Wait. ... Let me clear my throat. ... OK, now repeat: Fire. Edsall.
It's enough already. It started with mass defections, then a historically horrible season, a slightly less horrible season, two mediocre-to-barely-acceptable seasons that ended with two bad performances in bad bowl games. And now we're headed backwards again. There are way too many penalties and mistakes. There's terrible game management, awful decision-making, and hyperconservative play-calling. We've seen reliably horrendous quarterback play, which makes me question the quarterback coaching. Speaking of which, the recruiting is totally overrated ... Maryland was team-ranked in the 30s and 40s with Fridge, just like now. And before anyone brings up our elite quarterback recruit, it should be said that one elite quarterback recruit is a really bad excuse for hanging onto a failed coaching staff. The Terps' last five-star recruit has been sitting on the bench for a year-and-a-half while two former walk-ons started ahead of him on the OL. The five-star before that is a receiver in the NFL now, but Maryland didn't win with him and he was victimized by injuries and by the offense around him, which couldn't reliably block or get him the ball. A 5-star prospect can turn into Johnny Unitas or Johnny Brantley ... or Melvin Alaeze for that matter. Great hope surrounds them, but you just don't know how they'll pan out. Gage Shaffer could be Maryland's future star quarterback for all we know. You can't hinge all your hopes and dreams on one prospect. It's not realistic and it's not fair to the prospect.
Full disclosure: I don't care for Randy Edsall's straight-laced, boy-scoutish persona. All things being equal, I prefer a colorful coach that puts his personality out there, plays ball with the media and fanbase, and wears his heart on his sleeve. I want my Maryland coach to be one of us. Fridge, whether you wanted him or didn't at the end (and I was in the latter category, fwiw), was undeniably one of us. He was human and his personality was a much better match for Maryland fans like me, but this Edsall diagnosis is not about personality, in fact, it's not personal at all. It's Year 5 and things appear to be much worse than they were in Year 3 or Year 4. The product is lackluster, the stands are empty, the results just aren't there. It's time to scrap this 5-year failed project and start over again.
Anyway, Maryland and Michigan play on Saturday. Are you betting on it? Let's talk:
How FlaTerp fared (season record in parenthesis):
Maryland vs. spread: Won (4-0)
Maryland straight up: Won (3-1)
Overall vs. Spread: 1-4-1 (13-10-1)
Thoughts: I would never make excuses, so get ready for an excuse. On the surface and for the purposes of this column, it was a bad week for me. However, I'd like to say that between Wednesday when I published this and Friday when I placed my bets, the lines swung in the UF-Tennessee and TAMU-Arkansas games. UF went from a 1.5-point favorite to an underdog, then won outright. Arkansas jumped from a 7-point dog to 7.5, which turned my result from a push to a win. So while 1-4-1 is tough to swallow, 3-3 you can live with. The lesson: don't bet on Wednesday. Now, we're all looking at those same Wednesday lines and playing in this space based on those lines so I still stumbled and went 1-4-1 for our purposes and I'll own it. I also need to recognize Leek0421 for an unblemished week. Well done, sir. In the wider picture, it's been tougher sledding this year than it was last year, as only seven of 25 have winning records for the season thus far. Gambling is a tough business.
How you all fared: Courtesy of Statjax, here are the results ...
Week 3 results
Time to get down to business with this week's games, starting, of course, with Maryland.
#22 Michigan (3-1)
at Maryland (2-2)
Line: Michigan opened as a 15.5-point road favorite (ouch!) but has been betted down to 14.5 at the time of this writing.
Trends: 15.5 is a giant line for a road conference game, but the public, not to be distracted by the horror show the Terps displayed last week in Morgantown, was still all in on Michigan (can you blame them?). When I first checked the trends yesterday, 92% of the public money was on the Wolverines. You'd think the Vegas sharps who control these lines would respond by giving the Terps a couple more points to try and balance the action and eliminate the house's risk, but, in fact, they did the opposite and dropped the line a point lower, effectively begging for even more Michigan money. Now, Maryland is personal for me but I try not to view these things personally. Gambling the way I do is 100% business and when you inject your heart into your analysis, you lose. If I pretend my favorite team isn't involved and just look at the numbers, the Terps are a screaming play here. If this were some other game on the board involving two other teams but with the same betting trends and line movement, it might be my favorite game of the week.
My pick: Everything about this matchup screams Michigan. They're coming off a huge win over a good team; Maryland is coming off two straight stomach-punch losses in which things got progressively worse at every turn. The Terps' homefield advantage is nullified not once but twice, by a supercharged Michigan fanbase that might well show up the apathetic home crowd in both size and sound, and by a time change from juicy primetime to a rather dry noon. Logic says take red hot Michigan against reeling Maryland and run, but logic is always the public's playing card vs. the house and remember, the house always wins and that's the foundation of my betting world. Let's remember that Michigan is not used to success yet and that they're in a new system. Let's also remember that Maryland won this game outright last year on the road. This is a textbook trap game for Jim Harbaugh's team, bookended by two ranked opponents, BYU last week and Northwestern next. Maryland has its backs completely against the wall, having lost all credibility both nationally and within its own fanbase. The Terps are going to show up and put a big scare into Big Blue.
Pick vs. the spread: Maryland +14.5
Game pick: Michigan 23, Maryland 20
5 I like
@PENN STATE (-26.5) vs. Army: Hate doesn't motivate me, see? I'm all about the dollar. Penn State has won its last two vs. the spread and was rewarded with a surprisingly big line here. Not unlike this week's Maryland-Michigan trends/line activity, Vegas responded to the public's affinity for Army by adding points and making the Black Knights even more attractive. It's a classic 80-20 breakdown in favor of underdog Army, so look for vastly superior talent to do what it's supposed to do in this mismatch.
@GEORGIA (-1.5) vs. Alabama: When was the last time Alabama lost two in a row? And when was the last time I picked two favorites in a row vs. the spread? You'd have to do research to find either answer, but I'm guessing it's been a while. Even after a shaky showing vs. Ole Miss last week, Alabama remains the Patriots of the NCAA who the public backs up pretty much no matter what. It's 80-20 so I'll take a very good UGA team at home in what is essentially a pick'em.
@FLORIDA (+7.5) vs OLE MISS: Another 80-20 split. Nobody believes in the unbeaten Gators, I guess, but this is just silly. I'm not buying Ole Miss as 7.5-point road favorites in a SEC game at a very hard stadium for a road team to win. Ole Miss seems to be for real and Florida's questions are valid after three straight squeaker wins over opponents who aren't in the Rebels' class. This one's general principal. It's too many points but the public doesn't care. Vegas is trying to steal it.
@INDIANA (+22.5) vs. Ohio State: This isn't exactly the same thing as Ole Miss-UF, because the Hoosiers are a far cry from the Gators when it comes to both talent and homefield advantage, plus Florida's unbeaten record may be shaky but it's not nearly as shaky as IU's razor-thin wins over Wake, WKU and Southern Illinois. However, Ohio State hasn't pulled things together yet this year and barely beat NIU two weeks ago. The public loves the chalk, so the Buckeyes are laying a few too many points on the road and still getting too much of the action. Indy keeps it close enough to make the house happy.
@COLORADO (+7.5) vs. Oregon: Sorry, Oregon, last week's events were real and I believe the fun is over for now. Here's a game that opened with an 11.5-point line and has dropped four full points to 7.5 since. Oregon has a great recent history and a great name, so the public couldn't be more excited to throw money at the Ducks. It's a freaking 90-10 split and Vegas doesn't care and keeps shaving off points and chasing more Oregon money. There's no rhyme or reason to liking a Colorado team that started this season with an 8-point loss at Hawaii. I just do.