Last Week: 4-2 ATS 4-2 SU
What we learned last week:
We learned that Notre Dame just believes that a win over a double digit underdog at home is way too easy, as they have lost four games in four years to such teams.
…that Georgia might belong to the SEC (SEC! SEC!) but Boise State just goes on, beating most opponents with ease. At some point we might start to respect their efforts a bit more.
…that LSU can win some ugly, ugly games, but they all count and a lot of teams would kill for some ugly wins every year, especially against a top ten opponent.
…that TCU won’t be leading the nation in defense this season, and that Robert Griffin III will be a Heisman candidate…until week 4 when they go to Manhattan and likely let us down.
…that Texas A&M can win easily when handed 20 points shortly after kickoff. We’ll learn more about them in two weeks when they play Oklahoma State.
…that Bryan Harsin and Major Applewhite have a long ways to go until they catch Greg Davis’s legacy. Last Saturday was the 47th time that the Longhorns reached 500 yards under Mack Brown, and we all know that Davis is responsible for 46 of those.
Since Auburn obviously won’t be defending their national championship trophy, it is time that we take a look at the top contenders for this year’s crown, who hopefully one day won’t have it vacated. And since this is once again the summer of conference realignment, let’s take a look at them against that backdrop, assigning tiers to the top characters in this year’s drama:
THE SEC DIVISION
It is pretty clear that Oklahoma, Alabama and LSU are the big dogs here. OU has a great offense with a somewhat questionable defense while the other two teams are vice versa so these are the teams most likely to be bitching at Boise State later in the year, but they are the top tier.
THE LONGHORN NETWORK DIVISION
We all know they are great, and will be great, but will anybody watch Boise State? Will anyone take anything they do seriously? They better, because after yet another impressive non-conference win in Athens last weekend, Boise is 5th in the country and will likely take the top spot if any of the above teams falter.
THE TEXAS A&M DIVISION
Okay, we all know they are good, but how good is Florida State, Stanford, Oklahoma State and well, Texas A&M? Each team looks talented, but whether it be inexperienced quarterback (FSU), new coaching staff (Stanford), or peeing down their legs every year (OSU and A&M), they all have questions that will be answered at some point.
THE TEXAS DIVISION
Wisconsin knows that if they keep their head down, keep doing what they do, the Badgers could very well end up in the national championship game if the dominoes fall just right.
THE BILL BYRNE DIVISION
You have to have some talent to get to this station in life, but Nebraska, Virginia Tech, South Carolina, Oregon and Arkansas all have talented teams with comical issues at times. Nebraska has the Pelini brothers, who look about like what Billy Martin would look like as a football coach. Virginia Tech wins every year but at the same time loses every year. South Carolina has a quarterback who has odds on him getting suspended up on the board in Vegas and a coach that pees on the trees at Augusta National. Oregon has a high octane offense but recruits out of a Nike shoe delivery van down by the river. And Arkansas has Bobby Petrino possibly leaving mid-season for another job at any point in his tenure and, well, has Arkansas fans.
THE BAYLOR DIVISION
Otherwise known as The Field. Ohio State has controversy but enough talent to muddle through the Big 10. Mississippi State might be able to win if the cream of the SEC crop decides to take this season off for academics. Florida would be entertaining just to see how much coffee Will Muschamp drinks during championship week. West Virginia would be interesting to see if Dana Holgorsen makes it to the game after a week in New Orleans. And yes, Texas could win it if Oklahoma gets stuck in traffic on the way to Dallas and A&M leaves for the SEC in October.
On to the games...
Mississippi State -6.5 @ Auburn:
Okay, we all know that Auburn needed a miracle to come back and win against Utah State last week, but do we really trust Mississippi State to go on the road and win a big game?
Yes. They won 8 of their last 10 last season, including a win in Gainesville and a bowl romp against Michigan. While they won’t roll up the 600 yards they did last week in a win against Memphis, they should be able to move the ball on an Auburn defense that gave up 448 to Utah State last week.
Mississippi State 31 Auburn 17
ATS – MSU
SU – MSU
Notre Dame -3.5 @ Michigan:
The first night game at the Big House wouldn’t be able to hide another five turnovers by Notre Dame like they rolled up against South Florida last week. The Irish haven’t won in Ann Arbor since 2005 and I don’t see them ending that streak against a tough crowd behind a team that is ready for a landmark win for the new coaching staff.
Michigan 34 Notre Dame 28
ATS – Michigan
SU – Michigan
Alabama -10 @ Penn State:
Alabama’s quarterbacks (A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims) were awful last week, throwing 4 interceptions, but the Tide don’t rely on quarterback play to win ballgames. Those quarterbacks will have to be better against a Penn State defense that returns four starters in the secondary, but Penn State has offensive troubles of their own, passing for only 114 yards on 20 attempts against Indiana State, who was playing without Larry Bird.
Last year’s 24-3 Alabama win was a Crimson Tide defensive showcase, as they held Penn State to 283 total yards. With nine returning starters, I see more of the same happening here.
Alabama 27 Penn State 7
ATS – Alabama
SU – Alabama
South Carolina -3 @ Georgia:
This game was Marcus Lattimore’s coming out party last season as the then true freshman ran for 187 yards. But Georgia will be desperate here and Aaron Murray will be good enough to pull off the upset against a Gamecocks defense that was mediocre at best last season.
Georgia 24 South Carolina 20
ATS – Georgia
SU – Georgia
Missouri @ Arizona State -8:
That certainly was an ugly start for Missouri, who will be without two defensive starters that suffered injuries in the 17-6 win over Miami (OH). Arizona State is a sneaky defensive team that had solid outings against Oregon (125 rushing yards on 36 carries) and Stanford (Andrew Luck 292 passing, 0 TD 1 INT) last year. They return 8 starters, including freak linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who had three sacks last week.
It doesn’t look good for Missouri.
Arizona State 31 Missouri 16
ATS – Arizona State
SU – Arizona State
BYU @ Texas -7:
This isn’t your dad’s (or even older brother’s) BYU team that throws the ball all over the field and contends for national titles, but this is still a formidable match-up for a young Texas team struggling for confidence.
Much has been made of BYU’s strong finish to last season (winning 5 of their last 6), but the combined records of those opponents was 15-47. The Cougars' quarterback is the highly recruited Jake Heaps, who had an unspectacular 2010 followed by an underwhelming performance last week against Mississippi. In order to win this game, BYU will have to move the chains, control the clock, take care of the ball and score TDs instead of FGs. It won’t get much help from a running game that averaged 3.8 yards per carry last week. Depending on your view of the Texas defense from last week, you decide if that is any way to win this game.
As nonthreatening as BYU’s offense is, they feature a physical defense that will provide a challenge to a Texas team that is still growing at the quarterback position. Garrett Gilbert will have to be on his A game here, if that's possible, and the mistakes that were shown early against Rice will need to be corrected.
Jump out on top early, and Texas can win this game with no problem. Let that defense shove you around and you will find yourself in a dogfight where their offense only needs one solid drive to beat you.
I like Texas here. With all due respect to Rice, I’m guessing that Bryan Harsin spent more time watching BYU film in the off-season than he did watching the Owls. BYU was also in a physical game last week in somewhat hostile territory, and I’m not sure that their young team can hold up two weeks in a row.
Texas 28 BYU 17
ATS – Texas
SU – Texas
For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for a Jimmer Fredette Kings jersey.