Thursday, November 20, 2014

Linesmithing: On a down week for College Football there is some opportunity.

It happens this time every year.  The week before Thanksgiving and many of the top schools are either taking bye weeks or playing cupcakes the week before their big holiday rivalry games.  So the SEC schedule this week is crap, as are much of the major conference schedules because most of the big games are happening next weekend.

To be fair, we're rolling off of four plus weeks with some amazing games and matchups. They all can't be riveting TV.

Lines I like:

1. Kansas State @ West Virginia University (-2.5): The bettors really want to like WVU and Dana Holgerson, but he's no Bill Snyder.  To me this game is pretty simple to analyze. The Wildcats don't make mistakes all that often, the Mountaineers do.  Pick: K-State on the money line for the mild upset.

2. UTEP @ Rice (-7): First off, I like touchdown favorites/underdogs. Especially if I can get a "ties win" edge from the house. In live betting a "push" is often refunded so your potential ROI is slightly higher.  That said, I'm a big fan of UTEP here. Their last win on the road (a 34-0 shellacking of UTSA) was their best win of the season. Rice has been a disappointment this year. Pick: UTEP to cover.

3. Kansas @ OU (-25): To me, this one is fairly simple.  OU has been struggling offensively of late and the Jayhawks have played much better since ridding themselves of the anchor that was Charlie Weis. Pick: Jayhawks to cover.

4. Tulsa @ Houston (-20): I think it's pretty obvious by now that Cougar Head Coach Levine is overmatched in most games. The Golden Hurricane are pretty bad but I think 20 points is a lot to ask of the mess that is the UH offense. Pick: Tulsa to cover.

5. Arizona @ Utah (-4): Put simply, I think the Wildcats are a better team. I also think the "Muss" is overrated as a home-field advantage. Pick: Wildcats on the money line for the mild upset.

You Big Blue Game of the Week:

Maryland @ Michigan (-5): Coming off a horrible win against Northwestern, in which the offense showed little while the defense played well. You might think that Michigan has a chance here.  However, Big Blue's best defensive player (#57 Clark) proved himself an idiot by (allegedly) hitting a woman and has been summarily dismissed from the team. It was a rare occasion where Hoke & Company did the right thing for the program long-term but which could have short-term consequences.  Pick: Maryland to cover.

Other thoughts:

1. UCLA/USC is probably the best game of the week but I'm uncomfortable with UCLA but, right now, the line is UCLA -3.5 which is usually a no-go for me. That said, it's a game I will be watching.

2. With opponents like Stamford, Eastern Kentucky, Charleston Southern and South Alabama the SEC is largely must-miss TV this weekend. They justify playing these patsies due to what they say is the hardest conference schedule in all the land but, this year, that really doesn't seem to be true. Despite their teams being deeply flawed, they're still getting a reputation bump in the CFP rankings. I'm not saying this is wrong, just that it is.

3. SMU has yet to win a game this year. I highly doubt that this will be the week they break through.

4. The highest O/U is Colorado @ Oregon holding at 72.5. Take the under. Oregon will score but Colorado's offense is the worst in the Pac 12.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thoughts: College Football Playoffs, NFL Player Discipline and Kentucky's Men's Basketball Team.

Last night on Twitter I posted this question:

Less Credibility Right Now: NFL player disciplinary process or College Football Playoff Committee? Discuss

I'm going to be honest. It's pretty close.

When you're having to perform advanced logic-gymnastic routines to explain your top four something is wrong.

I've been against how the CFP Committee has been ranking the teams for a while now. It's just gotten worse this week.  The CFP definitely has an SEC bias, despite there being rising evidence that the conference is down this year.

This is a mess.

1. Alabama
2. Oregon
3. Florida State
4. Mississippi State
5. TCU
6. Ohio State
7. Baylor
8. Ole Miss
9. UCLA
10. Georgia

1. I get that Alabama has all of the myth and mystery behind them, but they lost to Ole Miss.
2. I'm a fan of Oregon as well, but they lost.
3. The undefeated, defending B(C)S champions are ranked 3rd?
4. Not only did the Bulldogs look inept against 'Bama, but the game wasn't close.

The most disturbing thing is that we're obviously dealing with an entirely subjective process here. There is no objectivity.

For all of it's flaws at least the B(C)S tried to inject some level of data into their numbers.  And the Group of 5 treatment is shameful. 

My rankings:

1. Florida State
2. Oregon
3. Alabama
4. Baylor
5. Ohio State
6. Mississippi State
7. TCU
8. UCLA
9. Ole Miss
10. Wisconsin

Also, I would have Marshall ranked somewhere around 20-25. At some point, winning has to matter folks.


Either Roger Goodell must go, or the entire punishment system needs to be re-thought.

This is a mess, and it's a mess created by a man with an out-sized ego and no self-awareness or understanding of how all of this is making him look.

Viewing himself as the White Knight of the NFL has not gone smoothly for Goodell as he's been reminded that, ultimately, it's the owners who pay his salary. Even more troubling is that he seems untethered from any concept of fairness, and has now decided to level punishment based on potential future actions (as he sees them) rather than on the actual crime committed. (In Peterson's case, a plea-bargained misdemeanor.)

There is no semblance of due-process or respect for the collective bargaining agreement, not even a modicum of fairness in the Goodell courtroom and a league that's spinning out of control right now. What we have now is a dual system of punishment that's largely based on two things.

1. Whether or not pictures or video exist.
2. Just how outraged the media, activist groups have decided to be.

That's not justice, it's a freak-show.


Forget losing, will anyone get within double digits of this Kentucky team?

Last night's dominance against the 5th ranked Jayhawks was very, very impressive.  Sure there are injuries and many things that can derail a teams (projected) dream season, but if this team stays healthy they are going to be a handful for anyone in the country.

Kansas tried to hard, in my opinion, to continually drive the ball in the land and get UK into foul trouble. All they got for their troubles were a lot of blocks and fast breaks the other way.  The team that eventually challenges UK (and there will be 1 or 2, I'm sure) will be the team that shoots lights out from behind the arch.

Until then (to quote Uncle Verne) My Goodness!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Linesmithing: Lines I like (And other misc. football notes)

After the College Football Playoff Committee fell in love with the Pac-12 this week and vaulted Oregon into the number 2 spot (over unbeaten and defending B(C)S champion Florida State) and then followed that up with the ultimate shrug of the shoulders to beloved (by ESPN and CBS anyway) Alabama you thought the end of the world was nigh.

And while I'm not overwhelmed by either move (I explained on Monday why the Tide should not be included in the top four) I was surprised that they seem to be so reliant on strength of schedule and so discounting of actual wins and losses.  Regardless, I think it's all going to play out before the season is finished as many of these teams in the top 10 are going to end up playing one another and we're going to end-up with a pretty well-defined Top 4 by the end of the season.  Sure, whoever's at numbers 5 & 6 will raise a stink but I believe that's going to be hollow at best.

Looking to this week, in the lines I like, I believe it's going to be a week for the underdog....


1. Duke (-5.5) vs. Virginia Tech - A week for the underdog except in this game.  I think Duke is hugely underrated by both Vegas and the CFP Committee and is going to show just how good they are against a reeling Hokies team. Does Beemer need to be worried?  Pick: Duke to cover.

2. Ohio State (-12) @ Minnesota - At 7-2 I think the Golden Gophers might be a tougher test than was Michigan State. Coach Jerry Kill is a very good football coach and is getting every last drop of talent out of this team.  Pick: Minnesota to cover.

3. Rice @ Marshall (-21) - After a loss to Old Dominion this Owls team looked done. But two things happened on the way to football oblivion. First, it appears that the ODU team is pretty good and then the Owls have gone and played much better. Pick: Owls to cover.

4. Mississippi State @ Alabama (-8.5) - The Media, and by that I mean ESPN (which backs the SEC Network) and CBS (whose only football property of note is the SEC), are in love with the fighting Sabans. The reason for this is because they desperately need Alabama to be included in the CFP to close their narrative of "bestest conference evah!". I still think Bama is overrated and has a lot of holes, both offensively and defensively. Pick: Miss State on the money line.

5. Utah @ Stanford (-7.5) - In this game Utah is suffering from the Oregon hangover. They got whipped by the Ducks, and suddenly everyone thinks they can't play football. It's been a few weeks but people forget that Stanford got whipped by the Ducks as well.  Pick: Utah to cover.

6. Auburn @ Georgia (-2.5) - The mystery that is Georgia continues to befuddle both line-makers and betters. Here's a tip, when Georgia faces a really good defense they struggle. Auburn has a really good defense. Pick: Auburn on the money line.

7. Louisiana State University @ Arkansas (-2.0) - I had to do a double take when I first saw this line. Arkansas is 0-for-Karma in the SEC since Bielema took over. Pick: LSU on the money line.


Weekly Go Blue! but #FireBradyHoke Discussion

Mercifully, there is no Michigan debacle this week as the team enjoys an idle weak in preparation for Maryland and Ohio State to finish the season.  Offensively, this team is broken beyond repair, something we saw in the 10-9 slog-fest win over Northwestern.

I've seen people say that Brady Hoke has not 'had the chance' to lead a team with his type of QB under center. This is a ridiculous argument on it's face when you consider that he's had 4 recruiting classes now to bring 'his type' of QB into the fold. Hoke has so far shown and inability to recruit or make consistently good coaching decisions.  It's time for Michigan to cut ties and bring in a coach with an offensive mind-set. It's looking more and more like letting Rich-Rod go was a hasty mistake.

Also on the coaches hot-seat: Tony Levine.

The University of Houston Cougars are 5-4 and should creep into bowl eligibility with upcoming games against two pathetic teams in Tulsa and SMU after being idle this Saturday.  That said, a loss to a very mediocre Tulane team destroyed any hopes UH could have had at winning the very mediocre American Athletic Conference.

With a new, partially completed (notice all of the bare concrete?) stadium and a renewed energy around campus life and the athletic program in general, these big losses at key moments (Tulane was homecoming) are starting to pile up.

Worse yet, the Cougars have yet to beat a quality team.  They have wins over Grambling State, UNLV, Memphis, Temple and South Florida. Any time they play a team with a quality record, they seem to crater and are overmatched.

If anything, this means that UH will beat SMU and Tulsa but will be beaten by Cincinnati and should finish the season 7-6.  Given the talent and expectation surrounding this team that's very disappointing.  UH should end the Levine experiment and bring in a young, quality Head Coach for next year.  Right now they're playing more reminiscent of the Dana Dimel/Love Coach era than they are the Briles/Sumlin era and that has to be a concern.

Monday, November 10, 2014

College Football Playoff: Alabama will be in EVERYONE's top 4 Tuesday, here's why they shouldn't be.

Go 'Bama. Roll Tide!

All of the College Football nation is gushing over the Tide again, fresh off of their 20-13 Overtime win over the LSU Tigers in Death Valley Saturday and it's already being treated as a given that Alabama will regain their rightful place inside the top 4 in tomorrow's CFP Top 25.

This would keep the SEC at two teams in the top 4 which, again, everyone seems to believe is the rightful order of things.  According to the guesses that I've seen, the following will be the updated Top 10: (Bolded are playoff Top 4 as of now)

1. Mississippi State
2. Florida State
3. Alabama
4. Oregon
5. TCU
6. Baylor
7. Arizona State
8. Ohio State
9. Auburn
10. Ole Miss

I disagree. In fact, had I a vote in matters I'd rank as follows.

1. Mississippi State
2. Florida State
3. Oregon
4. TCU
5. Baylor
6. Arizona State
7. Alabama
8. Ohio State
9. Auburn
10. (tie) Ole Miss & Duke

A few points about how I got to this ranking order:

1. Miss State is still the best team in the country until beaten. Their body of work is the best in the Nation.

2. Florida State is the defending champion and, until beaten, cannot be excluded from any playoff system despite competing in a diminished ACC this year.

3. Oregon's loss to Arizona is looking worse and worse, but there's no denying the Ducks are playing at the top of their game right now. Clearly one of the top 3 in the country.

4. Yes, Baylor beat TCU but, since then, the Horned Frogs have been on a roll destroying some very good teams.  I argue that Saturday's dismantling of K-State is a much more impressive win than was Alabama's escape over LSU. (As a matter of fact, on a neutral field I'm willing to bet LSU/K-State would be pretty close to a pick 'em game.)

5. That loss to West Virginia is a puzzler, and the relatively weak schedule (and the fact that the TCU win over Minnesota is looking better every week) puts them behind the Frogs at this time.

6. Sparky might end up with the best loss of all the teams as UCLA seems to be understanding things late.  The win over ND was nothing short of domination.

7. The loss to Ole Miss is looking worse and worse, and a close win over LSU is not the great thing many are saying.  Look up and down Alabama's schedule, where's the signature "top 4" win?  I guess you could say aTm, who's looking much better all of the sudden, but I still don't think it's better than TCU's win over K-State, Baylor's thrashing of the Sooners or Sparky's win over ND.

8. That loss to Va Tech is going to be an anchor around them, but the win over Mich State helps some. The problem could be that Sparty is not really as good as we've supposed against anything other than blah B1G competition.

9. The loss to Aggie has me questioning this, but I don't see much behind them that would cause me to drop them lower.

10. Ole Miss: They're probably in free-fall right now, but I think they hold on until, at least, the Egg Bowl where they could play a major spoiler role.

10. Duke: Think about this: Is the Miami loss any worse than Ohio State's loss to VaTech? I don't think so. In many ways I think it's better. And if you're not going to take off from Florida State for the ACC then it's not fair to do so for the Blue Devils.


One problem we're seeing with the CFP is that there's still a large dose of SEC bias. This is happening despite a considerable amount of evidence that the conference as a whole is flawed this year. If anything, this could be the year that the Pac-12 deserves the title of "best" in the place of the SEC.  What the Pac-12 is lacking, of course is a broadcast network solely devoted to it's promotion (CBS) and ESPN having a huge financial stake in the success of the SEC Network.

The Pac-12 has Fox, and given their dismal record of college sports that's just not going to be enough to overcome the opinion-making of CBS and ABC.  It's just not.

The Big XII and the ACC are just spinning their wheels, playing the hype game at a level that is far inferior to the Big 2, and the B1G itself is just in shambles right now.  As for the state of Power 5 Conference football?

It's suffering as well.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

10 Games: The end.

Well, I tried to make it through an entire season pretend betting 10 games per week but, as it does, real life has intruded so I'm suspending that idea and instead am just going to offer up some thoughts on some select games that I've had time to look at.  My last week doing the 10 games thing illustrated that you at least have to put some effort into it as I went 3-7 ATS and 2-8 SU.  That leaves me at a very pedestrian 34-36 ATS and 45-25 SU for the season through week 7.

I will say this, even putting it on auto-pilot on some weeks I still came close to 50% for the season ATS and that says something about the fallacies of pay-for-picks handicapping "experts" who (honestly) average around 56% hit rates over time.

Are they worth the money?

I still say no.

Had I been betting real money there are a couple of key things that would have changed those stats.

1. I probably wouldn't have played "10 Games" every week.  Few handicappers really do.  They might pick every game but they weight them and, in most cases, only fire on their top picks.

2. I would have spent more time handicapping the games I would have bet.  I think that much goes without saying.

With all that said, here are the 7 games (this number will change week to week) that I've taken an interest in....

1. Florida State (-4) @ Louisville - The Cardinals are getting way too much love in this game for my linking. Yes, it's at Papa John's stadium and yes, Florida State doesn't look as good this year but I think part of what's going into this line is wishful thinking that Louisville has a chance. My Pick: Florida State to cover.

2. Rice (-6) @ Florida International University. Yes, Rice has been up and down this year and hasn't been close to the same team on the road.  But FIU seems to be on decline and Rice, after losing their first three games, has gone 4-0 since then and is looking more and more like a team that is rounding into form.  My Pick: Rice to cover.

3. Duke @ Pitt (-3.5) This is another scenario where you have two teams on different trajectories. Pitt won their first 3 games but have lost 4 out of 5 while Duke has only lost one game, at Miami. In their last game Pitt had a bit of the dropsies and I just don't think they're a very good team while I picked Duke to win their division. My Pick: Duke, on the money line to pull the mild upset.

4. TCU (-5) @ W. Virginia The Mountaineers are a weird team who can either play great, or play awful depending on the week. They play better at home but TCU is on a roll right now. While I don't think TCU will hang 80+ on WVU I do think they win easily. My Pick: TCU to cover.

5. Indiana @ Michigan (-7) No one likes a 7 point line, me included. However, While Michigan has been a raging dumpster fire this year Indiana has torched the entire landfill. At home, in front of an angry, boisterous Big House crowd I can't see Big Blue messing this one up. My Pick: Michigan to cover.

6. Houston (-9.5) @ South Florida For all of the gloom & doom from the fan base (justified) about the coaching, after 7 games the Cougars have been a modest surprise. The change at the QB position from the rapidly declining O'Korn to converted WR Greg Ward Jr. has given a much needed boost to the offense and the defense, despite injuries to key players, has been solid, an improvement for this team. Yes they still get out-coached and yes they still have glaring weaknesses but they match up well against a South Florida program which is trying to come back from near ruin. My Pick: Cougars to cover.

7. Auburn @ Ole Miss (-2) When two of the top four teams in the inaugural College Football Playoff Top 25 square off you might want to try and pay attention. After beating Alabama fans of Ole Miss were dreaming of an undefeated match-up in the egg bowl with both teams still making the final four regardless of the outcome. Now, the Rebels need a win to stay in the conversation after a loss against LSU at Death Valley. Here's the thing. IF Ole Miss wins and Miss State and Florida State win as well I think the CFP top four is the exact same next week because Auburn would be the 1-loss team with the best loss on the board. If Auburn wins, Ole Miss is probably done but could still play spoiler. The play of Bo Wallace is the key here. My Pick:  Auburn on the money line to win straight up.

Thoughts on the first College Football Playoff Committee Top 25

 - Who you lost to counts.  See Auburn, Ole Miss and Ohio State.
 - There will be no respect given to non Group of Five teams. See: Marshall and ECU
 - Except for at the top, the Group of Five are fairly evenly distributed.
 - Right now, this means nothing. Too many head-to-head games still to play and too many unknowns. I expect that only one of the three currently in the Top 4 will actually make the playoff.
 - I still think Alabama will miss the first playoff in history. I stand by that prediction from before the season.

Monday, October 20, 2014

An update: No ten games last week and ranking Texas college football.

As you may, or may not, have noticed, I didn't list my customary "10 games" pick'em last week and there's a reason.  I was recovering from illness.  I tried to do it for week 7 with little review due to my illness and the results were (in a word) terrible.

Try 3-7 ATS and 4-6 SU terrible.

It'd be easy to try and beg off sick and say that those results shouldn't count against my season totals but....I made the picks so they do. I'll be back next week with 10 games and updated season totals.


Texas College Football:

After Texas aTm's thumping at the hands of the fighting Sabans there's a lot of talk about "who's got the best team in Texas right now?"  I think, going into the season, the consensus was that aTm had the hole-shot with Baylor acting as the heir apparent should the Aggies stumble.

Well, the Aggies have clearly stumbled leaving the top spot open. The obvious answer is to suggest that Baylor is now the top Texas program but their 41-27 loss to Couch Burnin' U has folks asking questions.

As I see it, the State's rankings go like this:

1. Baylor
2. TCU
3. aTm
4. UT-Austin
5. Texas Tech
6. UT- San Antonio
7. UH
8.Texas State
9. Rice
10. UTEP
11. North Texas
12. SMU

I don't think there's much argument regarding numbers one and two, after all, they've met on the field and TCU just demolished Oklahoma State. I still give the nod to aTm over UT-Austin because I think the talent advantage is still there.  That said, ask me next year and I feel there's going to be a big shake-up with UT-Austin moving closer to the top of the chart.

5-7 is hard. I think Tech is overrated and that their coach is one of the reasons why. I still put UTSA ahead of UH because (put simply) they beat them soundly.  UH is improving but they are a team with a ton of talent and zero college level coaching to speak of.  Texas State gets the nod over Rice because I think they'll beat them head-up.  The bottom 3 are interchangeable, but I truly believe that SMU is a huge mess right now and might occupy that position for the next few years.

Maybe not surprisingly, I see the top 5 as having way more volatility over the next few years than the bottom five. Whether you like them or not this UT-Austin team is playing hard for Coach Strong and I think he's going to build them back into a winner, provided the alumni give him time.

I still think the move to the SEC will be good in the long-term for aTm but that doesn't mean that Coach Sumlin is the one who's going to lead them.  I think Sumlin will be gone after the end of either this year or next year and the Aggies will then have to decide if they want to be a football crazy Kentucky in the conference, or something akin to their old-role in the Big XII (which is where I think their cap is). In short, aTm will never be able to compete with the Alabama, Auburn and LSU's in the SEC West because they don't have near the resources or tradition to do so.

They should always have good seasons however, should beat a big team here and there, and they should compete for a division title once every 4-5 years.  Just like it should have been in the Big XII.  That it wasn't illustrates just how poorly ran the program has been running in recent years.

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