Last Week: 2-4 ATS 3-3 SU
For the Year: 6-6 (.500) (-$60) ATS 6-6 (.500) SU
We learned last week...
...it took a couple of quarters and Virginia Tech losing five (!) fumbles, but Tennessee finally looked like a formidable team. One more layup against Ohio and then Florida, Georgia, Texas A&M and Alabama await.
...Utah and BYU might have played the worst game ever, as BYU even went for two at the end instead of kicking a game-tying extra point because they didn't want to put America through any more of a game that included both quarterbacks throwing three interceptions, 197 yards in penalties, two BYU players being ejected for targeting on successive plays and the Utes turning the ball over six (!) times in total...and winning.
...remind me never to pick Iowa State ever again. The Cyclones had 10 penalties, 9 punts, 8 pass completions, gave up 7 points 6 times, and 5 yards per attempt would have been an improvement over their 4.3. Just wretched.
...Kliff Kingsbury, you might want to walk down the hall, introduce yourself to your defensive coordinator and fire him because your team just gave up EIGHT touchdowns to Kalen Ballage. If you have never heard of Ballage before, don't feel bad because A.) apparently Kingsbury never had either, and B.) the guy only had EIGHT touchdowns in TWO previous seasons. That was the third time in the last 12 games that the Red Raiders scored 50 or more points...and lost.
...that referees might not know the difference between a religious gesture and a throat slash gesture, but apparently Kenny Hill still doesn't know the difference between a good decision and a bad decision.
...and finally, we learned that Texas's backup offensive line can still roll up more than 400 yards on an opponent and that the Longhorns have some grit, as they had every reason to sleep through the entire game but did not.
This week I want to take a quick look at the national scene. Often times it is several weeks into the season before national powers start dropping like flies, but with the renewed focus on actual, competitive non-conference games, this year we have already seen Oklahoma, TCU, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, USC, UCLA, Notre Dame and LSU drop a game. Might this be the year that a two-loss team sneaks into the playoff (or a three loss team if it is Alabama, of course)?
First and foremost, you have to think that Alabama is the favorite going away right now, and if they break their two-game losing streak to Mississippi this weekend, and if they survive an October stretch that sees them travel to Arkansas and Tennessee before coming home to face Texas A&M and LSU, I see nobody else on their schedule that can deter them from that.
After the Crimson Tide, it gets a little murkier. Do you like a Clemson team that returned the nation's best quarterback, but who hasn't shown up in 2016 as of yet but then again only faces two ranked teams all year? Or do you like Michigan, who seems a year away, and features an unproven quarterback that has to travel to Michigan State, Iowa and Ohio State in the latter half of the year?
Then you have Florida State, who features one of the best playmakers in the nation in Dalvin Cook but also has an unproven quarterback. And then of course there is Ohio State, who if they get past Oklahoma this weekend only has one ranked opponent (at Wisconsin) before ending the season with Michigan State and Michigan.
Those are certainly the favorites for the next two spots, with their respective head to head matchups likely sending the victor to the playoff at the end of the season.
Among the other candidates, the team with by far the easiest road is Houston, who can basically start practicing the next ten weeks for Louisville, the only team on their schedule that doesn't look like one of those ridiculous Big 12 expansion candidates who if they got in you would just turn your phone off for several days (Cincinnati, Texas State, Connecticut, Navy, Tulsa, SMU, Central Florida and Tulane). Give Tom Herman ten weeks to prepare against anyone and he can beat them. Just ask Bob Stoops.
If the committee doesn't deem Houston's schedule worthy enough, they could look west and see that Stanford could certainly make a case if they survive this USC/UCLA/Washington/Notre Dame stretch coming up starting this week, or Washington who have exactly two ranked opponents the rest of the way (Stanford and Oregon) and get them at home in successive weeks at the end of this month.
Wisconsin would set back college football 50 years if they made it so let's not even examine that possibility, and if Michigan State barely survived the Furman Paladins they're not going to survive the four ranked opponents on their schedule, so let's exclude them, too.
Louisville still has to play three opponents currently ranked in the Top-6, so Bobby Petrino will likely need to wreck his motorcycle somewhere other than Atlanta or Phoenix come late December, and Iowa likely loses to North Dakota State this weekend so don't bother with them, either.
That leaves us with the Big 12. Oklahoma looked like the class of the conference to most this off-season, but then they remembered they were great expectations Oklahoma and quickly lost in the season opener. Baylor is one injury away from their season going down the drain, and TCU at least early in the season doesn't look to be hitting on all cylinders...
So what about Texas?
Let's focus on Cal.
Florida State -2.5 @ Louisville:
Get past this one, and the Seminoles are in the drivers seat in the ACC as they play their next five in the state of Florida, with the last of those against Clemson on Halloween weekend.
The big story here is the absence of Florida State safety Derwin James, possibility the nation's best defender, who was injured when the Seminoles were up 42-6 against Charleston Southern. Not Jimbo Fisher's best moment.
Lamar Jackson has been the best player in the country through two weeks, accounting for more than 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns, and he hasn't even had the benefit of facing Texas Tech. He faces a Florida State defense that has already given up 11 plays of 20 or more yards this season, an astounding number through two games for traditionally one of the nation's best defensive squads.
Those defensive lapses, the dominance of Jackson, the loss of James and Deondre Francois in a true road setting for the first time adds up to a Louisville win.
Louisville 33 Florida State 28
ATS - Louisville
SU - Louisville
Michigan State @ Notre Dame -7.5:
Torii Hunter, Jr. is expected back for the Irish, which will be a welcome sight for a Notre Dame offense that struggled a bit when he went down against Texas and continued those pains, throwing for only 205 yards against Nevada last week.
The Spartans struggled in their first game and then had a week off, so they aren't as battle tested as the Irish. Senior quarterback Tyler O'Connor failed to impress last year in a win over Ohio State (he only threw for 89 yards), and I think they'll need a little more firepower to pull off this one.
Notre Dame 27 Michigan State 23
ATS - Michigan State
SU - Notre Dame
Texas A&M @ Auburn -4:
Weird trend alert - ever since Texas A&M has joined the conference, the road team has won this game, with each team going 2-2.
These two teams are pretty similar. Both have tough defenses and good enough offenses led by questionable quarterback play. A&M has the better defense, but Auburn is a tough place to play. Can the Aggies win 3 in a row at Jordan-Hare?
Auburn 27 Texas A&M 24
ATS - Texas A&M
SU - Auburn
Alabama -10.5 @ Ole Miss:
You know Nick Saban has had this one circled on the calendar for a long time - which probably explains why he has been so pissed off after blowout wins over USC and Western Kentucky.
The Rebels have been one dimensional in their first two games this season. Their leading rusher only has 108 on the year, while quarterback Chad Kelly has thrown for 532 yards and seven touchdowns - but also three interceptions.
This isn't happening three games in a row.
Alabama 31 Ole Miss 24
ATS - Mississippi
SU - Alabama
Ohio State -2 @ Oklahoma:
This one comes down to J.T. Barrett against Baker Mayfield - and which defense can stop the opposing quarterback.
We know Barrett isn't going to be fazed by the Oklahoma crowd - he's played in plenty of big games on the road. But Ohio State returns only three other starters, so while they may be talented, there is an experience factor there.
But what has been the formula to beat Oklahoma the last two seasons? Be physical - and the Buckeyes can do it as well as anyone.
Ohio State 34 Oklahoma 24
ATS - Ohio State
SU - Ohio State
Texas -7 @ Cal:
Two things here:
1.) Can Texas perform on the road? The Longhorns went 1-4 in games not at DKR or the Cotton Bowl last year, with three of those being very ugly, did the real Texas team get stuck on the tarmac kind of games. Ask any cautiously optimistic Texas fan the reason for their trepidation and the road woes are near the top of their concern list.
2.) Can Texas impose their will? If Texas can run the offense they did against Notre Dame and UTEP - they win this going away. Struggle, let the crowd get into it, turn the ball over...then it is anyone's game.
Fortunately, I believe that the answer to both questions is yes.
It is important to remember that this team isn't the 2015 team full of talented underclassmen and a patchwork offensive coaching staff. This team has true leadership and a desire to get things right...I can't say the same for last year's squad.
Second, this Cal defense is terrible. They are 125th (out of 128) in rush defense after giving up an astounding 611 yards rushing in their first two games at a 6.8 yards per carry against a quality opponent in San Diego State...and a garbage opponent in Hawaii.
Their defensive line is undersized and built for Pac-12 passing offenses...D'Onta Foreman, Chris Warren and Tyrone Swoopes should wreck shop.
Run the ball and pass over the top when they cheat up - that formula should work all night long.
Of course most are aware that former Texas Tech transfer Davis Webb is now the quarterback for the Golden Bears, and through two games he has had mixed results.
Sure he threw for 522 yards against San Diego State - but it took 72 (!) attempts to get there for an average per attempt of 7.3 yards...good, but not great. Add to that the three interceptions that he threw, and the 500 yards is much less impressive.
Same story here as every year against Texas Tech, keep the receiver in front of you, disrupt the passing lanes and put some pressure on Webb - he'll give the ball back to you.
Sonny Dykes is 0-8 against ranked opponents at Cal, and while last year's game is fresh on our minds...this isn't last year, in more ways than one.
Texas 45 California 28
ATS - Texas
SU - Texas
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