Wednesday, September 30, 2015

College Football: The Week 5 Five

A LOT of games this week to chew over.

So, without further ado.....

1. Miami(FL) (-6.5) @ Cincinnati: If anything, the Hurricane are playing as if they honestly care whether or not head coach Al Golden gets fired at the end of the year. The Bearcats are doing what every Tuberville team does. Implode.  I like Miami to cover.

2. Houston (-7) @ Tulsa: Why do I like -7 lines (when some don't)?  Because the chances of a push creates a slightly higher ROI than some of the other bets. Although I like 6.5 ever better I'm not afraid to take the TD and extra point spread. Less so in the NFL than in College Football however.  I think UH is still undervalued this year. Houston to cover on the road.

3. West Virginia @ OU (-7): OU at home is much tougher than on the road for sure. But the best win that we've seen from either of these teams was WVa's 44-0 thrashing of a good Georgia Southern team. I think the Sooners are having fits on defense, and Holgerson's spread offense is going to expose that. West Virginia to cover.

4. Ohio (-2.5) @ Akron: The Bobcats are overrated, and I still don't think Vegas has a lot of faith in Bowden. That said, I picked the Zips to win the MAC and I'm not abandoning them yet. Akron to cover at home.

5. FIU @ UMass (-3): This line feels so off to me I am wondering if it's a sucker line. Yes, FIU has injury concerns, but they're still a whole heck of a lot more talented than this UMass team that is struggling to make the transition to D-1A football. FIU ML for the win on the road.

If that seems a little bit more aggressive then last week you're right.  But I feel pretty good about the last two games.

Now, for the rest, and there are a lot of good games this weekend as conference play really kicks in...

South Carolina @ Missouri (-2.5) The Gamecocks are listing, but Missouri is missing QB Mock. I think S. Carolina has a chance here, but that feeling is not strong enough to put them in the five. S.Car ML if you're so inclined, but I'm not.

Pitt vs. Virginia Tech (-4.5) Are we watching the end days of Frank Beamer's career? The fan base is starting to think so. I think the team is in free fall, and would not be surprised to see the Panthers pull the upset here. But, as we've seen with Miami, desperation is a powerful motivating factor. That's why you run, not walk, away from this game this week.

Texas @ TCU (-14.5) Despite their troubles with an improved Texas Tech team last week, I think TCU comes back in a big way against the pretty hapless Longhorns. No matter what happens the UT-Austin faithful will claim the game was fixed and continue their silly calls to "leave this backwater conference". The problem is, with the Albatross of the Longhorn Network hanging around their neck, they're just not an attractive program right now. Especially if the ACC goes forward with their own network, which they appear to be close to doing. But this doesn't make my Five because I'm averse to TCU after weeks one and two.

Minnesota @ Northwestern (-4) A lot of people are liking Northwestern. And the win over Stanford is looking better and better.  That said I think the fighting Kills have what it takes to keep it close. Closer than 4?  I'm not sure, which is why I passed on this game.

Iowa @ Wisconsin (-7) Another -7 game.  Here's the thing, I think Iowa is pretty awful and only got preseason buzz because of their relatively easy schedule. This is their toughest game of the season, and I think Wisconsin runs away with it. Then again, Wisky is well....?  Who knows what they are?

Louisville @ NC State (-4.5) While I'm not entirely sure how good NC State is (they're 4-0 on the backs of cupcakes) I am sure about Bobby Petrino.  Ignoring his adulterous motorcycle ride that drove him out of Arkansas, and his continual wooing of Auburn while coaching his first stint at Louisville, or his quitting mid-season on the Atlanta Falcons, he's not that great of a football coach. His teams run hot and cold. Bad Petrino could be beat by 20, good Petrino (and overrated NC State) could pull the ML upset. Way too much uncertainty in this game.

Western Kentucky (-7.5) @ Rice Let's see, a line I don't like coupled with two teams I'm not 100% sure about. Add into that one of the worst home-field advantages in college football and you have a game that I have no confidence in.  This game isn't close to six, it's more like 43rd.  I think Rice is better against C-USA opposition than they are Power 5 opposition however so this feels like a close game.

Nebraska (-6.5) @ Illinois I gave Nebraska a chance last week to show me something. They did not. While Illinois is not a good team they're much better than some other teams Nebraska will be facing.  And the game is in Champagne which should help them.  I have a slight lean toward the Illini to cover, but razor thin slight.

Boston College @ Duke (-7) Another -7 line in college football this week.  And one that I like. The problem is the Blue Devils have been too up and down to suggest with certainty that they can cover more than a TD against BC. This game feels like a TD + Extra Point game, which makes it a push.

Alabama @ Georgia (-2.5) There are two main questions heading into this game that you can't answer. 1. Is Alabama as down this year as we think? 2. When is Mark Richt going to Richt a victory right out of Georgia's hands?  If the answers are "not as much" and "this week" then 'Bama wins and we're back to the status quo. If the answers are "a lot" and "not this week" then UGA rolls. It's a coin toss, and the worst bet in the world is on a coin toss.

Kansas State @ Oklahoma State (-8) Fresh off of a narrow escape against UT-Austin the Fighting Gundy's are back at home to face Kansas State and, more importantly, Bill Snyder. OSU has played the (slightly) tougher competition but their offense looked horrible against a mistake-prone Longhorns team. K-State has played relatively soft (excluding La Tech) competition and, despite losing their starting QB, looked pretty good. Here's the problem for the Cowboys. K-State is coached better than UT-Austin and should not make the mistakes the Longhorns did. That said, I think OSU is way more talented. It's a close one, but I like Bill Snyder's men to cover.

Ole Miss (-7) @ Florida The problem for the Gators here is pretty simple.  Ole Miss does not have the same penchant for giving away games to Florida as does Tennessee. After a big win vs. Alabama you can draw a line through last week's sleepwalking win over Vanderbilt. Florida is coming off an emotional win. I think Ole Miss has the talent advantage and could run wild in this game. Then again, I see a slight possibility that Florida is better than we think.  That said, this game is #6 and the pick is Ole Miss to cover.

Arkansas @ Tennessee (-6.5) Call this one the Mediocre Game Day Coaching Bowl or the Hot Seat Bowl which ever you prefer. I like Karma Bowl as well since Bielema is a punk and Tennessee is still seemingly paying for firing coach Fulmer in a fit of hubris. Under the best of scenarios this game would end in an ugly, unwatchable 0-0 tie that would leave both coaches squirming.

Mississippi State @ Texas aTm (-7) If Dak Prescott and the Hail State offense can get it going, there's a chance they pull the upset. I'm not as impressed with the Chavis defense for the Aggies as I thought I would be. Still, aTm has speed and talent. What they don't have is the same confidence they possessed during the Manziel era. That scares me away from saying they should cover here.

Notre Dame (-1) @ Clemson Credit to the Irish, no team has been harder hit with injuries this year and remained undefeated. I think, however, that the run ends here.  The problem with that feeling is that Clemson HC Dabo Swinney is more a cheerleader than a solid game day coach. This makes any play on Clemson suspect, at best. Clemson on the ML is my feel, but Swinney being horribly outcoached keeps me away.

Oregon (-7.5) @ Colorado I don't get this game. Oregon looked awful against Utah and Colorado has looked unspectacular pretty much everywhere except against FCS bottom-feeder Nichols State. Can team Puddles come back here and make a statement that the rumors of their demise have been greatly exaggerated?  Sure.  Will they?  The Magic 8 ball says "Hard to tell".  I lean Oregon to cover, but if they're hungover from last week interesting things can happen.

Texas Tech @ Baylor (-17) The one line that I'm interested in this game is the O/U of either 89.5 or 90 depending on the book. Baylor has scored 56, 66 & 70 points respectively in it's first 3 games. More importantly, they gave up 31 points to Lamar.  Call it me but the Red Raiders, who have scored 59, 69, 35 & 52 have a much better offense then that. Keep in mind as well that Texas Tech gave up 45 points to Sam Houston State. Granted, SHSU is one of the better FCS teams in the country, but Baylor could almost name their score. Based on the above this game could hit the over in the first half. I would have included this in my Five, but it's against the rules so I'll just put it here and laugh about it when the game ends 17-14 or something like that.

And Finally......

Michigan (-16) @ Maryland Last week, against BYU, the Wolverines played the best game I've seen in the last 10 years. Meanwhile, the Terps have looked anything but impressive, getting demolished last week by a solid WV team 45-6. Here's my concern.  There's an old "rule" in betting that, when a team ranked 21-25 is on the road you fade them. Michigan jumped from not receiving any votes to #22 last week based primarily on a game against a tired and depleted BYU team. The rules say play Maryland to cover.  The rules are, historically, right more often than wrong. 

Have fun watching the games this week. It's a great schedule from top to bottom.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Houston Texans: Tied for First (and Last) in what might be the worst division in the NFL

Contrary to current appearances, someone is going to win the AFC South and make it to the NFL Playoffs.  Who that is might be up for debate, as the pre-season favorite Colts have suddenly looked inept and (at key positions) either incredibly untalented or old, but someone will win despite all of this.

The question that Houstonians have is this: Can it be the Texans?

Not to throw too wet of a blanket on the victory celebration but I doubt it.

Last week we discussed the offense, which played marginally better this week (at least they ran the ball OK) but still has issues scoring points, as Jerome Solomon mentions here. While his piece reads (somewhat) tongue and cheek it is notable that Alfred Blue looked to be much more active and hit the hole much better than in weeks one and two.  Add to that improved play from the O-line and you wind up with an ugly, ugly win.  But a win nevertheless which is good enough to bring the Texans even with the other three teams in the division at 1-2.

My concern this week is with the defense. A defense that was supposed to be dominant has looked less than. The Texans only got no sacks on rookie QB Jameis Winston and the coverage down the field was troublesome, at best.

This is a big problem for a defensive line that contains JJ Watt and Vince Wilfork, with a supposedly "back to healthy" Brian Cushing backing them up at the LB position. In fact, Mr. Watt was held to only 5 tackles, 2 of them solo with only 1 tackle for loss and 3 QB hits. Wilfork? 2 tackles, 0 solo and 0 for a loss. Cushing, supposedly the fiercest tackler on the team, only had 5 tackles, 3 solo and 0 TFL on his stat sheet.  Compare that to Tampa Bay LB Lavonte David, who had 14 tackles, 3 solo and 1 TFL. In fact, the top six tacklers in the game all wore Pewter, Red and Orange uniforms.

For a team built on defense, these are troubling trends. Especially when you consider the Buccaneers have had trouble in the first 2 weeks protecting Winston.

If you're going to have a team, as the Texans appear to, that is going to be offensively challenged and won't be scoring many points, then you had better have a dominant defense in place to counteract that.  The problem is the Texans defense does not look all that dominant to me after three weeks.

While people won't admit it, there is a talent shortage on this defense that is going to rear it's ugly head against teams that are more talented than Tampa Bay.  The LB corps are weak. I've not doubt that Clowney has the physical tools to become a dominant player, but it's certainly not clear that he has the motor to do so. Cushing, for all of the fan hope, appears to be a day late and a dollar short when it comes to reaching plays to make the tackle. If you watch the game he has a tendency to show up one or two steps late.  Mercilus is looking more and more like a bust.  And I hate to say that because I thought he was  good pick when he was drafted.

Among the young guys Benardrick McKinney looks good, but we'll have to see how he develops in the 3-4, which I think his game is unsuited to. Maybe Kevin Johnson improves, and the Texans had better hope so because Joseph is looking older and older by the game.

The defense did do a good job stuffing the run, and they did OK on the passes, but you have to wonder what a fully healthy Mike Adams would have done to them, instead of the still-banged-up, coming-off-an-injury version they saw Sunday.

The good news?  On paper the schedule looked like it was going to bet getting harder over the next couple of weeks.  While I think the Falcons are an improved team and will beat the Texans soundly, the next four weeks, games against the Colts, Jaguars, Dolphins and Titans all appear to be winnable.

Right now, the Texans are 1-2 and tied for first. But they're also 1-2 and tied for last place in an awful division. While I think next week is going to be difficult I think, with Foster coming back, the 1-3 Texans could run off four in a row and find themselves at 5-3, and very much in playoff contention.

Until the 2nd half of the season starts, and the schedule gets noticeably tougher.  At the beginning of the season I thought the Texans would go 6-10.  I'm revising that up slightly to 7-9, but they have to get much better at playing the game of tackle football to get there. 

Trouble spots: The Titans and Jaguars, while possessing the same record as the Texans, are starting to show signs of improvement.  While I realize the New England Patriots housed the Jaguars last week I really don't see that happening again for a while, and the Titans, with Mariota calling signals, are showing some ability.

College Football: The get-back week and other thoughts.

Finally, a decent week.  After two sub-par weeks (going 0-5 and 1-4 respectively) I finally bounced back (a little) with a solid 4-1 week (which would have been 3-2 had I not gotten smart on Tennessee [More on that later]).

This brings me up to 8-12 (40%) ATS and 16-4 (80%) SO for the season. If I can have another good week in week 5, I'm going to be right on my "around 50% target".  IF I can start stringing some of these together......

Now, some thoughts.

Tennessee vs. Florida: My initial thought on this was Tennessee on the ML. However, given that the Vols have not beat the Gators in 10 years I chickened out and settled for them to cover at a line of +1.5.  I really thought that they would win, but their choke, and the Gators only winning by one, bailed me out for the week.  Given the start that I've had, I'll take it.

UT-Austin vs. OSU: I understand that there might be some confusion on this line as -3 was common, but earlier in the week, when I make my picks, 5Dimes had the line at -2.5 I typically pull their lines for consistency.  However, I've been thinking about moving over to something Vegas based.  If I do that I'll make the change public. 

Now, about the game. Yes, there was a bad call near the end, and yes, it probably bailed OSU out somewhat.  But what it didn't do was drop an easy punt snap and give Oklahoma State the ball within easy FG range.  UT-Austin fans screaming about "game fixing" and other nonsense only reinforces the image that they have of whiny, entitled trust-fund babies. They are, of course, unhappy with the Big XII and pretty much everyone else who refuses to bestow on them the title of college football royalty.  Here's an idea: Execute a punt. Oh, and with your recruiting base, get some offense.

The temptation to overreact:

Utah Version:  Yes, the Utes smacked around Puddles and Co. and looked very good in winning 62-20. As a matter of fact, there are now writers who are placing Utah in their top 4.  While those are meaningless this early I think there might be some overreaction to Utah right now because we tend to view Oregon not as they are, but as they used to be.  I've got the Utes as a solid top 10 program but I think there are many teams much better than they that deserved to be ranked higher.  If Forde wants to continue his anti-B1G crusade and keep Ohio State out of his four that's fine.  It's stupid (and reveals his shortcomings as a serious analyst) but it's fine.

Michigan Version:  Trust me, as a fan of Big Blue no one was happier than I to see the 31-0 dismantling of BYU. It was, quite simply, the best game I've been the Wolverines play in 10 years.  They looked bigger, stronger and faster than the Cougars in almost every way.  It also helps that the loss to Utah is looking better and better as the weeks progress.  Here's the rub:  I still think Michigan is going to struggle against top teams, and I think BYU, while very good, was coming into the Big House at the end of their rope. They looked tired.  What I want to see now is Michigan win some games in the B1G. Then I'll buy into the hype that they should be a favorite against Sparty.

South Carolina Version:  When initially trailing in the 1st half the calls for Coach Spurrier to immediately step down dominated Twitter.  Then the Gamecocks showed their quality and won 31-14.  This is the problem with making snap, in-game, decisions.  Let the season play out and then we'll see just how good or bad South Carolina is and whether or not it's time for Spurrier to step aside.

TCU Version:  While a 55-52 win over Texas Tech seemed pretty bad based on last year, there is evidence to suggest that Coach Better Looking than you has a fairly decent team in Lubbock this year. Add to that the fact that Tech's home field is a very tough place in which to play and you have all of the makings of a close game. The easy comparison to the Frogs are Baylor who beat hapless Rice 70-17.  Art Briles understands the need, in today's College Football landscape, to earn style points against lesser competition, TCU was playing a conference game. I'm not ready to downgrade the Horned Frogs just yet.

Wins vs. Victories.

Speaking of Baylor, no fan base in America needs more to learn the difference between a win and a victory than do the Bears. Beating Rice, not matter the score, is a win.  A victory will come when you beat TCU.  There are a handful of high-profile Baylor alums who take to Twitter and act as if they've won the damn championship when they beat the lesser teams that make up their OOC schedule. A mark of a winning program is when they learn to differentiate between the two. Baylor has not gotten to that point yet.

Not yet naming a top 4.

I typically wait until after week 7 to start talking about any kind of rankings. This year is no different. I still think there are teams with too many questions surrounding them for anyone to have a true idea of what they are looking at.  Give me three more weeks. Then I'll opine.

The week to come.

On paper, week 5 looks to be one of the most competitive weeks this season. It also has a lot of high-stakes games around the country that it should tell us a lot about who's who in the pecking order. I might even include a Thursday Night game in my Five, which means that I'm planning on having my picks out on Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

College Football: The Week Four Five

As I stated before, it is my norm to struggle at the start of the year.  Last year I was almost 10 games under .500 before storming back and finishing the season right around 50%.  If I could figure things out earlier, maybe I'd make a better showing.

It would also help if I stopped excluding games, tried to get cute with trends (All road favorites, as I did last week) and went back to picking the way I know how to pick games, based solely on numbers.  With that in mind, I'm needing a bounce-back here in the worst way, which means my season goal is probably as dead as my fantasy football teams.

Still, nothing beats dogged determination to prove a point that (probably) no one cares about.

1. Southern Miss @ Nebraska (-22) - Southern Miss is 2-1. They hung pretty tight for a half with Mississippi State before fading (they ultimately lost by 18) before beating FCS member Austin Peay by a bunch and then outscoring Texas State on the road. This week they draw a Nebraska team that's 1-2, has had to live through two horrible beats and who is angry.  Because of this I think the Cornhuskers are going to be in a fighting mood and cover the 22.  I realize this is a tough number, but I think this one gets ugly early.

2. Northern Illinois @ Boston College (-4) - From a power ranking perspective, these teams are actually pretty close. I think the line is so favoring BC because they're playing at home.  I like the Eagles defense, but am not enamored with their offense at all. Boston College is 2-1, with wins over lesser opponents and a close (14-0) loss to Florida State, in a game where they never seriously had a chance to win.  Northern Illinois has a similar record at 2-1 with 2 wins over lesser opponents and a tough loss to Ohio State (13-7) the difference being you had a feeling NIU had a chance to pull off the upset. I think NIU is the better team, and I like them to cover against Boston College. If you're brave, take a shot at the ML. (I'm having a terrible start to the year, I'm not brave....yet)

3. Oklahoma State (-2.5) @ Texas - There's a lot of love for Texas right now because they stormed back late into contention at Cal.  How quickly we forget that they looked awful against Notre Dame. New QB Heard is much better than Swoopes and the Longhorns do have some talent on defense. Oklahoma State has looked better and better each week. Beating two Group of Five schools and one FCS member.  Points to Texas for a tougher schedule, more points to Okie State for talent. I think OSU covers on the road here.

4. Tennessee @ Florida (-1.5) - Florida has beaten  New Mexico State, East Carolina and Kentucky. Hardly three teams that are going to set the world on fire this year. Of the three teams they only beat NMSU handily. Meanwhile Tennessee beat Bowling Green (MAC) and Western Carolina (FCS) handily before falling by a touchdown and extra point to OU at home. I'm still not convinced Tennessee is for real. Florida is a step up in competition, and I think they get them here . Tennessee to cover.

5. Texas State @ Houston (-16.5) - What's happened in the regular season, so far, for these teams doesn't matter.  What matters is that the last time these two teams played (2012) The Bobcats upset the Cougars at home in what many are now pointing to as the beginning of the end for then Head Coordinator Tony Levine.  Here are the facts. Houston has more talent, better coaching (now) and an axe to grind.  Plus, Texas State holds the series advantage over the Cougars 4-1. I expect this to change in a BIG way Saturday evening. I pick the Houston Cougars to cover.

Other games of note:

Navy (-6.5) @ UConn - Maybe no team looked worse last week than UConn.  I don't think the Huskies are very good, they're certainly not good stopping the run and the Midshipmen are going to run.  Navy to cover.

TCU (-7.5) @ Tech - A big part of me wants to lean Tech here, but a bigger part of me thinks this is the week that TCU rights the ship.  Besides, at the end of the season I don't think that Arkansas win is going to look as good as it does now.  TCU to cover on the road.

California (-4.5) @ Washington - Last week I kept the Bears out of my Five and I'm doing it again. I'm not sure why things fell apart against Texas but they did. Because of this I don't think they can beat a Washington team that feels more composed.  Washington on the ML is my lean.

Texas aTm (-7.5) vs. Arkansas (Neutral site) - I said before that I don't think Tech's win over the Razorbacks is going to look that good at the end of the season. This game will start to show why.  As is custom, I should point out that this game is "Six". One that would have been in my Five had I not liked the others just a little better.  aTm to cover and then some.

Missouri @ Kentucky (-2.5) - At some point this season the Missouri Tigers will break off the shackles and make their SEC division run. I think it's this week.  Missouri to win on the ML.

UCLA (-4) @ Arizona - I don't have a strong feeling about this game, but what I do have says UCLA to cover.  How's that for confidence?

USC (-5.5) @ Arizona State - Call this the "Desperation Bowl" as both teams with serious pre-season hopes are struggling to keep themselves in the conversation.  Still, I think USC has much more talent on both sides of the football.  Then again, it's Sarkesian.  Now you see why this game didn't make my Five.  USC to cover. But tread lightly.

And finally.....

BYU @ Michigan (-5.5) - The last time Michigan faced a good team (Utah) they looked horrible. They rebounded against two bad teams (Oregon State and UNLV) but still haven't looked all that great.  BYU on the other hand beat Nebraska and Boise State in dramatic fashion before losing a heartbreaker to UCLA.  Here's the rub. I think all three of those teams are better than Michigan right now.  Therefore, with a heavy heart and a nod to the hope that I'm 100% wrong.  BYU on the ML.  This would be in my five but Michigan will never be included. Nor will I ever bet on them when I visit Vegas.  I know my blind spot.

Good luck this weekend (after last weekend, according to all sources, we need it)

Houston Texans: There's 0-2 and then there's 0-2. The Texans are the latter. (Offense Edition)

It wasn't supposed to be like this. Fresh off of a slightly better than .500 season Texans fans expected the team to move forward. An easy schedule and a team that's been touted (by local media and the team itself) as "talented" coach Bill O'Brien was supposed to bring the Texans to the playoff promised land THIS year, questions at the QB position be damned.

Then Hard Knocks happened, Arian Foster got injured (again) and the season went two weeks deep and everyone started to realize that this "talented team" was only secure at a few positions, with glaring holes almost everywhere else.

It's easy to point a finger at the QB position. Neither Brian Hoyer or now-starter Ryan Mallett are top-flight choices. Both are career journeymen/backup types who have some skill but not enough necessary to carry the load that is currently required.  This leaves people pointing fingers at the running backs a group who, without Foster, seem to have little ability to move the ball forward in the increments necessary for the offense to succeed.  Then there's the excuse making for what has been a below-average defense. John McClain says "to be fair" they're only been bad in the first half. Last I checked however the first half still counts. And when you put an offense that's not designed to play from behind in an early hole that matters.

Amazingly, the offensive line has received a pass from the media, and they've been just about the worst group on the field for the team.  A review of the statistics over two games shows just how dire the situation is:

Total Rushing yards: 156 (Average: 78/game)
Total Passing yards: 537 (Average: 268.5/game)
Total Sacks allowed: 6 (Average: 3/game)
Total Sacks: 4 (Average 2/game)
Total turnovers: 2 (Average: 1/game)

Amazingly, despite their troubles, the Texans still manage to rank #12 in the NFL in total yards. Alas, they rank 24th in rushing.

Defensively it's not much better. The Texans rank 26th in the league against the run (Wilfork was supposed to help with that remember?) and 11th in passing. We thought these numbers would be flipped. In total defense the Texans rank 12th in yards, but are tied for 19th in points. For a defense that was hyped as having top-five potential, those are unacceptable numbers early on.

Clearly then this is a team that's struggling.  But why?  The easy answer is to blame the lack of talent at the QB position and move on but I think it runs deeper than that.  As I'll point out below....

1. Quarterbacks - While it's true that the Texans don't have a true NFL starter on their roster, the play shouldn't be this bad.  While it's not fair to suggest QB play should be great against the AFC South it's looking as if average would qualify for a playoff berth.  Sadly, the Texans aren't even getting average play from the position.

2. Running Backs - It's easy to say, as many are, that missing Foster is the problem here, but a bigger problem is that the team (specifically GM Rick Smith) never seemed all that interesting in finding a replacement. Running with Blue, Polk and Grimes as your tandem is not working out.

3. Wide Receivers - There is little evidence, early in the season, to suggest that the Texans have 3 NFL caliber starters on their roster.  Hopkins is maturing but Shorts III and Washington are starting to show their age. Plus, Washington has the drops. The rookie, Jaelen Strong, is starting to look like just another 3rd round draft bust by the team. He's not registered a catch in regular season play. The other receivers, Mumphery and Worthy are just fringe guys who are more on the roster for special teams than anything. This was the group I was most worried about heading into the season, and it seems that those fears were well founded.

4. Tight-Ends - CJ Fiedorowicz has 2 catches for 34 yards. Ryan Griffin has 1 for 18. Garrett Graham 1 for 7.  That's it.  Given that O'Brien comes from a coaching tree with a TE happy passing structure, the lack of production here is amazing.

5. Offensive line - I saved this for last because, without Duane Brown in the line up, I consider this to be the weakest unit on the Texans as a team.  Yes, even weaker than the defensive backfield. Outside of Brown the only player who I believe should be on an NFL starting roster is Ben Jones. The Oline did only give up one sack on Sunday, but they seemingly cannot open up many holes in the running game.

Overall the offense, save a good 2nd half showing in week 1, when the game was mostly out of reach, has not been good. Some pundits are pointing to missing Arian Foster but I disagree.  The biggest problem that the Texans have right now on offense is an overall lack of talent at ALL positions.

I'll have more later on the Defense and Coaching.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

College Football: Off to my usual start.

As is becoming the norm, I'm struggling to start the season.  This is why I never schedule a trip to Las Vegas in September. For some reason who I think will win and how they'll do it is skewed at the beginning. It's typically not until week 4 or 5 that I get my bearings and start pulling things together.

In short, if you're listening to me (and you shouldn't be financially anyway) then wait a bit.

While I'm writing this one of the games is still in play but it's pretty clear that I'm going 1-4 now ATS which is going to put me at 4-11 for the season in my Five. SU I'm only marginally better, going 4-1 which puts me on the reverse position of 11-4.  I can still predict who will win, I'm just not doing a very good job saying how they're going to do it.

One MAJOR change from next week, I'm taking the "theme" out of my Five going forward. I'm not going to include a ML upset just because and I'm not, as I did this week, picking all road favorites to cover, or something silly like that.  I'm simply going to post Five games that I like and predict how they will finish.

The good news is I only need 2 or 3 good weeks to be right back on form. It's a long season after all.

One a side note, the closer we get to game time the better off that Cal vs. UT-Austin is starting to look.  It's currently at Cal (-5)  were I in Vegas I think I'd take that.

Call it a "get back" bet.  :)

Enjoy the night games.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

College Football: The Week 3 Bounce-back Five

Let's put Week 2 behind us and make a comeback this week shall we?

1. Clemson (-6) @ Louisville - The thought here, IMO is that Louisville HAS to get it right eventually. They opened the season by losing to an Auburn team that might not be all that great (or, was REALLY looking ahead to LSU, in which case they're poorly coached) and then lost to the University of Houston, at home.  While Clemson hasn't played anyone yet I'm running on the theory that Louisville just isn't that good.  Clemson to cover. (And yes, I'm nervous about backing a road favorite.)

2. Florida State(-7.5) @ Boston College - Yes I know that the Seminoles defense has struggled and Boston College has looked good.  Here's the rub. Despite looking bad against sub-par competition the Seminoles have played well enough in the 2nd half to not be challenged. Boston College has looked good against inferior competition.  This is the first game for both schools where the recruiting is, theoretically, at similar levels. I don't like Boston College against fast teams. Florida State has speed. Florida State to cover (another road favorite, I'm a glutton for punishment it seems)

3. Illinois @ North Carolina (-10.5) - One team (the Tarheels) made some noise about being a championship contender before the season started. The other team fired their head coach. Guess which team is 2-0? Yes, the Illini have played a much weaker schedule although the 'Heels loss to South Carolina is looking worse and worse.  I think North Carolina wins, but I think the Illini cover. (Trend: developing)

4. Temple(-10.5) @ UMass - I'm honestly surprised this line is this low. Temple beat Penn State and Cincinnati by more than 11 points each, and UMass is nowhere near as good as those two programs. They lost big to a mediocre Colorado team and I think they lose big here. Temple to cover. (I am really pushing it)

5. Western Kentucky @ Indiana (-2.5) - Keeping with tradition I'm always going to try and pick one Money Line upset.  This week I'm tagging Western Kentucky as my upset pick. They've beaten Vanderbilt on the road and a fairly tough LaTech team at home. Indiana is undefeated but it's a much, much weaker 2-0 than you see for the Hilltoppers.  Western Kentucky to win on the ML

Other games of note:

South Florida @ Maryland (-7) - This feels like a sucker line. Maryland is a disappointment so far and South Florida has not looked horrible.  That said, I think the smart play is USF to cover, but I'm not confident about it.

Nevada @ Texas aTm (-34) - The Aggies have looked good, very good to open the season. While Nevada struggled last week against an Arizona team that we think is going to be good before the end of the year but we're still not sure about.  If anything, I think aTm covers here. It would not surprise me to see Nevada play them close however so I'll pass.

Central Michigan @ Syracuse (-7) - Syracuse looks to be good early, the win over Wake Forest could turn out to be an OK one, and Central Michigan has looked less than stellar although they did play the Cowboys close on the road.  If anything, I slightly lean CMU to cover. But that line is worrisome for me for some reason.

Northwestern @ Duke (-3.5) - If I had a game to list as "number six" this would be it. There is little to convince me that either Duke win is as impressive as the Northwestern win over Stanford. In fact, I think Stanford, although not as well coached, is a more talented team than the Blue Devils. The Northwestern ML bet almost displaced WKUvs.IND as my #5 ML bet of the week.  But not quite.

Rice (-7.5) @ North Texas - While Rice didn't look good against a Longhorn team that I had overrated coming into the season, North Texas looked awful losing to SMU. I'm still not sure just how good this Owls team is.  the .5 is worrisome on the line and it gives me a slight lean toward N. Texas to cover, but with .000000001% confidence.

Colorado (-4) @ Colorado State. - This is a rivalry game that I rarely touch. Colorado State's loss to Minnesota was a better loss than Colorado's debacle in Hawaii but when rivals out.  If Iowa vs. Iowa St. can be termed "El Assico" by some pundits (A sarcastic take on 'El Clasico' in Spanish League Soccer) than this in-state rivalry deserves a suboptimal moniker of its own. Colorado State to cover, in an ugly football game.

Auburn @ LSU (-7.5) - This line is inflated due to Auburn's near-loss to Jacksonville State. Granted, most of that poor performance is due to a look-ahead to this week, but part of it is because, I think, Auburn is offensively challenged.  That said I don't see this LSU team blowing out any SEC West team this year. Although I think they win. Auburn to cover, but for the life of me I can't figure out how.

Stanford @ USC (-10) - USC has played minor schools, and they have blown them out. Stanford played a couple of supposedly real teams, and lost one (the aforementioned Northwestern) while beating a UCF team that's not looking as strong as the experts thought. I THINK USC is going to roll here, and cover, but the line of 10 is too worrisome for serious Five consideration.

Ole Miss @ Alabama (-7) How can you not like 'Bama to cover this line at home? Let me tell you. Ole Miss has scored 149 points in two games.  Granted, they've played Fresno State (who are not as formidable as they used to be) and University of Tennessee-Martin, who are a middling FCS school. While 'Bama have scored about half the points (72) at least one game was against Wisconsin, who are fairly talented.  All of that said this game has me extremely conflicted. I WANT to say Ole Miss on the ML but I look at Alabama's defense and I see them only giving up around 20 to the Runnin' Rebels.  Based on that I just lean Ole Miss to cover, with a nod to the possibility that Saban has a team that could run them over.

BYU @ UCLA (-16) - I would not touch this line with a 10 foot pole. I've gone against BYU two weeks running and for two weeks they've made me pay. BYU to cover, but watch UCLA run them over.

Georgia Tech (-2.5) @ Notre Dame - Two things are going to happen with the Irish from here on out. They're either going to fall apart and watch this become another lost year, or they're going to band together and continue to be the "it" team of the pundits. If I knew which one I'd have put this in the Five. Also confusing matters are the Yellowjackets, who run option football and are the one team no major title contender want to see on their schedule.  GaTech to cover, IF ND cannot rebound from all of their injuries.

And finally.....

UNLV @ Michigan (NL) - Unfortunately for UNLV, their QB and playmaker Blake Decker was injured in last week's game against UCLA and his status is questionable for Saturday. Because of this Vegas has not yet posted a line for the game. While I'm a Michigan fan I'm also rapidly becoming a UNLV fan due to my affinity for Las Vegas itself. New HC Tony Sanchez is from the ranks of Nevada High Schools and is doing an awful lot to have the school embrace their Vegas image. They now have what I consider to be one of the best fields in College Football and have embraced iconic Las Vegas in their helmet and uniform design. When they're not playing Michigan I'll be pulling for them to turn around what has been a moribund program of late.

That said, last week's 35-7 win over Oregon State showed what Michigan wants to be in the Harbaugh era. It's a throwback to the Wolverine days of old and it was outstanding to watch. Whatever the line eventually is, I think the Wolverines will cover it handily.  Now, if they would only find a quarterback........

On the bright side, I can't get any worse than last week so here's to a turnaround.

Monday, September 14, 2015

NFL: Beware the Week 1 overreactions.

I mean. ($$$)

It's a little sad that the Chron charges readers for this, because it is on the same level that Texans fans will be able to hear on sports call-in shows from guys who watched the game in a fog of cheap beer.

I didn't watch the game so I'm not going to take a position on who should be the Texans starting quarterback in week 2, either way.  But what I do know is this: There is a BIG difference between starting an NFL game and coming in with 6:00 to go, your team down 27-9 and leading your team on two scoring drives.  A BIG difference.

From what I hear the first INT by Hoyer was, despite what the team is saying, his fault. I haven't seen the film for the game so I'm unsure about the other plays (the fumble and the 2nd INT). But I don't think I would be too concerned if I did.

No matter what happens, we just finished game 1 of a 16 game season. The Texans were playing against a team that I have slated to make the playoffs. The Chiefs have one of the best pass-rushers in the game, a strong defense from top to bottom, a talent infusion at WR and a RB who's among the best in the league. Nevermind a TE who's on the verge of being elite in Kelce.  The Texans have only one of those things right now.  And they're less talented overall than the Chiefs to boot.

It also appears that Houston is less talented in the sports writing department as well. A loss to a playoff caliber team is not a sign that the world is coming to an end. Nor would a loss next week to Carolina. But we're already seeing words like "debacle" and "disgrace" to define the week one result, which implies that a lot of local pundits think the Texans are much better than they are.

For the Texans to ever become a playoff contender they need an infusion of talent.  At QB, at OL, at RB, at WR, at LB at S and at CB.  Everywhere else, they're OK.  If you don't understand where I'm going with that.......

Unfortunately, with an owner who's seemingly content to put mediocrity on the field and a GM who appears to have little in the way of moxie, football smarts or input into the player selection process, mediocrity is just about all that Texans fans can hope for.

Still, we've just finished week 1. Let's wait to cut the cord on Hoyer and other starters until we have a better sample size.  A move to Mallett in week 2 would signify someone is panicking.

College Football: My horrible, awful, very bad week.

After last Saturday, and then Sunday, with my NFL fantasy results, I can safely say that (this week) I know nothing about football. As I sat in my hotel room with the wife Saturday night and watched the scores roll by I knew I was in for a rough week.  Then, when BYU hit a 2nd consecutive Hail Joseph to pull out a victory over Boise St. I knew I was just flat out screwed.

The carnage?  0-5 ATS and a pathetic 3-2 SU.  This lowers my early season standings to 3-7 ATS and only 7-3 SU.  It got worse when I checked my NFL fantasy and saw that I went 0-4 (pending) and the Texans came out and looked like crap.  All that I need to complete the weekend of suck is a 49ers humiliation tonight.

It happens.  One thing that people don't say about sports betting is that picking winners is not a science.  You can run all of the numbers and have confidence in your picks and then the games get played.  All that said, I can't remember a week where I've gone 0-fer, which makes me re-evaluate things this time around.

The good thing about football is that, for the most part, you have a next week. Which I, fortunately do. I also realize that, by just picking 5 games, I'm limiting myself. This is not something I would do were I betting in Vegas. I'd have flexibility up until before kick-off to watch the lines move etc.  The good news is the goal, proving that you can, with just a little bit of preparation and knowledge, finish a season over 50%, is still in play*.

Week 3 will be better. One thing's for sure, it can't get any worse.

*Again, remember the goal here. I'm not selling you picks and I'm hoping that you don't put any stock into any of this. I'm not a professional gambler, I'm an accountant who likes to wager some coin when I'm in Vegas.  I also think that tout services are overpriced and unnecessary for the typical sports better. Only a select few consistently beat the books.  And it's very hard for them to get any action down.  Just read these for enjoyment, because that's all I'm doing it for.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

College Football 2015: The Week Two Five

In week one we learned some things about some teams (i.e. Texas is bad) and still have questions about others. (Are Notre Dame and Texas aTm that good? Or were their opponents that bad?) and we also now have teams looking to replace key contributors (BYU, VaTech & Arizona) while teams we thought would be good (Utah State) looked horrible.

With that in mind, let's jump right into this weeks Five:

(lines courtesy of 5Dimes and are effective as of Thursday, 09/10/2015 @ 6:00 AM - Future line moves will not be accounted for since you get what you lay for, when you lay 'em.)

1. Kansas State (-17) @ UTSA - There are always "helmet" games in College Football that give you opportunities.  This is one of those.  UTSA looked good against Arizona, keeping the game within 10 points on the road.  Kansas State beat South Dakota (of the FCS) 34-0 but lost their starting QB for the season in doing so. I still see K-State winning here, but not by 17. UTSA to cover.

2. Utah State @ Utah (-13) - Utah dominated Michigan, which is not a good team right now but certainly better than where Utah State is. Under new OC Josh Heupel the Aggies could only generate 250 yards of total offense. In fact, they needed an 88 yard punt return in the 4th quarter to eek out a 12-9 win, at home, against Southern Utah of the FCS.  Utah has a much stouter defense and a much better offense. This one could get ugly. Utah to cover.

3. UTEP @ Texas Tech (-21) - When you consider that Texas Tech couldn't beat Sam Houston State by 21, I don't see any way they can do better against UTEP. And while UTEP looked just north of awful against Arkansas, the only thing the Red Raiders have in common with the Razorbacks this year is an "R" at the beginning of their mascot name.  Take UTEP to cover. I would lean ML but I think Tech's offense will be too much.

4. Washington State @ Rutgers (-2.5) - I am not suggesting that Rutgers is a world beater, but the Cougars looked pathetic in losing to (3-9 in 2014) FCS member Portland State. I think Wazzoo is in for a terrible year. The fan base is already freaking out because it doesn't appear there's enough money in the athletic department budget to fire Mike Leach before the end of the year. Rutgers to cover, and then some.

5. Boise State (-2.5) @ BYU - This would be a good game that I wouldn't touch save one thing: BYU QB Taysom Hill was lost for the season against Nebraska.  The problem is the Broncos were less than impressive against Washington. I don't think that matters.  Boise State to cover and roll as BYU tries to work things out.

Other games:

Louisiana Tech (-1) @ Western Kentucky - The Wahoos beat Vanderbilt last week and LaTech humiliated FCS Southern.  That said, I like Western Kentucky here on the ML. Although not strongly enough to put them in my Five.

Houston @ Louisville (-13) - Houston fans have high hopes for this game after crushing an FCS opponent (sort-of) last week.  Louisville surprised a lot of people by playing Auburn tough.  I can't bet a team coached by Bobby Petrino, and they certainly don't go in the Five but I'm leaning Louisville here to cover at home.

Buffalo @ Penn State (-21) - Short and sweet: If the Nittany Lions can't protect Hackenberg then they aren't going to be beating anybody by 21.

Iowa (-3.5) @ Iowa State - If I felt I knew more about the Cyclones I'd take Iowa State here and it would have been in my Five.  I don't, so it's not.  Still, I'm leaning ISU on the ML.

Oklahoma (-1) @ Tennessee - This COULD be the game of the week not involving Michigan State and Oregon.  That said, I'm still not sure about OU so it's not in my five.  My gut feeling says Tennessee on the ML though.

Kentucky @ S. Carolina (-7.5) - Last week, S. Carolina squeaked out a cover.  This week I'm dropping them out of my Five but predicting they do the same thing against a Kentucky team whose fan base is already scheduling Midnight Madness.

Oregon @ Michigan St (-4) - We are going to find out most of what we need to know about both of these teams.  Right now, I like Michigan State to win by a touchdown.  But I don't like that enough that I feel comfortable about it.  Let's just say the minimum bet on Michigan State and keep the game the hell away from the Five.

Rice @ Texas (-14) - As putrid as the Longhorns looked last week against ND I'm not sure they can SCORE 14, much less win by that much.  That said these are the Owls, who only seem to play well against the Longhorns once every 20 years.  That said Rice on the ML but with zero confidence (and zero risk).

LSU (-4.5) @ Mississippi State - Hail State, and Hail the upset against an LSU team that didn't get a warm-up game and which looked horrible on the road.  The hard part of this is, I picked LSU to win the West.  This will hurt, but it's not a killer.  Hail State to cover.

And finally.......

Oregon State @ Michigan (-16.5) - I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate this line for Michigan.  I'm not even sure Michigan can beat the Beavers right now.  Still, I think they might win, getting better every week remember, but I can't see any way they win by two touchdowns, two extra points and a field goal.  Oregon State to cover but lose. (we hope)

Remember: These picks are for entertainment purposes only and are worth exactly what you're paying for them and I'm risking on them.  My sole purpose on this blog is to prove that a normal guy, working a day job, can come in just over 50% with some research and knowledge of the game.

Enjoy the weekend.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

College Football: And we're off.

By all accounts, last week's opening slate of college football games were pretty good.  This is unusual for the opening week because the big names are typically ordering cupcakes to start the year.  This has changed somewhat with the advent of the "neutral site" kick-off classic series that you're starting to see from time to time.

Looking over the first weekend of football I'm fairly pleased with my start.  I went 4-1 Straight up and 3-2 versus the spread.  While that's certainly not setting the world on fire 80% straight up and 60% against the spread are numbers I'd take all year long.

So, without further ado, here are my thoughts, takeaways and free, meaningless opinion on the opening weekend that was.  Starting with the five games I really liked.....

1. North Carolina vs. South Carolina (-2) I will admit to a large amount of trepidation over this game but, in the end, North Carolina decided they really didn't want to be in the end zone all that much and gave the game away.  Still, I'll take the Gamecock cover and smile.

2. Oklahoma State (-23.5) vs. Central Michigan - At 24-13 this game was lower scoring than I thought it would be, but the spread was just about right.  By this time I was starting to feel pretty good about myself. And then the Texas teams started playing.....

3. [2]TCU (-17) vs Minnesota - My mantra for the rest of this season is that "I will not bet on TCU". Every time I do I read them wrong.  This is a pass team for me now.  Still, 2-1 ain't half bad.  Of course, the Horned Frogs didn't look half good either.

4. Washington vs Boise State (-12) - I still think Boise State is overrated this year and Washington, who didn't look near as good as I thought they might, exposed that. Of course, the team that I picked to beat Boise State in the Mountain West looked even worse so......

5. Arizona State vs Texas aTm (-3.5)  - This is going to be a problem going forward because I'm not sure if aTm is that good or if Arizona State is that bad.  I thought the Sun Devils would be a strong team this year. Possibly even a contender in the PAC 12. Unless they fix their offense quickly I don't see that happening now.

Other games.....

In retrospect, my first thought on Louisville vs. Auburn was right but for different reasons than I had first predicted. Auburn's offense was better than I thought, but their defense was not as stout as I had predicted. They still couldn't cover against Bobby Petrino's Louisville team, and I still think they are overrated.

For all of the praise heaped on UCLA, they still couldn't cover a 20 point spread against a pretty pedestrian Virginia team.  Before we start placing them in the top 10 (as I've heard some analysts try to do already) let's give them a couple of weeks to figure out what they have.

Arkansas covered.  That's all I can really say about that.  Again, once they face stronger competition we'll know more.

Ah Nebraska. If you had the under in this game I apologize to you for one of the worst beats of the week.  Don't they teach the Blackshirts how to defense the Hail Joseph in Lincoln?

I was wrong about one thing, there WAS a line for Tech vs. Sam Houston.  And the Red Raiders didn't cover. Here's the scary thing if you're a Tech fan. Your offense looked pretty good (as did QB Mahomes) against an FCS defense. On the flipside your defense looked overmatched against an FCS offense.  Additionally, Tech fans (and Baylor fans for that matter) need to understand the difference between a victory (big) and a win (not so big).  Beating either SMU or an FCS opponent should not be something you gloat about. You're expected to win these games. Act like it.

Here I was thinking that Oklahoma was going to struggle against the Zips and all they did was win and cover.  Granted, in the 1st half that appeared to be in doubt. Once the second half started OU remembered they were in a game and ran away with it.  I think Akron is not a horrible opponent so this might bode well for the Sooners.

For all of the Hosannas being thrown toward Notre Dame it's important to remember that they basically faced a UT-Austin team that's playing without either a quarterback, or an offensive plan. I expected QB Swoopes to show SOME improvement, he didn't. In fact, he looked worse.  And while I still think Charlie Strong is a good football coach he might not be the right guy to lead a program like Texas. He's starting to look overmatched and lost. This is another game where I walked away with no insight as to the true level of either team. (Well, except that Texas is bad. I'm just not sure how bad yet)

You probably didn't pay much attention to the game but the most impressive thing (other than Ohio State) that we saw all weekend MIGHT have been West Virginia trouncing Georgia Southern 44-0.  This is a Georgia Southern team that went undefeated in the Sun Belt last year, finished 9-3 and was hosed out of a bowl. Either they've really regressed, or the Mountaineers are going to be tough this year.

Alabama can run the ball. This we know. And while they didn't exactly struggle with Wisconsin, their defense did give up some plays.  The Badgers are not chopped liver, but the fact remains that they haven't had a good performance since before the B1G championship game clobbering at the hands of Ohio State.

One thing I am pretty sure of right now. Ohio State is the number 1 team in the country.  I'm still not sure about 2-10 but numero uno is looking pretty solid. Kudos to Braxton Miller. It's almost unfair that this team is this talented at so many positions.  One final thought: we were seeing a depleted Ohio State team last night with their best defender, and 3 of their best receivers on suspension. Look out Hawaii.

No Top 10 rankings this week. I'm not going to rank the teams until I see more from them. Typically I don't even worry about that until after week 5. I might have to wait longer this year to see some games play out.  I can however tell you who the teams at the bottom are.....

If the FBS played under promotion/relegation rules these teams would be relegated:

5. UT-Austin - Just awful football played by a school that has so many resources they should never get to this point.

4. University of Central Florida - They lost to Sun Belt bottom feeder Florida home.

3. Tulane - This is partially due to their new, God awful turf although losing to Duke, by 30 at home, doesn't help.

2. Kansas - When your team can't even get spiking the ball to stop the clock so you can kick a FG to possibly tie South Dakota State at HOME play right......Is it basketball season yet?

1. Washington State. - Mike Leach's team lost to Portland State (3-9 last year in the FCS) at home. The sad thing is it doesn't appear that the school can afford to fire Leach and pay his buyout clause.

All the overrated things:

1. Teams that ran up the score against FCS opponents. - Georgia Tech scored 69, Oregon scored 61 (and gave up 42), Rutgers scored 63 and Ole Miss scored 76 points.  All of them played against FCS teams, none of which (excepting Eastern Washington, maybe) are expected to do much this year.

2. Utah State, by me.  They needed a 4th quarter 88-yard touchdown return to beat Southern Utah of the FCS 12-9.  Clearly part of the problem with OU's offense last year was USU's new Offensive Coordinator Josh Heupel.  Yuck.

3. College Kickers. - There were more missed field-goals, kick-offs out of bounds and horrible punts in one weekend than you'll see in an entire year of the NFL.  That said, this is also part of the reason college football is so fun.  The kicking game is an adventure.

4. Penn State's Offensive Line - The Nittany Lions gave up 10 (ten) sacks in Temple's first victory over them since 1941, before the US formally entered WWII. 

5. Pre-season top 25 lists. - Just stop it National Media, please just stop it.  Release your first rankings the same time the College Football Playoff committee does, or at least wait until we get a couple of weeks into conference play.

Hard Luck award:

Co winners:  BYU and Kansas State who both lost their starting QB's for the season due to injury.

Runner-up: Virginia Tech, who's starting QB will be out 4-8 weeks with a broken collarbone.

One week down, can't wait for Thursday.

Friday, September 4, 2015

College Football: Take a breath Michigan Fan.

Well, that's out of the way.

All that's left now is the silly analysis from silly analysts.

In that spirit, I'll add my own.

1. This was never going to be an immediate turn-around. Although I was hoping that Michigan could squeak out a win in this game, to be honest, I was never very confident they would. In my first run at analyzing the season I had this game as a loss. After thinking a little harder I made it a win. Granted, most of that was probably based on fandom more than actual X's and O's. Optimism that the situation at QB wouldn't be quite that bad.

2. It's too early to bail on Rudock.  In moments of frustration last night, especially after he Schaubed the Pick-six, I was calling for Morris to be put in. I think ALL of Blue Nation was calling for the same thing.  But the guy actually played OK in the second half outside of that interception. In fact, the team looked a LOT better offensively in the 2nd half than in the 1st.  Either way Harbaugh decides to go the reality is his championship winning QB is probably not on this roster.

3. There WAS improvement. Despite struggling in the run game, the O-line looked MUCH better in pass protection than at any time during the Brady Hoke era.  The defensive front 7 looks formidable and Jabrill Peppers is a legitimate stud DB. In fact, I thought the defense played well enough to win the game.  Had Rudock been able to hit wide open WR's down the field on 3 separate occasions (instead of air-mailing them) Michigan could have won that game.

4. I'm unsure whether De'Veon Smith is the RB Michigan is looking for or not.  Yes, the O-Line did not do a great job blocking.  But De'Veon ran himself out of some gains as well.  He missed holes on several occasions, running right into defenders.  He needs to learn patience in the worst way.

All in all it was an OK start to the Harbaugh era, from a coach who has lost his first game at the other schools that he turned around.  For all of the hope and hype of Harbaugh coming to Michigan, we're now looking at the reality that this is a rebuilding process.  One that's going to take more than one off-season and a few good recruiting classes.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Sports Section