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49ers-Rams keep it interesting for everyone (except Under bettors)

Jeff Fogle
VSiN.com

September 22, 2017 12:22 AM

One of the least anticipated Thursday night games ever turned into one of the most entertaining! The Los Angeles Rams won a 41-39 thriller over the San Francisco 49ers. Numbers, notes, and ramifications ahead in VSiN City. 

NFL: Rams blow most of a 41-26 lead, but move to 2-1 with divisional rivalry win over the 0-3 Niners 
If you decided to skip what was expected to be another boring Thursday night NFL game, you blew it! If you decided to go to bed when the Rams led 41-26 midway through the fourth quarter, that was a big mistake too. A valiant San Francisco rally fell short as the Rams survived with the win, but not the point spread cover. 

For those of you who missed the late drama, here’s what happened. The Rams led 41-26 in the final period. It would have been 41-27, but Robbie Gould had missed an extra point for the hosts. Then... 

  • SF goes 64 yards on 4 plays to make it 41-33
  • The Rams fumbled the kickoff!
  • SF goes 29 yards on 8 plays to make it 41-39 (2-point try fails)
  • SF recovers an onside kick! A FG would win the game!
  • SF is stuffed by the Rams at midfield, ending dreams of a comeback win

San Francisco does cover the spread, which was plus 3 throughout the day, after rising from public action from what had been Rams -2.5 through the week. Anyone who included San Francisco in “Basic Strategy” teasers when the line was plus 2.5 is still alive on those two-teamers. The game flew over the total of 40. Obviously, the Rams went over the total all by themselves. 

LA Rams (-3) 41, San Francisco 39

  • Yards-per-Play: Rams 7.0, San Francisco 5.7
  • Total Yards: Rams 418, San Francisco 421
  • Third Down Pct: Rams 67%, San Francisco 50%
  • Rushing Yards: Rams 126, San Francisco 113
  • Passing Stats: Rams 22-28-0-292, San Francisco 23-37-1-308
  • Turnovers: Rams 2, San Francisco 2
  • Touchdown Drive Lengths: Rams 3-75-75-75, San Francisco 81-75-75-64-29

Both teams had a cheap TD off a turnover. The Rams picked off Brian Hoyer on the first play of the game to set up that 3-yard gift. San Francisco scored after the Rams fumbled that late kickoff. 

Very even game, with the yards-per-play difference ultimately not mattering much because both teams were able to drive the field for scores. SF just did the same job slower, with fewer big plays. That formula we told you about for turning boxscore stats into a final score (2 times rushing, plus passing, times 0.67, divided by 15) shows a 24-all tie. Soft defense on third downs and in the red zone helped push the actual scoreboard totals higher.  

Fun to have such a high scoring game to watch after so many duds this season. But, you have to be careful assuming too much about both of these offenses. We may be looking at two sub-par defenses once more representative schedules have been played. Tonight may have been more a lesson about bad defense, regardless of what NBC’s announcers were celebrating through the night. Remember, the Niners were shaky on defense last year, and look to have lucked out facing the struggling attacks of Carolina and Seattle to start 2017.

We’re likely looking at two “bottom quarter” teams in Power Ratings unless the Rams impress vs. a quality opponent. Beating Indianapolis and San Francisco doesn’t mean much. Losing a home game to Washington is a negative. 

Positives we’ll endorse:

  • Jared Goff continues to have success downfield, which is a VERY good sign
  • Both young coaches have motivated their players to bring peak intensity

The coaching change did wonders for Goff. Maybe the Rams are about to become a watered-down version of the New Orleans Saints in terms of playing shootouts (3-0 to the Over so far this season). It will make sense to look at the Rams at value prices vs. soft pass defenses. San Francisco is 2-1 ATS, and could be a value underdog as long as they stay healthy. 

Next up for both on October 1…

LA Rams: at the Dallas Cowboys 

San Francisco: at Arizona

Both are stepping up in class the next time out. It will be interesting to see how much respect the Rams get on the road against a playoff contender. Note that LAR will have a huge rest advantage in that one…as Dallas doesn’t play until this Monday night in Arizona. 

Also of interest…will Seattle take a hit in the markets between now and Sunday in their game at Tennessee? Seattle didn’t score a TD until very late last week against this same vulnerable Niners’ defense, after looking helpless on offense the week before at Green Bay. 

College Football: South Florida keeps winning ugly, tops Temple 43-7
South Florida is currently #21 in the AP poll…and has a very real chance to run the table this season against a super-soft schedule. They seem to flunk the eye test every week in terms of execution and poise. But, the final scores have been impressive vs. Illinois and Temple, which is all that matters to too many pollsters. 

South Florida (-18) 43, Temple 7

  • Total Yards: Temple 85, South Florida 408
  • Yards-per-Play: Temple 1.5, South Florida 4.9
  • Turnovers: Temple 6, South Florida 2
  • TD Drive Lengths: Temple fumble return, South Florida 54-25-20-49

As great as that final score from Thursday night looks…South Florida was 3 of 16 on third down tries, 1 of 2 on fourth down tries, and turned the ball over twice against an outmanned visitor. Yes, we should give the defense credit for shutting down Temple so emphatically. This is a Temple team that got crushed by Notre Dame (which doesn’t seem as impressive for the Irish now as it did at the time), and barely beat Villanova 16-13. Charlie Strong’s offense couldn’t manage 5.0 yards-per-play with a highly regarded quarterback despite having a climate advantage over a bad Northern team that should have faded in the Florida humidity down the stretch.  

There’s still time to improve. Hopefully the media won’t strain too hard trying to get an undefeated South Florida team into Final Four discussions because “you can only play who’s on your schedule.” This isn’t a unit you’d expect to thrive in a major conference because of their inconsistent execution. Tonight’s cover at -18 brings them to 2-2 ATS, with an easy game at East Carolina up next. 

College Football: Quick hitters on games of interest this Saturday
There aren’t any true blockbusters this weekend in college football. But, there are several games involving high profile teams that could get very interesting. Here are a few notes on those.

#8 Michigan (-10) at Purdue
The big question here is whether or not Purdue is for real. The betting markets greatly underestimated them coming out of the gate based on these results…

  • Purdue (plus 25.5) lost to Louisville 35-28 (covered by 18.5 points)
  • Purdue (-3) beat Ohio 44-21 (covered by 20 points)
  • Purdue (plus 7) won at Missouri 35-3 (covered by 39 points!)

Instead of regressing toward the mean, Purdue has been covering by larger numbers with each passing week! Hard to know yet how much of that is in combination with Louisville and Missouri in particular being overrated by the markets thus far. Even though Purdue hung with Louisville, they were outgained 524-344 on 6.6-4.4 yards-per-play. The score may give them a shot to compete with Michigan, but those yardage totals are a concern. 

Of course, Michigan has stumbled around since the season opening win vs. Florida. They failed to fully exploit talent edges in non-cover wins vs. Cincinnati and Air Force. 

#16 TCU at #6 Oklahoma State
Sharps are betting this game like Oklahoma State is a National Championship threat and TCU is a fraud. An opener near -10 is up to -13. Rises in earlier games were prescient because Oklahoma State has been crushing anyone who stood in their way. 

Yes, TCU is a cut above those other opponents. But, they sure let SMU pass for big yardage last week. The Horned Frogs allowed 339 passing yards on 8.9 yards-per-attempt to the Mustangs. Oklahoma State’s a lot more potent than SMU!

Also worth noting that the TCU defense has faded from prior excellence the past two seasons. Look at these national rankings in total defense…

TCU Yards-Allowed-Per-Game Rankings

  • 2013: #25
  • 2014: #18
  • 2015: #63
  • 2016: #76

There are some concerns in Big 12 country that high school defenses in Texas have taken a huge step backward in recent seasons because so many programs emphasize spread offenses and fast-break football. Trying to chase down receivers from behind isn’t the same as bullying them face-to-face. If the talent-pool of high impact defenders isn’t as rich as it used to be, that would help explain why TCU’s defense is heading in the wrong direction…why the Texas defense was so unimpressive under “defensive specialist” Charlie Strong, and why Baylor’s defense has been so bad for so long. 

Something to think about as you handicap the league this season (and postseason). 

#4 Penn State (-13) at Iowa
This is the prime-time game on ABC…which tells you that ABC is hoping Iowa can rise up as a home dog. Not much evidence yet that they should scare this loaded Nittany Lions team.

  • Iowa started very slowly last week in a lethargic 31-14 win over undersized North Texas. The Hawkeyes were down 14-10 at the half! 
  • Prior to that was a 44-41 overtime win over Iowa State, likely to again be one of the worst teams in the Big 12.
  • The season started with a 24-3 win over Wyoming that seemed great at the time. There was a lot of preseason hype about the Cowboys and their quarterback. That’s all disappeared. Oregon crushed Wyoming 49-13 in Laramie. Iowa may have just giving us an early warning sign about Wyoming, rather than hinting about coming upsets in Big 10 play. 

Frankly, it will be a strike against Penn State if this goes down to the wire. 

#17 Miss State at #11 Georgia
Another prime-time showdown…and the second of only two games matching ranked teams all weekend. Very interesting…but not quite a pure matchup because Mississippi State is in an obvious letdown spot off that huge win vs. LSU last Saturday night. Sharps have liked the Bulldogs anyway, as an opening line of plus 6.5 has been bet down as low as plus 4.5. That would be a real statement to play a thriller here off the LSU upset. 

Mississippi State outgained LSU 465-270 in that one, with a 285-133 edge on the ground against a smash mouth opponent. You’ll find that professional wagerers give a lot of respect to teams who can win and cover on the ground, particularly as underdogs. 

That wraps up another week in VSiN City. We’ll be back Monday to crunch key numbers from all of Sunday’s NFL. Tuesday will bring updated Power Ratings, and key stats from any important college football results. We should be able to take our first crack at in-season college football Power Ratings by conference next week. If you haven’t already signed up for free weekday email delivery, please click here. Doesn’t cost you a thing…and you get access to those handy South Point betting sheets. 

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