Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fab Five: Week II

For once, the opening week of the season was kind to me. After beginning 4-6 in each of the first two seasons of the Fab Five, I was able to reverse course and start out 6-4. The lines certainly didn't get any easier this week, but here's my best shot. In addition, this week's Fab Five also includes an extra game that you should avoid at all cost.

5 Dogs I Like

Western Michigan +1.5 Indiana
Both these teams looked pretty bad last week, with the Broncos losing by 4 touchdowns to Michigan and the Hoosiers getting all they could handle from IAA Eastern Kentucky. The Hoosiers were unable to move the ball on the ground against the Colonels, netting only 73 yards on 31 attempts. After giving up 242 yards to the Wolverines on the ground, that's just what the doctor ordered for the Broncos. Western Michigan is no stranger to beating Big 10 foes, as they knocked off Illinois last season. Indiana is also no stranger to losing to MAC foes, having dropped contests last year to Ball State and Central Michigan. Look for history to repeat itelf in a minor Broncos upset.

Michigan +3 Notre Dame
Go ahead and blame this one on the liberal media. The Irish have looked absolutely invulnerable in their last 2 games, knocking off a pair of WAC teams by a combined score of 84-21. Jimmy Clausen's thrown for over 700 yards and 9 touchdowns in the 2 games. Needless to say, his numbers won't be as gaudy against a Michigan defense that looked to be back on its way to respectability against Western Michigan. Look for Michigan to pull off the outright upset at home.

UCF + 15.5 Southern Mississippi
After barely squeaking by Samford (& Son) 28-24, the Knights must take a road trip to Hattiesburg to face the division favorite Golden Eagles. Despite continuing their trend of anemic offensive performances that began last season (last in the nation in total offense), the Knights do have at least one positive heading into this game. The offense played much better with Wake Forest transfer Brett Hodges under center. Hodges threw for 129 yards on 17 attempts after he was inserted for starter Rob Calabrese, who mustered only 28 yards on his 7 attempts. Southern Miss looked dominant in pasting IAA Alcorn State, but will have a much tougher time moving the ball against the Knights in a reletively close win.

Washington State +2.5 Vs Hawaii (at Seattle)
Despite the fact that they were drubbed yet again (39-13 versus Stanford), the Cougars actually moved the ball fairly well. Their 349 total yards was more than they gained in any game last season, save against IAA Portland State. The defense can still be referred to as generous, as they permitted Stanford to run for 288 yards at a robust 6.9 yards a pop. Still, after last season, anything can count as progress. Hawaii meanwhile escaped Central Arkansas at home (25-20) despite outgaining them by 145 yards and averaging 3 yards per play more (6.9 to 3.9). The culprit was 3 lost fumbles and an interception. In a de facto home game for the Cougars, look for them to eke out a victory, which will only be their second since bludgeoning Portland State last September.

Ohio State +7 Southern Cal
Rest assured, one day Southern Cal will lose a game to a Big 10 foe (it last happened in August of 1996 against Penn State). Under Pete Carroll, the Trojans have bludgeoned Big 10 teams in the Orange Bowl (Iowa), the Rose Bowl (Michigan, Illinois, and Penn State), and in the Coliseum (Ohio State). However, this represents their first road test against a quality Big 10 opponent. The Buckeyes are a little undervalued here after their home scare against Navy. Keep in mind the Midshipmen run an option attack that is far different from the other 116 offenses in IA football (Army, Air Force, and Georgia Tech are the other purveyors and practitioners of the Wishbone). The Trojans bring in a pro style offense with a freshman quarterback making his first road start. The Buckeyes counter with an experienced sophomore who has already quatrebacked the team in a BCS bowl. One final fact to consider: In the Trojans last two road trips against top 10 teams, they narrowly edged Notre Dame in 2005 (the Bush Push) and fell to Oregon in 2007.

Five Faves I Like

Colorado -3.5 Toledo
Colorado spit the bit at home against arch-rival Colorado State on Sunday night, losing 23-17. Things don't get much easier this week as they head east to tangle with another mid-major, the Toledo Rockets. The Rockets were less than impressive in their debut, allowing Purdue to roll up 535 yards (315 of it on the ground) and average 8 yards per play in a 52-31 loss. The Toledo defense will be just what Colorado needs to aid their anemic offense in putting points on the board. For one night at least, the Buffs will remind coach Dan Hawkins of his former charges in Boise, Idaho as they roll up 30+ points on the Rockets.

Pitt -10.5 Buffalo
Turner Gill continues to show he has the Midas touch with the Bulls after they opened the season with a hard-fought win at UTEP. The Bulls will come back to Earth against a team that actually plays defense (unlike the Miners). Give the Panthers credit for making the trek to upstate New York. The trip back should be a joyful one after a relatively easy win.

Washington -21 Idaho
Whether or not they actually cover this somewhat large number, this game will mark Steve Sarkisian's first win as head coach of the Huskies and will also be the Huskies first win since upsetting Cal in November of 2007. The Huskies were sharp offensively last week, cranking out nearly 500 yards against LSU. They should easily reach that number against Idaho, and if the defense does its part an easy win is in the coffers.

Wisconsin -9 Fresno State
Fresno State is a lot like Notre Dame. They both made a name for themselves many years ago (Notre Dame's was many, many years ago), and continue to live off that rep despite increasingly diminishing returns. The Bulldogs ran for 310 yards last week against UC Davis, allowing them to win easily with despite breaking in a new starting quarterback. Going into the game against the Badgers, Fresno quarterbacks have a combined total of 17 career pass attempts. Junior Ryan Colburn is the elder statesman with 14 career passes. That inexperience will do them in when they visit the Camp Randall Stadium.

Kansas -12.5 UTEP
Since bursting onto the national scene in 2007, Kansas has been money in the bank against non-BCS foes. They are 4-1 ATS against non-BCS teams in that span, with their smallest margin of victory a 29-0 shutout of Louisiana Tech last season. In addition, Kansas is 7-2 ATS as a double-digit favorite and 10-2 ATS as at least a touchdown favorite. Look for the Jayhawks to put up 40+ and roll here.


TCU -11.5 Virginia
If there's one thing Al Groh is a master of, its saving his own hide. Like Rasputin or a zombie, the man just won't die. In 2007, the Cavs opened the season getting beatdown at Wyoming 23-3. They would go on to win 9 games and nearly take the division. Last season, the Cavs opened 1-3 with an embrassing 31-3 loss to Duke thrown in. They won their next 4 games (Maryland, East Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia Tech) as a betting underdog in each. Virginia looked awful in losing to William and Mary, but they also turned the ball over 7 times. That's not likely to happen again. I don't think Virginia will win this game, but (and I'd like to trademark this phrase) you never know with Al Groh.

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