The meat of the conference season is upon us, and the pretenders are getting exposed while the contenders fight on.
Certain teams have found their stride during the conference season while others have fizzled, so why am I bringing this up now? Easy, it's time to start looking for the teams that are about to pack it in and those that are ramping up toward a furious finish.
I could spend the next 10 paragraphs going through each conference one by one, but I'll spare you, for now. You'll see my thoughts come to light when I make my picks.
As for my picks, well it seems to be getting a little better. The overall record the last few weeks is hovering right around the .500 mark, but I'm beginning to hit on my higher-rated games, otherwise known as the "Cream of the Crop" and "Best of the Rest."
Last week, I missed two of my top three games, but I hit four of my games in the "Best of the Rest" category, and the only loss in that category was a tough back-door cover by Utah over UCLA. The point is, I'm starting to feel better about my selections and that usually leads to better results.
Let's look at the card this week.
Cream of the Crop (Week: 1-2-0/Season: 6-20-0)
Ball State at Central Michigan: It seems there is always a stretch in the middle of the MAC season where points come in bundles. Hopefully I'm not late to this party, because there's nothing quite like hitting the over; it's so much more fun than hitting the under. Anyhow, CMU looked pathetic last week against Navy, but in its two conference games, the Chippewas averaged almost 40 points per game. Ball State is also lighting up the conference scoreboard, averaging nearly 40 points also.
Total: Over 65
Michigan State at Michigan: Momentum is certainly on the side of the Wolverines as they've looked much better than their counterpart the last few weeks. But I expect a huge effort from the Spartans in this spot, and 10 points looks mighty tempting. Add to that the Spartans success in this series in recent years and you have a situation in which the Wolverines could start doubting themselves if things go wrong early on.
Side: MSU +10
Indiana at Navy: Indiana is in a tough spot. The Hoosiers are coming off a tough loss to Ohio State, and now they go on the road to face a non-conference opponent. Indiana is in no position to look past anyone, but I see the Hoosiers having a hard time getting up for this game. If that's the case, Navy will be able to take full advantage as the Midshipmen are starting to hit their stride.
Side: Navy -2.5
Kansas State at West Virginia: West Virginia certainly wasn't itself on offense last week at Texas Tech, but the defense is becoming more reliable every week. Reliable for those taking the over, that is. Kansas State should have no problem moving the ball this week, and considering WVU is back at home, the Mountaineers should find the end zone plenty of times. Last week's under will help keep this number in a reasonable range, but anything under 80 looks good to me.
Total: Over 73.5
Best of the Rest (Week: 4-1-0/Season: 17-17-0)
Nebraska at Northwestern: OK, we all know about the revenge angle: Northwestern went to Lincoln last year and beat the Cornhuskers, and now mighty Nebraska is about to exact some revenge - right? If Nebraska was a more complete team, then maybe, but I certainly don't like laying a number like this on the road. Let's remember, when we last saw Nebraska, it was getting its doors blown off by OSU. Come to think of it, that was the second time this season the Huskers had been blown out. Bottom line, Nebraska's defense cannot be trusted to maintain a margin of anything more than three points on the road.
Side: Northwestern +6
Minnesota at Wisconsin: The Badgers appear to have righted the ship as they've covered their last two games, both impressive wins, but I'm not sure they are ready to lay a number this big to a decent team. Sure, Minnesota has not played all that well since conference play started, but the Gophers did hold Northwestern scoreless in the second half and should be better equipped to stop the Badgers running game than was Purdue last week.
Side: Minnesota +17
UNLV at Boise State: This looks like a horrible mismatch on paper, and to be honest, I guess it is, but Boise State hasn't really blown anyone out this season. Boise State's largest margin of victory is 27 points in Week 2, but since that game, the Broncos haven't really looked like themselves. UNLV is definitely struggling this season, but to its credit, the Rebels have shown some fight. This should be an easy win for the Broncos, but 28 points might be too much.
Side: UNLV +28
Alabama at Tennessee: This sure looks like a lot of points to give to a decent Tennessee team, but consider that the Vols are surrendering almost 40 points per game in conference and suddenly, three touchdowns doesn't look like that much. Alabama managed to cover last week even with a second-half lull; I certainly don't expect a lull at any point this week.
Side: Alabama -20.5
PASSing Thoughts: (Week: 1-4-0/Season: 13-21-0)
Oregon at Arizona State: This is the toughest test to date for the Ducks, and although ASU appears to be a pretty solid team, I don't think the Sun Devils can handle the high-flying Duck offense. Expect this one to be close into the second half with Oregon pulling away late in the game.
Side: Oregon -8
Houston at SMU: This isn't the same Houston team that we've become accustomed to the last few years, but it looks like the offense is starting to click, and five points isn't too much to ask in this spot.
Side: Houston -5
Purdue at Ohio State: Both teams are having trouble on defense, but something tells me OSU will start to correct its problems this week while Purdue continues to struggle. That might have something to do with OSU's suddenly potent offense.
Side: OSU -19
Colorado at USC: We all know how bad Colorado is, but this line just looks too large. USC has failed to cover several big numbers already this season, and I see no reason why that changes here. To hit a number like this nearly everything has to go right, and that rarely happens.
Side: Colorado +40.5
South Carolina at Florida: South Carolina played pretty well last week at LSU, but it doesn't get any easier this week as the Gamecocks head to the Swamp. Marcus Lattimore may also be missing from the lineup this week. If that's the case, they will have trouble putting up points against a solid Gators D.
Side: Florida -3.5
Baylor at Texas: The Baylor defense is a mess, so much so that it surrendered 49 points to a TCU team without its starting QB. Texas looked about as bad as possible last week, and although it might take a quarter or so to snap out of that funk this week, that should leave plenty of time to run away with this one.
Side: Texas -10
Follow @gregvara on Twitter.