A handful of solid games on tap for the weekend. A couple Big Ten showdowns bookend this week's picks, with a future Big Ten team tossed in the middle. No further buildup...let's get to the picks.
Iowa (-3.5) @ Michigan
Dan: Iowa (-3.5) Lock of the Week
Michigan was exposed last week against MSU. Expect the trend to follow. Watch for Michigan to go at best 3-3 to close out its Big 10 season, and 2-4 wouldn’t surprise me at all. They have no defense and only one player on offense. That is the perfect formula to fall apart in conference play (and beat Notre Dame). Iowa cruises.
Iowa 31 Michigan 20
Jeremy: Iowa (-3.5)
Don’t really have a great feel for this game. Iowa should win, but I’m not terribly confident that the Hawkeyes have the ability to march up and down the field on the swiss cheese Michigan defense. But the Iowa defense is the difference here as Denard Robinson has difficulty finding much daylight on the ground. If the Hawkeyes can force Robinson to beat them with his arm, he won’t be able to.
Iowa 31 Michigan 24
Jimmy: Iowa (-3.5)
Iowa may not have the same offensive balance as Michigan State, but the Hawkeyes are good enough to score plenty on the Wolverine decimated ranks. And Kirk Ferentz’ defense will tie Shoelace in knots with Adrian Clayborn and Co. We knew the losses were inevitable for Michigan as their high-wire act survived 5 weeks unscathed. Will back-to-back home losses rev up the DickRod needs to go cavalry, again? Denard Robinson’s one-man show provided a little reprieve for the faction looking for change in Ann Arbor. But there’s still plenty that’s not right, most notably a sieve for a defense that will need more than a few years of replenishing the ranks. Has Rodriguez found a security blanket for his job with the emergence of Shoelace, a player in the mold of Pat White, Woody Dantzler and Shaun King (Denard appears to be better than all three of these fine college QBs). Will the administration change directions now with the only ray of light being a QB the embroiled head coach is uniquely experienced to coach? A catch 22 that I wouldn’t want to touch with a 200-foot pole.
Iowa 34 Michigan 17
Matt: Iowa (-3.5)
The Shoelace for Heisman campaign took a serious hit last week, and I expect it to be permanently derailed following this week’s game against the tough Hawkeye D. Michigan thrived playing against inferior competition (it pains me to type that and acknowledge that ND is apparently at the level of a middling Big Ten team), but that Swiss Cheese defense can’t stop anyone, and Robinson has found the running lanes a little smaller.
Interesting comments by a UNC QB recruit also being recruited by Michigan that Rich Rod has been told he will be at Michigan for a long time. I can definitely see a worst case (best case?) scenario of Michigan losing out or maybe winning at Purdue to finish 6-6. But with Robinson as QB and the roster finally taking shape to run the spread offense, would Michigan really get rid of Rod and start all over? Probably not. Even the most ardent Michigan hater would admit that the program is at least relevant this year and most likely heading in the right direction under Rodriguez.
Iowa 24 Michigan 17
Mike: Iowa (-3.5) Lock of the Week
As shown last week, Michigan is simply an average team. The Wolverines have one of the worst defenses in college football and Denard Robinson is basically a one man show on offense. Iowa should be able to neutralize Robinson with its strong defensive line and the Hawkeye offense will likely have its way with the Michigan defense. Iowa will roll in Ann Arbor.
Iowa 41 Michigan 21
Texas (+10) @ Nebraska
Dan: Texas (+10)
Wow, who would have expected this line a year or two ago. Unfortunately, Millman’s article isn’t out yet, because I’d love to hear where the sharps are on this one (if he covers it). Texas is reeling. They’ve lost 2 straight and have not looked very good all year. Can Mack Brown get them in shape for a trip to Lincoln? Nebraska has beaten every team it has played all year by at least 14 points. But they have had some weak competition. Even a bad Texas team will be by far the best team they have played, particularly defensively. I think the Texas defense plays just well enough to squeak out the cover.
Nebraska 21 Texas 13
Jeremy: Texas (+10)
The first big test for the 2010 Huskers. Texas rolls into Lincoln licking some serious wounds, but I think Mack Brown and the ‘Horns have too much pride and talent to let this game get out of hand. A late Texas TD keeps it close and allows them to cover the big spread.
Nebraska 27 Texas 20
Jimmy: Nebraska (-10)
Revenge will be sweet for last year’s Big XII title game. This figures to be the toughest defense remaining on Nebraska’s schedule. But the way Taylor Martinez is running wild, I’m not sure how much they can be contained. On the flip side, Nebraska may present the stiffest challenge Garron Gilbert and the stunted Longhorns offense will face all season. As the likely last matchup as conference foes between these two pillars of the Big XII, the hype may not match the result. I like Big Red to leave an indelible mark on the minds of Texas and pollsters as Nebraska inches toward a shot at the championship.
Nebraska 27 Texas 13
Matt: Nebraska (-10)
After foolishly picking against Nebraska last week, I’m not making the same mistake again. What it comes down to is I have seen nothing out of Texas that makes me think that they can hang with the Huskers. The Garrett Gilbert experiment has fizzled, as has the supposed new found commitment to the ground game. That’s not a good recipe when you have to go up against the offense powered by Taylor Martinez, who did his best Denard Robinson impression last week. In Lincoln, I see the Huskers getting some revenge for the Big 12 title game last year.
Nebraska 34 Texas 17
Mike: Nebraska (-10)
Texas will almost certainly struggle to score points against Nebraska, but I expect that the Longhorn defense will slow down Taylor Martinez and the Husker rushing game for most of the game. Like UCLA, however, Nebraska will eventually wear down Texas’ defense to pull away for a big win before a jacked up crowd in Lincoln.
Nebraska 28 Texas 10
Arkansas (+3) @ Auburn
Dan: Arkansas (+3)
Cameron Newton is a beast. But much of the rest of the Auburn offense has been a little underwhelming. Meanwhile, I really like this Arkansas team. I think both QBs will throw a couple interceptions, keeping the game slightly lower scoring than some might expect. I can’t pick the outright upset at home, but I’ll take the points.
Auburn 24 Arkansas 23
Jeremy: Arkansas (+3)
I just get the feeling that Auburn has been living a bit of a charmed life so far this year. Not quite on LSU’s level, but not exactly far behind. Mallett has been a bit quiet lately, so look for him to fight his way back into the Heisman discussion with a big win on the road in Jordan Hare.
Arkansas 30 Auburn 27
Jimmy: Arkansas (+3)
I love Cam Newton and am squarely on board the War Eagle train. Looking at this objectively, though, Auburn has been squeaking by teams. We all know the SEC grind simply wears teams down – maybe this is the Tigers’ d-day. Auburn’s defense will struggle to slow down Ryan Mallett’s throwing frenzy. The Hogs could put up 40+ points. I would like nothing better than to saddle up next weekend in Kansas City (last stop on the ’10 wedding tour…big ups KZ) to watch undefeated Auburn battle undefeated LSU. Madonia would be twice as nervous as the groom and there would be even odds of an accidental/overzealous applaus at a quiet point in the ceremony. I really, really want Auburn to win. So, let’s just say Arkansas covers (a great chance this 3 point spread ends up pushing on a last-seconf FG or OT win).
Auburn 37 Arkansas 35
Matt: Auburn (-3)
Game of the week – no surprise it’s taking place in the SEC. If Auburn wins they could set up a huge showdown next week against LSU for the chance to remain the lone undefeated team in the conference. But Arkansas will present all kinds of challenges, and perhaps it should be a little alarming that Auburn had a nailbiter in Lexington last week before finally prevailing 37-34.
But I’m willing to chalk that up to ‘road life in the SEC’ and trust the Cam Newton led ground attack at home over the Ryan Mallett led aerial attack. Arkansas is only 96th in the country running the ball, and look for the Auburn defense to make them one dimensional and rattle Mallett into a few turnovers. If this game was in Arkansas, I might pick the Hogs, but on the plains I’ll take Auburn. War Eagle.
Auburn 34 Arkansas 30
Mike: Arkansas (+3)
Auburn has shown a knack for winning close games and it’s hard not to be impressed by Cameron Newton. Still, one must wonder if the Tigers’ good fortune is about to run out this week against a talented Arkansas team that is playing well on both sides of the ball. Also, while Gene Chizik has excelled thus far at Auburn, the coaching matchup favors the Razorbacks here. Auburn’s undefeated run will come to an end in another entertaining game.
Arkansas 30 Auburn 27
California (+2.5) @ USC
Dan: USC (-2.5)
I’m sorry, they are playing football in the Pac-10 this year? Color me disinterested. Both teams had “bounce-back” games last week, if you can call a close loss to Stanford bounce back for USC (circa 2005 Notre Dame). Cal looked like its old self again destroying a hyped UCLA team. I really don’t have a strong feel about this one, but my gut says USC pulls it together for one last win before the bye week (after which they will go 1 – 3 before destroying ND somehow.
USC 27 Cal 21
Jeremy: Cal (+2.5)
USC is pretty fragile right now. One more bad bounce or turnover and the Trojans are likely to fold up their tents for the rest of the year. Cal absolutely destroyed UCLA on the ground last week, and the soft Trojan defense is ripe to allow another big running output to the Bears.
Cal 27 USC 23
Jimmy: USC (-2.5) Lock of the Week
What has happened to the once proud Trojan defense? Paging Monte Kiffin…paging acclaimed NFL D-coordinator Monte Kiffin. Are we sure there’s not a Weekend at Bernie’s sequel unfolding in Trojan Land? They’ve given up 36, 14, 21, 16, 32, 37 points. USC gave up more than 21 points seven times in the last two seasons combined. The mystique is gone, like a magic trick gone wrong. I couldn’t be happier to see the doomsday columns signaling the end of the Trojans dynasty (though it’s a little bittersweet that ND couldn’t best Troy at least once during their reign). Kiffykins is getting his come-uppance. But don’t lose sight of the fact that Matt Barkley is leading a very potent offense, one that should have no trouble outscoring Cal by a field goal.
USC 36 Cal 27
Matt: USC (-2.5) Lock of the Week
All my instincts tell me to take Cal, but I think USC is proud enough to show up and take care of business against a team that they are far more talented than. If the Trojans lose this one, look out, it could get ugly in LA. Suddenly those Laker preseason game will look a lot more attractive for the what-have-you done-for-me-lately LA fans. BTW the fact that we are picking this game tells you what type of matchups are on the schedule this week.
USC 41 Cal 30
Mike: USC (-2.5)
USC’s defense is a mess, but Monte Kiffin should be able to devise a game plan to slow the one-dimensional California offense, which is heavily reliant on the running game. On offense, the Trojans have proven to be quite explosive, as Matt Barkley is developing into a top flight quarterback and the running backs have been dynamic. From a talent standpoint, this is a mismatch, notwithstanding USC’s depth issues and inconsistencies.
USC 38 California 24
Ohio State (-4.5) @ Wisconsin
Dan: Wisconsin (+4.5)
I had this game all written up as an easy win for OSU. Wisconsin is an average football team. Ohio State is the #1 team in the country (though probably only about the 5th or 6th best team… maybe). But doesn’t this game have Tressel ball, Wisconsin keeping it close, written all over it? Ohio State should win this game by 20 points. But my gut just doesn’t feel comfortable with that. Personally, I am staying away from this game as a gambler. But if I had to bet, I’d take the points.
Ohio State 20 Wisconsin 17
Jeremy: Wisconsin (+4.5) Lock of the Week
Just feels like too many points, doesn’t it? I can’t quite get a read on this OSU team. Pryor is obviously not 100%, and if his running ability has been compromised, he’s a much less dangerous weapon in that offense. The Buckeye defense is going to have to keep this game close, so Tressel can unleash his special teams to play the field position game. The Bucks pull out a big win, but it’ll be a tight one till the end.
OSU 13 Wisconsin 10
Jimmy: Wisconsin (+4.5)
This has the hallmarks of an old school Big Ten slugfest – a throwback to the 3 yards and a cloud of dust days. Big John Clay and the young legs of James White will test the Buckeyes front seven. Pryor’s injury status looms over the fate of the #1 Buckeyes. It will be a war of attrition that I like the Badgers to at least cover, though I’m pulling for an outright victory for the 5th quarter in Madison. The recent history of this series screams for a closer line.
Ohio State 26 Wisconsin 24
Matt: Wisconsin (+4.5)
I really don’t know what to think about this game. Wisconsin has been really good in night games in recent history. But I’m just not sure how good this edition of Badger football is. And I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen them play that much. Are they going to be able to slow down Terrelle Pryor and the rest of the Buckeye offense? They gave up 23 points last week to a terrible Minnesota team, and really haven’t beaten anyone of note unless you count a one point squeaker against a dead man walking Dennis Erickson coached Arizona State team.
So I really have no idea why I am picking Wisconsin, just seems like one of those game that is going to come down to a field goal in front of the rapid Madtown crowd. Bucks win.
Ohio State 20 Wisconsin 17
Mike: Ohio State (-4.5)
Wisconsin is a nice little team, but they aren’t on Ohio State’s level yet. The Buckeyes were able to win at Camp Randall when Terrelle Pryor was a true freshman and they should be able to repeat the feat now that Pryor is playing at an elite level. Look for Wisconsin to keep the game close for 3 quarters before fading at the end when forced to play from behind.
Ohio State 34 Wisconsin 21
Dan: South Florida @ West Virginia (-10.5)
I enjoy picking the Thursday night game, and with New Mexico, my go to, on bye this week, I’ll take the Mountaineers for my bonus pick. USF has beaten the Mountaineers soundly the last couple years, but they are off to a poor start in 2010. A loss to Syracuse last week has the faithful (are there any Bulls faithful?) reeling. We all know how much we love the home team on Thursday night. Throw in a motivated Mountaineers team, and I think Geno Smith and Noel Devine pull off the two TD victory. (Not for the picks but a couple other games to consider – MSU -7, Fresno State -30.5)
West Virginia 27 South Florida 13
Jeremy: Pitt (+1) @ Syracuse
Millman directed me away from my first pick (Illinois), but I still think Sparty is due for a bit of a letdown coming off a big rivalry win on the road.
When was the last time Syracuse was favored in a Big East game? Can’t imagine it was anytime recently. The Panthers are reeling a bit, and I know Marrone is doing wonderful things with the Orange, but I’m not ready to turn my back on Pitt yet. Too much firepower with that offense.
Pitt 24 Syracuse 13
Jimmy: Kansas State (-2.5) @ Kansas
You would think I’m breaking my own TERDS (Thursday Evening RoaD Syndrome) rules. But there’s two exceptions with this matchup. 1) The Wildcats played last Thursday as well, so it hasn’t been a short week for them. 2) The Kansas Jayhawks are terrible! They lost 55-7 last week to an above average Baylor team. I don’t even need to remind you what happened in Week 1. That Georgia Tech upset will boggle my mind all season. Daniel Thomas might outgain Kansas’ entire team by himself. This is a no-brainer.
Kansas State 41 Kansas 12
Matt: Oregon State (Pick Em) @ Washington
It’s usually about this time of year that Oregon State under Mike Riley goes on a winning streak to make a run at the PAC 10 title. Despite the loss of James Rodgers (sorry Jimmy), I still think that the Beavers are good enough to win at Washington and down the road set up another intriguing version of the Civil War. If all of your bets go wrong this weekend, this one is a 10:15 EST kickoff and offers a chance for redemption.
Oregon State 34 Washington 28
While we’re here…
UNOFFICIAL HESIMAN CANDIDACY UPDATE/EULOGY
Well, it was fun while it lasted. My “self-promotion” for college’s top prize didn’t even last til November as James Rodgers season came to an abrupt end last week with a knee injury that requires surgery. Rodgers was currently ranked 6th in the nation with 176.76 all-purpose yards, averaging 18 yards/punt return and 29 yards/kick return. Pretty sure the Downtown Athletic Club won’t pay a seconds notice to this final season stat line, but we’ll give it it’s due praise here and hope that James Rodgers comes back with a vengeance next season.
16 REC 215 YDS 2 TDs
8 RUSH 38 YDS
6 Punt Returns 110 YDS 1 TD
12 Kick Returns 344 YDS
Mike: Mississippi @ Alabama (-20.5)
Pity Ole Miss, which must face the wrath of an angry Nick Saban at Bryant-Denny Stadium this week. Things will turn ugly quick for Houston Nutt and the visiting Rebels.
Alabama 42 Mississippi 10
Last Week’s Picks:
Dan: 6-1 (-)
Jeremy: 4-3 (+)
Jimmy: 5-2 (-)
Matt: 3-4 (-)
Mike: 5-2 (+)
Picks to Date:
Dan: 21-20-1 (2-3-1)
Jeremy: 29-12-1 (4-2)
Jimmy: 24-17-1 (3-3)
Matt: 21-19-2 (2-3)
Mike: 30-11-1 (5-0-1)