We are only three weeks into the 2010 season and national title picture is starting to take form. With its conference schedule right around the corner, Alabama is in crush mode, destroying all competition in its way. Ohio State passed a major test two weeks ago and where lesser teams may have let down last week, the Buckeyes proved superior to inferior competition. Boise State did exactly what it needed to against one of its weaker opponents. TCU continued to roll against non-conference opponents. The Oregon Ducks seemingly canít be stopped. Texas appears to have a top-notch defense again. There are more examples, but you get the point, teams are taking care of business early on.
Upsets are fun to watch, but they lead to less interesting match-ups later in the season. With most of the big name teams winning early, there are bound to be some great match-ups over the coming months. In fact, they start this week with some undefeated teams squaring off.
The avoid list:
Texas: I should have taken my own advice last week as for some reason I forgot the Longhorns were on my avoid list. Anyhow, I am officially steering clear of Texas until I get a better read.
On the radar:
USC: Well Iím glad they cleared that up. USC failed to cover last week against Minnesota, but that was due in part to a back-door cover and three missed points after touchdowns. Of course, all three misses were curious two-point attempts. The Trojans played well enough to cover the number last week, but thatís not to say they played well.
Record YTD: 19-16
Units YTD: + 1.2
Best Win: Georgia Tech: I love winning these toss-up games, especially when the side selected is not exactly the popular pick. The Yellow Jackets bounced back after an inexplicable loss to Kansas the week prior and they now appear to be back on track.
Worst Loss: USC: Besides the obvious fact the USC was my first three-unit game of the year, this was one especially painful as it never should have been in question. The Trojans went for two after their second touchdown and that failed attempt lead to two more failed attempts in the second-half. Oh and did I mention that the Gophers scored their final touchdown with less than :20 on the clock?
Take a Note:
A big test for Ryan Mallett and the Arkansas Razorbacks this week when Alabama comes to town. This comes just a week after Mallett passed the biggest test of his Arkansas career when he and his team went between the hedges and topped a desperate Georgia Bulldog team. Though Arkansas controlled the game at Georgia, the Razorbacks let down near the end of the game and it nearly cost them. Theyíll have to play a full 60 minutes this week, but with the home crowd this time around, they may be able to pull off a huge upset.
The Florida Gators appear to be slowly rounding into form. Luckily, theyíve been able to get through this tough stretch without dropping a game. There is plenty of room for improvement however as they are not ready to take on the big boys from the SEC right now.
Miami at Pittsburgh: The Big East is off to a rough start this year and these two teams have already contributed to that notion by losing their marquee non-conference match-ups. Miami lost at Ohio State two weeks ago and Pittsburgh suffered an OT loss at Utah during the opening week. This game will go a long way to determining the Big East Champion at the end of the year though, so expect both teams to come in inspired. Though he didnít show a lot against OSU, Miami QB Jacory Harris has the ability to take over a game and this is the type of game where he could do it. Check that, this is the type of game where heíll need to do it. Pittsburgh though isnít going to go down without a fight as it showed in its opener. I expect this game to be tightly contested the entire way with Miami coming out on top in a squeaker. Four points at home is a fairly large chunk when you consider all the factors, not the least of which is the national TV audience.
Side: Pittsburgh +4 (1)
TCU at SMU: An old school SWC battle is on hand Friday night as the TCU Horned Frogs travel to meet the SMU Mustangs. When I first saw this line I thought it was a gift, but upon further inspection, I understand why SMU is getting less than three scores. SMU is 2-1 on the season and they played Texas Tech within one TD during the opening week of the season. Thatís the good news, now the bad. TCU is by far, and with all due respect to Texas Tech, I mean bar far, the best competition that the Mustangs will have seen all year. Now the really bad news, the Horned Frogs are on a mission to impress. Much like Boise State, TCU is fully aware it needs not only to win these nationally televised games, but it needs to do so in impressive fashion. Luckily for TCU, it has the weapons to pull away from just about every team in the country as it proved last week when the Horned Frogs pulled away from a decent Baylor squad.
Side: TCU -18 (1)
Eastern Michigan at Ohio State: I thought Iíd get more than one game out of Eastern Michigan before it fell back to Earth, but as you are probably aware, Central Michigan handled the Eagles with ease last week. Ohio State on the other hand continued to cruise as it throttled yet another inferior opponent by nearly 40 points. If ever the Buckeyes were going to let down, you would have expected it last week when they were coming off a nice win over Miami. However, two easily overlooked opponents in consecutive weeks can also be a problem as focus might be an issue this week. Who could blame the Buckeyes for putting it in cruise control this week. After all, they canít lose this game and the are now two weeks removed from their only test on the season. Ohio State will roll in this game, but 44 points could prove to be a little too much as the Buckeyes have yet to win a game by 40 points this season.
Side: Eastern Michigan +44 (1)
North Carolina State at Georgia Tech: As you are probably aware, I like the Yellow Jackets, I think they have a solid offense and they should challenge for the ACC crown this season. With that said, I donít like them in a spot where they are giving a lot of points to a decent team. NC State is coming off a big win last week which could prove detrimental this week, but the Wolfpack had a couple extra days to celebrate, which should allow them to refocus on their opponent this week. The Wolfpack showed last week that they have plenty of athletes up front, which is essential in slowing down the option attack of Georgia Tech. As long as Russell Wilson shows up, NC State should be able to keep this within one score.
Side: NC State +8.5 (1)
Wake Forest at Florida State: This is a bad spot for the Demon Deacons, then again, every game might end up being a bad spot for the Demon Deacons this year. The ĎDeacs have no defense this year, they have surrendered over 50 points twice already this season and that could easily jump to three after this week. Wake can compete with other teams that donít play defense, but that wonít be the case this week. FSU flashed some firepower last week against BYU and I expect the Seminoles to show even more of their arsenal this week.
Side: Florida State -19 (2)
Georgia at Mississippi: The season is on the like for the Bulldogs this week, as they look to avoid an 0-3 start to conference play this year. The Bulldogs showed a lot of fight last week coming back from a 14-point second half deficit, but as the case all season, they came up short in the end. Mississippi State is much improved this year as it showed against Auburn a couple weeks ago, but this is going to be a difficult spot. Georgia, as usual, is the more talented team in this match-up and when you factor in the desperation, I think weíll see its best effort to date this week.
Side: Georgia +1 (1)
Oklahoma at Cincinnati: The poor Bearcats canít catch a break. First they get handled out west at Fresno State, then they get destroyed on national TV at NC State, now they have to face Oklahoma, which is coming off a closer than expected match-up against Air Force last week. Cincinnati is having all kinds of issues up front this season and if NC State can take advantage of the situation, imagine what Oklahoma can do. Perhaps if the Sooners were overlooking this game, the Bearcats would have a chance, but thatís not the case as Oklahoma is coming off a scare last week. The Sooners have national championship aspirations and even though this is not a conference game, they canít afford to let up in this spot.
Side: Oklahoma -14 (1)
Alabama at Arkansas: Iíll admit that I underestimated Arkansas last week, but a win at Georgia does not mean the Razorbacks are ready to take on the defending national champs, or does it? I was skeptical of Ryan Mallett and company last week because it seemed like they failed in similar spots last season, but itís possible that theyíve turned the corner. That question will certainly be answered this week as the number one team in the country comes a calling. Alabama has impressed at every opportunity this season, but this will be the Tideís toughest test to date. In their only previous test, they handled Penn State, but the score was a little misleading as the Nittany Lions shot themselves in the foot with several turnovers in Alabamaís end. Alabama should be able to move the ball and score some points, the question is; can Ryan Mallett and company do the same? I think the answer is yes, the key will be holding onto the ball. That however should be easier to do at home. If Arkansas is to be taken seriously it needs to at minimum put up a good fight this week, which it will do, and possibly more.
Side: Arkansas +7 (1)
Total: Over 54.5 (1)
Oregon State at Boise State: Can you believe that Boise State is favored by 17.5 points over a pretty good Oregon State team? The funny thing is, the line had to be set that high or the public would have jumped all over Boise State. The need for style points is driving this line as just a few weeks ago, Oregon State played TCU relatively tight the entire way. The difference of course is this game will be played on the blue turf, not a neutral site. It makes no sense to try and forecast the outcome of this game by looking at the personnel, it simply comes down to this Ė how long before Oregon State cracks? Itís not a matter of if, but when. If the Beavers crack early, I could see a 35-point margin, if they hang in through the third quarter, itís going to be a tough cover for Boise State, but make no mistake, the Broncos will not let up until the final whistle.
Side: Boise State -17.5 (1)
California at Arizona: This line looks a little goofy, right? California is coming in off an embarrassing loss to Nevada, while Arizona enters off a huge win against Iowa, and the line is only seven? I think what we are seeing is a letdown by Arizona already built into this line. Arizona is clearly a better team than California right now and they are at home, at night. This line should be above seven if you ask me. The other factor, from my perspective is the play of California QB Kevin Riley. He looked like a freshman last week at Nevada and if he thinks itís going to be any easier this week at Arizona, heís sadly mistaken. My guess is that Riley gets pulled at some point in this game and Arizona rolls.
Side: Arizona -7 (1)
USC at Washington State: I witnessed first hand last week what USC has to offer this season and let me tell you, itís not much. Though they were playing a completely inferior opponent, the Trojans seemed unequipped to take advantage. Though their running game was for the most part effective, Matt Barkley was not sharp and their defense was pedestrian. This week they get the bottom feeding Cougars, who donít looked much improved from a miserable 2009 campaign, but you can bet theyíll put up a fight here against a vulnerable USC team.
Side: Washington State +22 (1)
South Carolina at Auburn: With the national spotlight on them last week, the Auburn Tigers came out flat against Clemson and needed help in overtime to simply come out with the win. This week they get an ever stiffer test as South Carolina visits. From my perspective, I think Auburn is getting a little too much attention so far this season. Sure, they picked up a nice road win at Mississippi State and followed that up with a win against Clemson, but come on, weíre not talking about Florida and Florida State here. Iím not sure the Auburn program is as far along as the public thinks right now. South Carolina on the other hand is quietly improving and its win against Georgia two weeks ago showed a new side, a tough and physical side, which will be the difference in this game.
Side South Carolina +3 (1)