Saturday, September 07, 2013

Fab Five: Week II

Well, the opening weekend did not quite go as well as we had hoped. I went just 3-7 and if you lost a great sum of money I do apologize. However, this is a new week, and your humble narrator has dug himself out of much larger holes than this. On to the picks! Home teams in bold.

5 Dogs I Like
Last Week: 1-4
Overall: 1-4

West Virginia +21 Oklahoma
Last week, West Virginia, a team that was once ranked as high as number five last season, found themselves down double-digits to IAA William and Mary. The Mountaineers rallied to win the game 24-17, but no confidence was inspired amongst the faithful in Morgantown. However, keep this little nugget in mind. Since 2008, 24 IA teams have beaten IAA teams by seven point or fewer in their first game. Of those 24 teams, 17 covered the following week. If we delve even deeper into the numbers, 14 of those teams have been underdogs the following week. 11 of them have covered. It appears that narrowly edging a IAA team in your first game will make you criminally underrated by the betting public the following week. Couple that with the fact that Oklahoma is a very mortal 10-10 as a double-digit home favorite since 2009, and you have a recipe for some value this week. Count on the Mountaineers keeping this one close.

Navy +12.5 Indiana
Last week, Indiana won by more than a single touchdown for the just the fourth time under Kevin Wilson. The Hoosiers rolled up 73 points and over 600 yards of offense against Larry Bird's alma mater. That was marked improvement over last season when the Hoosiers beat the Sycamores by just a touchdown. Meanwhile, the Naval Academy had an extra week of preparation as they did not play in the opening college football festivities. Navy is catching nearly two touchdowns here and is actually 13-5 Against The Spread (ATS) as a road underdog under head coach Ken Niumatalolo. The Midshipmen beat the Hoosiers last season in an nailbiter 31-30. Indiana appears to be much improved, but Navy has proven time and again to be a pesky squad. I could see them losing by two touchdowns to an upper-tier BCS conference opponent, but the Hoosiers are not on that level.

Kent State +7.5 Bowling Green
Like West Virginia, Kent State struggled with a IAA opponent last week, needing a touchdown in the final five minutes to beat Liberty in a defensive struggle 17-10. The Golden Flashes were without the services of their own flash, running back Dri Archer who left the game early in the first quarter with an injury, Archer averaged nine yards per rush last season while accounting for 24 touchdowns in a variety of ways. While the Flashes were struggling to beat a IAA team, Bowling Green was rolling over the defending Conference USA champs, clobbering Tulsa 34-7. While the scoreboard indicated a blowout, Tulsa missed several scoring opportunities after driving deep into Bowling Green territory. Kent State is highly under-valued here, having won three straight in this series with covers in four consecutive games with the Falcons. The Golden Flashes will keep this one close and have a shot at springing the outright upset.

San Diego State +28 Ohio State
While West Virginia struggled with a IAA team last week, San Diego State did them one better and actually lost, it grisly fashion to Eastern Illinois of the lower division. The Aztecs committed five turnovers and allowed over 500 yards of offense to the Panthers in a 40-19 defeat. Before we go throwing dirt on their grave or diagnosing them with smallpox, remember, these Aztecs have been to three consecutive bowl games and are actually 6-2 ATS as a road underdog the past three seasons. Four touchdowns is a lot to give, especially for an Ohio State team that is just 4-7 ATS as a double-digit home favorite since 2011. With a road date at Cal on deck, expect the Buckeyes to sleepwalk here and fail to cover.

San Jose State +26.5 Stanford
Stanford did not miss a beat when David Shaw replaced Jim Harbaugh prior to the 2011 season. The Cardinal have gone 23-4, won a Pac-12 title, and played in two BCS bowls. Even considering the Cardinal had won 20 games in Jim Harbaugh's final two seasons, that ain't half bad. However, despite their successes in winning games, the Cardinal are a rather pedestrian 5-4 as a double digit home favorite under Shaw, including just a 1-3 mark last season, their first under Shaw sans Andrew Luck. Stanford scored over 27 points, the lowest amount they would have to get to to cover this number, just four times last season. Those games came against Duke, Arizona (in overtime), Colorado, and UCLA. Meanwhile, San Jose State is 7-4 ATS as a double-digit road underdog since 2010. San Jose State is also 13-2 ATS in their past 15 games. I don't think Stanford has an offense that is explosive enough to bury San Jose State. The Cardinal should win with their stout defense, but the Spartans should hang with them in this game. 

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

Cincinnati -7.5 Illinois
I know Illinois meets the criteria mentioned in the West Virginia and Kent State write ups as a team that narrowly edged a IAA opponent in their first game (the Illini beat Southern Illinois by eight), but all things considered, Cincinnati should probably be favored by double digits here. The Bearcats bludgeoned Purdue by five touchdowns in their opener and are 5-2 ATS in the role of road favorite since 2010. In addition, Texas Tech, while being coached by Tommy Tuberville was 6-1-1 ATS as a road favorite and 3-1-1 ATS as a single digit road favorite. Coming off a 2-10 campaign and winning a somewhat close game over a IAA team does not inspire a lot of confidence for the Illini despite the homefield advantage. Take Cincinnati to continue their winning ways in 2013. 

Oregon -23 Virginia
Last week, Virginia won a game that may end up saving their coach's job at the end of the year. With non-conference games against Oregon and Ball State, as well as an ACC slate that includes games with Clemson, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, and Virginia Tech, six wins will be hard to come by. Their narrow win over BYU could could grant them entry into the postseason. While the Cavaliers won the game, they certainly did not look great in doing so. They amassed only 223 total yards and averaged just over three yards per snap. Meanwhile, out west, the Ducks eviscerated another opponent, gaining nearly 800 yards against IAA Nicholls State. Virginia should present a little bigger challenge, but the Ducks are 7-3 ATS as a double digit road favorite since 2009 and are 12-5 ATS as a road favorite of any kind in that span. Meanwhile, Virginia is just 3-6 ATS as a home underdog under Mike London. Its hard to imagine Virginia scoring more than two touchdowns here, so if the Ducks aren't too jet lagged, they should be a solid play.

Tulane -5.5 South Alabama
Don't look now, but this might just be the best team Tulane has fielded in over a decade. The Green Wave have not played in a bowl since 2002, and have not won more than four games since 2004. However, with one win already under their belt and solid chance at victory in this game, the Green Wave could match last season's win total before mid-September. On Saturday, the Green Wave will host a South Alabama team that is only in their fifth season of organized football and just their second season at the IA level. The Jaguars have yet to cover in their brief history as a single digit underdog, going 0-5 ATS in such a role last season. Look for that trend to continue in the Superdome on Saturday. 

Duke -4 Memphis
This game at the historic Liberty Bowl marks a rare occasion for the Duke program. Duke has not been a road favorite since the first game of the 2005 season when they were a field goal favorite at East Carolina. The Blue Devils lost that game (shocker) en route to a 1-10 campaign. Mercifully, the Ted Roof era would end two seasons later and David Cutcliffe would usher in a new era of competitiveness in Durham. Under Cutcliffe, the Blue Devils are 9-5 ATS versus non-conference opponents and 7-1 against non-BCS non-conference opponents. I know Memphis is technically a BCS-conference foe (for one season at least), but the Blue Devils won this game by 24 last season and should be able to win this one by at least a touchdown.

Tulsa -10 Colorado State
Both these mid-major schools look to rebound from tough starts and avoid falling into an 0-2 hole on the season. For the third consecutive season under Bill Blankenship, the Golden Hurricane stumbled on the road in their opener. However, the previous two seasons, Tulsa has rebounded to cover as a big favorite (both times versus Tulane). While Tulsa lost to a solid, and potentially very strong Bowling Green team, Colorado State lost on a neutral field to their in-state rival Colorado. It remains to be seen how improved Colorado is, but they won only a single game last season, and were one of the worst BCS-conference teams of recent memory. Colorado State is just 1-5 ATS away from Fort Collins under head coach Jim McElwain. Look for that trend to continue in an easy Tulsa win.

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