Can you believe this is Week 5? I wait all year for this season and it is almost half way over (half empty). Now conference play really kicks in and the good games start (half full). Last week, I was 4-3 bringing my running mock total to 15-12-1. (You are going to have to trust me that I have been picking these all season.) That is a fairly respectable total when you consider that I actually picked Florida State to cover last week. I should have my head examined for that one. This weekend is not stocked with marquee matchups but there is some decent action.
Southern Cal (-25) v. Oregon State [9:00pm, ESPN]: I will watch virtually any game on Thursday night save for those weird MAC contests where the stands are only one-third full. Emotionally, this game puts me in a weird place. Logically speaking, I should want USC to win all of their games (preferably by scores greater than 35-3) to make Ohio State's loss more respectable on a national level. But the primal, elementary school part of me wants simplistic revenge in the most schadenfreudic fashion - a Trojans loss to a horrible team.
See previous rant.
Minnesota v. Ohio State (-18) [noon, BTN]: If you are not in attendance, a.k.a. not enduring the scoreboard from hell, you are being treated to another rendition of the Buckeyes on BTN. Beanie’s appearance has fans pretty wound up, with backfield stats and potential realities being thrown around at breakneck pace. The boys in Vegas are not that jacked up because the line only climbed .5 points after that announcement. Is that another indictment of the offensive line I hear?
North Carolina (+7.5) v. Miami [noon, ESPN2]: This is your main flip game, which is faint praise. You could be forgiven for peeking in on Northwestern/Iowa or Michigan State/Indiana, because of the conference affiliation, but from a pure talent standpoint this is the best option. Miami’s defense is fun to watch and their offense somehow scored 40 points last week. Butch Davis beat his former team last season, but despite their fast start in 2008, they are substantial dogs on the road.
As mentioned, at noon you can tune into Northwestern/Iowa (ESPN Classic) or Michigan State/Indiana (ESPN). Honestly, if I do not see Iowa play all season, I am fine with that.
Tennessee v. Auburn (-6.5) [3:30pm, CBS]: This is afternoon’s main event. Because many of you most likely grew up in the Midwest you will have a Pavlovian response to the Wisconsin/Michigan matchup. For the less corn-fed fan, however, this may well be the more enticing game, with two teams looking for redemption and one team looking for an offense. In the meantime, my appetite for Tennessean embarrassment has been satiated somewhat by the Florida game. Go Tigers!
Wisconsin (-6) v. Michigan [3:30pm, ABC]: Can anyone explain to me how Michigan is only a 6-point underdog? Unbelievable. Even more astounding, this is the first week that Michigan has been an underdog. You are compelled to take the Badgers because you have seen them win on the road against a good team (Fresno State). I know Michigan had a week off, but their problems seem far beyond some extra practice.
Purdue (+1) v. Notre Dame [3:30pm, NBC]: In the event that the above two games end up uncompetitive bludgeonings – not totally out of the realm of possibility – this will have to do. We know neither of these teams is any good but you need something to get you through the afternoon until the sundown.
Alabama v. Georgia (-7) [7:45pm, ESPN]: For the second straight week, the SEC has the poster child for a good game. This SEC night game has even greater implications than last week’s. An Alabama win sets up an epic matchup at LSU in November, not to mention birthing hot whispers of a potential rematch against the Bulldogs in the SECCG. If you want to be fluent in the college football season, you need to watch. Buckeyes fans may want to keep an eye on Julio Jones, who was touted in many circles as the nation’s top recruit, ahead of Pryor. You be the judge.
Illinois (+14) v. Penn State [8:00pm, ABC]: Ditto the sentiments of the Wisconsin/Michigan game. If you have Great Lakes sludge pumping through your veins, you will probably watch this one, but unlike the afternoon slot, this will be an egregious error. Don’t dilute yourself into thinking the Illini are a great team. Their loss to Missouri was worse than the score. The only real reason to tune into this one is if you have a strong desire to watch an offensive explosion or you took the ‘over.’ Seriously, take the ‘over.’
Virginia Tech v. Nebraska (-6.5) [8:00pm, ABC]: Unless you paid for the ESPN Gameplan (a total ripoff, by the way) you will not even have this game in Ohio (coverage map). But every time slot needs a safety net. By definition, this game has to be close as neither team features a palpable offense. I would say take the ‘under’ but that would only give you an additional reason to watch this game beyond desperation and that lonely feeling that descends late on Saturdays. Don’t do it.