October 21, 2010

WeIs Roundtable Week 8 Picks: War Cam Eagle Edition

A tantalizing game of #1 hot potato we've got here.  The dominoes are falling the right way for the conspiracy theorists and counter-establishment college fans out there.  Boise State, TCU and Utah keep destroying teams, passing the eye test as legitimate contenders to the throne.  But by all means, voters should keep crowning weekly impostors in the interim.  

With 6-7 games under everyone's belt and the first BCS standing released, it's time to debut the time-honored WeIs Power Poll, which, if you'll recall, ranks the BEST teams in the country irregardless of ranking or record.  It's more of a gut check, whose playing the best ball now and who beats who on a neutral field.

WeIs Power Poll: Week 8
5. TCU
4. Oklahoma
3. Auburn
2. Alabama
1. Boise State

At least we're guaranteed that two of these schools will square off this season.  What an Iron Bowl we have in the works!  Not completely sold on the defense for Auburn or Oklahoma, but this weekend may well change my mind.  TCU, whose defense is quite good (2 shutouts; 5 games of 10 or fewer points allowed), has looked every bit of legit as Boise State, except for Boise holding last year's 17-10 Fiesta Bowl contest over the Horned Frogs.  Can't remember ever anticipating a Mountain West showdown as we'll get in 2 weeks when the Utes host TCU. 

Now that that's out of the way, on to the picks...

Wisconsin (+5.5) @ Iowa

Dan: Wisconsin (+5.5)

I think this is being viewed as a trap game for Wisconsin coming off the big win last week. I also think this is the toughest game to pick because, at home, I do think Iowa is better than Wisconsin. But this just seems like one of those games where each team is going to have some success running the ball, the clock will get grinded out, and it will be incredibly close late in the fourth quarter. And in those types of games, you take the points.

Iowa 23 Wisconsin 20

Jeremy: Wisconsin (+5.5)

I know, I know.  The Badgers are due for a HUGE hangover after the big win over the Buckeyes last weekend.  But I really think Wisconsin has the game to stay with the Hawkeyes and keep this close into the 4th quarter so their punishing running game can wear the strong Iowa D-line down to a nub.  I watched a bit of the Michigan-Iowa game last weekend and saw the Wolverines handle the vaunted front line of the Iowa defense pretty easily.  I know that’s a veteran unit Michigan is trotting out there, but I think Wisconsin’s big uglies can match their effort.  I’ll take Wisconsin to win outright here.

As an aside – OUTSTANDING t-shirts seen in Madison last weekend: “Teach Me How to Bucky.”  My lovely wife had to keep me from bartering for one of them off the back of a drunk Badger. 

Wisconsin 24  Iowa 20

Jimmy: Iowa (-5.5)

So happy for the city of Madison and the state of Wisconsin as a whole.  What a victory last week!  Now Bret Bielema has to bring his team down from Cloud Nine and travel to hostile Kinnick Stadium where the Hawkeyes are poised to return the favor to the Badgers.  If Wisconsin escapes with a win, they're in the driver's seat for the Rose Bowl.  This line is wide enough that a cover pick is tempting, but I think Iowa wins by a touchdown in an exciting contest of two very good teams. 

Iowa 30  Wisconsin 23

Matt: Iowa (-5.5)

Huge win for the Wisconsin football program last week.  I didn’t see that coming to be honest.  It seems like Bret Bielema finally has that win that he can hang his hat on, and can truly be embraced as the head coach of Wisconsin.  The two headed running back monster of Clay and Davis will prove to be a tough task for Iowa, just as it was for the Buckeyes.

However, in evaluating this game, one has to look no further than Lexington, KY to figure out the potential outcome.  Team pulls off the upset of #1.  Goes on the road.  Riding an emotional high.  Loses.  The difference of course is that Iowa is a better team than Kentucky, but the blueprint is the same.   Iowa has the seventh ranked rush defense in the country, and I think they will win a low scoring game at home.

Iowa 21 Wisconsin 13

Mike: Iowa (-5.5)

While I gained more respect for Wisconsin last week, the Badgers are not good enough to defeat a top-15 team on the road, particularly after an emotional win.  Iowa’s defensive line will slow down the Badger running game, which will put extra pressure on Scott Tolzien to win the game, rather than simply playing his usual role of caretaker for the UW offense.  In addition, Iowa’s balanced offensive attack should be successful against a solid, but unspectacular, Wisconsin defense.  The happy times in Madison will only last a week.

Iowa 27 Wisconsin 17

Oklahoma (-3.5) @ Missouri

Dan: Oklahoma (-3.5)

Part of me wants to this season is going to follow the path of a few years ago where the #1 team in the country lost something like 3 or 4 weeks in a row. But Stoops has dominated Missouri in his career, and, despite the lofty #11 ranking (seriously?), the Tigers are just not that great. They haven’t beaten anyone. OU gets it done and snaps the #1 losing streak.

OU 28 Missouri 21

Jeremy: Oklahoma (-3.5)  Lock of the Week

This spread is hardly believable.  Oklahoma might not be deserving of their lofty ranking, but they’re going to blow the (paper) Tigers out of the water, even on the road.  It will take a herculean effort from the talented Blaine Gabbert to keep this game from getting out of hand.

OU 38  Missouri 21

Jimmy: Oklahoma (-3.5)  Lock of the Week 

Two undefeated teams squaring off in the Big 12 in Week 8 Very intriguing, especially now that the Sooners hold the slippery BCS top dog status.  Missouri is a nice team that has embraced the recent conference trend of exciting offenses that fold like lawn chairs against defenses with teeth...and not much else.  The buzz is Gary Pinkel has groomed a defense to distinguish this Mizzou team from years past.  Color me skeptical as the Tigers haven't proved much against anyone of consequence.  I'm in the wait and see camp before I start picking Tigers upsets, even if the game is in Columbia.  The 3-headed juggernaut of Jones, Murray and Broyles will dispatch the the Tigers and rid the state of their illusions of defensive grandeur.

Oklahoma 35  Missouri 24

Matt: Oklahoma (-3.5)  Lock of the Week

First off, let me say this.  The fact that ESPN’s College Gameday is going to this game as opposed to the showdown on the Plains is ridiculous.  ESPN always tries to deny that they don’t give preferential treatment to their own network’s games, but this once and for all dispels that myth.  Sure, it’s a showdown of two undefeated, but Missouri is an unproven and untested sham of an undefeated team.   What is their best win?  Probably the three point win over San Diego State.  I know Blaine Gabbert is a good QB, but I’m just not buying what Missouri is selling.  This smells like a 9-3 or 8-4 team.

After this game, OU gets four teams in the bottom half of the Big 12 before they end the year in Bedlam at Oklahoma State.  Feels like an undefeated season coming for the Sooners, although I don’t in any way shape or form think that this is one of the two best teams in the country.  A lot of nervous folks in SEC country and Boise or Salt Lake City may be tuning into that Big 12 Championship game wearing Nebraska red.

Oklahoma 44 Missouri 24

Mike: Oklahoma (-3.5)

Missouri should be commended for winning convincingly on the road against Texas A&M, particularly with Oklahoma looming on the immediate horizon.  Furthermore, given Oklahoma’s struggles in the secondary, Blaine Gabbert should be salivating at the opportunity to post some big numbers in this game.  Nonetheless, Oklahoma will likely have its way with the Missouri defense, which has not proven yet that it can hold up against an elite offense.  Although the game is in Columbia, Missouri has consistently fallen short when presented with an opportunity to take the proverbial “next step” as a program.  As such, I’ll side with the proven Sooners in this one.

Oklahoma 41 Missouri 31

Nebraska (-5) @ Oklahoma State

Dan: Nebraska (-5)

I would like to take the points here, but I can’t talk myself into it. Nebraska has some turmoil after the QB switcharoo last week, but I think they’ll bounce back this week. The black shirts will make a couple big plays against Brandon Weeden that turn the tide of the game.

Nebraska 31 OSU 24

Jeremy: Nebraska (-5)

I went back and forth on this one a few times.  In the end, I’ve seen Okie St. blow too many opportunities to make big statements at home over the years to trust them in this one.  Nebraska was exposed a bit last week, but I’m not sure the Cowboy defense can slow down that lethal Husker running attack.  Same song, 10th verse for the Cowboys.

Nebraska 31  OSU 21

Jimmy: Nebraska (-5)

Along the same lines of the last pick, Oklahoma State might boast a better offense, but also a worse defense than Missouri.  I'm anxious to see if supremely talented CB Prince Amukamara can handle the surprise player of the year, Justin Blackmon, one-on-one.  If he can (and I'm banking that he does), it should be enough to throw Brandon Weeden and the Cowpokes offense out of sync.  On the other side of the ball, Taylor Martinez should emerge from Bo Pelini's doghouse and run amok through the OSU ranks.  

Nebraska 34  Oklahoma State 27

Matt: Oklahoma State (+5)

I don’t know what to make of Nebraska this year.  I had my doubts about them after a lackluster performance against a 1-AA school, and they came out and housed Kansas State on the road.  And then, after pointing at the Texas game all offseason after their close call in the Big 12 Championship game last year, they came out and laid an egg at home.  And really, the final score wasn’t indicative of how thoroughly they were outplayed. 

This game is just a hunch more than anything else, and I fully expect to be wrong.  But I think that Nebraska had their season seriously deflated by that Texas loss, and now having to go on the road against a quality offense like OK State, they’re ripe for another upset.  It’s tough to win with the 111th ranked pass offense in the country.  Oklahoma State pulls off the upset and remains undefeated.  The nation takes notice of Dez Bryant Jr. aka Justin Blackmon.

Oklahoma State 31 Nebraska 28

Mike: Nebraska (-5)

Like Missouri, and like prior year editions of Oklahoma State, the 2010 Cowboys have piled up impressive numbers against some rather middling competition in the early portion of the season.  As with Missouri, however, the ‘Pokes have a history of wilting when being asked to step up in class.  Although the Nebraska offense was exposed as being fairly one-dimensional against Texas last week, Taylor Martinez should be able to straighten himself out against an undermanned Oklahoma State defense.  Moreover, there is no doubt that the Nebraska secondary is among the nation’s finest, which will create plenty of problems for Oklahoma State.  Look for a bounce back performance for NU.

Nebraska 34 Oklahoma State 23

Michigan State (-6.5) @ Northwestern

Dan: Northwestern (+6.5)

There is something about this MSU team that I really like. They are resilient. They have managed to avoid their typical swoon so far. But for too many years, this team has just faded too badly down the stretch. A late October in conference game coming off a string of big wins just sounds like a recipe for disaster.  Maybe they pull this off, but I’ll take the points.

MSU 23 Northwestern 20

Jeremy: Northwestern (+6.5)

I think the Wildcats have just the type of offense that could give Sparty some fits.  And its about time that MSU comes back to Earth with the rest of the mere mortals.  I’m not ready to pick the Fighting Fitzgeralds in the outright upset, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see MSU spit the bit here.

MSU 34  Northwestern 31

Jimmy: Northwestern (+6.5) 

For whatever reason, Northwestern loves the role of underdog (undercat just doesn't sound right, does it?).  The Wildcats have an unfortunate record in recent years when ranked and favored (something along the lines of 1-10), which explains the head-scratching loss to Purdue two weeks ago.  Back in the cozy confines of Ryan Field, Pat Fitzgerald sends the nation's #4 passing efficiency QB against a Spartans team that has been playing with house money for a few weeks now.  This has all the recipes for an upset.  An unbeaten has to go down this week (right?), so my Monopoly money is on Michigan State.

Northwestern 36  MSU 31     

Matt: Northwestern (+6.5)

Hey, it’s Week 8 and Michigan State is finally leaving the state of Michigan.  That is a farce in and of itself, but an even bigger farce is the debate over whether Michigan State will be left out of the national championship discussion if they win out.  Because it is NOT going to happen!  I’m sorry, but a team that went 6-7 last year just isn’t making the leap to undefeated, no matter how weak the schedule (and it’s tissue paper soft and weak).  In fact, let’s call for the upset right here.  I don’t think they’ll even make it to Iowa next week with that perfect record.  The Fighting Persa’s win a shocker.

Northwestern 36 Michigan State 35

Mike: Northwestern (+6.5)  Lock of the Week

The Spartans have been a nice little story so far, but they haven’t faced a particularly imposing slate of opponents.  Considering Sparty’s history, a possible trap game angle with Iowa up next and an inspired (relatively speaking) homecoming crowd in Evanston, an outright upset is distinctly possible.

Northwestern 25 Michigan State 24

LSU (+6) @ Auburn

Dan: Auburn (-6)

I hate taking too many favorites here, but Auburn at home is going to be too much this year. LSU has lived a charmed life and it will finally catch up to them this week. Auburn’s defense is too strong and Cam Newton will make one play too many.

Auburn 23 LSU 13

Jeremy: LSU (+6)

REALLY looking forward to this one.  Haven’t seen enough of Cam Newton and the vaunted War Eagle attack this year.  LSU is living on borrowed time, but their defense will keep this game close into the 4th quarter before Newton solidifies himself as the Heisman frontrunner going into the homestretch. 

By the way, if Auburn and Oregon were to meet in the Championship Game, would each team agree to leave their punters at home?  That matchup could have an O/U of about 110.

Auburn 24  LSU 21

Jimmy: Auburn (-6)

This space was supposed to be reserved for Madonia to offer his thoughts on Auburn's exciting season thus far.  But a doctor's schedule doesn't always jive with hard deadlines in the blogosphere.  He may still deliver a heartfelt missive about his unwilting belief in all things Gus Malzahn and how his first and second borns will be named after Cameron Newton.  So I'm on my own for this pick.  3 things: 1) I picked against Auburn last week (stupidly) and swore not to do so again as long as they keep throwing basketball scores on the board.  2) Cam Newton can physically withstand the vaunted LSU defense.  He's a beast.  With Pat Peterson in the defensive backfield, chances are Newton won't be beating Bayou Tigers through the air.  LSU will be expecting a healthy dose of Cam, but I think he's up to the challenge.  3) Auburn's defense isn't great, but LSU's offense is worse.  Points will come at a premium for both sides.  This will be a riveting matchup.  Can't wait to get underway with Verne and Gary.  War Eagle!

Auburn 26  LSU 13    
Matt: LSU (+6)

The game of the year so far!  And not only because of the ranking attached to each team, or the fact that it involves two undefeated teams from the second best conference in the country (my ranking:  AFC, SEC, NFC), but also because of the sheer dominance of both teams on one particular side of the ball:  Auburn’s offense going up against LSU’s defense.

Before I get into any prediction let me just say this about Les Miles and the LSU program.  Les may not be a hip hop fan, but surely he must be familiar with DJ Khaled’s All I Do Is Win

“All I do is win win win no matter what… and every time I step up in the building…everybody’s hands go up….and they stay there.”

Seriously, all Les Miles does is win.  And yet you get the feeling that if he slips up and loses a game or two this year the locals will gladly help him pack his bags.  When Les is in the building, you definitely will throw up your hands in frustration, whether it’s his clock management, his play calling, his QB roulette or his unintentionally hilarious press conferences.  But at the end of the day, every single Saturday this year, if you’re an LSU fan your hand are in the air because the Tigers won.  I’ve never seen a more criticized undefeated head coach in the country with a record at LSU of 58-15.  That’s an 80% winning percentage.  Having said all that, if I was an LSU fan he would probably drive me crazy too, but it all comes down to winning ballgames, and whether you’re outdone by an equally incompetent coach on the last play or whatever the circumstance may be, just win baby!

As for the game, I don’t anticipate Cam Newton being able to carve up the LSU defense quite as easily as he did against Arkansas.  On the flip side, Jordan Jefferson or Jarrett Lee will not be chucking the ball around like Tyler Wilson did (as an aside, what does it say about Ryan Mallett’s pro prospects when an unknown backup can come in and engineer the offense better than he was?  Interesting debate for another day).  If there is one thing that the LSU offense has been able to rely on, it’s the running of Stevan Ridley, but unfortunately for them this is also the strength of the Auburn defense, which ranks 15th in the country against the run. 

I think Auburn wins this one, and it comes down to my confidence in Cam Newton to be able to make more plays through the air than either Jefferson or Lee.  Les may know how to win, but even he has to know that the unofficial theme song of Auburn this year and their entrance song onto the field is All I Do is Win.  War Eagle.

Auburn 24 LSU 20

Mike: LSU (+6)

LSU’s struggles on offense have been well documented, but Auburn’s defense might be the perfect elixir for the Tigers’ sputtering passing game.  At a minimum, LSU should be able to run the ball reasonably well, which will enable the Tigers to keep this game close.  Ultimately, I think Cam Newton will make just enough important plays to earn the win for Auburn, but LSU will earn the cover.

Auburn 20 LSU 17

Bonus Picks

Dan: San Diego State (-23.5) @ New Mexico

If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. Or, in this case, if it’s so broke it can’t be fixed, bet against it.

San Diego State 48 New Mexico 13

Jeremy: Georgia (-4) at Kentucky

The Bulldogs might be one of the hottest teams in the country, and Kentucky is due for a letdown after the big win over the Gamecocks last week.  AJ Green goes nuts and the new UGA just may be partying at the SEC title game as the East representative. 

Georgia 34  Kentucky 20

Jimmy: Indiana (+13.5) @ Illinois

The Hoosiers were a solid cover earlier on the road vs. Michigan.  For some reason, this spread is even wider.  Ron Zook has done a terrific job of lowering expectations to the basement level for the Illini.  They should win this game, but I wouldn't be at all shocked if they lost.  Ben Chappell has been slinging the ball with great success and I think he enjoys another solid afternoon.  

Illinois 34  Indiana 31

Matt: Duke @ Virginia Tech (-26.5)

Virginia Tech, in perhaps the most easily predictable development of the season, has quietly gone on a five game winning streak since losing to James Madison.  Frank Beamer’s team is in good position to make it to yet another exhilarating ACC Championship game.  The interesting thing about that winning streak, which includes a win at NC State, is that they have covered in every game.  Last week, they jumped all over Wake Forest, with 49 points in the first half.  Wake beat Duke earlier in the year.  This one should get ugly early.

Virginia Tech 51 Duke 17

Mike: Pittsburgh (-12.5) over Rutgers

Rutgers’ lightly recruited true freshman quarterback, Chas Dodd, has played quite well in the last two weeks.  Still, despite Dodd’s performance, the Scarlet Knights, who have already lost at home to Tulane, were lucky to squeak out an overtime victory against Navy.  In his first road start against an opponent with a more formidable pass rush, Dodd will be significantly overmatched.

Pittsburgh 31 Rutgers 10

Last Week:
Dan: 6-1 (+)
Jeremy: 5-2 (+)
Jimmy: 5-2 (+)
Matt: 5-2 (+)
Mike: 3-4 (+)

Dan:  27-21-1 (3-3-1)
Jeremy: 34-14-1 (5-2)
Jimmy: 29-19-1 (4-3)
Matt: 26-21-2 (3-3)
Mike: 33-15-1 (6-0-1)

1 comment:

Dan said...

Forgot my lock of the week. I'll take OU.