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SOLON'S PICKS: FROM TURKEY EATEN TO TURKEY EATIN'

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It's been a very, very rough patch for our resident gamblord lately. Hopefully Thanksgiving break will find him going from turkey eaten to turkey eatin' against the spread. Enjoy.

Another pathetic performance last week; that's two weeks out of three going 2-8, after I hadn't had a single week that bad since 1992. This one was much better than the last one, for what it is worth; whereas half of my games a few weeks ago weren't even competitive, only the Mizzou and LSU games weren't competitive this week.


Sometimes you're the turkey. Sometimes you're the deep-fryer.

And it doesn't help when you have wankers like Petrino running it up to get a meaningless TD with 1.28 left in the game, sticking it to my action (of course, when he does it and I've bet on him, he's totally cool).

To recap for those just joining us, here is my winning percentage this season by month:

September: 26-19 (58%)
October: 29-16 (64%)
November: 9-20 (31%)

At this point, I suppose I should just be thankful that my September and October were good enough to overcome the November that I am having.

I really have no excuses; I'm certainly not spending the time on this that I should--certainly, nowhere near as much as I did last year--but at this point my GUT of CFB is so off that I can't imagine spending every waking second on it would change things too much. I did spend this Sunday away from the office and not working at home; my belief is that this cannot hurt things any if at all.

I have tried to adjust my assumptions a little bit this week, so hopefully I can get back on track. Still, it is clear that anyone who does anything other than bet against my picks at this point should have their head examined. My season record is 64-55, a winning percentage of 54%. Here are this week's selections:

THURSDAY:

Boston College (-4) v. MIAMI (FLORIDA)

I used to often joke about how the last several seasons, Miami's motivation for every big game, it seemed, was acting like they were being disrespected by the media and the public; unfortunately for them, they are so bad this season that they are unable to credibly make that argument it at this point.

Sadly, a 1-point win at home over ConfUSA's Houston is Miami's only win of note; outside of this, they have defeated UNC, Duke, Fla Intl, and FAMU. They have lost 4 straight and my guess is that they would probably rather pack it in then prolong the season with a bowl bid. Given the timing of this game, the situation is perfect for BC; they take the field a full two days before a Wake win may put an end to their ACC Atlantic divisional title hopes. BC's season has been the opposite of Miami's, in terms of expectation level; but for a few bad breaks, they would sit undefeated. BC's O is not especially prolific, but they tend to be serviceable; Miami's D is solid against the run--it's the one area, as a team, that they are good in--but their pass D is exploitable and BC QB Ryan should be able to have a good bit of production. Ryan is averaging 238 ypg in ACC play, and while Miami's numbers against the pass are fair, the few good QBs they have played--Louisville QBs Brohm/Cantwell, Houston QB Kolb, Maryland QB Hollenbach--have done quite well, averaging 10.32 ypp with a 4-0 ratio. Ryan is certainly not as good as Brohm, but he compares favorably with the other QBs listed there. Miami's running game is all right, but they have only averaged 106 ypg in ACC play and they are unlikely to take over the game, particularly against a BC D that seems to be improving against the run; while they gave up an average of 134 ypg in their first 4, they have only given up over 100 yards once in their last seven. During that time, they held VT, Wake, and Md to 63 ypg and 2.42 ypc; by way of comparison, the very stout Miami run D held VT and Md to 62.5 ypg and 2.27 ypc. Miami's QB is now Freeman, and he has been quite pedestrian in two starts; against Md, he was 14-27 for 140 yards, and against UVa he was 10-17 for 139 yards. Please note that nearly all of his production in the UVa game was a product of his final pass, a 77-yard TD with 3 minutes to go in the game; before which he was 9-16 for 62 yards. UVa has a decent pass D but they are not in the class of BC, against whom ACC opponents have thrown for 5.63 ypp with a 5-11 ratio. It's worth noting that BC has at least two interceptions in every game since September; against a QB as green as Freeman, this trend is sure to continue. I expect Miami to play with a little pride at the outset, but so long as BC does not fall behind early and chase the game, I think they will handle this dispirited Miami team and get ahead of this number.


You can't disrespect the U! That's their job, actually.

FRIDAY:

Fresno State (-11.5) v. LOUISIANA TECH

Fresno State has had a poor season by their standards, but if you look game-by-game, the only really bad loss they have had was when they gave up a last-minute TD on 3rd and 22 in a loss at Utah State. Their biggest failing this season has been their D; that said, most of the damage they have suffered this season came from the many high-powered offenses they have faced, specifically those of Oregon, Hawaii, LSU, and Boise. Aside from games against these offenses--all of which are on a much higher level than LT, by every measure--Fresno is giving up 18 ppg and 303 ypg, despite playing additional above-average offenses in Nevada, Washington, and New Mexico State. LT's O is not as bad as their D, but they have only topped 17 points this season against Utah State and North Texas; outside of those games (both wins), the only other remotely positive result on their schedule is a 10-point loss at home to a mediocre Idaho team, as they have lost every other game by at least 31 points. It is unlikely they will do anything but struggle against a Fresno D that has at least shown some life of late, keeping holding New Mexico State's high-powered O to 18 points, and not allowing the Idaho O past their 36-yard line. And, as mediocre as Fresno's O has been, they should get well this week against the hapless LT D. Fresno does not get much out of their passing game--which is odd because they have some talented WR--but their running game is legitimate, and LT's run D is quite weak. Only the strong run Ds at Colorado State, LSU, and Boise have kept the Fresno running game in check; against their other opponents they have averaged 191 ypg and 5.25 ypc for the season, even though their opponents include Pac 10 teams Oregon and Washington. LT's run D is giving up 200 ypg and 5.83 ypc in WAC play; most of the damage was the result of a 424-yard performance against an otherwise unremarkable SJSU run O that is averaging only 138 ypg against other WAC opponents. Fresno's strong performance last week suggests that they have not given up on their season after their poor start, and I think they will come to play and get ahead of this number.

SATURDAY:

Kansas (+7) v. MISSOURI

As amazing as it may sound, 6-5 Kansas is not too far away from an 11-0 season; they have 2 road losses in OT, lost double-digit 4th quarter leads to A&M and Baylor, and blew a 17-0 3rd quarter lead against Oklahoma State. I think they will hold their own against a Mizzou team that has lost 4 of their last 5. Leading Mizzou WR Franklin was injured early in last week's contest, and is expected to miss this week; while QB Daniel still threw for 300 yards last week, he was not nearly as effective as he should have been against a weak ISU D. While Mizzou will be better prepared for playing without Franklin this week, I still expect them to suffer and not have the sort of production level to which they are accustomed. Kansas' pass D has struggled against the better teams they have played--Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Baylor, for example, threw for 400 ypg and 9.76 ypp with a 14-2 ratio--but they have held their own against other passing games, especially in recent weeks; in their last three, Col, ISU, and K State have averaged 189 ypg and 5.62 ypp with a 0-5 ratio. While some of this is obviously the product of the quality of the opposition, it seems certain they have improved recently and I believe they will be able to keep Mizzou in check, particularly since they are likely to be without the biggest weapon in their WR contingent. KU should have little trouble with the Mizzou running game; KU has held their own against the better running games on the schedule--A&M, Okla St, and Colorado averaged 174 ypg and 4.59 ypc, but I rate all of those teams as having far superior running games to Mizzou--and they have held comparable running games at Nebraska and K State under their normal levels of production. The big advantage for Kansas comes on the other side of the ball, where RB Cornish--who might be the best RB no one knows about--should have a big day. Ever since a season-ending hip injury suffered by Mizzou stud DE Smith in the 3rd quarter of the K State game, they seem be particularly exploitable against the run; prior to the injury, Mizzou was giving up 3.21 ypc rushing; since, they have given up 4.76 ypc rushing. The ultimate confirmation of the evidence came last week, when ISU lined up FB Kock in the backfield, and they ran over Mizzou to the tune of 205 yards, by and large running on every down. Cornish will probably be the best RB Mizzou has faced outside of the A&M RBs, and KU as a team is averaging 213 ypg and 6.01 ypc in Big 12 play; they should have little trouble controlling the line of scrimmage when they have the ball. Kansas' passing game is not the best but with expected production like this from their running game it won't need to be.


Noooooooo!!! Don't eat him, Mark! He's too young!

Oklahoma (-5) v. OKLAHOMA STATE

It gets lost in the shuffle, but despite the injury to RB Peterson and losing QB Bomar prior to the season, if not for the questionable loss at Oregon, Oklahoma would stand at 10-1 at this point. Specifically, their D, which seemed to have so much promise but did not deliver early in the season has stepped it up lately; in Big 12 play, their D is only giving up 11 ppg and 238 ypg; only Mizzou has gained as many as 300 yards (360), and they needed 72 plays to reach that number (5 ypp). Oklahoma State probably the best O in the Big 12, but while they overwhelm lesser teams, better defenses keep them in check; they were held to 331 yds and 27 points against K State, and Texas dominated them, only giving up 10 points and 203 yards as OSU QB Reid had the worst game of his career to date. I am a big fan of Reid but I am a little concerned by his play against Texas, which does not bring a particularly strong pass D to the table; given that he has recently followed that performance up with an 11-31, 145 yd performance against Texas Tech--which has a strong pass D, although they are not in Oklahoma's class--I think Reid might be feeling the effects of the long season, and now he has to go up against the strongest pass D he has faced, by far. The closest any Big 12 QB came to having an effective game against OU was Texas QB McCoy, who only went 11-18 for 108 yds, with 2 TDs and 0 interceptions; no one else has avoided throwing an int, and the best ypp by any Big 12 QB--McCoy included--is Mizzou QB Daniel's 6.31 ypp. Okla St also has a strong running game, and this is OU's weakness on D, but the term is relative; other than Texas A&M--who gained 204 yds on 40 carries against OU--their other Big 12 opponents have averaged 62 ypg and 2.64 ypc. I actually do rate the OSU running game as pretty close to A&M's, but I would be surprised if they matched that level of production; as it stands, those numbers were skewed by a 58 yard run by RB Goodson on his first carry, after which the Aggies averaged 3.74 ypc. In all, Goodson had 58, 31, and 27 yard runs that accounted for most of the A&M running statistics; OSU RBs Savage and Hamilton are very good backs, but in my estimation they are not in the class of Goodson and are unlikely to break the same sort of big plays against the strong Sooner D. OU's D should keep OSU's production down more than enough to allow the OU O to get the job done against a below-average OSU D which is giving up 30 ppg and 406 ypg in conference play; every non-Sun Belt opponent they have played this season has scored at least 24 points. Not counting games against Baylor and Texas Tech, for whom running the ball is incidental, OSU has given up 179 ypg and 4.54 ypc; these teams have all had good rushing games but OU doesn't take a back seat to any of them, save perhaps A&M. Since the injury to RB Peterson, RBs Brown, Patrick and Guiterrez are still averaging--amazingly--179 ypg and 4.54 ypc (yes, the numbers are the same); and, for what it is worth, RB Brown looks to be a better back than RB Patrick, which should allow their running game to be even more effective. QB Thompson has also been very efficient this season; not including the A&M game, played in high winds, he has gone for 187 ypg and 7.54 ypp with a 9-4 ratio in Big 12 play; OSU, against "traditional" passing games--i.e., not Baylor or Texas Tech--has given up 229 ypg and 8.40 ypp, with a 10-1 ratio in conference play. OSU has been strong at home this season, beating Nebraska handily and taking A&M to OT despite losing QB Reid early in the contest, but OU has also been solid on the road, winning at Mizzou and A&M, and nearly defeating Oregon; I believe they will have OSU's measure and get the job done.

New Mexico State (-5.5) v. UTAH STATE

I hate to give points with bad teams, especially on the road, but I believe the gap between these two teams has been so demonstrated over the course of the season that I will do it here. The Utah State O this season has had very modest production. A QB change after the Idaho game has helped, but not too much; while prior to the change USU scored 6 ppg, after they have scored 14 ppg--that said, the quality of the defensive opposition has weakened significantly, and 14 of those points came on meaningless TDs when the other team had given up on the contest. New Mexico State's D is not good--opponents are scoring 42 ppg--but even they will not be overmatched against this O. For the season in WAC play, USU is only averaging 286 ypg; they have averaged 3.54 ypc and 6.54 ypp with a 7-9 ratio, and their best game was a 373 yd effort against LT. As bad as the NMSU D is, there's little doubt they are better than LT; LT is giving up 464 ypg in WAC play, whereas NMSU is giving up only 404 ypg. In addition, as of late NMSU seems to have improved on D; over their last three games--two of which were against the legitimate offenses of Nevada and SJSU--they have held opponents to 344 ypg. As a result, I think the rather impotent USU O will perform at a level not much higher their average season performance to date. The big advantage for NMSU lies on the other side of the ball, where their passing game is quite prolific. Only Nevada's strong pass D has held them under 300 yards this season, and they went over 500 yards passing against both UTEP and Boise; their WAC averages are 368 ypg and 7.38 ypp, with a 14-8 ratio. This week they are up against the worst pass D in the WAC; USU is giving up 243 ypg, and that number is only as low as it is because teams can run on USU at will, averaging 5.33 ypc; for the record, against the pass, USU is also giving up 9.57 ypp with a 20-3 ratio. The only pass offense remotely comparable to NMSU in the WAC is Hawaii--who went 23-38 for 486 yds with 7 TDs against USU. I think NMSU HC Dumme's O is finally taking root, and NMSU has been getting better lately--they outgained both SJSU and Fresno, and only turnovers did them in--and I think they will close out the season with two wins, and get ahead of the number here.

Texas Christian (-9.5) v. COLORADO STATE

TCU has disappointed me this season; I have played them 4 times and they have only won once. Still, I think they are a good play this week against a CSU team that has lost 5 games on the trot. CSU's O faced adversity before the season began, in the form of an injury to RB Bell; his two replacements, Johnson and Ohaeri, have combined for 52 ypg and 3.01 ypc. It is unlikely that the CSU running game will be factor this week against one of the two best run defenses in the MWC; against the other (Wyo), CSU managed 42 yards rushing on 22 carries. CSU's passing game is far more productive, but even that has began to struggle as they have hit the meat of the MWC schedule. Through the first half of the AFA game, CSU was averaging 9.75 ypp with a 7-2 ratio, but since then they are averaging 5.75 ypp with a 4-7 ratio; this decrease in efficiency has coincided with losing a 21-3 halftime lead against AFA, and losing all four games since. TCU's pass D is quite good; the only team that has thrown for 300 yards against them was BYU, and only Baylor, Texas Tech, and Utah have thrown for as many as 200 yards; they have held their other five opponents--their last five--to less than 183 yards, and those opponents are averaging 123 ypg and 4.80 ypp with a 1-8 ratio. Against all opponents, they have given up 183 ypg and 5.66 ypp with a 7-10 ratio. TCU tends to dominate one-dimensional offenses, and the chances are good that TCU will hold the one-dimensional CSU offense in check. TCU's O has been inconsistent this season, but last week they played their best game of the season against SDSU; specifically, they let QB Ballard open it up a little, and the result was a season-high in passing yards, as well as a season high in rushing yards. CSU has been vulnerable against the pass this season, and my hope is that HC Patterson will keep the O open and take advantage of this weakness. In MWC play, CSU has given up 221 ypg and 8.20 ypp with a 7-3 ratio. The CSU run D is decent, but TCU has produced on the ground since the return of RB Hobbs for the Utah game; since his return, they have averaged 179 ypg and 4.41 ypc on the ground. Teams have run against CSU this season--Wyo and Nevada both went for over 150 yds, and Utah and BYU both went for over 100 yds; I do not expect TCU to tear CSU up on the ground, but they should easily outrush CSU and that should be enough to open things up for the passing game.

South Carolina (+5.5) v. CLEMSON

South Carolina this season are what the Brits would call "nearly men"--they keep coming close to beating big-name opponents but as of yet have not had any payoff. I think their payoff will come this week against their biggest rival, who seem to have lost their way in recent weeks. In retrospect, Clemson's season has not been as good as it first appeared; wins over Fla Atl, UNC, LT, and Temple amount to little, their dominating performance against FSU seems not be of too much note, and they were quite fortunate not to lose at Wake. Only their unfortunate loss at BC and their win against GT would be called strong performances at this point. And, since that comprehensive win over GT, Clemson has struggled mightily on the offensive side of the ball; against VT, MD, and NC State, they are averaging 13 ppg and 305 ypg, even though only VT's D is the only one of those that would be classified as above-average. Clemson's running game matches up well with SCar; outside of Arkansas RBs McFadden and Jones--who went for 272 yards against SCar--this will be the best set of RBs SCar has faced this season. But, as so often occurs, their statistics are a little inflated; against the better run defenses they have faced--BC, Fla State, Wake, GT, and VT--Clemson has run for 174 ypg and 5.30 ypc. These are good numbers, but are skewed by a night where everything went right against GT; if the GT game is not included, those numbers drop to 137 ypg and 4.35 ypc. These are good numbers but if they run to those numbers they are not going to overwhelm anyone. Fortunately for South Carolina, Clemson QB Proctor has been showing his limitations lately, and for the season is only averaging 182 ypg and 6.86 ypp with a 6-8 ratio. South Carolina's effectiveness against the pass has a ceiling, but I do not think that Proctor will be able to throw on them. On the other side of the ball, South Carolina's running game started off the season slow--79 ypg and 3.05 ypc in their first 3 SEC games--but as of late, they have been much better, averaging 146 ypg and 4.77 ypc, and only being ineffective in the Arkansas game, when they fell behind early and abandoned the pass (and when top RB Boyd was injured and had no carries). Clemson has been pretty good against the run--they stuffed Wake, GT, and Maryland--but they have shown vulnerability at times; VT RB Ore took them apart, and NC State's RBs last week went for 189 yds on 41 carries. And, while Clemson has also been good against the pass, they have not faced too many good QBs. The better QBs they have faced--BC QB Ryan, VT QB Glennon, and Md QB Hollenbach--have thrown for 6.65 ypp with a 2-1 ratio; and, you'll note, they QB'd the teams that have given Clemson their three losses. I would rate the SC passing game as better than any of this group; in SEC play, SC QBs averaged only 7.19 ypp with an 8-8 ratio, but 7 of those 8 opponents had pass defenses that I would rate among the top half of the nation and two of them (Fla and UT) I would rate in the Top 10. Clemson did shut down GT WR CJohnson, but SC has more depth in their WR corps and will present a different sort of challenge; not only is McKinley a better second WR than they have seen, but RB Boyd is probably the best receiver out of the backfield they will have faced this season as well. I like South Carolina to win this one outright.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (-7.5) v. Notre Dame

I am actually going to be in attendance at this game this weekend, so I'm glad it comports with one of my selections. USC had a rough start to the Pac 10 schedule, but this was probably more a product of the new players on offense becoming situated and overcoming a bit of injury problems. At this point, they have gotten it together on both sides of the ball and are stating their intention. ND's resume is much better than last season--even though they have defeated no elite teams, Penn State, Purdue, GT, and UCLA were arguably better this season than any of the opponents they defeated last season, save perhaps Michigan--but, as a team, I think ND is demonstrably worse this season compared to last. Their O appears to be no better, and their D appears to be much worse, especially against the pass. While USC's passing game is worse than last season's, they are still very strong; they are averaging 7.40 ypp with a 22-7 ratio. These are not great numbers until you consider the injuries at WR, and consider that, outside of Stanford, they have played no bad teams. ND has faced two teams that can throw the ball this season--Michigan and Purdue--and those teams averaged 9.10 ypp with a 5-1 ratio. Whether Booty is as good as Henne is debatable, but in my estimation USC has a better set of WR than Michigan--i.e., they will be the best set of WR that ND has faced--and they should do well this weekend against the Irish D. The USC running game is serviceable, and outside of the Oregon State game, where they abandoned the run, and the Stanford game, where they lacked incentive, they have gone over 100 yards in every game this season. ND is pretty good against the run; against the BCS teams they have played, they are giving up 108 ypg and 3.62 ypc--but they only really handled Stanford, UCLA, and UNC; against the others (Mich, MSU, Pur, PSU, and GT) they gave up 146 ypg and 4.75 ypc; as a result, I expect USC to get their yards on the ground and provide Booty with some balance. On the other side of the ball, I think the ND running game is very average; in my estimation RB Walker is a slow back, and only produces like he does because fully half of his carries are draw plays that take advantage of teams defending primarily against the much better ND pass O. When ND lines up and just runs the ball, Walker does very little; the prevalence of QB sneak playcalls for ND on 4th and shorts is testimony to this. USC is strong against the run--85 ypg and 2.93 ypc--and I do not expect the ND running game to be a factor. The key matchup in this game is the USC pass D against the ND pass O, and this is a good matchup for the Trojans. ND has a strong passing game, but against the better defenses they have played--GT, PSU, Mich, Stan, UCLA--their statistics are a little more modest; 6.39 ypp with a 11-3 ratio (against 9.26 ypp with a 21-2 ratio against their other opponents); they had a similar disparity last season. Simply put, the ND passing game overwhelms poor pass defenses, but is much less productive against good pass defenses; and, USC's pass D is very strong. Not only did they shut down Cal QB Longshore and WR Jackson last week, for the season they have held the better passing games they have faced--Neb, Wash St, ASU, Oregon St, and Cal--to 6.30 ypp with a 5-3 ratio. ND will find the going tougher this week against one of the two most talented secondaries they have faced all season; against the other, Michigan, QB Quinn had his only poor game of the season, throwing 3 interceptions and being ineffective until after the game was decided. I like USC to win this one with relative ease.

TEXAS-EL PASO (-11) v. Memphis

UTEP QB Palmer's inconsistency makes them a favorite team for me to play against, with mixed results. This week, the tables are turned and I expect Palmer to step it up and have a big day against what I rate as the worst pass D in the nation. Say what you will about Palmer's decision-making abilities (14 interceptions this season, 64 in his career), the man produces; witness his 297 ypg and 8.39 ypp this season, as his team has scored 28 ppg. Memphis' pass D is ill-equipped to deal with UTEP's passing game; for the season, they have given up 9.61 ypp with a 20-7 ratio, despite only facing 4 pass offenses in the top half of the nation (Tenn, Tulsa, UCF, Hou). The only opponents they have held to less than 9 ypp this season are Ole Miss (in Schaeffer's first start), UAB, and, inexplicably, Houston last week. UTEP has no running game to speak of, but I expect their passing game production in this one to be more than they'll need--and, even with this, the Memphis run D is pretty poor, and even if UTEP gets ahead and decides to run the ball in order to run a little clock they should be in good shape, as Memphis has given up 187 ypg and 4.51 ypc rushing this season. On the other side of the ball, while UTEP is weak against the run, they are much stronger against the pass, and passing is what Memphis does; only once this season have they run more than they have thrown. Memphis QB Hankins has had a decent season, but it has not been enough to overcome his team's limitations; even excepting the UT game against a superior opponent, he has thrown for 220 ypg with a 16-12 ratio, but he is only averaging a very poor 6.32 ypp. UTEP is giving up 244 ypg and 7.35 ypp with a 19-15 ratio, but please note that they have played Texas Tech, New Mexico State, SMU, Houston, Tulsa, and Rice, all pretty good passing teams, and they should have an easier time of it against Memphis. On the ground, Memphis is only averaging 95 ypg, and they have maxed out at 138 yds; even though the UTEP run D is below-average, I cannot imagine the Memphis running game will be a factor this weekend.

HAWAII (-17) v. Purdue

I have been tracking these jokers at Hawaii all season, always about to pull the trigger, and always holding off; I am playing them now and I hope that I have not waited too long. Purdue was able to go 5-3 in the Big 10 this season, but they might be Exhibit A for the lack of depth in the Big 10; they have no wins over teams with winning records. In addition, they struggled to win non-conference games against MAC teams Miami (O) and Ball State--neither particularly good--and they also gave up 35 points to 1-AA Indiana State. Purdue missed Ohio State and Michigan this season, so they are lacking quality in terms of the passing games they have faced, but the best of the lot--Ball St, Minn, ND, Iowa, and Wisc--threw for 253 ypg and 8.27 ypp with a 8-3 ratio; and, the only one of these even remotely in the class of Hawaii is ND. Hawaii's passing attack this season is as good as it has been under HC Jones, which is saying something; for the season they are averaging an amazing 10.06 ypp with a 47-7 ratio, and their season low is 350 yards against a strong 'Bama pass D. A look at Purdue's schedule this season suggests that they are completely unprepared to handle a team like Hawaii; as far as WR talent goes, ND has probably more talent than any other Purdue opponent at WR, and even ND only has a maximum of 3 legitimate receiving threats; Hawaii can rotate in 6, along with RB Ilaoa out of the backfield. On D, Hawaii is certainly exploitable through the air; 'Bama, Boise, and Nevada--the three best passing offenses Hawaii has faced--averaged 297 ypg and 9.47 ypp with an 8-1 ratio. Fortunately for Hawaii, Purdue's passing game is not nearly as good as any of these teams; for the season, they are averaging 282 ypg and 7.29 ypp with a 15-17 ratio. For a Tiller O, those numbers are about as bad as it gets; and, in a game where Purdue will likely have to make the most of their possessions, that high interception number does not bode well for them. Purdue's running game has actually been better than usual this season, gaining 122 ypg and 4.55 ypc. Hawaii, though, is pretty good against the run; Boise is the only team to run effectively against them, and for the season opponents are averaging 129 ypg and 3.78 ypc. Hawaii is generally considered to have the largest homefield edge in the nation, and given that the forecast for Saturday is 84 degrees, I think the Purdue players will be more than happy to have earned bowl qualification and look at this game as extraneous, while Hawaii will relish the opportunity to make a statement, particularly after losing badly last year to Wisconsin; there is little doubt they will want to send a message so long as they are able. The bottom line is that I think Purdue will be ill-equipped to deal with an O like this one, and Hawaii should put up so many points--note that they have only been held under 40 points twice this season--that Purdue will not be able to even come close to keeping up.

Other Games of Note:

FRIDAY:

Texas A&M (+12.5) v. TEXAS

I'm looking forward to seeing this game, if for no other reason than that no one can stop the A&M running game, and, at the same time, no one can run on Texas. I expect A&M to do a little something running the ball--last year, they did better than anyone else running against Texas, far better than USC (280 to 209 yards), and I expect them to move the ball on the ground and score some points. Texas' passing game should have a decent edge; QB McCoy has put up ridiculous numbers--his only non-exceptional performances came against Okla and Ohio St, both of whom I rate as having among the best pass Ds in the nation, and against Nebraska (where he went 25-39 for 220 yards with 2 TDs and 0 Ints and leading a game-winning FG drive, despite playing the game in 36 degree temps with 20 MPH winds). Against his other opponents, he has averaged 9.88 ypp with a 20-3 ratio. The Texas A&M pass D leaves something to be desired; they have been rolled by spread offenses at TT, Baylor, and Mizzou, and against a more "traditional" passing offense in their last game, Nebraska threw for 267 yds and 7.63 ypp. Those are good numbers for an opposing offense but even if McCoy surpasses them it will be hard to Texas to get ahead of this number, given that the A&M running game should have good production. Slight edge to the Aggies with the points on the road.

ARKANSAS (Even) v. Louisiana State

If I could make any sense of these bitches at LSU I'd be a rich man. Simply put, when they put it together, they are devastating; 40-3 over Miami in the Peach Bowl last season, 45-3 over an Arizona team that has given the leading contenders in the Pac 10 fits this season. The problem they have is that when they face an equally talented opponent, they tend to blink in the face of adversity; they did their best to give away the game against Tennessee, leaving it late to win a game they had pretty much dominated, and their performance in the Florida game was a comedy of errors. I am still not sure what to make of Arkansas--their O seems deconstructionist at times (although it might also be classified as post-modern), and they don't get much out of their passing game. I'm also not sure what to make of their D; they seem pretty average, but they stuffed the hell out of Tennessee and Auburn--neither as good on O as LSU, of course--so they aren't a bad unit. One thing that is for certain, though--Arkansas is good enough that LSU QB Russell will have the turnover machine switched to the *on* position, and the chances are good that somehow, someway, LSU will piss the game away. Then, they'll go to the Citrus Bowl and beat the shit out of Wisconsin, after which the rest of the SEC will rejoice that Les Miles coaches that collection of talent.

SATURDAY:

Wake Forest (+1) v. MARYLAND

Over the course of the season, I enter all of a team's statistics into spreadsheets, and create metrics that measure a team's performance. Every year, there is a team that plays at a considerably higher level than their "numbers" would indicate; this season, there are two of them--these two. Wake's O doesn't seem good enough to win games, and Maryland's D doesn't seem good enough to win them; but between them they are 17-5. I lean to Wake here for a few reasons: first, they have the better defense; this seems indisputable. Second, Maryland has really ridden their luck this season, and it caught up with them last week against BC, where they lost 38-16 in a game that was statistically pretty even (one could make the same argument about Wake, but I don't think it applies; the truth is, Wake was incredibly unlucky to have lost to Clemson, and none of their wins could really be considered "fortunate," whereas Md's wins against UVa, NC State and Fla State came in games in which they were comprehensively outplayed, but their opponents gifted them the games with TOs). Third, given what I expect to be the BC-Miami result, Maryland will lose their motivation whereas Wake will still have theirs regardless. Fourth, say what you will about Friedgen--and I think he is legitimate--but his opposite number Grobe is one of the best coaches in the nation, and Wake will have the edge on the sidelines.