Friday, September 5, 2014

Week 2 College Football Picks: Passing vs Running

Last week, the two most dominant performances were put forth in the two most different ways possible.

On Thursday, Texas A&M passed, and passed, and passed until South Carolina cried uncle. On Saturday, Georgia ran, and ran, and ran until Clemson almost literally cried uncle.

todd gurley clemson
It was an interesting way to kick off the season because there has been so much talk and discussion about the future of football, with people talking about Gus Malzahn's offense in Auburn as the flashpoint. Indeed, the Seahawks scored their first touchdown against the Packers Thursday night on a play that looked very familiar to the play that tied up the Iron Bowl last year.

But the performances of Georgia and Texas A&M showcased that the future of football is, well, the history of football. By that, I mean the best teams play to their strengths, regardless of what those strengths are.

In Texas A&M, they looked like a different team from last year because they have a different quarterback. As was discussed over last weekend, Kevin Sumlin and company didn't institute its full offense for Johnny Football for two reasons: they didn't have to and they didn't want to. With Manziel, the spark came from what wasn't written down on the chalkboard and his ability to make something out of nothing.

With new quarterback Kenny Hill, they have a different type of player. No doubt Hill can run and is athletic, but his skill clearly lies in having an absolute cannon for an arm and making quick decisions. Sumlin saw this, adjusted, destroyed South Carolina and has potentially made this blog post the single stupidest thing I've ever written.

Likewise, Georgia was a much different team in 2013 because they had Aaron Murray at quarterback, who set just about every SEC career passing record that was out there. You'd be foolish to not let that guy sling it around and use Todd Gurley to make the passing game even more dangerous.

On Saturday against Clemson, coach Mark Richt decided to keep his first-time starter under wraps, only forcing him to make throws when necessary, and rely on a tremendous ground game led by Gurley, who is now the early Heisman frontrunner.

In the end, the endless discussions about passing versus running in the modern game are rather pointless. If you have Todd Gurley, why bother with a spread offense? And if you have a talent like Kenny Hill, why would you hand the ball off?

The lesson? Play to your strengths and things will usually work out.

Overall Record: 5-6
Best Bet: 0-1
Upset Special: 1-0

To continue a disturbing trend from last year, my Best Bet (South Carolina) was a horrific disaster while my Upset Special (California) was a rousing success. I would have been 6-5 if I made my LSU pick a day before I did as I got them at -5 two days after they were -3. The lessons you learn writing a weekly picks column...

bc pitt
Pittsburgh (-5) over BOSTON COLLEGE
I'm picking this game so I can go on a rant about the death of college football in the Northeast, spurred on by some comments coming out of Boston. It is crazy to think that the old Big East football conference had access to so many major markets and could have easily taken its place among football's elite in the changing cable television landscape. Instead, they all looked out for themselves and essentially submarined the whole region as one.

There are no rivalries left in the Northeast. UConn is in the AAC. West Virginia is in the Big 12. Rutgers is in the Big Ten. Pitt, BC and Syracuse have all eventually ended up in the ACC, but of these six teams that should have made up the crux of the Big East, only BC and Syracuse play in the same division. It's just wrong and it's hurting every program. Because without rivalries, what's the point of college football?

As for this game, Boston College made a bowl game on the back of one player last year and he plays in the NFL now. At some point Pitt has to win more than 6 games in a season, right?

PURDUE (-3) over Central Michigan *Best Bet*
Maybe this is a sucker line, but Purdue put up 43 points last week against another directional Michigan school while Central Michigan had to really to beat Chattanooga. Purdue was a really, really bad team in 2013. They appear to be at least a decent team with a pulse this year. The only potential problem is if Purdue is looking ahead to Notre Dame next week but, really, if you're Purdue and looking past teams, you got bigger problems.

Northern Illinois (+8) over NORTHWESTERN
I am going to keep betting against Northwestern until they beat me. They haven't won a game since last September. I know Northern Illinois lost Jordan Lynch but they are at least the equal of a Northwestern team in total and complete disarray. I'll take the extra touchdown with a smile.

STANFORD (-2.5) over Usc
This is a great example of overreacting to week one. Yes, USC looked incredible in destroying Fresno State. However, Fresno State is not going to be very good this year. In fact, you could argue they weren't very good last year, propped up by a putrid Mountain West and an NFL quarterback. So based on this, Vegas believes this game is a pick 'em with Stanford getting a few points because they're the home team.

Look, I know USC beat Stanford last year. But Stanford has not lost at home since 2011 and has only lost twice on the Farm in five years. That's a really, really strong trend that USC is trying to go against.

The only problem I have right now with Stanford is David Shaw, who is the most conservative coach in college football and it has become a liability at times. Last year, UCLA and Oregon kept games against Stanford alive until very late because Shaw put the bus in park. USC beat Stanford because of an awful game plan. And the coup de grace, in the Rose Bowl, when Stanford took the ball over with three minutes to go, down 4, and ran the ball four times for 9 yards and lost.

Repeat: with the Rose Bowl on the line, Stanford wasted 83 seconds on four running plays without getting one first down. Kevin Sumlin just threw up.

Still, Stanford is the superior team right now.

VANDERBILT (+20) over Ole Miss
Vanderbilt cannot possibly be as bad as they were against Temple, when 7 turnovers led to an eye-opening destruction that was thankfully ignored by most of the country due to a rain delay. On the other side, I thought Ole Miss was about five touchdowns better than Boise State and spent about three quarters putzing around before finally getting it in gear.

The line is just too high. Vandy will play really, really well. Ole Miss will do enough to win.

OREGON (-12) over Michigan State
Michigan State will get exposed on Saturday night. That's my only thought on this one.

East Carolina (+17) over SOUTH CAROLINA *Upset Alert*
There are two ways to look at this, as I have been on East Carolina since the offseason in this game since it's was a SANDWICH GAME ALERT for South Carolina between Texas A&M and Georgia...

1) The Texas A&M game was bad for East Carolina. Steve Spurrier and company are now focused like lasers on this game because they absolutely, cannot, under any circumstances, start 0-2 with Georgia coming to town. Or...

2) The Texas A&M game was great for East Carolina. The Pirates run a very similar offense to Texas A&M's, an offshoot of Mike Leach's Air Raid offense, and they can put points up on anybody. Even if they lack the playmakers on the perimeter that the Aggies have, they still have a nice blueprint and a Gamecock secondary that is young and confused.

I'm going #2.

everett golson rice
NOTRE DAME (-3.5) over Michigan
How great is it that Notre Dame signed a deal with Ohio State two days before the Michigan series ended? The faux nostalgia over this game has gotten to be a little too much over the past few weeks and the majority of it has come from the Ann Arbor side of things because it's a rivalry to them. It's not to Notre Dame. Sorry, Wolverines. It also humors me to no end that Brady Hoke's "chicken" comment will likely sideline this series for 20 years when Hoke will be fired at the end of this one.

I predicted Notre Dame to the playoff in April because of the massive QB upgrade from Turnover Tommy Rees to Everett Golson. No one believed me then. I may still be wrong about the playoff, but I am definitely right that Golson, who is still undefeated against non-Alabama teams.

Michigan looked good against Appalachian State, which doubles as potentially the worst FBS team in the country this year. Not buying Michigan.

TEXAS (+1.5) over Byu
I saw BYU in person last week as they beat UConn and, well, I wasn't that impressed. Yes, the score was 35-10 but two brutal (cue head-shaking) UConn turnovers in the first quarter prevented the game from ever being serious. That being said, the Cougars did not appear to me to be the Top 25-type team they were last year. Maybe they had the car in neutral due to the opponent but that was my gut.

As for Texas, everyone is jumping off the bandwagon because David Ash is hurt and Charlie Strong is suspending players. I get it. I don't get the line but I get people jumping ship. It seems to me that Texas is going to stop losing games they shouldn't under Strong, which was the Mack Brown staple toward the end. Texas shouldn't lose to BYU at home.

OHIO STATE (-11) over Virginia Tech
Ohio State beat Navy, who will likely win 8-9 games this year, by 17 points. Yes, it was close in the second half but the game was over well before the final whistle. It wasn't the best performance but some analysts were treating it as if the Buckeyes are going to suddenly lose four games this year.

Typical week 1 overreaction. Also, Virginia Tech hasn't breathed the same elevated, Top 10 air as Ohio State in, what, 7 years? Ever since the opening loss to Boise State in 2010, the Hokies simply have not been elite. And you have to be elite to win at Ohio State, especially at night.

Oregon State (-10.5) over HAWAII
If you read me last year, then you know that late-night Oregon State picks are my staple. Have the Beavers ever played a game that kicked off before 10 p.m. on the East Coast?

Here's my angle: Oregon State slept-walked past an FCS opponent last week while Hawaii poured their entire being into almost upsetting Washington. I feel like Hawaii may be spent from the close loss while Oregon State is starting to stretch out and get into the season. Feels like a tough spot for the Rainbow Warriors.

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