Last week was a return to normalcy for MC&J as we brought our record to just under .500 with two weeks gone so far in the college football season. This week gives us a couple high-profile games, including the one that many have been waiting the whole offseason for nationally.
Last week ATS: 9-4 (3-2 National, 6-2 B1G)
Season ATS: 14-15 (5-6 National, 9-9 B1G)
#24 TCU (-3) vs. Texas Tech - Thursday 7:30 PM EST - ESPN
Last week TCU suffered a blow when they lost starting QB Casey Pachall for eight weeks to a broken arm. The good news for Gary Patterson is that he still has QB Trevone Boykin, who started the final nine games of 2012 for Pachall. When these two teams played last season it was Boykin's third start in relief of Pachall and didn't disappoint, going for 332 yards and four touchdowns through the air in the 56-53 triple overtime Texas Tech win. For the Red Raiders, walk-on freshman Baker Mayfield will get his third start, and he has been playing like he has led that offense for years so far in his young career.With this being a Thursday night primetime game and Texas Tech being the home underdog, I can't help but take the Red Raiders in this contest.
Texas Tech 40 TCU 37
#7 Louisville (-15.5) vs. Kentucky - 12:00 PM EST - ESPN
This will be one of the showcase games where Louisville can try and state their case for a national championship berth should they go undefeated this year. That should just tell you everything you need to know about Louisville's schedule when Kentucky is one of the toughest games of the season for them. Teddy Bridgewater has been great so far this season with nine touchdown passes in two games, but he did have the luxury of going up against Eastern Kentucky and Ohio. Kentucky on the other hand lost their first game of the season to Western Kentucky before dismantling Miami, (OH) last week 41-7. I think this gets ugly for Kentucky, as Louisville knows they have to not only win but do so in impressive fashion.
Louisville 48 Kentucky 27
#1 Alabama (-8) vs. #6 Texas A&M - 3:30 PM EST - CBS
This has been the most talked about game in the media during the offseason, as many have it pegged as their top game of the 2013 season. Not only did Nick Saban have the whole offseason to plan for this trip to College Station, but he also had the luxury of a bye week last week. The Crimson Tide offense didn't look great in the season opener against Virginia Tech, but they didn't have to behind the effort that the defense and special teams put forward. The Aggies have scored 117 points in their first two games, but nobody is going to be confusing Rice and Sam Houston State for the Alabama defense anytime soon. While I'm leery of Texas A&M's defense and think that Alabama could have a big day rushing the football, it is hard for me to give the points in this matchup. Alabama might be a little distracted by the recent report on former player D.J. Fluker. If anything, in this matchup I could see Johnny Football putting in a late TD to swing the result to a Texas A&M cover.
Alabama 34 Texas A&M 28
Tennessee vs. #2 Oregon (-28.5) - 3:30 PM EST - ABC
Even dating back to last year, every week it seems like the point spread in Oregon games is too high for the Ducks to cover, but then you're watching the game in the early 4th quarter and they already have the game and point spread well in hand. Mostly this is a play on Oregon because I've been burned by picking against them in at least three games the last year because I thought the spread was too high. The Butch Jones era at Tennessee may have gotten off to a good start in his first two games, but I think Oregon scores early and often on Saturday. Also worth nothing, for all the publicity that Oregon's offense gets, their defense isn't something to sleep on. Last week the Ducks had four takeaways against Virginia, and could force a young Tennessee team into a lot of mistakes at Autzen.
Oregon 58 Tennessee 17
Vanderbilt vs. #13 South Carolina (-14) - 7:00 PM EST - ESPN
South Carolina will try and regroup from last week's loss to Georgia when they return home this week to take on Vanderbilt. After being pretty quiet in the first two games on the season, this could be where we see Jadeveon Clowney notch his first big performance this year. The South Carolina defense as a whole should be fired up after what Georgia did to them in Athens last week. One player to watch for in this matchup is sophomore Gamecock running back Mike Davis, who ran for almost 150 yards last week.
South Carolina 33 Vanderbilt 17
Akron vs. #11 Michigan (-38) - 12:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
Don't overthink this one, just take Michigan. Last week Akron was in a 13-0 hole at home to James Madison before coming back to win 35-33. The Wolverines have already destroyed one MAC team at Michigan Stadium this year by 50 points, and they will come close to adding Akron to that list on Saturday.
Michigan 54 Akron 10
Bowling Green vs. Indiana (-2.5) - 12:00 PM EST - ESPNU
The first two games of the season have seen Indiana score a whopping 108 points, but their defense needs to step up if they want to win on Saturday. The Hoosier defense has allowed 76 points in the first two games, and will be faced with trying to stop a Bowling Green team that has averaged 37.5 points in wins over two teams that won 11 games last year. Last year the Bowling Green defense was sixth in the nation in average yards allowed last year, and they return nine starters from that unit this year. I think that Bowling Green goes into Bloomington and grabs a win.
Bowling Green 31 Indiana 30
#16 UCLA vs. #23 Nebraska (-4) - 12:00 PM EST - ABC
Nebraska will be looking for a little revenge on Saturday after they lost to UCLA 36-30 early in the season last year. Last year the Bruins rolled up 653 yards of offense on Nebraska, which was the second-highest total that Nebraska had ever given up. The Nebraska defense hasn't looked great so far this year, especially in the season opener where they gave up 34 points to Wyoming. Statistically the Cornhuskers were a little better in only allowing 13 points to Southern Miss, but you and 10 of your friends could shut down that team. The quarterback matchup between UCLA"s Brett Hundley and Nebraska's Taylor Martinez should be fun to watch and might make for the over in this matchup to be the better bet.
Nebraska 41 UCLA 35
Iowa (-2.5) vs. Iowa State - 6:00 PM EST - Fox Sports 1
Luckily for most this game will be starting during the 2nd half of Alabama/Texas A&M and once you get to 7 pm you can turn on the Ohio State. Anybody that actually willingly watches this game is a masochist, but then again I can't say too much since I'm a Buffalo Bills fan. I guess I'll take Iowa in this one just because I think Mark Weisman can be the difference. Northern Iowa ran the ball well on Iowa State in the opener, so I'll take a flier on Weisman being able to do the same.
Iowa 13 Iowa State 6
Washington (-10) vs. Illinois - 6:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
Solider Field in Chicago will be the host of this matchup, which suddenly looks a lot trickier to call than you might have thought coming into the season. Washington hasn't played since they looked very impressive the first weekend of the season against Boise State, and will have All-American tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins back from suspension. Illinois meanwhile surprised a lot of people by laying the hurt to Cincinnati last weekend in Champaign. I'm still not convinced that Illinois is very good this year, and if the Huskies can find a way to put the clamps on Nathan Scheelhaase they shouldn't have too much trouble. This is only the second time that Illinois has played in Soldier Field, with the last being in 1994.
Washington 38 Illinois 21
UCF vs. Penn State (-6) - 6:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
Not only will these two teams meet in Happy Valley on Saturday night, but they'll open next year over in Dublin, Ireland (because when I think of teams I'm sure people in Ireland want to see, Central Florida is on the top of that list). This is a pretty interesting matchup since Bill O'Brien worked under UCF coach George O'Leary from 1995-2001 when O'Leary was at Georgia Tech, and O'Brien was the offensive coordinator his final year in Atlanta. While UCF is 0-7 against Big Ten opponents, I expect them to hang tough in this matchup behind quarterback Blake Bortles. The only thing I wish was that UCF had a wide receiver with the last name James so we could all make way too many "Bortles & James" jokes.
Penn State 31 UCF 28
#21 Notre Dame (-21) vs. Purdue - 8:00 PM EST - ABC
After last week's loss by Notre Dame to Michigan it is easy to think that they might have a little bit of a hangover from that game and have a tougher time than expected this week against Purdue. I don't think that will be the case for the Fighting Irish on Saturday in West Lafayette. Why? Well because Purdue is bad and that might be taking it easy on them. The Boilermakers only held off Indiana State by six points last week and the week before that got throttled by Cincinnati (who in turn got spanked by Illinois). You can only imagine how many shades of purple that the Notre Dame players saw on Brian Kelly's face in practice this week. The Fighting Irish will be happy to take their frustrations out on the Boilermakers.
Notre Dame 42 Purdue 17
Western Michigan vs. #17 Northwestern (-31) - 9:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
Western Michigan just lost to Nicholls State at home last week. Really that should be all the reasoning you need to go with Northwestern in this matchup. Running back Venric Mark is questionable for Northwestern, but they shouldn't need him in this matchup. While Mark has been out, Treyvon Green has filled in admirably for Northwestern, running for nearly 200 yards and three scores in the first two games. Northwestern has scored over 40 points in their first two games, and they might hit 60 this weekend. But really, Western Michigan lost to Nicholls State. No matter how many times I say that it still doesn't stop being funny.
Northwestern 62 Western Michigan 20
#20 Wisconsin vs. Arizona State (-4.5) - 10:30 PM EST - ESPN
Gary Andersen hits the road for the first time as Wisconsin head coach this week in a matchup between two teams that haven't allowed the opposition to score on them yet this season. Wisconsin has had two shutouts and Arizona State had one in the only game they played so far this year. While the competition these teams have played so far this season has been very weak, it still is impressive that in 180 minutes of gametime these two teams have given up nothing. I have to go with Arizona State in this one because I think they can at least bottle up Wisconsin's running attack to force Badger QB Joel Stave to put more of the game on his shoulders. I'm not sold on Stave and think the Sun Devils will capitalize on a few errors that he'll make in the hostile environment in Tempe.
Arizona State 31 Wisconsin 24
#4 Ohio State (-15) vs. California - 7:00 PM EST - Fox
How much time will Braxton Miller see on the field? Will Cal be able to use the "Bear Raid" to put a scare into Ohio State? Why does Cal's mascot look so creepy? Well those are only a few questions that the Buckeyes will have to answer when they head to Berkeley on Saturday night.
Braxton Miller will be a game-time decision, according to Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer during his call-in show. #Buckeyes— IanLGHL (@IanLGHL) September 12, 2013
Urban let everybody know on Thursday afternoon that now we'll have to tune on in Saturday to find out the answer to the first question (but let's face it, you were watching anyway). Even though as of when MC&J is released there wasn't a point spread for the game, I had seen Ohio State as 15 point favorites at some spots on-line. Now this line is very tricky, because not only could the Buckeyes be without Braxton, but the Cal offense can certainly put up the points to keep up. Last year the Golden Bears gave the Buckeyes a fight in Columbus, and now they get the Buckeyes at home and Cal has better coaching this year. Freshman Jared Goff has thrown for over 400 yards in each of his first two starts, so the Buckeyes secondary will have their hands full.
Even if Braxton doesn't play, the Buckeyes still have the luxury of have a very capable backup quarterback on their roster. I think Urban will have his players ready for the "Bear Raid" as they can look back at Dykes' offense at Louisiana Tech to get a better idea on what to expect. With what should be a layup next week against Florida A&M, Urban will want his players to give it all they got and grab a convincing win in primetime.
Ohio State 47 California 28