Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fab Five: Week V

Apparently the football gods thought I was due for a dose of humility, and boy did they deliver. If you had gone to Vegas and gone against my picks, you would have enjoyed a stellar 9-1 week. If you had taken my advice, frankly, you would probably be broke. But hey, that's what you get for taking advice from some random guy on the internet. My yearly record stands at a not quite terrible 18-22 and there is still time left to right the ship. Let's end September on a strong note. Home teams in Bold.

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 1-4
Overall: 10-10

Indiana +11 Northwestern
Northwestern is one of just two postseason eligible Big 10 teams to have survived the first four weeks of the season unscathed. The Wildcats also own three victories against fellow BCS conference schools (Syracuse, Vanderbilt, and Boston College). The conference has just five total with the other two coming courtesy of Ohio State (versus Cal) and Minnesota (also against Syracuse). With just two more victories, the Wildcats will have themselves bowl eligible for the sixth straight season and should be in line for the fifth consecutive bowl appearance. However, before we get ahead of ourselves, let's consider a few things. Since 2007, Northwestern is just 3-6 Against the Spread (ATS) as a double-digit favorite. They are also just 1-3 ATS in their past four games against the Hoosiers. Northwestern should remain undefeated, but this one will be decided by about a touchdown.
Rice +6 Houston
The Houston Cougars are one of the biggest disappointments of the 2012 college football season. After winning 12 games, and finishing in the top-20 of the final polls last season, the Cougars began 2012 by losing as an over 30-point home favorite against IA neophyte Texas State. They followed that up with a competitive home tilt versus Louisiana Tech and were then crushed in Los Angeles by UCLA. Rice is 1-3 on the young season, but they do own a road upset of Kansas and were nearly able to even their record last week in an overtime loss to Marshall. Make no mistake, this game should see its fair share of points. Rice is currently averaging 471 yards and 34.3 points per game, figures that rank in the top third of college football. However, they are allowing 546 yards and 45.8 points per game, figures that rank second to last and dead last in college football respectively. However, Houston is allowing 536 yards and 41 points per game themselves. Playing at home, where they have actually beaten Houston the past two meetings (and lost by a point in the third), and getting more than a field goal, makes Rice the play here.

Penn St +1 Illinois
Despite a rough start that included a home loss to Ohio and a road loss at Virginia (thanks to one of the worst place-kicking efforts you will ever see in modern college football), the Nittany Lions have righted the ship. Granted, their two wins have come against Navy and Temple, but for a team with nothing to play for, wins are wins. Senior quarterback Matthew McGloin has improved under the tutelage of Bill O'Brien. After completing just north of 54% of his passes in his first three seasons on campus, McGloin has upped his completion percentage to 59.3%. He has also avoided mistakes, tossing just two interceptions in 140 passes. If McGloin and Company can minimize their mistakes, they should eke out a road conference win over an Illinois team seemingly desperate to channel their former coach Ron Zook by their helter-skelter play. 
Texas San-Antonio +3.5 New Mexico State
The Roadrunners from San Antonio have yet to lose a game as a IA team. Of course, they have only played one game against a fellow IA team, defeating fellow noob South Alabama 33-31 in the season's first weekend.Their other three wins have come against Texas A&M Commerce, Georgia State, and Northwestern Oklahoma State. Now they return to IA action in their first conference game. New Mexico State opened the year with a fine performance against IAA Sacramento State, but have lost three straight to fellow mid-majors ranging from good (Ohio), to not so good (UTEP), to laughing stock (New Mexico). New Mexico State should be favored over perhaps one other IA team (Massachusetts). Look for the Roadrunners to remain unbeaten here.

Arkansas State +2.5 Western Kentucky
This spread seems backwards to me. Arkansas State has been uncompetitive in their two games versus BCS conference teams, allowing 50 first half points to Oregon and losing by four touchdowns at Nebraska. Meanwhile, Western Kentucky notched a victory against one of the BCS conference teams they faced, upsetting in-state rival Kentucky two weeks ago. They followed that up with a resounding home beatdown of a Southern Miss team that appears to be on a crash course to its first losing season since 1993. Arkansas State is 15-4 since 2007 against Sun Belt opponents in Jonesboro. Look for that trend to continue here.

Five Faves I Like

Last Week: 0-5
Overall: 7-12

Nebraska -11 Wisconsin
This game is significant for the Badgers as it marks the first time they have been betting underdogs in a regular season game since they were road underdogs at Iowa in 2010, a stretch of 20 games (they were underdogs in both Rose Bowls in that span--versus TCU and Oregon). The Wisconsin offense has gone from being Batman in The Dark Knight, to Batman in the early part of The Dark Knight Rises.
The once mighty mustelidae that bludgeoned Big 10 teams while averaging over 44 points per game last season have been reduced to a domesticated ferret. The Badgers have been held below last season's points per game average in every contest, and were held to a single offensive touchdown against both Oregon State and Utah State. In fact, in their lone road trip thus far, the Badgers managed just north of 200 yards of offense. Nebraska has hardly proven themselves to be elite, but they should win comfortably against this incarnation of Wisconsin.

Nevada -20 Texas State
With the early season offensive struggles on the blue turf in Boise, coupled with the fact that the Wolfpack face the Broncos in Reno, Nevada could be on their way to a Mountain West title. However, this week, they step outside the league to take on a Texas State team playing just its fourth game as a IA program. Since 2008, Nevada has been a solid play as a double-digit favorite, going 13-8 ATS against teams the oddsmakers expected them to crush. The Wolfpack have scored at least 31 in each game this season and are fresh off a 69-ing of Hawaii on the islands. Outside of their opening shocker against Houston, Texas State has allowed 58 points to Texas Tech (understandable) and 37 to IAA Stephen F Austin (not as understandable). Nevada should have their way with Texas State and hopefully the second half lead will be big enough so degenerates don't have to worry about a backdoor cover.

Louisiana Tech -3 Virginia
Is Louisiana Tech the best mid-major team in 2012? I'm not not ready to crown them yet, but they certainly do appear to have the best offense. The Bulldogs scored 52 points last week at Illinois, and it represented their lowest output of the young season. In their first two games, the Bulldogs put up an identical 56 points in wins over Houston and Rice. Perhaps more importantly, the Bulldogs showed a little defensive prowess in holding the Illini to just 324 total yards. Virginia has dropped two straight by large margins after beginning the season with wins over Richmond and Penn State. The Cavaliers are playing at home, but are just 3-6 ATS in their last nine home games against non-conference foes. Look for the Bulldogs to continue their stellar early-season play.

San Jose State -2.5 Navy
Just two years removed from an ugly 1-12 campaign that included a five-point win over a IAA school as the lone highlight, San Jose State has a solid shot at getting to a bowl game in 2012. Mike MacIntyre, former defensive coordinator of the Duke Blue Devils, took on another unenviable task when he took the San Jose State job and could be a coach of the year candidate if more people would pay attention to what he is doing. You'll remember, the Spartans gave Stanford its toughest challenge thus far on the opening Friday night of the college football season, losing just 20-17. The Spartans now face a tricky road test against Navy, a team they upset last season. The Midshipmen got well last week against VMI, but in their first two games against IA opponents, they allowed Notre Dame and Penn State to rack up more than seven yards per offensive snap! A spread of a touchdown or so would give me pause here, but the Spartans are an amazing 13-4 ATS over their last 17 games and should continue their remarkable run against a porous Navy defense.

Cal -1.5 Arizona State
The Arizona State Sun Devils are a touch over-valued in this position coming off a 30-point blitzing of Utah in Tempe. Meanwhile, Cal returns home after back-to-back road losses to Ohio State and Southern Cal. The Golden Bears played well in the loss at Columbus, and not so well in the loss to an angry Trojans team in Los Angeles. Cal is a very strong home team and should be able to win this one by at least a field goal.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fab Five: Week IV

Week III was a slight improvement upon Week II, but there is no reason to be satisfied with 5-5. The yearly mark is still a rather solid 17-13, so we'll see if we can stay on the positive side of the ledger after this week. Home teams in Bold.

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 3-2
Overall: 9-6

Southern Miss +5 Western Kentucky
One of the (many) games I kept a close eye on last Saturday night during my college football gorge-fest was Western Kentucky at Kentucky. The Hilltoppers lost a 14-point second half lead and surrendered a touchdown on Kentucky's initial overtime possession. Then the Hilltoppers scored a touchdown of their own and coach Willie Taggart kept the offense on the field. And then this happened.
Three seasons removed from a winless campaign, the Hilltoppers were able to beat an SEC (in name only) team on the road.Now comes the hard part. Maintaining and consolidating success. The Hilltoppers will face a desperate Southern Miss team in danger of falling to 0-3. The Golden Eagles actually outgained East Carolina by nearly 100 yards last week, but committed three turnovers while gaining none (have not gained a turnover through two games) and lost 24-14. Look for Southern Miss to win outright against an improving, but overvalued Western Kentucky team.

Utah +7 Arizona State
The Utah Utes have picked up where they left off last season, boasting one of the nation's stingier defenses (15th in the nation in total defense), but alas, also one of its poorer offenses (107th in total offense). Part of that offensive ineptitude can be explained by the loss of quarterback Jordan Wynn in the team's second game. Wynn's football career is over and the Utes must move on behind Jon Hays. Hays has taken care of the football, having yet to throw a pick on the young season. The Utes did not commit a turnover in last week's home upset of arch-rival BYU. If the Utes can hang on to the football, they may very well leave Tempe with an outright road win.

Arizona +23 Oregon
The Rich Rod-era in Tucson has started out much better than his initial foray at Ann Arbor. Michigan did not win their third game under Rodriguez until they had already accumulated seven losses. Unfortunately, his Wildcats will likely be expunged from the ranks of the unbeatens Saturday night, but there is reason to believe they can cover this high number. For starters, while Oregon has certainly taken their foot off the proverbial throttle in their early season exploits, they have still allowed nearly 900 yards of total offense against the two IA schools (Arkansas State and Fresno State) they have played. And Arizona's specialty? Offense. The Wildcats have topped 600 yards of offense twice on the young season, something they did exactly zero times from 2007-2011. The Ducks also appear to be one of the more overvalued teams in the gambling world, having failed to cover large numbers against both Arkansas State and Fresno State. Arizona does not stand a great shot at winning this game, but they should keep it within three touchdowns.

Troy +1 North Texas
The former beasts of the Sun Belt, the Troy Trojans, are seeking to reclaim their place in the Sun belt pecking order. After winning at least a share of five consecutive conference crowns from 2006-2010, the Trojans won only a pair of conference games in 2011. They opened Sun Belt play two weeks ago by falling at home to Louisiana-Lafayette. The Trojans outgained the Ragin' Cajuns by nearly 200 yards, but were done in by three turnovers. Similarly, they outgained Mississippi State from the SEC last week, but four turnovers kept them from pulling the upset. North Texas was marginally competitive against Kansas State last week, but this spread should probably be in Troy's favor by about a field goal. If the Trojans can avoid a dramatic loss in the turnover department, they should be able to win here.

Hawaii +8 Nevada
The last time Nevada won at Hawaii was...Any guesses? 1948. That's right, Harry Truman had just been elected president the month before. Nevada's coach Chris Ault had just turned two. Since joining the WAC in 2000 (and thus playing Hawaii yearly), the Wolfpack are 0-6 at Hawaii with the average loss coming by 14.5 points. The last three on the islands have all been close though, with each game being decided by a touchdown or less. The Wolfpack have also not fared well in postseason games on the 50th state, losing two of three Hawaii Bowls since 2005. If Nevada does manage to end their 60+ year drought against the Warriors in Hawaii, it will almost certainly be by a narrow margin.

Five Faves I Like

Last Week: 2-3
Overall: 8-7

Boise State -6 BYU
This spread is somewhat significant as it marks just the third time since 2006 that Boise has been a single-digit home favorite. Boise was a touchdown favorite against Oregon State in the second game of the 2006 season and was a slight three point favorite in the opening game of the 2009 season against Oregon. Boise covered the number in both of those games easily. If this spread were ten points or two touchdowns I would be hesitant to take the Broncos, but playing at home against a team coming off a crushing loss to an in-state rival makes the Broncos seem like a pretty safe play here.

Oklahoma -15 Kansas State
In the past five seasons, Oklahoma has covered nearly twice as often as not as a double-digit home favorite, going 19-10 Against the Spread (ATS) in such instances since 2007. The Sooners have had a week to prepare for a Kansas State team that may be better than we believed in the preseason, but is still not on the level they were in the late-90's.

South Florida -10 Ball State
For the second straight year, and third time overall, the Ball State Cardinals have defeated their in-state big brothers in Bloomington. The Cardinals won in dramatic fashion last week, getting a field goal as time expired to drop the Hoosiers 41-39. Now the Cardinals face a South Florida team coming off its first loss of the season. While South Florida has struggled in Big East play since climbing to number two in the country in October of 2007 (going just 12-23 versus the conference), they have fared much better in non-league action. In the same span, the Bulls are 22-4 versus non-conference opponents, including last year's 37-7 victory over Ball State. The Cardinals have enough offensive firepower to make this game interesting for a half or so, but South Florida should take the final margin by at least two touchdowns.

Air Force -10.5 UNLV
Back in late-August, you could have forgiven UNLV fans for dreaming of a hot start to coach Bobby Hauck's third season in Sin City. The Rebels were slated to open the 2012 campaign with four consecutive home games. Two were against BCS conference teams, but those teams (Minnesota and Washington State) had combined to go just 7-17 in 2011. A game against Northern Arizona (IAA) was sandwiched in between, so a 3-0 start was not out of the question. Unfortunately, the Rebels failed to win either of their first three games and now face an Air Force team fresh off a bye week. 0-4 is looking very likely. Air Force has won the past five meetings with UNLV, with four of those wins coming by double-digits. Look for that trend to continue here.

LSU -20 Auburn
Formerly a sinkhole for cash as a double-digit favorite, LSU has tightened things up recently in the role of a huge favorite. From 2007-2010, LSU was just 8-15-1 ATS as a double-digit favorite. However, since the beginning of the 2011 season, LSU is 8-3 ATS as a double-digit favorite, including 2-1 this year. Meanwhile, since winning the BCS National Championship in 2010, Auburn is just 5-10 ATS, including 0-3 this year. Auburn has done nothing to show they can move the ball with any consistency against a team the caliber of LSU. The Tigers from the bayou should roll here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Fab Five: Week III

After a stellar Week I, Week II brought some humility to your erstwhile handicapper. I went a rather pedestrian 4-6, whiffing on three dogs and three favorites alike. We will shoot for improvement this week.  Home teams in Bold.

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 2-3
Overall: 6-4

Rutgers +8 South Florida
Over the past five seasons, the Scarlet Knights from New Jersey have been underdogs to the Bulls from Tampa each time they have played. Despite the oddsmakers seeming infatuation with the greater Tampa/St Pete area, the Scarlet Knights have emerged victorious in four of those contests and have been a perfect 5-0 Against the Spread (ATS). Rutgers has looked less than impressive in early season wins over Tulane and Howard, scoring just 50 combined points. However, the strength of the Scarlet Knights during their recent ascendance has been the defense. While the competition has been less than stellar, Rutgers has allowed just one touchdown during their first two games. South Florida upset Nevada in a thrilling shootout last week, and now must face an opponent that has had their number on a short week. Take Rutgers here, and dont be surprised if they manage an outright upset.

Marshall +6 Ohio
For the Ohio Bobcats, this game is likely the only thing standing between them and their first visit to the AP Poll since 1968. After this game, the Bobcats host a IAA school (Norfolk State), travel to Amherst to take on the worst team in IA (Massachusetts), then host MAC also-rans Buffalo and Akron. Realistically, a win here should have them standing at 7-0 in mid-October. Despite a dearth of quality wins, that would get them noticed and likely earn them a spot in the nether regions of the poll. But first things, first. They must beat a Marshall team they have faced the previous three seasons. The Bobcats lost an entertaining Little Caesars Pizza Bowl following the 2009 season 21-17, followed that up with a close loss in Huntington in 2010 (24-23), then crushed the Thundering Herd 44-7 in Athens last season. Ohio is a tad overrated, having beaten a depleted Penn State squad in Bill O'Brien's coaching debut, and handily beating New Mexico State last week. Meanwhile, Marshall may be one of the more entertaining teams of the 2012 season. They gave up 69 points to West Virginia in their opener, but have gained 1160 yards through two games themselves. This one should be close, and I'd like to see Ohio climb into polls, but giving nearly a touchdown on the road against a team with the offensive firepower of Marshall is too much.

North Carolina +3 Louisville
After lambasting Elon, the Tar Heels rolled into Winston-Salem as double-digit favorites and left an outright loser to my Demon Deacons in a very entertaining game. The Heels hit the road once again to take on a ranked Louisville squad. While the Cardinals were a chic pick to win the Big East and have opened up 2-0, their competition has been pedestrian. The Cardinals kept in-state rival Kentucky at bay and had no trouble with Southwest Missouri State (IAA). The Tar Heels represent their toughest challenge to this point and while they are under new management, they have been a solid play as a road underdog, going 9-6 ATS over the past five seasons. 

Florida +3 Tennessee
Last week, the Gators surprised pundits and oddsmakers alike, winning as a small underdog in College Station. Now they will attempt to turn the trick in consecutive weeks. And if they do, well they may very well win the SEC East. Care to guess how many conference road games Florida has after this week? One. Versus Vanderbilt. That is definitely something for fans of the Bulldogs and Gamecocks to keep in mind. While the Gators have yet to reach the offensive heights they enjoyed under Tim Tebow, the defense has returned to its elitist ways. The Gators bottled up what is likely a powerful Aggie offense on the road, holding them to 17 points and 334 yards. Tennessee will provide a stiff test for the Gators, having rolled up over 500 yards in each of their first two games. However, NC State and Georgia State do not have quite the defensive pedigree of Florida. Remember after their first game, a closer than expected win against Bowling Green, when everyone was calling for Will Muschamp's head? His seat will be a lot cooler come Saturday night.

Houston +17 UCLA
Congrats to UCLA. The Bruins upset Nebraska last weekend and climbed into the polls for the first time since 2008. Freshman quarterback Brett Hundley has revived a moribund offense. The Bruins have gained over 600 yards apiece in their first two games versus Rice (not very impressive) and Nebraska (pretty impressive). The Bruins had not gained over 600 yards in any game since the first game of the 2007 season against Stanford. The Bruins appear to be a much better team than Houston (which currently sits at 0-2), but this has all the makings of a game the Bruins sleepwalk through. Houston rediscovered their offensive mojo last week, gaining nearly 700 yards in a loss to Louisiana Tech. As you can likely tell from the fact that they lost that game, the defense is still searching for its mojo. UCLA will probably put up a lot of points, but I expect Houston to do the same and perhaps get a backdoor cover here.

Five Faves I Like

Last Week: 2-3
Overall: 6-4

Northern Illinois -3 Army
After a near-miss against Iowa, the Huskies from Dekalb, Illinois rolled over Tennessee-Martin (IAA) 35-7 as they prepare to defend their MAC title. Huskie (not husky) quarterback Jordan Lynch, taking over for the departed Chandler Harnish, has been the focal point of the offense, leading the team in passing (duh) and rushing. Lynch gained over 100 yards on the ground against Iowa and scored three touchdowns against Tennessee-Martin. Lynch and the Huskies will face an Army defense that struggled mightily last week against San Diego State. The Aztecs rolled up 443 yards and averaged an impressive 7.03 yards per play in an easy 42-7 win. Army is sure to improve on that abysmal performance, but probably not enough to keep this game within a touchdown.

Ohio State -17 California
Since 2007, the Cal Golden Bears have been anything but golden away from Berkeley. The Bears are a horrendous 9-19 ATS away from home. In their first two home games, Cal has done nothing to dispel the notion that this season could be different. They dropped their home opener against Nevada and then beat IAA Southern Utah by the unimpressive final score of 50-31. Traveling across the country to play an Ohio State team that is substantially improved under Urban Meyer at Noon Eastern Time is not the recipe for negating their road ills.

Minnesota -2.5 Western Michigan
Minnesota will seek to match last year's win total in just their third game when they host the Western Michigan Broncos Saturday. Believe it or not, Minnesota is one of just four postseason-eligible undefeated Big 10 teams. The others are Michigan State and traditional powers Indiana and Northwestern. Yes, it has been a rough start for the conference. Western Michigan has their second chance to obtain a Big 10 scalp after falling to Illinois in the season opener. The Broncos rebounded from that disappointing effort by trouncing IAA Eastern Illinois. The Broncos should be able to move the ball against a Minnesota defense that is likely sub-par, but has been solid against the two light weights they have opened with. Minnesota quarterback MarQueis Gray should also be able to put some drives together of his own. This one may be close, but playing at home, Minnesota should win this one by at least a field goal.

TCU -21 Kansas
The Charlie Weis era has begun rather inauspiciously. The Jayhawks opened the season narrowly outgaining IAA South Dakota State and followed that up with a home loss to Rice. The Jayhawks have lost 12 consecutive Big 12 games and seem destined to make it 13 on Saturday against TCU. The Horned Frogs had Labor Day off, but pounded Grambling State (IAA) in their first game last week. TCU quarterbacks did not throw a single incompletion against the Tigers. They will probably throw one or two against Kansas, but its hard to envision Kansas doing anything on offense to keep this game close. 

Texas A&M -13.5 SMU
Texas A&M began their SEC sojourn last week with a close loss (what else is new?) at home to Florida. The Aggies will look to regroup against a former conference rival that played one of the more interesting games in college football's second weekend. SMU crushed IAA Stephen F. Austin 52-0, and without looking at the box score, one would think they dominated the game. However, the Mustangs were actually outgained by over 100 yards. Instead, they were the beneficiaries of ten Lumberjack turnovers. The resulting +7 margin allowed SMU to roll despite their pedestrian offensive numbers. I don't expect the Aggies to be so philanthropic with the football this week. Aggie coach Kevin Sumlin was the head man at Houston for four seasons. He never lost to SMU and covered in three of the four meetings. Look for that trend to continue here.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Fab Five: Week II

Well, Week I went about as well as one could reasonably hope. I picked (guessed) the first six games correctly and managed a sterling 8-2 mark for the week. There are still 13 more weeks for it to go horribly, horribly awry, but let's celebrate a rock solid start to the prognosticating season. Be advised though, if you are into that sort of thing, you should probably do the opposite of what I suggest in the following paragraphs. Home teams in Bold.

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 4-1
Overall: 4-1

Maryland +10 Temple
To say the Randy Edsall era has gotten off to an inauspicious start would be a drastic understatement. The Terps won just two games in Edsall's inaugural season and christened his second season with a one-point win over William & Mary. The next game Maryland wins against a IA opponent (assuming they do win one sometime) will be their first in over a year. Still, this spread just feels a little too high. Temple is less than a year removed from being a member of the Mid-American Conference and were actually outgained in their first game against Villanova despite the 41-10 final score. Last season, four teams struggled against IAA opponents in their first game: Iowa State beat Northern Iowa by one, Washington beat Eastern Washington by three, Kansas State beat Eastern Kentucky by three, and UTEP beat Stony Brook by seven in overtime. All four of those schools covered the next week. Look for Maryland to come out of their shell and challenge Temple.

Auburn +3 Mississippi State
For all the good Dan Mullen has done in his three plus seasons at Mississippi State, and he has done some good, he has yet to beat a team from the SEC West not named Ole Miss. Against Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, and LSU, his Bulldogs are 0-12. Against the Spread (ATS) in those games, his teams are just 2-10. His teams covered in 2009, losing by six as a twelve-point underdog to LSU and last season losing by 17 as a 17 and a half point underdog to Alabama. If Mississippi State wants to take the next step and move up in the Champions League that is the SEC West, they must start winning these games, especially at home. I'll believe the breakthrough when I see it. Take Auburn to pull off the outright upset here.

Miami +7 Kansas State
The baby 'Canes proved maybe Vegas doesn't always have something up their sleeve when they climbed out of a 14-0 hole to win as a small favorite last week at Boston College. Highly touted running back Duke Johnson (who sounds like he should be driving for Hendrick Motorsports) dazzled with 135 yards rushing and two touchdowns on just seven carries. Now Miami has another road trip to look forward to, this time to the Little Apple in Manhattan, Kansas. I have made no secret of my love affair with Bill Snyder on this blog. Kansas State, as long as they are coached by Snyder, is my second favorite college football team after my beloved Demon Deacons. However, to say Kansas State used smoke and mirrors to win last season would be a massive understatement. Despite not being particularly adept at any one facet of football, the Wildcats played to their strengths (good special teams, a solid running quarterback, and some Bill Snyder magic) and won 10 games last season. Kansas State may well win this game, but the line should be closer to a field goal rather than a touchdown.

Penn State +10 Virginia
The first game of the Bill O'Brien era did not go as planned. The Nittany Lions went scoreless in the second-half en route to blowing a double-digit lead against Ohio. Losing by ten at home to a MAC school should mean the Lions will serve as cannon fodder to a team from a BCS conference right? Not so fast. Virginia, while they won against Richmond without much trouble, was one of the weakest bowl teams from 2011. Despite their 8-5 record, the Cavaliers were actually outscored on the season. Their 5-1 record in one-score games hid the fact that this team was severely flawed. Of course, Penn State has their own share of flaws, but getting ten points against a team of Virginia's caliber make the Lions the pick here.

New Mexico State +21 Ohio
Teams that win outright as small underdogs do not have a great track record of covering as favorites the next week. Part of it is regression to the mean as teams that win outright as underdogs often played over their collective heads in the win. Part of it is likely complacency as the players adjust in going from hunted to hunter. Part of it is the general betting public. Casual fans are often taken by the latest 'flavor of the week' and can artificially drive up the spread. Ohio certainly fits that bill, having notched perhaps the biggest win in program history in upsetting Penn State last week. The Bobcats should win here, but the Aggies should stay within three touchdowns.

Five Faves I Like

Last Week: 4-1
Overall: 4-1
Iowa -4.5 Iowa State
Last week Iowa State did what they always seem to do under Paul Rhoads: win a game outright as an underdog. While the Cyclones have been on the wrong end of several beatdowns in his three plus seasons at the helm, his teams have won eight regular season games where they have been the betting underdog. In the previous seven follow-up games, the Cyclones have gone just 2-5 ATS. Look for that trend to continue here. Iowa looked less than impressive in their win against Northern Illinois, but the Hawkeyes have won three of the last four in this rivalry, with each win coming by at least 12 points.

Nebraska -5.5 UCLA
Both these teams looked impressive last week against undermanned Conference USA schools. UCLA started fast out of the gate against Rice, opening up a 19-0 lead before the first quarter was half over. The Owls surged back in the second quarter, eventually cutting the lead to five, but UCLA scored the final 20 points of the game and won 49-24. Unfortunately, their kicker Kaimi Fairbairn missed more extra points (three) than he made (two). Meanwhile, Nebraska shook off some early rust and blitzed Southern Miss 35-6 after the game was tied at 14 early in the second quarter. Nebraska is a rock-solid 9-4-1 as a road favorite under Bo Pelini. The 'Huskers should be able to do enough here to win this game by at least a touchdown.

Indiana -14 Massachusetts
Massachusetts initiation into the ranks of IA football did not go well. The Minutemen gained 59 yards on 47 plays against the Connecticut Huskies. Perhaps not surprisingly, they failed to find the end zone as well. While they seek to score their first points as a IA program, the Indiana Hoosiers will seek to win their first game against a IA program under head coach Kevin Wilson. The Hoosiers struggled with IAA Indiana State last week, winning 24-17, and marking just the second win of Wilson's head coaching career (the first came last season against IAA South Carolina State). Two touchdowns may seem like a large number, but Massachusetts is likely the worst IA program in the country. Indiana should have a relatively easy time here.

Notre Dame -14 Purdue
The Irish opened up what could be the nation's most difficult schedule with an easy win over Navy in Dublin, Ireland. They now return home to face another relative lightweight before the schedule stiffens. Purdue rolled Eastern Kentucky last week, but the Boilermakers have lost four straight to the Irish, with just one cover in that quartet of games. Playing at home, the Irish should have an easy time of disposing of Purdue before prepping for facing back to back games against Michigan State and Michigan.

Ole Miss -7.5 UTEP
UTEP hung tough at home against Oklahoma last week, jumping out to an early 7-0 lead thanks to a blocked punt and stayed in the game until the fourth quarter, losing by the final score of 24-7. While the performance against Oklahoma was admirable, it was likely an aberration. The Miners had the entire offseason to prepare for the biggest game of the year. The game came at home so emotions were high. Now, with just a week to prepare, the Miners journey to hostile territory to take on an Ole Miss team looking to rebound from a pair of disappointing seasons under new head coach Hugh Freeze. Sure it came against Central Arkansas, but in the first game of the Freeze era, the Rebels tallied 500 yards of total offense for the first time since October of 2010, a span of 17 games. Ole Miss will not be favored in many games from here on out, but they should capitalize with a relatively easy win here.