Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fab Five: Week VIII

Well, you had to know it was coming. I had my first losing week of the season last week, and what a doozy it was. I managed only a 3-6-1 record dropping my season mark to 39-29-2. Thats still a very solid winning percentage, but far from what it once was. We'll try and get back on the winning track this week.

5 Dogs I Like
Last Week: 1-3-1
Overall: 22-12-1

Florida State +2.5 North Carolina
For all the uproar about the descent of the Florida State program, the 'Noles are only a few plays away from having a solid season. Their 3 ACC losses have come by 4, 7, and 5 points. The offense, with the exception of the South Florida game, has done well, averaging 426 yards per game (26th in the nation). The defense has been the 'Noles achilles heel, permitting 426 yards per game (107th in the nation). They couldn't have asked for a better opponent Thursday night. North Carolina has done a fine job against their 2 IAA foes, averaging 41 points and 332 yards per game. However, against their 4 IA opponents, the Heels have averaged a much less potent 13 points and 257 yards per game. In fact, the next touchdown they score against an ACC opponent will be their second...on the season! Look for Florida State to break out of their mini-slump and position themselves for a bowl bid in an upset of theTar Heels.

Wake Forest +2 Navy
I don't usually attempt to handicap the Deacons games as I'm emotionally involved. However, I think this line is too much a reflection of last year's upset and last weekend's loss to Clemson. While Wake was exposed as a pretender in the ACC race, its important to remember that Clemson has one of the top defenses in the country. They currently rank 12th in total defense (270 yards per game), 7th in pass defense (148 yards per game), and 17th in scoring defense (15.3 points per game). After an opening hiccup against Baylor, and before the humbling experience in Death Valley, the Wake offense had been a sight to behold. Even excluding the game against Elon, the offense averaged 465 yards per game against Stanford, Boston College, NC State, and Maryland. To put that into perspective, Wake had not gained over 465 yards in any one game since 2005. While those 4 schools are not outstanding defenses, neither is that belonging to the Naval Academy. I expect the Navy offense to move the ball and score points, but Wake should win outright in a shootout.

Idaho +15 Nevada
The Wolfpack of Nevada have won 3 straight after a forgettable 0-3 start to the season. However, those wins have come against teams that are a combined 3-10 against IA foes (not counting games against Nevada). Meanwhile Idaho is already bowl eligible at 6-1, with their lone loss coming at Washington. The Vandals are no stranger to the road this season, having won away from the Kibbie Dome 3 times already in 4 chances. Idaho is a legitimate contender for the WAC silver medal as their performance has not been aided by fluky luck in turnover margin (+4 on the season). Nevada is rightly favored in this game as it is at home, but giving more than 2 touchdowns against a solid team like Idaho is not a number they are likely to cover.

Arkansas +6 Ole Miss
Despite entering the season with division title aspirations, the Ole Miss Rebels have pretty much already been eliminated from contention in the SEC West. It looks like they will have to settle for a second consecutive bowl bid, something that has not occurred in Oxford since the 2002 and 2003 seasons. The Rebels have put quite a hurting on non-SEC teams, averaging 48 points and 450 yards per game against Memphis, Southeastern Louisiana, and UAB. However, against their 3 SEC opponents, the Rebels have scored only 4 touchdowns and are averaging 286 yards per game. Arkansas will be the worst SEC defense the Rebels have faced thus far, but they probably also have the best offense the Rebels will see this season. Ole Miss is rightly favored, but laying almost a touchdown is a bit much.

Virginia +6 Georgia Tech
Can you say letdown? Fresh off a victory over Coastal Division overlord Virginia Tech, the Yellow Jackets must travel to a place where they have not won since 1990 (lost 8 straight) when they won the mythical national title. Remember, Virginia also beat Georgia Tech last season in Atlanta when they held the Jackets to 156 yards on the ground. Virginia has been lights out defensively the past 3 games, allowing an average of only 243 yards per game against North Carolina, Indiana, and Maryland. Virginia's offense is still very much a work in progress, but this game should be very close.

Five Faves I Like
Last Week: 2-3
Overall: 17-17-1

Oklahoma -7 Kansas
Last week, they were the best 2-loss team, now they're the best 3-loss team. Oklahoma fans probably won't take too much solace in that, but the fact of the matter remains, the Sooners are very good. The Sooners defense is very legit. They have not allowed more than 357 yards in any game, and even if we discard the bludgeoning of Idaho State, they are only allowing a shade over 301 yards per game. Kansas has the home field, and they vastly outplayed Colorado in their loss last week, but the offense will face its first real test in the Sooners. The Jayhawks have scored 30 or more in each game this season, but they will have a very difficult time getting to that number against the Oklahoma defense. Get ready to ride the undervalued Sooner stock all the way to the bank over the next few weeks.

South Carolina -12.5 Vanderbilt
Think the Gamecocks may be ready for this one? The Commodores have beaten the Gamecocks in consecutive seasons so they won't sneak up on South Carolina in this one. Vanderbilt has one of the worst offenses in the nation, averaging only 13 points and 282 yards against IA opponents. If they get to those averages, which will be tough to do against a defense as good as South Carolina's, it will only take 3 Gamecock touchdowns and a pair of field goals to cover that number.

Toledo -3 Temple
I believe this is the 3rd week in a row I've featured a Temple line here. And for the third week in a row, I'll be going against the Owls (1-2 so far). Temple is 4-2 and well positioned for their first bowl bid in 30 years. Toledo is 4-3 under first year head coach Tim Beckman and is also angling for a bowl bid. This game features two very divergent teams. Toledo has a very good offense and a questionable defense, while the Owls have a good defense and a stuggling offense. In games not involving Ohio State, Toledo has averaged 500 yards and 35 points per game. However, in those same games, the Rockets have allowed an average of 421 yards and 38 points per game. Temple has also played a Big 10 power (Penn State), and when we remove that game, the Owls numbers could not be more different. Temple has averaged 320 yards and 27 points per game while allowing 313 yards and 17 points per game. Temple does not have the offense to keep up with Toledo, particularly in the Glass Bowl. Look for the Rockets to get one step closer to bowl eligibility with a win on Saturday.

Western Michigan -5 Buffalo
Western Michigan has been a little disappointing thus far, managing only a 3-4 record when they were expected to contend for the MAC West title. However, 2 of the Broncos losses have come to BCS conference schools (Michigan and Indiana) and another has come to the best team in the MAC (Central Michigan). The only head scratcher on Western Michigan's ledger is a 38-3 beatdown at the hands of Northern Illinois in Dekalb. The Broncos struggled offensively over the first half of the season, but they seem to have righted that part of the ship the past 2 weeks, gaining over 1000 yards combined against Toledo and Central Michigan. Buffalo is also 3-4 after reeling off 2 straight victories against Gardner Webb (IAA) and Akron. However, Gardner Webb and Akron have no wins over IA opponents between them. Western Michigan is the better team and is playing at home. They should win by at least a touchdown.

Colorado State -8 San Diego State
Colorado State has disappeared from the national conscience (if they were ever really there) after 4 straight losses following a 3-game win streak to open the season. Of course, Colorado State has lost those games to the Big 3 of the Mountain West (BYU, TCU, and Utah), and the suddenly vibrant Vandals of Idaho. Those 4 teams are a combined 23-3. 3 of those 4 losses were on the road, and the lone home game was a narrow 7-point defeat to Utah. San Diego State has beaten only a single IA team (New Mexico State). San Diego State has lost their 3 road games by an average of 15 points per game. Colorado State should be able to handle about half of that number.

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