The Pi-Rate Ratings

September 30, 2011

PiRate Picks for College and Pro Football–October 1-3, 2011

Support Your Local Underdog

In our search for value, we have erroneously looked at several options so far this season.  Without our full team of value-seekers, our skeleton crew of two has been caught without much meat on the bones.


This week, we revert back to what has been the most successful for us over the years—UNDERDOGS!


We have isolated eight college games where we like the underdog to cover.


1. Northwestern +10 vs. Illinois

This decision is not about the return of Dan Persa.  Yes, the Northwestern Heisman Trophy contender is worth at least 7-12 points to his team—when healthy.  His ACL injury was a tough one, and he will be rusty.  Northwestern’s offensive line may not be strong enough to protect the much less mobile passer, and Persa may only play a limited amount in this game.


So, why are we playing the underdog here?  Northwestern has had an extra week to prepare for this game, and they have revenge on their minds after last year’s debacle at Wrigley Field. 


Additionally, we believe that Illinois is just strong enough to win ugly and not blow out any conference opponent.  We look for the game to be decided by seven points or less.


2. Tulane + 7 ½ vs. Army

There is an important caveat to this game.  A couple of services have this game at 7 ½ points, while the rest have it at 7.  You must seek out the 7 ½ point services to play this game.  We expect this one to be close with a chance of going to overtime.  Unless one team scores a touchdown and a successful two-point conversion in the third or later extra period and then holds the other team scoreless, the winner will not win an overtime game by more than 7 points.


Yes, the chance of a game going to overtime is slim, maybe 4%?  You have to give up 2.38% to the book as vigorish, and look at what that little amount does for the book.  4% can do a lot for you as well.  Throw in the fact that this game looks to us to be much closer to a tossup.  Army’s stellar desert swarm defense is not getting the job done this year, and opponents have been able to slow down their option offense.  We look for a game in the 24-20 range either way.


3. North Carolina State +10 vs. Georgia Tech

This is more of a system play.  The Wolfpack just plain stunk up the field against Cincinnati a week ago Thursday night, while Tech won a big game at home over North Carolina last Saturday.  State is not that bad, and they will recover and play a great game at home.  Tech will bounce a little in this road game.


We like the fact that NCST has enjoyed an extra couple of days in preparation time for this game, and we like the fact that Coach O’Brien has done well against option teams in the past.


We’ll call this one a small Georgia Tech win with a chance of a major upset if the Yellow Jackets put the ball on the ground a couple times.  We’ll predict a 31-26 win for the victor, with Tech having a 70% chance of being the winner and 30% chance of being the upset loser.


4. Washington +10 vs. Utah

This is an endorsement of Steve Sarkisian and a belief that last week’s loss at Nebraska will look better and better as the season progresses.


Utah had an extra week to prepare for this game, but they have not played UW before (last game came in 1979 before any of the players were even born).


We are a little concerned that if this game is a blowout win, it will only mean that Utah is the winner.  However, we cannot turn down getting double digits for this underdog.  Utah is not Nebraska, and the Huskies have the talent to win this game outright.  We’ll take the 10 and disregard the slight chance that Utah could do to UW what they did to BYU.  Call if a 34-27 win for the Utes at best and a UW upset at worst (for Utah).


5. New Mexico +1 ½ vs. New Mexico State

New Mexico finally cut ties with their big mistake.  Mike Locksley was fired after a tenure that brought more off-the-field police inquiries (3) than wins (2).  When AD Paul Krebs announced that he had regretted hiring Locksley, it was the equivalent of the Democratic Party leaders announcing they had regretted selecting George McGovern and Thomas Eagleton as their party nominees in 1972.


The Lobos deserved to be punished for forcing Rocky Long out four years ago.  They were not happy with all those seasons of six and seven regular season wins and minor bowl games.  Dennis Franchione and Marv Levy enjoyed their successes in different eras.  New Mexico is a basketball school.


Okay, rant over.  Now, let’s get to the facts pertinent to this game.  First, the Lobo players will play their best collective game of the season and probably the last three years.  This will not be the same team that lost on homecoming to Sam Houston State.


New Mexico State is the only team left on the schedule that New Mexico can beat, or one of two is you count UNLV as a winnable game.  The Aggies are also a basketball school, as the Land of Enchantment does not produce enough college football talent for one FBS school, let alone two.


We look for the Lobos to win their lone game of the season this weekend, and we look for it to be dedicated to their regrettable mistake.


6. Nebraska +10 vs. Wisconsin

Playing this game is not easy.  We will state up front, that the two remaining PiRates here are rabid Badger fans with lots of ties to the state of Wisconsin, the city of Madison, and the university itself.  If you go to our alternate webpage at, you will find a picture our founder took of Camp Randall Stadium as the banner for the page.


As another disclaimer, our founder has been avidly following Nebraska football since the Cornhuskers under coach Bob Devaney played Alabama in three bowls in a seven-year period, culminating with possibly the greatest college football team ever, the 1971 National Champions.  As a coach, our founder used the Nebraska option-I offense as his base offense and successfully taught junior high players how to run the zone blocking scheme and how to read the same option plays used by Tom Osborne.


Okay, now that we have gotten those tidbits out of the way, we look at this game as another value play.  How many times does an undefeated top 25 team get double digit points this late into the season, when they are not playing a dominant number one or two team?  We could see a double digit spread if Nebraska was visiting Alabama, but Wisconsin is regrettably not Alabama.  They are simple a little better version of Nebraska.


These teams are very similar, and thus, the game preparation for both will allow them to closely simulate their opponent.  They have comparable talent, and we do not see the home field advantage worth 10 points.  Wisconsin will be fortunate to escape with a win in this one, and we will take the Badgers to edge the ‘Huskers by a field goal—hopefully.  It’s really a 50-50 tossup game.


7. Duke + 3 ½ vs. Florida International

We are going with Coach Cutcliffe’s ability to get his team to move the ball and score points as the big reason for this play.  FIU showed us that they can be had by an offense that can move the ball and control the clock when they lost to Louisiana-Lafayette last week.  Duke has recovered from a 0-2 start with back-to-back wins over Boston College and Tulane.  This is a must-win game for the Blue Devils.  They can still get to bowl eligibility if they win this one, but they are headed to a crashing finish if they lose.  The players are smart enough to realize this fact, and they will play a top notch game against an opponent from a league that is a step below ACC-level competition.


We look for Duke to win this game by 7-10 points and will gladly accept the 3 ½ points.


8. Memphis +23 vs. Middle Tennessee

When is the last time a winless team from the Sunbelt Conference was favored by more than three touchdowns over any team from another FBS league?  If you said “never”, you are correct.


Memphis is the weakest of the 120 FBS teams.  Their roster would probably not win the Ohio Valley Conference championship, and the football program is a major mess, and it has been for some time.  Fans believe that AD R. C. Johnson is in over his head.  Johnson is a noted fundraiser, but fans blame him for the dismissal of Tommy West.  West left an ultimatum for the university to either fully support the moribund program or get out of football.  So far, the program has done neither, and the results have been dreadfully appalling.


Coach Larry Porter had no previous coordinator experience when he took this job, and while the team seems to be a little more organized, it does not appear to be fundamentally sound.  Porter was dealt a terrible hand, but he has taken that hand and discarded his ten and jack and left his four, seven, and eight of different suits.


In other words, this program is about on par with UTEP’s program from 1972 to 1985 when six coaches went a combined 21-136.


Still, this is not enough to justify a winless Middle Tennessee squad as a more than three touchdown favorite.  Memphis’s players realize that they are not much weaker than a bottom half Sunbelt team.  Look for this game to be decided in the fourth quarter, and Middle should win, but they won’t win by 20+ points.  Call it a 35-21 decision.


Moneyline Parlays

Fret not, you lovers of moneyline parlays.  Our parlays last week split at 2-2, giving us a 6-3 mark for the year.  We have isolated four more parlays under -130 that we feel confident with this week.


9. Moneyline Parlay (5 teams @ -112)

Michigan over Minnesota

Virginia over Idaho

Penn State over Indiana

Arizona State over Oregon State

Ohio U over Kent State


10. Moneyline Parlay (3 teams @ -129)

Cincinnati over Miami (O)

Notre Dame over Purdue

Southern Cal over Arizona


11. Moneyline Parlay (2 teams @ -104)

Northern Illinois over Central Michigan

Louisiana Tech over Hawaii


12. Moneyline Parlay (2 teams @ -122)

Texas over Iowa State

North Carolina over East Carolina


N F L 13-point teasers

Our luck ran out on these plays last week, as we suffered our first losing week with them to fall to 6-4 overall.  We look to get back on that horse with three parlays, all using the underdog theme.


13. 13-point teaser

Detroit +15 vs. Dallas

New Orleans +6 vs. Jacksonville

San Francisco + 21 ½ vs. Philadelphia

Cleveland +13 vs. Tennessee


14. 13-point teaser

Minnesota +10 ½ vs. Kansas City

Atlanta +8 ½ vs. Seattle

Green Bay +1 vs. Denver

New England +9 vs. Oakland


15. 13-point teaser

Buffalo +10 vs. Cincinnati

Carolina +19 vs. Chicago

Pittsburgh +16 ½ vs. Houston

New York Giants +12 vs. Arizona


Remember: We do not advocate using these picks for sports wagering.  We do not wager money on these ourselves; we are just numbers’ geeks looking to have some fun with numbers.  Also, there used to be six of us, and now there are just two.  Our past success of 62% against the spread over the prior nine seasons is no longer reproducible with just the two of us.

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