The Pi-Rate Ratings

November 20, 2007

PiRate Game Previews and Selections for November 22-24, 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:(*)               37-11    77.1%

For The Season Picking Winners:                    448-159    73.8%

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


Last Week Picks vs. Spread:                           11-15-1    42.3%

For the Season Picking Winners vs. Spread:      83-112-3   42.6% (over 52.4% returns a profit)

Okay, I now wave the white flag.  There is no way to come out of this hole, so I am going to let the PiRates and Mean Ratings do the picking for me.  That means no teaser picks this week.  I will just go with the team that both ratings agree on when they do agree and take straight picks and money line picks.

Most games this week play a part in determining final bowl positions.  This is usually the most interesting week in the schedule, as you get a combination of great rivalry games and games selected to be season finale barnburners.  The highlight of the week is without a doubt the thriller at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium between Missouri and Kansas.  You have to go back to the Chiefs-Raiders games at old Kansas City Municipal Stadium in the late 1960’s to find a time when there was as much excitement riding on a football game in KC.

The next most important game is the Boise State-Hawaii matchup Friday night in Honolulu.  If Hawaii wins, they are probably headed to the Sugar Bowl.  It is my belief that Boise State should get that Sugar Bowl bid if they knock off the Warriors.

The Big East Championship is on the line when Connecticut visits West Virginia.  I think the Mountaineers probably wrapped up the title last week by winning at Cincinnati, but they still must take care of business this week and then handle a pesky Pitt team the following week.

The Thursday game between Southern Cal and Arizona State now has new meaning with Oregon losing for the second time in the Pac-10.  The Sun Devils control their own destiny to the Pac-10 title and Rose Bowl, while USC is still in contention for that berth.

Virginia hosts Virginia Tech for the ACC Coastal Division title and the right to take on Boston College for the ACC Championship.  Boston College must play host to Miami, but they have already clinched the Atlantic Division title.  When North Carolina State and Maryland tangle in Raleigh, the Humanitarian Bowl bid will be on the line.  Both teams will be cheering hard Friday night for Boise State to beat Hawaii and be sent away from the field of blue in December.

In a couple months, they will meet on the hardwoods.  However, when Duke and North Carolina meet on the gridiron, little will be riding on the game.  Duke coach Ted Roof may lose his job win or lose, and the Blue Devils are so far behind the rest of the league, it probably will not matter if Roof stays or goes.  The next guy will do little if any better.  Duke is in the same boat as Baylor and Vanderbilt.  These three institutions of higher learning cannot compete in their conferences because they cannot recruit enough high-quality athletes.  When more than half of the 5-star recruits cannot qualify for admission to these schools, it becomes impossible to compete 12 times a year.  Just two or three key injuries will do them in, whereas the Oklahoma’s, Florida’s, and Virginia Tech’s can just plug another blue-chip recruit in the lineup when they lose personnel.

Oklahoma hosts Oklahoma State with the Big 12 South Division title on the line.  If the Sooners lose, then Texas can take the title by defeating Texas A&M.  This figures to be Dennis Franchione’s final game in College Station.  When Nebraska visits Boulder to take on Colorado, the winner will earn a bowl bid, while the loser suffers a losing season. 

In the SEC, Tennessee must win at Kentucky to clinch the Eastern Division crown.  LSU has already wrapped up the Western Division title, but the Tigers must beat Arkansas to stay in contention for the National Championship. 

Georgia goes to Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech and must win to keep their BCS At-large Bowl hopes alive.  A Tech loss could signal the end for Chan Gailey. 

When Florida hosts Florida State, it could be the final piece in the Heisman Trophy balloting.  Can Tim Tebow win the award as a sophomore?  Who else really deserves it at the moment?  I could argue that there is another quarterback up in Morgantown, WV and one in Lawrence, KS who have directed their schools to the edge of the National Championship Game, but how can you go against Tebow?  He not only is one of the top runners in the game, he’s one of the top passers as well.  Think Babe Ruth in 1918 when he was still pitching and beginning to play in the outfield and led the American League in homers, while finishing third in won-loss percentage and second only to Walter Johnson in walks and hits per nine innings.

Mississippi State must beat Ole Miss to clinch a bowl berth.  They could still go bowling with a loss, but it would be a long shot.  South Carolina would probably be eliminated with a loss to Clemson, even if Alabama loses to Auburn.  Both would be 6-6, and you can guess which school would win out in a two-team battle for one bowl bid.  Vanderbilt can also move to 6-6 with a win at home against Wake Forest.  At 6-6, the Commodores only chance to end a 25-year bowl drought would be if Mississippi State, Alabama, South Carolina, Ball State, and Miami-OH all lost, and the school executives guaranteed a sell-out by purchasing all the available tickets themselves.  I’d still say in that event, chances would be only about 25% that they would be invited.

Out on the coast, UCLA meets a wounded Duck in Oregon.  Without Dennis Dixon, Oregon could easily lose to the Bruins.  If UCLA wins against either Oregon or Southern Cal, they will become bowl eligible. 

When Washington State travels to Washington in the Apple Cup Trophy game, it could be Coach Bill Doba’s last game in Pullman. 

Point spreads and totals are those listed as of 2:00 PM ET Monday instead of the normal Wednesday morning due to the Thanksgiving holiday.

Previews will be truncated due to time constraints this week.

Thursday, November 22

Southern California at Arizona State

Vegas: Southern Cal by 3½   

PiRate: Tossup

Mean: Arizona State 27  Southern Cal 21

On paper, this looks like a tossup, and the PiRates agree wholeheartedly.  Arizona State has a little better offense, while USC has a little better defense.  Looking at comparative scores get us nowhere, since while there are big differences, they balance out.  Throw in home-field advantage and the possibility that the ASU players may have more fire than the Trojans, and I tend to favor the Sun Devils.  Since the line currently lists USC as a field goal-plus pick, this becomes a play according to the PiRate-Mean test.


Arizona State +3½

Arizona State +140


Friday, November 23

Nebraska at Colorado

Vegas: Colorado by 5½     

PiRate: Colorado by 7

Mean: Colorado 31  Nebraska 28

The last time these two hooked up at Folsom Field, Colorado was embarrassed twice on national television.  Nebraska blew them off their home field, and large numbers of drunken Buffalo students caused a major ruckus. 

Fast forward two years, and now Nebraska is the team that has been embarrassed on national television this year.  After giving up 76 points to Kansas, the Cornhuskers hung 73 on Kansas State.

The winner of this game might be headed to Shreveport, LA for a December reward.  For the ‘Huskers, that would be a joke.  For CU, any bowl would be welcomed after the last couple of years.  Look for the Buffs to play with more heart and win in a high-scoring game.


Colorado -220


Ole Miss at Mississippi State

Vegas: Mississippi State by 6½

PiRate: Mississippi State by 13

Mean: Mississippi State 30  Ole Miss 20

Mississippi State will be able to cook the omelets this week because they are going to win the Egg Bowl.  The Bulldogs are 6-5 and will lock up a bowl bid, possibly to Nashville or Memphis, with a win.  A loss will put them on the bubble.

The Ole Miss players will find it a tad tough to play this game with the same intensity as they displayed last week against LSU.  Even though this is their top rival, the Rebels’ players will not bring their A-game this week.  Look for the maroon and white to get that important seventh win and earn a 13th game.


Mississippi State -6½

Mississippi State -235



Arkansas at L S U

Vegas: L S U by 12    

PiRate: L S U by 21     

Mean: L S U 38  Arkansas 22

Felix Jones may be able to play in this game for the Razorbacks, but he still will be slowed by deep thigh bruise.  Without Jones at full speed, I don’t think Darren McFadden can produce eye-popping numbers against the nation’s top-ranked team.

LSU’s win over Ole Miss may have been harder to do than winning this game will be.  Arkansas’s defense will not be able to slow down the Tigers’ offense, while the Tigers should be able to slow down the Arkansas offense.  I’m looking at a two touchdown or more victory for the home team.  With an extra day between this game and the SEC Championship Game, everything’s coming up Roses National Championship Game for LSU.  And, that will be a home game.  What would Les Myles have left to prove in Baton Rouge?  Hello Ann Arbor.


L S U -12

L S U -420



Texas at Texas A&M

Vegas: Texas by 5

PiRate: Texas by 5  

Mean: Texas 31  Texas A&M 25

The question for this game is, will the A&M players play over-their-head for Dennis Franchione in possibly his last game in College Station?

Question number two is, do the Texas players remember last year’s game and have revenge on their minds?

I’m guessing both questions can be answered in the affirmative, but Texas has more revenge than A&M has love for Coach Fran.  The Longhorns are maybe a touchdown to 10 points more talented than the Aggies, but the Aggies have the home field in this game.  When you factor all aspects here, Texas should win by less than a touchdown.  That will give them a 10-2 record, but unless Oklahoma loses to Oklahoma State, they will have to settle for the Cotton Bowl.


Texas -215  



Boise State at Hawaii  

Vegas: Hawaii by 4   

PiRate: Boise State by 6  

Mean: Hawaii 34  Boise State 34 [overtime to decide]

I have been looking at this contest since September.  Personally, I think Boise State is just as good if not better than last year.  If I wasn’t looking at the PiRate or Mean ratings for this game, I would go with the Broncos to win by double digits.

Colt Brennan should be back to 100% for this game, and I expect him to throw the ball 40-50 times for 350 to 400 yards.  I expect Hawaii will score 28 or more points.

The game will be decided when Boise State has the ball.  If Hawaii’s defense can force Taylor Tharp to pass the ball 40 times because they have shut down the Bronco run, then Hawaii can win.  If the BSU running attack unleashes for their typical 200 yards, then the Broncos are going to win.

Boise State has won the last six games in this series, and I think they will make it seven straight.


Boise St. +4


Saturday, November 24

Connecticut at West Virginia   

Vegas: West Virginia by 17

PiRate: West Virginia by 18

Mean: West Virginia 32  Connecticut 18

Patrick White isn’t getting much Heisman Trophy publicity, but I cannot think of any quarterback who is more valuable to his team than this Mountaineer.  He is a better runner than Tim Tebow and not that far behind Tebow as a passer.  With White joined by backs Steve Slaton, Noel Devine, and Owen Schmitt, the West Virginia running game is the most lethal among the BCS teams.  Now, throw in the fact that White completes nearly 70% of his passes, and WVU is close to impossible to stop.

Connecticut has enjoyed their best season as a BCS team.  They have a defense worthy of winning a championship, but their offense is not up to that standard.  The Huskies need to force opponents into making mistakes in order to capitalize and score big points.  I don’t see that happening at Mountaineer Field.  Look for West Virginia to clinch the Big East title with a big win in Morgantown.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the game got out of hand and ended up being a blowout, but because of the rules I have instituted for this week (PiRate and Mean Ratings do not call for WVU to beat the spread by three or more points), I must officially call this a no-wager game. 




Virginia Tech at Virginia   

Vegas: Virginia Tech by 3    

PiRate: Virginia Tech by 6  

Mean: Virginia Tech 23  Virginia 20   

Virginia has won most of their games in ugly fashion (five wins by one or two points), but they went to Miami and won 48-0 two weeks ago.  Virginia Tech’s last five wins came by an average of 39-15.  So, does this mean that if this game is close, Virginia will win but if it is a blowout, Tech will win?  No!  I expect this game to be close and relatively low scoring.

There may be fewer total yards gained in this game by both teams than Tulsa picks up against Rice.  I expect both teams to rush for less than 125 yards and pass for no more than 175 yards.  It adds up to a close game, but in this one, I expect Virginia to come up on the short side by a few points. 


Virginia Tech -155


Miami-FL at Boston College

Vegas: Boston College by 14½         

PiRate: Boston College by 20  

Mean: Boston College 34  Miami 16

Miami actually has more to play for in this game, as they must win to finish 6-6 and cling to hopes that the Humanitarian Bowl will want them a second consecutive season.

Boston College is headed to the ACC Championship Game even if they lose this game, as they own the tiebreakers over Clemson and Wake Forest.  This is Matt Ryan’s final home game, and I expect him to be ready to give the Eagles’ fans one final memorable game.

Miami has been hit with so many injuries, it’s a wonder they can field a two-deep without taking off red shirts.  The Hurricanes’ wounded list grew after they played Virginia Tech.

Due to the injury factor, I look for Ryan to have a field day and pass for at least 325 yards (unless BC gets a big lead so quickly that he doesn’t get enough passing opportunities).  The Eagles should pick up their 10th win, and it should be by more than two touchdowns.


Boston College -14½


Maryland at North Carolina State   

Vegas: North Carolina State by 2        

PiRate: Maryland by 2  

Mean: North Carolina State 24  Maryland 24 [overtime to decide]

This should be a bloody game with some of the hardest hitting in college football.  Both teams are 5-6, and one will get that all-important bowl-clinching sixth win.

Until last week N.C. State was the hottest team in the league, having one four games in a row.  Wake Forest brought them back to Earth.  Maryland has experienced an up and down season much like UCLA on the opposite coast.  The Terrapins struggled against Villanova and Florida International, and they lost to North Carolina.  On the other hand, they own victories over Rutgers, Georgia Tech, and Boston College.

Since Chris Turner became the full-time quarterback, he has averaged better than 250 passing yards per game.  Turner may be the difference in this game.  I don’t think the Wolfpack can stop the Maryland passing game without selling out and gambling that the Terps cannot beat them running the ball.  Look for Maryland to do a little of both-run for 120 and pass for 270.  Those stats will send the Terrapins to Boise in December.  Maryland will win but it will be right at the spread.  That means no pick.




South Florida at Pittsburgh  

Vegas: South Florida by 11      

PiRate: South Florida by 17

Mean: South Florida 32  Pittsburgh 19

Pittsburgh is still mathematically alive in the bowl picture.  All they have to do is beat South Florida this week and West Virginia next week.  If Dave Wannstedt wants to keep his job, the Panthers may have to do just that.  Tough luck Dave!  It’s not going to happen-not this week and not next week.

South Florida’s defense is built to stop offenses like Pittsburgh’s.  The Panthers are a conservative, ball-control team, and USF’s swarming defense will stop almost all of the Pitt drives in this game.  I don’t see the Panthers scoring more than 14 points.

The Bulls may not be West Virginia on the attack side, but they average 35 points per game.  If they score just 17 in this one, they are going to win.  They should get that in the first half.  I look for USF to close out their regular season with a two touchdown or more win.  Because the Mean Rating only calls for a 13-point win, I have to lay off this game in the picks below.




Tennessee at Kentucky

Vegas: Kentucky by 3   

PiRate: Tennessee by 1

Mean: Kentucky 31  Tennessee 30

This game hasn’t had so much riding on it by both teams since General Neyland faced off against Bear Bryant.  Kentucky is playing for a New Year’s Day Bowl bid, while Tennessee merely has a trip to the SEC Championship on the line.

It’s been 23 seasons since Kentucky last won in this series.  It’ s not just a recent phenomena that the Vols have dominated this contest.  In the 80 seasons these teams have met since Neyland arrived in Knoxville, the orange and white have won 61 times, the blue and white have won just 13 times, and they have tied six times (didn’t play in 1943).

Kentucky wants to win this game more than any other on their schedule.  Their fans would choose winning this game over a bowl game if they had to pick just one more victory.  Like Vanderbilt, the Wildcats have been inventive in finding ways to pull defeat out of the jaws of victory over the years.

This year, Kentucky is actually favored to win the game, and the statistics present a strong case.  While their defense isn’t all that strong, neither is Tennessee’s.  The Cats have a slightly better offense than the Vols.  Of course, we don’t compare offense to offense and defense to defense.  When Kentucky has the ball, look for Andre Woodson to have a decent day and top 250 yards passing.  Look for the big blue to add another 175-200 yards on the ground and score more than 28 points.

When Tennessee has the ball, I expect the Vols to top their normal rushing average of just over 150 yards per game.  Look for close to 200 yards.  Erik Ainge will not match Woodson in air yardage, but I expect him to top 200.  Tennessee will also top 28 points.

The game will come down to turnovers and special teams.  Tennessee had a defensive lapse on kick coverage last week, and I expect they will work overtime on special teams this week.  The Vol kicking game almost let them down last week, and I expect a recovery there as well.  What that means is Tennessee will be headed to Atlanta to play LSU next week, while Kentucky drops from New Years Day bowling to December bowling.  Once again, the two ratings disagree, so officially there is no pick this week.




Wake Forest at Vanderbilt

Vegas: Wake Forest by 2

PiRate: Tossup

Mean: Wake Forest 24  Vanderbilt 23

There are two ways to consider this game this week.  Number one is that Vanderbilt still holds a slim bowl hope if they can win and finish 6-6.  The other is that this team died last week in Knoxville, and they are about to go through the motions against a team that can win by four or five touchdowns if that happens.

Even if they don’t hold much, if any, chance of receiving a bowl invitation, there are a dozen or so players that have one last chance to finish their collegiate careers on a team that didn’t have a losing record.  At Vanderbilt, the last 24 teams have suffered losing records.  The Commodores are fast approaching the all-time record for consecutive losing seasons in major college football (Oregon State from 1971 to 1998 holds the record at 28 years).

In the years since Vanderbilt has been the bottom-feeder of the SEC (1960 to present), the Commodores have faced the Demon Deacons nine times and won seven of those games.  Wake is the only team Vandy has played more than five times and dominated in that time frame.  Of course, only one Wake team that faced Vandy was all that good, and the Deacons destroyed the black and gold 40-6 in that one played in 1992.

Assuming that both teams play this game like it means something, it should be as close as the last time they played.  Two years ago, Vandy came from behind riding the passing arm of Jay Cutler to win 24-20.  While Wake Forest owns a 7-4 record versus the 5-6 for the Commodores, Vandy actually has the better overall statistics and slightly stronger schedule.  Adding in an almost infinitesimal home field advantage, the Commodores are maybe the slightest of favorites, but only if they plan to show up and play for keeps.  I think maybe one or two players will not be able to give it their best, and that will be what brings Vandy its 25th consecutive losing season.  Look for Wake Forest to win a close game.  There is no official pick for this game due to the slim difference in the line and my ratings.

Note: I expect this to be Vanderbilt star receiver Earl Bennett’s last game in a Commodore uniform.  His stock is at its zenith, and he can only hurt his chances by staying one more year.




Utah at Brigham Young    

Vegas: B Y U by 5   

PiRate: Utah by 1  

Mean: B Y U 26  Utah 21

When these two teams face off, I can make one bet with certainty.  Most of the nation that doesn’t have a dog in this hunt will root for BYU after what Utah did to Wyoming.  Does this sound familiar to anybody?  Are you thinking about the team that plays for pay up near Narragansett Bay?  There aren’t many people cheering for the New England Patriots right now either, and they use that as a motivational tool.

Aside from a share of the Mountain West Conference Championship, Utah is playing for bowl positioning.  They would prefer to play in Las Vegas rather than in the Poinsettia Bowl against Navy.

Whereas in past three years in which this game has been a shootout with an average total of more than 70 points, I look for the defenses to take control and make this a low scoring game.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the total points scored this year stayed below 50.

These teams are the hottest teams in the West outside of Boise State and Hawaii.  The Utes have won seven straight games by an average margin of victory of more than 20 points.  The Cougars have won seven straight games by an average margin of victory of 18 points.  BYU still holds a remote chance of gaining a BCS at-large bowl bid.  If the Cougars beat Utah impressively and then destroy San Diego State next week, they would need help from somebody like Tennessee or Virginia to win their conference championship and remain ranked below BYU and for Hawaii to beat Boise State and then lose to Washington to also finish below the Cougars.

The two ratings above disagree on the winner, so I cannot officially pick in this game.  Unofficially, I think BYU will emerge with a close, low-scoring win-something like 24-20.




Oregon at U C L A   

Vegas: Oregon by 2    

PiRate: Oregon by 8

Mean: Oregon 33  U C L A 24

UCLA can still spoil the hopes of some 7-5 team needing an at-large bowl bid.  The Bruins are 5-5 with this game and a finale against Southern Cal next week.  While they are going to be underdogs in both games, they could easily win one or both; they could also just as easily lose them both by three or more touchdowns! 

As inconsistent as the Bruins have been this year. Oregon has been consistent, until last week.  Losing all-everything quarterback Dennis Dixon was like taking 17 points away from the Ducks.  Backup Brady Leaf is okay, but he cannot pilot the Oregon offense the way Dixon can.  Oregon will have to evolve into a more conservative approach and rely on their defense to contribute more.  I’m not sure that’s good enough to win both of their final two games. 

The Bruins are backed into a corner, and they are playing for their coach’s job.  They have added incentive to win, while Oregon has reason to feel down in the dumps.  This may make this game a tossup.

Now, the two ratings above say Oregon will win and beat the spread, so officially, my pick is the Ducks.  However, neither rating can factor 17 points into the Dixon injury, so I think those ratings are off by seven or eight points.  Unofficially, I believe UCLA will cover at the least and stand a good chance of winning outright.  As always with UCLA, I highly advise you not to bet on their games.


Oregon -2

Oregon -135


Oklahoma State at Oklahoma

Vegas: Oklahoma by 12½  

PiRate: Oklahoma by 9

Mean: Oklahoma 38  Oklahoma State 25

The Sooners must still take care of business to get to the Big 12 Championship Game.  A loss to the Cowboys and a Texas win will end their title hopes and send them to Dallas for New Years Day.

Oklahoma State is 6-5 and with a loss and Kansas State win, they could find themselves slotted in the eighth bowl position.  A win might move them as high as the fifth slot and even give them an outside shot at the Gator Bowl.

The big question in this game is who will start at quarterback for the Sooners?  Sam Bradford suffered a concussion last week against Texas Tech, and he was held out of practice Monday.  Bradford is the nation’s leader in passing efficiency, and without him, the Sooners are almost as affected as Oregon is without Dixon.  They are possibly 10 to 12 points weaker with backup Joey Halzle directing the offense.

In the PiRate Rating above, I factored in Bradford playing but not at 100%.  In the Mean Rating, I had to make a choice and pick him either to play or not to play (I chose to play).  If I had chosen Bradford not to play, OU would have been favored to win 31-27.

So, until it becomes clear whether Bradford will or will not play, avoid this game.  If he plays, then lay off it.  If he is out, then go with the Cowboys.  Officially, there is no pick on this one.

LATE BREAKING NEWS: Oklahoma’s top rusher, Demarco Murray has now been declared out for this game due to a knee injury.  If Bradford doesn’t play as well, go with Oklahoma State if the line stays in double digits.




Georgia at Georgia Tech

Vegas: Georgia by 3½    

PiRate: Georgia by 12

Mean: Georgia 27  Georgia Tech 20

Georgia is a team on the rise.  The Bulldogs are playing for a BCS at-large bowl and will get one with a win in this game and a Tennessee win against Kentucky.  If the Vols lose, the Bulldogs will win the Eastern Division and face LSU next week for the conference championship.  A loss could drop them out of the at-large competition.

Georgia Tech is playing for bowl position.  A win could propel the Yellow Jackets upward to the Champ Sports Bowl, while a loss would drop them into the Music City or Meineke Car Care Bowl.

Tech Coach Chan Gailey has yet to enjoy success in his annually most important game, and that could lead to his dismissal this year if it happens again.

Georgia’s recent improvement in their running game has allowed quarterback Matthew Stafford to improve the passing game.  When defenses have to stop Knowshon Moreno and Thomas Brown, Stafford has more open field to locate Sean Bailey and Mohamed Massaquoi for big gains. 

Georgia Tech’s run defense is strong enough to hold the Bulldog duo under 150 rushing yards, but I don’t believe the Tech secondary can stop the UGA passing game without the defensive line concentrating on rushing Stafford. 

The game should be close, at least for 2½ quarters, but I look for Georgia to pull away in the end and win by more than a touchdown.  So, go with the Bulldogs as a 3½-point favorite. 


Georgia -3½

Georgia -160


Notre Dame at Stanford

Vegas: Stanford by 3½

PiRate: Stanford by 7

Mean: Stanford 27  Notre Dame 20

Stanford has enjoyed a week off, while Notre Dame has celebrated their only home win of the season.  While the players have been getting pats on the back for their efforts against Duke, they might have the feeling that they can beat Stanford by just showing up.  They are in for a rude awakening.

Stanford is just 3-7, but the Cardinal are much improved from early September.  Notre Dame is marginally better now than they were at the beginning of the season.  The Irish have already ventured to the Pacific Coast and come away a winner.  They beat UCLA even though they couldn’t move the ball.  Don’t look for Stanford to hand Notre Dame two touchdowns by turning the ball over deep in their own territory.

I think the Cardinal will move the football both on the ground and through the air.  Figure on Stanford picking up 150-180 rushing yards and another 180-225 through the air.  Notre Dame will gain no more than 100-120 yards on the ground and 220-240 passing yards.  Without the turnover differential going in their favor, Notre Dame cannot win this game.  I’m taking Stanford to win their fourth game and then be ready to ruin California’s season finale the following week.  The Cardinal are a touchdown better this week.


Stanford – 3½

Stanford -170      


Kansas State at Fresno State

Vegas: Pk  

PiRate: Tossup

Mean: Kansas State 31  Fresno State 31 [overtime to decide]

This game will affect numerous bowl situations.  If Kansas State can reverse a late season slide, they can still become bowl eligible with a win.  If Fresno State wins this game, then the Big 12 is going to come up short in their bowl requirements.

Fresno State is not yet back to where they were with Trent Dilfer, Billy Volek, and David Carr, but the 6-4 Bulldogs are bowl-bound with one more win.  They still must play New Mexico State and should win that one, but they are treating this game as one where they can earn the respect they used to have.

Kansas State’s defense has been indefensible the last few weeks.  They have given up 153 points in their last three games.  Fresno State has had an extra week to prepare for this game, and you can bet the Bulldogs have been studying where the Wildcats’ defense has been faltering.  Add to this the fact that KSU must travel 1,600 miles across two time zones, and the Wildcats’ talent advantages are erased.

This game is a true tossup.  Not only does Vegas call this a pick, both ratings say this is a tie game (ratings predict only what the score will be after 60 minutes and don’t pick an overtime winner).


None (unless you can wager that it will go to OT)


Nevada at San Jose State

Vegas: Nevada by 3  

PiRate: Nevada by 3

Mean: Nevada 31  San Jose State 30

This is basically a must-win game for Nevada.  The Wolf Pack are 5-5 and have to play Louisiana Tech next week.  If Nevada loses this game, then LT can take the final WAC bowl bid away from them if they win the finale.

San Jose State is not a team to overlook especially at home.  Nevada has the horses to win this game and win impressively, but the boys from Reno better be ready to play like they are facing Hawaii.

If Nevada shows up ready for blood, then they should top 200 yards rushing and passing and score at least 30-35 points.  San Jose should approach 250 passing yards, but they will surrender enough quarterback sacks to hold their total yardage under 350.  It adds up to a Wolf Pack win.  The two ratings barely differ from the spread, so officially this is another one where I must lay off.  Unofficially, I think Nevada wins by more than the spread.




Florida State at Florida

Vegas: Florida  by 13½     

PiRate: Florida by 17   

Mean: Florida 35  Florida State 21

This game doesn’t have as much riding on it as it has in the past, but it’s still a great rivalry.  Win or lose, I think Florida is headed for a bowl date against their prior coach, and I doubt Florida State will move one way or the other after this game.

What could be up for grabs in this game is the Heisman Trophy.  Tim Tebow could become the first underclassman to take home the trophy, and if he has a great game Saturday, he can start clearing a space on his shelf.

Tebow will have to earn that trophy on the field against a strong defense.  FSU gives up less than 20 points per game and just 333 total yards per game.  The Seminoles’ problem is on the offensive end, where they cannot get consistent production.  Don’t expect them to have an epiphany against the Gators and discover how to move the ball for 400 yards and 30 points.

If Florida reaches the 21-point mark in this game, they are going to win.  I don’t see the Seminoles scoring more than 21 points.  With the line at 13½ points, that is too much for the Mean Rating’s liking.  So, this one becomes a no-play officially.  I agree here:  Florida should win by about two touchdowns, and that’s right on the spread.



Florida -13½


Clemson at South Carolina   

Vegas: Clemson by 2½  

PiRate: Clemson by 5

Mean: Clemson 28  South Carolina 25

South Carolina was number six in the nation when they were upset at home by Vanderbilt.  The team and Steve Spurrier panicked, and it has led to a four-game losing streak.

Clemson blew their chance to win the ACC Atlantic Division title last week, and now they are playing for a Gator Bowl bid.  If they lose this one, they can kiss Jacksonville good bye and say hello to Charlotte.

South Carolina will more than likely miss out on a bowl if they drop their fifth game in a row and finish 6-6.  Since they have recently been to the Liberty and Independence Bowls, they may not be the popular choice for either venue if they have a 6-6 record.

Can South Carolina’s defense stop Clemson’s offense?  The Gamecocks didn’t really collapse defensively until their most recent two games.  Arkansas ran over them like a steamroller, while Tim Tebow and Florida combined a strong running game with a devastating passing game. 

Clemson isn’t as competent offensively as Arkansas or Florida, but they are the equal of Tennessee and certainly better than Vanderbilt.  All four of these teams beat South Carolina, so Clemson’s offense is certainly strong enough to make it five in a row.

Clemson’s defense is considerably better than Tennessee and Arkansas and somewhat better than Vanderbilt and Florida, so the Tigers hold the trump card here as well.

The intangibles favor the Gamecocks.  South Carolina had the week off, while Clemson played their most important game of the year.  The Gamecocks know they must win this game or face bowl possible exile.  Does that emotional charge balance the scale in this game?  I don’t think so.  Go with Tommy Bowden’s boys to win and look very attractive to the folks in Jacksonville.


Clemson -140


Alabama at Auburn

Vegas: Auburn by 6      

PiRate: Auburn by 9

Mean: Auburn 27  Alabama 19   

Alabama has not won a game since they slaughtered Tennessee in October.  The Tide even lost to Louisiana-Monroe last week, and they enter this game at 6-5.  Auburn is coming off a devastating loss to Georgia, but the Tigers have had an extra week to prepare for this game. 

Auburn has won the last five in this series, and they have never won six in a row over ‘Bama.  Since Tommy Tuberville came to the plains, his team has never lost at home to the Tide.

This game doesn’t have the appeal it has experienced in the past, and with other great games this week, it actually takes a back seat.

I look for Auburn to hold Alabama to 20 points and 350 or fewer total yards.  The Tigers should eke out a few more yards and seven more points.  Since the spread is six, and the Mean Rating picks Auburn by eight, only the money line can be played.


Auburn -230




Missouri vs. Kansas @ Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City

Vegas: Kansas by 2    

PiRate: Missouri by 1

Mean: Kansas 32  Missouri 30

Okay folks, this is the big one.  It’s not just the game of the week, it is the game of the year in my opinion.  To the winner goes the North Division flag in the Big 12.  The loser could and should still get an at-large BCS bowl bid if the winner goes on to win the Big 12 Championship Game next week, which just happens to be played on the very same field that this game will be played.

I love the fact that this game not only will be played on a neutral field, it couldn’t be any closer to a 50-50 split, like Texas-Oklahoma and Florida-Georgia.  That’s the perfect venue for a game of this importance.  Both teams should consider this the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championship.

While the weather will not be warm, it will also not be a factor.  Temperatures in the mid 40’s with cloudy skies should not help one team over the other.

Now let’s break down this game piece-by-piece.

Missouri‘s running attack vs. Kansas’s defense against the run  Missouri is certainly stronger on the left side of its offensive line.  Center Adam Spieker is the rock of the o-line and the best center in the nation.  Left guards Ryan Madison and Monte Wyrick split time, while left tackle Tyler Luellen is a monster.  On the right side, guard Kurtis Gregory and tackle Colin Brown have improved since September, but they are still exploitable.

Kansas has an advantage over Missouri on the opposite side of the line.  Defensive tackle James McClinton may not be 100%, but he will wreck havoc and square off against Spieker many times.  Russell Brorsen is a strong run defender, and he should be able to contain the wide run to his side.  The Jayhawks have excellent depth here and the linebackers fill the holes and limit opponents’ running games. 

Missouri averages 172 yards per game on the ground, while Kansas gives up just 84.  Look for MU to rush for only 100-130 yards.

Kansas‘s running attack vs. Missouri’s defense against the run

Here is one of the main keys to this game.  The Tigers are strong against the run, but they aren’t dominating.  Kansas has one of the best one-two punches in their backfield in backs Brandon McAnderson and Jake Sharp.  These guys remind me of two former Syracuse and NFL greats: McAnderson reminds me of Jim Brown, while Sharp is like Floyd Little. 

Pressure is going to be placed on Tiger ends Tommy Chavis and Stryker Sulak, both of whom are better pass rushers than run defenders.  Running behind left tackle Anthony Collins, arguably the equal of Michigan’s Jake Long, it will be hard to totally shut down the Jayhawk duo.  Kansas averages 211 rushing yards per game, while Missouri gives up 122.  I think the Tigers will hold KU under 211, but I think they won’t be able to totally shut down the run.  Either of the two backs could break free for one big game-deciding run. 

Missouri‘s passing attack vs. Kansas’s pass defense

Quarterback Chase Daniel is a definite Heisman Trophy candidate.  He has completed almost 70% of his passes this season and averaged better than eight yards per attempt.  Considering he throws the ball more than 40 times per game, eight yards per attempt is astonishing.

Daniel’s got four excellent receivers in Martin Rucker, Jeremy Maclin, Chase Coffman, and Will Franklin.  Rucker and Coffman are both tight ends in the John Mackey/Dave Casper mold.  Twenty-first century teams are not used to having to cover two tight ends on passing plays, as that sort of thing went out with the old full-house T formation of the 1950’s.  Rucker and Coffman force defenses to play their linebackers in the intermediate zones or risk getting burned for 20 yards over the middle.  Maclin and Franklin are speedsters who can stretch a defense and open up holes even as decoys.  Just one secondary mistake, and they can burn a defense with a quick six.

The Missouri offensive line has gotten considerably better in their pass protection, and Daniel is mobile enough to avoid the pass rush. 

Kansas can be exploited through the air, as Kansas State and Nebraska showed.  Defensive ends Jake Laptad and Maxwell Onyegbule don’t start, but they are the team leaders in sacks.  Kansas has only recorded 19 sacks in 11 games, so it’s unlikely they will pressure Daniel all that much.  Cornerback Aqib Talib is a star, and Daniel will probably look away from him when he throws.  However, the rest of the secondary can be abused.  Look for Daniel to pass for 300 yards in this game.

Kansas‘s passing attack vs. Missouri’s pass defense

Like Daniel, KU quarterback Todd Reesing has to be considered a Heisman Trophy candidate, even as a sophomore.  Reesing has completed 63.3% of his passes for more than eight yards per attempt.  He owns an incredible 30/4 TD/INT ratio and rates just ahead of Daniel in the Big 12 and nationally.  He passes the ball about 33 times per game, as KU has better run support than MU.  On the bench, backup Kerry Meier is perhaps the best number two quarterback in the nation.  The former regular has completed 86.2% of his passes this season at 9.5 yards per attempt and with no interceptions!  He isn’t as mobile as Reesing, but if Reesing is hurt, Meier can do the job.

Reesing has a stud receiver in Marcus Henry, who has caught 50 passes for 977 yards and eight touchdowns.  Dexton Fields and Dezmon Briscoe are possession receivers who lack the breakaway speed to get open deep.  When he isn’t playing quarterback, Meier is like having a second tight end in the game.  Regular tight end Derek Fine is a better receiver than run blocker, and he isn’t afraid to catch the ball and take a bone-crushing hit.

Missouri’s pass rush is a little better than KU’s.  Nose tackle Lorenzo Williams, tackle Ziggy Hood, and ends Stryker Sulak, and Tommy Chavis can beat offensive linemen to the pocket and put a quarterback on the ground.  They are better against the pass than the run.  The Tigers have some issues in the secondary with strong safety Cornelius “Pig” Brown out with a torn Achilles tendon.  Justin Garrett has done a good job subbing for Brown, but he isn’t as talented.  Expect Kansas to send receivers his way Saturday.

Special Teams Play

Missouri has a very good place kicker in Jeff Wolfert, but he is not having as good a season as he did last year.  He’s only 2-5 from 40-49 yards after going 4-5 last year.  Kansas kicker Scott Webb is a little, but not much better than Wolfert.  There isn’t much different here.

MU punter Adam Crossett is a liability.  The Tigers are last in the league in net punting at 29.1 yards.  KU punter Kyle Tucker isn’t much better, but the Kansas punt coverage is speedy and rarely allows much on returns.  Give the Jayhawks a slight advantage here, but I’d say it’s the equivalent of two first downs.

Maclin is a force to be reckoned with in the kick and punt return game.  MU provides excellent protection for the speedster, and he can be the difference maker in a close game.  He has returned two punts for touchdowns and averages 12.2 yards per return.  He’s taken one kick the distance and averages 24.5 yards there.

Kansas had a first-rate punt returner in Raimond Pendleton earlier this year, but after he showboated at the conclusion of a 77-yard return for a touchdown and drew a 15-yard penalty, Mark Mangino benched him in favor of Anthony Webb.  Webb has one return of 15 yards, but in the remaining 13 attempts, he has accumulated just 11 more yards.  This should negate Missouri’s punting weakness.

Marcus Herford is an excellent kick returner, averaging 30.4 yards per return and scoring two times in 27 attempts.  Look for Missouri to kick away from him.

Final Analysis

My two ratings both pick this game to be extremely close, but they disagree on which team will be happy Saturday night.  I am stumped myself.  This is one of those games where these teams would split a 10-game series, so you cannot possibly guess which team will win with much confidence.  Only because Kansas is favored by two points would I even think of picking Missouri to beat the spread.  If you think the game is a true tossup, then the possibility that Kansas will win by one point tilts the odds in your favor from 50-50 to 54-46.  Since you can make a profit if you win better than 52.4% of your straight wagers, 54% gives you a microscopic advantage; I wouldn’t plan on doing your holiday shopping with any winnings.  Officially, there is no pick for this game except for the fact that if you love college football, you better pick to be in front of a TV on Saturday night.  If I just had to pick a winner, I’d go with Kansas because of their running game advantage.  McAnderson is the player I’d want to score that decisive touchdown if the game was on the line.




PiRate Predictions For All Games

This Week’s Games

Home Team in Caps (N) Denotes Neutral Site



Thursday, November 22



Favorite Underdog

Pred. Spread

Approx. Score

ARIZONA STATE Southern California


28-27 OT



Friday, November 23



Favorite Underdog

Pred. Spread

Approx. Score

Central Michigan AKRON












L S U Arkansas









Boise State HAWAII





Saturday, November 24



Favorite Underdog

Pred. Spread

Approx. Score




Virginia Tech VIRGINIA









South Florida PITTSBURGH






Buffalo KENT ST.



Tennessee KENTUCKY



Miami (O) OHIO U








24-23 OT










Tulsa RICE






Oregon U C L A



OKLAHOMA Oklahoma St.









Utah State IDAHO








35-34 OT










MARSHALL Alabama-Birm.



FLORIDA Florida State









WASHINGTON Washington State






Florida Atlantic FLORIDA INT’L



Cincinnati SYRACUSE



Missouri                         (N) Kansas 



AUBURN Alabama 









This Week’s “Picks”


As I said above and mentioned a few times in the previews, I’m going to step aside and let the PiRates and Mean Ratings make these picks, even though I may personally feel different in some games.  So, where the PiRates and Mean both fall on the same side of the spread and the difference is more than 2.5 points, that game will be picked against the spread.  When they both agree on the winner, and the line is 10 points or less, that game will be picked on the money line.  There will be no totals or teasers picked this week.  The number of plays that the joint rating returns is 35, which is a season high.


Straight Plays Against the Spread

# 1:  Arizona State +3½ vs. Southern Cal

# 2:  Mississippi State -6½ vs. Ole Miss

# 3:  L S U -12 vs. Arkansas

# 4:  Boston College -14½ vs. Miami-FL

# 5:  Miami-OH +2½ vs. Ohio U

# 6:  Memphis -7½ vs. SMU

# 7:  Central Florida -18 vs. UTEP

# 8:  Oregon -1½ vs. UCLA

# 9:  Georgia -3½ vs. Georgia Tech

#10: Stanford -3½ vs. Notre Dame

#11: Utah State +2½ vs. Idaho

#12: Ball State -8 vs. Northern Illinois

#13: Florida -13½ vs. Florida State

#14: New Mexico -10½ vs. UNLV          

Money Line Picks

#15: Arizona State +140 vs. Southern Cal

#16: Central Michigan -145 vs. Akron

#17: Colorado -220 vs. Nebraska

#18: Mississippi State -235 vs. Ole Miss

#19: Colorado State -155 vs. Wyoming

#20: LSU -420 vs. Arkansas

#21: Bowling Green -230 vs. Toledo

#22: Texas -215 vs. Texas A&M

#23: Virginia Tech -155 vs. Virginia

#24: Buffalo +105 vs. Kent State

#25: Miami-OH +120 vs. Ohio U

#26: Memphis -285 vs. SMU

#27: Oregon -135 vs. UCLA

#28: Georgia -160 vs. Georgia Tech

#29: Stanford -170 vs. Notre Dame

#30: Utah State +125 vs. Idaho

#31: Ball State -300 vs. Northern Illinois

#32: New Mexico -390 vs. UNLV

#33: Clemson -140 vs. South Carolina

#34: Louisiana-Monroe -135 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette

#35: Auburn -230 vs. Alabama

Underdog Money Line Parlay for the fun of it:

Arizona State, Buffalo, Miami-OH, and Utah State can be combined into a four-team underdog parlay and give you a return of 24 to 1.

Favorites Money Line Parlay for the fun of it:

Take Mississippi State, LSU, Bowling Green, Virginia Tech, and Georgia in a five-team parlay.  If all five win outright you win at 6 to 1 odds. 

If you’re looking for 10-1 odds, all you have to do is take Central Michigan, Texas, Georgia, Virginia Tech, and Clemson to win outright.

Happy Thanksgiving.  Remember turkey makes you sleepy, so don’t eat too much before the big games.  You’d hate to sleep through Missouri-Kansas Saturday because you ate too many leftovers.



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