NCAA Football Week 3 Picks and Preview
National Picks Against the Spread
Last Week: 6-4-2
All Season: 12-9-2
LSU (-4.5) at Mississippi State
This is the Thursday night game that I am really excited for. For all those who don’t watch or follow football outside the PAC-12 (and why would you?) Mississippi State is like Oregon in a lot of ways. First, they run a spread and their defense relies on speed and runs a hybrid 3-4/4-3 using drop ends. Second, their coach Dan Mullen is a member of the New Hampshire Mafia, a secret organization Chip Kelly is also a member of. Thirdly, on the national scale and in their own conference they miss out on top recruits, lack size, don’t have a rich history of championships, which sounds an awful lot like Oregon.
So I’m looking to see how their spread offense works against the LSU defense that pressured the ish out of our receivers and if the offensive line gets any push. I think Spencer Ware is too good of a rusher, and the LSU offensive line too good, to get stymied. They’ll score early and wear down the Bulldog defense and just pound away in the second half. LSU is not a team you want to get behind on.
Boise State (-19.5) at Toledo
The Broncos have had a bye week to prepare for the Toledo Rockets after a big win at Georgia. Chris Peterson is Mike Leach in the way he takes no prisoners. He knows for Boise State to get any national credibility he has to beat the best teams he plays, like Georgia, easily and get syle points. Then he needs to blow out every other team on their weak schedule.
Toledo had a good try against Ohio State last week, but a hangover and with Boise having an extra week to get ready this one could get ugly. The Broncos make good teams look silly, and blow average teams out of the water.
West Virginia (+2) at Maryland
As with most games I’ll pick involving West Virginia, the first thing I’ll look at is if the other team can outscore the Mountaineers. The Mountaineers are going to score points, and a lot of them. Unless the opposing team has a rock solid defense that doesn’t even let water run through it easily I think the other team has to break at least 28 points.
Maryland had a bye week coming in to this game and put 32 points on a severely depleted Miami Hurricane team. Using F/+ rankings West Virginia is projected to win by 5.5 points. I think they’ll win by 7 or more as Geno Smith will go crazy on the Terrapin secondary.
Auburn (+4) at Clemson
Auburn is nowhere close to as good as they were last year (obviously, they don’t have any proven professional players anymore). Somehow this team manages to win. They beat Utah State in the last two minutes when they should have lost, they beat Mississippi State pretty well and now they face a Clemson Tiger team that only won by eight points over Wofford. Have you even heard of Wofford? Didn’t think so. The fact Auburn is getting 4 points is amazing.
Michigan State at Notre Dame (-5)
Notre Dame can’t be that bad can they? I know they are getting crushed in the turnover margin, -7 on the season, but at what point do we just say this team has a lot of problems at quarterback. They had an abysmal showing against South Florida at home and pooped the bed in the fourth quarter against Michigan last Saturday in one of the most obvious marketing ploys in years.
This is Michigan State’s first big game and are the biggest paper tiger in football right now. They rank third in points against (3) with wins over Youngstown State and Florida Atlantic. Notre Dame has challenged themselves and will be better prepared for the game. If they take care of the football the Irish could run away with it.
Texas (-3.5) at UCLA
I’m a big believer in this Longhorn defense that looked really good against the BYU Cougars last weekend and looked decent against Rice in the season opener. This pick is almost more against UCLA than it is for Texas. They still have yet to develop a passing game since Rick Neuheisel has been their head coach, supposedly famous for developing quarterbacks (sure looks like it… not), and their defense is questionable. The Bruins have been able to put up points, see their 34 points against Houston and 27 against San Jose State. With Case McCoy starting at quarterback instead of Garrett Gilbert I think the Longhorn offense can turn the quarter.
Washington at Nebraska (-17)
I’m never ever comfortable with double-digit point spreads unless it’s going to be a clear beatdown. This could be one of those games. This is the third time these two teams will play in the past year. The first game in Washington was a Cornhusker rout with Locker throwing 4 out of 20 and the Huskies looking awful. In the last Holiday Bowl the Huskies crushed a lazy Nebraska team that seemingly fell apart their last four games. Now that Washington has found their identity, letting Polk bruise the defensive line for four quarters, they look better. Or at least good enough to scrape by Eastern Washington and the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. Nebraska has been demolishing people and Taylor Martinez looks much better passing the ball this season.
Syracuse at USC (-14.5)
If this spread were any higher I’d probably side with the Orangemen because USC has troubles covering at the beginning of the year under Lane Kiffin. The Trojan offensive line looked a lot better last week against Utah and the return of Marc Tyler. Syracuse is undefeated though, beating Wake Forest by 6 and Rhode Island by 7. Yeah, USC should win by at least 17.
Ohio State (+3) at Miami
Both of these teams have been absolutely devastated by off-season shenanigans. If this game had been played ten years ago tickets would probably be going for around $500 and Gameday would certainly be there. Instead this is a story of sorry teams who are shells of their former selves.
This is more a pick against Miami than it is for Ohio State. The worst has happened for the Hurrican offense, Jacory Harris is eligible. The interception machine will be starting in the backfield and Cane fans can expect at least three picks.
Utah (+6.5) at BYU
The Holy War has lost a lot of its luster. BYU is now an independent and Utah is a member of the Pac-12, soon to be Pac-16.
The Utah passing attack struggled bigtime last week against USC but the BYU offense has also struggled to put points on the board. I just don’t think BYU will win by more than 6.
Arizona State (+1.5) at Illinois
Arizona State opened up at -3, but the line swung very quickly four and a half points to Arizona State +1.5. Why, I don’t know, and Chad Millman isn’t doing his job by informing me why.
Arizona State looked great for 45 minutes of the game against Missouri last Friday. The black out look was sick and they played mostly great against Missouri. Again, I have this theory that the first game against FBS competition is a huge struggle for teams. Illinois has played two FCS teams and is going to open their FBS season with the Sun Devils. It could take a while for the Fighting Illini to get going and by then Arizona State could get up big.
Stanford (-9.5) at Arizona
Arizona is just going to pass the shit out of the ball. Foles has attempted over 40 passes in the only two games so far this season. The offensive line has a combined ten starts among them, and that’s only because they’ve played 2 games together. Stanford is going to be absolutely dominant this year and although Andrew Luck hasn’t been dominant the rest of the team has been great. Stanford could win by around 10 points easy.
Oklahoma at Florida State (+3)
The headline game of the weekend has the Sooners traveling to Florida State. I expect signs that aren’t funny and will have a lot of spelling and grammatical errors. Oklahoma is currently the number one team in the nation because media members think they look all cute on paper. Oklahoma won last year in Norman and this game in Tallahassee will be much more balanced. I view these teams as equals and if I can get Florida State at home and three points, I’ll take it.
PAC-12 Picks Straight Up
Last Week: 9-1
All Season: 17-5
Oregon beats Missouri State
Nebraska beats Washington
Texas beats UCLA
USC beats Syracuse
Stanford beats Arizona
Arizona State beats Illinois
Cal beats Presbyterian
BYU beats Utah
San Diego State beats Washington State
Colorado beats Colorado State