Thursday, September 20, 2018

College Football: The Week 4 FIVE

Let's just call this turnaround week and get straight to the games.  The overall record over the first three weeks is not horrid, but we could use a run here.  Part of the problem is that I'm picking money line upsets by road teams. A strategy that I'm curtailing, but not totally cutting back on this week.


1. Washington State @ USC (-3.5) [53]

Pick: Washington State to WIN on the ML.

USC looked horrid last week against a not-all-that-great Texas Longhorn team. Washington State has spent the first three weeks winning against inferior competition. But they have avoided the dreaded Mike Leach early game disaster and their offense appears to be fairly potent this year.  I LIKE Washington State to win on the ML and I also like the over, but the latter is not the official FIVE pick.


2. Pitt (-3.5) @ North Carolina [48.5]

Pick: Pitt to cover -3.5

Larry Fedora's Tar Heels have looked inept so far this season while Pitt has a good win over Georgia Tech that followed a blowout loss to Penn State.  But you have to like the Panthers here big. It's hard to believe that Fedora was a hot coaching candidate for a big program just a couple of years ago. His team has hit hard times and I expect that trend to stay the same this year.


3. Louisville @ Virginia (-5) [54.5]

Pick: Louisville to COVER +5

Since getting humiliated by Alabama in the season opener Louisville has been OK.  They bounced back against weak competition and then beat another not very good this year team in Western Kentucky. The Cavaliers lost to Indiana and then beat a pretty good Ohio team at home. But I think this is a close game against two teams that are pretty much the same right now.


4. Northern Illinois @ Florida State (-10) [45]

Pick: Northern Illinois to COVER +10

Yes, Northern Illinois got beat by Iowa (in a game they were actually leading at halftime) and then got ground down by Utah. But they hung in with two pretty good Power 5 teams and now they face a Florida State team that's struggling to beat FCS Samford.  I'm not sure why so many people think this is the week Florida State gets right, but I do think Northern Illinois covers here and maybe even pulls the upset.


5. TCU (-3) @ Texas [47.5]

Pick: TCU to cover -3 

Until a disastrous 4th quarter, TCU was right there against Ohio State, probably one of the top 4 teams in the country.  Texas lost to a pretty bad Maryland team, struggled against Tulsa, before beating up what appears to be a pretty bad USC team. Advantage Horned Frogs. I think TCU scores early and often on the Longhorns, and their defense is going to give Bevo fits all game long.


Other Games of note:


Tulsa @ Temple (-7) [54.5] - This promises to be a fun Thursday night game and is a good option to replace what is sure to be an NFL stinker in the Jets and Browns on your television. Give the NFL a pass and watch this game between two American Conference foes who are pretty evenly matched. If anything, take the over.

Minnesota @ Maryland (-2) [47]  - I'm not entirely sure why Maryland is favored in this game as PJ Fleck's Gophers have rowed that damn boat to three straight wins to start the season, including a good win over Fresno State. There are signs that the Terrapins are starting to unwind a little bit due to the emotion surrounding the team right now.

Akron @ Iowa State (-19) [47.5] - I think this line is giving too much credit to Iowa State based on them keeping it somewhat close against Iowa and Oklahoma (both games they lost by 10) and too little to Akron who beat a good Northwestern team at Northwestern. This is a personal play by me probably, depending on how the line moves, but not included in my FIVE.

Boston College (-6.5) @ Purdue [67] - No team has had a worse start to the season than Purdue. Heartbreaking losses to Northwestern, Eastern Michigan and Missouri have pundits giving them the title of "Best no-win team in the country".  I'm not sure about that but I do think that Boston College is overrated and are getting too much credit for beating UMass, Holy Cross and a Wake Forest team that's only beaten Tulane and Towson.

Nevada @ Toledo (-10.5) [68]- This line feels out of whack to me.  Nevada has not been terrible this year while Toledo got ran over by a pretty average Miami team. I would be very tempted to take Nevada and the points here, especially if the line drifts further Toledo's way.

Kansas State @ West Virginia (-16) [60.5] - For me this is a "stay away, stay far away" game. West Virginia has looked good to start the season while the Wildcats have been "meh", so this could either be a statement win for the Mountaineers or it COULD be a Bill Snyder special. I wouldn't touch this game.

Texas Tech @ Oklahoma State (-14) [77.5] - I was fooled last week by both of these teams. I'm not even giving them the chance to fool me this week.  If this were in Lubbock I'd give the Red Raiders a chance to cover, I don't think they have the chance in Stillwater.  That said, even at 78 the over is looking tasty.

Texas A&M @ Alabama (-26.5) [61] - At this point I wouldn't be surprised if Bama wins by 60.  Tide football is yawn inducing and unless something changes I can't see anyone in the country with a chance at beating them.  I would argue that the Aggies are their toughest competition to date, but they couldn't beat Clemson at College Station.

Florida (-4.5) @ Tennessee [47] - Stay away from this game, far away.  There are not two more unreliable programs in college football right now.  Florida might be pretty good, but they are inconsistent, and the Vols are still trying to figure out exactly who they are.

Stanford (-2) @ Oregon [56.5] - If a week 4 game can truly be "must win" then this week's game is certainly one for Oregon. I love that it's in Autzen and it's honestly one of the better matchups of the weekend. Neither team has done anything to convince you that they're vulnerable and I'm betting Bryce Love plays in this one. Must watch TV.

Wisconsin (-3) @ Iowa. [43.5] - This feels so much like a trap line that I'm staying away. I'm also leaning toward staying away from watching most of it because this could be a 4 quarter slog. Iowa wins, Wisconsin (usually) wins, but Lord are these two teams boring. Good matchup though, Wisconsin needs this badly after last week's debacle against BYU.


Games in which I have a rooting interest:

UNLV @ Arkansas State (-7.5) [68] - I said at the beginning of the season that the Desert Rug Rats were going to need to win a game they're not supposed to in order to become bowl eligible this season. THIS is one of those games. Arkansas State is a good Sun Belt team but they don't appear to be as good as they were in recent years. They, of course, got hammered against Bama and struggled against Tulsa. UNLV looked good for a half against (what we now think might not be a very good) USC and then beat up on inferior competition. A Rebels victory here would be MASSIVE for the program.


And Finally......

Nebraska @ Michigan (-17.5) [50]  - Every fiber of my being hates this line, this game, this situation. Nebraska has struggled under new coach Scott Frost but Michigan has a recent history of letting struggling teams get right in the Big House. At the end of the season we might look back on that Troy loss with more favor. I don't think Michigan's loss to Notre Dame is going to be viewed all that favorably as the Irish get into the meat of the schedule where I figure some losses will come. I never place bets on games in which I have a rooting interest, but were I to play this game I'd lean toward the Cornhuskers with a lump in my throat.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

NFL: The Week 3 Three and Out.

Somewhat of a rough one last week. 1-2 bringing me to 3-3 for the season. Right at .500.  Given the VIG this means my ROI is negative right now.

But, in every life a little rain must fall. I feel like I'm starting to get a better feel for this NFL season, so let's see if I can pick the correct 3 games....


1. New Orleans @ Atlanta (-3)  [53]

Pick: OVER 53

If there is one thing we've noticed this year it's that New Orleans' defense is not all that good against the pass.  And Atlanta can pass the ball.  New Orleans offense behind Drew Brees is still pretty damn good, and can score points in bunches.  I really like the over here.  This could be one that hits the number early so we can enjoy the second half.


2. New York Giants @ Texans (-6) [41.5]

Pick: New York Giants to COVER +6

Let's be real honest here, these are two pathetic teams. Yet both franchise's fan bases have been convinced by local media that they are "supremely talented".  At certain spots, yes they are, but neither team has a working offensive line and both teams have huge holes at certain spots in their defense.  I think whoever wins this they do it in an ugly, unwatchable game that's decided by a late field goal.


3. Pittsburgh (-1) @ Tampa Bay [53.5]

Pick: Tampa Bay to win on the ML

There's no way I'm betting against FitzMagic. Especially when you consider that Pittsburgh is a hot mess right now and Tampa Bay is playing some of their best football.  There's also this:



Tampa Bay by a mile.

Game in which I have a rooting interest:

San Francisco @ Kansas City (-6.5) [56]

What to say here? I think the Niners are going to find themselves up against it against the hottest team to start the season, at Arrowhead.  We're starting to see just how much the McKinnon injury hurts as this offense is becoming more and more one handed as the season goes on. There will come a time this year when Andy Reid messes it all up but I don't think it will be this game.  The alcohol might be flowing early in this game, it's gonna hurt.

Good luck and enjoy the games.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Sports Betting: Recapping the Week 3 FIVE and the Week 2 NFL 3 and Out.

I knew, when making last week's picks, that I was taking a big chance by taking a lot of underdogs to win on the ML.  Some times it plays out OK, sometimes you get kicked in the head.  Last weekend I got kicked in the head pretty hard.

The FIVE results:  2-3. (Season to Date 6-8-1)

Winners:

1. North Texas @ Arkansas (-7) [69]

Pick: North Texas to COVER +7


I originally missed on North Texas, thinking them to be a little overrated, but I copped to my error early and now think they are a dark horse contender to be the Group of 5's representative in the New Year's 6 Bowl Festivities.  Granted, a LOT of things have to happen for this to be the case.

3. Florida State (-3) @ Syracuse [68.5]

Pick: Syracuse to win on the M/L


This was, to me, an easy pick. Florida State is a dumpster fire right now and the Orange look every bit like possible contenders in the ACC.

Losers:

2. UTSA @ Kansas State (-21.5) [46.5]

Pick: UTSA to COVER +21.5


The final score was 41-17. Which surprised, in large part because I didn't think Kansas State had that type of offensive effort in them.

4. Boise State @ Oklahoma State (-2.5) [64.5]

Pick: Boise State to win on the M/L


I was very disappointed by the Broncos effort in this game. I'm still not sold on Okie State being a dominant team this season despite how easily they handed Boise State.

5. Houston (-1) @ Texas Tech [69.5] 

Pick: Houston to cover -1


I was very surprised by this game. Houston is looking more and more like they're reverting to the Art Briles years, where they were OK offensively but terrible on defense.  And this is WITH Ed Oliver on the Defensive Line.  Major Applewhite is probably not the worst football coach in Houston right now, that honor belongs to Bill O'Brien, but he's a close second and might follow the former out the door after this year.



The NFL 3 and Out Results:  1-2 Season to date: 3-3

Winner:

2. Kansas City @ Pittsburgh (-4.5) [52.5]

Pick: Kansas City to Cover +4.5


How about an outright win for KC, who looks all the world like the best offensive team in football right now.  Granted, this is an Andy Reid team so take these early results with a grain of salt. I also expect the Over in Chiefs games to be the norm going forward.

Losers:

1.  Baltimore @ Cincinnati (-1) [44].

Pick: Baltimore to win on the M/L.


Wait, is it possible that the Bengals are GOOD this year?  Or it's possible that Joe Flacco is not elite, that the defense is not as good as advertised and that GM Newsome has lost a little bit of his shine.  Or both could be true.

3. NY Giants @ Dallas (-3) [42]

Pick: New York to win on the ML.


I made on huge error in handicapping this game: I underestimated just how bad the Giants were in all aspects of playing football.



Ah well, new week, new picks coming on Wednesday and Thursday.  At this point however you might want to FADE.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Houston Texans: Another week, another example of a team that's out-coached.

Is Head Coach Bill O'Brien on the hot-seat?

Should he be?

As a resident of Houston I've noticed that even the Texans flagship radio station, KILT 610, has stopped deferring to the Texans in the name of continued access and has questioned his coaching abilities. Forgetting for a minute that they are right in doing so, what we're hearing on the radio waves is unprecedented stuff.

Even last year, when it was evident that coach BO'B was frequently out-matched in most games, the excuses were being laid down hot and heavy for him. "Injuries" and "It's hard to win in this league" were the norm and almost everyone had "faith" in BO'B to lead the Texans to the promised land.

I was never so sure, and not since the (pretty boring) season of Hard Knocks that featured the Texans have I found much to like in his coaching skills. Now he's calling plays and I'm even less convinced.

While it's true that the Texans have one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL, coach O'Brien seems to have no clue how to play-call around that. He continues to put an obviously still-ailing Watson in situations where he's not going to succeed.

Here's a hint Bill: You CAN call something different than a run up the middle on 1st down. I realize that this is heady stuff but it can be done. Also, even though Watson is obviously still recovering from last season's ACL tear, you can move him out of the pocket.

Your offensive line is struggling in pass protection, try some short passes that aren't tunnel screens to build a rhythm. Get something shorter than 2nd and 7 and THEN try and run the ball some. Lamar Miller is looking good this year but his stats do not.

The defense played well for one half yesterday, but special teams are still a mess and then you can always go back to that offense....

As unbelievable as it seems, the upcoming game against the New York Giants is a must win.  Because they Giants are struggling even worse than are the Texans, and they have to go on the road and they have an offensive line that is giving Eli Manning the creeping horrors. This ignores the question of whether or not Eli is even a viable NFL quarterback any longer. Increasingly the evidence is coming back that he's just not.

But most NFL teams are starting to view the Texans as a "get right game" a game where any and all errors of execution can be fixed against a vanilla offense and an under-performing defense. They also know and understand that, in a close game, they have the coaching advantage clearly on their side.

Can the season still be saved?  Sure.

Do you think Bill O'Brien is the man to lead a turnaround?  No. Not even remotely.

Owner Bob McNair has never struck me as one who possesses a burning desire to win the Super Bowl, as such he's stuck with bad decisions far longer than he should have. He's also failed to understand how the NFL game is played and rewarded loyalty and character over the ability to, you know, actually play in the NFL when it comes to personnel.

Sadly, McNair will get that thing that he most desires this week when the Texans will announce a sell-out in a game that will only barely be televised.  The stadium is full and McNair is raking in the money.

Take that Texans fan.  You putz.

College Football: After Week 3, Some Things.....

Week 3 brought some upsets, some big wins, and some establishments of dominance going forward.  Here are some things that I noticed.

1. Alabama is dominant. - I'm not going to jump on the media bandwagon and say "no one can beat them" because, of course they can be beaten. But to hang with them it's going to require a talented team with a brilliant game-plan executed perfectly.  And some luck to boot.  At this point the Crimson Tide are sitting at 3-0 and they're looking likely to be 8-0 when they head to Baton Rouge in November.  The Aggies might put up a fight, but the game is in Tuscaloosa where 'Bama hasn't lost since the days of Johnny Football.

2. Georgia is pretty good too.  - Last year both Alabama and Georgia made the College Football Playoff.  This year it's not unthinkable that this could happen again. The Bulldogs have eclipsed 40 points in every game so far, and their high conceded is 17 against South Carolina. In reality the Bulldogs have two tough games remaining on their schedule, LSU and Auburn. Like Alabama they DO have to travel to Baton Rouge, which sets up nice for the Tigers.

3. HOW good is LSU? - In terms of "resume" there's an argument to be made that LSU should currently be the top team in the Country. They destroyed then top-ten ranked Miami and won a close one over still top-ten ranked Auburn, on the road. As mentioned previously, they have their two toughest remaining games at home.  IF they survive that their hardest remaining test is Texas aTm on the road.  This could be a special season for LSU.

4. Did Jimbo see this coming?  - Florida State is BAD.  And they are severely depleted in talent on the offensive side of the football. Coach Willie Taggert has a history of rebuilding programs, and it looks like he's going to need to do the same thing in Tallahassee. The question now is, Did Jimbo Fisher see this mess in the works and decide to jump-ship to aTm in advance. If so that should raise some warning flags for fans of the Aggies because it was he who oversaw the decline in talent at Florida State.  Also, LOSE the turnover backpack. It's horrid and football karma dictates that you will stink until it goes away.

5. Who's going to be the Group of 5 New Year's Day team? - It was a bad day for Group of 5 favorites. Boise State, who I thought would be good, got humbled by a decent Oklahoma State team in Stillwater and Houston, who I also thought would be good, forgot how to play defense and got rolled by a pretty average Texas Tech team.  If Houston head coach Major Applewhite isn't on the hot seat, he should be.  Right now the leader in the chase to NY6 is UCF, but I would not count out North Texas. The Mean Green's humiliation of Arkansas (including the best punt run-back to date) was a signature win and the rest of their schedule is doable.

6. Bad weekend for the B1G. - We know this much, Ohio State is pretty good, possibly Penn State as well, but the rest of the conference is mediocre at best. And then there's Iowa, who never looks all that good but continues to win games, wave at the children's hospital and otherwise fly under the radar to 10 win seasons. Michigan is still not a dominant team. Nebraska is struggling under new coach Scott Frost and the rest of the conference is facing rough waters.

7. The Big XII appears to be better than we thought.  - We knew Oklahoma would be good, but Oklahoma State and West Virginia might be up there as well. Texas bounced back well against an USC team that might not be good at all and after that it starts to get a little shaky.  Kansas State is starting to show signs of life and Iowa State still looks poised to pull an upset or three. Baylor looks hopeless but we now live in a world where the Kansas Jayhawks are on a 2-game winning streak. TCU's reputation did take a pretty good hit however, although they did compete against the Urban Meyer-less Buckeyes.

8. What to make of Notre Dame? - They're 3-0, but they haven't looked like world beaters in two of the three games. Oddly enough, the one game where they did look impressive was against what is, on paper, the best team they played. Their next three games are a step up in competition, as they travel to Wake Forest before hosting a tough Stanford team and then traveling to Blacksburg to face a resurgent Virginia Tech squad.  We're going to know exactly who they are after those three games.

9. Stanford might be the best team in the PAC-XII. -  And it could not be all that close. We'll find out for sure over the next two weeks when they have tough back-to-back road tests against Oregon and Notre Dame. IF the Cardinal get through that the rest of the schedule is suddenly looking a LOT easier, and a possible path opens up to the CFP. Of course, the November game in Washington will be key.  Still a long way to go.

10. The Desert Rug-Rats have taken care of business. - UNLV is now sitting at 2-1 and are looking at the toughest part of their schedule in the upcoming weeks, facing Arkansas State on the road, New Mexico at home, Utah State on the road and then Air Force comes to town.  If the Rug Rats can go 2-2 in these games a bowl game berth will look very likely. Any better and it should almost be a certainty, and worse and it's an uphill climb.

And Finally.....

11. The CFP continues to ruin college football. - Outside of College GameDay on ESPN, there is no quality college football analysis on TV.  Fox has spit the bit, relying on Clay Travis too much while CBS continues to fumble around in SEC land, NBC is a non-entity and much of what you read online is more focused on silliness, or too overly reliant on the CFP to provide much insight. It won't happen because of TV deals, but I really believe college football would be better off if the CFP was scrapped and we returned to the old bowl system. Including a return to the primacy of New Year's Day games.  Free College Football!!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

College Football: The Week 3 FIVE

After last week's push (2-2-1) we're now at 4-5-1 for the season.  Again I had issues remembering to do the CappedIn thing (I'll get it this week, I promise) so let's just get straight to the games.

1. North Texas @ Arkansas (-7) [69]

Pick: North Texas to COVER +7

There's always a little SEC bias when they play smaller schools, but Arkansas start was not the best and North Texas is actually GOOD this year.  I wouldn't be entirely surprised to see the outright upset, but I'll settle for the cover.


2. UTSA @ Kansas State (-21.5) [46.5]

Pick: UTSA to COVER +21.5

This is neither last year's UTSA team (which would have had a chance at upsetting this year's Wildcat team) nor is it last year's K-State team.  I'm unsure if the Wildcats can score more than 21 points in a game this year much less win by that amount.


3. Florida State (-3) @ Syracuse [68.5]

Pick: Syracuse to win on the M/L

Florida State has, so far, shown me nothing to indicate they're ready to win a game against a Syracuse team that's been scoring points in bunches on the road.  The 'Noles are in a rebuilding phase which I'm thinking ol' Jimbo saw coming.


4. Boise State @ Oklahoma State (-2.5) [64.5]

Pick: Boise State to win on the M/L

After seeing what Boise did to UConn last week (#MurderSmurf) and watching OSU's fits and starts this season I think Boise comes out of this with a win. I'm just not sold on the Cowboys right now.  This is a GOOD Boise State team that can play a lot of defense and is going to give the Cowboys fits. Stillwater is not the easiest place to play, and Boise State has not traditionally been as good on the road, but I still like the Broncos here.


5. Houston (-1) @ Texas Tech [69.5] 

Pick: Houston to cover -1

When this line opened at -2 for Tech I couldn't believe it. My original pick was Houston to win on the ML, but between then and publication time the line has flipped. I'm still on Houston because Texas Tech plays zero defense and Houston showed last week against Arizona that they can handle a pass-happy team.  Houston is going to be the bigger, stronger, faster team in Lubbock and I think they surprise some people in this game.  Tech is going to have no answer for Ed Oliver and company, none whatsoever.


Other Games of Note:

Duke @ Baylor (-6) [49] - Don't be overly surprised to see another upset by a road team in this game. Baylor is still rebuilding and this is the best team David Cutcliffe has had at Duke in a while.

Arkansas State (-1.5) @ Tulsa [72]  - IMO Tulsa is getting too much praise for keeping it close against what seems to not be a very good Texas team.  Arkansas State is probably one of the best teams in the Sun Belt but the American is a higher conference.  That said, I think they roll here.

Alabama (-21) @ Ole Miss [71] - Alabama gets it's first test in a true road game that's not neutral site against a team trying to figure it out.  I think they win, and I think it's by more than 21, but I think Ole Miss will score some points.

Western Kentucky @ Louisville (-23) [57] - How bad is Western Kentucky really?  I think we're going to find out here.  Because if they can't cover against this Louisville team it's going to be a long, long season.

Ohio State (-13.5) @ TCU [59.5] - This is it for the Horned Frogs, the big game at home that they've wanted for a while.  Be careful what you wish for however because you just might get it in the form of a supremely talented Buckeyes squad.  This is the last game of Urban Meyer's suspension, will his being out alter the outcome?  I'm not sure.

USC @ Texas (-3.5) [48] - This is a game that I gave serious consideration for inclusion in the five. But that would have meant 4 road dogs on the money line and I'm not feeling up to that this week. Three is enough.

Washington (-6.5) @ Utah [47]- Utah is coming of a close win over Northern Illinois while Washington has righted the ship since the close loss to Auburn.  Can the Utes pull the upset?  I think they're going to need a perfect game to just cover.

Fresno State (-1.5) @ UCLA [50]   - Here's another case in which the line has flipped. UCLA opened as a -1 favorite, but now the movement is toward Fresno State. I hope you were able to grab this line early as I think the Bulldogs have a legitimate chance of getting the road win.

Arizona State (-5) 2 SDSU [45.5]  - I like the Sun Devils here big. San Diego State is still struggling to replace all of the offensive production they lost from last year and whatever Herm Edwards is selling to ASU it's working early.


Games in which I have a rooting interest:

Prairie View vs. UNLV (no line) - If the Rebels want to find themselves bowling at the end of the year then they can't mess around with this game.  They should handle Prairie View at the Big Roulette Wheel with ease.  Anything else and Vegas has an issue.

SMU @ Michigan (-35.5) [53.5] - The Wolverines SHOULD have no problem with Sonny Dyke's Mustangs. If they do struggle then uh-oh. But I think last weekend was a confidence booster and we should get the best from the Wolverines here.  56-3 ish would be ideal.


Enjoy the games.

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