USC (-25) @ Oregon State
And so starts the Trojans' season of high spreads to cover. With some other games, I think it's gonna be a bit tricky to place them, but they haven't shown any major weaknesses so far, and they look like they've gained the focus they didn't have the past two seasons. The Beavers are just not looking good, from losing to Stanford to the beatdown by Penn State. Sure, they beat Hawaii at home last week, but they're really bad this year. This game will go a long way to showing what mettle USC will have throughout the Pac10 season.
The Call: USC by 28
The Result: Oregon State 27-21
Apparently the Trojans' weakness is 185lb running backs. Who knew. But this wasn't wholly the usual case of the Trojans sleepwalking through a game - the Beavers played nearly flawless, lights-out football the whole first half. All the credit to Mike Riley and the Beavers for their performance and execution all night. So USC is basically out of the national championship picture, unless we have another 2007 on our hands here, but I'm thinking the best they can do now is the Rose Bowl.
Oh, and that whole "USC vs the SEC" essay? Yeah, kindly just disregard that now. Thanks.
Virginia @ Duke (-7)
What kind of alternate reality are we living in when Duke is 2-1 and favored by a TD in the ACC? Wow. Listen, I know they're improved, and that the Cavaliers aren't looking good at all this year, but at least they've played a couple of decent teams in USC and UConn (and lost big). The Blue Devils have beaten the likes of I-AA James Madison and Navy, losing to Northwestern. Not much home-field advantage here either. But if you can't make this one a feel-good pick, when can you?
The Call: Duke by 10
The Result: Duke 31-3
Dick Vitale is going nuts right now. It's awesome baby!
Pittsburgh @ Syracuse (+15.5)
Pitt has rebounded nicely after a tough loss to BG to start the season, while Syracuse is... having issues, let's just say.
The Call: Pittsburgh by 17
The Result: Pittsburgh 34-24
Props to Orangemen for leading for three quarters, and props to the Panthers for staging a solid comeback. Next week at South Florida will be a good test.
Minnesota @ Ohio State (-18)
The Golden Gophers haven't played anybody, while Ohio State should be fielding the team that will engineer the rest of their season - Wells in the backfield & Pryor behind center. They just need to bench Boeckman, really. I know it goes against Tressel's instincts to go with a green, freshman QB in the mold of Vince Young over a senior pocket-passer, but losing should go against his instincts even more.
The Call: Ohio State by 21
The Result: Ohio State 34-21
The Buckeyes are finding their identity a bit more now, which is good to see. Whether it's the identity that's going to win them a big non-conference matchup remains to be seen...
Kent State @ Ball State (-17.5)
This isn't a glamourous matchup, true, but I really like what the Cardinals have been doing. Plus there's the sad situation of Dante Love - heartbreaking. Their team is going to have to rebound and redefine itself, but they've got other playmakers that can and should step up. Kent State just hasn't performed well so far this season - look for the energy and emotion to be on the Cardinal's sideline.
The Call: Ball State by 21
The Result: Ball State 41-20
Good job, Cardinals. They've got a really special season in the making.
North Carolina @ Miami (-7.5)
Quite the intriguing matchup for a lot of reasons. Of course there's the return of Butch Davis to Miami, the resurgence of both programs, and the amazing (conference) race that the ACC is turning into. Despite my prediction, I wouldn't be surprised if this one came down to a FG at the end of the game.
The Call: Miami by 9
The Result: North Carolina 28-24
A close one, just as I thought. Of course, I also thought the Canes would win. Silly me. The Tar Heels are looking like players, and not the type that would just pull the surprise upset once a season. I'm curious to see what they do the rest of the season.
Mississippi @ Florida (-22.5)
That spread seems awfully low...
The Call: Florida by 31
The Result: Mississippi 31-30
Did I say low? I meant high. Yeah, that's it. Florida's secondary (or lack of) is looking to be a major Achilles heel, or whole leg for that matter. Credit the Rebels for not being intimidated by the Swamp - good for them.
Tennessee @ Auburn (-6.5)
Hmmm... the instinct here is to say the Tigers will destroy the Vols. But let's think about this for a minute. Auburn's offense is still sputtering (yeah, 21 points against LSU, but one of those was a defensive TD), Tennessee almost always rebounds after a slow start to the year, and Fulmer can pull out all the stops now that he's got nothing to lose (no, not even his job - I'll get to that in my essay next week). So some of the signs point to a close game. Nah - 6.5 is way too low.
The Call: Auburn by 14
The Result: Auburn 14-12
The factor I forgot to include? Auburn doesn't seem to have an offense. You usually need one of those to win. Usually.
Colorado (+5.5) @ Florida State
Kind of a tricky one here. I missed the Buffs call last week, but they're looking like a pretty big enigma this year. Sure they're undefeated, but they only beat Eastern Washington by 7. The Seminoles looked horrible last week, but they can't screw up that bad two games in a row, can they? You know what this means - time to ask the gut.
The Call: Colorado by 7
The Result: Florida State 39-21
Aw, gut - how could you? Okay, okay. I'm sorry I pressured you. My bad.
Fresno State @ UCLA (+6.5)
Do I really have to explain this one?
The Call: Fresno State by 14
The Result: Fresno State 36-31
Man, I'm just getting hammered against the spread this week. Oh well, at least I'm not a UCLA fan.
Arkansas @ Texas (-27.5)
Now THAT'S a spread. Forces you to think, doesn't it? Gives you some pause. Makes you hold the phone. Well while you were thinking just then, the Longhorns scored two TD's.
The Call: Texas by 34
The Result: Texas 52-10
Finally, something solid. Texas will probably jump to #2 or #3 this week, reviving a ton of the luster the Red River shootout has lost in the past few years.
Buffalo (+7) @ Central Michigan
I'm really liking the Bulls' team this year - they seem much improved from the last few seasons, and I'm going to call right now that they go bowling. The Chippewas have struggled a bit, and I don't know that they're clicking just yet.
The Call: Buffalo by 7
The Result: Central Michigan 27-25
You know what? I still like the Buffs this year. Not feeling too good about the bowling prediction, but we'll see.
Colorado State @ California (-26.5)
Are you kidding? After the Bears laid an egg at Maryland? And after the MtnWest has pummeled every Pac10 team it's played this year? Are you sure that spread's not supposed to be the other way around? C'mon, really. I think the Bears can get back on track with this game, but that spread's way too big.
The Call: California wins, but Colorado State covers the spread
The Result: California 42-7
Dare I say it? The Bears are looking like a really good team now, after that Maryland debacle. The top of the Pac10 has gotten a lot more interesting this week...
TCU (+18.5) @ Oklahoma
Now that's a spread I can respect. It gives props to TCU and their abilities, but still falls firmly on the side of the favorite.
The Call: Oklahoma by 24
The Result: Oklahoma 35-10
And the Sooners take over the top spot in the national rankings for the first time since 2003. (Has it really been that long?)
UAB (+24.5) @ South Carolina
We're going to think mathematically about this one. In their four games, the Gamecocks have only scored more than 24.5 points once (34 vs NC State), and they only put up 23 on I-AA Wofford last week. At the same time, the Blazers are averaging 26 points a game through their first four. You do the numbers.
The Call: South Carolina wins, but UAB covers the spread
The Result: South Carolina 26-13
That one worked out quite well. South Carolina is still headed for a rough season though.
South Florida @ NC State (+8.5)
Intriguing matchup. The Wolfpack had a good win last week and are looking better as the season progresses. The Bulls, while playing some close games, are undefeated against pretty solid opponents.
The Call: South Florida by 10
The Result: South Florida 41-10
The Bulls are looking really, really solid. They've had some good wins and are on track to have another solid run through the BigEast. The Wolfpack, as usual, have work to do.
Alabama @ Georgia (-7)
Game of the week, for the most part - one of these undefeated SEC squads will take their first loss and shift the rankings picture. Home-field advantage should be good for at least a few points here.
The Call: Georgia by 9
The Result: Alabama 41-30
Well, home-field might have helped them out with some points, but it certainly wasn't enough. That game was eerily similar to USC-Oregon State the other night - completely one sided in the first half, the losing team makes it interesting in the second half but it's not enough. Alabama will probably jump to top 3 in the rankings, and their schedule is very favorable until November.
Virginia Tech @ Nebraska (-7)
Another solid matchup, but for different reasons. The Hokies are seemingly on their way down, having a much rockier year than they have recently, while the Huskers are looking like they're moving up and could be a force in the Big12 North. In all honesty, I have no idea what's going to happen in this one.
The Call: Nebraska by 10
The Result: Virginia Tech 35-30
That one was a tossup, and I came down on the wrong side. What're you gonna do. So the Hokies demise seemingly isn't that bad (hell, they're still 4-1), and the Huskers have a lot of good things going for them. A good game overall.
Illinois (+14.5) @ Penn State
We know that the Nittany Lions are rolling this year, but the Illini have had some issues, barely fending off LA-Lafayette last week.
The Call: Penn State by 17
The Result: Penn State 38-24
Eh, missed that spread barely. With Wisconsin's loss, the Nittany Lions seem to be in the driver's seat in the Big10. They have two road games coming up that should test them a bit, but they're starting out the year about as well as the fans could hope.
Not a good week, especially going against the spread. 12 for 19 straight up, only 7 for 19 AtS. Still decent on the year, but I dropped a bit: 57 for 77 (74%) straight up, 43 for 77 (56%) AtS. We'll do better next week.