Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Week 9 Picks

Auburn (4-3, 2-3) @ West Virginia (4-2)
6:30 CDT, ESPN
All-Time Series: First Meeting
Wednesday's Line: West Virginia -2.5

This is probably not exactly what ESPN had in mind when it picked this game up. Both of these teams ranked in the preseason Top 10 in the AP poll, now both of them are struggling for an identity. WVU hired their version of Larry Coker in the offseason and Auburn… well, they’ve had some coaching issues too. Working in Auburn’s favor is their 6-1 record all time on Thursday night, they’re 18-5 in road/neutral games since 2004, and the fact that DC Paul Rhoads is familiar with WVU’s offense from his days at Pitt.

The Mountaineers actually enter the game on a 3-game win streak, but the wins have been at home over 3 teams who combine to be 6-15. The Mountaineers rank in the middle of the pack in the Big East in total offense and defense, but do average 220+ yds on the ground. Auburn gives up less than 110 per game, so that’s the point of emphasis this week for the Tigers.

Games like these have become Tuberville’s forte. He backs himself into a corner, goes on the road as an underdog, and next thing you know, Wes Byrum is running around going the Gator Chop. As poorly as AU has played offensively the last 3 games, you’ve got figure there’s nowhere to go but up. Look for Auburn to get back to running the football first, throwing second. The Mountaineers have beaten an SEC team in 3 straight years, but it won’t happen this weekend. A win in Morgantown would go a long way in silencing the loud rumblings on the Plains. And few are better than Tuberville at that.

Straight Up Winner: Auburn
Against the Spread: Auburn

Kentucky (5-2, 1-2) @ (#10, #5)Florida (5-1, 3-1)
11:30 CDT, Raycom
All-Time Series: Florida 40-17
Wednesday's Line: Florida -24.5

Besides self-righteous Irish fans, no one hated Navy’s victory over Notre Dame last year more than the Big Blue. Now that ND’s 44-game win streak over Navy is no more, Kentucky is now on the butt end of the 2-longest losing streaks, having not beaten Tennessee or Florida since the Reagan administration.

The $64,000 question is whether Florida rediscovered itself in the romp over LSU in the Swamp or they merely caught LSU on an off night. The Gators offense had looked like a shell of its 2007 self before blasting the Tigers 2 weeks ago. The ‘Cats offense woke up in the final 5 minutes of their rally over Arkansas, but now they’re without starting RB Locke for the rest of the season. This year’s Kentucky team would have problems scoring on last year’s Florida team.

This one will be ugly. No two ways about it. Florida is 25-7 vs UK in Gainesville and the ‘Cats haven’t won there since 1979. While the Gators are just 1-3 the week before the WLOCP the last 4 years, but the “1” was last year’s victory over a ranked, healthy UK team. Kentucky is neither this year and this is going to get out of hand early. While the line is bigger than I’d like, Meyer’s never been one to call off the dogs, so you gotta lay the points.

Straight Up Winner: Florida
Against the Spread: Florida

Dook (3-3) @ Vanderbilt (5-2, 3-2)
2:00 CDT
All-Time Series: Vanderbilt 7-3
Wednesday's Line: Vanderbilt -10.5

While certainly not the most exciting game of the weekend, it could turn out to be the “best” game. These are two evenly matched teams, despite the discrepancy in records. Vanderbilt has come back to earth after a remarkable start. For all their struggles in the mighty SEC, the ‘Dores have fared significantly better against the little boys from the ACC, posting a 7-3 record over the last 10 years.

This is a tricky game for Vanderbilt. The Dookies take good care of the ball – just 7 turnovers all season – and punt the ball fairly well. Both those mean Vanderbilt may have to drive the length of the field to score which has not been their calling card this year, though they showed a little life offensively with Adams at QB. They’ll be tested in this one, but the ’Dores will come out on top.

Straight Up Winner: Vanderbilt
Against the Spread: Dook

(#7, #9)Georgia (6-1, 3-1) @ (#13, #11)LSU (5-1, 3-1)
2:30 CDT, CBS
All-Time Series: LSU 14-11-1
Wednesday's Line: LSU -2

This should be one of the best games in conference all season. Two BCS Bowl winners from last season square off in a crucial interdivision game that makes a division title a real unlikelihood for the loser. Both teams rank in the top 3 in the conference in total offense (UGA #1, LSU#3), though UGA ranks 3rd in total D while the Tigers rank 9th.

The key matchup in this game will be the pressure either team gets on the others QB. Georgia ranks 8th in conference in sacks while LSU leads the conference in fewest sack surrendered. On the flip side, LSU is 3rd in the conference in sacks and UGA is 3rd in fewest given up. QB Jarrett Lee proved last week he could make some key throws in a hostile environment against a better defense. He could have a real breakout game in this one.

When this one is all said and done, UGA’s injuries and subsequent inexperience will be their undoing. While most of the stats point to the ‘Dawgs winning this one, until I see them play a complete game, I’m not going to call for one to magically appear in Death Valley. Georgia is a better team than LSU is and Mark Richt has been masterful on the road in the SEC. I’m going against my better judgment and saying that LSU wins this one.

Straight Up Winner: LSU
Against the Spread: LSU

Ole Miss (3-4, 1-3) @ Arkansas (3-4, 1-3)
6:00 CDT, PPV
All-Time Series: Either Arkansas 29-24-1 or 30-23-1
Wednesday's Line: Ole Miss -5

How is this one not on TV, besides PPV? Really and truly, I thought this was a shoe-in to be on somewhere. With the Right Reverend Nutt’s return to Fayetteville, there’s no telling what to expect from Hogs’ fans. Messy divorcees shouldn’t cross paths so soon after the split.

This is another one of those games that – on paper – shouldn’t be all that close. The Hogs rank behind the Rebels in both total offense and total defense. There’s a good chance the offense will be without the SEC’s leading rusher in Michael Smith who remains day-to-day after sustaining a concussion in the Kentucky game last week. Once he left the game, the Hogs managed just 11 yds on their final 13 plays from scrimmage.

The Rebels’ main weaknesses are turnovers and pass defense. Fortunately for OM, the Hogs struggle with turnovers as well. Unfortunately for the Rebels, Arkansas ranks 3rd in conference in passing yds per game. If Smith doesn’t play, the Rebs will be able to drop more men into coverage, making life difficult for Dick. Even if Smith does play, it shouldn’t matter. Look for the Rebs’ most complete game since their win in Gainesville.

Straight Up Winner: Ole Miss
Against the Spread: Ole Miss

MTSU (2-5) @ Mississippi State (2-5, 1-3)
All-Time Series: Mississippi State 2-0
Wednesday's Line: Mississippi State -10

This is one of those games that would actually make sense to not be on TV because honestly, who wants to watch this? I doubt many Bulldog fans are stoked about a trip to Starkville to watch this game.

MSU has scored 101 pts in the two previous meetings, but will be hard pressed to get to 14 this game. The MTSU defense isn’t exactly stout, but MSU’s offense is putrid at best. Look for the Blue Raiders to spring the upset Saturday and Woody McCorvey to be relieved of his duties sometime next week.

Straight Up Winner: Middle Tennessee State
Against the Spread: Middle Tennessee State

(#2, #2)Alabama (7-0, 4-0) @ Tennessee (3-4, 1-3)
6:45 CDT, ESPN
All-Time Series: Alabama 45-38-7
Wednesday's Line: Alabama -6.5

Another classic SEC matchup Saturday night in Knoxville as the Crimson Tide rolls into town. Alabama stomped UT 41-17 last year in Tuscaloosa, but hasn’t won back to back games in this series since 1991-92. Alabama has dropped its last two games in Knoxville buy a total of 7 points. Last year’s romp was the exception to the rule as 4 of the last 5 have been decided by 8 pts or less.

It will be interesting to see how the Alabama D performs for a whole game without Cody in the middle. Fortunately for them, the UT offense has been bad all season, so they should be fine. The bigger question is how the Tide O will perform against the UT D, which will be the best they’ve faced this year. JPW threw two of the prettiest deep balls of his life last weekend against Ole Miss, but also chucked some head-scratchers. Any lame ducks thrown against UT will be picked off by Eric Berry and run back the other way for 6. Assuming Eric Berry is on Julio Jones, that could be one of the most entertaining individual matchups of the weekend.

A line this small for teams with this much discrepancy in their season accomplishments tells you that Vegas knows something’s up with this game. They don’t know how the D will look without Cody, they don’t know if the Tide can put together two halves. Something tells me that Saban finally got through to his players and Alabama plays a complete game Saturday night. It’ll be a hard fought, low scoring game, but the Vols just don’t have it this year.

Straight Up Winner: Alabama
Against the Spread: Alabama

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