Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Fab Five: Week III

Week II was much kinder to yours truly. I went 6-3 over all (still a little disappointed in only picking two dogs correct out of five), and am a solid 10-9 overall. One of the games I picked (Memphis @ Arkansas State) was postponed, so I'll be picking 6 favorites to make up for it. Rejoice (home teams in bold).

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 2-3
Overall: 3-7
New Mexico +10 Arizona
Yes the Wildcats laid the lumber to Northern Arizona to the tune of 45 points and 490 yards, but lost amidst the scoring is the fact that Willie Tuitama completed just slightly better than 50% of his passes (23 of 44). He did throw for 5 touchdowns, but he also averaged less than 6.4 yards per pass. The New Mexico Lobos have a solid pass defense. In their first game, they held UTEP to 81 yards through the air (on 25 attempts) in a close loss. In their second game, they held a very good quarterback (Chase Holbrook of New Mexico State) somewhat in check (intercepting him twice) and defeated an improving Aggies teams. The Lobos should be 2-0 (they nearly doubled up UTEP in yards, plays, and time of possession), but thanks to red zone failures are only 1-1. They may not knock off Arizona in Tucson, but asking Arizona to cover a double digit spread is too much.

Tennessee +8.5 Florida
After two games, the Florida bandwagon is filling up while the Tennessee bandwagon is running on a spare after blowing a tire in Berkeley and actually just pulled over after narrowly avoiding a head-on collision against Southern Miss. Tennessee's defense has been less than stellar, giving up 32 points per game (to be fair, 14 of Cal's points came off two returns) and an ugly 6 yards per play. However, the offense has been surprisingly ultra-efficient despite losing their top 3 receivers from last season. Florida on the other hand has waltzed over two lesser opponents, but Urban Meyer has to be concerned with the fact that Troy did score 31 points on his young defense. 24 were scored in the second half, presumably in garbage time, but remember, the Gators never allowed more than 28 points in any game last season. The country knows Tennessee is not a national title contender. After Saturday, they will know the same about the Gators.

Ball State +7 Navy
Don't get me wrong, I think Paul Johnson is one of the best coaches in college football. However, Navy's track record against good to decent teams is questionable at best. In his five plus seasons, the Midshipmen have played 18 games against teams that finished with winning records (this is assuming Rutgers finishes this year with a winning record). His teams are 3-15 in such games. The wins have come against Air Force (7-5 in 2003), New Mexico (7-5 in 2004), and East Carolina (7-6 in 2006). Those wins came by 3, 15, and 5 points respectively. Maybe you are of the opinion that Ball State finishes with a losing record. I am not. Hence take the Cardinals.

SMU +3 Arkansas State
One week after allowing over 600 yards passing and 31 points to North Texas, the Mustangs face-off against another Sun Belt team, this time on the road. SMU's pass defense is to be blunt, not too good. However, the two teams they have faced thus far are about as pass-wacky as they come (Texas Tech under coach Mike Leach and North Texas under first year head coach and high school coaching legend Todd Dodge). Arkansas State's claim to fame is an 8-point loss to a disinterested Texas team on Labor Day Saturday. The last time Arkansas State was favored over a non-Sun Belt team was 2003. There's a reason for that. Oh and Arkansas State lost that game 54-7 (to Tulsa).

UNLV +17 Hawaii
Some things in life you can just count on. Like Hawaii struggling on the road. The Warriors somehow gave up 44 points (38 in regulation) to a Louisiana Tech team that was allergic to the endzone last season (18.6 points per game). The Rebels on the other hand, led Wisconsin mid-way through the fourth quarter before falling 20-13. The game against the Badgers wasn't a fluke in the sense that Wisconsin did not cough the ball up 6 times and UNLV did not have three returns for touchdowns. The Rebels just played solid football. They were outgained by only 42 yards and actually had the game's only turnover. The Rebels held the Badgers to only 138 yards passing on 26 attempts. They did get ground up in the running game (210 yards and 5.1 yards per carry), but their opponent this week is not exactly keen on running the ball. The Warriors have just 30 attempts in two games. The Rebels won't end Hawaii's BCS dreams, but they'll do enough to tarnish Hawaii's rep as a top-25 team.

Five Faves I Like

Last Week: 4-0
Overall: 7-2
Purdue -21 Central Michigan
In their first two games under first year head coach Butch Jones, the Chippewas have not exactly been into defense. They have 'held' opponents (Kansas and Toledo) to 83 points, 1020 yards, and an astounding 176.98 quarterback rating. Chippewa opponents have completed over 67% of their passes while throwing 8 touchdowns and zero interceptions. That's not a good recipe to take on the road against a Purdue team that has scored 52 points in both it's games.

Minnesota -8 Florida Atlantic
This line is probably a bit of an overreaction to Minnesota's first two games: two home OT affairs against solid MAC schools (Bowling Green and Miami). The first was an excruciating loss, while the last was a thrilling win. The Sun Belt is a step-down from the MAC and the Gophers, with their superior size will run over the Owls.

Ohio State -4.5 Washington
This game has all the makings of a sucker's bet. Conventional wisdom says take the Huskies. They are 2-0, fresh off a program-building upset of the nation's small-time darling, and playing at home against a team that struggled to put away Akron. Lost in that equation is the fact that Washington has built it's early season rep on wins over perhaps the worst BCS conference team (Syracuse) and a home win over a team that is notoriously mortal on the road (not so much in record, but certainly in winning margin). Ohio State will be making plans for their Big 10 opener late in the 3rd quarter.

Kansas -22.5 Toledo
The Jayhawks have been bombing on under-manned teams in the early going in 2007. They are averaging 57 points per game, have accumulated over 1000 yards while averaging 7.4 per play, and have an ungodly 196.25 quarterback rating. They face a Toledo team that has given up 52 points in both of it's games while allowing 6.8 yards per play. Ye gods.

Louisville -7 Kentucky
At the very least this game should be quite entertaining. I don't care how many points Kentucky scores against Louisville's suddenly porous defense (gave up only 16.3 points per game in 2006), Louisville will score at least 8 more.

BYU -6.5 Tulsa
In one of the most misleading final scores of the past weekend, BYU outgained UCLA by almost 200 yards (199), yet lost by 10 thanks to 3 lost fumbles and an interception return for a touchdown. Tulsa's only game thus far was an underwhelming road win against Louisiana-Monroe.

Five to Steer Clear Of

Boston College +7 Georgia Tech
What do we know about either of these teams? We know BC can beat two average to bad ACC team's at home, especially when one turns the ball over 7 times and the other loses their starting quarterback. We know Georgia Tech can hold Notre Dame without an offensive touchdown and can beat Samford. The answer: We know nothing.

TCU -8.5 Air Force
How good is Air Force? They are 2-0, but their wins are over a non-Division IA team and a Utah team missing it's starting quarterback. Plus, do they still run that option or is it being phased out. Only time will tell.

Cincinnati -9 Miami (Ohio)
Fresh off a 34-3 spanking of Oregon State, this looks to be easy money. Not so fast. Cincinnati's win on Thursday was the least impressive 31 point win I have ever seen. They gained only 229 yards of offense and benefited from 7 Oregon State turnovers. I still think Cincinnati is one of this season's biggest surprise teams, but Miami has actually won 4 of the last 6.

UCLA -14 Utah
In case you missed it earlier, UCLA knocked off BYU last week 27-17 despite being outgained by almost 200 yards. However, the Utes are still missing their starting quarterback and are a shell of their former selves without him.

Louisiana Tech +33.5 Cal
After last week's impressive performance by Louisiana Tech against Hawaii and sloppy performance by Cal against Colorado State, this line looks ripe for the picking. However, Cal is a different beast at home, and we don't yet know what the Bulldogs are like on the road.

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