It's a wonderful week of football, with five games between ranked teams, including three with opponents in the top 15 and two with opponents in the top 10. Unfortunately, one of those matchups is on Thursday, so you won't see it in this edition of FEPO, but it's still our strongest slate of the season.
Last week, Jon and I both massively underestimated UT (both Tennessee and Texas) and only differed on one pick. Jon put too much stock in Indiana's game against Ohio State, so I benefited when Penn State crushed the Hoosiers to help me go 6-4 for the week and improve to 31-28-1 overall, compared to Jon's 5-5 and 29-30-1 overall. Also, remember that Boston College-Wake game we both agreed would be awful because of BC's great defense and abysmal offense? Wake won 3-0 with a field goal on a 4-play, -2 yard drive in a game that featured six turnovers and ended with BC getting stuffed on a run at the Wake 1-yard line. GROSS.
On to the picks.
|Saturday, 11 a.m. Liberty Bowl, Memphis TN|
LT: This game is a fascinating one to me. Despite what happened at Florida, Ole Miss is a very good football team. The Rebels have a fantastic passing attack and a solid defense, with plenty of great athletes. As for Memphis, well, it’s harder to tell. The Tigers are undefeated and the class of the American. We can be fairly sure of that. But how good are they, really? If you like quick-hitting, spread-out passing attacks, this will be one to watch. Both teams will put up a lot of points, but in the end, Ole Miss seems to have the superior defense. Memphis probably needs a few turnovers and isn’t going to be able to win this one in a shootout. I’ll take the Rebels to cover.
JM: Make no mistake: I still think Ole Miss is a better football team than Memphis, no matter how excited I am over the success of the top end of the American thus far this year. But with 2015 being absurdly 2007-like, a Memphis win wouldn't even really surprise me, and that offense can move. In general, a team that can score lots of points isn't a team you bet against with a double-digit spread... but then, I remember a lot of K-State teams that scored a whole bunch of points and still lost by three scores to Nebraska back in the day. On the other other hand, Ole Miss is not 1995 Nebraska, so I'll go ahead and take Memphis to cover.
|Saturday, 11 a.m. Ryan Field, Evanston IL|
LT: Maybe it's my anti-B1G bias, but I'm really not impressed by either of these teams. Northwestern got destroyed 38-0 last week, and Iowa's best win was a 10-6 escape on the road against an overrated Wisconsin team. However, Hawkeyes running back Jordan Canzeri is pretty good (he put up 256 yards last week) and Northwestern has given up more than 177 yards three times. I'll take Iowa to win by more than one.
JM: Why do you do this? Nobody knows who's going to win this game, and only masochists, Hawkeyes, and a bunch of empty seats at Ryan Field care. I mean, when I pick a weird game there's at least a story there. Jeez, Luke. Whatever. If I'm going to throw non-existent money away on a bad bet, I may as well take a shot at gaining a game on you in the process. Northwestern covers.
|Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Kyle Field, College Station TX|
LT: Well, last week we said Georgia and its lack of a passing game didn't match up well against angry Alabama, and the Bulldogs never had a chance. So Texas A&M's air attack should be a great matchup against the Crimson Tide, right? Well, here's the problem: We're talking about a somewhat inconsistent sophomore quarterback who doesn't really have the best weapons or a great defense to back him up. Sure, if the Aggies catch the same breaks Ole Miss did, they can probably win this game. But that doesn't seem likely to happen again, and the Crimson Tide hasn't lost more than one SEC game since 2010. Bama covers.
JM: Alabama will have trouble stopping A&M from scoring. But the Tide offense will probably do enough damage on their own. Alabama has not failed to score 27 points in any game this season, and they've only given up 24 in the last two games combined. One of those was to a team A&M only beat by seven points themselves. I think the Tide cover here.
|Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor MI|
LT: Finally, a B1G game worth watching! This one and Michigan-Ohio State may be the only ones that meet that standard for me. So, the Wolverines have been winning in very impressive fashion lately. Michigan State, on the other hand, has been winning in very unimpressive fashion. Notably, a three-point win over Purdue and at home and a seven-point win at Rutgers. Yet, for some reason I feel like the touchdown spread is a little too large, and while Michigan might win, I'm taking the Spartans to cover.
JM: If we ignore the season-opening loss to Utah, which itself doesn't look bad at all now, Michigan is scoring 32 points a game... and have only allowed 14 points total. Now, let's backtrack: again, 32 points a game. Michigan State has only topped that twice, and haven't hit 40 all season. And they're supposed to be an offensive force.
So the questions one need to ask are simple: will Michigan's defense continue to amaze? Will Michigan State finally show up to play in the second half? Which is more likely? I think the former, and the problem for Sparty will be that instead of falling apart while leading by 21 they're going to fall apart while the game is still close. Michigan covers.
|Saturday, 6:00 p.m. Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge LA|
LT: Leonard Fournette is really, really good at football. That's the most important thing to know here. Florida's defense has been solid, but it also gave up 100+ yards to two different backs. The Gators seem due for a letdown, don't have their starting quarterback, and LSU is just so good in Death Valley, which is why moving the South Carolina game there was egregiously unfair. Plus, QB Brandon Harris is starting to look like a real quarterback. The Tigers cover and win going away.
JM: Oh, yeah. Florida's dream dies Saturday, and we'll always have that niggling doubt as to whether they should even be unbeaten now because of PEDs. Tigers cover, and Leonard Fournette once again does something outlandishly, yet respectfully, awesome in his post-game interview.
Those Thursday night games Luke mentioned, and some fun in the deep south too.