"Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel"

My new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" is the follow-up to "Illegal Procedure" and "Roughing the Passer" and is now available in print and in e-formats at amazon.com, smashwords.com and iBooks. Follow me on twitter @kevinkrest.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEK 11 PICKS: CAN BAYLOR BEAT A QUALITY OPPONENT AND WILL THE COMMITTEE'S PICKS KEEP WINNING?



I’m in total agreement with the four teams at the top of the playoff committee’s rankings. I have the same teams at the top for the following reasons:

Clemson (9 – 0): Most possibly the most complete and balanced team I’ve seen on both sides of the ball. They can run, pass, defend on the ground, are terrific at pass defense and play good special teams. They have victories over Notre Dame and Florida State, two of the top teams in the nation. 

Ohio State (9 – 0): Most of the talk about the Buckeyes has to do with their quarterback situation, but they have a tough defense that doesn’t have a glaring weakness. Offensively, they could be better at throwing the ball, but part of that is due to the uncertainty at quarterback and the ability of running back Ezekiel  Elliott to pound the ball. 

Alabama (8 – 1): I think the Crimson Tide is the toughest team I’ve watched play this season. Their lone loss was a five turnover disaster against Ole Miss and they still came within six points of a win. It’s almost impossible to mount a running game against them and they’re able to control the line of scrummage, limiting opposing teams’ time of possession.

Notre Dame (8 – 1): The Irish have lost only to Clemson, while winning the rest in what has become a very difficult schedule. Temple and Navy each have a lone loss, both to Notre Dame. Balance is also a trademark of the Irish, but defensively they may be vulnerable when they have to shut down Christian McCaffery of Stanford later in the season.

My disagreement with the committee is where they have Iowa and Oklahoma. The Hawkeyes haven’t lost, but for some reason, evidenced by the placement of Northwestern and Wisconsin, the committee appears to be overvaluing the Big Ten West. Oklahoma is a very good team that laid an egg against rival Texas. However, the Sooners get a chance to make up for that loss by taking care of the rest of their schedule.

Overall, I think the committee has it way more right than wrong and eventually the results of the games will probably bear that out. Now for this week’s picks.

Last Week:  21 – 6
Overall:  182 – 52   78%


Virginia Tech (4 - 5) 30 @ Georgia Tech (3 - 6) 24: Georgia Tech’s offense is traditionally difficult to defend, but there are two factors working in Virginia Tech’s favor this season. First, the Hokies' defensive coordinator Bud Foster has a good history of stopping the Yellow Jackets, or at least containing them. Secondly, Ga. Tech isn’t hitting on all cylinders offensively and have virtually no passing game to go along with the running game, making them very one-dimensional. That’s not a recipe for success against Va. Tech.

Friday Night:

USC (6 - 3) 34 @ Colorado (4 – 6) 21: Colorado’s defense is not very effective, while USC continues to improve on both sides of the ball, resulting in a three game winning streak.  The Trojans are still in the running in the Pac-12 South, especially since they hold the tiebreaker over Utah if they end up in a tie with the Utes. Games against Oregon and UCLA loom large if USC is to make it to the conference championship game. 

Saturday: 

Maryland (2 - 7) 17 @ (13) Michigan State (8 - 1) 30: The Spartans saw their shot at the playoffs all but disappear with their last second loss to Nebraska. But they still control their own destiny in the Big Ten East by virtue of their miracle win over Michigan. Unfortunately, they just haven’t been playing well enough for me to think they can take down Ohio State next week on the road in the Horseshoe.

Purdue (2 - 7) 13 @ (18) Northwestern (7 - 2) 24: After consecutive blowout losses to Michigan and Iowa, the Wildcats responded with narrow victories over Nebraska and Penn State. I don’t think Northwestern belongs in the committee’s top twenty-five, particularly based on their play in the last four games. They should be able to get by Purdue pretty easily, but a showdown with an improving Wisconsin team at Camp Randall awaits them next week. 


(11) Florida (8 - 1) 20 @ South Carolina (3 - 6) 13: The Gators were almost embarrassed by Vanderbilt at home in the Swamp last week, prompting the committee to keep them out of the top ten and ultimately hurting their chances of getting a playoff bid even if they win the SEC title. Ultimately, I think Florida’s lack of offensive consistency will result in another loss, but probably not this week. South Carolina just isn’t playing very good football right now. Of course, neither was Vanderbilt. Just sayin’. 

Kansas (0 - 9) 17 @  (15) TCU (8 - 1) 61: There’s no predicting just how many points TCU will put on the board this week against the worst defense in the FBS.


(3) Ohio State (9 - 0) 27 @ Illinois (5 - 4) 20: JT Barrett will back at QB for the Buckeyes after serving a one-game suspension. Illinois will be a decent test, especially in Champagne. Ohio State can’t afford to sleepwalk through a road game or they could find themselves out of the playoff conversation.


NC State (6 - 3) 23 @ (16) Florida State (7 - 2) 27: NC State’s defense is solid enough to give the ‘Noles’ sluggish offense some problems. The Wolfpack took Clemson almost to the wire in a shootout, the type of game Florida State might have trouble winning, especially after the loss at Clemson. 

Wake Forest (3 - 6) 16 @ (4) Notre Dame (8 - 1) 34: This game shouldn’t be too much of a hurdle for the Irish unless they fail to continue to impress the committee. Without a conference affiliation and a weak couple of games before ending the season at Stanford, Notre Dame could find themselves falling in the rankings.


(2) Alabama (8 - 1) 27 @ Mississippi State (7 - 2) 19: Is this a trap game for the Tide? It could be, but this isn’t a great matchup for the Bulldogs. Mississippi State has one of the weakest schedules in the SEC West and they haven’t shown the ability to challenge Alabama, at least not from looking at their last four game, victories over Troy, La. Tech, Kentucky and Missouri. They’ll be taking a big step up in class on Saturday.


(14) Michigan (7 - 2) 28 @ Indiana (4 - 5) 17: Michigan’s defense isn’t quite as dominant as it was earlier in the season, but Indiana’s defense will probably allow the Wolverines to move the ball. The Hoosiers seem to save their best performances for tough teams, losing to both Ohio State and Iowa by seven points. Jim Harbaugh’s bunch better not overlook Indiana if they want to stay in the hunt for the Big Ten crown. 


(1) Clemson (9 - 0) 37 @ Syracuse (3 - 6) 16: Clemson stayed focused in their big win over Florida State last week and will need continue that mindset this week at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse doesn’t have the athletes to stay on the filed with the Tigers, but it’s a tough place for visitors to play. I still look for Clemson to have an easy time of it. 


(8) Oklahoma State (9 - 0) 47@ Iowa State (3 - 6) 24: The Cowboys’ eighth ranked passing offense should make it a long day for the Cyclones’ 109th ranked air defense. 


(21) Memphis (8 - 1) 31 @ (24) Houston (9 - 0) 34: Houston should be a little angry that even after a loss, the Tigers are ahead of them in the committee’s rankings. This is a very compelling matchup of contrasting styles. The primary similarity is that neither team defends the pass very well. I think Houston, a running team, will learn a lot from the way Navy vanquished Memphis. I don’t think either of these teams can hang with the big boys on a regular basis, but I’ll flip a coin and take the home team. 


(22) Temple (8 - 1) 24 @  South Florida (5 - 4) 27: South Florida has a shot in this one and after a tough start that included losses to Florida State and Memphis, they’ve won four of their last five. The only blemish in that stretch is a twelve point loss at Navy. Temple is a very good team, but they aren’t dominating in any phase of the game.  I like the Bulls to pull an upset in the heat and humidity in Tampa. 


Arkansas (5 - 4) 30 @ (9) LSU (7 - 1) 27: The Hogs pulled a miracle at Ole Miss Saturday with the “Henry Heave”. They hope to take advantage of the Alabama hangover that LSU will be experiencing to get bowl eligible and build on last year’s 6 – 6 regular season record.  Arkansas has traditionally played LSU tough, but this game was played for years in the daytime due to the longstanding Friday after Thanksgiving slot.  Death Valley is an entirely different place under the lights. I still like Arkansas for three reasons: 1) They defend the run well. Not like Alabama, but well enough to slow down Leonard Fournette. 2) Teams have trouble the week after playing Alabama and 3) The maturation of QB Brandon Allen and the offensive line. They’ve learned to pass block and Allen has found ways to step up behind that big group and make good reads downfield.  
 
Oregon (6 - 3) 34 @ (7) Stanford (8 - 1) 38: The Ducks had a rough start to the season, but following a blowout loss to Utah they’ve rebounded for wins in four of their last five games. None has come against a team of the caliber of Stanford, but with nothing to lose on their trip to Palo Alto, I wouldn’t count them out of this one. That’s the good news. The bad news is that at 74th in the nation, their run defense is still vulnerable. And added to that, Stanford defends the run well, the strength of the Oregon attack. I’m staying with the Cardinal, but don’t be surprised if the Ducks put a scare into the home team.


(12) Oklahoma (8 - 1) 40 @ (6) Baylor (8 - 0) 31: In a must win game for the Sooners, they hope to become the first team to really slow down Baylor. I think they will and I’ve been consistent in my feeling that the Oklahoma is the most complete team in the Big 12. Baylor hasn’t played anyone yet and they’ll get a rude awakening against the best defense in the conference.  A lackluster performance by the Bears against a below average Kansas State team tends to lend credibility to the committee’s rankings. I believe the Big 12 will come down to the game between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State on Nov. 28, with the winner advancing to the playoffs.


Minnesota (4 - 5) 12 @ (5) Iowa (9 - 0) 24: Minnesota’s problem in this game will be getting on the scoreboard. The Golden Gophers are 102nd in total offense and they’ll be facing the 12th ranked defense. End of story. 


(10) Utah (8 - 1) 27 @ Arizona (5 - 5) 28: Utah is looking at another loss, maybe two on their schedule.Their lack of offensive firepower will eventually hurt them. I don’t see many upsets this week, but this is one of them. I’ve been picking the Utes to lose for the last few weeks, and maybe this will be the one. 


Washington State (6 - 3) 31 @ (19) UCLA (7 - 2) 37: I look for Jim Mora, the UCLA head coach, to try to run the ball relentlessly against the Cougars’ 109th ranked rushing defense.  It will keep Washington State’s high powered passing attack off the field and shorten the game. UCLA’s balanced offensive attack should be able to keep Washington State off balance. However, if the Bruins can’t run the ball, they could be in for a long night. 


Pittsburgh (6 - 3) 23 @ Duke (6 - 3) 30: Both of these teams are coming off back to back losses, with Duke having a really tough two weeks in which they had a game taken away from them by poor officiating and then getting destroyed by UNC. Pittsburgh also lost to UNC and then lost to a very good Notre Dame team. I have to favor Duke, not because of their poor excuse for an FBS stadium that lends virtually no home field advantage, but because their defense, despite last week’s drubbing, is on par with Pitt’s and their offense is significantly more productive. 


Miami (6 - 3) 27 @ (23) UNC (8 - 1) 31:The Tar Heels are on a roll and while interim coach Larry Scott has Mimi playing with more intensity, UNC is simply the better team. 


Texas (4 - 5) 24 @ West Virginia (4 - 4) 37: It’s hard to predict which Texas team will show up in Morgantown on Saturday. West Virginia had the misfortune, before last week’s win over Texas Tech, of having to face the top four Big 12 teams in succession, all losses. I look for West Virginia to run the table, starting against the Longhorns. 


Georgia (6 - 3) 24 @ Auburn (5 - 4) 27: Auburn seems to be showing some improvement, as does Georgia. The Tigers could have won their last six games, but lost to Arkansas in overtime and to Mississippi State and Ole Miss by eight. I like Auburn’s momentum and don’t like Georgia’s inconsistency on offense. Mark Richt is in real trouble in Athens.


SMU (1 – 8) 17 @ (20) Navy (7 – 1) 42: The Midshipmen showed they were for real with a big upset win over Memphis last week. SMU’s 122nd ranked rushing defense will offer little resistance to the nation’s third ranked ground game
 

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords. The third installment, "Offsetting Penalties" is due out in the fall.