Uncategorized

2017-18 Bowl Rankings: Watchability

39. Western Kentucky – Georgia State
AutoNation Cure Bowl
Dec. 16, 2:30 p.m. | CBSSN
Camping World Stadium | Orlando, Florida

Here’s the rank of teams beaten by WKU and GSU this season, according to TeamRankings. Keep in mind that there are 130 FBS teams.

98
107
115
117
120
122
126
127 x2
128
130
FCS team

There would be “FCS team x2” except GSU lost to Tennessee State 17-10 at home.

In case you were wondering, WKU is rated 102nd and Georgia State is rated 116th.

38. Central Michigan – Wyoming
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Dec. 22, 4 p.m. | ESPN
Lyle Smith Field at Albertsons Stadium | Boise, Idaho

This game might end up seeming more fun than it really is because it’s on an early Friday evening heading into a three or four day, holiday weekend.

My favorite thing about this game will be Shane Morris outplaying Top 5 NFL Draft prospect Josh Allen, who has completed 56% of his passes en route to 13 passing touchdowns this season. I’m not sure that would’ve made you a Top 5 pick in 1974, BUT LOOK HOW FAR HE CAN THROW IT!!!

37. Duke – Northern Illinois
Quick Lane Bowl
Dec. 26, 5:15 p.m. | ESPN
Ford Field | Detroit

I feel for the Quick Lane Bowl marketing staff. Tough sell.

36. SMU – Louisiana Tech
DXL Frisco Bowl
Dec. 20, 8 p.m. | ESPN
Toyota Stadium | Frisco, Texas

There might be some points, but it’s another duo that just beat the worst teams on their schedule. It’s a glorified home game for SMU.

35. Utah State – NMSU
NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl
Dec. 29, 5:30 p.m. | CBSSN
Arizona Stadium | Tucson, Arizona

There’s really not a lot to get the juices flowing for this one, but it’ll be fun to watch NMSU play in their first bowl game in like a million years, I guess.

34. Temple – FIU
Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl
Dec. 21, 8 p.m. | ESPN
Tropicana Field | St. Petersburg, Florida

First year for the Gasparilla Bowl, formerly the St. Petersburg Bowl, which featured that Mississippi State 17, Miami (OH) 16 barn-burner last year.

Bad Boy Mowers getting deep into the sponsor game. They just did the Battle 4 Atlantis, where things got wild, so that’s something. Also, they make a sturdy mower. Little slow though.

33. Ohio – UAB
Bahamas Bowl
Dec. 22 12:30 p.m. | ESPN
Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium | Nassau, Bahamas

Much like the Hawaii Bowl, the Bahamas Bowl is better when there’s a ton of points. I don’t know why, maybe it just reminds me of the Colt Brennan/Timmy Chang/June Jones days of the Rainbow Warriors. Save the 24-20 battles for all those shitty bowls in Alabama.

The over/under here is 57, but Ohio is 15th in the country in scoring so we’ve got hope.

32. Utah – West Virginia
Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl
Dec. 26, 1:30 p.m. | ESPN
Cotton Bowl | Dallas

This would be a lot higher, but Will Grier most likely isn’t going to play and Tyler Huntley is questionable. Nothing like a duel between a pair of QB2’s on a Tuesday afternoon to get the juices flowing.

31. Iowa – BC
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Dec. 27, 5:15 p.m. | ESPN
Yankee Stadium | New York

I’m not totally against the idea of Iowa and BC grinding out a “3 yards and a cloud of snow” game in Yankee Stadium, but just knowing how much better it would be with Anthony Brown at QB for BC will be in the back of my mind the whole time.

30. Kansas State – UCLA
Cactus Bowl
Dec. 26, 9 p.m. | ESPN
Chase Field | Phoenix

All due respect to Bill Snyder, but the Cats just don’t put asses in the seats.

Look for a lot of people confirming their opinion on Josh Rosen’s NFL potential based on how well he plays in this very important Cactus Bowl.

29. Colorado State – Marshall
GILDAN New Mexico Bowl
Dec. 16, 4:30 p.m. | ESPN
Branch Field at Dreamstyle Stadium | Albuquerque, New Mexico

It’s a fairly even game? I don’t know. CSU’s pretty fun when their offense is rolling.

28. Northwestern – Kentucky
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Dec. 29, 4:30 p.m. | ESPN
Nissan Stadium | Nashville, Tennessee

Another one that’s helped out by the fact you’ll be coming home for another three-day weekend happy as can be, probably crack a cold one or your favorite holiday mixer, sit down on the couch, and turn this otherwise blah game on. That’s a special feeling.

27. Florida State – Southern Miss
Walk-On’s Independence Bowl
Dec. 27, 1:30 p.m. | ESPN
Independence Stadium | Shreveport, Louisiana

This excites me only because I know how embarrassed FSU fans have to be playing Southern Miss in the Walk-On’s Independence Bowl in Shreveport on a Wednesday afternoon.

26. Arkansas State – MTSU
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
Dec. 16, 8 p.m. | ESPN
Cramton Bowl | Montgomery, Alabama

It would be a lot more fun if Richie James was playing, but it should be another doozy of a Raycom Media Camellia Bowl. I’m not joking about that, either. This is the fourth edition. The first three have been amazingly consistent good games:

2014: Bowling Green 33, South Alabama 28
2015: App State 31, Ohio 29
2016: App State 31, Toledo 28

Those totals: 61, 60, 59.

If you put any action on the over/under of 62 this year, you’re a legitimate psycho.

25. Navy – Virginia
Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman
Dec. 28, 1:30 p.m. | ESPN
Jack Stephens Field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium | Annapolis, Maryland

I don’t really know if this should be this high, but my biggest bet of the bowl season is Navy and I’m very self-involved.

24. FAU – Akron
Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl
Dec. 19, 7 p.m. | ESPN
Howard Schnellenberger Field at FAU Stadium | Boca Raton, Florida

It’d be more fun if FAU got a crack at a Power 5 school, but nobody moves the needle like Joey Fresh. At this point, it seems like the Lane Train is staying in Boca for another year. Might go undefeated next year after cleaning up on the transfer market.

23. Troy – North Texas
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Dec. 16, 1 p.m. | ESPN
Mercedes-Benz Superdome | New Orleans

First bowl game of the season and it’s a pretty good one. Quality quarterback play and two coaches who will probably be in bigger jobs in the next few years.

22. Houston – Fresno State
Hawaii Bowl
Dec. 24, 8:30 p.m. | ESPN
Hawaiian Tel Federal Credit Union Field at Aloha Stadium | Honolulu

Houston kind of sucks now and their offense was a shell of itself without Greg Ward, but Ed Oliver is as fun as defensive tackles can get. Fresno is a fun story and QB Marcus McMaryion is like a poor man’s Lamar Jackson.

At the end of the day, it’s the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve. If you have a bad time, you’re dead inside.

21. SDSU – Army
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Dec. 23, 3:30 p.m. | ESPN
Amon G. Carter Stadium | Fort Worth, Texas

Two of my favorite teams. Rashaad Penny vs. the troops. Every possible running play you could create. Should be fun.

20. Wake Forest – Texas A&M
Belk Bowl
Dec. 29, 1 p.m. | ESPN
Bank of America Stadium | Charlotte, North Carolina

Probably a little high, but if you haven’t watched much of John Wolford, it’s your last chance. It’s also your last chance to watch Texas A&M before Jimbo Fisher…keeps them exactly where they’re at.

19. Michigan – South Carolina
Outback Bowl
Jan. 1, Noon | ESPN2
Raymond James Stadium | Tampa, Florida

Not a great ranking for a New Year’s Day bowl, but you can watch Brandon Peters vs. Jake Bentley. Two young QBs who will never look as good as they actually are in their dated offensive systems. Catch the Outback Bowl fever!

18. Toledo – App State
Dollar General Bowl
Dec. 23, 7 p.m. | ESPN
Ladd-Peebles Stadium | Mobile, Alabama

Remember that 2016 Camellia Bowl score? Of course you do, how could you forget?

Well, it’s a rematch. Lotta people gonna “discover” Logan Woodside.

17. Arizona – Purdue
Foster Farms Bowl
Dec. 27, 8:30 p.m. | FOX
Levi’s Stadium | Santa Clara, California

This could be a biased take, but I think this is a fun game. Khalil Tate is appointment TV always. On the other side, although Purdue’s offense has been spotty, you’re giving Jeff Brohm a month to come up with as many variations of the flea-flicker as humanly possible. And he will exhaust those possibilities.

16. Louisville – Mississippi State
TaxSlayer Bowl
Dec. 30, Noon | ESPN
EverBank Field | Jacksonville, Florida

Potential through the roof if Nick Fitzgerald was playing, but still…it’s Lamar Jackson.

15. TCU – Stanford
Valero Alamo Bowl
Dec. 28, 9 p.m. | ESPN
Alamodome | San Antonio, Texas

Bryce Love. All of the TCU jitterbugs. The potential of Kenny Hill doing something colossally stupid. Gary Patterson wearing many outfits. Top 5 bowl venue, in my opinion. There are worse ways to spend a Thursday night.

14. Wisconsin – Miami
Capital One Orange Bowl
Dec. 30, 8 p.m. | ESPN
Hard Rock Stadium | Miami Gardens, Florida

A whole lot of defense and running the football. Some white linebackers. Your dad will love this game. And he’ll be cheering for Wisconsin.

13. NC State – Arizona State
Hyundai Sun Bowl
Dec. 29, 3 p.m. | CBS
Sun Bowl | El Paso, Texas

A bowl game that has stood the test of time. It’s also the biggest bowl game CBS has to offer, which seems like a poor job by them.

12. Washington State – Michigan State
San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl
Dec. 28, 9 p.m. | FOX
SDCCU Stadium | San Diego

It’s going to feature A TON of 4-7 yard plays, but I’m excited. For as big of a dump as Qualcomm SDCCU Stadium is, I’ve always enjoyed watching games there. I like the color clash here. I like the coaches. I like that I’ll be flipping back and forth between this and the Alamo Bowl, knowing I’m about to mail in a day of work the next day. Both games are likely to be close. Just good, clean, bowl season fun.

11. Memphis – Iowa State
AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Dec. 30, 12:30 p.m. | ABC
Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium | Memphis, Tennessee

It’s a home game for Memphis, but it just feels like Iowa State is up for the challenge. I mean, they’ve been terrible in recent years, so getting to the Liberty Bowl is a big deal. I don’t have a clue who’s playing QB for them, but they’re basically the same whether it’s QB1 or QB5.

10. Texas – Missouri
Academy Sports + Outdoors Bowl
Dec. 27, 9 p.m. | ESPN
NRG Stadium | Houston

I told myself to never bet a total again, but I feel like I need to come out of retirement to bet the over on 60.5 for this game.

9. Oregon – Boise
Las Vegas Bowl
Dec. 16, 3:30 p.m. | ABC
Sam Boyd Stadium | Las Vegas

Oregon is so much fun when Justin Herbert is playing quarterback. THEY’RE ALSO A LOT BETTER. I’M NOT BITTER AT ALL THAT HE GOT HURT AND IT TOTALLY SUBMARINED THE DUCKS WINNING AT LEAST 8 GAMES AND I BET A SUBSTANTIAL AMOUNT OF MONEY THAT THEY WOULD. IT’S FINE. I’M FINE!

also, boise and oregon in vegas on opening day is fun.

8. Oklahoma State – Virginia Tech
Camping World Bowl
Dec. 28, 5:15 p.m. | ESPN
Camping World Stadium | Orlando, Florida

The Camping World Bowl aka the Russell Athletic Bowl aka the Champs Sports Bowl feels like it’s always two teams that had the potential for greatness, but ended up being just “good”. It’s been dominated by the ACC over the years.

That sounds a bit negative, but this should be a great game. It stinks that it’s an early Thursday evening, but there’s two really good quarterbacks, two good head coaches, James Washington, and the Virginia Tech defense.

7. South Florida – Texas Tech
Birmingham Bowl
Dec. 23, Noon | ESPN
Legion Field | Birmingham, Alabama

Maybe won’t be as many points as one would think, but it’s got the potential. I don’t know anything about Nic Shimonek outside of football, but I know he has the ultimate villain hairdo and I find it very easy and enjoyable to root against him.

6. LSU – Notre Dame
Citrus Bowl Presented by Overton’s
Jan. 1, 1 p.m. | ABC
Camping World Stadium | Orlando, Florida

Two brand names playing on New Year’s Day. Hard not to like. Also, you’ve got one of the most lovable coaches (Coach O) against one of the biggest assholes (Brian Kelly).

5. Penn State – Washington
PlayStation Fiesta Bowl
Dec. 30, 4 p.m. | ESPN
University of Phoenix Stadium | Glendale, Arizona

This game needs Dante Pettis to play to reach its full potential, but it’s still got a lot of firepower.

4. Auburn – UCF
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
Jan. 1, 12:30 p.m. | ESPN
Mercedes-Benz Stadium | Atlanta

Aside from Purdue, I will not be rooting harder for anyone than UCF. No offense to Auburn, you can just play the “we didn’t want to be there” card.

3. Ohio State – USC
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
Dec. 29, 8:30 p.m. | ESPN
AT&T Stadium | Arlington, Texas

Just a ridiculous amount of talent on the field. It’s a Friday night. Ohio State and USC both playing for “we should’ve been in the playoff” position. Microscope on Sam Darnold. A bowl game’s bowl game.

2. Georgia – Oklahoma
College Football Playoff
Jan. 1, 5 p.m. | ESPN
Rose Bowl | Pasadena, California

Obviously high stakes on the line, but more than that it’s going to be a really interesting contrast in styles.

1. Clemson – Alabama
College Football Playoff
Jan. 1, 8:45 p.m. | ESPN
Mercedes-Benz Superdome | New Orleans

BYOG.

Advertisements

2017-18 Big Ten Basketball Preview

 

Projected Order of Finish

Clear Cut Contenders Division

1. Michigan State (APR: 7)

Double Plays: MD, Rutgers, IU, Illinois, UW
Singles Home: Nebraska, Michigan, PSU, Purdue
Singles Away: OSU, Iowa, Minny, NW

Consensus Outlook: I haven’t seen one Big Ten preview that doesn’t have the Spartans on top. This is largely due to the fact that Bridges is also widely considered to be the best player in the league and there’s 10 other guys that could contribute in the rotation. Jaren Jackson is the most highly touted freshman, as well. The frontcourt depth issues from last year appear to be solved and Nick Ward might be the best big man in the league. They’ve got a ton of experience and young talent in spades. 3 or 4 of their 5 “double plays” are against teams that are likely to end up in the bottom half of the league. And they have Izzo.

What They’re Not Saying: This will be Tom Izzo’s 23rd year at Michigan State. He’s been to seven Final Fours, won five Big Ten Tournaments, and even won a national championship. But he’s only won two outright Big Ten regular season championships. Yes, they have a ton of talent in East Lansing, but I don’t think it’s nearly as open-and-shut as people are making it out to be. Having 11 capable players is great, but turning that into a rotation is going to be a process. A lot of the bigs on this team are still new to playing with the guards/wings and that will take some time itself. Turnover differential was a problem all of last year and it’s up to Cassius Winston and Tum Tum Nairn to solve that on the offensive end for the Spartans.

Projection: I don’t really expect the Spartans to run away and hide with the league title, but they’re probably the only team in the league where that’s possible. They certainly have the most long-term potential, but I need to see the fantastic parts function as a unit before I’m ready to pen them in to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

2. Purdue (APR: 13)

Double Plays: MD, Rutgers, Michigan, UW, Minnesota
Singles Home: NW, Nebraska, OSU, PSU
Singles Away: MSU, IU, Iowa, Illinois

Consensus Outlook: Purdue has a lot of experience returning, but how good are they without Caleb Swanigan? They’re well balanced and skilled, will probably still be a very good shooting team, but rebounding and perimeter defense are still a concern. Vince Edwards is a Top 8 player in the league and Carsen Edwards is a wildcard. They probably still lack enough dynamic playmakers on the perimeter to make a deep run in March.

What They’re Not Saying: I think the area you’ll notice Swanigan’s absence the most is rebounding, because how could you not? The guy was a monster on the glass. Less noticeable – but also important – will be the loss of Biggie’s passing out of both the high and low post. Isaac Haas just doesn’t compare in that area. With that said, I think Purdue has the potential to be better on both ends of the floor this year. Defense should be easy. Swanigan was the only consistent rotation player lost and he often sacrificed contesting shots around the rim to keep out of foul trouble. I think you’ll see the offense playing more freely this year and it may lead to a higher efficiency. Many times the offense would get bogged down when opponents were able to effectively defend Purdue’s post play, but the Boilers still seemed insistent on making sure Biggie got fed when a different course of action was necessary. That feeling doesn’t carry over to Haas, all due respect. Painter has shown he’s willing to go away from the big oak tree when things grind to a halt.

Projection: Purdue might actually have the highest floor of anybody in the league. You pretty much know what you’re going to get with all they have returning. The problem is, I’m not sure there’s that much difference between that floor and their ceiling. A lot depends on Carsen Edwards’ development as an offensive playmaker/decision maker. Matt Haarms suddenly looks like a significant contributor, which would be found money for a team that really could use a mobile big defensively. The Boilers are a definite tournament team, but it’s to be determined if they can break the Sweet 16 barrier for the first time in the Matt Painter era.

3. Minnesota (APR: 29)

Double Plays: Purdue, Nebraska, IU, NW, Iowa
Singles Home: MSU, Rutgers, Illinois, OSU (NYC)
Singles Away: PSU, MD, Michigan, UW

Consensus Outlook: They return what was probably their five best players from last year and that’s enough reason to expect big things out of the Gophers this year. They’re one of the most athletic teams in the league and likely to be the best defensively. Nate Mason is one of the best guards in the league. Reggie Lynch is a dominant rim protector. Amir Coffey is primed to make a big jump in his sophomore season. A lack of depth and poor perimeter shooting will hold them back.

What They’re Not Saying: It’s always a scary proposition to expect much from a freshman point guard, but the addition of Isaiah Washington alongside Nate Mason has the potential to be a devastating backcourt duo late in the season. It’s been two-and-a-half years since Davonte Fitzgerald has played a game, but his addition to the rotation only increases Minny’s athletic advantage over the rest of the league.

Projection: Minnesota absolutely has a chance to win the league. I don’t think the league did them any favors with only 8 home games and a rough road schedule, but they do only have to play MSU once and it’s in The Barn. They’re a lock for the tournament, but will likely need to find some hot perimeter shooting to make much of an impact once they get there.

4. Northwestern (APR: 26)

Double Plays: Minny, PSU, Michigan, UW, MD
Singles Home: MSU, Illinois, Nebraska, OSU
Singles Away: Purdue, IU, Rutgers, Iowa

Consensus Outlook: All the key pieces from their historic team last year are back. The pressure of never making the NCAA Tournament are gone. Nothing but good times in Evanston.

What They’re Not Saying: While the Wildcat program has reached new heights, it’s important to remember that this team has a ceiling that isn’t all that different from last year. I’m not sure they’re going to be that much more efficient offensively. Their shooting numbers were pretty poor everywhere on the floor. Defensively, they’ll be rock-solid again, but they were unable to make many plays on that end to lead to easy scores the other way. How does that change?

Projection: I put the Wildcats in the contenders category, but I’m not really convinced that’s the case yet. I could see them contending, but I think it’s just as likely that they’re battling the bubble in February and March again.

Respect for the Program Division

5. Wisconsin (APR: 29)

Double Plays: MSU, Purdue, NW, Nebraska, Illinois
Singles Home: Minny, OSU, IU, Michigan
Singles Away: PSU, Rutgers, Iowa, MD

Consensus Outlook: Ethan Happ is one of the best players in the league, but he’s the only returning starter from last year’s squad. There’s a lot of holes to fill personnel wise and it’s unclear what the rotation will be. Many have the Badgers in the 7-9 range.

What They’re Not Saying: Some mention the fact that the Badgers haven’t finished outside the Top 4 of the Big Ten for the last 16 years, but just kind of gloss over it. I recognize that I’ve got them one slot outside that number, but the program has built up way too much credibility for me to put them in the bottom half. Yes, the personnel is a question mark, but it’s not the first time in the past 17 years that Wisconsin doesn’t look good on paper heading into the season. There’s always a few things that come to my mind with the Badgers: the swing offense, versatile big men, and player development. The last one is the key. There’s a thousand examples of guys dramatically improving in the program. I don’t know who that’s going to be this year, but there’s plenty of talented players for Greg Gard to choose from. I will say there’s a legitimate question if Gard can continue that trend as the head coach. He’s been working with some experienced teams in his first year-and-a-half, guys that played in Final Fours. This year will be his first test of trying to build the majority of the rotation.

Projection: I’d expect the tournament streak to continue, although things might be a little bumpy in the non-conference this year. If they win a game when they get there, I’d be over the moon if I were a Badger fan.

Super Sophs and Michigan Division

6. Iowa (APR: 46)

Double Plays: Minny, PSU, IU, Michigan, OSU
Singles Home: MSU, Purdue, NW, UW
Singles Away: MD, Illinois, Rutgers, Nebraska

Consensus Outlook: The Hawkeyes will have to figure things out without Peter Jok. Jok was the biggest gunner in the league last year. Will the freshmen standouts from a year ago be able to take over lead roles? And of course everyone is curious to see if this year’s version of the Hawkeyes can guard a soul.

What They’re Not Saying: Many mention Tyler Cook, but I think he’s going to be a monster this year now that he’s healthy and has a full season under his belt. There’s less mention of freshman center Luke Garza, but he was dominant on their Europe trip and their two exhibition games. It’s always easier for big guys to pile up statistics against overmatched competition, but it’s still hard to ignore those numbers. I don’t know that they’ll be even an average team defensively. However, there’s not many teams that can match the overwhelming number of scoring options they have.

Projection: As far as conference standings go, I think Iowa has high-end potential with their depth and the schedule. All four of the teams they will only play at home are in my personal projected Top 5. Schedule strength with the unbalanced schedules now play a big factor. With a soft non-conference schedule, I can see this team going on a similar path that Maryland did last year. I’d expect the Hawkeyes to be back in the NCAA Tournament field.

7. Michigan (APR: 30)

Double Plays: Purdue, NW, Iowa, OSU, MD
Singles Home: Minny, IU, Illinois, Rutgers
Singles Away: MSU, UW, Nebraska, PSU

Consensus Outlook: The usual opinion on a John Beilein team. The offense will be good, not so sure about the defense. Everyone’s curious to see how well Jaaron Simmons and Xavier Simpson can replace Derrick Walton. Depth may be an issue again.

What They’re Not Saying: Charles Matthews might end up being one of the top scorers in the league this year. Matthews is known as a slasher, but he’s not an incapable shooter, either. That would obviously be a very positive thing. On the flip side, I’m not sure Moe Wagner is going to be the All-Big Ten player many are projecting him to be this year. He had flashes of brilliance last season and overall a very good year, but there were too many disappearing acts. Part of that was due to his experienced and talented teammates, but it’s a concern nonetheless. Wagner staying out of foul trouble will be a key as well for the Wolverines. He fouled at a high rate last year and Michigan just doesn’t have the frontcourt depth to deal well with it.

Projection: The offensive potential is high with the starting unit and that’s enough to get the Wolverines a bunch of wins, but they’re gonna have to be better defensively to experience the same type of success they did a year ago.

8. Penn State (APR: 61)

Double Plays: NW, Iowa, MD, OSU, Nebraska
Singles Home: Minny, UW, Michigan, Rutgers
Singles Away: MSU, Purdue, IU, Illinois

Consensus Outlook: The Nittany Lions return their talented freshmen trio, along with the other two starters. A poor offense from a year ago will likely improve, but is it enough to take them to the next level? They don’t have much depth. Will anyone actually show up to Bryce Jordan? Will they run an actual offense this year? The non-conference schedule is a who’s who of bad teams.

What They’re Not Saying: While the non-conference schedule is horrendous, I’m not sure it’s the worst thing for what’s still a fairly young team. They lost a lot of close games last year and seemed to be out of gas by the end of the season. If they can rack up a lot of wins early and build some confidence, it may propel them to win enough games to be on the bubble late in the year.

Projection: I like the core of the group, but I’m not sure who Pat Chambers turns to when they need a shot of life off the bench. Obviously the starters are more important, but good teams always have reserves that can make some big plays to win games in the heart of the season. That’s a big question mark for Penn State. I think they’ve got a semi-decent chance to make the tournament, but there’s a few major questions to answer first.

9. Maryland (APR: 40)

Double Plays: MSU, Purdue, NW, Michigan, PSU
Singles Home: Minny, UW, Iowa, Rutgers
Singles Away: IU, OSU, Illinois, Nebraska

Consensus Outlook: The sophomore class is outstanding, although life without Melo Trimble will be an adjustment. They need Cekovsky and Wiley to stay healthy. Rebounding is still a big question mark, but they should be a very good defensive team.

What They’re Not Saying: I’m not sure how much others look at the schedule when they make these rankings, but I do. It’s a lot of projecting, but the “double plays” for Maryland are pretty rugged. Among this 6-9 (yes, it is nice) group, that’s the reason I put them at the bottom. I love their sophomore class as much as the next person, but I can’t shake how much they relied on Trimble when things were tight last year. The youngsters made some plays, but they no longer have the Melo safety blanket.

Projection: I guess I wouldn’t really be surprised if the Terps made me look like a fool and finished in the Top 4 of the league. They certainly have the talent to do so. But I’m still expecting them to be firmly on the bubble when the calendar turns to March.

New Coaches Division

10. Indiana (APR: 53)

Double Plays: MSU, Minny, Iowa, OSU, Illinois
Singles Home: Purdue, NW, PSU, MD
Singles Away: UW, Michigan, Nebraska, Rutgers

Consensus Outlook: A new-look Hoosiers team in a lot of ways. Obviously Archie Miller is now the coach. Miller has a vastly different style from his predecessor. The personnel suggests that the constant green light in the backcourt will no longer exist outside of Rob Johnson. All eyes turn to De’Ron Davis and Juwan Morgan.

What They’re Not Saying: While IU may not have a great team on paper, there’s still enough talent to sneak their way in the top half of the league. The Miller hire provides them with an upgrade in coaching and a revitalized fanbase that should keep Assembly Hall (or whatever it’s called now) rocking all year. The defense should be vastly improved and if they find a little more perimeter shooting along the way, they should find themselves in this slot or higher.

Projection: Probably the NIT. High end potential is probably grabbing one of the last at-large bids in the NCAA Tournament.

11. Ohio State (APR: 70)

Double Plays: Iowa, Michigan, PSU, IU, Rutgers
Singles Home: MSU, MD, Illinois, Nebraska
Singles Away: Purdue, Minny (NYC), NW, UW

Consensus Outlook: They’ll rely heavily on Jae’Sean Tate, Kam Williams, and Keita Bates-Diop. There’s talent, but maybe not the type of talent that Chris Holtmann would prefer in terms of system fit.

What They’re Not Saying: This program needs a big-time culture change. The good news on that front is that perpetual pouty faces JaQuan Lyle and Marc Loving are now gone. I believe Thad Matta to be a great coach, but he didn’t seem to have the same juice the past couple years due to his poor health. Chris Holtmann should bring a youthful passion to that position that was probably necessary.

Projection: There’s still quite a bit of talent in Columbus, but clearly there’s been other issues in the program. I think Holtmann will do a great job there, but I’m not sure the results will appear as fast as Buckeye fans would hope.

12. Illinois (APR: 90)

Double Plays: MSU, UW, IU, Rutgers, Nebraska
Singles Home: Purdue, Iowa, PSU, MD
Singles Away: Minny, NW, Michigan, OSU

Consensus Outlook: Brad Underwood was a homerun hire for the Illini. There are some talented pieces coming in and a few left over from the John Groce era. It remains to be seen if Underwood can utilize his system with the current roster.

What They’re Not Saying: It appears some others are a little higher on the Illini this year. They do have some talent, but I think it’s going to take Underwood some time to sort out the jumbled mess that the program’s been the last few years. He was able to succeed right away at Oklahoma State, but that was more of a ready-made situation with Jawun Evans running the show. A lot’s expected of grad transfer Mark Alstork, but early returns are that he’s still finding his way, only scoring four points in a scrimmage loss to Eastern Illinois.

Projection: Underwood is great for the program (assuming he doesn’t get caught up in the FBI mess) and there are some decent players in Champaign. However, there’s not a player on the roster that’s been a part of a successful team at this level. I think the Illini will look more coherent this year, but I’d still say an NIT birth would be considered a win for this team.

Hopefully Better! Division

13. Nebraska (APR: 96)

Double Plays: Minny, UW, PSU, Rutgers, Illinois
Singles Home: Iowa, Michigan, MD, IU
Singles Away: MSU, Purdue, NW, OSU

Consensus Outlook: Quite a bit of roster turnover again for the Huskers. Old talent out, new talent coming in, mostly from the transfer market. The Huskers will be frisky, especially in Lincoln.

What They’re Not Saying: I think it’s going to be more of the same what you’ve seen the past couple of years from Nebraska. At times they’ll look like they should be in the NCAA Tournament and at times they’ll look like they belong in the CBI. The issue remains the same. They have too much roster turnover from one year to the next and they’ll rely on incoming talent to play big roles.

Projection: It’s hard to build a program when you’re constantly losing rotation players early and trying to patchwork the roster with transfer pieces, many of whom probably didn’t work out at their last Power 5 school for a reason. I’m penciling in the Huskers for 14-18 wins.

14. Rutgers (APR: 133)

Double Plays: MSU, Purdue, OSU, Illinois, Nebraska
Singles Home: NW, UW, Iowa, IU
Singles Away: Minny, Michigan, PSU, MD

Consensus Outlook: Steve Pikiell is great! The roster is not.

What They’re Not Saying: It’s easy to pencil Rutgers in at the bottom because they’ve been here for a few years now. Obviously I’m doing the same, but one of these years Pikiell is going to bounce out of it and win Coach of the Year. They’ve got a strong trio in Sanders, Williams, and Freeman. The problem is, it’s hard to find a single other guy that would crack the rotation at many other Big Ten schools. It appears as though Pikiell might be starting two freshmen who would likely redshirt at much of the competition.

Projection: I’m not sure how much the Big Ten record will really improve this year, but that doesn’t mean things aren’t getting better in Piscataway.

Player of the Year

Miles Bridges, Michigan State

Sometimes things are just really simple. Bridges was outstanding his freshman year when healthy. After somewhat stunningly returning for his sophomore season, he’s the overwhelming favorite to win this award as his team is poised to have a much better year.

Newcomer of the Year

Charles Matthews, Michigan

Saying that the Kentucky transfer is very talented would be redundant, but it’s true. Jaren Jackson is a popular pick for good reason. Jackson is a likely lottery pick next season, but I’ll go with Matthews due to opportunity. MSU has an embarrassment of riches and likely won’t need high productivity from Jackson every game. On the other hand, Matthews may be counted on to carry a big part of the scoring load for the Wolverines all year.

First Team

Miles Bridges, Michigan State

Ethan Happ, Wisconsin

Nate Mason, Minnesota

Vincent Edwards, Purdue

Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern

Second Team

Nick Ward, Michigan State

Justin Jackson, Maryland

Tony Carr, Penn State

Tyler Cook, Iowa

Carsen Edwards, Purdue

CFB Week 11 Picks, Rankings, Ramblings

 

Power Rankings?

The last few weeks I’ve been working on a system to use as a predictor for the outcome of games. It’s one of the few times in my life I’ve really wished I was a big computer nerd. Probably could’ve accomplished what I wanted to accomplish in like two hours, tops. More on that later.

But through the process, I realized I could make a power rankings and if you’ve been a loyal follower of this blog, you know nothing makes me wet quite like an opportunity to put together a meaningless set of rankings.

Are they really that different from most of the predictive rankings you see out there? Not really! They’re probably slightly worse due to two reasons: 1. they originated from my brain and 2. it’s probably riddled with clerical errors.

Anyway, here’s the Top 25:

MLP Rank Team CFP Rank
1 Ohio St 13
2 Oklahoma 5
3 Georgia 1
4 Alabama 2
5 Oklahoma St 15
6 Penn St 14
7 Auburn 10
8 Clemson 4
9 Notre Dame 3
10 UCF 18
11 Virginia Tech 17
12 Wisconsin 8
13 TCU 6
14 Washington 9
15 USC 11
16 Michigan St 12
17 Michigan NR
18 Wazzu 19
19 Texas NR
20 Miami (FL) 7
21 Miss State 16
22 Iowa 20
23 NC State 23
24 LSU 24
25 GA Tech NR

I’ll be the first to admit it: not a great look that Ohio State is first and Alabama is fourth. Not good! However, it’s pretty explainable. Strength of schedule is weighted pretty heavily and facts are facts: the Tide’s schedule so far has pretty much stunk. Their raw numbers otherwise are hurt by the fact that they pull the starters in the third quarter like 75% of the time.

Also, Ohio State is still second in S&P+, ESPN’s FPI, and TeamRankings.

Otherwise, I kinda like it.

Your Top 5 Group of 5 Rankings:

  1. UCF (10)
  2. USF (27)
  3. Toledo (31)
  4. Boise St. (37)
  5. San Diego St. (38)

Your Bottom 5 Power of 5 Rankings:

  1. Kansas (126)
  2. Oregon St. (107)
  3. Illinois (106)
  4. Rutgers (105)
  5. Tennessee (94)

Learn to Love Again

I’m talkin gamblin. The first nine weeks were nothing but unrelenting torture. But not last week! It was a huge week. 13-5 with half of 14 underdogs cashing the moneyline as well. It was beautiful.

Of course we’re nowhere near a profit for the season yet. Whatever.

Last week was the first week I felt like I started to understand how to evaluate the outputs the system was telling me and about 13 of those picks were purely based on those outputs. Expect a lot of underdog picks the rest of the way.

So we’re feeling good. I should also mention the season-long picks are doing quite well.

Right now we’re on the quest to get close to breaking even. Here’s this week’s picks.

Ramblings

I’ve just got some takes that I need to get out.

  • The above rankings support my general thoughts that UCF is criminally underrated when it comes to the CFP rankings so far. The Knights are at 18, which I can’t help but notice is 10 and 9 spots behind Wisconsin and Washington, respectively. Why are they important to UCF? Well, the biggest knock on UCF is what? That they’re in the AAC and that must mean that their schedule is so much easier than teams like the UWs. Except to this point, it’s not. If you look at TeamRankings’ SOS numbers, UCF is 63rd, Wisconsin is 58th, and Washington is 53rd. And Washington has a loss! UCF has beaten one team in the CFP Top 25 (Memphis by 27 at home), as has Wisconsin (NW by 9 at home), and meanwhile Washington doesn’t have a single one. And Washington has a loss! I’d love to hear a logical explanation of the rankings of those three teams. (SPOILER: It doesn’t exist)
  • As someone who holds a Saquon +1400 Heisman ticket, I have no idea why he’s been considered the Heisman favorite. I feel like during every recent Penn State game, one of the commentators has said something along the lines of “Barkley is a Heisman favorite, but this has not been one of his better games.” It’s so odd to me. He’s rushed for over 100 yards three times this year. THREE!
  • Speaking of Penn State, if James Franklin doesn’t scream “phony” to you, I think you’re a terrible judge of character. Sprinting after his players after last week’s loss to Michigan State so that they would shake hands was quite the show.
  • I grew up hating Notre Dame, but I find myself rooting for them and it’s weird. Maybe it’s because I have a season long bet on them (it’s definitely that), but that’s nearly over. Brian Kelly is the worst. My childhood was basically one long argument with reversible jacket ND football/IU basketball fans. But still, I’m legitimately pulling for them and I can’t figure out why.
  • San Jose State has to be one of the most incapable, incompetent football teams I’ve ever seen.
  • I forget Georgia Southern’s head coach’s name right now, but nobody has ever put a program in a tailspin faster than that guy.
  • James “Junkyard Jim” Washington is my favorite college receiver since Michael Crabtree.
  • I like the playoff and all and sure I love a good hypothetical, but it sucks that every national radio show just devolves into six weeks of hypothetical playoff situation talk and ignores like 115 out of the 130 programs during that stretch.
  • I just somehow found out about The Solid Verbal podcast early this year and it makes me mad at everyone I know for not telling me about it for the past, like. 8 years.
  • College football is the best. Well, until college basketball starts.

CFB Picks: Week 8

This is the college football season from hell – in terms of weekly gambling, the rest has been delightful as always – but we’re going to keep chugging along. It’s been excellent fade material, after all.

Picks

Colorado State (-6.5) over NEW MEXICO – 3u

The Rams are clearly the much better team. If there’s a weakness to exploit, it’s the pass defense and the Lobos are obviously a heavy run team, so that becomes less of a concern. CSU has won 7 straight in the series, covering in 6 of those, all as the favorite.

Tulsa (-6) over UCONN – 3u

Another game for UConn that’s set up for a shootout and once again, I don’t think they can outscore the opponent. Hasn’t been a recipe for success for them.

Wake Forest (+7) over GEORGIA TECH – 3u

Apparently Wake takes a week off and everybody forgets they’re good. There’s a lot to like about the Deacs this week. They’re coming off a bye week, which is especially a good thing when you’re preparing for a triple option offense, both schematically and physically. It helps that they’re already one of the better defenses against the run in the country. Conversely, GT is coming off that physical game down in Miami that resulted in a heartbreaking loss.

NOTRE DAME (-3.5) over USC – 3u

USC has been playing with fire a lot and have been lucky to only get burned once so far. The Irish have been much more impressive week-to-week and they’ll take advantage of the Trojans’ carelessness with the ball. Like Wake, I like ND coming off of a bye.

UCLA (-7) over Oregon – 3u

I’ll just keep betting against Oregon.

ARKANSAS STATE (-13) over ULL – 2u

The Red Wolves are starting to show why they were among the favorites to win the Sun Belt this year. They’re pretty comfortable at home. Meanwhile, ULL is a very shaky 3-3.

Iowa (+1.5) over NORTHWESTERN – 2u

To put it simply, I think Iowa is better.

FAU (-3) over North Texas – 2u

North Texas is much improved, but you don’t just come in to Joey Freshwater’s house and steal a W. Especially when he’s got his next job to campaign for pretty soon. FAU’s pass defense should be able to slow down the Mean Green enough to get the W.

Kent State (+20) over OHIO – 2u

Ohio’s been shaky. Kent State has been kind of plucky and broke through with a big win over Miami this past week. Newfound confidence can go a long way in college football.

ARMY (-6) over Temple – 2u

Temple officially sucks.

Michigan (+10) over PENN STATE – 2u

I know the Michigan offense is downright painful to watch right now, but I can’t help but think that defense is at least going to keep them in it Happy Valley. Defense travels and what not.

FLORIDA STATE (-7) over Louisville – 2u

I can’t quit Florida State, even if it was like pulling teeth to get that cover over Duke. The offense has its issues still, but Louisville did just give up 45 at home to BC. That really happened.

Georgia Southern (+7) over UMASS – 2u

Ohhhhh baby, you gotta really love to gamble to bet on this game. Combined record of 0-11. I’m still holding out a sliver of hope that GSU can turn things around a bit. UMass is destined to stink forever.

HOUSTON (-2) over Memphis – 2u

Late add

Leans

Western Kentucky (-9.5) over OLD DOMINION

Marshall (-3) over MTSU

NEVADA (+5.5) over Air Force

GEORGIA STATE (+9.5) over Troy

SMU-Cinci  no line

MIAMI (OH) – Buffalo no line

TOLEDO-Akron no line

BGSU (+13.5) over Northern Illinois

WMU-EMU no line

MICHIGAN STATE (-7) over Indiana

CHARLOTTE (+7) over UAB

ECU (+5.5) over BYU

RUTGERS (+8) over Purdue

DUKE (-8) over Pitt

Syracuse (+14.5) over MIAMI (FL)

Central Michigan (-2.5) over BALL STATE

APP STATE – Coastal no line

WISCONSIN (-24) over Maryalnd

North Carolina (+22) over VIRGINIA TECH

Boston College (+7) over VIRGINIA

Wyoming (+14) over BOISE STATE

TCU (-37.5) over Kansas

UTSA (-21.5) over Rice

NAVY (+7) over UCF

MIZZOU (-14) over Idaho

Kentucky (+10.5) over MISSISSIPPI STATE

TULANE (+11.5) over South Florida

UNLV (-3) over Utah State

Southern Miss (+3) over LOUISIANA TECH

CAL (+1) over Arizona

MINNESOTA (-14.5) over Illinois

ALABAMA (-34) over Tennessee

Oklahoma State (-7) over TEXAS

West Virginia (-10) over BAYLOR

ARKANSAS-Auburn no line

USA-ULM no line

Oklahoma (-12.5) over KANSAS STATE

OLE MISS (+7) over LSU

TEXAS TECH (-5.5) over Iowa State

Arizona State (+10.5) over UTAH

WAZZU (-10.5) over Colorado

Fresno State (+10.5) over SDSU

Week 7: 17-21-2

 

CFB Picks: Week 7

Another disaster last week. 3-7. Another one on me. We’ve hit a big time slump.

So like any good coach/manager would do, we gotta juggle the lineup. Bench the starters. Put the scrappy walk-on in for the first two minutes of the game just to send a message.

We’re down 40 at halftime? Wrong. It’s 0-0. Let’s just win the second half and build some momentum.

My version of that is scrapping the confidence point game. It never felt right, I just wanted to do something slightly different. But the truth is, I’m a unit guy through and through. So we’re back to the traditional units this week and we’re gonna win the second half.

MIAMI (FL) (-6.5) over Georgia Tech – 3u

There’s some cause for concern after the Canes had that dramatic win over Florida State last week. You worry about the hangover and the injuries that came from that game, but I also have faith in Mark Richt and I think Miami’s focused enough on their bigger goals this season to not overlook Georgia Tech. Mark Walton’s loss hurts, but it’s a deeper position for the Canes and they’ve survived with poor rushing performances from him the past couple weeks.

Tech  is off to a decent 3-1 start, but they’ve played a fairly average schedule with their best opponent so far being Tennessee (they lost). I think the Canes will do just fine against the option and virtually give them nothing in the pass game.

In a vacuum, I’d say the line is well short of what it should be, but you do have the hangover effect for Miami. FWIW, Canes won 35-21 in Atlanta last year.

ULL-Texas State under 58 – 3u

This is really all because of Texas State. They haven’t scored more than 14 points against anybody besides Houston Baptist and Monroe and the 27 against Monroe is the fewest anybody’s scored against them.

IOWA STATE-Kansas over 68 – 3u

Kansas is 5-0 on the overs largely due to them giving up a staggering 52 points per game. Iowa State is another team where you have to wonder about the hangover effect after pulling a massive upset over Oklahoma, but if anything I think that’s going to be defensively. You, me, and nine people in a retirement home could hang at least 40 on the Jayhawk D, but if you’re not careful KU is capable of doing the same thing.

KENT STATE (+11.5) over Miami (OH) – 2u

It’s hard to put a lot of faith in Kent State, but both teams are deep on the QB depth chart and that’s a bigger deal for Miami because their starting QB (Gus Ragland) is actually good.

 

AIR FORCE (-7.5) over UNLV – 2u

AFA has had a tough go the last few weeks, but I think this is the perfect spot for them to bust loose. They’ve had 3 of their last 4 on the road and the only home game was a close loss to SDSU. The stats don’t look as good for them when you line them up against UNLV’s, but they’ve played a much tougher schedule so far. The Rebels have been all over the map so far in terms of the consistency of their performance.

UTAH STATE (-2.5) over Wyoming – 2u

I guess I’m just a Utah State guy and I’ll go back to them this week. Wyoming is up to 3-2 now, but they’ve been feasting on some bad teams at home. At best, you could say that the Cowboys and Aggies are at the same level, but I think there’s more there to suggest USU has the edge and they’re only laying 2.5 at home. In case you haven’t been paying attention, Josh Allen still pretty much stinks. He finally had a decent game against Texas State, but they’re the worst team in the FBS.

UTEP (+24) over SOUTHERN MISS – 2u

Let’s see if Mike Price’s mojo magic can result in another close loss for the Miners.

ARKANSAS STATE (-19) over Coastal Carolina – 2u

Coastal hasn’t played a team in the top 100 yet and they’re 1-4. Arkansas State is a good team, that’s only gotten to play one game at home so far this season. It’s another one where the numbers don’t look great when you match the two teams up until you consider that the Red Wolves have been playing a much tougher schedule. I think it’s a perfect opportunity for them to come home and blow out an inferior team.

FRESNO STATE (-2) over New Mexico – 2u

Fresno is better than New Mexico and they’re only favored by 2 over New Mexico. So I’m gonna take Fresno.

TEMPLE (-9.5) over UConn – 2u

The Huskies have been getting murdered by average teams because they can’t stop a nose bleed. Almost as bad as Kansas, defensively. Overall, they’re one of the 5 to 10 worst teams in the FBS. Temple’s not great, but they’ve played two semi-decent games in a row. If it means anything to you, they’ve had one common opponent: ECU. Temple won on the road by 24 and UConn lost at home by 3.

 

Tulane (-13) over FIU – 2u

FIU might be the worst 3-2 team in the history of 3-2 teams. They’ve beat Charlotte, Rice, and Alcorn State by a combined 14 points. That’s two of the five worst teams in the FBS and Alcorn State. Credit for the wins, but they also just lost to depleted MTSU by 20. Meanwhile, the Green Wave is…making waves by having a little renaissance under Willie Fritz.

FLORIDA (-2.5) over Texas A&M – 2u

A&M hasn’t hit the road since that Week 1 meltdown at UCLA and the most impressive thing they did in their month at home was only lose to Alabama by 8 points.

I’ll take the team with maybe the worst uniform of all-time.

Image result for florida gators uniforms

Subtlety isn’t always a bad thing, Gainesville.

 

STANFORD (-10.5) over Oregon – 2u

I was obviously bullish on the Ducks this year, but everything has hit the skids with Justin Herbert out and it’s a very dark time to be an Oregon supporter. Working for Oregon in this game is that their run defense has been excellent and you’re gonna need it to slow down Bryce Love, but they’re gonna have to be damn near perfect because I just don’t see the UO offense able to put many points on the board.

ILLINOIS-Rutgers under 48 – 2u

Two roughly average defenses going against two of the worst offenses in football.

 

Florida State (-6.5) over DUKE – 2u

I will hop right back on the Seminole train, even if they ripped my heart out last weekend. It also helps that Duke did the same thing. I feel like it’s important to once again point out that FSU has played four top 25 teams so far this season. Based on “resume”, you’d be crazy to still call them a top 15 or even 25 team…buuuuuut I think they are.

Duke’s no walk in the park this week either, but James Blackman is getting better every week. The Blue Devils early season wins are starting to lose their luster a bit too. Northwestern, Baylor, and UNC have a combined 3-13 record and those 3 wins are against Nevada, Bowling Green, and Old Dominion. The only team they’ve played close to FSU’s caliber was Miami and they lost by 25 at home.

Michigan (-6.5) over INDIANA – 2u

I’ll be honest, I didn’t have a real opinion on this game, but a guy in my office is a Michigan fan and he was confident they were gonna win by two touchdowns. I’m open to anything right now.

ARIZONA STATE (+17) over Washington – 2u

I don’t like going against Washington, but ASU has played a really tough schedule over the past month and held up pretty well, beating Oregon and hanging with Stanford, Texas Tech, and SDSU. The defense is shaky at best, but they can score enough to hang with the Huskies.

USC (-12.5) over Utah – 1u

I guess it’s just kind of a feel thing. The injury report for the Trojans is basically the size of the roster, but I’d have to think a lot of the guys who sat out last week weren’t a necessity but more due to USC playing a glorified scrimmage with Oregon State.

Utah’s upside just isn’t as high with Troy Williams at QB. Additionally, their numbers look good defensively, but they haven’t played a team like USC that can challenge them with both the run and pass.

ARMY (-4.5) over Eastern Michigan – 1u

I don’t know, I thought EMU stunk in August and I think they stink now. Should be an interesting battle. EMU can’t run, but Army is terrible against the run. Running is the best thing Army does (obviously), but EMU’s strong against the run. I’ll just take the better team, playing at home.

 

MARYLAND (+3) over Northwestern – 1u

Obviously, the Terps have had to resort to playing something by the name of “Bortenschlager” at QB, but I don’t think the defensive numbers are as bad as they might indicate when you consider a few of the offenses they’ve played. And buddy, that Northwestern offense is not very good.

CFB Picks: Week 6

It’s been a slow bleed the last few weeks, which just means we’re due to win big…hopefully.

Picks

10* FLORIDA STATE (+3) over Miami (FL)

I know I’m an idiot, but my brain refuses to believe that Florida State is going to start the season 1-3. I know they lost Francois, but it’s a team loaded with talent and had national championship aspirations. They absolutely have to have this game if they want to achieve any of their goals. They’re playing an instate rival. It’s at home. The NC State loss was ugly, but it’s clear that at least Vegas isn’t respecting winning on the road against a kinda sorta top 25 Wake Forest team.

Meanwhile, Miami is getting a ton of love for winning by 25 at Duke, despite only outgaining the Blue Devils by 60 yards. It was the second straight week that the final score for the Canes ended up looking better than the real story. They beat Toledo by 22 at home, but trailed by 6 at half.

So yeah, I’m gonna take the preseason top 5 team that’s won 7 straight in the series and is getting points at home.

9* Duke (+2.5) over VIRGINIA

At no point, be it preseason or after any of the first four weeks, would Virginia have been favored in this game. I just explained what I believe to be a misleading result for the Blue Devils last week. Virginia got a dumbfounding easy win over Boise State on the blue turf a couple of weeks ago.

But the rest of the resume leans heavily in favor of the Blue Devils. You can see that for yourself.

I think Duke is going to force UVA to be one-dimensional by shutting down the run game and I’ve got an overconfident Cav team scoring about 17 points in this one.

8* UTAH STATE (+8.5) over Colorado State

The Rams have blown out a couple of the worst teams in the country, but overall I thought their September was pretty underwhelming. There’s a lot of holes in that defense and I think the Aggies have a decent chance to win outright.

7* UNLV (+11) over San Diego State

I love the Aztecs, but they’ve been flirting with a loss lately and they have a lot of nicks to guys on defense. UNLV had that extremely embarrasing week 1 loss, but they’ve responded really well since then. The Rebel offense is top 10 in the country in both yards per carry and yards per pass attempt.

6* TEXAS (-3.5) over Kansas State

Texas football is not back, but they’re slowly inching their way there. I’m not sure what you’re hanging your hat on if you’re a K-State supporter. They’ve blown out an FCS team and the worst FBS team, they had a ho-hum W over winless Baylor, and they lost to Vanderbilt and only scored 7 points in the process.

Texas isn’t a solved puzzle, but it’s a game between two good defenses and they’re the only team in the equation that can run and pass offensively.

5* MICHIGAN (-10.5) over Michigan State

How is Michigan State going to score?

4* Marshall (-15) over CHARLOTTE

I put my faith in Charlotte a couple of weeks ago to cover against Georgia State a couple of weeks ago and how did they repay me? They lost 28-0 at home…to Georgia State. They’re the worst team in the FBS.

The Marshall gravy train has not hit the skids yet, so we’re gonna stay on it.

3* NEVADA (+4) over Hawaii

Sure, I’ll double down on Nevada. Not everybody has the guts to bet twice on one of the worst teams in football, but I do. Reasoning? Hawaii stinks, too.

2* BOSTON COLLEGE (+16.5) over Virginia Tech

I’m not exactly sure how BC is going to score points, but at least their pass defense is sick and they’re playing at home?

1* VANDY (+17.5) over Georgia

Georgia has destroyed their last two opponents, Vandy has gotten cooked their last two games…which means you have to take Vandy.

Leans

UAB (+12.5) over Louisiana Tech

FAU (-3.5) over OLD DOMINION

AUBURN (-21) over Ole Miss

Wazzu (+2.5) over OREGON

MTSU (-10) over FIU

Southern Miss (+13) over UTSA

UTAH (+6.5) over Stanford

Arkansas State (-7) over GEORGIA SOUTHERN

NC STATE (+4) over Louisville

BUFFALO (+7) over Western Michigan

OHIO (-12) over Central Michigan

NMSU (+11) over APP STATE

Wake Forest (+21.5) over CLEMSON

CINCINNATI (+17) over UCF

EAST CAROLINA (+3) over Temple

Picks W-L: 23-28-1 (45.1%)
Confidence Points: 125 (of 290)

Season Total Tracker: After Week 4

5*

TCU (over 7.5) beat Oklahoma State (over 9, 1*) 44-31

(TCU 4-0; OSU 3-1)

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

I gotta be honest, I was afraid the Frogs might get blown out.

I’m now wondering what the spread will be when they play Bama in the natty.  Could be double digits.

4*

Vanderbilt (under 6) loses to Alabama (over 11, 2*) 59-0

(Vandy 3-1; Bama 4-0)

I obviously counted this as a loss when trying to figure out Vandy’s record this year, so it’s really not that big of a deal that they did in fact lose.

On the other hand, here’s to hoping that this total embarrassment at home destroys all that confidence the Dores built up the past few weeks.

Oregon (over 8) loses to Arizona State (under 5, 1*) 37-35

(Oregon 3-1; ASU 2-2)

Buddy, this was not good. This was the kind of loss that would force the Ducks to run the table at home and take one on the road against UW, UCLA, or Stanford. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that it’s not clear if UCLA or Stanford is any good. Not to mention their stadiums get about as raucous as a funeral. It’s not time to panic, but the sphincter is getting tighter.

3*

Houston (over 8) loses to Texas Tech (under 5) 27-24

(Houston 2-1; Tech 3-0)

To recap:

  • This game hurts the Houston season win total bet
  • This game hurts the Texas Tech season win total bet
  • I made Houston -6 my best bet of the week
  • I put Houston in a money line parlay

Other than that, this game had zero impact on my gambling bankroll. Thanks for the five (5) turnovers, fellas!

Ohio (over 7.5) beats Eastern Michigan (under 4.5, 1*) 27-20

(Ohio 3-1; EMU 2-1)

I hate to jinx things, but the next four games on the schedule for the Bobcats: @UMass, CMU, @Bowling Green, Kent State. Could be a lot easier than I thought.

Maryland (over 3.5) loses to UCF (over 7.5, 1*) 38-10

(Maryland 2-1; UCF 2-0)

It’s not the end of the world. UCF is good. However, if you’re looking for an easy Terp win on the schedule, it doesn’t exist. Okay, maybe at Rutgers. Even then, the injuries at QB are concerning.

2*

Florida State (over 10) loses to NC State (over 7.5, 1*) 27-21

(FSU 0-2; NC State 3-1)

Whenever you bet on a team to go 11-1 and they start off 0-2, it’s not great.

Virginia (under 5) beats Boise State (over 8.5, 1*) 42-23

UVA had won like 1 of their last 200 on the road, but of course they go in to Boise and thoroughly dump truck the Broncos. Still gonna be a tough road for the Hoos, but they’re doing too much winning by too many points for my taste.

 

CFB Picks: Week 4

5-4-1 last week, pushing the Texas Tech game. 27 (out of 47) in the confidence point rankings. The parlays and teasers continue to be a disaster, but also a reminder of why I stopped playing them.  I couldn’t narrow it down to 10 this week, so you get two extra picks free of charge, but don’t be afraid to donate on Venmo @mlparlays.

Picks

12* HOUSTON (-6) over Texas Tech

Going in to last week, I thought the Red Raiders might have turned a small corner with their defense and it looked like that may end up being the case as the game with Arizona State went on. They were up 18 points on three separate occasions. Then, the old TT defense was back, they let ASU tie it late in the game and they ended up giving up 500 yards to a team that’s really not that good.

I’m not sure how much we know about the Cougar offense at this point in the post-Greg Ward and Tom Herman era, but we do know that Kyle Allen will dink-and-dunk all over the place against a defense like TT’s. He’s completed a nation’s best of 84.3% of his passes. Pretty good.

What I know for sure is that UH is not gonna be giving up a 50-burger to the Red Raiders. They’ve given up 19 points through two games and have some NFL talent on that side of the ball. I’m just not seeing a path to victory for a Tech team that tends to really struggle away from Lubbock.

11* CHARLOTTE (+3.5) over Georgia State

You may be wondering why anyone would bother even looking at a matchup between two of the five worst teams in the FBS. The answer: it’s true that both of these teams are bad, but one of them is playing at home and that team is getting 3.5 big ones.

I’ll start with Georgia State. They lost at home to Tennessee State as 15-point favorites to start the season. They managed a whopping 10 points in the process. I’m not here to disparage TSU, but it’s a mediocre to slightly above average FCS program. The only other game for the Panthers was a 56-0 loss to Penn State. That’s expected, but that’s all the 49ers have played right now and I’m not sensing a ton of confidence off those two games.

Listen, Charlotte is a hard sell here. They’re not great. However, they did hang around with Eastern Michigan on the road, they at least managed to score (IN THE FIRST QUARTER) on Kansas State, and they were driving to take the lead late on NC A&T last week before a regrettable pick-six ended the rally. And, yeah, I know NC A&T, but the Aggies win 9 or 10 games every year and actually beat Kent State as well last year.

It’s a game of suck, for sure. I wouldn’t watch it if I could, but the 49ers are playing at home and I think they’ve at least had something to feel good about so far this season.

10* SOUTH ALABAMA (-4) over Idaho

I wasn’t alone in thinking Idaho was due for a dropoff this year after the flukiest season of all-time, the real question is how severe it would be. They opened by beating Sac State in what appears to be the most boring football game ever, excluding every NFL game played this season.

And for those who maybe don’t pay attention to the lower levels, you probably heard that UNLV was on the wrong side of the biggest upset ever in Week 1 by losing to Wagner? Well, Week 2 they went to Idaho and SMASHED the Vandals 44-16, piling up 550 yards along the way.

Idaho played better last week at Western Michigan (still lost), but in the words of Bill “Broken Record” Simmons, are we sure they’re good? There’s no real proof to support the Broncos yet.

As for the team I’m actually betting on here, heading into the season I liked USA to make a bowl this year. They were tuned up pretty good by Ole Miss and Oklahoma State the first two weeks, but at least they covered the first one and “hung” with the Pokes just as well as Pitt and Tulsa did, so that’s something?

I guess the concern would be that QB Cole Garvin’s status is up in the air, but I’m not sure it really matters that much. Backup Dallas Davis started 10 games last year and Garvin’s not what anyone would deem close to “irreplaceable”. He didn’t play in the Jags 45-0 win over Alabama A&M last week. But if it’s important to you that he plays, I’ve got good news: he’s looking for a cure.

Jags are locked in.

9* PURDUE-Michigan under 52

I’ve spent a lot of time and effort now talking about lower-tier C-USA and Sun Belt teams and I’ve gotta tell you, I’m gassed.

Luckily, you should probably already know about Michigan’s struggles on offense. They can’t finish drives, they just lost a starting WR, and their QB is still a poor man’s John Navarre. For all the (deserved) hype Jeff Brohm has gotten, Boiler DC Nick Holt might be the real star of the show. Mizzou had to really struggle to even gain 200 yards of total offense. The problem here might be their lack of a pass rush and that allowing the more athletic UM skill players to run free. But of course poor man’s John Navarre still has to throw it, so that’s tricky.

Purdue’s offense has been better than expected given their lack of returning WRs and their makeshift O-Line. However, I could see both of those issues rearing their ugly heads against an elite defense. The Boilers were able to carve up Mizzou with standard runs and a TON of borderline extended handoffs that were considered passes. That won’t work as well against all the speed on the Wolverine D.

8* TEXAS STATE (+14) over UTSA

UTSA is well-coached, really improved since Frank Wilson took over, and they had a nice win over a very bad Baylor team, but now we’re making them two touchdown favorites on the road all of a sudden?

TSU has their own little youth movement goin’ on in San Marcos. For starters, they got a win Week 1. Week 2, they lose at Colorado 37-3, but the score was far from indicative of how that game went. Turnovers killed the Bobcats in the third quarter, but they certainly didn’t get rolled. Last week they were within one yard of taking heavy Sun Belt favorite App State to OT. They outgained the Mountaineers by more than 100 yards.

7* Ohio (+2.5) over EASTERN MICHIGAN

EMU has had a nice start to the season, punctuated by their win at Rutgers…but here’s the thing: Rutgers still sucks.

I thought the Eagles had a pretty fluky year last year and have doubted them from the start. I’ve liked Ohio. I don’t think the Purdue loss is going to end up looking that bad for them and they rebounded from it by pasting Kansas.

It’s gonna be a low-scoring game, but I think the Bobcats will be able to run the ball with more consistency and they have a better ability to make plays on offense. I also like the fact that EMU beat them last year. Ohio’s always been the better program and I think they’ll have a little extra motivation to make sure the Eagles regress back to the mean.

6* KANSAS-West Virginia under 68.5

By far the best defense Kansas will have played to this point in the season. They’ve been better offensively so far, but I’d expect that to die down against the Mountaineers. First road game for WVU and I’d like to see how well their offense travels.

5* CAL (+17) over USC

The Trojans are coming off two huge wins at home over Stanford and Texas. They’re going away from the Coliseum for the first time this season and it’s a night game in Berkeley in front of what should be a great crowd. The Bears have already won at UNC and taken down Ole Miss at home. They have a defense now, thanks to new HC Justin Wilcox.

4* TCU (+13) over OKLAHOMA STATE

I like OSU and they’ve obviously been awesome, but they’ve also played three teams who are probably not going to turn out to be very good. TCU’s the first team they’ve played that has anything close to a defense and it’s a pretty good one. I think the line’s begging you to take the Pokes.

3* MICHIGAN STATE-Notre Dame under 54

Originally thought about taking MSU here until I really started looking at it. I don’t see the path for a lot of points. For starters, it’s a Michigan State game. All they want to do is run. On the other side, all Notre Dame might be able to do is run.

2* LOUISVILLE-Kent State over 56.5

I think Bobby Petrino is going to try and score as many points as possible after the Cardinals got embarrassed at Clemson, just to try and get the confidence level back up. And it’s not like Kent State will have many answers defensively. I think you’re going to get something out of the Flashes in terms of scoring. I don’t really think Louisville’s defense is anything to write home about and they haven’t pitched a shutout since September 2013. And in that game, the Cardinals scored 72 points.

1* Toledo (+13.5) over MIAMI (FL)

Toledo can score with anybody and at this point I think you’d have to consider them a heavy favorite to win the MAC. There’s a lot of question marks with Miami right now. Week 1 is Week 1, but they didn’t exactly light up Bethune Cookman. Also, Week 1 was three weeks ago and it’s the last time the Canes played, due to Irma. I’m not sure what to expect from them, but I’m inclined to take the side that’s been scoring a ton of points, winning football games, and in a rhythm.

Money Line Parlay of the Week

Nebraska, MTSU, Houston (+120)

Nebraska burned me here last week, so call it a double down if you will. If Mike Riley loses to NIU and Rutgers on back-to-back weeks at home, I’d suggest he leave Lincoln before the locals find him. Things are going poorly for MTSU right now, but Bowling Green is one of the worst teams in college football.

Teaser of the Week

Boise (-6), South Carolina (-3), Michigan State (+10.5) — (+190)

Boise gets Virginia at home on a Friday night. I think the Broncos are past their hangover week post-Wazzu and they roll UVA. Speaking of teams burning me last weekend, I had South Carolina tied up in both the parlay and teaser last week. I’m just gonna stick them here this week. Surely they can beat a LT team that got blasted by Mississippi St. at home, right? RIGHT?!

Not Actually Betting, But Sides I’d Take With A Hypothetical Gun To My Head

APPALACHIAN STATE (+4.5) over Wake Forest

Arkansas State (+6) over SMU

TENNESSEE (-26) over UMass

Washington (-10) over COLORADO

FLORIDA STATE (-10.5) over NC State

IOWA (+13) over Penn State

TROY (-15) over Akron

CENTRAL MICHIGAN (-2) over Miami (OH)

SOUTH CAROLINA (-8) over Louisiana Tech

BUFFALO (-3) over Florida Atlantic

Picks W-L: 15-14-1 (51.7%)
Confidence Points: 76 (of 157)
Parlays: 0-3 (-300)
Teasers: 0-3 (-300)

Season Total Tracker: After Week 2

5*

TCU (over 7.5) beats Arkansas (under 6.5, 1*) 28-7

I didn’t have big expectations for Arkansas heading into the season, but either way, a road win against an SEC team is never easy. But I appreciated the Frog D thoroughly dominating the Hog O and it was never a sweat.

HOWEVAH, one thing I was counting on this year was Kenny Hill being better at quarterback. It’s only two games, but…he still kinda sucks. The running game has been fruitful, but they still don’t have a go-to receiver. It’s hard to complain too much about a team that’s up 91-7 on the season and has another blowout looming, but still.

4*

Oregon (over 8) beats Nebraska (under 7, 2*) 42-35

I was ready to cash the ticket when the Ducks went into half 42-14. Pop the champagne, light the stogies, this puppy is already over. All I have to do now is hope they win the natty and cash that +10500 ticket.

Losing the second half 21-0 and nearly blowing the game entirely was less fun.

But a win’s a win and the show goes on. The offense still put up 1,000 yards. The defense still looks a hell of a lot better than last year. We’re still in the soft part of the schedule.

Vandy (under 6) beats Alabama A&M 42-0

Whatever. You expect that.

But if they beat K-State, I might start panicking a little bit.

3*

Georgia (over 8.5) beats Notre Dame (over 8) 20-19

Georgia is right on pace for 9 or 10 wins. Notre Dame loses a close game. Brian Kelly is being an unnecessary asshole. Pretty much par for the course.

If Notre Dame doesn’t beat BC this weekend, it’s over.

Central Michigan (over 6.5) beats Kansas (over 3, 1*) 45-27

I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t some real concern in the MLP household after it took the Chips 3 OTs to take care of Rhode Island at home. The same Rhode Island that has gone 16-74 since 2009.

But we are so back in Mount Pleasant. Shane Morris is throwing for 467 and 5 tuddies. We’ve got a vulnerable Syracuse team coming up this weekend.

Houston (over 8) beats Arizona (over 5.5, 1*) 19-16

The Cougs now have to go 9-2 in order to cash out due to the UTSA game being cancelled, so this is a nice place to start. The offense still looks like it can rack up the yards without Tom Herman, at least. Defense only gave up 16 points.

Illinois (under 3.5) beats Western Kentucky (under 9.5, 1*)

Seems preposterous…but is Illinois good? Could be our first loser of the season.

2*

Georgia Southern (over 5) loses to New Hampshire 22-12

I thought that Tyson Summers going away from the option in his first year last year was the problem. It appears now that maybe Tyson Summers is the problem.

MTSU (over 7) beats Syracuse (under 4.5, 1*) 30-23

After dropping game one in ugly fashion to Vandy at home, this is a big one. The Stockstill-James combo was back in full swing. This week will be tough at Minnesota, but after that it’s four of the worst teams in college football.

Ohio State (over 11) loses to Oklahoma (under 9.5, 1*) 31-16

This was unfortunate. Am I worried? No. The push is still gonna happen. Urban Meyer was put on this Earth to win football games at a minimum of a 92% clip.

1*

Baylor (over 7.5) loses to UTSA (over 6.5) 17-10

Nobody likes a guy who can’t laugh at himself and the Baylor over will go down as one of the worst predictions of all-time.

HUGE FOR THE UTSA OVER THOUGH!

Louisville (over 9.5) beats UNC (under 7) 47-35

I’m going to miss Lamar Jackson so much.

San Diego St. (over 9.5) beats Arizona State (under 5) 30-20

The Aztecs are a well-oiled machine.

 

CFB Picks: Week 3

Great start to the season so far if you’re looking to be an Average Joe. Both weeks have ended at 5-5. This week was a little better in terms of confidence points at least, grabbing 29 (out of 55). I should probably add the disclaimer that I’ve always been terrible with grading out the confidence/unit size thing.

Picks

10* WASHINGTON STATE (-18.5) over Oregon State

It wasn’t a thing of beauty, but the Cougs grinded one out over Boise despite a “constipated” offense. I would assume Luke Falk can go, but it didn’t appear to matter very much whether it was him or Hilinski running the show.

It also doesn’t matter because Oregon State is atrocious. They’re also especially bad against the pass, giving up 10.5 yards per attempt, which is “good” enough for 113th best in the country.

9* SOUTH CAROLINA (-6.5) over Kentucky

At this point, you’d have to consider South Carolina a legitimate contender to win the SEC East. UK hasn’t been all that impressive in wins over Southern Miss and EKU. Jake Bentley has given the Cocks their first formidable offense in a while and I don’t think UK has the firepower to keep up on the road.

 

8* TEXAS TECH (-7) over Arizona State

It’s hard to tell much off of one game, but the Red Raiders shut down a normally potent Eastern Washington team in Week 1. They’ve also had two weeks to prepare for the Aztecs, who were just soundly beat at home by SDSU and didn’t have high hopes heading into the season. It’ll likely be another massive shootout between these two, but I think TT is the more likely of the two to slow the other down.

7* CAL (+3.5) over Ole Miss

There were a lot of questions about Ole Miss heading into the year. What have we learned? Not much besides they’re not a total trainwreck, unlike Baylor who had similar questions. They’ve won relatively easy over two poor opponents, but nothing to signify the Rebels are anything above mediocre.

Cal opened the season with a major win over UNC on the road. They might’ve had a bit of a hangover performance with Weber State, but I’m not too worried about that. Their pass defense was great against the Heels and that will serve them well against the Ole Miss attack. Things should be lively in Berkeley with a 7:30 local time kickoff and a resurgence in the program.

6* SAN DIEGO STATE (+10) over Stanford

I’m not selling on Stanford yet, but SDSU continues to be a good team this year and it’s a tough team for the Cardinal to play coming off of USC week. The Aztec front has kept up their strong run defense, giving up just 1.5 ypc against Arizona State. Meanwhile, Stanford hasn’t been as strong through two games, giving up over 5 ypc. Both teams are run heavy, so those numbers will obviously have a big impact.

5* UTEP (+20) over Arizona

Does UTEP suck? Yes, they do. However, I’m still pretty sure Arizona isn’t good and they’ve been vulnerable in games like these in the past. Similar to the preposterous-ness that was Oregon State being favored over anybody last week, it doesn’t make sense for Arizona to be laying nearly three touchdowns on the road.

4* LSU (-6.5) over MISSISSIPPI STATE

Once again, the run game will be crucial in this one. And once again, the team I’m on has been much better than the opponent AGAINST the run. The Bulldogs have looked good early, but it’s come against schedule fluffers.

3* TCU (-18) over SMU

SMU ended up beating North Texas by quite a bit, but they actually were matched by the Mean Green in total yardage. I don’t see the Stangs having any shot at shutting the TCU offense down. Meanwhile, the Horned Frogs have given up 7 points through two games.

2* UCF (+2) over Georgia Tech    CANCELLED

I’d feel better about it, but it’s hard to gauge how much the hurricane is going to affect preparation/mindset.

2* Illinois (+17) over SOUTH FLORIDA

I’m not sure this game is even going to happen. But if it does, USF has been pretty disappointing thus far in the season with lackluster performances against bad football teams. Meanwhile, the Illini are fresh off a dominating defensive performance against Western Kentucky, holding the Hilltoppers to 7 points.

1* Clemson (-3) over LOUISVILLE

Lamar Jackson is the ultimate X-factor, but the defensive front for Clemson is incredible and there’s some holes on that Cardinal O-line, mainly at center. Kelly Bryant has shown a lot of pose and capability through two weeks. I know the game was close last year, but I don’t see 5 Tiger turnovers happening again.

Money Line Parlay of the Week

Nebraska, Western Kentucky, South Carolina (+120)

Huskers have been a little shaky to start the year, but I don’t think NIU can score enough to stick with them. WKU was embarrassed at Illinois, but the same was true for Louisiana Tech at home against Mississippi State. I’ve got more faith in the Hilltopper D.

Teaser of the Week

South Carolina (pick), Texas Tech (-0.5), Cal (+10) – (+165)

Only 6.5 this week.

Not Actually Betting, But Sides I’d Take With A Hypothetical Gun To My Head

New Mexico (+16) over BOISE STATE

Coastal Carolina (-2) over UAB

Clemson (-3) over LOUISVILLE

Central Michigan (+10.5) over SYRACUSE

WESTERN KENTUCKY (-7) over Louisiana Tech

OHIO STATE (-29.5) over Army

WYOMING (+14) over Oregon

Purdue (+8) over MISSOURI

 

Picks W-L: 10-10 (50.0%)
Confidence Points: 49 (of 110)
Parlays: 0-2 (-200)
Teasers: 0-2 (-200)