It's Red River Shootout week, so you'll have to excuse Homerism and The Skinny if they had trouble focusing on other games to handicap. Not sucking could be harder than usual this time around.
WEEK SEVEN--The Skinny
(Last Week: 4-2; Overall: 17-19)
Two points have totally changed this college football season for Skin and his beloved Sooners. OU lost to both BYU and Miami by a point. Suppose for a second OU had won both games by a point. This season and this weekend's annual Red River Rivalry look vastly different. OU and Texas would be ranked in the top 5, and the media and fans would be praising the Sooners for an undefeated start that included a road victory over a top-15 team. Add in the fact that the Sooners would have done this without Bradford, Gresham and Broyles, and Bob Stoops would be up for coach of year honors.
But OU lost both games, and fans and media alike are in a frenzy over the state of the program. I have even heard some fans calling for Stoops' head! I am not really one for ifs and would haves. No excuses. OU lost both games. But it shows you how thin the line truly is in college football.
This year's RRR isn't what we thought it would be in the preseason. Neither team is as good as we expected them to be. I hate to admit it, but OU and Texas aren't in the same class as Florida and Alabama this season. But, still, this year's game still holds huge implications for both teams and for the national title hunt. Both teams are damn good, and this is still the best rivalry in football. There is nothing like the old Cotton Bowl split 50-50. It is unmatched.
(Sorry, Florida and Georgia, but a contrived rivalry held in a pro stadium doesn't cut it.)
Rumor has it Ryan Broyles is going to try to give it a go. If Broyles can play, OU's offense is a totally different unit. However, for all the talk of McCoy and Bradford, this game will be won in the trenches.
Advice of the Week: A special thanks goes out this week to a young customer service rep at my "local" cable company named "Jennifer." Our cable provider finally decided to bring ESPN GamePlan to my small-market city of residence, Chicago. It only took an hour on the phone with Jen and her tech team in Calcutta to hook me up. I can only imagine how long my porn upgrade will take: "OK, Mr. Skin, please check channel 918. Desperate MILFs in Training 8 should now be showing."
Iowa at Wisconsin (-3)
Thanks to my new cable package I will never bored again... By Big 10 football at noon, of course. It's no secret I am no fan of the Big 10. I think the teams suck, and the style of play sucks even worse. So, while I don't recommend watching this game, I think there is a good play here.
Based on last week's performance by these teams, it seems hard to believe that Iowa is getting three points. Kirk Ferentz has received a lot of good publicity this year for the coaching job he has done at Iowa. I think Ferentz is a good coach, but have you seen his record in 11 seasons in Iowa City? It's not pretty. He's slightly above .500. Nevertheless, the Hawkeyes are 6-0, having won some decent games this season.
Wisconsin is 5-1, but was embarrassed in its first true road test against Ohio State last weekend. Vegas has installed the Badgers as a three-point favorite this weekend with good reason. Wisconsin is a far better team at home, and it seems the Hawkeyes are already looking ahead to their Nov. 14 contest in Columbus. Don't read too much into Iowa's 11-game winning streak dating back to last season and recent dominance of the Badgers, winning five out of seven. To me, that means the Badgers are due and Iowa's luck is bound to run out.
The Skin says: Take Wisconsin giving points at home.
Missouri at Oklahoma State (-7.5)
I know the Dez Bryant story has been played to death, so I will be brief. First, Deion Sanders is pathetic if he is "running" for an agent. The guy made millions of dollars in his football career and he needs a 50 grand bump from an agent? Two, Oklahoma State could be in serious trouble. The administrators supposedly knew about this issue with Bryant before the season started, and they still decided to play him. The NCAA hates when schools fail to take proactive measures in cases like this. That Georgia win T. Boone paid so much for may now go down as a loss, and the Cowboys may be in for a severe penalty from the Association.
As for the Cowboy football team, I guess I am impressed by their win last weekend in College Station, given all the distractions facing the team. But it was A&M. The Cowboys still have an explosive offense, but it isn't the same without Bryant and Kendall Hunter.
Missouri is out to prove they are more than just Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin. Give coach Gary Pinkel credit, because he has recruited well during his tenure at Mizzou and has a pretty decent team this season, despite the personnel losses. I think Mizzou will score points against a suspect Cowboys defense.
Skinny says: I like Mizzou with the points.
Kansas at Colorado (+9.5)
Kansas is 5-0 this season, but the Jayhawks have struggled the past two weeks against Southern Miss and Iowa State. In typical Mark Mangino fashion, the Jayhawks have a high-powered offense behind senior QB Todd Reesing, one of the most underrated players in college football. The Jayhawks' defense is abysmal, though. Iowa St. will struggle to put up 36 points the rest of the season, which is what the Cyclones scored last week versus KU.
Colorado (1-4) has an abysmal record, but the Buffs seem to be playing better as of late. CU played Texas dangerously close last weekend in Austin, only to lose after giving up two non-offensive touchdowns. Boulder is a tough place for opposing teams, just ask West Virginia and Oklahoma. These teams seem to be heading in opposite directions, and Kansas is facing its first true road test.
The Skin says: Take Colorado with the points.
Texas Tech at Nebraska (-10.5)
Skin is man enough to know when he has made a mistake.
Last year I called out Nebraska for the hire of Bo Pelini. Personally, I like Pelini. He and I shared a nice conversation in the bathroom at the New Orleans Harrah's casino at 5 a.m. after the 2004 Sugar Bowl. However, I wasn't impressed with Pelini as a defensive coordinator at OU–I still have nightmares about USC receivers running wide open down the sidelines of Land Shark Stadium–and I didn't think he would do well at Nebraska. Plus, Nebraska isn't exactly fertile recruiting territory. But so far so good for Pelini.
Texas Tech is Texas Tech. It's a 7-5 or 8-4 team that will lead the country in offense while struggling on defense. One thing about Mike Leach-coached teams: they are very difficult to blow out because of their style of play and their ability to put points on the board.
Skin says: Nebraska is the better team playing at home, but I think Tech keeps this game close.
The Coin Flip Game: Nevada at Utah State (+8.5)
I have to admit I was a bit concerned when the coin picked Utah St. this week. The Aggies were the laughing stock of college football a couple years ago. But they are getting points at home and have been better this season. At least they have been competitive this season against good competition.
After starting slow, the Wolfpack have looked impressive the past three games, including a narrow loss to Mizzou and two dominating performances against UNLV and La. Tech.
The Skinny says: I can't say that I like the pick, but who I am to knock the coin.
The Lee Greenwood Special: Wyoming at Air Force (-11.5)
I am going to stick with Air Force this week after the Falcons got me a W last weekend against TCU. Air Force has an underrated defense and the altitude at home provides nice advantage. This is a tough, well-disciplined team with an offensive style that can cause problems for opposing defenses. I have to admit 11.5 points is more than than I would like, but I am confident the Falcons can cover the spread. Anyway, Wyoming just isn't a very good team.
Skin says: Falcons.
WEEK SEVEN--Blatant Homerism
(Last Week: 3-3; Overall: 17-19)
Supposedly those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Maybe so. The only problem with that? History is boring.
I mean, have you ever listened to some old geezer like Beano Cook reminisce about the thrilling 1963 USC-Notre Dame game or the first college football radio broadcast in 1934 featuring mighty Yale and Columbia? Unless these kinds of stories involve a raunchy punchline or some kind of horrible humiliation suffered by the person telling it, I'll pass.
I preface this week's picks with my view of history because I'm sure I'm ignoring plenty of lessons I should have learned in the past about handicapping. Yet, the truth is that mistakes are unavoidable. That's why pencils have erasers. So don't beat yourself–or me–up when you keep picking losers. It's better than sitting around watching some History Channel documentary about life in Colonial Williamsburg.
BYU at San Diego State (-17)
San Diego becomes Cougar Town this weekend with BYU visiting. Last week, this lucky bunch of Mormons hit up Vegas to tussle with the Runnin' Rebels. Now, they're off to San Diego, where they may get to watch from their hotel rooms as sun goddesses kick back on the beach.
Meanwhile, the Aztecs are accustomed to all the tan lovelies scurrying about. On top of that, their lives are much less stressful. They've figured out that if you want to have sex with multiple partners, it's much less taxing to have no wives than to have many of them.
Only adding to the stress of being a Cougar is the fact that you've got to play TCU the week after this in a game likely to determine the conference title.
Homerism says: I'll take laid back over too tight. SDSU loses by 14.
Mississippi State at Middle Tennessee State (+4.5)
What a disappointing stretch for the Bulldogs, losing three straight home games. A Sun Belt chump means they get better this week, right?
Wrong. MSU is playing for the seventh week in a row without a break, so don't be surprised if Dan Mullen's team looks pretty ragged. Plus, Mullen's former employer, the No. 1 Florida Gators, roll into Starkville next week. That makes this a typical look-ahead game for the Bulldogs.
MTSU thrives in these spots: an overconfident opponent coming into Murfreesboro for an early kickoff. The Blue Raiders will have had 11 days to stew over the thumping they received at Troy, and they'll be fired up to get the season back on track.
Homerism says: Middle Tennessee tacks another major-conference hide to its mantle.
Iowa at Wisconsin (-3)
Iowa's luck has to run out soon. The Hawkeyes scraped by 21-point 'dog Arkansas State, then held off furious rally by Michigan last Saturday, a team that got too much love following a decent start.
Wisconsin, on the other hand, was on the losing end last weekend of one of the more bizarre blowouts you'll ever see. Ohio State scored 28 of its 38 points off of kick returns and defensive touchdowns. It was the first loss of the season for the Badgers, who now return home with revenge on their minds. Iowa bombed the Badgers 38-13 last year in Iowa City.
Camp Randall is a tough place for any opponent, but when Wisky is motivated, watch out.
Homerism says: The jumping around won't be limited to the stands on Saturday, as Wisconsin stomps Iowa.
Georgia (-7.5) at Vanderbilt
I realize this play goes against everything I stand for. I hate road favorites. The Bulldogs are traveling for the second week in a row. It's an early kickoff. The Commodores played UGa tight last year in a loss. After an embarrassing loss to Army, Vandy will be looking for a little bounce.
So why bet Georgia here? Well, these 'Dawgs are wounded–drop this game, and UGa falls to 3-4. Honestly, can you envision Mark Richt's team under .500 seven games into the season? And if Vandy needs a bounce this week, UGa needs a catapult following last Saturday's beatdown in Knoxville. Plus, there's a little light at the end of tunnel. After a rough start, Georgia gets an off week after this leading into its annual showdown with Florida.
One last thing: Vandy's offense blows. In the Commodores' three conference losses to Ole Miss, LSU and Mississippi State, they've averaged a whopping 6.3 points per game. Georgia's defense is nothing special, but it should be good enough to keep Vandy in single digits.
Homerism says: Georgia, 26-9.
LGS: Navy at SMU (+7)
The saga of Chris Woods and his stolen credit cards took another turn this week, as a military judge sentenced him to two years in the can for his little Bose headphones shopping spree. Who knows where the heads of the Midshipmen are at right now?
Homerism says: The distracted seamen let the Mustangs hang around long enough to get the cover.
Pittsburgh (-5.5) at Rutgers
Hey, if you're in the Piscataway area on Friday night, why not go check out some Big East football?
Well, I can think of a pretty good reason why not: it's going to be duller than a Bon Jovi reunion concert. (They did break up, right? I can't imagine Richie Sambora would continue to associate himself with an outfit whose front man recorded a song as lame as that "Who Says You Can't Go Home" junk.)
Again, I realize I'm going against some of my core tenets of handicapping in this case, but I buy absolutely nothing about the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers' biggest win this season appears to be a 21-point win at Maryland. Beating up a blind kid doesn't really do much for me.
Meanwhile, Pitt is quietly putting together a nice resumé, with its only loss coming in overtime at North Carolina State. I'm betting the Panthers muddle through.
Homerism says: Go with the road chalk, even though you should hate yourself–and me–for it.