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Blogging about college football by an Oklahoma Sooners fan.

Picks Trying Not to Suck: Week 12

WEEK 12--The Skinny
(Last Week: 3-3; Overall: 38-27)

Skin is going to take on Bob Stoop’s famous mantra: “No Excuses.” You won't hear Skinny blame his pathetic record last week on “lack of focus,” “tired typing fingers,” “seduction by the love of a beautiful women," or “I don’t study lines 24-7, like Homerism.” No, the poor performance was on Skin, but this is a country founded on second chances, and I trust you will give me mine.

Advice of the Week: While most of the world was transfixed on the presidential election last week, the Skinformants were out working tirelessly to bring you the inside scoop. At least one Texas Tech coach is concerned about how his team will perform in big games that aren’t played at night on the Texas plains. The Red Raiders have played inspired football the past two weeks against top 10 teams in Lubbock. They also upset a top five Oklahoma team in a night game last season. The OU-Tech game will be played at night. Fortunately for Sooner fans, it is in Norman this time.

After a 66-28 blowout of Texas A&M, the Sooner coaches rallied at Norman Westside Bar and Grill for a few cocktails. Apparently, Coach Stoops' attention was fixated on the Florida-Vandy game. When the subject of the Sooners' much-maligned kick coverage team came up, none of the Sooner coaches seemed concerned. Apparently, the staff has decided not to emphasize it in practice. The classic reverse psychology move, or perhaps the coaches know they win games by outscoring opponents?

Ohio State (-9.5) at Illinois

The Buckeyes will have revenge on their mind after Illinois upset OSU in the Horseshoe last year. The Buckeyes don’t need any extra motivation to win this game big. They're no longer the team that played USC early in the season. The emergence of the fabulous freshman Terrelle Pryor gives the Buckeyes a dynacism on offense they have never had under Tressel. Ohio State is a scary matchup at this point in the season. Illinois has shown that last year’s team was part fluke, part Rashard Mendenhall. The Fighting Illini are a very average team. 
The Skinny Says: The Buckeyes roll in this game!
Cincy (-3.5) at Louisville
Skin loves this game. After watching the Bearcat “fight” in Norman early in the season, Skin knew Cincy was a legitimate top 25 team. In fact the Bearcats would have a chance to win the Big 12 North. Brian Kelly is an excellent coach who will probably be wearing some shade of orange next year. Cincy's defense put up the best defensive performance against OU I have seen so far this season. That includes Texas. The Bearcat D is athletic, especially in the secondary, and Kelly has them playing extremely physical. I don't mean to overlook Cincy’s offense, which has the ability to put points on the scoreboard. 
What has happened to Louisville? Skin has to admit he thought former Tulsa head coach Steve Kragthorpe would do an excellent job maintaining that program, but this just seems to be one of those situations that looks good on paper and doesn’t work on the field. Skin doesn’t expect much from Louisville coming off demoralizing losses to Syracuse (yes, Syracuse) and Pittsburgh. 
The Skin Says: Cincy wins by two touchdowns at Papa John’s Stadium.

Tulsa (-4) at Houston

If Tulsa had not lost at Arkansas and Houston not dominated Tulane last weekend, Skin says TU would be favored by double digits. I love plays like this. One game, win or lose, doesn’t mean that a team is hot, like LC, or cold, like Heidi. (Have you seen her music video?). Sorry, don’t mean to evoke ill among my pop-loving, fantasy-obsessed friends. 
Anyway, my point is that these are still the same teams we have seen all season. I like LC. Sticking with this awful theme, I guess I am also a huge fan of Spencer, Cougars coach Kevin Sumlin. I hope he can turn the Coogs around.  
The Skinny Says: TU.
Lee Greenwood Special: BYU (-4.5) at Air Force
Air Force flew out the gates to an 8-2 record, primarily against weak competition. We will found out how good the Falcons really are in the next two weeks in games against BYU and TCU. Air Force is your typical service academy: 350 yards rushing, 75 yards passing and a lackluster defense. Let’s face it, though: Air Force isn’t the easiest place to recruit, and you have to put your few playmakers on offense. 
According to ESPN.COM, BYU has won four straight in Colorado Springs by no less than 21. Skin says the steak ends this week! The game will be a shootout. 
The Skinny Says: I think the Falcon defense, allowing just 17 points per game, will be able to shut down the Cougars enough to keep it within 4 points. Air Force is a more of a home field advantage than most people think.
Notre Dame (-4) at Navy 
*Baltimore 
I never thought I would ever go for two LGSs in one week, but I like this game a lot. This is another game in which recent events are factored into the spread too much. The sucker out there is thinking ND hasn’t played well lately and the rumor of Weis’ departure from South Bend has created turmoil with in the program. Both are probably true, but the Irish will win this game handily.
Navy has no answer for ND’s athletes on offense. Who on Navy can cover Golden Tate or Michael Floyd? The ND coaching staff game plans well, and the Irish defense will be ready for the Navy’s triple-option attack.
Skin Says: The Irish.
Wyoming at UNLV (-7)
I am a little concerned that all the money seems to be going to UNLV. This has all the makings of a sucker bet. But Skin is going to take UNLV. 
Skin Says: UNLV is simply a better team and they are playing at home.
(Editor's Note: The Skinny submitted his picks prior to the kickoff of this game, but technical problems prevented the column from being published until afterward.)

WEEK 12--Blatant Homerism

(Last Week: 4-2; Overall: 42-23)

"Man's gotta have a code."

-Omar Little, The Wire

Yes, a man needs a code. After all, laws are what separate us from beasts. Without rules, our world slips into chaos.

(And, yes, I realize I'm contradicting a lot of my column from last week.)

Handicapping is no different. First of all, you have to accept that the odds of being consistently successful aren't in your favor. However, if you're sharp and selective, you can capitalize on the rare opportunities floating around out there.

Of the two, "selective" is just as important as "sharp." If you're not careful about which games you play, it's a recipe for a disaster. After all, you can talk yourself into taking just about any side if you really want to. The best way to stay disciplined? Figure out what works for you, set some rules and stick to them.

Easier said than done.

Take last week's picks. Homerism loathes big favorites. That goes double when we get this late into the season. Yet, there I was taking Missouri giving--count 'em--four touchdowns to Kansas State. The logic seemed pretty sound: senior night for Chase Daniel in Columbia, Mizzou coming off a lethargic performance, KSU playing for a lame duck coach.

Things were looking great late, as second-string QB and hometown hero Chase Patton directed the Tigers to their last touchdown with 6:33 left to go in the game, putting Mizzou up 41-10. Then, Mizzou got the ball back on an interception with 5:15 remaining deep in Wildcat territory. Put it on ice and count your money, right?

Not even close. Mizzou gave K-State the ball back with 1:32 left after a turnover on downs on the KSU 7-yard line. KSU wide receiver Brandon Banks promptly took a handoff on a reverse 93 yards for a score, giving the Wildcats a gut-wrenching backdoor cover. KSU then recovered an onside kick and added another TD in the final 1:11 for good measure. That's 14 points for the underdog in the final minute-and-a-half.

The lesson: Huge spreads are crapshoots. Once a team goes up big and garbage time kicks in, all bets are off. Only play the 15+ favorites if you like having your heart broken.
Oklahoma State at Colorado (+17.5)

Homerism is putting the Pokes on upset alert. Psychologically, it’s hard not to see the Cowboys being pretty rundown at this point. Heading into the Texas Tech game, OSU had played at such a high level all season. Give coach Mike Gundy—labeled a “clown” earlier this year by pot-calling-the-kettle-black SI.com football writer Stewart Mandel—credit for having his team focused all year. So far. Having suffered a tantalizingly close loss at Texas and an all-out smackdown in Lubbock last weekend, however, OSU has to be pretty disappointed with how things turned out. The Pokes have whipped all the teams they were supposed to, but it’s nearly impossible not to have a letdown all year.

CU, meanwhile, is on the cusp of bowl eligibility and has played pretty well at home this year. Buff fans should be pretty stoked for a night game against a well-respected, but beatable, opponent.
Homerism Says: Boulder blues for OSU? Not quite—Cowboys, 34-27. (There's value in playing the CU money line here.)

LGS: BYU at Air Force (+4.5)
Homerism was tempted to break one of the central tenets of his code this week and take Notre Dame to blast Navy. I detest betting on ND games--way too many weird factors at play with the lines usually. And why do that when I have a chance to look at a service academy game featuring a small home underdog?

The manly men from Provo are a deceiving 9-1. Against their stiffest competition this season, TCU, the Cougars looked like they didn't even belong on the same field as the Horned Frogs. BYU's best win is either a 59-0 home whitewashing of a bad UCLA team or a solid 18-point home victory over New Mexico. Take your pick, and either way you'll be equally underwhelmed. Additionally, the Cougars haven't been the same since the TCU torching: a late rally pushed BYU past UNLV in Provo; the Cougars eked out a three-point against Colorado State in Fort Collins; and beat up on San Diego State, the Mountain West Conference bicycle. (Also, it's a little late in the season for a look-ahead game, but BYU takes on in-state rival Utah next week.)

Air Force comes into this game playing its best ball of the season and riding a five-game winning streak. The Falcons only two losses this year have been in tight affairs with Utah and Navy, albeit both came in the Springs. BYU has won four straight against Air Force by an average of more than 20 points. Behind-the-times former coach Fisher DeBerry may have let that stand, but no chance current Falcon head man Troy Calhoun will.

Homerism Says: Air Force, 27-24.


Mississippi State (+22) at Alabama

Mississippi State's head coach, Sylvester Croom, is pretty "sly" when it comes to game planning for the Crimson Tide. In the past, Croom lobbied hard for a shot to coach his alma mater, only to be shot down in favor of guys like Mike Price and David Shula. As miserable as life may be in Starkville, he's probably better off not being included in that kind of company.

Croom's teams have tended to play 'Bama tough, as a result. This year should be no different. Croom and his staff have had an extra week to prepare for the Tide, so expect MSU to have a solid plan for the defense. The real issue for the Bulldogs is whether or not they can score on the Tide's tough D. Homerism thinks they can. Just enough to get the cover, in fact.

Homerism Says: The Saban-ites, 22-3.

Cal at Oregon State (-3)
Everyone knows that the Beavers are Pac-10 champs if they win out, knocking USC from its long-held perch atop the conference. So far, it doesn't appear that Vegas has caught up to OSU, though. Mike Riley's team has covered six straight times. The Beavs have been especially frisky in Corvallis, where they have yet to lose this year. Cal is solid. However, the Golden Bears have the Big Game next week. Plus, stealing an insight from ESPN's Colin Cowherd, teams tend to struggle the week after playing USC. The thinking goes that the Trojans typically beat their opponents up so badly that it takes an extra week for them to recover. I buy it.

Homerism Says: Beavers by 10.

Texas at Kansas (+13)
I wish I had some really good reasons to like KU in this game. The reality, however, is that there are none. The Jayhawks' 2008 season looks a lot like what a good year would have looked like for KU pre-2007. Now, 6-4 with two tough games left is a disappointment, even if every game KU has played out pretty much like it was supposed to. The Manginius now has a chance to prove in the next two games if he's affected any lasting change in Lawrence. Getting blown out by Texas and Missouri would be a strong indicator last season was a fluke.

Homerism is standing up to the naysayers and casting his lot with The Rotund One. At least for a week. The kickoff forecast for this game is a temperature of 40 degrees with strong winds and a slight chance of precipitation. The forecasted conditions in this game are reminiscent of a 2006 contest in Lincoln in which the Longhorns struggled to move the ball against an outmatched group of Conrhuskers. In the end, Texas benefited from a miraculous turnover and kicked a last second field goal to ice a two-point victory. Expect a similar finish in this one.

Homerism Says: Texas, 34-30.

New Mexico at Colorado State (+2)
This is a matchup Milton Friedman would love. It's all about incentives. New Mexico's season is over after this, literally. It's the last game on their schedule, and the Lobos have no shot at a bowl. The Rams, on the other hand, can gain bowl eligibility by winning here and next week against pathetic Wyoming. That should be enough for you, but if you need further convincing, CSU has played inspired ball in Fort Collins and is perfect against the spread there.

Homerism Says: Don't overthink it. Just take Colorado State.