Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Fab Five: Week XI

By the slimmest of margins (half a point in the Pitt/Cincinnati game) I had my second winning week of 2011. Cue the parade. The 6-4 week brings my overall record to 42-57-1. Still not a record to be any kind of proud of. Can we go back to back with winning weeks? Doubtful, but I'll give it a shot. As always, home teams are in Bold.

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 3-2
Overall: 21-29

East Carolina +4 UTEP
I don't like to make guarantees, but this if I were to be on just one game all season, this would be it. East Carolina has navigated a horrendous schedule (both Carolinas and Virginia Tech were on the non-conference slate) and has positioned themselves for a 6th straight bowl game. Meanwhile, UTEP has wins over exactly no one of note, and boasts the worst defense in Conference USA. Look for the Pirates to win this one outright.

Pitt +3 Louisville
Despite boasting one of the best down-to-down statistical profiles in the Big East, the Pitt Panthers are in jeopardy of missing out on a bowl game. At 4-5, they must win two of their final three (@Louisville, @West Virginia, and versus Syracuse) to get to bowl eligibility. The Panthers will face a Louisville team boasting a stout defense and riding high off an upset of league favorite West Virginia. However, while the Cardinals won on the scoreboard, they were actually outgained by nearly 200 yards and a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown provided the winning margin. If Pitt can avoid any killer mistakes, they should be in position to further muddy the Big East race by winning here.

West Virginia +3.5 Cincinnati
The Bearcats are the only remaining undefeated Big East team (in league play that is), and if Tennessee's star quarterback and receiver could have been injured a few weeks earlier, the Bearcats could be milling around the top-10. They aren't quite that good, but the league race is theirs to lose. The Mountaineers come in having lost two of three, but still boast the league's best offense. In fact, they rank higher than Cincinnati on both sides of the ball. Don't be surprised if the Mountaineers tighten up the Big East race on Saturday.

Texas Tech +17 Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State has been relatively mortal on the road, edging Texas A&M by a single point and beating Texas by just 12. Of course, they also beat a solid Missouri team by 21. Oklahoma State does have a putrid defense, ranking 110th nationally in yards allowed. If Texas Tech can avoid turnovers (Oklahoma State has forced a national best 31 and Texas Tech is tied for 7th nationally with just 10 turnovers) they have a chance to keep this one close.

Washington +12 Southern Cal
Washington has quietly turned a corner in Year 3 under Steve Sarkisian, becoming bowl-eligible for the second straight year, and actually playing like a bowl caliber team. The Huskies seek an incredible third straight win over Southern Cal (and second in a row in the Coliseum). These teams are very evenly matched and the spread should probably be closer to a touchdown.

Five Faves I Like

Last Week: 3-2
Overall 21-28-1

Texas -1.5 Missouri
The Longhorns have certainly looked like vintage Texas the past two games, in dispatching Kansas and Texas Tech by a combined score of 95-20. The Horns have found an offense, posting nearly 1200 yards in the two games, by far their best two-game stretch since the end of the 2009 regular season. Missouri has been up and down and must win two of their final three games to get a bowl. The Tigers don't even pretend to play defense against competent teams, so Texas is the pick here.

Florida State -9 Miami
Sleep on the Seminoles all you want. Since their three-game losing streak early in the season (two of which came to top-10 outfits I might add), the 'Noles have won four in a row over their ACC brethren by an average of nearly 29 points. Its looking a lot like 1996 in Tallahassee. Florida State will have to wait until next year to fulfill their promise, but this team is scary good, and they should have no trouble with a porous Hurrican defense.

Ohio State -7.5 Purdue
Since setting offensive football back a few decades in their 10-7 loss to Michigan State, the Buckeyes have showed signs of life on offense. Behind quarterback Braxton Miller, the Buckeyes have averaged nearly 335 yards per game. It ain't great, but considering they average just 256 yards per game against Toledo, Miami, Colorado, and Michigan State, it does represent solid improvement. The defense has remained sturdy, if not quite as dominant as usual. They should do enough to take care of a Purdue squad that has only a win over Illinois to hang its hat on.

Stanford -3.5 Oregon
The Cardinal of Stanford have not lost since falling to the Ducks in Eugene in the 5th game of 2010 season. Stanford has won 17 straight games, with only three of those wins coming by fewer than 10 points. They have been exceptionally tough at home, winning their eight home games in that span by an average of 30 points. Oregon is no slouch, and is the second best team in the Pac-12. However, Stanford is statistically the best, and has the homefield advantage. They should win by at least a touchdown.

Arizona State -13 Washington State
The Sun Devils missed their chance at clinching the Pac-12 South when they fell at UCLA last weekend. Still, they have a great shot at winning the South, and outside of Southern Cal are the only above-average South division team. Their opponent, Washington State, has improved from their putrid run from 2008-2009, but outside of Colorado, remain one of the dregs of the Pac-12. After showing promise with a 3-1 start, the Cougars have lost their last two home games by 30 and 23 points respectively. The Sun Devils should take this one by at least a pair of touchdowns.

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