I'll start this week with an apology. I'm under the weather, so brevity is the name of the game this week.
I do think I should mention something that happened last week that I addressed in last week's column. I brought up the head-to-head issue and how it's not always the best indicator of who is the better team. The issue was brought up because Stanford had just manhandled Oregon, but I surmised that Stanford wasn't necessarily better than Oregon, it just happened to matchup well with the Ducks. Lo and behold, Stanford laid an egg at USC last week and the conversation is over. Oregon will remain ahead of Stanford the rest of the way because the Ducks have only one loss, and I don't see them losing before bowl season.
Back to the matter at hand. Considering my current state, I'm jumping straight ahead to the picks this week. The writeups may be a little briefer than you are used to, I apologize for that.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter at @gregvara where I'll often have updated insight to matchups on the weekend and starting next week, some tips on the early week MAC matchups.
Cream of the Crop (Week: 1-2/Season: 23-12)
Cincinnati at Houston: After facing a couple strong defenses the last two weeks, Cincinnati should be a welcome site for the Cougars this week. Cincy's defense isn't awful, but it's not at the level of UCF or Louisville. Cincy's offense is rolling, however, and this game should turn into a shootout.
Total: Over 58
Colorado State at Utah State: Colorado State has seen its games go more than 60 points in six of its last seven. CSU is rolling on offense behind Kapri Bibbs, and its defense isn't keeping pace. Meanwhile, Utah State seems to be just fine without the services of QB Chuckie Keeton as the Aggies are averaging 40 point per game over their last three.
Total: Over 57
Texas A&M at LSU: I'll admit, I'm still having a hard time getting used to an LSU team without a dominant defense, but that's been the case this year. The Tigers offense, though, has been superb this year, and there's no reason to think the Aggies will slow it down. Now, the big question - can Johnny Manziel keep up his torrid pace in such a hostile environment? Doubting Manziel the last two years has proven futile as time and time again he's come through in big spots. The total in this game is in a reasonable spot, most likely due to the fact that this game is in Baton Rouge, but I see no reason why this game goes under.
Total: Over 70.5
Oregon at Arizona: Arizona has shown glimpses of quality play this year, but the Wildcats have been playing pretty poorly lately. Oregon, meanwhile, was able to get over its loss to Stanford and still beat Utah by 20-plus points last week. The only thing holding Oregon back this week will be itself.
Side: Oregon -20.5
Best of the Rest (Week: 3-1/Season: 31-21)
Illinois at Purdue: Although they've lost six in a row, the Fighting Illini have actually put up a fight against some decent teams the last three weeks. If they can bring the same intensity to this week's game, they should be able to get by what it easily the worst team in the Big Ten this year.
Side: Illinois -6.5
Indiana at Ohio State: Indiana's defense is so bad that it's realistic that OSU scores on every possession this week. OK, so that's nearly impossible, but there's no reason to think that the Buckeyes won't put up at least 50 this week. The question is, will they let up like they did last week and let Indiana score some points? I think the safe play is to take OSU and the over.
Side: OSU -34
Total: Over 81
East Carolina at NC State: N.C. State is a mess, losing five of its last six games by more than 10 points, while East Carolina is cruising along, winning its last four games by 21-plus. Yes, N.C. State has played better competition, but I wouldn't put too much weight into that. This is a game that East Carolina really wants and it should get it.
Side: East Carolina -6
USC at Colorado: The fewest points scored in Colorado's Pac-12 games this year is 61 against Oregon State. While USC isn't exactly the first team that comes to mind when you think of high-scoring teams, the Trojans have put up some big points against weaker competition.
Total: Over 54
PASSing Thoughts (Week: 2-1/Season: 22-25-3)
Rutgers at UCF: Rutgers' defense is a mess, and UCF managed to pull out a win last week even though the players clearly overlooked Temple. With the Thursday night spotlight and so much at stake, that won't happen again.
Side: UCF -17.5
Navy at San Jose State: San Jose State is ranked 100th in rushing yards allowed per game, and we all know what Navy likes to do on offense. On the flip side, Navy actually holds up pretty well against the pass, and that's the bread and butter of San Jose State.
Side: Navy +2.5
Wisconsin at Minnesota: I'm really torn here. On one hand, you have a Gopher team that appears to be rolling, but upon closer examination, it really hasn't beaten a good team yet. The Gophers beat a couple decent teams in Nebraska and Penn State, but this is a huge step up in class this week. Wisconsin is firmly established at the top tier of the Big Ten, and the Badgers have had little problem with anyone outside that top tier this year. While I like Wisconsin to win the game, I'm not sure the Badgers will cover.
Side: Minnesota +16.5
Baylor at Oklahoma State: Is this Baylor run ever going to end? Baylor has started slowly in its last two games, but still managed to cover the number in the end. This will be the Bears' toughest test of the season this week, but I think they're up for the challenge. OSU has looked good in spot this year, especially at Texas Tech a couple weeks back, but considering how Tech has fallen off the map since that loss, you have to wonder how good that win was.
Side: Baylor -10