Normally, the introduction of this weekly preview focuses on excellence. But today, that is not the plan.
Instead, I want to talk about ineptitude that is both robust and historic -- a level of football so bad that it is perplexing bookmakers, bettors and casual fans.
Let’s talk about Connecticut football.
Now, it’s not all bad. UConn covered on Saturday for the first time this year as a 35-point underdog against Army. The Huskies were down 42-0 at half and scored 21 second-half points, headlined by their final score with around a minute remaining, to get within the number.
By that point, the backups’ backups were getting action.
Through four games, UConn is 0-4 (obviously) and 1-4 against the spread. This includes a 10-point loss to Holy Cross. It is worth noting that Holy Cross lost to Merrimack College the following week.
Outside of that game, the Huskies have been outscored 146 to 21 by Fresno State, Purdue and Army.
Oh, and Randy Edsall, the former head coach, retired mid-year.
UConn will play Wyoming, Vanderbilt, UMass, Yale and Middle Tennessee State next. While these teams rarely find themselves as colossal chalks, they will assume that role when these games are played.
After that? The season ends at Clemson, at Central Florida and against Houston. Yikes.
It is hard to summarize how bad all three of these football games will be. In fact, it feels like a safety hazard to have Clemson, even in its offensively-challenged form, play this football team.
Other than the $1.2 million Clemson will reportedly pay UConn to play this game, which is plenty, there is no real reason to actually play.
How do you create a point spread for a game like this?
“I'd open 58.5 and let the market tell me how off I am,” one oddsmaker said.
One thing is certain. What we are seeing right now from UConn is historic. And it’s so remarkable, in a way the word is not normally used, I implore you to tune in.
The Appetizer: Football Tidbits and Observations
1. USC still is an incredible job. The football team hasn’t been incredible for a while, but the foundation is in place for it to be superb again. The right coach, which to me is James Franklin, will ensure that the state’s elite talent pool doesn’t leave like it has recently. Nebraska, Tennessee and other floundering bluebloods likely will never be the same, but USC can be great -- all the ingredients are still in place. Also, nice win against Washington State. The Trojans closed as a touchdown-favorite, fell behind 14-0 and rallied behind their backup QB. More specifically, their five-star backup QB.
2. It’s early, but there might not be a great team in college football this year. Alabama looked vulnerable. Clemson struggled against Georgia Tech. Oklahoma played down to Nebraska. Ohio State once again looked incomplete. Maybe it’s Georgia’s year; that would certainly be good for my future bets. Or maybe this is just a season that changes drastically week-to-week. I prefer that, by the way. It makes the sport far more fun.
3. I bet Indiana in Week 3, and I can say this is probably the most irritated I’ve been during a game in some time. (Well, probably in five days but you get what I’m saying.) The Hoosiers essentially filled their “does incredibly bad things to lose a football game” bingo card. They turned the ball over four times, committed a plethora of penalties, allowed a 99-yard kick return and more. These games happen in college football; I know this. And yet, I can’t help but still be angry with how that game played out.
4. This might be the greatest interception I’ve ever seen. Now, let’s address the obvious. D.J. Graham, the man behind this one-hand snag, shouldn’t have caught the ball. It was fourth down and his team lost yardage. That said, please don’t be the person to say this. Sometimes awesomeness trumps analytics.
5. Penn State-Auburn was magnificent. The game was great, but the environment was maybe the best we’ll see all season. I’ve said it before in this space, and I’ll say it again: Please schedule out-of-conference games on college campuses and not NFL venues. We need more scenes like that one.
The Buffet: The Five Best Games of the Weekend
1. Wisconsin (-4.5, 46.5) vs. Notre Dame
As we transition from ranting about venues, enter a college football game that will be played at Soldier Field. Something has to give for Notre Dame, which seems to walk a tightrope every Saturday. The Irish were again somewhat sluggish, at least to start, against Purdue. Although Notre Dame was still able to cover the touchdown spread with a strong close. Still, the point spread says plenty about the questions that remain. Wisconsin, meanwhile, is coming off a bye. The Badgers’ opening loss against Penn State has aged well over the past few weeks, although we still don’t know a great deal about this group. To me, this is about offense or possibly a lack of. A lower total certainly reflects that, and it’s hard to argue with.
2. Texas A&M (-5.5, 47.5) at Arkansas
I am absolutely fascinated by this game. Arkansas, which has been a really fun and improved program under Sam Pittman, feels very live. The Hogs demolished Texas up front, and they will have to do the same against a team that will want to control the line of scrimmage. That strategy for the Aggies is that much more important these days with backup QB, Zach Calzada, taking snaps. A&M beat New Mexico 34-0, which is about right. The defense has been excellent, and the offense due to injury and inexperience remains a work in progress. Like the game above, the total is intriguing. This could be a close, ugly, wonderful football game.
3. Iowa State (-7. 48) at Baylor
Baylor is unbeaten. This part can’t be denied. The level of competition the Bears have faced has been, well, another story entirely. The lineup thus far includes Texas State, Texas Southern and Kansas. Baylor easily covered the 17.5-point spread against Kansas in Week 3, winning 45-7. This will be the best test to date, which frankly I shouldn't even have to type. Iowa State rebounded after a turnover-heavy loss against rival Iowa, dominating UNLV 48-3 as more than a 30-point favorite. When handicapping this game, start with Iowa State QB Brock Purdy. When right, he can lead the Cyclones over most. When he’s wrong, like he was against Iowa, things can spiral fast. Interesting road spot for an interesting player.
4. LSU (-3, 57.5) vs. Mississippi State
If you have not seen how Mississippi State lost its football game against Memphis last week, please make sure you seek it out. It was indeed a controversial score that the Bulldogs, labeled a 3-point favorite for the game, couldn’t overcome. The message boards were not thrilled. I understand why. It sets up a fascinating matchup against LSU, which scored 49 points against Central Michigan in a win during Week 3. LSU QB Max Johnson has somewhat quietly had a brilliant start to the season, scoring 11 touchdowns in only three games. The over is mighty intriguing.
5. Oklahoma State (-7, 45.5) vs. Kansas State
At first glance, this point spread is a bit jarring. I know Kansas State is playing with its backup QB, although last weekend’s win over Nevada was a statement. The Wildcats were a small dog in that game and really controlled throughout. (I know this because I bet Nevada.) Oklahoma State wiggled its way out of Boise State with a win despite also being a small underdog. And while the box scores for the Pokes have been ugly, they are 3-0. I am curious to see what happens to this line throughout the week. I am also curious to see if that win on the blue turf will be what ultimately jars OK State to life.
Last Call: Parting Shots on Other Games of Note
Appalachian State (-7.5, 57) vs. Marshall: I am curious to see what Marshall does after coughing up its game against East Carolina. App State’s only loss came against Miami, which doesn’t exactly tell us much these days. Fun Thursday night tussle.
USC (-13, 63) vs. Oregon State: Jaxson Dart, USC’s backup QB with a tremendous name, looked fabulous against Wazzu when forced into action. The Trojans’ QB situation will be worth monitoring as we suddenly have a pretty compelling game.
Oklahoma (-16.5, 58.5) vs. West Virginia: The Sooners just look off. The offense isn’t as good as we thought, and the defense, while fine, isn’t elite. I am curious to see where this line goes and if Oklahoma can eventually grow into the team many thought they were going to become.