Last week was an interesting week. With a few upsets and so many near upsets, you would think our record was horrible. Not so! We went 7-3 straight up and 7-3 against the spread. We somehow avoided all those land mines. However, there was the absolute worst upset of the week pick in the history of upset picks. It was basically Dumb and Dumber, "So you're saying there's a chance," pick. Picking Vanderbilt to beat Alabama just because of a "rousing" win against K-State was not a shining moment. Alabama only beat Vandy 59-0.
Week 5 has some solid games. The season's landscape is starting to take shape a little bit. The Big XII is going to be entertaining as heck and it seems like the respect level is back up for the league. You would think they wouldn't be left out of the Playoff with one of Oklahoma, TCU, or Oklahoma State making the Playoff. But it's the Big XII and something will happen where they don't make it.
The PAC 12 was going to be the year of the quarterback and it turned out it is, just not with the two you thought it would be. Josh Rosen can only do so much to carry the team on his back with the terrible UCLA defense. Sam Darnold throws interceptions at an alarming rate. Jake Browning has been solid if unspectacular. Luke Falk has been good. Justin Herbert has led a resurgent Oregon offense. Browning, Falk, and Herbert are all ranked in the top 13 of QB efficiency. Josh Rosen is 20th and you have to go all the way down to 42 to find Darnold. He's still getting Heisman hype?
The SEC looks like it is Alabama and everyone else, kind of like we thought to start the season. The question was who was going to emerge from the muddle to claim the #2 spot in the SEC. It looks like Georgia is starting to emerge as that team.
The ACC is all Clemson's to lose at this point. Florida State has had a strange season due to the hurricane and they are just 0-2 heading into week 5. Miami came out sluggish against Toledo as they were dealing with their own layoff due to the hurricane, but they were able to find their rhythm and get a win. Virginia Tech is creeping towards the top 10 and has a huge match up against Clemson this week. Duke and Wake Forest are still undefeated. Duke and Miami will be vying for Coastal Division supremacy this weekend. Kind of strange so far, but they still seem like the deepest, most well-rounded conference.
The Big 10 has some contenders with flaws. Ohio State has already lost. Michigan's defense is carrying the team while the offense flounders. Penn State finally had its first real test of the season against Iowa and almost blew it. The west division has Wisconsin, but the rest of the division is looking decidedly mediocre. Nebraska lost to Northern Illinois and barely beat Rutgers. The Big 10 feels like the conference with the smallest margin of error to make the Playoff this year due to the weak lower half of the conference.
From the Group of 5 teams, San Diego State and South Florida are emerging as the top New Year's 6 Bowl contenders. South Florida has been victim to slow starts in their games, but finally looked good against Temple. They can't lose a single game due to their weak schedule strength. San Diego State has already beaten PAC 12 teams Arizona State and a ranked Stanford team. However, Boise doesn't look like their normal self after suffering one of their worst defeats at home to Virginia. Usually people like to equate the strength of the Mountain West with how Boise is doing, so we will see what the opinion of SDSU is at the end of the year if they win the conference.
On to the rest of the season and week 5 picks!
Teams on bye: Virginia, Michigan, Purdue, Kansas, Oklahoma, TCU, West Virginia, Arizona, Utah, Missouri, Tulane, Old Dominion, UAB, UTSA, Western Kentucky, Toledo, Boise State, Applachian State, Arkansas State, Georgia Southern, Georgia State (Canceled due to reshuffling of AAC games), Idaho, LA Lafayette
Apparently, the mantra that opposites attract will prove to be true when these two programs meet up on Friday night. Duke enters this game playing strong defense and struggling on the other side of the ball. Miami seems to have no issues moving the chains but can’t seem to get their defense to perform as expected.
It will be interesting to see how the Blue Devils number five rated defense will do against an offensive unit teeming with confidence heading into this game. Mark Walton should be enough of a threat for Duke to keep plenty of players up in run support. That means that quarterback Mike Rosier will need to keep his side of the street clean once again in Durham.
I really don’t think that the Blue Devils will find too many holes to run through against Miami. With that being said, they do have an opportunity to spread their wings a little against the Hurricane’s secondary. If so, they can find balance and keep themselves in this contest.
I have a feeling that this game comes down to the wire, and that a Duke team that has already exceeded expectations for the season keeps riding their stout defense to another big win. Upset of the week here.
PICK: Duke 24, Miami 20
#10 Wisconsin (-14.5)
This series has been very competitive over the past two decades. The Badgers own an 8-7 lead over the last 15 years but it was Northwestern that was victories in Madison the last time they played here in 2015.
Then again, this is a new season and these two teams don’t mirror each other like they did then. Case in point, the Badgers are starting to find plenty of ways putting points up on the board in 2017. Believe it or not, their run-first approach has landed them as the 12th best offense in the land. As a result, they are averaging 43.3 points per game.
The Wildcats aren’t quite the dominating defense of teams from the past. In fact, they rank in the bottom half of all of the college football stats in total yards (410 ypg). They also are 90th against the run which will prove to be a huge problem against the powerful Wisconsin O-line.
Nevertheless, somehow and someway the Wildcats seem to find a way to stick around against Wisconsin. Now, Las Vegas has set this line with Northwestern as +14.5 road dogs. Also, they have the game’s over/under at an unusually high 50.5 points.
Considering all the information that I have provided in this prediction, I believe the best bet here is the Wisconsin. I believe that the Badgers will expose the weak underbelly of the Northwestern front seven and rush for plenty of yards. In doing so, Wisconsin will open up their play-action pass game and find a few more scores through the air. Take the Badgers to score in all four quarters and drive home safely.
PICK: Badgers 34, Northwestern 17
#4 Penn State (-18.5)
This could be the sneaky good game of the week…Indiana had OSU’s number for over 2 qtrs and have had some solid wins since that point. I think they’ll make a run for it against PSU to get the cornerstone win on the season. Penn St was rolling over everyone until they met up with Iowa last week and needed a walk-off win to keep pace in the Big Ten. PSU needs to win this game handedly so they can go into the guantlet of their schedule rested (for the most part)…..Next 4 wks:@ N’western, vs Michigan, @ OSU, and @ Mich St. That is a nasty slate of games for the Nittany Lions, I don’t see them coming out of those games without at least 1 loss.
Indiana will do their best to control the clock with a balanced attack. Expect more of a passing attack against Penn St, they’re fantastic against the run and almost as good against the pass. The thing is, is that PSU hasn’t been tested through the air enough up to this point, it could very well mean the death of their season. I would look for the Hoosiers to go pass heavy throughout this one and try to tear up the secondary before freeing up the run later in the game. This will be our Litmus test for the PSU defense and the Indiana offense. Whoever wins this battle will win the game.
Penn St seems to have the knack for the dramatic, no matter which decent Big 10 team it plays. They’ve put most of these games on RB Saquon Barkley’s shoulders….he’s answered with putting up Heisman numbers. He’ll most likely keep it up since he has the O-Line and the ridiculous talent to run all over anyone. It feels like Penn St will wear out the Hoosiers with their run game after getting a 1st half scare.
Lets look for PSU to pull away late in the 3rd quarter setting up some fantastic matchups against the top teams in the Big 10.
PICK: Penn St 37, Indiana 21
Texas A&M (-8.5)
Two weeks ago college football pundit Clay Travis had the Gamecocks as the second best team in the SEC, oh how times have changed. Member how it felt after the Gamecocks beat Missouri 31-13? The Gamecocks were looking like they had one of the better defenses in the SEC East and their offense looked like it was going to be unstoppable. Fast forward to the Kentucky game and the one point win against LA Tech and well South Carolina looks like South Carolina.
The Gamecocks have always struggled against their SEC West opponents and the Aggie crowd Saturday night I believe will be to much for the Gamecocks to handle at the injured state they are in. As much as it hurts for me to say being a Gamecocks owner in multiple leagues this year, I think the Gamecocks will lose this week to the Aggies.
PICK: Texas A&M 34, Gamecocks 24
PS. They really won’t lose because the Aggies will find a way to blow it in the fourth quarter, and Kevin Sumlin will be super pissed and about to be fired and replaced for Chip Kelly.
PPS. Member Chip Kelly? Member Oregon offense under Chip Kelly?
REAL PICK: Gamecocks 34, Texas A&M 31
#24 Mississippi St.
#13 Auburn (-9)
What a massive disappointment these 2 teams have brought to the table. Miss St looked to be in form against LSU, just dominating. Then let’s go to Georgia and forget how to play football in general. Auburn was the CFB Playoff dark horse with an outstanding D and a re-emerging offense with Baylor
transfer Stidham. Turns out Stidham ain’t what he used to be, either that or Auburn doesn’t know how to use their QB right. I’m going with the latter. Either way, this game ends a season for someone.
Miss St mad fools of the young LSU team causing mass panic in Baton Rouge. Miss St instantly became the darling of the SEC. Underrated players beating the “Best of the Best” in terms of recruiting, they were perfect to be our darling, we hoped to end the typical SEC dominance with a surpisingly resilient Bulldogs team. It’s all done now and they have to go up against a sufficating defense. Good thing for Miss St is that Auburn forgot how to score TDs.
Transfer QB Stidham was supposed to come in to revive that infamous Malzahn offense that likes to score over 40 pts per game no matter who they play….turns out Malzahn only knows how to coach running QBs. Stidham is more of a thrower and the plays that Auburn calls are for dummy runs by the WR to give room for the runner. For whatever reason they haven’t figured out that Stidham likes to throw the ball deep, he’s usually accurate with the deep ball but the Auburn WRs lack the breakaway speed that is needed for Stidham’s game. He’d rather look 10+ yds deep for the pass then trust the dump off. Hence, the one million sacks that Auburn has given up….Stidham is waiting for guys to get open when they just can’t do it. No you have to rely on the running game since the opposing D knows that the WRs are complete trash. This is where you get your incompetent Tigers offense.
Another close matchup, but I have to give it to the Tigers since they’re playing @ Jordan-Hare. That is a hard place to win for a visiting team, even Bama. Lets go with Tigers by 2 TDs.
PICK: Auburn 39, Miss St 25
#12 VA Tech (+7.5)
This is the premier game of the week. It's in the primetime slot. Gameday will be on site. This is a rematch of last year's ACC championship game which Clemson hung on to win by 7.
Clemson is rolling this year led by their stout defense. Name any major statistical category and they are in the top tier. They don't give up a lot of yards. They get pressure in the backfield. They haven't forced a lot of turnovers, but those a lot of times are a matter of luck. Opponents are only converting about 29% of their 3rd downs. That's a recipe to get off the field and keep those lineman fresh to create havoc in the backfield.
Getting in the backfield will be key for them as they go against freshman QB Josh Jackson for Virginia Tech. So far he has shown that he is the real deal. He is a dual threat. He has 11 TD passes versus only 1 interception. The Hokies haven't faced the best competition since their Week 1 match up against West Virginia, so this is a major, major step up for the freshman.
The Clemson offense is just dominating with the run game now, and their defense is nasty. Going on the road into an environment like this is tough, but Clemson is used to the big game at this point. I think Virginia Tech will keep it close, but ultimately lose.
PICK: Clemson 28, Virginia Tech 23
#15 Oklahoma St.
Texas Tech (+10)
If you asked me last week about this game I would’ve told you that OK State would win by a landslide. I’m not so sure about that now. The injuries are becoming difficult to overcome for the Cowboys, their #1 O-Lineman (Larry Williams) is out for the year and who knows when the other O-Lineman (Zach Crabtree) will be back from a toe injury. Lets not forget that OK St is also missing a starting WR, but those are a dime a dozen for the Pokes. I don’t care who you are, that is hard to overcome since all of those guys are among the best in the conference. Texas Tech is still undefeated after slipping by Houston, mostly due to all the damn turnovers Houston gave up. Not the most impressive win, having to win with a FG at the end of that debacle.
OK State is still fantastic on offense, better than Texas Tech and almost everyone in the country when they get it rolling. Texas Tech D is once again complete trash that relies heavily on the turnover battle.
QB Mason Rudolph was in the midst of the early Heisman talk coming intot Week 3….that’s all done now after struggling against TCU. OK State has another average defense, or so it seems. Slightly better than most of the years under Gundy. The D will need to step up to cover for the offense’s injuries….the pts will still be there but not as frequent as we expect from here on out.
Anyone else smell another 6 win season for Texas Tech….sure their offense is fun to watch but their defense is almost non-existent except for the TO margin. They’ll beat who their supposed to beat and lose to who their supposed to lose to….sprinkle in some close calls against top teams, slightly stir, and you have yourself another Kliff Kingsbury special!
Hard to believe that OK State will lose this game, but you never….maybe OK St is a different team with a weaker O-line. Picking the upset doesn’t feel right here.
PICK: OK State 51, Texas Tech 38
#19 San Diego St. (-10)
Northern Illinois had a rousing win on the road against Nebraska a couple weeks ago. Or at least we thought. Maybe Nebraska isn't so good this year after they followed up that stink bomb by barely beating Rutgers at home. There's no doubt that Northern Illinois has been one of the consistently good Group of 5 programs over the years. They have a had a dip here and there, but that's unavoidable for these teams. The Huskies are leaning on their defense this year as they are only allowing 3.61 yards per play. That's a tick better than even Clemson.
Speaking of consistent Group of 5 teams, San Diego State also falls into that category. They have won the Mountain West the past two years. That's right. There's more than just Boise State in that conference. Last year they had all time NCAA rushing leader, Donnel Pumphrey. This year they are relying heavy on the running game again. This year it is do-everything back Rashaad Penny leading the attack. He is #2 in the nation in rushing and #2 in the nation in all purpose yards. It will be no secret what they will be trying to do, but that Husky defense will still have its hands full trying to contain him.
San Diego State has already beaten two PAC 12 teams this year, so you would think they could handle a Northern Illinois team that we aren't so sure is as good as that win at Nebraska made them seem.
PICK: San Diego State 38, Northern Illinois 24
As I sit here writing this preview, drinking a second glass of Weller bourbon I get a nice warm feeling about my beloved Cal Golden Bears. I think, man they played the Trojans great last week. Hell, they could have won that game. Heck they should of won that game.
Then reality sinks in. Oregon will win this game, but goddamn it’s going to be a good game. Cal is playing so, so much better in so many ways, but it lacks the firepower to keep up after Oregon goes on a mid-game scoring run. However, the Ducks are prone to a few lulls – and a big one against Nebraska. Cal will get its chances.
Bowers will have a solid comeback performance with a nice second half run, but the Oregon offensive balance will find a groove again just in time to get out with a strong win. Almost upset of the week.
PICK: Oregon 38, Cal 27
#16 Wazzu (+4.5)
Upset of the Week!!!
Two undefeated teams from the PAC12 meet, in what should be another entertaining USC game. USC is almost as ridiculous as Florida when it comes to getting the win. Plenty of hype from USC coming into 2017….mostly Sam Darnold hype for the Heisman. So far this year he hasn’t exactly been careful with the ball, throwing 7 INTs against 9 TDs…..not the ratio it takes to be in the Heisman talk. In the past 10 meetings between Wash St and USC, USC has won 9 out of 10. This matchup looks to be very even, I expect a close game….it’s almost a coil flip.
Washington St’s passing game this year is absolutely destroying opponents….even more so then in the past with Mike Leach teams. These numbers after 4 games are freaking nuts…..17 TDs thrown with 3 INTs and 1760 yards in the air. Once again they have a lackluster running game, just enough to get by…2.61 yds per rush (ouch!) with 3 rushing TDs. The offense has been better than consistent. While in the past the Wash St defense was fairly horrible, mostly because they’re on the field all the time since the offense scores in no time flat or goes three and out. This is the year they’ve flip the switch on defense, or so it seems. The D is only allowing 18.5 pts against per game, granted the competition hasn’t been all that top notch. When they did play a team that was halfway decent (Boise St), the score ended up at 47-44…..that’s more like it. So far the defense looks like they’ve improved, but if they give up a ton against USC then all of that talk is out the window.
USC has something to prove, at least to me. They’ve looked shaky so far but manage to slip by on their talent when it comes down to the 4th quarter. Darnold is nothing close to what he looked like in 2016, but they’re still 4-0…..if this guy takes off then the chances of beating USC will slim by a wide margin. They almost seemed unbeatable at the end of last season. The offense is doing OK up to this part, the defense is the same exact way, very much ‘blah’. The Trojans are getting by on average, if they play average again they’re going to get knock off.
I’m taking the underdog here, since it’s at Washington St….they barely win and head into the top 10 come next week.
PICK: Wash State 48, USC 43
Season Record - Straight Up: 25-15
Season Record - Versus Spread: 21-19
Upset of the Week: 1-3