Thursday, October 08, 2009

Fab Five: Week VI

The Gambling Gods were good to me once again last week as I once again went 7-3. This brings my yearly mark to 31-19, which is a pristine .620 win percentage. When will the inevitable fall come? Could it be this week?

5 Dogs I Like
Last Week: 4-1
Overall: 17-8

Ball State +15 Temple
The poor Cardinals from Muncie, Indiana did everything but win last week. They led by a point with under a minute to play, but shockingly gave up a long touchdown pass to lose 37-30 and fall to 0-5 on the year. At least famous alum David Letterman had a worse week. The Cardinals are 0-5, but 3 of their losses have come by 7 points, which means they have been competitive. Meanwhile, Temple put the kabosh on Eastern Michigan last week to improve to 2-2 overall and 2-0 in the MAC. If they can take care of Ball State on Saturday, they will be 3-0 in the league and have an outside shot at their first bowl berth in 30 years. Temple is the better team, and has the homefield, but banking on them to beat anyone by 2 touchdowns is foolish.

Connecticut +6.5 Pitt
This game illustrates the value of coaching in college football. Switch the rosters around and you'd be hard-pressed to come up with a reason why Connecticut wouldn't win going away. But such is the nature of having Dave Wannstedt as your coach. His Panthers did blow out Louisville last week, but that is a team that may have an even worse coach. Pitt quarterback Bill Stull has quietly thrown 11 touchdowns and just 1 interception after coming into the season with a career mark of 11 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. Maybe Stull has 'gotten it', but against a defense as good as Connecticut's (4th nationally in yards allowed per game), he won't be as efficient. Connecticut should cover the number and may win outright.

Idaho +3.5 San Jose State
Talk about not getting any respect. All Idaho has done is begin the year 4-1 with victories over a strong contender in the MAC (Northern Illinois) and a likely bowl team from the Mountain West (Colorado State). Their lone loss came in their second game at Washington (a place Southern Cal couldn't even win). The Vandals are no fluke either. One season after allowing 471 yards per game (117th in the nation), the Vandals are now allowing 352 per game (59th in the nation). The offense has also improved, going from accumulating 320 yards per game (94th in the nation) to gaining 404 yards per game (39th in the nation). San Jose State has been on the wrong end of a few games with the big boys, losing to Southern Cal, Utah, and Stanford by a combined 88 points. They did beat Cal Poly (IAA) 2 weeks ago, but still scored only 19 points. This one should be close, especially with the Spartans holding home field, but the wrong team is favored.

Boston College +13.5 Virginia Tech
The most underrated team in the nation? Easily Boston College. Through 3 coaches, 2 conferences, and several NFL draft picks, the Eagles just win. They have won 9 games for 5 straight seasons and seem primed to do it once again as well as take their 3rd straight Atlantic Division title. And despite a 4-1 record, they are not ranked. After struggling through one of the worst offensive performances I've even seen (54 yards of offense versus Clemson), the Eagles seem to have found themselves a quarterback in Dave Shinskie. In his last 2 games, Shinskie has thrown 5 touchdowns and just 1 interception in leading the Eagles to home wins over division rivals Wake Forest and Florida State. The Eagles defense did get gashed in those games, allowing 907 yards, but outside of offensive showcases against Marshall and Duke (1082 combined yards), the Hokies have not been exceptional at moving the ball against better defenses (803 combined yards in their other 3 games). The Hokies are rightfully favored, but I think this one will look a little more like the Nebraska squeaker than the Miami blowout.

Houston +1.5 Mississippi State
Such is life for the mid-majors like Houston. 2 impressive wins over Big 12 South teams mean nothing after an upset to a conference rival. Following the Cougars loss at UTEP last weekend, Houston is no longer ranked and not only being ignored by the pollsters, but also by Vegas. Houston is a great play here, as their offense is one of the best in the nation, currently averaging 573 yards (1st in the country) and 42.5 points (3rd) per game. The Cougars' achilles heel is their defense. The Cougars have allowed all 3 IA opponents to gain at least 434 yards of offense and average at least 6 yards per play. Mississippi State may be suited to take advantage of that pourous defense, as the Bulldogs are currently averaging than a yard more per play than they did last season (5.2 to 4.2) under first year coach Dan Mullen. Still, the Bulldogs have not come close to stopping any team with a competent offense, allowing over 1000 yards and 91 total points in losses to Auburn and Georgia Tech. Last week was a typical letdown game for the Cougars, coming off arguably the 2 biggest wins in school history. They'll be up for an SEC team on the road, and should win outright.

Five Faves I Like
Last Week: 3-2
Overall: 14-11

Northwestern -19.5 Miami (Ohio)
Normally, I'm not a huge proponent of laying a lot of points with an iffy at best outfit like Northwestern. However, despite their uneven start, which includes a loss at Syracuse and a 3-point win over another MAC also-ran (Eastern Michigan), the Wildcats should be able to handle what may be the worst IA team this side of Western Kentucky. Miami has not come within 10 points of any team this season and was shutout by Kentucky, perhaps the worst team in the SEC. The Redhawks are also last in the nation in turnover margin (-14). Northwestern should get their 4th win with relative ease. The hard part will be finding 2 more wins over the back half of the schedule.

Okahoma -26 Baylor
With 2 losses in their first 4 games, the Sooners have lost some of their luster. Keep in mind though, those 2 losses came away from Norman, to ranked to teams, by 2 total points. Outside of 2005, when the Bears took the Sooners to overtime in Norman before falling, Oklahoma has won the other 9 meetings with Bob Stoops as their head man by an average of 33 points per game. Baylor won last week versus Kent State, but the Golden Flashes rolled up 424 yards (50 more than the Bears), which was about 155 more than their average coming in. Oklahoma should put up at least 45 points, so if they can hold the Bears below 3 touchdowns, they should cover this high number.

Navy -11.5 Rice
After winning 10 games in 2008, the Rice Owls are winless thus far in 2009. After losing their 3 best skill position players, they are bad offensively (108th in total offense) and once again remain bad on defense (115th in total defense). The Navy offense should have no problem moving the ball against the resistable force of the Rice defense. They should also be able to get enough stops to win by 2 touchdowns.

Arizona -4 Washington
Before our very eyes and under our very noses, the Arizona Wildcats have quietly become a very good Pac-10 team. With 3 wins already under their belt, they are well on their way to a second consecutive bowl game. The 'Cats play very good defense, allowing only 288 yards per game (23rd in the nation). Included in those numbers are a very good opening week against Central Michigan in which they held the Chippewas and their star quarterback Dan LeFevour to 182 total yards. The 'Cats also have a playmaker on offense in running back Nic Grigsby (a poor man's Jahvid Best). Grigsby is averaging a cool 8.14 yards per rush. The Huskies have shown major improvement under first year coach Steve Sarkisian, but are giving up far too many big plays on defense. The Huskies are allowing an amazing 7 yards per play (only Washington State and Western Kentucky are more generous to opposing offenses). Grigsby should have a big day and the Arizona defense should hold Jake Locker in check.

Southern Miss -1.5 Louisville
Southern Miss lost more than a game when they were upset by UAB last week. Their star quarterback, Austin Davis, went down for the year with torn ligaments in his foot. However, his backup and new starter, Martevious Young, will have 2 additional weapons at his disposal. Running back Damion Fletcher (371 rushing yards on the season) and receiver DeAndre Brown (167 receiving yards) will be back in action on Saturday. Louisville is a team in disarray, having lost each game they have played against IA competition, with the margin of defeat growing in each contest (4, 16, 25). Steve Kragthorpe is on his way out, and his departure should be hastened by a loss as a home favorite to former conference rival Southern Miss.

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