat buffet. I’ll take the Aggies plus the points.

La-Lafayette – 6 at Texas St. (66): This game has SHOE Tournament implications for both teams…

Ohio – 3.5 at Kent (46): This game has SHOE Tournament implications for both teams…

Miami (Oh) at Bowling Green – 4.5 (50): Both of these teams are on the SHOE Tournament “watchlist” above.

Prairie View A&M at Rice (no lines): Prairie View A&M is a Division 1-AA team with a 4-2 record. Rice is a Division 1-A team with no wins for the year. The SHOE Tournament Selection Committee (me) will check this one out carefully…

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