Articles

Blogging about college football by an Oklahoma Sooners fan.

Picks Trying Not to Suck: Week Eight

WEEK EIGHT--The Skinny
(Last Week: 3-3; Overall: 20-22)

Bizarre.

I can’t think of a good word to describe this year's Red River Shootout other than that. Just flat-out weird. It seemed every play and every call presented huge opportunities for both teams:

Fumble. Interception. Interception. Interception. Why do Texas fans dress like they are going to a rodeo? Phantom call. Make-up call. Injury. Fumble. Muffed punt. What the fuck are you doing? Interception. Hot cheerleaders in chaps. Interception. Someone shoot Matthew McConaughey with a tranquilizer. Another injury. Bevo takes a dump in the OU end zone… OU loses 16-13.

I have seen a lot of amazing things inside the Cotton Bowl, but I can’t remember a game that had so many bizarre ups and downs.

So you will have to excuse me if my picks suck this week. (I should say suck worse than usual.) I am suffering a terrible hangover from the Red River Rivalry.  Not literally, as Skin laid off the special sauce at the State Fair this year. I did have the fried cookie dough, which was delicious. I still feel like I just went 12 rounds in a prize fight.  An ugly fight, but a prize fight nonetheless.

When you are an elite program like Oklahoma, there are no moral victories. But I left this game oddly encouraged that a severely handicapped OU team challenged Texas to within an inch of its life. For the first time in a long time, I thought OU showed a lot of heart against tremendous adversity.

I am more optimistic than ever about OU football in the years to come. Stoops will take a lot of unfair criticism about Bradford and the team's 3-3 record, but he and his staff thoroughly outcoached Mack Brown. Stoops proved once again why he is one of the best coaches in country.  The media is playing up a shift in power in the Big 12 South. I totally disagree. Mack and Texas may have won four out of the last 5 RRRs.  However, OU is still clearly the class of the Big 12, having won six out of 10 Big 12 Championships to Texas’ one.  Enjoy it now, Mack, because it won’t last long.

Oh, and for the record, Las Vegas Sports Consultants still has OU ranked fifth in their power rankings.

Advice of the Week: While Skin managed to lay off the sauce, my good friend and Homersim contributor MoMo was in full effect.  Unconfirmed reports indicate Mo had a slight brush with Walker Texas Ranger after sticking a plastic sword up a UT co-ed's skirt. (The Texas State Fair may be located in a rough neighborhood, but seriously?) Lancelot claims the police were simply jealous of his $6,500 wardrobe.  So watch out: Apparently, fashion profiling is a real problem with the Dallas PD!

Texas at Mizzou (-13.5)

I know by now you are sick of hearing about Texas, but bare with me, because I think there is a good play here.

A former U.S. senator from Texas and personal friend of Mack Brown told me Brown thinks this is the best team he has had in a long time. Huh?  It's obvious Colt McCoy feels the same way: “When this team comes to play, and we haven’t yet this season, watch out!”

Personally, I don’t see it. I haven’t been impressed with the Longhorns at all this season.

Anyway don’t factor a RRR hangover into your play on this game. For whatever reason, historically, it just hasn’t happened to either team in this series. In fact, both teams seem to play really well the week after their matchup in the Cotton Bowl. Neither team has lost their next game in the past decade.

I wouldn’t think back to the Longhorns’ struggles against Colorado either.  In my opinion, CU is the best team in the North right now. As for Mizzou, this isn’t a good team, and Vegas knows it.  A home night game for Mizzou against a Texas team ripe for a letdown game, and yet the Tigers are a two-touchdown dog?

The Skin says: Texas will score too many points on a very average Mizzou defense.

Central Florida (-10) at Rice

Rice is down right awful this season.  The Owls haven’t won a game this year. They haven’t even come close. Rice’s closest game this season was a 17-point loss to Tulsa.  I usually don’t put a lot of stock in how teams have done against the spread, but the Owls are 1-5-1 this season.

I realize tt hasn’t been a banner year for Central Florida, either, but at least the Golden Knights are 3-3 on the season. The stat that is most glaring in this contest: UCF ranks 52nd in the nation in total defense; Rice is 116.

Skinny says: I like UCF giving 10 points to the Owls.

Texas A&M at Texas Tech (-21.5)

You have to give Mike Leach credit for the coaching job he has done at Tech this season. Tech lost a ton of talent off last year’s team, including Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree. Despite the personnel losses, Tech is 5-2, with their only losses coming at Houston and at Texas. The Red Raiders have been particularly impressive in last two games, defeating Kansas State 66-14 and Nebraska 31-10.

Texas A&M began the season in impressive fashion, beating New Mexico, UAB and Utah State.  Not exactly murderers row, but these days the Aggies will take any win they can get.  You have to admire the dedication of Aggie fans. A&M is outshined by UT on a national level, but there is no more loyal fan base in the country.

Is it me, or does Mike Sherman seem like a terrible fit at A&M? A school like A&M needs an R.C. Slocum (that name just sounds like Texas A&M football coach), a Pat Jones, or a Spike Dykes.  It’s kind of like watching Michael from The Wire on the new 90210. He just doesn’t say Beverly Hills like Dylan McKay!

As for this game, Tech is virtually unbeatable in home night games, and the Red Raiders will be up for this rivalry game.

Skin says: This game could get uglier than Donna Martin circa 1992!

Boston College at Notre Dame (-8)

I have been waffling on this game for the past few days.

Historically, I have lost a lot of cash on Notre Dame football.  More than any other team, it seems like you never know what you are going to get with the Fightin' Irish.

BC, on the other hand, seems to be the model of consistency.  Regardless of the head coach, BC always plays smart, disciplined football, and the Eagles rarely beat themselves. Once again, the Eagles are a good defensive team, and they will without a doubt have the better defense on Saturday. On the other side of the ball, BC’s offense has been putrid this season, ranking 100th in the nation in yards per game.

However, the Eagles’ defense needs to be on top of its game this week against a very good ND offense.  I hate to admit it, but Jimmy Clausen has turned into a really good quarterback and a leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy.

BC has been a thorn in the side of the Irish having dominated ND in recent years.  This rivalry is bigger for BC than it is for Notre Dame, and I think it gives them an edge in this game.  The Irish are also coming off a heartbreaking loss to USC last week, and I think they could be in for a letdown.

The Skin says: In the end I think the Irish win another close game by less than a touchdown.

The Coin’s Pick: S. Florida (+7) at Pittsburgh

The coin loves South Florida this week, and I must admit I like the pick as well.

I love Jim Leavitt as an underdog, and the Bulls are 6-1 this season, with their only loss being to Cincinnati.  Leavitt’s teams play hard-nosed football, especially on defense, and that is generally a good recipe for success for a road dog. South Florida has the 18th best defense in the country, allowing fewer than 300 yards per game against some decent competition.

It doesn’t hurt that Leavitt is taking on Wanny this week either. It’s like Dr. House taking on a simple chicken pox diagnosis, a total mismatch.  I know Pittsburgh is 6-1 this season, but its schedule is one of the weaker ones I have seen this season. I mean, the Panthers lost to NC State.

The Skinny says: Leavitt outcoaches Wanny, and Pittsburgh struggles to score against a stout South Florida defense. I like the Bulls to win outright!

Lee Greenwood Special: Air Force at Utah (-9.5)

Are the service academies particularly good this year ,or is everyone else bad? I think it is more the latter.  I can’t remember a season in which the service academies were favored in more games than they have been this year.

Anyway, I just don’t know this week. It seems like Vegas has these lines about right: Air Force (+9.5) at Utah and Rutgers at Army (+10.5).  I know Wake is bad this year and Navy has played pretty well, but I have a hard time picking Navy as three-point favorite.

Skin says: OK, I think I will take Utah giving the points against Air Force.

WEEK EIGHT--Blatant Homerism
(Last Week: 4-2; Overall: 21-21)

The Sooners have limped to a 3-3 start, leaving Homerism in the unfamiliar position of rooting for a team whose championship aspirations are all but finished before the year has really started. If some of you who are accustomed to such mediocrity could let me know what I'm supposed to do once you reach this point in the season, it would be greatly appreciated.

One option would be to put even more thought and analysis into my weekly picks. However, seeing as I'm sitting at a disappointing mark of 21-21, I wonder if that would actually help. Is it possible that the effort I put into handicapping has an inverse effect on my performance?

Actually, yes, it is entirely possible. In fact, I'd say it's likely.

LGS: Rutgers at Army (+10.5)

It's a Friday "Knight" Special, Scarlet versus Black.

Rutgers has played more like Ms. Scarlet so far this year. Schiano the Lionhearted and his team have played all of one game away from Piscataway, a 21-point drubbing from Maryland.

So why is this team a double-digit favorite in a road night game? Because the opponent is Army.

This number is way too much perception and not nearly enough reality. The boys at West Point can spot weakness quicker than Mike Teel can sucker punch a teammate. Plus, when Army connects, you can actually feel it.

Homerism says: West Point's streets run red with the Scarlet Knights' blood. (And by that I mean Army covers the 10.5.)

Auburn at LSU (-7.5)

Ah, this is the Gene Chizik who Iowa State fans remember. Chizik's Auburn team started off white-hot, running out to a quick 5-0 start. Gus Malzahn's offensive innovations--shotgun snaps before third down, forward passes, etc.--may have caught the SEC by surprise, but down south, they don't pay defensive coordinators like NFL head coaches on account of their winning personalities. In the past two weeks, Auburn has struggled to move the ball with the same consistency witnessed earlier in the season. Ergo, two straight losses.

Auburn is catching LSU at a bad time. The Bayou Bengals have had two weeks to stew over the Florida game, their first loss in a night game at Death Valley in 32 years, or some such nonsense. I'm not exactly enamored with LSU's O. Still, I like the home team here.

Homerism says: Tigers of LSU by 10.

Alabama-Birmingham at Marshall (-7)

The Thundering Herd gave West Virginia all the Mountaineers could handle for a half last weekend before eventually succumbing to its hated in-state rival. That means Marshall is due for a letdown in this spot, right? Think again.

Marshall heads back to Huntington down, but definitely not out. Last year, the Blazers pulled out the two-point win, which means the Herd will want some revenge. That probably negates the letdown possibility.

Meanwhile, UAB will wake up early Saturday morning having left the friendly confines of Birmingham for a chilly, wet contest in West By God Virginia that kicks off at noon. If it was me, I'd rather go back to bed and pray it's just a bad dream.

Homerism says: Marshall, Marshall, Marshall.

Florida Atlantic at Louisiana-Lafayette (-3)

The Owls sport one of the worst defenses in college football, allowing seven yards per play (tied for last in the nation) and 36.8 points per game (116th). And it's not like FAU has faced a murderers row so far: Nebraska, South Carolina, Louisiana-Monroe, Wyoming, North Texas.

Granted, the Ragin' Cajuns aren't exactly trotting out the Steel Curtain, so Howard Schnellenberger's spread offense certainly is a concern. Yet, coming off of last season's loss to FAU, Lafayette will be hungry for some revenge served Cajun style.

Homerism says: Lafayette by more than a field goal.

Florida at Mississippi State (+23)

Homerism loves these teacher-pupil coaching matchups. As witnessed in Washington's stunning upset of USC earlier this year, former coordinators typically benefit from a familiarity with their mentors' tendencies and playbooks. Also, in these kinds of colossal mismatches, the patriarch tends to go easy on his coaching lineage if things start to look like they're getting out of hand.

Of course, Urban Meyer has cultivated a reputation as a ruthless tactician, and his teams have been known to push for extra garbage points late in games when the Gators are just under the line. (Funny how that happens, seeing as coaches don't pay attention to that kind of thing. It's lucky for Florida boosters, I'd bet. Hey, wait a minute...)

Will Dan Mullen be the recipient of such kindness when the game starts to get away from the Bulldogs in the second half Saturday night? Who knows. However, with the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party looming large, look for the Gators to shut it down earlier than usual and coast to the finish line.

Homerism says: Florida, 31-10.

South Florida at Pittsburgh (-7)

Don't look now, but the Panthers are playing some solid, if not painfully boring, football. In true Dave Wannestedt fashion, Pitt has focused on stopping the run, allowing 2.8 yards per rush. On offense, the Panthers are avoiding turnovers and utilizing an effective ground game, averaging five yards per carry.

I watched South Florida last Thursday when the Bulls hosted Cincinnati, and I have to say that I came away pretty unimpressed. The biggest issue facing coach Jim Leavitt: getting young quarterback BJ "Willie Beamon" Daniels under control. Every pass play turns into sandlot football with Daniels at helm, and he's just not good enough yet to improvise like that. When he tries to throw in rhythm, the results are equally frustrating.

Expect the Bulls to really struggle with elements on Saturday. The forecast for Pittsburgh calls for somewhat cold temperatures around 55 degrees and rain. Kickoff is set for noon, so it should be pretty chilly when the teams take the field. Advantage goes to the team not from Florida.

Homerism says: Pitt by double digits.