PiRate Picks For November 12

Here are Howell Peiser PiRate picks for this weekend's top national and SEC matchups.

PiRate Picks For November 12
And Down The Stretch They Come
Two speed ball horses rounded the final turn and had no energy left when given the whip.  Virginia Tech and UCLA have dropped back into the pack, while Penn State, Miami, LSU and a few others hold hopes that they can come home first from off the pace.  The problem is that these teams will have to pass one of the two super horses to have a chance to win the run for the roses.  Those thoroughbreds wearing the maroon and gold silks and the burnt orange silks are headed for an Affirmed and Alydar finish.  Additionally, there's the Bud Long Shot Alabama still just a few lengths back.  This week's games will thin the contender list by at least one.
Southeastern Conference Games
L S U @ Alabama
Here's where at least one of the contenders will be sent packing to a lesser bowl.  It is stating the obvious to expect a low-scoring, defensive struggle similar to games of yore.  Alabama failed to cross the goal line with their offense last week against Mississippi State, while LSU showed very little against Appalachian State.  When these two teams have played quality defenses, their offenses have stalled.  They will both be facing the best defenses they will see this year. 
LSU is a three-point pick in Tuscaloosa and the totals line is a low 37.  Earlier in the week, I thought LSU was a cinch to win, but yesterday I began to waiver on that when a few other intangibles came into play.  Now, I see this game as a near tossup with Alabama having a slightly better chance of winning.  The wisest investment option in this game, if you absolutely must invest, is to play a teaser or teasers.  Alabama +13 or +16 and LSU +7 or +10 could allow you to play both sides against the middle.  The totals line could be teased as well.  If the game doesn't go to overtime, and that's something to consider with conservative offenses and strong defenses, I cannot see how 47 or 50 points can be scored in this game, making an UNDER selection a great part of a teaser parlay.
PiRate Prediction: Alabama 16  LSU 13
Auburn @ Georgia
How much will D.J. Shockley contribute in this game?  What happens if he gets sacked hard early in the game?  These questions cannot be answered today, so it is unwise to play this game in any way.  A healthy Shockley can lead the Bulldogs to an almost comfortable win over the Tigers, but an ailing Shockley or Tereshinski will make this one too close to call or even tip the scales in Auburn's favor.  I will give two PiRate selections here, one with Shockley at or near 100% and one with Tereshinski having to play most of the game.  By the way, the line favors Georgia by a field goal with the totals line at 41 ½.
PiRate Prediction (Shockley): Georgia 24  Auburn 17
PiRate Prediction (Tereshinski): Auburn 19  Georgia 14
Florida @ South Carolina
The circled date will finally arrive Saturday.  It's Steve Spurrier against his alma mater and former team.  Now, this game has even more serious implications.  If Auburn beats a Shockley-less Georgia, Florida can gain free admission to the SEC Championship Game with a win over the Gamecocks.
Might the old ball coach have learned a few things watching Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler exploit weaknesses in the Florida pass defense, especially a secondary hit with injuries last week?  You bet.  However, South Carolina may be more banged up than Florida, and they may not have enough quality troops to pull off the upset.
The Gators are favored by four points and the totals line is 46.  My ratings agree exactly with these lines, favoring Florida by four with 46 points expected to be scored.
PiRate Prediction: Florida 25  South Carolina 21
Arkansas @ Ole Miss
Arkansas's loss last week to South Carolina guaranteed the Razorbacks would finish with their second consecutive losing record.  Ole Miss still hangs by a thread in their quest to become the eighth bowl eligible team in this league.  The Rebels are a one-point favorite at home with the totals line at 41.  I expect the game to be as close as the line, but the Rebels have home field advantage and the incentive of playing a meaningful game.
Both teams are banged up, but the Razorbacks have more concerns heading into this game.  I think the Rebels will improve to 4-5 and cling to life support in the bowl hunt.
PiRate Prediction: Ole Miss 24  Arkansas 22
Memphis @ Tennessee
Let's see, who is starting at quarterback for Tennessee this week?  Better yet, who is left to start at quarterback for Memphis—the water boy?
De Angelo Williams will find the going very tough this week.  He won't have a great day.  Expect a final tally of about 24 rushes for 75 yards for the all-star.  It adds up to Memphis finding it hard to put points on the board.
Tennessee's offense began to come together last week, and the improvement will continue this week.  When that happens, the credit should go to the offensive line and not the change of coaching responsibilities.
Tennessee is favored by 18 ½ with the totals line set at 43 ½.  The Vols have possible issues at center where both David Ligon and Richie Gandy are nursing injuries.  For that reason, I cannot see the Big Orange beating the spread.  They will win and probably by double digits, so this may be one of those games where you can play both sides on a teaser.  The Vols at -8 ½ or -5 ½ coupled with Memphis at +28 ½ or +31 ½ presents you with an excellent combination in one of your parlays.  UNDER 53 ½ or 56 1/2 gives you another possible option.
PiRate Prediction: Tennessee 28  Memphis 12
Kentucky @ Vanderbilt
I've seen this week's scenario with Vanderbilt at least a dozen times in the last 40+ seasons.  After the Commodores played the game of their lives and scared the daylights out of a top 20 team, they returned home to face an opponent much weaker than the previous opponent.  We'll look at a few of these past instances:
1964: Vandy's defense held Ole Miss in check and tied the heavily-favored Rebels 7-7.  Ole Miss would play in the Bluebonnet Bowl that year.  Next up was a weaker Kentucky team that had lost four in a row.  The Commodores blew a lead and lost 22-21.
1968: After upsetting Army at Michie Stadium to improve to 2-0, the Commodores returned home to face 0-2 North Carolina.  After leading for most of the game 7-0, the Tar Heels scored and converted the two-point conversion to win 8-7.
1971: After blowing Mississippi State off the field in Starkville 49-19, 2-0-1 Vandy played an 0-3 Virginia team that had been outscored 94-6.  The Cavs beat The ‘Dores 27-23.
1981: After breaking a long SEC losing streak by winning at Ole Miss and then destroying a hapless Memphis State team 26-0 to improve to 3-5, Vanderbilt faced Kentucky at home in a televised game.  The Wildcats had lost seven games in a row, but pulled off the upset when Andy Moll fielded a punt on a bounce and raced 80+ yards for the winning score.
1984: The Goldmen started 4-0 including a win at Alabama to crack the Top 20 (something they haven't accomplished since).  Lowly Tulane at 0-4 came to Nashville and pulled off a 27-23 upset.
1988: After whipping Florida and star running back Emmett Smith 24-9 in a televised game to improve to 3-3, the Commodores had a closing five game schedule in which every game was quite winnable.  Weak Ole Miss and Kentucky games preceded matches  out of conference against Memphis State and Army.  The finale at home against Tennessee  looked like an easy win at that point; the Vols were 0-6, forcing a local radio talk show host to live atop a downtown billboard for weeks.  Not only did Vanderbilt fail to win all five games, or even three more for a winning season, they lost all five.
1994: After venturing between the hedges and knocking off Georgia 43-30 in a televised game to improve to 3-3, Vandy faced a struggling South Carolina team that had lost two in a row and would lose their next two after this one.  In those four losses, the Gamecock defense surrendered 39 points per game.  Ahead on the schedule were weak Northern Illinois and Kentucky teams, so a win at home against USC virtually guaranteed a six-win season.  The zebras made a huge wrong call against Vandy on a fumble, and South Carolina held on for a 19-16 win.
1999: Vanderbilt played a terrific game in Gainesville falling to Florida 13-6.  Facing Kentucky on national television and with a 5-4 record, a win would make the Commodores bowl eligible.  Vandy trailed by two points late and began one final drive for the win.  They moved the ball to the Wildcat 20 yard line and promptly fumbled away their bowl hopes.
2005: After starting 4-0 and facing a winless MTSU team that had scored just seven points in each of their three games, a blocked field goal attempt ended the Commodores' hopes for their first 5-0 start in decades.
You see where I'm going.  The initials S.O.V. came about because of a failure to win  games like the one Vanderbilt plays this week.  Vanderbilt is clearly better than the Wildcats, but then Florida was clearly better than Vanderbilt. 
This is the most important game at Vanderbilt since that final drive of the 1999 Kentucky game.  Vanderbilt should win the game to end a five-game losing streak and improve to 5-5 to make the Tennessee game an even more "most important" game.
To add to the tension, Kentucky just gave Coach Rich Brooks a vote of confidence by announcing he will be back next year.
Let me tell you why it will be different this year.  For starters, Jay Cutler won't allow his teammates to come out flat.  He has a few million reasons to see to it that the offense is firing on all cylinders, even if Erik Davis cannot play.  Next, Kentucky has too many injuries on offense to do the type of damage other teams have done to Vandy.  The K-Cats won't see the number "2" on the left digit of their side of the scoreboard. .  If you need more convincing, just imagine how fuming mad the players are after getting jobbed by the zebras yet again.  I expect a bunch of black and gold assassins playing defense this week.  The offensive line will record multiple pancake blocks as Jeff Jennings and Cassen Jackson-Garrison combine for 150 yards on the ground, while Cutler adds another 50. 
The line is 12 ½ points with a totals line of 52 ½.  Forget those numbers and watch Vandy win game number five.  They may not cover the sprread, but the Commodores will get their revenge.
Pirate Prediction: Vanderbilt 28  Kentucky 17 (The Wildcats will score a TD and FG in the latter part after trailing 28-7.)
Important Games This Week
Southern California @ California
The Trojans last loss came in Berkeley two years ago.  Last year, Cal outplayed USC, holding Leinart's Legion to 41 yards rushing and 205 total yards while producing 424 total yards.  Don't even think about a repeat performance.  The line favors USC by 18 ½, and the PiRate ratings agree.
PiRate Prediction: Southern California 40  California 21
Kansas @ Texas
The red hot Jayhawks are about to get cooled off by liquid nitrogen disguised in shoulder pads.  It's all about the interior lines.  Texas has a two touchdown advantage on both sides.  The line is 34 points with a 56 point total.  There might be a small play on the OVER if you figure the Longhorns will go to their bench as quickly as possible to prevent injuries to key personnel. 
PiRate Prediction: Texas 52  Kansas 17
Miami of Florida @ Wake Forest
Miami lost to Florida at the start of the 1983 season and then ran the table to finish the regular season at 10-1.  They met what was considered an unbeatable Nebraska team that had thoroughly trounced everyone on their schedule.  The "U" won that game to earn the first of five national titles.  This year, the Hurricanes opened the season with a loss to Florida State and have proceeded to run the table since then.  They will win this one on Saturday by about 17 points, which is how much the boys in Vegas favor them.
PiRate Prediction: Miami 27  Wake Forest 10
Northwestern @ Ohio State
It's a top offense against a top defense; except in this case, the top defense belongs to a team with an equally competent offense.  Add a huge revenge factor and quicker, stronger personnel, and it adds up to a rout in Columbus on Saturday.  Ohio State has had this one circled since the Wildcats upset the unbeaten Buckeyes and started a three-game slide last year.  Look For Ohio State to run the ball for 200+ yards and pass the ball for 200+ yards while tallying somewhere between 35 and 52 points.  Northwestern's running game will be shut down, and Brett Basanez will be introduced to the Ohio Stadium turf a few times as well.  It will be a long day for fans of the purple and white.
Ohio State is favored by 18 with the totals line at 57.  Northwestern should score a couple of touchdowns and a field goal, so a teaser on the total could be a good move.  At OVER 47 or 44, Ohio State has a good chance to cover without the Wildcats contributing much to the score.
PiRate Prediction: Ohio State 45  Northwestern 20
Colorado @ Iowa State
A Buffalo win clinches the North Division title, while a Cyclone win keeps the race alive.  The outlaw line favored CU by a field goal, and the number has moved down to just a deuce.  In winning impressively the last three weeks, Iowa State has averaged more than 440 total yards and 41 points per game, while giving up 302 yards and less than 14 points per game.
The difference between these last three ISU wins and this week's opponent are vast.  The Cyclones beat Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, and Kansas State.  Colorado is right there with Ohio State for best two loss team.  The Buffs' run defense and pass rush should be a little too much for McCarney's Marauders to handle in Ames this week.  Not only do I expect Colorado to win this crucial road game and wrap up a berth in the Big 12 Championship game, I expect them to handle the spread as well.  Barnett's Brutes will take this one by a touchdown.
PiRate Prediction: Colorado 27  Iowa State 20
Georgia Tech @ Virginia
Virginia basically must win this game if they plan on going bowling this year.  The 5-3 Cavaliers have no room for error with closing assignments against Virginia Tech and Miami.  UVa is a five-point choice with the totals line at 44 ½.  Georgia Tech can currently sits as the third or fourth choice in the ACC bowl pecking order, and since the Peach Bowl gets team number three, the Yellow Jackets are on a collision course with The Champs Sports or Meineke Car Care Bowl.  A loss to the Cavs could push them west toward the blue field at Boise, so they have a major incentive to win game number seven.
In a mild upset, I am taking the Engineers from Atlanta to win outright, and more importantly to beat the spread.  Take Tech and the five points.
PiRate Prediction: Georgia Tech 27  Virginia 24
Navy @ Notre Dame
During the recent lean years at Golden Dome U., The Irish could always count on beating one regular opponent.  Even during the mistake known as the Gerry Faust years, Notre Dame always beat one opponent.  You must go back to Roger Staubach's Heisman Trophy year to find the last time Navy has beaten Notre Dame.  The Midshipmen have lost 41 straight games to Notre Dame!
The last time Navy beat the Irish during a year in which Notre Dame finished with a winning record was 1957 when Maxwell Award winning tackle Bob Riefsnyder starred for the Sailormen.  There are no award winners on this Middie edition, so Notre Dame can expect to win number 42 in a row on Saturday.
The line for this game is 23 points with a totals line of 59 ½.  My ratings call for Notre Dame to win by 24 points, so I advise laying off this one.
PiRate Prediction: Notre Dame 41  Navy 17
Kansas State @ Nebraska
They should call this game the "Swoon Bowl" and move it to the grounds at Cheekwood.  These two squads cannot wait to get the season over with quick enough.  Since beating Kansas, K-State has dropped four straight games including a home loss to fading Texas A&M.  Nebraska has dropped their last three games, including a 25-point drubbing to Kansas last week.
The loser of this game is headed to a sub-.500 finish.  Cornhusker coach Bill Callahan knows a second consecutive losing season in Lincoln would place him on a very hot seat; one more bad season could place him on a seat on the California Zephyr heading back to the Bay Area.
For no other reason than home field advantage, I'm going with the Cornhuskers to win game number six and secure a spot in one of the three lower-tier Big 12 bowls.  Nebraska is a six-point favorite with the totals line set at 47.  I like the "Huskers to win this game, but I don't care for the line.  Consider playing both extremes on a teaser in this one (Nebraska +4 or +7 and Kansas State +16 or +19).
PiRate Prediction: Nebraska 21  Kansas State 16
And The Rest
Arizona 38  Washington 24
Arkansas State 27 Troy 24
Boston College 16  North Carolina State 10
Clemson 24  Florida State 23 (ratings call for this one to go to ot)
Colorado State 28  San Diego State 17
Eastern Michigan 31  Ball State 28
Florida Atlantic 28  North Texas 26
Fresno State 37  Boise State 28 (Thursday Night)
Hawaii 42  Utah State 31
Houston 24  Southern Miss. 23 (game to be played Sunday)
Louisiana Tech 38  Idaho 24
Kent State 28  Buffalo 21 (Buffalo Coach Jim Hofher was fired this week)
UL-Lafayette 34  Florida Int'l 24
Louisville 45  Rutgers 28 (Friday Night)
Michigan 35  Indiana 14
MTSU 20  Louisiana Monroe 10
Minnesota 38 Michigan State 28
Missouri 31  Baylor 24
Nevada 37  New Mexico State 24
North Carolina 24  Maryland 18
Oklahoma 28  Texas A&M 13
Texas Tech 35  Oklahoma State 12
Oregon State 35  Stanford 34 (ratings call for this one to go to ot)
Pittsburgh 28  Connecticut 20
Purdue 41  Illinois 24
Tulane 26  Rice 23
South Florida 24 Syracuse 7
TCU 41  UNLV 10
Tulsa 34  East Carolina 21
UAB 28  Central Florida 27 (ratings call for this one to go to ot)
UCLA 41  Arizona State 38
Utah 20  New Mexico 17
Oregon 35  Washington State 20
Western Michigan 31  Central Michigan 30 (yet another one ratings call for ot)
Wisconsin 37 Iowa 28
BYU 27  Wyoming 24

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