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.

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