Last week's 9-2 mark was just what the doctor ordered for MC&J. Hopefully the strong week is a sign of things to come for the season going forward. As they say, it's not how you start, it's how you finish. Now let's get to this week's picks before I can spew out anymore cliches.
Last Week ATS: 9-2 (4-2 National, 5-0 B1G)
Season ATS: 48-48-2 (22-21-1 National, 26-27-1 B1G)
#10 Texas Tech vs. #17 Oklahoma (-7) - 3:30 PM EST - Fox
When Texas Tech hired Kliff Kingsbury I bet even they couldn't imagine that just seven games into his reign he would have Texas Tech undefeated and sitting 10th in the country. This is the first real test for Kingsbury as his team will head into Norman for their third road game in the last four games to square off with Bob Stoops and the Sooners. The Red Raiders have a pair of freshman quarterbacks that have led them to their undefeated record so far this season, but they haven't yet had to play in a hostile environment like Norman. Oklahoma's defense has been lights out against the pass this season, allowing opponents only 150 yards/game through the air. The Sooners spoil the undefeated season of a Texas Tech team I think might be just a little bit overrated.
Oklahoma 41 Texas Tech 31
#12 UCLA vs. #2 Oregon (-23) - 7:00 PM EST - ESPN
Just how ridiculous is Oregon this year? They are 23-point favorites against the 12th ranked team in the AP poll whose only loss on the season came last week against a very good Stanford team. Last week saw Oregon fail to cover for the first time in seven contests this season. The Ducks were a few points away from covering against Washington State, but Wazzu peed in Nick Allioti's punchbowl and scored a couple late touchdowns as they attempted roughly 941 passes in the game. The scary thing is that for as good as Oregon has been so far, they've played without De'Anthony Thomas for the last four games. Black Mamba should be back in action for the Ducks on Saturday night. Before putting up only 10 points against Stanford last week, UCLA had scored at least 34 points in their first five games, but it's hard to see them keeping pace with the Ducks. Had this been a normal team favored by this many over UCLA it'd be a no-brainer to go with the Bruins, but the Ducks are certainly not normal. A week after losing on the road at Stanford, things could get ugly pretty quick for the Bruins at Autzen.
Oregon 58 UCLA 31
#20 South Carolina vs. #5 Missouri (-3) - 7:00 PM EST - ESPN2
So heading into the season we all knew that after seven games Missouri would be undefeated, ranked fifth in the country, and have wins over Georgia and Florida on their way to a two-game lead in the SEC East, right? RIGHT?? Both teams will come into this game missing their starting quarterbacks due to injury. Connor Shaw injured his knee last week against Tennessee, which means Dylan Thompson will get the nod. Maty Mauk will start his second game in a row for the Tigers after James Franklin was hurt in the Georgia game. A defensive lineman comes into this matchup leading the SEC in sacks and tackles for loss, but it isn't the one that you might expect. Missouri's Michael Sam is the one that has accumulated those stats while highly touted South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney only has two sacks on the season. Getting to go after a redshirt freshman could be just what Clowney needs, but I think that the Gamecocks playing their third road game in a row will prove to be too much.
Missouri 34 South Carolina 24
#8 Stanford (-4) vs. Oregon State - 10:30 PM EST - ESPN
If Oregon State hadn't lost to Eastern Washington in their first game of the season we might be talking about a matchup of two top-10 team in Corvallis this week. After losing their season opener, Oregon State has rode Sean Mannion's arm to six straight victories. So far this season Mannion has passed for nearly 3,000 yards and 29 touchdowns. The receiver that has been the main recipient of Mannion's target has been Brandin Cooks, who has accumulated 1,176 yards and 12 touchdowns so far this season. After beating UCLA last week in Palo Alto and hosting Oregon on November 7th, this is a dangerous sandwich game for Stanford. The home underdog is tempting in this matchup, but the short line makes it a little easier to take the Cardinal in this matchup. Stanford responded strong to the Utah loss and I can see the Shayne Skov led defense holding Mannion and Cooks well below their season averages. This is a step up in competition for the Beavers compared to who they played so far this season, and while they'll play Stanford tough I just see them coming up short in this one.
Stanford 37 Oregon State 30
#15 Fresno State (-9) vs. San Diego State - 10:30 PM EST - ESPN2
I was originally thinking of making the Clemson/Maryland game the fifth pick of the national slate this week, but I figured if I started to have to write about Maryland I would end up with a broken leg, and I'm pretty fond of walking. Instead, I figured that a matchup of a potential BCS-buster and a team that Ohio State played the second week of the season would be a sneaky good game to include. The Aztecs have rebounded nicely after losing their first three games, including their season opener to Eastern Illinois. After we saw Adam Dingwell replaced early in SDSU's game in Columbus, the Aztecs seemed to have found something with Quinn Kaehler behind center. Freshman Donnel Pumphrey has rushed for over 100 yards the last three games, becoming the first Aztec to do that since Marshall Faulk back in 1991. Pumphrey and Adam Muema have formed a productive combo in the backfield for San Diego State. Fresno State has Derek Carr leading their offense, and the last time he played San Diego State he passed for 536 yards. I just think this number is too big for two teams that don't really have much to speak of on defense. I think this is a game decided in the last few minutes, but Fresno State keeps their perfect season alive.
Fresno State 40 San Diego State 37
#25 Nebraska (-11) vs. Minnesota - 12:00 PM EST - ESPN
This matchup of Legends Division foes will feature two teams that have had a great deal of success running the football this season. Nebraska comes into this contest with the nation's 10th best rushing attack at 284 yards/game while Minnesota comes in at 28th with 210 yards/game. Both teams are dealing with health issues at quarterback, as Taylor Martinez is questionable for Nebraska while Mitch Leidner is dealing with an illness for Minnesota and it's unclear if he or Philip Nelson will start. Nebraska has outscored Minnesota 79-28 the last two seasons and I don't see Minnesota cutting into the difference too much this year. Nebraska at least possess a little ability to pass the football if the Golden Gophers have some success stopping the rushing attack of Nebraska, while Minnesota doesn't have much of a passing game to speak of. Minnesota could be in for a letdown this week after a win on the road against Northwestern. The Cornhuskers win by over two touchdowns.
Nebraska 37 Minnesota 20
Northwestern vs. Iowa (-4) - 12:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
How quickly the season has unraveled on the Wildcats in just three short weeks. A hard-fought loss against the Buckeyes in Evanston led to a mashing in Madison and a loss last week to Minnesota where they didn't have the services of Venric Mark and Kain Colter. Much like Northwestern, Iowa just suffered a close loss to the Buckeyes in which they led the fourth-ranked team in the country after 30 minutes. The good news for Northwestern is that they will at least get Colter back from injury, but the same can't be said for Mark. Northwestern has had some issues on defense this year and I can see Mark Weisman finding some holes on the ground and opening this up for Jake Rudock to capitalize on some play-action passes. The Northwestern offense has been struggling lately and might find it hard to snap out of it against a Iowa defense is giving up less than 320 yards/game on defense.
Iowa 24 Northwestern 17
Michigan State (-10) vs. Illinois - 3:30 PM EST - ABC/ESPN2
The opening to Illinois' B1G season has been less than kind, suffering blowout losses to Nebraska and Wisconsin in their first two conference games. While it hasn't been pretty, Michigan State is perfect through their first three B1G games, navigating past Iowa, Indiana, and Purdue. The Spartans have only scored more than 28 points in two games this season, but they should be able to exploit a porous Illinois defense. Connor Cook has been decent for the Spartans this year, but with a defense like Michigan State has he doesn't have to be spectacular in most contests. While anytime you are entertaining the idea of backing Michigan State as a double-digit favorite is dangerous, this would be the week to take them in that spot. Running back Jeremy Langford makes it three straight games with over 100 yards rushing as Michigan State stymies the struggling Illinois offense.
Michigan State 27 Illinois 13
Penn State vs. #4 Ohio State (-14.5) - 8:00 PM EST - ABC
Penn State comes into this as the third straight team that has been able to enjoy a bye week the week before playing Ohio State. When the Nittany Lions last played they came back from the brink multiple times to down Michigan in four overtimes. The combination of quarterback Christian Hackenberg to Allen Robinson has paid massive dividends this season, and the Nittany Lions will be hoping to exploit the shaky Buckeye defense with it on Saturday night. Hackenberg has lived up to the hype so far in his freshman season, but he hasn't yet had to deal with a road crowd of 100,000+ under the lights quite yet. The defense for Penn State has been had some Jekyll & Hyde moments this year. While Penn State is only allowing 335 yards/game, they have allowed 34, 44, and 40 points to UCF, Indiana, and Michigan, respectively.
The big question for the Buckeyes coming in is what is wrong with this defense? More specifically what is wrong with the pass defense? The loss of Christian Bryant seems to hit even harder every week, and last week wasn't helped with the early targeting loss of Bradley Roby. The secondary has to be getting sick of hearing all the criticism, and what better time to gain some confidence than by pick-sixing a Penn State pass or two? I have nothing more than gut instinct to go off on this, but I think we see a strong performance from the secondary this week. I'm not too worried about the Buckeye offense being able to find success about the Penn State defense. I think Iowa's defense is little bit better than Penn State's and when the Buckeye offense actually had the football they were able to do their thing.
While it was great to see Penn State take down the Wolverines a few weeks ago, we know that Michigan has issues this year. The Buckeyes have had a habit lately of falling behind early and relying on second half comebacks to earn victories. I don't think we see that this week. The Buckeyes come out strong and jump out to the early lead and don't look back. Maybe the Buckeyes actually sitting decisively behind Alabama, Oregon, and Florida State in the BCS will actually take some pressure off. Instead of worrying about "style points" Urban can tell his troops to just go out there and win. That's all they can do, and if a BCSNCG berth is meant to be, some losses will shake out ahead of the Buckeyes to make it happen.
Ohio State 41 Penn State 21