Friday, November 27, 2009

Fab Five: Week XIII

After a 5-week dry spell, I broke through in a big way last weekend going 8-2. That brings my yearly mark to a much more respectable 62-56-2. Let's see if we can keep the hot streak going.

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 4-1
Overall: 31-28-1

Syracuse +13.5 Connecticut
Both these teams pulled off shockers last weekend. The Huskies, as you may have heard, hammered the likely penultimate nail in the coffin of Charlie Weis' tenure at Notre Dame, while the Orange won their first Big East game under new coach Doug Marrone. At South Bend, the Huskies finally had luck on their side as they won by 3 after 5 previous losses in games decided by fewer than 7 points. The win gives the Huskies a new lease on their postseason life as they end the season with consecutive home games against Syracuse and South Florida. The Orange have played better of late, holding their last 3 opponents not ranked in the top-10 to 472 total yards, with neither Akron, Louisville, or Rutgers topping the 200-yard plateau. Connecticut doesn't have the offensive firepower of Cincinnati or Pittsburgh, the last 2 teams to move the ball against Syracuse, so look for the Orange to keep this one relatively close.

Tulane +17.5 SMU
I got burned by the Green Wave in one of my few bad picks last week, as they were annihilated 49-0 by UCF. They are once again big road underdogs against an SMU squad primed for their first bowl appearance since the Reagan administration. However, while the Ponies have managed to cobble together 6 wins already, only one of them has been by more than one-score (a 27-13 decision over Tulsa). Their other wins have come by a combined 24 points, and only one has come over a team that will finish the season with a winning record (East Carolina). Tulane is probably the worst team in Conference USA, but if they avoid the turnover bug (lost 5 in last week's game), this game could be competitive.

NC State +5.5 North Carolina
The North Carolina defense is no joke. In ACC games, they are allowing just a shade north of 300 yards per game (302). However, their offense is very meager. In those same ACC games, the offense is averaging only 270 yards per game. The Tar Heels have won their last 4 games thanks to their athletic defense scoring and putting the offense in position to score. Their turnover margin in the streak is +8, and the defense has accounted for 4 touchdowns in that span (3 interception and one fumble return). Thus NC State's biggest weakness, their porous defense (allowing 436 yards per game to ACC opponents) may not be quite as weak. The Wolfpack will also prove a stiff test for the Tar Heel defense, as they average close to 400 yards per game in conference play (395). If the Tar Heel defense doesn't do a lot of scoring themselves, this one should be close.

South Florida +6.5 Miami
The Hurricanes have had their most successful season season since 2005. At 8-3, the 'Canes have a shot at 10 wins if they can beat the Bulls and then win their bowl game. However, despite their success, the 'Canes have been pretty mediocre on the road. They are 3-2 on the road, but they have not beaten a BCS-conference school on the road by more than 4 points. In fact, in those 5 road games, the 'Canes have been outscored by 8 points. South Florida has already beaten one in-state big brother this season (Florida State), so they will certainly have motivation to play well in this game. Miami has almost nothing to play for and should struggle to put away the Bulls.

Utah +7.5 BYU
Both these teams are ranked in the top-25, but outside of BYU's season-opening upset of Oklahoma, neither team has done a whole lot except beat out-classed Mountain West foes. BYU is 1-1 versus teams with winning records since the game with the Sooners (losing at home to Florida State and beating Air Force at home last week). Utah is 1-2 on the season against teams with winning records, losing at Oregon by 7 (before the Ducks got their act together) and getting blitzed by TCU in Fort Worth. In between, they beat Air Force at home. While these teams probably are not as good as the public believes, this game should be. Utah has the better defense and should do enough to keep this game within a touchdown.

Five Faves I Like

Last Week: 4-1
Overall: 31-28-1

Cincinnati -20.5 Illinois
Since appearing in the Rose Bowl on January 1 2008, the Illini have gone just 8-14, with only 5 wins coming against teams from BCS conferences. With only pride left to play for, look for them to get blown off the map against a Cincinnati team that still has an outside shot at playing for a national title.

Middle Tennessee State -3.5 Louisiana-Monroe
Make it 5 in a row. After pounding Arkansas State last week, the hottest team in the Sun Belt, the Blue Raiders, have now won 5 in a row. During that streak, the Blue Raiders have averaged 499 yards and 41.8 points per game. The defense has also played well, limiting opponents to 313 yards and 19.2 points per game. Louisiana-Monroe has struggled as of late, losing 3 of 5, with 2 of the wins coming against the dregs of the Sun Belt (North Texas and Western Kentucky). The Blue Raiders have an outside shot at 10 wins if they can beat the Warhawks on the road.

Georgia Tech -7.5 Georgia
There are only about 3 reasons why most observers would feel Georgia has a chance in this game. For starters its a rivalry game. Throw the records out as they say. Secondly, Mark Richt is still the Bulldogs coach. He is one of the game's best. And finally, the SEC, God's gift to football. While that last argument may be repeated ad nauseum by CBS each and every Saturday, the fact is the SEC is Florida, Alabama, and a host of mediocrity. You have to look long and hard to find a marquee win on Georgia's schedule. Is it South Carolina (6-5), Arkansas (7-4), or Auburn (7-4)? The Dawgs have also beaten Vanderbilt (2-10), Arizona State (4-7), and Tennessee Tech. Georgia is not particularly good on either side of the ball. Outside of a fine offensive showing at Arkansas (and their game with IAA Tennessee Tech) during which they gained 530 yards and averaged 8.5 yards per snap, the Bulldogs are averaging 325 yards per game. Again, outside of those 2 games, the defense is allowing 340 yards per contest. Georgia Tech has issues on defense (Vandy and Mississippi State were both able to drop 31 on them), but no one has shown any sign of stopping the Jackets since their loss to Miami in mid-September. Look for the Jackets to win a high-scoring affair by about 10.

Southern Cal -13 UCLA
The Trojans have fallen out of the national pitcure with 2 losses in their past 3 games, while the Bruins have won 3 straight to become bowl eligible after a 5-game losing streak. Southern Cal's defense is not what it once was, having allowed the most yards per game since the 2005 incarnation. Unfortunately, this Trojan offense does not have the elite playmakers on offense the 2005 team had to offset the mediocrity of the defense. However, UCLA is averaging only 341 yards per game (89th in the nation), so they should be hard-pressed to score more than 2 touchdowns on the Trojan defense. Playing at home, against a rival, with a chip on their shoulder, the Trojans should roll.

Idaho -2.5 Utah State
The Vandals look to lock up 8-regular season wins (quite impressive as they won only twice last season) against the Aggies from Utah State. This game should be pretty high-scoring as both squads average over 430 yards per game and allow more than 410 yards per game. Utah State has yet to win on the road this season (0-7) and that trend should continue in Moscow.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fab Five: Week XII

And my slide continues. Another losing week, this one checking in at 4-6, drops my yearly mark to even at 54-54-2. Only 3 weeks remain in the college football regular season. Hopefully I can salvage a little dignity.

5 Dogs I Like
Last Week: 1-4
Overall: 27-27-1

Colorado +20 Oklahoma State
Despite their 3-7 mark, the Buffs have been playing better as of late. They upset Texas A&M 2 weeks ago, and outgained Iowa State by a healthy margin last week (390-310), but lost thanks to a slew of turnovers in Iowa State territory. Since their embarrassing second game at Toledo when they allowed the Rockets to pile up 624 yards of offense, the defense has been very respectable, allowing only 342 yards per game since (figure would rank 40th in the nation). On the other sideline, Oklahoma State is on the cusp of enjoying their finest season in a long while, particularly in the conference. They have but one league loss thus far, and while the trip to Norman will likely result in loss number 2, a victory over the Buffs would guarantee them their best record in conference since joining the Big 12. Despite the Cowboys pedigree as an offensive force, they have won games this season with their defense. The Cowboys rank 48th nationally in total offense, but 32nd in total defense. Outside of the Houston debacle, the Cowboys have not allowed any team to top 400 yards against them this season. Expect this game to be relatively low-scoring with the Cowboys pulling away in the end to win by about 2 touchdowns.

Maryland +19 Florida State
If there ever was a defense for the woeful Maryland offense to get untracked against, its Florida State's. Maryland currently ranks 107th nationally in total offense, averaging a paltry 310 yards per game. North Carolina currently ranks 113th in that category, but they put up their second best offensive showing of the season (against IA competition) against the Noles. Look for Maryland to hang around and keep this one relatively close.

Tulane +21 Central Florida
The Green Wave gave the Rice Owls their first win of the season last week and have only won 2 games themselves against IA competition. But do you really trust UCF, a team that averages just a shade over 23 points per game to beat them by 3 touchdowns? I don't.

Louisiana Tech +9.5 Fresno State
Vince Dooley's son, whom I'm told is name Derek, has seen his charges struggle somewhat this season after a surprising run to the Independence Bowl last season. The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs are only 3-7, but they have actually outscored their opponents on the season (by 8 points over 10 games), and have lost 3 games by 8 points or less, including last weeks close tussle with LSU. Fresno State is 6-4, and 3 of their losses have come to teams ranked inside the top-20 (Boise, Cincinnati, and Wisconsin). However, they seem to have hit a wall recently, struggling to put away Utah State and Idaho (traditional conference dregs), and were beaten down last week by Nevada (52-14). Fresno should win this game, but expect it to be within a touchdown.

Vanderbilt +17 Tennessee
Fresh off their first bowl game in more than a quarter century, this season has been a disappointment for the Vanderbilt faithful. The 'Dores have not won a single conference game, and have only one win against a IA foe (Rice). However. their losses for the most part have been pretty competitive. The Tennessee Vols need one more win to attain bowl eligibility in Lane Kiffin's first season. Tennessee has won 25 of the last 26 in this series, so expect that to continue. However, 4 of the last 5 games have been decided by 10 points or fewer. Again, expect more of the same.

Five Faves I Like
Last Week: 3-2
Overall: 27-27-1

Purdue -3 Indiana
Though their records may not show it (combined 8-14 coming in), these 2 teams are pretty good. Both have been cursed by bad luck this season. Indiana has lost 3 games by 3 points or less, while Purdue is 2-5 in games decided by 8 points or less. Purdue has the better scoring margin, better yardage differential, and has dominated as of late (won 10 of 12). Make it 11 of 13.

Rutgers -9.5 Syracuse
After a dismal opening against Syracuse that made them forgotten men, the Scarlet Knights have won 7 of 8, with their lone loss coming to Pitt. Meanwhile, Syracuse, is still Syracuse. Outside of their upset over a bowl bound Northwestern team, this incarnation of the Orange are only marginally improved from the doormat Greg Robinson turned them into. Rutgers has won the last 4 with the smallest margin of victory checking in at 18 points. This one shouldn't be close, and the Knights should have their 8th win.

Utah -20 San Diego State
Yes the Utes were taken behind the woodshed last week, but TCU may very well be the best team in the nation. Utah's opponent on Saturday will be a team with 3 IA victories. Those wins have come against New Mexico State (2 IA wins), Colorado State (2 IA wins), and New Mexico (zero wins). The Aztecs lone shining road performance came in an upset win at Colorado State (a team that has not won since late-September. The Utes should roll in this one.

Middle Tennessee State -11.5 Arkansas State
The Blue Raiders have quietly asserted themselves as the second best team in the Sun Belt, having won 4 games in a row since a pair of setbacks to Troy and Mississippi State interrupted a 3-game win streak. Tony Franklin's spread offense has been catching on as the Blue Raiders have averaged 517 yards and 43.5 points per game in their 4-game streak. Arkansas State has seen a promising looking year in the preseason fizzle with 7 losses in their past 8 games. Middle Tennessee still has a shot at the league crown should Troy stumble twice and will be fired up to continue their winning ways against the Red Wolves.

Southern Miss -8 Tulsa
Its taken a bit for this to sink in, but to paraphrase Dennis Green, Tulsa is not who we thought they were. The Golden Hurricane have lost 5 in a row and are in danger of missing out on a bowl for the first time since 2004. They have beaten only 3 IA teams. Neither of which is very good. Tulane is 3-7, New Mexico is 0-10, and Rice is 1-9. The descent will continue as the Eagles from Southern Miss still harbor division and conference title hopes.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fab Five: Week XI

Another week, another losing record. I went 4-6 last week, which marked my 3rd losing week in 4. My yearly mark is now below the break even point and is hovering around .500. At 50-48-2, I haven't tasted victory in over a month. Is this the week we get back on track?

5 Dogs I Like
Last Week: 2-3
Overall: 26-23-1

Tennessee +4.5 Ole Miss
The Ole Miss Rebels have been one of this season's biggest disappointments. Picked by many, including myself, to at least challenge for the SEC West title, the Rebels already have as many conference losses (3) as they suffered all of last season. In the aggregate, the Rebs look like an elite team based on stats. However, once we remove their 4 non-conference games (2 IAA foes, Memphis, and UAB), we see a team that is struggling. They have outgained their conference foes by only 45 yards per game and have actually been outscored by 9 points in conference play. Meanwhile, Tennessee comes in riding a hot streak, having won 3 of 4 with the lone loss coming against Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Jevan Snead and company will find it tough sledding against Monty Kiffin's defense and the Vols may pull off the outright upset.

Iowa +17 Ohio State
The inevitable happened last week, as Iowa finally dropped one of the many cases of TNT they had been juggling. The Hawkeyes also lost their starting quarterback Ricky Stanzi for the duration of the regular season in the loss. This spread is an extreme overreaction to that single fact. Take a look at the numbers, and you'll see that Iowa's defense can keep them in this game. No team has gained more than 354 yards against the Hawkeyes, and that was Northern Iowa in the opener. Ohio State is not exactly known as an offensive juggernaut. This should be a throwback game with plenty of runs up the middle and off-tackle coupled with a plethora of punts. Ohio State is rightly favored, but don't be surprised if this game is decided by a touchdown or so.

Kansas +4 Nebraska
The wheels have seemingly come off the Jayhawk bandwagon. After a 5-0 start, the Jayhawks have now lost 4 straight and their hopes for winning their first Big 12 North title are hanging by a thread. Of course, 3 of the 4 losses have come on the road, and 2 have come by a touchdown or less. Playing at home for only the second time in a month, Kansas will be ready for a Nebraska team that is stout defensively, but has serious issues on offense. The Huskers beat Oklahoma at home last week 10-3, but their only touchdown 'drive' started at the one-yard line. Kansas has beaten Nebraska the last 2 times they have played here (by a combined 62 points) and stand a good shot at making it 3 in a row.

Mississippi State +13 Alabama
And speaking of 2 straight victories, the Bulldogs will look to make it 2 in a row against the Tide in Starkville. The Bulldogs appear to be rejuvenated under first year coach Dan Mullen. The Bulldogs are 2 wins away from bowl eligibility, an unheard of proposition at the beginning of the season. 4 of their 5 losses have come to teams currently ranked in the top-15 (Florida, Georgia Tech, LSU, and Houston). Alabama has been skating by the past few weeks with a nasty defense and an offense that has steadily declined all season long. Remember, the Tide looked like world beaters on offense after they torched Virgina Tech for 498 yards in the opener. Since that game, they have averaged only 366 yards against teams from BCS conferences. Alabama's defense should get them the win, but the offense will keep Mississippi State in it.

Arizona +1 Cal
The Cal Bears have been one of the bigger disappointments in this rapidly disappearing season. They have won 6 games and are bowl eligible, but only one and perhaps two of their wins have come against likely bowl teams (Minnesota and Arizona State). Meanwhile, their 3 losses have come by 39, 27, and 17 points respectively. On the other sideline, Arizona has quietly won 6 of their first 8 games with the losses coming at Iowa and on a fluke play against Washington in Seattle. The Wildcats have beaten 2 solid Pac-10 teams in Stanford and Oregon State, and also own a better than it seems win over Central Michigan. The end of their schedule is rather brutal with Oregon and Southern Cal as well as Arizona State and of course Cal. Arizona should be a small favorite in this game and should win outright as a small dog.

Five Faves I Like
Last Week: 2-3
Overall: 24-25-1

South Florida -1 Rutgers
It might seem like business as usual for Rutgers, but their 6-2 mark is inflated by wins over 2 IAA schools, Florida International, and Army. Against BCS conference foes, the Knights have been outgained on average by 142 yards per game! They have not gained more that 322 yards in any of those games! It will take a lot of South Florida errors for Rutgers to pull this one out.

Clemson -8 NC State
Way back in early October this spread would have seemed like a lock the other way. Clemson was floundering at 2-3, having just lost to Maryland, while NC State was 3-1 with a victory over Pitt in their back pocket. My how fortunes can change in a few weeks. Clemson is on their way to their first appearance in the ACC Championship Game, while NC State has refused to stop anyone, giving up 440 yards per game in their last 5. Clemson's defense should put the clamps on Russell Wilson and put the Tigers one step closer to a berth in the Orange Bowl.

Houston -4.5 UCF
Houston may be the most fun team in the nation to watch. Games involving Houston average over 1000 yards of combined offense (1048) and 72 points per game. UCF will likely be the worst offense Houston has played since they matched up with Tulane a month ago. Thus their defense should put in a strong showing and hold the Knights to say 28 points or so. Houston will have no trouble moving the ball and should win by at least a touchdown.

Kentucky -3 Vanderbilt
The Wildcats are just one win away from bowl eligibility for the 4th consecutive season. Of course, a win here would only be their second in SEC play. A win by Vandy on the other hand would be their first on the season in the SEC and only their 3rd overall. Vandy is just awful on offense, averaging just 229 yards per game against SEC defenses. Kentucky is far from rock solid on defense, but they should do enough to grind out at least a 3-point win.

Georgia Tech -13 Duke
The Yellow Jackets are just one win away from their 2nd ever appearance in the ACC Championship Game, while Duke is only a single win away from bowl eligibility! Duke should be able to move the ball against a Tech defense that is less than stellar, but Georgia Tech will likely move the ball at will, and barring a barrage of turnovers, should win by 2 touchdowns.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Fab Five: Week X

I was able to stop the bleeding last week as I went a respectable 5-5. Things could have been much better as I missed one game by half a point and another by a single point. Oh well, no use crying about it. My overall record is now 46-42-2. Let's see if we can get our first winning week in nearly a month.

5 Dogs I Like
Last Week: 1-4
Overall: 24-20

South Carolina +7 Arkansas
Outside of the game against Auburn, Arkansas has been very underwhelming in SEC play. Their 5 SEC opponents have averaged 455 yards per game against the Hog defense, and quarterback Ryan Mallet has completed only 47% of his passes against SEC defenses. South Carolina is not as good on defense as Alabama and Florida, but they should do a good job of containing the Arkansas pass attack. On the other side, if South Carolina is to enjoy any offensive success in conference, this will be the game. South Carolina getting nearly a touchdown against a defense as porous as the one used by Arkansas is gift.

Oregon State +7.5 Cal
Coming into this game, against Pac-10 opponents, Oregon State is averaging 422 yards per game and giving up 394 yards per game. Against Pac-10 opponents, Cal is averaging 391 yards per game and allowing 440 yards per game. Cal has played perhaps the 2 best teams in the Pac-10 (Oregon and Southern Cal), but they have also played perhaps the 2 worst (UCLA and Washington State) as well. Oregon State has not played Oregon, but they have also not gotten the functional bye week that is Washington State. Look over Cal's schedule. The only likely bowl team they have beaten is Minnesota. Getting more than a touchdown, Oregon State is money in the bank.

Connecticut +16.5 Cincinnati
The UConn Huskies are only 4-4, but that .500 record masks a very solid team. The Huskies 4 losses have come by a combined 13 points. Each loss has come to a team that currently boasts a winning record (North Carolina, Pitt, West Virginia, and Rutgers). All told, those 4 teams have a combined 14-8 record against IA teams (not including their games with the Huskies). Connecticut has found a passing attack in the last 3 games, as they have averaged 488 yards of total offense in that span (341 of it through the air). If the Huskies can avoid turnovers (8 in the last 2 games) and not give up kickoff returns for touchdowns (one each in the last 2 games), they have a great chance of giving the Bearcats a legitimate challenge on Saturday night.

Florida Atlantic +6.5 UAB
As they did last season, the Owls from FAU have turned things around after a rough start. The Owls started the 2008 season with a 1-5 record, including an 0-2 mark in the Sun Belt, before rallying to win 6 of their last 7 games, including the Motor City Bowl. This season the Owls opened 0-4 before winning 2 straight and dropping a close decision to Middle Tennessee last week. Against teams from outside BCS leagues, the Owls have moved the ball very well. Discounting their games against Nebraska and South Carolina, FAU is averaging just a shade over 500 yards per game. They are allowing about 400 yards per game. That difference of 100 yards is indicative of a pretty good team. Unfortunately, the Owls record is held down by their poor mark in one-score games (1-3). If we provide the same adjustments for UAB, the Blazers are averaging 384 yards per game and allowing about 460 yards per game. All things being equal, FAU should probably be favored here, even on the road.

Wyoming +13 BYU
Let's face facts folks. The Cougars are a shade overrated by the public at large thanks to their upset of Oklahoma. The win was huge for the Cougars and for the Mountain West, but since that game the Cougars have been pretty ordinary. Consider: They hammered a Tulane team that has one win over a IA foe, they were de-pantsed at home by an OK Florida State team (albeit one with a very good offense), they beat a 3-6 Colorado State team at home in less than dominant fashion, they beat a Utah State team with a single IA win at home in less than dominant fashion, they blew out a very bad UNLV team on the road, they won by 10 at a decent, but hardly good San Diego State team, and were once again beat down at home by an elite TCU team. In this game, the Cougars will face a road test against a team that is strong where they are weak and weak where they are strong. The Cougars average 449 yards against league foes and allow an average of 382 yards per game. The Cowboys average only 286 yards per game against league foes, but make up for it by allowing only 329 yards per game. BYU should win this game, as Wyoming lacks the offensive firepower pull off the upset, but it will likely be decided by 10 points or less.

Five Faves I Like
Last Week: 4-1
Overall: 22-22-1

UTEP -7 Tulane
UTEP has been one of the biggest enigmas of this college football season. Interestingly, 2 of the other biggest enigmas also play football in the state of Texas (Texas A&M and Texas Tech). In their last 4 games, UTEP has ended Houston's BCS hopes, lost to a Memphis team with no other IA victories, beaten 2-time defending division champ Tulsa, and lost at home to UAB. Suffice it to say, they are not the safest play on the board. Still, giving less than double digits to an awful Tulane team has to pique your interest. The Green Wave have beaten a single IA team (Army) and have lost their 4 home games this season by an average of 31 points with the smallest margin of defeat being 21. The Green Wave have allowed over 200 yards on the ground 5 times in 8 games this season. Look for Donald Buckram to have a huge game in a Miner blowout.

Oklahoma State -7.5 Iowa State
The Cowboys are an extremely undervalued stock right now after their embarrassing loss at home to Texas last week. The Cowboys lost that game due to turnovers. Their giveaways either resulted in Longhorn touchdowns, or put Texas in position to score. The oft ridiculed Cowboy defense actually acquitted itself quite well, holding Texas to 275 yards of total offense. Iowa State is a tad overrated despite their blowout loss to Texas A&M last week thanks to their upset of Nebraska in Lincoln 2 weeks ago. The Cyclones won that game by 2 points despite collecting 8 Cornhusker turnovers! Iowa State is a great story in Paul Rhodes first season as coach, and will likely play in a bowl game provided they beat Colorado next week. However, their offense is extremely limited and they should not be able to keep up with Oklahoma State. This spread should be about double what it is.

Tennessee -26 Memphis
Tommy West has done a lot of good things at Memphis. He's won 49 games (while losing 57), taken the Tigers to 5 bowl games (including 3 in a row from 2003-2005), and competed for CUSA titles (though he has yet to win one). However, after a lethargic 2-6 start that has seen the Tigers beat one IA foe (UTEP), West's hour of reckoning may be nigh. Memphis has given up at least 31 points in every road game they have played and the Tennessee Vols look to be rounding into form under first year coach Lane Kiffin. The Vols have proven they can pound less than stellar defenses, particularly at home. Witness the opening weekend rout of listless Western Kentucky (63-7) and their home beatdown of a sub-par Georgia team a month ago (45-19). Tennessee should get to 40 in this game, and the Tigers will find the going very tough against Monty Kiffin's defense.

UCLA -4 Washington
Don't look now, but guess who's tied for last in the Pac-10. That's right, perhaps the football monopoly in southern California isn't over just yet. The Bruins are currently 0-5. So why am I taking them this week over a team that has beaten Southern Cal? The Bruins 5 conference losses have all come to likely bowl teams (Stanford, Oregon, Cal, Arizona, and Oregon State), 3 have come on the road (Stanford, Arizona, and Oregon State), and 2 have been particularly close (Stanford and Oregon State). Meanwhile Washington has won a pair of Pac-10 games (versus 3 losses), but on a down-to-down basis, their performance has been on par with that of the Bruins. In Pac-10 play, UCLA is averaging 309 yards per game and allowing 418 yards per game. Washington is averaging 322 yards per game and allowing 425 yards per game. Washington has enjoyed a tad better luck, winning both of their league games by a combined 6 points. On the road, the Huskies have lost by 20 to Stanford and by 7 to Arizona State. Look for the Bruins to get their first Pac-10 win on Saturday by at least a touchdown.

Minnesota -7 Illinois
The Illini finally got off the schnide against IA teams last week in their home upset of Michigan. Prior to that game, the Illini had lost 9 straight games to IA teams, dating back to their victory over Iowa on November 1, 2007. The victory over the Wolverines was the only time this season the Illini have looked competent on either side of the ball. It also bears mentioning that the game was played at home. In their other games away from Champaign this season, the Illini have lost by an average of over 20 points per game. To be fair, one of those games came against Ohio State. However, the others were against Missouri, Indiana, and Purdue, only one of which is a likely bowl team. Minnesota should dispatch the Illini with relative ease on Saturday and become bowl eligible.