McD’s Week 4 Picks

September 20, 2008 – 11:30 am by McD

Football season is screaming by and I’m already wishing it would slow down. I’m convinced the reason football is so popular in America is because it’s violent (duh), and the season goes by really, really fast. There’s eight months of off-season and only four months of football per year. No wonder we obsess about the draft, recruiting, offensive and defensive coordinators, bowl berths and fantasy sports. There just isn’t enough football to go around. It always leaves us wanting more. And now the geniuses at the NCAA decided the games were too long so they instituted rules that have shaved something like an average of 15 minutes off of the games. Boy that’s a HUGE impact from those new clock rules. I don’t know what I’m going to do with that extra 15 minutes in my Saturday. Probably watch more football.

It’s week four of the season, and here’s what we know from the first three weeks:

The SEC is loaded but top-heavy. So basically they’re like every other good conference. The good teams are still the good teams (i.e. Florida, LSU, and Georgia), but after that, there’s quite a bit of dropoff in quality. Auburn, South Carolina, Alabama, and even Tennessee are all decent, but deeply flawed in some way.

It’s trendy to say which conferences are down and which conferences are good. EVERYONE seems to be talking about how the Big Ten did one weekend or the ACC on another. All this does is continue the false notion that some conferences are always good and some aren’t, meaning when it comes to bowl berths and BCS money, everyone will try to claim the difficulty of their own conference makes them worthy of a major windfall. It’s a total misconception because, as Dr. Holtz loves to say, “you have a new team each week.” Or something like that. Terrible trend in college football. Stop trying to go through the history of our posts to find the times I said the ACC and Big East suck. Stop it right now.

All that matters is who teams beat and when. Otherwise, we’re rewarding teams from the SEC and Big XII for scheduling patsies and cupcakes because the assumption is the leagues are just too darn good for them to play only teams from Division I, let alone decent ones. Which reminds me….

There are WAY too many easy schedules out there for the top-flight teams. Ohio State, Texas Tech, Georgia, Kansas, Missouri, LSU, Oklahoma and Florida State all played embarrassingly soft non-conference schedules so far, and most of them have cupcakes scheduled this week as well. This is the biggest proof that money matters the most to these programs. All they care about is bowl-eligibility and the money that comes with it. They’ll live with playing Chattanooga or Ohio or Troy or freaking UMass if it means they’ll have one more win on their record they didn’t have to work for. Probably the worst trend in football at the moment.

USC has a hell of a lot of work ahead of them. All their bye weeks are coming early in the season, so their conference schedule is going to be especially grueling, even though the competition will be spotty. No, Notre Dame doesn’t count as a bye week. With so many games in a row, injury could be a major factor for the Trojans later in the season.

That said, they’re a damned good football team. Maybe they caught Virginia and Ohio State at the right time, but they still look like the pre-John David Booty Trojans so far. Glad to see they’ve recovered from the first program-killer of the Pete Carroll Era. I’ve got $20 of internet money that says they would give the Kansas City Chiefs a solid beating.

I can’t pick point-spreads for shit. We knew this last season, but I’m proving it again this season. I’m doing some pretty solid work picking winners, and I’m even in first place in my college pick ’em league at the moment. That’s ironic because we pick against the spread. Discuss.

So on to week four! This week features a number of interesting games which will keep me entertained all day Saturday before it’s time to tailgate for the IU/Ball State game at The Rock. Tailgating might be the real reason college football exists at all. It sure as hell is the only reason people went to IU games for a hell of a long time. You’re surrounded by fans, food, that awesome sour beer smell in the air, and all that trash in the parking lot after the game. Actually, that sounded kid of bitter, but I really do love it.

This week also features the official debut of Booter’s EPL Game of the Week. Why Premier League soccer/football? Because we cover all kinds of football here at R & R. We had a “soft opening” last week that showed we still have some technical issues at this here intarweb site, but we’ve got it worked out this week and our very own attorney/Arsenal hooligan will be here with his picks for the week. As always, we’ll update periodically with scores and snarky commentary/whining by me about the games all day Saturday, and probably Sunday morning too since it should be a fun evening in Bloomington, IN. Enjoy the weekend. Cheers.

Record through week 3: 28-8, 16-19-1 AS

Afternoon everyone. I just got back from the gym to find Pitt and ECU up and Purdue/CMU tied at the end of the first half and the U.S. Ryder Cup Team up 7-5 heading into the afternoon four-ball matches. I much prefer four-ball to alternate shot, if only because I don’t want to be responsible for making my partner play from the woods. I also am not sure what to say if Kenny Perry really contributes heavily to a US win in the Ryder Cup given how he got on the team. Nothing’s been settled yet, and I’m just a few hours away from heading to the tailgate at The Rock before IU/Ball State. It’s a beautiful Saturday, so I hope you enjoy it as much as I will. And please to enjoy Booter’s EPL previews later in this post. Cheers.

12pm ET

Mississippi State (1-2) at Georgia Tech (2-1) (-7.5)

Tech’s Boring World Tour continues at home against the Bulldogs. I would love to make a prop bet on whether Mississippi State scores an offensive point this week. Sly Croom needs to avoid the temptation of trying to run with Georgia Tech and maybe open up the playbook past page two. Then again, maybe he’s been running their offense wide open and the players are just that bad. Or he’s just that ultra-conservative. Scary thought since they’ve never really been any good offensively during his tenure. They average a whopping 297.3 yards of offense per game this season, good enough to make them the 102nd ranked unit in the country. Hell, they’re only passing for 69 yards per game more than Georgia Tech, who doesn’t believe in the forward pass and thinks very highly of the press.

It’s also week four of me monitoring the development of Georgia Tech’s option offense, which I will always root for. I hate it when teams switch to the spread just because it’s trendy. These were the same teams in the Wishbone in the 1970’s. Talent is the only thing that matters on offense. You take talent and you put them in a system that maximizes that talent. Hear that, Auburn? Tech switched coaches, so there will be some adaptation there, but once Paul Johnson gets his personnel right, I really want to see if the triple-option will be just as effective as any other offense, and I think it will be.

Pick: Tech wins, but in no way covers.

Update: Georgia Tech 38 Mississippi State 7. Or maybe Tech covers easily. They ran for over 400 yards on the Bulldogs, who snapped their scoreless streak (finally) at eight quarters. Maybe those people who said the SEC is just a grind-it-out, defensive league didn’t mean Miss. St. The Bulldogs just aren’t good. And what about Auburn? Georgia Tech just scored 38 points on them and War Eagle could only manage three. That’s pretty fucking pathetic in light of this game.

Man does Tennessee suck, by the way. It’s already 17-0 Florida.

Record: 29-8, 16-20-1 AS

(15) East Carolina (3-0) at North Carolina State (1-2) (+7)

Every game ECU plays now could be That Game for them. And you know they saw how quickly Fresno State slipped into irrelevance after losing to Wisconsin. If the Pirates lose, no one will care about them again.

On the surface, NC State doesn’t look like much. They’re a lower-tier ACC team that hasn’t shown a whole lot in their three games. And now that ECU beat Virginia Tech and West Virginia, this feels like a win people are taking for granted. Remember, ECU played down to Tulane on the road last week, and they’re on the road again only this time it’s at a major-conference opponent. Both of their two “upset” wins were at home. I’m not saying; I’m just saying.

Pick: ECU

Update: NC State 30 ECU 24 (OT). Guess I should have gone with my gut on that one, huh? The Cinderella run for the Pirates had to end at some point this season. They looked good in previous weeks against good opposition, but they were at home. Once they went on the road, they became a solidly mediocre football team. NC State isn’t even very good, neither is Tulane for that matter, and the Pirates still played down to both of them. Apparently, it’s a Holtz family tradition to play basic, conservative football which causes some big wins and quite a few bad losses as well. So now it’s down to BYU and Utah to break into the BCS.

Record: 29-9, 16-21-1 AS

Troy (2-0) at (13) Ohio State (2-1) (-20.5)

Yet another cupcake for the Buckeyes. Really brave of them scheduling USC amid all those other pathetically easy games. I also hear Terrelle Pryor is going to get 65% of the snaps on Saturday, though Jim Tressel didn’t specify whether they’d be offensive or defensive. Kidding. Way to stick with your senior leader, Jimmy. I bet Todd Boeckman and his parents are feeling great about now. Your caretaker quarterback hasn’t been the same without the stud running back behind him. Wells gets hurt and suddenly defenses can stop the passing game that was never designed to carry the team in the first place. Imagine that. Perfect time to give into the miopic fans and start Terrelle Pryor, who is good, but clearly isn’t ready. No matter what anyone else says, this is a panic move.

Conspiracy Theory Of The Week: Chris (I categorically refuse to call him “Beanie”) Wells isn’t hurt at all and is instead just a pawn in Jim Tressel’s chess game with the BCS. He’s suddenly nearly healthy and practicing again a few days after his team got embarrassed by USC? Come on. Even if he doesn’t play, the fact that he’s suddenly back on the practice field a bit is ridiculous. But maybe, just maybe, Jim Tressel sees Ohio State’s schedule is insanely, willfully easy this season and he knows the Buckeyes could be right back in the BCS title picture if a few teams drop a game and his team runs the table. All they have to do is hold serve and rely on their over-inflated pre-season ranking to raise them back up to the top two if they remain undefeated post-USC. It’s the perfect situation for them.

After they beat Troy by a reasonable margin, the Buckeyes head into Big Ten conference play with only Wisconsin between them and the Rose Bowl. Worse, if USC loses, they’ll probably play Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. OSU could easily make a BCS bowl with non-conference wins over Youngstown State, Ohio U, and Troy sandwiching the USC beating. Like I said, nice schedule. If I were Jim Tressel, I’d like those odds. He belongs in the SEC for sure. Move over Phil Fulmer!

Pick: Ohio State but no cover.

Update: Ohio State 28 Troy 10. I guess Pryor looked good, but the team only managed 28 points against a Sun Belt Conference opponent. I also think it’s great the stadium wasn’t full for this game, as though Buckeye fan thinks the season is over. It could just be the Buckeyes were playing a Sun Belt team and no one really cares that much. If you want the stadium ful, play games worth watching.

Record: 30-9, 17-21-1 AS

Iowa (3-0) at Pittsburgh (1-1) (+1)

Iowa is 3-0 with wins over Maine, Florida International, and Iowa State. Guess they really ARE the best team in the state of Iowa. The Tallest Midget trophy is in the mail, boys. That ought to help Hawkeye fan sleep at night. They’ve also switched quarterbacks to Ricky Stanzi who has promptly come in and completed an amazing 59% of his passes for three touchdowns and two interceptions. How bad must Jake Christensen suck if he lost the job to that? So why is Iowa 3-0? They’ve been playing a little D and have two running backs averaging over six yards per carry in Shonn Greene and true freshman Jewel Hampton. Anyone else miss Brad Banks?

Meanwhile, Pitt’s ultra-sophmore LeSean McCoy is averaging only 3.8 yards per carry, and their quarterback is some one named Bill Stull. See? Wanny really can strangle the life out of any offense anywhere, anytime. The man is effective, you have to give him that.

Iowa has started well, making my prediction of them finishing dead last in the Big Ten this season seem quite a bit shakier than it did three weeks ago. I’m still convinced they’re going to drop this game to Pitt, or at least show their true colors. It just doesn’t feel right somehow.

Pick: Pitt

Update: Pitt 21 Iowa 20.  If you watched this entire game, I hope you’re an Iowa or Pitt fan because otherwise you just wasted three hours. This was not a defensive struggle; it was just two anemic offenses in a pillow fight. The Panthers ended up winning with a long LeSean McCoy run early in the fourth quarter, but it’s not like this game was full of highlights. MAN Iowa is terrible. Shonn Greene is a solid back, but that offense can’t do anything. Stanzi and Christensen both suck and they have no playmakers other than Greene. Maybe my prediction about Iowa in the Big Ten wasn’t so bad after all.

Record: 31-9, 18-21-1 AS

Central Michigan (2-1) at Purdue (1-1) (-10.5)

Can the Chippewas avenge two of their losses from last season, including a bowl loss? Absolutely not. They’re shit against major-conference teams and will instead save their bid for an upset of a Big Ten team for when they play at Indiana in a few weeks. You have no idea how much this team scares me. I still think they can make some noise against Purdue like they did in the bowl game, but this just isn’t the same.

If this game is going to be interesting, it will come down to, shockingly, the quarterbacks. Dan LeFevour is doing his Tim Tebow impression, giving me hope there may indeed be a John the Baptist out there to Tim Tebow’s Jesus. I’m still bitterly disappointed at Jake Locker. LeFevour’s rushing stats are down a bit, but he’s completing 62% of his passes and only has one interception and five touchdowns. Curtis Painter, on the other hand, has been atrocious this season. He’s completing just 52% of his passes and has two touchdowns and two INT’s. In freaking Purdue’s offense. The most quarterback-friendly offense one could possibly play in. Christ, it make Kyle Orton into a Heisman contender until he fumbled against Wisconsin his senior year.

Which reminds me. Purdue hasn’t been the same since that game. The rest of Orton’s last season in 2004 and all through the Curtis Painter Era, something has been wrong with the formerly respectable Boilermakers. I mean something wrong other than they’re just Purdue and they suck at life. The Boilers were 5-0 in 2004 and Orton had 18 touchdowns with no interceptions. They hadn’t looked that good since Drew Brees’ last season in 2000. Then came the Wisconsin game, which they lost 20-17 because Orton fumbled the ball on a bootleg with less than three minutes to play. It was returned for a touchdown and the Boilers missed a field goal attempt at the end. That one fumble completely sucked the energy out of that program. Orton got hurt and the Boilers went 2-5 to finish the season. They were having an amazing season until the point when Orton fumbled. Then it all slipped away and it hasn’t been right since. It’s not often you can trace the downfall of a program to one moment. I guess this is how the Joe Tiller Era is going to end.

Pick: Purdue

Update: Purdue 32 Central Michigan 25. CMU actually had the lead left with a minute to play, but Purdue scored almost instantaneously on a freaking running play to get the lead back. CMU’s defense lost this game for them. LeFevour was pretty decent, though he did throw a bad pick at the end of the game, but the D was MAC-tastic for the Chippewas. They had this thing won when they went ahead and even went for two instead of the game-tying extra point. Instead, Purdue won again and Curtis Painter got let off the hook on the game-winning drive because of Kory Sheets’ fantastic run to win it for the Boilers. Unless something drastic changes, the Joe Tiller Era is going out with a whisper, not a bang.

Record: 32-9, 18-22-1 AS

12:30pm ET

(9) Alabama (3-0) at Arkansas (2-0) (+9)

John Parker Wilson has looked downright un-John Parker Wilson-like so far this season. He’s completed 62% of his passes for 468 yards and has only one interception through the first three games of the season. Sure they’ve only played one good team so far, and calling Clemson “good” is a bit of a stretch, but that’s hardly a surprise given the general weakness of everyone’s schedules in their conference. Their other wins are over Tulane and Western Kentucky, who has also lost to Indiana, which should give you an idea of the caliber of team they are. Wilson is now also Alabama’s all-time leader in total offense, which says a lot about the caliber of offensive players they’ve had over the years. I think Forrest Gump is actually third on that list.

Arkansas still has Dick at quarterback, and I may never get tired of that joke. Casey Dick’s presence does mean that it’s unlikely the ball will cross the 50-yard line against the Tide’s defense. Maybe in a year or two when Petrino has his offense going, it will be different. But not this season.

Pick: Alabama

Update: Alabama 49 Arkansas 14. Now that was a beating for the ages in this rivalry. Arkansas looked like crap, so it’s hard to say whether Alabama is for real or not based on this game. I’m not even sure what else to say. Just a gross game.

Record: 33-9, 19-22-1 AS

Booter’s Premier League Game of the Week

Round five of the Prem is upon us and brings with it a second consecutive week with a clash between two of the league’s top four powers.  Unlike the ACC and a number of other NCAA men’s basketball conferences (except the mighty PAC-10, who got it right), the Prem actually makes each team play every other team in the league twice, once at home and once on the road. What a concept!!!  This weeks battle of the titans pits top of the table Chelsea, and its oil soaked squad of galacticos against Manchester United, and its squad of players trying to avoid beign soaked by the spittle that flies out of Sir Alex’s mouth everytime he speaks. Seriously Alex, a little speech therapy might go a long way.

The big news ahead of this contest is that England captain and penalty choke artist John Terry has been cleared by the FA to play in this weekend’s clash.  For those of you who did not watch the Oil Cup last weekend between Chelsea and Manchester City, you missed John the Choker’s wonderful form tackle of defenseless Manchester City striker Jo.  Terry was issued a straight red card by the referee in what some (although not the author) would call a harsh decision.  The hew and cry went up from the usual suspects on the Fox Soccer Channel that surely captain England himself could not be guilty of a red card. On a side note,  why don’t the studio hosts heads on FSC come completely apart when they talk, I mean they are Canadians….The whiny blather of John the Choker’s defenders was nearly loud enough to distract me from hating Ed Hochuli.  In any event, the powers that be at the FA (the EPL equivalent of the league office) decided that John the Choker did not in fact deserve a red card and wiped it from his record.  The conspiracy theorist er Arsenal fan in me thinks that the FA wanted to make sure that its golden boy was available for all contests, that or they were afraid that Russian “business” man Roman Abramovich would send his “security” detail to visit the league office.

But Chelsea is not the only side in ths match welcoming players back to the squad. ManU may welcome the return of Cristiano the Cunt Ronaldo and Dimitar the Whiner Berbatov to the starting line up.  The Cunt has missed the first few weeks of the season recovering from ankle surgery (pulled labia) whereas as Berbatov was nursing a sore knee (ego) back to health.  I mean who wouldn’t be “sad” to play for Spurs, they suck, and their mascot is a chicken.

The last time these two squads met, it was a rainy night in Moscow when John the Choker took pulling a Baggio to a whole new level when he missed a penalty that would have sealed the Champions League trophy for Chelsea.  Instead Sir Alex and the Cunt hoisted the trophy that fateful night.  United come into the match with a bit of bad form as they suffered a scoreless draw at home to Villareal midweek in their Champions League opener and lost over the weekend to Liverpool (as incorrectly predicted by yours truly).  Chelsea on the other hand come in to the match fresh off of a 4-0 stomping of French side Bordeaux in midweek Champions League action and a win over Manchester City in last weekend’s oil cup.

Other points of interest surrounding this clash of the titans: Chelsea have been United’s EPL kryptonite, beating United more than any other EPL side, ten times; both teams were the last to beat the other by more than one goal, so expect a tight game at the back with some furious counter-attacking and set piece play.  Chelsea are unbeated in their last 25 league matches and have not been beaten at home in their last 84 league matches. The last team to beat Chelsea in the league is also the last team to beat them at home, congratulaitions if you guessed Arsenal.  Should Frank Lampard take the field for Chelsea, it would be his 400th EPL appearance. Hats off to Lampard, oh wait, he’s a piece of shit…

In the end, I expect ManU to come out guns blazing in order to get out of their recent run of poor form.  As is usually the case in the EPL however, the home side, Chelsea, will be on the good end of some dodgy officiating to draw level near the death.

3pm ET

Arizona (2-1) at UCLA (1-1) (+3)

Even with potential recruiting violations, the Arizona squad, led by Lute Olson, is always a solid, if sometimes unspectacular, bunch. UCLA has super-frosh Jrue Holliday but a lot of questions in the front court. Holliday is also the only super-frosh in this game since Arizona’s is somewhere making money in Europe instead of playing in Tucson. Still, you can always trust a Ben Howland team to play defense and slow down the running, aggressive Wildcat offense. Plus the students at Pauley will be crazy as usual. Go with the home team here in a low-scoring affair.

Pick: Arizona

Update: Arizona 31 UCLA 10. It’s been two years now, and that high-flying offense for Arizona has never really showed up. Willie Tuitama has been a good quarterback, but has not taken things to the next level. I may have been guilty of some of the hype surrounding him this year and last, but maybe, just maybe, this game is a turn-around for the Wildcats. As for UCLA, the Tennessee win was great for that program and its fans, but reality has definitely set in. This is not a good football team, especially offensively. Booter may be pissed at me for saying it, but these guys remind me a lot of the Mike Riley/Ryan Leaf Chargers because they have a good defense, but the offense simply cannot help them on any level. It’ll be a long year, but hey, maybe the monopoly will end in 2012. You never know.

Record: 34-9, 20-22-1 AS

3:30pm ET

Notre Dame (2-0) at Michigan State (2-1) (-8.5)

Prediction: Javon Ringer will have at least 125 rushing yards against Notre Dame’s defense this week.

One of the constants of college football is Notre Dame always sucks at Michigan State. Even when Brady Quinn led them on that crazy comeback a couple of years ago, they spent the majority of that game playing horrible, horrible football. I also don’t care what the hacks have said about Notre Dame’s “improved” offensive line; those five guys couldn’t stop a little old lady on her way into Cracker Barrell. And that will be the difference. Man, do I love watching Notre Dame suffer.

Pick: Michigane State wins, but Notre Dame beats the spread.

Update: Michigan State 23 Notre Dame 7. Javon Ringer is a freaking beast. Hey, when I’m right, I’m right, right? Notre Dame didn’t score a point until the fourth quarter when the game wasn’t over, but it was far enough away that their offense had no chance of coming back. ND fan now has to realize their team still isn’t any good, even though they may not repeat that 3-9 season. They have talent at WR, QB and RB, but their offensive line is beyond atrocious. BEYOND ATROCIOUS. There were so many missed easy blocks, it’s a wonder Charlie Weis didn’t revoke every one of their scholarships. I cannot stress how awful this unit is. Jimmy Clausen may hold the ball and their running backs may be sissies, but that line couldn’t block the five of us at Rumors and Rants at the moment. DIdn’t see that problem coming, did you Our Lady fan?

Record: 35-9, 20-23-1 AS

Virginia Tech (2-1) at North Carolina (2-0) (-3)

Since I didn’t mention it last week, here is all the evidence you need that Frank Beamer isn’t all that interested in offensive football: he went with Sean Glennon in the first place. Beamer and Jim Tressel are creatures of habit. Though they’ve had some of their greatest success with dual-threat quarterbacks, they still love the old-school offense with a good running game and a statuesque, caretaker quarterback. They can’t help it because they come from a time when that was everyone’s game plan and it worked. It’s actually the “classic” modern football gameplan. Most of the great quarterbacks we revere were that type of immobile quarterback who managed to make some plays with his arm and guts. What they’ll do with Tyrod Taylor and Terrelle Pryor, respectively, remains to be seen. It’s pretty obvious both quarterbacks could destroy other teams in a Rich Rodriguez-style attack, but neither coach seems all that interested in pushing the envelope. For Va. Tech, Tyrod Taylor and Darren Evans are a pretty good QB/RB combo for now and the future.

I love everything about this setup for UNC. They’re at home, they’re improving, and they’re facing a vulnerable Virginia Tech team. I just don’t know if they can play cleanly and efficiently enough to beat the Hokies. This has all the makings of one of those classing Va. Tech games, with a final score of like 14-10 and the game decided by a blocked kick or fumbled punt return.

Pick: UNC

Update: Virginia Tech 20 UNC 17. So damn close for the Tar Heels, but Tech managed a near-impossible (for their offense) 14-point comeback. UNC used all that momentum from the home crowd and could have come away with a program-changing win. Then everyone remembered, “Hey, we’re a basketball school!” Bad times. The Heels are talented, but not that talented yet. You had to know Butch Davis would get his team together pretty quickly. The guy was a miserable pro coach, but he is the pre-Saban in college.

Record: 35-10, 20-23-2 AS

Boise State (2-0) at (17) Oregon (3-0) (-10)

Boise quarterback Kellen Moore will probably be the most experienced quarterback on the field in Eugene, Saturday, and he’s just a redshirt freshman. That’s because Oregon is going with Jeremiah Masoli as their starter, their third starter this season because the quarterback position at Oregon is now fully cursed. Starting with Dennis Dixon’s injury last season, the Ducks have had four starters go down with injury, including two this season in Nathan Costa and Justin Roper, and they’re just three games in.

The Broncos still have Ian Johnson too, and he’s averaging over six yards per carry. I think we should check on Johnson’s eligibility, though. It feels like he’s been there since the Clinton administration. He was the guy who took the freaking handoff on the Statue of Liberty play against Oklahoma! Hard to believe that wasn’t longer ago than two years. Even with the senior running back, this just doesn’t feel like a classic Boise State team that could make some noise.

Pick: Oregon

Update: Boise State 37 Oregon 32. Or maybe they’re exactly like a classic Boise team. They ran very efficient offense, took away enough of Oregon’s offense in the first half to get a pretty good lead, and then held on for the second half. I hate to take this loss, but it’s my own damn fault. I picked a team starting its third quarterback, who also had virtually no experience, against a team that knows how to exploit weaknesses like that. I thought Boise would be down this year. Shit.

The Broncos have also injected themselves into the BCS-buster debate this season. The WAC needed representation after Fresno State crapped out and the Broncos jumped in with a pretty huge upset against a vulnerable, ranked BCS-conference opponent. BYU is still my horse to get into the BCS game against the Big East champ, but Utah and Boise are pretty dangerous.

Record: 35-11, 20-24-2 AS

The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party

(4) Florida (2-0) at Tennessee (1-1) (+7.5)

Jonathan Crompton might be doing the impossible and making Tennessee fans long for the days of Erik Ainge and Casey Clausen. He’s been gawd-awful this season, though in the Vols’ offense that’s about par for the course. Phil Fulmer is truly amazing in his ability to produce the exact same results with totally different coordinators. Whether it’s Randy Sanders, David Cutcliffe, or whoever the hell it is now, the Volunteers always run the ball fairly well but can’t pass for shit. And when crunch time comes, Tennessee routinely turtles up and doesn’t score. When you include the constantly inept game planning and play calls, a pattern begins to emerge. A pretty obvious one, at that: Phil Fulmer is a one-trick idiot. He is Tennessee’s cross to bear.

Florida destroyed the Vols last season 59-20 in one of the worst beatings I’ve ever seen a team take when the talent levels were essentially even. Tim Tebow is once again the primary ball-carrier for the Gators. Though Urban Meyer promised to use their running backs more, Tebow has more than twice the carries (22) of the next-highest player (10). I fully realize the next player on the list is the plodding Kestahn Moore, but still. Emmanuel Moody remains buried on Florida’s sideline (2 carries for 2 yards), which makes one wonder exactly what he did to get into Meyer’s doghouse. It’s possible the Florida corps of running backs just isn’t all that good. No one is averaging very many yards per carry if you take out the one long run in Jeffrey Demps and Chris Rainey’s stats. Moore has 10 carries for 28 yards for a whopping 2.8 average. Is Tebow that good or are these guys that terrible?

Pick: Florida

Update: Florida 30 Tennessee 6. This bad beating was pretty much what we can expect from Florida against Tennessee these days. Phil Fulmer’s style just doesn’t work anymore. His players are too slow, don’t know how to deal with the speed on opposing teams, and don’t really run his old-school offense all that well anyway. Tennessee fan was actually booing it’s own team because things have gotten so bad. Now, Phil’s been around for a hell of a long time, so I’m sure the Vols will win some games in the SEC. Even so, his teams have become non-competitive on a national stage. They may have made the SEC title game last season, but anyone who has watched them play knows they are outclassed by virtually every team they play when the talent is equal. I’ll start the call now, Phil Fulmer’s time has come and gone. He needs to step aside.

Record: 36-11, 21-24-2 AS

4pm ET

(20) Utah (3-0) at Air Force (3-0) (+9)

I love this game for a lot of reasons. You couldn’t find two more seemingly polar-opposite team philosophies that share so much when you actually look at their offenses. So much of the Utah spread offense borrows from the solid, service-academy option football that Air Force plays. Everyone is just trying to create running lanes and maximize the talent they have. Utah has a dual-threat quarterback in Brian Johnson and quite a few athletes at wide receiver, so they spread it out. The difference is Air Force has no actual talent, just the best and brightest from around the country who decided to play college football along with all the other stuff Cadets have to endure. Air Force would throw too if they had Utah’s talent.

This also happens to be a battle of unbeaten teams in the Moutain West, as well as another proving ground for Utah to become this year’s BCS-buster. Utah’s defense is especially up against it this weekend because they will have to commit to stopping the run and playing physical football. It’s all well and good for non-BCS teams to have a spread offense that gains a ton of yards, but if they can’t stop the big boys from running all over them, it doesn’t matter how pretty their highlight DVD and offensive stats are.

Pick: Utah

Update: Utah 30 Air Force 23. This game was actually tied at 16 heading into the fourth quarter. This really is a big win tor the Utes even though they only beat a service academy. If they are going to make some BCS noise, they have to prove to themselves they can win tough games on the road. And they did.

Record: 37-11, 21-25-2 AS 

7pm ET

(18) Wake Forest (2-0) at (20) Florida State (2-0) (-4.5)

One ACC team is legit and one is not. It’s also awesome how two wins against 1-AA opponents gets FSU ranked in the top 25 despite how badly they’ve sucked the last few years. But hey, there’s no way the voters rank teams based on reputation and name recognition, right?

Wake has won the last two meetings between these two teams mostly because they are well-coached and FSU is not. Wake knows its identity and plays to its strengths while Florida State still thinks it’s Florida State from the 90’s and can win by just showing up. Doesn’t help the Seminoles have about one-quarter of the talent they carried on their rosters back in the day (Thad Busby!). We all know about my crush on Wake Forest football. I love it when teams with mediocre talent find a consistent way to win and stick with it. I can’t help it. I’m sure it’s because Wake proves to me my beloved Hoosiers could one day not suck at football on a yearly basis, but that hasn’t happened quite yet.

Pick: Wake Forest

Update: Wake Forest 12 Florida State 3. The score may seem ugly, but this is an absolute Wake Forest-style win. It’s what they do, especially when they play teams more talented than they are. This is also the third-straight win for Wake against the Seminoles, including two wins in Tallahassee. Why did this happen? FSU is stil a program that is down, is not as talented as they could be, and does not play clean football anymore. They cannot overcome the mistakes they make every week and their lack of offense for the last like five years. It might be time for Bobby Bowden to hang ’em up too.

Record: 38-11, 22-25-2 AS

Indiana’s Quest for the MAC Championship Game of the Week

Ball State (3-0) at Indiana (2-0) (-3)

Biggest game of both teams’ seasons. 7pm start. The Rock. Two party schools from the same state with a reputation for drunkenness. Yeah, the tailgating at this one is going to be outstanding. And there’s a football game too!

This really is the biggest game of the season for Indiana, all kidding aside. They absolutely have to prove to themselves and their fans that they’re for real. Beating Western Kentucky and Murray State doesn’t get it done. If we’re going to win the MAC title, we have to beat its best two teams: Ball State on Saturday and Central Michigan on October 25. All I ask is if we win those two games, we get to play in the MAC conference championship game in December. I want that trophy, damn it!

No seriously, Indiana has to win this game. The offense has to prove it can gain yards against an actual Division I team and the defense has to prove it improved dramatically like the team has been saying. Ball State is a good team and an in-state rival. We’ll probably be able to take the Flippy Cup championship from them, but we need to win the football game too.

This game has all the makings of an old-school WAC shoot out, making Booter and I long for the days of yore when we’d rock the black and red and watch Marshall Faulk do his thing against the Nevadas and BYU’s of the world. Sigh.

Pick: Indiana

Update: Ball State 42 Indiana 20. Only two words can describe this game for Indian: total disaster. All the old habits came back for the Hooiser. The offense couldn’t move the ball, they turned it over, and the passing game disappeared. The defense played soft at every level, did not adapt in any way to what Ball State was doing to them, and simply could not make enough playes when they were needed. Heading into this season, the Hoosiers were all hyped up about the new no-huddle offense and the resurgent defense that wouldn’t be a doormat for the opposition anymore. They simply didn’t know how to adapt to Ball State. Bill Lynch even said the Cardinals didn’t do anything they hadn’t seen before, but the Hoosiers couldn’t stop it at all. Total disaster and a major step back for a team trying to forge an identity at a basketball school. Worse, they’re just re-affirming the casual fans’ wrong-headed notion that the football team isn’t any good, so they can just stay in the parking lot at tailgate. It’s still the most pathetic part of IU-fan’s resume, and it needs to be fixed.

Record: 38-12, 22-26-2 AS

7:45 pm ET

(6) Louisiana State (2-0) at (10) Auburn (3-0) (+2.5)

How has LSU not won at Auburn in the past ten years?  And somehow Charles Scott has jumped into the fray and is doubling the amount of carries given to Super-Back Keiland Williams. This is an absolute outrage and LSU fans should be incredibly pissed, especially when Scott is ineffective against Auburn and Williams can’t get going because Les Miles won’t let him be the primary ball-carrier. But hey, I get why Charles Scott is playing. 262 yards against Appalachian State and North Texas is roughly the same as putting up good numbers in the SEC. The defenses are similar in size, speed, and talent level too. Williams had nearly twice as many carries as Scott last season as Jacob Hester’s inexplicable backup and has been over 6.5 yards per carry for the past two seasons. Methinks he deserves the lion’s share of the carries.

This situation is exactly like what Oregon had the last two years with Jonathan Stewart. Mike Bellotti tried to platoon Stewart with several other backs and the system worked fairly well. It wasn’t until there were a few injuries and Stewart became the primary ball-carrier and received tons of touches that the Oregon offense took off last season. Everyone gives credit to Dennis Dixon, but Stewart carried that team. They’re a .500 team without him last season. Keiland Williams is that exact type of back. He needs to start and receive starter’s touches. He can’t be stuck platooning with a bunch of other guys. Start him, and you won’t be sorry, LSU. My hatred of Les Miles stems from this one piece of idiocy and I will not forgive him and neither should LSU fans. Free Keiland Williams!

Also, Auburn’s offense sucks, so LSU is going to win an SEC-special and finally get that win at Auburn.  I don’t really trust the LSU quarterbacks, but that never seems to matter in a Les Miles system anyway. So take the under, and enjoy getting to know the punter’s name on each team.

Pick: LSU

Update: LSU 26 Auburn 21. Keiland Williams only had two carries for 8 yards, continuing his inexplicable stay on Les Miles’ bench. He did, however, throw a touchdown pass that led the Tigers toward their win. I just don’t get why he doesn’t play. It’s insane.

Record: 39-12, 23-26-2 AS

8pm ET

(3) Georgia (3-0) at Arizona State (2-1) (+7)

That crappy loss by the Sun Devils to UNLV last week isn’t going to help Georgia’s strength of schedule much. I’ll give the Bulldogs this: at least their schedule is tougher than Ohio State’s.

The Arizona State defense will feel like a vacation for the Georgia offense as well, since the Bulldogs are coming off that suck-fest at South Carolina. Knowshon Moreno will look like Knowshon Moreno again. Matt Stafford will be back to getting away with not ever, ever, EVER checking down to underneath receivers or dumping the ball to the running backs. Even the Georgia defense will enjoy playing against a finesse offense with a quarterback (Rudy Carpenter) that is slow and holds the ball too long in the pocket. 1997 Jake Plummer is not walking through that door for Arizona State.

Seriously, though, about Matt Stafford, how does a quarterback get his balls licked this consistently by the press, and even called a “gambler” and “gunslinger,” when he’s just a guy with a big arm who doesn’t bother to actually read the defenses he’s facing? He just likes to throw deep and doesn’t know what to do if those routes are taken away. South Carolina knew full-well he wasn’t a real threat to them as long as they didn’t give up the deep ball and he stunk up the joint, going 15-25 for 146 yards. Hell, he didn’t even play that well against Central Michigan (18-28 for 213)! When Moreno isn’t a threat, Stafford is not a threat. Not that the Sun Devils will be able to stop Knowshon Moreno.

Pick: Georgia

Update: Georgia 27 ASU 10. Good for Georgia to finally cross the Mississippi to play a non-conference game. Sure, the Sun-Devils were practically made for them, but the Bulldogs still deserve credit for kinda/sorta attempting to play a decent team from outside the SEC. Stafford is still getting away with bad passes and lazy reads, but that won’t hurt him until they play the LSU’s and Florida’s on their schedule. Knowshon is Knowshon, though. The guy is great.

Record through week 4: 40-12, 24-26-2 AS

And now the rest of the weekend’s Football fixtures:

Saturday 20 September

Blackburn v. Fulham
Fulham Football Club aka FC Fulham USA thanks to the presence of Clint Dempsey and Kasey Keller ride into Ewood Park to face a Blackburn side looking for their first home win.  Rovers don’t get it as the Cottagers return home with a draw.

Bolton v. Arsenal
Arsenal return from their midweek voyage to the Ukraine and continue their good form with an easy win over the Wanderers.

Liverpool v. Stoke
The Scousers walk all over Stoke. On way out of Anfield, Rafa gets stuck in the exit after eating too many meat pies.

Sunderland v. Middlesbrough
The Black Cats have yet to score a goal or claim a point at home this season.  One of those things will change as Boro has not won away from home this season. Sunderland score, but don’t win.

West Ham v. Newcastle
It’s the team with a new manager, West Ham, against the team with no manager. West Ham should take care of business against a Newcastle club that’s in shambles.

Sunday 21 September

Chelsea v. Manchester United
Officials help Chelsea level late, after the Cunt puts ManU ahead.

Hull v. Everton
The Tigers are fresh off their win at Newcastle and should erase the 5-0 thrashing they took their last time out at the KC Stadium.  The Toffees have claimed all their points on the road, and should leave town with a point.

Manchester City v. Portsmouth
City should recover nicely after their week of “instruction” from their new Arab overlords.

Tottenham v. Wigan
Tottenham is at the bottom of the table. After this week’s game, they should still be there.

West Bromwich Albion v. Aston Villa
It’s derby day at the Hawthorns.  The 153rd meeting between these temas goes to the Baggies.  Bonus points to MCD if he doesn’t have to look up which team is the Baggies. (I had to look it up –Ed.)

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  1. 5 Responses to “McD’s Week 4 Picks”

  2. I fink dat MANUTD wil win against CHELSEA 1-2!

    By Osama Moon on Sep 21, 2008

  3. Dude, Ali G just commented on your picks!

    By Hickey on Sep 21, 2008

  4. ManU tied Chelsea, VERY NICE, YOU LIKE?

    By Booter on Sep 21, 2008

  5. The picks were 6/10 this week, 6/9 for me and 0/1 by the Mad Russian. I think I might be better at this picking thing than MCD…

    By Booter on Sep 22, 2008

  6. Hey hey hey, I went 12/16 this week. Oh, wait. Crap, maybe you are better at this. Still in first in my pick ’em league though.

    By McD on Sep 22, 2008

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