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Mac Mirabile’s Predict-O-Nomics and the nick of time, baby

[Ed. Note – Our Predict-O-Pology for the tardiness of Predict-O-Nomics. It wasn’t Mac’s fault – I was distracted by The Model.]

There's still time -- who wants some?

The review

Week 7 saw The Model go 2-2-1 ATS (against the spread). Again this week I’m considering my “Not a Lock” game of the week a push as I warned of a Georgia blowout despite The Model’s prediction that the Bulldogs would only win by 13. Vanderbilt had a total of 140 yards (82 passing, 58 rushing) and was shut out 43-0.

The Winners

My “Lock of the Week” pick, Auburn, had a little help in the Tigers 65-43 win from the man upstairs…yes, I’m talking about the replay officials. Auburn also extended its streak of injuring opposing playmakers, adding Ryan Mallett to a growing list that includes Stephen Garcia, Kyle Parker, and Derrick Locke.

Mississippi managed to slow the roll of the Tide enough to cover as 21-point road underdogs. Ole Miss managed to limit Alabama to just 100 rushing yards, but Rebel black bear quarterback Jeremiah Masoli went 18-40 for only 110 yards through the air.

The Losers

Despite talk all week by coach Steve Spurrier that South Carolina would remaining focused and avoid a let down, Cocky managed to lose in the fourth quarter after a big Kentucky rally. I say South Carolina lost, but really it was quarterback Stephen Garcia whose insistence on trying to do everything himself again cost the Gamecocks a shot at tying up the game as he threw an end zone interception with just seconds left on the clock.

Florida looked miserable this week, again. The Gators couldn’t stop the ground attack of Mississippi State and failed to connect on two clutch kicks that would have resulted in a Florida win. Florida’s loss makes the SEC East an unexpected 2-10 now against the West.

What’s new this week

Nothing. Well, I added a BCS simulation column, so that took a good bit of time to get together. Next week, I’m going to be in Vegas so it’s unlikely The Model will see any changes next week either. A quick review of The Model: I’ve grouped each of the 39 variables in my model into one of seven effects:

(1) Streak (4 variables): home/away win/loss streak

(2) Poll Ranking (4 variables): home/away AP ranking, AP total votes

(3) Schedule Strength (2 variables): home/away win cumulative percentage of opponents

(4) Prior Records (4 variables): Home/Away win pct records from 2008 and 2009 seasons

(5) Game Location (15 variables): Describing conference play, home/away conferences, in conference game, neutral field controls, and stadium size

(6) Rushing per Minute (4 variables): Home/Away Rushing Offense/Defense per minute

(7) Passing per Minute (4 variables): Home/Away passing offense, defense, passing efficiency

(8) Special Teams (4 variables): Home/Away punt return and kickoff return yards per kick

The following predictions make use of dozens of carefully selected measures used to describe both the margin of victory and the total points we’re likely to observe in a given game. If one was so inclined, he could use my predictions to place bets. Last week you would have been better off flipping a coin as The Model went 25-27 in all games, and 2-3 in SEC matchups. Through the first seven weeks of games, The Model is 184-153 (54.6%) against the spread in all lined games and 27-23 against the spread in games involving SEC teams. I’m also 2-1 in my Lock of the Week and 2-0 in my “Not a Lock of the Week” picks.

Mississippi @ Arkansas (-9.5, 60.5) — 11:20AM CT

The Ole Miss black bear rebels have excelled at two things this year: running the ball (#2 in the SEC with 216 yards/game) and giving up big yards through the air (#10 in the SEC allowing 242 yards/game). Sound familiar? This week, Arkansas gets another shot at a team with similar strengths and weaknesses as Auburn who beat them last week. Razorback quarterback Ryan Mallett is currently listed as probable for Saturday’s game, but as Auburn found out last week, the Hogs backup Tyler Wilson is now slouch, throwing for 332 yards and 4 TDs in 3 quarters of action. For the Ole Miss rebel black bears to keep this game close they are going to have to find a way to play the same kind of defense this week that they did last week at Alabama. The black rebel bears are a loss away from being put in a very difficult position to become bowl eligible this year, so look for them to put up a good fight. Prediction: Arkansas 32 – Mississippi 29.

LSU @ Auburn (-6, 52.5) — 2:30PM CT

Offense versus defense. This storyline has become bigger and bigger as Auburn’s offense continues to improve while LSU’s continues to struggle. On the other side of the ball, the same trend is readily apparent with LSU’s defense continuing to limit opponents and Auburn’s defense finding new and interesting ways to give up yards. LSU’s rushing attack (#4 in the SEC at 188 yards/game) is all they have going for them when Jordan Jefferson is in the game, which plays nicely into Auburn’s sole strength of defense: stopping the run. When Jefferson’s backup/co-starter Jarrett Lee enters, the Tigers become much more dangerous on offense. Lee is averaging 8.1 yards per pass attempt, compared to Jefferson’s 5.3. (Mr. Pass Efficiency, Auburn’s Cam Newton, is averaging 10.5.) Auburn will have to limit LSU to under 200 yards through the air if they expect to win. Auburn’s high-powered attack begins and ends with Newton who is accounting for 63% of the Tigers’ yards this year. Auburn’s #6 nationally ranked scoring offense (40.7 points/game) and #9 nationally ranked total offense (481 yards/game) will encounter its stiffest resistance of the season against an LSU team ranked #3 nationally in total defense (242 yards/game) and #11 nationally in scoring defense (14.4 points/game). In this classic matchup of offense versus defense, look for Auburn’s offense to prevail and setup a potential BCS title game run. The Model likes Auburn by 9, but I’m not so optimistic, so I’m making this my “Not a Lock” pick of the week. Prediction: Auburn 30 – LSU 21.

South Carolina @ Vanderbilt (+12.5, 46) — 6:00PM CT

Vanderbilt’s one-game winning streak ended as expected last week after a miserable showing in Athens: 140 yards of offense and 0 points. South Carolina beat those same Bulldogs 17-6 in the second week of the season, so things don’t bode well for the Commodores this week. Watch for Vandy quarterback Larry Smith to step up and try to exploit South Carolina and the SEC’s #12 ranked passing defense (giving up 271 yards/game). Watch him fail. Cocky will be ready to take out some frustration from last week’s epic collapse against the SEC’s favorite whipping boy. Even without Gamecock running back Marcus Lattimore, look for South Carolina to look dominant on offense and put the game away early and (this week) for good. This game is my “Lock of the Week.” Prediction: South Carolina 33 – Vanderbilt 16.

UAB @ Mississippi State (-20, 52) — 6:00PM CT

The Blazers (2-4) of UAB picked the wrong time to come to Starkville. Mississippi State is riding a 4-game winning streak, their first of the sort since 1999. State is also ranked in the top 25 for the first time since 2001 and has an excellent chance to come off its bye week at 7-2 before travelling to Tuscaloosa to play Alabama on 11/13. The Bulldogs have the Blazers this week and Kentucky next week, both teams with serviceable offenses and suspect defenses. UAB has a balanced rushing (#38 nationally)/passing (#44 nationally) attack but has failed to convert yards into touchdowns, averaging only 21.5 points per game (#91 nationally). The Blazers suffer from turnover problems (-.67 turnover margin/game), an early problem Mississippi State shared but has since managed to correct. Look for Mississippi State to grind it out in typical SEC fashion and capitalize on mistakes in this game. Prediction: Mississippi St. 35 – UAB 14.

Alabama @ Tennessee (+16.5, 48) – 6:00PM CT

Alabama looks to extend its new winning streak to 2 this week against a Tennessee team so bad it almost lost during its bye week. Tennessee really can’t do anything well, though they managed to hang around a few weeks back against LSU by limiting mistakes and forcing 4 turnovers. Tennessee is not going to be so lucky against an Alabama team out to prove they should still be included in the BCS title discussions. Greg “where’s our rushing game” McElroy has been incredibly efficient and effective this season and should have no problem finding open receivers against a Volunteer pass defense ranked #9 in the SEC (allowing 228 yards/game). The Tide running backs should be able to get back on track this week as well against Tennessee’s #9 in the SEC rushing defense allowing 154 yards/game. Alabama has struggled on the road this year in the SEC, needing a Ryan Mallett meltdown to narrowly escape at Arkansas and losing two weekends ago at South Carolina. The Model likes Tennessee’s chances of covering as a 16.5 home underdog. Prediction: Alabama 30 – Tennessee 15.

Georgia @ Kentucky (+4, 58) – 6:30PM CT

The only team fortunate enough to escape Kentucky’s Commonwealth stadium with a win this year has been the Auburn Tigers. Kentucky is averaging 44 points per game at home and with a win last week against South Carolina and two close SEC losses against Ole Miss and Auburn, has made big improvements since the 14-48 loss in the Swamp. Wildcat quarterback Mike Hartline has quietly thrown for 13 TDs this year and only 3 INTs, with two of those coming last month against Florida. Kentucky obviously slipped under South Carolina’s radar last week, but consider these statistics: #3 in the SEC in total offense (429 yards/game), #2 in the SEC in scoring offense (35.3 points/game), and #2 in the SEC in turnover margin. How would a team like this possibly be home underdogs to the worst Georgia team in more than a decade? It’s a good question, but I suspect it has to do with the fact that Kentucky’s been very bad on defense, allowing 30 points per game. Even Western Kentucky, losers of 26 straight games, managed to score 28 points against the Wildcats. Georgia, now officially the best 3-win team in all of football, had some early struggles on both sides of the ball, but played lights out against both Tennessee and Vanderbilt. If you’re not convinced this amounts to much, you’re not alone. The Model likes Kentucky to cover.
Prediction: Georgia 29 – Kentucky 28.

All Week 8 Games

Again this week, I am including my model’s predicted outcome for all games between FBS opponents. I’ve highlighted games if either team is currently ranked in the Top 25. The Model is predicting that four Top 25 teams will lose this week: LSU, Kansas State, Wisconsin, and Nebraska.

Mac Mirabile is a 2002 graduate of Auburn’s economics and journalism departments. During his time at Auburn, he was a copy and photo editor with The Auburn Plainsman. He has a master’s in economics from UNC-Chapel Hill and has written numerous academic publications on college football, the NFL, and gambling markets. His previous columns can be found here. He can be reached at [email protected]

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