Bit of a rough one last week. There were a ton of big spreads and I expected quite a few different highly-ranked teams to beat them, which may or may not have been a good idea. This week is the exact opposite. There’s a ton of close spreads, including two games with either even odds or no line at all. It’s a lot like just picking winners, only with much more potentially painful results. This week also brings back our year-long campaign to free Oregon’s Jonathan Stewart from the shackles of Oregon’s stupid spread offense. Just hand the guy the ball and they’ll get all the offensive production they need.
Memorial Stadium on 17th Street in Bloomington will be the Rumors and Rants’ traveling headquarters on Saturday, so come down and tailgate with us. As always, McD’s picks are for novelty purposes only and possibly so his girlfriend can mock him some more.
Homer Game of the Week:
Penn State (5-2) at Indiana (5-2)(+7)
It’s homecoming in Bloomington this weekend, which makes little sense in itself. Why didn’t IU make homecoming against Ball State two weeks from now? It’s a much more winnable game than this week’s. Anyway, this is yet another huge game for the Hoosiers and a quasi-meaningful game for their opponent. Until they get that sixth win, the talk will be all about how Indiana is one win away from bowl-eligibility. They also have major issues against teams that run the ball well, and it’s not like Penn State is going to come out throwing. IU puts the game in Morelli’s hands, and they can come away with a win and the ubiquitous bowl-eligibility issue can end.
Update: Penn State 36 Indiana 31. One word: guh. This was such a winnable game for Indiana, all they had to do was not give the ball away. Problem was, they gave the ball away a bunch. Kellen Lewis had three lost fumbles and Indiana couldn’t run the ball worth a damn the entire game. Not that the lack of a running game is anything new for IU. They’ve been incompetent in that department all season. I love Marcus Thigpen, but he isn’t a confident running back. Also, Indiana is mired in finesse-team offense. Ugh. Anyway, IU still needs one more win to get to bowl-eligibility. Wonderful.
Texas A&M (5-2) at Nebraska (4-3)(-2)
A week ago, this already would have been the “coaches in trouble” bowl. Nebraska was underachieving and Texas A&M was, well, Texas A&M. What’s worse, giving inside information to gamblers for a subscription and being painful to watch or just plain, old sucking? I say Franchione should be fired first, but it looks like Callahan is on his way out of the door. Like I said, the Aggies are painful to watch whether they win or lose. At least Nebraska has an outside chance of looking good. That’s not even a possibility with Texas A&M.
Update: Texas A&M 36 Nebraska 14. It’s official, Nebraska has quit on Bill Callahan. I knew all the drawbacks of Nebraska coming into this game, but I forgot the key one: Nebraska’s coaching staff decided their defense wasn’t worthy of the “black shirts” anymore. I only realized it after the first quarter of the game or so and shouted a huge NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Alas, there was nothing I could do. Oh well. Stupid Nebraska. How do you get confounded by the triple option in this day and age? Yeesh.
(21) Tennessee (4-2) at Alabama (5-2)(Even)
This pick was originally going to be the Cal/UCLA game, but the odds got taken off the board for some reason. Weird. This even odds game is the exact kind of game Alabama is paying Nick Saban to win. So many SEC games are nip and tuck affairs and he was brought in because he’s experienced enough to deal with them. All things being equal, this game is coming down to the head coaches, and it’s impossible to go with Phil Fulmer in a Sicilian battle of wits.
Update: Alabama 41 Tennessee 17. Didn’t watch a minute of this game, but the stats say two things: John Parker Wilson managed to not screw the Tide out of the win and it’s also time to seriously consider Phil Fulmer’s job status at Tennessee. His teams are always among the most talented in the country, but they constantly lose games like this for no reason. Alabama is good, but there’s no excuse for this. Not that we should rag Phil too much here; Spurrier lost to Vandy today.
(14) USC (5-1) at Notre Dame (1-6)(+17.5)
USC is like 2-10 against double-digit spreads and this is a rivalry game to boot. Also, Notre Dame has played close with all of their opponents lately. Charlie Weis also finally wised up and is starting Evan Sharpley this weekend against USC and Mark Sanchez, who is making his second career start, and first on the road. If USC beats the spread, it’s against every indication from this entire season.
Pick: Notre Dame
Update: USC 38 Notre Dame 0. So Mark Sanchez is settling in nicely. I’d let Phillips, our resident USC homer write the wrap for this game, but he’s busy at the moment. This game turned out exactly like it should have, but it makes me want to kill USC because they finally covered a double-digit spread. Maybe I should have seen this coming because Notre Dame is terrible, but the real problem seems to be John David Booty. He seems to have brought a new level of mediocrity to the USC quarterback position because Sanchez looked pretty darn good back there today.
(15) Florida (4-2) at (7) Kentucky (6-1)(+6.5)
This is a classic letdown game for Kentucky and they’re even playing a team that’s ranked below them, but is much more talented. Plus Tim Tebow is involved, and he’s perfect. Only this season could a top-ten team be a touchdown underdog at home against a lower-ranked opponent with two losses. Florida is the better team here, but should Kentucky win, then maybe I’ll learn my lesson. Until then, I don’t trust them to keep beating better teams like they have been. Playing LSU takes its toll on every team they play.
Update: Florida 45 Kentucky 37. This game seemed close, but Florida really dominated. Kentucky had no answer for Tim Tebow and the rest of the offense. They scored their points, yes, but there was not ever any hope of getting a stop on defense. Andre Woodson deserves serious consideration for the Heisman Trophy, though. He was really good for UK even in defeat. If they could have stopped the run at all, they could have won this game.
(24) Texas Tech (6-1) at (16) Missouri (5-1)(-3.5)
You want a Heisman candidate, you got one in Graham Harrell from Texas Tech. I realize it’s Tech, who throws the ball a ton, but his number are ridiculous: 3151 pass yards, 31 touchdowns to 3 INT’s, and a 74.4 completion percentage. That’s crazy good. Also, Missouri looked sloppy last week against Oklahoma, which doesn’t bode well because the winner of this game is going to be the one that doesn’t turn the ball over. I know potential shoot outs when I see them. After all, I was right about Texas Tech/Oklahoma State being a fun game to watch. Would I steer you wrong?
Pick: Texas Tech
Update: Missouri 41 Texas Tech 10. I’m thoroughly impressed that Missouri managed to limit Tech’s offense like they did. Other than that, I’m not really sure what to say. When will I learn my lesson with Texas Tech? They’re awful in big games like this. They’ll throw up nice numbers and beat some teams, but in the end, they can’t come through when they have to. Time to take my sunburned ass into the night games and see if we can come away with some wins.
(13) Kansas (6-0) at Colorado (4-3)(+4)
This is the exact kind of game Colorado used to win in the Gary Barnett era. A high-powered team would come in to Boulder and end up losing a close one to the Buffaloes. While Kansas is putting up nice numbers, they’ve done it against mediocre to bad competition and there are some other, more telling numbers besides their total offensive yards and points. First, Kansas’ quaterback is only completing 55% of his passes and they have two running backs that are getting equal carries. This is a good thing sometimes, but who will they play in crunch time? Will they be able to rely on the passing game when it truly matters? I say no.
Update: Kansas 19 Colorado 14. So close. So very, very close. Colorado played ugly like always and gave Kansas a game, but still managed to lose. Kansas still has yet to be exposed for the weak team they are. But they still have games against Texas A&M and Missouri left on the schedule. Man, if you’re ever going to have a breakout year, make sure you’re in the Big XII North. Life is good in the Big XII North.
(10) Oregon (5-1) at Washington (2-4)(+13)
Jake Locker is great, but he’s really not producing lately. He’s only completing 49% of his passes and has one more interception than touchdowns. What happened, Jake? You used to be cool, man. Now Oregon is rolling into Seattle a little injury-plagued, but still more than potent on offense. Jeremiah Johnson is out, which could mean that Jonathan Stewart is finally going to get the number of carries he deserves, but knowing Oregon, probably not. They’ll probably throw 45 times and end up playing close with the Huskies because the Washington defense won’t have to worry about stopping the run. Nevermind that Stewart has averaged 7.0 yards per carry and could be the most physically talented runner in the conference, even with USC’s gifted stable of backs. Give the man the ball!
Update: Oregon 55 Washington 34. Tough times for Oregon. All they did was run for 465 yards and end up blowing out Washington even though the game was tight at the beginning of the fourth quarter. They also finally gave Jonathan Stewart a bunch of carries and all he did was roll off 251 yards on 32 carries with two touchdowns. This proves once again that if Oregon gives Stewart the ball, good things happen. Free Jonathan Stewart.
(25) Michigan (5-2) at Illinois (5-2)(+1)
Yes, Michigan has had trouble against spread teams and athletic quarterbacks. However, Juice Williams is not a threat to throw on anyone, he’s just a runner. All Michigan has to do is stop Rashard Mendenhall and the Illini are done. I think they can do that pretty easily. The only reasons this is a one point spread is because Mike Hart is questionable and it’s in Champagne, so people don’t quite trust Michigan yet. Michigan is on its way back up.
Update: Michigan 27 Illinois 17. Nice win for Michigan. They did exactly what they needed to do to beat Illinois, namely stop Rashard Mendenhall and make the Illini quarterbacks throw to win the game. Illinois had to drive down the field at the end of the game but couldn’t because neither Juice Williams or his backup went only 14/26 for 116 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Illinois is having a nice season, but they’re still a year away at least.
(17) Auburn (5-2) at (4) LSU (6-1)(-10)
I’d just love to pick Auburn here. To say that they’re going to play close with LSU and maybe even win. But we all know it’s not going to happen. LSU is coming off the loss to Kentucky and they’re going to have a lot of rage to take out on Auburn. They weren’t really exposed against Kentucky or anything, they just lost in triple overtime. Besides, we already knew that their offense is overly conservative and it takes nothing less than an amazing effort from the opposing offense to score on them. Nothing has changed, except that Les Miles probably had them practicing even more intensely this week. I also realize it was a crushing loss last week, but his press conference after the game was pretty creepy. Miles is one of those too-intense guys who may be holding on a little too tightly. Normally I’d say this might lead to LSU coming undone on Saturday, but that’s a little silly. They’re just too good for Auburn.
Update: LSU 30 Auburn 24. Auburn was very close to winning this one, but LSU’s offense came through in the end. Barely. Ironically, this game was close partially because LSU was forced to throw. Auburn got them out of their game plan and forced Flynn to throw, which he did: for 319 yards and three touchdowns, including the winning one with one second left. We are suffering from a lack of dominant teams in college football this season. No one seems to be able to handle every team that they play. Makes for a fantastic season, no? And we’re just barely halfway through.
This week: 5-5
Last Week: 3-6