Question: How can someone get upset about his picks going 9-2?
Answer: If he started his Saturday going 9-0.
Solon complaining about going 9-2... kind of like Rick Ocasek complaining about being unlucky in love.
Alas, the elusive perfect weekend was not to be, as the Gators did indeed implode, losing a game they arguably deserved to win, and Tulane had 5 turnovers (to none for UTEP) and failed to hit the spread by 1 point. Still, I rode my luck a little elsewhere; CMU needed a goal line stand to stay ahead of the number against Ball State, so I'd better stop complaining and try to get after it again.
On another note, I'd like to thank ESPN.com for being just as shitty as the rest of their enterprise. Suffice it to say that if you want accurate statistics, make sure to get them from another outlet. It's not a whole lot of fun to have them list ( e.g.) Nate Longshore as having gone 13-24, 154, 0-1 in the ESPN.com boxscore, and then see in the recap--their very own recap, that is--that his stats are listed as 17-31, 176, 0-2. This is especially not exciting when you go back and check the statistics you've just spent the last 3 hours compiling, only to discover that this is not an isolated problem and you've pissed away much of your Sunday. Hey, ESPN--USAToday's website--the online arm of the shittiest newspaper in the country--kicks your ass.
My good week last week leaves me at 40-28 for the season (59%). Let's hope I can keep it going with this week's slate.
Fair warning--I am on very little sleep this week. On the plus side, I have finished my deposition summaries and should be fully rested next week; I suppose we'll see if it makes a difference.
Oh the irony of using to law to feed a gambling habit.
Here are this week's selections:
West Virginia (-22) v. CONNECTICUT
I am not as high on West Va as some others are but they are still an elite team this season. UConn, on the other hand, has double-digit losses to every team they have played that has a pulse. In terms of the types of offenses they run, these teams are similar; West Va's passing game is not overly prolific, but it is efficient (125 ypg, 8.14 ypp, with a 5-4 ratio); UConn's is not prolific, nor is it efficient (148 ypg, 5.21 ypp, with a 4-5 ratio). Each team has played one team that could throw; West Va held Syracuse to 9 of 22 for 146 yards, while UConn gave up 13 of 16 for 154 yards; clearly this results in an edge for West Va but the respective running games will decide this one, and that is where West Va has a large edge. West Va has averaged 299 ypg rushing this season, and are averaging 6.82 ypc. UConn's run D is poor; aside from holding Wake (without their starting QB or RB) to 76 yards, they have been poor against teams that can run the ball. Navy--the team most correlative with West Va (of course, they don't run the same offense, but they present some of the same problems)--rushed for 461 yards--and, 8.23 ypc--against the Huskies. In addition, South Florida--before legitimate rushing threat RB Ponton joined the team--rushed for over 200 yards against UConn. They also gave up 198 yards rushing to 1-AA Rhode Island. On the other side of the ball, UConn has rushed the ball well against bad rushing defenses--257 yds v. Indiana, 167 yds v. Navy--but they have struggled with better defenses, gaining only 87 ypg and 2.44 ypc against Wake and South Fla. Last week, against Army's poor rush defense, outside of a 98 yard TD run in the 1st quarter UConn averaged 3.28 ypc. West Va is giving up 89 ypg and 2.82 ypc; while they have not played too many good rush offenses, they have still played a few that are more accomplished than UConn. Another potential benefit to West Va is that UConn will abandon the running game if they fall behind; an average of 16 passes in their wins, but an average of 36 passes in their losses. This will not work to West Virginia's detriment, and I think they will get a comfortable win here.
Michigan State (-7.5) v. NORTHWESTERN
Michigan State's season has gone south, but outside of the loss to Illinois, the others (ND, Mich, Ohio St) are understandable. I think they will get back on track this week against what is probably the worst team in the Big 10. Michigan State's running game has disappeared with the injury to RB Ringer, but the going should be easier this week against a D that has given up 177 ypg in its games against non-MAC opponents. The key to this game for MSU, however, is QB Stanton; he will likely play despite his injury last week, and he should get back on track after going up against the solid defenses of Mich and OSU the last two weeks. NW is decidedly average against the pass, giving up 8.81 ypp against the teams they have played that could throw the ball--and that is using a fairly liberal interpretation, as included in that number are Penn State QB Morelli and 1-AA New Hampshire QB Santos. As for NW's O, they cannot pass the ball in any capacity; 112 ypg, 5.05 ypp, with a 1-7 ratio. QB Brewer will get the start this week despite his poor play; a large reason for this is that his potential replacements are no better. MSU is vulnerable in the air but that will not be an issue this week. NW can run the ball, but this is not the prolific NW O of years past; 123 ypg in Big 10 play, with opponents that include arguably the worst D in the conference, Purdue. MSU was run over by Illinois and Michigan, but their run D seemed to get back on track last week against OSU, where the Buckeyes were held to 182 yards on 44 carries; outside of long runs by WRs Ginn and Gonzalez--athletes NW can't match--they ran for 138 yards on 42 carries. This is a D that earlier shut down the ND and Pitt running games, and I think they will be able to hold the NW production down enough to get ahead of this number.
North Carolina State (+1.5) v. MARYLAND
Maryland's D is so bad that, to be honest, I am amazed that they are giving points to any halfway decent opponent (Virginia, last week, does not qualify). Against BCS opponents, Maryland gave up well over 300 yards rushing to West Va, well over 200 yds rushing to GT, and gave up 171 yards against Virginia--a team that had been averaging 77 ypg. NC St RBs Brown and Baker are probably the second best set of RBs Maryland will have faced (they are probably right about as good as GT's) and they should have a good day on Saturday. Maryland's run D has been so bad that teams do not need to throw (witness WVU's 9 pass attempts); but there is little doubt that NC State QB Evans will, amazingly, be the best QB Maryland has faced thus far this season (obviously, WVU QB White is a better all-around QB, but he presents little threat as a passer). Since Evans--who, for the record is listed as probable for the game (concussion)--became NC St's starter, the NC St O has averaged 20 ppg and 335 ypg, and they have been playing defenses a lot better than Maryland's. Maryland's O is all right, but their production this season is a little deceptive. First of all, they averaged 22 ppg and 308 ypg against William and Mary, MTSU, and Fla Intl; this is not overly impressive. Against West Va, they did not do anything offensively until they were trailing 28-0; against GT they had a KO return for a TD and scored another on an 8-yd drive; and, against Virginia they had an Int return for a TD and scored another on a 3-yd drive. I do not think NC State has a great D, but since losing to Southern Miss they have given up 311 ypg to offenses that are at least as good as Maryland's (whether Wake or FSU are better is questionable, but it's certainly debatable and Md is not demonstrably better, at least). Md QB Hollenbach is a very average QB--5.90 ypp against BCS opponents, only one of which has a particularly strong D--and I do not look for him to have particularly good production here. Maryland will run the ball a little bit, but they will not be able to keep up with NC State's O and I look for the 'Pack to get the outright win in this spot.
Western Michigan (-4) v. BALL STATE
Both of these teams had strange games last week, a product of their games being played in 40-degree temperatures with 20 mph winds. Such conditions are not in the offing this week and this game should be true to form. Ball State has a strong passing game--not in evidence last week--but the WMU D has been strong, arguably the best in the MAC this season (along with Kent's) and their performance against the N Illinois O last week is the rule rather than the exception. WMU has not gone up against the strongest passing games--little doubt, Ball's will be the best they have faced (276 ypg before last week)--but the statistics the WMU pass D have amassed are too strong not to suggest quality; 173 ypg and 6.27 ypp, with an amazing 3-14 ratio. Add to this that Ball State has yet to play a particularly strong pass D and I think they will struggle to produce this week. WMU has struggled on O this season, but they will likely get well this week against a poor Ball State D; they are giving up 8.19 ypp this season with a 9-6 ratio against 1-A opponents (please note that these numbers include last week's games in 20 mph winds, and do not include a 29-46, 451, 3-0 performance in a loss against 1-AA North Dakota State, which would push the numbers to 8.49 ypp with a 12-6 ratio). Ball St is no better against the run, giving up 172 ypg and 5.16 ypc; these numbers are skewed by Garrett Wolfe's magnificent performance against them, but even without that game opponents are averaging 112 ypg and 4.18 ypc, despite not having faced a single opponent with anything other than a below-average running game. To make matters worse, Ball St is missing multiple players on the defensive side of the ball this week. WMU has not produced yards on O this season--291 ypg--but their D has set them up and they have scored a good bit of points--24 ppg--despite their low yardage production. Their best games have been their last two (363 ypg) and they should have their best game yet this week. The gap in defensive quality between these two teams is best illustrated by their respective performances against Northern Illinois; Ball St gave up 358 yards rushing and 252 yards passing, while WMU gave up 0 yards rushing and 171 yards passing. Admittedly, as mentioned earlier, WMU played NIU in windy conditions but there is little reason this should have hampered NIU's ability to run the ball, and in any event WMU's rather modest passing game was considerably more productive in the same conditions.
ARKANSAS (-21) v. Mississippi
Arkansas is a strange team, insofar as their development this season is exponential; one could make the argument that each game of theirs is better than their last. This stands to reason, seeing as how they are starting a true freshman QB and have a new OC. Assuming they continue this progression, they should have little trouble getting ahead of the number here; Ole Miss is not a good team, and after being walloped by Mizzou, Kentucky, and Wake, they were thoroughly handled by a Vandy team that lost its starting QB in the 2Q, and happened to win despite being giving up over 400 yards while themselves gaining less than 200. The only bright spots on their resume are close losses to Georgia and 'Bama, but given the former's recent play and the latter's recent history of playing down to their competition I think these games do not augur significant improvement for the Rebels. Arkansas is sort of a paper tiger--any team that has decent WRs will tear them up (Tennessee? LSU? South Carolina?)--but there is little chance that Ole Miss QB Schaeffer and his receivers will be able to do the job; they have only garnered 124 ypg, 5.58 ypp, and a 5-8 ratio for the season. Ole Miss' best offensive weapon is RB Green-Ellis, but Arkansas is all right against the run and should hold him in check. On the other side of the ball, the Arkansas running game is very strong, averaging 182 ypg and 5.23 ypc against BCS opponents, with all the games being against pretty good run defenses. Ole Miss is poor against the run, giving up over 200 yards to Mizzou, Wake, and Bama, and giving up averages of 162 ypg and 4.44 ypc against a fairly average slate of run offenses; to illustrate the point, their teams are averaging 113 ypg and 3.62 ypc against their other 1-A opponents this season. Ole Miss actually shut down the Arkansas running game last year, but this is a much weaker D and the Razorbacks will be looking to make amends. Arkansas QB Mustain is not a good QB yet, but when his team gets a lead they can focus on the running game, which helps his efficiency; given Ole Miss' offensive limitations the chances that they will jump out to a lead in this game are small, and given that I expect Mustain to have a good game and for his team to easily get ahead of this number.
BAYLOR (-3.5) v. Kansas
Baylor is only 3-4 this season, but until last week they had been in all of their games, and last week's final score was a little deceptive, with 2 defensive TDs for Texas and 2 TDs on drives of less than 30 yards after Baylor TOs. Baylor's O is much improved this season; they have switched to a poor-man's TCU, and the result has been good if not great; 274 ypg with a 9-7 ratio. Baylor has run up against some pretty good defenses this season--the only real dog they have played is Army--and their passing game should be able to produce this week; against BCS level opponents, Kansas is giving up 311 ypg and 8.57 ypp with a 9-3 ratio. Kansas has played two QB this season; while QB Meier brings a running threat that QB Barmann cannot match, I think Barmann is a much better passer. The truth is, neither is too accomplished; combined, they are averaging 237 ypg and 6.60 ypp with a 10-10 ratio despite having played only 1 particularly legitimate defense (Nebraska). Baylor is pretty good against the pass; opponents are only averaging 6.58 ypp, and even after last week's 6-1 performance by Texas, their ratio for the season sits at 11-10. Kansas runs the ball better than they throw it, and they are averaging 149 ypg and 4.07 ypc with Meier as the starter--but those numbers have been accumulated against very pedestrian defenses and they will find the going tougher this week. Baylor's run D had a poor game against Colorado--270 yards on 47 carries--but they have been good against the other good run offenses they have faced, holding TCU, Wash St and Texas to 106 ypg and 3.08 ypc. I rate all of those running games as markedly stronger than Kansas'; I think their performance against the Colorado running game was aberrational, and I expect the Baylor D to bounce back in a big way after their performance last week and have a strong game on Saturday.
Wisconsin (-6) v. PURDUE
Purdue's offense this season is, as always under Tiller, prolific; that said, they have not faced a D anywhere near as good as this one, and the one that is remotely in Wisconsin's class--Iowa--held them to 17 points. QB Painter seems to have grasped the offense, and he is averaging 337 ypg, 7.78 ypp, and a 7-4 ratio against BCS opponents. Having played them the last three weeks, I have often praised the Wisconsin pass D, which has amazingly only given up more than 113 yards passing once this season, and has given up just 2 TDs passing in all their games, both passes from Henne to Manningham; for the season, they are giving up 4.55 ypp. There is little doubt that Purdue will blow up these stats, but I expect their normal level of production to be severely curtailed. Purdue does run the ball pretty well, but Wisconsin has done pretty well against the run--their worst games statistically coming in blowouts where the opponents got rushing yards after the game was no longer competitive, while holding Michigan to 101 yds and NW to 122 yds--and I doubt the Purdue running game will be a factor. On the other side of the ball, Purdue has a below-average D and they will likely struggle against a Wisconsin O that is getting better by the week. Wisconsin's strength is the running game; freshman RB Hill is no joke, going over 100 yards in each game except v. Michigan, and averaging 181 ypg and 6.53 ypc against three other Big 10 opponents, all of which have run defenses as good as if not better than Purdue's. Purdue has given up 190 ypg rushing and 4.54 ypc against BCS opponents, and have faced no RBs anywhere near the quality of Hill. In recent weeks, QB Stocco has stepped it up as well; in Big 10 play he is averaging 238 ypg and 9.63 ypp, with a 9-1 ratio--and those numbers include a below-average game against arguably the best D in the nation. Purdue has been torn up by the two legitimate QBs they have faced this season--Quinn and Tate have gone for 286 ypg and 9.36 ypp with a 4-0 ratio--and, perhaps more telling, the two MAC teams they have faced this season have gone for 335 ypg and 8.59 ypp with a 6-3 ratio. I think Wisconsin is the clear 3rd team in the Big 10 and I think they will handle Purdue with relative ease on both sides of the ball.
Oregon State (-2.5) v. ARIZONA
Oregon State was dominated by both Boise and Cal but 'Zona is a different proposition. 'Zona cannot run the ball; despite their 221 yd effort last week against Stanford, I still rate them as having the worst running game among the BCS schools; against USC, UCLA, and Washington, they rushed for a total of -36 yards. Oregon State has recovered nicely from getting steamrolled by Boise in the 2nd game of the year, and they have given up 90 ypg and 2.60 ypc in Pac 10 play; it is probably safe to say it will be back to normal for the Arizona running game this week. This is particularly problematic for their O, because they will likely be down to their 3rd string QB this week, Kris Heavner. Some might recall Heavner's rather undistinguished 2003 and 2004 seasons, where he threw for 6.15 ypp with a 12-19 ratio. Outside of a strong performance by Cal QB (and likely Pac 10 1st team QB) Longshore, they have played rather well, giving up 6.82 ypp with a 2-5 ratio, despite playing against some good QBs; outside of Idaho's QB, there is little doubt the other QBs are all considerably more accomplished than Heavner. Oregon State's running game is average but their passing game is strong; QB Moore is getting good production (232 ypg and 7.63 ypp), and he should be able to exploit a 'Zona D that is giving up 7.48 ypp this season and has only 3 interceptions; this should be enough given that I expect the Oregon State D to control this game.
Colorado (+13.5) v. OKLAHOMA
Oklahoma's O has been strong this season, due to better-than most expected production from QB Thompson--but without RB Peterson, they will definitely suffer. For the season, Peterson had 935 yds and was averaging 5.6 ypc; all other running backs combined had 79 yds and were averaging 3.95 ypc. Colorado's run D is pretty good, and even with Peterson OU would have had their hands full; BCS opponents are averaging 96 ypg and only 3.36 ypc against the Colorado D. The onus will be upon QB Thompson to produce; against BCS teams, OU is averaging 7.73 ypp with a 5-3 ratio. These are good numbers, but I think his performance will suffer without the running threat provided by Peterson, as teams will be able to focus on the pass. Colorado has given up a lot of yards to opposing passing attacks, but they have faced some pretty strong ones thus far (Col St, Zona St, Mizzou, Texas Tech), and they have played well considering the opposition; 6.92 ypp, with a 12-9 ratio. Given that they should able to make stopping Thompson their top priority, I do not expect them to be lit up via the air. On the other side of the ball, Colorado's running game has gotten stronger as the season has gone on, and the last few weeks they have started to pile up some impressive numbers. In chronological order, they gained 133 yds v. Zona St, 173 yds v. Georgia, 189 yds v. Mizzou, 270 yds v. Baylor, and 228 yds v. Texas Tech; in these games, they are averaging a healthy 4.73 ypc. OU has a good D, but opposing teams have been able to run the ball on them; against BCS teams they have given up 149 ypg and 4.66 ypc. Colorado's passing game is by no means strong, but for the most part HC Hawkins knows enough to focus on the run. Colorado has shown clear improvement from game-to-game this season, culminating in last week's demolition of Texas Tech; I am not sure that they can beat Oklahoma but I think their D is good enough to keep it close and they could certainly come out on top in what should be a low-scoring contest.
CLEMSON (-7.5) v. Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech appears to have had a good season thus far, but if you look more closely at what they have done their only victory of note was against Va Tech, and after what BC did to them last week this win looks considerably less impressive. GT's O has played well, but against the 2 best defenses they have faced--the Virginia schools--they only managed 322 ypg, and there is little doubt that Clemson's D, which has yet to give up 300 yds to any opponent this season (in regulation), and has not allowed anyone to do anything particularly well against them, has those beat. As long as they can keep WR Johnson under control they should easily keep the GT O in check. GT's run D so far this season appears strong--80 ypg and 2.63 ypc against BCS opponents--but, in truth, they have not faced a decent RB; the best they have faced was ND's Walker--in my opinion, a very average RB--and he went for 99 yds on 22 carries against them. Both Davis and Spiller--and, hell, for that matter, maybe even 3rd stringer Chancellor--are all superior to any RB GT has seen this season. GT's pass D faces the same question, although to a lesser extent--outside of ND QB Quinn, and arguably VT QB Glennon--GT has faced no QBs of note. GT did all right against those QBs ( 6.43 ypp), but they went for an average of 293 ypg and it is likely that Proctor will be able to throw the ball with some success. I think Clemson is the best team in the ACC and they will do the job here.
Tulsa (- 13.5) v. MEMPHIS
Tulsa shat their pants against BYU early this season, but have otherwise followed up on last year's surprising performance with another fine season. Their O has balance and even though they are down to their 3rd string RB Tennial they still present a formidable challenge for an opposing defense. Tennial has averaged over 100 ypg against solid ECU and Southern Miss defenses and will likely have more success against a poor Memphis D that is giving up 205 ypg rushing this season. Tulsa QB Smith is quality as well--221 ypg, 7.28 ypp, and a 7-4 ratio--and, he goes up against a Memphis D that is no more accomplished against the pass than it is against the run; 9.18 ypp with an 8-6 ratio. And, the truth is, since firing DC Joe Lee Dunn, Memphis has gotten worse on D; 34 ppg and 463 ypg, in 3 games, while only playing 1 good offense along the way. Add to this that Memphis is a little banged up on D, especially in the defensive secondary, and the odds are good that they will have another long day. Tulsa is vulnerable to the run, but they are not horrible; in any event, Memphis will not be able to exploit this weakness; they have not filled the void left by RB Williams, and they have only hit 100 yards twice this season, and are averaging 81 ypg and 3.33 ypc. Memphis can throw the ball some--208 ypg and 6.99 ypp--but the Tulsa pass D is solid and they will likely not match those numbers this week. Tulsa was exploited by the strong BYU passing attack, but have otherwise dominated opponents; 88 ypg and 3.98 ypp, with a 1-4 ratio. Certainly this has not been against the best passing attacks as they include North Texas and Navy among them, but against Memphis equivalents So Miss and ECU they have been even better, only giving up 3.26 ypp and no TDs. I think may be a matchup between the best and worst teams in ConfUSA and the gap between them is considerably larger than this line.
Other Games of Note:
Rutgers (+6.5) v. PITTSBURGH
There is a part of me that thinks both of these teams are paper tigers that are benefitting from playing in the Big East (yes, I know, the various computer rankings rate them higher than the ACC, and one ranks them the #1 conference, but still); if you look at their respective schedules, they have between them beaten one halfway decent team, South Florida--and that Rutgers win came only after S Fla missed a potential game-tying 2 point conversion. Rutgers has also beaten Navy--no doubt as impressive as the South Florida win--but, given that Navy QB Hampton left the game with the scores level in the 1st quarter, the win is less impressive than it appears at first blush. The deciding factor in this game for me is the Michigan State-Pitt game; while Michigan State is a quality team, they are by no means a powerhouse and they handled Pitt comprehensively on both O and D. Bottom line--Rutgers certainly hasn't been tested, and they might be a good team, but Pitt has been tested and shown to be lacking. So, given that, and given that Rutgers should control the line of scrimmage and I am getting points, I will lean to Rutgers in this one.
NEBRASKA (+5.5) v. Texas
As alluded to earlier, Texas' win over Baylor last week was not as definitive as the final score indicated. They are obviously a quality team but the gap between them and the rest of the Big 12 is considerably smaller than it was last season. One could argue that Oklahoma was better than Texas in the Red River Shootout but were done in by mistakes, and I would be among that number; and, given the results of the season thus far, one could certainly make the case that Nebraska is their primary challenger for Big 12 supremacy. If this Texas team has a weakness, it is their pass D; while their 7.38 ypp and 6-5 ratio against BCS teams is not poor, it is clear that their secondary is more vulnerable than it was last season. The Nebraska QBs have yet to have a truly inefficient game this season, and are averaging 8.68 ypp with a 6-0 ratio against BCS opponents. In addition, Nebraska has diversified the O the last couple of weeks, and their talented RBs have grown up and they now have a running threat to go with their good passing game, which will only help their efficiency. In my estimation, Texas has a slight edge on Nebraska in just about every category, but the gap is not large and I think this may be the week that the breaks go against them. Part of that will be down to the venue; Nebraska is the toughest stadium for opponents to play at in the Continental US, providing approximately a 7 point advantage for the 'Huskers. I think the wise move here is to take the points with the home side.
Alabama (+11) v. TENNESSEE
I was wrong about Tennessee this season, probably more off on them than I was on any other team. Even so, I don't really buy their running game, and 'Bama's pass D is strong--134 ypg and 6.45 ypp with a 6-8 ratio against BCS opponents--and I believe they will hold down QB Ainge's production. Tennessee has a strong D, but 'Bama QB Wilson is ridiculously consistent--between 206 and 253 yards in each of his 7 games this season--and he will have similar production here. I also think that despite their decent statistics, Tennessee is actually vulnerable against the run; Georgia's performance against them was fairly good (26-147) and I would think that 'Bama can at come close to those numbers. Tennessee is probably the better team on both sides of the ball, but 11 points is a lot to give to 'Bama, particularly in what is such a hard-fought series. I suspect that the Vols will be more than happy with a 3 or 7 point win, and that is probably what they will get.