The Pi-Rate Ratings

October 10, 2007

Previews and Selections for October 11-13, 2007

Filed under: College Football — piratings @ 4:32 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:(*)             34-19  64.2%

For The Season Picking Winners:                    225-77  74.5%

Last Week Picks vs. Spread:                             4-5-0   44.4%

For the Season Picking Winners vs. Spread:      42-35-1 54.5% (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.

This is the wackiest college football season since 1981! That’s the season Georgia Tech went 1-10 and beat Alabama.  Pittsburgh, behind Dan Marino won their first 10 games and appeared to have a lock on the number one ranking, quickly opened up a 14-0 lead against Penn State, and then gave up 48 points in the next three quarters to lose 48-14 after giving up just 51 points in their previous seven games.  Nebraska lost their season opener to an Iowa team that had suffered 11 consecutive losing seasons.  Iowa began their rise to prominence that year and also upset UCLA and Michigan. Wisconsin upset both Ohio State and Michigan, something they hadn’t done since 1959.  Auburn and LSU both suffered through losing seasons.

Every week this season, a new slew of upsets has completely taken the so-called experts by surprise.  With Stanford becoming the first 40+ point ‘dog to win outright in modern day football, what could be next?  Will Kent State beat Ohio State this week?  Is that really way out there now?  What about Kentucky knocking off LSU?  It could happen if the right set of intangibles play out.  It makes for scintillating Saturdays, unless you are charged with trying to determine how to turn a profit.  So, here goes my weekly masochistic exercise.

Thursday, October 11

Florida State at Wake Forest

Vegas: Florida State by 5½

PiRate: Florida State by 2

30-0!  That’s how bad Wake Forest embarrassed the Seminoles last year in Tallahassee.  It basically put the nail in the coffin for FSU’s higher-tier bowl chances and exiled them to the Emerald Bowl.  It solidified Wake Forest’s firm grasp on the ACC Atlantic Division title.

Florida State ventures to Winston-Salem with possibly the highest revenge factor possible.  Bobby Bowden-coached teams just don’t experience being shut out or losing by 30 points to a team that hasn’t won multiple national titles.

Now, looking at the talent, the ‘Noles are going to hold Wake under 100 yards rushing, and the Deacon passing game is going to find it almost impossible to average more than eight to nine yards per completion.  I cannot envision Wake Forest scoring more than 17 points in this game, while Florida State accumulates 350-375 total yards and gets 20-28 points.  Add the Thursday night prime-time factor with the typical Florida State swagger, and I think we can take the Seminoles straight up with hopes of getting off to a quick 1-0 start.  Then, again, I could be totally wrong, and we could start off this week with an upset right off the bat.

Strategies

Florida State -5½

Florida State +4½ and +7½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 34 and 31 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Florida State -240 in the money line

—–

Friday, October 12

Hawaii at San Jose State

Vegas: Hawaii by 19

PiRate: Hawaii by 16

It appears that the West Coast games are the most unpredictable in this topsy-turvy season.  At first, I thought spending 99% of this year in either the Upper Midwest or Deep South made it hard to get a grasp on games on the left coast.  But, I recall back to when I lived in the West, and those western games were just as hard to figure even when I was bombarded daily with Mountain West, WAC, and Pac-10 sports coverage. 

On paper, this looks like a 25 to 30-point blowout.  In reality, I think San Jose State could compete in this game and even have a chance for the upset. 

While still quite tough on the mainland, Hawaii isn’t the same team they are on the island.  Taking numerous trips over the Pacific every few weeks tires even 20-year old bodies.  The cumulative affect of changing time zones and sitting on airplanes with lower oxygen levels is not conducive to achieving peak physical condition within 48 hours.  Thus, I expect Hawaii, in their third road trip and fourth road game, to endure some slippage.  Add to this the fact that this game is a day earlier than normal, Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan may not be able to play or may play injured, and San Jose State has improved by 7-10 point in the last month, and I think it will be closer than the spread.  I even give the Spartans more than a 15% chance of winning the game.

I don’t really discount Hawaii’s offense that much if Tyler Graunke plays instead of Brennan.  Graunke can pass for 400 yards and five touchdowns against most WAC defenses, so if S. J. State pulls off the upset and Brennan cannot go, this won’t be any more than a minor causative factor.

Strategies

San Jose State +19

Over 59½ and 56½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Saturday, October 6

Purdue at Michigan

Vegas: Michigan by 5½

PiRate: Michigan by 2

Michigan still has major concerns on defense, and Purdue can light up their side of the scoreboard in a hurry.  Last week, the Wolverines didn’t easily put away Eastern Michigan, while Purdue couldn’t penetrate the mighty Ohio State defense. 

This is a trap game.  Purdue should easily top 250 passing yards and recover offensively this week.  I cannot see any scenario where the Boilermakers would score less than 21-24 points.  Michigan, on the other hand, could as little as 17 and as much as 35.  They only scored 28 against Northwestern’s defense, and Purdue’s defense is much better.

If the Wolverines can rush for 175 yards in this game, they are going to win.  I think they will pick up more than 200 passing yards, and 375 total yards will lead to 27-31 points.  A 30-24 game is too close to the actual spread, and the PiRates think Michigan will just barely survive, so we must forget the straight wagers in this one and look to teasers.

Strategies

Purdue +15½ and +18½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

 

—–

Minnesota at Northwestern

Vegas: Northwestern by 7

PiRate: Northwestern by 5

Minnesota is staring at 11th place in the Big 10 if they lose this game.  The Gophers haven’t been this inept since before Lou Holtz took this job 20+ years ago.  The Minny defense is indefensible right now.

The Northwestern spread offense isn’t the juggernaut it has been in the recent past, but it’s going to look a lot like that this week.  I foresee 150 rushing yards and 300 passing yards for the Wildcats.  That should supply them with at least 28 to 31 points.

Minnesota can still move the ball, and the Gophers should annex 200 or more yards rushing and passing.  They should also score at least 30 points.

The stats and probable scores look even enough to make this game a tossup.  However, I’m adding just enough intangible to tilt this game in favor of the purple and white.  Northwestern picked up a huge road victory last week and comes home with loads of momentum.  NU can see its way to six victories and bowl eligibility ONLY if they win this game.  Minnesota may have received the death blow in their loss at Florida Atlantic.  Since that game, they have regressed by four or five points.  That’s why I think the boys from Evanston will win by four or five points.

Strategies

Northwestern +3 and +6 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 55½ and 52½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

    

—–

Kent State at Ohio State

Vegas: Ohio State by 30

PiRate: Ohio State by 43

Did you notice that Ohio State looked not much better than average offensively in the second half of their game with Purdue?  The Buckeyes lost focus, and you can bet the coaches jumped their cases this week.  Ohio State is not going to take this game lightly.  The players remember the first half of their game against Akron earlier this year, and combined with the verbal lashing they received this week, I expect the scarlet and gray to play like they are facing that team from up north.  Thus, the Golden Flashes are going to flame out in Columbus this week.

I don’t like laying 30 points with any Jim Tressel-coached team.  He isn’t likely to run the score up against an in-state mid-major team.  Ohio State could easily win by 50 points if the starters played 3½ quarters.  I doubt Tressel would leave them in if OSU was up 35-0.

Kent State is a rushing-oriented team.  It isn’t going to happen against Ohio State’s run defense.  Look for the Flashes to pick up less than 100 yards on the ground (they average over 230).  It means, they won’t score any more than 10 points, and that figure may come because they score late against the underclassmen.

So, this looks like another teaser choice.  Because tOSU could conceivably name the score, we will only look at one side of this play.

Strategies

Ohio State -20 and -17 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 36 and 33 in 10 and 13-point teasers

    

—–

South Carolina at North Carolina

Vegas: South Carolina by 7

PiRate: South Carolina by 19

This is one of the more interesting games of the week.  These teams rarely face off these days after being former conference rivals for many years.

Butch Davis has the Tar Heels believing they can win every week.  They put a huge scare in Virginia Tech and then put away Miami in a matter of a few minutes last week.  The UNC players are sky-high and remain at home for this big game.

On the other side, you have Steve Spurrier and his cocky Gamecocks.  Last Thursday night, Tyrone Nix’s defense probably put an end to Andre Woodson’s Heisman Trophy chances.  The Tar Heel passing game will look more like a Division 2 team this week after USC faced Kentucky last week.

South Carolina’s offense is certainly un-Spurrierlike.  The Gamecocks average just 360 total yards per game, but they find a way to score close to 30 points per game with that limited yardage.  I think they can match that 360 yard output, and that should guarantee them at least 21 points.  UNC should score no more than 17, so I see the visitors picking up a big road win to stay in the national title picture.

Strategies

South Carolina -7

South Carolina +3 and +6 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 57 and 60 in 10 and 13-point teasers

South Carolina -275 in the money line 

—–

Virginia Tech at Duke

Vegas: Virginia Tech by 13

PiRate: Virginia Tech by 15

Virginia Tech played more like a Frank Beamer-coached team last week against Clemson than they have in quite awhile.  The Hokies scored 21 points with their defense and special teams to blitz the Tigers in Clemson.

Va. Tech’s offense still leaves a lot to be desired.  Duke may be just what the doctor ordered.  While this Blue Devil team is considerably better than that of the last few years, they don’t fare well against Beamerball.  Tech has posted back-to-back shutouts in this series, and Duke may improve to 7-10 points this year.  The Devils are not going to hold VT to seven points, so the Hokies are going to win and win by several points.

Duke is going to struggle to finish the day with positive rushing yardage.  The Tech pass rush will pick up about 30-40 yards in sacks, and I’m not sure the Blue Devil running game can gain any more than 40 yards.  Since Duke won’t pass for more than 230 yards, we are looking at less than 250 total yards in this game.  It adds up to single digits on their side of the scoreboard.

Virginia Tech’s defense and special teams will likely score or set up a score in this game, so straight away, that will be enough points to equal what Duke gets.  Now, can the Hokie offense pick up two more scores of its own?  Duke surrenders 32 points per game and 437 total yards per game.  That answers the question.  Virginia Tech will win, and it shouldn’t be close.

Strategies

Virginia Tech -13
Virginia Tech -3 and Pk in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 55½ and 58½ in 10 and 13-point teasers 

—–

Louisville at Cincinnati

Vegas: Cincinnati by 10½

PiRate: Cincinnati by 16

At the start of the year, 10½ points didn’t look like it would be enough for this game.  Of course, that was Louisville by 10½ points.  Now, the Cardinals’ defense looks weaker than even Minnesota’s. 

Louisville is now in danger of not gaining bowl eligibility.  A loss here would drop the Cards to 3-4 with games remaining at undefeated Connecticut, at West Virginia, and at South Florida and a home finale against Rutgers.  UL’s backs are against the wall.

Cincinnati picked up a key road win at Rutgers last week, and that came on the heels of winning on the road at San Diego State a week before.  The Bearcats return home with loads of momentum.  Cinti’s offense averages more than 40 points per game, and they are going up against a defense that yields 31 points and almost 450 total yards per game.  The Bearcats should definitely top 35 points and possibly approach 50 points.

Louisville also averages more than 40 points per game.  The Cardinal passing attack tops 400 air yards per game.  Cinti’s pass defense has some liabilities, so Louisville could outscore the Bearcats in a shootout.

The real difference in this game is Cincinnati’s run defense against Louisville’s running game.  UL will not penetrate the UC front seven, and the Bearcat pass rush should penetrate into the backfield forcing a few errant passes.  It adds up to a Cinti win, but I’m not as confident as the PiRates that it will be by double digits.

Strategies

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

Over 56 and 53 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Alabama at Ole Miss

Vegas: Alabama by 6½

PiRate: Alabama by 6

The PiRates and Vegas are in total agreement on this one, but I think this is another trap game.  I smell an ambush upset here, and I see a strong play in the teasers.

Ole Miss is considerably better at home than on the road.  The Rebels lost but competed well at home against undefeated Missouri and Florida.  Last week, they shut out Louisiana Tech 24-0; yes, that’s not a major power they destroyed, but it was the type of win that pumps up a team in need of a shot-in-the-arm.

Alabama just barely survived at home against Houston last week, and it took a late interception to keep the Tide from losing the game.  They have not played well in their two road games, beating Vanderbilt 24-10 and losing to Florida State 21-14.  The Vandy win was close to a gift from the officials as questionable calls (never appearing on the game film) wiped out an early Commodore touchdown and another long gainer that would have given the Commodores first and goal inside the ‘Bama 10.

Rebel Coach Ed Orgeron is in year three in Oxford, and if there is to be a year four, his squad is going to need a statement win or two.  This is a must win game if the Rebs have any chance of getting to 6-6 and having a chance at a bowl game.  A win here would improve their record to 3-4 with winnable games remaining against Arkansas, Northwestern State, and Mississippi State.

Looking at the stats sheets for both teams, Alabama’s figures look much more impressive than Ole Miss’s numbers, but Ole Miss has played a slightly tougher schedule.  I cannot pick Ole Miss to win straight out, even though I think it is a strong possibility, but with ‘Bama laying six and a half points, I really like this teaser play.

Strategies

Ole Miss + 16½ and +19½ in 10 and 13-point teasers  

—–

Georgia at Vanderbilt

Vegas: Georgia by 7

PiRate: Georgia by 7

Before Georgia’s debacle in Knoxville last week, I was considering whether Vanderbilt could knock off the Bulldogs two years in a row.  Now, the intangibles stack up highly against the Commodores.

After Tennessee ripped the Bulldogs’ defense last week, there’s no doubt Willie Martinez will have his red and black defense ready to rebound.  Throw in the revenge factor after Vandy went to Athens and humiliated the Bulldogs between the hedges, and the intangibles stack heavily in favor of ‘dogs.

Vanderbilt is in the beginning stages of a serious quarterback controversy.  Starter Chris Nickson has not put up the numbers needed to win in the SEC.  Backup Mackenzi Adams has loads of potential but little experience.  Third-teamer Richard Kovalcheck has experience as a former Arizona starter, but he has been lost on the depth chart in Nashville, getting mop up duty.

The last time Vanderbilt defeated Georgia in back-to-back seasons, Dwight Eisenhower was President, and Hawaii and Alaska were not yet states.  Ironically, Fran Tarkenton was Georgia’s quarterback.  Vanderbilt in the mid and late 1950’s had a football program that was on-par with the rest of the conference and better than Alabama and Georgia.  That was in the days of platoon football, where players played on both offense and defense.  15-20 good players could win in the SEC then.  Now, it takes 45-50 really good players, and Vanderbilt is outmanned in conference play.  Don’t expect the Commodores to win on homecoming.

Strategies

Georgia -7

Georgia +3 and +6 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 55 and 58 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Baylor at Kansas

Vegas: Kansas by 25½

PiRate: Kansas by 27

Kansas is ripe for a let down after picking up a huge rivalry win at Kansas State last week.  Baylor has just enough offense to score enough points to beat the spread.  Since the Jayhawks are swimming in uncharted waters with a 5-0 record, it’s hard to gauge how Coach Mark Mangino’s team will fare as the hunted instead of the hunter in the Big 12.

Kansas is well-balanced and can win with offense or defense.  KU’s running game can control the ball, while their passing game can strike quickly.  I just don’t see them bouncing much if any.

Baylor cannot run the ball, and the Jayhawks will exploit this by forcing them to run the ball or pass into excellent secondary coverage.  I sense an interception or two or three, and that should virtually guarantee a 6-0 KU team come Saturday afternoon.

The spread for this game is extremely high.  This series has seen most of the games end up rather close.  Last year, Baylor came from behind to pull off a 36-35 win.

I don’t like playing the spread in this one, but I think adding 10 points to KU’s side makes it easily too many points to cover.  Kansas will win and probably be all alone in first place in the Big 12 North, but they aren’t going to win by five touchdowns.  That gives us an excellent teaser option.

Strategies

Baylor +35½ and +38½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 71 and 74 in 10 and 13-point teasers

 

—–

New Mexico at Wyoming

Vegas: Wyoming by 3½

PiRate: Wyoming by 3

I have included this game because Wyoming is one of the most interesting teams to follow this year.  Coach Joe Glenn won at Northern Colorado and Montana, and he is on the verge of doing great things in Laramie.  He could easily become the next former Wyoming coach to go on to bigger and better things, joining the likes of Bowden Wyatt, Bob Devaney, Pat Dye, Fred Akers, Dennis Erickson, and Joe Tiller.  The former Lincoln, Nebraska, native could easily find himself high on the list if the Cornhuskers change coaches in the next couple of years.

Wyoming has the best record in the Mountain West right now, and they are one of three teams still unbeaten in conference play.  A win here will seal the Cowboys as the strongest threat to BYU winning the conference title.  BYU must come to Laramie in November.

While the stats for New Mexico and Wyoming look rather even, Wyoming’s strength of schedule is considerably tougher this year. 

Strategies

Wyoming -3½

Wyoming +6½ and +9½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 59 and 62 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Wyoming -165 in the money line 

—–

Tennessee at Mississippi State

Vegas: Tennessee by 7

PiRate: Tennessee by 9

There are two trap games in the Magnolia State this week.  While Ole Miss could be putting the bite on Alabama, Mississippi State could be surprising Tennessee.

Tennessee played an unbelievably great game against Georgia at Neyland Stadium last week, and must now play a lesser opponent on the road.  That almost always leads to a slight letdown.  Teams just cannot get up two weeks in a row when the second opponent isn’t a fancy team.

For Sylvester Croom’s Maroon Bulldogs, this is a game where they will be sky high and ready to fight tooth and nail like every play is life and death.  MSU stands at 4-2 needing just two more wins to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2000.  After this game, they must play at West Virginia, at Kentucky, home against Alabama, at Arkansas, and home against Ole Miss.  It looks like this game represents one of three possible wins remaining on the schedule, and if Croom’s crew is ready to compete for a bowl, Saturday will be a tell-tale contest.

The PiRates say Tennessee has a good chance to cover this week, but I think it will be somewhat difficult.  Add 10 or 13 points to that spread, and I think it is close to impossible.

Strategies

Mississippi State +17 and +20 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 62 and 65 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Washington State at Oregon

Vegas: Oregon by 18

PiRate: Oregon by 19

I sense a long day for the Cougars this week.  Oregon has enjoyed a week off to let that painful loss to Cal seethe and fester into a major illness.  Duck fever can only be cured by a major blowout win.

Washington State doesn’t have the defensive might to stop a Duck offense that can both run and pass for more than 200 yards against even an average opponent.  Look for the green and gold to top 500 total yards and 40 points.

WSU’s offense can score points in droves with a powerful passing game averaging more than 300 yards per game.  Oregon’s biggest liability is their pass defense, so the Cougars could easily top 30 points this week.  Can you see where I’m going with this one?  It’s time to tease the total.

Strategies

Oregon -8 and -5 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 58½ and 55½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

 

—–

Wisconsin at Penn State

Vegas: Penn State by 7

PiRate: Penn State by 7

Wisconsin could find themselves in a similar situation this week than they faced last week on the road in Big 10 play.  The Badgers just cannot put together four quarters of quality football.  It might be okay against The Citadel, but against a BCS team of value, don’t figure on UW winning with two good quarters of play.

Penn State can exploit a 15-minute snooze and put this game away in one quarter.  The Nittany Lion defense is better than the Iowa defense that greatly limited what the Badgers did in Madison. 

Now, let’s add a couple of intangible here that will seal this game into the win column for Penn State.  Remember last season?  Joe Pa merely broke his leg in this game.  You can bet the Penn State players haven’t forgotten.  Also, Wisconsin took advantage of last year’s clock rules on kickoffs to stall away the time.  Coach Bret Bielema instructed his kickoff squad to purposely go offsides on consecutive kickoffs.  Since the clock ran once the kicker’s foot contacted the ball, the clock expired without Penn State having an opportunity to get a good return and possibly have a chance at the score.  Paterno thought this was very bush league, and it angered him.

Strategies

Penn State +3 and +6 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 54 and 57 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 34 and 31 in10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Oklahoma State at Nebraska

Vegas: Nebraska by 4

PiRate: Oklahoma State by 3

Coach Bill Callahan is just 23-17 against FBS teams as head coach of Nebraska.  That would get him a lifetime contract at Baylor, but it in Lincoln, that’s likely to get him a pink slip.  After last week’s mauling by the Missouri Tigers, there are thousands of angered fans in the Cornhusker Nation.  This better be a winning Saturday for Nebraska, or Callahan’s tenure might end rather abruptly.  How could the ‘Huskers score just two field goals against a Missouri defense that couldn’t stop Ole Miss’s weak offense? 

Oklahoma State is just talented enough to win on the road in the Big 12 against a team that isn’t all on the same page.  Many observers in corn country believe NU is a team full of dissension and lacking proper discipline and team camaraderie.  Others say there is no sense of urgency with this program. 

The weather could be starting to become messy this Saturday, and that will really hurt Nebraska.  The Cornhuskers need good weather to make their West Coast passing game thrive.  Oklahoma State can run the ball all day against the Nebraska defense and won’t be hurt as much by the elements.

The large intangible factor is that the 41-6 loss could awaken Nebraska.  It better have done so, because if we don’t see a huge turnaround this week, the Cornhuskers are done for the year.  I wouldn’t count on Nebraska covering this spread.

Strategies

Oklahoma State +14 and +17 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 73 and 76 in 10 and 13-point teasers (check weather forecast Friday to verify the forecast of rain and cool temperatures)

—–

Texas at Iowa State

Vegas: Texas by 16½

PiRate: Texas by 19

Iowa State was supposed to be in last place in the Big 12 North, but Texas wasn’t supposed to be in last place in the Big 12 South.  The Longhorns are all but eliminated from the Conference title, but they still can play for a New Year’s Day Bowl if they can run the table.

The next two games on the schedule will be the easiest two.  The Longhorns should recover and beat the unfortunate Cyclones in Ames.  ISU will have no answer for the UT passing attack this week.  Look for Texas to pass for close to 300 yards and add enough rushing yardage to score 30-35 points.

Iowa State doesn’t have enough offensive firepower to match Texas point-for-point in this game.  20 points is the maximum they can score.  16½ points is high for a road game for this Texas team, but the teasers make it more playable.

Strategies

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

Iowa State +26½ and +29½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 43½ and 40½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

[Not a bad entire 10-point teaser parlay here: UT 31-14 win would do it]     

—–

Illinois at Iowa

Vegas: Illinois by 3½

PiRate: Illinois by 8

Iowa’s offense has been heading south for two seasons.  Their defense is still quite proficient and of championship quality.  Jake Christensen has performed below expectations in replacing Drew Tate at quarterback-this after Tate had a lackluster senior season.  Now Iowa finds itself joining Minnesota at the bottom of the league.

Illinois is on the way up and headed towards a December or January game this season.  The Illini could conceivably be 9-1 when they head to the giant horseshoe in Columbus in November. 

Sooner or later, I believe Iowa will come out of their fog and play more like the team they were supposed to be this year.  This may be the game they awaken from their month-long slumber.  The Hawkeye defense against the run is good enough to slow down the Illini’s Rashard Mendenhall.  Of course, slowing him down may mean holding the star running back to 80 yards and one touchdown.  That said, I think the safest play here is to go with the home team getting an extra 10 or 13 points.  However, I consider this only a weak play that should be used as a last resort to fill out a parlay.

Strategies

Iowa +13½ and +16½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 34 and 31 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Boston College at Notre Dame

Vegas: Boston College by 13½

PiRate: Boston College by 14

Notre Dame upset UCLA last week, but it took multiple turnovers and the forced insertion of the Bruins’ third string quarterback to do so.  Still, the Irish produced no offense in the game.

Boston College averages more than four times as many rushing yards and more than twice as many passing yards as Notre Dame.  The Eagle defense is about the equal of Notre Dame’s stop troops.  While Notre Dame has played a much more difficult schedule than BC, they are not ready to beat a top 10 team.

Boston College whipped Georgia Tech in Atlanta, while Tech clobbered Notre Dame.  That alone counters the difference in schedule strength and makes me believe that Matt Ryan will direct the BC attack to more than enough points to win this game.

Strategies

Boston College -3½ and -½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Notre Dame +23½ and 26½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 56½ and 59½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

     

—–

T C U at Stanford

Vegas: T C U by 6

PiRate: Stanford by 3

Stanford’s big upset win over the Southern Cal Trojans last week really had more to do with USC not showing up than the Cardinal all of a sudden improving by 500%.  The PiRate computer formulae wasn’t able to factor this in as much as yours truly.

T C U tasted defeat in Laramie, Wyoming, last week just like I thought they would.  This Horn Frog team is considerable weaker than last year’s squad, but they are still good enough to win eight ball games and return to a bowl.

I tend to believe that TCU can win this game, but I will entrust the PiRate computer to know something I don’t.  So, I’ll take advantage of both my beliefs and the PiRates to find value in this game.  T C U wins ugly, so I don’t believe they will produce a blowout win on the road against a Pac-10 team.

Strategies

Stanford +16 and +19 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Oregon State at California

Vegas: California by 13½

PiRate: California by 15

California is swimming in restricted waters normally reserved for Oklahoma, Southern Cal, and Florida.  The Golden Bears haven’t rated this high in the polls since Lynn “Pappy” Waldorf coached in Berkeley in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.  From 1947 through 1950, Waldorf’s teams finished with records of 9-1, 10-1, 10-1, and 9-1-1.  Three of those four losses came by small margins in the Rose Bowl.

Oregon State is a bipolar team.  When they are up, they are strong enough to make this a close game.  When they are down, they can surrender 28 points in 10 minutes.  The Beavers haven’t informed the public which personality they plan on delivering to Memorial Stadium this week.  Even if they play their best ball of the year, I expect Cal to win by more than a field goal.  The Beavers may be able to hold Justin Forsett to 50 rushing yards, but they won’t be able to also stop or slow Nate Longshore’s passing prowess.  We can profit off that knowledge.

Strategies

California -3½ and -½ in 10 and 13-point teasers 

—–

L S U at Kentucky

Vegas: L S U by 9

PiRate: L S U by 8

L S U trounced South Carolina, and South Carolina clobbered Kentucky.  So, L S U should really slaughter Kentucky this week, correct?  So, why are the Tigers just 9-point picks? 

L S U just played their biggest game of the season, and the Bayou Bengals were extended to the 60th minute in that game.  Kentucky has two extra days of preparation for this game.  Add to the fact that this is a day game on the road, and the only other time the Tigers left Baton Rouge for a day game, they didn’t play that well.  And, that was just a short trip to the Superdome where the game was still played under lights.

Andre Woodson may have one chance to play himself back into the Heisman Trophy race.  If he can pick apart this LSU secondary, that will erase the poor showing he displayed against South Carolina.  To do that, the Wildcat ground game must keep the Tiger defense honest and not allow their front four to think pass rush on every play.

I don’t believe Kentucky can win this game outright, but they sure can make it closer than expected.  They could easily stay in contention all day or for at least a half, so I just cannot play this one straight up.

Strategies

L S U +1 and +4 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 63½ and 66½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Auburn at Arkansas

Vegas: Arkansas by 3

PiRate: Tossup

This is one of the games that has monopolized my time this week.  Arkansas struggled at home with UT-Chattanooga last week.  The Razorbacks just couldn’t put the Mocs away and won by only 19 points.

Auburn played like it was 2004 last week.  As expected, the Tigers demolished Vanderbilt.  With a game against LSU on the horizon next week in addition to the results of the last two weeks, it is possible that Auburn could be off a bit this Saturday.

Arkansas’s schedule to this point has included Troy, Alabama, Kentucky, North Texas, and Chattanooga, while Auburn has played Kansas State, South Florida, Mississippi State, New Mexico State, Florida, and Vanderbilt (all but NMSU have a winning record and NMSU is 3-3).  There is a good 10 points worth of difference in schedule strength between these two teams.

The PiRates call this game dead even, and for consistency when that happens, I set the home team as a one point overtime favorite.  Arkansas is a slight favorite, but I think Auburn can win this game seven out of 10 times.  The War Eagle run defense is strong enough to “hold” the hogs to 200 rushing yards.  Throw in a maximum of 150 passing yards, and Arkansas should score no more than 21-24 points.

Auburn’s newfound offense with Brad Lester returning to greatly improve the running game and taking heat off quarterback Brandon Cox makes the Tigers a good 10 points better today than they were when they took the field against Kansas State.  Auburn should rush for at least 175-200 yards and pass for another 175-300 yards.  The Tigers can score 30 points with 350-400 total yards, and I think they have a 65-70% chance of winning the game.  So, Arkansas having to lay 13 points in a teaser is the way to go, especially with Auburn seeking revenge for the pasting they received last season.

Strategies

Auburn +13 and +16 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 39½ and 36½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Indiana at Michigan State

Vegas: Michigan State by 4

PiRate: Tossup

This is another of the multiple trap games this week.  Indiana is a team on the roll and all but assured of breaking a long bowl slump.  Michigan State has lost back-to-back games, including a disheartening home game against Northwestern.  The Spartans of the past few seasons have gone into a funk following their first loss of the season, and they are fitting this pattern again this year.

The odds makers have installed Michigan State as the favorite for this game, but I agree with my PiRates that this is a tossup.  An Indiana win locks up bowl eligibility for the Hoosiers, while a Michigan State loss virtually eliminates the Spartans from getting the needed six wins with games remaining with Ohio State, Iowa, and Purdue on the road and Michigan and Penn State at home.  Let’s force MSU to win by more than two touchdowns to beat us.

Strategies

Indiana +14 and +17 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 52 and 49 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Texas A&M at Texas Tech

Vegas: Texas Tech by 9

PiRate: Texas Tech by 7

This has to rate as one of the five most exciting games of the day.  The score of this game might top the score when these two hook up on the hardwoods.  Texas A&M does not have the personnel on defense to stop or even slow down the vaunted Texas Tech passing game.  The Red Raiders are passing for more than 500 yards per game, and they could easily surpass that again this week.

Texas A&M has one of the top rushing offenses in the nation, and they will certainly try to control the ball with lots of running plays this week.  Texas Tech’s run defense is suspect, and they may not be able to stop the Aggies from sustaining several time-consuming drives.  Throw in the special skills of running back Jorvorskie Lane, and A&M should convert several third and short situations into first downs and score touchdowns every time they penetrate Tech’s five yard line.

Texas Tech won’t be hurt all that much if Texas A&M controls the ball for 36 minutes.  They can score 50 points with 24 minutes of offense.  As the home team, they should take out the Aggies in a high-scoring affair.

  

Strategies

Texas Tech +1 and +4 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 59½ and 56½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 79½ and 82½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Missouri at Oklahoma

Vegas: Oklahoma by 10½

PiRate: Oklahoma by 9

This is my pick for top game of the week.  Missouri is 5-0 for the second season in a row (they started 6-0 last year).  The last time Missouri won in Norman was 1966!  If they can continue to play defense like they did last week, the Tigers are strong enough to snap the 41-year drought.  That’s a mighty big if, because I think Nebraska’s offensive malaise played a larger role in the outcome of last week’s game than the MU defense.

Oklahoma rarely loses Big 12 games at Memorial Stadium.  In fact their last conference loss at home came in 2001 at the hands of Les Myles’ Oklahoma State Cowboys.

Oklahoma is still in the national championship picture with all of last week’s upsets.  If my premise that Missouri’s defense isn’t as improved as they looked against the woeful Cornhuskers is correct, then OU is going to pile up the yards and points this week.

I could be wrong, and I am not discounting the great work Gary Pinkel has done in Columbia, but I see a potential double digit win for the Sooners.

Strategies

Oklahoma -10½

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

Missouri +20½ and +23½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 51 and 48 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 71 and 74 in 10 and 13-point teasers

     

—–

Colorado at Kansas State

Vegas: Kansas State by 5½

PiRate: Kansas State by 4

Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins has the Buffaloes on the precipice of bowl eligibility in year two of his tenure.  CU needs two more wins to get there, and they have more than two winnable games left on their schedule.  Actually, the Buffs are 2-0 in the Big 12 with a win over Oklahoma, so they should be considered a North Division title contender.

Kansas State lost a heart-breaker to arch-rival Kansas in a game that more than lived up to its billing as a great match up last week.  It will be tough for the Wildcats to play up to their potential.

These teams’ stats look almost identical.  Both average a little more than 380 yards of total offense with KSU having a little better passing stats and CU possessing slightly better rushing numbers.  Both teams surrender just under 310 total yards per game and like numbers of rushing and passing yards allowed.  Colorado’s schedule has been a little tougher with games against Arizona State, Florida State, and Oklahoma.  Throw in home field advantage, and it balances with schedule strength.

Thus, I see a tossup in this game with each team having a 50-50 chance of winning.  Since Kansas State is favored by 5½, it gives us another decent teaser play.

Strategies

Colorado +15½ and +18½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 39½ and 36½ in 10 and 13-point teasers 

—–

Central Florida at South Florida

Vegas: South Florida by 11½  

PiRate: South Florida by 19

South Florida bounced from the great West Virginia win and didn’t impress many people with their win over Florida Atlantic.  Now, the Bulls take on a better intrastate rival in UCF.  This is a UCF team that led Texas in the fourth quarter.  However, that game was at their new on-campus stadium.  This game is in Tampa. 

South Florida’s run defense should stop or greatly limit UCF’s top offensive weapon-running back Kevin Smith.  Smith has averaged 172 rushing yards per game at a six yard per carry clip.  He might pick up 100 rushing yards in this game, but it may take more than 30 attempts to get there.  Quarterback Kyle Israel is not going to be able to take up the slack, and the USF pass rush is going to put him on the ground a few times.

When USF has the ball, the Bulls will be able to meet or exceed their typical rushing and passing numbers.  That means USF should top 28 points in this game.  UCF might score as many as 17 points, but that would be the absolute maximum.  Since USF is favored by 11½, it looks like a good chance to play this one straight as well as teasing it.

Strategies

South Florida – 11½

South Florida – 1½ and + 2½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 64½ and 67½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

South Florida -500 in the money line (it’s a big risk though and you might do better with teasers than to risk 500 to win 100) 

—–

Brigham Young at U N L V

Vegas: Brigham Young by 10½

PiRate: Brigham Young by 17

UNLV was able to shut out Utah 27-0 and take Wisconsin to the final gun losing just 20-13.  At the same time, Hawaii completely befuddled the Rebels.

BYU enjoyed an off week last Saturday, and this has allowed the Cougars to iron out the kinks, especially in their passing attack.  Look for BYU to pass the ball for more than 300 yards as result of the extra work.

The PiRates are ready to set all their sails to the wind and go big with the Cougars in this game.  They see a 10½-point spread as too good to be true.  That makes this civilian a little apprehensive, but I don’t want to be forced to walk the plank, so I’ll go along with them.

Strategies

B Y U – 10½

B Y U – ½ and +2½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 39½ and 36½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Washington at Arizona State

Vegas: Arizona State by 12

PiRate: Arizona State by 13

As I predicted last week, Arizona State struggled but won at Washington State, and now they return home with the Pac-10 title certainly within reach especially since Cal and USC must come to Tempe.

Washington must make a 1,500 mile trek, and that is worth a few points in ASU’s favor.  However, the Huskies got a week off after almost doing to USC what Stanford did last week.  This is the fourth game of five in a grueling stretch of contests for the Huskies, and having a freshman (albeit talented) at quarterback is extremely hard for a team that competes in a league usually dominated by upperclassmen quarterbacks.

Arizona State should win by one to two touchdowns, which puts this game on either side of the spread.  While I think Washington’s running game will be slowed and held to about 100 yards, the passing game could top 200 yards.  300 total yards should give them something around 17 points.  ASU should run for close to 150 and pass for about 250 yards, and that should supply them with enough ball advancement to score 28-31 points.

Strategies

Arizona State -2 and +1 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 64 and 67 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Arizona at Southern California

Vegas: Southern Cal by 21

PiRate: Southern Cal by 21

I remember back in the 1975 season that Oklahoma had three or four close calls on their way to an 8-0 start.  The Sooners were going through a stretch where they were 50-2-1 from the start of the 1971 season to the 8-0 mark.  The Sooners had lost their edge, and they ran into a Kansas Jayhawk team that was focused and ready to pull off a big upset.  Oklahoma not only lost the game in a major surprise, KU held the Sooners to a measly field goal in a 23-3 win.

The Sooners had another tough game with a Missouri team that pegged the only loss on Alabama that year, and then OU recovered and blew a 10-0 Nebraska team off the field.  Oklahoma then beat Michigan in the Orange Bowl to win the national title.

I’m not convinced this Southern Cal team has what it takes to recover from their failures to live up to expectations and run the table against the likes of Oregon, Cal, Arizona State, and UCLA.

Arizona is not the type of team to scare USC.  The Wildcats cannot establish a running game against the Trojan defense, and a steady diet of passing is going to lead to a quarterback who knows what it feels like to sit on the L.A. Memorial Coliseum turf.

The Trojans are unsettled at quarterback with John David Booty’s broken finger and Mark Sanchez not too far removed from a fractured thumb.  Expect Sanchez to start this game.

I look for the Trojans to begin a little bit of a recovery this week, but they may only win this game by 14-20 points.  The line is 21, so this one is liable to hug the spread by a few points.

   

Strategies

Southern Cal -11 and -8 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Arizona +21 and + 24 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 67 and 70 in 10 and 13-point teasers

   

—–

Sunday, October 14

Nevada at Boise State

Vegas: Boise State by 26

PiRate: Boise State by 23

Boise State just might like to play all their games on Sundays.  Last Sunday, the Broncos dismantled New Mexico State 58-0.  This week, they can outgun the pistol offense of Nevada.

UNR is not as good this year as they were last year.  Boise State is almost as good this year as they were last season.  In 2006, the Broncos went to Reno and pounded the Wolf Pack 38-7.

While both teams have exceptional, balanced offenses, Boise State has an equally gifted defense to complement their offense.  Nevada’s defense is leaky at best.

I see a scenario in which BSU rushes for 230 yards and passes for 270 yards.  With 500 total yards, the field of blue should see the home team top 45 points.

Nevada will not approach their game averages this week.  I expect them to run for about 120 yards and pass for 220.  340 total yards should produce about 20 points.  That puts the outcome of this game right on the spread line.  Because of that and the fact that this game will not end until late Sunday night, I will not issue any recommendations on this game. 

Strategies

Start looking ahead to next week by Sunday night, and don’t play this one unless you need a final fix after a weekend of college football, pro football, and the baseball championship series.

—–

This Week’s “Picks”

 

Go figure!  I selected 25 picks two weeks ago and performed decently.  Last week, I went with just nine trying to concentrate on what I thought were the limited “sure things.”  So, I ended up with a losing weekend, while several of the games I ruled out came through as expected.  It’s enough to make you go batty.  So, do I go with just a handful of picks hoping to pick the five best options, or do I pick 25 hoping to reduce the risk of three upsets ruining the whole weekend?

Straight Selections

# 1: Florida State -5½ vs. Wake Forest

# 2: San Jose State +19 vs. Hawaii

# 3: South Carolina -7 vs. North Carolina

# 4: Virginia Tech -13 vs. Duke

# 5: Georgia -7 vs. Vanderbilt

# 6: Wyoming -3½ vs. New Mexico

# 7: Oklahoma -10½ vs. Missouri

# 8: South Florida – 11½ vs. Central Florida

# 9: Brigham Young -10½ vs. UNLV

              

Money Line Picks

#10: Florida State -240 vs. Wake Forest

#11: South Carolina -275 vs. North Carolina

#12: Wyoming -165 vs. New Mexico

#13: South Florida -500 vs. Central Florida

10-point Teasers

#14: Florida State +4½ vs. Wake Forest

        Ohio State -20 vs. Kent State

        Virginia Tech -3 vs. Duke

#15: Ole Miss +16 vs. Alabama

        Georgia +3 vs. Vanderbilt

        Mississippi State +17 vs. Tennessee

#16: Wyoming + 6½ vs. New Mexico

        Oregon -8 vs. Washington State

        Texas -6½ vs. Iowa

#17: Boston College -3½ vs. Notre Dame

        Stanford +16 vs. T C U

        Arizona State -2 vs. Washington

#18: L S U +1 vs. Kentucky

        Auburn +13 vs. Arkansas

        Indiana +14 vs. Michigan State

#19: Texas Tech +1 vs. Texas A&M

        Oklahoma -½ vs. Missouri

        South Florida -1½ vs. Central Florida

      

13-point Teasers

#20: Northwestern +6 vs. Minnesota

        South Carolina +6 vs. North Carolina

        Georgia Tech +15 vs. Miami-FL

        Baylor +38½ vs. Kansas

#21: Penn State +6 vs. Wisconsin

        Oklahoma State +17 vs. Nebraska

        Fresno State +3 vs. Idaho

        Air Force +17 vs. Colorado State

#22: Missouri +23½ vs. Oklahoma

        Colorado +18½ vs. Kansas State

        Arizona +34 vs. Southern Cal

        Southern Cal -8 vs. Arizona

#23: Florida State and Wake Forest Over 31

        Purdue +18½ vs. Michigan

        South Carolina and North Carolina Under 60

        Wisconsin and Penn State Over 31

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