Observations on Week Two of college football:
- The WAC should replace the Big East as a BCS conference; Fresno State and Boise State are a touchdown better than any team in the "what's left" league. Ironically, C-USA (which is losing some of its best teams to the Big East) is much stronger than the not-so-Big East. Memphis, Louisville, TCU, Southern Mississippi, and even UAB rank as high or higher than West Virginia.
- Who's the best SEC quarterback today? No, it's not David Greene. Brodie Croyle is numero uno by a large margin. He reminds me of another Brodie, John Brodie. What a touch! He's the best I've seen in Crimson since Jay Barker.
- How about Kansas and Colorado on top of the Big XII North? Sounds funny, but Kansas State, Nebraska, and Missouri all have apparent weaknesses. Can the Jayhawks and Buffs continue winning? Mark Mangino will be mentioned for every job opening if he can win with this group in Lawrence.
- The Heisman Trophy race saw some major reshuffling last weekend. Exit stage left Darren Sproles, Chris Rix, Braylon Edwards, and Brad Smith; enter Cadillac Williams, Kyle Orton, Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Walter, and LenDale White. I think Jason White has a slim lead over Matt Leinart today. Someone has to deliver a knockout blow to unseat the incumbent. It would be hard to choose someone else, if the Sooners run the table with ease, while their QB puts up even better numbers than last year.
- With Michigan losing at Notre Dame and Minnesota having some difficulty with Illinois State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Purdue take over the top three ratings spots in the Big 10. What about our old coach Gerry Dinardo? Could he be on the verge of making Indiana a football school? The Hoosiers could go 6-5 or 7-4 if they continue to play well. Beating Oregon at Autzen Stadium is like beating Kentucky in basketball at Rupp Arena.
- The best TV game of the week would have been Thursday's ESPN tilt between Southern Mississippi and California. Ivan the Terrible strikes again! If the game is played this weekend (I am writing this on Tuesday) and the Bears win at Hattiesburg, then the game against Southern California becomes the biggest West Coast contest in more than a decade! Aaron Rodgers can "hum that tater."
- The most exciting game this week won't be Tennessee-Florida or LSU-Auburn. If I could be at any stadium's 50-yard line, I would choose to sit myself down in a seat in Evanston, Ill. Northwestern and Kansas should put on a terrific offensive show if the weather cooperates. How about 80 to 110 total points scored and 1,000 total yards?
Vanderbilt will play 100 percent better this week against the Rebels than in game one, but Ole Miss will have just a bit too much talent for the Commodores. My ratings show the Ole Miss offensive line to be a touchdown stronger than the Vandy defensive line, and the Vandy offensive line to be a little weaker than the Rebel defensive line.
The Ole Miss secondary has its weak spots, so I look for Jay Cutler to expose it for about 200 yards. Ole Miss will run the ball more than it usually does, and its average per carry should be better than normal. Vandy should rush for about 80-100 yards, but come up short on several third-down conversion attempts. Intangibles favor the angry Rebels (think Auburn vs. Vandy in the same spot last year). Look for the Rebs to win by 7 to 12 points. My predicted score is Ole Miss 28, Vandy 17.
For the upset to happen, Vanderbilt has to force two turnovers more than it commits and win the special teams war. A long punt return or blocked punt could pave the way for an extra score, while a timely interception could prevent one score and make it 24-21 Vandy.
The Commodores need something to loosen them up, because I am afraid they may come out tight in this game. If Vandy receives the opening kick, maybe a pitch across the field (think Wycheck to Dyson) could make it a 7-0 game in the first 15 seconds. Or if Vandy kicks off, maybe a surprise onside kick could be demoralizing if it works, and no worse than watching Ole Miss come out and run four times for 25 yards to midfield if it doesn't work.
Have fun; expect to get wet.
This Week's Picks
Last week I missed on the Nebraska-Southern Miss game, and won the other four. The odds on the one loss still produced a bad day. 4-1 for the week and 6-1 for the season doesn't help if you lose the wrong game. It's back to straight picks and parlays this week, except for one moneyline pick.
Arizona vs. Wisconsin: The Badgers have to make a long trek to Tucson and play in temperatures not meant for cheese curds. Arizona's defense is better than UNLV's, so the Badgers should be held to about 14-17 points. Arizona has major rebuilding to do, so I'm not going to pick the Wildcats to pull the upset. I think they will keep the game close and lose by only 6 points.
Rice vs. Hawaii: I like to go against Hawaii when they play on the mainland against average or better teams. Rice beat Houston. I'm not sure the Warriors can stop the Owls spread option offense, and Timmy Chang may not see the ball enough times to throw his normal 55 to 60 passes. The money line has Rice EVEN, which makes this all the better. You get the Owls straight up for even odds. I believe Rice wins outright by 5 to 10 points.
Three-team, 10-point teaser parlay: North Carolina State +12.5 vs. Ohio State, Pittsburgh +14 vs. Nebraska, Colorado -9.5 vs. North Texas. Not many Midwest teams venture to the South in September against above-average home teams and come away happy. Remember 1977 Notre Dame at Ole Miss? Ohio State might beat the Wolfpack, but I can't see them winning by 13. Nebraska could line up against Pitt and run the ball down the Panther's throat. But, the Cornhuskers no longer do this. I cannot see them winning by more than two touchdowns, if at all. Colorado isn't as good as they were in 2001, but North Texas is not playing well this year so far. At 5,400 feet, the Mean Green will come up lean. Ralphie will be happy, as the Buffs win by 20 or more.
Three-team, 10-point teaser parlay: Indiana +12 vs. Kentucky, Ole Miss +3.5 vs. Vanderbilt, Kansas +13 vs. Northwestern. Kentucky is favored by 2 over Indiana, and I think that's exactly where the spread should be. Indiana is due to bounce, but the Cats cannot win by 13. If Vanderbilt can pull off a big upset in Oxford ala 1999, then I'll be glad to lose here. However, Ole Miss getting 3.5 here looks like a free gift. Northwestern and Kansas will be a great game, but the Wildcats cannot win by two touchdowns over anybody unless they light up the scoreboard for 65 points.
Three-team, 10-point teaser parlay: LSU + 12 vs. Auburn, Georgia Tech +1.5 vs. North Carolina, TCU +16 vs. Texas Tech. LSU might not win this game, but is anyone able to beat them by 13 or more? Maybe Oklahoma or USC if everything went right, but not Auburn. I'm looking for a close game either way. Georgia Tech getting points from North Carolina should be a gimme. The Tar Heels should lose by 15 to 20 points. TCU has a good chance of beating Texas Tech outright. Getting 16 points against a weakened Red Raider team that is struggling to score should be safe.