2020 Record: 56-36
Last Week: 8-6
Mortal Lock of the Week: 7-0 ((Bama -6). And I repeat from last week “...ironclad guarantee — Alabama will win this game, and will do so by double digits.”)
No Action: LSU/Florida, So. Miss/UTEP
What Went Right: Aggie, Clemson, UAB, Army, North Texas, NCSU etc.
What Went Wrong: UVA, BC, UNC, ND, and we skunked half of the SEC slate.
Last week was not too bad and not great. We made enough cash to treat the ole’ lady to some Taco Casa, and that’s better than pawing through the sofa cushions to afford that McDonald’s value meal. It’s a weird year, and we’re hanging on for dear life...like everyone and everything else.
Onward and upward to this week. Not much preamble — we’re gonna give you a double edition this week, in honor of the Mountain and B1G resuming play. But, hey, that just means more cheerleader pictures (not really.)
Not with a 10’ Pole and Stolen Money:
We generally love the Mountain West games. They are among some of the most stable teams to predict year-in and -out. However with an all-conference slate, on week one, and with a lot of new faces at new places (Fresno State and Hawaii among them), we’re going to cool our jets for a week or two on most of the games and try and get a few data points. We suggest you do the same.
We are also tepid on Penn State (-6 1⁄2 at IU) for their first week — there were a lot of key losses and frankly, this staff has not earned the benefit of the doubt (though, gun to my head, they should beat Indiana). But Road Franklin looms. And, like the Mountain, let’s evaluate what teams look like for a bit before fully diving in.
Memphis -13 1⁄2 vs. Temple — Memphis is several scores better than the Owls. But this game screams “hangover’ and “trap” simultaneously. Coming off a 13-game losing streak against UCF, and then traveling to No. 9 Cincy next week, I’d be amazed if the Tigers win by a full touchdown.
ULL +2 at UAB — I really think UAB is playing the better football. But give me ULL’s roster. This is going to be an amazing game. If Billy Napier and Bill Clark are at these schools next year, I will be stunned.
Ridiculously Large Spreads That We’re Actually Taking:
Clemson -44 1⁄2 vs. Syracuse: The Orange’s offense is a war crime; the run defense is even worse. NBD, just on the road versus Travis Etienne. Dabo ran it slap TF up last week (even though he was using his 4th and 5th QBs to do it). This one won’t be much better. I don’t know that this Syracuse team could within two scores of Clemson’s walk-ons. That’s not a joke, either. CU covers near the half and won’t get back-doored either. Clemson 63 Syracuse 7
BYU -30 vs Texas State — Another home soup can for the Cougars; another outmatched opponent; an increasingly cocky BYU team determined to put up eye-popping numbers against a soft schedule; more stat-padding for Zach Wilson — it all results in the same thing...another BYU throttling. The Bobcats have improved. They’ve not improved enough to keep this one remotely competitive. BYU 51 Texas State 9
Ohio State -26 vs. Nebraska — Scott Frost has been a disaster at UNL. With Taylor Martinez returning at QB, the loss of an unreal 14 guys to the portal, a road trip to the ‘Shoe, and the Huskers penchant for starting slow, this game won’t be close...even with OSU’s losses from last season. Buckeyes 48 Cornhuskers 11
Underdogs With (a little?) Bite
Baylor +11 1⁄2 at Texas — Forgive me if I’m not buying this Longhorns team as a double-digit favorite over anyone. This BU team’s greatest defensive weakness is right between the tackles, but again, will Herman be patient enough to stick with it? Aranda’s group will be disciplined and not fall for the keeper — like every team ever —, and they will exploit Texas’ soft corners, but in the end it’s not enough to win. Enough to cover tho. Texas 34 Baylor 26
Texas Tech +3 vs. West Virginia — Of all the Big 12 underdog spreads, this one has the highest confidence interval, FWIW. The Raiders make far too many dumb mistakes for my taste, but they have moved the ball very well all season, and at home have put up some gaudy numbers. The ‘Eers defense finally gets a real test and comes up short on the road...but the offense will find a much more forgiving path. Throw your tortillas in Lubbock. Outright W. TTU 33 West By Damn 30
Tulane +18 1⁄2 at UCF — The Green Wave’s secondary has not been particularly good this year. Okay, they’re awful; a bad prospect when facing the air-first Knights. But UCF’s running defense has been about as bad. They are also terrible — in fact, surrendering nearly 5 YPC and 213 YPG. This is where we remind you the ‘Wave run a triple option attack. That deliberative offense will keep the UCF offense off the field a little. I don’t see either team forcing many turnovers. That is simply too much firepower on the scoreboard for the Green Wave, but they’ll be able to score enough to cover...even as they give up 500 yards passing. UCF 54 Tulane 38
Ole Miss +4 vs. Auburn — DYK: Auburn’s ballyhooed defense yields more YPA and a higher completion percentage than Alabama? DYK: Steele doesn’t trust those corners either...for good reason. DYK: Omit last week’s flukish, almost predictable hangover, and the Rebels have been great at forcing TOs; they would be sitting at +5 otherwise. It is the one area their defense has been legitimate. Lucky for them, Bo Pix comes to town this week. Tempo will ironically kill the ‘Barn on the road in this one. Rebs get the outright win. Ole Miss 38 Auburn 37
Minnesota +2 vs. Michigan — Yup. Outright upset. I don’t like anything about this Wolverines team, and I like even less about Jim Harbaugh on the road. The Little Brown Jug comes back to Minneapolis. PJ Fleck has been scheming this one for 10 months. Minnesota 24 Michigan 23
Bet the House, Baby
LSU -6 1/2 vs South Carolina — The Gamecocks cannot win two games in a row; they simply can’t. And they can’t win on the road. Those are the rules of Big Dumb Will Muschamp Football. Fortunately, the awful LSU defense will keep them in the game, but Joe Horn Jr. can only do so much against the Tigers’ passing attack. LSU 34 South Carolina 24
Charlotte -14 vs. UTEP — For the life of me, I have no idea why this spread isn’t in the the 20s. The Miners offense can score in oodles; UTEP’s cannot. Even if UNCC struggles a bit finding the endzone, it won’t remotely approach the struggles that UTEP has on the road. UNCC 38 UTEP 14
Michigan State -12 vs. Rutgers — There is nothing whatsoever to like about Rutgers, particularly on the road. The Mel Tucker era gets off to a banging start. Mich. State 45 Rutgers 17
Coastal Carolina -4 1⁄2 at Georgia Southern — This may be the toughest opponent that CC plays all season, and that is for reasons of matchups. Coastal has been able to stymie running games, but only after bending significantly. That’s a dangerous game against a triple option team that plays very good defense at all three levels. But, where Ga. Southern has had problems, it has been in forcing turnovers and not turning over the ball. Meanwhile, CC has been outstanding in forcing them...and holding on to the ball. That is the difference in this one. Coastal Carolina 35 Ga. Southern 27
Kansas State -18 1⁄2 at KU — This Jayhawks team is pitiful in every phase of the game; poorly-coached, bad talent, and they’re dumb. They face the Big 12’s best coach and (what I think will be a dark horse Heisman guy next season) Skylar Thompson. The Wildcats will get KU’s best shot. But in 2020, that is like your little sister punching you in the arm. Wildcats in a rout. K State 45 Kansas 10
Miami -11 vs. UVA — The Cavs are in free fall, down to their third-string QB, and the defensive implosion begins in the secondary. They’re also on the road. Hoo boy. This will only be close at the kickoff. Miami 42 UVA 13
Notre Dame - 9 1⁄2 at Pitt — This could have been a good game if everyone were healthy. However, they are not. Pitt lacks what it needs to make hay here, a consistent passing game. And, like Wake and Virginia, the Panthers are down to their third string signal caller. The Irish get it done on the road, but that offense worries me in the long run. Domers 31 Panthers 10
For Your Consideration:
Troy -1 1⁄2 vs. Georgia State — The Sun Belt’s worst passing defense travels to face a Chip Lindsey offense on the road. That should tell you who I’m taking here. The Trojans defense will give up some scores to a rebuilding GSU passing game, but the Panthers’ secondary is a hot mess. So we’ll say Troy wins a close one. Troy 38 GSU 34
Marshall -13 1⁄2 at FAU — This is by far Doc’s best Thundering Herd team, and it is keyed by two things: 1. a red-hot quarterback, and 2. an outstanding defense. I don’t see how FAU gets enough points on the board to overcome either. Marshall 37 FAU 20
Houston -12 at Navy — If this were last year’s Navy, I’d take the Middies straight up. It is not, however. It is young, rebuilding team esp. on defense, that has had problems against the pass and really had issues with tempo. That’s suboptimal with the air raid coming to town, and 19 returning starters. Navy is improving every week, but it’s not enough to get it done...not even at home. UH 40 Navy 24
Hawaii +3 1⁄2 at Fresno State — Two new coaches in their first game of the season, and both at teams coming off of great seasons. So, why move on this one? Because the Warriors are on the mainland. That is worth a touchdown-against...easily, and no matter the coach or the year. In fact, it is the most dominant playing surface effect in college football. Alongside Boise State’s smurf turf (+9.4 ppg), UH’s +10.1 PPG swing is insurmountable. That’s tough to overcome. Adding that to the FSU homefield advantage of 4.4 PPG, we’ll call those 14.5 points our final. Fresno State 42 Hawaii 28
San Diego State - 14 vs. UNLV — Death, taxes, perfect weather, a strong running game and stifling defenses. Such are the constants in San Diego. UNLV is trying to get better, I promise. But this is not the road trip to try and prove it. The Aztecs will snuff life out of the Rebels for 60 minutes. SDSU 31 UNLV 6
Southern Miss +10 at Liberty — I wouldn’t want to be on the road with a back-up coach...to their backup coach. The ‘Rona has hit Hattiesburg just as the Eagles travel to play the red-hot Liberty Flames, which is by far the best squad USM has seen to-date. Hoorah? Liberty’s one weakness has been a passing defense that has given up 9 scores. But at the same time, they do force interceptions. That should give the pass-first Eagles some opportunities to hit the scoreboard. But, the Flames running defense is stout, its offense is potent, and Freeze is coaching for his next Power 5 job. Hugh’s group may be sitting at 5-0, but they’ll be 6-0 after this meaty dish. Liberty 42 Southern Miss 27
TCU +7 1⁄2 vs OU — Gary Patterson has not fared too well against the Sooners of late. But, this is both one of his better recent secondaries...and one of the weakest OU teams of recent vintage. The Horned Frogs are weak against the run, but have been great against the pass. That works into just what the Sooners cannot do, as well as what they want to do. Let’s call it a hunch that freshmen gonna freshmen, Lincoln will get too impatient to try and win this one on the ground, and TCU gets a few turnovers to keep this one close at home. TCU 31 OU 37
Mortal Lock of the Week:
Alabama -20 at Tennessee
I went back through and double-checked, and Alabama has been featured in this spot exactly three times in three years. They have now appeared here twice in two weeks. But, the Tide does so for a good reason — It’s another Saban assistant (MOV 28.2 PPG) and Tennessee frankly stinks. And the spread is way, way too low. It should honestly be closer to -28 or so. When Vegas gives you one, take it.
Looking for more granular data points? The offense sucks, averaging less than 24 PPG. The offense wants to run, but hasn’t been very successful (less than 4. YPC). Only Vandy and Kentucky have been worse through the air. They turn it over a ton and, with Auburn, are in the top third of interceptions thrown.
The offense has given up on Guarantano — and his replacements aren’t in a much better place (including, we are pleased to report, Mr. Brian Maurer, who is back on the team). You can’t quantify this one; you just have to watch. But when Gitmo takes the field, a deflated offense shows — only RB Eric Gray consistently gives effort.
On defense, there’s just not much to be said. The Vawls can’t get it done up front, and the DBs were woefully outclassed versus the Georgia passing game. This ain’t Georgia’s passing game.
There may be a slight let down early, esp. when Chaney has Gitmo dialing in passes to the backs and tight ends in space. But if Kelly and Saban are helping with second-half adjustments again, and they will be, the Tide’s D will be an improved unit coming out of the locker room. And, look at this as another opportunity for the Tide try and learn to live with playing soft. UK sat in a zone last week and feasted. Coincidentally, Alabama did much the same in the second half of its UGA game...and also feasted, pitching a shutout in the final 30 minutes. With LSU upcoming, and a potentially lethal Tigers’ passing game staring at an Alabama defense still trying to find its way, the more reps they can get, the better for the long haul.
Not a exactly “name your score” -game, and ‘Bama will get the Vols best effort. But that’s not saying a whole lot — the Tide tees off on the Vols with ease, and Jeremy’s seat heat ups even more. ‘Bama 51 Tennessee 17