Solon brings a passel of picks with him this week as well as a tale of why those raised near race tracks have a mysterious fondness for gambling. Enjoy.
A story from my youth from the "Sport of Kings" this week, to illustrate a point.
In my early gambling days, soon after discovering Vegas, it occurred to me that there was no better spot to try to use my smarts to get "something for nothing," as it is sometimes called, than the racetrack. As a native Southern Californian, I was presented with 9 races/day, 6 days/week, 11 months/year, at either Santa Anita, Hollywood Park, or Del Mar. Since Santa Anita was only about 10 miles from my house, and I was attending junior college at the time and finished with classes by noon every day, I could get to the track every day by first post, and I was there more often than not.
Your college experience was much, much different than Solon's.
Over the course of time, I became immersed in the national horse racing scene, and Friday night in September 1988 while perusing the Daily Racing Form, I saw that a filly I was very high on--Miss Brio--was running in the Maskette Mile at Belmont Park the next day, and was listed at 10-1 to win. Her high odds were largely the product of that year's Derby winner--Winning Colors--running in the same race and listed as a prohibitive 1-5 favorite. Earlier that year, I'd had Winning Colors in the Derby, but she'd been run into the ground in the Preakness by Forty Niner, and by the time the fall season hit, I was pretty much convinced that she had little value.
As it stood, I couldn't bet races at Belmont Park in Southern California, so I drove to Vegas that morning and got my bets down. Due to some late money, Miss Brio only went off at 3.40-1, but I dropped $200 on her and collected $880.
Since getting to Vegas from Los Angeles is a 4-hour drive, instead of turning around and heading right back after the race, I decided to stick around and play a few more races with the money I'd won.
And, I decided to bet a 3-horse exacta box on a maiden claiming route in the 6th race at Del Mar (for the uninitiated, maidens are horses that have never won a race, claimers are horses that are so bad when they run they are essentially for sale, and exactas are high-risk bets where you must select the first two race finishers in correct order). And, as it turns out, I ended up having a 12-1 horse come in first, and a 9-1 horse come in second, so my $10 exacta bet paid out at 92-1 odds, meaning that on this shit race with horses who'd never won a race, I made $920--or, more money than I'd made betting Miss Brio in a race that featured a Kentucky Derby winner.
The point of which is--to correlate it to college football--whether you are betting the Rose Bowl or the Florida Atlantic v. Florida International game, Vegas pays out the same, 10-11 for a winning side against the number. You have to take value where you can find it, and your odds are probably better with lower value games, because higher-profile games have truer lines that are tougher to exploit. This is why, in my opinion, it's hard to win when playing the NFL--with only 14 to 16 offerings a week, the games are bet to death and the lines tend to be incredibly tough to exploit. Just something to keep in mind when trying to stick it to Vegas.
Of course, this admonition might have a little more weight if Arkansas State hadn't turned it over 5 times last week, winning by only 4 when I was giving 5 points. What a load of old cobblers.
One housekeeping note--since I get tired of saying it, all quoted statistics do not include games against 1-AA competition. Seems like every week I am qualifying multiple times with "against 1-A opponents"--so, assume that unless I mention it, all numbers are only with regard to games against 1-A competition.
On balance, a poor week last week (5-7) leaves me at 31-26 (54%) for the season, but I take solace insofar as last year's record at this time was 32-31 and ended up going pretty well. Hopefully I can get back on track this week. Here are this week's selections:
Pittsburgh (-10) v. CENTRAL FLORIDA
Pitt has put together a good season, and if they can win their next 4 games--in all of which they will be favored--they will stand at 9-1 going into season-closing home games against West Va and Louisville. If they get to 9-1 their record will flatter them, but they are still a decent team and UCF is overmatched in this game. Pitt's strength this season is their passing attack, which has gone for 9.18 ypp with an 11-3 ratio, and they have been facing some good D's, relatively speaking; certainly, you'd be hard pressed to find a D they've played that was worse than UCF's. The UCF pass D is poor--against BCS opponents Fla and So Fla, they have given up 10.65 ypp with a 7-3 ratio; even if you throw in the games against So Miss and Marshall, neither of whom is anywhere near as good as Pitt at QB or WR, they are giving up 8.65 ypp with a 9-4 ratio. In any event, this is certainly an area that Pitt can exploit. Also, Pitt has started to get their running game on track the last couple of weeks, running for 200 ypg and 5.26 ypc the last two weeks against Toledo and Syracuse. UCF does not have a strong run D; they gave up 195 yds to Florida and 237 yds to a very modest Marshall rushing attack. The balance will free up the Pitt passing game even more than expected, and should increase their production. On the other side of the ball, UCF has a decent running game, but the Pitt rush D was only really torn up by a pre-ND meltdown Mich State, and otherwise have only given up 81 ypg rushing. Add to this that UCF RB Smith is hurt a little bit, and I think the UCF running game will struggle to produce. UCF will have even less success throwing the ball; they are averaging 189 ypg passing, but their efficiency is poor, and they are only averaging 5.51 ypp with a 3-3 ratio. Pitt has a strong pass D--5.43 ypp with a 4-7 ratio--and they will handle this pass O with ease and get the comfortable cover on the road.
Tyler Palko: doing just fine.
WISCONSIN (-8) v. Minnesota
Most years, the Minnesota rushing attack is something you can rely on, but this year the loss of 1 strong RB to the NFL and another to academics seems finally to have taken its toll on the Gophers. RB Pinnix is having a good season but this is not the Minnesota running game of season's past. While QB Cupito has picked up the slack somewhat, leaving their O only slightly weaker than in years past, the Minnesota D is considerably weaker than the unit they have put on the field the past several seasons and it is the reason that they will likely not make it to a bowl this season. The Wisconsin game, on the other hand, is as strong as ever as freshman RB Hill is doing the job. Minnesota gave up over 200 yds rushing to both Cal and Michigan, and likely will do the same here. Also, Wisconsin QB Stocco has gotten on track since the loss to Michigan, throwing for 275 ypg and 12.50 ypp against Indiana and Northwestern, both of which I rate as better Ds than that of Minnesota. Minnesota will get some yards rushing the ball, but Wisc held Mich to 101 yds rushing, and held NW to 122 yds rushing; the only teams all year to have strong rushing totals against them were BG and Ind, both of which piled up yards during garbage time, long after the outcome of each game was decided. My biggest concern is the production of Minn QB Cupito, but the Wisconsin D has been strong against the pass this season--only 120 ypg, 4.82 ypp, and a 2-4 ratio, with both TDs coming courtesy of the Henne-Manningham combination--and I think they will hold down Cupito's production enough to get ahead of this number at home.
South Florida (-2) v. NORTH CAROLINA
UNC is pretty bad on both sides of the ball, although to be fair they have played better opponents than USF in each of their games. USF does have limitations, but they are improving, with freshman QB Grothe's improvement setting the tone; he is averaging 8.08 ypp, and while he has thrown 7 INTs in 5 games, he is facing a D that only has one INT for the season, and has yet to play a team that either had the ability or the inclination to throw the ball--outside of 1-AA Furman, who went 20-27 for 310 yards against them. The USF running game has pretty much been QB Grothe as well, and he will probably get some yards this week; UNC is not noted for its pressure, as opposing QBs--none of whom are particularly noted for their mobility--have amassed a total of +65 yards rushing. USF has not run the ball particularly well outside of QB Grothe, but their running game benefits this week from the return of RB Ponton, who was a capable backup for RB Hall last season, and, having served a 6-game suspension, will be looking to make up for lost time. Also returning from suspension are WR Chambers--their leading WR last season--and DE Julmiste, who will add some depth to the defensive front. The return of Chambers and Ponton should diversify the USF O--which pretty much has been the Grothe show this season--and they should be much more formidable on that side of the ball. As for the USF D, they are fairly weak against the pass, but there are few teams in 1-A football who will be able to exploit that weakness less than UNC, who is averaging 47% completions, 5.23 ypp, and have a 2-9 ratio. And, while the USF pass D has been somewhat poor considering their competition, they are only giving up 6.03 ypp with a 3-5 ratio and it is unlikely they will be lit up by UNC QB Sexton. UNC's running game is not over efficient or prolific; 94 ypg and 3.37 ypc. USF was run over by the Rutgers RBs but has played well otherwise, and they should not have too much trouble with the UNC backs. UNC can only get more competitive as the season goes on, but this game comes too soon for them to make an impact.
John Bunting: nice 'stache. The team? Not so much.
CENTRAL MICHIGAN (-10) v. Ball State
CMU was flattered by the scoreline in last week's win against Toledo, but any time a team goes into the Glass Bowl as a 'dog and comes out with a 42-20 win they have little for which to apologize. QB LeFevour is no joke, and since being named the full-time starter against Kentucky, the team has averaged 39 ppg, and he has completed 43 of 67 passes for 655 yards, with 7 TDs and 0 INTs against Kentucky and Toledo. Certainly these are not great Ds, but one would be hard-pressed to argue that Ball State has a markedly better unit. For the season, Ball St's pass D has given up 320 ypg, 8.88 ypp, and a 12-5 ratio--and, please note that those numbers include games against the rather modest passing attacks of Eastern Michigan, Indiana, Buffalo, and 1-AA North Dakota State. It is not a stretch to say that LeFevour should have his best game yet this week. Ball State's run D is also poor; Garrett Wolfe went for 353 yards on them, and while there is no shame in that, the rather meager rushing games of EMU, Indiana, and Purdue averaged 154 ypg and 5.30 ypc against them. While CMU does not have a prolific rushing game, they should be able to move the ball if they need to; if you eliminate their game against Michigan's brick wall D, they are averaging 130 ypg and 4.44 ypc. Ball State can't run the ball--or, at least, they couldn't until they played Buffalo last week; prior to that game, they had hit 100 yards once, 103 yards on 32 carries against EMU. CMU has done pretty well against the run and should have little trouble with the Ball State rushing game. That said, Ball State does counter with a good passing attack--they have thrown for 276 ypg, 9.01 ypp, and a 16-3 ratio--but, note their list of opponents and it becomes less impressive. CMU has played some pretty good pass offenses from BCS teams this season--BC, Michigan, and Kentucky--and, in those games, they are giving up 241 ypg, 7.17 ypp, with a 7-1 ratio. These are not great numbers but it does indicate that they are unlikely to be overwhelmed by the Ball State passing attack and they should at least hold down their level of production enough to get ahead of the number at home.
Florida (-1) v. AUBURN
Note that while the proprietor(s) of this website are Gators, I am a Georgia Bulldog, and thereby no one outside of possibly a Seminole is more inclined not to like them. But, sometimes you have to give credit where credit is due and acknowledge what seem like heresies; more than anything else Florida's former coach was a completely insane recruiter, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. There's just nothing you can do on the Florida D, running or passing. Despite playing what is arguably one of the better schedules in the nation thus far, the Gators are giving up 54 ypg rushing (2.25 ypc) and 202 ypg passing (5.43 ypp) with a 3-11 ratio against. When a team like Tennessee--otherwise averaging 38 ppg and 462 ypg--is limited to 20 points and 220 yards at home, I'm not sure what the fix for opponents is. I never really bought Auburn this season; I was impressed with their win over WSU to start the season, but RB Irons has not been the Irons of last year--he was largely ineffective against LSU, and outside of a long TD run to open the 3rd quarter against WSU, he hasn't done much of anything--and HC Tuberville doesn't seem to have too much confidence in his receivers, since QB Cox has only thrown 23 times/game (not counting Buffalo, where he was pulled early). The end result is a fairly average O that is only averaging 19 ppg and 270 ypg in SEC play, which is certainly not what was envisioned from that unit by almost everyone at the season's start. I expect production from them this week not dissimilar to that they had against LSU, where they managed 7 points and where outside of two sustained drives, they managed 35 yards on 31 plays. Auburn's D is pretty good, but Florida has balance on O, and their passing game is one of the best in the nation. Against the Tennessee, 'Bama, and LSU defenses--on average, certainly as good as Auburn's D--Florida averaged 7.93 ypp with a 7-2 ratio. While not overly prolific--196 ypg--the production was enough to keep defenses honest and score enough points to win. Florida has another advantage that virtually no other teams have, as freshman QB Tebow's play is such that they are virtually guaranteed to convert 3rd or 4th and shorts; and, if last week is any indication, his running ability has become such a threat to opposing defenses that if he decides to throw--which I think is actually his weakness, I don't really buy him as a passer--it doesn't matter, because his receivers will be in single coverage (or, in the case of the jump-pass, not covered at all). To be honest, I'm getting a little annoyed at all the Tebow hype--and, of course, I can't stand anyone whose parents/wife/sister/girlfriend gets shown repeatedly while I'm trying to watch a game--but there's little anyone's done to stop him, and if LSU couldn't do it, I don't know who can. The bottom line is that LSU had the shot to knock off the Gators last week, and made mistakes no team can afford to make against a team as good as Florida. Outside of Nutt's nutz doing something crazy in the SEC championship game--provided he gets there, and with games against Tenn and LSU still left, that's no guarantee--or, LSU getting back and having a mistake-free game--both highly unlikely, in my opinion--outside of a complete implosion that cannot be foreseen, the Gators are going to run through the rest of their schedule with little difficulty.
Ohio State (-15) v. MICHIGAN STATE
The John L. Smith meltdown tour returns to the scene of the crime(s) this week, and they have to face the most prolific O in the nation. OSU has yet to really light it up--topping out at 38 points this season--but I suspect this week they might break out. MSU's run D shut down ND RB Walker, but I do not think much of him and they struggled considerably more against Illinois (236 yards) and Michigan (213 yards), and I think OSU's weaker rushing attack (weaker, that is, as opposed to their passing attack) will be able to run the ball well against them. Illinois QB Williams went for 103 yards, and last week the Michigan QBs had no carries; the lack of pressure means that OSU QB Smith will have time to throw, and will be able to run if he so chooses; this is a recipe for disaster for the Spartans. Smith has been as good as he was late last season; outside of a game played in a monsoon against Penn State, he has thrown for 258 ypg, 9.16 ypp, and a remarkable 14-0 ratio. MSU's pass D did well against Pitt, but ND QB Quinn shredded them, and while Illinois and Michigan did not throw the ball much against them that is largely a product of their success running the ball more than any inability to throw on their part. In any event, the OSU passing game is more than a match for ND's and MSU will have their hands full. MSU has run the ball well this season, but with the injury to RB Ringer, that ability seems to have escaped them; in their first 4 games, where Ringer played, they averaged 252 ypg and 6.15 ypc; against Illinois (where Ringer had one carry before being injured) and Michigan, they averaged 64 ypg and 2.44 ypc. Certainly it is understandable to have had such a poor performance against Michigan but the Illinois performance is inexplicable; note that Illinois followed that performance up by giving up over 200 yds rushing to lowly Indiana. It is possible to run on OSU--witness N Ill RB Wolfe's 172 yd performance--but I do not think MSU has that capability at this point. MSU QB Stanton has had a decent season throwing the ball--7.28 ypp with an 8-6 ratio--but good luck throwing against the OSU D. Opponents are averaging 6.12 ypp with a 5-11 ratio; even if you take out Penn State's statistics in the monsoon, those numbers are still 6.43 ypp with a 5-8 ratio. They have made otherwise solid QBs McCoy and Tate look downright pedestrian, and with that white guy that Musburger loves playing linebacker, Stanton has no choice but to throw a couple picks to him. Unlike last season, I think MSU will turn their season around--their next 4 games, after this one, are winnable--but I think that their resurgence will have to wait a week.
Florida State (-22.5) v. DUKE
I am less high on Florida State than just about anyone but this line is a joke. I rate Duke as a TD worse than any other BCS team, and while FSU has many limitations their D is not among them. Duke "exploded" for 14 points last week at 'Bama but they are still averaging 5 ppg for the season. I actually think RB Boyette is halfway decent, but he is about the only player on their O who is and it should be easy for FSU to shut him down. FSU held Clemson's quality RBs, including Davis and Spiller to 94 yards on 24 carries; while FSU was run over by NC State RBs Brown and Baker last week, but those are both good backs and FSU needed to worry about the passing game; this week, they'll have no such worries. Duke's QB Lewis is learning on the job, and while his stats are poor, they are still quite deceptive; outside of an inexplicable performance against Wake, where he went 21 of 32 for 305 yards and a TD, he has gone 35 of 73 for 353 yards with a 1-5 ratio. NC State threw well against them last week, but by and large the money plays were NC St WRs outjumping the FSU defenders; Duke's WR are not athletic enough to make that play work, even if the FSU defenders were willing to give it up again. Duke actually has a fair run D, although they have yet to face a truly prolific rushing attack (not that FSU's is, of course); the Duke pass D, however, is very weak and throwing the ball is what FSU does. QB Weatherford has faced some good Ds and has thrown for 7.14 ypp with a 5-3 ratio. Duke is giving up 226 ypg, 8.28 ypp, and a 6-2 ratio, despite having faced 2 freshman QBs, one making his first start, and one making his second. The only D FSU has faced that is comparable to Duke's is that of Rice, a game where FSU scored 55 points, and gained near 500 yards. Florida State will be looking to make amends after their performance last week and I expect them to treat Duke as a punching bag on which to take out their frustrations.
Funeral for a Friend? Not quite, but FSU's offense continues to die a slow death while Pappy Bowden, seen above, watches.
KENT (-7) v. Toledo
Toledo has struggled on O this season and this is just about the worst opponent they could be facing at this point in time. The Kent D has been great against MAC-level opponents (i.e., plus Army and Temple, but not including Minnesota), giving up 13 ppg, 3.22 ypc, and 5.07 ypp with a 3-6 ratio. Toledo QB Cochran may return this week, and while he is a slightly better passer than his fill-in QB Opelt, he is a statue and the voracious Kent D--which held the highly mobile BG QBs to 10 yds rushing on 19 carries--would love to tee off on him. And, quite simply, the Toledo team--averaging 5.22 ypp with a 7-8 ratio this season--simply doesn't have the goods to challenge this Kent D. While Kent is exploitable on the ground--at least more so than through the air--Toledo doesn't really run the ball, and they won't run it enough to make a difference in this game. On the other side of the ball, Kent has gotten good QB play this season out of QB Edelman--who, much like USF QB Grothe, is also the team's leading rusher--and he should be able to do the job against a poor Toledo D. For the season, Edelman has thrown for 9.14 ypp with a 6-6 ratio; please note, however, that his ratio for his first start, against BCS team Minnesota, was 0-3. He has also rushed for 4 TDs and is averaging 58 ypg on the ground. Toledo is giving up 8.10 ypp with a 9-4 ratio, and if not for a nightmare performance by Kansas QB Meier--which resulted in his benching--those numbers would be 9.18 ypp with a 7-0 ratio. Edelman should continue his hot play and lead Kent to an easy cover here with the help of the Kent D.
Hawaii (-3.5) v. FRESNO STATE
I'm a little upset about this line, as I have been waiting for this game for a while and it is unlikely that Hawaii would be favored if not for the Fresno loss to Utah State last week. I still like Hawaii laying this number; Hawaii's O this season is, arguably, as good as it has been under HC Jones, which is saying something. QB Brennan is averaging 8.97 ypp with a 13-4 ratio, and keep in mind that he has already played Boise and Alabama on the road this season. In addition, Hawaii is using their running game more than in years past, with a much greater impact; not only are they averaging their usual 6.17 ypc, they are also averaging 128 ypg rushing this season. Fresno's D is all right but that is not really operative here, as unless you are an elite D, Hawaii will produce and your only option is to try to keep up on O. Fresno can run the ball some, but they never really explode, averaging only 157 ypg rushing this season. This is also the Hawaii defensive strength this season, as they held the prolific Nevada rushing attack to just over 100 yards last week, and did the same with 'Bama. Hawaii's pass D is weak--7.96 ypp with a 9-2 ratio--but Fresno QB Brandstater is not going to be able to do anything against them, as he is averaging just 155 ypg and 5.27 ypp, with a 5-6 ratio; witness his 13-27, 155 yd performance against a Utah State D that until last week was giving up 9.06 ypp with a 10-2 ratio. There is even some talk that Hill will go with backup QB Norton for some of the game; he has never seen game action and it is unlikely he will have an impact. Fresno is a tough place to win, but it is not a fortress, and Hawaii has come within 1 score of beating two teams a lot better than Fresno on the road already this season, so I like them to get a comfortable win here.
Pat Hill: frustrated.
Tulane (+13) v. TEXAS-EL PASO
I think UTEP is one of the more overvalued teams in the nation. They have no running game to speak of--64 ypg, and 2.69 ypc--and, this week, their only RB with more than 35 yds rushing for the season is questionable with a severely bruised shoulder. Tulane is giving up just over 100 ypg rushing and should be able to more than handle the UTEP running game. UTEP can throw the ball some, but QB Palmer is an accident waiting to happen--sort of like his brother prior to his senior season--and, while he is averaging 8.29 ypp, he has also thrown 9 INTs in 5 games. Tulane does not have the best pass D, but they have come up against some good passing attacks--LSU and Houston--and, for the season, they are giving up 7.14 ypp. Certainly, UTEP will produce but I do not think they will outproduce what is becoming a very strong Tulane pass O. Excepting the game against LSU--who, all will agree, is in a class above UTEP when it comes to defense--they have averaged over 300 ypg and 8.57 ypp, with a 12-2 ratio. UTEP is poor against the pass; excepting last week's game against SMU, where they went up against a QB making his first start, they are giving up 7.26 ypp with an 8-5 ratio--and those statistics include games against New Mexico's non-existent passing attack, and SDSU's backup QB. UTEP has played one team that can run the ball at all this season--New Mexico--and the Lobos went for 193 yds on the ground. Tulane went for 136 yds against Miss St, and 99 yds against LSU; I think they will be able to have a run threat in this game that UTEP does not. I believe that balance will prove the difference, and I will call for the outright win for Tulane as a big 'dog.
Arkansas State (+12.5) v. MEMPHIS
Arkansas State is proving the bane of my existence this season, as I am 0-3 on games involving the Indians. Nevertheless, I will stick with them here as I think they are undervalued after last week. Memphis' running game is poor--RB Doss is a less than able replacement for RB Williams, and even if you discount the Tennessee game, where Doss missed the first half, as a team they have averaged 91 ypg and 3.44 ypc. I am not sure that ASU has too strong a run D--they have given up 117 ypg and 3.99 ypc, most of which can be traced to one poor performance against SMU--but Memphis does not run enough to make a difference. Memphis' O this season is predicated on the passing game; excepting the Tennessee game, they are averaging 7.48 ypp with an 8-6 ratio. Those are good numbers, but the Ark State pass D is pretty solid; 138 ypg, 5.38 ypp, and a 7-11 ratio. ASU has not faced a pass O as prolific as Memphis' but their QB is error-prone--at least one turnover in every game this season, and 2 on average--and ASU will certainly have a few takeaways. The key to this game, though, is on the other side of the ball. The Memphis D is very poor against the run; Ole Miss, UAB, and ECU--none of which have particularly strong running games--averaged 213 ypg and 4.98 ypc. The D has not adapted well to the change in schemes following the dismissal of Joe Lee Dunn, and to make matters worse they have suffered several injuries on the defensive side of the ball. Things have gotten so bad that this week they have moved a DE to LB, and a WR to CB. ASU has a strong running game, led by outstanding freshman Arnold; he has been carrying an ankle injury, but should play, and, in any event, his backup James is a serviceable replacement. ASU is averaging 170 ypg on the ground this season, and they should have little trouble moving the ball on the ground against the weak Memphis D. My biggest concern with ASU is the passing game; they are poor throwing the ball, 5.59 ypp with a 0-6 ratio for the season. Even as bad as they are, Memphis is so bad against the pass that it may not matter, giving up 9.10 ypp; much of that is due to Tennessee's great performance against them, but even without that game they are giving up 7.53 ypp to 3 below-average QBs. The key for ASU is to not fall behind early, and use the run to set up the pass; after turnovers nearly lost the game for them last week, I am betting that HC Roberts will count on his bread and butter--the running game--and do enough with it to get the win with the points.
When you think seduction...think Arkansas State.
Other games of note:
NAVY (-1) v. Rutgers
Navy is a team that makes no sense to me whatsoever. The team that's best stopped their rushing attack this season? 1-AA UMass. As a defense, they are giving up 4.61 ypc rushing and 6.74 ypp with a 8-1 ratio against this season, which somehow has only resulted in 17 ppg for their opponents. I don't know how they do it--I rated them as something like the 89th best D in the nation last season, but teams just can't score points on them. Rutgers has an unbalanced O--their QB, Mike Teel, might be the worst QB at a 1-A school; despite having an unstoppable running game, he only averages 118 ypg, 5.84 ypp, and has only amassed a 1-5 ratio. Navy's pass D is poor but they will not have to worry about it this week. Rutgers run D has played pretty well, but when you consider their opponents--UNC, Illinois, Ohio, South Florida--they are certainly untested. Bottom line with this game is that the passing attacks will have little impact, so I expect the team that rushes the ball better to win; Rutgers should light up the Navy rush D--I expect them to go for at least 200 yards, maybe as many as 250 yards--but, as I said before, teams have been doing that all season without scoring points. I respect Schiano as a coach but I think Navy HC Johnson is a better game coach and I like Navy to get the win in this spot.
As an aside, is there any talk that if Navy wins this game, and somehow beats ND, which will almost certainly result in an 11-1 season--looking at the rest of their schedule, they play Duke, Eastern Michigan, Temple, and Army--that they'll be in line for a BCS spot? I'm not sure what conditions they'll have to meet, I think they'll be undeserving even with a win over ND, and with Boise poised to go 12-0 it's got to hurt their chances--but does anyone know anything about this? It doesn't seem to me that Navy is a big draw, either with fans or ratings, but everyone pays lip service to them whenever they do well, so I suppose it's possible.
Michigan (-6.5) v. PENN STATE
I really can't say enough good things about Michigan RB Hart, who is just about the most honest player in the nation; he shows up every week, takes a bunch of carries, gets his yards, and never fumbles. That said, he will have his hands full this week with a Penn State run D that is nearly his own team's equal. QB Henne has really developed as a passer this season, and he will still be efficient even against a solid Penn State D. Excepting the Ohio State game--as noted earlier, played in very poor weather (and the Akron game, which is also a good passing team but was played in similar conditions)--Penn State has faced two teams that can throw the ball with some skill this season. Those two teams--ND and Minn--have lit them up, going for an average of 318 ypg, and 8.82 ypp, with a 5-0 ratio. The Penn State performance on the last drive in regulation against Minn last week, in particular, was deplorable. Penn State's O is very average, and will struggle against a Michigan unit that is solid against both the run and the pass. Michigan has shut down Wisconsin and Minnesota, and PSU does not present the threat on the ground that those teams do. I do not think Morelli is a good passer, and against Quinn, Stocco, Cupito, and Stanton--all of whom I would rate as better than Morelli--have combined for 5.90 ypp with a 6-5 ratio against the Michigan D. My main concern is that HC Carr will focus too much on the running game in the absence of WR Manningham, and thereby not exploit the best advantage his team has. Happy Valley is a tough place to win and my sense is that Michigan will be more than happy to get out of there with a W. So, I give a slight edge to Michigan laying the points, but it is not an "official" selection.
Unofficially not a good passer.