Thursday, October 06, 2016

The Magnificent Seven: Week VI

Last week was our first winning week in a month. It could have been even better if not for a frontdoor push from Pitt. Lets see if we can post another solid week. As always, home teams in BOLD.

Last Week: 4-2-1
Overall: 16-16-3

Texas-San Antonio +17 Southern Miss
Southern Miss has followed up their breakthrough 2015 season with a solid campaign thus far. The Golden Eagles are 4-1 with a victory over Kentucky from the SEC. However, if you look at the rest of their wins, there is not a lot of heft on their resume. Besides Kentucky, Southern Miss has beaten an FCS team and a pair of conference opponents (Rice and UTEP) that have combined for a 1-9 record. The Roadrunners are probably a little better than those two teams, particularly at home, where they have already given Arizona State a significant challenge. The Roadrunners have had a week off to prepare for Southern Miss and should be able to keep this game within three scores.

Georgia Tech +7 Pittsburgh
No one is happier to see Pittsburgh on the schedule than Georgia Tech and Paul Johnson. After facing a pair of good to great defenses in back-to-back home games, the Yellow Jackets should get their option attack rolling against a Pittsburgh team that has serious issues defensively. While the Panthers are 3-2 in the early going, they have allowed 37 points per game to FBS foes and over 40 points per game to Power 5 opponents. On the surface, Pitt's run defense looks solid as they have allowed just 2.36 yards per rush. However, once we remove their 19 sacks and the resulting lost yardage, the Panthers have actually allowed 4.05 yards per rush. That is hardly terrible, but Pitt will not be nearly as stout as the Clemson unit Georgia Tech faced two weeks ago. Of course, the reason Pitt is 3-2 despite the defensive struggles is because their offense has been pretty potent. The Panthers have scored at least 36 points against each of their FBS opponents and have averaged under six yards per play just once. Georgia Tech has been hot or miss thus far on defense, so Pitt will be able to move the ball and score points against them. However, keep this in mind. Elite defense can shutdown the triple option offense (see Clemson two weeks ago), but this type of attack can absolutely shred an undisciplined unit. From 2012-2015, against defenses that finished in the top 25 nationally in terms of yards per play allowed, Georgia Tech scored 20.75 points per game. Against all other defenses, they averaged 34.89 points per game. Barring a scheduling snafu where they only play Kent State the rest of the way, Pitt will not finish in the top 25 defensively. There may not be as much scoring if Georgia Tech is able to control the clock and limit possessions, but this will be an offensive showcase and I wouldn't be surprised if Georgia Tech not only covers, but emerges victorious.

Wyoming +10.5 Air Force
I know its dangerous to project things, particularly in early October, but take a gander at Air Force's schedule. I'll wait. The Falcons have four road games in their next seven and a neutral site game with New Mexico, but Air Force will probably be favored in each game. With a little luck, they could enter the final weekend of the regular season undefeated! That would make their game with Boise State huge, not just in terms of Mountain Division supremacy, but in terms of a potential New Year's Six Bowl bid. Just something to keep in mind. First things first though, the Falcons will have to get by a Wyoming team looking to qualify for a bowl game in Craig Bohl's third season. The Cowboys are unbeaten thus far at home, including an opening weekend win as a double-digit underdog. Running back Brian Hill is well on his way to another 1000-yard season and he is already the leading rusher in school history. His performance will go a long way toward determining if Wyoming can be competitive here. The Falcons have held each of their first four opponents under 100 yards rushing and are allowing just 1.84 yards per carry. If we remove the sacks they have accumulated, the Falcons are still allowing just over three yards per rush. Air Force should win, but asking them to win by double-digits on the road against a quality opponent is too much.

Buffalo +1.5 Kent State
Someone is going to have to explain this line to me. Looking at the schedule for the upcoming weekend, I figured Buffalo would be a small favorite against Kent as neither of these teams are very good and the Bulls are hosting the game. Both these teams have just a single win and they have both dropped games to FCS opponents. Buffalo at least has the excuse of being in the second year of a rebuild under Lance Leipold while Kent State is in their fourth year of poor play under Paul Haynes. The Golden Flashes have been road favorites just once under Haynes, and while they did win and cover in that game, they have just three total road wins under Haynes. Kent State should not be favored on the road against anyone. Take Buffalo to win here.

Texas State +10 Georgia State
After qualifying for their first ever bowl game last season, Georgia State lost the best quarterback in (their brief) school history when Nick Arbuckle exhausted his eligibility. Their offense has taken a significant downturn without Arbuckle under center. The Panthers have scored more than 20 points just once through their first four games and are averaging just 5.4 yards per pass. Yet somehow, they are favored by double digits in this game. To be fair, Texas State does not appear to be a threat to win the Sun Belt this season, but at least their poor scoring margin (outscored by 67 points through four games), is due in part to games against Arkansas and Houston. The Bobcats also beat Ohio, a potential division champion and probably bowl team, on the road. Georgia State has been favored three times at home in their short history. They have covered only once and have lost two of those games outright. This spread represents the largest margin by which they have ever been favored. Take Texas State to keep this one close.

Colorado State +6 Utah State
Utah State appears to be favored in this game on reputation alone. Just a few short years ago, in 2012, Utah State finished the year ranked 16th in the final poll. Their lone losses that season came by two points at Wisconsin and three points at BYU. Their coach left for Wisconsin following the arguably the best year in school history. The 2013 team was still strong, losing one score games on the road at Utah, Southern Cal, and Fresno State. However, since 2014, the Aggies have gone from an elite Mountain West team to a middling Mountain West bowl team. They are just 5-6 in their last eleven conference games and have lost eight of their last nine road games, including three losses as a favorite. This line should be closer to a pick 'em as Colorado State is a little undervalued after their disappointing home loss to Wyoming last week. Look for the Rams to keep this one close and potentially even their record at 3-3.

Arizona +10.5 Utah
Standing at 2-3, and with three ranked teams, including Utah on the schedule, Arizona is in danger of missing out on a bowl game just two seasons after playing in the Pac-12 Championship Game. The most realistic path to a bowl game involves pulling at least three upsets over their next five games and then winning their last two against Oregon State and Arizona State (the Wildcats could be favored in both games). Can they start by beating Utah in Salt Lake City? I think this game will be closer than the odds makers might have you believe. Utah, despite standing 1-1 in the Pac-12 and better goal-line execution from 2-0, has not played well defensively against Southern Cal and Cal. The Trojans and Bears both averaged north of seven yards per play against the Utes. Conversely, the Utes averaged less than six yards per play against both, including less than five yards per play against a Cal defense that does not exactly draw comparisons to the '85 Bears. Also, consider that Arizona is 4-1 against Utah since the Utes joined the Pac-12, including two wins in Salt Lake City. Finally, Utah is 2-7 ATS as a double-digit home favorite since joining the Pac-12. Utah is not built to blow teams out. This will be a touchdown game that is decided in the fourth quarter.

No comments: