Week 4 PiRate Picks

Last week the PiRates went 37-11-2 for the week of September 16, giving them a year-to-date record of 117-24-3 (83%) in picking the winning team. Compared to about 40 other computer rankings that I can find, it is in the highest quarter in accuracy at the moment.

PiRate Ratings For Thursday, September 21, 2006
Note: Ratings rounded to nearest whole number
#	Team	   	W	L	Rating
1	USC	   	2	0	131
2	Ohio State 	3	0	126
3	Texas	   	2	1	124
4	Michigan		3	0	123
5	Auburn		3	0	121
6	L S U		2	1	120
7	Florida		3	0	119
8	Louisville	3	0	117
9t	Virginia Tech	3	0	117
9t	Oregon		3	0	117
11	Notre Dame	2	1	117
12	Georgia		3	0	116
13	Arizona State	3	0	116
14	Clemson		2	1	116
15	California	2	1	116
16	Nebraska		2	1	115
17	Oklahoma		2	1	115
18	West Virginia	3	0	114
19	Iowa		3	0	113
20	Michigan State	3	0	113
21	Minnesota		2	1	113
22	Penn State	2	1	112
23t	Boise State	3	0	111
23t	Boston College	3	0	111
25	T C U		3	0	111
	SEC PiRate Ratings			
	Florida		3	0	119
	Georgia		3	0	116
	Tennessee		2	1	108
	South Carolina	2	1	103
	Vanderbilt	0	3	100
	Kentucky		2	1	 99
	Auburn		3	0	121
	L S U		2	1	120
	Alabama		3	0	109
	Arkansas		2	1	107
	Ole Miss		1	2	 90
	Miss. State	1	2	 89
	Future Vandy Opponents			
	Tennessee State	2	1	[70]
	Temple		0	3	 69
	Duke		0	3	 84
	PiRates Show Vandy Now Finishing:	2-6/5-7

This Week's Not-So-Fantastic Schedule


Last weekend was the one to stay in bed with two or three televisions tuned simultaneously to college football games; this weekend may be the one to do your end of the summer chores, watch some American League Central and National League West baseball, or in my case, attend services for Rosh Hashanah.  There aren't many key games that will shake up the national ratings like there was last week.  On Sunday morning, the championship picture probably will not look much different than it looks now.


 Here are the SEC games for the week.


Kentucky @ Florida

PiRate Predicts: Florida 47  Kentucky 21

Peiser Predicts: Florida by 25


The Wildcats have some impressive offensive numbers, averaging 33.3 points and 355 total yards per game.  This isn't going to be one of those years where UK scares Florida in Gainesville.  Florida held Tennessee to negative rushing yards, and Kentucky has a weaker rushing attack than the Vols.  The Gators will hold the K-Cats well below their scoring and total yard averages and continue to look impressive.  I look for a 35-10 game, even though the PiRates think there will be more scoring.


Alabama @ Arkansas

PiRate Predicts: Arkansas 16  Alabama 13

Peiser Predicts: Crimson Tide pulls out a squeaker


This is a bowl division game.  The winner starts to look like a New Year's Day bowl team, while the loser has to think more in the lines of Shreveport, Nashville, or Memphis in December.


Mitch Mustain showed the rest of the SEC that he can exploit any weaknesses in opposing pass defenses.  He may not be ready to pass for 300 yards in a game, but with Arkansas's running game, he won't have to do so.


Alabama's defense is still a force to be reckoned thanks to one of the best defensive minds in Joe Kines. The offense is starting to show signs of life, as quarterback John Parker Wilson gains valuable experience with each passing week.


The key to this game will be which defense can stop the other team's offense in the second half.  Arkansas has shown signs of weakness here and there, giving up big plays on the ground and through the air, whereas ‘Bama is less inclined to be caught with their Crimson pants down.  That's why I personally think Alabama pulls it off in a squeaker, even though the PiRate computer disagrees.


Marshall @ Tennessee

PiRate Predicts: Tennessee 35  Marshall 13

Peiser Predicts: Vols by 20+


Erik Ainge is going to have a career day this week, unless he gets pulled before the fourth quarter.  Marshall doesn't have much talent in its secondary, and Arian Foster may not play, so Ainge's arm will have to do the damage.  Look for 250-300 yards passing from the Big Orange. 


Marshall should move the ball a few times and reach double figures, but they won't stop the Vol offense enough times to keep it close.  Tennessee should win in the three touchdown range.


Colorado @ Georgia

PiRate Predicts: Georgia 26  Colorado 3

Peiser Predicts: Bulldogs could post 3rd straight shutout.


Georgia has one of the best defensive teams every year under Mark Richt.  This group of Bulldogs may be the best of the bunch on the stop side.  The Bulldogs gave up 12 points to Western Kentucky in game one and then shut out South Carolina and UAB.  Georgia's linebackers are about as good as a college team can have, and opponents are going to have a tough time moving the ball on the ground or through the air.


Colorado cannot move the ball against below average teams.  They couldn't solve Montana State's defense.  To date, the once mighty Buffalos average less than 200 total yards per game and just 7.7 points per game.  And, they haven't really faced an above-average defense so far!


The only way I see CU getting on the scoreboard this week is through a turnover or the generosity of Georgia putting in their third string defense.  This looks like a perfect setup for Georgia to become the first Division I-A team to post three consecutive shutouts since Nebraska in 1979 and first in the SEC since The Bulldogs pulled off the feat in 1971.


Look for a 24-0 or 28-0 game or something similar.  Georgia is tough.


Wake Forest @ Ole Miss

PiRate Predicts: Wake Forest 28  Ole Miss 19

PiRate Predicts: Demon Deacs  by 3 to 7 to go to 4-0 (like Vandy in '05)


 Vanderbilt's signing a seven year deal to close seven of the next eight seasons with the Demon Deacons has brought comparisons between the two excellent universities.  This game will be the Harvard-Yale game of the South.


Now to further compare the teams, Wake Forest is just a win away over Ole Miss from equaling Vanderbilt's surprise start of 2005, and I think they will accomplish the feat Saturday in Oxford against the Johnnie Rebs.


Wake Forest is winning games this year with their very experienced defense.  The Deacs are holding opponents to 275 total yards and just 12 points per game.  There schedule has been light with only UConn resembling a halfway decent team, but they are facing more of the same this week, even though they are on the road.


Ole Miss cannot pass the ball with much success.  They are near the bottom in passing yards per game at 126 per game.  If the Rebels were a triple option, single wing, or old full-house split-t team, that would be enough. In a pro-style offense that averages only 172 rushing yards per game, Ole Miss just doesn't have enough offense to keep a decent defense on the sidelines. 


Both the Pirates and my own personal instinct agree that Wake Forest will win a road game in SEC country.  I happen to think Ole Miss will make it a closer game than my computer, due to the fact that Wake Forest is playing on the road for the second week in a row.


Mississippi State @ Alabama-Birmingham

PiRate Predicts: UAB 16  Mississippi State 7

Peiser Predicts: Watson's Boys by a touchdown or more


Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom moved Omar Conner from flanker to quarterback in the second quarter of last week's game against Tulane, and Conner led his team to 29 points in less than three quarters after failing to score in the first nine plus quarters.


While he continues to be listed as 3rd string at flanker, Conner is the starting QB once again, at least until Mike Henig recovers from his collarbone injury.


On the surface this game looks like it could be a repeat of last week's Auburn-LSU game, where 10 total points were scored.  However, I think that folks are going to be surprised here.  UAB will win at home, but I think both teams will make it into double digits.  My guess is UAB 20  State 13.  The PiRates say Mississippi State will score just once.


Tulane @ LSU

PiRate Predicts: LSU 49  Tulane 6

Peiser Predicts: Green Wave eaten by Tigers who can name the score


Besides being terribly outmanned by their former arch-rival, Tulane has the not so envious task of having to play in Baton Rouge a week after LSU saw their hopes for an undefeated march to another national title come to a halt.  Additionally, when a team wins a tough road game, they usually don't perform as well the next week if they must play another road game.


LSU can win this game by 60 points, but I think Coach Les Miles will rather see what all three quarterbacks can do as well as all his other reserves.  With a road game at Florida just two weeks away, I don't think LSU will open their playbook this week against Tulane or next week against Mississippi State.  Look for the Bayou Bengals to get up 28-0 quickly, and then cruise to a 42-7 win.


Florida Atlantic @ South Carolina

PiRate Predicts: South Carolina 49  Florida Atlantic 13

Peiser Predicts: Gamecocks better win by 28 or more


Sooner or later, Steve Spurrier's team is going to get untracked and hang a big number up on their side of the scoreboard.  This week gives USC a great chance to do so, since Florida Atlantic is giving up close to 50 points per game against teams comparable to South Carolina.


Gamecock coach Steve Spurrier has said that Syvelle Newton and Blake Mitchell will alternate as quarterbacks.  He wants Newton to stop having doubts and learn to throw the ball first and run second.  This might be the week for him to gain the confidence.  Look for USC to crash through the offensive gates and unleash a 40-point, 450-yard performance against the lowly Owls.


Buffalo @ Auburn

PiRate Predicts: Auburn 56  Buffalo 3

Peiser Predicts: Tuberville plays the tuba player/just a 38-point win


Need we even talk about this game?  Even with Auburn taking a vacation this week and looking forward to a Thursday night game next week at South Carolina, they truly can mail this one in.  Auburn's top 22 players could stay in street clothes, and the Tigers would still win by 10-14 points.


This Buffalo team is much better than last year thanks to some excellent work by former Nebraska star Turner Gill.  His Bull squad just doesn't have the horses to compete against one of the top five teams in the nation.


Auburn tailback Kenny Irons could top 100 yards rushing in the first quarter, while the Tigers score on every possession until the first team offense takes a rest.


If this were Houston, we might see a run toward 100 points, but Tommy Turberville would not allow that to happen.  He will play every Tiger eligible to play and then may put in the band in the fourth quarter.  Auburn will make this an easy slaughter, but it may end up being no more than 38-42 points.  If the starters play a little longer, then a 50+-point win is easily possible.


Tennessee State @ Vanderbilt

PiRate Predicts: Tennessee State is not PiRated so nothing officially

Peiser Predicts: Vandy by about 28-30 points


Tennessee State is a Division I-AA team, so the PiRate computer doesn't officially rate them.  I will supply an in-depth review of this game for those who subscribe to the premium section; there could be a few surprises revealed about this game that you don't know about, and I will give a brief historical on our worthy cross-town opponent.  Just by looking at scores of games played between I-A & I-AA teams and trying to find common opponents that can be linked, I personally estimate this game to be a 28 to 30-point win for the Commodores.  Personally, I think there will be a different outcome.  Read the Friday story to find out more and to get my personal prediction.  You will read things that nobody else will report on, including my personal prediction of what TSU will try to do against Vandy.


10 Other Games of Note


Wisconsin @ Michigan

PiRate Predicts: Michigan 34  Wisconsin 14

Peiser Predicts: Wolverines get rolling late to win by 16


Michigan will not rebound this week.  They are a team on a mission.  Wisconsin is not the juggernaut they have been in the recent past, even though they enter this game undefeated.  Michigan has one of the nation's top three rush defenses, while Wisconsin is basically a run-run-run-play-action pass team.  The Badgers are going to leave Ann Arbor after experiencing a mauling from the Wolverines.  Michigan will win by a rather easy score, but they may start the game a little hung over from last week.


Ecology Lesson:  This has nothing to do with football, but I find it interesting that badgers have been known to hunt together with coyotes.  Badgers are excellent diggers but lack speed, while coyotes are excellent runners but lack the ability to dig into the burrows of prey (such as rabbits).  That's one impressive hunting cooperative.


Minnesota @ Purdue

PiRate Predicts: Minnesota 41  Purdue 35

Peiser Predicts: Gophers end Boilers winning streak in a shootout


Purdue is off to a 3-0 start, and they are averaging 45 points and 475 yards per game.  However, the Boilermakers are giving up more than 31 points per game against a schedule that includes Indiana State, Miami of Ohio, and Ball State.


Minnesota is 2-1 in what is supposed to be a rebuilding season.  Wins over Kent State and Temple have sandwiched a blowout loss to California.  The Gophers are averaging 41 points and 423 yards per game.


What we have here is a battle between two average BCS teams that can score against weak defenses.  Purdue's defense is really weak, while Minnesota's is not much better.  These teams are going to alternate moving the ball up and down the field like a tennis ball in a Bjorn Borg-Jimmy Connors tennis match.  The last team to score just may win, but I think Minnesota will make one or two key defensive plays and win by one score.  I look for 75-90 total points being scored in this game if the weather cooperates.


Louisville @ Kansas State

PiRate Predicts: Louisville 34  Kansas State 24

Peiser Predicts: I agree with the computer here/UL by 10-14


The PiRate computer may need some new silicon added to it this week.  I don't know how it picked Louisville to win this game by just 10 points.  It looks like another possible blowout game.  However, when the computer comes up with something like this, I try to find out why this is so. 


Kansas State's new coach, Ron Prince, is an offensive coach at heart, but the Wildcats are not setting the woods on fire on the attack side.  The Wildcats are barely gaining more than 300 yards per game.  It's the defense in the Little Apple that has won the first three ball games.  Former Tampa Bay Buc defensive coach Raheem Morris has taken over the reins on the stop side, and he has done a decent job to date.  K-State is surrendering just 67 yards rushing and 162 yards passing after three games.  The fly in the ointment is that Kansas State has played their usual Moe-Larry-Curly non-conference schedule.  This year those three teams have been Illinois State, Florida Atlantic, and Marshall.


Louisville is coming off a big win over Miami.  They also must enter this game without All-American quarterback Brian Brohm.  No Brohm and no Michael Bush could be a tough mountain to climb on the road in the Big 12.  Whereas most folks figure UL to win big, the PiRates and I believe this game could be interesting for quite a long time.  Louisville wins by 14 points or less.


Tulsa @ Navy

PiRate Predicts: Navy 28  Tulsa 27

Peiser Predicts: Navy more comfortably than a point


I include this game this week because of the great contrasts in these two teams.  Navy rushes the ball for close to 350 yards per game, while Tulsa recently gave up 227 yards rushing to Brigham Young, a team not known for its rushing prowess.


Tulsa passes for more than 280 yards per game, while Navy doesn't really have much pass defense, giving up 270 yards passing to Stanford and 283 yards passing to East Carolina.  This game is in Annapolis, where Navy is 17-2 since Paul Johnson righted the ship.  Expect the Midshipmen to withstand the Golden Hurricanes massive air assault and win with a marine-like battery charge.  Navy will control the pigskin long enough to outscore Tulsa.  My personal guess is they will drop anchor for a 35-28 win to go to 4-0 for the second time in the last three years.



Penn State @ Ohio State

PiRate Predicts: Ohio State 37  Penn State 17

Peiser Predicts: Ohio State by 14 or less in a lower scoring game


Last year, Ohio State ventured into Happy Valley and got their Buckeye hats handed to them.  Since then, Ohio State has reeled off 10 consecutive victories.  It is expected that the top-ranked Buckeyes will maul the Lions this week, and the PiRates agree to a point.  However, I see this game differently. 


Penn State still has an excellent defense.  Toss out the score they gave up to Notre Dame, as turnovers played a huge role in that game.  The Lions are still darn tough to run against, and they are starting to come together on offense.


I don't think Joe Pa can pull off a huge magic trick and lead his Lions to a huge upset, but I do think they will make this a close game.  I think the outcome will still be in doubt into the fourth quarter, but Ohio State has just a little more offensive weapons.  I see Ohio State winning by no more than 14 points and by as little as a field goal.  My guess is Ohio State will win 17-10, the opposite of last year's game.


Arizona State @ California

PiRate Predicts: Cal 31  Arizona State 26

Peiser Predicts: Cal starting to roll/wins by 7-10


California isn't as bad as the team that was embarrassed in Knoxville in the opener against Tennessee.  They are more like the team that blew Minnesota off the Memorial Stadium field the following week.


Arizona State has looked impressive in their three wins so far, but Nevada is the only bowl-worthy team they have played.


I foresee both teams passing for more than 300 yards in this game, as neither team has sufficient talent to prevent it.  Cal really was hurt by the loss for the entire season by cornerback Tim Mixon, who could have been All Pac-10.


Rudy Carpenter has made Arizona State fans forget the name "Sam Keller."  All Carpenter has done as starting quarterback for the Sun Devils is complete 63.2% of his passes at a 9.7 yards per attempt rate.


The Golden Bears are extremely tough to beat in Berkeley, but it's not impossible.  Oregon State did it a year ago.  I think the difference in this game will be Cal's ability to run up the gut against ASU's front seven.  Cal wins by a touchdown or a little more.


Air Force @ Wyoming

PiRate Predicts: Wyoming 33  Air Force 28

Peiser Predicts: Cowboys take it by 7


This is an interesting game that should eliminate a team from the bowl picture.  The winner could still post a 6-6 or 7-5 season and place themselves in position to play a 13th game.


Last week, I told you that I thought Joe Glenn was an up and coming big-time coach, and that Wyoming would give Boise State a tough and close game.  All the Cowboys did was hold the Broncos to 246 total yards and just 116 yards passing. 


Air Force has only played that one game against Tennessee where a poorly-executed toss sweep never had a chance to convert the two points in an upset bid.  The Falcons racked up 408 total yards and 30 points against the Volunteers, but they also gave up 412 yards including 333 yards through the air.


This is one of those backyard rivalries, with Colorado State completing a rivalry troika.  You can often times throw out the stats.  This is also the time of year where the weather in Laramie can change from nice to inclement rather quickly.


Taking all the factors into consideration, I think the Cowboys will emerge victorious with a seven point win; call it a 24-17 score.  With a forecast of rain and possibly snow showers, the game could be lower scoring—in the 20-13 range.


Boston College @ North Carolina State

PiRate Predicts: Boston College 24  N.C. State 13

Peiser Predicts: BC powders the Wolf Pack by 12-17.


Let the Chuck Amato watch begin.  When the Wolf Pack lost to Akron and then followed it up with an humiliating blowout loss at Southern Mississippi, it probably sealed his fate in Raleigh.  There is a possibility that all three schools in the research triangle could be filling openings at the end of the season.


Boston College is becoming the 2006 version of the Cardiac Indiana Hoosiers of 1967.  They are winning games about as late in the contest as a team can.  After holding off a late surge, they edged Central Michigan in their opening game.  They followed it up with double overtime victories over Clemson and Brigham Young.


The Eagles must go to Raleigh for this game, and I expect the Wolf Pack to play their hearts out for Coach Amato.  Their rebuilding defense should give up over 200 yards passing to B.C., and their offensive line should have troubles opening running lanes, but I have a gut feeling they will come up with way to keep this close for three quarters.  The PiRates say the Eagles will almost double the score at 24-13, and that's probably a good guess.  I think this will be a 17-14 game until late, and then B.C. will score 10 or 14 unanswered points to win 27 or 31-14.


Temple @ Western Michigan

PiRate Predicts: W M U 30 Temple 0

Peiser Predicts: Temple looks ahead to Vandy and loses big—again.


The owl is a majestic bird.  It conjures up intelligence, but the wise old owl apparently doesn't know a hoot about football.  Three Division I-A teams that use the owl for their nickname have a combined record of 0-9 with an aggregate score of 389 to 70.  The weakest of the three nocturnal birds are the group roosting in Philadelphia.  Temple is actually weaker than the 0-11 team they were last year.  They have yet to score a touchdown and have just one field goal in their first 12 quarters of play.  They have had to endure an exile from the Big East Conference, but their nomadic days will soon come to an end.


Next year, this game will actually be a conference game.  This year, it should be a one-sided game dominated by WMU's defense.  The Broncos haven't reminded anybody of that other team out west's offense playing on the blue field, but on the other side of the ball, they have begun to resemble the Orange Crush defense of the NFL Broncos of the late 1970's.  WMU is giving up 76 yards rushing and less than 300 total yards per game.


Temple is averaging 190 total yards per game.  They are giving up much more per game in just rushing yards allowed (254) and in just passing yards allowed (238).


The PiRates say Temple will wear the collar for the third week in a row, but I say that is almost impossible in the 21st Century.  Look for WMU to win by 28-40 points, but Temple should score their first touchdown this week.  Call it 42-7 Broncos.


Notre Dame @ Michigan State

PiRate Predicts: Michigan State 35  Notre Dame 34

Peiser Predicts: Irish get revenge for last year/win by 10


Notre Dame's defense had that glazed deer-in-the headlights look while Michigan made them look like a bunch of juveniles last week.  Four yards rushing against The Wolverines made matters worse.


Michigan State's offense is looking more and more like Louisville's.  John L. Smith used to coach the Cardinals, and he has his Spartans among the nation's leaders in total offense.  MSU averages more than 500 total yards per game, and it is almost perfectly divided between running and passing.


All statistical information points to a Spartan win to go 4-0 and move up in the national polls.  The PiRates give MSU a teeny-tiny advantage and call for a one-point win.  My gut feeling tells me Notre Dame will exact some revenge for last season's upset loss.  You never know when Michigan State will make a game-changing gaffe.  I'm calling for the Irish to win by 10 points in a surprise.


And The Rest

PiRate Picks		

Winner		Loser		Margin
Georgia Tech	Virginia		16
Northwestern	Nevada		 1
Syracuse		Miami (O)		14
Missouri		Ohio U		21
Clemson  		North Carolina	26
Iowa		Illinois		18
Florida St.	Rice		30
Bowling Green	Kent State	 5
Virginia Tech	Cincinnati	30
B Y U		Utah State	36
Texas		Iowa State	28
Washington St.	Stanford		11 
U C L A		Washington	 2
Indiana		Connecticut	 3
Central Mich.	Eastern Mich.	 5
U T E P		New Mexico	 9
West Virginia	E C U		16
Baylor		Army		13
Kansas		SOuth FLorida	 1
Texas A&M		La. Tech		28
Utah		San Diego St.	 4
Boise State	Hawaii		14
Southern Cal	Arizona		25
Houston 		Oklahoma State	 2
Oregon St.	Idaho		25
Oklahoma		M T S U		34
Maryland		Fla. Int'l	24
Akron		N. Texas		17
Nebraska		Troy		34
S M U		Arkansas State	 4

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