I went 0-1 last Saturday. Can’t catch a break. This is the third loss in a row I was a half point away from getting the cover.
My predictions and pre-game comments can be found on my previous post, dated 10-24 (PREDICTIONS).
My Current Overall Record: 4-7
Penn St. 30 Iowa 24
Closing Line: Penn St. -5.5
FTC Prediction: Iowa 27 Penn St. 14
My ATS Pick: Iowa + 5.5
I predicted Iowa to win, 27-14. Yet another ATS loss by half a point. This game started out pretty much as I envisioned. The Iowa defense came out playing well, holding Penn St. to a three and out and blocking a punt for a safety on the game’s first series. From there, the Hawkeyes built a 12-0 lead and eventually allowed a Penn St. TD. But that was ok; I didn’t figure Iowa to pitch a shutout. It was obvious Iowa’s defense was going to be as tough as I expected as the next Penn St. possession resulted in yet another three and out and a safety on the punt attempt. I just needed the Iowa offense to hold ‘em. No such luck. Obviously I was wrong about the outcome, and I guess you could say I was wrong about Penn St.’s run defense. It was better than I expected. But I was right about one thing. Unfortunately that one thing falls under the “I do have some concerns about my wagering on Iowa” category. I was concerned about Iowa QB Nate Stanley and pretty much stated as fact that he’d throw a stupid interception. And I mentioned that my hope is that it wouldn’t be a pick-six. Sure enough, Stanley served up the pick six that allowed Penn St. to get back in the game and gain momentum. (Technically, it wasn’t a pick-six, but essentially it was. The defender ran the ball back to the two yard line where Penn St. punched it in on the next play and tied the game). This was a game of two QBs. One did the things necessary to win, the other did not. Penn St. QB Trace McSorley didn’t have his best game, but he made big plays when his team needed him to. Meanwhile, my boy Stanley wasn’t finished with just the pick-six (but wait, there’s more). Iowa had the ball 1st and goal on the four yard line, six points down late in the game, the play is called from the sidelines-common sense says it’s probably a run, and Stanley decides to change the play at the line of scrimmage and throw yet another stupid interception. I read some post-game reports that Iowa HC Kirk Ferentz was running up the sidelines frantically trying to call a time-out when he saw Stanley changing the play. The TV cameras didn’t show Ferentz, but I can imagine the scene as being something similar to a parent running toward a small child about to take a sip from a bottle of bleach (NO, NO, NO….). This game was obviously frustrating for me; I can only imagine how frustrated the Iowa defensive players must feel. All of Iowa’s points came on defense and special teams. Iowa’s offense had some chances in the passing game, but Stanley missed badly, most notable being when the Hawkeyes ran a play action pass on third and one that completely fooled the Penn St. defense, leaving a receiver so wide open in the middle of the field that Stanley could have tossed it to him underhanded and it still would have resulted in a TD. But Stanley panicked and overthrew by about five to ten yards. It’s a shame about Stanley, because from the neck down, he has all the tools to be a great QB. Sideline broadcaster and established draft analyst Todd McShay reported pre-game that he had Stanley listed as third on his board of pro prospects. It was kind of comical how McShay backed away from Stanley as the game went on, eventually muttering “these are middle school throws” as Stanley continued to miss receivers. Ok, Ok, I gotta stop. He’s just a college kid doing the best he can and I’m just mad ‘cuz I lost my bet when I should have won. And, as I pointed out, I knew about Stanley’s shortcomings coming into this game, so shame on me. I just didn’t expect it to be this bad. And there’s no reason that I should have. The kid just had a bad game is all. He can, has, and will do better. He just has to learn to perform better under pressure and the best way to learn is to endure high pressure games like this one. He’ll get there. (But until he does, I’m still gonna have to figure him for at least one bad interception per game).
Maryland 63 Illinois 33
Closing Line: Maryland -17.5
FTC Prediction: Maryland 31 Illinois 14
My ATS Pick: Pass
I predicted Maryland to win, 31-14. I didn’t watch this game as closely as I should have. I could see early on that Maryland was going to win easily, and my only play of the week was scheduled at the same time as this game, so most of my attention was on a more interesting game on a different TV. But I did check on this game from time to time and could see that the Illinois defense had no chance in this one. My prediction that Maryland might pop a couple of long runs was an understatement. The Terps introduced yet another speedy RB who I’ve never heard of before, who ripped off four TDs, all from 27 yards out or more. Even QB Kasim Hill turned in a good game. Subpar QB play has been a Maryland weak spot, but not against this defense, and not at home where the Terps are at their best against weaker opposition. This is typical of Maryland’s offense. Snowball effect in either direction. When things are going good early on, they get even better. When things are going bad early on, they get even worse. Illinois did go back to starting M.J. Rivers at QB – A.J. Bush started the last three games, but Rivers was eventually knocked out of the game with an injury. The Illini RBs had a few nice runs- unlike Bush, Rivers will let other offensive players handle the ball once in a while – but really, most of Illinois’ scoring output was accumulated during garbage time. The score was 48-12 with seconds left in the third quarter. I started off my prediction write-up mentioning that we’re getting close to the time of the season where losing teams start to pack it in. I considered, but dismissed those concerns regarding Illinois, but I think it’s now time to give this issue some serious thought when handicapping future Illinois games. I keep using the terms “upper level, mid-level, and lower level” when categorizing conference teams. Maryland seems to have their own level; definitely above lower-level, but not good enough for mid-level. As a btw, Maryland star LB Tre Watson, who I think is easily all-conference, was once again ejected for tackling…er, I mean targeting. Watson is a hard hitter who is playing this game about ten years too late. Football doesn’t want his kind around anymore.
Minnesota 38 Indiana 31
Closing Line: Indiana -2.5
FTC Prediction: Indiana 30 Minnesota 29
My ATS Pick: Pass
I predicted Indiana to win, 30-29. As I said in my prediction write-up, these teams are mirror images of each other. All the way down to their second year cornflake coaches. I was pretty close with my predicted score, and also accurate in calling this game a toss-up between two evenly matched teams. Backup QB Tanner Morgan got the start for Minnesota in place of injured Zack Annexstad. During the first half I was wondering why Morgan wasn’t the starter all season. Morgan appeared to be much better than Annexstad as he completed (I believe– I don’t have the exact first half stats) 12 of 14 passes and threw two TD passes in leading the Gophers to a 21-9 halftime lead. Then in the second half I thought, “whoops, maybe he ain’t so good” as Morgan threw an interception and started missing on his throws, helping allow Indiana to storm back and tie the game late in the fourth quarter. But then Morgan tossed the game winning TD with just under two minutes left, so I don’t know. I think I like this kid better, but then, I don’t get a vote. Nor should I. During the first half I was thinking Indiana QB Peyton Ramsey doesn’t have the arm strength to complete the long ball as he underthrew on a few occasions while the Indiana offense sputtered. His backup, Michael Penix, showed a stronger arm in the previous game and played well, so I was thinking Indiana could use Penix about now. But Penix is out with an injury. Then in the second half I thought, “whoops, maybe Ramsey can throw the long ball” as he completed some key downfield throws, helping his team storm back and tie the game late in the fourth quarter. So I don’t know who I like better. But then, I don’t get a vote. Nor should I, so it doesn’t matter. Neither team was very good defensively. If I was to try and put my finger on why Minnesota won, I’d say the Gophers coaches called a better game. It seemed like Indiana could have made adjustments earlier in the game to stop the barrage of slant passes Morgan was completing. And offensively the Hoosiers seemed to throw more often than they needed to- RB Stevie Scott averaged over five yards a carry in this game. But as I’ve said before on this site, it’s easy to question play-calling from the couch, I have about one gazillionth of the information the professional coaches have. So, unless it’s something blatantly obvious, there’s really no merit to my opinion on the matter. I think this game was pivotal for both teams in regards to mentality moving forward. One of these teams had to win this even matchup, it turned out to be Minnesota, so the Gophers will still have a spark burning. One of these teams had to lose, it turned out to be Indiana and I now have to consider the Hoosiers’ level of confidence and or interest as they face a remaining schedule of games that don’t appear to be as winnable as this one was.
Michigan St. 23 Purdue 13
Closing Line: Purdue -1.5
FTC Prediction: Purdue 33 Michigan St. 28
My ATS Pick: Pass
I predicted Purdue to win, 33-28. I was off on the amount of scoring in this game. Both defenses played better than I expected, particularly Michigan St. I said in my prediction write-up that it wouldn’t surprise me much if Michigan St. wins, and it doesn’t. Regardless of Purdue’s of upset over Ohio St., the Boilermakers are not a prohibitive favorite over any mid to upper level team in this conference. Michigan St. started backup QB Rocky Lombardi in place of injured starter Brian Lewerke, and Lombardi played very well. So well that TV announcer Mark Jones made the (inappropriate maybe?) comment, “no rush to get Lewerke back”. One of the reasons I liked Purdue in this game was that Michigan St. had so many injuries on offense, but the Spartans did return WR Darrell Stewart, who proved to be a handful for the Purdue defense. Stewart caught only four passes, but it was obvious he was a threat that required the Boilermakers attention. But the main deviation between my prediction and the outcome was when Purdue had the ball. I knew Michigan St’s defense was good, but again, it was much better than I expected in this game. Purdue QB David Blough didn’t have his best game, but much of that has to be attributed to the Spartans tight coverage in the secondary. Purdue WR Rondale Moore made some nice plays, but he wasn’t worth the “six points alone” that I called for in my write-up. When Moore did get the ball, Michigan St. defenders quickly put him on the ground. And Purdue HC Jeff Brohm’s “way too frequent and cute for my taste” trick plays were a big no sale against this defense. Purdue may have been a little flat coming off the big win – the body language didn’t seem all that enthusiastic. And to be fair, it’s difficult even for adults, let alone college kids, to maintain intensity for two weeks straight. But that’s not what I’m going with here. Michigan St. was the better team this day. And may have been even that much better had they been completely healthy, so…
Northwestern 31 Wisconsin 17
Closing Line: Wisconsin -3.5
FTC Prediction: Wisconsin 31 Northwestern 20
My ATS Pick: Pass
I predicted Wisconsin to win, 31-20. The closing line fell within my requirements to play this game, but I had to use my disclaimer printed at the bottom of my prediction posts. I don’t bet on teams when I find out detrimental information about the starting QB after I’ve already handicapped the game on Sunday. It wasn’t until Friday that I found out Wisconsin starting QB Alex Hornibrook would not be playing, so I backed off of this one. Some may think that I’m trying to protect my ATS record from looking worse than it already is, but those of you who remember my posts from previous seasons (on BlogSpot) know that I’ve used and reported this disclaimer when it still would have worked out in my favor. So full disclosure either way on this site. Anyway, about this game. It wasn’t as pretty as it should have been, considering the division title implications on the line. Mostly due to Hornibrook not playing, I believe. Both teams turned the ball over three times. Hornibrook’s replacement, Jack Coan, fumbled the ball twice on the same play and represented a significant drop off in production compared to when Hornibrook is behind center. Northwestern’s defense was able to load up against the run, and held Wisconsin star RB Jonathan Taylor to 46 yards and forced Taylor into two fumbles. Wisconsin’s defense hasn’t been very good for most of this season, and with a secondary depleted due to injuries, was even worse in this game. Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson wasn’t at his best, but he was good enough to take advantage of the aforementioned injuries. And Northwestern was able to run the ball effectively, which is something the Wildcats haven’t been able to do all season. Obviously Wisconsin isn’t the powerhouse most expected to see coming into the season, and for whatever reason, the Badgers didn’t seem ready to play in this game. Northwestern seems to be destined as they now lead the West division. I think the Wildcats are a bit lucky to catch Wisconsin without Hornibrook. I’m not saying Northwestern wouldn’t have won, but I am saying that with Hornibrook, this game would have been, at the very least, a lot closer.