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Don't look now, but someone is cooking with gas! After a massive struggle for seven or eight weeks, I've gone 12-3 over the past three, with last week's loss being a bad decision on Wisconsin without Braelon Allen. My fault for not knowing the injury early enough. Incredibly, I'm still under .500 despite that hot streak, so I'm not sure where we go from here. I'm not really feeling this slate, but every game has a winner; fingers crossed, I can find five of them.
Over 50.5 points, Southern Miss at Louisiana (Thursday)
I'm not following this one. ULL is still favored by 10.5 points, yet the total has slid nearly three points since opening, seemingly due to the Cajuns being on their third-string quarterback in Chandler Fields. He isn't void of experience, posting an 11:4 TD:INT ratio in eight appearances last season. The fact of the matter is both defenses stink. Southern Miss allows 35.8 ppg and 44 or more points in four of their last six. Louisiana isn't much better, surrendering 28.0 ppg, but between 30 and 38 points five times. ULL can run it effectively, and Southern Miss can't stop it, so I guess we could see a conservative approach. But I'm optimistic both sides can strike early and force some aggression. Keep an eye on line movement and see if you can get an even lower number.
UNLV (-5.5) vs. Wyoming (Friday)
This appears to be a bad matchup for the Cowboys. They're 0-3 on the road, with all three losses by seven or more points. Further, they can't stop the run, ranking 95th by allowing 165.0 ypg. Guess what the Rebels do? Run it successfully, ranking 16th at 201.6 ypg and a massive 28 scores. They have a relatively impressive body of work, only losing at Michigan and Fresno State, and all but two of their wins are by more than this number.
North Carolina State (-2) at Wake Forest
I circled this game Sunday evening, and I feel less strongly about it now that the Wolfpack are experiencing some quarterback drama, but we'll ride it anyway. MJ Morris is sitting out the rest of the season to redshirt, and I've seen conflicting reports on who is driving that decision. But I'm back in on Brennan Armstrong and OC Robert Anae, more specifically Anae. Morris hasn't been anything to brag about, but the progress offensively has been Anae has force-feeding the ball to WR Kevin Concepcion. They'll find a way to scratch, and I'm not sure Wake will. They rank 103rd in points scored at 22.1 per game and haven't topped that number since Week 2 against Vanderbilt.
Arkansas (-2.5) vs. Auburn
The more I've looked at this game since Sunday, the more I may like the under, but it's in a steady slide, down two points as of Wednesday night. I don't trust either of these teams to find success offensively, but what I really don't trust is Auburn to go on the road and win. They are 2-2 away from Jordan-Hare, getting blown out at A&M and LSU while winning at Vanderbilt and Cal. Arkansas got a much-needed win last week, their first in seven games. Only one of those losses was by more than a possession, so I have faith they'll be in it at worst. They got their running game in order last week at Florida, and that's where Auburn is vulnerable. They'll scratch out a second-straight win.
Georgia Southern (-2.5) at Marshall
This feels like a trap, as I can't believe Marshall is this bad. But here we are. They average 3.6 yards per carry, their QB tandem has a 9:13 TD:INT ratio and they've lost five straight, scoring 24 total points in their last three while allowing at least 31 points in five of six. Georgia Southern is very vulnerable to the pass, which I'm establishing as a non-factor for the Herd offense. That vulnerability led to last week's loss to Texas State's air raid, and a bounceback effort is in store. The Eagles only have lost to JMU and Wisconsin previously. They're the better team with more to play for.
Last week: 4-1; Season: 24-26
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No matter how the week has started lately, it seems destined to end the same way. Another 2-3, and this time, it was a very frustrating 2-3.
The week got off to a great start with a win on BC on Friday night. The good vibes were soon tossed out the door, however, when Rutgers fell apart late to lose the cover. Rutgers was in great position all day to cover the number, and if not for several plays that all had to go against the Scarlet Knights, I would have had my winning week. The two games that followed the Rutgers loss did not help my mood, as Notre Dame was handled with ease by Clemson, and the over in the Georgia game was never really that close because the flow of the game just didn't lend itself to an over. The final game was an easy win, however, as USC and Washington cruised over the total.
Under (46.5) Alabama at Kentucky
I generally dislike going under anything in the 40s, but when you have two teams that are led by their defenses, I'll make an exception. Alabama showed plenty of offense this past week, but remember, it was facing an LSU team that was playing terrible defense this season. This game will be played on the road as well, so I don't expect things to be quite as easy this week as they were this past week. Kentucky has a mediocre offense and a solid defense, and I expect the defense to step up on this occasion. The Wildcats are 21st in the country in rushing yards allowed per game, which means that Jalen Milroe will have to win this game with his arm, which he probably can do, but I don't expect it to be pretty.
Boston College (+1.5) vs Virginia Tech
The oddsmakers and seemingly the betting public just don't believe in the Eagles, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. B.C. didn't exactly light it up at Syracuse this past Friday, but the Eagles did just enough to get the road win, and any conference road win when you're a mediocre team is a good win. Virginia Tech has a losing record on the season, and while both of the Hokies' conference losses were at the hands of the upper-echelon ACC teams, I'm still not sure that they can go on the road in this spot and get the win. The biggest mismatch among these two teams is B.C.'s rushing attack vs. Tech's rushing defense. The Eagles are 10th in the country in yards per game on the ground, while the Hokies are 89th in the country defending the run. That's a problem when you're on the road.
Over (54.5) Georgia Tech at Clemson
This pick is based on numbers and intangibles. First, the intangibles: Clemson is coming off a very big win over Notre Dame this past week. The Tigers put a lot into that game, and I imagine they might come out a little flat here, which generally affects the defense more than the offense. Second, Georgia Tech is both good on offense and poor on defense. The Yellow Jackets rank 43rd in passing offense and 13th in rushing offense, and they've really kicked it into high gear lately, scoring over 42 points per game in their past two. Clemson has a solid defense, but if they aren't sharp, and I have to think they won't be as keyed up this week as they were last week, then Georgia Tech is more than capable of taking advantage. Clemson's offense isn't great, but it's good enough to move the ball with ease against a bad Georgia Tech defense.
Central Florida (UCF) (+2.5) vs. Oklahoma State
If you watched the OSU-OU game this past week, you saw how hyped up the Cowboys were for that game, and kudos to them for winning, but it will be very difficult to turn around and get ready for it. As I always say, it's easier for college kids to rebound from a tough loss than it is to get ready after a big win. In addition to the tough turnaround, the Cowboys are heading to Florida to face a team that they have no history with. It's not just the hangover that I'm worried about here with OSU; it's also the rush defense, which ranks 96th in the nation. If you're wondering if UCF can take advantage of that, it can; the Golden Knights rank fifth in the country in rushing. I'm expecting UCF to be the team excited for this game and for the Golden Knights to jump on the Cowboys before they even realize what state they're in.
Over (58.5) Tennessee at Missouri
I'm returning to the well here with the over in the Missouri game. I mentioned earlier that the style of the game never really worked for them over this past week, and what I mean by that is Missouri was having success on the ground, and it was obvious that the Tigers were concerned with keeping the game tight. Keeping the game tight won't be a concern this week, as it's pretty much a pick 'em. There's no reason to play it close to the vest and hope to sneak out a win; Missouri can be itself and try to put up a lot of points. Now, as for the style of this game. Both teams are stout against the run, so I expect most of the offense to go through the air. Missouri was up against it this past week as Georgia was strong against the pass and the run, so when the run was working, the Tigers felt they had to stick with it. That won't be the case this week, as the Vols are beatable through the air and Brady Cook will take advantage. The same goes for the Vols on offense. They might try to run, but they won't have much luck, so they'll do it via the air, which generally lends itself to more plays and more points.
Last Week: 2-3-0; Season 21-29-0
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Things weren't looking too good for me after the first big slate of games, as I was 0-2 right off the bat. My fortunes changed with correct calls for Washington, Alabama and my Ohio State-Rutgers Over bet. I'll take 3-2 all day after that slow start!
Liberty -13.5 vs. Old Dominion
The Flames need to keep making big statements to catch the eye of the CFP committee, and running the table is the only avenue to a prestigious bowl game. Liberty should be too much for Old Dominion on both sides of the ball, and I think Liberty's defense will effectively pressure ODU's Grant Wilson and force some costly mistakes if they rack up enough three-and-outs. The Falesm will get it done on offense - they compiled an eye-popping 602 yards of total offense in their last game.
OVER 58.5 Washington State @ Cal
This game combines one of the nation's worst pass defenses with an elite quarterback who can punish in the right scenario. It also features an adept running game against a team that yields a lot of points on the ground. If Cameron Ward is dialed in, he should be able to feast on Cal's secondary, and I expect Jaydn Ott and company to have a big day and their share of breakaway runs. Both teams have fast-paced offenses, and they should make the Over with little difficulty.
Stanford +21 @ Oregon State
The Cardinal are 3-1 ATS on the road this season, and they've had some memorable performances. They took Washington to the final quarter and beat Colorado and Washington State; signature wins for a struggling team. I think the Beavers' offense is strong enough to pull out a win, but the margin should be much closer to 14 points or less. DJ Uiagalelei would need to see his best results of the season and establish the running game to beat this spread, but I expect mixed results in that department. Stanford's defense held back Michael Penix and an imposing running game, and I think they can repeat that feat.
Arizona -9.5 @ Colorado
The only thing the Buffaloes have going for them? They're playing at home. Otherwise, I think taking the Wildcats is a no-brainer call. Bowl-eligible for the first time since the Stone Age, Noah Fifita has directed Arizona's offense to three wins over Top 25 squads. Meanwhile, things have gotten desperate on the sidelines in Boulder, as Deon Sanders made a knee-jerk switch to Pat Shurmur as OC. We already saw the first effects of the switch. A more run-based approach replaced Sean Lewis' run-and-gun style, and that's just not the correct route for a team that showed its ability to throw the ball all season. The Buffaloes will also face a defense that continues to improve, and it should force several three-and-outs for an offense that also surrenders more than its share of penalties. With all that in mind, the best metric to justify this pick is Arzona's offense. On paper, it's an epic mismatch in almost every category.
And finally…here we go, fingers crossed -
Penn State +5.5 vs. Michigan
Who has Michigan beaten? The last time Michigan faced a ranked team was in last year's Fiesta Bowl, where they lost to TCU. To say that Michigan is not battle-tested would be an understatement, so unless they have all of Penn State's signals locked in a vault somewhere, far from the peering eyes of the NCAA, they face an extremely tough challenge in one of the most hostile road environments they'll face this season.
If I only looked at the Nittany Lions over the first month of the season, I'd say that taking them would be a losing bet, but the past couple of games have changed my thinking. Bottom line, the Nittany Lions' offense has played it safe for much of the season. A reluctance to go vertical and efficient but unspectacular work from Drew Allar was a true weakness. The tables were turned against Maryland, however. Allar threw four touchdowns and connected on 73.5 percent of his passes during a pounding of the Terps. If we get this version of Penn State, Michigan could be on its way to a booked ticket out of the CFP bracket (if the NCAA doesn't do that first). We should all be honest with ourselves and admit that the Wolverines have danced through a pitifully easy schedule, and we have no idea how good they are. We will learn a lot this week, and I will embrace the danger.
Last Week: 3-2
2023 Season: 26-23-1 (52.0%)