Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cinq Pour Samedi

A very strong Week 3 has pushed me over .500 for the first time this year. Now that this season has gotten into full swing, Week 4 has some of the more interesting matchups that you'll see in the month of September. Home teams in CAPS.

ALABAMA (-12) over Arkansas
Simply put, the defense of the Tide is just too tough, allowing only 170 total yards per game and 6 points per game. Arkansas pushed 'Bama to the edge at home in this game last year, but that was with Ryan Mallett at the helm. The Hogs haven't played anyone yet, and the sight of a wide-eyed Tyler Wilson at Bryant-Denny Stadium come 3:30 on Saturday would be zero shock. At first glance this seems like too many points to give to an Arkansas team ranked 15th, but less than two TD's at home with Alabama isn't a terrible line.

Oklahoma State (+4.5) over TEXAS A&M
The 12th Man at Kyle Field in College Station must really be that powerful, because it has encouraged the public to bet A&M enough to pull this line up from its open at 3. Were this a night game and not a 3:30 game, I'd be more of a believer in the home team and crowd being able to disrupt the high-flying Oklahoma State offense. The Aggies quite possibly have the better overall team (i.e. they don't take an "NBA All-Star Game" approach to defense), but giving 4.5 points to a team that puts up pinball numbers on offense is too much for me to pass up. The Cowboys and Dez Bryant-clone Justin Blackmon would love for this to become a shootout, because in the end the Aggies figure not to be able to trade touchdowns all day.

Vanderbilt (+16) over SOUTH CAROLINA
The Gamecocks struggled with a Georgia team that they are better than, and are now coming off a 24-21 scare at home against Navy. Vandy is 3-0 and has caught enough eyes to warrant an article in the most recent issue of Sports Illustrated. Is this an instance of Vandy being overvalued and South Carolina being undervalued? Quite possibly. However, I can't go against my gut, which says that Vanderbilt's run defense (85.7 ypg) may force the ol' Ballcoach to rely more on Stephen Garcia to put up the points in this game. Is anyone comfortable laying more than two scores with Stephen Garcia right now? An outright win would be a miracle but the Commodores have done a lot to leave their past ineptitude behind, and a respectable showing would be a good indicator of a new attitude in Nashville.

CLEMSON (-2.5) over Florida State
I feel bad for anyone who hopped on this game at the beginning of the week when the Seminoles were a 3-point road favorite. Thanks to a combination of FSU quarterback E.J. Manuel's injury and reaction to Clemson's win over Auburn and the Noles' loss to Oklahoma, the line has nearly made a complete pendulum swing to Clemson -2.5. Were Manuel not doubtful for this game, I'd be all over FSU to bounce back here, but it's too much to ask right now. I'll roll the dice for less than a field goal in hopes that Clemson handles this case of relative prosperity well.

WEST VIRGINIA (+6) over Louisiana State
I'd have loved for this spread to be in the 7.5 vicinity, especially since LSU will have had 9 days of rest coming into this primetime affair. But the Mountaineers' 3-0 start and the fact that this game has been flexed into the 8pm slot (with College Gameday making the trip, no less) has prevented the line from ballooning. LSU plays superb defense but doesn't dazzle offensively, which could keep the scoring relatively low at Milan Puskar Stadium - in which case, 6 points is pretty inviting. The Mountaineers have had this date circled on the calendar for a long time and it is very likely their biggest game of the regular season. Some will still insist that the Backyard Brawl vs. Pittsburgh is always the biggest, but WVU's Big East schedule looks like more of a formality than anything right now. I expect Dana Holgorsen's 16th-ranked team to come out flying on Saturday night, and maybe a wrinkle or trick at the right time can help pull this game out against the #3 Tigers. Kevin and I, along with blog friends and readers PJ and Tony, will be making the trip for this one, and I can speak for all of us when I say that I hope that no couches will be safe come 11:30pm in Morgantown.

Last Week: 4-1-0
Season: 8-6-1

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