There are, believe it or not, some relatively interesting games on this weekend's undercard to go along with a sort of big one down on I-20. And since we don't have to suffer through any self-inflicted viewing trauma on Saturday, what better time to check things out, eh?
As always, remember that these picks are For Entertainment Purposes Only.
Virginia Tech (+7) over GEORGIA TECH, 6:30 p.m Thursday, ESPN
Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta GA
JM: Welcome to the ACC Wheel of Destiny. Georgia Tech is favored in this game because, I guess, they're undefeated and everyone's high on them. But they're not that good. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech seems to have been lost and forgotten after getting special teamed and defensed to death by Alabama to open the season, and have looked shaky against lesser competition since. But this is the ACC, and September's almost over, and nothing insane has happened yet. That's excuse enough to take Virginia Tech. Dunno if they'll win outright, but I'll accept the cover.
AA: This might have been a game worth watching once, not too long ago. Now, it's just kind of two blah teams past their prime. Since I don't know a lot about either team except that the Hokies offense is questionable and GT likes to run, I decided to make my pick based on VT's rush defense. Turns out it's the best in the ACC at less than 100 yards per game, so the Hokies are my pick to win.
Northern Illinois (-3) over PURDUE, 11:00 a.m., ESPN2
Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette IN
JM: Really? Purdue's only a three-point dog here? Northern Illinois has had problems, admittedly. Close calls with Idaho and Eastern Illinois are bad looks. But as K-State fans, we tend to understand that early-season close calls often don't mean much as long as you walk away with wins; the team starts getting it together. Meanwhile, Purdue is bad. Really bad. Take the Huskies, give the points.
AA: I've got a bit of a soft spot for Purdue since my brother went to grad school there. He went to one football game in two years, or perhaps two. As much as I'd like to Boiler Up here, though, I just can't. Northern Illinois will win this game by more than 3.
MINNESOTA (+1) over Iowa, 2:30 p.m., ESPN2
TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis MN
JM: Floyd is up for grabs, and somehow Iowa is favored on Minnesota's home turf despite the Gophers being unbeaten and Iowa being sort of yucky. I can't explain it. Granted, Minnesota's wins have not been against daunting competition. They have, however, looked entirely competent in the doing. I think Minnesota runs it to 5-0 Saturday, and maybe beating another mediocre team will finally get them ranked.
AA: Wow, this game sounds like it's going to suck. A lot. Mostly just to be contrarian, I'm going to go with Iowa here. They did look pretty strong last week in a 59-3 demolition of Western Michigan.
ALABAMA (-15.5) over Mississippi, 5:30 p.m., ESPN
Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa AL
JM: After last week's seemingly half-hearted effort against Colorado State (against, let's remember, a former Nick Saban assistant who I think he actually likes well enough not to destroy on general principle), the Tide will make their home conference debut against a team loaded with freshman talent which thinks they can beat Alabama for once. You know perfectly well what's happening in Tuscaloosa this week. Amid talk of a change atop the polls resulting from Alabama just not passing the eye test, Nick Saban's going to putting those young men through hell. And they're going to come out and smack Ole Miss around like nobody's business. Alabama covers. (This concludes today's exercise in Gumping.)
AA: Everything you just said makes a lot of sense. This certainly feels like a game a Nick Saban-team will just go out and dominate. And yet, the memory of Johnny Manziel finding success against all odds just two weeks ago is holding me back. Ole Miss has a vaguely similar, not nearly as talented quarterback who can also run the football and won't be afraid of his second trip to Alabama. No, Bo Wallace didn't do well against the Crimson Tide defense last year, but this time he'll do well enough to cover the spread.
TEXAS-SAN ANTONIO (+3) over Houston, 3 p.m., FOX Sports 1
Alamodome, San Antonio TX
JM: But wait, you say, Houston's undefeated and UTSA is UTSA. Houston had trouble with Temple. UTSA hung in there with Oklahoma State and didn't look horrible against Arizona. I predict a very, very embarrassing afternoon for the Cougars as they suffer the ignominy of losing to an in-state rival which hasn't even played 30 football games yet. Besides, you all know that UTSA is actually Texas State Tire College in disguise, right?
AA: This seems like another ambitious pick for the little guy to me. It's gotten you into trouble before, and it will happen again this Saturday. Houston may have a freshman quarterback in John O'Korn, but I think he can handle a weak UTSA defense. The Cougars move to 4-0 with a fairly convincing win.