The Pi-Rate Ratings

September 26, 2007

September 27-29 Previews and Picks

Filed under: College Football — piratings @ 6:16 pm

 

This Week’s Key Games and Interesting Match-ups

Disclaimer: I am giving advice on pointspreads totally as an act of fun.  I do not personally wager money on these games, and I do not advocate you doing so either.  It’s just a game like Monopoly to me.

About Teasers:  A Teaser allows you to adjust the pointspread in your favor by a certain number of points.  With this adjustment, the odds change in favor of the sports book.  Most college football teasers are 6-7½ points, but you can find 10 and 13-point teasers as well.  If you play a 10-point teaser, you must pick three teams correctly to win the wager at 10-12 odds.  If you play a 13-point teaser, you must pick four teams correctly to win the wager at 10-12 odds.  Some places will allow you to play 21-point teasers on a 3-team parlay at ridiculous odds.  While they look like easy wins, just one loss can cost you 15 to 20 times the amount you were trying to win.  You could win this wager every week until the final one, lose that one, and lose for the season even though you were 14-1!

Last Week Picking Outright Winners:(*)             37-12  75.5%

For The Season Picking Winners:                    153-42 78.5%

Last Week Picks vs. Spread:                             3-4-0 42.9%

For the Season Picking Winners vs. Spread:     24-19-1 55.8% (over 52.4% returns a profit)

(*): Games predicted as tossups (0 points) are not included.

Point spreads are those listed as of 11:00 AM ET Wednesday.

Thursday, September 27

Southern Mississippi at Boise State

Vegas: Boise State by 10½

PiRate: Boise State by 8

This should be a game worth watching Thursday night.  Two powerhouse programs among the mid-majors will be squaring off on the field of blue in Boise. 

Boise State will have success passing the ball, while Southern Mississippi will have to pass the ball more than they like; Boise’s run defense will force USM to the air.  The Broncos rarely lose at home.  Except for the MPC Computers Bowl loss to Boston College in 2005, the Broncos have won their last 38 regular season home games at Bronco Stadium!  This should be win number 39, but forget the point spread here.  There are two plays available that will work in your favor allowing you to take the Broncos straight up.  I also like playing the totals in this game.  The forecast for perfect football weather means it should be higher scoring than the experts believe.

Strategies

Boise State -475 in the money line (not that risky)

Boise State -½ and + 2½ in 10 and 13-point teasers (strong)

Over 49½

Over 39½ and 36½ in 10 and 13-point teasers (strong)

—–

Friday, September 28

West Virginia at South Florida

Vegas: West Virginia by 6½

PiRate: West Virginia by 7

Here is another weeknight wonder game!  West Virginia has been looking forward to this game for 11 months.  The Bulls ended their chance for a BCS Bowl bid with the 24-19 upset last season in Morgantown.  In that game, USF held the vaunted Mountaineer ground game in check, while controlling the ball with their passing game.  USF ran 10 more plays than WVU.

If you liked following the spying tactics by the New England Patriots, then this game is definitely for you.  The cloak and dagger story surrounds one Rod Smith.  Smith was a former Rich Rodriguez assistant who thoroughly understood the West Virginia offense.  USF coach Jim Leavitt hired him to install the same offense in Tampa.  Last year, after USF pulled off the upset by stopping the Mountaineers’ offense, rumors began to circulate that Smith may have helped the defense prepare by not only giving advice on how to stop the offense, but he may have stolen the WVU signals by using his past experience.

So, where is Smith this year?  He’s been hired by West Virginia as the quarterbacks coach.  Might Smith’s espionage tactics work the other way this year?  It’s a bunch of fun to add to the rivalry, but the game will be decided on the turf at Raymond James Stadium.  Expect some hard hits and major changes in momentum.  When it comes down to the end, expect WVU to have just too much ammunition for the USF defense.  I expect the game to be a little lower scoring than expected.

Strategies

West Virginia +3½ and +6½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 55

Under 65 and 68 in 10 and 13-point teasers (strong)

—–

Saturday, September 29

L S U at Tulane

Vegas: L S U by 40½

PiRate: L S U by 44

This game isn’t that much of a rivalry game like it was for many years.  LSU will not get up to destroy the Green Wave, not with Florida looming on the schedule in one week.  Combine the South Carolina game from last week, and LSU will possibly not be hitting on all cylinders.

Tulane is not strong enough to win this contest even if LSU’s top 30 players sat out the game.  I don’t think the Tigers are going to bring their A-games to this battle, and they know they can win easily with a C- effort.

The Green Wave might have just enough offense to score 10 points in this game, and a 49-10 game would not cover the spread.  Even though the PiRate computer says LSU will win 44-0, I am going against the bytes by saying the Tigers will be caught looking ahead and win by only 35-40 points.  While this is a home game for Tulane, expect LSU fans to outnumber them two to one.

Strategies

Tulane + 40½

Tulane +50½ and 53½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

LSU -30½ and -27½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 39 and 36 in 10 and 13-point teasers   

—–

Penn State at Illinois

Vegas: Penn State by 3

PiRate: Penn State by 1

Give Ron Zook some credit for bringing Illinois back into contention for a bowl berth.  The Illini just won consecutive road games for the first time since 2001. 

Penn State may be a paper lion.  They have defeated Florida International, Notre Dame, and Buffalo.  They didn’t fare that well at Michigan last week gaining just 270 total yards and scoring just nine points.

Illinois is not yet as good as Michigan, but they are good enough to compete for the victory in this game. 

The boys in Vegas agree as well, and that’s why the spread for this game is just three points.  The Nittany Lions will have to win this game by passing the ball, and they have a good enough passing game to do just that.  Illinois may find the going tough as well when they run the ball, and their passing game is inconsistent.  They will need the aid of turnover margin to pull off the mild upset.  It will be a close and interesting game.  All the lines are honest here, and I don’t really like any plays.

Strategies

Over 37 and 34 in 10 and 13-point teasers (weak)

Under 57 and 60 in 10 and 13-point teasers (weak)

 

—–

Michigan at Northwestern

Vegas: Michigan by 16½

PiRate: Michigan by 19

Here’s a game that has me scratching my head.  Northwestern has lost at home to Duke, and they just got pasted at the Horseshoe by Ohio State 58-7!  Michigan has won back-to-back games, the most previous being a quality win over Penn State.

Michigan will have no trouble passing for more than 200 yards in this game and adding another 150 on the ground.  Northwestern will have a difficult time with pass protection, and their offense isn’t going to fool the Wolverines when they run the ball.  I look for less than 100 rushing yards and a maximum of 200 passing yards. 

Is Michigan 11 points better than Duke right now?  I think most definitely so, and when you factor in to the equation picture-perfect weather, the Wolverines can beat the spread in this game.    

Strategies

Michigan -16½

Michigan -6½ and -3½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 58½ and 61½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

   

—–

Duke at Miami (FL)

Vegas: Miami by 24

PiRate: Miami by 22

Duke has shown signs of life the last two weeks, winning at Northwestern and almost winning at Navy.  This is their fourth consecutive road game with no off weeks either.  The Blue Devils almost pulled off a huge upset at home against the Hurricanes last year.

Miami is not going to remind anybody of their glory teams, but the 2007 edition of Hurricanes is going to win at least eight games.  The “U” played this game quite short-handed in 2006, as it came immediately after 13 players had been suspended for fighting in the previous game.  Additionally, Miami has enjoyed two extra days to prepare for this game following the impressive trouncing of Texas A&M.  It adds up to another win, but the line may be a little high.  Duke can score points, and Miami’s defense is good but not great.

Strategies

Over 36½ and 33½ in 10 and 13-point teasers (strong)

Miami -14 and -11 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Duke +34 and +37 in 10 and 13-point teasers

 

—–

Notre Dame at Purdue

Vegas: Purdue by 22

PiRate: Purdue by 24

This is usually one of the most exciting games every year.  Purdue has pulled off upsets multiple times when Notre Dame was supposed to be unbeatable.  It was the Boilermakers who ended Notre Dame’s 39-game unbeaten streak in 1950.  Len Dawson threw four touchdown passes as Purdue gave the Irish their only loss in 1954.  In 1967, #2 Purdue, led by quarterback Mike Phipps and halfback Leroy Keyes, beat #1 Notre Dame.  Phipps went on to quarterback the Boilermakers to wins over Notre Dame in 1968 and 1969.  In 1974, a weak Purdue team scored three touchdowns and a field goal in the first quarter to upset the defending national champs and number two Irish.

All the Purdue wins above came against very good and even great Irish teams.  Saturday, the Boilermakers will be hosting a Notre Dame team not much better than an average MAC team.  Purdue feasts on little MACs, and they should feast in this one. 

Purdue couldn’t stop Brady Quinn last year, but Curtis Painter had a great day against the Irish.  Quinn is gone, while Painter is back for revenge.  Painter will become the first opposing QB to pass for 200 yards against Notre Dame this year, while Purdue runs for another 175-225 yards.  That adds up to at least 31 points and probably 35-42.

Notre Dame’s offense is not about to pull a Syracuse and explode for 38 points.  The Irish are slowly getting better on the attack side, but don’t count on them breaking 17 points and 300 yards this week.  Look more for 275 yards and 14-17 points.

With the Vegas and PiRates basically in agreement, you have to look for the teasers and the totals in this one.

Strategies

Notre Dame +32 and +35 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 43 and 40 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 63 and 66 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Indiana at Iowa

Vegas: Iowa by 10½

PiRate: Iowa by 13

Iowa is a study in contrast.  At home, they look like a top 10 team.  On the road, they cannot beat Iowa State.  This game is at Kinnick Stadium, so the top 10 version of Hawkeyes will show up.

Iowa will stop the Hoosiers’ rather strong offense (better than 200 yards rushing and passing per game and averaging almost 37 points per game).  Indiana will be held under 150 rushing and 175 passing yards, which leads to no more than 10-17 points.  The Hawkeyes will produce more yardage and points this week than the previous two games, but they are not going to explode for a big day.  Look for 125 yards rushing and 185 through the air for about 21-24 points.  The forecast is for a rather windy day, so that could play a part in the outcome.  It can only help both teams’ defenses.

Strategies

Iowa -10½

Under 44

Iowa -½ and +2½ in 10 and 13-point teasers  

Under 54 and 57 in 10 and 13-point teasers (strong)

Iowa -435 in money line

—–

Mississippi State at South Carolina

Vegas: South Carolina by 13½

PiRate: South Carolina by 22

Mississippi State’s opening night loss to LSU doesn’t quite look as bad as it did at the time.  However, the Bulldogs’ subsequent three wins since then don’t look all that impressive.  This will be their big test, and I think they will receive a grade of incomplete.  They won’t win in Columbia, but they won’t get embarrassed either.

South Carolina is still licking its wounds after the physical beating they received at LSU last week.  The Gamecocks must turn around on short notice to face a potent Kentucky offense on October 4.  They may snooze through this game for a quarter or more until Steve Spurrier slams his visor to the Williams-Brice Stadium turf.

This game will be Gamecock QB Chris Smelley’s first start, and he has enough weapons backing him up to perform admirably.

Mississippi State will have to rely on true freshmen quarterbacks Josh Riddell and Wesley Carroll subbing for the injured Michael Henig.  Running back Anthony Dixon might rush for 80-100 yards in this game, but Mississippi State will have a tough time scoring points.  I expect the Bulldogs to score no more than 10 to 13, and Steve Spurrier will find a way for his team to top that with ease.  I look for USC to total 300-350 yards in this game, and that should be worth 28 points.

Strategies

South Carolina -550 on the money line (strong)

South Carolina -3½ and -½ in 10 and 13-point teasers 

Over 31½ and 28½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 51½ and 54½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Baylor at Texas A&M

Vegas: Texas A&M by 17

PiRate: Texas A&M by 16

That hissing sound you hear is Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione’s seat beginning to fry instead of just simmer.  The Aggies’ loss at Miami looked worse than the final score.  Texas A&M had no passing attack, and one of their best offensive weapons (big back Jorvorskie Lane) hardly touched the ball the whole night.  That style of play might beat Montana State and Louisiana Monroe, but it isn’t going to win many games against teams in BCS conferences.

Baylor was supposed to be considerably weaker this year than last year thanks to heavy graduation losses.  The Bears have come out of the gate at 3-1, but they have yet to play anybody of merit.  This will be their strongest opposition of the season, and they are not good enough to win this one on enemy soil.

This game has been relatively close the last three years, with two of them going to overtime.  If Coach Franchione doesn’t want the temperature turned up another 10 degrees, his troops better win by at least two touchdowns.

The line for this game is 17 points, and the PiRates are right there as well.  There’s always the chance that the Aggie players may begin to not believe in the staff and be ready to mail it in for the rest of the year, but I think it is still too early for that to happen if it is going to happen.  For now, I see them rallying behind their coach.

Strategies

Texas A&M -7 and -4 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 49 and 46 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 69 and 72 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Florida Atlantic at Kentucky

Vegas: Kentucky by 21½

PiRate: Kentucky by 30

1984 and 1950-what do these years have in common in Kentucky football history?  These were the last two times the Wildcats began a season at 5-0.  Both of those teams had great quarterbacks-Bill Ransdell in 1984 and the great Babe Parilli in 1950.

Andre Woodson most definitely belongs in the same category as Ransdell and Parilli.  Not only is he the best quarterback in the SEC, he’s the best in the Commonwealth, and that’s speaks volumes.  Woodson will join the other two with his own 5-0 start this year.

Florida Atlantic is more than just cannon fodder in this game.  Coach Howard Schnellenberger was an All-American end at Kentucky under Coach Blanton Collier in 1955.  He also put the Louisville program on the map in the early 1990’s.  He isn’t coming to Lexington to see his team lose 60-0.  He may not have the horses to compete for the win, or keep it all that close, but the Owls will put up a good showing.

FAU could not stop the passing games of North Texas and Minnesota.  Neither of those teams can come close to the competency of this Kentucky passing attack.  The Wildcats should top 300 yards passing for the first time this season.  The Wildcats average better than 200 yards rushing per game, but I have a gut feeling they won’t reach that mark this week unless they get so far ahead, they will stop passing the ball.  The Wildcats should top 40 points for the fifth consecutive time.

The Owls can score points, and they will penetrate Kentucky’s porous defense.  Look for 200-250 passing yards and another 100-150 running yards.  That should be good for about 20 points.

Strategies

Kentucky -21½

Kentucky -11½ and -8½ in 10 and 13-point teasers (strong)

Over 57 and 54 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 77 and 80 in 10 and 13-point teasers

  

—–

Ole Miss at Georgia

Vegas: Georgia by 15

PiRate: Georgia by 18

Georgia will be flying sky high this week, and returning home between the hedges will make this a happy Saturday in Athens.

Ole Miss will bounce this week; I may not be the best prognosticator in the world (or even on my block), but this is one I feel safe to call without trepidations.  They played their hearts out at home against Florida, and they just won’t have anything left in the tank when they go on the road.  I may have to eat crow, but I feel rather confident about this one.  15 points isn’t all that much, and Ole Miss lost at Vanderbilt by 14.

Look for the Rebels to gain less than 300 yards and struggle to score more than 10 points.  On the other hand, Georgia should gain close to 400 total yards and score 28 points.

Strategies

Georgia -15 (strong)

Under 48

Georgia -5 and -2 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 58 and 61 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Georgia -800 in money line (only for the really risky folks)

—–

Oklahoma at Colorado

Vegas: Oklahoma by 22

PiRate: Oklahoma by 25

Many Oklahoma fans are somewhat nervous about this game.  Colorado has made this their homecoming game as well, and some Sooner followers are worried that the high altitude is going to also play a part this week.

Well, fret not Sooner fans.  OU is going to climb uphill to Boulder and return none the worse for wear.  Oklahoma has too many horses to fall at the Flatirons. They may not put 60 or even 50 points up on the board, but they will win by more than two touchdowns.

Colorado lost at home by 10 points to a rather pedestrian Florida State team.  In the only other game against a decent opponent, Arizona State  handled them with relative ease.  Coach Dan Hawkins will eventually bring the Buffs back into title contention, but that’s still one to two years down the road.

Oklahoma will produce at least 375 yards and probably 425 to 475 yards in this game.  That adds up to about 42 points.  Colorado will be held considerably under their averages in yards and points, so look for about 275 to 300 yards and 14-20 points.

The one caveat in all this is the possible forecast of high down slope winds in this game.  I lived in Boulder when hurricane-force winds took our neighbor’s large gas charcoal grill and blew it over like it was made out of paper.  Imagine what it can do to a football.  If the high winds come, Oklahoma could still win by more than 20 because they can stop CU’s running game and beat them on the ground the old-fashioned way.

Strategies

Oklahoma -22

Over 55½

Oklahoma -12 and -9 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Colorado +32 and +35 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 45½ and 42½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Iowa State at Nebraska

Vegas: Nebraska by 21

PiRate: Nebraska by 27

Let last week be a lesson to all teams who put everything they have into beating one specific opponent.  Nebraska pointed their entire season toward beating Southern Cal.  So, when the Trojans toyed with them, it led to them laying an egg last week against Ball State.

This week’s game should be a tell-tale sign of things to come in Lincoln.  Nebraska should easily dismiss the windless Cyclones, and if they don’t win by more than 20 points, their malaise could be terminal as far as the 2007 season is concerned.  Of course, if inclement weather shows up for this game, it should be a lot closer than the 21-point spread.  Coach Gene Chizik’s Iowa State defense is just strong enough to hold the Cornhuskers under 28 points if a windy and rainy day hits Memorial Stadium.

If the weather is a non-factor in this game, then I see NU scoring at least as many points as Toledo scored against ISU last week (36).  The ‘Huskers should rush for 180 yards and pass for another 275. 

Iowa State began to show some signs of life last week against the anemic Toledo defense.  They won’t repeat that this week even though Nebraska has yielded 49 and 40 points their last two weeks.  Look for about 17 points, and that may include a late score after the game is out of hand.

Strategies

Nebraska -21 (only if weather forecast looks favorable by late Friday afternoon)

Nebraska -11 and -8 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Iowa State +31 and +34 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 67 and 70 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

California at Oregon

Vegas: Oregon by 6

PiRate: Oregon by 7

This may be the best game of the week and is definitely one of the three best.  Not only do you have two undefeated teams in what is the top conference at the moment, you get a Cal team coached by Jeff Tedford, who was Oregon coach Mike Bellotti’s offensive coordinator before becoming a head coach.

This has all the makings of a game resembling the old American Football League.  While the PiRate shows this game to be a 34-27 Oregon win, I really think it will be higher scoring.  I think it will take more than 40 points to win this one. 

Oregon has a slightly better offense thanks to multiple threat quarterback Dennis Dixon.  Take out quarterback sacks and clock-killing kneel-downs, and Dixon is averaging right at 10 yards per carry.  He is on pace to rush for more than 1,000 yards when you factor out sacks.  His passing ability is equally exceptional.  Throw in the brilliant moves of tailback Jonathan Stewart, and it’s no accident Oregon averages 300 rushing yards per game.  Stewart is on pace for a 1,500-yard season.

California has a slightly better defense than the Ducks, which is just enough better to offset the Ducks’ offensive superiority.  Cal’s run defense is considerably better than the Ducks, and the Bears should slow down (but not stop), the Oregon running game.  

What that leaves is home field advantage and intangibles.  Autzen Stadium plus a revenge factor tilts this game in favor of the green and gold.  It looks like the Vegas boys have this one pegged right on.

Strategies

Enjoy this outstanding game and don’t lose anything. 

—–

Kansas State at Texas

Vegas: Texas by 14½

PiRate: Texas by 13

This is certainly one of the weakest 4-0 Longhorn teams in many years.  UT is lucky they aren’t 2-2 right now with losses to Arkansas State and Central Florida.

Kansas State is a rather weak 2-1 team at the moment.  Their collapse and loss at Auburn looks worse now than it did when it happened.  Wins over San Jose State and Missouri State prove very little. 

Both of these teams have reason to look forward to next week.  Kansas State must face rival Kansas, who is marching through its schedule like General Sherman marched through Georgia.  Texas only has to play Oklahoma next week.  To the contrary, both of these teams have reason to bring their A-game this week.  Texas has a little matter of revenge on its mind after KSU handed them a bitter defeat in “The Little Apple” in 2006.  Kansas State’s players must feel that with Nebraska showing huge chinks in their defensive armors, they can win the North Division.  This game will count every bit as much as games against Nebraska and Missouri, and the Wildcats must harbor some beliefs that they can beat this weaker than normal UT squad.

I have the belief that it took a few games for the Longhorns’ offensive line to gel.  It took a few games for their rebuilt secondary to come together.  Now, they are ready to resume their spot among the nation’s elite.  Kansas State doesn’t stand a chance this week.  Once again, Vegas didn’t drop the ball.  I expected them to only list Texas as a single-digit favorite, but they are too smart.  So, we must look for other strategies to play this one.

Strategies

Texas -4½ and -1½ in 10 and 13-point teasers (strong)

Kansas State +24½ and +27½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 65½ and 68½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Michigan State at Wisconsin

Vegas: Wisconsin by 7½

PiRate: Wisconsin by 14

This is another very interesting game in the Big 10.  This wasn’t supposed to be a battle of unbeaten teams, but that’s exactly what it is.  Coach Mark Dantonio has instilled much-needed discipline in this Michigan State team.  The Spartans always had plenty of talent, they just never seemed to be organized the last few years.

Wisconsin has won all four of their games in ugly fashion.  They could have easily lost to UNLV and Iowa, and Citadel and Washington State outplayed them for one half.  If they only show up for 30 minutes this week, the Badgers will be 4-1.

Michigan State has a defense every bit as strong as Iowa’s defense, and the Hawkeyes held Wisconsin to 304 total yards and 17 points.  Offensively, MSU has been okay but not great.  The Badger defense should inhibit the Spartan ground game and produce some quarterback sacks.  It looks like a defensive battle shaping up.

Now, for what I think is something being overlooked in this game.  Michigan State just won at Notre Dame and must now go on the road for the second consecutive week.  The Spartans just haven’t faced quality opposition as of yet, and they could be thinking they are better than they actually are.  Wisconsin on the other hand knows it is better than it has been playing, and I think they are ready to put it all together for 60 minutes.  Thus, I think the Badgers are going to win this game by two touchdowns.  If Michigan State wins this game, then Dantonio will take them to Ohio State at 7-0.

Strategies

Wisconsin -7½

Wisconsin +2½ and +5½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 55½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Maryland at Rutgers

Vegas: Rutgers by 16½

PiRate: Rutgers by 14

Right now, Rutgers fans really think the Scarlet Knights could run the table and play for the national championship.  The U. of Joisey gets both South Florida and West Virginia at home, and the finale at Louisville doesn’t look as intimidating as it did in August.

The Scarlet Knights had an extra week to prepare for this game, and Maryland isn’t all that difficult to prepare for this year.  Their offense hasn’t gotten untracked, and their defense looked great only against the two creampuffs they played.

Rutgers has actually played a weaker schedule than the Terps.  Navy is the toughest opponent they have played, and this is a much weaker Midshipmen team than the last two seasons.

Maryland has played West Virginia, so Rutgers will not present them anything they haven’t faced so far.  Ray Rice will be no more intimidating than Steve Slaton and Noel Divine.  Mike Teel is nothing close to Pat White.  So, I think the Terps will hold RU far under their averages in points and yards.

Maryland had trouble moving the ball against Florida International!  I cannot see the Terps picking up more than 250 total yards in this game, and they shouldn’t score more than 17 points.

Rutgers should grind out about 350-375 total yards, and that should lead to no more than 31 points.  Since the line is 16½, that looks like it is on the edge of being too many to cover.  It should be closer than expected.

Strategies

Maryland +16½

Maryland +26½ and 29½ in 10 and 13-point teasers (strong)

Rutgers -6½ and -3½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 36 and 33 in 10 and 13-point teasers (strong)

—–

Clemson at Georgia Tech

Vegas: Clemson by 3

PiRate: Clemson by 1

Quietly, Clemson has taken a step forward this year.  The Tigers have been a slow-starting team under Coach Tommy Bowden, but this year finds CU 4-0; all four wins have been impressive.

Georgia Tech started out the season like they were going to repeat as division champions, but losses at home to Boston College and at Virginia have knocked the Yellow Jackets out of the race.  Now, GT must worry about falling out of bowl contention, for the Ramblin’ Wreck easily could lose five more games with the remaining schedule that includes games at Maryland, at Miami, and at home against Virginia Tech and Georgia.  So, a loss here could lead to a 5-7 record.

Clemson, on paper, looks to be two touchdowns better than Tech, so why are they only a field goal choice in Vegas?  Like I said last week, when the line looks to be considerably different than the stats show, there is a valid reason for it, even if you cannot figure it out.  I would advise against playing Clemson straight up in this contest.  It is hard to play exceptionally well in consecutive weeks on the road in a BCS conference unless the name on your uniforms says Southern Cal, Florida, Oklahoma, or LSU.  Clemson is due for a letdown, and it could be this week.  The Tigers might still win, but they will have to fight to the finish to earn it.

Strategies

Georgia Tech +13 and +16 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 60½ and 63½ in 10 and 13-point teasers 

—–

UNLV at Nevada

Vegas: Nevada by 3½

PiRate: Nevada by 9

I include this game because it looks like it will be a barn burner in Reno.  UNLV all of a sudden is a force to be reckoned with.  The Rebels shut out Utah last week, and they gave Wisconsin all they could handle earlier this year.

Nevada hasn’t played up to their potential yet this season.  They could have won the Northwestern game, but they made too many mistakes.

I won’t pretend to know more than the Vegas boys in this game; they are there and have the best resources in the world to best know how to pick this game.  My PiRates say Nevada will win and cover, but I wouldn’t touch this game under any circumstances.  Nevada’s pistol offense has fired some blanks thus far.

Strategies

Don’t go messing with a bear in its own cave and don’t try to outsmart Vegas in this one.

—–

Alabama vs. Florida State at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium

Vegas: Florida State by 2

PiRate: Alabama by 1

This is a neutral site game, and at least half of the stadium should be wearing Crimson Saturday.

Georgia proved last week that Nick Saban isn’t a deity.  Bobby Bowden was deified for many years while his Seminoles finished in the top five year after year.  Those days have been gone since 2000.

This looks to be quite an interesting game.  It should be relatively low scoring.  The winner should score about 20 points while the loser should have about 17.  If they play this one 10 times, it will result in a five to five split and both teams would average about 18 points.  Which one of those 10 games will these teams play this week?  Your guess is as good as mine and the boys in Vegas. 

For what it’s worth, Jacksonville provides Florida State absolutely no home field advantage.  It is Gator Country.  Think of Oklahoma playing Ohio State in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Strategies

Florida State +8 and +11 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Alabama +12 and +15 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 33 and 30 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 53 and 56 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

U C L A at Oregon State

Vegas: Oregon State by 1½

PiRate: Oregon State by 4

These are two of the toughest teams to figure out.  The same UCLA team that lost big at Utah a week before Utah lost 27-0 to UNLV is the same UCLA team that handled BYU and Washington.  Oregon State mailed it in against Cincinnati and blew a nice lead against Arizona State, but the Beavers easily handled Utah at Reser Stadium in Corvallis.

The Beavers haven’t really been a dominating home team in the last few years.  Sure, they beat USC at home last year, but they also lost at home to Washington State.  Two years ago, they lost at home to Arizona and Stanford.

After missing last week’s game with headaches and nausea from a concussion, Ben Olson will be back to pilot the Bruin offense.  When he last played, UCLA did nothing on offense against Utah.  Freshman McLeod Bethel-Thompson will be the backup with Patrick Cowan out. 

Oregon State’s defense against the run is quite strong.  UCLA will be forced to go to the air to win this game, and I’m not sure Olson will be strong enough to win it with his arm.  The Beavers will find success through the air against a leaky Bruin pass defense, and that should be enough to give them the close win.

Strategies

Oregon State +8½ and +11½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 46 and 43 in 10 and 13-point teasers (strong)

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Eastern Michigan at Vanderbilt

Vegas: Vanderbilt by 20½

PiRate: Vanderbilt by 27

For many years, teams from the Mid-American Conference have been facing off against Big 10 and SEC schools.  The Bigger conferences hold a commanding edge in these games, but Vanderbilt has lost two out of the three times they played MAC teams in the past 10 years.  Those two losses came to better than average Miami of Ohio and Western Michigan teams, while the one win came against a weak Northern Illinois team, and that win was a comeback 34-31 game.

Eastern Michigan was supposed to be the doormat of the MAC this year, but the Eagles own a win at Northern Illinois and are 2-2.  They’ve won with improved defensive play.  Improved yes, but that doesn’t mean they are great defensively.  No, that means, they just aren’t nearly as bad as they were three or five years ago, when they gave up more than 40 points and 500 total yards per game!

Vanderbilt has enjoyed a week off, something they didn’t experience last year.  It may take a possession or two to get their offense untracked, but by the time the second quarter starts, the Commodores are going to have some fun moving the ball on the ground.  EMU is going to be forced to concentrate too much of their defense on stopping the Chris Nickson to Earl Bennett passing attack, and that will leave holes for Vandy’s running game to exploit. 

Look for the Commodores to rush for close to 300 yards and add another 150-200 through the air.  That should produce about 35-40 points.  EMU will struggle to reach double digits in this game; the Eagles will not pull off the next great MAC upset.

Strategies

Vanderbilt -20½

Over 43½

Vanderbilt -10½ and -7½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 33½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

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Southern California at Washington

Vegas: Southern Cal by 20½

PiRate: Southern California by 20

Poor Washington! They are in the middle of a tough five-game stretch that finds them also facing off against Ohio State, UCLA, Arizona State, and Oregon.

Ohio State beat the Huskies in Seattle by 19 points.  The Trojans are surely better than the Buckeyes, aren’t they?  So, why is the point spread just 20½, when USC is outscoring its opposition by 26.4 points per game and defeated Nebraska by 18?

Washington is an improved team, especially on the offensive side.  Southern Cal has yet to really put together four solid quarters of football.  Yet, with this lack of putting together a total game, the Trojans have won by 28, 18, and 33.  They have already defeated a ranked team on the road, and Washington is not ranked.

All that said, the PiRates show USC to be 20 points better playing at Husky Stadium.  I won’t go against them, because I need to see the nation’s top-ranked team play 60 minutes of top-notch football.  Until someone challenges them, they won’t do it, and that means they won’t do it Saturday.

Strategies

USC -10½ and -7½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Washington +30½ and +33½ in 10 and 13-point teasers   

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Auburn at Florida

Vegas: Florida by 18½

PiRate: Florida by 15

I find this game interesting for two reasons.  First, Auburn was the lone team to defeat the Gators in their national title season last year.  The Tigers shut down the high-octane Gator offense; Florida will be out for revenge.  On the other side in this tug-of-war is the fact that the Gators are human and will definitely be looking ahead one week to the next “Game of the Century” contest against LSU.  Even if Florida’s players concentrate their full attention on this game, I don’t think the coaches will want to extend themselves by opening the playbook.  They would like to leave LSU guessing some.

Those two intangibles should balance themselves out, and the game should be decided on the strengths of the units.  When Auburn has the ball, they will not find much success on the ground.  Their passing game has been like most teams that cannot decide on one quarterback-it has suffered from inconsistency.  Florida won’t steamroller over Auburn’s defense like they have in their first four games.  The Tigers will reduce the effectiveness of Tim Tebow’s arms and legs.  He won’t rush for 150 yards or even 100 in this game, and he won’t pass for 250 yards.  Look for about 225 through the air and less than 50 on the ground.  Tebow’s teammates will rush for another 100 for a total of 130-150.  Florida gets an added bonus because this is Auburn’s first road game.  The Gators will win but it may be by less than expected. 

Strategies

Florida -8½ and -5½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Auburn +28½ and +31½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 44½ and 41½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 64½ and 67½ in 10 and 13-point teasers     

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Ohio State at Minnesota

Vegas: Ohio State by 23½

PiRate: Ohio State by 25

Minnesota might have the worst all-around defense the Big 10 has seen since Northwestern’s 1989 team gave up 45 points per game.  The Gophers are giving up almost 550 total yards per game!  If not for the fact that they have a strong offense and have balanced out the time of possession so far, this team might be giving up 600 yards and more than 50 points per game.  It could be explainable if the Gophers had nine or 10 new starters on that side of the ball, but they returned nine starters from last year’s Insight Bowl team.  New coach Tim Brewster is in over his head.  He has no head coaching experience, and he has never even been a coordinator.  It’s going to be a long time before his staff learns what it takes to win in the Midwest.  If the Gophers continue to play like this, he may not get the allotted amount of time needed to right the ship.

Ohio State was supposed to endure a rebuilding year after losing so much talent off last year’s great team.  Now, the Buckeyes look like the odds on favorite to repeat as Big 10 champs.  Their last two games have been as impressive as any two-game stretch from last season.

Here’s how I see this game playing out Saturday night.  Ohio State will run the ball for more yards than Minnesota has given up on the ground in any game this year.  They will top the 173 put up by Purdue last week.  Call it 225-275 yards rushing for the scarlet and gray.  Ohio State will not match the 408 passing yards that Gopher opponents have averaged so far.  Coach Jim Tressel will not pass the ball that much if the game gets out of hand.  I see the Buckeyes averaging more than 10 yards per attempt in this game, but they may only throw it 22 times for 250 yards.  With 500 yards of offense, they could easily score 45 points.

Minnesota will score some points this year against the Buckeyes after failing to do so last year.  I look for the Gophers to run for 125 yards and pass for 150-175.  They should score two to three times in this game.  This presents a problem, as the point spread should come out very close to the Vegas line.

Strategies

Ohio State -13½ and -10½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 51 and 48 in 10 and 13-point teasers 

—–

Brigham Young at New Mexico

Vegas: B Y U by 5½

PiRate: B Y U by 5

This is the overlooked game of the week.  It should be one of the more exciting games of the day, and the winner will find itself on the top of the Mountain West Conference standings.

This is one of those games where I must disagree with my creation.  The PiRates call for BYU to win by five, but I think this is going to be one of the upsets of the week.  New Mexico has multiple intangible factors on their side this week, and I think it makes them 10 points better than they normally would be.

Let’s start with last year’s game.  The Lobos played matador defense against the Cougars with BYU topping 600 total yards.  New Mexico’s defense is much better, and they should improve on that mark by more than 200 yards this year.  Both of these teams have played and defeated Arizona.  BYU did it at home, while New Mexico did it at Tucson.  BYU had an emotionally tough game against Air Force last week, and now must play on the road against a team they think is well beneath them.  New Mexico had little more than a light workout in demolishing Sacramento State in Albuquerque, and they remain at home this week.

I see this game being close, but I think the Lobos are going to be sky high and ready to pull off their biggest win since they won at Missouri two seasons ago.

Strategies

New Mexico +5½

New Mexico +15½ and +18½ in 10 and 13-point teasers 

—–

Arizona State at Stanford

Vegas: Arizona State by 14

PiRate: Arizona State by 9

I call this game the sneaky game of the week.  Stanford has been giving teams trouble until their starters wear down in the second half.  They gave UCLA and Oregon fits in the first halves of those games.

Arizona State has been sluggish in the first halves of more than one game this year.  So, if they do so again at Stanford Stadium this week, they may find themselves in a huge hole when they begin the second half.  Give Stanford a big enough lead, and the Cardinal regulars may get a huge second wind.  This is also ASU’s first road test, and they haven’t won in Palo Alto since 1997.  I think the Sun Devils will escape with the win, but their fans will feel quite nervous until late in the game.

Strategies

Stanford +14

Stanford +24 and +27 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 51½ and 48½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

This Week’s “Picks”

 

I was leery last week and only went with seven picks.  I was justified in my leeriness, as I finished 3-4.  This week, I feel like I have a better grasp and will go with many more selections.  Either I will be right and bounce back with a good week, or the leery monster will come down hard.

Straight Selections

# 1: Iowa -10½ vs. Indiana

# 2: Michigan -16½ vs. Northwestern

# 3: Georgia -15 vs. Ole Miss

# 4: Wisconsin – 7½ vs. Michigan State

# 5: Tulane +40½ vs. LSU

# 6: Oklahoma -22 vs. Colorado

# 7: Maryland +16½ vs. Rutgers

# 8: New Mexico + 5½ vs. BYU

# 9: Stanford +14 vs. Arizona State

#10: Kentucky -21½ vs. Florida Atlantic

#11: Army -6 vs. Temple

#12: Boise State and Southern Mississippi Over 49½

#13: South Florida and West Virginia Under 55

#14: Iowa and Indiana Under 44

#15: Georgia and Ole Miss Under 48

#16: Oklahoma and Colorado Over 55½

         

Money Line Picks

#17: Boise State -475 vs. Southern Mississippi

#18: South Carolina -550 vs. Mississippi State

#19: Georgia -800 vs. Ole Miss

10-point Teasers

#20: Boise State -½ vs. Southern Mississippi

        Iowa -½ vs. Indiana

        Michigan -6½ vs. Northwestern

#21: Georgia -5 vs. Ole Miss

        Texas -4½ vs. Kansas State

        LSU -30½ vs. Tulane

#22: Texas A&M -7 vs. Baylor

        Maryland +26½ vs. Rutgers

        Ohio State -13½ vs. Minnesota

#23: Purdue -12 vs. Notre Dame

        New Mexico +15½ vs. B Y U

        Cincinnati -4 vs. San Diego State

#24: Middle Tennessee -1½ vs. Florida International

        Kentucky -11½ vs. Florida Atlantic

        Troy -3½ vs. UL-Monroe       

13-point Teaser

#25: South Carolina and Mississippi State Over 28½

        Army +7 vs. Temple

        Alabama +15 vs. Florida State

        Notre Dame +35 vs. Purdue

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