Friday, September 26, 2008

Rev picks 'Em: Week Five

The first groundshaking event of the college football season happened while you were sleeping last night, with USC falling to lowly Oregon State 27-21. USC was supposed to walk through the PAC-10, right?

Photo: LA Times

This completely shakes up the college football race, and at this moment it appears to be a two league race between the SEC and Big XII to crash the BCS Championship game. On the SEC side, Florida, Georgia, Alabama and LSU are all in the top 10, two teams from the East Division and two teams from the West Division. Likewise, the Big XII has Oklahoma, Mizzou, Texas and Texas Tech in the top 10 – Mizzou is in the North, OU, Texas and Texas Tech are all in the South. The race begins in earnest this week for the SEC, with Alabama squaring off against Georgia in Athens.

The interesting subplot to all of this is both of these leagues tend to beat each other up during the season, so it’s not completely out of the question that all of the teams listed above could end the season with two or more losses in league play. Assuming that’s the case, then the door is wide open again for the Big Ten. Ohio State made it to two consecutive BCS title games by taking care of business in conference. And while OSU most likely will not be returning to the title game this year, two Big Ten teams – Wisconsin and Penn State – are in position to make a run. Of the two, Wisconsin has the easier road, getting Ohio State and their head to head matchup vs. Penn State at home. Penn State, of course, has to travel to Madison and also has to travel to Ohio State to play the Buckeyes.

Of course, USC could run out the rest of their schedule and all the teams mentioned above could lose a bunch of games they’re not supposed to. In which case, we’re right back where we started.

The Rev’ went 7-3 last week, bringing the season tally to 29-11. We’re starting to get into the heart of the football season with intra-conference matchups across the board. This is when the season really gets interesting, so here we go:

10 points: Tennessee (1-2) vs. # 16 AUBURN (3-1): Auburn will be looking for blood after last week’s close loss to LSU at home. Good thing for them the Vols are coming to town. Tennessee is just not a good team right now and they won’t be able to move the ball against Auburn’s stout defense. Auburn really needs help on offense though – they looked confused at times last week against LSU (although in Auburn’s defense, many teams look confused against LSU). Auburn QB Chris Todd looked shaky, and shaky doesn’t win in the SEC. If things don’t get better, the chorus will get louder for sophomore QB Kodi Burns - an electrifying runner - to see some time.

9 points: #8 WISCONSIN (3-0) vs. Michigan (1-2): Wisconsin travels to the Big House as a 6.5 point favorite, and they should cover with ease. Both teams are coming off a bye week, but really, is a week long enough to sort out the mess that is Michigan football right now?

8 points: Virginia (1-2) vs. DUKE (2-1): As mentioned on this site earlier, Duke is the FAVORITE in this game, the first time they’ve been favored in six years. As of press time, Vegas had not been flooded with any noticeable amounts of cash to swing it the other way, and the line still remains a solid 6.5 points.

7 points: #21 FRESNO STATE (2-1) vs. UCLA (1-2): Fresno State could just as easily be 3-0 entering this game – their only loss came against a good Wisconsin team, losing 13-10. The good vibes from UCLA’s opening win vs. Tennessee have clearly dissipated – the Bruins got shellacked by BYU 59-0 and lost at Arizona 31-10 in consecutive weeks. Fresno State always seems to trip up a team from a major BCS conference each year, and while they nearly missed on Wisconsin, they will most likely finish it off vs. UCLA.

6 points: PURDUE (2-1) vs. Notre Dame (2-1): Purdue had a high-powered Oregon team on the ropes before letting that game slip away from them. Purdue’s a pretty decent team, probably no better than fifth in the Big Ten, but that should be enough to beat Notre Dame. I’m not convinced the Irish are near as good as they think they are.

5 points: Colorado (3-0) vs. FLORIDA STATE (2-1): Colorado is now 3-0, the best shape the program’s been in quite some time. They knocked-off a diminished West Virginia team last week, 17-14, on a field goal in overtime. Meanwhile, Florida State just continues to sputter. Wake Forest took it to the Noles last week in Tallahassee, the second consecutive time the Deacons have beaten the Noles on their home field. Florida State doesn’t have any more room for “boo-boos” as head-coach-in waiting Jimbo Fisher says, so expect the Noles to come out with a little more fire vs. the Buffaloes. Florida State’s laying 6, and I expect Colorado will cover that spread.

4 points: Stanford (2-2) vs. WASHINGTON (0-3): Might this be the week the Huskies get on the board? UW’s a 3.5 point favorite at home, and Stanford’s not really all that good, so it is conceivable that the Huskies will win.

3 points: VIRGINIA TECH (3-1) vs. Nebraska (3-0): This should be an interesting matchup pitting two aggressive and undisciplined defenses against each other. Nebraska is unbeaten, but they haven’t beaten any team of consequence so far. The Hokies, meanwhile, seem to have gained some footing with QB Tyrod Taylor under center, beating Georgia Tech and North Carolina in consecutive weeks. This one will be awfully tough for the Hokies to pull off … but I’m sticking with them here.

2 points: Illinois (2-1) vs. #12 PENN STATE (4-0): After suffering withering press coverage and multiple player suspensions and dismissals, the Nittany Lions have come through it unscathed at 4-0. This game will be a barometer for how good Penn State really is. Illinois will challenge the Lions offensively, with speed to burn at the QB and WR position. Illinois played spoiler in the Big Ten last year en route to a Rose Bowl berth, and their only loss this year is to Mizzou, a team well on its way to the Big XII North championship. Penn State is a 13.5 point favorite, but that’s a little high. Like some other games this week, I like the favorite to win the game but the underdog should cover the spread.

1 point: #10 Alabama (4-0) vs. #3 GEORGIA (4-0): Putting aside USC’s whitewash of Ohio State, this game is, so far, the game of the year of the 2008 college football season. The Crimson Tide appear to be among the very best in all of college football in only year two under coach Nick Saban. Georgia, meanwhile, has lived up to its early season hype, surviving an intra-conference slugfest with South Carolina and dismantling Arizona State last week in Tempe. Georgia is donning black unis for the game for only the third time, and Sanford Stadium is guaranteed to be a uniquely inhospitable locale when Alabama rolls in tomorrow evening. Alabama has played above expectations early this season and I think the more experienced Georgia team will be a bit too much for the Tide to handle this week. Georgia by a FG.


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