Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Fab Five: Week VI

I finally broke through last week, posting my first winning week of the season. The 6-4 mark was bit of a letdown considering I was 5-1 at one point on Saturday. However, when your handicapping has been as poor as mine has, you take any victory you can. My yearly record is still an ugly 21-29. Hopefully I can stay on track this week. As always, home teams are in Bold.

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 4-1
Overall: 10-15

Cal +24 Oregon
Suddenly their 8-point loss at Washington doesn't look quite so bad. The Bears outgained the Huskies in their trip to Seattle, but fell 31-23. The Huskies proved they are a force to be reckoned with in the Pac-12 when they went on the road the following week and blasted Utah 31-14. This is a tough spot for Cal, and I doubt they have what it takes to win. However, they have scored at least 23 points in each of their games versus IA competition this season. Oregon is not known for their defense, having given up 40 and 31 points to the two BCS conference foes they have faced thus far. Even if Cal is never really in this game, the large number will leave Cal in position for a backdoor cover.

Texas +10 Vs Oklahoma
After a shaky start, Texas appears to be back. After a close call with BYU, the Longhorns did what Texas is supposed to do and dispensed UCLA and Iowa State in games that were never really competitive. Now they get to see how far they've come when they take on Big 12 favorite Oklahoma in the Red River Shootout. Texas has fared well against the Sooners since 2004, winning four of six. In fact, Oklahoma has not won this game by double-digits since their 12-0 shutout in 2004. Look for this game to follow the script of the last few, with it not being decided until the 4th quarter.

Iowa +3.5 Penn State
The eternal optimist would look at Penn State's game last week against Indiana, a narrow 16-10 win, and see a team that gained 464 yards. However, a pessimist would see a team that completed just 16 of 36 passes against an Indiana defense that made North Texas and Ball State look like major conference teams. Iowa has beaten Penn State 3 straight and 8 of the last 9 times their paths have crosses. Iowa is not an elite team, but they are good enough to win in Happy Valley.

Southern Miss +3 Navy
Every week before the spreads come out, I look at a few games and try to guess the spread. This was one game I looked at this week. I guessed this spread correctly, I just had the wrong team favored. Based on early returns, Southern Miss seems to be the stronger team. Outside of their annual conference brainfart (this year it came against Marshall), the Eagles have played very well, including an upset two weeks ago at Virginia. Meanwhile, Navy has played South Carolina close (hey, who hasn't), but their wins over Western Kentucky and Delaware (IAA) are less than impressive. Jump on the Southern Miss bandwagon, as they are likely the best team in the eastern half of Conference USA.

Bowling Green +10 Western Michigan
I know they were drubbed 55-10 by West Virginia last week, but there is a lot to like about Bowling Green. The Falcons only other loss came by a single point to Wyoming. In addition to that, the Falcons have already won twice on the road (knocking off Idaho and Miami). The Falcons have already exceeded their win total from their woeful 2010 campaign (just two wins all year). Plus , Bowling Green has a solid recent history Against the Spread (ATS) as a double-digit underdog, going 10-6 against the number in such circumstances since 2006.

Five Faves I Like
Last Week: 2-3
Overall 11-14

Arizona -2 Oregon State
Times are rough in Tucson and Corvallis. Arizona has not beaten a IA team since they knocked off UCLA 29-21 on the day before Halloween last season. They lost 5 straight to close 2010, and after opening the 2011 season with a shellacking of Northern Arizona, a IAA school, the Wildcats have dropped 4 straight. Amazingly, 8 of their 9 losses have come to the same four teams. They have lost twice each to Oklahoma State, Stanford, Southern Cal, and Oregon. Their other loss in that span came to arch-rival Arizona State. The Wildcats have not fared much better ATS in that span either, going just 1-7-1. However, they finally draw a game against a non-elite foe. Oregon State has lost 6 straight games dating back to last season, including a home loss at the hands of Sacramento State (IAA). The Beavers played better in their past two games (losses to UCLA and Arizona State), but are a far cry from the salty competitive teams usually fielded by Mike Riley.

Arkansas State -2 Louisiana-Monroe
Arkansas State has a chance to jump out to a 2-0 record in Sun Belt play when they visit the Warhawks of Louisiana-Monroe. The Red Wolves are no strangers to road trips, having played well in competitive losses to Illinois and Virginia Tech. The Red Wolves broke through and notched their first road win of the season last week at Western Kentucky. Louisiana-Monroe has also been a road warrior early on, having lost at Florida State, TCU, and Iowa. However, none of those games were particularly close. Arkansas State has proven to be the better team early on, and with a spread this small, they are one of the better values on the board this week.

Toledo -21 Eastern Michigan
Toledo is a little over-valued after upsetting Temple last week. However, Eastern Michigan is not a good football team. The Eagles barely survived perhaps the worst MAC team (and possibly worst IA team) Akron last week 31-23. Toledo has won 4 straight in this series, with each win coming by at least 24 points. Look for that trend to continue.

NC State -11 Central Michigan
As much as a MAC team can be, Central Michigan is a little overvalued now. Their upset over Northern Illinois last week has artificially deflated this line. The Chippewas are just 5-8 ATS on the road against teams from BCS conferences. This season they are 0-3 on the road, with their closest road loss coming by 14 points to a bad Kentucky team. They lost by a cumulative score of 89-21 when they traveled to face Western Michigan and Michigan State. After consecutive lopsided losses to Cincinnati and Georgia Tech, the Wolfpack will be able to lick their wounds against the Chippewas.

Michigan -7.5 Northwestern
I think it may be time for the general public to come around on Michigan. Obviously, they haven't yet with their spread versus Northwestern being just over a touchdown. Michigan has played fantastically on offense yet again, and their defense has improved to mediocre. That's a recipe for their first winning conference season since 2007. The only thing that should concern you here is the fact that this will be Michigan's first road game of the year. Otherwise, they look like they are about 3 touchdowns better than Northwestern.

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