Thursday, October 29, 2015

College Football: The Week 9 Five

Last week started off with promise, and then petered out.  I went 2-3 ATS and 5-0 SU which leaves me at 17-23 ATS (42.5%) and 30-10 SU (75%)  I keep waiting for the week when I figure it all out, which I'm starting to get concerned is not going to materialize this year.  Over the past 3 years I've started out slowly, but began to roll at around weeks 7 & 8.  For some reason this year I'm either getting good feelings about the wrong games, overvaluing the wrong teams, or am just having difficulties with my numbers.

Either way, this weekend is my birthday weekend so I'm hoping for a nice 4-1 or 5-0 ATS gift.

So here's to a happy birthday:
1. North Carolina (-2) @ Pitt: I'm not as much of a fan of the Tarheels as the public (I don't think they've beaten much) and I think Pitt's wins over Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and a close loss to Iowa are the stronger games. I think Pitt gets them at home. Still, for the pick? Pitt to cover because I'm not brave enough to take the ML.
2. Oregon @ Arizona State (-2.5): Oregon is on the downswing, and Arizona State is wondering what the heck happened to a season that was so promising.  Granted, the loss to Texas aTm is looking worse and worse, but week 1 results are often misleading. Arizona State to cover at home against an Oregon team whose known more these days for their uniforms than good play.

3. Nebraska (-9) @ Purdue: My feeling on this game is pretty simple. Purdue is Godawful. Cornhuskers to cover.
4. South Carolina @ Texas aTm (-16): On my trip to Las Vegas two week ago, the Aggies were the only live, actual bet that I lost. The Gamecocks seemed to have come together absent Steve Spurrier and there are real problems in College Station.  I think the home field is enough to give the Aggies a win, but South Carolina to cover.

5. Colorado @ UCLA (-23): Two things going against the spread in my mind. 1.) Colorado is not THAT bad and 2.) UCLA is not THAT good.  I think UCLA wins, but only by a couple of touchdowns. Colorado to cover.

Other games that will be eating into my time:

Clemson (-10) @ NC State: The continuing trend by the national media of overrating a fairly pedestrian ACC continues to amaze me. I think Clemson covers here by a lot. Earlier in the season I wasn't a believer, I am now.

Georgia vs. Florida (-2.5): Ah the World's Biggest Outdoor Cocktail Party.  This is a must-watch game for me every year and it will be no different here.  Despite that, I think Florida is a much better team than the demoralized, injury depleted Bulldog bunch. Florida should win this by a couple of touchdowns IMO.

Oklahoma (-40) @ Kansas: I'm not sure if the oddsmakers could get this line high enough. Kansas is in shambles, OU is in run it up mode while they still think they have a chance at the CFP should they win out. Oklahoma should cover, but they're still not going to make it to the CFP because TCU and Baylor are better.

Oklahoma State (-2.5) @ Texas Tech: I've struggled a little bit this year figuring out which Tech team is going to show up.  No way I'd ever touch this game.  That said, Tech is a team that GOOD teams should beat, but might look ugly doing it. I think OSU will beat them, but look ugly doing it. Slight lean to OSU on the cover, much more interested in the over here.

Maryland @ Iowa(-10): I get favoring Iowa here, but by ten?  Iowa is a team that has been winning close. I think they win close here but the Terps cover.

Boise St (-20) @ UNLV: I said, earlier in the season, that I'm pulling for the Rebels this year. I like their coach, I like what they're doing to tie in with the city. I want them to cover here. I think they have a shot.

Vanderbilt @ Houston (-12): This is a game that the Cougars are going to be amped for. I think they win at home, and win big.  They want a statement game leading into the teeth of the AAC schedule. Cougars to cover.

Miami @ Duke (-11): I like Duke to win, I don't like the line at eleven at all. Miami to cover, Duke wins, but at less than ten.

Texas (-5.5) @ Iowa State: I think Texas rolls a little bit here, and covers pretty easily. This would be the #6 game on my list, that would be in my Five but I don't trust the Longhorns one bit.

Notre Dame (-11) @ Temple:  I can't get away from the feeling that Temple is going to pull an upset here. I also can't shake the feeling that they are going to get exposed by the Irish.  Tough game, lean Temple to cover but wouldn't be surprised to see some sharp lay a lot on them for the ML.

And Finally.....

Michigan (-13.5) @ Minnesota: Coming of "gift six" I think the Wolverines are going to be an angry bunch. Offsetting this is the fact that Minnesota coach Jerry Kill retired this week. I like Michigan to cover though, and their defense to re-establish a new shut-out streak.

Happy Halloween.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Houston Texans: Adding injury to insult.

No matter how early you tuned out of the Houston Texans game versus the Miami Dolphins there's only two things you need to know:

1. The team was down 41-0 at halftime, which was really the only score that matters.

2. Arian Foster left the game in the 4th quarter with an apparent Achilles tendon tear that probably ends his active career as a Houston Texan.

Everything else that happened, the Texans 26 meaningless points in the 2nd half to bring the final score to 44-26, JJ Watt's 2 2nd half sacks that had a very Mario Williams-ish feeling to them, to Nate Washington having over 100 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns, doesn't matter. All that matters is this team looked like the same team that fell behind 42-0 to the Atlanta Falcons, they're 2-5, and have probably lost their best offensive player for good.

In the process of becoming the laughingstock of the league Bill O'Brien's Houston Texan team has made Ryan Tannyhill set the record for most consecutive completions, let Suh tally his first two sacks of the season, made Jarvis Landry appear to be an all-world WR, and took turns watching Lamar Miller run past them.  The defense in the first half wasn't just bad, it was comically awful.

Vince Wilfork, he of the free agent contract that caused much excitement in the off-season, was a virtual non-entity defending the run, continually getting stoned at the line with no penetration.  JJ Watt, the NFL's "Best player of 2015" continually overran plays not only losing gap discipline, but opening up wide holes for Miller to run through uncontested.  For all of his talk and swagger, Brian Cushing got faked out more than a 3 year old a magic convention. His missed tackles were not only bad, they were highlight reel material, for the other side.

While most of the blame for the offensive woes will be placed on Hoyer, it would not be fair to fail to mention the utter ineptitude of the Texans offensive line. Miami spent the afternoon in the Texans backfield, holding the Texans to 0 yards by the time the Dolphins had scored 35 points. It hasn't been verified, but this has to be some kind of record.  In addition to the O-line woes the tight ends for the Texans are Biblicly awful. Graham dropped a pass that was picked off for a touchdown, and Fiedorowitz doesn't appear to have the skills necessary to make things work at an NFL level.  Yes, Hoyer was not good, but the game plan itself seemed to be hand it to Foster and then........

Speaking of Arian, it appears that he is out for the year with a possible ruptured Achilles.  If this is true he's probably played his last down as both a Houston Texan and a starting NFL running back.

So, what does all of this mean?

Unfortunately, probably not much.

Sure, there will be calls by the fans for change and screams that "Something! Must be done." but Bob McNair is not a do Something! type of owner. The spin from the team will be that the Texans are just "one game out of first place" in the horrific AFC South and that fans just need to trust Coach BOB and GM Rick Smith that they have a plan.

Meanwhile fans will continue to provide unquestioning support to this mess of a franchise because they have bought into the lie that this is a "talented roster" that is only a step away from Houston's mythical berth in the SuperBowl.  Meanwhile, McNair will keep making money and Smith will keep blowing draft picks and the team will keep hiring coaches whose game analysis begins and ends with "It's on me."

Houston Texans football is turning into a bad copy of Groundhog Day, and the fans keep lapping it up and rewarding the team and management for being mediocre or worse.

Friday, October 23, 2015

College Football: That little matter of UH Home Attendance.

This post is NOT intended to be a shot at UH.  And now, with that out of the way......

UH is having trouble filling it's football stadium on game day because there aren't enough UH students invested in the program to do so.  This is not unfair to the University, it's true. Because if there were enough fans then they would be clamoring to watch this team, with this coach, put an exciting, winning product on the field.

They would have done so during the Art Briles' era, and the Sumlin Era as well. They can, however, be excused for taking a pass on the Tony Levine error as it was patently obvious that the AD was going on the cheap.

The Houston Press' John Royal is correct. It's not about the stadium and it's not about the schedule and it's not about the conference and it's certainly not about the neighborhood. All of these are excuses, and excuses are like assholes. Everyone has one and they are full of........

While it's easy for members of the Chron staff, and others, to talk about how UH would be an ideal match in the Big XII because "they'd bring Houston to the conference" all of that is just not true.  The simple fact of the matter is this:

Most of the major conferences who would like to have a presence in Houston already have one.  The Big XII has UT-Austin, TCU and (increasingly) Baylor. The SEC has Texas aTm, which provides all of the other schools instant access. Don't believe me? Take a look at where the top High School Recruits in Houston are receiving offers. The list is peppered with Big XII, SEC and Pac-12 Schools.

While the PAC-12 might seem a little mysterious remember that Mike Leach of Washington State and Sonny Dykes of Cal both have strong Texas HS connections.

TV ratings?  Nope. Big conference games pull in 5-8MM viewers per game. Last Friday night the University of Houston/Tulane game drew 185,000. Their viewership was almost doubled by UNLV/Fresno State. The television numbers for UH games don't make the big conferences look up from their catered lunches.

Of all the conferences that might want an increased Houston presence, the ACC seems to be doing just fine recruiting Florida, the Carolinas and the rest of the East Coast.

The point is that, unlike in the old, pre-B(C)S, days, college football is no longer a regional brand. The big programs and big dollar games bring in big audiences from around the country. There's no reason for the B1G, SEC, ACC, PAC-12 or Big XII (X) to court Houston because they don't bring anything to the table.

Does this mean they're out forever?  No.  Just like happened with the Big East American, the Big XII (X) could find a couple of teams poached from it and be forced to look at them. However, I think it's more likely that the Big XII (X) looks East toward Memphis, East Carolina or Cincinnati to try and find a couple of travel partner's for the out of sorts Mountaineers.  This would set up the Big XII (X) to have an East and West Division that would make at least a little geographic sense.

Barring that Houston will have to wait and hope that something falls in their favor when College Football eventually contracts to 4-16 team Super Conferences. Unfortunately the numbers game makes that idea difficult as I can't see anyone who would think UH is a good fit. Possibly the ACC, but even then it would be an odd pairing.

Houston's biggest problem is that they don't have a big fan base in comparison to other schools. Many people like to compare them to Miami (which is fair) but Miami has a much better football tradition. And, as we all know, protestations to the contrary realignment is all about football and the revenues it generates.

Until then UH just needs to hang on and hope. They need to start filling the stadium and try and build a buzz around the program. They had better do it quickly. Because by all accounts the Tom Herman era at UH could be one and done. Then they're back to trying to find a good head coach again.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

College Football: The Week 8 Five

Last weekend I was in Las Vegas where  I discovered a real-world flaw in how I'm picking my Five.  the problem is this.  For my Five, which I picked on Wednesday, I went with lines that were available at the time.  When I got to the Sportsbook on Saturday, the lines had changed and I ended up dumping most of them and playing alternate games.  For example, in live betting I picked Nebraska, over Minnesota, which was a winner. I also added Arizona because the line moved last to -6.5 and I didn't have that anywhere near my original Five. I also played Miami (win) instead of Northwestern (loss).

So in short, while I went 4-1 with real money on the line (not a bad day) I only was able to squeak out 2-3 in my Five.  This is a problem that I'm going to wait to address next year because I don't like making changes to my process mid-stream. The experiment is to see whether or not I can come in at over a 50% hit rate over the course of the season without "running the numbers" or otherwise paying a handicapping service.  The good news?  I'm still just one hot week away from being right there.

The bad news, of course, is that my Five got me last week....


ATS:  Last Week: 2-3   Season: 15-20 (42.9%)
SU:     Last Week: 4-1   Season: 25-10 (71.4%)

This week I'm loading up early, a lot of action on the Thursday games. On the bright side we'll know early whether or not I'm in with a chance or looking down the barrel of another losing week.

The Week 8 Five:

1. Temple @ East Carolina (-3) - The problem with Temple is one of perception. People perceive that they might be looking forward to a showdown with Notre Dame next week.  In my opinion the problem here lies with a Pirate team that's not as good as we thought they might be in the preseason. Temple to cover.

2. Georgia Southern @ Appalachian State (-7) - Two good SunBelt Conference teams get to strut their stuff on National Cable TV on a Thursday night. While most interested eyes will be tuned in to California vs. UCLA, this might be the better game.  Georgia Southern to cover.

3. California @ UCLA (-4) - Coming off a loss the Golden Bears have fallen out of favor with the public it seems. The problem is the Bruins have fallen out of the ability to play defense since the season-ending injury to Myles Jack. California to cover.

4. Memphis (-10.5) @ Tulsa - Short and sweet: The Tigers are VERY good this year, the Golden Hurricane are not. Memphis to cover.

5. Houston(-22.5) @ UCF - The consensus pick here is Houston, and I agree with that. I think they win the game.  But Houston held open tryouts this week to try and fill roster spots on both offensive and defensive line due to a horrid run of injuries. They will struggle, but win.  UCF to cover.

Other games:  (Not an especially strong slate this weekend)

Kansas State @ Texas (-7): Texas is favored because both teams played OU in such close proximity. But K-State is smarting after a 58-0 thrashing at the hands of the Sooners, who came out and were everything they weren't against UT-Austin.  I like K-State to cover here, and would like it even more if the number were to raise from where it is currently. (this is one of those games that not in my five, but I would have a good chance of betting on game day depending on the move)

Iowa St @ Baylor (-37) [O/U 78.5]: There are two things I'm liking about this game: 1. Baylor to cover and 2.) the over.  As a matter of fact, there's a good chance in this game the Bears clear the over all by their lonesome.  Iowa State is not a good team right now, the Bears are.  It's that simple.

Texas aTm @ Ole Miss (-6): To be perfectly clear, after last week I'm not going anywhere near aTm. They have so much talent but still can't seem to play a complete game. And who knows what Ole Miss has?  I will say that I don't think the loss to Memphis last week is going to look all that bad when the season is over. Ole Miss to cover, but I would probably want to lay off this if the line moved further the way of the Rebels.

Utah @ USC (-3.5): This feels so much like a sucker line I would be disinclined to do much with it. That said, I think Utah is really strong this year and I still think USC is finding their way.  My lean, as slight as it might be, is Utah to win on the ML.

Gift Six: In a way, after the Michigan State debacle, I almost wish the Wolverines were playing this week to get the taste out of our mouths. I've been around watching college football a long time, and I've NEVER seen a game end like that. Sitting in the sportsbook on Saturday, with all of the Michigan State fans jumping around, getting in our faces and acting like they personally won the game?  Brutal.  It was a gut punch of a TD that, although painful, reminded us of why we like college football so much.

And for those of you giving death threats to the punter?  Please kindly remove your Maize and Blue and go find another team to root for.  He's a young man who made a mistake in a big game. Were you back there in that situation you would probably be wearing Maize, Blue and Brown.

Michigan still has a chance to have a successful season, and to possibly win 9 or 10 games if they can pull a shocking upset at the end.  That's far better than I had them at the beginning of the season, so I'm not complaining.  Just smarting a little bit after one of the craziest, soul-suckingest plays I've ever seen.  Go Blue!

Good luck this week.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

College Football: The Week 7 Five

Real life is intruding this week so just a quick recap of the season's progress and the picks.

ATS:  Last Week: 3-2   Season: 13-17 (43.3334%)
SU:     Last Week: 3-2   Season: 21-7 (70%)

This week's Five:

1. Oregon @ Washington (-2.5) - I get the love for Washington, and the dislike for Oregon but I think the Ducks still have a talent edge.  Oregon to win on the ML.

2. Notre Dame (-7) @ USC - Normally I would not feel comfortable laying against a TD.  With the Sark implosion though I do. The Trojans are team turmoil right now. Notre Dame to cover.

3. Nebraska @ Minnesota (-2.5) - The Golden Gophers only two losses are to a good Northwestern team and very good TCU team.  Nebraska continues to find new and creative ways to shoot itself in the foot.  Minnesota to cover.

4. Alabama (-4) @ Texas aTm - I like the Aggies at home this year and I think they keep it close. Texas aTm to cover. (If you're brave, play the moneyline.)

5. Iowa(-2) @ Northwestern - Iowa has lived a charmed life so far this year. I think it comes against the Wildcats.  Northwestern on the money line.

A few other games.....

Oklahoma (-4.5) @ K-State - I almost put this one in my Five but, I'm struggling trying to figure out just how angry the teams are going to be.  I want to say K-State to cover however.

Vanderbilt @ South Carolina (-2.5) - With all the mess surrounding the GameCocks this week I wouldn't be surprised to see Vandy pull the ML upset in this game.

And finally.....

Michigan State @ Michigan (-8.5) - Another line that scares the heck out of me.  That said, I think Michigan is the better team.  I just don't think they're over a Touchdown better.  I'm going to say State to cover, but Michigan to win. (finally over Sparty.)

Good luck this weekend.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Houston Astros: ALDS Game 4 Does Not Compare to Oilers/Bills

After struggling through a brutal 8th inning, which saw the Astros squander a 6-2 lead and fall behind 7-6 before ultimately losing 9-6, the Houston Chronicle's John McClain was among the first to bring up Buffalo.

Of course, he was referring to the infamous Comeback a game so etched into long-time Houston sports fan's minds that it almost has a life of its own. Think of it as the Houston sports version of Watergate, a disaster so big and so impactful on Houston's psyche that all other sporting meltdowns are compared to it, much in the manner every government scandal is now followed by -gate.

The problem here is that the analogy doesn't quite work.

The reason being is that the Comeback was final. When the game was over the Oiler's season was done. It was lose and you go home and they certainly did.  This was also near the end of the team's reign as they had one more good year (1993) before owner Bud Adam's made good on his promise to break up the team if they didn't win the Super Bowl.

The Astros, on the other hand, did have an epic collapse but their season is not over. They still have a Game 5 to play and a chance to redeem themselves.  Yes, the task is going to be much tougher in Kansas City than it was in Houston and yes, losses like this hurt. But if you remember back to 2005 the Astros faced adversity then as well. It was in the 2005 ALCS, Game 5, the Astros had a 3-1 lead, were up 4-2 heading into the 9th inning and then this happened.:

I was watching with a group of people at a bar and I remember when Pujols hit that shot. My immediate reaction was "Ding! You are now free to move about the Country" in a take-off of the old Southwest airline commercials. Anything moving that fast should have been staffed with flight attendants serving drinks.

The thing was, in game 6 the Astros came back, won the game 5-1 and advanced to the team's only World Series behind the arm of Roy Oswalt.

One big difference between this Astros team and the Oilers and Astros of the past is also glaring: In short, this is an Astros team on the ascendency, not an aging team making a last big run before things get blown up.  The core of this team is young, resilient, and is well ahead of where anyone projected they would be at the beginning of the year.

So yes, I will admit, watching that seemingly unending 8th inning drag on and on, while Royals filled the base-paths repeatedly, was painful. It was like a slow, persistent leak that starts to crack the walls that you cannot locate or fix. It was a collapse, maybe even an epic collapse.  But it wasn't the end.

There's still another game to look forward to and that makes all the difference in the world.

So no, this was not just like the Bills, it wasn't even closely reminiscent of that.  It was a loss against a team that can hit the baseball like few others in the Major League's this year and which also had the best record in the American League.  The Royals are good.  I am not surprised they didn't go down without a fight*.

I do not expect the Astros to go down without one either.  So here's to a good game 5 and Go Astros!

*Although we might need to consider sacrificing a live chicken to offset the anger of the Baseball Gods caused by this Tweet from the news office of Governor Abbott. (Thanks Guv)

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Houston Texans: Line Moves and Back-of-the-Envelope Analysis.

Current Lines:
Texans (-5) (-240)
Colts (+5) (+200)
Total: 41
Were I in Vegas, I would take one look at this game, bet the under, and run and hide.  This game opened at a "pick 'em", was taken off the board due to the Andrew Luck injury and has quickly moved to the Texans as a clear favorite.

First, the things I don't like:
1. I don't like the Texans at (-5) - The problem with the Texans is that they don't play, at home, as if they have a home-field advantage. Coach Bill O'Brien gave good entertainment on Hard Knocks which has not been replicated on the field. His teams have come out poorly coached and not ready to play the game. This team has a lack of talent at almost every position except D-Line. Their overall record against the Colts is 3-7 SU, 3-7-1 ATS.  Yuck.
2. I don't like the Colts at (+5) - The Colts have looked awful this year, needing a last second meltdown by the Jaguars kicker to walk away with the division lead at 2-3. Like O'Brien, I don't think Pagano is all that smart a football coach, nor do I believe the Colts think he is either. When I handicapped this season I thought the Colts would benefit from a healthy Luck and the last gasps of Frank Gore and Andre Johnson's career. Clearly I was wrong. I still think they make the playoffs because the division is so poor, but I think the AFC Super Bowl slot is pretty much being gifted to the Patriots as the other teams collapse. Against the Texans the Colts are 7-3 SU and 6-3-1 ATS.

3. I don't like either team this year.  ATS both these teams are horrible.  The Colts are 0-4 ATS this year and the Texans are 1-3. Clearly there's going to have to be something run against trend in order for one team to improve on that record.

Now, the things I like:
1. 41 Total:  In ten games all time the Texans/Colts have gone under 7 times. Now you add in the truth of Thursday Night Football: Teams on short rest, playing ugly football, and this game has under written all over it.  Neither team has an NFL caliber starting quarterback eligible to play in this game and both of them are offensively challenged.  While it's true that neither team has shown the ability to play quality defense against a good offense, I think the poor offensive line play on both sides of the ball make this a punt/turnover fest that will have audiences in Houston switching off fairly quickly.

2. Watching the Houston Astros vs. Kansas City Royals. Do yourself a favor, switch off the football game and watch one of the most fun baseball teams in the MLB try and move further ahead of schedule by beating the Royals. Carlos Correa is a legitimate superstar in the making and Altuve and Springer are entertaining to watch. In Rasmus, Gomez and Gattis they have some entertaining role players to boot.  This team has fun playing, they deserve your support while the Texans do not.

Final Score Prediction:   Colts 17 Texans 6
This game has the potential of expanding the Thursday Night Football theme of setting back NFL football 50 years. Don't kid yourselves, these are two bad teams. Somebody's got to win and I think the Colts find a way to win despite themselves.  Also, it will be a miracle if either team finds itself with a totally healthy QB on the roster by the end of the game.  It will be a miracle if Arian Foster doesn't reinjure something this week because he is going to be worked to death tonight.

College Football: The Week 7 Five

In all honesty, this is a down week for college football as most conferences have walkover games scheduled for this week.  With a few notable exceptions that is.

Without further ado....

1. New Mexico State @ Ole Miss (-45) - The Rebels are smarting after being taken to the wood shed by Florida. New Mexico State is in the running for bottom 5 program in Division 1A. The Rebels have a couple of weeks to get things right before they climb back into SEC West play.  I expect Ole Miss to cover here, by quite a bit.

2. Baylor (-45) @ Kansas - It's not often you see a conference game go 38 points against the home team. Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, that line still feels low. Baylor HC Art Briles knows that he cannot afford another clunker performance as the Bears had against Lamar and SMU. They need to beat teams by a LOT to woo CFP voters who are not enamored with their pillow-soft OOC schedule. Baylor to cover and (an even surer bet) their fans to act as if they've just won the CFP afterwards.

3. Oklahoma (-16.5) vs. Texas (@ the Cotton Bowl) If you're a college football purist, then pray to the football gods that Jerry Jones doesn't get his hands on this game and mess up one of the better sights in college football. Everyone is suggesting here that Texas can cover because this is a "rivalry" game and rivalry games are always close. In fact, the average margin of victory in this game is 14 points, the median margin of victory is 10 points. However, 9 of the top MOV are owned by the Sooners, and 4 of those have occurred since the year 2000 when the Sooners beat the Longhorns 63-14. The Longhorns are a mess right now, they're young and spending more time infighting than playing meaningful football. OU to cover. We'll find out over the coming weeks if this job is too big for Strong or no.

4. Georgia (-3) @ Tennessee - After last weeks thrashing by the supposedly "finished" Crimson Tide, Georgia brings it's bruised and battered ego into Neyland Stadium to face a Volunteers team who is suddenly playing for it's season life, and MAYBE even the job of Head Coach Butch Jones. While Georgia's QB Greyson Lambert has not been good he's not been the brush-fire that the entire Tennessee team has been. What the Volunteers don't want in this game, is a lead because they're sure to blow it.  With Nick Chubb in the backfield I don't see that as a problem this week. Georgia to cover.

5. Wisconsin @ Nebraska (-1) - This is what I call a history bet. Neither team this year has beaten anyone even remotely close to good. Wisconsin is 3-2 while Nebraska is 2-3 (in a much more spectacular fashion. Looking at the series history however Wisconsin is 3-1 SU against the Cornhuskers and 4-0 ATS. While Paul Chryst appears to be struggling to install his system at Wisconsin, Mike Riley appears to be watching things fall apart in Lincoln. I was not a fan of the Riley hire at Nebraska and people are starting to see why. Wisconsin on the ML to win. If we're lucky Nebraska will lose it in dramatic fashion once again.

Side note: There are a TON of Total plays this week that I like a lot starting with Wisconsin/Nebraska. Currently the line is at 49. Nebraska has been a bad beat machine this year on the number but the head-to-head matchup has cleared the over the last 4 times these teams have played.

Other total lines I'd consider:  Houston/SMU: 74 (over), Washington/Southern Cal 56 (over), Duke/Army 48 (under), Baylor/Kansas 77 (over) and Virginia/Pitt 48.5 (under) [have you seen these two teams play?]

Other games of note: (slim pickings this week....)

Washington @ USC (-17) No team has been more of a disappointment to me this year than the Washington Huskies. I didn't think they would win the PAC-12 South, but I thought they would be somewhat competitive.  This hasn't happened.  My lean here is USC.

Oklahoma State @ West Virginia (-5) Perhaps the question of the college football year is "How is Okie St. undefeated at this point?"  They barely beat Kansas State and were given a gift against Texas. We're going to find out a lot about them this week. I think West Virginia wins, but I don't think they cover.

Rice @ Florida Atlantic (-1.5) This is a close game (on paper) that I think is going to come down to the team that makes the fewest mistakes. I like Rice to win here on the ML, but it's a very slight lean.

South Carolina @ LSU (-19) - This line opened at -13, was moved to Baton Rouge due to severe flooding in the Carolinas and has ballooned to the current number. I wanted to include this in my Five, but it didn't reel right piling on a team that's now at a schedule disadvantage. South Carolina is going to be playing with a lot on their minds. LSU to cover on the legs of Fournette.

TCU (-10.5) @ Kansas State The poor Wildcats are struggling to field a healthy QB. TCU has one of the better ones in college football. I realize that it's unwise to bet against Bill Snyder, but I think TCU to cover is the play here.

SMU @ Houston (-25.5) While I don't think it was all that smart of the Coogs to tape SMU jerseys to the ground (I think giving any team locker room fodder is a mistake) I still think UofH rolls here. Coogs to cover and make a pretty big statement to the voters.

California @ Utah (-7)  Game Day will be there, and many are calling this the "big game of the week".  Still, it's 5 vs 23 (in the meaningless AP poll) and I think that Utah is the much better team. I like Utah to cover.

And finally.....

Northwestern @ Michigan (-7.5) As a Michigan fan, I will be paying the closest attention to this game because I believe the winner will be considered a favorite to finish 2nd in the B1G and get a pretty good bowl game.  The Total for this game is currently sitting at 35 which still feels high. I see this as a 17-7 type of game with both defenses dominating from the start.  Because it's the B1G, this will be called "ugly" football.  Were the game in the SEC it'd be labeled a "defensive classic".  Such is the college football world we live in.  Hey, I'm a fan.  Michigan to COVER.

Good luck this week.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

College Football: Week 6 - We know nothing.

Not a horrible week (not 0-5 again for example) but after going 2-3 ATS and 3-2 SU I'm having the same difficulties as most this year. For the season I'm 10-15 (40%) ATS and 18-7 (72%)  SU.

For some reason I keep trying to hit long-balls with ML upsets, which does not bode well for the overall record.  I will say that I've had about enough of learning lessons and am ready for a run of good weeks.  Right now I've had two winning weeks, and 4 losing weeks this season. That's not a sustainable pace but it's not horrendous.  Given what I've seen from the touts online, I could actually be a lot worse because a lot of them are having to make up stats to claim winning records.  Mine our out there, published, for the world to see. Good, mostly bad this year and occasionally ugly.

Now, onto the bigger picture.

After watching four of the top eight teams in the ridiculously early top 25 listings fall, and the number 1 (Ohio State) and 2 (Sparty) teams only win by 7 and 3 points respectively, I saw one pundit on Twitter admit that we know nothing.  This is true. It also helps explain why rankings prior to November are really just an exercise in guess work.

The biggest question, currently, is who do you put at #1. The sexy pick, this week, is Clemson. They beat an injury depleted Notre Dame team (barely) and their resume is fairly solid. My problem with the Tigers is their history and their coach. Dabo Swinney is more of a cheerleader than an actual HC. I can't see them going undefeated the rest of the way. The second choice is Utah, who have beaten Oregon and Michigan in impressive fashion. While they certainly merit top 4 mention I think we need to see them play a few more weeks to determine just how good they really are.

Even though this is controversial, I still default to Ohio State. The primary reason is that they are the defending champs, and still have not been beaten. In order to be the champ you have to beat the champ and I have a severe problem pulling them out of the top spot as long as they keep winning. People forget, it's not only hard to win on the road but it's doubly hard when you have a giant target on your back and are taking team's best shots each and every week.

Top 4

1. Ohio State
2. TCU
3. Baylor

Next 2: Clemson, LSU

The travails of UT-Austin:

The Longhorns are in trouble. Ignoring how horrible they looked in losing 50-7 to TCU, in Austin, they now have players Tweeting during halftime about transferring to aTm.  I stated, on Twitter, after the game that there were losses, and embarrassments. The Longhorns got embarrassed on Saturday and Coach Charlie Strong seems to be running out of time to turn this mess around. If things don't improve by the OU game, Strong could be gone as early as after that.

Looking forward to next week. The week 7 Five will be out soon.

Houston Texans: A bad loss to the Falcons brings questions, concerns the season is falling away.

It wasn't pretty. In fact, it was pretty damn ugly. The Texans were down 28-0 at halftime before falling behind 42-0 at the end of the 3rd Quarter. In the 4th Quarter, the team replaced struggling QB Ryan Mallett with journeyman Brian Hoyer. Against the Falcon's 2nd and 3rd string defenders Hoyer and the Texans scored 21 straight points before surrendering 6 on Cecil Shorts III fumble, returned for a TD, on the final play of the game as time expired. Even worse, it appears that Shorts was hurt on the play, bringing additional weakness to a WR group that's already pretty thin.

So, offensively, the Texans are a shambles right now. Defensively (projected to be the stronger unit on the team) they're a sieve, and special teams are still a disaster. The Texans got out-coached, outplayed, out-hustled and out-talented by a Falcon's team who is turning things around off of a disaster of a season last year.

This raises the following questions:

Why can the Falcons turn it around but the Texans cannot? 

During the entire history of this team we've heard (from the media) that the Texans are building it the "right" way by not looking for quick fixes but building slowly, incrementally, and getting better every year. Blessed with a fan base whose loyalty doesn't seem to require actual results, the Texans executive office seems content with maintaining the status-quo and not worrying about the bigger-picture things like winning actual games.

Because of this, instead of addressing quarterback which is the team's greatest need, the Texans have made a lot of curious draft picks choosing to pick defensive players in the first round before trying to fix a talent-deficient offense. Without a quality QB (Matt Schaub is the best QB in franchise history, think about that) the Texans have gone from mediocre to worse on offense, while the defense is not doing much this year to stop the other team.

The Falcons can turn it around fast because 1. They have a quality QB and 2. they've drafted wisely. The Texans will never get better until they increase the talent level on this team.

What is the quickest way for the Texans to turn things around?

The answer to this question lies in two parts, one the fans are going to like and one that they won't.

First, Rick Smith needs to go. It was clear watching Hard Knocks this year that he's very soft as a GM, taking a position on a player and then immediately caving when challenged by O'Brien. Whatever O'Brien's strengths, he doesn't have the pedigree in the NFL to earn the ability to "buy his own groceries". The Texans need to bring in a strong personnel guy who can stand up to O'Brien and back him down when they have conflicts over players.

Second, drastic roster changes need to happen.  And by drastic I mean bringing in a new GM, and giving him a mandate to do whatever is necessary to turn this around fast.  The Texans should even go so far as to consider trading JJ Watt for draft picks. I would put Clowney on the block as well. You let Arian Foster go, and basically just blow up this team. You then make a couple of key FA signings, grab a QB in the first round of the draft and use all of the draft picks you received in trades (hopefully in rounds 2-4, or even a 2nd 1st rounder) to bring up the talent level on this team.

This is why Smith needs to go, because he can't be trusted to run a draft. I've outlined his futility in picking players in the 2nd and 3rd rounds and we're already seeing more of it this year as 2nd round WR Jaelen Strong was on the inactive list this year. On a team with virtually no depth at the WR position, him not making the active roster is an indictment on the player evaluation process that Smith has in place.

Is there hope?

Amazingly, there is a slight hope for the Texans still. IF they can stop the bleeding and start playing smart football they have the fortune of playing in the AFC South. This is shaping up to be the worst division in the NFL by a long-shot. At 2-2 the hapless Colts lead the division while Jacksonville, Houston and the Titans all are looking up at one win each.  The Jacksonville Jaguars almost beat the Colts at home today, needing to miss two FG's to lose to Indy 16-13 in Indianapolis. All the Jaguars did last week was lose to the Patriots 51-17.

As bad as the Texans have been, they are still only one game out of first place. While this is a small hope it is a hope. The problem is as follows:  The Colts are still probably much better than the Texans and the Jaguars and Titans might have passed them in terms of talent.

Last place in the AFC South was hardly in the scope of vision for most Texans fans, but it's a possibility they might want to start entertaining.

Things look horrible right now, and let's just hope that the Houston media doesn't try to focus on the 21 meaningless points the Texans scored in the 4th quarter. The fact is, except against the bad Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Texans haven't looked competitive against NFL teams unless it's garbage time.

I said 6-10 to start the season, it's looking more like 4-12 and a high draft pick unless something changes fast.

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