Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Week 9 College Football Picks: Why The Pac-12 Is a National Afterthought

Money or exposure?

That is the question facing conferences moving forward when it comes to football. The Big Ten, for example, made its decision and they have been faced with declining football prowess with increasing football revenues.

The Pac-12, on the other hand, tried to have it all. They wanted the money. They wanted the exposure. They got the former. They are failing miserably on the latter.

Yet, the Pac-12 has no one to blame but itself. Or Larry Scott.

larry scott pac12 bad
There has been a developing narrative through the first half of the 2013 season that the Pac-12 is now the second-best conference, if not better than the SEC. It’s a compelling narrative and early non-conference wins, including Oregon’s destruction of Tennessee, UCLA’s comeback over Nebraska and Washington’s annihilation of Boise State, furthered it.

The conference had a good September. It is not having a good October.

On October 12, the biggest upset – of the season, to that point – took place when Utah beat Stanford. Few, if any, outside of the Pac-12 footprint were able to watch it because it was on the Pac-12 Network.

I live in Washington, D.C. I have the “sports geek” package. There are times when there are 14 different FBS football games on my television, from local sports channels to syndicated packages to national cable channels to smaller outfits like CBS Sports Network. I get it all. I did not get Utah/Stanford.

Do you know how frustrating that is as a football fan? There was 1 game of interest going on – though I guess Michigan/Penn State going on at the same was interesting in its own macabre way – and I couldn’t watch it. It’s not good when your conference’s biggest game is played and only about 25% of the country even has access to watch it, much less actually watch it.

Stanford was at the forefront of another Pac-12 scheduling debacle that incredulously received the backing of the media – is Larry Scott now the west coast version of Roger Goodell, with the media shoveling all the shit he spews?

Fox wanted to air Stanford/UCLA – a huge, massive, top 15 showdown – on its fledgling Fox Sports 1 at 10pm ET.

On its face, this seemed like a win-win for all involved. This would be the biggest college football game Fox Sports 1 would ever have aired, even trumping Oregon/Washington, and likely drawing the biggest audience in its short history. The game would have had zero competition – the only other college football game on at 10pm Saturday night was Oregon State blowing out Cal on ESPN2. In short, it was a perfect, exposure-grabbing opportunity.

Scott and the Pac-12 balked. They wanted to be on broadcast – a quaint notion straight out of 1975. Fox had its afternoon blocked off for Game 6 of the ALCS, which happened to destroy every other sporting event in the ratings on Saturday. Remember that the next time someone tries to tell you baseball is a dying sport.

With Fox not an option and Fox Sports 1 off the table, they moved the game to a 3:30pm ET start with a split telecast on ABC/ESPN2. Half of the United States got Stanford/UCLA – the conference’s biggest game so far – on ESPN2. It went up against a near upset in the Ohio State game and a back and forth thriller featuring Johnny Football, not to mention 6 other nationally televised games.

Fewer people, BY FAR, watched Stanford/UCLA because of the conference’s aversion to growing Fox Sports 1, which would help them in the future, and to night games, which would help them right now.

The Pac-12 is miles behind the Big Ten and the SEC. They are now risking falling behind the Big 12 and the ACC due to their own incompetence. The Big 12 has shown no such aversion to Fox’s scheduling and has been on TV far more. The ACC has not created its own network, leaving a lot more games for ESPN to air.

The Pac-12, thanks exclusively to UCLA, USC and its control of Los Angeles, will always be a major conference.

The Pac-12, thanks exclusively to poor leadership and a lack of forward thinking, will always be an afterthought.

Picks to Date: 48-38-2
Best Bet: 2-6
Upset Special: 6-2

BYU (-7) over Boise State
When do we admit Boise State is a very mediocre football team? If you’re a Fresno State fan, you hope the answer is never – Fresno State is several spots above Northern Illinois in the BCS Buster race based almost solely on a nice bump from beating Boise State. Do they deserve it? Probably not. And Northern Illinois is clearly being punished for its Orange Bowl loss. But that’s a story for another day.

As for this game, BYU is simply a much, much better team – especially at home. They blew out Texas. They blew out Georgia Tech. They beat a previously undefeated Houston team on the road last week. Boise State has beaten…who? The answer is nobody. And losing starting QB Joe Southwick to a broken ankle doesn’t make things any better. This is a legacy line for Boise State – and easy money for you.

minnesota beats northwester
IOWA (-4) over Northwestern
Northwestern is done. Everyone wanted to give Northwestern credit for their game against Ohio State and the fact they kept it close. Well the opposite is true – they blew that game. They should’ve won. They know it. The fans know it. They didn’t. They promptly got smoked by Wisconsin and returned home to play Minnesota in front of about 15,000 empty seats. The bandwagon fans are gone. The momentum has left. It’s not pretty.

On the other hand, Iowa is feeling pretty good about themselves. Unlike Northwestern, they played Ohio State tough, on the road, and Ohio State played good! That’s the most remarkable thing about Iowa’s effort – Ohio State played a good game and wasn’t able to put Iowa away until late. That’s a momentum-builder. The home crowd will be encouraged and Kinnick Stadium, unlike Ryan Field, will be filled to capacity.

Vanderbilt (+18) over TEXAS A&M *Upset Special*
I wrote in July that Texas A&M would lose at least 3 games this year – ignore the rest of these “bold” college football predictions – and it looks like I’ll be right. Maybe as soon as Saturday.

One of the odd things about preseason rankings in college football is how we sometimes obscure good losses, or losses that aren’t as bad as they seem. In early October, Missouri came to Nashville and absolutely rocked the shit out of Vanderbilt. For many, it just proved that Vanderbilt stunk. For the enlightened (not me, of course), it just proved that Missouri was really, really good.

I think Vanderbilt may still be poised to have the breakout season that was predicted for them in the summer and a win over Johnny Football on the road would be a part of that. A&M, on the other hand, is about to enter free-fall mode, aka what Texas A&M has historically been. The injury to Johnny Football adds an element of worry and the defense is the football equivalent of a dumpster fire.

Tennessee (+28) over ALABAMA
Oregon’s win over Tennessee is looking better by the week. And it’s going to look really, really good when they give Alabama a game for a half this week. I’m thinking we get a 10-10 or 14-10 halftime score, with Alabama pulling away late for a comfortable 38-14 win that still upsets the locals and lets me notch this up as a victory.

Only potential issue? Kirk Herbstreit on SportsCenter this morning putting Alabama on Upset Alert. I don’t think an ESPN analyst has correctly predicted a true Upset in about 10 years – they always go with the obvious upsets, which never pan out, or the absurd ones, which gain attention but never pan out. This is both, somehow. But the spread is too high.

OKLAHOMA (-7) over Texas Tech *Best Bet*
Texas Tech has beaten a grand total of….0 good teams.  That’s not even an exaggeration, just look at the schedule. They are 4-0 in the Big 12. The teams they’ve defeated are 2-12 in conference play or 2-8 even if you exclude the Texas Tech wins. They have beaten up on horrible, horrible teams. But they haven’t even beaten them up! They’ve been squeaking by the likes of Iowa State and West Virginia. Texas Tech is a very, very average football team.

Now, Oklahoma might be too but I cannot imagine a scenario in which Oklahoma, with its back against the wall in the Big 12 race, does not beat an average team by less than a touchdown at home. I just don’t see it. Oklahoma has too much talent. They may lose to Baylor by 70. But they will beat Texas Tech.

Utah (+6.5) over USC
Did you watch the USC/Notre Dame game last week? I did, so if you did, I feel your pain. It was probably the worst game in the history of that rivalry. Especially in the second half after Tommy Rees got hurt and Brian Kelly didn’t trust his backup QB to throw a forward pass. And you know why he didn’t? Because he knew USC, sans Marqise Lee, was incapable of scoring. Lee is going to give it a go this week. It doesn’t matter.

Here’s the bottom line: USC is a bad football team. Utah is a decent football team that dealt with an understandable letdown against Arizona last week after beating Stanford. There is never a letdown for a team like Utah going to play a program like USC, especially after a heartbreaking loss in 2011 and a sobering one in 2012.

OREGON (-23) over Ucla
23 points is a lot for a battle between Top 15 teams. But I am not going against Oregon. Read this article for my reasons why. Oregon has only failed to cover a spread once, and that was last week against Washington State despite putting up 62 – that’s what happens when the spread is 40.

Is 23 too much for this game? It sure is. Did I pick UCLA to make the BCS Title Game last week? I sure did. What does this prove? Once and for all, I’m an idiot.

awesome mack brown
Texas (+2) over TCU
TCU is the opposite of Oregon – they suck yet continue to get a ridiculous amount of love from Vegas in their spreads. This is why it fascinates me that sane people – or not so sane people like sportswriters – think that bookies and linemakers would be good in selecting teams for the college football playoffs. The linemakers are playing off of perception, not actual results. The perception with TCU, like Boise State, is that they SHOULD be good. But they are not. They are terrible.

As with Texas, the perception around Texas is that they SHOULD be bad. They got destroyed by BYU and humbled by Ole Miss. They probably deserved to lose to Iowa State. But they just whomped on Oklahoma and Mack Brown, bless his heart, has the team believing. For all the negativity, especially after the Iowa State win, Brown closed ranks. He focused on the positives of the win. He focused on the still attainable Big 12 championship and Fiesta Bowl goals. Texas has momentum. They won’t squander it here.

South Carolina (+2.5) over MISSOURI
At some point, the dream season has to end, right? That’s my angle for this game – and boy, aren’t you glad you read 2,000 words for THAT insight. I’ve picked against Missouri the last two weeks and lost the last two weeks badly. Why not go for the hat trick, eh?

OHIO STATE (-14.5) over Penn State
Remember above when I mentioned the curse of Kirk Herbstreit putting teams on upset alert? Well, Kirk did the same for Ohio State. Considering Ohio State just struggled with Iowa, I foresee a strong effort from the Buckeyes in primetime. Considering Penn State is coming off of a massive victory over Michigan at home, I foresee a terrible letdown for the Nittany Lions in primetime.

Give the points, thank me later.

OREGON STATE (+3.5) over Stanford
My best bet for the year is 2-6. Both times, the winning pick was Oregon State, first over Utah and then last week over Cal. I’d love to do it again but Vegas has caught up to me, and the line at Stanford is only a field goal. Sad face.

Here’s something I bet you didn’t know about Stanford – they’re not very good. Also, David Shaw doesn’t trust his quarterback. The Ted Cruz-style of conservative offense last week was depressing as Shaw put Stanford into clock-killing mode with 14 minutes left to go in the game. If UCLA possessed the ability to keep Brett Hundley upright, UCLA would’ve won the game. They did not.

Shaw’s conservative game plan almost – and maybe should’ve – cost him against Washington. He won’t get a chance to submarine his team’s chances this week. They’ll be playing catch up.

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10 comments:

  1. Your OU vs TTU pick is idiotic. Maybe you havent actually watched any of the games featuring OU or TTU. I mean, OU struggled with Kansas and TTU may not have blown out the teams but they look considerably better than everyone they have played. Also, Amaro will make it quite difficult for OU.

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    1. You sort of prove my point by saying Texas Tech has look better than who they've played...they've played terrible teams. And I disagree that they've looked "considerably better." They should've lost the TCU game. And they looked miserable last week against West Virginia.

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    2. No sir. You also ignore the ridiculous OU struggles who havent looked dominant the last two weeks at all. Id give them a home (-3) but from a betting view I wouldnt go on this one.

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    3. your point is not proven look at the ou kansas game where ou won 34-19 where tech beat kansas 54-16 and if you wouldve watched those 2 games you would see how average ou looks and how "considerably better" ttu looks

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  2. You're going to be losing some money and credibility with that OU pick.

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  3. We all saw what Kingsbury did to OU last year

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  5. no one in texas thinks texas SHOULD be bad... all of the ut fans think texas is good... however they are average just like the rest of the big 12 teams. ou isnt that good either, they didnt blow kansas away, and iowa state is better than their record indicates, osu cant move the ball which is the same problem tcu has. and well k state just isnt that good either. baylor and tech seem to be the only teams that can score points and find ways to win games... you probably havent even watched any big 12 games besides highlights on sports center.. your thoughts about big 12 football is pure garbage

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  6. Where are the Texas Tech fans now?

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