Week 3: 5-3, (62.50%)
Season: 13-9, (59.09%)
Sides: 7-8, (46.67%)
Totals: 6-1, (85.71)
Overall: 13-9, (59.09%)
Another strong week in week 3 to bring my season numbers right on the brink of 60% winners. Sides haven’t really taken off yet at just 7-8, but totals have been scalding hot at 6-1. Obviously as the season continues those totals will cool down and the sides will start to heat up. I wouldn’t read too much into the skewed breakdown at such and early stage. All that said, here we go with my week 4 plays….
Tulsa (-3.5): For those who have been paying attention to my tweets lately this play should come as no surprise. Simply put Wyoming is as fraudulent a 3-0 team as I’ve seen in a long, long time. I guess credit needs to be given to the Cowboys because at the end of the day 3-0 is 3-0 but man oh man has it been ugly. They’ve been outgained in yardage in all 3 of those games, and not by narrow margins either. On the year they’ve been outgained by an average of 105 yards. To top it off was last weeks disgusting 21-16 win over a horrible Idaho team. Despite being at home against one of the worst FBS teams in the nation Wyoming once again was outgained in total yardage and escaped with only that 5 point win. If you were to look at Box Scores alone you’d assume this team was 0-3 and at best 1-2, certainly not 3-0. The name of the game for Wyoming is running the ball. They run it about 72% of the time and that’s for two more reasons. They want to slow the pace of the game, and their passing attack is horrid. Their QB Sean Chambers has thrown for 245 yards… not 245 yards per game, 245 yards total in 3 games. He’s completing under 40% of his pass attempts, hasn’t yet thrown a TD, and is averaging an awful 5.3 yards per attempt. There are also a few key areas screaming for some regression, namely in the red zone. As a team Wyoming has scored on 100% of their trips to the red zone. On the flip side their defense has only allowed opponents to score on 50% of their red zone trips. Both of which are more than due for some serious regression back towards the mean. The other side of this ballgame is Tulsa who is just 1-2 but both losses are perfectly understandable. The Golden Hurricane lost at Michigan State and at home to Oklahoma State, while the win came against 34-16 at San Jose State. Granted SJSU should be at or near the bottom of the MWC it’s worth noting how easily Tulsa handled an MWC team, as Wyoming is of course also in the MWC. Much like Wyoming, Tulsa likes to keep it on the ground and that’s a big part of the reason this total is all the way down to the 44-44.5 range. If you like entertainment and fast paced football this probably isn’t your game. Tulsa isn’t anything special by any means and there’s no point in me trying to pretend like they are. More than anything else this is a fade of a Wyoming team that I think is more than overdue for a slap in the face and reality check. It won’t be pretty but I’m looking at something like a 27-17 Tulsa win.
Pittsburgh (+11): I’ll go with Pitt here as a double digit home dog as I think the market is over-reacting to Central Florida’s win over Stanford a bit. Yes the Knights beat up on Stanford for their 3rd straight blowout win of the year but I’m not sure how much people are taking into account what a bad spot that was for Stanford. The Cardinal had to fly across the country from California and then after the game had to fly back across the country again to Oregon. That left UCF right in the middle of two big conference games for Stanford. Credit to the Knights for taking care of business but that spot was far less than ideal for Stanford to deal with. Ultimately my point is that win isn’t quite as impressive as most seem to think. On the other side we have Pitt who lost 17-10 at Penn State in a game they could’ve and maybe even should’ve won. Late in the 4th, down 7, they inexplicably attempted an 18 yard FG on 4th and goal from the 1, and even more inexplicably the missed it. Despite that in the final minutes they gave themselves another shot marching deep into Penn State territory before finally just running out of time on the clock. Most encouraging from the Pitt side is this was probably the best game of QB Kenny Pickett’s career. He went 35/51 for 372 yards and no INT’s. The Panthers couldn’t really get the ground game going and while that’s concerning it also makes what Pickett did all the more impressive. It’s easy at first glance to see them at 1-2 and not think much of it, but I think there’s a bit more here. Defensively they are holding teams to just 4.6 yards per play, and that’s compared with the 5.0 per play the offense is putting up. As far as UCF yes all the stats are impressive and very bloated. They played two cupcakes to open the season and then the Stanford game which I already went into plenty of detail about. Pitt is a hard nosed team who really gave the Penn State offense all they could handle. The Nittany Lions busted a few very big chunk plays but overall they couldn’t sustain much offensive success at all. I’m certainly not saying Pitt is going to shut down the Knights offense but I do think they’ll give them more resistance than they’ve seen in the early going this season. I also love the fact that Pickett is likely to come into this one with his confidence about as high as it’s been in his time at Pitt. If the Panthers fall behind and are forced into pass mode he’s more than prepared to handle it. I won’t quite call for an outright win but I think Pitt hangs around throughout and I’ll say they lose something like 34-28.
Illinois (+13): Not to over simplify this one, but I flat out just disagree with how the market sees this game. Yes the Huskers are off an impressive 44-8 win over Northern Illinois last week, but that isn’t enough to make me forget their two shaky performances preceding that game. They were only up 7 in the 4th quarter at home against lowly South Alabama and then followed that up with a loss at Colorado. So yes a nice showing last week but I’m still taking it with a grain of salt. On top of that we have to factor in the look ahead angle as Ohio State comes to Lincoln next week. That’s the biggest game on the Huskers schedule so it’s probably safe to assume they’ve already got an eye looking ahead to that one. Now we switch gears to the Illinois side of the equation. The Illini are off a 34-31 home loss to Eastern Michigan, and when a BIG 10 team loses at home to a MAC team people are going to notice. At this point it seems the market has soured on them a bit. Now of course a loss against EMU led me to downgrade them a bit too but nothing as drastic as it seems the market has done. There’s also a bounce back angle in play here. After that loss there’s plenty of Lovie Smith bashing going on and as much as that’s deserved it should lead to a fired up showing from the Illini. That leaves us with a few pretty nice angles to work with. Nebraska over valued and in a massive look ahead spot, while Illinois under valued and in a bounce back, max effort type of showing. At 10 I was already intrigued but now at 13 there’s no way I’m passing. Now we move to the actual players and teams themselves. Illinois is led by QB Brandon Peters who is actually playing pretty well. Peters is completing 63.2% of his passes with 9 TD’s and just 2 INT’s so far on the season. On the ground they’ve also been pretty solid and overall as a team are averaging a pretty mediocre 5.4 yards per offensive play. I’m not going to pretend this offense is anything special but the point I’m making is they certainly aren’t horrid either. As far as Nebraska goes, in that loss to Colorado it was the pass defense that betrayed them and the way Peters is starting to play he’s the kind of guy who could take advantage of that defense. Even in the blowout win last week the Huskers still allowed 276 yards through the air and that’s a part of this game I truly expect the Illini to have some success. Defensively for Illinois I’ll admit there are some concerns. Allowing 480 yards to Eastern Michigan can’t be ignored and it’s not something I’m even going to try and spin. Nebraska is going to score and likely will find their way into the mid 30’s. At the end of the day if this line stayed at or around its open of 10 I probably wouldn’t have gotten involved but as I mentioned earlier I think there’s some two way over-reaction here and I disagree with the line movement. I’ll go contrarian and take my chances against that movement. I could see this one ending right around a 35-28 Nebraska win.
West Virginia/Kansas Ov 48.5: This total has come down 6.5 points from it’s open and I feel that’s too much. I’ll start off by saying that at 55 (where it opened) I’d have no interest in making a play here, but at 48.5 I’m ready to jump in. As long time followers know I’m not an over-react to what I’ve seen most recently kind of guy but it’s tough to ignore what each offense did a week ago. Kansas rebounded from a pathetic offensive showing at home against Coastal Carolina to put up 567 yards and 48 points at Boston College. On the other side West Virginia put up 44 against NC State and Kendall continues to improve at QB. He’s gaining confidence and as he continues to make strides I think they’ll open up the playbook for him a bit more. Keep in mind he’s a transfer from Oklahoma so he clearly has some talent, this isn’t just some guy. There’s no denying the ground game has been shaky but facing Kansas might be just what the doctor ordered. The Jayhawks are 99th in run defense allowing 182 yards per game. If the Mountaineers can even be mediocre on the ground that bodes well for the offense as Kendall continues to improve. On the Kansas side it’s all about the rushing game. Herbert and Williams Jr are averaging a combined 229 rush yards per game on about 7 yards per carry. Stanley isn’t great by any stretch but he’s at least now showing he’s good enough to take what they defense gives him when they start stacking the box to take away the run. Last week he was 20 for 27 for 238 yards and 3 TD’s. Not spectacular or anything but for the purposes of their offenses that’s plenty good enough. Simply put Miles is asking him to just keep the defense honest and make enough plays to where they can’t stack the hell out of the box. If he can keep doing that then this offense is actually going to be pretty tough to deal with. Defensively let’s also keep in mind that West Virginia is 100th in the nation allowing 182.7 rush yards per game. If they can’t control the Kansas ground game then it’s going to a long day. As I said earlier that’ll open up the pass and really could lead to some nice success for the Jayhawks offense.
Toledo/Colorado State Un 66.5: I’m going with the under in this one due in large part to the Colorado State QB situation. Starter Collin Hill is out with a torn ACL and that’s a very, very big loss for the Rams. Playing out in the Mountain West Hill isn’t very well known nationally but he was a pretty damn solid QB and he ran that offense very smoothly and efficiently. He was off to a big start this year and the injury really shakes up that QB situation badly. Now to step in it looks like it’ll be Patrick O’Brien. Bobo hasn’t made an official announcement yet, but it’s O’Brien who is taking snaps with the 1’s this week and all signs point towards him getting the start. O’Brien is a Nebraska transfer and he has some talent, but his biggest challenge here will be running and handling the offense. He hasn’t been around the team that long and his familiarity with the offense is nowhere near the level where Hill was. Bobo has raved in the past about how well Hill knew and ran the offense, it was basically to a point he could run it in his sleep. When he went out last week the offense not so surprisingly sputtered. Check out this quote from Bobo a few days ago “It was hard for us to function and get in formation and run a play,” Bobo said of shifting to a new quarterback. “After he went out, we really couldn’t function as an offense. We’ve got to fix that.” Literally struggled to get into the correct formations and run the plays they wanted to. Not only does that impact the offense but in this case I think it’ll slow the pace too. It would stand to reason that O’Brien takes more time at the line looking over the defense and doing his best to check into and out of formations correctly. On top of that I’d expect a more conservative game plan from Bobo, not only for the offensive reasons mentioned above, but to help his defense too. It’s no secret the Rams defense isn’t any good, so the offense moving at a more methodical pace to limit possessions and keep the defense off the field is probably a good move. As far as Toledo goes we don’t know a ton about them yet and for that reason I’m more comfortable taking the under than I am backing the Rockets. I will say however that Toledo’s travel plus playing at altitude are things to keep in mind and certainly possible they cause their offense to be a bit slower than normal too. Against Kentucky they only ran 68 plays in 29 minutes of possession so it’s safe to say the pace was nowhere near blistering. Both defenses certainly have their flaws but more than anything else I think we get a slow paced game here and far less plays than most games with a total this high. It’s that coupled with everything else already mentioned above that leads me to think we might be looking at 31-24 type of game.
I also have a couple more but unfortunately no time for write ups on them, but will have a few quick sentences on each
Washington/BYU Un 51: I think BYU could be rundown a bit after a tough early season schedule. Also not sold on Washington’s offense quite yet and have to take what they did against a horrid Hawaii defense with a grain of salt.
UTEP (+14.5): Yes UTEP is awful but Nevada really shouldn’t be this big of a road favorite against pretty much anyone. More of a Nevada fade than a UTEP play, but I see the Miners hanging around.
West Virginia/Kansas Ov 48.5
Toledo/Colorado State Un 66.5
Washington/BYU Un 51