Games of the Week
Florida State at Clemson… These are two top-five teams by conventional wisdom. The winner will be a bonafide BCS title contender, at least for a week. ESPN will hope for a quarterback duel, or at least a better quarterbacking display than Miami and North Carolina gave Thursday night. At some point ACC football must sell itself. Clemson beat Georgia in the season opener. Jameis Winston-led Florida State faces its first real test. The Seminoles are coming off a bye, but the Tigers have home field advantage, at night. The rock. It’s just pure intimidation. Get chills just thinking about it.
This feels obvious, but the game should come down to offensive line play. Clemson leads the nation in sacks/game. Vic Beasley has been an absolute monster. The Tigers need that pressure to mask an overwhelming secondary. If Jameis has time to find receivers, that’s a problem for Clemson. On the opposite side, the deal is similar. Clemson can be dominant if Boyd is given time. When he has been pressured, the offense has looked far more pedestrian.
We’d probably stay away from betting this one, with Clemson and the multiple ways this could play out. But if Jameis Winston is to save Jimbo Fisher, he has to do it here against a top-draw opponent. The Noles defense has been the nation’s best team at limiting long pass plays. Clemson has been living a bit on reputation since the Georgia win. Pick: Florida State (-3)
UCLA at Stanford… The Cardinal are not what we expected. Or, at least, have not played like it for four quarters yet. Their offense has been productive, but prone to droughts. Their defense has been effective, but not dominant. They have looked sloppy and inconsistent. Without Ty Montgomery making Special Teams plays, both the Washington and Utah games would have gone worse. The question is how good the Bruins are by comparison.
UCLA ran over Nebraska after a slow start. They beat Utah on the road by a touchdown, after being gifted six interceptions. It’s not clear how to contextualize their Top 10 numbers on both sides of the ball. Stanford’s will be by far the best defense the Bruins have faced, although they had success the second time around against them last season. Stanford looks like it needs a bye week to regroup. Unfortunately, they have two games before they get there.
This game should be close and come down to who makes a play. UCLA has the better top-end talent on both sides. Stanford has not executed to the requisite level to overcome that. Pick: UCLA (+4.5)
Florida at Missouri… Missouri entered the SEC East race officially last week. We thought this was a sandwich game for Florida entering the season. Now, it’s not a game Florida can or will overlook. The SEC has offered some spectacles this season. Don’t expect this game to be among them. Florida, with a great defense and heinous offense, sucks the life out of games. Both teams compound matters by starting backup quarterbacks.
Florida, it seems, can be beaten two ways. A team can hope they commit an apocalyptic number of turnovers (Miami) or just pound the Gators with a power running game (LSU). Florida has solved its turnover problem. Missouri does not look equipped to do the latter. Pick: Florida (-3)
Notre Dame (-3) vs. USC: The Irish are lackluster as home favorites by rule. That said, Notre Dame is at home coming off a bye week. The Trojans have key injuries on both sides of the ball, most notably Tre Madden and Morgan Breslin. We don’t trust USC’s depth on defense over four quarters. The Trojans gave up 21 points in the second half to Arizona, and 41 against Arizona State. Love Coach O. His bounce will have its limits.
Auburn (+13.5) at Texas A&M: The Tigers’ offense ranks fifth in yards/carry. The Aggies’ defense ranks 118th in yards allowed/carry. Texas A&M allowed 33 points to Arkansas and 38 to Ole Miss. Auburn should put in a similar performance to keep it close.
Washington (+3.5) at Arizona State: Oregon did not expose Washington. They are just much better. The Huskies will be looking to reassert themselves here. Washington is just a bad matchup for the Sun Devils. They have a Top 10 pass defense, after facing Oregon, to counter a high volume passing attack. They have the nation’s leading rusher going against the 90th best run defense.
Illinois (+14.5) vs. Wisconsin: This is a letdown spot for Wisconsin, after destroying Northwestern at home. The Badgers tend to dip outside of Madison. They have lost seven of 11 regular season road games the past three years. OSU had a lot of success through the air against Wisky. Illinois can score enough to keep the affair respectable.
Record: 26-27-1 ATS on the year.1-0 this week with UNC +9.5
South Carolina plays Tennessee… Steve Spurrier, in mid-season form, observed the following…
Spurrier: "Will be the 14th time I've coached in Neyland Stadium. … I've coached there more than some of their head coaches."—
Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) October 17, 2013