Perhaps after a weekend full of closer-than-expected wins by the teams at the top of the polls, this season may indeed come down to survival instead of style points. After Boise Stateís opening win against Virginia Tech, it was thought that the Broncos would spend the entire year trying to impress the voters, as this would be their only way into the national championship picture. If that is the case, they may be in trouble after failing to cover the number against Oregon State this past weekend. TCU didnít fare much better either as it struggled to put away SMU on Friday night. Not all was lost though as Alabama barely got by a game Arkansas team on Saturday afternoon. Alabama is certainly not concerned with style points at this stage of the season, but what it should be concerned with is surviving. Bama has several games remaining where a slip-up is possible. The question then becomes, is a one-loss SEC team more deserving of a spot in the national championship game than Boise State or TCU? I think the answer to that question is yes, but luckily for the ďhave-notsĒ, the SEC is the only conference that can make that claim right now.
The Big-12 took a huge hit this past weekend when Texas lost at home to UCLA, couple that with a less than inspiring performance by Oklahoma and suddenly the Red River Rivalry has lost a lot of luster. The Big-10 already suffered a huge blow when Iowa lost to a Pac-10 opponent in week three. This insured that the only Big-10 team with a chance at the title game would be an undefeated one. The Pac-10 is the wild-card in this mix however. With Oregon, Stanford and Arizona still undefeated, thereís a chance that this conference can really build its equity. Of course, one of the three will suffer defeat for the first time this weekend when Stanford visits Oregon.
Itís really early in the season to tout the values of the current system, but considering that BCS bashing is a 12-month a year activity, Iíll go on the defensive in late September. Once again, all of this conversation that we are having about whoís going to survive, style points, and conference strength, all of it goes out the window with a playoff system. Boise State and TCU could each lose a game and make the top-16 by the seasonís end. Alabama drops a game at Arkansas last week? No biggie, they are still in the top-16. A playoff, as fun as it would be, and donít get me wrong, I am not doubting that, would neutralize the regular season, a regular season that is by far the most entertaining spectacle on this planet.
The avoid list:
Texas: Itís obvious now that the Longhorns are not the team I thought they were, or better yet, the team I thought they could be. Before you pile on against them though, realize that they are not going to go out like lambs. Theyíll fight to the end and just when you think youíve got them pegged as losers, theyíll come up with a big win.
On the radar:
USC: Are the Trojans turning the corner? Itís hard to tell as they simply accomplished something last week that they should have done the week prior, which is to beat an awful team soundly.
Georgia Tech: I personally have a pretty good feel for this team, but I am not going to get carried away because the Yellow Jackets looked so bad this past weekend against NC State.
Record YTD: 22-26
Units YTD: -9.8
Best Win: Florida State: It was my highest unit play in what was a very frustrating Saturday. The NC State outright win was more impressive, but during a day when I was bleeding units, FSU contributed more to the bottom line.
Worst Loss: Eastern Michigan: How in the world did Eastern Michigan score 20 points and still fail to cover a 44-point spread? I still can figure that one out. Sure, the Eagles are horrible and sure they have no defense to speak of, but I figured if they could somehow score 10 points, it would be an easy cover.
Take a Note:
NC State might be the best team in the ACC. Itís one thing to dominate a troubled Cincinnati team at home, itís quite another to take down Georgia Tech on the road. It wasnít just the win though, it was the way the Wolfpack controlled the entire game. Other than a brief lapse in the second half that lasted about a minute, the Wolfpack were in complete control the entire way.
Virginia Tech may be buried as far as the national picture is concerned, but they are still alive and well in the ACC. A big road win for the Hokies last week as they shut out Boston College. As bad as the season started, thereís still plenty to play for and as we all witnessed during their first game against Boise State, thereís plenty of talent on that team.
Cincinnati may have turned the corner on Saturday. Sure, the Bearcats still lost the game, but the won the battle within the game which was to get their offensive line to gel. It only took three weeks, but it looks like theyíve finally got it turned around.
Georgia suffered another bad loss last week at Mississippi State, but donít discount the Bulldogs the rest of the way. Let me rephrase, for betting purposes, donít discount them. The public will assume theyíve thrown in the towel on this season after such a horrible start, but unlike the NFL, college football teams rarely throw in the towel this early.
Texas A&M at Oklahoma State: Stop me if youíve heard this before. Oklahoma State comes into this game off a very solid start to the season while Texas A&M enters as a bit of an underachiever this season. Is it just me, or do these teams follow the same script every single season? Oklahoma State always starts fast with a high-powered offense, but inevitably crashes midway through the season and Texas A&M usually comes into the season with high expectations only to blow its season against lesser competition. The script is playing to form right now, and right there on page three is says Oklahoma State impresses the national television audience by dropping 40+ points on the Aggies. Iíll stick the script and predict a high-scoring match-up with the Cowboys coming out on top.
Side: OSU -3 (1)
Total: Over 64 (1)
BYU at Utah State: A battle of bad vs. worse takes the national spotlight on Friday night this week. I have to imagine the folks at ESPN expected more than a combined two victories from these teams when they met up in week five. It is what it is though and basically itís this; one 1-3 team vs. another 1-3 team. Utah State is favored here by default. Quite honestly, I donít think the odds-makers know how to set the line here and I donít blame them either. The BYU Cougars have laid a huge egg this season and if there is any pride left in that locker room, theyíll do something theyíve yet to do all year, play well this week. Check that, theyíll play well enough to win. I donít want to heap too much onto this team.
Side: BYU +3 (1)
Texas at Oklahoma: Itís interesting how this game is playing out in the media. Oklahoma is undefeated, yet the Sooners seem to be collateral damage from the Longhorns home loss last week to UCLA. Itís not enough that the Longhorns are underachieving this year, the media seems determined to lump the somewhat underachieving Sooners in with them. Personally, I donít think they belong there. After all, they did take FSU behind the woodshed, which has to count for something, right? Iím not claiming Oklahoma is a national title contender in its current state, but the Sooners are clearly one step ahead of Texas right now.
Side: Oklahoma -3.5 (1)
Wisconsin at Michigan State: If youíve followed the Big-10 over the past decade or so, there are a few rules to live by. Two of which apply to this game. Michigan State will inevitably let you down and never underestimate the Wisconsin Badgers. Letís start with the second one first. The Badgers have yet to really impress anyone this season. Theyíve looked sluggish at times and down-right pedestrian at others, but they always show up for conference match-ups, especially early in the year. Their performance to date can almost be disregarded. Now, onto the Spartans. I canít recall a season over the past decade in which they A. didnít start fast and B. didnít go down in flames. This year is setting up like all the others. They get a big win over Notre Dame in the national spotlight and suddenly, this is the year, theyíll turn the corner this year. It sounds good until you consider that Fighting Irish have proven to be nothing more than hype this season. In fact, MSU surrendered more points to the Irish than their in-state rivals, the Wolverines and we all know how bad that defense is, right? Wisconsin will need to pick up its game this week to win on the road, but the Badgers are certainly capable. Michigan State on the other hand will fade from relevance once again.
Side: Wisconsin +2 (1)
Michigan at Indiana: Two things are clear about the 2010 Wolverines, first, no matter whoís in charge, their offense is hard to stop. Second, they canít tackle. The fact that they gave up 21 points to Bowling Green is pretty pathetic considering the BG was without its starting QB. You put that porous defense on the road and itís only going to get worse. The Michigan offense will continue to roll this week and once again, Rich Rodsí crew will be forced to outscore their opponent.
Total: Over 66 (2)
Northwestern at Minnesota: Let me tell you, itís quite a treat to be in Minnesota right now. The jokes about Tim Brewster and crew are flying around like mosquitoes in the summer around here. Complete apathy has set in with the fan base, which believe it or not, is not the form. Partial apathy usually reigns in these parts, but this yearís squad has taken it to the next level. I mentioned above that college teams donít quit as easily as pro teams do, but when you know your head coach is going to get canned at the end of the year, itís a lot to ask of these kids to keep their collective heads in the game, especially when they are facing a 1-11 season. To add to the Gopherís troubles, they actually get a team this week that seems to be hitting on all cylinders. The Northwestern Wildcats are off to a very nice start this season and they arenít about to let up here.
Side: Northwestern -5.5 (2)
Virginia Tech at NC State: As you can imagine, I am torn here. The Hokies seem to have found their way after a very rough start, but the Wolfpack look to be the up and coming team in the ACC this year. In fact, they impressed me so much last week I am almost ready to anoint them the champs of the league. Maybe I should hold off on that though as its possible that they havenít really been tested yet this year. Yes, theyíve played former powers Cincinnati and Georgia Tech, but anyone with a set of eyes will tell you those teams are nowhere near their former selves. What this game boils down to is Russell Wilsonís ability to take his team to the next level. The Wolfpack defense will put up enough resistance to give Wilson the opportunity to win this game. If heís truly one of the best QBs in the land, heíll seize that opportunity.
Side: NC State +4 (1)
Georgia Tech at Wake Forest: Donít let that 31-0 score from last weeks game fool you, Wake Forest can move the ball Ė at home that is. Wake returns home this week and the Demon Deacons will find the going much easier against the Yellow Jackets. While Tech has lost twice this season, the offense seems to be fine and against a Wake Forest team that plays no defense, theyíll be able to move the ball all day as well. Expect a shootout here as neither team will put up much of a defense.
Total: Over 60 (1)
Washington State at UCLA: Iím not sure why I gravitate to bad teams, perhaps I donít trust the teams they are playing, but once again, I have to side with the Cougars as I donít believe UCLA is capable of covering this number. Check that, I donít think a week after the biggest win of their season, that the Bruins will have enough focus to cover this number. As for Washington State, have a little pride, how long are you going to be the doormat of this league?
Side: Washington State +27 (1)
Georgia at Colorado: Speaking of pride, itís time for the Bulldogs to step up this week. The season is already a lost cause, but no Georgia team wants to go into the record books with a sub five-hundred record. A.J. Green returns this week and that should be enough to get this offense on the right track.
Side: Georgia -5 (1)
Florida at Alabama: Itís funny how one good game against a middle-of-the-pack SEC team turns the public sentiment around. The Gators seemingly found their offense last week after freshman QB Trey Burton scored six touchdowns, but letís not get carried away just yet. First of all, heís a freshman and the game was in the Swamp. Second, the Gators has the element of surprise last week as theyíd yet to unleash Burton, thatís something that will be missing this week. Last but not least, the Alabama defense is set up to stop the run. The best way to attack it is through the air, something the Gators have yet to show they are capable of. A reality check this week as Alabama, fresh of a scare last week, again shows whoís the top dog in this conference.
Side: Alabama -9 (1)
Washington at USC: So, four weeks into the season weíve got it all figured out, right? Jake Locker is a fraud and USC is once again back to its old ways of destroying weaker teams. Not so fast. Sure, Locker and the Huskies have played poorly this season, but like many other teams in similar spots, their conference schedule is about to begin, which means reason for optimism. USC is coming off a dismantling of bottom feeder Washington State, but what does that really prove, that the Trojans can beat up on a high school team? Heck, they werenít able to separate from the Golden Gophers the week before, so just how far have they come? With many questions still surrounding the USC program and a determined Washington Husky team coming off a bye week, this game looks to come down to the wire.
Side Washington +10 (1)