Friday, September 13, 2013

Fab Five: Week III

Week II represented a bit of a bounce back. The picks went a pedestrian 5-5, bringing the yearly total to 8-12. Hopefully, we have gotten the kinks ironed out and the picks will be better from here on out. Home teams in bold.

5 Dogs I Like
Last Week: 3-2
Overall: 4-6

Colorado +10 Fresno State
Don't look now, but the Buffaloes have shown signs of life in year one of the Mike MacIntyre era. The Buffs have won their first two games of the season while scoring 41 and 38 points respectively. In the duration of the Jon Embree era, the Buffs scored 38 or more points just once, in a 48-29 home win over Arizona in 2011. The star of the rejuvenated Colorado offense has been receiver Paul Richardson who has posted nearly identical stat lines of 10 catches for 208 yards and 11 catches for 209 yards in the two victories. After tearing his ACL and missing all of the 2012 season, Richardson has returned with a vengeance and the Colorado offense already has more than half as many touchdown passes (6) as they had all of last season (11). The Buffs will not only seek a 3-0 start, but also a modicum of revenge against a Fresno State team that humiliated them 69-14 last season in the Silicon Valley. Don't be surprised if the Bulldogs lack focus here as they have a key conference game with Boise State next Friday. Fresno State has already failed to cover once this season as a large favorite, holding off Rutgers 52-51 as a ten-point home favorite on the opening Thursday night of the college football season. Prior to the debacle that was the Jon Embree era, the Buffs were actually a healthy 10-7-1 Against the Spread (ATS) as a home underdog under Dan Hawkins. In addition, current head coach Mike MacIntyre has actually covered the last six games and 14 of the past 16 dating back to his time at San Jose State. Look for that trend to continue here with Colorado standing a good chance at pulling the outright upset.

Bowling Green +2.5 Indiana
Don't look now, but the MAC could potentially have a team sneak into a BCS bowl game for the second straight year. I know there is a long way to go, but hear me out. Bowling Green has already beaten a Conference USA power (Tulsa) and knocked off a huge threat to their division title hopes (Kent State). They still have to travel to Indiana and Mississippi State outside the conference and potentially win out in conference play, but the opportunity exists. In addition, conference mate Northern Illinois has already beaten a team from a BCS conference (Iowa) and has a shot at another Big 10 team in a few weeks (Purdue). If the Huskies can keep winning, another ranked showdown in the MAC Championship Game could be on the horizon. Before we get to that though, the Falcons must travel to Bloomington to take on an Indiana team coming off a home loss as a double-digit favorite to Navy. The Hoosiers are no stranger to losing to teams from outside the BCS conferences, having done so five times in Kevin Wilson's two plus seasons. In four of the defeats, Indiana came into the game as a betting favorite. Bowling Green appears to be one of the better mid-major schools in the nation in 2013. Expect them to continue their unblemished season with an outright upset over a Big 10 team on Saturday.

Connecticut +7 Maryland
As you may have heard (or may not have, we are talking Connecticut football here), the Huskies lost their opener to a IAA squad in the Towson Tigers. Head coach Paul Pasqualoni is now 10-15 since taking over for Randy Edsall prior to the 2011 season. In a nice coincidence, Edsall is now coaching Maryland and is looking to keep his Terrapins positioned for a bowl bid with a 3-0 start. Maryland has looked downright impressive, but keep in mind their wins have come against Florida International, a team so bad they are actually three-point underdogs at home this weekend against IAA Bethune Cookman, and Old Dominion, a team making the transition to IA. Methinks Maryland is getting a little too much love here and Connecticut is actually 4-1 ATS as a home underdog under Pasqualoni. Look for the Huskies to surprise a lot of folks (at least those paying attention) and keep this one close.

Kentucky +13.5 Louisville
With the embarrassing performance of Cincinnati last week against Illinois, an undefeated campaign is appearing more likely in Louisville. The Cardinals have not been challenged in their first two contests, blowout home wins over Ohio of the MAC and Eastern Kentucky of IAA. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has already thrown nine touchdowns and is averaging an absurd 12.5 yards per pass attempt. However, before we get too caught up in the Louisville hype, remember this will be their first road contest of the year. Under Charlie Strong, the Cardinals are 0-2 ATS as a double digit road favorite, narrowly beating a pair of poor non-BCS conference foes, Florida International and Southern Miss, by a combined eleven points last season. Kentucky is likely headed for a fourth consecutive losing season, but they have started out with a pair of solid performances in 2012. Though they lost to Western Kentucky in the season's first week, the Wildcats averaged nearly seven yards per play and topped that by averaging over nine yards per play the following week against Miami of Ohio. Playing at home, with a chance to make a statement against an arch-rival, look for Kentucky to keep this one close.

Wisconsin +5 Arizona State
Both these teams will be facing by far their stiffest tests of the young 2013 season on Saturday night. Wisconsin has bludgeoned two over-matched foes, and has actually not allowed a point thus far in 2013. They will face an Arizona State team that has also yet to allow a point. Clearly, one of these teams will see their shutout streak end this week. While at Utah State, current Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen posted an absurd 14-2 ATS mark as a road underdog. In addition, teams coached by Andersen are 11-2 ATS in their last 13 games. Take the Badgers to keep this one close and potentially leave Tempe with an outright upset.

Five Faves I Like
Last Week: 2-3
Overall: 4-6

Virginia Tech -7.5 East Carolina
While their opener with Alabama looked like a mauling on the scoreboard, the Hokies from Virginia Tech actually acquitted themselves quite well against the Crimson Tide. The Hokies held Alabama to just over 200 yards of total offense at just over three yards per snap. The Hokies were done in by three non-offensive touchdowns the Tide managed in rapid succession. While Virginia Tech did not exactly move the ball with Oregon-like efficiency against Alabama, they are likely to encounter significantly less resistance against the Pirates of East Carolina. The Pirates have two wins to their credit, but they have come against a IAA program (Old Dominion) and a very lo-fi IA program (Florida Atlantic). The Hokies are 7-3 ATS as a single digit road favorite the past four seasons and should put the clamps on the Pirate offense en route to a double-digit margin of victory.

Georgia Tech -8.5 Duke
While ACC teams have been making headlines, some good, some great, and others not so much, the Yellow Jackets have remained on the college football periphery. The only data point we have on the Yellow Jackets is that they rolled Elon 70-0 while averaging a whopping nine yards per play. Now Georgia Tech faces a critical stretch of Coastal Division games against Duke, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, and Miami. After this four-game stretch, the Yellow Jackets will either harbor serious divisional aspirations or potentially need a big finishing run to even qualify for a bowl. The fun starts with a trip to Durham where Georgia Tech is unbeaten under Paul Johnson and 1-1 ATS. Overall under Johnson, Georgia Tech is 7-4-1 ATS as a road favorite and an even better 4-1 ATS as a single digit road favorite. Duke should be competitive at home, but Georgia Tech should take this one by double digits.

UTEP -5.5 New Mexico State
The Miners of Texas-El Paso opened the Sean Kugler era with a home loss to New Mexico. In that game, the Miners were laughably deficient when it came to stopping the Lobos option attack. As a team, the Lobos averaged nearly seven yards per rush and running back Kasey Carrier had nearly 300 yards on the ground by himself (291). Still, the Miners moved the ball behind quarterback Jameill Showers, who you may remember engaged in an intense quarterback battle last summer with eventual Heisman winner Johnny Manziel. Showers should again find the opposition very forgiving on the defensive side of the ball as New Mexico State has allowed over nine yards per play in their first two games against Texas and Minnesota. Opposing quarterbacks have completed two-thirds of their passes and the Aggies have allowed over 700 yards on the ground through two games. UTEP has won the previous four in this series with no win coming by fewer than six points, and three by at least 13 points. Look for Sean Kugler and company to get their first win against the hapless Aggies.

Iowa -2 Iowa State
Heading to Ames to face in-state rival Iowa, the Hawkeyes will seek to end a two-game losing streak in the series. Iowa has dropped the past two games to the Cyclones, with each loss coming by three points, albeit in wildly different fashion. Two years ago, the Cyclones won a wild shootout 44-41 in overtime and last season, the Cyclones won a soporific game by a 9-6 final score. While Iowa opened the season with a loss to Northern Illinois, after beating them last season, the Hawkeyes actually moved the ball well, averaging 5.73 yards per play. The The Hawkeyes were that explosive on offense just thrice last season, against Northern Iowa (a IAA team), Central Michigan (a middling MAC team), and Minnesota (a bad Big 10 team). On the other sideline, if Iowa State has designs on a third consecutive bowl, this amounts to a must-win game. With a loss to a IAA team already on their resume, a road trip to Tulsa, and nine Big 12 games, this one looms large. Iowa likely won't be players in the Big 10 race, but they should do enough to win this game by at least a field goal.

Texas -2.5 Ole Miss
To me, this seems like the perfect week to lay some of your hard-earned money on Texas. Embarrassed last week? Check. Opposing players dissing you on Twitter? Check. Playing at home? Check. Still immensely talented? Check. Time to circle the wagons. Maybe this game goes the other way and the Mack Brown era is over (if not literally, at least figuratively) by Sunday morning. Still, Texas beat this team on the road last season by five touchdowns. Not five points, five touchdowns. In their only road game thus far, Ole Miss barely escaped Vanderbilt. Vandy is solid, but playing in the 'Horns in Austin is a lot different from playing in Nashville. Take the Longhorns and put three orfour mortgage payments on this game.

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