Tuesday, October 14, 2014

FOOTBALL NEWS AFTER NFL WEEK SIX



FROM THE DESK OF THE “FUGITIVE” COMMISSIONER

Hello Football Fans,


The good college match-ups between Top 25 teams just keep coming, and the number of undefeated teams is dwindling.  There's a new #1, and which team would you guess is now favored to win the College Football Playoff?  It's not the #1 ranked team.

Enjoy,

The Fugitive Commissioner of the FFHL


COLLEGE

When five of the top 8 ranked teams lost last week, it was an historic NCAA weekend.  But in reality it could just be that the rankings are not that accurate early in the season.  There was a lot more activity at the top again this week, although not quite as dramatic.

NUMBER OF UNBEATEN TEAMS SHRINKS AGAIN

After the previous week of upsets, there were still ten undefeated teams among FBS schools.  Now, there are only six unbeatens, as four teams (two favorites, two ‘dogs) lost for the first time this season.

AP#10 Arizona (+2h) lost to visiting USC, 28-26 (see ATS below).
AP#2 Auburn (-3) lost at AP#3 Mississippi State, 38-23 in a key SEC West game.
AP#9 TCU (+8) lost at AP#5 Baylor in a monumental collapse, 61-58 (see below).
AP#22 Georgia Tech (-3h) lost to visiting Duke, 31-25.

Not quite”:
AP#6 Notre Dame (-16h) struggled at home against North Carolina, but won 50-43 to remain undefeated heading into its matchup at unbeaten Florida State this Saturday.

After last weekend’s fallout, five of the six still-undefeated teams hold the top 5 spots in the polls.  The sixth team is Marshall (6-0); the Thundering Herd out of Conference USA is ranked AP#25 this week, and is nipping at the heels of AP#18 East Carolina for the highest-ranked non-Power 5 conference team.

FBS UNDERDOG WINNERS

Overall, TEN underdogs won their games outright in 47 games (excluding three pick’em games), for a 21% upset rate (32% last week).

On Friday night, UNLV +8h beat visiting Fresno State in overtime, 30-27.

Duke +3h spoiled host Georgia Tech’s unblemished record, as the Blue Devils gave the Yellowjackets their first loss, 31-25.

Boston College +3 won at North Carolina State, 30-14.

Houston +8 won at Memphis, 28-24.  The MU Tigers jumped ahead early 14-0, but after five Memphis turnovers (and 3 by HOU), the underdog Cougars finally took the lead 28-21 on a 4th quarter TD and held on.

Mississippi State +3 soundly beat visiting Auburn, 38-23, and the Bulldogs jumped to the #1 ranking in the country for the first time in school history.  In a sloppy game in which both teams had 4 turnovers, MSU took an early 21-0 lead after Auburn turned the ball over on its first two plays from scrimmage.  Miss. State beat a then-Top 10 team for the third week in a row (LSU, TX A&M, AUB).

Washington +3h won handily at California-Berkeley, 31-7.  U-Dub recovered a fumble and returned it 100 yards for a TD in the first quarter and the game never got better for the Bad News CAL Bears (three turnovers overall, none for UW Huskies).

Mississippi +2h won at Texas A&M, 35-20.  Ole Miss led 21-0 at halftime, which included a 75-yard interception return for a TD.  The Rebels extended the lead to 35-7 in the fourth quarter with a 21-yard fumble return for a TD.  The A&M Aggies outgained the visitors from scrimmage 455-338, but lost the turnover battle 3-0 and lost the war of ranked teams.

AND THREE ALSO-RANS in the MID-AMERICAN CONFERENCE:
How ‘bout this for a trifecta in the MAC West Division?
Central Michigan +9 won at Northern Illinois, 34-17.

Eastern Michigan +14h beat visiting Buffalo, 37-27, and BUF Bulls’ head coach Jeff Quinn was fired after the “embarrassing” loss.  The interim coach will be offensive coordinator Alex Wood.

Western Michigan +2h won at Ball State, 42-38.  BSU was ahead 38-28 after three quarters, but WMU scored the game-winning TD with 1:25 remaining in the final stanza to pull off the upset.

FCS
FBS Appalachian State lost to visiting FCS Liberty, 55-48, in the Mountaineers’ homecoming game.  Ouch!
Cumulatively, that makes eight FCS upset losses on the year (last year 16 total).

UPSETS – “NOT QUITE”:

AP#9 TCU (+8) faced AP#5 Baylor on the road in a huge Big XII matchup.  Texas Christian led 58-37 after an interception return for a TD with only 11 minutes remaining in the game.  Three touchdown lead - game over?  “Not so fast, my friends.”  Six minutes later (clock showing 4:42), Baylor had tied it up, and eventually the TCU Horned Frogs relinquished the lead for the first time on the last play of the game, a 28-yard FG by the Bears.
FINAL: BAYL 61, TCU 58.

Arkansas +9h hosted AP#7 Alabama, having lost 14 straight SEC conference games.  As it turned out, the ugly streak is still alive, as the Crimson Tide squeaked out a 14-13 win over the Razorbacks.  Arkansas had an extra-point kick blocked in the 1st half, and that ended up being the difference; ARK outgained ‘Bama from scrimmage, 335-227.

FCS Charleston Southern nearly beat SEC Vanderbilt at the Commodores’ homecoming game, but Vandy prevailed 21-20 for its second win of the season (3-point win at home over meek UMass).

AGAINST THE SPREAD

There are so many games that come down to the wire ATS; I’ll just mention one this week (since I got burned on the pick, as did FFHL’er Tommy Boy).

USC (-2h) traveled to AP#10 Arizona and the Trojans were ahead 28-13 after three quarters, but the host Wildcats came back with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to trail only 28-26 with 1:07 on the clock.  “Oh no, Southern Cal is now not covering ATS by the hook.  But if UA is successful on the 2-point conversion, the game will be tied and in overtime USC could win by a FG or by six or seven and still cover the spread.”  The AZ ‘Cats were unsuccessful on the PAT.  FINAL: USC 28, AZ 26, and the Trojans failed to cover ATS by ½ point.

NFL

After five weeks, 24 out of the 32 NFL teams were within one game of their division lead.  That was the most in history since the divisional realignment to eight divisions of four teams (previously, the most was 20 teams).
After this last weekend – the sixth week, only 19 teams were within one game of the division lead, meaning that 13 teams are already losing a grip on the playoffs.

NFL UNDERDOG WINNERS

Overall, only THREE underdogs won outright in 15 NFL games, for a 20% upset rate in the 6th week of the regular season (same as last week).

Chicago +3 won at Atlanta, 27-13.

Detroit +1 won at Minnesota, 17-3.

Dallas +8h won at Seattle, 30-23.





“UPSETS” – NOT QUITE

Carolina +6h tied up the game on the last play of regulation with a 44-yard FG to make the score 34-34.  In overtime, host Cincinnati won the coin toss and drove down into field goal range.  The CIN Bengals converted on a 42-yarder with 8:40 left in OT; but with the new overtime rule, the CAR Panthers’ offense got its opportunity (since Cincy only got a FG and not a TD).  Carolina matriculated down the field but had to settle for a game-tying 36-yard FG with 2:20 on the clock.  The Bengals then got the ball back and worked into FG range again; with 2 seconds remaining, the 36-yard “chip shot” was … “no good, pushed right”.  FINAL: CAR 37, CIN 37 (an odd tie game).

AGAINST THE SPREAD

Denver (-8h) was ahead 24-7 after scoring a TD in mid-3rd quarter, but the Jets fought back and trailed only 24-17 after scoring a TD of their own in mid-4th quarter and were then covering ATS.  But with 15 seconds remaining in regulation, the DEN Broncos intercepted a Geno Smith pass (his first INT of the game) and ran it back 22 yards for a “Pick 6” TD to win by 14 points and cover the spread.
FINAL: DEN 31, NYJ 17 and the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets did not cover ATS.  Seven of us 12 FFHL handicappers got lucky with their Denver pick and chalked up a win ATS in our pool.

And by the way, a similar Pick 6 happened on Monday night.  But San Francisco was only favored by 3½ points, so the Niners’ Pick 6 at the end of the game with less than one minute to go for a 31-17 victory didn’t directly affect the cover ATS.  However, the “over/under” for the game was 44 total points; and with the score only 24-17 before the interception, the game was still “under”.  The Pick 6 sent the game “over” (48 total points scored for the game).

Green Bay (-3) was trailing at Miami until QB Aaron Rodgers threw a TD pass with 3 seconds remaining in the game to prevail, 27-24.  The game ended up in a TIE against the spread.  Until this comeback, Packers’ QB Rodgers had been 0-3 in NFL games he played in Florida.  In the FFHL, six of us 12 handicappers got the tie ATS.



FFHL RESULTS – WEEK FIVE

Overall, we FFHL’ers had a lackluster week in posting 40-38-6 (51.2%) ATS.  In college picks, we were not good at 20-27-0 ATS (42.6%); but in the NFL we had another stellar week at 20-11-6 ATS (62.2%).  However, had Denver not “lucked out” in their “Pick 6” cover ATS, our record would have been an ugly 13-18-6 ATS (43.2%); there’s a fine line between winning and losing, handicappers.

This week we only selected 16 underdogs out of 84 total picks.  Of our 7 ‘dog picks in the NFL, we were 4-3-0 ATS; and our 9 college ‘dog picks were 5-4 ATS.  Overall, that is 56.2% ATS on underdog picks.


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 47 college picks, we had only SIX contrary picks.
In our 37 NFL picks, we had ZERO contrary picks (that’s two weeks in a row)

Alabama -9h at ARK           4-0      LOSS, overrated Tide wins only 14-13
Oregon -2 at UCLA              3-0      WIN, 42-30 final but it was a blowout
Baylor -8 vs. TCU                 4-2      LOSS, Bears win only 61-58 to not cover
Georgia -3 at Mizzou           2-1      WIN, Bulldogs without RB Gurley win 34-0
Auburn -3 at Miss St            2-2      ‘Dog MSU BULLDOGS win “big”, 38-23

DEN Broncos -8h at NYJ   7-0      WIN, lucky cover ATS with Pick 6; 31-17 DEN
GB Packers -3 at Miami      6-0      TIE, late Green Bay TD secures victory, 27-24
SD Chargers -7 at Oakland 5-0      LOSS, Raiders/new coach hang tough in 31-28 loss
SF 49’ers -3h at St Louis    4-0      WIN, Niners come back in 2nd half in 31-17 victory
NE Pats -3 at Buffalo          3-0      WIN, Bills’ 3 TO’s lead to easy NE win, 37-22
CHI Bears +3 at Atlanta      3-0      WIN, Chicago gets 27-13 victory as underdog

CLE Browns -1h vs. PIT     0-1      Cleveland had a 1-18 record against a Ben                                                       Roethlisberger led Pittsburgh team going into this game, but the Browns dominated in winning 31-10


CUMULATIVE RECORDS AGAINST THE SPREAD (ATS) and STRAIGHT UP

COLLEGE – 7th week (FFHL WEEK #6)
                                                ATS                            STRAIGHT-UP
                                                Record                       Record

FAVORITES             21-26-0  (44.7%)       37-10  (78.7%)         
            HOME TEAMS         25-24-0  (51.0%)       28-21 (57.1%)

Three pick’em games this week (i.e., no favorite or underdog in these games)
One neutral site game this week


COLLEGE - CUMULATIVE (after 7 weeks)
                                                ATS                            STRAIGHT-UP
                                                Record                       Record

FAVORITES             151-176-8  (46.3%)  258-78  (76.8%)       
HOME TEAMS         152-168-4  (47.5%)  192-133 (59.1%)
           
NFL – 6th week (FFHL WEEK #6)
                                                ATS                            STRAIGHT-UP
                                                Record                       Record

FAVORITES             8-6-1  (56.7%)                       11-3-1  (76.7%)        
            HOME TEAMS         4-10-1  (30.0%)         4-10-1  (30.0%)

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

FAVORITES             44-45-2  (49.5%)       60-30-1  (66.5%)      
            HOME TEAMS         38-50-2  (43.3%)       51-38-1  (57.2%)

The home teams are not doing well ATS.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL POLLS

Once again, the AP and USA Today polls are quite similar.   The Top 5 is exactly the same with same order.  The Top 15 are exactly the same, except Auburn is #6 in AP and #8 in USA, while Michigan State is AP#8 and USA#6.
And the new FWAA Super 16 pretty much mirrors the Top 16 of the AP Poll (exact same sixteen teams, slightly different order; but Top 9 is exactly same order).

After seven weeks of college football, there are now only three teams getting the #1 votes in the three polls (#1 votes in parentheses), with the preseason numbers thrown in for entertainment value:

                                    Rank              Rank                                      AP Rank
AP (#1’s)        USA                FWAA                        Preseason
           
            Miss St           1  (45)             1  (26)             1  (30)             Unranked
Florida State           2  (12)               2  (31)             2  ( 8)              1    (57 of 60)
            Ole Miss         3  ( 3)              3  (  5)             3  ( 2)              18
And to round out the Top 5 and other remaining undefeated teams getting no first place votes:
Baylor             4                      4                      4                      10
Notre Dame  5                      5                      5                      17
Marshall         25                    24                    NR      (cupcake schedule all year)

The teams ranked AP#6 through AP#20 all have one loss.  The top-ranked team with two losses is AP#21 Texas A&M (losses Miss St, Miss), closely followed by USC (BC, ASU), Stanford (USC, ND), and Clemson (UGA, FSU).

Some additional perspective:
After five weeks of college games (Sept 29th, a mere two weeks ago), there were seven SEC teams ranked in the Top 15 (3 PAC-12, 2 Big XII, 1 Big 10, 1 ACC, 1 independent).

Now, after seven weeks (Oct 14th), there are five SEC teams and FIVE Big XII teams ranked in the Top 15 (only 1 PAC-12, 2 Big 10, 1 ACC, 1 independent).

OTHER NEWS and MINUTIA

ODDS TO WIN THE NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP

After all of the craziness in the last couple of weeks, the favorite to win the College Football Playoff has changed, at least by one oddsmaker.
According to VegasInsider.com, the new favorite to win the NCAA title is……
Michigan State at 13/2 (6.5 to 1)  “Say What?!?” [really, I guess that makes some sense since the SEC team getting into the CFP (or two, heaven forbid) is still highly in doubt]
Followed closely by:
FSU and Mississippi State at 7 to 1
Alabama at 8 to 1
Oklahoma at 9 to 1
ND/Ohio State/Mississippi at 10 to 1
(absent is any PAC-12 team in the Top 8)

With an opposing view is Bovada.lv, which shows:
FSU at 6 to 1
Michigan State and Miss St at 7 to 1


NFL PENALTIES

The total number of penalties has increased by 163 this year through six weeks.  The distribution of those penalties has changed dramatically with the new rules this year.  “Illegal contact” penalties have quadrupled (from 15 last year to 59 this year)
“Defensive holding” penalties have doubled (from 52 last year to 115 this year)

Interestingly enough, the average length of an NFL game this year is shorter, with an average of about 3 hours, 6 minutes as compared to last year about 3 hours, 10 minutes.




NFL EXTRA POINT KICKS

NFL teams have successfully kicked extra points on 381 of 383 tries (99.5%); the two missed kicks were blocked.  This statistic continues to fuel the debate as to whether the point-after-touchdown (PAT) rule should be changed.  One decent idea is to place the ball at the 1-yard line for a PAT (currently placed at the 2-yard line), which in theory would entice teams to try more frequently for the 2-point conversion instead of kicking for 1 point.  Some still think moving the PAT back to the 15 or 20-yard line would be better, but that eliminates the “fake” kick.  And some just want the PAT eliminated, in which case I would assume a team would get 7 points for a TD (if only 6 points were awarded for a TD and there was no extra point, the 3-point FG would become extremely more important).  This topic will be debated in the offseason and a rule change could be coming for the 2015 season (but I doubt it).

INJURIES (cannot get them all, too time-consuming)

COLLEGE
Indiana’s QB is out for the year
NC State suspended 7 players for a BB gun incident
Clemson’s QB could miss 5-6 weeks after having hand surgery recently

NFL
NYG WR Victor Cruz is likely out for the season (torn patellar tendon)
NE RB Stevan Ridley (torn ACL) is out for the year
NE LB Jerod Mayo (bad lower leg injury) is reportedly out for the year
MIA RB Knowshon Moreno is out for the year (put on IR)
NYJ CB Dee Milliner (Achilles injury) is feared to be out for the year
CLE OC Alex Mack is out for the year with a broken leg

LOOKING AHEAD – selected games, not the full slate
COLLEGE FOOTBALL - FFHL WEEK #7

Thursday      Virginia Tech (+2) at Pittsburgh
Oct 16th          AP#20 Utah (-2h) at Oregon State
                        Louisiana-Lafayette (+1h) at Texas State
                       
Friday                        Temple (+8h) at Houston  
Oct 17th         Fresno State (+17) at Boise State
                       
Saturday       AP#5 Notre Dame (+11h) at AP#2 Florida State
Oct 18th          AP#14 Kansas State (+7h) at AP#11 Oklahoma
AP#21 Texas A&M (+11h) at AP#7 Alabama
AP#15 Oklahoma State (+8h) at AP#12 TCU
AP#23 Stanford (-3h) at AP#17 Arizona State

Others:
Washington (+21) at AP#9 Oregon
Tennessee (+16h) at AP#3 Mississippi
Kentucky (+9h) at LSU
AP#10 Georgia (-3h) at Arkansas
Missouri (+5) at Florida
AP#19 Nebraska (-6h) at Northwestern
Georgia Tech (-2h) at North Carolina
Virginia (+2h) at Duke
UCLA (-7) at California
Utah State (+5h) at Colorado State
Iowa (+4) at Maryland
Eastern Michigan (+16h) at UMass
Akron (-5) at Ohio U.
            AP#25 Marshall (-21h) at Florida International


NFL WEEK #7 – SELECTED GAMES

BYE WEEKS:                       Philadelphia, Tampa Bay

Thursday      NY Jets +9 at New England
Oct 16th        
                                                                                   
Sunday         Divisional Matchups:
Oct 19th          Seattle -6h at St. Louis
                        Kansas City +4 and San Diego
                        NY Giants +5h at Dallas
                        Other interesting games:
                        Cincinnati +3 at Indianapolis
                        San Francisco +6h at Denver

Monday         Houston +3h at Pittsburgh
Oct 20th

QUIZ QUESTIONS

QUESTION #1:  Name the three FBS college football teams that haven’t won a game yet this season.
(You might be able to get this if you are a handicapper)
BONUS: OK gambling nerds, if you got that one: Name the four FBS teams whose only win this year was against an FCS foe.
DOUBLE BONUS:  If you got this far, you are sick.  Name the two FBS teams that got their first win last weekend (both against FBS opponents).
TRIPLE BONUS:  If you got this far, “What is wrong with you?!? Get a life.”  Name the only other team not fitting a category above that has only one win this season.  Hint: This team won on Kickoff Thursday, August 28th , and hasn’t won since then.


ANSWER #1:
SMU (0-5), Kent State (0-6), and Idaho (0-6).
Bonus:
Georgia State (1-point win over FCS)
Appalachian State (and also lost to FCS team)
Ball State (BSU, favored by 2h,
UConn
Double Bonus:
UMass beat winless Kent State, 40-17
Troy (-6h) beat visiting New Mexico State, 41-24
Triple Bonus:
Tulsa (-6h) beat visiting Tulane, 38-31 in double-overtime to win and cover ATS by the hook.

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