It's the biggest Thursday night slate of college football in the history of the world, heck, of the universe, and it's finally here!
It's so big that instead of looking back at last weekend's action, or opining about some high-level college football issue, I'm just going to jump right into it.
First, we have Oklahoma at Baylor. Is this game really as big as everyone says it is? I really don't know. In fact, no one does. If anyone has a rock-solid thought on this game, they are delusional. This Baylor team hasn't played anyone, and there's no history to fall back on, like Oregon. We don't know if the Bears' high-powered offense is more a product of its weaponry or its competition. Will we have the answers after Thursday? Yes and no. Oklahoma is a step up in competition, but the Sooners are by no means the measuring stick for the best teams in the country.
My personal opinion? Admittedly, it's not a strong one, and I haven't seen them play that much this season, but the offense, while explosive, seems a little too predictable. From what I saw, it was a heavy diet of wide receivers streaking down the field. They're not trying to trick anyone or scheme you to death, just putting theirs against yours and to this point, theirs have been better. I'm not sure that will continue this week, but then again, I'm not sure it won't. Could I waver any further?
The nightcap is a rematch of a classic game, which ended the Ducks' magical season last year. Well, it didn't end their season, just any hope of a national championship, so yeah, I guess it did end their season. Hey, they have high standards in Eugene.
Are we headed for another upset again this year? Hell if I know. Seriously, this game is hard to pick as well, but unlike the Baylor-Oklahoma game, at least we know what to expect from each team. So what should we expect? Oregon is going to bring its high-powered lightning-fast offense and Stanford is going to bring it ball-control offense along with its stingy defense. There's no mystery here, Oregon isn't going to turn into the 1990 New York Giants and Stanford isn't going to turn into the 2013 Ducks, the only question is, which wins, the unstoppable force or the immovable object.
As I am legally obligated, I will pick both of these games later on, but as you've probably guessed, you won't find them in the first two sections.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter at @gregvara where I'll often have updated insight to matchups on the weekend. Last week I sent out a bunch of Friday night tweets, some of which were enlightened and others that were not. As always, the goal is to get the picks correct in this column as well as on Twitter. To this point, the picks in the column have the edge, then again, 47-26 from the top-two sections is going to be hard to top.
Cream of the Crop (Week: 2-1/Season: 20-9)
Illinois at Indiana: I tweeted last week that I thought Minnesota would control the clock and slow the game against Indiana and in-turn keep the score down. What I didn't expect was Indiana's inability to cooperate. Indiana's defense is woefully bad and any offense with a pulse can put up 30-plus on it. Illinois does not bring a great offense into Bloomington this week, but it's good enough to move the ball on Indiana. As for the Hoosier offense, well it seems legit and if Minnesota's defense had trouble slowing it down, there's not much hope for Illinois making a stand. Expect yet another shootout involving the Hoosiers again this week.
Total: Over 76.5
Fresno State at Wyoming: Fresno State's offense has slowed its pace the last couple weeks yet still managed to pull out a couple wins. That won't be an option this week as Wyoming is one of the few teams on the schedule that can go blow for blow with the Bulldogs. While Fresno State puts up the front that defense matters, Wyoming couldn't care less as the Cowboys are more than happy to just outscore their opponents. While they may not be able to accomplish that this week, they'll certainly get theirs.
Total: Over 79
USC at California: USC has really found its stride, and now it hits a part of the schedule that provides a new challenge - beating up on lesser opponents. The Trojans proved a lot last week with their win at Oregon State, now they need to stay focused against an awful California team. The Bears just can't get out of their own way, and facing a surging team like USC isn't going to help them turn it around.
Side: USC -16
Best of the Rest: (Week: 3-2/Season: 27-17)
Florida State at Wake Forest: Wake Forest has been a tough out against just about everyone this year, and while this week's game is bound to be its toughest to date, I expect a great effort from the Deacons. FSU has done all it can do to earn a spot in the national championship game and no amount of style points can change that. Whether that slows the Seminoles at all is another question, but the human factor has to enter the equation at some point, and they are coming in off an emotional win last week.
Side: Wake Forest +34.5
Penn State at Minnesota: I still don't have a bead on the Gophers. I'm not sure what they need to do to earn my respect, after all, the last three weeks they've looked very impressive, but if you want to get nit-picky, the teams they've beat the last three weeks aren't exactly in great shape. Penn State looked shaky last week, so the Lions fit the mold of recent Gopher opponents, but I'm still wary of taking the Gophers against what looks like a quality opponent. That said, the total is less than 50 and considering neither team has a great defense and both teams have serviceable offenses, the over is probably the play.
Total: Over 47
Kansas State at Texas Tech: Texas Tech struggled with a quality Oklahoma State team last week, but I think the line is an overreaction to that game. Kansas State is a decent team, but the Wildcats are not on the level of OSU. As long as there is no hangover from the tough loss last week, the Red Raiders should get back on track.
Side: Texas Tech -3
BYU at Wisconsin: Two quality teams here, but they aren't in the same class. The Badgers have been on a mission since their "loss" at ASU, and I don't see them slipping up. BYU has proven itself a quality team this season, but the Cougars step up in class this week, and one touchdown won't be enough.
Side: Wisconsin -7.5
PASSing Thoughts (Week: 0-3/Season: 18-23-2)
Oklahoma at Baylor: Did I say that I was going to pick a side? I'm still struggling to pick a side, but if I had to, I would go with Oklahoma because the number is really big and Baylor is still unproven. My official pick, though, is going to be on the total. The over seems like an obvious play, but I have a sneaking suspicion that this game might resemble Baylor's game against KSU, which was relatively low-scoring at 35-25. I don't see Baylor hitting a bunch of long TD passes. Perhaps long drives, but I think the Bears will have to earn their points.
Total: Under 73.5
Oregon at Stanford: You simply can't be afraid to go against a certain team, no matter how scary it is. You've probably figured out that I'm fading the Ducks, and yes, I'm already sweating. Stanford shocked the nation last year when it held the Ducks in check, and while these teams are slightly different this year, at its core, Stanford is still the same. If this game were in Eugene, I'd probably go the other way, but since it's not, I'll take Stanford and a bundle of points.
Side: Stanford +10.5
Louisville at Connecticut: UConn managed to put up a fight several times early in the season, but the fight may now be gone from this team. Louisville's season hasn't quite materialized like many had thought, but there have been some moments where the Cardinals looked like the team that throttled Florida last season. The Cards managed to easily dispatch a lesser opponent with ease last week and should do the same this week.
Side: Louisville -27
LSU at Alabama: This game doesn't appear to be quite the matchup that it's been the last few years, but it should still provide some intrigue. If LSU can take advantage of the only flaw in Alabama's defense, the secondary, then this could actually be a game. If that's the case, then the total is within range.
Total: Over 55