It certainly took some time, but perhaps our (okay, okay *MY*) long national nightmare appears to be slowing to a screeching halt. Last week marked a return to form in the best possible fashion as I rock ‘n rolled my picks to a 5-2 (with 1 push; tanks, tanks Mike Riley /prisonmike’d) mark on the week. That brings the season long grand total to a whopping 26-29-1, good for 47% on the season. NEARLY 50/50 Y’ALL: RESPEK. So why robots you ask? Did they make my successful picks for me? Have they taken over the world [via Chris Spielman]? If only. Instead, seminal French dance/house duo Daft Punk joined alt-pop/rock breakout band Phoenix on stage in Madison Square Garden. The results were predictably awesome. I enjoy a hefty bit of awesome in my life, so why not roll with two sweet robot looking dudes who do mean things with their keyboards for the karma points for this week’s picks? You’re on board? Sweet. Let’s do this.
UCLA at #1 Oregon (-25.5), 9 pm (Thursday) - ESPN (HD)/ESPN3D
Pistol Rick rolls into Eugene on the heels of Oregon reaching their highest ever national ranking smelling blood and looking to keep 2K10 looking more and more like, well, 2K7. Oregon’s huge Vegas favorites, and perhaps deservingly so. They go into this one after a week off with extra time to prepare what isn’t exactly a world beating road team offense (unless you’re 3+ touchdown favorite Texas /zing). Kevin Prince and co. certainly don’t feel like a Norm Chowffense, do they? While I’m not of the delusion that Oregon’s defense is not without flaw, the question certainly becomes whether or not UCLA can do just enough to keep it close. Obviously if “NCAA Football: 2010 Season Sponsored by Loki” interrupts our broadcast, that line would seem like easy money. However, on the heels of a 28 point loss to the likes of Cal, I’m not sure I can’t give a hat tip to Oregon and assume they’ll handle the target on their back with far greater aplomb than the Buckeyes did. Go Ducks for the uber cover, 42-13.
#7 LSU at #4 Auburn (-6), 3:30 - CBS (HD)
Two high profile undefeated SEC teams clash late in August and those teams are…The Mad Hatters’ LSU Tigers and Gene Chizik’s Auburn Tigers? If you had a wager on that in Vegas back in August you are, well, honestly probably some kind of psychic and/or completely insane (and subsequently now very wealthy; kudos.) Cam Newton’s evolution in buzzcoach Gus Malzahn’s offense has turned him into the latest Heisman candidate du jour where as LSU continues to play musical chairs with their quarterbacks. In a related note: LSU is undefeated how exactly? On the heels of a game in which they let a sub-standard FCS side (McNeese State for those keeping score at home) hang around for almost three entire quarters, it’s reasonable to see why the Tigers enter this one as the leaned upon betting favorite. LSU’s hot streak has to go bottom up eventually and what better time than now? Geaux Auburn, 31-17.
#16 Nebraska at #15 Oklahoma State (+5.5), 3:30 - ABC (HD) (Regional)
Bill Nebrasky entered last week as one of a few number of hot button teams getting underground love as a dark horse title contender. With Texas having extinguished the flames surround Taylor Martinez’ mercurial rise, the Huskers now head to Stillwater looking to keep their Big XII Championship/BCS aspirations alive. Oklahoma State, on the other hands, seeks to keep themselves firmly in the hunt for the South Division crown and keep their undefeated hot streak alive. Dana Holgorsen (much like the aforementioned Malzahn) continues to up his own personal stock (let’s just say there’s a reason the guy lives in a hotel rather than find an actual residence in Stillwater) with each passing performance from the Okie State offense. Nebraska showed little ability to slow Texas’ once pedestrian rushing attack, so how will the Huskers fare when they go against Kendall Hunter? While the Big Ten homer in me would love to throw the ex-Buckeye safety’s bunch some bounce back love, I’ve got a hard time seeing them not primed for the upset. Take the home dogs, Okie State 24 – Nebraska 21.
#3 Oklahoma at #14 Missouri (+3), 8:00 - ABC (HD)
Oklahoma, fresh off being named the #1 team in hilarious inept fantasy formula land, heads to Columbia to take on what’s looking like the stoutest defense Gary Pinkel’s bunch has had to date. Blaine Gabbert and the Tigers offense certainly have been nothing to sleep on either, though the question with this one quickly becomes whether or not Missouri’s actually faced legit opposition to this point. They went into the Edward Jones Dome in St Louis and outlasted the same plucky Zook Troop that gave Ohio State fits in Champagne, but also struggled to close out the likes of San Diego State (but who knows; maybe they’re inexplicably decent under second year head coach Brady Hoke?). OU’s also had a bit of streakiness to their resume, allowing Utah State to claw back into their season opener late while blowing the bolts out of an otherwise much improved Florida State side. While I’d love to think Gary Pinkel will end Saturday night by returning a few video tapes, I’m still blown away the line is that low for the Sooners. Take OU and the points, Sooners 42 – Mizzou 31.
Big Ten Games
Indiana at Illinois (-13.5), 11:00 a.m. - Big Ten Network (HD)
With Ohio State fans pretty well versed with both of these future divisional rivals, instead of merely rehashing their relative strength and weaknesses, I’ll instead yield the floor to the distinguished head coach from the great state of Illinois:
After facing Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor, Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins and Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert, Zook called Chappell the best quarterback Illinois has seen this season.
Verbal Zookery indeed. While Illinois' defense caught quite a few Ohio State fans off guard, if Zook's bunch are worried about a shootout, I have a hard time not envisioning that breaking out. While I like Illinois to win this one, I'll expect quit the knock down, drag out brawl (and closer than Vegas anticipates). Take the road dog Hoosiers, but the Zooksters if you like to dance with the moneyline devil, Illinois 45 - Indiana 42.
Penn State at Minnesota (-12.5), 12:00 PM - ESPNU (HD)
PSU head man Joe Paterno has 397 wins to his name. Turbo green, first week Golden Gophers head man Jeff Horton has… 20. While no fan of his mediocre coffee and donuts, I’ll give the newby credit for being, well, kind of a turncoat piece of crap. Horton was the head coach at Nevada-Reno in 1993, going 7-4, then promptly parlayed it into the… UNLV head gig. After being named the WAC’s Coach of the Year in his first year with the Rebels, Horton promptly descended into firmly Gerry DiNardo-land, finishing his final 3 seasons in Vegas going 1-11, 3-8, 0-11. Sounds like just the man to usher in the proud new Ron Prince-era in Minnesota. While PSU’s no spring chicken in their own right, 12.5 seems almost generous. Take Zombie-Poop-Pants-Spread-HD-Full-Unopened-Beer-Can-Chunked-At-Point-Blank-Range-We’re-Linebackkkaaaa-U to cover, 28-13.
#6 Michigan State at Northwestern (+5), 12:00 - ESPN (HD)
Like it or not, Michigan State 2K10 has qualities eerily similar of a certain 2002 Ohio State Buckeyes team. That being said, the vast majority of Buckeyes out there seem butthurt at Sparty's honestly pretty smooth ride (Iowa being the loan mega road bump remaining) ahead in their perspective path to a potential surprise trip to Glendale and are subsequently picking Northwestern to upset the Spartans seemingly on principle alone. Iowa’s defense will surely be the best the Spartans see until their bowl game, but can’t we wait until then to pick them to be derailed for a reason other than “because they’re Michigan State”? No disrespect to the Wildcats, but Fitz’ bunch haven’t exactly beaten anyone with a pulse to date. While I won’t rule out Northwestern playing spoiler, it seems more realistic to me that Vegas has it right. I'll give the haters somewhat of an appeasement: NU keeps it interesting, but MSU prevails yet again, 21-14.
#10 Wisconsin at #13 Iowa (-5.5), 3:30 - ABC (HD) (Regional)
Wisconsin (too soon) heads to keep momentum a float in a crucial game in determined the league's championship to take on the nation's third ranked passer (and first ranked true patriot) Richard Stanzi and the Hawkeyes. Clearly the league’s game of the week, this one has all the makings of a classic 1990’s’ish Big Ten affair. Wisconsin will certainly have the edge from a rushing standpoint with Iowa back Jewel Hampton shutdown for the season, but both teams come in with surprising (to non-followers) passing attacks that should keep this one engaging. Gamblor certainly favors the Hawkeyes to prevail and put themselves into privileged position to potentially win the league outright with subsequent wins over Sparty and Ohio State, but if Wisconsin plays anywhere close to the way their offense clicked in the first half of last week, it’d be seemingly foolish not to take the Badgers. Maybe it’s a priming thing, but I suspect this one is a 3 point game regardless of which team comes out with it. I’ll go Iowa to win but Bucky Badger to cover, 27-24.