First off, I'd be remiss to not pay due respect to three schools who demanded loudly that they want their place settings for the national title buffet. LSU pulled off the definitive victory of the Les Miles era, riding the Death Valley crowd to a stirring victory. There was no doubt the Tigers were the better team Saturday. Whether LSU propels back into the title picture depends on outside factors - a segue to last week's other bold statements.
Boise State dismantled Hawaii, rendering the Rainbow Warriors prolific offense practically comatose as they held them to 196 total yards, the lowest total for Hawaii in more than a decade. What's more, Kellen Moore hit 19 completions in a row and the Broncos rolled up Tecmo Bowl-like numbers, setting a school record 737 total yards. Even more impressive (now that's saying something) was TCU eviscerating fellow unbeaten Utah in the stadium of the former longest home win streak. Is it shocking either Boise St or TCU won? Heck no, but the manner of domination is positively scary. I'm not at all bashful saying these two "mid-major" programs boast the two best complete teams in the country.
Unfortunately, few people had the privilege to watch either contest through normal means of viewing. TCU-Utah was televised on CSTV, while Boise St-Hawaii was on ESPN3. Networks wouldn't conspire to keep non-BCS schools out of the voters' conscious, would they? Imagine if a Butler-Gonzaga regular season b-ball matchup were ignored by every mainstream channel. Big issue with a complicated answer, but worth raising. Alas, I digress.
Back to the week at hand. We'll leave the fate of Auburn in the hands of capable investigators. It's a shame this smear campaign comes to light at this juncture of the season, but maybe that's the point. Alright, I've alluded to two too many controversies. Let's get to some picks...
Georgia (+9) at Auburn
Dan: Georgia (+9)
Sorry, no analysis this week. Just picks.
Jeremy: Georgia (+9)
Lots of negative waves floating around the Auburn program this week. I don’t think they’ll have a significant impact on this game, but the distractions have to be affecting Chizik and the coaching staff at least a little bit, right? Anyway, I watched a good chunk of the Cocktail Party and was pretty impressed with the Georgia offense. Aaron Murray looks like he’s going to be the next great SEC QB, and of course AJ Green is a monster. Every time he was involved in a big play, I feared for Verne’s heart. This one has all the makings of a big-time shootout, with Cam Newton doing just enough to get the W for the Tigers.
Auburn 44 Georgia 38
Jimmy: Georgia (+9)
Cam Newton's presence in this game makes a wee bit of difference. If he is sidelines, the Tigers will have to reinvent themselves in hurry to avoid their national championship train getting derailed. If Newton plays, it's hard to imagine the distraction won't affect his playing.
Georgia has found a good offensive rhythm with AJ Green & Co. They'll be able to score plenty of points, that's for sure. I like the Bulldogs to cover, with or without Newton.
Auburn 37 Georgia 34
Matt: Georgia (+9)
All I will say about Cam Newton is, where there is smoke, there is sometimes fire and sometimes not. An awful lot of smoke surrounding Cam Newton right now. But he’s eligible, and until there is something concrete reported instead of these shady “sources” that sound like bitter Florida and Mississippi State folks, he’s the QB of the #2 team in the country and still remains the hands-down Heisman winner.
Auburn 41 Georgia 35
Mike: Georgia (+9)
If not for all of the distractions swirling around Cam Newton, I would take Auburn to win this game and cover the 9 points. The pressure of the championship race, however, coupled with the Newton controversy, could spell disaster for the Tigers. Aaron Murray and A.J. Green should have a field day with the weak Auburn defense en route to a big upset victory.
Georgia 40 Auburn 38
South Carolina (+6.5) at Florida
Dan: South Carolina (+6.5) Lock of the Week
Jeremy: Florida (-6.5)
The Gators seem to be hitting their stride while the Gamecocks are coming off a shellacking at the hands of Ryan Mallett and Co. I’m still not all that impressed with this iteration of the Urban Meyer offense, but his little waterbugs do enough to cover this surprisingly large spread.
Florida 30 South Carolina 21
Jimmy: South Carolina (+6.5)
Quite the Jekyll and Hyde team Spurrier has here. There's no excuse for getting blown out at home when you're competing for a bid in the SEC Title game. Was the team looking ahead to this trip? Who knows. But it would be a nice way to send the Ole Ball Coach out (if this is the end of his road) - a huge win in The Swamp to clinch the SEC East.
Do I really think such a storybook ending will unfold? Nah. But 6.5 points is juicy enough to bite at. Still not convinced Florida is anything to shake a stick at this season.
Florida 26 South Carolina 24
Matt: Florida (-6.5)
Florida has finally kicked into high gear, although the latest performance came against a woeful Vandy team. USC just laid an egg at home against Arkansas, yet still can win the division with a win at the Swamp. Not gonna happen.
Florida 37 USC 23
Mike: South Carolina (+6.5)
This is a scary pick because South Carolina looked so bad against Arkansas last week, whereas Florida appears to be hitting its stride offensively. Both outcomes, in fact, hurt my pocketbook in Vegas (as did leaving several winning bet tickets at dinner later that night). Having said that, Florida’s recent resurgence on offense must be discounted based upon the caliber of the opposing defenses and I am not ready to trash South Carolina for one bad performance. In addition, Steve Spurrier has often played his alma mater tough and this game remains significant for the Gamecocks.
Florida 27 South Carolina 24
Oregon (-20) at California
Dan: California (+20)
Jeremy: Oregon (-20)
Vegas is just daring people to pick the ‘dogs against Oregon, but I’m not going to fall for it. Do the rumors about Newton put LaMichael James in the Heisman driver’s seat? I think he can smell that trophy and puts up ridiculous numbers against a soft Cal defense.
Oregon 55 Cal 27
Jimmy: Oregon (-20)
The Ducks fly south to Berkeley, giving quite a generous spread for this Cal team to cover. The Bears like their natural habitat, outscoring opponents 189-34 in 4 home wins (1-4, 81-158 on the road for inquiring minds). That said, Oregon still has given no reason to suggest they won't continue treating the Pac 10 like a Pee Wee League. Bad news did come out of Eugene this week with word that backup Nate Costa is done for the year. But Chip Kelly's offense is on auto-pilot. IF Darron Thomas goes down, I'm confident the next guy could still man the controls admirably.
Oregon 55 Cal 24
Matt: Oregon (-20)
Cal has been a completely different team at home. Last week on the road in Pullman, they squeaked out a win against Washington State, but yet at home they can play with anyone. Except Oregon.
Oregon 51 Cal 24
Mike: California (+20)
It is tough to bet against Oregon given their propensity to run roughshod over their opponents in the second half of games. Furthermore, California has struggled offensively since Kevin Riley’s injury, as evidenced by their narrow escape last week in Pullman. Cal, however, has been a very strong home team this season and the history books are filled with examples of “second tier” programs that cannot hold up to the pressure of a title run as the calendar turns to late November. As such, I am skeptical of Oregon right now.
Oregon 38 California 21
Penn State (+17.5) at Ohio State
Dan: Ohio State (-17.5)
Jeremy: Penn St. (+17.5)
This was a tough one. I don’t think Penn St. is all that good, but this spread is incredibly high for a November Big Ten game. The Nits shredded the Michigan defense, but who hasn’t? A walk-on QB and the Horseshoe sounds like a terrible combination, but I have a feeling PSU will find a way to keep this closer than the oddsmakers expect.
OSU 31 PSU 17
Jimmy: Penn State (+17.5)
Good for JoePa winning his 400th. Can't envision that mark being passed in our lifetime what with the steady glare of the media making sustained success anywhere damn near impossible. (As soon as Chris Peterson has a 6-6 season at Boise St, the national media will trip over themselves to cast their doomsday predictions. Technology's double-edged sword). Don't think this one will be too close, but a blowout in the Tressel Ball dictionary is anything over 7 points.
Ohio State 36 Penn State 20
Matt: Ohio State (-17.5) Lock of the Week
Penn State has found some offense now that Bolden has been moved out of the starting lineup. And the buildup and anticipation of Joe Pa’s 400th is now in the rear view mirror. But playing on the road in the Shoe is a recipe for disaster for just about every team in the Big Ten this year, and I think this one will get ugly early.
Ohio State 34 Penn state 13
Mike: Ohio State (-17.5) Lock of the Week
After the JoePa love fest in Happy Valley (which, as an aside, made me want to vomit), there is a definite possibility for a hangover for the Nittany Lions. More importantly, Ohio State is rested and ready to administer a serious beatdown to Penn State, which still lacks the offense to hang with a superior team on the road in a shootout. This game could turn ugly in a hurry for Matt McGloin and the Nits.
Ohio State 45 Penn State 10
Virginia Tech (-4) at North Carolina
Dan: North Carolina (+4)
Jeremy: Virginia Tech (-4) Lock of the Week
Well, well. Look who’s in the catbird seat in the ACC. Shouldn’t really be much of a surprise – as Matt has pointed out before, Beamer’s Boys seem to pull this act every season. By the end of the year, they’re clearly the class of the conference, and this seems to be the case again in 2010.
Va Tech 27 UNC 14
Jimmy: Virginia Tech (-4) Lock of the Week
It's amazing that Butch Davis has milked 6 wins out of a team frought with controversy and liberal use of backups. A UNC Letdown on the heels of their exciting FSU upset coupled with a surging Hokie squad is a recipe for a blowout.
Va. Tech 44 North Carolina 17
Matt: Virginia Tech (-4)
People keep trying to discount Boise State’s win over VT by pointing out they lost to James Madison the next week. But all they have done since then is run the table, and will likely represent the ACC in the BCS. UNC has shown amazing resolve under disastrous circumstances this year, and Yates has emerged as one of the better QB’s in the country. But VT is just a more talented team on the field this year, and even on the road they’ll pull this one out behind Tyrod Taylor’s arm.
VT 24 UNC 17
Mike: Virginia Tech (-4)
Carolina has done a nice job holding things together despite their player losses, but they are not on the same level of Virginia Tech. As usual, the Hokies are rounding into form at the right time, so they should be well positioned to finish off another run to the ACC Championship. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was relatively comfortable for the Hokies, even in Chapel Hill.
Virginia Tech 33 North Carolina 21
Dan: Cincinnati at West Virginia (-6)
West Virginia 33 Cincy 20
Jeremy: USC (+4) at Arizona
Sorry, I’m not buying the re-birth of the Desert Swarm defense. Though I am hoping that Matt Barkley gets roughed up a bit, I don’t think the aggressive Wildcat defense will be able to contain the explosive Trojan passing game.
USC 34 Arizona 24
Jimmy: Miami (-3) at Georgia Tech
A matchup of backup QBs - the major difference being Josh Nesbitt leaves clown-sized shoes to fill, whereas Miami might be better off replacing the erratic Jacory Harris. Defense plays the bigger role as the Hurricanes hang on for a big road victory.
Miami 23 Georgia Tech 17
Matt: Tennessee (-1.5) vs. Ole Miss
I watched a lot of UT’s win over Memphis last week, and while the competition was admittedly the dregs of Division 1, there is no denying that the offense has responded to freshman QB Tyler Bray. They put 50 points on the board, and this week against a team that only has one win in SEC play, I think the offense continues to score. Tauren Poole crosses the 100 yard mark as well, and UT notches their first SEC win of the season.
UT 31 Ole Miss 28
Mike: Miami at Georgia Tech (+3)
For better or for worse (mostly the latter), I have been in the tank for Georgia Tech this year, so I might as well hang on the bandwagon for another week. Tech will be playing without Joshua Nesbitt, but he has struggled badly this year anyway, so the loss shouldn’t be too significant. On the other hand, I believe that the drop off between Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris will be somewhat significant since this game is on the road. I almost never bet on true freshman QBs making their first road start and I’m not about to start now.
Georgia Tech 23 Miami 16
Dan: 2-4 (-)
Jeremy: 3-3 (+)
Jimmy: 3-3 (+)
Matt: 2-4 (-)
Mike: 3-3 (+)
Dan: 36-32-1 (3-6-1)
Jeremy: 43-25-1 (7-3)
Jimmy: 39-28-2 (6-4)
Matt: 33-34-2 (4-5)
Mike: 42-26-1 (7-2-1)