Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Prognostications College Football Weekend October 4, 2003


This first posting to the SportPundit blog contains my "just for fun" PROGNOSTICATIONS for the upcoming college football weekend based in part on the betting spreads listed today, Tuesday September 30, 2003, at Yahoo Fantasy Sports . Also used are the betting spreads found at T. Beck's College Football Prediction Tracker, as well as his PerformanZ Football Ratings. He also has a weblog called My two cents worth.

No one should rely on my predictions below for anything. It is strictly for fun, not for profit. There is no warranty of accuracy of any kind. You read this material solely at your OWN risk. Living in Germany, my predictions are based on stats only, not on seeing any games on TV. Besides, things look a lot different in the trenches than in the grandstands....

The following list (in most cases) contains the rank of a ranked team (by the AP poll), team name, record, opposing team, record, time of game, plus my comments on the game and prognosticated final score. All in good fun ONLY. Recall, a lot of young men are playing on BOTH sides of the scrimmage line and ALL want to win. So root them ALL on and may the best team win.

#1 Oklahoma (4-0) vs. Iowa State (2-2) Sun 1:00am CEST
Oklahoma is favored by 21 points. Iowa State lost to Iowa by 19 and Northern Illinois by 8. This makes Oklahoma - with a great team and a great coach reminscent of Bud Wilkinson days - about 4 to 5 touchdown favorites in my book.
Okie overdrive: Oklahoma 42 Iowa State 14.

#2 Miami vs. West Virginia Thursday
Miami is favored by 27 points over West Virginia. Miami is very strong again this year, though I doubt they will go undefeated. It would take a miracle for West Virginia to win this one. It is Hurricane Season: Miami 51 West Virginia 7

#4 Virginia Tech (4-0) vs. Rutgers (3-1) Sat 6:00pm CEST
Virginia Tech is favored by 24.5 points. Rutgers sometimes gives top teams trouble. The Hokies appear to be very strong this year, running all over a fine Connecticut team last week 47-13. But six players are out of this game.
Hokie Dokie: Virginia Tech 45 Rutgers 10.

#7 Tennessee (4-0) vs. Auburn (2-2) Sun 1:45am CEST
This game is rated a toss-up by the point spreaders. Still, Auburn has been a disappointment this year, losing early to USC and Georgia Tech, but they may be up for this one. Home team advantage decides this one for me (worth about 1 TD) , though I think Tennessee has a very fine team. It is a toss-up.
If Tennessee wins, they may in fact have a great team, though they struggled against South Carolina to win in overtime last weekend.
Tigers Triumphant?: Auburn 27 Tennessee 24.

#9 Michigan (4-1) vs. #23 Iowa (4-1) Sat 9:30pm CEST
Michigan is favored by 3. It's a toss-up in my books, since Iowa has the home field advantage.
We have family affiliated with Michigan, so we will root for Michigan, but beating Iowa in its own back yard will be tough business.
Predictably possible: Iowa 28 Michigan 27.

#10 USC (3-1) vs. Arizona State (2-2) Sat 9:30pm CEST
USC is favored by 11. USC was shocked by California last weekend - so Arizona State runs the risk of bearing the brunt of USC disappointment. USC would appear to be strong favorites and so I take the 11-point spread and USC. This game may show if USC is truly as strong as it is thought to be or whether they are just highly rated due to the Palmer legacy.
Prognosticatory result: USC 55 Arizona State 21.

#11 Georgia (3-1) vs. Alabama (2-3) Sat 9:30pm CEST
Georgia is favored by 10. Alabama is the strongest 2-3 team in the country after close losses to top-20 ranked Oklahoma, Northern Illinois and Arkansas teams. A very strong Georgia team lost a close one to an extremely strong LSU team so this may be a donnybrook of a game. Making Georgia a 10-point favorite here may be a mistake. I call it a toss-up and take Alabama and the spread.
We'll call it Georgia 28 Alabama 27, though we think 'Bama could win if they stay close.

#12 Nebraska (4-0) vs. Troy State (3-2) Sat 7:30pm CEST
The Cornhuskers are favored by 27.5 points. Nebraska is my alma mater for undergraduate college education and there was a day when three teams with one loss each already after four games would never have been ranked ahead of an undefeated Husker team.

But times have changed. If anything, the Cornhuskers, who had a disastrous 7-7 year in 2002 - largely on the basis of apparently poor coaching and recruiting, are now making the college season interesting, by not having been ranked in the pre-season polls at all for the first time in decades, but now climbing steadily in the rankings. Is such a high ranking (8th in the most recent coach's poll) justified?

Nebraska won last week 38-14 against Southern Mississippi in spite of making only 5 first downs in the first half and 6 in the second half. The Husker offense, though ranked fifth in nationwide rushing, has substantial trouble getting the ball into the end zone for scores, and, as compared to decades of great running teams which dominated opponents, this is surely not one of those teams.

The Husker defense, on the other hand - due to the new defensive coordinator, Bo Pellini, who has brought necessary discipline from the Green Bay Packers to Huskerland after the Huskers last year were marred by police reports and player non-discipline, etc. - was ranked best in the nation in total defense prior to the Southern Miss game last week and that appears to be this team's salvation.

Troy State has been strong against the run - so they will give NU a great deal of difficulty since NU has no passing attack to speak of. Last week Troy State beat a very good Marshall team, victors over a very strong Kansas State team the week before. I look for the Huskers to struggle mightily to win and would not rate them better than two touchdown favorites, so I will take Troy State and the huge spread of 27.5 points.
We call it NU 27 Troy State 10 with mostly defensively forced scores.

#13 Texas (3-1) vs. #16 Kansas State (3-1) Sat 9:30pm CEST
Texas is favored by 6 due to home field advantage. Kansas State is not the same team without their exceptional running and passing quarterback Ell Roberson - out for the last two games with a hand injury to his non-throwing hand - and thus the Wildcats lost their last game to a good Marshall team who took advantage of the situation.

With Roberson apparently expected to play against Texas, look out for this one. Texas is only favored by 6 and I see the game as an unpredictable toss-up. If Roberson is in form, his presence will pick up the Wildcats, who will be raring to go after last week's loss. Just how strong the Texas team may be is also not clear due to the unexpected Texas loss to Arkansas.

K-State makes for an interesting evaluation of comparative scores. They beat Troy State 41-5. They then lost to Marshall 27-20. But contrary to all expectations, Troy State last week beat Marshall 33-24. Calculated backwards, Troy State should be better than K-State by 16 points but actually lost by 36. Or, looked at the other way, Marshall should have beaten Troy State by 43 (36 plus 7), but lost the game instead. Comparative scores are not always useful.

My prediction: Texas 24 Kansas State 23, presuming Roberson plays, otherwise the Longhorns might trample them.

#14 Washington State (4-1) vs. Arizona (1-4) Sat 11:00pm CEST
WSU is favored by 27.5 points. Washington State has a pro-type of offense geared to making points in bushels. Arizona is said to have player and/or coaching problems and rumors abound - all not conducive to a good team performance. Washington State should romp and even beat this enormous spread. We think it will be an offensive show: Washington State 52 Arizona 17.

#17 Northern Illinois (4-0) vs. Ohio (1-3) Sun 1:35am CEST
Northern Illinois is favored by 22 points. Northern Illinois just beat Iowa State by 28, and Ohio lost to them by 8. Here, the comparative scores may in fact show the relative strength of the teams.
Let's call it Northern Illinois 42 and Ohio 6.

#18 Washington (3-1) vs. UCLA (2-2) Sun 12:30am CEST
Washington is favored by 1.5 points even though UCLA is the home team. Neither Washington nor UCLA have beaten anyone of note. UCLA's dismal punt coverage - now apparently improved - let Oklahoma destroy them (59-24) in a game somewhat closer than the score. Washington lost to Ohio State by 19 at the start of the season. If we remove some of the Oklahoma punt returns for TDs against UCLA as "laughers" and call Oklahoma and Ohio State pretty evenly matched as teams, then this game too is a toss-up, probably to be decided by turnovers. If UCLA can stop the turnovers, they may win. Here is the call: UCLA 31 Washington 30.

#19 Oregon (4-1) vs. Utah (3-1) Sat 4:00am CEST
Oregon is favored by 3. Utah has a great new coach, Urban Meyer, from Bowling Green. Oregon got clobbered by a similarly pro-type offense at Washington State last weekend after beating a strong but old-fashionedly offensive Michigan team the week before. Utah will only get better as the season progresses. I'll take Utah and the spread of 3. The possible score? Utah 38 Oregon 28.

#20 TCU (4-0) vs. Army (0-4) Sun 1:00am CEST
The spread here is so large that there is no betting line and most prognosticators see a ca. 30-35 point spread in favor of TCU. Army just lost to South Florida 28-0 and the Horned Frogs are probably better than that.
I call it TCU 48 Army 7.

#21 Minnesota (5-0) vs. Northwestern (2-3) Sat 6:00pm CEST
Minnesota is flying high and is favored by 10.5, but Northwestern could be troublesome. I see Minnesota by maximally two touchdowns. Minnesota 28 Northwestern 17.

#22 Purdue (3-1) vs. Illinois (1-4) Sat 10:30pm CEST
Purdue is favored by 14. Purdue is very strong this year with only a 1-point loss to Bowling Green, and Bowling Green came within a touchdown of past national champion Ohio State. Illinois has lost four games by 8 points or less to very good teams, and I do not think Purdue will do better than that. I would call the game a toss-up and take the Illini and the spread. I see a close game with Purdue 21 Illinois 17.

#24 Florida (3-2) vs. Mississippi (2-2) Sat 6:30pm CEST
Florida is favored by 12.5 points. Florida has been a great disappointment this year, leading the University of Miami (Florida) early this year by 23 points and then giving the game away at the end. They then lost to a fine Tennessee team and last week were lucky to come from way behind to beat plucky Kentucky. Ole Miss has a very leaky defense, losing in high-scoring duels to Memphis and Texas Tech. It is conceivable this could be a scoring battle. Florida could score 50 points and still win only by a touchdown or so. I'll take Ole Miss and the spread. In a southern brawl: Florida 45 Mississippi 43.

#25 Michigan State (4-1) vs. Indiana (1-4) Sat 6:00pm CEST
Michigan State is favored by 15, but this means more than two touchdowns. Nothing in conference play in any conference is easy. Strong Michigan State surprised against a very strong Iowa and meets a weaker Indiana team, but may be complacent after the victory. I go with Indiana and the spread, thinking that Michigan State may win by at best 2 touchdowns (i.e. 14 points) but not more than that.
Tougher than it looks: Michigan State 27 Indiana 13.

Games of interest among unranked teams:

Boise State vs. Louisiana Tech
Talented quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie and his Boise State Broncos are favored by 7 points over the Louisiana Tech team. When Dinwiddie is on, he can throw 'em. We see lots of scoring: Boise State 48 Louisiana Tech 37.

Nevada vs. UNLV
UNLV is favored by 4.5 points over Nevado, Reno. The University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV) seems to have quite a team this year. We predict they may get into the top 20 soon. Their only loss is to surprising Kansas. The University of Nevada, Reno has the home team advantage, but when the "chips" are down, we take Las Vegas over Reno as UNLV 38 Nevada 28.

Oregon State vs. California
Oregon State is favored by 1.5 over the California team playing at home. Cal may have the proverbial letdown after the great win over USC while Oregon State had a great win - an upset in my books - over Boise State. But Cal is the home team so we take the spread for Cal and call it California by a field goal 24 - 21.

North Carolina State vs. Georgia Tech
The Wolfpack is favored by 6.5 over Georgia Tech. North Carolina State lost to Ohio State in overtime and is given the nod here by the experts, but the Yellow Jackets lost by only one point to Florida State and beat a strong Auburn team. We see the home team winning here so we take the 6.5 point spread for Georgie Tech. Georgia Tech 27 NC State 24.

Colorado State vs. Fresno State
Colorado State is favored by 6.5 points over Fresno State but I see this game close so I'll take Fresno State and the spread. Will it be a cliffhanger? Colorado State 35 Fresno State 31

Miami (Ohio) vs. Akron
Miami of Ohio has a very fine team this year and is favored by 19.5 over Akron. We think they are even stronger than that and give Miami of Ohio a 41 - 16 nod over Akron.

My graduate alma mater, Stanford, has a bye this week and plays USC on October 11.

That same day will be marked by the top game of Florida State against the Miami Hurricanes. The Seminoles also have a bye this week.

Also of great interest will be LSU against Florida.

We won't call those yet.

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