Thursday, November 01, 2012

Fab Five: Week X

For the first time in the month of October, your humble prognosticator failed to post a winning record, finishing with a 5-5 mark. However, that is now four consecutive non-losing weeks. Lets see if we can keep the streak up. My overall record now stands at 48-42. Home teams in Bold.

5 Dogs I Like

Last Week: 3-2
Overall: 25-20

Ole Miss +14 Georgia
There are not many certainties in this life. Some will say death and taxes are certainties, but Elijah and Wesley Snipes may even quibble with those. Thus while nothing is ever certain, there are a few things we can count on. One of them is that teams coached by Hugh Freeze will cover the spread more often than not. Last season, as coach of Arkansas State, his Red Wolves went an amazing 9-2 Against the Spread (ATS) versus IA opponents. This season, his Rebels are 6-1 versus the number, bringing his cumulative ATS record to an outstanding 15-3! Now his Rebels travel to Athens to take on a Georgia team riding high after an upset of Florida. The Bulldogs have the inside track to the SEC Championship Game from the East, needing only to win at home against Ole Miss and at rapidly crumbling Auburn next week. While the Bulldogs are rightly favored against Ole Miss, Georgia has not done well in the role of heavy favorite this season, covering just once in five games as a double-digit favorite. I won't call for an outright upset, but the Bulldogs best be prepared for a competitive game against the Rebels.

Virginia +10.5 NC State
NC State is coming off a crushing loss to their arch-rival North Carolina. In that game, the Wolfpack led by double-digits in the fourth quarter, only to allow the winning touchdown via a punt return in the final seconds. Not only did the loss end their five-game winning streak against the Tar Heels, but they ceded control of the Atlantic Division back to Florida State. Meanwhile, Virginia comes into this game with an 0-4 league record, and an even uglier 0-7 mark ATS. That's right, Virginia has not covered the spread once this season! However, the Cavaliers are 4-3 ATS as double-digit underdogs under Mike London. I think Virginia is better than their record and they should get off the ATS snide this weekend.

Michigan State +1.5 Nebraska
Michigan State kept their faint hopes of playing in the Rose Bowl alive last week by winning in Madison and breaking the Badgers 21-game home winning streak. The Spartans did what they have done all season and put a strangle hold on the opposing offense, limiting the Badgers to just 190 yards of total offense, their lowest output since at least 2006. Now they return home to face a Nebraska team that seized control of the Legends Division with their win last week against Michigan. Nebraska certainly did not win any style points, but they knocked out Denard Robinson and held the Wolverines to 188 total yards. Nebraska has been less than stellar on the road in their brief history in the Big 10. In six conference games, the Cornhuskers are 3-3 straight up and just 1-4-1 ATS. Look for Michigan State to pull the outright upset here and tighten up the division race.

Oklahoma State +8 Kansas State
On this blog, I have picked against Kansas State three times, and each time Kansas State has covered. Keep that in mind if you pay any heed to my predictions. I like Oklahoma State to cover here for several reasons. First, my SDPI numbers love the Cowboys and rate them as the best team in the Big 12. Secondly, Kansas State seems destined for a tight game, particularly against an offense as dynamic as Oklahoma State's. Think of the Cowboys like West Virginia with a much better defense. Finally, Oklahoma State has done very well as a road dog over the past few seasons, going 3-3 straight up and 4-2 ATS since 2008. This will be Kansas State's toughest test for the rest of the regular season (their other games are at TCU, at Baylor, and home versus Texas). As they are my second-favorite team outside of Wake Forest, I hope they win here, but methinks Mike 'Solomon' Gundy and his Cowboys have a real shot here.

New Mexico +4 UNLV
Very quietly, Bob Davie has turned New Mexico into a mediocre Mountain West team. That is quite impressive, considering the Lobos won just three games the previous three seasons (they already have four in 2012). The Lobos have also performed admirably against the spread, covering five times in their last six games, including three on the road. Perhaps ironically, UNLV has only been favored twice in the Bobby Hauck era, with both games coming against New Mexico. The Rebels covered in 2010, but lost outright and against the spread last season. Both teams are pretty bad defensively, but New Mexico partially makes up for it by having a strong ground game. This line should be closer to a pick-em, so take the Lobos getting the extra points.

Five Faves I Like

Last Week: 2-3
Overall: 23-22

Penn State -3.5 Purdue
Last week, for the first time since their second game of the season, Penn State ended up on the losing end of a football game, falling to Ohio State 35-23. Perhaps more impressively, for the first time since their opening game against Ohio, the Nittany Lions failed to cover the spread. Now they travel to West Lafayette to face a Purdue team that is in the midst of a four-game losing streak. Three of the losses in that streak have come by at least 16 points, including last week's debacle at Minnesota. In that game, the Golden Gophers achieved their second largest margin of victory against a IA foe in the Jerry Kill era. Since starting Big 10 play, Purdue has been equally awful on both sides of the ball, ranking tenth in the twelve team league on offense and eleventh on defense. The Boilermakers have failed to cover in their previous two Big 10 home games, while Penn State has covered the number in each of their road games this season. This line should probably be over a touchdown.

Texas Tech -7 Texas
The only reason this line is not double-digits is because of the names on the respective helmets. If the resumes and roles in this game were reversed, Texas would be favored by two touchdowns. Texas has been absolutely atrocious on defense since Big 12 play began and has not covered the number in four consecutive games. Meanwhile, Texas Tech is vastly improved this season and would love nothing more than to stick it to their in-state 'big brother' when they get the chance.

Indiana -2 Iowa
Don't look now, but Indiana is a home favorite against a conference opponent for the first time since 2007! They covered that day more than five years ago against Minnesota. I'm guessing if one had guessed the line for this game prior to the season, it would would have been in Iowa's favor by at least a touchdown. As it stands, the Hawkeyes have disappointed with a 4-4 record, while the Hoosiers have overachieved with a 3-5 mark (after winning just once last season). In addition, four of their five losses have come by a combined ten points. With a little better luck, the Hoosiers could be looking at a postseason trip. As it stands, they must win three of their final four to have any shot at a bowl game. Indiana has covered their two previous Big 10 home games this season and with an improved offense should be able to beat Iowa by at least a field goal.

Western Michigan -2.5 Central Michigan
Western Michigan began the year with dreams of a MAC championship. And while the Broncos did beat Connecticut for the second consecutive year in the non-conference, their 1-4 MAC record has them out of contention. However, their four MAC losses have come against teams with a combined 29-6 overall record and a sterling 17-2 league mark (Ball State, Kent State, Northern Illinois, and Toledo). The Broncos get a reprieve with their last three games coming against Central Michigan, Buffalo, and Eastern Michigan, teams with a combined 5-19 overall record and 1-11 mark in the MAC. Central Michigan is a lackluster 5-15 ATS under head coach Dan Enos against MAC opponents, including 3-7 at home. Western Michigan should get back on the right track and stay in bowl contention with a win in Mount Pleasant.

Oklahoma -12 Iowa State
Iowa State has a reputation for being giant killers under head coach Paul Rhoads, and they certainly are. His Cyclones have won thrice as huge underdogs (at Nebraska in 2009, at Texas in 2010, and versus Oklahoma State last year). They have also won three games this season as slightly smaller underdogs. However, what is often missed is that the Cyclones under Rhoads have enjoyed a great deal of their success on the road. Two of their massive upsets occurred away from Ames and this season, two of their outright upset wins have come at Iowa and at TCU. As a home underdog, the Cyclones have gone a pedestrian 7-6 ATS under Rhoads. Iowa State is a solid team, but Oklahoma will enter this game with a chip on their shoulder after having lost at home for the second time at home this season last week against Notre Dame. I think this one may get ugly.

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