I told you I was only teasing. See, there's only one Big Ten game. But it's one we can all get behind, right? Meanwhile, we've got a bunch of other games with goofy lines (as always), and Game of the Century XVII or something. As always, these prognostications -- genius though they may be -- are For Entertainment Purposes Only.
Louisville (-28) over CONNECTICUT, 7:30 p.m. Friday, ESPN2
Rentschler Field, Hartford CT
JM: Connecticut. The thorn in Louisville's side. They're not going to be this week; for once, Connecticut is so hapless and incompetent that Louisville can be pretty well assured of victory this week. THAT LINE THO. Can we really count on Louisville to avoid getting bit by rabid Huskies enough to cover? Well... Louisville is barely allowing ten points a game. Connecticut's barely scoring ten in conference games. So, yeah. As much as it frightens me, take Louisville and give those four big touchdowns.
AA: Let's see: Maybe the best QB in the country vs. an awful defense that hasn't won a game yet and has lost 2 of its last 3 in the Big East by more than 28. Yep, I'm pretty comfortable with this line. Take the Cardinals.
MINNESOTA (-1.5) over Penn State, 11:00 a.m., ESPN2
TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis MN
JM: Did you realize Penn State's giving up 41 points a game in Big Ten play? Is that even allowed? Even if you ignore the Ohio State beatdown, the Nittany Lions are still giving up almost five touchdowns a game. Now, Minnesota doesn't have the most potent offense in the world, but their scoring is weighed down by a two-week stretch during which they seemed to sag, and they seem to have bounced back (buoyed, of course, by that huge win in Lincoln). With the line this tight, of course, the question you're asking yourself is simply "Who's going to win?" It's Minnesota's year to shake off demons, and I think they're going to handle the Lions.
AA: Listen, Minnesota, I'm proud of you for beating Nebraska (to become bowl-eligible, no less!) and putting together a nice 3-game win streak. But does anyone know the last time Minnesota won four straight games in the Big Ten? Seriously, I'm asking because I was just on ESPN and went back to 2002 without any luck. Yes, I know there are places on these great Internetz where I could find this information, but this is Minnesota. It's not worth it. Penn State is going to win this game because that's how the world works.
JM: You say that like they're playing Ohio State or something.
Missouri (-14) over KENTUCKY, 11:00 p.m., ESPNU
Commonwealth Stadium, Lexington KY
JM: Two weeks ago, this game was penciled in as the "Tigers clinch the East" game. Now Mizzou is in the uncomfortable position of really needing to win. That's really just bad news for Kentucky, because the Tigers are going to roll all over them -- yes, by more than two touchdowns, if you weren't clear -- and regain a half-game edge in the division. Tragically, it may still all be for naught if Florida can't knock off the Gamecocks next week...
AA: Well, I was going to give everybody a break from Mizzou this week, but I guess I'm not going to complain. Obviously, I agree. This line is all the more unbelievable considering James Franklin is slated to return this week. If he gets back to form, let's not give Texas A&M that win just yet. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Take the Tigers and the points this week.
LOUISIANA TECH (-15.5) over Southern Mississippi, 6 p.m., CBS College
Joe Aillet Stadium, Ruston LA
JM: Yeah, this one's a stinker. But because of the line, it can't be ignored. I merely remind you all that Skip Holtz is the coach of the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, and ask you if you really think even Southern Mississippi is bad enough to lose to him by three scores. You may think so, but you'd do well to remember that while the Golden Eagles have been brutally abused by a lot of teams this season, all those teams happen to be pretty decent: Boise State, Marshall, East Carolina, North Texas... these are not the dregs of Conference USA. Indeed, a close look at USM's schedule will make it pretty apparent that their schedule was heavily front-loaded; they've actually got a ghost of a chance to win every game left this year. Especially one against a Skip Holtz team. Also, Skip Holtz. Did I mention that? Louisiana Tech probably escapes with a win, but I don't expect them to cover.
AA: Jon makes some good points. I'll take Southern Miss to cover and then never think about this game again.
ALABAMA (-12.5) over Louisiana State, 7 p.m., CBS
Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa AL
JM: Eleven teams have given up fewer than 78 points in conference games this year. Of those eleven, only two have played five conference games. Those two -- Michigan State and North Texas -- have played only five, and are now recognized as being among the best defensive teams in the nation. Alabama has given up 78 points... all year. Louisville is the only other team that isn't in triple digits yet overall. LSU, meanwhile, has given up 197. Alabama is on a mission, and this is the last real threat before the Iron Bowl. The only saving grace for LSU is that they seem to have figured out how to throw the ball, like, you know, through the air and stuff. But they've had issues getting things going in the first half, and that seems like just the sort of thing Alabama's going to pounce on. I may regret this, as games between the two teams have been notably tight for years now, but I think Bama's going to cover Saturday.
AA: First of all, we're considering North Texas among the best defensive teams in the nation? Are you sure? This is a team that gave up 27 and 24 in losses to Ohio and Tulane, respectively, not to mention 355 total yards and 16 first-half points at home against Rice just last week. Please come back to reality, Jon. That being said, though, I have to begrudgingly agree with you on this one. Alabama has simply looked dominant every week since A&M, and the way Florida State, Oregon and Baylor are playing, I'm sure Nick Saban has made sure his team knows it would be in their best interest to keep destroying teams. Not that a close win vs. anyone would really drop them in any poll because ROLL TIDE, but still.
JM: I have to defend my assertion now, for the record. That litany of points you mention North Texas giving up, plus the 45 they surrendered to Georgia, comprise about 2/3 of their entire total for the year. But more importantly, I'm simply going to point to the double goal-line stand against Rice last week, where the Owls had first-and-goal and UNT held to fourth down but committed a PI in the end zone, giving Rice a fresh set of downs at the 3... at which point UNT shrugged and held them again, without the fourth-down penalty the second time. You do that against a bowl team, you're pretty damned good by the eye test, and Twitter took notice last Thursday night. (And it wasn't just the goal line stand. UNT was in absolute beast mode on defense in the second half that night.)