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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, September 3, 2011 at 12:24 AM

That was a shootout in the Wild West! Baylor survived a 50-48 thriller Friday Night as a home underdog against TCU. After blowing a 47-23 fourth quarter lead, Baylor drove the field and kicked the game winning field goal with a minute left. Underdog bettors survived their heart attacks. TCU rooters had a chance to come all the way back for a cover if the Horned Frogs had found the end zone on their failed last minute drive.

There was mixed sentiment in this game from VSM handicappers. Upset calls did come through for Kelso Sturgeon, Jim Hurley, Tony Salinas (another "revenge" winner for Tony by the way, with a returning quarterback on the underdog facing a new quarterback starter for the favorite) , and Coach Ron Meyer.

Who would have guessed at 47-23 that TCU would rally faster than you could say “I wonder how Andy Roddick’s doing?” Check out the numbers…

BAYLOR 50, TCU 48

  • Total Yardage: TCU 466, Baylor 564
  • Rushing Yardage: TCU 215, Baylor 150
  • Passing Stats: TCU 25-39-1-251, Baylor 23-29-0-414
  • Third Downs: TCU 40%, Baylor 40%
  • Turnovers: TCU 1, Baylor 1
  • Yards-Per-Play: TCU 6.1, Baylor 8.7
  • Vegas Line: TCU by 3.5, total of 52

So much to talk about. Let’s just run some keys.

*Baylor moved the ball at will all night. It’s amazing what some of these Big 12 offenses can do if you don’t have a shut down defense. TCU normally does, but they only returned four starters this season on that side of the ball. Baylor passed for over 400 yards without throwing a pick. Baylor gained 8.7 yards-per-play against a big time program on a week that often sees rusty offensive performances.

*TCU hung around early thanks to some long kick returns. Baylor would go the distance. TCU would return the kickoff 70 yards and convert cheap points. The Bears finally did get their special teams in order. And, TCU’s offense would legitimately drive the field once the kid quarterback found some rhythm. Still, the stats you see above shouldn’t have been a 2-point win. Baylor was the much better side until they lost their focus with the 24-point lead.

*Baylor isn’t Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, or even Texas A&M. In fact, they lost to those teams by scores of 53-24, 55-28, and 42-30 last season. TCU has fallen from national power to mid-level Big 12 team after getting hit so hard by graduation. A preseason national ranking in the top 15 turned out to be pretty optimistic.

*TCU visits Air Force next week. At least the option-based attack won’t pass the way Baylor did. But, inexperienced defenses are known to have some trouble with the option. Tough way to start a season…in the Texas heat against a high octane offense one week, at altitude facing an option attack the next.

Congrats to all of you who cashed tickets with the VSM experts who were on Baylor Friday Night.  

Favorites Who Couldn’t "Score the Spread"…

An interesting red flag that we’ve learned to look for in college football involves teams who can’t “score” the pointspread in their first game of the season. If they’re 21-point favorites, they fail to even reach 21 points. If they’re 35-point favorites, they score 27 or 28…something like that.

Teams like this often turn out to be:

  • Overrated by the markets in the first month
  • Offensively challenged longer than expected
  • In big trouble offensively down the road when they face quality defenses

We have a few examples already this week…let’s take a look.

*Kentucky (-19) scored only 14 points vs. Western Kentucky. It was an abysmal offensive night for the Wildcats. They gained just 234 yards while turning the ball over four times. They’re also the only victorious team this week to gain less than 4.0 yards per play (registering at 3.7). They did survive straight up with a 14-3 win. But, they performed at a level way below expectations. The market had expected them to score about 36 points instead of 14. Another red flag to note: Kentucky was outrushed 141-93 by a Sun Belt team. Inexcusable for an SEC side. Might as well add another. Kentucky quarterback Morgan Newton was 7-18-3-97 in the air. What’s going to happen vs. strong SEC defenses if he does THAT vs. Western Kentucky?

*Louisville (-28) scored only 21 points vs. Murray State. Turnovers were a problem here too, with the Cardinals losing the ball four times. They did convert 50% of their third downs though, while averaging 5.5 yards per play. Still, against an opponent like Murray State, a lot more was expected. You should score more than your spread against somebody like Murray State! On the ground, Louisville only won rushing yardage 159-143. A big surprise.

*Utah (-29) scored only 27 points vs. Montana State. The Utes didn’t turn the ball over, but managed just 292 total yards and only 4.8 yards-per-play vs. what should have been an outmanned opponent.

*Michigan State (-34) only scored 28 points Friday Night vs. Youngstown State. The peripherals aren’t quite as bad…as the Spartans did pop 7.0 yards-per-play. But, a few big plays warped that stat a bit. MSU was just 33% on third downs, and only totaled 161 rushing yards (vs. 131 for Youngstown). Can you complain about a passer who was 18-22-0-221? If you’re only moving between the 20’s vs. somebody like Youngstown State…well… a Spartan should put more on the board against a Penguin.

*A fifth example just missed, with Central Michigan (-19) only scoring 21 points against South Carolina State. Central gained just 256 yards on 4.1 yards-per-play….lost the ball twice…converted just 3 of 14 third down tries…and rushed for only 88 yards. It’s amazing how far this Central Michigan program has fallen in just a couple of years.

We probably won’t have time to monitor this stat in full for you Saturday. We’d encourage you do-it-yourselfers to keep an eye out for qualifiers.

In Friday’s pennant race games…

*In the AL East, the New York Yankees moved back into first place with a 3-2 win over Toronto. Boston was bombed in Fenway by Texas 10-0. The Red Sox have now lost three of their last four. The Yanks now led the division by half a game.

*In the AL Central, Detroit dusted the Chicago White Sox 8-1. Another great outing for Justin Verlander, who’s getting a lot of MVP run in the media of late. Cleveland won at Kansas City. So, Detroit currently leads Cleveland by 5.5 games, Chicago by 6.5 games.

*In the AL West, that Texas victory up in Boston will keep the Rangers at least four games ahead of the LA Angels. The Halos will finish after publication deadlines.

*In the NL West, first place Arizona is visiting second place San Francisco in a game that will end after publication deadlines. The D-backs led by six games entering the series. It will either be five or seven after tonight.

Back with you in the morning for the first big college football Saturday of 2011. The Network Notebook will discuss what’s at stake in the Boise State/Georgia showcase game in prime time.  Be sure you check out the picks page in the morning. You can bet that all VSM handicappers will have major releases on tap…and some of those will start EARLY. Take care of business before kickoff!

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