Monday, October 13, 2014

FOOTBALL NEWS AFTER NFL WEEK FIVE



FROM THE DESK OF THE “FUGITIVE” COMMISSIONER

Hello Football Fans,

It was an incredibly historic week in college football based on results of last weekend's games.

In the NFL, there are no unbeaten teams after five weeks.

Enjoy,

The Fugitive Commissioner of the FFHL

[Ed Note: due to unforeseen circumstances, this post from The Commish was posted late. As such, let's see how the FFHL predicted things. Also the football quiz question is back and it's a dozy.

COLLEGE

Expectations were running high as the season progressed and the polls and media build up the top-ranked teams.  All hell broke loose over the weekend.  So it’s time to check out the shocking results.

SHOCKERS OF THE PRE-WEEKEND

Two Associated Press Top 25 teams played before Saturday, and both were favored by more than three touchdowns.

On Thursday night, AP#2 Oregon (-21h) faced undefeated Arizona in Eugene, OR.  The AZ Wildcats had beaten the Ducks in Tucson, AZ last year, 42-16 when Oregon was ranked #5 near the end of the 2013 regular season.  This year Arizona led 24-14 after three quarters, but Oregon came back and tied the game at 24-24 with 8:21 remaining in regulation time.  But a questionable “unsportsmanlike conduct” penalty kept a late Wildcats’ touchdown drive alive for the winning score.
FINAL: AZ 31, OREG 24, and so early in the week college football fans were abuzz with the imminent shake-up at the top of the college rankings and the CFP possibilities.
Minutia: the stats for each team were virtually the same (yards, penalties, turnovers); Oregon’s offensive line is a mess, with a true freshman and a walk-on starting at the two tackle spots.
ARIZONA is now 5-0, which included a shaky 26-23 win at Texas-San Antonio and then a “Hail Mary” 49-45 win at home against Cal.  Next up for the ‘Cats: a home game vs. USC, who just got beat last weekend on a “Hail Mary”.

On Friday night, AP#18 BYU (-22) faced Utah State in Provo, UT.  With the Cougars trailing 21-14 in the 2nd quarter, BYU lost their star QB Taysom Hill (broken leg) and could muster only two field goals for the remainder of the game.
FINAL: USU 35, BYU 20, and the Cougar fans’ hopes for an undefeated season sadly disappeared.  Plus, BYU alumnus Richard’s straight-up bet with Utah State alumnus Pete (who didn’t want the points) was a loser.  “Pay up, Mr. C”.


These early shockers were just a harbinger of the historic weekend that would unfold…….


MORE SHOCKING RESULTS – THE ASSOCIATED PRESS TOP 19

ELEVEN teams ranked in the AP Top 19 lost last week (58%), and that included five games that matched up teams in the top 19 (#3 ALA at #11 MISS, #6 TXAM at #12 Miss.St, #14 STAN at #9 ND, #19 NEB at #10 Mich.St, #15 LSU at #5 AUB).  That means five of those 19 teams were “forced” to win, leaving only three other winners in the Top 19 (#1 FSU vs. Wake Forest, #7 Baylor at Texas, #13 Georgia vs. Vanderbilt).

Breaking it down further, THREE of the AP Top 4 teams lost; and, FOUR of the AP Top 6 lost for the first time since 1990.  And, five of the Top 8 lost for the first time in NCAA history. The College Football Playoff selection committee suddenly must completely change their thought process and the direction of their collective analysis.  It’s still early, but Bob S. and the rest of us are going to have to pencil out new scenarios for which teams have the best chances to make the 4-team CFP playoffs.

But let’s not get too excited yet; there are still nine undefeated teams in the new Top 25.  Two of those teams must lose this weekend -- #2 Auburn plays at #3 Mississippi State and #9 TCU plays at #5 Baylor; nevertheless, there could still be seven unbeaten Power 5 conference teams after this weekend.
Speculation is that there may eventually be a 2-loss team that makes the CFP.  Or what about this thought?  If there are only three playoff spots for four 1-loss teams at the end of the regular season, which team would be “odd man out”?  (Notre Dame, Big 10 Ohio State or Michigan State, Big XII TCU/Baylor/Oklahoma, ACC Florida State, PAC-12 Oregon or UCLA or Arizona, not to mention the SEC logjam in the conference’s West Division-could two SEC teams get into the playoffs?).  Let this week’s games play out, and then we’ll re-evaluate next week.

Associated Press TOP 19 LOSERS

AP#2 Oregon (-21h) lost to visiting Arizona, 31-24.  See SHOCKER of Pre-Weekend above.

AP#3 Alabama (-4) lost at AP#11 Mississippi, 23-17.

AP#4 Oklahoma (-5) lost at AP#25 TCU, 37-33.

AP#8 UCLA (-13h) lost to visiting Utah, 30-28.

AP#14 Stanford (-2h) lost at Notre Dame, 17-14.

AP#16 USC (-11h) lost to visiting Arizona State, 38-34, in a wild game in which the ASU Sun Devils won on the final play of the game – a 47-yard “Hail Mary” TD pass.  Southern Cal was ahead 34-25 after scoring on a 53-yard TD run with only three minutes remaining in the game, but ASU matched that on the next play from scrimmage on a 73-yard TD pass to trail only 34-32, setting up the Hail Mary victory.  There were no turnovers in the game.

AP#17 Wisconsin (-8) lost at Northwestern, 20-14.

AP#18 BYU (-22) lost to visiting Utah State, 35-20.  See SHOCKERS above.

And the following teams were underdog losers, previously ranked in the Top 19:

AP#6 Texas A&M (+2h) lost at #12 Mississippi State, 48-31.

AP#15 LSU (+7h) lost at AP#5 Auburn, 41-7.

AP#19 Nebraska (+7) lost at AP#10 Michigan State, 27-22.

FBS UNDERDOG WINNERS

Overall, EIGHTEEN underdogs won their games outright in 57 games, for a 32% upset rate (25% last week), which included eight teams in the “Top 19” mentioned above (three of the eleven losers in the Top 19 were underdogs).

Following are the other ten “upsets”:

On Thursday night, Central Florida +2h won at Houston, 17-12 and Florida International +7 beat visiting Florida Atlantic.

Purdue +8h won at Illinois, 38-27.  The PU Boilermakers snapped their 9-game Big Ten conference losing streak.  The Illini lost their QB to injury.

Memphis +3h won convincingly at Cincinnati, 41-14.

Kentucky +4 beat visiting South Carolina, 45-38.  The SC Gamecocks led 38-24 after scoring on a TD with 12 minutes remaining in the game, but the UK Wildcats responded to score three unanswered TD’s including the game-tying TD with 2:46 on the clock and the game-winning TD 17 seconds later on a “Pick 6” (i.e., interception for a touchdown).

Air Force +3h beat visiting Navy, 30-21.

Florida +2h won at Tennessee, 10-9.  The UT Vols led 9-0 heading into the final quarter, but the Gators replaced an ineffective Jeff Driskel with freshman QB Treon Harris, who directed TD and FG drives in the 4th quarter to help his team pull off the upset.  Our own FFHL handicapper MIGHTY DUCK turned legal age last week and was in Vegas over the weekend to celebrate; he placed his first-ever sportsbook bet on this game – his money was donated to the casino, as he bet on Tennessee.  Ouch!

California +3 won at Washington State, 60-59 (“Say What!?!”).  WSU was ahead 24-10 late in the 2nd quarter, but the visiting CAL Bears kicked a FG on the last play before intermission and the race was on in the second half.  The host Cougars were still ahead 51-42 after three quarters (even after back-to-back kickoff returns for TD’s by Cal), but the Good News Bears scored three TD’s in the final stanza, including the game-winner on a 51-yard TD pass with 3:18 remaining.  WSU had a chip-shot 19-yard FG try with 15 seconds remaining to win the game, but it was “no good”.  The Washington State special teams coach was fired after this loss (no joke).  There were no turnovers in the game.
Note: It was a record-setting day; see the Quiz Question at end of this letter.

New Mexico +17 won at Texas-San Antonio, 21-9.

Alabama-Birmingham +9 won at Western Kentucky, 42-39.

UPSETS – “NOT QUITE”:

Massachusetts +3h was ahead 41-14 with two minutes remaining in the 2nd quarter, but allowed host Miami of Ohio to score before halftime and the floodgates opened.  The MIA.OH RedHawks kept the momentum in the 2nd half and scored the game-winning TD with 3 minutes to go.  The Minutemen lost the turnover battle, 4-1.
FINAL: MIA.OH 42, UMASS 41.
It was the RedHawks’ first win since October of 2012.

AGAINST THE SPREAD

Michigan State (-7) had the game “under control”, leading 27-3 after three quarters, but visiting Nebraska mounted a 19-point 4th quarter comeback to nearly win the game outright.  The Cornhuskers’ final TD was a 62-yard punt return with 3:22 on the clock to cover ATS.
FINAL: MSU 27, NEB 22, and the Spartans failed to cover ATS by 2 points.

There were four games that ended up in a TIE against the spread:

Virginia (-5) led 24-3 at halftime, but allowed visiting Pittsburgh to score 16 unanswered points in the 2nd half to hold on for the win, 24-19.

Eastern Michigan (+25) lost at Akron, 31-6.

Iowa State (+17) took an early 6-0 lead at Oklahoma State with two FG’s in the 2nd quarter, but gave up 13 unanswered points in the final three minutes of the first half to trail, 13-6 (controversial at that).  It was all OSU Cowboys in the second half, with Okie State scoring a TD early in the 4th quarter to lead 37-13 (covering ATS).  But for the second week in a row, the ISU Cyclones scored a “meaningless” TD with less than one minute remaining in regulation play to not lose ATS.  FINAL: OSU 37, ISU 20.

Michigan (+2) lost at Rutgers, 26-24.  Yes, it’s true Wolverine fans.



NFL

There were only two unbeaten teams heading into last weekend, and both of them lost in Week #5 to fall to 3-1 (CIN and AZ, both of whom were coming off a “bye” week).  There are no undefeated teams in the NFL; parity in professional football is thriving.

There are still two winless teams after Week #5, Jacksonville (0-5) and Oakland (0-4).

NFL UNDERDOG WINNERS

Overall, only THREE underdogs won outright in 15 NFL games, for a 20% upset rate in the 5th week of the regular season (38.5% upsets last week).

Cleveland (+2h) trailed 28-3 during the first half at Tennessee, but produced an historic comeback to prevail 29-28.  Believe it or not, the Browns broke the all-time NFL record for overcoming the greatest deficit in victory by a road team.
Titans’ QB Jake Locker was injured (again) in the second quarter.

Buffalo (+7) benched QB E.J. Manuel and started recently-signed veteran QB Kyle Orton against the Lions in Detroit.  He had been 4-0 as a starter in games against the Lions, and he extended his streak to five, leading the Bills to a comeback victory, 17-14.  Buffalo was behind 14-0 in the first half, but eventually Dan Carpenter kicked a 58-yard FG with 9 seconds remaining in the game to give his team its first lead of the game and a win.  BUF Bills defensive coordinator, Jim Schwartz (head coach for Detroit last year), was carried off the field in a controversial celebration in front of the home crowd.
Detroit’s kicker Alex Henery was 0-for-3 on Sunday and was cut this week (he was 1-for-5 on the season); his replacement will be former Denver kicker Matt Prater, who is just finishing up his 4-game suspension for a substance abuse violation and was cut by the Broncos last week.  Prater was originally signed by Detroit in 2006 as an undrafted free agent, and holds the all-time record for longest successful FG of 64 yards (in the Mile High thin air, December 2013).    

New England (+1h) crushed previously unbeaten Cincinnati, 43-17, in the friendly confines of Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA.  The Patriots had just been humiliated on Monday Night Football six days earlier in Kansas City, 41-14.  Speculation that Tom Brady is too old (38) and that the NE Pats dynasty is over in the AFC East was a bit premature, I’m sorry to have to say.

“UPSETS” – NOT QUITE

Tampa Bay (+10) was behind early in New Orleans, but mounted a huge comeback and was ahead 31-20 after scoring a TD early in the 4th quarter.  After that, the NOR Saints tied the game by the end of regulation with a TD (missed 2-point conversion), a safety, and a FG (2:30 on the clock).  New Orleans won the coin toss and drove 80 yards in 12 plays for the winning score, and the Buccaneers’ offense didn’t get a chance to retaliate.
FINAL: NOR 37, TB 31 (OT)

Houston (+6h) was tied with host Dallas, 17-17, with the Cowboys lined up on the last play in regulation time for the potential winning 53-yard FG.  The kick was “no good” – overtime.  The HOU Texans won the coin toss, got the ball but their first drive stalled.  On the ensuing drive, Dallas marched into field goal range and this time Dan Bailey kicked the game-winner from 49 yards.
FINAL: DAL 20, HOU 17 (OT)

AGAINST THE SPREAD

Philadelphia (-7, favored by a touchdown and extra point) was leading 34-7 after scoring a TD with 2 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter, at which time I arrived at home and turned on the TV to watch the game.  I learned that the Eagles had earlier scored on a blocked punt and a recovered a fumble in the end zone to help build up that lead.  The visiting STL Rams proceeded to get the “triple backdoor cover” by scoring three unanswered and “meaningless” TD’s in the next 12 minutes to lose only 34-28.  Philly failed to cover ATS by 1 point, and The Fugitive, Moore Money, and Mighty Duck all lost that game in the FFHL pool.  I’m not very smart, but at least I didn’t put any real money on those meatheads from the “City of Brotherly Love”.  Guess we should have bet on the road underdog Lambs, who are forced to play their 3rd string QB, undrafted Austin Davis, due to injuries.

FFHL RESULTS – WEEK FIVE

Overall, we FFHL’ers had our best week of the year – not great, but improving – as we posted 44-37-3 (54.2%) ATS.  In college picks, we were just OK at 25-23-3 ATS (52.0%); but in the NFL we had another decent week at 19-14-0 ATS (57.6%).  This week we only selected 13 underdogs out of 84 total picks.  Of our 2 ‘dog picks in the NFL, we were 1-1-0 ATS; and our 11 college ‘dog picks were a stupendous 9-2 ATS (81.8%).

FFHL LOP-SIDED and CONTESTED PICKS AGAINST THE SPREAD (ATS)

Listed below is a breakdown of some of our significant picks. 

                                    ATS Picks
Team                           For-Against     Result / Unsolicited comments

In our 51 college picks, we had only SIX contrary picks.
In our 33 NFL picks, we had ZERO contrary picks.

Oklahoma -5 at TCU              5-0       LOSS, Horned Frogs win outright, 37-33
Baylor -14h at Texas              4-0       WIN, BU Bears win 28-7 to cover ATS by 6½
Notre Dame +2h vs. STAN    4-0       WIN, Irish “upset” Stanford at home, 17-14
Alabama -4 at Ole Miss          3-2       LOSS, Rebels knock off Tide 23-17
Miss St -2h vs. TXAM           3-1       WIN, MSU Bulldogs dominate, 48-31
UCLA -13h vs. Utah               3-1       LOSS, Bruins lose outright, 30-28
Auburn -7h vs. LSU                2-1       WIN, home Tigers beat road Tigers, 41-7

SEA Seahawks -7 at WSH     5-0       WIN, late FG secures cover ATS in 27-17 win
NY Giants -4 vs. ATL              4-0       WIN, Gnats 3rd win in a row, 30-20
SD Chargers -6h vs. NYJ       4-0       WIN, San Diego bolts past Jets, 31-0
PHI Eagles -7 vs. STL            3-0       LOSS, 34-7 lead evaporates in 34-28 victory
PIT Steelers -6h at JAX          3-0       WIN, Pittsburgh covers ATS by 1½ with 16-9 win

CUMULATIVE RECORDS AGAINST THE SPREAD (ATS) and STRAIGHT UP

COLLEGE – 6th week (FFHL WEEK #5)
                                                ATS                             STRAIGHT-UP
                                                Record                        Record

FAVORITES               22-31-4  (42.1%)         39-18  (68.4%)           
            HOME TEAMS           25-28-4  (47.4%)         36-21 (63.2%)

COLLEGE - CUMULATIVE (after 6 weeks)
                                                ATS                             STRAIGHT-UP
                                                Record                        Record

FAVORITES               130-150-8  (46.5%)     221-68  (76.5%)         
HOME TEAMS           127-144-4  (46.9%)     164-112 (59.4%)

           
NFL – 5th week (FFHL WEEK #5)
                                                ATS                             STRAIGHT-UP
                                                Record                        Record

FAVORITES               8-7-0  (53.3%)             12-3  (80.0%) 
            HOME TEAMS           7-8-0  (46.7%)             11-4 (73.3%)

NFL - CUMULATIVE (after five weeks)
                                                ATS                             STRAIGHT-UP
                                                Record                        Record

FAVORITES               36-39-1  (48.0%)         49-27  (64.5%)           
            HOME TEAMS           34-40-1  (46.0%)         47-28 (62.7%)







COLLEGE FOOTBALL POLLS

Once again, the AP and USA Today polls are quite similar, although last weekend’s “upsets” shook up the consensus a bit.  Several teams are ranked three spots different in the Top 25 [TCU AP#9 & USA#12; Arizona AP#10 & USA#13; Stanford AP#25 & USA#22; Utah AP#24 & USA#27].
And the new FWAA Super 16 pretty much mirrors the Top 16 of the AP Poll.

After six weeks of college football, there are virtually two teams getting the #1 votes in the two main polls (last week’s numbers are in parentheses):

                                    Rank               AP #1              Rank   USA #1           Rank
AP                   Votes               USA    Votes               FWAA
            Florida State    1 (1)                 35 (27)             1 (2)     44 (26)             2 (2)
            Auburn            2 (5)                 23 (0)               2 (5)     16 (0)               1 (5)    
            Miss St            T3 (12)            2  (0)                6 (14)   0  (0)               4 (12)
            Ole Miss          T3 (11)            0  (0)                4 (11)    0 ( 0)               3 (10)              
            Baylor              5  (7)                0  (0)                3 (6)     1 ( 0)               5 ( 7)
And for comparison, these are former Top 4 teams that lost last weekend:
Alabama          7 (3)                0 (13)               7 ( 1)    0 (15)               7 ( 3)
Oklahoma       11 (4)               0 (  7)               9  (3)    0 (14)               11 (4)
Oregon           12 (2)               0 (13)               11 (4)   0 (  7)               10 (1)

It’s still TOO EARLY to get too excited!        
We can do a more detailed analysis of the polls when the CFP selection committee convenes and comes out with their first preliminary poll results on October 28th (in three weeks).

OTHER NEWS and MINUTIA

CATCH-UP FROM LAST WEEK
When Notre Dame (-9) played Syracuse at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ two weekends ago, Irish QB Everett Golson completed 25 passes in a row (even though he didn’t have that great of a game overall; two fumbles, two INT’s including a Pick Six).  He fell one short of the all-time NCAA record of 26 straight completions when he missed his running back flaring out of the backfield into the flat area (most of his passes during the streak were of the dink-and-dunk variety, but nonetheless it was an impressive streak).  FINAL: ND 31, SYR 15
Question: Who holds the all-time NCAA record of 26, set during the 2011 season?
Don’t think too long on this one; the QB from a non-Power 5 conference team is rather obscure.
Answer is below in Quiz Question section.

2015 NFL DRAFT
Next year’s NFL draft will not be held at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.  It has been moved to Chicago, at the Auditorium Theater of Roosevelt University.  Los Angeles was the runner-up.  The draft will be held from April 30-May 2, one week later than “normal”, but one week earlier than last year (with failed experiment, having the draft pushed back to Mother’s Day weekend).  The 1st round will be held on Thursday night, April 30, Rounds 2 & 3 will be on Friday night, and Rounds 4-7 will be on Saturday, May 2, 2015.

LOOKING AHEAD – selected games, not the full slate
COLLEGE FOOTBALL - FFHL WEEK #6 (college 7th week)

Thursday       #31 BYU (+3h) at Central Florida
Oct 9th            
                       
Friday             Washington State (+17) at #25 Stanford       
Oct 10th          San Diego State (-6) at New Mexico
                        Fresno State (-10h) at UNLV
                       
Saturday        #12 Oregon (-2h) at #18 UCLA        Loser will have two PAC-12 losses
Oct 11th           #2 Auburn (-2h) at #3T Mississippi State  Battle of unbeaten SEC West
#3T Ole Miss (+2h) at #14 Texas A&M   Another big game in SEC West
#9 TCU (+8h) at #5 Baylor               Battle of unbeaten Big XII teams

#13 Georgia (-3) at #23 Missouri        SEC East matchup
#11 Oklahoma (-14h) vs. Texas (neutral site Dallas)     Red River Rivalry
                        #30 LSU (-1) at Florida
                        Penn State (+1) at Michigan   Yes, the Wolverines are favored
                        #29 Louisville (+10h) at #26 Clemson
                        North Carolina (+17) at #6 Notre Dame
                        Duke (+4) at #22 Georgia Tech         GT Yellowjackets are still unbeaten
                        #19 East Carolina (-15) at S. Florida         ECU only ranked non-Power 5
                        Cincinnati (+14h) at Miami.FL
Colorado State (-2) at Nevada
                        Wyoming (+4) at Hawaii
                        Bowling Green (-1) at Ohio U.
                        Miami of Ohio (+14) at Akron

NFL WEEK #6 – SELECTED GAMES

BYE WEEKS:             Kansas City, New Orleans 

Thursday       Indianapolis (-2h) at Houston
Oct 9th           
                                                                                   
Sunday           Divisional Matchups:
Oct 10th           New England (-2h) at Buffalo
                        Pittsburgh (+2) at Cleveland
                        Detroit (NL yet) at Minnesota            
                        Jacksonville (NL yet) at Tennessee
                        San Diego (-6h) at Oakland
                        NY Giants (+2h) at Philadelphia
                       
Other interesting matchups:
                        Carolina (+7) at Cincinnati
                        Green Bay (-3h) at Miami
                        Dallas (+8) at Seattle             

Monday          San Francisco (-3h) at St. Louis
Oct 11th

QUIZ QUESTIONS

Question from CATCH-UP section above: Who holds the all-time NCAA record of 26 straight pass completions?
Answer:
Dominique Davis, QB for East Carolina in 2011.

QUESTION #1: Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday set the new FBS passing record last Saturday night, throwing for 734 yards against Cal (49 of 70, 6 TD, 0 INT).  Who previously held the record?
HINT: It happened in 1990 (in Tokyo!).

ANSWER #1:
David Klinger (Houston U.) set the previous record (716 yards) in 1990 against Arizona State in a game played in Tokyo.

On Saturday, WSU QB Halliday wasn't the only quarterback who had a big game. Opponent QB Jared Goff (Cal Golden Bears) completed 47 of 53 passes for 527 yards and five touchdowns, also without an interception.
Combined, Halliday and Goff set a new single-game FBS record for total passing yards (1,261). The previous record (1,253 passing yards) was set in a game between TCU (690) and Houston (563) on Nov. 3, 1990. In that game, TCU quarterback Matt Vogler and Klinger attempted a record 135 passes.

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