Fab Five: Week XIII
Tulsa +3 Houston
Houston is just two wins away from earning their first ever BCS bowl bid. Unfortunately, their opponent on Friday may be the best team in Conference USA. The Golden Hurricane were an afterthought on the national stage after losing early non-conference games to Boise State, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State. However, Tulsa has rebounded to win seven straight after their 1-3 start. Only one of Tulsa's eight wins has come by a touchdown or less (won by seven at Central Florida). The Golden Hurricane are a decent bet to win this game outright and represent the West division in the championship game.
Maryland +12.5 NC State
NC State still needs one more win to attain bowl eligibility (beat two IAA schools) and they may yet get it, but it won't be easy. NC State is just 3-8 in their last 11 games against the Terps and have not beaten Maryland by more than double digits since 1999. Remember the last time NC State pulled off a shocking home upset? It was just three weeks ago when they shutout North Carolina. They followed that up with a flop at Boston College. This one is at home and for a bowl bid, but it should be just as close.
Wake Forest +1.5 Vanderbilt
I'd like to coin this game as 'The South's Newest and Most Irrelevant Rivalry'. This game will mark the 5th meeting between the Commodores and Deacons in the last seven season. Wake has won three of four, and covered the spread in each win. Both teams appear to have shed their proverbial punching bag label, with Wake qualifying for its fourth bowl game in six years and Vandy attempting to qualify for its second in four years. This one should be very close, but the Deacons should be favored.
New Mexico State +19.5 Louisiana Tech
With their upset of Nevada last week, Louisiana Tech can assure themselves of at least a share of the WAC title here. That feat hardly seemed possible in early October when the Bulldogs were 1-4. Six straight wins later, and the folks from Ruston are making postseason plans. Elsewhere, in Las Cruces, the Aggies won't be bowling, but they have improved significantly in DeWayne Walker's third season as coach. After winning just five games in his first two seasons (only four against IA foes), the Aggies have notched four this year, and have been much more competitive. They should remain competitive against a Louisiana Tech team that is a little overvalued after their upset of Nevada last week.
San Jose State +6.5 Fresno State
Both of these teams pulled off upsets last week and may have kept their opponents home for the holidays in the process. San Jose State beat Navy to ensure the Midshipmen would not go bowling, while Fresno won in Hawaii, forcing the Warriors to beat both Tulane and BYU to get to a bowl game. Outside of their opener against Stanford, San Jose State has been very competitive, losing three games by a combined seven points. Their only other double-digit defeats came to UCLA (10 points), BYU (13 points), and Louisiana Tech (10 points). Those teams are out of Fresno's class this season.
Five Faves I Like
The Buffalo Bulls have exhibited one of the more extreme home/road splits this season. In their three league home games, they have upset MAC East champ Ohio, lost to MAC West leader Northern Illinois by a point, and crushed Akron by 41. In their four league road games, they have lost a close decision to Ball State, been shut out 34-0 by Temple, lost by 28 to Miami, and 13 to Eastern Michigan. Good thing for the Bulls this one is in the friendly confines of upstate New York.
Florida State -2 Florida
What exactly have the Florida Gators done in the past six or seven weeks to make an oddsmaker think they will keep this game close? Since opening 4-0, with their most impressive win being over Tennessee, the Gators have won just two of seven games. Their wins? Vanderbilt (by 5) and Furman (by 22), with both coming at home. Florida State lost a close game to Virginia last week (three of their four losses have come by a combined 11 points), but remains one of the strongest four-loss teams in the nation. Look for them to roll to a second consecutive easy win over their arch-rival.
Oklahoma -28 Iowa State
Paul Rhoads has developed a (deserved) reputation for pulling off at least one big stunner per season. In 2009, his Cyclones knocked off Nebraska in Lincoln as 20-point underdogs. Last season, they beat Texas in Austin, again as 20-point underdogs. Earlier this season, Iowa State stunned Texas tech in Lubbock as 17-point underdogs. Then last week, his Cyclones shocked the unbeaten and second-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys as two-touchdown underdogs. However, it should be noted in games following those upsets his teams have failed to cover the spread each time. Look for more of the same here. The Cyclones blew their load against the Cowboys and on the road against a pissed off Sooner team, they will take a whipping.
Michigan -7 Ohio State
This is the game Michigan fans have been waiting for since 2003 (the last time they defeated the Buckeyes). The Wolverines come in with a dynamic offense, an improved defense, and a shot at an at-large BCS bid with a win. Meanwhile, Ohio State limps in having lost two in a row after a midseason three-game winning streak got them back to bowl eligibility. Ohio State has a solid defense, but is severely limited on offense. This game may be close for a while, but Michigan should pull away in the second half.
Tennessee -7.5 Kentucky
After failing to show up in any SEC game when they were not facing Ole Miss, the Wildcats suddenly flashed some defensive chips in holding Georgia to just 317 yards and 19 points last week. That was by far their best defensive showing against any team from a BCS conference. Still, I'd chalk that up to a flash in the pan. Kentucky is bad, and has nothing to play for but pride. Meanwhile, Tennessee is only half-bad, and has a bowl game to play for.