Week 11 College and NFL Pick ‘Em: SportsChump vs The Wife Hates Sports vs Darrell Harden

Let’s keep this short and simple, shall we?

There’s been a lot of talk about scoring in this year’s NFL. 

This just in.  It’s down.  Not substantially but down enough for gamblers to take notice.

Unders are hitting at around a 60% clip, which means if you bet every game under this season, you’d be turning a profit.

We are seeing teams score an average of 2.34 touchdowns per game, which is the lowest since 2006.  Teams are scoring an average of 21.8 points per game, which is the lowest since 2017.  Scoring has decreased every year over the last four.

How can this be, you ask?  With a league designed to protect its quarterbacks, with a flag thrown for pass interference on seemingly every play, how can there be less scoring?

Very odd indeed and if it keeps up, you can rest assured that team owners will review this in the off-season if they deem it’s bad for business. 

That’s not to say fans want the return of Tecmo-Bowl-like play.  Defenses are stout, fast and physical.  For every Chiefs and Dolphins-like offense, there is a Jets and Niners-type defense to combat it.  Fans like big plays just as much as they like big tackles.

I listened to countless pundits say they were going to jump on Thursday night’s Bengals-Ravens game under 45 ½… only to see it go over, so if you’re an over/under bettor, follow your trends and as always bet with your gut.  These things have a way of correcting themselves.

Now, onto this week’s action.

$50 on Duke Blue Devils (-3 ½) at Virginia Cavaliers

I’m not quite sure what happened to Duke football.  We’ve talked about this in previous weeks.  They just can’t beat a ranked team.  With the sole exception of their early season victory over Clemson, the Dukies have fallen to Notre Dame, Florida State, Louisville, and lost an overtime heartbreaker to North Carolina.  This week, they play a team who is the exact opposite of ranked.  The Virginia Cavaliers are a lowly 2-8, their lone bright spot of the season an inconceivable victory over the Tar Heels.  At this point, the Cavaliers only have pride to play for but even that may have left campus early for Thanksgiving break.  The Dukies are the far better football team and, if motivated by last week’s loss, should go into Charlottesville and handle their business.  This spread is low so I’m jumping on it.  Duke minus 3 ½.

$40 on Michigan State at Indiana Hoosiers (-3 ½)

Michigan State probably cannot wait for this football season to end.  They are 1-6 in conference play.  They haven’t been that bad since 2016 and prior to that 2006.  This is a bad football team and a program in total disarray.  Indiana isn’t much better but at least we expect their football team to suck.  This is the perfect opportunity for the Hoosiers to kick their conference rivals while they’re down.  Indiana can be competitive when it wants to be, but I can’t say the same for a Michigan State team that is officially in the play dead part of its rolling over.  Give me the Hoosiers minus the 3 ½.

$30 on Minnesota Golden Gophers at Ohio State Buckeyes (-27 ½)

Minnesota has played three ranked teams this season: North Carolina, Iowa and Michigan.  In those three games, they scored 13, 10 and 12 points respectively.  This week, they travel to Columbus to face the almighty Buckeyes.  The Buckeyes are the second-best defensive team in the nation, one of only two schools allowing under ten points a game this late into the season.  The Buckeyes are also scoring about 33 points per game.  Minnesota is a middle-of-the-road team defensively which means this game has bludgeoning written all over it.  The over/under is 50.  That along with common sense, tells me that Las Vegas does not like Minnesota to score very much.  That along with the recent suspension of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has everyone with a buckeye stuck to their helmet smelling blood in the water.  They might not empty their playbook against Minnesota offensively, saving a little something for next week’s annual game of the year, but they won’t need to.  Minnesota’s inability to score will keep the Buckeyes with the ball, giving them plenty of opportunities to do what they do, which is beat an opponent handily.  Ohio State’s D will dominate, and the Bucks will cover the 27 ½ in their annual tune-up before their Thanksgiving bash with that team from up north.  Bucks cover.

$20 on Florida Gators (+11 ½) at Missouri Tigers

If it’s Saturday, that must mean more chatter from the Gainesville faithful about firing another football coach.  Billy Napier has yet to put forth any sort of consistent gameplan.  The Gators have lost three consecutive games and have allowed teams to score 39 or more in their last four.  The Gators sit at 5-5 and stare another missed bowl season squarely in the face.  If they don’t win this one on the road, it will be another long off-season while Coach Napier watches commits continue to break their promise to Florida and enroll in another program.  Napier’s job is safe, despite what it says in my multiple text strings from disgruntled fellow alum.  But keeping things close in their final conference game would go a long way in keeping the off-season noise to a dull roar.  Missouri is in the top ten and sits at 8-2.  Florida is getting 11 ½ points.  Florida’s offense has not been a problem.  It’s their defense that has been abysmal.  Either way, the Gators should be competitive enough to give this the old college football try.  I’ll take the orange, blue and 11 ½.

$10 on Los Angeles Chargers (-3) at Green Bay Packers

C’mon, you know I had to include an NFL game on the weekend’s slate.  The Green Bay Packers cannot beat a good team.  They have three wins this season against the Rams, Saints and Bears.  The Chargers are not a good football team but they’re not horrible.  The worst you can say about them is that they’re tremendous underachievers, which is what you can say about the Chargers every year.  They can’t beat a good team either.  What they can do, however, is beat a bad team.  They’ve lost to the Cowboys, Chiefs, Lions and Dolphins but have handled the Raiders, Jets and Bears.  If the Chargers play to their capabilities, which is perennially a problem for them, they should go into Lambeau and cover the three.  The Packers still can’t run the football effectively which means Jordan Love will have to beat the Chargers with his arm.  Did that give you any bit of confidence?  Me neither.  Chargers minus three. 

Darrell’s Picks: “Look What Kevin and Chris Made Me Do” (8-2, $240)

Once again, I’m back to make picks, coming off last year’s perfect 5-0 record. Will I hit that mark again? Don’t hold your breath. This weekend is the most important of the football season, as the Kelce family and the Swift family are expected to meet up in Kansas City. In honor of this very important occasion, I’ll include with each pick the most appropriate Taylor Swift song lyrics. Here we go!

50 points: Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions (-8)

I’m sorry

But the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now

Why? Oh, ’cause she’s dead (oh)

“Look What You Made Me Do” from Reputation … Taylor’s version coming soon

These are not the same old Lions. Honestly, they’re one of the true bright spots in the NFL this year and look like a team that’s destined to win the division (though Josh Dobbs would certainly like to expand his own feel-good story in Minnesota). With the Lions no longer being the same old Lions, though, someone has to fill that blank space, and the Chicago Bears have written their name. The Bears are bad, and I don’t see them putting up much of a fight against the not-at-all-the-same old Lions.

40 points: New Jersey (I said what I said) Jets (+7) at Buffalo Bills

You taught me ’bout your past, thinkin’ your future was me

And you were tossing me the car keys, “F**k the patriarchy”

Keychain on the ground, we were always skippin’ town

“All Too Well (10 Minute Version)” from Red (Taylor’s Version)

The Bills’ playoff chances appear to be skippin’ town. I knew they were trouble when I watched them put up 22 points against Denver. Josh Allen is confusing the football with that keychain, because it’s always on the ground or in the arms of a defender, where Allen feels shame while no one holds my lifeless, Bills-loving frame. New Jersey covers and probably wins. I still love you, Buffalo, and I always will, even when you break my heart.

30 points: Illinois at Iowa (-3)

Sometimes I feel like everybody is a sexy baby

And I’m a monster on the hill

Too big to hang out, slowly lurching toward your favorite city

Pierced through the heart, but never killed

“Anti-Hero” from Midnights

For a few years now, college football fandom has thought it funny when Iowa fans were mad, mad, mad, and we thought it best if Brian Ferentz just stayed. That marriage is ending when the season does, though, and even the knowledge that Iowa are never, ever, ever getting back together with Brian Ferentz would be enough to make this a good season for Hawkeyes fans, but they — buoyed by their excellent defense and the fact that none of the other B1G West (maybe B1G Central, given that the Pac 2 is officially a thing in the eyes of at least one judge) teams like to play offense either. Iowa wins 7-2 on the strength of a field goal and two safeties, and Tory Taylor cements his Ray Guy Award credentials and his NFL draft status. Note that I’m wagering more points here than I expect these teams to score.

20 points: Philadelphia Eagles (+3) at Kansas City Chiefs

I see me padding ‘cross your wooden floors

With my Eagles t-shirt hanging from the door

“Gold Rush” from evermore

I was so ready to go ahead and pick the home team here. The Chiefs have done nothing but win since Traylor (or Tayvis, or Swelce) became a thing, and the game is in Kansas City … but then I remembered the lyrics above. Conspiracy theory time: Taylor Swift is secretly an Eagles fan and this entire thing with Travis Kelce is an elaborate ruse to lull Kansas City into a false sense of confidence. A late tush push sees the Eagles win this one outright. Neither team will worry too much about the long-term implications, though, as everything will be alright — if they just keep dancing like they’re 22, anyway.

10 points: North Carolina (+7) at Clemson

You got that long hair, slicked back, white T-shirt

And I got that good girl faith and a tight little skirt

And when we go crashing down, we come back every time

‘Cause we never go out of style, we never go out of style

“Style” from 1989 (Taylor’s Version)

At least for now, anyway, Dabo Swinney hasn’t gone out of style in Clemson, notwithstanding the angst-filled messages of occasional coach’s show callers (or the equally angst-filled replies from said coach). I’m not prepared to say that Clemson’s run of dominant teams is completely over; however, for Tigers fans, this year has been a nightmare dressed like a daydream. A 7-point margin feels a little large to me, noted college football sharp (hahaha lol no), and I think Mack Brown will lead the Tar Heels to a cover and maybe even yet another victory handshake designed to drain all remaining energy from the victim.

Those are my picks. As usual, I’ll offer the reminder that I don’t even wager my own money on these (even though I won all five of last year’s picks), so I’m not sure you should, either. I’ll look forward to racking up more points against the pros, though. As my Austrian friend likes to say to me, “Bis bald!” — see you soon — here at ‘The Wife Hates Sports’ and ‘Sports Chump’. Thanks as always to Chris and Kevin for letting me join their party!

KP’s Picks: The Wife Hates Sports

$50: Dallas Cowboys (-10.5) at Carolina Panthers

Let’s check some stats tied to this game. First, set aside the road loss for the Cowboys in Arizona. Outside the Cardinals, the Cowboys have played in four other games against teams with passing offenses that average under 200 yards per game (Giants twice, Jets, and Patriots). In those games, the Cowboys are 4-0 with a combined scoring margin edge of 157-30. Yes, you guessed it, the Panthers fall in that range, averaging 185.2 yards per game through the air. Dallas, meanwhile, ranks 7th in the NFL in passing offense and 4th in total offense. The Panthers have a -4 turnover margin and rank near the bottom in total sacks (17 through 9 games). This means more time in the pocket for Dak Prescott and a Carolina offense that is unlikely to keep up. Cowboys cover on the road.

$40: Michigan Wolverines (-19) at Maryland Terrapins

My comparison starts with Penn State’s offense facing the Wolverines versus the Terps. It was night and day for Drew Allar. Facing Maryland, there was time to throw and limited pressure. Big numbers… and a 51-15 blowout win. For Michigan, the Wolverines were smothering. I could see Taulia Tagovailoa and Maryland’s offense struggling as he did when he faced Penn State. Furthermore, look at how Maryland has played since the beginning of October. The Terrapins are 1-4, with losses to Penn State, Ohio State, Northwestern, and Illinois. Two of those losses were expected, but the other two? During that stretch, Maryland has been outscored 158-96. Now, they face Michigan’s defense that ranks 12th against the run and 10th against the pass. Good luck with that. Wolverines cover on the road.

$30: Georgia Bulldogs (-10) at Tennessee Volunteers

The undefeated Bulldogs have won six straight games in this rivalry, with an average margin of victory of nearly four touchdowns. Yes, that does include a rough patch for the Vols, but Tennessee has had a bit of an up-and-down season to this point. Meanwhile, Georgia’s offense has scored 30 or more points in five straight games. Both teams rank well against the run (Georgia – 19th, Tennessee – 26th). Both also rank well against the pass (Georgia – 10th, Tennessee – 35th). Each team has more INT’s than TD’s allowed through the air. Statistically, there’s nothing that really shows a drastic difference. It’s more the experience and the hot streak that the Bulldogs have been on. They know how to win these games and win them big (e.g. last week versus Ole Miss). Georgia covers on the road.

$20: Washington Huskies (+1.5) at Oregon State Beavers

It doesn’t happen often when an undefeated team and playoff contender shows up on the list as an underdog. Obviously, Oregon State is no pushover, but these are the games that Heisman contenders like Michael Penix Jr. step up and take over. Oregon State ranks 20th in rushing offense and is likely to set the tone with its run game and try to control the clock. The obvious goal would be keeping Washington’s top ranked passing offense (378 ypg, nearly 40 yards more than any team) off the field as much as possible. The Beavers rank well both against the run and the pass, so Penix Jr. will have his hands full in a hostile road environment. But Penix Jr. (28 TD, 7 INT) has been stellar all year, with 8 TD and 2 INT against AP ranked opponents and over a 70% completion percentage in road games. This game comes down to the Heisman hopeful and I think he rises to the occasion. Huskies top the Beavers.

$10: Arizona Cardinals (+5) at Houston Texans

Kyler Murray made an impact in his first game back from injury. He’s likely to improve and Arizona’s offense is likely to perform much more consistently with him under center. The Texans, despite battling through injuries, posted a huge win over the Bengals last week. For Houston to have success, C.J. Stroud needs to be on point. Arizona’s defense ranks 11th against the pass, allowing 208.4 ypg. Against the run, Arizona ranks in the bottom five of the league, but the Texans have struggled with its run game. Overall, three of Houston’s four losses have come against NFL pass defenses that rank near or above the Cardinals. The combination of Murray pushing the offense to a higher level and the Arizona pass defense holding Stroud somewhat in check should result in a close game. Cardinals cover on the road.

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