Record after week four: 50-28, 39-38-1 AS
12 pm ET
(22) Michigan (4-0) at Michigan State (1-3) (+2)
Wow, MSU got way worse in one season. Who knew Brian Hoyer was so valuable? Actually, I’m not even sure that’s his name. It was some dude for State last year who was super mediocre, anyway. But holy crap, look at that spread! The oddsmakers really don’t trust Michigan on the road for the first time this season.
Quarterback Tate Forcier is going to play for Michigan even though his shoulder was hurt last week against Indiana. Take THAT, Sam Bradford. Everything tells me that this kid is the new Colt McCoy. Yes, OU fan, that means he’ll probably suck his sophomore year and be woefully behind in his NFL-level passing abilities. But anyway, he’s truly a dual-threat, as opposed to classmate “Shoelaces” Denard Robinson. Hey, you come up with a better nickname. “Shoelaces” is still better than “Beanie.” Robinson is freaking fast, but there’s absolutely zero chance they’ll do any real damage passing when he’s on the field, and opponents are starting to figure that out. So sure, Forcier is playing, but Michigan NEEDS him to play well if they have any hope of being 5-0. They should be 3-1 right now, but getting a homer call against Indiana at The Big House isn’t something I really have a right to gripe about when IU sucked that badly in the red zone.
Anyway, if Michigan State wins this game, we’ll know where Michigan really is in its rebuilding plans because there’s no way they should lose to the Spartans, even on the road. Oh, and I don’t care what the world says about it being played out, anything 300 related at a football game still sounds fantastic and Sparty should keep it up.
The Slab of Bacon/Paul Bunyan’s Axe
Wisconsin (4-0) at Minnesota (3-1) (-2.5)
There’s some Yooper trophy involved with this game, right? Wisconsin is better than I thought, but I still like Minnesota at home. Plus, I’m really only picking this game because I know regional coverage is going to force me to watch it at noon.
12:21 pm ET
(3) Alabama (4-0) at Kentucky (2-1) (+17)
It’s a nice comparison to see Florida and Alabama going up against the same team in back to back weeks. Both games will be blowouts, but at least we can compare styles for when these two meet in the SEC Championship Game. Alabama’s defensive injuries will matter down the road, but not against Kentucky.
If, for some reason, this ends up being a close game, the talking heads are going to go on and on about how Alabama still isn’t as good as Florida and how the Gators are going to run away with the SEC. I don’t buy it. The Gators haven’t looked great on offense yet this year. Dan Mullen leaving means that a new guy is gameplanning and calling plays with Urban Meyer. And no matter what people say about “continuity in the system,” changing coordinators changes the system too. USC knows all about that, and now Florida is finding out too.
Alabama, injured or not, is going to grind Kentucky down with the running game and play some defense. I seriously doubt Kentucky will be able to contain them forever. That said, Alabama is much more likely to get stuck in a close game because, while Florida’s offense is awkward and creates weird matchups, ‘Bama’s pro-style running game is much more conventional and easier for teams to recognize and stop. It’s still not happening. I’m just saying.
3:30 pm ET
UC, LA (3-0) at Stanford (3-1) (-5)
Because I know Booter, I know the hatred between these schools. UCLA fans have strong feelings about every one of the schools they play from California, and so Stanford holds a special place in their hearts…or sphincters. Whichever.
I also hate having to pick Stanford because they are utterly unpredictable. The Bruins are great in scrappy games like this one; it’s the athletic teams that will give them trouble. And no matter what they did to Washington or what they did to anyone else, I can’t bring myself to trust them. UCLA is great at isolating a team’s one strength and eliminating it. In this case, the Bruins just have to stop Toby Gerhart (no idea how to spell that) and the Stanford O comes to a screeching halt. I think they can do it and score the requisite 21 points to win.
(4) LSU (4-0) at (18) Georgia (3-1) (-3)
Go here to read my preview of this game at SECfootballblogger.com
Washington (2-2) at Notre Dame (3-1) (-13.5)
Better way to describe losing badly in a feces-related manner: “sh*tting the bed” or “sh*tting down one’s leg”? Hmmm, let’s try one out.
After sh*tting the bed against a beatable Stanford team last week, the Huskies play yet another road game against a team they could possibly beat. That loss last week is the only reason this is a double-digit spread, given what UW did to USC a couple of weeks ago. Still, the Irish are at home and last week’s game was a reality check for Washington. They’re still rebuilding and teams like this on the road don’t generally respond that well. I know the Irish are weakened and Clausen is hurt, but this game is in South Bend, and you should never trust a young team on the road. Which is the exact opposite of what I just did in the Michigan game. Oh well.
Pick: Notre Dame wins but doesn’t cover
Air Force (3-1) at Navy (2-2) (-3.5)
I always pick any game that has to do with the Commander in Chief Trophy even if I don’t actually care who wins.
Pick: Air Force
7 pm ET
(9) Ohio State (3-1) at Indiana (3-1) (+17)
It’s stadium picture day at Indiana! There will be far too many scarlet and silver fans at The Rock on Saturday night, which is why the athletic department always takes aerial pictures of the stadium when OSU visits. It looks like the place is sold out with IU fans and, in the past, it let us pretend the program wasn’t a total shambles.
Anyway, I don’t buy that spread at all. Ohio State has yet to prove they are capable of beating a team that can match them athletically as well as mentally. Okay, so IU isn’t that team either, but the Hoosiers are playing with confidence and a chip on their shoulders after getting screwed at Michigan last week. That bad call doesn’t excuse the lack of production in the red zone or anything, but hopefully it creates a little motivation.
I think IU’s defense can handle this reduced Ohio State offense. As long as they can limit Saine and Herron, there’s no way Terelle Pryor beats them by himself. I’d load the box and make him throw for victory. Am I saying I know better than IU’s defensive staff? We’ll see how the game turns out.
Pick: Ohio State wins but doesn’t cover.
(21) Mississippi (2-1) at Vanderbilt (2-2) (+9)
Boy did Jevan Snead suck against South Carolina. His completion percentage for the season is down to 49% for only 491 yards in three games. That’s not very good for the kid whom Steve Spurrier put ahead of Tim Tebow. Shit, Ben Chappell has better numbers than that.
I give Les Miles crap on here a lot for being a guy who loves to shut his own offense down just because he can’t see beyond his own 1970′s philosophies. He’s a good coach, but is still a relic like those Michigan teams of old. Houston Nutt is the same way. There is no way a quarterback will ever be an effective, efficient passer and still put up big numbers on his teams. It can’t be done. The pass plays aren’t designed particularly well, there’s too much max-protection, and, frankly, he doesn’t develop the position all that well. He did it to Gus Malzahn and Mitch Mustain, and now he’s doing it to Jevan Snead.
Ole Miss is still going to cling to its pathetic, segregationist past beat Vanderbilt, but clearly they’ve dropped back to earth. Snead isn’t playing well, and the running backs can be shut down. Their defense is okay, but this is a repeat of the Arkansas years for Nutt. A repeat of that past is probably great news for Rebels Fan, but it’ll never be good enough in the SEC. This is going to be an ugly, ugly game.
7:30 pm ET
Texas A&M (3-0) at Arkansas (1-2) (PK)
This is a, uh, game alright. It has absolutely no implications anywhere since neither of these teams is winning a division or their conference. It’s just to see who’s better. Sometimes that makes it more fun, but in this case, I think it’s just a meeting of cannon fodder for the ranked teams in their respective conferences. I have a feeling Arkansas’ offense gets back on track this week, but A&M’s defense is good enough to keep the Aggies in it and let’s face it, their offense is going to score on Arkansas like a senior on a rohipnol-loaded freshman sorority pledge. Aww, aww it’s a fraternity joke, not a date rape joke. Come onnnnnnnn.
Pick: Texas A&M
(25) Georgia Tech (3-1) at Mississippi State (2-2) (+5.5)
Tech is back, this time in Starkville, to spread the Gospel of the Triple-Option among the Gentiles. Well, I wouldn’t say Dan Mullen is totally devoid of any option influence on his own offense at Florida or Mississippi State. But no one except the service academies do it like Tech does, and none of those teams does it with nearly as much success as the No. 25 Yellow Jackets. Do it.
Jonathan Dwyer is going to have to be big again, just like he was last week in that total de-pantsing of North Carolina. If that happens, the Jackets really should dominate this game again. State, while showing some fight against LSU, isn’t nearly as good as North Carolina. If Tech doesn’t win, you’re not going to see them in the national rankings again for a while.
Pick: Georgia Tech
7:45 pm ET
Auburn (4-0) at Tennessee (2-2) (-2)
Gus Malzahn vs. Monte Kiffin. Now that’s a matchup of coordinators to get excited about. Both of their respective units have done a pretty good job this season, especially Malzahn’s Auburn offense. Kiffin got his unit to contain Florida’s scary offense, and has received a ton of praise for it. This will be as good a chess match as you’ll see this year, provided the two teams don’t melt down or make dumb mistakes.
The real matchup is on the field when those two units are off it. Lane Kiffin’s Tennessee offense vs. Gene Chizik’s Auburn defense. I know those two are the head coaches, but those two units also happen to be their specialties. Call me crazy, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to trust Jonathan Crompton against Auburn’s defense.
8 pm ET
(8) Oklahoma (2-1) at (17) The U (2-1) (+7)
I reserve the right to change this pick if Sam Bradford plays. That doesn’t mean I’m automatically picking OU, but I’m just saying.
Miami is the only team Oklahoma has played since BYU that can replicate, both athletically and strategically, the Cougars’ gameplan. The real difference between those two matchups is twofold: Jacory Harris is no Max Hall and second, this game is at home for Miami instead of at a neutral site. Then again, Max Hall wasn’t amazing in the Oklahoma game and the home atmosphere will be an advantage for Miami, even if the stadium is like an hour from campus.
The thing about Miami is they’ve been exposed by Virginia Tech’s defense, and OU loves to apply similar pressure on the quarterback. I really like what the ‘Canes have on offense and defense, but to me, they’re a year away and a veteran, talented team like Oklahoma still knows how to win a game like this. Even if it’s in the hands of Landry Jones, a freshman going up against a Miami pass rush that doesn’t suck.
Like I said, I reserve the right to change this pick BEFORE the game.
Pick: Oklahoma wins but doesn’t cover.
(7) Southern California (3-1) at (24) California (3-1) (+4.5)
Thoughts and prayers to Stafon Johnson and his family. I can’t believe the docs think he’ll be able to play football again, but may never speak again.
Now that they’ve both lost, this game has a huge impact on the Pac-1o title race once again. Only now, this game is between a couple of teams that have been totally exposed for what they are.
Cal is a one-dimensional team that just happens to be one hell of a dimension. Jahvid Best is the Alpha and Omega of Cal’s offense. Stop him, and it’s up to Kevin Riley to beat you. I’d take those odds as a defensive coordinator. Their defense is decent, but certainly not a dominant force. If opposing running backs can get through the defensive line, the linebackers and DB’s aren’t great tacklers, so there’s extra yardage to be had.
USC is just a young team. They’re not very experienced at key positions, and have new starters at a ton of places. Yeah sure, the offense is full of “veterans” but those guys don’t even play full time either. They’re going to make mistakes and win even uglier than usual. Which, by the way, is the other thing.
USC’s offense has become predictable and stale. Maybe it’s a depletion of talent at wide receiver, but I find that hard to believe. More likely, it’s just a change in offensive philosophy several times over since Norm Chow started there way back in 2001. Before Matt Leinart’s senior year, the offense underwent a radical change in playcalling. It didn’t matter while Reggie Bush and Co. were there, but starting with John David Booty and after, Steve Sarkisian slowly sucked the life out of that team. The playcalling became arch-conservative for most of their games, with a too-radical pass play sprinkled in there. Gone are the days of USC quarterbacks picking helpless zone defenses apart. Sarkisian panicked when he saw teams trying to blitz instead of sitting back, and he changed his playcalling patterns to the detriment of the O’s effectiveness. Will Jeremy Bates change this? I don’t know. He hasn’t yet.
Cal just isn’t a very good football team, and this game is the big test for Jahvid Best. Last year, he didn’t have a very good game against USC, and it hurt his team badly. This year, they need him just as much and it’s up to him to show up. I don’t think he will.
9:05 pm ET
(12) Houston (3-0) at Texas-El Paso (1-3) (+17)
I’m picking every one of Houston’s games from now until they lose, and this one would be a massive upset. Even if it’s a conference game and UTEP might be underrated because of the competition they’ve faced. Obviously, everyone expects Houston to win this game, but it’s exactly this kind of game (road game, conference game, biggest game left on opponent’s schedule) that would-be BCS Busters lose along the way. Look for Case Keenum to be off early, but for the Cougars to make this a late blowout.