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Ugly Thursday night football, but better days ahead?

Jeff Fogle
VSiN.com

Love lost for Stanford (but game won). Too much love for Ohio State? A Thursday night NFL yawner only Ravens fans could love. And a World Series ya gotta love as we close out the week in VSiN City.

Before we jump into action, a quick note that it was great to see Mitch Moss back in the saddle so quickly Thursday morning on “Follow the Money” after his car accident earlier this week. Thanks to all of you who sent your regards to Mitch and VSiN. Mitch told VSiN City…

“I appreciate all of the tweets I received from our listeners. It meant a lot to see the reaction.”

You can hear Mitch Moss and Pauly Howard every morning on SiriusXM Channel 204 from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. ET, which is 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. in Las Vegas. Time to climb back into our saddles. Let’s get to work!

Thursday College Football: #20 Stanford barely survives woeful Oregon State!
Not much buzz leading into this game. We weren’t even going to write about it. Then it was announced late in the day that Heisman Trophy candidate Bryce Love would miss the matchup for the Cardinal. That caused a line of Stanford -21.5 to drop to -18. It needed to drop a lot more!

Stanford (-18) 15, Oregon State 14

  • Yards-per-Play: Stanford 3.7, Oregon State 4.2
  • Total Yards: Stanford 222, Oregon State 264
  • Rushing Yards: Stanford 81, Oregon State 138
  • Passing Stats: Stanford 16-33-1-141, Oregon State 13-22-1-126
  • Turnovers: Stanford 1, Oregon State 3
  • Touchdown Drive Lengths: Stanford 40, Oregon State 75-75

Nursing a 14-9 lead with about two minutes to go, Oregon State fumbled near midfield while trying to run out the clock. Stanford accepted the gift, and methodically stumbled forward 40 yards in nine plays to eke out the win. 

It’s hard to capture in words how badly Stanford played. Quarterback Keller Chryst threw such poor passes that you’d have thought he was using a trick ball from Harlem Globetrotter’s games. The Cardinal didn’t break 200 total yards until the final fortunate drive. Their “game winning strategy” in the final moments was “throw it in the vicinity of the tall guy” (which they also tried three straight times on failed two-point conversion efforts that drew two pass interference calls). 

Recent results for “the four best teams” in the Pac 12…

  • Stanford survived Oregon State (1-7), whose only win was by 3 over Portland State.
  • USC got obliterated at Notre Dame.
  • Washington lost at Arizona State (with stats very similar to Stanford/OSU), who lost to San Diego State and Texas Tech.
  • Washington State lost 37-3 at Cal.

Resume killers. 

Thursday NFL: Baltimore Ravens lose Joe Flacco to a concussion, but still rout Miami 40-0
The less said about this one the better. Some nasty hits from defenses that like to dish them out. One of those knocked Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco out of the game (and possibly future games) with a concussion. Ryan Mallett was able to protect the lead in relaxed fashion. 

Baltimore (-3) 40 Miami 0 

  • Yards-per-Play: Miami 3.0, Baltimore 4.8
  • Total Yards: Miami 196, Baltimore 295
  • Third Down Pct: Miami 27%, Baltimore 23%
  • Rushing Yards: Miami 45, Baltimore 174
  • Passing Stats: Miami 25-44-2-151, Baltimore 13-22-0-121
  • Turnovers: Miami 2, Baltimore 0
  • Touchdown Drive Lengths: Miami no TDs, Baltimore 40-60-38

Horrific beat for those who played Under 38. It was 20-0 heading to the fourth quarter. Then, Baltimore had a pair of interception return TDs sandwiching a short 38-yard TD drive. Never a game. Baltimore came out ready to play. Miami shared the worst of these possibilities from our preview Thursday. 

“Thriving in a short preparation week on the road against a quality defense could prove…difficult.”

“(T)he Ravens could run into a softer than normal Miami defense in a letdown spot off a divisional win…that’s also off three straight “one-score” nailbiters (16-10 over Tennessee, 20-17 over Atlanta, 31-28 over NYJ)…that came after a trip to England without a bye buffer.”

Miami looked ill-prepared AND tired. Baltimore didn’t exactly sparkle themselves. But they played clean in terms of execution with the safer run-based/field position approach. The “stat score” here (2 times rushing yards, plus passing yards, times 0.67, divided by 15) suggests a 21-11 Baltimore win. Should have been a double-digit victory that stayed Under. 

Baltimore moves to 4-4 through eight games, which puts them back in the Wildcard discussion in the AFC. Miami falls to 4-3, with two likely losses against New England still ahead. 

Next up…

  • Miami: vs. Oakland on Sunday November 5
  • Baltimore: at Tennessee on Sunday November 5

World Series: Games 3-4-5 this weekend as Houston hosts Los Angeles
All three of those will be played before our next report. 

Friday’s Game 3: LA Dodgers at Houston (8:05 p.m. ET, 5:05 p.m. PT on FOX)

  • Money line: Houston -135, LA Dodgers plus 125
  • Run Line: Houston -1.5 runs (plus 160), LA Dodgers plus 1.5 runs (-180)
  • Over/Under: 8.5 (Under -120)

Already a ton of money on Houston, who opened down closer to pick-em before deep pocketed gamblers hit the sportsbooks on Thursday. Why was early interest on Houston in Game 3 so one-sided?

  • Possibly because many sharps are aware that offenses which aren’t used to the quirky visibility at Minute Maid go through an adjustment period. We talked about that other day. Both Boston and the NY Yankees struggled in Houston to compile high numbers of “Total Bases Plus Walks Earned,” a stat we’ve been playing round with this postseason. You regulars know that Minute Maid has been the best pitchers’ park in baseball the past two seasons, despite is reputation as a bandbox. 
  • Possibly because there’s confidence that Yu Darvish still has a tendency to tip his pitches under pressure…and he’s going to be facing the most pressure he’s encountered over here in the States. 
  • Possibly because Lance McCullers Jr. looks to have fixed what was ailing him late in the regular season, potentially returning to the stellar form from the first half. You’ll see in the “skill set” pitching stats below that McCullers had a better xFIP than Darvish, and a much lower home run rate. The “new price” would suggest home field advantage AND a starting pitching advantage.
  • Possibly because a mix of sharps and the public who liked Houston in the World Series “except” when facing Clayton Kershaw found the confidence to really step in after Wednesday night’s Astros victory. 

Sharps don’t like to tip their hand. We’ll know when G4 goes on the board whether or not this Houston interest in G3 was more about “the Astros,” “the ballpark,” or about “McCullers vs. Darvish.” 

Game 4: Probably near pick-em with Wood vs. Morton
Game 5: Kershaw probably around -145 vs. Keuchel

Think of those as an estimated “base,” with the knowledge that whoever loses Game 3 will be a popular “bounce back” choice in Game 4. And, a lot can happen in G3 and G4 that could influence series perceptions before the returns of Kershaw and Keuchel in G5. Also, there are some deep-pocketed influences on both sides that could create a bandwagon effect. We saw that in G1 for the Dodgers, then G2 and G3 for Astros money.

“Three True Outcome” Stats for Starting Pitchers (in appearance order)

  • Yu Darvish: 3.65 xFIP, 27.3 K%, 7.6 BB%, 1.30 HR’s per 9 IP
  • Alex Wood: 3.34 xFIP, 24.6 K%, 6.2 BB%, 0.89 HR’s per 9 IP
  • C. Kershaw: 2.84 xFIP, 29.8 K%, 4.4 BB%, 1.18 HR’s per 9 IP

 

  • L. McCullers Jr.: 3.17 xFIP, 25.8 K%, 7.8 BB%, 0.61 HR’s per 9 IP
  • Charlie Morton: 3.58 xFIP, 26.4 K%, 8.1 BB%, 0.86 HR’s per 9 IP
  • Dallas Keuchel: 3.32 xFIP, 21.4 K%, 8.1 BB%, 0.93 HR’s per 9 IP

Here are the “offensive base” counts for the first two games in Los Angeles…

  • Game 1: LA Dodgers 14, Houston 6
  • Game 2: Houston 34, LA Dodgers 20 in 11 innings
  • (Game 2 through 9 innings: Houston 20, LA Dodgers 10)

Houston’s extra inning home runs helped create a big total. But, they had a clear edge in regulation after wasting multiple opportunities through the evening. The Dodgers did virtually nothing in the first nine innings outside of their homers (a tribute to Justin Verlander and his relievers). 

Be sure you watch VSiN programming throughout the day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for market developments and handicapping discussion. We’ll pick up again with the World Series here in the newsletter on Tuesday if there’s a Game 6. Mondays are always jam-packed with Sunday NFL summaries. 

Saturday College Football: A monster matchup when #2 Penn State visits #6 Ohio State
Finally, a HUGE college football game that handicappers can sink their teeth into. Unfortunately, both Penn State and Ohio State have played such weak schedules that we know more about how each performs in blowout situations than we do about real challenges. 

(Before getting to the preview, we received a question this morning about where to easily find team stats like yards-per-play, yards-per-pass, and the like. For the pros, we use NFL.com. Look for the “stats” and “team stats” sections. For the colleges, cfbstats.com is a fantastic resource. Thanks for the question!)

Penn State (7-0) at Ohio State (6-1) 

  • Las Vegas Line: Ohio State by 6.5, total of 57
  • Estimated Market Power Ratings: Penn State 87, Ohio State 90 

It’s telling that the line has stayed under the key number of seven all week. Current betting patterns make it very clear that sharps would come in hard on Penn State plus 7 (or better) if it came into play. As much support as there is for Ohio State as a “co-juggernaut” with Alabama in some analytics (and oddsmaking) circles…there’s not enough passion behind the host Buckeyes to bring the key number into play in advance of game day public betting. 

Opponents

  • Penn State: Akron, Pitt, Ga. State, at Iowa, Indiana, at NW, Michigan
  • Ohio State: at Indiana, OU, Army, UNLV, at Rutgers, Maryland, at Nebraska

Ohio State has been favored by a combined 181.5 points through seven games, which was -7 vs. Oklahoma and at least -20 vs. everyone else. So, one test (badly flunked). Penn State has been favored by a combined 139 points. The only tests have been in league play, which could give a misread if the Big 10 as a whole is nationally overrated (which has been known to happen). 

We give strength of schedule to Penn State. Jeff Sagarin of USA Today ranked them Penn State #45, Ohio State #52 entering the new week of action. 

Yards-per-Play

  • Penn State: 6.7 on offense, 4.0 on defense 
  • Ohio State: 7.4 on offense, 4.5 on defense 

Slight raw edge of plus 1.9 to 1.7 for Ohio State, which roughly becomes a wash after you factor in schedule. Ohio State has the more explosive offense (in blowouts), but the softer defense. 

Key Rushing Stats 

  • Penn State: 173 yards-per-game, 5.0 yards-per-carry 
  • Ohio State: 251 yards-per-game, 6.0 yards-per-carry

Very tough to know how much of that is OSU overpowering weaklings in a way that won’t matter vs. a good run defense. Same is true for both teams of course. Just keep in mind that the edge might be more about “choice” in what plays you call in blowouts, and when your starters sit. 

Rush Defense 

  • Penn State: 115 yards-per-game, 3.0 yards-per-carry 
  • Ohio State: 110 yards-per-game, 2.9 yards-per-carry

Both have been excellent…virtual brick walls vs. easy schedules. 

Key Passing Stats 

  • Penn State: 8.5 yards-per-pass attempt, 16 TD’s, 5 interceptions thrown
  • Ohio State: 8.9 yards-per-pass attempt, 24 TD’s, 2 interceptions thrown

Great stuff from both…again against outmanned opposition. We’ll deal with this shortly by running the numbers from Ohio State’s game against Oklahoma. To this point, both can do what they want vs. big underdogs. 

Pass Defense 

  • Penn State: 5.2 yppa allowed; 3 TD’s allowed, 9 interceptions
  • Ohio State: 6.3 yppa allowed; 8 TD’s allowed, 7 interceptions

This might come into play…because Penn State likes to spread the ball around in the air…and they’ll be facing an OSU defense that allows passing TD’s. 

Impact Defense 

  • Penn State: 35% third down pct-allowed, 18 takeaways, 24 sacks
  • Ohio State: 30% third down pct-allowed, 13 takeaways, 18 sacks

Penn State makes more impact plays, but isn’t quite as strong as OSU on third downs. Feels like that doesn’t quite cancel out because impact plays loom so large in big games. Plus, Penn State has faced the tougher schedule. So, short nod to the Nittany Lions in terms of the potential to turn the game on a big sack or takeaway.  

We’ve talked about this in the past. But, many of you are relatively new readers. There’s actually strong evidence that Ohio State is a national pretender if people would stop bending over backwards to NOT look at it. That’s been showing up when they play quality from outside the conference. Here’s the OU boxscore from earlier this season…

Oklahoma (plus 7) 31, Ohio State 16

  • Yards-per-Play: Oklahoma 6.8, Ohio State 5.1
  • Total Yards: Oklahoma 490, Ohio State 350
  • Third Down Pct: Oklahoma 36%, Ohio State 47% 
  • Rushing Yards: Oklahoma 104, Ohio State 167
  • Passing Stats: Oklahoma 27-35-0-386, Ohio State 19-35-1-183
  • Turnovers: Oklahoma 2, Ohio State 1
  • Touchdown Drive Lengths: Oklahoma 67-92-64-27, Ohio State 44

That doesn’t look at all liked you’d expect based on all the full-season stats we just posted for the Buckeyes. They allowed almost 500 yards and almost 7 yards-per-play in Columbus. The passing line of Baker Mayfield looked like he was facing a prevent the whole evening. On offense, Ohio State managed only one TD, and it came on a relatively short field. 

Sure, Oklahoma is a respected team. But, this looks even worse than it did at the time because OU has since lost at home to Iowa State, struggled to impress against the Vegas line on the road against Baylor and Kansas State, and survived the Texas rivalry game despite having players falling like flies in the fourth quarter. 

Ohio State didn’t physically wear down OU the way Texas did. Ohio State was badly outclassed on that particular evening. Penn State could be better than Oklahoma.

Rare fluke? No, kind of a replay of what happened when Ohio State played Clemson in last year’s Final Four. Ohio State (-1) lost to Clemson 31-0, losing yardage 470-215, yards-per-play to 5.5 to 3.8, third down conversions 47% to 21%, and turnovers 3-2.

In their last two tries against quality (one reason this year’s Buckeyes are well-respected by pundits is because so many starters are back from last year’s Final Four team), Ohio State missed the market by 32 and 22 points, getting outgained as favorites 960-565, with neither of those results coming on the road (one home, one neutral).  

We won’t be on the Buckeyes’ bandwagon as a National Championship threat this season unless they win it! That doesn’t mean Penn State is a lock Saturday afternoon. Again, the whole conference could be overrated. Penn State is definitely a lot better than Michigan right now. Do we know more than that? If they’re for real, they will at least play a coin flip as a dangerous dog in Columbus.

The critical score from Thursday night’s pricing is Ohio State 31.75, Penn State 25.25. Ohio State’s lack of explosiveness vs. Oklahoma could be warning us that 31.75 is too high against a good defense like Penn State’s. If weather is a factor, it’s likely to hinder offenses.  

Enjoy the big game! And the whole blockbuster weekend. See you again on “Big Money Monday” to recap Sunday’s key NFL stats. 

If you haven’t yet subscribed to Point Spread Weekly, taking care of that right now will get you previews for every single board game in the colleges and NFL. Click here to get on board and see pricing options.  (If you like the football format style we use on Thursdays and Fridays here in VSiN City, we supply a preview for MNF that runs exclusively in PSW.)

Follow the latest from VSiN this weekend by downloading our app, and by following us on twitter. If you have any comments or questions about anything in the VSiN universe, please drop us a note or post your thoughts in the Facebook widget below. 

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