Thursday, October 1, 2015

FOOTBALL NEWS AFTER WEEK THREE

FROM THE DESK OF THE “FUGITIVE” COMMISSIONER

Hello Football Fans,

The "good" teams are starting to float to the top, but the next three to four weeks will give us an even better picture. 


Hope all of you are doing well out there.

Enjoy,

The Fugitive Commissioner of the FFHL


In case you missed it: San Francisco beat Oakland 14-10…on Saturday night, on the baseball diamond. It was the SF Giants over the OAK Athletics in a meaningless MLB game, as both teams are out of the playoff race. That’s from BEAU, who doesn’t know.

NFL

Last week there were nine teams that hadn’t won a game yet, and history says that statistically only one of those teams is going make the playoffs (11+% chance). I got some feedback on this one; everyone is saying that more than one of these teams will make the playoffs (not one, but MORE THAN one); many readers say “At least THREE”. We’ll see.
The nine teams: SEA, IND, PHI, BAL, HOU, DET, NYG, NOR, CHI

This week, only FOUR teams remain winless – BAL, NOR, CHI and DET. Statistically since 1990 after the divisional realignment, there have been 124 teams that started the season with 0-3 records. Only 3 of them went on to make the playoffs (that’s a 2.4% chance based on history). Following are the teams that bucked the odds:
1992 San Diego 11-5 record
1995 Detroit 10-6 record
1998 Buffalo 10-6 record

Note: All four teams in the AFC South are sporting a 1-2 record on the season, so they are all tied for first place, and all tied for last place. One of them is required to make the playoffs – IND, HOU, TEN, and JAX.

On the positive side, there are SEVEN undefeated teams after three weeks:

NFC SOUTH:
Both CAROLINA and ATLANTA

NFC WEST:
ARIZONA already has a 2-game lead on the other three teams

NFC NORTH:
GREEN BAY has a 1-game lead over Minnesota

AFC EAST:
NEW ENGLAND is 1 game ahead of BUF and NYJ

AFC NORTH:
CINCINNATI has a 1-game lead over Pittsburgh

AFC WEST
DENVER has a 1-game lead over Oakland


NFL ACTION – UNDERDOG WINNERS

FIVE underdogs won outright in 16 games in NFL action this week for an upset rate of 31.2% (a whopping 62.5% the previous week).

SHOCKER OF THE WEEK
Nothing is a shocker in the NFL, at least not this week. Following are the underdog winners:

Philadelphia (+1h) won at East Rutherford, NJ over the previously unbeaten NY Jets, 24-17, and the Eagles got their first win of the year to get “off the schneid.” Philly led 24-0 before the Jets’ comeback fell short.

Cincinnati (+2h) won at Baltimore, 28-24, to keep the Ravens winless on the season and the Bengals remained undefeated at 3-0.


Oakland (+3h) won at Cleveland, 27-20, and the Raiders are 2-1 for the season.

Buffalo (+3) walloped host Miami in Florida, 41-14, and the Bills passed their first test on the road this season.

Pittsburgh (+1 in FFHL; later Steelers became the -1h favorite) won at St. Louis, 12-6, even though PIT QB Ben Roethlisberger was knocked out of the game in the third quarter with a knee injury, which after an MRI determined he has a sprained MCL that will keep him out of the lineup from 4 to 6 weeks.
Steelers’ backup QB Michael Vick will start next weekend in Week #4.

AGAINST THE SPREAD
Indianapolis (-3) was ahead early in the 2nd quarter at Tennessee, 14-0, but allowed the Titans to score the next 27 points and was trailing by 13 heading into the 4th quarter. The then-winless Colts responded with three TD’s in a 4-minute span to lead 35-27 with 2:51 on the clock. After the ensuing kickoff, Tennessee drove 80 yards in 9 plays for a TD with 47 seconds remaining in regulation; the Titans needed a successful 2-point try to tie the game and force overtime. But the PAT run failed and the game ended with Indy winning 35-33. With only a two-point margin of victory, IND failed to cover ATS by 1 point.



COLLEGE

FBS ACTION – UNDERDOG WINNERS

Only SEVEN underdogs won outright in 52 FBS games for an upset rate of a mere 13.5%.

SHOCKER OF THE WEEK
AP#18 Utah (+10; +12 in FFHL pool) absolutely crushed the host AP#13 Oregon Ducks in Eugene, 62-20, the blowout result being the real shocker. It wasn’t that far-fetched the Utes could win the game – they were 3-0 heading into this matchup (best win before this was at home vs. Michigan, 24-17).

Mississippi State (+3) won at Auburn, 17-9, in an SEC West matchup in the “weakest” of conferences – the Southeastern (OK, I may be jumping the gun here).

Army (+1) won at Eastern Michigan, 58-36, for its first win of the season after three close losses (by 2, 5 and 3 points).

Duke (+7h) beat visiting AP#20 Georgia Tech, 34-20 (game was closer than score indicates). The Blue Devils improved their record under Head Coach David Cutcliffe to 43-49 (46.7%), which may not seem that impressive until you look at Duke’s record for the seven years prior to 2008 before Cutcliffe – 10-82, for a win percentage of less than 11%.

Florida (+1) beat visiting Tennessee 28-27 – AGAIN, for the 11th straight time, in a wild game that ended on a missed 55-yard FG by the Vols. The FL Gators scored late on a completed pass (12-yard hook-pattern route that turned into a 63-yard TD; lots of YAC, “yards after the catch”). But with 3 seconds remaining in the game, the Vols had a long FG attempt to win…..the kick looks – plenty of distance….”wide right” (barely).
This game didn’t go into overtime, but here’s a factoid anyway:
For FBS teams, Tennessee has played in the most overtime games since the OT rule changed in 1996 with 17, followed by Missouri with 16, and these two teams hold the record for most wins in overtime in that stretch with 11.
An oddity in this game: TENN Vols’ QB Josh Dobbs led his team in passing yards (83), rushing yards (136) and receiving yards (58) in the losing effort.

East Carolina (+10) beat visiting Virginia Tech, 35-28.

Akron (+8) won at Louisiana-Lafayette, 35-14, to give HC Terry Bowden and the Zips their first FBS victory of the year.





NOT QUITE”

Texas Tech (+6h) hosted AP#3 TCU and it was a “where’s the defense” kind of game with the TT Red Raiders leading 52-48 late in the game. But Texas Christian got one last chance and drove to 1st-and-goal. With only 29 seconds remaining in regulation, the Horned Frogs had only one down left, facing 4th and goal from the 4-yard line; under pressure, TCU QB Trevone Boykin threw high into the end zone, the receiver put one hand up and tipped it into the air (unable to catch it), it bounced over the Tech defensive backs toward the back of the end zone where another TCU wide receiver ran underneath the floating ball, got one foot down before falling out the back of the end zone – winning TD.
FINAL: TCU 55, TT 52 (Frogs are so lucky to still be in the CFP “Final Four” race).

Arkansas (+7) faced AP#14 Texas A&M at neutral site Arlington, TX (Cowboys Stadium). The A&M Aggies held a 13-7 lead until the Razorbacks scored twice to take a 21-13 lead with 14 minutes remaining in the game. With only 3 minutes to go in regulation, Texas A&M scored a TD and the tying 2-point PAT to send the game into overtime, after which the ARK Razorbacks blew another one.
FINAL: TXAM 28, ARK 21 and it was a TIE against the spread.

Editorial Comment: Arkansas HC Bret Bielema earlier in the year “cootied” himself (as we would say in FFHL gambling lingo) when he inferred the superiority of the SEC West division, after which his team lost at home to the MAC’s Toledo and Big XII’s Texas Tech and then suffered this loss to an SEC East team at a neutral site.

FBS RANKINGS

Following is a summary of the Top 25 teams that lost last weekend.

RANKED NEW
TEAM RESULTS RANKING

#13 Oregon Home blowout loss to #18 Utah, 62-20 OUT of Top 25
#16 Arizona Home blowout loss to #9 UCLA, 56-30 OUT of Top 25
#20 GA Tech Road loss to Duke, 34-20 OUT of Top 25
#22 BYU Road blowout loss at Michigan, 31-0 OUT of Top 25
#25 Missouri Road loss to favored Kentucky, 21-13 OUT of Top 25

That means several teams moved INTO the Top 25:
New #21 Mississippi State
New #22 Michigan
New #23 West Virginia
New #24 California
New #25 Florida

The breakout of votes for the #1 ranking in the polls (with last week’s #1 votes in parentheses):

TEAM AP Poll Coaches

Ohio State 45 (42) 61 (61)
Michigan State 5 (7) 2 (3)
Mississippi 10 (11) 1 (0)
LSU 0 (1) 0 (0)
Utah 1 (0) 0 (0)

FCS UPDATE

In the fourth week of the season, there were only seven games between FCS and FBS teams, as many FBS schools have begun their conference slates.

But there was one FCS winner in those games:
FCS#8 James Madison won at SMU, 48-45.

FCS UPSETS – “NOT QUITE”:
And then there was FBS Texas-El Paso who struggled with Incarnate Word (that’s a FCS football school) and was tied 17-17 going into the fourth quarter before prevailing.
FINAL: UTEP 27, IW 17

FCS TOP 10 RANKINGS

The breakout of #1 rankings in the FCS Coaches Poll are listed below (with the #1 votes for the prior two weeks in parentheses):

#1 Coastal Carolina 17 (18; 14)
#2 North Dakota State 4 (4; 0) Plays at FCS#7 SD State on Saturday
#3 Jacksonville State 3 (3; 5)
#4 Illinois State 0 (0; 1) Hosts FCS#6 UNI on Saturday
#5 James Madison 1 (0; 0) Beat FBS Southern Methodist, 48-45
#6 Northern Iowa 0 (0; 0) Plays at FCS#4 Illinois State on Saturday
#7 South Dakota State 1 (1; 2) Hosts FCS#2 ND State on Saturday
#8 Chattanooga 0 (0; 0)
#9 Eastern Washington 0 (0; 0)
#10 Youngstown State 0 (0; 0)

FFHL RESULTS – WEEK THREE

Overall, we FFHL’ers had our best week so far this year and ended up 45-36-3 ATS (55.4%). In the NFL, we posted an excellent record of 24-16 ATS (60.0%), but once again did not do as well in college (although OK) at 24-20-3 ATS (51.1%). This week we selected 27 underdogs in 84 total picks. On our NFL ‘dogs, we were 10-7 ATS (58.8%), and in college we were 4-5-1 ATS (45.0%).

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

PIT Steelers +1 at STL 6-0 WIN, Big Ben injured but Pittsburgh wins 12-6
AZ Cardinals -6h vs. SF 5-1 WIN, blowout in Arizona over Niners, 47-7
IND Colts -3 at TEN 3-0 LOSS, Indy wins only 35-33 to not cover by 1 pt.
DEN Broncos -3 at DET 3-2 WIN, Denver beats winless Lions 24-12
MIA Dolphins -3 vs. BUF 2-2 LOSS, Miami gets blown out at home, 41-14
SD Chargers +2 at MIN 2-1 LOSS, favored Vikings win handily, 31-14
GB Packers -6h vs. KC 2-1 WIN, Green Bay dominates early, wins 38-28
NY Jets -1h vs. PHI 2-1 LOSS, Eagles hang on for first victory 24-17

USC -5h at AZ State 4-0 WIN, Trojans were up 35-0 and coasted to victory
Ohio St -31h vs. W.Mich 3-0 LOSS, Buckeyes underwhelming 38-12 victory
Wisconsin -24h vs. Hawaii 3-0 WIN, Badgers score in each quarter to win 28-0
TCU -6h v. TX Tk in Dallas 3-0 LOSS, Horned Frogs just lucky (!) to win, 55-52
BYU +6h at Michigan 3-2 LOSS, Cougars get smoked in Big House, 31-0
Utah +12 at Oregon 2-1 WIN, Utes humiliate host Ducks, 62-20

Who is the favorite to win the PAC-12 South at this point? You could argue USC, UCLA, or Utah.


RECORDS AGAINST THE SPREAD (ATS)

COLLEGE
This week – FFHL Week #3:

ATS STRAIGHT-UP
Record Record

FAVORITES 27-23-2 (53.8%) 45-7 (86.5%)
HOME TEAMS 20-30-1 (40.2%) 28-23 (54.9%)

There was one neutral game this week, and two ties ATS; one of the ties was at a neutral site. Once again, a good percentage of the home teams are winning their games but not covering ATS. That should change when the huge point spreads go away when conference games dominate the matchups each week.


COLLEGE
CUMULATIVE after four weeks:

ATS STRAIGHT-UP
Record Record

FAVORITES 88-99-7 (47.2%) 160-34 (82.5%)
HOME TEAMS 84-97-5 (46.5%) 109-77 (58.6%)


NFL
In the third week:
ATS STRAIGHT-UP
Record Record

FAVORITES 9-7 (56.3%) 11-5 (68.8%)
HOME TEAMS 8-8 (50.0%) 8-8 (50.0%)

CUMULATIVE after three weeks:

ATS STRAIGHT-UP
Record Record

FAVORITES 24-23-1 (51.0%) 28-20 (58.3%)
HOME TEAMS 25-22-1 (53.1%) 27-21 (56.3%)

FOOTBALL NEWS and MINUTIA

COLLEGE

HAWKEYES
When North Texas visited Iowa last Saturday, there were several interesting connections between the two schools and their personnel. North Texas HC Dan McCarney and Iowa HC Kirk Ferentz were both on Hayden Fry’s coaching staff at Iowa long ago. Fry had been the coach at North Texas (1973-1978) before taking the head job with the Hawks.
Dan McCarney grew up in Iowa City, IA and played for the Hawkeyes (1972-1974). He moved to rival Iowa State to take the head coaching job with the Cyclones (1995-2006), and later ended up as the HC at North Texas starting in 2011.
In case you were wondering, this year’s game was scheduled in 2010, before Dan McCarney even took the head coaching job at North Texas.
Also, North Texas Mean Green QB Andrew NcNulty played his high school football at City High in Iowa City, IA.
FINAL: IOWA 62, NT Mean Green 16 and the Hawkeyes improve to 4-0.
Comment: Am I nuts, or was that “reverse” play deep in their own territory the worst play-call from the Iowa sidelines this year? Moving the ball well, why would you resort to trickery and greater risk of turnover, especially on your own 20-yard line? The resulting fumble and lost possession kept the Mean Green in the game (at the time).

HEISMAN WINNER
If it were not for the bias to pick a quarterback as the Heisman Trophy winner (13 of the last 14 years, excluding vacated trophy by Reggie Bush; ALA RB Mark Ingram-2009), LSU sophomore RB Leonard Fournette would already be hoisting the trophy (barring injury; no “cooties” please). He has posted back-to-back 200+ yard rushing games and is averaging 208.3 yards rushing per game this season; LSU has played three games, all against Power 5 FBS schools (not FCS softies, and two were SEC teams). The next closest RB is Jordan Howard (Indiana), who has averaged 169 yards rushing per game.

GROUP OF FIVE” CONTENDERS (non-Power 5 conference teams)
The front-runner right now appears to be Toledo, but it’s still early. Following is one pundit’s opinion on which teams are at the top of the race for that one automatic spot for a non-Power Five conference team in one of the six major bowl games:

Toledo (MAC) Faces N. Illinois and Bowling Green in the MAC
Memphis (AAC) Plays Ole Miss & Navy at home; HOU & Temple away
Temple (AAC) Hosts Notre Dame and Memphis
Boise St (MW) Lost at BYU; weak schedule – hosts Air Force late
Navy (AAC) Road games at Notre Dame, Memphis, and Houston
Houston (AAC) Home games vs. CIN, Memphis, and Navy

GRADUATE STUDENTS
The following schools have the most graduate students on their football teams: Virginia 13, South Carolina 11, and ten each for Illinois, LA-Monroe, Missouri, and USC.

TRUE FRESHMAN
The following FBS football teams have played the most “true freshman” this year:
Georgia 19, Army and Tennessee 17, and then 15 each for WYO, Syracuse and Texas, and then 13 each for Clemson and USC.

COACHING STAFF CONTINUITY
There are only three FBS football teams that have retained the same coaching staff (all coaches) over the last five years (I’m told): Minnesota, Navy, and Northwestern.

NFL

KEY INJURY AND STRANGE TWIST
QB Drew Brees did not play in Week #3; it was the first game he has missed since moving from San Diego to New Orleans. After the announcement, the point spread moved from 3½ to 7½ -- home team Carolina was favored vs. New Orleans.
FINAL: CAR 27, NOR 22 and the Saints covered ATS based on the shift in point spread.
Brees may not be ready to start in Week #4.

BROTHERS
In Week #3, the starting QB for the NOR Saints was Luke McCown (age 34), replacing the injured Brees (bruised rotator cuff). Interestingly enough, the CLE Browns started brother Josh McCown (age 36).
Believe it or not, these two brothers started in the same week back in 2007 as well. Luke started for Tampa Bay and Josh started for Oakland.

DRONES
NFL teams are using drones to film practices this season. The FAA doesn’t allow use of drones in this manner unless the football stadium is empty. Drones are limited to 55 pounds and can fly at a maximum height of 400 feet. Plus, the drone must remain in visual range of the operator at all times.

DA BEARS
The CHI Bears are winless and their starting QB is injured. With new HC John Fox, this season the defense switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4, and it appears several players have become expendable. This week, OLB (converted DE) Jared Allen was traded to Carolina for a 6th round draft pick, and LB Jon Bostick was traded to New England, also for a 6th rounder.
Note: CAR Panthers DE Charles Johnson was just placed on the IR/Designated for Return list with a hamstring injury, meaning that he will be out a minimum of eight weeks.

PENALTIES
Have you noticed a lot of yellow flags on the field in the first three weeks of NFL play? This year has set an all-time league record for most accepted penalties in the first 3 weeks with 730 (the previous record was 716 in 2005).
Routinely, most of the penalties have been “false starts” and “offensive holding”.
Teams with the most penalties this year: OAK and TB
Team with least penalties this year: AZ

DEAD LAST
After three weeks, Indianapolis QB Andrew Luck has the lowest QBR rating in the NFL. An offensive line can make or break a quarterback.

FINALLY
On Monday night at Green Bay, the KC Chiefs finally threw a TD pass to one of their wide receivers in the regular season. Kansas City did not have any WR catch a pass for a touchdown during the whole 2014 regular season.

2016 HALL OF FAME
A total of 108 players have been nominated for consideration to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame next summer. The new headliners are Brett Favre (no brainer) and Terrell Owens (too much drama; may have to wait).


FLAWS IN NFL SCHEDULES (catch-up)
Some teams really got the raw end of the scheduling this year:

JACKSONVILLE has only one home game from Week #3 through Week #10 (that’s eight weeks). That stretch includes a “home” game in London and a BYE week. After that, the Jags get 4 of the next five games at home before finishing the season with two road games. Unfair.

BUFFALO has a rough stretch in Weeks #10 through #15 in which the Bills play five road games in six weeks, including a Monday night game followed by an away game (only six days rest). You wouldn’t see New England getting this kind of a schedule “snafu”.

MIAMI (also in NE Rats’ division) is starting out the season with only two home games in the first 10 weeks. That stretch includes a “home” game in London and a BYE week, but it’s still inequitable. The Dolphins finish up with 5 home games in the last six weeks. After their blowout loss to the Bills last Sunday in their first home game of the season, maybe they are better off playing on the road.

BALTIMORE plays 5 of its first seven games on the road, including Weeks #6 and #7 on the West Coast. After that, the Ravens have two separate three-game home stands (one with a BYE week in the middle). Who reviews these schedules?

Starting this week, CLEVELAND plays 5 of its next 7 games on the road (Weeks #4 through #10), and then at least gets a BYE in Week #11.

Based on records from last year, following are the projected “easiest” and “toughest” schedules for the season (I’m a bit late on this topic, but you still get the idea):

EASIEST TOUGHEST
#32 Atlanta #1 Pittsburgh
#31 Indianapolis #2 Cincinnati
#30 Houston #3 San Francisco
#29 Tampa Bay #4 Seattle
#28 New Orleans #5 Arizona

Roughly translated, the NFC South and AFC South divisions have the easier schedules, while the AFC North and NFC West divisions have the more difficult schedules.


LOOKING AHEAD – selected games, not the full slate
COLLEGE FOOTBALL - FFHL WEEK #4 (college FB’s 5th week)

Thursday Miami of Florida (-6h) at Cincinnati
Oct 1st

Friday Connecticut (+18) at BYU
Oct 2nd Temple (-23h) at Charlotte
Memphis (-8h) at South Florida
Saturday AP#13 Alabama (+2) at AP#8 Georgia
Oct 3rd AP#6 Notre Dame (+1) at AP#12 Clemson
AP#3 Mississippi (-7h) at AP#25 Florida
AP#23 West Virginia (+6h) at AP#15 Oklahoma


Air Force (+5h) at Navy Non-Power 5 key game
Louisiana-Lafayette (+18) at LA Tech
New Mexico State (+12h) at New Mexico
UNLV (+6h) at Nevada
Toledo (-6h) at Ball State
Ohio U. (-3) at Akron
UTSA (-3) at UTEP
South Alabama (+5h) at Troy
Iowa (+7) at AP#19 Wisconsin
Minnesota (+4) at AP#16 Northwestern
Arizona State (+14) at AP#7 UCLA
Arizona (no line yet) at AP#18 Stanford
Texas (+15) at AP#4 TCU
Texas Tech (+17) vs. AP#5 Baylor at neutral Cowboys Stadium
Kansas State (+8) at AP#20 Oklahoma State
Boston College (+6h) at Duke
Arkansas (+6h) at Tennessee
FCS Eastern Kentucky at Kentucky
Kansas (+16) at Iowa State Who stays out of Big XII cellar?

NFL WEEK #4 – SELECTED GAMES

BYE WEEKS are starting: Tennessee, New England

Thursday Baltimore (-3) at Pittsburgh QB Big Ben is out; BAL winless
Oct 1st
Sunday Divisional Matchups:
Oct 4th NY Jets (-2) vs. Miami in LONDON
Jacksonville (+9h) at Indianapolis
Carolina (-3) at Tampa Bay
Philadelphia (-3h) at Washington
St. Louis (+7) at Arizona

Others:
Kansas City (+3h) at Cincinnati
Dallas (no line yet) at New Orleans Saints QB Brees???

Monday Detroit (+9h) at Seattle
Oct 5th

FOOTBALL QUIZ QUESTION

QUESTION #1: Over the 100-year history of the now-named “PAC-12” Conference dating back to its inception in 1916, which two teams are the only schools to have been members during this whole span?

QUESTION #2: Which FBS school plays its home games at the highest elevation – 7,220 feet above sea level?

QUESTION #3: Which FBS school has had 344 straight sellouts for its home games dating back to November 3, 1962?

QUESTION #4: Who is the oldest active player in the NFL today -- excluding QBs, punters, and kickers?

ANSWER #1:
Washington and California.
CAL (-3) just won at U-Dub in Seattle last Saturday, 30-24, to cover ATS by three points.

ANSWER #2:
University of Wyoming in Laramie, WY.
I hope you got this one, alumni Sam and Rhonda.

ANSWER #3:
Nebraska.
Paid attendance during that span has totaled 25,989,854.
I hope you got this one, Jim G.

ANSWER #4:
At age 38, OAK Raiders’ safety Charles Woodson is the oldest player in the NFL other than quarterbacks, kickers and punters. He had a game-clinching interception for the Raiders on Sunday in Week#3 at Cleveland. Woodson is the oldest player to intercept a pass in an NFL game since 41-year-old Darrell Green intercepted one in 2001.
Woodson has intercepted at least one pass for 18 straight seasons. According to the NFL, only one other player has done that in league history: Hall of Fame defensive back Darrell Green.
For his career, Woodson has 61 interceptions. Dick LeBeau and Dave Brown are tied for ninth on the all-time list with 62. Hall of Famer Paul Krause holds the all-time record with 81.

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