Thursday, October 30, 2014

Week 10 College Football Picks: Ranking Teams Like It’s 1997

On Tuesday, the College Football Playoff Selection Committee (can we get a nickname, guys?) announced its first Top 25 rankings. In the hours leading up to their unveiling, ESPN analysts told us how meaningless these would be since there are still six weeks of football left.

1997 college football
Did that prevent the Worldwide Leader from airing a 30-minute show about them? Of course not. Did it stop every college football writer on Earth from dissecting them? You must be new here.

The common thread in the fallout of the rankings focused on change: how the committee is rewarding strength of schedule and quality wins. It was a curious position to take since the BCS was founded in 1998 on the basis of rewarding strength of schedule and quality wins. In fact, an early version of the BCS formula even included bonus points for quality wins.

How quickly we forget. ESPN.com ran an interesting story on the “BCS proxy standings,” which reveal what the BCS standings would look like this year. Lo and behold, it looks almost exactly the same as the playoff committee with the only change in the Top 4 being Alabama and Ole Miss being swapped.

Really? That’s the change we’re so excited about?

If anything, the new playoff rankings seemed extremely fishy to me because all Power 5 1-loss teams (save Duke for some reason) are slotted above 2-loss teams. LSU lost to two top 5 teams and just beat Ole Miss, yet they’re somehow behind Nebraska and Ohio State? In what universe does that make sense?

For some reason, the computers drew the ire of college football fans in the past 15 years. Instead of numbers and facts, we wanted to revert back to having only humans decide a national title.
In 1997, college football fans were fed up with the subjective element of 100-plus person polls. In 2014, college football fans are thrilled with the subjective elements of a 12-person poll.

Overall Record: 48-50-1
Best Bet: 3-6
Upset Special: 5-3-1

Last week, I put forth my worst Upset Special ever as Maryland (+11) lost 52-7. Oops.

Florida State (-4) over LOUISVILLE *Best Bet*
Before looking at the lines, I try to estimate the line in my head and who I’d pick. For this game, I decided I would take Florida State up to -14. Then I saw this line and cackled in delight. Seriously – what the hell is up with the love for Louisville??

jameis winston
The best win for Louisville was against Miami in week one, which is their only win over a team with a pulse. They lost to Virginia and Clemson. Their offense has been MIA while the defense has carried the day. That is not the recipe to beat Florida State.

How do you beat Florida State? I mean, how do you possibly beat them, considering they haven’t lost in a long, long time. You need to outscore them. Their two closest calls – not counting the Winston-less Clemson game – came against Auburn and Notre Dame. Those teams both put up tremendous offensive performances. Do you see Louisville scoring 35 on Florida State? Likewise, do you see Louisville holding Florida State to 13?

This game is going to be a repeat of last year’s Clemson game, when Florida State strolled in and shut shit down by halftime. The Seminoles are the bad guys. Like the Pete Carroll USC teams, they seem to take extra pride in going on the road and silencing people.

Duke (+3.5) over PITTSBURGH
I feel like I’m missing something. Pitt has lost 4 out of 5 and play in a half-empty NFL stadium, which renders the homefield advantage null and void. Duke has one loss and is either the second- or third-best ACC team. How they are getting points mystifies me.

IOWA (-4) over Northwestern
Iowa should be undefeated. They gave away a game at home to Iowa State and then lost a bizarre one last time out to Maryland when they threw it like 50 times for no reason. Iowa at home will win this game by a touchdown.

East Carolina (-7.5) over TEMPLE
How do I put this? Let’s try: Temple sucks at football. Does that work? This line is a crazy overreaction to East Carolina not winning by a big enough margin against an improving UConn team that has a really, really good defense. If an ECU defender doesn’t fall over on UConn’s third touchdown, ECU wins by 31-14 and no one bats an eye. Look, I’m a UConn fan, and the defense played out of their mind against East Carolina. They still lost by more than 7.5 points.

In its last two games, Temple has been destroyed by Houston and UCF. East Carolina is better than both of those teams. And like Pitt above, Temple plays in a fully empty NFL stadium. Yeah, it might be a tight game in the second half but East Carolina will eventually pull away. It will not be a one-score game.

North Carolina (+14.5) over MIAMI, FL *Upset Special*
North Carolina is 4-4, but they have 3 road losses to ranked teams – East Carolina, Clemson and Notre Dame. Yeah, the defense isn’t great, but maybe they aren’t as bad as we thought? I mean, I picked them to win the ACC in July so I should probably keep riding them.

Meanwhile, Miami was one of the most disappointing teams through their 3-3 start and now they are suddenly hot again because of all the love Duke Johnson is getting after beating two desperately average teams in Virginia Tech and Cincinnati. Sorry, I’m not on board yet.  

This is going to be a high-scoring game and I could see a 60-50 final, you know, basketball-score type. That’s conducive to a cover. But I think North Carolina is winning this game straight up.

Georgia (-12.5) over Florida
It’s bizarre, but Georgia is going to fight for Todd Gurley to return before the Auburn game because they play Kentucky next week. Yes, the Kentucky game is tougher than the Florida game.

Florida doesn’t have a chance in hell of winning this game. Georgia doesn’t get the Best Bet nod since Florida’s defense could make this game like a 14-3 asskicking instead of a 31-3 asskicking.

Tcu (-4) over WEST VIRGINIA
I have not been correct in any game played by either of these two teams. So I flipped a coin.

No, seriously, I have been horribly, horribly wrong about TCU all year and I’m jumping on the bandwagon. Hey! Where’s everyone going?!?

California Chrome (4-1) over Shared Belief
The darling of the Triple Crown returns to the spotlight Saturday night in a primetime showdown versus undefeated Shared Belief. California Chrome has gone from being a shoo-in to win the Triple Crown to not even the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Chrome got a gift in the post draw as he will break from #13, which means he gets to run outside like he wants to and will almost certainly avoided getting boxed in at the rail like he did in his last two losses. At this price – though I’m sure he’ll be bet down – he’s a steal.

In fact, I have Shared Belief as a toss-out. He has beat up on a bunch of mediocre older horses in California. I'm also tossing out the older horses, who are extremely weak. So I'm focusing in on the 3 year olds. Here's my top three for the Classic (full entries here) and you can thank me later:

13-California Chrome
5-V.E. Day
11- Tonalist

Auburn (-2) over OLE MISS
I think Ole Miss is on its way to an 8-4 season. That’s how painful the loss to LSU was. I don’t see them getting back up this week. And I think they lose to Arkansas and Mississippi State down the stretch. The offense simply isn’t good enough to be a playoff contender.

By the way and unrelated, Auburn must have the toughest road schedule in the history of college football: Kansas State, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Georgia & Alabama. Those are all Top 10 teams right now!

MISSISSIPPI STATE (-10.5) over Arkansas
Arkansas will beat a ranked SEC team this year. It will either be LSU or Ole Miss at home following a bye next week. This is not that game though. Dan Mullen has provided a clinic in how to keep a team from getting too drunk on success. His comments after the Kentucky game, when the defense was leaky again, have me thinking the Bulldogs bring forth a huge effort for the home folks Saturday night.

Stanford (+8) over OREGON
If one were to create the perfect team to beat Oregon, it would be Stanford. They have owned Marcus Mariota so thoroughly that I’m convinced they are in his head, like how Madison Bumgarner messed with the Royals for the past week.

stanford mariota
As much flak as I have given David Shaw and the Stanford offense, the loss to Arizona State was a wake-up call. One of those, “Guys, we need to wake the fuck up or it’s over.”

Thanks to the power of the Pac-12 being in the South, Oregon will essentially clinch the North with a win while Stanford would control its own destiny with a win. Road teams have been crazy good in the Pac-12. I just have a feeling Stanford’s going to drag Oregon into another ugly game they want no part.

And really, besides about 10 minutes against Michigan State, has Oregon really impressed you? I’m still waiting.

UCLA (-6.5) over Arizona
ARIZONA STATE (-5) over Utah
I’m putting this games together because the Pac-12 South could be every bit as good as the SEC West, except these games will kick off at 10:30 and 11pm on the East Coast. What a Saturday for moving the clocks back!

As for these picks, I’m going with who I think are the better teams. It just happens that both of the teams that I think are better are playing at home, which means the Pac-12 home curse needs to die early Sunday morning for me to be successful. Why the hell not, right?

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