Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Fab Five: Week II

My Week I picks were like the new episodes of Family Guy. A few highlights, some forgettable moments, and all-in-all, nothing to write home about. I went a respectable 5-5. Let's see if we can end Week II with a winning record. As always, home teams are in Bold.

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 2-3
Overall: 2-3

Ball State +20 South Florida
Remember back in the Big East Preview when I wrote that teams coached by Skip Holtz excelled at winning ugly? The Notre Dame game was a perfect microcosm of that over-arching fact. South Florida was doubled up in yardage (508-254). They averaged a whopping 3.5 yards per play, while Notre Dame rolled up and down the field averaging 6.5 yards per snap. And yet, who emerged the victor? South Florida gladly accepted five Notre Dame turnovers, including three in the red zone, and one that was returned for a score, while committing none of their own. The Bulls are probably getting a little too much love as they return home to face a Ball State team that was also victorious in its opener against a favored opponent. The Cardinals knocked off Indiana 27-20 and are actually 9-2 ATS (Against the Spread) as an underdog versus BCS conference teams since 2006. I don't expect them to win this game, but they should stay within 3 touchdowns.

Utah +9.5 Southern Cal
Since the aura of invincibility departed the Coliseum in 2009, the Trojans are just 3-9 ATS as home favorites. In fact, the Trojans have lost four times at home as a betting line favorite since 2009 (8-4 straight up as a favorite) and of four of their eight wins have come by single digits. Utah did not show much in their opening night win against IAA Montana State, and are undervalued heading into their second game.

Cincinnati +6 Tennessee
The Bearcats were a major disappointment last season, following up consecutive BCS berths with a 4-8 strugglefest. However, the Bearcats still moved the ball very well. Their downfall was turnovers, and lots of them. Their season long margin of -15 put them consistently behind the 8-ball and hindered their shot at another Big East title. Turnovers tend to ebb and flow, and with fewer giveaways, the Bearcats should return to bowl eligibility. Catching nearly a touchdown against a Tennessee team that got hot thanks to a soft second-half schedule last year makes them a solid selection this week.

Duke +22 Stanford
Duke has actually been a solid play under David Cutcliffe. That is, as long as they aren't playing Richmond. In an interesting split, the Blue Devils are 0-2 straight up versus Richmond, but 3-0 straight up versus UVA under Cut. Overall, the Blue Devils are 17-14-1 ATS versus IA opponents under Cut. Stanford is traveling cross-country, and the last two Pac-10 (now 12) teams to travel cross-country to face an ACC foe did not fare well. Cal visited Maryland in 2008 as 14 point-favorites, but lost 35-27. In 2009, Stanford visited Wake Forest, in a game I was fortunate to attend. The Cardinal were 3-point underdogs and lost 24-17. Don't discount the effects of travel here. Duke probably won't win, but don't be surprised if this one is close.

Connecticut +2.5 Vanderbilt
Connecticut is 9-6 ATS versus non-conference BCS teams (and Notre Dame) since 2006. If we only look at road games, they are 5-2 ATS in that span. Meanwhile, Vanderbilt is just 6-14 ATS as a home favorite in the last decade. Vanderbilt did not execute particularly well last week versus Elon, racking up 45 points, but gaining only 309 total yards. Vandy should probably not be favored over any BCS conference team with the exception of perhaps Washington State.

Five Faves I Like
Last Week: 3-2
Overall 3-2

Minnesota -21 New Mexico State
The Jerry Killy era at Minnesota nearly began with a huge upset against the Trojans of Southern California. However, after digging a huge hole, the Gophers were unable to come all the way back, losing 19-17. This week, they get a breather in the form of the Aggies from New Mexico State. The Aggies have covered just once against a BCS conference foe since 2006 (1-5 ATS). Look for that trend to continue here.

Ohio State -19 Toledo
This spread seems unreasonably small. Ohio State is still a force to be reckoned with in the Big 10 and are actually 6-3 ATS versus MAC teams since 2006. Toledo is better than Akron (lost 42-0 versus Ohio State last week), but should still find it tough to score against one of the nation's best defenses.

Texas -7 BYU
After you count the money you win from betting this game, be sure to thank the 2010 Texas Longhorns for lowering expectations. Texas is actually 7-3 ATS versus non-BCS conference teams at home since 2006. They were 1-1 last season, easily covering versus Florida Atlantic, but missing the cover versus Wyoming by half a point (won by 27, but were a 27.5-point favorite). The Cougars showed they were strong defensively last week, holding Ole Miss to 13 points and 208 total yards. However, they only generated a single offensive touchdown for themselves. Whatever offensive issues they may have, Texas is still elite on defense and should be able to hold BYU in check and score just enough to cover here.

Georgia Tech -11 Middle Tennessee State
The Blue Raiders nearly pulled off a road upset last week, but were stymied with a late comeback by Purdue in a 27-24 loss. The Blue Raiders moved the ball well against the Boilermakers, generating 460 yards of total offense. They may be able to do the same against a Georgia Tech defense that gave up 21 points and 301 total yards to Western Carolina. However, Georgia Tech should be able to effectively move the ball against the Blue Raiders and with only a modicum of defensive success should be able to cover here.

Purdue -1 Rice
Rice has not beaten a BCS conference opponent since they knocked off a winless Duke team in 2001. Purdue was far from dominant in their win versus Middle Tennessee State last week, but a spread this low is just too good to pass up.

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