Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Week 5 College Football Picks: Shakeup Saturday

Picks to Date: 28-16
Best Bet: 1-3

Upset Special: 4-0

There is only one thing that upsets me about this week’s slate of games – no ESPN moniker! It used to be an annual ESPN tradition to give a nonsensical name to weekend of games, whether in college football or basketball. I think they still do Rivalry Week in college basketball. But I miss Separation Saturday!

Most weeks I write a few paragraphs before diving into the games. But this week’s games are too good. I have a lot to say. So let’s dive in?

PURDUE (+3.5) over Northern Illinois
The reason for this pick is a simple matter of relative competition. In its last two games, Purdue played home vs. Notre Dame and then traveled to Madison to get run over by Wisconsin. Those are two very, very good football teams, at least Top 20 material. Northern Illinois struggled to beat Idaho and Eastern Illinois. They have spent the last two weeks playing teams in different galaxies.

Northern Illinois still has Jordan Lynch and a solid offense, but the defense seems to have reverted to constant #MACtion mode. Purdue is young, inexperienced and clearly preparing for a long year. But this feels like the kind of game where they have a mini-breakthrough. There’s almost no hope for Purdue to make a bowl game, but their bye is next week. I expect a huge performance at home – the ESPN2 exposure helps the motivation – and they will put an end to Northern Illinois’ ill-fated run at a second straight BCS bust. Keep reading for my pick for this year’s BCS buster.

ucf beats penn state
UCF (+7.5) over South Carolina
If you read what I wrote two weeks ago or last week, you’ll know that I have two feet on board the UCF bandwagon. UCF is a really, really good football team that everyone seems to be sleeping on. They beat Penn State on the road and if it were not for a very late Penn State TD, they would’ve won by 10 points and would’ve gained their rightful place in the Top 25 rankings. Blake Bortles is a big time quarterback. More importantly, UCF has been building to this one season for a decade. They know the poor American conference loses its BCS bid after this year. They got one shot.

On the other side, what about South Carolina has been so great this season? They melted, almost literally, in the second half against Georgia. They were far from impressive against North Carolina. Despite a hot start, Vanderbilt was down 10 with a first and goal in the fourth quarter before a crippling turnover. Why is South Carolina a Top 10 team? Simply put, I don’t think they are. Throw in the fact that there is no way they take an unranked UCF team seriously, this game is going down to the wire. It would have been my “Upset Special” but there was another line too juicy to pass up…

East Carolina (+11.5) over North Carolina *Upset Special*
This line does make an ounce of sense to me. North Carolina just lost to Georgia Tech in decidedly uninspiring fashion. They didn’t play that great against a South Carolina team with serious flaws. Their offense, so potent a year ago, seems a step slow this year. Given how Giovani Bernard has lit it up for the Bengals, maybe that isn’t a surprise?

East Carolina gave Virginia Tech all they could handle a couple weeks back and have no doubt in their minds that they can win this game. They usually knock off one BCS conference team per year – though with NC State looming, they may make it two this year. You have to pick the team you think is going to win. North Carolina has given me no indication yet they are any good. East Carolina has. There’s the pick.

Navy (-3) over WESTERN KENTUCKY *Best Bet*
Look at Navy’s schedule. Other than Notre Dame, who can’t Navy beat? Pitt at home? Duke? Toledo? San Jose State? There is an extremely good chance – if Navy continues to play well – they will be 6-0 going into its home game against Pitt on the last weekend of October. Win that game, and they would stroll into Notre Dame Stadium undefeated and playing to become this year’s BCS buster.

And, really, wouldn’t that be the ultimate BCS disaster scenario? Because when the bowl bids come out – Navy will still have one game left, against Army, to play. Wouldn’t it be a sweet way to send off the ill-advised BCS by having a Top 12, 11-0 Navy team ready for a BCS berth but with one more game to play? What would they do? What if they gave Navy an Orange Bowl berth and they lost to Army, playing a scenario out of the 1970s?

Of course, there are a lot of dominoes that need to fall before the deliciousness can occur. Western Kentucky received a lot of preseason hype thanks to the return of Bobby Petrino but, shockingly, he is not a miracle worker. And it appears anyone can beat Kentucky. The Navy dream continues for one more week*.

*By making it my Best Bet, I have almost guaranteed that it will not.

CLEMSON (-29) over Wake Forest
This is the weekly “will they cover by halftime?” special. Wake Forest is truly terrible. Somehow, I’ve watched them play 3 times – the Friday night snoozefest against Boston College, the loss at home to Louisiana-Monroe and then too much of their game vs. Army last week before tailgating for UConn/Michigan. The constant in all three? Wake Forest looked awful. This is a team that not too long ago was winning ACC titles and playing in Orange Bowls. Sad, sorry Orange Bowls. Clemson looks like a national title contender. If this game wasn’t in Death Valley, maybe I’d consider a late cover for the Demon Deacons. Instead, it’s just going to be ugly.

On the plus side, I will not watch this game. I have better viewing options.

purdue notre dame 2013
NOTRE DAME (+3.5) over Oklahoma
You know it’s a good weekend when this game is relegated to almost an afterthought. I am picking Notre Dame for the fourth week in a row – I have lost the last three times. Pretty sure that’s the definition of insanity. But luckily, I don’t need anything different to happen as the Vegas oddsmakers are doing it for me. Notre Dame can go out, win ugly and I finally get a victory.

So why do I have faith in Notre Dame? For starters, Brian Kelly has instilled such a determination in this team that it seems almost impossible for them to lose in the regular season, especially at home. As we’ve seen with Michigan, it took a Herculean effort from Devin Gardner – one he has not been able to duplicate – to win. And frankly, Notre Dame was the better team that not but questionable coaching (too many passes) undermined them.

As for Oklahoma, I remain unimpressed. Yes, Blake Bell played well against Tulsa. Again, they played Tulsa. The Notre Dame defense isn’t the monster it was a year ago but it’s still better than Tulsa. At least I 
assume they are. For Oklahoma, I still can’t get the image of the West Virginia game out of my head. I was watching a better game at the time (ND/Michigan) but every time I flipped onto Fox, Oklahoma had the ball and was preparing to miss a third-down. It can’t all be the quarterback’s fault, you know? And if Bell was so good, how in the world didn’t he get the starting nod to begin with? The Tulsa game will prove to be an aberration.

GEORGIA (-3) over Lsu
Georgia was my preseason pick to win the National Title. If they lose this game, they’re not winning the National Title. So I have to pick them. And I am. Gladly. If Georgia had opened up with just about any other team in FBS, they’d be undefeated and probably ranked #3 or #4. As is, they played a legit Top 5 team on the road. They lost by 3. It happens. Georgia is better for it. They are tested. They are ready. When you’re play you’re third Top 10 team in September, there is nothing you’re not prepared for.

LSU, though, I’m not buying it. Their big win so far was over TCU, which was quickly exposed by Texas Tech and I still don’t know how or why they were ranked in the preseason. LSU beat up on some patsies and then dropped the hammer on an Auburn team that was 3-9 last year. Zach Mettenberger’s resurgence has gotten so much play, that would you think he turned into a cross between Tom Brady, Johnny Football and Johnny Utah. He may put up good numbers against a decent Georgia defense. But the LSU defense has been surprisingly suspect.

The most intriguing subplot may come after the game is over and we get another 35-31 shootout, on the heels of the Georgia/South Carolina, Alabama/A&M firefights, and the media spends the next week decrying the end of old-timey SEC football. I mean, I’m just giving you a heads up.

ALABAMA (-15.5) over Ole Miss
There are 2 ways and only 2 ways that this game goes: Alabama wins by 28 or Ole Miss wins. I’m going to 
steal a Sports Guy bit and give reasons for both.

Alabama Wins by 28: They’re tired of hearing about the poor performance last week. Nick Saban says the word “Process” 6,000 times this week. Alabama doesn’t lose to Ole Miss. The Tide took a breather last week. Ole Miss has their attention. Process, process, process.

Ole Miss Wins: They’re tired of hearing about Alabama’s poor performance last week. They smoked Texas at Texas, they ain’t afraid. They’ve already won two road games. Jeff Scott is a difference maker few other teams have. Hugh Freeze. A bunch of young kids that believe. HUGH FREEZE!!

In the end, I feel that Ole Miss is too young for a game of this magnitude. Yes, beating Texas at Texas is a huge accomplishment and should not be taken lightly. That’s a program-defining win. Beating #1 Alabama at Alabama is a once-in-a-lifetime achievement for a school like Ole Miss. The schedule conspired against them – Bama had their letdown last week and spent all week hearing about. They are getting Bama’s best shot. They can’t beat Bama’s best. At least not yet.

Arizona (+10) over WASHINGTON
Look, Washington was impressive in its opening victory against Boise State.  I get it. We get it. They also beat Illinois by 10 which is, well, it’s something. We don’t know anything about Arizona yet, except they smashed 3 cupcakes.

So the question becomes, is Washington really that good or is Arizona actually good? Based on Rich Rodriguez’s track record – non-Michigan division – I’m going to go with the latter. I know it’s a road game. I know Washington has a lot of momentum. But I can’t shake this feeling that Washington is a little overhyped and overrated this year. In short, they feel a lot like Arizona does to me – a good to potentially great team that will win 8 or 9 games.

OHIO STATE (-7) over Wisconsin
I don’t think anyone realizes how good Ohio State is yet because they haven’t played anybody. They will find out Saturday night. As for Wisconsin, the controversial loss to Arizona State masked the fact that they were in a position to lose to Arizona State – a team that promptly got embarrassed by Stanford a week later.

Ohio State is another Stanford. Ohio State is going to embarrass Wisconsin. I didn’t give it the “Best Bet” nod because that would only jinx it. Besides, ESPN College Gameday is following Ohio State next week to Northwestern – the Buckeyes have to win this game.

Stanford (-10) over WASHINGTON STATE
Stanford coach David Shaw got quite a blessing last week. His team annihilated a ranked opponent, but then let up to make the score closer than it should’ve been. The result? He gets to pound into his team’s brain all week that they have to play for 4 quarters and finish the job.

Poor, poor Washington State. Though they deserve every ounce of the beating they’re about to take by shamelessly trying to keep a meaningless shutout in tact last week against Idaho. You reap what you sow, Mike Leach.

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2 comments:

  1. Are you a Domer? Why do you pick Notre Dame every week /THEYRE NOT GOOD THIS YEAR!!!!

    ReplyDelete