College Football Pick ‘Em, Week 7
As with any season, there have been impressive performances and pleasant surprises with a few disappointments mixed in as well. Needless to say, there will be some big individual numbers and a couple upsets in this week’s picks. As for last week, it was another 6-4 performance for yours truly (now 30-20 on the season). Before diving into this week’s games, I would be remiss if I did not note the passing of Carroll “Beano” Cook overnight Wednesday. Beano was a walking encyclopedia of college football knowledge. His history lessons from years past and insights into the coming week’s games will be missed. With Beano in mind, let’s hope it is a weekend of games that would meet his approval.
12 PM – #15 Texas (+3.5) over #13 Oklahoma (in Dallas)
The Red River Shootout is one of the game’s best rivalries. Taking place amidst the Texas State Fair gives this matchup a truly unique atmosphere that cannot be replicated elsewhere. The Sooners come to the Cotton Bowl on the heels of a crucial victory at Texas Tech, while the Longhorns dropped a wild one in Austin to West Virginia. The OU offense should have some confidence coming into this one, but their performance, specifically in the passing game, is still a week-to-week proposition. UT’s defense was expected to be a strength this season, but it has had some very lackluster performances to date. That defense will come up big this Saturday, shutting down the Sooners on the ground and through the air and atoning for last year’s embarrassing performance in this game. Never mind the old saying. Revenge is a dish best served deep-fried and slathered in barbecue sauce.
Final Score: Texas Longhorns 38, Oklahoma Sooners 14
3:30 PM – #1 Alabama (-21.5) over MISSOURIIt’s been a few weeks since we last checked in on the nation’s top team. The Tide has been rolling over their opponents in the interim. Bama comes to Columbia, where they will face a Tigers squad that must be smarting over a tough home loss to Vanderbilt last week. Gary Pinkel has had success at Mizzou by relying on offensive firepower, and unfortunately for him, his offense has shot a few blanks thus far in 2012. The Tigers defense has been alright, but they have been vulnerable against better competition. The Crimson Tide will put on a football clinic in this one, as they ready for a four week stretch that will define their season and keep Missouri winless in SEC play.
Final Score: Alabama Crimson Tide 45, Missouri Tigers 16
3:30 PM – #5 West Virginia (-3.5) over TEXAS TECH
You know there will be plenty of points on the board when the Mountaineers are involved. And the Red Raiders showed how vulnerable they were at home last week against Oklahoma, where their impressive defensive stats were shown to be a function of favorable scheduling (just as someone had predicted). Geno Smith will be sure to get his for WVU (as will the talent at his disposal at wide receiver and running back). While I expect Seth Doege to have a good day for Tech, it won’t be nearly enough to keep this game close for more than a half.
Final Score: West Virginia Mountaineers 51, Texas Tech Red Raiders 31
3:30 PM – #17 Stanford (+7) over #7 NOTRE DAME
Both of these teams are built around defense. Last week, however, both the Cardinal and the Fighting Irish showed off what their offenses could do. Stanford did so out of necessity, as they needed a late comeback and overtime to take out Arizona in a high-scoring affair. Notre Dame destroyed Miami in Chicago, on the other hand. On this Saturday in South Bend, we will see both of these teams get back to their core competency. There won’t be too many big plays in this one, as it will be a classic field position battle. In the end, this will be hard-fought battle for 60 minutes that the Fighting Irish will pull out with a late TD to remain perfect on the season.
Final Score: Notre Dame Fighting Irish 20, Stanford Cardinal 17
3:30 PM – BRIGHAM YOUNG (-5.5) over #10 Oregon State
The pollsters have been drinking a lot of Beaver Juice recently. Oregon State deserves accolades for starting the season 4-0 against name-brand competition, but none of their opponents to-date find themselves currently ranked in the Top 25. The Beavers have played some solid defense (the Arizona game not withstanding) and have relied on a potent passing game. The problem this week for Oregon State is their starting QB, Sean Mannion, will not play this week in Provo. BYU, for its part, has played stout defense but has had its own issues producing points. The Cougars are expecting QB Riley Nelson to return this Saturday, and although he has had an up-and-down career, combining that certainty at quarterback with a dependable defense and underrated running game will result in the BYU victory.
Final Score: Brigham Young Cougars 17, Oregon State Beavers 10
7 PM – WASHINGTON (+13) over #11 USCThis matchup features my favorite coaching matchup currently in the game, as former Pete Carroll assistants (Steve Sarkisian at Washington, Lane Kiffin at USC) face off in Seattle. The Huskies were powerless to stop Oregon last Saturday night, while the Trojans overcame a terrible start at Utah to pick up the win last Thursday night. The Trojans’ preseason Heisman hopeful Matt Barkley got back on track last week and will look to do more of the same this week against a shaky UW defense. Washington has been up and down this year. With a national television audience and the bad blood between the head coaches, expect Huskies QB Keith Price to have a big game and start to validate some of the preseason press he received. It will be a battle to the end, but the Trojans will have just enough to pull it out.
Final Score: USC Trojans 38, Washington Huskies 34
7 PM – BAYLOR (-7) over TCU
The Bears had last week off to lick the wounds from their wild game against West Virginia. The Horned Frogs, meanwhile, dropped a tough one at home to Iowa State. TCU definitely will miss former starting QB Casey Pachall, as his replacement, Trevone Boykin, was picked off three times last week (including a crippling pick six in the fourth quarter). Although TCU still has a solid defense, Nick Florence won’t have too many problems spreading the ball all over the field to his plethora of weapons. The Horned Frogs will keep things interesting for three quarters. But the Bears won’t quit when they have the ball, and their defense will take advantage of the uncertainty with TCU’s offense and create some turnovers.
Final Score: Baylor Bears 40, TCU Horned Frogs 24
8 PM – #3 South Carolina (+2.5) over #9 LSUNo team had a more impressive performance last week than the Gamecocks, who thoroughly dismantled Georgia in Columbia. The Bayou Bengals, however, had their offensive struggles on full display in their loss at Florida. The key to South Carolina’s success has been the relentless pressure its defensive line can generate. They will be licking their chops this week, as LSU is dealing with injuries and inconsistency on its offensive line. LSU’s defense did an admirable job last week, but they wore down in the second half in Gainesville when their offense could not keep them off the field. Make no mistake, the Tigers look vulnerable. The X factor: the best home field advantage in all of college football. Death Valley will be electric on Saturday night. Despite having the full-throated support of the home crowd, LSU and The Hat will come up just short against the Ole Ball Coach and his determined Gamecocks.
Final Score: South Carolina Gamecocks 17, LSU Tigers 16
9 PM – Tennessee (+3) over #19 MISSISSIPPI STATE
The cowbells will be ringing all day and night in Stark-Vegas, as the home standing Bulldogs are off to a 5-0 start. While Miss State’s record is sterling, the level of competition so far has been questionable. MSU has had some decent offensive production, but their defense’s solid stats have been built on stopping very limited opposition. When the Vols set foot on the field at Davis Wade Stadium, they are going to give that defense a stern test, especially through the air. However, Tennessee has had its fair share of issues on defense against better competition. The Bulldogs are still a bit of an unknown quantity. That is a big reason why I am going with the Volunteers on the road, because I know their offense will put up enough points to cover the occasional lapses on defense.
Final Score: Tennessee Volunteers 35, Mississippi State Bulldogs 31
9 PM – #22 Texas A&M (-7.5) over #23 LOUISIANA TECH (in Shreveport, Louisiana)This game was supposed to take place on the opening Thursday of the season, but Mother Nature had other ideas. I really liked the Bulldogs at that time. They were the known quantity, boasting an explosive offense with some questions on defense. The rub on La Tech now is mostly the same. They have a prolific offense but a TERRIBLE defense that can’t stop anyone, even if they are undefeated. The Aggies entered the season with a new head coach and a lot of uncertainty. Now five games into Kevin Sumlin’s tenure at A&M, I have a pretty good feel for his team. The Aggies have a pretty balanced offense that can put up points. They have an exciting redshirt frosh QB in Johnny Manziel. The Aggies also have a pretty good defense, but one that will be challenged by the sort of offense that Louisiana Tech runs. There will be plenty of points on the board at Independence Stadium. But A&M’s ability to make the occasional stop will be the difference in this one. The Aggies will put the only blemish on La Tech’s record this year, as the Bulldogs will easily run the table the rest of the way to take the last WAC championship (here’s shedding a tear for Marshall Faulk and all those high scoring BYU teams from back in the day).
Final Score: Texas A&M Aggies 49, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 38