Thursday, October 01, 2009

Fab Five: Week V

Last week was was my best yet on the young season. I went 7-3, including 4-1 on favorites. This brings my yearly mark to 24-16, good for a solid .600 percentage. I'll try and maintain the momentum this week.

5 Dogs I Like
Last Week: 3-2
Overall: 13-7

Virginia +13.5 North Carolina
Outside of the opening debacle at the hands of both William and Mary, the Cavs have actually shown signs of life against two very good mid-major teams. They lost to Mountain West power TCU by 16 and then nearly upset Southern Miss on the road before falling by 3. The defense has not given up more than 380 yards in any game and actually ranks a respectable 56th in total defense (344 yards per game). The offense, after consecutive stinkers against W&M and TCU (445 combined yards), may be coming around, tallying 390 against Southern Miss in their last game. The Tar Heels, outside of their opening beatdown of the Citadel, have not been particularly impressive. The Heels were outgained by over 250 yards last week in a loss to Georgia Tech that was not as close as the 24-7 margin. The defense had a good track record prior to last week's game, having allowed only 596 yards through the first 3 games. This game has all the trappings of a low-scoring, boring, Raycom snooze-fest. Do yourself a favor though, and take the Cavs getting 2 touchdowns. The general public still sees them as the turnover machine that lost to William & Mary. In reality, the Cavs are a competitive team that will hang around and pull off a few upsets as long as they don't implode with turnovers (lost 7 versus William & Mary, but just 3 in the other 2 games).

Wisconsin +3 Minnesota
The Badgers take their undefeated record on the road to face the Golden Gophers in the first Big 10 game in their brand new stadium. Minnesota is 3-1 themselves, but could very easily be 1-3. The Gophers edged Syracuse in OT in their first game and beat Air Force by 7 in their second (the first game played in the new stadium). In fact the Gophers have been outgained on the season and in 3 of their 4 games (only gained more yards than Syracuse). Meanwhile, the Badgers have shown themselves to be a potential darkhorse in the Big 10 race, especially with the play of junior quarterback Scott Tolzien. After throwing only 8 passes in mop-up duty last season, Tolzien has quietly put up a quarterback rating of 164.3 (13th in the nation among qualifying passers) in his first 4 collegiate starts. With Tolzien at the helm, the Badgers team passer rating has improved from 74th in 2008 to 12th this season. Look for Tolzien and the Badgers to win outright in a shootout.

Eastern Michigan +7 Temple
The Ron English era has not gotten off to a great start in Ypsilanti, Michigan (yes I had to look it up) as the Eagles have plodded out to an 0-3 start. Outside of the opener against Army, the losses are somewhat respectable. The Eagles have lost at Northwestern by 3 and at a rejuvenated Michigan by 28. Senior quarterback Andy Schmitt has struggled out of the gate, throwing just 2 touchdowns and 5 interceptions while averaging only 5.3 yards per pass. Scmitt is a solid quarterback and should right the ship once the Eagles get into the MAC schedule. Meanwhile, Temple just won their first game of the season, a 37-13 beatdown of Buffalo. While impressive, the margin was the result of a few big plays. The Owls returned a kickoff and an interception for a touchdown, while going +4 in turnover margin. The Owls were outgained by nearly 100 yards by the Bulls, and have yet to top 300 yards against a IA foe (had 456 yards in the opener against Villanova). Playing at home, Eastern Michigan has a great shot at winning this game outright, and an even better one of staying within a touchdown. Yom Kippur is over, so take your shekels and bet against Temple.

Auburn +2.5 Tennessee
Auburn has been one of the bigger surprises of the college football season. Under new offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, the Tigers have put up at least 37 points and 400 yards in each game. To put that points number in perspective, last season the Tigers scored 201 points in 12 games. They have scored 181 through 4 games this season. On Saturday, they will face both their first road test, and their toughest defensive opposition thus far. Tennessee stands only 2-2 thanks to their lackluster offense. The defense, under Monty Kiffin, has been very good in the early going, holding each opponent to 340 yards or less. They even held the mighty Florida Gators to 323 yards and 23 points. Auburn will have some difficulty moving the ball, but so will Tennessee. Tennessee has the homefield, but Auburn has the more balanced team. Tennessee is heavily tilted toward their defense and should probably be a slight dog here.

Wyoming +3.5 Florida Atlantic
After struggling against a pair of Big 12 foes (Texas and Colorado), the Cowboys upset UNLV last week and posted their best passing game (based on efficiency) since November of 2008. The passer rating they posted last week of 142.9 was higher than all but one game last season, higher than every game in 2007, and higher than all but 3 games in 2006. The primary passer in that game was freshman Austyn Carta-Samuels. His 3 touchdown passes were the most by a Cowboy quarterback since Corey Bramlet threw 3 against Colorado State in October of 2005. Could the Cowboys finally have an offense to build around? Their opponent on Saturday, Florida Atlantic, has swooned thus far in 2009. They opened with an expected beatdown at Nebraska, followed it up with a decent showing at South Carolina, and last week lost at home to Louisiana-Monroe. Potential NFL player, quarterback Rusty Smith, has struggled out of the gate, throwing 4 touchdowns and 3 interceptions in the early going. Florida Atlantic has the homefield, but Wyoming is from the stronger league and is getting points.

Five Faves I Like
Last Week: 4-1
Overall: 11-9

Arkansas -1.5 Vs Texas A&M
Arkansas is 1-2 on the season, and lost by 4 touchdowns last week, yet is a favorite in the state of Texas against the Aggies. How do you explain that? Schedule. Arkansas has lost to Georgia and perhaps the best team in the nation (Alabama). Meanwhile, Texas A&M has beaten New Mexico (winless), Utah State (no IA wins), and UAB (lone win over winless Rice). Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett should lay the hammer down against a secondary that gave up over 300 yards passing to Utah State.

Georgia -3.5 LSU
Why is LSU ranked to high? What have they shown you in their narrow escapes at Washington and Mississippi State and their less-than impressive wins over Vandy and Louisiana-Lafayette to make you think they can stay within a field goal between the hedges? Despite their 4-0 start, LSU has actually been outgained on the season! We expect those kinds of anomalies from an unranked Minnesota squad, but from a top-5 SEC power? Georgia will expose their fraudulent ways on Saturday.

Georgia Tech -5.5 Mississippi State
Degenerates, you can thank LSU for this shockingly low spread. Since 2006, the Tigers are a pathetic 5-20-1 ATS versus SEC foes. Playing a tight game against an inferior opponent is LSU's modus operandi. Mississippi State is improved under first-year coach Dan Mullen, but they are a very low-fi offense. They do not have the playmakers Miami and Clemson used to take advantage of the Georgia Tech secondary. This one may be somewhat close, but Georgia Tech should win by more than a touchdown.

Alabama -16 Kentucky
The Crimson Tide may very well be the best team, not only in the SEC, but in the country. Their defense has been outstanding in the early going. Against the 2 legitimate teams they have played, Virginia Tech and Arkansas, the Tide have allowed 155 and 254 yards respectively. No team has rushed for more than 64 yards against the Tide, and no team has averaged more than 3.8 yards per play. Couple that with a quarterback who has played extremely well in his first season as a starter (Greg McElroy is 3rd in the nation with a passer rating of 175.2) and you have the recipe for a special season. Kentucky has proven they can destroy one of the nation's worst IA teams (Miami of Ohio), barely edge a Louisville team that has yet to win a IA game, and get destroyed by an SEC power (Florida). It's hard to envision Kentucky keeping this one close without a cavalcade of turnovers.

Central Michigan -8 Buffalo
One season after winning games despite being consistently outgained (thanks to a +20 turnover margin), the Bulls are losing games depite outgaining their opponents (thanks to a turnover margin of -10). Central Michigan is probably the best team in the MAC and should not be intimidated by the Bulls homefield after previous trips to Arizona and Michigan State this year. Buffalo is better than their 1-3 record, but they won't do enough to stay within a touchdown of the Chippewas.

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