Fab Five: Week IX
Purdue +17 Illinois
My SDPI numbers rate the Boilermakers as the worst team in the Big 10, so they are an odd choice to make a play on this week. However, the majority of that rating is thanks to their performance last week against a ticked off Ohio State squad. Remove that game, and the Boilermakers rate out as a middling Big 10 team. And speaking of middling, have you met the Illini? Surprisingly, Illinois currently boasts the second best defense in the conference. However, their offense, under freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, is only ranked 9th in the Big 10. Asking a team that relies on their defense to that great an extent to cover a 3-score margin seems to be pushing it. That makes Purdue the pick here.
Kentucky +6.5 Mississippi State
The Cowbells will certainly be out in full force on Saturday night as Mississippi State seeks to lock up only its second winning season since 2000. However, the Bulldogs appear to be a little over-valued by the general public. Consider, both of their league wins have been close (beat Georgia by 12 and Florida by 3) and their offense has yet to gain more than 314 yards against an SEC foe. Kentucky has the offensive firepower to put a scare into Mississippi State, if not pull out the outright upset.
Michigan State +6.5 Iowa
For those of you that read my SDPI post for this week (and if you didn't, why not?), you know that the numbers have not taken too kindly to Iowa. The Hawkeyes feature both a below average Big 10 offense and defense and rank a very un-Iowa like 7th in the Big 10. Meanwhile, Michigan State is undefeated and is very balanced on both offense and defense. The Spartans catching nearly a touchdown is too good to pass up, even if the game is in Iowa City.
Southern Cal +7 Oregon
Like the Michigan State/Iowa game, the SDPI numbers believe the wrong team is favored in this one. Believe it or not, Southern Cal actually has a superior offense against Pac-10 foes than the Ducks. Oregon has been great for sure, but some of their offensive number are certainly inflated by having games against New Mexico (winless) and Portland State (IAA) on the schedule. While certainly not elite, the Trojans also have a better defense than Oregon. Plus, this game is at night, and is Southern Cal's chance to show the nation how good they are since they are ineligible for postseason play. Look for a motivated and hungry Trojan team to win this one outright.
New Mexico State +3.5 San Jose State
These are two of the worst teams in all of IA football. New Mexico State owns just a single win (over winless in-state rival New Mexico), and San Jose State has also tasted victory only once (over IAA Southern Utah). Still, nothing about San Jose State screams that they should be favored in this game. Don't watch this pillow fight, but take the home team to cover.
West Virginia -6.5 Connecticut
One week after helping Syracuse clinch their best season in a half-decade, the Mountaineers head to Storrs to take on another team enduring a disappointing season. Thought by many to be contenders in the Big East race in the preseason, the Huskies are now in real danger of missing out on a bowl game for the first time since 2006. Their 3 wins this year have come against Texas Southern (IAA), Buffalo (2-5), and Vanderbilt (2-5). The good news for the Huskies is all those wins have come at home, which happens to be the locale for this contest. Unfortunately, the huskies are having major issues throwing the football with quarterback Cody Endres being dismissed from the team. In their last 2 games, the Huskies have averaged only 240 yards per game. West Virginia is holding their foes to just 246 yards per game. Connecticut will have a hard time getting to double digits, so West Virginia should be able to cover this number rather easily.
Maryland -6 Wake Forest
I usually don't like to pick games involving my alma mater, but this one seems too good to pass up. Wake ranks below average offensively and quite terrible defensively in the ACC, while Maryland has struggled moving the ball, but has been quite stout on defense. In addition Wake has struggled in their recent trips to College Park. The Deacons have only beaten the Terps once in 4 tries at Maryland, and that came in the ACC title year of 2006. Look for Maryland to win rather comfortably here.
Marshall -3 UTEP
The UTEP last-season swoon is in full effect. While the Miners have only lost 2 in a row after their 5-1 start, more losses are assuredly on the way with games against SMU, Arkansas, and Tulsa remaining on the schedule. Of course, UTEP is not choking, they were merely never very good to begin with. Their 5 wins have come against Arkansas-Pine Bluff (IAA), New Mexico State (one win over a IA team), Memphis (one win over a IA team), New Mexico (winless), and Rice (two wins over IA teams). In their last two games against powerhouses UAB and Tulane (combined two IA wins besides UTEP), the Miners have gained just 515 total yards and scored just 30 points. Marshall is far from a good team, but the Miners have proven they may be just as bad, and are also traveling a few time zones east. Take the Herd to win by at least a field goal.
Florida International -5 Florida Atlantic
After standing in the shadow of their fellow Sun Belt Sunshine Stater, the Golden Panthers from Florida International appear to be headed toward their first ever bowl bid in school history. After playing 3 of their BCS-conference opponents tough in September, the Golden Panthers have again proven their mettle in Sun Belt play, starting the year out 2-0 in the conference. Meanwhile, the Owls have struggled since winning their opener over UAB. Florida Atlantic has lost 5 straight, with 3 of the losses coming in league play, including a nasty home loss to North Texas. Look for Florida International to win by at least a touchdown and grab their first victory in this series since 2005.
Arkansas -20.5 Vanderbilt
As I stated in last week's SDPI post, Vanderbilt may actually be worse this season than they were in a winless league campaign in 2009. Arkansas has one of the SEC's best offenses with or without Ryan Mallet. It's hard to envision Vandy scoring more than 10 points here, and equally hard to envision Arkansas being held below 30. The Hogs should roll here and cover this number with ease.