Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Fab Five: Week XI

Last week was another mediocre week as I went 4-4-2 to bring my yearly record to 53-43-4. After two consecutive .500 weeks, we'll try and get back in the black. As always, home teams in bold.

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 1-2-2
Overall: 24-24-2
Auburn +1 Georgia
If there is one thing Auburn won't be heading into this game, it's intimidated. The Tigers have won road games at Florida and Arkansas and given LSU all they could handle. Once again, Auburn has one of the best defenses in the nation, limiting opponents to only 14.5 points (5th nationally) and 293.8 yards (8th nationally) per game. Auburn's two early season defeats occurred because they were a combined -9 in turnover margin against South Florida and Mississippi State. Despite all the turnovers, they lost those two games by a combined 8 points. After getting waxed by Tennessee in early October, Georgia has quietly won 3 in a row and are in solid position to win the SEC East. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has improved substantially in his sophomore season, throwing 15 touchdowns and just 6 interceptions (as opposed to 7 and 13 last year). His completion percentage is still somewhat low (56.1%), so he is definitely not a finished product. The key to this game will be turnovers. Last season the Georgia defense forced 30 turnovers in 13 games. Through 9 games this season, they have only forced 12. Auburn will limit their turnovers and come out of Athens with a victory.

Wyoming +14 Utah
In one of the most under-reported stories of the college football season, the Wyoming Cowboys have wasted an outstanding defensive performance, and instead of competing for a Mountain West championship, they are struggling to become bowl-eligible. The Cowboys are allowing 21.1 points per game (29th nationally) which is pretty good. However, when you look at yards allowed per game (285.1--6th nationally) and yards per play (4.1--4th nationally) you realize how outstanding they are. Unfortunately, their offense, and especially sophomore quarterback Karsteen Sween, has not kept up their end of the bargain. As a team, the Cowboys average only 5.7 yards per pass (112th nationally). The offense has also turned the ball over 23 times (98th nationally), consistently putting the defense in difficult situations. Even with the offenses' struggles, the defense should be good enough to keep this game within two touchdowns.

South Carolina +6.5 Florida
After smelling like a rose and standing 6-1, the Gamecocks have dropped 3 straight and are looking at a very real chance of dropping 5 in a row to close the season. Meanwhile, the Gators have defended their SEC and national title by having both their best offense by far under Urban Meyer and their worst defense. Truth be told, it was the defense that carried the team during Meyer's first two seasons, and now it is the offense that must carry the team while the defense rights itself. South Carolina has played much better offensively the past 6 quarters, but that lay has been offset by some terrible luck against Tennessee and some awful positioning and tackling against Arkansas. The Gators will get their yards on the ground against sub-par Gamecock rush defense, but Tim Tebow and company will find the going tough through the air, enabling South Carolina to cover.

New Mexico State +3.5 San Jose State
Strength versus weakness. San Jose State ranks 117th nationally in points per game (16.0) and 111th in yards per game (307.1). New Mexico State ranks 105th nationally in points allowed per game (35.5) and 88th in yards allowed per game (425.9). With a healthy Chase Holbrook, the Aggies will be able to handle the Spartans.

Texas Tech +6.5 Texas
With the exception of the Vince Young-led dominations in 2004 and 2005, the recent games in this rivalry have been close. Tech won by 4 in 2002, Texas won by 3 in 2003 by 4 last season. One things for certain, this one won't be low scoring. Since 2001, the fewest combined points scored in this series has been 49. Texas is very fortunate to be 8-2, having won 3 games by 3 points (Central Florida, Nebraska, and Oklahoma State). After a 5-game midseason stretch where he failed to gain 100 yards in a game, Texas running back Jamaal Charles has gained 470 yards the past two games (9.6 yards per rush) and is a big reason why the Longhorns are 8-2 and not 6-4. Charles will get his yards, and Texas will get a lot of points, but Texas Tech will keep this one close.

Five Faves I Like

Last Week: 3-2
Overall: 29-19-2
South Florida -16.5 Syracuse
The cure for what ails ya? Syracuse. The Golden Bulls will end their 3-game losing streak by beating up on the Orange. Syracuse has lost their 4 home games against BCS teams by an average of 29 points. Yikes.

Kansas -6 Oklahoma State
The Jayhawks are 4 wins away from a likely date with the BCS Championship Game. This will be their last true road game. At home Oklahoma State is very prolific, with their lone loss a 3-point defeat at the hands of Texas. However, their defense has been equally as porous both at home and on the road. At home they allow 26.2 points per game. On the road they allow 28.5. The difference in their home and road performance has been the play of the offense. At home they score 41.2 points per game. On the road they score only 26.3. Oklahoma State will put some points on the board (heck Nebraska got 39 last week), but Kansas will be able to move the ball against the Cowboys as well. Kansas will improve to 10-0 overall and 9-0 against the spread.

Kentucky -3.5 Vanderbilt
Looking for an upset and bowl-eligibility, Vandy won't find it here. The Commodores are ill-suited to upset a team with an offense as dynamic as Kentucky's. Vandy upset the Gamecocks a few weeks ago, but South Carolina has offensive line issues and is a very flawed offensive team. Kentucky is flawed defensively, but Vandy does not have the offense to take advantage of Kentucky's defensive liabilities.

Indiana -2 Northwestern
The loser of this game is likely out of luck when it comes to playing in a bowl game. Indiana is already bowl-eligible with Purdue left on the schedule, a loss here means a likely 2-6 finish in conference play. A loss here would also give Northwestern bowl-eligibility and mean they could finish no worse than 3-5 in league play. Thus Northwestern would likely garner one of the Big 10's final bowl bids over the Hoosiers. If Indiana does one thing well, it's torch bad defenses--37 points and 442 yards against Western Michigan, 41 points and 475 yards against Akron, 40 points and 463 yards against Minnesota, and 38 points and 462 yards against Ball State. Rest assured, Northwestern is a bad defense. They rank 84 nationally in points allowed per game (30.3), 77th in yards allowed per game (408.7), and 98th in opponent quarterback rating. Kellen Lewis should have a big day and Indiana should guarantee themselves a bowl bid.

NC State -3.5 North Carolina
The Wolfpack has rebounded from their 1-5 start to win 3 in a row and position themselves for a shot at a bowl bid with 3 games to go. What's changed? For starters Daniel Evans has improved. In the first 6 games he had thrown 4 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. In the last 3 games, he has thrown 6 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions. But the real reason for the improvement has been the turnover battle. In the first 5 games, NC State was an amazing -17 in turnover margin. In the past 3 games, they are +4 in turnover margin. They have forced 7 turnovers in the past 3 games (5 in the first 5), but have only given the ball away 3 times in the past 3 games (an amazing 22 in the first 5). Look for the improvement to continue against a North Carolina team that has yet to win on the road.

Five to Steer Clear Of

Clemson -8.5 Wake Forest
Clemson controls it's own destiny in the ACC race. Clemson is clearly the superior team, but in their last 2 trips to Death Valley, the Deacons have lost by 8 and 7 points.

Tennessee pick Arkansas
Tennessee controls it's own destiny in the SEC race. Arkansas is looking to build on it's amazing performance against South Carolina. Tennessee is very good at home, but their defense has been suspect all season.

Miami -4 Virginia
Another week, another close game for the Cavs.

Southern Cal -4 California
Who would have thought these two teams would come into this game with a combined 5 losses?

Cincinnati -5.5 Connecticut
Both these teams still have legitimate shots at the Big East title. A loss by Connecticut would not eliminate them, but a Bearcat loss would be the death knell for their title hopes. Amazingly, Connecticut is 4-0 in Big East play, but has been outgained in every conference game. Cincinnati is 2-2, and they have been outgained in 3 of their conference games. The secret to these teams' success? Turnovers. Cincinnati is +15 in turnover margin and Connecticut is +13.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Re: Georgia/Auburn, yes Georgia had only forced 13 turnovers but, they are #1 in the nation for fewest turnovers. Might have been worth mentioning.