With the weeks dwindling, MC&J is really struggling lately. We are moving the wrong way from .500, but one big week could change all that. Last week's first birthday celebration turned into a day where you waited around for somebody to call you or stop by, but they never showed up. The Rutgers cover on Thursday night provided some early optimism, but the rest of the week didn't hold true to form. Hopefully this week we'll see much different results, and provide for a belated celebration.
Last Week ATS: 4-7 (3-4 National, 1-3 B1G)
Season ATS: 39-46-2 (18-19-1 National, 21-27-1 B1G)
#10 Miami (FL) (-10) vs. North Carolina - Thursday 7:30 PM EST - ESPN
Miami will venture out of the state of Florida for the first time this year, when they travel up to Chapel Hill on Thursday night to take on North Carolina. While Miami rounds out the top 10 this week, how much do we really know about them? On paper Miami's pass defense looks strong, but they haven't really been tested so far this season. The most impressive of the Hurricanes' wins this year have been against Florida and Georgia Tech, but the other three have been against Florida Atlantic, South Florida, and Savannah State. The good news for North Carolina is that they'll have Bryn Renner back behind center after he missed the Virginia Tech game. The bad news is that the Tar Heel defense hasn't had much success stopping anyone this year. North Carolina is allowing opponents to rush for nearly 200 yards/game on the ground, which means a heavy dose of Duke Johnson from the Hurricanes can be expected. Even with North Carolina's defensive issues, it's always tough to go against an unranked home underdog on a weeknight taking on a ranked team. The Tar Heels keep things interesting and put a scare into the Hurricanes.
Miami (FL) 31 North Carolina 28
Central Florida vs. #8 Louisville (-12.5) - Friday 8:00 PM EST - ESPN
Louisville and Teddy Bridgewater will get the ESPN weeknight treatment for the second straight week, this time hoping to leave a little better impression on those that tune in. While it's hard to find fault with a two touchdown win over a decent Rutgers team, there was more expected out of the Cardinals from many. Things won't get any easier though with a good Central Florida squad coming into Papa John's Stadium. The Knights are battled tested so far this season, earning a 34-31 win at Penn State last month, and playing South Carolina tough most of the way a few weeks ago. Last week Louisville was able to intercept Rutgers four times and collect eight sacks. I have a feeling that Blake Bortles won't make as many mistakes as Gary Nova did last Thursday. Both teams have quality defenses so I'll gladly take the points in what should be a close game.
Louisville 28 Central Florida 24
#24 Auburn vs. #7 Texas A&M (-13) - 3:30 PM EST - CBS
The Gus Malzhan era has gotten off to a strong start at Auburn, with the Tigers winning five of the first six games after only winning three games in 2012. While Auburn doesn't have a Johnny Football of their own, both teams have a lot to offer on offense and very little on defense. Auburn is seventh in the nation, averaging 287 yards/game on the ground while Texas A&M has scored 40+ points in their last nine games. The good news for the Auburn offense is that they'll have quarterback Nick Marshall back from injury to start for the Tigers. The best defense for the Tigers would be their rushing attack finding holes against the Aggies and keeping Johnny Manziel off the field. Auburn keeps it a lot closer than last year, but the Aggies survive another SEC shootout.
Texas A&M 47 Auburn 40
#9 UCLA vs. #13 Stanford (-6) - 3:30 PM EST - ABC/ESPN2
Both these teams have traveled to Utah recently, but the results were quite different. UCLA intercepted Travis Wilson six times and won 34-27 a couple Thursday ago. Stanford saw their national title chances most likely go do the drain with the 27-21 loss they suffered against the Utes on Saturday. The loss to the Utes on Saturday saw Stanford QB Kevin Hogan lose for the first time in 11 starts for the Cardinal. Now Hogan will be tasked with trying to out-duel UCLA QB Brett Hundley, who has passed for nearly 1300 yards and 12 touchdowns so far this season. The Bruins' defense has been greatly improved from last season, with Anthony Barr making plenty of noise at linebacker. Last year these two teams played twice at the end of November, with their tilt in Palo Alto for the Pac-12 title game ending with a 27-24 Stanford win. I have a feeling that the game in Palo Alto last year will look a lot like this Saturday's game. The only difference is the Bruins win this one and keep the hype alive for next week's showdown with Oregon.
UCLA 27 Stanford 24
#6 LSU (-9) vs. Mississippi - 7:00 PM EST - ESPN2
Much like last week in Oxford, two talented offenses will square off under the lights at Vaught-Hemingway. The difference from last week is that LSU can actually play some defense. Ole Miss has now dropped three straight games and is dealing with a number of injuries. This is the last test that LSU will have before their November 9th showdown against Alabama, as the Tigers will play Furman next week before a bye week. Mettenberger, Hill, and Beckham are just too much for a depleted Ole Miss squad to handle.
LSU 38 Mississippi 24
#5 Florida State (-3) vs. #3 Clemson - 8:00 PM EST - ABC
The marquee game of the week will see Florida State head into Death Valley to square off with Clemson in what amounts to a national title eliminator. Jameis Winston will face the first true road test in his career as Clemson will be trying to break the Kansas City Chiefs' crowd noise record. Last week saw Clemson struggle at home with Boston College, while Florida State had the week off after thrashing Maryland 63-0 the week before. Florida State hasn't won at Clemson since 2001, but they have their best team in quite some time coming into Death Valley. Clemson has already played a top-10 opponent at home this year, as they defeated Georgia 38-35 in the opening weekend. The difference from that matchup to this one is that Florida State doesn't have a suspect defense, as we have seen Georgia to have so far this season. In a huge matchup like this I'm usually hesitant to lay the points on the road, I just think that Clemson is overrated. Even with the deafening crowd, Winston shines in primetime and the Seminoles stay in the mix to head to Pasadena for the BCSNCG.
Florida State 44 Clemson 34
Minnesota vs. Northwestern (-12.5) - 12:00 PM EST - ESPN2
Both these teams come into Saturday's contest looking to snap two-game losing streaks. Minnesota had a bye last week after dropping games to Iowa and Michigan. The bye came at a perfect time for the Golden Gophers, as it gave them time to make some adjustments under interim head coach Tracy Claeys. The main problem so far for Minnesota has been the lack of a passing game, as they are only averaging about 117 yards/game on the ground. It might be wise for the Golden Gophers to keep it on the ground though after the issues that Northwestern has had against the run the past two weeks. The Buckeyes out-rushed the Wildcats by 154 yards and Wisconsin followed that up with a 242 yard advantage on the ground. Venric Mark and Kain Colter are both listed as "day-to-day", but I would feel a little more confident about laying the points if they were at full strength. I think Northwestern will get back in the win column, but I'll trust the team that is coming off a bye to keep things interesting in Evanston.
Northwestern 31 Minnesota 23
Purdue vs. Michigan State (-27.5) - 12:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
At first glance a nearly 28 point spread may seem like a lot for any Big Ten game, but Purdue is having that rough of a go at it so far in Darrell Hazell's first season in West Lafayette. So far in six games so far this season, Purdue has lost four of them by 31 points or more. On the other side, only one of Michigan State's five victories has been by more than 15 points. Michigan State's real strength on defense is their ability to stop the run. On the season the Spartans are allowing less than 60 yards/game on the ground. Purdue is averaging less than 80 yards/game rushing so far, so at least they'll be used to having no success on the ground. Michigan State's offense is showing signs of improvement, but not quite enough for me to trust them with a spread this large, even against Purdue.
Michigan State 35 Purdue 13
Indiana vs. Michigan (-8) - 3:30 PM EST - Big Ten Network
For the fourth game in a row, my prediction for the Michigan game ended up in failure. But, a Sun & Blue game can never really be looked at as a failure when they are handed a loss. Plus, the loss is probably a main reason that we saw a picture like this one come out from Happy Valley. Now Michigan will hope that Fitz Toussaint can rush for more than three feet per carry as the Hoosiers make their way to Ann Arbor. Devin Gardner has been in the giving mood this season, throwing 10 interceptions and committing a number of fumbles. The Hoosiers have alternated wins and losses so far this year, but after losing last week in East Lansing I think the Wolverines hand Indiana their second straight loss in the state of Michigan. The Wolverines defense will tighten up after what Penn State did to them, especially with linebacker Jake Ryan in his second game back from a torn ACL.
Michigan 41 Indiana 28
Wisconsin looked very impressive in their domination of Northwestern on Saturday, and we are all left to wonder where they might be in the rankings had the shenanigans at the end of the game in Tempe never happened. Illinois looked a lot like the 2012 Fighting Illini team in the last game they played a couple weeks ago against Nebraska. After being outrushed by 140 yards by the Cornhuskers, Illinois will now have to try and find someway to stop a Badger offense that is averaging nearly 300 yards/game on the ground. The Badgers might be without their passing game as Jared Abbrederis is questionable for this game matchup with a concussion. Statistically Illinois' offense is much improved, but I'm still waiting to see them have success against a good team before taking them in a spot like this. The crowd in Champaign will be pumped for a night game, but Wisconsin already has experience this year dealing with a raucous crowd at night after playing in Columbus last month.
Wisconsin 34 illinois 17
Iowa vs. #4 Ohio State (-17) - 3:30 PM EST - ABC/ESPN2
With a record of 34-2 following a week off, Urban Meyer is the king of the bye week. While I'm not terribly concerned about Iowa coming into Columbus and beating the Buckeyes, at MC&J we do have the tougher task of trying to account for the point spread. The bye week gave Braxton Miller an extra week to make sure his knee is 100% and gear up for the second half of the season. The Hawkeyes defense has only yielded 88.5 yards/game on the season, but they'll have their hands full with the combination of Miller and Carlos Hyde.
While Iowa boasts a stout rushing defense, the Buckeyes are equally strong against the run. The Buckeyes are only allowing 86.2 yards/game on the ground. The Buckeyes will be looking to hold Iowa running back Mark Weisman down much like they did to Melvin Gordon and James White when Wisconsin came into Columbus at the end of September. What the Buckeyes will have to do a better job of is making sure the focus on the running game doesn't take away from the pass defense. The Buckeyes secondary has left much to be desired, and if they aren't careful they could let QB Jake Rudock and main receiving target Kevonte Martin-Manley make some noise. The bye week should have helped the Buckeyes to adjust to the loss of Christian Bryant, and hopefully get Pitt Brown a little more comfortable in the secondary.
With the Big Ten only sporting two teams in the top-25, Ohio State knows they need to win big the rest of the way out to give voters something to think about. I have a feeling this will be one of those frustrating games for the Buckeyes, much like the Wisconsin game. The Buckeyes certainly have the talent to win this by more than 17 points, but I can see the Hawkeyes hanging around in this one. Maybe the rally against Northwestern and the bye week will spark the Buckeyes to blow teams off the map in the second half of the season, but until I see it I'm going to take the points in a matchup like this.
Ohio State 33 Iowa 20