McD’s Week 7 Picks

October 11, 2008 – 12:00 am by McD

Morning. I managed to sleep in a little today, though the Indiana game starts shortly and I’m very, very nervous. It’s gorgeous outside, the leaves are changing, and I’m loving every second of it. We’re starting big right off the bat with the IU game, Minny at Illinois, and some game called the Red River Shootout. Dunno if you’ve ever heard of it. So enjoy the hell out of another beautiful fall Saturday, I’ll appreciate it through the window once the IU game is over. Cheers.

–McD 12pm

The economy is falling down around our ankles and America turns its lonely eyes to football for solace…only to find several football coaches doing their best to cause more destruction and havoc. And, like Congress, they’re blaming other people for the issues they have caused.

Yet all is not lost. We are still loaded down with great games this Saturday, and I am ready for Twelve Hours Of Glory on Saturday afternoon including a game featuring my beloved Indiana Hoosiers and a chance at redemption. I’ll be updating all day, so enjoy the couch and ignoring the significant other and try not to spill too many Hint of Lime chips on the carpet.

In which I defend Tony Franklin

It’s been said football is the consummate American game, a perfect metaphor. People of different backgrounds, sizes, and abilities come together, use their individual gifts, and work toward a common goal: winning. All this is overseen by the benevolent leader: the coach/President, who knows what he’s doing. In many cases, people believe their favorite football coaches to be more infallible than the President himself. There’s a whole wing of the political media and the sports media dedicated to analyzing and second-guessing every decision made by head football coaches from strategy to recruiting. Everything. Maybe football is the consummate American sport because second-guessing is actually our national past-time.

As much as people love the coach today because the team is winning, they can’t wait to stick “for sale” signs on his front lawn when things aren’t going well. It’s nothing personal. I don’t hate Norv Turner as a person or think he’s a jackass off the field. I’m just convinced he’s a jackass in the locker-room and his players won’t play hard for him, causing my beloved Chargers to lose. Do I have anything more than conjecture and a few leaked stories from the locker room to support that? Of course not. I just want to second-guess Turner because we suck.

Virtually ever coach there is or ever has been has dealt with this, which is why there are only a few infallible icons of football coaching. Even the patron saint of Michigan football, Bo Schembechler, endured losses and questions from the fans. I don’t know how football ended up the go-to sport for the second-guessers, but I have an inkling it’s because there is too much fate and random chance in baseball. Baseball is poetry. It is for patient people who love consistency and subtlety and the moment one person hits a round ball with a round bat. In baseball, we talk about curses and fate and bad luck. The Cubs are cursed. The Red Sox were cursed. The Rays are a team of destiny. It goes on and on and on.

For whatever reason, football is the game where people believe nothing is left to chance. The teams practice constantly and the fans and experts obsess over the smallest details while the coaches obsess over even smaller details. If something goes wrong in a game, Ron Jaworski and a host of other are there to break it all down on film, frame by HD frame. We expect consistency from baseball players, but we expect perfection from football players. No one blames fate for the Chiefs being awful. It’s because they haven’t drafted properly or the OC isn’t calling the right plays. Football is the game for people who don’t believe in chance. The game for people who believe some one is always in control of things.

I believe baseball inspires more prayer, but football inspires more blind faith. And when that blind faith is challenged either because the team sucks or the coach is a lunatic (or both), people react one of two ways: they reiterate their faith, or find some one new to believe in. The Football Gods are interchangeable, as are football coaches.

Auburn’s football team recently switched offensive philosophies. They used to do pretty much what every other team in their conference does: use power running plays and a few big plays out of the passing game to win. It’s a tried and true method of winning modern football games. Even NFL teams are passing more, but balance is still next to godliness. Auburn hired Tony Franklin to run his version of the trendy “spread” offense. The program decided speed rules the day in the SEC, and the spread gives them the best chance to recruit and use that speed. Tony Franklin also happens to be a well-known offensive guru of the spread, having run it successfully pretty much everywhere he’s ever coached.

And yet things didn’t work. And people got pissed. It only took a month and a half for this website to spring up because of how awful the Tigers’ offense has looked thus far. And now, Tony Franklin is out as Auburn’s offensive coordinator. After six weeks of the 2008 regular season.

Auburn’s move to the spread was nothing more than a move toward what is trendy in college football at the moment. The move was made by Tommy Tuberville purely to help recruiting first and move the ball better second. The spread is more for the players to run and no one is more keen to follow the trends in college football than head coaches. Remember when the wishbone was the greatest offensive innovation ever? Maybe your dad does. For Auburn, the spread was for the future.

And they gave up after six weeks.

The current players on the Auburn roster were never recruited to run the spread, with a very few exceptions. They are the same power-running personnel Auburn has always used. They are also essentially the same offensive staff Auburn has had for the last several years. Tuberville simply changed coordinators and left everything else the same. Of course Tony Franklin’s offense won’t work with those players and those coaches! Of course they won’t look comfortable! It’s not like the remaining offensive staff was just going to happily adapt to a completely new system when their ineptitude at the old system was the entire reason the new guy got brought in. It’s a professional insult to them and their ginormous coach egos. So growing pains were basically guaranteed for this team. Shit, they don’t even have a quarterback they can use consistently. Name for me one offense that works without a competent quarterback. This is what happens when you sacrifice the short term for the long term. It’s tough.

But Auburn gave up after six weeks.

Yet it seems most people are of the opinion that Tony Franklin is solely to blame even though they weren’t even running Franklin’s system. Tommy Tuberville panicked after four games and started monkeying around with the offense because of pressure from the fans and the media. Remember, they couldn’t move the ball for shit last season under Al Borges either, so really nothing changed but the system. That didn’t stop Auburn fan from freaking out and the vultures were already circling after the first three games. Why? Because football is the sport in which fans choose to believe some one is always in charge, and thre is no such thing as fate. And when the person in charge sucks, or something is perceived to go wrong even when it isn’t, the fans get to do their favorite thing: second-guess the people in charge.

And Tommy Tuberville listened to them and gave up after six weeks.

This is a terrible, terrible time to make even more changes to the Auburn philosophy. Football thrives on stability, the absence of which causes far more losses than weak coaching, which Auburn seems to have in spades. Look at the Oakland Raiders, if you need an example. Same reason everyone in Indianapolis flips the hell out whenever Tony Dungy almost-retires. We crave stability and the chance to believe “some one who knows better than us” is in charge of things we care about. Once we find out the spaceship in the Forbidden Barn is really just a bike with a helicopter blade attached, we start to think maybe being a Movementarian wasn’t such a great idea. Auburn fan are those Movementarians at the moment. They began to wonder if that really is a ship in the barn or if it’s just a guy who took their money and used their faith. Let me spell it out: there is no ship in the barn and Tommy Tuberville stole your money.

He is the one who hired Franklin and then interfered with the offense at every level. He is now the one who fired Franklin as well. The offense has stunk for years under Tuberville. The only time it was any good was when they had Ronnie Brown, Cadillac Williams, and Jason Campbell running it. The three of them, along with some offensive linemen and receivers, are all in the NFL now! Of course an offense looks good when it has NFL talent running it. This is totally a recruiting issue and Tuberville chose to blame some one otherthan himself for the consistently bad offense under his watch. It’s his fault, no one else’s.

Listen very carefully, Auburn fan and Tommy Tuberville. You all knew you didn’t have the players to correctly run this system, but you made a goddamn commitment to it. You hired the Tony Franklin System to run the offense, not some guy to keep running “the Auburn offense.” The Auburn Offense doesn’t work for shit. Tommy Tuberville used both hands to choke the life out of that system from day one. Michigan is going through the exact same thing with Rich Rodriguez, but the difference is THEY know Rich-Rod needs time to put his system in place and recruit the right players. This shit takes coaching, time, and patience. There’s no other way. Instead, Auburn fan and their head coach hired a guy and expected immediate results. They were wrong. Turns out the man behind the curtain is an idiot after all.

This is your mess coach Tuberville, no one else’s. You made a knee-jerk move to save your job and now you’ve made another one. Maybe you just aren’t that great a coach in the first place. This was a second-tier move by a program that styles itself as first-tier. Maybe the change they need is at the head coach position, not the offensive coordinator. But he’s just doing what he knows best. What else can we expect, aside from cowardice, from an SEC head coach?

Record Through Week 6: 60-21, 39-39-3 ATS.

Game of the Week-ish:

5pm ET

Arkansas (2-3) at (20) Auburn (4-2) (-17)

The first game post-Franklin. Auburn put a guy who called the plays in 2003 back in charge of the offense. Hmm, I wonder if the rest of the Auburn offensive staff were asses to the new guy because they didn’t want to run his new-fangled system? Actually, I don’t wonder. I know. Coaches are big babies when it comes to stuff like that. These guys probably gossiped about Tony Franklin all night at their offensive staff sleepover and probably stopped talking whenever Franklin entered the room. “Oh no, Tony, we LOVE you. You’re awesome. Tee hee tee hee!” I’m picking Arkansas on principle.

Pick: Auburn wins, but Arkansas somehow manages to lose by less than 17

Update: Arkansas 25 Auburn 22. This update technically comes right after the Notre Dame game, but I had to put it up here given the subject of the opening. Clearly, the football gods agree with me because they came down and made Auburn look worse than ever. Hey Auburn, guess what? Tony Franklin is gone and your offense still sucks. The offensive staff were petulant babies, Tommy Tuberville is a weak leader, and that leaves you with a confused team that doesn’t really care all that much. Good job, Auburn. Your team just lost to fucking Arkansas, who is possibly the worst team in Division I, outside of Washington State. This is the best thing ever. Keep it up, guys! That offense will start working any day now! Those players are sure to come around after this effort! War Eagle!

Record: 66-26, 43-44-5 ATS

12pm ET

Minnesota (5-1) at Illinois (3-2) (-12)

Is the enemy of my rival my friend? Wait, that didn’t make sense. Is the team playing one of my biggest rivals, and that same team beat my team only a week ago, my biggest enemy? Is my rival my friend? Nothing makes sense anymore since IU lost to Minnesota. I realize we hadn’t won in the dome in forever, but good God!

Anyway, Minnesota is the most vulnerable 5-1 team possibly ever. Even though Illinois is 3-2, they’re clearly the better team here. I could go on and on about how their defense isn’t nearly as good as it used to be, but Illinois has no excuses for this one. It doesn’t even matter.

Pick: Illinois wins a shootout

Update: Minnesota 27 Illinois 20. Illinois might as well have come out and taken a shit on the field because this was their worst game all season. Juice threw for 462 yards and they still lost. Holy shitty running game, Batman! I guess Illinois is down more than I thought. Just like Indiana. I could also do without Colt McCoy saying God has plans for Texas football. It’s fucking football, Colt. How about a little perspective?

Record: 60-22, 39-40-3 ATS

History of the Red River Shootout

At some point in history, a bunch of cow-herding rednecks from Texas and some people from Oklahoma who cheated during races for land decided they should play a yearly football game. Naturally, they named their respective teams after something they knew: cows and cheating, respectively, though they do intertwine sometimes. For some reason, the slightly more ignorant Oklahomans agreed to play this game in Dallas every year instead of ever playing a home game against Texas in, say, Oklahoma.

(5) Texas (5-0) at (1) Oklahoma (5-0) (-6.5)

OU is really, really good, but they haven’t played anyone this season. And no, TCU doesn’t count. Texas has actually beaten better teams this season, yet I don’t trust them at all. Nothing at their skill positions impresses me. Oklahoma can counter it on defense and is more talented on offense. But then you can’t trust a Bob Stoops team in big games, can you? This type of win gets OU to the national championship game they would inevitably lose, yet they could make it with one loss, especially to Texas because the Longhorns are only going to lose one other time this season. There’s no specific matchup to talk about here. Everything contradicts everything else. I’m going with my gut.

Pick: Oklahoma

Update: Texas 45 Oklahoma 35. I guess Oklahoma’s choke-ability in big games was the overriding factor here. There is absolutly no reason for them to give up 45 points to a talent-depleted Texas roster. It’s almost like they didn’t take the game seriously or something. Sam Bradford looked good again, but this loss rests on the OU defense. They had little or no success against Texas and looked like crap doing it. Can’t believe they lost this game. On the other hand, this is the best loss possible. We want more chaos heading into the first BCS rankings so the system looks bad again. Fuck the BCS.

Record: 60-23, 39-41-3 ATS

Auburn isn’t the only one having “spread issues”

Indiana’s offense was stagnant yet again against a mediocre Minnesota defense. Before the season, IU switched from its normal spread offense to the trendy no-huddle version. It seemed like a good idea because it maximized the speed the Hoosiers had on offense. Turns out it does, and even looks good when the team is functioning. But, like every other offense known to man, when the team is down, the offense drags the team down. It would be the same with the f*cking wishbone, just with different problems.

In IU’s case, the coaches failed to realize the hurry-up portion of the offense also screws the defense if the O can’t keep the ball, which is exactly what has happened to Indiana the last three games, all losses. Minnesota dominated the time of possession against Indiana. Even when the Hoosiers had the ball, they were unable to keep it for extended periods of time. Keep in mind, Minnesota sucks, despite their record.

Teams may also have figured out the offense’s plays, since it seems they only run four of them. Play 1: In which running back ________ takes a handoff out of the shotgun and runs into the line for no gain. Play 2: In which the quarterback throws to the wide receiver in the flat for a short gain. Play 3: In which the quarterback throws down the field, misreading the coverage in the process. Occasionally complete, usually incomplete, and sometimes intercepted. Play 4: In which no one gets open and the quarterback must then run for his life. That about sums it up.

Thus, all that spread and hurry-up trickery has landed Indiana with the exact same problems it has always had on offense. This is why offensive trends change so much. No execution = bad offense no matter what the scheme is.

So watch out, other trendy spread teams. This could happen to you.

Iowa (3-3) at Indiana (2-3) (+5.5)

Lucky for us, we’re back home and Iowa is terrible. The only bad matchup for us is the fact the Hawkeyes run the ball a lot. On the bright side, they suck way worse than Michigan State. Therefore, the pressure is all on us. Everyone knew Iowa would suck this season, but IU is supposed to be bowl-eligible when this pain season is over. They have to win games like this if they’re gonna make it happen. Then again, they were supposed to win games like last week’s too, so there you go.

Here’s me voting that the package with Kellen Lewis and Ben Chappell both on the field doesn’t come back for a third encore. Don’t change the offense for Chappell; make it work for Lewis. We’re 5.5 point dogs at home, boys. This is what that shit you’ve been pulling for the last three games has netted you! Lock it up!

Pick: Indiana

Update: Iowa 45 Indiana 9. I’m not saying the season’s over, but the season’s over. The offense has looked worse every week for the last four weeks and the defense is better, but isn’t good enough to keep the team in games. This is a young team in peril of not making another bowl game. Worse, Kellen Lewis appears hurt because he isn’t running nearly as much as he used to and the offense seems to be suffering from it. Don’t get me wrong, most of his best runs weren’t planned, meaning the scheme is fatally flawed and needs his skills as a runner to save many of the plays. That’s my larger point here. The players are essentially as good as last year, but the offense isn’t. Predictable playcalling will do that to most teams. It was also really, really fun to watch a kid from Indianapolis slice through the Indiana defense all day. Nice recruiting, seeing as how we don’t have a running back. More spread issues to come, I guess.

Record: 60-24, 39-42-3 ATS

12:30pm ET

South Carolina (4-2) at Kentucky (4-1) (+3)

This is a deceptively big SEC game. These two teams need every win possible to stay relevant in the standings and in the race for the highly-paying bowls. Kentucky is actually overachieving a little because their offense is really bad. Their defense is pretty decent and has managed to keep them in all of their games this season, including their one loss to Alabama. If the O starts making some plays, watch out. That’s one big-ass “IF” though.

Once again, no one knows what’s up with Steve Spurrier’s team. Actually, that’s not true. They have essentially the same problem Auburn does: they have no quarterback. In this day and age, no quarterback equals awful, awful offense, which is exactly what the Gamecocks have gotten thus far. Keep hoping you’ll get that amazing QB into the program, guys. I bet if you hold your breath, it’ll happen faster.

Pick: Kentucky

Update: South Carolina 24 Kentucky 14. This was the game that made me realize I’m in legitimate danger of not winning one game against the spread today. Kentucky just couldn’t hang and that IF I mentioned in the preview never came true. Who knew Kentucky and South Carolina would ever be involved in what was essentially a defensive battle? The SEC is crazy these days.

Record: 60-25, 39-43-3 ATS

3pm ET

Nebraska (3-2) at (7) Texas Tech (5-0) (-20.5)

This could be a let-down for the let-down game that didn’t happen last week at K-State. I’m just going to keep saying it until either Tech is undefeated or they lose some random game like they always do. I will watch this entire game chanting “Harrell to Crabtree. Harrell to Crabtree. Harrell to Crabtree” and rubbing Crisco on myself.

Pick: Texas Tech

Update: Texas Tech 37 Nebraska 31 (OT). Right before Nebraska came back to force overtime, I remember thinking, “Nice of the Tech defense to show up today.” Or not. How is it possible Graham Harrell only threw 25 times in this game? What happened to the offense? You know, that Tech offense that scores a ton of points by throwing on every down? Maybe Mike Leach wanted to surprise everyone by running the ball more, or something. So, while they won, Tech didn’t look great. Every team has to play one of those games where they’re basically just holding on for dear life to keep from losing, and this was Tech’s day for that.

Record: 61-25, 39-44-3 ATS

3:30pm ET

MAC Game of the Week

Western Michigan (5-1) at Buffalo (2-3) (-1)

After WMU’s domination of Ohio last week, they get to play on the road at a plucky Buffalo Bulls team (get it Bulls/Bills??) that won on a hail mary earlier this season and seems to be a pain in the ass to beat. That said, this particular directional Michigan school seems to be a juggernaut on offense, and I don’t konw if the Bulls have the D to stop it. Ohio has a good defense, and WMU blew them out.

Pick: Western Michigan

Update: WMU 34 Buffalo 28 (OT). Okay, so I might only win one game against the spread this week. I also ended my streak of getting the MAC GOTW wrong with this game. I mean, it’s the MAC, how the hell should I know who is going to do what?

Record: 62-25, 40-44-3 ATS

Arizona State (2-3) at (8) USC (3-1) (-28)

An injured and soft ASU team traveling to the Coliseum to play a USC team with no pressure on it? This feels like a blowout waiting to happen. Rudy Carpenter is a great quarterback IF he gets time in the pocket and IF they can run the ball to keep the D honest. ASU isn’t doing either of those things for him this season, so they are clearly down from last year. USC’s D-line is going to be after Carpenter all day and will get to tee off on him at least a couple of times. It won’t be a Colt McCoy-type of beating, but it could be bad. The only thing holding me back from taking USC to cover is the chance of a letdown game after Oregon last week. Now, USC is at home and they seem to be clicking again, but teams the week after an important revenge game might be a little emotionally down. That’s when USC is vulnerable. They were flat against Oregon State and got beat. Same thing last year with Stanford. The home crowd should pick them up, but you never know. Just saying.

Pick: USC

Update: USC 28 ASU 0. Phillips and I watched this one from the bar at Yogi’s in Bloomington, IN, and I would really like to count this as win, since the only reason the score wasn’t 42-0 at the end is because USC sucked in the second half and had some bad luck too. But I won’t count it as win because I’m ethical like that. USC was really awful in the second half, though. The D was strong throughout, but the offense looked like they’d forgotten how to run even the most basic plays for much of the half. Sanchez made a few bad throws, receivers dropped a few passes too, and they really never committed to running the ball eventhough Joe McKnight had 143 yards. At best, this was an uneven effort by the Trojans, but they still won.

Record: 63-25, 40-44-4 ATS

Tennessee (2-3) at (10) Georgia (4-1) (-12)

This isn’t the game that ends the Phil Fulmer Era. Tennessee is supposed to lose this game. They’re on the road against a more talented team and the Vols just switched quarterbacks. Seriously, what a terrible season for Tennessee. I can’t name a single game in which they looked good in more than half of one phase of the game. They just can’t get anything totally right, and haven’t been able to for several years now. The Fulmer program has grown stagnant. Now, replace “Tennessee” or “Vols” with “Georgia” and “Phil Fulmer” with “Mark Richt” and that paragraph means the exact same thing.

Pick: Georgia

Update: Georgia 26 Tennessee 14. Matt Stafford threw for a career high 310 yards and the offense still only mustered 26 points against a mediocre Vols defense. Tennessee did what they do in this game, and can actually feel okay about the effort since they were on the road at Georgia. But man does Georgia’s offense suck. There’s no life to it. No spark. They just run some pass plays and some run plays and if they are big gains, then great. If not, well they’ll win with defense. This is a totally boring, maybe even bored, team. If you watch them play, it’s amazing anyone, including me, ever thought they might run the table and make some BCS noise. Amazing. Stafford is horribly overrated as a passer, though Moreno is a great runner. It’s just that, in the Georgia offense, Knowshon can’t really shine. He might be one of those guys that’s a better pro than college player because the offensive minds in the NFL actually know how to use him.

Record: 64-25, 40-44-5 ATS. TWO pushes in the same day!

Why I won’t go see W

Don’t get me wrong, I think the last eight years are a blot on American history, and possibly an indictment of the American people’s ability to wisely choose a leader. I didn’t vote for the man and I sure as hell am not interested in another guy like him. But a movie about his life that basically paints him as a crazy, redneck idiot while he’s still President smacks of exploitation. This seems less like Oliver Stone trying to really discuss what went wrong with the second Bush presidency and more like trying to make a buck off the current political climate.

If this movie were made ten years from now, we might be able to have some proper historical perspective on pretty much everything that was done from January 2001 to January 2009. Sure, it’ll probably turn out President Bush really was a crazy, redneck idiot-President who did far more damage than good. But at least at that point we will have quantifiable evidence to prove it. In ten years, hell even in five, we’ll be able to talk about the long-term effects of everything he did as President, and then we can rank him last on the list of quality Presidents.

But all W is, at the moment, is a big-budget political movie that doesn’t change anything and is saying things we already know. I have to give Oliver Stone credit, in that he’s not out promoting this movie by bashing the President. He just says he was an interesting character, or some arty crap like that. But we already know President Bush was out of control when he was younger and that he was “saved” by evangelism. In the modern political process, there is very little that’s a secret anymore, and I seriously doubt this movie will expose any new information. Maybe it will, I dunno.

However, if it’s too early to judge Auburn’s offense after six weeks (see above), then it’s impossible to judge a presidency while it’s still going on. Even the first couple of years for the next president won’t give us proper perspective because we’ll still be moving on from this presidency. These things take time to fully understand. And with W coming out right before the election, not only does the movie seem exploitative, but it makes Hollywood look even more stereotypically liberal and biased even if the movie is completely fair. It’s all about how this thing will spin. This movie probably won’t change the outcome of the election, but it could change the tone of the last couple of weeks, and that costs all Americans a lot more than it should.

Michigan State (5-1) at Northwestern (5-0) (+1.5)

Before the season, I would have bet you my right nut this game wasn’t going to matter in the Big Ten. Because I’m a degenerate gambler. What’s the street value of a nut these days, anyway? But now, Northwestern is spreading the field and scoring a lot of points, except when they played close with Central Michigan because they secretly suck. Javon Ringer is facing eight and nine-man fronts every week now, yet he’s still producing like crazy. I just don’t see the Wildcat defense stopping him enough for them to win.

Pick: Michigan State

Update: Michigan State 37 Northwestern 20. Javon Ringer did his thing again and Northwestern did their thing again too. Michigan State seems to be out Ohio-Stateing the rest of the conference this season. Conferences change all the time. The Big XII is now a spread-offense conference, and now the Big Ten is too. But some things will always work, and Michigan State’s style is one of them. As long as they have a good running back, which they do at the moment.

Record: 65-25, 41-44-5 ATS

Notre Dame (4-1) at North Carolina (4-1) (-9)

I’ve been honking North Carolina all season, and they’re showing strong improvement every week. I’ve been hating on Notre Dame all season, and they’re improving every week. So basically I’m probably full of shit. If this game were in South Bend, I’d go the other way, but I have to stick with my guys in Chapel Hill at home. And I’m not going to say Jimmy Clausen is going to get killed, but he’s going to get killed on the field at some point this season. I’m starting to think he’d be better off with no offensive line than the one he currently has.

Pick: North Carolina but Notre Dame beats the spread

Update: North Carolina 29 Notre Dame 24. UNC did it again, although I could have done without them trailing for so much of the game. They came from behind and held on to beat a surprisingly competent Notre Dame team. Our Lady’s offense actually gained a ton of yards. Jimmy Clausen even threw for 383 yards, but therein lies the constant problem for Notre Dame: They can’t run the ball. They could easily have won this game had they been able to run it effectively, but they couldn’t once again. You know, because their line sucks ass. Still.

Record: 66-25, 42-44-5

Hooray for Ball State

The Ball State Cardinals are ranked. They’re ranked 25th, but hey, they’re ranked. IU isn’t ranked. Purdue isn’t ranked. Notre Dame isn’t ranked. Does that mean Brady Hoke’s Cardinals are the best football team in Indiana? I say yes.Hell, they may even be the best team in Illinois and Michigan too, were Muncie, IN to suddenly rise up from the earth and move to Michigan or Illinois.

World, meet Nate Davis. Nate Davis, world. Man, I bet it’s nice to have a quarterback completing 69 percent of his throws with only three interceptions. That sure would be sweet. Now that you’ve been properly introduced to the reason why Ball State has become the latest BCS-Buster, let me dispel a few myths.

Myth 1: Ball State wins because of a gimmicky offense. This isn’t some spread team that is managing to make a few lucky plays here and there, and it isn’t a team in which the coach invented some new offensive philosophy or anything that’s stumping the opposition. The Cardinals just run solid, pro-style plays better than their opposition. They are balanced on offense and do enjoy running the ball down other team’s throats with MiQuale Lewis (5.6 YPC, 12 TD), though having Davis makes that a little easier.

Myth 2: They haven’t played anyone. Okay, that’s actually kind of true. The Cardinals’ schedule is pretty easy, which will make it hard for them to BCS-Bust later on this season. Still, they’ve beaten everyone who has been put in front of them, and that deserves a lot of respect, especially with the quality of their play thus far. But as I said about ECU, that one bad loss is always lurking around the corner. They still have conference games against Western Michigan and MAC powerhouse Central Michigan to end the season. If they win those and the MAC Championship game, then we can talk about BCS-busting.

Myth 3: They’re screwed without Dante Love. Love was the leading receiver in the nation when his career was ended by an accidental helmet-to-helmet hit in the Indiana game, so many thought their passing game just wouldn’t be the same anymore. Maybe it won’t be exactly the same, but Davis still has plenty of targets to hit, including 6’6″ 236 pound Darius Hill, who had 11 touchdowns last season and Briggs Orsbon who, despite being just a freshman, has 25 receptions already this season including a 10-reception game against Kent State and six more against Toledo. The offense is moving right along, though they will definitely miss Dante Love, who is still the team’s leading receiver even though he hasn’t played in two weeks.

By Ball State standards, this is the best team they’ve ever had. But now people know they’re for real, so there is going to be a whole different kind of pressure on everyone now. Nonetheless, this is the best team in Indiana and most of its surrounding states. As an IU alum, I feel something like pride for the Cardinals. They’re like a little brother who has become pretty successful, only no one had any expectations of him, so it seems like he’s wildly successful. Meanwhile, we’re the older brothers who are toiling away in our much tougher job and suffering silently while little bro has all the fun. Stupid crappy Indiana defense. Couldn’t even stop Ball State. GAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

7pm ET

(25) Ball State (6-0) at Western Kentucky (2-4) (+16.5)

I’ve seen both these teams in person, since IU has played them both already this season, and I can tell you this: Ball State should kick WKU’s ass. Nothing against Western Kentucky, but they’re barely Division I this year, so they aren’t going to be able to hang.

Pick: Ball State

Update: Ball State 24 WKU 7. Dave Letterman’s alma mater was a little tight in the first half, but pulled away from the Hilltoppers and their fantastic mascot. Ball State is now 7-0 and is still in contention to be the BCS-buster for 2008. Thier schedule kind of sucks, but if they go undefeated, there will be considerable noise to get them into the BCS given how well they have played this season. I even find myself rooting for them even though they beat IU earlier this year pretty handily. I love seeing the little guys go play with the big boys who are excluding them for no reason at all. Down with the BCS!

Record: 67-26, 44-44-5 ATS

8pm ET

(15) Boise State (4-0) at Southern Mississippi (2-3) (+10.5)

I’m not going to watch it, I think, but I’m intrigued by this game. It’s intriguing. This game has me intrigued.  Boise is really good for unknown reasons, but Southern Miss doesn’t suck either and the game is in Favre-land. Favre-issippi? Favre-tasia? Favre-tasia. Boise is starting a freshman quarterback on the road in Favre-tasia and Ian Johnson is 42 years old, so this one isn’t going to be a beatdown.

Pick: Boise State but Southern Miss beats the spread

Update: Boise State 24 Southern Miss 7. Speaking of BCS-busters, Boise State remains undefeated after a good road win. I don’t care if Southern Miss is 2-4 now, they are a tougher team than their record, especially for the small-conference teams like Boise who are trying to go undefeated and get that BCS money. I still can’t believe Boise State is doing this with a freshman quaterback and a 45-year-old running back. Crazy.

Record: 68-26, 44-45-5 ATS

(17) Oklahoma State (5-0) at (3) Missouri (5-0) (-14)

My real favorite game of the night. That is, if OSU can stick with Missouri. You’d think I’d have a grudge after OSU beat IU in the Insight Bowl in January. And I really, really do. I’m going to be pulling for Missouri in this one. Big time. An Oklahoma State win would rob us of that fantastic Mizzou/Oklahoma game in the Big XII game too, and we can’t have that.

Pick: Missouri

Update: OSU 28 Mizzou 23. Chaos! We’ve got the BCS chaos we wanted all along. Number one and number three have both gone down as home teams today. Hell, Alabama would have too if they’d played. I’m sure Saban is happy his team had the week off. As Phillips said once this game went final, everything is lining up perfectly for USC to sneak back into the National Championship picture. All that’s left undefeated is Alabama, Penn State, Texas, and Oklahoma State, as far as teams that count. And you know they’re all going down at least once as well. This is going to be epic the rest of the way.

Update: 68-27, 44-46-5 ATS

Clemson/Wake Forest Recap

You know I couldn’t let this weekend pass without mentioning Clemson’s latest disaster.

Don’t get me wrong, Clemson had a real shot at beating Wake Forest heading into Thursday night. The Demon Deacons were down, having just been beaten by Navy and turning the ball over five times in the process. Plus, their offense hasn’t looked all that potent lately, not that it ever really does. And whatever else you want to say, Clemson still had James Davis and CJ Spiller.

Instead the Tigers managed just 198 total yards and one touchdown in their third loss of the season. Once again, their best players simply didn’t get the ball. Spiller was hurt in the first half, but that should have meant Davis would get many, many more touches. After all, the Tigers were either down three or winning for most of the game. Instead, Davis ended the game with 14 total touches for 52 yards. That’s almost exactly the same number he was getting when Spiller was healthy! What the hell is Tommy Bowden’s problem? When your team is winning, wouldn’t it be a good idea to run the f*cking ball and eat some clock? Clemson has James f*cking Davis as their running back, but instead they chose not to use him and let Cullen Harper throw 35 times. He was 15/35 for 177 yards with one touchdown and one game-changing INT. You know, because Clemson should be throwing a lot the drive after they took the lead in the last part of the third quarter. In that drive, the three plays they ran went like this: Davis rush for six yards, incompletion, time out, interception. Uh, Davis just grabbed six yards, how about you try dipping your bucket in that well again maybe a few dozen more time?

GAWD Clemson sucks. I haven’t seen misuse of this much talent since Jenna Jameson started only doing all-girl porn. Yeah sure, Cullen Harper is a good quarterback and an NFL prospect. But when everyone in the stadium knows he’s throwing, the passing game is going to look like it did Thursday night. It’s not Cullen Harper’s fault the offense has sucked all season. You suck, Tommy Bowden! YOU suck!

I’m not actually calling for Tommy Bowden’s job to be terminated when I say “Fire Tommy Bowden!” What I’m really saying is he and his badly designed offense need to get their shit together before some one really does Fire Tommy Bowden! It’s an embarrassment. Bob Stoops would kill Sam Bradford for that running back corps, and Clemson is basically not using them at all.

(4) LSU (4-0) at (11) Florida (4-1) (-6)

LSU is actually more talented at each position, except maybe quarterback, than Florida. It’s just that Urban Meyer gets more out of most of his talent than Les Miles does. And I have a serious problem with the way he doesn’t play Keiland Williams essentially because Williams is too good. Miles sees an athletic running back such as Williams that runs a sub-4.6 and he thinks the player is getting uppity with him and never lets him see the light of day. I hate Les Miles.

Pick: Florida but LSU beats the spread

Update: Florida 51 LSU 21. Wow did LSU come out and shit the bed in the fourth quarter. They were playing close with the Gators and even had a chance to get the lead, but they completely melted down and got blown out. This was actually a close game for three quarters. There was also that one pass by Tebow that was tipped and then caught by Harvin for a touchdown that was extraordinarily lucky. Oh hey, shocking, Charles Scott was totally shut down by the Gators. Amazing that a competent defense can stop him. Keiland Williams might have made a play or two had he gotten more than two carries. Fucking Les Miles. Every time something like this happened the last two years, I’m stuck sounding like Keiland Williams’ mother begging the coach to play him. It’s self-evident at this point that he should play, so get it together, LSU!

Record: 69-27, 44-47-5 ATS

(6) Penn State (6-0) at Wisconsin (3-2) (+6)

Spread HD heads into the land of the cheese curd for a night game. The crowd will be crazy and will surely put all their effort into that homo-erotic jumping thing they do during games. But that’s Wisconsin for you. Penn State may lose a game, but there’s no way it’s this one. JoePa finally got his hands off the neck of the offense and suddenly they’re super-good. More importantly, Wisconsin just doesn’t have the firepower to win this thing. If Penn State gets 20 points, Wisconsin isn’t winning.

Pick: Penn State

Update: Penn State 48 Wisconsin 7. Holy crap did Penn State look good tonight. They got plays from a bunch of different players, but I’d just like to take a moment to mention how awesome Derrick Williams is. He’s been a major playmaker for them for three and a half years now, but he never quite got onto the radar because of the old, shit-tastic Penn State offense. Now they’re back in the spread and he’s amazing. I said it before, and I’ll say it again, they look like they’ve been running this spread offense for years. As for Wisconsin, it looks like it’s a down year for the Badgers. Even though they run the ball, they don’t have a quarterback who can throw at all, and that actually screws their offense. In all their good seasons, they had at least a mediocre quarterback, but now they don’t.

Record: 70-27, 45-47-5 ATS

10:15pm ET

UCLA (2-3) at Oregon (4-2) (-20)

UCLA improving? That’s un-possible! I still wouldn’t trust any of the quarterbacks involved in this game to wash my car, let alone run my team’s offense, but that’s college football. And we all know what happened the last time these two met. That’s right. Worst. Game. Ever. And the circumstances surrounding this one are eerily similar. Sorry to the ticketholders for the game today. This one probably isn’t going to be a classic.

Pick: Oregon wins but UCLA beats the spread

Update: Oregon 31 UCLA 24. Alas, it was not the worst game ever. Still, Oregon didn’t really play that well and Kevin Craft did everything short of handing the ball directly to an Oregon defensive player, and this game STILL wasn’t a blowout. I don’t know whether credit goes to UCLA for staying close despite all their mistakes or to Oregon because at least they won. Playing close with UCLA is not a good thing this year, so no credit to the Ducks for winning. Good for UCLA for the good showing.

Record through week 7: 71-27, 46-47-5 ATS

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