College Football Pigskin Pick’Em: Week 2
This also applies to the NFL, but not the Arena League… because only degenerates are betting on Arena ball in the first place. Last week this turned out to be some good advice for yours truly, as there were a few games that were quite attractive (South Florida +10.5, LSU +3) that would have paid off, while some others that looked just as good (Georgia +3, Missouri -19.5) that would have left me without funds for the Labor Day BBQ.
Having watched plenty of games over the long weekend and read dozens of recaps this week, here are the picks for the marquee games for the second week of college football action:
Thursday, 8 p.m. – Arizona (+13.5) over #9 OKLAHOMA STATE
Although I suspect many of you will be watching fireworks at Lambeau Field on the opening night of the NFL season (for those looking to break the Week 1 abstinence pledge, I say take the Who Dats straight up), there will be even more fireworks on the plains of Stillwater. OK State’s pass-catch combo of Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon didn’t miss a beat last week. Here’s thinking Blackmon hits pay dirt twice Thursday after failing to do so last week (despite 8 grabs for 144 yards). That being said, Nick Foles and the Wildcats' offense will still put up plenty of yards and points against a still-questionable Cowboy defense. Expect plenty of points in this one. Even though the 66 for this game is the largest number on the board, I say take the OVER. Although Mike Gundy is THE MAN and I expect his Pokes to pull this one out, Arizona will keep it close enough to cover.
Final Score: Oklahoma State 45, Arizona 35 (take the OVER on the point total of 66)
Friday, 10:30 p.m. — ARIZONA STATE (-7.5) over #21 Missouri
Don’t let the rankings fool you. The Sun Devils absolutely should be the favored team heading into this clash on Friday night. The normally high-octane Mizzou offense was pedestrian, at best, last week in the Tigers’ opener against Miami (Ohio). Give credit to their sophomore QB, James Franklin, who showed leadership after the game and shouldered the blame himself. He will put together plenty of highlight reels on Saturdays from now through 2013. Just don’t expect this Friday to be one of them. Arizona State is planning a Black Out in the Valley of the Sun (surely several hundred ASU coeds will blackout themselves after a hard day of studying tailgating) for this night game. Expectations are high, and Coach Dennis Erickson will deliver this week. QB Brock Osweiler (herein dubbed “Big Sky,” given that he hails from Montana and is listed at 6'8″) will lead a potent attack and send the local crowd home plenty happy with a two-TD victory.
Final Score: Arizona State 35, Missouri 21
12:21 p.m. — AUBURN (+6.5) over #16 Mississippi State
This one opened the week with MSU as only a 2-point favorite on the road. At that price, I would have been happy taking the Bulldogs. The sharps out in Vegas liked that line, too, and as a result have bet the visitors up to a touchdown favorite. Given their tapes from last week, some might think this should be a 10-point spread. Though RB Vick Ballard and the Bulldogs ran all over a terrible Memphis bunch, Auburn will not sleep walk through a second-straight early kickoff at Jordan-Hare Stadium (and for the uninitiated, that’s pronounced “jur-din”). The 1-2 RB punch of Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb will keep Auburn in this one, but at the end of the day the War Eagle win streak will end at 16.
Final Score: Mississippi State 28, Auburn 23
3:30 p.m. – #3 Alabama (-10) over #23 PENN STATE
With the rain on the East Coast that started Tuesday and is expected to last through the rest of the week, expect sloppy conditions for this one in Happy Valley. And with both the visiting Crimson Tide and the Nittany Lions having “fluid” (read: unsettled) QB situations, expect both squads to call on their ground games early and often. This should mean plenty of touches for Alabama’s #3, RB Trent Richardson. Expect Richardson to have a solid day (100 yards and a score), but do not expect jaw-dropping numbers, as Nick Saban will want to keep him fresh for a long season, and the Penn State defense has a glut of talented LB’s to be sure to keep the play in front of them. You can also expect the Tide defense to roll this Saturday and put on a commanding display. If the Penn State O Line had trouble handling a 1-AA (don’t give me that FBS/FCS shit) front seven last week, you can only imagine the kind of havoc the nation’s top D will wreak on them Saturday. Even though the 42-point total is the lowest on the board this week, you should feel confident taking the UNDER given the trifecta of poor weather conditions, uncertain QB play on both sides, and two very good to great defenses. In the only match-up this week between teams in the AP top 25, expect Alabama to return home with a comfortable win in their first trip up North since 1989.
Final Score: Alabama 27, Penn State 6 (Take the UNDER on the point total of 42)
3:30 p.m. — #6 Stanford (-21) over DUKE
Although this game really isn’t a “must-see” on Saturday, I am proclaiming this battle between academic stalwarts to be the “Bet the Outstanding Student Loan Debt” Pick of the Week. Don’t even give the “jet lag” argument for this one. Quite simply, 21 points is not near enough of a cushion to give to a team that lost to a 1-AA squad the week before and is going up against the most NFL-ready QB since some dude named Peyton Manning. Expect Cardinal QB Andrew Luck to put on another fine display on Saturday (and give the fans of teams in the “Suck for Luck Sweepstakes” a reason to look forward to 2012). If it weren’t for the talents of Duke Head Coach David Cutcliffe, a 50-point spread would be downright reasonable (just ask anyone down on the Grove at Ole Miss how enjoyable the Ed Orgeron Error was after Cutcliffe was dumped).
Final Score: Stanford Cardinal 41, Duke Blue Devils 9
3:30 p.m. — AIR FORCE (+2) over #25 TCU
This is another game that has seen the line move quite a bit since its initial posting. At the get-go, the visiting Horned Frogs were a 6.5-point favorite, but now that is down to a mere 2. Baylor exposed the suspect TCU defense in what was a destruction through three quarters, until TCU exploded itself in the 4th quarter to make it a shoot-out. Expect to see another high-scoring game this week. Also expect to see TCU come up short for the second straight week. Though Air Force QB Tim Jefferson is potent on the hoof and very effective running the option, expect him and the Falcons to air it out a little more than usual this week and come out victors as a home underdog.
Final Score: Air Force 37, TCU Horned 33
4:30 p.m. — #12 South Carolina (-3) over GEORGIA
This is the game this week for which I don’t have a good read. It’s the SEC opener for both teams, and the loser will really feel the pressure. Especially if it is the host Bulldogs, who were embarrassed in the trenches on both sides of the ball last Saturday night (in a de facto home game in Atlanta). If there was a guarantee that the Gamecocks would get consistent play from the QB position, then it would be easy to take South Carolina by two TDs (or more) in this one. But no coach likes to play QB roulette more than Steve Spurrier (take a look back at the Ol’ Ball Coach’s days at Florida, if you doubt that statement). At the end of the day, Georgia QB Aaron Murray will not be able to pull this one out, and Dawgs head man Mark Richt will find himself squarely behind the eight-ball just two weeks into the season.
Final Score: South Carolina 27, Georgia 21
7 p.m. — #24 TEXAS (-7) over BYU
BYU started its new career as a football independent with a rousing 4th-quarter comeback at Ole Miss. Texas started a season of uncertainty (both on and off the field) with an uninspiring victory over Rice. When the final gun sounds on Saturday night in Austin, expect to have fewer questions about at least one of this game’s participants. The Longhorns seem to have settled on QB Garrett Gilbert, but, more importantly, expect true freshman RB Malcolm Brown to have a breakout performance in his 2nd career game in burnt orange, providing UT the feature back it has been missing since Jamaal Charles was on campus. Expect the Cougars to hang tough for three quarters, but in the end, Texas will have just a bit too much of everything for BYU in this matchup between schools with nice ESPN contracts.
Final Score: Texas 34, BYU 20
7:30 p.m. – USC (-9.5) over Utah
Utah playing its first conference game in the Pac-12 at the LA Coliseum will be the talk of all the action on the Left Coast Saturday. Both squads have room for improvement after less-than-inspiring performances in their openers. Expect to see a better ground game from the host Trojans and a more dynamic aerial assault from the visiting Utes. While both teams will look better this week, I expect USC’s second-half scare from Minnesota to be a blessing in disguise. The Men of Troy will play a full four quarters this week, and QB Matt Barkley will continue his quest to fulfill the hype that followed him to USC two years ago (with plenty of help from his favorite WR, Robert Woods).
Final Score: USC 38, Utah 27
8 p.m. — MICHIGAN (+3.5) over Notre Dame
The big story for this game is going to be the debut of night football at the Big House. However, the focus should be: how good are these storied programs this year? You don’t want to read too much into one game’s performance for either team (especially for the Wolverines, who didn’t even complete three quarters before their game was called). Both teams had some ups and downs last week. You should expect the Fighting Irish offense to look more like the one that showed up in the second half, with a heavy dose of targets for WR Michael Floyd from new starting QB Tommy Rees, last Saturday's almost-hero. Despite the talk of his developing more of a pocket presence this off-season, I expect to see a bit more of last year’s version of Michigan QB Denard “Shoelace” Robinson on Saturday night. Look for him to break at least one big run under the bright lights. I expect Robinson to be the difference maker this Saturday night and for the Wolverines to emerge the victor in an exciting, and historic, game in the Big House.
Final Score: Michigan 31, Notre Dame 28
And for those of you who are solely looking for action this weekend, here are a few more games I like for any of a number of reasons, most of which include making money.
12 p.m. — Iowa (-6.5) over IOWA STATE
Neither team was very impressive in openers against 1-AA opponents. That being said, Iowa State looked much worse and has several more question marks.
Final Score: Iowa 30, Iowa State 10
3:30 p.m. — Hawaii (+6.5) over WASHINGTON
Washington was severely tested by defending 1-AA champ Eastern Washington last week. The Rainbow Warriors controlled Colorado last Saturday before finally putting them away late. The sharps in Vegas seem to think traveling to the mainland will be an issue for Hawaii (the Huskies opened as only a 1-point favorite), but I am not buying it here.
Final Score: Hawaii 35, Washington 32
3:30 p.m. — Tulsa (-12) over TULANE
Tulsa was dominated by #1 Oklahoma last week. But the Golden Hurricane still has the trigger man from last year’s explosive offense in QB G.J. Kinne. Tulane put points on the board last week, but also surrendered 33 to a 1-AA team that had just two wins a year ago. Yikes.
Final Score: Tulsa 55, Tulane 28
6 PM – Southern Illinois (+Whatever) over OLE MISS
Richmond (vs. Duke) and Sacramento State (vs. Oregon State) carried the flag for 1-AA schools against BCS conference programs last week. The Salukis have been one of the most consistent 1-AA programs over the last eight years, and Ole Miss was shocked by Jacksonville State (that’s in Alabama, for those of you who are curious) in their opener last year. Who says lightning can’t strike twice?
Final Score: Southern Illinois Salukis 27, Ole Miss Rebels 24. Note: You will have to wait until the “Added Games” become available, but whatever points you get will be enough.
7 p.m. — ARKANSAS (-36) over New Mexico
Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino is viewed as a snake-oil salesman, but he gets results. New Mexico surprised plenty of folks, myself included, by bringing its coach back for a third season. Mike Locksley’s resume in his first two seasons at the helm of the Lobos: lots of blow-out losses, two wins, two embarrassing off-the-field issues. I wouldn’t take UNM +50. Sorry Brian Urlacher.
Final Score: Arkansas 62, New Mexico 10
7 p.m. — Houston (-22.5) over NORTH TEXAS
In Texas, where every school seems to have a hand signal to show school pride, Houston’s Cougar Paw is hands-down the best (ASU and Wichita State Shocker fans, I know you guys rock the same gesture). Expect a big day from Case Keenum, as he continues on his quest to pass Hawaii’s Timmy Chang to become the leader in NCAA career passing yardage.
Final Score: Houston 43, North Texas 9
8 p.m. — CENTRAL FLORIDA (-7) over Boston College
Don’t look at the names on jerseys here or worry about the conference affiliations. UCF plays tough defense, and the Knights have a decent shot to repeat as Conference USA champions. Although BC can air it out, they still have a lot of questions.
Final Score: Central Florida 28, Boston College 13