Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fab Five: Week III

So, um, yeah. Sorry about last week. To anyone who lost the proverbial farm taking any of my picks last week, I humbly apologize. I will try to do better. Last week's 2-8 nightmare leaves me sitting unpretty at 7-13 on the season. However, the season is young, so I still have time to dig myself out of this hole. Onward and upward! As always, home teams are in Bold.

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 1-4
Overall: 3-7

Washington State +6 San Diego State
After last week's debacle, I am certainly taking a chance picking Washington State, a team that has beaten exactly 4 IA teams since Paul Wulff became coach in 2008. However, the Cougars were quite impressive in knocking off UNLV last weekend, 59-7. That was their largest margin of victory since nipping Idaho 56-10 in 2006. Meanwhile, San Diego State was less than impressive in edging Army 23-20. Nearly a touchdown is too much for San Diego State to be laying here.

West Virginia +1 Maryland
The Mountaineers looked less than impressive, at least in the first half, of their eventual rout of Norfolk State. West Virginia trailed 12-10 at the half, but came out and disposed of the Spartans with a 45-0 run in the second half. Maryland had the week off to celebrate its 32-24 Labor Day win over Miami. West Virginia has not lost to Maryland since 2003, winning 5 straight in the rivalry. The wrong team is favored here. Look for West Virginia to make it 6 in a row.

Arizona +10.5 Stanford
Last year Arizona came into this game ranked 13th in the nation with a glistening 7-1 record and a shot at the Rose Bowl. Stanford eviscerated them 42-17 and Arizona would not win again all season. This year the locale is Tucson, and not Palo Alto. That is a key distinction. Arizona is 7-1 ATS (Against the Spread) as a home underdog since 2006 (with 4 outright wins). As a double-digit home underdog, they are 4-0 ATS. Look for Arizona to keep this one close, and perhaps put an end to Stanford's top-10 ranking.

Virginia +10 North Carolina
Last season, North Carolina embarrassed the Cavs in Charlottesville 44-10. However, based on recent history, that is more the exception than the rule in this series. Virginia has won 7 of the past 10 meetings, including 3 of the past 5 in Chapel Hill. Last season's trouncing was also the first North Carolina victory by double-digits since 1998. Look for Virginia to keep this one close and perhaps even emerge with an outright upset.

Kent State +17.5 Kansas State
The days of 66-3 curb-stompings against non-BCS foes in Manhattan have faded. The Wildcats defeated UCF 17-13 last season and edged Louisiana-Lafayette 45-37 in 2008 to highlight their less than dominant recent track record. In fact, since 2004, the Wildcats have beaten non-BCS conference foes at home by an average of just 19 points per game. There have been a few beatings, most notably against Sun Belt foes, but for the most part, the game have been competitive. Kent State has the defense to hold a less-than-explosive Kansas State offense in check. They don't have the offense to win outright, but they should keep this one relatively close.

Five Faves I Like
Last Week: 1-4
Overall 4-6

Ole Miss -2 Vanderbilt
Yes, Vanderbilt won last week, but their game against Connecticut likely set offensive football back a few years. The Commodores and Huskies combined for 452 total yards and just 2 offensive touchdowns (both scored by Vanderbilt). Ole Miss was hardly impressive in their win over Southern Illinois, but should be able to do enough to hold a low-wattage Vanderbilt offense down while winning by at least a field goal.

Notre Dame -4 Michigan State
Eventually, Notre Dame has to win a game right? The Irish have opened the season 0-2 despite gaining over 1000 yards and averaging nearly 7 yards (6.8) per snap. How? Poor defense (allowed over 700 yards and nearly 6 yards per snap) and turnovers (10). If they can hold onto the ball, they should be able to beat a Michigan State team that looked weak against a IAA foe (Youngstown State), and then dominated perhaps the worst IA team (Florida Atlantic) last week.

Illinois -1 Arizona State
Arizona State finally won a close game last week, upending Missouri 37-30 in overtime. The Sun Devils were an unlucky 2-10 in one-score games from 2008-2010. Thus far in 2011, the Sun Devils have been their typical outlaw selves, ranking 100th in the nation in penalties per game (after ranking no better than 104th in the nation the past 3 seasons). Meanwhile, Illinois has quietly put together a pair of dominant performance against lesser competition, besting Arkansas State and South Dakota State by a combined 71 points. Illinois is rightly favored here, and giving less than a field goal, they should be the pick.

Penn State -7.5 Temple
This low spread is likely an overreaction to Penn State's offensive ineptitude against Alabama. If you didn't know, Alabama may have the best defense in the entire nation. Its OK to look bad against them. Temple is no punching bag, but their first 2 games have come against a IAA school (Villanova) and an awful IA team (Akron). Penn State should be able to win by more than one score here.

Texas -4 UCLA
More hair of the dog? Texas was one of the teams that aided in my 2-8 stinker last week. They may not have gotten all the kinks worked out of the offense, but they did decide to jettison quarterback Garret Gilbert. The defense played well against BYU and should do enough against UCLA to get the Longhorns a win here.

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