We have two home favorites here in Texas and Oregon State who outclass their opponents on paper, but struggled last week. Sure, Texas won a google to 10, but they led Wyoming only 6-3 at halftime, and Oregon State won on a field goal at the buzzer against UNLV. This week though, look for normalcy to return – I like Texas and Oregon State big. Texas is my No. 1 team in the nation, and after applying the Big XII lack-of-defense corrective factor (especially true in Texas Tech's case), that -16.5 is now -8. Plus, think the Horns will be fired up after last year? For Oregon State, meanwhile, the Beavers always play a clunker of a game early and then come on like gangbusters by season's end. I'm hoping that last week was the clunker and the light will come on at home against Cincinnati this week. If not, let's just hope the East Coast team inexplicably choking it on a West Coast road trip phenomenon comes into play.
Auburn has always had excellent defense – but they gained nearly 600 yards against Mississippi State last week. The light appears to be coming on for the Tigers, and I like Auburn at home in the Deep South against a West Virginia team that'll be making its first start on the road and has looked susceptible on defense after giving up 20 first-half points to East Carolina last week. Last week:USC missed covering 4.5 by two points. Georgia Tech missed covering 5.5 by three points. Notre Dame missed pushing on three by about 30 seconds. But we're not playing horseshoes here, so almost 2-0 doesn't matter – actually 0-3 does. After a 2-1 Week One, we're now 2-4 on the season and poised for a rebound.
San Jose State is better than some people realize. They got smoked by USC, but so does everyone, and then they were tied with Utah through three quarters last week, before falling 24-14. The Spartans passed for 242 yards on 21-of-34 accuracy in the loss.
So I'm calling for a Stanford win but a SJSU cover for a few reasons. One, I do think Toby Gerhart isn't 100 percent. I have no inside information on this, but his carries are down and he doesn't look as aggressive when he's running. Without him at last year's efficacy, Stanford can still move the ball, especially against a WAC team, but may struggle to turn yards into points.
Most paramount, however, are the weaknesses Wake Forest's outside running game exposed. San Jose State is not going to outpower Stanford with a between-the-tackles rushing attack, but they certainly are fast enough to get to the outside and test Stanford's linebackers in space. I hope the Card go nickel and dime early and often to get more speed onto the field, but I think San Jose State finds enough success here to eat up clock and keep the game close enough. 34-24 Stanford, I'd say.
Last week: I wrote in this space a week ago, "Wake is en route to a 4-8 season in my mind, and this is therefore a game Stanford should win. I'm calling a 28-21 Cardinal victory, and I'll be rooting my head off in Winston-Salem to see the good guys through." Well, I was in Wake and throatless on Sunday, and nothing I saw there convinced me that Wake is not indeed en route to a sub-.500 season. And 28-21 might have indeed been the final had we gone for that fourth down instead of missing a field goal. But not to be. 1-1 after winning on Washington State.
They did get outgained by 100 yards in their thriller over South Carolina last week, but Georgia as a pick against Arkansas ignores the last three years of history and recruiting rankings. Arkansas' homefield edge matters, but talent matters more. Go Dawgs.
UCLA – they gained just 186 yards in the Tennessee win. Kansas State did just lose to Louisiana Lafayette (and trailed 14-2 through three), but outgained the Cajuns by 90 yards. Buy low, hey? Kansas State +11 versus a visiting UCLA. Bruins win, but 7 or 10 will be like 15 or 20 in this defensive battle.
Oklahoma -15.5 versus Tulsa because Sooners can score like no one's business against overmatched teams. Michigan State +12 versus Notre Dame because the Spartans pound, pound, pound the rock and Notre Dame's defensive tackles appear to be on roller skates. The Irish will put up a lot of points and are a better overall team, but State's power rushing attack is a good matchup here. Plus BYU -7 versus Florida State and UNLV -7 versus Hawaii. BYU's underrated and Hawaii away from home vastly overrated. Finally, we'll take Indiana +4 versus Akron.
Last week: USC -4.5 and North Carolina -5 were narrow losers and Oregon State – 8.5 a solid loser, with the Beavers needing a last-second game-winning field goal to squeak past UNLV. Hawaii -2 against Washington State was a solid W, bringing the season mark to 4-5. On the money line, we're now down 1.1 units, assuming all best are equally sized, but Purdue +400 against Oregon came mighty close, again.
Oregon State and Arizona, last week's selection, are off the board once. This week then, I'm taking Arizona State over ULM. Stay tuned, this is going to get more interesting in a hurry (like, say, next week).
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