Take it to the Bank: Week No. 9, No. 9, No.9. . .

This weekend marks the halfway point of the Big 12 conference season. And whereas the Jayhawks had a nothing to lose situation last week in the only game on this season’s schedule that they had virtually no chance to win, every game from here on in is both important and winnable. Each loss in the next five weeks likely drops KU one full tier in the Bowl pecking order. The ultimate achievement, of course, would be a second consecutive trip to a BCS bowl—which is in the proverbial bag if the Hawks win out, including the Big 12 championship game.

Not likely? Not the way the defense has looked this season. But there are other bowl games worthy of attaining. Especially if the Big 12 sends two teams to the BCS, which is a distinct possibility. Making this week’s game vs. Texas Tech, a peer Bowl competitor, huge.

The games of Week 9:

1. Texas Tech +1.5 at KU

Two fantastic offenses. Two less than fantastic defenses. Two unspecial special teams. KU’s D appears to have a slight edge, but the REAL edge is the Home field, where the Hawks have won their last 13 games. Tech would have the edge in Lubbock. But they will have to wait a year for it.

KU

2. Oklahoma -19 at k-state

What goofball set this line? OU should cover this spread by halftime.

OU

3. Baylor +11 at Nebraska

This is a tough one. So that I must resort to Rule No. 23 of college football prognosticating: When in doubt, doubt Baylor.

NU

4. Okie St +13 at Texas

Texas might be the most improved team in the country. And they are on a roll.

TEXAS

5. Colorado +22 at Mizzou

If I were not committed to picking all big 12 games, I wouldn’t touch this one. Mizzou has been exposed and is in free fall. A loss here sets the program back 20 years. Fortunately for them, they get to regain their swagger at Home. Might be a slow first quarter. But once they taste a little success, don’t expect Pinkel to call off the dogs before the separation is well past the point spread.

MIZZOU

6. Texas A&M +3 at Iowa St

A&M is bad, but they are a little less bad each week. Iowa St, on the other hand, appears to have peaked three weeks ago—when it led KU by 20 at the half. It hasn’t had much go right since then.

A&M

7. Penn St -2.5 at Ohio St

Same song, umpteenth verse: I will ride Penn St until they give me a reason not to. Ohio St in Columbus is tempting, but they aren’t going to get in the way of JoePa’s last stand.

PENN ST

8. Illinois -2.5 at Wisconsin

Wisconsin can’t sink any lower, can they? Or will they?

ILLINOIS

9. Notre Dame -11 at Washington

How bad is Washington? We might not REALly know until they play their truly dreadful in-state rival for the Apple Cup.

NOTRE DAME

10. Kentucky +24.5 at Florida

Florida is a far superior team, and the game is in The Swamp. But Kentucky can put points on the board. If they score 24, the Gators have to score 49 to cover.

UK

11. Georgia +2 at LSU

Georgia is the better team, but LSU in Baton Rouge is a tall order. If this game were one of those crazy magical night parties in the bayou, I would have to go with the Bengals. With a mid-afternoon start, the air will hold just a little less magic.

GEORGIA

12. Alabama -6.5 at Tennessee

The Crimson Tide has the best win of the college football season in its romp at Georgia. Its season opener at Clemson wasn’t too shabby, either, notwithstanding the fact that Clemson was vastly overrated. Still, Bama, has been anything but a juggernaut against lesser teams—like Tennessee.

TENNESSEE

13. Virginia Tech +5 at Florida St

Speaking of teams that are not juggernauts: I give you Florida St.

VT

14. Southern Cal -16 at Arizona

USC is the best team in the country when they pay attention. Which they have since the Oregon St debacle.

USC

15. Fresno St -16.5 at Utah St

Couldn’t decide whether to pick against Utah St in this game or against Idaho (+14 vs. New Mexico St) as the freebie of the week. Both teams are at Home. Idaho gives fewer points. But Fresno is the better opponent. Idaho might actually compete into the fourth quarter. Utah St might compete into the second.

FRESNO ST

Hey, Wreck, Texas Tech!

--Mark

Take it to the Bank: The Games of Week 8

1. KU +20 at Oklahoma

The early line on this game was 14. That was a tough line, what with OU looking for redemption AND playing at Home. OU has lost but two Home games during Stoops’ tenure. This Saturday is not likely to be No. 3. However, at 20 points, this should be an easy cover for a team with the Big 12’s best QB and a running game and D that are both improving weekly. The Hawks can score 28 on the Sooners’ D—meaning OU will need 49 to beat the spread.

KU

2. k-state +3 at Colorado

Will Colorado allow k-state to stretch the Buffs’ losing streak to four? In Boulder? With all the talk about the QB rich Big 12, CU is not sharing the wealth. Cody Hawkins is a Big Sky QB in Big 12 clothing. With the points, I will take:

k-state

3. Mizzou +6 at Texas

Texas has two advantages in this game: Superior athletes and the Home Field. Mizzou has the edge in motivation, being a desperate team after losing for the first time in two years to a team not named the Sooners. With the inevitable let down by UT after its epic struggle with Oklahoma last weekend, Mizzou will not go down quietly. To win, Daniel will have to perform well in the clutch. Not likely. However, staying close does not require poise under pressure.

MIZZOU

4. Texas Tech -21 at Texas A&M

How dismal is A&M?

TEXAS TECH

5. Baylor +17 at Okie St

Okay, so Baylor isn’t the worst team in the Big 12. And Okie St will have a let down. Could be a close game into the third quarter. However, until Baylor shows it can take its newfound prowess on the road:

OKIE ST

6. Nebraska -7 at Iowa St

Nebraska has finally reached the status of a truly mediocre program: i.e., one that can play over its head for sixty minutes one week and ALMOST beat a better team, then fold against a bad team the next. Long-time KU fans are familiar with this syndrome. ISU wins this game outright.

IOWA ST

7. Wisconsin +3.5 at Iowa

Wisconsin is shell shocked after two flukey losses and a royal butt-kicking by Penn St. If the Badgers have any character at all, the bleeding will stop in Iowa City.

WISCONSIN

8. Ohio St -3.5 at Michigan St

The Buckeyes are not a great team. They are, however, a resourceful one. Perhaps the most resourceful college football team of the modern era. If this game is close in the final minutes, they will find a way to win. Whether by 3 or 4 is the question.

OHIO ST

9. Michigan +23 at Penn St

Penn St is on a roll that could lead to Miami in January. Michigan seems to get worse every week. The game is in State College. What’s not to like?

PENN ST

10. Arkansas +10 at Kentucky

Pay no attention to that win over Auburn. That game revealed more about Auburn than Arkansas.

KENTUCKY

11. Ole Miss +13 at Alabama

The Tide is a legitimate threat to play for the pretend national championship. But they are not a juggernaut.

OLE MISS

12. Idaho +20 at La-Tech

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Picking against Idaho has been a reliable way of scoring against Vegas thus far this season. The Vandals have shown no measure of improvement with the passing weeks. I’ll go to this well one more time.

IDAHO

13. Utah St +21 at Nevada

Speaking of reliability, I offer Exhibit 2: Utah St.

NEVADA

14. Oregon St -14 at Washington

Washington is the Michigan of the PAC-10. Oregon St is not the West Coast’s version of Penn St, but they don’t have to be to cover 14 points.

OREGON ST

15. Colorado St +21 at Utah

Utah is taking no prisoners. If they score to go up 35 in the final minute, don't be surprised to see an on-side kick.

Boom the Sooners!

--Mark

Take it to the Bank: Week 7

1. Colorado +14 at KU

I readily took ISU +13 points last week. And ISU is probably a step below Colorado in the Big 12 hierarchy.

However, KU played Iowa St on the Road. It was the Cyclones’ conference opener. CU has neither of those edges. Oh, you might consider being on a humbling two game losing skid a motivational edge, that it might lead to the Buffs being focused on redemption.

However, CU is not known as a great Road team. And the Jayhawks may have had their Davidson moment in Ames. If they are not ready to play 60 minutes this week and hit their stride in their conference Home opener, this is not a Mangino team. From henceforth refer to the Hawks by the initials PBA, because, behind the Big 12’s best QB, they are starting to roll.

KU

2. Texas +7 at Oklahoma

This could be a butt whipping of Biblical proportions. UT will only go so far without a running attack and a porous pass defense. Not to mention the Stoops vs. Brown thing. Where is Vince Young when you need him?

OU

3. Iowa St +4.5 at Baylor

The Home team wins this game. ISU would win if it were in Ames. The question is whether Baylor wins by a field goal or a TD. Although I have a good friend who says he never takes Baylor—ever--I say they win this game by a field goal and a safety.

BAYLOR

4. k-state -3.5 at Texas A&M

Imagine losing at Home 58-28, then being favored the following week in Texas. You would assume you were playing in Denton, right? Wrong. You are in College Station playing what is historically the Lone Star State’s No. 2 team. This year, perhaps, its No. 7 team. Still, a W on the Road for this k-state team led by Prince and Freeman? By more than a FG? As bad as A&M is, it could happen. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

A&M

5. Okie St +14 at Mizzou

Okie St could catch Mizzou looking ahead to next week when the Tigers get their first chance of 2008 to make a statement—a statement that they can play with the big boys away from Home. This week, they have to settle for playing a team of smaller boys coached by a man. I might like Okie St and its high powered offense to win this game outright in Stillwater. But when has Gundy-man ever have his boys ready to play a big Road game? Fourteen is a lot of points, but The cowBOYS will make just enough big game and Road-induced mistakes to avoid staying in that range.

MIZZOU

6. Nebraska +21 at Texas Tech

Bo knows blow-outs. If the Huskers can’t slow down Mizzou at Home, what are they going to do against Harrell, Crabtree and Co. on the Road?

TEXAS TECH

7. Minnesota +12 at Illinois

Why would Minnesota have more success vs. Illinois in Champagne than Michigan had in Ann Arbor?

ILLINOIS

8. South Carolina at Kentucky (Pick)

Who woulda thunk that the two best Big Blues in college football would be the two pre-eminent basketball programs of all time?

UK

9. Vanderbilt -2.5 at Miss St

Vandy is dandy. And quicker.

VANDERBILT

10. Arizona St +27.5 at Southern Cal

USC has had its last hiccup before January—barring re-entry into the pretend national championship race.

USC

11. Notre Dame +7 at UNC

Yet another blue clad member of the basketball elite leap-frogging over a traditional football power. Heck, THE traditional football power.

UNC

12. New Mexico +23.5 at BYU

I am trying to make a case for New Mexico St to cover this Vegas spread. I’m having no more success than O.J.’s attorneys had with a Vegas jury. . .

BYU

13. Penn St -5 at Wisconsin

Wisconsin will defend its turf like a pack of rabid Badgers to keep from losing its third straight game and facing the prospect of being relegated to a third tier bowl game. Still, I will remain on Mr. Joe’s Wild Ride until given a reason to get off.

PENN ST

14. LSU +6 at Florida

If Ole Miss can win in the Swamp, should be easy for the defending pretending national champions. Right?

Uh, no. The two time losers from last year take it on the chin for the first time this year—and it will not even require overtime.

LSU

15. Tulsa -25 at SMU

Twenty five points on the Road is almost unheard of. Unheard FROM is SMU’s Defense.

TULSA

--Mark

Take it to the Bank: Week 6 Forecast

The Big 12 is going to the dogs.

Home dogs, that is.

The only Home favorite in the six Big 12 games this first week of conference play is Okie St, giving 24 ½ points to Texas A&M. In four other games, the Home team is a double digit underdog.

Evidently, Vegas has noted that taking the favored tem has been a winning proposition thus far this year, both in the Big 12 and elsewhere, and has adjusted accordingly. The big question, time and again this week, is whether it has over adjusted in the opposite direction.

The games of Week 6:

1. Kansas –13 at Iowa St

A major obstacle in making the transformation from being a traditionally mediocre or bad program to becoming a strong program in any sport is separating from your peers. Whereas your historical mediocrities like Iowa St, k-state, Colorado, Mizzou, and Baylor readily accept their inherent inferiority to the Oklahomas, Texases and Nebraskas of the world , they will clutch and scratch and claw and scrape to their final breath to avoid being left behind by a member of their peer group—as KU is threatening to do.

This game opened at KU -14. Thirteen is better. Still, this is a Road game vs. a team that is becoming more cohesive on a weekly basis. In its last outing, the Cyclones roared back from a 21 point deficit on the Road to send its game at UNLV into overtime, capped by a clutch 90+ yard drive in the final two minutes.

The Jayhawks are better than UNLV, no doubt. Good enough that they should beat Iowa St in Ames. But by 14 points?

Not likely, as sky-high as ISU will be, playing a Top 20 team at Home in its conference opener. Not unless the Hawks have greatly improved their pass rush and running game, probably not. It is certainly possible, what with two weeks to prepare for this game. But that is not the way to bet. I mean, as great as last year’s team was, who did they beat on the Road by 14? Well, there was Okie St 43-28. That’s it.

ISU

2. Texas Tech -7.5 at k-state

At first blush, this game looks like easy money. Tech is 14-17 points better than Prince’s Purple people on a neutral field. Right?

Right. Still, the Red Raiders had a tough time with Eastern Washington in Lubbock. Not to mention their propensity for pulling a cropper on the road. Or that k-state has handled a bigger name from the Lone Star State two years running.

Vegas is about two points off with this line. Should be Tech -9.5. Meaning that giving only 7.5 is value.

TEXAS TECH

3. Mizzou -11 at Nebraska

Ganz put up 70 last year vs. k-state. He could lead the Huskers to 40+ against Mizzou’s defense. And, playing a Top 5 team coming off a loss to Virginia Tech, the Huskers will be focused. Plus, if there is one thing tougher than separating from a peer, it is separating from a better, which is Mizzou’s task Still, Mizzou has the upper hand this year and two weeks to prepare. This will be a single digit game late in the fourth quarter. Last team to score covers the spread.

NEBRASKA

4. Oklahoma -27.5 at Baylor

Until the Sooners give me a reason to doubt them, I won’t.

OU

5. Texas A&M +24.5 at Okie St

A is for Atrocious. M for Miserable.

OKIE ST

6. Texas -14 at Colorado

Another Home team on a mission, following the Buffs’ loss in Tallahassee last Saturday. Not to mention playing a Top 5 team. You can ask OU about being a Top 5 team playing in Boulder.

COLORADO

7. Penn St-13 at Purdue

See Oklahoma at Baylor.

PENN ST

8. UConn +7 at UNC

A Tar Heel let down, perhaps, after their big win in Miami? Or are they on a roll?

UNC

9. Stanford +7.5 at Notre Dame

Would you believe these two teams used to be good? Great even?

The Fighting Irish are closer to being there again. And at Home.

NOTRE DAME

10. Illinois +2.5 at Michigan

Despite their fluke win last week vs. Wisconsin, Michigan has a long way to go to stop sucking.

ILLINOIS

11. Florida -24.5 at Arkansas

Not that Michigan sucks as much as Arkansas.

FLORIDA

12. Washington St +17 at UCLA

Why would I expect UCLA to beat anyone by more than 17 points anywhere?

13. Ohio St -2.5 at Wisconsin

Two straight losses for Wisconsin? This one in Madison? In another day, when Ohio St was good.

WISCONSIN

14. Oregon +16.5 at USC

Hell hath no fury like a Trojan scorned.

USC

15. Hawaii +22.5 at Fresno St

There is trouble in paradise.

--Mark

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Take it to the Bank: A Modest Proposal (Week 5)

Imagine, if you will, that the U.S. Government had the foresight four weeks ago to invest 750 billion dollars each week on the Phogblog Handicapping Service’s “Take it to the Bank” picks: that’s 50B per game. At this moment, after 60 games--discarding the three games that have been pushes and the Texas/Arkansas game that was postponed due to Hurricane Ike—and taking into account the House’s 5% commission on each bet, the USA would have a 36-20 record and be up 660 billion dollars. That’s almost enough to bail out Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman, Merrill, and AIG, without risking the taxpayer’s hard earned dollars.

But nooooooooo. . .

Let’s risk the taxpayers’ money on risky ventures like investments banks, financial firms, and insurance companies.

Let’s see if either presidential candidate is insightful enough to propose this solution to the current financial crisis. Whoever does is truly thinking outside the traditional Washington/Wall Street box—a maverick, if you will—and is worthy of your vote.

Please, no comments that this theory is flawed, because Vegas would not be able to withstand almost seven hundred billion dollars in losses in four weeks. No worries. The government simply buys every casino in Vegas with the money it wins in the succeeding four weeks. And with the government running all the casinos, we might even be looking at middle class tax breaks. A win-win if ever there was one.

How unfortunate that these picks are for entertainment purposes only.

The Games of week 5:

1. TCU +17.5 at Oklahoma

I’m riding the Sooner Schooner until OU gives me a reason to do otherwise.

OU

2. Colorado +5.5 at Florida St

The Seminoles have given me no reason to suspect that they are a good team. I took Wake Forest +4 last week, and the Deamon Deacons won convincingly in Tallahassee. Meanwhile, Colorado was taking down West Virginia in Boulder. This week, CU gets 5.5 points. Easy pick, right?

Right. FSU ridin’ the Redemption Train.

FLORIDA ST

3. Troy +17 at Okie St

Troy lost on the Road last Saturday by 18 to Ohio St. This OSU is better.

OKIE ST

4. La-Lafayette +21 at k-state

k-state has been exposed. They are probably good enough to win this game at Home. But by 3 TD’s? Not bloody likely.

ULL

5. Arkansas +27.5 at Texas

Texas is on a mission. Lesser teams beware. I took UT -24 two weeks ago, when this game was postponed. The extra 3 ½ points are not a deal breaker.

6. Army +28.5 at Texas A&M

It is not as if A&M is good. But, good grief, is Army ever bad. . .

TEXAS A&M

7. Pitt -15 at Syracuse

There are two teams I like every week: Oklahoma and whoever is playing Syracuse.

PITT

8. UNC +7.5 at Miami

Slowly, but surely, UNC is improving. Miami is improving faster.

MIAMI

9. Ole Miss +23.5 at Florida

What part of Tim Tebow and The Swamp don’t you understand?

FLORIDA

10. Minnesota +18 at Ohio St

Ohio St: the most overrated team in the nation three years running.

MINNESOTA

11. Alabama +7 at Georgia

The Crimson Tide would win this game outright at Home. They won’t go down easy between the hedges.

ALABAMA

12. Wisconsin -6 at Michigan

Michigan will be good again in time. The key phrase being “in time.”

WISCONSIN

13. Fresno St -7 at UCLA

Fret not, UCLA fans. October 15 is just around the corner.

FRESNO ST

14. Illinois +14 at Penn St

Vegas still hasn’t caught on to Penn St—they are this year’s KU.

PENN ST

15. Idaho +11 at San Diego St

Did I say OU and whoever’s playing Syracuse? Make that Syracuse OR Idaho.

SAN DIEGO ST

--Mark

Take it to the Bank: The Games of Week 4

Vegas is fast becoming a party pooper. After two weeks of lines so flimsy that David Patterson could see through them, the oddsmakers present us with a number of legitimate point spreads in week 4. Still, the PhogBlog Handicapping Service stands unfazed by this challenge. In fact, we welcome it. We scoff at Vegas as if it were the illegitimate child of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and had brothers named Lehman, Merrill and Iggy.

You might notice that the KU scrimmage vs. Sam Houston State is not included in this week’s picks. In the past, when there has been no official line on a KU game, I have devised a reasonable one to ensure having the KU game in the mix. This week, though, there is no reasonable line. This is truly a name the score game. What kind of line would make sense: 35? 42? 50? 60? Whatever the Big M wants, he will get. And I don’t claim to be a mind reader. Ergo,

The Jayhawk-less Games of Week 4:

1. Miami (Fl) -4 at Texas A&M

The team that cost Franchione his job takes on A&M again—this time in College Station. When I mentioned that there were a number of legitimate lines this week, I didn’t mean they all were. . .

2. Rice +30.5 at Texas

The thing is, we don’t usually do 30+ point games. But here’s what happened: This spread is so seductive, I made an exception. You’ll thank me later.

UT

3. Iowa St +3 at UNLV

Iowa St is on the way to being a respectable team. Do away with a few correctable mistakes, and they are in last Saturday’s game at Iowa to the bitter end. Unfortunately, the end was still bitter. I might be a wee bit apprehensive about them when the Hawks visit Ames two weeks hence. But I don’t see them as ready to win on the Road yet.

UNLV

4. Temple +28.5 at Penn St

Like I said, not ALL of the lines are legit. Vegas has yet to wise up to the rising juggernaut in State College.

PENN ST

5. Ohio +11 at Northwestern

Don’t be fooled by Ohio playing their in-state rivals tough in Columbus. If the Buckeyes have not been exposed by now, what will it take? They were last year, and still are, KU-lite.

NORTHWESTERN

6. LSU -3 at Auburn

Ouch, Vegas. I REALly prefer easy lines. I am reluctant to go against Auburn as a Home dog, but until they can pull a Mizzou and Show Me they can win a game of this magnitude, what choice do I have?

LSU

7. Alabama -9 at Arkansas

Maybe Vegas just has an SEC thing. The Crimson Tide should roll over the dismal Hogs. But Arkansas, even when bad, has a penchant for not rolling over at Home.

ALABAMA

8. Va Tech +1.5 at UNC

Is UNC developing into a team that Psycho T can be proud of? Or is Rutgers just that bad? I will go with the Home team in the shadow of the Roy Dome.

UNC

9. Wake Forest +4 at Florida St

Three years into the Demon Deacons’ resurgence (or insurgence as the case may be), Vegas has still yet to Wake up. You might say, they can’t see the Forest for the trees. W.F. might not beat FSU, but they are hard-nosed competitors. This game will not get out of hand.

WAKE

10. Notre Dame +8.5 at Michigan St

The Fighting Irish are taking baby steps toward becoming the Fighting Irish again. Staying within a TD in East Lansing is the next step.

NOTRE DAME

11. Wyoming +29 at BYU

I had to pass on Boise St +11.5 at Oregon and AU +2 t UCLA to make room for this game. But there are enough difficult lines this week. So let’s do the game that makes you scratch your head and say, “Helloooooooooo! Earth to Vegas: Anybody home? You do realize that this game is in Provo, not Laramie, don’t you? You’re aware that last weekend, BYU hung 59 on the team that took out Tennessee in Week 1? That they don’t stop scoring just because they get ahead by four TD’s or so? You have been paying attention. Or have you?

BYU

12. Utah -7 at Air Force

Oops. Don’t tell anyone, but this is another Vegas faux pas. (That rhymes with Joe Pa for you k-staters).

UTAH

13. Idaho +4.5 at Utah St

This is what ABC wanted USC/Ohio St to be. The top two teams in the country going at each other.

Bizarro ABC that is.

That said, why would one expect one of the two worst teams in Division 1 to stay within 5 points of anyone on the Road? Even the other?

If it were but on a neutral field—say a blue field in Boise—this would be a classic.

UTAH ST

14. Florida -7.5 at Tennessee

Somebody check Vegas’s meds. Its bipolar pills are not working. It vacillates between happy-go-lucky, devil may care, what-me-worry spreads to ones—like this—that are absolutely diabolical. If my only concern were finding the easiest games to pick, this one would find its way to the cutting room floor. But without a few challenges, it would be no fun, right? Gotta believe that the Vols can stay within a TD of almost anyone at Home. That extra ½ point is the difference-maker.

TENNESSEE

15. Georgia -6.5 at Arizona St

Another sick line. Wouldn’t be if Georgia had thus far resembled the Pretend National Championship contender it was reputed to be ever since dispensing of Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl. But the Bulldogs have not yet looked like a team that can go on the Road and take out a competitive BCS conference team by a full TD. Or is ASU a competitive BCS team? Sure didn’t look like one last Saturday vs. UNLV. Or were the Sun Devils caught looking ahead? A lot of unanswered questions make this a tough game to figure. I will take UGA to wear ASU down and pull out to a two score lead in the waning moments.

GEORGIA

--Mark

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