Into every life, a little rain must fall. And on occasion, you get hit with your own personal Katrina, which is exactly what happened to Solon last week. Daddy needs a new pair of shoes; by Daddy we mean Solon, and by "shoes" we mean "rent for this month." Solon's undaunted though; his hands are shaking, his heart's beating but HE'S STILL SHOOTING!!!! AND HE'S STILL GETTING HEADSHOTS! Enjoy.--ed.
Keep shooting, Solon.
The opening scene in the 2004 British movie I'll Sleep when I'm Dead entails a man getting the absolute shit kicked out of him by three or four hard nuts in the middle of a wooded area. Just as the men decide he's had enough (or, should I say, all but one of them decide that he has), one of the hard nuts walks up alongside the nearly-unconscious victim, pulls out his dick and pisses on him.
When I saw that, I said something like, "God Damn, that's fucked up." Said it out loud, right there in the theater. For me, that's unprecedented, since I normally get pissed off when people talk during movies--but that's how harsh the scene was.
Last weekend, I was reminded of that scene for the first time in nearly two years, because I was the nearly-unconscious victim, and instead of deciding I'd had enough, College Football whipped out its dick and pissed all over me.
Let me preface this by saying that in addition to making my weekly picks in this column, I'm also in a contest where I'm given certain games that I am mandated to select. I sit second in that contest, and I differed from the leader on four games last week, two of which were Minnesota -2.5 and Michigan St +7.5 (you'll have to have seen these games, and believe in God, to understand the miracles that were involved in the losses of those selections--I don't want to recount them here). I'll admit that watching Glen Mason eat a fat one nearly made up for losing that pick, but there was absolutely no silver lining for the MSU debacle.
The twists of fate that led to those losses? That was the "getting the shit kicked out of me" part.
Life's not fair. Neither's college football.
The "getting pissed on" part? I'm sitting here Saturday afternoon, and realize through an inadvertent hit of the "guide" button on my remote that the UAB-Marshall game is on Channel 16 here in SF (UAB -3.5 was one of my picks). I generally don't even go where this channel is--it's in the middle of a bunch of Spanish stations, and I think C-Span's around there too--but Saturday, for whatever reason, this channel was showing this game and I decided to watch a good bit of it, seeing as how I had a side.
So what does UAB do? They have two punts blocked, leading to TDs for Marshall on 18 and 34 yard drives. After this, the punt team shits its pants, and in the 4th quarter when the punter has to punt he shanks a 10-yard punt, leading to a 1-play, 40-yard drive for Marshall's game-winning TD. At least the kicker (also the punter) had the decency to miss a 51-yard FG on the last play of the game to fuck his team as much as they had fucked me and my bet.
So, I am looking forward to the inevitable even-up that always happens over the course of the season. I'm 35-37, and there's nowhere to go but up.
One final bit for you British film aficionados--this week, I'm sending Don Logan (from Sexy Beast) to visit the teams that I have selected, to ask them the following:
"Are you going to do the job? It's not a difficult question, yes or no?"
If you're familiar with the movie, you'll know that should do the trick.
Here are this week's picks:
Northwestern (+12.5) v. MICHIGAN STATE
I rate these teams as near equals. Both have ridiculous offenses, and below-average (if serviceable) defenses.
I think NW has a psychological edge that makes up for the MSU home-field advantage; both of these teams are 4-2 but MSU has lost the two biggest games on their schedule, whereas NW has just pulled out late wins over Wisconsin and Purdue after a last-minute loss to PSU. If the meltdown following the Michigan game is any indication (where they lost to OSU in a game they should have easily won), MSU will have trouble putting it all back together. In any event, this is a lot of points to give against a team that scores as much as NW does.
NORTH CAROLINA (Even) v. Virginia
North Carolina is was overrun by Louisville, but this teams occasionally get 'clown-carred' (when the TDs just keep coming) by the Cardinals and the game is not representative of UNC's ability. The rest of their schedule has included matches against four difficult opponents, all of which are arguably better than the one they will face on Saturday. UNC is vulnerable against the pass but they are solid against the run; in a way, this selection is counter-intuitive, but I am guessing that Hagans cannot match his numbers from last week again this Saturday. UNC's passing game seems to be coming around, and as long as they can avoid interceptions (which could be dicey) they should be able to take advantage of the inevitable Virginia letdown and get the win here.
Baylor (+14) v. OKLAHOMA
Oklahoma seems to be past the worst of it but they are not the team they have been the last couple of seasons. Their D is playing at a high level but they are experiencing some growing pains on O. In my estimation, Baylor's D is slightly worse than OU's but their O has probably played better than that of the Sooners. In fact, I'd rate Baylor about the same as I'd rate TCU--and I think this game could be similar. No one has run on Baylor this season, and OU will likely not be the first team to get the job done, with or without Peterson. If the onus is on Bomar to score points, OU will be in trouble; he is averaging 5.57 ypp and has thrown only 3 TDs this season. Bottom line is that there shouldn't be a lot of points scored, and getting 14 points in what should be a low-scoring game is too many to pass up.
Nebraska (+2) v. MISSOURI
Believe it or not, the numbers show that Faurot Field is one of the toughest places in the nation for opponents to play. Despite this, I think this Mizzou team is very average and they will struggle against a good Nebraska team. Mizzou has played well the last two weeks against Okla St and Iowa St, but this week they are facing a D much better than those, more on the order of that of the Texas team that held them to 13 points and 258 yards until a late TD drive after the score was 51-13. Nebraska tends to shut down opposing QBs, which have a total of 50 carries for -89 yards (against 1-A opponents); given that this is pretty much the entirety of the Mizzou O, they are in good shape if they can keep it up. Mizzou's D is pretty average; they are giving up 31.5 ppg against some pretty modest offenses. I think Nebraska should follow in the footsteps of Texas and New Mexico and pick up a win at Faurot.
Texas A&M (-4) v. KANSAS STATE
On its day, the A&M O is a powerful machine. Unfortunately for them, when they run up against a good D they run into trouble. Fortunately for them, that is not happening this week. The Kansas State D appears to have played well in total, but in truth they have been poor. They have held the mediocre O's of Fla Intl, Marshall, N Texas, and Kansas to an average of 12.5 ppg, but gave up 43 points to a below average Oklahoma O and then were absolutely demolished by a Texas Tech O last week. This is, by far, the 2nd best O that they will have played to date and I suspect A&M will light it up. The K State O is pretty pedestrian and while the A&M pass D is pretty weak that is not the K State O's strength. K State RBs Clayton and Fisher seem to have lost whatever made them good the first few weeks, because their numbers have been downright shitty the last few weeks (78-572 the first 3 games, and 51-90 the last 3 games)--this D is probably worse than those they have played the last three weeks, but the bottom line is that they are not good enough to win the game and Webb and/or Evridge will have to do it. I suspect that they will not be able. A&M is a bit gimped up but I doubt it will matter against this team.
TEXAS (-17) v. Texas Tech
Goddamn almighty I am all over the Big 12 this week. Texas Tech is one of those teams that is difficult to handicap against, because they score a lot of points and it's tough to guess what they'll end up scoring. That said, I suspect that they are not a very good team, relatively speaking (by which I mean that, while they may very well go 10-1 this season, they are probably not too much better than they were last season, if they are better at all). I could not have been more wrong about Texas, they are a good team and will finish the season unbeaten. The Texas D is insane--DC Chizik is the shit, and his D's have given up 12.2 ppg over the last two seasons, and they shut down a relatively strong Colorado pass O last week to the tune of 4.36 ypp. Certainly it is a different matter playing the Texas Tech pass O, but Texas shut them down last season in Lubbock (21 points) and this Texas D is considerably better. The Texas O will have a field day--I was not a believer in Young until I watched him last week, but he gets the job done and routinely converts 3rd and longs as often as any college QB I have ever seen. The Texas Tech D has not faced a machine like the one they will run into this weekend and Texas will get the job done with aplomb.
Penn State (-18) v. ILLINOIS
After some early season struggles the Penn St O has found its footing. Robinson is shit but their running game is solid; they managed 305 yards against a not-too-bad Minnesota D and 170 yards against a very good Michigan D. They even ran for 116 yards against Ohio State, which is not a great number but as good as Michigan State and slightly better than Texas did against that same D. The Illinois D will be up against it, seeing as how they have given up 251 ypg and 6.72 ypc against teams other than SJSU. The Penn State D needs no defense, they are dominant and an Illinois O that has scored 11 ppg in Big 10 play against three not-as-good D's will be in trouble. As long as Penn State keeps their eyes on the possible carrot of a Big 10 title and stays focused they should cover this number.
Oregon (-10.5) v. ARIZONA
I suspect that Oregon is a solid team that will finish the season 10-1, and USC's win over them will look to be the marquee entry on their resume. Outside of the USC game, they have been very good on both sides of the ball, and other than a close win against Fresno State they have been dominant. Arizona's D has played well and they will probably keep Oregon's offensive output down but the difference in this game will be on the other side of the ball. Arizona's O has been rubbish; they have been averaging 243 ypg in Pac 10 play. Oregon has recovered from giving up 593 yards against USC and have given up 257 ypg in three games since against offenses more potent than this one (e.g., Arizona St, Washington). They beat 'Zona St by 14 during their last trip to the desert and they should have no trouble matching that performance this week.
LOUISIANA STATE (-6.5) v. Auburn
While Auburn has been taking on a relatively weak slate of opponents, LSU has been testing their mettle against much tougher opponents. I suspect that the jig is up for Auburn this week. LSU's D has been solid since the 'Zona State game; lost in the shuffle surrounding their second half collapse against UT is that the complete ineptitude of their offense cost the team the game, as their inability to get first downs resulted in short fields and no rest and the LSU D gave up the lead despite playing remarkably well (295 yds in regulation). Since the Tennessee game they have given up 188 ypg despite playing Vandy and Florida offenses that are plenty capable of getting yards. Auburn has faced one halfway decent D this season--Georgia Tech, who shut them down and held them to 14 points. LSU should do the same; LSU has not allowed a team this season to run for 100 yards, and it is doubtful that Auburn will be the first. Since the 'Zona State game, LSU has given up 161 yards passing per game and 4.59 yards per pass. I do not believe that Cox will be able to gain yards against them. Auburn's D has been good, but against the slate of offenses they have played, it would be difficult not to have been. As long as they do not have a -5 TO margin this week, they should cover this number.
TEXAS-EL PASO (-13.5) v. Marshall
Marshall is a bad team that has managed three wins. They are incapable of running the ball on O (79 ypg against 1-A opponents) and while they can throw the ball on occasion they will have trouble doing it against a pretty good UTEP D. UTEP's only defeat came after a -6 TO deficit against Memphis, a game that they only lost by 7 points on the road. UTEP's O is plenty prolific, averaging 31 ppg and this will be one of the worst D's they have faced this season. The UTEP O seems to have hit its stride the last couple games and they should keep it going here.
LOUISIANA TECH (-20) v. North Texas
North Texas has managed two wins, both against Sun Belt opposition, by a total of 10 points. In those games, they have been outgained by an average of 348-253, but have managed to win due to an unreal +12 turnover ratio. Suffice it to say that without the turnovers they cannot be competitive against decent opposition; they lost to Tulsa 54-2 and lost to Kansas State 54-7. Their top offensive output this season is 14 points. Even with their two great RBs, N Texas cannot run the ball; they are averaging 112 ypg and just 3.14 ypc. N Texas has never really been able to throw the ball, and this season is no different; they are averaging 93 ypg and 4.72 ypp. The La Tech D is not great but they are far better than the best D in the Sun Belt. Unlike past seasons, the North Texas D is very weak this season; La Tech is averaging 40 ppg and 452 ypg at home this season, and the D's they have played have been better than this one. They should be able to get enough points for the cover in this spot.
Other games of note:
ALABAMA (-3.5) v. Tennessee
I can't see the Tennessee O performing too much better against 'Bama than they did against Florida or Georgia (for the uninitiated, they scored 7 points against Florida, and, if you are pretty liberal minded, 14 points against Georgia). The 'Bama D is the equal of these 2 squads if not superior. The only issue is whether the game against Ole Miss is indicative of how they will play without Prothro, or just the natural result of a letdown after the big win against Florida, with a big game against one of their biggest rivals on tap. Given that they had a week off prior, they should have come to play with purpose against Ole Miss. As a result, I am holding off here, but would lean toward 'Bama if I needed to make a pick.