Friday, October 21, 2016

Football 2016: Week Eight

The unbeaten Aggies return to action after their open date, and tomorrow they play one of the most important games of the Kevin Sumlin era at unbeaten Alabama. The Tide is favored by 17 points (and as many as 19 in some places). Both teams are coming off wins over Tennessee. The Aggies squeaked by the Vols two weeks ago, winning on a pass interception in the second overtime. Alabama demolished the Vols 49-10 last week, and held the Tennessee offense to 163 total yards after the Vols ran up 700 yards and 38 points on the A&M defense.

This is the CBS showcase game at 2:30, and if the Aggies could pull off a win on the road, it would make this a special season. I don't expect that to happen. College Football News predicts Alabama will pull away in the 4th quarter to win 37-24. If A&M can keep it that close, it might be considered a moral victory. I'll watch this one as long as A&M is ahead, tied, or no more than 14 points behind.

UPDATE 4:16 PM 22 OCTOBER: Alabama has looked like the vastly superior team for most of the first half, but Texas A&M has somehow made just enough good plays to stay in the game at 13-7, respectable but not good enough to win.

SECOND UPDATE 5:38 PM: A&M scored on their first possession in the third quarter to lead 14-13. Since then, it's been all Alabama, and with 12:27 left in the game, the Tide now leads by three scores at 33-14. Since A&M is behind more more than 14 points, I'm free to get on with my life.

FINAL UPDATE 7:31 PM: Alabama was content to run out the clock, and 33-14 was the final score. This game confirmed what we already knew: The Aggies must play flawless football to have any chance of beating teams like Alabama. Turnovers and penalties like those we saw in this game will get them stomped by 19 points.

Other semi-interesting SEC games and CFN score predictions:
  • Arkansas (5-2) at Auburn (4-2), with Auburn favored by ten points. Prediction: Auburn wins 30-26. On ESPN at 5:00 PM. UPDATE: Auburn thrashed Arkansas 56-3. Whoa.
  • Mississippi State (2-4) at Kentucky (3-3), with MSU favored by a field goal. Prediction: The Bulldogs win 23-17. On SEC at 6:30 PM. UPDATE: Mississippi State has fallen back into the lower end of the SEC after its 40-38 loss to Kentucky.
  • Ole Miss (3-3) at LSU (4-2), with LSU favored by 5.5 points. Prediction: LSU wins 34-23. On ESPN at 8:00 PM. UPDATE: Good news, bad news. The good news is that Ole Miss is probably not as strong as I thought, but the bad news is that LSU is stronger. My gut feeling today is that Texas A&M will lose to one of these teams. LSU won 38-21.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Football 2016: Week Seven

Things calm down this weekend since Texas A&M has an open date, one they need after injuries accumulated in their last two games. The SEC games on television are just so-so.

Alabama at Tennessee is the 2:30 showcase game on CBS, matching last week's opponent (Tennessee) against next week's opponent (Alabama). This is must-see football for that reason alone. College Football News predicts it will be a 45-34 win for the Tide, and based upon what I've seen of both teams to date, that seems about right. UPDATE: I was sort of hoping that Tennessee would hang in there and give Alabama as tough a game as they gave A&M last Saturday. Instead, the Vols were on the bad end of a 49-10 stomping.

Other TV games and the CFN score prediction:
  • Vanderbilt at Georgia (Bulldogs win 28-13) UPDATE: Vanderbilt stuns Georgia in an upset 17-16.
  • Missouri at Florida (Gators win 26-16). UPDATE: This was no contest, with Florida winning big 40-14.
  • Ole Miss at Arkansas (Rebels win 45-40) UPDATE: I was quietly pulling for Arkansas, but didn't think they could win. I was wrong. Razorbacks 34 Ole Miss 30.
  • Southern Miss at Louisiana State (LSU wins 41-20) UPDATE: LSU is looking strong after the coaching change, and beat USM easily 45-10.
PS: Mississippi State played Friday night and lost 28-21 to Brigham Young (2OT). 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Football 2016: Week Six

By tomorrow night, Texas A&M will have played one half of the games on their regular season schedule, and with luck they'll be 6-0 for the first time in Sumlin's tenure as head coach. For two consecutive years, the Aggies punched out 5-0 starts before the wheels came off, and I'm not convinced it won't happen again. The comforting thought is that the 2016 team looks more like an SEC West contender than any of the four previous editions.

Here's this week's TV game selection:

Oklahoma vs Texas (11:00 AM): In the old SWC days, this was a game I almost always watched, because OU was one of the few teams capable of kicking longhorn ass on a regular basis. Then A&M moved into the Big 12 with OU, and they were the ones getting their asses kicked. After I started hating OU and Texas U equally, I lost interest in their annual shootout. This year, both are 2-2 and off the list of serious championship contenders. The Sooners are favored by 10.5 points, but College Football News thinks the Strong horns are feeling more desperate and will pull off an upset win (37-31). UPDATE: The Sooners held off the Strong horns 45-40.

Auburn at Mississippi State (11:00 AM on SECN). The Aggies have already beaten Auburn, and still have to play MSU. The Bulldogs are 2.5 point home underdogs, and CFN predicts they'll lose 27-17. UPDATE: Either Auburn is getting better, or Mississippi State isn't very good. Auburn rolled them 38-14.

LSU at Florida: This might have been an interesting game, but it's been postponed due to the hurricane. LSU was a FG favorite, and CFN expected them to win 23-17. We'll see what the prediction is when (or if) this game is rescheduled.

Tennessee at Texas A&M: This is the 2:30 PM showcase game on CBS, and both teams are 5-0 and nationally ranked. The odds makers have A&M installed as a TD favorite, and CFN thinks the Aggies will win 31-26 at home. Getting to 6-0 against the Vols would be a big step in the right direction for A&M. UPDATE 4:36 PM SATURDAY: So far, so good. The Aggies are ahead 21-7 at halftime. SECOND UPDATE 7:30 PM: Texas A&M struggled in the second half, blew a big lead, but managed to win 45-38 in the second OT period. The Volunteers turned the ball over seven times, including the interception that ended this mess.

Alabama at Arkansas (6:00 PM on ESPN). Like Auburn, the Razorbacks have already lost to A&M, so I'm curious to see how they hold up against the Tide, who are favored by two touchdowns. The CFN forecast is a 23-20 upset win for the hogs. I doubt they'll get it, but it won't bother me if they can pull it off. UPDATE: No upset here. Alabama too much for the Razorbacks, winning 49-30.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Football 2016: Week Five

It doesn't seem possible, but this college football season is nearly halfway over. The SEC schedule is mostly mismatches with a few interesting games sprinkled into the mix. The only games I might watch on television tomorrow are these:
  • Tennessee at Georgia: This is the CBS showcase game at 2:30 pm, and the Vols are a 3.5 point favorite. College Football News predicts a good game, with Tennessee coming out on top 27-23. UPDATE: The prediction was pretty close. Tennessee won this one 34-31. The Aggies will have their hands full next week.
  • Texas A&M at South Carolina (SECN at 3:00 pm). The Aggies are the big (18 point) favorites, and the Gamecocks have not been impressive so far. The important things A&M needs to accomplish are (a) getting a W on the scoreboard, and (b) getting back to Texas with all their players healthy. CFN thinks they'll meet the first goal, winning 27-14. I'll take that, as long as they don't lose any starters to injury. UPDATE: If you want easy wins, play Prairie View every Saturday. There are no easy games in the SEC. This was a perfect trap game for A&M, sandwiched between a tough physical battle against Arkansas and a potential showdown game with Tennessee. The Aggies were missing several key players, and several more were injured today, including the top two running backs. At any rate, A&M held on to win 24-13.
  • Missouri at LSU (SECN at 6:30 pm). I hate both of these teams, so I don't particularly care which one wins. LSU has cut Les Miles loose after four games, so this one is mostly worth watching to see how LSU responds to the transition in the coaching staff. CFN believes LSU will cover the spread (13) with a 30-13 stomping of the visitors. UPDATE: The LSU team handed the new LSU coach a nice win 42-13, and now they look dangerous again.
  • Texas at Oklahoma State (11:00 am on ABC). An important game in the BDF, with Okie State a narrow (2.5) favorite at home. I love to watch the Strong horns get reamed, but CFN thinks they'll survive 37-34 on the road. I might watch a quarter or so of this mess. UPDATE: I hate OSU, but I watched the fourth quarter to see them flog a team I hate even more. The Strong horns take a hard fall in a 49-31 loss.
Other College Football News predictions:
  • Arkansas bounces back from last week's defeat with a 55-7 stomping of Alcorn State. UPDATE: Razorbacks get well 52-10.
  • Florida, favored by 10, rolls over Vanderbilt 27-10. UPDATE: The Gators won 13-6 in what turned out to be a defensive struggle.
  • TCU, a home underdog, knocks off Oklahoma 38-34. UPDATE: The Sooners hold off a late comeback effort by TCU in a 52-46 win. Next week's game between OU and the Strong horns will probably see combined score of 100 points or so, since neither team plays much defense based on today's results.
  • Alabama, favored by five TDs, manhandles weakling Kentucky 49-10. UPDATE: Another day at the office for the Tide. Kentucky held them to a 34-6 win.
  • Ole Miss, favored by two TDs, will outlast Memphis in a 44-34 shootout. UPDATE: The Rebels can score lots of points against anybody, and today they beat Memphis 48-28.
  • Auburn is favored by 33.5 points and should steamroll Louisiana-Monroe 40-13. UPDATE: Auburn looked strong in a 58-7 romp over ULM.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Football 2016: Week Four

There are four interesting SEC games on TV this Saturday, just enough to keep me stationed in front of the tube all day if I'm so inclined.
  • The early game (ESPN 11:00 AM) features undefeated Georgia (3-0) at Ole Miss (1-2), with Ole Miss favored by a touchdown at home. What makes this an interesting game? Well, Ole Miss is lurking as a future Texas A&M opponent. College Football News expects the Rebels will win 30-24. UPDATE: Ole Miss blew substantial leads in losses to Florida State and Alabama, but not today. Ahead 31-0 at the half, the Rebels cruised to a 45-14 demolition of the Bulldogs. The Ole Miss offense looks too potent for the Aggies as things stand today.
  • The conference showcase game on CBS (2:30 PM) offers unbeaten Florida at unbeaten Tennessee. The Volunteers are the favorite at 6.5 points, and this game is interesting because, like Ole Miss, the Vols also play the Aggies later this season. The CFN forecast: Tennessee 20 Florida 17. UPDATE: Florida walked all over the Vols to lead 21-3 at the half. Now 21-10 in the third quarter. SECOND UPDATE: Tennessee came alive in the second half in an impressive comeback, winning 38-28.
  • The early evening game (ESPN 5:00 PM) matches LSU against Auburn, with Auburn a 3.5 point underdog at home. Why is this game interesting? Auburn was A&M's most recent opponent, and LSU is their final opponent of the regular season. I want to see how a team the Aggies have already beaten looks against a team they haven't been able to beat since they joined the SEC. CFN thinks LSU will manage a 26-17 victory. UPDATE: This is the first time since A&M joined the SEC that LSU looks like they can be had. Auburn slugged it out with them to win 18-13.
  • Finally, the late game (ESPN 8:00 PM) is Arkansas vs Texas A&M at Arlington. Both teams are 3-0, and the Aggies are a 6 point pick. Arkansas is 0-4 against A&M since the Aggies joined the SEC, but the two most recent games were dogfights decided in overtime. CFN predicts the Razorback OL will be the dominant force Saturday, setting up a 30-27 Arkansas win. I hope they're wrong about that. UPDATE: For the first time since Sumlin arrived at Texas A&M, the Aggies have the appearance of a team that was built to compete in the SEC West. They have a salty defense that can stuff running plays and make stands at the goal line, and they have enough capable running backs to score rushing touchdowns themselves. I hope tonight's performance against Arkansas was a demonstration of what A&M football will look like for the next few years. The Aggies dominated in the second half to turn a close (17-17) game into a 45-24 thumping.