We got email requests to get this up before spouses, bosses, and other financial institutions discovered that you have indeed absconded with the rent/capital investment fund/donut money can had been stolen and applied to give you your supply of Vitamin G (for gamblin'!) With that, we bring you Solon's picks for week 5, brought to you by the Marin County Library System, where their mission is excellent service.
Greetings all, my Marin library tour comes to you tonight from Belvedere-Tiburon, a community so ritzy that the library is about the only place I can afford to go on my modest salary. Perhaps if I can supplement my income with some winners this week, I'll be able to afford a cookie at one of the local delicatessens.
Solon's hoping to be a cookie monster with a big week five.
My midweek "special"--another push, amazingly my fifth of the season thus far--keeps me at 17-17 for the season; hopefully I will be able to build on my record with the rest of the games this week. Last year I was muddled around .500 for the first month or so before closing with a rush, let's hope I can do the same this season.
One big plus this weekend is that, other than the Tuesday game, I have no midweek action. I'm torn regarding my Friday night--what should I watch? The Degrassi episode where Darcy goes bad, or plucky Rutgers trying to overcome the tricky South Florida O? I suspect the game will win out, but you never know.
Here are this week's selections:
PENN STATE (-18) v. Northwestern
Northwestern appears to have gotten their O going. Unfortunately for them, playtime is over as they now stumble into the rough-and-tumble Big 10 portion of their schedule. The best D they have faced this season is either Nevada (which gave up 52 pts to Arizona State) or Miami (Ohio) (which gave up 34 pts to Syracuse); and against each the NW O managed 21 pts. Penn State's D was helped by a rainstorm but their performance last week against the mighty Ohio State O was nevertheless strong; certainly they will have considerably less trouble with the NW O, no matter the conditions. The question for this game is the Penn State O; they struggled against Ohio State, but the OSU D is shaping up to be one of the better in the nation once again, and, given the conditions, I am willing to set aside the performance. Morrelli is not a great QB but he is serviceable, and he is better than any QB NW has faced thus far with the possible exception of Nevada QB Rowe, who averaged 9 ypp last week. The NW D has played well, but PSU has faced better Ds this season and they will appreciate having room to roam. I believe the OSU game has given PSU belief after the ND debacle and their D will give their O short fields to with which to work, and the increased offensive production will put them well ahead of this number.
Wisconsin (-10.5) v. INDIANA
There is a big concern here, that being that Indiana HC Hoeppner returns after surgery for a brain tumor; with the game at home, there is little doubt Indiana will be sky-high.
I am betting that it will make no difference. Indiana's O is poor; they cannot run the ball--witness their 0 yards rushing against UConn last week--and they are rotating 2 QBs, neither of whom is playing particularly well. They will have their hands full against a strong Wisconsin D that only gave up 322 yards to Michigan last week. Wisconsin's problem's this season are on the offensive side of the ball, but while Wisconsin's running game was stuffed last week, they will find the going easier against an Indiana D that was run over by UConn last week (257 rushing yards), and, while Wisconsin has not had a lot of production from the QB spot, QB Stocco had his best game of the season against Michigan and he will do the business against a poor Indiana pass D that gave up an average of 253 yds passing to WMU and Ball State.
Terry Hoeppner: tough-ass guy.
CLEMSON (-34) v. Louisiana Tech
I did not think UNC was any sort of match for Clemson last week, but I did not expect the Clemson response after their win over FSU to be so emphatic. I have long thought Clemson was the best team in the ACC, and their opponent this week is a team that has been rolled by a couple of mid-level Big 12 teams; even if one assumes--and, I'm not sure I do--that the ACC is worse than the Big 12, this is still a step up in class for La Tech. Clemson's O has been a machine this season, and LT--a team whose D was average at best last season, and only returned 2 starters--is ill-equipped to handle them if their performances against Nebraska and Texas A&M are any indication. LT can throw the ball a little bit, but Clemson's pass D is strong--5.11 ypp, with only 1 TD given up this season--and I do not think LT will provide a threat. The only concern here is Clemson's lack of focus, but with Wake on deck (yes, I know, they are undefeated--and I think they are actually a good team--but they are Wake, and Clemson will not be as focused as if it were NC State, for example, even though they are probably worse than Wake is) I think they will hold their focus long enough to cover this number.
OHIO (-5) v. Bowling Green
While Ohio was unimpressive in a win over UT-Martin, they then smashed NIU on the road, before being overmatched against Rutgers and Mizzou--although, against Rutgers, the 24-7 score was a little deceptive and they played better than the score would indicate. BG, on the other hand, was rolled by Wisconsin in its opener, struggled against low-level Buffalo and Fla Intl, and then got smashed by Kent, the 38-3 loss a product of a -6 TO margin. That loss was largely due to an injury to QB Turner, who remains day-to-day. While he is probably their best hope, I am not sure his presence will matter; for a BG team accustomed to playing for the MAC title, the Buffalo OT win and the Kent loss has alerted them to a new reality; meanwhile, Ohio must fancy their chances of being a contender in the MAC this season. BG's run D is certainly exploitable; while Ohio did not do much on the ground against Mizzou or Rutgers, the going will be easier this week and they should have good production. And, the truth is, the Ohio pass O may be the strength of the O; they lit up NIU, and while, once again, they did not do much against the BCS squads it should be easier for them this week. I was impressed with the performance of the Ohio D last week against Mizzou; BG is suffering some growing pains this season on O and I think the Ohio D will be able to hold them at bay enough to get ahead of this relatively low number at home.
WASHINGTON STATE (+17) v. Southern California
In my futures column before the season, I was planning on suggesting WSU as a play for the Pac 10 title at 60-1; not so much because I expected them to win the conference, but because I thought they were a lot better than they looked last season, they hosted USC, Cal, and Oregon (who appeared (and still appear) to be the 3 best teams in the conference, and because they played USC early, before the new players on O grabbed hold of their system. Even though WSU has not been as good as I thought they would be--the loss of Juco RB Deiderichs to academics before the season leaves them without a strong running game--I still think they are a good play in this spot. Admittedly, WSU has not played strong Os this season--with the exception of Auburn--but note that Auburn struggled in that game, and tacked on 2 late TDs to get to 40. In any event, if last week is any indication the USC O is not firing on all cylinders and I believe that WSU has at least as good a D as 'Zona, and while their O is one-dimensional (as is 'Zona's) I think their passing game is in a better position to exploit USC's pass D. I rate the WSU O as the best USC has faced this season, and as long as the WSU D can get some pressure on Booty I expect them to keep this game competitive.
Pressuring the Booty. A weekend goal for many, it seems.
California (-9) v. OREGON STATE
Cal has recovered well from their shell-shocking at Tennessee to open the season. QB Longshore has inexplicably looked every bit like you would expect a Cal QB not named Ayoob to look since the opener, completing 55 of 80 for 795 yards with a 10-2 ratio since. Oregon State has not faced a decent QB this season--the best is Boise QB Zabransky, who only threw 14 times--and I think Cal will produce through the air as you would expect. Even with this, I think Oregon State has a bigger problem, and that will be stopping the Cal running game. Anyone who saw Boise's demolition of the Beavers on Thursday night saw a previously unknown RB by the name of Ian Johnson run for 240 yards on 22 carries. No offense to anyone, but I would respectfully argue that both Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett bring more to the table than Mr. Johnson and I expect them both to have strong games. As for the other side of the ball, Oregon State was stifled on O by Boise State's D, and while that is a strong unit Cal's D is nearly as good if not better and should have little trouble holding them down enough to get the comfortable win here.
UCLA (-24) v. Stanford
There is not much to say about Stanford other than that they are absolutely hideous. QB Edwards cannot do much with his ragtag WR corps, and with no running threat the UCLA D--vastly improved this season under new DC Walker--will easily hold them in check. UCLA's O is actually pretty average compared to last season's prolific unit, but QB Olson can play a little bit and will produce some, and the Stanford run D is so poor that they will also produce a lot of yards; the Stanford run D is giving up 293 ypg (and, 5.91 ypc), and when UCLA gets so far ahead that they stop passing, they will have no choice but to continue to run it up. In the end, I expect the UCLA running game to approach nearly 300 yards, as they did against Rice. My only concern regarding this game is that UCLA will no doubt be looking for revenge next week against 'Zona--who ran out 52-14 winners against them last season--but I think coming off the UW loss, UCLA will play close to their best game and take care of business here.
Even when Stanford loses, we all win when Tree assaults someone. Or something. Or passes out drunk.
KENTUCKY (-7.5) v. Central Michigan
Kentucky was fortunate to deliver for me last week, as only Florida's red zone foibles stopped them from getting ahead of this number; still, I was impressed with the Wildcats, who were impressive on O until the Gators sussed them out in the 2nd half. CMU does not have the talent or ability to do the same; while they've played a decent schedule, they are giving up 393 ypg, and if Michigan had not called of the jam that number would be well above 400. The Kentucky passing game is no joke; they have thrown for over 200 yards in every game, and QB Woodson is working on a 10-1 TD:Int ratio. One major concern with Kentucky is their run D, which looks poor; fortunately, it does not appear that CMU will be able to exploit this, as they are only averaging 111 ypg, and have only gone for as many as 140 yds against lowly EMU. CMU's passing game is pretty average, and while UK had some trouble against Louisville, Ole Miss, and Florida, CMU does not bring anywhere near the same quality of WR to the contest as those squads and I think UK will handle them easily.
Georgia Tech (+9.5) v. VIRGINIA TECH
I was burned by this game last season, a 51-7 drubbing in which, amazingly, GT only gave up 320 yards. Still, I think this is a good play; I am not convinced that VT is nearly as good as they were last season; their strong win over UNC looks suspect in light of UNC's crushing at the hands of Clemson, they needed a PR TD to break open the game against Duke, and their performance against Cincy will have won few converts to their cause. The simple analysis is that their O is poor; they are averaging 124 rush ypg and 204 pass ypg against 3 1-A opponents that may very well combine for one win--UNC over Duke--in conference play this season. They will likely not perform too well against a GT D that shut down the mighty ND O, and has done what you'd expect their opponents since. GT does not have much on O, and the VT D is pretty solid (presumably--it's tough to say because they haven't been tested as of yet), but GT does have playbreaker WR Johnson and so long as the announcers are not swinging on his nuts like they were in the Virginia game he should be able to break free and make a play or two which--in what I expect to be a low-scoring contest--should be enough to give GT the outright win, so long as they do not blow it on special teams again.
Reggie Ball, Georgia Tech quarterback.
Michigan (-9.5) v. MINNESOTA
In years past, you could always count on Minnesota to have a ridiculously strong running game. While they are still good this season, their run O only appears to be above-average at best; they have only rushed for 112 yds against the (admittedly strong) Cal D, and last week against the poor Purdue D rushed for only 184 yds. Unfortunately for them, they are up against an immovable run D this week, one that has given up an amazing 16 rushing yds--total--to ND and Wisconsin. Minnesota no doubt has a stronger running game than either of those teams, but I would be surprised if they were able to hit 100 yards. Minny QB Cupito has disappointed me this season; he was remarkably efficient last season, but his efficiency seems to have disappeared with the Minnesota running game; against Cal and Purdue, he averaged 6.64 ypp, with a 2-3 ratio. Michigan's O is average--I think it is not as good as Cal's, and it's arguable whether it's better than Purdue's--but they can both run and pass, and they should be able to get the job done against a Minnesota D that has been handled by Cal and Purdue, especially since I expect the Michigan D to set up the Michigan O better than those team's units did.
FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL (-7.5) v. Arkansas State
For what it is worth, Fla Intl looks better than most of the teams in the Sun Belt this season. They have stood toe-to-toe with BCS teams Maryland and South Florida, and while they lost to BG and MTSU they certainly held their own. Their running game--with RB Ned--is pretty strong, and that is bad news for an Arkansas State D that was run over by SMU's modest rushing attack last week for over 200 yards. FIU can also throw the ball a little; they went for over 200 yds against both BCS teams they faced. Arkansas State's O is below average and will likely be the worst FIU has faced this season. Ark St has yet to throw a TD pass and are only averaging 268 ypg this season. I think FIU will get the job done here and go on to have their best season since joining 1-A ball.