They say close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. If only I could make a way for close to count towards MC&J's season records. Kentucky looked like they were about to cover and then that onside kick happened. Dr. Bo played more like Dr. Nick from The Simpsons and Ole Miss went down. Alabama wasted a 27-0 lead in Knoxville, and the Buckeyes were up 17-0 in Happy Valley. About the only thing that went right was Michigan State scoring a late touchdown to take back the point spread after Michigan's touchdown and two-point conversion. I guess I have to be due for a string of good luck now, and hopefully that'll start this week.
Last week ATS: 4-6-1 (3-2-1 National, 1-4 B1G)
Season ATS: 52-63-1 (22-25-1 National, 30-38 B1G)
National Games (All games Saturday unless otherwise noted):
#2 Florida State (-4.5) v. #25 Louisville - Thursday 7:30 PM - ESPN
Do you remember where you were on a Thursday night back in 2002? I remember watching a Louisville team with Dave Ragone at quarterback upset a fourth-ranked Florida State team in overtime in the rain in Louisville. Will lightning strike twice? Now the two teams are conference foes and Louisville will be looking to record their biggest win in their new league to date. So far this season Bobby Petrino's offense hasn't been great, but they showed signs of improvement in their last game against North Carolina State with not only Devante Parker's return, but also with Michael Dyer's best game at Louisville. The Cardinal defense has been stingy this year, but will be facing their toughest challenge of the year. Usually I like home underdogs playing a high-ranked team on Thursday, but I think the line is a little too short here. It might not be pretty, but the Seminoles pull out the victory by a touchdown.
Florida State 27 Louisville 20
#7 TCU (-6) v. #20 West Virginia - 3:30 PM - ABC/ESPN2
This just in: TCU just scored yet another touchdown on Texas Tech. Funny how a few weeks ago Baylor came over a win against TCU after scoring 61 points and went to Morgantown to take on the Mountaineers and fell victim to the upset. Now TCU is coming off scoring 82 points against Texas Tech and have to make the same trip up to West Virginia. Will the upset bug bite twice? If the last two meetings between these two teams is any indication this could be one of the best games of the day, with both of those meetings going to overtime. I went against West Virginia as the home underdog against Baylor, but I think I learned my lesson for this matchup. This is the first time TCU has left Texas this year, and chilly temperatures and possibly some rain will greet them in Morgantown.
West Virginia 44 TCU 41
#3 Auburn v. #4 Mississippi (-1) - 7:00 PM - ESPN
With the release of the first College Football Playoff Rankings earlier this week, this game has the feel of an eliminator with two one-loss teams going at it in Oxford. Ole Miss is coming off a game where a Les Miles found a way to Les themselves to a win. Injuries hit Ole Miss hard in that game, with the biggest knock coming with the loss of linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche to a broken ankle. Auburn survived against South Carolina last week, and will look to add to their resume by taking down Ole Miss. Nick Marshall and the Auburn offense will be the first team to score more than 21 points against Mississippi this year, and the Ole Miss offense will fall just short.
Auburn 28 Mississippi 24
Stanford v. #5 Oregon (-8) - 7:30 PM - Fox
Here we go again. Even with the earlier loss to Arizona, Oregon looks to be one of the best teams in the country right now, and many are thinking that Stanford will have no chance in this one. It isn't hard to see why the Cardinal aren't being given much of a shot in this game, after losing three games so far this season, and showing plenty of issues inside the red zone. Meanwhile, Marcus Mariota is looking flawless right now with his recent play, and the Ducks are starting to get healthy at the right time. Stanford's defense has been one of the few in the country able to stop Oregon recently, and hasn't allowed an opponent to score more than 30 points in the last 31 games. I have thought Oregon would win the last two contests between these teams, and I'll go back to the well one more time. This Stanford team doesn't have quite the same feel as the last few years, and the Ducks finally get that win they've been looking for over Stanford.
Oregon 34 Stanford 23
#17 Utah v. #14 Arizona State (-6) - 11:00 PM - Fox
Nothing like a little late night degenerate special to time travel into Daylight Savings Time with. Utah slid past USC last week but they suffered a huge loss with the season-ending injury to wide receiver Dres Anderson. Arizona State meanwhile survived the rain and wind in Seattle to take down Washington 24-10 in the return of quarterback Taylor Kelly. Even though Kelly did take a hit to the head late in the win against Washington, it sounds like he'll be good to go against Utah. The Sun Devils have only allowed 20 points combined in their last two games, but they face a tough challenge from Utah running back Devontae Booker, who has been in fine form lately. Even with that though, the Utes won't be able to rely on the home field advantage they had last week, and the loss of Anderson hits them hard. The Sun Devils take this one by at least a touchdown.
Arizona State 35 Utah 24
Maryland v. Penn State (-4) - 12:00 PM - ESPN2
How will Penn State follow up a game against Ohio State where it felt like they left everything on the field? On the other hand how will Maryland follow up a game against Wisconsin where it felt like they left nothing on the field? In other words they got beat so bad it felt like they weren't even there. These two schools haven't played since 1993, but they used to square off a lot, with Penn State winning 35 of 37 previous meetings. It feels like the Terrapins are the college football version of the Columbus Blue Jackets, since everyone is injured now. Maryland has been terrible against the run this year, but Penn State doesn't have much to offer on the ground. While Penn State finds a way to win, the Terps keep it close.
Penn State 24 Maryland 21
Northwestern v. Iowa (-4) - 12:00 PM - Big Ten Network
After starting off their Big Ten schedule with such promise after wins over Penn State and Wisconsin, Northwestern has come back down to earth, dropping games against Minnesota and Nebraska. Iowa had all the chances to beat Maryland but in true Iowa fashion snapped defeat from the jaws of victory. Both teams had a bye week last week and will be hoping to have corrected some of the problems they've had against the run this year. Iowa wasn't helped by the suspension of linebacker Reggie Spearman for moped'ing while drinking. I've missed on a lot of both teams games this year, and I'm assuming Saturday will be no difference. I'll take the home team in this one, as I feel they'll somehow slop a win of more than a field goal together.
Iowa 30 Northwestern 23
Wisconsin (-11) v. Rutgers - 12:00 PM - ESPN
Gary Nova is questionable for this matchup, while the Badgers are coming off a thrashing of Maryland in Madison last weekend. Rutgers returns home after two road games against Ohio State and Nebraska which saw them come back down to earth after a 5-1 start to the season. Now the Scarlet Knights get to figure out how to try and corral Melvin Gordon. I just don't see them being able to do that, especially since nobody else has this season. Rutgers is allowing 178 yards/game on the ground on the season so it should be another big day for Gordon. Wisconsin lost their only other true road game of the season to Northwestern, but I think they put together a big effort against a beaten up Rutgers team.
Wisconsin 34 Rutgers 17
Purdue v. #15 Nebraska (-23.5) - 3:30 PM - ABC/ESPN2
Purdue is actually showing some progress in Darrell Hazell's second year in West Lafayette! While it isn't translating that into a ton of wins, they are actually competitive in games. Last week the Boilermakers had a bye week after a narrow 39-38 loss to Minnesota, and the week before that they kept things close with Michigan State. This week they'll face a whole different animal in Heisman Trophy candidate Ameer Abdullah. The running back amassed 341 all-purpose yards against Rutgers last week, and has had four 200-yard rushing performances this year. Maybe I'm still a little scorned from Nebraska failing to cover last week, but I'll take a late Purdue TD to secure a cover.
Nebraska 48 Purdue 27
Indiana v. Michigan (-6.5) - 3:30 PM - Big Ten Network
Last year's contest between these two schools was actually pretty fun, with the final score ending up 63-47 in Michigan's favor. This year's game won't even come close to that total. Indiana has a freshman quarterback who has thrown about as many passes as I have going up against the Michigan defense. Meanwhile Michigan has Devin Gardner at quarterback but calling Gardner a quarterback is sort of insulting to all the other quarterbacks out there since Gardner is so bad. The Hoosiers do have Tevin Coleman, but the Wolverines do have a stout running defense, and will probably be loading up to stop Coleman. I hate laying this many points with Michigan, but they are at home and I think they put together a somewhat competent effort.
Michigan 31 Indiana 21
Illinois v. #16 Ohio State (-28.5) - 8:00 PM - ABC
With last week's narrow victory against Penn State, I finally suffered my first loss ATS in a game involving the Buckeyes. I'm even more puzzled about this week's game because of the status of J.T. Barrett. While Barrett is expected to play against Illinois, how long will he play and how effective will he be against the Fighting Illini? With trying to keep Barrett healthy for next week's big showdown against Michigan State, it wouldn't be a surprise to see less of Barrett rushing and more of Ezekiel Elliott on the ground. The Illinois defense is allowing 258 yards/game on the ground, so the Buckeyes should be able to find holes early and often to let Barrett exit the game earlier than normal to preserve him for the Spartans.
Last week Illinois pulled the upset over Minnesota, so they should have some confidence on their side, but they'll need a lot more if they want to keep with the Buckeyes. Reilly O' Toole hasn't been bad in relief of injured Wes Lunt, and with running back Josh Ferguson and wide receiver Mike Dudek they do have a couple weapons on offense. Even with that though they'll have trouble containing Joey Bosa (but who doesn't?). The Fighting Illini can pass the ball a little bit, which should help them at least keep it a little bit respectable.
Had Barrett been fully healthy for this one I wouldn't have had as many reservations about taking Ohio State and the points in this one. With Michigan State next week the Buckeyes could be looking ahead a little bit and might keep the offense a little vanilla to try and leave some mysteries for the Spartans. The Buckeyes don't suffer any major injuries, keep Barrett healthy, and win comfortably, but they don't quite cover the high number.
Ohio State 45 Illinois 21