Upset Watch: Week 4

Ohio lost, Michigan won. Depending on your thoughts on Notre Dame and Michigan State, either the stars perfectly aligned, or a two-for-three weekend isn’t something to complain about. Michigan enters the AP Top 25 this week, moving to #22, slightly in front of USC and slightly behind Clemson in voting. The Wolverines need to be aware they are facing a dangerous Aztec team, with veteran QB Ryan Lindley and RB Ronnie Hillman. Fortunate for Michigan, Coach Hoke knows the San Diego State team, and, fortunate for the Michigan secondary, speedster WR Dominique Sandifer is lost for the season with a knee injury.

As typical with the Watch, we’ll review the picks from last week, noting the bad picks, and point out a few games to give the underdog some credit in, even if it is only in Vegas. We’ll also look at a sure-fire favorite and attempt to preview the Michigan game.

Recap:

Wins

@ Vanderbilt (3-0) +1.5 Mississippi (1-2). Result: Vanderbilt 30 Mississippi 7.

@ Temple (2-1) +7.5 Penn State (2-1). Result: Penn State 14 Temple 10.

@ Cincinnati -34.5 Akron. Result: Cincinnati 59 Akron 14.

Losses

@ Toledo (1-2) +19.5 Boise State (2-0). Result: Boise State 40 Toledo 15.

Colorado State (2-1) +7.5 Colorado (1-2). Result: Colorado 28 Colorado State 14.

Washington State (2-1) +5.5 @ San Diego State (3-0). Result: San Diego State 42 Washington State 24.

@ Michigan (3-0) -29.5 Eastern Michigan (2-1). Result: Michigan 31 Eastern Michigan 3.

 

This Week

I know the Watch is fired up to kick off college football this week with a trip to Daytona Beach for Hampton and Bethune-Cookman on Thursday night (7:30 PM EST/ESPNU).

Oklahoma State (#7) visits College Station and the 12th Man for a showdown against Texas A&M (#8) (3:30 PM EST/ABC). Arkansas and Coach Bobby Petrino are looking for revenge as the Crimson Tide escaped with a victory last year; Arkansas (#14) visits Alabama (#3) (3:30 PM EST). Florida State (#11) looks to rebound (and get healthy) but must first get by Clemson (#21) (3:30 PM EST/ESPN/ESPN 3). Top tier games will conclude with LSU (#2) and the Hatter visiting Morgantown for a matchup with West Virginia (#16) (8:00 PM EST/ABC).

Upset Watch

Bowling Green (2-1) +6.0 @ Miami Ohio (0-2). Bowling Green has the 10thranked offense (45th rushing, 10th in passing) in the country, having beaten Idaho and Morgan State, but losing on a missed extra point to Wyoming. Miami has the 12th ranked pass defense (54th overall, 100th rushing defense); should be an interesting matchup. Further, Miami’s offense is ranked 90th (108th rushing, 38thpassing); Bowling Green’s defense is ranked 25th (30th passing, 43rd rushing). The home team is 1-5 in this series, since 2005, including three straight losses. Bowling Green had four losses by a touchdown or less last year; Miami had six wins by a touchdown or less last year (only Auburn had more). Stats say that Bowling Green should win more this year, and Miami win less. That trend should be proven with a Falcon victory in Oxford.

New Mexico State (1-2) +10.5 @ San Jose State (0-3). Can you believe the Aggies are 24th in passing offense? It helps having a quality WR like Taveon Rogers (249 yards 17.8/catch and 4 TD). San Jose State Coach Mike MacIntyre is 1-15 overall, but 7-9 against the spread. New Mexico State Coach DeWayne Walker is 6-23, but 10-16-2 against the spread. New Mexico State has won on the spread the past two meeting, both of which were decided by three points or less. Taking out the lopsided 2007 game (SJSU won 51-17), the average margin of victory in the series is SJSU by 9. I think SJSU gets the win, but I like NMST to keep this one close.

Missouri (2-1) +21.5 @ Oklahoma (2-0). Oklahoma has won 7 of the last 9 in this series, dating back to 1998, with an average margin of 14 (23 if looking solely at the Oklahoma wins). Coach Gary Pinkel is 7-9 against the spread against ranked teams since 2006 (5-11 straight up), having beaten (and covered as a dog) last against Oklahoma (36-27). Coach Bob Stoops is 13-11-1 against the spread against ranked teams since 2006 (18-7 straight up), but only 3-4 against the spread when playing a second ranked team back-to-back. Oklahoma has the 44th ranked defense (20thrushing, 87th passing); Missouri the 16th ranked defense (11th rushing, 54th passing). Oklahoma the 19th ranked offense (44th rushing, 20th passing); Missouri the 12thranked offense (10th rushing, 40th passing). The matchup of Missouri’s pass defense and Oklahoma’s pass offense concerns me a bit, but I think Missouri should keep this within 3 TDs.

Southern Miss (2-1) +3.0 @ Virginia (2-1). Virginia and Southern Miss last met in 2009, with Southern Miss winning 37-34, but failing to cover the 14-point spread. Virginia Coach Mike London is 3-2-1 as a favorite against the spread, and 6-8-1 overall against the spread. Southern Miss Coach Larry Fedora is 15-13 as an underdog against the spread, and 20-18-1 overall against the spread. This is an improved Virginia (38th rushing offense, 45th passing) team with solid RBs in Perry Jones (173 yards 4.1/carry and 1 TD) and Kevin Parks (249 yards 6.1/carry and 5 TD). Michael Rocco (652 yards 61.1% completion, but 4 INT to 1 TD) will need to improve his play at QB before the Cavaliers have a truly balanced offense. Southern Miss is 14th against the run. Take the Golden Eagles to cover and win.

@ Pittsburgh (2-1) +7.0 Notre Dame (1-2). The Watch stayed away from the Notre Dame/Michigan State game last week, with good reason. The Irish bring in the 36th offense (27th passing, 61st rushing); the Panthers bring the 61st offense (52ndpassing, 52nd rushing). Neither defense is much to write home about, as the Pittsburgh defense is ranked 96th (119th passing, 23rd rushing) and Notre Dame is ranked 58th (97th passing, 30th rushing). Pittsburgh is transitioning to a spread offense under Todd Graham, from the previous pro-style offense under Dave Wannstedt. Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly is 9-7 at Notre Dame (6-6-4 against the spread, 4-5-2 as a favorite against the spread). Coach Todd Graham is 0-3 against the spread at Pittsburgh (26-24-3 at Tulsa against the spread and 6-6-1 at Tulsa as an underdog against the spread). As long as Turnover Tommy Rees (5 INT, 2 Fumbles, 2 Fumbles lost) is addicted to turning the ball over for the Irish, opponents have a shot at winning. Irish should pick up their second win of the season, but Ray Graham (419 yards 5.3/carry and 6 TD), Devin Street (236 yards 15.7/catch and 1 TD), and Tino Sunseri (658 yards 62.5% completion and 3 TD, but 4 INT) should keep it closer than the 7-point spread.

 

Sure-fire Favorite

Army (1-2) -4.0 @ Ball State (2-1). Ball State’s record is deceiving, in that they have beaten two teams that very well could be ranked 100 or greater at the end of the season (Indiana, 27-20 and Buffalo 28-25). They also got smoked by South Florida, 37-7. Army has played a pretty representative scheduling, losing at Northern Illinois (49-26), a close one at home to San Diego State (23-20), and a surprise win against Northwestern (21-14). Ball State is ranked 95th on defense (72nd against the run, 104th against the pass); Army is ranked 70th on defense (92nd against the run, 38thagainst the pass). Ball State is ranked 91st on offense (55th rushing; 91st passing) Army is ranked 55th on offense (2nd rushing; 120th passing). Trent Steelman has attempted a mere 22 passes this year (roughly 7 per game). Look for him to attempt more than 7 passes against a poor pass defense. Where Army does their damage is on the ground, with QB Trent Steelman (302 yards 4.6/carry and 7 TD), SB Malcolm Brown (248 yards 9.9/carry and 1 TD), RB Raymond Maples (157 yards 4.9/carry), and FB Jared Hassin (115 yards 3.7/carry). Look for Army to cause big damage to Ball State in the run game and easily cover in Muncie.

Gameday Prediction

Rocky Long is 3-0 straight up at San Diego State (65-69 at New Mexico, from 1998-2008). Coach Long is 27-37 on the road, 6-14 against BCS teams, and 1-8 against the top 25. Since 2006, Coach Long is 21-18-2 against the spread and 10-9-1 as an underdog against the spread.

Brady Hoke is 50-50 straight up (13-12 at San Diego State, 34-38 at Ball State). Coach Hoke is 25-15-2 against the spread as a favorite and 40-23-2 overall since 2006.

San Diego State’s defense is ranked 80th (36th passing [186 yards/game], 98th rushing [197 yards/game]). Michigan’s offense is ranked 62nd (93rd passing [177 yards/game], 19th rushing [226.7 yards/game])

San Diego State’s offense is ranked 41st (77th passing [207.3 yards/game], 24thrushing [220.7 yards/game]). Michigan’s defense is ranked 76th (26th passing [172 yards/game], 103rd rushing [202.5 yards/game]).

San Diego State and Michigan have met once, with Michigan winning 24-21, but failing to cover the 20-point spread.

On paper, Michigan and San Diego State look awful similar, both having good run offenses and suspect run defenses. San Diego State was gashed by Army’s run offense (403 yards 5.3/carry and 3 TD), but had Ronnie Hillman bail them out (117 yards 6.9/carry and 2 TD). San Diego State did hold Washington State to just 51 yards on the ground (82 without sacks), for a 1.8/carry average, while Ronnie Hillman pounded it out on the ground again (191 yards 6.0/carry and 4 TD). Michigan gave up 198 yards on the ground to Notre Dame, for a 6.0/carry average and 1 TD; the Wolverines followed that up with another subpar performance giving up 207 on the ground to Eastern Michigan for a 4.5/carry average.

Assuming Michigan can get the passing game going and step up on defense against the run, they should cover. I’m going out on a limb, saying Denard should be able to spread the ball around more, topping 200 yards passing, but the Michigan run defense will again struggle against a good RB in Ronnie Hillman.

San Diego State +10.0 @ Michigan.

Michigan 31 San Diego State 28

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