This week our resident punter Solon lays down the lines, but goes a step further by laying down the line on Louisville, a team who's burned him three times already this year. Take them out and he's at .500, a promising fact that has him working on that second mortgage and contacting kidney dealers in Phnom Penh for leads.--ed
How much do I love Louisville? Well, let me put it this way--it's one of only two cities in the entire world where I've never lived, but I've had multiple coital partners (Las Vegas is the other, of course). Seeing as how I do not look anything like Matt Leinart that list of cities will likely not get longer anytime soon. So, Louisville's my kind of town.
That said, the city's local college football team this season is an incomprehensible debacle. I've bet on them or against them every week they've played this season, and I've got absolutely no fucking clue what they are going to do next. They dominated Kentucky in the 1st half, and got dominated by them in the 2nd half (Kentucky, for fuck's sake!). Then, an amazing performance, crushing a decent Oregon State team. They of course followed this up with a stanky-ass turd of a game against South Florida.
So, to hell with them. I'm not even touching these jokers for the rest of the season.
Though Louisville means multiple scores in two ways for Solon, he's through with Petrino's team.
(Additionally, regarding the rumor that two of my "associates," both Louisville natives and U of L supporters--(1) "Brain"--who stands 6'7" and weighs 270 lbs., and (2) "The Hit"--so called because he laid just about the most devastating hit in a football game ever caught on camera, and who, believe it or not, is even more physically imposing than the aforementioned Brain--told me in no uncertain terms to not play any more Louisville games this season...I have no comment.)
So for the season, I'm 19-19 in games not involving Louisville, and 0-3 in games involving them. It's getting later in the season, and it's time to get on the right side of the ledger. Here are this week's picks:
LOUISVILLE (-38) v. Florida Atlantic
No opinion whatsoever. Which sucks because I think Louisville offers some good value here.
MICHIGAN STATE (-5.5) v. Michigan
Michigan's O is rubbish. One suspects that if Hart comes back it will give them a jump but it will not be enough to keep up with the (not so) Spartan O. The tables are turned this year; usually MSU comes in fired up, ready to fuck up Michigan's season. I am not sure Michigan will play the underdog role well; they must be gutted after losing the games they have lost, and they are running into a buzzsaw here. Add to this that UM was pretty fortunate to win at home against MSU last year, when their team was better and MSU's was worse, and I think it adds up to a comfortable MSU win.
Colorado (-3.5) v. OKLAHOMA STATE
I am not sure what to make of Oklahoma State this season. They have defeated Montana State 15-10, defeated Fla Atl 23-3 in a game that was considerably closer than the final score, and defeated Arkansas State 20-10. That is a modest resume for a Big 12 team that went 7-4 last season and returned 13 starters. I would have almost been inclined to say that losing Miles is what was responsible for their lack of performance; but, after watching Monday's game in Baton Rouge, suffice it to say that it is simply inexplicable. Colorado has actually played well this season; LW against Miami they played them fairly well, and were unfortunate to lose by as much as they did. Colorado's D is playing well and they should not have too much trouble with the thus far pathetic Oklahoma State O.
Navy (-6) v. DUKE
Paul Johnson has done an amazing job at Navy. They only returned 6 starters on both sides of the ball but they have not dropped off too severely, losing by 3 to BCS conference teams Maryland and Stanford. Both of those teams have it all over Duke, who might have just about the worst O of any team in a BCS conference. Navy's D is their weak link but Duke will not be able to exploit it. Against 1-A competition this season, Duke has averaged 9 ppg and 179 ypg. They should outperform those numbers this week, but Navy should score plenty and get the cover in this spot.
Kent (+3.5) v. EASTERN MICHIGAN
This line seems to be what it is because of the injury to Kent QB Machen, who is listed as doubtful. Truth is, I am not sure how much his absence would hurt Kent. Machen has been averaging 300 yds passing a game, but it has taken him 50+ passes to get to that number. Additionally, he has thrown 9 interceptions this season, and his 5 last week almost certainly cost his team the victory against Ohio. Eastern Michigan is not in Kent's class, and I think Kent wins this one outright.
CALIFORNIA (-16.5) v. Arizona
Cal may not be as good as they were last season but they can still score points. Their D, which looked like it would be much worse than last year's D, has actually played quite well; against 1-A competition, they have only given up 347 ypg to some fairly serviceable offenses. The Arizona D, which was actually pretty good last year, is pretty average this season; Cal's O should sort them out and put up a lot of points. Cal beat Zona 38-0 last year, and while I think both teams will score more points than they did last year and it will probably be a closer game, I still think Cal will cover this number.
Washington State (+1.5) v. OREGON STATE
I think Oregon State might be a beaten team. The performance against Louisville, followed up with the bombing at home at the hands of Arizona State, might have just taken it out of them. Their secondary lost some studs from last year and has been torn up this season--against 1-A opposition, they have given up 10.52 ypa and opponents have amassed a 13:1 TD:Int ratio. I am not sold on Washington State but the one thing they can do is pass the ball. They also have great balance, and their RB tandem of Harrison and Woolridge is the best set of RBs no one has heard of. I don't see Oregon State running the ball well against this D, and I don't think Moore will do enough to be able to keep up the WSU O. It would not surprise me if Oregon State lost this game and limped to a 5-6 finish.
South Florida (+21) v. MIAMI (FLORIDA)
Miami's O has left me unimpressed this season. In regulation, they have scored 7 against FSU, 20 against Clemson, and 23 against Colorado. This D is not in FSU's class but it is as good as Clemson's or Colorado's. Looking at the statistics, I still don't know how USF scored 45 points last week against Louisville, but I know how they gave up 14--they shut down an offense a lot better than Miami's. Louisville scored 2 TDs and missed 1 FG in 12 drives last week; their other 9 drives ended on downs, turnovers, or punts. That is an amazing performance against the Louisville O, as good as there has been since Memphis' performance against them in 2003. The win over Louisville is not as aberrational as it seems; South Florida has played pretty well this season, with only a fairly close loss at Penn State spoiling their perfect record. Even with the big win last week, I expect no letdown out of USF this week given the geographical factor.
PURDUE (-3) v. Notre Dame
Lost in all the hype about Notre Dame is how average this team actually is. Here's what they've done so far: a big win over a horrible Pitt team; a fortunate win over a Michigan team that lost its primary offensive weapon a few plays in; a home loss against Michigan State, during which they were trailing 38-17 at one point; and a medium-sized win over a bad Washington team that had a lot of mistakes. Illustrating this point, three of Washington's four first half drives got inside the ND 10--and they ended up with only 3 points from those drives. How good is Purdue? Probably not all that great, but they showed a lot of fight against a pretty good Minnesota team on the road, and were pretty unfortunate to lose, in the end. I think at home they will get the job done here against this fairly average ND side.
ALABAMA-BIRMINGHAM (-17.5) v. Rice
UAB's performance against Tennessee stated their intention for the season. They have since rolled Troy on the road and defeated 1-AA Jacksonville State in a game that was not as close as the 35-28 final indicated. They are a quality squad and Rice is up against it here. The UAB D has performed well against option teams in the past, and Rice's O this season looks a little out of sorts at this stage, averaging only 3.4 ypc after managing 4.9 ypc last season. UAB's rush D was strong against UT and they should keep it up here. The Rice D is poor; UAB does not have the offense of Texas or UCLA but QB Hackney is legitimate and should score enough points to get a comfortable cover.
LOUISIANA TECH (-10.5) v. New Mexico State
La Tech was rolled by Florida, but played Kansas closer than the 34-14 score indicated. In any event, they have played two good Ds so far this season and they take a massive step down in class this week. This New Mexico State team that has not been close in four efforts this season, scoring many of their points late in games to make them appear closer than they actually were. Their passing attack, which is pretty much their entire O, has had very modest success this season and they are unlikely to score many points so long as the other team cares if they do. La Tech's entire offensive performance has been shit but they will get well against this D, and will want to run it up as much as they are able in their first home game of the season.
Arkansas State (-3) v. LOUISIANA-MONROE
Both this line and the Purdue line opened at even but jumped before too long. Arkansas State has a history of producing pretty good running backs for the Sun Belt level. This season, they have not missed a beat, even doing well running the ball in losses to Missouri and Oklahoma State. Also, they have depth at the RB position, which is especially important this week; Warren is questionable for this game but if he is unavailable Bracey can step in and do the job. La-Monroe has given up 6 ypc on the ground to 1-A competition and they will find the going tough here. While La-Monroe scored 28 points and gained 386 yards last week, on the rest of the evidence the season has produced that performance was aberrational and they will have no answer for the Arkansas State running game.
Other games of note:
Florida (-4) v. ALABAMA
This game is pretty tough to call. Two good defenses, two limited offenses (so far, of course). Two reasons for going with Florida here--first, their O is more likely to break out than Bama's, and second, UF has been tested already by a solid team (UT) and come out of it with a W. Nevertheless, Bama has given Florida as much trouble as anyone in the SEC over the past couple years and Bryant-Denny is a bitch of a place to play. Should be a good one.
ARIZONA STATE (+17) v. Southern California
USC looks like a machine on O. Their D may not be the best, but they will gel and by the end of the season should be pretty strong. This means that Cal and UCLA, the two other "tough" games on the USC schedule, will be facing a much stronger team than ASU does this week. ASU has had trouble with USC in recent seasons, but the last time they were rolled by a team that was an offensive machine (Nebraska 1995), they responded with just about the biggest turnaround in college football history (losing 77-28 in 1995, and winning 19-0 in 1996). The ASU D this year does not measure up to their D in 1996, but I am betting that Keller and Hagan will be able to take advantage of the USC D and score enough points to keep this one close enough for the pointspread win. If USC is going to lose during the regular season, out in the desert is where it will happen.