Were you hoping to watch some football Thursday night and disappointed when you learned the NFL had matched up the mediocre team with the league's most appalling nickname against the awful team with the league's most appalling passing game? Fear not. College football is here to save the day.
The two best offenses this season, and perhaps in quite some time, will be available for viewing all night against defenses that might actually have a shot at slowing them down. Probably not. But maybe. As long as the bright uniform colors don't break your television, it should be such an exciting night of football you won't really need to add our picks For Entertainment Purposes Only.
We'll still give them to you, of course. Jon and I actually did well together last week, when 6 of our 7 identical picks were correct (damn you, Tech!). Even though Air Force helped me out, Jon had the better week at 8-2 to improve to 58-33-5 while I was 7-3 to get to 50-41-5. Looks like I'm staying over .500. /fistpump
BAYLOR (-14.5) over Oklahoma, 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Fox Sports 1
Floyd Casey Stadium, Waco, TX
AA: The tarp has come off in Waco, and the Bears are out to prove they're ready for primetime. Regardless of what has happened already this season, it's still weird to see Baylor favored by two touchdowns against Bob Stoops and Oklahoma. But Art Briles and co. certainly deserve it, and they could well cover if things are clicking. Maybe it's the lingering memory of KSU-Baylor, or maybe's it's the fact that it's November and crazy things always happen, but something tells me the big stage will get to the Bears at least a little bit, and I just hope they can still hold on for the win. Oklahoma covers, and maybe even pulls the upset.
JM: I don't think so. If this game were in Norman, sure. But this is, hands down, the biggest game in Baylor history to be played in Waco -- even bigger than anything that happened in the Grant Teaff glory days. I'm convinced at this stage that K-State very well may have the best defense in the Big 12, and Baylor still won that game by two scores. Meanwhile, the only thing the Oklahoma offense is setting on fire this year is dumpsters. It's just a really bad matchup for the Sooners, and I don't see them covering. Take Baylor, even with that spread.
Louisiana-Lafayette (-11.5) over Troy, 6:30 p.m. Thursday, ESPNU
Cajun Field, Lafayette LA
AA: There's a good chance lots of scoring happens in the Baylor-Oklahoma game, so you may be tempted to flip over to NFL Network if you happen to have it. I'm here to give you an alternative. The Sun Belt race is heating up with two teams just one loss behind ULL, and Troy is one win away from bowl eligibility. This one could be interesting, or it could get ugly early. ULL hasn't lost since its visit to Manhattan, and Troy giving up 49 points to UL Monroe last week doesn't exactly inspire confidence in the Trojans defense. Pick ULL to win and cover.
JM: This year's Sun Belt is the stuff of nightmares. There are actually two bowl-eligible teams in the league. One of them is in fifth place in the conference standings. No, really. Here's the main facts you need to be aware of: Louisiana-Lafayette is scoring 36 points a game and giving up 17 -- against Sun Belt competition only. Troy is scoring 34, but giving up 35. Now, imagine a world in which Louisiana-Lafayette had already gotten to beat the crap out of Georgia State. You'll have to imagine it, because they haven't. Meanwhile, Troy has already played the hapless Panthers... and let them score 28 points. That's almost 1/5 of Georgia State's entire production for the season, and they've played nine games. You think ULL's gonna have any trouble making the scoreboard look like an odometer? Cajuns to cover.
Oregon (-10.5) over STANFORD, 9:30 p.m. Thursday, ESPN
Stanford Stadium, Palo Alto CA
AA: That line seems a little crazy, considering Stanford has beaten Oregon 2 of the past 4 years and the Cardinal will have the benefit of home-field advantage. But as we've seen on a weekly basis, Vegas really likes the Ducks. Here's the thing: So do I. Marcus Mariota has the offense running like clockwork, and Byron Marshall leads another scary group of running backs. Here's something that should terrify the rest of the Pac-12: Both those aforementioned guys are sophomores, and leading receiver Josh Huff is really the only senior who is a big contributor. In other words, Oregon might be starting a long winning streak against Stanford when it wins by more than 11 points Thursday night.
JM: One: this is the best Oregon team over the last five years. Two: this is not the best Stanford team over the last five years. Nobody has come within 20 points of the Ducks yet this year. The team that's come the closest was Washington, who lost by 21. Well, Washington only lost to Stanford by a field goal. Meanwhile, Stanford's been giving up points to teams who have one big thing in common: they aren't Oregon. They gave up 28 to Washington and the Sun Devils. 27 to Utah. Hell, they gave up 20 to Army. And after last week's debacle in Corvallis, holding Oregon State to a ten-spot doesn't seem like much of an accomplishment. Oregon's going to cover.
Texas (-7) over WEST VIRGINIA, 7 p.m., FOX
Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown WV
AA: Saturday is going to seem kind of lame after Thursday, especially in the Big 12 outside of that game in Lubbock you can read about pretty much everywhere on BotC except here. But hey, this one is still... happening. Texas is just one week away from finally facing a test to its undefeated conference record when Oklahoma State visits Austin next Saturday, and West Virginia probably has some confidence from last week's win at TCU. Still, 7 points isn't a big spread, and Texas' offense is good enough to cover against the Mountaineers.
JM: I mean, we've got to have some sort of batshit craziness involving West Virginia at some point, right? And Texas is still Texas, right? This is the last chance Texas has to faceplant against an inferior Big 12 opponent, so they have to, right? Well, maybe not. But just to be contrary, I'm going to take West Virginia to at least cover. After all, they beat the team you just said was going to give the Longhorns their first test...
MIAMI (-6.5) over Virginia Tech, 6 p.m., ESPN2
Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens FL
AA: Last week Miami surprised very few people outside of Miami by proving they don't belong among the ACC's elite, which really might need an extra tier up for Florida State at this point. Any way, this week, the 'Canes get a chance to prove they're still the class of the Coastal Division. If this game had happened two weeks ago, I would have said that was doubtful and probably picked VT to win this thing outright. But then the Hokies lost consecutive games to Duke and Boston College. What? I have a ton of respect for Frank Beamer's program and like all of its parallels to K-State, but there's just no way I can put faith in this team right now. Stephen Morris will get his offense back on track and finally get to enjoy a comfortable win. Pick Miami to win and cover.
JM: This line's not even a touchdown? Sure. Whatever you say, Vegas. Remember when Logan Thomas was a Heisman candidate? Yeah, good times. Miami covers.
Tomorrow: Five Big Ten games. Wait. Hey. Put that knife down. It was just a joke, honest!