It's a big week for undefeated teams, especially those who are looking to earn some more respect. No, I'm not talking about Baylor, who is favored by 35.5 points at Kansas, in case anyone was wondering.
Other than the game in Manhattan, though, my focus this week will be on Texas Tech and Missouri, both of whom are facing a lot of skepticism from Vegas and the national media. Then there's Oregon, who is getting a huge amount of respect against the second-best team remaining on its schedule.
We'll take a look at these games and a couple others involving undefeated teams For Entertainment Purposes Only and see if we can sift out the pretenders from the contenders. Just remember, this time of year we're almost always freaking out about 5 or 6 teams that look like they could easily go undefeated, but more often than not, at least 4 or 5 of them will fall before the end of November.
Jon looked very smart last week, going 8-2-1 (see what happens when you include crappy MACtion? We get ties) to improve to 44-28-4. That means we are decidedly no longer tied, since I was just 3-7-1 and now sit at 39-33-4 overall.
Time to turn the tide....
MIAMI (-20.5) over Wake Forest, 11 a.m., ESPNU
Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens FL
AA: At first glance, this seems like an easy cover. Miami has been strong at home, and Wake Forest isn't very good. But the Demon Deacons do have two straight somewhat convincing wins against mediocre ACC teams, and they haven't lost to the Hurricanes since 2009. By the way, Miami looked pretty terrible last week at North Carolina and will surely be more worried about next week's game at Florida State. The 'Canes won't quite be distracted enough to lose, but they won't cover a 20.5 spread, either.
JM: .You hit on just about every salient point here, at least obliquely. Since you wrote that paragraph the line's moved up to 22.5, which is approaching lunacy... but that doesn't change anything for you since you don't think they'll cover 20.5 anyway. The combo of line and over/under points to a 38-16 Miami win. It's easy to see Wake not outperforming that 16, but the key to me here is that this is a classic trap game: unbeaten team with a colossal game next week against another unbeaten team who just happens to be their archrival, and this week they've got an opponent who already gives them fits. Add to that the disruption of today's sanctions announcement, and I think the Canes are distracted enough to allow Wake Forest to cover.
OKLAHOMA (-13.5) over Texas Tech, 2:30 p.m., FOX
Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, Norman OK
AA: The only undefeated team from a big conference getting less respect from Mizzou is the No. 10 Red Raiders, but there's a significant difference here. Despite what David Ubben says, 7-0 is not really 7-0 and not all that impressive when the fighting Kingsburys don't have a win yet this season against a team with a winning record, unless you count 4-3 Texas State. I don't. It's quite possible Tech could lose its last five games. As down as OU is this year, Stoops is not going to have any serious issues with a freshman quarterback in Norman, whichever one it is for the Red Raiders. Pick the Sooners to win and cover.
JM: I figure the Sooners are going to win this game, but I have so far seen absolutely nothing about their offense or defense which leads me to believe they are going to either blow out a relatively decent Tech defense or shut down an always-effective Tech offense. That, in turn, means there's no way they're going to cover that line. You think the Miami-Wake line moved, though? Since you wrote your paragraph, the line on this game has narrowed to -7, and at that line I'd take the Sooners to cover. (The O/U-line combo on this one currently is OU 32, Tech 25, by the way.)
MISSOURI (-3.5) over South Carolina, 7 p.m., ESPN2
Faurot Field, Columbia Not-South Carolina
AA: Let me get this straight: The #5 team in the country (who looked just fine with backup QB Marty Mauk vs. Florida thankyouverymuch) is only favored by 3.5 against No. 21 South Carolina, despite an injury likely to keep Gamecock starting QB Connor Shaw out of the game? Backup Dylan Thompson is 3-0 in spot starts the past two seasons, including an impressive one against Clemson last year. But according to Vegas Insiders, this game actually opened with South Carolina as a 5-point favorite, which would be stupid if it were being played in Columbia, SC. On Twitter Saturday, as undefeated Missouri was beating Florida, an ESPN account tweeted "Does anybody want to win the East division this season in the SEC?" I guess I'm just not sure what Mizzou has to do to earn respect from people like that, short of beating Alabama, who is not on the schedule this season. Anyway, this line is stupid. Mizzou wins by more than a touchdown.
JM: It's Clowney. Vegas clearly thinks that Clowney lined up and staring down a redshirt freshman with one career start is going to make a difference here. Well, I'm sorry, but Mizzou actually rolled points against Florida, and while Florida's offense is roughly comparable to the economy of a 5-person speed bump on an Arkansas mountain goat track, their defense is actually top-notch. Worse, Vegas clearly believes that even facing Clowney with a redshirt freshman at quarterback, Missouri's going to score 28 points, and that makes absolutely zero sense -- especially considering the over/under didn't change one iota with the seven-point shift in the spread. Mizzou wins, covers, and builds a nigh-insurmountable lead in the SEC East.
OREGON (-22.5) over UCLA, 7 p.m., ESPN
Autzen Stadium, Eugene OR
AA: We've got a little bit of trap game potential here, with Oregon's showdown at Stanford looming next week. Also, I trusted the Ducks to cover a huge spread last week against Wazzu and earlier this year against Washington. They failed both times. I'm not making the same mistake again. Oregon wins, UCLA covers.
JM: This is really curious. The game opened at -17.5/77.5, and while Oregon's cushion has increased to 22.5, the O/U has dropped to 71. The original line indicated a 48-30 Oregon win; the new line indicates 47-24. In the space of two days, UCLA has basically given away a touchdown in Vegas. And I'm not at all sure why, unless the punters have decided that UCLA is entirely too classy to try to run up the score in the fourth quarter against Oregon's poor, mistreated third-stringers. Still, 47-24 seems entirely reasonable. I'll take Oregon and give the points here.
Fresno State (-9.5) over SAN DIEGO STATE, 9:30 p.m., ESPN2
Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA
AA: I cannot in good conscience recommend making any extra effort to watch this game, but if it happens to be on at the bar you're frequenting Saturday night, you might see some decent football. Fresno is #17 in the country and undefeated, though they only beat Boise by one at home and have probably played a weaker schedule than Texas Tech. The Bulldogs will lose eventually, but it won't happen Saturday against a terrible SDSU team that got destroyed at home by FCS #2 Eastern Illinois to start this season. Take Fresno and give the points.
JM: Oh, I see what you're doing here. Very clever, Inspector. Interestingly, the same San Diego State team which got clowned by Eastern Illinois almost beat Oregon State. That's really the only evidence of schizophrenia in Aztec land, though. You are correct that Fresno is going to lose eventually, but if they get through next week's game against Nevada "eventually" is going to be "in the Fiesta or Sugar Bowl". This should be an easy win for Fresno, and they'll cover.
Tomorrow: You know, AA actually did better with Jon's Wednesday picks than with the ones he chose himself last week. Will Jon stick with a strategy that led to a big week, or will Jon channel Loki in an attempt to try and stick it to his buddy? STAY TUNED.