September 28, 2011

WeIs Roundtable Week 5 Picks: Break Out the Welcome Mats Edition

Lots of welcomes will be exchanged this weekend, though they will come in the form of physical, non-verbal salutations as opposed to genial "Willkommen" declarations.  It's a veritable BCS mixer in Week 5.  

Nebraska, meet the Big 10.  You guys should get along swimmingly.  Big 10, meet Husker Nation, the friendliest invading band of fans since Leif Ericson's gang became NFL fans. 

Texas A&M, meet the object of your wandering eye, the Southeastern Conference.  Arkansas, try and show the Aggies a good time.  And by good time, Mike Slive means keep them out past curfew, get them drunk on moonshine, make out with them if the mood strikes, but above all, show them who's boss on the field.  

Will Muschamp, meet the real SEC. Sure you notched your first two conference wins vs. a transitioning Tennessee and a "Midnight Madness is just around the corner" Kentucky.  Now you get back to back weeks of Alabama and LSU.  Be sure to wear sunscreen under your microscope.  

Skip Holtz, meet the conference you should dominate for the next decade, or however long the Big East keeps the tattered remains of a football conference alive. 

Apologies to the ACC and Pac-12 for not making the picks cut this week.  The Pac-12 looks uber top heavy with Oregon and Stanford, with two competitive teams a couple rungs down in USC and Arizona State.  The rest are a muddled group of offensive minded, yet sieve-like defenses that would all give up 60 to Boise State.  Maybe Utah joins USC and ASU in the scrappy tier.  As for the ACC, we were sick and tired of picking Clemson wrong, going a combined 2-8 the last two weeks on the Dabo Sweeney Fall Tour of Surprises.  Does Tajh Boyd stay on his torrid pace in hostile Lane Stadium?  Or is Saturday the Tigers' day of reckoning in the form of Beamer Ball?  I digress.  Let's get to the featured games from our crack staff of prognosticators:

South Florida (-2) @ Pittsburgh
Dan: USF (-2)  Lock of the Week
Thursday night home dog? That is almost a formulaic pick, but throw it out. Having watched both these teams this year, it is clear to me that USF is significantly better than Pitt. Pitt came out with a good defensive plan that befuddled the Irish, but a tough loss on Saturday, a short week, and a much more athletic QB will be their downfall. I also don’t think Pitt can avoid turning the ball over 2 weeks in a row. USF continues their road to the West Virginia match-up unbeaten. 
USF 27 Pitt 17
Jeremy: USF (-2)
After watching both of these teams plays against the Irish, I think I've decided that USF is the far superior team.  Pitt really looked miserable last week, even if they did manage to slow down the Irish offense and Michael Floyd.  I'm taking the Bulls,  although they haven't played anyone of note since winning in South Bend.  I fully expect to see the ESPN Bottom Line read Pitt 24 USF 10 late in the 3rd quarter on Thursday.
USF 23  Pitt 13
Jimmy: Pitt (+2)
South Florida's bubble is due to pop.  They've averaged 53 points vs. their last 3 opponents, none posing any sort of challenge.  Now they travel north on a short week to Heinz Field.  Hopefully Pitt fans show up in better numbers for a night game as opposed to the early start ND game.  Todd Graham is a capable coach who will have more success than his Wanstachian predecessor.  Don't ask me why I like this Pitt team to win, because I don't.  Maybe I'm giving the Thursday night home team too much credit.  Maybe it's a misguided gut feeling.  But here's hoping Ray Graham rumbles for a couple bills and takes the wind out of the Bulls' sails.

Pitt 27  USF 26
Mike: USF (-2)  
Having seen both of these teams in action against ND, it’s hard not to pick USF.  The Bulls have followed up their win at South Bend by steamrolling a series of undermanned foes and they seem poised to seize control of the Big East this year.  Conversely, Pitt is still licking its wounds after two difficult defeats, so motivation could be an issue on a short week.  USF is a solid play here.
South Florida 33 Pittsburgh 28
Phil: USF (-2)  Lock of the Week
If Vegas had asked me to make this line, I would have envisioned something more along the lines of USF minus 7. Pitt's crowd was atrocious; then again, the Irish were fortunate to win. Is Pitt better than we thought. No, they aren't USF should win comfortably. 
USF 24 Pitt 16
Texas A&M (-3) vs. Arkansas (Arlington, TX)
Dan: Arkansas (+3)
Time for the Razorbacks to bounce back after the embarrassing performance last week. After the “Goodbye, see you later” game from Oklahoma State, the Aggies are in for an embarrassing Welcome to the SEC”  match-up this week. A&M is about to recede back into the lower half of a conference and slowly drift into irrelevancy. Sorry 12th man. 
Arkansas 24 A&M 20
Jeremy: Texas A&M (-3)
A bit ashamed to be taking all the favorites, but the Hogs did not impress last weekend.  Glad to see a solid non-conf game this "late" in the year.  Good SEC West preview for the future.  
Texas A&M 31  Arkansas 24
Jimmy: Arkansas (+3)
Bobby Petrino gets to extend the first official "Welcome to the SEC" message to the Aggies.  The Razorbacks were outclassed in every way last week vs. Alabama as Tyler Wilson feared for his life with every time drop back.  This week will be a different story, evidenced by Brandon Weeden carving up A&M's secondary like a Christmas ham.  Arkansas gets their mojo back and delivers a rousing victory in a thriller.  

Arkansas 38  Texas A&M 34
Mike: Arkansas (+3)
These two teams appear to be evenly matched, though Arkansas seems to have a slight edge in personnel, particularly in the trenches.  The Hogs are also getting points in this neutral site matchup (and, as an aside, I assume that Arkansas fans will travel well to Arlington for this game), so I will side with Arkansas.  There is always an additional level of comfort when selecting an SEC team in a non-conference game.  Either way, this should be an entertaining early afternoon affair.
Arkansas 34 Texas A&M 30
Phil: Arkansas (+3)
Arkansas looked very pedestrian against Bama last week, I imagine most teams will this year. Tex A&M inexplicably lost a huge lead against a rival at home (where have I heard that before? #28-27)  I am truly not sure how good either team is, but I forsee lots of scoring. I'll take the current SEC West team against the future team.
Arky 34 Tex A&M 30

Nebraska (+10) @ Wisconsin
Dan: Wisconsin (-10)
Ten point dogs! Welcome to the Big 10 Nebraska. I think Wisconsin is legit this year and is going to show Nebraska just what an explosive offense truly looks like. Unfortunately for the Huskers, the black shirts are not going to be up to the task of slowing down the Badgers. Nebraska will get its points, but it won’t be enough for the cover, let alone the win. 
Wisconsin 38 Nebraska 24
Jeremy: Wisconsin (-10)
Shocking to see Nebraska a 10-point dog, even on the road.  Even though this will be Wisconsin's first test (check out that non-conf schedule for the Badgers - what a joke), I think they're legit, and Russell Wilson has to be considered the Heisman front-runner at this point, right?  Camp Randall is going to be nuts for this one.  Looking forward to it.
Wisconsin 34  Nebraska 17
Jimmy: Wisconsin (-10)
I'm a Black Shirt apologist and have faith Nebraska will be contending for Big 10 titles for the next couple decades.  But the Badgers are playing at an extremely high-level of efficiency, even if their level of competition has been blah.  Russell Wilson is capable of throwing the team on his back and leading drives IF they stray from their bread and butter battering ram attack of James White and Montee Ball.  Despite this being Wisconsin's first real defensive test, I like their unit to be more effective than what Nebraska has shown thus far.  Giving up 38 points to Washington and 29 points to Fresno State were not the dominant efforts expected from Jared Crick & Co.  

Nebraska's traveling Sea of Red will blend in with the Grateful Red faithful into a visual bloodbath in Camp Randall.  It's going to be an electric atmosphere much like last year's game vs. #1 at the time Ohio State.  Bring on the 5th quarter.

Wisconsin 44  Nebraska 31
Mike: Nebraska (+10)  Lock of the Week
Wisconsin is receiving copious amounts of love from the national media and the gambling public, but are the 2011 Badgers really significantly better than their predecessors?  From a recruiting standpoint, it’s not like Wisconsin has been setting the world on fire, so I suspect that Wisconsin still lacks the athleticism to match up with elite teams.   Furthermore, while Russell Wilson is a nice addition, he wasn’t exactly considered to be an upper echelon quarterback prior to his arrival in Madison.  
On the flipside, I think Nebraska is a bit underrated.  Although the Blackshirt defense has struggled to a degree, it is reasonable to expect immediate improvement given Bo Pelini’s track record and the return of Jared Crick this week.  On offense, Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead should be able to exploit the Wisconsin front seven on the ground.  I’ll call for the outright upset here.
Nebraska 38 Wisconsin 31
Phil: Nebraska (+10)
Color me a believer in the Badgers and Heisman candidate Russell Wilson. You may remember this summer when Russell  chose the Badgers over Auburn, citing their experience on the O-Line and perceivable easier road to the BCS. Man do I wish we had him, the threat of him running would give a little extra space for Dyer and McCalebb, and the Tigers might look better this year...Wait, what game our we talking about? Right, the Badgers....Great defense, great offense, at home. I look for them to win, but maybe not by 10 points. Welcome to the Big 10 Pelini. 
Wisconsin 31 Nebraska 23
Alabama (-5) at Florida
Dan: Alabama (-5)
Ouch, road favorites are in vogue this week. However, I bet against Alabama last week and they reminded me why they are the class of the SEC until proven otherwise (excepting LSU for the moment). Florida, meanwhile, has looked pretty impressive scoring in bunches against a relatively weak slate of opponents. I expect that trend to reverse this week in a relatively low scoring game. Despite the low score, Alabama has enough talent on defense to win by a touchdown.
Alabama 17 Florida 10 
Jeremy: Alabama (-5)  Lock of the Week
I can't believe I picked against the Tide last week.  Will never happen again, Lord Saban.  I swear it.  Fully expect to see the Tide defense roll all over Charlie Weis' offense.
Bama 27  Florida 10
Jimmy: Alabama (-5)  Lock of the Week
Watching Bama decimate Arkansas last week was impressive.  Sure, the Swamp is a tough place to play, but the Tide is on a mission to earn back what they lost in 2010.  Charlie Weis' surprising rushing attack will be bottled up by playmakers all over Bama's side of the field.  AJ McCarron is growing into the role of game manager, picking his spots and playing error-free ball while relying on the two-headed monster of Treddie Richardcy.  This line could be 10 points and I'd still pick Saban.

Alabama 27  Florida 16
Mike: Alabama (-5)
This seems like a lot of points to lay for a road night game against an athletic Florida team that has been impressive in the early season, but I like the matchup for Alabama.  The Gators, under OC Charlie Weis, have relied almost exclusively on their running game to move the ball (note:  not a misprint), thereby taking all of the pressure off Jeff Brantley, who struggled badly in 2010.  Alabama should be able to force Brantley to take to the air by slowing Florida’s stable of mighty mite running backs, which is a certain recipe for disaster for the Gators.   Look for Will Muschamp to receive his indoctrination into big time SEC football from the master, Nick Saban.
Alabama 27 Florida 20
Phil: Florida (+5)
What a matchup! I predicted earlier in the year that the Gators would win the east, and they have looked good thus far. Our old pal Chuck has plenty of speed and weapons at the skill positions, and thier D Line has 4 future NFL stars. The game is at the swamp and I feel that the strong Gator D line will pressure McCarron. My hatred for Bama is well documented, but I honestly think that Weis will have a good offensive game plan, and the Gator D can slow down Bama's run game. War Eagle....err Go Gators.
Florida 24 Bama 21
Bonus Picks: 
Dan: New Mexico State (-2) @ New Mexico
The battle for the Land of Enchantment (seriously, I had no idea until I looked it up on Wikipedia) State always promises to be an epic battle of mediocrity. But two points is not nearly high enough against an opponent that just lost to a 1-AA opponent and had its head coach fired for 1) Sucking 2) having an alleged 19 year old wanna-be walk-on get a DWI in his (the coach’s) car. The battle for the worst team in D1 is won (through losing) by the Lobos easily. 
New Mexico State 27 New Mexico 10 
Jeremy: Michigan St. @ OHIO ST (-3)
Would love to see the Spartans knock off the Buckeyes to boost ND's profile, but there are just too many problems on that MSU offensive line.  The OSU offensive attack is still sputtering a bit, but that front seven is still pretty solid, and I think Kirk Cousins is going to be spending quite a bit of time on his butt.  
OSU 24  MSU 13
Jimmy: Georgia Tech (-10) @ NC State
NC State looked downright incompetent against Cincinnati last Thursday night.  When did the wheels fall off on Tom O'Brien's program?  Maybe when he gave Russell Wilson an ill-fated ultimatum.  In any event, the Wolfpack have gone 0-4 against the spread with another bad loss to Wake Forest.  Paul Johnson's triple option attack is clicking on all cylinders right now and there's no reason to think the Ramblin Wreck doesn't rack up another 500+ yards of offense.  

Ga. Tech  47  NC State 23
Mike: Texas @ Iowa State (+10)
Texas seems to be developing an offensive identity with Case McCoy and David Ash, but the Longhorns were too bad last year for me to conclude that all is well in Austin.  Meanwhile, the undefeated Cyclones have shown enough signs of life to suggest that they will be a live home underdog, as they were last year in games against Texas Tech and Nebraska.  ISU won at Texas last year and they will put a scare in the Longhorns before eventually falling just short.
Texas 26 Iowa State 24
Phil: Auburn (+11.5) @ South Carolina
Homer Alert! 
What are the Tigers doing? How is it possible that the OL and the DL are this atrocious? Can anyone explain why Dyer is not getting the ball? Why can't we tackle? Who is the bespectacled imposter on the sidelines, and where the hell is Gus Malzahn? 
Lots of questions surround this year's Auburn team. While I did not expect a repeat of last year, I also did not expect us to look worse than Utah St and FAU. South Carolina has a badass RB, a monster at WR, and a beast of a D-Line. This could get ugly, and quick. Spurrier loves beating the tar out of Auburn, and the revenge factor is present after we dismantled them in the SEC title game. 
But hold the phone! I have faith in our team and our coaches that we will show up and put forth a good effort and make tackles and Gus will kill his evil twin brother and get back to his genius playcalling. War Eagle for life, win or lose, lets hope we get a win this week, because October is brutal for the boys.
Auburn 33 South Carolina 28

Last Week
Dan: 5-1 (+ Lock of Week)
Jeremy: 5-1 (-)
Jimmy: 4-2 (+)
Mike: 3-3 (-)
Phil: 3-3 (+)

Season to Date
Dan: 14-9-1 (4-0)
Jeremy: 14-9-1 (1-3)
Jimmy: 12-10-2 (3-1)
Matt: 2-4 (0-1)
Mike: 11-12-1 (1-2-1)
Phil: 8-14-1 (2-1-1)

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