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College Capper: Handicapping Week 11

Greg Vara

Vara is the lead golf writer at RotoWire. He was named the 2013 FSWA Golf Writer of the Year. In addition to producing the weekly preview and the bulk of the draft kit content, Vara participates in Yahoo!'s "Experts Picks" where he routinely dominates. He also picks college football games against the spread in his "College Capper" article.

With just a few weeks remaining in the tournament, otherwise known as the regular season, the national title picture is as clear as ever. By clear I mean murky and by ever I mean the past seven days. This time around, LSU threw a wrench into the mix by knocking off Alabama last week. Why was that win so important to the national title picture? For starters, Alabama, even with one loss had an inside track to the national title game if it had won out. The Auburn/Alabama game was to be a de facto SEC championship match-up, otherwise known as a pass to the national title game. With its loss this past weekend, Alabama blew any chance it had at cracking the top two in the BCS standings, the Tide however have a big role in determining who will end up in the second BCS spot though because a loss to Auburn all but assures the Tigers of one of the final two sports, while an Alabama victory opens up everything and I mean everything.

The possible scenarios that result from an Alabama win later this month are nearly endless. Well, not endless, but you get the point. Undefeated TCU and Boise State as well as one loss teams, Ohio State, LSU and Nebraska will make their case to be Oregon's final opponent of the 2010 season and the cries for a true playoff will be louder than ever and this time, when I say ever, I mean ever.

My guess is the above scenario plays out as Alabama will beat Auburn opening the doors of debate. TCU made a huge statement this past week by dismantling the Utes, but the Horned Frogs will have to hope that win has some staying power as they have no “big dogs” left on their schedule. Boise on the other hand gets a strength of schedule boost when it faces Nevada later this month and Virginia Tech’s ACC performance is certainly helping the cause as well.

The bottom line is this, no matter the outcome of the Iron Bowl, there are going to be a lot of unhappy people as either TCU or Boise will be left out of the national title picture. The important thing for now however is that one of the two play for a national championship. Although it’s not the be all end all, a David vs. Goliath scenario will go a long way to shaping the college football landscape over the next decade.

The avoid list:

Texas: Well I guess the ‘Horns performance this past weekend answered a lot of questions, mainly, does this team have any fight left in them. I expect Texas to play hard against A&M later this month, but any game before and after that is a crapshoot.

On the radar:

USC: Your guess is as good as mine. Most of the public expected a fairly easy win this past week against ASU and although the game appeared headed that way, the Trojans could not stick a fork in their opponent. Motivation is certainly in question here as the Trojans have no bowl game to play for down the stretch.

Weekly recap:

Record: 8-2

Record YTD: 64-58-1

Units: +7.8

Units YTD: +1.7

Best Win: Kansas: I’ll be honest, after Colorado opened up by 28 in the second half, I stopped paying attention. To my surprise, Kansas not only covered, but it won outright, which lead to the firing of Dan Hawkins this week.

Worst Loss: Clemson: Only two to choose from last week, and although Utah was a bad loss because the Utes were never in the game, the Clemson loss was more difficult to swallow because they could have and possibly should have covered. The Tigers made several mistakes on their way to a one-point victory including a minus 4 in turnover margin and a couple missed field goals all of which contributed to a one-point margin instead of something more appropriate, such as four points.

Weekly Rant:

It’s been a while since we’ve had a major instant replay controversy, but after witnessing an absolutely baffling call during the Baylor-OSU on Saturday, I have to wonder how many of these under the radar calls happen each week.

The call in question came in the second half of what turned out to be a blowout victory by OSU, so anyone with rooting interest for either side were likely to stay quiet no matter the outcome, but there was still a small population with some interest in this game if you know what I mean.

Anyhow, Baylor had possession on the OSU side of the field. RG III sent a pass to the right side of the field that appeared to bounce off the ground and into the hands of the Baylor WR. Upon further review, the ball never did touch the ground; it had in fact bounce off the defender and into the hands of the WR. The replay official however decided to side with the official on the field, and yes, I purposely said official and not officials.

When the play occurred, two officials on the field thought it was a catch, but one official; presumably the back judge came in and said no, the ball hit the ground, which changed the call on the field to an incomplete pass. When the play was challenged, the replay official had to see evidence that the play should be overturned. Though there was clear evidence, the replay official took the safe road and sided with the call on the field.

Have you ever noticed that the second an official comes in and rules a pass incomplete; the pass is immediately ruled incomplete? There could be three officials surrounding the play, each of which think it’s a catch and all it takes is one official to come in and emphatically slam his hand on the ground and suddenly that’s the end of the discussion. Now, most times, I would agree that if one official can clearly see the ball hit the ground, then yes, he should have authority to make the ruling, but that’s exactly what happened in the case mentioned above, yet that official was wrong. His incomplete call however took precedence over the other officials, which then influenced the replay official.

Perhaps with the technology we have now, we should just have the replay official make the call as he sees it, instead of backing an official on the field that may or may not have made his own mistake when making the call.

Capper Angle:

This season has been pretty tame concerning the weather on Saturday’s, but that could change at any time.

If you’ve read this article over the past few years, you know that I like playing the totals about as often as the sides. However, this time of year the weather can wreak havoc on your bankroll if you aren’t careful.

What looks like an easy over on Wednesday, could turn into a nightmare on Saturday when a little wind and rain are thrown into the mix.

My advice is to check the weather on each game. This can be easily accomplished by running a Google search on “college football weather”. You’ll find numerous web pages with all the weather information you could ever want. The nice thing is, on many sites, all the games are listed on one page, so you can quickly scroll down the page to see where weather might be coming into play.

With that said, I wouldn’t suggest switching an over pick to an under pick based on the weather. The best course is to simply not play the over. Sure, if the over hits, you’ll be kicking yourself, but more times than not, you’ll save money by pulling an over play in inclement weather.

If you are putting a lot of emphasis on the weather, look for the wind speed as that will have more of an effect on the scoring than precipitation.

Week Twelve:

Thursday Night:

Pittsburgh at Connecticut: We’ve seen this before. Just a two weeks ago, Connecticut played West Virginia at home in front of a national TV audience, and won. Can the Huskies pull off another upset win under similar circumstances? Not if they play like they did two weeks ago. Though they won the game, I was not impressed by the Huskies that night. The victory had more to do with West Virginia’s inability to find any rhythm. Sure, that was partly based on what Connecticut was doing on defense, but Pittsburgh appears to be a better team than West Virginia and the Panthers have the benefit of seeing what the Huskies did to slow West Virginia two weeks ago and as such, they’ll make the necessary adjustments.

Side: Pittsburgh -5.5 (1)


Boise State at Idaho: Boise State is simply not going to slip up the rest of the way. The Broncos have met every challenge this season, but they know that their work is nowhere near complete and considering the impression that TCU made on the nation last week, Boise State needs to win and win big this week to stem the momentum that TCU gained last week.

Side: Boise State -35 (1)


Maryland at Virginia: Virginia laid a big egg last week in a spot where it could have won at Duke, but considering bowl eligibility is on the line over the final few weeks, the Cavaliers need to win this game at home on Saturday. Maryland is not a team that should be favored on the road.

Side: Virginia +1.5 (1)

Cincinnati at West Virginia: Both of these teams can move the ball on offense and although West Virginia has a healthy defense, the total is set pretty low here. Collaros is back under center for the Bearcats and they should be able to keep up with the Mountaineers for most of the day.

Total: Over 47.5 (1)

Miami at Georgia Tech: Both starting QBs are out for this match-up, which means defense should rule the day. Georgia Tech finally showed some signs of life late last week after Nesbitt went out, but the offense is by no means humming. The defenses will also have another edge because both reserve QBs saw some game action last week and there will be enough tape to properly game plan against them.

Total: Under 50.5 (2)

Michigan at Purdue: This line is baffling. Sure, Michigan should be able to run up and down the field all day, but how exactly are the Wolverines going to stop anyone on defense? Purdue has struggled against the upper-echelon teams in the Big-Ten this season, but Michigan is not one of those teams.

Side: Purdue +13 (2)
Total: Over 62 (2)

Texas Tech at Oklahoma: Considering the results from this past Saturday, this line looks a little off, however Oklahoma is a different beast at home and 14 points is not exactly a tall task for the Sooners in Norman. The Red Raiders will likely be riding high after their win last week against Missouri, but they’ll soon realize that they are in for a long day after Oklahoma scores early and often.

Side: Oklahoma -14.5 (1)

Texas A&M at Baylor: Baylor struggled last week in a tough spot at Oklahoma State, but this situation should be much easier to navigate for the Bears. Expect plenty of points and an outright Baylor victory.

Side: Baylor +3 (1)
Total: Over 64.5

South Carolina at Florida: Judging by how each team played last week, this one looks pretty easy, but factor in the respective opponents and it becomes a little murky. Florida routed a poor Vanderbilt and while that is a sign that the Gator offense is improving, I still don’t buy that they can move the ball on against a good team. South Carolina was shredded on defense last week, but let’s not forget who they were up against, Ryan Mallett and a very impressive passing offense. Florida does not have the ammunition to move the ball in the same manner as such, will struggle to put up a lot of points.

Side: South Carolina +6.5 (1)

Iowa State at Colorado: I can’t tell you how the Buffaloes will respond a week following a horrible loss and the dismissal of their head coach, but I can tell you this, every player in that locker room is aware of the point spread and being an underdog at home to Iowa State is not going to sit well with anyone. Frankly I am a little surprised by this line, sure Iowa State has proven it can win on the road, but that was in an underdog role against a giant opponent. This situation this week is completely different.

Side: Colorado +2.5 (1)

BYU at Colorado State: It can be argued that both of these squads played their best game of the season last week, but BYU was more impressive and I think the Cougars continue their mini-roll this week.

Side: BYU -6.5 (1)

Utah at Notre Dame: Utah was embarrassed last week while in the national spotlight and I can only assume the Utes are looking for some redemption this week. The good news for the Utes is, they are right back in the national spotlight as they head to South Bend. The Fighting Irish are a mess right now and things are only going to get worse this week as they head into this match-up without their starting QB. Expect Utah to right the ship this week and add yet another low point to Notre Dame’s miserable season.

Side: Utah -6.5 (2)

Oregon at California: One thing is guaranteed each week, the Ducks are going to score a lot of points. Even last week, when they couldn’t crack the 20-point barrier in the first half, they still managed to put up over 50 points. Perhaps the key to slowing down Oregon was revealed in the first half last week against Washington, but maybe just maybe, Oregon has already made the adjustments. Judging by the Ducks’ production in the second half, I’d say they figured out what the opposing defense was trying to do. This week will be much the same, the Ducks will get theirs and the Bears should contribute as well.

Total: Over 58 (2)

Kansas State at Missouri: One team coming off a huge win and the other coming off consecutive disappointing losses. I’ll side with the team coming off the losses, at home.

Side: Missouri -12.5 (1)

Nevada at Fresno State: Lost in all the Boise State and Nevada conversation is the fact that Fresno State is playing pretty well this season. The Bulldogs have a reputation as a giant slayer and although Nevada doesn’t quite qualify as such, I think Fresno will get amped up for this game.

Side: Fresno State +9.5 (1)