The Skinny has officially taken the lead and may be in line for his first chocotini in America's favorite handicapping family feud. Can he maintain his razor-thin lead?
WEEK NINE--The Skinny
(Last Week: 2-4; Overall: 25-28-1)
I'm gonna keep it short and sweet, as BH and I are off to College Station this weekend for the game.
As the season has progressed, this game feels more and more like the 2000 and 2002 contest at Texas A&M – not so much for OU but for ATM. The 12th Man wants this one bad, and unlike the past few trips visits to College Station for OU, the Aggies believe they can win this one. When Kyle Field is rocking it is arguably the toughest venue in college football. It should be another tough game for the Sooners!
OU needs this game as well. I am not sure I can stand another week of bitching about OU's road woes.
Skinny's Advice of the Week: Try Fresh Balls. I know it sounds gimmicky, but trust me – it will change your life.
Tennessee (-20) at Memphis
No one is happier to see Derek Dooley join the SEC than Houston Nutt and Les Miles.
I've heard a couple interviews with Dooley recently and he makes Nutt and Miles sound articulate. I guess Miles and Nutt have been pretty successful, but it is pretty rare for Larry the Cable Guy types to have success as a head coach these days. Bob Stoops, Urban Meyer, Nick Saban, Jim Tressel, Pete Carroll, Kirk Ferentz, etc., may not be great orators, but they can formulate a sentence without the words "dem," "'ol", and "ain't." To be fair, Lane Kiffin really screwed UT and left the cupboard very bare for Dooley, but Dooley just doesn't do much to inspire confidence in his abilities.
Skin says: This play is all about fading a very bad Memphis team. I don't think the future is bright for Dooley and the Vols but they should win big this weekend.
Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech (-14)
Speaking of coaching great coaches, I may have unfairly left Frank Beamer off my list of the great ones in the game today. Ferentz is maybe the only coach in America that does more with less. I'm not saying Va. Tech is North Dakota State, but it isn't Southern California or Austin, either.
It seems like it has been some time since we have seen Hokies in their familiar spot on Thursday night. I know weeknight dogs are all the rage in the handicapping world right now, but I don't like the Yellow Jackets in this spot. Sure, Georgia Tech has won three out of four, but their wins have come against Wake Forest, Virginia and Middle Tennessee State.
It's probably a mistake to read too much into it, but the Yellow Jackets lost to Kansas earlier this season. Between the Yellow Jackets' loss to KU and the Hokies losing to James Madison, it's hard to say who has the worse loss this season.
I have to say I have been pleasantly surprised with the play of Tyrod Taylor this season. Taylor combined with Darren Evans and a close to 100% Ryan Williams (at least so he claims) make up one of the best backfields in the country. Plus, with a bye week last Saturday, the Hokies get extra time to bone up on the flexbone offense.
The Skinny says: Tech... I mean, Virginia Tech.
Central Florida (-3) at Houston
The Golden Knights have been on my radar for the last few weeks. At 6-2, UCF is probably the best team in Conference USA.
The Golden Knights' only losses – at K-State and a home game versus NC State are respectable – especially when you consider UCF outgained both opponents and very easily could have won both games.
Houston maybe atop the C-USA West Division, but this isn't the Cougar team we saw a year ago. The Cougs have been hit hard by the injury bug this season, most notably star QB Case Keenum. True freshman David Piland has filled in admirably in Keenum's absence, but his starts have come against Rice, SMU and Memphis. UCF will be by far the best D Piland has seen thus far.
The Skin says: I love UCF in this game, maybe not as much as this guy, but a lot. UCF giving three to Houston is my lock of the week.
Illinois at Michigan (-3.5)
After Michigan lost to Sparty a few weeks ago, I predicted the Wolverines would be lucky to finish out the season at .500. Since then, Michigan has lost to both Iowa and at a very average Penn State.
This weekend's contest against Illinois was one I penciled in as a W for UM. But Illinois has looked pretty good the past week, dominating Indiana and Purdue at home. Sure, it was IU and Purdue, but we are talking about Illinois.
We have two teams trending in opposite directions. One team, Illinois, is coming of two easy victories at home and the other team, Michigan, is coming back home off a tough three game stretch. On paper I actually think this is pretty even. I think this game will come down to the ability of Illinois – one of the worst passing offenses in the county – to take advantage of Michigan's awful secondary. The Illini defense will be able to slow UM's high-powered offense.
Michigan is in a desperate situation. Sometimes that works for a team or coaching staff, and sometimes it works against them. In RichRod and Michigan's case, I think it will be the latter. If the Illini play well early, the Wolverines could implode.
Skinny says: Illini and the points.
Southern Mississippi at Tulane (+10)
I don't know what it is about C-USA and the MAC this season, but they have both been treating me pretty well, with the exception of Akron blowing it in the fourth quarter last week against Temple.
Southern Miss needs this game to keep pace with East Carolina and UCF in the East division, and I think the golden Eagles will beat a bad Tulane team, just not by 10 points. The Eagles are coming off a heartbreaking overtime loss to UAB and finish the season at UCF, at home against Houston and at Tulsa. In the parlance of handicappers, this is a hangover game sandwiched between a look-ahead game on the road. That's a recipe for a poor performance.
Skin says: Take Tulane getting 10.
Lee Greenwood Special: East Carolina (-3) at Navy
East Carolina is a better team than most think. The Pirates' 5-3 record is impressive considering the quality of the competition.
It seems the gambling public is down on Navy after last weekend's 34-31 lost at Duke, but it was a tough spot for the Middies the week after a rivalry game. The truth is the Middies are somewhere in between the team that trounced Notre Dame two weeks ago and the team that lost to Duke last weekend.
The Skin says: I generally shy away from teams that seem to be the overwhelming consensus pick like ECU is this week, but I think ECU is the better team. ECU's offense will be too much for Navy.
WEEK TEN--Blatant Homerism
(Last Week: 2-4; Overall: 25-29)
OK, I'm going to make it snappy because I have to pack. Last week's "undefeated" gimmick sucked, so it's back to just trying to identify picks that do not suck this.
Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech (-13)
It's tough to argue with how the Hokies are playing right now. After a rough start to the season, the Hokies are coming around. In fairness, too, a three-point loss to Boise State shouldn't be too much of a strike against Va Tech.
(James Madison is a story for another time.)
Frank Beamer and Bud Foster have had a week off to prepare to stop the Ramblin' Wreck's option game, so that also plays in the Hokies' favor. That and Georgia Tech just isn't all that good.
Homerism says: Hokies huge.
Baylor at Oklahoma State (-7)
Baylor has had a nice run so far, moving all the way up to the top of the Big 12 South. The brilliance of quarterback Robert Griffin has overshadowed a defense that has trouble stopping teams with any semblance of an offense.
That may work against Texas this season, but the Cowboys can score points in bunches. The Pokes have some defensive problems of their own, but I'm banking that coordinator Bill Young will put his unit in position to get enough stops to cover the touchdown.
Homerism says: OSU, 65-55.
LGS: Navy (+3) at East Carolina
The Midshipmen and star quarterback Ricky Dobbs just can't seem to keep any momentum going this season. Last week's loss to lowly Duke had to sting for such a proud program.
Surprisingly, noted defensive mastermind Ruffin McNeill has built an explosive offense at East Carolina that is putting up 36.6 points per game. His defense isn't quite up to the lofty standards he set as Texas Tech defensive coordinator, which means trouble against an oddball offense like what the Middies run.
Homerism says: Look for Navy to control the clock and get back on track.
Central Florida (-1.5) at Houston
This keeps dropping, and I realize I'm probably going against the wiseguys here. I can see why the sharps like the Cougars - they're hot, having won their last two contests. They also have revenge on their side after Central Florida squeaked out a win over UH last year.
Honestly, though, I really like UCF. The Golden Knights aren't the most eye-catching team in the country, but they play solid football and run the ball consistently. Against Houston's sub-par rushing defense, look for UCF to pound the Cougs into submission.
Homerism says: Central Florida may just be my new Friday night thing.
Western Michigan (+3.5) at Central Michigan
The Chippewas ruled the MAC roost for years under Butch Jones and star QB Dan LeFevour. Now, CMU is getting its comeuppance from a punch of pissed-off, milquetoast Midwesterners.
The Chips have nothing left to play for this season, but WMU is still vying for a bowl bid. The Broncos haven't beaten CMU since 2005, but that streak ends Friday night.
Homerism says: I suspect the Chippewas have quit. I'll take WMU.
Rice (+17) at Tulsa
The Golden Hurricane blew through South Bend last week and left town with a big win for the program. Let's be real, though: Notre Dame is very, very bad. A win over the Fightin' Irish is a nice story, but it's not much of an accomplishment.
Basking in the glow of a big win doesn't agree with a team that's already golden.
Homerism says: I'm downgrading this hurricane to a shower. TU in a squeaker.