10-3-09: Penn St, Alabama, and Miami


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Penn State (-7) over Illinois

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Alabama (-17) over Kentucky

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Miami (+7) over Oklahoma

Illinois lost to Ohio State 30-0. And over 80% of people on Covers.com are taking Penn State. Florida drubbed Kentucky at Kentucky 41-7. Why should Alabama at Kentucky be any different? Miami is bad ass. Just go their website. Does that look and sound like a team that is going to lose to sissy ass Oklahoma sans Sam Bradford at Land Shark Stadium by more than a touchdown?

Staying away from USC because this Cal grad (Dr. Bob) is jinxing us (after the jump) and we think Barkley pulls out another barnburner that is closer than the spread.

#7 USC (-4.5) 27 #24 CALIFORNIA 21
Over/Under Total: 47.5
05:00 PM Pacific Time Saturday, Oct-03

Cal was throttled last week in Oregon, losing to the Ducks 3-42 despite being a 5 1/2 point favorite. I’m sure the Bears would love to turn the tide today and they are certainly in a good situation to do so, applying to a 101-47-2 ATS blowout bounce-back situation, but I just don’t think my Bears are likely to win this game against a USC team that is still among the best in the nation. The Trojans’ offense has averaged 7.1 yards per play against a schedule of teams that would allow 5.4 yppl to an average attack and the numbers would be even better if only include the time when starting quarterback Matt Barkley was under center. USC and Barkley didn’t look great in averaging just 4.7 yppl at Ohio State, but the Buckeyes have a great defense that would allow just 3.9 yppl at home to an average division 1A team. Actually, the Trojans probably aren’t as good offensively as their season stats show since they’ve played relatively better against horrible defensive teams San Jose State and Washington State (8.7 yppl against teams that would allow 6.5 yppl to an average team) than they have against Ohio State (a +0.8 yppl rating) and Washington (+1.1 yppl rating – although part of that could have been due to Corp not being as good as Barkley).

Today’s game will help define just how good USC’s offense is, but a correlation of compensated offensive rating as a function of level of opposing defense suggests that the Trojans are 1.5 yppl better than average offensively rather than the +1.7 that their season numbers reflect. Regardless, USC’s offense has been better than a disappointing Cal defense that has been just 0.4 yppl better than average this season (4.8 yppl allowed to teams that would combine to average 5.2 yppl against an average stop unit) after being one of the top defensive teams in the nation last year. I do think last week’s debacle at Oregon was an aberration, but Cal would only be 0.7 yppl better than average defensively if I took that game out. USC certainly has an advantage over Cal’s defense in this game.

< The Trojans also have an advantage when the Bears have the ball, as USC's defense has been 1.5 yppl better than average so far this season while Cal's offense has been 1.2 yppl better than average (6.5 yppl with QB Riley in the game, against teams that would combine to allow 5.3 yppl to an average attack). Cal's vaunted rushing attack averaged 305 yard at 7.7 yards per rushing play against bad defensive teams Maryland and Eastern Washington, but managed a total of just 285 ground yards at 4.3 yprp the last two weeks against the good run defenses of Minnesota and Oregon. That's actually not bad considering that Minnesota and Oregon would combine to allow just 3.6 yprp to an average team (Oregon has the #2 run defense in the nation in my ratings). USC's run defense ranks 3rd in my ratings, so Jahvid Best isn't likely to have a lot of success and it will be up to quarterback Kevin Riley to beat the Trojans. Riley is having a good season even after last week's horrible game, as he's averaged 6.9 yppp (against teams that would allow 5.6 yppp to an average QB), but USC is 1.8 yppp better than average against the pass for the season (4.0 yppp allowed to QBs that would average 5.8 yppp against an average D) and they were 1.7 yppp better than average against the two good passing teams that they faced – allowing 5.8 yppp to Ohio State and Washington (they would combine to average 7.5 yppp against an average defense). Cal will have some opportunities to score, but USC is likely to win the battle against Cal's offense.

My math model favors USC by 6 1/2 points in this game, but Cal is in a favorable bounce-back situation. However, it's not wise to bet against USC when laying such a small number given that the Trojans are 22-4 ATS in their last 26 games when not favored by more than 11 points (i.e. they only seem to play poorly against mediocre and bad teams). I'll lean with USC minus the points, but I'll be rooting for my Golden Bears.

Kyle Bunch

Partnerships for R/GA Ventures. Raised in California, adopted by Texas. Opinions expressed here are mine and they are fantastic.

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