Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fab Five: Week VII

Your humble narrator did a fine job of getting off the mat after the debacle that was Week V. I finished 6-4, with duplicate 3-2 marks for both dogs and faves to bring my yearly record back above .500 (30-29-1). Hopefully, we can continue that trend this week. As always, home teams are in Bold.

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 3-2
Overall: 13-16-1

Boston College +22 Florida State
Since being embarrassed in Norman in Week II, the 'Noles have looked like the 'Noles of old. They have outscored their last 4 opponents by a combined 103 points en route to opening ACC play with a 3-0 record. The 'Noles have an excellent shot of being 4-0 after this game, but methinks it will be closer than most expect. For starters, Boston College still has a very good defense, albeit, one that is paired with a poor offense. During their 3-game losing streak, the Eagles have still managed to hold Virginia Tech and NC State to their second lowest yardage outputs and Notre Dame to their lowest yardage output of the season. In addition, this game is the dreaded sandwich game for the 'Noles, coming directly between their two biggest road conference games of the year (Miami and NC State).

Missouri +3.5 Texas A&M
The Missouri Tigers may be the most under-appreciated 5-0 team in 2010. The Tigers own victories over what has turned out to be a solid Illinois team, a likely bowl-eligible San Diego State team, and a shut out over a Colorado team that had upset Georgia the week before. The Tigers travel to College Station for their first road game in an attempt to keep their unbeaten record intact. The Aggies come in losers or consecutive games, at Oklahoma State and versus Arkansas. The Aggies have seen their defense improve from the putrid numbers they put up last season, but have been victimized by turnovers, losing 14 in their past 3 games. This game appears to be a toss-up, so take the team getting points here.

Pitt +1 Syracuse
It's been a long time since Syracuse was favored in a conference game. How long? The Orange were last favored against a league foe when they were 1-point favorites (eerie isn't it?) over Connecticut in November of 2006. The Orange won that game 20-14 to move their record to 4-7. If they win here, the results would be much more significant. A win would give them 5 wins for the first time since 2004 and move them within one game of bowl eligibility for the first time since that same season. While the Orange have impressive defensive statistics, ranking 15th in total defense, it pays to mention that 3 of their games have been played against Akron (the worst team in the MAC) and two IAA schools (Colgate and Maine). In their one game against a competent DI offense (sorry South Florida), the Washington Huskies rolled up 467 yards and 41 points against them. Pitt is likely the nation's best team with a losing record (with a pair of those losses coming at Utah and against Miami). Look for them to lose that distinction on Saturday when they get back to .500.

Don't look now, but UTEP is just one win away from being bowl eligible for the first time since 2005. Now the Miners have not exactly beaten a who's who of teams (the 4 IA teams they have beaten have combined for just 3 wins themselves), they have won most of those games by a healthy margin. Not surprisingly, UTEP does most of their damage on the offensive end, ranking 32nd in the nation in total offense. Meanwhile, UAB has either played a nailbiter or been blown out. They have lost a one-point game, won a one-point game, and lost a 3-point game in overtime. In their other 2 games, they have lost by 21 and 35. This one will probably be close, but the Miners should put enough points on the board to win a shootout.

Army +7 Vs Rutgers
The Black Knights from Army are just 2 wins away from being bowl eligible for the first time since 1996! And with a game against VMI coming up after this one, all they should require is one win in their other 5 games to return to a bowl. The Black Knights have actually rushed better through their first 6 games than their more highly regarded brethren at the Naval Academy. Army is averaging 274 yards per game on the ground (9th in the country), while the Midshipmen are averaging 260 (1oth in the country). The Black Knights have won their games on the strength of that rushing attack and on the backs of a +12 turnover margin (tops in the country). The Black Knights have yet to throw an interception and have only lost 4 fumbles. While fumble recovery is random, so their turnover margin in their final 6 games should decline, the Knights will probably not throw many interceptions, as they have attempted only 55 passes in 6 games. Their opponent, Rutgers, has been very iffy against IA competition. All their games have come down to the wire, with the Scarlet Knights beating Florida International and Connecticut by 5 and 3 points respectively, and losing to North Carolina and Tulane by 4 and 3 points. The Scarlet Knights finally got their offense in gear against Connecticut last week, gaining a season high 453 yards. They'll need to do that for a few more weeks in order to convince me that was not just a one game fluke. This game is at a neutral site (the New Meadowlands), and Army is hungry. Look for the Black Knights to give the Scarlet Knights all they can handle.

Five Faves I Like

Last Week: 3-2
Overall: 17-13

NC State -7 East Carolina
East Carolina is already 3-0 in Conference USA, but against BCS conference competition, the Pirates have fallen to both Virginia Tech and North Carolina by a combined 47 points. The Pirates home stadium will be rocking thanks to a visit from their in-state brethren, but the East Carolina defense (if you can call it that) should be shredded easily by Russell Wilson.

Southern Cal -2.5 Cal
Southern Cal is a hard-luck 1-2 in the Pac-10 after consecutive last second losses. Don't expect too much sympathy from their league brethren. The next team looking to kick the Trojans while they are down is the Cal Bears. Cal has not beaten the Trojans since their memorable overtime win in 2003, that ultimately kept the Trojans out of the BCS Championship Game. The Trojans are just plain nasty on offense, averaging 476 yards per game and 7.2 yards per play! Unfortunately, Monte Kiffin has not been able to do much with the defense. The Trojans are allowing 429 yards per game and 6.2 yards per play. Still, with the homefield advantage, the Trojans should be able to win this one by at least a field goal.

Baylor -1 Colorado
Betting on Baylor to win a Big 12 road game would appear to be folly. The Bears have won 3 Big 12 road games. In the history of the conference! Amazingly, one of their road wins occurred the last time they visited Boulder in 2006. Baylor does not have much of a defense, but if there is one thing they do have, its team speed on offense. The last truly speedy offensive team the Buffs faced was the Cal Bears in Week II. The result? A 52-7 Cal win. The Bears won't win that easily, but they should take care of business.

Indiana -11.5 Arkansas State
Indiana was humbled last week by Ohio State, but if there is one thing the Hoosiers have proven they can do this season, its put up points against non-elite defenses. In their other 4 games against non-Ohio State defenses, the Hoosiers have put up at least 35 points, and 360 yards in each game. The Red Wolves will move the ball and put up some points against the Hoosiers, but Indiana should win by at least 2 touchdowns.

Iowa -3.5 Michigan
Let's see. Last week against the best defense they have faced all season, the dynamic Michigan attack gained just 377 yards (nearly 100 yards below their previous season low). This week they face a defense that is not merely good, but elite. Iowa has not allowed more than 366 yards in any game this season, and has only allowed its 5 opponents to score 4 offensive touchdowns. In their lone loss, Arizona scored on a kickoff and fumble return to account for 14 of their 34 points. Michigan will have to have some opportunistic defensive or special teams scores to have any chance of winning this game.

No comments: