Happy Thursday. Another week, another great lineup of college football games to watch and bet. While Alabama, FSU and OSU will not be tested this week, there are plenty of important games that will directly effect the bowl picture. Also, there is actually a half decent Thursday Night NFL game for a change this week between the Colts and the Titans, although it seems less exciting after both had awful loses last week. I suggest at least giving the Thursday Night College matchup of Georgia Tech at Clemson a look. Even if you are married to the NFL, at least give the first quarter a chance. The game starts at 7:30 and I guarantee that it’s better than the NFL Network’s pregame show. To twist your arm a little further, I will preview the games below, along with the rest of the College Football weekend.
Georgia Tech at #8 Clemson -10.5.
Why should you watch? For starters, Clemson’s stadium on a Thursday Night is going to be awesome. On the field, check out NFL prospects Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins try to score quickly against a Georgia Tech Triple Option offense that keeps the ball for large chunks of time. If you like offense, this game is for you. Vegas has set the O/U line at 60, so expect scoring. Since the Lion wrote up Sammy Watkins in his WR draft preview, Sammy has made me look like I know what I am talking about. He has 22 catches for 332 yards in the last two games, including another highlight reel TD (96 yards). Clemson is on the outside looking in as far as the BCS is concerned. They are clearly the 2nd best team in the ACC, but since their only loss happens to be to FSU, and they fall on the same side of the conference, they will not get a rematch in the ACC Title game. This means they will not be an automatic qualifier in a BCS bowl. They need to win and win big to stay highly ranked and get in as an at large bid. This is no easy task against GT, (6-3, 5-2 in conference). It is no secret the Lion loves the triple option. It is a work of art if run to perfection. The Yellow Jackets do it better than anybody else under Paul Johnson, they average 311.2 rushing yards a game. GT’s 3 losses are forgivable, at Miami and at BYU, and a close one to VT. Other reasons to consider the Jackets is that they are coming off their bye and have beat Clemson eight of the last 11 times, including the 2009 ACC championship game. However, Clemson has won the last two meetings. If they can keep from getting behind early, they have a shot at the upset. I am tempted to go with GT here, but I just don’t see them being able to stop Clemson through the air. Fun little stat for you, Boyd needs 3 more TD passes to break Phillip Rivers all time TD total for an ACC QB. PICK CLEMSON
There is also a Friday Night game this week. I know at least one Jerk who will be checking out UCLA at Washington. Join him.
Washington at #13 UCLA -2.5
Why should you watch? NFL prospects are all over the field here. To refresh your recollection of the Lion Draft Evaluations, UCLA has Brett Hundley at QB, Shaq Evans at WR and Anthony Barr at LB. UCLA also has a cool story where they allowed a freshman LB to play both ways at RB and on D last week. He was on the field for 118 plays and he ran for 120 yards including a 66 yard TD run. On Defense he notched 8 tackles, two pass breakups and a fumble recovery. What a day. Washington has its own NFL talent in RB Bishop Sankey, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and WR Kasen Williams. Why else to watch? UCLA can still win the PAC-12 South division and play for the PAC12 title and a Rose Bowl berth. The teams are very similar, with losses to Oregon and Stanford. UW also has a loss to an underrated ASU team. This spread makes me think UW wins but UCLA is very good ATS this year and while they don’t have a great defense overall, at home they create turnovers and sacks, and have only allowed 16.3 points a game at home behind their outstanding LBs. I see Barr and Co. forcing turnovers in this game and making a difference. I have not seen UW win a big road game against a good team in a long time. They are certainly capable of doing so here, but if I had to pick this game I would go with UCLA because the Bruins need to win this game because they have more to play for than UW. PICK BRUINS
And now for your regularly scheduled picks.
# 16 Michigan State at Nebraska +6.5. This game doubles as the Big Ten GOW. One loss (to Notre Dame) Sparty controls its own destiny to the Rose Bowl, if it wins out it will play OSU in the B1G championship game and should it upset the Buckeyes, the trip to Pasadena is punched. Amazingly, Nebraska also could squeak into the Rose Bowl following the same path, but would need to beat Sparty and would need more help. Nebraska has been absolutely terrible at times this year, causing Coach Pellini to be on the hot seat. Lead by new starting QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. in place of perpetually mediocre Taylor Martinez, the Huskers have pulled victories out of their butts the past two weeks against NW and Michigan to keep a glimmer of hope alive in Lincoln. Those of you who have followed the Lion over the past 11 weeks know that Sparty has been one of my go to cover teams. You can’t bet against that defense, even on the road. Statistically MSU has the number 1 ranked defense and it’s not even close. PICK MSU
Florida at South Carolina -13.5. I am sort of following the same theme here if you haven’t figured it out. Some teams have a reason to play more than others. South Carolina is one of those teams. It can still get to the SEC championship game if it wins here and UGA and Mizzou lose. For this reason I don’t think they will be looking ahead to Clemson over thanksgiving. Also, the Old Ball Coach will take a game against his alma mater and former team seriously. The injuries and the losses just keep piling up for the Gators. How bad is this nightmare of a season for Florida? The Gators are in danger of having its first losing season since 1979. While Florida’s Defense is still legit, especially against the pass, I don’t see FL scoring much at all against a solid South Carolina defense coming off a bye. Also, Florida may be down to its 3rd string QB, freshman Skylar Morninweg, yes his dad is Marty. That should be all you need to know about this game. This line is probably going to jump so get on it now. PICK SC
Double Bonus Favorite
Kentucky at Vandy -13. Not much analysis needed here. Kentucky is the worst team in the SEC by a wide margin. Vandy is getting better each week. They are a picture of two teams headed in opposite directions. Vandy is going to a bowl game this year. They also have an NFL prospect at WR in Jordan Matthews. Coach Franklin is building something in Nashville. While the spread is high, that tells me Vegas really likes Vandy. I am going to agree with Vegas; I think Vandy wins by 14. PICK VANDY
Favorite Dog of the Week
Indiana at Wisconsin -22. I know what you are saying; Wisconsin is a Lion go to cover team, why go against them here? Indiana can score through the air, leading the Big Ten and ranking 12 nationally in passing yards per game. Wisconsin’s one weakness is pass defense, where they rank 108th in the nation. Plus, this has all the makings of a letdown game for a Badger team who is boxed out of the B1G championship due to its loss to OSU and being in the same division. The combined score of the past three meetings between these teams is 204-41. I do not expect Indiana to win by any means, but I do expect them to score a couple of TDs through the air to keep it within 3 tds. This one totally has the feel of a 42-24 game. I can picture the garbage time TD in my mind and it’s beautiful. PICK INDY
WVU at Kansas -7. I don’t see how Kansas can be getting that number, even at home against a WVU team that doesn’t travel well. Maybe like Texas Tech last week Vegas knows something I don’t. However I think I know Charlie Weis and he sucks. I just don’t see it. PICK WVU
#4 Stanford at USC +3.5. Yes this is a big game with BCS Bowl implications. Stanford cannot afford to have a down week after their huge win over the Ducks last week. USC keeps getting better and better each week now that they have that Kiffin stink off them. I would love to go with the dogs here but I don’t know if I can bet against Stanford after they gave me the equivalent of football porn last week. The Lion may or may not stay up at night and turn on that game after his wife has gone to sleep. I would not pick this game unless I have to, and if so I would lean towards Stanford because USC’s biggest weakness is depth, and there team wears down in physical games. Stanford is as physical a team as it gets. Still, if Stanford doesn’t bring it’s “A” game, USC will sneak by them. I think Stanford is mature enough to avoid the letdown but it is clear they are on upset alert. Don’t bet this game unless you have to. If I did I guess I would PICK STANFORD.
12 OKState at 24 Texas +3. This game also has BCS Bowl implications since both teams are undefeated in the conference and still have Baylor on their slate. Remember, the Big 12 only has ten teams and has no championship game this year. This could be a lot of fun because you have two teams that have similar strengths going at each other. You get strength v. strength. OK State can run the ball and stop the run and create turnovers on D but cannot pass at all against a good secondary. They made a QB switch recently and have improved in the passing game, but at the same time, their rushing defense has started to fall off, they have been giving up 150 a game lately and 202 last week to Iowa State. Ugh. Texas can run the ball and stop the pass and create turnovers on D but cannot really pass at all against a good secondary. OK State much better on D, Texas is a little better on O because it is more balanced. OK State’s only loss is in Morgantown to a WVU team that Texas just beat in OT last week. Texas win was doubly impressive because it was at night so the couch burners had all day to work themselves into a frenzy Believe it or not, Texas last loss came before that, way back in September when they lost back to back games at BYU and Ole Miss. That seems like a whole different season. Last week, Texas lost their starting RB and Jonathon Gray. The backup, Malcolm Brown is not a slouch and was a top recruit out of high school and has ran for 7 TDs in the last four games. I wouldn’t pick this game but I think if I had to pick it I would take the points and roll with the Longhorns at home. PICK TEXAS.
Miami at Duke+3. You won’t believe this but these teams have the same record. They are in a three way tie for first with VT for the Coastal Division of the ACC and the right to get trounced by FSU in a few weeks. They were a huge cover for me last week. Miami seems to be headed in the opposite direction with two beat down type losses to VT and FSU. That game got out of control because of special teams miscues that put Miami in a hole from the outset. Duke has its own issues to deal with on offense, with nine turnovers over its last three games, which all happened to be wins. The fact remains that Miami simply has way more talent on offense than anybody the Blue Devils have faced this season. I think Golden gets it together and the talent wins the day here, although I am tempted to roll with the feel good story of the conference. Seriously though, it’s hard to ever root for Duke in anything. Miami needs to win this game just as much as Duke, and really Duke is kind of just happy to be relevant. PICK MIAMI
SEC Barnburner of the Week
Georgia at Auburn -4. We have a good one here. Believe it or not, this game is the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. Or at least that is what they call this game. UGA is fighting for its postseason life. The Dawgs need Mizzou to lose another SEC game and to win out to get a chance at the SEC Title game. Auburn also needs to win out, which includes a game with Bama in a few weeks to get the same shot. Auburn is excellent at running the ball. I wrote at length about them last week and they were one of my best bets that came through. My read on this game is that the Tigers are largely one dimensional. Marshall only throws 17 passes a game. I also think UGA is back to being pretty healthy. Auburn lost to LSU and UGA beat them. I am not a fan of applying the transitive property theory to college football, but I think I am going to stick with my initial thoughts on the season because I am a stubborn prick and I think Aaron Murray wills the Dogs to an upset. Also I found this fun fact. The all-time series is tied 54-54-8. In those games, Georgia has outscored Auburn by 114 points, which works out to 0.9 per game. Wow. In that case let’s make this my Double Bonus Dog. PICK AUBURN.