Last week, I was kind enough to leave Jon a perfectly good matchup of two ranked Pac-12 teams (Stanford at Arizona State) and he had the audacity to not only ignore it, but also complain about me taking all the really good games, when I had chosen Kansas-Texas Tech (!). Message received loud and clear, Mr. Morse, and no, I don't care that you had understandably no idea who was going to win that game.
Unfortunately for me, and even more unfortunately for Jon, even this week's top 4 games plus Missouri aren't very interesting, but Jon and I are still picking them For Entertainment Purposes Only. Like Kansas State's schedule, there's the possibility for some big upsets, but things won't really get interesting until the calendar turns. Actually, there are some good games nationally next week (hello, Auburn-Ole Miss) but I just really wanted to make that analogy.
Anyway, last week Jon and I both went a mediocre 5-5 because stupid Texas Tech fell a point short of a 14-point spread against Kansas. Terrible. The good news is at 38-32 overall I remained a game ahead of Jon's 37-33.
Due to your managing editor's battle with a three-day migraine, this was accidentally scheduled before it was completed. Our apologies.
Missouri (-20.5) over Vanderbilt, 3 p.m. SEC Network
Faurot Field, Columbia MO
LT: This one more or less comes down to whether you think Mizzou's offensive struggles in SEC play (119 yards in a win last week was their lowest total since they had 116 in a 66-0 loss at Manhattan in '99) come down to the Tigers' own problems or the defenses they've faced. Personally, I think it's a little bit of both, and Vandy's defense is more than bad enough to get Missouri back on track. Plus, the Tigers' defensive line is going to eat the Commodores for lunch, quite possibly forcing a few turnovers. If Vandy is somehow dumb enough to kick to Marcus Murphy, this could get really ugly. Mizzou covers.
JM: The thing that I just can't figure out is how Vanderbilt swirled down the toilet so quickly. It's certainly not just because James Franklin left, otherwise Penn State would be good. Depth problems due to personnel attrition certainly doesn't help, I'm sure, and the loss of two gutty, underrated, and super-talented offensive weapons didn't either. All of that is, of course, irrelevant to our current topic. Missouri covers, no problem.
West Virginia (+1) over OKLAHOMA STATE, 2:30 p.m. ESPN
Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater OK
LT: I'm all in on West Virginia right now. Clint Trickett is one hell of a quarterback and he gets to face a defense that gave up more than 400 yards passing to Trevone Boykin last week. Some might say I should be concerned by the fact that the Mountaineers are due for a letdown after their biggest Big 12 victory ever and point out that they barely came back to win at Texas Tech in their last road game. I would argue Oklahoma State will still be beat up from last week's rout in Fort Worth and it's a little ridiculous they are favored to win this game. Moutaineers cover.
JM: I will throw out this caution: the Mountaineers aren't exactly the same team in the central time zone. But jeebus, Oklahoma State is bad. I mean, they're not Kansas bad, but they sure aren't doing Florida State any favors if you get what I'm saying. I am absolutely gobsmacked that the Cowboys are actually favored in this game. Had they been underdogs, I'd very likely have gone ahead and taken a flyer, because the Big 12 is Really Freaking Weird, but no. I see no reason to actually
betpredict that Oklahoma State's going to win this game outright. Take the 'Eers and the point.
LSU (+3.5) over Ole Miss, 6:15 p.m. ESPN
Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge LA
LT: Listen, I'd like to see a matchup of unbeatens in the Egg Bowl just as much as anyone else, mostly to see Auburn and Alabama fans react to being eliminated from the SEC championship two whole weeks before it's actually played. But Ole Miss isn't winning back-to-back games against LSU and Auburn, to say nothing of Mississippi State's matchup at Alabama. The Tigers got some confidence by exposing Kentucky as a fraud last week, and while I do believe the Rebels are for real, they're going to fall short at Baton Rouge.
Yes, Ole Miss statistically has a very good rushing defense, but they also gave up 168 yards on the ground the only time they faced a competent running attack, against Alabama. Meanwhile, LSU has the nation's 6th best pass efficiency defense and plenty of athletes in the secondary to shut down Bo Wallace. The Tigers got run over by Auburn, but Ole Miss doesn't have that capability. LSU wins.
JM: No sir. What you're forgetting here is that LSU has been shaky on offense, and you're acting as if 168 yards on the ground is criminal negligence. Instead, one should stop and ask themselves how many yards a game one should expect Alabama to pick up on the ground. Alabama is running for 223 a game, compared to LSU's 220. The thing is, Alabama's also throwing for three bills a game, and LSU's averaging under two. And Ole Miss handled Alabama just fine.
So the issue here is that yeah, Ole Miss is sketchy offensively sometimes and they're not going to run up the score on LSU... but LSU's going to have a lot of trouble scoring points in the first place. Rebels cover.
AUBURN (-17.5) over South Carolina, 6:30 p.m. SEC Network
Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn AL
LT: This would have seemed like rather large spread at the beginning of the year. Now it doesn't seem nearly big enough. The last time Auburn played a home game, it crushed LSU 41-7. Now the Tigers have had two weeks to stew over a crushing loss at Mississippi State, and during that time South Carolina lost to Missouri and Kentucky before beating up on a defenseless FCS school last week. Auburn covers easily.
JM: Oh, yeah. Spurrier's gonna be mad Sunday. This is just a bad, bad team (by recent South Carolina standards, anyway). Auburn covers.
USC (EVEN) over UTAH, 9 p.m. FOX Sports 1
Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City
LT: It's the weekly last Saturday Pac-12 game between two moderately good teams where no one knows what the hell is going to happen! Hooray! This one has the added benefit of being a pick 'em, which is something I don't remember happening in FEPO before. Maybe Jon does. Either way, the decisive factor for me here is that Utah's signature win was a 2-point triumph at #8 UCLA, who has since proven it wasn't close to worthy of the ranking. This is USC, so it's hard to tell what we're going to get, but anything close to their best should be good enough. Trojans cover.
JM: Nah, we had two pick 'ems in one week last year, I think. Maryland was involved in one of them. You even threatened me with bodily harm for doing that to you.
Anyway, I'm sort of baffled about this one, as I am with all Pac-12 games not involving Colorado. Utah is solidly competent, and if they hadn't gone and blown a 21-point lead they'd be unbeaten -- which, by the way, is a statement we can apply to a certain bunch of purple amphibians down south, so the whole "blowing a 21-point lead" thing isn't necessarily indicative of much. Strangely enough, the team to which the Utes blew that lead is also a team which is capable of scoring tons of points really, really quickly.
In other words, if I'm looking at these two teams, I see on one hand a team that I have about as much faith in as I have in Oklahoma State, and another who might very well be the Pac-12 version of TCU, although not as good. That -- and the fact that this game is in Salt Lake City -- are enough to get me to throw caution to the wind and take Utah here.
Tomorrow: We'll try to actually have the post completed when it publishes! Won't that be awesome?