Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fab Five: Week VII

Last week was somewhat historic as I accrued my first push of the year. I only managed a 5-4-1 record though, bringing my overall mark to 36-23-1. I have yet to have a losing week this season, so we'll try and keep that streak alive.

5 Dogs I Like
Last Week: 4-1
Overall: 21-9

Oklahoma +3.5 Vs Texas
While Oklahoma enters this game with 2 losses on their ledger, I think it may be fair to say Texas has been the most unimpressive of the 2 traditional Big 12 powers thus far. At least in terms of performance. Oklahoma has lost a pair of 1-point games to teams currently ranked in the top-20. Meanwhile, outside of their utter annihilation of UTEP, Texas has been anything but dominant, despite their unblemished record. Texas is 1-4 ATS thus far, indicating they are an overvalued stock. Quarterback Colt McCoy has struggled in the early going, throwing 6 interceptions in 5 games, after throwing 8 all of last season. That has come against a schedule not exactly loaded with heavyweights. Outside of Texas Tech, the Longhorns have faced 2 other potential bowl teams (Louisiana-Monroe and Wyoming), but they are from the Sun Belt and Mountain West respectively. Oklahoma has a very good defense that will keep them in this game and may allow them to pull off the outright upset.

+3.5 Cal
Despite losing to Oregon 24-10 last week, UCLA played very well defensively. They limited the powerful Oregon attack to only 303 total yards (the Ducks had run up over 1000 yards in their previous 2 games). Oregon scored only one offensive touchdown in the game, the other 2 came via kickoff and interception returns. The other bears in this game are coming off 2 straight losses wherein they have managed a grand total of 6 points. After rolling over Maryland, Eastern Washington, and Minnesota by a combined 105 points, the Golden Bears have been exposed as frauds. Couple that with the fact that Cal is 6-12 in road games the past 3 seasons (4-12 in games not involving Washington State) and its hard to back Cal as a road favorite. And don't forget, Cal has not beaten UCLA in the Rose Bowl since 1999.

Army +11 Temple
Care to hazard a guess which team is leading the MAC East? After an 0-2 start, the Owls have won 3 straight league games and are one bad turnover game from being 4-1 (lost opener to Villanova when they had 5 turnovers). The Owls have played in only 2 bowl games in their history and have not been in the postseason since 1979. The good news is they are half way there. The bad news is they may not be quite as good as their record would indicate. During their 3-game winning streak, the Owls have gained 950 yards and allowed...wait for it...950 yards. The secret to the Owl's success has been their +9 turnover margin in the past 3 games. The Owls have intercepted 7 passes in those 3 games and recovered 5 fumbles. Army is not likely to throw many interceptions to the Owls, as only 3 teams have thrown fewer passes. The Black Knights may contribute in the fumble area as they have put the ball on the ground 20 times thus far in 2009 (lucky to have only lost 5). This may be the best Temple team in 3 decades, but asking them to cover a double-digit spread is giving them a little too much chutzpah.

UNLV +16.5 Utah
It hasn't been pretty, but the Utes have continued their winning ways from last season, starting the new year with a 4-1 record. Utah has not won any game by more than 18 points (Utah State), and they have not won a road game by more than 10 points (San Jose State). UNLV is well on its way to another losing season that will likely cost coach Mike Sanfore his job (13-40 in 4+ seasons). The culprit this season has been a defense that is allowing an unreal 7.2 yards per play (only Western Kentucky is worse). Against IA foes, they are allowing 7.6 yards per play. The Runnin' Rebels have been equally generous against the run (allowing over 6 yards per rush) and the pass (opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating of 160.3). Still, its hard to ignore Utah's shaky road credentials, so I have to give the nod to UNLV.

Washington +7 Arizona State
The Huskies improved to 3-3 with an improbable upset of Arizona last week. The Huskies are not quite as good as their .500 record would indicate as they have been outgained by 360 yards through those 6 games. Their defense has been the weak link of the team, allowing 418 yards per game (106th nationally). Arizona State is a tough team to get a grasp on. The Sun Devils are currently allowing only 222 yards per game (3rd in the nation), but their schedule has included Idaho State (IAA), Louisiana-Monroe, a now exposed Georgia, Oregon State, and the worst BCS team in the country (Washington State). Saturday will give us a good idea of how good Arizona State really is. They will probably win, but this one should be close.

Five Faves I Like
Last Week: 1-3-1
Overall: 15-14-1

Penn State -17.5 Minnesota
If you didn't watch the game and ignored the box score, you may have thought Minnesota's 35-20 win over Purdue last week was another ho-hum case of a superior team simply taking care of business at home. That was not the case. Minnesota score 35 points, but had only one sustained drive (they went 84 yards for their first touchdown). Their other 4 touchdown drives all covered 31 yards or less thanks to Purdue turnovers and a return of a blocked field goal for a touchdown. The Boilermakers actually outgained the Gophers by over 120 yards and severly limited their passing game. If Minnesota was a stock, now would be the time to sell. The Nittany Lions have quitely rebounded from their humbling home loss to Iowa by dispatching overmatched teams from Illinois (the Illini and Eastern Illinois). Minnesota will have a very hard time moving the ball against the Nittany Lions, and though Penn State won't put up video game numbers on offense, they should get to 30 which should be enough to cover.

Southern Cal -10 Notre Dame
This does not meet the definition for games the Trojans usually sleepwalk through. With a week off to prepare for a road game against a nationally ranked opponent, Southern Cal should be wide awake for their visit to South Bend. No team has yet to score more than a single offensive touchdown against the fantastic Trojan defense. No offense has gained more than 293 yards against the Trojans. The Trojans are also road tested, having won at Ohio State and Cal, sandwiched around the surprising loss to Washington. Barring barrage of fumbles and interceptions, Southern Cal should continue their recent dominance in this series.

Auburn -13.5 Kentucky
We knew before the season Auburn wasn't going undefeated. So the loss to Arkansas should not damper what could yet be a very good season on the Plains. Even if we remove the games against Louisiana Tech and Ball State, the Gus Malzahn offense is averaging 456 yards per game (would rank 15th in the nation). Auburn's weakness (surprisingly) has been their defense. The Tigers are currently allowing 369 yards per game (67th in the nation) and if we only include games against BCS foes, that number jumps to 428 yards per game. Can Kentucky take advantage of that weakness? Probably not. Outside of their opening pantsing of Miami of Ohio, the 'Cats have not gained more than 360 yards in any game and are averaging a little under 300 yards in those games. Auburn should be able to outscore the 'Cats at home and win by at least 2 touchdowns.

Miami -14 Central Florida
I'm a little suprised the line is this low. Miami has been very efficient moving the ball this season, only being held down by Virginia Tech. UCF currently ranks a respectable 51st in the nation in total defense, holding their foes to 340 yards per game thus far. However, their offense has been putrid for the second straight season (ranking 100th in total offense one year after finishing dead last). If Miami can manage 4 touchdowns (just 1 per quarter), they should be able to cover this number.

Navy -7 SMU
Navy returns to the state of Texas to take on another member of Conference USA one week after blasting Rice 63-14. SMU's defense is not as bad as the one Rice utilizes, but the Pony Express is very lucky to be sitting at 3-2 after 5 games. Despite their winning record and undefeated mark in conference play, quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell has not improved upon his uneven freshman campaign (quarterback rating of 121.6 is 3 points lower than last season). Interceptions are once again his biggest flaw, as he has tossed 10 in only 5 games. The Mustangs are winning thanks to a little bit of luck (3-1 in one-score games) and a defense that has gone from terrible (allowed 480 yards per game last season which ranked 119th in the nation) to merely bad (allowing 392 yards per game which ranks 91st in the nation). Navy should run at will against the Mustangs and also intercept a few passes for good measure, allowing them to win on the road by double-digits.

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