by Mike Ivcic
So… about last week. You may have noticed that it wasn’t my greatest performance ever. I was a brilliant 4-9-1 against the spread for games involving ranked teams, and an even more spectacular 0-6-1 for the column picks. Somehow, I managed to combine that with a 6-1 record straight up, which could be the most unbelievable (and un-repeatable) aspect of the entire weekend. Either way, if you decide to pick the opposite of my selection against the spread for every game this week, I certainly wouldn’t blame you – but just remember I’m still pretty good straight up, so you may want to also factor that into your equation.
25) Maryland @ 8) Florida State
Saturday, 12:00pm, ESPN
Line: Florida State by 16
There’s good news and bad news for the Terrapins. The good news is that they’re 4-0 with two wins over BCS-conference teams, have the third-ranked defense in the country allowing just 10.3 points per game, and have had two weeks to prepare for the Seminoles. The bad news is that they’re playing the Seminoles. Florida State and Clemson just look like they’re playing at a level that’s just better than everyone else in the ACC, even though FSU did struggle for the first half against Boston College last week. Maryland’s best chance is that their stout defense proves to be just as good as advertised and they catch Florida State looking ahead – but the Seminoles already have a week off before their October 19 trip to Death Valley, so I just don’t see it. I do, though, see a Terrapin cover.
Pick: Florida State 34, Maryland 23
Georgia Tech at 14) Miami FL
Saturday, 3:30pm, ESPNU
Line: Miami by 5
There is one team that may throw a big wrinkle into the two-team ACC race, though – Miami. A win over Florida already in their back pocket, the Hurricanes enter conference play expected to be favored in every game but one – their November 2 showdown in Tallahassee against the Seminoles. Even a loss there, though, wouldn’t necessarily keep the ‘Canes out of the ACC title game, provided they win the Coastal Division. That quest starts with the Yellow Jackets, who came up short at home last week against Virginia Tech. Both teams are quite good defensively, though neither team has faced an offense like they will this weekend. Miami will have to stop the running attack of Georgia Tech that averages 291.3 yards per game – and I think they’ll be able to do that enough to secure a victory.
Pick: Miami 24, Georgia Tech 16
10) LSU @ Mississippi State
Saturday, 7:00pm, ESPN
Line: LSU by 9.5
At this point, Alabama has just one major stumbling block left on their schedule before the SEC championship game – November 9 at home against LSU. If the Tigers want that game to matter on their end, though, they’ll have to respond quickly to their 44-41 loss to Georgia last week and handle Mississippi State on the road, because they still have Florida at home and a trip to Ole Miss ahead of that showdown in Tuscaloosa. A loss here could turn a once-promising season that began with an offensive explosion against TCU into a nightmare for Les Miles and LSU faithful. I’m guessing that Miles knows this and is making sure his team is focused solely on beating the Bulldogs this week. Mississippi State has come up short against their two major conference foes this year – Oklahoma State and Auburn – and would love to take another step towards becoming bowl eligible, but in order to do that the Bulldogs offense has to do better than the 3 points they mustered against the Cowboys and the 20 they scored against the other Tigers. I just don’t see them doing that against this brand of Tigers defense.
Pick: LSU 31, Mississippi State 13
TCU @ 11) Oklahoma
Saturday, 7:00pm, FOX
Line: Oklahoma by 10.5
TCU was thought to be a trendy pick to possibly win the Big 12 this year, and this was supposed to be the game that would determine whether they could gain the inside track away from Oklahoma. Instead, the Horned Frogs enter this matchup at a meek 2-2 and already 0-1 in the conference and face a Sooners team fresh off laying 35 against Notre Dame in South Bend. Double-digit spreads are always dicey in conference matchups between two teams that are supposed to be good, but I just don’t see TCU being capable of playing four full quarters on both sides of the ball well enough to cover this spread.
Pick: Oklahoma 31, TCU 17
4) Ohio State @ 16) Northwestern
Saturday, 8:00pm, ABC
Line: Ohio State by 7
It’s put up or shut up time for the Wildcats, who get their big shot at proving themselves as legitimate Big Ten contenders when the Buckeyes and ESPN’s College GameDay come to Evanston. They’ll also get running back Venric Mark back after he sat out the past three games with a leg injury originally suffered in the preseason. Mark plays offense, though, so he won’t be much assistance is stopping the torrid Ohio State offense, regardless of whether it’s led by Braxton Miller or Kenny Guiton. The Buckeyes should have relatively smooth sailing all the way to Michigan if they can get through this game, and there’s no question they have more talent. Still, I think Northwestern finds a way to keep this game close enough to make OSU sweat through all four quarters.
Pick: Ohio State 33, Northwestern 30
15) Washington @ 5) Stanford
Saturday, 10:30pm, ESPN
Line: Stanford by 7
This is your game of the week. Most pundits expected Stanford and Oregon to be playing November 7 for the Pac-12 North title, but the Huskies could very easily throw a monkey wrench into that over the next two weeks. Before they host the Ducks next week, though, they’ll head to Palo Alto against the undefeated Cardinal. Washington has a supremely balanced offense, averaging 288.8 yards on the ground and 285.3 yards through the air for a whopping 39.8 points per game, including 38, 34, and 31 against BCS-conference foes. QB Keith Price has thrown for 1044 yards and 9 TD’s though four games, and he’ll be a handful for Stanford to stop while also dealing with top tailback Bishop Sankey. Stanford hasn’t been as dominant offensively, but did hang 42 on Arizona State two weeks ago and despite comments to the contrary, they have to have their 17-13 defeat in Seattle last year still emblazoned into their minds. In that game, Stanford was smothered by the Huskies D, held to just 170 yards, and I think Washington rises to the occasion again this year and steals this one on the road.
Pick: Washington 24, Stanford 20
Michigan State @ Iowa
Saturday, 12:00pm, ESPN2
Line: Michigan State by 1.5
Don’t look now, but this game could wind up playing a huge role in the national landscape. Why, you ask? Well, Nebraska and Michigan haven’t exactly looked like the dominant teams many expected them to be, and Northwestern is… well… Northwestern, and they do play Ohio State this weekend. Meanwhile Iowa already has a conference win over Minnesota and Michigan State has only a loss to Notre Dame as a blemish, so it’s possible that the winner of this game could capture the “Legends” division championship and wind up playing December 7 in Indianapolis for a Big Ten title – though I don’t think either team will be favored against the Buckeyes, their likely opponent. For this game, though, I think home field proves to be the difference. These two teams are almost mirror images – both teams can run the ball, control the clock, and have a bend-but-don’t break defense. Thus, I think home field proves to be the difference.
Pick: Iowa 24, Michigan State 20
Last Week: 6-1 straight up, 0-6-1 against spread
Season: 27-8 straight up, 12-22-1 against spread
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