As the calendar flips to October, we welcome the first mega-week of matchups. Last week was a nice feeling out process to weed out the haves from the have-nots. Texas is most definitely a pretender; Arkansas and South Carolina showed a ton of grit in defeat; West Virginia played admirably in Death Valley, but being the best in the Big East this year is akin to being the tallest midget; Boise State cemented their place in the national title discussion; Oregon and Stanford solidified their legitimacy as West Coast threats.Saturday should answer even more questions about which teams will be left standing. Your Week 5 picks…
Texas (+4) vs. Oklahoma (in Dallas)
Dan: Oklahoma (-4) LOCK OF THE WEEK
Mack Brown’s team has really controlled this match-up in recent years after being Stoop’s punching bag for many a year. However, this year’s Texas team is a mess. The offense has no momentum, the defense couldn’t stop a bad UCLA team last week, and Mack may be wishing he retired after Colt McCoy (or even Vince Young) left town. While OU has had its ups and downs, it has certainly looked like the better team. This may be Landry Jones’s first Red River Shoot-out, and OU’s defense certainly has its question marks, but I see no reason why OU can’t win this game by a touch.
OU 28 Texas 21
Jeremy: Oklahoma (-4)
The Red River Shootout has definitely lost some of its cache with the whooping UCLA put on the Horns last week. The Bruins opened the eyes of the country by finally exploiting Texas’ numerous problems – their inability to run the ball, shoddy run defense and turnovers. Colt McCoy isn’t walking through that door and the Sooner offense appears to be close to hitting on all cylinders. This one could get ugly if Texas gets off to a slow start.
Oklahoma 31 Texas 17
Jimmy: Oklahoma (-4)
Quite a bit of luster has worn off the annual Red River Shootout (no wait, now that we’re in the over-sponsored, politically correct era of sports, it’s officially the AT&T Red River Rivalry…what was I thinking?). Texas is reeling after Mack Brown’s worst home loss ever, and the Sooners haven’t exactly dazzled anyone outside of Florida State (which happened to be their stiffest competition). UCLA exposed the Longhorns’ run defense, so look for DeMarco Murray to plug himself into the Heisman talk with a massive game. Bob Stoops can smell blood in the Austin water and would love nothing more than to buck the recent trend of Texas success (UT has won 4 of last 5 meetings).
Fun Red River Rivalry “did you knows”: Since 2000, either Texas or Oklahoma has been ranked in the AP top 10 for this rivalry (4 times they both were). There are three standing trophies for this game alone.
Oklahoma 24 Texas 13
Matt: Oklahoma (-4)
This game has lost some serious luster from Opening Day, hasn’t it? Oklahoma has looked like a team going through the motions at times, struggling against Utah State, Air Force and Cincy. Not exactly murderer’s row there. The one time they looked like a legit Top 10 team was against Florida State, who apparently was a little bit overrated at the time. The one thing the Sooners still have going for them is a legit offense – Landry Jones, Demarco Murray and Ryan Broyles form a formidable trio that will challenge the Longhorn defense unlike any other team they have faced this year.
As for Texas, they have been a disappointment from the outset of the season. The supposed commitment to the pro style running game has fizzled, and Garrett Gilbert has not progressed, with just 4 td’s and 4 int’s against weak competition. This is a rivalry game so I expect it to be close, but I just don’t think the Horns can hang with OU.
Oklahoma 22 Texas 14
Mike: Oklahoma (-4) LOCK OF THE WEEK
After last week’s embarrassment at home, it is clear that Texas is not a top 10 team this season. The Longhorns have not developed any semblance of a running game (though, unlike ND, at least they try to run) and their defense was gashed by UCLA on the ground. Oklahoma should be able to stifle Texas’ offense and wear down the Longhorn defense with DeMarco Murray. The Sooners will cruise to a comfortable win in Dallas.
Oklahoma 31 Texas 14
Penn State (+7) @ Iowa
Dan: Iowa (-7)
Color me unimpressed with Evan Royster , Robert Bolden, and Penn State in general. Iowa is a physical game, that, despite the hiccup in the desert, should really contend (if not be favored for) the Big 10 title. Stanzi is a game manager, their defense is stout, and their running game, while needing some improvements, gives them enough balance to keep defenses honest. Penn State, on the other hand, is a bit lost. And in Iowa City, expect Bolden to be rattled again, and struggle with a few key turnovers.
Iowa 20 Penn State 10
Jeremy: Iowa (-7) LOCK OF THE WEEK
Penn State isn’t good. Iowa might not be very good either, but this game’s at home and I’m still not ready to trust a freshman QB in Joe Pa’s system at Kinnick. Iowa gets angry and rolls big time here.
Iowa 28 Penn St. 3
Jimmy: Iowa (-7) LOCK OF THE WEEK
The Hawkeyes defense will be hungry to feast on true frosh Bob Bolden, while Ricky Stanzi and the offense is striking a good balanced attack. The Nittany Lions weren’t too convincing slipping by Temple last week. Iowa City will not be so forgiving.
Iowa 27 Penn State 13
Matt: Iowa (-7) LOCK OF THE WEEK
Penn State was trailing at the half last week to Temple. If Temple running back Bernard Pierce doesn’t get hurt, they probably lose that game. As it is, they could only muster 5 field goals until the last three minutes of the game when they tacked on a TD. All supporting evidence points to the fact that Temple is not a very good football team. I don’t think Iowa is that great either, but at home and with a veteran QB and dominant line play, I think they handle Penn State fairly easily.
Iowa 22 PSU 6
Mike: Iowa (-7)
Penn State is ranked for some reason, but this appears to be a rebuilding year for the Nittany Lions. By contrast, Iowa, notwithstanding a tough loss at Arizona, seems poised to contend with Ohio State for the Big 10 title. Although the Hawkeyes might encounter some difficulty in their running game due to their recent loss of Jewel Hampton and the continued absence of Brandon Wegher, they should be able pass the ball effectively with Ricky Stanzi and their fine receiving corps. For Penn State, success on the ground with Evan Royster is imperative because Robert Bolden is not ready to lead this team to a road win against a quality foe. Unfortunately for Penn State, the Hawkeye defensive line is much stouter than the Temple front four, so it will likely be tough sledding for Royster.
Iowa 28 Penn State 14
Wisconsin (-1.5) @ Michigan State
Dan: Wisconsin (-1.5)
Likely the only game of the weekend to feature two 230+ pound running backs, this should look like an old school pound them into submission Big 10 game. But I like Wisconsin’s O-line to control the line of scrimmage. Kirk Cousins still seems to be in a funk and the Spartan defense has done nothing to impress this year. Throw in the fact that the Spartans are now ranked plus it is now October, and the formula is ripe for the typical MSU mid-season swoon.
Wisconsin 24 MSU 20
Jeremy: Michigan St. (+1.5)
Tough game to pick here. Wisconsin hasn’t been terribly impressive thus far, and that game last week against Austin Freakin’ Peay shouldn’t even count towards their record. What a joke. Sparty will have their hands full with Big John Clay and the efficient Badger passing offense, but I’m banking on MSU rallying around the return of Dantonio and grabbing a big win at home.
MSU 24 Wisconsin 21
Jimmy: Wisconsin (-1.5)
The Spartans have the sympathy of many with coach D’Antonio returning to the booth. I’m sure it will provide an emotional lift for the team. Sparty has rushed for 200+ in every game this season. But scanning their opponents thus far isn’t exactly a who’s who of college football. Western Michigan, Florida Atlantic, Notre Dame, Northern Colorado enjoy a combined 5-9 record (and a couple of those wins were of the charitable D-AA variety). Sparty is in for a rude awakening with a Badgers team hell bent on contending for the Big Ten crown. Big John Clay will outshine either of the Spartan runners and Scott Tolzien will continue his efficient ways. Michigan State hasn’t started 5-0 since 1999 when a certain Nick Saban was donning the green and white. They’re not about to change that distinction Saturday.
Wisconsin 31 Michigan State 23
Matt: Wisconsin (-1.5)
Every single team that has beaten Notre Dame has received excessive recognition in the polls. Do I think Michigan State is a good team? Probably. But I wasn’t blown away by them against ND, and obviously ND is not what people thought they were going to be. I don’t really know how good Wisconsin is – I’ll admit I haven’t seen them play yet this year – but I just think MSU is a little over their head right now.
Wisconsin 27 MSU 20
Mike: Michigan State (+1.5)
Both teams appear to be built in the same mold and evenly matched. Wisconsin, in keeping with its custom, relies upon a trio of strong running backs, while QB Scott Tolzien plays the role of “game manager.” Michigan State similarly leans on its strong running game and the occasional deep ball from Kirk Cousins. On defense, Michigan State’s front seven is better than Wisconsin’s, but the Badgers have a stronger secondary. In a tightly contested affair, I will side with the host Spartans.
Michigan State 24 Wisconsin 21
Stanford (+7) @ Oregon
Dan: Stanford (+7)
I know Notre Dame sucks. I also know that Autzen is one of the most difficult places in the country to play. Oregon has a great speed match-up here, because Stanford’s strength is certainly not speed. However, I love the physical brand of football that Stanford is playing right now. It’s a breath of fresh air given the recent emphasis on athletes and speed. And I also think it is a brand of football that Oregon is not used to seeing. I like the Cardinal to control the clock, the line of scrimmage, and, in the end, the game.
Stanford 31 Oregon 30
Jeremy: Oregon (-7)
I’m still refusing to watch last week’s game, but I’m still not ready to believe that Andrew Luck is the “real deal” yet. The Irish gave Stanford quite a few 3rd and manageables, and the Cardinal converted at a ridiculous rate. Just doesn’t seem sustainable. Stanford doesn’t have any real big-play threats to keep up with the explosive Duck offense on the road.
Oregon 38 Stanford 24
Jimmy: Oregon (-7)
Really exciting matchup. Two teams executing exceptionally well at this early point of the season. The job Jim Harbaugh has done cannot be emphasized enough. The Cardinal might be getting more out of their collective talent than any team in America. Andrew Luck’s leadership sets the tone for the team, while the defense mixes different wrinkles every week and is a force to be reckoned with.
Well, Reckoning Day visits Eugene. Chip Kelly’s Midas touch on offense will feature his full-throttle Quack Attack. Brand new QB Darron Thomas has given the Duck faithful immediate amnesia about that joker Jeremiah Masoli. LaMichael James may be the finest RB in America. It’s a shame the nation’s viewership will be split with Bama-Florida and Penn State-Iowa all sharing the 8pm ET time slot. This Pac-10 matchup should be the most entertaining. I think this one stays close for a while, but Oregon breaks away in the 4th with some help from the Autzen Stadium acoustics.
Oregon 37 Stanford 27
Matt: Oregon (-7)
Stanford blasted Notre Dame so thoroughly that I turned off the game before it was over, taking in the 4th quarter of the Bama-Arkansas game. I don’t do that very often, but it was so disheartening to see Stanford – freaking Stanford – just abuse ND. Having said all that, I was very impressed with Stanford’s system and coaching and intangibles and toughness…but it was still Stanford out there. Wasn’t really blown away by Luck, wasn’t really blown away by their receivers, their defense was fundamentally sound but it was more the system of dropping 8 that got to us, not any freakish athletes. And am I really ready to accept living in a world in which Stanford is a Top 5 team?
The answer is no. Oregon is absolutely explosive on offense, with speed that Stanford just can’t match. Needless to say, I think Oregon will be better prepared for Stanford’s defense, whether they drop 8 again or bring pressure. First of all, Oregon has a great RB in LaMichael James (if you are a recruit whose name begins with a La or Le, are you just automatically heading to Eugene these days?) and QB Darron Thomas has thrown 10 TD’s with only 3 INT’s. Really, the only reason I think this game is even remotely close is the Jim Harbaugh factor. I think he is already a Top 10 coach in America , which is amazing, because again – it’s Stanford! Nevertheless, Ducks win at home.
Oregon 38 Stanford 27
Mike: Oregon (-7)
Although Stanford won convincingly over ND, I am not as impressed with the Cardinal as is the national media. Jim Harbaugh has a nice little team that plays tough, but Stanford does not have the athletic ability to compete with the top programs in the country, such as Oregon. The Ducks will score early and often, as is their tendency in Autzen Stadium, and Stanford will not be able to keep pace.
Oregon 48 Stanford 24
Florida (+8.5) @ Alabama
Dan: Florida (+8.5)
Florida isn’t very good. Alabama is the best team in the country and is at home. Yet, something about this spread strikes me as too high. I can’t justify this statistically, looking at match-ups, or in any other analytical manner. And I realize that Urban has had the luxury of Tim Tebow for years. But since he’s gone to Florida, Urban has not lost many games, and even fewer by more than a touchdown.
Alabama 23 Florida 20
Jeremy: Alabama (-8.5)
I haven’t seen much of Florida since their Week 1 debacle but a brief look at the box scores appears to indicate that they still haven’t really got the offense on track yet. Plus, no Rainey, (possibly) no Demps and an extremely green front seven on defense could point towards a big day for the Tide.
Bama 31 Florida 17
Jimmy: Florida (+8.5)
THE glamour matchup of the weekend. There’s hype, and then there’s an early October meeting between the two alpha programs in college football, winners of 3 of the last 4 national championships. In fact, the last two matchups have boasted a #1 vs. #2 armageddon atmosphere. Florida’s “paltry” #7 ranking takes nothing away from the outcome of this one. Have to imagine the line would be inside of 3 pts. if the game were played in The Swamp. As it is, I think it’s too many points for such a heated contest. This Trey Burton cat came out of nowhere to rejuvenate the Gators offense. If anything, it should give the still raw Tide D something to think about. Pure athleticism will be on full display everywhere you look. Should be a doozy.
Alabama 24 Florida 20
Matt: Florida (+8.5)
Game of the year so far. God bless the SEC – they just play the game of football at a different speed down there. This game is on opposite the ND game on Saturday, and I can say with all honesty that this game will get most of my attention. The JV game is ND-BC, and I still can’t understand why that game is on in primetime. Anyway, back to this game. Florida finally put it all together last week against Kentucky, and in the process may have found the wildcard that Urban loves to play around with. Trey Burton, the freshman QB, came in and out-Tebowed Tebow by setting a school record 6 td’s in all possible manners. It will be interesting to see how effective he is against Bama now that the cat is out of the bag.
Bama showed why it is the defending champion last week, harassing Ryan Mallett into a dreadful 4th quarter performance that flushed away his Heisman campaign. On the road against a Top 10 team, Bama wasn’t great but they did what they had to do. I think this game will be just as close – can’t believe a Meyer – Saban showdown is an 8.5 point spread – but I expect the Tide to prevail at home.
Alabama 24 Florida 20
Mike: Alabama (-8.5)
Despite Florida’s large win against Kentucky, the Gators still have plenty of problems on offense. As such, Florida should struggle to move the ball consistently against an Alabama defense that performed admirably last week on the road against an elite quarterback. On offense, Alabama’s ground game is simply an unstoppable force that should administer a stern beatdown to the young Florida defensive front. Roll Tide.
Alabama 41 Florida 17
Dan: UTEP (-15) @ New Mexico
I don’t know much about either of these teams. I just New Mexico has lost its 4 games by an average of 45 points. UTEP on the other hand is 3-1 (in reality and against the spread). A friend of mine tipped me off to New Mexico last week – no one has caught on to just how bad they are. I trusted him, and won some money. All UNM does is fail to cover. Easy money.
UTEP 42 New Mexico 14
Jeremy: Miami (-3) @ Clemson
The beatdown in Columbus may have provided something of a wake-up call for Jacory Harris and the Canes. If it hasn’t, then a tough game in Death Valley followed by the rivalry game with the Seminoles should do the trick.
Miami 27 Clemson 21
Jimmy: Michigan @ Indiana (+10)
Does Shoelace only need to play 1 quarter per game the rest of the year to keep leading the nation in rushing? Well, the Hoosiers are no MAC team (a contested argument on the gridiron for anumber of years, whereas Tom Crean still has something to prove…you read this far Ravi?). Ben Chappell (no relation to Dave that I’m aware of) will pass at will on the depleted Wolverine secondary. If I had any stones, I’d pick IU in an outright upset, but I think it’s a safe cover.
Michigan 41 Indiana 35
Matt: Texas A&M @ Oklahoma State (-3)
It’s a battle of the undefeateds! Despite either team being ranked because of absolutely embarrassing opening schedules (TAMU needed a comeback at home against FIU, while OK St. squeaked by Troy by 3 at home), the winner of this game will still be off to a 1-0 start in the Big 12 and more than likely ranked next week.
It’s a matchup of an explosive offense that has come out of nowhere with Brandon Weeden at QB (ND fans, OSU beat Tulsa 65-28, remember that when we are biting our nails in the 4th quarter clinging to a three point lead against the Golden Hurricanes) against what was supposed to be an explosive offense with Jarrod Johnson at QB. The results have been mixed despite the gaudy numbers, with Johnson throwing 7 TD’s and 4 INT’s. Expect this game to be a shootout, and I think OK St. pulls it out at home. Should be a fun one to kick off the college football weekend.
Oklahoma State 44 Texas A&M 37
(Editor’s Note: Matt dressed up like Coach Gundy for a night in Vegas at the apex of Gundy’s press conference popularity. Matt’s performance was one for the ages. And no, it wasn’t Halloween).
Mike: Tulane @ Rutgers (-14.5)
Odd line here. Rutgers has struggled in the early season, but Tulane is quite possibly the worst team in the FBS. The Scarlet Knights should cruise at home.
Super Bonus Pick (that most certainly will not count towards boosting his picks percentage)
Mike: Florida International (+19.5) @ Pittsburgh
FIU has played three close games this year against decent competition (Rutgers, Texas A&M and Pittsburgh), whereas Pittsburgh has looked decidedly underwhelming. Also, I can’t imagine that Pitt will be particularly excited about playing a Sun Belt opponent in a half-filled Heinz Field. Maybe some of the Steelers fans will show up to the game to get an early spot for their Sunday tailgating festivities.
Last Week (Lock of Week +/-):
Dan: 4-3 (+)
Jeremy: 6-1 (+)
Jimmy: 5-2 (-)
Matt: 3-4 (-)
Mike: 6-1 (+)
Season-To-Date (Locks of Week):
Dan: 12-15-1 (1-2-1)
Jeremy: 18-9-1 (2-2)
Jimmy: 14-13-1 (2-2)
Matt: 14-13-1 (1-2)
Mike: 20-7-1 (3-0-1)