Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fab Five: Week VIII

Last week marked my second straight week above .500 and tied with Week II for my best performance thus far at 7-3. That brings my overall record to 37-32-1. We shall try and continue that trend this week. As always, home teams are in Bold.

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 4-1
Overall: 17-17-1

Minnesota +9.5 Penn State
The Gophers canned their coach after their loss at Purdue last weekend and appear to be a team content to play out the string. While I don't want to play psychologist and tell you what the mood around the Gopher program is, I will tell you that Penn State should probably not be a near double-digit favorite over any BCS-conference team, particularly on the road. The Nittany Lions currently have the worst offense in the Big 10 and have also not been their usual selves on defense either, ranking a rather disappointing 7th of 11 teams. Minnesota is by no means a good team, but this will not be a cakewalk for a woeful Penn State offense.

Georgia Tech +6 Clemson
Speaking of woeful offenses, hello Clemson Tigers. As you may have noticed in my SDPI post on Tuesday, the Tigers currently rank ahead of only Boston College in ACC in offense, averaging a paltry 276 yards per game in league play. Thankfully for Clemson partisans, their defense is once again among the tops in the conference ranking 3rd behind Florida State and Maryland!? Typically, the games in this series are very close with 7 of the last 10 having been decided by 5 points or less. Look for that trend to continue on Saturday.

LSU +6 Auburn
Based on my SDPI ratings, LSU has on of the nastiest defenses in the nation. They will surely be put to the test Saturday afternoon against an Auburn offense that ranks 2nd in the SEC and boasts a Heisman contender in quarterback Cam Newton. As I have noted on here before, never, and I mean never trust Les Miles as a favorite, particularly a large one. However, with the Mad Hatter lying in the weeds and getting points, LSU appears to be a very safe play.

Indiana +13.5 Illinois
Yes, this same Indiana team that struggled in putting away Arkansas State is primed to give a solid Illinois team a game on the road. This game is a matchup of strength versus strength and weakness versus weakness. Indiana has a very potent offense (4th in the Big 10), while Illinois has a very stout defense (2nd in the Big 10). Meanwhile, the Hoosiers are awful on defense (dead last in the Big 10), while the Illini are second to last in the Big 10 on offense (thank you Penn State). Illinois will probably end up winning and getting one step closer to saving Zook's job, but expect Indiana to hang around 10 points or so.

Arizona State +3.5 Cal
One week after getting embarrassed by their in-state rivals Southern Cal, the Cal Bears return home to face one of the best 3-3 teams in the country. The Sun Devils have lost by a single point at Wisconsin (where Ohio State fell), lost a reasonably close home game to Oregon in which they committed 7 turnovers, lost by 3 points at Oregon State, and beaten Washington by 2 touchdowns on the road. They stand a real shot to win this game outright and strengthen their bowl chances.

Five Faves I Like

Last Week: 3-2
Overall: 20-15

West Virginia -14 Syracuse
Remember all that good will the Orange had last week after upsetting South Florida? Well, it has kind of dissipated. A 31-point home loss to a team with a losing record coming in will do that. The Orange still have an outside shot at getting to a bowl game for the first time since 2004, but they are unlikely to add a crucial win to their resume on Saturday. West Virginia has held every opponent except Marshall (in the Herd's near upset on the season's 2nd Friday) to 276 yards or fewer. Yards and points will be at a premium for a Syracuse team that has not moved the ball well against against BCS-conference foes. West Virginia should win in a romp. Plus, mysterious commenter Miguel has advised me to always go against teams wearing Orange.

Georgia -4 Kentucky
The SDPI numbers absolutely love Georgia, having crowned them the best team in SEC East. The Bulldogs are on fire, having bludgeoned Tennessee and Vanderbilt after losing 4 in a row. Meanwhile, the Kentucky Wildcats are also riding high after posting an upset of then number 10 South Carolina. Despite the win, the Wildcats remain horrendous on defense, ranking ahead of only Vanderbilt in the SEC. Georgia does have the Cocktail Party with Florida coming up, but Georgia is 9-0 in the game immediately preceding Florida under Mark Richt, with 5 of the 9 wins coming by more than 4 points.

Western Michigan -7.5 Akron
This could be the oddest spread on the board this week. The Broncos from Western Michigan are one of the better teams in the MAC, fielding the league's 2nd best offense and 3rd best defense. Sure they took a beating at Notre Dame last week and at Michigan State in their opener, but they should be able to deal with a conference patsy like Akron. The Zips appear to be the worst team in the MAC, losing each of their 3 conference games by at least 11 points and ranking dead last in the conference in offense and second to last in defense. The Broncos should roll in this one.

South Carolina -13 Vanderbilt
Being a Columbia resident, it always amazes me how quickly Gamecock fans believe the sky is falling. Some are even worried their beloved Gamecocks could drop this game at Vandy (they did lose the last time they were here). However, that was a competent Vandy team playing against a South Carolina team desperately seeking an offense. Even without freshman stud Marcus Lattimore, the Gamecocks should be able to move the ball effectively against the worst defense in the SEC. Oh, and did I mention that the Commodores also have the league's worst offense as well? It will be very hard for Vandy to score more than 10 points in this game. Thus, 24 should enough to allow the Gamecocks to cover, and some Gamecock partisans to return to a sense of normalcy.

Northern Illinois -9.5 Central Michigan
Call this a changing of the guard game if you will. The Chippewas from Central Michigan have won 3 of the last 4 MAC West (and overall conference) titles. They have also beaten the Huskies from Northern Illinois for 3 consecutive seasons. However, this season, the MAC appears to belong to Northern Illinois. The Huskies currently boast the best offense and defense in the conference and are unbeaten at 3-0 in league play. Meanwhile, the Chippewas still have a dynamic offense despite the loss of Dan LeFevour (the poor man's Tim Tebow), but are atrocious on defense (11th in the MAC). They are also just 2-5 through 7 games and in danger of posting their first losing season since 2004. The Huskies should hasten Central Michigan's descent toward loserville with a comfortable win on Saturday.

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