Although last week didn’t turn out quite as I had hoped, another week of college football is upon us, and with Hurricane Sandy barreling up the east coast this weekend, I hope to take shelter from the storm by going against the grain. This is nothing new, but late last week I found that the source I had been using to gather information on the public was not as accurate as I thought. I have since discovered a more accurate and in-depth research tool to aid me while picking games. Also, this week I will be making a few changes to my method. Instead of picking a wild number of games – jumping at anything that catches my eye – I will take a more conservative approach for the rest of the season. First of all, I will be making a maximum of 10 plays in a given weekend, Thursday and Friday nights included. Of these 10 plays, I will rank them 1*-10*, with 10* being the strongest play, and assign a set amount of units to these games [i.e. 1*-2* (1-2 units), 3*-4* (2-4 units), 5*-6* (3-6), 7*-8* (4-8), 9*-10* (5-10)]. This being the first week of the ranking system, I will continue to look at line movement, public plays, previous opponents, and other factors to make my selections, but I will only play the minimum amount of units for each star a play merits. With all that out of the way, it is now time to make my picks.
Record to Date: 54-67-2, +20 units
Saturday, 10/27 @ 12:00 pm EST
Iowa Hawkeyes (4-3) @ Northwestern Wildcats (6-2); NW -6 (-110), O/U 49
Over the past few years, Pat Fitzgerald has done an amazing job at Northwestern and this year the team is 6-2. The Wildcats started off the year 5-0, but against a very weak schedule. When it was time to play Penn State, the Wildcats were taken to the showers. They followed up with a less than impressive win over Minnesota and just last week fell victim to the scythe of the Cornhuskers in a 1 point loss at home. Iowa, on the other hand, has been extremely mediocre this year. They sit at 4-3 following last week’s 38-14 drubbing at the hands of Penn State. The Hawkeyes offense is not very good at all, but they do have a pretty solid defense that has allowed over 20 points only twice this year. I don’t think the Wildcats and their rotating QB situation will be able to light up the scoreboard as much as some people might think. In fact, only about 18% of the public plays are on the Hawkeyes and I’ll take it. Betting against the public is bound to profitable sooner or later.
Pick: IOWA +6 (-110) for 1 unit
Saturday, 10/27 @ 12:21 pm EST
Ole Miss Rebels (4-3) @ Arkansas Razorbacks (3-4); ARK -6 (-110), O/U 64
Going into the year, this looked to be a potential blowout for the Razorbacks, but that was before their whole season followed the path of their former coach and flew off the road in a motorcycle accident. The Razorbacks have thoroughly disappointed Hog Nation, while the Rebels have been a pleasant surprise under Hugh Freeze. Ole Miss and Arkansas both are coming off bye weeks after blowout wins against Auburn and Kentucky, respectively. I think the key to winning this game is in the discipline of each team and the coaches’ ability to get the players ready. Both teams have struggled a little with the turnover bug, but if I’m picking coach, I have to go with Ole Miss. John L. Smith can’t wait for his 10 month contract to expire. I can’t blame the man, that’s a pretty quick $800,000.
Pick: Ole Miss +6 (-110) for 1 unit
Thursday, 10/25 @ 7:30 pm EST
#18 Clemson Tigers (6-1) @ Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-3); Clemson -13.5 (-110), O/U 59
Last week I got burned by the Tigers as Dabo Swinney and Co. decided to show up and play a little bit of football against the Hokies. However, that was a home game. The Tigers have been less than stellar on the road getting dominated by Florida State and allowing teams like Auburn and Boston College to keep it close before eventually closing the door. On the other hand, Wake has only lost 1 game at home this year and that was to the Duke Blue Devils who have surprised the ACC with their 6-2 record. I don’t know too much about Wake, but I do know that Clemson has a tendency to play down to opponents. Only 11% of the public likes Wake in this one and I’m one of them. I think this a great spot for Clemson to come out flat after a big home win on Saturday.
Pick: Wake Forest +13.5 (-110) for 2 units
Saturday, 10/27 @ 3:30 pm EST
#2 Florida Gators (7-0) vs. #10 Georgia Bulldogs (6-1); UF -6.5 (-110), O/U 47.5
The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. Hopefully this will be a fun one and the Dawgs won’t get sent home too early. Unfortunately, all signs point towards a Florida win. The Gators are a physical team that will come up and hit you in the mouth on offense and on defense. Georgia, by contrast, has players calling out teammates for playing too soft on defense and hasn’t been able to hit on all cylinders on offense as of late. Also, Florida has owned Georgia in this series over the last 20+ years. There is something about the Orange and Blue that really frightens the Dawgs, but this rivalry game means more than just bragging rights as the winner will most likely represent the SEC East in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta. The Dawgs really need an inspired performance, and while I’m probably being a little too optimistic, I think they can deliver. Either that, or they get blown out. But, I can’t root against the Dawgs, and I think Florida might be due for a stumble from the mountaintop.
Pick: UGA +6.5 (-110) for 2 units
Friday, 10/26 @ 8:00 pm EST
Cincinnati Bearcats (5-1) @ #16 Louisville Cardinals (7-0); L’Ville -3 (-115), O/U 52.5
Charlie Strong has proven over the past two years that he can make it as a head coach and not just a coordinator. The Cardinals enter this game as the undefeated frontrunner for the Big East Championship. However, that could all come to a halt Friday night. The Bearcats have compiled a 5-1 record and look to be a solid team as well. That is until you look at who they have played. Cincinnati has one win over a notable opponent, Virginia Tech, and that looked a hell of a lot better 4 weeks ago than it does now. Meanwhile, Louisville has played a handful of talented teams, and although they have not done too well against the spread (3-4), they’ve managed to pull out a W every time, against better competition. I think the Cardinals have a legitimate shot to run the table this year – wouldn’t that cause a BCS shake-up – and I like them in this game too.
Pick: Louisville -3 (-115) for 3 units
Saturday, 10/27 @ 3:30 pm EST
#14 Texas Tech Red Raiders (6-1) @ #3 Kansas State Wildcats (7-0); K-State -7.5, O/U 60.5
This is a match-up of the West Virginia Mountaineers’ worst nightmare. Both teams stomped the Mountaineers in consecutive weeks setting up a huge Big 12 match-up in the Little Apple this Saturday. I really love what K-State has done so far this year and I think Bill Snyder is showing how good of a coach he is. This team consists of mostly JuCo talent and a converted WR/TE at QB. Last week, Optimus Klein showed that he could throw the ball a little bit, completing 19/21 passes for over 300 yards and 3 TDs through the air. He added another 4 TDs on the ground and has established himself as the Heisman frontrunner. For Texas Tech to win this game the Red Raiders will need to focus on stopping the run. Despite his solid numbers through the air last week, Colin Klein is certainly less than polished as a passer. I think the Techsters will put up points in this one, and I think they might be a little undervalued at +7.5. Just over 80% of the public is siding with the Wildcats in this match-up, which makes me like the Red Raiders a little bit more. I think K-State wins, but I could see this one coming down to a field goal at the end.
Pick: Texas Tech +7.5 (-110) for 3 units
Saturday, 10/27 @ 10:15 pm EST
#7 Oregon State Beavers (6-0) @ Washington Huskies (3-4); Oregon St. -4.5 (-110), O/U 48
The Beavers have been quite the surprise this year, but Mike Reilly has his team playing solid defense, and even though they lost their starting QB a couple of weeks ago, Oregon State has been able to roll along on offense. On the other side of the field, the Huskies have lost 3 games in a row after their upset of Stanford. This is a very young team that is still learning how to win in a big conference. They are led by a very talented QB, Keith Price, who has had some trouble on the road. However, like the rest of his team, Mr. Price has played much better at home. I think the Beavers have a solid team, but I get the feeling that Washington might be looking to surprise some people once again. Despite only 22% of the public taking the Huskies, the line has rapidly moved in Oregon State’s favor, and I think that type of reverse line movement indicates value on the side of the Huskies.
Pick: Washington +4.5 (-110) for 4 units
Saturday, 10/27 @ 12:30 pm EST
North Carolina State Wolfpack (5-2) @ North Carolina Tar Heels (5-3); UNC -7.5 (-110), O/U 54
The Wolfpack comes into this rivalry game with a very respectable record, including a win over a then Top-5 FSU, while the Heels are fresh off a painful loss to Duke. It was the first time in 8 years the Heels didn’t maintain possession of the Victory Bell. Despite having a very talented squad, UNC has failed to put it together on the road this season, but they’ve been dynamite at home. NC State, meanwhile, has a shot to be a surprise contender for the ACC crown this season. However, when I look at the Wolfpack’s losses to Miami and Tennessee, I see that they have not done well against teams with potentially explosive offenses. Sure, they held down FSU, but that was a prime spot to fade the ‘Noles and the ‘Pack took advantage. I think their struggles will continue against the Tar Heels high-powered attack led by RB Gio Bernard. I know I’ve been touting him a lot recently, but the kid has 1019 yards from scrimmage and is averaging 8 yards per touch with 11 TDs. That is explosive. Keep an eye on #26 and remember his name. He’s going to be doing this for a little while… he’s only a Sophomore.
Pick: UNC -7.5 (-110) for 4 units
Saturday, 10/27 @ 8:00 pm EST
#5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-0) @ #8 Oklahoma Sooners (5-1); OU -11 (-110), O/U 47.5
Here it is, the marquee match-up of the week. Only 23% of the public has chosen Notre Dame as the Irish have been a puzzling team this year. They’re undefeated, but they have yet to really impress against a solid opponent. The defense has been lights out this year behind the leadership of All-American Manti Te’o, allowing only 9.4 points per game. The offense has been much less impressive and much of that can be attributed to the quarterback situation. Freshman Everett Golson is a great athlete, but he is still learning the system and has been turnover prone. Tommy Rees, a former starter at QB, has been playing the role of closer for the Irish, which has been surprisingly effective. However, the Irish offense will have to put up some points because their defense will be tested by this Sooner offense. Also, the Sooners defense have been beginning to jell as a unit and they look like a very good team moving forward. While I don’t think the Irish will win the game, I do think their defense keeps it close. I know OU has looked like a team playing with a chip on their shoulder since the loss to K-State, but I don’t know how they’ll react to a team that will challenge them physically. K-State did and the offense turned the ball over. I’ll be looking for more of the same in this one. I’m going to take the Irish, but the Sooners will win a close one.
Pick: ND +11 (-110) for 5 units
Saturday, 10/27 @ 5:30 pm EST
Ohio State Buckeyes (8-0) @ Penn State Nittany Lions (5-2); OSU -1 (-110), O/U 50.5
The Probation office called, they want to speak with both of you. It is rare that the two best teams in a conference won’t be able to compete for a conference title, but that’s what happens when you don’t play by the rules. On the bright side, both of these coaches, Urban Meyer and Bill O’Brien, have done a fantastic job with their teams under the circumstances. The Buckeyes have a world of talent and the perfect QB to run Urban Meyer’s system, but let’s not forget that Braxton Miller has been dealing with some headaches lately (concussion), and even though he will be available to play this week, I think that Penn State defense might have him a little confused on Saturday. I get the feeling that many people (87% of the public) think this line is too good to be true for Ohio State. The Buckeyes have a very talented squad and a great coach, but they’re still a very young team. Their youth has shown in the past two weeks with very close calls against Indiana and Purdue. I think it will continue to show because winning on the road, especially in front of 100,000+ people, is something that young teams have a difficult time grasping. The Buckeyes have only played 2 road games this year, and they have won them both by a combined 4 points. Personally, I don’t think either Indiana or Michigan State are as good as Penn State. I like the Nittany Lions’ offense as Matt McGloin has shown he is more than capable of grasping Bill O’Brien’s system. Also, their defense has been playing very well allowing only 15 points per game. I’m going to go against the public in this one and I’m taking Penn State. I think they’ll win outright as the young Buckeyes learn a thing or two about the difficulty of winning in a hostile environment. Don’t drop the soap!
Pick: Penn State +1 (-110) for 5 units