November 06, 2008

Week 11 Picks

Now that the presidential election is over, America can turn their attention to what really matters. College football and the race for the national championship. Should be another great November.

Three fairly interesting tests for the three top ranked teams in college football (whether you think they belong there is another story), and the BCS representatives in the Big East, ACC, and possibly the Mountain West could become a little clearer after Saturday. Personally, I'm rooting for upsets in Iowa City and Lubbock (I'm pulling for Bama though), and any chance to facilitate a USC-Florida dream matchup is good in my book.

While the big stories nationally involve the national title race and the Heisman, the Irish are headed for Boston with their backs against the wall. A loss to BC to send this team to 5-4 would be a disappointing setback for what started as a fairly promising year. BC always gets up for the ND game, so it should be a pretty intense and emotional game for both sides. I'm headed out to Boston for the game, and I'm tired of going to games and seeing the Irish lose. Just win the dang game and give the fanbase some hope.

On to the picks:

Thursday November 6, 2008

Maryland (+3.5) at Virginia Tech (ESPN 7:30pm)

Dan: Virginia Tech -3.5

I am really tired of picking ACC games. They are impossible to get a read on. Virginia Tech is on a bit of a losing streak, having lost 2 straight in conference games. However, despite finding their way into the polls, the Maryland football team has not found its way into my confidence. (Friedgen may have found his way into our fridge though, I’m not sure). I expect Beamer to get his team to bounce back and control this game.

Virginia Tech 24 Maryland 16

Matt: Virginia Tech -3.5

Did you know that Maryland would be 7-1 if not for a silly loss at 2-6 Middle Tennessee State? In the wide open ACC, Maryland is actually pretty much in the driver’s seat. The only problem is they have to go to Blacksburg and get a win. Even with the emergence of an explosive offensive with the vaunted combo of Turner to Heyward-Bey, I don’t see it happening.

VT 29 Maryland 20

Mike: Virginia Tech (-3.5)

Questions abound for the reeling Hokies, who will likely be forced to rely upon their third string quarterback for a second consecutive game. The Terps, however, have shown a remarkable knack for losing games that they should win and, while an off week may be beneficial for most teams, I suspect that Maryland will respond poorly after having an extended period to celebrate their convincing victory over Wake. With Maryland’s ACC title hopes intact, look for another meltdown for a Terrapin team that, like Notre Dame, still lacks an offensive identity. Despite Tech’s problems, Beamer Ball lives on…at least for this week.

Virginia Tech 20 Maryland 16

Doug: Virginia Tech -3.5

Lane Stadium on a Thursday night. Forget about it Terps fans. Spend your Thursday worrying about Gary Williams and the sudden demise of your basketball program.

Va Tech can get themselves right back in the Coastal Division race with a win here. They have a winnable stretch left. Meanwhile, Maryland still has four tough games left. I have no idea who is winning that ACC Atlantic Division.

Virginia Tech 27 Maryland 10

TCU (-2) at Utah (CBS College Channel 8pm)

Dan: Utah +2

Game of the year in the Mountain West! I just can’t bring myself to care about the duel to see who will be the BC bashers. Given that, I’ll take the home team and the points. Good combination.

Utah 34 TCU 31

Matt: Utah +2

I don’t really know what to think of this game. TCU has a great defense, but they did get blown out by Oklahoma. Utah is undefeated, but that win in the Big House doesn’t look so good any more. (What were the odds that Toledo Tom Amstutz would get fired during a season in which Toledo won at Michigan?) I think TCU is actually the better team, but I’ll take the Utes at home.
Utah 20 TCU 17

Mike: Utah (+2)

With Tulsa being exposed at Arkansas last week, there is just one remaining “BCS buster,” a/k/a “complete fraud that would have already lost several games in a legitimate conference.” Although the “Holy War” with BYU looms on Utah’s schedule, it would be nice if TCU could do us all a favor and end the Utes’ charade as a bona fide Top 10 team. Since the game is in Salt Lake City, however, I believe that the Horned Frogs will fall just short.

Utah 24 TCU 21

Doug: Utah +2

With all due respect to Gary Patterson, I like the Utes here. TCU has been shredding everyone, but Utah at home on a Thursday night. That's the only thing going on in the whole state of Utah on Thursday night (unless the Jazz are playing at home that night or there's some big LDS rally), so the locals in Salt Lake City will be fired up.

Utah 24 TCU 21

Saturday November 8, 2008

Ohio State (-10) at Northwestern (ESPN2 12pm)

Dan: Northwestern +10

There is just something about this Northwestern team that I like. They’re scrappy. However, I still went back and forth on this game. OSU was about to blow Minnesota out of the water before they really pulled off the dogs in September. And Northwestern and Minnesota are about the same team. However, I just can’t take OSU to beat someone by 10 points on the road.

OSU 27 Northwestern 18

Matt: Ohio State -10

It’s going to be a Buckeyes home game in Chicago like normal, so I really don’t see this being a true road test. Northwestern got a gift victory last week in Minnesota, and I really don’t see them being able to rekindle the magic with a backup QB and no Tyrell Sutton against the Bucks coming off a bye.

Ohio State 38 Northwestern 24

Mike: Ohio State (-10):

The Buckeyes always seem to have their way with Northwestern and this game should be consistent with the historical trend. Ohio State is well reenergized after an off week, while Northwestern is coming off a draining, emotional win. I was impressed by Mike Kafka last week, especially as a runner, but Kafka will find the Ohio State defense to be far more formidable than Minnesota. Furthermore, I suspect that this will be a de facto home game for Ohio State, as the Buckeye faithful are sure to travel in waves to Evanston.

Ohio State 35 Northwestern 14

Doug: Ohio State -10

If not for the turnaround jobs performed by Mark Dantonio and Tim Brewster in the last couple years, Pat Fitzgerald would probably be the story of the year for what he has done at Northwestern. There isn't a classier or better spoken coach out there than Fitzgerald. Class act all the way. I've been following this guy since I was a kid, and I've always been a fan of his. I hope he stays at Northwestern forever. Even though he is probably going to get some interest from bigger schools someday, I almost get the impression that he is on a mission and that he already has his dream job. I think he will win a Big 10 title at Northwestern before it's all said and done.

On that note, I really like the Buckeyes to bounce back and dominate in this game. Ohio State has a huge edge on the lines, and Pryor is going to be able to run on this Northwestern team. Beanie left, Beanie right, Pryor scramble, some passes down the field. Northwestern will not be able to hang with any of that. Ohio State has owned Northwestern in recent years, and it all starts up front. They have overwhelmed the Cats with physical play.

The Buckeyes are coming off a bye week, and I expect to see them re-energized and looking to finish strong in 2008.

Ohio State 31 Northwestern 13

Cal (+19) at USC (ABC 8pm)

Dan: USC -19

Of all the teams in the PAC 10, Cal is probably the one team USC is least likely to take a game off against. Additionally, I think USC is starting to move away from the mid-season lull into the “Oh no, we need to make our way up the computer polls in a hurry” and they start beating the crap out of everyone. As discussed here ad nauseum, USC can easily beat any team on their schedule by 4 TDs. The question is will they. The answer this Saturday is yes.

USC 38 Cal 13

Matt: USC -19

They haven’t been playing any big games recently, but does anyone realize how dominant USC’s defense has been. Their past 5 games they have given up a whopping 4 points a game with 3 shutouts. Wow. I don’t think they’ll have any problem slowing down Cal.

USC 41 Cal 13

Mike: USC (-19):

Cal has put together a nice season, but there seems to be something missing for the Bears that I cannot put into words. Meanwhile, USC has refocused itself after the Oregon State loss, particularly on defense. If USC is motivated, and I expect that they will be, Cal will not be able to stay within 30 points of the Trojans.

USC 41 California 10

Doug: USC -19

I think the smart money here is on Cal, but I'm taking a leap of faith on this Trojan team that the light bulb is about to go off and they are going to vault themselves back into the title game picture. I would much rather be wrong on the Cal Bears and enjoy a great game, but I also don't want to talk myself into Cal and it's 21-3 in the second quarter and "Conquest" is playing every other down. I'm going with the Trojans BIG.

And while I'm here, why is everyone on the east coast automatically going to get Texas Tech and Oklahoma State on Saturday night on ABC instead of the USC game?? I'd rather watch USC-Cal than a Big 12 game between two mid-level programs. I respect what Texas Tech has done this year and enjoyed the heck out of their win over Texas, but they aren't must see tv for the nation at this point. They're still Texas Tech.

USC 37 Cal 13

Cincinnati (+7.5) at West Virginia (ESPNU 7pm)

Dan: WVU -7.5

I’m a big fan of this Cincy team. But I think the Mountaineers have a redeveloped attitude. And I think Pat White and Noel Devine have this team headed in the right direction. Meanwhile, the Bearcats can’t keep a QB healthy. I expect the Mountaineers to get this taken care of at home.

West Virginia 38 Cincinnati 20

Matt: West Virginia -7.5

1st place in the Big East on the line! I said it last week and saw nothing to change my mind in the ‘Neers blowout at UConn. West Virginia is cruising to the BCS.

West Virginia 38 UC 24

Mike: Cincinnati (+7.5):

This is a coaching matchup of epic proportions. Brian Kelly has been able to guide the Bearcats through a rash of injuries at the quarterback position and, as such, his team is positioned for a possible Big East title. By contrast, as expectations begin to rise again in Morgantown, Bill Stewart is undoubtedly plotting to screw things up in a big way. West Virginia has enough talent to tease the fan base into expecting big results, but Stewart’s ineptness will surely result in many more inexcusable losses, including this week.

Cincinnati 22 West Virginia 21

Doug: Cincinnati +7.5

I don't really believe in this pick because UC is not as good as West Virginia and might get blown out at night in Morgantown, but I'm going against the grain and taking the Bearcats. West Virginia is hitting their stride, but I have faith in Brian Kelly to make this game close.

Meanwhile, the UC basketball program is in shambles. Dark days in Clifton. They barely won their exhibition game the other night and just lost their star freshman point guard recruit, Cashmere Wright. I'm beginning to have my doubts about the Mick Cronin era. I like the guy personally and recruits are coming to UC, but at some point the wins need to start showing up on the court (where have I heard that before??) UC also might be in over their head in the Big East. I can't believe I'm saying this after all the years of straining for credibility as a program, but they may have been better off doing what Memphis did and remaining as the "big fish in a small pond." Now, UC is Providence with a slightly better name. The Big East has been great for UC football, but it has sort of made UC basketball irrelevant. Just a thought for now.

I'm praying that Brian Kelly doesn't leave after this year. I think he is one of the best head coaches in the country and maybe the next Urban Meyer, so takes a chance on him is getting themselves a steal.

Cincy 27 WVU 23

Oklahoma State (+3) at Texas Tech (ABC 8pm)

Dan: Texas Tech -3

Texas Tech needs to really avoid a huge let down here. Luckily, I think Oklahoma State is a big enough that Leach will be able to get his team to avoid a let down, especially at home. There is just something special about this Texas Tech team. Even though they let Texas back in last week, and then subsequently lost the lead, I really believe they felt like they were going to win the whole time. That confidence keeps this team rolling, at least until the Oklahoma game, and that includes a cover this week.

Texas Tech 48 Oklahoma State 41

Matt: Oklahoma State +3.5

Give me Coach Gundy to get the straight up W! Classic let down game for Texas Tech. But there are two things that are not even allowing me to concentrate on this game:

1.The Texas Tech bell ringer. Must see Youtube video if you missed him in action last week.

2. Kansas State firing Ron Prince after less than 3 years. Those bunch of racists in Kansas. Didn’t even let the guy get three years. I’m sure Pat Forde will be launching a personal investigation into this matter. At least there should be a Bob Ley Outside the Lines special or Jason Whitlock column.

Oklahoma State 48 Texas Tech 45

Mike: Oklahoma State (+3):

Hats off to Texas Tech for a gutty win over the Longhorns in the game of the year thus far. Now it is time to see whether the Red Raiders can put last week’s win in the rearview mirror and refocus their efforts against an Oklahoma State team that will enter Lubbock with plenty of confidence. As with last year, I suspect that the championship contenders start dropping like flies as we extend further into November. Who will be first victim this month? Texas Tech, of course.

Oklahoma State 48 Texas Tech 42

Doug: Oklahoma St +3

I thought about this game for a bit and it came down to one conclusion for me. I think Oklahoma State has a better football team this year. Texas Tech has the home field advantage, but they are coming off the biggest moment in the history of their program. I think a letdown is in order, and I think this game will play out a lot like the Oklahoma State-Missouri game played out.

Give me the Cowboys! The roar from State College following this game will be deafening.

Oklahoma State 24 Texas Tech 21

Alabama (-3.5) at LSU (CBS Sports 3:30pm)

Dan: Alabama -3.5

I can’t decide if this or the Big 12 game above is the game of the week. But I think this is Alabama’s chance to remind everyone that they are the best team in the country. I have not made a habit of polls so far this year, but now that it is November, I feel the time has arrived. Here is my top 5:

Texas Tech
Penn State

But that’s the top 5 based on the 5 best teams. That doesn’t necessarily mean that is who I think should play in the national title. A lot is said about the 2 best teams playing in the national title game. But you have to consider that, until a playoff is instituted, the entire season is the playoff. Now granted, that has to be balanced with strength of schedule. But I think it is a difficult to be so black/white on the issue.

But back to the game, I think this game, as so many, comes down to line play. And I think Alabama’s line dominates LSU, especially with their defensive line.

Alabama 23 LSU 10

Matt: LSU +3.5

What the hell – your Penn State Nittany Lions will be the number one team in the land on Monday morning. If Les Miles was ever going to pull every single freaking trick out of his hat, this is the one game to do it. The return of Saban to Tiger Stadium. Let’s get one thing straight – LSU is decidedly mediocre this year. Perriloux being a thug really hurt them. But I just think that Alabama has been living on the edge all year and this is the week they go down.

LSU 27 Alabama 25

Mike: Alabama (-3.5):

These teams have opposite track records in big games this year. While LSU has gotten crushed in both contests against formidable foes (no, Auburn doesn’t count), Alabama has risen to the occasion in each meaningful affair. The trend will continue again this week, as LSU’s struggling offense will fall flat on its face against a tough Bama defense in an SEC slugfest.

Alabama 20 LSU 10

Doug: Alabama -3.5

Couldn't ask for more drama heading into this game. Bama is #1 and back in their rightful place as the king of the SEC. Saban is headed back to Baton Rouge. And you have "Have a GREAT day" running the show on the other sideline. I expect comedy, drama, and action all wrapped up in one great Saturday afternoon brought to you by AFCFA (America's Finest College Football Announcers.)

LSU basically plays the same style as Bama, so it will be interesting to see how these teams match up. I've lost faith in LSU this year though. I know they will be UP for this game, but Bama is the better team. LSU lost to Georgia at home. Bama CRUSHED Georgia on the road.

Saban 23 Miles 17

Penn State (-7.5) at Iowa (ABC 3;30pm)

Dan: Penn State -7.5

Is it just me or is something off with this line? I know Iowa has won 2 of its last 3, but really? Penn State can’t beat them by 8 points? I don’t care if it is on the road. Penn State is easily 2 TDs better than Iowa. This is a gimme. I wish I still had money left in my sportsbook account for this one (Damn you ND and Texas).

Penn State 34 Iowa 17

Matt: Iowa +7.5

Iowa comes close, but can’t pull it off. I just don’t see Penn State is not losing a game, like it or not. Here’s my Top 7 by the way:

Texas Tech
Oklahoma State
Penn State

52. Notre Dame

81. Oakland Raiders

94. Syracuse – Big win for the Orange last week with the home W over Louisville. I know that Louisville is down, but at least it shows that the team hasn’t thrown in the towel on Robinson. Really the only way I see Charlie Weis being shown the door is if the Orange somehow walk out of Notre Dame Stadium on November 22nd with a win. I shudder at the thought.

Penn State 28 Iowa 21

Mike: Iowa (+7.5):

Some pundits have suggested that an unbeaten regular season for Penn State is a fait accompli, but I believe that Iowa will be the first of two difficult tests for the Nittany Lions (Sparty being the other). Shonn Greene is a physical runner who always seems to get his 100 yards and this week will be no different, irrespective of Penn State’s tough front four. Although Greene’s running will allow the Hawkeyes to fight tooth and nail, Iowa’s anemic passing game will cause its upset bid to fall just short. Before a frenzied Kinnick Stadium crowd, however, Kirk Ferentz’s team will scare the life back into Joe Paterno and earn the cover.

Penn State 21 Iowa 17

Doug: Penn State -7.5

You don't know how much I would love to be wrong here. I would love for nothing more than a fired up Iowa team to jump all over a lackluster Penn State team, weather the storm in the 3rd and 4th quarters, pull the game out in the 4th, and then all heck breaks loose at Kinnick Stadium as crazed Iowans tear down the goalposts and burn their tshirts.

But Penn State has been getting dissed for two weeks by everyone (me included). They've been hearing how bad their offense is and how they don't belong with the teams from the SEC and the Big 12, and that they are only in the top 3 because of their schedule. I don't necessarily disagree with all that (in fact, I wholeheartedly agree), but I do think Penn State is going to be looking to make a statement against Iowa. Iowa is much improved with a decent running game, but this game feels like the Ohio State-Iowa game from a couple years ago when everyone was hyping Iowa and they got plowed.

Penn State is fresh and has no reason to overlook Iowa. If it was 2007, I would have picked Iowa to win straight up. But Penn State has been equally as good on the road as they have been at home this year. The week off probably gave them a chance to recharge their batteries. Whether you think it is fair or not, if they win the final three games, they are playing for the national title. They will be ready for this game. I see Penn State taking over this game along the lines and putting away the Hawkeyes.

Believe me, I would love to be wrong. America needs Iowa to win this game and get rid of Penn State and the Big 10 from the national title picture.

Penn State 31 Iowa 20

Georgia Tech (+4) at North Carolina (Raycom 12pm)

Dan: Georgia Tech +4

Reviewing my pics so far, I have far too many favorites. So that makes this game perfect timing. I have been in love with this GT team all year (other than a stupid FSU pick last week). This week is no different. I’m not sure that GT can pull off the win, but they can keep this to a FG type game. Their defense is impressive, and for a Paul Johnson offense, they keep a very good run/pass balance. However, I’ll go out on a limb and take GT in the road upset.

Georgia Tech 20 North Carolina 17

Matt: Georgia Tech +4

Forgive me for going to the lightning round on these ACC games, but I haven’t the slightest idea what is going to happen, nor do I particularly care. I can’t wait for that Utah – Georgia Tech BCS game.

Georgia Tech 27 UNC 21

Mike: Georgia Tech (+4):

In almost every big win this year (see Notre Dame, Connecticut and Boston College), North Carolina has relied upon interceptions to overcome its offensive shortcomings. Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, there will be few opportunities for interceptions this week against a Georgia Tech that rarely takes to the air on offense. In addition, while Georgia Tech has shown an occasional propensity to fumbling, it is unreasonable to rely upon forcing turnovers as a means of winning each week. Look for the Yellow Jackets to pound the ball on offense and neutralize the Tar Heels with a solid performance along the defensive line.

Georgia Tech 23 North Carolina 16

Doug: North Carolina -4

Man, color me nervous about this pick, but a couple things swayed me toward the Heels.

1) UNC coming off a bye week with two weeks to prepare for the GT option
2) GT QB is hurt

If Georgia Tech's qb is hurt and can't run the option, they are in big trouble. I am a believer in Georgia Tech, so I hate picking against them. I just feel like Carolina will be prepared to win this game and has some personnel advantages.

No pressure on Carolina football at this point of the year anyway. Most of the Chapel Hill campus has turned their attention toward the Dean Dome, so the football team did their job. Keep everyone's interest until November.

UNC 24 GT 17

Clemson (+6) at Florida State (ABC 3:30pm)

Dan: Florida State -6

The Seminoles let me down, but if there is one thing I can count on, it’s Clemson sucking. And now daddy Bowden has no reason to pull in the reigns against his son (not that it mattered in the past since Clemson always played well against FSU). This Clemson team is about to experience a late season spiral and it starts on Saturday.

FSU 31 Clemson 21

Matt: FSU -6

Who knows. Clemson somehow won at BC last week. If you are wagering anything other than Monopoly Money on ACC games at this point, you need help.

FSU 34 Clemson 10

Mike: Florida State (-6):

I am certain that some media members will assert that Clemson “still has the most talent in the ACC” and label the Tigers as “dangerous.” Clemson, however, remains a fundamentally flawed team, especially on offense, and there is only so much that interim coach Dabo Sweeney can change at this point. Even without Tommy Bowden, I am not convinced that Clemson has overcome its chemistry issues and I am certainly not convinced that the Tigers have an offensive line that will allow them to run the ball effectively, even with C.J. Spiller back in action. Despite a heartbreaking loss last week, Bobby Bowden will have his upstart team ready to avenge his son Tommy’s firing.

Florida State 30 Clemson 17

Doug: Florida State -6

Wow, Clemson is making some strides, but how did they only win that game against BC by 6 last week?? They were up 14-0 within the first two minutes of the game starting. Clemson is playing harder, but I don't think they are suddenly a good team.

FSU is a good team. They should have beaten Georgia Tech last weekend. I still think they are the best team in the ACC this year.

The ACC is absolutely wacky this year (or bad depending on your perspective). Give me the Noles.

FSU 24 Clemson 6

Virginia (+3.5) at Wake Forest (ESPNU 3:30pm)

Dan: Virginia +3.5

This game seems to be between two teams that over the past 5 weeks have headed in two opposite directions. Yet, Wake is still the favorite here. Somewhat surprising. I’ll stick with Al Groh’s team this week. I was pretty sure they were ready to have an off week last week, but now I think they will bounce back and win this game at Wake. Jim Grobe’s team is in trouble.

Virginia 20 Wake Forest 17

Matt: UVA +3.5

I guess you could say my school spirit has dissipated when I will be skipping homecoming to watch Verne and Gary call the action from Baton Rouge. Wake went to overtime against Duke last week. UVA lost to Duke. Maybe some schools with openings should be getting David Cutcliffe on the phone.

UVA 21 Wake 17

Mike: Virginia (+3.5):

The Cavs may be emotionally fragile after a late loss to Miami, but will it really matter? Wake cannot move the ball consistently against anyone, so there is no reason to expect that things will change this week. Although I still believe in Jim Grobe, this year’s Wake team does not seem to have the recipe for success. In a wild ACC, Al Groh will get his team back on track in Winston-Salem with the consistent running of Cedric Peerman and a stout defensive effort.

Virginia 19 Wake Forest 17

Doug: Virginia +3.5

Wake is not that good. They easily could have lost to Duke. UVA should have won that game against Miami last week. Take the points.

Virginia 17 Wake 14

Louisville (+6) at Pitt (Big East Network 12pm)

Dan: Pitt -6

So, Notre Dame lost to Pitt last week. That’s about all I can think about when I look at this game. The Shady McCoy is good. Louisville is not.

Pitt 28 Louisville 20

Matt: Louisville +6

At this point, as a Notre Dame fan, I really can’t make fun of Dave Wannstedt and make the fairly obvious observation that this is the type of game that he loses. Screw it, yes I can. Pitt goes down at home to a terrible Louisville team.

By the way, Doug brought up the point about whether Charlie Weis would be a Top 50 coach. It’s not even close in my opinion. Hell no. Look at it this way. If Notre Dame were in the SEC, wouldn’t Weis be a Sylvester Croom firing away from being the worst coach in the conference? Who else would you put ahead of him? Maybe Rich Brooks, although he has totally turned around the culture of Kentucky. Bobby Johnson does more with less, Petrino and Nutt have track records, and the rest are obviously far above Weis.

Louisville 31 Pitt 30

Mike: Louisville (+6):

For horse racing fans out there, this is a classic case of “bounce theory.” Pittsburgh is, of course, coming off an emotional win against Notre Dame, whereas the Cardinals must pick up the pieces after an embarrassing loss at Syracuse. Still, there is no disguising the fact that Pitt is completely one-dimensional on offense and Louisville, despite last week’s stunner, possesses plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. In essence, Kragthorpe and Wanny are two peas from the same pod: they will win enough to make you think that their team has turned the corner and then they will subsequently lose a game that they should win. Louisville has more talent than Pitt and they have the powerful psychological edge against a Pitt team that has proven to be incapable of dealing with success. I think this game is a mortal lock so if Pitt finds a way to cover, there is a very strong chance that I will be looking for a second job to pay the bills.

Louisville 31 Pitt 21

Doug: Louisville +6

Yikes. Another one of these games that probably should be played on Big Monday.

God, you just know that Pitt isn't going to show up this week. Louisville's run defense is good enough to keep Pitt in check, and they can score some points on Pitt. I just can't take Pitt in a touchdown win over Louisville. In fact, I think they are losing this game on Saturday, which will temporarily cause NDNation to shut down for an hour.

LeSean McCoy is the truth though. Darn good player. I'm trying to figure out who he reminds me of. Maybe a Cadillac Williams type?

Louisville 30 Pitt 27

Georgia (-10) at Kentucky (Raycom 12:30pm)

Dan: Georgia -10

Color me not intrigued by this game. There are actually some pretty unintriguing games this week. I put my faith in Kentucky to cover a much larger spread against Florida and they spurned me. I think Stafford and Moreno are going to want to exorcise some demons after last week and take out some frustration against a lesser team. I’ll go with favorite once again.

Georgia 31 Kentucky 13

Matt: UK +10

Georgia is overrated. Or maybe Florida is just that good. Was there any doubt that Matthew Stafford was putting up a 3 interception game? I think it’s time for him to drop the ‘hew’ from his first name. Matt Stafford sounds like he could be an NFL QB; Matthew Stafford sounds like a 4.0 med school student.

Georgia 31 UK 22

Mike: Georgia (-10):

As expected, Matt Stafford followed up his fine performance at LSU with a 3 interception clunker in Jacksonville last week. Accordingly, it should be high time for Stafford to tantalize the NFL scouts once again with a strong effort against an undermanned foe. Also, don’t be fooled by last week’s score: the Bulldogs simply ran into a Florida buzz saw that simply cannot be stopped right now (take note, Alabama). Kudos to the injury ravaged Wildcats for a gritty victory in Starkville last week, but Rich Brooks’s crew has no chance to keep pace with Georgia.

Georgia 33 Kentucky 13

Doug: Georgia -10

If this game was at Georgia, I'd probably pick the Dawgs by about 30. Kentucky lost 63-5 to Florida. Georgia is obviously not as good as Florida, but it's still a talented team. They just aren't as good as Florida this year.

While the game is at UK, it's not like Commonwealth Stadium is an incredibly tough place to play. I think the Dawgs come out furious and fired up on Saturday. I like them big in this one.

By the way, Kentucky's head coach next year is going to be a guy named Joker Phillips. Joker! That is the greatest SEC head coach name maybe ever.

Georgia 27 Kentucky 3

Florida (-24) at Vanderbilt (ESPN2 8pm)

Dan: Vanderbilt +24

This Florida team has looked so dominate over the past few weeks, that they are almost too predictably overdue for a let down game. Yet, I can’t avoid that predictable prediction. I think Florida looks good and clearly in charge of this game. But I think Vandy can sneak the late cover.
Florida 42 Vanderbilt 20

Matt: Florida -24

This line could have been 24, 34 or 44. Doesn’t matter. Florida has been playing at another level than every other team in the country, including USC, for the past month. There was a play early in the Georgia game where Moreno made a cutback to go up the middle and Brandon Spikes just came flying up the middle and absolutely decleated him. The Gators have so much team speed that it’s just ridiculous. On offense, it’s almost not fair when you have Demps, Rainey and Percy Harvin on the field. Tebow hasn’t had to carry the team like he did last year.

I will say this – if Florida doesn’t lose another game and still doesn’t play for the National Championship, something needs to be done. The SEC should secede from the union.

Florida 56 Vandy 11

Mike: Vanderbilt (+24):

I arrived at this pick by blending the following factors: (1) the fact that this is a night game in Nashville, (2) Vanderbilt is getting some key players back after an off week, (3) possible overconfidence in the Gator camp after last week’s dismantling of Georgia, (4) legal problems to a Florida cornerback this week, and (5) a good old-fashioned dose of anti-Urban Meyer bias on my part.

Florida 38 Vanderbilt 16

Doug: Vandy +24

I think Florida is the best team in the country, but 24 points on the road in the SEC?? Especially after a rivalry game?? No way. I don't even know if I would do this one at like 12 points or something like that.

Florida wins, but Vandy covers at home. I know they lost to Duke at home a couple weeks ago, but Vandy isn't bad enough to get killed at home. Honestly, if you are really looking to get crazy, throw down a couple bucks on Vandy on the moneyline if you can find a site willing to give you moneyline odds.

Florida is darn good though. The running backs have added an element to that team that they lacked last year. They get the ball to Rainey and others in space, and look out. Harvin is darn good, and their defense is relentless. Couldn't be more impressed with the Gators this year.

Florida 23 Vandy 10

Notre Dame (+3.5) at BC (ESPN 8pm)

Dan: Boston College (straight up)

The bottom line is whether or not you think this ND team is different enough from last year’s team to go on the road and beat a semi-decent team. I don’t think so. I saw far too many aspects last week, and really over the past 2.5 games, to color me suspect. The O-line is really struggling to pass block again. And the run blocking certainly hasn’t improved. Clausen, who held this team together the first 5 or so games, has started to look more erratic, and less capable making “the throw” when required to. The defense has continued to show the inability to stop the run. At the end of the day, it really comes down to the O-Line and D-Line. Until I see some consistently good, not decent, but good, performances from these two units, I cannot predict sustained performance for Notre Dame.

Boston College 31 ND 24

Matt: BC -3.5

I would love to pick the Irish here, but I have seen NOTHING from this team that suggests they are ready to win on the road against a decent opponent. Doug has done a good job chronicling the State of the Irish, and while I would love to share in his optimism, I really can’t at this point. Has Weis clearly upgraded the talent? Yes, no doubt about it. But on game days, I just have no confidence in what I will see on any given Saturday. Whether it was Haywood or Weis, the 3rd quarter against Pitt on the offensive side of the ball was absolutely inexcusable. Three drives, three straight runs up the middle. Look, I don’t want to be Texas Tech East either, but you HAVE to play to your strengths and get the ball to your playmakers. Tate and Floyd have to touch the ball on every drive. Why isn’t Tate getting a few snaps in the Wildcat formation? Why no reverses to him against Pitt? Why didn’t we try the screen to Floyd that we ran against Washington?

I don’t think Weis should be fired no matter what after this year. But anyone who says that they are satisfied with a 7-5 year and a Sun Bowl appearance this year is on drugs. We had the easiest schedule in the country. 7-5 is not what Notre Dame football is about. With an even easier schedule next year (Nevada might be our third toughest game), and the youth excuse no longer viable, Charlie has got to deliver.

As for this game, I’ll take BC to win with a good performance from their defense. That Frank Spaziani guy always seems to come up with a good defensive gameplan against ND. I don’t see why this year will be any different. I hope I’m wrong.

BC 27 ND 20

Mike: Boston College

Charlie Weis, despite his boasts of enjoying a “decided schematic advantage” and other assorted bombast, fails to recognize that football games are won on the field and not in the classroom. Put differently, unless Notre Dame masters the fundamentals, like blocking and tackling, Weis’s nifty little schemes will be ineffective. Unfortunately, and sadly, there is little evidence to suggest that Weis possesses the ability to develop the type of team that can compete against the best teams in college football. Keeping in mind that this is Notre Dame and, as such, the endgame is the national championship, Weis’s failure seems like a foregone conclusion. Assuming that Weis does fail, the Notre Dame administration will almost certainly bungle its next coaching search, as observed in Doug’s post from earlier this week. Scary thought, huh?

You have no idea how much it hurts to type this, but I think we will lose again this week, regardless of the fact that there is no reason that BC should beat us, even in Chestnut Hill. On offense, BC has a subpar running game and Chris Crane has struggled badly at quarterback. On defense, BC has done a nice job against the run, but standout linebacker Brian Toal is injured again and the Eagles lack the athletes in the secondary to keep up with Floyd and Tate. Nonetheless, I expect BC to run the ball enough on offense to keep the clock moving, stop the Irish running game and create turnovers by forcing Notre Dame to become one-dimensional.

I also expect the Eagles to have a giant psychological advantage. BC is coming off two consecutive losses, so they desperately need a win to help their chances of becoming bowl eligible and thereby continuing their streak of consecutive pre-Christmas bowl wins (which, believe it or not, actually matters to BC). Moreover, given BC’s inferiority complex with regard to Notre Dame, the Eagles will come out characteristically motivated for this game. By contrast, the Irish may not have much to play for, given that the team is essentially locked into a second-tier bowl regardless of whether they beat BC. In addition, Notre Dame is also coming off a deflating choke job at home and Weis is not exactly known for his motivational skills. Lou Holtz, he ain’t.

I had been planning to attend this game all year, but I simply cannot fathom the thought of leaving BC’s high school stadium for the third consecutive time with that same empty, sinking, heartbroken feeling. Consequently, I will instead watch the game at my apartment, drink about 20 Genny Lights, curse repeatedly, then vomit and pass out after the Irish lose again. Should be a great time.

Boston College 28 Notre Dame 24

Doug: Present

Oh wait, this isn't a Barack Obama Illinois state senate vote?? I have to take a stance on a tough issue?? Oh. Well, give me Notre Dame then.

While ND has been embroiled in turmoil all week after the heartbreaking loss to Pittsburgh, BC is coming off an equally disappointing loss to Clemson at home. Both programs have been doing some soul-searching this week, and questions are being asked about both Charlie Weis and Jeff Jagodzinski.

I'm sort of on the fence about this game as an ND fan. Before the season, I had this game as one of the 3 games that I thought we might lose. It's BC. As much as we try to deny that they are a rival, they have owned us for a long time. BC is a fundamentally sound program with a lot of seniors, and they have usually beaten us with substance over flash. And let's be honest, BC gets JACKED UP to play ND. They will bring max effort against us on Saturday night. If we turn the ball over or don't show up ready to play, we will be 5-4 coming out of this game.

However, this game is clearly a winnable game. BC presents fewer matchup problems for us than Pitt did, and ND should have a chip on their shoulder. We can certainly win this game if we play 60 minutes of sound football and take advantage of some major matchup advantages.

I'm headed out to Boston on Friday. Looking forward to it except for the ludicrous tailgating policy. Why does BC do that? Don't they want people to get excited about their game?? I can understand some restrictions, but one hour before the game?? Really?? I don't know what to expect in this game, but it should be an entertaining game. At the very least, it's a trip to a great city. If we win the game, even better. Maybe Saturday 11.08.2008 will mark the turning point for the Irish as a program under Charlie Weis.

Some keys to the game:

1) Turnovers - The turnover bug seems to hit this Irish team when we hit the road, so it's certainly something to keep an eye on. We cannot afford to put the ball on the ground, and multiple interceptions by Clausen will also be tough to overcome. North Carolina scored most of their points against us on turnovers, so we have seen the importance of turnovers on the road several times on the road.

As we've seen all year, when you put your entire team's fortunes into the hands of a true sophomore quarterback and a true freshman receiver and a true sophomore receiver, you are asking for turnovers on the road. One missed assignment or one bad throw or one bad route, and you are looking at interceptions. Clausen is banged up, so hopefully he doesn't have problems throwing the ball on Saturday.

We do not want to find ourselves in positions where BC has short field position. They beat us last year with short field position on ND turnovers and bad special teams, and that's how they are going to be looking to score points in this game as well.

2) The ND passing game - Easily the biggest mismatch in this game is the ND pass offense versus the Boston College pass defense. BC has Purdue/Stanford type athletes in their secondary, so we will have an opportunity to exploit them with our two NFL caliber receivers. BC's d-line is strong against the run, but that unit is not as good as Pitt in getting to the passer. Clausen will have time to make plays, and I expect to see him hitting Floyd and Tate multiple times for big yardage. Floyd and Tate have proven time and time again that they can get open against one on one coverage. If you put the ball near them, they will come down with it. Hakeem Nicks shredded BC's defense a couple weeks ago, so Floyd could be in for a huge day.

As some have suggested, we probably should just go to the 5 wides and look to score as many points as we can through the air. Scrap the running game and stay on the attack. We get uncomfortable when we try to run the ball. That's just not our game this year, and it takes us out of our rhythm. When we come out firing like we did against UNC, we look good. Use some occasional runs to keep them honest like we did in the first half against UNC.

Here's my only concern in that regard. I'm a little nervous that the blueprint is being written on our team again this year. Put as many DBs as possible out there to keep our WRs in check and go all out with the pass rush to try to force bad throws. While we did hit some big passes to Tate and one to Kamara, Pitt did a pretty nice job limiting our downfield passing game down. I don't know if that was a part of their defensive game plan or just how the game turned out, but it had an effect on our offense. This offense needs plays down the field to Tate and Floyd. If BC tries to take that away the whole game and makes us beat them with stuff underneath, we are going to need to find ways to do that and move the chains. We had too many drives against Pitt where we stalled out because we couldn't get first downs through the air.

Big big matchup for ND. The ONLY strength of this team is our QB-WR connection, so we are going to need to take advantage of that matchup multiple times. If we can score some points through the passing game and step up defensively, that's the formula to win this game.

3) Chris Crane - Saturday is a critical game for Chris Crane to restore some faith that he can be an effective QB for the BC Eagles down the stretch. He has been incredibly up and down this year. He's had some nice games, but has played really poorly the last two weeks. He was only 18 of 39 in the Clemson game. Not a good completion percentage at all. I can't imagine that he's too accurate. If we can force some turnovers, that would be huge.

Then again, this guy will probably play out of his mind on Saturday. We have a tendency to make bad QBs look good, so I'm expecting him to probably play well. BC is probably going to try to hit a lot of stuff underneath with screens and such to take advantage of our blitzes.

4) The Irish Defense - Not sure what to make of this Irish D. I thought we played really well in the first half, and it was clear that we were really causing Pitt a lot of problems. Unfortunately, the defense completely fell apart in the second half. Everyone in the building knew they were running the ball with LeSean McCoy (they were even direct snapping on multiple occasions) and yet we couldn't stop it at all. Completely demoralizing when you can't stop the run.

Our defense is not a good unit on the whole. I didn't expect us to be a great defense by any means because of the noticeable problems up front, but I still thought we'd see more progress by now. We don't have anything close to a championship level defense. I really think this personnel group might be better suited towards a 4-3 defense. That's just my take. If we put Kuntz and Ian Williams in as tackles with Justin Brown and Ethan Johnson as our ends (and maybe Kerry Neal as well) and then went to a linebacker corp of the Smith Brothers and Crum, it gets more of our best players on the field at once. The 3-4 only works if your d-line is really stout and your linebackers are really good. Our d-line is small, and we have too many mediocre linebackers on the field. We need some more beef on the field, and I'd like to see a transition back to a 4-3 under the leadership of Tenuta.

BC will probably try to establish the run on us in the first half and wear us down. Once the second half rolls around, I expect to see them opening it up more while continuing to pound the run. We better be prepared to man up and be physical.

5) Intangibles- Both teams badly need this game. Will both teams be fired up?? Will ND be able to come off the mat after a heartbreaker in OT?? Is BC starting to question their QB and coach and ready to throw in the towel? How will Weis react to his first trip to Boston as head coach at ND?

My only frame of reference for ND's response to a devastating loss was the Navy game from last year. After ND blew that game in OT against Navy last year, we came out flat against Air Force and got blown out by them. I fear that this team will have some trouble getting off the mat. I would like to think that we'll be fired up and come out on a mission, but this particular group of ND players have been fragile in their emotional state in the last couple years. We will probably know where our heads are at very quickly into this game. The good news is that Corwin Brown was absolutely on fire in the press conference today. Talk about intense. If our team plays with anywhere near his level of intensity on Saturday, we are winning the game. I would like to see that level of intensity all the time in this program. Football is about intensity and emotion. We need to harness that. Corwin seems to feel good about this team and where we are headed. I'm willing to put my faith in those statements.

As for BC, they seem to play above their heads and always play hard, but I'm not sure about Coach Jags as a head coach. He's sort of a Weis-type coach, and I don't know if that's a good fit at BC. BC is the type of school that needs a hard-nosed coach who can get his kids to play disciplined and above their abilities. Jags is more of a player's coach, but that type of coach doesn't work at a place like BC. The players at BC aren't good enough to have a player's coach. I think BC has a lot more issues than might be perceived, and Saturday might be a good time for the Irish to be getting them.

BC usually treats this game as their Super Bowl, but Weis appears to be treating this game as our biggest game of the year as well. I doubt Weis wants to fall to 0-2 against BC in his career.

I am not gonna lie that I am taking a leap of faith by picking the Irish to win this game, but there is too much pride in the ND program to lose to BC yet again. We are the underdogs here, so there is no reason to take them lightly. Charlie Weis knows that the ND community is starting to lose the faith in him, and he knows that a big win at BC could put this program back on a positive trajectory.

One final note. Charlie, will you stop talking to the media after games. You talk to the media like you're the freaking Knute Rockne of motivators, and yet you've never won a big game in your entire career. You come off like a blowhard with the know-it-all nonsense. You tell us every week about how you are getting on the guys and how you've been really hard on the team. Well, why don't they ever seem to play inspired football for 60 minutes?? Just stop talking already and coach your team. Do a Belichick for a few weeks and give out the monotone answers. Or do a Holtz and play coy with the media. No one really feels like listening to your motivational strategies when you are losing home games to Pitt. The arrogance is getting to be quite annoying when the results aren't showing on the field. Win some big games, and then you can talk. I still support you, but I'm tired of the media act.

Call it a crazy pick, but I think I'll be walking out of Alumni Stadium pumping my fist and singing the ND fight song. Go Irish!

ND 31 BC 30

Last Week's Results:

Dan: 4-10
Matt: 8-6
Mike: 8-6
Doug: 6-8

Season Standings:

Dan: 58-58-3 (.500)
Matt: 78-69-3 (.531)
Mike: 75-72-3 (.510)
Doug: 75-72-3 (.510)

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