Oregon, Arizona State, TCU, Arizona and Ole Miss were all among those who looked surprisingly unimpressive, or in the Ducks' case, downright terrible last week. Not all of them fell, but they surely changed our perceptions of them. Who will falter this Saturday?
There are many strong candidates, with some very intriguing matchups featuring teams with little margin for error. I don't really like the label "Survival Saturday" that many pundits used last week, only because it seems like that could apply every week. It's part of why we love college football, and why it's so hard for Jon and I to make these picks for Entertainment Purposes only.
That being said, I had a shockingly good week, finishing 7-2-1 (thanks for the push, Big 12 refs and UT punter!) with a clean sweep of Jon's "high value" picks to improve to 21-18-1 overall. Jon didn't fare so well, missing two of his own (LOLKU) to go 4-5-1 and fall to 18-21-1 overall. On to the picks.
|Saturday, 11 a.m. Memorial Stadium, Norman OK
LT: Well, it's time to finally find out if West Virginia is for real. The Mountaineers have dominated against lesser competition, airing it out and playing startlingly good defense for a Dana Holgorsen team. Now they go on the road to face the Sooners, who haven't really looked convincing the past two weeks and gave up 427 passing yards to Tulsa. I'm a believer. West Virginia covers.
JM: I got in a huge argument with my erstwhile co-conspirator Erik Evans on Sunday because he put Kentucky in his top 25 and said West Virginia hadn't done anything yet. But he's also got Georgia highly ranked, and guess which two teams are right next to one another in Massey's SOS calculations?
The thing about West Virginia, which people seem to dismiss, is that they are absolutely slobberknocking inferior competition. There are those who argue that's meaningless, because the competition is inferior. There's another team that some of our readers have a passing interest in who used to face the same criticism, and they responded to that by usually going 11-1. The ability to absolutely destroy the teams you are supposed to correlates very well to how good a team you really are, and people just don't want to accept it. Mountaineers cover.
|Saturday, 11 a.m. Ryan Field, Evanston IL
LT: Northwestern is my favorite surprise so far this season, and even though the other Purple Wildcats stumbled last week against Ball State, they still won. Now they come back home to face Minnesota, who has beaten Colorado State, Kent State and Ohio by a field goal apiece. At some point, Northwestern will suffer a bad loss because with no Michigan State or Ohio State on the schedule, the alternative is going undefeated and come on, we all know that's not going to happen. But this week shouldn't be an issue. How is this line only five points? Northwestern covers.
JM: This line is only five points because it's Northwestern. Duh. Still, we've had two pairs of results this season involving three which looked really bad for the loser of the first game, only to end up looking really great for the winner. Those pairs: Utah-Michigan and Michigan-BYU, and Northwestern-Stanford and Stanford-USC. Northwestern's actually a pretty good team. We've no evidence yet that Minnesota is anything other than average. The less important purple kitties cover.
|Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sanford Stadium, Athens GA
LT: This game could well be a preview of the SEC championship, but Alabama would almost certainly need to win for that to be true. It won't be easy with the way Nick Chubb has run the ball, but let's keep in mind Vanderbilt is probably the best team and definitely the best defense the Bulldogs have faced. Also, the Crimson Tide held a solid Wisconsin rushing attack to 40 yards on 21 carries. It's the passing game that kills Alabama, and Georgia doesn't really have a great one. Crimson Tide covers.
JM: On the other hand, Alabama has a quarterback problem. Still, it's only a problem if you're a Bama fan and expect something other than that which you're being subjected to this year. Predictably, the response to the loss to Mississippi was "Fire Lane Kiffin" jokes, but last time I checked Lane Kiffin wasn't giving up 45 points to the opponent. Luke's analysis is spot-on. Bama covers.
|Saturday, 7:00 p.m. Memorial Stadium, Clemson SC
LT: I'm not sure what to do with this one. Notre Dame has suffered some costly injuries and looked very mortal at times, but they have also been occasionally dominant and just keep finding ways to win. Meanwhile, Clemson barely held off Louisville in a tough road game last week. Again, let's look at the matchup and we see the Tigers need a strong rushing attack, but Notre Dame's run defense has been incredibly stout. The Fighting Irish have a more balanced attack and Clemson gave up 100 yards to an Appalachian State tailback. Notre Dame covers.
JM: You're not sure what to do with this one, and I'm mad that you picked it in the first place. For chrissake, man, I can't even rely on the Clemson Rule because this is a pick'em! (Said rule: Every season, Clemson will invariably lose a high-profile game in which they are favored and win a high-profile game in which they are the underdog.)
Ugh. My revenge will be brutal. Clemson wins.
|Saturday, 9:00 p.m. Folsom Field, Boulder CO
LT: I realize Oregon's defense is terrible this year and these are not the Ducks we're used to seeing. But still, only 8-point favorites against Colorado? That's ridiculous. Don't let that 3-1 record fool you. Oregon covers.
JM: Now this is a sensible game to, um, predict. Yeah, that's it. There is no way Oregon fails to win this game by double digits. Absolutely none. I will sing the Colorado fight song if that happens. (Quietly, to myself.)
Jon serves up five more picks, including lots of teams we can laugh at.