Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fab Five: Week XIII

Last week's performance tied for the best of the season as I went 8-2. Like Steve Winwood, I'm back in the high life again. My record for the season is now 64-52-4. Hopefully I can continue that momentum with another solid week (home teams in Bold).

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 4-1
Overall: 39-20-1

Pitt +5 Cincinnati
If Cincinnati can get by Pitt, they will have only a home date against Syracuse standing between them and a BCS bid. The Bearcats have been phenomenal in the nearly 2 seasons Brian Kelly has been at the helm, posting an 18-5 record. One of those losses came courtesy of Pitt last season in a 24-17 decision. Pitt has a lot to play for in this game as well. A win would put them in the driver's seat for the Big East title with games left against West Virginia and Connecticut. Pitt has has outgained Big East foes by 85 yards per game, while Cincinnati has only outgained conference foes by 17 yards per game. Cincinnati may well win this game with the homefield advantage, but statistically, Pitt has been more dominant against common foes and thus is the pick.

Buffalo+3.5 Bowling Green
It's clear the balance of power is slanted toward the MAC West, but this game will go a long way toward determining who gets to the MAC Championship Game out of the eastern division. Both teams have played their MAC foes pretty evenly (Bowling Green has been outgained by about 7 yards per game and Buffalo has outgained foes by about 5 yards per game). The main difference in these two teams in the Bulls ability to force turnovers. They have recovered 16 fumbles on the season, and while fumble recovery is a random event, forcing fumbles is a skill. The Bulls have forced 26 fumbles on the season while the Falcons have forced only 10. Consequently, the Falcons have a turnover margin of +1 and the Bulls have a turnover margin of +13. Like last week's 4 OT thriller between the Bulls and Akron Zips, this one should be close. So take the team getting points.

Tennessee +3 Vanderbilt
Can the impossible happen? If Vandy wins this game, they will have 5 SEC wins, an unbelievable assertion before the season. In all likelihood, this game will be insanely boring as both these teams have the worst offenses this side of Auburn. Vandy has topped 300 yards against an SEC foe once in 7 tries (last week against Kentucky), and Tennessee has yet to top 300 yards against an SEC team. Both teams also boast strong defenses. Vandy has allowed only 322 yards per game to their 7 SEC opponents and Tennessee has allowed an average of 290 yards per game to their 6 SEC foes. Using the same logic as before, when the game is evenly matched, take the team getting points.

Nevada +6 Boise State
The Nevada Wolfpack are all that stands between Boise State and a 3rd undefeated regular season in 5 years. I know they play Fresno on the next week, but there's no way the Bulldogs win on the Smurf Turf. This game will be the ultimate battle of the irresitable force versus the immovable object. Nevada has run roughshod over every WAC defense they have faced, never gaining fewer than 481 yards. Boise State has shut down every WAC offense they have faced, never allowing more than 329 yards. Nevada is especially proficient running the ball in the Pistol offense, averaging a national best 325 yards per game on the ground. A pair of super sophomores, running back Vai Taua and quarterback Colin Kaepernick have both gone over 1000 yards rushing in only 10 games. Boise State ranks 12th nationally in rush defense, permitting only 103 yards per game. The Broncos were gashed on the ground in their trip to Autzen Stadium against Oregon when the Ducks totalled 227 yards on the ground. Nevada won't get to 300 yards rushing, but they will do enough to cover the spread.

Mississippi +4 LSU
Even when they were bad, the Rebels had a habit of sticking close with the boys from Baton Rouge. In 2004, during the midst of a 4-7 campaign, the Rebs lost by 3 at 20th ranked LSU (spread was 20). In 2006, during the midst of a 4-8 season, the Rebs again lost to LSU by 3, this time in OT (the 9th ranked Tigers were favored by 27). The spread is a lot lower, but the result should be very similar this time. LSU's defense is nowhere near as good as it has been the past few seasons. Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead will make some big plays and keep the Rebels in the game.

Five Faves I Like

Last Week: 4-1
Overall: 25-32-3

Memphis -5.5 Central Florida
These 2 teams couldn't be more different. Memphis has one of the better offenses in Conference USA, and the best offense in Conference USA East. Meanwhile, Central Florida has, not only the worst offense in Conference USA, but also the worst offense in the nation. The Golden Knights have topped the 300 yards mark only twice on the season, in the opener against South Carolina State (IAA) and then against UTEP. To cover this spread, Memphis will only have to get to 17 points.

Arkansas -1 Mississippi State
Remeber when I said Vandy and Tennessee had the worst offense this side of Auburn, well I forgot to mention Mississippi State. The almighty SEC has 4 offenses that would struggle to score against Washington State and a fifth (South Carolina) intent on ruining the reputation of one of the most revered coaches in college footbal history. Off of soapbox. Mississippi State is doing the same thing they did last season, combine a putrid offense with a respectable defense, but no bowl game is in their future because their opponents have refrained from falling on their own swords. Arkansas is clearly a work in progress under first year coach Bobby Petrino, but Sylvester Croom would kill to have an offense as mediore as the one the Razorbacks have. Arkansas should win a squeaker and set themselves up for a potential bowl game if they can beat LSU next week.

Arizona -2.5 Oregon State
If there is one thing Pac-10 teams have done thus far in 2008, its win at home. Pac-10 teams are 24-13 in home conference games. If we remove the league's 2 whipping boys, Washington and Washington State who are a combined 0-8 at home, the league's teams are an incredible 24-5 at home. Southern Cal, Cal, Oregon, and Oregon State are undefated at home. Stanford's lone home loss has come to Southern Cal as has Arizona's. Stay with the home team trend in this one.

Florida State -1 Maryland
Like Arkansas, Florida State is a small road favorite against a conference foe. Unlike Arkansas, which has a better offense, but worse defense than Mississippi State, Florida State is a little better than Maryland on both sides of the ball. The key to this game will be Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder. In the Seminoles 3 losses, he has tossed just a single touchdown and 7 interceptions. In their 5 wins over IA teams he has thrown 4 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. If Ponder can keep his mistakes to a minimun, Florida State will pull out a win and stay alive in the conference race.

Iowa -5.5 Minnesota
Iowa is winning their football games in stereotypical Big 10 fashion this season, with the running game and defense. The Hawkeyes boast the nation's 2nd leading rusher in Shonn Greene who is averaging 144 yards per game and over 6 yards per rush. Green has yet to be held under 100 yards on the ground this season. Greene's presence has helped make up for a passing attack that has only been mediocre under Ricky Stanzi and Jake Christensen. The Golden Gophers are winning games by forcing turnovers. Their turnover margin on the season is +15. In games where their turnover margin is at least +1, they are 6-0. In games where they break even or are in the red, their record is 1-4. The Gophers rank a medicore 62nd in rush defense, allowing 140 yards per game. Greene should be able to do enough to prevent the Gophers from teeing off in passing situations and forcing turnovers. If they don't win the turnover battle, the Gophers have little chance of covering.

No comments: