Dave’s Free Play, Sunday 11/22/14
There were statements to be made Saturday on the college gridiron. But the way I see it, opportunity knocked and no one answered for two of the schools on the outside looking in, while another pair of current Top Ten teams in the playoff rankings came up with eye opening performances that could serve them well.
I thought #6 Ohio State and #7 Baylor blew great chances to earn some valuable style points against decidedly inferior opposition. Neither impressed. The Buckeyes ended up in a shocking dogfight with lowly Indiana, and while they won the game, they might well have lost ground to the teams they’re chasing. The same can be said, albeit perhaps to a lesser extent, about Baylor. The Bears were never threatened in their win against Oklahoma State, but this was a game they could have won by a whole lot more than they did. That’s significant, as it has become quite clear that the committee is absolutely weighing margin of victory into their decisions.
The two teams that did themselves the most good were #4 Mississippi State and #9 UCLA. The Bulldogs completely avoided any letdown off the loss at Alabama by throttling Vanderbilt. In fact, with #3 Florida State barely escaping yet again, I won’t be at all shocked if Mississippi State jumps the Seminoles in the rankings.
UCLA put a beating on USC, and the Bruins are now the two-loss team that could crash the party. If UCLA can defeat Stanford on Friday night, they will have a chance to knock out Oregon in the PAC-12 title game, and I’m close to certain the winner of that game will be in the playoffs.
Florida State is becoming the big problem for the committee. The Seminoles keep winning, but their power numbers keep dropping. Their residence in the less than stellar ACC is an issue. I’d still make FSU a favorite to get one of the four spots as I just don’t think they’ll knock out an undefeated team, but the fact they’re already trailing two teams is meaningful and if Mississippi State wins out, I think the Bulldogs are jumping the Seminoles.
The system isn’t perfect and there probably needs to be an expansion to eight teams at some point very soon. But this is way more interesting than anything we’ve had in the past and these final regular season games plus the conference title clashes are going to be fascinating to watch.
My weekdays are going great. But my recent weekends have been terrible and Saturday was a massive disappointment for me. I ended up 3-3 in football, but lost the 2x play on Baylor that I made my Game of the Year. I have to say that less than three minutes into this game, I thought I was gold as the Bears were up 14-0 in a blink. But they then turned it over, leading to a TD for Oklahoma State and then surrendered a damaging TD right before the half to make it 28-14 at the break. Baylor expanded the lead to 42-14 in the fourth quarter, but gave up a long pass and then allowed another TD before tacking on what turned out to be a meaningless late score for the final 49-28. All that matters is the win or the loss, so regardless of how it happened, it’s a bad result.
I also took a miserable beat on Washington State as well as a disastrous finish to a basketball play on UC-Davis. So all in all, a very discouraging day and I managed to return all the profits I’d earned over the past several days.
I’m determined to get right back in the win column today, and I’ll be on three NFL games, plus at least one in college hoops and one in the NHL.
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A split on the Saturday free plays as Louisville knocked off Notre Dame and SMU won but did not cover against gritty Eastern Washington. Here’s one I like today in the NFL.
11/22 10:00 AM NFL (261) CINCINNATI BENGALS at (262) HOUSTON TEXANS
Take: (262) HOUSTON TEXANS -1.5
If you can figure out the Bengals, congratulations. They’re as Jekyll and Hyde as it gets this season, which basically explains to a large extent how the Bengals were favored at New England earlier this season and are now dogs at Houston. Granted, the Patriots were struggling at the time that game took place, but Cincinnati was also looking like a serious contender at the time. In spite of winning three of their last four, I’m pretty sure most observers don’t consider the Bengals to be anything more than mere pretenders right now.
Regardless, the Bengals are 6-3-1, they’re leading their division and they’re in good shape to make the playoffs. Yet here they are, cast in the underdog role against a 5-5 Houston entry and whose wins are against the Redskins, Raiders, Bills, Titans and Browns. In other words, zero wins against a team that currently would own a playoff position.
Maybe the oddsmakers are seeing the Texans like I am, however. It’s as small a sample as it gets, but Houston looked like a totally different team last week with Ryan Mallett stepping under center in place of Ryan Fitzpatrick. It’s just perception on my part, but I thought I saw an energized team playing with confidence last week. They won impressively at Cleveland and I’m counting on that momentum rolling into today’s game.
Make no mistake, this is no cinch. The Bengals have lost just twice when AJ Green plays and they’re very good when they’re right. But I also feel as though Andy Dalton can be dominated by good defenses, and that’s really the key here. The Houston defense is capable of containing opposing offenses and we all know that Dalton is not exactly Mr. Consistency.
In terms of data, this is very close. I utilize a couple of formulas to come up with NFL lines, and while I’ll admit these are not all that reliable during the first half of the season, they generally do quite well late. Both sets have Houston winning, albeit by extremely slim margins. Thus, if we’re talking value, there is none to be had here as Houston is indeed the small favorite.
My take is more on the feel I’m getting with Mallett now the QB for the Texans. If he bounces off the impressive debut, so be it, and I’ll probably lose this play. But if Mallett can build on that performance, or just manage to maintain, I like the home team’s chances. I think this could be one of the better games on the Sunday NFL slate, and my money will be on the Texans to emerge with the win and cover.