The Pi-Rate Ratings

August 29, 2017

PiRate Ratings College Football Forecast for August 31-September 3, 2017

This Week’s College Football Spreads

Home Visitor PiRate Mean Bias
Alabama (N) Florida St. 6.6 3.8 6.3
Arizona St. New Mexico St. 23.0 25.7 22.8
Auburn Georgia Southern 46.7 42.9 47.2
Boise St. Troy St. 8.3 6.2 8.2
Central Florida Florida Intl. 17.1 19.6 16.6
Clemson Kent 48.3 42.9 46.2
Coastal Carolina Massachusetts -10.5 -7.8 -8.4
Colorado Colorado St. 9.4 8.3 7.0
Eastern Mich. Charlotte 22.1 18.5 21.7
Florida (N) Michigan -1.1 -1.0 -0.8
Florida Atlantic Navy -12.5 -9.8 -11.1
Georgia Appalachian St. 19.6 23.9 19.1
Georgia Tech Tennessee 4.8 3.9 4.8
Illinois Ball St. 14.4 14.0 11.2
Indiana Ohio St. -25.1 -21.6 -23.9
Iowa Wyoming 16.2 18.4 17.1
LSU (N) BYU 20.5 19.8 20.6
Marshall Miami (Ohio) -9.4 -9.8 -11.1
Memphis Louisiana-Monroe 30.8 28.9 33.3
Michigan St. Bowling Green 16.0 20.5 14.9
Middle Tenn. Vanderbilt -17.7 -14.9 -15.8
Minnesota Buffalo 30.6 26.1 28.4
Mississippi South Alabama 26.8 22.4 22.0
NC St. (N) South Carolina 8.8 8.4 9.3
Nebraska Arkansas St. 19.4 19.2 17.0
North Carolina California 16.1 17.1 16.6
Northern Ill. Boston College -13.3 -14.1 -12.6
Northwestern Nevada 34.5 28.0 31.8
Notre Dame Temple 15.7 13.1 15.3
Oklahoma UTEP 52.6 46.1 52.3
Oklahoma St. Tulsa 14.5 14.5 16.1
Penn St. Akron 43.6 36.7 43.9
Purdue (N) Louisville -22.0 -18.5 -21.7
Rutgers Washington -29.9 -25.5 -31.8
Southern Miss. Kentucky -24.5 -21.2 -24.1
Texas Maryland 14.0 12.3 14.3
Texas-San Antonio Houston -10.3 -7.3 -8.0
UCLA Texas A&M 4.0 5.5 4.8
USC Western Mich. 22.4 25.8 21.1
Virginia Tech West Va. 9.0 7.5 9.6
Wisconsin Utah St. 37.6 34.4 36.9

(N) means neutral site game

We’ve had a small appetizer of college football games, and the first main course shall be served over the course of five days, commencing with a couple of choice morsels Thursday night. The PiRates will be focused on these games this weekend.

Ohio State at Indiana–It is rare for Big Ten teams to open with a conference game. This one should be a tad more interesting than it looks on the surface. Indiana released former head coach Kevin Wilson from his contract last year (actually a forced resignation), due to an issue with a player with more than an injured back who was told to keep playing.  Wilson didn’t wait long to have a new job. He is now the offensive coordinator at ….. Ohio State! Add Wilson’s chip on his shoulder to Coach Urban Meyer’s boulder chip on his shoulder from his Buckeyes’ being shut out by Clemson in the Playoff Semifinals, and Ohio State will most likely do everything it can to run the score up on IU. It is not supposed to matter, but if the Buckeyes win this game 63-0, the pollsters will immediately overreact and move them up in the polls, maybe up to number one.

Tulsa at Oklahoma State–Are the Cowboys strong enough to challenge rival Oklahoma and compete for the Big 12 Championship? This might be the best Oklahoma State team since the 2011 team came within an upset loss to Iowa State from playing for all the marbles. Tulsa might be a little better than the 10-3 team of last year, possibly the Golden Hurricane’s best team since maybe 1982 and definitely as good as recent dominant TU teams in this century. A close game doesn’t necessarily mean that Oklahoma State isn’t a playoff contender. This game could be rather close for quite a long time.

Colorado vs. Colorado State (in Denver)–The Rams’ offense looked lethal against Oregon State, and a team usually improves the most in the week between game one and game two. CU does benefit from having 2017 game film on CSU, but this advantage does not offset the one game of experience that the Rams have. If CSU pulls off the mild upset, the Rams could be in line to become the top Group of 5 contender for the New Year’s 6 Bowl tie-in. This just might be the actual best game of the week, but few people will watch this one outside the Centennial State.

Maryland at Texas–Tom Herman makes his debut in Austin, and the Longhorn faithful believe the days of wine and roses will return sooner rather than later. Maryland will not back down and be easy fodder for the Longhorns, and there is an extra factor in this game that could lead to a lower than expected game score. Who better to know the weaknesses of the Urban Meyer-style spread offense than somebody that was a defensive assistant under Meyer? In this game, former offensive coordinator Herman will lead UT against former Meyer defensive assistant D. J. Durkin, the head coach on the opposite sideline. This game becomes a real life chess match worth watching.

Wyoming at Iowa–Okay, you may not be all that excited about this game, but we are. First and foremost, some of the PiRates have a love and affinity for the Western part of this nation’s flyover real estate, Iowa and Wyoming included. Also, we are big time supporters of Cowboy coach Craig Bohl and Hawkeye coach Kirk Ferentz. These two gentlemen know their stuff, and their teams have an incredible grasp of the fundamentals and the “little things”. These two teams may win games in ways that are not easily seen in the box score. We look for this one to be nip and tuck, and it would not shock us if the visitors from Laramie pulled off the upset.

South Carolina vs. North Carolina State (in Charlotte)–The ACC has the small advantage over the SEC these days. The Wolf Pack appear to be primed to challenge Louisville for third best in the ACC Atlantic and maybe even become a dark horse contender for the division flag, while the Gamecocks are on the cusp but not yet playing like a challenger, even in the parity known as the SEC East. Our opinion on this one is that NCSU should win by more than a touchdown if not more than two. However, this should become a shootout, as South Carolin’a offense should annex a lot of territory in this game.

Florida vs. Michigan (in Arlington, TX)–We have been flip-flopping on this game since June. At first, we believed that Michigan could be in danger of falling back to 6-6 or even 5-7, while we believed that Florida was like a snake in high grass waiting to pounce on all the mice in their division of their league. Then, after looking at returning depth and experience, it appeared to us that Michigan had a lot of experienced backups who, with a year of seasoning, could be rather competent regulars in 2017. We were concerned about the Florida quarterback situation, and then Coach Jim McElwain secured the signature of former Notre Dame starter Malik Zaire. It tilted the needle over to the Gator side, but then McElwain was forced to suspend star receiver Antonio Callaway and a half dozen other players for this game. Callaway may have been the one piece in the puzzle that Michigan would have found no real answer in stopping. Now, the needle tilts toward the Maize and Blue. By the way, Michigan will wear maize-colored jerseys in this game, something they have not done in 89 years.

Alabama vs. Florida State (in Atlanta)–Obviously, this is the top game of the week and maybe the top game of the regular season. There are so many layers to peel off in this preview, more than we have space to devote to it. In an abridged version, can Florida State’s offensive line protect quarterback Deondre Francois long enough for him to find a group of raw receivers? Frnacois spent too much time with his back on the turf in 2016, and it will take a major improvement on the Seminoles part to hold off stars like Da’Ron Payne and get past the Crimson Tide trench to linebackers the quality of Rashaan Evans and Shaun Dion Hamilton. On the other side of the ball, Alabama cannot get by predominantly on a power running game. Jalen Hurts has the talent to throw for 200+ yards in this game. This game brings back memories of 50 years ago, when Alabama returned almost their entire two-deep from a defense that gave up 44 points in 11 games the year before and returned Ken Stabler from an offense that scored more than 27 points a game. The Tide were 20+ point favorites in this game and was lucky to escape with a 37-37 tie. Notably, in this game the great Bear Bryant was equipped with a microphone. There were issues with the scoreboard, and late in the game, Bryant was overheard on the mic saying, “What the H is the score any way?”

Texas A&M at UCLA–The losing team’s coach will sit on a seat that is about 10 degrees warmer Monday than it is now. Texas A&M has enough talent to compete for third in the SEC West and challenge for a 10-win season, but the Aggies looked as strong last year as well. After TAMU began the season 6-0, the team collapsed, finishing 2-5. The defense wore down after the overtime win over Tennessee, and the Aggies two wins after that big game came against New Mexico State and UT-San Antonio. UCLA struggled after quarterback Josh Rosen exited with a shoulder injury. However, the Bruins were just 3-2 prior to the injury in the Arizona State game, so Coach Jim Mora, Jr. overhauled the Bruin offense in the off-season and made numerous changes to his offensive coaching assistants. The Bruins also must rebuild a good bit on the defensive side of the ball, so the offense better gel quickly. So, don’t go up to the junior Mora and ask if his team can still make the playoffs this year.

There are a host of additional games on this week’s schedule that hold some bit of unique interest. Those games include:

FIU at Central Florida–Butch Davis returns to the sidelines for FIU and has enough talent to surprise in 2017. UCF believes they can challenge rival USF in the East.

Navy at FAU–Lane Kiffin’s debut with the Owls against the tricky triple option offense of Navy makes this one look like a track meet. It wouldn’t surprise us if more than 75 total points are scored in this one.

Temple at Notre Dame–The Owls begin life without Coach Matt Rhule. New head man Geoff Collins faces a total rebuild in Philly, while Notre Dame looks to recover from a poor 2016 season with a half-dozen new assistants.

Troy at Boise State–We have an eye on Boise at the start of the season. Boise State could be at a crossroads, where their dynasty seasons could be over. Then again, this could also be the low-point of a major rebuild. Troy was down for a few years, but the Trojans returned to Sun Belt fame last year with a 10-3 season and co-championship. It won’t get the headlines that the big games receive, but this game should be an excellent contest.

Kentucky at Southern Mississippi–Last year Southern Miss pulled off an incredible upset at Kentucky to begin the 2016 season, and it looked like Mark Stoops was in a bit of trouble in Lexington. However, the Wildcats turned things around to win seven games that included a trip to the Taxslayer Bowl. Now, there are football experts that believe Kentucky can compete for the 2017 SEC East title. The Blue and White return the bulk of an offense that averaged 30 points and 420 yards per game, while the defense should be a little better than last year. Southern Miss is not as strong as last year, but still good enough to knock off UK in Hattiesburg, especially if the expected rain makes this game sloppy.

Appalachian State at Georgia–Appy State came close to upsetting Tennessee in Knoxville to begin the 2016 season. Can the Mountaineers go down between the hedges and make like miserable for the Bulldogs? Georgia’s defense should control this game, holding ASU to about 200-250 total yards, while the offense may not be flashy, but should produce 200 rushing yards. If Georgia wins by less than 17 points, it will be cause for concern. We will look at all the SEC East teams carefully this week to see if one or two emerge as the true top squads.

Houston at UT-San Antonio–UTSA is a contender in the West Division of CUSA, and in a normal week, the Roadrunners would be expected to make this a close game. Houston must play this one with little practice thanks to Hurricane Harvey, and it is Major Applewhite’s debut with the Cougars. This will be interesting to see how much lost preparation hurts UH.

Georgia Southern at Auburn–We don’t expect this game to be close. It could easily be 21-0 in the first quarter. What we are looking for in this one is how well Tiger quarterback Jarrett Stidham runs Gus Malzahn’s offense. If Stidham replicates the stats from his last three FBS games (2015 against Kansas State, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State), then watch out, because this Auburn team just might be good enough to go to the 2017-18 playoffs. Stidham’s stat line in those three games was 51-81-2 for 934 yards and 6 TDs. If he averages 11.5 yards per pass attempt for Auburn, then even Alabama better beware.

Purdue vs. Louisville (in Indianapolis)–This game features Jeff Brohm making his Boilermaker coaching Purdue against former mentor Bobby Petrino and some QB named Lamar Jackson, who owns some trophy he received from the Downtown Athletic Club in Manhattan named for former coach John Heisman. It would not be shocking if UL won this one by a score similar to 62-24, but what makes this game interesting is to see how a Big Ten team looks running a spread passing game.

South Alabama at Ole Miss–South Alabama upset Mississippi State and San Diego State last year, two teams that played in bowls. So, it would not be a big shock if the Jaguars won in Oxford. However, if USA wins, the blame will be on Ole Miss and interim coach Matt Luke rather than on the performance. Luke is most likely in a position where he has little chance of keeping the job full time, even though he deserves a head coaching job. It would not surprise us if a big name coach was patrolling the home team sidelines at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium next year.

LSU vs. BYU (in New Orleans)–This game was moved from Houston to New Orleans due to the hurricane. It gives the Tigers a tiny bit more advantage, but we didn’t think this game would be all that close in Houston. BYU has a game under its belt, and the Cougars did not show their entire arsenal. What they showed was only adequate at best. This game takes on added interest not because of the weather, but because whether Ed Orgeron can prove that the removing of the interim label was the right move in Baton Rouge. LSU has a considerable amount of talent, just behind Alabama and Auburn and as much as Texas A&M. The Tigers have a chance to win 10 games this year, but there is always that bit of doubt about a new coach. Orgeron has done well as the interim at USC and LSU, but his tenure as head coach at Ole Miss was a major disappointment.

Vanderbilt at Middle Tennessee–Both Nashville-area teams played in bowls last year, and this game has become quite the local rivalry. MTSU has one of the top quarterbacks in the Group of 5, who happens to be the coach’s son. Brent Stockstill will draw NFL scouts to Murfreesboro this year, as the Blue Raiders look to have a potent offense capable of putting up 40 points and 500 yards per game. On the other side of the field, Derek Mason has begun to make Vanderbilt look more like Stanford East. The only ingredient missing in recent years has been the most important spot–at quarterback. Now, Vanderbilt has a competent passer, who while not another Andrew Luck or even Keller Chryst, he is competent enough to lead Vanderbilt to the cusp of division contention. Kyle Shurmur, son of Minnesota Viking OC Pat Shurmur, may have the knowledge of the game that a typical NFL quarterback may have. If he can show a bit more arm strength and a slightly quicker release, Vanderbilt’s offense will begin to look like Stanford’s, as the Commodored already have a strong running game and a stingy defense. If MTSU wins this game, then Syracuse and Minnesota will take notice, as the Blue Raiders will be capable of starting 3-0 against FBS competition. If Vanderbilt wins this game, then Kansas State needs to take note, because the Commodores will be 2-0 when the Wildcats come to the Music City on September 16.

Tennessee at Georgia Tech (in Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta)–Volunteer coach Butch Jones knows that he must win and win big in 2017, or else he will have a garage sale in January, where he disposes of a lot of orange-colored clothing and accessories. Tennessee was a disappointing 9-4 team last year and must try to improve with an unproven quarterback, something that usually only works if said raw QB wears crimson-colored clothing. Georgia Tech has an experienced offensive line returning to block for the spread option offense. Usually, if an offensive line is as experienced as the Techsters, the offense automatically improves some from the previous season. However, in this offense, the experience of the quarterback is much more important than the line, because in many cases the key defender at the point of attack is not blocked at all. Hence, the QB reads the defense and options off the reaction of the key defender. Coach Paul Johnson has not officially named his starting quarterback, but we think it will be former slot back TaQuon Marshall. The ultra-quick Marshall has the potential to be a great option quarterback, but getting his Baptism under orange fire is not the ideal way to begin a career. If Johnson goes with last year’s backup Matthew Jordan, then Tennessee’s defense should be good enough to hold the Yellow Jackets under 21 points. This is good, because the Vols may struggle on offense in September.

Note–Ratings and Bowl Projections return next week, as we did not update them after the small sampling of games last week.

Money Line Parlays makes its seasonal debut Thursday morning, August 31, 2017.

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