I knew last week's picks might be in trouble before we even made it to Saturday, as after the first two games I had a feeling that Lady Luck just might not be on my side. Clemson was up 26-7 on N.C. State in the 4th quarter, but not only does the Wolfpack go on a 23-play drive to score, but they complete what felt like 10 fourth downs on the drive. The next night Fresno State had a 34-19 lead on Boise State in the 3rd quarter, but of course it was asking too much to have them cover the spread. A couple other ones I completely missed on was Michigan (again, but the lesson has been received loud and clear), and Ohio State (hopefully picking 50-point point spreads won't happen too much more in the future).
The Big Ten has a rather light week this week, with most of the teams on a bye this week, but that doesn't mean MC&J has the week off. We are working harder than ever to try and move over .500 and head to greener pastures.
Last Week ATS: 6-7 (3-2 National, 3-5 B1G)
Season ATS: 27-30 (11-10 National, 16-20 B1G)
#12 South Carolina (-7) vs. Central Florida - 12:00 PM EST - ABC
After going into Happy Valley a couple weeks ago and beating Penn State, UCF seems to be a popular pick this week to pull an upset over a ranked team. I'm not one of those that thinks Blake Bortles, Storm Johnson, and the rest of the Golden Knights will keep it as close. Both teams had a bye week last week to prepare for this game, but I think that will benefit the Gamecocks more, as it gave them some time to shore up a defense that was expected to be strong but hasn't performed up to expectations so far this season. While UCF will also have the home-field advantage in this tilt, will it really matter? I'm sure 45,000+ won't do too much to distract South Carolina when you take a look at some of the SEC stadiums they play road games in. The Golden Knights might keep it close for a while, but South Carolina will eventually pull away.
South Carolina 37 Central Florida 24
#6 LSU vs. #9 Georgia (-3) - 3:30 PM EST - CBS
I know that when the news hit that LSU was hiring Cam Cameron as their offensive coordinator there was a lot of laughter, but so far through four games it is looking like a great hire. Right now the LSU offense is really clicking, both on the ground and through the air. The first major test of the season comes when Zach Mettenberger returns to Georgia looking to pick up a victory over his former team. Both defenses are a little down this year compared to what they have been the last few years, so it is looking like another Saturday shootout in the SEC could be in order. Even with having home-field, I think that LSU is just a little bit better than Georgia right now and their defense has a few more stops in them.
LSU 38 Georgia 31
#14 Oklahoma (-4) vs. #22 Notre Dame - 3:30 PM EST - NBC
The Sooners will be looking for a little payback from last year's 30-13 defeat they suffered at the hands of the Fighting Irish in Norman last year, when they head into South Bend on Saturday afternoon. While Notre Dame brings a 3-1 record into this matchup, they haven't looked all that impressive so far this season. Brian Kelly's team lost in Ann Arbor (which is looking worse and worse by the week) and squeaked by Purdue and Michigan State the last two weeks. Meanwhile, Oklahoma started "The Belldozer" at quarterback two weeks ago against Tulsa, and all he did was throw for 413 yards and four touchdowns. While Notre Dame's defense should provide a little more of a challenge than Tulsa's D, Oklahoma didn't play last week which gave Bell even more time to readying himself for what the Fighting Irish might throw at him. Notre Dame isn't quite the same team as last year and I think that'll help the Sooners extract some revenge.
Oklahoma 27 Notre Dame 17
#21 Mississippi vs. #1 Alabama (-15.5) - 6:30 PM EST - ESPN
Saturday's matchup in Tuscaloosa will see both teams enter undefeated for the first time since 1982, so something has to give. Last week saw Alabama struggling for a portion of the game against Colorado State, but I think that Nick Saban didn't put the full crush on Colorado State out of respect to former assistant Jim McElwain. Plus, with the Colorado State game being a sandwich game between the Texas A&M game and this one, I can see why Alabama didn't quite hit on all cylinders. Mississippi is looking for their first 4-0 start since 1970, but I have a feeling that they'll still be looking for it after Saturday's game. I like what Hugh Freeze is doing at Ole Miss, but I'm not sold on them even over two touchdowns on their side this week. The Rebels were trailing at halftime on the road to Vandy and Texas earlier this year, and I see that happening again this week. The difference is that I don't see Alabama letting them coming back to win this one. Saban knows how to step on the throat and finish the job, unlike what Vandy and Texas were able to do.
Alabama 34 Mississippi 17
#5 Stanford (-10.5) vs. Washington State - 10:00 PM EST - ESPN
A Mike Leach team that can play defense? What type of strange voodoo magic is this? This game won't be in Pullman, but will be in CenturyLink Field in Seattle where the Cougs have accumulated a 5-5 in the 10 games they have played there so far. Last year Washington State kept it close at least against the Cardinal, losing 24-17. The big problem for Wazzu was they couldn't stop Stanford's pass rush, allowing Stanford to record 10 sacks in the contest. I have a feeling this game will play out a lot like last year, with Stanford gaining the victory in a close contest. It'll be interesting to see if Leach goes after the Stanford secondary with the Cardinal being without the services of safety Ed Reynolds, who will miss the first half of this game due to suspension. The combination of Connor Halliday to Gabe Marks has been clicking so far this season, and if they want to beat Stanford they'll need it to continue it's strong early play
Stanford 28 Washington State 20
Miami (OH) vs. Illinois (-24.5) - 12:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
No, you aren't suffering from a contact high from watching too many episodes of Breaking Bad this week to get ready for the finale, Illinois is really favored by over 24 points to a team. A big reason for the large spread is because the Redhawks are bad. Really bad. So far this season Miami has lost their three games by a combined score of 107-21. Both teams have played Cincinnati on the year, with Illinois beating the Bearcats 45-17 while Miami lost to them 14-0 last week. There really isn't any reason why you should be betting this game, but if you need a fix that badly I guess the play would be Illinois. The Fighting Illini showed some fight even with losing to Washington a couple weeks ago, and still have Nathan Scheelhaase to make some things happen at QB.
Illinois 38 Miami (OH) 7
Northern Illinois (-3.5) vs. Purdue - 12:00 PM EST - ESPN2
How much must Darrell Hazell wish that he had Jordan Lynch QB'ing the Boilermakers right now? Instead Hazell is stuck with Rob Henry behind center (for now) for Purdue as they try to avoid being the second Big Ten team that Northern Illinois has beaten this year. If the Purdue offense start putting up some points, Henry might soon be standing on the sidelines holding a clipboard. But the offensive problems aren't totally on Henry. Purdue can't run the ball at all, ranking 116th out of 125 FBS teams in running. Should the Boilermakers be able to get Akeem Hunt going, that might be able to take some of the pressure off Henry. If there was a game to build some momentum though, this might be the game for Purdue, as Northern Illinois has allowed 74 points in their last two games. Thinking Purdue wins a tight one late at home on Saturday and gives the fans at Ross-Ade something to cheer about.
Purdue 34 Northern Illinois 31
Iowa (-1.5) vs. Minnesota - 3:30 PM EST - ABC/ESPN2
Saturday in Minneapolis will see Iowa and Minnesota squaring of for a trophy of a pig, because jokes do write themselves sometimes. The 107th meeting between these two schools will have them coming into the game with a combined record of 7-1 on the season. This game might be played in the time it takes to play your average National League baseball game, because both teams like to keep it on the ground. Iowa is averaging 243.5 rushing yards per game while Minnesota is 13th in the nation with 282.3 yards per game. Minnesota freshman QB Mitch Leidner rushed for 151 yards and four touchdowns last week against San Jose State while filling in for Philip Nelson. Iowa does have a strong group of linebackers and I could see them making life difficult for Leidner (assuming Nelson isn't able to play) and the rest of the Minnesota running attack. Another wildcard for Iowa is returner Kevonte Martin-Manley, who returned two punts in a quarter last week against Western Michigan.
Iowa 27 Minnesota 20
#23 Wisconsin vs. #4 Ohio State (-7) - 8:00 PM EST - ABC
While it certainly sounds like Braxton Miller will be back behind center for the Buckeyes, the $64,000 question is how the Buckeyes offense will perform with him at the helm. As well have all seen, the Buckeyes offense hasn't missed a beat with Smooth Jazz leading the offense, but if Braxton is healthy you can't not have him on the field. I would have liked to see Braxton play a little bit against Florida A&M to knock any possible rust off, but I guess it's true that you can't always get what you want. At least the Buckeyes have the luxury of having a QB on the sidelines that is completely capable of handling the offense if the Buckeyes might need a change of pace. And you just know that Urban Meyer has some tricks up his sleeves to try and incorporate Guiton in a little bit of the gameplan. When you have a guy that has been as hot as Smooth Jazz ("The damn Guiton, he's so hot right now!) you at least have to find ways to utilize him at least a little bit. Another underlooked aspect of the matchup is the return of Carlos Hyde. Now the Buckeyes have Jordan Hall and Hyde to try and attack the Wisconsin defense via the run.
The Wisconsin running attack is something to be fearful about, but it seems like Ohio State has the Badger running game figured out when they have come to Columbus recently. In 2011 Wisconsin only tallied 89 yards on the ground, 118 in 2009, and 18 in 2007. Melvin Gordon and James White are quite the duo that the Silver Bullets will be tasked with stopping, but if they are able to bottle the two, it should be smooth sailing. Joel Stave doesn't strike any fear in me as a passer, and I could see the Buckeyes intercepting him two or three times on Saturday night.
Night games in The Horseshoe are always something special, and Saturday night should be no different. I was at the last time Wisconsin and Ohio State met in Columbus and it was one of the best games I've ever been to. The crowd will be pumped up to at least 11 and I think the Buckeyes will take this one by at least 10 points. Even though the coaches in Madison has changed, the result will stay the same. The Buckeyes win their sixth against the Badgers in the last seven games.
Ohio State 41 Wisconsin 28