5-at-10: Fab 4 picks, Common trait between conference title contenders, Dallas-New Orleans, Rushmore of leftovers

5-at-10: Fab 4 picks, Common trait between conference title contenders, Dallas-New Orleans, Rushmore of leftovers

November 29th, 2018 by Jay Greeson in Breaking News

Georgia defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter, shown here sacking Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield during January's Rose Bowl, is one of just four defensive starters returning for the Bulldogs. (John Kelley/Georgia photo)

Photo by John Kelley

Fab 4 picks

We have been consistently entertaining this year. More so than any of the previous years before.

Notice we did not say this was our best year. We hit almost 65 percent in 2014, but that run was filled with more than a few 5-1s or better and a few 2-4 or worse. Yes, the final percentage was higher — and we crushed the bowls that year — but we are hitting week 14 of the college football picks and we have had two sub-.500 weeks. 

And now comes title week as we put that mark on the line. The tricky thing about this week — other than the stakes — is that a) Vegas has got a really accurate finger on the pulses of these teams, this year's entertainment hunters and the trends, and b) in winner-takes-all games like this, the point spreads can become meaningless one way or the other rather quickly in a lot of cases.

Point A is pretty self explanatory. Point B, well, let's review.

These title games are similar to rivalry games in terms of quick-reaction emotion early with potentially greater stakes. So, when that early-game emotion fades and one side establishes dominance, well, the wheels can fall off rather quickly.

So, these games are either super close or runaways.

Last five ACC title games were decided by 35, 7, 8, 2 and 38.

Last five SEC title games were decided by 21, 38, 14, 29 and 17. (And the 21 and the 17 were not that close if memory serves.)

Last five Big Ten title games were decided by 6, 7, 3, 59 and 10.

Last five Big 12 title games were decided by 24 and then going back to 2010, 3, 1, 41 and 21.

Last five Pac-12 title games were decided by 3, 31, 19, 38 and 24.

What does this prove? Well, it proves that we actually — occasionally — do research. It proves that the interwebs are a fountain of all kids of intel. 

And it shows — shows not proves mind you — that tight games become really tight, and 10-point leads more times than not become three-plus TD wins. Of those 25 games, nine were decided by one score. Of the 16 decided by more than one score, 12 were by three-or-more scores (17 or more points).

That and $5 will get you a cup of Starbucks, as well.   

Oklahoma-Texas over the 77. We have made a lot of money strike that entertainment around these parts on Louisville this season. We caught that wave and rode it to some better Christmas plans. Know the wave we missed? Yep, Oklahoma over. In fact, you know how we discussed that Vegas could not make Alabama be a big enough favorite for me to feel comfortable going against the Crimson Saban, well, that's Oklahoma and the over. The over is 10-1-1 in Oklahoma games, including the Sooners' 45-48 loss to these Texas Longhorns. And that includes over totals of 88, 69, 80 and 78 in the last four games. Now know that OU, like THE Ohio State, will need to make sure they impress, and how does OU impress? With points a plenty people.   

Washington minus-5. Get it now. This line will go up for some clear reasons and could get into that magic 6.5-to-7 range. Washington's injuries are behind them. This was a team picked preseason top-10 for a reason, and now all those pieces are back. Yes, the Huskies are out of the playoff chase, but New Year's Day in Pasadena is a pretty worthy consolation prize for a collection of experienced players who are headed to the NFL. 

Buffalo minus-3.5 over Northern Illinois. The underdog Huskies have been arguably the most defensively oriented team in college football this year. They are in the top 12 in yards allowed per play and in the bottom five in yards gained per play. Man, that begs a lot of three-and-outs, no? Buffalo has much better balance and has enjoyed much more success.  
MTSU minus-1.5 over UAB. These teams played a week ago. Seriously. MTSU dominated the game on the scoreboard (27-3) and on the field (MTSU held UAB to less than 100 yards of offense). Yes, we all expect this one to be much tighter, but let's try not to overthink this one.

Boise State minus-2.5 over Fresno State. Not unlike the MTSU game, this is a rematch — Boise beat Fresno 24-17 a month ago — and it's a conference title game at home. We like the home team there, especially with a late Saturday afternoon kick on the blue turf in Idaho. Boise has won seven straight and appears to be peaking at the proper time.

THE Ohio State-Northwestern over 61. THE Ohio State has been maddeningly inconsistent all season. Last week against Michigan was what a lot of us expected all season long, and we've seen it maybe once or twice all season. THE Buckeyes at -14 is a frightening number because it brings in a slew of back-door opportunities, but, even as much as we respect Pat Fitzgerald's defensive acumen, he has to know to stay in this game, his Purple Posse will need to score, and with a senior QB he trusts, here's believing that NU will take some shots at a Buckeyes' D that has been shot at a lot this year. 

Last week: 5-3 against the spread (62.5 percent)

This season: 50-34-2 against the spread (59.3 percent)

College football price of success

There's a lot to be said about Alabama-Georgia. A lot.

But if you look around the Power 5 conferences, there two things that jump out at me heading into this title weekend.

One, there are several great teams. There is only one great conference. 

Next, in these big-boy leagues with big-boy programs and big-boy budgets, have you noticed a very single common trait among the teams practicing this week?

Yep, look around, and the coaches on the practice field rather than the recruiting trail this week are right there as the best two or three in their leagues.

In the Pac-12 title game, it's Chris Petersen vs. Kyle Whittingham. Here's betting almost every other school in the league would trade their coach for either of those dudes.

In the Big Ten title game, it's Urban Liar vs. Pat Fitzgerald. Sure, Liar is not a dude you want watching your kids, but there's a clear reason why THE fans of THE Ohio State are willing to sell their souls for a shot at winning every year. And Coach Fitz is a short-list member of the best in the profession and could get just about any job in the country if he ever wanted to leave his alma mater.

In the ACC it's Dabo, who is clearly the best in that league and a bona fide No. 2 in America. And if you were going to line up all the rest of the dudes still employed at ACC schools, we think Pat Narduzzi is what, top five in that league? Maybe Coach Cutcliffe is better and Mark Richt has a better resume, but you get the idea. (Side note: The ACC now has three openings at mid-level to sneaky good programs over recent years at UNC, Georgia Tech and Louisville. It also has some major fan grumbling at FSU, Miami and Virginia Tech, which are the leagues three biggest profile football programs not named Clemson.)

In the Big 12, it's Lincoln Riley, who is a wizard, against Tom Herman, who has withstood the quick-trigger "Texas is back" and "Texas is dead" roller coaster between big wins and shocking losses. 

In the SEC, well, it's some dude named Saban against some dude named Kirby. Yeah, they know what they are doing.

So, when a lot of folks who do not follow college football regularly bemoan, "How can they pay that guy millions of dollars to coach a game?" Well, those millions are investments. Seed money that programs are hoping to turn into tens of millions, if not more.

Applications nationally are at all time high at Alabama. Want to know why? Well, here's betting at least a few thousand of those are kids who don't know where they want to go see how much winning natty after natty can be.

There is no better money spent in sports than on a truly great college football coach.

NFL Thursday fun

We are so in for Dallas-New Orleans, which could very well set a non-Thanksgiving Thursday night NFL record today.

Dallas believes it's a contender after winning three straight.

Everyone knows New Orelans is a contender as it has won 10 straight.

Man, this is a fun week-to-10 days of football in Jerry's World. 

There was the Thanksgiving celebration against the Redskins a week ago. There's tonight. Then there is the Big 12 title game between OU and Texas on Saturday.

That place is going to be rocking, no?

Here's a fun prop-bet game tonight:

Ezeniel Elliot total yards more or less than Kamara+Ingram rush yards, and Amari Cooper catches more or less than Drew Brees incompletions.

Discuss.

This and that

— Good bye to a good one as Paul Johnson stepped down from Georgia Tech yesterday. I live Paul Johnson. As a coach and way more importantly as a dude.

— Nice win for Michigan last night over UNC in college hoops. That Michigan coach knows what he's doing friends. The Wolverines are never super high in all the rankings and five-star parades. But they mess around and shoot it and share it and guard it and are a tough bunch to handle.

— Speaking of a tough bunch, yes each overpowered much weaker foes, but AU and UT looked the part of bully last night.

— Yes, we did not pick UGA-Alabama. Line is pretty perfect. But we will give our score tomorrow if you feel obligated to play it.

— The whole Jeff Brohm story — he decided to stay at Purdue rather than going back to his alma mater Louisville, which caused his high school to get threats — is crazy sauce.

— Did you see the story that the Bucs' attendance is so bad they are giving tickets away? 

Today's questions

Well, there are a slew of them circling.

We'll start here: Mailbag? Did you?

Did you know that today should be a holiday for those of us who had a big chunk of a lives shaped by video game.

Nolan Bushnell released Pong on this day in 1972. Moment of silence please That will do.

Vin Sculley is 91 years young today.

Today is national lemon creme pie day. Friend.

It is also national throw out your leftovers day.

Rushmore of best leftovers — as in the leftover in the fridge that makes you happy knowing it's there for later.

Go and remember the mailbag.

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