Miami at Florida State… Both teams are ranked in the Top 10. The game has national implications. This is what the ACC expected to happen every year by adding Miami. It has not happened since 2004, when the teams were ranked in the Top 10 preseason. This matchup is notable. It will be hyped and packed with media. It will not prove much of a showdown. Miami, needing to come from behind late against UNC and Wake Forest, is not in the same atmosphere level. Florida State is an overwhelming 21-point favorite.
It’s hard to concoct a scenario where Miami could win this game. Too much needs to happen that has not happened for the Hurricanes all season. On offense, they must be efficient on third down, be efficient in the red zone and not create turnovers by forcing things in the passing game. All three have been issues. They are going up against a top five defense. On the other side, they must contain arguably the nation’s best offense and quarterback. Miami does rank 18th in yards allowed/play. They have also faced four offenses outside the top 100 in yards/play. Georgia Tech is their only opponent thus far in the top 60.
Miami will be up for this game. But so will Florida State. The Seminoles have to turn public opinion for a BCS title shot. This is one of the few opportunities they have left. Pick: Florida State (-21)
Michigan at Michigan State…This game is pivotal for Brady Hoke. There’s the in-state rivalry, where Michigan State has won four of the last five. It’s also the type of game (good opponent, on the road, as a slight underdog) Michigan has not raised its game and won. The tough rhetoric is wonderful. But to beat the underrated Spartans, the performance has to match it.
Things aren’t in the job security stage for Hoke, nor should they be. But his teddy bear luster, after Akron, UConn and Penn State, has faded. He’s done some wonderful things for the program. But we’re not that far from “it’s Michigan fergodsakes” being deployed against him.
Michigan State’s offense is not as good as it looked against Illinois. Michigan’s defense is not as bad as it looked against Indiana. This game should be decided on the other side of the ball. The Spartans have the nation’s best statistical defense, ranking No. 1 overall against both the run and the pass. MSU’s biggest strength, their defensive front, goes against Michigan’s biggest weakness, their offensive line. The Wolverines will hope Devin Gardner can overcome that. Gardner has produced, averaging more than 10 yards per pass attempt. He’s also been a turnover machine. MSU has been caught out with some big plays in the passing game. But Michigan will need “first three quarters against Notre Dame” level execution from No. 98 to exploit that aggressiveness.
Every trend is leaning toward Michigan State. They are 5-0 against the spread at home. Michigan has not covered against them since Lloyd Carr was coach. The Spartans tend to bring more intensity to this game, especially at home. Michigan has lost six of its last nine away from Michigan Stadium, and not looked impressive in some of the wins. Pick: Michigan State (-5)
Georgia vs. Florida… They will be pouring the cocktails stiffly, and not just to drown out the Jacksonville malaise. Both Georgia and Florida have faltered this year, in large part due to injuries. This game will be played for little more than pride, which has Gary Danielson super excited. Both teams are coming off a bye week, and hoping to bounce back. Some players will be returning for Georgia, most notably RB Todd Gurley and S Tray Matthews.
The public is coming in hard on Georgia. The line has not budged. Florida’s offense may be big and dumb and all that. But they play very good defense, they don’t turn the ball over and their special teams have been solid. We’re not sold on Georgia doing any of those things well. The argument for the Dawgs is their offense, but receiver attrition will dampen their explosiveness against a top-flight secondary. Is Gurley ready to grind for 30-35 carries? There’s a possibility the weather could be bad. We’ll be the contrarian. Pick: Florida (+2.5)
Oklahoma State at Texas Tech… The battle of teams we’re gobsmacked are ranked ahead of Arizona State and Michigan State. The Cowboys looked so stocked at quarterback before the season Wes Lunt transferred. But, now, OSU has struggled throwing the ball, ranking just 73rd in yards/pass attempt. They are carried by their (gasp!) defense, which ranks 8th nationally in yards allowed/play. We love Kliff Kingsbury (especially in miniature), but Oklahoma State is built to expose his team.
Texas Tech has a high volume pass offense going against a Top 10 pass defense. Oklahoma State can also replicate the Sooners’ success last week on the ground, after running for 345 yards and five touchdowns on Iowa State last week. OSU leads the Big 12 in turnover margin. Texas Tech is second from bottom. Lubbock does get weird on occasion. But Oklahoma State has not had a problem there since Mike Leach left. The Cowboys won 34-17 in 2010 and 66-6 there in 2011. Pick: Oklahoma State (+1)
Purdue (+32.5) vs. Ohio State: Too many points on the road for a team that has seldom been imperious. Purdue stinks, but their record misleads. Their worst FBS opponent thus far is 6-2 Cincinnati. Former Ohio State assistants are at the helm. There’s also some history. Eight of the last 12 games between these two programs have come down to one score. Purdue has won three of the last four in West Lafayette.
Wisconsin (-9.5) at Iowa: This game will be B1G. The Badgers enter well prepared. The Hawkeyes gave up consistent yards on the ground to both Ohio State and Northwestern. Wisconsin, the nation’s top rushing attack, will gladly take that. On the other side, Wisconsin has been dominant against the run. The customary Wisconsin dip away from Madison has been non-existent.
Arkansas (+7.5) vs. Auburn: Home underdogs in the SEC. Arkansas faced about as tough of a schedule as the SEC could throw at them over four weeks. They should have regrouped over a bye week. They have a Top 20 running game going against an average Auburn rush defense. The Tigers, with people considering them a challenge for Alabama, are being more than a tad overrated.
Pittsburgh (+10.5) at Georgia Tech: Pitt has been seasoned against the triple-option, having played Navy last week. The Panthers also have a quite decent passing game facing a Tech pass defense that has looked atrocious at times this year.
Record: Rough week last week. Off by a point on three games. 31-36-2 ATS. So fade if you wish.
[Photo via USA Today Sports]