LAST WEEK: 8-5
What went right? Among others, I’m going to keep riding UGA and ‘Bama on big margins — until this week, any way. BC and Wake uncharacteristically didn’t play defense, but the Eagles pulled out a road win with a hurricane bearing down on them. There was never a doubt Memphis could cover four touchdowns at home against a slowly-improving-but-still-bad Georgia State team. UDub smothered the Utes on the road in a terrible viewing experience. Minnesota strangled the RedHawks in Minneapolis — this Gophers team may win 9 games just with defense. Penn State runs it up on bad teams; beating the number makes it up to PSU fans for Franklin’s inability to win a quality road game. People keep selling the Blue Devils short. Why? I don’t know. Duke has two P5 road wins already.
What went wrong: Georgia Southern and TCU both got the backdoor cover against Clemson and tOSU. You get the feeling that both of these Top 5 teams have a loss or two in them when conference play begins. Auburn is now 0-for-Ed Orgeron. Remember: Gus has a fully guaranteed, 6.5-mill/6-year contract. Godspeed, Barn. Boise State moved the ball all game, but can’t get a punt off. I think I’m done betting on all USC and Texas games (SPOILER: I LIED). Who knows what you’re going to get from week-to-week. Literally everything I said about USC was adopted by and applied to the Lornghorns. Dead to me, ‘Horns. Dead to me.
Told ya’ to stay away from: (-6) Mizzou at Purdue — that game was in doubt for 60 minutes, before the Tigers pulled out a one-score win. You’d have covered; but not until the final 80 seconds...and after Missouri gave up 600 yards. And no one wants to live that way. UTEP (+28.5) at Tennessee. This line eventually moved to -32.5 for the Vols. But as I said in the Saturday preview, I don’t think UT can beat anyone by 32 points— and I didn’t think they could cover 28.5, not even against the nation’s worst team. They didn’t (24-0).
Tulsa at Temple (-7 1/2) O/U 55: I hate the hook, but I do like the Owls here. Geoff Collins has a steady group and Rhule left him with some decent talent. Just when you think the Golden Hurricane is rebounding, it craters again: Arkansas State scored, which was expected. The defense manhandling them? Less so. And Temple has a much better defense. The Philly Owls should be able to ball-control them to death in a lower scoring AAC matchup.
FAU at UCF (-13 1/2): The Lane Train is about to be derailed in Orlando. The Owls will put up points, but I don’t know that they can generate any stops against the Knights. The over is 77; they’ll probably combine for that after three quarters. In any event, the talent disparity at home is worth two scores alone to Heupel’s bunch. With Boise’s loss, UCF is playing for the New Year’s game and more, not simply an AAC-CUSA statement-game beatdown. This one may get ugly for LMFK; the hardest thing for upstart teams to locate is quality defensive talent. That’s what eventually elevates them into the discussion. And the Owls simply don’t have it yet.
Washington State (+3 1/2) at USC (0/U 53): The Trojans are in trouble. Deep, deep trouble. The playcalling is uninspired, the secondary was a disaster in Austin against a team that can’t move the ball. NBD: On tap is Dread Pirate Leach and his merry band of misfits and miscreants. Wazzu has been playing quality ball, albeit under the radar. And, for whatever reason, it is Southern Cal Leach really gets up for — can’t win against UW to save his life, but USC? The Cougars bring it. It’s an underdog pick to be sure, but I think the Cougs cover and win straight-up on the road. Their defensive line play and USC’s mistakes will be the difference. It’ll be worth watching even if you don’t have a stake on it.
Akron at Iowa State (-18 1/2)
NCSU at Marshall (-5 1⁄2)
Charlotte at UMass (-9 1/2)
Mich. St. at Indiana (+5)
Minnesota at Maryland (-3)
West. Ky. at Ball State (-3)
BC at Purdue (+7)
UConn at Syracuse (-27 1/2)
FIU at Miami (-26 1⁄2 )
Pitt at UNC (+3 1/2 )
Miami-OH at BGSU (+6 1/2)
Tulane at tOSU (+37 1/2)
Clemson at Ga. Tech (+17)
Ohio at Cincinnati (-8 1/2)
ECU at So. Fla. (-22)
Notre Dame at Wake (+8)
Nevada at Toledo (-10)
Louisville at UVA (-5)
WMU at Ga. State (+7 1/2)
Buffalo at Rutgers (+5)
Florida at Tennessee (+4 1/2)
CLANGA at Kentucky (+10)
Nebr. at Michigan (-18)
K. State at WVU (-16)
Kent State at Ole Miss (-29)
Rice at So. Miss (-14)
Arkansas at Auburn (-29 1/2)
TTU at Ok. State (14 1/2)
Navy at SMU (+6 1/2)
Coastal Carolina at ULL (-4)
UNLV at Ark. State (-7)
TCU at Texas (+4)
Army at Oklahoma (-31)
La. Tech at LSU (-21 1/2)
So. Car at Vanderbilt (+2 1/2)
USA at Memphis (-31 1/2)
AFA at Utah State (-10 1/2)
NMSU at UTEP (+ 3 1/2)
Tex. State at UTSA (- 7 1/2)
Troy at ULM (+6 1/2)
No. Tex. at Liberty (+ 13 1/2)
UGA at Mizzou (+15 1/2)
Wisconsin at Iowa (+3)
Texas A&M at Alabama (-27)
Ariz State at Washington (-17)
EMU at SDSU (-10 1/2)
Why are they favored?
Wisconsin at Iowa (+3). Nothing I’ve seen through three games indicates that Wisconsin is the better team. Rumors of that great offensive line have been exaggerated, legal issues have gutted the receiving corps, Hornibrook misses Fumigalli...and he’s still Hornibrook. Also, it’s a night game in Iowa City: the town where dreams go to die. As sexy an underdog pick this may be, it’s sexy for a reason. Let’s get weird, Hawkeyes.
Minnesota (+3) at Maryland. Texas aside, the Gophers have just been a better team than the Terps. Picking up a road win is always dicey in the Big 10, and Maryland has more team speed. But, UMN’s defense has been lights out. Going out on a limb for PJ Fleck’s team again.
If I were a braver man...
I’d take the Chanticleers (+4 1/2) at ULL. Both of the these teams can run the ball but have had some trouble with the run. The difference is that Coastal has a far more efficient passing offense and can pile on points in a hurry. ULL travels to Alabama next week. Yikes. I still may do it.
I’d take the Jayhawks (!!!) giving up 7 1⁄2 at Baylor. Don’t look now, but Kansas is on a two-game winning streak, and they’re doing it with very good line play. Maybe a little confidence is all that Beaty’s team needed? You can see a close game to be sure, but I don’t think Baylor is 8 points better than any Big 12 team while Matt Rhule is rebuilding the Molesting Bears in his clean-cut, defense-first image. I still may do it.
I love this number
Buffalo (-5) at Rutgers. If you’ve not seen the Bulls offense, you should. Tyree Jackson is electric and the offensive line is superb. You feel weird about taking a MAC team on the road over a B1G team. But Buffalo has just been better, while the Scarlet Knights showed me a whole lot of quit last week in Lawrence.
Mississippi State (-10) at Kentucky. The Wildcats have looked really good reaching a 3-0 record. They’ve done it by freeing Benny Snell and winning the point of attack on both sides. They’re facing a team that may have the SEC’s best defensive line/offensive line combination outside of Alabama. UK’s luck runs out on the bluegrass, as the Bulldogs wear down the ‘Cats to put this one away late.
Ole Miss -29 1⁄2 vs. Kent State. Ole Miss has no business being a four-plus touchdown favorite over any team, right? But this really is the best spot for Mississippi to be in. The Rebs are licking their wounds and a bottom-30 undersized secondary is coming to town. Did I mention that the Golden Flashes are also 111th in running defense? The inherent villainy in Matt Luke emerges: even if the Flashes score 35, the Rebels are going to hang 70+ running and passing. If you can’t go to a bowl, you can at least cover a big number on homecoming for the alumni. He will.
Arkansas at Auburn -29 1/2. The Razorbacks really may be one of the worst SEC teams I’ve seen thirty years. They can’t run consistently, the passing offense is dreadful, the passing concepts are worst. The secondary is super-assy, my dudes. They turn it over in scads and droves and bucketfuls. And there is absolutely no energy or excitement around this program. Auburn needs style points and to get all phases of its offense back on track. And it’s a night game in Jordan Hare no less? Yeah, gimme the Barn big.
TCU -4 at Texas. I know, I know. I said I was done betting on Texas games. But the Frogs here are just too tempting to pass up: I doubt those wide-open shots Ehrlinger got off against USC will be around against TCU. And the Frogs seem to have finally found an offensive formula that clicks. We’ll find out a lot more about both of these teams after this one. Also in Gary Patterson’s favor: DKR is one of the least intimidating venue in the Big 12.
Navy -6 1⁄2 at SMU. The Mustangs have had a helluva early schedule: No. Tex, Michigan, TCU. The problem is they’ve also gotten pounded in all three. Nothing really prepares you for the triple option. And it looks like the Midshipmen have finally figured out how to play around the new blocking rules that hindered option teams earlier in the season. This one could be a shootout. But too much Middies...even if this be a sentimental pick. #NotSorry #GoNavyBeatArmy
K State at WVU (-16). It’s not that the Wildcats are necessarily a bad team. Okay, they’re a bad team. There’s just too much firepower for the ‘Eers, and K State can’t score and can’t stop the run. The passing defense has been a bit stouter, so that could keep this one close initially, especially if WVU is a bit rusty after the Florence washout. But the team speed for the Mountaineers, those monstrous DL transfers, and the hateful Morgantown crowd should be enough to see Holgo’s team pull off a nice, comfy home win that covers the number.
UConn at Syracuse -27 1⁄2. The Huskies’ secondary sucks out loud. Syracuse is in the Carrier Dome again. And, while the Orange handily whacked the ‘Noles, the passing offense needs a little more work before entering the heart of ACC play. They’ll get a good workout against a dreadful UConn defense that is 127th against the pass and 129th against the run. The only question is how bad this one gets.
NCSU -5 at Marshall. Don’t sleep on the Thundering Herd. This is a very capable, dangerous team for C-USA. Both teams are apt to be a little wobbly after a weather-induced bye. But, this is the kind of game Doeren’s teams need to win to justify that extension and take the next step. They’ll get it done, but it won’t be easy. The NCSU secondary kind of worries you though.
Pitt - 3 1⁄2 at UNC. I don’t know that the Tar Heels will win another game before Larry Fedora is shown the door. This team can’t run, can’t throw, can’t play defense, can’t hang on to the ball, and is just kind of dumb too. They’re wasting a really solid offensive line (Call Willie Taggart; he’d kill for these guys.) Until proven otherwise, all wagers shall be on their opposite number. Don’t let that Penn State score fool you. It was more competitive than it looked. Pitt’s rebuilding with young Pickett at QB, but UNC is imploding.
Alabama -27 vs. Texas A&M. The Moral Victory national championship has thus far belonged to the Aggies, and it’s not close. But look closer: The Clemson Tigers could have blown that team out of the water if it had a sound interior running game, played better in the secondary, and could string together drives instead of just big plays. Alabama can do all of those things and more. Saban has a love of destroying his assistants. This is a big one for the Tide, probably the first big game of the season — plus lots of ‘croots will be on hand. This will be a win for the resume, for Tua’s Heisman dossier, and to sell the NSD Class of 2019. I normally don’t like giant numbers like this in what should be a competitive game on paper, but call it a hunch. Tua actually gets to play into the 4th!
Not with a 10-foot pole and your money:
Penn State (-28 1/2) at Illinois. The Nittany Lions are so much better than the Illini. But until we see what James Franklin does outside of Pennsylvania and in B1G play, let’s hold back a week or two, shall we? Illinois is awful though.
Troy at ULM (+6 1/2). Alongside Arkansas State, these two teams vie for the best Fun Belt team. This is a conference championship elimination game, and ULM has played really well. Troy is coming off yet another P5 road victory, so Big Head could be in play. I’d dodge this one. Literally no outcome would surprise me, and that alone is enough to keep my money in my pocket.
Triple Option Midmajors vs. Power 5 Top-10 teams. That means you Ohio State (-37 1/2) vs. Tulane and you Oklahoma (-31) vs. Army. With the powerhouses about to begin a two-month stretch s of conference play, and with the Buckeyes already down a Bosa Bro, you don’t see the Sooners or Buckeyes starters wanting to throw their knees in harm’s way against 75 cut blocks. Both should win handily, but I’m not sure about these big ole’ numbers. On the plus side, Haskins and Murray will get plenty of tasty Heisman-padding stats.
UGA at Mizzou (+15 1/2). Georgia has tended to play crappy against the Tigers. This game means a lot more to Mizzou than UGA. And it’s a home night game too. It’s time to see if the Dawgs secondary is finally up to snuff. This is the first elite passing offense Kirby has faced since getting eviscerated by Tagovailoa. UGA should go wild on offense. But it’s the defense that worries you — one need only look back to last year’s close win in Athens, with a better defense than the one that rolls into Columbia in 2018. This could be the win of Barry Odom’s career and one that takes him off the hotseat if he pulls it off. In any event, it’s not worth risking your ducets.
Does Alabama cover 27 points at home against A&M?
This poll is closed
It’s a push. Alabama wins by exactly 27.