VandyMania's Howell Peiser picks this week's SEC and top national college football games.
PiRate Picks for October 29
Utah State @ Alabama
The Crimson Tide need a breather to allow their reserves a chance to get valuable late-season experience and to rest some banged and bruised starters. Let's hope Brodie Croyle gets pulled early enough in this one. The Joe Kines defense has a decent shot at shutting out the Aggies' offense, but I think enough reserves will see second half action to allow Utah State to score. With the totals line at 46, this might be the one week to take the OVER in this game, since Coach Shula will not make the mistake of leaving in his regulars too long.
PiRate Prediction: Alabama 45 Utah State 10
South Carolina @ Tennessee
This game should be interesting. Steve Spurrier playing against Phil Fulmer in checkers would draw a crowd of people. The Gamecocks are clearly weaker talent-wise, but Tennessee still has no answers on offense. Both teams have lost three games and both lost their three games to ranked opposition. The difference in scheduling is that USC's four wins have come against Central Florida, Troy, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt, while Tennessee has a big win over LSU. The Vols are the
clear-cut favorite, and their stop troops will halt the Fighting Chickens just enough to get the win.
PiRate Prediction: Tennessee 28 South Carolina 14
North Texas @ LSU
This is a re-scheduled game due to Hurricane Katrina. The Mean Green would like to skip this week; it's going to be rough for the UNT. The two best teams the Mean Green have played, Tulsa and Kansas State, beat them by a combined score of 108-9! LSU is plainly better than those two teams. The Bayou Bengals may come out somewhat flat after the hard-fought overtime win against Auburn. Still, it shouldn't matter much.
Imagine Michael Jordan playing one-on-one with Spike Lee just after the Bulls won an NBA Title—it wouldn't be pretty. Neither will this one.
PiRate Prediction: LSU 42 North Texas 0
Ole Miss @ Auburn
It would be sadistic to place an elderly southern gentleman in a cage with a mad tiger. Yet that's what the SEC schedule calls for this week. When Ole Miss travels to Auburn, they won't come away thinking they have visited a lovely village. The Rebels may venture into Auburn territory three times or less in this game, and they will be lucky to come away with more than one score. Auburn will pound the ball up the middle and off tackle to set up the pass. The Tigers will be out for blood, and they should beat the
PiRate Prediction: Auburn 35 Ole Miss 7
Florida vs. Georgia @ Jacksonville
Georgia figured to be about a nine-point favorite over the Gators until last Saturday. D.J. Shockley means about two touchdowns to the Bulldogs, so the spread is now four points in the Gators' favor. This game should be a low-scoring affair, and it would be unwise to discount Georgia's chances. While Shockley is definitely out, Gator quarterback Chris Leak is nursing an ailing shoulder. He might not be able to put much zip on the ball, so Josh Portis may see
significant action in this game. I look for this one to go to the final gun with the winner being the team that plays error-free in the fourth quarter. It could go either way, but I'm picking Florida to ruin Georgia's Rose Bowl hopes. The extra week to prepare for this game gets them over the hump.
PiRate Prediction: Florida 16 Georgia 14
Mississippi State @ Kentucky
What happens when an irresistible force meets an unmovable object? How about the opposite of this equation? Number six in the East Division hosts number six in the West Division. Neither team can move the ball, but neither team can stop opponents. What you have is a game that will see both teams score more than their average, yet yield less than they normally give up. It should be close and relatively interesting. A Wildcat loss could very well bring an end to the Rich Brooks administration in Lexington.
Kentucky has enough talent to win this game by exploiting the Bulldogs' lack of speed. Mississippi State is a one-point favorite, and I think the odds makers are a little off here. I don't call this one a lock, but Kentucky should win the game outright.
PiRate Prediction: Kentucky 24 Mississippi State 20
Texas @ Oklahoma State
The Longhorns can name the score this week. They will suffer a mild letdown after last week's demolition of Texas Tech, but the Cowboys are too weak to put up much resistance. The line is 36 ½ points, so this is a tricky proposition. Texas ought to accumulate 500+ total yards, while holding the Pokes to about 320. Will the extra 200 yards be enough to score more than five additional touchdowns. I think that is a distinct possibility. The fly in the ointment is that Mack Brown will begin pulling Vince Young a little earlier in each blowout. Texas has a clear path to the Rose Bowl if the Heisman Trophy favorite stays healthy. That's why I advise laying off this one.
PiRate Prediction: Texas 49 Oklahoma State 10
Washington State @ Southern California
The Trojans continue to mimic the 1971 Oklahoma Sooners. They have an unstoppable offense that can go 80 yards for a touchdown in very few plays. When you can run for 250 yards and pass for 350 yards in a game, nobody is going to keep you under 40 points. The problem with the Trojans is that their defense is vulnerable to a good passing attack. Washington State has such, so they will score points Saturday. How much is the question; can they score enough to cover? I think so.
30 points are too much to ask the Trojans to cover against a team that will put 300 passing yards in the stat book. USC wins by 24 to 28 points.
PiRate Prediction: Southern Cal 52 Washington State 24
UCLA @ Stanford
This is the one game where Karl Dorrell's Bruins could slip up and lose prior to the season finale against Southern Cal. Stanford is hot, winning three consecutive Pac-10 games. The clobbering of Arizona State proves the Cardinal have the wherewithal to beat an opponent with a potent offense. UCLA has shown a propensity for coming from behind to win late, and the same action may occur yet again. The Bruins are just a little too talented for Stanford and will win the game, but they may not cover the eight-point spread.
PiRate Prediction: UCLA 38 Stanford 34
Michigan @ Northwestern
How can a team give up 504 total yards a game and yet be tied for first in a BCS conference? Northwestern has done it by averaging 530 total yards per game and beating opponents 37-33. Brett Basanez has emerged as a dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate thanks to passing for 1,150 yards in the three straight wins over Wisconsin, Purdue, and Michigan State. I think the Wildcat bubble will burst Saturday night. Michigan is coming on like gangbusters, and the Wolverines will have little trouble moving the
ball. They will stop the Wildcat spread option just enough times to leave Evanston with an important win.
Pirate Prediction: Michigan 35 Northwestern 28
Games Where I Think The Spread Is Wrong
Nevada @ Boise State
I'm not going to say the boys from Reno are ready to upset the Broncos on the blue field, but I think the spread is too high. Boise State is considerably weaker than last season, but the betting populace hasn't figured it out yet. Nevada is one of the five most improved teams this year, and they should make a game of it. The spread is 21 points, and Boise will be lucky to win by 15.
Pirate Prediction: Boise State 38 Nevada 24
North Carolina @ Miami (F)
The Hurricanes are favored by 20 points, and I like the underdog in this one as well. yes, The Tar Heels pulled off an incredible upset in Chapel hill last year, and the ‘Canes are wanting revenge in the Orange Bowl. However, I think there are more important factors that will keep this game closer than expected. Miami had their practice routine upset by Hurricane Wilma. The field won't be in the best shape either. The weather may not be all that muggy. And, most importantly, Miami's offense doesn't impress me this year. I think the Hurricanes will win this game, but it should be much closer than expected.
PiRate Prediction: Miami 28 North Carolina 14
Southern Mississippi @ North Carolina State
The near miss against Virginia Tech in the season opener affected the Wolfpack much like all the near misses by Vanderbilt to start several seasons (Miami (O) and MTSU for example). It looks like State is headed for another losing season with road games against Florida State and Boston College following this game. NCSU cannot afford to overlook the USM; even though this isn't one of Jeff Bowers' best teams in Hattiesburg, they are more than capable of pulling off the upset. Even if they lose,
Southern Miss. should cover the seven-point spread. It might be worth buying an extra half-point in this one to play it safe.
PiRate Prediction: North Carolina State 21 Southern Miss. 20 (PiRates call for this game to go to overtime)
Miami (Ohio) @ Temple
Is Temple a different team at home than on the road? The answer is yes. They are plain and simply bad at home, while on the road they are incredibly inept with absolutely no chance. Miami of Ohio is favored by 23 points, and the Owls should make this one a little more interesting than their previous games against future conference opponents. Look for Temple to stay in this game for a half and beat the spread.
PiRate Prediction: Miami (O) 31 Temple 14
Arizona @ Oregon State
Still the betting public gives Arizona too much credit. We're talking about a team that is 1-6 with the lone win over Northern Arizona playing on the road against a probable bowl team that recently won at Cal. The line is eight points, and the Beavers should gnaw their way to a double-digit victory.
PiRate Prediction: Oregon State 35 Arizona 21
TCU @ San Diego State
San Diego State just lost at home to New Mexico by 23 points, and yet they are only 6 ½-point underdogs to the top team in the Mountain West. TCU has won on the road in conference play knocking off Air Force, Wyoming, and BYU. The Aztecs are in the same company as those three, so TCU should win another one. Look for TCU to rush for around 200 yards and control the ball. It adds up to a double-digit win.
PiRate Prediction: TCU 31 San Diego State 17