Thursday, September 11, 2008

Fab Five: Week III

Last week was a mediocre 5-5 finish. I know you, faithful readers, expect much more of me, and I do as well. Time to post the first winning week (home teams in Bold).

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 4-1
Overall: 6-4

Iowa State +13.5 Iowa
There are few certainties in life. Death, taxes, and a close game or upset by Iowa State in this rivalry. 5 of the past 10 meetings have been decided by 7 points or less, and Iowa State has won 3 of the 5 meetings decided by more than one-score. Iowa has laid the lumber to its first 2 foes, winning by a combined score of 88-3. However, those victims were Maine (IAA) and Florida International (one of the worst IA teams). Meanwhile, Iowa State has seen a much slimmer margin in its 2 victories, beating North Dakota State (IAA) and Kent State by a 92-45 score. The yardage total is even tighter, as Iowa State has only outgained their opponents by 2 total yards. Still, recent history says the Cylones will at least keep this one close.

Tulane +13 East Carolina
I got burned last week by the Pirates when they upet West Virginia. While Tulane has nowhere near the history or talent of Virginia Tech or West Virginia, they do have some familiarity with East Carolina. Plus the Green Wave payed very well last week against Alabama, limiting the Tide to 172 total yards. And last but not least, this game is in the Superdome, representing the first true road game of the season for East Carolina. I don't expect Tulane to pull off the upset, but this game should be close.

Toledo +2 Eastern Michigan
Both these teams were overmatched in losses to BCS-conference schools last week. Toledo was blown out by Arizona, and Eastern Michigan fell at Michigan State. Toledo has beaten Eastern Michigan 7 times in their last 8 encounters. Expect it to be 8 of 9 after Saturday.

South Carolina +7.5 Georgia
5 of of the past 7 games in this series have been decided by 6 points or less. South Carolina is catching a lot of flack after their second consecutive loss to Vanderbilt, but if you look at the stats, the defense still played well. Vandy gained only 225 yards, after NC State managed only 138 in the opener. Meanwhile, Georgia has dominated its first 2 opponents, scoring 101 combined points on Georgia Southern (IAA) and Central Michigan. However, the Dogs have allowed nearly 600 yards in those 2 games, meaning the Gamecock offense could put some points on the board. This one will be very close, and South Carolina has a real chance to pull off the upset.

SMU +36.5 Texas Tech
I don't think this game will be very close, but Texas Tech has been very average on offense thus far against Eastern Washington and Nevada, especially considering the preseason expectations. SMU will have enough offense to stay within 5 touchdowns.

Five Faves I Like

Last Week: 1-4
Overall: 3-7

Duke -1.5 Navy
Anyone know the last time the Blue Devils were favored? Take a nostalgic trip with me to Labor Day Weekend 2005. Tim Tebow was a high school senior, no doubt getting constant text messages and IMs from UrbanGainesville62, and the Duke Blue Devils were a 3-point road favorite at East Carolina. As Duke is want to do, they lost that game 24-21, and have won only thrice since that fateful day. However, David Cutcliffe has made Duke football relevant again. Witness last weeks game, when the Blue Devils outplayed Northwestern in the box score (gaining 144 more yards), but fell on the field 24-20. The Duke defense held quarterback CJ Bacher under 50% in completion percentage and running back Tyrell Sutton gained only 66 yards. Navy will probably top 300 yards on the gound, but for a team that has yet to stop anyone (Ball State averaged over 8 and a half yards per play against them last week), those yards won't come with enough points to win or cover.

Houston -2 Air Force
Despite the absence of Art Briles, the Houston offense has been just as prolific as ever, piling up nearly 1100 yards in 2 games. Unfortunately, the defense was not able to do much of anything against Oklahoma State, allowing nearly 700 yards (699) and letting the Cowboys average a stellar 9.7 yards per play. Air Force does not quite pack the offensive firepower Oklahoma State does, and since this game is in Houston, lay points with the Cougs.

Michigan -2 Notre Dame
Last year these storied programs were both 0-2 when they met in the Big House. What a difference a year makes! Now neither team has a losing record. Of course, thats not to say either sqaud is a national title contender. Quite the contrary. Notre Dame very nearly lost at home to a team (San Diego State) that lost to Cal Poly (IAA school) a week before. Meanwhile, Michigan had trouble putting away a team that got waxed by Vanderbilt (Miami of Ohio). The good news is that both teams found a little offensive punch in their wins. Michigan rushed for 178 yards (74 of it from freshman Sam McGuffie) after netting only 36 yards on the ground in the opener. In South Bend, Jimmy Clausen showed some of the skills that made him a ballyhooed recruit, matching a career high with 3 touchdown passes. While the Domers are playing at home, that didn't stop them from almost losing to an Aztec team playing for a lame duck coach. With each game, expect improvement from the Michigan offense. They won't be West Virginia (circa 2007) by the end of the season, but they will be a competent BCS-conference unit, and they'll do enough Saturday to beat the Irish by at least a field goal.

Western Michigan -8 Idaho
Who is the worst Division IA football team? I'd say the candidates thus far are Florida International, North Texas, Utah State, and drum roll...Idaho. The Vandals were crushed 70-0 by Arizona in their opener, but rebounded to beat Idaho State (IAA) this past weekend. Of course, even in the win, Idaho gave up 383 yards and 27 points to the Bengals. Meanwhile, Western Michigan rebounded from a decent showing in a loss at Nebraska to upend Northern Illinois 29-26. Quarterback Tim Hiller has completed nearly 65% of his passes and thrown 5 touchdowns to just 1 interception in 2 games against much tougher competition that what he will face in the Kibbie Dome on Saturday. The Broncos, one of the best teams in the MAC, should win this one going away.

Wisconsin -2 Fresno State
The Bulldogs win over Rutgers was much closer than the 24-7 margin would lead you to believe. The Knights had more first downs (22) than the Bulldogs (16) and were only outgained by 53 yards. The Bulldogs were also +2 in turnovers and were the beneficiaries of 2 missed field goals and a failed 4th down attempt in the red zone. Not that the win is meaningless, but it helps to put it in perspective. Fresno State won, but the game was quite contentious, and they should not count on getting the same breaks against the Badgers. Wisconsin has roughed up 2 non-BCS teams (Akron and Marshall), and while this game should be much more competitive, expect the Badgers to pull out the road win.

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