Can the Irish walk into Michigan State and grab a much needed victory?
While last week was filled with contests featuring ranked teams and historical rivalries, this Saturday arrives more or less void of traditional drama. Only one game on the schedule features a match up of ranked opponents -- Iowa at Arizona -- and most schools are using this week as a tune up for conference schedules.
But before we move on to Week 3, it's important to take a step back to see if the principles guiding us (and by us I suppose I mean only me) this season have shown to be accurate or fallacious. Given that I'm 8-8 on picks through two weeks, one could argue my theories of parody and underdogs ruling the day were founded in faulty logic.
Perhaps partially, or almost entirely, due to my optimistic and cheery nature, I'm going to believe until proven otherwise that my theory is sound; my execution on the other hand has been average.
While parody is in full swing (see Tech, Virginia) and powerhouses like Texas and Florida are struggling at the start of their new eras, there seem to be four programs separating themselves from the pack of mediocrity. Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon, and Oklahoma (we'll reserve judgment on Boise State until after their underrated contest vs. Oregon State next week) were all impressive to varying degrees against quality competition on Saturday. My advice would be to ride them until they show to be unworthy of your financial investment.
For Week 3, we degenerates have been given a gift by the powers that be, i.e. Vegas. The lack of front line games matters much less given that once I perused the lines, I found 13 games that could turn a nice profit this weekend.
Of course, Week 3 of College Football and Week 2 of the NFL are very similar, at least for yours truly. This weekend is annually the time when I feel most confident about my picks, start dreaming about going on a historic run, and by Sunday afternoon I'm sitting on my couch unable to fathom the destruction of the last 48 hours.
Well, it's a new year! Optimism abounds! Recklessness ensues! Tears flow!
Sorry, forget those last two. Home team in caps, picks in bold.
Arkansas (+2) over GEORGIA. Wouldn't it be disappointing if the potential undefeated Arkansas vs. Alabama game next week is dampened by a Razorbacks loss in Athens? Fortunately I don't see it happening. I'm a bit surprised Georgia is favored in this game, given that they lost last week albeit in a tough game at South Carolina. Nonetheless, until Georgia shows they have any sort of offense without A.J. Green, I see no reason to pick against Arkansas.
California (-3) over NEVADA. If I had written this only two days ago, I could have provided this game an original thought. Unfortunately, Pat Forde beat me to the punch, so I might as well just quote him. "[Cal] Coach Jeff Tedford seems to be the Houston Nutt of the West Coast, more comfortable when the expectations are lower at Cal. They're lower this year." In short, I concur.
Maryland (+10) at WEST VIRGINIA. WVU had no business pulling out that win at Marshall last week, and my thought was that if the Mountaineers did not win that game by two touchdowns, they could not consider themselves a solid team going forward. Perhaps that was too harsh given the intra-state rivalry, but I'm curious to see if WVU comes out of the gate on their heels, wary of another scrappy opponent. The Terps come in 2-0, confident, and will keep this game close.
Alabama (-24) at DUKE. How brave of Alabama to make the trip into the hostile environment that is Wallace Wade Stadium. But I digress. Duke gave up 54 points to Wake Forest on Saturday. I can all but guarantee the Blue Devils do not put up 48 of their own on 'Bama's defense like they did on Wake.
TENNESSEE (+14) over Florida. Until Florida proves they will not be inept for three quarters of each football game they play, I'll take the home team with the points. Think about it; Florida has looked this bad in two home games. Good luck at Neyland Stadium, John Brantley.
Southern Cal (-13) over MINNESOTA. While I'm rooting for Minnesota to somehow make up for last week's disaster and come back strong against USC, my head believes with certainty that this will not be the case. If USC does not win this game by two touchdowns, chalk them up for four or five losses this season.
WASHINGTON (+3.5) over Nebraska. I, like the NFL, cannot quit Jake Locker. I don't blame him for losing so many games given the mediocre talent around him, but at some point he's going to carry the Huskies to an upset win at home, a la USC last year, right? Consider this the last week I show faith in UW if they get crushed by Nebraska, as they very well may. I'm already regretting this pick, sure that by Saturday evening I'll be wondering why I ever went against the Cornhuskers.
Baylor (+21.5) over TCU. Doesn't this seem .5 points too many against Robert Griffin? I really don't see Baylor coming close to pulling the upset, but consider this another mark of my distrust of Andy Dalton. He only plays well against bad teams! Oh right, Baylor isn't any good. Regretting this pick already, too. Maybe this is why I'm 8-8 through two weeks.
AUBURN (-7) over Clemson. If Cameron Newton and Terrelle Pryor switched places, I really don't think you would know the difference between them. They play a similar style, and even wear the same number. My point? Cameron Newton is really good, and Auburn is at least in the early going living up to their preseason status as a sleeper in the SEC West.
Notre Dame (+3.5) over MICHIGAN STATE. Oh boy. After the pain that was the Denard Robinson show (Dayne Crist, I like you as a player and you would have been a legend if not for Michigan's last drive, but could you please, from now on, keep hail mary's and fade routes in the field of play? You have two All-American caliber receivers on the field for a reason), it scares me how confident I am in Notre Dame this weekend. This confidence is so ill-advised, given:
1) The nature of the ND/MSU rivalry
2) This will be Crist's first road start.
3) If Crist gets hurt again, the game is over. Rees and Montana looked dreadful at home. I would have to cover my eyes if they see the field in East Lansing.
4) Notre Dame won this game at home last year. The road team almost always wins this match up. If you believe in those sort of historical trends predicting future results, the Spartans are likely to get payback on Saturday night.
Having now guarded myself against the optimism I'm feeling, I think in this rivalry game one should always take the team getting points and hope for the best. And since I'm 2-0 picking Irish games so far, maybe those who are angry with me will turn the page now that I'm picking Notre Dame to cover.
ARIZONA (+2) over Iowa. This goes back to the parity argument. Since I don't think Iowa is anything particularly special right now, I will happily take the similarly talented home underdog.
Houston (-3) over UCLA. Either Stanford is really, really, good, or UCLA is pretty awful. I'm leaning towards both. The 35-0 drubbing the Cardinal put on the Bruins last week could have been a lot worse, and my confidence in UCLA stopping Case Keenum and the Houston offense ranges between 0 and negative 1000 percent. I think this pick is a lock.
STANFORD (-17) over Wake Forest. Remember how I mentioned Duke scored 48 points on Wake on Saturday? Well, Andrew Luck and the Cardinal offense are slightly better than anything Duke has seen so far. Although my cross country travel idea was shown to be fatally flawed last week, I'm going to stick with it one more time. Rooting hard for Stanford and Notre Dame wins this week so that their game at Notre Dame Stadium next week is as great and meaningful as it can be.
Take advantage of this week, everyone. Things get crazy once conference schedules kick in, so make your money now in order to have a lot of money to lose going forward.