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.


Michael said...

Duke is two wins away from bowl eligibility. One of their wins is against NC Central, which does not count toward bowl eligibility.

matt said...

I believe, and don't quote me on this, that a school can count one win over a IAA school toward the 6 wins they need to become bowl eligible. Duke has played 2 IAA schools, but they lost one. Thus they have only beaten one IAA team so I think if they get to 6 they go (or should at least be eligible).

Michael said...

NC Central is only provisionally IAA this year, so it doesn't count. See this article at

matt said...

Good catch and thanks for dropping some knowledge Michael.