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College Capper: Picking Games for Week 9

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.

It's been nearly two full months, and I've kept my mouth shut on the matter, but with the upset losses from Wisconsin and Oklahoma last week, it's finally time to jump into the BCS debate.

For those who have followed the Capper the last few years, you know exactly where I stand on the playoff issue, but for those that are new, I'll go over it quickly.

I am one of the few people in the country that is not in favor of a playoff system. Not because I wouldn't enjoy a playoff - the idea of a March-Madness-like football playoff send chills up my spine - but it would undoubtedly have an adverse effect on what is clearly the best regular season in all of sports.

Take next week's showdown in Tuscaloosa. If a playoff system were in place, that game would still be big, but in the grand scheme, it would have nearly no effect at all on the eventual national champion. It would simply be the NFL version of the Patriots vs. the Steelers this week. Ooh! Entertaining? Yes, but not exactly spine tingling when you know that the only game that really matters takes place a couple months from now. And last week's Hail-Mary victory by MSU, great theatre, but with a playoff system, not a monumental loss from Wisconsin.

That said, what I am in favor of is a plus-one system, but only when needed. For instance, two undefeated teams make it through their bowl games unscathed, then one final game for all the marbles. The problem with this system is, where do you draw the line? In what scenario would the game take place? If you say every year, then there's something not right about that either. Example, Alabama goes undefeated this season and wins its bowl game. LSU enters its bowl game with one loss and wins its bowl game, elevating it to the second spot in the country. Would it be fair to make Alabama play another game in that scenario, I would say no.

It's just goes to show that there's no perfect system out there. A playoff system is surely the best way to solve the national champion debate, but if it comes at the expense of the regular season, then you can hardly call it perfect.

Another rough week, but I'm still above .500 in two of three categories, as well as overall. In hindsight, my biggest mistake last week was laying points with bad teams, most notably Tulane, which not only failed to cover, but failed to win. I was way off on Oklahoma, Georgia Tech and Boise State, but I also scored some easy victories with MSU, Syracuse and Kansas State.


Cream of the Crop
(Week: 2-3-0/Season: 21-25-0)


Wake Forest at North Carolina:
This line seems a little odd to me. Wake Forest looks like a fairly solid team, and the Demon Deacons have already won twice on the road within the conference, yet they are getting a full seven points. North Carolina, on the other hand, is coming in off consecutive defeats and the only decent team the Heels have beaten all year is Virginia. Yes, Virginia is their best victory of the season to date.

Side: Wake Forest +7

Iowa at Minnesota:
This is yet another bad spot for the Golden Gophers. If Iowa was cruising along this season, the Gophers might have had a chance to surprise the Hawkeyes. But after a rough start, the Hawkeyes are in no position to take the Gophers lightly. Add to that the fact that the Gophers sprung an upset on Iowa last year and you can bet that the Hawkeyes will be ready for this game. Minnesota is just plain awful - the 'Gophs were destroyed by a one-dimensional Nebraska team last week.

Side: Iowa -16

Syracuse at Louisville:
It looks like the odds-makers and the public have yet to drink the Orange Kool-Aid, but after what I witnessed last week, all I have to say is, "bartender, pour me another" - assuming you can get Kool-Aid at a bar. Anyhow, I think odds-makers were put in a difficult spot with this game. Syracuse is playing extremely well this season, but the Orangemen have a brutal recent history, one that is hard for the public to forget easily. That's probably why the line is set at three for the home team. But I ask, what has Louisville done this season to justify this line?

Side: Syracuse +3

Arizona at Washington:
I love spots like this. Arizona blasts UCLA on national television last week and in doing so, inflates its value. Washington gets blasted by Stanford and suddenly the Huskies are frauds. Not so fast. Let's not forget just how bad the Wildcats were heading into last week. There coach was fired midseason! As for Washington, it simply ran into a juggernaut in Stanford, plain and simple. I can't fault the Huskies for losing to that team.

Side: Washington -5.5

Baylor at Oklahoma State:
Check out this number. It's not often you see a total approaching 80 points, but in this case, it makes perfect sense. Don't do the math in your head; it doesn't seem feasible that this game will go over the total. But when it's 35-21 at the half, 80 points won't look quite as daunting.

Total: Over 79.5

Stanford at USC:
It's been a nice run for the Trojans the last month, but they are taking a huge step up in competition this week, and I don't think they are ready. Stanford is looking for some poll cred, and the only way to get it is to dismantle the Trojans in the Coliseum, which it will do.

Side: Stanford -7.5

Best of the Rest:
(Week: 2-5-0/Season: 28-27-1)


Virginia at Miami:
The Hurricanes enter this game on a roll. They man-handled Georgia Tech last week and won at North Carolina the week prior. Everything seems to be clicking, but this looks like a tough spot for Miami as it has to cover a big number against a pesky Virginia squad. In a similar spot earlier this year, Miami failed to cover or win against Kansas State. Now, KSU has proven to be a much better team than we anticipated, but we might end up saying the same thing about Virginia at the end of the season also.

Side: Virginia +13.5

Rice at Houston:
The Owls can score when they have to, and considering the fact that Houston can't stop anyone, I think Rice can stay within the number. The Owls have faced some decent competition this season and have always managed to keep the margin of victory under 30. I was going to make a play on the over, but it looks like weather could be a factor, which is another reason to take the points.

Side: Rice +27.5


North Carolina State at Florida State:
FSU appears to have hit its stride, but before we get too excited, let's look at the competition the last two weeks. The Seminoles beat Duke, 41-16, two weeks ago and beat Maryland, 41-16, last week. Not exactly the cream of the crop in the ACC. N.C. State isn't much better, but the Wolfpack managed to stay in nearly every game this season, and the same could happen this week. Expect a slight letdown from FSU after cruising in its previous two games.

Side: NC State +19.5

Clemson at Georgia Tech:
There's a chance Tech plays its best game of the season this week under the national spotlight, but there's an equal chance that the Jackets fail to show up, like they've done the previous two weeks. There's something wrong with that team, and unless it gets it figured out in the next few days, the Tigers are going to run up and down it all night.

Side: Clemson -4

Kansas at Texas:
It was a nice run for the Jayhawks, but they are clearly back to doormat status within the Big 12. Texas isn't exactly the juggernaut it was a few years back, but the Longhorns are back to beating up on the conference bottom feeders.

Side: Texas -28.5

Colorado at ASU:
Colorado is brutal this year, but I'm not sure ASU is the type of team that can handle a line like this. It's not the skill that I'm worried about, it's the mindset. For some reason, this team strikes me as one that plays to the level of its competition.

Side: Colorado+30.5

Missouri at Texas A&M:
It feels like I've just missed the over on so many games involving these teams, but sooner or later we are going to get one of those back-and-forth games where the last team with the ball wins.

Total: Over 61.5

Navy at Notre Dame:
Navy has had Notre Dame's number the last two seasons, but this is the worst Navy team we've seen in the last decade. Notre Dame suffered a tough loss last week, but perhaps the Irish come into this game a little ticked off. Notre Dame already destroyed Air Force earlier this year, and I think a similar performance is at hand this week.

Side: Notre Dame -20

PASSing thoughts:
Week: 3-3-0/Season: 24-19-2


It looks like TCU got some of its mojo back last week, but consider the competition before you get too excited about that win. TCU has not resembled the Horned Frogs of the past few years at all this season, and this number is asking a bit too much. BYU comes in on a five-game winning streak, and the Cougars should stay within the number.

Side: BYU +13


MSU at Nebraska: There's only one question that needs answering here, can MSU get ready for this game in time? MSU is clearly the better team, and if the Spartans show up, it will a long day for Taylor Martinez and Company.

Side: MSU +4

Washington State at Oregon:
Maybe it's the vision of WSU getting waxed at home last week or maybe it's the fact that Oregon pasted Colorado without its top two players on offense, but I don't see WSU staying within 50.

Side: Oregon -36.5

South Carolina at Tennessee:
The Vols have had quite the stretch over the past month, but the worst is now over and they are back home against a foe that has proven inconsistent this season. In other words, they finally have a winnable game. South Carolina is the better team, but considering its best player is lost for the year and this is a true road test, I can see the upset.

Side: Tennessee +4

Oklahoma at Kansas State:
What to do with this one? Oklahoma is likely to be steaming after blowing its season last week at home, but then again, the Sooners can still win the Big 12 if they turn it around quickly. KSU looks the part, but can the 'Cats hang with the Sooners? I expected this line to be near double-digits, and in that case it would have been a really difficult call, but considering the line is almost two scores, I'll side with the home team.

Side: KSU +13.5

Wisconsin at OSU:
With a Big-10 title still in play, expect the Badgers to come out with a purpose this week. OSU is getting a little better, but a win here is too much to ask.

Side: Wisconsin -7.5