It might sound premature, but the national title picture could be greatly affected by the games this weekend. Specifically, the LSU vs. West Virginia game on Saturday night.
If LSU goes into Morgantown and knocks off the Mountaineers, it should be the top-ranked team in the land come Sunday. Notice I said "should be" - voters who determine the college football rankings are still stuck in this archaic method of only moving down top teams when they lose.
Considering Oklahoma is a 22-point favorite this week, it's doubtful we'll see any movement atop the list.
LSU, however, with tough wins against Oregon, at Mississippi State and at West Virginia (if the Tigers pull it off) would deserve the No. 1 spot at this point in the season. Of course, it might not matter in the end if the Tigers falter in the SEC regular season, but what it will do is prop them up in public perception, something that often comes in handy at season's end when tough decisions need to be made.
I ran into a slight correction in Week 3, but all things considered, it wasn't as bad as it could have been. Special thanks to Iowa and Clemson for making second-half comebacks last week. On a positive note, the Cream of the Crop picks are now above .500 on the year.
Cream of the Crop (Week: 4-2-0/Season: 10-8-0)
UAB at East Carolina: Throw the game against Virginia Tech out the window. That won't happen again. East Carolina is a scoring machine with a poor defense, and that will show this week as it clashes with the Blazers. UAB is equally as poor on the defensive side, having surrendered 39 and 49 points during its first two games this year, respectively.
Total: Over 60.5
LSU at West Virginia: Maybe I'm a slow-learner or maybe I am ahead of the curve, but I have a feeling that LSU is in trouble this week. Let's compare this week's opponent to last week's. West Virginia has the edge on Mississippi State in nearly all aspects. Better offense, better defense and the Morgantown crowd takes a back seat to no one. Throw in a few extra points on the line and the underdog looks like a good play this week. As mentioned, if LSU passes this test, it should be the nation's No. 1 team next week.
Side: West Virginia +6
San Diego State at Michigan: This line started out in a reasonable spot (-8), but the public has since jumped all over the Wolverines and pushed it to double-digits. I'm not sure what the public is thinking here, perhaps it thinks Michigan has a huge advantage because its coach knows the SDSU system in and out. Well, I hate to break it to those thinking that way, but this game has been on the schedule for a while and you can bet that the SDSU staff is well aware of what Brady Hoke knows and what he doesn't. This game boils down to two good teams battling it out, and I'll take double-digit points in that situation every time.
Side: SDSU +10.5
Notre Dame at Pittsburgh: The Fighting Irish defense came up big last week, but I doubt it can match that effort this week when it hits the road. Pittsburgh is not off to a great start this year, but the Panthers are likely to put up their best effort Saturday. Expect a back-and-forth game as both teams are more than capable on the offensive side of the ball.
Total: Over 53.5
Louisiana Tech at Mississippi State: I'm not ready to give up on MSU just because it couldn't move the ball on LSU. Heck, 95 percent of the teams in this country would fail in a similar spot. This week, the Bulldogs get a nice change of pace in Louisiana Tech, and that offense that struggled so mightily last week will find the going much easier this week.
Side: MSU -19.5
Rice at Baylor: Rice hung with Texas is its opener, and the Owls beat Purdue at home two weeks ago, but they've yet to see anything like Robert Griffin III this year. Baylor is not accustomed to laying such a large number, but things are slowly changing there and a trend-setting blowout is at hand this week.
Side: Baylor -20.5
Oklahoma State at Texas A&M: Points and plenty of them this week as the Cowboys travel to College Station this week. OSU showed it can play some defense a couple weeks ago against Arizona, but the Aggies will prove a much more difficult challenge this week. This should be an old-fashioned track meet.
Total: Over 69
USC at Arizona State: USC has not played its best football yet, but even if the Trojans do so this week, it might not be enough. ASU will put last week's defeat behind them quickly and again focus on the PAC-12 season. To compete for the PAC-12 title, the Sun Devils must find a way to win this game, which they will.
Side: ASU -2.5
Best of the Rest (Week: 3-5-0/Season: 14-10-0)
North Carolina State at Cincinnati: Three weeks into the season and I've yet to figure out either of these teams. Cincinnati blew the doors off a bad Akron team last week and N.C. State lost its only road test to date at Wake Forest. In situations like this, I focus on the total. N.C. State averages nearly 30 points per game this season and allowed 17 points per game against Liberty and South Alabama. Cincinnati is more than capable of putting up a huge number here, so I'll go with the over in this one.
Total: Over 60.5
Toledo at Syracuse: Although they lost last week at home to Boise State, the Rockets showed some things that I liked. Syracuse isn't nearly as bad as it was a few years ago, but I'm not sure the Orange have come far enough to beat a good team at home while covering the number, albeit small.
Side: Toledo +2.5
Kansas State at Miami: The jury is still out on KSU as the Wildcats have faced no one to this point, but we know plenty about Miami after its win last week against OSU. It's that win, however, that will make this a tough game to get up for. Considering the number of points Miami is laying this week, I am willing to take a chance on KSU being a decent team.
Side: KSU +12.5
Georgia at Mississippi: What is the Bulldogs' state of mind entering this contest? Can anything be salvaged from this season? It appears as though the offense is performing at a high level regardless of how the team is faring, but can the defense bring its level up as well? I'm not willing to lay double-digits in the hope that the Georgia defense finally shows up this week.
Side: Mississippi +10
Arkansas at Alabama: Just how good is the Crimson Tide defense? We'll find out this week as a real test comes to town in the form of the Arkansas Razorbacks. While I expect Alabama's defense to play well, I don't think it will completely shut down the 'Hogs, and therefore this total looks within reach.
Total: Over 50.5
Oregon at Arizona: Although the final score was a blowout, there was a moment when Arizona had a chance to take the lead on Stanford in the second half last week, but, as you are aware, the Wildcats let that chance slip away and the game got out of hand. Expect a more complete effort from the Wildcats this week. Although I'm not confident enough to take the points, I am confident that they'll score more points this week and push the total over.
Total: Over 64.5
PASSing thoughts: (Week: 1-4-0/Season: 9-7-2)
Central Florida at BYU: This is sure to be an entertaining game as Central Florida is a team on the rise and BYU also looks pretty good this year. Well, the Cougars looked good until last week, that is. The problem here is the line was set so low that BYU pretty much just needs to win to cover. Expect a much better effort this week from the Cougars, who are at home on a Friday night with the national spotlight.
Side: BYU -2.5
Virginia Tech at Marshall: After consecutive sluggish showings, the Hokies are about to lay a beatdown on the Thundering Herd. Marshall was destroyed by Ohio last week, 44-7, and although the 'Herd will be ready for this one, it simply won't matter.
Side: Virginia Tech -20.5
North Carolina at Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets appear to be hitting on all cylinders, and when that offense gets rolling, it's hard to stop. As long as this number stays below one score, it's worth a look.
Side: Georgia Tech -6.5
Florida State at Clemson: Unfortunately I did not catch the second half of the Clemson game last week, so I have visions of a bad team stuck in my head from the Tigers' first-half performance. That said, they must have played extremely well to turn that game around and should have a ton of confidence heading into this match-up. FSU should have more confidence as well after hanging with Oklahoma for nearly 60 minutes last week, but this game will likely come down to home-field-advantage, which is in favor of Clemson this week.
Side: Clemson -2
UCLA at Oregon State: Is UCLA as bad as it looked last week? It might be, and OSU gets James Rodgers back this week. OSU needs this game to turn its season around, and the Beavers should get it in front of their home crowd.
Side: OSU -4.5
Missouri at Oklahoma: Oklahoma is bound for a slight letdown this week, and Missouri's quarterback continues to improve. This one has backdoor cover written all over it.
Side: Missouri +22