Thursday

ST Top 10 College Football Poll & 2008 College Football Picks: Week 5


Hello again everybody...

I'm really excited for today's column for a lot of reasons, so I'm going to skip the usual preamble and get right to it!

First off, even though Thursdays are, and will continue to be, focused on college football, I have to toss in a couple of quick baseball notes:


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- Twins 3, White Sox 2
2 up and 2 down for Minnesota. Game 1 was a blow out. Game 2 was a nail-biter. The Twins played classic small-ball and received solid pitching performances not only from starter Nick Blackburn, but also from a recently beleaguered bullpen. It was the kind of gritty performance you love to see as a fan when you're team's battling for their playoff lives.

Now comes the key game. Win tonight and the Twins are in first place. Lose, and they're 1.5 games back and the last two nights go for naught. And here comes Gavin Floyd (16-8, 3.84) for the White Sox. Floyd's been a Twins-killer this year with a 3-1 record versus Minnesota with a 1.86 ERA. If there's any hope for the Twins, it's that Floyd's been better at home than on the road where he's 7-5 with a 4.05 ERA. The Twins counter with Kevin Slowey (12-11, 3.85) who's done his best work at Metrodome (7-4, 3.04).

Now that the Dodgers Magic Number has been reduced to 1, the Twins are the last DFT hope. Come on boys, don't leave me bored during the playoffs!

- Milwaukee 4, Pittsburgh 2/ Chicago 9, NY Mets 6 F-11
I doubted you Crew fans, and now you've done it. By virtue of the two scores above, the Brewers have tied the Mets for the Wildcard lead. Each team is 87-71 with 4 games remaining. If the race ends in a tie, a playoff game would be held Monday. And to be honest, I haven't heard where it would be played yet. Perhaps one of my Wisconsin readers could clue us in?

If you're not having fun watching these races, I'm not sure what I can really do with you. Really...

Right... moving on...

I'm perhaps more excited by the next segment than any other I've introduced since I started this blog back in April. It's time to unveil the first ever Sports Take Top 10 College Football Poll!

Before I get to the results, I'd like to thank the loyal ST readers who participated in this week's voting. There's always room for more voters, so if you're interested in participating next week or in future weeks, please drop me a line at: dcook93@yahoo.com.

So without further ado, here are the results of polling after four weeks of college football action:

1. USC (5) - 94

2. Oklahoma (2) - 78

3. Florida - 74

4. Georgia (2) - 71

5. LSU (1) - 61

6. Missouri - 54

7. Texas - 42

8. Alabama - 30

9. Wisconsin - 20

10. BYU - 9

Others Receiving Votes: Penn State 6, Texas Tech 6, Ohio State 3, Wake Forest 2

I don't think there are any major surprises in the poll. A surprise of the minor variety to me is that USC only got 5 of a possible 10 first place votes (the numbers in parentheses). I guess I expected that to be higher. But overall I thought the voters did a heck of a job. And nobody even tried to sneak a 4-0 Minnesota in at number 10! Too bad Gopher fans, that was your last shot this year! (Ooooh... cheap shot!)

Again my thanks to the voters. It seems like people had fun doing it. So let the debating begin! See something you see is out of whack? Add a comment to the blog and let us know why! Another version of the poll comes out next Thursday.

Finally today it's time for my Week 5 College Football Picks! This week I'm tweaking the format a little, listing the games in chronological order rather than in "order of confidence". I'll still point out which is the "Flier Pick" and which one I like best. With that...

Were recreational gaming legal, and were I to have the wherewithal to make a worthwhile wager, these are the games I'd be betting on:

Minnesota +18 @ Ohio State (11am): The Gophers are 4-0 (0-0). The Buckeyes are 3-1 (0-0).

I'm going against two wagering maxims here, so you can predict what the "What Dan Learned" paragraph will look like on Monday if this doesn't work out for me. One, I'm taking the road underdog, and two, I'm going against the money. This game opened at OSU -17 and moved to -18.

(Recreational Gaming 101 - The line moves in response to where the money goes. In this case, if more people are betting on OSU, the spread gets larger in an attempt to get betters to take Minnesota. If more people bet Minnesota, the spread gets smaller in an attempt to get betters to take OSU.

Sports Books want to balance the money they get on any given game, because that covers their losses. Here's how it works. If I wanted to bet this game, I'd have to wager 11-10 on the team I chose. For example, I'd have to bet $110 on Minnesota to win $100. That difference is called "the Vig". The Vig is how book-makers make their money. If a book-maker takes in $1100 on OSU and $1100 on Minnesota, then they take $1000 from the losing side to pay the winning side, and keep $100 for themselves. This is an extremely simplified example, but you get the general idea.)

So in this game, more money's being bet on OSU to win -18 points, than on Minnesota to win +18 points. I have no clue why this is.

Minnesota's offense has proven it can score points, while Ohio State's defense has proven it can give up points. That makes it tough for me to believe that OSU will win by 18+.

Yes, I know that Chris "Beanie" Wells is making his triumphant return for the Buckeyes this week, but I find it terribly difficult to believe he's all the way back to 100%. There still hasn't been anything remotely resembling full disclosure on his injury, and that still says to me that he's hurt worse than OSU has let on. Freshman QB Terrelle Pryor showed glimpses last week why he was so highly recruited. He's got tons of talent. But he's still a freshman. And that makes him vulnerable to mistakes.

Apparently other people are seeing something here that I'm not, but I'm going with my instincts and taking Minnesota +18 here.

Next...

Ball State -18 vs. Kent State (11am): Ball St. is 4-0. Kent St. is 1-3.

Loyal ST reader Scott from Eau Claire has been sending me picks of his own since Week 1. Unfortunately, he's imitating my picking ability from last year, so I haven't used any of them. But this week, he and I are thinking along the same lines. To wit, here's his reasoning on this game:

"I know it's a bunch of points, but here's my logic-
(Each team has a win versus a Division 1AA team, but here are the results not counting those)

Ball State (4-0): 12-point win versus Navy; 17-point win at Akron; 22-point win at Indiana.

Kent State (1-3): 21-point loss versus Boston College; 20-point loss at Iowa State (ISU's only win versus a Div 1A team); 17-point loss at Louisiana-Lafayette (ULL's only win versus a Div 1A team)

Not only is Kent State losing, it is losing to bad teams. Ball State is at home, and more than that, it's Ball State's Homecoming weekend! The stadium will be filled to capacity and the Homecoming crowd will be deafening. This will keep the Cards amped all afternoon. The Cardinals need impressive wins to get into the "BCS Buster" talk, I think this one could be ugly."

I can't refute any of that, but I'm going to hedge my bet and make this the official Sports Take Flier Pick of the Week. So let's give the 18 and take Ball State!

Thirdly...

Auburn -6.5 vs. Tennessee (2:30pm): Auburn is 3-1 (1-1). Tennessee is 1-2 (0-1)

This is another line that left me scratching my head. Yes, I still do that even with the limited amount of hair I have to scratch!

Auburn went toe-to-toe with LSU, last year's national champs, and only lost in the closing minute. Tennessee got worked by Florida at home, and lost on the road to a UCLA team that's been crushed every game since. Auburn's at home and motivated coming off a loss. Tennessee's wondering if their head coach is going to survive the season.

How is this line not Auburn -14?!

This seems pretty straight-forward to me, so we're giving the 6.5 and picking Auburn to win.

I should also mention, this is another pick Scott from Eau Claire agrees with me on, so take that into account before you bet the retirement fund on this game.

Finally...

Stanford +3.5 @ Washington (9pm): Stanford is 2-2 (1-1). Washington is 0-3 (0-1).

Two road underdogs in the same week?! Am I mad?!

Perhaps, but this one seems logical to me. Washington is horrible. The game against BYU sucked the soul out of them. And now people aren't asking if Ty Willingham will keep his job, they're asking who'll be the next head coach. Not a good sign.

Stanford is 0-2 on the road, but both of those games were against legit teams: Arizona St. and TCU. Again, I'll remind you, Washington is awful. As long as head coach Jim Harbaugh keeps his charges from looking ahead to Notre Dame, I think Stanford wins this game outright. And getting the 3.5 is just icing on the cake.

So there are your 4 picks for this week. Enjoy the games on Saturday and look for the Week 5 Post-Mortem on Monday!

That's all for today. I'm back tomorrow with more baseball. I'll either be jubilant with the Twins in the lead of the Central, or I'll be desolate and trying to figure out the math on how the Twins can avoid elimination. Until then, thanks for reading!

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