Friday, October 23, 2015

Picks of the Week - Week 8

I'll be honest.  It's hard to get excited about football after watching your team get crushed again.

Ole Miss, you're breaking my heart.  To be fair, you've broken my heart so many times that it doesn't quite sting like it used to during the Tommy Tubberville era, but it still hurts.

So I'm not going to reflect on last week's game against Memphis, but instead comment on the fact that Ole Miss is favored by six points over Texas A&M.  Tunsil is coming back which will improve the line as players switch positions and hopefully fill back in their original spots.  This should provide some relief for the defense.

Texas A&M is banged up from Bama last week and will be sporting a slightly injured Kyle Allen and a slightly injured Myles Garrett.  Both are cleared to play, but injuries have a way to slow you down.

So is that enough? The optimist in me wants to believe that if Chad Kelly gets the time to make the throws we could see a lot of offense.  I also badly want to believe Dave Womack when he says the defense will get fixed.  However, the sulken angry fan wants to believe we'll never win a game again.

If I had to bet, I'd take A&M plus the points.

Speaking of bets, how did I do last week?  About as well as Ole Miss against Memphis.

Michigan -8.5 vs Michigan State - Loss
Ohio State - 17.5 vs Penn State - Loss
Boston College vs Clemson Under - Loss
Bama - 4 vs Texas A&M - Win
LSU -9.5 vs Florida - Loss

Vandy +2.5 vs USC - Win

It's important to always learn from your mistakes.  My lessons that have held up so far:

1. Always check the weather.  So far, most everything looks clear for the weekend so that should play a factor.  Next week could get interesting with the remnants of a hurricane.

2. Rivalry games do play a factor.  Michigan should have beat MSU, but the Spartans kept it close and lucked into a win.

3. Because they can, doesn't mean they will.  Teams get stingy with their players later in the season as injuries add up and they look down the schedule at harder teams.

Ok, keeping these lessons in mind, what does this week look like?

LSU -16.5 vs Western Kentucky

Instinct says that's a lot of points.  Western Kentucky has played a lot of teams close and defeated Vanderbilt.  LSU on the other hand is averaging a 20 point margin win over lower level teams.  Vandy held Western Kentucky to 14 points.  Against better defenses, they struggle.  LSU is a better defense.  Take LSU -16.5.

Alabama -15.5 vs UT

Alabama at home against a team that is young and on the verge of an implosion? Safe bet, take Bama -15.5.

USC -3.5 vs Utah

How an un-ranked USC is favored over number 3 Utah is beyond me. If your argument is that Utah hasn't been tested before against Michigan, Cal, ASU and Oregon, then when will you ever be happy?  Utah stays undefeated.  Utah plus the points.

Ohio State -21 vs Rutgers

Rutgers surprised us last week by beating the spoiler Indiana.  It was a close game, but they still won.  You know who else had a close game with Indiana? Ohio State.  Ohio State doesn't have the same pizzazz on the road and Rutgers is going to give it everything they have for this game.  Rutgers plus the points.

I've been really busy the last few weeks which is why these posts keep coming out late and I'm not watching nearly as much football as my inner fan would like.  Hopefully things will slow down so I can spend some more time on my couch.  In the mean time, best of luck.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Picks for the Week - Week 7

They say always go with your instinct.  Well my instinct was telling me to stay away from last week and it was apparently right.  Let's look at the carnage.

South Carolina +19.5 - Loss
Georgia -3 - Loss
Georgia Tech +7 - Loss
Northwestern/Michigan over 35 - Win

Baylor -45 - Win
Indiana +6.5 - Loss
Missouri -4.5 - Loss

Georgia looked like a sure thing and then Nick Chubb gets hurt on the first play and Mark Richt loses control of a 21 point lead and down they go. It always sucks to see a player get injured and I hope Chubb has a speedy and full recovery.

Michigan, wow.  Ok so the two top defenses in terms of points play each other and you think sure this will be a defensive battle.  In a way it was, except Northwestern's defense didn't really show up until the second half.  Michigan had a quick start scoring twice in the first two series while holding Northwestern scoreless.  Michigan's defense lived up to their reputation.  Northwestern did ok, but just really had some bad breaks and was never able to recover.  I think Northwestern is still a good team and still has a good defense.  They just can't score on a defense like that and had a lot of trouble with Michigan's run.  Michigan's profile is a badass defense with a good run game.  Keep that in mind.

Baylor dominated again.  Baylor is killing teams, but partly because those teams have some of the worst defenses in college football.  Can they maintain that dominance against good d's?  We'll find out, but not this week.  Baylor is playing West Virginia this week.  WV gave up 33 and 44 points to the two Oklahoma teams.  There's a good chance they'll give 66 to Baylor.

Ole Miss beat NMSU pretty badly point wise. They covered the 45 pt. spread, which was a pleasant surprise to me.  NMSU is a bad team and Ole Miss started the first quarter playing down to their level of competition.  Turning the ball over 3 times is pretty inexcusable.  Once Ole Miss found their rhythm, they scored fairly easily but they're still not very successful with the inside runs and had a few dropped passes that should have been caught.  Memphis will be a good test.  Memphis is going to give Ole Miss everything they have.  They had a week off and are on a 12 game winning streak.  After week two I was not worried about Memphis, but having watched our offensive line thin out and struggle and our secondary get burned in the zone over and over again, I'm not so sure.

The good news is that Memphis doesn't typically rush with a lot of people.  They send three and try to cover.  Try is the key word as they're worse at it than Ole Miss.  If they keep this strategy against Ole Miss, they'll lose.  If you give Chad Kelly longer than 4 seconds to sit in the pocket he's going to destroy you with an accurate deep ball.

On the other side Memphis has a very capable QB and a power run.  Ole Miss routinely plays the same defensive strategy of rushing only 3 leaving the QB to make accurate throws.  This could be a high scoring game (over 70).  I see Ole Miss jumping to a big lead, then letting Memphis get close but closing out the game with a win of about 8 points.

I'm still struggling to watch as many games as I'd like.  It's really not fair how life gets in the way of my football obsession.

Let's look at next week:

1. Michigan State +8.5 vs Michigan
Talk about a comeback.  Harbaugh has Michigan looking like a real contender with 3 shutouts in a row, two of them to a top 25 ranked team.  Michigan's only loss was to Utah and we all know now that Utah is a pretty good team.  MSU on the other hand has maintained a high rank, but seems to keep squeaking by all of their opponents.  At the very least they're letting them stay close.  This is a rivalry game at Michigan and that has to be kept in mind as well.  However, with the home field advantage and the quality of the defenses that Michigan State has faced up till now, there is little doubt in my mind Michigan wins this game.  I think they'll beat them by 21 points.  This is my lock, Michigan - 8.5

2. Ohio State -17.5 vs Penn State
It's tough being the number one team in the country because everyone gives you their best game.  Sometimes, they even employ crazy schemes and risk everything with thin man to man defense just to try and beat you.  As a result a lot of your games end up being closer than they should.  Penn State hasn't lost since Temple.  They haven't really played power houses, but they're in a rhythm.  If there is anything Franklin does well, it's pump up his team for the big game.  Penn State will probably lose, but I see them keeping it a lot closer than 17.5.  Take the points.

3. Boston College +15.5 vs Clemson
Clemson is on a home game stretch and really feeling it after beating Notre Dame.  They covered against Georgia Tech, beating them by over 19 points.  BC on the other hand is off and on with some crazy low scoring games.  BC tops pretty much all of the charts in terms of defense.  I think the spread here is pretty close.  I think Clemson wins by 14, but it's going to be close.  What I don't see is the over hitting at 36.5.  BC can't score, but at the same time won't let the other team score.  I think this is a 21 point game tops.  I'll take the under.

4. Bama -4 vs Texas A&M. My instinct says Bama beats A&M by 14.  Bama still has a topped ranked defense and although Texas A&M's defense has improved, it's worse than Arkansas.  The Aggies have a gutsy coach and pretty good offense, but they haven't seen a defense like Bama's. I'd take Bama -4.
5. LSU -9.5 vs Florida.  Again my instinct says LSU opes up a cajun can of whoop ass and Florida loses big here.  There will be no mercy shown like USC had and Fournette is going to go in there and have a 200 yard game.  Florida has a good defense, but part of that has come against poor teams or good teams with poor performances. Their offense is going to be lead by old unreliable Treon Harris in one of the worst possible stadiums in the SEC. I'm just not convinced that this team is for real.  I think LSU wins by 18.

The rest of the games are right on the money in terms of spreads.  Vandy +2.5 vs USC should be interesting.  I think USC covers, but mainly because I have no faith in Vandy and I have to believe USC will send Spurrier off with some sort of farewell win.  And Vandy sucks.

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.