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Blogging about college football by an Oklahoma Sooners fan.

Picks Trying Not to Suck: Week Nine

Bob Stoops, Oklahoma

It just goes from bad to worse for both Homerism and The Skinny. You're not actually paying attention to these, right?

(Continue...)

WEEK NINE--The Skinny
(Last Week: 2-4; Overall: 23-24-1)

Shut up!

All the members of the media and my fellow Sooner fans who are bashing Bob Stoops this week need to shut up. I'm probably a Stoops apologist, but I find it a bit short-sighted to questions Stoops' desire to win and his decisions in the fourth quarter against Mizzou.

You want Stoops to be the "riverboat gambler" of old, and then you question him for "gambling" on the two-point conversion against Mizzou? Yes, the book says go for two, but Stoops felt confident in his team's ability to convert and felt that was the time to do it. Unconventional? Yes. Bad Call? No.

I can understand some of the criticism regarding Stoops' decision to punt rather than go for it on fourth and long late in the game, but again I side with Stoops.

First, OU was getting killed on that series by a Mizzou defense that was teeing off on the Sooners. Second, I have zero doubt in my mind "One in the Pinkel" would have done everything in his power to get seven more points. You can't blame him. His team was undefeated and wanting "style" points as well.

Third, do you really think the OU players are that fragile? Do you really believe they left that situation feeling Stoops doesn't want to win or doesn't have confidence in them? This isn't third-grade pee wee football.

My fourth and most important point is this wasn't a zero-sum game. If it was just about winning and losing this one game, then Stoops' decision is simple. I have no doubt he would have gone for it.

If you apply game theory, this was one game within a series of games with the optimal outcome of making the BCS championship game. Unfortunately, in order to achieve the optimal outcome, you have to impress a bunch of subjective voters (and computers). Ninety-nine percent of voters see at best 1 percent of the games, and the most data they get from any game is the final score. A nine-point loss looks a lot better than a 16-points loss in that regard.

Given the convoluted system of reaching the optimal outcome of this series of games, Stoops made the right choice when you consider the probability of OU actually winning that specific game. I don't think it is so far-fetched that both OU and Mizzou could win out, which would give OU the "best" loss of all the once-beaten teams.

Further, OU would have a chance to avenge that loss in the last weekend of the season. If that were to happen, OU would have a very good chance at making the BCS title game. This is why Stoops made the right call. He wants a shot at the BCS title.

Lastly, did you ever consider that maybe Stoops was sending a message of confidence to his players. Confidence that they are good enough to win out. Confidence that they are good enough to compete for the title. A message not to give up on the season. No doubt a subtler message, but perhaps a more powerful message. I think Stoops has earned the right for fans to have confidence in him.

If you actually read that long-winded rant, I think you deserve better than my shitty picks. But I'll give them to you anyway.

Advice of the Week: Even with the temperatures dropping outside, frozen lemondae always makes for a refreshing treat.

Auburn at Ole Miss (+7)

In case you've spent the fall watching HGTV, Auburn is 7-0 and Cam Newton is the best QB in the history of the game. I knew it was coming. The second Cam Newton fell into the end zone last week after his Vince-Young-meets-Adrian-Peterson-meets-Chris-Johnson TD run, I knew Gary Danielson was going to declare this Newton's Heisman "moment."

It's time to buy low and sell high this week, and Auburn's stock is way overpriced. Newton and some favorable scheduling have carried War Eagle to an undefeated record. Unfortunately for Newton, Auburn's defense is Kryptonite to his Superman. At some point this team is going to get beat down by the SEC grind.

The Skin says: Houston Nutt will find a way to knock off Newton and the Auburn Tigers.

Lee Greenwood Special: Duke at Navy (-13.5)

(Despite what my record indicates, my book has a W for last week's LGS, with Navy over Notre Dame. I sent a previously saved version of last week's picks to BH, which, unfortunately, had the Irish instead of Navy. But, I guess all bets are final on BH.)

It seems everyone is loving them some Middies this week after their 35-17 dominating of ND last weekend. Surely, Navy can handle Duke in easy fashion this week? Eighty percent of the amateur handicappers on wagerline.com seem to think so.

That's why they are amateurs and I am picking games on the Internet.

It is time to sell Navy a tad high and buy Duke low. This is a letdown game for Navy after a rivalry game against the Irish last weekend. Duke's defense is awful, but David Cutcliffe is a great offensive coach. He will find a way to score against an average Midshipmen defense.

Skin says: I like Duke. I love the over.

West Virginia (-6.5) at UConn

My theme for the week gets a little weak here, but I am going to buy WVU low after losing to a much improved Syracuse team last week.

Despite Noel Devine and the other talent on offense for WVU, the Moutaineers have been far from prolific under Bill Stewart. However, UConn's anemic offense is just what West Virginia's stout defense needs to get back into the win the column.

Sure, UCONN is undefeated at home this season, but those wins have come against Texas Southern, Buffalo and Vanderbilt. I think Randy Edsall is one of the most underrated coaches in the country, but the Huskies are terrible this year.

The Skin says: I like West Virginia by 2 TDs.

Missouri at Nebraska (-7.5)

Damn, this is a tough week. All the teams I like this week – Mizzou, Iowa Stare and Iowa – are in tough spots this week, coming off emotional games last week.

The hangover effect definitely looms large for the Mizzou Tigers. Not only is Missouri coming off one of the biggest weekends in the history of the program, but when the Tigers take the field in Lincoln this weekend, it will only be their second true road game of the season.

There aren't many reasons to like Mizzou in this game, but I am going to back up my big talk on the Tigers and pick them to win straight up. The Tigers defense is good. It's not a dominant defense, but it is good enough to give "T-Magic" and the Cornhuskers trouble.

(Unless you're Cam Newton, don't you need more than seven games to earn that kind of nickname? Kids with egos this big generally don't make it. T-Magic will go the way of T-Force at Michigan by his junior year. NU has already signed his replacement Jamal Turner in this recruiting class.)

After watching Nebraska score at will against a terrible Oklahoma State defense, it's easy to forget how Texas exposed Nebraska's offense two weeks ago. It won't be easy against the 'Husker defense, but Mizzou's offensive scheme is very difficult to defend.

Skinny says: I'm going to ride Mizzou's stock for at least another week.

Vanderbilt at Arkansas (-20)

I absolutely love Arkansas in this game. I like them so much I wondering if this is a trap game.

I can't remember too many offenses that have torched the SEC the way Arkansas has this season. I don't see any reason for that to change this weekend against the worst team in the conference.

Skin says: I'm buying Arkansas as one of the better teams in the SEC and definitely 20 points better than Vandy on Saturday.

Akron (+29.5) at Temple

I am kicking myself for not taking Temple last weekend against Buffalo. That was the best play on the board and I missed it! Then again, it could just be a classic case of hindsight bias.

I think the finance analogy works well for this game. Even my two-year-old niece knows that we are in the midst of what the media has cleverly labeled the "Great Recession." You probably also know that the root of this entire mess can be traced back to the irrational exuberance taking place in the largest asset class in the world, real estate. We've all heard the crazy stories of some minimum-wage worker borrowing $3 million to buy a house that is now worth $300,000. (Nothing against people making minimum wage. They just probably shouldn't be getting million-dollar loans, unless they just won the lottery.)

The moral of the story is that everyone, including the lenders, got so caught up in making money that they forgot the fundamentals.

I think in this case the gambling public has lost sight of the fundamentals. Temple is the minimum-wage guy getting the million-dollar loan. Sure, Akron is terrible and Temple's program has improved under Al Golden, but Temple giving 30 points? That just shouldn't happen, ever!

The Skinny says: I'm selling the Owls high and taking Akron and 29.5 points.

WEEK NINE--Blatant Homerism
(Last Week: 1-5; Overall: 23-25)

Man, last week's card was ugly. I would say all of you deserve better, but you really don't. These picks are free, so you will have to take what you get.

Anyway, going with "what I know" last week proved I don't really know anything. I need a new gimmick. Otherwise, why keep reading?

(Assuming you're reading in the first place. And I wouldn't really know that, would I?)

This week's theme: perfection. Count 'em – six undefeated teams go out on the road this week, as college football's cream of the crop continue to separate themselves out. One even qualifies for the LGS, so we're set.

I get the feeling only three or four squads make it home unscathed. The trick is figuring out who's going down, who survives and by how much.

Oregon at USC (+7)

One of the more surprising games I remember watching last season was Tennessee's near upset of Alabama. The Crimson Tide was clicking, but the Vols went into Tuscaloosa and damn near beat the eventual national champion.

What does that have to do with this? Plenty.

The first obvious parallel is that the Ducks are No. 1 in the human polls. The second obvious connection is Lane Kiffin, Monte Kiffin, Ed Orgeron and the rest of the USC coaching staff. Lastly, that staff had a week off to prepare for the Tide last year, just like they do this season for Oregon.

A big difference between USC in 2010 and Tennessee in 2009: talent. USC may be staying home in sunny Southern California this bowl season – not much of a change from most years – but the Trojans still have plenty of five-star studs. (Chip Kelly reminded us of that this week in a move that screamed "don't kill me if we lose!")

More importantly, 'SC has the kind of offensive firepower that can give the Ducks problems. Quietly, Lane Enfant Terible's team is averaging a healthy 7.3 yards per play, matching UO and the vaunted Blur O. The bigger issue, of course, has been a defense surrendering 6.0 yards per play.

On the other hand, Oregon's D has gained a modicum of respect this year, the popular meme being that we don't talk about the Ducks because no one respects what West Coast teams do on that side of the ball. I love conspiracy theories as much as the next guy, but the truth is that Oregon has been average at best against any offense with a pulse. If you don't believe me, take a look at the box scores from Stanford and Arizona State.

This games comes down to who gets the ball last. That smells like a USC cover to me.

Homerism says: Hell, no guts, no glory. USC outright.

Auburn at Ole Miss (+7)

This line just stinks.

Auburn is No. 1 in the BCS and mowing down cats left and right behind Heisman frontrunner Cam Newton. The Rebels haven't done much to inspire confidence that they can slow down a high-powered offense like that of the Tigers, let alone beat supposedly the best team in college football.

What gives?

Vegas seems to be putting plenty of faith in reputed giant killer Houston Nutt. Auburn had a tough game with LSU last week, so there's a definite letdown factor at play here.

The books are begging for money on Auburn. Looks like a trap to me.

Homerism says: Not much to go on, but the Rebs just feel right to me.

Utah at Air Force (+7)

Another game that is just screaming for money on the favorite.

Utah is rolling. The Utes are 6-0-1 against the spread this year, and no opponent has been within 24 points of Kyle Whittingham's team since Utah scraped by in the opener against Pittsburgh.

Meanwhile, since they nearly knocked off Oklahoma five games ago, the cadets have yet to cover. Air Force looked horrible last week against TCU, too.

Again, what gives?

This has bounce-back game written all over it for the Falcons. A beating like the one the Horned Frogs put Air Force last week doesn't sit well with a proud program and a proud coach like Troy Calhoun.

Air Force typically plays Utah tough, too, covering four of the last five in the series. The Utes better not be looking ahead to TCU next week.

Homerism says: Utah wins, but not by enough.

TCU at UNLV (+34.5)

Texas Christian is bound for Sin City, but this trip ain't for pleasure. The Horned Frogs are marching towards an undefeated season and possible place in the national championship game.

Thing is, TCU really only has one major test left between here and 12-0, and that's next week in Salt Lake City. Gary Patterson knows that, and I imagine he'll treat a game with the lowly Runnin' Rebels as such.

Look for TCU to take care of business early and coast on home.

Homerism says: TCU, 41-10.

Missouri at Nebraska (-7.5)

It's pretty rare when a team as highly ranked as Mizzou is getting more than a touchdown against anyone, let alone to a team that just had 41 points dropped on it. In another case of the oddsmakers trying to entice some money on a squad, Vegas has put the Cornhuskers over the magic seven-point barrier.

Missouri has a strong team, but after taking down Oklahoma a week ago, this makes the second big game in a row for the Tigers. How focused were they while reading their press clippings this week?

Mizzou capitalized on big Sooner mistakes in its upset win last week. I think it's asking too much to expect to get those kinds of breaks two weeks in a row, especially in Lincoln. If anything, the bounces will probably go the other way.

Homerism says: 'Huskers by 10.

Michigan State (+6.5) at Iowa

Sparty is riding a high-wire act at the moment and probably should have lost to Northwestern last week. Now, MSU is on the road for the second week in a row after spending the first half of the season within the friendly confines of the Michigan state borders.

This will be interesting, but I think the dream dies Saturday.

Homerism: Iowa by 1.