Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fab Five: Week X

Last week I went 4-5-1, which was my first losing week since the opener. My overall record is now 48-38-4. One again, the goal for this week is 7 wins. (home teams in Bold).

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 3-2
Overall: 30-14-1

Despite their loss to Oklahoma last month, the Horned Frogs are still solidly positioned to qualify for a BCS bowl. TCU has one of the nation's best defenses, mid-major or otherwise. Statistically they are second in the nation in total defense, permitting only 219 yards per game. The offense is not in the same class as some other teams in the state of Texas (Texas, Texas Tech, and Houston), but they do average 408 yards per game (34th in the nation). However, like most teams, the TCU offense drops off a bit on the road. In their 4 home contests against IA foes, they have averaged 433 yards per game and 5.58 yards per play. In their 4 road contests against IA foes, they have averaged 355 yards per game and 4.77 yards per play. UNLV has come very close to scoring an upset each of the past 2 weeks, losing to Air Force by a single point and BYU by 7 points. The Rebels should come close to scoring another upset this week.

Northwestern +7 Minnesota
Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. That's how Minnesota has gone from Big 10 basement dwellar to potential Rose Bowl participant. The Gophers have been outgained on the season (albeit only slightly), yet are 7-1 thanks to an amazing +15 turnover margin. Is this performance sustainable through the end of the season? Probably not, as 12 of their 24 forced turnovers have come via fumble recovery. The problem with that is that the Gophers have forced only 14 fumbles on the season, meaning they have recovered nearly 86% of their opponents fumbles. Turnovers are also the reason Northwestern comes into this game fresh off an upset loss to Indiana. The Wildcats lost 3 fumbles and threw 2 interceptions while forcing no turnovers in a 21-19 loss. Northwestern is not an upper-echelon Big 10 team, but then again, neither is Minnesota. The Wildcats should keep this one close and perhaps even pull off an outright upset.

Kent State +6.5 Bowling Green
Don't look now, but the Golden Flashes may be rounding into championship form. Hell, someone has to win the MAC East. After falling by 21 to Ball State, Kent State has dominated their next 3 MAC foes on the field, if not the scoreboard. The Golden Flashes have gained an average of 424 yards per game and allowed an average of 333 yards per game over their past 3 contests (Akron, Ohio, and Miami). Kent State is primed to take advantage of Bowling Green's major weakness, stopping the run. The Falcons have allowed an average of 219 yards per game on the gorund in their past 3 contests. Kent State currently ranks 15th in the nation in rushing offense, gaining an average of 218 yards per game. Running back Eugene Jarvis and quarterback Julian Edelman should post great numbers and the Golden Flashes have a real chance to pull off the upset.

Pitt +4.5 Notre Dame
Despite their horrendous loss last week when they gave up 442 yards and 54 points to the previously lethargic Rutgers offense, Pitt still poses a serious threat to the Irish and their BCS pipe dreams. The Rutgers debacle seems to be the exception rather than the rule, as Pitt has yet to allow more than 361 yards to any other opponent. Even in defeat, running back LeSean McCoy continued his stellar play, topping 100 yards on the ground for the 4th consecutive game (average 148 per game and 5.9 per rush with 9 touchdowns in that span). Notre Dame decimated Washington last week, but as usual, the Irish have yet to beat a team with a winning record (Stanford at 4-4 is their best scalp). Pitt will keep this one close and may eke out a straight up win.

Louisiana-Monroe +1o Troy
After posting one of the Sun Belt's best offenses with quarterback Omar Haugabook calling the signals over the past 2 seasons, the Troy Trojans are now winning games with their defense. Their 4 Sun Belt foes have only averaged 332 yards per games with none gaining more than 358 yards against Troy's stout defense. The defensive capability has allowed the green offense to endure its growing pains without costing the team games. The offense has topped the 400 yard mark only once in Sun Belt play, against league bottom-feeder North Texas. Louisiana-Monroe is only 1-3 in league play, but each of their losses has come by single-digits (combined 18 points). Expect more of the same on Saturday, as Troy pulls out a closer than expected win.

Five Faves I Like

Last Week: 1-3-1
Overall: 18-24-3

Missouri -22 Baylor
The Tigers disappeared from the national conscience after consecutive losses to Oklahoma State and Texas. However, the Tigers still have a legitimate shot at a BCS bowl game, provided of course they can win the Big 12 North. Each of Missouri's victories save the opener over Illinois have come by at least 21 points. Expect more of the same in Waco on Saturday.

Kansas -9 Kansas State
Both the Jayhawks and Wildcats are coming off defense-optional losses to Big 12 South teams. Kansas gave up 556 yards and 63 points to Texas Tech while Kansas State gave up 528 yards and 58 points to Oklahoma. Both teams share another common trait, and that is getting whacked at home by Texas Tech. Earlier in the month, Kansas State experienced a 30 point home defeat to the Red Raiders. Kansas one-upped them last week, losing by 42. So why is Kansas the pick here? While both defenses have have their problems, at least Kansas has shown signs of being marginally proficient on that side of the ball. Kansas State has not. Outside of North Texas and Colorado, every IA team on their schedule has gained at least 500 yards and averaged at least 6.4 yards per play. Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing is definitely poised for a big day. And while his counterpart, Josh Freeman, will certainly post good numbers too, the homefield and better defense will allow Kansas to cover.

Boston College -3 Clemson
What was supposed to be a memorable season for the Clemson Tigers, has turned out to be unforgettable. With preseason expectations of at least a division title, the Tigers have fallen flat on their faces, posting a 1-4 record against IA foes. The defense is still pretty stingy, allowing only 317 yards per game (36th in the nation), but the offense has stalled. Against IA foes, the Tigers have averaged only 287 yards per game, a figure that would rank 111th nationally. Things won't get any easier against a Boston College defense currently allowing only 266 yards per game (7th in the nation).

Navy -7 Temple
Both of these teams won last week while producing some unique offensive stats. Navy did not complete or even throw a single pass in their 34-7 win over SMU, while Temple managed to defeat Ohio 14-10 despite gaining only 143 yards. Offensive struggles are nothing new to the Temple Owls who have been held under 200 yards 3 times in 8 games this season. For the season, they are averaging only 251 yards per game (119th in the nation and ahead of only UCF). Temple's defense has kept them in most games, holding 4 opponents under 300 yards and 6 under 400 yards. Only Penn State with their spread scheme and vastly superior athletes has been able to dominate the Owls. Their defense should keep them in the game against Navy, but playing at home, the Midshipmen are a good play to cover a touchdown margin.

Texas -4 Texas Tech
The Red Raiders are 4-0 in Big 12 play, with 3 of their victories coming on the road. However, while 3 of their last 4 conference games are at home, 3 also come against top-10 teams, starting with number 1 Texas. The Red Raiders will be able to move the ball against the Longhorns, but the new and improved Will Muschamp defense will put the clamps on the Red Raiders enough times to allow Texas to cover.

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