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Protect Your Unit Week 8 Results Thread

In which we break down Arkansas’ disastrous fake punt.

Wisconsin v Illinois
“Hooray! We saved Coach’s job! Even though the school can’t afford to buy him out anyway. What was my motivation again?”
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

(DISCLAIMER: This game is for entertainment purposes only. No actual money is being wagered.)

Who designed this play?

Didn’t go as planned? How was it even supposed to go? I find this botched play so fascinating that I’m going to go all Seth Varnadore on it.

Arkansas fake punt #1

The punter (Sam Loy) is pretending he’s going to punt the ball. The intended receiver (De’Vion Warren) has started his little drag route, into the space behind the scrimmage line. The Auburn player at the top (Tanner Dean) looks like his assignment was to shadow Warren downfield, but is now following this odd path he’s taken instead. The only other Auburn player nearby is #31 at the bottom (Chandler Wooten). He lets his man go, and then stays where he is, as if is his job is to watch for a fake. Everyone else is headed downfield or engaged.

I think this is supposed to be the clever part. After holding the ball out as if to punt it, the punter fluidly shifts into a jumping position, and throws a basketball two-handed chest pass. This motion can happen very quickly, and takes less time, and maintains the deception longer.

But... there’s no benefit to that. He’s got plenty of time. He’d have been better off taking a tenth of a second, abandoning the ruse (more on that in a minute), and setting up to make a football throw. Also, this design makes the timing more difficult. The receiver has to time his route with the entire punting/throwing motion, instead of just the throw. The punter has no option to throw a little faster, slower, earlier, or later - which is what needed to happen here.

You can see that the receiver has gotten free from his man, who seems to have realized “I’m supposed to shadow this guy, what am I doing here?” The receiver has plenty of space to catch the ball and get around the other Auburn defender. If the punter had thrown a nice little dart here, this play had a chance of succeeding.

But he throws the ball way too high, way too soft, and in the wrong place. Again, I blame part of this on poor play design, which put him in a difficult position to make the throw the play needed.

This was obviously inspired by the famous Urban Meyer/Tim Tebow jump pass play. But the conditions that made that play work aren’t present here. That play worked because it was a goal-line situation, and pretended to be an inside QB run, so all the defenders would be packed into a small area trying to stop the run. The jump ensured that the thrown ball would clear the pile of humanity in the way, and give the receiver an extra split-second to get to the target spot. That it looked cool was just a bonus.

Here, the punter jumps because... it looks cool, I guess? He could have just come to a stop and still thrown the two-handed basketball pass. The jump accomplishes nothing.

This design also overlooks another factor of the Tebow play that wasn’t present here: all the players that might get in the way of the pass are your players. You can instruct them to stay low, duck, or even fall to the ground. Again, there’s no reason to maintain the deception at this point. And there’s no reason to put air under the ball; in fact, it defeats the purpose of a throw that needs to be quick.

Auburn’s #31 Wooten intercepts the bad throw. Now, in these four screenshots, have you noticed anything odd? The three up men still haven’t moved! They’ve been frozen in position since the play started, like terracotta warriors. Were they supposed to do that? Why? It’s like they were expecting rushers that never came, and just kept waiting for them. Did they not know it was a fake? No, because they would have released by now.

Yes, on a trick play you have to maintain the illusion... for a moment. We’re well past that point. Once the pass is in the air, you can quit pretending it’s a punt. These players could have started moving a second and a half ago, once the throw was underway, and tried to block the two Auburn players to give the play more chance of success.

In fact, why are these men even there? Given this play design, there’s not much they can do to help. The intended receiver is ahead of them, so they’re in no position to block for him. Okay, maybe Arkansas always punts from this formation, and not having three men here would raise suspicion. Then why not design a fake punt where their presence would be useful?

This play is self-defeating. It’s designed to deceive much more than necessary, and in doing so makes itself difficult to execute, and puts players in useless positions. It’s so focused on its cleverness that it ignores its massive inherent flaws, like the villain’s death machine in a bad action movie. Or, sometimes, a good action movie.

Okay, on to this week’s business:

  • As is always the case when USF loses, the group lost a lot of fake money on USF-Navy. $441.86, to be exact.
  • Continuing a theme, 4 of our top 6 losing games were AAC games. The next three were Memphis-Tulane (6 bets, -190.91). Cincinnati-Tulsa (4 bets, -165), and Houston-UConn (4 bets, -91.72). The other game? BYU, the team USF just beat, upset Boise State and made 5 bets lose 130 total.
  • Illinois-Wisconsin and Oregon State-California were shocking upsets, but neither did much damage, losing only $46.14 combined.
  • Other than my $200 win on Florida, no game won more than $57.50 total this week.
  • One of speruche’s parlay wins included Coastal Carolina-Georgia Southern over 45. The game was played in a downpour, and was only 10-10 at the end of regulation. After three overtime periods, GSU won 30-27 and the over was made. When you’re on a roll, you’re on a roll.
  • Speaking of overtime games, North Carolina-Virginia Tech invoked a new rule: after four OTs, the teams just go for two-point conversions. This was good news for Oak1787, who had VT +3.5, and theoretically couldn’t lose at that point. Though I wonder what happens if a team scores a conversion, then intercepts the other team’s conversion and returns it to the end zone. Do they get two more points?
  • Degenerate Bet of the Week goes to AnthonyVito for playing UTSA over Rice. You’ve got to love a team that’s only 4.5 point favorite against an 0-6 team. I watched part of that game and it was just delightfully bad, with Rice changing QBs constantly.
  • Some Futures bets have come in! camweed12’s bets on SMU to win more than 6 games, and defdans’ bet on Oregon State to win more than 2, both clinched yesterday. I’ll have a full futures update in the upcoming Week 9 Picks Thread. Remember, you don’t get paid until the season ends (because the teams have to play their assigned schedule).
  • First-year player speruche continues to lap the field with his knack for hitting over-under parlays:
speruche Under 67.0 points in the Arizona-Southern California game; Under 67.5 points in the Louisiana-Monroe-Appalachian State game; Under 68.5 points in the Louisiana-Lafayette-Arkansas State game (WIN,WIN,WIN) Southern California 41-14; Appalachian State 52-7; Louisiana-Lafayette 37-20 40.00 WIN 240.00
speruche Over 44.5 points in the Georgia Tech-Miami (FL) game; Over 45.0 points in the Coastal Carolina-Georgia Southern game; Over 45.0 points in the Duke-Virginia game (WIN,WIN,WIN) Georgia Tech 28-21; Georgia Southern 30-27; Virginia 48-14 40.00 WIN 240.00
speruche Tennessee +35.0 points over Alabama; Washington State -12.0 points over Colorado; Utah -13.5 points over Arizona State (WIN,WIN,WIN) Alabama 35-13; Washington State 41-10; Utah 21-3 40.00 WIN 240.00

He made 8 such bets total, and won 3 of them, plus a small profit on other bets for a weekly win of $524.50 in fake dollars. This barely edged E-dogg42 for the weekly best result, who had $523.09, thanks to his own Under parlay of Arizona-USC, Colorado-WSU, and FSU-Wake. Third place went to, of all people, me. I made a huge bet on Florida to cover, for a net gain of $170. Undercoverbull ($127.49) also broke the hundred-dollar mark. jrjs, briank19, and anthonyvito made a profit this week. Full standings:

speruche 2693.23 524.50
Danj725 1379.25 -400.00
undercoverbull 1369.47 127.45
anthonyvito 1346.04 4.74
E-Dogg42 1297.34 523.09
HerdCountry941 1253.64 0.00
jrjs 1161.85 80.72
mcgies852 1155.38 -260.03
mmmmsnouts 1113.84 -77.27
briank19 1103.23 57.08
GaryStephen 1062.72 170.00
camweed12 1059.06 0.00
ElliotMoore 1005.79 -100.03
carlzee 874.61 -100.00
Gibbsak 744.49 -52.27
dsidwell31 662.28 -70.00
LrdNorman 610.22 -142.00
Snafu13 568.64 -50.00
jjlovecub 544.00 0.00
Julmisteforheisman 539.70 -100.00
Oak1787 522.73 -20.91
ULhothot 494.01 -106.82
gym399 404.59 -20.91
McIntyre2K7 394.98 -250.00
andrewpina 336.37 -250.00
BrianMartin 315.00 0.00
BullsOnParade96 310.92 -245.23
Defdans 85.89 -185.00

Defdans is under $250 fake dollars, which means he can make an “all in” bet if desired. That means putting all your remaining units on one game, instead of the usual 3 bets/1 AAC requirement.

Looking ahead to week 9: That Wisconsin-Ohio State game has lost some luster, so the sexy national matchup may be Auburn-LSU. There’s also Notre Dame-Michigan, Oklahoma-Kansas State, and Penn State-Michigan State.

The AAC’s Thursday night game is Houston hosting SMU, which looks like a blowout, but not by the team you’d normally think. On Saturday, Central Florida plays Temple in what looks like the AAC East’s second-place game; USF goes to East Carolina in what looks like the fourth-place game. (There’s a bit of a drop-off from third to fourth.) East Division leader Cincinnati is off. Other AAC West games are Tulane at Navy, and Memphis at Tulsa.

In the only non-conference game, Connecticut travels to UMass, in a game with serious Bottom 25 implications. The loser needn’t feel bad; as independent teams, these two are going to be seeing a lot of each other in the future. As well as many, many trips to Lynchburg and Las Cruces.