Record after week seven: 79-32 (56-52-3 ATS)
12 pm ET
Purdue (4-2) at (11) Ohio State (6-1) (-24)
Ah, the scene of Terrelle Pryor’s 2009 Waterloo. Every one of the flaws in his game (most of which still exist, by the way) came to light that afternoon in Lafayette in a stunning display of awful quarterback play. This year, it’s probably not going to be the same outcome, but it’s nice to reminisce. And after last week, I don’t think Pryor is still getting calls from LeBron and other superstars. Even Vince Young’s game wasn’t this flawed.
Then again, Vince Young had a coach that would actually tailor the offense to his skillset. It’s why UT ran a zone-read scheme and why Colt McCoy beat out Jevan Snead for the job after Young left. McCoy could run. Snead couldn’t.
At Ohio State, it’s not exactly that kind of situation. The offense is still overly simplified and Pryor has developed only a little as a passer. His running is still hit or miss, but he went to OSU partially to get better as a passer so he could make the NFL one day. You know, because Jim Tressel has developed so many NFL passers.
The real problem for Ohio State isn’t actually Pryor at all. He is who he is. Ohio State has less than no running game from anyone else but Pryor. Brandon Saine and Dan Herron are the worst backs OSU has had under Tressel. Defenses barely worry about stopping big plays from the running backs because they never happen anyway. I had no idea losing Chris Wells would be this destructive. Combine the worst running backs Tressel has ever had with the worst offensive line he’s ever had and you’ve got problems.
The total lack of good running backs left the offense totally in Pryor’s hands. He has to be a very efficient passer AND contribute in the running game too for the offense to function.
That said, this is still Ohio State. Down years for them aren’t like other programs’ down years. And this week, they’re at home against a Purdue team that’s even worse than the one that beat the Buckeyes last year. Hey, maybe it’s a close game anyway because Danny Hope has something figured out about OSU’s schemes, but I kind of doubt it.
Pick: Ohio State wins but doesn’t cover
Indiana (4-2) at Illinois (3-3) (-13.5)
Bill Lynch’s teams don’t win conference games on the road. They just don’t. Hence the ridiculous spread.
The Hoosiers didn’t win one road conference game last year, didn’t win one in 2008, and won one in 2007. They also won one in 2006 when Lynch took over for Terry Heppner. That’s it. That is the sum total of road conference wins for Bill Lynch’s Indiana teams.
Sure, some of those (okay pretty much all of them) were bad Indiana teams, but the statistic remains the same. And let me clear: if Indiana loses this game to an Illinois team that is THIS awful, there’s no fucking way Indiana is going to win the neutral site game against Penn State, at Wisconsin or at Purdue to end the season. There’s simply no way. God I wish we played Minnesota this year.
A loss here doesn’t put the Hoosiers out of a bowl, but it pretty severely cripples them. And to be fair to Lynch, he’s made strides with the program pretty much everywhere but on the field. He’s recruiting better and better every year (if you haven’t seen redshirt frosh Duwyce Wilson, you don’t know what you’re missing). The facilities are obviously much, much nicer. There are actually fans rooting for the team, not just showing up because they got drunk and don’t know how they ended up there (a nice change from the DiNardo Era). Basically, there’s a lot to like.
Except on the field. That is, unless IU finally wins a road conference game. Come on, guys. Illinois fucking sucks. Help Zooker get himself fired by winning one in Champaign. I’m not saying it’ll be easy since the Illini like to run the ball and IU’s defense would have trouble in the lingerie league, but it can be done! Go Hoosiers! I want to go to the Little Caesar’s Bowl!
Syracuse (4-2) at (20) West Virginia (5-1) (-14)
Nice to see The ‘Cuse not suck so bad anymore. I used to want them on IU’s future schedule, but now not so much.
Noel Devine hasn’t broken 100 yards in WVU’s last three games, including a 13 carry, 29 yard effort in the Mountaineers’ win against South Florida. Can’t believe an undersized back isn’t gaining six yards per carry anymore when he’s the offense’s only weapon and every defense is trying to stop him and only him. In-sane.
Pick: West Virginia
(8) Michigan State (7-0) at Northwestern (5-1) (+5)
This is exactly the kind of game Northwestern sneaks up on some one and beats them when they would normally get smoked. You never want a just-happy-to-be-here team like MSU on the road against one of the weakest teams in the conference. Games like this end up excruciating for fans of the favored team.
Also, I want Northwestern to jump some one good before Indiana plays them so that IU can win that game easy and just need one more win (God-willing) for bowl-eligibility.
Pick: Michigan State
Notre Dame (4-3) at Navy (4-2) (+6.5)
There was a time this was an epic rivalry in college football. Then television started being in color and people had more than one channel to watch. That was pretty much it for Navy as a football power after that. Then again, it’s kind of a dick move for any school to be world-class academically AND be awesome at football. Guess Notre Dame chose the former as well.
As much as I love Ricky Dobbs and the triple option, I don’t think Brian Kelly is as dumb as Charlie Weis when it comes to dealing with service academies on the field. This is yet another game that will prove things are different in South Bend from years past, and I think Notre Dame is going to show it.
Pick: Notre Dame
12:30 pm ET
Mississippi (3-3) at (21) Arkansas (4-2) (-9.5)
There are defensive meltdowns and then there’s last week’s Auburn/Arkansas game. I wonder if Auburn’s cheerleaders or whoever got tired after doing 65 pushups after the Tigers’ last score. Or if Arkansas’ defensive coaches even watched the film before updating their resumés.
Then again, it’s not like the Razorback offense was on point once Ryan Mallett went out either. Tyler Wilson did okay, but he definitely played his part in the disaster-piece too.
Mallett is going to play this week, and now that he doesn’t have to worry about winning the SEC West anymore, he can just put up ridiculous numbers and win shootouts every week. This ought to be another one of those times.
3:30 pm ET
(6) Louisiana State (7-0) at (5) Auburn (7-0) (-6)
Expect LSU to put up a good defensive effort on Cameron Newton. For a while. They won’t be able to stop Auburn’s offense forever, and you know Gus Malzahn has a couple of twists into their gameplan because LSU is going to focus exclusively on Newton.
LSU, on the other hand, won’t get enough done on offense. Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee were barely enough against Florida, and the Gators’ offense is fucking terrible. Auburn is a legit team that will expose LSU’s offensive flaws once again.
Now, some may be worried about Auburn’s defensive meltdown against Arkansas last week. Let me just say this about that: hey what’s that over there?!?!
(14) Nebraska (5-1) at (17) Oklahoma State (6-0) (+5.5)
Should be a fantastically interesting spread offense matchup. I love that Nebraska went from ultra-conservative, pro-style offense that sucked to spread, running-quarterback offense this year that has tons of big plays but can also be stopped by any competent defense. You know, like Texas last week.
I’m going to keep my streak of not trusting Oklahoma State under any circumstances in a big game. They’re the Clemson of the Big XII.
(10) Wisconsin (6-1) at (13) Iowa (5-1) (-6)
Indiana is going to have the pleasure of losing to both these teams this year for the exact same reasons: they run the ball and play defense, and Indiana doesn’t do either of those things.
There’s such little difference between these two teams, the schools might as well merge and compete as one super defense-run-the-ball-hit-two-big-pass-plays-per-game team.
Six points is an absolutely outrageous spread given how close these two teams are in pretty muc every facet. There’s no way there’s six points difference between them on paper. And Iowa’s home field advantage is big here, but I’m surprised anyone thinks it’s that big.
Pick: Iowa wins but doesn’t cover
Georgia Tech (5-2) at Clemson (3-3) (-5.5)
It’s sad that it might have come to this for Georgia Tech. Clemson favored by almost a touchdown when they’re 3-3? Insane.
I have to keep faith in the Paul Johnson offense and in his team. Though that means I’m also trusting Al Groh and the Tech defense, you don’t create these relationships to bail out at the first sign of adversity, damn it. You have to win, Yellow Jackets!
Pick: Georgia Tech
Kansas State (5-1) at Baylor (5-2) (-6)
Baylor could be bowl eligible with a win Saturday. That’s right, Baylor. Idaho did it last year. Indiana did it a couple of years ago. And now Baylor could be playing some time in December. Think they’re going to come out fired up?
Which is exactly why I think Kansas State is going to give them a much tougher game than anyone thinks. I watched Indiana try to get that all-important win, and it was excruciating. Teams like this can’t just get over the hump in one game, though if Baylor doesn’t do it here, they probably won’t do it at all with their remaining schedule. That’s a lot of pressure.
Pick: Baylor wins but doesn’t cover
7:30 pm ET
North Carolina (4-2) at (25) Miami (FL) (4-2) (-6.5)
Can anyone honestly say there’s a huge difference between these two teams? They’re both deeply flawed, underachieving teams with some issues swirling. Of course, UNC’s issues are much bigger, but on the field, I don’t see what Miami’s seven point advantage is.
You know Jacory Harris is going to make a couple of plays but also throw at least one killer interception. After all, Miami has lost three straight to UNC, covering Harris’s entire college career.
This is going to be one of those games the announcers hail as a defensive battle but actually it just sucked.
Pick: Miami wins but doesn’t cover
8 pm ET
(3) Oklahoma (6-0) at (18) Missouri (6-0) (+3)
Air Force (5-2) at (4) Texas Christian (7-0) (-18.5)
Pick: TCU wins but doesn’t cover
10:15 pm ET
Washington (3-3) at (15) Arizona (5-1) (-6.5)