Last weekend was crazy. This weekend, on paper, looks like a return to normal. We’ll count our blessings and be thankful for a week’s respite from Will Muschamp.
Games of the Week
Texas Tech at Oklahoma…Both teams are ranked in the Top 15. It’s not clear either belongs there. Texas Tech has not played anyone of note. Oklahoma has played a couple decent teams and has not impressed. Both could make a run at the conference title. Both could limp to an 8-4 finish. This is the first major test for Swagger Kliff, who is now 30-3 with a play sheet in hand. Oklahoma has won six of the last seven in Norman. But the seventh was Texas Tech’s 41-38 upset in 2011.
There are reasons to like Oklahoma. There are always reasons to like Oklahoma. They trot out a top five pass defense against a pass-heavy Tech offense, with a freshman quarterback on the road and a Michigan-like turnover rate. Do you trust Oklahoma’s anemic offense that made Greg Robinson look great? Do you trust Texas Tech’s defense to replicate its statistical performance against a reasonable opponent? We’re not sure about either proposition. But it’s more fun to roll with this guy. We’ll take the points amidst the uncertainty. Pick: Texas Tech +7
South Carolina at Missouri… Missouri has surprised many this season. The Tigers knocked off injury depleted Georgia and Florida teams in back to back weeks to remain undefeated. Can they make it three against a healthier South Carolina? To all but lock down the SEC East and cement themselves as a BCS contender? The raw numbers are even, more or less. Both teams are in a similar QB situation with a competent backup. This may come down to mentality.
South Carolina is trotting out for a third-straight week on the road. But they should be refocused after a flat performance resulting in a loss at Tennessee. The Gamecocks need to win here. Missouri has transitioned from plucky underdog to presumptive favorite, in a fortnight. But Gary Pinkel has handled that situation before. We don’t have a great read here. What we would say is SC seems undervalued and Missouri seems overvalued. Spurrier pulls out the win. Pick: South Carolina +2.5
UCLA at Oregon… GameDay is on hand, to hype a game with a 23.5 point spread. UCLA lost to Stanford last weekend. Now the Bruins have to get off the mat, ignore the pain and chase the Ducks for 60 minutes. That does not sound promising. UCLA has three freshman offensive linemen starting and no Jordan James against an active Oregon front. That’s before you get to the conundrum of, you know, stopping the Ducks from scoring. Mother Nature is the only opposition that has slowed their offense thus far. Oregon is second nationally in yards/play. The Ducks have been held under 55 points once this season, despite playing three quarters.
Oregon will be in impress voters mode the rest of the season with Florida State breathing heavily behind. They are 30-2 at Autzen since 2009. The Ducks should come out and hammer UCLA. They have every incentive to do so. It’s a possible lookahead spot with Stanford, but not so much with a bye next week. Pick: Oregon -23.5
Stanford at Oregon State… The Beavers lost 49-46 to Eastern Washington in the opener, spoiling much of their rebranding effort. But, after winning six-straight, Oregon State has crawled its way back to the Top 25. The Beavers have one strength: passing. Sean Mannion leads the nation in passing yards and touchdown passes. Brandin Cooks leads the nation in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. That production, though, has come against a pitiful schedule. The Beavers beat Utah in overtime. Their other three conference wins were Washington State, Colorado and Cal.
Can OSU beat Stanford at home? It’s conceivable. Teams have had success throwing against Stanford this year. The Cardinal have been mediocre stopping big plays. Oregon State is averaging nearly eight pass plays of 20 or more yards per game (No. 1 nationally). Stanford’s offense is competent but not explosive. It has a tendency to flame out for quarters at a time. We keep looking for them to be the team we thought they were preseason. They aren’t quite there. Pick: Oregon State +3.5
Air Force (+19.5) vs. Notre Dame: The Irish look mediocre on both sides of the ball. They have looked poor in road games. Notre Dame’s only multiple-score win this season was against Temple. It’s a potential let down spot for the Irish after USC. They travel across the country to face a unique offense at altitude. Air Force will not win, but they can keep it to a 28-17 sort of game.
Penn State (+14.5) at Ohio State: The Buckeyes don’t pull away against teams that can fight back. OSU has covered one of four spreads at home this year against FBS teams. Penn State should be able to make a couple plays through the air against an average Ohio State pass defense. The Buckeyes pull away late, but not by enough to cover.
Kansas (+34.5) vs. Baylor: Baylor had what looked like a letdown against Kansas State, pulling away late to win, 35-25. That was Baylor’s first true conference road win without overtime since 2010. We don’t like Kansas, but we’re not spotting the Bears five touchdowns on the road until they prove they deserve it.
N.C. State (+32) at Florida State: This is a sandwich game for Florida State. There will be a letdown effect from Clemson and a look-ahead toward Miami. The Wolfpack are coming off a bye and have starting QB Brandon Mitchell back for the first time this season. N.C. State’s defense gave Clemson fits for part of the game. They can keep it to four touchdowns.
[Photos via USA Today Sports]