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The Week That Will Be: Close Calls

Close, but no cigar. I like cigars.

Texas v USC Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Last Week: 4-2 ATS 4-2 SU

For the Year: 8-10 (.444) (-$280) ATS 13-5 (.722) SU

We learned last week…

  • Lesson #1 Why This Column is For Entertainment Purposes Only: Florida. Tennessee. Mess of a game. Obviously headed to overtime when Florida’s Jim McElwain didn’t appear to be in any hurry to actually score in regulation, until quarterback Feleipe Franks decided he didn’t want to be late for his dinner date with the hot girl in his British Literature class so he heaves a 63-yard “I hesitate to even call it a Hail Mary” to Tyrie Cleveland. Florida wins by 6….spread was 5.

  • Lesson #2 Why This Column is For Entertainment Purposes Only: SMU. The Mustangs tally up 273 yards in the first half against TCU, taking a 19-7 lead, but ultimately fall apart after only scoring 6 points on 3 TCU turnovers. Add in a pick six and the Horned Frogs win by 20…spread of 19.5

  • LSU was just dreadful on offense on Saturday. All together now….NO WAY. Danny Etling only had 137 yards passing, Derrius Guice only had 76 yards rushing and as a result four Mississippi State scores in the first four possessions of the second half buried the Tigers.

  • Clemson effectively took their national championship squad, subbed out DeShaun Watson for Kelly Bryant and haven’t lost a step. Bryant accounted for three touchdowns, the Tigers had 291 rushing yards and sacked Lamar Jackson four times. On to the next one.

  • Mason Rudolph led Oklahoma State to 7 touchdowns on their first 8 possessions, threw for 497 yards and 5 touchdowns and saved a baby from a burning car. Only one of those is made up.

  • Texas doesn’t do moral victories, but hypothetically, if they did, they could look at Saturday’s result in Los Angeles and see a game where they controlled the tempo (for the most part), held the Trojans to 0/3 on fourth down (all in Texas territory), overcame sloppy offense (4 turnovers, tons of ahem, penalties) and were within one play of upsetting the #4 team in the country. Hypothetically.

With a Texas bye week, I thought this week we would take a step back and look at the national scene, so let’s look at this week’s AP Poll:

  1. Alabama
  2. Clemson
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Penn State
  5. USC
  6. Oklahoma State
  7. Washington
  8. Michigan
  9. Wisconsin
  10. Ohio State

Wait a minute, what did the final poll in 2016 look like?

  1. Clemson
  2. Alabama
  3. USC
  4. Washington
  5. Oklahoma
  6. Ohio State
  7. Penn State
  8. Florida State
  9. Wisconsin
  10. Michigan

Is college football the new NBA, where championship round participants are predetermined months before the season even begins?

Does anyone see Alabama, which only plays three ranked opponents the rest of the season (SEC SEC SEC) losing? How about Clemson, who has two?

Oklahoma has two. USC two. Penn State two (although theirs are Michigan and Ohio State back to back, ouch).

You get the point.

It always seems to work itself out, but if any year there could be an argument about the fourth spot in the College Football Playoff, this could be it.

But I am in the prognostication game here, so if I had to pick the CFP:

Alabama vs. USC

Clemson vs. Oklahoma State

Alabama speaks for itself, I think I make this joke every year but they could lose one game, maybe even two and still make the playoff. If they win the SEC, the committee isn’t shutting the SEC out from the playoff bracket.

The one spot on the schedule I could see Clemson tripping up is next week in Blacksburg against Virginia Tech. The rest is a bunch of Wake Forest, Syracuse, Georgia Tech and NC State. If you feel asleep during this sentence, I don’t think I can blame you.

I think the Penn State, Michigan, Maryland and Ohio State group fight it out amongst themselves and see the playoff leave them behind. Of course we must account for the safety of Big 10 fans if their precious commodity is left out, but it is cold that time of the year up there, they can protest too loudly.

That leaves us USC (who have no bigger fan than Texas right now), who avoids Washington on the regular season Pac-12 schedule, and draw road games against Washington State, Arizona State and Colorado in conference play (not a real hostile environment in that triumvirate) and Notre Dame in non-conference play. Do not discount what a franchise quarterback can lead you to.

Finally, we won’t believe it until we see it on the field, but I think Oklahoma State is better than Oklahoma at this point. Rudolph just appears to be from another planet, and their ability to get out in front quickly is not something the Sooners have shown thus far.

But, of course, there is a long way to go. We saw the final 2016 ranking, but at this point last year, in the Top 10, there was: Houston (9-4), Michigan State (3-9) and of course, Texas A&M (8-5).

Oh, the glory days.

USC -16.5 @ Cal:

My initial thought is how can USC go on the road and face what looks to be an improved Cal team (wins against North Carolina and Ole Miss thus far this season) after facing Stanford and Texas in consecutive weeks?

But then you remember that the Trojans have won 12 in a row against Cal, dating back to when a guy named Aaron Rodgers played in Berkeley (although he didn’t finish that game due to injury), and yes, that figure includes the vacated win in 2005.

Former USC defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox is the new head man in charge for the Golden Bears. He’s enjoyed some early success, with a 3-0 start that has included wins over North Carolina and Ole Miss. On the other hand, they gave up two touchdowns of more than 75 yards against the Rebels. That might spell doom against the Trojans.

USC 38 Cal 24

ATS – Cal


Texas A&M -2.5 vs. Arkansas (Arlington, TX):

Texas A&M has won 5 in a row in this series, including the last three at AT&T Stadium in Arlington (two of those were overtime thrillers).

It wasn’t that long ago that this was a marquee showdown, but the Aggies now struggle in games against the likes of Louisiana Lafayette and Nicholls State, while Arkansas is now 26-27 in the Bret Bielema era.

Kevin Sumlin is probably already fired, but Bielema might not be far behind him…so who knows what to expect?

Texas A&M 27 Arkansas 21

ATS – Texas A&M

SU – Texas A&M

Mississippi State @ Georgia -4.5:

Despite being in the same conference, these teams haven’t played since 2011, and have only played four times since 1997. The question here is how does either team handle success, as Mississippi State is coming off that electric win over LSU last week while Georgia defeated Notre Dame two weeks ago.

The Georgia defense mangled Notre Dame and has 22 tackles for loss in three games this year – so the Bulldogs shouldn’t be able to move the ball like they did last week.

Louisiana Tech and LSU (in their limited attempts) were able to run the football on Mississippi State – Georgia should be able to as well.

Georgia 28 Mississippi State 21

ATS – Georgia

SU – Georgia

Texas Tech @ Houston -6:

Quite the intriguing match-up, as Major Applewhite and Kliff Kingsbury meet up for the first time since they were quarterbacks at Texas and Texas Tech back in 2000. It is a homecoming of sort for Kingsbury, as he started his coaching career at Houston, serving as quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator before moving on in 2012.

Houston comes into this one with a FBS best 16 game home win streak, while Texas Tech was only 1-5 away from Lubbock last season. Former Texas A&M transfer Kyle Allen has assumed the reins in Houston, but it is the defense (led by Ed Oliver) that has shined thus far, only allowing 19 points in two games.

Same ol’ Texas Tech.

Houston 34 Texas Tech 24

ATS – Houston

SU – Houston

Oklahoma -27.5 @ Baylor:

The Sooners have won 23 of 26 in this series all-time, but those three Baylor wins have come in the last six years…but that was before, you know.

Baylor running back Terence Williams, who ran for 1,048 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, makes his season debut after off-season shoulder surgery. They’ll need him, as Oklahoma has yet to allow a passing touchdown in 2017.

Baker Mayfield continues his Heisman push.

Oklahoma 48 Baylor 23

ATS – Baylor

SU – Oklahoma

TCU @ Oklahoma State -12.5:

TCU still hasn’t won in Stillwater as a member of the Big 12 conference, striking out in all three tries and getting outscored 109-53 in those games.

Horned Frogs running back Kyle Hicks is a game-time decision, but the way that Mason Rudolph (72.3% completion rate, 11:1 TD:INT ratio and averaging 378 yards per game)) is throwing the football, will it even matter?

TCU’s defense looked improved against Arkansas – but then gave up 36 points to SMU. That, combined with a team that still can’t get out of its own way sometimes (11 penalties against the Mustangs), and I just can’t see them going into Stillwater and pulling off an upset.

Ride the hot streak.

Oklahoma State 45 TCU 27

ATS – Oklahoma State

SU – Oklahoma State

For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for off week dinners with your wife.