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SOLON'S PICKS, WEEK 14: SOUTHERN EXPOSURE

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Solon brings you his final week of picks for the season--yikes!--from the Big Skinny, our neighbor to the South, Chile. What he's doing there, we're not sure; all we know is that Chile has mutual extradition pacts with the U.S.A., Solon, so if it's the Feds you're dodging, head on over into Paraguay with a gun in your duffel bag and a few thousand bucks crammed up your ass for starter capital for your next "import/export" biz. They're friendlier towards real capitalism in Asuncion, brother.

Enjoy!

CFB blogosphere history almost certainly being made at this moment, as this surely must be the first CFB blog posting originating from the Southern Hemisphere; I come to you this week from Santiago, Chile, to be exact. Sometimes life throws us curveballs, and I had to get out of the USA before Homeland Security closed in. Fortunately, it appears my "problems" will sort themselves out in time for me to attend the SEC Championship game.

Solon is catching up with old "friends" in Chile this week.

To be honest, I´m a little disappointed; I expected to see llamas all over the place. I´ve seen a few, but they are not nearly as prevalent as I had hoped they´d be. No question--if I were an animal, I´d be a llama.

There are, however, hundreds of stray dogs here--most of whom look well fed, and none of whom ever beg for food. The most stunning thing is that I haven´t seen any dog poop anywhere. I do not know how that is possible, but if anyone knows the sorts of things they are doing here to fix that little problem, go ahead and let the Parisian authorities know what it is.

All right, this is a college football blog. After another good week last week, I now stand at 76-57-1 for the season, a 57% winning percentage. I´ve got a good portion of the dozen CFB offerings this week, so let´s hope those big mountains to the East don´t mess with my ability to get the job done. Here are this week´s selections:

Navy (-6.5) v. Army (Philadelphia, PA)
Army has had a nice little run recently, but if you assess the competition they have been playing it is not of high quality.

The only wins of note are the wins at Akron and at Air Force, but in truth Akron is shit (despite their MAC East title, compiling a 5-3 record in that conference is not cause for respect) and they were quite fortunate to win the Air Force game. Navy has been playing a much more formidable schedule (5 BCS opponents, as opposed to Army´s 3) and they have done more against it; three point losses to relatively good Maryland and Stanford teams are of considerably more note than any Army performance to date. Army´s O is poor, and while the Navy D is not great, they have done well against lesser and they should hold down the Army offensive output. Navy´s running game, on the other hand, is one of the best in the nation; their minimum output on the ground this season has been 207 yds against Stanford, and while Army´s run D is all right, they have not faced a run O as good as this one, and, in any event, the best they have faced (BC, AFA), ran them over. I have a lot of respect for Bobby Ross but I believe Navy will get the job done here.

West Virginia (-9) v. SOUTH FLORIDA
I have been on both of these teams all year but South Florida has started to bottle it. Both of these teams have good defenses--though West Virginia´s is better, surely--but South Florida´s limitations on O are catching up with them, while West Va has just gotten better as the season has worn on. South Florida never had much of a passing game (averaging 137 ypg, 5.81 ypp, and having a 6-11 ratio) but now, the wheels seem to have fallen off the running game, as they have managed only 3.16 ypc against Cincy and UConn. Cincy´s run D is below average, and UConn´s is above average, but West Virginia´s is in a different class. The best run Ds South Florida has faced this season are those of Penn State and Miami (Fla)--and South Fla averaged 107 ypg, 2.77 ypc, and 10 ppg against those teams. West Va´s run D is in the same class. On the other side of the ball, West Va´s run O is an unstoppable machine, and while the South Florida D has done well against other powerful run O´s (Penn State and Louisville), I think West Va has found their stride (443 yds rushing against any team, especially a halfway decent one like Pitt has turned out to be, is one of those sick jokes like Bush´s 513 yds against Fresno--just flat-out hard to believe) and I think that in their current form (with their injuries at RB having healed) this will be South Florida´s stiffest test to date. West Virginia will probably be a little down, having wrapped up the Big East title, but I would guess SFla will be down more, having blown their shot at the title last week with a loss to a poor UConn team. In any event, provided both teams come to play West Va should not have too much trouble getting ahead of this number.

Tulsa (+1) v. Central Florida (Orlando, Fla)
I have played Tulsa several times this season, based on the contention that passing teams will struggle against them. This may very well be the best pass O they have faced to date (other than Minnesota´s, although that´s a whole different deal given how well they run the ball), but I still think they rate the edge here. In truth, I think the passing games will be equally effective, but the edge for Tulsa will come from running the ball. They have a good, balanced offense with a strong running game, but UCF does not have the run D to stop them. Central Florida´s run D had some strong performances at the start of the season, but they have recently fallen off substantially. In their last four games they have given up 200 ypg, and this is as good a run O than any of those. This is a de facto road game for Tulsa, but they have played well on the road this season and I like their chances in this matchup.

Virginia Tech (-14) v. Florida State (Jacksonville, Fla)
It has been mentioned many times in this space how poor a team Florida State actually is. Their performance in the game against Florida, a team that is clearly VT´s inferior, did little to dispel that notion. In truth I am not sold on VT´s O (although I think their D is legit), and they will probably struggle to run the ball against the FSU front. And, I do not trust QB Vick to win the game for them. But, I do trust the VT special teams and D to get the job done. FSU has thrown an INT in their last six games, and put up a ratio of 6-14 in their games against halfway decent pass Ds. VT´s D eats that kind of shit up, and I would not be surprised if they had a pick 6 or two in this game. You just can´t throw on VT--other than NC State´s 311 yd performance in the season opener, no team has thrown for more than 160 yds against them, and they´ve only given up 7 passing TDs all season. You can´t run the ball on them either; the highest output against them in terms of yards was Miami´s 153, which took 42 carries, and they held the best run D they faced, West Virginia´s, to 150 yards on 34 carries. I expect their D to stuff FSU´s O, and once they get a TD or two (maybe on D or special teams) I expect the FSU team to fold the way they did against Florida last week and for VT to have little trouble getting ahead of this number.