A fall Saturday without an OU game is like a cheesteak without the cheese. It's still kinda the same thing, but a part of its essence is missing. That's ontological, holmes.
WEEK FOUR--The Skinny
(Last Week: 5-1; Overall: 13-5)
I need to start with an apology. Skinny feels like he let you, his legions of adoring fans, down last week. My Cal pick was terrible. Cal is mediocre team. They were coming across country to play an early morning game. Maryland is better than their performance in their first two games. Friedgen has actually said this is his most talented team. That picked sucked. I will try to do better this week.
Advice of the week: You should definitely check out the latest Cohen brothers flick, Burn After Reading. I know some people can’t get into anything that doesn’t have raunchy sex or bathroom humor. Don’t get me wrong--I am a prime offender here. But if you like a little bit darker, smarter comedy, this one is for you.
New Mexico at Tulsa (-10.5)
What is ABC/ESPN thinking not putting this one on prime time? No, this is not an exciting matchup. But in the interest of actually picking a couple winners this week, I urge you to take a strong look at Tulsa. Questions abounded in the off season after TU lost the most prolific player in school history, QB Paul Smith. However, Todd Graham is a tremendous offense mind. Many college football insiders will tell you that he was the true architect of the spread offense at West Virginia, not Rich Rodriguez. I know this sounds crazy, but Tulsa has a “system” offense, averaging 50 points per game in its first two contests under new QB David Johnson. Tulsa has the best group of wide receivers I have ever seen at a non-BCS school. The Golden Hurricane have too much for the Lobos' defense to handle. Look for the Lobos to come out flat in this after last week’s upset victory over Arizona. The National Weather Service has issued a hurricane warning for Tulsa this weekend!
Skinny Says: The 'Cane by 21.
West Virigina at Colorado (+3)
Maybe I am a conference homer, but I really like CU. Yes, the Buffs looked bad sneaking by Eastern Washington two weeks ago, 31-24. But I think this one sets up nicely for them. CU is at home, and Hawkins has had two weeks to prepare for a West Virginia team that has had to sit on a poor performance against ECU for two weeks. A “well-informed” Buffs fan told me recently that superstar recruit Darrell Scott was the next Adrian Peterson. No doubt Scott has a world of potential, but 3.9 yards per carry doesn’t put him in the Hall of Fame just yet. I think this one is more about WVU than CU. As I have mentioned previously, I don’t like the changes Bill Stewart has made to his offense, with Pat White throwing the ball 30 times a game. Don’t underestimate the effect of the Mountaineers' loss to East Carolina. I think WVU comes out flat.
The Skin Says: Buffs by a touchdown.
Temple (+28.5) at Penn State
Thank God I am not a Penn State fan. I can’t imagine how frustrating it would be to be stuck with Joe Pa for life! The program is going nowhere on the field, and Joe Pa obviously has no control off it. The best thing I have seen out Joe Pa in the past 10 years was the case of the “hurry ups” he got on the sidelines a few years ago. As for the game, I personally think Temple is better than most people think. Temple’s defense has a ton of experience and has performed well so far this season. The Owls have not seen an offense as talented as Penn State, but they are good enough to keep game within 28 points.
Skinny Says: Take the Owls with the points.
Lee Greenwood Special: Rutgers (-6) at Navy
Rutgers has been awful this year, putting up a mere 19 points in two games. A trip to Annapolis is just the medicine the Scarlet Knights need. Mike Teel, a fifth year senior at QB, is a proven commodity and should have a big game. Rutgers has one of the better receiving corps in the country lead by Tiquan Underwood. Navy doesn’t have the athletes on defense to hold Rutgers under 35 points. (Skinny’s bonus pick of the week: Think about parlaying this one with the over. Navy’s wishbone attack can pose problems for teams that rarely face this type of offense.) Rutgers poor performance thus far will be keeping this line lower than it should be.
The Skin Says: Rutgers.
Miami (-3.5) at Texas A&M
How bad of a coaching job did Dennis Franchione do at A&M? When Coach Fran took the job with the Aggies, I predicted he would turn them into a national title contender. Boy was I wrong! Fran left the cupboard fairly bare for Mike Sherman, but it still seems the Aggies have underachieved this season. Stephen McGee and Michael Goodson are dynamic offense players, and defensively A&M has talent on the line and in the secondary. I believe the problem lies in Mike Sherman’s pro-style attack. The offense doesn’t play to the McGee’s strengths. When A&M has had success lately, they have used a lot of zone read and option plays to keep opposing offenses off balance, setting up the pass. Despite Miami’s lopsided loss at Florida, the Hurricane’s showed they have talent on both sides of the ball.
The Skin Says: Miami wins by two touchdowns in College Station.
(Bonus: Skinny has been to quite a few of college football’s hot spots--Tennessee, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Michigan. Kyle Field is by far the most intimidating stadium for opposing teams.)
UL-Monroe (+6.5) at Tulane
This line looks way off. UL-Monroe is bad. Tulane has looked good opening the season with narrow losses to Alabama and East Carolina. How could the Green Wave only be a 6.5-point favorite at home this weekend against the Warhawks? So Skinny is going to take Tulane, right? Nope, I like Monroe in this one. My reasoning has nothing to do with football. A line that seems this off usually means the experts out in Vegas know something. Don’t fall into the trap.
The Skin Says: Take Monroe with the points.
WEEK FOUR--Blatant Homerism
(Last Week: 4-2; Overall: 11-7)
The theme for this week's picks is longing and regret. Homerism loved Louisville on Wednesday night and wanted to make the Cards one of his weekly picks, but the column went to print after the game was finished. Watching a game played at Papa John's Stadium had me wishing I had an order of delectable breadsticks by my side. Showing up work this morning left Homerism yearning to chase his dream of being a dancer in Vegas.
But you can't have a rainbow without a little rain. Like a ray of light peaking through the dark clouds, this week's picks:
Iowa St. (+2.5) at UNLV
We'll stick with the regret motif for this one. Looking back, Homerism really wishes he would have made the Runnin’ Rebels upset over Arizona State one of his week three picks. The game barely missed the cut, primarily because I was skeptical about UNLV’s talent level. Ironically, the reasons why Homerism liked the Rebels in week three has a lot to do with why I’m going against them this week. First, with Georgia coming to Tempe on Saturday, there’s no doubt the Sun Devils overlooked UNLV last week. That takes a little shine off the Rebels' win. Now, it's UNLV's turn to feel the effects of a little negative psychology--the letdown.
Homerism suspects second-year coach Gene Chizik has the Cyclones headed in the right direction. Iowa St. played in-state rival Iowa pretty tough, which should give this squad some confidence this week.
Homerism Says: Cyclones win this one straight up, giving them something to grow on as they head into conference play.
Central Michigan (+10.5) at Purdue
The Boilermakers had to be pretty down after last week’s tough loss to Oregon. As mediocre as Purdue has been the past few years, that was as jacked up as Homerism has seen Joe Tiller’s crew since they stunned Bob Davie's Notre Dame squad in 1997. Central Michigan benefits from an excellent veteran quarterback, so the Chippewas shouldn’t be too intimidated going into West Lafayette. (Who is, anyway?) Only thing that scares me here is that this is CMU's third straight on the road. Expect Purdue to come out flat early, so plan accordingly.
Homerism Says: CMU covers.
Fresno State at Toledo (+7)
The Bulldogs are coming off last week's tough loss to Wisconsin and have a trip to UCLA next week. That makes this a classic sandwich game for Fresno. (A trip to Toledo... Make that a "crap" sandwich.) Toledo is pretty average. But, really, what have we seen out of Fresno that should make us think they're that much better? A Saturday night home game against a high-profile opponent in front of a rowdy crowd is ideal for a plucky upstart to pull off the upset. Yet, the Bulldogs couldn't pull it off. If winning at Rutgers is your calling card in 2008, you don't deserve the BCS-buster hype.
This is the Rockets' home opener at the fabled Glass Bowl. Tom Amstutz is a gaudy 35-6 at home since taking over the program in 2001. Those 35 wins include three in as many tries against ranked teams.
New Mexico @ Tulsa (-10.5)
They may call it "H.A. Chapman Stadium" now, but, to Homerism, Tulsa’s home field will always be Skelly Stadium, the site of the famous "Miracle on 8th Street." The ghosts of Dan Bitson and Gus Frerotte and Chris Hughley and TJ Rubley are sure to be watching over the Golden Hurricane as it returns to T-Town for the grand opening of its newly renovated home field. And what better way for the TU's notoriously cranky fan base to kick things off than with a win over a hated rival. Lots of old wounds remain from the lowdown Lobos' back room deal nearly a decade ago to defect from the WAC and help form the Mountain West. Rock you like a hurricane, Rocky Long.
Homerism Says: Tulsa by 17.
South Florida @ Florida International (+29)
As expected, last week's South Florida-Kansas clash turned out to be a great game. Count Homerism among those concerned about the spoiler potential of KU and quarterback Todd Reesing when they play OU later this year. That makes the Bulls' hard-fought win over the Jayhawks all the more impressive. However, South Florida has had to scrape and claw for two straight wins over tough competition, beginning with a trip to Central Florida two weeks ago. A matchup with a team like Florida International must look like a chance to cruise to a 27-3 win and shut it down early.
Homerism Says: FIU.
LGS: Utah at Air Force (+8)
The Falcons have confounded Homerism all season. Troy Calhoun's team goes right, I go left. Air Force zigs, Homerism zags. I think I've got a handle on this one, though.
It's pretty rare these days that a team can roll up nearly 400 yards in total offense without completing a pass, but that's exactly what the Falcons managed to do in a win over Houston last week. Calhoun tailored the bizarre game plan perfectly to match the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Ike. Homerism loves that kind of resourcefulness, and the service academies have it in spades.
But what's love got to do with it? This respectful rivalry almost always produces a competitive game. Eight points is just too high for this game, especially in Colorado Springs.
Homerism Says: The Falcons fly high enough to cover, falling just short of the upset.
(Editor's Note: This week's picks were submitted prior to the West Virginia-Colorado game. Technical problems prevented the column from being posted until after kickoff.)