The Penn State Hatepocalypse is but 48 hours away. Your morning coffee tastes like rage. That break room donut looks like the zeros the Nittany Lions will be putting up on the Silver Bullets. Heck, even that poor sandwich delivery intern has lost faith in the entire concept of American industrialism after the death stare you gave him following you catching a glimpse of the Pennsylvania license plates on his late 90's Honda. While late Saturday afternoon is unquestionably going to be one of two very distinct kinds of therapy/release for us all, something's needed to get us to and beyond that point. That something is the first week of college football's last full month of regular season action.
Week 10 collectively for many programs is what week 9 was for the Buckeyes: a 2/3rds season water station to refresh and get ready for the stretch run. The Big Ten group of games underwhelms for the second time in three weeks, while the national slate checks in as top heavy (which certainly beats weak across the board). A play-in game for the SEC West divisional crown is set to take place, while Oregon looks to avoid the vaunted trap game after laying the wood to USC a week prior.
Ohio ushers in a bold new era this week, after finally narrowly passing a referendum vote on bringing four casinos to the state (NOTE: as per usual, this is no invitation to go MSNBC or Fox News in the thread below). In welcoming our new gambling overlords, I carry on with picking this week's lineup for a sixth straight week. While no sports book is in the mix according to any of the pre-drawn up plans, consider calling your favorite bookie and taking these picks to the bank, as following a 6-2 run last weekend, I've brought my half season long run to an inexplicable 31-8-1. Much like my long standing vocal expectations that Matt Barkley was due to look freshman-y any game now, my luck is bound to bottom out here any week now. I'm USC, these games are Oregon. Bet accordingly.
#9 LSU at #3 Alabama (-9.5) - 3:30 p.m. - CBS
The only matchup of two ranked opponents in week 10 comes with two Top 10 SEC West juggernauts set to bring you a defensive slugfest sure to make offensively inclined folks stuck with no other options than this game and Ohio State-PSU long for the glory days of the Columbus Destroyers. Alabama enters the contest with the nation's 4th best total defense, allowing just under 241 yards per game. LSU is no slouch either, bringing the nation's 7th best scoring defense into Tuscaloosa allowing just 12.13 points per contest. Alabama looked mentally tired against Tennessee two weeks ago, but coming off a bye, a refreshed Nick Saban led Crimson Tide team is too much for Les Miles' Bayou Bengals as 'Bama wins but predictably misses the cover 17-10.
#8 Oregon at Stanford (+5) 3:30 p.m. - FSN (Regional)
Fresh off the most dominant performance against Southern Cal in the Pete Carroll era, Chip Kelly's Oregon Ducks look to continue to distance themselves from the team we saw in week one against Boise State. The Ducks' dominant performance last weekend was so convincing we've now found ourselves debating the merits of schedule strength, who's playing the best football at the moment, and really asking ourselves whether Oregon or Boise State is the better team right now. Jim Harbaugh's Stanford Cardinal may be the last pre-Civil War obstacle to Oregon's Rose Bowl and National Championship. Despite a huge afternoon from Cardinal tailback Toby Gerhart, Oregon keeps their distant but possible MNC hopes alive, taking this one 34-24.
Connecticut at #4 Cincinnati (-17) - 8:00 p.m. - ABC (Regional)
The worst non-Big Ten spread of the weekend, despite looking uninspiring on paper, Connecticut's played good ball in two gut wrenching losses since the tragic murder of cornerback Jasper Howard. Cincinnati is expecting Tony Pike back, but it'll be difficult to sleep on a Huskie team who're quickly seeing their bowl eligibility window shut before their very eyes. Despite the pride exhibited by Randy Edsall's bunch, UC wins big, but not big enough for Vegas 45-30.
Fresno State at Idaho (+7) - 9:30 p.m. - ESPNU
The semi-annual Whaaaaaaaaaa? pick to keep an eye on before calling it quits Saturday night. Bear with me for a second: Idaho is bowl eligible for the first time since the Clinton presidency and plays a consistently exciting (mostly defensive free) brand of football. Fresno State mounted a legitimate threat to Boise State earlier in the season, and brings an explosive offensive attack behind running back Ryan Mathews. The 5-3 Bulldogs also have bowl aspirations in sight, so expect the first team to 40 to take this one. Despite the monolithic dome home field advantage, Fresno State has too much for the Vandals, winning 48-35.
Big Ten Games
Illinois at Minnesota (-6) 12:00 p.m. - BTN (Regional)
The Zookster we knew and loved is back! After getting a head scratching bode of confidence, Team Water Ski responded by unleashing a whipping on a hapless Michigan squad and now set their aim on fellow master of motivation Tim Brewster and the Golden Gophers. Minnesota won a truly bizarre one against Sparty last weekend, overcoming 17-penalties and the absence of stud wide out Eric Decker and still pulling out a 42-34 W. Juice Williams seems to have finally found his mojo, so in the battle of underachieving upperclassmen QBs, expect Williams to shock Weber and co. and take this one 42-39.
Northwestern at #6 Iowa (-17.5) 12:00 p.m. - ESPN
A week ago I picked Iowa to cover a 17 point spread against Indiana. 60 haunted hayride minutes of football later, the Hawkeyes covered a truly trick or treat spread en route to tripping up many of their most vocal proponents, and at the same time leaving gamblers everywhere scared witless to pick the Hawkeyes to cover another spread going forward (well, at least a spread as the favorite). Northwestern looked hapless after losing quarterback Mike Kafka against the NIttany Lions, though it's just too difficult to expect Iowa to knock out a three score spread) two weeks consecutively. Iowa wins this one relatively easily, but expect the 'Cats to eek out the cursed half point squeaker 20-37.
Purdue at Michigan (-4) 12:00 p.m. - BTN (Regional)
Two weeks ago this one had all the makings of a great tOSU spite match (well, in that plenty of Buckeyes would likely be praying for a rogue asteroid strike at the Big House) though instead will have to settle for being an underwhelming possible crater. After getting devastated by Wisconsin and Illinois respectively, both of these teams have issues on both sides of the ball. The four point spread is pretty representative of how difficult to pin down this one really is. Despite much hard science to back this (pft, who needs things like 'facts' and 'reason'?), Michigan silences the doubters beginning to wonder whether Rich Rodriguez is in fact the man for the job winning and covering 31-24.
#24 Wisconsin at Indiana (+11) 12:00 p.m. - BTN (Regional)
The final contest of the semi-watchable pre-Ohio State-Penn State Big Ten action, Indiana surprisingly checks in as just 11 point dogs at a Wisconsin team fresh off a 37-0 shellacking of the Boilermakers. The Hoosiers have put competent halves of football together seemingly all year, but none the less have found themselves collapsing on themselves like a dying star at the first detection of adversity (no matter how real, how semi-ref inflicted). Wisconsin's been a fairly inconsistent team from an effort stand point in their own right, but with just loses to Iowa and Ohio State to their resumes, it's tough to see how Bucky Badger can let this one slip from their grasps. Indiana puts up another valiant effort, but again find themselves looking for answers falling 24-34, but netting the close cover.