Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fab Five: Week XII

Another week, another disappointment. I went a discouraging 4-6 last week to drop my overall record to a game under .500 (54-55-1). In the last few weeks of the season, I'll make a push to get back in the black. As always, home teams are in Bold.

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 2-3
Overall: 24-30-1

Eastern Michigan +7 Buffalo
Believe it or not, this is not sour grapes directed at a Buffalo team I was all over as a slight favorite last week. Eastern Michigan is a little better than their 1-9 record would indicate. They have had the misfortune of facing 3 BCS schools in the non-conference, while also playing in what I consider the tougher MAC division (West) and drawing two of the tougher teams from the East (Ohio and Miami). Meanwhile, Buffalo is somehow a 7-point favorite despite owning a single IA win this season. That win by the way, came by two points. Look for Eastern Michigan to keep this one close, and perhaps pull off an outright upset.

Miami +2.5 Virginia Tech
Virgina Tech has basically locked up the Coastal division of the ACC, needing just one more win, either in this game or at home next week against Virginia, to win the Coastal for the 4th time in 6 seasons. Oddly though, the SDPI numbers view Miami as the bets team in ACC. Unfortunately for them, their odd loss at Virginia will likely keep them from bringing home the division crown even if they win this game. Miami has the numbers and the homefield, so take them especially when getting points.

NC State +2.5 North Carolina
The Wolfpack control their own destiny in the ACC Atlantic division race, needing wins in their final two games against North Carolina and Maryland to guarantee passage to Charlotte for the ACC Championship Game. Much like Miami, the SDPI numbers also love NC State, ranking them just a smidge behind Miami and Virginia Tech. The numbers do not have such kind fondness for North Carolina, ranking them 9th in the ACC (ahead of only Virginia, Duke, and Wake Forest). Tom O'Brien has not lost to North Carolina since taking over at NC State. Look for that trend to continue as NC State should set up a win-and-you're-in game against Maryland over Thanksgiving weekend.

Western Kentucky +5 Middle Tennessee State
For some odd reason, the spread numbers have not caught on to the fact that Middle Tennessee State is just not a good team this season. The Blue Raiders lost last week at home to a lameduck North Texas squad, and have also suffered setbacks to Memphis (1-9) and Minnesota (2-9). Western Kentucky has the top-ranked defense in the Sun Belt and is coming off a heart-stopping upset of Arkansas State (went for two points when they scored in OT). The Hilltoppers have been very competitive this season, with 3 of their 4 conference losses coming by a combined 13 points. Middle Tennessee should not be a road favorite over any team, so the 'Toppers are the pick here.

Arkansas State +13.5 Navy
Navy has continued their winning ways under head coach Ken Niumatalolo since he took over for the much easier to spell Paul Johnson. Coach Ken is 25-13 as Navy head coach and has beaten Notre Dame twice. However, one area where the Midshipmen have not performed well under coach Ken is covering the spread as a favorite. In his nearly 3 seasons as the helm, the Midshipmen are just 5-9-1 ATS as a favorite. Keep that in mind with a spread nearing two touchdowns.

Five Faves I Like

Last Week: 2-3
Overall: 30-25

Pittsburgh -3 South Florida
Pitt burned me last week when they lost as about a touchdown favorite at Connecticut. Naturally, I'm all in on getting burned again (once bitten). The Panthers are still statistically the best team in the Big East, while the Bulls have not done anything exceptionally well this season except win close games (3-1 in one-score games). Hopefully, this one will not be close.

Western Michigan -3 Kent State
The Broncos from Western Michigan are a third of the way through their closing stretch where they must win every game to attain bowl eligibility. The good news is that if they can get by Kent State, they will likely be favored in their final game at Bowling Green. Western Michigan is only 3-3 in the MAC, but have outscored their 6 league foes by a combined 56 points. They have lost one game to the league's best team (Northern Illinois) by 7, and another to their archrivals (Central Michigan) by 4. Kent State could also qualify for a bowl game by winning out (they close with Ohio), but Western Michigan appears to be a much stronger team and is playing at home.

Tennessee -8.5 Vanderbilt
Has Tennessee finally found a quarterback? Freshman quarterback Tyler Bray has thrown 8 touchdowns over the past two games (10 over the last 3 if we count his work against South Carolina). Of course, Memphis and Ole Miss are not exactly defensive wiz kids. The good news for Tennessee this week is that Vanderbilt also sucks at defense. While Vandy enjoyed one of their finest offensive performances of the season against Kentucky last week, they still allowed the Wildcats to roll up 580 yards and were never really a factor in the game in the second half. Vanderbilt has been a big dog in 5 straight SEC games and has failed to cover in each one. This represents the smallest spread in that string. Look for Tennessee to cover easily here.

Louisiana-Monroe -1 North Texas
Fresh off a kneecapping at the hands of LSU, Louisiana-Monroe returns home for two games, hoping to lock up their first bowl bid in school history. The Warhawks face off against a North Texas team that has been very competitive in the last 3 games, beating Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee, and losing by only 6 to Troy. Still, thanks to their 1-6 start, the Mean Green have only pride to play for and with great motivation, the Warhawks should be able to win this game.

Arkansas -3.5 Mississippi State
Outside of Auburn, what team in the SEC is playing their best football now? Gotta be Arkansas. Even discounting their beatdown of UTEP, the Razorbacks have also crushed SEC East champ South Carolina in their own stadium. And let's not forget the win over Texas A&M from earlier in the season that is looking better and better. Arkansas is going to put a lot of points on the board (probably at least 24). Mississippi State has a hard time scoring, especially in the conference, being held 14 points or fewer 4 times in 6 games. Look for Arkansas to win this one by about a touchdown.

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