September 23, 2010

WeIs Roundtable Week 4 Picks: Contender or Pretender Edition

An exciting week of matchups, with a number of contests that should begin to prove whether teams are legit or masquerading as impostors.  Teams like Arkansas and West Virginia would vault into national championship discussion with wins, but even a well-played game and a close score will do wonders for the perception of the program.  This figures to be a fun channel flipping week.  Enjoy the picks.

Miami (-3) @ Pittsburgh

Dan:  Miami (-3)

Wow. What a miserable week last week in my picks. Thank goodness the NFL has been kind to my account.  Lesson – gamble against my picks, win money. As for this pick – I like Miami to bounce back after a nightmare performance against Ohio State. They have had a week off to prepare for Pitt. The Panthers are dealing with suspensions, injuries, and an underperforming Dion Lewis. I expect a close game with Miami pulling out the cover.

Miami 28 Pitt 24

Jeremy:  Miami (-3)

I don’t know if either of these teams are any good.  Pitt’s looked mediocre at best thus far, and Miami fell flat on their collective faces in Columbus a few weeks back.  I guess I’m just going to have to be lazy and pick the team with more “athletes” and “speed” on defense (hire me ESPN!).  Randy Shannon slows down the Dion Lewis train and the Canes get a big win on the road.

Miami 24  Pitt 20

Jimmy: Miami (-3)

The Hurricanes are still licking their wounds from the beatdown in Columbus.  Randy Shannon is certainly road testing his young team.  I think Miami responds well and controls Dion Lewis enough to emerge from Heinz Field victorious.  Betting against a Thursday night home team is a recipe for disaster, but when Dave Wannstedt is involved, all normal rules of thumb are tossed out the window. 

Miami  27  Pitt 17

Matt:  Pitt (+3)

I’ve gotten burned so many times in the last two years picking Miami in this weekly column that I feel like I should write to Randy Shannon and ask for a personal refund for all of the money I’ve misguidedly placed on the Canes.  You know, if gambling were legal.  Let’s just say that Miami’s performance against OSU, and more particularly Jacory Harris’ performance, did not inspire confidence in me for the rest of the season.

Has there been a ‘team’ started yet for guys who are continuously overhyped but fail to deliver any meaningful results?  Like the Jess Settles All-Stars for the guys who have been in college forever or the Reggie Cleveland All-Stars for white guys with black sounding names?  Well, Jake Locker and Jacory Harris are doing their best to be the namesake for this group of players that have yet to convert the hype to results.  I’m sure Jacory Harris is a great guy, but he really hasn’t produced anything in any meaningful games.  Much like Mr. Locker in the Pacific Northwest who somehow is ranked as the #1 NFL pick.  I mean, did anyone watch that game against Nebraska?  4 for 20?  As Mugatu would say, I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.

As for this game, Miami has the advantage in special teams, as proven against tOSU.  Coaching is dead even at below average.  The loss of Greg Romeus concerns me a little bit for the Pitt D, but I think they’ll be able to overcome it.  With the game being in Pittsburgh in front of what I presume will be a rabid crowd given the Thursday night timeslot and Canes lofty ranking and reputation, I think Pitt will win.  Losing at Utah in OT is nothing to be ashamed of, and this Pitt team still feels like a Top 20 team by season’s end.

Pitt 21 U 17

Mike:  Miami (-3)  LOCK OF THE WEEK

As evidenced by Miami’s performance at Ohio State, the Canes have not regained their spot among the nation’s elite.  Still, Miami has enough talent to beat a mediocre Pittsburgh team, even on the road.  With an extra week to prepare, Miami OC Mark Whipple should be able to devise a plan that will allow Jacory Harris to exploit a weak Pittsburgh secondary.  In addition, Pittsburgh’s defensive line, which was its major strength on defense, will be forced to play without the services of Greg Romeus, who is out for the season with an injury.  On the bright side for Pitt, being mediocre might be enough to bring home a Big East title.

Miami 31 Pittsburgh 20

Alabama (-7.5) @ Arkansas

Dan:  Arkansas (+7.5)

This is going to be the toughest defense Ryan Mallett has faced or will face all year.  Last year, Bama abused the Razorbacks to the tune of a 35-7 thrashing. Arkansas looks like a much improved team this year. Mallett has continued to improve his accuracy and his understanding of the offense. Bama should control the line of scrimmage, but I think Arkansas will have a couple big plays to keep it just close enough to get the cover.

Alabama 31 Arkansas 24

Jeremy:  Alabama (-7.5)

I know Arkansas has looked pretty good so far this year, and I fully expect to see at least one of my compatriots pick the upset outright here, but I’m not going to be betting against Saban, even on the road, and even with Ryan Mallett on the other side of the field.  Saban finds a way to fluster the big oaf and Bama reasserts their dominance in the SEC West.

Alabama 30  Arkansas 17

Jimmy: Alabama (-7.5)  LOCK OF THE WEEK

Until proven otherwise, Bama looks like they’re out to quell any doubt that a repeat is their sole mission.  I would love to see this be a shootout with Ryan Mallett leading another late-charge victory.  But Bama’s defense will be a different beast than the Razorback offense has encountered.  And pretty sure Saban will control the ball, milking time of possession with his 3-headed rushing attack.  Arkansas could prove to be a very good team before the season is over, but this is their first reality check and I don’t see it ending well.

Alabama  34  Arkansas  21

Matt:  Alabama (-7.5)

I watched all of the Arkansas-Georgia game, and came away a little underwhelmed with Arkansas.  Sure they won the game in a tough road environment, but their offense was nonexistent for the entirety of the second half until the last drive with a minute left.  Then, it’s like Mallett flipped on a switch and went down the field to end the game.  The problem is, that was Georgia, and this is Alabama.  You can’t take entire halves off or expect to just flip a switch against a Saban-coached team.

It just feels like to me that Saban is going to do everything to make Mallett uncomfortable and force the Hogs to have to run the ball.  In other words, totally dictate the tempo and play-calling for Arkansas.  Ryan Mallett may be playing better than he was last year, but he was still pretty darned good last year.  And the Tide held him to 12-35 for 160 yards.  Yikes.  I know Bama has lost some playmakers off that side of the ball, but I think that the hype for this game and for Arkansas has grown a little excessive.  Bama rolls.

Alabama 35 Arkansas 17

Mike:  Arkansas (+7.5)

Alabama’s retooled defense has been dominant thus far, but they will face their first true test this week against Arkansas’ offense, which was as good as advertised against Georgia.  More importantly, the Razorbacks looked much more competent on defense than in prior years (which, admittedly, isn’t saying much).  The Arkansas coaching staff also deserves a great deal of credit for preparing the Hogs for a trap game against a talented opponent.  Arkansas should play to the best of their ability this week before a frenzied crowd in Fayetteville, but, against this Crimson Tide team, it will not be enough.  In a game that has all the makings of a classic, Alabama will survive on the road.

Alabama 30 Arkansas 27

West Virginia (+8) @ LSU

Dan:  West Virginia (+8)

LSU’s defense should control the trenches and be able to slow down Geno Smith and the WVU offense. But I still have no faith in the LSU offense despite last week’s poor pick against LSU. But that was still primarily all field goals. Look for a low scoring game that makes the 8 points a decent pick.

LSU 16 WVU 10

Jeremy:  West Virginia (+8)

I hate this pick.  There’s no reason for me to believe that a Big East team can go down into Death Valley and beat the Tigers.  But there’s something foul afoot in Baton Rouge, and this could very well be Les Miles’ farewell tour.  Geno Smith has looked pretty impressive thus far under center for the Moutaineers, and Noel Devine can provide some explosiveness for the offense.  The Mountaineer defense has been pretty stout against the run so far this year, and LSU hasn’t had consistent QB play in years.  Can’t believe I’m doing it, but I’m picking WVU to win this game outright.

WVU 27  LSU 24

Jimmy:  LSU (-8)

The Mountaineers showed a ton of moxie in their furious 4th quarter rally to beat Marshall.  You’re thinking – “yeah…Marshall.  Not exactly LSU in the Valley of Death.”  And you would be right.  But a team either has that ability or it doesn’t.  I was going to go with West Virginia to cover, but a night matchup in the Bayou screams for LSU to assert themselves defensively and figure out a way to string a few scoring drives together.  Giving up 10 points combined to two SEC opponents the last two weeks tells me that LSU is hungry to put the near-death experience vs. North Carolina in the rearview mirror. 

LSU 29  West Virginia 17

Matt:  West Virginia (+8)

This spread seems a little bit high to me.  In fact, I seriously considered predicting the ‘Neers to flat out win this game.  But in the end, too much crowd, too much Tiger defense and too much Bill Stewart lead to a close win for the home team.  Interesting to see the battle between the QB’s in this one, as Geno Smith in three starts has already looked better than Jordan Jefferson ever has. 

LSU 24 West Virginia 21

Mike:  West Virginia (+8)

This is a difficult game to pick because both programs, though talented, are led by flaky coaches whose teams are prone to wildly inconsistent play.  West Virginia’s offense is starting to click under QB Geno Smith and the Mountaineers’ stable of speedy backs and receivers, but they will be tested this week by a strong LSU defense.  By contrast, LSU has sputtered badly on offense this year, especially in the passing game, so West Virginia should have an opportunity to win this game late.  In fact, I will call for an outright upset, which will set off an angry riot in Baton Rouge (and a happy riot in Morgantown).  Memo to fans:  stock up on gasoline and matches now, while supplies last.

West Virginia 22 LSU 20

South Carolina (+3) @ Auburn

Dan:  South Carolina (+3)

Underdog week! Auburn was kind to me the last couple weeks before stabbing me in the back against Clemson. Auburn is coming off 2 extremely physical tough games over the past 2 weeks. I like South Carolina’s defense to keep this close and to control the tempo of the game. In fact, I think the tough last couple weeks will catch up with Auburn and they will slip up while the Gamecocks take one on the road.

South Carolina 21 Auburn 20

Jeremy:  Auburn (-3)

Sorry Ball Coach, just can’t do it.  Lattimore and Garcia have been a lethal combination thus far, but the Auburn D steps up in a large way in front of the home crowd.  Cam Newton has a breakout game and the War Eagle gets a big win at Jordan Hare.

Auburn 27  South Carolina 23

Jimmy:  Auburn (-3)

Maybe I should learn my lesson for picking Auburn last week (they didn’t cover), but that was one terrific game.  Clemson impressed with their athleticism and relentless attitude, serving as terrific preparation for the Tigers, provided they’re not too beat up.  South Carolina will provide another tough test.  The Gamecocks may very well be a solid team that could play spoiler in the weeks ahead (Alabama next week at home, Arkansas and Florida will all face a stiff challenge).  But this is Spurrier’s first road game after beating Southern Miss, a downtrodden Georgia team, and I-AA Furman last week.  Auburn, meanwhile, already has an SEC road win to their credit, and a win over a legit top 25 team in Clemson.  Who is more prepared to win this week?  War Eagle.  The ‘Cocks haven’t seen a weapon the likes of Cameron Newton.  Add in the fact that they may be guilty of looking ahead to next week’s circus with the #1 team in America coming to their home.  Gene Chizik should have Auburn 6-0 when they welcome Arkansas to campus for another big showdown.      

Auburn 26  South Carolina  17

Matt:  South Carolina (+3)

Do you all remember my preseason prediction of my deep sleeper team for this year?  No?  Well, it was South Carolina, and here we are with the Gamecocks having risen all the way to the edge of the Top 10.  With Florida looking shaky early on, UGA and UT being down, the East is right there for the taking. 

I am willing to look past last week’s lackadaisical defensive effort against 1-AA Furman, and instead focus on the talent at RB and WR for the offense.  Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffery are studs.  This is not your father’s (maybe older brother’s is a better reference) South Carolina team that stinks on offense.  Spurrier has the offense humming along, and I think they will be able to move it and score points against a stout Auburn defense. 

Marion Fannin is expected back for the Tigers, and Cam Newton has proven to be a dual threat QB.  However, he is a little bit of a work in progress and his running is slightly ahead of his passing right now.  Look for the USC defense to try to take away his runs and force him to be more of a passer.  Close one, but I’m going to go with my gut and my preseason prediction and pick the Ol’ Ball Coach to get a W.

USC 23 Auburn 20

Mike:  Auburn (-3)

After having played two close games, including last week’s bloodbath, it will be difficult for Auburn to rise to the occasion again this week against a talented Gamecock team that has its collective sights set on the SEC East crown.  South Carolina has the weaponry on offense and defense to win this contest against a wounded Auburn team, but I refuse to pick the Gamecocks for one reason:  I don’t trust Stephen Garcia on the road in a big game.  Auburn will capitalize on Garcia’s mistakes to earn another huge win this week.

Auburn 24 South Carolina 20

Oregon State (+17) @ Boise State

Dan:  Oregon State (+17)  LOCK OF THE WEEK

Oregon State’s defense sucks. But I believe in the Rodgers boys. I also believe that Boise State hasn’t beaten anyone yet (despite the win against V. Tech). I am generally a Boise State Believer, and they should control this game, but this line is way too high.

Boise State 34 Oregon State 21

Jeremy:  Oregon State (+17)  LOCK OF THE WEEK

Too many points.  Plain and simple. 

I still can’t figure out how I feel about Va Tech’s collapse and its impact on Boise’s march to the title game.  On the one hand, Boise in the title game might cause the BCS to blow up.  On the other, who wants to watch Boise in the title game over someone like Bama, OSU or Oregon? 

The Rodgers brothers keep this one interesting for 3 quarters or so, but Boise pulls away late.  As an added bonus, TCU’s BCS status takes a big hit with another loss by Oregon St.

Boise St. 34  Oregon St. 24

Jimmy:  Oregon State (+17)

No way this is a blowout.  The Beavers have had this date circled all preseason.  They would love nothing better than to avenge their TCU loss by knocking off America’s darling on the Smurf Turf.  The Broncos defensive unit hasn’t encountered a dynamic tandem like the Rodgers twins, who will keep the Beavers alive in this scoring frenzy.  If Andy Dalton scored 30 points on Oregon State, Kellen Moore might light them up for 50.  With Heisman contenders on both sides, there will be some wacky, highlight-reel, momentum-turning plays (look for James Rodgers to explode with a monster performance).  I’m fully on board the Boise bandwagon, but 17 points is an awfully generous margin. 

Boise State 48  Oregon State 35

Unofficial James Rodgers Heisman Candidacy Update:
Last Week: 3 rec - 27 yards; 2 rush - 12 yards; 4 KR - 161 yards; 2 PR - 43 yards; 243 Total Yards, 0 TD
Season: 7 rec - 102 yards, 1 TD;   4 rush - 20 yards; 9 KR - 275 yards; 7 PR - 56 yards; 453 Total Yards, 1 TD (2 games)

Matt:  Boise State (-17)   LOCK OF THE WEEK

Boise knows this is its last real shot to make an impression on all of the voters.  Sure, Nevada has a nice win over Cal and Fresno State over UC, but ultimately beating those two teams is not going to move the meter in their quest to make it to the title game.  

This week, with College Gameday in the house and a national television audience including the one and only Brent Musburger waxing poetically, they can really get back some momentum after VT’s flameout.   I was overly impressed with Boise’s line play on both sides against the Hokies, and don’t think they’ll have any problem slowing down Jacquizz, much as they did to Ryan Williams.  Kellen Moore should have a field day throwing to Pettis and Young.

Boise State 48 Oregon State 20

Mike:  Oregon State (+17)

Boise State has been virtually unbeatable at home over the past decade and, from a gambling perspective, the Broncos have been the most reliable home favorite in college football during this time.  With Boise needing style points to impress the pollsters, it will be a struggle for the oddsmakers to set lines that are high enough to attract bettors to the underdog, particularly for games on the blue turf.  Having said that, I believe that Oregon State’s offense will start to hit its stride this week, thus allowing the Beavers to earn a close cover in this game. 

Boise State 41 Oregon State 27

Bonus Picks

Dan:  Central Michigan @ Northwestern (-6.5)

Both teams are 3-0 in their own way. Northwestern is 3-0 on the field, but Central Michigan is 3 – 0 against the spread. Unfortunately for Chippewas, their 2-1 real record includes a loss at Temple. Now, I know Temple is a decent team. But I like Pat Fitzgerald and the things he is doing in Evanston. And I like them to win at home on Saturday with a cover.

Northwestern 31 Central Michigan 17

Jeremy:  Oregon (-10.5) @ Arizona State

I don’t care that the spread is huge.  I don’t care that the game is on the road.  The Ducks are LEGIT.  Its amazing to watch the Chip Kelly offense work.  Lose Jeremiah Masoli?  No big deal.  He can just plug any QB or any RB into that system and it will keep chugging along.  I think many Irish fans would probably prefer that Brian adopt some of Chip’s spread philosophies, as Oregon tends to take bigger chunks on the ground rather than through the air.  I would be shocked if Oregon doesn’t win the Pac 10 this year.

Oregon 34  ASU  20

Jimmy: Oklahoma @ Cincinnati (+14.5)

The folks at Cincy moved this game to the prime time locale of Paul Brown Stadium, an informal audition for all the NFL talent on Oklahoma’s roster that will run roughshod over the rudder-less Bearcat program.  Maybe that’s a little harsh.  Butch Jones seems like a nice guy and I hope he builds on the work that Brian Kelly did. This is his biggest stage to prove he can rise to the occasion.  I like Butch to have his team hungry and ready to take it to the Sooners.  Bob Stoops has to be perplexed how his team can whup Florida State, yet barely hang on against Utah State and Air Force at home.  Now the Jekyll and Hyde act goes on the road with the Red River Shootout looming large on the horizon of next week.  I would be shocked if Oklahoma loses this game, but they haven’t shown enough consistency to win big like this with the entire city of Cincinnati (including former resident Doug Riddell) supporting its cause.  The Bearcats play feisty, inspired ball and keep things close.

Oklahoma 38  Cincinnati 27

Matt:  Temple (+14) @ Penn State

Lots of intrigue in the state of Pennsylvania for this one.  At least among the 500 or so people that follow Temple football.  Penn State fans already had this one in the W column as soon as the schedule was released.  But Temple has already beaten last year’s 1-AA national champion Villanova, a feisty Central Michigan team that many predicted to win the MAC if Temple didn’t, and a solid UConn team out of the Big East.  In the past, those three wins would be enough to throw a parade and cancel the rest of the season.  Three games won?  Who needs to play any more…

Meanwhile, Penn State has gotten exposed at Alabama (no shame in that) and looked less than impressive on the offensive side of the ball against Kent State.  Would I be shocked if Penn State came out and just destroyed Temple as has happened the past two years?  No.  Let’s face it, not a single player on the Owls roster was recruited by Joe Pa.  But the Owls have a better coach, a better running back (Bernard Pierce, yes he’s better than Evan Royster, who apparently hasn’t gotten the memo that the 2010 season has begun), and a more experienced QB.  I think they will keep it close into the 4th quarter and by the end of the game Nittany Lion faithful will be clamoring for the shirt and tie wearing Al Golden to be on the home sideline in Happy Valley.

Penn State 27 Temple 17

Mike:  Arizona (-6) over California

Arizona proved last Saturday that they are a legitimate contender in the Pac-10 and a top-15 team nationally.  California proved last Friday that they are a joke.  Forget the letdown angle- the Cats will roll this week in Tucson.

Arizona 49 California 24

Picks To Date:

Dan:  8-12-1
Jeremy:  12-8-1
Jimmy:  9-11-1
Matt:  11-9-1
Mike:  14-6-1

Locks of the Week:

Dan:  0-2-1
Jeremy:  1-2-0
Jimmy:  2-1-0
Matt:  1-1-0
Mike:  2-0-1

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