Thursday, November 11, 2010

Fab Five: Week XI

I stopped the bleeding a tad last week with a 5-5 performance. Ironically, I nailed the dogs for one of the few times all season going 4-1, but totally whiffed on the favorites, going 1-4. That brings the yearly tally to 50-49-1. As always, home teams are in Bold.

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 4-1
Overall: 22-27-1

Southern Miss +10 UCF
My SDPI numbers say Southern Miss is the best team in Conference USA. While my eyes disagree, and give the benefit of the doubt to UCF, this spread still seems a bit too high. This should a be a competitive battle between the two best teams in the east division.

Texas +5.5 Oklahoma State
The Longhorns have plummeted to depths most (if not all) felt were impossible. They must either win this game against the Cowboys or the finale against Texas A&M to become bowl eligible (this is assuming they beat Florida Atlantic in between). Still, even with their struggles this season, the Longhorns have the statistical profile of a strong team. They have the top SDPI defense in the Big 12 and are 5th nationally in total defense. To me, this feels a lot like the Nebraska game where the Longhorns were counted out, but held the Huskers powerful offense in check en route to an upset win.

Ole Miss +2 Tennessee
Amazingly, the loser of this game is out of the running for the postseason. The Rebels have fallen on hard times with the loss of quarterback Jevan Snead, running back Dexter McCluster, and defensive lineman Greg Hardy following the 2009 season. Tennessee has fallen on hard times with the 11th hour coaching change. Ole Miss is solid offensively, and awful on defense while Tennessee is pretty bad on both sides of the ball. In that case, take the team that at least has something to hang its hat on.

Louisiana-Monroe +32.5 LSU
This one has the makings of a 31-0 or 35-3 Tiger win. Remember: Les Miles = great at winning (especially ugly), awful at covering the spread (especially as a favorite).

Western Kentucky +12 Arkansas State
Believe it or not, the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (in just their second season in the Sun Belt) have the league's top-rated SDPI defense. That unit will be put to the test against the second best offense in the Sun Belt. Western Kentucky has bene surprisingly competitive as of late, as just one of their past 5 losses has come by more than 12 points.

Five Faves I Like

Last Week: 1-4
Overall: 28-22

Pitt -6 Connecticut
As wary as I am of taking a Dave Wannstedt team on the road, consider that Connecticut ranks dead last in the Big East in both offense and defense. Meanwhile, Pitt has gotten over their early season struggles and have reeled off 3 straight wins, each by at least 17 points. Connecticut managed to upset West Virginia in their last home game thanks to West Virginia fumbles. If Pitt holds on to the ball, they should win this one rather handily.

Buffalo -3 Ball State
Was it really just two short years ago when Ball State ended the regular season with a 12-0 record? Since finishing the 2008 regular season 12-0, the Cardinals have gone just 5-19 with losses to the likes of New Hampshire (IAA), Liberty (IAA), and North Texas. Ironically, Buffalo began the Cardinals decent into the abyss with a MAC Championship Game upset. The Bulls have also suffered through a bit of a lost season, defeating just a single IA foes this year (Bowling Green). Last week, Ball State tried with all their might to give Akron their first win of the year before prevailing in overtime. Look for Buffalo to be able to finish the job.

Tulane -4 Rice
Tulane is one of the more undervalued teams in the nation. According to the SDPI numbers, they rank 6th in Conference USA. However, they have had the misfortune to play the teams ranked first (Southern Miss), second (SMU), fourth (Houston), and fifth (Tulsa) in the league already. Hence their seemingly poor 1-4 league record. Meanwhile, Rice has outpaced only Memphis in terms of performance in the league. This spread should be about four or five points higher. Tulane should win by at least a touchdown.

NC State -19 Wake Forest
Think Russell Wilson is licking his chops as he prepares to face the Deacon secondary? Wake Forest ranks 110th in the nation in opposing quarterback rating (150.02), having allowed 24 touchdown passes on the season while notching just 7 interceptions. The only teams to not have outstanding games through the air against Wake were a pair of option teams (Georgia Tech and Navy). Wake has not come closer than 31 points in any of their four road games this season. Look for that trend to continue Saturday.

Louisville -3 South Florida
This spread is surprisingly low considering how improved Louisville appears to be this season. The Cardinals are a win away from bowl eligibility and 3 of their 4 losses have come by a single score. South Florida is also a win away from bowl eligibility, but in games against legit IA competition (games not involving Stony Brook, Western Kentucky, or Florida Atlantic) have struggled on both offense and defense. Louisville should probably be favored by at least a touchdown here.

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