September 17, 2008

Week 4: The Picks

Week three was a huge statement week in college football, and now we turn our attention in the college football world back to the Southeastern Conference. With Georgia heading out west for their first big test of the year and two absolutely huge SEC conference games (Florida-Tennessee and Auburn-LSU), it is going to be an exciting weekend south of the Mason-Dixon line. Always great to discuss some War Eagle for the first time all year. Of course, the Irish are headed up to East Lansing for a big showdown with the Spartans.

Let's get to the picks:

Wednesday September 17, 2008

Kansas State -3.5 at Louisville (ESPN2 8:00 pm) -

Dan: Kansas State -3.5

Kansas State has looked like the late 90s teams that had Bill Snyder roaming the sideline with the Wildcat offense running up the points on the opposition in the first two weeks. Of course, that's because they were, like most of the 90s, playing vastly inferior opponents. However, I’m not sold on a team that lost 27 – 2 at home to the other Wildcats team (UK). I like Brandon Banks to have a big game at WR for K-State and for Louisville to move to 0 – 2 against Wildcats this year.

Kansas State 24 Louisville 17

Matt: Louisville +3.5

I don’t think I’ve had less of a feel for a game all year. Talk about two programs headed in the wrong direction. This year, Kansas State has beaten up on two high school teams, while Louisville got thoroughly embarrassed by UK in their only real game. I’ll take the home team and I could not feel less confident about it.

Mike: Kansas State (-3.5)

It is remarkable how quickly Louisville has declined under Steve Kragthorpe. In a nightmare opener against Kentucky, the offensive line for the Cardinals could not open any holes for the running game and the depleted receiving corps failed to create any separation for QB Hunter Cantwell. In addition, Cantwell missed several open throws on the few plays where receivers were actually open. While the early returns on Louisville have not been good, Kansas State remains a total mystery this year because the Wildcats have not played any real competition yet. As a means of overcoming KSU’s myriad recruiting shortcomings, such as lack of tradition and poor location, coach Ron Prince has adopted the “scorched earth policy” pioneered by Dennis Erickson, which consists of stocking the roster with a staggering number of junior college transfers in an apparent attempt to win quickly and subsequently flee the scene before the NCAA sanctions are handed down. Louisville certainly has the ability to beat the JUCO-laden Wildcats in this Wednesday night game, but I will need more proof before I ever bet another dime on Kragthorpe and Co.

Kansas State 31 Louisville 17

Doug: Kansas State -3.5

I would like to pick Louisville here, but Louisville stinks this year. Ron Prince is in his 3rd year, they are off to a good start with a bunch of JUCOs leading this team, and now is the time for KSU to make a statement.

Your week 3 Big East update - Rutgers gets plowed at home by UNC and Syracuse took a beating for the ages to Penn State, but credit to South Florida for pulling that game out against Kansas. They are officially carrying the banner for the Big East at this point.

Kansas State 30 Louisville 24

Thursday September 18, 2008

West Virginia -3 at Colorado (ESPN 8:30 pm) -

Dan: West Virginia -3

Everyone is well aware of the debacle for the Mountaineers two weeks ago at East Carolina. Dan Hawkins has Colorado at 2 – 0 including an impressive win over in state rival Colorado State. Nevertheless, I think Hawkins is a couple years away from having Colorado competing for its division in the Big 12, let alone beating a talented team like West Virginia. Meanwhile, Pat White and YouTube superstar Noel Devine will have something to prove this week. While I do think that the 3 years from now WVU will be in the poor house without RichRod, they have enough talent to compete for the weak Big East title this year and to beat Colorado by more than 3 points this week. On a side note, I think WVU does deserve some props for going on the road to play ECU, Colorado, and taking on Auburn at home for their out of conference schedule.

West Virginia 28 Colorado 17

Matt: West Virginia -3

Where was I when West Virginia suddenly turned into the “Anytime, Anywhere” Mountaineers. They’re going on the road to East Carolina, now they’re going to Boulder on a Thursday night. I like the philosophy, although the post-Slaton/Rodriguez year might not be the year to prove a point. Nevertheless, I like the ‘Neers in this one. I think Pat White has a big game, although I do think Dan Hawkins has Colorado on the right track. Give him one more year and they’ll be competing for a Big 12 North title. Remember this name folks – Darrell Scott. How the hell did Bobby Bowden let him out of Tallahassee. Does Bobby still know that he is the coach of Florida State at this point?

Mike: Colorado (+3)

In a compelling Thursday night game, the already embattled Bill Stewart hopes to placate the West Virginia fan base with a big road win at Folsom Field. Neither team played last week in anticipation of this mid-week showdown, so the Mountaineers presumably still have the bad taste of their East Carolina beatdown in their mouths. During said beatdown, Skip Holtz’s Pirates followed the time honored blueprint for defeating West Virginia: load up against the run and force Pat White to beat you by throwing. Colorado, which has plenty of experience against wide-open spread offenses by virtue of its inclusion in the Big XII conference, should slow down White and Noel Devine enough to provide its offense with a chance to win the game. The CU offense will take advantage of this opportunity with a balanced attack behind RB Darrell Scott and QB Cody Hawkins, thereby earning a big home victory against another staggering Big East program.
CU 34 West Virginia 24

Doug: Colorado +3

Thursday night football is back in the state of Colorado! Dan Hawkins is no Sonny Lubick (the godfather of Thursday Night Football), but you have to think a little of that Thursday night magic might rub off on him. This game is huge for Colorado and their fans, so I'm expecting a great crowd on Thursday night. I could be totally wrong about this game, but I just feel like West Virginia is headed downhill. Not only am I concerned about their coaching situation, I think they might be suffering from a little Senioritis. It seems like a lot of these teams with a bunch of seniors who have been around awhile get complacent in their senior years. We saw this last year with Michigan, and Ohio State has it a little this year.

Colorado needs this win to put itself on the map, their strength on defense is in stopping the run, and I think they are gearing up to ambush the Mountaineers.

Colorado 35 West Virginia 31

Saturday September 20, 2008

Alabama -9 at Arkansas (Raycom 12:30pm) -

Dan: Alabama -9

Another SEC home underdog and me taking another road favorite. However, just like I took Texas against the Razorbacks last week (pre-postponement) I’ll pick against them this week. The Arkansas Razorbacks really miss the underappreciated (and slightly crazy) Houston Nutt. I’m sure Petrino will have them competitive in a year or two, but in the mean time, the 17 Razorback fans are in for a long year.

Alabama 33 Arkansas 17

Matt: Arkansas +9

Nothing Arkansas has done suggests this should be a close game. Just a gut feeling. Alabama is a little young to be winning by double digits on the road in the SEC. By the way, thank God the ‘preseason’ is over. This SEC season is going to be incredible. It’s just nice not to look at the weekly lineup and see LSU-North Texas or Alabama-Tulane.

Mike: Alabama -9

Even though Arkansas has barely squeaked by two terrible opponents in its first two games, there are plenty of reasons why they might cover this game: the game is in Fayetteville, the Hogs should show continued growth as they obtain a better grasp of Petrino’s schemes and the line is rather large for a series that has been traditionally close. Despite these factors, I expect Alabama to earn the cover by controlling the lines of scrimmage.

Alabama 28 Arkansas 14

Doug: Arkansas +9

I'm as big of a believer in Nick Saban as anyone, but anytime I see a home underdog in the SEC, I'm inclined to take the points. Arkansas has had all weekend to start getting prepared for this game, and I'm expecting an inspired performance. I think Bama will win, but I'll take the nine points.

Alabama has Georgia next week, so they might be caught looking ahead and find themselves in a ballgame. I think Alabama has a very real chance to win the SEC this year, but nine points seems like too much here for me.

By the way, if Phil Fulmer gets run out of town as expected, how much would Tennessee have loved to go after Bobby Petrino in the offseason?? It's crazy how important timing is in the coaching world. The same thing applied to the Les Miles situation last year. If LSU hadn't made the national title or if Lloyd Carr had packed it in two years ago instead of after last season, I think Les Miles would be starting his first or second season in Ann Arbor this year.

Iowa +1 at Pittsburgh (ESPN2 12pm) -

Dan: Pittsburgh - 1

This game holds about as much interest for me as women’s curling. Pittsburgh was once again overrated (shocking). The Hawkeyes are actually off to a nice 3 – 0 start, but I’m not believing in them until they show me something against some decent opponents. Pitt lost at home to BGSU followed by a relatively unconvincing win over Buffalo. However, in an effective pick-em, I am going to go out on a limb and take the home team. LeSean McCoy gets going early and Pittsburgh uses ball control to win a close one.

Pittsburgh 20 Iowa 17

Matt: Iowa +1

Moving on…

Mike: Iowa +1

After a brief respite, the calls for Dave Wannstedt’s job will grow louder following this weekend’s game at Heinz Field. Iowa, despite its ongoing quarterback problems, will run the ball effectively and slow down Shady McCoy, while Pitt will make its usual panoply of mistakes. Is Johnny Majors still available?

Iowa 23 Pittsburgh 17

Doug: Iowa +1

Wow, huge swing game for both teams. You could argue that it's a program-defining game in many ways (don't laugh). Just call it the "We're not all that high on our head coaches but not ready to give up on them just yet" bowl. Two fairly evenly matched teams, similar talent levels, coaches on the hot seat (or at least a little warm), and both programs desperate for a winning season that can give them a little momentum.

It comes down to two question for me. Who needs this game more and which of these coaches is going to have their team more ready to play?? I think it's Iowa. Iowa needs this win for its coach, its fans, and the entire state. While you could make the same case for Pitt, I think there is more desperation for Iowa to make a statement. Ferentz has been struggling, but I trust him to get his team to rise to the occasion more than Wannstedt. Wannstedt is a dead man walking if you ask me.

Iowa 24 Pitt 10

Miami (FL) -3.5 at Texas A&M (ABC 3:30 pm) -

Dan: Miami -3.5

Can Miami regroup after the disaster two weeks ago in the Swamp? Can Mike Sherman right the ship in College Station after the disarray left by the slimy Dennis Franchione? Both teams have some injury concerns. The Aggies’ QB McGee has a sprained shoulder while Miami RB Javarris James sprained his ankle and may miss the game as well. I think Miami’s strong and, as of yet, un-jaded freshman class helps them bounce back after the disheartening loss. After all, the Aggies lost at home to Arkansas State. I am quite certain Miami is better than Arkansas State.

Miami 27 Texas A&M 17

Matt: Miami -3.5

Don’t look now, but is that a little bit of swagger I see coming back to the U? They played Florida a lot closer than the final score indicated, and seemed to look and act like they belonged on the same field as the Gators. Throw in the fact that Randy Shannon is cleaning up in recruiting in southern Florida, and I see a full on resurgence for Miami as soon as next year. There is NO reason why they should not be a perennial contender like years past. Don’t feel the same about Texas A&M.

While I’m talking about the U, props to their AD and Nebraska for getting a deal worked out for a home and home. Although I find it ludicrous that Miami didn’t demand that Nebraska play their “home” game in Orlando. I thought that is how these deals work.

Mike: Texas A&M +3.5

This would be the game of the week in 1992. In 2008, however, these two teams are known primarily for the name on their jerseys rather than the quality of their play. Miami showed some spunk in its visit to the Swamp, but the Canes have done nothing to suggest that they will soon shake free of their longstanding offensive malaise. Texas A&M has simply looked terrible under new coach Mike Sherman, as the Aggies lost to Arkansas State at home and squeaked by New Mexico in Albuquerque. Notwithstanding Texas A&M’s struggles, I refuse to lay points on Miami in a road game until the Canes provide more evidence that they are capable of scoring points against an opponent from BCS conference.

Texas A&M 17 Miami 14

Doug: Miami (FL) -3.5

While I never like to pick against a home underdog with some semblance of a tradition, Miami showed me something against Florida two weeks ago. I was not sold on the idea of Randy Shannon taking over at Miami (and still am not completely buying in), but he is starting to right the ship. They are much better this year than they were the last couple years, and I don't see any reason why the Canes can't win 8 or so games this year. Texas A&M is awful, and I think The U is looking to make a statement. Their defense is really good, so I can't see A&M putting up more than 10 or so points in this game.

Miami 21 A&M 7

East Carolina -7.5 at NC State (ESPN 12pm) -

Dan: East Carolina -7.5

ECU burned me last week and cost me my “Can’t Miss” teaser. However, NC State, despite their narrow cover against Clemson last week, is just not good. This ECU team is starting to feel like a one of those mid-major teams from the past few years where everyone keeps waiting for them to fall flat on their face, and next think you know it is November and they’re 9 – 0. Skip Holtz will have the team refocused after narrowly escaping defeat at the hands of the mighty Tulane “Fisher Hall Wanna-Be’s” Green Wave. This week, though, I expect ECU to hold on to the ball after the 4 turn-overs last week. Unfortunately for Tommy O’Brien, Chuck Amato left the cupboard pretty bare. The Wolfpack is in for a long season.

East Carolina 24 NC State 10

Matt: NC State +7.5

I’m just not ready to go with E.C. freaking U. as a 7.5 point favorite on the road against a BCS team. Can’t do it. Although half the stadium will undoubtedly be wearing purple.

Mike: East Carolina (-7.5)

East Carolina survived a serious scare last week against Tulane on the road, but the Pirates managed to pull out a huge win behind the passing of Patrick Pinkney. NC State has looked undermanned and uninspired in its first 3 games and it’s not too early to wonder whether Tom O’Brien’s stern, businesslike approach will take root in Raleigh. I still think that NC State’s problems stem primarily from the poor recruiting of former coach, Chuck Amato, rather than O’Brien’s coaching methods, which means that the Wolfpack may experience an extended period of growing pains before any tangible signs of progress appear. On the other hand, NC State lost its first five games against FBS opponents last year before upsetting East Carolina in Greenville, so perhaps history will repeat itself in 2008.

East Carolina 31 NC State 20

Doug: NC State +7.5

Man, NC State has a pretty tough schedule this year. We've previewed them three times already, and it has nothing to do with NC State. While I think East Carolina can win this game and stay unbeaten, I can't give them 7.5 points on the road after barely squeaking by Tulane last week. East Carolina is having a great year, but let's get real here. They snuck up on Va. Tech and WVU, and I think their momentum is starting to slow down a little. Honestly, I think NC State will find a way to win this game.

If East Carolina wins this game big, I think they should be in the top 10, maybe even the top 5. Who has better or more impressive wins?? West Virginia, Va. Tech, at Tulane, and NC State. That's pretty impressive. Skip Holtz appears to be a rising star. Lou must be thrilled to see what his son is doing down at ECU.

NC State 27 ECU 24

Wake Forest +4.5 at Florida State (ESPN2 7pm) -

Dan: Wake Forest +4.5

The fighting Bobby Bowdens continue their revival tour by hosting a Wake Forest team that knocked them from the rankings last year. This week’s polls represent their first return to the Top 25 since that loss. Maybe it’s my colleague Matt’s new found affinity for the Demon Deacons, but I’m a little perplexed to see Wake getting 4.5 points against a FSU team that has not resembled the 90s Seminoles for some time. While Wake has actually barely won against Ole Miss last week, FSU has blown away its two opponents. However, I’ll take close wins against SEC teams over 40 point victories over 1-AA opponents any day of the week. That said, you know the Jenn Sterger and Co. in Tallahassee will be rocking for a Saturday night game at the Doak. In fact, I think the Seminoles actually come out with a chip on their shoulder and show they are ready to contend for the ACC title again. That said, I think the game remains close and I’m going to take the points given that Wake has won two straight in this series.

Another side note – does anyone else think Bowden and Paterno are effectively still coaching just to wait for the other one to die? I mean, they are neck in neck in total wins, and it is pretty clear neither has much to say about the way their team plays the game anymore. They are really both just figureheads. I think that once on of them dies, the other will wait until he passes him (unless he’s already in first), and then retire. They should somehow just rig it so that they are tied at the end of a season and have both of them quit. Neither of them is really doing much for their respective schools these days and it is pretty much just a farce to see them on the sideline. Anyway, enough of that rant…

Florida State 31 Wake Forest 28

Matt: Wake Forest +4.5

Wow, prime-time under the lights in Tallahassee for the Deacs. I’m fired up about this game. You just know that Jim Grobe is playing the no respect card in that locker room. Let’s face it, nobody expects little old Wake Forest to be able to go and beat the athletes from Florida State. Meanwhile, some guy named Christian Ponder, who has thrown 6 td’s in two games (against…cough…Western Carolina and Chattanooga), is guaranteeing victory. With a week to prepare and those quotes on the bulleting board, I think Wake drops the hammer and wins BIG – 2 td’s.

Mike: Wake Forest (+4.5)

Will this be the year that Florida State rises up again to reclaim its spot atop the ACC? This Saturday should provide us with an immediate answer to that question, as the Seminoles have a terrific opportunity to reclaim a portion of their lost respect by defeating a Wake Forest team that has filled the void in the ACC created by FSU’s recent struggles. The Demon Deacons have defeated Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles in each of the last two seasons, including a 30-0 drubbing in their last meeting at Doak Campbell Stadium, and Jim Grobe’s squad is off to another good start with two wins over BCS conference schools (albeit Ole Miss and Baylor). Florida State has feasted on cupcakes in the first few weeks, though questions remain about the Seminoles, especially on offense. The difference in this game will be quarterback play, as Wake Forest’s Riley Skinner will outperform FSU QBs Christian Ponder and D’Vondrey Richardson en route to a big road victory.

Wake Forest 21 Florida State 20

Doug: Florida State -4.5

While I was awfully tempted to pick Wake Forest here based on the glowing reports from Matt about the Demon Deacons, give me the Florida State Seminoles in a statement win in the ACC. Just got a funny feeling that Bobby Bowden has one last run in store for us. They went through some growing pains last year, but now Jimbo Fisher's offense is starting to kick in. Preston Posey is back from his suspension, and this QB Christian Ponder is GUARANTEEING a win. I know the guarantee is the most overrated thing in sports today, but FSU has been pointing to this game all year. I just feel like they are going to come out of the tunnel ready to explode on Saturday under the lights in Tallahassee.

If FSU loses a home game to Wake Forest that they have been gearing up for all offseason, then Bobby Bowden should retire in the locker room after the game. I think FSU is a bit of a sleeper, so give me the Noles in a blowout win.

FSU 31 Wake Forest 10

Virginia Tech +2 at North Carolina (ABC 3:30pm) -

Dan: Virginia Tech +2

Virginia Tech is coming off a close win at home against a tough Georgia Tech team while the Tar Heels are fresh off a drubbing of Rutgers in New Jersey. Generally, both of the prior week results would lead me to pick against them. I think I would lean towards the Hokies in this one though, because I think UNC may be a little bit cocky this week. Throw in the fact that, at the end of the day, Carolina is still a year (or two) away and Va Tech is still coached by Frank Beamer, and I’ll take the points in a close one. I would be surprised to see a special teams play by the Hokies be the deciding factor.

Virginia Tech 21 North Carolina 20

Matt: Virginia Tech +2

Frank, the thank you card is in the mail for making me look like I knew what I was talking about with my prediction last week. Now do it again. Isn’t this a game that BeamerBall always finds a way to win? And again, not to channel Simmons again, but I’m feeling the popsicle corollary with this UNC team. You barely squeaked by McNeese State and then beat an apparently bad Rutgers team. No need to go overboard yet.

Mike: Virginia Tech (+2)

In Chapel Hill, the upstart Tar Heels have an opportunity to prove that they can supplant Virginia Tech as champions of the ACC Coastal Division. Carolina proved that it has plenty of talent on both sides of the ball last week, but it remains to be seen whether this young team will possess the focus and consistency that they will need to defeat a well coached Hokie squad. With Tyrod Taylor firmly entrenched as the full time starter, Virginia Tech’s offense will control the clock and its defense will frustrate the UNC offense. Butch Davis will eventually lead his team to the top of the ACC, but they haven’t arrived yet.

Virginia Tech 16 North Carolina 14

Doug: Virginia Tech +2

While I think that North Carolina is on the rise, I really like Virginia Tech in this game. If you had set this line before the season started, it probably would have been something along the lines of VT -8.5. VT has had some struggles, but I think they are starting to right the ship and have found Tyrod Taylor as a QB. VT has a history of starting slow and getting better, and I think they are about to hit their stride. There is a reaon why Frank Beamer has won as many games as he has. He knows how to build a team, and I think they will be geared up to steal this one on the road. The conference title still runs through Blacksburg if you ask me.

I was VERY impressed with UNC last week, but I am not quite ready to pick them to beat Virginia Tech. Butch Davis is an outstanding coach, their defense flies around, and UNC has some legitimately dangerous skill players. However, VT has had a winning formular for 15 years: great defense and special teams. I think they'll find a way to win in Chapel Hill.

VT 17 UNC 14

Arizona -1 at UCLA (FSN 3pm) -

Dan: UCLA +1

The other representative of the Grand Canyon state also had an embarrassing loss against New Mexico last week. The Stoops family reputation is slowly being called into question as the lesser known Mike Stoops continue to struggle at Arizona. When he was hired before the 2004 season, everyone thought he’d be competing for 2nd or 3rd in the PAC 10 (notice a general acceptance of 1st place?). However, he has since gone a disappointing 19-30 overall and 12-22 in the conference. The only reason this game does not have a huge spread is that UCLA lost in even more embarrassing fashion to BYU last week. I thought UCLA +9 was easy money. Probably my worst read in a while. However, I’m going to give them one more shot and think they bounce back in the comfort of the Rose Bowl.

UCLA 24 ASU 21

Matt: UCLA +1

I don’t care who is suiting up at QB for the Bruins, I cannot in good faith pick Mike Stoops as a road favorite. I guess now is a good time to mention that the Pac 10 went 0-4 last week against the mighty Mountain West Conference. And was there a score more out of left field than BYU 59 UCLA 0?

Mike: UCLA +1

These two teams probably can’t wait for this game to start after both were humiliated last week. Following a loss at New Mexico, Mike Stoops finds himself squarely on the hot seat in Tuscon, while Rick Neuheisel must pick up the pieces after his team was lambasted 59-0 by BYU. Despite the massive margin of victory, UCLA is not as bad as last week’s score suggests and Arizona still has a weak defense. I expect UCLA to run the ball much better and keep the game close for QB Kevin Craft, who actually played reasonably well against BYU. The Bruins will respond with a big bounce back performance in Westwood.

UCLA 27 Arizona 24

Doug: UCLA +1

Are you kidding me with this line?? Arizona is a one point favorite on the road after losing last week to New Mexico?? What have they ever done to be a one point favorite on the road over anybody?? IS America that mesmerized by the last name Stoops that they will continue to buy into Arizona in spit of overwhelming evidence that they stink?? It's a slap in the face! I don't care if UCLA lost by 100 to BYU last week. They are at home in the Rose Bowl, the Cosmopolitans will be flowing, the shrimp cocktails will be getting passed around, the Wizard of Westwood will be in the house, and they are playing a lousy Arizona team that hasn't done anything since the fabled "Desert Swarm" era. UCLA is going to come out angry, and I'm expecting a blowout win. I'm so confident about it that I'll wear powder blue pants to work all next week if the Bruins lose.

By the way, between the Arizona and UCLA fanbases, will there be even one beer drank the entire weekend?? I'd be willing to bet that less that 1% of the Arizona and UCLA alums could name their quarterbacks, and I'd also be willing to bet that there will be more discussions about the Summer X games than football all weekend.

UCLA 27 Arizona 17

Vanderbilt +5.5 at Ole Miss (Check Local Listings) -

Dan: Ole Miss -5.5

I have to admit that I don’t know anything about these two teams. And really, I’m not sure I want to. Jay Cutler is in the NFL and Ed Orgeron is out at Ole Miss. I do know that Ole Miss has Jevon Snead, the Texas transfer. Snead threw for 4 TDs against Wake Forrest before putting up a terrible game against Samford. However, in the SEC I’ll take the home team and the athletic quarterback.

Ole Miss 28 Vanderbilt 21

Matt: Ole Miss -5.5

I saw Ole Miss in person a couple weeks ago against Wake and was very impressed. Jevon Snead is going to lead the Rebels to at least one big upset this year in the SEC. I also think that Vandy is a respectable program as the frisky underdog, but don’t see them going into Vaught Hemingway and upsetting Ole Miss.

Mike: Ole Miss -5.5

In Oxford, Bobby Johnson’s surprising Commodores travel to play a competitive Rebel squad. Vanderbilt responded nicely last week in a potential letdown game against a strong offensive Rice squad and they have a chance to move closer toward bowl eligibility and a Top 25 ranking with another win. In Oxford, Houston Nutt appears to have some playmakers on both sides of the ball, including former Texas QB Jevan Snead, who is progressing nicely for Ole Miss. The Rebels possess the talent advantage in this game and I expect them to be well prepared in their conference opener. Moreover, there is a possibility that Vanderbilt will respond poorly to its newfound success, like many other traditional doormats have done in the past. Ole Miss should roll in the Grove this Saturday.

Mississippi 30 Vanderbilt 17

Doug: Ole Miss -5.5

The way things are looking in Oxford, there might be a reason to go to an Ole Miss home game other than to visit the pageantry of "The Grove." They look like they could be a solid middle of the pack team in the SEC this year, and they need to find a way to win this one for bowl eligibility. Vandy looks like they are also pretty good this year and might steal this game, but I'll take the Rebels.

How bummed out must Ed Orgeron be that the talent he recruited to Ole Miss is now starting to emerge. They have some athletes, and Jevan Snead looks like he could be good. Must be killing Coach O to see it.

Ole Miss 23 Vandy 14

Mississippi State +7.5 at Georgia Tech (Raycom 12pm) -

Dan: Georgia Tech -7.5

I seem to be falling prey to my usual downfall in gambling and taking far too many favorites this week. But despite the great defensive performance last week against Auburn, I don’t think the Bulldogs can repeat on the road against a Paul Johnson led Yellow Jacket team. I have a lot of confidence in Paul Johnson as a coach and I think after last week’s close lose in Blacksburg, he takes care of business at home.

Georgia Tech 20 Mississippi State 10

Matt: Georgia Tech -7.5

Mississippi State can not score. It’s as simple as that. That game against Auburn set back college football 50 years. I have never seen an offense as inept as that. Sly Croom seriously looked like he wanted to murder a few of his players – and I can’t say that I blame him. GT came close to beating Virginia Tech and I think the Paul Johnson experiment keeps running smoothly for another week.

Mike: Georgia Tech -7.5

Mildly interesting matchup here. Although the game is in Starkville, a Mississippi State upset here would provide additional fodder to the ACC’s growing legion of critics. Georgia Tech squandered a golden opportunity to secure a second consecutive road win last week in a mistake filled game against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and the Jackets may come out flat in this non-conference game. MSU has a strong defense and Tech’s offensive struggles could continue, but I think that Paul Johnson will be able to extract enough points out of his team for a workmanlike cover against the offensively challenged Bulldogs.

Georgia Tech 20 Mississippi State 10

Doug: Georgia Tech -7.5

While I hate that many points in this game, Mississippi State stinks. Their offense is absolutely pathetic, and I can't see them moving it on anybody let alone Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets are battle tested, and MSU is lousy on the road. I don't really like this pick all that much, but give me Georgia Tech. Paul Johnson hasn't let me down yet, so I might as well ride him for another week.

Utah -7.5 at Air Force (Versus 4pm) -

Dan: Utah -7.5

The battle of two MWC undefeateds presents us with yet another home underdog (Anyone else notice there are a ton of “Home dogs” this week?). Since marching into The Big House and taking it to the Wolverines, Utah has easily taken care of business. I think Utah’s defense, which looked pretty good against Michigan will be able to contain the option. Air Force, on the other hand, is in for a tough game against Utah spread.

Utah 35 Air Force 21

Matt: Utah -7.5

With Fresno State losing a heartbreaker to Wisconsin, we’re down to 3 possible non-BCS contenders. While Utah’s victory in the Big House is losing luster by the week, I don’t see the dream dying this week in Colorado Springs.

Mike: Utah -7.5

Last week at Houston, Air Force won without completing a single pass. Then again, running for 300 yards is generally a good formula for success By comparison to Houston, Utah features a more explosive offense and a stronger defense, so it’s highly unlikely that AF can compete without getting some production from their passing game. This series is traditionally close and I expect AF to battle hard on its home field before eventually succumbing to a superior Utes team.
Utah 38 Air Force 28

Doug: Air Force +7.5

The Mountain West! Great week for the Mountain West last week. Maybe the game of the year so far in the Mountain West Conference, which is actually a very underrated conference. Two undefeated teams who have looked impressive so far. I really like Air Force to cover in this game, and I would go so far as to say that Air Force will win this game. It's a home game, they've played well so far, and Chad Hall might be the best white running back in America not named Sam McGuffie. Seriously, the guy is a fun player to watch.

How about the white running back making a resurgence in 2008?? I love it! Is this a trend?? Somehwere Larry Cszonka and John Riggins are saying "It's about time!"

Air Force 31 Utah 30

Georgia -6.5 at Arizona State (ABC 8pm) -

Dan: Georgia -6.5

Another SEC road favorite, but this time the home underdog is a PAC 10 team. Georgia won a close one against South Carolina last week while ASU lost in overtime to a UNLV team that probably spends more time at the Hard Rock pool than at the practice field. ASU was expected to compete for 2nd place in the PAC 10 after returning Rudy Carpenter this year, but things are not looking up for Erickson’s team at this point. While I don’t think Georgia is going to blow them out, I do think they can win by at least a touch down.

Georgia 31 Arizona State 21

Matt: Georgia -6.5

Can we call this the Overrated Bowl? I’m still trying to figure out how Arizona State lost at home to UNLV? Bold prediction – Arizona State is a 7-5 team. Georgia remains undefeated for exactly one more week.

Mike: Arizona State +6.5

In light of Arizona State’s stunning home loss to UNLV last week, Georgia’s first visit out of Dixie in over 40 years has lost a bit of luster. Given ASU’s penchant for faltering in the face of heightened expectations, however, the Sun Devils may actually benefit from the fact that this game will not provide them with an opportunity to vault into the national championship race. The critical matchup for ASU will be whether their retooled offensive line can handle Georgia’s tough front seven, thus providing Rudy Carpenter with ample time to find his talented receivers, Chris McGaha and Mike Jones (who?). Although some pundits have knocked Georgia for its inability to defeat South Carolina handily, the Bulldogs should be lauded for a gritty road win against a stingy Gamecock defense in a rivalry game. Unfortunately for Mark Richt’s crew, I believe that the physical nature of the South Carolina game, coupled with a cross-country trip against a strong opponent, will serve as the perfect recipe for an upset.

Arizona State 24 Georgia 21

Doug: Georgia -6.5

Should be a fun atmosphere down in Tempe. One of my favorite places to watch a college football game with the mountains in the backdrop and the great party atmosphere on Mill Avenue. This is a scary game for Georgia because Arizona State has nothing to lose and probably will let it all hang out on the field. Still, Georgia is going to dominate the line of scrimmage in this game, and they should be able to run all over ASU. ASU has some flashy pieces, but we saw what happened last year when they played teams that were strong up front. They got killed by USC and Texas down the stretch, and I expect the same thing to happen again this week. Georgia is vastly overrated if you ask me, but I think they'll survive this game and move on undefeated into the SEC season.

Over/under on the number of times Brent Musberger mentions how great a time he is having in Tempe on Mill Avenue: 7. Over/under on the number of times Kirk Herbstreit subtly indicates that he woke up in an ASU sorority house the morning before the game: 3

Georgia 24 ASU 13

Florida -7.5 at Tennessee (CBS Sports 3:30pm) -

Dan: Tennessee +7.5

Even more tempting than most home underdogs are home underdogs in the SEC. SEC football takes home field advantage to a whole new level. Hell, even Vandy has won a couple unexpected games at home over the past few years. Mississippi played Auburn to a 3-2 game last week. It’s tough to go on the road and win in the SEC. Then throw in the ever bitter nature of the Florida Tennessee rivalry, and you know you’re in for something special on Saturday. While I’d feel more comfortable if this were a night game, I think Tennessee keeps this one close. Florida may be coming off a bye week, but sometimes that actually can result in a bit of a slow start. After finally beating Miami after such a long drought, I think Florida comes out a little flat. They’ll still win, and the rumblings will start again in Knoxville, but look for the Vols to cover at home. (But barely.)

Florida 24 Tennessee 17

Matt: Florida -7.5

For as much as Urban Meyer pledged to find a running game this year, well, Florida still has no running game this year. There is a familiar face leading the team in rushing, and he doesn’t play running back. You can’t tell me there aren’t talented runners on the roster, it’s just that Urban refuses to give them the ball. The most carries a running back has is 10! Emmanuel Moody, who was supposed to be a stud, has toted the rock twice! Yo Urban, they can’t run it if you don’t hand it to them.

On the other sideline, I get the feeling that Philip Fulmer is in some serious trouble. Have you checked their next 6 game out? Besides for a gimme against Northern Illinois, it’s Florida, @Auburn, @Georgia, Miss St and Alabama. Yo! They are staring 3-4 in the face. I don’t think the locals will take to kindly to another 7-5 type year.

Mike: Tennessee +7.5

In Neyland Stadium, Urban Meyer looks to continue his recent mastery of Phil Fulmer and the Volunteers. Although Florida has been impressive on both sides of the ball, their defense has not really been tested yet. It is unclear whether Tennessee’s offense can provide that test, as Jonathan Crompton has struggled his first two outings as Erik Ainge’s replacement. Nonetheless, the Volunteers feature a strong offensive line and a tremendous running back in Arian Foster, which should allow them to move the ball in this game without receiving an extraordinary performance from Crompton. The combination of Tim Tebow and an extra week of preparation, however, will be the difference for the Gators in a hard fought, physical battle in Knoxville this week.

Florida 28 Tennessee 24

Doug: Florida -7.5

Verne, Gary, and the boys from CBS Sports are headed to Knoxville this week for a great one. Always fun to see these two uniforms on the same field. While I ordinarily want nothing to do with betting against a home underdog in the SEC, I am riding Florida as far as I can this year. Florida is an offense capbalbe of getting into the 30s and 40s every week. Meanwhile, Tennessee's offense is in shambles and looks like they are really missing the wise words of David Cutcliffe (who has become to Phil Fulmer what Leo Mazzone was to Bobby Cox). The coaching matchup here is a laugher. Urban Meyer at the apex of his abilities against Phil Fulmer maybe at the lowest point of his career. Never underestimate a desperate coach, but that matchup tilts heavily toward Florida. Florida has owned Tennessee i the Urban Meyer era, so give me the Gators. Although USC looked incredible last week, I'm sticking with my Florida pick for the national title. Fulmer is done after this year if you ask me.

Florida 27 Tennessee 14

LSU -2.5 at Auburn (ESPN 7:45pm) -
Dan: LSU -2.5

Part of me feels like this is the easiest bet of the week. Another part of me is screaming that this is a gambler’s nightmare game with Auburn coming off a poor performance with the worst score possible for a win (3 – 2) in the game of football. I also am always extremely hesitant to pick home against home underdogs in the SEC. Just like last week with the Gamecock push (ATS) (or Auburn vs. MSU for that matter) home teams in the SEC are always more competitive than expected. However, the Auburn offense has not been overly impressive (or impressive at all for that matter), and LSU has been dominant (albeit against weak competition). I expect LSU to relatively easily cover in a surprisingly low scoring game.

LSU 17 Auburn 6

Matt: LSU – 2.5

LOCK OF THE MILLENIUM! Not to sound like Bill Simmons…but I have very few sports gambling rules in life. However, one of them is when a team that is installing a square peg spread offense with a round hole roster wins 3-2 against the worst team in the conference, and then said team plays the defending National Champions and is only a 2.5 point favorite, ALWAYS bet on the National Champions. I don’t think Auburn scores a single point.

Mike: Auburn (+2.5)

Another terrific matchup, courtesy of the SEC. The jury is still out on LSU, which has only played one game against a FBS opponent. Consequently, the Bayou Bengals have been able to ease Andrew Hatch into the offense by bludgeoning their opponents into submission behind a strong offensive line and the powerful running of Charles Scott. While playing at home against North Texas and Appalachian State is one thing, I suspect that Hatch will have a slightly different experience in his first road start under the lights at Jordan-Hare Stadium against an outstanding Auburn defense. On the other sideline, much has been made of Auburn’s offensive struggles under new OC Tony Franklin, particularly after last week’s 3-2 victory at Mississippi State, but I suspect that Auburn will fare better this week against a young LSU defense that has not been tested yet. More importantly, there are few coaches in college football who can prepare their teams in big games like Tommy Tuberville. I think Auburn will shut down LSU’s running game, force Hatch into some mistakes and provide enough offense to get the win.

Auburn 16 LSU 6

Doug: LSU -2.5

Should be a great atmosphere down at Auburn this week (I know, Phil, we blew it by not getting ourselves down there for this game). After watching Auburn last weeek, I can't say that I'm particularly impressed with their offense. Auburn is clearly a team in transition, and they have struggled to move the ball in the new spread offense. I made the mistake of buying into the new and improved Auburn offense and taking fliers on Brad Lester and Rodrigues Smith. At this point, I would stay away from all Auburn players.

I know LSU has some QB issues, but do they even need a great performance from Andrew Hatch to win this game?? LSU is loaded with backs and WRs, their o-line is strong, their defense is nasty, and Les "Have a GREAT day" Miles is fully settled in down in Baton Rouge. All they need is for Hatch to not turn the ball over, and I think they can win this game easily. LSU is on cruise control, and I don't see any reason why they won't win here.

For what it's worth, after spending last weekend with the biggest Auburn fan I know and his girlfriend (who is an LSU alum), I can't wait to hear some stories following this game. Nothing is off the table as far as I'm concerned.

LSU, Florida, and USC are the three best programs in the country, and it all starts up front with them. They have all the flashy skill players, but the consistency in those programs comes from their ability to dominate the line of scrimmage on offense and defense. Get pressure on the QB, keep your QB protected, and move the man in front of you off the ball. It's a simple formula.

LSU 17 Auburn 3

Notre Dame at Michigan State (ABC 3:30pm) -

Dan: Notre Dame

I have to admit that I was shocked when I saw one website with an opening line on this game of ND +9. I’m curious to see this money line, because it may inspire me to break (again) my fake promise to myself never to bet on my own team. We aren’t picking against the spread here, given our inherent bias, but I have to tell you that I really like ND ATS this week. I’ll let Doug do the expounding, as he is so good at doing, but I think that if ND can put 8 in the box and stop Ringer, they can have a pretty successful week. Hoyer has not gotten off to a good start, and the extremely impressive ND secondary can hold its own against the no-name MSU receivers.

On the other side of the ball, the ND passing game is really starting to look like it is ready for the big time. While the run game can certainly still use some work, it is already better than last year and capable of operating as a serviceable change of pace.

Heading into this season, I had this game circled as our toughest game (outside of USC) of the season. However, I saw enough last week to make me change my opinion of this team. I expect our receivers to create enough separation to get a couple big plays. I also think well finally break through on special teams and get a big play that will either lead to a touch down or put us in position to score (the UM fumbles last week don’t count). And finally, I think Ringer will have a good game, but not good enough.

Notre Dame 31 MSU 27

Matt: Michigan State

Doug and Jeremy did their usual tremendous assessment of the Michigan State game. Color me worried that if we let Sam McGuffie run for that many yards, Javon Ringer is going to be all over the field. This could be a Tashard Choice type game where he is a Heisman front runner by sun down. Throw in the house of horrors that is Spartan Stadium, and I’m not feeling a W. I hope I’m wrong.

Mike: Michigan State

Notre Dame should be able to pass the ball effectively this week against a Spartan defense with a banged up secondary and a pedestrian pass rush. On defense, I think ND’s undersized defensive line and poor tackling will allow Javon Ringer to run wild and control the clock. It will be interesting to see how ND’s blitz-happy defense will fare against a more conventional attack this week, as opposed to a gimmick offense. Obviously, I hope that I am wrong, but I believe that Sparty will wear down the Irish in a physical game and break the home game curse in this series.

Michigan State 35 Notre Dame 28

Doug: Notre Dame

Before the season, I had this game as one of my two guaranteed losses on the schedule. I figured that we would beat Michigan, run into a buzzsaw at MSU, and get stomped by USC. I think those three games are the three toughest on the schedule, and I felt like we would go 1-2 in those games (and maybe drop 1-2 others along the way).

After watching this team plow through Michigan, I'm talking myself into a win up in East Lansing over Michigan State. Heck, I was so excited about the win over Michigan that I immediately made plans to go up to East Lansing for the game. Well, I'm headed up there this weekend, and I'm calling for a huge Irish victory. This team was fortunate to get by SDSU, came out smoking against Michigan, and now I think everything is snowballing from here. We are starting to hit our stride, and this team has a ton of confidence heading into this game.

Keys to this game for the Irish -

1) Move the football - I don't care how we move the ball, but we have to find ways to move the chains and keep drives going. The running game is going to have to continue to improve and give us a chance to pick up first downs on 3rd and short. We cannot afford to have a bunch of 3 and outs in this game because Ringer will eventually wear our defense down and start to break off bigger chunks of yardage in the second half. I don't even care if we get points out of our drives. Just need to move the ball and keep the field position game in our favor. We won the field position game against Michigan, and we need to do it again this week to have a chance.


2) Turnovers/Penalties - We obviously cannot turn the ball over in this game like we did against SDSU. No fumbles, no bad INTs, and especially no special teams breakdowns. I also think that a lack of penalties through two games has been a nice sign for this team. Holding penalties are an absolute killer, and it would be nice to see it remain that way again.

3) Big Plays - The Golden Tate-Jimmy Clausen connection needs to be in full effect in this game. It would be great to hit some big stuff in the passing game to soften them up and maybe get some points on the scoreboard. I think Clausen is gaining confidence, so I'm hoping that he plays well in his first road game of the year.

4) Stop Ringer - If we can't slow down Ringer in this game, forget about it. Can't afford to let him run wild on us and set things up for their passing game.

5) Emotion - We all know the importance of emotion in college football, and it is going to be imperative that we match the intensity of the Spartans, especially early on. I hope that our guys are ready to play after the big win over Michigan. A blowout or ugly performance in East Lansing will take away a lot of the positive momentum from the Michigan game, so I hope the coaches have our guys focused for this upcoming game. MSU is going to come at us right away and try to blow us out of the building, so we better strap it up and be ready to take on their physical style.

While I am well aware that this game will be an absolute war, I think the Irish can steal a win and keep the undefeated season going. At the end of the day, we have more talent than Michigan State, and I think we have the advantage at quarterback. If Clausen plays the game of his life and wins this game, he could be well on his way to becoming a Notre Dame legend.

Go Irish!

ND 27 MSU 24

Last week:

Dan: 7-6-1
Matt: 6-7-1
Mike: 6-7-1
Doug: 6-7-1

Season:

Dan: 7-6-1
Matt: 26-18-1
Mike: 25-19-1
Doug: 23-21-1

1 comment:

Bob Mantz said...

Wow - you do a thorough job!