This is usually where I tackle an interesting topic in the college football world before making my picks. But what’s the point? This week, the most interesting topic is how great the games are. What more do I need to say about the awesomeness?
My only qualm is the lack of a catchy name from ESPN. What has happened to the Worldwide Leader? Every week in college basketball gets something – there’s Rivalry Week, Conference Week, Feast Week, etc. Why is college football being shunned?
In lieu of ESPN doing their promotional job, I will step in with Step Up Saturday. Catchy!
This is the weekend where teams need to step up to see if they are a true playoff contender or mere bystander. The entire calibration for the 2014 season will change this weekend and I cannot wait. Why would I do anything but watch football on Saturday? Sorry, babe.
And seriously, wouldn’t Step Up Saturday work so well? I’m picturing ads with Channing Tatum dancing interspersed with highlights. Okay so maybe I didn’t think this through enough…
Overall Record: 26-30
Best Bet: 2-3
Upset Special: 4-1
Best Bet: 2-3
Upset Special: 4-1
My Best Bet was Stanford -7.5. They won by 7. Now you know why I'm not picking Stanford this week or any other week. Backing David Shaw is the worse. I even wrote, as I made them my Best Bet, that I didn't trust him. So of course, Stanford dominated but let the inferior team hang around. I could write 10,000 words about my dislike of David Shaw.
OREGON (-23.5) over Arizona
I never pick against Oregon at home. It doesn't even matter the spread. As you saw with the Michigan State game, there is something about playing Autzen where they get it going and it feels like an unstoppable tidal wave.
Arizona has a great offense but gave up a metric ton of yards and points to California a couple weeks back. Cal is certainly improved but Cal is not Oregon. Rich Rodriguez has Arizona trending in the right direction and we all remember the beating they put on Oregon last year, as I'm sure the Ducks have recalled this week. The problem is Arizona's defense is not at the level it needs to be to win this game. Rule 1 of beating Oregon in Autzen is you need a top flight defense littered with NFL players. Arizona does not have that.
MISSISSIPPI STATE (-2.5) over Texas A&M
On Big Ten & Beyond this week, Eric Crouch revealed an NFL scout told him that Mississippi State has the most talented front 7 in the country. Look, I have no idea if that’s true but the fact he said it and I believe him speaks volumes for how much Mississippi State has improved its talent level. Their win over LSU was incredible and Dak Prescott is in position to become the Heisman frontrunner with another big game. The perfect noon timeslot means the whole country will be watching – with no competition, this could be the most watched game of the day.
As for Texas A&M, I am impressed but unconvinced. They should’ve lost last week to Arkansas. Clearly, Kevin Sumlin is one of the best coaches in the country and assuming A&M will regress to the mean* anytime soon is stupid. Still – the defense is a huge question mark. And even if it turns into a shootout, the Bulldogs can hang.
*I wrote that A&M would be a five-win team in 2014. Forgot to add “September” before 2014. Boy am I stupid.
Oklahoma (-5) over TCU
One of my strongest angles last year was going against an overvalued TCU team and it paid off over and over. Nothing I have seen so far from TCU in the Big 12 the past two years or so far this year has changed my opinion: TCU is a mid-major program playing in a major conference. Their ceiling is about 7-5, 8-4 in the Big 12. They struck lightning in a bottle with Andy Dalton. Without an NFL quarterback, they are very average.
Oklahoma appears to be the best team in the country and proving me very, very wrong from my preseason predictions. Who knew? I mean, apart from everyone else? TCU is a paper lion right now while Oklahoma is a playoff contender. Playoff contenders don't lose this game.
NOTRE DAME (+2) over Stanford
Did I mention above that I loathe David Shaw? I cannot for the life of me figure out why he gets so much love as a great coach. He trots out an NFL offensive line and can't score in the redzone. The conservative play calling has cost the Cardinal multiple big games. They let inferior teams hang around seemingly every week, as they did in 2012 when they lost to Notre Dame. Kevin Hogan appears to have regressed, likely due to mind-boggling play calling and decision making from the sidelines.
Based on the coaching matchup alone, Notre Dame is gaining about 14 points. Brian Kelly and his staff are again working wonders and it is here I remind you Notre Dame has won 15 regular season games in a row started by Everett Golson. I said it in April and I will repeat it all year: Tommy Rees was so awful in 2013 that he overshadowed how Notre Dame has upgraded its talent across the board.
While much is being made about how young Notre Dame is, especially on defense, not enough is being made about how talented Notre Dame is. For the first time in 20 years, Notre Dame has elite talent on both sides of the ball – they only had elite offensive talent under Charlie Weis. Notre Dame is for real and they will show it Saturday.
Did I mention I can't stand David Shaw?
Alabama (-6.5) over OLE MISS
Not happening. That's my only thought. Alabama is too good for Ole Miss is this spot. I can't get the opening night performance by Ole Miss out of my head. I thought they were going to annihilate a bad Boise State team, which just lost to Air Force and was outplayed by UConn, yet they scuffled for three quarters with the Broncos due to turnovers. They were in a tense battle against Memphis last week. I don't care how much Memphis has improved; they are not in the same universe as Alabama.
I have a bad feeling this could get real ugly, real quick. Ole Miss is not a serious contender in the SEC West. They will be exposed in a most painful and public manner on Saturday.
TEXAS (+16.5) over Baylor *Upset Special*
The early results have made Texas look a lot worse than they really are. Their two losses are to two undefeated teams in UCLA and BYU. Sure, the BYU game was a fiasco, but they played UCLA tough and were playing them tough before Brett Hundley got hurt.
Meanwhile, I just continue to be flabbergasted with the love Baylor gets. Yeah, they score a bunch of points, but they play absolutely no one and their game simply does not travel. In 2013, they lost at Oklahoma State last year and got throttled in the Fiesta Bowl. In 2012, they went 1-4 on the road, only beating UL-Monroe. In 2011, with a Heisman Trophy winner, they went 1-3 in true road games, only beating Kansas. Give me a break.
Until Baylor beats a decent team on the road, I’m not backing them.
Lsu (+7.5) over AUBURN
I really don't have a good reason for this other than my gut is telling me Les Miles has something up his sleeve. For about a decade, whenever it appears LSU is going to trend downward, they pull out a ridiculous victory that ends with Les chomping on grass and talking about kissing players. It's just what they do.
If I were to give a legit football reason, it would be my distrust of Nick Marshall. Against Kansas State, he missed open receivers downfield on multiple occasions. Yes, he made a nice pass on the final third down to win the game but it doesn't change the fact that if he was more accurate, Auburn wins by three touchdowns. LSU is better than Kansas State. Nick Marshall will make a couple bad passes. It will bite Auburn this week.
Michigan (+3) over RUTGERS
Did you see the Rutgers/Penn State game? If you did, you saw Gary Nova doing a spot-on Tommy Rees impression and throw five interceptions. Rutgers was the better team but found a way to lose. That's a bad sign.
Michigan has been in the national spotlight this week for all the wrong reasons but I feel this becomes a circle the wagons, "Let's win!" type of games. Maybe the players all hate Brady Hoke but they care about themselves and the school. They have to be embarrassed with their performances over the past two weeks.
The biggest plus for Michigan is the location of this game. The atmosphere in Ann Arbor and Michigan Stadium had grown toxic long before the Shane Morris debacle. Getting out of town and into a hostile road environment is the best thing they could possible ask for.
Let's be real: Michigan has better players than Rutgers. If they show up motivated and angry – a big if, since they may truly hate Hoke – they will win this game going away.
Also, I kind of want to see how Michigan fans respond when their team wins by, say, 4 touchdowns. Their heads may explode, as only a Michigan man can have his head explode. Which is say, pretentiously.
VIRGINIA (-6.5) over Pitt
You may be wondering why I'm picking this game. Virginia is 3-0 versus the spread this year and I've had them every time. Pitt just lost to Akron, so they are not exactly inspiring confidence. Meanwhile, UVA beat Louisville and played UCLA and BYU. They should be a touchdown better than Pitt.
MICHIGAN STATE (-7) over Nebraska *Best Bet*
I have been stunned that Nebraska has received so much love from the national college football press. It feels like when Michigan had an undefeated September under Rich Rodriguez and the hype machine went into overdrive. The media just really, really wants Nebraska to pull itself up from crippling irrelevance.
I'm not buying it. They have played one team with a pulse and the Miami game was 24-21 late in the third quarter before a game-changing fumble. No one is confusing Miami with a real team this year. Running for a bazillion yards against Illinois, who also got throttled by Washington, does not make me believe Nebraska is back.
Meanwhile, Michigan State has spent a few weeks smashing inferior foes after going toe-to-toe with Oregon in Autzen. Oregon is quite possibly the best team in the country and Michigan State had them on the ropes. You know it has to anger Sparty that they came so close but ran out gas. This is their first big game since.
Let's just say I wouldn't want to be Nebraska Saturday night. Not only do I think Michigan State wins, I would pick them if the spread was 21. They are going to destroy Nebraska.
Utah (+13) over UCLA
This is what I like to call a "college football special." Last week, UCLA put on a show for the late night masses and eviscerated Arizona State while Utah lost a heartbreaker to Washington State. Every sane, rational thought would point to UCLA winning easy, especially at home.
But this is college football and nothing makes sense when you're dealing with 18, 19 and 20-year olds. UCLA has been lauded, congratulated and lauded some more for the past week. Utah has been down in the dumps and devastated. UCLA comes out feeling too good and Utah comes out feeling angry. This is a letdown/trap game for UCLA.
As the clock strikes 1 a.m. on the East Coast, you will be tuned in to see if Utah can pull off the upset. I'm just telling you. That's college football in a nutshell.
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