Don't be fooled by Kansas State's Big 12 opener vs. Texas. We've still got one more week of nonconference doldrums before we get to the good stuff. Brace yourself, because this week could legitimately be worse than the first Saturday of the season.
How bad is it? I came extremely close to picking the Fresno State at Boise State game just because it would have been a good game once. The thing is, neither one of those teams is very good this season. Let's quickly recap what happened last week before we get this over with.
First of all, that Alabama & Texas A&M
Big 12 SEC showdown gave us our first draw of the year because of course it did. There was nothing normal about that game, but it sure was entertaining. Beyond that, Jon and I had a pretty spectacular week by our standards, with both of us going 6-3-1 despite getting greedy with an FCS upset and committing the cardinal sin of overratting Nebraska (me). Jon still leads overall with a record of 14-13-1 to my 13-14-1, which would be important if we weren't just doing this For Entertainment Purposes Only.
Clemson (-13.5) over North Carolina State, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, ESPN
Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh NC
AA: Clemson is a very, very good football team. That Tahj Boyd fellow is quite good at quarterback. North Carolina State is 2-0 despite the fact that their starting quarterback has 3 interceptions to 0 touchdowns in games vs. Lousiana Tech and Gardner-Webb, plus no one on the Wolfpack has more than 127 rushing yards. They have no chance to win this game.
JM: They also have no chance to cover the spread. Clemson hasn't looked stellar on defense, but they looked really good against a Georgia team which managed to put quite a few points on the board against South Carolina. This is a rout.
NOTRE DAME (-7) over Michigan State, 2:30 p.m., NBC
Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend IN
AA: I don't really know what to think about the Big Ten at this point. Teams like Illinois and Michigan have surprised me in a good way, while Nebraska and Wisconsin did the opposite. While we're on the subject, yes, I realize the refs did a terrible job at the end of that Wisconsin game, but there are few other teams I would have rather seen suffer that fate. Anyway, Notre Dame is going to be without Everett Golson, but I think their defense still gets it done against a weak Michigan State team.
JM: That defense has proven porous. Of course, it's not like they're going up against some offensive juggernaut here. Michigan State looked gaudy last week against Youngstown State, but I'm not sure the Penguins are actually that good this year anyway, and let's be honest: as much as we like the ol' FCS upset wheel of doom as a general thing, the reality is that any time a big-league FBS team plays any FCS team there's the chance for a rout. The Irish win, but as I'm not sold on their ability to put points on the board themselves, I'll call this a Sparty cover.
Missouri (-7) over INDIANA, 7 p.m., Big Ten NoOneCares
Memorial Stadium, Bloomington IN
AA: Yep, this one should be a classic between the team picked to finish 6th in the SEC East and the team picked to finish 4th in the Big Ten Leaders division. Indiana really hopes to have turned a corner this season and a win over the Ess Eee See would be a great way to prove it, even if Missouri is still trying to prove they actually belong in the conference. I don't think they do for a lot of reasons, but that's another story. In this game, Mizzou's athletes on defense will be too much for sophomore quarterback Nate Sudfeld to handle. The Tigers eventually pull away.
JM: Why? Why would you do this to me? Wait, I just realized that I have the ultimate revenge mechanism: picking the same result. Take that, you rotten so-and-so. (Seriously, this game could actually be very fun to watch. Both teams are capable of putting points up, fast. But if defense is going to decide it, it's going to decide it in favor of the Tigers.)
Louisiana Tech (+10.5) over KANSAS, 11 a.m., Fox Sports 1
An ugly building with a track, Lawrence KS
AA: I see no reason why this game shouldn't be included every week, with Jon and I picking KU's opponent to win or at least cover (not a concern after this week) every time. With that being said, this line seems excessively high to me. No, LTU isn't very good and hasn't shown the solid quarterback play they always seem to have, but still, this is Kansas vs. an FBS team. 10 points is more than a touchdown and a field goal. No way.
JM: I'm sorry, I thought the last game was cruel. If this game were last year, I'd have taken Louisiana Tech and given ten and a half. It is not last year, and Skip Holtz is coaching the Bulldogs. As much as it pains me, I have to take the Chickenhawks here to win and cover.
STANFORD (7.5) over Arizona State, 6 p.m., FOX
Stanford Stadium, Palo Alto Stadium
AA: Random thought: Do Stanford and Notre Dame just keep their stadium with that generic name to remind everyone that they already bring in so much money they don't need to give away naming rights, or is it some pretentious symbol of equality and unity? I feel like it could go either way. Anyway, this is probably the best game of the week, but I don't know a ton about either of these two teams. Stanford seems kind of overrated to me, but this is their first big home game of the year and Arizona State is facing down some serious karmic retribution. Stanford covers easily.
JM: Stanford 34, San Jose State 13. Stanford 34, Army 20. Arizona State has something San Jose State and Army do not. It's called an offense. (To put the fallacy of transitivity into play, San Jose State scored 24 on Sacramento State. Coincidentally, Arizona State also hosted the Hornets... and laid 55 on them.) I think Arizona State can win this game. I'm almost positive they're going to cover, so I'll throw them my pick.
Tomorrow: Jon picks on a couple of familiar standbys, takes advantage of an egregious error, and reminds everyone that there's a sophomore running back in FCS who's already got over 3000 career rushing yards.