Record after week two: 26-16, 23-18-1 AS
Go here to read my preview of LSU/Louisiana-Lafayette for SECFootballBlogger.com
Friday, September 18
Special Friday Pick! Game Of The Week
(10) Boise State (2-0) at Fresno State (1-1) (+7)
What, I’m not allowed to pick a meaningless WAC rivalry game? I mean, it’s not entirely meaningless. It’s a Boise State team that’s serious about making the BCS again on the road against a team that prides itself on being able to beat anyone, and has the horses to do it. They should have beaten Wisconsin last week, even!
Even though Fresno got a taste for human blood in almost beating Wisconsin, I have trouble seeing them challenging Boise. The Broncos are really, really good on both sides of the ball and Fresno is a pest, but not a serious threat. This is a double-secret blowout because the obvious pick would be a close Boise win, but Fresno is gonna have a letdown.
Pick: Boise State
Hope you enjoyed this game, because there ain’t a damn thing worth watching at noon on Saturday. Get the car washed and the lawn mowed early, because it’s gonna be a helluva show at 3:30 and into the evening.
Saturday, September 19
(8) California (2-0) at Minnesota (2-0) (+13.5)
Minnesota’s beautiful new stadium is getting to host its first Heisman showcase with Jahvid Best coming to town. Both defenses have done a good job holding inferior competition to just a few points, though that Syracuse game got a little out of hand there, Minny. I do want to give credit to Minnesota for playing some decent opposition in their first two games (a game Syracuse team, Air Force). At least those are both Division 1-A squads. Cal played Maryland and Eastern Washington. Eastern. Freaking. Washington. Both games were blowouts, and Best can pretend like he’s been dominating by saying he’s averaging over ten yards per carry, even though he only has 27 carries on the season. That’s the only thing about Cal I don’t trust: they haven’t played anybody yet. Minnesota has been tested twice and has played well in crunch time. But can they stop the Cal offense? Look for three things: Minnesota to focus all energy on stopping Jahvid Best, Best having a big game anyway, and Best getting less than 22 carries.
Pick: Cal wins but doesn’t cover
Tennessee (1-1) at (1) Florida (2-0) (-29.5)
People have been saying a lot about revenge and hate heading into this game, but that’s too easy an angle. Nothing has changed in this rivalry for the last few years: Florida is faster and more talented and is better coached. And while Lane Kiffin’s ceiling in modern football is higher than Phil Fulmer’s was, he’s not on Urban Meyer’s level yet at recruiting or tactics. Thus, even though Tennessee really might make this game a little bit competitive, there’s very little chance of them winning.
That said, the Florida D had better look reeeeeeeeealll good against Tennessee, or my comparison between them and 2005 USC is going to start looking more and more apt. And I would imagine Meyer learned his lesson from that team, and is ready to kick the Vols’ ass just based on history. And now that Jonathan Crompton has shown his true colors, I find it really hard to believe Tennessee will make this competitive. I hate picking this game because of the huge spread, but it’s such a big game, I’m not gonna ignore it. Time to suck it up…
Michigan State (1-1) at Notre Dame (1-1) (-10)
Notre Dame gets another shot at a Michigan school at home, only this time MSU isn’t nearly as much of an offensive threat. The Wolverines more or less carved up the Domers when they really needed to, and that speed disadvantage reared its ugly head again. The Spartans have none of that offensively, but do have history on their side. MSU’s ownage of Notre Dame is long and distinguished, and while history doesn’t practice or scheme for games, it does tell us a few things.
The first is that Notre Dame plays down to its opponents under Charlie Weis. They’re never just purely dominant and often spend some time looking a little befuddled. This is an MSU team the Irish should beat, but it won’t happen on pure talent. Weis is going to have to out-coach his counterpart, Mark Dantonio. And you know Dantonio learned some things from the Michigan game that’ll be in the gameplan Saturday. Weis isn’t a motivator and he’s fairly conservative in his playcalling, though he likes to air it out. These are not the hallmarks of a team on its way to greatness.
The second is the pressure. Michigan State has absolutely nothing to lose. This isn’t a conference game, and they’re not gonna win a national championship since they lost to Central Michigan, so f*ck it, right? Unless there’s a huge LeHangover (get it?!), this is going to be a pissed off Spartan football team. Not so much for Notre Dame. They lose a Michigan game their fans thought they should have won because no one thought Michigan was going to be as good as they are. It’s really not the team’s fault the fans are up in arms, but they are nontheless. Also, Charlie Weis’ teams have routinely underwhelmed in semi-meaningful games like this. It’s how they lost to Pitt last year for no reason. Or how they lost to Navy a couple years back. That would never happen at USC. Ahem. But a Notre Dame win by more than ten points? Totally possible. See how I talked myself into that one?
Pick: Notre Dame
Tulsa (2-0) at (12) Oklahoma (1-1) (-17.5)
Can OU lose to Tulsa without Sam Bradford? Of course not. But it’ll be really interesting to see how well they play against a very overmatched foe. Will Bob Stoops be able to run the score up like he likes or will they have to settle for 42 points? Will the backup quarterback manage to complete 18 passes? Will the spread stay this absurdly low? Tune in Saturday night, football fans!
(19) Nebraska (2-0) at (13) Virginia Tech (1-1) (-4.5)
This is the perfect matchup of ranked teams that inspire fear in absolutely no one. It’s gonna get national coverage and it’s a fairly big game for each program, but come on. There isn’t a single thing that scares me about either one of these teams. Get ready for a showcase of mediocrity, Blacksburg!
Trap Game? Naaaaaahhh. Game of the Week
(3) Southern California (2-0) at Washington (1-1) (+20)
This fits all the criteria of a trap game, but there’s something holding me back from thinking Washington has a shot here. I don’t think USC will destroy them like they have the last couple of years, but a win for the Huskies seems really unlikely. I think Steve Sarkisian will have his charges fired up and they’ll play well for a quarter or two, or even three. Plus, USC will play it conservatively again, since that’s the way the offense has increasingly gone the last few years, even when Sanchez was there. The last time the Trojans truly aired it out was 2005 when Matt Leinart was a senior. The talent gap between the two schools is wide, and though the Trojans just beat Ohio State, I can’t see a letdown here. Maybe against Cal, but damn the Bears D isn’t that good and they have no one but Jahvid Best. I expect one of those 17-7 USC wins in which Washington never has a shot at winning, and the game isn’t as close as the score. Still, the smart money’s on a cover.
Indiana (2-0) at Akron (1-1) (-4.5)
Bill Lynch WOULD get IU into a road game at a MAC school. It’s about the level of respect our program gets at this point. Since they’re in the Big Ten, they get to go to a pretty decent bowl if they actually manage six wins, but that’s a big f*cking “if.” Wait…IU is a f*cking underdog to a MAC team?!?!? F*ck me.
Just once, I would like to see the Hoosiers manage some balance on offense. Just once. Maybe Matt Canada won’t fall in love with the pass or the run and try to, you know, mix things up and keep the defense on its heels. Every GD time anything works, you can expect to see that same play/idea run two dozen more times until it doesn’t work. Perfect example: the Hoosiers ran a wildcat formation with a receiver/former QB at quarterback. It worked, and they gained a bunch of yards. So what did Canada call on the next play? The very same thing and it didn’t work. This happened three different times, all in the same situation with the same results. Yes, the Hoosiers have a lack of talent and a lack of skill, but the coaching gap is routinely exposed first against nearly every team the Hoosiers play. Bill Lynch and his staff are still playing checkers in a chess match.
IU is still 2-0 and every game is huge, even if it’s against a middling MAC team. And I don’t care what the current state of the program is, this is a must-win game for Indiana. Be perfect, f*ckers.
(18) Utah (2-0) at Oregon (1-1) (-5)
This would have been a hell of a matchup 12 months ago. Now, the teams are still kind of on equal footing, but are just way worse. Utah doesn’t have the playmakers it had last year, which will be its undoing, but Oregon has looked like crap so far. Jeremiah Masoli and the offense look confused now that there isn’t one feature-back to use. But spreading the ball around is one of the goals of their offense; it’s designed to keep defenses guessing as to where the ball is going next. The other goal is to utilize their playmakers as much as possible, which is a bit trickier for Oregon this year. Oregon SHOULD win this game even though Utah is the ranked team. The Ducks have major talent but have yet to get full use of it. In a normal year, it would be really hard to trust Utah’s defense in this situation. But Oregon’s offense has been so bad in two games, I’m not sure that’s the difference-maker. I think Utah plays close the whole game, but Oregon makes one extra play in an otherwise ugly game.
Pick: Oregon wins but doesn’t cover
Nevada (0-1) at Colorado State (2-0) (+3)
A surprisingly energetic CSU team at home against Colin Kaepernick and Nevada? Count me…in? I’m telling you, this will be an entertaining game. These are teams on an equal talent level and both need the win. No seriously, this is a great game to watch during commercials for one of the 3:30 games. Just watch. I promise.
Southern Methodist (2-0) at Washington State (0-2) (+6.5)
The “when will Wazzu win?” countdown continues with SMU, who can absolutely be beaten. Will it happen? Yeesh.
Best Game of the Night That No One Thinks Is Interesting Game of the Week
(17) Cincinnati (2-0) at Oregon State (2-0) (+1)
This game has several things that will make this the best game of the weekend, pound for pound.
a) Jacquizz Rodgers
The game-breaking, scary, mini-kill-bot for the Beavers could have a big game Saturday night. Cincy is going to focus solely on him, meaning he’s either going to break through the nine men who’ll inevitably be in the box, or some one else is going to have an inexplicably huge game for O-State. Rodgers is great, plus he’s little, so you can channel your inner Jon Favreau from “Rudy” as you watch. You know Mike Riley is gonna run him into the groun, plus make a few random big plays passing…
b) The Mike Riley Game
Speaking of Mike Riley, as a Chargers fan, I know way too much about this man as a head coach and tactician. His teams have this crazy tendency to get into a close game with a team that should blow them out, take the lead late on an amazing, climactic drive, and then blow the game on an equally climactic drive that follows. It’s called The Mike Riley Game, it’s happened probably 20 times with coach Riley in charge, and I’m sure Oregon State fans know exactly what I’m talking about.
This game has all the makings of a Mike Riley Game. Cincinnati is good, but still on the come-up and Oregon State is playing for a little respect [at home–fixed…damn cold medicine]. This is the exact kind of team Riley teams play close with. Or get blown out. What am I, an expert? Sheesh. But look at the spread. The oddsmakers can tell Oregon State is going to play closer than they should. It’s how they do up in Corvallis.
Florida State (1-1) at (7) BYU (2-0) (-7.5)
This is the kind of game BYU absolutely has to win, but has a really good chance of losing. The game’s at night. It’s at home. It’s against a perenially powerful team who’s down a little. And BYU is ranked super high and has already beaten Oklahoma (highlight of the season) and trounced Tulane (easy blowout). Will BYU keep their edge for the Seminoles, who don’t suck? Well, I mean they kind of suck, but they’re talented enough to give BYU trouble if the Cougars have an off night or don’t take things seriously. I’m inclined to think BYU can handle Florida State’s spread since they handled Oklahoma’s. But now there’s pressure like there hasn’t been before. Win, and the Cougars are legit contenders for the national title, and you know they’re thinking about that every day no matter what coach says.
Pick: BYU wins but doesn’t cover
West Virginia (2-0) at Auburn (2-0) (-7)
Auburn is, apparently, way, way better this year even though they haven’t really played anybody scare. They DID manage to score more than three points on Mississippi State this year, so hey, improvement! See what happens when you let your highly-touted offensive coordinator actually run the offense? There’s no question Gus Malzahn wouldn’t take long to figure out that Auburn still needs to run the ball. Spread offense doesn’t mean pass first. It also speaks to the supreme idiocy of Tommy Tuberville’s staff that they were so steadfast against the new offense and those same personnel are running it really well just a year later. They all caused themselves to lose their jobs and have absolutely no excuses. As far as West Virginia goes, their journey toward the middle is nearly complete and they aren’t much of a threat to Auburn as long as the defense doesn’t melt down. Don’t forget, Auburn had this game won last year before a colossal choke-job.
(23) Georgia (1-1) at Arkansas (1-0) (-1.5)
Oh man is that Arkansas offense going to be scary good in a few games once Mallett totally figures it out. Georgia’s suspect defense (see? I told you, Bulldog fan) is facing yet another unproven, but spunky, offense. Plus, the Razorbacks have had two weeks to prepare for anything UGA throws at them. It’s yet another potential upset for the depleted Bulldogs. I still don’t trust them, no matter what happens. A combo of Mark Richt, no playmakers on offense (AJ Green needs some one to throw to him), and crappy defense means you should never, ever gamble on a Georgia game. Screw it, I’m picking the upset. Or it would be an upset if everyone and their mother hadn’t thought the same thing I did and taken Arkansas too.
Revenge! Game of the Week
Texas Tech (2-0) at (2) Texas (2-0) (-17.5)
Or it would be if Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree were still at TTU. But they’re not, so it’s just meaningless bloodletting. Texas Tech just isn’t as good as they were last year, so there’s not a whole lot of motivation on my part to watch Saturday. The Longhorns have to dominate not just because of the revenge factor but because they’re apparently serious about winning the national championship, and that ain’t happening if they play close with the Red Raiders again. The whole point of last year’s win for TTU was that it was unlikely, since Texas almost always wins that game. Plus, it was at home in Lubbock and the crowd was one of the five best ever to watch a college football game. For the record, Ohio State’s last week might be the best. In any case, I expect Tech to underwhelm while Texas builds an early lead, followed by the Red Raiders gaining a ton of yards once the game is already lost.
Late-Night/Something To Watch At The Bar Game Of The Week
Kansas State (1-1) at UC, LA (2-0) (-12.5)
It must be weird for UCLA to play should-win games at this stage of their rebuilding project. And I’m freaked out by them using one of their backup quarterbacks for the next month, even against a weak K-State team. For the record, Booter, I still have that K-State shot glass some where, just so you know. Anyway, whether it’s Kevin Craft (shudder) or Richard Brehaut (true frosh), the Bruins are still better than Kansas State just based on talent and scheme. While it’s not a particularly meaningful game, this game will tell Bruin observers a lot about the mentality of this team, whether they can handle beating some one they’re supposed to beat or not, especially since they had such a huge road win last week at Tennessee. Kansas State ran for a pretty decent amount of yards last week in their loss to Louisiana-Lafayette, and UCLA isn’t great against the run, but that’s all they have to concentrate on, because we all know Bill Snyder doesn’t like to throw it. That’s the only thing keeping this game close.
Pick: UCLA wins but doesn’t cover