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College Capper: Handicapping Week 7

Greg Vara

Vara is the lead golf writer at RotoWire. He was named the 2013 FSWA Golf Writer of the Year. In addition to producing the weekly preview and the bulk of the draft kit content, Vara participates in Yahoo!'s "Experts Picks" where he routinely dominates. He also picks college football games against the spread in his "College Capper" article.

One down and how many more to go? The clear number one team heading into last week’s action, the Alabama Crimson Tide, was the first giant to fall this season, but considering Alabama appeared to be the cream of the crop just a week ago, my guess is there will be many teams following, sooner rather than later.

While it’s widely thought that Alabama was the lone team which could suffer a loss and still make the national championship game, that will only hold true if the other undefeated teams from the BCS conferences follow suit and slip up along the way as well.

Right now, it’s hard to find a spot where either Ohio State or Oregon will lose this season, but if history teaches us anything, it’s that crazy stuff happens during the final six weeks of the season. Part of that is that rivalries usually come at the end of the year. I can think of more than a few examples of a rival ending a championship run. Oklahoma State over Oklahoma, Pittsburgh over West Virginia, Colorado over Nebraska, oh wait, that one didn’t prevent the ‘Huskers from playing in the national championship game, but you get my point.

With the release of the initial BCS standings this week, the media will start looking well ahead, but let’s not forget that anything can happen over the next six weeks. In essence, the playoff has begun. The match-ups might not be as intriguing as a 16 seed vs. a 1 seed, but, any loss from here on out means the end of any national championship hopes.

The avoid list:

Texas: I’m temporarily moving Texas off the avoid list, only because the ‘Horns keep finding themselves in interesting games. This week is another one, and you guessed it, I have an opinion.

Georgia: It’s funny, I placed the Bulldogs on this list last week, but I had a feeling they’d lay the wood to Tennessee. Unfortunately I had no evidence that Georgia was capable of such a beating, so I could not pull the trigger. After their win last week, they are even more firmly entrenched on this list.

On the radar:

USC: The Trojans will stay on the radar. A week after losing at home to Washington, and news reports came out questioning their effort; the Trojans played their best game of the season at Stanford. It wasn’t good enough to get the win, but they did cover with ease. It appears as though USC will be a good play in an underdog role this season, but no so as a favorite.

Georgia Tech: I might be ready to pull the Yellow Jackets as I had them pegged pretty well last week. I’ll continue to proceed with caution, but I might pull the trigger on them again soon.

Weekly recap:

Record: 5-7-1

Record YTD: 33-39-1

Units: -1.7

Units YTD: -12.2

Best Win: Texas Tech over: I had a feeling this would be a shootout, but I never expected that the over would hit before the half!

Worst Loss: Wisconsin: Another back-door cover from the Golden Gophers. I have to admit, it does look like the Gophers are improving, but the Badgers should have covered that game. They just needed one more stop at the end of the game. That is however, how it goes when you take big favorites; you are always battling complacency from your team while the other team continues to play hard.

Take a Note:
I’ll start this section with a quick little rant. Can we please stop saying that team A or team B wants to stay out of third and long situations? Every single game, and I’m not exaggerating, every game I hear the color commentator explain to us simpletons that this team or that team wants to stay out of third and long situations. It would seem obvious, even to the novice that any team, no matter how good their offense is, would want to stay out of third and long. I wonder why they feel the need to explain this to us. At this point, they’d add more value to the telecast by telling us that the team who scores more is going to win the game.

How bad is the Big East? I’ve long defended this conference because I saw plenty of value in the West Virginia’s and Louisville of the past 5-10 years, but there is no such team this year and the pre-season favorite Connecticut just keeps adding salt to the wound. Another nationally televised loss last Friday to a brutal Rutgers team.

Speaking of bad, man did I overestimate Penn State’s resolve last week. Its one thing to lose to on the road at Alabama or Iowa, but to get thumped at home by Illinois, and trust me, they got thumped, is just downright pathetic. Illinois might end up being a surprise team in the Big-10 this season, but that doesn’t excuse a quality program like Penn State losing at home to them.

Week Seven:

Thursday Night:

Kansas State at Kansas: We saw what Kansas is capable of earlier this year when it handed Georgia Tech a stunning loss just a week after dropping a game to North Dakota State. The Jayhawks have since regressed as proof by their 55-7 drubbing at the hands of Baylor two weeks ago. Kansas State is also coming in off an embarrassing loss, but at least the Wildcats lost to one of the best teams in the nation. While Kansas is certainly capable of coming up big here after a week off, I think the Wildcats are a notch above the Jayhawks this season and they’ll be desperate to save face this week. We all know how bad the Wildcat rush defense is, but let’s not get too carried away here, they were facing one of the best running games in Nebraska last week and Kansas is not nearly as adept at running the ball as the Cornhuskers.

Side: Kansas State -2.5 (1)

South Florida at West Virginia: This line is set in a tricky spot. While West Virginia is clearly the better team here, South Florida has a strong defense and the Bulls have shown the ability to slow down the Mountaineer offense over the years. The difference this year however is the West Virginia offense is geared more towards the pass and while that may end up being a detriment to its success throughout the season, it should help them here. I’ll take the home team to get up early and tack on a late score near the end to cover this number.

Side: WVU -105 (1)


Cincinnati at Louisville: These two teams started poorly and both have since turned their seasons around – somewhat. Louisville blew out Memphis last week and Cincinnati hammered Miami of Ohio. Louisville is bound to come up with a big effort in front of a home crowd on national television, but I doubt they can stop the suddenly efficient Bearcat offense. On the other side, the Cardinals put up 56 points last week and the Cincinnati defense will likely struggle as well.

Total: Over 58 (1)


Army at Rutgers: Take public perception out of this match-up and the line should be 3.5, tops. Rutgers played the game of its season last week when it knocked off Connecticut at home, but without the in-conference rival or the national spotlight this week, the Scarlett Knights will likely revert back to their old form. Army on the other hand has competed all year long and with a realistic shot at a bowl game this season, the Black Knights will come up with a huge effort this week and possibly win this game outright.

Side: Army +7 (1)

Illinois at Michigan State: Michigan State has fared well as slight favorites or small underdogs this season, but we’ve yet to see the Spartans in this situation. Though I believe Michigan State is the better team here, the Spartans are in a tough spot. They are coming off of three consecutive high profile games and a letdown could be right around the corner. On the other side of the ball are the Fighting Illini, who are themselves coming off a huge win at Penn State, but we are starting to learn more and more about this team and from what I can see, they are a tough beat. Just ask Ohio State which had a heck of a time finishing them off.

Side: Illinois +7 (1)

Minnesota at Purdue: Even though I’ve bashed the Gophers all year, they have been very adept at one thing – covering as an underdog. In fact, they are now 3-0 in that role this season. They get another chance at a cover this week, but for the first time this year, they’ll be on the road in the Big Ten trying to stay within one touchdown. This might be the last chance all season for the Gophers to pick up a win and I expect a huge effort out of them. Purdue picked up a big win last week at Northwestern, which could signify that the Boilermakers have turned the corner, but if that’s not the case and they happen to play like they have in their first three home games, this will not be an easy win.

Side: Minnesota +5.5 (1)

Mississippi at Alabama: While most of the public will look for Alabama to rebound this week, I am looking at this game a little differently. ‘Bama’s problem this year has been on the defensive side of the ball and while ‘Ole Miss has struggled seemingly every week this season, the Rebels have had little problem scoring points. Even though the ‘Tide dropped their first game of the season last week, they still showed the ability to move the ball, something they’ll have little problem doing this week. Though Alabama should come out fired up this week, I think Mississippi can still find cracks in that defense and put up enough points to get this total over.

Total: Over 55 (2)

Bowling Green at Temple: Temple is off to a solid 4-2 start this season while Bowling Green has struggled at every turn, which is why the line is 20 points in this game. The problem with the line however is that it’s not in Temple’s DNA to blow teams out. They run a very conservative offense and unless everything goes as scripted, the Owls can’t cover a number this big. Bowling Green is coming off a blowout loss last week and the Falcons have definitely had their fare share of whippings’ this season, but one thing they’ve managed to do every week is put up some points. In fact, they’ve put at least 20 points on the board each week and unless you think Temple is capable of putting up 40-50 this week, the Falcons are the pick here.

Side: Bowling Green +20 (1)

Baylor at Colorado: One thing is clear about the Baylor Bears squad this year, they are going to get their points. That is unless they are facing a top Big-12 defense, which thankfully, this week they are not. Colorado has shown well over the past couple weeks and I expect them to keep up with RG III all night long. This is not the same type of match-up as last week’s Baylor-Texas Tech game, so I don’t think we are talking about 90 points here, but the line is much friendlier this week.

Total: Over 54 (2)

Texas at Nebraska: This line may be spot on with where these teams are at right now, but man it looks weird. In fact, it looks like something from the early 90’s when Nebraska ruled the Big-12. Anyhow, I have a hard time believing Texas is going to lay down here, especially coming off the bye, but then again, Nebraska should control this game from the outset and it only takes one late fluky TD to cover a number under 10 points. I am going to play it safe and look at the total here, which I think is a bit high. If Texas has any shot at all in this game, it will need an incredible effort from the defense. Fortunately for the Longhorns, that is the only part of their squad which is up to the task. On the other side of the ball, the Longhorns have struggled on offense all year and I don’t see the bye week helping them against a solid Nebraska defense this week.

Total: Under 46.5 (1)

Iowa at Michigan: Simple analysis here. Iowa has a solid defense, but Michigan’s offense is not going to be shut down two consecutive weeks and although the Hawkeye offense is nothing to write home about, they should have a field day against a completely inept Wolverine defense.

Total: Over 53 (1)

BYU at TCU: I’m going to stick with the, “TCU needs to impress” theory until they let me down. BYU is in complete disarray and I don’t expect TCU to have any mercy this week.

Side: TCU -29 (1)

Oklahoma State at Texas Tech: Texas Tech is back in, “over the total” mode, and who better to come to town than the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Punters optional in this one.

Total: Over 69 (2)

Ohio State at Wisconsin: There’s something about OSU’s game at Illinois two weeks ago that I just can’t shake. The Buckeyes did not look like a team of destiny that week and if they happen to play like they did on that Saturday this week, their undefeated season will end. These teams always play tight games and although the Buckeyes will probably find a way to win this game, they won’t do so in blow out fashion.

Side: Wisconsin +4 (1)

Arkansas at Auburn: I think this is the week the bubble bursts on Auburn. The Tigers have lived on the edge all season and sooner or later it’s going to catch up with them.

Side: Arkansas +4 (1)

Boise State at San Jose State: See TCU analysis.

Side: Boise State -39.5 (1)