Those who have been following this column for any length of time, you might be feeling a little like Dennis Erickson Saturday night when UNLV blocked ASU’s field goal in overtime.
Unlike Erickson though, this is a good thing. I’m off to the greatest start in Four-play history, speaking strictly outside the San Fernando Valley region. I am now 6-1-1 against the spread after a 3-1 performance last week, with the only blemish resulting from my own stupidity.
I thought Ohio State was worthy, at least, to hold the Trojans’ jockstraps and stay within a couple of touchdowns of them. So wrong.
Oddsmakers couldn’t scramble fast enough to move the futures odds after USC’s 35-3 trouncing over this alleged top-five squad and now you’re lucky to get the Trojans at +150 to win the BCS championship.
That’s a stretch from the 3-1 odds that USC opened at this season. Whoever grabbed them early at that number is likely already spending the money. But Florida and Oklahoma might have something to say. They are both at +450 or so to take the title and Georgia isn’t far behind at +700.
The Bulldogs, however, have to get over their passing issues that have crept back into their lives like a clingy ex-girlfriend. Quarterback Matt Stafford was the beneficiary of heaps of praise following Georgia’s 101 points through its first two games, and then last week he was back to airmailing receivers and watching passes hit hands before falling to the turf.
It was one of a pile sloppy passing performances around the country in this early season and it’s left us wondering if anybody can play quarterback anymore.
Thankfully there is the Big 12. It seems like just about every quarterback worth watching is in that conference this year.
Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell leads the nation in passing yards (1251). Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford is tied for most touchdown passes (12) and ranks second in efficiency (79.1 percent). Kansas State’s Josh Freeman ranks third in efficiency right behind Bradford. Todd Reesing ain't too shabby in Kansas.
And then there’s Chase Daniel.
Take this the right way: if you don’t have a man crush on Chase Daniel by now, you haven’t been watching enough of him. The guy who couldn’t get a recruiting sniff from any of the big schools in his home state of Texas is now at the helm of the No. 1 offense in the nation.
Daniel has 973 yards passing, 10 touchdowns and he’s completing over 70 percent of his passes. Mizzou leads the nation with almost 58 points per game so far and it’s not surprising that the Tigers have covered the spread and played over the total in both of their games that have had a line so far.
College football nation has taken notice of Daniel and the other Big 12 studs. Every time you flipped on ESPN or clicked on a sports website this week, there was something about the Big 12’s dominance at QB. And rightfully so. Four of the top six scoring teams in the nation are from the Big 12.
Yet, despite the high scores and flashy offenses, the over/under record in Big 12 games this year is 12-14.
That’s due to a combination of things. These teams are playing some pretty good defense that is understandably being overlooked and they are also facing some mediocre competition.
What it all means is that when Big 12 play begins, we should see some strong value on the under. The inflated production is going to make for some inflated totals, like we are seeing this week. The average over/under is 56.64 points in games involving Big 12 squads and two games – Buffalo vs. Mizzou and Rice vs. Texas – have totals of at least 70 points. Those are some steep numbers.
But when competition starts getting tougher next week, keep an eye on inflated numbers. These squads won’t be able to fling it around with such ease against tougher defenses and they’ll need to play some stingy D themselves to keep up.
On to this week’s picks.
Iowa State vs. UNLV (-2, 51)
OK, let’s give this theory a shot. Iowa State’s offense looked like vomit last week against Iowa. As long as UNLV's defense doesn’t have a total letdown after its huge win last week, this one should fall under.
Pick: under 51
Bama vs. Arkansas (9 ½, 46 ½)
Arkansas had the benefit of about five extra days to prepare for Bama after Hurricane Ike delayed the Hogs’ game against Texas last week.
That could be just what Arkansas needs in order to adjust to the systems of new head coach Bobby Petrino. The Hogs are off to what some would call a rough start – two narrow wins over powder puff opponents.
But don’t blame Arkansas if it was looking ahead. The Hogs play a string of four games that make you wince just thinking about them – Bama, Texas, Florida and Auburn.
Speaking of looking ahead, the Tide visit Georgia next week.
Wyoming vs. BYU (-27 ½, 51 ½)
I watched Wyoming play Air Force a couple of weeks ago and the Pokes’ offense was hard on the eyes. Looks like it wasn’t much better last week with only 16 points against North Dakota State. Not sure how they’re going to keep it within four TDs at BYU.
Wake Forest vs. Florida State (+5, 47 ½)
Let’s see how the Noles do against a real team.