Ohio St. is better than I expected. The 2012 version may have somehow wangled the same undefeated record, but that was not a good team. This year looks different: Penn St. is just an average team, but there's no two ways to slice a 63-14 beatdown over the Nittany Lions. That's impressive. And while the Buckeyes still play a very light schedule, it's not piece-of-paper light like the 2012 version, nor is their schedule filled with miracle wins as it was last year. This team may actually deserve it's #4 ranking.
Still, they won't get tested until their bowl game. Then we'll see how they fare against the likes of Stanford or Baylor, as that test almost certainly won't come in the BCS National Championship Game.
That's because the 2013 versions of the Oregon Ducks and Florida State Seminoles are probably the two best non-SEC teams since the heyday of the Pete Carroll Trojans back around the 2000-2005 time frame. It is seeming increasingly likely they will both head into bowl season undefeated, and you couldn't buy that kind of advertisement for a 4-team playoff if you laid down $100 million for TV time.
Oregon has the same offense they have had every year, except with a significantly better quarterback - but throw in a real defense, 9th in the nation in scoring D despite the high pace they play at, and 5th nationally in takeaways. FSU has played a weak schedule, but is averaging an astounding 264.3 yards per game more than their opponents, and also features an exceptional quarterback. There are 3 teams that don't even average 264.3.
Meanwhile, unlike 2011 (LSU) and 2012 (Georgia), there is no legitimate contender to Alabama in the SEC. I'm thinking that the Tide is going to waltz into Pasadena and then gets its first serious test of the season. The team has sharpened its game with a month of what have amounted to very game-like practices each Saturday. I like the three-peat chances when they get there.
I don't think the SEC is down at all this year. The top half of the conference is off, for sure, but the bottom half is much improved. You wouldn't call it parity, but the see-saw is a great deal closer to flat than it has been the last few years.
I was 2-1 last week to go 20-8 against the spread on SEC games for the season. The miss, however, was Vandy vs. A&M, which I said was a lead-pipe cinch. That's the first "bank it" pick I've missed this year. For the record I missed my bank-it pick by oh, about 14.5 points. (Ouch.)
Georgia -3 at Florida
These two teams are cruising south at a high rate of velocity. If both of those trends continue, this game probably won't have a lot more quality than last week's Kentucky-Mississippi St. matchup. But I'm thinking Georgia starts to turn it around behind Todd Gurley's return, while Florida will be missing one more key starter, left tackle D.J. Humphries who went down in practice with an MCL sprain. Take the Dawgs.
Tennessee at Missouri - 10.5
I said last week that I thought Missouri was significantly better than South Carolina, but I didn't trust them to handle success so I didn't pick the game. I still feel exactly the same way after watching that contest. This week, though, things have changed: Missouri doesn't have success to handle any more. On the Tennessee side of the ledger, the Vols just played Alabama, and you know what they say about Alabama: the Tide is terrible for its own strength of schedule, as teams tend to go forth and tank after a trip to Tuscaloosa. Take the home favorites.
Auburn -7.5 at Arkansas
This spread is flat-out mystifying, and should probably be in the neighborhood of double that. It's not that Auburn is any better than pretty good, they're not; it's just that Arkansas isn't any better than horrible. Take the visiting favorites and, uh, bank it?
Mississippi St. at South Carolina -12
Both teams had confidence-boosting wins last week, but South Carolina really ended the game on a roll. If they start this game with the same confidence they ended last week's game with, they won't have to maintain it, because the Bulldogs will crawl into the tank with their stumpy little tails behind them. Take the Gamecocks.
Alabama St. at Kentucky -27.5
You've gotta be pretty horrible to be a 27.5 point dog to Kentucky. Alabama St. may be an FCS team, but they're an FCS team with a 6-game winning streak. Don't bet.
UTEP at Texas A&M -46.5
If the question was merely whether TAMU would hang 60 on the Miners, it would be an easier one. Unfortunately UTEP's points also count in that spread thing. While it wouldn't be a shocker if the Ags win this one 80-14, a 2nd straight 56-24 result wouldn't be surprising, either. Don't bet.