Picks to Date: 13-9
Best Bet: 0-2
Upset Special: 2-0
As a UConn fan, I have defended the Big East at every opportunity. I felt the league got the short end of the stick from commentators who ignored facts for years. The conference, by almost every conceivably measure, was better than the ACC from 2005 to 2011. If only the league had stayed together, it could have remained neck and neck with the ACC and a rapidly deteriorating Big 12 as the 4th best league, behind the SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12.
The American Athletic Conference? It is the polar opposite of the Big East. Remember in 2005, the first season of the "new" Big East and everyone predicted doom and failure? Instead, West Virginia went down to Atlanta and smoked Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. By 2006, 3 Big East teams were in the top 10 and games between WVU, Louisville and Rutgers delivered Thursday night ratings that have since been unmatched on ESPN and opened the floodgates for other leagues -- i.e., all but the Big Ten -- to move games to weeknights. You can draw a direct line from West Virginia/Louisville in November 2006 to Oregon/Stanford in November 2013.
The American in 2013 is not the Big East in 2005. It is, to put it politely, a dumpster fire. UConn got run over by an FCS team. USF got destroyed by an FCS team and then rolled over against a mediocre Michigan State team. Cincinnati laid a gigantic egg against Illinois. SMU barely escaped the wrath of an FCS loss. Temple and Houston played the first American conference game and, well, the less said about it the better.
In short, the new conference has been a total and complete disaster on the football field. There's still a lot of season left and many big games for the conference, but it doesn't look good. Louisville's hope for a National Title, and Teddy Bridgewater's dream for a Heisman, may rest with...UCF. Yep, UCF. Why? Well you need to keep reading.
I need to mention here that my Best Bets haven't won while my Upset Specials haven't lost.
TEXAS TECH (+3) over Tcu
We will look back in November at TCU and wonder how they were ever ranked at all. They had no chance against LSU, despite a good-looking final score. They battled with SE Louisiana last week for three quarters. They were a 6-win team last year. Where did all the hype come from? Has TCU reached Texas/USC/Florida State territory where they are ranked in the preseason based on name recognition?
On the other side, Texas Tech is, well, Texas Tech. They're going to throw the ball 100 times. They're going to score a ton of points. And they're going to be next to impossible to beat in Lubbock. Kliff Kingsbury is on the verge of a defining win very early in his tenure. With the tenuous state of the Big 12 this season, Texas Tech could be on the verge of a monster season.
EAST CAROLINA (+7.5) over Virginia Tech *Upset Special*
You want a BCS buster for 2013? You may find it in this game. East Carolina has the schedule to do it, with North Carolina and NC State coming up, and a soft Conference USA conference slate. 3 wins over ACC teams, even if they're only decent ACC teams? Yep, that'll work. But you can't get to 3 without getting to 1. Virginia Tech's defense is their strength and they'll have to stop East Carolina's potent offense. Here's a little shocker though: East Carolina's offense is a lot better than Alabama's.
Ucla (+4.5) over NEBRASKA
The real bet here is the over, since neither team seems to feel like playing much defense. But this game appears that it will play out much like it did last year in the Rose Bowl, with a lot of offense from both teams earlier and then UCLA eventually pulling away late. Wyoming put up 600+ yards on Nebraska. UCLA's offense, led by superstar QB Brett Hundley, is an order of magnitude better than Wyoming's offense. Last week, the Texas defense was the poster child from a crumbling icon. This week, Nebraska gives up 700 yards and ESPN analysts spend all next week babbling on about the great Blackshirts defense of the 1990's. You know it's been about 15 years since Nebraska was a national contender, right?
Louisville (-13) over KENTUCKY
I said Louisville would lose 4 games this year. I was wrong. I know in my post, I said Louisville would lose this game. At the time, I believed it. I was mistaken. Louisville is not losing this game. I still don't believe the Cardinals will go undefeated, but it's looking more like a 10-2 year, as opposed to an 8-4 debacle. On the plus side, that post did introduce me to the stupidity that is the Louisville fanbase...or at least the lunatic fringe that likes to hurl insults behind the "Anonymous" user name. It'll make it that much more enjoyable when 10-2, #7 Louisville is playing in the Champs Sports Bowl or whatever it's called now.
OREGON (-27.5) over Tennessee
They came. They saw. They conquered. That was the result of Oregon's cross-country trip to Charlottesville last Saturday. Virginia had just beat BYU. They appeared to be a decent team. They didn't occupy the same galaxy as Oregon. And with their uniforms, Oregon actually appeared to be a team sent from Outer Space to destroy mere mortals in this game we call football. It was not fair. DeAnthony Thomas is not fair. For Butch Jones, this game is not fair. A cross-country trip to get blasted by the University of Nike on ABC? The only - and I mean ONLY - positive for Tennessee and its fans is that no one will be watching this game.
Alabama (-7.5) over TEXAS A&M
Everyone will be watching this game, except for me. I'll be in an East Hartford parking lot drinking beer and preparing to watch UConn play Maryland in the Edsall Bowl. So this game, right? I'd like to go into detail about my pick, why the Alabama defense will stop Johnny Football, why the Alabama offense is improved from week 1, why the A&M distractions will catch up to them, yada yada yada.
Sometimes, games are won by attitude. Alabama is not losing this game. Nick Saban won't let it happen. People tend to forget that Alabama basically overslept in last year's game and spotted A&M 3 touchdowns. They still almost won and probably should've won. Here's to Alabama showing up on time and taking A&M behind the woodshed. Oh God, I'm starting to sound like Paul Finebaum.
Ucf (+4.5) over PENN STATE
UCF's biggest fans right now are Charlie Strong and Mike Aresco. If UCF can pull this off, they have a bye week before a MONSTER home game against South Carolina on Sept. 28. Penn State has looked decent against inferior competition but Northwestern's total destruction of Syracuse made the Nittany Lions' victory far less impressive. UCF has looked tremendous in dispatching two overmatched foes. Sometimes looks can be deceiving. Other times, they are not. (Such insight, right?) UCF knows this is their one year to play for an automatic BCS bowl bid. The program has been building to this year and this moment for a decade. It means too much to them. UCF wins outright and you can just start cranking up the hype on the South Carolina game.
Maryland (-7) over UCONN
Do I really have to explain why? Stupid Coach Gramps, ruining everything Randy Edsall built in 2 years. Please come back Randy! All is forgiven!
Notre Dame (-20.5) over PURDUE
The Notre Dame gameplan against Michigan last week was so terrible that I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. Michigan couldn't stop the run...so Notre Dame never ran. Michigan couldn't stop the blitz...so Notre Dame never blitzed. When Notre Dame ran, they moved the ball easily and scored touchdowns. When Notre Dame blitzed, they got pressure on Devin Gardner and scored touchdowns. Credit to Michigan for the big win, but so many questions for Brian Kelly and company. What were they thinking??
It doesn't matter this week. Notre Dame can do whatever they want. Purdue is atrocious, further confirmed when Cincinnati came back after blowing them out to get rocked by Illinois. Purdue may be in the running for worst BCS conference team. Notre Dame is angry. I bet ESPN/ABC is thrilled to have this blowout set for primetime.
Oregon State (+3) over UTAH *Best Bet*
Is there a more predictable, unpredictable team than Oregon State? They're going to start off slowly, lose a bad game, then quietly turn it around and end up beating someone they shouldn't while on its way to winning 8 or 9 games. The loss to Eastern Washington was a red herring because Eastern Washington is really, really good. If they were a Pac-12 team, they would be 6-6 at least. And they would beat Utah.
Utah did surprise me in week 1 by beating Utah State but their defense was not good and Chuckie Keeton had a field day, though he does that a lot. Oregon State can score. Oregon State knows that the bad FCS loss doesn't change anything about their end goal - playing in the Rose Bowl. If Oregon State makes the last second field goal against Eastern Washington, they are favored by 7 points at least in this game. This is my Best Bet because Oregon State is way too good to lose this game.
Wisconsin (+5.5) over ARIZONA STATE
New Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen is the best coach you don't know about. His turnaround at Utah State was nothing short of immaculate. His start at Wisconsin has been flawless, literally without a point given up against two cupcakes. The team that went to 3 straight Rose Bowls is in very, very good hands. We don't know anything about Arizona State yet. But 5.5 points feels like way too much since I think Wisconsin should be favored. If the game was being played during the day and the Arizona heat, maybe it would make sense. But a 7:30pm local kickoff means decent weather and a Wisconsin ground game that will be ready to chew up the Sun Devils. Yay late night football!!
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