H-Town Sports

Houston Sports Blog - Real sports cities have TWO Conference USA teams

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

College Football Picks - Week Five

Off another 4-1 ATS week (11-8 ATS overall) and headed for a windwagon bound for the Bluegrass, here are my picks for Week Five:

Auburn (-13.5) v. South Carolina
Auburn is 8-1 over the past two Octobers, and they have bounced back nicely after their shocking opening loss to Georgia Tech. South Carolina did not match up very well against smashmouth football in their home game versus Alabama, and they are likely going to start a redshirt freshman at QB with regular starter Blake Mitchell nursing a sprained ankle. I do not see South Carolina's offense making a dent in the scoreboard in this one, with Auburn cruising to a 24-0 victory at home.

Duke (+6) v. Navy
Generally speaking, betting on Duke football is not a profitable proposition. This, however, is a system play, where all four rankings systems that I consider like Duke to cover the spread. Navy's three point loss at home to Stanford looks considerably less impressive after Stanford's subsequent home loss to UC-Davis, and this would be a big win for the Blue Devils. They may not pull it off, but I think that it will be a FG game, and I always like taking points at home in such a contest.

Tulsa (-3) v. Houston
I see no reason to de-board the Hurricane train. Houston did look better on the road at UTEP two Thursdays ago, but this is another system play, Tulsa has been playing very well as of late, and Houston's next big road win will be its first. I like Tulsa by about a TD.

North Carolina (-3.5) v. Utah
Again, the Tar Heels have treated me very well the last two weekends against Georgia Tech and NC State, and I like them here as well. Utah is 0-4 ATS in 2005 and embarrassed the Tar Heels on national TV in 2004. UNC is sky-high after last week's road win over the Wolfpack, and they will certainly have revenge on their minds against a still overrated Utes ballclub. I like UNC to win this game by double digits.

Maryland (+3.5) v. Virginia
The Cavs have been somewhat disappointing thus far, despite being undefeated. On the road over the past two seasons, UVA has been only 4-8 ATS. This is a game that the Terps must have to keep their division title hopes alive. Maryland has Temple on deck, whereas the Cavs have a date with Boston College. I like Maryland to win outright in a close game.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

College Football Picks - Week Four

Still limping from my 1-4 weekend and on my way out of town , I've taken a tip from Bobby McNair and have rearranged some things here at the U.S.S. Antigua. Less of an emphasis on Todd Beck's power ratings, and more of an emphasis on (a) three power rankings systems that have a combined 233-163 (58.8%) record and (b) my instincts. All of my picks are supported by both TBeck's score and each of the most successful power ratings, and by coincidence, are games which I like myself. Overall, I am sitting at .500 (7-7) for the season. Without further ado, here are my Picks of the Week:

Wisconsin (+3) v. Michigan
I'm still not quite certain why this line is what it is, but I'm not asking any questions. Wisconsin beat a talented Bowling Green team and won a tough non-conference roadie at UNC last weekend. Michigan has done nothing but lose at home to Notre Dame, and I do not see how their porous defense has much hope against the surprisingly potent Badger offense. Wisconsin has covered six of its last eight against the Wolverines, and I like Wisconsin straight-up in this nighttime home game, but I'll certainly take the points to be safe.

Tulsa (-1) v. Memphis
Again, this line surprises me. Memphis is decent, but they were less than impressive against a shaky Mississippi Rebels club to open the season. Tulsa has got to be on Cloud 9 after a near upset in Norman and an absolute spanking of North Texas (ouch) last Saturday. Seems to me that this is a game that Tulsa can certainly win, so I'll back the Golden Hurricane, despite its ominous nickname for us Houstonians.

Maryland (+3) at Wake Forest
I bought the hook in this one, but hopefully that was over-cautious on my part. Wake Forest has only covered once in its last ten games, while the Terps have covered nine of their last 13. Wake has struggled all year, and Maryland should be itching to get back on the field after last week's disappointing home loss to West Virginia.

North Carolina (+10) at N.C. State
UNC has been a much better team over the past two seasons than most of the country recognizes (9-4 ATS in ACC games), and they beat NCS in '04. N.C. State is a solid team, especially defensively, and the under may be the best play on this game. However, I can't imagine N.C. State running away and hiding from a decent Tar Heel team in a rivalry game like this.

Nevada (+18) at Colorado State
The Buffs are still living off their reputation from the Bradlee Van Pelt era and are fresh off a whipping by the Golden Gophers. Nevada is an improved, tough team coming off a solid victory over rival UNLV. I see this game coming down to the wire and find the 18 point spread to be laughable. Of course after my performance last week, maybe my picks provide the comedy for most.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Texans Cancel The O.C.

Don't riot, teenyboppers - Seth Cohen will still be dropping his clever one-liners once a week on Fox. But the Texans may have averted a riot in southeast Texas by sacrificing offensive coordinator Chris Palmer on Monday morning, replacing him with O-line coach Joe Pendry. Whether or not this will make any difference whatsoever will not be clear for at least two weeks, as the Texans mercifully do not have a game scheduled for this coming Sunday. I have heard plenty of monosyllabic Texans' "fans" volunteer their expertise in assigning the blame for the Texans' offensive woes, and any moron can do that. What is needed are solutions, so here are one man's ideas:

(1) Instill confidence back in David Carr
- Whether or not you like Carr as the QB of the Texans, there is no alternative. Tony Banks is a career backup, and Dave Ragone is still trying to prove that he is capable of being an NFL backup. As Traitor Rick would say (at least in an analogy), Warren Moon is not about to walk through that door. Carr has to believe that staying in the pocket is more likely to be productive than running for the sidelines. The Texans' WR do not have the speed or ability to separate themselves down the field (other than Johnson) from their defenders, which severely limits Carr's options no matter how good the blocking is. The best answer is some form of a short, timing-based passing game involving slants and crossing patterns which would allow Carr to get into a rhythm and give the WR a better chance of getting open.

(2) Play Derrick Armstrong
- I am not concerned with his 40-yard dash time or his collegiate resume. He catches the ball when it is thrown to him. Find ways to get him open and throw the ball to him. Put Bradford in only as a 4th WR to stretch the field vertically.

(3) Attack the defense on 1st down
- A struggling passing game is being handicapped even more by having to perform consistently in 3rd-and-long situations. Throw the ball on first down to avoid the deep zone and heavy blitzes that only serve to accentuate the offensive problems.

(4) Attack on defense
- A bend-but-don't-break defense is effective if your offense is able to put some points on the board, but when your offense is struggling to find the end zone, your defense must attempt to shoulder some of the offensive load. I imagine that the Texans' offense looks much better in practice than in games since it gets to face the Texans' defense, whose pass rush is completely non-existent. Vic Fangio needs to figure out watch tapes of the Texans' offense for ideas on how to collapse the pocket, and if Philip Buchanon is going to continue to cover like a wet paper sack, then Petey Faggins needs to start.

(5) Do not panic
- Buffalo and Pittsburgh are both excellent teams who presented worst-case scenarios for the opening of the Texans' season. Despite absolutely terrible performances, the Texans had opportunities in each game to remain close down the stretch but failed to capitalize. If every aspect of the Texans' team improves its own play by a reasonable amount, the Texans can still have a very successful season without blowing up the roster or the front office, both of which are impractical and not certain to provide any significant improvement.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

College Football Picks - Week Three

Fresh off a 4-1 week ATS (6-3 for the season), there are a lot of intriguing games (Tennessee/Florida, Kentucky/Indiana, Vandy/Ole Miss, Wisconsin/UNC, etc.) that seem to have inaccurate lines, but I just do not have good feelings about the majority of them. For example, I think that North Carolina is underrated and will be psyched up for their bout with the Badgers, who have had two home games against invisible defenses. However, every single "expert" picks Wisconsin to win by a TD at Chapel Hill. I may regret my hesitance, but in case I am missing something, I will stay away from that one. Here are five games that I do like this week:

North Texas (-4) v. Tulsa (Saturday 6:00 p.m. CDT)
North Texas is fresh off a huge win at Middle Tennessee State, and they are 8-2 ATS at home and 12-5 ATS as a favorite. Meanwhile, Tulsa is coming off a physical, disappointing loss at Oklahoma, which was preceded by a whipping at the hands of Lawrence Mulroney and Minnesota. Tulsa's D-line did not fare too well at handling the Golden Gophers or the Sooners, and I think that this third straight test may push them over the breaking point. I like North Texas rather easily in this one.

Toledo (-28.5) at Temple (Saturday 12:00 p.m. CDT)
I can hardly think of a bigger mismatch. Toledo is 10-3 ATS, 15-5 ATS on turf, and Temple is 1-9 ATS versus the MAC in recent years. Temple's D has allowed 128 points in two games, and Toledo's offense has scored 118 points in two games. On top of that, the public is 78-38 when moving the Temple line, and it has moved away from the Owls during the week. This game has 65-13 written all over it.

Idaho (+14) at Washington (Saturday 2:30 p.m. CDT)
Idaho has covered in each of their two games this season, while Washington has been disastrous. The Huskies are 6-17 ATS and 1-6 ATS in non-conference games and has failed to cover in either of their first two games of the season. Idaho gave Washington State and UNLV scares to start the season, and despite the loss of its starting running back, I like them to hang with Washington on the road.

Clemson (+7) v. Miami (Saturday 2:30 CDT)
Clemson is one of the nation's hottest teams, coming off of impressive wins over Texas A&M and Maryland. They beat Miami last year on the road, and they are 9-4 ATS as a dog and should have a great home-field advantage. Miami, meanwhile, looked very sluggish offensively versus Florida State and is 1-4 ATS coming off of a bye week.

Central Michigan (+22) at Penn State (Saturday 2:30 CDT)
I have gone back and forth on this one, but my decision was finalized upon realizing that not only do all signs point to the Chippewas, but I realized that no one in their right mind would pick the Nittany Lions to cover this spread, so I have to play on CMU. Central Michigan is 4-0 ATS as a 21.5> point dog, while Penn State is 1-4 ATS as a 21.5> point favorite. Some say CMU is due for a fall after an upset win at Miami Ohio last week, but I believe that said win will serve to inspire them and make this game even closer. Having played two road games, they will not be intimidated in Happy Valley, and Penn State's offense is unlikely to put up 30 or more points on CMU's defense, so as long as the Chips can muster 10 points, they should stay within the number.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Astros/Marlins Series Preview

When you're fighting for your postseason lives, and you're throwing Roy Oswalt against Richard Helling, it's modest enough to say that you feel rather confident in marking the game as a probable win. Instead, Helling fired seven innings of shutout ball and the Astros returned to Houston with only a one-half game lead over the Florida Marlins, who come into Houston tonight for a four-game set. This is unquestionably the biggest series of the year for Houston, and from my perspective, they're playing against a stacked deck, especially with Morgan Ensberg coping with an injured right hand.

Game One: Dontrelle Willis (20-8, 2.52 ERA) v. Brandon Backe (8-7, 4.99 ERA)
D-Train has not allowed more than two earned runs in a start since July 22, and he's 3-0 over his past three starts with a 1.25 ERA. On May11, Willis allowed only one run over eight innings in defeating the Astros in Miami. In contrast, Backe has made exactly one start since July 23, in which he pitched four innings and allowed three runs. This game could not be more of a lock for the Marlins.

Game Two: Josh Beckett (13-8, 3.58 ERA) v. Wandy Rodriguez (9-7, 5.80 ERA)
Beckett's inability to consistently recreate his 2003 postseason performance continues, but versus Wandy Rodriguez, no further detailed analysis is really required. Beckett has a 2.03 ERA in four career starts against Houston, and he will likely be pumped up by the lingering postseason implications and the chance to pitch in Houston. On a prayer, Wandy will get the Astros through five innings without allowing more than three runs, but the facts are hard to face in game two as well.

Game Three: A.J. Burnett (12-10, 3.43 ERA) v. Roger Clemens (11-7, 1.78 ERA)
Two of the nastiest pitchers in the National League square-off Wednesday night. However, both have been struggling as of late. Burnett has allowed five runs in each of his last three starts, failing to escape the third inning in his last start at Philadelphia. He also has a 5.45 lifetime ERA against the Astros. The Rocket, however, has not fared much better as of late, lasting only three innings in his last start against Milwaukee and obviously straining to combat several nagging injuries. This one is a coin flip and should be the most exciting of the four games. Assuming the first two games go to the Marlins, this one is an absolute MUST win for the Astros.

Game Four: Jason Vargas (5-3, 4.28 ERA) v. Andy Pettitte (15-9, 2.48 ERA)
In a battle of lefties, the Astros certainly have the advantage Thursday night. Jason Vargas has come back to Earth after an astounding debut, and Andy Pettitte has quietly put up Cy-Young worthy numbers for Houston. This is the one which the Astros should feel most comfortable about (sort of like Oswalt-Helling, eh?)

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Weekend Thoughts


Rarely does a game that is unquestionably overhyped not just live up to its improbable expectations, but exceed them, but Saturday's Longhorn victory on the road against Ohio State was certainly one of those rare occassions. Like a heavyweight championship fight, the teams exchanged knockout-capable blows throughout, and the big names like Young, Hawk, Harris and Smith made the spectacular look routine all night long.

Longhorn Tim's prediction proved savvy, as the Longhorns' special teams unit was visibly manhandled by Ohio State's. Kick coverage is an area in which Texas must certainly improve dramatically over the course of the season if a return trip to Pasadena is to be in order. Texas' vaunted D-line was a disappointment throughout much of the night, especially against the run. A better performance will be required against Adrian Peterson on October 8th. However, big sacks by Tim Crowder and Larry Dibbles were huge turning points down the stretch, and I would not trade Texas' front four for any other in the land. Also, I thought that Texas' secondary, which understandably (if unfairly) receives less press than VY, was excellent in holding Teddy Ginn, Jr. to seven yards of total offense and in containing the elusive Troy Smith.

Finally, I consciously try to be the last to board the "bash-the-playcalling" bandwagons, but I am beginning to shop for tickets in the case of Greg Davis. I would like to see an increased emphasis on a more traditional vertical passing game. Texas' much-maligned wide receiving corps made multiple spectacular plays on Saturday night, and Vince Young's mistakes were more the result of bad decisions than of errant throws. Texas' upcoming opponents will continue to have focused defensive schemes aimed at stopping VY's scrambling and will provide more opportunities for UT's passing game to make plays downfield. Ohio State took a very Sooner-like approach to shutting down the Longhorn offense, using speedy linebackers to effectively contain Young's frolics from the pocket for much of the night. Next weekend's walkthrough versus Rice should include much less of VY running and much more of VY throwing to help continue to build the confidence and chemistry that will carry over from Saturday's night big win. Let's see some slants and hitches so that we can tell whether Saturday's WR performance was something on which Texas can build.

Sadly, you could see the Texans' uninspired and sloppy performance on the horizon. The defense played admirably considering the amount of time that they were forced to spend on the field and the horrible field position with which they were constantly dealing. The O-line play was bad, but to me, the biggest problem is in the wide receiving talent, or lack thereof. Carr seems to have little to no confidence that his receivers will get open, and even when they do, drops are very frequent. Andre Johnson will be a non-factor all year until a second option in the passing game emerges. I'm no offensive cooridnator, but I still don't understand how giving average wide receivers less time to get open by shortening the QB's drop is supposed to open up the passing game more.

The most disturbing aspects of the Buffalo game, though, were the multiple dumb penalties committed (especially in the form of procedure violations) and the failure of the offense to go for a first down on fourth-and-three with about six minutes to play in the game. I understand and appreciate Dom Capers' reliance on probability and risk aversion, but to punt the ball when trailing by two touchdowns with six minutes to go is the equivalent of pulling your players off of the field. I guess Dom felt there was a better chance of the Texans' defense scoring a touchdown than of the Texans' offense driving for a score. Gus Johnson and Brent Jones rightfully roasted the Texans' coaching staff for their yellow bellies, and I think that Capers is going to have to throw his boys to the fire in order to change the downward spiral momentum that is currently swirling in Houston. Maybe when he senses that his job is on the line, he'll be more willing to play with danger.

Mark Snyder's second game as Marshall head coach was definitely one which he would like to forget. The Thundering Herd was trailing by two with seven seconds to play and a timeout remaining and had the ball at the K-State 21 yard line. The obvious play is to kick the field goal. Secondly, maybe a run to the kicker's preferred side of the field and a timeout. Snyder chose option number 3, which was to allow his backup QB roll out and fire an interception, ending the game.

Chris Leak and Urban Meyer will be heard from before this season is over. If they can eke out a win at Alabama, then their October 15 game against LSU may be their ticket to the BCS.

How do you evaluate Oklahoma now? They were lucky to escape against Tulsa, and their loss against TCU looks even worse now that the Horned Frogs followed that up with a loss to SM-freaking-U! Saturday's game against UCLA sure doesn't look hopeful for Sooner faithful, and there's still UT, a roadie at Nebraska and a roadie at Texas Tech left on the schedule.

Reason #142 to invest in ESPN GamePlan: Northwestern football games.

My picks were 4-1 this week, now 6-3 on the season. In top 25 games this week I was 15-2 ATS and am now 27-7 ATS on the season.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Horns v. The Other OSU

Seems like every article I've read on this game says the same thing: "It'll be a great game, one for the record books. If it was anywhere but at the Horseshoe at night, I'd pick Texas." Despite the alleged experts' takes, I find it hard to believe that Texas would win this game 99.9% of the time and that the 0.01% remaining is wholly attributed to the magic of a stadium. Let's look at the facts:

1. Texas has the superior QB. VY may be prone to a careless play here or there, but the outstanding plays he routinely makes far outweigh the negatives. Say what you want about the athleticism of Troy Smith, but he's no VY. Zwick is a nice player; in fact, the Horns allegedly recruited him at one point. But he too is no VY. Advantage--Horns.

2. Texas has superior RBs. I've been on the Jamaal Charles bandwagon since he verbally committed to Texas, and nothing has happened to convince me that he won't be the next great Texas RB. His performance last weekend was tremendous. I know, I know...it was against Louisiana-Lafayette. But he's a true freshman. To have that kind of game right out of the box is noteworthy, no matter who you're playing. I am by far not the biggest Henry Melton booster (even on this blog), but he looks promising as well. And let's not forget Selvin Young. Before he went down with an injury last year, people were clamoring that he would take carries away from Ced. He might not be Ced, but he's legit. From what I understand, Ohio State has some RB prospects with high upside, but not like the Horns. Advantage--Horns.

3. OSU has far superior WRs. Not much to say here--Ginn and Santonio are freaks. Ramonce Taylor is a real weapon, but he can't offset the OSU WRs. David Thomas is a legit pass-catching TE and VY's favorite target, but even he can't compare to OSU. And until Limas "Beans" Sweed shows the world something, he's just wearing Roy Williams' number. Advantage--Bucks.

4. Texas has a superior OL. OSU's line is nice, but it pales in comparison to Texas'. Two surefire NFL first-rounders anchor the line, and another one or two starters are All Big XII candidates. Mack has said it's the best line he's ever had. When you consider some of the hosses that have suited up for Texas in his time there (e.g., Leonard Davis, Mike Williams, etc.), that says it all. Advantage--Horns.

5. Texas has a slight edge on defense. For the sake of keeping this brief, I give Texas the nod on DL, OSU the nod on LB (but I think Aaron Harris is as good as anyone in the country), and Texas the nod in the secondary. Advantage--Horns.

6. Ohio State has a HUGE edge in special teams. Aside from the nightmare of kicking to Ginn or Santonio, I am kept awake by thoughts of the repeated missed PATs last week courtesy of Richmond McGee. One of those was apparently a missed blocking assignment, but the other two were squarely on him. God help us if there is a pressure kick to be made. I knew Dusty Mangum. And you, Richmond McGee, are no Dusty Mangum. Advantage--Bucks.

So that's 4-2, Texas. But I can't help but think this game might come down to a field goal. I don't know much about OSU's kicking game, but I don't trust McGee to drill it through the uprights with the game on the line. The thought of McGee pulling a Scott Norwood is almost too much to bear. My heart says Texas 21, OSU 17. My head says Texas 21, OSU 24. Fortunately, no one's ever said I'm smart.

All Freaking Systems Go...

It's been awhile, but I felt the need to post my thoughts on your Houston Astros yo-yoing through the late summer and early fall of 2005. As we all know, the 'Stros just completed an absolutely EPIC sweep of the Phillies last night in Philly. Three ridiculously close, well-pitched games (with the notable exception of one William Wagner), and the 'Stros won all three.

Last night, I was on the horn with one of my buddies after the end of the 8th. Idiot that I am, I remember sarcastically remarking something to the effect, "Well, it's not over yet...we've still got the heart of the line-up (Everett, Ausmus, and Viz) to bail us out." While the first two gentlemen didn't do anything to help the cause, Viz, with a lot of help from David "Boots" Bell, began the rally. Then Willy T. used those crazy legs to reach on yet another infield single. At that point, the camera panned to the dugout, and Morgan Ensberg was jumping around. I remember thinking, "Ensberg thinks we're gonna win this game." And then Bidge stepped up and delivered Wagner's heat into Jersey. Game over.

Speaking of, as blog empresario Scott observed today, why in the world did Wagner throw Biggio a fastball? Before anyone starts with the "Billy always wants to challenge hitters with his best pitch" please stop. I am tired of that illogical argument. Major League hitters, to a man, can hit a fastball. Factor in that Biggio is notorious for being a below-average slider hitter, and the pitch makes even less sense. Not that I'm complaining, of course. Nothing makes me happier than Wagner looking like someone peed in his Cheerios as Bidge trots around the bases.

2004 was one of those once-in-a-lifetime type seasons. I remember always thinking the 'Stros would get the big hit or big play when it mattered. And they almost always did. I can't help but notice that I'm starting to get that same feeling again. Granted, there are concerns: Lidge has scared me in the past few weeks. Everett might as well blatantly try to lean into every pitch, because he rarely gets on otherwise. And Mike Gallo's presence on a major league roster, much less that of the Astros, is more mind-boggling to me than Michael Irvin drawing a paycheck as a NFL analyst. Despite all of that, I think the 'Stros are headed back to the postseason. Given how the season started, that's absolutely insane.

College Football Picks - Week Two

A 2-2 start is not embarrassing, but I was somewhat disappointed in myself for backing inexperienced teams in their opening games. I promise improved performance this week.

This Week's Picks

Marshall +9 v. Kansas State (9:30 a.m. Central on Saturday): It is a revenge game for Bill Snyder's Wildcats, who lost 27-20 to the Herd in Manhattan in 2004. However, I do not believe that last year's outcome was something within the control of K-State. Marshall has been as good as K-State year-in and year-out for several years now, and this game is in Huntington and is kicking off at 9:30 a.m. Manhattan time. Marshall is young, but I think they will do no worse than hang with the Wildcats, proving that last year's outcome was in fact not a fluke.

Vandy +10 at Arkansas (6:00 Central on Saturday): People are doubting the credibility of last week's Commodore win at Wake Forest last week, but I am not one of them. I am a little concerned about the ability of Vandy's D-line to hold up against the Hogs, but I think that Arkansas does not respect Vandy and that the loss of Matt Jones will certainly be noticeable. Jay Cutler and his teammates are on a high right now and will not be fazed by the chants of "Pig Sooey". Trends in this one: the Under is 9-0 following an Arkansas ATS and SU win, and Vandy is 10-1 ATS in games immediately following a close win, such as last week's at Wake.

Nevada +9.5 v. Washington State (9:05 Central on Friday night): Washington State had a difficult time putting away Idaho at home last Saturday, and I doubt that it was necessarily because they were looking ahead to the Wolfpack. Nevada has played the Pac-10 tough in recent years, and this is a "goal-post" game for them. I like the Wolfpack to knock off the Cougars straight-up, so I'll certainly take the points.

Toledo -22 v. Western Michigan (6:00 Central on Saturday): The sun rises in the east, sets in the west, and the Toledo Rockets cover games against conference opponents. Toledo is 9-1 ATS over the past two seasons and 13-3 ATS in all MAC games, including 5-2 ATS against the Broncs. WMU has an inexperienced secondary and has gone 2-10 ATS against "good" teams and 0-6 ATS against "good passing" teams over the past two seasons. This shapes up to be another in the long line of blowout Toledo victories.

New Mexico +9.5 v. Missouri (6:00 Central on Saturday): New Mexico has a Fresno-like approach to their scheduling -- they'll play anyone, anywhere, anytime. As a result, they've developed into an underappreciated football program who has gone 9-2 ATS on the road over the past two seasons. Meanwhile, I'm not completely sold after a home win over Arkansas State that Brad Smith is instantly back to his pre-2004 form, and Mizzou has been 1-7-1 ATS as a favorite over the past two seasons. This one should go down to the wire.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

College Football Picks - Week One


The system I'm going to work with (for entertainment purposes only) is a combination of Todd Beck's power rankings compilation and general handicapping. I'm going to use Todd's data to filter out games, and then I'm going to break down the handful of "arbitrage opportunities", with the results being my picks of the week.

Here are this week's considerations:

Utah (-7) v. Arizona
Utah returns 10 starters from last year's team and debuts a new coach, Kyle Whittingham. Mike Stoops brings 14 starters back from his first Arizona team. Arizona has won only four games over the last three seasons and is 2-7 ATS on the road over the last two years. The Utes, on the other hand, are an astounding 20-4 ATS over the past two seasons, including 10-0 ATS out of conference and 10-2 ATS at home. The Utes beat Arizona 23-6 in Tucson last September.

Cincinnati (-10) v. Eastern Michigan
Cincinnati returns only six starters, while EMU brings back 13 starters from 2004. Since 1992, EMU is 2-14 ATS out of conference, but they are 5-5 ATS on the road over the past two seasons. The Bearcats were 4-1 ATS at home last fall.

UConn (-18) v. Buffalo
Buffalo returns 15 starters from last year's team, and UConn brings back eleven. Over the past two years, Buffalo was 0-6 ATS in non-conference games, including 0-3 ATS against Big East opponents, and 1-6 ATS in September games. Buffalo was 0-6 on the road in 2004 and covered only once, while the Huskies won and covered their last three games of the season. Connecticut shut out Buffalo 29-0 in 2004.

SDSU (+9) v. UCLA
UCLA returns 15 starters from last year's edition, and SDSU brings back 12. There are a lot of trends pointing towards the under in this one (point total is 51.5): the under is 11-3 in games UCLA is favored the last two seasons, including 6-1 when they're favored by 3.5-10 points, and exactly the same rule applies for the Aztecs, where the under is 11-3 in games where they are the underdog and 6-1 in games where they are underdogs of between 3.5-10 points. UCLA beat SDSU 33-10 in Los Angeles last year.

NMSU (+10) v. UTEP
Mike Price returns 11 starters from last year's incredible run, and the Maverick, Hal Mumme, has 14 guys back as he takes the helm at NMSU. With Mumme at the helm, who knows what th hell will happen here. I'm figuring UTEP will run the Aggies out of the building, but the cappers like NMSU. Therefore, I'm not playing it.

Auburn (-7) v. GT
Chan Gailey brings back 14 starters from 2004, and Tommy Tuberville has 12 back from last year's undefeated Tigers. Tech was 5-2 ATS in non-conference games in the last two seasons, including 2-1 ATS against the SEC. They were also 9-6 ATS as underdogs and 6-4 ATS on the road, including 5-1 ATS last year on the road. Auburn, however, was only 1-5 ATS when favored by 3.5-10 points in the last two seasons and has not covered in a home game when they're favored by 7.5-10 points in the last 13 years. The cappers like Auburn, and I lean towards the Jackets, so I'll hold back from this one as well.

Wake Forest (-8) v. Vandy
Vandy returns twelve starters, and the Deacons bring back 15 from last year. Wake has not performed well when favored (only 1-7 ATS over the past two seasons). Both teams limped into the postseason, with Vandy going 1-2 SU and ATS and Wake going 0-3 SU and ATS. Again, there's a conflict, as I lean Vandy but the caps say Wake. Therefore, I'm sitting out.

Clemson (+2) v. A&M
The Aggies bring back 17 of their starters from 2004, and Tommy Bowden returns to the hot seat with 13 of his starters back. The Aggies are only 2-8 ATS on the road over the past two seasons, and Clemson is 11-2 SU and 7-5 ATS at home during that same period. Last year's matchup at Kyle Field saw the Aggies whip Clemson 27-6.

Baylor (-1.5) @ SMU
Guy Morris has 14 starters back, and Phil Bennett's Mustangs have 18 starters back, but since both teams stunk last year, who knows if that is good or bad. Baylor has been 14-7 ATS over the past two seasons, while SMU has been 8-15 ATS during the same period. The Bears were 7-3 ATS in 2004, but SMU was an equally impressive 4-1 ATS at home in 2004. They last met two seasons ago in a Baylor 10-7 home win. This is a big game for both teams, and it should be intensely played based on the quality character of the respective coaches.

Wyoming (+23) @ Florida
The Cowboys return 17 starters, and Urban Meyer has 15 returnees in his first season as Gator coach. There are not a lot of trends to work with here, and I would not want to bet against Chris Leak and Urban Meyer in their first game, so I'll pass on this one.

South Florida (+21.5) @ Penn State
South Florida returns 14 starters, and Joe Pa returns 17 starters. Again, not much to work with here, but it should likely be a low scoring affair, which makes me lean towards South Florida.

So after all of that, here's the final picks:

Utah -7 v. Arizona
Cincinnati -10 v. Eastern Michigan
Clemson +2 v. Texas A&M
Baylor -1.5 @ SMU