October 23, 2008

Week 9: The Picks

After a relatively tame week eight in college football, week nine roars back with a vengeance with three top ten matchups and a host of other interesting conference matchups.

There are almost too many good college football games this Saturday. Think about this day as you gear up for Saturday.

noon - Texas Tech at Kansas
3:30 pm - Georgia-LSU, Oklahoma State-Texas
8:00 pm - Alabama-Tennessee, Notre Dame-Washington, Ohio State-Penn State
10:15 pm - USC-Arizona

Man, color me disappointed that all these games are overlapping. Would have loved for some of these games to have been last week.

Unless you are going to one of these games, Saturday looks like the kind of day where you are going to want to end up a sports bar to tune into all these games.

Should be a great weekend and hopefully the last game of the Ty Willingham era.

Auburn +3 at West Virginia (ESPN 7:30pm)

Dan: West Virginia -3

Before the season began, this game looked like it could have potential national championship implications at the beginning of the year. Now, Auburn is in shambles and West Virginia is stuck vying for a Big East title. While West Virginia could get caught tripping in non-conference game, I don’t think so for two reasons. One is that Big East teams are used to Thursday night games, while SEC teams tend to under-perform in week night games. Secondly, Auburn is bad. They lost to Arkansas. At home. Put a fork in them.

West Virginia 24 Auburn 16

Matt: West Virginia -3

I remember being pumped about this game when I first saw it on the schedule. Not so much any more. It's still commendable that both these teams scheduled a nonconference game of this magnitude as the calendar is about to flip to November. But neither of them have been able to live up to their preseason billing. I wonder if the good people of West Virginia are happy with the thought of Bill Stewart for another few years. What the heck is he thinking trying to convert the 'Neers into a passing team with Pat White and Noel Devine in the backfield? Nevertheless, Auburn is an absolute mess right now, and I think West Virginia wins this one at home in front of the Morgantown faithful.

West Virginia 24 Auburn 13

Mike: Auburn +3

When I purchased my copy of Phil Steele’s College Football Preview back in July, this game jumped off the page as an incredible Thursday night matchup with potential National Championship implications. Unfortunately, Tommy Tuberville’s ill fated spread experiment has placed him on an ever growing hot seat and Bill Stewart has looked completely lost at the helm for the Mountaineers. The difference in this game is that Auburn still knows how to play defense. As such, the Tigers should have no problem controlling a West Virginia attack that only mustered of 268 yards of offense (90 of which came on a Noel Devine run in the 4th quarter) against Syracuse. Yes, that Syracuse.

Auburn 20 West Virginia 10

Doug: Auburn +3

Thursday night games have been leaning toward the home teams all year, and West Virginia fans have been gearing up for this game as their marquee home game all year. Both these teams (and programs) really need this game badly. Auburn is in a full-fledged tailspin, but I feel like the week off will give them a chance to circle the wagons and go into this game looking to play Auburn football: tough defense and power football. That is the Auburn football that I know, and I hope they get back to playing that type of football. The Big East is wide open, and WVU would probably like to use this game as a springboard toward a strong second half of the year.

I have no reason to pick Auburn here, but oh well. Give me the Tigers. I'll happily take an SEC team over a Big East team any day. Auburn has played in tougher environments than Morgantown, West Virginia, so they will not be intimidated. I like the Tigers to win straight up on the road.

Auburn 20 WVU 17

Wake Forest (+3) at Miami (ESPNU 12pm)

Dan: Wake Forest +3

No chance I’m gambling on this games. Both teams have been gambling nightmares all year. Grobe has turned his team into the Demon Unpredictables. Miami has outscored its opponents in the last 10 quarters 105 – 62. I would lean towards the home team here, but since being at home doesn’t mean much for Miami, I’ll take the points. I think Leavitt gets his team re-focused (again) and they show up to beat the once vaunted Canes.

Wake Forest 17 Miami 14

Matt: Miami -3

I'm officially off the Wake Forest bandwagon. Are you kidding me getting shut out at Maryland. Something has been seriously wrong with the offense going back to that upset win in Tallahassee over a month ago in which the offense mustered only 4 Sam Swank field goals. A lack of a running game seems to be the main culprit, as their two running backs Josh Adams and Brandon Prendergass have barely 350 yards total and a miserable 2.6 yards per carry. Miami may not be the Miami of old, as evidenced by giving up 31 last week to Duke in a blowout win, but I remain convinced that they are on the right track, and they definitely will have more athletes on the field. Miami gets the home W.

Miami 31 Wake 21

Mike: Wake Forest +3

Miami had a nice win at Duke (can’t believe I just typed that) last week, but every time the Canes appear to be on the verge of a breakthrough, they seem to take a big step backward. Although Wake has some serious problems, especially with its inexperienced and banged up offensive line, I trust that Jim Grobe will make the necessary corrections this week. By contrast, I have no confidence that Randy Shannon, whose “musical quarterbacks” policy has already created a genuine controversy, will build on his team’s success in Durham. Look for a bounce back win for the Demon Deacons on the road over the inexperienced Canes.

Wake Forest 21 Miami 20

Doug: Miami -3

Wake has taken a major step back in recent weeks, but the question in this game is whether Miami is capable of stepping up and dominating this game. They have the talent to do it, but still seem to be feeling their way through the season and trying to figure out who they are. Randy Shannon can't seem to decide on a QB and continues to shuffle Robert Marve and Jacory Harris in and out of the game.

Wake is a sitting duck and has lost their offensive mojo. If Miami has any aspirations of becoming a great program again, they need to start winning games like this one. I'm not sure how great I feel about this pick, but I'll go with the Canes.

Miami 23 Wake 14

BC +3 at North Carolina (Raycom 12pm)

Dan: BC +3

These ACC teams are very hard to get a read on this year. North Carolina’s defense is good, but its offense lost its third offensive starter (even if it is just the fullback) from a line-up that wasn’t all that strong to begin with. BC on the other hand is playing pretty good football having just taken down the Hokies to move into first place in its division. Despite playing at home, I think UNC will have a tough time getting points, and BC will keep the ball on the ground to avoid turnovers. BC’s quarterback has an almost 1 to 2 TD to interception ratio, so if they are forced to throw against the superb UNC pass defense, watch out! However, I think BC manages to have just enough success on the ground to pull off the upset on the road.

BC 14 UNC 10

Matt: UNC -3

So nice of UNC to go out and lose last week to UVA. Really made us ND fans feel good about that loss in Chapel Hill. Neither of these teams are that good - I see both of them about 8-4 or 7-5.

By the way, as I am typing this, the Backstreet Boys are singing the National Anthem in Tampa before Game 1 of the World Series. Are you kidding me Tampa? The freaking Backstreet Boys. And you expect us to take you seriously as a sports town. What a joke. I'll say this - if the Phillies trotted out the Backstreet Boys before Game 3 there would be a legitimate riot. Fans would charge the field and physically assault those fools.

UNC 27 BC 21

Mike: North Carolina -3

Well, I was wrong about BC last week. By “wrong,” of course, I mean that I was wrong about the final score, but not about BC being a second rate program. The latter assertion was completely valid and, accordingly, the Tar Heels will start BC on its well trodden path to mediocrity this week.

UNC 24 BC 21

Doug: North Carolina -3

I am picking UNC to win this game, but it's not meant as a knock on BC. I watched most of the second half of the BC-VT game, and BC is a pretty darn good football team. It's a typical BC team. They have a ton of seniors, they tackle well, they pursue well even though they don't have a lot of speed, they don't miss a lot of assignments defensively, they stop the run, they are physical, they are just savvy enough offensively to put some points on the board, and they are tough. That's BC football for the last 15 years, and nothing seems to change with them no matter how many head coaches they go through. They don't have enough top end talent or speed to win 10+ games or go to BCS bowls, but they do enough things well to be a consistent 7-9 win team depending on their schedule. BC is not pretty, but they find ways to wear you out and grind out wins. We can create some matchup problems for BC with Clausen and our receivers, but BC will be a formidable opponent for the Irish again this year.

I'm going with UNC to win this week because they are a little more talented than BC, Hakeem Nicks is a matchup problem for BC, they are at home, they will be looking to get the bad taste out of their mouths from the loss to Virginia, and Butch Davis is a quality coach. Crain has gotten a little better for BC, but I don't trust him on the road against an opportunistic defense like UNC.
The ACC is so wide open this year that just about every team in the league could conceivably win it. Should be an interesting second half of the season in the ACC. A win for either of these teams in this game would be a big boost in the league standings.

By the way, if you are looking for a great college football show to listen to, check out Bomani from 850 The Buzz in Raleigh. We listened to his show on the drive to Chapel Hill, and it is a treat.

UNC 27 BC 21

Kentucky (+24.5) at Florida (Raycom 12:30pm)

Dan: Kentucky +24.5

Kentucky is not a very good football team, but they haven’t lost an SEC game by more than 7 points this year. Meanwhile, I think UF is due to come out sluggish after a big win and a bye week, particularly against a week opponent. Expect Meyer to remind his players that Kentucky kept it extremely close against Alabama, and that’s enough for a good win, but not by 25 points.

Florida 38 Kentucky 17

Matt: Florida -24.5

I'm really going out on a limb here with this one. 24.5 is a ridiculous line in the SEC. I just feel like the Gators are rounding into form and have finally ironed out their problems on offense. Chew on these numbers: Percy Harvin is averaging 7 yards a carry and 16 yards a catch. Chris Rainey is averaging 7 yards a game. Jeff Demps is averaging 13 yards a carry. 13 yards a carry! In fact, I'm going out on a limb right now. The University of Florida will be playing for the National Championship this year. Mark it down.

Florida 45 UK 20

Mike: Kentucky +24.5

Florida appears to be as good as, if not better than, any other team in college football and they are also coming off a bye. In recent years, however, the Gators have struggled in the week that immediately precedes the game formerly known as the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. Nonetheless, it’s tough to feel comfortable about picking Kentucky in this spot because the Wildcats have been ravaged by injuries to key performers in recent weeks. Still, I think the Gators will play to their historical “look ahead” trend, thus allowing a depleted Kentucky squad to cover this monster spread in Gainesville.

Florida 31 Kentucky 13

Doug: Kentucky +24.5

I think Billy Gillespie will have his troops fired up heading down to the O-Dome to take on Billy Donovan and the Gators. He's gotta find a way to get the ball to Patrick Patterson and hope that Jodie Meeks doesn't turn the ball over. Oh wait...

24 points in the SEC is too much for my blood. Florida is real good when they are hot, but that's a lot of points to give them. UK's defense is solid, and I don't see any reason why they can't cover a 3 td spread.

Florida 27 Kentucky 13

Alabama -6.5 at Tennessee (ESPN 7:45pm)

Dan: Alabama -6.5

Alabama has not been winning games by many points lately. In fact, its margin of victory in the last 3 games averages only about 6 points. Fulmer is desperate for a statement win, lest the faithful in Tennessee get even more frustrated. Also, while Saban has coached some good teams, he has never had an undefeated season. Can he finally pull it off? I don’t think so, but I think they get the win and cover this week. However, this definitely seems like a nice little 6 point teaser opportunity, just to be safe. (Note: My last teaser recommendation could have not been more wrong, so please take this with a grain of salt).

Alabama 27 Tennessee 13

Matt: Alabama -6.5

Alabama is just a weird team. They get out and dominate in the first half and then seemingly go to sleep in the second half. I watched their game last week against Ole Miss and they were lucky to come out of there with the W. They just played like crap in the second half. I don't know what is going on down there, you would think that Saban would find a way to get them playing 60 minutes of football. I have all but given up on UT this year, but I think they have one more valiant effort this weekend at home on Rocky Top, but Alabama survives.

Alabama 24 UT 17

Mike: Alabama -6.5

Terrence Cody is out for the Tide, which is a mild concern, but I can’t foresee any scenario that involves Tennessee’s anemic offense scoring more than 14 points in this game. On the road, Nick Saban will rely upon the time tested blueprint of running and defense to grind out a workmanlike victory.

Alabama 24 Tennessee 14

Doug: Tennessee +6.5

UPSET ALERT!! Calling it right now. Tennessee is going to shock the world and win this game. Alabama is a real good team, but they are living a little on borrowed time. I just feel like they are due for a loss. Everyone in Tuscaloosa is talking about that November 8 showdown in Baton Rouge, but I have a feeling that they are going down on Saturday night in Knoxville. It is almost impossible to go through the SEC undefeated these days unless you have incredible depth and experience, and I don't think Bama has enough of either trait to do it. Mike Patrick will bring you the action, and I am already hearing the shrieking in his voice.

The coaching matchup is admittedly a little terrifying for the Vols (Saban and Fulmer...yikes), but I think Tennessee wil rise up off the mat and give the Orange Nation one last hurrah before fading off into the sunset at the end of the year.

Tennessee 20 Alabama 17

Oklahoma State +12 at Texas (ABC 3:30pm)

Dan: Texas -12

The Longhorns seem like a team on a mission this year. They looked dominant while trouncing Missouri last week. While I think the Cowboys are a good team, I also have this slight feeling they are still playing above there level a little bit. The only way Texas doesn’t come out and beat them by 2 touchdowns is if the Longhorns beat themselves. My newfound faith in Mack Brown says that it will not happen this week. I like Texas in another rout.

Texas 41 Oklahoma State 24

Matt: Texas -12

I love that Oklahoma State is a legitimate team this year. From Eskimo Joe's to Coach Gundy to Big Country Reeves, I have no reason not to like Oklahoma State and the city of Stillwater. Maybe they'll even end up on our schedule one day. But I just really think that Texas at home will be ready for them. Mack Brown seems to have Texas so focused that I don't see them looking past the Cowboys at all. Speaking of which, here is my Top 7 heading into this weekend:

1. Texas
2. Alabama
3. Florida
4. USC.
5. Penn State
6. Oklahoma State
7. Oklahoma

39 Notre Dame

81 Temple (Did anyone see Bill Cosby on the intro to ESPN 2's coverage of the Temple - Ohio game on Tuesday night? Youtube it if you didn't. I think he referred to Ohio as the Chitlin Legs, he called it ESPN 7 and made some weird noises with his mouth that sounded like a cross between bad freestyle rap and coughing. Big comeback win for Philly's own Temple Owls in front of hundreds of rabid fans)

118 Washington
119 Washington State - Worst team in Division 1 history. And that is inarguable. The Apple Cup Pillow Fight will be must see TV to see just how bad college football can be played.

Texas 47 Oklahoma State 34

Mike: Texas -12

Can Texas possibly maintain an incredible level of intensity and execution for another week? Perhaps not, but they can afford a slight decline in both departments against an Oklahoma State team that is just waiting to be exposed as a complete fraud. Unless T. Boone Pickens can bribe enough of the Texas players to take a dive, the Pokes have no chance in Austin against this Longhorn juggernaut.

Texas 45 Oklahoma State 23

Doug: Oklahoma State +12

Well, Oklahoma State is a better team than Missouri, but how good are they compared to Texas?? I don't know, but I like them to cover the 13 points. Texas is playing their third straight "huge" game in a row. Are they going to be able to sustain this level of play week after week after week?? I think Texas is clearly an elite team with elite talent and an elite staff of coaches, but asking them to cover the 13 number seems a little much.

I like Texas to pull this game out, but I think it will be a very competitive game. Mike Gundy has done an outstanding job building up that Oklahoma State program into a dynamic offensive team, and I don't see any reason why they will get blown out here.

Texas 37 Oklahoma State 30

Georgia +2 at LSU (CBS Sports 3:30pm)

Dan: LSU -2

Georgia is in for a tough couple weeks. They play at LSU followed by the World’s Largest Cocktail Party (forever so shall it be named). They Tigers bounced back from their destruction at the hands of the Gators to handle a decent South Carolina team on the road. I really have not been all that sold on Georgia this year. Moreno is great, but their O-line is young, and could have trouble dealing with LSU’s talented front four. In a defensive struggle, I think the Tigers pull off the win and keep the pressure on Bama in the SEC West.

LSU 20 Georgia 17

Matt: Georgia +2

Hmmmm, this is an intriguing game. Something just seems a little off to me about LSU this year. The offense has never really gotten into sink, and the defense isn't nearly as ferocious as it has been in years past. By no means am I sold on Georgia and Mr. Overrated himself, Matthew Stafford, but I'll take them to pull a huge road upset.

BTW, these two teams are exactly the reason why I think the SEC is a little overrated this year. I know, that's blasphemy, and those thoughts are coming from an SEC apologist who believes that it's not a national championship game if someone from the SEC isn't involved. I just think that this year the Big 12 has a slight edge in terms of overall quality. I'll have to respectfully disagree with my colleague Doug that these SEC defenses could stop the Big 12 offenses. While I think they would slow them down, I don't know what SEC offense besides the Gators and maybe the Sabans is scoring enough to keep up with Colt McCoy or Sam Bradford. Maybe I'm out of line for even suggesting such a thing. We'll see as the season goes on.

Georgia 20 LSU 17

Mike: LSU -2

I questioned LSU’s talent level last week, but after a gutty win in Columbia, I confess that I was wrong to doubt The Hat. My penance: picking the Bayou Bengals at home against the inconsistent Matthew Stafford.

LSU 27 Georgia 17

Doug: LSU -2

Something is bothering me about this game. Either I am completely underestimating Georgia or everyone else just hasn't realized that they aren't that good. I think LSU is clearly the better team and they are at home, and yet the line is only 3. In other words, if they were playing on a neutral field, the line would be a pick em. Maybe I'm completely wrong about Georgia, but they haven't impressed me this year. I don't get the feeling that they are a complete team. I can't shake that Alabama result from my mind. They got completely dominated up front in that game, and I think LSU can do the same thing to them.

I will never doubt the power of motivation in a big game (especially down in the SEC when it seems that the team with a bigger chip on its shoulder tends to win), so I do expect Georgia to be fired up and looking to make a statement that the Alabama game was a fluke. I am not all that sure about my pick because Georgia might just jump up and surprise me.

I just happen to think that LSU is the better team. They still have QB issues, but the LSU formula wins games. They pound you and wear you down with their physical style for 3 quarters and then win the game in the fourth quarter. In many ways, LSU has become like the Pittsburgh Steelers of college football. It's not a pretty formula, but it wins games. They play physical but add just enough wrinkles and bold playcalls to mix it up on offense, and they come after you on defense. I can't tell you how many times the Bengals have played the Steelers tough for three quarters thinking that they had a shot in the fourth quarter, but then the bottom falls out in the fourth and then suddenly those 3-4 yard runs are turning into steady 7-8 yard gains on the ground and opening up big plays in the passing game. The whole time when you think you are hanging around, you are playing right into the Steelers hands.

Throw in a raucous environment down in Baton Rouge, and it should be a good one. Looking forward to it.

LSU 23 Georgia 17

Virginia Tech +5 at Florida State (ABC 3:30pm)

Dan: FSU -5

This Virginia Tech team just isn’t the same on the road. Meanwhile, the Seminoles should have plenty of motivation to avenge the blow out loss from last year. While you can’t count Beamer out of any big game, I have started to lose confidence in Tyrod’s ability to score touchdowns. The Seminole offense, however, has been scoring points in bunches. Bert Reed, FSU’s second leading receiver, is suspended for the game, but don’t expect them to slow them down too much. Bobby gets his revenge.

Florida State 28 Virginia Tech 16

Matt: FSU -5

I feel terrible about this pick, but if Tech isn't winning at BC, I don't see them doing anything special down in Tallahassee. I guess I have to begrudgingly give the Noles credit for the way they have rebounded and finally established some semblance of an offense. I still don't think that Ponder is the long term answer at QB, but this weekend he'll be enough with Antone Smith and his 10 TD's leading the way.

FSU 30 VT 20

Mike: Virginia Tech +5

Interesting matchup here. While Virginia Tech’s paucity of talent at the offensive skill positions finally caught up to the Hokies last week, I refuse to write off a team coached by Frank Beamer and Bud Foster. On the other sideline, Florida State has shown signs, particularly on defense, that it may be able to reclaim the ACC this year. I expect Foster’s defense to cause myriad troubles for the mistake prone Christian Ponder, which will help Va. Tech overcome its offensive shortcomings. This game should come down to the wire and, although I like Florida State to win, I would not be surprised by a Virginia Tech victory.

Florida State 24 Virginia Tech 23

Doug: Florida St -5

Another big ACC game this week where the winner could really make a move in the standings and the loser could be headed toward a lower tier bowl. Perhaps it is time to start giving Florida State a little bit of respect after running off three straight wins. Their offense is really coming around all of the sudden. Meanwhile, VT has to be kicking themselves after a tough loss at BC.

My first instinct on this game was to put down VT and not look back, but I really think that we are witnessing a possible reformation of the Florida State brand under Jimbo Fisher (Bobby Bowden is no longer the head coach of this team). They have rediscovered their running game under Jimbo Fisher, which is always a sign that your offense is on the road to recovery if you run a conventional offense. FSU has always had the talent. They just lacked discipline and a competent scheme. Fisher has given them that much.

I could end up regretting this pick since I had VT down at first and know that they will be hungry to bounce back, but I think the Noles might be hitting their stride.

FSU 20 VT 10

Michigan State -4 at Michigan (ABC 3:30pm)

Dan: MSU -4

It sure feels like it is time for the perennial mid to late season slide, doesn’t it? Yet, Michigan is so terrible and capable of self destructing at any point in any game that I simply cannot in good faith pick them. Their run defense, which should have been good this year, has been really bad. It has given up an average of about 190 yards per game in Michigan’s last 3 Big 10 games. I am thinking Javon Ringer can keep that coming and Michigan State can handle UM’s inept offense.

Michigan State 27 Michigan 13

Matt: Michigan State -4

History says that Ohio State game was the beginning of the season ending downward spiral for the Spartans. I say that a terrible Michigan team will put off that march to 8-4 for one more week.

Michigan State 31 Michigan 14

Mike: Michigan +4

As much as I hate picking Michigan and as much as I think that the Wolverines are terrible this year, I just cannot disregard Sparty’s dubious history. Given Michigan State’s talent edge and its tremendous opportunity to defeat its mouthy rival, this will be a critical test of whether Mark D’Antonio has indeed changed the culture in East Lansing. In other words, if this is truly a new era for Michigan State, they will shake off any effects of an embarrassing home thrashing at the hands of Ohio State and defeat an undermanned Michigan team. Unfortunately for Spartan fans, I’m guessing that it will be business as usual for MSU.

Michigan 20 Michigan State 17

Doug: Michigan +4

I don't know why I continue to put my faith in this Michigan team, but I've picked them for what feels like 10 weeks in a row and feel like they have to come through at some point. I've only watched bits and pieces of Michigan this year, but I always seem to be watching them when they are playing well. The story for Michigan this year has been turnovers and carelessness with the ball. When you put the ball on the ground, it is hard to overcome (especially when you are as fragile as Michigan has been this year). They seem to implode at the worst possible times.

And yet when I watch them, I see talent. There is talent on that team, and their scheme can be dangerous when they are executing. Michigan State is a moderately talented team with a few real good players, but they don't have Michigan's talent. Michigan State has weaknesses on defense, and their offense is one-dimensional. If Michigan can actually put together 60 minutes of sound football, they will win this game.

Michigan 30 MSU 27

Virginia +12 at Georgia Tech (ESPNU 3:30pm)

Dan: Virginia +12

I’m not sure Georgia Tech is ready to start beating decent teams by two touchdowns. Virginia has had some bad losses this year, but they have really turned it around the last 3 games. I love Paul Johnson and really think he can have some great success at Georgia Tech, but this one feels more like a 7 – 10 point game.

Georgia Tech 21 Virginia 12

Matt: Georgia Tech -12

UVA is one of those George Costanza 'spotting dimes / eating onions' teams. Who the hell are they? They lose 31-3 to Duke but beat Maryland 31-0 and beat UNC? I have no clue what to expect from them this week. I'll just go with GT to lay a beat down on Virginia with no confidence whatsoever.

Georgia Tech 38 UVA 13

Mike: Georgia Tech -12

Virginia has enjoyed a nice little turnaround in the last few weeks, but it is about time for the Cavaliers to deal with their success by turning in a terrible performance like the rest of their ACC brethren have done this year (see, e.g., Maryland, Wake Forest, UNC, Miami). By contrast, Georgia Tech is the only team that exhibited consistency on a week-to-week basis and I expect another sound performance this week from Paul Johnson’s crew. The Yellow Jackets defensive line should make life miserable for Marc Verica and the Hoos’ offense, who will find Bobby Dodd Stadium to be far less accommodating than their venue for their last 3 victories.

Georgia Tech 27 Virginia 7

Doug: Georgia Tech -12

While I was driving down to Winston-Salem a couple weeks ago, I stumbled upon a Virginia sports radio station broadcasting live from the Richmond area. Anyway, the host of the show was absolutely killing Al Groh and openly speculating on who would be the next head coach at UVA. The show made a lasting impression on me partially because I had no idea that Virginia had a passionate fanbase and partially because Virginia has now reeled off back to back to back wins over Maryland, East Carolina, and North Carolina to push their record to 4-3. Al Groh is not only making a push to save his job, but he is probably 1 or 2 more big wins away from putting himself into the conversation for the ACC Coach of the Year race. Quite a turnaround in the span of a few weeks.

On that note, I think they are going to get annhilated down in Atlanta. Georgia Tech is proving to be a really good team this year, and they have been dominant at home. Virginia is coming off a huge win, and I expect them to have a letdown and get throttled in this game. Paul Johnson is arguably one of the 2-3 best candidates for national coach of the year at this point.

Georgia Tech 31 Virginia 3

South Florida -4 at Louisville (Check local listings 3:30pm)

Dan: USF -4

Louisville has gone 4-1 since opening the season with that disastrous game against UK. During that time, the Cardinal offense has been an impressive machine in that time frame. On top of that, USF’s defense is missing two starters for this game. On the other side of the football, the Louisville defense has not been very impressive and the USF offense leads the Big East. Combine these two facts and it sounds like we could be in for a shoot out. I think the weakened USF defense pulls off just enough plays to win by a touchdown and get the cover.

USF 41 Louisville 34

Matt: South Florida -4

The Big East is so wide open, even more so when a Dave Wannstedt led team is the leader at the halfway post. I still think that USF is going to find a way to win the league, and therefore I must believe that they get a win at Papa John's Stadium. What a college football stadium name - Death Valley, the Coliseum and Papa John's. Legendary.

USF 34 Louisville 20

Mike: Louisville +4

Louisville, despite its inconsistencies, has certainly shown enough explosiveness on both sides of the ball to suggest that it can compete with any team in a weak Big East, including South Florida. Just a hunch, but I think that the Cardinals will finally put together a complete game against the visiting Bulls, who have been similarly up and down in 2008.

Louisville 34 South Florida 27

Doug: Louisville +4

How has Louisville only played one conference game so far this year?? That wacky Big East conference schedule always throws me for a loop. Louisville has already played 6 games, but it's tough to get a feel for them this year.

Meanwhile, South Florida continues their tradition as the most Jekyll and Hyde team in the Big East. They occasionally look incredible, but they also look mediocre on a regular basis as well.

I don't have a good feel for this game at all, so I'll take Louisville and the points. They are piling up some impressive stats, and they have shown life on the ground. USF couldn't stop LeSean McCoy a couple weeks ago. I think Louisville will follow the same formula and get a win.

Louisville 24 USF 21

Texas Tech +1 at Kansas (ESPN 12pm)

Dan: Texas Tech +1

In another shoot out, two high powered Big 12 offense square off in Lawrence. Kansas has played tougher competition, which would actually lead me to take them at home in this match up. However, Texas Tech has been playing the shoot out game longer than Kansas. As such, I think Texas Tech (read: Michael Crabtree) scores last, and in this type of game, he who scores last, scores most.

Texas Tech 41 Kansas 38

Matt: Texas Tech +1

Let me say right now for the whole world to read: I am no longer a Texas Tech supporter. Last week with 20 seconds left and the W in hand, Mike Leach tried to stuff it into the endzone. They were stuffed, but he challenged the call. He challenged the freaking call. When the replay upheld the decision, he ran it again to tack on another 6. I was embarrassed watching from 2000 miles away. Shameful nonconference schedule and shameful sportsmanship. I don't think they lose in Lawrence this week though.

Texas Tech 41 KU 38

Mike: Kansas -1

Mike Leach was up to his old pathetic tricks last week in College Station, as he decided to run a play from scrimmage with 24 seconds left to score a meaningless touchdown. Am I the only one who still cares about sportsmanship? Perhaps, but I think that karma will catch up to Leach and the Red Raiders this week. And by karma, I mean a superior Kansas team.

Kansas 34 Texas Tech 27

Doug: Kansas -1

Wow, Texas Tech is ranked in the top 10, and they are a dog in this game?? Probably for good reason because I think Kansas will win here. Texas Tech is not a a top 10 team, and I am going to pick against them every week just on principle. I refuse to believe that you can be a top 10 team with no defense. What is the over/under on this game?? Gotta think it is going to be in the 80s.

Speaking of teams that I don't believe in, how about the Browns suspending Kellen Winslow for essentially speaking the truth?? Let me get this straight. The Soldier gets a staph infection, the Browns hide the information out of fear of discontent in the locker room over constant staph infection problems, The Soldier points that out to the press, and he gets suspended for it?? WHAT?!? That's insane. The Browns have had numerous problems with staph infections in recent years (even to the point where it ruined LeCharles Bentley's career), and I think the Soldier was just frustrated about his illness. No need to suspend the guy.

Kansas 40 Texas Tech 37

Penn State -2.5 at Ohio State (ABC 8pm)

Dan: Penn State -2.5

Both of these teams looked dominant last week. This Penn State team looks like JoePa’s best team in almost 10 years. Ohio State, on the other hand, has still looked unimpressive at times. The Nittany Lions have not had much success against Ohio State in recent years. Other than the win against Michigan State, the Buckeyes have not been overly impressive in any of their wins actually. Pryor has flashes of brilliance, but then looks lost. This is Penn State’s only real chance to make a statement on a national level. They are going to come out fired up from the first whistle and take it to the Buckeyes. The Buckeyes may have more talent, but Penn State is playing like the better team this year.

Penn State 24 Ohio State 20

Matt: Ohio State +2.5

I don't know what was going on with Penn State for the first 40 minutes of that game last week against Michigan, but it was some ugly football. If they perform anything like that in Columbus, they can kiss their BCS hopes goodbye. Great night of sports all around with this game, ND-UW and Game 3 of the World Series. In case you were wondering, I am torn on the World Series. Being a Braves fan, I find it hard to root for the Phillies. Plus, my American League team the Rays is involved. But being from Philadelphia, I wouldn't mind seeing the 25 year titleless streak broken. I was just hoping it would be the Sixers or Eagles. So I will be Switzerland on this one and just sit on the sidelines and hope for some good baseball.

I'm sure Doug broke this game down from every angle so I'll just give my pick.

Ohio State 28 Penn State 24

Mike: Penn State -2.5

I realize that the Horseshoe has been a personal house of horrors for Penn State, but with Halloween looming, it’s high time for the late, great Joe Paterno to be the haunter, rather than the haunted. Ohio State benefitted from a plethora of turnovers last week against Sparty, but Darryl Clark and Evan Royster will be less accommodating this week. Also, Terrelle Pryor is long overdue for a traditional freshman (read: error filled) performance.

Penn State 31 Ohio State 21

Doug: Ohio State +2.5

Wow, big time showdown in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday night. Someone pinch Brent Musberger!! With a game time temperature that could creep down into the high 30s by late in the evening on Saturday, I am expecting to see Musberger break out the old tweed hat during the ABC telecast.

This game is basically the de facto Big Ten Championship Game, so there's obviously a lot riding on it. And for Penn State, they have three very winnable games after this one (at Iowa, Indiana, Michigan State), so they could be in the driver's seat for a spot in the national title game with a win on Saturday (whether or not they would deserve it is another story).

Before I get to the game, one quick thought for the Big 10 in the future. If they really wanted to restore some of their credibility as a league, why not match the Pac 10 and add a 9th conference game?? Or why not go one step further and add a 10th game?? Wouldn't that send a message that the Big 10 is proud of the quality in the league and not afraid to put together a quality schedule?? For example, Ohio State doesn't play Iowa or Indiana this year. Wouldn't it have made sense for them to play Iowa and Indiana instead of Troy and Youngstown State?? Same goes for Penn State. They don't play Northwestern or Minnesota this year. Wouldn't those games be better for their reputation than Coastal Carolina and Temple?? The Big 10 schedule is never going to be as strong as the SEC schedule, but at least they could puff their chests about having the guts to play 9-10 league games a year. It certainly beats the current formula of 8 Big 10 games, 3 absolute dogs, and MAYBE one quality OOC game.

I think it's awfully tough to make a call on this game because there are strong arguments for both sides. Penn State has looked like the dominant team in the Big 10 this year, they have a strong running game, they have a veteran line, they have a veteran QB who has given them a lift, they have a stout defense, their assistant coaches are doing a great job, and they are really hungry. While they have not won in Columbus since they joined the Big 10, this current version of the Nittany Lions is probably the best team they have had since the mid-90s. I personally thought they were going to struggle in Madison, and yet they dominated that game from start to finish. They faced a little adversity against Michigan, but still found a way to take command of that game in the second half. Penn State is no fluke this year, and I think they deserve all the accolades that are being fed their way. In all the years that Penn State has come to Columbus, I never really felt like they had a real chance to win. I feel differently this year.

The key for Penn State is going to be their running game. Ohio State has been susceptible to the run against power football teams, and I think that's how Penn State needs to attack in this game. Pound the run if they can and then hit the play action. They can score points on this Ohio State defense.

For the Buckeyes, it all comes down to this: Jim Tressel and the Horseshoe. Ohio State is going to hang their hat on the idea that Jim Tressel always seems to find a way to win the big games in the Big 10. It's not pretty, but Tressel wins games. If you had to put your money down on Jim Tressel or Joe Paterno in a big game these days between two pretty evenly matched teams, where are you putting your money??

Penn State does not fear the road like they have in the past, but let's not kid ourselves. They would much rather be playing this game in Happy Valley. The Horseshoe and all its surrounding areas will be an absolute circus on Saturday, and every person walking into that stadium wearing scarlet and gray is going in there with the expectation of winning that game. Ohio Stadium will be an intimidating environment with this much on the line. How Penn State responds will be interesting.

I think Penn State is going to have some success on the ground against Ohio State, and I honestly would not be surprised if they score 25-30 points. The question for Ohio State will be whether or not Terrelle Pryor can make some plays through the air and answer Penn State. There is a lot on Pryor's shoulders, and he's going to have to play well again this week. I think Ohio State needs to get Pryor out on the perimeter and give him some run-pass options. While I think Tressel will be conservative at times in this game, I think he knows that he is going to have to take some calculated strikes to get some points on the board.

If you put a gun to my head, I think I'd say Penn State is the better team. However, there is NO WAY I am betting against Jim Tressel at home in a big game like this one.

Ohio State 31 Penn State 28

USC -16 at Arizona (FSN 10:15pm)

Dan: USC -16

Since the predictable tumble against Oregon State, USC has been on a mission. I don’t think Carroll is ready to call off the dogs yet. Arizona, despite the win over Cal last week, is not a good team. As with any gambling decision regarding USC, it’s all about whether or not the Trojans show up. There is no question that USC has the ability to win by 3 touchdowns. The question is will they? I think they show up for this one and win easily.

USC 41 Arizona 17

Matt: USC -16

If betting on sports were legal and I had placed a few bets last week and lost them all, I definitely would have been interested in making up for it and taking Cal to beat Arizona in the late night West Coast Gambler's Special. I thought that was easy money. So imagine my surprise when I woke up the next morning and found out a Mike Stoops led team actually won a somewhat big game. Thank goodness gambling is illegal and the whole aforementioned scenario never occurred.

USC wins this one...BIG.

USC 45 Arizona 19

Mike: Arizona +16

I always thought that it was customary to schedule a cupcake for homecoming, yet Arizona apparently felt compelled to schedule a de facto NFL team. Nonetheless, this year’s Wildcats have more talent than previous Arizona teams and USC should be brimming with arrogance at this point. Also, while Mike Stoops’s teams have often blown easy wins (and 2008 is not exception), Arizona does tend to rise to the level of their competition and Tucson is already buzzing about this game. This one should be surprisingly entertaining.

USC 45 Arizona 31

Doug: Arizona +16

Night game in Tucson, crowd should be jacked up, U of A appears to be finally turning the corner as a program, they are coming off a huge comeback win over Cal, and now is probably about that time for USC to try to sleepwalk through another game. Just has one of those wacky FSN telecast feels to it. It seems like one of those games that will start popping up at sports bars on the East coast at around midnight when all the big 8 pm games are over, and Big 10/ND/ACC/SEC fans across the East will bond over watching USC struggle down in the desert.

I can't pick USC to lose this game, but I do think Arizona can hang around to make it interesting.

USC 31 Arizona 24

Notre Dame at Washington (ESPN2 8pm)

Dan: Notre Dame

I am insulted. Notre Dame may have beaten 4 bad teams and lost to 2 mediocre teams. I still don’t know what to expect from this team. I do, however, know what to expect from Washington. They stink. They suck. They are probably 1 of the 3 worst teams in Division I football (2 of which are on the schedule this year and 1 of which is on the schedule next year – just shoot me). If we can’t win this game by 2 touchdowns, then I don’t even want to watch. This doesn’t even need any analysis.

Notre Dame 31 Washington 10

Matt: Notre Dame

I will be one disappointed Notre Dame fan if we don't win this game by 3 td's. Pardon me Denny Green, but if ND is who we think they are, then this game should be in hand by halftime and there should even be an Evan Sharpley sighting. Washington is turrible. Locker is hurt. Their players have mailed it in. Willingham has mailed it in. No excuses Charlie - make it happen.

Notre Dame 42 Washington 14

Mike: Notre Dame:

As an initial matter, I will be heading to the Emerald City this week to watch our beloved Irish and, while there, I plan on drinking extremely heavily. Thus, any bar recommendations in the comments section will be warmly appreciated.

As for the game, the importance of a Notre Dame win cannot be overstated. In the short run, Washington is one of the weakest remaining opponents on the schedule (possibly the weakest, though Syracuse denizens might disagree), so an Irish loss would be a devastating blow for a young team that could still accomplish some commendable goals. More importantly, with regard to the overall health of the program, a loss to this pathetic Washington team would provide compelling evidence that Weis is unfit to lead Notre Dame back to its rightful place atop the college football world. Likewise, a Willingham victory would force ND alumni and fans to deal with an outpouring of scorn and derision from the legions of Notre Dame haters in the media who are currently lying in wait. I can see the headlines already: “Wronged Coach Enacts Revenge Against Racist Former Employer” (not really, but the headlines will be vitriolic nonetheless). Finally, from a personal standpoint, a loss means that I will probably just throw some weights on my body and plunge to the bottom of Lake Washington for a permanent nap.

Having said all that, I think ND will throw the ball at will against a horrendous Washington secondary. I also believe that the Irish will be able to run around a plodding Husky offensive line to disrupt young quarterback Ronnie Fouch. There is simply no reason that this game should be close and I hope- and expect- that the young Notre Dame backups will receive some valuable experience in a blowout Irish win.

Notre Dame 38 Washington 14

Doug: Notre Dame

The second half of the ND schedule begins on Saturday, and who better to get the second half of the season going but a terrible Washington team coached by the man who almost singlehandedly destroyed Notre Dame football??!? How crazy is it that we are going to have Weis on the sideline, Willingham on the sideline, and Bob Davie in the booth?!? WOW. Davie should get to coach the special teams for both schools or something.

This game is similar to the San Diego State game in that I really am not concerned about the opponent but more interested in Notre Dame and how we play. I am not going into this game wondering whether or not we are going to win. We are going to win this game. I would just like to play well. Don't get me wrong, I'll take any win even if it's a one point win, but I would love to see the Irish play 60 minutes of great football on the road and really start building towards a strong finish to the 2008 season.

I know there is a little bit of a feeling like this game is a no win situation for ND, but I'd rather focus on this game as an opportunity to come out of the bye week with a vengeance. I hope the guys have been circling the wagons after that UNC game, and that they come out of the tunnel ready to explode.

It is unfortunate that Washington is so bad this year because this game could have been a real marquee game on the schedule for the Irish and a big game nationally. Oh well, I just want to get through this one and start gearing up for Pitt and BC.

Some keys to the game:

1) The ND air attack - The trademark of any Willingham defense since I have been watching his teams has been absolutely no pass defense. It has been a staple of his teams forever. ND is going to have an opportunity to torch Washington through the air all day long in this game. Expect heavy doses of Floyd, Tate and Kamara with some Rudolph sprinkled in. Clausen is going to be fired up and looking to redeem himself for the UNC game.

Washington is really slow and soft on defense. Should be a big day through the air for the Irish. I don't see any reason why we can't score 30+ against Washington without breaking a sweat.

2) Are we building toward eventual championship football? - The 2008 ND team is a work in progress of course, but we have gotten steadily better as the season has gone along. I'm interested to see how we look coming out of the bye week. The second half of this season might give us some indicators about how close we are to becoming a great team, so keep an eye on how the defense looks and how the running game looks and how Clausen looks and whether or not we develop that killer instinct that can put away teams.

If those things start to emerge in the second half of the season (even if they only appear occasionally), that would be a great sign for 2009 and 2010 when this team is more experienced.
3) Which D will show up?? - While I think ND will have all kinds of opportunities to put points on the board, I am less sure about the defense. If the defense that has come out and played inspired at times against Michigan, Purdue, and Stanford shows up on Saturday, it would be a great sign. We should be looking to get pressure on Fouch and force him into bad throws. Washington's o-line is absolutely horrific, so I wouldn't be surprised if even our d-line is getting in there and wreaking havoc. I hope that Brian Smith and Bruton and some of the other leaders of this defense have been rallying the troops during the bye week. If we want to win our big games down the stretch (Pitt, BC, USC), the defense is going to have to play better and start dominating games.

Of course, if ND shows up lethargic after the bye week and not ready to play defense in this game, we could easily let Washington hang around on Saturday.

4) Intangibles - The obvious Willingham-Weis-ND triangle is going to be played up, but I don't really know how much that is going to be a factor in this game. Washington is not going to be motivated by the fact that Willingham used to be at ND. Willingham coached at ND four years ago. He's already coached against ND in 2005 and got his butt whipped. Washington is a broken team. They have given up. Willingham is gone, and the players know it. Willingham will never be a head coach again after this year, so he has to be down in the dumps. If we get on them early, they are going to pack it in. It's no different than the Willingham-led ND team of 2003 that packed it in almost at will (i.e. the 38-12 Syracuse debacle, the FSU game, etc). The fact that their coach used to be at ND is going to be of no value to them now that they are 0-6 or whatever. If we show up ready to play, they will fold.

ND is starting to take pride in results. I know we haven't seen it on the field yet with any big victories, but it sounds like the team was steaming mad about blowing that game at UNC. Good to see. It's still a very young team that hasn't quite found their identity. If this team develops a mentality of hating to lose, it would be a great sign for the future.

5) Life on the Road - Probably the only thing that gives me pause for the Irish is that we have been shaky on the road this year. The Washington crowd is going to be ambivalent at best, but we can't come out flat and give them a reason to get into this game. ND seems comfortable in the 5 wides formation to start the game, so let's come out with that style and try to put this game to bed in the first quarter.

The Irish won a road game at Stanford last year, so they are certainly capable of going on the road and winning. It's not something I'm particularly concerned about, but I would like to see the Irish come out focused right from the start.

There's really not a whole lot to this game. Washington is a terrible team that we should be looking to jump all over. If ND shows up ready to play on Saturday night, we are winning this game. I know there's some drama here, but that drama ends as soon as the ball is kicked. Then it becomes about football, and we are a much better team than Washington.

Go Irish.

ND 35 Washington 20

Last week:

Dan: 5-10
Matt: 5-10
Mike: 7-8
Doug: 8-7


Dan: 46-41-3 (.528)
Matt: 60-58-3 (.508)
Mike: 61-57-3 (.517)
Doug: 62-56-3 (.525)


Jimmy said...

How did you factor the percentages of your pick accuracy? Just curious to hear how the fighting hamsters figured that out.

Jimmy said...

with ties involved, that is.

Solid matchups across the conference slate. I am ready for some Saturday football.