Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fab Five: Week IX

If 2 weeks ago was bad, well last week was awful. I had my worst week ever in the nearly 3 seasons of doing this column, a putrid 2-8 record. That drops my once promising yearly mark to 41-37-2. Its still a winning record, but after my great start somewhat disappointing. Time to get back to my winning ways.

5 Dogs I Like
Last Week: 1-4
Overall: 23-16-1

Indiana +17.5 Iowa
Does Iowa remind you of another Big 10 team that seemed to win every close game they played? I'm thinking Ohio State circa 2002. The Hawkeyes have beaten a single team by more than 11 points and that was their archrival Iowa State. Iowa is primed for a letdown after their huge win at Michigan State that moved them to 8-0. And this is not your usual Hoosier doormat either. Indiana was bludgeoned by Virginia and Ohio State by 40 and 19 points respectively, but their other 2 losses at the hands of Michigan and Northwestern came by a combined 4 points. Look for the Hoosiers to hang around all day before Iowa puts them away in the 4th quarter and wins by about 2 touchdowns.

South Florida +3 WestVirginia
For the first time all season, the Bulls got pushed around on defense last week. The Pitt Panthers moved the ball effectively both on the ground and through the air as they accumulated 486 yards of total offense and averaged a robust 6.8 yards per play. The Bulls also had their worst offensive display, as they netted only 212 yards of total offense. With a performance like that, its a wonder this line isn't much higher. However, its important to note that the game was at Pitt, and also that Pitt may very well be the best team in the Big East now. In their first 4 games, which included clashes with powers Youngstown State (IAA), Buffalo, and a loss to NC State, the Panthers averaged 360 yards per game and allowed an average of 352 yards per game. Those are characteristics of a middling team, especially considering the schedule. In their last 4 games, the Panthers have averaged 439 yards per game and allowed an average of 277 yards per game. Those games have also all come against Big East opponents. What I'm trying to say is, there is no shame in getting pantsed by Pitt at this point in the season. Despite their 6-1 record, the Mountaineers have faced only 2 road games all season. One came against Auburn and the other was against Syracuse. South Florida has by far the best defense West Virginia has faced this season, and coupling that with the homefield should equal an outright upset.

New Mexico State +44 Ohio State
Granted, New Mexico State is awful, but even if you assume a shutout here, Ohio State has scored more than 44 points just 3 times since the beginning of the 2007 season. I'd bank on Mr. Sweatervest showing some mercy here and holding on 42.

Tulane +36 LSU
LSU has not topped 31 points on the season. Like Ohio State, even if you assume a shutout, the Tigers will have to best their season high in points scored by 5 to push and 6 to cover. LSU has been huge favorites the past 2 seasons against Tulane and has failed to cover. Make it 3 in a row.

Georgia +15 Vs Florida
The Bulldogs have layed low since they were humbled 3 weeks ago in Knoxville. They beat Vandy in a noon game the following week, and have had 2 weeks to prepare for the defending national champs. This is not a vintage Georgia team by any means, having been both outgained and outscored by their opponents on the season. However, Florida has had a hard time putting away decent teams this season. Their only true thumping against a major conference foe came at Kentucky. The Gators have failed to top 400 yards in their 4 other SEC games (after doing it 6 times in 8 games last season). Florida should win, but Georgia will keep this one within striking distance for a while.

Five Faves I Like
Last Week: 1-4
Overall: 18-21-1

Missouri -4 Colorado
Missouri is like an undervalued stock right now. Their last 3 losses have come to teams that are a combined 17-4. Prior to that, Missouri had won 4 in a row, including a road win over a solid Nevada team, with an offense light years beyond Colorado's. The Buffs were able to upset Kansas at home 2 weeks ago, but that effort was due mostly to mistakes by Kansas. The Buffs have averaged just 231 yards against their 3 Big 12 foes. The Missouri defense is pretty good, so the Buffs should have a very difficult time moving the ball. Missouri still has a few playmakers on offense (particularly receiver Danario Alexander), and should be able to win by at least a touchdown.

Air Force -4.5 Colorado State
Air Force may only be 4-4 through 8 games in Troy Calhoun's 3rd season, but consider who their losses have come against. They have lost at Minnesota, at Navy (in OT), at home against TCU, and at Utah (again in OT). None of their 4 losses have come by more than 7 points, and the total margin in the 4 losses has been 20 points. After a rousing 3-0 start, Colorado State has lost 5 straight, and the defense has gotten progressively worse. In their first 3 wins, the Rams were allowing an average of 329 yards per game and 4.63 yards per play. Since then, the Rams have allowed an average of 453 yards per game and 6.45 yards per play! That trend should continue against an Air Force team that excels at running the ball.

Idaho -3 Louisiana Tech
Idaho's dream season was somewhat shattered last week when they ran into a Nevada buzzsaw that put 70 points on the board. However, until they face Fresno and Boise State in a few weeks, thats the best offense they'll see this season. Before we leave the Vandals, it should be noted they added 45 points themselves, continuing a streak of netting at least 30 in 5 of 6 games. Louisiana Tech does not have nearly the offensive capabilities of Nevada, and thus far, they are winless on the road. Their road losses have come against the big boys (Auburn), a service academy (Navy) and a team that previously had no IA wins (Utah State). Outside of the most recent loss to the Aggies of Utah State, each road loss had come by at least 18 points. If the Vandals can avoid giving up too many big returns to Phillip Livas (averaging 30 yards per kickoff return and nearly 25 per punt return), they should win rather handily.

Louisville -3 Arkansas State
Assuming Louisville has not quit on their coach, the Cardinals should have their way with a mid-level Sun Belt team. To be fair, the Cardinals are only 2-5, but 3 of their losses have come to ranked teams (Cincinnati, Pitt, and Utah), and the other 2 were to likely bowl teams from BCS conferences (Kentucky and Connecticut). Arkansas State may be a bowl team, and they did play Iowa tough in Iowa City (lost by 3), but the Hawkeyes were poised for a letdown after beating Penn State and the Red Wolves have yet to win a road game. Louisville will win relatively easily and Steve Kragthorpe will hold onto his job for at least one more week.

Georgia Tech -12 Vanderbilt
Georgia Tech's weakness this season is their defense. They have allowed over 450 yards to 3 teams (Miami, Mississippi State, and Florida State), yet managed to win 2 of those games thanks to their stellar offense. Against the poor offenses they have faced, the Jackets have played well. North Carolina and Virginia managed only a combined 352 yards against them. North Carolina ranks 114th in total offense and Virginia ranks 115th. By comparison, Vanderbilt is the 2007 New England Patriots as they rank 98th. I'd be very surprised in Vandy gets past double digits. Thus, a paltry 3 touchdowns and a field goal should give the Jackets a cover here.