So the last weekend of September got started with a bang last night. The Washington Huskies came up with a big Thursday night win, upsetting the #8 Stanford Cardinal. This result could portend for a better than expected slate for this week. A number of ranked teams are taking on unranked foes in what many view as games that should be little more than speed bumps. Hopefully this teams harboring BCS dreams paid attention to last night’s result. As for last week’s results, I took a slight dip to .500 with a 5-5 mark (now 17-13 on the season). As for this week, we have a full slate that should keep you entertained for the entire day, even if it lacks the marquee matchups like last week. Enjoy this week’s picks, and be sure to wager (semi-) responsibly.
12 PM – #25 Baylor (+11) over #9 WEST VIRGINIA
I am expecting a shoot out in this one to get the day started. WVU was a bit lackadaisical in an early game against Maryland last Saturday. The Mountaineers will be ready to play a full four quarters this week, and will resist the urge to look ahead to next week’s big game with Texas in Austin. West Virginia will need to play till the last whistle, however, because the Bears sure know how to put up points in a hurry. You can question Baylor’s opposition to date, but be sure to ask Arkansas and Auburn if Louisiana-Monroe is an easy out (and Baylor was the only one of the bunch to play the Warhawks on the road). Nick Florence has put up some big numbers so far as RGIII’s replacement, but WVU has too many weapons. The Mountaineers will pull it out in this video game affair.
Final Score: West Virginia Mountaineers 45, Baylor Bears 40
12 PM – TEXAS A&M (-13.5) over Arkansas
The wheels have completely come of the cart at Arkansas. Not even in their worst dreams would the Razorbacks have expected to see themselves at 1-3. The Aggies, meanwhile, have bounced back for two easy victories since their season-opening loss to Florida. A&M has some nice balance on offense and must be pleased with the early season play of redshirt frosh QB Johnny Manziel. The Hogs, meanwhile, have a non-existent running game (despite having stud senior RB Knile Davis) and a porous defense. Add in a rocking crowd at Kyle Field, and Arkansas will have their backs against the wall. This is a make-or-break kind of game for U of A, but the signs all point toward a dominant performance from A&M.
Final Score: Texas A&M Aggies 38, Arkansas Razorbacks 21
3:30 PM – #5 GEORGIA (-14) over TennesseeHow ‘bout them Dawgs! UGA dominated every facet of the game last Saturday against Vandy. The Vols, on the other hand, got much more than they bargained for with Terry Bowden’s Akron Zips giving them a game well into the fourth quarter. UT will air it out in this one, but the UGA defense will be at full strength for the first time all season. Here’s thinking that LB Alec Ogletree and All-American FS Bacarri Rambo will be chomping at the bit once they get on the field and make an immediate difference. Combine that excitement from the D with likely the best balance of any offense in the SEC, and the Bulldogs will roll to an easier than expected W in front of the home crowd in Athens.
Final Score: Georgia Bulldogs 34, Tennessee Volunteers 14
3:30 PM – #14 Ohio State (+3) over #20 MICHIGAN STATE
I have gone back and forth on this one all week. Through four games, the Buckeyes still have not played a complete game. If they do not do so this Saturday, they will likely leave East Lansing with their first loss of the season. The Spartans, meanwhile, seem incapable of generating any offense outside of stud RB Le’Veon Bell. OSU is going to crowd the line of scrimmage on defense and dare Michigan State QB Andrew Maxwell to beat the Bucks through the air. The Spartans sturdy D will do everything to contain the edges and not let Ohio State QB Braxton Miller beat them with his feet or the intermediate passing game. It will be a stereotypically Big Ten, low-scoring affair outside Michigan’s state capital, but the MSU fans will go home disappointed with the College GameDay Crew in town.
Final Score: Ohio State Buckeyes 20, Michigan State Spartans 17
3:30 PM – Cincinnati (+6.5) over Virginia Tech (in Landover, MD)It will be a de facto home game for the Hokies at FedEx Field, just outside our nation’s capital. VT bounced back from its shocking loss to Pitt with an easy victory over Bowling Green last Saturday. The Bearcats, meanwhile, had its second week off of the season and make the trip in at 2-0. The Hokies have not performed up to expectations this year. QB Logan Thomas entered the season as a potential early 1st round draft pick, but has not come close to that hype. Virginia Tech also lacks a dynamic running back, which has rarely been the case over the last ten years. The Bearcats, on the other hand, have had no problems churning yards on the ground so far. The early results suggest that Cincy might have also figured out how to play some defense, which hasn’t always been the case in recent years. We will know a lot more about both squads come 7 PM Saturday, but my hunch tells me the Bearcats return home with a big win and a lot of momentum going into October.
Final Score: Cincinnati Bearcats 31, Virginia Tech Hokies 26
6 PM – #4 Florida State (-17) over SOUTH FLORIDA
The Noles are riding high after the big win against Clemson last Saturday night. They make their first road trip of the season down to Tampa for what could be a trap game against USF, who lost at Ball State last week. Skip Holtz’s tenure in charge of the Bulls has yielded mixed results so far, and this game gives him a shot at the biggest win of his career. Unfortunately for the home team, this Florida State squad is playing great football. The Seminoles will run the bull down South Florida’s throat in this one, and their menacing defensive line will hit and hurry Bulls QB B.J. Daniels all day long. There will be no repeat of 2009, as Florida State takes this one easily.
Final Score: Florida State Seminoles 42, South Florida Bulls 16
7:00 PM – Texas Tech (-2.5) over IOWA STATEIt’s an unlikely matchup of unbeaten teams in this one. They both enter Big 12 play coming off an open week. Although the Red Raiders and Cyclones are both 3-0, they can credit some soft scheduling for that one (ISU’s win over Iowa being the only one that could be considered “notable”). Tommy Tuberville has tried to build Texas Tech around strong defense and a steady running game, yet they still haven’t forgotten how to air it out in Lubbock. That D will be the key to containing Cyclones QB Steele Jantz and an underrated running attack, as Texas Tech will escape Ames with its unblemished record still intact.
Final Score: Texas Tech Red Raiders 30, Iowa State Cyclones 23
7:50 PM – #12 Texas (-2.5) over OKLAHOMA STATE
The line has swung 8 points since it opened with Ok State as a 5.5 point favorite. The movement has been driven in large part by the uncertain status of Cowboys QB Wes Lunt. Both squads have had two weeks to prepare for this one, and I suspect they spent a lot of time making defensive adjustments. The potential is there for this one to turn into a track meet, just like the Pokes’ week two game with Arizona. That being said, I think the Longhorns defense will be much improved compared to its last outing against Ole Miss. Oklahoma State will still have some success airing it out, but UT will control play on both lines and will wear out the Cowboys defense with its punishing ground game. It should be a good game, but Texas will dominate the time of possession battle to keep it from becoming a wild one.
Final Score: Texas Longhorns 35, Oklahoma State Cowboys 28
8 PM – #22 NEBRASKA (-11.5) over Wisconsin
Where has the Badgers offense gone? That seems to be the question in Madison. The vaunted ground game, lead by Montee Ball, has been anemic, while their passing game has been nearly non-existent. Wisconsin’s defense is solely to credit for their shaky 3-1 start against not so stellar competition. The Cornhuskers, meanwhile, have rebounded with a couple easy wins since dropping an early game against UCLA. A healthy Rex Burkhead should lead the charge for Nebraska in this one. Early success on the group should open up some passing lanes for Huskers QB Taylor Martinez. The Badgers offense will once again be out manned in this one, and the home crowd in Lincoln will help carry Nebraska to a crucial win in this Big Ten opener for both teams.
Final Score: Nebraska Cornhuskers 31, Wisconsin Badgers 17
10 PM – #18 Oregon State (+3) over ARIZONAAn intriguing matchup for the Pac-12 night cap. The Wildcats self-destructed with turnovers last week against Oregon. You have to wonder what sort of effect that performance with have this week (and beyond) for Arizona. Oregon State, however, got a big road win over UCLA in its conference opener. The Beavers recipe for success this year has revolved around a strong passing game and a suffocating run defense. This is another game that I have gone back and forth on. I like that Arizona can hurt you running or throwing the ball, but the turnovers last week are troublesome and their defense is a work in progress. The Beavers play strong, opportunistic defense, but their ground game can charitably be described as weak. In the end, I have a fewer concerns about the Beavers, so I will take them in this one.
Final Score: Oregon State Beavers 34, Arizona Wildcats 31
Pic via Athlon Sports