McD’s Week 9 Picks

October 24, 2008 – 12:01 am by McD

Happy weekend, everyone. It’s a Rumors and Rants road trip this week, so we’ll have to see if people in the south are okay with dorks with computers in their sports bars or not. Should be interesting.

Congress created the BCS!

Okay, not really. But take a look at these rankings:

1. Georgia

2. Ohio State

3. USC

4. Oklahoma

5. Florida

6. Missouri

7. LSU

8. West Virginia

9. Clemson

10. Auburn

Look familiar? The above rankings are the pre-season AP Top 10. They were ranked thus before any of these teams played a down of football in the 2008 regular season. How the hell does the AP know Georgia is the best team in the country before anyone has played anyone? How would they know even after the Bulldogs played Georgia Southern and Central Michigan? All pre-season polls do is bias people toward overrated teams and make it extremely difficult for underdogs to succeed. Plus, those polls are often dead fucking wrong about a lot of teams. See numbers 8-10 in the above pre-season top ten for further evidence.

The BCS isn’t the devil. It’s not the worst thing to happen to college football in its history. It’s just the same half-assed solution that’s really a money-grab we can expect from people in charge of things. The BCS makes The Bailout seem positively thoughtful and well-organized. Wait. I know why the BCS is so screwed up but is accepted with a sigh and a shrug by most fans. The BCS is something Congress would create! It’s a huge boondoggle that didn’t really solve any problems. It is incredibly beneficial for a group of the most powerful and elite programs to the detriment of the have-nots. And there’s constant discontent with the system, but we know there’s nothing we can do about it. No matter how low its approval rating goes or how much we hate it, we know we’re stuck with it. We asked for it, and this is what we got. Congress might as well have created the BCS! God bless America.

The inception of the BCS has created more chaos in college football instead of alleviating it. But the one thing it got right is it waits two months before putting out its initial rankings. Only then do the pollsters and the BCS “formula” it uses have an idea as to who is any good in college football. Even teams everyone knows will be good, like USC, can lose. Ranking them before they’ve played a down is a waste of everyone’s time.

We can debate the stupidity of the BCS forever. Originally, it was supposed to stop the crazy poll rankings from influencing the matchup for the mythical national championship. It was also supposed to eliminate the computer nerds from using random formulas to determine who played for that same mythical national championship. I seem to remember Terry Hoeppner and Ben Roethlisberger’s Miami(OH) team being ranked in the top ten by one of those computers. So the BCS decided to incorporate both into its formula, attempting some sort of balance between the two insane systems. Now it’s basically an uber-poll instead of a solution.

I have a better idea. Eliminate every single pre-season poll. The AP and the USA Today voters shouldn’t touch a ballot until week seven of the season, one week before the BCS rankings come out. And I’m just creating this system to throw a bone to the current voters. In truth, why don’t we have all the voters for every major poll just vote for one big poll, combine that with the computer nerds and make that the BCS formula? The current formula is arbitrary as hell anyway, why not streamline the process?

West Virginia/Auburn Analysis

Nice to see Auburn stuck with the spread. Spent the entire first quarter in the I with two tight ends. Just admit it, Auburn. You hated the spread. It was the extremely hot, high-maintenance girl every guy thinks they want but ends up making their life hell. It’s okay to admit you’re going back to your “handsome” former offense. Why Tuberville didn’t fire every one of his whiny assistants for essentially refusing to run Tony Franklin’s system is beyond me, though. It was basically a perfect situation for the new offense not to work says Franklin in this fascinating ESPN article.

Erin Andrews is looking fine, as usual. Let the competition dye their hair, girl. You stay classy.

Can I be described as “former internet sensation” like Noel Devine was this entire game? It’s the “former child actor” of the new generation.

Love that Tuberville turned off the heaters on their sideline. That’ll motivate the kids to go out there and run harder. Freeze ‘em to death. Some coaches can’t go to the Woody Hayes playbook, coach Tuberville, and you’re one of them.

In sum, Auburn got a 17-3 lead running its old offense with the same mediocre results and then had 31 straight points scored on them and the old offense isn’t even remotely built to handle that kind of comeback. That move back to the old offense really changed a hell of a lot. Maybe instead of changing offenses to spur recruiting, you could just recruit a little harder.

Heckuva job, Tommy! This 2008 Auburn season is going into the “coaches who did everything short of having sex with a player and his mother so they could get fired” Hall of Fame.

Enjoy this week’s games. Cheers!

Record after week 8: 83-32, 55-55-5 ATS

12pm ET

The Hunter S. Thompson Memorial “A drug person can learn to cope with things like seeing their dead grandmother crawling up their leg with a knife in her teeth. But no one should be asked to handle this trip” Game of the Week

(22) Northwestern (6-1) at Indiana (2-5) (+8.5)

Looking at IU’s season so far, you can imagine why this game earned its moniker. What a mess. Yeah, sure, they’re a really young team and Kellen Lewis has been hurt. They’re still lifeless for long, long stretches of their games and the defense is getting worse every week. I am despairing. I am in despair. This team had a hell of a lot of potential. Still does.

Look, I’m a huge IU homer. It’s my alma mater and I’m going to root for this team no matter what. But they have no shot in this game. We’re screwed. Northwestern is really good this season and we’re just not competing right now. I guess we’ll try again next year.

Now I’m off to go pull the fire alarm in Northwestern’s hotel at 5am.

Pick: Northwestern

Update: Indiana 21 Northwestern 19. Hah! I knew it all along. The season isn’t over yet! Go Hoosiers! And if you haven’t stopped reading yet because I’m full of crap, this was a hell of a win. I realize it’s just Northwestern, but the fact the Hoosiers won with Ben Chappell running the show is truly amazing. Good for them. I don’t know if this game saves the season or not, but beating a ranked team is meaningful nonetheless. Plus it means they haven’t completely fucked the dog this season at home, which is nice. Sorry, Wildcats, you just weren’t making it through this season without at least one bad game. The spread offense just works that way. CJ Bacher and the O had nothing all day and the Hoosiers made a few plays along the way. I don’t know too much more because I was freezing my ass at a soccer game, but BIG WIN BOYS!!!!!!!!

Record after week 8: 83-33, 55-56-5 ATS

Boston College (5-1) at North Carolina (5-2) (-3)

Well, well, well, my beloved UNC is favored anyway, despite losing to Virginia last week in their first game without Brandon Tate. Guess that means BC ain’t all that great. Their quarterback, Chris Crane, sure leaves something to be desired after the Matt Ryan era. I really don’t know what to think anymore. This game is a gambler’s nightmare. One more week on the bandwagon, I guess.

Pick: North Carolina

Update: North Carolina 45 Boston College 24. I’d say Hakeem Nicks had himself a nice four-touchdown afternoon. I can’t emphasize how big a win this is for UNC. That loss last week at Virginia could have killed all their momentum for the season and left them flirting with a .500 record instead of a bowl-berth and a lead in the Atlantic Division. I’m not really sure how they allowed 24 points to BC because their offense didn’t really gain very much, but a win’s a win these days. The Tar Heels are now officially playing with house money.

Record: 84-33, 56-56-5 ATS

Illinois (4-3) at Wisconsin (3-4) (+2.5)

The Illini eked out a 55-13 against a tough Indiana Hoosiers team last week. Lucky bastards. That’s gotta make this a letdown game.

I know this about this game: Wisconsin is fucking awful this season. The offense looks, to quote our Irish friends, “like shite” and the defense has played accordingly. The only problem is Illinois is having serious issues beating teams they should beat. Maybe they righted the ship against IU, but that UL Lafayette game still sticks out to me. Thank God Wisconsin is awful this year.

Pick: Illinois

Update: Wisconsin 27 Illinois 17.Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad loss for the Illini. I’m not overly broken-hearted about it, it’s not basketball season after all, but I do hate it when teams don’t take care of business against conference powers when they’re down. This was an eminently winnable game for Illinois and they blew their chances big time.

Record: 84-34, 56-57-5 ATS

Watch “Life”–for my money, the best show on television

Busy on Friday at 10pm? Dumb question. Of course you’re not. You, sir or madam, should be watching “Life” on NBC– Fridays at 10pm. Oh, not for any special reason. It’s only one of the best shows on television.

It’s about a cop who was framed, got out of jail, won a huge settlement, and now is back on the force solving crimes with a hot partner (as documented here) and trying to figure out who framed him. See, whenever you write the premise of a show out like that, it sounds more preposterous than it seems when you’re just watching the show. Suffice to say, it’s not going for the “gritty and realistic” angle, but it’s not completely asinine like “Chuck” either.

“Life” was actually having a great first season. It was slowly building an audience through word of mouth and actual quality episodes. No stupid buzz. No huge stars. Just good television. It was underground-cool, like that movie Shoot ‘em Up. Problem is, once the writer’s strike happened, that’s about where it stayed. Then the strike ended and NBC stuck the show with that awful time slot, and there you have it. So the peacock basically pulled a Fox with one of its best new shows, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy it.

So, the show is on Fridays at 10, but there’s also this new-fangled thing called the “Internet” on which you can watch episodes on NBC.com pretty much any time you’d like. I think I’ve only watched one of the episodes of the show this season when it actually aired, so do what the loser sports bloggers cool kids are doing. And you’re welcome for the free advertising, NBC.

(8) Texas Tech (7-0) at (23) Kansas (5-2) (-1.5)

Kansas is 99th in pass defense, they’re playing Texas Tech, and that’s all I need to know. It means two things: one, their DB’s aren’t all that great and, two, they aren’t rushing the passer. Did I mention they’re playing Texas Tech this week. Enough said. Oh, the Red Raiders are going down at some point this season, but this game screams shootout and that’s right in their wheelhouse.

Pick: Texas Tech

Update: Texas Tech 63 Kansas 21. Jesus, Tech. I knew you’d cover, but 49 straight points? That’s ridiculous. I hate to say I saw it coming, but epic fail by Kansas. They were always a paper tiger anyway. They only beat like one ranked team a year ago when they made the BCS, so it’s no wonder they’re down after losing several players on defense. This is just the beginning for Tech, though. They have so much ahead of them still, this game might as well not count tonight. Nice win guys, now fuhgeddaboudit.

Record: 85-34, 57-57-5 ATS

Wake Forest (4-2) at Tha U (4-3) (-3)

The hell happened last week, Wake? 26-0 to Maryland? Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. And now a plucky Hurricanes squad is just waiting to jump you at Joe Robbie Stadium this Saturday, and you’re not even favored, even though you were ranked just a week ago. That’s what losing to Maryland does to you, guys. Miami is another team you should beat, that’s all I know.

Pick: Wake Forest

Update: Miami 16 Wake Forest 10. Nothing about this game makes sense. It was an ugly game, which usually plays right into Wake Forest’s hands, but they lost. So wait, why did Wake Forest run the ball over 50 times today? They stuck with it all the way through and it cost them the game. Riley Skinner only threw eight times even though Wake is a spread offense. They were even using the I-formation. The I-FORMATION!!! At fucking Wake Forest! What the hell is going on over there? I feel like all gamblers should get a take-back when a team comes out and plays using a totally different style than they’ve been using the entire season.

Record: 85-35, 57-58-5 ATS

(24)Minnesota (6-1) at Purdue (2-5) (-1)

I can’t get over that number 24 next to Minnesota. It just doesn’t look right, does it? At the beginning of the season, this team had no business being ranked, but there they are. And now, the first time they’re ranked this season, they’re dogs on the road to a shitty Purdue team. That’s a hell of a vote of confidence.

Is Purdue really favored in this game? Wow. Purdue is awful this year. The team is phoning in Joe Tiller’s last games as their head coach and it shows. They were even giving Curtis Painter’s backup time last weekend. That’s a huge slap in the face to their supposed leader, especially since his backup is a senior too. Minny’s offense is solid and their D is shaky, but they have a good team and some momentum. Sure, they’re on the road at Purdue, but come on.

Pick: Minnesota

Update: Minnesota 17 Purdue 6. I mean, it wasn’t a blowout, but did the oddsmakers really think Purdue was winning this game? And calling Curtis Painter a “star” is a bit of a stretch these days. So maybe that’s how Minnesota won, but this was going to happen either way. Sorry, Joe Tiller, this is what happens when you don’t recruit enough talent AND your players quit on you. Actually, I’m not sorry. Fuck Purdue.

Record: 86-35, 58-58-5 ATS

12:30pm ET

Kentucky (5-2) at (10) Florida (5-1) (-24.5)

I don’t see it. That spread is way too high. Kentucky’s defense is good enough for them to not be almost a four touchdown underdog and being at The Swamp isn’t worth the extra touchdown. Didn’t Kentucky just play close with Alabama on the road? They’re not awful. They sure as hell aren’t winning this game, but I can’t see a blowout here.

Pick: Florida wins but Kentucky beats the spread.

Update: Florida 63 Kentucky 5. Just looking at the words above this paragraph makes me wince. Talk about your all-time terrible picks. My bad, guys. My bad.

Record: 87-35, 58-59-5 ATS

(4) Oklahoma (6-1) at Kansas State (4-3) (+18.5)

There’s an outside chance of an upset in this game. A really, really outside chance. OU is really good, and now that they’ve lost, there’s no reason for them to drop a random game until they play another ranked team in a national television game. They have no pressure on them the next three weeks, so I’m sure they’ll play loose. I hate picking these huge spreads, but….

Pick: Oklahoma

Update: Oklahoma 58 Kansas State 35. Interesting cover by OU this week. All the good stuff happened in the first half, with the score 55-28 at halftime and only ten points scored in the second half. I’m hoping only the die-hards were watching the second half anyway, and they were justly bored for their commitment. Even Sam Bradford sucked in the second half. This game must have been truly awful to watch. I’m also seriously questioning OU’s defense at this point. 35 points to K-State? Yeesh.

Record: 88-35, 59-59-5 ATS

3:30pm ET

UCLA (3-4) at Cal (4-2) (-17)

Booter explained the hierarchy of Bruin football hatred to me and it goes in this order: USC, Stanford, Oregon, Cal. So this IS a “hatred game” for the gutty little Bruins. UCLA is on the road and double-digit underdogs, but I would be shocked if a crap Cal team managed to blow them out. The only thing that worries me is UCLA essentially playing with house money now. No one really expected them to win any more games than the Washington State and Stanford games.

Pick: Cal wins but UCLA beats the spread.

Update: Cal 41 UCLA 20.This was a close game until the middle of the fourth quarter, which sucks for me and UCLA. Well, probably for UCLA a little more. Kevin Craft did his thing again. And by “thing” I mean he threw four interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. So basically, UCLA saw they were going to beat the spread and panicked.

Record: 89-35, 59-60-5 ATS

I know Tennessee sucks, but I have to admit, that thing at the beginning of games where the band forms and then opens the “T” and the team runs out is pretty fucking cool. The SEC might be crazy, but you get your money’s worth from a lot of the more storied teams. Unless you’re an Auburn, Tennessee, or, well, pretty much anyone but Georgia, Alabama, and Florida this year.

Virginia Tech (5-2) at (25) Florida State (5-1) (-5)

Florida State is ranked again, despite not having beaten anyone…again. And this week, they’re playing Virginia Tech. Boy, that Tyrod Taylor move really improved Tech’s chances this season. That 5-2 record sure would have been hard to get with just Sean Glennon running the offense. Boy howdy. Turns out Taylor had a hell of a lot of work to do on his passing skills and is basically learning on the job. Amazing a sophomore would need that kind of time to develop. FSU is running the ball well this season, which it definitely hasn’t in the past. That makes the mediocre play they’re getting out of Christian Ponder all the more valuable. This is basically a game that’s asking who you trust more.

Pick: Virginia Tech

Update: Florida State 30 Virginia Tech 20. Shows what happens when you trust teams you don’t care about. Tyrod Taylor got hurt early and that was pretty much it, even though they had a lead. If Florida State doesn’t totally suck anymore, then the college football universe makes even less sense than it did earlier today. Thank God they haven’t played a tough schedule to reach 6-1 or we’d have to deal with FSU fan claiming they deserve a spot in the BCS Championship Game. Gross.

Record: 89-36, 59-61-5 ATS

Virginia (4-3) at (18) Georgia Tech (6-1) (-12)

The Revenge of Option Football is back home in Atlanta (or wherever) this week against a crap Virginia team. The Cavaliers managed to get an overtime win against North Carolina last week, dashing one of my bandwagon teams’ hopes in the process. I just can’t see Virginia’s offense being able to move the ball against Tech’s defense. They’re a huge step up from UNC’s defense, and Virginia could barely move the ball on them. The only thing that worries me is the possibility of a letdown game for Georgia Tech. They beat Clemson in an emotional game last week. Well, it was emotional for me, at least. I’ve only hated Clemson for the entire season and been pumping up Tech that entire time too. Nothing major. But I’m betting Paul Johnson gets his kids ready for this one. Twelve points though? Jeez. That’s tough when Al Groh is in full Save His Job mode.

Pick: Georgia Tech

Update: Virginia 24 Georgia Tech 17. Damn it, Tech. Why can’t UNC and Georgia Tech realize Virginia isn’t any good? Al Groh is just the Wayne Fontes of the ACC. He always does just enough to save his job even though his teams are, by and large, unwatchable. Now they’re in first freaking place in the ACC Atlantic division. That’s pathetic, but I guess we should have expected that kind of ridiculous mediocrity from the ACC. This is just a bump in the road for Georgia Tech. The Revenge of Option Football will continue. And there’s nothing anyone can do about it!!!!

Record: 89-37, 59-62-5 ATS

(16) South Florida (6-1) at Louisville (4-2) (+3.5)

I’m not going to trust Louisville until they’re further removed from the Bobby Petrino era. Steve Kragthorpe deserves a lot of credit for even managing to get that circus under control enough to get the team to 4-2. They still have quite a bit of talent, but that program was a disaster when Petrino left and they’re just now recovering.

Phillips had a good point the other day too. You have to feel really bad for Hunter Cantwell. They guy sat behind Brian Brohm for at least three years being patient and knowing his time would come after the big-name quarterback made his way to the NFL. FINALLY he gets to start and it’s under a different coach in a struggling program with a third of the talent around him. That sucks.

USF is the stronger team here, by far. Louisville will put a fight because they’re at home and they’re not terrible, but South Florida should roll. “Should” being the key word there. I can’t fully trust this team, either. They look great against Syracuse and several other teams, but they looked like shit against Pitt, who isn’t even that good. Also, Matt Grothe not being able to throw the ball just 50 yards on a hail mary is a disturbing image from that game. I don’t know what to do with USF, and I sure as hell wouldn’t bet on them with anything other than internet money.

Pick: USF

Update: Louisville 24 USF 20.This is getting bad. I haven’t gotten a game right in a while and I’m starting to get that “3am look.” I’ll take a win. Any win. I’m freaking out, man.

I knew USF would be challenged in this game, but I didn’t think Louisville had enough for them. Then they went out and committed 14 penalties for 109 yards. Doesn’t get much better than that. I’m happy for USF that they’ve become a relevant football program, but if they’re going to stick around, they can’t pull shit like this, even on the road. This is nothing but a bad loss. Worse than the Pitt one for sure.

Record: 89-38, 59-63-5, ATS

Nice to see Tee Martin is still alive. At least there’s one Tennessee team that’s going to get a cheer at Neyland Stadium tonight.

(7) Georgia (6-1) at (13) Louisiana State (5-1) (-1.5)

I love it when two teams I have a major beef with play each other. I’m willing to give Les Miles credit for getting Keiland Williams half the carries last week, but the kid should still be starting and no one will convince me otherwise. It’s not an accident that LSU moved the ball better with Scott at fullback and Williams behind him at running back. I dislike Georgia for being overrated, uncreative, and for Matt Stafford. He’s not a bad kid, but some one needs to coach him up on checking down. All his passes don’t have to be thrown as hard as he can, either.

Georgia might get dominated on both the offensive and defensive lines in this game. They’re young on the offensive side and injured/suspended on the defensive side. Stafford and A.J. Green are going to make plays against a crappy LSU secondary, but can the line protect Stafford enough to make the short, easy throws? Can they block well enough for Knowshon Moreno to get through LSU’s excellent defensive front? This game will be won in the trenches, and that plays right into Les Miles’ hands.

Pick: LSU

Update: Georgia 52 LSU 38. Okay so LSU’s defense sucked today. Everything was set up for them to dominate. The crowd was insane. They had a team that couldn’t score points opposite them with a vulnerable offensive line. They even had a coaching advantage, which doesn’t happen often for LSU. But no. Instead, they sucked today and got themselves into a shootout they couldn’t possibly win. Pathetic, Tigers. Pathetic. It’s also worth pointing out Keiland Williams had 6 carries for 30 yards. Sure, Charles Scott had a big game again, but they lost, didn’t they? He’s not a big-play back. Williams is. Free Keiland Williams!

Record: 89-39, 59-64-5 ATS

Did you guys know Terrelle Pryor is a freshman? I had no idea and the announcers at the PSU/OSU game haven’t mentioned it more than 10 or 20 times, and I can’t remember anything until the 30th repetition. At the moment, that freshman is driving his team down the field against Penn State’s defense. This drive is a fumble waiting to happen.

Michigan State (6-2) at Michigan (2-5) (+4)

I decided to pick this game before last week, when State was still ranked and Michigan still sucked, but was showing signs of life. A week later, the Spartans shit down their legs at home against Ohio State and Michigan has been blown out again, and their one saving grace, the defense, is looking worse every week. Suddenly, this is a really depressing game. The big story is the impending redemption of my Halfway-Heisman Trophy winner, Javon Ringer. He only had 67 yards on 16 carries against the Buckeyes and didn’t score. I blame my ability to completely curse players and teams by endorsing them, but that’s just me. Maybe Michigan State just isn’t that good. I expect Ringer to be back to form Saturday and Michigan State’s conservative style is just the thing to beat Michigan and all their turnovers.

Pick: Michigan State

Update: Michigan State 35 Michigan 21. Thank God. I was really starting to think I wasn’t going to get a game right the rest of today. This game was on here and I can say this: Michigan sucks. They play hard for Rich-Rod, but man do they suck. State looked good enough, but they were just happy to win this game in Ann Arbor. It’s a free gift for Spartan fans this year, but the next time this game is played at Michigan, I bet it’s not so easy.

Record: 90-39, 60-64-5 ATS

OSU’s drive ended in a punt. Good enough for me. Now let’s see some Spread HD magic, Lions!

The ballad of Colt McCoy

In the movie Necessary Roughness, wasn’t the team they beat at the end called the “by-God, number one Texas Colts”? Kind of prescient, no? I swear that had a point in my head.

Anyway, Colt McCoy has announced he’s coming back for his senior season with the Texas Longhorns. He’s doing this in the middle of a season while the team is undefeated and ranked number one, yet they haven’t made it through the tough portion of their schedule yet and he hasn’t had to deal with disappointment yet. The heat of a season makes players do crazy things. Maybe this wasn’t the best time to make this announcement.

Just look at the example of Oklahoma State’s brand new facilities that are being built. T. Boone Pickens donated over $165 million to the university, but because of the market crash, there may not be much left. Now the project is on hold and no one knows what’s going to happen. Pickens himself has lost over $1 billion. OSU was riding high with the prospect of new facilities and a super-rich benefactor, but now things are a mess. They made the announcement, but some bad stuff happened, and now look at them.

Just saying, Colt, this may have been a case of letting the emotion of the season get ahold of you instead of making a thoughtful choice. I have no idea what kind of pro prospect he is, or what his draft chances are, but I’m just saying.

(6) Oklahoma State (7-0) at (1) Texas (7-0) (-12.5)

In both of Texas’ big games, I’ve picked against them in one form or another, either to not cover or to lose outright. I’ve lost both times.

This game’s at home, so that’s a built-in advantage right there. The Longhorns have had a lot of good momentum and good karma going through this season. They wanted to be more physical this season, instead of continuing the trend toward finesse that running a spread offense sometimes creates, and they did that. They had several uknown quantities at the skill positions such as Chris Ogbonnaya at running back, and they’ve come through. I wasn’t even sure who would be productive for them. AND they had a quarterback who needed to redeem himself after a bad 2007 season, and he did. It could have gone the other way, but it all fell into place instead, and here Texas is: undefeated and ranked first in the country.

There’s something about this Oklahoma State team, though. They’re getting a ton of production out of the offense and have a hell of a lot of talent at the skill positions too. While the offense is great, the defense exposed Missouri the week before Texas played them, so they have to be pretty darn good eventhough it’s the Cowboys’ weakness. This game feels like a win against the spread for them, maybe even an upset.

Pick: Texas wins but OSU beats the spread.

Update: Texas 28 OSU 24. Two in a row. Sweet. Colt McCoy didn’t have a perfect game again, but the guy is still magic this season. He’s passing the ball better than he ever has and the Longhorns look better on offense now than they did when Vince Young was there. That’s right I said it. They do. I’m not saying they’re winning the title this year, but they look fucking great so far. And now we get that Texas Tech matchup we all wanted next week. At least I wanted it. Screw the rest of you.

Record: 91-39, 61-64-5 ATS

Loved that pitch to Derrick Williams to start Penn State’s offensive series.

6:30pm ET

Colorado (4-3) at (15) Missouri (5-2) (-24.5)

In a way, I feel bad for Colorado. But in another way, I couldn’t care less. This is the mediocrity one can expect from the Buffaloes right now. In the future, there’s a chance Dan Hawkins can get Boise State-style success out of them, but not this year, even with his kid at quarterback.

The real question in this game is whether Missouri is psychologically broken now that all their National Championship dreams are broken and they may not even win the Big XII North. They might have been able to pull it off with one loss, but not two. Now the best they can hope for is an appearance in the Big XII championship game and maybe a BCS game, and they’ve got a hell of a lot of work ahead of them to make it happen. It’s hard for a team to readjust their expectations like this, and I wonder if Missouri will be able to. Plus, their defense is kinda terrible, which might let a mediocre offense like Colorado stay in the game.

Pick: Missouri wins but Colorado beats the spread.

Update: Missouri 58 Colorado 0. I’m not convinced Missouri isn’t broken by those two losses even though they kicked Colorado’s ass. Even their coach said those two weeks “felt like two years.” Maybe they’re re-focused, I don’t know, but it’s going to take a heroic effort for them to even make the Big XII game. Though, if Kansas keeps playing like they did this week, that shouldn’t present much of a problem.

Record: 92-39, 61-65-5 ATS

7:45pm ET

(2) Alabama (7-0) at Tennessee (3-4) (+5)

At least the oddsmakers wised up and made the spread close because there’s no way in hell the Crimson Tide could cover a big spread anymore. Their offense was always predictable, but now it’s definitely stoppable. John Parker Wilson’s had a great season for him, but he’s still John Parker Wilson. Stop the run, and Alabama can’t move the ball.

Happily for the Tide, they’re playing Tennessee with Phil Fulmer on his way out. I don’t care what the talking heads say about seeing Fulmer’s “body of work,” he’s lost this team, and I think he’s lost his last several teams. He just recruited so much talent, it’s been hard to tell. This season, it’s finally obvious he can’t compete in the SEC anymore. His players don’t play hard and make tons of mistakes. If they were playing hard but losing anyway, that would be one thing. I’m not saying Phil Fulmer should be fired by the university, but I think it’s become clear he’s not the same coach. And just to prove I’m an asshole, the Vols will probably win this game. Never underestimate my powers of hexing and reverse-hexing.

Pick: Alabama

Update: Alabama 29 Tennessee 9. I’m shocked Tennessee couldn’t move the ball. Shocked! It’s not like they have a history of being terrible on that side of the ball or anything. Is anyone excited about this Alabama team being in the National Title race? The Saban story is fun, but this is an unwatchable team. They don’t do anything pretty and score weird amounts of points in all their games, like 29 in this one. This is a good-bad team that’s waiting to get beaten by another SEC power. Unfortunately, all they have left on the schedule that will present a challence is LSU in a couple of weeks. Must be nice to be in the SEC West. I bet Tennessee is jealous.

Record: 93-39, 62-65-5 ATS

8pm ET

(3) Penn State (8-0) at (9) Ohio State (7-1) (+2.5)

This is the year JoePa finally wins at Ohio State. Hasn’t happened since he was first the coach back in the Cretaceous period, but it’s happening this year. I really think Terrelle Pryor is going to lead the Buckeyes to great places in the next couple of years, and the defense will always be stout, but this year Penn State is winning. This year, there is something going on with this Penn State team. They haven’t played anyone who’s particularly good, which is the only thing worrying me, but there is definitely something about this team. When they are tested, and they will be Saturday night, we’ll find out if they are clutch too. If they are and they don’t gag, then some things can really start to happen. In the words of the immortal Joe Gould (played with amazing quailty by Paul Giamatti in Cinderella Man) “Jimmy…win.”

Pick: Penn State

Update: Penn State 13 Ohio State 6. Man did Penn State’s offense get tight in this game. I have to give OSU’s D their due, but the Penn State offense looked surprised and scared. Ohio State’s offense, on the other hand, hasn’t really changed all that much even with the switch to Pryor. They still run the ball, are only okay in the passing game, and are incredibly predictable. Terrelle Pryor is going to be all kinds of hell for teams to deal with next season, but he was easily contained by Penn State. I told you it was going to happen. There’s something about this Penn State team. Even Lou Holtz is completely sold on them, without making any Hitler references to boot. Excited about that Texas, Alabama, Penn State triad for the national title yet? I sure as hell am not.

Record: 94-39, 63-65-5 ATS

Notre Dame (4-2) at Washington (0-6) (+10)

This game isn’t nearly as fun as it could have been if Ty Willingham’s Huskies team were any good. I would love to see what Jake Locker could do against that slow Irish defense. I would love to see what would happen if Washington had any talent at all. But Locker’s hurt and there isn’t any talent, so Notre Dame gets to spend another week pretending they’re back. They’re not. Their schedule is just insanely easy. Just wait until the USC game.

Pick: Notre Dame

Update: Notre Dame 33 Washington 7. Like I said, Domer fan, your team is not back. Your defense is not suddenly good, and a terrible day was still enough for your mediocre offense to beat Washington. All you did today was beat one of the worst teams in Division I football that’s decimated by injuries and is full of young players. You were in nearly this exact position last season, so there should be no gloating, not even about beating Ty Willingham. Take the win and move on.

Record: 95-39, 64-65-6 ATS

USC didn’t run up the score last week

The only people saying USC ran up the score on Washington State are people who didn’t watch the game. I suffered through that shit and I know for a fact they didn’t run the score up. Not that anything like that will stop the talking heads from trying to create controversy.

USC ran one pass play the entire second half. Mark Sanchez didn’t play in the second half. USC could have scored 100 points, and all they would have needed to do to accomplish that was leave the starting offense in the game for just the third quarter.

I’m not even saying USC is just so amazing they took a mediocre team and did serious harm to them. Wazzu is possibly the worst team in Division One; they’re just THAT bad. USC is ranked fifth in the BCS this week and, due to travel rules, wasn’t even allowed to bring their walk-ons to Pullman. I’d say that game would be a blowout no matter what. Hell, unranked Oregon State dropped 63 on Wazzu the week before and no one is harping on that. Why? Because Oregon State sucks and USC doesn’t, the irony being kind of thick here since the Trojans lost to the Beavers (by far my favorite matchup, if you know what I mean. Heh) as they are wont to do.

No one likes seeing a team get blown out. And definitely not when Phillips is texting me for updates all the time because he has to work. Dude, they scored like four times since you texted me five minutes ago, I can’t include all that in a text message. Thank God for Game Tracker or whatever the hell that thing is called.

Now, let’s pretend this massacre never happened and move on.

10:15pm ET

(5) USC (5-1) at Arizona (5-2) (+15)

Arizona always gives USC trouble. Always. There’s a history of close games between them. Then again, there’s been a few blowouts too. Arizona has outscored the Trojans this season, but USC has only given up 47 total points, so I’d say they have a defensive advantage. I’m going to go with Phillips on this one. The Wildcats will play close with the Trojans in the first half, as USC uses its vanilla defenses to figure out what Arizona is up to. Then, in the second half, USC will start running more exotic blitzes and coverages, and the Arizona defense won’t be able to adjust. Plus, this is a USC team with no pressure on them to win the national title, so they’re as dangerous as they can be.

Pick: USC

Update: USC 17 Arizona 10. USC’s defense is going to be the story, but Arizona handed this game to USC late by punting with about three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. They faced a fourth and eight and figured they could get the ball back, but they never did. I don’t know what from the game told Mike Stoops his defense could stop USC without major mistakes by the Trojans, but he thought, wrongly, that they could. That doesn’t mean USC didn’t try to hand the game right back. Stafon Johnson fumbled on a carry deep inside Trojans’ territory as they were trying to run the clock out only it was picked up and run for like 40 yards by Anthony McCoy to get USC safely away from their own end znoe and effectively ice the game.

USC won their toughest remaining game (they get Washington next week, for example) but they didn’t look great doing it. I guess it was inevitable to a certain extent. Arizona is a tough team, after all. Imagine what they could do with actual talent at every position on the field instead of just a few.

The bigger problem is USC is now the fourth team in the picture for the national title game, but they currently don’t look any prettier than the teams ahead of them. If they get their crap together, and I swear I’m not saying this while Phillips is pointing any kind of weapon at me, USC might be the best team remaining other than Texas.

Record: 95-39, 64-65-6 ATS

What is with the Chargers?

Since I’m picking a Sunday game anyway, this is a good time for me to ask the above pertinent question. Just what the hell is going on with the Chargers? This same shit happened last year. The team is under .500, a little injured, and playing uninspired football. Again. At least Phillip Rivers remembered Vincent Jackson is on the team about ten weeks earlier than he did last season.

I can’t be convinced it’s the players, either. There are way too many good people and good leaders on the San Diego roster for that to happen. Losing Sean Merriman after his valiant but misguided attempt to play hurt the defense a lot. But we’re not losing shootouts every week. This team is sucking as a whole.

We’ve been infected with the confusing mediocrity that is Norv Turner. Oh sure, the offense is putting up numbers, but the team is uninspired and we can’t beat teams that put up a fight. Any time now, they’re going to figure out they have to motivate themselves and then the team will take off. That should be easy on a seven-hour flight to London. Which reminds me….

Channeling my inner Dennis Leary circa 1993…

Then again, they got saddled with the stupid-ass London game this season. I liked it better when the shitty Dolphins were over there because I didn’t have to watch it and the Brits don’t really give a crap about the NFL anyway. They’re just patting us on the head and enjoying the fact that the Colonies call this “football.” This is a waste of everyone’s time. At least the NFL had the decency to give the teams a bye week after this debacle at Wembley. It’s a very important part of pro football for players to cope with jet lag on top of having to play at Philadelphia or some other penitentiary posing as a football stadium.

Which reminds me of another thing. Hey Philly Phan, and every other “badass” football fan in this country, you don’t have anything on English football fans. What do you have, the Black Hole? The 700 level? I’m scared. You use foul language! Good for you! Oooh one time a guy got stabbed by a paroled Raiders fan. Terrifying. One time! By a Raiders fan! We already knew they’re criminals. The Black Hole wouldn’t last in EPL football. They won’t even let these guys in England use the same subway stops on gameday. The fans are separated by armed guards and their hatred goes back to their grandfather’s grandfather. The NFL can’t possibly compete with that shit.

So let’s keep football here and stop pretending we have more sports to offer the rest of the world. I enjoy kicking ass at the Olympics ever four years and then pretending nothing else exists outside of this country, athletically speaking. Let’s go back to having our own games instead of assuming the rest of the world gives a shit about our internal obsessions. They don’t. Let them keep the basketball leagues that, no matter what anyone says, don’t hold a candle to the NBA. Let the rest of the world be more baseball-obsessed than we are so we can lose that pointless international competition next spring again in a sport WE fucking invented. The only thing we should be stealing from Europe are reality shows and hot ass. Everything else can wait. Keep your football and we’ll keep ours. Thanks.

Sunday, October 26, 1pm ET

San Diego Chargers (3-4) at New Orleans Saints (3-4) (London, England) (+3)

How the hell did New Orleans end up in last place? All the press surrounding this team is so positive. They say Brees is one of the best quarterbacks in the league. That Bush and an increasingly healthy Deuce McAllister are insanely effective. Yeah, I forgot about the defense. And the offense? Shit, even the Chargers have outscored them this season. Now they don’t have Bush for a month (time for me to commit fantasy hari-kari?) and they look to be in serious trouble.

Pick: San Diego

Update: New Orleans 37 San Diego 32. Now I understand why both of these talented teams have such crappy records. Neither team has any defense at all. As you may know, this used to be a strength of the Chargers. They used to have a defense that was fast and merciless, but now it’s soft and injured. They simply can’t get off the field. Part of that may be due to the offense either scoring or punting quickly most games, but that wasn’t the case Sunday, and the Chargers are a team in serious trouble heading into their bye week. It’s tough to speculate yet, but if this team doesn’t make the playoffs, Norv Turner has to go. The team just does not play hard for him.

Record: 95-40, 64-66-6 ATS

8pmET

UCF (2-4) at (19) Tulsa (7-0) (-23.5)

Looks like I jumped on the Tulsa bandwagon about 24 hours before the rest of the country did. This is an extremely important game for Tulsa. Once a team is ranked, the next game it plays takes on sometimes an over-significance for the newly-ranked team. They start to feel that pressure and get nervous, and suddenly they’re playing close with a team they normally would destroy. This could be one of those games. Tulsa could be on its way to doing something special this season. All they have to do is avoid a bad loss in conference or to Arkansas in a week or two, and they could get a foot in the BCS door. I think this is only going to get more interesting. It can’t stop now.

Pick: Tulsa

Update: Tulsa 49 UCF 19. They were losing at halftime and made me a little nervous, but eventually Tulsa made SPAM out of UCF. Next time don’t make it so interesting.

Record through week nine: 96-40, 65-66-5 ATS

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