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.

Strategies

None

—–

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.

Strategies

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.

Strategies

None

—–

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.

Strategies

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.

Strategies

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.

Strategies

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.

Strategies

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.

Strategies

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.

Strategies

None

—–

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.

Strategies

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. 

Strategies

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.

Strategies

None

—–

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

LOUISVILLE Rutgers

2

34-32

 

 

Friday, November 30

 

 

Favorite Underdog

Pred. Spread

Approx. Score

Fresno State NEW MEXICO ST.

24

44-20

 

 

Saturday, December 1

 

 

Favorite Underdog

Pred. Spread

Approx. Score

Central Michigan Miami (O)

4

28-24

Navy Army

12

45-33

CENTRAL FLORIDA Tulsa

10

45-35

WEST VIRGINIA Pittsburgh

34

51-17

Virginia Tech Boston College

8

28-20

TROY Florida Atlantic

19

42-23

NEVADA Louisiana Tech

12

37-25

OREGON Oregon State

2

18-16

SOUTHERN CAL U c l a

17

27-10

B y u SAN DIEGO ST.

19

33-14

North Texas F I U

6

28-22

California STANFORD

15

35-20

ARIZONA STATE Arizona

7

31-24

HAWAII Washington

8

45-37

L s u Tennessee

6

34-28

Missouri Oklahoma

4

35-31

 

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.

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.

Strategies

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.

Strategies

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.

Strategies

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.

Strategies

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.

Strategies

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.

Strategies

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. 

Strategies

None

—–

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. 

Strategies

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.

Strategies

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.

Strategies

None

—–

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.

Strategies

None

—–

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.

Strategies

None

—–

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.

Strategies

None

—–

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.

Strategies

None

—–

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.

Strategies

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.

Strategies

None

—–

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. 

Strategies

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.

Strategies

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).

Strategies

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.

Strategies

None

—–

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.

   

Strategies

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.

Strategies

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.

Strategies

Auburn -230

              

—–

THE BIG ONE

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.

Strategies

None

—–

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

0

28-27 OT

 

 

Friday, November 23

 

 

Favorite Underdog

Pred. Spread

Approx. Score

Central Michigan AKRON

6

34-28

COLORADO Nebraska

7

34-27

MISSISSIPPI ST. Ole Miss

13

27-14

COLORADO ST. Wyoming

10

34-24

L S U Arkansas

21

49-28

BOWLING GREEN Toledo

8

35-27

Texas TEXAS A&M

5

35-30

Boise State HAWAII

6

40-34

 

 

Saturday, November 24

 

 

Favorite Underdog

Pred. Spread

Approx. Score

WEST VIRGINIA Connecticut

18

38-20

Virginia Tech VIRGINIA

6

23-17

BOSTON COLLEGE Miami-Fl

20

34-14

Maryland NORTH CAROLINA ST.

2

28-26

South Florida PITTSBURGH

17

27-10

EAST CAROLINA Tulane

9

38-29

Buffalo KENT ST.

3

27-24

Tennessee KENTUCKY

1

31-30

Miami (O) OHIO U

2

20-18

MEMPHIS S m u

11

35-24

VANDERBILT Wake Forest

0

24-23 OT

Utah BRIGHAM YOUNG

1

29-28

CENTRAL FLORIDA U t e p

29

42-13

WESTERN MICHIGAN Temple

16

38-22

Tulsa RICE

12

52-40

SOUTHERN MISS. Arkansas St.

17

38-21

Oregon U C L A

8

28-20

OKLAHOMA Oklahoma St.

9

35-26

Georgia GEORGIA TECH

12

24-12

STANFORD Notre Dame

7

27-20

Utah State IDAHO

5

28-23

NORTH CAROLINA Duke

19

31-12

FRESNO STATE Kansas State

0

35-34 OT

Nevada SAN JOSE ST.

3

31-28

NORTH TEXAS Western Ky.

3

31-28

Ball State NORTHERN ILLINOIS

15

32-17

MARSHALL Alabama-Birm.

19

31-12

FLORIDA Florida State

17

34-17

NEW MEXICO U n l v

15

35-20

Clemson SOUTH CAROLINA

5

35-30

WASHINGTON Washington State

12

38-26

Louisiana Monroe LOUISIANA LAFAYETTE

5

28-23

Florida Atlantic FLORIDA INT’L

13

26-13

Cincinnati SYRACUSE

26

38-12

Missouri                         (N) Kansas 

1

26-25

AUBURN Alabama 

9

28-19

T c u SAN DIEGO ST.

14

28-14

 

 

 

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.

November 14, 2007

PiRate Game Previews and Selections for November 15-17, 2007

 

This Week’s Key Games and Interesting Match-ups

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

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

Last Week Picking Outright Winners:(*)               36-16    69.2%

For The Season Picking Winners:                    411-148    73.5%

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

 

Last Week Picks vs. Spread:                            8-19-0    29.6%

For the Season Picking Winners vs. Spread:      72-97-2   42.6% (over 52.4% returns a profit)

Well, it’s almost time to wave the white flag.  A late turnover by Arkansas against Tennessee prevented the Razorbacks from covering against the spread.  So, what could have been a 17-12 week turned into another nightmare, because I had Arkansas in nine different teasers.

There are several big games and even more interesting games with bowl repercussions this week.  I have a suspicion that there will be a wealth of surprises this week-if not outright upsets, then games that finish much closer than expected.

When it comes to picking games this late in the year, injuries and depth begin to figure as more of a factor.  Teams that absolutely must win in order to stay on track for a bowl (4-6 if they need six wins and 5-5 if it looks like seven wins will be needed) have their backs up against the wall, and if they are healthy, they play a few points better than they normally would.  Teams coming off a huge win last week and facing a weaker opponent prior to finishing with a strong one may bounce more than normal.  However, the emerging champions will steamroller over the lightweights.  So, this may be the week where those looking for trends discover the two truly best teams. 

Watch Oregon and Arizona Thursday night.  If the Ducks sleepwalk through this game and barely win, that may indicate they don’t belong in the big game.  If they win big in Tucson, that may indicate they deserve to be there. 

LSU has a little bit of a tricky game at Ole Miss.  The Rebels have played a couple of tough games at home this year, and LSU doesn’t like to play day games.  The Tigers need to win by three touchdowns to prove they deserve their ranking.  A close win means the Tigers may be not be as deserving as the other five or six teams still in the hunt.

Missouri goes to Kansas State, and the Wildcats have their backs up against the wall.  Missouri has reason to be looking ahead and could be asking for trouble.  If the Tigers win big, then they are championship tough.  A close win against a team that lost by 42 to Nebraska means Mizzou does not belong among the top five.

Kansas hosts Iowa State.  The Cyclones have been tough the last four weeks.  They gave Oklahoma and Missouri fits and beat Kansas State and Colorado.  If the Jayhawks win this one with ease, with Missouri on the horizon in another week, then KU can stay in the thick of the title picture.

Oklahoma, West Virginia, Arizona State, and Ohio State all need help, even though they have just one loss like LSU and Oregon.  It doesn’t make sense that the Buckeyes should be out of the race due to their loss to Illinois.  LSU lost to Kentucky, Oregon lost to Cal, and West Virginia lost to South Florida.  Illinois, Kentucky, Cal, and USF are comparable teams (all bowl-bound).  Nobody will convince me that Ohio State isn’t as worthy as Oregon or LSU right now (even though the PiRate Ratings show the Ducks and Tigers to be one-two).  I believe without any doubts that if you take all these one-loss teams and rotate their schedules so that LSU will have played Oregon, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arizona State, and Ohio State’s schedules and so on, that all these teams would still have one loss.  Kansas is the only team not to have stubbed their toes yet, and they will have to beat Missouri and Oklahoma to stay that way.  If the Jayhawks run the table, they absolutely must be in the National Championship Game for the game to retain even a smidgeon of respect.

There must be a playoff if the BCS is to remain viable among the public.  Either implement a playoff or drop the BCS and go back to the old bowl alignments that frequently produced two or more “national champions” in the same year.

For those of you who follow my pro football computer simulation, I will be conducting a simulated NCAA Playoff here in December.  It will be a 12-team playoff using 11 existing bowl games.  Watch for it just after the conclusion of the regular season.

Point spreads and totals are those listed as of 8:00 AM ET Wednesday.

Thursday, November 15

Oregon at Arizona

Vegas: Oregon by 12½  O/U 67   

PiRate: Oregon by 13  

Mean: Oregon 38 Arizona 22

What a way to start the college football weekend!  One of the current teams projected by the BCS computers to play for all the marbles travels to Tucson to take on an Arizona team that must finish out the season with wins over two top 10 teams to become bowl eligible.

Oregon has enjoyed five extra days to come down from its high from beating Arizona State.  The same goes for Arizona and their win over UCLA.

Aside from the importance of winning the game, Duck quarterback Dennis Dixon is getting to participate in the equivalent of a nationally-televised one-candidate debate.  If he passes the test with flying colors, the Heisman Trophy is more than likely his.  However, if his debate performance is the equivalent of saying “I don’t believe that the Poles consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union,” he could lose the debate and lots of votes, especially back in the East where the voters might already have an Eastern bias.

Oregon should win this game, but it isn’t going to be a cake walk.  Arizona’s defense in the end will prove to be too vulnerable and allow the Ducks to quack their way to a 10-0 record.  Look for a double-digit win, but definitely not a blow out.  Arizona could have the ball in the fourth quarter with a chance to take the lead if not add to the lead, but Dixon will guide the Ducks into still waters with a couple of late scores.

Strategies

Arizona +22½ and +25½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Oregon -2½ and +½ in 10 and 13-point teasers 

Under 77 and 80 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Friday, November 16

Hawaii at Nevada

Vegas: No Line  

PiRate: Hawaii by 8

Mean: Hawaii 40 Nevada 30

This could be Hawaii’s downfall before they even get to play Boise State.  Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan was knocked silly in the fourth quarter of the Fresno State game, and his status as of Wednesday is still uncertain.

Nevada has enjoyed an extra week to prepare for this game, having last played two Fridays ago.  14 days versus six days added to the quarterback issue means this game should be tight.  The Wolf Pack’s pistol offense could fire a death blow into Hawaii’s BCS bowl hopes.

Nevada’s weakness is stopping the run, and Hawaii cannot run the ball with much authority.  Their modicum of running success comes from running in passing situations.  With or without Brennan, the Warrior running game is not that strong.

Nevada can slow down the pass and hold Hawaii under 35 points.  The question that must be answered is how Nevada’s offense will fare against Hawaii’s defense.  This version of the pistol may be the strongest in the four-year tenure of Coach Chris Ault’s second go around in Reno.  Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, when he gets protection, is as good as any freshman quarterback in the nation.  He has the ability and the talent around him to lead Nevada to a 40-point game against Hawaii.  I think Nevada can pull off the upset, but even if they fail to do so, they ought to make this game closer than expected.

Strategies

None available with no line due to Brennan’s concussion

—–

Saturday, November 17

Western Michigan at Iowa

Vegas: Iowa by 14  O/U 46½

PiRate: Iowa by 8

Mean: Iowa 24 Western Michigan 10

Iowa just barely survived against lowly Minnesota.  The Hawkeyes have not only had major issues with injuries this season, the injuries seem to isolate on one unit of the team and then strike in spades.

Western Michigan clinched a losing season last week by falling to Central Michigan, so the Broncos only have pride on the line.  It won’t be enough, even against the injury-riddled Iowa defense.

Iowa’s defense should contain the Bronco offense and hold WMU under 17 points.  Western’s defense is porous, giving up 33 points per game.  Even Iowa’s feeble offense can score more than 21 points, so it is a given the Hawkeyes will win their crucial seventh game.  The question is can they win by more than two touchdowns?  That may be difficult, especially when you consider that the Hawkeyes have only won one game this year by more than 14 points.  Against Northern Illinois, they only won by 13, and WMU is better than NIU.

I wouldn’t want to rely on Iowa winning by 15 or more in order to return a profit, but then again I don’t have a lot of faith that WMU will be up for this game.  So, I’d lay off this one unless you use it in the money line or teasers-Iowa will win and finish the regular season 7-5.

Strategies

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

Western Michigan +24 and +27 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 56½ and 59½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Iowa -600

—–

  

North Carolina at Georgia Tech

Vegas: Georgia Tech by 10  O/U 42½   

PiRate: Georgia Tech by 12     

Mean: Georgia Tech 28 North Carolina 17

North Carolina was eliminated from the bowl chase last week, while Georgia Tech became bowl eligible.  Yet, Tar Heel fans have a tendency to feel good that their school is on the right path, while Tech fans are not enthralled with their team’s results and are campaigning for a new coach.

This game is almost a must-win game for the Techsters.  A loss here followed by an almost assured loss to Georgia next week means the Yellow Jackets would finish the regular season at 6-6 and be in serious jeopardy of missing out on a bowl.  So, the old gold and white have a lot to play for this week.  The players should be ready to give their best efforts Saturday.

This doesn’t mean that North Carolina isn’t capable of winning this game.  The Tar Heels may not run the ball for more than 75 to 90 yards in this game, but they should be able to pick up more than 200 through the air and score 17 to 21 points.  I don’t see Georgia Tech topping 30 points in this game, and they are favored by double digits.  So, even though Tech should win, I think taking UNC and getting the points is the way to go.

Strategies

North Carolina +10

North Carolina +20 and +23 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 32½ and 29½ in 10 and 13-point teasers   

—–

  

Penn State at Michigan State

Vegas: Penn State by 3  O/U 50½

PiRate: Michigan State by 3  

Mean: Penn State 29 Michigan State 26

Here we have an example of a team that has its back up against the wall and definitely must win this week in order to wrap up a bowl bid.  Michigan State is 6-5, and the Spartans are fighting with Northwestern, Indiana, and Iowa for a bowl bid.  Three of these bowl-eligible teams will not receive Big 10 bowl bids, and only one other is likely to receive an at-large invitation.

Penn State is playing for a chance to go to the Capital One or Outback Bowl, and a loss here will probably send them to a lesser bowl.  The Nittany Lions have the better stats in this game, but Michigan State has played above their statistical showing.  The Spartans have actually fared better in games against common opponents, and this game is being played in East Lansing.  Penn State is the favorite, but once again, I like the underdog.  I really like taking the Spartans as part of a 10 or 13-point teaser.

Strategies

Michigan State +3

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

Over 40½ and 37½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Michigan State +330 in money line (for parlay use)

 

—–

West Virginia at Cincinnati  

Vegas: West Virginia by 6½  O/U 55½ 

PiRate: West Virginia by 3  

Mean: West Virginia 26 Cincinnati 24

This could be the top game of the week instead of the one at the Big House.  If you figure that West Virginia will defeat Connecticut in Morgantown, then the winner of this game will become the Big East Champion and recipient of an automatic BCS bowl bid.  West Virginia is still in the national title hunt, but if the Mountaineers have overlooked this game, the Bearcats could be in line for a Sugar or Orange Bowl bid.

Cincinnati will try to force Patrick White to beat them over the top.  They will concentrate on stopping the combination of White and Steve Slaton and the Mountaineer running game.

The Bearcats will also try to control the clock with their spread passing attack.  West Virginia’s defense won’t allow Cinti to do that.  They will mix up their pass defense by rushing the passer heavily on some plays and playing short zone coverage on others.  I don’t see Ben Mauk passing for 250 yards this week.

This might be one game where the underdog isn’t getting enough points, even on their home field.  I would consider not playing either side in this one.  I think there is more value in the totals.  These teams should be a little tight since there is a lot on the line.  I think the score will be lower than expected.  Taking the totals line and adding 10 or 13-points looks like the way to go here.  I don’t like teasing the spread because this game has a wide possible deviation.  West Virginia has the capability of running away from the Bearcats once they get a lead, and Cincinnati has the horses to pull off the upset.  If you must play a side, go with the home underdog (but be careful).

Strategies

Under 65½ and 68½ in 10 and 13-point teasers  

—–

Syracuse at Connecticut   

Vegas: Connecticut by 18½  O/U 46

PiRate: Connecticut by 28

Mean: Connecticut 37 Syracuse 13

Connecticut must try to bounce back and not look forward to the West Virginia game.  The Huskies can still win the Big East, and they will win this game even if they play below their capabilities. 

Syracuse beat Louisville and gave Pittsburgh a good fight before losing by three.  The Orangemen have virtually no chance to win this game, but they could keep it close for a long enough time to cover the spread. 

Connecticut isn’t the type of team that dominates and blows opponents off the field with a dominating offense.  The Huskies have been out-gained in four of their victories this season.  On the other hand, when the opponent makes a mistake and turns the ball over, UConn makes them pay.  The Huskies have a +1.2 turnover margin per game, while Syracuse has a -0.3 margin.  If UConn wins the turnover battle in this game, it could be a big blowout because Syracuse isn’t likely to out-gain them in this game.  In the four games where the Huskies won the total yardage battle this year, they are 4-0 with an average margin of victory of 30 points.  Now throw in a rash of SU injuries including quarterback Andrew Robinson, and this indeed appears to be a blowout in the making.

Strategies

Connecticut -18½

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

Over 36 and 33 in 10 and 13-point teasers 

—–

Purdue at Indiana   

Vegas: Purdue by 3  O/U 62    

PiRate: Purdue by 3  

Mean: Purdue 30 Indiana 28

Purdue has had the fortune of using the old oaken bucket in their wells for the last five seasons and nine of the past 10 years.  Indiana needs to gain possession of that bucket or they may not be able to play that 13th game that late coach Terry Hoeppner wished for his squad.

The Hoosiers sit at 6-5 and will not get a bowl bid at 6-6.  Purdue could be forced into an at-large bowl position if they lose this game.  So, when you combine an old rivalry with must win situations on both sides, the battle for the old oaken bucket should resemble a Civil War scene this week.

Both of these teams are limping into this game.  Since starting 5-1, the Hoosiers have gone 1-4 with the lone win coming against Ball State.  Since starting 5-0, the Boilermakers have gone 2-4 including a big 17-point loss at home to Michigan State.

Both teams will be missing key components of their offensive lines in this game, and that may open the door for a sneaky play.  If there is a possibility that holes won’t be open for running plays and pass protection could break down, it goes without saying that the score for this game could be lower than expected, especially if the predicted rainfall becomes a reality.  Normally, you could expect to see 65 points tallied by these teams, but I can see them failing to reach 60 Saturday. 

Strategies

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

Under 62

Under 72 and 75 in 10 and 13-point teasers

 

—–

Vanderbilt at Tennessee

Vegas: Tennessee by 11  O/U 52      

PiRate: Tennessee by 16  

Mean:  Tennessee 28 Vanderbilt 16

The last time Vanderbilt played at Neyland Stadium, then quarterback Jay Cutler guided the Commodores to a 28-24 win; this was the Commodores only win in Knoxville in 30 years!

Tennessee got their revenge last year by a 39-10 score in Nashville.  This year, the Vols players remaining from 2005 still have a score to settle.

Like the Purdue-Indiana game, this contest should be a real battle.  Vanderbilt is in a must-win situation.  The black and gold stand at 5-5 and will only go to the Liberty, Independence, or another bowl as an at-large replacement only if their final record is 7-5.  Tennessee can win the SEC East by defeating Vandy and Kentucky.  A loss in either game may send them tumbling all the way to the Liberty, Independence, or at-large Bowl.

Tennessee is a Jekyll and Hyde team.  On the road, they are 1-3 with an average score of 25-42.  At home, they are 6-0 with an average score of 40-17. 

Vanderbilt has been competitive at home.  The Commodores have only played three road games, and in two of them, they were wiped off the field.  Auburn and Florida beat them by a combined 84-29.

The three teams to beat the Vols this season did so with a wide-open attack, using the pass to open up the trenches for the run.  Vanderbilt just doesn’t have the talent on hand to do this, and they will try to control the ball game via the run.  It won’t work, and Tennessee should pick up a convincing win to move within one step of the division title.  Look for at least a two touchdown win for the orange and white.

Strategies

Tennessee -11

Under 52

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

Under 62 and 65 in 10 and 13-point teasers    

—–

Mississippi State at Arkansas (game in Little Rock)   

Vegas: Arkansas by 11  O/U 51        

PiRate: Arkansas by 11  

Mean:  Arkansas 26 Mississippi State 19

Here is one game where the home team has all the intangibles on its side.  Mississippi State is coming off an emotional win over Alabama, while Arkansas took it on the chin last week in Knoxville.  State has the Egg Bowl game coming up in a week, and the Bulldog players know they can win their much-needed seventh game against Ole Miss.  Arkansas must close the season playing at LSU on one fewer preparation day.  A loss to the Bullies will probably cause Arky to finish 6-6, and a .500 record could very easily end their bowl chances with the likelihood that there will be 11 bowl-eligible teams from the SEC.  A 6-6 record will also more than likely end the Houston Nutt era in Fayetteville, so this game is crucial for the home team.

Last year, Mississippi State stopped the Razorback running game, holding Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, and company to just 128 rushing yards on 38 attempts.  This MSU defense is better than last year, so Arkansas will have to have some passing threat in this game.  Jones was hurt against Tennessee, and it’s questionable whether he will play in this game.  Even if he plays, he won’t be close to 100% healthy.

Even though I think the Hogs will win, this is another game where I like the underdog getting points.  Mississippi State may not win, but they can keep this game close enough to cover, especially as part of a teaser.

Strategies

Mississippi State +11

Mississippi State +21 and +24 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 61 and 64 in 10 and 13-point teasers  

—–

Oklahoma State at Baylor   

Vegas: Oklahoma State by 14½  O/U 65½     

PiRate: Oklahoma State by 20

Mean: Oklahoma State 36 Baylor 21

This will be Baylor coach Guy Morriss’s last game in Waco, as he has been informed that his services are no longer needed.  Much like Vanderbilt, being the lone private school in a league of public school monsters is an impossible task for a coach to enjoy longevity.  Morriss is a good coach, but even a staff comprised of Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry, Chuck Noll, Bill Walsh, Hank Stram, John Madden, Don Shula, Bill Parcells, George Halas, George Allen, and Bud Grant wouldn’t be able to turn the Bears into a Big 12 champ or consistent bowl team.  No, it would take 35 players as good as Mike Singletary in order to compete against Oklahoma, Texas, and the rest, and Baylor cannot get that many in four successive recruiting classes.  It’s not going to happen, and maybe Baylor should consider following the path of former SWC brothers TCU, SMU, and Rice.  Baylor and Houston should swap conferences, placing the Bears back in the same league with SMU and Rice.

Oklahoma State now finds itself in a must-win situation.  At 5-5, they must win one of their final two games to earn a minor bowl invitation.  Since the Cowboys finish at Oklahoma, they better win this game.  If Baylor pulls off the upset, then it looks like the Big 12 will fall two teams short in its bowl allotments.

Okie State is coming off two tough losses where they blew leads to top 25 teams.  They should have beaten Texas, while they played over their heads before experiencing the inevitable versus Kansas.  How much focus and energy they have left after those two home losses and with a game at Norman next week is a question.

Since Baylor wants to send Morriss out a winner and OSU is limping badly, I think the Bears will cover against the spread.  I expect a passing shootout with many points scored.  In the end, I expect the Baylor secondary to break down a couple of times and allow OSU to win by about 10 points, even though the PiRates and Mean ratings call for a blowout.  Those ratings cannot factor all the intangibles that are present this week.

Strategies

Baylor +14½

Baylor +24½ and +27½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 55½ and 52½ in 10 and 13-point teasers     

—–

Oklahoma at Texas Tech

Vegas: Oklahoma by 7½  O/U 66  

PiRate: Oklahoma by 9

Mean: Oklahoma 32 Texas Tech 23

Mike Leach is so mad, he could spit.  He is so mad, he’s about to get in trouble with the Big 12.  Last week after his Red Raiders fell to Texas, Leach told the press that the officials had a pro-Texas bias, especially the referee from Austin.  He noted that several big TTU plays were negated by questionable calls by the refs.  He refused to back down from his statements or apologize, so he’s going to be fined big time by the bias cops, er the Big 12 officials.

If Leach feels the refs were helping Texas in order to keep them more attractive to bowls, just think what will happen when they play Oklahoma this week.  The Sooners are in the national title hunt and need to win this game.  If they lose, then the Big 12’s chances of placing two teams in BCS bowls goes down 50%.

Never mind the fact that Oklahoma should cut through the Tech defense like a hot knife through butter.  OU should be able to top 40 and possibly 50 points in this game.  The crimson stop troops will contain Tech enough to win this game by more than a touchdown.  I’m leaning toward a 17-21-point win, even though the PiRates and Mean believe it will be a single-digit win.

Strategies

Oklahoma – 7½

Oklahoma +2½ and +5½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 56 and 53 in 10 and 13-point teasers   

Oklahoma -300 on Money Line

—–

Iowa State at Kansas  

Vegas: Kansas by 26½  O/U 58

PiRate: Kansas by 25

Mean: Kansas 35 Iowa State 6

Iowa State cannot be overlooked at this stage of the season.  The Cyclones have come to life in the past month, and they are no pushover for anybody.  Look at their last four games.  They took Oklahoma to the wire and had a chance to win.  They gave Missouri all they could handle in Columbia.  They clobbered Kansas State, and then they came from behind to beat Colorado.  They are not your typical 3-8 team.

Of course, this is the most atypical Kansas team since at least 1968.  That 1968 Jayhawk team beat a bunch of mediocre teams until knocking off Missouri in the regular season finale.  This Kansas team has beaten a bunch of mediocre teams and must finish with Missouri next week.

The Jayhawks have not been threatened at home this year.  They have won by 45, 62, 32, 52, 48, and 37 points.  However, Iowa State is playing better right now than any of those defeated opponents were playing when they came to Lawrence.  Iowa State has improved from weak to mediocre and maybe a little better than that.  Kansas should win, but I think this game will be closer than expected.  I look for Iowa State to mount a late charge and beat the spread, while sending the KU players to the locker and 50,000 Jayhawk fans to the parking lots feeling like they dodged a bullet.

Strategies

Iowa State +26½

Iowa State +36½ and +39½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 48 and 45 in 10 and 13-point teasers   

—–

Idaho at Boise State   

Vegas: Boise State by 33½  O/U 65    

PiRate: Boise State by 39  

Mean: Boise State 42 Idaho 7

These teams should play for a giant Mr. Potato Head.  Of course, the spud could be glued to the Boise State trophy case.  The Broncos have won eight straight games in this series, and they are going to win again this year. 

With Hawaii’s Colt Brennan getting all the headlines, it should be noted that he is only the second-rated quarterback in the WAC.  BSU’s Taylor Tharp has a better QB efficiency mark.  Tharp has completed 215 of 312 passes (68.9%) for 2,557 yards and 23 touchdowns versus eight interceptions.

Boise State should dominate this game from start to finish.  The Broncos are on a mission to put themselves into position to claim a second consecutive BCS at-large bowl bid.  They must beat Hawaii in Honolulu next week, but they also must win this week in a convincing fashion.  They will.

Idaho is down near the bottom in passing percentage for the second year in a row.  Combined with a weak running game, too many of their scrimmage plays end in little or no gain.  The Vandals cannot sustain long drives.

Boise should top 500 total yards in this game and possibly 550, while Idaho should be held to 300 yards or less.  A 250-yard differential should lead to a 30-point or more win.

Strategies

Boise State -33½

Under 65

Boise State -23½ and 20½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 75 and 78 in 10 and 13-point teasers 

—–

Duke at Notre Dame   

Vegas: Notre Dame by 6  O/U 47½     

PiRate: Notre Dame by 8

Mean: Notre Dame 28 Duke 22

Notre Dame hasn’t played a 2007 opponent as weak as the one they are playing this week in their home finale.  These teams haven’t played since one week before the “game of the century” between Notre Dame and Michigan State in 1966.  Notre Dame won that one 64-0.

Believe it or not, when these two 1-9 teams face off on national television Saturday, it won’t be the worst combined won-loss records for a nationally televised game.  In 2000, 0-10 Navy beat 1-9 Army.

If Notre Dame loses this game, there will be more than a little rumbling for a coaching change.  I think Charlie Weis is safe this year; the Irish will have to go bowling next year, or it’s bye-bye Charlie.

Duke played their best ball in a five-game stretch from early September to early October.  In that run, they lost 24-13 to Virginia; beat Northwestern 20-14; lost to Navy 46-43; lost to Miami-F 24-14; and lost to Wake Forest 41-36.  Since then, the Blue Devils have been blown out four consecutive times by an average of 39 to 13.5 and out-gained by an average of 261 yards.

It’s negligible, but Notre Dame is playing better ball now than they did in September.  The Irish’s 30-point loss to Georgia Tech when compared to Duke’s 17-point loss to the Jackets last week and the Irish’s overtime loss to Navy compared to Duke’s close loss at Navy does not mean Duke should be favored this week.  Duke lost to Navy when they were playing better than they are now, and Notre Dame lost to Georgia Tech when they were clueless on offense.

I look for Notre Dame to break through with a win in their last home game, and I think it will be by double digits.  The Irish will have to win by a touchdown to cover, and I don’t like wagering on a 1-9 team to cover as that much of a favorite.  I’d consider teasing both sides in this game.  Notre Dame should cover as a ‘dog, and Duke should cover as a double digit ‘dog.

Strategies

Over 47½

Notre Dame +4 and +7 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Duke +16 and +19 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 37½ and 34½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

California at Washington

Vegas: California by 7  O/U 58  

PiRate: California by 2

Mean: California 38 Washington 34    

California has dropped to the point where they are now competing for a Sun Bowl berth. The Bears have lost four games since climbing to number three in the polls following their win over Oregon.

Washington was eliminated from the bowl picture last week, and in the loss to Oregon State, quarterback Jake Locker left with an injured neck.  His status for this week is uncertain, but even if he plays, don’t expect the typical Locker performance.  Former starter Carl Bonnell started against Cal last year and led the Huskies to a regulation tie before losing in overtime.

Cal should be able to control the line of scrimmage when they have the ball.  UW cannot consistently stop the Bear ground game, and that will allow Nate Longshore to burn the purple secondary for some big passing gains.  Cal should score 35 points or more.

The Huskies still have the Apple Cup game with Washington State and a road game against Hawaii.  They are collapsing as the season progresses due to a brutal schedule earlier in the season.  I’m not sure they have much left in the tank for this game, and I’m picking them to lose at home.  As a touchdown ‘dog at Husky Stadium, I still think UW can cover with the aid of a teaser and might be able to cover straight up.

Strategies

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

—–

L S U at Ole Miss

Vegas: L S U by 19½  O/U 53½    

PiRate: L S U by 27

Mean: L S U 38 Ole Miss 14

Looking at the statistics and results so far this season, it looks like LSU should win by four or more touchdowns.  However, I believe that Ole Miss is going to play their best game of the season and make a run at a monumental upset this week.

The Rebels enjoyed a week off following a game against Northwestern State two weeks ago.  Nobody is giving them any chance to even keep this game close.  Not only do they face one of their top rivals at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, they get a chance to face the number one team.  LSU cannot possibly get up for this game the same way Ole Miss will get up for it. 

Look at how Ole Miss fared at home against Missouri, Florida, and Alabama.  They could have won two of those games, but crucial plays went the other way at the most inopportune time.  Ole Miss is the only SEC team without a big victory this year.  I think they are due for their big victory this week, even if it may have to be a moral victory.

When Ole Miss has the ball, expect the Rebels to isolate on LSU middle linebacker Jacob Cutrera, who is subbing for regular Darry Beckwith.  Expect to see running back Benjarvus Green-Ellis get several carries up the middle with a threat of a fake and rollout by the Ole Miss quarterback.  This brings up an interesting question:  who will that Ole Miss quarterback be?  Starter Seth Adams may be benched in favor of 2006 starter Brent Schaeffer, who is more mobile and able to get wide quickly.

LSU is still the top team in the nation (according to the AP and BCS polls), and they aren’t about to lose this game 28-17.  No, I expect the Tigers to survive with a closer-than-expected win at best and possibly be upset by a field goal at worst.  So, since the Bayou Bengals are favored by 19½  points, I’d recommend going with the double digit home underdog.  This is the Rebels’ bowl game.

Strategies

Ole Miss +19½

Over 53½

Ole Miss +29½ and +32½ in 10 and 13-point teasers    

Over 43½ and 40½ in 10 and 13-point teasers 

—–

Kentucky at Georgia  

Vegas: Georgia by 7½  O/U 61  

PiRate: Georgia by 12

Mean: Georgia 36 Kentucky 28

When Florida beat South Carolina last week, it ended any chance for the Wildcats to win the SEC East.  Georgia can still win the division crown by beating Kentucky and hoping Tennessee can be defeated by either Vanderbilt or Kentucky.

The Bulldogs would be better off if the Vols win out and take the East flag.  If Georgia can win this game and take care of business against Georgia Tech, they are almost guaranteed a BCS at-large bowl bid.  Coach Mark Richt has done a great job with this team after they were blown away in Knoxville and just barely survived in Nashville a week later.  UGA has some revenge punishment to extract against Kentucky, as the Wildcats beat them 24-20 last year in Lexington.  Look for running backs Knowshon Moreno and Thomas Brown to combine for 200 yards rushing, while Matthew Stafford shows Andre Woodson he can throw just as competently as him.  I’m picking Georgia to win with authority this week.

Kentucky should produce 100-140 rushing yards and 200-225 passing yards, but they will only score about 24-28 points.  The blue and white defense will give up 400+ yards in this game, and I expect Georgia to top 35 points.  Vanderbilt was able to run the ball well against Kentucky’s defense, so the ‘dogs should be able to destroy it.  Give Stafford that type of complementary running game, and he will have a big day overhead.

Strategies

Georgia -7½

Georgia +2½ and +5½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

    

—–

Missouri at Kansas State

Vegas: Missouri by 7  O/U 68½    

PiRate: Missouri by 17

Mean: Missouri 34 Kansas State 24

Kansas State lost to Nebraska by 42 points and lost to Iowa State by 11 in their previous two games.  Missouri beat Nebraska by 35 points and Iowa State by 14.  To make matters worse, the Wildcats are hurting on the defensive side, especially in the line where two key contributors are ailing.

Kansas State is 5-5, so this game could be considered close to a must win game for them.  The Wildcats conclude their season at Fresno State next week, so they still could get to a bowl with a win over the Bulldogs.

Missouri is one of a handful of teams remaining with legitimate national championship hopes.  If they can win this game convincingly, and then take care of business against Kansas and Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game, the Tigers could vault into one of the top two spots.

Missouri has played four games away from Columbia this year, and they have covered all four times.  Kansas State has won four of five home games, but the best of the wins came against 5-5 Colorado. 

The Wildcats are in over their head this week, as they will not have an answer for Chase Daniel and the Tiger offense.  There is a chance that KSU will get their offense untracked and ride the arm of Josh Freeman to a high-scoring day.

Missouri only has to win by seven to meet the spread, and I think the Tigers are quite capable of doing just that.  I believe the teams will score around 60 points, so you can use that in teasing the totals.

Note: If Oregon’s Dixon plays poorly against Arizona, then Daniel has a chance to vault to the Heisman Trophy frontrunner spot with a good showing in this game.

Strategies

Missouri -7

Under 68½   

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

Under 78½ and 81½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Ohio State at Michigan

Vegas: Ohio State by 4  O/U None

PiRate: Ohio State by 9

Mean: Ohio State 26 Michigan 20

Can you believe it’s been a year since these two teams played “The Game of the Century” in Columbus?  Now, because these teams both lost last week, this game isn’t even the top game of the week.  Sure, the Rose Bowl is on the line this week, but unless LSU, Oregon, Missouri, Oklahoma, and West Virginia all lose again, Ohio State is out of the national championship picture.

Michigan quarterback Chad Henne and running back Mike Hart are expected to play this week, but they are vulnerable and can be easily removed from the game with one hit.  Ohio State running back Chris Wells is banged up, but he should be close to 100% by Saturday.

This could be Coach Lloyd Carr’s final chance to beat Ohio State as rumors of his forced retirement could become a reality if the Wolverines don’t win this game and the Rose Bowl as well.  The Wolverine players should be ready to go (when are they not ready for this game) and ready to play above their heads.

Looking at the stats for this game, Ohio State clearly has the advantage in most areas.  Ditto that for games played against common opponents.  However, I don’t think looking at the stats for this game is the way to go.  Michigan’s seniors are 0-3 against the Buckeyes, and this is their final chance.  I think the maize and blue will be the hungrier team, especially since Ohio State’s players might be caught sulking a little bit now that they probably know they won’t play in the National Championship Game.  While the PiRates and Mean Rating believes the Buckeyes will win and cover, I personally believe Michigan will at least cover against the spread and probably pull off the mild upset.  I’m taking the Wolverines to beat the spread and also going with Michigan in teaser plays.

Strategies

Michigan +4

Michigan +14 and +17 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Michigan +160 in money line

—–

Miami-FL at Virginia Tech  

Vegas: Virginia Tech by 16½  O/U 42     

PiRate: Virginia Tech by 22   

Mean: Virginia Tech 31 Miami 12

We have two teams going in opposite directions in this game.  Miami has dropped four out of five games including a 48-0 pasting to Virginia in last week’s home finale and final game at the Orange Bowl.  Virginia Tech has won seven of eight games including a 41-23 win over Clemson.

Add to that the fact that Miami doesn’t really like to play when the weather isn’t tropical, and the forecast for Blacksburg Saturday afternoon calls for temperatures in the upper 40’s at kickoff, falling into the low 40’s and maybe upper 30’s by the fourth quarter.

Virginia Tech doesn’t really need much added help to win this game, but I’m sure the Hokie players will be confident they can win big, while the Hurricane players have thoughts of another blowout loss in their collective subconscious.

Whether it’s freshman Tyrod Taylor or junior Sean Glennon in at quarterback for Tech, he’s much better than whoever plays for the Hurricanes.  Neither Kyle Wright nor Kirby Freeman will find much success against the VT defense. 

I look for the Hokies to control this game much like Virginia did last week.  Whereas the Cavaliers burned the ‘Canes with the pass first, VT should dominate them with their running game.  If Taylor plays the majority of the game, I look for him to run for close to if not more than 100 yards and pass for another 150-200 yards. 

The Miami defense is decimated with injuries, and there just isn’t much depth left.  If they stay on the field too long, they are going to break down much like they did last week against Virginia.  Since the Hurricane offense isn’t likely to hold the ball for time-consuming drives, the possibility that the defense will become overextended is quite high.  So is my predicted margin of victory in this game.  Look for Tech to turn the Hurricanes into a tropical depression.

   

Strategies

Virginia Tech -16½

Virginia Tech -6½ and -3½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 32 and 29 in 10 and 13-point teasers    

—–

Boston College at Clemson   

Vegas: Clemson by 7  O/U 52½  

PiRate: Clemson by 14

Mean: Clemson 30 Boston College 23

After moving to number two in the BCS Polls, Boston College is on the verge of losing their third consecutive game.  When the Eagles travel to Clemson, they will be facing one of the two hottest teams in the league.

In the past four weeks, Clemson has out-gained their opposition by close to 200 yards per game.  The Tigers’ running game has improved since the beginning of the year, and it isn’t that far behind where it was last year.  That has made Cullen Harper’s throwing arm more lethal, and CU has averaged 48 points per game since their loss to Virginia Tech.

Boston College couldn’t stop Maryland’s Chris Turner last week, allowing him to throw for 337 yards and three touchdowns on 21 of 27 attempts.  They allowed Florida State’s Drew Weatherford to have a career day two weeks ago.  How are they going to stop Harper when they have to concentrate on stopping the Tigers’ newfound running game?

The seven-point spread makes this one a tough call.  I think Clemson will win, but one mistake could make this game closer than the line.  So, I’d go with Clemson in a teaser play.  At 10 or 13 points, you get the Tigers at home as underdogs.  Teasing the totals might be wise as well, as I expect ideal football weather to allow these teams to score a lot of points.

Strategies

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

Over 42 ½ and 39 ½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Maryland at Florida State

Vegas: Florida State by 7  O/U 45   

PiRate: Florida State by 8

Mean: Florida State 28 Maryland 21

In a way, this game could be one of the top three of the week.  This is a true bowl elimination game.  Both teams are 5-5 and must finish their seasons on the road against better opponents after this game.  The winner may get the honor of spending late December in Boise, San Francisco, or Nashville. 

Both teams are coming off emotional games.  Florida State had the lead at Virginia Tech and then as quick as a hiccup, the Hokies scored and scored and scored to turn the game into a rout.  Maryland pulled off a huge upset over Boston College when quarterback Chris Turner imitated Boomer Esiason for four quarters.  Usually, but not always, when a team wins a big home game and then plays on the road the following week, they bounce somewhat.  Additionally, when a team blows a road game one week and returns home the following week, they recover and play admirably more times than not.

Both of these teams have numerous injuries, most notably the concussion to FSU quarterback Drew Weatherford and the knee injury of Terp wide receiver Danny Oquendo.  The injuries should even out and become a non-factor this week.

Since I think these two teams would probably split a 10-game series on a neutral field, I have to favor the Seminoles by a few points.  Throw in home field advantage, and you can add a few more points.  It adds up to about a touchdown victory for Bobby Bowden’s boys, which is exactly what the spread is for this game.

Strategies

Florida State +3 and +6 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 35 and 32 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

New Mexico at Utah   

Vegas: Utah by 14½   O/U 44½     

PiRate: Utah by 24

Mean: Utah 25 New Mexico 14

Two things I can predict here is that Utah will not kick onsides if they lead by a lot of points in the fourth quarter, and New Mexico Coach Rocky Long will not shoot the Utes a one-gun salute at any point in this game.

What Kyle Whittingham did last week against Wyoming reminds me of when Woody Hayes went for two points against Michigan in 1968 and his team led 48-14.  Hayes said he went for two because he couldn’t go for three.  That feat came back to haunt him a year later when Michigan beat what was considered the best college team in over 20 years.  Whittingham won’t have to worry about it for another year, but I have to believe that the rest of his league’s coaches wouldn’t mind seeing Utah lose their last two regular season games.

Since losing to UNLV 27-0, Utah has recovered to win six straight games by an average score of 34 to 14.  Included in that winning streak are victories over Louisville and TCU.

Long always gets the most out of his Lobo teams.  UNM is 7-3 and more than likely headed to a 13th game in a repeat visit of their home bowl game.  New Mexico has enough talent to win on the road, but Utah is the hottest team in the West outside of Oregon.

14½ points is a lot to cover against a 7-3 team, and I don’t recommend you wager on the Utes covering.  I like the underdog to cover in this one, but as a 4½ or 1½ point favorite, the Utes can be played in a teaser.    

Strategies

New Mexico +14½

New Mexico +24½ and +27½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Utah -4½ and -1½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

              

—–

Oregon State at Washington State

Vegas: Oregon State by 2½  O/U 49½   

PiRate: Oregon State by 2

Mean: Oregon State 21 Washington State 21

This game is one of the most interesting games on the schedule this week.  The Pac-10 is in danger of coming up at least one and possibly two teams short in their bowl allotments.  WSU is 4-6 with two games to go.  If the Cougars can win their home finale and then take the Apple Cup game in Seattle, they are bowl bound.  It will allow Coach Bill Doba to keep his job.

Oregon State is one of those teams that must play a solid game to beat any opponent.  They will lose this game if they commit more turnovers than they cause.  They will lose this game if they suffer any mental letdowns and allow Cougar quarterback Alex Brink to connect on a couple of long passing plays.

I consider this game a tossup.  The opening line for this game was a pick’em, and the line has moved to WSU -2½ .  If I had to pick this game as a tossup, I’d go with the home team.  Two and a half points are not much, but I much rather would prefer to go with WSU in a teaser at +12½  or +15½.

Strategies

Washington State +12½ and 15½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 39½ and 36½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

  

—–

North Carolina State at Wake Forest

Vegas: Wake Forest by 6½   O/U 49     

PiRate: Wake Forest by 9

Mean: Wake Forest 28 North Carolina St. 20

Here is a game where I really like the underdog.  Wake Forest is a 6½ point favorite against a team that has won four straight games.  North Carolina State has defeated East Carolina, Virginia, Miami-F, and North Carolina.  The Wolfpack needs one more win to gain bowl eligibility, and I think they will get there by either winning this week or next week.

Wake Forest has dropped back-to-back games.  Their offense hasn’t fired on all cylinders, and their defense fell apart last week against Clemson.  On the other hand, State’s offense and defense have both improved in the past month.

I’m not only going with NCSU to cover in this game, I think they will win outright.  Tom O’Brien has the Pack focused and hungry to win out and finish 7-5, and I think chances are good they will do just that.  While the PiRates and the Mean Rating say otherwise, I’m picking State to win this game.

Strategies

North Carolina St. +6½

North Carolina St. +16½ and +19½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 39 and 36 in 10 and 13-point teasers

North Carolina St. +200 on the Money Line (good for a parlay)  

—–

Louisville at South Florida

Vegas: South Florida by 7  O/U 62      

PiRate: South Florida by 7

Mean: South Florida 38 Louisville 30

Louisville is the biggest disappointment of the season.  If they lose this game, they will probably be out of the bowl picture, as they won’t get a bid this year at 6-6 with five conference teams headed to winning records and just five conference bowl allotments.

South Florida stopped the bleeding last week by snapping a three game losing streak.  Even though the win came against lowly Syracuse, USF has regained some of the confidence they had four weeks ago when they were the number two ranked team in the BCS poll.

Brian Brohm at quarterback always gives Louisville a chance to outscore their opponent.  The senior star has completed better than 67% of his passes for 357 yards per game.  He has a TD/INT ratio of 28-9.  If he throws for 357 yards in this game, the Cardinals are going to pull off a big upset and place themselves back into bowl contention.

USF’s defense allows less than 20 points per game and just a little over 300 yards per game.  The Bulls have played three conference games against teams with wide open offenses and have gone 1-2 (beat West Virginia and lost to Cincinnati and Rutgers).  Louisville’s offense will be the toughest one they will have faced, and I have a suspicion that the Cardinals just might pull off the upset.  Needless to say, I like UL at +7.

Strategies

Louisville +7

Over 62

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

Over 52 and 49 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Louisville +225 on the money line (here’s another parlay choice)

—–

Wisconsin at Minnesota   

Vegas: Wisconsin by 14  O/U 57

PiRate: Wisconsin by 19

Mean: Wisconsin 44 Minnesota 27

This is the nation’s longest rivalry, spanning 115 games to date.  The winner of this game gets possession of Paul Bunyan’s Axe.  Minnesota has already lost out on the Little Brown Jug and Floyd of Rosedale this season.  They haven’t possessed the axe all that often as of late, losing this game 10 of the last 12 years.

On paper, this is a major mismatch.  The stats show that UW could win this game by 24 to 28 points.  Let’s look at the comparative scores in this game.  Against Michigan, Wisconsin won at home by 16, while Minnesota lost at the Big House by 24.  UW lost at Ohio State by 21, while UM lost to the Buckeyes at home by 23.  UW slaughtered Indiana at Camp Randall by 30 points, while the Gophers lost at Indiana by 20.  The Badgers lost at Illinois by five points, while Minnesota lost to the Illini at home by 27.  UW defeated Iowa in Madison by four, while UM lost to the Hawkeyes by five in Iowa City.

Wisconsin is coming off a huge, emotional win and now must play on the road against their biggest rival.  Minnesota has crashed to a 1-10 record, and this game is their bowl game.  Coach Tim Brewster may actually find himself in danger of getting canned after just one season in Minneapolis.  The Gophers have never lost 11 games in a season, and you have to go back to 1983 to find a season in which they won just one game (that 1983 team was weaker than this team).

The Badgers are favored by 14, and that is a tricky number.  Since this game is their season finale, and it is against their arch-rival, I expect Minnesota to make a game of it.  While the Gophers may eventually lose, I expect them to lose by less than two touchdowns.  Minnesota should score 21 to 28 points in this game and threaten to pull off the upset, but in the end, Wisconsin’s running game should prove to be too much for the Gophers.

I think the smart play in this game is to take Minnesota and receive 24 or 27 points as part of a teaser.  Wisconsin at -4 and -1 in an opposite teaser is an intelligent play as well. 

Strategies

Minnesota +14

Minnesota +24 and +27 in 10 and 13-point teasers

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

Over 47 and 44 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Pittsburgh at Rutgers

Vegas: Rutgers by 11½   O/U 49    

PiRate: Rutgers by 19  

Mean: Rutgers 30 Pittsburgh 18

Pittsburgh is 4-5 and theoretically can still make it to a bowl game.  However, the Panthers have games against South Florida and West Virginia remaining after this one.  A 4-8 record is more likely than a 6-6 record.

Rutgers isn’t as strong as last year, but the Scarlet Knights are going bowling for the third straight season if they win this game.  RU QB Mike Teel has been battling a thumb injury on his throwing hand, but he should be ready to go Saturday.  He should be able to turn and hand the ball to Ray Rice 25 times.

Pitt may have just enough defensive might to hold Rutgers under 24 points and 350 total yards.  The Panthers don’t have enough offensive firepower to top 21 points in this game, but they could easily lose by less than 12 points.  I like Rutgers in a 10 or 13-point teaser, as it basically just requires them to win the game.  I expect this game to produce less than 50 total points, so teasing the totals could be a good idea.  

Strategies

Rutgers -1½ and +1½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 59 and 62 in 10 and 13-point teasers    

—–

Northwestern at Illinois

Vegas: Illinois by 14  O/U 56½       

PiRate: Illinois by 22 

Mean: Illinois 40 Northwestern 22

Northwestern needs this game to move from bowl-eligible to seven-win team.  Illinois needs this game to secure a New Year’s Day Bowl berth.  So, this is another one of those really interesting games between intrastate rivals.

Obviously, the Illini are bounce prospects this week.  How can a team not have problems getting ready to play a lesser opponent one week after knocking off the top-ranked team and on the road to boot? 

Illinois has much better defensive statistics than Northwestern, and they should hold the Wildcats below their normal points (26) and total yardage (432).  Figure on NU picking up about 370 yards and 20-24 points.

It will be up to quarterback Juice Williams and running back Rashard Mendenhall to rip the Wildcats’ defensive front seven to shreds Saturday.  If they can do it, then Illinois could be headed to the Capital One or Outback Bowl.

Illinois is a two touchdown favorite in this game, and both of the computer ratings above say they should top that.  I am a bit leery picking the Illini to cover at this spread.  By adding 10 or 13 points to this line, Northwestern looks like a nice choice.

Strategies

Northwestern +24 and +27 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 46½ and 43½ in 10 and 13-point teasers  

—–

PiRate Predictions For All Games

This Week’s Games

Home Team in Caps (N) Denotes Neutral Site

 

 

Thursday, November 15

 

 

Favorite Underdog

Pred. Spread

Approx. Score

Oregon ARIZONA

13

34-21

ARKANSAS ST. North Texas

11

38-27

 

 

Friday, November 16

 

 

Favorite Underdog

Pred. Spread

Approx. Score

CENTRAL MICHIGAN Eastern Michigan

17

38-21

Hawaii NEVADA

8

42-34

 

 

Saturday, November 17

 

 

Favorite Underdog

Pred. Spread

Approx. Score

IOWA Western Michigan

8

21-13

TEMPLE Kent State

3

27-24

GEORGIA TECH North Carolina

12

26-14

MICHIGAN STATE Penn State

3

27-24

West Virginia CINCINNATI

3

31-28

CONNECTICUT Syracuse

28

31-3

Purdue INDIANA

3

38-35

TENNESSEE Vanderbilt

16

37-21

BUFFALO Bowling Green

2

28-26

Tulsa ARMY

17

41-24

Brigham Young WYOMING

15

31-16

AIR FORCE San Diego St.

14

35-21

ARKANSAS (in Little Rock) Mississippi St.

11

31-20

NEW MEXICO ST. Utah State

2

31-29

Oklahoma St. BAYLOR

20

47-27

Oklahoma  TEXAS TECH

9

33-24

KANSAS Iowa State

25

42-17

BOISE ST. Idaho

39

42-3

NOTRE DAME Duke

8

31-23

Central Florida S M U

14

38-24

RICE Tulane

5

39-34

HOUSTON Marshall

12

33-21

NAVY Northern Illinois

20

51-31

MEMPHIS Alabama-Birm.

16

30-14

California WASHINGTON

2

28-26

L s u OLE MISS

27

37-10

GEORGIA  Kentucky

12

38-26

Ohio State MICHIGAN

9

26-17

Missouri KANSAS ST.

17

44-27

VIRGINIA TECH Miami-Fl

22

28-6

CLEMSON Boston College

14

38-24

FLORIDA ST. Maryland

8

28-20

UTAH New Mexico

24

38-14

Oregon State WASHINGTON ST.

2

29-27

LOUISIANA TECH San Jose St.

Pk

32-31 OT

WAKE FOREST North Carolina St.

9

26-17

SOUTH FLORIDA Louisville

7

31-24

Wisconsin MINNESOTA

19

40-21

T C U U n l v

26

35-9

Southern Miss. U T E P

6

34-28

RUTGERS Pittsburgh

19

31-12

ILLINOIS Northwestern

22

44-22

ALABAMA UL-Monroe

26

38-12

UL-Lafayette FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL

9

31-22

FLORIDA  Florida Atlantic

40

50-10

 

 

This Week’s “Picks”

 

What’s a person to do?  This was my worst season since 1981 heading into last week.  Now, it’s my worst ever.  It’s several people’s worst season in years because so many games have been “surprises.”  Here’s one final strategy to consider this week.  If so many games are surprises, why not just pick a bunch of underdogs against the spread?  I cannot think of any reason not to try it, so here is a heavily-laden underdog play-card.  Late in the season, when teams play their rivalry games, scores tend to be lower than expected, so playing the totals can be an intelligent plan, especially when you tease them and take the Under.

 

Straight Plays Against the Spread

# 1:  North Carolina +10 vs. Georgia Tech

# 2:  Michigan State +3 vs. Penn State

# 3:  Tennessee -11 vs. Vanderbilt

# 4:  Mississippi State +11 vs. Arkansas

# 5:  Baylor +14½ vs. Oklahoma State

# 6:  Iowa St. +26½ vs. Kansas

# 7:  Ole Miss +19½ vs. L S U

# 8:  Michigan +4 vs. Ohio State

# 9:  North Carolina State +6½ vs. Wake Forest

#10: Louisville +7 vs. South Florida

#11: Minnesota +14 vs. Wisconsin

   

Straight Plays Totals

#12: Tennessee and Vanderbilt Under 52

#13: Boise State and Idaho Under 65

Money Line Picks

#14: Iowa -600 vs. Western Michigan

#15: Oklahoma -300 vs. Texas Tech

#16: Georgia -300 vs. Kentucky

#17: Missouri -260 vs. Kansas State

10-point Teasers

#18: Arizona +22½ vs. Oregon

        Arizona and Oregon Under 77

        Michigan State +13 vs. Penn St.

#19: Baylor + 24½ vs. Oklahoma St.

        Notre Dame +4 vs. Duke

        Washington +17 vs. California

#20: Ole Miss +29½ vs. L S U

        Georgia +2½ vs. Kentucky

        Tennessee -1 vs. Vanderbilt

#21: Michigan +14 vs. Ohio State

        Washington St. +12½ vs. Oregon State

        Minnesota +24 vs. Wisconsin

#22: Tennessee and Vanderbilt Under 62

        Arkansas and Mississippi State Under 61

        Iowa and Western Michigan Under 56½      

13-point Teasers

#23: Michigan State +16 vs. Penn State

        Indiana +16 vs. Purdue

        Michigan +17 vs. Ohio State

        Minnesota +27 vs. Wisconsin

#24: Tennessee +2 vs. Vanderbilt

        Ole Miss +32½ vs. L S U

        Georgia +5½ vs. Kentucky

        Tennessee and Vanderbilt Under 65

#25: Baylor +27½ vs. Oklahoma State

        Iowa -1 vs. Western Michigan

        Iowa and Western Michigan Under 59½

        Michigan St. and Penn State Over 37½

#26: Connecticut and Syracuse Over 33

        Clemson +6 vs. Boston College

        Rutgers +1½ vs. Pittsburgh

        Connecticut -5½ vs. Syracuse

#27: Washington +20 vs. California

        Washington State +15½ vs. Oregon State

        Notre Dame +7 vs. Duke

        Arizona and Oregon Under 80

Underdog Money Line Parlay for the fun of it:

This one would make you wealthy if it hit, and you could argue that any of these four upsets are possible.  And, what are your odds if you take these four in a parlay?  Merely: 108 to 1!  That’s right, a $10 wager here could make you $1,080!!!  Here it is.

Michigan State +330 vs. Notre Dame

Michigan +160 vs. Ohio State

North Carolina State +200 vs. Wake Forest

Louisville +225 vs. South Florida       

November 7, 2007

PiRate Game Previews and Selections for November 8-10, 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:(*)             40-11    78.4%

For The Season Picking Winners:                    375-132  74.0%

Hurray!  The PiRate percentage of picking outright winners has now surpassed 15 of 16 of the largest services that pick winners, some of which appear in very large media throughout the country.  The only rating beating it is correctly picking winners at a 74.1% rate.

 

Last Week Picks vs. Spread:                             4-9-0   30.8%

For the Season Picking Winners vs. Spread:      64-78-2  45.1% (over 52.4% returns a profit)

Ugh!  This is getting monotonous and ridiculous.  Four consecutive losing weeks! To make matters worse, so many of these losses have been by one or two points.  The PiRate Computers should make my picks.  I kind of know now what it feels like when your child becomes competent enough to tell you how to do something.

This week, we go back into coach watch.  Karl Dorrell at UCLA may have moved himself up onto the top rung along with Bill Call-a-cab at Nebraska and Dennis FranchiGone at Texas A&M.  With Time Brewster’s Minnesota Gophers performing so pitifully, Gary Kubiak not doing all that well with the Houston Texans, and now Dorrell’s Bruins stinking up the Rose Bowl, it doesn’t look good for former Bronco assistant coaches of Mike Shanahan.

Ed Orgeron at Ole Miss, Greg Robinson at Syracuse, Brent Guy at Utah State, Mark Snyder at Marshall, and Bill Doba at Washington State may be in trouble but could still survive if their teams pick up big wins.  Guy Morriss at Baylor is in an impossible situation, but he may be shown the door.  Colorado State’s Sonny Lubick may be encouraged to retire and stay on in some capacity in Ft. Collins.  Then, there is the Lloyd Carr situation at Michigan.  If the Wolverines beat Wisconsin and Ohio State to take the Big 10 crown and then win the Rose Bowl, how could he be asked to leave?

Now for the way out there thought.  I am not the only person who believes there is a chance that either Joe Paterno or Bobby Bowden will decide to retire after this season.  Paterno has been through a lot (on and off the field) this year that might make him want to leave the public spotlight.  Bowden had enough talent to win the ACC this year, but the Seminoles did not gel.

Coaches who may move on to more prestigious and/or higher paying positions include:

Les Myles might move from LSU to Michigan

Tommy Tuberville could move from Auburn to Texas A&M (I think it’s a mistake).

Kentucky’s Rich Brooks could get an offer out West.

Texas Tech’s Mike Leach is always rumored to be going somewhere.

Missouri’s Gary Pinkel could be in the mix if a job like LSU or Auburn became available.

Mark Mangino of Kansas will probably be given a chance to take a big-time job.

Wake Forest’s Jim Grobe is ready to move to a big school.  Nebraska might suit him.

I could see Cal’s Jeff Tedford getting a job offer at some place like Nebraska or even UCLA.

West Virginia’s Rich Rodriguez could be offered a bank if Phil Fulmer leaves Tennessee or Bobby Bowden retires.  Any big-time opening will include his name in its list of candidates.

South Florida’s Jim Leavitt has been in the hunt before, and he could fit perfectly in any SEC opening.

Brian Kelly has only been at Cincinnati one season, but he could be a great choice for many schools, especially those needing to add offense.

Connecticut’s Randy Edsall may be on some school’s short list.

TCU’s Gary Patterson will be mentioned in any opening in the Big 12 and possibly in the Pac-10.

Houston’s Art Briles could be a contingency plan at Texas A&M if Tuberville decides to stay at Auburn.

East Carolina’s Skip Holtz would be a popular candidate at Arkansas if Houston Nutt is dismissed.  Holtz could be on several other school lists.

Boise State’s Chris Petersen will be on short lists at more than one school, just like his predecessor Dan Hawkins was.

Paul Johnson at Navy is a terrific coach, but his spread option system would not be what the doctor ordered at many places.  If Nebraska decided to switch back from West Coast Passing to option running, I can think of no better man.  Johnson could be the answer at Baylor, and if Bobby Johnson were to leave Vanderbilt for, say Clemson, Paul Johnson would be a great fit there.  Syracuse might be another option for him.

Ohio’s Frank Solich may be ready to return to the big time.  If Mangino or Pinkel leave, it would be interesting for him to return to the Big 12.

Turner Gill could be the leading candidate at Nebraska.

Larry Blakeney at Troy could be on the radar screen at Auburn if Tuberville leaves.

This week, rather than having one big game, there are multiple fairly big games.  I have targeted five of them as the biggest, most interesting, and most important.  I will use the symbol [G] by the game to signify that it is one of the big five.

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

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

Thursday, November 8

Louisville at West Virginia

Vegas:  West Virginia by 16  64 O/U

PiRate: West Virginia by 21  

Mean: West Virginia 41 Louisville 24  

This was supposed to be the Thursday Night Game of the Year and one of the top overall games of the year.  In the preseason, many experts thought these two teams would be unbeaten when they faced off. 

Louisville’s defense has begun to play a little more like they were supposed to in recent weeks.  Giving up just 24 points to Cincinnati and their spread offense means UL could conceivably hold West Virginia to 24 points.  Conceivably, yes, but probable, no.  West Virginia can run the ball much better than Cinti, and while Patrick White isn’t Ben Mauk, he can exploit any defense that concentrates on stopping the running of Steve Slaton, Noel Devine, and himself.

Louisville will score points in this game, but I don’t see an upset in the cards.  Go with the hometown Mountaineers to improve to 8-1.

Strategies

West Virginia -16

Over 64

West Virginia -6 and -3 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 54 and 51 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

T C U at Brigham Young

Vegas: B Y U by 7  46 O/U

PiRate: B Y U by 4

Mean: B Y U 24 T C U 16 

Like the game above, this one was supposed to be a battle for a conference championship.  TCU has been a slight disappointment this year losing four times thus far. 

The Horned Frogs just shut out and destroyed a fairly good New Mexico team last week, but they are facing several negative intangible factors this week.  To start off, they must travel 1,200 miles on two fewer than normal preparation days.  This will destroy any momentum TCU picked up with the big win.  BYU is coming off two rather easy home wins and will be playing at home for the third consecutive game.  The Cougars have won five games in a row and appear to be on a roll.  Bronco Mendenhall’s complex offense is extremely difficult to prepare against when the opponent has a full week.  Having to face it on a Thursday is next to impossible.  To the contrary, TCU’s offense is not as hard to prepare against.

I look for BYU to win this game by around a touchdown.  The ratings are too close to the Vegas line, so I’d recommend not playing it straight up.  The money line may be your best bet here.

Strategies

B Y U -275

B Y U +3 and +6 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 36 and 33 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

  

Saturday, November 10

Michigan at Wisconsin [G]

Vegas: Michigan by 3  46½ O/U

PiRate: Wisconsin by 3     

Mean: Michigan 25 Wisconsin 24  

I have listed this game as one of the top five this week.  Not only is it a big game for both teams’ bowl positioning, this one should be close and go down to the wire.  The two different ratings pick separate teams here.

Wisconsin’s three losses have come at the hands of Illinois, Penn State, and Ohio State by a combined score of 107-50.  Those three teams combined average out to the strength of the Wolverines, so Michigan should be a prohibitive favorite, right?  Wrong!  Wisconsin lost those three games on the road, and this week’s game is in Madison.  Bucky Badger may be smiling Saturday.

Michigan is hurt by the status of quarterback Chad Henne and tailback Mike Hart’s injuries.  If the duo doesn’t play, Michigan could be in trouble.  If Michigan can win this game to improve to 9-2, they should not win by double digits.  That gives you a smart teaser play.  I also don’t think Wisconsin can win by more than a touchdown, so that gives you a second teaser play.  If you want to go for the trifecta, 36½ points could fill out one teaser parlay.

Strategies

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

Michigan +7 and +10 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 36½ and 33½ in 10 and 13-point teasers 

—–

  

Wake Forest at Clemson

Vegas: Clemson by 9  51 O/U

PiRate: Clemson by 10  

Mean: Clemson 28 Wake Forest 20

The PiRates now believe that Clemson is the team to beat in the ACC.  The Tigers have a history during the Tommy Bowden years of being better in November than they were in September.

Wake Forest’s loss to Virginia last week eliminated the Demon Deacons from the divisional title race.  That loss may also deflate them just enough to ensure that Clemson will win this game by at least a touchdown.

Clemson’s defense is tough enough to hold Wake to 250-300 total yards.  Wake’s defense is good, but the Deacs cannot hold CU under 350 total yards.  I think the Tigers will pick up 100 more yards than Wake in this game, and barring a huge turnover differential, I just cannot see any way Wake Forest can win at Clemson.  Since CU is favored by less than 10, a 10-point teaser is quite inviting here.

Strategies

Clemson +1 and +4 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 61 and 64 in 10 and 13-point teasers

 

—–

Penn State at Temple  

Vegas: Penn State by 24  47 O/U

PiRate: Penn State by 25  

Mean: Penn State 32 Temple 10  

Penn State won this game at home in 2006 by the score of 47-0.  This year, the Lions must play this game on the road.  Just what type of home field advantage will their opponent enjoy?  Absolutely none.  When Joe Pa takes his squad to Philadelphia, they will be the real home team.

Temple last defeated Penn State seven weeks before Pearl Harbor was invaded.  The chances of the Owls pulling off the upset Saturday are about the same as Pearl Harbor being invaded this weekend.  Temple may keep it close for a quarter or even a half, but Penn State is too physical and too fast for the Owls. 

Temple will not be able to run the ball and will pick up less than 75 rushing yards.  Their passing game will not be able to compensate for that deficiency, so the Owls will be lucky to score more than one time.

Penn State should be able to top 200 yards rushing and passing.  With 400+ total yards gained, that should allow them to top 30 points.  It may not be another 47-0 pasting, but the Nittany Lions should win by more than three touchdowns.

Strategies

Penn State -24

Penn State -14 and -11 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 37 and 34 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Indiana at Northwestern   

Vegas: Indiana by 2  61½ O/U

PiRate: Indiana by 5

Mean: Indiana 32 Northwestern 30

Indiana won their sixth game last week.  One more win virtually guarantees the Hoosiers that 13th game that former head coach Terry Hoeppner talked about before he passed away earlier this year.

Northwestern isn’t going to roll over and allow IU to easily pick up that seventh win.  The Wildcats need one more victory to become bowl eligible and probably need wins over both Indiana and Illinois to get a bowl invitation.

Since back-to-back overtime wins over Michigan State and Minnesota, Northwestern seems to have lost some steam.  They didn’t clobber Eastern Michigan, and then Purdue and Iowa handled them easily.

Indiana lost three consecutive games before beating Ball State last week.  The Hoosiers cannot move the ball as well as Northwestern, but their defense is a little better.  This game should be close, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the teams took turns scoring.  The only fly in the ointment here is that it could be raining in Evanston Saturday.  If it is really wet, the score could be lower than expected, and the game could turn on which team holds onto the pigskin.  Indiana tends to turn the ball over more than Northwestern, so any physical advantage would be negated.  On a wet field, I like the home team in this one.  So, before getting action on this game, wait until Saturday morning and check the weather.  If it’s dry on the north side, take Indiana.  If it’s wet in Chicagoland, take Northwestern and the Under. 

Strategies

IF IT IS DRY SATURDAY AM

Indiana -2

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

Over 51½ and 48½ in 10 and 13-point teasers      

IF IT IS WET SATURDAY AM

Northwestern +2

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

Under 71½ and 74½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

 

—–

North Carolina at North Carolina State   

Vegas: N. C. State by 3½  44 O/U 

PiRate: N. C. State by 6  

Mean: N.C. State 28 North Carolina 23   

Tom O’Brien must be a miracle worker.  He inherited a mess in Raleigh when he took over at North Carolina State.  The Wolfpack had some talent, but they lacked discipline under former coach Chuck Amato.  When Amato was dismissed last season, he left the school at the bottom of the Atlantic Division of the ACC.  This year, State began the season with a 1-5 record and the only win coming against Wofford.  Four of the five losses were not close, and it looked like the Pack might go 1-11 or 2-10 at best.  Three weeks ago, the team put it all together and upset East Carolina.  They didn’t just win; they blew the Pirates off their home field.  Following that win, O’Brien’s troops knocked off Virginia and Miami.  Now, they are talking bowl game at Carter-Finley Stadium.  Wins over North Carolina, Wake Forest, and Maryland will give them a 7-5 record and pretty much assure them that they will play game number 13 in December.

North Carolina is almost as improved this year as their opponent this week.  Butch Davis has the Tar Heels competing against the good teams.  However, North Carolina hasn’t done well in road games.  Of course, this road game is nothing more than a 40-minute bus ride from their campus (or about the same amount of time it takes to travel four miles on the Kennedy Expressway in Chicago in the morning.)

I expect this game to be a defensive struggle.  Both teams have gotten better defensively since the start of the year, and the odds makers may not have caught up with the trend.  Therefore, playing the Under may be the best bet on this game, especially if it’s played in a teaser.  Of course, because this game is almost even, there is always the threat that an overtime game could spoil your day.  When you change the teaser to an over, 34 or 31 points look enticing.

Strategies

N.C. State +6½ and +9½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 34 and 31 in 10 and 13-point teasers

 

—–

Michigan State at Purdue

Vegas: Purdue by 4  57½ O/U    

PiRate: Purdue by 4  

Mean: Purdue 34 Michigan State 26

Mark Dantonio’s first four weeks of his inaugural season at Michigan State produced a 4-0 record.  It looked like the Spartans were a cinch for obtaining one of the Big 10’s seven bowl spots.  Then, the roof collapsed.  A close loss at Wisconsin and an overtime loss against Northwestern brought on thoughts of another mid-season collapse in East Lansing.  The Spartans recovered to trounce Indiana, but then losses to Ohio State, Iowa, and Michigan dropped their record to 5-5.  MSU closes with this game and a home tilt against Penn State, and they must win both to have any bowl chances.

Purdue is one of those teams that can punish a weak opponent, just edge a rather good opponent, and get clobbered by a strong opponent.  Luckily for the Boilermakers in 2007, they have played only three strong opponents this season; they have lost all three by a combined score of 97-47.  Michigan State qualifies as a rather good opponent, meaning Purdue should edge but not clobber MSU.  The Spartans will have to wait another year to go bowling.

Strategies

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

Over 47½ and 44½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Minnesota at Iowa   

Vegas: Iowa by 14½  47½ O/U       

PiRate: Iowa by 15  

Mean: Iowa 34 Minnesota 18

Minnesota will be leaving with less baggage than when they arrive in Iowa City.  One bronze pig by the name of Floyd of Rosedale will not be heading back to Minneapolis when the Gophers return home with their 10th loss in hand.

It surely cannot be serious, but there is talk in the Twin Cities of letting go of Gopher coach Tim Brewster after just one season.  Many boosters believe he is in over his head and will place the program back to where it was in the early to mid 1990’s.

As for the game, this should be interesting for a short time.  Iowa’s defense may give up a few more yards than normal this week, but their offense is going to look more like it did in 2002.  Minnesota is giving up an average of 552 total yards and 38 points per game.  In Big 10 play, the Gophers are ceding more than 40 points per game.  Look for the Hawkeyes to score their most points and pick up their most yardage this season and cruise to a two to three touchdown win over the hapless Gophers.  A win gets them to bowl eligibility.

Strategies

Iowa -4½ and -1½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Minnesota +24½ and +27½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 37½ and 34½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

  

—–

Texas A&M at Missouri   

Vegas: Missouri by 19  62 O/U  

PiRate: Missouri by 25

Mean: Missouri 35 Texas A&M 17

This game has the capability of getting really ugly.  Missouri won by 45 at Colorado last week and returns home with loads of momentum.  Texas A&M took a beating last week at Oklahoma and must travel on the road again this week.  What’s more, the Aggie players probably have given up on the lame-duck coaching staff (at least until the Texas game), and they may be ill-prepared to take on the mighty Chase Daniel and company. 

Daniel was a star quarterback at Southlake Carroll High School in the greater Dallas area, and Texas A&M didn’t recruit him.  Even though he probably wanted to attend Texas (Mack Brown went after Ryan Perrilloux then Colt McCoy), he felt snubbed.  Look for him to take a little revenge against the weak Aggie defense.  He could easily pass for 300-350 yards and pick up a nice chunk on the ground as well.

The Missouri defense should hold the A&M rushing game below its average of 228 yards per game, and in doing so hold them under 21 points.  When A&M has scored less than 21 points this year, they have lost all four times, and they are 2-11 overall during the Dennis Franchione tenure.  With ideal weather expected, you can also expect a big Missouri win.  Look for a score in the range of 42-17.

Strategies

Missouri -19

Missouri -9 and -6 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 72 and 75 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Arkansas at Tennessee [G]

Vegas: Pk  63 O/U

PiRate: Arkansas by 1

Mean: Tennessee 35 Arkansas 33

This is one of the five big games of the week.  Even though Tennessee has been wiped off the field three times this season, including twice in the SEC, the Volunteers are still the current true leader in the SEC East inasmuch as they are the only team in the division that controls their own destiny.

Arkansas is only 2-3 in the league, but the Hogs could easily be 5-0.  Their three conference losses have been nothing like the losses Tennessee has suffered.  After putting the pieces together at Ole Miss in a 44-8 win, the Razorbacks have begun to play like they did in the latter part of 2006.  Superstar tailback Darren McFadden is now a true single-wing-type dual threat (hey, he might even be the old tried and true triple threat and surprise somebody with a quick kick).  McFadden can pass the ball, and that really puts pressure on opposing defenses.  If Vince Lombardi were still alive and coaching the Packers, he would move Heaven and Earth to get McFadden in the draft, as he would be the next Paul Hornung (didn’t he win the Heisman Trophy?).  Throw near superstar Felix Jones into the backfield, and this becomes the scariest skilled positioned offense in college football.  While Arkansas may not win the SEC Championship, right now, they could very well be the strongest and most exciting team.

Tennessee must try to outscore the Razorbacks.  Quarterback Erik Ainge has the ability to pass for 250-300 yards and lead his team to a 35-point game.  That still may not be enough points to win this game, because Arkansas averages 41 per game.

The two ratings disagree on which team will win, but they both believe the final margin of victory will be less than a field goal.

Strategies

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

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

Over 53 and 50 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Colorado at Iowa State  

Vegas: Colorado by 5  49 O/U  

PiRate: Colorado by 2

Mean: Colorado 22 Iowa State 14

Iowa State may be the most improved Big 12 team since the end of September.  This is a team that went 0-3 against middle of the pack MAC teams in September.  In the past three weeks, ISU has taken Oklahoma to the wire before losing a close game, given Missouri fits, and knocked Kansas State for a loop.  The Cyclones may be the best 2-8 team in the past 15 years.

Colorado was in that same position last year.  One year later, the Buffs find themselves at 5-5, needing one more win to become bowl eligible.  The five teams that beat CU have a combined record of 36-9, as the boys from Boulder have played one hellacious schedule this season.

Colorado will be fortunate to escape with a one or two-point win.  The Vegas smart guys list them as a five-point pick, and adding 10 or 13 to that makes it a comfortable teaser play in favor of the home team.

Strategies

Iowa State +15 and +18 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Iowa State +185 (combine with other underdogs in money line parlay for big odds)

—–

Kansas State at Nebraska   

Vegas: Kansas State by 7  64 O/U  

PiRate: Kansas State by 14  

Mean: Kansas State 38 Nebraska 33

Both of these teams are falling, but Nebraska has fallen farther and for a longer period of time this season.  For Kansas State, a loss in Lincoln may bring their bowl aspirations to an end this year.  The Wildcats must still face Missouri and finish on the road at Fresno State.  If they cannot beat Nebraska, they will not win either of the final two and finish 5-7.  6-6 will get them into a bowl this year, especially since it looks highly likely that the Big 12 will supply two teams to BCS bowls and need nine teams to fulfill their allotment.

Even if Nebraska rebounds and wins out by an average score of 50-0, the Bill Callahan days are done.  This once proud program has fallen to the bottom of the Northern Division and isn’t much better, if at all, than Baylor.  Giving up 76 points to Kansas is more than a black eye; it’s a beheading!  There were a couple of seasons back in the Bob Devaney days where NU gave up only a few points more in an entire season than they surrendered last week.

All of this makes me a little gun-shy to pick against the spread this week.  Nebraska may be down and close to out for the count, but they still have some pride left.  I’m guessing the defense will come out and play as competently as they are capable of playing.  I think the offense will produce a complementary effort.  That may be enough to if not beat Kansas State, keep the game close.  The only way I would play this one is with Nebraska in a 10 or 13-point teaser.  I wouldn’t want to rely on KSU covering on the road as a touchdown favorite, even against the bottom team in their division.

Strategies

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

Under 74 and 77 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Alabama at Mississippi State   

Vegas: Alabama by 5  50 O/U   

PiRate: Alabama by 4

Mean: Alabama 24 Mississippi State 19

This game almost qualified as one of the most interesting games of the week, but there just isn’t enough on the line here.  Alabama is bowl eligible and will more than likely finish with eight wins.  That will give them a shot at a Cotton, Chick-Fil-A, Music City, or Liberty Bowl bid.  Mississippi State still has Ole Miss to play and will become bowl eligible with a win in that game.  They probably need a win here to actually get a bowl bid, for at 6-6, it looks like they will be left out in the cold.

Added to the excitement is always the fact that current Bulldog coach Sylvester Croom is an Alabama alum and former football star.  He has slowly rebuilt the State program to the precipice of bowl eligibility.  Croom’s defense has kept the Tide offense out of the end zone for both of the last two years.  Last season, State won in Tuscaloosa to seal Mike Shula’s fate in Crimsonville. 

Nick Saban’s offense will score at least two touchdowns against the Bullies.  The Tide will give up a couple of touchdowns as well, so this game should be another close one.  The intangibles almost balance out, but they do tilt slightly in State’s favor.  The maroon and white had an extra week to prepare for this tilt, and the Tide had an emotional setback last week when they almost won against LSU to take the SEC West lead but came up a bit short at the end.

The line looks really honest here, but the over/under may be a bit high.  These teams usually play a low-scoring game when they square off.  The last time more than 50 points were scored in this series was 1997.  By teasing this one 10 points, you have to go back to 1993 to find a game where more than 60 points were scored.  A 13-point teaser gives you the confidence in knowing that 1988 was the last time these teams combined for more than 63 total points.

Strategies

Under 50

Mississippi State +15 and +18 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 60 and 63 in 10 and 13-point teasers 

—–

Kentucky at Vanderbilt

Vegas: Kentucky by 3½  57½ O/U  

PiRate: Kentucky by 3

Mean: Kentucky 28 Vanderbilt 24

Kentucky has won five out of the last six games in this series, and Rich Brooks is 3-1 against Bobby Johnson including beating him twice when his Commodores were favored.

This game has a familiar ring to it.  The situation is similar to the ones from 2005, 1999, 1984, and 1973.  Vanderbilt had five wins entering  three out of four of these games (they were 4-5 in 2005) and was favored to pick up the decisive 6th win (guaranteeing a winning season) in the earliest three and a 5th win with a weak Tennessee team to follow in 2005.  The Commodores each time had a momentary breakdown in all four of these games and saw their chances slip away.  Kentucky won all four of these games, and Vanderbilt finished with five wins (they beat Tennessee in 2005 after losing a heartbreaker at home to the Wildcats).

If the Commodores are ever going to break the jinx against Kentucky and the five-win plateau, this might be the season.  The Wildcats have not purred since they upset LSU.  Injuries were a huge contributing factor, and some of those key players will be available for action this week-namely Rafael Little and Keenan Burton.

Just how well these two stars play after missing action may decide whether Kentucky wins its all-important seventh game or whether Vanderbilt finally breaks the cat curse and becomes bowl eligible for the first time since 1982.

I believe this will be a close game with more points scored than expected.  The last two years, these teams hooked up for 64 and 81 total points, and the totals line is at 57½ this week.  Tease that down to 47½ or 44½, and you have yourself a good shot at getting part of a winning parlay.  As for the game itself, I don’t think the Commodores will be able to stop Andre Woodson passing to Burton and Dicky Lyons and also shut down the Wildcat running game.  Vanderbilt cannot win in a shootout, so give the blue and white the edge by about four points.  If Kentucky tops 30 in this game, then they should beat the spread.  They have a good shot at getting there.  

Strategies

Kentucky -3½

Kentucky +6½ and +9½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 47½ and 44½ in 10 and 13-point teasers  

—–

Air Force at Notre Dame

Vegas: Air Force by 3  44 O/U  

PiRate: Air Force by 4  

Mean: Air Force 30 Notre Dame 23

Keep your chin up Notre Dame fans.  While your team faces a stronger service academy this week compared to last week, your defense should be ready to slow down the ground game of the Air Force Academy after facing a better option offense last week.  It means the Irish stand a decent chance of pulling off the upset.

Normally, AFA would be a good touchdown to 10-point favorite in this game.  However, Notre Dame has now had two weeks to prepare its defense against the option.  Most college teams can shut down most of the veer plays when they get two weeks to prepare against them.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not predicting ND to hold AFA to 125 yards rushing and seven points.  No, I’m predicting the Irish to hold the Falcons under their normal rushing average of about 275 yards per game.  Air Force might “only” rush for 200 yards in this game.  Their passing game may top their usual 125 yards, but it could also lead to a crucial interception and long return.  That’s about the only way Notre Dame can win a game this year, as their offense is just plain bad.

I predict Notre Dame will hold Air Force under 21 points.  If the Irish can score or set up a score with defense or special teams, they can compete for a win.  I think they will pick up 200 passing yards and score two touchdowns.  That third touchdown is the key to the game.  If they get it, they win it.

Strategies

Notre Dame +13 and +16 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 54 and 57 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Illinois at Ohio State  

Vegas: Ohio State by 15  46 O/U

PiRate: Ohio State by 23

Mean: Ohio State 34 Illinois 16

This one might be tricky for most other top 10 teams getting ready to face their arch rival a week later for the conference championship. Might Ohio State find it hard not to be thinking about the game next week in Ann Arbor?  You know, Illinois is not a team you can overlook.

A Jim Tressel-coached team won’t play with much deviation.  What you see is what you get when the scarlet and gray take the field, be it against a team from the Bowl Championship Series or against the number two team in the nation.  The Buckeyes should control the vaunted Illini running game and hold Rashard Mendenhall and company to no more than 150 rushing and 130 passing yards.  Illinois cannot score more than 17 points with less than 280 total yards.

Ohio State will be able to move the football against the Illini.  This should be quarterback Todd Boeckman’s chance to move into Heisman Trophy contention, as I think he will pass for 250-300 yards and multiple touchdowns.  The OSU running game will produce a little less than normal, probably about 150-175 yards.  It adds up to 400 total yards minimum, and that should give the Buckeyes a chance to top 30 points.  I like teasing the spread down to five or two in this game and going with OSU at the Horseshoe.  Taking 10 or 13 points off the totals is another good teaser choice.

Strategies

Ohio State -5 and -2 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 36 and 33 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Arizona State at U C L A

Vegas: Arizona State by 6½  51½ O/U    

PiRate: Arizona State by 8

Mean: Arizona State 30 U C L A 20

Remember what I said earlier this season:  do not wager on UCLA games.  The Bruins are the most unpredictable team in many years.  They beat BYU, slaughtered Oregon State, and upset Cal.  They also lost by 38 to Utah, by 20 to Washington State, and they gifted to Notre Dame their only win of the season, scoring just six points against the Irish. 

I cannot see any possible scenario where Karl Dorrell keeps his job in Westwood.  This is a program with the resources to consistently stay in the top 10 to 15 every year. 

Arizona State’s loss at Oregon probably ends any hope for the Sun Devils to win the Pac-10, but they can still earn a BCS Bowl at-large invitation by winning out.  Thus, I don’t believe ASU will suffer a letdown after losing their first game.  I look for the Devils to win at the Rose Bowl, but once again, I don’t predict the outcome of UCLA games.  The PiRates and Mean ratings agree ASU should win by just more than a touchdown.

Strategies

Forget it 

—–

Auburn at Georgia [G]  

Vegas: Georgia by 1½  44½ O/U      

PiRate: Georgia by 3   

Mean: Georgia 23 Auburn 20

I have this game listed as one of the five key games this week because both teams are vying for a New Year’s Day Bowl bid.  Georgia needs Tennessee to lose to have a chance at winning the Eastern Division flag, and I believe the Vols will oblige-if not this week, then at Kentucky.  The Bulldogs will win the division title and advance to the Championship game if they beat Auburn this week and Kentucky next week.  Both games are between the hedges in Athens, and I give UGa better than a 50-50 chance of pulling off the feat.

This game should be similar to the one these teams played two years ago, only a little lower scoring.  In 2005, Auburn won 31-30.  Both teams should run for about 175 yards in this game and pass for 200.  The only reason I (and the two ratings) favor the Bulldogs is home field advantage.  This one could turn on one important play, so my suggestion here is to force Auburn to beat you by winning by more than a touchdown.

Strategies

Auburn +8½ and +11½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 34½ and 31½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Florida State at Virginia Tech   

Vegas: Virginia Tech by 6  O/U 39½   

PiRate: Virginia Tech by 10

Mean: Virginia Tech 28 Florida State 10

Can Florida State pull off back-to-back road upsets?  The old Seminole teams could go on the road in consecutive weeks and win big games, but I’m not sure this team can do it.

Virginia Tech’s defense should contain the Seminoles most of the day.  I doubt FSU will see triple digits in their rushing yardage, and they will be lucky to pass for 225 yards.  I’m figuring about 300 total yards and 10 to 16 points for Bobby Bowden’s boys.

Virginia Tech’s offense is no juggernaut, and Florida State’s defense is almost up to their old standards.  Tech may not top 100 yards rushing, and they will be fortunate to top 200 yards passing.  The Hokies just so happen to score a point for every 12.1 yards they gain.  If VT gains 300 yards in this game, they should score about 25 points.  Since I cannot see any possibility of FSU scoring more than 17 points, it means Virginia Tech should win and cover the spread.

Strategies

Virginia Tech -6

Virginia Tech +4 and +7 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 29 ½ and 26 ½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Connecticut at Cincinnati [G]

Vegas: Cincinnati by 6½  48 O/U  

PiRate: Cincinnati by 4

Mean: Cincinnati 25 Connecticut 23

This qualifies as one of the big five games this week because the Big East race is still up for grabs.  Connecticut is 4-0 and a game and a half ahead of its nearest competitors in the conference.  A road win here means they just might have what it takes to run the table in the league including winning at West Virginia. 

Cincinnati has lost twice in league play.  However, they still must play West Virginia, and they get the Mountaineers at home at Nippert Stadium.  The Bearcats are strong enough to win both this week and against WVU, and if WVU beats UConn, Cinti would be Big East Champs in this scenario.

I believe this will be a happy Saturday for the Binturongs.  Their spread offense may be just strong enough to penetrate the Huskies’ tough defense for 150 rushing yards, 230 passing yards, and 21 to 28 points.  Connecticut is the only team other than Ohio State to yield less than 20 points in every game so far this season, so 21 points would be monumental for the Bearcats.

Connecticut’s offense has been overshadowed by their stop troops, but it is well-balanced and capable of producing points in a hurry.  Ask Rutgers how good it is.

This one is tough to figure, but I think the home team will win.  Vegas never ceases to amaze me; I thought this game might be a pick‘em, but they made UC a 6½-point favorite.  So, I’d recommend using the totals in a teaser and maybe taking the Huskies in a teaser.   

Strategies

Connecticut +16½ and +19½ in 10 and 13-point teasers 

Over 38 and 35 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Texas Tech at Texas   

Vegas: Texas by 6½  65 O/U      

PiRate: Texas by 9

Mean: Texas 31 Texas Tech 24

I expected Texas Tech to win only six or seven games this year.  I expected Texas to win at least 10.  Tech has seven wins with Oklahoma yet to play in addition to this one.  Texas is 8-2 with a chance to get to 10 wins if they win here and against a falling Texas A&M team.  So, why do I think both of these teams are not matching my expectations this year?  It’s because I expected Texas Tech to struggle on both sides of the ball and just barely win their games, and I thought Texas would outscore their opposition by an average of close to 20 points per game.  Neither expectation is true.

Texas has already faced a similar offense four times this year, so the Tech passing game should not present many surprises.  I believe the Longhorns will limit the Red Raiders to about 350 passing yards; I say limit due to the fact that TTU normally throws for almost 500 yards per game.

When Texas has the ball, they should be able to control the clock with a dominating rushing game this week.  I think Mack Brown will have his ‘Horns running the ball 5-10 more times than normal this week.  UT should gain well over 200 yards on the ground.  I think it leads to a touchdown or more victory for Texas, and I think the chances that Tech pulls off the upset are less than 5%.

Strategies

Texas -6½

Texas +3½ and +6½ in 10 and 13-point teasers  

        

—–

Baylor at Oklahoma

Vegas: Oklahoma by 38  56 O/U  

PiRate: Oklahoma by 43

Mean: Oklahoma 41 Baylor 7

This is the type of game that gives me fits.  Oklahoma can name the score in this one.  They are favored by 38 and could lead by that much by halftime.  Then again, Coach Bob Stoops could decide to take it easy on the Bears and Coach Guy Morriss and control the clock with time-consuming drives.  The Sooners might only win 42-7, and that wouldn’t cover against the spread.

Here, I would recommend looking at the totals.  The over/under line is 56.  If you think Oklahoma will win 42-7, then the under becomes an attractive play.  If you think they might win 56-14, the over becomes a great choice.  I believe OU will win by as little as 45-10 and as much as 56-7.  That puts my personal totals range between 55 and 63 points.  So, it might be possible to tease both ends of the total.

Strategies

Over 46 and 43 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 66 and 69 in 10 and 13-point teasers 

—–

Virginia at Miami-FL

Vegas: Miami by 3½  41½ O/U    

PiRate: Miami by 5

Mean: Virginia 21 Miami 20

Here’s another game where the two ratings disagree, and the difference is by six points.  Virginia has been a rather consistent team this year.  Since the opening loss at Wyoming, the Cavaliers have won their games by the skin of their teeth.  In their past five games, they have won by two, won by one, won by one, lost by five, and won by one.  That is a strong and consistent pattern.

Miami is an above-average, but not outstanding team.  They are on par with Virginia in talent, but they are a little less predictable.  The Hurricanes could win this game by 10, win by a few points, or lose by a point or two.  I like the teaser here, because when you move the line by 10 or 13 points in Miami’s favor, you force the Cavs to win by at least a touchdown or 10 points to beat you.  Can you see Virginia winning by double digits in Miami?  I can’t.

Strategies

Miami +6½ and +9½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Florida at South Carolina

Vegas: Florida by 6½  59½ O/U     

PiRate: Florida by 5

Mean: Florida 31 South Carolina 26

Coach Steve Spurrier has never had a team fold up at the end of the season, and I don’t think the Gamecocks are going to carry the string out and finish 6-6 after beginning 6-1.

Florida has not played two complete, 60-minute games in back-to-back weeks this year.  The Gators just played a terrific game at home last week, and I believe they will be less than terrific this week.  Florida has not performed well against their old coach.  Even in last season’s national championship run, they beat USC by one point in Gainesville and were out-gained by nine yards.  The year before, Carolina won in Columbia.

Last year, Gamecock quarterback Blake Mitchell completed 24 of 33 passes for 275 yards at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.  This Gator defense is more penetrable than last year’s edition, so I expect Mitchell to have an outstanding game.  I give the Gamecocks a strong chance to pull off the upset outright, so I like them straight up getting five points at home-even though the PiRates say otherwise.

Strategies

South Carolina +6½

South Carolina +16½  and +19½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Louisiana Tech at L S U   

Vegas: L S U by 36  55 O/U  

PiRate: L S U by 37

Mean: L S U 38 Louisiana Tech 3

This game bears the same warning as the Oklahoma-Baylor game.  Les Myles is a nice fellow, and he just may not run the score up against an in-state rival.  Last year, the Tigers could have beaten Louisiana-Lafayette by 50 or more points, but Myles pulled the plug in the second half and kept the final margin at 42.

Louisiana Tech isn’t a horrible team.  First year coach Derek Dooley, the son of Vince, has guided his version of Bulldogs to a 4-5 record.  Dooley was on Nick Saban’s staff at Baton Rouge and recruited many of the upperclassmen on the Tigers’ roster; he could be on a list of replacements if Myles bolted for Michigan.

Like his dad, the younger Dooley believes in playing solid defense and puts an emphasis on strong special teams along with a ball-control offense stressing the running game.  Of course, this is not going to feed the bulldog against the mighty Tigers.  LSU will not allow LT to run the ball with much success.  I look for Tech’s rushing line to look something like 35 attempts for 90 yards. 

While 36 points are a lot to cover, it can be done.  I think LSU will score 35 to 45 points and hold Tech to single digits.  Therefore, I like LSU giving only 26 or 23 points as part of a teaser, and I would stay away from taking Tech at +46 or +49.  LSU should cover at -26, and if they do win by 45-55, you still win.

Strategies

L S U -26 and -23 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Kansas at Oklahoma State [G]  

Vegas: Kansas by 6  66 O/U  

PiRate: Kansas by 2  

Mean: Kansas 34 Oklahoma State 24

It may be becoming a broken record, but lately every game Kansas plays has been one of the games of the week.  The Jayhawks were the talk of the nation when they lit up Nebraska for 76 points.

Oklahoma State blew a big lead to lose to Texas at home last week.  The Cowboys have a potent offense, but they lack depth on the other side.  Hence, as games wear on, their defense becomes easier and easier to exploit.

Kansas’s offense will most assuredly bounce this week.  There is no way this team can produce 572 yards of offense, let alone come close to scoring 76 points.  On the plus side, the KU defense has nothing to be proud of for allowing Nebraska to score 39 points and to gain close to 500 yards.  Look for an improvement this week, even against the potent OSU offense.

On a neutral field with both teams getting two weeks to prepare for this game, I’d rate Kansas a two TD favorite.  Coming off the results of last week, and giving OSU about four points for home field advantage for this game, I’d move that spread eight points in favor of the Cowboys.  That leaves KU about a six-point pick, which is exactly what the geniuses in the Nevada desert think as well.  I don’t really favor the teasers in this game, and the money line is -230 if you take Kansas.  Those odds just don’t do anything for me.  The one play I like here is teasing the totals.  It will be hard for these teams to combine for 76 points, especially if I believe that Kansas will be concentrating on improving their defensive performance this week.

In the end, look for the KU offense to wear down OSU’s defense and pull out the win.

Strategies

Under 76 and 79 in 10 and 13-point teasers

 

—–

Boston College at Maryland

Vegas: Boston College by 6  46½ O/U    

PiRate: Boston College by 8 

Mean: Boston College 31 Maryland 23

Maryland has their backs against the wall after losing three consecutive games.  At 4-5, it doesn’t appear that the Terps can win out and get to 7-5, not with games at Florida State and at North Carolina State left to play after this one.  As a matter of fact, this game could be their best chance of the three of seeing another victory prior to next season.

Boston College can no longer consider themselves national title contenders, but the Eagles can still make it to the Orange or Sugar Bowl if they win 11 games.  They are currently 8-1 and close out the regular season by playing at Clemson and at home against Miami after this one.

In this game, I look for the defenses to have the upper hand.  Maryland should score no more than 17 points and produce about 300-325 total yards, most of which comes via the pass.  Boston College will move via the arm of quarterback Matt Ryan.  Ryan should pass for 275-300 yards and lead the Eagles on at least three scoring marches.

I look for BC to win by about a touchdown, and since the spread is BC -6, it doesn’t become a recommended play.  However, moving the spread 10 or 13 points in BC’s favor gives you an excellent choice since the Eagles would now receive four or seven points.  I also like playing the totals in a teaser.  36½ or 33½ points looks like a safe enough number to play the Over. 

Strategies

Boston College +4 and +7 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 36½ and 33½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Southern Cal at California

Vegas: Southern Cal by 4  51 O/U  

PiRate: Southern Cal by 7

Mean: Southern Cal 25 California 23

Since pulling off the big upset at Oregon (and it was gift-wrapped for them), Cal has fallen on rough times.  The Bears lost to Oregon State, UCLA, and Arizona State, and then struggled to survive a three-point win at home against Washington State. 

Southern Cal should have never lost at home to Stanford, but the loss to Oregon was legitimate.  The Trojans are a close second place to Louisville for biggest disappointment of the season.  This was supposed to be a team that would rank up there with Army of 1944 and 1945, Oklahoma of 1956, and Nebraska of 1971 and 1995.  This team is struggling just to match USC of 2006.

When you break down the Trojans’ schedule, only the most previous two games could be considered quality opposition.  USC has defeated Idaho, Nebraska, Washington State, Washington, Arizona, and Notre Dame, who have a combined 16-41 record. 

California owns a win over Tennessee in addition to Oregon.  On paper, it looks like the Bears should win at home, but I think the Trojans are about to exchange their cheap draft-quality paper for high quality linen paper.  I’m taking USC to pick up the road victory and win by more than four points.  A 28-21 win would be typical in my opinion.

Strategies

Southern Cal -4

Southern Cal +6 and +9 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 41 and 38 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Fresno State at Hawaii

Vegas: Hawaii by 17½  72 O/U

PiRate: Hawaii by 15

Mean: Hawaii 38 Fresno State 27

If you take a long nap Saturday or go to bed with the chickens and get up at midnight, you might want to find a way to tune into this game on the Internet.  Just the mere fact that the over/under line is 72 tells you that it is sure to be a shootout.

Hawaii has enjoyed a week off, while Fresno had to deal with a pesky but winless Utah State Aggie team.  As always, the flight from the mainland to the islands plays a part in this game, and Hawaii is already a touchdown to 10 points better than the Bulldogs.

Hawaii averages less than 75 yards rushing per game this year, but I think they will surpass that amount by at least 30%.  Fresno has trouble against the run, and the Warriors should try running the ball a few extra times.  I look for one of their draws or delays to break away for a big gain.  Throw in more than 400 passing yards from the arm of Colt Brennan, and Hawaii should score 40 points or more.

Fresno State needs to run the ball with authority in order to keep this game close.  Hawaii’s run defense doesn’t get much publicity, but it is strong enough to keep FSU from achieving the running success it needs.

I am picking Hawaii to win by at least two touchdowns, so the teaser once again becomes the logical way to go. 

Strategies

Hawaii -7½ and -4½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

PiRate Predictions For All Games

This Week’s Games

Home Team in Caps (N) Denotes Neutral Site

 

 

Thursday, November 8

 

 

Favorite Underdog

Pred. Spread

Approx. Score

WEST VIRGINIA Louisville

21

45-24

B Y U T c u

4

24-20

 

 

Friday, November 9

 

 

Favorite Underdog

Pred. Spread

Approx. Score

Bowling Green EASTERN MICHIGAN

4

34-30

Rutgers ARMY

19

40-21

 

 

Saturday, November 10

 

 

Favorite Underdog

Pred. Spread

Approx. Score

WISCONSIN Michigan 

3

28-25

South Florida SYRACUSE

19

26-7

CLEMSON Wake Forest

10

27-17

Indiana NORTHWESTERN

5

33-28

N. C. STATE North Carolina

6

20-14

Penn State TEMPLE

25

38-13

IOWA Minnesota

15

35-20

PURDUE Michigan State

4

35-31

MISSOURI Texas A&M

25

42-17

Alabama MISSISSIPPI STATE

4

21-17

Colorado IOWA STATE

2

21-19

Kansas State NEBRASKA

14

45-31

Arkansas TENNESSEE

1

31-30

Georgia Tech DUKE

16

35-19

Kentucky VANDERBILT

3

31-28

Air Force NOTRE DAME

4

21-17

Boise State UTAH STATE

24

34-10

NEW MEXICO Colorado State

11

34-23

Houston TULSA

3

41-38

S M U Rice

3

38-35

OHIO STATE Illinois

23

33-10

Arizona State U C L A

8

31-23

GEORGIA  Auburn

3

20-17

VIRGINIA TECH Florida State

10

24-14

CINCINNATI Connecticut

4

28-24

TEXAS Texas Tech

9

37-28

UTAH Wyoming

19

31-12

MIDDLE TENNESSEE La.-Lafayette

20

41-21

SAN JOSE STATE New Mexico State

4

38-34

Navy NORTH TEXAS

16

44-28

FLORIDA ATLANTIC Arkansas State

8

28-20

Kent State NORTHERN ILLINOIS

9

30-21

East Carolina MARSHALL

10

38-28

SOUTHERN MISS. Memphis

15

35-20

Troy WESTERN KY.

29

49-20

OKLAHOMA Baylor

43

49-6

WASHINGTON STATE Stanford

11

38-27

U t e p TULANE

2

34-32

MIAMI-FL Virginia

5

17-12

Central Florida ALA.-BIRMINGHAM

28

38-10

Florida  SOUTH CAROLINA

5

35-30

Boston College MARYLAND

8

21-13

L S U Louisiana Tech

37

47-10

Kansas  OKLAHOMA STATE

2

30-28

Southern Cal CALIFORNIA

7

24-17

OREGON STATE Washington

9

28-19

San Diego State U N L V

1

24-23

HAWAII Fresno State

15

45-30

 

 

This Week’s “Picks”

 

Last week hit me hard.  I thought for sure I had a can’t miss winning weekend before the games began.  As the day progressed, the blood-letting was slow and torturous.  Late, meaningless scores killed me multiple times.  The 4-9 result could have easily been 8-5.  Well, it’s time to continue with the weekly masochism.  Here goes with a boat load of picks.

I am going to try something different this week.  If you follow horse racing, you are familiar with playing boxes and wheels and keying one or two horses with other horses.  If you don’t, here is a brief explanation:  Say that you like two horses in a race and think both will finish in the money (first, second, or third).  If you want to bet a trifecta (picking the winning, second place, and third place horse in order), you might key both of the horses to finish first and second with the rest of the field or a select group of horses to finish third.  It would result in you having numerous possible plays in the trifecta.

Okay, so how does it apply to football?  I am simply going to isolate a couple of games that I believe are great opportunities as part of a teaser parlay and match them with different games to make multiple teaser plays.  It’s a risky proposition, for if either of the key games misses, it means multiple losses instead of just one.  I would never consider it, except this season is proving to be one where you have to think out of the box.

 

Straight Plays Against the Spread

# 1:  Virginia Tech -6 vs. Florida State

# 2:  Texas -6½ vs. Texas Tech

# 3:  Southern Cal -4 vs. California

Straight Plays Totals

# 4:  Alabama and Mississippi State Under 50

Money Line Picks

# 5:  Rutgers -1000 vs. Army (a loss here greatly raises % needed to break even)

# 6: Purdue -180 vs. Michigan State

# 7:  Clemson -330 vs. Wake Forest

# 8: East Carolina -260 vs. Marshall

10-point Teasers

# 9:  Clemson +1 vs. Wake Forest

        Rice +16 vs. SMU

        Arkansas +10 vs. Tennessee

#10: Clemson +1 vs. Wake Forest

        Rice +16 vs. SMU

        Texas +3½ vs. Texas Tech

#11: Rice +16 vs. SMU

        Arkansas +10 vs. Tennessee

        Texas + 3½ vs. Texas Tech

#12: Clemson +1 vs. Wake Forest

        Arkansas +10 vs. Tennessee

        Texas + 3½ vs. Texas Tech                                                  

13-point Teasers

#13: Clemson +4 vs. Wake Forest

        Arkansas +13 vs. Tennessee

        Texas + 6½ vs. Texas Tech

        Rice + 19 vs. SMU

#14: Clemson +4 vs. Wake Forest

        Rice +19 vs. SMU

        West Virginia -3 vs. Louisville

        Rutgers -5½ vs. Army

#15: Clemson +4 vs. Wake Forest

        Rice +19 vs. SMU

        Miami +9½ vs. Virginia

        Penn State -11 vs. Temple

#16: Clemson +4 vs. Wake Forest

        Rice +19 vs. SMU

        Connecticut +19½ vs. Cincinnati

        Iowa State +18 vs. Colorado

#17: Clemson +4 vs. Wake Forest

        Rice +19 vs. SMU

        Notre Dame +16 vs. Air Force

        Utah State +37 vs. Boise St.

#18: Clemson +4 vs. Wake Forest

        Rice +19 vs. SMU

        Mississippi State +18 vs. Alabama

        Auburn +11½ vs. Georgia

#19: Arkansas +13 vs. Tennessee

        Texas + 6½ vs. Texas Tech

        Minnesota + 27½ vs. Iowa

        Iowa – 1½ vs. Minnesota  

          

#20: Arkansas +13 vs. Tennessee

        Texas + 6½ vs. Texas Tech

        Missouri -6 vs. Texas A&M

        Wisconsin +16 vs. Michigan

#21: Arkansas +13 vs. Tennessee

        Texas + 6½ vs. Texas Tech

        Ohio State -2 vs. Illinois

        Boston College +7 vs. Maryland

#22: Arkansas +13 vs. Tennessee

        Texas + 6½ vs. Texas Tech

        North Carolina State +9½ vs. North Carolina

        South Carolina +19½ vs. Florida

#23: Arkansas +13 vs. Tennessee

        Texas + 6½ vs. Texas Tech

        LSU -23 vs. Louisiana Tech

        Southern Cal +9 vs. California

#24: West Virginia -3 vs. Louisville

        Rutgers -5½ vs. Army

        Miami + 9½ vs. Virginia

        Penn State -11 vs. Temple

#25: Utah State +37 vs. Boise State

        Mississippi State +18 vs. Alabama

        Minnesota + 27½ vs. Iowa

        Missouri -6 vs. Texas A&M

#26: Iowa -1½ vs. Minnesota

        Wisconsin +16 vs. Michigan

        Ohio State -2 vs. Illinois

        Boston College +7 vs. Maryland

#27: North Carolina State +9½ vs. North Carolina

        South Carolina +19½ vs. Florida

        L S U -23 vs. Louisiana Tech

        Southern Cal +9 vs. California

This week’s unofficial three-game parlay upset picks on the money line: How about this great 3-team parlay of upset winners?  If you win it, you would receive odds of 44 to 1.  Not too bad for these three games:

Rice +200 vs. SMU

Stanford +360 vs. Washington State

South Carolina +225 vs. Florida

      

October 31, 2007

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

This Week’s Key Games and Interesting Match-ups

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

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

Last Week Picking Outright Winners:(*)             36-15    70.6%

For The Season Picking Winners:                    335-121  73.5%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Steve Sabol-NFL Films

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 1

Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech

Vegas:  Ga. Tech by 3  O/U 41

PiRate: Ga. Tech by 2

Mean:  Va. Tech 16 Ga. Tech 15

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

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

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

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

Strategies

Virginia Tech +3

Under 41

Virginia Tech +130

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

Under 51 and 54 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 31 and 28 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

  

Friday, October 26

Nevada at New Mexico State

Vegas: Nevada by 7  O/U 67½

PiRate: Nevada by 10   

Mean:  Nevada 35 New Mexico St. 34

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

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

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

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

Strategies

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

—–

Saturday, October 27  

Ball State at Indiana

Vegas:  Indiana by 6½  O/U 63

PiRate: Indiana by 5

Mean: Indiana 31 Ball State 28

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

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

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

Strategies

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

Under 73 and 76 in 10 and 13-point teasers

 

—–

Rutgers at Connecticut

Vegas: Connecticut by 2  O/U 46½   

PiRate: Connecticut by 5

Mean: Connecticut 24 Rutgers 17

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

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

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

Strategies

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

Under 56 and 59 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Cincinnati at South Florida  

Vegas: South Florida by 5  O/U 50½  

PiRate: South Florida by 7

Mean: South Florida 28 Cincinnati 18

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

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

Strategies

South Florida -5

South Florida -215

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

Under 60½ and 63½ in 10 and 13-point teasers 

     

—–

Iowa at Northwestern  

Vegas: Northwestern by 1  O/U 46  

PiRate: Iowa by 1

Mean: Northwestern 21 Iowa 19

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

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

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

Strategies

Iowa +1

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

Over 36 and 33 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 56 and 59 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Vanderbilt at Florida  

Vegas: Florida by 15  O/U 51  

PiRate: Florida by 15

Mean: Florida 33 Vanderbilt 20

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

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

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

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

Strategies

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

Under 61 and 64 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

South Carolina at Arkansas  

Vegas: Arkansas by 4½  O/U 49½    

PiRate: Arkansas by 5

Mean: Arkansas 25 South Carolina 23

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

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

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

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

Strategies

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

Over 39½ and 36½ in 10 and 13-point teasers   

—–

Kansas State at Iowa State  

Vegas: Kansas State by 14  O/U 53½

PiRate: Kansas State by 20

Mean: Kansas State 36 Iowa State 17

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

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

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

Strategies

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

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

—–

Nebraska at Kansas  

Vegas: Kansas by 18½  O/U 55

PiRate: Kansas by 24

Mean: Kansas 35 Nebraska 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strategies

Kansas -18½

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

—–

East Carolina at Memphis  

Vegas: East Carolina by 5  O/U 60

PiRate: East Carolina by 8

Mean: East Carolina 31 Memphis 23

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

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

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

Strategies

East Carolina -5

Under 60

East Carolina -210

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

Under 70 and 73 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Purdue at Penn State  

Vegas: Penn State by 7  O/U 51½

PiRate: Penn State by 7

Mean: Penn State 28 Purdue 23

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

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

Strategies

Over 41½ and 38½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 61½ and 64½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Navy at Notre Dame  

Vegas: Notre Dame by 3½  

PiRate: Notre Dame by 4

Mean: Navy 31 Notre Dame 30

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

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

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

Strategies

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

Under 66 and 69 in 10 and 13-point teasers

 

—–

L S U at Alabama

Vegas: L S U by 7  O/U 47½

PiRate: L S U by 7

Mean: L S U 28 Alabama 21

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

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

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

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

Strategies

None

—–

U C L A at Arizona

Vegas: U C L A by 2  O/U 49½

PiRate: Tossup

Mean: U C L A 24 Arizona 20

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

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

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

Strategies

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

Over 39½ and 36½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Arizona State at Oregon

Vegas: Oregon by 7  O/U 61

PiRate: Oregon by 9

Mean: Oregon 31 Arizona State 28

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strategies

Arizona +7

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

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

—–

Buffalo at Miami-OH  

Vegas: Miami-OH by 7  O/U 47½

PiRate: Miami-OH by 6

Mean: Miami-OH 24 Buffalo 19

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

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

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

Strategies

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

Under 57½ and 60½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

 

—–

Army at Air Force  

Vegas: Air Force by 16½  O/U 45   

PiRate: Air Force by 18

Mean: Air Force 30 Army 14

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

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

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

Strategies

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

Over 35 and 32 in 10 and 13-point teasers 

—–

Michigan at Michigan State  

Vegas: Michigan by 3½  O/U 52½

PiRate: Michigan by 3

Mean: Michigan 29 Michigan State 24

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

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

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

Strategies

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

—–

Texas A&M at Oklahoma  

Vegas: Oklahoma by 21  O/U 57  

PiRate: Oklahoma by 15

Mean: Oklahoma 33 Texas A&M 19

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

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

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

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

Strategies

Texas A&M +21 (risky)

Under 57

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

Under 67 and 70 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Wisconsin at Ohio State  

Vegas: Ohio State by 15½  O/U 44½     

PiRate: Ohio State by 19

Mean: Ohio State 28 Wisconsin 10

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

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

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

Strategies

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

        

—–

New Mexico at T C U  

Vegas: T C U by 3½  O/U 44   

PiRate: T C U by 4

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

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

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

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

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

Strategies

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

Under 54 and 57 in 10 and 13-point teasers

 

—–

Washington at Stanford  

Vegas: Washington by 3  O/U 57½    

PiRate: Stanford by 2

Mean: Stanford 30 Washington 27

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

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

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

Strategies

Stanford +3 (risky)

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

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

—–

Texas at Oklahoma State  

Vegas: Texas by 3  O/U 61   

PiRate: Oklahoma State by 4

Mean: Oklahoma State 30 Texas 27

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

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

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

Strategies

Oklahoma State +3

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

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

Under 71 and 74 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Missouri at Colorado  

Vegas: Missouri by 3½  O/U 57

PiRate: Missouri by 9

Mean: Missouri 28 Colorado 24

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

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

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

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

Strategies

None

—–

Wake Forest at Virginia  

Vegas: Pick  O/U 43½  

PiRate: Wake Forest by 4

Mean: Virginia 21 Wake Forest 20

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

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

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

Strategies

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

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

Under 53½ and 56½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

 

—–

Florida State at Boston College   

Vegas: Boston College by 6½  O/U 45   

PiRate: Boston College by 16

Mean: Boston College 28 Florida State 14

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

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

Strategies

Boston College -6½

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

Under 54½ and 57½ in 10 and 13-point teasers     

—–

Oregon State at Southern California  

Vegas: Southern Cal by 15½  O/U 47  

PiRate: Southern Cal by 14

Mean: Southern Cal 26 Oregon State 17

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

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

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

Strategies

Oregon State +15

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

Under 57 and 60 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Illinois at Minnesota  

Vegas: Illinois by 11½  O/U 57½   

PiRate: Illinois by 9

Mean: Illinois 34 Minnesota 20

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

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

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

Strategies

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

—–

Washington State at California 

Vegas: California by 14  O/U 63

PiRate: California by 17

Mean: California 38 Washington State 21

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

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

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

Strategies

California -14

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

Under 73 and 76 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

PiRate Predictions For All Games

This Week’s Games

Home Team in Caps (N) Denotes Neutral Site

 

 

Thursday, November 1

 

 

Favorite Underdog

Pred. Spread

Approx. Score

GEORGIA TECH Virginia Tech

2

19-17

 

 

Friday, November 2

 

 

Favorite Underdog

Pred. Spread

Approx. Score

OHIO U Temple

4

28-24

BOWLING GREEN Akron

7

34-27

Nevada NEW MEXICO STATE

10

34-24

 

 

Saturday, November 3

 

 

Favorite Underdog

Pred. Spread

Approx. Score

INDIANA Ball State

5

29-24

CONNECTICUT Rutgers

5

21-16

SOUTH FLORIDA Cincinnati

7

27-20

Iowa NORTHWESTERN

1

21-20

Maryland NORTH CAROLINA

4

28-24

MIAMI-FL North Carolina State

10

24-14

Clemson DUKE

20

34-14

FLORIDA Vanderbilt

15

27-12

ARKANSAS South Carolina

5

28-23

BRIGHAM YOUNG Colorado State

23

36-13

Kansas State IOWA STATE

20

37-17

KANSAS  Nebraska

24

44-20

East Carolina MEMPHIS

8

28-20

PENN STATE Purdue

7

34-27

NOTRE DAME Navy

4

20-16

BOISE STATE San Jose State

26

38-12

U t e p RICE

4

38-34

L s u ALABAMA

7

27-20

ARIZONA U c l a

0

31-30 ot

OREGON Arizona State

9

38-29

MIAMI-OH Buffalo

6

28-22

AIR FORCE Army

18

35-17

CENTRAL FLORIDA Marshall

15

35-20

Michigan MICHIGAN STATE

3

27-24

OKLAHOMA Texas A&M

15

31-16

OHIO STATE Wisconsin

19

40-21

FRESNO STATE Utah State

20

27-7

Louisiana Tech IDAHO

2

26-24

T C U New Mexico

4

21-17

STANFORD Washington

2

28-26

TOLEDO Eastern Michigan

2

30-28

Texas Tech BAYLOR

16

44-28

OKLAHOMA ST. Texas 

4

31-27

Missouri COLORADO 

9

35-26

Wake Forest VIRGINIA

4

21-17

Southern Miss. ALA.-BIRMINGHAM

13

27-14

PITTSBURGH Syracuse

13

23-10

BOSTON COLLEGE Florida State

16

28-12

Tulsa TULANE

2

35-33

SOUTHERN CAL Oregon State

14

28-14

Illinois MINNESOTA

9

37-28

SAN DIEGO ST. Wyoming

1

24-23

CALIFORNIA Washington St.

17

38-21

ARKANSAS STATE Florida Int’l

20

34-14

GEORGIA Troy

15

35-20

TENNESSEE Louisiana-Lafayette

34

44-10

Middle Tennessee LOUISIANA-MONROE

7

27-20

 

 

Sunday, November 4

 

 

Favorite Underdog

Pred. Spread

Approx. Score

HOUSTON S m u

22

35-13

 

 

This Week’s “Picks”

 

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

Straight Plays Against the Spread

# 1:  Iowa +1 vs. Northwestern

# 2:  Kansas -18½ vs. Nebraska

# 3:  Stanford +3 vs. Washington

# 4:  Boston College -6½ vs. Florida State

# 5:  Oregon State +15 vs. Southern Cal

# 6:  California -14 vs. Washington State

Money Line Picks

[See Below for Special 12-1 Fun pick]

10-point Teasers

# 7:  Virginia Tech +13 vs. Georgia Tech

        Iowa +11 vs. Northwestern

        Clemson -6 vs. Duke

# 8:  South Carolina +14½ vs. Arkansas

        Kansas -8½ vs. Nebraska

        Notre Dame +6½ vs. Navy

# 9:  Air Force & Army Over 35

        Ohio State -5½ vs. Wisconsin

        Stanford +13 vs. Washington

#10: Oklahoma State +13 vs. Texas

        Wake Forest +10 vs. Virginia

        Boston College +3½ vs. Florida State

#11: Oregon State +25 vs. Southern Cal

        San Diego State +14 vs. Wyoming

        California -4 vs. Washington State

                                

13-point Teasers

#12: Temple +21 vs. Ohio U

        Maryland & North Carolina Over 31½

        Florida -2 vs. Vanderbilt

        Vanderbilt & Florida Under 64

#13: Kansas State -1 vs. Iowa State

        Notre Dame & Navy Under 69

        Buffalo +20 vs. Miami-OH

        Air Force -3½ vs. Army    

Unofficial Money Line Parlay (not included in actual picks)

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

Virginia Tech +130 vs. Georgia Tech

Stanford +140 vs. Washington

Oklahoma State +135 vs. Texas   

October 24, 2007

College Football Preview and Predictions October 25-27, 2007

Filed under: College Football — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 2:26 pm

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:(*)             33-17    66.0%

For The Season Picking Winners:                    299-106  73.8%

Last Week Picks vs. Spread:                             1-8-0   11.1% (ouch!!!-my worst week in 26 years!!!)

For the Season Picking Winners vs. Spread:      54-55-1  49.5% (over 52.4% returns a profit-this is the first time I have been under 52.4% after one week into a season since 1981)

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

Point spreads are those listed as of 11:30 AM ET Wednesday.

South Florida couldn’t handle prosperity last week, and I’m picking Boston College to fall by the wayside this week.  According to my ratings, Ohio State is no sure lock to win this week either.  My ratings now show Oregon to be the top team in the land this week, and they are a couple of inches from being undefeated right now. 

The upsets continued aplenty last week.  Besides Rutgers big win over USF; Connecticut showed the country they deserve some publicity for sports other than basketball.  In Dixie, Vanderbilt defeated #6 South Carolina in Columbia, and it marks the first time they ever defeated a Steve Spurrier-coached team.  As I predicted, North Dakota State beat Minnesota (Are the Gophers-in-charge wishing they hadn’t sent Glen Mason packing for losing a bowl game?).  Stanford won at Arizona, and that probably signaled the end, as of December, of the Mike Stoops era in Tucson. 

This could be a bumper year for major coaching positions becoming available.  It’s a mere matter of time before the Nebraska job becomes available.  Texas A&M will more than likely make a change.  Out West, in addition to Arizona, Washington State may be looking for a new coach.  In the Southeastern Conference, Houston Nutt might be done at Arkansas, and Ed Orgeron is probably finished at Ole Miss. Phil Fulmer will be forced to fire assistants if he wants to keep his job at Tennessee.

SMU coach Phil Bennett will not be back after not getting the Mustangs into a bowl.  Greg Robinson is more than likely done at Syracuse, and I expect him to quickly find work as an assistant somewhere.  Some coaches who could still save their jobs with fantastic finishes include Dave Wannstedt at Pittsburgh, Ted Roof at Duke, Sonny Lubick at Colorado State, and Mark Snyder at Marshall. 

There are a few more jobs where a bad finish could be cause for a surprise change.  Tommy Bowden has always been on the verge of being in trouble at Clemson.  Kirk Ferentz has seen his Iowa program slowly go downhill.  Karl Dorrell has been afflicted with a high casualty count, especially at quarterback, but there is a growing contingent of UCLA fans who would like to find a replacement.  Even Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno could be on the cusp of being forced into retirement.

The worst job to date though has got to be my picks of the last three weeks.  While not claiming to be a guru at this, and knowing that I am just an amateur with decades of experience, I have hit a huge slump with all these upsets and closer-than-expected games in October. 

I’m keeping the faith, and I will go with more games this week in hopes of pulling out of the free-fall before terra firma tears me apart.

As a result of needing to find more information, I am bringing an old rating of mine out of mothballs.  I used it as far back as the 1970’s and quit using it about 10 years ago.  If it improves the picks, I will use it here the rest of this season.  You will see this old rating as “Antique” following The Vegas Spread and PiRate Spread. 

Also, a result of recent weeks, when both of my ratings call for an outcome similar to the one Vegas has announced, I will not make a recommendation for that game.

Thursday, October 25

Boston College at Virginia Tech

Vegas: Virginia Tech by 3

PiRate: Virginia Tech by 3

Antique: Virginia Tech 31 Boston College 19

What a great way to start the college football weekend?  For the second consecutive week, the number two team in the BCS rankings must play a Thursday night road game against a really good team.  The undefeated Eagles are likely to leave Blacksburg in the same condition that South Florida departed New Jersey last week.

Virginia Tech looks to me to be the best team in the Atlantic Coast Conference.  Since the LSU debacle in Baton Rouge, the Hokies have averaged 35 points per game and yielded 11 points per game, including a blowout win at Clemson. 

Boston College’s last four wins have come against Army, Massachusetts, Bowling Green, and Notre Dame.  I’m not sure anybody could take the best talent off those four teams and come up with a team as good as Virginia Tech.  The Eagles didn’t exactly look like gangbusters in those wins.

Strategies

Virginia Tech -3

Virginia Tech -150

Virginia Tech +7 and +10 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 33 and 30 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Air Force at New Mexico

Vegas: New Mexico by 6

PiRate: New Mexico by 5

Antique: New Mexico 21 Air Force 17

Give New Mexico coach Rocky Long credit.  He may win more games with less talent than any other coach in the nation.  If there’s a school out there that needs a coach who always seems to win more games than he should, try prying good ole Rocky away from the place he loves.  I’ve admired him ever since he allowed Katie Hnida to join the team in 2002.

Credit is also due to new Air Force coach Troy Calhoun.  In his first year in The Springs, he has ended the Falcons’ three year run of losing seasons, and barring a total collapse, the Academy is bowl bound for the first time in five years.

I think the Lobos will win this in a close one, and it should be interesting to watch from the opening kickoff to the final gun.  My spreads and Vegas are too close, and I’m not going to make any recommendations here in a straight play.

Strategies

Under 47

Air Force +16 and +19 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 57 and 60 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Friday, October 26

Boise State at Fresno State

Vegas: Boise State by 3

PiRate: Boise State by 3

Antique: Boise State 38 Fresno State 31

After getting your whistle wet Thursday night, you get another excellent game on Friday (and there is no World Series game scheduled either).  Fresno State proved that they are back among the elite in the West last week when they thoroughly demolished San Jose State 30-0.  Meanwhile, Boise State had a rough week and struggled with Louisiana Tech before pulling ahead late.

Fresno State should benefit from staying home for a second consecutive week, while Boise must travel on the road for the second consecutive week and for the second week in a row, having one less day than normal to prepare.  That should tilt the spread in Fresno’s favor by 3-5 points and make this game a virtual tossup.  I think the Bulldogs have a strong chance to pull off the mild upset and set up a game for the WAC title against Hawaii on November 10.  Boise, of course, is also in the hunt for the league crown and must go to the islands on November 23. 

Strategies

Over 62½   

Fresno State +140 in the Money Line

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

Over 52½ and 49½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 72½ and 75½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Saturday, October 27

West Virginia at Rutgers

Vegas: West Virginia by 6

PiRate: West Virginia by 7

Antique: West Virginia 38 Rutgers 27

Can Rutgers’ players be as fired up as last week and upset another top 10 team coming off the win over South Florida?  How close to 100% will Mountaineer quarterback Patrick White be for this game?  Those two questions make this one hard to figure out.

What won’t be hard to figure out is that this will be an excellent clash between two teams that can really run the ball.  West Virginia’s Steve Slaton and Noel Devine and Rutgers’ Ray Rice are three of the best in the land.  They have fantastic offensive lines opening holes for them, and those great interior players also protect their quarterbacks better than most teams.

West Virginia is still in the hunt for a BCS Bowl bid.  Even if South Florida wins out, making the Mountaineers the runner-up in the Big East, an 11-1 WVU team would be an odds-on favorite to secure an at-large bid to one of the big four (Orange, Sugar, Fiesta, Rose).

This game will be decided by which team’s defense can slow down the other team’s star running back more.  A big play by one of the special teams units could also play a huge role, and I think West Virginia has the better chance of slowing Rice than Rutgers has of slowing White, Slaton, and Devine.

Strategies

West Virginia -6

Over 57

West Virginia +4 and +7 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 47 and 44 in 10 and 13-point teasers   

—–

Indiana at Wisconsin

Vegas: Wisconsin by 7½

PiRate: Wisconsin by 10

Antique: Wisconsin 36 Indiana 35

The Hoosiers are probably starting to feel the tiniest bit of panic after dropping consecutive games to fall to 5-3.  Some of the players remember the 4-1 start they had two years ago that soured into a 4-7 finish.

Wisconsin’s defense has yet to impress me in Big 10 games.  Even in the win over Iowa, they gave up too many big plays to a feeble offense.  Indiana’s offense is strong, and the Hoosiers are going to score points often in this one.  Wisconsin is also going to score points in bunches in this game because IU’s defense is actually a tad bit weaker than the Badgers’ stop troops.  The weather forecast calls for low 50’s and little chance of precipitation, so it shouldn’t hamper either team’s offense.  I’m looking for some late October fireworks at Camp Randall Stadium, and I think it will be closer than expected.  What’s great about this line is that if the game goes to overtime, Wisconsin cannot beat the spread, and that’s why I’m going with Indiana to cover.

Strategies

Indiana +7½

Over 56½

Indiana +17½

Over 46½ and 43½ in 10 and 13-point teasers   

     

—–

Ball State at Illinois

Vegas: Illinois by 13½

PiRate: Illinois by 15

Antique: Illinois 41 Ball State 17

Like Indiana, the Illini must stop any possible panic from setting in after dropping back-to-back games against Iowa and Michigan.  Illinois must win one more game to become bowl eligible and probably two more games to guarantee a bowl spot.

Like Illinois, Ball State is 5-3, and the Cardinals are the favorite to grab the third MAC Bowl slot.  An upset win in this game could propel BSU into the second slot.  I just don’t see it happening, and I don’t think they will keep it close.  Rashard Mendenhall should easily top 100 yards rushing in this game, and Ball State will have to sell out to stop the Illini from rushing for 300 yards.  That will allow Juice Williams and/or Eddie McGee to enjoy one of the Illini’s best passing days of the year.  BSU has been winning games with great turnover margin, and Illinois will not make enough mistakes for the Cardinals to exploit.  It adds up to a big Illinois win in Champaign-Urbana.

Strategies

Illinois -13½

Illinois -3½ and -½ in 10 and 13-point teasers 

Under 69½ and 72½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Michigan State at Iowa

Vegas: Michigan State by 3

PiRate: Michigan State by 6

Antique: Michigan State 24 Iowa 17

The natives are getting restless in Iowa City.  After the 2002 season, Coach Kirk Ferentz was considered a real genius, as the Hawkeyes won a share of the Big 10 crown and advanced to the Orange Bowl.  After decent 2003 and 2004 seasons, the Hawkeyes started going downhill.  2005 produced a 7-5 slate.  Last year, Iowa finished 6-7.  This year, they could be facing Minnesota in two weeks with last place going to the loser!  The 3-5 Hawkeyes need to win out to lock up a bowl bid, and they have a favorable schedule to do so, but only if they can get by the Spartans, who are struggling right now as well.

After winning their first four games, MSU has dropped four straight.  A loss in this game all but dooms them to a losing record with a final trio of games against Michigan, Purdue, and Penn State.

The Iowa passing game is not getting the job done, and that has a lot to do with some key personnel missing.  Tight end Tony Moeaki suffered a hand injury and has missed four games.  Wide Receivers Dominique Douglas and James Cleveland never suited up this year after being suspended.  Missing these vital cogs, quarterback Jake Christensen has few weapons at his disposal.  He’s done a brilliant job to this point throwing 11 touchdown passes against just three interceptions, but he isn’t going to force secondary coverage to worry.

Michigan State won’t approach their season’s averages of running and passing yards in this game, but the Spartans should score more than 20 points.  That should be enough to beat Iowa.

Strategies

Michigan State -3

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

Under 52½ and 55½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Northwestern at Purdue

Vegas: Purdue by 13  

PiRate: Purdue by 18

Antique: Purdue 44 Northwestern 24

It looks like Purdue is proving to be a team that beats up on the little guys but gets drilled by the big boys.  Northwestern is more little guy than big boy, so the Boilermakers should celebrate a happy homecoming weekend.

Northwestern can actually gain bowl eligibility with an upset here, but even if they lose the game, they finish with home games against Iowa and Indiana, followed by a finale at Illinois.  They have a halfway decent chance to pick up one win in the final four games.

Both of these teams should experience terrific passing days this week.  Neither team’s secondary can consistently stop an average passing attack, and both of these two have much better than average passing games.  I think the game will be decided in the trenches.  Purdue will be able to slow down Northwestern’s running game and pick up a couple of crucial QB sacks.  The Wildcats will not be able to stop Purdue when they run the ball in situations like third and three.  That should allow the Boilermakers to score on most of their possessions.  Go with Purdue by more than two touchdowns.

Strategies

Purdue -13

Purdue -3 and Pk in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Colorado at Texas Tech

Vegas: Texas Tech by 13½

PiRate: Texas Tech by 7

Antique: Texas Tech 38 Colorado 33

Texas Tech is a much different team at home than they are on the road, and this game will be played in Lubbock.  Colorado is a much improved team, but they have a much higher defensive scoring average on the road than at home.

After the whipping they took at Missouri, this is a gut check game for Texas Tech.  The Red Raiders can still win the South Division by winning out, but that means beating both Texas and Oklahoma.  I don’t see it happening, so this game is basically one for bowl positioning.  If the Big 12 sends two teams to the BCS bowls (which I think will happen), then a 6-6 Colorado team would grab one of the nine bowl invitations.  That 6-6 estimate factors in a loss in this one, so an upset could move the Buffs up a notch or two.

I look for CU to hold TTU under 400 yards passing.  Considering the Red Raiders typically pass for close to 500 yards, 380 yards passing would be a huge defensive effort.  It all adds up to a closer than expected Tech win.

Strategies

Colorado +13½

Colorado +23½ and +26½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 51½ and +48½ in 10 and 13-point teasers  

—–

Mississippi State at Kentucky

Vegas: Kentucky by 14

PiRate: Kentucky by 18

Antique: Kentucky 45 Mississippi State 23

Both of these teams had disappointing weekends in their prior game.  Kentucky had a chance against Florida, but Tim Tebow proved to be too much to handle.  Mississippi State couldn’t stop the triple-headed monster of Patrick White, Steve Slaton, and Noel Devine.

Andre Woodson still has a shot at the Heisman Trophy, but to do so, he will need a fantastic finish with several big games.  Since Rafael Little is still out until at least the Vanderbilt game on November 10, Tony Dixon is going to be needed to keep the Bulldog defense honest.  If Dixon can pull off two or three big gains (over 10 yards), Woodson will be able to locate his receivers and possibly pass for 300 to 350 yards.

I have a suspicion that Mississippi State will not approach this game with the same emotion that Kentucky does.  I’m not saying the team has quit; I just think they will be off this week.  I expect the Cats to win by more than two touchdowns.

Strategies

Kentucky – 14

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

Over 51½ and 48½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 71½ and 74½ in 10 and 13-point teasers   

—–

Iowa State at Missouri

Vegas: Missouri by 28½

PiRate: Missouri by 40

Antique: Missouri 48 Iowa State 10

This is a tricky one.  Missouri can probably name the score against the Cyclones, but will Coach Gary Pinkel pull Chase Daniel and company early to let the backups play most of the second half?  The Tigers must play at Colorado a week later, and it would be reasonable to expect the starters to rest early in a quick blowout.

Iowa State played their best game of the year last week at home against Oklahoma-even better than the win over Iowa.  The Cyclones are due for a bounce on the road, and Missouri doesn’t need anything extra to win this game with ease.

I’m guessing even the second team can score points this week against ISU, and the game will look more like the Cyclones’ game against Texas than the game against Oklahoma.

Strategies

Missouri -28½ (be careful with this one)

Iowa State + 38½ and +41½ in 10 and 13-point teasers (use as last resort)

Missouri -18½ and -15½ in 10 and 13-point teasers     

—–

Florida International at Arkansas

Vegas: Arkansas by 39½

PiRate: Arkansas by 51

Antique: Arkansas 48 FIU 10

This game is somewhat different than the Missouri game I just discussed.  First of all, even though FIU ranks dead last among the 120 FBS teams, their schedule has actually been more difficult than Arkansas’s to this point.  The Panthers have played Penn State, Maryland, Miami, Kansas, and Troy, which compares favorably with the schedule Notre Dame has played thus far.

Arkansas has also played Troy.  The Hogs have faced Alabama, Kentucky, and Auburn, but they have also gotten fat against North Texas, Chattanooga, and Ole Miss.

FIU has begun to play a tiny bit better the last couple weeks, and I think that will continue this week.  Forget about a Stanford-USC upset in this game, but I just don’t think Arkansas will cover a 39½ -point spread.  The PiRates say Arky can win by 51 points, but I don’t think Coach Houston Nutt really cares about winning by 40.  After Darren McFadden and Felix Jones have both rushed for more than 100 yards, Nutt will call off the Hogs.  I expect a 35-point halftime lead will expand by no more than a field goal in the second half.  This would be one to use in a 13-point teaser, giving you FIU +52½ !  If Nutt is definitely finished in Fayetteville, he might find it amusing to quit trying to score once the Razorbacks lead by 39.  It would be funny as you know what if that happened.

Strategies

FIU + 39½   

FIU + 49½ and +52½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Arkansas -29½ and -26½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Miami-OH at Vanderbilt

Vegas: Vanderbilt by 13½  

PiRate: Vanderbilt by 21

Antique: Vanderbilt 28 Miami-OH 10

This is a game I don’t get.  Sure, Vanderbilt is not often a double-digit favorite, even at home; and, when they have been a double-digit favorite in the past, they have usually failed to cover.  Well, this year, they already have covered at home as a double-digit favorite against a team from the MAC.  That just happened to be a poorly played game, and still the Commodores covered. 

After last week’s huge upset win over South Carolina, the Commodores should be ready to add to the momentum by playing their best home game since they almost knocked off National Champion Florida last year.

Miami has played on the road against two other teams from BCS conferences this season.  They provided Minnesota with their only win by losing to the Gophers in overtime.  They went to Colorado and left the Rockies a 42-0 loser.  That CU team is basically on par with this Vandy team.  Therefore, the Commodores should win this game with relative ease, unless they lay a dinosaur egg.  I just don’t think the black and gold will misfire this week.  Their defense should hold Miami to around 90-120 rushing yards. Their secondary might give up 200 passing yards, but the Commodores’ defense leads the SEC with 14 interceptions.  Miami’s quarterbacks have been generous so far in throwing the ball to the opposition, and I think Vandy might pick off another three or four this week.  Considering the Commodores should win if turnover margin is even, consider what will happen if Vandy is +3 in that stat?  It would be a big win, and I’m expecting at least a 17-point victory.

One note: The PiRates now show Vandy going 6-6, but the players know that it will probably take a 7-5 record to break the longest bowl drought among BCS schools.  Vandy could be jilted with a 6-6 record and the probability that 10 SEC teams will become bowl eligible.  At 7-5, the Commodores could become an at-large candidate if they didn’t receive the Music City, Liberty, or Independence Bowl bid.

Strategies

Vanderbilt -13½   

Under 42½

Vanderbilt -3½ and -½ in 10 and 13-point teasers 

Under 52½ and 55½ in 10 and 13-point teasers 

—–

Southern California at Oregon

Vegas: Oregon by 3

PiRate: Oregon by 7

Antique: Oregon 45 Southern Cal 23

The Antique rating was discontinued several years ago because it kept coming up with blowout predictions in games that looked to be tossups.  At one point in time, this rating picked these surprise blowouts with absolute regularity, rarely missing.  I don’t know if the cycle has turned around and begun to work again, but it worked well in 1981 (the last year as wacky as this one).

That said, I just find it hard to believe the Ducks will run USC out of Autzen Stadium.  Don’t get me wrong; I think Oregon stands a 70-75% chance of winning this game, and the PiRates now say the Ducks are the top team in the nation.  But, can they score 45 points and beat USC by more than three touchdowns?  Let’s remember that they only need to win by four to cover, and that means this becomes a very playable game. 

For what it’s worth, the Trojans haven’t been underdogs in a game since the 2003 season opener at Auburn.  They were favorites for 58 consecutive games.  Unofficially, the last team to be a favorite for that many consecutive weeks was Oklahoma from the week after losing to Nebraska in 1971 until the Ohio State game in early 1977.

This is the “Game of the Week,” and I wouldn’t miss this one if you are a big college football fan.

Strategies

Oregon -3

Oregon + 7 and +10 in 10 and 13-point teasers

U S C +13 and +16 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 50 and 47 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Arizona at Washington

Vegas: Washington by 4

PiRate: Washington by 6

Antique: Washington 38 Arizona 17

The hardest six-game stretch in years is finally over for Washington, and the Huskies stumbled through it by winning one and losing five.  Now, U-Dub gets their first weaker team since the opener at Syracuse.  Jake Locker should drive the Wildcats crazy in this game, because the true freshmen gave the six behemoths all they could handle.

Arizona is certainly a candidate for a major bounce this week.  They lost at home to Stanford in a game that basically sealed Mike Stoops’ fate in Tucson.  I think there is a good probability that this team will fold until the Arizona State game.  Many people don’t factor in the length of this road trip, since it is a conference affair.  AU must travel more than 1600 miles, and that contributes some to the final expected outcome.

Strategies

Washington -4

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

Under 65½ and 68½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

South Florida at Connecticut

Vegas: South Florida by 4

PiRate: South Florida by 12

Antique: South Florida 23 Connecticut 16

Kudos must go to UConn for being the leader in the Big East with one month left to go in the regular season.  The Huskies have yet to play Rutgers, Cincinnati, and West Virginia, so their 2-0 conference mark is to be taken with some grain of salt.  Nevertheless, Coach Randy Edsall should receive some accolades for his team being bowl eligible.

South Florida saw its national championship aspirations vanish last week when the Bulls lost to Rutgers.  Could USF lose twice in a row?  It’s possible, but it’s not probable.  To beat the Bulls, it takes an aggressive, wide-open offense that can beat the defense to the point of attack with enough blockers on running plays and exploit an overaggressive secondary on passing plays.  I don’t think Connecticut’s offense is up to the task.  This should be a close game because UConn’s defense can hold USF’s offense 10 points below its average of 34 points per game. 

Strategies

Under 46½

South Florida +6 and +9 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 56½ and 59½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

 

—–

Florida vs. Georgia at Jacksonville, FL

Vegas: Florida by 8½

PiRate: Florida by 9

Antique: Florida 35 Georgia 23

I can remember this rivalry as far back as Steve Spurrier’s sophomore season as the Gators’ quarterback in 1964.  There have been several outstanding games, most notably the Buck Belue to Lindsay Scott touchdown pass game in 1980-it enabled the Bulldogs to stay undefeated and eventually claim the national title.

This season’s version of the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” should be interesting, even if the game doesn’t turn out to be close for four quarters.

Georgia barely escaped with a win over Vanderbilt when they last played two weeks ago.  The Bulldogs’ defense didn’t really stop the Commodores, and that could be a major problem when they face the Tim Tebow Express.  Florida’s offense can roll over defenses with line plunges, and they can beat them at the perimeter with quick sweeps.  When those defenses begin to bring extra defenders up to the line to stop the two-pronged rushing attack, Tebow can trick them by faking a line plunge, then pulling up and throwing to a receiver who occupies the vacated zone.  He can wind up and throw the deep ball as well as any quarterback in college football.

Georgia has the potential to be a very good team, but they can also stink up the joint like they did in their loss to Tennessee.  If the Bulldogs bring their A-game to Jacksonville, they can keep this one close.  However, anything other than an “A” effort will make this game look more like the Tennessee game.

The Bulldogs had an extra week to prepare, while Florida had a tough tussle with Kentucky.  That should move the spread a few points in Georgia’s favor, but I just don’t see the red and black having enough up front to slow down the Gators’ rushing attack.  Florida will come out and attempt to run the ball down Georgia’s throats, and Coach Mark Richt will have no choice but to gamble with stunts and blitzes, or he’ll have to bring up his safeties too often.  Even with Tebow not playing 100%, he’ll rush for enough yards and pass for enough yards to give his team their third consecutive win in this series.  The spread for this game is perfect, and I wouldn’t play either side.

Strategies

Georgia +18½ and +21½ in 10 and 13-point teasers 

Under 65½ and 68½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Nebraska at Texas

Vegas: Texas by 20½

PiRate: Texas by 27

Antique: Texas 35 Nebraska 27

This is one game where the Antique finds itself undervaluing the favorite, as this rating gives equal importance to Nebraska’s early season success (win at Wake Forest) as it does to their current slide toward the gutter.  It also gives equal weight to Texas’s games against Arkansas State and Central Florida with their current, more impressive wins and close loss to Oklahoma.

Nebraska is for all practical purposes a team that has quit on its coach and knows there is not much left to play for this year.  Texas is still clinging onto hopes of landing a possible Cotton Bowl berth and a probable spot in the Holiday Bowl.  They have much more to play for in this game, and the Longhorns won’t need much extra oomph for their offense to slice through the frail Cornhusker defense.  Nebraska has given up 40 or more points four times and 35 or more five times this season.  Texas’s offense is good enough to make it six times over 35, and that will be enough for an easy win.  Nebraska has lost its last three games, all against Big 12 opponents, by an average of 41-11.  Considering they lost in Lincoln by 31 to Oklahoma State and 22 to Texas A&M, it figures Texas should win by more than 21 in Austin.

Strategies

Texas -20½

Texas -10½ and -7½ in 10 and 13-point teasers 

—–

Minnesota at Michigan

Vegas: Michigan by 23

PiRate: Michigan by 24

Antique: Michigan 45 Minnesota 18

Minnesota’s athletic office ought to phone or e-mail their counterpart at Michigan and tell them just to leave the little brown jug in their trophy case; after all, it’s going to be there for at least another year.

Minnesota couldn’t tolerate that Glen Mason took the Gophers to seven bowl games in his eight seasons in Minneapolis.  You see, none of those seven bowl invitations had the name Rose, Sugar, Fiesta, Orange, Capital One, or Outback.  The Gophers blew a 31-point lead in the last 23 minutes of last year’s Insight Bowl game against Texas Tech, and Mason was served his pink slip.  Now, Minnesota won’t have to worry about blowing any leads in a minor bowl game.  The Gophers now sleep in the dregs of the Big 10 Conference, and many of their fans believe the current coaching staff is in over their heads.  I’ve actually heard rumors that Tim Brewster could be in trouble in his first season at the helm.

It still looks as though this is the last year for Lloyd Carr in Ann Arbor.  I wonder if anyone in the Wolverine state is looking at what happened when Minnesota fired a coach with a winning record. 

As for this game, Michigan should coast to an easy victory.  Even with a threat of rain in the forecast, the maize and blue should rush for 200-250 yards and pass for even more.  They should top 40 points for the second time in the last three weeks.  I’m a little worried that the Gophers could score a worthless touchdown or two late in the game after the Wolverines are up by 25 to 30 points.  So, for that reason, I do not recommend playing either side straight up.

Strategies

Michigan -13 and -10 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 49 and 46 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Baylor at Kansas State

Vegas: Kansas State -25½

PiRate: Kansas State by 29

Antique: Kansas State 49 Baylor 13

On the surface, this looks like your typical mismatch where the home team blows out a weaker opponent.  Kansas State won at Texas by 20 points; Baylor lost at home to the Longhorns by 21.  Kansas State defeated Colorado in Manhattan by 27 points, while Baylor lost to the Buffs in Waco by 20.  KSU lost at home to Kansas by six, while Baylor lost at Kansas by 48 points.  You get the picture; KSU is a good four touchdowns better than Baylor on a neutral field, and in the Little Apple, they are at least 31 points better.  So why is the spread just 25½ points?  Any team capable of throwing for 300 yards in a game could conceivably score 24-28 points.  So, if Baylor scores 24 points in this game, KSU will have to score 50 or more to win.  Therein lies the risk.  Is Baylor capable of gaining 300 yards through the air in this game?  Because Kansas State does not have the ability to hold onto the ball for 15 play, 80 yard drives, Baylor may get that chance to throw the ball 45 times and accumulate 300 yards.  That’s why this game isn’t as easy looking as it appears on the surface.

Strategies

Kansas State -15½ and -12½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 50 ½ and 47 ½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Virginia at North Carolina State

Vegas: Virginia by 3

PiRate: Virginia by 5

Antique: Virginia 24 N.C. State 16

Virginia has got to be the quietest 7-1 team in many years.  After the Cavs lost their season opener at Wyoming, they have narrowly defeated six of the other seven teams they have played and slaughtered Pittsburgh.  Included in those close escapes were wins over Duke, North Carolina, and Middle Tennessee.  In their most recent two games, UVA has escaped with one point wins over Connecticut and Maryland.  Those two games show that the Cavs deserve to be bowl eligible.

North Carolina State arose from their early season slumber last week with a big win over in-state rival East Carolina.  It was only the Wolf Pack’s second victory of the season-their other win came against Wofford.  That road victory coupled with a home game this week makes State dangerous and ripe for an upset victory.  The odds makers definitely knew what they were doing when they installed Virginia as such a short favorite in this game.  They could easily win another game by one or two points, and that’s what makes this one so difficult.  I’d lay off it unless the spread changes drastically between now and Saturday morning.  If it moves up to five or more points, consider the home team.  If it moves towards a pick, then go with Virginia.

Strategies

Virginia +7 and +10 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 52 and 55 in 10 and 13-point teasers

        

—–

Ole Miss at Auburn

Vegas: Auburn by 17

PiRate: Auburn by 27

Antique: Auburn 37 Ole Miss 7

Auburn came so close to winning at LSU last week, that there could be a residual affect this week.  That affect could be negative, but the Tigers could also feel like they have something to prove with a damaged opponent coming to Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Ole Miss completely self-destructed last week at home against Arkansas.  I cannot see much chance that Coach Ed Orgeron will retain his position in Oxford after that debacle, and the players may be ready to shut it down for the season.  To me, this looks like a mismatch with Auburn capable of winning by four touchdowns.  On the road in the SEC, the Rebels have lost at Vanderbilt by 14 and at Georgia by 28.  Auburn is just as good if not better than Georgia, so the War Eagles should win by 28 or more.

Strategies

Auburn -17

Auburn -7 and -4 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 34 and 31 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Stanford at Oregon State

Vegas: Oregon State by 13½

PiRate: Oregon State by 14

Antique: Oregon State 30 Stanford 28

Who would have ever guessed that in his first year as a head coach at a BCS school, former standout quarterback Jim Harbaugh would have Stanford on the bubble for becoming bowl eligible?  The Cardinal are 3-4 with games still to play against Washington State and Notre Dame.  Winning those two would mean Stanford would need to pull one more upset off with this game as well as games against Washington and California still to be played.  I’d say Stanford has a 50-50 chance of pulling it off.  If so, Harbaugh deserves consideration for National Coach of the Year.

Oregon State is not going to be an easy team to upset, and I believe it is the most difficult game left on Stanford’s schedule.  While this hasn’t been the best of seasons in Beaverville, OSU should find itself playing in a bowl game for the seventh time in the last nine seasons.

This should be your typical Pac-10 shootout with the two teams combining for about 450-475 passing yards and 55 to 70 total points.  Stanford will not back down in this game, as they have gone toe-to-toe with better teams this year.  In the end, OSU should be just a tad too strong, and with home field advantage should emerge with a close victory.

Strategies

Stanford +13½   

Stanford +23½ and +26½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 43 and 40 in 10 and 13-point teasers  

—–

UCLA at Washington State

Vegas: UCLA by 6   

PiRate: UCLA by 11

Antique: UCLA 38 Washington State 26

Patrick Cowan is semi-healthy for the time being, but the UCLA quarterback is still not in great shape.  He had to cut out of practice earlier this week.

Washington State owns victories over San Diego State and Idaho, two teams who have combined for a 3-12 record.  Coach Bill Doba is in his fifth year at WSU, and this season could be his last in Pullman.  This is the put up or shut up game for the Cougars.  They must win this game to have any chance of rebounding for a 6-6 season.  While I don’t think there is a chance they will finish 4-1 to break even, they may play above their potential this weekend, as their backs are against the wall.  UCLA should win by more than a touchdown, but if Cowan should be injured in the game, Washington State could come up with the win.  McLeod Bethel-Thompson just hasn’t been able to move the team when he has been in control of the Bruin offense.  This is what makes this game so hard to figure.  How can you determine what the chances are of one player getting hurt?  I’d say they are considerably less than 50-50, so the Bruins should win by double digits, even with WSU playing up to their potential.

Strategies

UCLA -6

UCLA +4 and +7 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 44½ and 41½ in 10 and 13-point teasers 

—–

Kansas at Texas A&M

Vegas: Kansas by 2½  

PiRate: Kansas by 5

Antique: Kansas 35 Texas A&M 20

Kansas already owns two road wins in Big 12 play-at Kansas State and at Colorado.  Texas A&M is not as strong as Kansas State and about equal with Colorado, so Kansas is favored on the road once again. 

This is the first time the Jayhawks have been forced to play back-to-back weeks on the road, while A&M returns home to Kyle Field after trouncing Nebraska in Lincoln last week.  That should tilt the game a few points in the Aggies’ favor.

Kansas yields just 78 rushing yards per game.  A piece of that is due to an excellent pass rush, but the Jayhawk defense is tough against the run.  Texas A&M is strictly a one-dimensional team on offense, and they must run the ball effectively to score.  While I expect the Aggies to be able to more than double the rushing yardage Kansas normally surrenders, I don’t think they will approach their average of 260 yards per game.  I’m guessing they will pick up about 160 rushing yards in this game and a maximum of 150 to 175 passing yards.  That should give A&M about 17-20 points. 

Kansas should rush for around 180 yards and possibly pass for more than 275 yards in this game, as Texas A&M doesn’t have a strong defense.  The Aggies must win by outscoring opponents, and I don’t think they will score enough points to win.  I’m going with KU to improve to 8-0 for the first time since 1909!  In that magical season of 1968 when Pepper Rogers directed Bobby Douglass and John Riggins, and in the great 1995 season, KU started off 7-0.  Both teams lost their eighth games, but I don’t think that history will three-peat.

Strategies

Kansas – 2½

Kansas + 7½ and +10½ in 10 and 13-point teasers   

—–

South Carolina at Tennessee

Vegas: Tennessee by 3

PiRate: Tossup

Antique: Tennessee 34 South Carolina 23

This is not your typical Steve Spurrier-coached team.  The Gamecocks failed to score a touchdown last week against Vanderbilt of all teams!  Not only did USC lose to the Commodores at home, Vanderbilt bullied them for four quarters.  They could have played another four quarters, and Carolina would not have scored 17 points.

Tennessee has the exact opposite problem.  Currently, the Vols are yielding more than 32 points per game, and in their three losses, their opponents have scored 45, 59, and 41 points!  General Robert Neyland must be turning over in his grave.  His teams frequently gave up less than 40 points for an entire season.  Phil Fulmer may have his back against the wall now, and I’m not totally sure he can move too far away from it.  If Alabama can score 41 points against their defense, what’s going to happen when UT plays at Kentucky?

So what we have here is the opposite of an unstoppable force colliding with an immovable object.  We have a force that barely moves colliding with an object that can be moved by a gentle breeze.  The result should be an interesting, typically-close football game with an average amount of yards and points tallied.  The loser of this game will have three SEC losses and will be out of the East Division race.  The winner stays alive, hoping Georgia can topple Florida.

I think there is some dissension in Knoxville, and that’s about the only reason I am picking the Gamecocks to beat the spread.  The PiRates rate this game a tossup, while the Antique rating shows Tennessee to be a double-digit favorite.  I just don’t see Spurrier’s team playing lousy two consecutive weeks.

Strategies

South Carolina + 3

South Carolina +13 and +16 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 43 and 40 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 63 and 66 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Ohio State at Penn State  

Vegas: Ohio State by 3½

PiRate: Ohio State by 8

Antique: Penn State 21 Ohio State 17

Okay, folks!  Every week the unthinkable upset seems to dominate the headlines.  This is the big trap game of the week.  Penn State has the horses to beat the current BCS numero uno.  Ohio State is not as infallible as some of the other teams who have met defeat in the former of an upset, but the Buckeyes aren’t exactly an incarnation of the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers.

The Antique rating heavily weights schedule strength and home field advantage in games like this, so it shows the Nittany Lions as the team to win this game outright.  The PiRates say the Buckeyes are still the class in this match, so we have a difference of opinion.  I must say that I quit using the Antique Rating because by the early 1990’s the PiRate method was consistently outperforming the Antique Rating.  Of course, this year is not comparable with any of the years in the past when I compiled both ratings in the same season.  The PiRate Rating did not exist in 1981 when there were as many upsets as there have been this season.

As far as this game is concerned, it should definitely be one resembling a game from the “good ole days,” when gaining field position with a conservative offense and stellar defense and avoiding mistakes decided games.  The winner of this contest could easily score 17 or fewer points, and it isn’t totally impossible for the final to be something like 13-10.  Three and a half points is a tricky spread to cover.  I would go with the underdog at home in a big game in most circumstances like this.  However, I just find it hard to pick against a team that has dominated Big 10 opponents for the past two seasons.  I’m going to do it any way. 

The Buckeyes lost outright as a 3½-point favorite the last time they ventured into Beaver Stadium.  That was a Buckeye team with a previous loss, and Penn State was on its way to an 11-1 season.

Here’s why I am going with the home team:  Penn State has a larger than average home field advantage.  The Lions play much better at home than they do on the road, and I think some of it has to do with the coaching philosophy-they seem to open up the offense a bit more and gamble on defense a bit more.  Additionally, Ohio State plays it more close to the vest on the road, trying to win games somewhat like the way Woody Hayes did.  They won’t run the split-t trying for “three yards and a cloud of dust,” but they play the 21st century version of “drive for five.”  It won’t work against the Penn State defense, and I think we will be looking at another team on top of the BCS and AP rankings come Sunday afternoon.

Strategies

Penn State + 3½

Penn State +13½ and +16½ in 10 and 13-point teasers 

Under 50½ and 53½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

California at Arizona State

Vegas: Arizona State by 3

PiRate: Arizona State by 9

Antique: Arizona State 35 California 28  

While Oregon-USC is the overall best game of the week, this one may be the most interesting game of the week.  Arizona State has defeated Colorado, Oregon State, and Washington en route to a 7-0 start.  Cal represents the best team they will have played to date.  With USC, UCLA, and Oregon left to play, it’s highly unlikely the Sun Devils can run the table, but Coach Dennis Erickson could put his team in position to be in position for one of the top two BCS lots if ASU can win this game impressively.

After dropping back-to-back games, Cal is no longer in the hunt for a BCS Bowl.  The win over Oregon was almost a gift, as Duck quarterback Dennis Dixon was stretching out to score the winning touchdown when he lost his grip and fumbled the ball just into the end zone and out of bounds for a touchback.  Cal is a little overrated right now, but the Bears have played a more difficult schedule than ASU. 

It’s hard to predict UC to lose three games in a row, but that’s what I’m going to do.  Arizona State’s players have the confidence and the concentration to do what it takes to win Saturday and head to Eugene with an 8-0 record for the showdown with Oregon next week.

  

Strategies

Arizona State -3 

Arizona State +7 and +10 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

New Mexico State at Hawaii

Vegas: Hawaii by 28

PiRate: Hawaii by 26

Antique: Hawaii 55 New Mexico State 38

Except for the embarrassment at Boise, Coach Hal Mumme’s Aggies have played quite well on the road this year.  Hawaii has averaged 60 points per game at home, but look who they have played.  Northern Colorado, Charleston Southern, and Utah State isn’t a mighty trio.  Utah State only lost by 15 at Hawaii.

I believe NMSU will score a goodly amount of points in this game, but I don’t think they have much chance of winning.  However, losing by 28 points is a big stretch.  The Aggies should pass the ball for 300-400 yards and score four touchdowns or more in this game.  Let’s say NMSU scores just 27 points.  Hawaii will have to score 56 or more to beat the spread.  The strength of schedule betrays UH as a fraud when put in the mix of the elite teams. 

Auburn beat NMSU by 35 points, and I think the Tigers would beat Hawaii by double digits.  Thus, I think UH will beat NMSU by less than four touchdowns.

Strategies

New Mexico State +28

New Mexico State +38 and +41 in 10 and 13-point teasers     

Over 68½ and 65½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

PiRate Predictions For All Games

Home Team in Caps (N) Denotes Neutral Site

 

 

Thursday, October 25

 

 

Favorite Underdog

Pred. Spread

Approx. Score

VIRGINIA TECH Boston College

3

20-17

NEW MEXICO Air Force

5

24-19

 

 

Friday, October 26

 

 

Favorite Underdog

Pred. Spread

Approx. Score

Boise State FRESNO STATE

3

27-24

 

 

Saturday, October 27

 

 

Favorite Underdog

Pred. Spread

Approx. Score

West Virginia RUTGERS

7

34-27

LOUISVILLE Pittsburgh

14

27-13

WAKE FOREST North Carolina

12

26-14

WISCONSIN Indiana

10

34-24

ILLINOIS Ball State

15

21-6

Michigan State IOWA

6

20-14

PURDUE Northwestern

18

38-20

TEXAS TECH Colorado

7

34-27

KENTUCKY Mississippi State

18

42-24

BUFFALO Akron

5

26-21

Central Michigan KENT STATE

7

30-23

MISSOURI Iowa State

40

46-6

ARKANSAS Florida Int’l

51

51-0

VANDERBILT Miami-Oh

21

28-7

WYOMING U n l v

14

28-14

OREGON Southern Cal

7

38-31

TULSA S m u

12

31-19

WASHINGTON Arizona

6

26-20

TULANE Memphis

5

28-23

UTAH STATE Louisiana Tech

4

21-17

South Florida CONNECTICUT

4

21-17

Florida    (Jacksonville) Georgia

9

21-12

TEXAS  Nebraska

27

34-7

MICHIGAN  Minnesota

24

41-17

Clemson MARYLAND

2

28-26

EAST CAROLINA Ala.-Birmingham

17

34-17

Western Michigan EASTERN MICHIGAN

4

27-23

KANSAS STATE Baylor

29

49-20

FLA. ATLANTIC La.-Monroe

10

31-21

NEVADA Idaho

19

38-19

Virginia N. C. STATE

5

24-19

MARSHALL Rice

8

35-27

Utah  COLORADO STATE

12

28-16

AUBURN Ole Miss

27

34-7

BOWLING GREEN Ohio U

9

30-21

OREGON STATE Stanford

14

35-21

U c l a WASHINGTON ST.

11

31-20

Kansas  TEXAS A&M

15

35-20

Middle Tennessee NORTH TEXAS

17

27-10

Troy ARKANSAS STATE

9

30-21

TOLEDO Northern Illinois

5

26-21

TENNESSEE South Carolina

0

28-27 ot

Ohio State PENN STATE

8

20-12

FLORIDA STATE Duke

19

28-9

Houston U T E P

12

35-23

Brigham Young SAN DIEGO STATE

Postponed

ARIZONA STATE California

9

35-26

HAWAII New Mexico St.

26

50-24

 

 

Sunday, October 28

 

 

Favorite Underdog

Pred. Spread

Approx. Score

SOUTHERN MISS. Central Florida

5

28-23

This Week’s “Picks”

 

1-8!  This is rock bottom.  I have only done worse one time, and that was an 0-3 week when I had a radio program on the Tennessee Radio Network back in 1981.  That was the wackiest year in college football before this one.  Three straight losing weekends for the first time since 1988 has me searching for answers.  The only answer is to work harder trying to find an extra angle.  I played 9 teasers last week and was right 65% of the time in those games, but you have to be right 100% with each parlay to win.  Most of the parlays picked two of the three games correctly, and that was so aggravating.  So, it’s time to look for the best possible plays regardless of the type this week.

Straight Plays Against the Spread

# 1: Virginia Tech -3 vs. Boston College

# 2: Oregon -3 vs. Southern Cal

# 3: Utah State +2½ vs. Louisiana Tech

# 4: Washington -4 vs. Arizona

# 5: Texas -20½ vs. Nebraska

# 6: South Carolina +3 vs. Tennessee

# 7: Penn State + 3½ vs. Ohio State

# 8: Arizona State -3 vs. California

# 9: Troy -4 vs. Arkansas State

#10: New Mexico State +28 vs. Hawaii  

#11: Indiana & Wisconsin Over 56½

Money Line Picks

#12: Virginia Tech -150 vs. Boston College

#13: Washington -160 vs. Arizona

10-point Teasers

#14: Duke +27 vs. Florida State

        Georgia +18½ vs. Florida

Utah +4½ vs. Colorado State

#15: Purdue -3 vs. Northwestern

        Tulsa -3½ vs. SMU

        Kansas State -15½ vs. Baylor

#16: Kentucky -1 vs. Mississippi State

        Nevada -3 vs. Idaho

        Auburn -4 vs. Ole Miss

#17: Virginia Tech & Boston College Over 33

        Connecticut & South Florida Under 56½

        Indiana & Wisconsin Over 46½   

                        

13-point Teasers

#18: Virginia Tech +10 vs. Boston College

        Virginia +10 vs. North Carolina St.

        South Carolina +16 vs. Tennessee

        North Carolina +18½ vs. Wake Forest

#19: Penn State +16½ vs. Ohio State

        New Mexico St. +41 vs. Hawaii

        Troy +9 vs. Arkansas St.

        Buffalo +11½ vs. Akron

#20: Washington +9 vs. Arizona

        Iowa +16 vs. Michigan State

        Utah State +15½ vs. Louisiana Tech

        Oregon +10 vs. USC

#21: Florida & Georgia Under 68½

        Michigan & Minnesota Over 46

        Ole Miss & Auburn Over 31

        Vanderbilt & Miami-OH Under 55½        

Unofficial 3-team parlay on money line

You can play this underdog parlay on the money line and get 14 times your investment if it wins.  This is not an official choice; I just offer it up for review:

Fresno State +140 vs. Boise State

South Carolina +140 vs. Tennessee

Penn State +160 vs. Ohio State

October 17, 2007

College Football Previews and Predictions For October 18-21, 2007

Filed under: College Football — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 6:15 pm

 

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:(*)             41-12  77.4%

For The Season Picking Winners:                    266-89  74.9%

Last Week Picks vs. Spread:                           11-12-0   47.8%

For the Season Picking Winners vs. Spread:      53-47-1   53.0% (over 52.4% returns a profit)

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

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

This has become a season where you just have to laugh every week when you think you’ve solved the puzzle to this wacky season, and you find more pieces and no places to put them.

Okay, so I did say that given the right circumstances, Kentucky could upset LSU.  It happened.  Now, we’re down to Ohio State, South Florida, Boston College, Kansas, Arizona State and Hawaii.  Six unbeaten teams left, and all six have games remaining where they could easily lose.  As of today, the BCS formula says Ohio State and South Florida control their own destinies.  The Buckeyes look as impressive this year as they did last year.  The Bulls have a terrific swarming defense, and as of last week, a high-octane offense. 

This week, there are several games that the PiRates say are tossups.  Thus, there will officially be no pick as to which team will win.  So, if the computer thinks these teams have a 50-50 chance of winning or losing, it may be a week to emphasize teaser plays.  If one team is a four point pick, and the computer rates it as a tossup, a 10-point teaser with the underdog would give you a 14-point cushion.  How about getting 14 points in a tossup?  Maybe, we can get back on the winning track after the last two weeks of malaise.

Thursday, October 18

South Florida at Rutgers

Vegas: South Florida by 2½

PiRate: South Florida by 4

This week, there are multiple trap games once again, and this one headlines the list.  South Florida is coming off an easy 52-point win over in-state rival Central Florida, while Rutgers comes off an easy win over Syracuse.  Without looking at statistics and strength of talent, the home team usually maintains their momentum following an easy win, while the road team usually bounces.

Rutgers has just enough defensive acuity to slow down the USF offense, and they have the type of offense that works best against the type of pursuing defense Coach Jim Leavitt prefers at USF.  I still think the Bulls have a 70-80% chance of winning this game, but it is going to be a rough night in New Jersey. 

Strategies

Under 52½

Rutgers + 12½ and +15½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 62½ and 65½  in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Utah at T C U

Vegas: T C U by 3½

PiRate: T C U by 2

Utah is among the top five teams in inconsistency this year.  TCU isn’t the easiest team to figure out either.  Add to the mix the fact that they are facing off with little time to prepare, and the standard deviation of possible outcomes becomes too uncomfortable to make a good selection.

Utah should find a modicum of success throwing the ball against the Horned Frog secondary.  TCU should fare better on the ground than they have on average this season.  I look for a low scoring game that turns on one or two crucial plays.  Maybe how a fumble bounces will determine which team gets the big break and exploits it for a 7-point win.

Strategies

Utah + 13½ and +16½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 56½ and 59½ in 10 and 13-point teasers   

—–

Friday, October 19

Northwestern at Eastern Michigan (at Detroit)

Vegas: Northwestern by 9½

PiRate: Northwestern by 4

4-3 Northwestern has a remote shot of winning six games and becoming bowl eligible.  While I think they will fall one game short, at the moment, the players believe strongly that it is achievable.  In any forecast, to get to six wins, the Wildcats have to defeat EMU in Detroit. 

Eastern Michigan gave Michigan a decent battle two weeks ago, and then the Eagles bounced at Ohio.  They will be up for this game Friday night.

Northwestern should be able to exploit the EMU secondary and pass for 300 or more yards.  That will produce points and open up holes for the ground game.  The Eagles cannot totally shut down the purple and white offensive attack, and I believe NU will top 35 points in this game.

The question to ponder is how many points EMU can score against the Wildcats?  Northwestern yields more than 32 points per game.  EMU does not have a strong offense, but the Eagles should produce their best offensive effort of the season.  I can easily see them topping 30 points in this game.

Strategies

Eastern Michigan +9½

Over 59½

Eastern Michigan +19½ and +22½ in 10 and 13-point teasers 

Over 49½ and 46½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Louisville at Connecticut

Vegas: Louisville by 3

PiRate: Louisville by 1

How about that Cardinal defense?  The defense that made Middle Tennessee and Syracuse look like BCS Bowl teams goes and holds a fantastic Cincinnati spread offense well under their typical averages and upsets the undefeated Badgers.

Connecticut lost by one point at Virginia to fall from the ranks of the unbeaten last week.  The Huskies are on pace to grab a bowl invitation, especially if the Big East gets a BCS at-large bowl bid this year.

This game should be a thriller.  UConn will be fired up to make this primetime nationally televised event memorable.  The Huskies have a tough defense, and Louisville should not be able to match their season offensive averages.  Look for the Cards to be held to 30 points or less.

Connecticut just doesn’t have a strong enough passing game to take advantage of the UL secondary.  They may sneak a long gainer past the Cards once or twice, but they will not be able to match them point for point.  Go with Louisville in a close one.  Inclement weather could also play a part in keeping this game closer than expected.

Strategies

Louisville +7 and +10 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 72½ and 75½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

 

—–

Saturday, October 20

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh

Vegas: Cincinnati by 10

PiRate: Cincinnati by 20

Pop!  That was the sound of the Bearcats’ bubble bursting last week in the loss to Louisville.  The Bearcats need to rebound, and to do so this week, they have to go on the road to face a Pitt team that is on life support. 

It appears that the tenure of Panther coach Dave Wannstedt could be coming to an abrupt end.  The former Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins head man is just not getting it done at his alma mater.  A close loss to Michigan State a month ago may have destroyed the team’s confidence, and they haven’t played the same since.  Losing to Navy in overtime last week may have been the final nail in the coffin, and I just don’t see this team recovering to beat a mad bunch of Bearcats that have practiced this week ready to make amends for their undefeated season going away.  Add to the pot the fact that Pitt annihilated the black and red at Nippert Stadium last year, and I look for Cincinnati to get a little redemption this week.

Strategies

Cincinnati -10

Under 50½

Cincinnati Pk and +3 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 60½ and 63½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

    

—–

Northern Illinois at Wisconsin

Vegas: Wisconsin by 23

PiRate: Wisconsin by 25

The Badgers really need this game, and it’s coming at the perfect time.  Each Big 10 school gets a week off from conference play, and they all play a non-conference team.  Most get a team from the MAC.  The Badgers lucked into getting one of the two weakest MAC schools, and unlike some of the other Big 10 teams that have been going on the road for these games, Wisconsin gets NIU at Camp Randall in Madison.

Northern Illinois’s offense has disappeared this year following the losses of all-American tailback Garrett Wolfe and quarterback Phil Horvath.  The Huskies average just 19 points per game, and they haven’t played a host of great defensive opponents.  This should help Wisconsin’s fragile defense to begin to heal.  NIU will score no more than their regular average.

Wisconsin’s offense hasn’t performed up to par in three of their last four games, but the Badger attack should get well this week.  NIU yields more than 400 yards per game, and UW should produce a good 450-500 yards of offense.  It adds up to a three to four touchdown victory.

Strategies

Wisconsin -13 and -10 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 37 and 34 in 10 and 13-point teasers

    

—–

Miami-FL at Florida State

Vegas: Florida State by 6

PiRate: Florida State by 9

This looks like one year where this game won’t be decided by a Florida State field goal kicker pulling one wide on the final play.  The way these teams play, neither field goal kicker may ever get a chance to play!  Okay, this game cannot end in a 0-0 tie, but I don’t see much scoring Saturday when these arch-rivals knock helmets.

The name of the game will be defense.  In fact, the total number of points scored or set up by defense should best the number produced by the offense alone.

Florida State has played a slightly stronger schedule than Miami, and the Seminoles are at home in this game.  I think their offense versus Miami’s defense is marginally better than Miami’s offense against Florida State’s defense.  The FSU advantage could be erased by special teams play, but I’m not expecting this game to come down to that.

It’s been six years since this game was a blowout, and I don’t expect there to be one this season.  I’m taking the Seminoles by less than 10 points, but it isn’t a strong selection.

Strategies

Miami +16 and +19 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Florida State +4 and +7 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 51 and 54 in 10 and 13-point teasers     

—–

Penn State at Indiana

Vegas: Penn State by 7½

PiRate: Penn State by 9

This is an interesting study in contrast.  Penn State’s defense is rock solid, and Indiana’s offense is quite potent.  Penn State’s offense is improving, but the Nittany Lions haven’t moved the ball efficiently in their two road games.  Both of these teams are tied in the Big 10 with 2-2 conference records, and both have 5-2 overall records, but that’s the only similarities these two share.

Penn State should be able to control the line of scrimmage when they have the ball.  The Lions should be able to establish a running game, and force IU to bring an extra defender up close.  Then, the passing arm of Anthony Morelli should punish the Hoosiers with a couple of big plays.

Indiana won’t be totally inept when they have the ball.  They should dent the PSU defense for a couple of scores, but I just don’t see the Hoosiers picking up that important sixth victory this week.  They have a good chance to get it in November, so fret not Hoosier fans.

Strategies

Penn State +2½ and +5½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 64 and 67 in 10 and 13-point teasers

 

—–

Virginia at Maryland

Vegas: Maryland by 4

PiRate: Maryland by 8

Many football fans don’t realize how much of a rivalry game this is.  These two schools, usually considered basketball schools, have quite a history in this series; this is their 72nd meeting.  And how does the home team treat this game?  They make it homecoming!

Virginia is on a roll, winning their last six games after opening the season with a loss at Wyoming.  Last week, the Cavaliers dealt Connecticut their first loss of the season.

This is Maryland’s second of three consecutive home games.  They benefited by enjoying a week off last Saturday.  I like the intangibles for this game, which heavily favor the Terps.  Virginia does not have the strongest passing attack, and the Cavs will not be able to take advantage of a weaker than average Maryland secondary.  Virginia’s running game is not strong enough to control the action without a some contribution from the passing game.

I look for Maryland to pass for 200-225 yards in this game and add another 130-150 on the ground.  That should be just good enough to outscore UVA by a touchdown or thereabouts.

Strategies

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

Over 31 and 28 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Iowa at Purdue

Vegas: Purdue by 7

PiRate: Purdue by 8

Ouch!  Purdue faced the unenviable task of playing Ohio State and Michigan in back to back weeks, and the Boilermakers came out of the experience in need of a transfusion.  Against Ohio State, the offense was nearly shut out and scored at the end of the game against the Buckeye reserves.  Against Michigan, the defense surrendered points like they were playing the New England Patriots.

Iowa has one half of a great team.  Their defense isn’t far behind Ohio State.  If their offense was halfway decent and could sustain long drives, the Hawkeyes might be surrendering less than 10 points and 250 total yards per game. 

Purdue went to Iowa City in 2006 and got their hat handed to them.  Iowa blew them off the field that day by a score of 47-17.  The Boilermakers have dropped three in a row to Kirk Ferentz’s team, and this should be the year that streak comes to an end.  I say “should” and not “will,” for both of these teams have major liabilities that even an average team can exploit.

Purdue’s defense is chock full of holes, while Iowa cannot score points even against teams like Northern Illinois and Iowa State.  I think this game will be decided with one opposing factor-whether Iowa’s secondary can hold Purdue’s passing game in check enough to keep the Boilermakers’ point total below 20.  Iowa cannot win if Purdue scores 20 points.  I predict the Hawkeyes will indeed hold Purdue to about 200 passing yards and 17 points, but I don’t think Iowa’s offense can get the job done this week.  I expect Purdue’s defense to rebound with a great effort and hold Iowa to 14 points or less.

Strategies

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

Under 55 and 58 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Texas Tech at Missouri

Vegas: Missouri by 3½

PiRate: Missouri by 10

On the hardwoods, this would probably be a 70-65 game.  On the gridiron, it may be closer to a 70-65 game than 21-17.  If offensive shootouts with 900 to 1000 passing yards suit your fancy, then you better get in your car and drive to Columbia, Missouri, in time for Saturday’s game.  It may cost you a couple of General Grants to get into this game, but you will get your money’s worth.

Texas Tech enters this game averaging 50 points and 500 passing yards per game.  Missouri averages 40 points and “just” 358 passing yards per game, but the Tigers can run the ball and average another 175 yards on the ground.

I really can’t see either team’s defenses shutting down the others’ offenses.  Texas Tech held Texas A&M at bay last week, but the Aggies are one dimensional.  Missouri can sting opposing defenses with several strong options.  They can run up the gut, run wide, pass deep, pass short, and pass both wide and across the middle.  Oklahoma’s prized defense didn’t stop the Tigers last week in Norman, and Tech won’t come close to stopping them this week.

Throw in perfect football weather, and this is a must see contest.  The loser could easily top 40 points, and if this game were to go to overtime, the teams could break the modern day scoring record set last Sunday night between Boise State and Nevada.  I’ll go with the home team to come up with one or two more big plays and stay in contention in the North Division.  However, because points in a shootout are cheap, I advise playing either side even in 10 and 13-point teasers

Strategies

Over 64 and 61 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Kansas at Colorado

Vegas: Kansas by 3½

PiRate: Kansas by 7

This is another one of those trap games.  On paper, Kansas not only looks like a prohibitive favorite, they look like the team that should be penciled into the National Championship game!  The Jayhawks average 50.3 points per game and give up just 9.5 points per game.  The KU offense averages almost 220 yards rushing and almost 300 yards passing per game, and the defense gives up just 240 total yards per game.

Colorado is on the bowl bubble at the halfway point of the season.  The Buffaloes  already own an upset victory at Folsom Field over Oklahoma.  Their offense is improving weekly, but their defense is inconsistent.  CU’s schedule has been one of the most difficult to this point in the season, while Kansas has enjoyed the benefits of playing Central Michigan, Southeast Louisiana, Toledo, Florida International, and Baylor.  However, they went to Manhattan and knocked off Kansas State in possibly the most exciting game of 2007.  Last week, Colorado went to “The Little Apple” and KSU demolished the Buffs.

This should be an entertaining game, and the home team should be in it until the end.  I think when all is said and done, KU will have just a little too much firepower for the Colorado defense to handle.

Strategies

Kansas +6½ and +9½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 66 and 69 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 46 and 43 in 10 and 13-point teasers

 

—–

Texas A&M at Nebraska

Vegas: Nebraska by 2

PiRate: Texas A&M by 4

This game should be sponsored by a temp agency.  A new business could be launched called “The Coachtemps.”  Yes, it looks like both schools will have a need to hire a new coach for 2008.  These two lame ducks can change their names to Bill Callacab and Dennis Franchigone.

My apologies go out to both gentlemen.  Your profession is an employment graveyard and few people ever receive the type of 24-hour a day scrutiny that you must endure.

Now, let’s get to the game itself.  I have heard the last few weeks that the West Coast Offense cannot succeed at Nebraska, and the Cornhuskers need to revert back to the option-I offense they used so successfully during the Bob Devaney, Tom Osborne, and Frank Solich years.  Look at the stats.  Nebraska is currently putting up 28 points and 425 total yards of offense per game.  No, it is not the offense that is the problem.  What happened to the great defense?  The ‘Huskers have allowed four opponents to top 40 points against them, including Ball State.  They have surrendered an average of 458 total yards per game, giving up more than 200 versus the run and the pass.  In Osborne’s 25 year career as head coach in Lincoln, his teams gave up 40 points a grand total of four times, and one of those was a 21-point win over an Oklahoma State team featuring Barry Sanders.  In 11 years at the helm, Devaney’s Cornhuskers teams gave up 40 points just once.

It is my belief that with all the news coming out of Lincoln this week, the players will be more focused and ready to rally around their coach.  Texas A&M cannot fully exploit the NU defense because the Aggies must successfully run the ball in order to achieve any success passing it.  If Nebraska can slow down the A&M running game, they can hold the Aggies under 20 points.

The one fly-in-the-ointment here is that TAMU faced Texas Tech’s offense last week, and the Nebraska offense will appear to be much slower.  I think this game could turn out to be lower scoring than expected.

Strategies

Texas A&M +12 and +15 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 71 and 74 in 10 and 13-point teasers

 

—–

Florida at Kentucky

Vegas: Florida by 7

PiRate: Tossup

Kentucky beat LSU, and LSU beat Florida.  So, why are the Gators a touchdown favorite at Lexington this week?  That’s simple, and if you’ve been following my picks for any of the last 25 years, you already know the answer.

To start off with, Florida had an extra week to prepare for this game after losing back-to-back games to Auburn and LSU.  The Gators no doubt have added a couple of new wrinkles to their already complicated offense, and their defensive players have had time to recuperate from the disheartening final seven minutes in Baton Rouge.

Kentucky’s upset over the top-ranked Tigers caused such a furor in Lexington, that Midnight Madness at Rupp Arena even took a back seat.  Okay, maybe it wasn’t a back seat, but they certainly forced the cagers to call “shotgun.”

The Wildcat players have enjoyed being told how great they were all week.  Several of these players will believe to themselves that they are so good, that this week’s practices have been mere useless formalities.  It always happens, and you can expect the Wildcats to come out playing below their fans’ expectations.  Against Mississippi State or Vanderbilt, they might be able to redeem themselves in the second half, but against the defending national champs, it isn’t likely to happen. 

Rafael Little’s thigh injury is a little worse than first thought, and he will sit out this game.  Backup tailback Tony Dixon has a hip injury and will play, but he won’t be near 100%.  That does not bode well for Andre Woodson.  Florida will send blitzing linebackers and defensive backs at him the entire afternoon. 

When the Gators have the ball, they will try to grind out time-consuming drives that wear down the blue and white stop troops.  This should succeed somewhat, and I look for Kentucky to give up a late score when they are in the process of mounting a comeback.

I haven’t been performing all that well this year when I go against the PiRates, but I feel compelled to do so here.  The computer rates this game a tossup, but I think Florida is going to win by at least a touchdown.

Strategies

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

Under 72 and 75 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Vanderbilt at South Carolina

Vegas: South Carolina by 13

PiRate: South Carolina by 20

Steve Spurrier is 14-0 in his career against Vanderbilt.  He was 2-0 while coach at Duke, 10-0 while at Florida, and 2-0 here at South Carolina.  The average score of those 14 wins has been 35-14.  This is his best South Carolina team, and this Vanderbilt squad is a team on the verge of collapse.  It doesn’t bode well for a close game.

The Gamecocks will be playing the most important game in the 15-year history of their Southeastern Conference membership.  No, I’m not referring to this game; I’m talking about next week’s game at Tennessee, which could very well decide which Eastern Division school goes to the Conference Championship Game.  That alone is enough for any team to be caught looking ahead.  Any team yes, but not a Steve Spurrier-coached team.  He’ll pull any player and insert someone else, especially at the skilled positions.  Every one of his players knows they could lose their spot to the next man down on the depth chart.

I look for the Gamecock defense to hold Vanderbilt to 14 points or less.  Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson may have remained loyal to quarterback Chris Nickson just a little too long, and it probably cost them a chance to beat Georgia.  I have suspicions that the loss may have created a small divide, and there could be a little “secret dissension” within the ranks on the attack side.  Mackenzi Adams is still rather raw, and I expect him to make enough mistakes in this game to ground the Commodore Navy.

This is only the second road game for Vanderbilt, and in their other trip away from Nashville, they forgot to show up at Auburn.  I think this is the Commodores bellwether game.  If they compete for four quarters, they should remain tough but beatable the rest of the season.  If they bomb like they did against Auburn, then I think the writing is on the wall for both the season and Johnson’s tenure at Vanderbilt.  It will have reached its peak and begun the slide back toward the bottom of what used to be known as Division 1-A.  It happens to every Commodore football coach eventually.

Strategies

South Carolina -13

South Carolina -3 and Pk in 10 and 13-point teasers

Over 35 and 32 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Oklahoma at Iowa State

Vegas: Oklahoma by 30

PiRate: Oklahoma by 36

If Texas could beat Iowa State at Jack Trice Stadium by 53, why is Oklahoma just favored by 30 points, when they are better than the Longhorns?

It is homecoming in Ames, but the Cyclones aren’t about to pull off the next Stanford-type upset.  They just don’t have enough strength and quickness.

It is doubtful whether the Cyclones will reach the Oklahoma end zone in this game.  ISU had trouble scoring against Kent State and Northern Iowa.  They currently average just 12 points per game in conference play, and they only scored 17 points against Nebraska (when other teams have scored an average twice as high against the Cornhuskers).

Oklahoma’s defense gives up 18 points per game, but in the three games against teams comparable to Iowa State, they have surrendered just 26 total points.

I look for the Sooners to put this game away early.  That presents a small problem.  OU could grab a 28-0 lead early and then let the third and fourth stringers earn their letters.  It could end up something like 35-6.  I recommend playing it safe here.

Strategies

Oklahoma -20 and -17 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 67 and 70 in 10 and 13-point teasers

 

—–

Texas at Baylor

Vegas: Texas by 25

PiRate: Texas by 26

This game may not be a trap game, but it certainly could be a tricky game.  Baylor has just enough offensive firepower to give the Longhorns a scare for 30-45 minutes.  This series has been as lopsided as you will find anywhere.  In the last eight seasons, the average score has been Texas 53 Baylor 9.  So why do I think this won’t be anything other than a giant cattle stampede at Floyd Casey Stadium?  I cannot pinpoint exactly why I think so, and I must admit it’s just a hunch (to which I rarely ever have).

This isn’t the best Texas team in the Mack Brown era.  In fact, it could be the weakest squad he has directed since he came to Austin in 1998.  This isn’t the best Baylor team in that eight year stretch, but the Bears’ passing game is just competent enough to move down the field and pick up a couple of first half touchdowns.  Sooner or later, this is going to be something other than a 53-9 slaughter, and this just feels like that year.  I’m predicting Texas to eventually pull away and win convincingly, but it won’t be by 40 points.  I’ll say that the score could be 20-13 Longhorns at the half and end up 42-16.  Of course, the boys in Vegas are saying the same thing, so maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Strategies

Texas -15 and -12 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 72 and 75 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Kansas State at Oklahoma State

Vegas: Oklahoma State by 3

PiRate: Oklahoma State by 3

The winner of this game will keep alive slim hopes of winning their respective division of the Big 12.  Fans attending this game should get their money’s worth.

This is homecoming in Stillwater, but homecoming hasn’t been a happy one in recent years.  The Cowboys have lost their last three times the alumni returned for their annual get together.

Kansas State has been mistake-prone this year, and that is the only reason the Wildcats are not undefeated.  They have enough talent to run the table if they don’t suffer from momentary lapses like they did against Auburn and Kansas.

Oklahoma State is good enough to go to a bowl this year.  The Cowboys produce more than 200 yards per game rushing and passing, and they can score points quickly.  They have a weakness with pass defense, and Kansas State’s passing attack is strong enough to take advantage of that.

It comes down to this for me.  I think Kansas State will indeed commit one crucial error in this game, and OSU will take advantage of it to score.  That’s about all I see separating these two teams.  

Strategies

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

Under 71½ and 74½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Arkansas at Ole Miss

Vegas: Arkansas by 5

PiRate: Arkansas by 9

This one is definitely a trap game.  Ole Miss keeps coming close to pulling off an upset at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, and they keep coming up just a bit short.  Missouri, Florida, and Alabama were quite happy to leave Oxford with closer than expected wins.

Now the Rebels face the weakest favorite they will oppose this season.  Arkansas has problems, and it could end up being the final nail in the coffin for Coach Houston Nutt.  Nutt could have taken the Nebraska job in 2003, and he chose to stay loyal to the Razorbacks.  The deal may prove not to be reciprocal. 

Ole Miss doesn’t quite have the same potency of offense and defense that Auburn possesses, and the Tigers only beat Arkansas by two last week.  When Arkansas has the ball, they will attempt to run it down the Johnny Rebs’ throats.  Expect the Hogs to rush the ball 50 to 55 times in this game and pick up over 300 yards.  Anything through the air will be a bonus, and I look for a good 130 to 150 bonus yards.  450 yards should add up to 30 points.

Ole Miss has a chance to score 30 points as well, but only if quarterback Seth Adams can solve the Razorback secondary.  Arkansas actually has one of the best pass defenses in the country, giving up just a little over five yards per opponent pass attempt.

While I think Ole Miss has only a 40% chance of winning this game, I still find value on their side.  Arkansas will not win easily, if at all.

Strategies

Ole Miss +15 and +18 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

California at U C L A

Vegas: No Line

PiRate: Tossup

This game was taken off the board due to the uncertainty of the UCLA quarterback situation, so there can be no play.  Cal was a 2½ point favorite before the game was removed in Vegas.

I won’t spend too much space on a game that cannot be played.  UCLA quarterback Ben Olson is still out for this game.  Backup quarterback Patrick Cowan is expected to be available to play, but he won’t be near 100% for the game.  Third-teamer McLeod Bethel-Thompson could not move the Bruin offense against Notre Dame, and if he is forced to play instead of Cowan, UCLA is 16 points weaker.  That’s why this game isn’t on the board.

The PiRate spread assumes that Cowan can play the entire game.  Without him, Cal becomes a 16-point favorite.

Strategies

None

—–

Michigan State at Ohio State

Vegas: Ohio State by 17

PiRate: Ohio State by 25

Ohio State qualifies as a play this week due to one of the oldest reliable factors in handicapping.  The Buckeyes faced a breather at home last week and they remain in Columbus for this game.  Michigan State had a big win at home last week, and now they must head to the big horseshoe ready to bounce against the nation’s number one team.

This may be one time where the conservative, disciplinarian Spartan coach Mark Dantonio will be less effective than his predecessor, the go-for-broke John L. Smith.  I don’t think any team can go to Ohio Stadium and beat the Buckeyes by playing the same style of ball they play.  It will take a team with an offensive flair for the dramatic and a tough defense to pull off the feat, and Michigan State is lacking there.

I see OSU piling up 400-425 total yards and scoring 35-40 points in this game, while the scarlet and gray defense holds MSU to 17 points or less, possibly much less.

Strategies

Ohio State -17

Ohio State -7 and -4 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 61½ and 64½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

        

—–

Mississippi State at West Virginia

Vegas: West Virginia by 25

PiRate: West Virginia by 30

Quite often in the Deep South, you hear football fans say, “[fill in some non-SEC team] would not have nearly as good of a won-loss record if they played in the SEC.”  Well, West Virginia owns consecutive bowl wins over SEC teams when they have faced an SEC opponent in the post-season.  The Mountaineers defeated the Bulldogs last year in Starkville by 28 points, better than West Division champ Arkansas did.

This Mississippi State team is better than last season’s edition, and the Bulldogs still have a small chance of winning two more games and becoming bowl eligible.  But, my friends, this isn’t one of those possible two wins.  WVU is going to have an enjoyable Saturday against a team that cannot possibly stop them enough to make it very close.

When West Virginia has the ball, they will average better than five yards per rush and around eight yards per pass attempt.  Considering the Mountaineers should run the ball 50 times and pass it about 25 times, simple math shows they should pick up at least 450 total yards in this game.  That should be enough yardage to produce 35-40 points.

Mississippi State can move the ball at times, but they are not consistent and definitely are not an offensive power.  Playing at Mountaineer Field, the Bulldogs should pick up no more than 100-125 rushing yards and 125-150 passing yards.  A reasonable assumption is they will be held to less than 250 total yards.  True freshman Wesley Carroll will start at quarterback as Michael Henig is still not 100% healthy, and Josh Riddell is out for the season.

Strategies

West Virginia -15 and -12 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 67 and 70 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Southern California at Notre Dame

Vegas: Southern Cal by 17

PiRate: Southern Cal by 19

I’m not sure USC can beat anybody by 17 points the way they have been playing the last three weeks.  This is the most disappointing Pac-10 squad since Arizona in 1999.  This Trojan defense was supposed to be the best in Los Angeles since Bubba Scott, Al Cowlings, Tody Smith, Jimmy Gunn, and Charles Weaver were known as “The Wild Bunch” in 1969.  That USC team gave up 11.6 points per game.  This USC defense is allowing opponents to score 19.3 points per game, and more than 20 per game in this three-game snooze.  To make matters worse, the Trojan offense has stalled this year.  USC has scored 70 points in their last three games.

Now, the Trojans must travel 2,100 miles east to play perennial nemesis Notre Dame.  Even though this edition of Fighting Irish is the worst since 1963 or maybe 1960 (both teams won just two times with little offensive force), this rivalry has seen its share of big upsets.

How can a team that averages a paltry 191 total yards and 11.4 points per game expect to compete against a team with potentially the best defense in the country?  That’s simple.  They can play their butts off and give every ounce they have for their school, while their opponents read their press clippings and believe they need only to show up to win big.

Notre Dame is going to pass the ball with some effectiveness in this game.  They may finish the day with as many rushing yards as they have before the kickoff, but they could conceivably score 13-17 points.  If they can come up with their best defensive effort of the season, they could pull off the big upset of the week.

I think they will fall short, but I also believe they are an excellent teaser play.  After playing Georgia Tech, Penn State, Michigan, and Boston College, the Irish won’t be facing any better talent than they have already faced this year.

Strategies

Notre Dame +27 and +30 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 54½ and 57½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

 

—–

Tennessee at Alabama

Vegas: Pick‘em

PiRate: Tennessee by 2

How could this rivalry not be the Game of the Week in Dixie this Saturday?  CBS has gone and put the Kentucky-Florida game on as its national telecast, and this game has been relegated to the SEC’s morning regional broadcast, meaning most of the nation will not get it.

Alabama was fortunate to survive a scare at Ole Miss after struggling to hold onto a lead against Houston.  The Crimson Tide peaked in the first half of their game against Arkansas, and they have been struggling to maintain mediocrity ever since.

After losing to Florida 59-20, nobody gave Tennessee any hope for competing for the SEC East Division title, and many fans and “experts” were predicting the Vols would suffer their second losing season in the last three years.  Wins over Georgia and Mississippi State have changed the opinions of many.

When these teams meet, those in attendance see some of the most vicious blocking and tackling in college football.  I liken this series to the Kansas City Chiefs-Oakland Raiders games between 1966 and 1971.  The games are always hard-fought and, more often than not, low scoring.  I expect this one to have more offense than the last three seasons.

I expect Alabama to run for 150-175 yards and pass for 200-225 yards.  Unless the Tide commits a bevy of turnovers, they should score upwards of 24 to 30 points.  On the other side, Tennessee should rush for 130-150 yards and pass for 230-250 yards.  The Vols should also score 24 to 30 points.  It’s going to be close either way, and it should be decided by one mistake.

Strategies

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

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

Over 45 and 42 in 10 and 13-point teasers

 

—–

Boise State at Louisiana Tech

Vegas: Boise State by 16½

PiRate: Boise State by 20

Normally, I would call for a team in Boise State’s position to bounce big time and almost blow this game this week.  The Broncos were forced into four overtimes to win on Sunday night, and now they must travel 1,900 miles to the muggy South to face an underrated team they may not believe has a chance against them.  That’s FIVE  negative intangibles, and that’s enough to affect the outcome of a game by 28 points.

I am going to go against this list of intangibles with a trump card.  Boise State is a battle-tested champion capable of withstanding the hardships of playing four overtimes, having one less day to prepare, making a long road trip, playing in weather completely different than normal for them, and facing an underrated team that has enough talent to win this game.  Ask undefeated Hawaii just how hard it was to win at Joe Aillet Stadium.  They escaped with a one-point win in overtime when La. Tech chose to go for two and didn’t have to try a two-point conversion in the first extra period.

It looks to me like the Broncos will force Tech to either stop the pass at the expense of the run or vice versa.  The Bulldogs only had to worry about Hawaii’s passing game, while Boise can run for 300 yards in a game if their opponent plays a five-man secondary.  Because La. Tech will have to respect the BSU ground game, it will allow Taylor Tharp to throw for better than 300 yards.  Boise will pile up the points, but not as many as last week’s 69.  40-45 points should be enough to win by close to three touchdowns.

Strategies

Boise State -6½ and -3½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

San Jose State at Fresno State

Vegas: Fresno State by 12

PiRate: Fresno State by 11

This has been a disappointing season for Coach Dick Tomey’s San Jose State team.  A year after winning nine games including a New Mexico Bowl victory, the Spartans returned enough talent to equal that record this year.  Instead, SJSU is sitting at 3-4 with tough games remaining at Boise State and against Nevada as well as this one.

The air probably deflated from the Spartans after they blew a late lead against undefeated Hawaii at Spartan Stadium last Friday night.  The players probably know any chance for a bowl bid went down the drain when Colt Brennan brought Hawaii from behind to win in overtime.

Fresno State is the forgotten team of the WAC.  The Bulldogs suffered through their first losing year in nine seasons in 2006, and they quietly have returned to their normal strength.  While their record is just 4-2, those losses have come at Texas A&M and Oregon, and the loss to A&M was in overtime.

This game looks rather simple to me to forecast.  San Jose will not bring the same effort to this game that they had eight days prior.  Fresno is celebrating homecoming, and they should be ready to shine for their alums.  The Spartans cannot take advantage of the Bulldogs’ main liability-stopping the run.  San Jose State has no rushing threats, and they average little more than two yards per attempt.  They may pass for 250 yards, but they won’t score more than 24 points.

Fresno could top 200 yards on the ground and through the air in this game, and 400 total yards should add up to 35 points.

Strategies

Fresno State -2 and +1 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Oregon at Washington

Vegas: Oregon by 11

PiRate: Oregon by 13

The schedule favors Oregon winning its last six games and finishing the regular season 11-1.  If that happens, the Ducks will think back to what could have been if not for quarterback Dennis Dixon trying to stretch out 16 more inches to score the winning touchdown over Cal and instead fumbling it through the end zone and out of bounds for a touchback.  Oregon could very well be one of two or three favorites if there were a 12 or 16-team playoff.  Instead, the Ducks sit at number 10 in the first BCS poll, and they will have to hope that eight of the nine teams in front of them will fall.  It isn’t likely.

Washington is completing one of the toughest six game stretches in college football in many years.  In order, the Huskies have played Boise State, Ohio State, at UCLA, USC, and at Arizona State, and this is the last one before they start getting a little easier.  To have a true freshman quarterback as a starter against this group of beasts is just too much for a team to succeed.  Give Jake Locker two more years, and he could have UW back to where they were in the Don James era.

As for this game, Oregon just has too many offensive weapons for the Huskies to stop.  Talk about consistency, Oregon averages about 270 yards rushing and 270 yards passing per game!  The Ducks are scoring points at better than 45 per game.  Their schedule hasn’t exactly been chopped liver either, as they have faced Houston, Michigan, Fresno State, and Cal, all of whom should play in the postseason.

Look for Washington to keep it close for a long time, but Oregon will strike quickly and pull away some time in the second half.

Strategies

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

Under 77 and 80 in 10 and 13-point teasers

—–

Michigan at Illinois

Vegas: Michigan by 2½  

PiRate: Tossup

Who would have ever predicted back in August that I would be naming this match as the “Game of the Week?”  I have crunched the numbers far more than I do for most games, and I keep coming up with a flat-footed tossup every time.  This should be the most entertaining and important game in this series since the 1989 game that decided the Big 10 title.

Michigan is still missing something even after getting off the floor and storming back to win five consecutive games after the horrendous 0-2 start.  Their defense is not as good as last year, but then again, they lost a load of talent from that squad.

This game has too many intangibles, and I advise you not to play it in any manner.  Both of Michigan’s star tailbacks, Mike Hart and Brandon Minor, have ankle injuries and are in doubt for this game.  For Illinois, fullback Russ Weil injured his ankle in the loss to Iowa, and he is vital as a blocker for Rashard Mendenhall.  While Coach Ron Zook plans to start Juice Williams at Quarterback, it was redshirt freshman Eddie McGee that almost brought the Illini back to victory at Iowa.  Could this be the start of a minor controversy?   

  

Strategies

Forget this one and just enjoy the game

As a last resort only, Over 39½ and 36½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

  

—–

Auburn at L S U

Vegas: L S U by 12

PiRate: L S U by 12

If LSU had not lost to Kentucky last week, I might have considered making this an upset special this week.  Auburn isn’t as talented as the Tigers, but Coach Tommy Tuberville squeezes every point out of this team.  His game management is second to nobody in college football, and that pays off in close ball games.

LSU could be either fighting mad or lacking confidence after last week’s loss at Kentucky.  I’m guessing it’s the former and not the latter.  So, I expect the purple and gold to give their best effort since the Virginia Tech game.  Of course, against Auburn, that best effort may by only good enough to win by a few points. 

The home team has won this game every year since 1999.  The road team hasn’t been able to score in this series, averaging just 10.6 points per game in the last seven years.  I look for more of the same in this game.  LSU should win, but I expect the score to be something like 17-10.

Strategies

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

Auburn +22 and +25 in 10 and 13-point teasers

Under 52½ and 55½ in 10 and 13-point teasers

     

—–

SPECIAL PREVIEW

North Dakota State at Minnesota

No Vegas or PiRate Line

I have included this game because of the Michigan and Appalachian State game at the beginning of the season.  This one is completely different than that one.  If there is to be an upset Saturday morning at the Metrodome, it will be that Minnesota wins the game.

North Dakota State is a good touchdown better than Minnesota.  The Bison should have won this game last year when a last minute field goal attempt was blocked.  This season, NDSU is better than their 2006 edition, and Minny is much weaker.

North Dakota State will bring about 20,000 fans to this game and almost make it a home game.  There are 33 players on the Bison squad that came from Minnesota, and most of them were not recruited by the Gophers.

Add to the equation the fact that Minnesota’s running back situation is a concern with numerous injuries, and their already weak secondary has some injury concerns, and this game could give the brown and gold some black eyes.  While not officially picking this one, since I do not rate FCS teams, I believe the ingredients are there for North Dakota State to blow Minnesota off the field Saturday morning.  Unofficially, I predict NDSU to win by at least 7-10 points.

This Week’s “Picks”

 

This has got to stop.  Back-to-back losing weekends for the first time since 1995 means I must play this wacky season a little more conservatively.  After trying to pick several games in hopes of eliminating the risk of one big upset, I’m going to play it a little closer to the vest and stay in single digits, and all of them will be teasers.

10-point Teasers

# 1   Rutgers and South Florida Under 62½

        Northwestern and Eastern Michigan Over 49½

        Louisville +7 vs. Connecticut

# 2   West Virginia -15 vs. Mississippi State

        Northern Illinois and Wisconsin Over 37

        Ole Miss +15 vs. Arkansas

# 3   South Carolina -3 vs. Vanderbilt

        South Carolina and Vanderbilt Over 35

        Air Force + 7½ vs. Wyoming

# 4   Oklahoma -20 vs. Iowa State

        Texas Tech and Missouri Over 64

        Miami-FL +16 vs. Florida State

# 5   Oregon -1 vs. Washington

        Ohio State -7 vs. Michigan State

        Arizona -½ vs. Stanford

# 6   Fresno State -2 ½ vs. San Jose State

        Iowa + 17 vs. Purdue

        Texas -15 vs. Baylor

# 7   Kansas State +13 vs. Oklahoma State

        Auburn +22 vs. L S U

        L S U -2 vs. Auburn

                        

13-point Teasers

# 8   Rutgers +15½ vs. South Florida

        Texas A&M and Nebraska Under 74

        Oklahoma and Iowa State Under 70

        Notre Dame +30 vs. Southern Cal

# 9   Florida State +7 vs. Miami-FL

        Maryland +9 vs. Virginia

        Texas and Baylor Under 75

        Kansas State and Oklahoma State Under 74½

Blog at WordPress.com.