For the week of Footballpocalypse, Solon plays the sure winners and lets the beasts fight it out. These are the desperate measures one resorts to when you're 6-11 against the spread and in need of some winners. We're behind you, Solon--before you steal the night, take inspiration from one of the modern masters in survival against difficult odds.
There are a couple of things you can do when you start a season 6-11 ATS.
You can parse the record, and say that you are 3-0 on non-Saturday games.
You can expand your record, and point out that you are 90-72 over the past two seasons, a healthy 56% winning percentage.
Or, you can pull your head out of your arse and start picking winners. What say I try this one?
What is perhaps most humbling is that my record is only as good as it is due to the most cherished of all wagers--the great gambling moment.
I had Oregon (-4) against plucky Fresno State. Lo and behold, with 5 minutes to go the score was tied at 24, and Oregon drove to the Fresno State 4 yard line, where their drive stalled and they lined up for a FG, one that would have destroyed my bet, since it was unlikely, outside of a quick turnover, that Oregon would get the ball back in a position to score (nevermind whether they would have had the inclination).
So what do the Ducks do? Brady Leaf--yes, related to that other Leaf--takes the snap, and runs left. In fact, he runs like a kamikaze into three Fresno defenders right around the 2-yard-line--and just as he gets hit, he pitches it to the kicker, who runs it in untouched for a spread-covering TD.
So, hopefully the momentum will carry into this week, and I'll get back on the plus side soon. Here are this week's picks:
Iowa State (+13.5) v. IOWA
Even without QB Tate last week Iowa should have struggled less than they did against hapless Syracuse. For my money, Iowa State is the best team in the Big 12 North; their passing game is legit and Iowa's CBs are not battle-tested. The Iowa State D lost a lot from last season, but they are still a good unit and Iowa does not appear to have an overly powerful O. I think it is unlikely that Iowa will run up the points against the Iowa State D and even with QB Tate back I think this game will be competitive.
Brigham Young (+7) v. BOSTON COLLEGE
I do not know what happened to BYU in the offseason but they appear to have gotten better on both sides of the ball. I was impressed by the ease with which they dispatched Tulsa and I think after the close game against 'Zona they will believe they can win this game. I think BC is a very good team, but their performance last week against Clemson was flattered by the final score and I think they will have a bit of a letdown this week. I think BYU stands a chance of pulling off the outright upset here and I love them with the points.
Eastern Michigan (+17) v. NORTHWESTERN
NW played well in their first game of the season but they came back down to earth last week. EMU does not have a strong D but given that NW has averaged 19 ppg against the very modest Miami (O) and New Hampshire defenses, I do not think they will be giving up too high a total, as new QB Kafka is still working out the kinks. EMU QB Jones--who, by the way, is listed as questionable--is similar to New Hampshire QB Santos, who threw for 2 TDs and ran for 3 TDs last week. I expect the NW D to play better, but I do not believe their D is as strong as Michigan State's, and I believe that they will at least match their 20 point output from last week, and if they do I think NW will be hard-pressed to get ahead of this number.
San Diego State (+14) v. WISCONSIN
Wisconsin seems to be playing well despite the loss of HC Alvarez, averaging 34.5 ppg on O. That said, they have only been averaging 329 ypg playing against very modest Ds and will be facing a much stiffer test this week against SDSU.
SDSU's D held UTEP's potent O to 235 yards and only lost the game due to TOs, and I think the Wisconsin OL will struggle against a strong SDSU defensive front 7. On the other side of the ball, new SDSU QB Mougey--who played due to an injury to starting QB O'Connell--was actually the better performer against UTEP, and I do not expect the SDSU O to struggle with the change at QB, even against a formidable Wisconsin D. While I favor Wisconsin in this game, SDSU tends to play Big 10 teams tough--27-6 v. OSU in 2005, 24-21 v. Mich in 2004, and 16-13 v. OSU in 2003--and I think Wisconsin will struggle to win this game by more than 2 TDs.
LOUISVILLE (-4.5) v. Miami (Florida)
Losing RB Bush is a blow to the Louisville O, but to a large extent their running game is like that of Minnesota, where you just plug in a new back who will produce. There is little doubt that Miami has a strong D, but they have not faced an O like this since they, well, faced Louisville in 2004, when the Cardinals ran out to a large lead before Miami's O mounted an impressive comeback. There's little difference between those units that year and this, in my opinion--I do not expect Louisville to score 38 points or get 507 yards this season, but I do expect a good bit of production, and unlike in 2004, Miami no longer has the O to keep up. The Louisville D is not all that great, particularly against the pass, but they have a solid pass rush and given Miami's weak OL I do not expect Miami QB Wright to have the time to pick them apart. I think the stadium will be insane for the game and I expect Louisville to win this one going away.
TEXAS CHRISTIAN (+1.5) v. Texas Tech
There is some trepidation here, because TCU was run off the field the last time they played Texas Tech, giving up 70 points. I am willing to wager that their D has improved considerably since then, and they will play with pride on Saturday. They have the advantage of having played an O modeled on Texas Tech's O--Baylor's--earlier this season, and they held that admittedly much less talented unit to 7 points while starting 2 freshmen at the CB positions. New Texas Tech QB Harrell appears to have settled in fine, but the Texas Tech O is feeling the loss of WR Hicks and their O does not appear to be nearly as potent as in years past, averaging only 35 ppg (in regulation) against SMU and UTEP Ds that are not nearly as good as the unit they will face on Saturday. The Texas Tech D lost a lot of talent from last season, and if last week's performance is any indication they will have their hands full with a TCU team that is talented at the skill positions. I like TCU to get the outright win at home.
Arkansas (-5.5) v. VANDERBILT
Vandy has impressed thus far this season but they still have nothing to show for their efforts. Arkansas got things back on track last season with a workmanlike win over Utah State and I expect them to get better as the season progresses. The USC loss was deceptive, as their TOs put USC in good position with short fields and the end result on D was a 50-point debacle that was not as bad as it appeared. Vanderbilt's O is poor--8.5 ppg and 180.5 ypg thus far--and they will struggle to score even against poor defenses this season. Arkansas' D will turn out to be above average and I do not expect Vandy to achieve too much more than their averages thus far this week. Vandy's D has played well, but they will be facing their toughest test of the season to date, and with RB McFadden back to full strength expect the Arkansas O to start surpassing LY's average of 26 ppg.
Arizona State (-10.5) v. COLORADO
Colorado is not as bad as they have appeared this season, and they will start to look better as the season progresses. I think this week is too soon for them, however. I have not been impressed by the performance of the ASU D this season, but even they will not have too much trouble with the current incarnation of the Colorado O, which is struggling big-time at QB and cannot seem to put together any sort of rushing threat. ASU held the often-potent Nevada O to 297 yds last week and they should do even better against this unit which is still struggling to learn their new system. I expected the Colorado D to be pretty strong this year, but the suspension of two DB starters before the season's start appears to have taken its toll on the Colorado pass D, as they have given up 236 ypg and 8.12 ypp against weaker passing attacks than the powerful ASU pass O. While I do not expect Koetter to run up the score on Hawkins, I do not think his team will have any trouble getting ahead of this number and covering with ease.
Clemson (+4.5) v. FLORIDA STATE
FSU appears to be living a charmed life; Miami suspended their top RB and top WR for the FSU game, and now Clemson has an amazing FIVE starters out on the defensive side of the ball, in this, only the third game of the season. Despite this, I think the Clemson D will still have enough to handle the weak FSU O; Clemson's D handled the BC O last week and only special teams mistakes--and a dubious reversal of a late interception--kept them from winning the game before it went to OT. On the other side of the ball, QB Proctor seems to have fit into the Clemson O well and RB Spiller looks like a special player; in any event, Clemson certainly brings a much stronger O to the table than Miami, and they will score points against a strong FSU D. While Tallahassee is a difficult place to play, the FSU teams of recent vintage do not intimidate the way they used to and I expect this Clemson team to win this game outright.
Missouri (-13.5) v. NEW MEXICO
Ole Miss is not a great team, but the Mizzou win was so comprehensive last week that it suggested to me that a winning season, and possibly a Big 12 North title might be in the offing. QB Daniel looks a solid replacement for Brad Smith, and their D is much improved as well and had little trouble with an improved Ole Miss O. New Mexico recovered last week from their opening week loss to Portland State to defeat in-state rival New Mexico State, but this is a minor accomplishment. In any event, they will probably not benefit +5 in turnovers this week and they will certainly find the going much tougher against a legitimate BCS foe. Mizzou will be looking for revenge after last year's embarrassing home loss to New Mexico, and with Ohio on deck they will be totally focused on this game.