Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Fab Five: Week XIV

I continued my solid prognosticating last week with a 6-4 mark, bringing my yearly record to 68-61-1). Can we end the season with 3 straight weeks in the black? As always, home teams are in Bold.

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 2-3
Overall: 29-35-1

Arizona State +6 Arizona
The Sun Devils from Arizona State have been one of the most unlucky teams in 2010. They stand 5-6 after 11 games, but 4 of those losses have come by a combined 9 points, including a pair of one-point defeats at Wisconsin (when an extra point was blocked) and at Southern Cal (when an extra point was blocked and returned for a two-point score). Their only losses by more than four points have come against Oregon (11 points) and at Cal (33 points). 3 of the last 5 in this rivalry have been decided by exactly 3 points. Look for that trend to continue in a nailbiter in Tucson.

Fresno State +5.5 Illinois
The last BCS conference team to make a trip west to face Fresno ended up losing by two touchdowns. The Illini are a little better than Cincinnati, but there are plenty of reasons for fans to be concerned about this game. Since 2007, Fresno State has hosted 3 BCS conference teams. They are 2-1 in those games, with the lone loss coming by three points. Illinois has to make a cross-country trip to face a hungry foe. This one will definitely be close.

SMU +9 Central Florida
For the third time in the event's existence, UCF will play host to the Conference USA Championship Game. The Golden Knights posted the league's best record with a 7-1 conference mark and a 9-3 overall record. However, according to SDPI, SMU is a hair better. The Mustangs are a close second to UCF in defense and are a little better offensively, at least in league play. Thus, if the game was in Dallas, SMU should be favored. I don't think its a mistake to favor UCF at home, but nearly a double-digit spread seems a tad high. This game should be very tight.

Louisiana Tech +9.5 Nevada
Nevada has assured themselves a share of the WAC title with last weeks historic upset of league overlord Boise State. Oh, wait a minute, the Wolfpack still have one more league game to go before they can proclaim themselves league champs. The Wolfpack are coming off perhaps the biggest win in the program's IA history and are going on the road to take on a team fighting for bowl eligibility. Nevada has not exactly dominated away from Reno against competent foes, losing to Hawaii and edging Fresno State by a single point. Look for the Bulldogs to keep this one close.

San Jose State +13.5 Idaho
With a win here, Idaho would have 14 wins over the past two seasons. That total is one fewer win than they had in the 6-season span from 2003-2008. Of course, don't take that to mean that Idaho is a good team. The Vandals are a hair better than the cesspool that sits at the bottom of the WAC (Utah State, New Mexico State, and San Jose State), but should not be favored by nearly two touchdowns over any IA team.

Five Faves I Like

Last Week: 4-1
Overall: 39-26

Northern Illinois -17.5 Vs Miami (Ohio)
First off, congratulations are in order for the Redhawks. After going 1-11 last season (1-7 in the MAC), the Redhawks flipped the script and finished the regular season 8-4 (7-1 in the MAC). The Redhawks did it by winning all the close games. 5 of their 7 league wins were by a touchdown or less. Unfortunately, outside the conference, they did not fare so well. The Redhawks lost to BCS conference members Florida, Missouri, and Cincinnati by an average of 34 points per game. Northern Illinois is the closest Miami will come to facing a BCS conference team in the MAC. The Huskies are currently ranked in the top-25 and come in riding a 9-game winning streak. In that span, only 3 wins have come by fewer than 17 and a half points (Minnesota by 11, Temple by 14, and Western Michigan by 7). The Huskies are far and away the best team in the MAC and they should roll here.

Troy -4.5 Florida Atlantic
In all likelihood, with a win here, Troy will become the second Sun Belt bowl team (joining first time champ Florida International). The Trojans are one of the nation's more imbalanced teams, boasting both the Sun Belt's best offense and worst defense. The good news for them here is that Florida Atlantic not only has the worst offense in the Sun Belt, they also have one of its worst defenses (ahead of only Troy and North Texas). This spread should be closer to a touchdown. Look for Troy to win a high-scoring game here.

Florida International -5 Middle Tennessee State
Speaking of Florida International, the Panthers can lock up their first ever winning season (in just their 9th season of play) with a win at home against the Blue Raiders. The Blue Raiders could still capture a bowl bid if things break right for them, so they have motivation. Unfortunately, they are not very good. Florida International is clearly the Sun Belt's best team, and playing at home should be more than a touchdown favorite here.

Virginia Tech -4 Florida State
The first ACC Championship Game in Charlotte is actually a rematch of the first ever ACC Championship Game. In that contest 5 seasons ago, the Seminoles upset the Hokies at two-touchdown underdogs and advanced to the Orange Bowl. Could history repeat itself? I doubt it. The Seminoles did not play well down the stretch, losing two of their last four conference games, and needing a great kick to squeak by Clemson. The Seminoles looked great in the trouncing of Florida last week, but SDPI favors Virginia Tech in this one. The spread should probably by closer to a touchdown here.

Boise State -38 Utah State
Pencil in your typical Boise blue turf smackdown here.

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