*Not an actual guarantee
Florida International @ Arkansas
MO: Yeah, I know, it's a bad game to start the week with, but who knows? Florida International might end up keeping this one closer than last week's 44-8 drubbing of Ole Miss. That game included Felix Jones and Darren McFadden finally having 100-yard rushing performances in the same game, something that Arkansas absolutely has to have in order to win and hadn't had in the few weeks before then. There's insightful analysis to be had here, I'm sure, but this stat is all I need: Arkansas has defeated its three other non-conference foes by a combined score of 146-48. Hogs roll, winning by 32.
JW: Why use up our quota of insightful analysis on a game like this? Ole Miss couldn't stop Arkansas (ok, Ole Miss couldn't stop much these days), so why should 0-7 FIU fare any better? They won't, folks, and even if Arkansas plays flat because they're looking to next week's game against the Gamecocks, the Hogs are still at least 25 points better than the Golden Panthers. It won't be pretty. Arky by 38.
Mississippi St. @ Kentucky
JW: Last week's Kentucky/Florida game was the shootout we all hoped it would be, and while Woodson threw more TDs, Tebow got the win. The Wildcats now look to come out of their three-game homestand with two wins before heading to Nashville and then Athens. They'll be facing a Mississippi State team that's hit a bit of a rough patch since starting the season on a surprising note. The fact that the Bulldogs gave up 38 points to West Virginia and 33 points to Tennessee must be mighty appealing to Rich Brooks and company. In front of a home crowd, the Wildcats' recent inability to play much defense will be far outweighed by their ability to score at will on MSU. Woodson will have a field day, and Kentucky will win by 20.
MO: Man, I hate saying this week after week, but Kentucky football has actually been fun to watch this season. Andre Woodson has only one fewer touchdown than Tom Brady (though he has had one more game), and they've scored less than 37 points just once this season (23 in their loss to South Carolina). Both teams have a bye next week, but the folks in blue will be enjoying theirs a lot more than those in maroon. I like Brooks to run up the score in an attempt to break back into top ten, winning by 40.
Mississippi @ Auburn
MO: Poor Rebels. There's really not a whole lot to say, but I'm still keen to elaborate. They're the only team this season without an SEC win, and they nearly lost one of the only two games they've won at all. Aside from close games against Florida and Alabama (both at home), all of their losses have been by at least 13 points, and their offense has yet to put up more than 25 points in a game (including in games against Memphis and Louisiana Tech, their only wins). Auburn, on the other hand, is enjoying a fine season, enjoying the fruits of a dominating defense that has allowed more than 20 points only twice, and those against two of the country's top teams (South Florida and LSU). I like the Tigers to run wild this week, and I'll even call the shutout. Auburns keeps Ole Miss off the board, winning 27-0.
JW: A team that can't put up more than 25 against Louisiana Tech but gives Florida and Alabama a close game just doesn't make much sense to me. Sure, it's college football and anything goes, but the Rebels are so bad, I'm still trying to figure out those two close games against pretty good teams. I'm not as bold as Mike in picking the exact score, but I have no doubt Auburn will be the dominant team here. They're coming off a tough close loss to LSU and are looking for redemption (and to move up a bit in the top 25). Tuberville will show no mercy to the school that actually got him the job at Auburn in the first place. Tigers by 23.
South Carolina @ Tennessee
JW: So, how will Steve Spurrier and his team respond to last week's shocking home loss to the Commodores? How will Phil Fulmer and his team respond to last week's shocking beat down in Tuscaloosa? Which loss was "worse"? In the eyes of the nation, of course, it has to be the Gamecocks' loss to the Commodores, but one can't ignore the sheer magnitude of the domination by the Crimson Tide. South Carolina's offense is sputtering right now, but Tennessee's defense basically set out a red carpet to the endzone for John Parker Wilson. This match-up is key, because we know Tennessee is going to be able to score fairly well, especially at home. So can the Gamecocks regain some of their offensive firepower? The starting QB position is still up in the air for USC, but you have to imagine that Spurrier is going to pull out all the stops and make sure his offense is ready to go. Tennessee might seem like it has the edge here, but I don't see them recovering fully from a totally humiliating loss last week to a hated rival. Sure, the Vanderbilt loss was definitely tough for the Gamecocks, but I have more trust in Spurrier's motivational skills than I do Fulmer's. I think the Gamecocks find a way to score on the Vols, and their defense does just enough to preserve the win. South Carolina by 6.
MO: I have to say that the Commodore defense made the Gamecock offense look worse than it actually is, and I don't think they'll have a problem scoring against Tennessee. Surely if a Saban-coached offense can put up 41 points against them, Spurrier can put up more, right? I have to say that last week's loss was worse for Tennessee, if only because it was against a rival, and to me, the dominating victory signifies Alabama turning a corner, both for the season as well as in future games between the two opponents. I'd point out that South Carolina wins this game because Steve Spurrier never seems to lose to Tennessee (even last year with Peyton Manning in attendance), but then again, he had never lost to Vanderbilt either. I think this is different though – Spurrier seems to have a certain glee about whooping up on Fulmer, and you know his team will come out firing on all cylinders to save face after last week. I'll take South Carolina to win this one big, sending Tennessee packing, and winning by 21.
Ohio State @ Penn State
MO: Can Ohio State remain in the top spot this week? We saw Boston College narrowly avoid the ever-present upset bug in this week's Thursday night game, and it will be interesting to see if the Buckeyes have to do the same. Penn State has a good team this season, albeit a little young on offense. I like the fact that game is at Happy Valley, and the Nittany Lions are on a nice winning streak, including last week's squeaker win against an Indiana team that should be bowling by the end of this year. However, Ohio State just doesn't seem to ever lose in the regular season – in fact, their last regular season loss was at Happy Valley two years ago. This is probably going to be the best game of the week, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it go into overtime before all is said and done. I would be surprised, however, to see Penn State come out on top. I like the Buckeyes to prevail here, winning by 3.
JW: Let me take a moment here to roll my eyes at the fact that Ohio State is actually trying to play the "no respect" card coming into their game with Penn State. Seriously, guys? No respect? You're the number one team in the nation! You can say that a lot of people don't think you deserve to be there, but enough thought you did to actually vote you there. So, get over it, and find some other source of motivation. Keeping that ridiculously long regular season winning streak alive should be enough as it is. The Nittany Lions had a rough patch there in the middle where they forgot how to score points, but they've come on strong as of late. But is it enough to beat the all-powerful Buckeyes? Well, if anyone's going to do it in the regular season, I'd put my money on Joe Paterno. I'm not totally comfortable with the upset pick here, mostly because it's Ohio State, and they're pretty darn good, but hey, this season has been all about the upsets. Why not another? I'll take Penn State here, winning with some heroics right at the end, pulling off the upset by 4.
USC @ Oregon
JW: So, how will the Trojans, rulers of the Pac-10 for so long, handle being an "underdog" for the first time in a very long time? These two teams are ranked in the top ten, but I honestly don't understand USC's ranking. I mean, yeah, I do - it's all about "history" and "tradition" and whatnot, but Oregon seems way more of a legitimate top ten team than USC does right now, thanks to their high-scoring offense, second in Division I only to Hawaii. The Ducks can put up points, and the Trojans have only managed to squeak by in a lot of their conference games. Sure, you can point to the Notre Dame shutout last week. But then again, I could go down to the local elementary school and more than likely dominate in the spelling bee there, and you wouldn't be that impressed by my accomplishment either. If you ask me, the Trojans are working on borrowed time at this point, and I think the Ducks are going to expose them for what they are - a somewhat decent team held together by a few narrow wins over inferior opponents. I like the Ducks to win this one easily in front of the home crowd. Oregon by 14.
MO: Depends on the elementary school – I've seen some fifth-graders that could out-spell Webster. You're right about USC being ranked higher than they should be, but let me say this – BOTH teams are wildly over-rated. Seriously, who has Oregon beaten? Michigan? Washington State? Their only road win had been against Michigan, which doesn't count as anything much this year since Appalachian State did that as well. They've lost to the only ranked team they've played this season (Cal), and while they've put a lot of points on the board, they have yet to face an impressive defense – the 24 points they had against Cal might look decent, but it was the second-fewest points the Bears had allowed all season. Oregon managed fewer points than offensive juggernauts like Colorado State and Arizona. I'm not impressed, and think that USC will win this one handily. Much as I'm loathe to support the Trojans, I'd at least like to see the token Pac-10 hype go to a decent team, and we'll see it swing back to USC after they head home victorious, winning by 13.
Florida @ Georgia
MO: Ah, yes – the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. Have to love a celebration that includes beverages most of the players on the field can't legally enjoy! This should be closer than we thought it would be a few weeks ago. Florida's coming off of a great win against Kentucky, while Georgia won 4 of their last 5 and enjoyed their bye last week. Well, I don't know if they "enjoyed" it or not, but they certainly observed it, and should be well-rested for the game. I have to say I still like Florida here – their offense has only been slowed twice, and Georgia's defense isn't anywhere close to the level of those that stopped Florida (Auburn and LSU). While the party might be fantastic outside the stadium this week, the game on the inside won't be. Tim Tebow should pump up his Heisman cred with another big game, leading the Gators to win by 18.
JW: Although both teams have equal records at the moment, their theoretical paths to the SEC championship game are vastly different. Florida controls its own destiny, needing only to win out its SEC slate to take the SEC crown. I don't mean "only" as in that's going to be an easy task, but that they don't need much help from anyone as long as they win out. Georgia, on the other hand, needs a lot of help from other conference foes as well as winning out the conference slate. Florida seems to have its confidence back after the Kentucky game, and hopes to continue its dominance of Georgia. The Bulldogs spent their bye week thanking their lucky stars for a well-timed fumble in Nashville to give them the win over Vanderbilt. Georgia's only "big" win so far this season is Alabama (hopefully Vanderbilt will be considered a big win when all is said and done, but that's just not the case yet), and much like USC, I think they're on borrowed time. It might be a close game for a while, but Florida takes control in the third quarter and never looks back. Gators by 13.
Miami (OH) @ Vanderbilt
JW: So, we've finally discovered the key to a Vanderbilt victory over SEC foes: Mike and Jay both picking against the Commodores. Oh yeah, and stout defense. But I think the former is more important. Which is why I'm going to tell you that I honestly believe a team that beat Ball State by one point, got shut out by Colorado, and lost to Temple by a touchdown is going to come into Nashville and destroy the 'Dores. They're the top team in the Eastern division of the MAC, so that's got to mean something, right? They have a pretty good defense in a conference that scores a lot of points, and Daniel Raudabaugh (their QB..it's ok, I didn't know either) has been an acceptable fill-in for the starter (we'll ignore the 5 INTs). And while there are quite a few key injuries to the RedHawks' defensive unit, that just means that some untapped talent is going to find its way to shine against Vanderbilt. Call me a traitor all you like, but I'm going with Miami by 236. Yes, I meant to type that third number.
MO: Yes, I hope that football gods will forgive our indiscretion of picking against our home team despite everything seeming to point in our opponent's favor. I, too, shall not pick Vanderbilt as a sacrifice this week in hopes that we will rewarded with yet another victory. Vanderbilt comes home to a rousing ovation that soon turns into a chorus of boos, as the quarterback play turns from steady to inconsistent to downright awful. By the fourth quarter, all of our quarterbacks will have been benched, and Bobby Johnson will be forced to pick the signal-caller from the stands. Since everyone else will have left (yes, including the band), that means my father and I will each have a fifty-fifty shot at finally realizing our dream of playing football for Vanderbilt. So, we've got that going for us. Too bad the Dores won't have anything going for them as the Redhawks shock the world and generate over 2,000 yards in punt returns alone, winning by 237.