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Week 6 picks

Time to reveal my plays of the week. These are the 10 games I would bet on if I were a degenerate gambler. For those who don’t know already, the first team listed is my pick, unless it’s an over/under selection. Odds provided by DocSports. If I were you, I’d bet on these games. You can thank me (or hate me) later. I went 6-4 in my picks last week and I’m hitting 60% on the season (30-20), so heed my advice!

I’m out of town at a wedding so just doing the picks without commentary.

Clemson -14 at Syracuse

Miami -6.5 vs. Georgia Tech

Oregon -40 at Colorado

Arkansas +13 at Florida

Oklahoma -9 vs. TCU

Stanford -9 vs. Washington

OVER 57 points Auburn vs. Ole MIss

Arizona State -6.5 at Notre Dame

UCF -10 at Memphis

North Carolina +8 at Virginia Tech

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Advice for USC on its coaching search

NCAA Football: Utah State at Southern California

Now that USC has fired Lane Kiffin, the silliness over who will replace him has begun.

I’m not talking about the usual silliness that ensues in the media or with the fans, with reports about this coach or that being spotted at LAX or on USC’s campus.

I’m talking about the silliness that has always marked the USC hiring process.

This is a school that hasn’t conducted a serious, grown-up coaching search since 1925, when it hired away Howard Jones from Iowa. Since then, every head coach save two has had some sort of direct connection to USC. While this approach worked well enough during the era of unlimited scholarships and disparity in college football, it has not gone nearly as well in the modern era.

For USC, past success has turned out to be its enemy when it comes to hiring coaches.

John McKay was wildly successful from 1960 to 1975 which meant USC spent the next 25 years trying to find the next McKay. While the rest of college football changed, Trojans administrators and fans remained stuck in the past. The I-formation tailback and Student Body Right were the obsession and winning was seen as a birthright, something that could be attained simply by finding the right coach who could get back to that specific style. After all, if it worked with McKay, why couldn’t it work now? was the thought.

When the Trojans hired their offensive coordinator, Ted Tollner, to replace John Robinson in 1983, the main worry among USC people was not whether he would win a bunch of games or not — that was taken for granted — but that he would pass the ball too much. After all, he had come to USC from BYU and who the heck wanted USC to be like BYU? Their worries were unfounded since the rather meek Tollner did little to tinker with the status quo. When Tollner failed after four seasons, USC brought in Larry Smith from Arizona. Smith was a Bo Schembechler protege who promised to bring that physical mentality back to Troy. But Smith had found his level at Arizona and he lacked the stature and personality to coach at a place like USC, where he was also distrusted as an outsider who didn’t ‘get’ the tradition. He, too, failed and a chastened USC administration took the lazy route and brought back John Robinson for another go-around. Robinson promised to run Student Body Right as much as Student Body Left and the fan base swooned. A return to glory was imminent!

Meanwhile, college football had changed drastically — not that USC noticed. The BYU offense and the one-back style run by Miami was infiltrating the sport. Sophisticated passing offenses were in vogue. The power run game as exemplified by what USC did in the 1970s no longer worked. Defenses were too quick, plus scholarship restrictions meant parity ruled the day. USC no longer held a monopoly on athletes.

Nonetheless, when Robinson’s second go-around failed, USC clung to its past and went with another coach with connections to the school, this time hiring Paul Hackett, who was Robinson’s assistant when it had last won a national title back in 1978 (you see, because Hackett had coached on a national title team 20 years earlier, that made him qualified to coach USC in the ’90s).

Hackett was a disaster, but his hiring had one major upside: It made USC realize it had finally hit rock bottom. The school came to terms with the notion that winning wasn’t a birthright and that it did not have the luxury of choosing how it would win. It finally understood that if it wanted to return to glory, it had to change with the times.

That’s when USC hired Pete Carroll. Now, this was also another bungled coaching search, done without the proper due diligence but, for once, the Trojans lucked out. Carroll was a failed NFL coach who was hungry to prove himself. What’s more, he understood the landscape of college football at the time, which is why he said the following when he was hired:

“Today’s game, it’s different. This is a time when the game is evolving. It’s a wide open, spread the field, use the space, calling on the athletic ability of your players to take advantage of that. At this university, we have the players that can get that done. In all phases of our game, we have to learn to play a spread the field type of football. That’s what we will have to do to win the Pac-10, that’s what we will have to do to realize all the dreams that we want to realize.”

He was dead on. And with USC fans hungry to win by any means possible — even by, shudder, passing the football — the old mentality of Student Body Right was finally laid to rest. Carroll brought in former BYU offensive mastermind Norm Chow and the Trojans installed a cutting edge offense. It took 20 years, but USC was finally ready to compete in the modern era.

What happened next is what always happens when you combine elite talent with good coaching — you win a lot of games. Carroll and USC dominated college football from 2002 until 2008, winning two national titles along the way.

But there was a downside to it (and I’m not talking about NCAA matters).

With the success of the Carroll era, USC fans and administrators unlearned their previous hard-learned lesson and once again came around to seeing winning as a birthright. The idea that USC had the ability — nay, the right — to choose how it would win games returned. And so, when Carroll left for the NFL, the overarching concern was to find a coach who would continue to do things exactly how Carroll did them.

Of course this outlook ignored a lot of new trends that had been taking place in college football. Namely, the advent of the spread (starting around 2005) was changing how the sport was being played on both sides of the ball. Mobile quarterbacks were putting up huge numbers in these systems and programs that were once considered rinky-dink were able to compete with the big boys. In other words, a sea-change in college football was taking place of the same magnitude that happened in the early 1980s.

Just like in the early 1980s, USC put its head in the sand and, after a very unserious search, hired Kiffin to replace Carroll. It was the equivalent of tasking a general schooled in World War I tactics to fight World War II. As a result, USC and the French circa 1940 shared the same fate.

And so, USC must now hire a new coach.

But before it hires a new coach, it must decide what kind of USC it wants to be.

Is winning the priority or is the priority to win a certain way?

If it really wants to win, USC must not make the same mistake it made in 1983. It must let go of the notion that USC football is necessarily synonymous with a particular style. It must recognize that college football has changed a lot since the last time USC won a national title. The offensive scheme that USC ran in 2003 and 2004 was the optimal offense in college football at the time. That is no longer the case. USC must change like it did in 2001 if it wants to win championships again.

The best offenses in college football, schematically speaking, currently reside at schools like Baylor, Oregon and Texas A&M, where the shackles of tradition and the arrogance borne of repeated success have not blinded progress. USC should hire a coach who is dedicated to running an offense similar to the ones run by these schools.

Now, I know. Alabama has won three national titles running a basic, smashmouth offense. But the Tide won their championships despite its offense, not because of it, and has twice backed into the BCS championship game under fortunate circumstances — after less-talented teams ranked ahead of it lost late. What’s more, Nick Saban is arguably the best coach in college football. Unless you get Saban himself, good luck trying to duplicate what he does.

Even more important than finding the right style is for USC to finally mount a serious search for a proven college head coach. The path of least resistance should not be a viable option.

That means no coaches with ties to the school, no NFL retreads, no coaches from the Pete Carroll coaching tree, no coaches who need on-the-job training.

Start fresh. Renew the tradition, but do it by ushering in a new era.

That means no Jack Del Rio. No Steve Sarkisian. No Herm Edwards.

Anyone who follows college football knows what the list of possible coaching targets should be and it begins with these guys:

Art Briles
Kevin Sumlin
Chris Petersen
Gary Patterson
Pat Fitzgerald
James Franklin

These are the types of guys USC should be going after — proven college head coaches who know how to do more with less. All these coaches have the potential to be very successful at USC. Remember, it is the situation that generally tends to make a coach great and USC will be a perfect situation for the right coach.

I’m under no illusion that USC will listen to this advice, though I think there’s a good chance we might finally be on the same page. Of course, if it had listened to me in the first place, it would not be in this mess right now.

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Week 5 picks

Time to reveal my plays of the week. These are the 10 games I would bet on if I were a degenerate gambler. For those who don’t know already, the first team listed is my pick, unless it’s an over/under selection. Odds provided by DocSports. If I were you, I’d bet on these games. You can thank me (or hate me) later. I went 6-4 in my picks last week and I’m hitting 60% on the season, so heed my advice!

Last week against the spread: 6-4

Season record against the spread: 24-16 (.600)

Florida State -23 at Boston College

Too much talent disparity in this one. Florida State will score early and often and drop BC to 2-2 on the year. Another big game for Jameis Winston.

Florida State 45, Boston College 14

Minnesota +2 vs. Iowa

Minnesota has found its quarterback in freshman Mitch Leidner. I look for the Gophers to play mistake-free, fundamentally-sound football and score the mild upset.

Minnesota 31, Iowa 27

Arizona State -5 vs. USC

USC has struggled against the weakest part of its schedule and now must take a step up in class against a talented Sun Devils squad. Look for Marion Grice and Jaelen Strong to have big games as ASU rolls.

Arizona State 27, USC 10

Oklahoma -3.5 at Notre Dame

Week 2 of the Bell Dozer under center will continue to pay dividends and the Sooners will have just enough offense to grind out a win against a tough Irish front seven.

Oklahoma 21, Notre Dame 17

OVER 58.5 points, Colorado at Oregon State

These are two offensively skilled teams with suspect defenses. To me, that spells a lot of points which is why I’ll take the OVER.  Oregon State wins over a much-improved Colorado squad.

Oregon State 42, Colorado 31

Stanford -9 at Washington State

The WSU defense is pretty solid, especially the front line, but it’s never wise to get into a slugfest in the trenches against Stanford. The Cardinal will methodically tear the Cougars apart and win going away.

Stanford 31, Washington State 13

Texas A&M -14 at Arkansas

It’s really simple here: Arkansas can’t stop Texas A&M and the Razorbacks are not the same offensively without quarterback Brandon Allen, who may or may not play. Either way, Arkansas can’t keep up.

Texas A&M 52, Arkansas 24

Alabama -14 vs. Mississippi

The Ole Miss scheme plus Bo Wallace isn’t enough to make up for the talent disparity that exists between the two teams. Now that it’s back in SEC play, Alabama will cut down on mistakes and play closer to its potential.

Alabama 42, Ole Miss 21

OVER 62, Arizona at Washington

We should see a lot of offense from these two teams and I expect a wild one up in Seattle. Washington has more weapons, though, and should pull out the win.

Washington 41, Arizona 31

Pitt -5 vs. Virginia

Pitt is slowly putting together a nice little offense based around senior quarterback Tom Savage and a couple freshmen, running back James Conner and receiver Tyler Boyd. I don’t think Virginia can keep them in check.

Pittsburgh 35, Virginia 24

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Week 4 picks

Time to reveal my plays of the week. These are the 10 games I would bet on if I were a degenerate gambler. For those who don’t know already, the first team listed is my pick, unless it’s an over/under selection. Odds provided by DocSports. If I were you, I’d bet on these games. You can thank me (or hate me) later. I went 4-6 in my picks last week but I’m still hitting 60% on the season, so heed my advice!

Last week against the spread: 4-6

Season record against the spread: 18-12 (.600)

OVER 58 North Carolina at Georgia Tech

The Yellowjackets defense has been great so far but now it will have to take a step up in class going against a UNC offense that has a lot of weapons. Meanwhile, the Tar Heels have struggled the last couple years against Georgia Tech’s offensive scheme. I look for this one to be a shootout with UNC coming out on top in the end. Take the OVER.

North Carolina 42, Georgia Tech 38

Minnesota -3.5 vs. San Jose State

The Gophers don’t seem to be affected by Jerry Kill’s seizures. They are a fundamentally sound team that doesn’t make many mistakes. David Fales has gotten off to a slow start and I think the Spartan offense struggles again in this one.

Minnesota 27, San Jose State 17

Baylor -30.5 vs. Louisiana-Monroe

The Baylor offensive machine should have another huge day against ULM and I think Lache Seastrunk gets his first 200-yard game of the season.

Baylor 62, ULM 21

Utah State +7 at USC

Chuckie Keeton has a huge day against a tired USC defense and the Aggies pull off the upset win in the Coliseum, which may precipitate the end of the Lane Kiffin era a couple days later.

Utah State 31, USC 28

Oregon State -8 at San Diego State

One thing that’s for sure is that the Beavers know how to score. With the Aztecs struggling on offense, I think the OSU defense steps to the plate with a solid game, too. Another huge day for Sean Mannion is in the works.

Oregon State 42, San Diego State 20

OVER 55 Auburn at LSU

I don’t think Auburn will be able to stop LSU’s usually methodical offense from scoring at will in this one. Meanwhile, Gus Malzahn will have a few tricks up his sleeve and make this fun for a while before the Bayou Bengals pull away.

LSU 42, Auburn 24

UCLA -42 vs. New Mexico State

UCLA’s offense should score 42 in the first half alone and then cruise to 60. The Bruins should rush for 350-plus yards.

UCLA 66, New Mexico State 17

OVER 62 Utah at BYU

There’s a lot of firepower in this game with two playmaking quarterbacks in Travis Wilson and Taysom Hill. I think it’ll be a shootout with Utah winning in the end thanks to Wilson’s dual-threat magic.

Utah 45, BYU 38

OVER 79 Texas A&M vs. SMU

The Aggies should be ornery after losing last week to Bama and I believe they’ll take it out offensively on SMU. But the Mustangs have the ability to put up points and I think they’ll do so in the second half to top the point total.

Texas A&M 65, SMU 21

Stanford -6 vs. Arizona State

The Cardinal have been vanilla on offense and bored on defense in the first two games, but they will be up to the challenge against the Sun Devils. I look for Stanford to put the clamps down on the ASU offense while Kevin Hogan has a big day passing.

Stanford 33, Arizona State 21

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Week 3 Picks

Time to reveal my plays of the week. These are the 10 games I would bet on if I were a degenerate gambler. For those who don’t know already, the first team listed is my pick, unless it’s an over/under selection. Odds provided by Betus. If I were you, I’d bet on these games. You can thank me (or hate me) later. I went 7-3 in my picks last week — almost 8-2 — and I’m hitting 70% on the season, so heed my advice!

Last week against the spread: 7-3

Season record against the spread: 14-6 (.700)

Stanford -29 at Army

I can’t see Army getting anything going offensively against the very tough Stanford defense. Meanwhile, I think the Cardinal will put up over 300 rushing yards and jump out to a huge lead.

Stanford 52, Army 9

Louisville -13.5 at Kentucky

The Wildcats will give the Cardinals a test early, but Teddy Bridgewater should get rolling and help UL pull away for the easy victory. Look for another four touchdown passes for the Heisman Trophy contender.

Louisville 45, Kentucky 24

UCLA +4.5 at Nebraska

The Bruins have too many weapons on offense for these Blackshirts to handle. I expect big games from both Brett Hundley and Taylor Martinez, but UCLA is mentally tougher and will come away with the quality road win.

UCLA 37, Nebraska 34

Oklahoma -24.5 vs. Tulsa

Blake Bell will start for the Sooners and I think he’ll be the spark the OU offenses needs. Meanwhile, the Sooners defense will continue to play at a high level.

Oklahoma 42, Tulsa 14

OVER 50 Southern Miss at Arkansas

I see Arkansas putting up a lot of points due to big games from Brandon Allen, Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins. The Razorbacks defense will be its usually porous self, too, which should mean we’ll have no problem getting over the point total.

Arkansas 49, Southern Miss 13

Boston College +14 at USC

USC has a hard time scoring 14 points, much less covering it. The Trojans will continue to play it close to the vest on offense, which means the Eagles will be in the game until the end with a chance to pull off the mild upset.

USC 17, Boston College 16

OVER 65 Ohio State at California

The Bears have some real issues on defense that I think the Buckeyes will exploit, even if Braxton Miller doesn’t play. At the same time, Cal’s offense is just too explosive to keep down for long. Ohio State and Cal easily top the point total.

Ohio State 49, California 31

Auburn -6 vs. Mississippi State

Auburn looks to me like a team that is getting better every week and I expect quarterback Nick Marshall will have his best game in this one. The Bulldogs will struggle on offense against a very opportunistic Auburn defense.

Auburn 28, Mississippi State 20

Arizona State -5.5 vs. Wisconsin

ASU will be pumped up for this one and Wisconsin will struggle to adjust to the dry desert heat. The Sun Devils will be too fast and athletic for the Badgers and Taylor Kelly will have another huge game.

ASU 31, Wisconsin 24

Maryland -6 at Connecticut

The Terps are rolling right now behind dual threat QB CJ Brown and all-purpose dynamo Stefon Diggs. I think those two will play well against the Huskies to lead Maryland to a comfortable win.

Maryland 41, Connecticut 27

 

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Week two picks

Time to reveal my plays of the week. These are the 10 games I would bet on if I were a degenerate gambler. For those who don’t know already, the first team listed is my pick, unless it’s an over/under selection. Odds provided by BetUs. If I were you, I’d bet on these games. You can thank me (or hate me) later. I went 7-3 in my picks last week — almost 9-1 — so heed my advice!

Last week against the spread: 7-3

Season record against the spread: 7-3

UNDER 48 Miami vs. Florida

I think Florida’s pass defense — particularly its corners — will do a good job holding Stephen Morris and the Miami receivers in check. But I don’t see Florida’s offense doing much either. I think Miami pulls off the upset in a sloppy affair, but I’m going with the UNDER in this one.

Miami 21, Florida 17

Oklahoma State -27 at UTSA

The Cowboys struggled early last week against Mississippi State, but they finally found a groove once J.W. Walsh took the reins at quarterback. I think Walsh gives OSU another dimension with his mobility and this is the game where the Cowboys offense hits its stride.

Oklahoma State 56, UTSA 17

Oklahoma -21.5 vs. West Virginia

Trevor Knight threw for just 86 yards last week against Louisiana-Monroe, but that did include three touchdown passes and 103 rushing yards. I look for his passing numbers to improve in week two and for the Sooners offense to take a step forward. Meanwhile, the Mountaineers will struggle against the Sooners defense.

Oklahoma 45, West Virginia 13

Georgia -3 vs. South Carolina

The Bulldogs have their backs against the wall and I don’t see them starting the season 0-2. Gurley and Murray outshine Clowney and Co. and both teams even their records at 1-1.

Georgia 27, South Carolina 21

Auburn -10.5 vs. Arkansas State

Sticking with that theme of offenses improving in week two, I like the Tigers to continue to do well on the ground while Nick Marshall’s passing numbers become a little more respectable. The Red Wolves will score, but the Tigers will overwhelm Gus Malzahn’s former team in the end.

Auburn 42, Arkansas State 28

Notre Dame +4.5 at Michigan

This Notre Dame team has take a step up athletically, especially at the skill positions. Tommy Rees appears to be on his way to a great season and I think he leads the Irish to a win here as the Michigan ground game gets stifled.

Notre Dame 26, Michigan 19

Hawaii +27 at Oregon State

The Beavers will bounce back in this one, but Hawaii’s defense showed it was solid against USC. Sean Mannion has another huge day, but the Rainbow Warriors keep it relatively close.

Oregon State 38, Hawaii 17

Washington State +16 at USC

I expect Mike Leach to have something special in store in his game plan for the Trojans. USC will continue to struggle on offense and will need its defense to step up to force some big plays. The Cougars get off to a great start and pull the upset.

Washington State 24, USC 21

UNDER 48.5 San Jose State vs. Stanford

The Stanford offense will be a bit sluggish in its first game while the Spartans will experience the full wrath of the Cardinal defense. This should be a low scoring affair and that’s why I’m taking the UNDER.

Stanford 27, San Jose State 6

Minnesota -15 at New Mexico State

Philip Nelson and the Gophers looked very good against UNLV last week and I expect Jerry Kill’s team to pick up where it left off.

Minnesota 45, New Mexico State 28

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25 breakout stars for 2013

byrd

The following players aren’t being talked about too much right now, but by season’s end they will be:

Deion Belue, CB, Alabama – As if Bama needed another breakout star, right?  Belue has first round talent and should come into his own this season for the Tide.

Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State – At 6-4, Strong, a JC transfer, is that rare tall receiver who can actually run like he’s 5-11. He should develop into one of the Pac-12’s best receivers in 2013.

Jonathan Williams, RB, Arkansas – Williams is a big time talent who should flourish in Brett Bielema’s scheme. If there’s a dark horse to lead the SEC in rushing, he’s it.

Robbie Rhodes, WR, Baylor – I was the first to tab Rhodes as a breakout star back in February and he hasn’t disappointed during fall camp. He’s might be the top freshman wide receiver in the country.

Kenny Lawler, WR, California – While Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper are the headline wide receivers for Cal, Lawler is the one with the most upside. If spring ball is any indication, he should have a stellar redshirt freshman season. Continue Reading →

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