Each week, during college football season DPB’s Kyle Magin and Andrew J. Pridgen pour on the prose with Pints and Picks™. Who to wager and (sometimes) what to drink while doing it. This week: #underthebannerofsevenandseven
Remember how great Week 1 was? Remember the heart-pounding finishes in Houston, Austin and Orlando? Week 2 doesn’t appear to have jack shit on it. There are no ranked-on-ranked matchups. Save the Holy War (more on that later), there’s really not even any blood rivalries. It’s like college football decided we could only handle so much enjoyment in a 14 day period.
But, how good was it?
The first thing I wanted to zoom in on was Houston’s 33-23 win over Oklahoma at NRG. Houston is in the ‘get rich or die tryin’’ phase of their bid to join college football’s big boys—specifically the Big 12, which is reportedly considering UH as an expansion candidate. We’ve seen a handful of gate-crashing programs reach this stage—Boise State, Marshall, etc.—and flame out spectacularly when the reality of the bill for spending and spending and spending on a football program for unknowable results comes due. Will Houston join them in disintegrating before a big conference bid and the TV money that comes with swoops in? If not, what makes Houston any different than the BCS-era mid-majors?
Here it is: proximity to recruits. Houston has the same phenomenal geographical advantage we saw TCU use to propel itself to big-conference darling status. Its coaches, led by the inexhaustible Tom Herman, really don’t have to leave Texas to recruit, H-Town and east Texas, particularly. They don’t have to hop on a plane, manage satellite camps thousands of miles away or try to beckon recruits to a place where they’ll be one of the only African Americans in town. We’ve seen urban schools occasionally leverage this model to success: Miami rose to prominence thanks in no small part to the fact that it was located in one of America’s most diverse cities which also happened to generate phenomenal football talent.
If Houston can make the Big 12—and that’s still an ‘if’ because you can bet every coach in that league whose bread is buttered in the Bayou City is against it—it could represent a seismic shift in the way big time college football is recruited. No longer will city have to go practice and think about football for 60 hours a week, and be broke, and be an obvious minority, in a town surrounded by cornfields in the middle of nowhere because that’s where good football is played. They can stay home and see mom for dinner as often as they like and have their boys at every home game and still be on primetime. That thought should terrify the big boys. Football is more often that not played by urbanites in rural locales—Nebraska used to have a pipeline from Compton to Lincoln—but it doesn’t have to be that way. Sure, there are some urban schools that have been successful—USC, Miami, Pitt—but by-and-large your big U is out in Champaign or Athens or Austin. Why not Chicago, Atlanta, or Houston?
Alright AJ, back over to you before I get into some good baseball bets on the insane chase for the AL wildcard, and a few college football games with potentially big implications down the road.
Well, Week 1 came in like a Fast and Furious sequel, dropped $100 million worth of memories on us opening weekend and then seemingly vanished. It was, in other words, a glorious flurry of upsets: aforementioned OU and Houston to start off the week, an engaging Wisconsin Badger team leaping for all of Lambeau and dashing LSU’s hopes as if it were week 8 vs. Ole Miss and the Irish losing in OT to a suddenly reanimated UT on Monday …and this coming weekend we’re treated to, um, Troy vs. Clemson.
It’s the week 2 matchups that show no promise, combined with my aching 1-2 week one record combined with, as you mentioned, a complete Wild Card Clusterfuck in the AL that will have me running for the safe underground bettors bunker of MLB this weekend as well.
But before I do that (and give you some sleeper picks west of the 100th Meridian — a few easy wins in attempt to try to square my record back up to .500) I’ve got a couple quick hits on the FBS week one that was:
- Ala-holy-fucking-shit-bama: As I go back and read my Bama/USC pick, I realize I had the actual content correct until the actual pick was made. What with Bama being a more complete team top-to-bottom with double digit returners than the Browns, Rams, Saints, Titans, Eagles and Falcons — maybe in part because none of the aforementioned returnees wanted to be starters on said squads — but dammit Alabama if you didn’t look mid-season good on Saturday. And remember, this is a Tide team that featured a true Freshman in Jalen Hurts under center, and after exchanging a few punts with SC in a few jittery opening drives, a pick six led to a 52-6 rout and out gaining the very capable-on-paper Trojan offense 465 to 194. USC still has a ways to go to prove that interim-cum-head coach Clay Helton was the right call. Helton stepped up huge when Sark slunk out of Watts in a cloud of alcoholic spittle and spew. New AD Lynn Swann needed something to wipe the stench of the Pat Haden regime for the Newport Beach illuminati and though SC had its pick of NFL and collegiate coaches ready to make the jump (personally, I would’ve thought Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost would’ve been a likely candidate, but alas UCF grabbed him) but Helton looked more outmatched than Mike Singletary in front of a pen board. Time will tell and the Trojans, as talent-laden as they are, should settle in for several Saturday battles in the Pac-12. But make no mistake, this was a statement game for Alabama and the SEC to keep the conversation tilted in their favor. The Pac-12 has been clamouring for marquee out-of-conference matchups for years. They got one. And they refused to score a touchdown as a result.
- The B1G. Kyle, about halfway through the third quarter I sent you a text about your nemesis Michigan. At that point they were about 50 up at home on the jet-lagged Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors (coached by Novato legend and former Hawai’i QB Nick Rolovich.) Of course, one lopsided home game does not make a title contender, but if you look at what Michigan did (63-3 final score) combined with Wisconsin pulling the upset, Ohio State putting up a school record of 776 yards of offense against Bowling Green, Minnesota holding it down against OSU and Iowa and Michigan State looking very comfortable in neutral against an outmatched Miami at Ohio and Furman and, well, you’ve got as formidable a conference (I didn’t even mention Nebraska’s delay of game penalty to honor fallen punter Sam Foltz) as there is in the land. Of course, Purdue, Rutgers, Maryland and Illinois may be the biggest back-nine patsys of any major conference, but with six, maybe seven legitimate national championship contenders at the top of the ticket, Michael Vick might as well change his name back to Ron Mexico and reopen Bad Newz Kennels somewhere near Madison, because it’s gonna be a dog fight.
- The four-team playoff is a fucking disaster in the making, maybe this year more than ever before: Assuming Alabama can and will get through the SEC relatively unscathed and Houston, which has exactly zero more ranked opponents on its dance card between now and December (Texas State, Navy, Connecticut, Tulsa, DeVry, Trump University etc.) that’s already two of the four bids. So you’re telling me between all of the Big 12, all of the Pac 12, all of the ACC and all of the B1G (to mention nothing of the Mountain West) that there’s only room for two more…teams? Bull fucking shit. This means one (or more) of the following week one show stopping teams is going to get jobbed should they have zero to one loss: Clemson, FSU, Ohio State, Michigan, Stanford, Washington, Georgia, Wisconsin, Texas, MSU, TCU, Iowa, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Baylor and will likely leave any team west of East Lansing off the final bill. That’s ignoring at least two time zones, two of the biggest states in the union and one of them (California) that has the seventh-largest GDP …in the world — for the fucking second year in a row. The playoff is about money and expanding to a two or three week play in, negating any relevance that a Chick-fil-a bowl pretended to have is what it’s going to take to make this system work. Unfortunately, second- and third- tier bowl reps aren’t ready to relinquish their hold on sub-prime time on Tuesday, Dec. 27. Yes, your Vegas Bowl bids are safe for now Air Force and BYU, but an all out 16-team playoff with a percentage of the gate/TV/merch put in a trust for each player, shouldn’t just be the goal, it should be the mandate.
OK Kyle, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest (again), a little Utah history lesson and some MLB action on the other side.
I think the betting public would be most entertained going with some MLB games given the mostly barren slate we’ve got in college football this weekend. That said, let’s look around CFB before getting to the wild card races:
Nevada @ Notre Dame -28
This isn’t the Colin Kaepernick- or Cody Fajardo-led Wolfpack; Nevada struggled last week in a 30-27 OT win over Cal Poly. Now Notre Dame definitely broke last week versus Texas, but the Horns had a passing attack their run game could set up. Nevada, for all its competence on the run with RB James Butler (a midmajor stud), doesn’t have a passing game that can change the pace. Wolfpack QB Tyler Stewart is 2-5 when he has to pass more than 23 times–something he can damn near count on against a Notre Dame team that held Texas to less than 3 yards per carry until getting ripped to shreds in the fourth quarter by Tyrone Swoopes. That’s not a look Nevada can emulate. AND, this is a Notre Dame team that, led by QB Deshone Kizer, put up 47 last week in a defeat. Nevada’s defense–and importantly, its defensive backs–are young. Not the knife I’d want to go into this gun fight with, Notre Dame’s home opener following a loss.
Cal @ San Diego State -7
Much like Houston, it’s getting to be make-or-break time for the San Diego State Aztecs. The Aztecs, who raised their hand for the Big 12’s expansion push–only to be denied–have the same promise Houston does with perhaps amplified faults. SDSU plays in a dead-man-walking stadium–Qualcomm is out in a few years no matter what happens with the Chargers–and Mountain West draws are anemic at best. All of that is besides the point on Saturday, when the 1-0 Aztecs host the 1-0 Bears. SDSU sports one of college football’s best defenses, finishing last season in the top 15 in every relevant category and giving up just 17.2 points per game. Expect Aztecs CB Damonte Kazee, who spurned the NFL to return to America’s most beautiful city, to stick like white on rice to Cal receiver Chad Hansen. This will be a problem for Cal QB Davis Webb, who hooked up with Hansen 14 times in the Bears’ 51-31 opening win against Hawaii in Australia. It’s a problem because Webb didn’t target any of his other receivers even half as much. Looking for new targets is not the sort of thing you want to do against the Aztec defensive line, which recorded four sacks and seven tackles for loss in an opening win over New Hampshire. SDSU turns up the heat and covers at home.
Baltimore @ Detroit Under 8.5 runs (+110)
Baltimore is the personification of caveman baseball values: bang dingers and forget everything else you could do in an at-bat. To wit, slugging 1B Chris Davis is among the league leaders in HRs with 35 while simultaneously being first in Ks with 188. Crush is joined in the middle of the lineup by Mark Trumbo (41, 147) and Manny Machado (34, 100). A fearsome trio, to be sure, but not the pot-stirring, on-base machines that freak out the Tigers and force bad decisions. Especially, that is, against rookie starting pitcher Michael Fulmer (10-6, 2.77 ERA). Fulmer is strong where the O’s are weak: he’s averaging 7.4 K/9 and is among the league leaders will .9 HR/9. He keeps his ball low in the zone and strikes you out or puts you on first, which, for the O’s is ineffective, as Trumbo leads the clubhouse with just 2 steals all season. Meanwhile, the Tigers’ offensive attack is showing telltale signs of evaporating for a spell, especially now that they’re going to see a phalanx of September callup relief platoons from here on out. Look for a low scoring night in the D.
Boston @ Toronto Moneyline (+100)
Hear me out, because I know you just looked up Toronto to see the Jays have lost 3 straight and 5 of their last 7, AND Boston has won 2 straight and five of their last seven. The Blue Jays, though, are finally home after a long roadie, while the Sox toured California for the last seven days before making the flight from San Diego to Toronto to face an entire country’s worth of fans with pennant fever. Guys who make that flight and attempt the sole athletic endeavor of emptying Molsons along Yonge Street would be exhausted, to say nothing of guys who have played baseball from coast to coast for 140 of the last 160 days. The Jays are reeling in the fourth-biggest crowd in baseball this year, and you better believe they’ll be amped up to help their team recover from a brutal sweep at the hands of the white-hot Yankees. They’ll need it to face Boston’s 19-3 Rick Porcello, who is having a career year. Still though, I think the schedule does the Jays a favor tonight at SkyDome. Look for a TO win.
Since I’m thinking of it, here’s a good list of things to do in Toronto:
- Drink until annihilated at the Loose Moose.
- Eat some poutine.
- Pre-record some glass cracking noises on your phone and then play them when children lay down on the glass floor at CN Tower.
- Ask a local why the Maple Leafs suck.
Alright, AJ, enough of my affinity for our fair neighbors to the north. You wanted to tell us about some nice place in the Wasatch, a Mountain Meadow?
Ah, Kyle — you set ’em up like Jåger bombs at a campus bar.
BYU and Utah is the battle of the Wasatch front vs. back in all its glory. It’s people who think Neon Trees is an actual good band…vs. literally everyone else.
For starters, a quick disclaimer: I once wrote an in-depth story (in-depth = I got to sit in on both BYU and Utah practices) about the Holy War and “would it disappear?” after the Utes joined the PAC-12 and the Cougars went independent. Did it go away? Not really. But did it get moved up to the part of the season before kids are even cracking books? Most definitely. And that’s not a good thing.
The Holy War is named for the original 9/11, aka the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Known as “the darkest deed of the nineteenth century,” the Sept. 11, 1857 Mormon-led killing of 120 men, women, and children in Mountain Meadows (Southern Utah) is the bloodiest chapter of the new West and one of the four-biggest mass killings in US history.
Mormons planned and executed the slaughtering of wagon loads of Arkansas emigrants as they headed through southwestern Utah on their way to California at the behest of one Brigham Young, the LDS prophet whose last initial is seen today on the Cougs’ helmet.
While Mormons and the Cougs have grown to join the mainstream (see: Neon Trees and small plates on Saturdays instead of Hires Big H) Young’s invective tone was about his global initiatives: polygamy, theocracy and a violent doctrine of “blood atonement” (killing people who committed certain sins: polygamists and murders apparently could be forgiven.)
In other words, there was much, much crazier-ass-shit going on with the Mos back in the day than special underwear, funeral potatoes and pyramid schemes.
The funny thing is, the only way this secular vs. the dominant culture in Utah is settled year after year is through a football game. And if I learned anything in my years as a Beehive state interloper, it’s that the bad blood runs deep. Sure both schools cull recruits from throughout the West and beyond and 150+-year-old massacres are bygones, but there are a surprising number of alumns, and in some cases — current players and coaches — on both sides whose bloodlines trace back to those brutal frontier days.
Oh, and there’s this other thing too: Utahns, even the Jack Mormons and those raised secular (or Catholic), have a disproportionate amount of trouble, um (how should I put this?) …being good drunks.
Imagine a state of 21-year-olds who are drinking for the very first time the night of their rite of passage. There’s a lot of false starts, a lot of “I’m OK, I’m OK” a lot of bargaining and then finally, puking, tears, passing out, waking up, more puking — more tears. Yes, that and a lot of girls with too much red lipstick is pretty much what every Ute “tailgater” ( = drinking in someone’s backyard in Sugarhouse before taking TRAX to the stadium) is like.
All that neath the banner of the Wasatch heavens, hot enough to peel layers and crisp enough after dusk to taste the breeze through the aspens coming down 80 from Park City.
To the games:
Utah -3.5 vs. BYU
Utah opened as a five-point favorite and that has shrunk. Both teams are an unproven 1-0 coming off patsy week 1s. The problem with having this magnitude of a game so early is neither school has much of a scouting report. The Ute home crowd at Rice-Eccles should be enough to buoy them by three points regardless of who’s starting under center or who’s returning more on the O-line. The Utes carry a slight advantage with a distinct lineup of defensive returners who, judging by USC and UCLA’s stumbles last week, make Utah a darkhorse to wreak havoc on the PAC-12 South.
The Utes lost offensive cornerstones QB Travis Wilson (no biggie) and RB Devontae Booker (very biggie). QB Troy Williams, who is capable but unproven, and the duo of Joseph Williams and Troy McCormick were formidable in a 24-0 victory over Southern Utah week one.
BYU didn’t have much offense going last week vs. a potentially potent Arizona, but its defense, with eight returners, stood tall enough to upset the Wildcats 18-16 in Glendale to open the season.
Cougar quarterback Taysom Hill always looks like a threat to break out and have a Ty Detmer-type year and Jamaal Williams is the real deal at running back. Last week, they combined for more than 400 yards, albeit against Rich Rod’s suspect D.
The Cougars have lost the last five meetings with the Utes with their last win in Provo in 2009. Don’t be surprised if the Cougs do take it to the wire; but I also think for now Utah, with a decided home field advantage even though it’s only 40 minutes up the road, are bigger and faster up front and in their secondary …and with blood on their minds and booze in their bellies, will take it with a last-possession touchdown.
Final Prediction: Utah 23, BYU 18
Virginia +20.5 @ Oregon
Oregon simply forgot to cover every game except a pair last season. Expect that to continue as the grad transfer Dakota Prokup-led offense looked shaky in last week’s debut against U.C. Davis. Virginia is much-improved and if the Helfrich-led Ducks do squeak out a victory at home, it will be of the single-digit variety.
Final Prediction: Oregon 28, Virginia 24
Boise State -12 vs. Washington State
Boise State coaching staff had a huge scouting day last Saturday as Eastern Washington felled Wazzu 45-43. Two Broncos coaches are Eastern Washington alumns and paid close attention …and while Mike Leach’s offense showed it can still put up 40 on an off day, the Broncos’ motion offense with more pre-snap movement and formation groupings than the last five years of Madden games you haven’t even attempted to play, should be thrilling with some uptempo showtime fast-break college ball at home. Twelve is a steep spread and I’d prefer 10, though I still like the Broncos to cover. The smart money is on the over 67.5.
Final prediction: Boise State 43 Washington State 28.
Last Week: 2 and 2
Nevada @ Notre Dame -28
Cal @ San Diego State -7
(Friday) Baltimore @ Detroit Under 8.5 runs (+110)
(Friday) Boston @ Toronto Moneyline (+100)
Last Week: 1 and 2
Utah -3.5 vs. BYU
Virginia +20.5 @ Oregon
Boise State -12 vs. Washington State
Boise State vs. Washington State (Over 67.5)