Thursday, October 8, 2015

Picks for the Week - Week 6

Well that's better.  Last week I hit 5 out of 7.  Plus two random games I had a hunch on and was right about.  Let's see:

1. Notre Dame +2.5 - Win, just barely.
2. Army +27 - Win
3. Purdue +21 - Win
4. Wake Forest +19.5 - Win
5. San Jose State +20 - Win
6. SMU +5.5 - Loss, Looked great at the beginning and then ECU came back and crushed it
7. Texas +15 - Loss


Bama +2 - Win
Michigan -14.5 - Win

I should have called this the week of the underdogs.  Speaking of dogs, my Rebels really sucked it up this past week in Florida.  Notice I never mentioned that game.  After watching the dismal performance against Vandy, it was hard to predict which team was going to show up in Gainesville.  Welp, I'm not sure if anyone showed up to be quite honest. Lots to be upset about.  What's more disturbing is after the game the way Coach Freeze addressed his play calling in the red zone.  IF everyone executed then the calls would have worked fine? Sure. But they can't execute because they lack skills or training.  Either way, you should have gone with something else after the first two runs failed. What ever, I'm over it.  Hopefully we can right the ship as we have a big game coming up against Texas A&M in two weeks.  

This week they play New Mexico State as 43 point favorites.  I guess the idea is that Ole Miss will be mad after their loss and take it out on poor little NMSU. NMSU is 0-4 this year and would seemingly be a complete push over.  Ole Miss devoured the two cupcake games they played at the beginning of the year so logic dictates that Ole Miss will cover the 43 points. Oh and the weather will be fine. Don't forget to check the weather.  Despite all of this, I don't think Ole Miss covers. If I look at this game objectively I have to believe there are some issues going on with this team right now.  The defense still looks lost and has gotten burned routinely by short passes in the middle of their zone.  I love Treadwell, but he's dropping a lot of passes.  He's making up for it when one does stick, but a lot are going through his hands.  The impact players are doing well, but as a team it just doesn't seem to be there.  I don't think they get it together for this game.  On the other side NMSU scored 16 points (3 more than Ole Miss) against Florida.  They can score. I'd take NMSU plus the points.

But I will never bet against my team, so I won't take it.  I'm just saying.

Looking over the spreads this week and nothing really stood out to me as a completely wrong or unusual.  If anything I got the impression that the odds makers have this week really dialed in.  The superstitious side of me believes that's sign enough to abstain from betting this week.  The gambler side of me found the following games.

1. LSU -19.5 vs South Carolina.  This game started at -12 and then South Carolina flooded and they moved the game to the other Death Valley.  To be honest, South Carolina was going to lose either way, but the idea is that losing their home advantage means they're really going to get crushed.  I'm not sure.  I would have taken this game at -12 in Colombia, but now it's become this feel good weird story line and I'm not so certain this doesn't end up being a close game. LSU will win with Leonard Fournette, but I could see them easily letting up on the gas and letting the ole Ball Coach get close.  USC +19.5

2. Georgia -3 vs Tennessee.  HA. Ok, yes Georgia got stomped by Bama last week and Tennessee keeps beating themselves and keeping the score close as they snatch defeat from the jaws of victory but this is a meltdown of Rocky Top proportions just waiting to happen.  Quick someone check the weather.  Oh, rain in the morning? And Georgia has a great running game? Ok.  Yeah, I'm going to go with Georgia -3.  This is my lock for the week. 

3.  Georgia Tech +7 vs Clemson.  Classic trap game.  Clemson is coming off a big emotional victory over Notre Dame.  Georgia Tech still has a giant chip on their shoulder and the weird triple option.  Oh, wait the weather.  Didn't USC move because of rain? Thunderstorms.  Now the rain didn't seem to bother Clemson much against Notre Dame, but they did lose ground the harder it started to come down.  I think Clemson fails to get up for this game and that combined with the rain they lose her in classic Clemson fashion.  Georgia Tech +7

4.  Northwestern +7.5 vs Michigan.  What happens when you have two defensive giants battle it out?  Usually a really boring game.  The over/under for this game is 35.  Both teams have blanked an opponent twice and they are 1 and 2 for best defense with allowed points.  So is 35 a good under? I don't think so.  They both also have very good offenses and at some point something is going to give.  I think this ends up going over in the third quarter.  I'll take the over.

Again, most of the games seemed to be really dialed in and right where you would expect the odds to be.  I think Baylor covers the massive 45 points and I think Indiana +6.5 against Penn State is a good bet too.  I'm not sure if Michigan State and Ohio State will under perform again this week, but the odds look good that they'll struggle to cover.  Check the weather though.  The worse the weather, the harder to cover.

P.S. Missouri is going to beat Florida, because that's what they do.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Picks for the Week - Week 5

The week 4 slump

I'm not sure if the Week 4 slump is really a thing, but it was definitely for me.  I was doing great on my predictions until the 4th week when everything just went really sideways for me.

It started with another push with Memphis.  Memphis has a decent offense, but their pass defense was absolutely atrocious.  It was painful to watch as they rushed 3 and then left the receiver wide open despite the 8 players in the backfield.  I'm not sure what's wrong with their defense, but they need to figure it out.

I correctly called Mississippi State over Auburn.  State wasn't exactly blowing doors off, but their defense is improved under Manny Diaz as he kept Auburn from scoring an actual touchdown.

I however completely blew the BYU game.  Geez that was ugly.  I thought BYU would keep it close, but instead Michigan completely demolished them.  After watching Utah dismantle Oregon, it looks like Michigan might be a good team this year.

I also blew the Ole Miss game. I never felt like the game was in doubt, but it was definitely a poor showing by the Rebels.  Bad decisions, poor effort and a number of other factors let Vandy keep the game much closer than it should have been.  I hadn't anticipated that there would be such a let down after the Bama game, but I guess I should have.  Which brings me to the lesson of the week.

I tend to get lost in numbers and stats when trying to predict the outcomes of the games.  They are after all concrete and you would think the best indicator of future performance.  But despite all of the numbers at the end of the day it's a bunch of college kids playing the game and you have to keep the human factor in mind when looking at point spreads.

Could Ole Miss beat Vandy by 24 points?  Absolutely.  But will they? That's another story.  They were beat up pretty bad after Alabama and they had just given that game everything they had.  Coach Freeze is fond of Derrick Mason and doesn't necessarily want to put the smack down on him.  So maybe he calls a few more running plays or takes a few more risks instead of going for the throat.  All speculation, but I do know that he told the team he expected them to play flat in the locker room and he was correct.

So just because a team can beat another team by 42 points doesn't guarantee that's the outcome.  One of the biggest factors that will come into play this week is weather.  Weather always frustrates me because it's difficult to predict and it means researching yet another factor.  This Saturday it is expected to rain quite a bit thanks to Hurricane Joaquin. I saw somewhere that they expected 8 inches of rain in Athens Georgia.  Will this impact the game? Absolutely.  High flying offenses struggle in the rain with turnovers and dropped balls.  If you throw in the cold, it gets even worse.  For teams that like to run the ball, it can be a huge advantage.

So don't forget to check the weather in the area at the time of the game prior to making a decision.

Ok, so let's look at some games.

Normally I try and keep my predictions to teams I've seen play which usually means a lot of SEC games.  However, I have a bunch that I'm going to try this time that I've only seen summaries or clips.

1. Notre Dame +2.5 and Clemson.  I did watch half of the Clemson/Louisville game and quite honestly I'm not impressed.  Clemson hung on for dear life and won in the end, but it definitely wasn't a dominating performance.  Notre Dame is the underdog in this game which I find really interesting.  Most people assume that a home field advantage is worth 3 points so basically everyone is saying this is an even match.  Except I don't think so.  Clemson has no quality wins and the hardest opponent they have faced took them to the wire.  Notre Dame is a sizable step up from Louisville.  I think Notre Dame wins outright, but even if it's close you get the points.

2. Penn State -27 vs Army.  Army is not a very good team, but they typically manage to keep games close.  All the games they've lost were by a margin of 5 or less.  Penn State's largest win margin is 25 over Rutgers.  This is an appealing game no matter what, but here's what makes it my lock.  The weather.  It's expected that it'll be raining and about 48 degrees.  That's not fun football weather.  Could Penn State put up 27 on Army?  Maybe.  Will they when it's cold and miserable? Probably not.  I think this game is a 14 point difference.

3. Michigan State -21 vs Purdue.  Michigan State is really highly ranked and I'm no longer sure why.  MSU's quality win was over Oregon by 3.  But then Utah beat Oregon so badly that PETA was called on them and you have to start doubting Michigan State.  Oregon aside, Michigan State's largest win was against Central Michigan by 20.  Purdue made a game out of Bowling Green, but lost by 27 to Virginia Tech.  I think MSU is overrated and Purdue keeps this closer than 21.

4. Florida State -19.5 vs Wake Forest.  Similar to Penn State and Army, this game is going to be affected by weather. Even before the rain was projected, 19.5 points wasn't bad considering Wake Forest's largest loss is by 13 points to Syracuse. Throw in the rain and cold and I think we're looking at a low scoring close game.  I take Wake plus the points.

5. San Joes State +20 vs Auburn.  I'm not sure why people are still convinced Auburn is the same of yesteryear, but they're not.  They have a backup QB who is playing because the first one was so bad they had to switch him out.  Their defense has trouble with the run and the pass.  Yikes.  San Joes State is no power house, but you can bet they smell blood and a chance to upset a mighty SEC team.  I think this is another close game.  I'll take San Jose plus the points.

6.  East Carolina -5.5 vs SMU.  Now this is an interesting match up.  ECU has had some success beating Virginia Tech last week.  SMU has suffered some close losses and this seems like a total mismatch.  Except SMU can score.  They can score a lot.  I think SMU turns this into a shoot out and I don't think East Carolina can keep up.  I'll take SMU plus the points.

7. Texas +15 and TCU.  These Texas games are always interesting to me.  Texas vs Texas Tech vs Texas A&M vs Texas Christian and so on.  Each one is an intense rivalry in some weird way and you never really know.  I do know that Texas Tech almost won last week against a depleted TCU defense.  I think this is another close game if Texas doesn't win it outright.  I don't see TCU suddenly getting awesome at defense and beating Texas by more than 2 touchdowns.  Take Texas and the points.

That's a seven game parlay.  Other games that looked appealing, Bama +2 over Georgia.  Weather is going to be a factor in this game and I think it'll play to Bama's advantage.

Michigan -14.5 over Maryland.  I think Michigan is a much better team than I originally thought and I think they can definitely cover.  The question is do they have a let down game after destroying BYU.  If I had to pick, I'd pick Michigan.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Picks for the Week - Week 3

Looking over the lines that came out, I was immediately struck by a few games.  Let's start with Ole Miss. and Vandy.

Ole Miss -24.5  versus Vandy.  The over/under is 55.5.  I'm taking Ole Miss to cover and I think the over is a pretty good bet as well.  Ole Miss has demonstrated their ability to score in all three games.  44 points against Bama is pretty good considering their defense.  Obviously Vandy's defense isn't as stout as Bama's but will Ole Miss be able to score on Vandy like they did against UT Martin and Fresno State?  Yes.  The passing attack with Ole Miss is extremely difficult to stop and way beyond the ability of Vandy's defense.  Because Ole Miss throws so often, they score quickly and capitalize on the big play opportunities. Ole Miss's defense prides itself on stopping everyone from scoring.  The goal is always to shut out the opposite team, no matter who they're playing.  So although Vandy's offense may have improved since the beginning of the season Ole Miss will keep them from scoring many points.  I see this as a statement win from Ole Miss to show they're not letting up and are indeed playoff contenders.  I predict 66 - 10 Ole Miss.

Auburn -1.5 versus MSU.  Auburn has managed to stay in the top 25 somehow despite their lopsided loss to LSU and their overtime win over Jacksonville State.  The glaring issue has been at the QB position and Gus has announced that he will be benching the starting QB in favor of Sean White for the Mississippi State game.  State spent the weekend beating up on a directional Louisiana team making themselves feel better about their close loss to LSU the week before.  The game is in Auburn, but other than that fact, I have no idea why State isn't a heavy favorite going into this game. At the very least, you would think the classic law of transitive property where MSU played LSU better than Auburn played LSU would make State the favorite.

Auburn's defense struggled with a physical LSU run attack, similar to a physical offense that MSU will bring to the Plains.  MSU has size and Dak represents a serious run threat. Advantage MSU.  Auburn's offense is supposed to rally around a 2nd string QB that lost the QB battle to a guy who threw six picks in two games.  Watching their spring game it quickly became apparent that Sean likes to stare at the receiver prior to the throw and has a lot of trouble deciding when to throw it.  MSU's blitzing defense is going to make his life miserable and I'll be surprised if he stays in the entire game.   MSU is going to beat Auburn 42 - 24 and people are going to start calling for Gus's head on a platter.

Michigan -5.5 versus BYU.  This game is another real head scratcher for me.  Michigan started the season losing to Temple. Temple is good this year, but it's TEMPLE and your MICHIGAN!  Meanwhile BYU is acting like they have some sort of religious advantage by throwing Hail Marys to win games and cheap shots without any consequences.  BYU took UCLA to the very end and came close to getting the upset but more importantly covered the spread.  I see BYU winning this game outright, but if not then only losing by a few points.  Take BYU plus the points.

So those are my locks. Ole Miss -24.5, Mississippi State +1.5 and BYU plus 5.5
Last week I correctly picked 3, 1 was a push and lost on 2.  But my locks were a win and a push.

Other games of interest.
Memphis is playing a Thursday game against Cincinnati in Memphis. Memphis opened as a 7 point favorite and that line changed to a 10 point favorite.  I think Memphis wins this game by 14.  I got in early, so I have the 7 points, but I'd be wary of the 10.  Still it's Thursday and the only thing on, so there's that.

TCU -6.5 vs Texas Tech.  This should be a pretty exciting game.  Both teams score fast and either by choice or because of injuries do not have the strongest defense.  In theory this means a high scoring game and the over/under at 80.5 reinforces this fact.  I watched TCU and their offense is scary good.  Their defense is limping along, but I think it'll be enough.  Texas Tech has a pretty boy coach and they just beat Arkansas, but they also allowed a lot of yards against a subpar offense.  I think TCU not only wins this shootout, I think they pound Tech just to make a point.  Guns up or usually means surrender.  TCU 70 - 42

Louisiana Monroe +38 vs Bama.  The over/under is 55.  The idea is that Bama is going to be really pissed about losing to Ole Miss and take out all of their anger on poor Louisiana Monroe.  Emotions aside this game is setup beautifully for one of my favorite bets.  The underdog, over bet.  Here's how it works.  If we take Louisiana Monroe plus the points and we take the over we limit our chances of losing outright.  I don't mean a parlay, I mean two separate straight up bets.  The spread between the over and the points is 17 (55-38 = 17).  That means that if Louisiana Monroe can score 17 points on Bama, either the points or the over is guaranteed. Equal bets on each side means you'll come out close to even.  If they can keep scoring, then most likely the over and the points will hit and you win both bets.  I see this as a way to place a bet on minimal risk with a possible large payout.  The question really then becomes can Louisiana Monroe score 17 points on Bama?  They did score 14 on Georgia and Bama let MTSU score 10. I would probably say yes.  I think Bama is going to have trouble getting up for this game.  They may get pissed and score a lot of points or they may just sulk and not really do much.  I'm guessing the later, but we'll see.  No prediction on this one, just some commentary.

Monday, September 21, 2015

College Football Notes - Week 3

Oh boy.  Well I'm an Ole Miss fan, so you can guess as to what I'm going to spend most of my time talking about.  I was also pretty busy this weekend, so I didn't have a chance to watch  many of the games except for the late ones, which of course was highlighted by Ole Miss versus Bama.  However, I did keep up with the scores and I'm going to try and watch some more later.  I'll update accordingly.

1. Ole Miss.  Ole Miss started their SEC play off with a bang. History and just about everything else was against Ole Miss as they entered Bryant-Denny stadium.  I don't know how many stats I heard, but there were a bunch demonstrating how dominant Bama was at home, against Ole Miss and in revenge games.  If you weren't paying attention, you'd have thought Ole Miss had lost the game prior to playing it.  But if you were paying attention, you would have noticed the same things I noticed and posted last week.  Ole Miss matched up really well with Bama and Bama was still lacking a quarterback.  So despite all of the hype, Ole Miss went in and won.

The main questions I had before Ole Miss started:

1. How is Chad Kelly going to handle the pressure?
2. Can Ole Miss stop the run?
3. Will Coach Freeze out think himself?
4. Will Bama keep up pressure on the QB?

Chad Kelly handled the pressure surprisingly well. He struggled at the opening with a lot of batted down passes and it took him some time to adjust to having to make faster throws.  But he didn't snap.  He kept at it and looked surprisingly calm.  The only moment he let his emotions get the best of him, Hugh Freeze jumped all over him. It wasn't clear what happened, but I'm pretty sure he decided to throw a risky ball and go for the first down instead of a safe pass to help setup the field goal like Freeze had wanted and called. It reminded me very much of Bo Wallace and his final interception against LSU last year except this time Freeze didn't let it go. Good for him. To me Kelly has proved himself as a true player. In that type of hostile environment and to be able to rush for the TD, get rid of the ball as he was getting sacked and to throw the ball behind the line of scrimmage after faking the run proves to me he's a very capable and dangerous player.

I'm not sure how you define stopping the run against Bama.  Bama rushed for 215 yards on 42 attempts.  Is that a stop? Probably not, but they slowed them down.  That was enough.

Coach did a great job and if anything out coached Saban.  He handled Kelly masterfully and he made some really tough decisions. I didn't agree with the going for two and I thought we could probably have ran to the outside more often, but other than that he did great.

Bama pressured Kelly a lot, but after the rushing touchdown I think they begin to really grow concerned and let up.  They committed to covering the receivers with the safeties and personally I think this was a mistake.  I'm glad they did it though.

Looking forward Ole Miss has a very good shot at winning out all the way to Starkville.  Starkville is always a 50/50 game.  The top 3 opponents at this point are: LSU, Texas A&M and MSU.  You never know what's going to happen between injuries and weather, so I will comment on the next game, Vanderbilt.

I predict Ole Miss will jump to a big lead early on, 28 points and then put the back ups in.  I don't see Vanderbilt scoring more than 14 points and I see Ole Miss scoring at will and getting the score up to at least 50.

2. Alabama. Alabama surprised me with their decision to start with Cooper Bateman. To be honest, I wasn't really thrilled.  I was less thrilled after watching him make a bunch of passes and moving the ball down the field.  He did throw an interception and then that was it, Bama takes him out.  I think this was a mistake.  To me Cooper was the better passer and he was the better option.  Coker did well enough, but when they had to rely on his arm it didn't work so well.  To me using Coker limits your offense to a running offense.  There was the new development of Coker running a few times.  This was great and I would work to develop that aspect of the offense.  But I don't think he's a consistent passer and you're going to have to rely on Derrick Henry to get you your touchdowns. Alabama plays University of Louisiana Monroe which will obviously be an easier game.  However, don't doubt for a moment that they're not a bad team.  Bama will win, but I think the score will be surprisingly close for most people.

3. Auburn. It was not a good week for the state of Alabama. It's been said many times before and yet it doesn't seem to be said enough, Auburn has serious QB problems.  I'm not sure who the backup is, but they must be really bad if you continue to struggle with Johnson and refuse to switch. Watching Leonard Fournette run through Auburn's defense like a hot knife through butter reminded me something about Auburn.  Their defense sucks.  Oh yeah, Muschamp.  That's not really working out so well. I think their main problem is their size.  Watching their players try and stop Fournette looked like jr. high kids trying to tackle NFL players.  This does not bode well for the Iron Bowl or really the rest of the season. It especially doesn't bode well for their next game against Mississippi State.

4. LSU. The new darling of the SEC and the media, it's like everyone suddenly realized how great Leonard Fournette is at running the ball.  They also seemed to have forgot last week when they played MSU and MSU stopped them the second half.  This game seemed lopsided because it was but it wasn't lopsided because LSU is that awesome.  They're good, but stoppable. Just commit to stopping the run and pass across the middle.  LSU has a strange away game against Syracuse.  They should win and we'll see Fournette and the defense put on a clinic.  This will raise their stock and more people will forget they're one dimensional.

5. Mississippi State. State played Northwestern State and took out some of their frustrations on the small Louisiana school.  Offensively they looked good and defensively they put a lot of pressure on Northwestern State. They are going to be a challenge for any team, especially Ole Miss. I continue to be impressed by their backup QB, Fitzgerald and I'm dreading facing him next year.  Mississippi State has to travel to Auburn and I think they're going to like the results.  Their defense should destroy Auburn and their offense should put up lots of points.

6. Vandy.  They won! I hope they enjoyed it because there may not be many more of those on the schedule.  They are coming to Ole Miss and it should be interesting.  Will Ole Miss have a let down and look past them?  Will it even matter?  I'm guessing Ole Miss will use it as a celebratory tune up.

I did catch part of the TCU game and their offense is terrifyingly fast.  Boykin is fast and their running back was like watching Mighty Mouse. One of the things I noticed was how the offensive line and really the entire offense spreads out the defense when they decide to run.  Everyone blocks and the field suddenly looks like a pinball machine with a man to man block everywhere.  This gives the speedy back lots of space.  Combined with his quickness side to side and this is a recipe for a touchdown every other time.  It's really ingenious and I wonder how a defense will ever be able to account for it.  

Monday, September 14, 2015

Picks for the Week - Week 2

The point spreads that I have aren't always as close to the ones Vegas has, but it's what I go by so you'll have to bear with me.  Obviously lines will move as we move closer to Saturday and information and bets move popular opinion.  Here's what I like so far:

1. Georgia State vs Oregon -45.5   Ok, yes the Ducks will be upset after losing to Michigan State and hey, it's the Ducks.  But 46 points is a lot to cover and Georgia State has scored 20 and 34 in points in their last two games.  The Ducks on the other hand have given up 42 and 28 points.  42 points to Eastern Washington who lost to Northern Iowa.  Who is that?  I have no idea, but it tells me that Eastern Washington isn't probably a power house and yet scored 42 points on Oregon.  Will Oregon win?  Absolutely.  Will they keep their starters in there to cover a 46 point spread?  Highly unlikely. 35 point win maybe, but not 46.

2. Memphis -3 vs Bowling Green   Memphis just blew the doors off of Kansas at Kansas.  The week before that they battered Missouri State like they stole something.  They are a good team.  Kansas is horrible, I get that.  But Memphis was only a two touchdown favorite going into that game and they ended up winning by 32 points.  Bowling Green.  They lost to Tennessee by 29 points.  It was closer than it sounded but they still lost by 4 touchdowns.  Bowling Green then turned around and beat Maryland by 21 points.  How good is Maryland?  Eh.  Not very.  I see Memphis winning this game by at least two touchdowns.  Their defense is good and when they get rolling their offense is better.
These two games are my locks.  Georgia State +45.5 and Memphis -3.  Easy money.

Other games of interest.  Rutgers vs Penn State -10.  Rutgers is like a runaway semi engulfed in flames headed down a mountain.  They're going to make a spectacular explosion and they're going to take someone with them when they do. I see this game being decided by 7 points or less.  Definitely not 10.  I'd take Rutgers plus the points.

Ole Miss is currently a 6 point underdog to Alabama.  I think Ole Miss wins, but I wouldn't touch that point spread.  It may easily be decided in over time and if that's the case, 6 points isn't worth shit. I'm waiting to see what the over/under is for this game.  I think it'll be high scoring and would take anything in the 40's. 

TCU -37 vs SMU If TCU and Baylor are clones, then this spread is right on the money.  Unless of course they're not and TCU is struggling.  In which case SMU puts up as much of a fight as Minnesota and this game is closer.  I'm guessing it's closer.  I'd take SMU plus the points.

Western Kentucky +1.5 vs Indiana  Western Kentucky opened up the season beating Vandy and laughing about it.  They are mistake prone, but they're physical and will definitely beat you if you give them the chance.  They beat Louisiana Tech last week and have shown they're capable.  Indiana barely beat SIU and beat FIU by two touchdowns.  Neither of these teams are great, but Indiana is supposed to be a power five team.  They should have dominated.  I predict Western Kentucky winning by 7.

College Football Notes - Week 2

After getting a record number of SEC teams into the top 25 Arkansas stains their sheets and Auburn barely makes it to the toilet in time, dropping in rank or out of the top 25.

Let's start with the game I went to, Ole Miss vs. Fresno State.

1. Ole Miss.  Fresno State is not a power house by anyone's standards, but were considered a step up over UT Martin.  I've been to UT Martin and I can't imagine how you step down, so I'll have to agree with this reasoning.  Fresno State did win their season opener by 3 touchdowns against a Texas version of UT Martin, so they aren't exactly awful.  But Ole Miss managed to score 73 points on them pretty much at will.

Within the first quarter, Ole Miss had 3 touchdowns and Freeze put in the backup QB's.  Ok, I understand not hammering a team and running up the score, but at least wait until we have covered the spread (OM -28) before letting up or at least the second half.  First quarter is a little early. Why so early?  Well partly because this offense scores so quickly.  If Freeze wanted to, he probably could have scored 5 td's in the first quarter.  They're that quick and Kelly is that good.

So what did this game tell us? It more or less confirmed what we knew last week and demonstrated that that game wasn't a fluke.  Kelly can throw the long ball with accuracy, he makes great reads, and he is a run threat.  Did he have the same level of pressure that Alabama will bring?  Of course not, but against mediocre or less teams he's going to dice you up and feed you to the fish.

Our offense looks incredible right now.  Kelly is spreading the ball around because of his decision making ability.  I'm sure it's killing defensive coordinators.  You can double cover someone and he'll just find the next open receiver.  If you leave anyone open, he's going to hit them and move down the field.  The receivers look more comfortable with him and definitely have more trust in him.

What do we not know?  When Kelly is getting blitzed on a regular basis, how does he handle it?  How does he handle big time pressure and stages?  How does he handle noise? These are the biggest questions and the possible issue we're facing.  I think it was the series after the CJ Johnson interception that he was trying to get Treadwell to go wide out.  There was definitely some confusion and Treadwell wasn't moving.  Finally Kelly threw his hands up, snapped the ball and ran it in.  I don't know who was supposed to do what, but communication will be a problem going into Bryant-Denny Stadium.  Handling it will be a problem if you haven't prepared for it.

The defense looked ok, but definitely not up to last year's standards.  I'm not sure if it's because the second string is playing more often or last year was just too high of a water mark to compare to, but they seem to struggle.  Again, we're not getting much pressure on the quarterback.  This is by design, I get it but that doesn't make me feel better.  Our zone coverage improved, but we got gashed a couple times by the run and the throws to the flats were completed without issue just about every time.  Now, having said that I think our defense is good enough.  We won't stop every time, but we will slow them down.  If the offense can continue to score, we will win the hard games.  It'll just be a grind.

Bama predictions?  Two weeks ago I would have said we lost this game without hesitation.  Now I'm not so sure.  I think it'll be a back and forth high scoring game. The over should be a lock if it's below 50.

This is a difficult game to win, no matter what. Bama will want revenge and Saban will take every opportunity he has to remind his team about last year.  At night in front of 100,000 fans with Game Day and all of the pressure in the world, this is when people snap.  Hugh Freeze has a tendency to out think himself on big games where there's a lot of pressure.  He did it the last time he went to Tuscaloosa and he did it in Starkville that same year.  I'd even say he did it at the last bowl game. When expectations are high, he sort of gets in his own head and I think it causes him a lot of trouble. Bama has one of the top running games in the nation, next to Ohio State and just ahead of LSU. They have a big, strong line on both offense and defense and Ole Miss will likely be playing without Tunsil.

The good news is that Bama is struggling with the quarterback position and it looks like their run can be stopped if you sell out to do it.  Commit players to stop the run, get a lead and keep up TD for TD and you win this game.  Bama's corners are smaller and have yet to do a great job of locking down the backfield.  Kelly should be able to throw on them at will.  It'll all depend on how much pressure they get on Kelly and how long the apply it.  If Bama ever stops blitzing they'll lose.  It's their only hope to stop the pass.  Disrupt the quarterback.

I predict Ole Miss - 44, Bama -34.  Ole Miss jumps out to a small lead, does enough to slow Bama down and hangs on for the win.

2.  Mississippi State. I eagerly watched this game to see how the Bulldogs would do this year and really see what our odds of are of winning the Egg Bowl in Starkville.  Ask any reasonable fan of either fan base and we can all agree that the Egg Bowl is always a toss up.  Ole Miss could win every game and State could have lost every game going into the Egg Bowl and there is no doubt that it's a 50/50 game on that day.  The majority of the games are decided by where the game is played, so it doesn't bode well for Ole Miss at all.

After watching the game, I didn't feel much better.  Mississippi State lost, but they lost to a pretty decent LSU team and given about 30 more seconds probably would have won.  LSU jumped out to an early lead of 14 points.  They were destroying MSU's offensive line and MSU couldn't stop Leonard Fournette.  And then they adjusted.

I hate Dan Mullen for all of his hokey game's man bullshit, but I have to admit he is smart.  He knows his strengths and he plays to them.  Yes he makes some mistakes, but what he has been able to accomplish with what he has been given, there is no doubt he's punching above his weight class.  The offensive line adjusted and were able to buy Dak some time.  Dak stayed in the pocket most of the time and he did a decent job at throwing.  He wasn't razor accurate, but he was making pretty good choices and reads.  The defense committed to stopping the run and they did.  There were a lot of holding fouls called on LSU the second half which helped a lot, but besides this MSU did a decent job the second half and limited LSU to only 3 points.

And then it came down to the kicker.  For me Dan's mistake was not going for it on 4th down and relying on a kicker that hadn't made an attempt at a field goal in over a year and a half.  The same kicker that was barely over 50% when he was kicking and seemed to fold under pressure every time.  If anything, go with the short distance kicker that seemed to have little trouble with the pressure.  I know the manual says go for the kick in that situation, but I would have just thrown the ball.  But it's easy to second guess when it's not your job on the line, so I can't blame him.  EDIT: I read last weeks notes and I called it. MSU needs to give more thought to their kicking game.  So does Bama for that matter.

A couple of notes. Dak is unlikely to win the heisman, but he is more likely to get drafted if he keeps improving his throwing.  I think Tim Tebow has scared him into realizing he will never be a running QB in the NFL.  He needs to be able to make accurate throws, using the run only when absolutely necessary.  If this is Mullen's coaching, then he's doing Dak a real solid and deserves credit for helping his player improve.  On the flip side, if Dak doesn't start running more often, they're going to be a mediocre team at best.  There's not a lot wrong with MSU, but there's not a lot really outstanding either.  But they'll still be a pain in the ass during the Egg Bowl.

3. LSU. LSU missed their opener so they had to settle for State as their first opponent.  It didn't settle real well and it almost came back up on them.

LSU of this year looks to be very similar to LSU of last year.  One dimensional run game on Leonard Fournette's back.  It's a very capable back and he's definitely one of the best out there, but being one dimensional in the SEC will cost you about three games a season. Brandon Harris looked bad to average.  Missed throws, high throws, late throws, so on and so forth. It could be the cowbells and maybe at home with a win under his belt he'll be more comfortable, but right now it looks like the same QB issues as last year.

LSU's defense looked pretty tough at first, but then they seemed to run out of steam.  I'm not sure if they decided to let up or if MSU just made the right adjustments, but LSU could not apply any pressure in the second half.  This gave Dak enough time to make throws and let them score 16 points.  Against a better passing offense, it's going to be hell on LSU.

4. Arkansas.  I didn't get to watch this game, but I certainly heard about it.  The upset of the week, Arkansas which was everyone's darling hard noised, tough as nails, running team shat the bed and lost to Toledo.  In fairness Toledo is a good team.  They had more wins last year than Arkansas did and won their bowl game against Arkansas State.  But of course, they're in the MAC and really Arkansas had no business losing to them.  As an Ole Miss fan, this hurts a little more considering how badly we lost to them last year but seeing Bert's face at the end of that game makes me happier.  I predicted a while ago that Bert would struggle at Arkansas and he has been trying to prove me wrong, but in the long run I may be right.  They're still trying to have their break out season and they may have to settle until next year.

5. Tennessee. Good ole Rocky Top lost to Oklahoma giving up a comfortable lead and finally losing in overtime.  I did watch part of this game and Tennessee really surprised me.  They seemed to be dominating Oklahoma at first jumping out to a 17 to 3 lead in the first half. And then Oklahoma came back with a vengeance and was able to tie it up.  I'm not sure if Tennessee got too complacent or what but at the end of the day Tennessee threw an interception in over time to seal the defeat.  Oklahoma was ranked higher than Tennessee so I have trouble calling this an upset or unexpected, but that is no solace for the fans that turned out in coordinated orange and white.  I think Tennessee will still have a good season, but they're definitely not ready to dominate just yet.  Given that the SEC East is a little weak, they could still win it but I don't see them doing anything else.

6. Auburn.  Auburn had a close call as well, but managed to pull out the win at the last moment over Jacksonville State.  Hmm, that team sounds familiar. Oh yeah, Ole Miss lost to Jacksonville State in 2010, starting a two season losing streak and one of Ole Miss's darkest points in recent history.  Thanks Houston Nutt, you bastard.  It would have only been fitting if Auburn had lost to Jacksonville State after handing Ole Miss one of the most emotional losses of last year.  But it didn't happen.

Yes, Ole Miss once lost to Jacksonville State, but we were not ranked 6th in the nation when it happened.

I only saw part of this game but it's pretty obvious they're struggling with their quarterback.  I wish we could play them tomorrow before they figure it out.  LSU gets next and I have a feeling Auburn is not going to like the results.

So what's the problem?  Well Auburn is struggling offensively.  I have a feeling Johnson doesn't understand the playbook as well as Gus would like him to.  This is going to limit them and as Johnson continues to under perform and starts facing real competition it'll only get worse.

The defense is improved but still struggling under new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp.  Auburn really buys into the theory that a bad head coach could still make a great coordinator between the Ellis Johnson hiring and now Will Muschamp.  I'm not so sure history is on their side, but I'm sure Lane Kiffin is looking forward to working there as the new offensive coordinator at some point.

I think Auburn will improve by the end of the season, but I wholly expect them to lose this weekend to LSU in the mean time.

7. Vandy.  No change, still awful.

8.  Florida.  Florida is on Ole Miss's schedule this year and that's great.  Most years Florida is a force to reckon with, but this year they're still struggling.  Everyone likes to talk about their corners, but ECU didn't seem to have that much trouble with them.  ECU is a good team, so a win is still a win, but cutting it close to a good AAC team is nothing to be real hyped about.  Florida is going to be a 5 win team this year.

I didn't really get to watch many other games this week.  I did however correctly pick GT, Ole Miss and Memphis to all cover.  Because of this success, I'm going to post my locks of the week on here.  I'll wait to see the spreads, but be looking for them.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

College Football Notes - Week 1

It's my favorite time of the year.  College football season.  I've always enjoyed college football, but over the last few years it's become my favorite pastime.

As part of my obsession I have become an absolute expert.  My superior football knowledge and intellect allows me greater insight into the football future than anyone else. That is sarcasm, which is important to point out in the online sports arena because often people fail to recognize or acknowledge it.

Since I've become an obsessive fan and am now an expert, I'm required by the laws of addiction and the twelve step program to begin blogging about it.  I'll eventually graduate to a witty twitter account where I defend my obvious bias and homerism until I accidentally make public all of my direct messages and disappear into the oblivion, disgraced and hated.  Until then, enjoy my random observations and notes.

1. Ole Miss - I went to the game and had a great first hand look at this year's team.  Going into the game, the major questions were:

  1. Is Laquon Treadwell still awesome?
  2. Are any of the three QB's good and which one will start?
  3. How bad is the defense after losing so many impact players?
Well, Treadwell is of course still awesome.  He missed a couple of balls that he probably should have caught, one leading to an interception but he also demonstrated he can still gain inexplicable yards after the catch.  It's like watching a water spider dance around leaves on a pond. He just steps over and dodges defenders gaining yards that he should have never gotten.  Of course he's also an incredible person.  After the game one of the assistants was trying to herd all of the players back into the locker room.  Treadwell was one of the last to go because he stopped for every fan on the way in.  You can tell he does this because for the fans, not for his own ego.  Nothing but love for Treadwell and I expect a great year from him.

It turns out that all three quarterbacks look pretty capable, but by far Chad Kelly looked the most talented.  His passes were spot on and if they weren't completed it was often because the receiver just dropped the ball.  He checked the whole field before throwing and was able to find the open receiver instead of forcing passes. Hell he even ran for a touchdown which was an excellent read and showed you can't just leave him with a wide open field.

Now, the reality is this was against UT Martin.  I need to go back and check how much time he had, but it didn't feel like they were ever bringing a lot of pressure.  The good news was there was very little hesitation in his throws, but it's definitely easier when you're not getting pounded by 300 lb lineman every other play.  

The other odd thing I noticed was that he doesn't seem to fit in with the rest of the team. Being a new player, a yankee and edging out a third year player I'm sure has caused some division between himself and the rest of the team.  He's definitely an outsider. There were two separate occasions where he was trying to celebrate a TD and the teammates were less than enthusiastic to celebrate with him.  On one occasion he ran out on to the field with no helmet on to celebrate a receiver catching a TD.  This is great, but he wasn't the QB that threw it and it makes me wonder how hard it is for him to keep his emotions in check.  The nice way of saying it is he's clearly passionate about the game.  But emotion unchecked means instability and that makes me nervous.  In big time games or down situations, that emotion can often be an extremely destructive force.  

DeVante Kincade looked good although I'm upset he wasn't throwing more.  I don't know if that's because Hugh wouldn't let him or he was making the read and deciding to hand off to the RB.  Dear Hugh Freeze, take advantage of this upcoming practice game and let Kincade go crazy.  Let's see how good he is calling all of the shots.  The passes I did see he completed, although they weren't as well placed as the Kelly throws.  I think he ran a couple of times, but none of the plays stood out as spectacular. 

Kincade's biggest strength is the support of the team.  Being Treadwell's roommate for the last three years means they're clearly bonded and you could tell the team strongly supports him.  This is great for teamwork, but clearly hurts Kelly's ability to work his way into that spot if Kincade is already there.  I always suspected this was one of the major issues for Bo Wallace.  Some people will argue that none of this matters much, but I would say it is a factor.  We're talking about 18-23 yr. olds not NFL players trying to collect that paycheck.  Emotion and teamwork is an important part of the formula that separates a good team from a great team.  I hope they figure it out.

Ryan Buchanan looked pretty decent as well.  Again, not as accurate as Kelly, but definitely capable. If Kelly is the outsider and Kincade is the team favorite than Buchanan is probably squarely in between.  He's not the favorite, but he's still part of that same influential recruiting class so he's not anywhere near an outsider.  I read he was telegraphing his passes, but I didn't really notice.  I'll have to go back and really look at the game but nothing obviously bad or good stood out to me.

Which brings us to the last question, how is the defense.  I was at the game, so I haven't seen Freeze's half time analysis, but it sounds like he noticed what I was noticing.  The defense did well in terms of points and numbers, but not much else.  There wasn't a lot of pressure on the UT Martin QB and during the second half the pass defense seemed to completely break down.  I believe there was a zone defense and UT Martin seemed to have found the hole in it.  It was about seven yards out to the right.  UT Martin exploited that hole multiple times passing into it causing one defender having to turn around and defend while the safety/corner tried to get over in time to prevent giving up too many yards. Against UT Martin, it wasn't a big deal but against Alabama it'll kill us.  Especially if there's no real pressure on the QB and he has time to make an accurate throw.  Someone said this may be because CJ Johnson wasn't there.  I don't know.  But if so we need him back soon or we need to teach the new guy how to play that position properly.  So a non pressuring defensive line or lack of called blitzes and a secondary that seemed to struggle with the defensive scheme.  Neither of these things bode well.  

The good news is the numbers don't lie.  The defense only allowed 3 points, even if it was just UT Martin.  I guess it's because of the last two years, but I have a lot of confidence in our defense.  If there are issues, I think they can work them out.  The fact that the offense has improved so much will relieve some of the pressure on the defense.  Last year we probably would have beat LSU and Auburn if we had this same offense.  So that's good news as well. 

Overall, I'm really excited about the potential of this team.  I think we could go 10-2 and 11-1 if the defense is near as good as last year.  The schedule is about the best you could help for with most of our hard foes having to face off against Arkansas or Alabama or both prior to meeting us.  This could be the year we win an SEC championship.

2. Alabama.  Since Alabama is the first real test for Ole Miss and Alabama has passed their first test with flying colors, I'll address what I saw.  Alabama played a tough Wisconsin team on a national stage and they ran right through them.  It was a little shaky at first, but then they gave the ball to Derrick Henry and that's all she wrote.  Stopping Henry is going to take at least two players and I feel sorry for the player that gets to him first.  Clearly he's going to be the key to Bama's offense going forward.  

The QB battle at Bama gained a lot of attention and it looks like the reason there was a battle was because no one really rose to the top.  Jake Coker started and he played about as well as Blake Sims did last year.  That's not encouraging if you're an Alabama fan.  It's incredible to me that Bama pulls in a top five recruiting class every year but still can't find a consistent QB or a kicker.  It's like Nick Saban's only blind spot.  Coker was inconsistent and inaccurate.  Hopefully they'll decide to throw against us, but I'm guessing that won't be the game plan.

J Scott, my favorite punter last year looked like he spent the off season playing basketball instead of working on his kicks.  I wouldn't think a punter could regress, but clearly he did.  I'm sure he'll work it out, but I was disappointed I didn't see any of the 75 yard punts like last year.

Overall Bama looked about like they did last year.  They have the same level of weapons on offense, but the same problem of an inconsistent quarterback.  Their defense is strong and their only real weakness is pass coverage.  If you can protect the QB long enough to get a good throw, you can cut them up.  The problem is it's really hard to protect him.  So stop the run and throw.  Yeah, Ole Miss will need to work on stopping the run, in Tuscaloosa, at night in front of 100,000 screaming fans. Not promising.

3.  Auburn.  Auburn also played on the big stage against an always worrisome Louisville.  Louisville isn't on the same level as Wisconsin, but they can always beat you if you're not playing well. Auburn also seems to suffer from an inconsistent quarterback and I'm not sure why people thought Jeremy Johnson was so great.  3 interceptions against better teams will be cost you the game.  I think Auburn is going to have about the same season they had last year.  They'll rely on running while occasionally taking risky long shots down field.  It's a strategy that works well enough but probably won't win you any championships.  I didn't get to watch all of the game, so I don't have a great assessment but I think they're very beatable.   

4.  Texas A&M.  Texas A&M played against a tough Arizona State team.  I honestly didn't expect them to win this game and they did, handily.  Texas A&M also suffers from inconsistent quarterbacks.  To their credit they tried two of them, although I'm not sure why.  Kyle Allen led TAM last year and started again this year.  Same QB, same problems.  One throw is great, the next one is not and the next one never happens because he's on his back and the ball is rolling toward your endzone.  So they switched to true freshman Kyler Murray.  Murray can run.  There is no doubting he's fast and hard to tackle.  But he's small and doesn't have the strength to make the throws you need.  I'm not sure why Kevin Sumlin thought it was a good idea to burn his redshirt but he did, so expect to see him every time TAM is unable to get anything going offensively.  

TAM has a new defensive coordinator and it shows.  They have definitely improved on defense and are putting a lot more pressure on the quarterback.  The combination of the crowd noise and fast defensive linemen really caused Arizona State a lot of problems.  The line looked a little tired a little early, but clearly the have improved.  I think A&M will be tougher than last year, but still very beatable. 

5. LSU. They had a never ending rain delay.  I'm pretty sure Les Miles spent that time telling Bobby Petrino how to manage a game clock.  Their game not happening is supposed to be a real advantage to MSU, their next opponent.  I'm not sure, but I guess we'll know soon enough.  

6. MSU. I didn't get to watch this game, only follow the gamecast, so I need to watch to really get a feel for this team.  My guess along with just about everyone but MSU fans was that losing a lot of lineman and star players was going to have an impact.  It sounded like that was the case as MSU had a tough time with USM.  USM has improved, there is no doubt, but their improving doesn't change mistakes made by MSU.  Saving Dak until you really need him is smart on Dan's part.  Keeping Dak healthy should be priority number one this year.  Has Manny Diaz improved the defense?  From the sound of it, on the line he did but the pass coverage is still their weak spot. Oh and kicking.  Coaches please learn that kickers are important and it's worth the time and trouble to find good ones.

7.  Vanderbilt. Bad.  Derrick Mason is probably the nicest guy in the world, but is not a head coach.  The sooner Vandy can get rid of him and move on the better for this program.  Since they're Ole Miss's SEC East foe, I hope they keep him forever.

That's all I can think of for now. I watch a lot of football, so generally I have some sort of off the wall observation on every team.  If you have a question about someone I didn't cover, ask it in the comments.