Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Fab Five: Week VI

A pessimist would say the 4-6 week I endured would lose one a solid sum of money in Vegas. The optimist would say that 4-6 beats the heck out of 1-9. The fourth consecutive non-winning week drops my yearly mark to  22-28. Wake me when September ends. We'll try to do better in the month of October. Home teams in Bold.

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 2-3
Overall: 12-13

Arkansas +10 Auburn
I know. This may be the craziest pick of the week, but hear me out. Arkansas is well on their way to a losing season (and perhaps a two or three-win season) after beginning the year in the top 10. Their defense has been horrendous, surrendering an average of 558 yards and 45 points to the four IA teams they have faced. On the other hand, their offense has remained relatively prolific, averaging 461 yards against Louisiana-Monroe, Rutgers, and Texas A&M (quarterback Tyler Wilson's IA starts). The problems on offense have been limited to turnovers. The Hogs have committed 15 turnovers in five games, while creating only two. If they can keep the turnovers to a minimum, this game should be closer than the experts think. Auburn is no juggernaut themselves, coming into the game ranked 117th nationally in total offense (298 yards per game) and 78th in total defense (419 yards per game). In addition, outside of the Cam Newton aided 2010 season, Gene Chizik is just 12-16 Against the Spread (ATS) as coach at Auburn. Take Arkansas to cover this relatively high number.

Virginia Tech +4 North Carolina
The preeminent ACC program of the past eight years or so appears to have fallen on hard times. Virginia Tech has dropped two of their past three games with the defeats coming at the hands of lightly regarded Big East teams Pitt and Cincinnati. The Hokies were decisive favorites in both games. Now Virginia Tech resumes ACC play as an underdog to a conference mate for the first time since their 2009 league opener against Miami. What did the Hokies do as a two-point home underdog in that game? They merely won 31-7. In fact, since 2006, Virginia Tech is 6-2 ATS as an underdog against an ACC opponent. Counted out after early non-conference losses in 2007, 2008, and 2010, the Hokies rebounded to not only take the ACC Coastal Division, but also the league crown. Could it be deja vu all over again? North Carolina is a little over-valued after waxing Idaho 66-0 last week. Take the Hokies getting the points here and don't be surprised if they go on a run that ends with another ACC Championship Game appearance.

Florida +3 LSU
The Gators have seen promising seasons spiral into (relative) oblivion at the hands of the Tigers the past two years. In 2010, Florida hosted LSU with a 4-1 record and a ranking of 14 in the AP Poll. They lost in dramatic fashion and finished just 3-3 over the remaining six games. Last season, they also entered the game 4-1 and sported a ranking of 17. LSU crushed them in Baton Rouge 41-11. The Gators limped to a 2-4 finish down the stretch with the wins coming against Vanderbilt and Furman. Will this season be different? I think so. For starters, Florida has already proven themselves to be a formidable team. In 2010, their lone win in their first four was over an eventual bowl team was at Tennessee. That Tennessee team finished just 6-7. Last season, their best win up to the LSU game was also against Tennessee. That Volunteer squad managed just a 5-7 mark. Thus far, Florida has beaten both Texas A&M and Tennessee on the road. The Aggies managed just 17 points against the punishing Florida defense, but have scored 176 points in their other three games. Tennessee managed just 20 against the Gators, but the Vols have scored 177 in their other four games. This game also marks just the second time LSU has ventured away from Baton Rouge on the young season. In their first road trip, the Tigers narrowly escaped a very flawed Auburn team 12-10. This spread should be reversed. Take Florida to win here, and then prepare the hype machine for when they host the Gamecocks in two weeks.

Marshall +3 Tulsa
One season after putting two teams in the final AP Poll, Conference USA may be the worst conference in IA football. With a month of the season in the books, two teams currently have a winning record. East Carolina is 3-2, with two of their wins coming in the conference. Tulsa is 4-1, also boasting two conference wins. In addition, a third of the league is winless. Memphis, Southern Miss, Tulane, and UAB are all 0-4. Yikes! While Tulsa does boast a 4-1 record, their two league wins have come against a pair of the aforementioned winless quartet (Tulane and UAB). One of their non-league wins came against IAA Nicholls State. Their lone respectable win came at home against Fresno State, by a single point. Their opponent on Saturday, Marshall, sits at 2-3, but two of their losses have come on the road at BCS conference schools (West Virginia and Purdue) and the third was against undefeated Ohio. Marshall has won seven of their past eight conference home games and has a solid shot at pulling off the outright upset here.

Texas Tech +5.5 Oklahoma
This spread has to be based on reputation only. If we remove the names on the jerseys and consider only what these teams have done this season, Texas Tech would have to be favored. In their two games against IA teams this year, Oklahoma has scored 43 points. One of those games was against UTEP. Most of the Sooners teams under Bob Stoops would score 43 in a half against UTEP. Meanwhile, Texas Tech has played a schedule consisting of more cupcakes than a 3rd grade class party. Still, the Red Raiders have dominated that schedule, outscoring their four opponents by over 30 points per game and allowing just 670 yards of total offense. Couple this information with the fact that Oklahoma has lost their past three trips to Lubbock and you can see why Texas Tech is one of the best bets on the board this week.

Five Faves I Like

Last Week: 2-3
Overall: 10-15

UTEP -2.5 Southern Methodist
Since joining Conference USA in 2005, the UTEP Miners have gone 5-2 ATS against their in-state rivals from Dallas. As members of Conference USA, UTEP has not lost to the Pony Express in El Paso. SMU is a little over-valued after keeping the game with TCU close last week (they only lost by eight). However, that final score is misleading as that game was played in a downpour that severely hampered the offense of the Horned Frogs. In their other games against IA offenses (also based in Texas), the Mustangs allowed over 600 yards to both Baylor and Texas A&M. UTEP may not move the ball that well, but they should notch their first conference win of the young season.

Kent State -3 Eastern Michigan
In most weeks, Kent State's exciting 45-43 win over Ball State would have been one of the highest scoring games. Unfortunately, the Golden Flashes were outshone not only by West Virginia and Baylor's refusal to play defense, but also by a game within their own division that saw Miami and Akron combine for 105 points. The Golden Flashes were able to beat Ball State thanks in great part to the play of Dri Archer. The junior running back totaled a modest 72 yards rushing and failed to hit pay dirt on the ground, but he made up for it by catching three passes for 104 yards and pair of touchdowns and also returning a kickoff for a touchdown. Archer will look to get his team to a 3-0 start in the MAC when the Golden Flashes travel to Ypsilanti, Michigan to take on the winless Eagles. Eastern Michigan has lost by at least eleven points to every team they have faced, including IAA Illinois State. Perhaps the Eagles will show some life off a bye, but this spread seems like it should be about a touchdown instead of a field goal.

New Mexico -3.5 Texas State
Welcome back to competitive football New Mexico. While the Lobos are just 2-3 on the season, they have already matched the number of victories they achieved under Mike Locksley in two and a half seasons. While they lost last week to Boise State, they nearly climbed out of a 25-0 hole, but could not quite reach the summit, falling 32-29. The Lobos have embraced the option this season and have topped 300 yards on the ground twice and 200 yards four times. Playing at home, the Lobos should do enough to beat IA newcomer Texas State by at least a touchdown.

Duke -2 Virginia
Time to party like its 1994? As hard as it may be to believe the Duke Blue Devils are just two wins away from a likely spot in their first postseason game since the days of gangsta rap, grunge, and the baseball strike. Last week Duke upset Wake Forest (beating my Deacons for the first time since 1999) and moved to 4-1. Now they host Virginia, a team they are 3-1 against under David Cutcliffe. Under Cutcliffe, the Blue Devils are also 3-0-1 ATS against the Cavaliers, winning and covering in both games held in Durham. Look for the Blue Devils to lack just a single win to attain bowl eligibility come Saturday night.

Boise State -11 Southern Miss
Under Chris Petersen, Boise State has failed to cover in three consecutive regular season games just once in his career (last season, the Broncos went an amazing six consecutive games without covering to close the regular season). The Broncos are currently riding an 0 for 2 streak, edging out BYU and New Mexico by one and three points respectively. They should get well on the road against a Southern Miss team that is winless through the season's first four games. Southern Miss is a little over-valued thanks to their close home loss to Louisville last week. However, like SMU and TCU, that game was played in a deluge that severely limited Louisville's offensive output. Look for the Broncos to roll here as they prepare to enter Mountain West play.

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