Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Week 5 Picks

A few snoozers this weekend, but the evening will be capped off with a matchup of Top 10 teams Between the Hedges in Athens. UT and Auburn play a game in which the loser is pretty much relegated to divisional-irrelevance for the remainder of the season.

Off this weekend: Vanderbilt

Ole Miss (2-2, 0-1) @ (#4,#4)Florida (3-0, 1-0)
11:30 CDT, Raycom
All Time Series: Ole Miss 11-10-1
Wednesday’s Line: Florida -22.5

This was a surprisingly close game last year, with the gators escaping Oxford with a mere 6-point win. This year, the Gators aren’t putting up the same gaudy offensive numbers they were last year, but neither are their opponents. The Gators currently rank 2nd nationally in scoring D (6.3 ppg) and 5th in total D (21.3 ypg). The Rebels have a better offense than any of the prior Gator opponents, so the D will be tested again.

OM is coming off a head-shaking loss to Vandy in which they barely gave up 200 yds of offense, but repeatedly shot themselves in the foot with 6 TOs. They scored their only TDs on a fumble recovery and kickoff return, so the offense must be chomping at the bit to get back onto the field. The Gators also scored while their offense was resting last week as they returned another punt for a TD, as UF basically toyed with Tennessee in yet another rout.

Last year, OM basically shut down everyone except Tebow, who became a man show late in the game. This year, the Gators’ more balanced offense presents a different set of challenges, but the finally whole OM DL will be ready. They’ll need to limit their own turnovers and force UF’s first turnover of the season or it will be a long day in the Swamp. Finding ways to slow down Percy Harvin will be difficult as well.

The Rebels actually lead the series in Gainesville 5-3-1. While I don’t think the Rebels have enough to win this game, I do think that 3+ TDs is too much for Florida to give. Nutt is a master motivator and the Rebels will knock off somebody this year, I just don’t think it’ll be the Gators this weekend. UF wins by 14-17, sending OM to its 10th straight SEC loss.

Straight Up: Florida
Against the Spread: Ole Miss

Tennessee (1-2, 0-1) @ (#15,#16)Auburn (3-1, 1-1)
2:30 CDT, CBS
All Time Series: Auburn 25-21-3
Wednesday’s Line: Auburn -6.5

This is the first meeting since Auburn’s 38-28 win in the 2004 SEC Championship game. The Tigers are 6-2-1 on the Plains against the Vols. The Vols have won 12 straight games the week after Florida while the Tigers have won 7 in row following LSU. Something’s got to give.

After a dismal performance against MSU a couple of weeks ago, the AU passing game got moving Saturday night against LSU. On the flip side, the Tigers averaged just 1.9 ypc, which is about half what they averaged against MSU (3.6 ypc).While they’re obviously still working out some kinks, that’s got to be a disturbing trend for Tuberville and his staff. The Vols have been strong against the run this year, ranking 26th in the country in Rush D giving up just 95 ypg and holding opponents to a 2.96 ypc average.

Both teams have struggled offensively. UT ranks 73rd in total offense (355.3 ypg) and is facing AU’s 20th ranked defense (259.8 ypg). Auburn ranks 55th in total offense (390.7 ypg) and is facing the Vols’ 22nd ranked defense (268.7 ypg). Turnovers have been a problem for both teams – 10 for AU, 7 for UT – so the team that handles that aspect will be at a decided advantage.

This one’s going to come down to the coaching, and you’d be hard-pressed to convince me to take Fulmer over Tuberville in this game. AU has a distinct special teams advantage in this one and will be working with a shorter field. While this one may be an ugly turnover fest, I gotta believe that at home, AU is a full TD better than UT.

Straight Up: Auburn
Against the Spread: Auburn

Arkansas (2-1, 0-1) @ (#7,#7)Texas(3-0)
2:30 CDT, ABC
All Time Series: Texas 55-21
Wednesday’s Line: Texas -27.5

With all the preseason talk about UGA’s schedule, lost in the shuffle was the Hogs’ brutal 4-game stretch exacerbated by Ike. The 2nd of 4 straight Top-15 games takes place in Austin this weekend. The Hogs are actually 3-1 in the last 4 meetings, but these teams haven’t played since 2004.

This one probably won’t be as ugly as the Bama beatdown from Saturday, but no reason to think the Hogs have even a puncher’s chance in this one. The Horns are scoring nearly 49 ppg so far this season while the Hogs have struggled, scoring just 23.3 ppg. Both teams move the ball efficiently – Arkansas is 46th in the country at 403ypg, Texas is 9th at 502ypg – but the Hogs sport a -6 TO margin. Also, Texas QB Colt McCoy has completed 77.8% of his passes for 833 yards and an 11/1TD/INT ratio, for a passer rating of 206.5.

I think the power of the rivalry may keep this one closer than the number. Petrino and staff will probably try to run more of a ball control offense to minimize UT’s possession time. While I don’t expect this one to be close, the Hogs’ll keep it within 4 TDs.

Straight Up: Texas
Against the Spread: Arkansas

Western Kentucky (2-2) @ Kentucky (3-0, 0-0)
6:00, PPV
All Time Series: First Meeting
Wednesday’s Line: Kentucky -21.5

Surprisingly, this is the first time these two schools have met. WKU joined 1A this year and will be a member of the Sun Belt Conference next year. They also have the greatest mascot on the face of the planet.

Kentucky continues their quest of dominating all non-SEC opponents before being exposed as a very flawed team in Tuscaloosa next weekend. Until they play an actual opponent and not a cupcake, I’m not going to waste my time thinking about their games.

Straight Up: Kentucky
Against the Spread: Western Kentucky

UAB (1-3) @ South Carolina (2-2, 0-2)
6:00, PPV
All Time Series: South Carolina 1-0
Wednesday’s Line: South Carolina -24.5

How bad are the Blazers? In 3 games against 1A competition, they’ve been outscored 129-59. The Vols scored 31 points them. FAU averages 15.5 ppg this season, yet hung 49 on UAB. If USC can’t get rolling against these guys, they might as well pack it up and go home. Smelley and/or Garcia should have easy pickings all game long.

In a schedule front-loaded with home games (4 already), this will be another nice, easy tune up for the rest of the meatier schedule. While the Gamecocks continue to look for answers under center, the defense will have its way with the hapless Blazers. They’ll score at least once in this game and help the ‘Cocks cover the larger-than-I-wish-it-were number.

Straight Up: South Carolina
Against the Spread: South Carolina

Mississippi State (1-3, 0-1) @ (#5,#5)LSU (3-0, 1-0)
6:30, ESPN2
All Time Series: LSU 65-33
Wednesday’s Line: LSU -24

No point in even attempting to break this one down and try to make it interesting. Here is all you need to know: Over the last 8 years, LSU has outscored the Bulldogs 340-81 (43-10). They’ve won 15 of the last 16, including 8 straight in Tiger Stadium. MSU is currently ranked 94th out of 120 teams in total offense with just 318 ypg. LSU is ranked 18th in total defense, surrendering just 252.7 ypg.

Don’t get me wrong, MSU has a fairly serviceable D, but even it rolled over last week as Georgia Tech rolled up 500 yds of offense. Two predictions: A) MSU OC Woody McCorvey will not be reading any message boards late Saturday night and B) This is the biggest no-brainer of the week. Anything under 5 TDs would be.

Straight Up: LSU
Against the Spread: LSU

(#8,#10)Alabama (4-0, 1-0) @ (#3,#3)Georgia (4-0, 1-0)
6:45, ESPN
All Time Series: Alabama 35-25-4
Wednesday’s Line: Georgia -7

Surprisingly, this is only the 6th time in 65-game history of this matchup that both teams are ranked, and only the 3rd time both are ranked in the Top 10. Alabama has lost 3 straight to UGA and hasn’t beaten the ‘Dawgs since 1995.

All eyes will be on Athens Saturday night as the Tide and the ‘Dawgs square off. Each has notched a big non-conference win and each won its conference opener, though the Tide with significantly more ease. The ‘Dawgs sport a more formidable offense, ranking 22nd in the country in ypg with 450, while the Tide ranks 57th with 387.5 ypg. The Tide is actually scoring half a point more per game (36.0 to 35.5). Each team boasts a top 25 total defense – UGA 14th at 243ypg, UAT 24th at 275ypg – as well as a top 20 scoring defense – UAT 8th at 9.3 ppg, UGA 18th at 13.8 ppg. Two of the country’s best freshman WRs will be on display as well in UGA’s AJ Green and Bama’s Julio Jones.

In the end, this game will boil down to QB play and UGA has an obvious advantage there. Both Ds will do an adequate job of at least containing the others power run game and both Stafford and JPW will be called on to convert some precarious 3rd down situations. Alabama’s youth/inexperience will also manifest itself in this one and the ‘Dawgs will capitalize. In what should be the game of the week (if not beyond), the ‘Dawgs win a tightly contested thriller, somewhere in the neighborhood of 27-21.

Straight Up: Georgia
Against the Spread: Alabama


Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity, why does UK get vilified for playing a "cupcake" schedule, but teams like LSU does not?

Furthermore, what does that say about Kentucky when everyone picked them to lose to Louisville (they didn't) and then they turn around and beat a MTSU team that beat Maryland?

Those wins are just as good as wins against Troy, Tulane, Western Kentucky, North Texas, Louisiana-Monroe, Central Michigan and a host of other mid-level schools that have already played and lost to other SEC schools.

Is Kentucky as talented as the top half of the league? Absolutely not. But "very flawed" seems to mean you are basing your observations on what others are saying.

The Dead Guy said...

I think you're reading too much into the comment...

Two points to make:

A) With all UK lost from last year's team offensively, a soft schedule made sense, but they're not even going to play an SEC game until October. Of course they're going to beat WKU, so it's really not worth "breaking down" the game.

B) As for UK being flawed, they are. Their offensive numbers against their soft schedule are bad. They play two of the best defenses in the conference after this week and I don't see how they'll move the ball at all against either 'Bama or South Carolina. If I'm wrong, so be it, but I can't see UK putting up more than 250 yds of offense in either of those games.

Mike Tierney said...

USC's loss should boost dressed-in-black Georgia because the Bulldogs can return to No. 1 ranking.

Look for Texas to pour it on Arkansas to help win the hearts and minds of Lone Star State prospects.

Florida and LSU could be flat against the Mississippis but not enough to lose.

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