Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fab Five: Week XIV

Last week was another ho-hum performance as I managed only a 5-5 mark. This brings my yearly record to 69-57-4. With just 2 weeks left in the season I'd like to climb to 15 games over .500 (home teams in Bold).

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 3-2
Overall: 42-22-1

UCLA +10 Arizona State
After a co-championship finish in the Pac-10 last season, the Sun Devils are a disappointing 4-6 in 2008 and need to win out to even have a shot at earning a bowl bid. UCLA must also run the table to even think about the postseason, but unfortunately for them, they must still face Southern Cal. Both teams are 3-4 in Pac-10 play and each owns victories over the same conference foes at the same venue: @Washington and home to both Washington State and Stanford. UCLA is slightly worse than Arizona State on offense and slightly better on defense. This game is a veritable toss up and getting 10 points with the Bruins is a steal.

Georgia Tech +8.5 Georgia
Paul Johnson's first season at the helm has gone pretty well in Atlanta. The Jackets are 8-3 and still have a small shot at garnering the ACC's BCS bid. Can he do what his predecessor failed to do in his entire tenure at the school, beat Georgia? Georgia Tech and Georgia outgained their conference foes by a very similar margin (+68 yards per game for Tech and +74 yards per game for Georgia), so this game will likely be very close. Tech is getting more than a touchdown and thus are the pick.

South Carolina +1.5 Clemson
Take the under in this game. With the exception of the Florida game, the Gamecock defense has been spectacular. Clemson's defense has also been quite stout except against Alabama and Florida State. In addition, neither of these teams figures to do a lot of scoring on offense. The alleged dynamic duo of James Davis and CJ Spiller have combined to rush for only 1158 yards this season on an average of 5.1 yards per attempt. If we remove the 2 games against IAA foes, that number drops to 818 yards at a 4.5 yards per attempt clip. Davis and Spiller will find it tough going against the Gamecock defense and South Carolina will win a rather low-scoring affair.

UAB +9 Central Florida
UAB has one of the worst defenses in Conference USA and the nation at large, 450 yards per game (111th in the nation). Fortunately for them, Central Florida has the bona fide worst offense in the nation averaging a paltry 231 yards per game. The Golden Knights have no business being favored over anyone by more than a touchdown.

Texas A&M +35 Texas
This is too many points, even for a terrible team like Texas A&M to be given against their biggest rival.

Five Faves I Like

Last Week: 2-3
Overall: 27-35-3

Texas Tech -20 Baylor
The Bears are a much improved team under Art Briles, but Texas Tech should be able to shred the Baylor defense that has given up an average of over 500 yards per game to the Big 12 powers it has faced (Oklahoma, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Missouri, and Texas).

Boise State -21 Fresno State
This is one of Pat Hill's worst teams at Fresno and Boise is playing for style points at home. Look for the Broncos to hold the Bulldogs to 10 points or fewer while putting at least 31 on the board.

Memphis -14 Tulane
After starting the season 2-2 with a near upset of East Carolina included in one of the losses, the Green Wave have lost 7 straight. The last 5 have all been by at least 17 points. Expect more of the same when they face a Memphis team still in contention for a bowl bid.

Florida Atlantic -4 Florida International
In an eery coincidence, both these teams have played 6 Sun Belt games and allowed almost the exact same number of yards (2223 for the Owls and 2207 for the Panthers). So Florida International is allowing about 3 fewer yards per game. Unfortunately, they are gaining about 60 fewer yards per game. Florida Atlantic quarterback Rusty Smith, despite a down season, is still the best of what's around in the Sun Belt. The Owls will win and finish the season bowl eligible.

Missouri -14 Kansas
The Tigers have quietly clinched the Big 12 North and are playing for a high national ranking. Kansas has deteriorated this season thanks to a defense that is allowing 78 yards more per game in 2008 than they did in 2007 (a nearly 25% increase). Both teams should score a lot in this one, but while Kansas may be stopped from time to time, Missouri will see their drives end without points very infrequently.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Odds and Ends

With their come-from-behind double overtime win at Bowling Green, the Buffalo Bulls have clinched the MAC East division and with it, the school's first ever bowl game. The Bulls did receive an invitation to the 1958 Tangerine Bowl, but turned down the invite because two black players would not be allowed to play. Since returning to IA football in 1999, Buffalo has won 24 games. 14 of those wins have come in the past 3 seasons under head coach Turner Gill. If you're bad at math, that means in the other 7 seasons, the Bulls won only 10 games. Even more impressive is the fact that the Bulls are 11-12 in MAC play under Gill, including 11-6 in their past 17 league games. Mr. Gill may be in line for a big time job at season's end.

Congrats to Joe Tiller who went out in style with a 62-10 win over in-state rival Purdue. While many Purdue fans and some in the administration were fed up with Tiller, they should build the man a statue in West Lafayette. Tiller's record in 12 seasons at Purdue is 87-62 (a winning percentage of .584) and 53-43 in Big 10 play (.552). In the 12 seasons prior to Tiller's arrival, the Boilers were 40-88-4 (.318) and 26-67-3 in Big 10 play (.286). The Boilers have posted 10 .500 or better seasons under Tiller compared to zero in the previous 12. They posted a winning Big 10 record 5 times in 12 seasons and were even in Big 10 play another 4 times. In the 12 seasons prior to Tiller's arrival, the Boilers never won more than 3 games in conference play.

My pick for coach of the year? Greg Schiano. On the evening of Octover 11th, the Scarlet Knights were 1-5 (0-2) in the Big East with 4 games remaining on the schedule against likely bowl teams. The Knights' lone win had come against Morgan State, they had lost to Navy, and had been blown off their home field by both Fresno State and North Carolina. Flash forward 6 weeks, and the Knights have won 5 straight and have 11 days off before facing a slumping Louisville at home. Schiano kept his team together and has them pointed toward their 4th straight bowl bid.

Saturday was another big day for the Rice Owls. The Owls rolled up 461 yards on Marshall and held the Thundering Herd to 10 points in a 35-10 win. The previous best defensive effort by the Owls had been holding Tulane to 17 points. With at least 2 games left (more on that in a moment), Rice has a chance to win 9 games for the first time since 1953 when they defeated Alabama in the Cotton Bowl. Rice closed the regular season Saturday at home against Houston (where the Owls are undefeated). If the Owls can upset the Cougars in what should be an offensive showcase, and the Thundering Herd can knock off Tulsa, the Owls will win Conference USA West and play in the title game.

Want a sleeper Heisman candidate for next season? How about Iowa running back Shonn Greene. Greene rushed for 144 yards and 2 touchdowns in the Hawkeyes 55-0 whitewashing of Minnesota. Greene rushed for at least 100 yards in every game and finishes the regular season with 1729 yards rushing on 278 carries (6.22 yards per rush) and 17 touchdowns.

Middle Tennessee running back Phillip Tanner had a sensational game on Saturday against North Texas. Coming into the game, Tanner had gained 477 yards on the ground on 151 carries (3.16 average per rush) with 8 touchdowns. Tanner carried the ball 14 times against the Mean Green, gained 159 yards, and scored 5 touchdowns. In addition, Tanner returned a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown. Tanner had returned 7 kicks this season for 112 yards (16 yards per return). He ran back 3 kicks on Saturday and gained 139 yards (46.3 yards per return).

Another mid-major player who had a big day was Temple quarterback Adam DiMichele. DiMichele who came in averaging 220 yards per game with 12 touchdown passes, threw for 370 yards and 6 touchdown passes in the Owls 55-52 win over Eastern Michigan.

Your day going poorly? At least you're not Cal-Poly kicker Andrew Gardner. Gardner missed 3 extra points, including one in OT, in the Mustangs 36-35 loss to Wisconsin. The Mustangs ran for 276 yards against the Badgers and held possession for 39:59.

And finally, this is a college football blog, but as anyone who knows me will atest, I am also a huge college hoops fan, especially of mid-major schools. That's why I am naming the Mercer Bears the official hoops team of Statistically Speaking. Here's the wikipedia link to Mercer University. The Bears own road wins over SEC schools Alabama and Auburn and gave Georgia Tech all they could handle in an OT loss yesterday. The Bears will have numerous chances to make themselves known as they must face Dayton, Oklahoma State, UCLA, and Iowa State on the road before they begin play in the Atlantic Sun Conference. Mercer has not posted a winning record since 2005. They hired a new coach in the offseason, Bob Hoffman, who was very successful in previous stops as women's basketball coach at Southern Nazarene (NAIA championship), college coach at Houston Baptist (2 NAIA championship game berths), college coach at Texas Pan American (21 wins in 2002), and a professional coach in the NBADL and ABA. The Bears will likely contend with Belmont for the Atlantic Sun title. Remeber Belmont? They were last seen giving Duke all they could handle as a 15 seed.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fab Five: Week XIII

Last week's performance tied for the best of the season as I went 8-2. Like Steve Winwood, I'm back in the high life again. My record for the season is now 64-52-4. Hopefully I can continue that momentum with another solid week (home teams in Bold).

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 4-1
Overall: 39-20-1

Pitt +5 Cincinnati
If Cincinnati can get by Pitt, they will have only a home date against Syracuse standing between them and a BCS bid. The Bearcats have been phenomenal in the nearly 2 seasons Brian Kelly has been at the helm, posting an 18-5 record. One of those losses came courtesy of Pitt last season in a 24-17 decision. Pitt has a lot to play for in this game as well. A win would put them in the driver's seat for the Big East title with games left against West Virginia and Connecticut. Pitt has has outgained Big East foes by 85 yards per game, while Cincinnati has only outgained conference foes by 17 yards per game. Cincinnati may well win this game with the homefield advantage, but statistically, Pitt has been more dominant against common foes and thus is the pick.

Buffalo+3.5 Bowling Green
It's clear the balance of power is slanted toward the MAC West, but this game will go a long way toward determining who gets to the MAC Championship Game out of the eastern division. Both teams have played their MAC foes pretty evenly (Bowling Green has been outgained by about 7 yards per game and Buffalo has outgained foes by about 5 yards per game). The main difference in these two teams in the Bulls ability to force turnovers. They have recovered 16 fumbles on the season, and while fumble recovery is a random event, forcing fumbles is a skill. The Bulls have forced 26 fumbles on the season while the Falcons have forced only 10. Consequently, the Falcons have a turnover margin of +1 and the Bulls have a turnover margin of +13. Like last week's 4 OT thriller between the Bulls and Akron Zips, this one should be close. So take the team getting points.

Tennessee +3 Vanderbilt
Can the impossible happen? If Vandy wins this game, they will have 5 SEC wins, an unbelievable assertion before the season. In all likelihood, this game will be insanely boring as both these teams have the worst offenses this side of Auburn. Vandy has topped 300 yards against an SEC foe once in 7 tries (last week against Kentucky), and Tennessee has yet to top 300 yards against an SEC team. Both teams also boast strong defenses. Vandy has allowed only 322 yards per game to their 7 SEC opponents and Tennessee has allowed an average of 290 yards per game to their 6 SEC foes. Using the same logic as before, when the game is evenly matched, take the team getting points.

Nevada +6 Boise State
The Nevada Wolfpack are all that stands between Boise State and a 3rd undefeated regular season in 5 years. I know they play Fresno on the next week, but there's no way the Bulldogs win on the Smurf Turf. This game will be the ultimate battle of the irresitable force versus the immovable object. Nevada has run roughshod over every WAC defense they have faced, never gaining fewer than 481 yards. Boise State has shut down every WAC offense they have faced, never allowing more than 329 yards. Nevada is especially proficient running the ball in the Pistol offense, averaging a national best 325 yards per game on the ground. A pair of super sophomores, running back Vai Taua and quarterback Colin Kaepernick have both gone over 1000 yards rushing in only 10 games. Boise State ranks 12th nationally in rush defense, permitting only 103 yards per game. The Broncos were gashed on the ground in their trip to Autzen Stadium against Oregon when the Ducks totalled 227 yards on the ground. Nevada won't get to 300 yards rushing, but they will do enough to cover the spread.

Mississippi +4 LSU
Even when they were bad, the Rebels had a habit of sticking close with the boys from Baton Rouge. In 2004, during the midst of a 4-7 campaign, the Rebs lost by 3 at 20th ranked LSU (spread was 20). In 2006, during the midst of a 4-8 season, the Rebs again lost to LSU by 3, this time in OT (the 9th ranked Tigers were favored by 27). The spread is a lot lower, but the result should be very similar this time. LSU's defense is nowhere near as good as it has been the past few seasons. Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead will make some big plays and keep the Rebels in the game.

Five Faves I Like

Last Week: 4-1
Overall: 25-32-3

Memphis -5.5 Central Florida
These 2 teams couldn't be more different. Memphis has one of the better offenses in Conference USA, and the best offense in Conference USA East. Meanwhile, Central Florida has, not only the worst offense in Conference USA, but also the worst offense in the nation. The Golden Knights have topped the 300 yards mark only twice on the season, in the opener against South Carolina State (IAA) and then against UTEP. To cover this spread, Memphis will only have to get to 17 points.

Arkansas -1 Mississippi State
Remeber when I said Vandy and Tennessee had the worst offense this side of Auburn, well I forgot to mention Mississippi State. The almighty SEC has 4 offenses that would struggle to score against Washington State and a fifth (South Carolina) intent on ruining the reputation of one of the most revered coaches in college footbal history. Off of soapbox. Mississippi State is doing the same thing they did last season, combine a putrid offense with a respectable defense, but no bowl game is in their future because their opponents have refrained from falling on their own swords. Arkansas is clearly a work in progress under first year coach Bobby Petrino, but Sylvester Croom would kill to have an offense as mediore as the one the Razorbacks have. Arkansas should win a squeaker and set themselves up for a potential bowl game if they can beat LSU next week.

Arizona -2.5 Oregon State
If there is one thing Pac-10 teams have done thus far in 2008, its win at home. Pac-10 teams are 24-13 in home conference games. If we remove the league's 2 whipping boys, Washington and Washington State who are a combined 0-8 at home, the league's teams are an incredible 24-5 at home. Southern Cal, Cal, Oregon, and Oregon State are undefated at home. Stanford's lone home loss has come to Southern Cal as has Arizona's. Stay with the home team trend in this one.

Florida State -1 Maryland
Like Arkansas, Florida State is a small road favorite against a conference foe. Unlike Arkansas, which has a better offense, but worse defense than Mississippi State, Florida State is a little better than Maryland on both sides of the ball. The key to this game will be Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder. In the Seminoles 3 losses, he has tossed just a single touchdown and 7 interceptions. In their 5 wins over IA teams he has thrown 4 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. If Ponder can keep his mistakes to a minimun, Florida State will pull out a win and stay alive in the conference race.

Iowa -5.5 Minnesota
Iowa is winning their football games in stereotypical Big 10 fashion this season, with the running game and defense. The Hawkeyes boast the nation's 2nd leading rusher in Shonn Greene who is averaging 144 yards per game and over 6 yards per rush. Green has yet to be held under 100 yards on the ground this season. Greene's presence has helped make up for a passing attack that has only been mediocre under Ricky Stanzi and Jake Christensen. The Golden Gophers are winning games by forcing turnovers. Their turnover margin on the season is +15. In games where their turnover margin is at least +1, they are 6-0. In games where they break even or are in the red, their record is 1-4. The Gophers rank a medicore 62nd in rush defense, allowing 140 yards per game. Greene should be able to do enough to prevent the Gophers from teeing off in passing situations and forcing turnovers. If they don't win the turnover battle, the Gophers have little chance of covering.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fab Five: Week XII

Last week was my third consecutive losing week as I managed only a 4-6 record. My overall record is now 56-50-4. Hopefully I can break out of this rut and finish strong (home teams in Bold).

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 2-3
Overall: 35-19-1

Buffalo +3.5 Akron
I can't say enough about the job Turner Gill has done in bringing the Buffalo program out of the malaise of losing in under 3 seasons. Both teams come into this game 3-2 in MAC play and the winner will be in the driver's seat for the MAC East title. The Zips and Bulls may have the same conference record, but the Bulls have played the tougher schedule, with both their losses coming to Western and Central Michigan (combined record 15-4). The Zips have lost to undefeated Ball State, but also fell to fellow division member Bowling Green (5-5 record) 2 of their 3 wins have come against MAC West bottom-feeders Eastern Michigan and Toledo (combined record 4-15). This should be a tight game, but the wrong team is favored.

Northwestern +4 Michigan
What a difference a week makes. If this game had been played last week, this spread may very well have been reversed. Yet a blowout loss by Northwestern and a blowout win by Michigan have caused a seismic shift in betting logic. Ladies and gentlemen, as always, here are the facts. Even with their domination of Minnesota last week, the Michigan Wolverines have still been outgained by 114 yards per game against Big 10 foes. Even after being dominated by Ohio State last week, the Northwestern Wildcats have been outgained by Big 10 foes by about 9 yards per game. Northwestern is better than Michigan on both sides of the ball and should leave the Big House with a straight up win.

Rutgers +8 South Florida
Which season has been more disappointing? The Scarlet Knights are in danger of missing a bowl game for the first time in 4 seasons, but the Bulls have already lost 3 conference games and are no longer in contention for the Big East title. Rutgers has 3 Big East wins, and with an upset over the Bulls can clinch a winning Big East record and move closer to bowl eligibility with a 2 game home stand (Army and Louisville) to close the season. After failing to top 3oo yards in their first 3 Big East games (1-2 record), the Knights have eclipsed the 400-yard mark in the last 2 games. Of course, one was against Syracuse, but the other came against Pitt, the owner of a pretty stout defense. The difference in those games was embattled senior quarterback Mike Teel. Teel threw just 1 touchdown, completed a shade over 51% of his passes, and averaged 5.5 yards per pass in the first 3 conference games. In the last 2, he has thrown 9 touchdowns, completed over 70% of his passes, and averaged over 11 yards per pass. He won't be nearly as good against a good South Florida defense, but Rutgers, despite the bad start, has remained solid defensively. They should keep the South Florida signal-caller, Matt Grothe in check. The last 2 games in this series have been decided by 2 and 3 points. Expect a repeat here, though the Bulls may finally prevail.

South Carolina +23 Florida
This is probably not how Steve Spurrier envisioned winning games when he came to South Carolina--with a strong defense and pedestrian offense. The Gamecocks currently rank 3rd in the nation in total defense, allowing only 257 yards per game. Only 3 teams have topped 300 yards against the Gamecock defense this season--Mississippi, LSU, and Arkansas. The Gators are a prime candidate to be the 4th such team. They have failed to reach that number only once this season, against Tennessee, which says more about where they started their drives and the course of the game than anything about Tennessee's defense. Florida has won 5 straight SEC games by at least 28 points and appear to in line for a berth in the BCS Championship Game should they win out. Florida should continue their winning ways, but the offense is due to hit a bump in the road. After Saturday, Steve Spurrier will be able to take pride in the fact that although he is only 1-3 against the Gators, he is 3-1 against the spread.

Houston +4.5 Tulsa
In all likelihood this game will determine the champion of the Western division in Conference USA. Tulsa has an outstanding offense, averaging over 600 yards in conference games. However, the Cougars are also pretty proficient on offense. The Cougars are averaging a robust 564 yards per game against Conference USA foes. Houston's offense is slightly worse, but their defense is slightly better. This game is a toss up, and as such, the pick is the team getting points.

Five Faves I Like

Last Week: 2-3
Overall: 21-31-3

Notre Dame -3.5 Navy
After a one year hiatus, the Irish look to get back to their winning ways against the Midshipmen. Notre Dame has struggled against winning teams, with an 0-4 record, but the Middies, while a winning team, do not have the raw talent that Notre Dame possesses. The worst Notre Dame team in recent memory stayed with Navy for 3 OTs last year. Navy will score some points, but the Irish will prevail rather easily.

Connecticut -10 Syracuse
The Connecticut Huskies are attempting to do something pretty amazing. They are already bowl eligible, and one more win will guarantee them a bowl game. They are capable of accomplishing this goal despite one of the worst passing offenses in the nation. Connecticut has thrown only 3 touchdown passes all season (tied with Army for the fewest in the nation). However, the Huskies have attempted more than twice as many passes as the Black Knights. Huskie quarterbacks have also thrown 12 interceptions to go with their lowly 3 touchdown passes. Their team passer rating is 98.31 (113th in the nation). The Huskies do have the excuse that their starting quarterback Tyler Lorenzen has missed the past 4 games (and is out for the season) with an injury. However, in the 4 and a quarter games Lorenzen did play, he only managed a single touchdown pass to go along with 6 interceptions. Thank God for Donald Brown. Brown leads the nation in rushing yards per game, averaging 156 per contest. Brown has been held below 100 yards only once, in his last outing against West Virginia. Brown should have a field day against a Syracuse defense that has allowed 200 yards rushing in 7 of their 9 games. For the season, the Orange are allowing 204 yards per game on the ground (106th in the nation). Brown should run over the Orange and the Huskies should win what should be an ugly game rather easily.

Southern Cal -23 Stanford
Last season, as you may recall, Stanford pulled off the shock of all shockers when they knocked off the 40-point favorite Trojans. The Cardinal are clearly a better team this season and are playing at home, so is another upset in the works? I doubt it. The Trojans have held each of their last 4 opponents (Washington State, Arizona, Washington, and Cal) to under 200 yards. As a team, the Cardinal are averaging 360 yards per game against Pac-10 foes. However, when we remove the 2 games against the defense optional outfits in Seattle and Pullman, that number drops to 320 yards per game. Stanford will be lucky to score 10 points against the Trojans, meaning a number in the low 30's will be enough to cover.

Oregon -4 Arizona
Both these teams are out of the conference race, but with 2 games left for the Ducks and 3 left for the Wildcats, each team still has a shot at a 10-win season. This games seemed to close to call at first glance, so I took a detailed look at the stats. In Pac-10 play, Oregon is averaging 412 yards per game and allowing 353 yards per game. Arizona is currently averaging 374 yards per game against Pac-10 foes and allowing 313 yards per game. Those numbers look pretty even, so I removed both teams' games against the Pac-10 (and Division I) bottom feeders Washington and Washington State. After applying that adjustment, Oregon is averaging 376 yards per game against Pac-10 opponents and allowing 391 yards per game. Arizona is now averaging 315 yards per game and allowing 357 yards per game. Oregon has the better offense and Arizona the better defense. Cummulatively, Oregon has a slightly better team. Couple that with homefield advantage and the Ducks are the pick.

Southern Miss -3 East Carolina
Just looking at records, this game looks like a mismatch. Southern Miss is 4-6 (2-4 in Conference USA) and East Carolina is 6-3 (4-1 in Conference USA). However, if we look at yardage numbers, the we see this should be a very close game. Southern Miss, despite their 2-4 conference record, has outgained their league foes by an average of 94 yards per game. East Carolina, on the other hand, has outgained Conference USA foes by an average of just a single yard. The universe will even itself out a bit after Southern Miss wins on Saturday.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Fab Five: Week XI

Last week endured my second consecutive losing week as I managed only a 4-6 record. My overall record is now 52-44-4. I know my faithful readers expect more from me, and I certainly do as well. I hereby guarantee at least 6 wins this week. Get excited (home teams in Bold).

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 3-2
Overall: 33-16-1

Marshall +8 East Carolina
The winner of this game will likely be the champion of Conference USA's Eastern Division. Unfortunately, what that likely means is a slautering at the hands of Tulsa. I would not classify either the Pirates or Thundering Herd as 'good teams', as each has been outgained on the season. Barring an abundance of turnovers on either side, this game should come down to the wire.

Iowa +7.5 Penn State
Forget the home date with Michigan State at the end of the year, this is Penn State's stiffest remaining test on the road to the BCS Championship Game. The Hawkeyes 5-4 record belies their strong performance. None of their losses have come by more than 5 points, and the combined margin of defeat in those 4 games is only 12 points. Running back Shonn Greene should, the nation's 3rd leading rusher, should help the Hawkeyes control the clock and move the ball against the stout Penn State defense. Remember, both Illinois and Michigan had success on the ground against Penn State (391 combined yards and 4.44 yards per rush), so it's not unprecedented.

New Mexico State +3 Hawaii
New Mexico State is a very undervalued play this week, as most people can't shake their performance against Boise State out of their minds (0 points and 150 yards of offense last week). However, Boise is clearly the WAC's best team and the Broncos also shutout the Aggies last year, only to have the Aggies rebound and cover the very next week against Louisiana Tech (they were +7 and lost 22-21). Hawaii is not in nearly the same class as Boise and this spread shoul probably be reversed.

Notre Dame +3 Boston College
Look at the stats and they'll tell you that Boston College has a fantastic defense, 10th in the nation in yards allowed per game (275). But look at the Eagles schedule, and you can see why they are ranked so high. 3 of their 8 opponents are ranked 109th or worse in total offense (NC State, Virginia Tech, and UCF who is ranked dead last). 3 others are ranked 72nd or worse (Georgia Tech, North Carolina, and Clemson). One is a IAA team (Rhode Island). The highest ranked offense the Eagles have played is Kent State (36th). Notre Dame ranks 44th in total offense and has the best set of skill position players the Eagles will have seen so far this season (Golden Tate, Michael Floyd, and Jimmy Clausen).

Georgia Tech +4 North Carolina
Paul Johnson's triple option has not run roughshod over the ACC...yet. The Jackets are 8th in the nation in rushing offense, but total offense-wise, they are a bit below average at 72nd. The players that fit Johnson's system will come, but in the meantime, he has the service of one of the best defenses in the nation (15th in total defense). In what should be a low-scoring game, take the team getting points.

Five Faves I Like

Last Week: 1-4
Overall: 19-28-3

Southern Miss -3 Central Florida
The Golden Eagles broke out of their season long doldrums last week when they pummelled UAB 70-14. Southern Miss has been the unfortunate beneficiary of poor luck this season, with a 1-4 record in one score games. While the Eagles can expect some improvement based on those numbers next season, the fact is they will likely be home for the holidays this season. Of course, there's still time to inflict some misery on others, beginning with this weeks game against UCF. The Knights, are to put it mildly, horrendous on offense. They currently average 240 yards per game, which is dead last in the nation. They are on pace to finish with a worse offense than Notre Dame from last season (242 yards per game). Add to that the fact that UCF's numbers are a bit inflated by their game against IAA South Carolina State. If we look only at games against IA foes, their yardage number drops to 227 per game.

Arkansas State -2.5 Florida International
The Red Wolves from Arkansas may be the happiest team in the nation this week. After facing off against the Alabama Crimson Tide, the Red Wolves take a big step down in competition when they face the Golden Panthers. With 4 conference games left, Arkansas State still has designs on winning the Sun Belt, and their run will likely start against a team that has yet to average over 4 yards per carry in any game this season.

TCU -2 Utah
The other Thursday night Mountain West showdown turned out to be a laugher. TCU crushed BYU 32-7 and ended their BCS dreams. They now look to do the same against the Utes. Methinks this one will be a much closer battle. Both these teams are rediculously strong on defense. No Mountain West team has topped 300 yards against either unit. Utah has the stronger offense, but TCU has the stronger defense. I had TCU as the champion in the preseason, so I'll stick with that prediction and take the Horned Frogs to lock up the Mountain West on Thursday night.

Florida State -5.5 Clemson
Last week marked the first time Clemson had covered a spread yet in 2008. Don't look for it to happen 2 weeks in a row. Since their abysmal 220 yards showing against Wake Forest, the Florida State offense has been on point (by ACC standards at least), averaging 366 yards in their other 4 conference games. The defense has been stout as well, allowing only 295 yards per game to ACC foes. Florida State may not be back, which is to say mid-90's, but this is the best team they have had since 2003. They should make short work of a Clemson team that is basically playing out the string.

Rice -11 Army
For lack of a better comparison, Rice is Diet-Tulsa. The Owls don't have an offense quite as prolific as the Golden Hurricane and their defense is also a little worse, but thy certainly score enough to win. Army is much better than they were last season, but their option offense is still a work in progress (average only 287 yards per game--111th in the nation). Rice will be able to move the ball well enough to win by 2 touchdowns.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Deep Thoughts

If it wasn't already apparent, it is now. Mike Leach is one helluva a football coach. He has taken a non-traditional power in Texas Tech and led them to a #2 ranking in the polls. Leach has been to a bowl each season at Tech in a tough conference and even tougher division. Will Leach stay at a Red Raider at season's end? I don't think there is any question Leach will win wherever he goes, but if he stays at Tech and continues to win, and occasionally compete for a league title, he could go down as one of the all-time greats. That being said, I fully expect Texas Tech to lose at least once and possibly twice before the end of the regular season.

Someone is going to have to explain the logic in the Coaches Poll. While Texas is ranked one spot ahead of Oklahoma in the AP Poll (4 and 5), the Sooners are ranked 4th in the Coaches Poll and the Longhorns are 7th. Now, Texas did lose most recently, but it was on the road and the winning margin came in the closing seconds. Texas beat Oklahoma on a neutral field by 2 scores (10 points), and besides the win over the Sooners, owns 2 wins better than any on the Sooners slate (Missouri and Oklahoma State) with the possible exception of TCU.

Another team in Texas is defying expectations with a prolific offense. With their victory over UTEP on Saturday, Rice is now bowl eligible at 6-3. Each loss has come to a likely bowl team--Texas, Vanderbilt, and Tulsa, and while Rice has yet to knock off a team with a winning record, a 2nd potential bowl bid in 3 seasons is something to get excited about. In fact this team is much better than the rabbits foot carrying 2--6 version. The 2006 team was outscored by 82 points over 13 games, while this year's version is +34 thus far. Rice has 2 receivers closing in on the 1000-yard mark, touchdown machine Jarett Dillard and uber-mench James Casey. With games left against Army, Marshall, and Houston, Rice could potentially win 8 games before their bowl.

Finally, there is a real imbalance in the divisions within the Big 12 and MAC this season. The Big 12 South is 13-3 against the North thus far. The 4 superpowers (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, and Texas Tech) have yet to lose a game outside the division. The MAC West is currently 11-1 against the MAC East with the only loss coming when Eastern Michigan fell to Akron. From the looks of things, the conference championship games may not be too competitive.