Wednesday, November 02, 2016

The Magnificent Seven: Week X

We got back to our winning ways last week. 4-3 won't set any records, but we'll take it. As always, home teams in BOLD.

Last Week: 4-3
Overall: 32-27-4

Buffalo +20 Ohio
In college football, as in life, sometimes you just never know. Last week, Buffalo hosted a decent Akron team and was nearly a three touchdown underdog. The Bulls had lost four straight games while scoring a combined 51 points. Then they went and dropped 41 points on the Zips in an easy three touchdown win. Senior running back Jordan Johnson, who came in with four career 100-yard rush games, rushed for nearly 300 yards against the Zips and the Bulls ended a six game conference losing streak. Ohio also won outright last week as a big underdog when they upset Toledo in the Glass Bowl. The win moved the Bobcats to 4-1 in the MAC East and gave them control of the division. Ohio has a great shot at getting back to the MAC Championship game for the first time since 2011, but alas, an irresistible force appears to be looming in the other division. The Bobcats are better than the Bulls, but Ohio is already 0-2 Against the Spread (ATS) as a double-digit home favorite this season and has not beaten any team (FBS or FCS) by more than 16 points in 2016.

Georgia Tech +10.5 North Carolina
After enduring a rough 3-9 campaign in 2015, Georgia Tech has improved enough to at least qualify for a bowl in 2016. The Yellow Jackets need just a single additional win to double last season's win total and clinch a postseason berth. Last week's game against Duke, which got the Jackets to five wins, was a nail biter and Georgia Tech should thank their lucky stars Justin Thomas is still quarterbacking the team. Thomas threw for 264 yards on just 14 attempts and added another 195 yards on the ground in the narrow win against the Blue Devils. The reason Georgia Tech didn't roll to victory was, as usual, the defense. Thanks to their run-oriented offense, Paul Johnson is able to hide his poor defense. The Yellow Jackets rank a respectable 40th in total defense, but are a less respectable 73rd in yards allowed per play. The main problem is a pass rush that has generated just eight sacks on the season (only six teams have fewer). North Carolina should be able to move the ball against Georgia Tech and pro prospect Mitch Trubisky should have plenty of time to throw in his fortress of solitude. However, I think Georgia Tech will be able to move the ball against the Tar Heels as well. Even though North Carolina is much improved defensively under coordinator Gene Chizik, they still allowed 31 points to this offense last season and were gouged by what has ended up being a mediocre (or worse) Georgia run game. With Georgia Tech's option, this game will have fewer possessions than a typical college football game so the margin of victory could be depressed. I don't know that Georgia Tech can get enough stops (barring a deluge of turnovers) to win this game, but they can certainly get enough to cover. And if you don't have anything better to watch in the early window on Saturday, tune in here. Justin Thomas has four guaranteed games remaining in his college career (hopefully five with a bowl bid). He has been a great and underappreciated college player. Watch him here.

Wake Forest -3 Virginia
Needing just a single win to clinch their first postseason appearance since 2011, Wake Forest lost at home to Army last week. While the loss was bad for Wake Forest fans like me, it could be good for your wallet this week. I never deal in absolutes, but Wake Forest is probably a better team than Army. Alas, upsets happen, and the loss to the Black Knights coupled with Virginia's narrow home loss to Louisville has this line probably about a field goal lower than it should be. Keep in mind that while Virginia led Louisville late in that game, they still averaged under five yards per play against the Cardinals and in conference play are currently second to last in that category. Of course, Wake Forest is third to last, so don't expect this game to be a shootout. Wake Forest is pretty good defensively, holding six of eight opponents to 21 points or less. Wake won't blow out the Cavaliers, but they should do enough to win by about a touchdown.

Oregon State +14.5 Stanford
While it may not show in the overall record, this version of Oregon State is far superior to the version the Beavers put on the field last season. After staying within one score of just a single Power Five opponent last season, the Beavers have three such close losses this season and even managed to win their first conference game in 22 months. Oregon State lost their starting quarterback, when Darell Garretson injured his ankle against Utah, but his replacement Marcus McMaryion has actually outplayed him. Garretson averaged just 4.2 yards per pass despite getting an opportunity to boost his numbers against an FCS team. While McMaryion lacks the elusiveness of Garretson, he has averaged over seven yards per pass and nearly led the team to an upset of Washington State last week. Can he lead them to an upset of a Stanford team that appears to be a shell of its former self? While the Cardinal did score 34 points last week, breaking the 30-point barrier for the first time all season,  they still averaged under five yards per play and quarterback Keller Chryst completed less than half his passes against a bad Arizona defense. Stanford is still living off their reputation from the previous six or seven years. This line is at least a field goal too high. Take Oregon State to cover for the sixth time this season as a double digit underdog.

Missouri +7 South Carolina
The narrative on South Carolina has changed dramatically eh? Two weeks ago they were 2-4 and burning the redshirt on a quarterback to try get to a lower tier bowl. Hell, five days ago, they were two touchdown underdogs to Tennessee. Now, the Gamecocks are favored to win by more points than they have beaten any opponent by in 2016! In fact, the Gamecocks have not won a game by more than six points since last October against Vanderbilt. I think the market has shifted too dramatically towards South Carolina. Keep in mind, while they did beat a Tennessee team that was ranked last week (and may be imploding), the Gamecocks still averaged under five yards per play against the Vols and scored just 24 points. Jake Bentley did not turn the ball over, but no one is going to confuse this offense with Baylor. Missouri is bad. They may go winless in the SEC one season after posting a 1-7 league mark, but this seems like a prime letdown spot for the Gamecocks. Missouri has scored just 21 points in their two SEC road games, but those came against LSU and Florida. South Carolina is not in that class. Missouri will keep this one close.

Tulane +17 Central Florida
Its November, and both these teams under first year head coaches still harbor bowl aspirations after combining for a 3-21 record last season. If Central Florida wins, they will need to find just a single win the rest of the way to become bowl eligible, while Tulane has to win three of four including this one to finish 6-6. Both schools have struggled offensively under their first year head coaches. Tulane has struggled in taking to the option run by head coach Willie Fritz. The Green Wave are 16th nationally in rushing offense, but they are ninth in rush attempts. In addition, unlike other option teams (see Georgia Tech and Navy) that boast an obscene average when they do throw the ball thanks to the surprise/misdirection factor, the Green Wave are averaging just a little north of five yards per throw which is ahead of only Rutgers. Meanwhile Central Florida has been competent passing the football, with freshman quarterback McKenzie Milton taking over for senior Justin Holman and averaging over seven yards per pass. The running game on the other hand has struggled, with their top-two backs both averaging under four yards per carry. The last time Tulane ventured to the Magic Kingdom, they faced a Central Florida team that would eventually tie for the American Athletic Conference championship and only lost by a touchdown. Central Florida is too limited offensively to be favored by three scores against a competent FBS team. Take the Green Wave to keep this one close.

Tulsa -7.5 East Carolina
Phillip Montgomery has the Golden Hurricane in contention for the American Athletic Conference title in just his second season. The Art Briles disciple has brought the fast pace back to Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane were one of the first team's to use pace as a weapon when Gus Malzahn became their offensive coordinator in 2007. Wonder whatever happened to that guy? Anyway, the reason Tulsa has gone from fringe bowl team to conference contender is on account of the defense. In conference play, Tulsa was second to last in yards allowed per play last season. Their defense is nearly a yard better per play this season and ranks sixth in the league. When your offense plays fast and efficiently, you only need a few stops to put your opponent away. This line is just a little over a touchdown and both these teams play very fast, so there will be more possessions than your typical college football game. Tulsa will have ample opportunity to get out in front of this number. Take Tulsa before Vegas gets on to them and inflates their spreads.

No comments: