Fourth Down and Inches
by Doc - 10/12/2006
Last week our Revenge Game of the Year rolled, as South Florida (-6), destroyed Connecticut by a score of 38-16. I thought it was a great spot to step outside the Big Ten Conference, as the Bulls were beaten 15-10 last year in Storrs under freezing temperatures. The Huskies are having some internal problems and suffered an embarrassing loss to Navy at home by a score of 41-17 just one week prior.
Connecticut certainly looks like a team to fade at home, as the Huskies suspended five players for this week's game with Army. The Black Knights have a nice team with balance on offense. Army did get pounded by Rice, but they also played well in losses to Texas A&M and Baylor. They lost big last year to the Huskies as a 10.5-point underdog, but they were reeling coming off a three straight losses. This year Army is a 5.5-point underdog and I look for this game to be much closer. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Army pulls the upset straight-up.
For those of you that had Mississippi State as a 21-point underdog, that was a tough loss to swallow. The Bulldogs opened the week as a 26.5-point dog, but that number fell throughout the week and by Thursday it was 21. Mississippi State actually played its heart out, matching the Mountaineers in total yardage, earning more first downs, and they held the ball for eight more minutes. But big plays in the final six minutes did them in. With 5:31 remaining the Bulldogs trailed by just 14 points and at the worst I felt we were looking at was a push. But the Mountaineers found paydirt two more times, the final TD coming on a 50-yard punt return with just one minute to play.
I certainly cannot take anything away from the No. 4 team in the country, as they are undefeated, but I see them stumbling in the near future. If Louisville does not get them on Nov. 2, Pittsburgh will get it done on Nov. 16. Mark my words: West Virginia will lose one if not both of those games.
Four of the five games in the Big Ten this weekend feature road favorites. Could this be the week of the dogs? It looks that way to me in a few on these contests.
Will Michigan State finally rise to the occasion by playing up to its potential? I personally do not like either side in their game with Ohio State. This Spartan team appears to be following the footsteps of previous ones, with unpredictability as a calling card. They will have a good game left in them this season, but I fail to even venture a guess of which game that will be. That fourth quarter collapse against Notre Dame really set the 2006 squad back a few steps and now injuries and suspensions seem to be taking their toll. WR Matt Trannon, a two-sport star, is the most recent causality. QB Drew Stanton will play, but he is also banged up and has not been himself since conference play began. Ohio State will enter East Lansing as a 15-point favorite, but I will not touch that game. The Spartans may come to play.
The marquee game in the conference will be Michigan heading to Happy Valley to take on the Lions. The Wolves will be a little light on offense with WR Mario Manningham sidelined with an injury. RB Mike Hart also has an ankle injury but should see action. I think the dog deserves a good, long look in this game. Beaver Stadium may go with the high grass hoping to slow the speed of Michigan. The only thing that scares me with Penn State is QB Anthony Morelli. He seems to make poor decisions during key moments of games, but he has a solid defense led by LB Paul Posluszny to support his cause. Look for a defensive battle and a low scoring game.
This is the time of year I start to look at teams with major problems that have thrown in the towel. Teams that have had high expectation but, for whatever reason, the season did not go as expected. Besides Michigan State, other teams that fit this category are Connecticut, Memphis and Fresno State. Keep an eye on these clubs and continue to fade them when situations arise.
Who will be the team to pull a big rout this weekend? My first glance pointed toward the 'U' as they are a 28-point favorite over in-state opponent Florida International. The Hurricanes certainly have the defense to shutdown this team. However, the problem lies with he Miami offense and its four true freshmen starters. Still, expect Miami to put this game away earlier as they need a blowout victory to boost morale.
It always pays off to go against a team coming off its first loss of the season the previous week. The old saying, "The bubble finally burst" fits and they realize their title hopes are lost. Auburn falls into that category, after they were blown out at Jordan Hare Stadium by Arkansas last week. They may have been looking ahead to Florida, and the Razorbacks upperclassmen finally played up to their potential. These teams have a hard time getting ready for the following week a high percentage of the time. Florida is for real and I expect them to win this game and possibly run the table in the tough SEC.
We've been doing very well in the NFL this season, hitting our last two five-unit selections and showing a profit both weekends. I really like our top choice this week, as these teams seem to be heading in opposite directions.
I will be in Las Vegas this weekend for my first round match-up in the "Money Talks" handicapping contest sponsored by Leroy's chain of sportsbooks. I am taking on Wayne Peters, a professional gambler from Las Vegas. Last year I made it to the round of eight and am hoping for an even better performance in 2006. If you are in town, stop by the Silverton on Friday, Oct. 13 or you can listen on KSHP 1400-AM in Las Vegas.
That is it for this week!