published Thursday, September 20th, 2012

5-at-10: Fab 4 picks, Gold Medlen and Weekend of Challenges

After hitting close to 70 percent last year — and that was with a staggeringly bad 1-8 mark in picking games that involved Clemson (Stupid Clemson) — we have staggered out of the gate this year.

We're 9-6 through three weeks. We've lost some close ones, and we've identified some trends. But mainly we have ignored the fundamental rule of picking games against the spread: It's not about picking teams; it's about picking winning bets.

With that in mind, here are some fundamental reminders about point spreads.

1) The spreads, also known as the lines, are not set as the house's idea of the difference between the two teams. Sure, those often work, but those lines are set to try to get an even amount of betting on each side. If team A is playing team B, the perfect world for the casino is having $1 million on A and $1 million on B. That's a locked-up $100K and turn the game off. That's how the lines are set, to try to get equal amounts of money on each side.

2) When you see a point spread that looks too good to be true, it generally is. If you're thinking, wow, can't believe Arkansas is getting 21 points at home, that's nuts. Well, try to remember rule 1 and memorize rule 2.

3) If the line is less than 10 do not take the underdog unless you believe they are going to win the game out right. Banking on points is part of gambling, but banking on a single score is a dicey deal.

4) Here's our guideline for bigger spreads. Let's take a complete hypothetical: Let's say Auburn was struggling pretty badly. And let's say No. 2-ranked LSU was coming into town rolling. OK, let's make LSU an 18-point favorite. How many points would it take for you to bet on Auburn? If the answer is close to the actual point spread, then keep looking for your bet. We believe we'd need Auburn plus-28, and if you can find a game that has a 10-point curve in either direction, well, you're not going to get much better than that.

  • photo
    Florida's De'Ante Saunders gets his hands on an interception attempt in first quarter action. The pass was intended for Tennessee's Justin Hunter (11).
    Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

On to the picks....

Florida minus-23 against Kentucky: Let's go to Rule 4. How many would it take for you to feel comfortable with the Gators? Would you take Joker Phillips and Co. plus 33? How about Florida minus-40?

Georgia minus-14 against Vandy: We'd buy the half and take our chances. Vandy couldn't beat South Carolina in arguably the biggest home game in program history. They couldn't beat Northwestern on the road. So the Commodores are going to have an answer for Georgia? At night? In front of 92,000-plus against an Aaron Murray-paced offense and one of the nation's five best defenses?

LSU minus-19 at Auburn: The best bet is under 48 because Auburn may not get a TD. In fact, how many first downs do you think Auburn gets?

Clemson plus-14.5 at Florida State: And desperate times call for desperate measures. We have picked Clemson for crying out loud.

West Virginia minus-26 against Maryland: The over the 62 is worth looking at too. We think West Virginia is going to score a truck load of points every chance they get.

And remember, gang, this is for entertainment purposes only.

—————

Braves new ace

OK, we're on board. Kris Medlen is the Atlanta Braves ace. Period and end of discussion.

Whether it was the flat-billed hat or the grin of a 12-year-old or the unassuming physical presence, we had doubted Medlen time and again. In fact, when asked earlier this month who the Braves should start in the one-game, win-or-pack-the-equipment wildcard playoff, we said Tim Hudson because of experience.

Well forget that. Experience has taught us that the last 21 times Kris Medlen has taken the ball to the mound to start a game for the Braves, Atlanta has won. Yes, 21 consecutive wins. That's mind-bending.

Medlen has not been charged with a loss in 26 consecutive starts. He lowered his ERA to 1.51 after throwing 66 of his 99 pitches for strikes in eight scoreless innings. In his 10 starts since July 31, Medlen is 8-0 with an 0.76 ERA.

So the Braves are 6.5 games ahead of St. Louis for the top wildcard spot and 8.5 games clear of the Dodgers with 12 games to play.

And this September's surge — the Braves have won 12 of their last 17 — has a great deal to with Atlanta's new ace. Flat-billed hat and all.

—————

Weekend of challenges

There are a slew of intriguing games this weekend.

Baylor-McCallie is Friday night. So is Red Bank-Cleveland and South Pittsburg-Signal Mountain.

Saturday has the blood-bath that should be UT getting well against Akron.

Arguably the biggest game on the slate is UTC hosting App State on Saturday.

Our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer writes about it here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/sep/20/mark-wiedmer-will-app-state-game-defi-utc-football/.

It's time for a Mocs moment. It's time for a helmet-hanging win. Getting close to the upper-crust teams was a big step. The next step is beating them. It's time for the next step.

UTC coach Russ Huesman told Weeds that winning Saturday is not "a program-defining game, win or lose." And we can accept that. But everyone needs to know that UTC and Huesman need to find a program-defining moment sooner rather than later

Let's break down the five key points to Saturday for Jomo's Mocs:

1) Handle the moment. UTC believes it's ready for games like this. App State knows it is because it has been in so many of them.

2) Account for Jeremy Kimbrough. As our UTC beat ace John Frierson told us today http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/sep/20/appalachian-state-utc-have-elite-lbs-chattanooga/, App State linebacker Jeremy Kimbrough is among the best at his position in the FCS. He single-handled decided last year's 14-12 ASU win.

3) Big play. We understand Huesman's caution and need for this not to be viewed as a program-defining game win or lose. That puts the stakes too high and even if the Mocs win, that does not mean a secured playoff spot. But this could be the game that defines a season in which the Mocs change their course. And if that's to occur, they need a play to change this game. One big play made by one of the usual suspects or by some unknown.

4) Josh Williams, it's time to show up like the All-American that you are. And bring Wes Dothard with you, will you?

5) Start fast. The nerves will be there. The pressure will be there. The opportunity will be there. And the presence of all of those things is a great thing for this team, this program and their fans. That's the true mark of how much Russ and Co. has accomplished, that games like this matter. Now those chances are limited, because, as Weeds wrote, at some point those hopes are rewarded with wins. And with all of the emotion in the air, a quick start will magnify the moment every bit as much as 14-0 hole could mute it.

Whatcha' got UTC?

—————

This and that

— Imagine that: Chipper Jones and Derek Jeter tied Lou Gehrig records. Chipper matched Gerhig's career hit total at 2,721 and Jeter matched Gerhig's Yankees' record of eight seasons with 200 hits.

— Jalen Rose claimed he intentionally injured Kobe Bryant in the 2000 NBA Finals. Why? Not, "Why did you do it Jalen, since every third time you open your pie hole you prove yet again how big a punk you are?" No, our question is why share this now, 12 years later and apparently devoid of anything close to a pertinent reason? Other than baggy shorts, Jalen Rose has not added much to the social discourse. (Although, looking back at John Stockton, et al., the addition of baggy shorts was a high quality move.)

— Proving yet again that true love is as elusive as Barry Sanders in his prime, Chad Johnson and Evelyn Lozada divorced. Johnson, the former NFL receiver and former reality TV star who used to be known as Chad Ochocinco (now that's an appositive phrase that can fill up a resume), met Lozada on a reality TV show and lost his jobs after being arrested for head-butting his former wife. Side question: If the going divorce rate is a tragically high 50 percent, what is the rate of reality TV relationships that split up? Is this the first time someone can say 110 percent and be truthful?

— Wow R. Kelly now has a record-setting 21 career nominations for the Soul Train Awards. OK, you have a few questions, and we'll try to answer them. Yes, there is such a thing as The Soul Train Awards Show, and apparently it has been a round for a few years — or at least long enough for R. Kelly to get almost two dozen nominations. No, "Most likely to bring a 13-year-old girl to the ceremony" was not a category. Yes, Michael Jackson and Beyonce previously held the record for most nominations. No, George Strait has never been nominated. Yes, Don Cornelius, the long-time host and creator of the TV show Soul Train, is on the award statute. No, Soul Glo, the hair-care product by Darryl Jenks and his family in "Coming to America" is not a sponsor. Let your soul glow. And as always we wish you love, peace and soul.

—————

Today's question

Tonight, two great quarterbacks take the field when the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants play.

If you had the choice between Cam Newton or Eli Manning, who are you taking?

Manning turned 31 last January, so using him as the old guy ceiling, who are the best quarterbacks in the NFL 31 and younger? Here are some reminders — Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Mike Vick are older than 31. Cam, Eli, Aaron Rodgers, RG III, Matt Ryan, Phillip Rivers and Andrew Luck are not.

Remember, this is not who is the most accomplished. Picture this as redraft of the QBs in the league right now. Who do you take Nos. 1-5?

Discuss.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
jomo11 said...

Jay- Like your 5 key points on Mocs-Appy game, you are spot on. also another key will be UTC WR's ability to get separation with Appy's VERY athletic DB's

one other point, in FCS it is a little different in that 1 or even 2 conference losses can possibly still win your conference and the auto-bid for playoffs . . . .keep that in mind, you cant use the same FBS mentality . .

September 20, 2012 at 10:23 a.m.
droolyvolfan said...

Jay - The UTC/Appy game is much like the UT/Fla game, i.e. 7 loses in a row, one program rebuilding and one rolling for awhile. But I do think the Mocs will win this game. Forget everything I just said if Lou, Herbie and that stupid GameDay crew show up!!!

I'm taking, in this order: Andrew, Cam, Arron, Matt and RG3

September 20, 2012 at 11:28 a.m.
jgreeson said...

From friend of the show StuckinKent —

Don't know if you saw this stat a couple of weeks ago, so I thought I toss it at you.

In Michigan's game against Air Force, they gained 422 yards of total offense. Denard Robinson accounted for 426 of those yards. Wait...what?

That's right, due to negative yardage by other players, Robinson accounted for 101% of Michigan's total offense. He certainly gave more than 100% that day. Didn't know it was possible, but Robinson proved it was.

September 20, 2012 at 11:40 a.m.
Todd962 said...

Oh yes, homecoming week is upon us, I can already feel my kidneys quivering and my liver groaning. Its supposed to be a beautiful day Saturday with temperatures in the low 80's, high 70's, with blue skies, and a 0% chance of rain. Lovely day for the Mocs to make a statement and for me to time travel into Sunday (if you dont catch that reference, google Dave Attell Time Travel).

I have two fantasy questions for the wise and powerful Guru Greeson. I have the luxury of having Cam Newton and RGTree-fitty on my fantasy team. My reluctancy to start the younger of the youngsters has got me both weeks as he has outperformed Cam twice. What are your thoughts for this week. Numero Dos, if Andre Johnson and Julio Jones put up another week with a combined point total of 3.5 points, would it be crossing a line to present myself at their personal place of residence and demand restitution for any currency I may or may not have lost as a result of their utter disregard for my fantasy team and blatant lack of "want-to"? Any input would be greatly appreciated.

StuckinKent just blew my mind. I owe baseball coaches every where an apology for telling them they were morons and that it was impossible to give any thing more than 100%. I dont know how I feel about this revelation.

September 20, 2012 at 11:56 a.m.
chas9 said...

I'd stay away from Clemson.

I jumped on Medlen when you asked. Glad you've come to your senses.

UK has installed an underwhelming statue of Joe B. at Wildcat Lodge.

Truth #1: Not many sculptors are Michelangelo.

Truth #2: A sports themed statue must portray heroic action (like the Heisman guy), not somebody sitting in a chair.

Truth #3: If you can't picture Joe B. in a heroic pose, don't do the statue.

Truth 4: Don't do a statue before the subject is dead. You might have to remove it.

Truth #5: Keep the statue inside. Nothing looks good covered in pigeon poop.

Note: Well-done statues of raging elephants or charging tigers are always welcome.

September 20, 2012 at 12:01 p.m.
compspeed said...

Keeping with the "Coming to America" theme,...R Kelly is good, yeah, good and TERRIBLE!

September 20, 2012 at 12:10 p.m.
chas9 said...

My favorite sports quote ever, a football player after a game said: "I gave 110%, and that's all you can give." Don't remember who it was, but he may have been an Auburn scholar.

September 20, 2012 at 12:19 p.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Sorry I'm late to the party. Website wouldn't allow me to post.

Love the five points as well. I don't think you can script a better sports movie scenerio then what is going on in the Scenic City. Too bad neither program is in the SEC otherwise this would probably be on ESPN given the lackluster scheduling for all the major schools this weekend (including Alabama).

I did read (and commited) on Mark's column this morning. The "blue and gold party of one" will be amoung the horn, aggie, and brony faithful waiving their colors for game day.

Unfortunately, the city has no love for the green due to their current status as the "Western Carolina" of the Sun Belt. SLAM!!!!!

I'm neutral on both Cam and Eli. I just don't really care. I just want BJ to make the most of his "redshirt" year with the cheeseheads so he can follow his true destiny: replacing Romo. :D

September 20, 2012 at 12:31 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Jomo —

It's a safe bet the SoCon winner will have mutliple loses — unless El Cid is mucho bueno than we thought.

Droolyvolfan —

Concur completely. Big game that has the chance to be a springboard to special things.

Stuck —

Great stat.

962 —

Les Miles would most definitely questions AJ's and JJ's "want to" at this point. As for the QB dilemma, we have enjoyed a stellar start with RG III at the helm through two weeks. But we'd still likely play Cam and here's why — it gives you a rooting interest tonight on a game you likely will watch some of. Play RG III and come Sunday you'll be checking websites and Red Zone because the Washington-Cincy game will not be on here.

Unless you have the Sunday ticket and if that's the case, party at 962's crib.

9er —

We normally concur with that advice, but so it goes. We're a glutton for punishment.

And we be knowin' a bunches of Auburn folk who done went on to be Road Scholars.

Compspeed —

Arguably the most underrated comedy of our generation, no?

"In da FACE!"

"It's halftime."

"Yes. That's my favorite part of the game."

— 5-at-10

September 20, 2012 at 12:42 p.m.
Stewwie said...

Unless El Cid has become a national contender overnight, this Appy team looks very vulnerable. They gave up big plays to the Citadel last week and gave up over 600 yards of offense. And the Citadel's 52 points were all scored in the first 3 quarters. The Mocs are healthy, Jacob is playing great at QB, it's going to be a packed house at home...all signs point to the Mocs taking care of BID-ness on Saturday.

Phil Steele has the Mocs at #24 in his latest power poll. Appy is #29. Citadel is #14, GSU is #9.

Maybe I'm in the minority, but I have a feeling that Florida St. is going to win big over Clemson.

Cam or Eli? Definitely Eli. Mobile QBs don't do as well in the long run in the NFL.

Interesting stat from the WSJ: Only 2 times has Peyton, Brady, and Brees all lost on the same NFL weekend. The first time was in Week 16 of the '02 season. The second time was this past weekend.

September 20, 2012 at 1:30 p.m.
mcpell3 said...

chas - I concur on the statues, especially of the living - on anmimals, JMC has a nice herd of mustangs close to him in Las Colinas.

For QB's I'd take in this order Matt Ryan, Eli, Aaron Rodgers, Cam, and Andrew Luck.

September 20, 2012 at 1:57 p.m.
chas9 said...

Agree with MP3's QB pick order.

UK fans have been camping out since Tuesday for Midnight Madness tickets, which will be handed out beginning at 7 a.m. Saturday. Who's ready for Midnight Madness?

September 20, 2012 at 2:54 p.m.
JonathanMCook said...

mcpell3 wrote-

"JMC has a nice herd of mustangs close to him in Las Colinas."

And I know exactly what statue set you are referring to. BTW, the company I work for is in the Las Colinas neighborhood of Irving. The building that showcases those statues is 1/4 mile up the road from me.

Oh, and to answer your question from last week, you're dead-on regarding the location Cowboy HQ..However, I live on MacArthur. ;)

September 20, 2012 at 3:01 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Stew —

That's a top-notch stat.

And here's saying that if we threw out a Div. III football reference about a quarterback who transferred from NAIA Division II, Phil Steele would have a ranking on it. And that ranking likely would have empirical evidence to support it.

And you know who should be horrified we picked Clemson? Clemson fans. That sealed their fate right there.

— 5-at-10

McPell —

Our order will be Rodgers, Luck, Cam, Eli, Ryan

9er —

Auburn fans. And Arkansas fans. Wow, tough September.

September 20, 2012 at 3:01 p.m.
LaughingBoy said...

From yesterday's TV discussion...I didn't watch that thing but they were missing best game show..Price is Right, Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune would have had to be among the finalists.

I'd rather watch a marathon of My Mother the Car, followed by Cop Rock for a week, than another minute of ER. Mad Men doesn't impress me too much either. Nearly all of the cable dramas and 'comedies' start out as critics' darlings-I've seen plenty of shlock on networks canned after a season that would be dragged out as artistic on Showtime or AMC.

If the Mocs lose to one of the worst Appalachian State teams in years Huesman should start to feel some pressure. How long does a rebuilding effort take?

September 20, 2012 at 4:06 p.m.
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