Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend of 9/12/15

The Mythical Picks for the season showed a mythical profit for Week 1. The picks were 7-5-0. The best pick of the week was the Northwestern/Stanford game where I took Northwestern +12 and they won outright plus I took the game to stay UNDER 47.5 and the total score was only 22 points. Naturally, if I were one of those touts selling my selection services, I would scream ex post facto that I had given you a perfect parlay on the game. It will not take you long to go back and see that I did no such thing; I never suggested that would be a good parlay wager.

Notwithstanding early success with Mythical Picking this season, no one should consider even for a moment using any information here as the basis for making a real wager on an actual college football game this weekend. If you do that, you are probably dumb enough to avoid playing Candy Crush because you think it might give you diabetes.

General Comments:

Notre Dame chewed up and spit out Texas last week. The Longhorns managed to generate only 163 yards of offense in the game. Texas Coach Charlie Strong made a move to have someone else call offensive plays from now on. What he actually needs to do is to find some offensive linemen who can block effectively. Absent significant improvement on the OL, it will be a looong season in Austin.

There was good news and bad news for BYU after last week’s game at Nebraska:

    BYU won the game 33-28 on a Hail Mary pass with no time left on the clock.

    The receiver caught the ball with 5 defenders around him watching him jump up and catch the ball.

    BYU lost its starting QB to a foot injury earlier in the game and he will be out for the rest of the season.

Obviously, all of the news coming out of that game was bad for Nebraska but here is a statistical tidbit that I ran across that makes the loss seem even worse:

    Nebraska had won its last 30 home openers until last Saturday.

Northwestern not only beat Stanford last week as a double-digit underdog, Northwestern pushed Stanford around for much of the game running the ball for 225 yards against the Stanford defense. On the other side, Stanford’s offense only accounted for 240 yards of total offense.

Penn State lost to Temple for the first time since about 2 months before Pearl Harbor. Penn State led 10-0 in the first half and then Temple’s defense took over the game. Christian Hackenberg is not a nimble QB and the State OL got him sacked 8 times in the game. Penn State had “offensive line issues” last year and they seem not to have been resolved this year. That is not a good omen for Nittany Lion fans…

Utah State beat Southern Utah 14-9. In fact, it took a long punt return for a TD late in the 4th quarter to give Utah State the win. For Utah State fans, they have to hope this was merely a case of “first game jitters” because Southern Utah is not exactly a perennial Division 1-AA powerhouse. To give you an idea how discombobulated the game was, there were 29 punts in the game by both teams. By comparison, both teams only attempted 33 passes in the game. The punt coverage teams got themselves a workout here…

Georgia beat La-Monroe 51-14 covering a 36-point spread by a single point. I think that is interesting because the game was stopped with almost 10 minutes left on the clock in the 4th quarter when the teams had to leave the field for a second lightening delay. Both coaches agreed to have the refs call the game and send everyone home.

    I wonder if the Georgia coaches would have agreed to that if they had not covered at that point. Hmmm…

Of course, if you bet on that game in Las Vegas it would have been a “Push” because the terms of the wager on football games there is that the games must go a minimum of 55 minutes to be considered official. Nevertheless, I wonder if that factor went into the decision.

Michigan State beat W. Michigan by 13 points last week but State gave up 365 yards passing that game. W. Michigan is a MAC team and the kind of defense one has come to expect from Michigan State does not do that. Next up for the Spartans is Oregon. Folks in E. Lansing had better hope that defensive performance last week was an aberration or the result of “looking ahead” to Oregon. If it was not, it will be a looong day against the Ducks.

Tennessee beat Bowling Green 59-30 last week. The fact that Tennessee prevailed here is not surprising but what is surprising is that Tennessee gave up 30 points and 424 yards passing to Bowling Green. Just as Michigan State fans have to hope their defense did not bring its best game to the field on opening night, the same goes for Tennessee. They have Oklahoma on tap this week.

Texas A&M beat Arizona St. 38-17. (I took Arizona St +3.5 points in last week’s Mythical Picks so I was not even close on that game.) Christian Kirk scored 2 TDs on a long run and a long punt return and the Aggies offense was typically efficient. Nevertheless, I think the important factor in the game was the Aggies’ front-seven. They were in the backfield all game long on pass plays and on run plays. That was against a significant opponent too; perhaps Texas A&M is a team to watch this year? It is not a good idea to draw firm conclusions on the basis of a single game, but that was an impressive win.

Florida has had offensive woes for the past couple of seasons. However, early indications are that the new coaching staff has lit a fire under the offensive unit. The Gators had 606 yards of total offense last week (379 yards passing). Granted, the opponent was New Mexico State – a perennial contender for my mythical end-of-season SHOE Tournament to determine the worst team in the country. Nonetheless…

I said last week that Wisconsin was a team that liked to run the ball and that Alabama was a team that could stop opponents from running. Consider the stats from that game:

    Wisconsin ran the ball 21 times for a total of 40 yards.

No other opponent is going to do that to Wisconsin for the rest of this season.

I mentioned some tough losses for teams in the commentary above, but here are two other losses that have to be gut-wrenching:

    Kansas lost at home to Division 1-AA South Dakota State. Kansas trailed in the game at halftime 31-7 then fought back to make a game of it in the second half. But still… This was the first game of the David Beaty Era at Kansas. It looks as if it might just be a short era.

    Washington State lost at home to Division 1-AA Portland State. The magic that Mike Leach seemed to be able to work in Texas does not seem to translate to southeastern Washington; Leach is now 12-26 at Washington State. The Cougars only have two more games (a transcontinental trip to play Maryland this week and Wyoming) before starting PAC-12 games. It could be another looong season in Pullman…

Here is an unusual football stat:

    Maryland return man, William Likely, ran back 8 punts against Richmond last week for 233 yards and a TD. Yes, he averaged 29 yards per punt return. But that is not all…

    Likely also ran back two kickoffs for 63 yards.

    So, on 10 special teams’ plays Likely gained 296 yards and scored a TD.

    That is what you would call an un-Likely performance.

Altee Tenpenny was a running back at Alabama who transferred to UNLV but was kicked off the team there for unspecified “rules violations”. Too bad. I was hoping to be able to refer you to an image of him getting nailed on a running play. You know someone somewhere will find a way to describe him as “tough as nails”…

The Ponderosa Games:

Last week there were 8 Ponderosa Games and the favorite covered in 7 of them. In all the time I have been tracking these sorts of games, I do not recall a week where the favorites did so well against the spreads.

Baylor, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, NC State, Oklahoma and USC covered.

Arizona did not cover.

This week, we have 10 Ponderosa Games:

USF at Florida State – 28.5 (54): Probably the best you can say about this game is that it involves “in-state rivals”.

Fresno St. at Ole Miss – 30 (55): This spread opened the week at 26.5 and has climbed steadily all week long.

Miami (Oh) at Wisconsin – 32.5 (52): Wisconsin is not going to be in a good mood after the thrashing it took from Alabama. I would be tempted to take the game to go OVER only because Wisconsin might run it up and score 53 all by themselves. But I shall resist that temptation…

Hawaii at Ohio State – 41 (65): The outcome of this game ceases to be in doubt as soon as the grounds crew is finished lining the field.

Tulane at Georgia Tech – 29 (55): This spread makes sense when you realize Tulane lost to Duke by 30 last week.

Middle Tenn. St at Alabama – 35.5 (56): See comment for the Hawaii/Ohio State game above… Oh by the way, Alabama is 0-5 against the spread in its last 5 games against C-USA teams. Do you care?

Ball St. at Texas A&M – 30 (63.5): Ball St. beat VMI 48-36 last week. They are not going to score anywhere near 48 points this week. Oh by the way, Texas A&M did not cover against the spread any of its home games last year. Do you care?

South Alabama at Nebraska – 27.5 (54): Will Nebraska suffer a hangover from its final second loss last week to BYU or will they come onto the field spring-loaded into the pissed-off position? My guess is the latter…

Idaho at USC – 43.5 (66): How would you like to be the coach at Idaho and have to come up with a pre-game motivational speech for this game that does not make you sound like a total bonehead?

UCLA – 30 at UNLV (65): Even on the road, UCLA is a 30-point favorite here…

Games of Interest:

(Fri Nite) Utah State at Utah – 12 (44.5): Utah looked good on defense beating Michigan last week while Utah State’s offense could not do any business against Divisinon1-AA Southern Utah. So what we have here is an in-state rivalry game where it appears defenses will dominate. In that case I love the idea of getting 12 points if points are going to be scarce. I’ll take Utah St. plus the points.

Buffalo at Penn State – 19.5 (52.5): This game is interesting because it may shed light on future games involving Penn State. The offensive performance last week against Temple was pathetic. Is that an endemic problem? If so, you can look to play against Penn State down the line in Big 10 games. For this week, I do not see where 53 points will come from given the Penn State offense from last week and the still competent Penn State defense. I like the game to stay UNDER.

E. Carolina at Florida – 20.5 (53): This spread opened the week at 15, then jumped to 18 and has climbed from there. Florida trounced New Mexico St. last week; E. Carolina beat a Division 1-AA opponent by 8 points. Those two opponents are not that much different in terms of capabilities. Make this a venue call. I like Florida to win and cover.

Temple at Cincy – 7 (55): This is purely a “go-to-school game”. Is Temple for real after manhandling Penn State last week? I have no idea but this game might provide more info…

LSU – 5 at Mississippi St. (50): LSU had to cancel its game last week due to weather so this is their first time in the barrel. Mississippi State handled S. Mississippi easily even though it did not cover a 21-point spread. The spread here has slowly been getting bigger all week long and since I think this is a venue call, I’ll take Mississippi State plus the points here.

Marshall – 3 at Ohio (60): Marshall looked good on defense against Purdue in the opener last week. I know Purdue is not a good team, but Ohio opened against Idaho and Idaho is indeed a bad team. This is C-USA versus the MAC. This game ought to be on a Tuesday night on ESPN-7. Purely a hunch, I’ll take Marshall and lay the points.

Minnesota – 5 at Colorado State (54): Minnesota acquitted itself very nicely against a good TCU team; its defense played very well against a high-powered offense. Colorado State is not TCU. State warmed up for this by sparring with perennial punching bag Savannah State. I think Minnesota is the better team but I do not like the fact that they have to play at altitude here. This could be an interesting game, but I’ll pass…

Oregon St. at Michigan – 15 (45.5): This is Michigan’s second straight PAC-12 opponent and last week’s encounter with Utah did not end well for Coach Harbaugh in his Michigan debut. That game was on the road and this one is back in Ann Arbor where things might be more friendly to the Wolverines – – unless of course they fall behind by 2 TDs. Oregon State opened with a tune-up against Weber State and held Weber State to 7 points. I did not see enough from Michigan’s offense to have great confidence in their ability to score so I see this as a low-scoring game. I’ll take Oregon State plus the points.

Georgia – 20 at Vandy (50): Vandy lost its opener by 2 points to W. Kentucky; Georgia is a lot better than W. Kentucky. However, what Vandy has going for it is a decent defensive unit. If the Vandy offense can score 10 points, that means Georgia needs 5 scores to cover. That’s a lot. I’ll take Vandy plus the points at home.

Boise St. – 2.5 at BYU (54.5): BYU should be buoyed by that “Hail Mary win” at Nebraska last week and their home crowd should fire them up too. However, they have to go with their backup QB here. Meanwhile, Boise St. beat Washington – not a top-shelf team from the PAC-12 – by a field goal at home. Oh, and Washington had a chance to tie the game with a late FG that was off the mark. I like BYU at home plus the points.

Notre Dame – 11.5 at UVa (48.5): UVa showed some defense against UCLA last week and I do not expect Notre Dame to complete 80% of its passes again this week. I see a much lower scoring game than the ones that both teams played last week. Therefore, I’ll take UVa plus the points here.

Bowling Green at Maryland – 7.5 (70): Maryland got almost 300 yards and a TD from one return man last week (see above). Bowling Green threw for 365 yards against Michigan State last week (see above) and gave up 59 points. AYKM…? I’ll take this game to go OVER.

Washington St at Rutgers – 3.5 (63): This game opened as a “pick ‘em” game and probably went up because people saw that Rutgers pounded a Division 1-AA foe last week while Washington St. lost to a Division 1-AA foe last week. Plus there is that transcontinental flight … Fortunately for the Cougars, the kickoff time is not until late afternoon. I have no reason to believe that Rutgers is an offensive juggernaut and Washington St. ought to be sluggish from the long flight. I’ll take this game to stay UNDER.

Oklahoma – 2 at Tennessee (62.5): This is the kind of game we need to see more of in terms of non-conference scheduling. Tennessee can score; they got 59 last week. Tennessee did not stop much of anything last week giving up lots of yards and 30 points to a MAC team. Oklahoma is not a MAC team. I like the game to go OVER and I like Oklahoma to win and cover on the road.

Rice at Texas – 15 (48.5): This is not a betting game; this is a “pay attention game”. Texas was manhandled last week by a good Notre Dame team but this is Rice and not Notre Dame and the game is in Austin. If Texas loses straight up, things will be ugly in Austin by midnite Saturday night…

Oregon at Michigan St. – 4 (65): I am going to choose to ignore last week’s results for both of these teams because I believe that both teams were looking ahead to this game. Both of these teams are good; neither one faced a good opponent last week. Someone with too much time on his hands generated these trend stats:

    Since 2000, Oregon is 4-1 against the spread (ATS) as a road underdog
    Since 2000, Oregon is 10-3 ATS in nonconference road games.

Here is a fact; not a single player on any of the Oregon teams from 2000 – 2010 that helped to generate those trend stats will be on the field for the game on Saturday. Make this a venue call; I’ll take Michigan State to win and cover at home.

UCF at Stanford – 19 (46): The Total Line here opened the week at 43 and has been going up all week long. Both teams suffered embarrassing losses in their opening game last week. UCF lost to FIU and Stanford lost to Northwestern. Comparing the opponents, Stanford lost to the better squad and Stanford was on the road in that loss. If UCF could not score on FIU last week, how are they going to do that against Stanford this week? And if Stanford could not score on Northwestern… I think this has the makings of a game where neither team gets out of the teens and UCF may struggle to get to double digits. I like the game to stay UNDER.

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 9/5/15

Let me do a reset here to introduce new readers to this recurring “feature” – and it is unseemly for long-term readers to point out that it is sometimes a recurring nightmare. For most weeks, I will put out a summary of the upcoming college football weekend and make some picks in what I call “Games of Interest”. I specifically say “most weeks” because while my intent is to do it “every week”, travel schedules and family events may make it impossible to do this “every week”.

These picks are NOT based on inside information; they are NOT intended to be wagering advice; under absolutely NO circumstances should anyone wager real money on any or all of the games I pick here with an expectation of a profit. I am doing this because I enjoy doing it – the same reason that I write the daily rants that populate most of the rest of this website.

Within these weekly NCAA Mythical Picks, there will be a structure:

    1. I will present the results of last week’s picks – good or bad.

    2. I will then make some general comments about NCAA football.

    3. I will track what I call “Ponderosa Spread Games”. Let me explain that. About 20 years ago, I wondered how accurately oddsmakers could set a point spread for blowout games. So I defined these blowout games as ones with a point spread of 24 points or more and I tracked them for an entire season. Amazingly, the favorite covered in just about 50% of the games. So I did it again the year after that… Here I call them “Ponderosa Spread games” after the Ponderosa which was the ranch on the old TV show Bonanza. The Ponderosa was a “really big spread”; get it?

    4. I will eschew any attempt to rank the top teams or to predict the College Football Playoff. However, starting in mid or late October, I will begin to identify what I call the SHOE Tournament teams. The SHOE Tournament is an imaginary concoction of mine where I seed the 8 worst teams of the year in a single elimination tournament to determine THE SHOE Team of the year – where SHOE is an acronym for Steaming Heap Of Excrement. In the imaginary tournament, the losing team in each round has to play on and the winner can go home knowing they are not THE SHOE Team for the year.

    5. Finally, I will make some game picks against the spread and/or the Total Line. Rarely, I might also make a pick based on the Money Line because after all, these are Mythical Picks.

Remember, no one should use any information here as the basis for making a wager involving real money – or anything else of value – on a college football game this weekend. Anyone dumb enough to do that would probably buy land in Antarctica in order to grow chili beans.

General Comments:

As few as 10 years ago, the first week of college football season was a mishmash of blowout games. As the sport grew in popularity and expanded its footprint on TV, the folks who pay for TV rights started demanding more attractive matchups prior to conference games that generally do not start until October. And so this weekend, there are some games between two good teams. Ten years ago, close games would have been opening games between two bad teams who did not find a big-time school willing to pay them to come and get their brains beaten in.

Back in March, the Columbia Tribune got hold of documents from the Missouri Athletic Department detailing what it takes to get some cupcake teams to come to play Mizzou before the SEC schedule kicks in. I do not cite this here to denigrate Missouri; many – in fact all – of the powerhouse football programs schedule powder-puff games. Here is the data from the Columbia Tribune:

    Division 1-AA teams like Missouri State and Southeast Missouri State get $400K each to come and take a shellacking.

    Division 1-A schools like Idaho and E. Michigan demand $1M to serve as cannon fodder.

These arrangements make sense for everyone concerned. Missouri is in the SEC and gets a boatload of TV money; it needs a gaudy record at the end of the season to put itself in a position to play in profitable bowl games at the end of the year. The “sacrificial lamb schools” need dollars to keep their athletic budgets from drowning in red ink; they know they are not going to play in any lucrative end-of-season games so these early season clobberings are “fund raisers” and “budget balancers”. Only the fans get something they would prefer not to get. Even the most ardent alum/booster for a football program cannot enjoy a game where their heroes are ahead 62-3 at the end of the 3rd quarter. [Aside: Georgia Tech led Alcorn St. at the half last night by a score of 48-0.]

Back in April of this year, Bob Molinaro had a comment in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot regarding the expansion of bowl games yet again this year. Interestingly, he used a metaphor that would take on a more controversial hue later in the year thanks to James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers:

“As the college football bowl field grows – possibly to 43 games by next season – so does ODU’s potential postseason opportunity. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. In any case, bowl invitations shrink in significance – don’t you think? – when they’re handed out to two-thirds of the FBS schools, opening the door to even more 6-6 teams. Then they become like youth participation trophies.”

As the Art Briles/Chris Petersen volley of words continues regarding who knew what and when with regard to Sam Ukwuachu’s transfer to Baylor – now that Ukwuachu has been sentenced to 18 months in jail and 10 years’ probation for sexual assault – it seems to me that there is something to root for this season:

    Petersen is the coach at Washington; Briles is the coach at Baylor. Washington is unlikely to make it to the College Football Playoff so what we need to root for is that Baylor does not go there either and then some bowl committee convinces the two schools to play one another in the Whatever Bowl. I’d watch that one…

Greg Cote had two items in columns in the Miami Herald that pertain to college football in that part of the world:

“FIU football must average 15,000 fans per game this season or risk losing its top-tier FBS standing. I say this in case you notice crowds seem bigger than usual because of what appears to be thousands of rented homeless people.”


“Florida State is now requiring all of it athletes to take a personal-responsibility course. Probably would-a been cheaper just posting a memo to football players: QUIT HITTING WOMEN!

I think pre-season polls are meaningless and the ones that come out every week in September and early October are just about as meaningless. That does not stop them from polluting the airwaves and the Internet but let me remind you of how silly they are:

    Last year, Ohio State lost early and dropped out of the Top 10 in the early polls. I think I recall they were ranked 20th in the country then.

    Last year, Oregon lost early and dropped out of the Top 10 in the early polls. I cannot recall how far they dropped but I think it was around 15th in the country.

    Now, which two teams played for the College Football Championship at the end of the season?

    The prosecution rests, Your Honor…

I said above that I do not pay strict attention to the Bottom Feeders who will end up in my imaginary SHOE Tournament until much later in the season. Having said that, there are some teams I will be watching early on just because…:

    “The Regulars”: I can usually count on these teams to be part of my considerations late in the year such as Army, Hawaii, Idaho, New Mexico St. and SMU.

    “The Newbies”: These teams are just recently part of Division 1-A football and are still having growing pains such as Georgia St., UNC/Charlotte and UT San Antonio.

    “The Gravities”: These teams have been “up” recently and so it is possible they will come “down” this year such as FIU, North Texas and UMass.

Army has a junior WR this year named Edgar Allan Poe. I wonder if he will get drafted by the Baltimore Ravens…

The Ponderosa Spread Games:

Because lines are difficult to find in games between Davison 1-A schools and teams from lower divisions, there are going to be a lot more “blowout” games this weekend than will be referenced here. For example, I cannot find lines anywhere for Alcorn St./Georgia Tech or Grambling/Cal or McNeese St./LSU. Were I to locate such lines, I suspect all would qualify as Ponderosa Spread Games.

This week we have 8 Ponderosa Spread Games:

(Thurs Nite) UTSA at Arizona – 32 (54): Clearly a budget balancer game for UTSA.

(Fri Nite) Baylor – 34 at SMU (73.5): Baylor is aiming to be in the College Football Playoff this year; SMU is a potential SHOE Tournament team. ‘Nuff said…?

New Mexico St. at Florida – 37 (54.5): Florida has a new coach and he will want to get things off on the right foot…

Troy at NC State – 26 (62): This impending road loss for Troy will not be as bad as their home loss to Greece a while back…

Akron at Oklahoma – 31.5 (56.5): Not exactly what I would call a long-standing back-yard rivalry…

La-Monroe at Georgia – 36 (54): This game should be out-of-hand by halftime…

Texas St. at Florida St. – 29.5 (64): The Total Line here opened the week at 59 and shot up to this level very quickly. I do not think that is because bettors expect Texas St. to put 35 points on the board…

Arkansas St. at USC – 27.5 (70): If I were the Arkansas State coach, I would have my team stand on the sidelines during the coin toss holding up champagne glasses filled with Gatorade to toast USC coach Steve Sarkisian. You know that will get Arkansas St. more ESPN highlight time than anything else they will do this year…

Games of Interest:

I am not going to “pad my stats” by picking last night’s games. Anyone can pick winners after the results of the games hit the wires. However, perhaps we might learn something from last night’s games…

    TCU 23 Minnesota 17: Normally, Minnesota starts out with 4 pillow-soft games; this year they scheduled TCU and lots of folks think TCU is going to be really good. That tells me that the Minnesota defense is pretty good -–and probably better than most of the Big-12 opponents TCU will face. Minnesota’s offense on the other hand did not look sharp against TCU.

    S. Carolina 17 UNC 13: Last year, these teams finished in the bottom 10% of Division 1-A teams in defensive stats; UNC allowed about 40 points per game. This game looked like a defensive struggle instead of a pair of inept offenses. S. Carolina intercepted 2 passes in their end zone last night.

    Utah 24 Michigan 17: The Jim Harbaugh Era started off as a linear extrapolation of the Brady Hoke Era. Actually, in the parts of this game that I saw, Michigan did not look bad; it’s just that Utah looked better. The PAC-12 South has USC, UCLA, Arizona St., Arizona and Utah in it. That looks like a tough Division.

    FIU 15 UCF 14: This is a shocker. UCF led 14-3 at halftime and was shut out for the second half. This win takes FIU off of my “SHOE Tournament radar for the time being.

    W. Kentucky 14 Vandy 12: This is a bad omen for Vandy; W. Ky is not at the level of the SEC opponents on Vandy’s schedule down the road.

(Friday) UNC/Charlotte at Georgia St. – 7.5 (73.5): Note that these are two teams on my radar as potential SHOE Tournament Teams come December. Moreover, one of them is favored by more than a TD here and the Total Line says that the winner should score 40 or more points. This will be UNC/Charlotte’s first game as a Division-1A team; Georgia St. has been in Division 1-A for a couple of years now but has yet to win a game against another Division 1-A school. If you want to bet on a game like that, you probably need to consider a 12-step program…

(Friday) Washington at Boise St. – 12 (56): The story line here is that Chris Petersen now coaches the Huskies but spent 8 years as the very successful coach at Boise St; it is his first return to Boise. I think Petersen has played that card with his team for several weeks now and that Washington will keep it closer than that. I like Washington plus the points – even on the road.

Penn State – 6.5 at Temple (42): The last time Temple beat Penn State was in 1941. It happened before Pearl Harbor and that was the year Ted Williams hit .406 and Joe DiMaggio hit in 56 consecutive games. It has been a while… I cannot cite specific evidence, but I strongly suspect that it has also been a while since Penn State was favored by less than a TD over Temple. I like Penn state to win and cover here.

UVa at UCLA – 19.5 (52): If Virginia is going to do any business here, it ought to be on defense against a freshman QB for UCLA. Moreover, Virginia’s offense does not seem to be anything close to a scoring machine. I do not see where 53 points will come from so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

Stanford – 12 at Northwestern (47.5): Clearly, this is the SAT Bowl Game… This is another game where points ought to be at a premium so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER and I’ll take Northwestern with the points.

Louisville vs. Auburn – 10.5 (57): This game is being played in Atlanta. Unlike the last two Games of Interest, I think I can see plenty of scoring in this one. I like the game to go OVER.

Arizona St. vs. Texas A&M – 3.5 (70): This game is being played in Houston. Some folks have conceded the PAC-12 South to the winner of the USC/UCLA game later this year. I think Arizona St could be a sleeper there but they need to be sure to bring their defense with them for this game because Texas A&M will run and gun all day long – except that the game does not start until 7:00 PM. Purely a hunch here but I’ll take Arizona State plus the points.

BYU at Nebraska – 7 (60): BYU is a good team with a good defense; Nebraska will likely be a good team but it will be playing its first game under a new coach with a new system. Even on the road, I think BYU has a legitimate shot at winning the game outright which means I will be happy to take them here plus the points. I also think both defenses are good enough to keep the score UNDER.

Texas at Notre Dame – 9 (51.5): Notre Dame aspires to the College Football Playoffs – or to a major bowl game at a minimum. Beating Texas is important to them in their quest. Texas is not the powerhouse it once was, but it is still “Texas”. Charlie Strong wants his team to be tough on defense; the Irish defense has been a team strength for several years now. I think the game will be a defensive game and that it will stay UNDER.

Wisconsin vs. Alabama – 12 (49): This game is being played in Arlington. Perhaps the best game of the weekend – unless you like Ohio State/Va Tech on Monday night. Wisconsin is a “ground and pound” team with a big offensive line and big backs. Alabama has a front seven that can deal with that. So, unless Wisconsin has found a way to add a deep passing threat to their arsenal from last year, I think Alabama has the advantage. I’ll take Alabama to win and cover here.

Mississippi St. – 21 at So. Miss (61): People have Miss. St. QB, Dak Prescott as a dark horse for the Heisman Trophy. You may be certain that no one on the So. Miss roster enjoys similar accolades. So. Miss has been a bad team for a couple of years now and this is not the way a team in that situation needs to open a season. Even on the road, I’ll take Miss St. to win and cover.

(Sunday) Purdue at Marshall – 7.5 (63): This is a Game of Interest for reasons other than wagering. Note that Purdue – a Big-10 school – opens on the road at Marshall – a CUSA school. Moreover, Purdue is an underdog by more than a TD. If indeed they do not cover here, remember that for later games involving the Boilermakers this year…

(Monday) Ohio State – 13.5 at Va Tech (53): It is not often that Ohio State goes into a game with the revenge factor on its side. Tech was the only team to beat Ohio State last year and they did it in Columbus. I suspect Urban Meyer may have reminded this team of that happenstance once or twice in the practices leading up to this game. I expect Ohio State to get a lead and to keep its foot on the gas until the final play of the game. I am not a trend bettor and I have not verified this stat, but here is what I ran across:

    Since 2011, Va Tech is only 8-16-1 against the spread at home.

I like Ohio State to win and cover on the road.

There are some other games of interest for which I cannot find spreads so I will just list them and tell you why I find them interesting:

    Savannah St./Colorado St.: Savannah St has been a punching bag for Division 1-A schools for the last several years. Then they got hit by the NCAA with practice time limitations because the players were not meeting APR standards. Oh swell…

    Fordham/Army: There was a time long ago when Army was a powerhouse team in the same way that Notre Dame was a powerhouse team then and the way Alabama is a powerhouse team now. This year, they host Fordham in their opener. Sic transit gloria mundi…

    S. Dakota St./Kansas: If there is a line on this game somewhere, Kansas is likely favored – and that may be the only time this year that circumstance will obtain.

Finally, Dwight Perry had this item in the Seattle Times a while back with regard to UAB killing off its football program only to change its mind and reinstate the program a few months later:

“Alabama-Birmingham reinstated its football program for play in 2016 — just six months after announcing it was scrapping it.

If anyone has any sense of fortuitous timing, the season opener’s very first play call will be a reverse.”

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