Solon had a good week last week, going 6-2-2 on his way up from the abyss of the first few weeks of the season. Join him as he fights his way through public libraries, the cruel lash of backdoor covers, and the petty annoyances of work and life to bring you your picks and fight his way back to 60 plus percent winnings. Enjoy.
Greetings all, this week's edition of selections is coming to you from the Mill Valley library, since my computer has decided to eat it, presumably for the last time. As a result, the analysis may be a bit skimpier than usual, but rest assured that the amount of care and meticulousness with regard to these selections is the same as usual. Meaning, I suppose, that you can count on losing more than you win.
Truth be told it was a good week last week, as I went 6-2-2, with only a miracle push (getting 7 in OT) and a backdoor cover with 25 seconds left keeping me from going 8-1-1. So, for the season, I stand at 12-13 for the season to date and hopefully I can get back on the plus side this week.
If last week was a 12 course Norman feast of football, this week is the diet plate.
(Please note--I don't count pushes in my percentages, because they either help or hurt your percentage a disproportionate amount; the net result of a push is zero, because you get your money back when you push a wager. So, I treat them as such. Just included FYI.)
Here are this week's selections:
NEVADA (-7) v. Northwestern
I do not think much of Nevada's D but I am willing to bet that they are as good as the ones that have been mustered up by Miami (O) and EMU, both of which held the NW O to 14 pts (NW had a punt block return for a TD against Miami). NW is feeling the loss of QB Basanez
--and HC Walker--and their O is struggling big-time. Nevada had some trouble with Fresno RB Wright but NW RB Sutton is not the same sort of back and I do not think they will struggle too much to keep him under wraps. Nevada's O is legit and while the NW D has been fairly strong this season they were rolled by New Hampshire and neither Miami O or EMU sports nearly as formidable unit as the Wolfpack, and they will have their hands full this week.
SYRACUSE (-7) v. Miami (Ohio)
Syracuse has been one of the surprise teams of the season, as apparently HC Robinson's system has taken root. Defeating Illinois is no great feat but handling them on the road with ease when you have lost your last 11 games is. The Syracuse D is actually decent and after holding much more talented Big 10 offenses Iowa and Illinois to 31 pts over the last two weeks, they should have little trouble with this lot, which scored only 3 against NW and only had 7 before a very late TD against lowly Kent last week. Miami stepped it up against Purdue but I am willing to bank on the Purdue D being so bad that it tells us little in terms of predicting Miami's performance this week. On the other side of the ball, Syracuse's run O is coming together and if a rebuilding NW O with a new QB can go for 196 yds against them I believe they will struggle to stop the Orange. Syracuse will want to win in front of their home fans and they should be willing to pile on the points, so long as they are able.
Kentucky (+24) v. FLORIDA
If my hosts will indulge me there are several reasons why I think Kentucky is a good bet this week. To a large extent, I dismiss the Louisville game, because I believe the Louisville O is an incredible machine, and when they played UK they were at home and at full strength. In any event, I was impressed with UK's resilience in that game; they got their passing game going after being down big early, and threw for 238 yards. The UK passing game has not let up since; for the season, they have averaged 258 ypg, 9 ypp, and have a 9-1 ratio. Certainly this will be their stiffest test to date, but I think they will have enough production to score some points against a formidable Florida D. As for Florida, I think they are a great team and that they will win the SEC East, but they are in the middle of the following 4-week stretch:
10/7 Louisiana State
Isn't it clear which of these games gets lost in the shuffle? After seeing what happened to Tennessee against AFA in a similar spot, I expect that the Florida players will do the same and that they will not give their full attention to this game. One area of concern--Fla had a 49-7 lead over UK last season, and ended up winning the game 49-28, angering a lot of bettors in the process. Such a thing may cause them to focus on the game, although I doubt it will make too much difference.
Without Marcus Thomas and Scoop, that may happen.
Iowa State (+24.5) v. TEXAS
Texas is a good squad but they have dominated two overmatched opponents. I think ISU is the best team in the Big 12 North--although, because of their schedule, they probably won't win it--and I think Texas is nowhere near as good as they were last season. Texas' O is good, but not scary good--they only had some 400 yds against NT, and only had some 450 yds against Rice--but ISU tends to avoid mistakes and I do not think they will steamroll ISU the way they did those squads. ISU gave a solid performance on the road last week against Iowa and while I think Texas is a better team than Iowa, the gap between the two teams is not too great and I actually expect ISU to play a little better offensively this week, which will make it that much more difficult for Texas to cover this number.
Washington State (-10) v. STANFORD
I do not have much to say about Stanford other than that they have been a big disappointment. Stanford QB Edwards is struggling big-time, although a lot of that is down to injuries to his WR rather than to his own play. Additionally, the Stanford running game is poor, which does not help. WSU's D is pretty legit--they held Auburn to 26 through the first 3 quarters, and held Baylor to 15 pts and negative rushing yards last week--and I expect the Stanford O to struggle against them. And, while WSU is primarily a passing O, they won't be able to stop themselves from running up a lot of rushing yards against a Stanford D that allowed Oregon to run for 301, SJSU to run for 278, and Navy to run for 359. Washington State dominated Idaho on the ground to the tune of 355 rushing yards and they will probably do something similar this week to a Stanford team that, if last week's pathetic performance against Navy is any indication, has probably given up on their season.
WYOMING (-1) v. Air Force
AFA is almost certainly not as good as they looked against UT, having caught them between a national stature-enhancing game with Cal and a possible SEC title decider with Florida. The AFA O is always legit and always puts forth a good effort, but Wyo tends to gameplan them very well; under HC Glenn he has held them under 30 ppg and they have won 2 of 3 with arguably inferior teams each season. This season, I expect the Wyo D to do even better against the Force this season; thus far, they have given up 10 ppg in regulation this season, which includes games against BCS team UVa and non-BCS offensive dynamo Boise St. Wyo has not shown much on O, but they tend to pass a lot and they will find the going easier against an AFA pass D that was lit up by UT QB Ainge and gave up 8.66 ypp last season. Add to this that the Wyoming home-field advantage is the biggest in the nation west of Nebraska, and I think Wyoming will win this game with relative comfort.
Texas-El Paso (-9.5) v. NEW MEXICO
New Mexico is transitioning their O this year, and so far is has not been working out for them. They have struggle to score points, only scoring 34 against lowly New Mexico St. with the help of a +5 turnover margin, managing 6 against 1-AA Portland State, and only scoring 17 against Mizzou with the help of a defensive TD and a TD with 25 seconds left after the game had long been decided. The New Mexico D is actually pretty good, but the UTEP O is pretty relentless and tends to score a lot of points, as you would expect from a Mike Price-coached team. I do not believe in UTEP QB Palmer, but he tends to produce a lot of yds and I think the New Mexico O is so bad that even his inevitable interceptions will not change the outcome in this one.
BAYLOR (-11) v. Army
Army played out of their minds last week, although in the final analysis I would not be surprised if Baylor turns out to be a better squad than A&M. Baylor's O has struggled this season, but I think TCU and WSU have solid D's and it will be a different story this week. Army has done pretty well on D, but they gave up 262 yds rushing to A&M last week, and they will have to face a halfway decent QB this week, which they have not had to do yet this season. Earlier this season, Army's O struggled with the likes of Kent and Arkansas State and they will be hard pressed to do much against a Baylor D that held above-average TCU and WSU O's to 17 points each.
MICHIGAN STATE (+3) v. Notre Dame
Notre Dame is a good team but they appear to have a ceiling. To be honest, I believe handling MSU is probably well within their ability, but I think they will be a little shellshocked from last week and might struggle to get into the game early with the appropriate focus. This will be problematic against a very strong MSU O that, at least at this point, appears to be as strong as they were at this stage last season. Last week they tore apart what had looked to be a decent Pitt D on the road, and they will be, by far, the best O that ND has faced this season. ND has not looked overly improved on the defensive side of the ball--Penn State went for 379 yds against them (albeit mostly after the game was decided), and while Michigan only had 343 yds, they were on cruise control for most of the game--and it is certainly possible that MSU will duplicate its performance from a year ago. ND's O should score plenty of points, but I do not believe RB Walker will be a factor, and while Quinn did very well against MSU last season he was not overly efficient (487 yds on 60 passes--compared to opposite number Stanton's 327 yds on 27 passes) and I believe the MSU D will make him work hard for his yards and MSU will win outright again this season.
Sparty: nice quads.
Arkansas State (+6) v. SOUTHERN METHODIST
I thought SMU would be better coming into the season than they have turned out to be. You thought about SMU football? You continue to amaze.--ed. Their O is horrible and their D has struggled more than I thought it would. They have been rolled by a below-average (for them) Texas Tech squad and then they followed that up with a comprehensive loss at North Texas. Specifically, the SMU run D has been bad, as North Texas ran for 170 yards on 36 carries against them; admittedly, they have RB Thomas, the leading rusher in the NCAA from a couple years back, but the NT OL is such that he has not been able to put up those sorts of performances in recent seasons. Arkansas State often cobbles together fine rushing attacks--and, this season, they have averaged 164 ypg against Army and Okla State--and I expect them to move the ball on the ground and control the clock. SMU has done nothing on O this season, amassing only 268 yards against North Texas, and I expect them to do no better against an ASU D that stuffed Army, and was not rolled by OSU. Admittedly, ASU was not competitive against Oklahoma State, but I have my suspicions that OSU might actually turn out to be a legitimate team this season, and the ASU gave up TDs on 7 and 23 yard drives last week, rendering the 35 point output by OSU a little deceptive.