Week 10 is the Caesar salad. You eat it not because you truly want to, but you know that when your small, dressing-drenched bowl is empty it will make the filet (Week 11) that much better.
Yes, the slate of games in Week 10 is, well, underwhelming. Many of the nation’s elite teams are off, gearing up for the home stretch, while the weekend’s biggest matchup comes equipped with a point spread of more than three touchdowns.
Does that mean you should other things like yard work or spend time with your family? I’m sorry; did you expect a serious answer here?
Although Week 10 might not be loaded with meaningful games, there are always point spreads to make things interesting in the land of the Top 25. The record for the year remains solid enough, but now it’s time to conquer the Caesar salad.
Let's pick some winners.
Record Against the Spread Entering Week 10: 93-72-2 (.583)
Spreads courtesy of VegasInsider.com.
Don’t fight it. In fact, say it with me.
Tommy Rees is playing outstanding football right now.
Brian Kelly’s face is no longer exploding on the sideline, and there’s a bit of optimism surrounding the Notre Dame offense. From a Vegas standpoint, the Irish have bounced back after a slow start, covering the last three games after not hitting a spread in the first five weeks.
Navy has done incredibly well from a Vegas standpoint, starting the year 5-2 against the number. The Midshipmen’s win over Pittsburgh in Week 9 was also an encouraging sign, and they head into this week with a running game that should move the football.
While Notre Dame is clearly the superior opponent, Navy has covered the spread in South Bend in six of the last seven visits. Look for ND to get the win, and also for that trend to continue.
The Pick: Navy (+17)
Here’s something to consider when evaluating this three-loss Iowa team: all three of these defeats have come against Top 25 teams with a combined record of 23-1. That’s not to say that this point spread isn’t warranted, but thus far the Hawkeyes are winning games they should and losing the others accordingly.
Wisconsin will hit the road off a bye without a loss against the spread. Although the Badgers have lost twice in the regular season, the defeat at Arizona State was, well, ref-infused to say the least.
Both teams will look to run the ball plenty, and Wisconsin—led by the freakish Melvin Gordon—will likely have more success doing so. But Iowa is always a tougher team at home, and it should be able to keep a fast-moving game in single digits.
The Pick: Iowa (+9.5)
Outside of that strange 14-0 win against Purdue, Sparty has been on a roll of late. Michigan State has covered four of the past six games, and it easily handled Illinois as an eight-point favorite in Week 9.
That was free money for the taking. I hope you bent down and picked it up.
Michigan enjoyed a bye after beating Indiana 63-47. The Wolverines were deadly from the three-point line, and they pulled away with free throws in the fourth quarter. (Tips accepted in this jar right here.)
On the year, however, Michigan might be one of the stranger one-loss teams in recent memory, although it can score if turnovers can be avoided. Can turnovers be avoided?
Michigan State forces more takeaways than just about anyone, and this game will be played in front of Sparty’s home crowd. Also, Michigan has not covered the spread against Michigan State in five years, and that isn’t likely to change on Saturday.
The Pick: Michigan State (-5.5)
It’s simple, really. Colorado has become a dreadful team on the road. Well, not just on the road, but traveling has not gone well. This shouldn’t be a surprise given recent results, but the Buffs’ 4-17 record against the spread in their last 21 road games is telling.
UCLA looked live at halftime against Oregon as a three-touchdown underdog, and then the Ducks—the world’s greatest covering robots—did what they do. They covered. UCLA could not muster up anything in the second half, although the competition this week will be slightly different.
28 points is a lot to lay in a conference game, but the Bruins have outscored the Buffaloes 87-20 in the last two meetings. Look for them to get right here in a big way.
The Pick: UCLA (-28)
Style points matter, especially for a team like Northern Illinois that is trying to crash the BCS.
In turn, the Huskies can make sponsors worry about ratings in these games for the second straight year. That’s not our problem—and it’s certainly not Northern’s problem. In fact, they want to make it someone else's problem by impressing voters with a large margin of victory over weaker competition.
Enter the latest weaker opponent: 1-7 Massachusetts.
Here’s the thing, though. This 1-7 mark includes games against quality teams. Teams such as Wisconsin, Vanderbilt, Kansas State and Bowling Green. The Minutemen have managed a 4-4 record against the spread in 2013, and they will also have this game in their own building.
Northern Illinois will earn some style points, but not enough to cover this lofty number. Massachusetts isn't great, but this number feels slightly inflated.
The Pick: Massachusetts (+23.5)
Fresno State nearly saw its BCS buster status revoked last week against San Diego State, but an overtime victory kept the hopes alive.
Like Northern Illinois, Fresno needs as many style points as possible—in part to separate from the Huskies with the weekly BCS recalibrations in full swing. And although the Bulldogs are unbeaten, they have only covered the spread once in 2013.
Nevada enters Week 10 with only three wins on the season and against the spread. It’s been particularly difficult for the Wolf Pack on the road where they have yet to win or cover.
Neither team is taking Vegas by storm, but home field looms large here. Look for Fresno to improve its Vegas and BCS standing after surviving the scare.
The Pick: Fresno State (-20.5)
Even in a loss, Texas Tech showed me something in Week 9. The play calling was magnificent, and the Red Raiders battled against Oklahoma despite coming away empty handed on the field and at the betting window.
On the other side, Oklahoma State managed just fine at Iowa State. It did this despite the fact that the Pokes completed just 10 of 27 passes. They did run for 342 yards, however, and that proved to be the difference.
Texas Tech has been the better team overall in Vegas, entering Week 10 with a 5-3 record. In terms of this series, however, Oklahoma State has dominated, covering the spread in seven of the past eight meetings.
That ends here, though. Oklahoma State still has question marks at quarterback, and look for Texas Tech to bounce back at home.
The Pick: Texas Tech (-2.5)
All the recent trends scream South Carolina. The Gamecocks have won the last five games against Mississippi State, and they have covered in five of the last six meetings overall. Adding to it, Mississippi State has gone 1-4 against the spread in its last five games on the road.
Yikes. Yikes. And one more yikes for good measure.
South Carolina heads home following a miraculous comeback win against Missouri. Quarterback Connor Shaw came in late despite playing injured, and he was fabulous. He should be back this week for the full 60 if needed, although his health remains a concern.
Shaw's made of some undiscovered medal or something, though, so no worries there.
Mississippi State nearly lost at home to Kentucky as a 12-point favorite and is embarking on a brutal final stretch of the schedule. How does at South Carolina, at Texas A&M, home vs. Alabama, at Arkansas and home vs. Ole Miss sound?
Not good. And the trends don’t look good here, either.
The Pick: South Carolina (-13)
You see that picture of Johnny Manziel? Get used to seeing that this weekend.
Let’s set the over/under on minutes play by one Jonathan Football in this game at 33.5 minutes and promptly pound the under. That’s exactly what this robust 46-point spread tells us, and Kevin Sumlin will likely have his star out of the game as early as he possible can. (Probably after five or so touchdowns.)
As for UTEP, there’s really not much to say. The Miners’ lone win came against New Mexico State. This was also their lone cover. But 46 points in an awful lot for a game this late in the season, and one touchdown should do it for the cover
The starters will likely be out in the middle of the first half for A&M, which means UTEP could score some points against a defense that doesn’t have much depth.
Translation: Let’s take those points, because why not.
The Pick: UTEP (+46)
There’s something strange with this point spread. It's odd when you evaluate just how well Auburn is trending up and the fact that Arkansas was outscored 104-7 in the two games before the bye. Those games came against Alabama and South Carolina—two quality teams—and the bye came at the perfect moment.
Still, the Razorbacks are only 2-6 against the spread this season, while the Tigers check in with the opposite record of 6-2 against the number. Auburn has only lost once and covered its last five games.
So why isn’t this point spread higher? Yes, it’s road game for a Tigers team with plenty to prove, but the Hogs’ recent run of yuck says it should be more.
Look for Auburn to win, but Arkansas will find success on the ground and keep it within reach. Vegas is saying something here.
The Pick: Arkansas (+8)
One team spent last weekend getting beat bad, the other endured ultimate heartbreak.
Missouri’s first loss of the season—and first loss against the spread for that matter—arrived even though the Tigers were up 17-0 late against South Carolina. Stalled offense, Connor Shaw and a #collegekickers moment later, and the three-point favorite crumbled in a hurry.
So, how do they respond?
Las Vegas seems to believe they’ll be just fine at home, handing down a respectable number against a team that is still hard to evaluate. The Vols beat the same Gamecock squad that just conquered Missouri, although last time out they were overmatched by Alabama.
Yeah, that will happen.
I like Missouri to win at home, although it may not come easy with wounds still fresh. 11.5 simply feels a little too high.
The Pick: Tennessee (+11.5)
Did you bet on Clemson last week? If so, I apologize for Maryland's backdoor cover. They don't get much tougher than that, and the Tigers have had a few similar games the season.
Clemson has not been favorable to backers this season, covering just three times in eight games. The Tigers are far enough removed from FloridaStateEgeddon and motivation shouldn’t be an issue.
But still, this is a sleepy road game and a point spread that feels, well, strangely light.
Virginia is not a very good football team, and I’m still trying to figure out how the Cavaliers beat BYU in week 1. Strange football results aside, however, Virginia has moved the ball with some success over the past few weeks even thought the victories haven’t come.
Clemson should leave victorious, but I’ll be taking the points against a team that has not been brilliant outside of its own building.
The Pick: Virginia (+17)
Urban Meyer does not care what you think about coaches running up the score, nor should he. We’ve reached the “style points” portion of the program, and the Buckeyes will need all the points they can. It won’t matter until a few teams lose in front of them, of course, but that won’t stop them from trying.
And honestly, you can’t blame them for it.
Purdue has spent the 2013 season going full Purdue, winning just one game (it came against Indiana State) and covering only twice. The Boilermakers do have the benefit of a bye to work with, but it may not matter.
The Buckeyes just did whatever they wanted against Penn State, and the same scenario seems likely here. It’s a lot of points to lay on the road, but Purdue.
That’s it. Purdue.
The Pick: Ohio State (-31)
This is the largest point spread between two Top 10 teams this late in the season to ever surface.
While it seems large, is it large enough?
Florida State is proving to be much more than quarterback Jameis Winston, who happens to be pretty phenomenal himself. The Seminoles have the edge at seemingly every position, including the home stadium, which will be insane in the most amazing way.
Miami has had back-to-back unimpressive wins (and non-covers) and enters this game with questions on offense. Stephen Morris has struggled at quarterback, while the defense has yet to get a real challenge.
That challenge is here.
It’s a lot of points to lay, but laying them seems like the only option. The Seminoles jumped out to a 35-0 first quarter-lead last week and took their foot off the gas. With style points in the BCS starting to matter more each week, and recruiting bragging rights in the state up for grabs, I don’t believe we’ll see a late letdown it two weeks in a row.
This will feel like a Top 10 game for roughly 10 minutes.
The Pick: Florida State (-21.5)