Kind of a Big Deal Games
Baylor at Oklahoma State… Some may have thought this would be the de facto Big 12 title game. Few would have thought both teams would rank in the top 10 in yards/play defense. This will be the most important Baylor game of the Art Briles era. Bears fans will be happy to note Art Briles has no intention of ending that era this offseason. He’s not the guy to become the next coach at Texas. He’s the guy to make the next coach at Texas’ life miserable. We’ll presume Oklahoma State players’ penchant for sex has not depleted their masculine essence enough to affect the outcome.
Oklahoma State will be the best defense Baylor has faced. Oklahoma, the only Top 30 yards/play defense opponent, held the Bears to just 5.74 yards/play and stymied Bryce Petty for much of the game. The Cowboys have been strong and consistent against the run, holding every opponent this season below five yards/carry. Baylor is banged up on offense. LT Spencer Drango and WR Tevin Reese are out. The Bears’ two leading rushers, Seastrunk and Martin, are questionable with injuries. That said, their understudy, Freshman Shock Linwood, is averaging 7.5 yards/carry and has gone over 180 in his last two games.
There’s also the small matter of Baylor playing on the road. The Bears have lost seven of their last 10 in opposing Big 12 teams’ stadiums. Two of the three wins were against Kansas. The third was their 10-point win this season against Kansas State. That was Baylor’s worst performance this year. It was also their only double-digit conference road win under Art Briles. We’ll take the Cowboys to keep it close and, potentially, pull off the upset. Pick: Oklahoma State (+10)
Texas A&M at LSU… This game is less significant than both teams would have preferred. LSU wants to salvage a 9-3 regular season after some tough losses. Texas A&M harbors hope of earning an at large BCS invite at 10-2. Johnny Manziel, with Jameis Winston’s legal troubles, is not the Heisman front-runner yet. But he could sway wavering voters on this national stage.
Both teams can score. The difference is LSU’s defense is okay and Texas A&M’s is terrible. We suspect Les Miles will want to come out with chest and MANBALL this one, after being held to less than two yards/carry by Alabama. That is the optimal strategy to keep Manziel off the field. It’s hard to see A&M, ranking 111th nationally in yards/carry allowed, posing much resistence.
The personnel is different. But John Chavis was the one defensive coordinator who had success against a fully-formed Manziel last season. The Tigers held Mr. Football to 52 percent completions averaging less than five yards/attempt and three picks with 27 yards on 17 carries rushing. We like the Tigers to pull this out at home. Pick: LSU (-5)
Missouri at Ole Miss… The Tigers clinch the SEC East by winning out. This meeting with Ole Miss is the first of two tough games to get there. These teams are very similar on paper. Both have talent. Both are adept at just about everything. The difference is Ole Miss has faced a much tougher schedule. Missouri’s best win is over Vanderbilt. The Rebels anchored the Commodores down. They have also played Texas, Alabama and Auburn on the road and Texas A&M and LSU at home. The A&M loss was by a field goal. The difference in the Auburn game was a pick six. Swap schedules and you likely swap records.
Ole Miss has had a long time at home to get healthy. Hugh Freeze’s teams normally show up in big games. We’re always enamored with home dogs in the SEC, that aren’t playing Alabama. Pick: Ole Miss (+3)
Arizona State at UCLA… Both teams are 8-2. This is an elimination game for the Pac 12 South title. Paranoid Jim Mora hired security guards to patrol the parking lot, next to the team’s practice field. No espionage will happen on his watch. The Sun Devils are away from home, with a chance to move into the Pac 12’s upper echelon. This is the precise sort of game they have failed to win in recent years. We think that streak ends here.
ASU has an active, veteran defensive line facing off against a young UCLA offensive line. Defensively, the Bruins’ run defense has struggled against tempo and speed that can get to the edge. Arizona State plays with high-octane and has Marion Grice. UCLA has also been flirting with defeat for a while. Washington had its quarterback go down and shot itself with turnovers. Arizona was foiled by gimmicks and a fumble on the goal line. We trust Vegas not moving that line. Pick: Arizona State (-2.5)
Cal (+31.5) at Stanford… It’s a rivalry game. Stanford’s offense has not scored 28 points since September. This is a let down/body blow spot after USC. This is a look-ahead before Notre Dame. Cal has played Stanford tough at the Farm. Their last multiple-score win was in 1999.
Colorado (+22.5) vs. USC… Another sandwich game. USC is coming off a physical pounding against Stanford. They are looking ahead to UCLA. Their roster depth is not in a place where they can expend energy blowing out a team. Also, Colorado is not that bad this year.
Kansas State (-5) vs. Oklahoma… Bill Snyder wizardry vs. Bob Stoops malaise. Kansas State runs the ball well. Oklahoma does not stop the run. Kansas State has a solid run defense. Oklahoma loses when they can’t run. The improving Wildcats are better than any team the Sooners have beaten in 2013.
Chattanooga (+48.5) at Alabama… Nick Saban…does not…run up the score…on teams that are overwhelmed. Here he is getting angry his team kept trying to play against Arkansas. 45-0. 42-3. Somewhere in that range.
A 3-4 record last week took us to 44-47-2 ATS on the season.