Wednesday, November 12, 2014



Hello Football Fans,
After a wild week in college football, the playoff picture is coming into focus, but is still not clear.  
Conference title games are not too far away, and will likely determine a few spots in the new CFP.

The NFL has been particularly unpredictable this year, and there were a few shockers last weekend.


The Fugitive Commissioner of the FFHL, on the lam from the gambling police
(Hmmm. On the lam from those boys in blue. Explains the absence - Ed)


In case you missed it, FCS#20 Northern Iowa beat FCS#1 and three-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State, 23-3, to snap the NDSU Bison’s 33-game winning streak (longest in FCS history).  The host UNI Panthers held their opponent to 175 yards from scrimmage.  Both teams had two turnovers, but UNI was able to capitalize and the Bison did not.
The previous weekend, Northern Iowa had beaten undefeated FCS#12 Illinois State, 42-28 in Cedar Falls, Iowa.


CFP#7 Kansas State (+6) at CFP#6 TCU
KSU was outplayed at Forth Worth, TX and lost to host TCU, 41-20, knocking the Wildcats out of the playoffs (previously had lost at home to Auburn, 20-14).
TCU is now in contention for a playoff spot, having lost only at Baylor (blew a 21-point lead late and lost 61-58).  The Horned Frogs still have games at Kansas, at Texas on Thanksgiving, and home vs. Iowa State, and will be led by Heisman hopeful QB Trevone Boykin.

CFP#14 Ohio State (+3h) at CFP#8 Michigan State
OSU spanked the Spartans in East Lansing, MI, 49-37, eliminating Michigan State from playoff contention (previously MSU had lost at Oregon, 46-27 after leading at halftime).
Ohio State may be able to survive an ugly home loss to Virginia Tech (35-21) if the CFP Committee allows for the adjustment the Buckeyes had to make with a new redshirt freshman QB JT Barrett after senior Braxton Miller was injured just before the season started and was out for the year.  But just to have a fighting chance the Buckeyes will still need to win out – at Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan, and Big 10 title game.

CFP#4 Oregon (-8) at CFP#17 Utah
The Utes were eliminated from playoff contention with a home loss to Oregon, 51-27.  The whole game changed early in the 2nd quarter when Utah was about ready to take a 14-0 lead on a 78-yard TD pass when the unabated Ute WR inexplicably dropped the ball before crossing the goal line (presumably in anticipation of his end zone celebration); there was no TD signal, the whistle didn’t blow, it was ruled a fumble.  After a few seconds with the ball just lying on the ground at the goal line, opposing players fought on the ground for the ball but it popped out and another Oregon defender (on his feet) picked up the ball and ran it 99 yards for a TD – a fourteen point swing.  The game was tied 7-7 and it got the Ducks back into the game.  But Utah hung in there and was behind only 30-27 after scoring a TD with only 11:48 remaining in the game, after which Oregon scored three unanswered touchdowns to ice the game.  Utah lost its starting QB to injury in the 1st quarter and he is out for the year.
Oregon is in great position to get one of the four playoff spots, even with a 31-24 home loss to Arizona earlier in the year.  However, the Ducks must win out vs. Colorado and at Oregon State, and then win the PAC-12 title game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA.

CFP#10 Notre Dame (+2h) at CFP#9 Arizona State
ASU was dominating the visiting Irish and led 34-3 after scoring a TD with 1 minute remaining in the first half.  But Notre Dame scored a TD before halftime, and the comeback bid had started.  ND scored a TD with 6:34 left in regulation play to get within 34-31, having scored 28 unanswered points.  But the ASU Sun Devils ended the threat with three TD’s in the last 4½ minutes (including a Pick 6) to prevail.  This eliminated Notre Dame from playoff contention.
FINAL: ASU 55, ND 31
Arizona State still has a shot at a playoff spot, but must win out after losing earlier in the year at home to UCLA, 62-27 (ASU QB was injured and out of that game).  ASU still plays at Oregon State, WA State, and at Arizona in the regular season and then would have to win the PAC-12 title game vs. the North Division winner Oregon.

CFP#12 Baylor (+5h) at CFP#15 Oklahoma
Baylor kept its playoff hopes alive with a resounding victory at Oklahoma, 48-14.  The Bears still must play Oklahoma State at home, Texas Tech at neutral site Arlington, TX, and home vs. Kansas State.  Baylor’s blemish is an upset loss at West Virginia (41-27).
Sooners’ QB Trevor Knight left the game in the 4th quarter with a neck injury.

CFP#5 Alabama (-6h) at CFP#16 LSU
Wow, LSU did everything but win this game.  The game was tied after three quarters 10-10 in an offensively anemic game between two mediocre SEC teams (J).  With two minutes remaining in regulation play, and after no scoring by either mediocre team in the 4th quarter, LSU had to punt and downed it at the Alabama 1-yard line.  The Crimson Tide fumbled two plays later and the host Tigers recovered at the Tide 6-yard line.  But LSU was called for an “unsportsmanlike conduct” penalty and the ball was moved back to the 21, after which LSU had to settle for the go-ahead FG with 50 seconds remaining in the 4th quarter.  After the ensuing kickoff, Alabama marched 55 yards in 9 plays and kicked the tying 27-yard FG with 3 seconds left to force overtime.
In OT, Alabama scored first to go ahead by 7 points.  LSU then threw four incompletions to end their opportunity to tie the game.
FINAL: ALA 20, LSU 13, and the Crimson Tide covered against the spread by ½ point.
LSU is eliminated from playoff contention.
Alabama will get one of the four playoff spots if they win out.  The Tide’s remaining regular season games are at home  games vs. Mississippi State, FCS Western Carolina, and Auburn, and then would play in Atlanta for the SEC title game (maybe against Missouri, if the Tigers win out on road at Texas A&M and at Tennessee ).


Overall, TEN underdogs won their games outright in 47 games (excludes one pick’em game), for a 21% upset rate (23% last week).

Texas A&M (+23h) was a huge underdog at AP#3 Auburn, but pulled off the stunner.
The A&M Aggies jumped out to an early 14-0 lead (first 2 minutes of the game) and were still leading 35-17 at halftime and 38-24 after three quarters.  The AUB Tigers scored early in the 4th period to pull within seven, but TXAM answered with a FG, now tenuously leading only 41-31 with eight minutes to go.  Of course, Auburn came right back to score another TD, piercing the paper-thin Aggie defense in one minute to trail only 41-38 with 6:42 on the clock.  The host Tigers soon had the ball back and marched down to the A&M 2-yard line, 2nd and goal.  QB Nick Marshall fumbled and the Aggies recovered, stopping the potential go-ahead score – 2 ½ minutes to go.  One minute later, Auburn had the ball back again and quickly moved to the A&M 28-yard line with still one minute remaining in the game.  On the next play, another lost fumble by the #3-rated team ended the Tigers’ chances.
Auburn was most likely knocked out of playoff contention after this loss; they had previously lost at Mississippi State, 38-23.

Kansas (+3h) beat visiting Iowa State, 34-14.

Ohio State (+3h) won at Michigan State, 49-37.

Baylor (+5h) won handily at Oklahoma, 48-14.

Washington State (+8) won at Oregon State, 39-32, even though the Cougars were playing without their senior QB Connor Halliday (injured; out for the year).

Texas (+3) beat visiting West Virginia, 33-16.

GROUP OF FIVE GAMES (non-Power 5 conference matchups):

Last Tuesday night, Bowling Green (+5) won at Akron, 27-10.

Army (+5) beat Connecticut 35-21 at neutral site Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

North Texas (+3) beat visiting Florida Atlantic, 31-10.

Tulane (+17h) won at Houston, 31-24.


On Thursday night, Cleveland (+6h) pretty much dominated host Cincinnati to win 24-3,  picking up its first divisional road victory  since 2008 (seventeen straight losses).  The Browns now sport a 6-3 record and are in sole possession of the AFC North Division lead.  In Cleveland’s last 25 games, QB Brian Hoyer is 9-3 as a starter; when he wasn’t the starter, the Browns were an inept 1-12.
But this was not the “real” shocker. 

None of the pundits (including many of us FFHL handicappers) anticipated the NY Jets (+4h) beating the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers, even though the Las Vegas oddsmakers expected a relatively close game.  The J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets flew ahead 17-0 in the 1st quarter and then held on to beat the Steelers, 20-13.  The Jets have now bolstered their record to 2-8.


In the AFC NORTH, all teams are over .500; Cleveland at 6-3 captured the division lead over the other three teams by ½ game with a win over Cincinnati (5-3-1) on Thursday; Pittsburgh and Baltimore are 6-4.

In the NFC SOUTH, all four teams are under .500; New Orleans (4-5) is ahead of  Carolina (3-6-1) and Atlanta (3-6), with Tampa Bay “only” three games back at 1-8.

In the NFC EAST, Philadelphia (7-2) has a tenuous ½-game lead over Dallas (7-3).

In the AFC WEST, Denver (7-2) retained its 1-game lead over Kansas City (6-3) and extended its lead to 2 games over idle third-place San Diego (5-4).

In the NFC NORTH, Detroit (7-2) is still ahead of 2nd-place Green Bay (6-3) by one game after both teams won on Sunday.

In the AFC EAST, New England (7-2) had a bye week but extended its lead to 2 games over Buffalo and Miami (5-4), who both suffered heart-breaking losses on Sunday.

In the NFC WEST, Arizona (8-1) is still 2 games ahead of 2nd-place Seattle (6-3) and three games ahead of lurking San Francisco (5-4).

In the AFC SOUTH, Indianapolis (6-3) is still ahead of 2nd-place Houston (4-5) after both teams had a “bye” on Sunday.


Overall, THREE underdogs won outright in 13 NFL games, for a 23% upset rate this week (33% last week).

Other than the Cleveland and NY Jets upsets mentioned above, the only other underdog winner was San Francisco (+4h) at New Orleans, an entertaining overtime game in which the 49’ers prevailed 27-24 to snap the NOR Saints’ 11-game home winning streak (and 19-game home winning streak with QB Drew Brees and HC Sean Payton working together).

The Niners jumped out to an early 14-0 lead and were still leading at halftime, 21-10.  But with only 2 minutes remaining in the game, the Saints scored a TD to take the lead for the first time 24-21.  On the ensuing possession, San Francisco struggled and was faced with 4th-and-10 from its own 22-yard line with 1:05 on the clock.  On the 4th down play, QB Kaepernick was flushed out of the pocket but eventually found WR Michael Crabtree 51 yards downfield for the first down that set up the game-tying FG.  The NOR Saints weren’t finished yet; they scored a TD on a successful “Hail Mary”, but it was nullified by penalty (TE Jimmy Graham pushed off to make the reception) and the game went into overtime.

Both teams stalled on their first drives of the extra period, and New Orleans then had their second chance to score.  QB Drew Brees dropped back to pass and the oncoming rush knocked the ball out of his hand – a fumble, recovered by rookie LB Chris Borland (3rd round draft pick out of Wisconsin; 35 tackles in his last two games).  The Niners immediately set up for the winning FG from 35 yards and the knuckleball kick was good (“Did you see that ball draw left and then wildly fade right as it went through the uprights?”).
FINAL: SF 27, NOR 24.


Buffalo (+1h) was leading 13-3 after three quarters, but visiting Kansas City scored two TD’s in the final period to prevail, 17-13.  Three inopportune lost fumbles cost the Bills this game (only 1 turnover for the Chiefs).

Miami (+2h) kicked the go-ahead FG with 4 minutes remaining in the game, but then allowed host Detroit to drive 74 yards in 11 plays to score the winning TD with just 29 seconds on the clock.


Arizona (-6h) was trailing 14-10 at halftime and by the same score going into the fourth quarter.  Cardinals’ starting QB Carson Palmer was injured with 12 minutes remaining in the game (torn ACL, out for year, less than a week after signing a 3-year contract extension).  Backup Drew Stanton entered the game in relief, and he threw a 48-yard TD pass on his first drive with 7:40 to go in the 4th quarter and his team took the lead over the visiting STL Rams, 17-14 (but still not covering ATS).  St. Louis’ next two drives resulted in Arizona touchdowns, a Pick 6 and then a fumble return for a TD, leaving only 4 minutes on the clock and there was no more scoring.
FINAL: AZ 31, STL 14, and the Cardinals covered ATS “easily”, scoring three TD’s in less than four minutes of the fourth quarter with their starting QB out of the game.


Overall, we FFHL’ers didn’t quite beat the house this week in posting 43-40-1 (51.8% ATS; need 52.4% to beat Vegas when paying “the juice” – generally must bet $11 to win $10).  In college picks, we were a monkey-like 30-31-1 ATS (49.2%), and in the NFL we were decent at 13-9-0 ATS (59.1%).  Of course, if Arizona had not covered ATS, we would have been 11-11 and only 50% ATS.

This week we selected 16 underdogs out of 84 total picks.  On our 3 underdog picks in the NFL, we were perfect losers at 0-3-0 ATS.  And in our 13 college ‘dog picks we were 4-9-0 ATS.  Overall, that means we were a lousy 4-12-0 ATS (25.0%) on underdog picks.


                                    ATS Picks
Team                           For-Against     Result / Unsolicited comments

In our 62 college picks, we had 8 contrary picks.
In our 22 NFL picks, we had 3 contrary picks.

PIT Steelers -4h at NYJ          5-0       LOSS, Jets win outright, 20-13
GB Packers -7 vs. CHI           3-0       WIN, Bears fizzle at Lambeau, 55-17
KC Chiefs -1h at BUF            2-1       WIN, Kansas City wins with TD late, 17-13
BAL Ravens -9h vs. TEN       2-1       WIN, Baltimore 4th quarter TD gets cover, 21-7

Oregon -8 at Utah                   6-0       WIN, Ducks momentum swing helps in 51-27 win
W.Virginia -3 at Texas             5-0       LOSS, UT Longhorns win 33-16 for HC Strong
Wisconsin -17 at Purdue         3-0       WIN, Badgers win 34-16 to cover ATS by 1 point
Iowa (Pk) at Minnesota           3-0       LOSS, Gophers blow out Hawks, 51-14
LSU +6h vs. Alabama             3-0       LOSS, Tigers lose in OT, 20-13 to not cover by  ½
Michigan St -3h vs. OH.St      4-1       LOSS, Buckeyes win convincingly, 49-37
TCU -6 vs. Kansas State        4-1       WIN, Horned Frogs win handily, 41-20
Baylor +5h at Oklahoma        2-2       BU BEARS blow out Sooners, 48-14


                                                ATS                             STRAIGHT-UP
                                                Record                        Record

FAVORITES               24-22-1  (52.1%)         37-10  (78.7%)           
            HOME TEAMS           20-26-1  (43.6%)         19-28 (40.4%)

There was one Pick’em game this week (Iowa at Minn)
There was one neutral site game (UConn vs. Army)

                                                ATS                             STRAIGHT-UP
                                                Record                        Record

FAVORITES               253-269-12 (48.5%)    410-115  (78.1%)       
HOME TEAMS           239-274-8  (46.6%)     297-225 (56.9%)

And the home teams continue to struggle to cover ATS.

                                                ATS                             STRAIGHT-UP
                                                Record                        Record

FAVORITES               10-3-0  (76.9%)           10-3-0  (76.9%)          
            HOME TEAMS           7-5-0  (58.3%)             7-5-0  (58.3%)

There was one neutral site game (DAL vs. JAX in London)

                                                ATS                             STRAIGHT-UP
                                                Record                        Record

FAVORITES               75-69-2  (52.1%)         100-45-1  (68.8%)      
            HOME TEAMS           67-75-2  (47.2%)         85-58-1  (59.4%)


The 12-member selection committee for the CFP had to make some changes based on the results of the “playoff” games last weekend.  And frankly, they are getting a bit frisky, maybe even downright reckless.  Oregon has moved ahead of undefeated FSU and TCU has jumped over Alabama in the latest preliminary rankings.  Baylor and Ohio State made big moves upward.  But of course, it’s still too early to get excited – Mississippi State plays at Alabama this Saturday, Florida State is only a 2-point favorite at Miami.FL on Saturday, and Ohio State plays at pesky Minnesota on Saturday, while Nebraska plays at Wisconsin most likely for the Big 10 West Division title.

#1 Mississippi State (9-0)                   
#2 Oregon (9-1)                      The Committee is supposedly giving significant
#3 Florida State (9-0)                  weight to “quality” wins and road victories
#4 TCU (8-1)   __________________________________________________
#5 Alabama (8-1)                    Hosts Mississippi State on Saturday
#6 Arizona State (8-1)            
#7 Baylor (8-1)                        Impressive win at Oklahoma helps the Bears’ cause
#8 Ohio State (8-1)                 Buckeyes keeping their foot in door of CFP picture

#9 Auburn (7-2)                       “Luck” runs out, Tigers drop home game to Texas A&M
#10 Mississippi (8-2)              
#11 UCLA (8-2)
#12 Michigan State (7-2)
#13 Kansas State (7-2)                      
#14 Arizona (7-2)
#15 Georgia (7-2)
#16 Nebraska (8-1)     No love for Big Red – yet; beating Ohio State for Big 10 title will help (but that is jumping ahead a bit, Jim!)

#17 LSU (7-3)
#18 Notre Dame (7-2)                        Irish tough road loss at ASU makes playoffs unlikely
#20 Wisconsin (7-2)
#21 Duke (8-1)

No Group of Five team is ranked in the CFP Top 25.
The highest-ranked teams in the Associated Press Poll are:
AP#21 Marshall (9-0)  The Thundering Herd must play Rice, at UAB, W.KY
AP#23 Colorado State (9-1)   The Rams still must play NM and at Air Force

Once again, the AP and USA Today polls are quite similar; the Top 22 teams are exactly the same (with slightly different order).  The FWAA Super 16 poll has the exact same Top 16 in the exact same order as the AP Poll except that #14 and #15 are switched.  The CFP rankings have the same Top 10 teams as the AP Poll, with some minor but interesting differences in the order.



Baltimore CB Jimmy Smith suffered a foot injury last week, already has had surgery and is out for the year.

Miami OLT Branden Albert is out for the year (knee injury).

San Francisco LB Patrick Willis (toe) is out for the year and LB NaVorro Bowman still has pain in surgically repaired knee, but DL Aldon Smith will return this week after a nine-game suspension.

Seattle DT Brandon Mebane (torn hamstring) is out for the year, which doesn’t help the already depleted D-line for the Seahawks.

Jacksonville WR Allen Robinson (stress fracture in foot) is out for the year.

Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson has settled his court case; he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and is awaiting a decision as to whether he will be further suspended by the league after missing 8 games pending the conclusion of his case.  He will probably not be reinstated in time to play this weekend at Chicago (decision may be forthcoming Monday).

Arizona QB Carson Palmer is out for the year (torn ACL).  Drew Stanton will be the starter for the 8-1 Cardinals, with rookie Logan Thomas (VA Tech; 4th rounder) and Ryan Lindley (SDSU-2012 sixth rounder) as backups.

Louisville Cardinals’ QB Will Gardner is out for the year.

BOWL ELIGIBILITY (excerpt from

Heading into mid-November a total of 51 teams have clinched bowl eligibility, and 23 more schools could join them with one more win. With 38 bowl games and 51 teams ready for postseason play, that leaves 25 bowl spots still to fill. With a few weeks to play, the odds are still good all 25 vacancies will be accounted for, but the pressure is on for a handful of teams to finish the season strong.

There are 51 teams currently bowl eligible, but that number could easily be increased to 52. Georgia Southern has been playing very well in its first year in the Sun Belt Conference and already has enough wins for typical bowl eligibility. However, because this is its first season playing FBS football, Georgia Southern is technically ineligible for postseason play until 2015. Georgia Southern could still go bowling this season though if a waiver for postseason play is approved. If there are bowl spots to fill, this would increase the likelihood of Georgia Southern going to a bowl game this season.

LOOKING AHEAD – selected games, not the full slate

Tuesday         Toledo (+3h) at Northern Illinois         FINAL: NIU 27, TOL 24
                        Akron (-3h) at Buffalo             FINAL:  BUF 55, AKR 24

Wednesday    Ball State (+3h) at Massachusetts
                        Kent State (+13h) at Bowling Green             

Thursday       California (+15) at USC
                        East Carolina (-3) at Cincinnati
                        Southern Mississippi (+9) at Texas-San Antonio

Friday             Tulsa (+19h) at Central Florida

Saturday        “Playoff” GAMES THIS WEEK:
                        CFP#1 Miss State (+9) at CFP#5 Alabama  WOW! #1 team is 9-pt ‘dog
                        CFP#9 Auburn (+2h) at CFP#15 Georgia
                        CFP#16 Nebraska (+6) at CFP#20 Wisconsin
                        CFP#3 Florida State (-2) at Miami of Florida

Some OTHER GAMES of interest:
CFP#8 Ohio State (-12) at CFP#25 Minnesota
CFP#19 Clemson (-3) at CFP#22 Georgia Tech
CFP#17 LSU (+1h) at Arkansas
Rice (+21h) at AP#21 Marshall         
South Carolina (+6h) at Florida          HBC Spurrier vs. old SEC team
Kentucky (+8h) at Tennessee
Northwestern (+17h) at CFP#18 Notre Dame
Iowa (-5h) at Illinois
Virginia Tech (+5) at CFP#21 Duke
CFP#23 Utah (+7h) at Stanford
Texas (-2h) at Oklahoma State
UNLV (+23h) at BYU
San Diego State (+14) at Boise State
Eastern Michigan (no line yet) at Western Michigan
North Texas (+6h) at Texas-El Paso
Louisiana-Lafayette (-7) at Louisiana-Monroe


BYE WEEKS:             BAL, DAL, JAX, NYJ

Thursday       Buffalo (+5h) at Miami

Sunday           Divisional Matchups:
                        Atlanta (+1h) at Carolina
                        Minnesota (+3) at Chicago
                        Oakland (+10) at San Diego
                        Other interesting games:
                        Philadelphia (+5h) at Green Bay
                        Seattle (+1h) at Kansas City
                        Cincinnati (+7) at New Orleans
                        Detroit (+2) at Arizona
                        New England (+3) at Indianapolis                  

Monday          Pittsburgh (-5h) at Tennessee


QUESTION #1:  What NFL quarterback holds the all-time record for career rushing yards?

Michael Vick.  In helping the NY Jets upset the PIT Steelers on Sunday, Vick gained 39 yards on the ground. That puts him at 6,006 rushing yards in his career, making him the first quarterback in NFL history to top 6,000 rushing yards.  He has more rushing yards than Hall of Fame running backs Gayle Sayers, Paul Hornung, and Frank Gifford (of course, not really a fair comparison).
Vick also holds the all-time NFL record for highest “yards per attempt” at 7.05.

BONUS QUESTION:  Whose record did Vick break?

Randall Cunningham had 4,928 career rushing yards (16 seasons), a record that Michael Vick broke back in 2011 during his ninth season.
Vick also holds the single-season QB rushing record of 1,039, set back in the 2006 season when he was playing for the Atlanta Falcons.

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