Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fab Five: Week X

Last week was neither good nor bad as I went a mediocre 5-5 to push my yearly record to 49-39-2. Hopefully this week brings better fortune. As always, home teams in bold.

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 3-2
Overall: 23-22
Oklahoma State +3 Texas
These are not the Longhorns of 2005. That team was an unrepentant juggernaut that destroyed everything in its path. They played two close games all season, at Ohio State and against Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl. All other teams Big 12 and Sun Belt alike were trampled by their might. The same cannot be said for this year's version. Oh yes, the Horns sport a robust 7-2 record, but they defeated Arkansas State by only 8 points, struggled until the 4th quarter against a down TCU team, edged UCF by 3, lost by 20 at home to Kansas State, struggled into the 4th quarter against Baylor, and barely put away a dying Nebraska team. Thus far, Texas has been impressive in 3 games: the woodshed beatings of Rice and Iowa State, and the narrow loss to Oklahoma. Otherwise, they have been a solid, but not great team; not one you would trust giving 3 points against an Oklahoma State team that has won all their home games, despite a home schedule with Texas Tech and Kansas State on the slate. The Cowboys won both those games by a combined 6 points, scoring 90 and allowing 84 points. Look for similar fireworks and a similar result on Saturday.

South Carolina +4.5 Arkansas
The Gamecocks did everything but win in Knoxville on Saturday night. They outgained the Vols by nearly 200 yards, yet lost thanks to 4 turnovers, a turnover on downs inside the 10, a missed field goal, a Tennessee fumble recovery that gained 15 yards, and an opportune penalty against the Vols as their kicker stoinked a game-tying field goal. Now the Cocks must try and regroup, for they still have an outside shot at representing the SEC East in Atlanta. Standing in their way on Saturday is an Arkansas team that has proven they can beat any and all comers from the Sun Belt, but have yet to earn a win against an SEC team with a winning record. This game will probably be very similar to the one played here in 2005. That game was a 14-10 defensive struggle that Arkansas lost despite nearly doubling South Carolina's yardage output (356-187). Expect a similar score range as both defenses are pretty stout and both offenses can struggle at times. Arkansas probably has the better offense, unfortunately it is also more one-dimensional, and the Gamecocks have the better defense. A three-game losing skid will not befall Steve Spurrier in consecutive seasons.

Florida State +6.5 Boston College
For about 56 minutes on Friday, Boston College did not look the part of the #2 team in the nation. That all changed after some questionable decisions by the Virginia Tech coaching staff to switch from the aggressive unit that made Matt Ryan look infinitely mortal to the vanilla 3-man rush that Ryan picked apart. The Eagles escaped though, and can now begin realistically thinking about a national title. On Saturday they face a Seminole team looking to establish itself as a possible ACC contender for next season and improve it's bowl status. Three weeks ago, the Seminoles looked like real contenders after licking their wounds from the Clemson opener. They stood 4-1, with now impressive victories over Alabama and Colorado. Then they went into BB&T Field and it all fell apart. The Noles dropped a close game to the Deacons (though not a close as the 3 point margin) and then fell the next week to Miami (much closer than the 8 point margin). Despite being a flawed team, especially on offense, and especially at the quarterback position, the Noles are better than their 5-3 record. They are only 1-3 in close games and have lost 10 of their 11 fumbles on the season. The Noles still have a good defense (17th nationally in yards per game), so if the Eagles don't significantly win the turnover margin this one will be very close.

Alabama +7 LSU
After winning their first 5 games by nearly 33 and a half points per game, the Tigers have come back down to Earth. They needed fourth quarter comebacks to knock off both Florida and Auburn in Baton Rouge. In between those two wins, they fell in overtime against a solid, but not great Kentucky team. The difference? Schedule strength. I'm not saying LSU played cupcakes in their first 5 games, but take a look at the offensive capabilities of their first 5 opponents versus those same capabilities of their last 3. The table below lists the yards per game and points per game of LSU's opponents. The national rank is in parentheses.It is still impressive that LSU held their first five opponents to under 7 points per game, but in the last 3 games, it's become clear LSU's defense is good, but not historically great. If you're curious, Alabama ranks 44th nationally in yards per game (413.6) and 39th in points per game (31.5). That's significantly better than any of LSU's first 5 opponents and the Tide are playing at home. Don't be surprised is Alabama is in control of the SEC West come Saturday night.

Louisiana-Lafayette +29.5 Tennessee
Of the five teams still legitimate contenders in the SEC East (sorry Vandy), Tennessee is probably the worst of the bunch. Despite their 5-3 record, they have scored exactly the same number of points as they have allowed. All of their losses have been by double digits (39, 24, and 14 points). The Vols offense is pretty prolific, averaging 404 yards per game and 5.7 yards per play. However, their defense is giving up 418.5 yards per game and 5.9 yards per play. The Ragin' Cajuns are not a good team; at 1-7 they are far from it, but in a game sandwiched between a hard-fought SEC win (South Carolina) and another tough SEC game (Arkansas), look for the Vols to sleepwalk through this one.

Five Faves I Like

Last Week: 2-3
Overall: 26-17-2
Georgia Tech -2.5 Virginia Tech
Despite already having 3 conference losses, the Yellow Jackets may be the best team in the Coastal Division. Their losses have come to Boston College (undefeated), Virginia (by 5 points), and Maryland (2 points). Against both Virginia and Maryland, defensive touchdowns by the Cavs and Terps proved to be the winning margin. Against a defense as stout as Georgia Tech's, the Hokies will need perhaps several non-offensive touchdowns to pull this one out.

Kansas State -14 Iowa State
The Wildcats have been one of this season's biggest surprises, at least to me. Last season, the Wildcats parlayed great special teams and a good dose of luck into a 7-6 season. This season, their special teams are very good, but their offense and defense have improved as well. Their losses have come to teams that currently sport a combined 19-6 record. Those losses have also come by a combined 18 points. Their opponent, Iowa State, has played better the past two weeks--losing to Oklahoma and Missouri by 'only' 24 combined points. Look for that trend to reverse itself this week in a blowout at the hands of the Wildcats.

Louisisna Tech -3.5 Idaho
After losing 5 of their first 7 games, the Bulldogs are now one game deep into the doldrums of their schedule. They won by 10 against Utah State last week, and now get the Vandals before facing a death march towards Baton Rouge. After that game though, the Bulldogs close with a home game against San Jose State (very winnable) and a road trip to Nevada (not so winnable). With a chance to finish with 5 or possibly even 6 wins, the Bulldogs needn't take the Vandals lightly. Idaho has won only once this season, and they are winless against Division IA teams. In fact, their season finale against Utah State could be a battle between two teams without a Division IA win between them. Look for quarterback Zac Champion to torch a pass defense that is 112th nationally in opponent quarterback rating.

Connecticut -2.5 Rutgers
Last years Cinderella, meet this year's Cinderella. Despite overtures from Cincinnati and South Florida, it appears the Huskies are this season's Big East Cinderella. Led by an aggressive ball-hawking defense (sound familiar Rutgers?), and an offense that does just enough the Huskies are undefeated in Big East play, and look to clinch a winning Big East record the first time ever. The Huskies are an astounding +12 in turnover margin (12th nationally) through 8 games. Look for the Huskies to win a relatively close game. Ray Rice will get his yards, but Mike Teel will prevent the Knights from pulling this one out.

Boise State -25.5 San Jose State
The Spartans almost ruined Boise State's Fiesta Bowl season last year. The Broncos need a last second field goal to knock off San Jose 23-20. Unfortunately for the Spartans, that game was at home. Coming to the Smurf Turf is tough, especially for opposing WAC teams. Look for Boise to dominate what has been revealed to be a bad San Jose State team.

Five to Steer Clear Of

Notre Dame -3.5 Navy
Can the impossible happen? Can Navy beat Notre Dame and can Notre Dame mount some scoring drives against a defense that gives up almost 460 yards per game?

North Carolina -2.5 Maryland
This should be a good game, but I have no idea what will happen.

Michigan -4 Michigan State
John L. Smith is gone, but the tanking continues. Somehow the Spartans lost to Iowa despite giving up 53 pass yards.

Wake Forest -1 Virginia
The Deacons a road favorite. Against a team not from Durham. Ye Gods.

Georgia -16.5 Troy
I've got a sneaking suspicion this one could be close. But I've been wrong before.

Monday, October 29, 2007

In Case You Missed It: Week 9

...The Kansas Jayhawks won for the first time ever in Kyle Field against Texas A&M to run their record to 8-0. After 4 conference games, they have already exceeded the school record for Big 12 wins in a season. However, when it comes to the polls, some folks haven't yet gotten the memo. When another historical afterthought ran out to a 5-0 start, the pollsters were falling all over themselves to put them in the top 10 (more on them below). Now it takes an act of congress to get the Jayhawks in the same position. Kansas is ranked 8th in both the Coaches' Poll and the AP Poll. In the both' polls, 4 teams with a loss are ranked ahead of them (LSU, Oregon, Oklahoma, and West Virginia). Certainly, I love to see teams sorted by their body of work, and not just on the number of losses they happen to have. But this reeks of nothing more than classism. Take away the blue KU from the helmets and replace it with a nice big red 'N' and this team is your current BCS poll-sitter. Let's take a minute and compare their schedule with Oklahoma (5th in both polls).While Kansas has taken a lot of heat for their non-conference schedule, and rightfully so, Oklahoma's first 4 games, were not exactly against the giants of college football. Outside of their game against Miami, which is not the same team they were when this game was originally scheduled, the Jayhawks may have had a slightly tougher non-conference slate. In conference play though, it's not even close. Kansas has three road wins over teams in the top 50, with two against teams in the top 30. Oklahoma has one top 30 win (at home), and has lost to the second best team on their schedule (Colorado).

...Speaking of poll bias, isn't it time we punish LSU just a tad more for dropping a game to Kentucky? As I so clairvoyantly predicted a few weeks ago, Kentucky is not a top-10 or even a top-20 team. Two weeks ago that loss didn't look as bad when Kentucky only had one loss of their own. Now that they have 3 though, it's time to reevaluate. This Kentucky team is pretty much guaranteed to lose 5 games. Do you want a 1-loss LSU team playing Ohio State for the national title over an undefeated Kansas or Arizona State? If you answered 'Yes', you are either a BCS advertising exec paralyzed with fear at the thought of promoting that game, a resident of Baton Rouge, or a petty fan of either Arizona or Kansas State. Oh, what about LSU's two huge wins? Well both Auburn and Florida have a combined 4 losses to teams besides LSU. Look for that total to jump to at least 6 by season's end.

...The SEC, contrary to what most fans will have you believe, is not a collection of great teams. It is a collection of very good teams plus one national title contender (LSU), but is there any difference between the Florida/South Carolina/Georgia/Alabama/Auburn quintet and say Texas/Texas Tech/Kansas State/Colorado/Missouri? Plus, what does it say about your league, when the fifth best team in the SEC East (Tennessee) now has the inside track to get to Atlanta. More on Tennessee later in the week.

...One more SEC tidbit. I present to you, the Mississippi State Upset Formula (patent pending).At this point in the season, most observers probably thought Mississippi State would be 3-6. However, the Bulldogs have pulled road upsets over both Auburn and Kentucky by significantly winning the turnover battle. The Bulldogs are a combined +9 in those two games and -8 over the other 7 games. Over their final 3 games, the Bulldogs host both Alabama and Ole Miss, and play Arkansas on the road. Bowl-eligibility is almost assured, and if the Bulldogs can upset either the Tide or the Hogs, a bowl bid will be a reality.

...Just so you know, Connecticut is for real. Yes they should have lost to Temple, and yes they were the beneficiary of a blown call against Louisville, but their defense is superb. Their showdown in Morgantown in 4 weeks will probably decide who gets the BCS bid from the Big East. As for South Florida, well they better come to play against a solid Cincinnati team on Saturday, or a season once so promising will be gone before you can say John L. Smith.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fab Five: Week IX

As bad as Week VII was, week VIII was that good. I went 8-2 (4-1 on dogs and favorites) to run my seasonal record to 44-34-2. Still waiting patiently on my 'White Whale'--an undefeated week. As always, home teams in bold

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 4-1
Overall: 20-20
Fresno State +3 Boise State
If you listen closely you can hear the murmurs. Murmurs of misguided sportswriters and casual fans making the case for welcoming a one-loss Boise State team back to the BCS. I'm all for giving the little guy a piece of the pie, but this Boise State team is a notch, nay several notches, below the one that shocked Oklahoma last season.The above table lists Boise States' stats through their first 7 games this season and their first 7 games last season. As you can plainly see, they are not as dominant despite facing an easier schedule. The opponent numbers do not do the disparity in schedule strength justice as last season at this time, Boise had already disposed of two teams (Oregon State and Hawaii) that would win 21 games between them. On Friday, the Broncos are road favorites against a conference rival that is much improved. After opening conference play against the dregs of the league, Fresno has built up a 4-0 record and now looks to see if they really are a contender, along with Boise and Hawaii for the conference crown. The Bulldogs suffered a heartbreaking overtime defeat to Texas A&M and then were left for dead after their beatdown at the hands of Oregon. Winning in College Station is tough (no one has done it yet this season) and Oregon may well be the best team in the country. Playing at home, against a familiar opponent, the Bulldogs will upset the Broncos and end their hopes for a BCS bid.

Indiana +7.5 Wisconsin
At worst, this game should be an entertaining shootout; a game that would turn the stomach of the great Woody Hayes. Both these teams have mediocre at best defenses. Excluding their opener against Indiana State, the Hoosiers have given up at least 20 points to every team they have faced (including 20 to offensive indifferent Iowa) while Wisconsin has given up at least 30 in 3 of their last 5 games (the lone exceptions were against Iowa and Northern Illinois). The Badgers may have the homefield, but the Hooiers have the superior signal-caller. In his sophomore season, Kellen Lewis has gone from erratic athlete (54.9 completion percentage in 2006) to athletic quarterback (61.5 completion percentage). He and the 6 foot 7 James Hardy (748 yards, 11 touchdowns) will keep the Hoosiers close. Don't be surprised if they walk out of Madison as a bowl-eligible team.

Connecticut +4.5 South Florida
After watching the Huskies on Friday against Louisville, consider me a believer (punt returns notwithstanding). The Huskies defense is legit (no team has scored more than 17 points against them) and the homefield edge will keep this one close. South Florida could very well have beaten Rutgers on Thursday, but their offense was somewhat exposed as one-dimensional. A lot of Matt Grothe and very little of anything else. The defense of course, is still nasty, so expect a low-scoring affair. I don't know that the Huskies can pull this one out, but they will keep it very close.

Pittsburgh +11 Louisville
Just when it looked like Louisville was ready to turn their season around after upsetting Cincinnati, they went and lost another close game. All 4 of their losses have been by 9 points or less. Three of those losses can be laid at the feet of the defense (allowing 40, 38 and 44 points respectively), but this loss sits squarely on the offensive side of the ball. True, the defense did give up a late score that proved to be the final margin, but the explosive offense only managed to grind out 17 points and 321 yards (both season lows). Now the Panthers come into town hoping to turn their season around after upsetting...Cincinnati. Louisville does not do a lot of things well on defense, including stopping the run. They allow 4.58 yards per rush (87 nationally) and over 159 yards on the ground per game (68th nationally). Pitt's stud freshman LeSean McCoy (805 yards, 5.71 per attempt) should do enough damage on the ground to keep Pitt within two scores.

Ball State +14 Illinois
Two weeks ago, they were Big 10 title contenders. Now the Illini are just seeking that elusive 6th win, and with it bowl-eligibility. They will get it Saturday, but it won't be easy. For all the talk about their spread offense and backfield tandem of Juice Williams and Rashard Mendenhall, the real credit for the Illini's turnaround goes to the defense. The offense is averaging roughly a touchdown more per game (5.9 more points per game in 2007), but the defense, after allowing nearly 40 point per contest in Zook's first season has seen that number drop from 26.8 last year to 19.6 this year (7.2 less). That defense will face a stiff test Saturday in the form of Nate Davis, the best quarterback you've never heard of. In just his sophomore campaign, Davis has already tossed 20 touchdowns (only 3 interceptions) and has the Cardinals at the precipice of bowl-eligibility themselves. The Illini should have no trouble pounding Mendenhall and Williams against the porous Cardinal rush defense (allowing 5.10 yards per rush and almost 215 rushing yards per game), but Davis will keep Ball State within two touchdowns.

Five Faves I Like

Last Week: 4-1
Overall: 24-14-2
Virginia Tech -3 Boston College
Will number two get flushed once again on Thursday night? I think so. No sane person would accuse Virginia Tech of having a good, or even a balanced offense. However, they do still have those outstanding defensive and special teams units. Don't expect another performance like they had against Clemson, but they will make some big plays on Thursday all the same. Boston College has been flying under the radar since their pantsing of a pretty good Georgia Tech team 6 weeks ago (in Atlanta no less). Matt Ryan has made himself a Heisman candidate, throwing for over 21oo yards and 17 touchdowns in the Eagles' 7-0 start. If this game were in Chestnut Hill, I'd say bet the next two months' mortgage on the Eagles. However, as Clemson can attest, Lane Stadium on a Thursday night is different animal. Boston College will lose their seat at the BCS Championship table after Thursday. Just so you know, Virginia Tech will eventually be undone by their pedestrian offense and fall flat on their faces. Probably next Thursday.

Oregon -3 Southern Cal
Step back from this game for one second. Remove everything you know about these two programs from the past half-decade. One team is playing at home, outscored it's first 7 opponents by an average of 24 points per game, has beaten 3 likely bowl teams (possibly 4), and has lost to a team currently 5-2 by 7 points. The other team is playing on the road, has outscored it's first 7 opponents by an average of 18 points per game, has beaten zero likely bowl teams (possibly 2), and has lost to a team currently 3-4 by 1 point. Who would you pick to win?

Washington -4 Arizona
The nation forgot about Washington and their nice 2-0 start after a recent run of 5 losses in 5 games. However, all those losses came to teams that will go bowling, including 4 that are currently ranked in the top 10. With only two games remaining against ranked opponents (and one of them the very shaky Hawaii Warrior), the Huskies have a chance to go on a nice run and maybe, if everything breaks their way, get to 7 wins. That streak will start Saturday against an Arizona team that seems to have regressed in Mike Stoops' fourth season. The Wildcats wins have come over Northern Arizona (IAA) and Washington State (2-5). Heck if they were even in the Mountain West, they would not be in contention for the conference title (losses to BYU and New Mexico)

Kansas -2.5 Texas A&M
The Kansas Jayhawks just keep rolling along, pulling out a close win over Colorado (don't knock it, Oklahoma couldn't win there). Kansas has gotten things done against quality opponents with their defense. Late stops netted them tough road wins over Kansas State and Colorado. The Aggies will look to do what any team with Stephen McGee, Jorvorskie Lane, and Mike Goodson would do--pound the rock. Unfortunately for them, Kansas has held opponents to 2.69 yards per rush this season (11th nationally). Even the two good teams they played (Kansas State and Colorado) netted only 119 yards on 54 carries (2.20 yards per rush). The Jayhawks have covered every line in their first 6 games thus far. Can they make it to lucky #7? You bet. The Aggies are just dust in the wind.

Western Michigan -5 Eastern Michigan
The Broncos from Western Michigan are 3-5 thanks mainly to a non-conference schedule that included games against West Virginia, Indiana, and Missouri, and an isolated piss poor kick coverage against Akron. Eastern Michigan on the other hand, is doing what they done since Jeff Genyk's first season, slip to the bottom of the MAC's Western Division. At least this year they have Northern Illinois to break their fall in the cellar. The Eagles may keep this interesting for a while, but barring a horrible performance from Western Michigan's Tim Hiller, this one should be at least a two score margin.

Five to Steer Clear Of

Wake Forest -6 North Carolina
North Carolina is much better than their 2-5 record would indicate. In fact, if they led the charmed life the Deacons have over the past season and a half, they could be as good as 6-1.

Clemson -3.5 Maryland
The last three games in this series have been decided by 3, 4, and 1 point. This has all the makings of another nail-biter.

Virginia -3 NC State
Doesn't this game just feel like another narrow escape for Virginia as they make their way to Jacksonville.

Tennessee -3 South Carolina
Loser is eliminated from SEC East contention.

Arizona State -3 Cal
Time to show us you're for real Sun Devils.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

2007 Pythagenmelt Rankings

The four or five avid readers of this blog may have wondered what happened to this week's edition of 'In Case You Missed It'. Well here's your answer. Back over the summer I debuted my Pythagenmelt Rankings--a power ranking system that adjusts each team's winning percentage based on their scoring and opponents. I have meticulously compiled the data and am proud to give to you the 2007 Pythagenmelt rankings. Below teams are grouped together by conference then by power ranking. After each conference listing I will offer some explanation for some of the more surprising rankings and make a few predictions about how the rest of the conference season will play out. Finally, after each conference is reviewed, I will list the teams in descending order from best to worst (1-119). And before we dive in, here's some basic info on the Pythagenmelt Rankings. A team's Pythagorean Winning Percentage for each game is adjusted upward or downward based on opponent. Beat a good team by the slimmest of margin and you have a good rating. Beat a bad team by the slimmest of margins and you have a bad rating. Get the idea? The rating system does not take into account yardage or turnovers, only the final score. Only games against Division IA opponents are included (sorry Appalachian)

Not a lot of surprises in the ACC, at least at the top, as Boston College and Virginia Tech are widely regarded as the cream of the conference. Why is Virginia rated so low? Narrow wins (5 of their 7 wins are by a combined 11 points) and the 20 point drubbing at the hands of Wyoming still counts. Before you quibble with Florida State's rating, remember, they still have wins over Alabama and Colorado. Look out for Georgia Tech. They finish with 3 of their final 4 at home. Don't be surprised if they win out and upset Virginia Tech and Georgia in the process. For the first time since 2000, the Jackets will finish the season with less than 5 losses.

South Florida still rates as the best in the conference despite their loss on Thursday. How is Cincinnati still rated so high after consecutive losses? The margins were narrow, and they are getting a lot of life out of their 34-3 thrashing of Oregon State. Connecticut looks like the real deal. Even with their soft schedule, it is still impressive that they have not allowed more than 17 points in a game thus far. Don't be surprised if they shake up the landscape with a home win over South Florida. When all the smoke has cleared, West Virginia will take home the Big East championship.

The good news for Michigan is that their first game is not included in these ratings. The Wolverines have won 6 in a row since the 0-2 start (and the Oregon loss is looking at least only marginally bad instead of program-killing bad) and stand a real chance of heading into the Ohio State game on a 9 game streak. Northwestern may well be the worst bowl participant from a BCS conference this season. They have beaten (Pythagenmelt rankings in parentheses) Northeastern (IAA school), Nevada (83), Michigan State (30), Minnesota (81), and Eastern Michigan (115). They also lost to Duke (79). The only legit win they have thus far is against the Spartans. If they can win one of their last 4 (@Purdue, Iowa, Indiana, and @Illinois) they will be bowl-eligible.

Why is Missouri first? Their schedule has been tougher than the Jayhawks and they have a 'better' loss than the Sooners. Look out for Kansas State in the second half. Their three losses have come to teams rated 10th (Kansas), 8th (Auburn) and 37th (Oklahoma State) by a combined 18 points (with two coming on the road). Speaking of Oklahoma State, they are a much different team at home (wins over Kansas State and Texas Tech). They get Texas in Stillwater on November 3rd and Kansas there on November 10th.

Oregon is a legit dark horse national title contender. They have bludgeoned teams all season and will get a stiff test against the Trojans on Saturday. UCLA is undefeated in conference play and they get two of the remaining three conference threats (Arizona State and Oregon) at home. The team of the second half will be the Washington Huskies. Their 5 game losing streak has dropped them off the national radar, but they have played 4 of the top 5 teams in the conference to go along with Ohio State in a non-conference match up. They get to feast on the bottom tier on the league (with the exception of a home date with Cal) from here on out. Don't be surprised if they win at least 4 of their last 6.

Auburn third best in the conference, really? Their losses have all been close with two of them coming to very good teams (LSU--1st and South Florida--4th). Plus they own wins over Florida (7th), Kansas State (15th), and Arkansas (19th). Speaking og the Hogs, how are they rated so high? Relatively close losses (3, 13, and 2 point margins) to good teams (Alabama--24th, Kentucky--14th, and Auburn--8th).

To say the conference is down this year would be an accurate assessment. Half the league is rated 102nd or lower. Golden Eagle fans, don't worry about your teams low rating. The win over Marshall is not included (played on Sunday) and the major anchor is the team's upset loss to Rice. Southern Miss will still win the East.

Behind the phenom that is Nate Davis, Ball State has a real chance to go bowling for only the 4th time in school history. However they won't be able to play in the MAC Championship Game. Central Michigan is undefeated in conference play (3-0) and owns the tie-breaker by beating the Cardinals head-to-head. Traditional MAC West powers (Toledo and Northern Illinois) have fallen on hard times, while perennial cellar dwellers (Buffalo and Temple) have risen (relatively).

Once again BYU owns the title of best mid-major. Believe it or not, they were also the best last season. Unfortunately, some ill-timed turnovers did them in against UCLA and a some defensive indifference cost them against Tulsa. After a 4-year drought, Air Force is already bowl-eligible and is in good position to win the Mountain West's silver medal.

The Sun Belt is Troy's world and everyone else is paying rent. I haven't calculated historical data past last season, but with three teams rated 71st or better this has to be the best Sun Belt conference ever. Middle Tennessee (very impressive since starting the alliterative Dwight Dasher at quarterback) and Florida Atlantic look to give Troy a run for their money.

Mark it down. Hawaii will not play in a BCS bowl or finish undefeated. Their wins are thus far are over Louisiana Tech (109th), UNLV (90th), Idaho (119th), Utah State (111th) and San Jose State (105th). Boise State won't be making a return trip to the BCS either. Don't be surprised if Fresno knocks them off on Friday. At the bottom of the WAC, keep an eye on Louisiana Tech. They have already played the top 3 teams in the conference and now with the exception of Nevada (and LSU in non-conference play) they get to play teams much closer to themselves in terms of talent.

Is this the year it finally happens?

Ratings 1-119
2 Ohio State
3 Oregon
4 South Florida
5 Missouri
6 Arizona State
7 Florida
8 Auburn
9 West Virginia
10 Kansas
11 Oklahoma
12 Boston College
13 Michigan
14 Kentucky
15 Kansas State
16 Virginia Tech
17 Cincinnati
18 Penn State
19 Arkansas
20 Connecticut
21 So Cal
22 Rutgers
23 Georgia Tech
24 Alabama
25 Texas
26 California
27 Georgia
28 Texas Tech
29 South Carolina
30 Michigan State
32 Purdue
33 Illinois
34 Florida State
35 Clemson
36 BYU
37 Oklahoma State
38 Virginia
39 Miami (Fla)
40 Wake Forest
41 Tennessee
42 Maryland
43 Troy
44 Texas A&M
45 Boise State
46 Vanderbilt
47 Washington
48 Air Force
49 Louisville
50 Wisconsin
51 Indiana
52 Fresno State
53 Colorado
54 Houston
55 TCU
56 Utah
57 Oregon State
58 UCF
59 Mississippi State
60 New Mexico
61 Navy
62 Middle Tennessee
63 Ball State
64 North Carolina
65 Hawaii
66 Pittsburgh
67 nebraska
68 Stanford
69 Tulsa
70 Ole Miss
71 FAU
72 Wyoming
73 Iowa
74 Central Michigan
75 Northwestern
76 Arizona
77 East Carolina
79 Duke
80 Colorado State
81 Minnesota
82 Western Michigan
83 Nebada
84 NC State
85 S Miss
86 Washington State
87 Akron
88 Notre Dame
89 Miami (Ohio)
91 Baylor
92 Syracuse
93 Bowling Green
94 New Mexico State
95 Buffalo
96 Kent State
97 Arkansas State
98 Army
99 Iowa State
100 La-Monroe
101 Toledo
102 Rice
103 Memphis
104 San Diego State
105 San Jose State
106 Temple
107 Marshall
108 UAB
109 Louisiana Tech
110 Ohio
111 Utah State
112 Tulane
113 La-Lafayette
114 North Texas
115 Eastern Michigan
116 SMU
117 FIU
118 Northern Illinois
119 Idaho

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fab Five: Week VIII

As predicted, Week VII went about as poorly as possible. I went a horrendous 2-7-1 to run my year-to-date record to 36-32-2. Time to get back on track. As always, home teams in bold

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 1-4
Overall: 16-19
Rutgers +3 South Florida
South Florida is half way to a place in the BCS Championship Game. However, they are only 1/6 of the way to a Big East Championship. They face their first Big East road game on Thursday against last year's surprise Big East team. The Bulls will also look to avenge last year's 22-20 loss. South Florida has certainly been impressive thus far, knocking off power teams Auburn (on the road) and West Virginia, and netting quality wins against North Carolina, Florida Atlantic, and UCF. The Bulls are a good team, but contrary to what some misguided talking heads will have you believe, they are led by their defense (one of the nation's best), and not their mohawked quarterback Matt Grothe. Grothe is a great athlete (7 touchdown passes and 4 rushing touchdowns), but right now he is merely a good quarterback, not a Heisman contender. On the other hand, the Bulls defense is for real. They rank 18th in the nation in yards allowed per rush (2.86), 5th nationally in quarterback rating allowed (88.88), and 13th in sacks (20). That defense will be put to the test against one of the nation's premier backfield combinations. Ray Rice has over 800 yards rushing and is averaging almost 5 yards per carry while Mike Teel has a quarterback rating of 169.78 (5th in the country). The difference between this year's Rutgers team and last season's team, is defense, and more specifically forcing turnovers. Through 6 games last season, the Knights had forced 17 turnovers (8 fumbles and 9 interceptions). Through 6 games this season, the Knights have caused only 9 turnovers (3 fumbles and 6 interceptions). The Knight's defense is still solid and it will frustrate Matt Grothe for the duration of the game. This game will be close and will probably be decided by the kickers. Rutgers' Jeremy Ito has made 9 of 12 field goals, while South Florida's Delbert Alvarado is only 7 of 12, including an awful 2 of 6 performance at Auburn. The advantage in the kicking game and the home field make Rutgers the pick.

Auburn +11.5 LSU
The key to this game will be Brandon Cox, and more specifically, his aversion to or affinity for throwing interceptions and fumbling. In the two games Auburn has lost (South Florida and Mississippi State), the Tigers committed 10 turnovers (5 interceptions and 5 fumbles). In their other 5 games (coincidentally, the Tigers are 5-0 in those games), Auburn has committed 6 turnovers. Auburn is road tested, having won at both Florida and Arkansas, so the environment will not intimidate the Tigers. The last 3 games in this series have been decided by 1, 3, and 4 points respectively. Expect this one to be close as well.

Mississippi +5 Arkansas
The Hogs have not done a good job of defending their SEC West Championship as they are 0-3 in conference play and are desperately seeking a second dimension to their vaunted rushing offense (maybe they should try McFadden and Jones in the single wing or maybe even the veer).This table lists the numbers Arkansas quarterbacks have put up against SEC teams and against the non-conference schedule. Those non-conference games have come against Troy, North Texas, and Chattanooga. From the table, those games have been good for inflating the overall numbers, but not so good at preparing Casey Dick and Co. to face the much stiffer defenses in the SEC. McFadden and Jones will get their yards, and the Hogs may even win, but this game will be very close.

NC State +5 East Carolina
If there was one team I was terribly wrong about in my preseason predictions, it was NC State. I thought the Wolfpack would be a middle-of-the-road ACC teams (3rd place in the Atlantic to be exact). However, they have simply been awful this season. They have committed 22 turnovers while collecting only 5. Neither Harrison Beck nor Daniel Evans have been able to consistently move the offense. So why are they the pick this week? Bye week. No Bronco Nagurski never had one, but NC State is coming off their first and only bye week of the season. In his 9 seasons at Boston College, Tom O'Brien's teams were 8-7 coming off a bye (not counting bowl games where O'Brien has a splendid 6-1 record). However, all 7 of those defeats came to ranked teams, including 4 to teams ranked in the top 10, and 3 to teams ranked in the top 5 (Miami 3 straight years from 2000-2002). O'Brien will have a sound gameplan in place, and the Wolfpack may pull out their second win of the year.

Stanford +10.5 Arizona
Arizona needs this game bad. Real bad. In Mike Stoops' fourth season, the Wildcats are 2-4 (1-3 in Pac-10 play). They have beaten Northern Arizona (Division IAA) and Washington State (2-5 with wins over Idaho and San Diego State). The Wildcats did drub both the Lumberjacks and the Cougars, but as stated earlier, the Lumberjacks are not IA and the Cougars have been outscored by 32 points per game in their 4 road contests (the Wildcats beat them by 28). Stanford is far from a finished product, but they have improved dramatically in Jim Harbaugh's first season. The Cardinal may not win, but Arizona will certainly not dominate.

Five Faves I Like

Last Week: 1-3-1
Overall: 20-13-2
Clemson -17 Central Michigan
Clemson's bye week could not have come at a better time. After not executing against Georgia Tech, the Tigers simply imploded against Virginia Tech. Despite the rumblings for Tommy Bowden's dismissal, the season still holds great potential for Clemson. The Tigers still have a very good defense under coordinator Vic Koenning. The points allowed per game stat (21.3) does not do the unit justice, as the Tigers have been victimized by 3 special teams and 1 defensive touchdown. The Tigers rank first nationally in passing yards allowed per game (135.2), 7th in quarterback rating allowed (92.06), and 12th in total yards allowed per game (289.3). Central Michigan does have a very good offense, led by sophomore sensation Dan LeFevour. LeFevour has thrown for 13 touchdowns and rushed for 8 more. However, against a defense similar statistically to Clemson's (Kansas in game number one), the Chippewas managed only 7 points. Look for a similar performance on Saturday.

Wake Forest -3 Navy
Normally I try to stay away from analyzing games involving my Deacons. However, this game is just begging for a look. I've watched Navy a twice this season (Duke and Pitt), and I do believe their triple option attack could give us some trouble. However, Navy's defense has been shredded by anyone and everyone on the schedule. Navy has given up over 200 yards rushing four times in six games this year (Rutgers, Ball State, Air Force, and Pitt). In the two games where they did not get gashed on the ground (Duke and Temple), they made up for by allowing over 400 yards through the air and playing Temple. Navy ranks 102nd nationally in yards allowed per game, so the Deacons should have their choice of scoring by land, sea, or air.

Missouri -3.5 Texas Tech
Yes the Tigers lost to Oklahoma by 10 points. Yes the margin was 17 until the final seconds. However, the Tigers led heading into the 4th quarter. If not for some costly miscues that led directly to points for the Sooners, the outcome could have been much different. The Tigers rolled up 418 yards against a team that allows only 303 per game (17 nationally). Texas Tech has improved defensively in recent games (31 total points allowed the last three). However, those numbers have been put up at home against Northwestern State (Division IAA), Iowa State (scoring only 16.3 per game), and Texas A&M (only 24 points scored in two road games). This game occurs away from Lubbock, where the Red Raiders were last seen allowing 49 points and 610 yards to Oklahoma State. It won't be that bad, but Missouri and Chase Daniel will outscore Texas Tech and Graham Harrell.

Kansas -3.5 Colorado
This may be the best Jayhawks team in dare I say ever? The Jayhawks finished the 1960, 1968, and 1995 seasons ranked in the top 10. That 1995 team was a little overrated as they were decimated in two games against Kansas State and Nebraska (lost by a combined 72 points). A win in this game will tie the school record for most wins in Big 12 play. Kansas is for real. They proved it two weeks ago against a Kansas State team that was much better than I thought. Colorado has improved substantially in Dan Hawkins second season, but they do not yet have the offense to move the ball consistently against a defense as good as the one Kansas employs.

Oklahoma State -3 Kansas State
How 'bout 'dem Cowboys? Oklahoma State rolled into Lincoln last week and laid an all-timer of a beating on Nebraska. That says a whole lot more about the Huskers than it does about the Cowboys, but its a great win never the less. Since getting waxed by Troy a few weeks ago, the Cowboys have played much better. They beat Texas Tech (despite the best efforts of their defense), beat Sam Houston State, lost by one point at Texas A&M, and stomped Nebraska. The last two games are a good sign for the Cowboys as both came on the road, where the Cowboys lost their first two games by a combined 39 points. At home the Cowboys are a different team. They are undefeated, and boast a quality win against a good Texas Tech team. Look for the Cowboys to win a high-scoring affair that stays close until the 4th quarter.

Five to Steer Clear Of

Syracuse -3.5 Buffalo
Be wary Orange, the Bulls are a much-improved team. Syracuse has already lost to one MAC team (Miami of Ohio), and pretty much every other team they have played save Louisville. The Bulls may well be the best Division IA football program in the state of New York. Where have you gone Paul Pasqualoni?

Fresno State -12.5 San Jose State
The Spartans wasted a golden opportunity nearly upsetting Hawaii on national TV on Friday night. That loss ended their three game winning streak. The Spartans are well-coached (think Arizona regrets firing Dick Tomey?) and the Bulldogs are probably not as good as their 4-2 record would indicate (outgained last 4 games, but have a 3-1 record).

Louisville -3.5 Connecticut
Is Louisville back? Is Connecticut any good? These questions and more will be answered or on this week's episode of 'As the Big East Turns'.

Penn State -7.5 Indiana
After losing their first two Big 10 games, Penn State has outscored Iowa and Wisconsin by a combined 51 points the past two weeks. Now they must hit the road once again where they are 0-2. Indiana needs one more win to become bowl-eligible. The Hoosiers lead the nation in sacks with 32 and the Nittany Lions are second with 29. If that's not reason enough to watch this game, I don't know what is.

Nebraska -2 Texas A&M
Nebraska has scored 20 total points the last two games. Their opponents have netted 86. Will they get back on track this week? The Aggies better hope not. After the Huskers, their last 4 opponents are Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Texas (combined record 22-4).

Monday, October 15, 2007

In Case You Missed It: Week 7

...Congrats to the Buffalo Bulls. With their victory over Toledo, the Bulls have three conference wins. This sets the high-water mark for conference wins in a season and matches their most total wins since becoming Division IA in 1998. With two home games left, is it time to start dreaming about a possible MAC East championship?

...Oklahoma State rolled up over 550 yards of offense in crushing Nebraska by 31 points at home. The vaunted Husker defense is allowing over 31 points per game. Since limiting Nevada to 10 points, the Huskers have allowed almost 35 per game in the last six.

...Though the final margin was 10 and could have been 17 if not for a late score, Missouri played well in Norman. They had more total yards than the Sooners (418-384) and if not for four turnovers, the game could have been different. Should they meet again in the Big 12 Championship Game, the results could very well go in the Tiger's favor.

...Dave Wannstedt took a lot of heat for going for a touchdown instead of the tying field goal against Navy on Wednesday. The decision was correct, the play-calling was not. With a 3rd and goal on Navy's 2-yard line, instead of running the ball with LeSean McCoy who was averaging over 5 yards per rush, Wannstadt called two pass plays, including a low-percentage fade route on 4th down.

...Hawaii's thrilling comeback over San Jose State has them in prime position to finish sans defeat in 2007. But their November 16th game at Nevada could dash those dreams.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

From BCS to Bowl-less

This is the 10th year of the BCS in college football. From 1998-2005 64 teams participated in BCS bowl games. 9 teams have failed to participate in any type of bowl game in the season following a BCS bowl game appearance. This season, certainly one and possibly two or three teams look poised to join that illustrious group. Should we have seen any of these collapses coming? The table below lists the averages for all 64 BCS bowl game participants in points scored, points allowed, and scoring margin, the same numbers for the 55 BCS bowl game participants who returned to bowl games the following season, and finally the same numbers for three teams that may struggle to get back to a bowl game this year; Louisville, Notre Dame and my alma mater Wake Forest.

The numbers bear the facts out. Notre Dame and especially Wake Forest were well below average compared to other BCS bowl game participants, especially Wake Forest in regards to offensive aptitude. Their decline was expected, at least in regard to last season's success by most preseason prognostications, although Notre Dame's tremendous tumble was not anticipated. Louisville though is the big head-scratcher. The Cardinals were better than the average BCS bowl game participant and yet here they are with only two wins in five games against Division IA teams. With four road games left on the slate, the Cardinals have a real chance at ending the season out of the bowl picture. This would be the biggest fall from grace since Ohio State in 1999. The 9 teams who went from BCS bowl to no postseason the next year?

Ohio State 1998-1999
UCLA 1998-1999
Stanford 1999-2000
Alabama 1999-2000
Oregon State 2000-2001
Notre Dame 2000-2001
Illinois 2001-2002
Kansas State 2003-2004
Pitt 2004-2005

Coming next week, an analysis of these 9 teams and what happened the year after. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what is known as a tease.

Do we get a do-over?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Fab Five: Week VII

Week VI was one of my better performances. I went 7-3 overall (4-1 picking dogs) to run my year-to-date record to 34-25-1. Methinks this week will be much more humbling. As we are now knee-deep in conference play, there just aren't that many lines that I am a huge fan of. But in the interest of serving you the reader, I will take a crack at giving you some winners this week. As always, home teams are in bold.

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 4-1
Overall: 15-15
Wisconsin +7 Penn State
I got burned last week taking the Badgers, but alas I am a glutton for punishment. To reiterate what I said last week, Wisconsin is not an elite team, but then neither is Penn State. When they aren't playing Florida International, Notre Dame, or Buffalo, the Nittany Lions have trouble putting the ball in the endzone (5 touchdowns, 18.7 points per game in conference play). The culprit? Famed Statistically Speaking whipping boy, Anthony Morelli. In Big 10 games, Morelli has completed 54 of 100 passes (54%) for 700 yards (7 yards per pass) with only two touchdowns and five interceptions. Of course, Wisconsin's defense has not come close to matching the performance of last year's unit.The table to the right helps illustrate this point. Wisconsin is worse, much worse, in every defensive statistic this season. So why are they the pick here? They are getting 7 points and they have the better quarterback. In his first season as a starter, Tyler Donovan has avoided turnovers (only 5 interceptions) while averaging over 8 yards per pass.

Colorado +5.5 Kansas State
Two weeks ago these teams were on top of the world as they knocked off the two Big 12 South heavyweights, Texas and Oklahoma. Colorado continued their solid play last week in knocking off Baylor on the road, while Kansas State fell to their arch rival Kansas in a 30-24 thriller. If Colorado manages to win this game, they will be 3-0 in Big 12 play with only two conference road games left. The Wildcats though will do their best to make sure that doesn't come to pass. Once again Kansas State lives by their special teams. They rank 1st in the nation in punt return average, 33rd in kickoff return average, and 5th in net punting. Those three facets make up for their pedestrian offense and defense. Since scoring 6 points against Florida State, Colorado has scored 112 points over their last 3 games. Part of the reason for the improvement? Quarterback Cody Hawkins. In the first 3 games Cody completed 53.5% of his passes, averaged 5.27 yards per pass, threw four touchdowns and four interception. Over the last 3 games he has completed 63% of his passes, averaged 8.57 yards per pass, thrown six touchdowns and five interceptions. The interceptions are up, but Cody has improved in every other facet of his game. This bodes well for his dad's team.

Missouri +10.5 Oklahoma
Missouri showed the nation, or at least those who stayed tuned in, that this may finally be the year they win the Big 12 North when they thrashed Nebraska 41-6 on Saturday. Of course, Kansas and Colorado still have a say in the matter, but for now, the Tigers are riding high. Win here, and the faithful can begin whispering about a possible national title. A win in Norman could also vault quarterback Chase Daniel into the Heismann discussion. Of course, a win certainly will not be easy to come by, but do the Tigers have a chance to pull off the upset? I think so. After bludgeoning their first 4 opponents by a combined score of 246-47, Oklahoma has been very mortal in Big 12 play. They outscored Colorado and Texas by a mere 4 points, while being upset by the Buffs. The culprit? Schedule. North Texas and Utah State are a combined 0-11. Miami, a decent team, is certainly not the dynamo they were just a few short years ago. Tulsa is 3-2, but the only good team they have beaten is BYU. All things considered, Missouri is probably the best team Oklahoma has played all season. Missouri probably won't win, but expect them to cover the double digit spread.

Duke +13.5 Virginia Tech
The Hokies were mighty impressive in dispatching of Clemson in Death Valley last week. Or were they? Virginia Tech won by 18 despite gaining only 219 yards and 9 first downs. The Hokies had 3 returns (kickoff, punt, and interception) for touchdowns and were +3 in turnover margin. Special teams and defense are Virginia Tech's calling card, but expecting performances like this week in and week out is foolish. Virginia Tech's offense is still very much a work in progress (just 13 offensive touchdowns in 6 games) and amazingly, the argument can be made that Thaddeus Lewis is the best quarterback Virginia Tech has faced thus far. Since stinking up the joint against Connecticut and Virgina (48.3% completion rate, 4.91 yards per pass, 2 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions) Lewis has been great (60.9% completion rate, 9.07 yards per pass, 13 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions). Duke won't win, but this one will be interesting.

Bowling Green +2 Miami (Ohio)
Both the Falcons and Redhawks come into this game undefeated in conference play and the winner instantly becomes the favorite in the MAC East. Miami's 3 wins have come by 1, 3, and 7 points. The offense has been bad, averaging only 16 points per game. Bowling Green on the other hand, has a pretty dynamic offense (32.4 points per game) and of they don't turn the ball over like they did last week (6 interceptions against Boston College), they should win outright.

Five Faves I Like

Last Week: 3-2
Overall: 19-10-1
Miami (Florida) -2.5 Georgia Tech
After an atrocious first half against North Carolina where they trailed 27-0, the Hurricanes nearly came all the way back before falling 33-27. Quarterback Kyle Wright made some big plays (a 97 yard touchdown pass), but also made too many mistakes (4 interceptions). As long as Wright avoids any huge mistakes (not a given) this game will come down to a battle of strengths. Miami limits teams to only 2.90 yards per rush, and Georgia Tech will try their best to pound Tashard Choice and put the offense in manageable 2nd and 3rd downs. If the Hurricanes shut down Choice, the burden will move to quarterback Taylor Bennett, coming off his best game as a starter against a team not named Samford. With the exception of last week and the game against Samford, Bennett has been pretty bad, completing only 53.1% of his passes (under 50% in 3 games) and throwing only two touchdowns all year. Look for the Hurricanes to win an ugly defensive battle.

Tennessee -7 Mississippi State
At the halfway point of the 2007 season, Mississippi State has a 4-2 record and may become bowl eligible in Sylvester Croom's 4th season. However, that does not change the fact that the Bulldog offense is atrocious. Their quarterbacks, Michael Henig, Josh Riddell, and Wesley Carroll, have combined to complete only 50% of their passes, while averaging only 5.4 yards on those passes. They have also thrown just 3 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. If the season had played out the way most pundits had predicted, the Bulldogs would be 3-3. The one game they 'stole' early on was against Auburn. In that game, the Tigers turned the ball over 5 times and still only lost by 5. Tennessee's offense has not been stopped all year. Their weakness this season has been their defense. Unfortunately for Mississippi State, they are ill-equipped to take advantage of that weakness.

LSU -9.5 Kentucky
I'll be the first to admit that I was impressed by Kentucky's performance against South Carolina in Columbia. The Wildcats were in the game until the very end despite a sub par performance by Andre Woodson. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, this is not a good team to get healthy against. Last week Kentucky faced the #2 pass defense (in terms of opponent's quarterback rating), and this week they face the #1 pass defense. LSU is also very good against the run. While South Carolina was 99th nationally in rush yards allowed per game and 88th in yards per rush, LSU is 4th in rushing yards allowed per game and 5th in yards allowed per rush.

Western Michigan -4 Northern Illinois
As you may have seen on Sportscenter last week, Western Michigan did everything but win last week against Akron. Up 7, the Broncos took a safety with 15 seconds left, only to see the Zips return the ensuing free kick all the way for a touchdown. Despite facing 3 BCS schools (West Virginia, Indiana, and Missouri) with a combined 2 losses and losing in such a manner to Akron, the Broncos have only been outscored by 26 points on the year. They may make that scoring margin up in this game. Northern Illinois has run the ball effectively--Garrett Wolfe's replacement Justin Anderson is 7th in the nation in rushing yards (736), despite only gaining 81 yards in the first 2 games. The Huskies have lost to traditional underlings Eastern Michigan and Temple as well as Division IAA Southern Illinois. They won't stay close against one of the MAC's best.

Memphis -4 Middle Tennessee State
After playing 3 games in 11 days, the Tigers may not know what to do with all their free time (10 days off). After a tough 2-3 start, the Tigers have a chance to go on a run and become Conference USA contenders in the coming weeks. After this winnable home game, the Tigers go on the road to face Rice and Tulane, two of the weakest teams in the conference. Following those 3 games, they have 3 of their final 4 at home. Middle Tennessee comes fresh off a near shocker against Virginia. However, the Blue Raiders have yet to win a road game, and their only win thus far has come against Florida International (0-6).

Five to Steer Clear Of

Hawaii -19 San Jose State
In my college football preview, I examined Hawaii's road struggles on short rest. I cited the Nevada game on November 16th as a reason Hawaii would not go undefeated. I did not notice Hawaii had to play another road game on short rest. If you care to look at the numbers, here's the link. Scroll on down to the WAC preview. This is clearly one of the best Hawaii teams ever, and San Jose State is not that good, but I would be wary taking the Warriors to cover almost 3 touchdowns on the road. Remember, they barely survived a road game against Louisiana Tech (45-44 OT win).

Virginia -3.5 Connecticut
How good is Connecticut? Like Kansas and Cincinnati last week, the Huskies get a chance to prove their undefeated record is legit it against a quality opponent on the road. Virginia is 5-1, but 3 of their wins have come by a combined 9 points, including last week's squeaker against Middle Tennessee State. Sit back and enjoy this one, but don't try to make any predictions.

Nebraska -4 Oklahoma State
So much for the resurrection Bill Callahan was supposed to bring about in Lincoln. All the Huskers have done is lose by a combined 53 points to the two ranked teams they have played, while narrowly edging two mediocre teams (Wake Forest and Ball State) by a combined 4 points. Oklahoma State has yet to win a road game, although they played very well at Texas A&M last week (24-23 loss).

Illinois -3.5 Iowa
What I said last week about not being able to trust the Illini as favorites, that rings even truer this week. The Illini are road favorites and a straight up loss to Iowa would not be a great shock.

Georgia -7 Vanderbilt
Since beating South Carolina in September of 2006, the Georgia Bulldogs have lost 6 straight games against SEC East teams. I'm just saying.