Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fab Five: Week IV

Last week marked progress, as I improved from 2-8 to 4-6. However, I have yet to post a winning week thus far in the season and stand before you with an unflattering 11-19 mark on the year. Thankfully, time remains for redemption. As always, home teams are in Bold.

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 1-4
Overall: 4-11

UCF +2.5 BYU
Last week UCF suffered a bitter loss to an in-state team, falling 17-10 to Florida International. The UCF defense continued its stellar play, holding the Panthers to just 238 total yards and just a single offensive touchdown. For the season, the Knights have yet to allow a passing touchdown. However, they were also unable to generate much offense, allowing six sacks and and scoring just once themselves. They have also yet to pass for a touchdown of their own this season. Their opponents on Friday night, BYU, is also coming off a loss to an in-state rival. BYU dropped their Holy War battle with Utah by the narrow margin of 54-10. The Cougars lost six fumbles, and committed seven turnovers in all, contributing greatly to the humbling defeat. BYU has yet to score more than 16 points on the young season, and against a defense as talented a UCF's they should not be favored here.

Ball State +4 Army
Army enters this game in the rare position of being a road favorite. The Black Knights have been road favorites just twice since 2006 and are 0-2 ATS (Against The Spread) in those games. In fact, since 2006, the Black Knights are just 4-8 ATS as favorites. Ball State is currently unbeaten at home on the young season, having knocked off Indiana and Buffalo in close games. Expect this one to be a hard-fought close game, won yet again by the home team.

Tulane +10 Duke
Speaking of unfamiliar territory, I couldn't find the last time Duke was a double-digit favorite, but it was at least 2004. The Blue Devils are a little over-valued after their road win against a reeling Boston College program. The Blue Devils face a Tulane team that also scored a huge conference road win last week. While the Blue Devils edged Boston College by a single point, the Green Wave bludgeoned UAB 49-10. Tulane rushed and passed for over 250 yards apiece against the Blazers and averaged over 7 yards per play. This was their best showing since averaging a hair over 8 yards per play against IAA McNeese State in 2009. That result, like the Duke/Boston College final, probably says a lot more about UAB than Tulane, but the Green Wave should be able to hang in here and keep this one close.

Southern Miss +3 Virginia
Both teams enter this game 2-1, with Southern Miss having the much more questionable loss (versus a Marshall team that was later blown out by Ohio). However, that loss fits with the MO of Southern Miss very well. In the four season span from 2007-2010, the Golden Eagles dropped nine conference games in which they were the betting line favorite. They were 18-9 straight up as a favorite in conference play, but the Golden Eagles have lost numerous times as a large favorite. For example, they lost to Rice as a 20-point favorite in 2007, to Memphis as a 17-point favorite that same year, and to UAB as a 10-point favorite in both 2009 and 2010. The Golden Eagles appear to fall asleep against their conference brethren when they are a large favorite. They won't have that problem going on the road versus a BCS conference foe.

West Virginia +6.5 LSU
LSU has been perhaps the most impressive team thus far in the early going. The Tigers have won a pair of games against quality foes (Oregon and Mississippi State), by double-digits, away from home. If that doesn't scream number one in the nation, I don't know what does. The Tigers have won with a brutal defense, holding Oregon to their lowest yardage output (325) since they gained just 317 in a narrow win over Cal last November. They then held Mississippi State under 200 yards for the first time since Sylvester Croom's last game (a 45-0 whitewashing at the hands of Ole Miss). I expect them to hold West Virginia in check as well. However, the Tigers are notorious for not covering the spread under Les Miles, going 22-30-3 ATS as a favorite under the Mad Hatter. I expect LSU to win, but in Morgantown, this one should be within a touchdown.

Five Faves I Like
Last Week: 3-2
Overall 7-8

Georgia -10 Ole Miss
Georgia enjoyed a much-needed below the radar beatdown of Coastal Carolina last week. The heat has been turned down a notch on Mark Richt, but a loss here would certainly be an incendiary event. No fear though, Houston Nutt has his own problems. The Rebels were throttled by Vanderbilt, and have scored just 20 points in two games versus IA foes. To make matters worse, they were also outgained in their win versus IAA Southern Illinois. Barring some food poisoning scare, the Bulldogs should win easily here and turn the heat up on Nutt.

Fresno State -3 Idaho
Fresno finally earned their first win of the young season last week against IAA North Dakota after whiffing against a pair of BCS teams (California and Nebraska) in their first two games. The Bulldogs were reasonably competitive in their road test at Nebraska, losing 42-29. Meanwhile, idaho has done nothing to indicate they are any threat in the WAC this season, failing to generate more than 280 yards of offense in a game against a IA foe. Fresno has won their three conference trips to the Kibbie dome by an average of 17.7 points, with none coming by fewer than 10 points. Look for more of the same here.

East Carolina -13 UAB
East Carolina deserved a bye after their opening gauntlet versus South Carolina and Virginia Tech (currently ranked 12th and 13th respectively). The Pirates acquitted themselves quite well in both games, jumping out to a big lead on the Gamecocks and staying even with Virginia Tech for virtually the entire game. They couldn't ask for a better antidote to their schedule ailment than a UAB team was throttled by both Florida (understandable) and Tulane (huh?) in their first two games. The Blazers have scored just 10 points in their first two games while allowing 88. Since becoming division rivals in 2005, the Pirates have won five of six games, with their average margin of victory at home coming by 19.7 points.

Texas Tech -20.5 Nevada
Suffice it to say, Nevada isn't quite the team they were last year. One season after knocking off Boise and finishing number 11 in the final polls, the Wolfpack began the 2011 season with a sizzling beatdown at the hands of Oregon, and followed that up with a narrow win over San Jose State. Texas Tech has hung at least 50 on its first two overmatched opponents (Texas State and New Mexico) and should do the same here.

Mississippi State -19.5 Louisiana Tech
The Bulldogs have earned this one. After losing a nailbiter to Auburn and having the life squeezed out of them by LSU, Mississippi State needed a game to get their offensive confidence back. Louisiana Tech is no pushover, but Mississippi State should move the ball well and put enough points on the board to cover this number.

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