PiRate Ratings For Thursday, September 14, 2006 Note: Ratings rounded to nearest whole number # Team W L Rating 1 USC 1 0 131 2 Ohio State 2 0 127 3 Texas 1 1 123 4 Notre Dame 2 0 122 5 Auburn 2 0 121 6 L S U 2 0 120 7 Florida 2 0 119 8t Michigan 2 0 118 8t Oregon 2 0 118 10 Virginia Tech 2 0 117 11 Georgia 2 0 116 12 Nebraska 2 0 115 13 Louisville 2 0 115 14 California 1 1 115 15 Arizona State 2 0 114 16 Clemson 1 1 114 17 West Virginia 2 0 113 18t Iowa 2 0 113 18t Oklahoma 2 0 113 20t Florida State 2 0 113 20t Texas Tech 2 0 113 22 Miami (Fla) 1 1 113 23 Boston College 2 0 112 24 Penn State 1 1 112 25 Boise State 2 0 111 SEC PiRate Ratings East Florida 2 0 119 Georgia 2 0 116 Tennessee 2 0 108 South Carolina 1 1 105 Vanderbilt 0 2 100 Kentucky 1 1 97 West Auburn 2 0 121 L S U 2 0 120 Alabama 2 0 109 Arkansas 1 1 107 Miss. State 0 2 94 Ole Miss 1 1 92 Future Vandy Opponents Tennessee State 1 1  Temple 0 2 72 Duke 0 2 84 PiRates Show Vandy Now Finishing: 1-7/4-8Last Week's Games
The PiRates have proven to be just like all the other computer rankings available to the public. They are great for determining which team will win the game, but they are not usable for determining point spread winners. For what it's worth, for the season, the PiRates have predicted the winner 80 out of 93 times when the ratings favor one team over the other (one pick'em so far) for 86% success.
Since many of the readers of this column want to know how teams rate compared to the official line, I will now give my own analysis along with the PiRate ratings.
This Week's Fantastic Schedule
If you want to pick a week to stay in bed with two or three televisions tuned simultaneously to college football games, this is one week to do so. While you won't get a number one versus number two match-up, there are over a dozen key games that will shake up the national ratings. By Sunday morning, the championship picture will be much clearer than it is today. Let's start with the SEC games, and then preview all the other thrillers.
Florida at Tennessee
PiRate Predicts: Florida 21 Tennessee 16
Peiser Predicts: Florida by 4
Tennessee suffered a couple of key injuries last week, and Florida will take advantage of the losses of Inky Johnson and Justin Harrell.
Florida's defense has played brilliantly in their two warm-up games. The Gators have given up seven points against two, 2005 bowl teams. Meanwhile, Chris Leak has begun the season living up to his hype. The Gators are averaging 514 total yards per game, with 340+ coming through the air.
Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge has blossomed in two games under the mentorship of David Cutcliffe. He merely leads the nation in passing efficiency.
This is a tossup game that could really go either way. I think the two Vol injuries tilt the scales slightly in Florida's favor. In what should be a great game to watch, give Florida a 55% chance of winning, and the margin should be about four points.
Ole Miss at Kentucky
PiRate Predicts: Kentucky 35 Ole Miss 26
Peiser Predicts: Kentucky by 6
This is an early bowl elimination game. While neither team holds much hope for winning six games this year, the loser can forget about it already. Kentucky has shown some pop on offense, while Ole Miss has failed to move the ball this year, passing for only 94 yards per game.
Neither teams' defense has shown a propensity to scare any I-A opponent, and this game should be a shootout. In a shootout, go with the better offensive team, especially when they are playing at home.
Look for Rich Brooks' boo birds to have little to do this week, as the K-Cats improve to 2-1 with a nice SEC win, something like 30-24.
Alabama-Birmingham at Georgia
PiRate Predicts: Georgia 34 UAB 7
Peiser Predicts: Georgia by 16
UAB scared the crimson pants off Oklahoma to start the season and then took care of Skip Holtz's ECU squad last week. Their defense has reverted back to the strength it was five years ago, making up for the loss of quarterback Darrell Hackney and receivers Reggie Lindsey and Jhun Cook.
Georgia's output in two games has likewise looked like a Bulldog team from days gone by. This redcoat edition looks more like the Junkyard Dogs that played for Vince Dooley. I expect to see Bill Stanfill and Billy Payne suiting up in silver britches. Shutting out Stevie Superior is a major accomplishment, even if he had been coaching a I-AA school last week.
In a year where defensive pre-eminence is coming back, look for this game to qualify for retro status. I can foresee this game remaining close throughout the first half, before the Bulldogs get going. They should score a couple of times between the midway point of the third quarter and the midway point of the fourth quarter and win by a score of something like 22-6.
Tulane at Mississippi State
PiRate Predicts: Mississippi State 21 Tulane 3
Peiser Predicts: Mississippi State by 10
This should be exactly what the doctor ordered for Sylvester Croom's crew. Not many teams have opened the season with back to back shutout losses since the days of two-platoon football. The Buffalo Bulls did it last year and then scored just a field goal in game three.
That fate won't happen to the Maroon Bulldogs. They are fortunate this week in that they play a team about as weak as Buffalo was last year. Tulane has not recovered from Katrina, and the Green Wave faces an uphill battle when they venture north to Starkville for the second of three opening road games.
It won't be pretty, and it may resemble a rugby scrum, but State should be able to power their way down the field a few times, while their mediocre defense holds the Green Wave to a couple scores. I look for a Miss. State 20-10 win.
L S U at Auburn
PiRate Predicts: Auburn 24 L S U 17
PiRate Predicts: LSU in a mild upset by 2 in a darn exciting game
If you love football in Dixie, then this is the can't miss game this week. These two teams are clearly the strongest two in the entire South at the moment, and for the fourth year in a row, the winner of this game should advance to the SEC Championship Game.
Auburn has started slowly in their first two games and then gotten stronger as the day or night wore on. They are both rushing and passing for better than 200 yards per game, and defensively they are giving up less than 120 yards each way. Kicker John Vaughn is off to a great start as well.
LSU looks more like Southern Cal right now. Two blowout wins to start the season have many Bengal fans thinking they could be spending early January in Arizona. The Tigers didn't improve a lick between games one and two—they only beat Arizona by the same score they won their first game (45-3). Like Auburn, LSU is averaging better than 200 yards rushing and 200 yards passing. The Tigers have three quarterbacks who could start for 85% of the rest of Division I-A. The 21st Century version of Chinese bandits is yielding 74 yards rushing and 90 yards passing so far.
So how do you handicap a game between irresistible forces and unmovable objects? You have to study hard to see which unit blinks, and then you will probably still be wrong. The home team has ruled in this series as of late, but the last two games could have easily gone the other way. This is a 50-50 tossup game, but since Auburn is favored, I will take the underdog in a mild upset. LSU wins by a 16-14 score. Note to future Tiger Stadium opponents of LSU: Don't be stupid like Arizona and dance on the Tiger logo before the game starts.
Louisiana-Monroe at Alabama
PiRate Predicts: Alabama 35 ULM 0
Peiser Predicts: Alabama by 31
The Crimson Tide will finally get a chance to put together a couple of long, time-consuming drives this week. Kenneth Darby will rush for more yards in less than three quarters than he accumulated in the first two games.
UL-M has trouble stopping the run against Sunbelt teams, so they should play matador defense against a top SEC team.
The problem with games like these is trying to determine at what point the coach will pull his starters and then his second team. Alabama could get out to a 35-0 lead in 20 minutes and then call off the dogs and win 38-10. They could start sluggishly and then score at will for a 35-7 win, or they could pile up the points and win 59-12. I'll go for something in between and pick the Tide to roll to a 41-10 victory.
Arkansas at Vanderbilt
PiRate Predicts: Arkansas 17 Vanderbilt 13
Peiser Predicts: The Big Breakthrough—Vandy wins by 3
This is the perfect test for the Commodores. I hope they pass it, because I have a lot of faith in this group. I do not think they will come out flat; the players have worked hard and improved in the trenches.
The defense will have to come up with another effort similar to the one they gave in Tuscaloosa, because I don't think the offense is ready to burst open with a 400-yard, 28-point game. Imagine a game during the Art Guepe years, where Vandy had just enough offense and just enough defense to emerge victorious. That's the type of game I expect Saturday morning.
For a change, Vanderbilt quarterback Chris Nickson will have more experience than his adversary. Mitch Mustain may be the next big star to emerge from this league, but he is still a true freshman with one career start against Utah State.
I won't give away my in-depth analysis for this game, as you'll have to read it in the premium content article on Friday (you have 36 hours to subscribe and find out all the reasons why I think this game will be one of the best at Vanderbilt Stadium in years).
My upset pick here is Vanderbilt 16 Arkansas 13.
Not PiRated: South Carolina can name the score against Wofford.
Other Big Games
Iowa State at Iowa
PiRate Predicts: Iowa 30 Iowa State 14
Peiser Predicts: Iowa by more than the line
This isn't the normal circled game on Iowa's calendar this year; it is a game where the Hawkeyes have their talons ready to maim and kill. They have been waiting 12 months for their revenge, and I think they were looking ahead to this game last week when they ran into a pesky group of Syracuse Orange.
Iowa State has begun the season with nothing-to-get-excited-about wins over Toledo and UNLV. They are currently slightly overrated, and I think they could very well struggle to get four more victories.
Look for Iowa to exact their revenge by at least the same amount they fell to the Cyclones last year. Iowa wins this one by about three touchdowns—35-14.
Ohio U at Rutgers
PiRate Predicts: Rutgers by 17
Peiser Predicts: The U. of Joisey by 14
You may ask why I include this game as a biggie? These two teams are off to exciting 2-0 starts, and the winner of this game can go ahead and make plans for an extra game in December.
Former Nebraska coach Frank Solich may be about ready to see his stock climb high enough to return to a BCS coaching job sooner rather than later. Last week, his Bobcats pummeled Northern Illinois at Huskie Stadium, a place where NIU is 15-2 in their last three seasons. Not only did they dismantle the Huskies, they unleashed a powerful passing game to go with an already strong running game.
Rutgers may be ready to challenge Pitt for third in the Big East and possibly make a run at West Virginia and Louisville. Their win at North Carolina looked better after inspecting the Tar Heels' stats against Virginia Tech. Their whitewashing of Illinois showed that week one was no fluke. The Scarlet Knights may be ready to take their place among the nation's elite. I think they will be 6-0 when they head to Pittsburgh on October 21. RUNJ wins this one 28-14.
Boise State at Wyoming
PiRate Predicts: Boise State 31 Wyoming 22
Peiser Predicts: A much closer game than expected
Joe Glenn may be the best coach you've never heard of. He has done a fine job in Laramie, where there are not enough high school stars to stock a championship Division I-AA team. Glenn has to convince out-of-state talent to venture to the hinterlands for four or five years. Actually, Wyoming is one of the most beautiful, picturesque states I have ever visited, and one visit will make most people daydream about moving there (I expect a nice fruit basket from the Tourism Department, plus a ticket to next year's Frontier Days.)
Boise State may be walking into an ambush this week. Coming off a wonderful win over Pac-10 foe Oregon State, the Broncos may be a little bit flat. Meanwhile, the Cowboys narrowly missed upsetting Virginia in Charlottesville last Saturday, and they return to War Memorial Stadium with cow chips on their shoulders.
I foresee this game to be close all the way, and Wyoming just may pull off the shocker of the week. Boise State is prime for the upset, and Wyoming has about a 45% chance of doing so. Even if BSU wins, it will be by a small margin.
Michigan State at Pittsburgh
PiRate Predicts: Michigan State by 1
Peiser Predicts: Pitt by 3
What we have here is a really good offense versus a really good defense. It is also a game where two much-maligned coaches face off. Michigan State's John L. Smith has been taking flack in East Lansing sense the Ohio State debacle last year. Pitt's Dave Wannstedt has taken the abuse in the NFL at Chicago and Miami. Both of these guys know how to coach, and they should guide their squads to post-season play this year.
The Spartans have yet to play anybody of note, edging Idaho in a closer-than-expected season-opener and taking care of business against Eastern Michigan.
Pitt defeated a rebuilding Virginia team and then went on the road and demolished Cincinnati last Friday night. The extra day to prepare combined with Michigan State playing on the road for the first time this year and possibly peeking ahead at next week's game against Notre Dame tells me that the Panthers will claw the Spartans by a field goal. Pitt wins 24-21.
Michigan at Notre Dame
PiRate Predicts: Notre Dame 35 Michigan 24
Peiser Predicts: The Irish in a close one
Lloyd Carr's first real test of his keep-the-job or lose it season begins Saturday in South Bend. Michigan lost at the Big House to the Irish last year, even though they gave up just 244 total yards.
Is Notre Dame on the cusp of returning to their glory years of Lou Holtz and Ara Parseghian? Could they be even better and about to return to the times of Knute Rockne and Frank Leahy? Or, is Charlie Weis going to be the next Terry Brennan and flame out? Weis is a great coach, and he will prove to be a solid recruiter who can bring back the dynasty. He may not win like Rockne and Leahy (who could nowadays), but he could easily match the exploits of Holtz and Parseghian.
This game promises to be a nail-biter, and if you love Midwest Football, this is the game you want to see. It will stay close the entire way, but Notre Dame should make the game-changing play. Look for the Irish to squeeze out a 20-17 win at home. If you watch this one, study how Michigan's secondary does against Notre Dame's receivers. This will be where the game is decided.
Oklahoma at Oregon
PiRate Predicts: Oregon 28 Oklahoma 17
Peiser Predicts: Oregon by 11 as well
Oklahoma has looked for from impressive in opening wins over UAB and Washington. Adrian Peterson has not erupted with big games like he did as a freshman two years ago. Still, he has been as good as anybody else so far. The Sooner defense has been the real surprise. Where have they been so far? They have given up too many big plays.
Oregon is a team with a big play offense. Gary Crowton's offensive schemes have helped Coach Mike Bellotti bring the Ducks back among the nation's elite. Throw in the great Autzen Stadium home field advantage (36-9 since 1999), and it looks like the Quack Attack will move to 3-0. Oregon ruins the Big 12's chances for fielding a team in the BCS Title game and wins 38-27.
Miami at Louisville
PiRate Predicts: Louisville by 7
Peiser Predicts: Louisville by 3
No Michael Bush may eventually spell the end to the Cardinals' chances for an undefeated season, but Miami may not have the horses to be the one to strike midnight on the U of L. After watching what Troy did to Florida State last week, I'm not sure Miami is going to challenge in the ACC this year. It's still early, but early exit polling data suggests the Hurricanes may be just a tropical depression this year; it may be a big enough storm to force Miami coach Larry Coker to relocate northwards.
This game is hard to figure. While I feel Louisville has a better than 55% chance of winning the game, will it be an offensive onslaught or will the Cards have to earn every point and yard? I am thinking it will be a little of both. Louisville 27 Miami 24
Texas Tech at TCU
PiRate Predicts: Pick'em
Peiser Predicts: TCU gains respect
There is something missing at the moment with the Red Raiders. They are not passing for 500 yards and 45-50 points, even against teams that are not defensive standouts.
TCU looks like the best team outside of the BCS (Boise State fans might think differently), and the Horned Frogs have an outside chance to run the table (although I think differently). The win at Baylor was not all that convincing of a win, and a slaughter over Cal-Davis tells us nothing.
I favor TCU to pull out the win for a few reasons. First Texas Tech had to play a hard-fought, draining game against UTEP last week in El Paso. Having to go on the road again to Ft. Worth will be tough. Second, TCU had a chance to rest their regulars after playing a I-AA school at home. When teams blowout patsies at home and play at home the next week well-rested, they usually perform admirably. Go with the purple and white, as TCU wins 31-30.
Clemson at Florida State in Bowden Bowl VIII
PiRate Predicts: Florida State 20 Clemson 14
Peiser Predicts: Papa Bowden by 10
Clemson lost a heart-breaker on the road last week to Boston College from of all things a missed PAT. Now, they must regroup and play on the road against their nemesis. This type of turnaround usually means trouble.
Florida State got the scare of its life last week against Troy. Years ago they were upset by Southern Mississippi in early September, but that USM team had a guy named Favre at quarterback.
This week, I expect the Seminoles to be focused and play their best game of the year. They know they can knock out one of the two teams that will contend for the divisional title, and they will do it. FSU will win it 20-10.
Colorado State at Nevada
PiRate Predicts: Colorado State by 1
Peiser Predicts: The Wolf Pack eat some Ram meat
I had to include this game in the preview, because I smell a pack of angry wolves ready to hunt some mutton. Nevada has been blasted two weeks in a row in hostile territory, and now they come home to face CSU.
Colorado State has looked so-so in opening wins over Weber State and moribund Colorado. They should find out in the next two games that the WAC has some good programs. This week Nevada teaches them that lesson by double digits. Nevada wins 34-24.
Nebraska at Southern California
PiRate Predicts: USC 40 Nebraska 17
Peiser Predicts: This isn't your father's Cornhusker team…yet.
This ABC Saturday Night extravaganza could turn ugly. USC still has more talent than any other team in the nation not stationed in Columbus, Ohio. Nebraska is getting closer to becoming a real force once again and very well could win the Big 12 title this season. However, they are not ready to go to the Coliseum in Los Angeles and end the Trojans' 27-game home winning streak and 32-game regular season winning streak.
John David Booty is neither Carson Palmer nor Matt Leinart, but he can lead USC back to the national title game thanks to the talent that surrounds him. The Trojans toyed with Arkansas in game one and then got a week off to prepare for this game.
Everything points to USC winning by three or more touchdowns, except the possibility that Nebraska's black shirt defense has returned. The ‘Huskers have yet to play anybody who can test that hypothesis. After this week we will know, but until then, I'm guessing it still has to improve. USC will take command of this one early and cruise to a 35-14 win.
And The Rest PiRate Picks Predicted Predicted Winner Loser Margin West Virginia Maryland 15 Toledo Kansas 4 Boston College B Y U 11 Illinois Syracuse 4 Minnesota Temple 44 Ohio State Cincinnati 41 Virginia Tech Duke 39 Connecticut Wake Forest 0 Virginia Western Mich. 11 Kansas State Marshall 15 Purdue Ball State 17 Akron Central Mich. 1 Miami (O) Kent State 11 Northwestern Eastern Mich. 23 South Florida Central Florida 3 Wisconsin San Diego State 17 Wash. State Baylor 8 Fresno State Washington 2 Texas Rice 34 Memphis East Carolina 1 Southern Miss N.C. State 5 Arizona State Colorado 7 Northern Ill. Buffalo 25 Missouri New Mexico 14 Utah Utah State 16 Texas A&M Army 25 Stanford Navy 2 Georgia Tech Troy 27 Bowling Green Florida Int'l 22 Oklahoma State Florida Atl. 29 Tulsa North Texas 22 Hawaii U N L V 18