We'll start today's installment with these simple little words: I'm not touching Baylor/West Virginia with a ten-foot pole.
It's a pretty huge week, as evidenced by yesterday's picks. Today is more of the same, albeit less spectacular, largely because of Luke's bizarre aversion to choosing to pick Thursday games unless I force him to. Someone needs to explain to that boy that in a perfect world we would have college football every damned night. 365 days a year, even.
Anyway, onward we go with today's prime selections, as always presented For Entertainment Purposes Only.
|Thursday, 6 p.m. Commonwealth Stadium, Lexington KY|
JM: No, this is not a joke. Auburn really is favored by two points on the road against a team which has already beaten South Carolina and Missouri and very nearly took down Florida. Auburn. You know, the team that had to go to overtime to beat Jacksonville State. Look, I realize it's hard to imagine Kentucky beating Auburn in a sport which doesn't involve an orange sphere. And that's why the Vegas line is wrong. Oh, by the way: Auburn is 0-5 against the spread this year. Kentucky's only 2-3, but they're 2-1 in SEC games. Wildcats cover.
LT: Look, the Tigers have had a week to prepare and freshman quarterback Sean White may be better than Heisman candidate turned backup Jeremy Johnson. But we still haven't seen any evidence White is any good, and the Tigers still looked lackluster in a win over San Jose State. Kentucky isn't really all that good, per se, considering they themselves only beat Eastern Kentucky (who will lose at Jacksonville State later this year) by a touchdown one week ago. However, the Wildcats have shown themselves to be competent and finally capable of pulling off multiple SEC wins against decent teams. Kentucky wins.
|Thursday, 8:30 p.m. Stanford Stadium, Palo Alto CA|
JM: And right after you watch Kentucky beat Auburn, you can stay right there on ESPN for this critical Pac-12 showdown. Stanford looked like poop against Northwestern, but since then they've rolled. Of course, they haven't really played any top-25 caliber teams in the process, USC and Arizona's preseason rankings notwithstanding. Still, UCLA looked just plain bad last week at home against an Arizona State squad which was similarly overrated in the preseason, and perhaps more pertinently the Bruins didn't look as good against Arizona as Stanford did, although UCLA did play that game on the road while Stanford got it at home.
Ultimately, this is a test between a hotshot freshman quarterback who's been prone to error against a seasoned veteran who had a bad game to start the season but has since been nails. Give me that, I'll take the vet. Stanford covers.
LT: I'd argue the difference between a 56-30 win (it was 42-14 at half) and a 56-17 win is negligible, especially considering UCLA played at Arizona and Stanford got the Wildcats at home. But that's really neither here nor there, since it's silly to think we can gain all that much from looking at common opponents. The more important thing here is we have two good teams, both of which are capable of putting up a lot of points.
Jon makes a good point about the quarterbacks, particularly since Bruins freshman Josh Rosen already has 5 interceptions to go with his 9 touchdowns. Even more importantly, Paul Perkins is an excellent running back for USC, but Stanford's backfield gets the overall edge with Christian McCaffrey and Barry Sanders, Jr., not to mention Remound Wright, who leads the group with 7 touchdowns despite just 122 rushing yards. Defensively, UCLA ranks 9th in the Pac-12 against the run. Stanford ranks second. Take the Cardinal to cover.
|Saturday, 6:00 p.m. Death Valley, Clemson SC|
JM: LOL NOPE. We've already had this discussion once, readers. Clemson will win this game. They aren't going to win it by 16. Hell, they may not score 16. After all, Florida State didn't. Boston College's offense is as execrable as any I have ever witnessed, but somehow their defense gets no respect in Vegas, and that's just insane. Which, coincidentally, is the exact word I'd use to describe BC's defense. The only thing that defense isn't doing is scoring points on its own; if they could score one touchdown a game they'd be 5-1. Clemson scores points, but they've played some teams that give up points, and the strength of the Clemson program right now is their defense. Well, having a strong defense against Boston College is as irrelevant as having plate mail in a Nerf gun war. Eagles cover, and still lose. Probably 17-3 or something stupid like that.
LT: Yes, Boston College's defense is really good. That's undeniable. At the same time, though, the best offense the Eagles have played is Florida State, who is ranked 47th in total yards. Yes, that's one spot ahead of Clemson, but at some point when your offense can never stay on the field, your defense is going to get tired. The Tigers have a pretty good defense (#13 in the country) as well, and they'll pull away late to cover in this one.
|Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Sanford Stadium, Athens GA|
JM: No, that's not a misprint. Missouri has problems, yes. Defense is not really one of them, and as we've seen the last two weeks Georgia might be an effective treatment for those suffering from diminished offense. I figure the Dawgs win this one, but they aren't winning by sixteen freaking points. Mizzou covers.
LT: Jon forgot to mention but is surely taking into account that Nick Chubb will not be playing in this game. Unlike last season, there is no Nick Chubb to replace Georgia's stud running back. If there were, I would almost certainly have to pick against my Tigers. As it is, though, I'm using the injury to justify a decision I don't feel great about making, particularly since the memory of what the Bulldogs did at Faurot Field last season still haunts me. Mizzou finds a way to cover.
|Saturday, 9:00 p.m. Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City UT|
JM: Utah is unbeaten against the eighth-toughest schedule in the country. The seven toughest schedules belong to Texas, Arkansas, BYU, Tennessee, Virginia, South Carolina, and Alabama, just in case you were curious as to how impressive Utah being unbeaten actually is; Florida is the only other unbeaten with a top-20 schedule. Arizona State, meanwhile... well, they're a wildcard. The thing is, Utah is going to win, but I'm hesitant to claim they'll cover. It's one of those situations where Michigan was no fluke, but Oregon sort of was. Utah wins with their defense, as evidenced by holding Cal to 24 points. That won't be the last time they win a game by a touchdown. But since this is in Salt Lake, I'll go ahead and give the Utes my blessing. Utah covers.
LT: Did you know Pac-12 road teams are 10-5 in conference games this season? Yes, Utah's win over California is one of the five, but it's still a fascinating stat. I'm not sure what to think about this game, but the success of road teams and everyone's fawning over Utah tends to make me believe they're due for a stumble. Arizona State looks to me very much like a team that could pull that off, just as it did in a 38-23 win at UCLA. Sun Devils cover.