PB Weekend: When A College Team's Pulse can be the Most Important State of All

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David Malinsky

Friday, November 3, 2017 2:37 PM GMT

Friday, Nov. 3, 2017 2:37 PM GMT

Time to measure the pulse in SEC country for some trips to the betting windows...Kris Kristofferson won't tell you much about stats or trends, but you will get to know yourself a whole lot better...The Saints defense comes marching in again, and yes, Beer and Chocolate are both good things, especially together...

Point Blank – November 3, 2017

The various ebbs and flows for those of us looking for edges at the betting boards are such that the busy weekend ahead is actually a slight respite, the first without baseball since March, and the last before NCAA Hoops occupies a big part of our consciousness, ironically until baseball comes back around.

There is plenty to sort through on this board, and the focus for today will go on digging for edges beyond what is in the stat columns, as looking to measure the pulse of a team becomes one of the keys down the stretch. That gets us into the mindset of the handicapper/bettor, and for the Friday jukebox I will veer a little bit from something as a background for your reading to something that should claim your full attention.

In Tuesday’s PB there was the ability to theme in some Kris Kristofferson, and I noted at the time that if I ever do stand in front of a classroom to talk about the best path to success at beating the odds, the first thing I might assign is some long and detailed listening to his works. Kristofferson’s ability to put an understanding of the human experience into a form that resonates is something to reach out for; his writing eternally contemporary because times change, but people don’t.

Let’s go back a ways to a live performance of The Pilgrim - Chapter 33 from Austin, and you can weave your way through the lyrics. Many of you may see yourselves in them, because I have known far too many in the sports betting realm that I recognize, hence the reason to make it a focus. The punctuation for the lyrics is Kristofferson’s own:

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See him wasted on the sidewalk in his jacket and his jeans,
Wearin' yesterday's misfortunes like a smile
Once he had a future full of money, love, and dreams,
Which he spent like they was goin' outta style
And he keeps right on a'changin' for the better or the worse,
Searchin' for a shrine he's never found
Never knowin' if believin' is a blessin' or a curse,
Or if the goin' up was worth the comin' down

He's a poet, he's a picker
He's a prophet, he's a pusher
He's a pilgrim and a preacher, and a problem when he's stoned
He's a walkin' contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction,
Takin' ev'ry wrong direction on his lonely way back home.

He has tasted good and evil in your bedrooms and your bars,
And he's traded in tomorrow for today
Runnin' from his devils, lord, and reachin' for the stars,
And losin' all he's loved along the way
But if this world keeps right on turnin' for the better or the worse,
And all he ever gets is older and around
From the rockin' of the cradle to the rollin' of the hearse,
The goin' up was worth the comin' down

If these words become a mirror for you, take the time to acknowledge them, and be prepared to slow down a bit. There is money to be made across these betting boards, but there are no thrones, and no crowns for heroes, so don’t take those treacherous paths towards destinations that don't exist. Aiming for the proper target might be the most important thing that you can do, and that is where I see so many get lost along their way. Listening to Kristofferson won’t tell you where to go, but it will help you to understand where you are at, which is something that many need to do, gaining a balance before being able to take a step forward.

Now let’s set up some targets to take a step forward on the  weekend board…

 

Item: Ole Miss/Kentucky, and how the Pulse may be the most important number of all

A big theme over the last two Monday NCAA reviews is the notion of what attitude means at this stage of the season. The scores and stats define where a team has been, but they can’t measure how much energy or spirit there is to maintain over the final stage of the campaign. As such we look to play on teams that have a spark that goes beyond their stats to this point, and against those that are likely to limp home. In particular we look for settings in which those two paths cross, which takes us to Lexington for Saturday.

I will be putting  #330 Kentucky (4:00 Eastern, note the time change) into pocket, plenty of -3.5 still out there this morning but a likelihood that -4 becomes common before the day is out. The Wildcats aren’t special, but they don’t necessarily know that, which is where positive energy down the stretch can come from.

Most folks wouldn’t have given more than a passing glance at Kentucky 29 Tennessee 26 last Saturday, especially since the game fell close to the line, but that was only the second win for the Wildcats against the Vols since 1994, and the first for Mark Stoops and any of his recruits. It mattered to them, and I believe it particularly mattered in that they drove 72 yards for the game-winning TD after taking the ball for what they had to feel was their final possession at 4:43. That kind of drive, and that kind of win, can do wonders for a team’s energy level, and for as mediocre as the talent is, there is a legit prospect of going 9-3 and getting a nice bowl bid, which will add more spark to their November practices.

Now there is also the football matchup advantage of Benny Snell running into what has been a bad Ole Miss rush defense to this point, but now could become a terrible one, because the motivation to play out the rest of the season may not be there. On the same Saturday that Kentucky was getting the boost of beating Tennessee the Rebels saw a 31-7 lead get away at home vs. Arkansas in a 38-37 defeat, a sequence I believe may take the remaining spirit out of the team.

It was already set up to be a tough closing stretch for interim HC Matt Luke, who knows that he is not auditioning for the full-time job, and a depth-shy defense has allowed 42.8 points and 528.4 yards across five SEC games, the majority of those yards coming on the ground (308.2). Now they have to leave campus for the first time in almost a full month, without the leadership of veteran QB Shea Patterson to help keep them on track. Even if they brought their best effort it was going to be a struggle for the defense to get off the field, coming in worn down after having faced 83 plays vs. Arkansas, but I am not sure there is a motivational trick Luke and the Ole Miss staff have to get their team to go hard this week anyway.

I think Randy Shannon may be doing the right things to get Florida to re-focus, so let’s head to Columbia next…

 

Item: Will Florida bring some fight this week

For as dismal as things have been at Florida this season, the Gators are better than Missouri, and the defensive gap is one of the widest we will ever find for an underdog in this price range. But the price is set where it is because attitude is a major question for the program, and I believe there may be a better answer to that than others in the marketplace expect. So with +3 an easy find, plenty of low-vig offerings of it in the Friday morning marketplace, there will be some #411 Florida (Noon Eastern, note the time change) going into the portfolio.

Randy Shannon gets the difficult task of being the interim guy for the remainder of the Florida season. He has plenty of experience at this level, his 28-22 run as the HC at Miami not good enough for that program to keep him around, but don’t underestimate the credentials, including the fact that he steered the program to the third-best Academic Progress Rate among FBS schools in those years.

What Shannon needed to do this week was to get to work, and I believe he did, immediately showing that he was in charge, and that things would be different, by opening up some positions for competition: “I think the more competitive guys are, you bring the best out of them. When you can make guys compete in practice, you’re really going to find out what you’re going to get in the game.”

There is talent on hand, what had been missing was some fight, the players seeming to have quit on Jim McElwain. Shannon is attempting to jump start the energy level, and that included an open competition for the starting QB spot, which was won by Malik Zaire. For as bad as the loss to Georgia was, one that I attribute largely to a lack of effort because of the McElwain situation, the Gators entered that one 3-2 in SEC play, the two losses by 17-16 to LSU and 19-17 to Texas A&M. They were right there to the final play in each, and that level of play is enough to beat a Missouri team that put up pinball numbers against lightweights Idaho and Connecticut the past two games, but is 0-4 in SEC play, losing by an average of 21.5 points, and also got dumped 35-3 on this field by Purdue.

Now on to Sunday…

 

Item: The markets aren’t buying the Saints defense after all (so we can feel free to)

The notion of the New Orleans defense being much improved has been a running storyline across these pages this season, and I brought it back into play on Tuesday because there was a thought that perhaps the markets might over-react now, the improvements looking better than the reality. But that hasn’t happened, and with a late-week market surge on the news that Jameis Winston was back on the practice field for Tampa Bay, the first time in weeks he has been available for that, I see 52 now showing at several key precincts. That is more than fair value to make it #456 New Orleans Under (Sunday, 1:00 Eastern).

While the Tuesday take was to urge some caution in grading the Saints defense because the competition has been sub-par, one of the best resources out there does that for us, the Football Outsiders, which is why I refer to their ratings often. My confidence stems from the fact that our grades are almost identical – they show the New Orleans defense as improving from #31 to #16. The key is that I wasn’t projecting the Saints defense to be good this season, merely much better than the market projections, and despite some strong statistical showings vs. that weak competition, the market hasn’t bought in yet. So we stay in play.

What matters here is similar to some of the NCAA discussions – how this defense feels about itself is so very important in terms of the confidence to keep improving, and taking those extra steps in practice and preparation. That is happening.

Here is what is also happening – by having a legit defense for the first time in years, Drew Brees and the New Orleans offense can also approach games differently, which helps our purposes for this ticket. They have dropped from #3 in pace to #21, slowing it down nearly a full two seconds per snap, and note that is not because of managing leads in the latter stages, but also in going from #2 to #17 in first half SPS.

 

Item: As for Dribbling for Dollar$ on Friday

There was going to be one other game brought into focus today that many of you may have been expecting, that struggling Cleveland Cavaliers defense having to take to the road, with the Smith/Rose back-court having to go up against John Wall and Bradley Beal. The Cavs issued were laid out in yesterday’s edition of PB.

But it didn’t last long in the morning trading – if you have access to line trackers you will see how quickly the Wizards went from -3.5 to -4.5, and 221 became 222. Sometimes you just have to be quick, the hoped for full go at -3 never available, but at least a pinch getting into play at 3.5…

 

Item: For your listening pleasure

Time for this week’s edition of House of Yards, Matt Landes and myself breaking down the biggest games across the NFL board, along with some long-term takes on handicapping methodology, Arizona/USC, and of course the Beer of the Week. For Matt’s tasting notes on this week’s prime brew, you can read on…

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Item: And for your drinking pleasure

Matt is in a particular wheelhouse that I enjoy this week. Because my taste buds have many of my evening meals dealing with a lot of spice, not necessarily hot but a spectrum that includes a lot of garlic, milder curries, etc., there is often the need for a palate soother to close the evening. I do not have an affinity for heavy desserts, but a little bit of good dark chocolate does the trick, paired most often with Scotch Whisky, but also the occasional Lambic as well.

This week Matt goes to that territory, where the pairings can be fantastic, and in fact we may set one up when football season is over. If you listened to this week’s House of Yards you will have noted a Las Vegas chocolatier that I favor, and for those that live here that is Jinju Chocolates. We are working on setting up a pairing evening, giving Jin Caldwell a few different beers that she can use her special skills to create some combinations, which should be a lot of fun, and may be recaptured on these pages.

Now time for Matt to take it away, and you can follow his drinking adventures at Just here for the Beer.

Brewery: Mikkeller
Beer: SpontanLychee
Style: Oak-Aged Sour
ABV: 7.7%

Spontaneously fermented and made with lychee as the name suggests, SpontanLychee pours a translucent golden orange and drinks much lighter than its ABV would imply. The lychee is clearly present but not overpowering, bringing the optimal balance to complement a dry finish that keeps you coming back for more.

SpontanLychee packs a pleasant punch that stimulates the palate in a way few beers can - like a spontaneous adventure, it's well worth trying.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

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