by Mike Ivcic
No Thursday games this week of any note, which says a lot about Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech and the state of the ACC. Because of that, we have some time to digest the first third of the college football season – the one that included way too many games between nationally-ranked FBS teams and mid-level FCS teams. I have made this point before and I’ll say it again – if you want to play FBS teams, play at the FBS level, and if you ARE at the FBS level then play teams that are the same caliber. The NCAA really should have that rule in place, which would only help enhance the college football schedule by forcing teams to play a better level of competition in the non-conference slate. Still, kudos to ten BCS teams that managed to comprise a schedule devoid of any FCS opponents – Maryland, Pittsburgh, and North Carolina in the ACC; Michigan and Penn State in the Big Ten; Texas and Oklahoma in the Big 12; and USC, UCLA, and Stanford in the Pac-12. Notre Dame should also be included as they never play an FCS team, bringing the total to 11 – none of which reside in the SEC. For having arguably the “best” conference in the country, it’s amazing how many of them need that one guaranteed win over an FCS school instead of finding an opponent from the MAC, Sun Belt, or Conference USA to beat up for a week. Also, a special outing of Georgia Tech, who played two FCS teams this season. Pathetic.
6) LSU @ 9) Georgia
Saturday, 3:30pm, CBS
Line: Georgia by 3
The best game of the week once again does belong to the SEC, though, as these two national title contenders meet between the hedges. Georgia should have the advantage here, especially playing at home, but I wouldn’t be so quick to count out an LSU team that seems to have finally discovered an offense this year. The Bulldogs defense isn’t exactly “stout” either, giving up 38 points to Clemson, 30 to South Carolina, and even 21 to North Texas. I was positive I was picking Georgia until I started looking into this game a bit more, and wound up talking myself into the Tigers.
Pick: LSU 34, Georgia 31
14) Oklahoma at 22) Notre Dame
Saturday, 3:30pm, NBC
Line: Oklahoma by 3.5
Call this the “Michigan effect.” The Wolverines have looked terrible the last two weeks after beating the Irish in week two, and as a result not only have they dropped in the polls, but it’s also made Notre Dame’s loss look worse and worse. I don’t actually think the Sooners are that good, and let’s not forget that ND went into Norman last year and came away with a decisive win. True, this isn’t the same Irish team, but Oklahoma hasn’t really done much over the last calendar year to prove that they’re any better than they were in 2012. I think the Domers win this one.
Pick: Notre Dame 27, Oklahoma 21
8) Florida State @ Boston College
Saturday, 3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2
Line: Florida by 21.5
This game isn’t really a question of who’s going to win, it’s a question of by how much Florida State will win. So why pick this game? Well, for starters, there aren’t six really good games involving ranked teams, but more importantly this game involves two teams that are 1-0 in the conference. The Seminoles haven’t played a difficult opening schedule – Pittsburgh, Nevada, and Bethune-Cookman isn’t Alabama, Oregon, and Ohio State – and I think this might be a game for a bit. It’s also a really high spread for FSU to cover… but I ultimately think they do.
Pick: Florida State 41, Boston College 17
21) Mississippi @ 1) Alabama
Saturday, 6:30pm, ESPN
Line: Alabama by 15.5
While most of the country will likely want to focus on Athens and Columbus, they might also want to consider flipping over to this game in Tuscaloosa. The Rebels have what’s widely regarded as one of the best, if not the best, freshman class in the country, and that group will be thrown into the fire against Nick Saban and the two-time defending national champions. But there is absolutely nothing to suggest that this challenge will face Ole Miss, who legitimately believe they can win this game. I, personally, would be extremely surprised if the Alabama title defense came to an end at home against Mississippi, considering the Crimson Tide already exacted revenge over Texas A&M and know that LSU is still to come. ‘Bama is focused and ready for this game, and even though it will almost definitely be inside the 15-point spread, they’ll remain undefeated and atop the rankings.
Pick: Alabama 33, Mississippi 24
Arizona @ 16) Washington
Saturday, 7:00pm, FOX
Line: Washington by 9.5
Arizona hasn’t been tested – Northern Arizona, UNLV, and Texas San Antonio were all fairly easy wins, with no game closer than 25 points. They now start conference play on the road against a very good Washington team… or are they? They’re living off of a 32-point win over a then-19th ranked Boise State team that’s now 2-2 and unranked, a 10-point win over an Illinois team that will almost certainly be in the bottom half of the Big Ten, and then a 56-0 victory over FCS-foe Idaho State. Why, exactly, is this team ranked 16th in the nation? I’m not going full bore with an upset here, but the Wildcats can score so the Huskies aren’t going to be able to just run up the score – they’re actually going to have to perform on defense, too. I think this becomes a high-flying shootout that’s decided by one possession.
Pick: Washington 41, Arizona 37
23) Wisconsin @ 4) Ohio State
Saturday, 8:00pm, ABC
Line: Ohio State by 7
The Badgers took a lot of luster and hype away from this game by losing two weeks ago to Arizona State, but that should in no way effect whether or not they can actually win this game. Wisconsin has always played the Buckeyes tough because they can run the ball and control the clock, two things that are excellent at neutralizing high-flying offenses. Braxton Miller also has to play and play well in this game for Ohio State. Yes, Kenny Guiton looked good last week, but that was against Florida A&M – one of the many FCS teams that big-time programs have scheduled this year. But this is now conference play, and Miller needs to be running the show effectively Saturday night, or the Badgers have a chance to pull the upset. That’s only a chance, though, one that’s not exactly a smart call from a betting perspective.
Pick: Ohio State 30, Wisconsin 20
Colorado @ Oregon State
Saturday, 3:00pm, Pac-12
Line: Oregon State by 11
This is a bit of an under-the-radar game in the Pac-12, but it could wind up being a sneaky one to watch. Even if their wins were over Colorado State and Central Arkansas, the Buffaloes are still 2-0 and play in the Pac-12 South, which is suddenly the weaker of the two divisions. Ultimately Colorado will have to beat their own divisional opponents, but they could certainly send an early message to the rest of the conference that they should be viewed as contenders if they can come out of Corvallis with a win. That might not be unfathomable considering the Beavers, despite being 3-1, needed overtime to beat a subpar Utah team and squeaked out a 34-30 victory over San Diego State – all coming after an opening week loss to FCS Eastern Washington. Oregon State is probably the better team and should win this game, but given both teams’ play early this season, giving 11 points is just way too many.
Pick: Oregon State 31, Colorado 28
Last Week: 6-1 straight up, 2-5 against spread
Season: 21-7 straight up, 12-16 against spread
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