Each week DPB’s Kyle Magin and Andrew J. Pridgen will pour on the prose with Pints and Picks™. Who to wager and what to drink while doing it. Here then, is their point-counterpoint for Nov. 8, 2014. Or, if you’re in the car, simply scroll down for the recap (they may be verbose, but it’s better than clicking through a slideshow).
AJ: Whoooooa Boy KM, big weekend ahead.
Before I get into my picks on possibly the best match-up weekend of the 2014 season and the only one with any influence on this fake semi-final/final four-team ‘playoff’ thing—I will tease with the fact that all my match-ups will be of the marquee variety (not the Magin dregs betting) this week.
I will feature:
Bama and LSU
Oregon and Utah
TCU and K State
Notre Dame and ASU
Michigan State and OSU
To kick things off, however, I’m going to (surprise!) take a detour down a more personal road.
Saturday is my ‘return to racing.’ I know this sounds very Armstrongean or Bondsean, but it’s not meant to be.
I’ve been on about a 9-month hiatus from throwing a bib on and trying to get after it as an angry and ever-so-noticeably above varsity weight age-grouper. I’m not one of those guys who’s all sinew and likes cutting pro women off on the road bike, rooty trail or open water to make myself feel like I’ve got more hair on my shaved head than the crop circles that are left.
But there’s something about race day. About the weight-shifting interminable time in line for the port-a-potty and the glorious pre-race deposit. The cold sweat that collects on your palms and fingertips as the starting line is toe’d. That expectant but shrill and surprising clap of the gun and those initial steps, all nerves and knobby knees and “I’m not only not going to put up a personal best, but I’m not going to finish.”
Getting excited for something difficult, something that pushes out of the comfort zone, out of sleep, out of conformity, is certainly an underrated experience in today’s spiffy culture. If you can’t swipe it with your index finger, why bother?
I’m not the only one who feels this way. American’s spending on organized road and trail runs, triathlons and endurance races has increased more than 10-fold over the last decade. The largest road race, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree 10k, drew almost 56k participants last year. That’s a small city of runners. The ING New York City Marathon eclipsed 50k last weekend and that’s turning away more than 80 percent of the applicants.
So there is something there in all of us. Something that says we’re looking to push—just a little bit—and see what happens. Something we need to share with a group taking the hard road to Point B.
This weekend I’m making an easy entrance back into my age group in the Santa Barbara half-marathon. It’s a seaside course that’s relatively flat and fast. Earlier this year, it became pretty clear I wasn’t going to eclipse my Santa Barbara Marathon time from two years ago (I blame the six-month-old who sleeps in the room next to me and can say “Da!” a bunch of times in a row), so I decided why not make it back with a fast half. (Technically my ‘return to racing’ was codified at this year’s Squaw Mountain Run, but that was more an off-the-couch effort in the wake of getting up 4x/night for feeding; my mulligan.)
This is the first time I’ve felt at least somewhat race-ready in more than a year. And I just want to give a quick shout out, because I rarely use this space to thank her, to Robin Sims, who was sliced in half six months ago and could not get out of the hospital bed for three days while she tried to cope with the stress of not only being a new mother, but having to handle me as a new father. Trust me when I say the latter was certainly the most disconcerting.
She has been patient and relaxed and, above all things, dedicated to getting back on the road and the trail as life screamed and cried and pooped around us. She has stuck to a feeding and training and work schedule that would take three of me to ponder and four to fail at, and has done so with strength and ease and nary a breakdown. I don’t tell her ever how proud of her I am. A mother and a runner, and damn good at both. When we race, we all race as individuals, but I am so so very lucky to be on her team come Saturday.
Ok KM, this means I will have a race recap next week, but till then, I pass the baton to you and ask, will you accept the week 10 marquee-pick challenge?
Kyle: AJ, I’ll join you on most of those picks, but I’m far too fond of rooting around through forgotten leagues and sports in search of gems to give up on the Okie-style noodling that informs my weekly choices. One man’s trash.
That said, you’re exactly right that this is as meaningful a weekend in the CFB season as we’ve yet seen. I’ve left this conversation once or twice thinking we’ve put lipstick on a pig, but this week I’m trying to keep myself from pre-game hype video-level platitudes. I’m going to break down the following:
OSU and MSU
K. State and TCU
Bama and LSU
Utah St. and Wyoming
B. Hopkins vs. S. Kovalev
For people who haven’t been paying attention, OSU-MSU is a real, proper grudge match.
When I was a kid OSU was a bit of an anomaly in the Big Ten. Even more than Michigan, which was just as (arguably more from year-to-year while John Cooper was in Columbus) nationally relevant at the time. The Buckeyes had a bit of cool about them. They recruited Florida guys, had some of the biggest badasses on the block (see Boston, David), and by the time the millennium turned over were a coast-to-coast style superpower in a way that nobody else in the league was. It bred an arrogance even the turned-up noses in Ann Arbor didn’t deign to show: We’re above you, our peers are Miami and USC and Notre Dame. Fuck your rust belt.
Ironically, under Urban Meyer, the Bucks feel a little more home-grown. Whether it was the sanctions or the pantsing administered by the Spartans in the B1G title game last year to thwart their march toward the title, OSU has turned their animosities inward. Side-light rivalries against MSU and Penn State have taken on added significance for the crimson n’ cream crowd. They suddenly seem cognizant of the search for respect everyone else in the league is constantly going through–sorta like the hot chick who stayed behind while everyone else left for college and began to realize her insights into the latest Kardashian news wasn’t so valuable to a peer group who no longer worshiped at the altar of her feet.
This new awareness has manifested itself nicely in a rivalry between Meyer and Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio. Meyer entered the league stealing everyone’s recruits—Dantonio’s included–and it felt like sweet payback when Dantonio upended Meyer’s 2013 season in Indianapolis. Suddenly the Bucks had to deal with the locals again. With an early-season loss to Virginia Tech that looks worse by the week, Ohio State has been forced to find its salvation within the conference, and that combination of desperation and levity is making for a much more intriguing match-up. It’s about kids from my side of the Toledo strip against kids from your side getting into the trenches (and what will likely be some freezing-ass weather Saturday night in East Lansing) and going toe-to-toe. I’m excited.
Alright, I’ll dig into the number on this and the rest after throwing it back to you, AJ.
AJ: KM, since we’re giving props all over this entry’s face this week (and really the readership on PNP is a loyal quorum so basically, especially after the second graph, anything goes; see: Week 9’s Pat Burrell story not causing any semblance of a kurfuffle), I want to kind of focus on the Oregon/Utah match-up before I check down the rest.
I was living/working in the Beehive State when Utah received a fistful of tokens to run free in the Pac-12 arcade in 2010. At the time, I knew the U of U as a commuter school where all the kids from South Jordan or Sandy or Centerville Wards tried hard not to drip their zit cream onto your Jimmy John’s and call it dressing. It’s a dry campus with a salty pizza parlor and the best burger joint ever. And a lot of blond girls who are just not, um, discriminating enough to want to go to BYU.
I made it pretty clear to my U of U alum friends, all drunk off three 3.2 beers at The Republican (or the Tavernacle—actual bar, just a half block from the big Mormon thingy where hot girls from all over the world approach you and try to get you to join and wear their special underwear) that BYU should’ve gotten the invite. Better sports history, period. Prettier campus and, well, Provo is the one true level playing field for visiting teams with no, um, temptations at night (or are there?) …In fact, I think the Cougs would’ve paired perfectly with the still-dormant Colorado Buffalo, while the U was not quite ready for prime time.
Thankfully, I was proven wrong as the Utes have blossomed into a football and potential basketball powerhouse and are drawing athletic and academic talent from the West Coast. Who wouldn’t want to go to school 20 minutes from the best stashes (not ‘staches) in the West. Yes, Utah is the greatest snow on Earth™ (apologies to your Sierra backyard KM).
Anyone who’s thinking that there’s not enough fun to be had on a 36-hour SLC smack down for a visiting team is w-r-o-n-g. Sure SLC’s best bar still has dueling pianos and you have to drink old and poorly stored Deschutes out of a bottle if you want to cop a buzz before your fifth trip to the baño, but there’s so so much to do, including:
• Red Iguana. Think you’ve had a good mole, think again—yes, it’s worth the wait. Believe the hype.
• Epic Brewing. High-point beer but made with care. Not just the big, hoppy IPAs they shove down your gullet in the Bay Area or Pac NW. Ditto Uinta for better-than-good local craft brews.
• Decades Vintage Shop. Sure you’ve been to Haight Street and DUMBO and you’ve passed up every ironic shirt (or paid $75 for a vintage PBR Beefy Tee). Go check out Decades. It’s like going back to the ’90s thrift stores (when they actually had vintage clothes from the ’70s). Their buyers are discerning and since much of Utah cleans its closets out only once every three decades, you’ll be the benefactor. Last time I stopped by, I got a Western shirt that would make a Cash roadie cry, a Leisure Suit fit for a Furley and a vintage Rambo: First Blood T-shirt (size XL which fit me like a child’s medium—but oh well) for under $40. Hipster bliss.
• The Depot or Kilby Court. LOTS of bands have to stop and get gas and a burrito in SLC en route from SF to Denver or Denver to Portland. Take advantage of these incredible little venues. You’ll be able to say you saw ______ with 18 of your closest maybe-Mormon friends when they’re headlining the second stage at Coachella or Outside Lands in two years.
If you go, please also look up my favorite Utahn Jeremy Pugh. Jeremy grew up Mormon and then decided against it and has been drinking and writing and pontificating with erratic vengeance to make up for it ever since. He’s down to go out and to talk about physics or Louis CK’s first show (the one on HBO nobody remembers but was genius) or cats or karate or the time he blacked out during a Dylan show at Deer Valley and woke up making snow angels in a sand trap four miles away on a Park City golf course. He gets whatever movie reference you throw at him but isn’t the annoying bro who has to quote it back, though he can quote Gilmore Girls. He has incredible stories about terrible women and their violent exes that are compelling enough to make you want to buy him another round as his voice goes up an octave and hiswordsruntogetherfornoreason. He gets really hungover and still goes skiing. He shaves and grows his beard back in a day. He’ll show up with an extra Egg McMuffin for you. He writes beautifully but only when he’s not trying and, like most good writers, his best stuff comes out in conversation and you can see him trying to remember it as he’s saying it—but he never does. He moved to Hawaii and got too tan and too relaxed and not frustrated enough, so he had to move back to Utah. He underestimates his value but has never, ever made life less fun when he’s in the room. All this and he finds time to tweet about Yurts—fuck yeah.
In other words, he’s 100 percent Utah. More Utah than Johnny Utah. And I like that. And yes, 100-percent Utah means hospitality. You could knock on Jeremy’s door this Saturday and say you read about him here and 12 hours later …in Wendover, he’d still be bleary-eyed asking you if you want him to buy another round.
OK, as far as the game goes, the Utes, who I believe could still take it to three of the top four SEC teams (looking at you Mississippi, Auburn and Bama) at home, showed a chink in their armor against P-12 South rival ASU and that is, they can play fast (Fresno State) or they can play physical (Michigan), but they can’t play fast and physical.
Last week the usually venerable Utes offense was held to 241 yards against ASU’s strong and tough D. Oregon has shown their front five is just as hungry and their DBs are slightly quicker than the Sun Devils. The ground game went missing from the Utes playbook in early October and unless Devontae Booker can establish himself quickly, it’s pretty much going to come down to see how long it takes for the pocket to collapse on Mariota. With three seconds, he can do a lot of damage in the air or on the ground as he’s poised to re-iginte the Olympic torch and break 200 rushing yards and 1,500 passing at Rice-Eccles.
Take the Ducks -8 and remember, Brighton and Solitude are already turning and @saltlakeeditor is always down for whatever. Win. Win. Win.
Kyle: AJ, I work in a BYU-alum owned-and-operated 9-5. Yours are the only positive words I hear about the U on a regular basis–I think its position in Utah’s ‘gentile belt’ may malign its reputation in these parts. I find that my BYU acquaintances only really get riled about three things—the president, basketball and the Utes. The prez trounced their boy, Jimmer Fredette can’t get good NBA minutes even though he’s as effective as Ray Allen any more, and Utes fans say awful things to the Cougars faithful when the Holy War is in Salt Lake. That’s the sum total of their gripes with the world, and while I really appreciate the lack of complaining, they really put their all into those slights.
Utah State, out in the boons of Logan, seems to escape their ire. It’s where you go when your old man isn’t in tight with a bishop, it’s not always an athletic equal to the programs in Provo, and it’s apparently constantly 10 degrees there, so I guess the cold encourages piousness. (Freshman receiver Gregory Weichers—the product of a BYU alum–may have blown up that end of the narrative yesterday, though.)
Anyway, I like to check in on the Aggies from time to time because they play some of the stoutest defense in the west and have been known to throw serious kinks in the Utes and Cougs’ seasons. This year, though, they’re playing a sort of front-runner instead of spoiler narrative.
Utah State -6.5 @ Wyoming
The Aggies (6-3, 3-1 MW) take on the Pokes (4-5, 2-3 MW) in hopes of staying alive in the MW’s Mountain division. The top three teams on that side of the bracket–it’s the class of the league–all have one loss; USU, Boise St. and Colorado St. USU still has Boise in its sights and while it lost head-to-head against the CSU Rams–who have a pretty cake schedule from here on out–they’re still very much in the hunt for the league’s title game. With gametime temps expected to be just about freezing in Laramie (I suspect it’s always just about freezing in Laramie. That Matthew Sheppard movie looked like the coldest goddamn cinema experience since The Day After Tomorrow), I’d look for the Ags’ top 25 defense to bottle up any Cowboys attack and give their offense a short field to work with all night. USU to cover.
Kansas State +6 @ TCU
KSU’s Bill Snyder is probably the last really wily sonofabitch in college football. He has zero polish with the media and appears to win recruiting battles nobody else is fighting with him. Yet, year-in-and-year-out, he’s a thorn in the Big 12’s side and a darkhorse national contender. His offense isn’t overly impressive when it comes to yardage totals in either the rushing or passing games, but they seem to always have a short field to work with and have converted 100 percent of their Big 12 chances in the red zone for scores this year. They convert 50 percent of their third downs overall but manage to hold their opponents to just 39 percent. To top it all off, Snyder’s bunch is 2-0 against the spread on the road this season. TCU is good, if not great, at everything. But, the Horned frogs are giving up an average of more than 40 points over their last five games, and had a hell of a time last week with a West Virginia squad that doesn’t have nearly the defense that’ll step off the bus from Manhattan this week. I like Snyder’s boys to keep it within a touchdown.
Bernard Hopkins 5/2 by decision vs. Sergey Kovalev
Vegas again likes Bernard Hopkins just a little less than it likes his opponent, Sergey Kovalev (7-2 by decision). A bet the Krusher’s way probably isn’t terrible–you can actually get some fairly good numbers on him knocking out the Alien. But, if this thing goes the distance and it’s close, the cards are most definitely going BHop’s way. He’s the name. The Atlantic City crowd will be heavily behind the Philly boxer’s campaign Saturday. And, almost nobody knows how to make a round look like it’s going his way than Hopkins, who couldn’t knock out one of those fainting goats but can connect with enough of his light blows to register on a judge’s scorecard.
Alabama @ LSU +6.5
The Bayou Bengals’ defense is truly, truly filthy. Opponents have reached LSU’s end zone just 17 times this season and convert less than 30 percent of their third down tries. #3 Ole Miss was abused two weeks ago in Baton Rouge, managing just a touchdown, and the Tigers are 6-1 against the spread at home, 7-2 overall this season. True enough, at 7-1, the Tide are still firmly in the playoff hunt and not likely to pull any punches Saturday. That said, I’d look for Les Miles’ squad to keep it close.
OSU @ MSU Under 56
It’s going to be bone-chillingly cold and probably wet in East Lansing Saturday night. The Spartans’ defense isn’t quite what it was last year, but almost all of the dings against it have come on big plays through the air. The Buckeyes’ passing attack is far from vaunted which’ll keep this thing on the ground at Spartan Stadium. The Spartan defense hasn’t given up more than 22 points at home this season. I look for a low-scoring affair.
Alright AJ, get your bad luck out of the way pre-race…
AJ: Oh, me again? Sorry, I was dreaming of Crown Burger.
We’re in novella territory here so I’ll be giving you the rest my picks in a voice inspired by the writing of James Franco.
Alabama @ LSU +6.5
I think Dennis Quaid in that movie about LSU (with Jessica Lange and John Goodman) and the points are enough for me to take the Tigers over the Crimson Tide. Crimson Tide reminds me of Prince of Tides, even though I know they’re two different things.
Kansas State +6 @ TCU
These are two places I’ve never been and will probably never go. I bet when you watch porn that’s supposed to be in a dorm room but is really in an abandoned Quiznos near Torrance, it’s inspired by one of these schools. Why is there a Kansas State? Did someone actually not get in to Kansas? Take them and the points to find out.
ASU -1 vs. Notre Dame
You know those ads that look like hot chicks in mugshots that always pop up? Arizona State has most of those girls. They’ll win by three touchdowns on Saturday.
Michigan State -2 vs. OSU
I can’t tell if this is a game between two important one-loss teams or one important one-loss team and just another team. I think it’s the second one. If that’s the case, Michigan State has already won.
The PnP Recap:
AJ: 18 for 31
Kyle: 16 for 23
• Oregon @ Utah -8
• Alabama @ LSU +6.5
• Kansas State +6 @ TCU
* ASU -1 vs. Notre Dame
• Michigan State -2 vs. OSU
• Utah State -6.5 @ Wyoming
• Kansas State +6 @ TCU
• Bernard Hopkins 5/2 by decision vs. Sergey Kovalev
• OSU @ MSU Under 56
• Alabama @ LSU +6.5