The Pi-Rate Ratings

November 27, 2007

PiRate Game Previews and Selections For November 29 – December 1


This Week’s Key Games and Interesting Match-ups

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

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

Last Week Picking Outright Winners:(*)               34-10    77.3%

For The Season Picking Winners:                    482-169    74.0%

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


Last Week Picks vs. Spread:                             19-16-0    54.3%

For the Season Picking Winners vs. Spread:      102-128-3   44.3% (over 52.4% returns a profit)

A minor hurray!  19-16 isn’t much to brag about, but it is a winning week.  Well, at least the PiRates are picking winners at a swift pace, as for the second consecutive week, they were correct more than 77% of the time.

We’re down to the final weekend of the regular season.  There aren’t as many games this week, so instead of giving detailed game previews on the games that don’t have much appeal, I will preview the key games and announce the winners of the PiRate Awards.  A bounty of riches is awarded to the following players:

The Jim Ringo Award (top center in the nation)

Adam Spieker-Missouri

The Forrest Gregg Award (top offensive lineman in the nation)

Jake Long-Michigan

The Jerry Kramer Award (most heroic offensive lineman)

Sam Baker-Southern California

The Ron Kramer Award (top tight end in the nation)

Martin Rucker-Missouri

The Max McGee Award (top wide receiver in the nation)

James Hardy-Indiana

The Bart Starr Award (top quarterback in the nation)

Tim Tebow-Florida

The Jim Taylor Award (top running back in the nation)

Rashard Mendenhall-Illinois

The Paul Hornung Award (top multiple threat in the nation)

Darren McFadden-Arkansas

The Henry Jordan Award (top defensive lineman in the nation)

Glenn Dorsey-L S U

The Willie Davis Award (top pass rusher in the nation)

Vernon Ghoulston-Ohio State

The Ray Nitschke Award (top middle linebacker in the nation)

Dan Connor-Penn State

The Bill Forrester Award (top outside linebacker in the nation)

Jordan Dizon-Colorado

The Herb Addereley Award (top defensive back in the nation)

Aqib Talib-Kansas

The Willie Wood Award (top pass defender in the nation)

Reggie Corner-Akron

The Travis Williams Award (top kick returner in the nation)

Matt Slater-U C L A

The Donny Anderson Award (top punt returner in the nation)

Eddie Royal-Virginia Tech

The Boyd Dowler Award (top punter in the nation)

Kevin Huber-Cincinnati

The Don Chandler Award (top kicker in the nation)

Gary Cismesia-Florida State

The Coach Lombardi Award (top coach in the nation)

Mark Mangino-Kansas

The Phil Bengston Award (coach who couldn’t follow a legend)

Dave Kragthorpe-Louisville

The Ray McLean Award (coach in over his head)

Tim Brewster-Minnesota

The Brett Favre Trophy (top player in the nation)

Dennis Dixon-Oregon (look at the Ducks without him!)

Point spreads and totals are those listed as of 10:00 AM ET Tuesday instead of the normal Wednesday morning due to Time constraints.

Thursday, November 29

Rutgers at Louisville

Vegas: Louisville by 2   

PiRate: Louisville by 2

Mean: Louisville 28  Rutgers 28 [Game to go to OT]

Louisville is aiming for a breakeven season, as they are not going to a bowl at 6-6.  Rutgers is trying to improve its bowl positioning.  They are looking at the Papa John’s Bowl with a loss, but they could move up to the Meineke Car Care Bowl with a win.

Both teams had an extra five days to prepare for this game, and that usually helps the defenses out a little.  Louisville needs all the help they can get on that side of the ball. 

Brian Brohm was considered the leading Heisman Trophy Candidate in August, and he won’t even be invited to the ceremonies.  Still, he has enjoyed a fantastic season, tossing for 3,787 yards and 29 touchdowns.  He should still be the first quarterback taken in the NFL Draft next spring.  I think he will give the hometown fans a memorable final game.

Rutgers quarterback Mike Teel will play this game with a slight thumb injury, so that might affect his passes a little.

I’m predicting a close Louisville win, but it won’t be enough to satisfy the Cardinal faithful, who expected 11-1 or 12-0 this year.




Saturday, December 1

Central Michigan vs. Miami-OH @ Ford Field in Detroit

The Mid American Conference Championship Game

Vegas: Central Michigan by 4

PiRate: Central Michigan by 4

Mean: Central Michigan 31  Miami-OH 28   

Miami was on pace for a great season until Temple upset them.  The Red Hawks finished the regular season losing three of their final five games.  Now, if they lose this game, they will finish with a losing record.  So, it’s win or else for Miami.

Central Michigan was not as strong this year as they were last year, but the Chippewas repeated as West Division champs.  CMU is more than likely GMAC Bowl bound if they win this game, and they could be forced to go to Toronto if they lose.

Central has a weak defense.  They gave up 213 points in the last five games.  Miami’s offense has been weak this year; the Red Hawks have averaged just 20 points per game.  Just how well they attack the CMU defensive liabilities should be the deciding factor in this game.  I think Miami will score 28-30 points, but that might leave them a couple of points short.


Central Michigan -170


Navy vs. Army @ M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore    

Vegas: Navy by 14    

PiRate: Navy by 12  

Mean: Navy 38  Army 27

Navy has won five consecutive games in this series.  The Middies have never won six in a row against Army.

This should be a high scoring game as neither team has many defensive assets.  In a five-game stretch that ended two weeks ago, Navy gave up an average of 50.8 points per game and still won three of the five games!  They were outgained in four of those games.

Army has yielded 201 points in their last five games, but unlike Navy, they lost all five games to fall to 3-8 after splitting their first six.

Army gives up close to five yards per rush, so I don’t think the Cadets can consistently stop Navy’s running game.  The Midshipmen should rush for 350 to 400 yards.  Quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada should add only 75-100 passing yards, but one of his completions could score or set up a score.  He averages about 10.7 yards per pass attempt.

Army’s offense could cause trouble for Navy’s defense.  Navy doesn’t stop the pass and rarely slows it down.  If Army quarterback Carson Williams can repeat his performance against Tulsa, then the Cadets will be able to match Navy point-for-point for most of the day.

In the end, look for Navy to wear down Army’s defense and make it six games in a row.  I think Army has a better than 50% chance of covering here, but officially there is no pick against the spread.




Tulsa at Central Florida

Conference USA Championship Game

Vegas: Central Florida by 6½          

PiRate: Central Florida by 10  

Mean: Central Florida 37  Tulsa 34

Tulsa has the best offense in the nation.  Former Arkansas offensive coordinator Gus Malzhan has teamed up with former Rice coach Todd Graham to take an attack unit that was in a rebuilding mode and turn it into a monster that gains nearly 550 yards per game and 41 points per game.  If the Hurricane defense wasn’t as weak as the offense is strong, Tulsa might average over 600 yard and 50 points per game.

Central Florida gains fewer than 100 yards per game compared to Tulsa, but the Knights average almost as many points per game as does Tulsa.  UCF’s defense isn’t the best in the league, but the Knight stop unit is good enough to hold Tulsa under their averages.

This has the makings of an extremely interesting game.  If you like offensive explosions, you will want to tune in to this contest.  I like UCF for no other reason than that they are the home team and Tulsa has to travel 1,150 miles.  That’s not much to go on, but I’ll sweeten the pot by saying defenses win championships-it may be that one big defensive play decides this game after both defenses get abused all day.


Central Florida -240


Virginia Tech vs. Boston College @ Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, Jacksonville, FL

The Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game   

Vegas: Virginia Tech by 4½         

PiRate: Virginia Tech by 8  

Mean: Virginia Tech 25  Boston College 22

This rematch cannot be any more exciting than when these teams squared off October 25.  Matt Ryan looked like John Elway and Roger Staubach in the closing minutes of that game, and the Eagles won at Blacksburg.

In rematches between rather even teams, the loser the first time around usually fares better.  Better doesn’t necessarily mean win, but since the Hokies lost by just four points, I have to believe they might win by that amount this time.

Since losing at home to BC, Tech has won four straight games by an average score of 36-15.  Three of those four wins came against bowl eligible teams, so the Hokies must be considered a hot team.

After beating Virginia Tech, Boston College dropped consecutive contests to Florida State and Maryland, before rebounding with wins over Clemson and Miami.

I like Virginia Tech in this game, and I think they will win by more than 5 points.  The Mean Rating only believes VT will win by three, so I will only select the money line in this game.


Virginia Tech -205


Tennessee vs. Louisiana State @ The Georgia Dome in Atlanta

The Southeastern Conference Championship Game  

Vegas: L S U by 7½       

PiRate: L S U by 6

Mean: L S U 35  Tennessee 28

Tennessee wasn’t supposed to be here; LSU wasn’t supposed to be here with no national title chances.  All of a sudden, this game becomes the least important of the big games this week.  One of these teams will head to the Sugar Bowl to play Hawaii, while the other team will end up in a lower-tier New Year’s Day Bowl or even the Chick-fil-A Bowl in December.

Until the Michigan vacancy is filled, Les Miles will have a cloud of suspicion hanging over his head.  The Tigers will not be able to concentrate fully on a game when many of them will trying to figure out the future of their program.  Add that to the fact that this team should suffer a major letdown after the Arkansas loss, and the Tigers enter this game at their weakest point in the season.

LSU’s saving grace may be the fact that Tennessee played an extra hour of football in Lexington.  The Vols’ final 50 plays or so (offense and defense) were performed under great duress knowing that any of those plays could have ended their title chances.  Could there be any adrenaline left in the players’ bodies?  Of course, LSU went to three overtimes a day before Tennessee’s game.  Thus, the disadvantage doesn’t hurt the Vols as much.

In their final five games, the orange and white averaged 39.4 points per game and gave up 23.6 (35.2-19.8 when you factor out the 4 OTs).  LSU averaged 43.6 and gave up 28.4 (39.6-24.0 when you factor out the 3 OTs).  This should be a high-scoring game.  Both defenses will have a hard time recovering from their previous game.

On talent alone, the Bayou Bengals are two touchdowns better than UT.  However, I believe the Vols will be better prepared and make this game a close contest.  Look for LSU to still win, but it will be by less than a touchdown.


L S U -280


U C L A at Southern California

Vegas: Southern Cal by 20½    

PiRate: Southern Cal by 17

Mean: Southern Cal 31  U C L A 17

How could UCLA still be in contention for a Rose Bowl berth?  If the Bruins win this game, and Arizona beats Arizona State, the 7-5 sons of Westwood will be playing at home in the bowl season.  To add to this goofiness, if UCLA loses and Arizona wins, the Bruins could find themselves completely out of the bowl picture!

There are two reasons to believe Southern Cal will win this game by a large margin.  First, and foremost, they are beginning to play like they were supposed to play this season.  USC beat Oregon State, California, and Arizona State by an average score of 31-15 in their November games, and the Cal and ASU games were on the road.  The Trojans one-point upset loss to Stanford is all that is keeping them out of the National Championship Game picture.

Another factor in this game is the fact that UCLA ended USC’s national title chances last season with an upset in Pasadena.  The Trojan players have a strong revenge factor this year.

UCLA’s major problem this year has been keeping a starting quarterback healthy.  Thus, from week to week, you didn’t know if their offense was prepared to play efficiently.  Four QBs have seen significant action, and all of them had trouble moving the offense at times, depending on the health of the Bruin in the game.

I look for the USC defense to live up to its Wild Bunch heritage and hold UCLA’s offense to 250-300 total yards and 14-17 points.  The Trojan offense should pick up 375 to 425 yards and 30-35 points.  The line is a bit high, so I’d pick UCLA to cover.  There’s always a chance the Bruins will have a healthy Ben Olson or Patrick Cowan on hand and pick up an extra 100 yards and 10 points.


U C L A +20


Oregon State at Oregon

Vegas: No Line

PiRate: Tossup

Mean: Oregon 32  Oregon State 23 (cannot factor in QB situation)

You think UCLA’s quarterback situation is tough, then consider Oregon.  They lost the Heisman Trophy frontrunner, Dennis Dixon, for the season and saw their national championship dreams die.  Then, backup Brady Leaf injured both ankles against UCLA and left the game.  Leaf isn’t likely to play this week, but even if he does, he will be as mobile as a turtle.

Oregon State has even more problems.  Not only is quarterback Sean Canfield hurt, top running back Yvenson Bernard is injured as well.

Obviously, this game is not on the board, and it is unlikely to be so by Friday.  Unofficially, there is an outlaw line still out there showing the Ducks to be a five-point favorite.  The PiRates rate this game a tossup, and they factor the injuries in the formula (but only to a certain point).  The Mean rating does not factor all the injuries, and it shows Oregon to be a nine-point pick.  Since there is no line, there is no pick.  The Civil War will be fought for bowl positioning only.


None available


Pittsburgh at West Virginia   

Vegas: West Virginia by 28   

PiRate: West Virginia by 34  

Mean: West Virginia 42  Pittsburgh 14

Pittsburgh’s Dave Wannstedt may be on the outside looking in when it comes time to determine who will coach the Panthers in 2008.  He needs a major upset win over the nation’s top-ranked team.

West Virginia will be headed to New Orleans for the National Championship Game if they win this one.  They are four touchdown picks over the interstate rival, and they could easily cover that spread.

Pitt’s only hope in this game is to unleash a huge offensive effort and outscore the Mountaineers.  You can forget about it; the Panthers are still undecided on who will start at quarterback in this game.  I smell a huge blowout in the air.

West Virginia should rush for more than 300 yards and pass for more than 150 yards.  Quarterback Patrick White will have one final chance to show the Heisman Trophy Voters just how talented he is, and Steve Slaton will show NFL scouts just how quick and powerful he is.  I see WVU topping 40 points in this game.

Pitt might not top 300 total yards in this game.  If the Panthers cannot pass the ball downfield, they will find it hard running the ball as well.

Look for West Virginia to win this game by 30 or more points.  Since the Mean Rating calls for WVU to win by 28, there can be no official pick against the spread, but I think the Mountaineers have a 65% chance of covering.




Oklahoma vs. Missouri @ The Alamodome in San Antonio

The Big 12 Conference Championship Game  

Vegas: Oklahoma by 3     

PiRate: Missouri by 4

Mean: Missouri 33  Oklahoma 31

This is the big game of the week.  That makes it two in a row for Missouri being a participant in the biggest game of the week.

Like the ACC Championship, this game is a rematch.  Oklahoma won 41-31 in Norman on October 13th.  The Sooners are favored to complete the sweep over Chase Daniel and company.

I don’t always believe the theory that it is really hard to beat a team twice in the same season.  Try to convince me that West Virginia couldn’t beat Pittsburgh 12 consecutive weeks. 

I like Missouri in this game for reasons other than the revenge factor.  They have gelled since they lost to the Sooners.  They won their final six games by an average score of 44-22.  The Tiger offense has been unstoppable.  Meanwhile, Oklahoma has faced some problems on their offensive side.  They struggled to defeat Iowa State 17-7.  A concussion to starting quarterback Sam Bradford led to a loss at Texas Tech.  There is a chance, maybe not great, that Oklahoma will struggle just long enough to fail to outscore Missouri this time around.

Game-picking is strictly a study of probabilities.  When you find a probability in which you think one team has a 20% chance of failing to approach their average performance, you go against that team.  Thus, I am picking Missouri to win the game outright in an upset and advance to the National Championship Game against West Virginia.


Missouri +3

Missouri +135


Arizona at Arizona State

Vegas: Arizona State by 7   

PiRate: Arizona State by 7

Mean: Arizona State 34  Arizona 21

Both teams have a lot to play for in this game.  An Arizona State win coupled with a UCLA win over USC will put the Sun Devils in the Rose Bowl.  A Sun Devil win will probably put them in the Fiesta Bowl at the least.  For Arizona, their only chance to go to a bowl is to win this game to become bowl eligible and hope UCLA loses. 

Arizona is the hot team in the Pac-10 over the past month.  They have defeated Washington, UCLA, and Oregon.  Their offense has exploded for 116 points (38.7 avg) in that stretch after it averaged just 25 points per game prior to the metamorphosis.  Quarterback Willie Tuitama has actually put up numbers comparable to Dennis Dixon and Rudy Carpenter.  In the three game charge, he has thrown for almost 375 yards per game.  The Wildcats have to be considered an upset contender in this game.

Arizona State has dropped two out of their last three games after beginning the season 8-0.  Of course, those losses were to Oregon and USC.  Their defense has weakened as the season wears on.

This looks to be another offensive showcase game.  I expect both teams to top 400 total yards, and I expect this game to be closer than expected.  While the two ratings above show ASU to cover (although the PiRates only show a 1/2-point difference), I personally believe Arizona will cover.  Officially, the pick is Arizona State to win on the money line. 


Arizona State -260


Washington at Hawaii

Vegas: Hawaii by 14    

PiRate: Hawaii by 8

Mean: Hawaii 40  Washington 27

This game is a vacation for Washington, while it means everything to Hawaii.  Even after coming off a huge emotional high after defeating Boise State for the WAC title, the Warriors will be ready to play their best game this week.  This is their final audition for a Sugar Bowl bid.

Washington quarterback Jake Locker has faded down the stretch.  He is completing just 46.9% of his passes and has as many interceptions as touchdown passes.  Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan has completed 70% of his passes and has 33 touchdowns to 14 interceptions.  Backups Tyler Graunke and Inoke Funaki have actually posted better numbers.

Washington’s defense has found it tough going against exceptional quarterbacks.  Brennan should have a field day.  If he plays the entire game, he could pass for close to 500 yards, and the Warriors could top 50 points.  Washington’s offense will exceed their averages in this game because Hawaii’s defense is not all that strong.  Look for the Huskies to register 35-40 points and 400-450 total yards.

Hawaii will win to finish the regular season as the only unbeaten team, but I don’t see them covering against the spread.




PiRate Predictions For All Games

This Week’s Games

Home Team in Caps (N) Denotes Neutral Site



Thursday, November 29



Favorite Underdog

Pred. Spread

Approx. Score






Friday, November 30



Favorite Underdog

Pred. Spread

Approx. Score

Fresno State NEW MEXICO ST.





Saturday, December 1



Favorite Underdog

Pred. Spread

Approx. Score

Central Michigan Miami (O)



Navy Army









Virginia Tech Boston College



TROY Florida Atlantic



NEVADA Louisiana Tech



OREGON Oregon State









North Texas F I U



California STANFORD






HAWAII Washington



L s u Tennessee



Missouri Oklahoma




This Week’s “Picks”


It worked last week, so I will continue to employ the same formula for picking games this week.  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. 


Straight Plays Against the Spread

# 1:  Fresno State -13 vs. New Mexico State

# 2:  U C L A +20 vs. Southern California

# 3:  Missouri + 3½ vs. Oklahoma

Money Line Picks

# 4:  Nevada -330 vs. Louisiana Tech

# 5:  Arizona State -260 vs. Arizona

# 6:  North Texas -130 vs. Florida International

# 7:  Central Michigan -170 vs. Miami-OH

# 8:  Central Florida -240 vs. Tulsa

# 9:  Virginia Tech -205 vs. Boston College

#10: L S U -280 vs. Tennessee

#11: Missouri +135 vs. Oklahoma

Fun Underdog Moneyline Parlay of the week:  Here are five game underdogs.  If they were to all win on a parlay this week, your astronomical return would be 525 times your investment.

The five underdogs are: Army, Louisiana Tech, Arizona, Tulsa, and Missouri.  Ten bucks down could return you $5,250 if it hits.


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