There’s a ton of interesting games this week, so let’s get right to it. No need to gloat about how Indiana is now bowl eligible or I finally had a good week, which would have been a great one had the Patriots scored one more point. Douches.
As always, my guaranteed-to-be-right picks are for novelty uses only. Especially this week, since it feels like I’m picking 100 games. On to the picks.
It’s 10:15 EST and I’m awake. On a Saturday.
Football’s on in 105 minutes and I’m debating whether I want to leave the house to watch the IU/Northwestern game or not. Thanks to Comcast for not carrying ESPN Classic and a whole host of other channels that, you know, might come in handy for college football fans. Anyway, we’ll be updating with scores and complaints/analysis all day. Stay tuned, sports fans.
Homer Game of the Week:
Indiana (6-4) at Northwestern (5-5) (+2.5)
I hate how much of a letdown game this could be for IU. They won the cathartic sixth game last week, making them bowl eligible, yet a seventh win would mean a great deal not just in terms of seeding for bowls and in the conference, but to make it assured that they will, in fact, play in a bowl. I really, really want to drag my girlfriend and my friends and family to Tempe, Arizona for the Insight Bowl on December 31. Make it happen for me, boys.
Update: Northwestern 31 Indiana 28. Well that sure sucked. Naturally, the Hoosiers were done in by yet another Kellen Lewis fumble. This one may have been a pass, but it was ruled a fumble. Phillips, who was watching the game, saw that Lewis’ arm was going forward, but he also knew there was no way the officials were ruling in Indiana’s favor. So it all comes down to the Purdue game next week. Indiana will either finish 6-6 and sweat the bowl bids out, or go 7-5 and pretty much be guaranteed a bowl berth. I know which one I’m going to choose. Puck Furdue!
Wake Forest (6-3) at (21) Clemson (7-2) (-9)
Every time I’ve picked Clemson to either beat the spread or cover it, they have failed. I wouldn’t trust this team to wash my car at this point. They have to win this game if they’re going to win their division of the ACC, but they’ve got to beat Wake Forest to do it. I could talk up James Davis and CJ Spiller. I could even say positive things about Cullen Harper and how red hot the Clemson team is right now. But I just don’t trust them to win like they’re supposed to.
Pick: Wake Forest
Update: Clemson 44 Wake Forest 13. Darn you Clemson! Clearly they are this year’s Oklahoma for me. Last year, whether I picked against Oklahoma or for them, they would always accomplish the opposite. Clemson is well on its way to doing the same thing to me. I hate Clemson.
(12) Michigan (8-2) at Wisconsin (7-3) (+2.5)
I have no idea why this spread is so close. It has to be because Wisconsin is at home because at this point in the season, these teams are not on the same level anymore. Wisconsin is not a good defensive team and PJ Hill is questionable again. Even if he plays, he’s not 100%. This just isn’t the same Badgers as last season. Michigan has turned back into Michigan now that they’re done playing talented spread-offense teams. Their slow D can handle most Big Ten offenses. Plus Mike Hart and Chad Henne are still Mike Hart and Chad Henne. Makes you wonder who is having the worse senior year: Michigan’s Big Three of Henne, Hart, and Long or Brian Brohm down at Louisville, suffering through Steve Kragthorpe’s first season at the helm.
Update: Wisconsin 37 Michigan 21. Michigan was playing without Henne and Hart today and Ryan Mallett just isn’t ready to win on the road in Madison yet. This game was actually much closer than the score indicates, but Michigan had to go for it on fourth and 20 late in the game, giving the ball back to Wisconsin inside the Michigan 5. Well, that’s 0-2 for me so far. Just great.
Pick: We all win.
Arkansas (6-3) at (24) Tennessee (6-3) (Even)
It’s worth pointing out Felix Jones is having a hell of a season. Maybe even better than Darren McFadden. He has half the carries, but only 300 fewer yards and one less touchdown. I realize that it’s mostly due to teams keying on McFadden, but this is truly a two-back team. Ignore Felix Jones at your own peril. I have nothing else nice to say about Arkansas, so I’m not going to say anything else.
Is this the game that gets Phil Fulmer fired? It’ll cost the university 7 mil to get rid of him, but how much more mediocrity can they stand? Even if the Vols win out and make the SEC title game, they’re still dog meat against LSU and they still had a mediocre regular season. The program simply isn’t in a good place.
Update: Tennessee 34 Arkansas 13. In hindsight, it may have been a mistake to go with a Houston Nutt team on the road. McFadden had a decent day, but didn’t rush for a touchdown, which means the game was in Casey Dick’s hands, and we all know what happens when the game is in Casey Dick’s hands. So instead of Phil Fulmer being fired because of this game, this could be it for Houston Nutt at Arkansas.
(18) Auburn (7-3) at (10) Georgia (7-2) (-2)
I like Knowshon Moreno and the athleticism the Bulldogs have at wide receiver. But Matt Stafford’s inconsistency still bugs me. He’s only a sophomore and he has the streaky play to show it. If it it were next season, and he had matured another year, I’d be thinking differently. And as much as Georgia has an advantage at the running back and wide receiver positions, they’re not quite as talented at other spots. It’s not really in my nature to trust Auburn and their star-less team, but Georgia is a paper top-ten team and Auburn is playing really well lately.
Update: Georgia 40 Auburn 25. Looks like Georgia is getting it together nicely here at the end of the season. Knowshon Moreno and Matt Stafford seem to be becoming quite the duo for Mark Richt. I’m not totally impressed, since Auburn looked like crap offensively. Not that I should be surprised from that by an Al Borges-run offense.
(9) Arizona State (8-1) at UCLA (5-4) (+7)
This is another somewhat crazy spread for a game that is seemingly such a mismatch. That’s the Pac-10 for you. UCLA is starting Osaar Rasshan, their fourth-string quarterback, who had planned on being a receiver this season before Patrck Cowan and Ben Olson went down with injuries. I would speculate that Cowan’s concussion is actually just leftovers from last season’s hit from USC’s Rey Maualuga, but I’m no medical expert. By all right’s, Arizona State should roll in this game, but the Pac-10 always has crazy games where superior teams go down on the road for no reason. There’s also the added “hangover” from ASU’s undefeated season getting squashed in Eugene last week. Our legal adviser Booter had it right the other day when he said UCLA could lose this game by three touchdowns or win it by three touchdowns. Such has been the Bruins’ season. Anyone want the UCLA job after this year? You’ll be constantly compared to Ben Howland’s success on the hardwood. That sure sounds fun.
Pick: UCLA. I’m going to feel like an idiot or a genius after this one. There’s no in-between.
Update: Arizona State 24 UCLA 20. Finally, a game I got right. That was a painful afternoon. It’s absolutely no surprise that UCLA played close with ASU, everyone could see that coming since they’re the most schizophrenic team in all of college football. They couldn’t quite get it done, but don’t be surprised if they beat one of the ranked teams they have left on the schedule.
Illinois (7-3) at (1) Ohio State (10-0) (+15)
Initially, this game felt like it’d be closer than fifteen points. Last season’s game was a 17-10 affair that Ohio State barely won. I did some thinking and some research and I just can’t see a way for Illinois to gain yards in this game. Ohio State’s defense is vastly superior to UI’s offense at every level. On the flip side, Illinois’ defense is definitely good enough to stop Ohio State’s offense, but I can’t see them doing it for an entire game this season. OSU’s system is just too well-oiled at this point. Plus Jim Tressel has had plenty of game film on Illinois to find holes in the Illini attack. Turns out this is just another week where I have Ohio State covering a big spread that’ll probably make me a nervous wreck until the final minutes of the game. Don’t worry, Illinois fan, you’ll get your revenge during basketball season.
Pick: Ohio State
Update: Illinois 28 Ohio State 21. Well, it was going to happen sooner or later. Everyone needs to seriously prepare themselves for an LSU/Oregon championship game and the apocalypse that would ensue. Phillips had it right, as always to hear him tell it, Ohio State was a house of cards and finally got beat.
Florida State (6-3) at (11) Virginia Tech (7-2) (-6.5)
It’s letdown time for the Seminoles. They beat BC last week and everyone has spent the week writing glowing stories about the team finally getting Jimbo Fisher’s system and maybe finally leading the program out of mediocrity. This game also has a lot more meaning for Virginia Tech. Not only have they never beaten Florida State, but if they win this week, they play Virginia next week for the division title. I don’t trust the Hokies’ offense at all. I trust them even less than I trust Clemson’s team. But I can definitely see Beamer-ball working its magic in this one.
Pick: Florida State. I’m not saying they’ll win, but a cover is totally possible.
Update: Virginia Tech 40 Florida State 21. Well that sure was cathartic for Virginia Tech. They finally beat FSU and are on their way to the ACC title game. The other thing we’ve learned this season is that Virginia Tech’s offense needs a mobile quarterback to function properly. When Sean Glennon plays, they just aren’t the same. Tyrod Taylor looked good tonight and he’s only a freshman.
(13) UConn (8-1) at Cincinnati (7-2) (-6.5)
Finally, a game that can expose UConn for the paper tiger they really are. Teams just keep playing right into the Huskies’ hands this season. Hopefully, Cincy can keep doing what they’ve been doing: control the ball and limit turnovers while forcing the other team into some turnovers. Plus the Bearcats are at home in a big game.
Update: Cincinnati 27 UConn 3. Speaking of houses of cards, UConn is finally done pretending they’re a serious undefeated team. Not that I don’t respect them and the way they went about their season to this point. You can’t dislike a team that plays hard and does the whole run the ball and get turnovers thing.
(15) Florida (6-3) at South Carolina (6-4) (+7)
By the time we reach Spurrier Bowl 15, will it have stopped being an interesting storyline? I say no. I love it every time these two teams play. And I’ll always feel weird about this non-invincible, less cocky Steve Spurrier. I miss when he was the wisecracking coach of the fastest team in college football when speed was still underrated as a team strength. Now South Carolina is decent, but not great. Certainly not a classic Spurrier team. Blake Mitchell has nearly killed that program with his inconsistent play and off-field issues. Maybe when he’s gone, things will be different. On the other hand, Florida is kind of a mess now. Tebow is hurt a little, their defense has been exposed recently, and their lack of a running back is becoming more conspicuous by the week. Tim Tebow is perfect in every way, but even he cannot raise his team to the glorious heights by himself. Some one else is going to have to do some running too.
Update: Florida 51 South Carolina 31. Tim H. Tebow threw on the Superman cape again, as if he ever takes it off. He accounted for seven touchdowns and three quarters of Florida’s total offensive yards in the blowout of Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina team. It makes college football a lot less fun when Spurrier’s teams aren’t great, and the Gamecocks really aren’t good at the moment. The SEC is just more fun when he’s winning games with his smirking and talking trash at other coaches. The conference tends to take itself too seriously, something Spurrier never does in public. Plus, this game had even less meaning because there’s little chance of Florida playing for the SEC title against LSU in December. It was just another loss for Spurrier.
(17) USC (7-2) at California (6-3) (+4)
It’s amazing how far these two teams have fallen, and I don’t mean in the rankings. Offensively, neither team is nearly what it was. For Cal, injuries and turnovers have been the main problem. Nate Longshore has been inconsistent at best and the running game has been unable to pick up as much slack as is necessary. For USC, the problems are that they’re in year two of replacing some unbelievable talent on offense as well as finding that maybe Pete Carroll can’t do everything. He can’t call the offensive plays AND the defensive ones, which leaves only Steve Sarkisian to try and replace the irreplaceable Norm Chow. The team has simply come back to earth offensively, and there’s no way to brace for impact. On the other hand, the Trojans have no excuse if they lose on Saturday. Cal should not be able to stop them from running the ball. It doesn’t matter how underwhelming John David Booty is, or how uncreative their schemes have become. They are too talented at running back and along the offensive line to have any problems whatsoever. If they still think they need to throw the ball 27-30 times a game to be successful, they’re delusional.
Update: USC 24 Cal 17. Speaking of Superman capes, Chauncey Washington threw his on last night at Cal. USC was already having trouble in the passing game, and last night’s downpour made it virtually impossible for either team to throw consistently. Luckily for USC, they’re loaded at running back, so one of their guys was bound to step up. It’s nice to see the team has realized that it just needs to play power football and solid defense to win games this season, though they realized it far too late given the losses they’ve had. USC’s defense is as good as it’s ever been. Their opponents simply have to pray that the USC offense fails to show up because they aren’t getting many points off USC’s defense if the offense isn’t turning the ball over.
(4) Kansas (9-0) at Oklahoma State (5-4) (+6)
Everyone keeps saying this game will be a real shootout because both teams feature high-powered offenses. Kansas is a legitimate juggernaut at this point in the season. They run extremely well and pass efficiently. They’ve been firing on all cylinders for most of the season and it’s become a sight to see in college football. On the other side, the Cowboys have some talent as well. Adarius Bowman had over 300 yards receiving in this game last season in Lawrence. He’s back, but the Kansas defense is much more confident than a year ago. I see no reason to think Kansas won’t start to pull away. After all, there’s a reason OK State is 5-4.
Update: Kansas 43 Oklahoma State 28. Phillips complained all night about how we were forced to watch this debacle on ABC instead of the close game in Berkeley. I can’t say that I disagree. Kansas is definitely legit now, however. They ought to take a huge jump in the polls now that Ohio State has gone down. Usually, I would take this chance to appeal for Hawai’i being ranked third, since they’re undefeated, but as long as they’re near the top ten and maybe making a BCS bowl is all I really care about. But at this moment, the title game should be Kansas and LSU with Oregon third, just waiting for Kansas to finally lose. Man, I came through big in the late games after that awful start. 5-7 isn’t great, but it’ll be enough this week.
This week: 5-7
Last Week: 6-4-1