While Dr. Bob is just treading water so far in this competition (going 2-3 last week to bring his record to 16-14), he is killing it for his paid customers. You can check out his site. I had a good week last week going 3-0-2, bring my record to 17-9-4 for the season.
I'm writing this blog from the business center at the InterContinental Hotel in Beirut, where I am concluding my nine-city tour of the Middle East promoting my new book. If you want to follow my tour check out www.houseadvantageblog.com.
Now on to this week's picks. First Dr. Bob's...
LOUISVILLE (-2) 34 Connecticut 24
Louisville lost a close game to an underrated Cincinnati team on this field last Friday and that same effort would be more than enough to beat a mediocre Connecticut squad today. The Huskies were better offensively with Cody Endres at quarterback (6.3 yards per pass play against teams that would allow 6.1 yppp to an average quarterback), but Endres was suspended for the rest of the season on Thursday and former starter Zach Frazer is not as good. Frazer started the season at quarterback and averaged just 5.0 yppp in three games against Division 1A opponents that would allow 6.4 yppp to an average quarterback. I actually rate Frazer at only 0.7 yppp worse than average when I incorporate his numbers from last season. Michael Box may actually get the start instead of Frazer and that could be worse -- although I'll assume that both quarterbacks will be about the level of U Conn's pass attack overall this season, which is 0.7 yppp worse than average. The Huskies will certainly be able to run the ball in this game against a sub-par Louisville defense that's had trouble defending the run (5.6 yards per rushing play allowed to teams that would average 4.6 yprp against an average team) and rates at 0.5 yppl worse than average overall, but the Huskies are 0.2 yppl worse than average without Endres and the Huskies' 0.3 yppl advantage over the Cardinals' defense is not likely to be good enough to win this game. Louisville's potent attack and run (6.5 yprp) and throw (7.6 yards per pass play) and the Cardinals are 1.2 yppl better than average overall offensively (7.0 yppl against teams that would allow 5.8 yppl to an average team). That attack should have no issues in this game against a U Conn defense that's given up 5.6 yppl to 5 Division 1A opponents that would combine to average just 5.4 yppl against an average team. Louisville's offense has a 1.4 yppl advantage over the Huskies' defense, which is 0.6 yppl more than U Conn's advantage over the Cardinals' defense. The turnovers are expected to be even, and the special teams and home field advantage belong to Louisville. The Cardinals should be favored in this game by more than the home field advantage given the fact that they've been the better team so far this season. Louisville's 3 losses this season have all been competitive games against good teams Kentucky (lost by 7), Oregon State (lost by 7) and Cincinnati (lost by 8) while U Conn has played just one better than average team (a 20 point loss at Michigan) and is 2-2 straight up against below average Division 1A teams. The line has adjusted for the Endres suspension, but Louisville should have been favored in the first place and there is still plenty of line value favoring Louisville in this game.
ILLINOIS (-13 ½) 37 Indiana 13
I've gone against Indiana the last two weeks with a 4-Star win on Ohio State and a 2-Star win last week on Arkansas State +11. The Hoosiers have played their Division 1A opponents even on the scoreboard at 30.8 points scored and 31.0 allowed, but the Hoosiers have faced three bad teams in Western Kentucky, Akron, and Arkansas State and they've been badly outplayed from the line of scrimmage 5.9 yards per play to 7.2 yppl. Indiana's offense has a lot of yards and points, but the 5.9 yppl and 30.8 points per game have come against a schedule of teams that would allow 6.1 yppl and 32.5 points per game to an average team. Indiana was completely dominated by the only better-than-average defensive team that they faced (scored 3 points against Ohio State's first team defense and averaged just 3.3 yppl against the Buckeyes) and today the Hoosiers face a very good Illinois defense that's yielded just 4.9 yppl and 18.5 points per game against a schedule of teams that would combine to average 5.8 yppl, 27.4 points per game against an average defensive team. Illinois has allowed just 18.5 points per game and Indiana's offense is 0.5 yppl and 3.4 points worse than the average of the offensive units that the Illini have faced this season. With that being the case I don't expect much from Indiana's sub-par attack in this game against a fired up Illinois defense looking to atone for last week's loss to Michigan State (that unit actually played very well in allowing just 5.3 yppl to a Spartans team that would average 6.8 yppl at home against an average defense).
The Illini offense is nothing special, averaging 5.2 yppl against teams that would allow 5.2 yppl to an average team, but Indiana's defense is among the worst in the nation. The Hoosiers have allowed 7.2 yppl to teams that would combine to average 5.4 yppl against an average team. Indiana's defense isn't quite that bad, as those numbers are skewed by one horrible game against Michigan when they allowed 12.8 yppl, but the Hoosiers still rate at 1.4 yppl worse than average using a median (there middle 3 defensive game ratings). Illinois should move the ball well and my math projects 427 total yards at 6.9 yppl for the Illini in this game. Illinois has had some trouble with turnovers (-1.0 per game in turnover margin), but freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase has thrown six of his seven interceptions in two games against good defensive teams Missouri and Michigan State while throwing zero interceptions against the average or worse pass defenses of Southern Illinois, Northern Illinois and Penn State. I don't see turnovers being a problem in this game and my math model gives Illinois a very profitable 59.% chance of covering at -14 points and the Illini apply to a 117-54 ATS statistical match up indicator while the Hoosiers apply to a negative 108-214-6 ATS road letdown situation.
SMU (-7 ½) 40 Houston 21
Houston is playing their 4th string quarterback after the top 2, including All-American Case Keenum, suffered season ending injuries in week 3 against UCLA and the 3rd stringer Terrance Broadway didn't quite work out. Actually, Broadway's numbers are better than current starter, freshman David Piland, who has started the last 2 games and thrown for an average of 292 yards. Of course, it's easy to throw for 292 yards when you're throwing the ball 51 times per game. Piland has only completed 52% of his passes for just 5.7 yards per pass attempt and 5.6 yards per pass play despite facing teams that would combine to allow 6.8 yppp to an average quarterback. The rushing attack has suffered without Keenum too, as opponents have less concern about being beaten through the air and Houston now has a worse than average rushing game to go along with a bad pass attack. SMU has a solid defense that's 0.6 yards per rushing play better than average against the run and just 0.3 yppp worse than average defending the pass, which is actually better than what Piland has seen so far in his first two games. Houston runs a lot of plays with their up-tempo attack, but my math model projects a modest 346 total yards at 4.5 yards per play for the Cougars in this game. That's not going to be nearly good enough to keep up with what a good SMU attack (6.4 yppl against teams that would allow 5.6 yppl to an average team) is going to rack up against a bad Houston defense that's allowed 5.6 yppl to bad offensively teams that would combine to average just 4.9 yppl against an average team. The Cougars have faced only one better than average offensive team (Mississippi State is barely better than average) and they gave up 538 yards at 6.7 yppl and 47 points in that game. SMU is going to trounce Houston today unless Piland suddenly becomes Keenum.
San Diego State (-23 ½) 45 NEW MEXICO 10
Let's see. New Mexico has lost their six games by an average margin of 34 points while playing a schedule of teams that is 3.5 points easier than average. San Diego State is no doubt a better than average team and they've outscored their 5 Division 1A foes by an average of 10 points while playing a schedule that is 2.2 points easier than average. How can a team losing by an average of 34 points to an easier than average schedule be only a 23 ½ point dog to a team that is about a touchdown better than an average team. The home field advantage is worth about 4 points and perhaps San Diego State will let up when they have a 35 point lead, but a prediction of Aztecs by 40 points is reasonable. In fact, my math model, which doesn't use scores at all, would call for San Diego State to win by 41 points if both teams play at the level that they've played so far this season.
New Mexico's pathetic offense has averaged just 3.9 yppl and 12.5 points per game despite facing teams that would allow 5.8 yppl to an average team. San Diego State has a better than average defense that yielded 5.0 yppl and 20.8 points allowed to 1A teams that would combine to average 5.2 yppl and 21.7 points against an average defense. The Aztecs also have a great defensive coordinator in Rocky Long that would love to stick it to a New Mexico program that forced him out a couple of years ago after a long tenure as a successful Lobos' head coach doing the most with limited talent. If New Mexico is only averaging 12.5 points against a worse than average schedule, they probably won't reach that number against a better than average defense with a motivated coordinator dialing up the blitzes.
Even if New Mexico gets to their average of 13 points I still don't see how the Lobos can cover the spread in this game given that their defense has given up 46.5 points per game to a schedule of teams that combine to be average collectively. San Diego State has a balanced and potent attack that has averaged 7.0 yards per play against Division 1A teams that would combine to allow 5.6 yppl to an average team. New Mexico has given up 38 points or more to every team except a pathetic New Mexico State offense playing backup quarterbacks and the Lobos gave up 52 points or more to all 3 average or better offensive teams that they've faced (72 to Oregon, 52 to a barely better than average Texas Tech offense, and 56 points to Utah). All San Diego State is going to need to cover in this game is probably 38 points and the Aztecs have scored 41 points or more in all 3 games they've played against worse than average defensive teams (Nicholls State, New Mexico State, and Utah State).
I just don't see how San Diego State won't score at least 40 points, and I don't see New Mexico scoring more than 14 points unless turnovers play a major role against us.
Hawaii (-3) 33 UTAH STATE 24
Hawaii is still not getting the respect that they deserve and the Warriors are now 6-1 ATS after beating a previously unbeaten Nevada team last week. Hawaii's average point margin in 6 games against Division 1A opponents is +3.3 (32.8 points to 29.5 points allowed) and the Warriors have faced a schedule that is 4.0 points tougher than average, which would make Hawaii 7.3 points better than an average team based on point differentials. Utah State, meanwhile, has been out-scored by an average of 12.2 points (18.4 to 30.6) in their 5 games against 1A opponents while playing a schedule that is 4.2 points tougher than average, which makes the Aggies 8.0 points worse than average using point differentials. Home field advantage is 3.8 points, so a team that is -8.0 points should be an underdog of 11.5 points at home against a team that is +7.3 points. I actually don't use point margins in my math model, but that math is even more favorable for Hawaii using compensated yardage.
Hawaii's offense has averaged 462 yards at 7.3 yards per play against 1A teams that would allow 5.6 yppl to an average team and I don't see the Aggies' mediocre defense (5.6 yppl allowed to teams that would average 5.5 yppl against an average team) doing much to stop that attack. Utah State's offense is 0.8 yppl worse than average with just 4.7 yppl gained against teams that would allow 5.5 yppl to an average team. Hawaii has an underrated defense that has allowed 5.6 yppl to teams that would average 5.6 yppl, so Utah State should score much more than their 18.4 points average. The two defenses are about the same, but Hawaii has a huge edge offensively and quarterback Byrant Moniz has thrown just 4 interceptions on 283 pass attempts this season, so turnovers don't figure to be a problem. My math model projects Hawaii at 489 yards at 7.3 yppl and just 304 yards at 4.8 yppl for Utah State in what should be a double-digit win for the Warriors. The only problem is a negative 1-24 ATS subset of a 36-90-1 ATS road favorite letdown situation that is based on Hawaii's upset win over Nevada last week, but the Warriors would have to suffer a major letdown not to cover such a small spread in this game. That angle has a 56% chance of working going forward and my math model gives Hawaii a 62% chance of covering, so the angle only drops Hawaii's chance of covering to about 56%, which is still very good. Utah State's wins have come against Division 1AA Idaho State and against a bad BYU team that's 2-5 straight up. In their other 4 games the Aggies have lost by an average of 19 points, so I see no reason why they'll compete against a good Hawaii team that is still under the radar.
Now on to mine...
Pittsburgh -3 @ Miami
For my money, Pittsburgh is the best team in the NFL and a short line on the road against a Miami team that will have trouble moving the ball against the stingy Pitt defense is too good to pass up.
Atlanta -3 over Cincy
This isn't so much a bet on Atlanta as it is a bet against an inconsistent immature Cincy team. On the road against a decent Atlanta team they are unlikely to win which makes 3 points a steal.
Cleveland +13 @ NO
Cleveland has been competitive all season and NO has been inconsistent. Expect the Browns to control the game on the ground and keep it close for the duration.
Seattle -6 over Arizona
At first glance this seems like too many points. Until you consider that Seattle is a tough place for veterans to play. Imagine you are Max Hall and undrafted free agent.
GB -2.5 over Minny
Yes GB has been bad this season and they are beat up but Minny is not a good team and Favre is not a good QB. GB wins by a TD.