Record after week three: 36-10 (22-22-2 ATS)
12 pm ET
North Carolina State (3-0) at Georgia Tech (2-1) (-8)
It’s weird that this is actually kind of a good game. It’s not like NC State has been even close to good the last few years, but they’ve finally possibly pulled themselves into the ranks of the mediocre. Just in time to play Georgia Tech.
NC State is only good because of Russell Wilson, their quarterback. Sure, they probably have some other good players, but Wilson is the big playmaker and, honestly, who the hell cared about NC State until he got good? They’re also 3-0 with wins of increasing, if not terribly impressive, difficulty against Western Carolina, UCF, and Cincinnati.
They’ve got a little something going in Raleigh, but they’re not there yet. They also haven’t faced this incarnation of Georgia Tech yet, since the teams are in opposite ends of the ACC, and there’s no way they’re ready. They’ve got some athletes on defense, but facing the triple option is a whole other thing. No way do that handle it well enough to win.
My love for Georgia Tech has only deepened as I’ve read more about Paul Johnson and the evolution of his offense. Turns out the guy is a defensive coach who ended up learning the run n’ shoot and adapting the option and other systems to it. It’s pure, unadulterated genius in action on the field every time Tech plays some one. I love this offense because it can literally do everything. It’s wonderful.
Pick: Georgia Tech
3:30 pm ET
(1) Alabama (3-0) at (10) Arkansas (3-0) (+7)
The thing is that Arkansas only beat Georgia. And it was close. Everyone WANTS Arkansas to be really good because The Ryan Mallett is pretty awesome to behold. But they still only beat Georgia close. Alabama is still the most well-rounded team in college football, and their defense is about 15 steps up from Georgia’s. Beware, people who are about to take Arkansas.
I’m wondering if The Ryan Mallett can have the same type of game he had against the Bulldogs. If that happens, just hand him the Heisman now because Nick Saban is going to take stopping the Arkansas passing attack very personally, and though The Ryan Mallett is awesome, I have even more faith in Nick Saban. Also, there are Michael Jordan gameplan-issues here since it’s really about stopping everyone BUT Mallett. Pressure him, cover the receivers, and under no circumstances let them run the ball, and you’ve got Arkansas stopped.
Besides, it’s the matchup between Alabama’s offense and Arkansas’ defense that’s going to lose the Razorbacks this game anyway. No way do they contain Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson the whole game, especially on the road. No way.
(16) Stanford (3-0) at Notre Dame (1-2) (+4.5)
Um, Notre Dame is going to get smashed by Stanford. 1-3 is not the way Brian Kelly wanted to start his tenure, but holy shit is Stanford a juggernaut right now. The only reason Notre Dame is only getting 4.5 points is because the game is in South Bend which is a ridiculous overestimation of Notre Dame’s crowd. Get the Domers down early, and that crowd gets quieter than me trying to sneak out of my eight month old son’s room after he falls asleep.
This is a terrible matchup for Notre Dame anyway. Stanford’s power offense is exactly what Notre Dame’s weak, though improving, defense can’t handle. Plus Andrew Luck is money right now.
Don’t get me wrong, I really respect what they’re doing in South Bend. They actually look like an improving program for the first time in years. But there’s no way Notre Dame is ready for a team on this kind of a roll. The biggest thing will be avoiding the impulse to bail on the Kelly era four games in. It took him a bit of time to get it totally right at Cincinnati too.
Also, I can’t believe I just typed any of the above sentences. I’m talking about freaking Stanford and Notre Dame. This is just weird.
Temple (3-0) at (23) Pennsylvania State (2-1) (-14)
I love the angle that Al Golden is “auditioning” for Penn State fans because he’s getting the job the minute Joe Paterno turns into a cocoon at the bottom of a swimming pool. Let me just ask the writers this: why the f_ck would Penn State hire Al Golden? Because he’s managed to make Temple such a powerhouse? Guys shouldn’t get jobs because peoples’ expectations for their old jobs were so lowered that any form of success is equivalent to the Immaculate Conception. Pull another Boise State, and you’ll impress me.
Pick: Penn State
UC,LA (1-2) at (7) Texas (3-0) (-16)
Classic trap game for gamblers. Texas seems weak with a new quarterback and no running game to speak of, and UC,LA looked pretty good kicking Houston’s ass last week. It’s easy to think UC,LA will surprise Texas a little bit and end up with a close game, maybe even a win, but it’s not happening.
The problem for UC,LA is Texas’ defense. No way do the Bruins put up 31 points even if they run the ball twice as well as they did against Houston. I’m thinking ugly, defensive game with UC,LA unable to score virtually at all.
Pick: Texas wins but doesn’t cover
6 pm ET
Nevada (3-0) at Brigham Young (1-2) (+3.5)
My favorite game of the night, other than Oregon State/Boise State. Nevada is coming off nothing less than a watershed game for the program. They finally beat a major-conference team and beat them badly to boot. Now they have to back that win up against a weak BYU team that is having problems defensively and at quarterback. It’s a developmental year for the Cougars, and it’s showing.
It’s definitely not one for the Wolfpack. This is glory’s last shot for Colin Kaepernick and company. They have to win an win now, or it’s all basically for nothing.
That said, I expect a close shoot out. This all comes down to Nevada needing to play defense, and I just can’t see them doing that consistently. I’m thinking lots of scoring and a close game at some point, but Nevada is going to pull away because of some key turnovers by BYU’s young team.
7 pm ET
Kentucky (3-0) at (9) Florida (3-0) (-14)
I wouldn’t have picked this game if Kentucky had lost even once. I know nothing about them, and this is traditionally not exactly a great game, with Kentucky losing 23 straight.
I’ve been looking for an opportunity to pick against Florida, but I don’t think this is it. Kentucky needs a close game with the Gators before they can pull the upset, and though this is the weakest Florida team in Meyer’s tenure, they’re still not that weak. And with the game in Gainesville, it doesn’t look so good.
Pick: Florida wins but doesn’t cover
Akron (0-3) at Indiana (2-0) (-22)
I hate the “don’t fuck this up” portion of the schedule. It’s all nerves and no reward. IU is supposed to beat Akron, who sucks, and keep rolling toward another bowl berth. 3-0 is very, very close to 6-0 and 7-0 and some horrible bowl game that Phillips, me, and our families will surely attend. I really don’t know where the other wins will come from even if they win this game, and they’re totally screwed if they lose. One thing is for sure: once the divisions realign when Nebraska comes, it’s going to be hard as hell to make it to a bowl game every year, so we need to get one now, if nothing else than for the sake of momentum. God I hate picking IU to cover this spread but…
7:30 pm ET
Fresno State (2-0) at Mississippi (1-2) (-2.5)
Definitely the most sneaky-interesting game of the night. Fresno has every reason to think it can beat Mississippi, but has to avoid that syndrome smaller programs deal with when they have to beat bigger programs that are down. In that situation, teams come into the game with a little “hey we can win this thing” gleam in their eyes, even slightly underestimate their opponents and end up getting smoked.
The worst case scenario for Fresno is a close shootout in which they have to keep making play after play to get the upset win. That doesn’t mean the need to dominate the whole game, but pulling away late is probably the way to go. And no matter how long I type this, I’m having a hard time talking myself into the upset.
Pick: Fresno State
7:45 pm ET
(12) South Carolina (3-0) at (17) Auburn (3-0) (-3)
This night is so backloaded with great games. Why couldn’t a couple of them be at noon?
As far as picking the game goes, shit I don’t know. Auburn is the team with the momentum, and everyone seems so surprised that South Carolina is good again. That last bit pretty much describes how the Steve Spurrier era at USC has gone.
I think Auburn is capable of making more good plays here. Sure USC can run the ball, but the crazy thing is they still don’t have a good quarterback.
Auburn, on the other hand, does, and I just can’t see South Carolina doing enough on the road to come away with this. I do know that Spurrier isn’t an idiot and will do everything to milk the clock and keep Auburn’s offense off the field, so I’m thinking this game will be closer than it probably should be.
8 pm ET
Utah State (1-2) at San Diego State (2-1) (-8.5)
Really, SDSU giving eight and a half? Wow.
SDSU almost beat Missouri last week, so I guess that means they give a ton of points at home to a seemingly equal opponent. This has to be proof that Brady Hoke is making progress on the mesa. But now they have to beat a team they probably should beat. I don’t mean dominate them or destroy them or do what they did to Mizzou, just win the game. Beat a mediocre team at home and get on with the season. Believe it or not, this is actually a program that should have a little bit of pride. Being down is something they shouldn’t be used to anymore.
Pick: SDSU Fight! Fight! Fight!
(24) Oregon State (1-1) at (3) Boise State (2-0) (-17)
Game of the night for sure. Boise State has everything on the line against Oregon State, who makes their living beating teams like this. They are one of the biggest pains in the ass to play in all of 1-A football, bar none. Would have been nice if Mike Riley could pull that off when he was in San Diego, but whatever.
I think this year’s Boise State team has something about them, an aura or something, that says they’re going undefeated again. This team is just plain good in all phases of the game. As good as anyone in the country. Maybe even the Rams.
So this will probably be a close game because of Oregon State’s penchant for near-upsets, but since it’s being played on the blue turf in Boise, you have to go with the Broncos.
Pick: Boise State wins but doesn’t cover
9 pm ET
(22) West Virginia (3-0) at (15) Louisiana State (3-0) (-10)
LSU is an even crappier version of Texas. There’s a lot to like about their defense, but not really anywhere else. And even their defense might be a little overrated.
It’s still got to be LSU in this game, barring a total meltdown by the defense because West Virginia just isn’t scary on offense like they used to be. LSU is used to dealing with Florida and their offense, so WVU’s speed and running game isn’t the unusual matchup that it is for other teams. I just can’t see Noel Devine running free in Baton Rouge, despite how awful Jordan Jefferson and the LSU offense are. I also have no idea why LSU is giving so many points either.
Pick: LSU wins but doesn’t cover
10 pm ET
California (2-1) at (14) Arizona (3-0) (-6.5)
Nice win last week, Arizona. Now don’t blow it against Cal, who not-so-secretly sucks this year.
This is exactly the kind of game up-and-coming teams like Arizona end up losing, so we’re going to find out very shortly if they’re pretenders to the Pac-1o championship or if they’re legit. You know Cal is going to come off the Nevada loss ready to beat some one’s ass.
10:30 pm ET
(5) Oregon (3-0) at Arizona State (2-1) (+11.5)
The Ducks look really, really good. Part of that has to be that they haven’t been challenged yet, but they’re everything that Florida is supposed to be: fast, aggressive, and effective. The Oregon zone-read is just as unstoppable as the wishbone option when it’s run right. So we’ll see if a conference road game means anything to the slightly inexperienced Ducks, or if they’re just going to steamroll the Sun Devils too. I think ASU is incredibly mediocre, so there’s no way they can handle Oregon for the entire game.