Last Week: 2-4 ATS 4-2 SU
For the Year: 21-13-2 (.618) ($570) ATS 27-9 (.750) SU
We learned last week:
- The best defense in the country belongs to Michigan, who now have three consecutive shutouts, only giving up 105/105/168 total yards in those games.
- Despite the loss last week, Cal might be better than we thought, as they turned the ball over 6 times against Utah (including 5 Jared Goff interceptions), but only lost on the road by 6 points.
- Bret Bielema continues to be a carnival attraction.
- Texas fans were the lucky ones in the Big 12 last week, as their post-game celebration allowed them to mostly miss the 7 turnover beast-fest in Morgantown as Oklahoma State continues to just get by.
- And finally, we learned that yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.
If there is one game to write your legacy, to right a whole bunch of wrongs, to bring a team that might be fractured together, it is this game. Be ready for battle, because those guys across from you sure as hell will be.
Win this one, and the narrative is rewritten.
Starting with this column next week. - Me, Last Week
I was only half right last week.
This game brought this team together - for evidence of that look no further than that post-game melee - more so than any team meeting every day of the week could ever muster. Six weeks of frustration and dissatisfaction eroded away on the field of the Cotton Bowl Saturday afternoon, replaced with a glowing vindication.
Vindication that the narrative has been flipped, that anymore questions about Charlie Strong's job security will have to wait another year, instead replaced with talk about how these Longhorns are on the right track - and now have tangible evidence to support that assertion.
No, what I got wrong is that Oklahoma would be ready for battle.
Remember those early 2000's Mack Brown Texas teams that would come into Dallas and get their teeth stomped in because they weren't ready for the fight?
That has been Oklahoma for the last three years.
For three years now, Texas is the aggressor. Texas is the physical beast.
And Texas is the better team.
Questions should be asked about Bob Stoops and his job security, nobody up there just wants to admit it.
Stoops is the one that used to have plays saved for Texas, which Mack Brown would imitate in the weeks following this match-up. On Saturday, it was Texas that was the innovative mastermind, pulling the marionette strings on Stoops as he stood helpless on the sideline without even the energy to throw his visor.
For god sakes, Oklahoma players admitted in the locker room afterwards that they didn't even practice for the possibility of Tyrone Swoopes running the football, an offensive wrinkle that was inserted into the Texas playbook two weeks ago and has been talked about on the Longhorn Network and elsewhere.
Did Stoops figure he could stop watching video after the Notre Dame debacle?
No adjustments were to be made on Jerrod Heard running roughshod all over that once vaunted Oklahoma defense?
For once in the Stoops era of this rivalry, it is his turn to leave Dallas with questions about whether his tenure has grown stale and whether he can motivate a team against their biggest rival.
Meanwhile on the other sideline, while this victory was certainly impressive, it is one that could mean very little (other than bragging rights) if Texas doesn't build upon it as the season goes. Cal and Oklahoma State were the baby steps, Oklahoma was the breakthrough, but these final six opponents (a combined 17-14 record amongst them) need to be the springboard into next season, when expectations will be elevated.
Build upon that win, but don't let it be the best thing that happens to you this season.
On to the games...
UCLA @ Stanford -6.5
The Bruins are down three defensive starters for this one, meaning they'll have a hard time stopping Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey (2nd in the nation in all-purpose yards with 229.8 per game) and quarterback Kevin Hogan (7th in the country in passing efficiency).
Stanford has won 7 in a row in this series, and I don't see it stopping there.
Stanford 31 UCLA 21
ATS - Stanford
SU - Stanford
Michigan State @ Michigan -7:
Michigan State has won 6 of 7 in this series, and it hasn't been close, either, with an average margin of victory of 16 points per victory. But of course, those games weren't against Jim Harbaugh and those Michigan teams didn't have this defense.
You've heard the relevant stats this week, but even more impressive is the fact that the Wolverines have only allowed three drives of 50 or more yards since that Utah game.
Michigan State is the winner of 10 in a row, but struggled in their last two games against Purdue and Rutgers. Quarterback Connor Cook is 29-3 as a starter, but will certainly have his hands full here.
I think Michigan wins here, but I think Connor Cook is too good to let this one turn into a blowout.
Michigan 21 Michigan State 17
ATS - Michigan State
SU - Michigan
Florida @ LSU -9:
Gators quarterback Will Grier is out for the season due to a suspension, bad news for any team headed to the Bayou to play, but especially for Florida, who have only scored 17 total points in their previous two trips to LSU.
But Grier was not the whole team. This Florida defense is only allowing 14.3 points per game, and in their showcase game against Ole Miss, they only allowed 10 points and 328 total yards.
LSU wins, but this one will be a slugfest.
LSU 24 Florida 17
ATS - Florida
SU - LSU
Alabama -4 @ Texas A&M:
The Aggies have not been 6-0 since 1994, but to do it this year they'll have to defeat a Crimson Tide squad that defeated them 59-0 in 2014.
Kevin Sumlin swears this Aggie team is better than that one, and they'd better be, as Alabama enters this game ranked 2nd in the country in defensive S&P+.
Nick Saban's team has had its problems against spread teams in recent years, but this Aggie team isn't as proficient as the Johnny Manziel era teams, only scoring 58 points the last two games against average SEC defenses (Arkansas and Mississippi State).
The Aggies had the week off to prepare, but Alabama is the better team.
Alabama 34 Texas A&M 28
ATS - Alabama
SU - Alabama
Oklahoma -4 @ Kansas State:
Bob Stoops has not lost consecutive regular season games since 1999 (31-0), and on paper he shouldn't have any trouble against a Kansas State team that is on a two-game losing streak and seemingly has a new quarterback each week.
Joe Hubener is the starter this week, and while he's only completing 47.7% of his passes on the season, he's second on the team in rushing (by one yard without sacks) and went ballistic against TCU last week, totaling 111 yards and four touchdowns.
The Wildcats are 114th in the country in pass defense, so Baker Mayfield should be able to get back on track as long as the Sooners don't let Kansas State run all over them like the Longhorns did.
Oklahoma 31 Kansas State 24
ATS - Oklahoma
SU - Oklahoma
West Virginia @ Baylor -21.5:
The Baylor Bears are averaging 725 offensive yards a game this season, but it is hard to take that statistic seriously when you see that they have played Sally's Beauty College and Western of West Virginia thus far.
West Virginia is an analytical darling (8th in the country in S&P+), but NINE turnovers in their last two games against the Oklahoma schools have led them to a 0-2 start in conference play. As such they outgained the Cowboys by nearly 80 yards last week and have nothing to show for it.
Baylor is a scoring machine anywhere, but they especially take it to teams on their home field. I don't see the Mountaineers putting up much of a fight.
Baylor 58 West Virginia 31
ATS - Baylor
SU - Baylor
For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for a replica Golden Hat.