One week into the 2011 season and an all-too-familiar conversation has already started ... Will Boise State get a shot at the national title game?
To their credit, the Broncos have done everything in their power the last few years to gain the credibility needed to be considered for such a game, but there are some things still out of their control that will likely haunt them.
For starters, yes, they beat an SEC team - and yes, it was a team that many thought could contend for the SEC title this year - but after what we all saw last week, is there anyone out there who believes that Georgia can even put up a fight against the likes of LSU and Alabama?
Additionally, there's still the issue of the regular-season schedule. Yes, it looks better this season with Mountain West foes, but it will never be anything near the test that teams in other major conferences face.
There's nothing the Broncos can do about either of those issues this season, and likely for many years to come. All they can do is play their best football and hope that somewhere along the line they get a chance. When they do, however, they'd better hope for a good effort, because one poor effort against a top-tier team will set them and their ilk back many years.
Let's look at the picks for Week 2. I got off to a good start last week, and I'm hoping to carry some momentum into this week.
Cream of the Crop: Week: 3-3-0/Season: 3-3-0
Missouri at Arizona State: Full disclaimer, I lost on the Tigers last week, so this very well could be my way of exacting revenge, but I really didn't like what I saw from Missouri quarterback James Franklin last week. He's mobile, yes, but his accuracy was way off last week and that was against a team from the MAC - at home. I don't see how his play improves this week. Sure, the Tigers are getting a healthy number here, but the quarterback must improve dramatically to keep this one close, and I don't see it.
Side: ASU -8
Toledo at Ohio State: The Buckeyes looked pretty good last week, but let's not forget who they faced. Akron is expected to be one of the worst teams from the MAC this season, while the Buckeyes' opponent this week, Toledo, is expected to be one of the MAC's best teams. I doubt the OSU players are shaking in their boots, but they'd better be prepared because the Rockets know how to take down a giant. I'm not calling the upset here, but I could see the Rockets put a scare into OSU this week.
Side: Toledo +19
Virginia Tech at East Carolina: It appears as though East Carolina's defense picked up where it left off last season. One week in and the Pirates have already surrendered 56 points. It's not going to get any easier this week as the Hokies come to town. We've already witnessed what they can do to an inferior opponent this season. This game should closely resemble East Carolina's game from last week.
Total: Over 63.5
New Mexico State at Minnesota: One week in and the Golden Gophers already look like a new team under new coach Jerry Kill. Last week's effort at USC did not appear to be a fluke, either. The Gophers hung tough the entire game, and now we get to see how they perform as a heavy favorite. I'm guessing that Kill will have this team ready and no one will look past any opponent this year. Oh, and did I mention that New Mexico State is still awful? The Aggies lost at home to a middle-of-the-road MAC team last week by 20!
Side: Minnesota -20
Notre Dame at Michigan: If you've got the side figured out in this one, you've got me beat. I am focusing on the total and expect plenty of points this Saturday. Notre Dame put up 20 points last week against a pretty solid USF defense, and that was with several errors in the red zone. Michigan won't offer as stiff a challenge on defense, and the Fighting Irish should clean up their mistakes. That said, I don't see the Fighting Irish putting up much of a fight against the Wolverine offense, either. This one should be a shootout.
Total: Over 55.5
Houston at North Texas: I'll keep this simple. No one is stopping the Cougars offense this season as long as Case Keenum is healthy. At the same time, the Cougars defense isn't exactly anything to write home about. I'll continue to ride the over until it burns me.
Total: over 63.5
Best of the Rest: Week: 6-1-0/Season: 6-1-0
Arizona at Oklahoma State: A couple items have me sold on the Wildcats this week. First, the line, which started at OSU -14, has moved off that magical number down to -13. That's a significant move. So why the move? It seems clear: OSU's defense is a little suspect. The Cowboys surrendered 34 points last week to Louisiana-Lafayette. Arizona is certainly better equipped to score than Lou-Lafayette; now it's just a matter of whether the Wildcats can even slow the Cowboy attack.
Side: Arizona +13
FIU at Louisville: FIU played very well at home last week, but this is an entirely different situation on the road against a better opponent. Luckily for FIU, the Cardinals aren't going to be very good this year, and this is actually a spot where FIU can sneak out a win.
Side: FIU +4
Oregon State at Wisconsin: These teams could not have looked more different last week. Wisconsin steamrolled UNLV while Oregon State lost to Sacramento State. It's only that this game looks like such a blowout that I feel the need for some restraint. OSU will also be without the services of its best player, James Rogers, this week, so I can only assume that the Badgers focus will be elsewhere come Saturday. That, and only that, might keep this one closer than the experts think, but I doubt it.
Side: Wisconsin -21.5
Iowa at Iowa State: This is one of those rivalries that's not really a rivalry. Most rivalry games are played pretty closely, but this one doesn't have much of a history of tight games. The better team usually comes out on top in this matchup, and the Hawkeyes are clearly the better team this year.
Side: Iowa -6.5
San Diego State at Army: Army was embarrassed last week at Northern Illinois, but that was expected. I don't think the Black Knights are as bad as they looked last week, they just happened to run into a tough spot. This week, they get another quality team, but a couple things are working in their favor. First, they are at home. Granted, it's not a huge home-field advantage, but considering where their opponent is coming from, the weather could be to their advantage. The other factor is the west-to-east coast trip that SDSU must make this week. Throw in an early start, and perhaps Army can jump on the Aztecs.
Side: Army +9.5
Northern Illinois at Kansas: The Huskies are more than capable of going into someone else's building and laying a beatdown on them. It doesn't matter that the Jayhawks play in a better conference; in fact, it might hurt them in this case and give more motivation to the little guys.
Side: No. Illinois -6.5
Nevada at Oregon: I pity the team that has to play Oregon after last week's beating. The Ducks didn't look like the team from last season, but that had more to do with the competition than the Ducks themselves. The Wolf Pack defense is going to look pretty enticing to this team after what it saw last week.
Side: Oregon -26.5
Alabama at Penn State: This line screams, TOO MANY POINTS! Which is precisely why I am going the other way. Alabama covered last week even though its quarterbacks combined to throw four picks. The competition is much tougher this week, but 10 points doesn't seem like that much when you have a defense as strong as the Tide this year.
Side: Alabama -10
UNLV at Washington State: First, the good news for the Cougars, they are 1-0 this season. Now the bad news, they beat Idaho State at home and their best player, quarterback Jeff Tuel, is out this week. Sure, that didn't seem to matter last week, but did I mention they played Idaho State? As bad as UNLV looked last week, the Rebels did end up covering the number, something they should be able to duplicate this week. In the end, 14 points is just too much for a team like WSU to handle.
Side: UNLV +14
PASSing thoughts: Week: 6-2-1/Season: 6-2-1
Mississippi State at Auburn: If you read the Capper last week, you know that I really like Mississippi State this season. I capitalized on that by picking the Bulldogs last week to cover and they came through. I also liked their prospects in this game, but that was before Auburn almost lost to a 21-point underdog last week. Now everyone is siding with the Bulldogs, and I just can't get behind this number. The Bulldogs have improved a lot the last couple years, but I'm not sure they are ready to lay a touchdown on the road within the conference to a team that was embarrassed last week.
Side: Auburn +7
South Carolina at Georgia: We all saw how bad Georgia looked last week, right? And the Gamecocks looked pretty good, right? Well, that doesn't matter one bit this week. Georgia will come out like its season is on the line, which it is, and play much better than last week, however, I don't think it will be enough. That loss last week might have some lingering affects. The Bulldogs were supposed to be better this season, and many thought they could handle Boise State last week. They'd better bring their level of play up a notch this week, because if they don't it's going to be a long Saturday afternoon.
Side: South Carolina -3
BYU at Texas: Not much on this one, just the notion that I'm not sold that Texas is fully back after beating lowly Rice last week.
Side: BYU +7
Utah at USC: Utah is a better team than Minnesota, but USC is bound to play better than it did last week. That's why this game is down here. I'll take the Trojans to put up a better effort than last week.
Side: USC -9.5