Author: eburling

Big Ten Power Rankings: 1/21/19

I thought about punting on the power rankings this season. Obviously I have so far, wanting to spend more time on gambling-related research. The power rankings blogs are a labor of love, you see. I could spend 10 hours writing this thing and it wouldn’t get half the page views as a “blog” with a couple of cricket picks from the Bangladesh Premier League with no reasoning and no explanation of how and when I started taking an interest in the sixth-best cricket league.

But this league is too good not to write about. I spent every week last season talking about a group of teams that produced four NCAA Tournament participants and only a couple more that reached the NIT. It was brutal. There often weren’t enough candidates for the “Five Best Games to Watch” portion of the blog because there were barely five good teams. It was a rich man’s Pac-12 and I was there every step of the way, hating it.

What I’m trying to say is I deserve this. This blog has never been about you, the reader. It was about me, the self-fellating, spare-time blogger who just needs to be heard. Sure, the precious picks are for you. But the content? The content is mine. It’s just a bonus if you enjoy it.

Now the skeptics may find the timing of the power rankings comeback rather curious. I’ve been very open about my Purdue fandom and, yes, it is very convenient that they’ve been playing a lot better lately and just beat their biggest rival on Saturday.

And for those of you in my brain, it’s also very convenient that Michigan lost this weekend and now I can justify putting Michigan State ahead of them because I’ve thought the Spartans were the better team for the past month or so.

But the truth is, I’m no longer knee-deep in self-assigned spreadsheet work and I have more time.

But enough about me. It’s about the kids.


Seven Stars From the Past Week Twelve Weeks: 

Cassius Winston, Michigan State

Carsen Edwards, Purdue

Michigan

Ethan Happ, Wisconsin

Bruno Fernando, Maryland

Juwan Morgan, Indiana

James Palmer, Nebraska

Five Best Games to Watch This Week:

Maryland at Michigan State, Monday, 6:30 EST, FS1

Purdue at Ohio State, Wednesday, 7:00 EST, BTN

Michigan State at Iowa, Thursday, 7:00 EST, FS1

Michigan at Indiana, Friday, 6:30 EST, FS1

Michigan State at Purdue, Sunday, 1:00 EST, CBS


 

Great

1. Michigan State (NET: 5)

This is far from Tom Izzo’s flashiest team. There’s no household names – although Cassius Winston should be – and there aren’t any surefire lottery picks on the roster. But it might be his most complete team in a while.

It’s the best offense they’ve had since Denzel Valentine graduated, but this one might be even better because they’re much more balanced and have multiple options to score down low. These Spartans are not living and dying by the three like those Valentine teams were.

They also might have the best defense they’ve had since Draymond Green graduated. There’s no Jaren Jackson level of rim protector this year, but as a unit, they’re still the best shot blocking team in the league and they’re the best team nationally when it comes to actually scoring in the paint. If you can’t make perimeter shots against the Spartans, you really don’t have a chance to win the game.

They’ve won three straight road games and buried Purdue at home without the services of Josh Langford, who was averaging 15.0 PPG the first couple of months.

This week: home for Maryland, at Iowa and Purdue

2. Michigan (NET: 6)

Much like their in-state rivals, the Wolverines lack big names on the roster. And also like Spartans, it hasn’t held them back by any measure. They’re as balanced as you could possibly be and they’ve only strengthened their elite defense that led them to the national championship game a year ago.

You can hardly notice that the NC finalist lost three starters from that team. All returnees have raised their game and 30-year-old freshman Ignas Brazdeikis has certainly helped quite a bit, but none has been more significant than Jon Teske becoming one of the better big men in the league.

Teske isn’t the biggest scorer, but he doesn’t have to be with the guys around him. From an offensive standpoint, maybe the most important aspect he brings is that he’s a threat to shoot from outside. Teske had only attempted two three-pointers his first two years in Ann Arbor. He’s now 9-20 from the outside in Big Ten games this year. If the 5 man can shoot in John Beilein’s offense, best of luck guarding that.

Teske also leads the league in blocked shots and is top two in a bunch of defensive analytical categories that I’m sure you don’t care about.

While I think the Spartans have been the better team lately, it’s far from a finished race. While Izzo has historically gotten the praise for his team’s performances in March, it’s been the Wolverines that have turned it on late the past couple of years.

This week: home for Minnesota, at Indiana

Good

3. Maryland (NET: 20)

Most analytical rankings prefer Purdue, Nebraska, and Wisconsin by a hair over the Terps, but they’ve been rolling lately. They’ve won their last three road games by double digits. They’ve held off a big comeback at home against the Badgers and completed one of their own against Indiana. Their only conference loss came on the road by two points against Purdue back in early December.

Anthony Cowan continues to be a picture of consistency and one of the best guards in the league. Bruno Fernando is the star of the show for me, though. He’s one of the best rebounders and shot blockers in the country. He’s also one of the most efficient offensively and his efficiency isn’t just limited to around the basket. And he’s got Jalen Smith right beside him, who does a lot of the same things effectively.

Take those three and toss in a 48% three-point shooter in Eric Ayala and it’s easy to see why this is Mark Turgeon’s best offense at Maryland.

This week: at Michigan State, Illinois in NYC

4. Purdue (NET: 14)

Purdue certainly seems to have turned a corner over the last month, especially defensively as the young guys understand the defense better. It also helps to uncover a walking double-double midseason and use him to replace the worst defensive player on the team. The Trevion Williams for Evan Boudreaux exchange in the lineup has yielded nothing but positive results so far.

The emergence of the freshmen hasn’t just been defensive for the Boilers. They’ve also started to take on bigger roles offensively. That has coincided with a Carsen Edwards usage rate that is trending downward. This can only be viewed as positive. Edwards is a remarkably talented player, but his team is just 1-4 when his usage rate is over 38%.

This week: at Ohio State, home for Michigan State

5. Wisconsin (NET: 16)

The Badgers are a wild ride, man. Their last six games: lost at WKU, lost at home to Minnesota, destroyed Penn State in Happy Valley, lost to Purdue at home in OT, get down by 21 at Maryland and then nearly win the game, and finally, beat 17-0 Michigan at home.

The Badgers are one of the best defensive teams in the country and rarely have a bad game in that department. They also rarely get a bad game from Ethan Happ. Those are two things you can really depend on with them. What’s a little less dependable, but extremely important, is how well the other guys shoot from the perimeter. The only time they’ve shot well and lost was against Purdue. The only times they’ve shot poorly and won games were against Stanford, Rutgers, and Iowa. All three opponents shot worse than Wisconsin.

This isn’t revolutionary. A lot of basketball is just making more shots than your opponent. But outside of Happ, the only other guy in the rotation who doesn’t shoot a lot of threes is Khalil Iverson, who’s only attempts 2.4 shots per game in Big Ten play. If the supporting cast isn’t hitting threes, it’s essentially a one-man offense.

This week: at Illinois, home for Northwestern

6. Iowa (NET: 25)

I’ve never been confused for the world’s biggest fan of this crop of Iowa players, but the offense is undeniably great and they’ve handled business both home and away lately. They’ll certainly rack up a lot of wins this season, but you can’t simply outscore your way to a championship.

That’s the conundrum with Iowa. They’ve had the second best offense in conference play, but also the second worst defense. They have had some of their better performances defensively over these last five games, but we’ll see if that trend continues with home games against the Michigan schools coming up.

This week: home for Michigan, at Minnesota

7. Nebraska (NET: 15)

The analytics seem to support the Huskers more than the win/loss record. I’m not saying Nebraska isn’t a Top 15 team like many of those rankings suggest, but the facts are that they’re 0-4 against Top 25 teams in those same rankings and I would only call one of those games a true toss-up at the finish. They’re just 3-4 in Big Ten play so far.

Of course there’s still a lot to like in Lincoln. Their starting five is about as good as any you’ll find in the conference. Each with a unique skill set, they make quite a quintet. And don’t get me wrong – I love a tight rotation – but outside of those five, the cupboard is pretty bare.

We’ll see if the Huskers prove to be an analytical darling or if they can turn it on and start winning some of these bigger games.

This week: at Rutgers, home for Ohio State

Good Sometimes

8. Indiana (NET: 34)

Indiana’s good enough to make the tournament, but the ceiling is pretty limited unless they have a serious uptick in perimeter shooting. The Hoosiers have a few guys that can knock down wide open set shots, but it’s certainly not a strength of their team. With that said, they have some great finishers around the basket.

The most glaring issue right now has to be the defensive end. Their last four games have been among their worst statistically. Opponent and location play a big factor, but IU wasted their best offensive road performance at Maryland by giving up 18 offensive rebounds.

This week presents some opportunities for them to score some momentum-changing victories and get the ship turned in the right direction again.

This week: at Northwestern, home for Michigan

9. Minnesota (NET: 67)

I’m not sure that the Gophers are really that good, but they’ve avoided any catastrophic losses and racked up a couple nice wins already. But they did almost just lose to Penn State at home. In their defense, the injuries to their role players have started to pile up. In great news, they did get Eric Curry back after missing a year-and-a-half due to knee issues.

The problem for me with the Gophers is…well I don’t know what they’re especially good at. Game-to-game what can you count on? They put up some gaudy rebounding numbers in the non-conference, but that’s been slowed down quite a bit against Big Ten foes.

They haven’t really gotten into the meat of the schedule yet, so we’ll see if Minnesota really has the goods to make the dance when it’s all said and done.

This week: at Michigan, home for Iowa

10. Ohio State (NET: 40)

The Buckeyes need a win bad after losing four straight, punctuated by getting blown out at home by Maryland. The double-edged sword aspect of playing in a conference this competitive is that losses can keep piling up before getting an opportunity to play a weak opponent at home and regain confidence. The positive part of that sword is the sheer number of opportunities to get big wins to put on an NCAA Tournament resume and dig yourself out of a hole.

Issue number one that needs sorted out is the offense. The Buckeyes haven’t eclipsed 62 points in their last three games. Two of those games have come against the two worst defenses in conference play.

They need to get it sorted out quickly. They’re trending in the wrong direction and they won’t be favored to win any of their next three games. It starts with Kaleb Wesson being Kaleb Wesson again and he needs some help from guys like Keyshawn Woods, who need to start playing to their potential.

This week: home for Purdue, at Nebraska

The Rest

11. Northwestern (NET: 60)

The Wildcats aren’t a bad team, but being not bad isn’t enough to legitimately compete in the league this year. They’ll be a tough out at home, but they just don’t have the offensive firepower to hang with good teams on the road.

This week: home for IU, at Wisconsin

12. Illinois (NET: 104)

Thought maybe they had turned a bit of a corner with the blowout win over Minnesota, but then they gave up 95 to Iowa and lost by 24. So maybe not.

This week: home for Wisconsin, Maryland in NYC

13. Penn State (NET: 75)

The Nittany Lions have played a brutal schedule and are probably actually better than Illinois, but I mean, 0-8 is 0-8. The offense is putrid. A Pat Chambers staple.

This week: home for Rutgers

14. Rutgers (NET: 142)

Of all the teams that couldn’t afford losing their top scorer and rebounder to injury, Rutgers has the past couple weeks with the injury to Eugene Omoruyi.

This week: home for Nebraska, at Penn State

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2018-19 CFB Bowl Picks

TCU (pick) over Cal – 4u

This will be far from the prettiest game with two offenses that have been inept for most of the year and defenses that are Top 20 caliber. It’s not the only reason, but if I had to quickly sum up the reason to take the Frogs here, it’s Jalen Reagor.

In a game with a total currently hovering around 40, one or two big plays could make the difference. It’s like an NFL game, only with significantly less talent.

Reagor was productive in the first half of the season, but has really hit his stride on the back nine. He’s had a receiving TD in seven straight games. He’s had a reception of over 30 yards in the last six. His total receiving stat line for the last six games: 35 catches, 629 yards (18.0 YPC), and 6 TDs. The last two games, it finally occurred to Sonny Cumbie that maybe they should run the ball with Reagor as well. He’s had 7 carries for 153 yards and 2 TDs.

Cal doesn’t have that guy. That’s why they’ve only eclipsed 17 points twice since September. Those two outings came against Oregon State and Colorado. Oregon State is one of the worst defenses in the FBS and didn’t hold a single FBS team under 34 points. In the Colorado game, they scored two defensive TDs and had other scoring drives of 8, 29, and 34 yards.

If you’re looking for a reason this could go sideways: special teams. The Frogs are among the worst in the country. Cal’s kicker isn’t anything to write home about, but he’s better than TCU’s and Cal’s punter has the ability to flip the field on his own.

Troy (+3) over Buffalo – 3u
Troy +120 – 1u

I guess a big part of this is feel. To me, Buffalo peaked back in September. They’ve had some blowouts over the worst of the MAC since then, but have laid some big eggs since then in their bigger games. They got steamrolled by Army at home, even more steamrolled at Ohio, and then blew a 19-point, late third quarter lead against NIU in the MAC championship.

Troy led with the egg, a 36-point opening week loss against Boise. Since then, they won at Nebraska, won a huge road game at Georgia Southern, and won comfortably over Sun Belt West champ ULL, who has an explosive passing offense (typically Buffalo’s biggest advantage). Of course they lost to App State to finish the regular season, but App State is App State.

I would expect Troy to be motivated after the AD survived the coaching carousel without losing Neal Brown to a Power 5 program. It’s insane to me Brown hasn’t been hired because he’s one of the best coaches at the G5 level. And he also happens to be 2-0 in bowl games, beating North Texas by 20 last year, and beating veteran coach Frank Solich in Brown’s bowl debut.

It’s Lance Leipold’s first time dealing with the bowl schedule and he has to go face Troy in Alabama.

Army (-3) over Houston – 3u

Two big reasons to like Army here: no Ed Oliver and no D’Eriq King for Houston. Oliver might be the best player in Houston football history and they had a guy win the Heisman once. Other programs might be able to minimize the impact of losing an All-American DT, but it’s clear Houston isn’t one of them.

Oliver was fully healthy the first half of the season. He played parts of five quarters in the second half of the season. Here’s Houston’s run defense in the first six games compared to the last six:

First 6 games: 116 YPG, 2.8 YPC, 9 TDs

Last 6 games: 279 YPG, 5.5 YPC, 25 TDs

Furthermore, despite only playing about 7.25 games, Oliver still leads the team in TFLs and is just a half tackle behind the leader in run stuffs.

That all seems pretty important against a team that ranks second in the country with 297 rushing yards per game.

In case you’re unaware, D’Eriq King is Houston’s QB and the unofficial mayor of Electric City.

Image result for electric city the office

King accounted for 3,730 yards of offense, 50 TDs, and just 6 turnovers in his 10+ games of action. His replacement – freshman Clayton Tune – has been okay, but has shown himself to be inaccurate so far and not quite as dynamic of a runner as King.

Army’s faced quite a few spread, pass-happy offenses this year (Oklahoma, Buffalo, Miami (OH), Hawaii, Liberty, SJSU) and has held them to an average of 17 points per game. Army’s defense isn’t elite, but the ball control of the offense helps them by keeping the opposing offenses out of a rhythm.

Jeff Monken is 2-0 in bowl games, beating a really good San Diego State team last year. Major Applewhite is 0-2, losing by 24 as a 3.5 point favorite and by 6 as a 2.5 point favorite.

Wisconsin (+4) over Miami – 3u
Wisconsin +165 – 1u

Obviously the teams are a little bit different (worse), but I mean, they just played in the Orange Bowl last year. The one that’s played in Miami. And Wisconsin won by 10 points. A year later they meet again and all the Florida boys are heading up to play a physical Wisconsin team in New York City during the dead of winter.

Miami’s defense is still very good, but keep in mind that they haven’t played one S&P+ Top 40 team since they got rolled in Week 1 by LSU. And Wisconsin can run on anybody and they do it efficiently. The Badgers average 268 rushing yards per game, they’ve only been held under 200 twice all year, and their lowest YPC in a single game is 4.7. The national AVERAGE is 5.2 YPC.

The passing game isn’t nearly as bad as its made out to be. It’s still decidedly not good and Hornibrook has his problems, but that didn’t stop him from throwing for 258 yards and 4 TDs against the Canes last year.

Miami’s passing game is actually marginally worse and won’t be helped by the fact that their best WR – Jeff Thomas – decided to leave the team and transfer. The running game started out really well this year – aside from the LSU game – but they’ve fallen off since September. The offense as a whole as only eclipsed 350 total yards once since the calendar turned to October.

Michigan State (+3) over Oregon – 2u
Michigan State +135 – 1u

Consider this a bet on Mark Dantonio and an elite defense. Dantonio has won five of his last six bowl games, four of them as an underdog, and four of them with spreads of three points or less. I’d say this is a pretty good spot for him.

On the flip side, the Ducks are 0-3 SU, 0-3 ATS their last three bowl games. They were favorites in all of them. They failed to cover the spread by an average of 19.3 PPG.

And yes, the MSU offense has been a trainwreck, but that defense can keep them in any game. They haven’t given up more than 30 since Week 1. They haven’t given up 400 yards of offense since Week 2. Only one team has run effectively and efficiently against them all year. They’ve held six of their last seven opponents under 20 points on offense and that includes Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Nebraska, and Maryland. They’re pretty good.

The offense has been garbage, especially after some injuries. However, I can’t help but think they won’t be improved after time for some of their many injured players to heal and 15 bowl practices with a really good coaching staff.

Louisiana Tech (+110) over HAWAII – 2u

Hawaii essentially can only win one way and that’s by throwing for a ton of yards. No one has completely shut down their passing game, but that’s not really necessary. You just have to make them work for it. They average about 50 yards less per game when they lose and one less yard per attempt.

And that’s exactly what LA Tech can do. They haven’t given up 300 yards of passing yards once this season. Their opponents average less than 200 yards. They only give up 6.2 YPA, which is good enough to be Top 25 in the country.

Wake Forest (+5) over Memphis – 2u
Wake Forest +180 – 1u

I’m a big Dave Clawson guy, always have been.  I also believe his run defense has greatly improved over the second half of the season and that’s a big key against Darrell Henderson.

But if you’re a trends guy, this game’s for you. Here’s how each team has fared ATS on the road and at home this year

Memphis at home: +6.3 points per game ATS
Memphis on the road: -11.1 points per game ATS

Wake at home: -12.6 points per game ATS
Wake on the road: +19.5 points per game ATS

It’s not a home game for either, but obviously this signifies that Wake is a much better team playing away from their home stadium.

Furthermore, it’s a limited sample size, but bowl performances by each HC at their current schools:

Dave Clawson: 2-0, +9.0 points per game ATS
Mike Norvell: 0-2, -9.0 points per game ATS

Northern Illinois (+3, -125) over UAB – 2u
NIU +120 – 1u

If you’re a big fan of people getting sacked, buddy, this is a game for you. These are two of the Top 5 teams in sack rate this year. You are not going to see elite QB play.

Reasons I like NIU a little more in this one:

  1. They have a better chance to run the ball successfully
  2. I trust Marcus Childers to handle pressure better and make more plays with his legs than whoever ends up taking snaps for UAB
  3. NIU’s been more regularly tested by decent teams this year than UAB

Does Rod Carey’s 0-5 bowl record scare me a little bit? Yes, yes it does. In his defense, they’ve played some really good teams. My worries are also a little bit soothed by Bill Clark losing his only bowl game by 35.

Western Michigan (+12) over BYU – 2u
WMU +375 – 0.5u

This is largely based in analytical research, but it’s aided by the fact that Corbin Kaufusi isn’t playing. Corbin has 8.5 sacks this year. The next closest on BYU’s roster has 2.0. His brother Isaiah – the third leading tackler (Corbin is second) – sounds pretty doubtful based on what Kalani Sitake had to say on Tuesday. It also seems like WMU is being docked for losing their starting QB, but I’ve watched a lot of Kaleb Eleby the last couple weeks and he’s more than capable of running the show.

UCF (+7.5) over LSU – 1u
UCF +250 – 0.5u

UCF is pretty good at winning games, in case you haven’t heard.

YTD: 72-68 (+8.4u)

 

2018 CFB Season Total Recap

Well it wasn’t quite the banner year of 2017, but I’m happy to report that we once again turned a profit this year with the season win totals. Much like the weekly picks, the biggest plays were horrendous, but a steady middle carried us to the land of green.

The end result: 12-9-2, +3.2*

Here’s the pick-by-pick result with a little commentary on each of them:

5*

FAU over 8.5 (-120) – LOSS (-6*)

Just a really disappointing season for the Owls and an embarrassing bet for yours truly. FAU wasn’t able to repeat the total domination of the C-USA again this year. A couple instances of poor capping by myself here. For one, I really regretted not betting the over with the boys of Boca last year and let that bleed over into my evaluation this year. The C-USA was also one of the last conferences I analyzed and in the back of my head I knew I hadn’t had a 5* play and kind of wanted one for blog purposes and forced it a bit here. Just a bad bet by me and a lesson to remember next year.

4*

ECU under 3.5 (-130) – WIN (+4*)

I got a little nervous when the Pirates cleaned UNC’s clock in Week 2, but alas, they still ended up 3-9 with a bunch of blowout losses. Scottie Montgomery deservedly was fired after the season.

Florida State over 8 (-125) – LOSS (-5*)

This started horribly with that opening Monday night loss to VT at home and never got that much better. Although I did see a glimmer of hope after Bobby Petrino gifted them a win at Louisville and the Noles came out hot against Miami the next week. A win against the Canes would’ve gotten them to 4-2. FSU let that one get away and then got trounced four times in the second half of the season. If I take them again next year, somebody just take the blog away from me.

Maryland over 5 (-145) – PUSH (0*)

Better than a loss, but a two-point loss to Indiana and a one-point loss to Ohio State on a failed two-point conversion during the last three weeks makes this feel like a loser. Of course I bet this before all the Durkin stuff happened, so I would’ve absolutely taken a push if offered the opportunity back in late August.

3*

Buffalo over 6.5 (-140) – WIN (+3*)

The Bulls went 10-2 and nearly won the MAC. One of the easiest wins of the year.

CMU over 4.5 (+120) – LOSS (-3*)

Another colossal failure. My mantra of “John Bonamego just wins football games” turned out to be wildly inaccurate as the Chips went 1-11 and my boy Bonamego got his walking papers. We’ll always have 2017, John-Boy.

Duke over 6 (-135) – WIN (+3*)

Pretty much your typical Blue Devils season. They were great in the underdog role and laid some massive eggs as the favorite. Fortunately, they started 4-0 and did enough in ACC play to scratch out seven wins.

Florida over 8 (+110) – WIN (+3.3*)

Yeah, I had a lot of doubts when the Gators lost to Kentucky for the first time in a thousand years during Week 2. Luckily they responded by winning five straight and adding three more to cap the season. As always, always take the over with a Mullen team. See you next year, Dan.

Illinois under 4 (-140) – PUSH (0*)

They somehow blew the doors off Minnesota in the first week of November to get this to a push. The Gophers beat Wisconsin and Minnesota by a combined 53 points in the course of the next three weeks. I’m not sure why I keep trying to predict what’s going to happen in this sport.

Iowa over 7.5 (even) – WIN (+3*)

In a shocking turn of events, a Kirk Ferentz team went 8-4. It could’ve been much better if the Hawks were a little better in late-game situations, but you can’t fight fate. And fate says that Iowa has to go 8-4.

LSU under 7 (-110) – LOSS (-3.3*)

I apologize to Coach O and Steve Ensminger for doubting them, although I’ve still got my eye on you, Ensminger.

Michigan State over 8.5 (-125) – LOSS (-3.75*)

If you would’ve told me at the start of the year that the Spartans would end up 2nd in Defensive S&P+, I probably would’ve made this a 4 or 5 star bet. That’s what MSU did and yet, they still end up 7-5. Why? The offense ranks 114th. WOOF. I don’t know what happened to Brian Lewerke, but he regressed into one of the league’s worst QBs this season and the running game was non-existent.

Nebraska under 6.5 (+110) – WIN (+3.3*)

I needed the Huskers to lose six games and…they started 0-6. Good thing, too, because they improved quite a bit the second half of the season. We’ll see what the total is next year, but I’m sure the over will be popular.

Ole Miss under 6 (-105) – WIN (+3*)

Special thanks to the Rebels for finishing the season 0-5. Your service did not go unnoticed. Extra thanks to the defense, who didn’t hold a single SEC team under 30 points.

Pitt over 5 (-140) – WIN (+3*)

YOUR 2018 ACC COASTAL DIVISION CHAMPION PITT PANTHERS.

Temple over 6.5 (-125) – WIN (+3*)

Talk about a damn rollercoaster. The Owls opened up the year with home losses to FCS Villanova and Temple. I was ready to throw in the towel and was even cheering for them to sacrifice themselves and lose to Buffalo and Maryland to help out my other bets. But they beat Maryland on their way to winning eight of ten to finish the year. Their only other losses were at UCF and BC. Once again, a change at QB turned the Temple season around.

Tennessee under 5.5 (-110) – WIN (+3*)

The Vols made me nervous a little bit. They were 5-5 with two weeks to go and two winnable games on the schedule. Thankfully, they lost those games by a combined 58 and the ticket cashes. I’m still not sure how to feel about the Jeremy Pruitt era in Knoxville. They showed flashes this year, but ultimately their defense failed them, which is Pruitt’s expertise.

Texas under 8.5 (+125) – LOSS (-3*)

It ends up being a loss, as the Longhorns went 9-3, but they did win six one-score games this year. Chances are you’ll find me on the under once again next year.

UCLA over 5.5 (+105) – LOSS (-3*)

The 0-5 start ended the dream quickly. Chipper needs his guys.

UMass over 5.5 (-120) – LOSS (-3.6*)

I’d make the excuse that Andrew Ford got hurt, but Ross Comis was actually quite good and perhaps even better than Ford. The truth is that the defense was a total trainwreck.

UNC under 5.5 (+125) – WIN (+3.75*)

Nothing sweeter than winning a plus-money total by 3.5 games. The Heels lost some close games, but they were truly awful this year. But hey! Good news UNC fans! You get your old coach back! And I mean old. Like 67 years old. The one who’s been spewing nonsense on ESPN for the last five years and peaked as a coach a decade ago. Congrats!

Utah State over 7.5 (-115) – WIN (+3*)

The Aggies went 10-2 and the only losses were close ones on the road against Michigan State and Boise. Not bad.

Wyoming over 6.5 (-150) – LOSS (-4.5*)

The Cowboys ended up 6-6. The schedule was tougher than anticipated, as they ended up facing five Top-30 teams, which they went 0-5 against. The loss that was the backbreaker was a 17-13 defeat to Hawaii. Unfortunately, their lack of offense is probably the reason they’ll watch bowl season from home, despite being eligible.

2018-19 Bowl Rankings: Watchability

An annual tradition. I think overall it’s a pretty good slate this year. Of course we’ll make it better with some bets at some point.

39. Tulane vs. UL-Lafayette
AutoNation Cure Bowl
2:30 p.m. ET, CBSSN, Dec. 15
Orlando

I’m not telling you this is a great game, but the fact it’s last means there’s nothing truly awful on the bowl slate. ULL has a pretty good offense. Tulane has a decent defense. It could be worse.

38. Georgia Southern vs. Eastern Michigan
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, Dec. 15
Montgomery, AL

EMU insists on playing nothing but close games, so it should at least be competitive.

37. FIU vs. Toledo
Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl
12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, Dec. 21
Nassau, Bahamas

Toledo’s got a great offense. It’s a Friday afternoon in the Bahamas before a long Christmas weekend.

36. Western Michigan vs. BYU
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
4 p.m. ET, ESPN, Dec. 21
Boise, ID

This should probably be lower, but the game will be on when you get home from work on that same Friday heading into Christmas weekend.

35. Arkansas State vs. Nevada
NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl 
1:15 p.m. ET, CBSSN, Dec. 29
Tucson, AZ

Nevada kind of fizzled at the end, but Justice Hansen vs. Ty Gangi is an underrated QB matchup.

34. Louisiana Tech vs. Hawaii
SoFi Hawai’i Bowl

10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, Dec. 22
Honolulu

It’s not on Christmas Eve because the NFL ruins everything, but it’s still a Saturday night in Hawaii and the home team is involved.

33. Marshall vs. South Florida
Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl

8 p.m. ET, ESPN, Dec. 20
Tampa, FL

This would be a better matchup in years past, but it’s still something to satisfy your Thursday Night Football needs with no NFL game that week.

32. UAB vs. Northern Illinois
Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl

7 p.m. ET, ESPN, Dec. 18
Boca Raton, FL

Two great defenses doing battle in Boca. You should watch for NIU DE Sutton Smith alone.

31. Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech
Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman

Noon ET, ESPN, Dec. 31
Annapolis, MD

Virginia Tech might be one of my least favorite teams to watch, but Cinci has had a great year and it’d be cool to see them finish it with a win over a Power 5 team.

30. Temple vs. Duke
Walk-On’s Independence Bowl

1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, Dec. 27
Shreveport, LA

This is probably too high for a Thursday afternoon game in Shreveport, but both teams have occasional outbursts on offense.

29. Minnesota vs. Georgia Tech
Quick Lane Bowl

5:15 p.m. ET, ESPN, Dec. 26
Detroit

Tough to sell this one, but it should be pretty close. And it won’t last long. Lotta running plays. Probably some talk about oars in water. Paul Johnson’s last game.

28. Baylor vs. Vanderbilt
Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl

9 p.m. ET, ESPN, Dec. 27
Houston

This is probably too high. But not for nothing, both teams have reason to be pretty excited just to make it.

27. South Carolina vs. Virginia
Belk Bowl

Noon ET, ABC, Dec. 29
Charlotte, NC

I guess the appeal here is you’ve got a team from Virginia, a team from South Carolina, and they’re playing in North Carolina. Bryce Perkins is fun. Everybody likes Deebo.

26. Memphis vs. Wake Forest
Jared Birmingham Bowl

Noon ET, ESPN, Dec. 22
Birmingham, AL

This is probably too low if you’re one of those people that enjoys a ton of offense and optional defense. Because that’s what this is gonna be.

25. Houston vs. Army
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl

3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, Dec. 22
Fort Worth, TX

This would be a lot more fun if we were able to watch and see what Ed Oliver could do against the nation’s best option attack. But all is not lost. D’Eriq King and the Houston offense should provide enough entertainment.

24. San Diego State vs. Ohio
DXL Frisco Bowl

8 p.m. ET, ESPN, Dec. 19
Frisco, TX

Two of the most consistent Group of 5 programs doing battle on a Wednesday night in Frisco. What more could you ask for? Juwan Washington is back and that Ohio defense is vulnerable. Ohio’s got their own pair of dominant backs and a 5’9″ leading receiver named Papi.

23. Buffalo vs. Troy
Dollar General Bowl

7 p.m. ET, ESPN, Dec. 22
Mobile, AL

We’ll see if Neal Brown is still the Troy HC by then, but another good Group of 5 matchup. The men of Troy have a stellar defense and they’ll be pitted up against a great MAC offense.

22. Middle Tennessee vs Appalachian State
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
9 p.m. ET, ESPN, Dec. 15
New Orleans

Brent Stockstill vs. Zac Thomas to cap off the first day of bowls.

21. California vs. TCU
Cheez-It Bowl

9 p.m. ET, ESPN, Dec. 26
Phoenix

Well, you’re not going to get a bunch of scoring. Part of that is poor offense, but a lot has to do with two really good defenses. With the game being in Phoenix, we could have multiple Gary Patterson wardrobe changes. You should at least tune in to watch Jalen Raegor because Jalen Raegor is a freak show.

20. Miami vs. Wisconsin
New Era Pinstripe Bowl

5:15 p.m. ET, ESPN, Dec. 27
New York

It’s last year’s Orange Bowl, only the teams are worse, and somehow the QBs have regressed. Quite the sell, I know.

19. Northwestern vs. Utah
San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl

7 p.m. ET, FS1, Dec. 31
San Diego

They’d probably get more viewers if they just let Pat Fitzgerald and Kyle Whittingham mud wrestle at mid-field, but I guess we’ll settle for the football. You can watch just to form a half-baked opinion on Clayton Thorson before the draft.

18. NC State vs. Texas A&M
TaxSlayer Gator Bowl

7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, Dec. 31
Jacksonville

I’m sure for some of you this will be pre-game material before you go sin all over the city for NYE. Personally, it’ll be the main attraction as I sin on my couch. Maybe the greatest thing about reaching my late-20s was no longer feeling the pressure to wildly overpay for everything associated with NYE.

17. Stanford vs. Pittsburgh
Hyundai Sun Bowl

2 p.m. ET, CBS, Dec. 31
El Paso, TX

It just occurred to me that Bryce Love probably won’t play, but whatever. You can still watch JJAW. Pitt will probably do some wild Pitt things, commit a bunch of penalties and whatnot.

16. Boston College vs. Boise State
SERVPRO First Responder Bowl 

1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, Dec. 26
Dallas

I don’t know why this intrigues me so much, but it does for some reason. Maybe it’s Boise going against a Power 5 team. Maybe it’s AJ Dillon. Maybe it’s because this game will be my only reprieve from work the day after Christmas. It’s definitely that one.

15. Michigan State vs. Oregon
Redbox Bowl

3 p.m. ET, Fox, Dec. 31
Santa Clara

Yeah this is definitely too high, but it’s too late to go back now.

14. Kentucky vs. Penn State
VRBO Citrus Bowl

1 p.m. ET, ABC, Jan. 1
Orlando

There’s a lot of fun players in this game, but I’m not sure it’ll really produce much scoring. These are two great defenses. If Kentucky gets a little creative with the playbook, this might end up being one of the better games. If they don’t, this game might end up like 17-12 and it’s gonna suck.

13. Purdue vs. Auburn
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, Dec. 28
Nashville

I can’t imagine Auburn is fired up to play in the Music City Bowl, especially with all of the drama surrounding Gus Malzahn right now.

12. North Texas vs. Utah State
New Mexico Bowl

2 p.m. ET, ESPN, Dec. 15
Albuquerque

Jordan Love. Mason Fine. Opening Day.

11. Mississippi State vs. Iowa
Outback Bowl

Noon ET, ESPN2, Jan. 1
Tampa

Mississippi State has been peaking at the end of the year. Iowa is playing in what I have to imagine is their 10th straight Outback Bowl. Hard not to love any bowl game that has mascots like this:

1592.jpg

#TeamBloominOnion

10. Fresno State vs. Arizona State
Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl

3:30 p.m. ET, ABC, Dec. 15
Las Vegas

I’m excited to watch the Bulldogs try to take down a Power 5 team after they couldn’t through at Minnesota early in the year. Plus, we get Herm and N’Keal Harry (please play, N’Keal).

9. LSU vs. UCF
PlayStation Fiesta Bowl

1 p.m. ET, ESPN, Jan. 1
Glendale, AZ

UCF vs. the SEC, part two. It’s not as exciting as last year because it’s not as fresh and McKenzie Milton won’t be playing, but it’ll certainly generate some conversation. If UCF wins, I’m sure the excuses will be locked and loaded again for SEC nation.

8. Florida vs. Michigan
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

Noon ET, ESPN, Dec. 29
Atlanta

It’s not peak Florida vs. Michigan, but it’s still a heavyweight matchup. Not a bad warmup to the playoffs. Maybe Harbaugh can redeem himself for that colossal failure against South Carolina last year.

7. Texas vs. Georgia
Allstate Sugar Bowl

8:45 p.m. ET, ESPN, Jan. 1
New Orleans

This game could end up being a blowout, but if it doesn’t, we’ve got some real strong “TEXAS IS BACK, FOLKS” potential.

6. Iowa State vs. Washington State
Valero Alamo Bowl

9 p.m. ET, ESPN, Dec. 28
San Antonio

If you’ve read this blog before, you know the Alamo Bowl has a special place in my heart. This year it’s also occurring on a Friday night. Maybe neither of these teams is the most exciting, but there is a high chance for things to get weird with Leach, the Minshew mustache, and Iowa State’s 12 quarterbacks.

5. West Virginia vs. Syracuse
Camping World Bowl

5:15 p.m. ET, ESPN, Dec. 28
Orlando

Points.

4. Missouri vs. Oklahoma State
AutoZone Liberty Bowl

3:45 p.m. ET, ESPN, Dec. 31
Memphis

Points.

3. Washington vs. Ohio State
Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual

5 p.m. ET, ESPN, Jan. 1
Pasadena

Prestige.

2. Clemson vs. Notre Dame
College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic 

4 p.m. ET, ESPN, Dec. 29
Arlington

Playoffs.

1. Alabama vs. Oklahoma
College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl

8 p.m. ET, ESPN, Dec. 29
Miami

Playoffs.

2018 CFB Picks: Championship Week

Georgia (+13.5) over Alabama – 3u
Georgia +415 – 0.5u

I don’t feel great about it, but their seasons don’t suggest this much difference outside of how each of them played at LSU. The line is begging you to take Alabama.

If there’s a “weakness” anywhere its Georgia’s run defense. It’s a concern, but the Tide RB’s really haven’t hit that many home runs this year. They’ve been fairly average when they’ve played really good defenses. The Tide have blown out everybody this year, but they haven’t played a team as balanced on both sides of the ball as Georgia.

Every relevant analytical power ranking will tell you that Georgia is a Top 3 team. Out of principle, you should be taking them with this many points in any scenario. Alabama may be one of the greatest teams ever, but they haven’t had to prove it against an elite team yet.

Fresno State (+3, -120) over BOISE STATE – 2u
Fresno +120 – 1u

I’m gonna be honest, this makes me wildly uncomfortable. I leaned toward Boise State three weeks ago when this game happened. But the line was five points different. Yes, it’s across zero, I know. Boise ended up winning that game, but it was far from convincing.

At this point, the fear of playing on the blue turf has to be wearing off for Fresno. This will be their third trip to Boise in less than a calendar year. I think that matters. The Broncos have one of the biggest home field advantages in CFB, but that diminishes with this much repetition.

Fresno has to still be upset with how that game went three weeks ago. They held the lead heading into the fourth quarter and let it slip away. They’ve been the better team this year. It helps that Boise’s defense has been pretty well beat up the past few weeks.

CAL (+3, +105) over Stanford – 2u
Cal +150 – 1u

I took Cal at +2 two weeks ago when this was originally scheduled. Now I get an additional key point and I’m not giving juice based on…Stanford barely escaping a shootout with UCLA and Cal beating Colorado by two scores. I will say the Colorado game was closer than the score indicated, but Cal’s just done whatever it takes to win this year. This game feels like it just means a lot more to the Bears. Stanford has been a disappointment all year, especially defensively, and I’d expect Cal to pull everything out of the playbook to win this one.

Utah (+5.5) over Washington – 2u
Utah +185 – 1u

I’ll start by saying that Washington won at Utah 21-7 back in September. It certainly gives one pause, but that was a couple months ago and the Utes bottomed out in September. Since then, they’ve only played one bad game and that was the game Tyler Huntley broke his collar bone at Arizona State. Jason Shelley was bad in relief, but has been playing at a similar level to Huntley as a starter.

There really hasn’t been much separation between the two teams the past couple months. At the most, you’d say UW should be favored by a point or two. The difference between Huntley and Shelley isn’t much, if any, and certainly doesn’t justify the Utes being close to touchdown dogs. Shelley may struggle to throw the ball against UW’s elite pass defense, but his ability to tuck it and run might be the difference in what should be a low scoring game.

And maybe most importantly, it’s never a bad idea to take Kyle Whittingham as an underdog. The Utes are 13-3-1 ATS as a dog the last five years.

YTD: 69-63 (+8.9u)

 

 

 

2018 CFB Picks: Week 13

I’ve tried to remain as quiet as I can this year on what’s been a very lopsided number of marginally bad-to-bad-to-all-time horrific bad beats, but nothing sums it up quite like this past week’s Air Force/Wyoming game where I had Air Force:

All of that was happening while I was at a Charleston rooftop bar with some of the most important, influential people in my life. And to top it off Purdue was in the middle of a meltdown. Not even going to mention the SMU and ULM losses.

I remained calm because I know these types of things come back around, which is why I live by the code of #NeverApologize when you’re on the winning side of a bad beat. Let’s hope that the tides turn in our favor this week.

Better yet, let’s hope these all cover by 30. It’s the last week of the season, everyone deserves happiness.

Luckily, we already started off with a big win with Western Michigan.

 

TCU (+5) over Oklahoma State – 4u
TCU +170 – 1u

Oklahoma State has seemingly nothing to play for. They’ve clinched their bowl birth, they’re coming off two emotional games with rival OU and WVU, and they’re heading out on the road with a battered Justice Hill at RB. TCU is 5-6 and they’re playing for a bowl game. Gary Patterson has missed a bowl game just twice in his 17 years as a head coach. Grayson Muehlstein will be fine at QB for the Frogs. It hasn’t been a strength position all year and Muehlstein honestly might be their best player at the position so far. The Cowboys have laid eggs at Baylor and Kansas State on the road and without much reason for motivation this week, I don’t see why you ride them here.

MTSU (+3) over UAB – 3u
MTSU +135 – 1u

UAB has the C-USA West all wrapped up and this game means nothing to them. MTSU absolutely has to have this game to have a chance at the East. Brent Stockstill is in his final home game.

WISCONSIN (-10.5) over Minnesota – 3u

The line is kind of stinky and Minnesota is playing for a bowl game…however, the Gophers have been routinely roasted by teams that can run all year. Illinois hung 55 on them, Nebraska had 53, Iowa had 48, and Maryland had 42. Three of those games were on the road. PJ Fleck can’t clap his way to win this game.

Stanford (-6.5) over UCLA – 3u

I like UCLA and think they are headed in the right direction, but their games against top 30 teams have resulted in losses of 31, 28, 24, and 7 points this year. The unscheduled bye last week helps Stanford this week. JJ Arcega-Whiteside returns to the lineup and he’s a big difference maker. UCLA may be improving, but they’re still soft in the trenches and I think they get bullied by Stanford.

Troy (+10.5) over APP STATE – 3u
Troy +330 – 0.5u

Essentially, I think Troy has come on really strong in the second half of the season. The metrics/lines are still relying upon App State’s blazing start and the Sun Belt East is on the line in this one. If you went on the past month or so of play, Troy would only be a dog of less than a touchdown.

OLE MISS (+13) over Mississippi State – 2u
Ole Miss +400 – 0.5u

This is all Ole Miss has to play for and they can get some big plays against this defense. Whether the Rebels cover or not is going to come down to how efficient they are in the red zone.

FIU (+3, -105) over Marshall – 2u
FIU +140 – 1u

Another huge game in terms of the C-USA race and FIU has to put up or shut up at home. Marshall’s defense is superior here, but when it really boils down to it, football tends to come down to QBs. I’ll take FIU’s James Morgan who has a 26-5 TD-INT ratio with a 65% completion percentage against the young Isaiah Green who has a 12-7 TD-INT ratio with a 54% completion percentage. I think Morgan will make more plays in a big game.

Washington (+3) over WASHINGTON STATE – 2u
Washington +130 – 1u

I so badly want to believe in the Cougs, Mike Leach, and Gardner Minshew. However, I can’t deny how much their offense plays into Washington’s scheme defensively. The Huskies love when you aim short and hope for a play. They’re one of the nation’s best when it comes to hunkering down when it becomes a scoring opportunity. On the other side, it’s a game for Myles Gaskin. Wazzu is just not as solid in the trenches as you’d like defensively, and for as much as a I doubt Jake Browning as a big-time QB, he can do enough to keep the Cougs off balance. The Huskies have won five straight with the last three coming by an average of 30 points.

AIR FORCE (-14.5) over Colorado State – 2u
AFA/CSU Over 63 – 1u

Neither has really anything to play for in terms of the postseason, but it’s senior day for Air Force and they’re a prideful bunch. With that said, both offense match up well with the defenses here and I think we should see some points.

Colorado (+12.5) over CAL – 2u
Colorado +380 – 0.5u

I wouldn’t say Buff players were happy Mikey Mac got fired, but they seemed happy that the burden was off their shoulders. They now get to play carefree with a bowl game on the line and they face a Cal team that really struggles to put points on the board.

YTD: 61-54 (+5.15u)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018 CFB Picks: Week 12

Gonna keep it real brief this week. The MLs have been helping me personally this year, just haven’t posted them, so I’ll add them this week.

3 Units

Bowling Green (+7) over AKRON
Bowling Green +230 (0.5u)

It would help if Kato Nelson doesn’t play, but it’s not like the Zips offense is any good with him in there anyway. I think BGSU has had a boost since Jinks got fired and they’ve got the offense to make this a game and potentially steal one.

Air Force (+3, -120) over WYOMING
Air Force +115 (1u)

Wyoming has had a nice streak in this series, but the only thing the Cowboys are actually good at is defending the pass and that’s really not an important trait against an option team. The Cowboys are 4-6 and the best team they’ve beat is 118th in the country, according to S&P+.

SMU (+8.5) over Memphis
SMU +295 (0.5u)

I’ll continue to ride the SMU train. They got backdoored last weekend, but it was still a hell of an offensive performance. They can score on Memphis, who’s been pretty poor on the road all year.

SOUTHERN MISS (+3, -120) over Louisiana Tech
Southern Miss +120 (1u)

Not sure why Southern Miss are home dogs in this one. Their starting QB is probably still out, but the backup has been better than the numbers indicate. Keep in mind that his two starts have come against Top 20 defenses nationally, according to S&P+. The Golden Eagles beat Marshall and lost to UAB on the road by three in those two performances. Not sure how you consider the backup – Tate Whatley – a detriment at this point.

2 Units

CAL (+2) over Stanford
Cal +115 (1u)

Cal’s pass defense should be able to slow down the Cardinal, especially with a hobbled, or potentially absent, JJ Arcega-Whiteside. Bears have held their last four opponents to 12.5 PPG and those opponents included Washington, Washington State, and USC. The offense has its struggles, but this Stanford D is not your older brother’s Stanford D.

TCU (+2) over BAYLOR
TCU +115 (1u)

Yeah sure, the Frogs 47-10 loss at West Virginia was ugly last week, but perhaps you caught Baylor’s 58-14 loss to the Mountaineers a couple weeks before. Neither team is a real prize, but I can at least trust TCU’s defense against a non-elite offense. And that’s really the only unit I trust out there. The Frogs are having a down year, but a big part of that is some horrendous turnover luck. That can’t last forever.

UL-Monroe (+8.5) over ARKANSAS STATE
ULM +270 (0.5u)

Both teams have been on fire lately. The winner puts itself in a good position to win the Sun Belt West. Arkansas State was a bit stronger early in the season, but if you based this line off the past month, it’d be a three point spread at the most.

1 Unit

OKLAHOMA (-35, -120) over Kansas
OKLAHOMA/Kansas under 69

I think it’s hard to lose both of these because I just don’t think Kansas can score enough, despite some of Oklahoma’s troubles defensively. The past three games between these two have looked like this in Norman: 56-3, 44-7, 52-7. KU hasn’t scored 20 points in a game against Oklahoma in its last eight meetings. Sooners will score. They always do.

YTD: 53-46 (+3.4u)

 

 

 

2018 CFB Picks: Week 11

4 Units

NC STATE (-16.5) over Wake Forest 

Against teams in the Top 75 of CFB this season, Wake is 0-5, losing by a margin of 26.8 PPG. Four of those games were at home. Now they head out on the road against an NC State team that has been rock steady at home. And they do it without their starting QB, Sam Hartman.

And that’s a shame for the Deacs because one area where you can really take advantage of the Pack is in the passing game. While Hartman wasn’t exactly an elite passer, he at least had been building experience. He’s replaced by Jamie Newman, who is 9-19 for 83 yards, 0 TDs, and 2 INTs for his career. This will be his first start. And he doesn’t even have a full week to prepare. This game is Thursday night in Raleigh. While the pass defense isn’t great as a whole, they do get after the QB and it could be a night full of duress for Newman.

It’s hard to expect the run game to bail Newman out. NC State has an elite run defense, holding five of their last six opponents under 100 rushing yards, only allowing 2.8 YPC in that timeframe.

Defensively, the Deacs just don’t do much well. It’s hard to find a strength. They’ll be up against one of the best QBs in the nation in Ryan Finley and an offense that has put up 88 points the last two weeks against better defenses than Wake’s.

Maryland (+3) over INDIANA  

This feels like a lot of credit for an Indiana team that’s played one decent game since the middle of September. They’ve been sliding since that time. Here’s their Percentile Performance and national ranking over the season, according to S&P+:

Indiana

As you can see, it’s been a steady decline for the Hoosiers since starting Big Ten play after facing a pretty soft non-conference schedule. Maryland on the other hand, has been the most predictable roller coaster in the country.

Maryland

As you can see, the same team doesn’t show up two weeks in a row. The reason for liking the Terps this week isn’t just that they’re coming off a poor performance, it’s that all of those games where they were under 78% came against teams that are currently Top 40ish. Indiana is not that right now.

Maryland has a hard time scoring if they can’t run the ball, but they should be able to do that against IU. The Hoosiers are about average against the run, but they’ve given up over 4.5 YPC in each of the last three games.

On the other side, Indiana has lacked any type of big plays on offense. Explosive plays may be a big factor in this game. Indiana ranks 123rd on offense and 87th on defense, while Maryland ranks 5th on offense and 16th on defense. In what figures to be a game played in the 20’s, those big chunk plays could be the difference.

Also what has to worry you if you’re Indiana, despite throwing a lot of shorter routes, Peyton Ramsey has been prone to interceptions. He’s thrown ten for the season and five of those have come in the last three games. The Terps have intercepted more passes than anybody else this season. Again, the potential for game-changing plays.

3 Units

MINNESOTA (+12.5) over Purdue 

Purdue’s in a similar situation it was two weeks ago. They were coming off a big home win over Ohio State and headed out on the road to Michigan State and looked awful. Now they’re coming off another big home win over Iowa.

It’s possible that Purdue learned its lesson after the MSU game and beating Iowa didn’t cause the same week-long party that Ohio State did, but there are some matchups that will also help Minnesota in this game.

Purdue has an explosive offense, but they’re a pass-heavy oriented team. They’re not incapable of running, but they just kinda choose not to most of the time. That negates some of what’s Minnesota’s biggest flaw: stopping the run. The Gophers have had some atrocious defensive games, but the worst have come against run-heavy teams with a dual-threat QB: Illinois, Nebraska, and Maryland. They gave up 48 points to Iowa, but that was largely a function of four offensive turnovers. The Hawkeyes only averaged 5.3 yards per play, which is below average.

On the other side, Minnesota has become a more explosive passing team with Tanner Morgan under center. Turnovers have been a concern with him, but Purdue tends to play pretty soft coverage with a young secondary. The Gophers shouldn’t have trouble gaining yards. The test will be if they can convert scoring opportunities into touchdowns.

WEST VIRGINIA (-13.5) over TCU 

TCU’s offense stinks out loud at this point. They haven’t had a good game since Week 3 against Ohio State, which as we’ve seen more of the OSU defense, is less impressive than we thought at the time. They haven’t scored over 30 since Week 2 and they play in the freaking Big 12.

The Frog defense is a lot better, but they’ve had problems slowing down elite offenses. Oklahoma put up 52. OSU put up 40 in Dwayne Haskins’ first big game start. They were able to limit Texas Tech to 17 points, but it was third-string QB Jett Duffey’s first start and the Red Raiders were content playing a slower pace in that game and still beat the Frogs in Fort Worth.

SMU (-18) over UCONN 

UConn has kept it within 18 in only three games all season: FCS Rhode Island, UMass, and USF somehow. They have absolutely nothing to play for, they might be the worst team in the country, and they face a surging SMU team that has turned it on since the bye week.

Letdown potential for the Mustangs as they come off of games with Cincinnati and Houston and look forward to Memphis next week. However, they’ve looked like a determined team and a bowl game is in their sights and they probably need this one to make it. They faced a similar situation when they beat Navy – when it wasn’t clear they sucked – for their first win of the year, had Houston Baptist the next week with the UCF game following. They beat HBU by 36 in that sandwich spot.

SYRACUSE (-21) over Louisville 

Well, it appears Louisville is ready to quit with Petrino’s firing almost inevitable at this point, their defense is pathetic, and Syracuse has put a ton of points on everybody not named Clemson. There’s a potential for a letdown with the Orange as they face Notre Dame next week, but I’m not sure it’s possible to be less focused than Louisville right now.

2 Units

TEXAS TECH (+1) over Texas 

It’d be a bigger play if not for the constant juggling act at QB for Texas Tech. Texas has been overvalued all year and Texas Tech has been undervalued. Something to watch for here is the opportunistic Tech secondary. Sam Ehlinger’s done a good job taking care of the ball all year, but Adrian Frye, Vaughnte Dorsey, and Damarcus Fields all get their hands on a lot of balls.

Oregon (+3.5) over UTAH 

Oregon’s tough to predict, but I feel like you have to take them with Tyler Huntley out at QB for Utah. Huntley had a ton of experience and was a steady hand for the offense. He now gives way to redshirt freshman Jason Shelley, who went 4-11 for 59 yards in relief at Arizona State last week.

Temple (+4) over HOUSTON 

Anthony Russo should be able to keep it going from last week against a weak pass defense. The Owls have a capable run game as well and Ed Oliver’s injured knee is a big blow to the Cougars usually good run defense.

D’Eriq King showed that he was human last week against SMU and now he faces a Temple defense that’s one of the best in the country defending the pass. It was a rough game defensively for Temple against UCF last week, but that performance was much more the exception than the rule.

North Texas (-14, (-120)) over OLD DOMINION 

North Texas should be able to rack up a ton of points against a terrible defense, but the Mean Green’s last couple of road performances are limiting the play a bit here.

UCF (-25.5) over NAVY

Everything about this game suggests UCF is going to roll big. Navy’s been rag-dolled by everybody the past month. Their defense is terrible in both phases. They were in San Diego two weeks ago, Cincinnati last week, and now Orlando. All while juggling the ridiculous schedule of a service academy student. UCF is a machine. But Navy does have a tendency to make some games look a lot closer than they are given their style and this is a sandwich spot for the Knights after Temple last week and Cinci next week. That’s why we’re only going for the two units.

YTD: 49-41 (+4.9u)

2018 CFB Picks: Week 10

Picks were posted on Monday night, but thought I’d add a little here.

5 Units

OLE MISS (pick) over South Carolina

This is the battle of the supremely average SEC teams, but I’m of the opinion Ole Miss is slightly less average (better) than South Carolina, they’re at home, and they’re coming off a bye.

I’m counting on the Ole Miss offense to put up a bunch of points. They’re among the best in the country – going for 70+ on two occasions this year – and the only times they’ve been held under 37 points have come against Top 20 defenses. USC ranks 54th, according to S&P+. They gave up 490 yards to Missouri and 458 to Texas A&M.

The secondary for the Gamecocks has several guys with injuries and they’re going against one of the best WR corps in the nation. Maybe the best feature of USC’s entire team is that they haven’t given up big plays in the pass game. With a weakened secondary going against an explosive Ole Miss team, it could be a recipe for more deep balls for the Rebels.

On the other side of the ball, South Carolina has been pretty blah since the first few weeks of the season. They haven’t put up 400 yards of offense in a game since Week 4.

They haven’t shown a propensity for the big plays like Ole Miss. If they get themselves in a shootout with the Rebels, I don’t think they can string together a bunch of long drives to keep pace without making mistakes. The Cocks are 104th in turnover margin this year, while Ole Miss is 21st.

And I grant you that the Ole Miss is a terrible defensive team, but Tennessee is nearly as bad and USC was only able to put up 27 points last week at home, coming off of a bye.

4 Units

Air Force (+7) over ARMY

Everyone knows I’m an Army guy, but I think it’s Air Force here who’s better equipped to win the battle of the option (or at least more equipped to cover the spread).

The Air Force defense is 18th against the run, while Army comes in at 93rd, according to S&P+. And the Falcons have been much more battle tested. Every offense they’ve played so far this year is in the Top 75 in rushing efficiency, with the exception of FCS Stony Brook. Army, on the other hand, has faced just one opponent in the Top 75 all year.

The only offenses to have a decent amount of success against Air Force this year have done it through the air. Army has thrown it 68 times all year.

Of course there’s a lot of familiarity between the two and that should help out the Army run defense, but familiarity has favored the Falcons in this matchup. They’ve won 18 of the last 21 against Army and covered 16 of them.

3 Units

OREGON STATE (+14) over USC

Unfortunately for me, but good for you, you can get the Beavs at +16.5 right now thanks to JT Daniels’ injury status being upgraded.

This is mostly a fade against USC. Their average performance away from home the past two years is that of, well…an average FBS team. When they’re at the Coliseum, they play like a Top 25-30 team. I thought they had turned a corner a couple weeks ago and took them at Utah, but there doors were blown off by much more than the 41-28 score indicated and Daniels was bad in the game.

It helps that a young Oregon State team under first year coach Jonathan Smith was able to break through with their first Pac-12 victory in a dramatic comeback at Colorado. Three of the last four times USC has made the trip up to Corvallis, the Beavs have walked away with outright victories. Twice they were more than two touchdown dogs.

NORTHWESTERN (+9.5) over Notre Dame

I don’t know the exact figure, but I’m sure you’ve heard it/can find it if you try hard enough, but ND’s record ATS after Navy is bad.

They’re also coming back from a long road trip out to San Diego and now have to go on the road again. Evanston doesn’t provide the most intimidating of environments typically, but I’m sure Ryan Field will be alive with a night kick and the Irish in the stadium. Here’s hoping the majority of the crowd is wearing purple.

And it helps that it’s also November. Northwestern is an annual “grower”, frequently peaking as the season comes to an end. They’re 12-4 ATS in their last 16 November games.

I don’t know how much the Wildcats can score, but I do think they can slow down the Ian Book show. NW has only given up 300+ on one occasion this year and it took 51 attempts to get those 329 yards.

2 Units

BAYLOR (+8) over Oklahoma State

Letdown spot for the Pokes and Baylor should be at their best after a drubbing to West Virginia last Thursday and the need for two more wins to reach bowl eligibility, a goal I imagine is pretty important for them after last year.

VIRGINIA TECH (+2) over Boston College

Bounceback week for the Hokies after last week’s debacle. On the other side, BC is coming off a big win in the Red Bandana game and they’ve been underwhelming on the road this year.

Ohio (pick) over WESTERN MICHIGAN

The Broncos have been giving up big plays all year and Ohio might be the most explosive offense in the league. It’s Solich time.

LOUISIANA MONROE (+7.5) over Georgia Southern

Monroe had a disappointing start, but they should be in prime form after two wins and a bye week to prepare for the GSU option attack.

Southern is coming off the biggest win the program has had in a few years and next week they’ve got a matchup with their other big Sun Belt East foe in Troy. Dangerous spot for the Eagles.

SMU (+13) over Houston

Houston’s terrifying, but SMU is getting better as the season progresses under Sonny Dykes. They’ve had some really good defensive performances the past month. The run game has hit the skids for the Mustangs, but Ben Hicks has been prolific lately and pass defense is where you can hurt the Cougs. Just have a feeling SMU keeps it close with a bowl within reach and a night home game against one of the best teams in the league.

2018 CFB Picks: Week 9

Picks

4 Units

ARKANSAS (+2) over Vanderbilt

I considered going five here, but Ke’Shawn Vaughn will be in the backfield for the Dores and he’s the biggest threat of the offense.

On the positive side for Arkansas, they’ll get Ty Storey back this week at QB. His numbers look pretty modest, but Storey was starting to get it going finally. The first few weeks were a game of hot potato at QB for the Hogs. Once Storey was given the job for good, the offense started to come alive.

After mediocre performances against a pair of Top 25 defenses away from home – Auburn and Texas A&M – Storey started to get things rolling at home. Arkansas put up 405 yards (5.7 YPP) and 31 points against Alabama. And no, it wasn’t all garbage time. According to S&P+, that performance was in the 88th percentile of what teams typically do against a defense of Alabama’s caliber.

Against Ole Miss – admittedly a bad defense – the Hogs drive chart looked like this under Storey:

  • Field Goal, 11 plays, 50 yards
  • Touchdown, 7 plays, 78 yards
  • Touchdown, 3 plays, 80 yards
  • Touchdown, 5 plays, 75 yards
  • Field Goal, 9 plays, 52 yards
  • Field Goal, 10 plays, 55 yards
  • Field Goal, 11 plays, 57 yards

Pretty efficient, I’d say. After those seven drives, Storey was knocked out with a concussion and the Hogs went punt, punt, interception and ended up losing the game.

Storey missed last week, as well, and Arkansas could only muster 23 points against Tulsa. They’re a different team when he’s on the field. I think his impact is bigger than the line is giving him credit for.

Arkansas has also been playing better with the increased role of Rakeem Boyd (yes, the guy from Last Chance U). Boyd has 44 carries for 310 yards (7.05 YPC) the last three weeks.

OKLAHOMA STATE (+3) over Texas

I’m still of the opinion that Texas just really isn’t that good. By the wildly outdated AP/Coaches poll math, I understand why they’re #6, but they’re not close to that level in reality, in my opinion.

Oklahoma State is hard to get a read on because they’ve been a roller coaster this year, but I’m expecting their best performance of the season since Week 3 when they rolled Boise State.

The Pokes are coming off a bye – as is Texas – which was preceded by laying an ostrich-sized egg against Kansas State in Manhattan. It was a wretched performance, but I like that it happened heading into the bye week. It gives them double the time to sit in that sewage of a performance and to focus in on getting ready for this game.

And it’s a big one. Texas does have that shiny single digit next to its name and it’s a night kick on homecoming weekend

There’s one thing on the field that really sticks out to me when evaluating this game on the field: big plays. OSU makes a lot of them on offense. They’re the 8th most explosive offense in the country, according to S&P+, and they make them both on the ground and through the air.

The Texas defense ranks 99th in giving up those explosive plays and their offense doesn’t have the ability to match, coming in at 113th in the country. Collin Johnson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey are talented wide receivers, but not necessarily gamebreakers, and the Longhorn RBs seemingly count on their O-Line to get them every inch of their yard totals.

It should be a raucous atmosphere in Stillwater with a desperate team looking for victory against an opponent that generates more buzz than they can backup. If the Pokes can get some of those big plays, things could snowball for Texas.

And yes, I’m making this pick with the anticipation that Sam Ehlinger will play for the Horns, although I wouldn’t expect him to be 100% and he’ll be going against a front seven that gets to the QB a ton. Not sure that health holds up if he’s getting knocked down frequently.

3 Units

CHARLOTTE (+8) over Southern Miss

Trying to get back some of that Charlotte home dog magic again after they came through big against WKU a couple of weeks ago.

The 49ers will be without starting QB Chris Reynolds for the second straight week, but senior Evan Shireffs was solid enough on the road last week, they weren’t a good passing team when Reynolds was healthy to begin with, and they have a run-first identity anyways.

The real reason to like the 49ers is the defense. They’ve been incredible since the bye week a couple of weeks ago, only giving up 400 total yards in the past two games. They’ll be going against a super young offense this week that has managed just 20 points in their two road games this year.

Georgia Tech (+3) over VIRGINIA TECH

I promise there’s a lot more behind it, but sometimes it’s best to put it simply. Obviously, GT is an option team and relies on 77% of their offense to come from running the ball.

Here’s where their opponents have ranked in S&P+ rush defense, rush defense explosiveness, how many total yards the Jackets gained in those games, and how many points they scored.

Opponent Rush D Rank Rush D Explosive Rank GT Yards GT Points
USF 93 43 602 38
Pitt 34 85 386 19
Clemson 1 4 203 21
BGSU 127 107 532 63
Louisville 85 36 554 66
Duke 10 19 354 14
VT 107 130 ? ?

VT had the bye week to prepare, but GT has won three of the last four in the series (all as underdogs) and a bye week doesn’t fix the Hokies’ problems defensively, which has stemmed from trying to replace a ton of personnel.

GT is also coming off a bye and they had things rolling for a few weeks before it was derailed by a backbreaking sequence against Duke where they fumbled on three straight possessions in the second half, Duke converted all three into TDs, and they suddenly found themselves in desperation mode. They should be hungry to get back on the field.

AIR FORCE (+10) over Boise State

Once again, we’ll keep it simple. Air Force runs the option and Boise ranks 123rd in giving up those explosive run plays. The obvious question mark for the Falcons is defending against Brett Rypien, who’s as experienced as you can get at QB and might be even better in road games.

However, I’m comforted by Air Force covering 5 of the last 6 against Boise and winning 3 of those games outright, all of them as underdogs of more than a touchdown.

Further support if you’re an ATS trend guy: Air Force is 7-1 ATS in their last 8 as a home dog and they’ve won 6 of those outright. They’ve covered the spread in those games by an average of 14.9 points per game.

SAN JOSE STATE (-1) over UNLV

UNLV is pretty garbage without Armani Rogers. He remains out. SJSU has been knocking on the door of victory for weeks now and this is the perfect opportunity to break through. The only reason this isn’t a five unit play is because you’re still putting faith in one of the worst teams in the FBS, who has won one of their last 18 football games. Go Spartans.

2 Units

Wyoming (+2.5) over COLORADO STATE

Essentially, Colorado State does one thing decent and that’s throw the ball. Wyoming does one thing at a dare-I-say-elite level and that’s defend the pass.

The Cowboys have their issues, but they’re not your every day 2-6 Mountain West team. The pass defense is awesome, they’re respectable on both sides of the run, the only thing they can’t really do is throw, but almost anybody can against the Rams.

Wyoming is 2-6, but understand they’ve played the 28th most difficult schedule in the country. Five of their eight games have come against Top 30 teams. Not only do they win this game, but I’ll take it a step further and say they win out and go bowling.

UCLA (+10) over Utah

I’ll stick with UCLA, who I said a couple weeks ago was gonna go on a run. I didn’t really mention it in the Arkansas section because there were so many things to touch on, but they’re in similar spots. I liked both teams before the year, but figured they’d both struggle early and peak late in the season. That looks like it’s coming to fruition. Both have good coaches who are re-hauling the system. It takes time and now’s the time to ride with them.

Utah has looked unbeatable lately – which is good for my Pac-12 champ future – but this is also a play that there has to be some regression at some point for the Utes. I still think they win here, but it’s a short week for them and they’re going on the road after a huge win at home. Could come down to the wire.

WEST VIRGINIA (-13.5) over Baylor

In theory, West Virginia has a lot bigger games coming up to close out the season. They play Texas, Oklahoma, TCU, and Oklahoma State in November.

But this week feels big. They were terrible two weeks ago against Iowa State and were lucky they were playing Kansas the week before with the way Will Grier was tossing interceptions.

Now they’re coming off a bye, with an extra week to refocus the offense, and they play a team at home that they should roll. The Bears have a vulnerable defense and they’ve only found success as a team because of a weak schedule that’s been made even worse due to opponent injury.

Possible Additions

ARIZONA (+10) over Oregon

Need to know the status of Khalil Tate. Rhett Rodriguez was alright last week against UCLA, but you’d still like to have Tate.

MINNESOTA (+2.5) over Indiana

If Annexstad plays, we’re firing all the way up until Minnesota -3.

North Carolina (+9) over VIRGINIA

I like the UNC side, but probably only if it gets to 10.

YTD: 38-35-2 (-3.2u)