Yesterday, Luke got rivalry week off to a good start by picking five in-state rivalry games. All of today's picks won't be in-state, because there are matters we must address. But since Luke deliberately avoided Thursday and Friday games, as is his wont, we'll be rolling heavy on the holiday fare. This week is so strong we're not even picking the Iron Bowl. How crazy is that?
So, prepared and braced for batter, onward we march. For Entertainment Purposes Only, of course. After all, you can't go losing all your internet dollars right before Black Friday.
|Thursday, 6:30 p.m. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin TX|
JM: Wait. Texas is favored? I mean, the narrowness of the line clearly indicates that Tech is perceived to be the better team by a sliver, but Texas is favored? That's not what gives me pause, however. It's the fact that the over/under is 72.5, meaning Vegas is looking for a 37-35 game here.
But... wait. When you think about it, doesn't that seem about right? Texas has the defense to at least limit Tech. Tech has the defense to allow Texas to score five touchdowns. Or more. And I look at all of that, and then add in the fact that Texas is playing at home to save their bowl hopes and maybe even their coach's job (votes of confidence notwithstanding), and... yeah. When I started typing the first paragraph, I was going to laugh about this line being stupid. But now I think the Longhorns cover.
LT: Also, the biggest weakness in the Texas Tech defense is the run game, and that's the one thing Texas can do. I agree the Longhorns should be especially motivated in this one. The Red Raiders can't stop anyone. I mean, Kansas scored 20 points against that defense and no other Big 12 team scored less than 31. Also, Arkansas only scored 24. Good job, SEC. Longhorns cover.
|Friday, 11:00 a.m. TDECU Stadium, Houston TX|
JM: Houston finally fell off the party bus last week, losing by three to Connecticut. It was their third straight close call in a row, and it finally caught up to them. Now the Cougars suddenly have to win just to force a tie for the initial American Conference west division title. It ain't happenin'. Yes, Navy lost by 17 at Notre Dame. Other than that, they have not even remotely been on the same planet as any other team they've faced. They crushed Memphis, and they easily handled the middle of the east division (which is weaker than the west at the top, but much stronger top to bottom). Houston's prone to defensive miscues, and Navy's really not. Midshipmen win, and in the process force the playoff committee into a holding pattern to decide the other New Year's bowls for a week while they wait on Army-Navy. LOKI WINS.
LT: On the flip side, Houston will probably play much better this week now that it's not weighed down by the pressure of being undefeated. The question is whether that's enough to stop Navy, and the fact the Houston has by far the conference's best run defense certainly helps here. Then again, the Midshipmen bring such a different look that sometimes they can dominate even a front seven used to stuffing a traditional rushing attack. This time, though, I think Houston actually comes through. Cougars cover.
|Friday, 2:30 p.m. Memorial Coliseum, Lincoln NE|
JM: You don't even have to change the channel for this one.
Hey, it's been fun, Iowa, but the train stops here. Look, Iowa is really just not that good. They have one good win. One. Sure, Nebraska's desperately trying to become bowl-eligible, something they never had trouble with under a litany of coaches deemed not good enough for Nebraska. And we're definitely giggling over that state of affairs. But take away Nebraska's 10-point loss at Purdue and then look at the losses remaining. You'll see a very clear pattern, one which was finally broken two weeks ago against Michigan State. Huskers win, and for the first time ever I'm happy about it.
LT: I absolutely agree with you Iowa is not that good, which is why the 11-0 Hawkeyes are only favored by 1.5 against the 5-6 Huskers. On paper, that looks absolutely ridiculous. In reality, it seems about right. But let's be honest, while Nebraska has been unlucky (4 losses by three points or less) it's also just not that good of a team. Homefield advantage really hasn't helped much, and I don't see any reason why Iowa can't suffer its first loss in a blowout at the hands of Michigan State. The Hawkeyes have earned that. Iowa covers.
|Friday, 6:30 p.m. Amon Carder Stadium, Fort Worth TX|
JM: This one opened as a pick 'em, but Baylor's taken the lead. The problem with this game is figuring out who's going to actually be playing in it. Nick Russell's done for the year and Jarrett Stidham is doubtful, while Shock Linwood is a question mark. That's bad news for Baylor, trying to win a game against a real opponent with a third-string QB and their main ground threat gone. TCU has lost Josh Doctson and Ty Slanina, as well as all those missing players on defense. But hold the phone! Trevone Boykin is now listed as probable, and with everything else going on that may very well be the edge the Frogs need. If Boykin starts, Frogs win. If not, Baylor covers.
(I know I'm hedging, but it's completely fair in this case. We're writing this two days early; if we were actually betting, we wouldn't place the bet until just before game time, at which point we'd probably know whether Boykin was starting or not. We're not here to bet on whether a guy plays or not. They have prop bets for that nonsense.)
LT: Interesting approach. But you didn't mention Baylor's third-string quarterback, Chris Johnson, actually looked pretty good this week. Considering all the other injuries TCU has suffered, I tend to think the Bears have the edge at the line of scrimmage and at wide receiver with the Horned Frogs' top two threats out of the game. Trevone Boykin is incredible, there's no doubt, and he might very well put his team on his back for a win. But I think he'll fall just short again. Bears cover.
|Saturday, 11:00 a.m. Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor MI|
JM: This game opened with Ohio State as 2.5 point favorites, but the nonsense in Columbus over the weekend caused a shift, and rightly so. I'd have taken Michigan anyway; I think they're the better team this year anyway, straight up. But when you have your backup quarterback yapping to the press about transferring or going pro, your starting all-world RB bellyaching to the press about how he pressed the coaching staff to give him the damn ball and they wouldn't, throwing the rest of the team under the bus... hey, your defending national champs are trying to get into This Week in Schadenfreude all by themselves. Wolverines cover.
LT: Yeah, you just know The Big House is going to be insane for this game, and Jim Harbaugh will have saved something special. Throw in Ohio State's issues and this one's a no-brainer. Wolverines cover..