Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Week 7 College Football Picks: The Merciful End of Style Points

After a week in which everything went haywire, the resulting fallout was notable for one glorious omission – the phrase, “style points.”

oregon style points
For too long, style points had been the go-to phrase for analysts trying to decipher which two teams should play for the BCS title game. It reared its ugly head in multiple BCS controversies, whether it was Texas nudging Cal from the Rose Bowl in 2004 or Oklahoma edging Texas from the BCS Title Game in 2008. For reasons that always escaped me, we became obsessed with how many points a good team could score against a bad team – a fact that means nothing.

There are many issues that could still arise with the college football playoff. It still worries me that many have Florida State at #1 based on last year’s performance. But the discussion and debate, mercifully, is focusing on wins and losses, not margin of victory.

This shift is due to the people responsible for choosing who plays in the playoff are actually watching the games. The polls were always flawed. A coach is expected to coach his football team, not rank 25 teams. The AP Poll is flawed by forcing writers to submit ballots by early Sunday when most are covering a specific game.

The selection committee, when it comes to rankings, has one job – watch all the football. That means we can finally focus. We have seen a shift in the dynamic, as evident from the Oregon/Michigan State game. The final score obscured a tight game. Instead of Oregon getting credit for “style points” from late scores, it was accurately portrayed as a close game.

Likewise, Mississippi State only beat LSU by 5 points but anyone who saw the game witnessed LSU put up a ton of garbage points late. The Bulldogs dominated that game. The final score was almost irrelevant, secondary to the true result.

I have been skeptical about how the college football playoff will play out. So far, this is one shift that will have a profoundly positive impact on the sport.

Overall Record: 31-35
Best Bet: 2-4
Upset Special: 4-2

For the second week in a row, my Best Bet ended up being my Worst Beat. Seriously, Michigan State was up 27-3 in the fourth quarter and can’t cover a touchdown-spread? Ouch.

UCF -3.5 over Byu
This is an exceedingly tough sport for BYU. Knowing what we know now, an undefeated BYU team would have been in the playoff discussion. Instead, they lost at home to a rival for the first time since the 1970’s, got outclassed on defense, lost its star quarterback and is resigned to a fate that will not include a New Year’s Day bowl. Good luck motivating that crew.

As for UCF, the early results have been mixed to say the least but its three tough games – Penn State, Missouri and Houston – were on the road or in Ireland. They get a nice ESPN spotlight for the big first home game of the year. The crowd will be pumped and it will further motivate a UCF defense that has been really strong.

Washington State +17 over STANFORD *Upset Special*
How do I put this politely? You know what, who cares: Stanford sucks. I thought the Cardinal were being hamstrung by David Shaw. That is true to an extent, but they just do not have good players on offense this year. Kevin Hogan is an average quarterback. They don’t have a great running back. The offensive line is nowhere near past units. Beyond Ty Montgomery, who scares you? Notre Dame dominated Stanford’s offense. If not for an early Everett Golson fumble, Notre Dame shuts out Stanford for 55 minutes and the game isn’t close.

stanford notre dame 2014Stanford does have a great defense but Washington State is going to huck and chuck it all over. I would imagine Mike Leach will remind his team that Stanford eviscerated the Cougars last year in humiliating fashion.

IOWA -3 over Indiana
Is there some alternate universe where Indiana is a good football team? Yes, they beat Missouri, but that’s because Missouri played a D- game. Indiana also got blown out at home by Maryland and lost to Bowling Green.

If Iowa can’t beat Indiana at home by a field goal, Kirk Ferentz should be fired on the spot. The only reason this is not my Best Bet is because I could’ve written that same sentence prior to the Iowa State game.

Georgia -3 over MISSOURI
In July, I picked Georgia to be in the playoff. I also picked Todd Gurley to win the Heisman. There is only one thing I’ve seen so far to sway me from that and it is the bizarre reluctance to run Todd Gurley. It cost them the South Carolina game. It got them in trouble against Tennessee. You have the best player in the country, so use him.

I have no feel for Missouri, since I saw them lose to Indiana and saw them almost lose to a pretty mediocre South Carolina team. Yet, that South Carolina team beat Georgia. So it all ends up being an infinite loop of confusion. I simply do not trust Missouri to stop Todd Gurley.

Auburn -3 over MISSISSIPPI STATE
I went against Auburn last week. I went against Auburn in week 1 against Arkansas. I was a fool both times. I’m not picking against Auburn for a third time. I love how Mississippi State is playing but this feels like too much to ask, in back-to-back weeks with the most pressure the football program has ever faced. I wouldn’t call myself confident in this pick, but it just feels like Auburn is the best team in the country right now.

Oregon -2 over UCLA
I have no idea what to make of this game. Both teams have terrible offensive lines. Both teams lost at home last week as heavy favorites. Both teams have Heisman-contender QBs that are one more bad game away from losing their shot. It’s desperation time for both.

Why am I going with Oregon? Because they had that Michigan State game. If they can keep Marcus Mariota upright, there is no one stopping that offense. UCLA had all kinds of problems last week with Utah’s running quarterback and Mariota is a lot better.

Please note: I flip-flopped on this game four times before settling on Oregon.

BAYLOR -8.5 over Tcu
I am going to ride against TCU for one more week. I consider it very troubling they gave up that many points to Oklahoma and have a team with an even better offense next on the schedule. It’s worth noting that Baylor has been very mediocre on the road in recent years but have been lights out at home – having won 21 of their last 22 in Waco.

This is Baylor’s coming out party as they finally play a real team after a month and a half of cupcakes. You get the feeling Baylor and Art Briles would like to make a statement. A big win here and Baylor will be firmly planted in the Top 4 until someone – anyone? – can knock them off.

ARKANSAS +10 over Alabama
I was wrong last week about Alabama. They aren’t that good. They lost to Ole Miss and Ole Miss didn’t even play well for three quarters. Alabama looked as shaky as they have looked in seven years. Even the 2010 team that underachieved was so talented that you could see them underachieving despite having future NFLers all over the place.

This Alabama team? I think they’re just average. Yeah, it’s Alabama average, which means New Year’s Day in Orlando but they will be lucky to beat Arkansas. I can only imagine the scene for calling the Hogs will be something else. Like UCF, this is their first big home game after playing at Auburn and in Arlington versus Texas A&M. Place will be live Saturday night.

memphis cincinnati football
MEMPHIS -9 over Houston *Best Bet*
Hello, easy money. Memphis is the second-best team in the AAC by a wide margin, or about the 27 points they beat Cincinnati by. That game wasn’t even that close. Memphis lost to UCLA by one score in the Rose Bowl and was tied 3-3 to now #3 Ole Miss in the fourth quarter. They are an order of magnitude better than Houston, which has lost to UTSA and couldn’t score a touchdown at home versus UCF.

Fun prediction because I like to party: Memphis will win this game by at least 21 points.

TEXAS A&M -2 over Ole Miss
I do not see how Ole Miss gets up again after last week. The win and atmosphere surrounding last week’s Alabama game may never be matched again. It was the biggest weekend in Oxford in my lifetime, even surpassing the Eli Manning years. They have to come back a week later, travel to College Station and play a pissed off Texas A&M team at night?

Let’s make no mistake: Ole Miss deserves all the credit in the world for beating Alabama, but they didn’t actually play that well. You can either look at this as a team that is #3 in the country and can improve – or a team that is punching above its weight. For one more week, I’m leaning toward the latter.

Usc -2.5 over ARIZONA
I feel stupid already for making this pick. The late night Pac-12 games have made absolutely no sense all year, so why should they start?

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2 comments:

  1. Oh boy, more terrible picks by this guy!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nice start w/ the UCF pick.

    ReplyDelete