Mike and Jay's College Picks

Mike O'Neill and Jay Williams provide us with their picks for this week's SEC and top national college football games.

JW: Last week was pretty good to me, going 10-2 outright, and 10-1 against the spread, my lone miss coming from the Colorado/Georgia game, but I'd like to see anyone who predicted a one-point victory for Georgia.  Wow.  This week brings a smaller slate of SEC games, but some pretty good match-ups.  It looks like we're out of cupcake season for a while (unless you're playing Temple or a school from Mississippi), so you can count on closer games and maybe even a few upsets.  I'm glad all the complaints about officials have died down, although it was nice to see some higher-profile teams feeling what Vanderbilt feels roughly every three games or so.  I, for one, am glad that Chancellor Gee hasn't made any ridiculous statements demanding our losses to Florida, Arkansas, Alabama, and half a dozen other teams be wiped from the record books.  Maybe he hasn't because he's had more, um, pressing issues to deal with, such as stupid hit-pieces from the Wall Street Journal, but I'm glad he and Coach Johnson have publicly downplayed this topic.  Anyway, let's move on to the picks!

MO: Ah, the picks, they are a cruel, cruel mistress. At first glance, I loved my picks, as I picked every single game correctly outright. My problem came when winning teams scored on late defensive touchdowns **coughcoughOhioStatecoughcough** to ruin my spread picks. Despite being a spotless 12-0 outright, I was a mere 4-7 against the spread. This week, the games get a little better, but there aren't too many big match-ups to make it one of there fantastic weekends we had a few weeks ago. That won't stop us form making the picks and silly observations, though, now will it?

Auburn @ South Carolina

JW: I'm still not convinced that the Gamecocks are as bad as they've looked recently.  It's hard to deny Spurrier's (college) coaching abilities, and they definitely have some talent.  I don't know if they'll get their issues worked out this year or not, but I think we can all agree that South Carolina is underperforming.  However, even if they actually *are* pretty bad this year, even in their worst years they've given some good teams a scare.  Will Auburn be the one?  They sleepwalked through one half against Buffalo, and came out with an underwhelming 31-point win.  Poor Auburn, only beating one of the worst teams in Div I-A by 31 points!  Obviously the wheels are coming off.  I really need to stop with this sarcasm thing, because it just can't be conveyed that well.  Anyway, I think South Carolina might put up a decent fight for some time, but it'll ultimately just be another L.  Auburn by 17. 

MO: The Gamecocks finally came back to life last week, pasting Florida Atlantic in the process. The road doesn't stay easy though, as South Carolina hosts Auburn this weekend. Off a stomping of their own against Buffalo, the Tigers look to stay unbeaten, and have to put a hurting on the Gamecocks in order to stay #2 in the AP poll. I think the score should stay high, but it'll be War Eagle once again as Auburn heads out of Columbia a victor, winning by 13.

Tennessee @ Memphis

MO: Do you remember where you were in '96 when Memphis ran a kickoff return back for a TD to take the lead against UT for good? It's the 10th anniversary of that stunner, but don't look for that scenario to unfold again. UT has rebounded from a disappointing 5-6 season (including a 28-24 loss to Vanderbilt) by winning three of its first four games, and only losing to Florida by 1. The only hope for Memphis is that UT is looking ahead to Georgia, but even then, I don't think this Tiger team (who has already lost to Ole Miss) can pull off the upset. UT by 10.

JW: UT is still working hard to forget last season, and so far they're doing a pretty good job of it.  Memphis won't put up much of a challenge here, and the Vols will keep chugging along, hoping to step things up for Georgia.  Memphis is really weak, losing to both Ole Miss and East Carolina, and even though this game is played in the Liberty Bowl, it still won't be pretty.  The Vols might come out a little flat, but ultimately, they get a decisive win.  UT by 20.

Mississippi State @ LSU

JW: So, the Bulldogs' big win this year might end up being UAB, if only because it'll be their only win.  Then again, Ole Miss seems to be putting up a nice fight for the bottom of the league.  The Egg Bowl should be a blast this year.  State pulled off its first win of the season last week against the Blazers, 16-10, in Birmingham, their first road game.  Maybe it's just Starkville that makes the Bulldogs bad...maybe being in the bustling metropolis that is Birmingham, Alabama, inspired them to play better football.  However, their road fortunes are sure to come to a halt against JaMarcus Russell and the Tigers, still mad about their loss to Auburn two weeks ago.  Mississippi State is as easy a doormat as you can get, and LSU would like a nice tune-up before the Florida game.  LSU beat Tulane by 42 points at home, and MSU lost to Tulane by 3 points at home.  Does this mean that LSU is better than MSU by at least 45 points?  Easily, but I don't think that'll be the difference.  Look for a lot of second and third-string play after LSU gets a comfortable lead by halftime.  Tigers by 30.  

MO: Yeah, I'm afraid the MSU fun train is about to come to a screeching halt. I think the timing of this game is bad since MSU is no longer hungry for a win, while LSU can't lose another game without dropping out of the "national powerhouse" echelon. LSU wins this, taking an early lead and cruising to a 27-point win.

Central Michigan @ Kentucky

MO: The Wildcats could only manage 39 yards of rushing defense against Florida, and look to rebound nicely against Central Michigan. It might not be quite that easy, though. Central Michigan has looked good in the MAC conference, going 2-0 and averaging 152.5 rushing yards each game. I have a hunch that UK will be trailing for a least part of the game, but should pull away with scoring drives in the fourth quarter, winning by 10.

JW: I gotta hand it to Kentucky, having the guts to schedule arguably the strongest of the three directional Michigan schools (which, honestly, doesn't really say a whole lot).  Central Michigan has a three-point win over Akron, and a 7-point win over Eastern Michigan in overtime, while Kentucky can hang its hat on a dismantling of Texas State-San Marcos and Ole Miss.  It's probably a relatively close matchup on paper, and they've both lost to strong teams (Central Michigan to BC and Michigan, Kentucky to Louisville and Florida).  Ultimately, I think UK's the better team, and their home-field advantage gives them an extra edge.  Look for the Wildcats to win this one by 9.

Alabama @ Florida

JW: Arkansas came out on top in the "We Only Beat Vanderbilt By Two or Three" bowl (trademark pending, O'Neill-Williams Enterprises) with a one-point win in double-overtime last week, making my straight-up pick wrong, but preserving my spread pick.  With the game in the Swamp and Florida looking pretty sharp, the Gators are pretty heavily favored here.  However, this is one of those rivalry games where anything can happen, and you know Bama's pretty fired up to get back on the winning track.  Vandy fans are still wondering what the football gods have against them while watching Leigh Tiffin miss all those kicks after kicking a game-winner against the 'Dores, and probably rolled their eyes as Houston Nutt once again looked very un-coachlike after the win.  But I digress.  Florida's worked their way into the top five, and Alabama has fallen from grace.  Rivalry games can only help so much, and Bama already starts in a pretty big hole.  This won't be as close as the UT game.  Gators by 16.  

MO: Alabama has to be ticked off. They lost a game that they easily could have won despite doing everything they needed to do to get back to Tuscaloosa with a win. If this game weren't at the Swamp, I'd feel a LOT better about their chances, but it's not. The game is in The Swamp, a daunting environment for a Bama kicker that needs a steady game this week to avoid coming unglued for the rest of the season. To make matters worse, Chris Leak is starting to get some Heisman talk, and this would be a great game to separate himself from most other candidates, especially if Troy Smith struggles at Iowa (see below). I think he will do just that, leading the Gators to a 24-point win.

Purdue @ Notre Dame

MO: Purdue is coming off of one of its worst football season in a long time, while Notre Dame looked great in the second half of last week's game at Michigan St. I think Notre Dame can really build off the comeback win and play the "disrespect" card to a certain extent since a lot of media pundits are claiming that MSU simply gave the game away rather than the Irish winning it. I think Brady Quinn lights it up in an attempt to regain Heisman standing, and the Irish defend home turf successfully, winning by 21.

JW: Yeah, I know it only motivates Notre Dame, but Michigan State really did blow it.  I know, Brady Quinn looked great, the offense was firing on all cylinders, yadda yadda yadda, but the Spartans practically rolled over.  Brady Quinn's an impressive quarterback, but he still has some work to do if he wants to overcome the Michigan debacle and have a shot at the Heisman.  Purdue's probably a good starting point.  They're undefeated so far this season, but they haven't yet faced anyone close to the caliber of the Irish.  Look for Quinn to air it out and prove that he can play all four quarters effectively.  Fightin' Irish by 24.

Georgia @ Ole Miss

JW: Yeah, maybe Wake Forest is pretty good, but I think we can all agree that Ole Miss is *really* bad.  Sure, you can say that Wake Forest and Missouri are two nice surprises this year, and Ole Miss is just a victim of an unlucky schedule, but there's really no excuse for the loss to Kentucky, and there isn't an excuse for only scoring a field goal at home against a team from the under-performing ACC.  But what about Georgia?  They were ridiculously lucky to pull out the one-point win against Colorado.  I don't know what happened, but looking at their schedule, I'm starting to wonder if Georgia's really as good as people say they are.  Maybe the Colorado "win" wasn't a fluke.  Sure, their other wins were by wide margins, but look at the competition - Western Kentucky, UAB, and South Carolina.  Luckily for Georgia, Ole Miss fits nicely into that list of teams, and Georgia is looking to prove that they're for real.  The Rebels are demoralized, and things aren't looking up in the state of Mississippi.  Bulldogs by 20.

MO: Yep, Ole Miss is REALLY bad, and I think the folks in Oxford are getting another example of just how bad the Rebels are this weekend. With a QB controversy unfolding in Athens, you know that whoever's behind center is going to be looking for electrifying plays to distance themselves from their teammates. Most opponents can benefit from this by taking advantage of the high-risk nature of such QB behavior. Too bad Ole Miss isn't most opponents. We're going to see a LOT of air attack from Georgia, no matter who's arm it comes from, and they'll walk out, winning by 35.

Ohio State @ Iowa

MO: In what's being hailed as the game of the week, Ohio St. gets another road test when they head out to face Iowa. The buckeyes have shown they can win on the road, besting Texas in the "1 vs. 2" battle a few weeks back, but the Hawkeyes are still a great team and should give them a tough fight. Iowa has only given up 170 yards passing per game, so Troy Smith may be grounded throughout most of the game. I think it'll be close, but I think a late drive by tOSU keeps the game out of the Hawkeyes' reach, and the Buckeyes head winning the victors, winning by 13.

JW: This should be a fun game, and I think Troy Smith is going to find ways around the Iowa defense and put up considerably more yards than the 170 Iowa has allowed on average.  I know it's been a while since they did it, but I still think the "THE Ohio State University" thing is pretty silly.  I'm going to put THE in front of my name from now on, just so everyone knows I'm the authentic Jay Williams, and not that trouble-making basketball player.  Guess I'll head to the DMV after this.  Anyway, as for the game, I think Iowa's a tough opponent, but I also don't think they're as strong as their rankings may suggest.  Oh, you beat Montana 41-7?  Well then, you're a regular powerhouse!  Let's just ignore the 7-point win at Syracuse, shall we?  Yeah, I know, Syracuse isn't *that* bad, but if you're a top-15 team, you should be winning by more than a touchdown.  The best thing Iowa has going for it is that the game is played at home, but OSU has already shown that they aren't intimidated by a hostile environment.  It's starting to feel like my number of the week, but I'm going with OSU by 17.

Georgia Tech @ Virginia Tech 

JW:  This could be a fun game.  Georgia Tech has surprised a lot of people with its early successes, and Virginia Tech is in the hunt for a conference championship and a BCS bowl.  After scaring the bejeezus out of Notre Dame to start the season, the Jackets have since rolled over Samford, Troy, and Virginia at home.  Virginia Tech, on the other hand, has had a fun time destroying Northeastern, UNC, Duke, and Cincinnati.  This is the first real test for the Hokies, so Georgia Tech might have a bit of an advantage when it comes to experience against solid teams.  This will be a fun game to watch, and I think Virginia Tech pulls out a close one, thanks to its talent advantage.  Virginia Tech by 7.  

MO:  First test, eh? Too bad the players at VA Tech aren't traditionally good at tests. The Jackets are having a lot of success this season and could make a bunch of noise in a down ACC. I think it starts this Saturday with a big upset over one of the conference darlings. Why? You're expecting intelligent analysis of an ACC game by TWO writers in the SAME article? Pshaw!! Georgia Tech returns to Atlanta winning the Battle of the Techs by 10.

Temple @ Vanderbilt

MO: Even though it's a home game, the Commodores will find themselves in unfamiliar territory as they take the field as 33-point favorites against a D-1 team. Even though Vanderbilt is facing a Temple team that is regarded to be the worst in all of D-1, I get the sense that this might not be as easy game as we fans are hoping for. Maybe it's because it's the fifth game of the season. VU has a record of 5-20 in their last 25 years of Week 5 games, including a slate of season-killing or otherwise deflating losses: Tulane in '84, the 6-7 loss to LSU in '97, the OT loss to Georgia Tech in '03, the Rutgers comeback in '04, and last year's inexplicable loss to MTSU. Also bear in mind that Temple has heard all season how bad a team they are and are coming into Nashville as one of the biggest road underdogs that Dudley Field has ever seen. I think they'll be ready for this game, and should give Vandy more of a fight than the fans are expecting.

That said, I don't think that Temple walks out the winner – far from it. I think that the Commodores can control this game, but I have a hunch that Temple gets on the board early, which will keep the Dores focused throughout the rest of the game. Nickson should get the chance to work on the deep ball – I wouldn't be surprised to see him top 300 yards, even before being pulled early to give Adams and/or Kovalcheck some reps. I think Hawkins could have a breakout game, and Vanderbilt should come out on top by 27.

JW: Wow, that's some impressive research, my friend.  I'm a little worried that you're going to start adding more and more credibility and legitimacy to our picks.  But those stats do provide us with a sobering reminder of the nasty habits of our favorite football team.  I've personally witnessed some of those game-five losses, and boy do they sit with you.  I've woken up many a night in a cold sweat, with images of Jeremiah Weaver blowing right past the line and smothering a field goal attempt.  Actually, the worse image is that of Andy McCollum rolling around on the ground like an idiot with Weaver at the end of the game.  But I digress (yes, I do that a lot).  

Temple is bad.  Really bad.  If they played TSU, TSU would probably be favored.  I'm almost willing to predict that our defense and special teams alone will score enough to beat Temple, but I also don't want to jinx us.  Vanderbilt will win, and will likely win handily.  With two minutes left in the fourth quarter, expect to see senior sousaphone player John Kidd line up under center (he'll go 1 for 2 for 15 yards before taking a knee).  This team is more focused than in the past, and isn't going to take a bad team like Temple lightly.  I like the 'Dores by 35, for once actually playing up to their expectations against an inferior team.

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