October 01, 2008

Week 6: The Picks

Week six of the college football season takes us out of the friendly confines of the Southeast and back up to the Midwest as the Big 10 and Big 12 conference seasons start to crank up. If you are currently living in the Midwest, you've probably noticed that the temperatures have been dropping this week. While I am absolutely dreading the onset of another long winter, there is something kind of nice about fall weather when it comes to football. In my mind, there is nothing better than a fall Saturday in the Midwest with a cold beer in hand and a warm bowl of chili to take your mind off the cool weather.

Anyway, Missouri heads to Lincoln looking for their first win there since 1978, and Ohio State is on its way to Wisconsin to play in what should be an electric atmosphere up at Camp Randall Stadium. I've always wanted to get up there for a game someday, and it's great that this game will be played under the lights in Madison. Last but not least, Stanford comes to Notre Dame Stadium for yet another chapter in the explicably long-running Notre Dame-Stanford "rivalry."

Time to start dragging those fleeces and long sleeve shirts out of the closets. Fall has officially arrived.

On to the picks:

Thursday October 2, 2008

Pitt +13.5 at South Florida (ESPN 7:30pm)

Dan: USF - 13.5

For a 3-1 team, Pitt sure feels like a 1-3 team. I was actually kind of surprised when I double checked their record. In the same tone, people keep asking if USF is really deserving of a top 15 rating. However, following their crushing of NC State this past weekend, I like USF at home. I generally hate picking large favorites (especially if they aren’t the big time programs), but I just don’t think this Pitt team is any good. And the USF football home support is much greater than their basketball home support.

USF 27 Pitt 10

Matt: USF (-13.5)

Wasn’t it about this time last year after a whole rash of upsets that USF jumped all the way up to #2 in the polls? Well, don’t look now, but the Bulls are on parade again, undefeated and up to #10 in both polls. This time, though, they’ve picked up a few impressive wins along the way. The home win over Kansas and utter destruction of a juvenated NC State team in Raleigh is good enough for me. Then consider this. If you were making a list of 10 worst coaches in the country wouldn’t Wannstedt be on that list. And if you were making a list of top 10 coaches in the country, Jim Leavitt better at least be in consideration. I think Matt Grothe has a big day and the Bulls keep on rising. In a down Big East, they could be undefeated heading into Morgantown the last week of the season.

USF 34 Pitt 12

Mike: South Florida -13.5

South Florida defeated NC State handily last week in Raleigh, thanks in part to the horrible play of Wolfpack quarterback (and former Nebraska Cornhusker) Harrison Beck. Although Beck certainly helped the effort, the Bulls also dominated on offense against a good NC State defense and they appear to be positioned for a possible championship run against a weak Big East schedule. Despite the fourth quarter comeback in the Dome last week, Pitt looks average at best under clueless coach Dave Wannstedt. With a short week, both coaches will be unable to prepare an extensive game plan, which could hurt USF because Jim Leavitt will be deprived of an opportunity to outscheme the dimwitted Wanny. The Bulls are far more talented, however, and they should roll over Pitt, irrespective of the quick turnaround.

South Florida 37 Pitt 17

Doug: Pitt +13.5

I have absolutely no idea where I stand on this game. While I think Pitt is mediocre at best this year (they very nearly lost to Syracuse last week), I expect them to be fired up for this game. They have a bye week after they play South Florida, so they essentially have a two week break after this game. Unless this team has packed it in on Wannstedt (and I doubt that they have), they are going to bring their best effort to Tampa. Pitt can run the football. If they don't goof around in this game and just get to the ball to LeSean McCoy, I think they can hang around. I am interested to see how Pitt looks on Thursday. They are probably our "toughest" home game left.

South Florida is sort of a Jekyll and Hyde team. On some occasions, they play like gangbusters, but they also have enough ups and downs for me to not quite trust them with a 14 point spread. In terms of "material," Pitt has similar talent to USF, so it will probably come down to coaching and the home field. Advantage to the Bulls, but I don't like that 14 point spread.

South Florida is still in the driver's seat for the BCS bid in this league, but we are just getting out of the gates in Big East play. If Pitt somehow wins this game, it would be a huge statement for that program and a potential breakthrough win for them. I don't expect it to happen.

By the way, I know it's early, but here's USF's schedule from here on out:

at Louisville
at Cincinnati
at West Virginia

Time to probably start monitoring USF for the rest of the year because they have a shot to be favored in every one of those games. Ugh. Please don't tell me we are going to have another Big East team ready to crash the party, especially as bad as the Big East has been so far. Still early of course, but something to keep an eye on.

USF 24 Pitt 14

Oregon State +12 at Utah (Versus 9pm)

Dan: Utah -12

Ahem. Let down game? Utah has blown several opponents out and Oregon State, last week not withstanding has a habit of being on the wrong side of blow outs. Throw in the completely predictable let down game, and this has all the makings of huge Utah victory. I’m actually surprised to see such the spread this low.

Utah 41 Oregon State 17

Matt: Utah (-12)

Classic letdown game here for the Beavers. Watching them dismantle USC, I couldn’t help but wonder how the hell they lost to Stanford. Quizz Rodgers was unstoppable and they dominated the line of scrimmage. I just can’t help but think that on the road against a Utah team on a mission there might be a different story. Utah had an uninspired win last week over Weber State and I think they come out fired up to play another BCS team. I think you’ll have to find Versus on your cable system before Thursday if you wanna watch this one.

Utah 38 Oregon State 24

Mike: Oregon State +12

Oregon State must put their incredible USC upset behind them in quick order this week if they expect to beat a veteran Utah team in Salt Lake City. The Beavers should benefit from having two more days to prepare than the Utes, but it will be impossible for Oregon State to match its intensity from last week. Mike Riley’s squad could struggle on the road without the emotional edge this week, though I believe that OSU will have enough gas in the tank to cover this large spread.

Utah 35 Oregon State 24

Doug: Oregon State +12

Cmon, all the signs are there. Thursday night in a Rocky Mountain State, Oregon State is coming off a huge win and probably feeling great about themselves, and this is a huge game for Utah. Utah is tough against the run, and Oregon State is going to be looking to establish that run with Jacquizz Rodgers.

I think there is a very real possibility of a letdown in this game and a blowout win for the Utes, but I don't think I could live with myself if I took Utah in this game and watched OSU win it, especially after watching Oregon State play really well last week. Utah is a very solid program and can certainly win this game, but I can't take a Mountain West team for 10.5 points against a respectable Pac 10 team like Oregon State.

I love that Versus is getting into the action for some Thursday night football. There wasn't a Toronto Maple Leafs-Nashville Predators preseason game that they could have been showing instead??

Utah 27 Oregon State 24

Saturday October 4, 2008

Penn State -11.5 at Purdue (ESPN 12pm)

Dan: Penn State -12.5

Purdue is not good. In fact, Purdue is definitely worse than overrated Illinois, and I liked PSU +14 against Illinois. Penn State, even in West Lafayette can beat this team by two touchdowns.

Penn State 41 Purdue 27

Matt: Penn State (-12.5)

I was unimpressed with what Purdue trotted out there last week against the Irish. They picked up big chunks of yards occasionally but never really took control of the game at any point. Penn State is not your grandfather’s Lions any more with the Spread HD offense, and I think they put a crooked number on the board early.

Penn State 41 Purdue 17

Mike: Penn State -12.5

Unusual line here. Penn State performed like a legitimate national championship contender in September, while Purdue has looked like the same mediocre outfit that they have been for the last 5 years. The Nittany Lions offense has been explosive under the guiding hand of quarterback Darryl Clark and they should be able to name their score against an underwhelming Purdue defense. I think they’ll go for half-a-hundred in Ross-Ade to earn some style points with the voters.

Penn State 51 Purdue 24

Doug: Penn State -11.5

The noon ESPN Big 10 game is back!! Someone alert Ray Finkel....errr...Pam Ward.

Penn State on the road in the Big Ten is never something I like to bet on. It seems like they always come out flat on the road, and Joe Pa is notorious for being too conservative whenever they leave State College.

Purdue is starving for a win here, but they just aren’t a good football team. If Notre Dame can run it all over all Purdue, Penn State should have a field day on the ground and dominate the line of scrimmage. If Penn State is even remotely fired up for this game, they should be able to dominate Purdue.

Then again, Painter has the ability to get red hot in the passing game, and it sounds like they are going to pull out all the stops on defense in this game. Penn State played pretty well against Illinois, but they sort of let Illinois hang around and make it interesting.

I'm a little unsure here, but I'll go with Penn State to win comfortably.

Penn State 31 Purdue 17

Texas Tech -7.5 at Kansas State (ABC 3:30pm)

Dan: Texas Tech -7.5

Shoot out! Both teams are playing their first Big 12 game and are averaging over 45 points per game. Both teams also played a doozy of an out of conference schedule. Or not. However, I’m always a sucker for a road favorite, and this is no exception. Texas Tech can’t beat Kansas Sate by at least a touchdown? No chance. Michael Crabtree alone can beat Kansas State by a touchdown. If LA-Lafayette can’t score 37 against K-State, Texas Tech can easily score way more.

Texas Tech 52 Kansas Sate 35

Matt: Texas Tech (-7.5)

I’m probably one of the bigger Texas Tech / Mike Leach fans this side of Lubbock. But what they have done so far in their scheduling this year (for that matter just about every year) is a flat out joke. It’s embarrassing. The most gutless scheduling I’ve ever seen. How can anyone take that program seriously when it is freaking October and Texas Tech has played Eastern Washington, Nevada, SMU and Umass? Yo, Leach, you are already established as a program. Every year you crank out an incredible offense. Quit scheduling like you are a fledgling D-1 school. How can anyone say for sure how good Texas Tech is when all they’ve done is hang 50 spots on a bunch of tomato cans?

Texas Tech 49 Kansas State 24

Mike: Texas Tech -7.5

Kansas State’s defense is probably the worst unit in the Big 12, which is really saying a lot. As we know, Mike Leach has never been shy about running up the score and there’s no reason to expect that he will change his ways this week in the Big 12 opener for the Red Raiders. I am not as high on Texas Tech as some of the experts, but this game is going to get ugly in a hurry. Hide the women and children.

Texas Tech 59 Kansas State 31

Doug: Kansas State +7.5

Your 2008 Texas Tech nonconference schedule (no coincidence that we haven’t previewed them yet in the weekly picks column)

Eastern Washington
At Nevada
Southern Methodist

Death, taxes, and Texas Tech consistently playing the softest nonconference schedule in the country. You can set your watch to it. Honestly, that Nevada game might be the toughest nonconference game in the history of the Mike Leach era.

Honestly, if I was an AP pollster, I would not vote Texas Tech in the top 25 on principle until they start playing a tougher nonconference schedule. They are the worst of the worst offenders when it comes to scheduling. I think Mike Leach is a darn good coach and should be commended for the program that he has built in Lubbock, but why is he so afraid to play some quality OOC games?? Couldn’t he get a decent home and home with a Pac 10 or a Big 10 type team?? Even a couple decent WAC or Mountain West teams would be an upgrade for them.

I don’t know a thing about Kansas State, but give me the Wildcats to at least cover the spread. Your Big 12 gambling stat of the year. Other than their nonconference games and Baylor, Mike Leach has covered only ONE TIME as a road favorite in his 9 years at Texas Tech. Texas Tech does not play tough defense, so I don’t see any reason why KSt can’t put up some points and keep the game close.

Texas Tech 41 Kansas State 35

Connecticut +7 at North Carolina (ESPN2 7pm)

Dan: North Carolina -7

There is something special brewing in the Tar Heel State. I really thought UNC was at least a year away. However, they showed some real heart sticking in there against the Canes. As bad as the ACC has been out of conference, the Big East may have been even worse. While UNC did not have much of a run game last week, surprise quarterback Cameron Sexton impressed with some impressive play against a pretty decent pass defense. Connecticut, now ranked in the top 25, just keeps winning games. However, I think UNC’s speed is just too much for the Huskies, and the Tar Heels end up barely covering.

North Carolina 28 Connecticut 20

Matt: UConn +7

Still can’t believe the Heels came back last week in Miami to snatch that game. At no point was I ever really impressed with their offense, but they got the job done. Meanwhile, UConn continued their pattern of squeaking out victories. Does anybody realize that the Huskies are 5-0? Call me crazy, but I think they make it to 6-0. I’m calling for the straight up win. Backup QB Zach Frazer (remember that name Irish fans!) does just enough in this battle of backup QB’s.

UConn 24 UNC 21

Mike: Connecticut +7

Connecticut continues to defy the odds by winning close games every single week, but I cannot shake the feeling that the Huskies are living on borrowed time right now, especially with Zach Frazer, who was a fourth string quarterback at Notre Dame, at starter. As an aside, it appears that three ex-Irish quarterbacks will be starting this weekend: Frazer, Demetrius Jones (Cincinnati) and David Wolke (Western Kentucky). Anyway, notwithstanding their lack of top-flight talent, Connecticut possesses a very good running game and a fundamentally sound defense, both of which are certainly helpful for games that come down to the wire. North Carolina won a thrilling game at Miami last week and, in the process, Cameron Sexton emerged as a viable replacement for T.J. Yates at quarterback. The Heels, however, must refocus themselves quickly against a Connecticut team that does not make many mistakes. Connecticut will keep this game close, as is their wont, but they lack the athletic ability to stay with North Carolina for a full four quarters.

North Carolina 24 Connecticut 21

Doug: North Carolina -7

Let the Zach Frazer era begin!! After Tyler Lorenzen broke his foot against Louisville last week, it appears that Zach Frazer came into the game and held down the fort. WOW. I did not expect to see him in the starting lineup so quickly after transferring from ND. Big opportunity for him, but I expect to see him struggle against a pretty tough UNC team on the road.

I’m genuinely rooting for Zach Frazer. He didn’t seem like a bad guy and didn’t say anything bad about ND. It was just a matter of playing time for him. He was never going to play with Jimmy Clausen on board. Frazer was a highly touted QB coming into college, so he could end up being decent for UConn.

Meanwhile, the Demetrius Jones era appears to be getting closer to reality after yet another QB got hurt for UC last weekend. They are pretty much out of options at this point, so I would not be surprised to see Demetrius getting a look in the next couple weeks.

As for this game, UConn has an uncanny ability to hang around against everybody, and UNC could be looking ahead to the ND game next week. Still, UConn stinks. I still remember betting on them in the bowl game last year against Wake Forest, and they ended up getting plowed. UNC is playing with a lot of confidence, and I expect them to win and set up a showdown with ND on October 11 in Chapel Hill.

North Carolina 24 UConn 10

South Carolina +2.5 at Ole Miss (ESPN Game Plan 2pm)

Dan: South Carolina +2.5

I think at this point it has become fairly obvious that I’m a big fan of betting against the “let down” team coming off a huge win. I’m pretty sure Ole Miss would qualify for that after shocking UF in Gainesville. South Carolina is desperate for a conference win after opening 0 – 2. I think the Gamecock defense will find a way to contain Snead and pull off the “upset” win.

South Carolina 17 Ole Miss 16

Matt: Ole Miss (-2.5)

That’s two really impressive performances for Houston Nutt, with a near win at Wake where they outplayed the Deacons and the signature win in the Swamp. I’m still waiting for the Ol Ball Coach to show any semblance of an offense in Columbia, and I think I’ll be waiting at least another week. I’ll gladly take the Rebels here.

Ole Miss 24 USC 13

Mike: Ole Miss -2.5

Forget about a letdown game here. Ole Miss has plenty of skill and Houston Nutt, although quite possibly insane, is an excellent coach. On the other sideline, Steve Spurrier may have Hall of Fame credentials but he is presiding over a sorry Gamecock offense that sorely lacks consistency under center. South Carolina fans are excited about their young quarterback Stephen Garcia, who received extensive playing time this past week after proving that he can go a full month without getting arrested. Unfortunately for Garcia, the Rebel defense will make him feel like he’s being cuffed and thrown in the paddy wagon again. Look for 3 quarterback changes and 4visor tosses from Spurrier in Oxford.

Ole Miss 17 South Carolina 14

Doug: South Carolina +2.5

If you’ve ever read that Bruce Feldman book “Meat Market,” you might be interested to know that Stephen Garcia from the book has finally started making an impact on the field for the Gamecocks. Sounds like the guy has been in all kinds of trouble at South Carolina, but it appears that he has some talent. I think this game is a must win for South Carolina. They cannot afford to go to 0-3 in the SEC.

How great a job has Houston Nutt done down at Ole Miss?? While he does have some talent (they have some really good defensive players, a pretty good QB, and that Dexter McCluster guy is legit), he has given them an identity and toughened them up. That win over Florida has to be one of the bigger wins in a long time for the Ole Miss Rebels.

If I had a coach of the year ballot in front of me today, here’s how it would shake out through five games (purely basing it on teams that are overachieving):

1) Nick Saban
2) Butch Davis
3) Houston Nutt
4) Bobby Johnson
5) Paul Johnson
6) Pat Fitzgerald

That list is subject to change of course.

As great a story as Ole Miss has been this year, this is still the same team that lost to Vandy at home a couple weeks ago. I just think South Carolina will find a way to win here.

South Carolina 17 Ole Miss 14

Auburn -4 at Vanderbilt (ESPN 6pm)
Dan: Auburn -4.5

News Flash!! Vandy sits a top the SEC East. Alone. Wow. Could you imagine Vandy going to 3 - 0 in the SEC and 5 - 0 overall? Yeah, me neither. And it won’t happen. Vandy hasn’t seen a defense like they will this week at Auburn. I expect the Commodores to struggle to score points. Auburn’s offense continues to struggle to, but gets enough done to cover against Vandy.

Auburn 17 Vanderbilt 7

Matt: Vandy +4.5

I’m sorry to all the Auburn fans out there, but I’m not buying what this team is selling this year. Their offense is laughable. The defense is championship quality, but you can’t keep trying to run that spread offense, right. Sooner or later you’ve gotta just cut your losses. Vandy straight up WINS this game and pads their lead in the SEC East.

Vandy 17 Auburn 14

Mike: Vanderbilt +4.5

Undefeated Vandy is venturing into uncharted territory this week, as they enter this game ranked in the Top 25 with an opportunity to knock off another ranked foe. In fact, College Gameday will be making its first ever appearance in Nashville this week, thus adding to the hype. Although I am leery about whether the Commodores are ready to take this giant leap, they should be able to control Auburn’s weak offense and keep this game close into the fourth quarter. In addition, Bobby Johnson is an excellent coach and Vanderbilt has enjoyed an extra week of preparation, whereas the Tigers are coming off a physical game against Tennessee.

Vanderbilt 21 Auburn 16

Doug: Auburn -4.5

Vandy is probably the best story in the SEC this year, and it is entirely possible that they can be a 7-8 win team. But I don’t want to get carried away here. It’s still Vandy. Auburn has the ability to physically dominate this game on the lines, and they won’t be taking Vandy lightly.

I love that this game is at 6 pm on ESPN. It's almost as if ESPN couldn't quite pull the trigger on a feature 8 pm broadcast for Vandy, so they settled for 6 pm just to make sure that they have another game lined up behind it (Missouri-Nebraska at 9pm).

College Gameday is going to Vandy?! Really?? Wow, will they even have enough people to fill out the Gameday set?? Do the fans even know they have a football team down there?? The Vandy fans are probably still recovering from that Camilo Villegas-Sergio Garcia playoff at the Tour Championship last week.

By the way, mark it down right now. Camilo Villegas will be your 2009 Masters Champion.

Auburn 24 Vandy 14

Missouri -11 at Nebraska (ESPN 9pm)

Dan: Nebraska +11

The transitive property would seem to say this line is way out of whack. Virginia Tech won in Lincoln in by 5 pointes, and Missouri is certainly at least 5 points better than Virginia Tech. However this is a conference game, and I expect the Black shirts to turn it up a notch. I don’t think they can pull off the full upset, but I think Pelini and Co. can manage to pull off a cover by keeping the Tigers to a season low.

Missouri 31 Nebraska 23

Matt: Missouri (-11)

Kind of a disappointing game for the Huskers last week if you ask me. The Blackshirts showed they still have a ways to go to regain their past status, giving up 35 to what had been a dormant Hokie offense. I think Bo Pelini will have the Huskers on the right track, but it’s not going to be an overnight success story. I think this one could get ugly in Lincoln. Daniel to Maclin will be the theme of the first half.

Missouri 38 Nebraska 24

Mike: Missouri -11

After a week off, Chase Daniel and company will enter Lincoln rested and ready to announce their intentions to compete for a Big 12 championship. The Tigers should be able to score in bunches against a feeble Nebraska secondary, as they have against everyone else, though their defense remains a question mark. The Huskers were able to move the ball last week against Virginia Tech, particularly through the air, so there is every reason to expect a similar performance against a Mizzou secondary that, like Nebraska, has plenty of holes. This will be a shootout and Missouri simply has the superior weaponry.

Missouri 49 Nebraska 35

Doug: Nebraska +11

Man, would have been great to see Nebraska pull that game out against Virginia Tech. Tough loss for the Blackshirts, but I’m glad to see that they were at least competitive.

Is Missouri a top 5 team?? A big win here would probably go a long way toward making that type of statement. Missouri beat Nebraska 41-6 last year. Yikes, that offense is pretty darn potent.

Speaking of Virginia Tech, I know it has been said many times, but how about Frank Beamer?? The guy is the most underappreciated great coach in the last 20 years. Since 1999 (nine seasons), he has had 7 double digit win totals. It is remarkable what he has done at Virginia Tech.

While I could easily see Missouri jumping all over Nebraska, I can’t go against Nebraska at home as a ten point underdog. It just wouldn’t feel right. Give me the Blackshirts to keep this thing tight.

Missouri 38 Nebraska 28

Texas -13.5 at Colorado (FSN 7pm)

Dan: Texas -13.5

Colorado burned me last week. I thought for sure they would at least pull a cover (if not a win) out of their trip to Tallahassee. After getting beaten up pretty badly by an inconsistent FSU team, can Hawkins get them re-focused in a hurry to face the Longhorns? Texas has won 3 games by the exact same score (52 – 10) and one game 42 -13. If the Colorado defense can’t stop the miserable Seminole offense, I can’t imagine them holding back the Longhorns. If Texas gets off in a hurry, this one could get ugly.

Texas 31 Colorado 17

Matt: Texas (-13.5)

Does anybody realize what Colt McCoy us up to down in Austin. He’s been kind of overshadowed by Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel, but Colt is completing 80% of his passes with 14 td’s, and oh by the way, he’s also leading the Longhorns in rushing. That is Tim Tebow / Vince Young type stuff. On the other side, I really thought that Colorado would take care of business in a half empty stadium against the Seminoles last week. Instead, they were embarrassed by a very mediocre Florida State team. Texas big, again.

Texas 56 Colorado 27

Mike: Texas -13.5

The Buffaloes, who appeared to be turning the corner, took a big step backward last week in Jacksonville against a weak Florida State team. As indicated in my prior picks, I am not impressed with the athletic ability of Colorado’s defense, which foretells certain doom for CU against an explosive Longhorn offense led by Colt McCoy. Texas has dominated all of their opponents thus far and Mack Brown’s squad should be squarely focused in their Big 12 opener. Hook ‘em, baby.

Texas 41 Colorado 14

Doug: Colorado +13.5

I think we might need a rule. Any time all four of us are betting one way on a game, you should probably go the opposite way. It seems like that has happened quite a bit so far this year. All of us bet on Colorado last week thinking that FSU was awful and that Colorado was surging. Well, of course Colorado lays a complete egg in Jacksonville.

Whatever happened to those random TBS Big 12 games?? Did that experiment already disappear?? I kind of liked those TBS games. Now we'll be lucky to get this game anywhere in the Great Lakes region on Fox Sports (since there is probably some goofy Best Da_n Sports Show or fishing show that will preempt it).

Texas has been incredible this year, but 13.5 points at home for a frisky Colorado team is good enough for me. Isn’t this right about the time of the year when Texas starts to choke and come out flat in games?? Colorado is a decent team, and Texas has never been known for having a killer instinct. Texas also has Oklahoma next weekend, so they might be looking ahead just a bit. I think Texas can find a way to win this game, but I expect it to be close.

Texas 27 Colorado 21

Florida State +3 at Miami (FL) (ABC/ESPN2 3:30pm)

Dan: Miami -2.5

There aren’t two teams I’m angrier at after last week than these two. Despite lighting up the blog picks, these two teams kept me from winning anything on the real gambling front. Miami choked away their game, and Florida State remembered how to play offense. I am going to go against my better judgment and side with the Canes here. I think they are on the rise and, despite the victory last weekend, the Seminoles are still on the decline. However, as a gambler, I wouldn’t touch this game. Having two teams with such variability is a recipe for a disaster.

Miami 21 Florida State 17

Matt: Miami (-2.5)

Wow, how times have changed when this game doesn’t even make a blip in the national headlines. Before I get to the game, let me ask the question…Why did Miami destroy the Orange Bowl? The atmosphere playing in the Marlins/Dolphins stadium was a joke. I’ve never been there, and I know it was a dump in a bad part of town, but wasn’t that part of the intimidation factor of the O.B. Is any opponent going to be scared going into some half full professional stadium where the fans are a mile away from the action? Anyway…that makes two games this year where I have been impressed with Miami in defeats. I don’t watch practice (obviously), but I have to question Randy Shannon’s use of the two QB system at this point. I think Robert Marve has pretty well separated himself from Jacory Harris. I’ll take the Canes over the Noles…on a missed field goal. Wide right.

Miami 24 FSU 21

Mike: Miami -2.5

Miami lost a tough game last week to North Carolina, but they were impressive in defeat. I was impressed by the running ability of Graig Cooper and Robert Marve looks like a quarterback on the rise. Florida State beat Colorado in Jacksonville by making a variety of big plays, including a kickoff return for a touchdown and a lengthy run by Antone Smith. Nonetheless, the Seminoles still do not have any semblance of a passing game and their offensive line remains shaky. The Canes are a much better team than the Seminoles and they should win easily at Dolphins Stadium this week, provided that there is no hangover effect from their loss to the Heels.

Miami 30 Florida State 10

Doug: Miami -2.5

You could make a darn good case that this game isn’t even worth previewing since neither of these teams is particularly good. Still, it’s Florida State-Miami, and there’s too much history here for us not to at least give our takes. Hard to believe that we would have had this game as the feature game of the week as recently as 5 or 6 years ago.

While FSU had an impressive win over the Hurricanes last week, I can’t take them seriously after watching them against Wake Forest a couple weeks ago. Their offense is terrible, and I doubt they’ll have much success moving the ball against Miami.

Miami is the better team here, and they are at home. I’ll take the Canes.

Miami 17 FSU 10

Arizona State +9 at Cal (ABC 3:30pm)

Dan: Arizona State +9

ASU is reeling after back to back losses. California, other than the debacle at Maryland has looked pretty good in the early going. Jahvid “best first name in college football” is averaging 7.1 yards per carry, but he's out this week. Meanwhile Cal’s 2nd back is averaging 8.0 yards per carry. Not exactly your standard Jeff Tedford offense. That said, Rudy Carpenter needs to show something soon to try and save his draft position. He’s playing for money, and that is certainly some good motivation. He’s already thrown for about 1200 yards, and I think they can put enough points on the board to cover.

California 35 Arizona State 27

Matt: Arizona State (+9)

As far as I’m concerned, any team not named USC in the Pac-10 this year is irrelevant. I don’t know what is going on with either of these teams, so I’ll just take the points that the Sun Devils are getting and move on.

Cal 38 ASU 31

Mike: Arizona State +9

Cal defeated a weak Colorado State team 42-7 last week, although they were actually outgained by the Rams, thus suggesting that their victory was not as convincing as the final score indicated. In addition, Cal lost star running back Jahvid Best to injury in the process, which will put more pressure on their young quarterback, Kevin Riley, and their unproven group of wide receivers. The Sun Devils are currently riding a 2 game losing streak, but Dennis Erickson and his staff were able to spend their off week diagnosing their problems and formulating a game plan for the Sun Devils’ upcoming visit to Strawberry Canyon. Look for an improved effort from Arizona State this week, even if they come up a little short in the end.

California 35 Arizona State 34

Doug: Arizona State +9

Arizona State has been one of the more disappointing teams in the country this year, but they have to be desperate to show some life in this game. They’ve had a week off to gear up, so I think they can hang around in this game. Cal is banged up, so give me a cover for the Sun Devils.

Continuing on with the coaches discussion, this is how my most underachieving coaching performances list would look through five games. Keep in mind that names like Tyrone Willingham and Gregg Robinson are not on this list because nothing was expected of them this year.

1) Tommy Bowden (we really should just call it the Tommy Bowden Memorial Underachieving Coaches List)
2) Greg Schiano
3) Bill Stewart
4) Dennis Erickson
5) Bobby Petrino

Clemson closes with Duke, Virgina, and South Carolina (at home) this year. Looking forward to the annual late season push by Tommy Bowden to save his job!!

Cal 34 ASU 27

Kentucky +16.5 at Alabama (CBS Sports 3:30pm)

Dan: Kentucky +16.5

Is it time for Alabama to come back to earth? They have been guaranteed money the last couple weeks. Kentucky is 4 – 0, but hasn’t really played anyone. However, I don’t think Bama can keep up their extremely high level of play. I think they are in for a “disappointing” two touchdown victory this week. Kentucky is never really in it, but never really out of it either. Now, it is time for a rant. I realize Oklahoma has looked great so far. But how is Alabama not #1? I mean, seriously. They have won at Georgia (easily). They have demolished everyone they have played. And they are, so far, the best team in the SEC. Until Oklahoma proves something to me in a big game against the SEC (or at least USC), then they cannot be #1.

Alabama 31 Kentucky 17

Matt: Kentucky (+16.5)

I think that Alabama has pretty well established themselves as the class of the SEC. In a conference with plenty of stifling defenses, it appears that they are one of the few (the only?) conference team with an offense to go with it. However, I have to think that UK is going to be fired up for this one, and it’s a classic letdown game for the Tide. Montgomery Saban is too good of a coach to let Bama come out totally flat and lose this one, but I think this one stays close throughout and is decided in the 4th quarter. JPW makes a few plays to win it in the end.

Alabama 27 UK 17

Mike: Alabama -16.5

Thanks to Rich Brooks, Wildcat fans can now focus on football in the autumn rather than preparing themselves for the upcoming basketball season. Brooks has stocked this Kentucky defense with players that can hold their own against other SEC opponents from a physical standpoint, but his team will have their hands full against an imposing Alabama offensive line. This is a potential letdown game for Bama and Kentucky did not play last week, so there is a possibility that the Wildcats will keep this game competitive. Behind the steady leadership of Nick Saban and John Parker Wilson, however, the #2 ranked Crimson Tide (that has a great sound to it, by the way) will take care of business at home.

Alabama 31 Kentucky 14

Doug: Kentucky +16.5

Have Verne and Gary purchased a condo yet in Tuscaloosa?? I have a feeling that CBS will be making regular stops down there this fall (and many falls in the near future). Might want to get Verne a regular tee time down at the best course in Tuscaloosa for Friday afternoon.

Haven’t had a chance to preview Kentucky yet this year. It’s now the month of October, so the focus in Lexington at this time of the year is in this order:

1) The second year of the Billy Gillespie era
2) October racing and horse sales at Keeneland
3) UK Football

This line is awfully high, and Kentucky’s defense is actually pretty good this year. I have no reason to stop riding the Alabama train at this point, but I think Kentucky can hang around and keep this game somewhat competitive. A backdoor cover is also a possibility, so give me the Wildcats to cover the 16.5.

Alabama 28 Kentucky 13

Ohio State -2.5 at Wisconsin (ABC 8pm)

Dan: Ohio State -2.5

Two and a half points? Wisconsin has been overrated all season. Meanwhile, Beanie Wells is back, and Terrelle Pryor somehow learned how to throw the ball between high school and starting college. I hate the fact that Pryor looks like he may be legit after his prima donna recruiting drama. But the Ohio State offense is actually pretty decent with those two guys lining up in the backfield. Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s loss at UM was not simply a product of the turnovers. They just aren’t all that good. While the game will be fairly low scoring, Ohio State can manage this cover easily.

Ohio State 20 Wisconsin 10

Matt: Ohio State -2.5

I’m sure most Buckeye fans wouldn’t agree with me, but maybe that blowout loss to USC wasn’t so bad after all. They dropped down into the middle of the rankings and all expectations nationally have officially been removed. Terrelle Pryor was inserted into the lineup without much fanfare, and the offense is like night and day. With Beanie Wells back, I think that Ohio State wins this one fairly easily, even in Madison. I just don’t think Wisconsin is that good.

Ohio State 31 Wisconsin 20

Mike: Ohio State -2.5

The return of Beanie Wells, coupled with the insertion of Terrelle Pryor into the starting lineup, has galvanized the Buckeyes, as evidenced by their blowout over Minnesota at the Horseshoe. Meanwhile, Bret Bielema and the Badgers must pick up the pieces after a stunning second-half meltdown at Michigan last week. Ohio State still has more talent than any team in the Big Ten and the Buckeyes’ confidence, which was seemingly shattered after their loss to USC, seems to be rising again each week. Wisconsin, by contrast, could be emotionally fragile following their collapse at the Big House.

Ohio State 34 Wisconsin 21

Doug: Ohio State -2.5

A few areas of concern for the Buckeyes heading into this game.

1) True freshman QB on the road for the first time in the Big 10
2) Camp Randall AT NIGHT

Looking at those two factors, it is awfully tempting to say the Wisconsin has the edge in this game, but I have a feeling that we’re going to see a great performance by the Buckeyes on Saturday night that gives them their mojo back to some degree.

First, while Terrelle Pryor is a freshman, I really am not worried about how he is going to play in this game. He is still growing into the position at quarterback, but he doesn’t really play like a freshman. He makes good decisions, he has a good feel in the pocket, and he doesn’t seem to feel the pressure of playing in the spotlight of college football. Pryor played in so many big games in high school that it seems like he is oblivious to the pressure of the big stage. Could he have a meltdown in this game in a hostile environment?? Absolutely, but I wouldn’t automatically expect it. He is an asset to this team right now.

The thing that jumps out at me with Terrelle Pryor is how big he is. The guy looks like a tight end or something. He literally towers over the other people in the huddle and on the sideline. I think he is going to start using that size to deliver some blows in the open field.

#2 is going to be a star at Ohio State. He is still a work in progress, but he has all the physical tools and the presence that you need to be a great quarterback. And while I thought he would be a shaky passer, he actually throws the ball well and has pretty good touch.

As far as the night game in Camp Randall is concerned, this current group of seniors has been through the battles on the road in the Big 10 and has had a number of big wins in primetime on the road. The Penn State “Whiteout” game last year and the Iowa “Blackout” game in 2006 were equally hyped up games, and Ohio State cruised in both those games. Ohio State has a pretty big four game stretch coming up with Wisconsin, Purdue, Michigan State, and Penn State, so this game is big for them if they want to have a shot at the Big 10 title.

While I think Ohio State has some issues (mainly on the defensive end), I think they are the better team here. Their offensive line should be able to control the line of scrimmage, and Beanie ran all over Wisconsin last year. Wisconsin should be able to move the football against the Buckeyes, but they are still a pretty one-dimensional team. Once Ohio State adjusts to their running attack, I think they will take control of this game.

Ohio State 28 Wisconsin 20

Oregon +16.5 at USC (ABC 8pm)

Dan: Oregon +16.5

This game has bounce back written all over it. And the spread is currently respecting that fact. 16.5 points is a pretty big spread for an in conference match between the best and the 2nd best teams in the conference. I mean, what sort of team wins a game 63-14 and then turns around the next week to find themselves 16.5 point underdogs. As with the Miami – Florida State game, I am not touching this one as a gambler. However, I just have feeling that there are too many points being given in this game.

USC 35 Oregon State 24

Matt: USC (-16.5)

Pete Carroll and USC have to be thoroughly embarrassed at their performance in Corvallis last week. I’m mad at myself that I didn’t see that one coming, as it has become a disturbing trend on Pete’s otherwise impeccable tenure. However, that team is too talented to lose another game this season. The fact that they got that loss out of the way early should benefit them, and I look for USC to dominate everyone left in their path to the National Championship game the next two months (yes, that means Notre Dame too). Oregon is too banged up to give the Trojans a game this year in the Coliseum.

USC 44 Oregon 21

Mike: Oregon +16.5

After their stunning defeat to Stanford last year, USC sleepwalked through their next game against Arizona before pulling out a narrow win. The Trojans may be susceptible to a similar letdown this week against an Oregon team that defeated USC last year. Oregon has suffered a series of unfortunate injuries at the quarterback position, but there is a possibility that starter Justin Roper will return this week. Even if Roper cannot play, Oregon has proven that it can score plenty of points with backup Jeremiah Masoli at the helm. Despite the fact that USC has superior athletes, the Ducks have not been intimidated by the Trojans in the past and this year will be no different.

Oregon 31 USC 30

Doug: Oregon +16.5

USC is really banged up, and I can’t shake the feeling that we are about to embark on a 3-4 week USC malaise in the Pac 10. I don’t know what it is with USC, but they go through it every year. They look incredible to start the year in the nonconference, and then they slowly start looking shakier every week after that until their late season push.

USC better be careful or they could easily lose this game. Oregon had a fluky loss to Boise State, but they are a good football team with a high-powered offense.

16.5 points is way too much for me in this game. I really think Oregon has a great shot to win this game outright. If you have the guts to bet on the moneyline, it might be worth a small bet.

USC 24 Oregon 20

Illinois +2.5 at Michigan (ABC 3:30pm)

Dan: Michigan -2.5

Two teams already headed in different direction. After last year’s surprise season, the Illini faithful are in for a long fall. Michigan found themselves in the second half last week against Wisconsin, and I think the defense continues show that they are one of the best in the Big Ten (not much, but good enough) and McGuffie bounces back with a big game after a pretty disappointing game last week.

Michigan 23 Illinois 13

Matt: Michigan -2.5

I said it last week and I’ll say it again. I don’t trust Juice Williams.

Michigan 18 Illinois 17

Mike: Illinois +2.5

Illinois played surprisingly well in defeat against Penn State, while Michigan engineered a stunning comeback from a 19-0 second half deficit against Wisconsin. Although Michigan’s offense continues to grow under Rich Rodriguez, the statistics show that they are still a long way from being consistently productive. The Wolverines have a tough defensive front four, but they have been burned by running quarterbacks in the past (think Appalachian State and Oregon) and Illinois’ Juice Williams should be able to find some room to roam against a suspect group of Michigan linebackers. With any luck, this will be a sad homecoming weekend in Ann Arbor.

Illinois 23 Michigan 17

Doug: Michigan -2.5

Michigan still isn’t getting much respect from the oddsmakers (not that they really deserve it), but I really think they are starting to gel as a team under Rich Rodriguez. They are all over the map with turnovers and wild games, but they are also making big plays and showing the occasional glimpses of being an explosive team. I did not get a chance to watch them against Wisconsin since ND was on at the same time, so I didn’t get a feel for how their offense looked last week. Looking at the stats, McGuffie had a pretty quiet day for them, so I have no idea how they put 27 points on the board.

While Illinois is nothing much, how good is Arrelious Benn?? That guy is a star and probably the best player in the Big 10 along with Beanie Wells. Can you imagine how good the ND WR corps would be if Benn had decided to come to ND?? Scary.

I like Michigan to win this game at home and keep building some momentum. I think Michigan has an excellent chance to win 8 games this year, and I am not ruling out the possibility that they will be really fired up heading into Columbus, Ohio on November 22. It seems like the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry never lasts in any one direction for too long, and I have a strange feeling that Michigan is going to come to Columbus on a mission. Just store that one in the back of your minds.

Michigan 27 Illinois 21

Stanford +7 at Notre Dame (NBC Sports 2:30pm)

Dan: Notre Dame

Notre Dame fans (me included) are riding pretty high right now. The game last week was the best this team has looked in a long time. Probably since at least Army (and does that even count?) in 2006. However, this season has been a roller coaster, and this week would point to a down week.

Meanwhile, Stanford is a scrappy team. They have hung around with better teams (21 – 14 in the 4th against TCU and 27 – 17 in the 4th against ASU), and won their games against teams that are worse (even if those teams are somehow favored… but I digress). I really think Harbaugh may be a decent coach and could build a decent program in Palo Alto. Of course, that doesn’t mean I think we should be playing them every year, but that is a different topic.

This game, on its face, looks like a complete talent mismatch. Notre Dame has not lost to Stanford since Bob Davie was the coach. And, even the bad teams, have seemed to be able to handle Stanford easily at home.

While I think Stanford is on the upswing, Notre Dame should be successful at following their offensive game plan instituted last week. And the defensive blitzes will finally hit their mark. I am predicting at least 3 sacks this week (after only 1 all year so far). Maybe I’m drinking too much Kool-Aid here, but I think this line (though we don’t pick against the spread for ND here at WeIsND) is too small. I expect a blow out.

Notre Dame 35 Stanford 16

Matt: Notre Dame

This is a real test game for the Irish. Not so much as to whether we win (you’ll find me on the nearest ledge if somehow ND manages to lose this game) but rather as to a test of how far back we are. We should DESTROY Stanford. As Beano Cook would say, we have so much more material than Stanford that it’s just not funny. How many guys on their roster would we even have considered recruiting? One? Two? None? If we can build on what looks like an increasingly growing foundation on both offense and defense, there is no reason this game shouldn’t be over by halftime.

ND 44 Stanford 17

Mike: Notre Dame

My heart was warmed last week with the running of Armando Allen and the tremendous effort of the Irish offensive line, albeit against an undermanned Purdue defense. Stanford should offer more resistance in the trenches, so it will be interesting to see whether Notre Dame can run the ball effectively again this week. Given the weakness of the Cardinal secondary, however, Jimmy Clausen and his fine receiving targets should be able to amass large chunks of yardage through the air, thereby setting up the running game in the second half.

Stanford has struggled with their passing game, but they have run the ball effectively with Toby Gerhart, who was concussed last week at Washington, and ninth-year senior Anthony Kimble. In light of the fact that Notre Dame’s primary weakness has been its run defense, this appears to be a favorable match up for Stanford. It will be important for Notre Dame to jump out to an early lead and force Stanford to throw the ball. The Cardinal will battle hard under Jim Harbaugh, but it won’t be enough against an Irish team that is starting to hit its stride offensively.

Notre Dame 33 Stanford 24

Doug: Notre Dame

I don’t want to sound like I am downplaying Stanford, but it’s time for ND fans to start talking like we should blow teams like Stanford out of the water. Don’t get me wrong, there are some good things going on at Stanford. Harbaugh is proving that he is a darn good coach (which was something that you could see coming as soon as he took the Stanford job), and they are at least competent as a football team these days. Stanford is eventually going to push its way into the meaty middle of the Pac 10 if Harbaugh stays there and continues to recruit well.

Stanford might be a slightly better all-around team than Purdue, but it’s still Stanford. They have 50th type recruiting classes across the board, they have limited speed, and there are only a few positions on their roster that anyone would consider above average. Their defense is shaky at best (especially their pass defense), they are a little banged up, and they haven’t been a real good road team in a long time. While they have made strides, it is still the same Stanford team that got plowed on the road 41-17 by a mediocre Arizona State team and 31-14 to TCU.

As was the case with Purdue, ND has a huge talent edge in this game. There is no one on the Stanford roster who can cover Golden Tate or Michael Floyd, and Clausen should be able to hit some big plays in the passing game. Stanford has some nice offensive weapons, but the pieces are not there for them to put up a bunch of points in this game.

ND is still not getting a whole lot of respect with the oddsmakers with that 7.5 point spread. I honestly thought the line would be around -11.5 or something like that. We are a much better team than Stanford, but the oddsmakers apparently do not realize that just yet.

Some keys to this game:

1) Turnovers – The only way I could see ND losing this game would be if we turned the ball over a bunch. Turnovers were the big difference in the USC-Stanford game last year, and we cannot afford to hand the ball to Stanford deep in our own territory. If you turn it over inside your own territory, you can lose to anyone. We just need to protect the ball and make Stanford beat us with long-sustained drives (which they cannot do).

2) Letdown - While there is some talk of a letdown, I think that talk is a little misguided. If anything, this team is only starting to build some confidence and is probably looking to continue their momentum and play even better this week. Beating Purdue was sort of a breakthrough for this team, but it was not some momentous event for these guys that mandates a huge letdown this week. Purdue is an appetizer, and our guys should be hungry to play well again this week against the Trees.

3) The Battle Up Front – ND can take control of this game by winning the battle up front on offense and defense. If we are able to keep Stanford away from Clausen, he is going to have time to hit some big plays down the field to Tate and Floyd and even Rudolph. Stanford’s secondary is not good at all, so I think Clausen has a chance to pick them apart if he has time. Stanford actually caused some problems for us last year with their pass rush, so hopefully the improved pass blocking on the o-line will give this offense plenty of time to make things happen through the air.

If we can hit some plays down field and get Stanford on their heels, we should be able to run it all over them as well. Robert Hughes sort of had his coming out party in the Stanford game last year behind a lousy offensive line, so Armando Allen could have another big day this week.

As long as ND’s o-line shows up ready to take it to Stanford, we are going to be able to put up a whole bunch of points in this game. They don’t have the personnel on defense to stop our skill players.

4) Harbaugh – I have a feeling that Harbaugh is going to pull out all the stops in this game, so hopefully we are prepared for anything. They are an improved team, but so are we. Can Harbaugh put together a game plan that neutralizes our overwhelming talent edge?? I doubt it.

I don’t think we are a juggernaut by any stretch at this point, but we are closer to being a good team than we are to being a bad team. Good teams blow out teams like Stanford at home. A win over Stanford sets up a big game in Chapel Hill against a UNC team that most likely will be ranked. While Stanford will show up ready to play, I think the Irish will take care of business in this game and win comfortably.

ND 31 Stanford 13

Last week

Dan: 11-3-1
Matt: 5-9-1
Mike: 7-7-1
Doug: 10-4-1


Dan: 25-17-3
Matt: 41-32-3
Mike: 38-35-3
Doug: 42-31-3


Matt said...

Just to clarify - I'm sticking with my Michigan pick. My score should have been UM 20 Wisc 17.

Lot's of differing opinions this week. Can't let Dan get too big of a lead.

Matt said...

I'm sorry - grad school is ruining my mind. Let's try this one more time.

Michigan 20
Illinois 17