The Pi-Rate Ratings

October 17, 2007

College Football Previews and Predictions For October 18-21, 2007

Filed under: College Football — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 6:15 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:(*)             41-12  77.4%

For The Season Picking Winners:                    266-89  74.9%

Last Week Picks vs. Spread:                           11-12-0   47.8%

For the Season Picking Winners vs. Spread:      53-47-1   53.0% (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 has become a season where you just have to laugh every week when you think you’ve solved the puzzle to this wacky season, and you find more pieces and no places to put them.

Okay, so I did say that given the right circumstances, Kentucky could upset LSU.  It happened.  Now, we’re down to Ohio State, South Florida, Boston College, Kansas, Arizona State and Hawaii.  Six unbeaten teams left, and all six have games remaining where they could easily lose.  As of today, the BCS formula says Ohio State and South Florida control their own destinies.  The Buckeyes look as impressive this year as they did last year.  The Bulls have a terrific swarming defense, and as of last week, a high-octane offense. 

This week, there are several games that the PiRates say are tossups.  Thus, there will officially be no pick as to which team will win.  So, if the computer thinks these teams have a 50-50 chance of winning or losing, it may be a week to emphasize teaser plays.  If one team is a four point pick, and the computer rates it as a tossup, a 10-point teaser with the underdog would give you a 14-point cushion.  How about getting 14 points in a tossup?  Maybe, we can get back on the winning track after the last two weeks of malaise.

Thursday, October 18

South Florida at Rutgers

Vegas: South Florida by 2½

PiRate: South Florida by 4

This week, there are multiple trap games once again, and this one headlines the list.  South Florida is coming off an easy 52-point win over in-state rival Central Florida, while Rutgers comes off an easy win over Syracuse.  Without looking at statistics and strength of talent, the home team usually maintains their momentum following an easy win, while the road team usually bounces.

Rutgers has just enough defensive acuity to slow down the USF offense, and they have the type of offense that works best against the type of pursuing defense Coach Jim Leavitt prefers at USF.  I still think the Bulls have a 70-80% chance of winning this game, but it is going to be a rough night in New Jersey. 

Strategies

Under 52½

Rutgers + 12½ and +15½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 62½ and 65½  in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Utah at T C U

Vegas: T C U by 3½

PiRate: T C U by 2

Utah is among the top five teams in inconsistency this year.  TCU isn’t the easiest team to figure out either.  Add to the mix the fact that they are facing off with little time to prepare, and the standard deviation of possible outcomes becomes too uncomfortable to make a good selection.

Utah should find a modicum of success throwing the ball against the Horned Frog secondary.  TCU should fare better on the ground than they have on average this season.  I look for a low scoring game that turns on one or two crucial plays.  Maybe how a fumble bounces will determine which team gets the big break and exploits it for a 7-point win.

Strategies

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

Under 56½ and 59½ in 10 and 13-point teasers   

—–

Friday, October 19

Northwestern at Eastern Michigan (at Detroit)

Vegas: Northwestern by 9½

PiRate: Northwestern by 4

4-3 Northwestern has a remote shot of winning six games and becoming bowl eligible.  While I think they will fall one game short, at the moment, the players believe strongly that it is achievable.  In any forecast, to get to six wins, the Wildcats have to defeat EMU in Detroit. 

Eastern Michigan gave Michigan a decent battle two weeks ago, and then the Eagles bounced at Ohio.  They will be up for this game Friday night.

Northwestern should be able to exploit the EMU secondary and pass for 300 or more yards.  That will produce points and open up holes for the ground game.  The Eagles cannot totally shut down the purple and white offensive attack, and I believe NU will top 35 points in this game.

The question to ponder is how many points EMU can score against the Wildcats?  Northwestern yields more than 32 points per game.  EMU does not have a strong offense, but the Eagles should produce their best offensive effort of the season.  I can easily see them topping 30 points in this game.

Strategies

Eastern Michigan +9½

Over 59½

Eastern Michigan +19½ and +22½ in 10 and 13-point teasers 

Over 49½ and 46½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Louisville at Connecticut

Vegas: Louisville by 3

PiRate: Louisville by 1

How about that Cardinal defense?  The defense that made Middle Tennessee and Syracuse look like BCS Bowl teams goes and holds a fantastic Cincinnati spread offense well under their typical averages and upsets the undefeated Badgers.

Connecticut lost by one point at Virginia to fall from the ranks of the unbeaten last week.  The Huskies are on pace to grab a bowl invitation, especially if the Big East gets a BCS at-large bowl bid this year.

This game should be a thriller.  UConn will be fired up to make this primetime nationally televised event memorable.  The Huskies have a tough defense, and Louisville should not be able to match their season offensive averages.  Look for the Cards to be held to 30 points or less.

Connecticut just doesn’t have a strong enough passing game to take advantage of the UL secondary.  They may sneak a long gainer past the Cards once or twice, but they will not be able to match them point for point.  Go with Louisville in a close one.  Inclement weather could also play a part in keeping this game closer than expected.

Strategies

Louisville +7 and +10 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 72½ and 75½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

 

—–

Saturday, October 20

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh

Vegas: Cincinnati by 10

PiRate: Cincinnati by 20

Pop!  That was the sound of the Bearcats’ bubble bursting last week in the loss to Louisville.  The Bearcats need to rebound, and to do so this week, they have to go on the road to face a Pitt team that is on life support. 

It appears that the tenure of Panther coach Dave Wannstedt could be coming to an abrupt end.  The former Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins head man is just not getting it done at his alma mater.  A close loss to Michigan State a month ago may have destroyed the team’s confidence, and they haven’t played the same since.  Losing to Navy in overtime last week may have been the final nail in the coffin, and I just don’t see this team recovering to beat a mad bunch of Bearcats that have practiced this week ready to make amends for their undefeated season going away.  Add to the pot the fact that Pitt annihilated the black and red at Nippert Stadium last year, and I look for Cincinnati to get a little redemption this week.

Strategies

Cincinnati -10

Under 50½

Cincinnati Pk and +3 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 60½ and 63½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

    

—–

Northern Illinois at Wisconsin

Vegas: Wisconsin by 23

PiRate: Wisconsin by 25

The Badgers really need this game, and it’s coming at the perfect time.  Each Big 10 school gets a week off from conference play, and they all play a non-conference team.  Most get a team from the MAC.  The Badgers lucked into getting one of the two weakest MAC schools, and unlike some of the other Big 10 teams that have been going on the road for these games, Wisconsin gets NIU at Camp Randall in Madison.

Northern Illinois’s offense has disappeared this year following the losses of all-American tailback Garrett Wolfe and quarterback Phil Horvath.  The Huskies average just 19 points per game, and they haven’t played a host of great defensive opponents.  This should help Wisconsin’s fragile defense to begin to heal.  NIU will score no more than their regular average.

Wisconsin’s offense hasn’t performed up to par in three of their last four games, but the Badger attack should get well this week.  NIU yields more than 400 yards per game, and UW should produce a good 450-500 yards of offense.  It adds up to a three to four touchdown victory.

Strategies

Wisconsin -13 and -10 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 37 and 34 in 10 and 13-point teasers

    

—–

Miami-FL at Florida State

Vegas: Florida State by 6

PiRate: Florida State by 9

This looks like one year where this game won’t be decided by a Florida State field goal kicker pulling one wide on the final play.  The way these teams play, neither field goal kicker may ever get a chance to play!  Okay, this game cannot end in a 0-0 tie, but I don’t see much scoring Saturday when these arch-rivals knock helmets.

The name of the game will be defense.  In fact, the total number of points scored or set up by defense should best the number produced by the offense alone.

Florida State has played a slightly stronger schedule than Miami, and the Seminoles are at home in this game.  I think their offense versus Miami’s defense is marginally better than Miami’s offense against Florida State’s defense.  The FSU advantage could be erased by special teams play, but I’m not expecting this game to come down to that.

It’s been six years since this game was a blowout, and I don’t expect there to be one this season.  I’m taking the Seminoles by less than 10 points, but it isn’t a strong selection.

Strategies

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

Florida State +4 and +7 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 51 and 54 in 10 and 13-point teasers     

—–

Penn State at Indiana

Vegas: Penn State by 7½

PiRate: Penn State by 9

This is an interesting study in contrast.  Penn State’s defense is rock solid, and Indiana’s offense is quite potent.  Penn State’s offense is improving, but the Nittany Lions haven’t moved the ball efficiently in their two road games.  Both of these teams are tied in the Big 10 with 2-2 conference records, and both have 5-2 overall records, but that’s the only similarities these two share.

Penn State should be able to control the line of scrimmage when they have the ball.  The Lions should be able to establish a running game, and force IU to bring an extra defender up close.  Then, the passing arm of Anthony Morelli should punish the Hoosiers with a couple of big plays.

Indiana won’t be totally inept when they have the ball.  They should dent the PSU defense for a couple of scores, but I just don’t see the Hoosiers picking up that important sixth victory this week.  They have a good chance to get it in November, so fret not Hoosier fans.

Strategies

Penn State +2½ and +5½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 64 and 67 in 10 and 13-point teasers

 

—–

Virginia at Maryland

Vegas: Maryland by 4

PiRate: Maryland by 8

Many football fans don’t realize how much of a rivalry game this is.  These two schools, usually considered basketball schools, have quite a history in this series; this is their 72nd meeting.  And how does the home team treat this game?  They make it homecoming!

Virginia is on a roll, winning their last six games after opening the season with a loss at Wyoming.  Last week, the Cavaliers dealt Connecticut their first loss of the season.

This is Maryland’s second of three consecutive home games.  They benefited by enjoying a week off last Saturday.  I like the intangibles for this game, which heavily favor the Terps.  Virginia does not have the strongest passing attack, and the Cavs will not be able to take advantage of a weaker than average Maryland secondary.  Virginia’s running game is not strong enough to control the action without a some contribution from the passing game.

I look for Maryland to pass for 200-225 yards in this game and add another 130-150 on the ground.  That should be just good enough to outscore UVA by a touchdown or thereabouts.

Strategies

Maryland +6 and +9 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 31 and 28 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Iowa at Purdue

Vegas: Purdue by 7

PiRate: Purdue by 8

Ouch!  Purdue faced the unenviable task of playing Ohio State and Michigan in back to back weeks, and the Boilermakers came out of the experience in need of a transfusion.  Against Ohio State, the offense was nearly shut out and scored at the end of the game against the Buckeye reserves.  Against Michigan, the defense surrendered points like they were playing the New England Patriots.

Iowa has one half of a great team.  Their defense isn’t far behind Ohio State.  If their offense was halfway decent and could sustain long drives, the Hawkeyes might be surrendering less than 10 points and 250 total yards per game. 

Purdue went to Iowa City in 2006 and got their hat handed to them.  Iowa blew them off the field that day by a score of 47-17.  The Boilermakers have dropped three in a row to Kirk Ferentz’s team, and this should be the year that streak comes to an end.  I say “should” and not “will,” for both of these teams have major liabilities that even an average team can exploit.

Purdue’s defense is chock full of holes, while Iowa cannot score points even against teams like Northern Illinois and Iowa State.  I think this game will be decided with one opposing factor-whether Iowa’s secondary can hold Purdue’s passing game in check enough to keep the Boilermakers’ point total below 20.  Iowa cannot win if Purdue scores 20 points.  I predict the Hawkeyes will indeed hold Purdue to about 200 passing yards and 17 points, but I don’t think Iowa’s offense can get the job done this week.  I expect Purdue’s defense to rebound with a great effort and hold Iowa to 14 points or less.

Strategies

Iowa +17 and +20 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 55 and 58 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Texas Tech at Missouri

Vegas: Missouri by 3½

PiRate: Missouri by 10

On the hardwoods, this would probably be a 70-65 game.  On the gridiron, it may be closer to a 70-65 game than 21-17.  If offensive shootouts with 900 to 1000 passing yards suit your fancy, then you better get in your car and drive to Columbia, Missouri, in time for Saturday’s game.  It may cost you a couple of General Grants to get into this game, but you will get your money’s worth.

Texas Tech enters this game averaging 50 points and 500 passing yards per game.  Missouri averages 40 points and “just” 358 passing yards per game, but the Tigers can run the ball and average another 175 yards on the ground.

I really can’t see either team’s defenses shutting down the others’ offenses.  Texas Tech held Texas A&M at bay last week, but the Aggies are one dimensional.  Missouri can sting opposing defenses with several strong options.  They can run up the gut, run wide, pass deep, pass short, and pass both wide and across the middle.  Oklahoma’s prized defense didn’t stop the Tigers last week in Norman, and Tech won’t come close to stopping them this week.

Throw in perfect football weather, and this is a must see contest.  The loser could easily top 40 points, and if this game were to go to overtime, the teams could break the modern day scoring record set last Sunday night between Boise State and Nevada.  I’ll go with the home team to come up with one or two more big plays and stay in contention in the North Division.  However, because points in a shootout are cheap, I advise playing either side even in 10 and 13-point teasers

Strategies

Over 64 and 61 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Kansas at Colorado

Vegas: Kansas by 3½

PiRate: Kansas by 7

This is another one of those trap games.  On paper, Kansas not only looks like a prohibitive favorite, they look like the team that should be penciled into the National Championship game!  The Jayhawks average 50.3 points per game and give up just 9.5 points per game.  The KU offense averages almost 220 yards rushing and almost 300 yards passing per game, and the defense gives up just 240 total yards per game.

Colorado is on the bowl bubble at the halfway point of the season.  The Buffaloes  already own an upset victory at Folsom Field over Oklahoma.  Their offense is improving weekly, but their defense is inconsistent.  CU’s schedule has been one of the most difficult to this point in the season, while Kansas has enjoyed the benefits of playing Central Michigan, Southeast Louisiana, Toledo, Florida International, and Baylor.  However, they went to Manhattan and knocked off Kansas State in possibly the most exciting game of 2007.  Last week, Colorado went to “The Little Apple” and KSU demolished the Buffs.

This should be an entertaining game, and the home team should be in it until the end.  I think when all is said and done, KU will have just a little too much firepower for the Colorado defense to handle.

Strategies

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

Under 66 and 69 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 46 and 43 in 10 and 13-point teasers

 

—–

Texas A&M at Nebraska

Vegas: Nebraska by 2

PiRate: Texas A&M by 4

This game should be sponsored by a temp agency.  A new business could be launched called “The Coachtemps.”  Yes, it looks like both schools will have a need to hire a new coach for 2008.  These two lame ducks can change their names to Bill Callacab and Dennis Franchigone.

My apologies go out to both gentlemen.  Your profession is an employment graveyard and few people ever receive the type of 24-hour a day scrutiny that you must endure.

Now, let’s get to the game itself.  I have heard the last few weeks that the West Coast Offense cannot succeed at Nebraska, and the Cornhuskers need to revert back to the option-I offense they used so successfully during the Bob Devaney, Tom Osborne, and Frank Solich years.  Look at the stats.  Nebraska is currently putting up 28 points and 425 total yards of offense per game.  No, it is not the offense that is the problem.  What happened to the great defense?  The ‘Huskers have allowed four opponents to top 40 points against them, including Ball State.  They have surrendered an average of 458 total yards per game, giving up more than 200 versus the run and the pass.  In Osborne’s 25 year career as head coach in Lincoln, his teams gave up 40 points a grand total of four times, and one of those was a 21-point win over an Oklahoma State team featuring Barry Sanders.  In 11 years at the helm, Devaney’s Cornhuskers teams gave up 40 points just once.

It is my belief that with all the news coming out of Lincoln this week, the players will be more focused and ready to rally around their coach.  Texas A&M cannot fully exploit the NU defense because the Aggies must successfully run the ball in order to achieve any success passing it.  If Nebraska can slow down the A&M running game, they can hold the Aggies under 20 points.

The one fly-in-the-ointment here is that TAMU faced Texas Tech’s offense last week, and the Nebraska offense will appear to be much slower.  I think this game could turn out to be lower scoring than expected.

Strategies

Texas A&M +12 and +15 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 71 and 74 in 10 and 13-point teasers

 

—–

Florida at Kentucky

Vegas: Florida by 7

PiRate: Tossup

Kentucky beat LSU, and LSU beat Florida.  So, why are the Gators a touchdown favorite at Lexington this week?  That’s simple, and if you’ve been following my picks for any of the last 25 years, you already know the answer.

To start off with, Florida had an extra week to prepare for this game after losing back-to-back games to Auburn and LSU.  The Gators no doubt have added a couple of new wrinkles to their already complicated offense, and their defensive players have had time to recuperate from the disheartening final seven minutes in Baton Rouge.

Kentucky’s upset over the top-ranked Tigers caused such a furor in Lexington, that Midnight Madness at Rupp Arena even took a back seat.  Okay, maybe it wasn’t a back seat, but they certainly forced the cagers to call “shotgun.”

The Wildcat players have enjoyed being told how great they were all week.  Several of these players will believe to themselves that they are so good, that this week’s practices have been mere useless formalities.  It always happens, and you can expect the Wildcats to come out playing below their fans’ expectations.  Against Mississippi State or Vanderbilt, they might be able to redeem themselves in the second half, but against the defending national champs, it isn’t likely to happen. 

Rafael Little’s thigh injury is a little worse than first thought, and he will sit out this game.  Backup tailback Tony Dixon has a hip injury and will play, but he won’t be near 100%.  That does not bode well for Andre Woodson.  Florida will send blitzing linebackers and defensive backs at him the entire afternoon. 

When the Gators have the ball, they will try to grind out time-consuming drives that wear down the blue and white stop troops.  This should succeed somewhat, and I look for Kentucky to give up a late score when they are in the process of mounting a comeback.

I haven’t been performing all that well this year when I go against the PiRates, but I feel compelled to do so here.  The computer rates this game a tossup, but I think Florida is going to win by at least a touchdown.

Strategies

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

Under 72 and 75 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Vanderbilt at South Carolina

Vegas: South Carolina by 13

PiRate: South Carolina by 20

Steve Spurrier is 14-0 in his career against Vanderbilt.  He was 2-0 while coach at Duke, 10-0 while at Florida, and 2-0 here at South Carolina.  The average score of those 14 wins has been 35-14.  This is his best South Carolina team, and this Vanderbilt squad is a team on the verge of collapse.  It doesn’t bode well for a close game.

The Gamecocks will be playing the most important game in the 15-year history of their Southeastern Conference membership.  No, I’m not referring to this game; I’m talking about next week’s game at Tennessee, which could very well decide which Eastern Division school goes to the Conference Championship Game.  That alone is enough for any team to be caught looking ahead.  Any team yes, but not a Steve Spurrier-coached team.  He’ll pull any player and insert someone else, especially at the skilled positions.  Every one of his players knows they could lose their spot to the next man down on the depth chart.

I look for the Gamecock defense to hold Vanderbilt to 14 points or less.  Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson may have remained loyal to quarterback Chris Nickson just a little too long, and it probably cost them a chance to beat Georgia.  I have suspicions that the loss may have created a small divide, and there could be a little “secret dissension” within the ranks on the attack side.  Mackenzi Adams is still rather raw, and I expect him to make enough mistakes in this game to ground the Commodore Navy.

This is only the second road game for Vanderbilt, and in their other trip away from Nashville, they forgot to show up at Auburn.  I think this is the Commodores bellwether game.  If they compete for four quarters, they should remain tough but beatable the rest of the season.  If they bomb like they did against Auburn, then I think the writing is on the wall for both the season and Johnson’s tenure at Vanderbilt.  It will have reached its peak and begun the slide back toward the bottom of what used to be known as Division 1-A.  It happens to every Commodore football coach eventually.

Strategies

South Carolina -13

South Carolina -3 and Pk in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 35 and 32 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Oklahoma at Iowa State

Vegas: Oklahoma by 30

PiRate: Oklahoma by 36

If Texas could beat Iowa State at Jack Trice Stadium by 53, why is Oklahoma just favored by 30 points, when they are better than the Longhorns?

It is homecoming in Ames, but the Cyclones aren’t about to pull off the next Stanford-type upset.  They just don’t have enough strength and quickness.

It is doubtful whether the Cyclones will reach the Oklahoma end zone in this game.  ISU had trouble scoring against Kent State and Northern Iowa.  They currently average just 12 points per game in conference play, and they only scored 17 points against Nebraska (when other teams have scored an average twice as high against the Cornhuskers).

Oklahoma’s defense gives up 18 points per game, but in the three games against teams comparable to Iowa State, they have surrendered just 26 total points.

I look for the Sooners to put this game away early.  That presents a small problem.  OU could grab a 28-0 lead early and then let the third and fourth stringers earn their letters.  It could end up something like 35-6.  I recommend playing it safe here.

Strategies

Oklahoma -20 and -17 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 67 and 70 in 10 and 13-point teasers

 

—–

Texas at Baylor

Vegas: Texas by 25

PiRate: Texas by 26

This game may not be a trap game, but it certainly could be a tricky game.  Baylor has just enough offensive firepower to give the Longhorns a scare for 30-45 minutes.  This series has been as lopsided as you will find anywhere.  In the last eight seasons, the average score has been Texas 53 Baylor 9.  So why do I think this won’t be anything other than a giant cattle stampede at Floyd Casey Stadium?  I cannot pinpoint exactly why I think so, and I must admit it’s just a hunch (to which I rarely ever have).

This isn’t the best Texas team in the Mack Brown era.  In fact, it could be the weakest squad he has directed since he came to Austin in 1998.  This isn’t the best Baylor team in that eight year stretch, but the Bears’ passing game is just competent enough to move down the field and pick up a couple of first half touchdowns.  Sooner or later, this is going to be something other than a 53-9 slaughter, and this just feels like that year.  I’m predicting Texas to eventually pull away and win convincingly, but it won’t be by 40 points.  I’ll say that the score could be 20-13 Longhorns at the half and end up 42-16.  Of course, the boys in Vegas are saying the same thing, so maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Strategies

Texas -15 and -12 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 72 and 75 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Kansas State at Oklahoma State

Vegas: Oklahoma State by 3

PiRate: Oklahoma State by 3

The winner of this game will keep alive slim hopes of winning their respective division of the Big 12.  Fans attending this game should get their money’s worth.

This is homecoming in Stillwater, but homecoming hasn’t been a happy one in recent years.  The Cowboys have lost their last three times the alumni returned for their annual get together.

Kansas State has been mistake-prone this year, and that is the only reason the Wildcats are not undefeated.  They have enough talent to run the table if they don’t suffer from momentary lapses like they did against Auburn and Kansas.

Oklahoma State is good enough to go to a bowl this year.  The Cowboys produce more than 200 yards per game rushing and passing, and they can score points quickly.  They have a weakness with pass defense, and Kansas State’s passing attack is strong enough to take advantage of that.

It comes down to this for me.  I think Kansas State will indeed commit one crucial error in this game, and OSU will take advantage of it to score.  That’s about all I see separating these two teams.  

Strategies

Kansas State +13 and +16 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 71½ and 74½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Arkansas at Ole Miss

Vegas: Arkansas by 5

PiRate: Arkansas by 9

This one is definitely a trap game.  Ole Miss keeps coming close to pulling off an upset at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, and they keep coming up just a bit short.  Missouri, Florida, and Alabama were quite happy to leave Oxford with closer than expected wins.

Now the Rebels face the weakest favorite they will oppose this season.  Arkansas has problems, and it could end up being the final nail in the coffin for Coach Houston Nutt.  Nutt could have taken the Nebraska job in 2003, and he chose to stay loyal to the Razorbacks.  The deal may prove not to be reciprocal. 

Ole Miss doesn’t quite have the same potency of offense and defense that Auburn possesses, and the Tigers only beat Arkansas by two last week.  When Arkansas has the ball, they will attempt to run it down the Johnny Rebs’ throats.  Expect the Hogs to rush the ball 50 to 55 times in this game and pick up over 300 yards.  Anything through the air will be a bonus, and I look for a good 130 to 150 bonus yards.  450 yards should add up to 30 points.

Ole Miss has a chance to score 30 points as well, but only if quarterback Seth Adams can solve the Razorback secondary.  Arkansas actually has one of the best pass defenses in the country, giving up just a little over five yards per opponent pass attempt.

While I think Ole Miss has only a 40% chance of winning this game, I still find value on their side.  Arkansas will not win easily, if at all.

Strategies

Ole Miss +15 and +18 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

California at U C L A

Vegas: No Line

PiRate: Tossup

This game was taken off the board due to the uncertainty of the UCLA quarterback situation, so there can be no play.  Cal was a 2½ point favorite before the game was removed in Vegas.

I won’t spend too much space on a game that cannot be played.  UCLA quarterback Ben Olson is still out for this game.  Backup quarterback Patrick Cowan is expected to be available to play, but he won’t be near 100% for the game.  Third-teamer McLeod Bethel-Thompson could not move the Bruin offense against Notre Dame, and if he is forced to play instead of Cowan, UCLA is 16 points weaker.  That’s why this game isn’t on the board.

The PiRate spread assumes that Cowan can play the entire game.  Without him, Cal becomes a 16-point favorite.

Strategies

None

—–

Michigan State at Ohio State

Vegas: Ohio State by 17

PiRate: Ohio State by 25

Ohio State qualifies as a play this week due to one of the oldest reliable factors in handicapping.  The Buckeyes faced a breather at home last week and they remain in Columbus for this game.  Michigan State had a big win at home last week, and now they must head to the big horseshoe ready to bounce against the nation’s number one team.

This may be one time where the conservative, disciplinarian Spartan coach Mark Dantonio will be less effective than his predecessor, the go-for-broke John L. Smith.  I don’t think any team can go to Ohio Stadium and beat the Buckeyes by playing the same style of ball they play.  It will take a team with an offensive flair for the dramatic and a tough defense to pull off the feat, and Michigan State is lacking there.

I see OSU piling up 400-425 total yards and scoring 35-40 points in this game, while the scarlet and gray defense holds MSU to 17 points or less, possibly much less.

Strategies

Ohio State -17

Ohio State -7 and -4 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 61½ and 64½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

        

—–

Mississippi State at West Virginia

Vegas: West Virginia by 25

PiRate: West Virginia by 30

Quite often in the Deep South, you hear football fans say, “[fill in some non-SEC team] would not have nearly as good of a won-loss record if they played in the SEC.”  Well, West Virginia owns consecutive bowl wins over SEC teams when they have faced an SEC opponent in the post-season.  The Mountaineers defeated the Bulldogs last year in Starkville by 28 points, better than West Division champ Arkansas did.

This Mississippi State team is better than last season’s edition, and the Bulldogs still have a small chance of winning two more games and becoming bowl eligible.  But, my friends, this isn’t one of those possible two wins.  WVU is going to have an enjoyable Saturday against a team that cannot possibly stop them enough to make it very close.

When West Virginia has the ball, they will average better than five yards per rush and around eight yards per pass attempt.  Considering the Mountaineers should run the ball 50 times and pass it about 25 times, simple math shows they should pick up at least 450 total yards in this game.  That should be enough yardage to produce 35-40 points.

Mississippi State can move the ball at times, but they are not consistent and definitely are not an offensive power.  Playing at Mountaineer Field, the Bulldogs should pick up no more than 100-125 rushing yards and 125-150 passing yards.  A reasonable assumption is they will be held to less than 250 total yards.  True freshman Wesley Carroll will start at quarterback as Michael Henig is still not 100% healthy, and Josh Riddell is out for the season.

Strategies

West Virginia -15 and -12 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 67 and 70 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Southern California at Notre Dame

Vegas: Southern Cal by 17

PiRate: Southern Cal by 19

I’m not sure USC can beat anybody by 17 points the way they have been playing the last three weeks.  This is the most disappointing Pac-10 squad since Arizona in 1999.  This Trojan defense was supposed to be the best in Los Angeles since Bubba Scott, Al Cowlings, Tody Smith, Jimmy Gunn, and Charles Weaver were known as “The Wild Bunch” in 1969.  That USC team gave up 11.6 points per game.  This USC defense is allowing opponents to score 19.3 points per game, and more than 20 per game in this three-game snooze.  To make matters worse, the Trojan offense has stalled this year.  USC has scored 70 points in their last three games.

Now, the Trojans must travel 2,100 miles east to play perennial nemesis Notre Dame.  Even though this edition of Fighting Irish is the worst since 1963 or maybe 1960 (both teams won just two times with little offensive force), this rivalry has seen its share of big upsets.

How can a team that averages a paltry 191 total yards and 11.4 points per game expect to compete against a team with potentially the best defense in the country?  That’s simple.  They can play their butts off and give every ounce they have for their school, while their opponents read their press clippings and believe they need only to show up to win big.

Notre Dame is going to pass the ball with some effectiveness in this game.  They may finish the day with as many rushing yards as they have before the kickoff, but they could conceivably score 13-17 points.  If they can come up with their best defensive effort of the season, they could pull off the big upset of the week.

I think they will fall short, but I also believe they are an excellent teaser play.  After playing Georgia Tech, Penn State, Michigan, and Boston College, the Irish won’t be facing any better talent than they have already faced this year.

Strategies

Notre Dame +27 and +30 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 54½ and 57½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

 

—–

Tennessee at Alabama

Vegas: Pick‘em

PiRate: Tennessee by 2

How could this rivalry not be the Game of the Week in Dixie this Saturday?  CBS has gone and put the Kentucky-Florida game on as its national telecast, and this game has been relegated to the SEC’s morning regional broadcast, meaning most of the nation will not get it.

Alabama was fortunate to survive a scare at Ole Miss after struggling to hold onto a lead against Houston.  The Crimson Tide peaked in the first half of their game against Arkansas, and they have been struggling to maintain mediocrity ever since.

After losing to Florida 59-20, nobody gave Tennessee any hope for competing for the SEC East Division title, and many fans and “experts” were predicting the Vols would suffer their second losing season in the last three years.  Wins over Georgia and Mississippi State have changed the opinions of many.

When these teams meet, those in attendance see some of the most vicious blocking and tackling in college football.  I liken this series to the Kansas City Chiefs-Oakland Raiders games between 1966 and 1971.  The games are always hard-fought and, more often than not, low scoring.  I expect this one to have more offense than the last three seasons.

I expect Alabama to run for 150-175 yards and pass for 200-225 yards.  Unless the Tide commits a bevy of turnovers, they should score upwards of 24 to 30 points.  On the other side, Tennessee should rush for 130-150 yards and pass for 230-250 yards.  The Vols should also score 24 to 30 points.  It’s going to be close either way, and it should be decided by one mistake.

Strategies

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

Tennessee +10 and +13 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 45 and 42 in 10 and 13-point teasers

 

—–

Boise State at Louisiana Tech

Vegas: Boise State by 16½

PiRate: Boise State by 20

Normally, I would call for a team in Boise State’s position to bounce big time and almost blow this game this week.  The Broncos were forced into four overtimes to win on Sunday night, and now they must travel 1,900 miles to the muggy South to face an underrated team they may not believe has a chance against them.  That’s FIVE  negative intangibles, and that’s enough to affect the outcome of a game by 28 points.

I am going to go against this list of intangibles with a trump card.  Boise State is a battle-tested champion capable of withstanding the hardships of playing four overtimes, having one less day to prepare, making a long road trip, playing in weather completely different than normal for them, and facing an underrated team that has enough talent to win this game.  Ask undefeated Hawaii just how hard it was to win at Joe Aillet Stadium.  They escaped with a one-point win in overtime when La. Tech chose to go for two and didn’t have to try a two-point conversion in the first extra period.

It looks to me like the Broncos will force Tech to either stop the pass at the expense of the run or vice versa.  The Bulldogs only had to worry about Hawaii’s passing game, while Boise can run for 300 yards in a game if their opponent plays a five-man secondary.  Because La. Tech will have to respect the BSU ground game, it will allow Taylor Tharp to throw for better than 300 yards.  Boise will pile up the points, but not as many as last week’s 69.  40-45 points should be enough to win by close to three touchdowns.

Strategies

Boise State -6½ and -3½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

San Jose State at Fresno State

Vegas: Fresno State by 12

PiRate: Fresno State by 11

This has been a disappointing season for Coach Dick Tomey’s San Jose State team.  A year after winning nine games including a New Mexico Bowl victory, the Spartans returned enough talent to equal that record this year.  Instead, SJSU is sitting at 3-4 with tough games remaining at Boise State and against Nevada as well as this one.

The air probably deflated from the Spartans after they blew a late lead against undefeated Hawaii at Spartan Stadium last Friday night.  The players probably know any chance for a bowl bid went down the drain when Colt Brennan brought Hawaii from behind to win in overtime.

Fresno State is the forgotten team of the WAC.  The Bulldogs suffered through their first losing year in nine seasons in 2006, and they quietly have returned to their normal strength.  While their record is just 4-2, those losses have come at Texas A&M and Oregon, and the loss to A&M was in overtime.

This game looks rather simple to me to forecast.  San Jose will not bring the same effort to this game that they had eight days prior.  Fresno is celebrating homecoming, and they should be ready to shine for their alums.  The Spartans cannot take advantage of the Bulldogs’ main liability-stopping the run.  San Jose State has no rushing threats, and they average little more than two yards per attempt.  They may pass for 250 yards, but they won’t score more than 24 points.

Fresno could top 200 yards on the ground and through the air in this game, and 400 total yards should add up to 35 points.

Strategies

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

—–

Oregon at Washington

Vegas: Oregon by 11

PiRate: Oregon by 13

The schedule favors Oregon winning its last six games and finishing the regular season 11-1.  If that happens, the Ducks will think back to what could have been if not for quarterback Dennis Dixon trying to stretch out 16 more inches to score the winning touchdown over Cal and instead fumbling it through the end zone and out of bounds for a touchback.  Oregon could very well be one of two or three favorites if there were a 12 or 16-team playoff.  Instead, the Ducks sit at number 10 in the first BCS poll, and they will have to hope that eight of the nine teams in front of them will fall.  It isn’t likely.

Washington is completing one of the toughest six game stretches in college football in many years.  In order, the Huskies have played Boise State, Ohio State, at UCLA, USC, and at Arizona State, and this is the last one before they start getting a little easier.  To have a true freshman quarterback as a starter against this group of beasts is just too much for a team to succeed.  Give Jake Locker two more years, and he could have UW back to where they were in the Don James era.

As for this game, Oregon just has too many offensive weapons for the Huskies to stop.  Talk about consistency, Oregon averages about 270 yards rushing and 270 yards passing per game!  The Ducks are scoring points at better than 45 per game.  Their schedule hasn’t exactly been chopped liver either, as they have faced Houston, Michigan, Fresno State, and Cal, all of whom should play in the postseason.

Look for Washington to keep it close for a long time, but Oregon will strike quickly and pull away some time in the second half.

Strategies

Oregon -1 and +2 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 77 and 80 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Michigan at Illinois

Vegas: Michigan by 2½  

PiRate: Tossup

Who would have ever predicted back in August that I would be naming this match as the “Game of the Week?”  I have crunched the numbers far more than I do for most games, and I keep coming up with a flat-footed tossup every time.  This should be the most entertaining and important game in this series since the 1989 game that decided the Big 10 title.

Michigan is still missing something even after getting off the floor and storming back to win five consecutive games after the horrendous 0-2 start.  Their defense is not as good as last year, but then again, they lost a load of talent from that squad.

This game has too many intangibles, and I advise you not to play it in any manner.  Both of Michigan’s star tailbacks, Mike Hart and Brandon Minor, have ankle injuries and are in doubt for this game.  For Illinois, fullback Russ Weil injured his ankle in the loss to Iowa, and he is vital as a blocker for Rashard Mendenhall.  While Coach Ron Zook plans to start Juice Williams at Quarterback, it was redshirt freshman Eddie McGee that almost brought the Illini back to victory at Iowa.  Could this be the start of a minor controversy?   

  

Strategies

Forget this one and just enjoy the game

As a last resort only, Over 39½ and 36½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

  

—–

Auburn at L S U

Vegas: L S U by 12

PiRate: L S U by 12

If LSU had not lost to Kentucky last week, I might have considered making this an upset special this week.  Auburn isn’t as talented as the Tigers, but Coach Tommy Tuberville squeezes every point out of this team.  His game management is second to nobody in college football, and that pays off in close ball games.

LSU could be either fighting mad or lacking confidence after last week’s loss at Kentucky.  I’m guessing it’s the former and not the latter.  So, I expect the purple and gold to give their best effort since the Virginia Tech game.  Of course, against Auburn, that best effort may by only good enough to win by a few points. 

The home team has won this game every year since 1999.  The road team hasn’t been able to score in this series, averaging just 10.6 points per game in the last seven years.  I look for more of the same in this game.  LSU should win, but I expect the score to be something like 17-10.

Strategies

LSU -2 and +1 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Auburn +22 and +25 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 52½ and 55½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

     

—–

SPECIAL PREVIEW

North Dakota State at Minnesota

No Vegas or PiRate Line

I have included this game because of the Michigan and Appalachian State game at the beginning of the season.  This one is completely different than that one.  If there is to be an upset Saturday morning at the Metrodome, it will be that Minnesota wins the game.

North Dakota State is a good touchdown better than Minnesota.  The Bison should have won this game last year when a last minute field goal attempt was blocked.  This season, NDSU is better than their 2006 edition, and Minny is much weaker.

North Dakota State will bring about 20,000 fans to this game and almost make it a home game.  There are 33 players on the Bison squad that came from Minnesota, and most of them were not recruited by the Gophers.

Add to the equation the fact that Minnesota’s running back situation is a concern with numerous injuries, and their already weak secondary has some injury concerns, and this game could give the brown and gold some black eyes.  While not officially picking this one, since I do not rate FCS teams, I believe the ingredients are there for North Dakota State to blow Minnesota off the field Saturday morning.  Unofficially, I predict NDSU to win by at least 7-10 points.

This Week’s “Picks”

 

This has got to stop.  Back-to-back losing weekends for the first time since 1995 means I must play this wacky season a little more conservatively.  After trying to pick several games in hopes of eliminating the risk of one big upset, I’m going to play it a little closer to the vest and stay in single digits, and all of them will be teasers.

10-point Teasers

# 1   Rutgers and South Florida Under 62½

        Northwestern and Eastern Michigan Over 49½

        Louisville +7 vs. Connecticut

# 2   West Virginia -15 vs. Mississippi State

        Northern Illinois and Wisconsin Over 37

        Ole Miss +15 vs. Arkansas

# 3   South Carolina -3 vs. Vanderbilt

        South Carolina and Vanderbilt Over 35

        Air Force + 7½ vs. Wyoming

# 4   Oklahoma -20 vs. Iowa State

        Texas Tech and Missouri Over 64

        Miami-FL +16 vs. Florida State

# 5   Oregon -1 vs. Washington

        Ohio State -7 vs. Michigan State

        Arizona -½ vs. Stanford

# 6   Fresno State -2 ½ vs. San Jose State

        Iowa + 17 vs. Purdue

        Texas -15 vs. Baylor

# 7   Kansas State +13 vs. Oklahoma State

        Auburn +22 vs. L S U

        L S U -2 vs. Auburn

                        

13-point Teasers

# 8   Rutgers +15½ vs. South Florida

        Texas A&M and Nebraska Under 74

        Oklahoma and Iowa State Under 70

        Notre Dame +30 vs. Southern Cal

# 9   Florida State +7 vs. Miami-FL

        Maryland +9 vs. Virginia

        Texas and Baylor Under 75

        Kansas State and Oklahoma State Under 74½

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