Today, we get to talk about both the best defense in the land and arguably one of the worst. We get to discuss recovering from disaster and cowering in the midst of it. We get to question people's sanity and give cause to question our own.
Today's set of picks features some matchups which don't look that interesting at first glance, but all have some interesting storylines. And we'll get right to it, as always For Entertainment Purposes Only.
|Friday, 6:00 p.m. Joan Edwards Stadium, Huntington WV|
JM: There are two reasons I've chosen this game. The first is to give Todd Monken a well-deserved tip of the cap, as he's finally gotten the Golden Eagles moving in the right direction after what's been a disastrous few seasons. USM finished the 2011 season 12-2, and then proceeded to lose 23 games in a row. I'm not sure, but I think that's got to be some sort of record. Last year they improved to 3-9, which means that they're just one win away from this season matching their win total for the previous three campaigns.
The other reason is that they're not going to achieve that goal this week. Marshall is not the Marshall that was in contention for a New Year's Six bowl appearance last year, but they're still a pretty good football team. And while Southern Miss is making real, tangible process, they've done so against what's so far been a relatively weak schedule. (We can't even fully credit them for that close call in Lincoln, since the Cornhuskers seem to be a bit of a dumpster fire.) This line opened at -7.5 for the Herd, and it's shrunk to -5. That's silly. Marshall's going to win this one by at least a touchdown.
LT: That sounds like a touching story and all, but I really don't care about this game. The Thundering Herd might challenge Western Kentucky for a CUSA division title, but I doubt it, and clearly USM is still going to be at or near the bottom. It'd be nice to see the Golden Eagles win this game, but they have up 50 points to Texas State earlier this season. That's all I need to know, even though USM still won the game. Marshall covers.
|Saturday, 11:00 a.m. Cotton Bowl, Dallas TX|
JM: As crazy as it may seem, Oklahoma is actually underrated so far this year. By resume, they're well ahead of their current 10-spot in the AP poll, and there are rating systems which now have them as the #1 team in the country. Meanwhile, down in Austin, we don't just have a dumpster fire, we have a raging landfill inferno. It became abundantly clear on Monday that the Longhorn locker room is completely fractured, and that chasm sits right between Mack Brown recruits and Charlie Strong signings.
I did some polling and have reached one conclusion: Texas fans are ready for the upperclassmen to go ahead and move on as soon as humanly possible. The Longhorn fanbase is embracing the Snyderian ideal of players who want to be part of the system as opposed to players who want to enter the draft. Charlie Strong's job is not in jeopardy, either, as the administration appears to be of the same mindset. But what that means right now is that they've given up on 2015, and after last week's effort it's probably not inaccurate to say that most of the team's starters have also given up. Oklahoma's important, but they just don't seem to have the makeup to overcome. Sooners cover.
LT: Ha. Yeah, Jon pretty much summed this one up. The Sooners could each eat about five Fried Snickers bars pregame and still win this one by more than 17 points.
|Saturday, 11:00 a.m. Beaver Stadium, Happy Valley PA|
JM: This is a joke, isn't it? I mean, Indiana ran with the alleged best team in the country, and they're an eight-point dog against a team that lost to Temple?
Okay, I'm the first to admit Temple's actually a good football team this year (and the American's turning into quite an acceptable football conference). But not only did Penn State lose to Temple, they also had to fight and claw their way to a six-point win at home over Army. Army is not actually a good football team. They are decidedly worse than Indiana, and to suggest that the Nittany Lions are going to beat the Hoosiers worse than they beat Army is patently absurd. Indiana covers.
LT: You know who else ran with the alleged best team in the country? Northern Illinois. The week after that the Huskies lost at Boston College. Then at Central Michigan. Just like everyone else, the Hoosiers played one of their best games against Ohio State, because how could you not get up and play out of your mind with nothing to lose against the No. 1 ranked defending champs? Now it's time for the inevitable letdown, and Penn State will be eager to make up for that dismal win against Army. Nittany Lions win and cover.
|Saturday, 3:00 p.m. Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill MA|
JM: This game will be dreadful as a viewing experience, but as an intellectual exercise it's sort of interesting. Boston College has the best defense in the nation. Period. It's not even arguable, and here's why: they allow the fewest yards per game rushing, and the fewest yards per game passing. That's a combination you just don't see. But their offense is putrid, which I can put in perspective by noting that Boston College's total points scored in all their games against FBS opponents is a smaller number than Kansas State's total points scored in any single game this year, and we think K-State's offense is broken and dysfunctional. That offense is why the Eagles are only 3-2, and two of those wins are against FCS foes.
Wake Forest isn't a particularly good team, but they stayed within a touchdown of Indiana and a touchdown with a 2-point conversion of Florida State. The point here is that Boston College is probably going to win this game, but only an idiot would give 7.5 points with a team that's only scoring 8 points a game against FBS competition. Wake covers in an awful, brutal slugfest; maybe BC wins 9-7 this week instead of losing 9-7, you dig?
LT: Man, this sounds terrible. I'm not sure what to think of Wake, because they really do have some good losses and here's a crazy stat: The Demon Deacons are the only team in the country to have played five games and not forced a single turnover. Surely they're due for one against BC's miserable offense, which somewhat surprisingly has committed only four turnovers this season. Time for Wake's luck to change. Demon Deacons not only cover, but win.
|Saturday, 3:30 p.m. Memorial Stadium, Lincoln NE|
JM: Has nobody noticed that Nebraska is really, really not-good this year? Nebraska is allowing more yards through the air than any other team in FBS thus far. Any. Other. They are dead last. And you might be thinking, "Yeah, but it's Wisconsin, that doesn't matter."
It does. Wisconsin's actually throwing for over 225 a game, so it's not a forgotten portion of their attack. And while both teams are very, very good against the run, Wisconsin can also defend the pass very well, so which team is more likely to actually get victimized? That's right. The Blackshirts, who are not beating Wisconsin if they can't even beat Illinois. Badgers cover.
LT: Oh, good, another awful B1G game! Just what I wanted. I'd prefer to pretend both these teams don't exist, but since we have to go through this exercise, let's remember how Nebraska lost last week. It's hilarious. The Huskers took a 13-0 lead into the fourth quarter at Illinois and managed to lose on a late one-yard touchdown pass, the fourth time in five weeks a Nebraska game wasn't decided until the opponent's last offensive play.
So how will it end this week? I'm thinking with Wisconsin down by a touchdown and just seven seconds left at the 12-yard-line, quarterback Joel Stave throws over the middle to Alex Erickson on third down. A Nebraska defender hits him hard enough to jar the ball loose, but as he's falling down, Erickson kicks it up in the air just enough for Austin Traylor to make a diving touchdown catch. Then Wisconsin wins by 7 in overtime. That would be fun. Badgers cover.