The Pi-Rate Ratings

October 31, 2007

PiRate Game Previews and Selections For November 1-4, 2007

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:(*)             36-15    70.6%

For The Season Picking Winners:                    335-121  73.5%

Last Week Picks vs. Spread:                             6-14-1   30.0%

For the Season Picking Winners vs. Spread:      60-69-2  46.5% (over 52.4% returns a profit-my only solace with this abnormal season is that I haven’t lost a penny since I don’t actually wager.  On the other hand, I picked winners in five of the eight Saturday Breeder’s Cup wagers (wins on Midnight Lute, Kip Deville, Ginger Punch, Curlin, and the Exacta of Curlin and Hard Spun), so I also missed out on making some pretty pennies.     

I have glanced at several of the “real” pigskin touts (from sources that supply the info), and I have noticed that every one of these services is suffering through a losing season as well.  One highly respected “expert” is picking winners at a 42.9% clip.  At that rate, just go against this person, and at 57.1% you will make a profit.

The autumn wind is a pirate
Blustering in from sea
With a rollicking song he sweeps along
swaggering boisterously

His face is weather beaten
He wears a hooded sash
With his silver hat about his head
And a bristly black mustache

He growls as he storms the country
A villain big and bold
And the trees all shake and quiver and quake
As he robs them of their gold

The autumn wind is a Raider
Pillaging just for fun
He’ll knock you around and upside down
And laugh when he’s conquered and won

–Steve Sabol-NFL Films

For all of you who have followed the PiRatings over the years in other forms of written and broadcast media, you know I always begin November with that famous poem.  While it was written to epitomize the Oakland Raiders, I find it better personifies the beginning of the put up or shut up month of college football.  As the weather begins to turn nasty, the games become true wars of attrition.  In five weeks, two teams will have emerged to advance to the big game in January.  As of today, I think nine schools (Ohio State, Boston College, LSU, Arizona State, Oregon, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Kansas, and Missouri) still have reason to believe they can play in the National Championship Game.  No two-loss team has ever finished number one or two in the final regular season BCS poll (although Colorado came close in 2001), and even in this topsy-turvy season, I don’t see that happening in 2007.  So, seven teams will eliminate themselves in these final five weeks. 

Last Week’s Antique Rating has been put back in the archive vault, as I noticed evidence of identical patterns that forced me to drop it in the 1990’s.  This week, I will try another old formula I used to apply to college games.  I gave it up because it began to repeatedly mimic the Las Vegas Spread, giving it little use.  I figure in a wacky year like this, maybe the deviation will be a little larger and give us some useful statistics.  This rating is called the “Mean Rating,” because it has five distinct sub-categories that are brought together as an average of the aggregate.  It is actually one of the major components of my pre-season ratings with some alterations using the current season statistics and schedules.

I regret to inform that SMU’s Phil Bennett has become the first casualty of the coaching carousel.  As I reported last week, Bennett will be the first of many to come.  After last week’s results, UCLA’s Karl Dorrell has moved to the bad side of the hot seat bubble.  Arizona’s Mike Stoops may have bought himself one “get out of jail free card” with the win at Washington, but he rolls doubles too often to expect one card to protect him.  Mississippi State’s Sylvester Croom not only ended speculation of his exit in Starkville, it most probably put the Bulldogs at the top of the heap of what could be close to a dozen 6-6 teams looking for an at-large bowl invitation.  The PiRates believe that the Bulldogs will easily defeat Ole Miss, giving them a minimum of six wins.

Iowa’s win over Michigan State has given them a good shot at finishing 7-5 and edging Northwestern and Indiana for the seventh Big Ten bowl slot.  The Hoosiers should finally pick up their sixth win this week against Ball State, but that could be their final win (and Ball State has a chance at the upset).

Out West, Oregon did what I predicted (hey, I got one right), when they defeated Southern Cal by a touchdown.  However, due to Ohio State’s fantastic showing at Penn State and West Virginia’s great rout of Rutgers, the Ducks fell from 1st to 3rd in my ratings.  Arizona State comes to Eugene Saturday, and it is without a doubt the “Game of the Week.”  The winner of this game could easily surpass LSU in the BCS standings even if the Tigers beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa. 

The current leaders for the National Championship Game face tough challengers this week.  Number one Ohio State hosts Wisconsin, and number two Boston College hosts Florida State.  The Badgers have enough offense to make it interesting if a couple of bounces go their way.  Boston College is clearly better than FSU, but the intangibles favor Bobby Bowden’s boys. 

The lawyers who represent those guys called “averages” have notified me in legalese that I should cease and desist with any notion of changing how I pick the games.  So, I’m continuing with my latest collection of selections.

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

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

Thursday, November 1

Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech

Vegas:  Ga. Tech by 3  O/U 41

PiRate: Ga. Tech by 2

Mean:  Va. Tech 16 Ga. Tech 15

The big intangible for this game is how Virginia Tech will react after watching a 10-0 lead with 2:30 to go in last week’s game turn into a nasty 14-10 loss.  Virginia Tech has made a name for themselves as a program that perpetually has one of the greatest specialty teams.  Losing by failing to cover an onside kick has to affect most of the players’ psyches. 

Georgia Tech gets the benefit of having an extra five days to prepare for this game, and the Yellow Jackets have no reason to look ahead with Duke and North Carolina following this game.

I’m going to agree with the Mean rating over the PiRating in this one.  Georgia Tech must run the ball effectively in order for their passing game to click.  I don’t see the Jackets being able to run for any more than 125 yards against VT’s run defense, so I think GT will score less than 17 points. 

Virginia Tech doesn’t have a dominating offense this year, but the Hokies have a better chance to score with their passing game against Georgia Tech’s pass defense than vice versa.  Plus, I figure the VT special teams will be fired up and come up with one crucial play.  In a low-scoring game, I think Virginia Tech will emerge with a close win.  Since the PiRates officially pick Georgia Tech, I won’t recommend playing this one straight up.


Virginia Tech +3

Under 41

Virginia Tech +130

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

Under 51 and 54 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 31 and 28 in 10 and 13-point teasers



Friday, October 26

Nevada at New Mexico State

Vegas: Nevada by 7  O/U 67½

PiRate: Nevada by 10   

Mean:  Nevada 35 New Mexico St. 34

This game should be worth watching Friday night.  Nevada’s pistol offense goes against Mummeball.  It should produce a real western shootout.

After losing close games to Boise State and Fresno State, Nevada has recovered with wins over Utah State and Idaho.  A win over the Aggies is imperative if the Wolfpack wishes to see a bowl invitation mailed to Reno.

You beat Nevada by running the ball down their throat.  New Mexico State doesn’t have enough running plays in their repertoire to fully exploit this weakness.  NMSU’s main running play is the draw, and the draw play won’t destroy the Nevada defensive front.

The Wolfpack should be able to top 450 total yards in this game and score well over 30 points.  New Mexico State will pick up a lot of passing yards, but the Aggies will not be able to consistently cross the Nevada goal line with just their passing game.  I think NMSU will have to settle for a couple of field goal attempts when they conclude long drives, and that will be the difference in this game.  Go with Nevada to improve to 5-4 and put themselves in contention for the probable fourth WAC bowl slot.


New Mexico State +17 and +20 in 10 and 13-point teasers


Saturday, October 27  

Ball State at Indiana

Vegas:  Indiana by 6½  O/U 63

PiRate: Indiana by 5

Mean: Indiana 31 Ball State 28

Panic has indeed appeared in Bloomington.  Indiana, once 5-1, is now limping at 5-4.  After this game, the Hoosiers go to Northwestern and host Purdue.  A loss this week all but dooms them to another losing season.  Even a win may set up an elimination game against the Wildcats next week.

Ball State is very much alive in the bowl hunt.  The Cardinals are 5-4 with very winnable games remaining against Toledo and Northern Illinois.  BSU narrowly missed at Nebraska, gave Illinois a tough battle, and won at Navy.  Facing the one of the two big cheeses in their state makes them a few points stronger than playing those other three games.  They will be fired up and ready to ruin the Hoosiers’ season.

Indiana has something extra to play for.  They are trying to satisfy the goal of playing a 13th game in honor of their late coach Terry Hoeppner.  Their backs are now against the wall, and I’m guessing they will play their best game in a month this week.  Looking at the stats, this should be a close game either way, and I’m going with IU to squeeze out a win.


Ball State +16½ and +19½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 73 and 76 in 10 and 13-point teasers



Rutgers at Connecticut

Vegas: Connecticut by 2  O/U 46½   

PiRate: Connecticut by 5

Mean: Connecticut 24 Rutgers 17

Can the Huskies keep winning close games with their great defense?  This will be the second best offense the Huskies have faced to date.  UConn held Louisville to 17 points, and the Cardinals have averaged about 40 points per game in all other contests. 

Rutgers will have to mix the run and pass in this game, and the Scarlet Knights may have to resort to doing things like passing long on 2nd and short, and running on 2nd & 12.  Still, I think RU will be lucky to come within 10 points of their normal scoring average (32 ppg).

Connecticut isn’t going to blow any Big East opponent off the field; a five point win will do just fine.  For the Huskies to stay unbeaten in Big East play, they must hold Rutgers to 19 points or less, because I don’t think they will score any more than 20 to 23 points.  A win here would keep alive the chance of the season ending with a major showdown against West Virginia for the Big East title.  I think the chances UConn arrives for that game at 6-0 in the league are less than 50-50, but I think the Huskies can win this week.


Connecticut +8 and +11 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 56 and 59 in 10 and 13-point teasers


Cincinnati at South Florida  

Vegas: South Florida by 5  O/U 50½  

PiRate: South Florida by 7

Mean: South Florida 28 Cincinnati 18

We have two teams here who have hit walls in midseason after starting off better than anyone expected.  Cincinnati looked like a BCS Bowl contender when they began the season 6-0 including a slaughter of Oregon State and a win at Rutgers.  South Florida was number two in the first BCS poll this year, but the Bulls have lost back-to-back games.  One of these teams will stay in contention for a possible Gator Bowl berth, while the other is going to suffer a third consecutive black eye.

The key to this game will be pass defense.  I expect USF QB Matt Grothe to have a better day passing against Cinti’s pass defense than Cinti QB Ben Mauk will have against the Bulls.  It should lead to USF winning but by no more than 7-10 points.


South Florida -5

South Florida -215

South Florida +5 and +8 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 60½ and 63½ in 10 and 13-point teasers 



Iowa at Northwestern  

Vegas: Northwestern by 1  O/U 46  

PiRate: Iowa by 1

Mean: Northwestern 21 Iowa 19

While not being the top game in the nation this week or even the Big 10, this one should be quite interesting.  Iowa’s fading passing game turned invisible last week against Michigan State, and it will have to reappear this week if the Hawkeyes are to win.  Northwestern’s defense is vulnerable to balanced offenses.  They must stop either the run or the pass in order to win conference games.  If they can stop the Iowa passing game, they can win.

Iowa’s defense is strong, but the Hawkeyes are going to give up 250 or more yards through the air this week.  I think they can hold NU to no more than 125 rushing yards, and if the numbers hold out, it should be a good enough effort to allow Iowa to even their record at 5-5. 

In Northwestern’s five victories, they have averaged 513 total yards.  In their four losses, they have averaged 335 total yards.  I expect Northwestern to gain closer to 335 yards than 513 yards in this game, and I expect Iowa to gain more than their average of 308 total yards per game, possibly by 100 extra yards.  It should be close and could be decided on one big play.  I think Iowa has the better chance to win.  Since the PiRating and the Mean disagree on the winner, albeit by just three points, I will not make a recommendation on a straight side wager. 


Iowa +1

Iowa +11 and +14 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 36 and 33 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 56 and 59 in 10 and 13-point teasers


Vanderbilt at Florida  

Vegas: Florida by 15  O/U 51  

PiRate: Florida by 15

Mean: Florida 33 Vanderbilt 20

Both teams enter this game with their starting quarterbacks ailing.  Tim Tebow has a sore shoulder on his throwing arm, and Mackenzi Adams has a sore sternum.  What this tells me is that both teams will pull in the reins on their offensive game plans.  I expect this to be a lower-scoring game than the experts think.

Florida is one more loss from being forced to play a December bowl.  Vanderbilt needs one more win to hope for an Independence Bowl bid.  After this game, Florida will still be in contention for a New Year’s Day bowl, while Vanderbilt will have three more chances to become bowl eligible.

All season, Florida has been vulnerable to a strong drop back passing attack.  They have given up more than 250 passing yards in half of their games.  Against the run, the Gators are tough.  In their five wins, they have given up just 63 rushing yards per game.  LSU and Georgia had strong enough offensive lines to penetrate the Gator’s first line of defense.  Vanderbilt has a seasoned offensive line, but it is not strong enough to consistently open holes against Florida’s defense.

Even if Tebow is 100% healthy Saturday, I doubt Urban Meyer will call for his quarterback to run the ball 20 times.  Without this threat, Florida’s offense becomes pedestrian.  Thus, I expect Florida to win but to do so in an ugly fashion.  I look for the Gators to play conservatively and slowly take command of the game.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the final score was something like 21-10.


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

Under 61 and 64 in 10 and 13-point teasers


South Carolina at Arkansas  

Vegas: Arkansas by 4½  O/U 49½    

PiRate: Arkansas by 5

Mean: Arkansas 25 South Carolina 23

What we have here are two ships passing in the night.  South Carolina’s vessel is headed north to south, and Arkansas’s is headed south to north.

Arkansas had a tough five weeks between mid-September and mid-October.  The Razorbacks made a valiant comeback against Alabama before losing in the final seconds.  They had Kentucky on the ropes before Andre Woodson pulled the game out for the Wildcats.  After an easy win over North Texas, they had to fight all night to beat Chattanooga.  Against Auburn, they put up a huge defensive effort before losing in the final seconds.  Things began to turn around at Ole Miss.  While the Rebels had been playing close games at Vaught-Hemingway heretofore, the Hogs went into Oxford and wiped them off the field 44-8.  Last week, Arkansas cruised to a 58-10 win over the weakest team in the nation in Florida International.  If you’ve studied the PiRatings before, you know I like teams playing at home a week after winning a blowout at home.

South Carolina’s offense disappeared in the second half of the North Carolina game, and it didn’t reappear until the second half of last week’s Tennessee game.  I think the Gamecocks’ offense has awakened with Blake Mitchell returning to run the show.  The problem is I don’t think the USC stop troops can stop the tandem of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones.  Arkansas quarterback Casey Dick left the FIU game in the second quarter with a concussion, but he should be ready to go this week.

This should be another close game, and I expect the home team to come out on top by a couple points.  If Arkansas loses, then expect rumors of Houston Nutt’s demise in Fayetteville to get some serious media coverage.  None of this would have happened had Nutt not benched Mitch Mustain last year after he tossed an interception against the Gamecocks.  Mustain was only 8-0 as a starter in Hogtown. 


South Carolina +14½ and +17½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 39½ and 36½ in 10 and 13-point teasers   


Kansas State at Iowa State  

Vegas: Kansas State by 14  O/U 53½

PiRate: Kansas State by 20

Mean: Kansas State 36 Iowa State 17

Iowa State has played two consecutive strong games-one with outstanding defense and one with rather good offense.  If the Cyclones can put it all together and play defense like they did against Oklahoma and offense like they did against Missouri, they are going to ruin somebody’s November.

Kansas State could be looking ahead to the game at Nebraska next week, and the Wildcats may have to claw their way to a victory this week.  I don’t think it will come easily, if at all.

Iowa State yielded 316 total yards to Oklahoma and 366 to Missouri.  Kansas State’s offense is certainly no better than the offenses of the Sooners and Tigers, so I don’t expect them to compile more than 350 total yards in this game.  When ISU has the ball, I don’t expect the Cyclones to pile up more than 130 rushing and 175 passing yards.  The intangibles slightly favor Iowa State, so I am leaning toward a closer than expected victory by the Wildcats, even though the PiRates and the Mean show otherwise.  I can see this game ending with a score similar to 27-17 in favor of K-State.


Kansas State -4 and -1 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Iowa State +24 and +27 in 10 and 13-point teasers


Nebraska at Kansas  

Vegas: Kansas by 18½  O/U 55

PiRate: Kansas by 24

Mean: Kansas 35 Nebraska 14

Kansas has a chance to move up in the BCS standings this week because either Oregon or Arizona State is going to lose for sure.  With a big win over Nebraska, the Jayhawks could strengthen the Big 12’s hold on having three of the nine legitimate finalists for the big game.

Nebraska’s sad lot became a whole lot sadder last week when quarterback Sam Keller suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.  On the other side of the ball, weak side linebacker Lance Brandenburgh suffered the same fate.  Nebraska isn’t far from becoming the equal of Baylor in the Big 12.

Kansas used to be an annual whipping boy for Nebraska.  The Jayhawks lost to the ‘Huskers by 21 or more points 29 of the 33 times they played between 1970 and 2003.  Many of those seasons, the Kansas basketball team gave up fewer points to Nebraska in one or both of their games than the football team surrendered.  Gone are the 70-0 and 63-7 losses.  KU actually won for the first time in 37 years when NU last visited Lawrence.

I think it’s time for a little turnabout is fair play.  The shoe is now on the other foot, and Kansas can name the score against the Cornhuskers.  This game could get ugly quickly, and Kansas needs to win by three touchdowns to help themselves in the polls.  I think they will accomplish the task.

The two-headed rushing monster of bruiser Brandon McAnderson and speedster Jake Sharp currently averages 6.4 yards per carry and 166 yards per game.  They could easily both top 100 yards this week.  McAnderson should pick up multiple first downs and break loose for four or five gains of 8-20 yards, while Sharp should break away for one 20-25-yard gain.  Nebraska cannot afford to devote an extra defender to stopping the run because KU QB Todd Reesing will put the dagger in the NU defense with a deep one to Marcus Henry. 

When the line for this game opened at 16½ points, it was the perfect time to jump on it for all you could afford to wager.  The line moved to 19 before falling back to 18½ , and it becomes less of a sure thing.  Still, I’ll take the Jayhawks to win by 21 or more.


Kansas -18½

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


East Carolina at Memphis  

Vegas: East Carolina by 5  O/U 60

PiRate: East Carolina by 8

Mean: East Carolina 31 Memphis 23

Memphis may be the weakest team in the nation that can still win its conference championship.  The Tigers, who lost to Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee from the Sunbelt, are 3-1 in the Conference USA East Division, and a win over East Carolina would put them alone in first place.

East Carolina currently occupies the top rung in the East Division with a 4-1 league mark, and the Pirates can coast home to the division title with a win Saturday.  Since they own a victory over Central Florida, all that would be left for ECU would be to beat Marshall and Tulane to earn a trip to the CUSA Championship Game.

While the stats look to favor Memphis by a slight margin, ECU’s schedule has been much stronger.  The Pirates have faced Virginia Tech, West Virginia, North Carolina State, and North Carolina out of conference.  Coach Skip Holtz’s team should slice through the Memphis defense for 30-35 points and hold the Tigers under 25, as they improve to 5-1 in the conference.  Memphis can still become bowl eligible this year with games remaining against UAB and SMU.


East Carolina -5

Under 60

East Carolina -210

East Carolina +5 and +8 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 70 and 73 in 10 and 13-point teasers


Purdue at Penn State  

Vegas: Penn State by 7  O/U 51½

PiRate: Penn State by 7

Mean: Penn State 28 Purdue 23

This is a Capital One/Outback Bowl elimination game.  The loser is banished to the outposts known as Insight, Alamo, and Champs Sports.

These teams both lost to Ohio State and Michigan and both defeated Notre Dame and Iowa.  Penn State’s average score in those four games was 21-17, while Purdue’s was 23-24.  Since both played at Michigan and home for the other three games, these scores can be used for comparison purposes.  You cannot just say Penn State is five points better because of these scores. A thorough examination of the play-by-play sheets of those games shows that Penn State is a little better than Purdue.  The amount is not enough to guarantee a Nittany Lion victory, but it is enough when added to home field advantage to make Penn State a touchdown favorite.  I expect this game to be a little bit lower scoring than expected.


Over 41½ and 38½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 61½ and 64½ in 10 and 13-point teasers


Navy at Notre Dame  

Vegas: Notre Dame by 3½  

PiRate: Notre Dame by 4

Mean: Navy 31 Notre Dame 30

Navy has played Notre Dame every season since 1927, which represents the longest continuous running series between teams not in the same conference.  The last time Navy won a game in this series, John F. Kennedy was President.

If ever there is a year for Navy to break the losing streak, this must certainly be it.  Notre Dame’s offense is as weak as a team from the days when players played both offense and defense.  The Fighting Irish offense had one great half against Purdue.  Taking away that game, this squad is barely averaging 150 total yards and 8.7 points per game.  Now, consider that ND scored some of those points with defense and special teams; so, the offense is really only averaging about six points per game.

Navy’s defense is just the tonic the Irish need.  Last week, the Middies gave up 59 points and 581 yards to Delaware.  Even Notre Dame should find some success moving the ball and should be able to top 21 points for the first time this season.  They have had an extra week to prepare for the Navy spread option, and I think they will hold Navy well below their average of 36 points and 450 total yards per game.  I think this one is pretty much 50-50 on which team will win.  Since Notre Dame is favored by 3½ points, I like the Irish with the teaser plays only. 


Notre Dame +6½ and +9½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 66 and 69 in 10 and 13-point teasers



L S U at Alabama

Vegas: L S U by 7  O/U 47½

PiRate: L S U by 7

Mean: L S U 28 Alabama 21

Sooner or later, Les Myles will gamble one time too many, and it will cost LSU a game.  Will it happen this weekend?  I think not; he cannot afford to lose this game with a stupid decision.

The Tigers have yielded more than 30 points and about 330 yards per game in their last three contests.  Their once nearly impregnable defense has become quite penetrable as of late.

Alabama decimated the Tennessee defense two weeks ago, but the Tide is not as good as the score indicated.  ‘Bama is not that much better than Tennessee if at all.

This game has added excitement thanks to Alabama head coach Nick Saban being the former coach at LSU.  I think Saban wants to win this game as much as his fans want to beat Auburn.  However, can he get his troops to come out on a high similar to the one they displayed against the Vols?  I think Alabama will play above their heads, but it won’t last for the full 60 minutes.  LSU is too strong, and they should eventually pull out the one touchdown victory.




U C L A at Arizona

Vegas: U C L A by 2  O/U 49½

PiRate: Tossup

Mean: U C L A 24 Arizona 20

Here we have two coaches fighting to keep their jobs, and I’m not sure either one has much chance of doing so.  UCLA has fallen to Notre Dame and Washington State.  Arizona is 3-6, making Coach Mike Stoops 15-28 in Tucson in his four seasons.

Unless you have some secret inside information, wagering in a UCLA game is ridiculous.  The Bruins have major problems, and that’s why Karl Dorrell will more than likely lose his job after this season.  If the players are good enough to beat BYU, Oregon State, and Cal, how can they lose to Notre Dame?  The Irish gained a grand total of 140 total yards in that game and still won.

Trying to break down this game, Arizona should find it hard to run the ball but should be able to pass for at least 250 yards.  UCLA could gain as little as 250 and as much as 400 yards in this game.  They are due to have a good week, but I would never trust them.  They could win 35-10 and just as easily lose 28-7.


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

Over 39½ and 36½ in 10 and 13-point teasers


Arizona State at Oregon

Vegas: Oregon by 7  O/U 61

PiRate: Oregon by 9

Mean: Oregon 31 Arizona State 28

This is the Game of the Week and possibly the top regular season game of the year.  This game could very well produce one of the two teams in the National Championship Game.

Arizona State has flourished under Dennis Erickson.  If they should somehow win the national title, Erickson will become the first person to officially do it at two different schools (an after-the-fact poll has awarded the national title retroactively to Kentucky in 1950, thus giving Bear Bryant that honor).  

Oregon must guard against a bounce after dismissing USC last week.  I think the Ducks know they are playing the most important game of the year this week instead of last week.  They will be ready.

Until last week, ASU had not met a dominating offense with a strong running and passing attack.  They met the challenge from Cal and held the Bears to 359 total yards (just 98 rushing yards).  The Sun Devils face an even better offense this week, and they play on the road as opposed to being at home for Cal.  Thus, I expect them to be a little more generous this week.

Oregon just may have the best overall offense in the nation.  Until two weeks ago, quarterback Dennis Dixon and tailbacks Jonathan Stewart and Jeremiah Johnson, gave the Ducks a running game every bit as strong as West Virginia’s.  Added to that outstanding rushing attack were the exceptional talents of receivers Jaison Williams and Cameron Colvin plus tight end Ed Dickson.  Johnson and Colvin suffered season-ending injuries against Washington State, and depth must now be factored into the equation.

Even with the injuries, Oregon’s offense is still potent.  However, ASU’s defense should be able to hold the Ducks below their game averages of 44 points and 525 yards per game. 

There is a major possible concern on behalf of Arizona State.  Starting quarterback Rudy Carpenter has a sprained thumb on his throwing hand.  While he is expected to start, he won’t be able to grip the ball the same way he normally grips it.  It will affect his delivery, and it will probably force Erickson to alter his game plan.  With a healthy Carpenter, the Sun Devils could tally over 400 total yards in this game, which means they would have a shot at the victory.  If Carpenter is not close to 100% for this game, ASU’s chances of losing becomes close to 100%.

The PiRates and the Mean Rating agree that Oregon should win, but I’m not ready to endorse their view.  I think Arizona State is strong enough to slow down the Duck offense and score enough points to win a hard-fought game, but only if Carpenter can perform up to standards.  Even if ASU loses, the Ducks must win by eight points to cover.  It’s not often you get seven points with an undefeated, top 10 team.  When that gift comes your way, take it-but only if Carpenter is healthy by Thursday afternoon’s practice.


Arizona +7

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

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


Buffalo at Miami-OH  

Vegas: Miami-OH by 7  O/U 47½

PiRate: Miami-OH by 6

Mean: Miami-OH 24 Buffalo 19

Why have I included this game this week?  There are two reasons.  First, and more importantly, this game could be the decisive battle in determining one of the representatives in the MAC title game.  Second, it’s time to take notice of the job Coach Turner Gill has done in Buffalo.  Gill took over what could arguably be called the weakest program in FBS football.  In short time, he has brought the Bulls to the brink of the Eastern Division title of the conference.  Once Bill Callahan is officially fired at Nebraska, Gill could very well become the leading candidate to return to his alma mater, especially now that his former coach is now the athletics director.

Miami has dropped consecutive games to Temple and Vanderbilt to fall to 4-5.  Buffalo is also 4-5 overall.  The MAC is the only two-division conference to use intra-divisional records to decide its two division champions.  The inter-divisional record is used only to break ties.  So, at the moment, Buffalo is 3-0 in division play and 4-1 in conference play.  If they beat Miami, who is 2-1 in division play and 3-1 in conference play, they will only need to win one of their final two games (Bowling Green & Kent St.) to take the Eastern Division crown.

Miami has a slightly better offense than the Bulls, while Buffalo’s defense is a little better than Miami’s.  On paper, these teams look about equal, so intangibles are the only way to decide a favorite.  Miami is the home team, and they’ve been here before.  Buffalo is in uncharted waters.  That’s the only difference in the game, and it’s a small difference at that.  I look for Miami to survive with a close win.


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

Under 57½ and 60½ in 10 and 13-point teasers



Army at Air Force  

Vegas: Air Force by 16½  O/U 45   

PiRate: Air Force by 18

Mean: Air Force 30 Army 14

The last time Army marched into Colorado Springs, they broke a long losing streak in the Commander-in-Chief competition with a 27-24 win.  Army has beaten Air Force just once in the past 10 years and twice in 18 years. 

Air Force is bowl eligible at 6-3, but the Falcons need one more win to guarantee they will play a 13th game.  I expect the Falcons to get that win this week.  Army does not stop the run all that well, and Air Force averages more than 250 yards per game on the ground.  The Falcons should top that average this week and possibly run for more than 300 yards.

Army might pick up more than 200 passing yards in this game, but I don’t see the Cadets sustaining more than one or two lengthy drives in this game.  It leads to an AFA win, and it should be by more than two touchdowns.


Air Force -6½ and -3½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 35 and 32 in 10 and 13-point teasers 


Michigan at Michigan State  

Vegas: Michigan by 3½  O/U 52½

PiRate: Michigan by 3

Mean: Michigan 29 Michigan State 24

Michigan has won seven games in a row, while Michigan State has dropped four of their last five games.  The Wolverines are playing to stay in contention for the Big 10 title, while MSU is trying to just get bowl eligible.  Both teams have their backs against the walls coming into this rivalry game, and it should prove to be a real fight in East Lansing.

In this seven game run, Michigan has held all of its opponents below their averages in points and yards.  The maize and blue offense has averaged 32 points and close to 420 yards per game.  They have done so even though their attack side has not been 100% healthy for any of the games.  Even if quarterback Chad Henne and tailback Mike Hart are still too hurt to play, backup quarterback Ryan Mallett and tailbacks Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown have stepped in with the Wolverines playing just as well.  If Henne and Hart return, that’s just icing on the cake.

Michigan State isn’t far from being a really good team.  They just come up short in close games.  In another battle that should be close, some of the Spartans may not have the confidence to outplay their rivals on the opposite side of the ball.  I expect the Wolverines will win their eighth game in a row, but it should be another close battle-maybe one decided in overtime.  I also believe this game will be higher scoring than expected, especially since ideal weather is in the forecast.


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


Texas A&M at Oklahoma  

Vegas: Oklahoma by 21  O/U 57  

PiRate: Oklahoma by 15

Mean: Oklahoma 33 Texas A&M 19

Dennis Franchione knows he is out of a job once Texas A&M plays its final game of the season.  The Aggies are 6-3, and they will be underdogs in their final three games (at Missouri and vs. Texas after this one).  If they finish 6-6, the Aggies will only get a bowl bid if a second Big 12 team gets a BCS Bowl bid.

Oklahoma is very much alive in the national championship hunt.  The Sooners will have to win convincingly against A&M and follow it up with substantial victories over Baylor, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, and the Big 12 North winner in the conference title game.  They have the talent to do just that, but that talent isn’t so overwhelmingly superior that they can just show up and win. 

I don’t think A&M has a chance to pull off the upset in Norman, but they could make the Sooner fans a bit uncomfortable for a good part of the day.  Texas A&M will lose because they won’t be able to run the ball like they have so far this season.  Oklahoma can stuff the Aggie running game, and A&M does not have a competent passing attack to compensate.  I expect the Aggies to score far below their average of 30 points per game-possibly by half. 

Oklahoma should be able to move the ball all day against the A&M defense.  The Sooners could easily run for 175 yards and pass for 275 yards in this game.  450 total yards should produce 35-45 points.  At just 35 points, the Sooners might not cover the three touchdown spread.  If they score 38 or more, they probably will cover.  Play it safe and use this game in teaser plays.


Texas A&M +21 (risky)

Under 57

Texas A&M +31 and +34 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 67 and 70 in 10 and 13-point teasers


Wisconsin at Ohio State  

Vegas: Ohio State by 15½  O/U 44½     

PiRate: Ohio State by 19

Mean: Ohio State 28 Wisconsin 10

Wisconsin has an offense strong enough to score 21 points against the Buckeyes, but it hasn’t been consistent this year.  Ohio State’s defense has been consistently dominating so far in 2007, and I see no reason why the Buckeyes will deviate any this week. 

Look at what happened when both teams played at Penn State.  The Badgers were never in the game, as PSU stomped on them 38-7.  Wisconsin rushed for just 87 yards, while the Badger defense gave up more than 200 rushing and 200 passing yards.  Ohio State, on the other hand, trounced Penn State 37-17.  The Buckeyes held PSU under 140 yards rushing and 140 yards passing, while their offense ran for 200 and passed for more than 250.

Whether or not Coach Jim Tressel’s team is truly number one is still open for debate.  Whether or not his team is the class of the Big 10 is not.  OSU is too strong for the Badgers, especially playing at the giant horseshoe.  Look for UW to be held under 17 points, and look for OSU to score at least 17 more points than they surrender.  The Buckeyes should take care of business this week and next week against Illinois. That means they will head to Ann Arbor for yet another major showdown with “that team up north.”


Ohio State -5½ and -2½ in 10 and 13-point teasers



New Mexico at T C U  

Vegas: T C U by 3½  O/U 44   

PiRate: T C U by 4

Mean: T C U 22 New Mexico 21 ot (actually a tossup)

This game is a key game in the bowl-decision process of the Mountain West Conference.  For New Mexico, the Lobos simply need to become bowl eligible to virtually guarantee themselves a berth in the New Mexico Bowl.  TCU hosts the Armed Forces Bowl, but they are not a lock to ever receive that bid, as Ft. Worth wants the tourism dollars that out-of-town teams bring in.

With 16 days off, TCU has had about as much time to prepare for this game as some teams get when preparing for a minor bowl game.  When they last played, they lost at home to Utah.

New Mexico played two games within five days and won both in a close fashion.  After edging San Diego State 20-17, the Lobos came from behind to nip Air Force 34-31.  They will have had nine days off when this game begins, so TCU has no big advantage here.

A comparison of the stats and scores of games shows this one to be a coin-toss game.  It’s a 50-50 chance for both teams, even with TCU’s home field advantage.  Since the Horned Frogs are favored by 3½, the wise thing to do is move the spread an extra 10 or 13 points and force them to cover at 13½ or 16½ as part of a teaser.  That way, they can’t hurt you with a four point overtime victory.  


New Mexico +13½ and +16½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 54 and 57 in 10 and 13-point teasers



Washington at Stanford  

Vegas: Washington by 3  O/U 57½    

PiRate: Stanford by 2

Mean: Stanford 30 Washington 27

Washington finished the rough part of their schedule two weeks ago and got what was thought to be a breather last week when Arizona came to Seattle.  The Huskies defense fell apart and gave up 48 points to an average offense.  Now, they must travel south and take on a Stanford team that won’t back down.  The Cardinal’s offense isn’t as strong as Arizona’s, but they beat those same Wildcats in Tucson two weeks ago.  They also knocked off Southern Cal earlier this year.  They can easily win this game, and if they do so to improve to 4-5, they could become bowl eligible with Washington State and Notre Dame still to play.

The key to this game will be how the Washington pass defense performs against the Stanford passing game.  UW gave up more than 500 passing yards to Arizona.  If they give up more than 350 this week, they are going to lose.  I expect Coach Tyrone Willingham to have his troops ready to play, and they will allow “only” 275 to 300 passing yards; that won’t guarantee a win though.

Stanford may not have an answer defensively to Jake Locker, but I don’t expect them to roll over and take a beating.  This game should go down to the wire, and I’m leaning toward the home team.  Washington is a short favorite, and I think once again, it’s smart to force them to cover too many points via a teaser.


Stanford +3 (risky)

Stanford +140 (combined in a parlay of other ‘dogs)

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


Texas at Oklahoma State  

Vegas: Texas by 3  O/U 61   

PiRate: Oklahoma State by 4

Mean: Oklahoma State 30 Texas 27

Texas has been a disappointment this season.  The Longhorns struggled at home against Arkansas State and had to come from behind to beat Central Florida.  Kansas State embarrassed them in Austin, and UT lost the Red River Rivalry.  Last week, they had to come from behind to beat pitiful Nebraska.

Oklahoma State has been on a roll ever since Coach Mike Gundy had his public tirade making sure everybody knows his age and that he is a man.  The October win in Stillwater over Kansas State solidified my beliefs that this team is capable of winning the South Division of the Big 12.  To do so, the Cowboys must dispose of Texas.  They must not look ahead to next week’s game against Kansas.

OSU had an extra week to prepare for this game, and that’s just enough of a factor to push me to their side.  Since Texas is favored, I like this upset pick straight up this week.


Oklahoma State +3

Oklahoma State +135 (combined in a parlay of other ‘dogs)

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

Under 71 and 74 in 10 and 13-point teasers


Missouri at Colorado  

Vegas: Missouri by 3½  O/U 57

PiRate: Missouri by 9

Mean: Missouri 28 Colorado 24

Colorado is 14 points better today than they were back on September 1.  The Buffaloes are not a team to take lightly, especially when you must play them in Boulder.  In a year with big upsets every week, there is every reason to expect CU to have a shot at adding to the wackiness. 

I am not totally sold on the Missouri defense.  The Tigers have given up 435 yards and 34 points to Illinois; 534 yards and 25 points to Ole Miss; 384 yards and 41 points to Oklahoma; and 389 yards and 28 points to Iowa State.  For the season, Missouri is yielding 400 total yards per game, and that’s just not championship material.  Sure, their offense is one of the best in the nation, averaging more than 40 points and almost 500 yards per game.  I’m a bit leery going with them on the road here this week.

Colorado has already played Arizona State, Oklahoma, and Kansas.  All three are in the BCS top 10.  They gave up 407 yards and 33 points to the Sun Devils way back in early September.  When Oklahoma visited Folsom Field in late September, the Buffs held them to 230 total yards in the upset win.  Two weeks ago, they lost a close game to Kansas, but they held KU to 333 yards and 19 points.  They have the capability of holding Missouri under 28 points and 400 yards.  Missouri might pass for 300 yards, but they must run the ball effectively to keep their defense from playing too much.

The odds makers were smart and installed Missouri as a short favorite.  The spread is too dangerous to play with straight up, and I’m not sure I’d fool with this one in the teasers either, unless you move it in favor of the Tigers.  Weather shouldn’t be a factor, and that’s not always the case in Boulder this time of year.




Wake Forest at Virginia  

Vegas: Pick  O/U 43½  

PiRate: Wake Forest by 4

Mean: Virginia 21 Wake Forest 20

Virginia came to Earth last week when North Carolina State not only upset the Cavaliers, they looked like the superior team who could win that match every time.

Wake Forest has won six in a row after opening the season with losses to Boston College and Nebraska.  The Demon Deacons have combined an adequate defense with an opportunistic offense to win several close games just like Virginia.

Las Vegas considers this game a tossup, and the Mean Rating concurs.  The PiRates believe Wake is a slim favorite, and I concur.  I like the Demon Deacons to win but not by many points.  Since WF only needs to win by one, they have a good chance of covering the spread.  Of course, given 10 points, they look wonderful in a teaser.


Wake Forest +10 and +13 in 10 and 13-point teasers

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

Under 53½ and 56½ in 10 and 13-point teasers



Florida State at Boston College   

Vegas: Boston College by 6½  O/U 45   

PiRate: Boston College by 16

Mean: Boston College 28 Florida State 14

Boston College survived a scare last week at Virginia Tech.  In the final two and a half minutes, quarterback Matt Ryan reminded me of Roger Staubach and Fran Tarkenton.  The Eagles conclude the season with four games against teams (FSU, Maryland, Clemson, and Miami) that could beat them under the right circumstances.  I just don’t think BC will run the table, especially when they would have to more than likely beat Virginia Tech in a rematch in the ACC Championship Game.

As far as this week goes, chances are about 65% that the Eagles will top Florida State.  I’m not sure FSU can score more than 14 to 17 points, and the Seminole stop unit is good but not good enough to hold BC under 14.  Therefore, I’m going with the home team to win.  If Ryan can complete an early touchdown pass in this game, it may get ugly.  I think BC will cover the spread this week, but I much rather like the teaser opportunities in this game.


Boston College -6½

Boston College +3½ and +6½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 54½ and 57½ in 10 and 13-point teasers     


Oregon State at Southern California  

Vegas: Southern Cal by 15½  O/U 47  

PiRate: Southern Cal by 14

Mean: Southern Cal 26 Oregon State 17

Southern California has played itself out of the BCS Bowl race.  The best they can now hope for is a Holiday Bowl berth.  I don’t think the Trojan players really care about going to San Diego in December.  Combine that with the fact that this team never put it together this season, and I sure wouldn’t be taking them this week and giving more than two touchdowns to Oregon State.

This is the second year in a row that Oregon State has begun slowly and then picked up steam in mid-season.  After beginning 2006 with a 2-3 record, the Beavers recovered to finish 8-1 including wins over USC, Arizona State, and Oregon.  This year, after losing to Cincinnati, Arizona State, and then UCLA in a game they just gave away, the Beavers have recovered with three wins in a row.

I think some of the Trojans may remember the beating they took from this squad last year, and they may harbor some desire for revenge.  It may be enough that, when combined with slightly better talent, leads to a USC win.  I just don’t believe the Trojans have the killer instinct to beat OSU by more than 14 points.  So, therefore, I am picking the Beavers to cover the spread and to have a chance to win this game in the fourth quarter if they don’t turn the ball over.


Oregon State +15

Oregon State +25 and +28 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 57 and 60 in 10 and 13-point teasers


Illinois at Minnesota  

Vegas: Illinois by 11½  O/U 57½   

PiRate: Illinois by 9

Mean: Illinois 34 Minnesota 20

The saga of Tim Brewster and the Gophers continues.  Minnesota began the Michigan game with a bang and finished it with a whimper, as they watched the Wolverines storm back from a 10-0 deficit to win 34-10.  Michigan topped 300 yards rushing and 200 yards passing even though quarterback Chad Henne and tailback Mike Hart missed the game.

Illinois is not as good as Michigan, but Ron Zook’s Illini can dominate inferior teams.  Rashard Mendenhall and Juice Williams should propel the Illini rushing attack to a 250 to 300-yard game.  Mendenhall could become the all-time leading rusher in Illinois history if he can break loose for 218 yards.

Minnesota’s first-year spread attack will look like Missouri’s attack in slow motion.  Illinois should have no trouble holding the Gophers to about 17 points.  Seventeen points won’t win when your defense gives up 37 points per game and no fewer than 27 in any game (and that was against a FCS team).  The Illini must win by 12 points to cover, and that leaves open a window of doubt.  Illinois could have a 31-7 lead entering the final period and allow a couple of meaningless scores late.  Therefore, I am leaning toward the teasers in this one.  I’d advise not playing the totals in any form or fashion, as this game could end up 28-17 or 42-27.


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


Washington State at California 

Vegas: California by 14  O/U 63

PiRate: California by 17

Mean: California 38 Washington State 21

The Golden Bears are not so golden all of a sudden.  Consecutive losses to Oregon State, UCLA and Arizona State have them competing for a berth in the Sun Bowl.  Washington State picked up a big win against UCLA last week, and the Cougars hold a tiny glimmer of hope for turning the season around.  WSU is now 3-5 with games against Stanford, Oregon State, and Washington still to be played.  WSU must finish 3-1 to become bowl eligible.  I give them about a 10% chance.

I don’t see how Washington State will stop the Cal offense.  If they try to force Nate Longshore to beat them with his arm, he can do it with the aid of super receiver DeSean Jackson.  If they dare Cal to run the ball all day, Justin Forsett can rip them to shreds.

I think Washington State will begin the game feeling confident thanks to the win over UCLA.  However, once the Bears score a couple of times, WSU will lose that confidence and lose the game by two or more touchdowns.


California -14

California -4 and -1 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 73 and 76 in 10 and 13-point teasers


PiRate Predictions For All Games

This Week’s Games

Home Team in Caps (N) Denotes Neutral Site



Thursday, November 1



Favorite Underdog

Pred. Spread

Approx. Score

GEORGIA TECH Virginia Tech





Friday, November 2



Favorite Underdog

Pred. Spread

Approx. Score

OHIO U Temple











Saturday, November 3



Favorite Underdog

Pred. Spread

Approx. Score

INDIANA Ball State















MIAMI-FL North Carolina State



Clemson DUKE



FLORIDA Vanderbilt



ARKANSAS South Carolina



BRIGHAM YOUNG Colorado State



Kansas State IOWA STATE



KANSAS  Nebraska



East Carolina MEMPHIS









BOISE STATE San Jose State



U t e p RICE








31-30 ot

OREGON Arizona State



MIAMI-OH Buffalo















OHIO STATE Wisconsin






Louisiana Tech IDAHO



T C U New Mexico



STANFORD Washington



TOLEDO Eastern Michigan



Texas Tech BAYLOR






Missouri COLORADO 



Wake Forest VIRGINIA



Southern Miss. ALA.-BIRMINGHAM





















CALIFORNIA Washington St.









TENNESSEE Louisiana-Lafayette








Sunday, November 4



Favorite Underdog

Pred. Spread

Approx. Score






This Week’s “Picks”


One good week could get me back on the plus side of .500, but I would have to gamble with too many “iffy” games.  So, I’m only going to play the ones I feel confident playing.

Straight Plays Against the Spread

# 1:  Iowa +1 vs. Northwestern

# 2:  Kansas -18½ vs. Nebraska

# 3:  Stanford +3 vs. Washington

# 4:  Boston College -6½ vs. Florida State

# 5:  Oregon State +15 vs. Southern Cal

# 6:  California -14 vs. Washington State

Money Line Picks

[See Below for Special 12-1 Fun pick]

10-point Teasers

# 7:  Virginia Tech +13 vs. Georgia Tech

        Iowa +11 vs. Northwestern

        Clemson -6 vs. Duke

# 8:  South Carolina +14½ vs. Arkansas

        Kansas -8½ vs. Nebraska

        Notre Dame +6½ vs. Navy

# 9:  Air Force & Army Over 35

        Ohio State -5½ vs. Wisconsin

        Stanford +13 vs. Washington

#10: Oklahoma State +13 vs. Texas

        Wake Forest +10 vs. Virginia

        Boston College +3½ vs. Florida State

#11: Oregon State +25 vs. Southern Cal

        San Diego State +14 vs. Wyoming

        California -4 vs. Washington State


13-point Teasers

#12: Temple +21 vs. Ohio U

        Maryland & North Carolina Over 31½

        Florida -2 vs. Vanderbilt

        Vanderbilt & Florida Under 64

#13: Kansas State -1 vs. Iowa State

        Notre Dame & Navy Under 69

        Buffalo +20 vs. Miami-OH

        Air Force -3½ vs. Army    

Unofficial Money Line Parlay (not included in actual picks)

This week you can get 12-1 odds on this three-team money line parlay:

Virginia Tech +130 vs. Georgia Tech

Stanford +140 vs. Washington

Oklahoma State +135 vs. Texas   


1 Comment

  1. […] PiRate <b>Game</b> Previews and Selections For November 1-4, 2007 […]

    Pingback by Late breaking news — November 1, 2007 @ 12:18 am

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