College Football Preview and Picks – Week 6

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By Contributing Writer, Mike Ivcic

So this whole “line” thing is turning out to be more difficult than I expected. But never fear, we’re not even halfway through the season so still plenty of time to make a surge. Plus, at least straight up I’m still cooking at over 60%, so there’s something positive on which to build.

I’ll keep a list of undefeated teams in this space here for the remainder of the season for BCS and conference championship purposes. Four teams no longer on this list – Michigan and Texas A&M, both of whom were featured in this column last week, along with UCLA (defeated by upstart Stanford) and Houston (knocked off by UTEP). I picked the Aggies to go down, but the Wolverines couldn’t come through on the road against their interstate rival Michigan State Spartans. That leaves us with 13 teams – including four in the SEC and three 5-0 teams in the SEC West:
Alabama – SEC
Auburn – SEC
Boise State – WAC
Cincinnati – Big East
Florida – SEC
Iowa – Big Ten
Kansas – Big 12
Missouri – Big 12
South Florida – Big East
Texas – Big 12
TCU – Mountain West
Wisconsin – Big Ten

Look for at least another two or three to go down this week as well, especially with game number four on this week’s list…

1. Wisconsin @ #9 Ohio State
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)
Welcome to the one hurdle for the Buckeyes to conquer between USC and the brutal three game close of at Penn State, vs Iowa, and at Michigan. If the Buckeyes really think they’re part of college football’s elite, then they will have to handle an undefeated Badgers team that has had its own fair share of tests this season. Wisconsin escaped Fresno State at home and then hung on to knock off Minnesota last week, and they might replace Texas A&M as the most underrated undefeated team in all of FCS – for proof, they are the only one of the 13 undefeateds that remain unranked in the AP poll. They haven’t faced a team with the talent of Ohio State, though, and they’ll have to travel to Columbus for this tussle. The Horseshoe should be more than enough to push a borderline offense to enough points to support the stifling defense – though probably not enough offense to cover a truly incredible spread.
Line: Ohio State by 16
Pick: Ohio State 27, Wisconsin 13

2. #3 Alabama @ #20 Mississippi
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. (CBS)
Call this the appetizer to the main course later Saturday in the SEC. Nick Saban’s crew has feasted on four inferior opponents since beating Virginia Tech in the season opener, but now the Tide will head to the road for a tough test against a now-desperate Ole Miss squad. The Rebels were ranked as high as fourth before stumbling against South Carolina in Columbia, and with three undefeated team ahead of them in the SEC West, Huston Nutt and company will have to be proactive in deciding their own fate. ‘Bama has won 16 of the last 18 meetings between the two schools and boasts the number two defense in the nation, but all of that will mean nothing if the Rebels can get a lead early and force the Tide to play catch-up. It’s the beginning of a wicked four-game stretch in five weeks for the nation’s third-ranked team, with South Carolina, Tennessee, and LSU following this one, but Alabama can’t afford to be looking ahead or those other three games will mean a whole lot less.
Line: Alabama by 5
Pick: Alabama 31, Mississippi 21

3. #13 Oregon @ UCLA
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)
The Bruins entered last week’s game with Stanford as the Pac-10’s only unbeaten, and Jim Harbaugh’s Cardinal promptly put an end to that. Now UCLA comes home to play the conference’s hottest school in Oregon. The Ducks have continued to put distance between their performance opening night against Boise State and the team they are now, and with the possibility now of LeGarrette Blount returning to the team at some point this season, the Ducks may now find themselves as the potential favorite to earn the conference’s BCS bid. That will likely be decided against USC, but first they have to take care of business against Rick Neuheisel’s club. Road games are never an easy task in the Pac-10 (ask the two SoCal schools) but the talent isn’t quite there yet for UCLA to make a real good run at a conference title quite yet.
Line: Oregon by 3.5
Pick: Oregon 34, UCLA 24

4. #1 Florida @ #4 LSU
Saturday, 8:00 p.m. (CBS)
Regardless of whether all-world QB Tim Tebow actually plays, it’s likely that the Gators will need to have someone else on offense step up and pick up the slack if they want any shot of leaving Baton Rouge with a “W.” Les Miles and the Tigers are coming off a huge road win over Georgia and the defense finally looks like its rounding into the form everyone expected to see from day one. It’s a great matchup of speed, skill, and coaching, with Miles and Urban Meyer going head-to-head in a classic, SEC chess match. The deciding factors here will be a huge homefield advantage for LSU and the questionable health of Tebow. This would have been a tough game to win even with Florida at full strength (they haven’t won at LSU since 2003), and the Gators will still likely win the East, but this is the game that will officially shift the balance of power back to the SEC West, and set the stage for a new number one and a potential instant classic showdown between two undefeateds in Tuscaloosa on November 7.
Line: Florida by 7.5
Pick: LSU 20, Florida 17

5. Michigan @ #12 Iowa
Saturday, 8:00 p.m. (ABC)
The Wolverines didn’t look great in the overtime loss to Michigan State, but they might have been the better of these two teams last week. In what can only be described as classic “trap” game, the Hawkeyes came off the victory over Penn State and had to hang on to knock off FBS foe Arkansas State, 24-21, prior to their date with Michigan. Now, Iowa can put that game behind them and focus on stopping Tate Forcier, who single-handedly brought Michigan back from down two touchdowns in the fourth before throwing the killer interception in overtime. Look for Forcier to get his against a stingy Iowa defense that hasn’t seen an offense the likes of the Wolverines. Michigan’s defense has been porous at times, though, so it could come down to who has the ball last in what will surely be a raucous Saturday night crowd.
Line: Iowa by 8
Pick: Iowa 24, Michigan 20

Straight Up: 3-2
Versus Line: 2-3

Straight Up: 16-9
Versus Line: 13-12

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