Week 8 PiRate Picks

The PiRates went 38-13-1 for the week of October 14, giving them a year-to-date record of 262-82-4 (76.2%) in picking the winning team. A quick glance at about three dozen computer ratings obtainable via the Internet shows that the PiRates are picking the winner with better accuracy than about 75% of those ratings, although most of the ratings differ by no more than one or two games a week.

PiRate Ratings For Thursday, October 19, 2006
Note: Ratings rounded to nearest whole number
#	Team	   	W	L	Rating
 1	Ohio State   	7	0	131
 2	California 	6	1	126
 3	Michigan 		7	0	125
 4	Texas 		6	1	123
 5	Southern Cal   	6	0	122
 6	Clemson		6	1	121
 7	Wisconsin		6	1	121
 8	L S U		5	2	121
 9	Florida 		6	1	119
10	Oregon		5	1	119
11	Auburn		6	1	118
12	Tennessee		5	1	117
13	Nebraska  	6	1	117
14	Oklahoma		4	2	117
15	West Virginia	6	0	116
16	Notre Dame	5	1	116
17	Louisville 	6	0	116
18	Boise State   	7	0	114
19	Penn State	4	3	114
20	Arkansas		5	1	113
21	Pittsburgh	6	1	113
22	Georgia Tech	5	1	112
23	Boston College 	5	1	111
24	Missouri		6	1	111
25	Rutgers		6	0	110
				
	SEC PiRate Ratings			
	East			
	Florida		6	1	119
	Tennessee		5	1	117
	South Carolina	4	2	105
	Georgia		5	2	103
	Vanderbilt	3	4	101
	Kentucky		3	4	 95 
				
	West			
	L S U		5	2	121
	Auburn		6	1	118
	Arkansas		5	1	113
	Alabama		5	2	103
	Ole Miss		2	5	 96
	Miss. State	2	5	 89

PiRates Show Vandy Now Finishing: 2-6/5-7
Just one pt. away from 6-6/Bowl eliibility

This Week's Schedule

 

The schedule gets interesting this week, both in the SEC and nationally.  For starters, there is the annual third Saturday in October game between Alabama and Tennessee.  Arkansas hosts an Ole Miss team that is starting to look like they could pull off an upset down the road.  Georgia hosts Mississippi State and needs to rebound before the Bulldogs have to consider going bowling in Nashville or Memphis in December.

 

I see a couple dozen interesting games outside of the SEC this week.  On Thursday night, the New Mexico-Utah game could be a bowl eliminator game.  The Utes are one of the 10 biggest disappointments this year.

 

The Pittsburgh-Rutgers winner will remain undefeated in the Big East, and if Rutgers can win this one on the road, The University of New Jersey just might find themselves in the nation's top 15 on Sunday afternoon.  Kudos goes to the Big East this year, as the league is much stronger than expected, even higher rated than the ACC.  Cincinnati and Syracuse are much improved, and the only real disappointment is Connecticut (though, I predicted in the preseason that the Huskies would falter).

 

Notre Dame hosts UCLA which shouldn't be all that difficult, but if the Bruins make this a close game, it will raise the strength of the Pac-10 teams ahead of them.

 

In the Big 12, the winner of the Baylor-Kansas game will be 4-4 and still in contention for a bowl bid.  If Baylor wins, the Bears will be 3-1 in the league.  Guy Morriss is to be commended for turning around a program that lost 66 of 72 Big 12 games in their first nine years in the Big 12 (1996-2004).

 

I've written about Wyoming several times this year.  They came through with the convincing thrashing over Utah last week, and now they host Colorado State.  Sonny Lubick's Rams are much improved this year and in line to go to a bowl.  The Cowboys could be ready to trounce on another visitor, but this game is one of the finest rivalry games that has remained a well-kept secret to fans living outside of the Rockies.  A better day cannot be had than an early morning hike in Curt Gowdy State Park followed by attending this game in Laramie.  The winner still holds dim MWC championship hopes.

 

Staying out West, Boise State ventures into a precarious predicament in Moscow, Idaho, where Dennis Erickson's Vandals find themselves surprisingly undefeated in WAC play.  A Bronco win virtually sews up the WAC title, but if Idaho can pull off the big upset, the race to the finish between Boise, Idaho, Nevada, and Hawaii should be nail-biting.

 

Speaking of Hawaii, the Warriors must make a second consecutive trip to the mainland after enduring a crippling earthquake earlier this week.  On top of that, they are the homecoming foe for New Mexico State.  Hal Mumme vs. June Jones equals 100 points or more even if both teams are a little fatigued (NMSU played Boise State on Sunday Night).

 

 

Here are the SEC games for the week.

 

Tulane @ Auburn

PiRate Predicts: Auburn 42  Tulane 3

Peiser Predicts: Tigers may eventually pull away from the Green Wave and win by 28 to 35 points.

 

Tommy Turbeville's Tigers showed Florida a thing or two in the second half of last week's game.  Like most Division I-A teams this year, the Tigers have definite flaws that can be exploited, but they have fewer areas to exploit than 90% of the rest of the NCAA.  Tulane doesn't have the material to do so, as the Green Wave will have no answer for Auburn's defense and will find it hard to score more than one time.

 

Auburn may not run away from the start in this game.  Their offense needs help from the stellar defense to put a big number up on the board.  I see this game not being a slaughter until the second half.  Auburn will have a 14 to 17-point lead at the half and then methodically extend it until no burnt orange and navy starters are left in the game.

 

Fresno State @ L S U

PiRate Predicts: L S U 45  Fresno State 9

Peiser Predicts: Tigers eviscerate ailing Bulldogs in huge mismatch

 

This figured to be one of the best games this week when the football schedules were released this past spring.  Fresno State has self-destructed.  It started last season with the narrow loss to Southern Cal.  The Bulldogs kept losing after that (to Nevada, Louisiana Tech, and Tulsa).  A 2006 opening win over a good Nevada team pointed FSU toward another good season but a late loss to Oregon re-opened the gaping wound from the USC game.  Since then, Fresno State has failed to win a game including a loss to lowly Utah State.

 

LSU, even with two losses in league play, may be the most talented team in the SEC.  Here's where computer rankings are useless.  When the Tigers are clearly better than their opponent, they can slaughter that opponent by more points and more impressively than either Auburn or Florida could.  However, LSU couldn't beat those two teams on the road, and the 13 point defeat by the Gators is considerably more than the Florida Field advantage.  Where do you rank LSU—ahead of Auburn and Florida because they can beat the average team by more points; or behind Auburn and Florida because those two teams happened to beat them on the days they played? 

 

All three Tiger quarterbacks should get a chance to play in this game, and the trio should top 300 yards through the air.  Meanwhile, Fresno will be lucky to move the ball enough to get into triple digit yardage in this game.  I foresee LSU winning this one by something like 42-6, 41-3, or 45-7.  The PiRates say FSU will score more than one time, but I cannot believe that will happen short of a major LSU turnover. 

 

Ole Miss @ Arkansas

PiRate Predicts: Arkansas 35  Ole Miss 13

Peiser Predicts: I went against the computer last week by calling for Ole Miss to scare ‘Bama, and I think the Rebels will do much better than a 22-point loss this week.

 

Brent Schaeffer began to live up to his billing last week against Alabama, and the Rebels came close to pulling off the upset.  This week, they face an Arkansas team that feasted on weakling Southeast Missouri last week.

 

When a good team pastes a patsy at home one week and stays at home for the next game, they usually bring their A-game.  And, when a team plays a hard-fought road game and comes up short, they usually mail it in if the next game is also a road game.

 

Arkansas will find little resistance running the ball against the Rebels, so the Hogs should win this game with relative ease.  However, the Razorback rushing attack should succeed in scoring on time-consuming drives.  One long drive for a touchdown per quarter would only produce 28 points.  For that reason, I expect Arkansas to clobber Ole Miss by a 28-10 score.  The stats will look much worse than the final score.

 

Mississippi State @ Georgia

PiRate Predicts: Georgia 27  Mississippi State 7

Peiser Predicts: 100% chance Bulldogs will win this game—98% chance it's not the one with maroon and white uniforms.

 

If Georgia loses this game, Mark Richt will start getting the business from the Bulldog faithful.  Uga is an unhappy bulldog right now, following back-to-back losses at home for the first time since 1995.  When was the last time they lost at home three consecutive weeks?  It happened just one time, in 1936, if you count playing Auburn at Columbus, Georgia a home game.  The Bulldogs haven't lost three games in a row since 1990.

 

Mississippi State will have a difficult time gaining 200 yards in this game, as Georgia will shut down their running game, and the Maroons won't be able to exploit the Georgia secondary. 

 

Georgia should top 200 yards passing in this game regardless of what numbered uniform is doing the passing.  It all adds up to a rebound win for Georgia.  The PiRates probably have this one pegged.

 

Alabama @ Tennessee

PiRate Predicts: Vols 34  Tide 14

Peiser Predicts:  Throw out the stats in this one.  It will be closer than the computer says.

 

These two teams are closer in strength than you might think.  Both teams have passed for more than 200 yards in every game they've played.  Both teams gave up a pile of passing yards to teams from out West in their first games and have since held their remaining opponents to much less than 150 passing yards per game.  Both teams are more than adequate defensively against the run.

 

Tennessee has a slight advantage running the ball right now, but Alabama has the potential to break out with a big day on the ground if Kenneth Darby returns to his 2005 form.

 

The Volunteers had an extra week to prepare for this game, while Alabama was extended to overtime last week.  Combine that with the home field advantage and slightly better talent and Tennessee should prevail by about 10 to 14 points.

 

South Carolina @ Vanderbilt

PiRate Predicts: Carolina 21  Vanderbilt 20

Peiser Predicts: Let's hope the wind stays cooperative when Hahnfeldt attempts the game winner with five seconds to go.

 

Vanderbilt finds itself on the bubble of being on the bubble for a bowl invitation.  They must win three more games this year and have Duke and Kentucky left to play in addition to this game.  It can be done, but the Commodores have a huge hurdle to leap this week.  Steve Spurrier is 13-0 against Vanderbilt as a coach and 14-0 as a coach and player.  The Commodores have come close several times against his teams, including the 1996 national title team at Florida and against South Carolina last year.

 

I see this game being close unless one team commits a high number of turnovers.  If you want to know who I am picking and why, you have to be a premium subscriber and tune in Friday morning.  The PiRate computer says the Gamecocks are one point better.  I'll have a slightly different story in the game preview.

 

10 Other Games of Note

 

Rutgers @ Pittsburgh (Friday Night)

PiRate Predicts: Pitt 24  Rutgers 17

Peiser Predicts: This will be a hard-hitting, exciting game.  Dave Wannstedt can coach after all.  Panthers win.

 

If the game were played this week, Pitt would beat Michigan State.  That one loss is the only blemish on the Panthers' schedule.  The only blemish on Rutgers season has been the numerous reports that Scarlet Knight coach Greg Schiano could be high on the wish list at Miami.

 

Rutgers is getting it done with their defense this year.  The Knights own shutouts over Illinois and Navy, in which they held both teams under 200 total yards.  Nobody has found success running the ball against them.  Even Navy's spread option attack could only muster 113 yards on the ground.

 

Pittsburgh is somewhat weaker defensively than Rutgers, both against the run and the pass, but the Panthers are considerably stronger on the attack side.  Quarterback Tyler Palko leads the nation in passing efficiency.  He's completing better than 70% of his passes and is averaging better than 10 yards per pass attempt.

 

Neither team has faced a top 25 caliber opponent this season, so this will be both teams' first stern test.  At home, the Panthers have a slight advantage.  Call it a three to five point win for Wannstedt's warriors.

 

North Carolina State @ Maryland

PiRate Predicts: Terps 21  Pack 17

Peiser Predicts: It should be a crime, but the winner of this game is probably going to a bowl.  Go with the home team in a close one.

 

Maryland has got to be the weakest 4-2 BCS team this decade.  The Terrapins were taxed in wins over William and Mary and MTSU.  They just barley nipped winless Florida International by four points.  Last week, they beat a weak and rebuilding Virginia team by two points.

 

Which North Carolina State team will show up this week?  Will it be the one that lost to Akron, or will it be the one that beat Florida State and Boston College?

 

This should be a close game as The Terps are slightly better offensively and the Wolf Pack are slightly better defensively.  Once again, the home field advantage seems to be all that separates these two teams.  Go with Maryland to win by a field goal and become the weakest 5-2 team in a BCS conference.

 

U C L A @ Notre Dame

PiRate Predicts: Irish 34  Bruins 17

Peiser Predicts: Brady Quinn torches the Uclan secondary in this game between the teams with the two best fight songs.

 

UCLA has traded outstanding offense for an improved defense this season, but the Bruins are about to see their defensive statistics take a turn for the worse.  Notre Dame will ride the arm of Brady Quinn for 250-300 yards passing and add another 125-150 yards on the ground.  Figure on the Irish topping 30 points again this week making it five times in seven games.

 

UCLA has to find a healthy quarterback to play in this game.  With regular Ben Olson out at least three more weeks with a knee injury and number two QB Pat Cowan questionable with a freak throat injury that has rendered him unable to talk, the Bruins find themselves in a heap of trouble. 

 

It looks like a mismatch in the making in South Bend.  The Irish should be comfortably ahead by the midway point of the third quarter and cruise to a 15 to 20 point victory.

 

Iowa @ Michigan

PiRate Predicts: Michigan 34  Iowa 12

Peiser Predicts: This one may be a little closer than expected before the Wolverines prevail by less than the 22 points the computer says.

 

Michigan should ride the legs of tailback Mike Hart this week.  Iowa's defense, especially against the run, has gone on hiatus the last three games.  The Hawkeyes have given up an average of 423 yards in those games.

 

Even without the services of Mario Manningham, Steve Breaston and Adrian Arrington should be ample targets for quarterback Chad Henne.  Michigan should gain 400+ yards and score 30+ points Saturday.

 

The Wolverines are just plain scary against the run and rushing the passer.  Iowa may pick up 225 yards passing this week, but they won't reach 300 total yards.  The Hawkeyes will score at least twice, but that will be nowhere near enough to win this game.  Call it a 17 to 20-point victory for the maize and blue.

 

Texas @ Nebraska

PiRate Predicts: This game is rated a tossup with both teams expected to score 23 points and head to overtime

Peiser Predicts: The Cornhuskers have proven they are back, but Texas is still in a class by themselves in the Big 12.  Mack's marauders will win in a close one.

 

The PiRate computer shows two Big 12 games this week to be virtual tossups (less than ½ point difference in the teams).  The first one is this game between Nebraska and Texas.

 

The Longhorns have recovered nicely since their lone loss to Ohio State.  Nebraska's lone loss came at the hands of Southern Cal in the L.A. Memorial Coliseum.  Texas is out-gaining their opposition by 135.7 yards per game.  Nebraska is out-gaining their opposition by 132.1 yards per game.   The Longhorns have outscored their opponents by 29 points per game, while the Cornhuskers have outscored their foes by an average of 23.6 points per game.

 

Nebraska has one of the best home field advantages in college football.  The weather Saturday in Lincoln is supposed to be cold and rainy, not the type of football the lads from Austin are accustomed to enjoying.

 

What it all leads up to is one really close game.  Texas may be just a tad better even playing on the road in inclement weather.  Give the Longhorns the tiniest of advantages.  I'm thinking that UT wins something like 19-17.

 

Wisconsin @ Purdue

PiRate Predicts: Badgers 35  Purdue 26

Peiser Predicts: Wisconsin wins again, and Brett Bielema should get some National Coach of the Year publicity

 

Wisconsin was not supposed to be 6-1 after seven games this year.  Much credit needs to go first year coach Bret Bielema's way.  The Badgers were pegged to fare no better than 6-6 this year, and UW now has a chance to play in a New Year's Bowl.

 

This week, Wisconsin takes the Big 10's top-rated defense to West Lafayette, Indiana, to face the league's top-rated offense in Purdue.  Let's look at the statistics in this great contest:

 

Wisconsin is allowing 12.7 points per game, 117 yards rushing per game, 123 yards passing per game (3rd in the nation), and 240 total yards per game.

 

Purdue is averaging 476 total yards per game (4th in the nation) and 325 yards passing per game (also 4th in the nation).

 

So which unit will prevail this week, Wisconsin's defense or Purdue's offense?  There's another factor to consider.  The Badgers are rather strong on offense, while Purdue gives up more than 400 total yards and almost 30 points per game.  The Boilermakers gave up 35 points to Indiana State and 28 points to Ball State.

 

Even with rain in the forecast, it looks like a Bucky Badger day this weekend.  Wisconsin will win, but their fabulous defensive statistics are about to take somewhat of a hit.  Call it a 10-point Wisconsin win with the score around 34-24.

 

Texas A&M @ Oklahoma State

PiRate Predicts: another dead tossup with both teams expected to score 31 points and head to overtime

Peiser Predicts: I couldn't agree more with the computer on this one.  Of the BCS games this week, this should be the biggest humdinger.  The Cowboys are ready to return to a bowl game after pulling off the close win

 

This is the second tossup game in the Big 12 according to the PiRate computer.  With Missouri getting all the publicity this year among the surprise teams in this league, Oklahoma State and coach Mike Gundy are getting overlooked.  The Cowboys were picked to fight it out with Baylor for last place in the South Division, and now they are fighting it out with Baylor, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M for second place!   However, the most impressive win so far has been last week's 10-point road win over Kansas.  The Cowboys haven't beaten a who's who of quality opponents.

 

Texas A&M beat previously undefeated Missouri last week and, the Aggies are on pace for a bowl game.  Like OSU, the A&M has not beaten much this year other than Missouri.

 

This game will propel the winner well above the bowl bubble, and it should be as close as advertised.  Look for a lot of offense in Stillwater this weekend.  I could see a scenario develop that would lead to 900 or more total yards and 80 or more points being scored if the weather cooperates (forecast is for around 60 degrees with slight rain chance).  I am going with the home team by a point or two.

 

Georgia Tech @ Clemson

PiRate Predicts: Clemson 31  Georgia Tech 16

Peiser Predicts: Tigers are one bad play from being an undefeated and top 10 team.  They should win the first of two games to be played between these two teams

 

These two teams have emerged as the class of the ACC, although Wake Forest fans might debate that their team was dominating Clemson until a series of unfortunate events occurred in less than 15 minutes.

 

Clemson has played a lot like LSU this year.  Against the teams they were clearly superior to, the Tigers have shown no mercy, winning by an average of better than 55-6.  Against the teams with equal or almost equal talent, CU's average score has been 26-24.

 

Georgia Tech qualifies for a team with equal or close to equal talent, and thus this should be a close game.  However, there is one little feature that I left out.  All those close games have come while Clemson was on the road.  This game is at Clemson Memorial Stadium.

 

Look for a close game, but Clemson should score late to pull away.  Call it a 7-10 point win.  Georgia Tech should get a rematch in December.

 

Boston College @ Florida State

PiRate Predicts: Seminoles 23  B C 17
Peiser Predicts: I'm going against the computer and calling for the Eagles to pick up the road win

 

First, let me preface this prediction.  Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan is questionable for this game as of this writing.  If he doesn't play, then go with the PiRates and consider FSU the clear-cut choice Saturday.  However, if Ryan is ready to go, I think the Eagles will pull off the upset in Tallahassee. 

 

Neither team should rush for many yards in this game, but the Seminoles need to succeed running the ball to open up their passing game.  Boston College only needs the running game to be able to pick up two yards on 3rd and two and to get one yard at the opponents' one yard line.  With a healthy Ryan quarterbacking, the Eagles have the talons needed to put the clamps on the Seminoles.  With Ryan playing close to 100%, I see BC winning 24-20.  Without Ryan, the PiRate score looks about right.

 

Oregon @ Washington State

PiRate Predicts: Ducks 38  State 30

Peiser Predicts: The quack attack might be a tad too strong for the Cougars, even on WSU's home field. 

 

Washington State has lost three games this year—at Auburn and at home against Southern Cal and Cal.  Needless to say, they have faced three tough teams.  Wins over Idaho, Baylor, and Oregon State are looking better every week.  This is a team capable of pulling off a big upset at home.

 

Oregon recovered from the pasting at Cal by downing UCLA last week, but they let the Bruins back into the game near the end.  Another finish like that this week could snatch defeat out of the webbed feet of victory. 

 

Both teams pass the ball for more than 250 yards per game.  Oregon happens to run the ball for more than 200 yards per game as well.  That may be just a little too much offense for the Cougars to shut down, while the Duck defenders should slow down the WSU offense a few times.

 

It all adds up to a high scoring win for Oregon.  The PiRate prediction looks good to me.

Non-BCS Top 10
 1	Boise St.		7	0	114
 2	B Y U		4	2	110
 3	Hawaii		4	2	109
 4	Tulsa		5	1	108
 5	T C U		3	2	106
 6	Nevada		3	3	104
 7	Navy		5	2	103
 8	Wyoming		3	4	103
 9	Southern Miss.	4	2	102
10	Utah		4	3	102

Bottom 10
 1	Temple		0	7	 70
 2	Buffalo		1	5	 71
 3	Florida Atl.	2	4	 74
 4	Utah State	1	6	 78
 5	North Texas	2	4	 78
 6	Florida Int'l	0	7	 79
 7	La.-Monroe	1	5	 79
 8	La. Tech		1	5	 82
 9	New Mexico St.	2	4	 83
10	Duke		0	6	 83

Conference Rankings
 1	Big Ten			108.55
 2	Pacific Ten		108.20
 3	Big Twelve		107.08
 4	Southeastern		106.67
 5	Big East			105.75
 6	Atlantic Coast		103.75
 7	Mountain West	 	 98.33
 8	Independents	 	 94.25
 9	Conference USA	 	 94.00
10	Western Athletic 	 	 92.78
11	Mid American	 	 89.92
12	Sunbelt		 	 82.63	
	
							
	
And The Rest


Predicted			
Winner		Loser		Margin
Cent. Mich.	Bowling Green	  14
Virginia		N. Carolina	   9
Utah		New Mexico	   7
West Va.		Connecticut	  20
Penn State	Illinois	  	  28
Michigan St.	Northwestern	   8
Louisville	Syracuse	  	  15
Ohio State	Indiana		  42
T C U		Army		  15
Va. Tech		Southern Miss.	  11
Ohio U		Buffalo		  24
Ball State	Western Mich.	   5
B Y U		U N L V		  34
Baylor		Kansas		   7
Northern Ill.	Temple		  24
East Carolina	S M U		   3
Miami (F)		Duke		  23
California	Washington	  27
Wyoming		Colorado State	   7
U C F		Rice		   8
Toledo		Eastern Mich.	   1
Akron		Miami (O)	  	  13
Arizona St.	Stanford	  	  31
Nevada		San Jose St.	  20
Oregon State	Arizona		   1
Houston		U T E P		   6
Louisiana Tech	Utah State	   7
Iowa State	Texas Tech	   0
Missouri		Kansas State	  17
Oklahoma		Colorado	  	  18
U A B		Marshall	   	   5
Hawaii		New Mexico St.	  23
Tulsa		Memphis		  18
Air Force		San Diego St.	   8
Boise State	Idaho		  25
Oregon		Washington St.	   8
Arkansas St.	North Texas	  12
M T S U		La.-Monroe	   7
South Florida	Cincinnati	   2

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