Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Fab Five: Week IV

Week III was a ho hum week as I went just 5-6 with my picks bringing my cumulative record to 15-15 on the season. I continue to struggle picking dogs (5-10 through 3 weeks), but excel at picking favorites (10-5 through 3 weeks). As always, home teams are in bold.

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 2-3
Overall: 5-10
Oklahoma State +6 Texas Tech
Texas Tech is one of those teams that we still don't know too much about. They destroyed SMU 49-9, came back to knock off UTEP 45-31, and defeated an awful Rice team 59-24. Two of those games were on the road (SMU and Rice), but I think it's fair to say Stillwater is a whole different animal. Speaking of the boys from Stillwater, the one thing we know about the Cowboys is that they cannot win on the road. Georgia and Troy both stomped them pretty handily on the road. Still, the Cowboys have too much talent on offense to not give the Red Raiders a game at home. They won't win, but they will put up a good fight at home.

Iowa +8 Wisconsin
Yes Iowa lost last week to what likely is a terrible Iowa State team. However, that was a rivalry game on the road, and Iowa State has actually won 7 of the past 10 meetings. The Hawkeyes are actually 4-2 coming off those 6 previous losses to their in-state rivals. Plus, the team on the other sideline has not exactly been dominating opponents since their opening rout of Washington State. The Badgers squeaked by UNLV and struggled against the Citadel in a 45-31 win. Iowa's offense is still going through some growing pains with Jake Christensen taking over for the departed Drew Tate, but their defense has been superb thus far (allowing no touchdowns on 3 games). Look for this night game to be a defensive struggle that Wisconsin pulls out by a narrow margin.

Virginia +4 Georgia Tech
Virginia's win against North Carolina last week was impressive because 1) it came on the road and 2) because they scored more than 20 points against a team that doesn't play their home games in Durham. After a huge struggle-fest in Wyoming in the first game, the Virginia quarterbacks have actually played competently, especially freshman Peter Lalich. Georgia Tech was somewhat exposed as an ACC pretender last week in their 24-10 loss to Boston College that was never in doubt. Thus far, all Georgia Tech has on their resume is a road win against a Notre Dame team with an impotent offense, and a home blowout of Samford.

Ole Miss +24 Florida
At first glance, this game appears to be a total mismatch. The Gators are flying high, ranked in the top 5 after an impressive home win over Tennessee, while the Rebels have not won since edging Memphis 23-21 three weeks ago. One variable will help the Rebels cover the spread--the venue. In his 2+ seasons in Gainesville, Urban Meyer has coached the Gators in 8 true road games. His team is 4-4 in those games. Only one win has come by double digits--a 49-28 win over Kentucky (3-8) in 2005.

Miami (Ohio) +14 Colorado
After 3 games, Colorado is not noticeably better on offense than they were last season; in fact they may be worse. Through 3 games they are averaging 17 points per game. Last year they averaged 16.3 per game. This year they are averaging a horrendous 1.7 yards per rush. Last year the running game was the one saving grace of the offense as they averaged 4.5 yards per rush. This year Colorado quarterbacks have a cumulative passer rating of 98.67. Last year they had a passer rating of 96.60. This year, the Buffalo's are averaging 3.8 yards per play. Last year they averaged 4.9 yards per play. Colorado will have trouble getting to 20 points barring a ton of mistakes by Miami.

Five Faves I Like

Last Week: 3-3
Overall: 10-5
Miami (Florida) -2.5 Texas A&M
Miami has been less than impressive in their first three games, beating a pair of winless teams (Marshall and Florida International) in underwhelming fashion while getting crushed by the Oklahoma juggernaut. However, Texas A&M has not exactly looked like a top 10 team either. The Aggies have crushed two overmatched opponents (Montana State and Louisiana-Monroe), while coming dangerously close to losing at home to a mediocre at best Fresno State team. In their 3 wins, the Aggies have run the ball extremely well (296 yards per game, 6.35 per attempt), but have struggled passing the ball (52.4% completion rate, 5.43 per attempt). The Aggies won't be able run right over a solid Cane defense (2.86 yards allowed per rush), and will be forced to throw to win.

Navy -12.5 Duke
Don't be fooled by the Blue Devils upset of Northwestern last week. This team is still very bad. Northwestern had 10 more first downs (25 to 15) and outgained the Blue Devils by almost 200 yards (506 to 309). The Midshipmen will run all over Duke in a blowout win.

Ohio State -23 Northwestern
The last time these teams tangled in Columbus, Northwestern lost 48-7. And that Wildcat team went to a bowl and finished 7-5. This Northwestern team is nowhere near as good, struggling at home to get by a rebuilding Nevada team and losing to lowly Duke. The Wildcats have had no luck stopping the pass, allowing opponents to complete 2/3 of their passes and only grabbing one interception, while facing 3 teams (Northeastern, Nevada, and Duke) that are not likely to be offensive dynamos this season. Ohio State meanwhile has quietly reloaded at the quarterback position as Todd Boeckman has performed admirably for the departed Troy Smith (153.55 quarterback rating).

Houston -6.5 Colorado State
The Rams have had some tough luck thus far in 2007, losing to Colorado 31-28 in overtime and giving Cal all they could handle in a 34-28 loss. Things don't get any easier this week as they face what looks to be one of the top teams in Conference USA. The Cougars have not missed a beat offensively despite the loss of quarterback Kevin Kolb. Freshman Case Keenum and sophomore Blake Joseph have combined for a 131.58 quarterback rating and the offense has averaged 30.5 points through 2 games. The running game has remained stout too, behind converted wide receiver Anthony Aldridge (292 yards at 7.3 yards per attempt). Colorado State is much better than the 4-8 team they were last year, but that won't prevent them from starting the season 0-3.

Arizona State -12 Oregon State
After what seems like eons of being the preseason sleeper pick in the Pac 10, the Sun Devils appear ready to finally realize that potential under head coach Dennis Erickson. The offense has been humming (averaging 37.3 points per game thus far) and the defense has been very stout as well (only 10 points allowed per game). Their fourth straight home game is also the conference opener for both teams. Oregon State has blown out a Utah team missing their starting quarterback and lambasted a Division IAA team (Idaho State). However, in their only road game, they were crushed by Cincinnati 34-3. The Beavers quarterbacks have been pretty bad thus far (just 4 touchdowns and 8 interceptions), and those numbers won't look any better after this game.

Five to Steer Clear Of

Wake Forest -3.5 Maryland
Last season notwithstanding, my Demon Deacons have struggled with the Terps. They lost 7 straight from 1999 through 2005 and have not beaten the Terps in Winston-Salem since 1997. Both these teams were not nearly as good as their final records (combined 20-7 in 2006) last year, and at least one, if not both teams, will fail to qualify for a bowl game this season.

Illinois -2.5 Indiana
In the off season, no one thought more highly of the Illini. However, laying two and a half points on the road, even against Indiana, is not something I am very confident in. The Illini have won one Big 10 road game since 2003.

Penn State -3 Michigan
Coming into this season, I thought Penn State was the best team in the Big 10. They may be the best team, but they have not done a great deal to convince me yet. Blowout wins over Florida International (winless), a horrendous Notre Dame team, and Buffalo (a game in which they allowed 24 points) have not been terribly impressive. Plus, the Nittany Lions have not beaten Michigan since 1996.

Auburn -17 New Mexico State
The Auburn offense, particularly the passing game, has been awful thus far. Auburn quarterbacks have combined to throw just two touchdowns and seven interceptions in 3 games. The running game has not been much better, averaging only 3.42 yards per attempt. The rebuilt offensive line that returned only one starter is the likely culprit for the offenses struggles. Brandon Cox has completed less than half (49.3%) of his passes and if he can't drive the Tigers down the field against the Aggies (allow nearly 370 yards and 27.3 points per game), then it will probably be a long year when SEC play heats up.

Utah -8.5 UNLV
After their thrashing of UCLA, the Utes are hot sh*t in Vegas. However, the Utes only outgained the Bruins by 13 yards and were the beneficiary of 5 UCLA turnovers. The Utes have yet to win on the road, and who knows what to expect from the Runnin' Rebels after their near miss against Wisconsin and blowout loss to Hawaii.


Jeremy said...

I am trying to decide on a few games.
1. West Va giving 241/2 to East Carolina - I want to take ECU

2. South Florida giving 13.5 to UNC - my gut says UNC

3. Lsu giving 16.5 to USC - no idea

4. Alabama giving 3.5 to Georgia- I think Georgia may win straight up

matt said...

I'm not real confident either way in those games, but I would say take:

1) East Carolina b/c WVU has a date with South Florida next Friday and may be looking ahead

2) Speaking of, take UNC as that win over Auburn suddenly doesn't look that impressive and North Carolina's offense has played, especially quarterback TJ Yates

3) I'd say take the Cocks, just because I think Spurrier will keep it close

4) I'd say Alabama b/c Georgia had rediculous performance on 3rd down last year (offense and defense) and should decline, plus Bama is at home

tommybwdenisgod said...

I say take west virginia, unc, alabama, and south carolina. Good blog matt