I had really wanted to drop five games involving teams who'd won actual official national championships on you today, but sadly Boise State and Georgia Southern are both idle, Western Kentucky and Louisiana Tech are playing speed bumps, and other than the two such games I was actually able to include the rest of the former national champions all stink.
So basically, today's picks (as always For Entertainment Purposes Only) are the five best games remaining after Luke snapped all the good ones from a very weak schedule for the first weekend of November.
Unless you really want us to pick Big Ten games, that is.
|Friday, 6:30 p.m. Kidd Brewer Stadium, Boone NC
JM: It's admittedly only the Sun Belt, but has there ever been a more successful jump from the FCS ranks than that undertaken by Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, both multiple FCS championship winners? Last year the Eagles ran the table in the Fun Belt. This year, it looks like it's their old rivals' turn, as the Mountaineers finally ended Southern's perfect conference record a couple of weeks ago. (Southern had won its first 11 games against Sun Belt foes.)
Appalachian State rolled through the first seven weeks of the season, their only loss a thoroughly unsurprising beatdown at the hands of Clemson. If they'd schedule South Carolina instead, they might be 8-0 right now. Arkansas State is not the Arkansas State we've gotten used to over the last few years; eventually, it seems that having to change your head coach every year because a larger program steals him takes its toll. There's really only one red flag here, and that's last week: the Mountaineers barely survived at home against a pretty underwhelming Troy squad. But I think they'll bounce back, and will cover.
LT: Do we really have to do this. Also, you wrote two long paragraphs about these two teams? Seriously? We've made the people still reading suffer enough, so I'll just take Arkansas State to cover and be done with it.
|Saturday, 11 a.m. Kenan Memorial Stadium, Chapel Hill NC
JM: North Carolina has one loss, on opening weekend to what would turn out to be a really bad South Carolina squad. Their best win of the season is their most recent, a single-touchdown win over Pitt. Duke has two losses: one against Northwestern whicn might be excusable, and one which may not even really have been a loss. But then Duke hasn't beaten anyone. At all. Still, eight points is a very broad line for two teams who seem almost indistinguishable. I have no idea who's going to win this game, but I have a feeling it'll be by less than eight. Duke covers.
LT: Now this should be a great game. North Carolina has a case as the best team in the country with Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks inside, then Marcus Paige leading an outstanding, experienced backcourt. Duke obviously doesn't have a replacement for Jahlil Okafor, but of course Coach K reloaded with talented freshmen such as Brandon Ingram, Chase Jeter and Derryck Thornton. This is a tough call, but I'll give the edge to -- wait, we're talking about football, aren't we? Oh. Well, I guess in that case I'll take Duke to cover because the Blue Devils should have some good karma on their side after the way last week ended.
|Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Johnny "Red" Floyd Stadium, Murfreesboro TN
JM: This is not a misprint. The Blue Raiders are favored by the edge of home-field advantage, which means Vegas thinks they're Marshall's equal. Marshall -- a multiple FCS champion before storming into FBS the same way Appalachian and Georgia Southern have -- is 8-1. They haven't played anyone, but then MTSU is 3-5 and only a couple of those losses are truly excusable. The Thundering Herd covers.
LT: It's funny, I look at MTSU's schedule, and the two worst losses I see are the ones to Power 5 teams. That's because the Blue Raiders couldn't win at Illinois or in Murfreesboro (Nashville's hip little brother) against Vanderbit. Those are two awful teams with just one conference win each. Marshall, meanwhile, at least has the look of a competent team and made the top 50 of both the S&P and F+/- rankings this week. That's good enough for me. Thundering Herd covers.
|Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Martin Stadium, Pullman WA
JM: Wazzu came so close last week. They've lost three games this year, none by more than a touchdown. Sure, one of those losses was to Portland State, but in a bizarre turn of events nobody saw coming it's Washington State boosting Portland State's claim to a high seed in the FCS playoffs. Mike Leach is finally putting it together in Pullman, which is either really awesome or really irritating... even though part of the Cougars' success has been that they're finally running the ball some.
The Sun Devils appear to be the perfect opponent for Wazzu to take out their frustrations on after last week. Arizona State doesn't score much against teams which at least uphold the pretense of playing defense, and they haven't stopped anyone who scores a bunch from doing so all year. Cougars cover.
LT: Along with those weakness, the Sun Devils are also pretty terrible at defending the pass. That's a sure way to get yourself beat by a Mike Leach team, even one with a sophomore quarterback. Actually, though, Luke Falk is pretty good, even though arguing he deserves Heisman consideration without mentioning Mike Leach is like raving about Gates' Burnt End on Bun and only talking about the sauce. Meanwhile, Arizona State isn't that good and might not be mentally 100% after a devastating 61-55 3OT loss to a very beatable Oregon team. Cougars win and become bowl eligible for just the second time since 2006.
|Saturday, 6 p.m. Liberty Bowl, Memphis TN
JM: Finally, the American race is about to start sorting itself out. Backloaded just as brutally as the Big 12's schedule for the contenders, this is the first game between any of the four teams leading the pack. Those four teams -- Memphis, Navy, Temple, and Houston -- have two losses among them, both to the Irish.
Navy, however, really hasn't played anyone else. They haven't played a truly bad FBS team other than Tulane, though, so they've got a fairly decent schedule profile. Memphis, on the other hand, has Mississippi hanging on the wall, and they're about to embark on the conference's most brutal stretch: after Navy, they visit both Houston and Temple. The Tigers are the only one of the four contenders to face all three of the others. So this is a big game for Memphis, and they've got a thing or three to prove; I expect them to cover.
LT: Look, if you're going to beat Navy, you'd better be able to stop the run. For all its issues against the pass, Memphis actually stops opposing ground attacks quite well. Meanwhile, Navy doesn't exactly have a standout secondary, and I see no reason why Tigers quarterback Paxton Lynch can't throw for 280+ yards, just like East Carolina's Blake Kemp and Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer did against the Midshipmen. Tigers cover.