PiRate Ratings For Thursday, September 28, 2006 Note: Ratings rounded to nearest whole number # Team W L Rating 1 USC 3 0 129 2 Ohio State 4 0 125 3 Texas 3 1 124 4 Michigan 4 0 122 5 Auburn 4 0 120 6 L S U 3 1 120 7 Clemson 3 1 119 8 Louisville 4 0 118 9 Florida 4 0 118 10t Notre Dame 3 1 118 10t Nebraska 3 1 118 12 California 3 1 118 13 Oregon 3 0 117 14 Oklahoma 3 1 117 15t West Virginia 4 0 114 15t Virginia Tech 4 0 114 17 Georgia 4 0 113 18 Iowa 4 0 113 19t Florida State 3 1 113 19t Arizona State 3 1 113 21 Penn State 2 2 113 22 Michigan State 3 1 112 23 T C U 3 0 111 24 Texas Tech 3 1 111 25 Boise State 4 0 110 SEC PiRate Ratings East Florida 4 0 118 Georgia 4 0 113 Tennessee 3 1 109 South Carolina 3 1 103 Kentucky 2 2 101 Vanderbilt 1 3 100 West Auburn 4 0 120 L S U 3 1 120 Alabama 3 1 109 Arkansas 3 1 107 Miss. State 1 3 91 Ole Miss 1 3 87 Future Vandy Opponents Temple 0 4 68 Duke 0 3 84 PiRates Show Vandy Now Finishing: 2-6/5-7
This Week's Halfway Decent Schedule
I told you last weekend that it was 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 weren't many key games that affected the national ratings like the previous week. On Sunday morning, the championship picture was not much different than it was two days earlier.
This week, there are many more important games, both affecting the national picture and the conference races themselves. Historically, these next three weeks have been the most destructive to the national title implications. Teams that have started strongly sometimes meet their first stern challengers, and those lower-rated challengers frequently are better at this point of the season than the teams that have come out of the gate full throttle.
Here are the SEC games for the week.
Auburn @ South Carolina (Thursday Night)
PiRate Predicts: Auburn 23 South Carolina 14
Peiser Predicts: South Carolina will keep it close—within 12 points
Lou Holtz has gone on the radio and guaranteed that his former team will upset Auburn tonight. I wouldn't go that far, but I believe USC will stay within shouting range of the AP's 2nd-ranked team. Both teams have defenses limiting opponents to less than 300 yards per game.
Looking purely at the statistics, Auburn should win this game by 17 or more points, but I think Steve Spurrier is going to have his troops ready to go. The blowout over Florida Atlantic gave the Gamecocks a shot-in-the-arm. Quarterback Syvelle Newton began to look like a Spurrier-coached passer last week, and he should be good for 200 yards passing tonight. The reason I don't think Carolina wins this one is that Auburn should stop their running game and find enough success running the ball to control the clock and win the old-fashioned way. It could turn out to be another one of those games that resembles the 1950's. I don't see it becoming an offensive explosion.
Alabama @ Florida
PiRate Predicts: Florida 28 Alabama 13
Peiser Predicts: Florida breaks the Tide streak by 10-12.
Alabama clobbered the 4-0 Gators last year, and now it's time for Florida to seek its revenge. Again, this is a match between two teams that are playing tough defense. Florida is giving up only 42 yards per game rushing, while Alabama is yielding just 99 rushing yards per game.
Offensively, Florida can move the ball on the ground and through the air. Chris Leak and Tim Tebow are combining for close to 300 yards per game passing. Tebow has essentially brought back the single wing power play to college football. When he lines up in the shotgun, takes the snap, and runs straight forward off-tackle, you are looking at football straight out of the golden age.
Alabama is not running the ball as well as they were supposed to this year. Kenneth Darby is not the same player he was last year (he is averaging just 3.0 yards per carry with one 20-yard run) and has obviously not fully recovered from his injury.
John Parker Wilson is looking almost as good as Brodie Croyle, but he cannot single-handedly lead the Tide to a win in The Swamp. I look for ‘Bama to run for 75 yards, pass for 200 yards and score no more than 16 points. It won't be enough, because Leak and Tebow will lead the Gators to 21 or more points.
Mississippi State @ L S U
PiRate Predicts: LSU 42 Mississippi State 7
Peiser Predicts: LSU breezes to 28+ point win.
Any talk about retro defenses in the SEC must include the best of the bunch. LSU is surrendering just 185 total yards and five points a game so far this season.
You might say they have played three weak opponents, but the purple and gold gave up just 182 yards to Auburn.
Offensively, the Tigers have piled on the points and yards in their three wins, while finding it hard to move against Auburn. This week, they are playing an opponent more like the three teams they beat than Auburn.
Mississippi State's offense began to get unwound in the third quarter of their game against Tulane, when Omar Connor returned to quarterback. Look for them to score at least once against LSU this week.
Defensively, the Bulldogs aren't half bad, and they could stop the Tigers a few more times than most people expect this week. The Bullies give up just a hair over 100 rushing yards per game.
LSU will win eventually win with ease, but Mississippi State could make it interesting for a quarter or so before pulling away in the second half.
Georgia @ Ole Miss
PiRate Predicts: Georgia 28 Ole Miss 6
Peiser Predicts: Ole Miss isn't much weaker than Colorado, but can they score on Richt's brutes.
Ole Miss was supposed to be better offensively this year with Brent Schaeffer at quarterback. The former Tennessee signal caller is completing just 46.5% of his passes, with better than 5% of his passes being intercepted. Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a great season-opening game against Memphis, but he hasn't been able to carry the team since.
Georgia had troubles moving the ball last week against the Buffalos, and now a quarterback controversy could be looming. Freshman Joe Cox came off the bench to lead two touchdown drives in the final nine minutes to beat CU. He looked more like another Fran Tarkenton than a freshman seeing his first serious action in college football.
I think that last Saturday was a huge aberration for the Bulldogs, while Ole Miss has shown itself to be genuinely weak this year. It adds up to an easy win in Oxford for Georgia. The Bulldogs should dominate this game from start to finish and win by more than three touchdowns.
Central Michigan @ Kentucky
PiRate Predicts: Kentucky 35 Central Michigan 23
PiRate Predicts: Cats by 7-10
This is a must win game if Rich Brooks is to remain as head coach at Kentucky after this season. The Wildcats actually have a chance to challenge for a bowl if they can get by the Chippewas, with winnable games remaining against Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, and Louisiana-Monroe.
This should be one of the few games in the SEC this week where defense doesn't dominate. Both teams are generous against the pass, and Kentucky isn't too stingy against the run. If this game were at CMU, I might pick the upset, but I think the K-Cats will enjoy a couple of big plays and win their third game of the year. UK quarterback Andre Woodson should exceed 250 yards passing; running back Raphael Little should force CMU to remain honest with their defense; and receiver Dicky Lyons, Jr. should make his dad proud by carrying on the family tradition of scratching and clawing for that extra couple yards every time he catches a pass. Look for Kentucky to outscore the Chippewas and move to 3-2 on the year.
Tennessee @ Memphis
PiRate Predicts: Tennessee 30 Memphis 17
Peiser Predicts: Tennessee empties bench and wins by 15-18
Memphis is 1-2 playing a schedule of Ole Miss, Chattanooga, and East Carolina. The Tigers didn't scare any of these three teams defensively, so Coach Tommy West dismissed defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn during the bye week.
Tennessee is 3-1 playing a much tougher schedule. Quarterback Erik Ainge is living up to his billing, and the offense is quite strong once again. Through four games, he is averaging an eye-popping 10 yards per pass attempt! Throw in the emergence of LaMarcus Coker at the tailback position, and it makes the Volunteers quite dangerous on offense. Receivers Robert Meachem and Jayson Swain give the Vols a fine pair of deep threats.
Defensively, this Tennessee team doesn't measure up to last year's squad, but they don't have to as long as the offense racks up 400 yards and 30 points per game.
Even though Memphis should be sky high for this game and had an extra week to prepare for this one, I don't see them keeping it close. Tennessee should grab a quick, insurmountable lead and then play their reserves a lot of the second half. Thus, I don't think they will slaughter Memphis. After leading 21-0, look for the Vols to win by about 17 points.
Temple @ Vanderbilt
PiRate Predicts: Vanderbilt 35 Temple 0
Peiser Predicts: Can Vandy beat anybody by 5 touchdowns???
When was Vanderbilt considered a five-touchdown favorite over anybody? Have the Commodores ever been favored by 35-points in modern day football? Since there are no official lines against non D1-A schools, the past games against Chattanooga, Furman, Davidson, VMI, and Citadel don't count. You probably have to go back to 1948 to find a Commodore team ranked by anything close to this amount.
We all know Vandy isn't one of the top 30 teams in college football. Obviously, this game figures to be a fun one for Commodore fans because Temple is in dire straights. I won't go too much into details, since the real analysis is available to those with premium subscriptions. You can find an in-depth look at Temple today and see a comprehensive preview of the game tomorrow.
10 Other Games of Note
Northwestern @ Penn State
PiRate Predicts: Penn State 31 Northwestern 12
Peiser Predicts: Penn State wins with ease
What we have here is a battle between the strongest 2-2 team from a BCS conference and possibly the weakest 2-2 team from a BCS conference. Penn State's losses to Notre Dame and Ohio State revealed the Lions nearly matched both teams in total yardage. Holding the top-ranked Buckeyes to 253 total yards proves Joe Pa still has the touch.
Northwestern had the misfortune of facing the best I-AA team in years and had their helmets handed to them in a 17-point loss to New Hampshire. The Wildcats also lost to the pistol offense of Nevada. NU's two wins have come over hapless Eastern Michigan and surprisingly awful Miami of Ohio.
Last year, this game came down to the wire with Penn State pulling out a dramatic victory. It shouldn't be much of a contest this year. Look for Penn State to surpass 150 yards rushing and 200 yards passing, while holding Northwestern to less than 150 yards rushing and 150 yards passing. Penn State wins in a breeze.
New Mexico @ Air Force
PiRate Predicts: Air Force 35 New Mexico 24
Peiser Predicts: Falcons may have a tough time winning
Every week, I find a couple of interesting Mountain West games. Tonight, TCU and Brigham Young should hook up in an interesting game. Saturday, this contest in Colorado Springs could be the most intriguing game of the week. New Mexico was picked to finish last in the MWC by multiple prognosticators, and looked more than worthy of that choice after a season opening loss to Portland State. The Lobos lost too much talent from 2005. Air Force was picked to finish just one or two slots out of the cellar. What has happened? The Falcons nearly won at Tennessee and then beat a good Wyoming team in Laramie last week. The Lobos merely destroyed UTEP last week after giving Missouri a good battle.
The winner of this game will find themselves on course for bowl eligibility rather than the fate they were supposed to endure this season.
The intrigue doesn't end there. Air Force has rushed for 608 yards in their two games. New Mexico is allowing only 86.8 rushing yards per game. Air Force does not have much of a passing attack so far, but New Mexico is very vulnerable to the pass. On the other hand, New Mexico doesn't have a strong rushing attack, while Air Force is tough against the run. The Lobos can move the ball with the pass, while the Falcons haven't been able to stop that maneuver.
All this adds up to possibly the most exciting game of the week. I foresee Air Force winning this one with either a late touchdown or by holding off a late New Mexico rally. I'm going against my computer and picking the Falcons to win by about a field goal.
Purdue @ Notre Dame
PiRate Predicts: Notre Dame 48 Purdue 28
Peiser Predicts: Notre Dame by a basketball score
This great rivalry has seen a lot of great games in the storied history of college football. As a youth, I recall a great stretch in the last half of the 1960's. The great 1966 national champion Irish edged Purdue in the season opener. A year later, the Boilermakers used the legs of Leroy Keyes to upset the top-ranked Irish. The following year found Purdue ranked first, and the Boilermakers won again in a high-scoring affair. In 1969, Gary Phipps led Purdue to another big win over Joe Theismann's Irish.
This year finds Purdue coming into this game undefeated at 4-0 following an impressive win over Minnesota. Notre Dame beat Michigan State last week after trailing by 16 points in the fourth quarter. Both teams do not have the defenses to stop the other team's offense.
Notre Dame hasn't run the football that well this year, but quarterback Brady Quinn can throw for better than 300 yards like he did last week. Purdue hasn't been able to defend the pass this year, as Indiana State, Miami of Ohio, and Ball State combined for 912 passing yards against them.
When a team wins a big road game and then returns home the following week, they usually carry the momentum forward to that game. It looks like Notre Dame should win this game, and the final score could look like the final score at the championship game of the SEC Basketball Tournament between Florida and South Carolina.
Southern California @ Washington State
PiRate Predicts: Southern Cal 28 Washington State 9
Peiser Predicts: Trojans are walking into an ambush, and it will be closer than expected
My old pal Mr. Gut Feeling thinks the Trojans are in for a mess of trouble when they travel to Washington State this weekend. The Cougars don't belong in the same class with USC, but I think the Trojans will not be prepared for this game. After the tough opening game at Auburn, WSU has looked remarkable rolling up yards and points. Last week, they ran all over Stanford in Palo Alto, and like I just mentioned with Notre Dame, they return home full of vigor.
The 2006 USC Trojans have reverted back to a "Wild Bunch" defensive unit, giving up just 217 yards per game so far. The near point-a-minute offense isn't as strong as last year, but the Trojans are still churning out more than 400 yards per game.
The PiRate computer, as well as most every other computer and prognosticator, is calling for this game not to be close. I happen to think differently. I don't give the Cougars much chance of shocking the nation with the biggest upset of the year, but I think they will scare the daylights out of USC. I'm guessing the men of Troy will only win this game by seven to 10 points.
Texas Tech @ Texas A&M
PiRate Predicts: Texas A&M 35 Texas Tech 34
Peiser Predicts: Yes, it will be a great game that goes to the wire
This one should be one of the most exciting games of the day. TCU found the way to stop the Red Raider air assault, holding TTU to just a field goal. Can Texas A&M do the same? The answer is "no," but the Aggies can still win this game.
A&M has beaten four patsies, while Tech has played a tougher schedule. It's hard to gauge how much the Aggies have improved, but the 4-0 start should have given them loads of confidence.
This game figures to be close, and the game is liable to turn on one big mistake. I will give the home team the benefit of the doubt and agree with the PiRate computer. A&M pulls out a one-point victory to go to 5-0.
Colorado @ Missouri
PiRate Predicts: Missouri 24 Colorado 12
Peiser Predicts: Mizzou goes to 5-0 for the first time in 25 years, but not by as much as the computer says
Colorado played a great game at Georgia last week, but came up short at the end. When a team does this on the road and then goes on the road the following week, they usually suffer some form of letdown.
Missouri's last two wins don't look as impressive as they really are. New Mexico and Ohio are good teams.
The Tigers have one of the top defenses in the country this year, and that more than makes up for the loss of Brad Smith to the New York Jets. Opponents are averaging a miniscule 175 total yards per game against the Mizzou defense. Consider that Colorado only averages 223.5 yards and nine points per game so far; could we be looking at a shutout in Columbia this week? I think not. The Buffalos are improving a little bit every week, and they are due to have a breakout game on the attack side. I think they will surprise MU's defense with a 300-yard and 17-point effort. That still won't be enough to win the game, but it will be closer than expected.
Look for Missouri to try to control the ball and establish long drives. It should work once or twice, and that will be the difference in this game. I say the Tigers win 24-17.
Georgia Tech @ Virginia Tech
PiRate Predicts: Virginia Tech 22 Georgia Tech 10
Peiser Predicts: Hokies sting Yellow Jackets by 10-14
Virginia Tech may have its least impressive 4-0 team in the Frank Beamer era. The Hokies have yet to play anybody of importance so far, and yet they have struggled offensively against North Carolina and Cincinnati. Wins over Northeastern and Duke did not reveal anything.
VT still has a magnificent defense and, as usual, one of the best special teams units in the nation.
Georgia Tech has played the tougher schedule only because they opened with Notre Dame. The Ga. Tech offense has performed a little better than the Hokies' offense, while the Yellow Jacket defense has done a fine job—just not as good as their opponents this week.
On paper, this looks like a close, low-scoring game. I see Va. Tech capitalizing on a turnover or special teams play to turn a close game into a more comfortable one for the Hokies. Virginia Tech should win by double digits, but the final statistics will look rather even.
Ohio State @ Iowa
PiRate Predicts: Ohio State 20 Iowa 14
Peiser Predicts: Watch out Buckeyes! You are headed for trouble
If you have noticed, I've called for both Auburn and Southern Cal to have tough games this week against teams capable of ruining their season. Now, it's time to complete the trilogy. Ohio State is ripe for the picking this week in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes have not looked like world beaters in defeating Syracuse, Iowa State, and Illinois. They could easily be 2-2 right now, but that's how many of Coach Kirk Ferentz's games go.
Ohio State has won games by striking quickly in a short amount of time to turn a close game into a rout. The Buckeyes can be upset this week, but it will take a Herculean effort by every Hawkeye participant.
Ohio State has played a much more difficult schedule so far, but Iowa has one of the biggest home field advantages in college football. Here's how I see this game shaping up: The two teams will play to a draw or three-point game in the first half, with the score 7-7, 10-7, or 10-10. In the third quarter, Ohio State will have their quick strike score and take the lead. Iowa will come back in the fourth quarter. Whether the Hawkeyes can score twice in the final 10 minutes will decide their fate. I guess they have a 35% chance of doing so. Officially, I agree with my computer pick, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Hawkeyes were still undefeated Sunday morning.
Michigan @ Minnesota
PiRate Predicts: Michigan 31 Minnesota 24
Peiser Predicts: Wolverines get the jug back and go to 5-0
Minnesota took possession of the Little Brown Jug last year for the first time since 1986. Their custody of the carafe will terminate Saturday afternoon. Michigan has too much talent for the Gophers this year.
When Minnesota tries to unleash its great rushing attack, the Wolverines will slow it down enough to force the Gophers to pass. When Michigan has the ball, the Gophers will find it hard stopping both the run and pass.
The PiRate computer calls for this game to be close, but I think the maize and blue will win by 10 or more, maybe quite a bit more.
Oregon @ Arizona State
PiRate Predicts: Arizona State 31 Oregon 30
Peiser Predicts: True tossup that could easily go to OT. Give slight edge to the home team.
The Ducks go on the road after having a week off following a dramatic and controversial win over Oklahoma. Arizona State returns home after getting their comeuppance at California last week.
What I expect in this game is for both teams to surpass 270 yards passing, 150 yards rushing, and 30 points. This should be another one of those close games that could go down to the wire, but when two magnificent offenses hook up, frequently one team wins by two touchdowns. I just cannot decide which one that will be, so I'll go with the home team to win a great game.
And The Rest Predicted Winner Loser Margin TCU BYU 8 Rutgers South Florida 1 Nebraska Kansas 25 Wisconsin Indiana 12 Michigan State Illinois 26 Miami (Fl) Houston 13 Pittsburgh Toledo 9 Virginia Duke 9 Syracuse Wyoming 7 Clemson Louisiana Tech 37 Connecticut Navy 1 Army Rice 12 Ohio Bowling Green 12 Baylor Kansas State 1 Utah State Idaho 1 California Oregon State 9 UCLA Stanford 20 Cincinnati Miami (O) 14 San Diego State San Jose State 5 Ball State Northern Illinois 1 Akron Kent State 6 SMU Tulane 7 UTEP New Mexico State 25 Fresno State Colorado State 14 Nevada UNLV 13 Arizona Washington 7 East. Michigan UL-Lafayette 1 Florida Int'l Arkansas State 6 UAB Troy 12 N. Texas MTSU 2 UL-Monroe Florida Atlantic 11