Record after week six: 66-27 (45-45-3 ATS)
12 pm ET
Arkansas State (2-4) at Indiana (3-2) (-10)
So here is the situation for Indiana football the rest of the way. With seven games left, the Hoosiers need a minimum of three wins for bowl eligibility and four for a guaranteed bowl berth. Left on the schedule, they have Arkansas State, at Illinois, home against Northwestern, home against Iowa, at Wisconsin, against Penn State at FedEx Field, and at Purdue.
The Wisconsin and Iowa games are essentially guaranteed losses, meaning Indiana needs to win three to four games out of Arkansas State, Illinois, Northwestern, Penn State, and Purdue. Arkansas State for homecoming had better be a win, or the team doesn’t deserve bowl eligibility anyway.
Illinois is awful, but they’re a road game, and Indiana is so awful on the road, I have goose bumps just typing this sentence. That said, the Hoosiers are, at worst, even with the Illini and Northwestern, which makes me think we’ll win one of those games, giving IU five wins.
Penn State is way down this year and could be beaten, but we gave up a home game against their frosh quarterback to get a payday in Maryland, so I’m thinking close loss there. This means that it will all come down to a road rivalry game in Lafayette for bowl eligibility and the Old Oaken Bucket.
On the bright side, that’s just like last time the Hoosiers made a bowl, though they had seven wins that year. But I’ll take 6-6 and a bowl game in BFE over being home for another winter, that’s for sure.
The worry is the expectations the Hoosiers are facing. Despite the truly awful running game and laughably bad defense, Indiana SHOULD still make a bowl. They’re good enough, spread-y enough, and doggone it, Indiana fans are lukewarm about them.
Yet they have a ton of demons to overcome, including their issues with road conference games. They’re going to have to win one to make a bowl game, and they should honestly win two given the level of competition.
Either way, the fans expect something of this football team again, and that didn’t exactly help last year’s disaster of a team. Much like in 2007, I say this prayer: Dear baby Jesus, please get Indiana into some awful bowl. Amen.
Illinois (3-2) at (13) Michigan State (6-0) (-7)
If Indiana weren’t playing Illinois on the road, I’d pretty much guarantee a win against the Illini. This is a really bad team. 3-2 is nice and everything, but the Illini are no better than even in their final seven games.
Worse, they’re 75th or lower in every major offensive statistic except rushing yards, and that’s going to go down because they’re going to face defenses like Michigan State’s. Defenses that aren’t going to let them run the ball at will, and they’re going to force them to throw. Oh by the way, the Illini also rank 114th in passing offense, so this bus isn’t going to grow wings any time soon. Maybe the Petrino offense really IS like every other offense in that it takes a high level of talent to make it look good. Shocking.
I still don’t think Ron Zook is going to get fired, barring a complete meltdown, because it’s not like another coach will come in there and do any better. It’s a systemic problem in Champaign, not a coaching one. They’d have to hire a hot new coordinator who is secretly a recruiting genius, or score a recently fired older coach who may or may not know what he’s doing as far as building a program like Illinois goes.
Either way, those two hires would take a minor miracle, so I’m thinking Zook’s got another year to get the Illini on track and to get Nathan Scheelhaase to stop looking like a high school quarterback.
Pick: Michigan State
(21) Missouri (5-0) at Texas A&M (3-2) (-3.5)
Can’t believe Missouri is undefeated. I guess it’s still possible at this point in the season because of easy schedules, but wow, Missouri?
Blaine Gabbert is hurt but will play, Jerrod Johnson is a turnover machine and nightmare for efficiency lovers, and both teams play a particularly uninspired, spread-team kind of defense. Can’t say this game is likely to be very pretty.
That said, the Aggies have been horribly inconsistent and disappointing. While Mizzou hasn’t played anyone, Texas A&M sucked against a lot of teams they shouldn’t have. Gotta go with the team you trust in this situations. So I’m going with Nebraska. Zing!
3:30 pm ET
(12) Arkansas (4-1) at (7) Auburn (6-0) (-3.5)
I wonder if Urban Meyer wishes some one had stopped Cameron Newton from buying that stolen laptop, or that he himself had stopped Newton from leaving Gainesville before the 2009 season.
Florida would have had a seamless transition from one run/pass quarterback to another. They barely would have had to change the system at all. Maybe Meyer is happy with John Brantley, but I kind of doubt it.
I wonder if Rich Rodriguez spent the last two years wishing he hadn’t let Ryan Mallett go. Sure, Mallett is no threat to run, but if a kid with that kind of arm and ability doesn’t fit into your system, it’s probably time to change the system.
Mallett’s presence in 2007, 2008, and 2009 would surely have had a stabilizing effect on the team. Quarterback was by far their weakest position, and who wouldn’t want an arm like that throwing it all around the Big Ten and beyond?
I seriously doubt Rodriguez would have spent so much time on the hot seat had that been the situation. Plus, he could have seamlessly transitioned to Denard Robinson instead of pretending Tate Forcier was going to play.
But now these two transfers are leading their new teams to an SEC West bloodbath on Saturday afternoon. Newton is a dual-threat monster for Auburn, and Mallett is well on his way to fulfilling the Jack Bauer-like legends about his abilities.
Obviously, this means the game is going to come down to the teams’ respective defenses because you know the stars are going to put up numbers. Arkansas’ defense is improved drastically from last year’s Indiana-esque unit. They’re actually capable of making some stops, though not with the kind of consistency or testicular fortitude you’d like. Still can’t believe they let Alabama back in even with Mallett choking.
Auburn’s defense is much more stout. In a game in which one defense just has to make one more stop than the other, I have a feeling it’ll be the Tigers’ D that manages to stop Mallett and company. All this, of course, is barring a complete mental and physical breakdown on the part of the home team.
It’s the Alabama game that’s leading me toward Auburn here. Sure, Arkansas’ defense just has to stop Newton from running and the Tigers are in trouble. But that means they actually have to stop it, and I just don’t think they’re there yet. Ryan Mallett is awesome, but that’s still a flawed team he’s leading. Plus, Auburn gets to go to school on Alabama’s second-half strategy that completely shut the Razorbacks’ offense down and forced Mallett into his Jerrod Johnson impression. Arkansas should have beaten Alabama, but they choked. Now they’re on the road against ‘Bama’s rival who is equally dangerous.
Either Auburn wins this one easy, or the Legend of Ryan Mallett is going to grow considerably.
California (3-2) at Southern California (4-2) (-2.5)
Worst-case scenario game for USC here. They got screwed by the officials against Stanford last week, the culmination of what some USC fans would say is a full decade of this type of travesty. Several of their team’s weaknesses have been exposed lately as well. Their defense lacks depth and the ability to finish games. And their offense, while producing yardage and being fairly successful game in and game out, can’t seem to put other teams away either.
Now Cal is coming to LA, and they’re easily the most unpredictable team in the Pac-10. One week, you can get the team that got smoked by Nevada. The next week, it’s the team that beat UC,LA 35-7. It’s virtually impossible for a team to prepare for that.
If Lane Kiffin is going to keep this job long term, then he’s going to have to get his guys to win games like this. To re-focus everyone and take care of business against a plucky conference foe. It’s easy to drop one to Cal now that there’s no hope of winning the conference or beating anyone great but Oregon. And there’s no bowl in the future for this USC team. It’s going to get easier and easier for the players to let off a little, giving Kiffin one of the tougher jobs in college football at the moment.
That said, I will never pick Cal, or any other team that varies this wildly from week to week. They might show up and beat USC, but it’s more likely they’re going to either lose close or get blown out. In either of those scenarios, I’d feel like an asshole for taking them on the road.
(15) Iowa (4-1) at Michigan (5-1) (+3.5)
Something seemed off about Denard Robinson last week in Michigan’s loss to Michigan State. He just wasn’t very…fast. Some of that is attributable to State’s great defense, but still. Something definitely wasn’t right with the Heisman contender.
Iowa’s defense is just as good as Michigan State’s. If they learned anything schematically or strategically from Michigan State, then this game might already be over. Maybe State just had a good day, so there’s nothing to learn and it’s still a crapshoot. But either way, Robinson is going to have to be amazing for Michigan to win this game. Better than he’s been in almost every Michigan game thus far.
One of these teams is going to have to take Ohio State down. Even if the Buckeyes lose to Wisconsin, they’ll still be in the hunt for an at-large BCS berth if Iowa or Michigan doesn’t beat them. And they don’t play Michigan State, so we can’t rely on that one.
If I had to pick one team that could take OSU down, it would be Iowa, obviously, because they can actually play defense and grind out a win. Michigan can’t do that. They’re all sizzle and no steak even at their best. Shit, they lost to one ranked team and got totally dropped from the polls. That’s got to mean something.
Texas (3-2) at (5) Nebraska (5-0) (-10)
This is exactly the kind of game upstart teams like Nebraska end up losing and REALLY regretting in December. A loss here doesn’t cost them a shot at the Big XII title game or anything, but it could absolutely make them feel like assholes for losing to such a vulnerable power team. Regret is a killer when it comes time to win rings, even if that regret has no bearing on the current state of things. Derails entire seasons
Texas also has quite a bit to prove. They mostly need to prove that they’re not the worst Texas team Mack Brown has ever had, and that’s a fuckload of pressure for such a young team. This is a much bigger game for Texas than it is for Nebraska, and that’s got me worried.
On top of that, though Nebraska has a running back or two for Taylor Martinez to hand the ball to, they’re still very much a one-man show like Michigan. Not AS much of a one-man offense as the Wolverines, but without Martinez going big, the Huskers are in trouble.
I expect this game to be a lot closer than it probably should be, since Texas has something to prove and because they need to key on stopping only one guy. Let Helu and the other backs run a lot because they can be stopped or slowed. If the Longhorns can slow Martinez, they’ve got a shot.
Pick: Nebraska wins but doesn’t cover
(20) Oklahoma State (5-0) at Texas Tech (3-2) (-3)
Oklahoma State has a lot to prove, which means they’re probably going to lose this game. They haven’t really played anyone spectacular, and Texas Tech is a pain in the ass. It’s just too easy to gag this game, a winnable one at that, away to the home team.
The Cowboys don’t really play defense, and their offense is very much a smoke and mirrors situation. It looks great against vulnerable defenses and then it looks like a Pop Warner team against anyone who puts up a fight.
Luckily for OSU, Tech’s defense isn’t going to put up THAT big of a fight. It’s Texas Tech and it’s still just the first year for Tommy Tuberville. Plus, that Baylor game for the Red Raiders threw up about a dozen warning flags for anyone thinking about taking Tech here.
If I wasn’t such a damned professional, I wouldn’t bet this game at all. I’m going to look like a jackass after this pick no matter whom I take.
Pick: Oklahoma State
4 pm ET
Brigham Young (2-4) at (4) Texas Christian (6-0) (-29.5)
TCU had better thump BYU. If this game is close at all, the doubters will be all over the Horned Frogs looking for a way to keep them out of the BCS hunt. It’s pathetic that the pro-major conference guys have had to turn into jackals and vultures who wait for non-AQ teams to show any sign of weakness, but that’s what it’s come to.
So win, TCU, and win big.
6 pm ET
(10) South Carolina (4-1) at Kentucky (3-3) (+5)
This is as much of a letdown game situation as there can possibly be. Hence the weirdly close spread.
A good South Carolina team just beat the number one team in the country, got ranked in the top ten, and now has to go on the road against a bad, yet plucky, conference foe.
Maybe USC blows UK out and proves that the ‘Bama win wasn’t just one good afternoon. But if this game is close or even in doubt for a while, it’s going to stick with the psyche of the Gamecocks the rest of the way, and they have a shitload of big games to play still.
At the beginning of the season, this was a non-pressure game when the players looked at the schedule. Now, it’s even more huge because that SEC East title is there for the taking. That’ll create a whole bunch of tight sphincters in Lexington on Saturday.
Pick: South Carolina
North Carolina (3-2) at Virginia (2-3) (+6.5)
If UNC loses this game, Butch Davis is probably gone at season’s end. He might be anyway, but a team that win most of its games makes the coach a lot harder to fire no matter how fucking corrupt his program is.
Losing this game probably wouldn’t get Davis fired by itself, but it would get into the players’ heads in a way that might mess up every other game they play. They all read the headlines and know what people are saying about their program. They might start to think that none of this matters anyway, so why go 100% other than to just improve their individual draft status?
Pick: North Carolina
7 pm ET
(1) Ohio State (6-0) at (18) Wisconsin (5-1) (+4)
So let me get this straight, Boise State gets a ton of shit for its strength of schedule, but Ohio State has the most pathetic schedule ever and they get to be number one? That makes perfect sense. No, we don’t need a playoff. We’re good with what we’ve got. This is awesome.
That schedule is why I think Wisconsin has a shot here. It’s not that the Badgers have a ton of great teams in their wake, but Ohio State has looked TOO good so far because they haven’t been challenged at all. Not even a little.
Wisconsin will absolutely challenge the Buckeyes, specifically Terrelle Pryor. The Badgers would love nothing more than to put the game in his hands and take advantage of the inevitable turnovers that will come.
If they can turn him into a pocket passer, Pryor will throw for a good amount of yards, but he’ll turn the ball over, especially if he’s pressured. If he has to throw and make plays on the run or stay in the pocket and complete pass after pass, Ohio State is in trouble. If he’s a running threat and doesn’t have to make every play himself, the Buckeyes will roll.
This is where the Wisconsin defense comes in. They’re not great against the pass, but all they have to do is make Pryor make mental mistakes. The more he has to think, the more he’ll screw up. He’s better at throwing than he was the last two years, but he’s not even close to polished.
If I were Wisconsin’s DC, I’d dial up so many exotic blitzes and fake blitzes that Pryor wouldn’t be able to make enough reads to avoid killer turnovers. That’s a lot to ask of a suspect UW pass defense, but it’s what’ll win them the game.
Baylor (4-2) at Colorado (3-2) (+1.5)
Wait, why did I pick this game again? It’s impossible to tell which of the two teams is going to show up. These are two very, very bad programs. Hell, Art Briles actually gets CREDIT for winning four games his first few years at Baylor. Hell of a tradition. And I swear Colorado used to be good, but I can’t remembe when or exactly what happened. Either way, this isn’t the most exciting game in the world.
Mississippi State (4-2) at (22) Florida (4-2) (-7.5)
All the stories seem to focus on Dan Mullen’s former charges being way worse at offense than when he was their offensive coordinator. Like a coach can make that much difference in a system he only partially created.
In truth, the reason Florida’s offense is so bad is because it relied too heavily on Tim Tebow for the last three or four years and no one else developed as a playmaker or leader. Do you really think Chris Rainey or Jeff Demps was ready to be a playmaker for Florida the way Tebow was? Is there anyone else? Hell no.
It’s not the system in that most teams run one pretty similar to the Gators theses days. It’s that, for whatever reason, Urban Meyer and company allowed their offense to become totally Tebow-dependent instead of being a true system, like the one Dan Mullen is using in Starkville.
That said, Mullen’s offense relies heavily on the quarterbacks too, so this might be a systemic problem with their version of the spread offense.
8 pm ET
(23) Air Force (5-1) at San Diego State (3-2) (+1)
There’s an off chance I’ll be at this game on Saturday, but probably not. What gets me most excited is that it’s another chance for SDSU to beat a ranked team and break out of the program-wide funk they’ve been in.
Air Force is a hell of a team to try and beat, even at home. Their offense is difficult to gameplan for and, honestly, their players are smarter than pretty much everyone else’s since they got into the Air Force Academy, so the only way SDSU wins is through preparation and their distinct athletic advantage.
If they play mistake-free, and that’s a huge IF coming off the BYU disaster, the Aztecs have a shot. That’s pretty much the only way to beat a service academy when it’s got a good team.
9 pm ET
Mississippi (3-2) at (8) Alabama (5-1) (-20.5)
I don’t know how shellshocked Alabama is after the South Carolina win, but I’d like to see them prove something on the field just to make sure. It’s entirely possible Greg McElroy lost all his mojo since he finally lost for the first time since middle school. Who knows what kind of Crimson Tide team is going to come out of that tunnel.
Then again, Ole Miss fucking sucks. They’ve got an idiot quarterback and little or no other game-changing talent to speak of. For them to win, the game literally has to go perfectly. They need every break and they can’t get taken out of their style of football for even one series. Not good.
10:15 pm ET
(24) Oregon State (3-2) at Washington (2-3) (-1)
Really? James Rodgers makes that much of a difference matching up with UW ‘s awful defense? This spread is like free money.
11:30 pm ET
(19) Nevada (6-0) at Hawai’i (4-2) (+6.5)
Holy shit is this a trap game for Nevada. Since I’m on Pacific time this week, I’m watching every snap of this game.
Hawai’i is always, always tough at home, and they’re not too bad this year. They just blew out Fresno State, whose defense is about as good as Nevada’s. While I seriously doubt that Hawai’i will be able to stop Nevada’s offense for long, it’s going to come down to the Wolfpack’s defense to win this thing in a very tough environment.
Normally, I wouldn’t trust Nevada to pull off a win like this. But this team seems somehow different, so I’m going with my favorite non-AQ squad.