PiRate Picks For September 24

With Vanderbilt playing against I-AA Richmond, I am combining this week's PiRate report into one article with both SEC and non-SEC games included. For those of you keeping tabs, last week my contest picks went 4-3 to bring my year-to-date count to 13-8 against the spread. Remind me never to take SMU in multiple teasers, as they cost me all three parlays. This week doesn't have any sure thing locks, but there are several games with possibilities.

PiRate Picks For September 24


Howell Peiser


With Vanderbilt playing against I-AA Richmond, I am combining this week's PiRate report into one article with both SEC and non-SEC games included.  For those of you keeping tabs, last week my contest picks went 4-3 to bring my year-to-date count to 13-8 against the spread.  Remind me never to take SMU in multiple teasers, as they cost me all three parlays.  This week doesn't have any sure thing locks, but there are several games with possibilities.


Iowa @ Ohio State


This televised battle kicks off the Big 10 conference race, and I see the Buckeyes having too much quickness at the skill positions for Iowa to contain for four quarters.  Ohio State is a touchdown favorite, and the PiRates say The Buckeyes should win by six.  The totals line is 41, and that gives us the best shot at a play.  Using the totals in a 10 or 13-point teaser brings it down to 31 or 28.  I think that at least 35 points will be scored in this game, so the over looks good on a teaser. 


PiRate Prediction: Ohio State  23  Iowa 17


Purdue @ Minnesota


The undefeated Boilermakers haven't played up to their expectations in their opening two games.  Minnesota has looked like a Top 10 team in its first three games.  So, why does this game scare me so?  The Gophers haven't played a strong team yet, but then again Purdue hasn't either.  Minnesota is a 3 ½-point favorite and the totals line is 55 ½.  I wouldn't touch this game, as there are too many variables.  If I wanted to gamble a little, I might consider taking Purdue on the Moneyline at +155, but I cannot play a Moneyline in my contest.  Since this game has a good chance of being close, I might consider playing both sides of this game in a 13-point teaser.  That gives you Minnesota at +9 ½ and Purdue at +13 ½.  I'm not playing this game in my contest.


PiRate Prediction: Minnesota  30  Purdue  24


Penn State @ Northwestern


It's the Nittany Lions' great defense against the Wildcats' terrific spread offense.  I believe Penn State will hold Northwestern in check enough for their average, but improving offense to score four or five touchdowns and win.  Penn State is favored by 7 ½ with the totals line at 50.   I like Penn State in this game and might even consider the Lions in a straight pick. PSU looks magnificent in a 10 or 13-point teaser, giving them 2 ½ or 5 ½ points.  I wouldn't fool with the totals line.


PiRate Prediction: Penn State 34  Northwestern 20


Georgia @ Mississippi State


This is my lock of the year.  I can tell you for sure that I know without a doubt who will beat the spread in this game—the Bulldogs.  Okay, bad joke.  The line is 15 with a totals line of 43.  Doesn't that look a little fishy?  Georgia is 3-0, but their last two wins didn't look so good.  Mississippi State clobbered a I-AA weakling, then put up a goose egg at Auburn and beat poor Tulane last week.  The obvious belief is that Georgia should win by 20 or more, so why is the line just 15?  Vegas rarely makes mistakes, so this line should be a tell-tale sign.  Let's force Georgia to bump that spread up 13 points in a teaser to 28.  If Vegas thinks 20 is too high, then 28 looks good.  Let's also knock the spread 13 points in Georgia's favor, since a two-point win looks rather safe.  That gives us half of a 4-team parlay.  The totals line could be played as well.  Coupling the Mississippi State +28 line with under 56 almost reduces the effect of having to correctly pick four plays to win the teaser.  If Mississippi State loses by less than 28, the total points scored should be lower than 56.  Playing over 30 could be another good selection, giving you a four-game teaser in this game (UGA -2, MS +28, Over 30, and Under 56).


PiRate Prediction:  Georgia  34  Mississippi State 10


Arkansas @ Alabama


Believe it or not, Arkansas may face a better defense this week than last week.  The Crimson Tide should shut the Razorback running game down, and the Razorback passing game won't be able to compensate.  Meanwhile, the Tide could be on the verge of becoming a complete team, equally strong on offense as defense.  The 1992 National Champs started the season with a mediocre offense and improved by leaps and bounds as the season progressed.  The line for this one is ‘Bama by 15 ½, with a total of 48.  That's too close to my ratings to recommend a straight play, but a 10 or 13-point teaser looks okay here.  Alabama -5 ½ or -2 ½ is a decent pick.  I also would consider playing under 58 or under 61 depending on the teaser amount.


PiRate Prediction:  Alabama 28  Arkansas  10


Florida @ Kentucky


After last week's debacle in Bloomington, Indiana, Rich Brooks is lucky to still be coaching the Kentucky football team.  The Cats laid an egg against Indiana.  Meanwhile, Florida pulled off the big win over rival Tennessee.  Having to go on the road the next week makes this a partial system play in Kentucky's favor, but I'm not sure whether the Wildcats could beat Western Kentucky this week.  The line is 22 ½ with a totals of 51 ½.  That is a bit high for my liking, but the teaser brings this game down into playable parameters.  Florida at -12 ½ or -9 ½ is reasonable.  The Gators could let down a little and have to struggle for a quarter or two.  Even Steve Spurrier had a few tough games against Kentucky in Lexington.


PiRate Prediction:  Florida  34  Kentucky 13


Notre Dame @ Washington


Washington's defense against the pass will not slow down the Notre Dame passing game.  The Irish are 13 ½-point favorites with a totals line of 53 ½.  The teaser makes this one a pick.  Even with all the press coverage hyping Tyrone Willingham's revenge in this game, I cannot see the Huskies staying close for 60 minutes.  Notre Dame at -3 ½ or -1/2 makes this one playable.  Playing the over in a teaser at 43 ½ or 40 ½ is something to look at.


PiRate Prediction:  Notre Dame 34  Washington  17


Southern California @ Oregon


This is the game I would want to attend this Saturday afternoon.  Too bad only the West Coast will get to see it.  This is USC's first of four tests they must face prior to the possible Rose Bowl bid.  Can the Ducks outscore the Trojans and win 45-42, or something like that?  Oregon cannot hold the Trojans under 25 points, so their only hope is to match them point-for-point.  My instincts say USC is due for a scare, but the talent on this squad is so outstanding.  This bunch of Trojans are the football equivalent of the UCLA basketball teams of the 1960's and 1970's.  The media of that time always thought UCLA was due to lose a tough road game, but the Bruins usually saved their best for those games.  USC is a 22-point favorite with the totals line at 68 ½.  Forget the totals line here, but consider the teaser in USC's favor.  At -12 or -9, don't the Trojans look like a good selection?  Until somebody can prove it, I don't see USC winning by less than 20 points.


PiRate Prediction: Southern Cal  45  Oregon 20


Tennessee @ LSU


Finally, the Tiger fans get to attend a game.  This was supposed to be home game number three.  When LSU takes the field Saturday evening, it won't be a hurricane that rocks the Tigers' Den.  It will be an earthquake!  At least, the roar will register on the campus Richter Scale.  I am giving LSU two extra home field advantage points for this game.  On the other hand, Phil Fulmer's teams have shown a propensity for bouncing back after playing lousy the week before.  This game is a strong system play.  LSU won a big road game and they now return home for their next game.  They have had an extra week to prepare for this game.  This is game two for the Tigers, and teams usually improve the most between game one and two.  For Tennessee, they lost a tough road game and continue to stay on the road.  The spread for this game is LSU -6 ½, and the totals line is low at 43 ½.  I'd leave the totals line alone, since Tennessee will eventually break out and score points and LSU's secondary didn't fare well against Arizona State.  I still think the purple and gold win this game, but I only recommend playing it in a teaser.  LSU at +3 ½ or +6 ½ looks like a wise guy play.


PiRate Prediction:  LSU 24  Tennessee 17


Michigan @ Wisconsin


Barry Alvarez has seen a couple of his undefeated Badger teams lose to Lloyd Carr's Wolverines.  This is his last chance to get it right against the maize and blue.  Michigan is a field goal choice in Vegas, with the totals line at 49.  Most of the recent games between these two teams have gone under the total.  I have a sneaky suspicion that this game will not be a 31-28 or 35-21 game.  Look at that total and add 10 or 13 points to it.  Under 59 or under 62 looks safe.


PiRate Prediction: Michigan 24  Wisconsin 17


Troy @ South Carolina


USC is only a 19 ½-point pick, and I am tempted to take them straight up here this week.  Troy is much weaker than last year and cannot be expected to compete on the road against an SEC team.  I expect The Gamecocks to hold Troy to 50 yards or less rushing and about 175 yards passing.  USC may not rush for much more than 75 or 80 yards, but I'm guessing they will enjoy another huge passing day like the 330 they put up against UCF.  With a total yardage advantage of about 420 to 220, the Gamecocks should win by double digits.  Take USC on a teaser at -9 ½ or -6 ½.  It looks safe.


PiRate Prediction: South Carolina  31  Troy 10


Wyoming at Ole Miss


A huge home field advantage, by virtue of Wyoming traveling 1,300 miles, may help Ole Miss get over the hump this week.  Don't discount Joe Glenn's ‘Pokes.  They have the talent to handle the Rebels.  The spread is only two points in Ole Miss's favor with a totals line of 48.  This game presents multiple teaser possibilities, but none of them are strong plays.  Playing both sides and both totals on a 13-point teaser would give you Ole Miss + 11, Wyoming +15, Over 61, and Under 35.  I think this game will be close and could go either way.  The score should be about average, so you could play an entire parlay just on this game.


PiRate Prediction: Ole Miss 24  Wyoming 21


Western Kentucky @ Auburn & Richmond @ Vanderbilt


Neither of these two games have official lines and are off the board.  Likewise, my PiRates do not officially rank I-AA teams.  Using an estimated ranking based on comparative scores and stats, I can estimate a predicted score for both games.  Western Kentucky is the top-ranked I-AA team, but they aren't about to win a road game against an SEC squad.  Auburn's stellar defense will keep the Hilltoppers in single digits.  Look for a score in the 35-6 range.


Vanderbilt should have an easier go of it Saturday.  This team is focused and will not overlook the Spiders.  The offense should click and pull off several long, time-consuming drives ending in pay dirt.  The defense should only be on the field for 22-25 minutes, and it will result in their best statistical effort of the season.  Vandy should bolt out to a 28-0 lead by the second quarter, and Coach Johnson should be able to play several reserves.  Look for The Commodores to run for 200+ yards, pass for 200+ yards, hold Richmond to 300-350 total yards, and win 48-17.  Here's hoping Chris Nickson is running the option early in the third quarter, and Jay Cutler is safely on the bench with his shoulder pads on the ground.  Remember what happened to Alabama last year.  After the Tide began the season looking like a 9-2 or 10-1 team, they played Western Carolina and had them put away quite early.  Coach Shula left Brodie Croyle in the game a tad too long, and he was put out for the season.  After that, Alabama's offense was anemic. 


Dore Prizes


The talk around the Southeast part of the Lone Star State is all about the weather.  The talk around the northwest part of the state is about Texas Tech, and their downright overt desire to score 100 points against Indiana State this week.

If Tech coach Mike Leach is a class act, he would allow his reserves a chance to move the ball down the field, and then once inside the Sycamore 10 yard line, take a knee and turn the ball over on downs.  The officials have the privilege of asking the trailing team in blowouts whether they want to shorten the third and fourth quarters.  Both teams should agree to do so if the score is 50-0 at the half.


For what it's worth, the last team to put up 100 points in a game was Houston in 1968.  They beat Tulsa 100-6, avenging an upset loss to The Golden Hurricane the year before.  The Cougars led 51-6 after three quarters, and Coach Bill Yeoman approved of the seven fourth quarter touchdowns.  Country music star Larry Gatlin scored the touchdown to make it 93-6.  The city of Houston may lose 100-6 to Rita, the not-so-golden Hurricane.  Let's hope both games aren't as bad as predicted.


There are still a few rules I wish would change in college football.  First, change the pass interference penalty back to the old rule.  The defense shouldn't have an advantage of deliberately limiting a pass attempt to 15 yards when they cannot prevent a 50-yard completion.  The long bomb is the most exciting play in football, and there would be more attempts at it if an interference penalty 50 yards downfield counted the same as a completion for 50 yards.


The rule that a player is down the second he hits the ground should be changed to the NFL rule.  Contact should be required to constitute a tackle.  If a player slips on wet turf without being touched, he should be allowed to get up and continue.  A great catch of a pass shouldn't be the end to the play if the player has to dive to make it.  Let him get up and run if he hasn't been touched.  The same holds true for defense.  Fans love to see defenses score points.  Several times, fumble recoveries could be advanced and even go the distance. If the defender recovering the fumble is on the ground, he is down at that spot.


I still dislike the stoppage of the clock when a team gets a first down.  Teams that hold onto the ball for 15 plays and go 80 yards should be able to take seven to 10 minutes off the clock.  What made Vince Lombardi's Packer teams so dominant was an ability to drive the ball for 80 yards for a touchdown in nine minutes and then hold the opposition to three plays and a punt.  Last week, Vandy held onto the ball and ran 90 plays against Ole Miss, but the Rebels still ran over 60 plays.  A college football game should last 120-130 plays.  150+ is too many, and it will eventually drive television ratings down.  The total number of plays in last week's game should have been something like 75-52 in Vandy's favor.  If colleges want to institute a two-minute warning and ditch the first down stoppage, that's fine.

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