Welcome to our second year of FEPO, in which benevolent leader Jon Morse and I make our picks against the spread for the college football games that are most interesting to us. We're getting off to a slow start here mostly because I forgot, but let's just say it's part of my ongoing efforts to emulate Tyler Lockett in every aspect of life.
I guess in that analogy it would be Jon's fault for limiting my output early on, when in reality it's mostly my new job that has done that, but whatever. As an apology to Jon, and in deference to Bill Snyder's wishes, I've decided I will make picks exclusively for Saturday games this year, leaving those tasty mid-week games to Mr. Morse.
The second Saturday of college football is generally full of cupcakes, and this year is no different. Luckily for us, the Pac-12 has given us a pair of gems, and then there are some other games that could be mildly interesting. Keep in mind all picks are made For Entertainment Purposes Only.
Oklahoma (-24.5) over TULSA, 11 a.m., ESPN2
H.A. Chapman Stadium, Tulsa OK
LT: The Sooners face their first road test in this one. Well, technically. In reality, they're traveling less than 2 hours to face an inferior team from the not-so-mighty American Athletic Conference. If you haven't been paying attention to the Hurricanes the last couple years, it might surprise you to learn they actually rely heavily on their defense now after an absolutely horrendous year on offense last season. That might actually be a good thing because no AAC offense is going to do well against OU anyway, but a 38-31 2OT win vs. Tulane to start the season doesn't exactly inspire confidence. The Sooners will cover.
JM: Not only is this not really a road game for the Sooners, but while Tulsa doesn't ignore their local heroes the fact is that the city is still a Sooner-Cowboy stronghold, and not only do both schools have campuses in Tulsa, they're located where more people see them than see UT. Even if nobody were to make the trip from Norman, there'd still be a ton of red there. I'm not as blase about the Tulane game, because the Green Wave have quietly been approaching competence of late. And I'm not impressed by what Oklahoma did to Louisiana Tech last week because Skip Holtz. But 24.5 isn't really that much; taking into account the over/under, Vegas is looking at this as a 38-14 game or thereabouts, and that sounds about right to me, making this a tough pick. I'll go with the Sooners to cover, if only because Tulsa never fails to collapse against their in-state rivals.
Missouri (-4.5) over TOLEDO, 11 a.m. ESPN
Glass Bowl, Toledo OH
LT: This is another game where the home team is not the one you'd expect, which means we get a nationally televised game at the Glass Bowl, maybe the best-named stadium in the country. If you're looking for intrigue, Gary Pinkel coached 10 seasons at Toledo and Mizzou quarterback Maty Mauk grew up in nearby Kenton, Ohio, but didn't receive a scholarship offer from the Rockets. Exciting, right? I'm a little worried about both sides of the passing game for the Tigers, but they'll be ready for this one and in the end their size and speed should be enough to cover here.
JM: Toledo is a fine MAC team, and this shouldn't be a rout or anything. But the Tigers showed me something last week; although Zach Zenner got his 100, but 75 of his 103 were on one play*, and the rest of the Jackrabbit offense combined for a total of 16 yards (not sack-adjusted, so probably a bit more). Take out Zenner's 75-yard touchdown run, which happened barely a minute into the game, and Missouri's run defense -- which was memorably destroyed by Tre Mason last December -- held South Dakota State to 44 yards on 31 carries over the last 59 minutes, and held Zenner to 28 on 16. I think they've figured out how to defend the run. They did, as you mentioned, give up some yards in the air, but I think that was really more a function of the game plan: "Don't let Zenner beat us."
All of that to say: Missouri is going to cover, and this game's not going to be a nail-biter.
*Editor's note: One busted play on SDSU's first offensive snap of the game in which Zenner picked up a bad snap and outran the recklessly overpursuing Mizzou defense.
STANFORD (-2.5) over USC, 2:30 p.m., ABC
Stanford Stadium, Palo Alto CA
LT: USC finally ended a four-game losing streak against the Cardinal last year with a rather stunning 20-17 win. This year, though, Stanford looks to have too much size and experience to lost this one on its home field. Look for that deep stable of running backs to have a big day and win going away against new (and possibly racist?) head coach Steve Sarkisian.
JM: It's funny. Stanford clobbered an FCS team, didn't let them pass midfield until the final drive, and fell in the polls. USC clobbered a Fresno State team breaking in a new quarterback, and everyone's all excited. I don't think this game's going to get away from the Trojans like you do, but I have to agree with you that Stanford's going to cover. They always start the year underrated. By November, they'll be overrated, of course, but for now they're just Stanford doing Stanford things.
Ole Miss (-20) over VANDERBILT, 3:30 p.m. ESPN
LP Field, Nashville TN
LT: Ole Miss favored by 20 on the road in an SEC game? Is this real life? Actually, yes, and it's a sad indication of just how far Vandy football has fallen in the last 12 months or so. Derek Mason has one hell of a rebuilding job in front of him after James Franklin bolted for Penn State, where it seems he might be a better fit anyway (ugh). Oh by the way, the 'Dores lost by 30 at home to Temple last week. Meanwhile, Mississippi is trending upwards with an experienced group that finally woke up in the fourth quarter to blow away Boise State last week. QB Bo Wallace will be ready to go Saturday and the Rebels cover. Easily.
JM: If we were only concerned with Vandy's seal-clubbing at the hands of a team K-State used to schedule as a tune-up, then I'd be less certain of this. But when you couple that with what Ole Miss did to everyone's least-favorite mid-major threat, I just don't see this ending in anything but tears and dropped monocles. Jeeves, bring the car around. Yes, I know it's still the second quarter. I don't pay you to argue with me. The Fighting Ackbars cover.
OREGON (-12) over Michigan State, 6:45 p.m., ESPN
Autzen Stadium, Eugene OR
LT: Listen, I'm sure Michigan State has a really nice team and maybe 12 points is realistically a little too much here. Vegas always does seem to love Oregon. But I don't want to live in a world where a B1G defensive juggernaut can go into Eugene and not get blown away by that fast-paced, explosive Ducks offense. I just don't. Oregon covers or I will be very, very sad.
JM: I'm glad you picked this game to close this installment, because now I can finally disagree with you and, of course, regain my rightful place as the leader of this competition. I really think it's unfair that we had to reset the score to 0-0 just because it's a new season. Harrumph.
Thing is, I think Michigan State's got the horses to score some points in this game, and prevent Oregon from running away and hiding. Sparty may not win this game, and I wouldn't dare bet on them straight-up, but this is going to be a fascinating three hours and a mere ten-point Oregon win wouldn't shock me. After all, Oregon only managed to beat K-State by 18 in the Fiesta Bowl two years ago, and that K-State defense was nothing at all like these Spartans. Michigan State covers, barely.
Jon attempts to confuse Luke, as usual. Does Conference USA quietly have a co-favorite now? Or maybe even an actual fight for the top? Is Iowa going to get MACced? Can Texas stop the run? All this and more tomorrow in FEPO!