With high temperatures here in Columbus hitting near 80 these last few days in late October, I'm just going to chalk up MC&J's failings the first 2 weeks in the national games to global warming.
Thankfully the B1G games have helped offset my horrid picks in the national games and pushed MC&J's overall record to just above .500 on our abbreviated season so far. Of the 3 B1G losses against the spread by MC&J, 2 were by the Buckeyes and the other was by Indiana in a OOC game versus Navy. The Buckeye losses ATS prove exactly how hard it is to get a read on this team right now. This week trying to figure out the Buckeyes doesn't get any easier as they head to Happy Valley, but more about that later.
Here are your week 9 picks, brought to you by clapping:
Last Week: 5-6
National Games: (All games Saturday unless noted)
Cincinnati vs. #16 Louisville (-3.5) - Friday 8:00 EST - ESPN
This matchup was had a chance to be a battle of undefeated teams until Toledo upset the Bearcats last week. The most surprising stat from the Cincy/Toledo game is that Cincinnati held Toledo, a team that had been averaging 36.4 points/game, without an offensive touchdown. Louisville has let opponents hang around in games lately, winning their last 5 games by a combined 28 points, and I think that could come back to bite them Friday. I love what Charlie Strong and Teddy Bridgewater are doing in Louisville but I think Cincinnati walks out of town with The Keg of Nails trophy.
Cincinnati 30 Louisville 27
#3 Florida (-7) vs. #12 Georgia (In Jacksonville) - 3:30 EST - CBS
With a win in Jacksonville at the WLOCP (or whatever they are calling it these days) Florida can punch their ticket for the SEC title game in Atlanta. Aside from South Carolina, Georgia has played a very weak schedule. It's hard for me to back any team that squeaks out a 5 point win against Kentucky. Florida had less than 200 total yards against South Carolina and still won by 33. While this week's game should be a little bit closer, I still have a hard time seeing it being less than a 10 point game.
Florida 27 Georgia 14
#15 Texas Tech vs. #4 Kansas State (-7) - 3:30 EST - Fox
It seems rather odd to see a Texas Tech team that can play defense, but the Red Raiders are ranked in the top 20 in both rushing and passing defense. Both teams have taken apart West Virginia's defense (and my picks) the last 2 weeks. Funny how 2 weeks ago everybody was talking about Geno Smith for Heisman and now it looks like Collin Klein is the front runner. If Texas Tech shuts K-State down and Seth Doege has a big game it could vault Doege into the mix. While I respect what Bill Snyder is doing in Manhattan, I think that Texas Tech comes in and gets the upset.
Texas Tech 38 Kansas State 35
#5 Notre Dame vs. #8 Oklahoma (-10) - 8:00 EST - ABC
When first thinking about this game Saturday after both Notre Dame and Oklahoma had won, I immediately was thinking Oklahoma in a rout. Over the week I have changed a little bit of my thinking, as I think Oklahoma will still win but it won't be as lopsided as I first thought. Notre Dame's defense is playing great this year but this is by far the best offense they have played. The key for Notre Dame will be to not get down early. If they go down by 2 TDs in the 1st quarter they are pretty much done because they don't have the firepower to keep up with the Sooners. Oklahoma has already lost to K-State in Norman this year, and since Stoops has coached the Sooners they haven't lost twice in Norman in the same season.
Oklahoma 27 Notre Dame 10
#13 Mississippi State vs. #1 Alabama (-24) - 8:30 EST - ESPN
In a matchup of two undefeated SEC teams in late October, Alabama is a 24 point favorite heading in. I was figuring going into this game that Mississippi State would be somewhere around a 17-18 point underdog, but I'll gladly take 24 points. I'm not gonna sit here and say that I think the Bulldogs are going to come into Bryant-Denny and win, but I do think they'll keep it from being a blowout.
Alabama 34 Mississippi State 17
Iowa vs. Northwestern (-6) - 12:00 EST - ESPN2
Both these teams had crushing losses last weekend, with Iowa getting crushed from the start against Penn State and Northwestern blowing a two-possession 4th quarter lead against Nebraska. If there was ever a week for Iowa's passing game to gain some confidence this is it as Northwestern ranks 107th in the country against the pass. After reading this from BHGP, I don't know if that will be possible. I think Iowa's D will keep them close but they will come up a little short in Evanston.
Northwestern 21 Iowa 17
Indiana vs. Illinois (-2) - 12:00 EST - Big Ten Network
The Fighting Illini have lost 9 straight B1G games, with their last conference win coming against the Hooisers last October. I have a feeling that losing streak might continue for Illinois on Saturday in Champaign. Indiana has played games a closer as of late, losing their last 3 games by a combined 7 points. The Hooisers are awful against the run, giving up 226 yards/game on the ground, but Illinois has shown nothing to make me think they can take advantage of that weakness. Give me that team that can actually score points.
Indiana 31 Illinois 21
Purdue (-3) vs. Minnesota - 3:30 EST - Big Ten Network
This is another matchup of B1G teams searching for their 1st conference win of the season (Between Hooisers/Illini and this matchup Big Ten Network should hype Saturday as "SOMEBODY HAS TO WIN SATURDAY". When looking at this game I was surprised to find out that Minnesota was 6th in the country against the pass. That stat could be a little misleading as Minnesota's B1G opponents have been Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Iowa. Those 3 teams are pretty run-heavy offenses (or just can't pass the ball in Iowa's case). Minnesota is looking to avoid scoring 13 points for the 4th straight game. Jerry Kill burned Phillip Nelson's redshirt last week against Minnesota. Nelson has the talent, he was Minnesota's 2011 Mr. Football, and I can see him leading the Gophers to victory on Saturday.
Minnesota 24 Purdue 20
Michigan State vs. Wisconsin (-6) - 3:30 EST - ABC/ESPN2
These two teams have met 6 times since 2007 with Sparty winning 3 and the Badgers winning 3. Only one of the 3 Sparty losses has been by more than 3 points. Wisconsin has been beating up on the dregs of the B1G these last few weeks, getting Joel Stave comfortable in the practice of handing the ball off to Montee Ball and James White. Wisconsin should find things on offense a little harder this week against Sparty's D. Wisconsin has won 21 straight home games, the 2nd longest active streak in the country behind LSU at 22. I'm expecting another close game for Sparty that they fall just short in.
Wisconsin 23 Michigan State 20
#20 Michigan vs. Nebraska (-2.5) - 8:00 EST - ESPN2
Michigan hasn't allowed an opponent to score more than 13 points since they played Air Force the 2nd week of the season. That streak should end this week as they head into Lincoln to play the Cornhuskers. Yet again going into the game there are questions about Rex Burkhead's availability heading into Nebraska's game. Should Burkhead not be able to go Ameer Abdullah will be there to pick up the slack. Michigan's defense has been much improved over what it was the last few years, but this will be the first time in a number of weeks they have played a competent offense. It's hard for me to go against Nebrasky when they play at night in Lincoln.
Nebraska 34 Michigan 27
#9 Ohio State (Pick) vs. Penn State - 5:30 EST - ESPN
After Penn State's 0-2 start to the season if you would have told me that this game in Happy Valley would have been a pick'em point spread I would have thought you were crazy. I was skeptical of the Bill O'Brien hire at first but through 7 games it looks like Penn State picked the right guy to lead them through these tough times. One thing that Ohio State needs is for Braxton Miller to stay healthy and on the field. Having Kenny G spin his smooth jazz against Purdue is one thing. Seeing him thrust into action in Happy Valley is something that I hope we won't have to see. While Penn State is riding a 5 game winning streak, this Buckeye team will be the best that they have faced this year. I'm not going to have any illusions that the Buckeye D will all of the sudden be able to stop the pass. I know that McGloin will probably put up yards on the Buckeyes (fitting I guess after the last few years of the "Moxie" teasing) but I'll take the more experienced coach to find some way to bring a victory back to Columbus. I am actually more nervous for this game than I was for Michigan State and Nebraska. Call it a "homer" pick if you want, I'm not going to deny that it is, give me the Buckeyes to make Penn State 0-2 this year against the state of Ohio.
Ohio State 24 Penn State 21