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.

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