October 29, 2009
The Doc Saturday crew peruses the weekly lines in search of a few shockers.
Doug Gillett: N.C. State (+9) over Florida State.
For the simple reason that FSU hasn't had two good games in a row in what seems like forever, and this week it has to follow up their stirring come-from-behind win at North Carolina against an opponent that's had their number on a regular basis over the past few years. The 'Noles and Wolfpack have split the last eight in the series, with NCSU taking two of those wins in Tallahassee, and FSU's worst performances of the year, bizarrely, have come at home. (Its one win at Doak was the 19-9 stinker over Jacksonville State.) The Wolfpack defense is an absolute disaster area at the moment, but FSU's isn't a whole lot better, and if the game turns into a shootout, then my gut tells me Pack quarterback Russell Wilson is due to break out of a recent semi-slump and lead N.C. State to a win.
Matt Hinton: Purdue (+6.5) over Wisconsin.
This line seems suspiciously low for a 3-4 outfit with no expectations on the road against a 5-2 team that's spent some time in the polls, but maybe the oddsmakers see here what I see: Two teams going in opposite directions (Purdue has won two in a row, one over Ohio State; Wisconsin has lost two in a row, one at the hands of Ohio State), and a good matchup for the Boilermakers in their competent passing game against Wisconsin's very forgiving secondary. (Plus the Purdue students started this chant, which deserves a vicarious nod.)
It would be a lot easier to be skeptical about Purdue if it hadn't been so consistently close during the five-game losing streak that preceded the upset over Ohio State -- the Boilers lost at Oregon by two in a game in which they gave up two defensive touchdowns; came from behind at the half to lead Notre Dame before allowing the winning touchdown in the final 30 seconds; and generally outplayed Northwestern except for a barrage of fumbles that killed scoring drives. In fact, turnovers have been the key issue for Purdue all season: They finished in the red in every game of the losing streak and still rank 103rd nationally in overall turnover margin, but have rebounded with positive margins in both of their back-to-back wins over OSU and Illinois. If it doesn't put the ball on the ground, this team is good enough to take out the slightly reeling Badgers, though it will definitely have to score to counter a big day by Wisky thumper John Clay to do it.
Holly Anderson: Oregon (+3) over USC.
With the line at a measly field goal, it might not look like much of an upset pick. But the national implications are obvious: With Oregon's under-the-radar resurgence since that unfortunate opening weekend in Boise, the always loud-as-hell environment at Autzen, and USC's injury attrition and sudden defensive malaise, I think the Ducks have this one, and have it pretty handily, setting the stage for the inevitable horrorshow of an Oregon-Iowa Rose Bowl.
Bonus pick: Duke (+7) over Virginia. Do I even need to list reasons, other than "Virginia is coached by Al Groh"? The Blue Devils are going bowling, son. Write it down.
Chris Brown: Arizona State (+7) over Cal.
Can't say I feel great about this pick, but I have a feeling that Dennis Erickson might pull out some of his old magic. (And by magic I mean hair grease, a flurry of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on his own team, and miraculous, game-winning passes.) While Cal seems to have bounced back nicely from its two-game skid against Oregon and Southern Cal -- where the Bears looked dreadful and Jahvid Best could not get going -- Erickson has the Bears at home, where ASU has generally played well, and Cal's road record under Jeff Tedford is fairly dreadful.
But the Sun Devils best friend might be Cal QB Kevin Riley, who in his two games against winning teams (i.e. USC and Oregon) compiled some rather ugly stats: He completed 38 percent o his passes for 4.5 yards per attempt, slumping to a dismal 73.3 passer rating with one interception and no touchdowns. And, before last week, the Sun Devils had grabbed an interception in 15 straight games. Arizona State might not win the yardage battle, but they have a good shot at winning the turnover one. And as turnovers go, usually so too goes the game.
Bonus: I wouldn't consider it much of an upset, but also watch for Central Michigan (+5) at Boston College.