The calendar has turned to October and I'm more than happy to leave September behind. While there are things that are a lot worse than hovering around .500 (in the NBA I'd be in contention for a playoff spot!), in my eyes that is a failure, especially after the clip that MC&J finished at last year. I probably sound like a broken record each week saying how the previous week should've been a lot better, but last week was no different. South Carolina blew the cover at the end and while a couple pushes didn't ease my frustrations, I guess I should feel lucky that those pushes didn't turn into losses. Anyways, hopefully the picks this week send the season record to the plus side of .500.
Last Week ATS: 4-3-2 (2-2-1 National, 2-1-1 B1G)
Season ATS: 31-33-2 (13-12-1 National, 18-21-1 B1G)
#12 UCLA (-6.5) vs. Utah - Thursday 10:00 PM EST - Fox Sports 1
This Thursday night tilt shouldn't be short on points, as both teams have dual-threat quarterbacks leading their high scoring offenses. Both teams also had a bye last week to prepare for this game, but I don't think that even a extra week of preparation is going to help these two defenses. After hitting the road for a noon EST game in Lincoln a couple weeks ago, now the Bruins will have to face a different monster in dealing with the Utah crowd for a Thursday night game. Six-foot-seven Utah quarterback Travis Wilson should be able to keep pace with his counterpart Brett Hundley, and I think this game isn't decided until the final minutes.
UCLA 38 Utah 35
#25 Maryland vs. #8 Florida State (-15) - 12:00 PM EST - ESPN
Now if you ever needed any reason to get some training on some conference solidarity and root for the Terrapins on Saturday, I think this tweet is more than enough reason to:
So Espn say maryland might beat fsu 😂😂😂😂 I tell y'all what if we lose to maryland I will delete my twitter and IG!! Forever!— DARNELL DOCKETT (@ddockett) October 2, 2013
Maryland is 4-0 to start the season, but take a look at who they have played so far. I guess the blowout of West Virginia looks a little better after how the Mountaineers played last week, but really we are grasping at straws if we try and justify that. The Terrapins will have their hands full with a Florida State offense that has scored 205 points in the first four games of the season. But, will the Seminoles defense have as much success as the offense? Last week the 'Noles gave up 34 points to Boston College, so they could have some issues stopping C.J. Brown, Stephon Diggs, and the rest of the Terrapins offense. I think that Darnell Dockett will get to keep his Twitter/IG accounts, but Maryland might make him sweat a little bit.
Florida State 37 Maryland 27
#6 Georgia (-11.5) vs. Tennessee - 3:30 PM EST - CBS
Last year saw these two teams play another SEC classic (because all high-scoring SEC games are classics, right?) in which Georgia took home a 51-44 victory in Athens. After playing Clemson, South Carolina, and LSU in the first month of the season, Georgia might think this game is a little bit of a vacation after that brutal stretch. With a huge win against LSU that Georgia really had to work for followed by a game against one of the lesser teams of the SEC, this has all the feelings of a letdown game for the Bulldogs. Even though Georgia is scoring loads of points, their defense still is having a hard time stopping anybody. While Tennessee might not be at the level offensively as Clemson or LSU, Georgia might try and make them look like a competent offense. The Vols are really good at forcing turnovers, ranking third in the country with 15 and their defense could benefit from Todd Gurley possibly missing the game for Georgia. I see this year's game shaping up a lot like last year, with the spread being just a few points too high.
Georgia 45 Tennessee 37
Arkansas vs. #18 Florida (-11.5) - 7:00 PM EST - ESPN2
How's that whole #Karma thing working out for you, Jen Bielema? Since her shot at Wisconsin after the Badgers loss to Arizona State, the Razorbacks have lost to Rutgers and had no success in stopping Johnny Manziel. Now on the plate for the Hogs is the top-ranked Florida rushing defense. While it hasn't translated into victories, Arkansas has had a lot of success running the football this year, averaging 237 yards/game on the ground. The Razorback rushing attack is spearheaded by Alex Collins, who is the first freshman since Adrian Peterson to start his career with three straight 100-yard performances. Florida's offense isn't one that is going to strike fear in you, but with that defense they don't have to put tons of points on the board. Tyler Murphy was efficient in his first start in replacing injured Jeff Driskel, and Matt Jones ran for a career-high 176 yards against Kentucky last week. I originally was leaning Arkansas in this matchup, but even with that powerful rushing attack, I think the Gators D will be too much for Bert & company. I think we see a win for Florida very similar to how they won against Kentucky last Saturday.
Florida 27 Arkansas 13
#15 Washington vs. #5 Stanford (-7.5) - 10:30 PM EST - ESPN
Revenge will be on Stanford's mind with Washington coming into Palo Alto on Saturday. Last year the Huskies topped David Shaw's team 17-13 in Washington and was one of two losses that Stanford suffered on the season. This matchup of two undefeated teams should provide for an intriguing late-night capper on what is hopefully a profitable of football. Shayne Skov and the rest of the Stanford defense will be tasked with trying to slow down Bishop Sankey, Keith Price, and the rest of the Huskies offense. Sankey comes into the game leading the nation with 151 yards/game on the ground. When teams try to key on Sankey then Price can open up the passing game to All-American tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. On the other side, all it seems like David Shaw does is win. This Stanford team is tough and they don't seem to make mistakes. The offense of the Cardinal isn't the prettiest but it is balanced and gets the job done. I can see this playing out a lot like the Arizona State game with a team coming into Palo Alto thinking that they are ready to wrestle one of the top spots in the Pac-12 away from Stanford, only to get blown out of the water early. Stanford wins in the next hurdle they have to conquer in order to keep that dream undefeated matchup with Oregon in early November alive.
Stanford 34 Washington 21
Illinois vs. Nebraska (-10) - 12:00 PM EST - ESPNU
Coming into this season if you had told me that you're giving me Nebraska as a 10-point favorite at home against Illinois and I'm jumping on that all day long and twice on Saturday. Funny how things change after five weeks of the season. Illinois has actually looked not bad this year with Nathan Scheelhaase leading the offense. Nebraska on the other hand has major holes on defense and there is questions about the status of Taylor Martinez as he is dealing with the dreaded turf toe. I'm torn on this game because I'm not completely sold on Illinois yet and am wondering if once Big Ten play starts they'll turn back into a pumpkin. On the other hand, do I trust a Nebraska defense that has turned from the Blackshirts into the Lackshirts? I'm hoping that the bye week helped Nebraska shore up some of the issues that their defense has. Hopefully the Cornhuskers can jump out on Illinois like they did against UCLA, except this time they don't squander the big lead.
Nebraska 41 Illinois 23
Michigan State (-1.5) vs. Iowa - 12:00 PM EST - ESPN2
FIRST TEAM TO DOUBLE DIGITS WINS! It wouldn't be surprising to see the defenses in this game score more than the offenses. Iowa is fresh off a dominating win over rival Minnesota, where they used the rushing of Mark Weisman to lead them to victory. The Spartans defense will have their hands full trying to stop a Iowa team that is averaging 244 yards/game on the ground. Iowa has won four straight games after dropping their season opener to Northern Illinois, after winning only three games last year. I'll take the home underdog that has a little bit more to offer on offense than the Spartans.
Iowa 17 Michigan State 13
Penn State (-4) vs. Indiana - 12:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
After seeing what opposing offenses have been able to do to the Hoosiers defense, Christian Hackenberg and Allen Robinson must be licking their chops thinking of what sort of damage they should be able to do in Bloomington on Saturday. Indiana can't focus on only Hackenberg and Robinson though, as the Nittany Lions can hurt you on the ground with the rushing attack of Zach Zwinak, Bill Belton, and Akeel Lynch. The seemingly endless question for Indiana of who will start at quarterback again needs to be answered. The job looked to be Nate Sudfeld's but there is some doubt after he threw three interceptions against Missouri. Whether it be Sudfeld or Tre Robinson, they'll have their work cut out against a stingy Penn State defense that will benefit on the return from injury of linebacker Mike Hull. Indiana has never beaten Penn State and the Nittany Lions make it win number 17 against the Hoosiers on Saturday.
Penn State 35 Indiana 24
Minnesota vs. #19 Michigan (-20.5) - 3:30 PM EST - ABC/ESPN2
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. After thinking that Michigan was going to rout Akron and UConn, I feel like I'm just a glutton for punishment if I take them for a third game in a row with a large point spread. The Wolverines might have been able to get some of their issues addressed during the bye week, but can I really take that chance? Right now Devin Gardner is a turnover machine, and until I see otherwise I just can't take a Michigan team that is favored by nearly three touchdowns. Minnesota doesn't have anything at all to offer on offense with the passing game, but they can run the rock a little bit. Not like UConn had a vaunted offense either though. While I don't think Michigan will be in danger of losing the Little Brown Jug, I think Minnesota at least keeps it respectable.
Michigan 34 Minnesota 20
#4 Ohio State (-7.5) vs. #16 Northwestern - 8:00 PM EST - ABC
This is the first matchup between the two teams since 2008 where the Buckeyes won easily 45-10. The matchup in this series that everyone is having flashbacks to is the one in 2004 where Northwestern won 33-27 in overtime at night in Evanston. Northwestern has the advantage of having last week off to try and gameplan for what the Buckeyes will throw at them. Another positive for Northwestern having the bye week is that gave Venric Mark another week to get healthy. With Mark returning, along with the two quarterback system that Pat Fitzgerald utilizes, the Northwestern offense can put up the points that are needed to keep up with the Buckeyes. The bigger question is how will the Wildcats defense matchup against the Buckeyes. Northwestern did play Cal to open the season and won 44-30, but their three other contests have been against teams that won't strike fear in you offensively.
On the other hand, the Buckeye defense will be trying to cope with the loss of Christian Bryant for the year to an ankle injury. While there is never a shortage of quality talent here in Columbus, a night road game against a ranked team isn't exactly the best place to try and figure out how to fill the hole that is left by Bryant's injury. The biggest threat the Ohio State defense will face from Northwestern will be on the ground. Last week Ohio State held the Wisconsin ground game in check, and hopefully that will be able to carry over to this week.
Braxton Miller looked great in his return from injury last week, but what was puzzling from last week's game was Jordan Hall only getting one carry on offense. Hall is just too good to touch the football that little in a game, and the smart money is on Urban fixing that this week. I think we see Ohio State get off to a similar start as last week, but this time they go for the throat instead of going through the motions like they did in the second half against Wisconsin. While normally I would put some stock in the College Gameday aspect of it pumping up Northwestern and the crowd, there is sure to be a heavy contingent of Buckeye fans in Evanston, so that angle isn't as big as normal. The Buckeyes win by double digits in a matchup that we might get to see against in December in Indianapolis.
Ohio State 43 Northwestern 30