Homerism won the coveted chocolate martini for the second year in a row in the popular sibling rivalry of Picks Trying Not to Suck. Despite the heartburn it caused him last year, The Skinny lobbied for the same ground rules this season, including the Lee Greenwood Special for our men and women in uniform. The stakes remain the same, a Christmas day choco-tini, with the added twist of The Skinny's pride being on the line as well.
WEEK ONE--The Skinny
Alright, as Bob Stoops would say, no excuses this season.
The Skin is back and better than ever after a long offseason. Sure, you can pay some fat, loser out there in cyberspace for "professional" picks and you might get a couple good plays. Win some cash on a parlay with Kent State over Toledo and the under.
But, if you want a fan's picks, the common man's perspective, then you might want to check out The Skinny's picks every week this season. I'll leave it up to you if you want to lay down on Saturday nights and sleep soundly or lie awake realizing the depths to which you fallen with Fat Vinnie.
USC (-21) at Hawaii
This is my late night special for the week. (Skin recommends pairing this game with an extra cheese pizza from Dominos – the new garlic crust is the real deal. Warning: this might not play well with your officemates on Friday morning.)
We all know about the tumultuous offseason for the Trojans: The NCAA dropped the hammer on the boys of Troy and the replacement of Pete "I Knew Nothing" Carroll with Lane "Secondary Violation" Kiffin. It's tough to know how teams are going to react in these situations, but I think the Trojans will be excited to finally see the field again and will come out ready to send a message to the rest of the country. I also think Kiffin will come to the Islands ready to pull out all the stops needed to trounce the Hawaii.
Despite SC's struggles last season, the Trojans still have top-five talent on both sides of the ball. I think this is a great arbitrage play taking advantage of the betting public's uncertainty regarding SC.
The Skinny says: USC heads back to mainland with 40 point victory.
UConn (+3) at Michigan
I have to admit I thought RichRod was going to be a great hire for Michigan. Yet, his tenure on and off the field at Michigan has been down right awful. I am not sure how fair it is to blame RichRod for all of Michigan's struggles on the field, but there is no reason Michigan shouldn't be bowl-eligible every season in the mediocre (as of late) Big 10.
Last year, RichRod was obviously flustered, and his anxiety seemed to permeate throughout the entire program. On the other side of this game, UConn appears to be a program on the rise after a great finish to the 2009 season. Randy Edsall has done a great job building this program in a locale that isn't overly friendly to college football programs.
I don't think the Huskies are a great team. They aren't going to leave you in awe of their talent, but they have the necessary ingredients to win in college football – good coaching, experience, solid QB play and a stout defense. Michigan, one the other hand, has a lot of question marks. I think Devin Gardner will settle into the starting QB role, and, as a team, Michigan will be improved with two years in RichRod's system and overall upgrade in talent and experience. I still think the Maize and Blue will have a very average defense this year.
Skin says: I like the team with the better defense and coaching getting points in week one. Don't worry about picking the road dog. The slightly bigger Big House has been pretty friendly to opponents lately.
Boise St. (-2) vs. Va. Tech
I really don't have a strong feeling on this contest, but as a man of the people I feel I must deliver.
Admittedly, Skinny is a little gun shy when it comes to the Hokies. It seems every time I expect the Hokies to breakout from their annual 9-3, Gator Bowl-caliber team, they manage to disappoint.
I also have to admit that I wouldn't mind seeing Boise lose this game. I'm not a Boise or non-BCS league hater, but I do hate the endless "Boise" debate we will have to endure if the Broncos win this game.
I'm not sure how Boise would fair in a BCS conference, but for one game, the Broncos can hang with anyone. Boise returns almost every starter from last year, including star QB Kellen Moore. Boise is known for its high-powered offense, but the Broncos defense is stacked as well. In my opinion, Boise had the best defense I have ever seen from a "mid-major" program in 2009, and they should be just as good in 2010.
I love the Hokies' backfield of Tyrod Taylor, Darren Evans and Ryan Williams. The Hokie defense lost seven starters from the 2009 squad, but Frank Beamer and Co. will always have a solid defense.
I think this game boils down to which team can impose their style of play.
The Skin says: I have been burned by doubting Boise and trusting Va. Tech too many times. I want Boise laying the points.
Marshall (+28) at Ohio State
Anyone who has followed my picks – which I am sure you all have, religiously – knows I love big road dogs in Columbus. Under Tressel, the Buckeyes rarely roll up a ton of points on any opponent. It's just not their style.
I think Terrelle Pryor will continue to improve, and Ohio St. has one of the better defenses in college football. I still question the talent around Pryor on offense, though. OSU has some nice skill players, but no real elite difference makers. The o-line seems to be in the same boat, good not great.
The Thundering Herd comes into the season with a proven front seven on defense and a very mediocre offense. I think Marshall's defense will be just enough to keep this game close.
Skinny says: I think Marshall backdoors its way to a cover.
Lee Greenwood Special: Navy (-6.5) vs. Maryland
No finer way to display one's patriotism than the Lee Greenwood Special.
Navy has quietly put together a nice football program, led by BH's favorite Heisman candidate, Ricky Dobbs. Nobody runs the triple option like Dobbs and his crew. Last year, the Midshipmen racked up 280 rushing yards per contest on their way to an eight-win season that included a second victory in three years over the mighty Irish of Notre Dame.
Maryland is coming off one of the worst seasons in school history, losing its last seven games. Running Back Da'Rel Scott is one of the lone bright spots for the Terps. Look for Scott to have a big day against a Navy defense that lost a ton from the front seven in the offseason.
I hate taking a team in week one breaking in a rookie QB, but it wont exactly be trial by fire for Maryland's Jamarr Robinson against a traditionally weak Navy secondary. I think Navy wins this game due to the strength of their ball control offense but 6.5 points is far too many.
Skinny says: Take Maryland getting the points.
(I don't know if Ricky Dobbs will be deserving of the Heisman Trophy this season, but I hate that the award is now confined to players on teams that win 10-plus games.)
Washington State (+15.5) at Oklahoma State
This may not be the more intriguing games on the week one slate, outside of the combined 50,000 residents of Pullman and Stillwater.
In the opener, it's always smart to go with what you know. Unfortunately for the Pokes, what I know about the 2010 Cowboys looks pretty bleak. With the exception of Kendall Hunter, the Cowboys lost every key player from the top 25 Cowboys teams of 2008 and 2009. In fact, on Saturday OSU's defense will start only 3 players with more than 1 career start. But, the Cowboys have recruited well as of late, and Bill Young is one of the top defensive coordinators in the country.
Things don't look much better on the offensive side of the ball, either. Zac Robinson, Dez Bryant and Keith Tolston are gone, and the Cowboys will be replacing them with a very green bunch.
Gundy has built a nice offensive system in Stillwater predicated on a balanced attack. Then, he hired former Houston offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen, a Mike Leach disciple, to run the OSU offense. It's hard to argue with Holgorsen's results, but I am not sure why Gundy would want to abandon the balanced attack that has been very effective for the Cowboys?
The Wazzu program might be the worst in major college football. In fairness the Cougs were decimated by injuries last season, not that it really would have made a difference. With a little luck, Wazzu should be improved if the Cougs can stay reasonably healthy in 2010.
The lone bright spot for Paul Wulff is the return of sophomore QB Jeff Tuel. Tuel put up solid numbers despite his terrible line and inexperience. Unfortunately, he has absolutely nothing surrounding him in 2010. The Cougs' defense should be slightly improved this year with an experienced front seven... Man, it's tough to find a ray of hope for these guys!
The Skinny says: It seems every rookie handicapper in the world is taking the Cowboys and that always make me nervous. I think OSU starts slow and Wazzu is able to keep this game close. I like Wazzu with a backdoor cover!
WEEK ONE--Blatant Homerism
I'm happy the season is finally here. I'll spare you – let's just get to the picks.
Memphis at Mississippi State (-21.5)
When was the last time State favored by more than three touchdowns? 2001.
That should say something about this matchup.
The Bulldogs are far from imposing, but Memphis is climbing out of a deep, dark hole. Tommy West or whoever used to coach there left a steaming pile of dump in his office for the new head man, Larry Porter.
Dan Mullen impressed me in his first year in Starkville, and he's clearly brought a little of that Urban Meyer-like focus and attitude from Florida to one of the SEC's doormats. Ripping through a wounded weakling in game one is a Meyer-like move.
Homerism says: Bulldogs very big.
LGS: Army (-9.5) at Eastern Michigan
Keeping things on the retrospective tip, the last time Army was a road favorite? At Arkansas State to open the 2006 season.
Combine that with the fact that the Black Knights are giving almost 10 points in this spot, and I suspect the bookies are feeling pretty good here.
They should be. Army beat the Eagles by 13 in last season's opener, and there's little reason to think that outcome will change. Eastern Michigan finished 106th in the country in total defense and 116th in total offense. By almost any statistical measure, this team was – nay, is – flat-out awful.
Homerism says: Take Army laying the points.
Oregon State (+13.5) versus TCU
Allow me to address a few of the factors that likely led to this line.
1. The game is in the Horned Frogs' backyard.
True, but ask the Oklahoma Sooners how that worked out for them last year against another team from out west, BYU. Also, the organizers have managed to sell a measly 367 tickets for this one, or something like that – Jerry Jones' palace will be a maosoleum Saturday night. Amon Carter it ain't.
2. Oregon State is mediocre in September.
Good point... I don't care.
3. The Beavers got worked by BYU in their bowl game last season.
Those lingering perceptions die hard, but it's a new year.
As I wrote earlier this week, I think TCU plays for all the marbles this year. That said, Gary Patterson's simply doesn't have 14 points on OSU.
Mike Riley has cemented his reputation as a resourceful genius, but this year he's coaching a team that will be able to get by on a lot more than guts and guile. The Beavers should be solid on both sides of the line of scrimmage. That will enable them to grind on TCU's D with their running game and keep the Horned Frogs from simply going buck wild when they have the ball.
New starter Ryan Katz for OSU at quarterback does give me some concern. Don't expect Riley to put too much on his shoulders, though.
Homerism says: TCU wins, but not by two TDs.
USC (-21) at Hawaii
This pick is easy. The Trojans' defense playing both ways would kick the dog out of the Rainbows. In a move befitting Commodus, boy king Lane Kiffin will make sure his squad lays waste to Southern Cal's Hawaiian hosts.
Homerism says: Southern Cal in a rout.
Boise State versus Virginia Tech (+2)
Such a great way to close the first week of the season.
Chris Petersen and his well-coached Broncos garnered their deserved reputation as giant killers living by the sword. In the past, this team has embodied the mantra that an outgunned squad has to take some chances if it wants to knock off college football's titans.
Everyone remembers the quirky gimmicks, of course. What no one ever talks about, though, are the go-for-broke defensive plays made by the Broncos in their big wins.
Looking back at BSU's four biggest victories since its 2006 season – a landmark win against Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, beating Oregon in 2008 and 2009 and taking down TCU in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl – the Broncos snared a total of 10 interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. Overall, Boise benefited from a +5 turnover ratio in those four contests.
That doesn't just happen by chance. It comes from great play recognition on the part of the defense, sitting on routes and using creative schemes to put pressure on the quarterback.
Can Petersen count on that kind of opportunism to beat the Hokies? Doubtful.
This is Beamerball, after all. Tech will look to pound Boise into submission on the ground all night long, with a conservative game plan using the pass to keep the Broncos honest. It won't be pretty, but it will be effective.
Homerism says: Petersen has proven that you bet against him and the Broncos at your own risk. Well, it's week one, and I'm feeling saucy - Hokies by three.
Cincinnati at Fresno State (-2)
Obviously, I liked this one much better two points ago, when it opened in the summer at pick 'em. Sadly, it looks like a decent amount of the value is dead. Still, I love the Bulldogs in this spot.
Team Anytime, Anywhere made the trip to Cincy last season and came away with one of those moral victories, a hard-fought, eight-point loss to a team that had an undefeated regular season. That has to have Pat Hill and his squad feeling confident in themselves this time around.
More importantly, however, Fresno seems to have a strong edge in the trenches. The FSU o-line has a combined 123 starts under their belts and paved the way for one of the most prodigious run games in the country in '09. Even with workhorse running back Ryan Mathews taking his talents south to the beaches of San Diego, I expect Fresno's ground game to keep rolling on this year.
On the other side of the line of scrimmage, Cincy is moving from a 3-4 base defense to a 4-3 under new coach Butch Jones. That sounds like trouble against a veteran line like the one Fresno has.
Get ready for Student Body Right, Student Body Left all night long in the San Joaquin Valley.
Homerism says: Bulldogs put the Bearcats' high-octane offense in a sleeper hold.