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
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
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
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
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
Mississippi @ Florida (-22.5)
That spread seems awfully low...
The Call: Florida by 31
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
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
Fresno State @ UCLA (+6.5)
Do I really have to explain this one?
The Call: Fresno State by 14
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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