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SOLON GIVES THANKS: PICKS, WEEK THIRTEENISH OR SO

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Solon, along with the rest of us, takes time to reflect on the truly good things in life, like going 8-4 for a week, eating pizza, and scoring all on the same day. Enjoy.

Great gambling weeks, throughout the years:

November 23, 1996: 7-2
If I searched through my records, I could probably find all the games I bet this day. As is, though, all I remember is the last game of the day chronologically; I had Iowa (-11) v. Minnesota, which I watched out of the corner of my eye at the Mellow Mushroom in Athens, GA, while I was out with some girl from my Ancient Greek class. Let me just say at this point (and you'd have to have read my previous columns to understand this), thank you Hayden Fry for a comfortable (43-24) cover, because I was able to pay enough attention to my 'date' that I didn't blow my shot after the games were over. The best part of the story is (and I don't want to get into details) the only reason I got the job done was that she was a philosophy undergrad student, I was an MA student in religion with a BA in philosophy, and the only reason I got anywhere is that I blew her mind with my knowledge of metaphysical systems. It's tough to beat going 7-2, getting ass, and making that philosophy degree amount to something.

Scene of one of Solon's better days and a tasty slice, to boot.

September 13, 1997: 8-2
Amazingly, though, it was only 10 months later that I had a better Saturday. Courtesy of my good friend and now semi-retired blogger CollegeFootballPundit, we had rounded up a bunch of investors prior to the 1997 season, and, since I was still in Graduate school and he was in LA, he flew out to Las Vegas every week to bet the games for us (keep in mind that Internet betting was in its infancy, and wasn't considered anywhere near as reliable as it is today). We had some wacky-ass betting system, which I have now abandoned, that was very high-risk/high-reward (it required hitting 56% of your games to break even, but the payoffs at higher win percentages were exponentially higher than they were with straight bets; in fact, you can thank us for the Las Vegas Club only paying out 6-1 on 3-team parlays, because we pounded their ass when they were paying 13-2). Anyway, same thing, the only game I remember was the last one, where we had Utah (-4) v. TCU; they won 32-18, and when we added up the proceeds at the end of the day, our bankroll had gone from $18,000 to $41,000. Keep in mind that at the time I was a struggling Graduate student making something like $898/month teaching religion classes at UGA, and CFBPundit had a fixed income of considerably less.

November 19, 2005: 9-2
Years from now, no doubt the only game I will remember having last Saturday is the final one, where SDSU scored a bunch of late points to get ahead of the number, and then held on to win 34-21 giving 7 points, holding off a Wyoming drive that reached the SDSU 5-yard line in the last minute. Of course, no background story to this one, other than that I was on the phone with my good buddy Brain, who was telling me what was going on in the USC-Fresno game, while I was at the same time giving him play-by-play on the SDSU-Wyoming game (which I'm sure he didn't give two shits about, but he humored me nonetheless).

So, while not as good a night as the others listed, in the end it was a better performance last week.

Let's hope the run I've been on for the last couple of weeks keeps going. Lots of favorites again this week. My record for the season is 71-55-1, a winning percentage of 56%. Here are this week's selections:

THURSDAY:
WEST VIRGINIA (-13.5) v. Pittsburgh
Pitt was a bad team earlier in the year, but they have recovered well and strung together 4 Big East wins. Unfortunately for them, all of those wins came at home and this matchup is scheduled at a difficult venue. Pitt has difficulty running the ball (averaging 106 ypg and 2.99 ypc against 1-A opponents), and while their passing game is decent, only Maryland and VT have had any success throwing the ball against WV this season and both of those pass Os are considerably better than this one. The strength of the Pitt team is their pass D, which held ND to 227 yds and Louisville to 247 yds; unfortunately for them, WV runs to set up the pass, and Pitt's run D is considerably less able. Pitt has given up over 200 yds rushing to ND, Rutgers, and Louisville, and WV is arguably a more powerful run O than any of those (probably not Louisville, but definitely better than the others). Additionally, the WV RBs have been banged up but they should be fully healed for this, their first game in 15 days, so they should all run with purpose and get ahead of this number.

FRIDAY:
Arizona (+9) v. ARIZONA STATE
The running game is a strength for neither side, and both run Ds are halfway decent, so I expect this game to be decided by the team with the edge in the passing game. Regarding the passing game, I would say that for most of the season ASU had a marked edge relative to 'Zona. But, with the emergence of Tuitama at QB for 'Zona, and the injury to ASU QB Keller, the passing attacks are much closer to being equivalents (although, it must be said, ASU QB Carpenter has played ridiculously well, and arguably has done better than Keller). Additionally, the 'Zona pass D has a marked edge on ASU's; against 1-A opponents, 'Zona has given up 230 ypg, 7.84 ypp, and a 12-12 ratio, while ASU has given up 287 ypg, 8.54 ypg, and a 17-10 ratio. Essentially, I think the edge for the 'Zona pass D makes up for the edge in the ASU pass O, and they will produce roughly equivalent performances. ASU has the home edge and should be fired up as they need this win to get into a bowl, but 9 points is way too many to be giving in this spot.

SATURDAY:
Alabama-Birmingham (-5) v. EAST CAROLINA
UAB has played much better than their 5-5 record, losing at Tennessee by a TD, losing 2 1-point games, and losing a home game to UCF they could have easily won if not for turnovers. They have also had comfortable road wins over Memphis and UTEP that have indicated their quality. In particular, their O is quite potent, and they are averaging 30 ppg and 450 ypg in ConfUSA play. ECU is ill-equipped to handle their attack; their run D is particularly bad, as they are giving up 218 ypg and 5.12 ypc on the ground in the conference. On the other side of the ball, other than a strong performance running the ball against UCF, ECU has not really run the ball too well this season, and that seems to be the best way to move the ball against UAB. UAB's pass D is legit, and while some teams have thrown on them (So Miss, SMU), ECU's pass O is not too strong, and they should not be able to keep up with the UAB O.

NORTH CAROLINA STATE (-2.5) v. Maryland
Maryland has a good O, but outside of the games against VT and WV they have not faced a D as good as this one. For the season against 1-A opponents, NC State has given up only 310 ypg. Maryland's O has had strong performances this season against average and below-average defenses, but when they have faced strong Ds they have struggled to move the ball. Against WV and VT, they only averaged 14 ppg and 297 ypg, even though both of these games were at home. NC State's O is not great, but they should still move the ball on a Maryland D that has struggled at times this season. Maryland is giving up an average of 28 ppg in ACC play, and are not particularly good stopping either the pass or the run. NC State has run the ball well at times this season, and they should do the job against the Maryland D.

MEMPHIS (-11) v. Marshall
DeAngelo Williams' season has been insane. Despite only having one returning starter on the OL, he has had a better season than he did last season. As a team, Memphis has rushed for at least 175 yds in every game since the opener, with the exception of the Tennessee game, in which Williams did not play. Marshall's run D is very bad; they have given up substantial yards to every legitimate run O they have played, and this will be the best they have faced. On the other side of the ball, Marshall's O is run-based, and that is the strength of the Memphis D. I do not think they will be able to keep up with the Memphis running game, and as Memphis needs this win to get to a bowl game, they should be fired up and cover this number.

FLORIDA (-5) v. Florida State
While Florida has had their troubles, they are fairly strong on both sides of the ball. While their D was only lit up in the game at Alabama, and otherwise they have been solid. Even against LSU's strong O, they only gave up 21 pts, 356 yds, and forced 5 turnovers. Vandy's O did well against them, but it is worth noting that Vandy only scored 14 pts through the first 3 quarters, and scored 14 points in the last 2:17 of the game. It is unlikely that the FSU O will produce much against them. In ACC play, FSU is averaging 3.93 ypr, and 6.27 ypp with a 12-13 ratio. As poor as these numbers are, most of their damage has been done against poor Wake and Duke teams; if you take out games against these poor Ds they are averaging 3.37 ypc, and 5.30 ypp with a 5-12 ratio. As for the other side of the ball, an FSU D that at the beginning of the season was believed to be among the nation's best has been exposed as fairly average. They have a good run D, but their pass D is pretty bad and definitely exploitable. Fortunately for them, they have not played too many decent QBs, or their numbers would be much worse. Against the teams with average or above-average QB play on the schedule (Miami, BC, UVa, Md, Clemson), FSU has given up 7.46 ypp and an 8-6 ratio. For all his problems, Leak is as good as all of those team's QBs with the possible exception of Clemson QB Whitehurst. While the Gator pass O did not produce against Tennessee, Alabama, LSU, or Georgia, but this D does not have their quality and Leak should be able to score points against FSU.

South Florida (-8.5) v. CONNECTICUT
In retrospect, UConn's 4-1 start seems to be the product of a remarkably weak schedule. Once the schedule fattened up they ran into serious problems, particularly on O. In their last 4 games, they have averaged 14 ppg. Against a WV D that is only slightly better than South Florida's, UConn managed 130 total yards and were not competitive in a 32-point loss. UConn cannot pass the ball, and while their run O is decent, on the ground USF is only giving up 124 ypg and 3.73 ypc against a schedule that includes Penn State, Louisville, Miami (Fla.), and UCF. South Florida does not have much of an offense, but they have a decent running game and should be able to run the ball against a UConn rush D that has given up 205 yds to GT, 225 yds to Cincy, 238 yds to Rutgers, and 231 yds to West Va. South Florida should go for 200 yds on the ground, and unlike last week the poor UConn pass O should make it less likely that they will get backdoored, as they did last week.