No time for the foreplay with two writers and a ton of action on tap for this weekend. (Yours truly is unleashing the most picks he ever has. Foolhardy or brilliant? Time will tell.) Here goes our manic race around the college football nation...
After Georgia squeaked past Arizona State two weeks ago, Notre Dame pulled out its last-second magic against Washington last week and Bet the Farm breathed a huge sigh of relief. This week, we're tired of all the drama, so let's take Arizona State over Washington State.
Last week, Virginia Tech and Duke combined to score 60, making over 47 a winner. Arkansas and Texas A&M scored 66, just under 66.5, but Oregon State and Arizona State scored 45, just under 45.5, making for the most exciting wash ever. 2-1 there. Miami +260 also moves us to the plus side on the money line.
This week, let's start with Michigan State -4 at Illinois, sorry Zhihao. (Zhihao and I may quote slightly different lines for the same games due to shifts in the line in between when we write our respective pieces.) Ron Zook is one of the worst gameday coaches in the history of mankind and Illinois is imploding. They've lost 37-9 to Missouri, 30-0 to Ohio State and 35-17 to Penn State in their only three games this season against Division I-A opponents. Why would I pick them to beat Idaho, let alone Michigan State? Plus, Zook is benching QB Juice Williams for backup Eddie McGee in a game that screams free money.
Elsewhere, there are a ton of picks to be made, as we're growing more confident in our assessments as the season is now a month old. I know West Virginia's D is questionable, but they're playing Syracuse and QB Greg Paulus, who throws nearly as many interceptions per game (five last week) as he used to commit turnovers at Duke. West Virginia -10 at Syracuse. Speaking of Duke, how about Duke +16 at North Carolina State. It's the Wolfpack, not USC. Why a 16-point line? Indiana, who's 3-2, +7 at Virginia, who's 1-3 and still coached by Al Groh. Houston should bounce back against Mississippi State. Both teams have awful Ds and prolific offenses, so I like Houston +2.5 and over 66.5. Arizona -3.5 over Washington. Arizona's opponents – Central Michigan, Iowa, Oregon State – might be the three most underrated teams in the country. 2-1 against that slate could portend a 9-3 season. Colorado +33.5 at Texas as like Duke, Colorado is not that bad. Georgia Tech +3 at Florida State, who continues to implode and have to be distracted with the latest in the Bobby Bowden saga. Oklahoma State -5.5 at Texas A&M, who lost 47-19 to Arkansas last week, are you kidding me? Arizona State -20.5 at Washington State, as Washington State has scored six in consecutive weeks and is looking increasingly like the Wazzu of last year. Oregon -3.5 at UCLA: the Ducks might be the class of the Pac-10. Baylor +28 at Oklahoma – who knows how good Sam Bradford will be after a month off and Baylor is 3-1 besides, and finally, Auburn -2 at Arkansas. Arkansas has allowed 52 and 35 in its other SEC games, while Auburn has scored 37, 49, 41, 54 and 26 thus far this season.
Season: 12-10, +0.5 units on the money line
The Big Three
Last week, Oklahoma and Georgia lost on the line while USC won and then some, making for a satisfying 1-2. (I hate Cal and Georgia and had picked Miami +260 anyways.)
Eli Manning threw for 292 yards and three touchdowns last week, though he is questionable for this week's visit from Oakland. Unfortunately for Ole Miss, Eli Manning is quarterback for the Giants. Their quarterback is one Jevan Snead, who has accomplished the following the last two weeks: 7-of-21 for all of 107 yards against South Carolina, then 19-of-34 with three interceptions against Vanderbilt. Zhihao, I don't know how smart the smart money is on this one, as Nick Saban would beat Houston Nutt by 4.5 in an intrasquad scrimmage. Unfortunately for Nutt and the Rebels, Alabama only figures to win by more.
I have no choice but to pick a No. 1 vs. No. 4 matchup, though obviously the $64,000 question (or however much a BCS bowl pays) is whether Tim Tebow will play, and how effectively if so. For his sake, I really hope he doesn't – he couldn't even practice no-contact a week after his concussion. Still, LSU could easily be 2-3: Washington outgained them by 150 yards in the season opener, Mississippi State declined to pitch on goal-to-go to a wide open tailback in a game they lost by four, and LSU capitalized on an absolute garbage unsportsmanlike conduct call on Georgia's A.J. Green to score a last-minute touchdown in a 20-13 victory. Any undefeated team is going to get lucky along the way, but LSU still has Florida, Auburn, Alabama, Ole Miss and Arkansas on the schedule. I think it's as likely they end up a four-loss team as the nation's No. 4 team. Florida's the pick.
Boston College +13 at Virginia Tech
VT has two close wins over Nebraska and Duke, but absolutely blew out Miami in the Canes' only loss, and, meanwhile, has lost only to an Alabama team in the season opener that might just be the No. 1 squad in the nation. Who knows? Boston College has close wins over Wake Forest and Florida State, both of whom are shells of their squads from years past, despite being outgained in both games. Plus, BC got blown out by Clemson, a team that always loses any game of consequence. Then again, BC has won three in a row in the series. Still, I'm going with Virginia Tech – they gained 477 yards last week, and offense is the only question mark on a team renown for stiff D and special teams.
Zhihao's Previous Week Recap
With no late line movement last week, Stanford closed as a five-point favorite with about 60 percent of bets on UCLA, and ended up winning by 8. I went 1-2 for my picks to put me 3-3 for the season. It was interesting to note that the smart money ended up being overwhelmingly on Michigan State (line opened at Michigan -2 and closed at Michigan State -4 despite the public being on Michigan). Of course the outcome ended up being somewhat fluky, with Michigan State covering, but only in overtime. Because of lines like Michigan State's, I've decided to make my picks later so that I have more time to analyze line movement, especially since a lot of action takes place on Thursday.
Preseason line: Stanford +4.5 @ OSU
LVSC line: Stanford vs. OSU, pick'em
Opening line: Stanford -2.5 @ OSU
Current line: Stanford vs. OSU, pick'em
Consensus numbers: 60-40 Stanford
Las Vegas Sports Consultants (LVSC) is a group that issues recommended lines that they believe will result in equal action on both sides. Sports books may alter the line based on how they believe their specific clientele will act. Looks like they do a pretty good job with Stanford lines (they nailed Stanford -9 vs. Washington as well)!
Comparing the preseason line to this week's opening line gives me an idea of how teams are performing relative to expectations. It's no surprise that Stanford, with its on-the-field performance and corresponding increase in national attention (ESPN and SI) is getting a lot of respect. OSU started the season slowly, but had a nice win as five-point underdogs at ASU last week (with little line movement and a 60-40 split on ASU to cover).
With 60 percent of bets on Stanford (looks like all the hype is resonating with bettors) and the line moving from Stanford -2.5 to a pick'em, I can't help but be nervous about our chances. It's definitely not as strong a line move compared to Stanford vs. Washington, but the move still points to the fact that the wise guys are leaning OSU. Regardless, given that the game's a pick'em, we probably have close to a 50-50 shot of winning. Not too bad for a contest that many penned in as a loss going into the season.
Tennessee -1 vs. Georgia
Mississippi +5.5 vs. Alabama
Illinois -3.5 vs. Michigan State
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