PiRate Picks for the SEC and Top 25 games

Howell Peiser picks this weeks SEC matchups and top national games.

PiRate Look At The SEC For October 22


Arkansas @ Georgia


Arkansas may be on the verge of mailing it in for the rest of the season or until the future employment status of Coach Houston Nutt has been determined.  Georgia has liabilities that can be exploited, but not by the Hogs, nor by anybody in the SEC East.  LSU and Auburn may be able to move the ball on the Dogs, and Alabama may be able to slow Richt's Rovers down on offense.  But, until someone proves it, UGA is the class of the league.  Power running, long tosses to Pope and Bailey and a suffocating defense will make this one a laugher, although I expect The Razorbacks to run for more yards than any Bulldog opponent yet.


PiRate Prediction: Georgia 31  Arkansas 13


Auburn @ L S U


Will the winner of this game decide the West champion for the third year in a row?  This series has been among the most exciting of any rivalry in the past 15 years.  Auburn is almost as good as last year, while this LSU team actually has a little more talent than the national co-champion team of 2003.  The Bayou Bengals have committed numerous mistakes this season, and another game of the like will produce a loss on Saturday.  The purple players know this, and they will play a near mistake-free game.


PiRate Prediction: LSU 20  Auburn 17


Kentucky @ Ole Miss


Possibly the only good news to report in this game is that one team will finally win an SEC game.  Ole Miss is clearly the better team personnel-wise, but they are due for a letdown after the near miss over Alabama.  Kentucky has had a week off to prepare, and the Wildcats could make a game of it.  Don't discount a Kentucky upset here.  It should be close either way.


PiRate Prediction: Ole Miss 34  Kentucky 30


Houston @ Mississippi State


Houston is a bowl probable team this year.  A win in this game gives them a shot at a 7-4 season.  With Kentucky, Arkansas, and Ole Miss left on the schedule, Mississippi State could put themselves into a dark horse bowl position to sneak in with a 6-5 record.  I think the Bullies are a year away from contending for a bowl, and the Cougars will crush those hopes with a close win.


PiRate Prediction: Houston 21  Mississippi State 17


Tennessee @ Alabama


This one should be a low-scoring affair.  Alabama may have discovered just how much they missed Tyrone Prothro last week.  Ole Miss's defense isn't nearly as strong as the Volunteer stop troops.  The Big Orange have had an extra week to prepare and to try and find something that works on offense.  I think 17 points wins this one for sure, and 14 might be enough.  The Tide still aren't up to snuff depth-wise, and this point in the season is where the depth problems destroyed their 2004 hopes.  I give Tennessee four extra intangible points for those reasons, and I'm picking the upset here.  Whichever team ultimately wins this game will more than likely owe one score to defense or special teams.  (The pure PiRate ratings in this game, without the intangible points factored in, show Bama to be about 5 to 8 points better; I am overriding the computer and going on my instincts, as that kind of data cannot be put into a computerized rating; that is the flaw with all computer ratings to date, and why most computer ratings do rather poorly when it comes to beating the spread.)


PiRate Prediction:  Tennessee 16  Alabama 14


Vanderbilt @ South Carolina


This game reminds me of an old political election from the 1960's.  The semi-scientific newspaper poll from three weeks ago showed voters preferring the black and gold party candidate by about four or five points.  However, the scarlet and black party candidate has worked door-to-door the past three weeks, while the poll leader made a few gaffes during some public events.  Thus, the election has turned in these final three weeks, and the candidate from the Palmetto State is now favored to win on election day.  It may not be a landslide and may take all night to count those hand-written ballots from the fourth precinct, but it will take a miracle job by the black and gold party GOTV crew (otherwise known as the defense) and a lot of campaigning for the former poll-leader to comeback and win election number five.  I think they will come up a bit short.  The votes just aren't there.


PiRate Prediction: South Carolina 35  Vanderbilt 24


Other Games of Interest


Wyoming @ Colorado State


I've been to one of these games, and this rivalry has the same implications in the Rockies as the Florida-Georgia cocktail party has in the South.  To the winner this week goes a free pass to bowl eligibility.  The loser finds themselves behind the eight ball.  The Cowboys have fallen two weeks in a row, while the Rams fell in a surprise to BYU.  I don't think CSU has the talent to win this one, even at Hughes Stadium.  Joe Glenn will right the Laramie ship and make the short trip down Highway 287 to Ft. Collins a successful one.


PiRate Prediction: Wyoming 31  Colorado State 23


Ohio State @ Indiana


Am I crazy enough to predict a huge upset here?  No, probably not, but I think Indiana will scare the Buckeyes for at least a half and keep the game close into the fourth quarter.  The Hoosiers realize they need one conference upset plus a win over Purdue in the regular season finale in order to get to 6-5.  Ohio State has a favorable schedule to run the table, but I think they will stumble at least one more time.  I just don't think it will be in Bloomington on Saturday.  However, I think IU has an excellent shot at beating the spread.


PiRate Prediction: Ohio State 34  Indiana 21


Northwestern @ Michigan State


Have you ever seen an old spring-wound watch go haywire and the minute hand starts rotating in fast motion?  The scoreboard at Spartan Stadium could look just like that Saturday.  The loser could very well score 40 or more points.  If this one should happen to go to overtime, the final score could easily exceed the score when these two schools square off on the hardwood.  John L. Smith looked like he was one step away from suffering apoplexy after his special teams' coach failed to get 11 players into the game for the ill-fated field goal attempt in Columbus last week.  I'd love to have a 50-yard line seat for this one, but it may result in a sore neck.  It could be like watching a tennis match.  The Over/Under for this game should be close to 100; it is 70 ½, which is about as high as over/under lines go.  This O/U may be a good one to look at when playing teasers.  60 ½ looks like a slam dunk.


PiRate Prediction: Michigan State 52  Northwestern 41


Nebraska @ Missouri


Tiger fans think of this game the way Vanderbilt basketball fans think of the Kentucky game at Memorial Gym.  Mizzou rarely wins this game, but in Columbia, they are a formidable match for the Cornhuskers.  Actually, the last time Nebraska played at Memorial Stadium, The Tigers blew them off the field.  This time, the game means even more.  First place is up for grabs in the Big 12 North.  Quarterback Brad Smith is the key.  If he plays up to his capability, then the Tigers may find themselves atop the standings come Sunday.  If not, then the black shirt defense may stomp on the hearts of the MU fans yet again.  I foresee heart-stomping in Columbia.


PiRate Prediction: Nebraska 23  Missouri 20


BYU @ Notre Dame


Brigham Young pulled off a fairly big upset last week at home, while Notre Dame's hearts were broken.  Both should be expected to bounce this week.  On talent alone, The Irish have the horses to win this one in a breeze.  Charlie Weis won't let his team succumb to a major letdown.  Look for the Irish to take the first steps toward winning out and getting an automatic BCS at-large bid.


PiRate Prediction: Notre Dame 42  BYU 21


Navy @ Rice


If you liked games back in the early 1970's when half of the nation's teams ran either the wishbone or the veer, then this is the game for you.  Both teams run the option and use play-action off the option to pass the ball, although Rice hasn't been able to refine that part of their offense.  Navy can put up 200 yards through the air to go with their 270 yards per game on the ground, while Rice has a hard time stopping both the run and the pass.  Look for the Midshipmen to keep the Owls winless, and take another step toward bowl eligibility for the third year in a row.


PiRate Prediction: Navy 34  Rice 27


The Game of the Week


Texas Tech @ Texas


This game is being played in Austin and Texas is my number one PiRate at this point in the season.  So, you know which way I am going in this game.  The Red Raiders actually have improved enough on defense to put themselves into position to spoil Mack Brown's miracle season.  I think when all is said and done, the interior lines will decide this game.  Texas has the nation's best units on both sides of the line, and until someone finds a way to beat them, I think they are the best team in the land.


PiRate Prediction: Texas 38  Texas Tech 21


Games Where I Think the Spread Is Off


Oregon @ Arizona


The Ducks are favored by 8 ½ points in Tucson.  Arizona has been a media darling all year, being picked to surprise teams more than once this season.  The convincing loss to Stanford last week still hasn't convinced Las Vegas.  The Ducks have a good chance to go 10-1, so why are the favored by only single digits?  Unless I am missing something (and I certainly could be), I think Oregon covers this spread with relative ease.


PiRate Prediction: Oregon 34  Arizona 17


Rutgers @ Connecticut


The Scarlet Knights from New Brunswick are 3-point favorites in Storrs this week.  They walloped Syracuse last week, while The Huskies lost in a mild shocker to Cincinnati.  Believing the UConn loss was an aberration, I think the Huskies will not only cover the spread, they will win the game outright.


PiRate Prediction: Connecticut 30  Rutgers 24


Miami (O) @ Eastern Michigan


Miami is an 11-point pick in Ypsilanti.  EMU is an improved team capable of enjoying a winning season, The Red Hawks haven't performed up to par this year, but their most recent games have shown quite an improvement.  Miami is due for a big road win to stay in the race in the MAC East with Bowling Green.  Look for the Red Hawks to get that win Saturday.


PiRate Prediction: Miami 38  Eastern Michigan 20


SMU @ Tulsa


Tulsa is favored by 14 ½, and I don't think that is enough.  The Mustangs have not been performing at top horsepower this season, while the Golden Hurricane are in position to go bowling.  Tulsa should win this one by close to three touchdowns.


PiRate Prediction: Tulsa 37  SMU 17


Purdue @ Wisconsin


Purdue is pushing Illinois for bottom-feeder team in the Big 10 race this year.  After being picked by some prognosticators as a top contender for the Big 10 title and dark horse contender for the Rose Bowl, the Boilermakers are now fighting to avoid their worst season since before Joe Tiller assumed command.  The Badgers are back in the Big 10 race thanks to the Penn State defeat, and the players are giving their last drop of blood for Barry Alvarez, who is retiring at the end of the season.  Camp Randall Stadium should be a happy atmosphere Saturday, as Barry's Badgers beat the 7-point spread.


PiRate Prediction: Wisconsin 38  Purdue 19



The Rest


TCU 31   Air Force 27
Akron  27   Army  17
Arkansas State  34   Florida Atlantic  24
Bowling Green  42   Western Michigan 17
California 42   Washington St. 28
Central Florida 33   Tulane 24
Louisville 41   Cincinnati 21
Clemson 42   Temple 10
Colorado 34   Kansas 20
Florida State 35   Duke 7
Fresno State 45   Idaho 10
Penn State 38   Illinois 20
Iowa 28   Michigan 27
Iowa State 28   Oklahoma State 22
Texas A&M 28   Kansas State 24
Northern Illinois 27   Kent State 17
Louisiana Tech 38   North Texas 17
Memphis 24   East Carolina 13
Miami (F)   Georgia Tech   (ppd)
MTSU 24   Louisiana Laf. 10
North Carolina 25   Virginia  24
Ohio U 31   Ball State 21
Oklahoma 27   Baylor 10
Pittsburgh 28   Syracuse 17
New Mexico 26   San Diego State 23
Hawaii 45   San Jose St. 28
West Virginia 24   South Florida 21
Arizona State 35   Stanford 27
Toledo 41   Buffalo 14
Southern Miss. 21   U A B 16
U C L A 38   Oregon State 27
Utah 27   U N L V 17
U T E P 37   Marshall  21
Boise State 38   Utah State 21
North Carolina St. 27   Wake Forest  26
Southern Cal. 49   Washington  14




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