After a fun slate of week one games, week two looks to continue the excitement, highlighted by Oregon @ Michigan and BYU @ UCLA, with a couple others looking like they’ll have a chance at being interesting too.
BYU @ UCLA (-7)
At first glance, this line looks really weird. UCLA is easily in everyone’s top 25, they have a great defense, they’ve got a talented QB in Olson who seems to be finally breaking out, and they’re brimming with talent everywhere. Meanwhile, BYU is rebuilding, having lost QB John Beck, the receiving corps, the starting running back, and key pieces from the defense. And it’s in LA early in the season, where the Bruins are traditionally at their absolute best. On paper, this looks like a blowout waiting to happen.
On the Other Hand:
BYU played really well last week against Arizona, and it looks like everything is working well for them. Their offense, their defense, it’s all clicking, which is something impressive against the Wildcats’ talented D. And if they can get another effort like that one, then yes, they might have a chance.
UCLA is popularly around #15 or so, but talent-wise they should probably be in the top 10. BYU looks like they’ll be surprisingly good this year, but they simply aren’t talented enough or deep enough to hang with the Bruins for long.
@ UCLA 31, BYU 13
Cal (-14) @ Colorado St
After a big win against Tennessee, Cal tries to keep the good times rolling against a Colorado State team looking to rebound from a tough OT loss to rival Colorado. On paper, this doesn’t seem like it should be close. Cal has a boatload of offensive weapons, highlighted by one of the nation’s most dynamic players in Jackson. And the Rams have struggled a lot the past few years, with a low point last year, going 4-8 and losing the last seven games of the year.
On the Other Hand:
There are a couple of points which favor the Rams. The first and most important is that Cal is absolutely susceptible to a letdown after such a big, emotional win, and all of the hype that comes with it. There’s no way they’ll be 100% for a game against a team that missed a bowl in 2006 and just lost to another crummy 2006 team in Colorado.
But the Rams should be better. It’s not just that they returned a lot of starters, or that they’re finally starting to run the ball decently, or that their own pass game has improved. It’s all of these things, plus the fact that their defense looks decent. And just as important is the home-field advantage. Teams tend to struggle in the altitude, and that could potentially be an important edge.
This is a huge trap game for the Bears against a team that’s a lot better than they will think. Cal is too good to lose this one, but they’ll get a major scare here and won’t pull away until late.
Cal 35, @ Colorado St 27
Oregon St (-3.5) @ Cincinnati
At first glance, this line seems way too low. Oregon State had a great year in 2006, has a star in Yvenson Bernard, may be returning Sammie Stroughter (according to rumor), and has a very solid defense. And Cincinnati hasn’t been good in years. And they have a new head coach. And they haven’t been tested yet, blowing out a AA team in week 1. So what gives?
On the Other Hand:
There are couple of reasons to think Cincy has a shot. First of all, the Beavers have struggled a lot in OOC road games (they eked past Hawaii last year, and the most recent win before that was against Temple). But more than that, the Bearcats have been a good deal better than most people think. Yeah, it’s easy to dismiss a team that has basically zero “helmet factor”, but they weren’t bad last year, a season highlighted by home poundings of USF and Rutgers. And if they could beat those two teams in 2006, then they absolutely can beat a Beaver team that lacks a passing game in 2007.
This is a bit of a dangerous trap for the Beavers. The Bearcats are going to justify the close line and give OS a tough game. But in the end, there will be too much Bernard and too much Beaver defense.
Oregon State 21, @ Cincinnati 14
NAU @ Arizona (NL)
There’s not too much to say about this game. The Wildcats are going to come out and try and rebound from the ugly showing in Provo, and NAU will give them the opportunity to work out their issues before better competition starts to show up.
@ Arizona 42, NAU 10
(Friday night picks)
Oregon @ Michigan (-7)
This is a really tough game to predict. On the one hand, you have Michigan, loaded with a boatload of talent, looking to rebound from that embarrassing loss last week. The Wolverines have a great quarterback in Henne, a great running back in Hart, talented receivers, a strong offensive line, and a defense loaded with blue-chip players.
Moreover, in Oregon you have a defense that looked very unimpressive last week against Houston, as well as a quarterback in Dixon who has a history of being extremely shaky, a very bad thing to have going into the Big House against a fired up team.
On the Other Hand:
While that loss was certainly fluky, the fact remains that the Wolverine defense is a disaster against the spread. Ohio State killed them with it, USC ran it a bit in the Rose Bowl (which they dominated), and then Appalachian State used it to great success in their upset bid. And lo and behold, Oregon likes to run the spread and has an extremely mobile, athletic quarterback. And the Ducks also have a talented offensive line and a fantastic pair of running backs. In other words, there’s absolutely no question that Oregon is very capable of pulling off the upset.
There are two big questions in this game. The first is Dennis Dixon. Has he matured and become less shaky in his senior year, or was last week a fluke? But the really big question is about Michigan. If that loss was just a lousy effort and total fluke, the Wolverines will come out and rebound in a big way. But if the loss really was due to major personnel issues, especially on defense, they aren’t going to be able to fix things in just one week, and the upset will happen.
So what’s going to happen? The truth is, no one knows the answers to those questions. But I will say this: everyone seems to like Michigan here, not just straight up, but ATS too. And my rule of thumb remains: when in doubt, public opinion is always wrong.
Oregon 35, @ Michigan 31
Boise St @ Washington (+3)
This is a tough game to pick, because it’s tough to say how much of Washington’s week one win was them being good, and how much Syracuse being bad. And on the other end, we still haven’t seen Boise play anyone decent, so it’s impossible to know how much they miss Zabransky and company.
I give Boise the benefit of the doubt because they’ve gotten great coaching and at least for now the new QB has looked decent, which was their major concern, but this is pretty much a toss-up.
Boise St 28, @ Washington 24
Colorado @ Arizona State (-15.5)
This line has been steadily moving upwards the past few days from a low of 14, and now that it’s this high, I just think it’s too much. ASU looked great against San Jose State, but Colorado ought to be appreciably better than the Spartans, and showed a lot of improvement in their close win over the Rams. The Sun Devils won’t have much trouble in this game, but giving over two TD’s is just too much.
@ ASU 31, Colorado 17.
San Diego St @ Washington St (-14.5)
After a brutal road trip to Wisconsin in which the Cougars acquitted themselves reasonably well, they return home to face a lousy San Diego State team who now has to open the year one week after everyone else. Yeah, this is an easy pick.
@ Washington State 34, SD St 14
National Games of the Week:
(posted Friday night)
Virginia Tech @ LSU (-11)
LSU is the better team, and LSU is at home. But Virginia Tech has built their reputation on big road wins (only one road loss the last three seasons), they have a great defense, and they’ll be ready to prove themselves after a very disappointing effort last week. This one should go down to the wire.
@ LSU 17, Virginia Tech 14
South Carolina @ Georgia (-3.5)
No one seems to think Carolina has much of a shot here after the Bulldogs had so much success in week one against Oklahoma State, but with Blake Mitchell back, South Carolina is going to be a much better team than the one that looked so mediocre against UL-L. Toss in the fact that Georgia still has a young defense and still has a history of struggling in a few home games every year (Colorado, Tenn, Vandy and Miss St last year; Carolina, Arknsas and Kentucky in 2005; Tennessee and Georgia Tech in 2004; UAB in 2003; and so on), and it starts to get really easy to see the upset coming.
South Carolina 21, @ Georgia 17
Miami @ Oklahoma (-10.5)
Miami has a lot of talent, and they’ll get better and better this year under Randy Shannon, but the Sooners are just too good in this game.
@ Oklahoma 28, Miami 10
TCU @ Texas (-9.5)
Last week, TCU looked great and Texas looked incredibly vulnerable. However, the Frogs still haven’t been tested against anyone good (Baylor usually stinks and this looks like a down year for them), and the Longhorns are too talented to have two off weeks in a row.
@ Texas 31, TCU 14
USF @ Auburn (-6.5)
After Auburn’s severe struggles in week one, the preseason trendy upset pick seems to have gotten even trendier. However, USF still has a lousy track record on the road, with the only exception of note that big win over the Mountaineers last year (the same year they lose to Kansas and got blasted by Cincy). They’re a decent team, but I’m extremely hesitant to take them in a hostile environment in a game where the other guys are definitely going to be paying full attention.
@ Auburn 21, USF 14
Notre Dame +17.5
Yeah, the Irish stunk last week, but they still have a sizable amount of talent. And just as importantly, Penn State is still a defense first team (last week’s beating of FIU aside), and it’s tough to see them being in the blowout business.
Yeah, road openers are tough, but after the whipping Nebraska put on Nevada this line just sticks out like a sore thumb. Even if they are looking ahead to USC, anything below 10 just looks wrong.
Southern Miss weren’t great against a AA team, while the Vols are going to be looking to make a big statement. There’s no way this line should be less than two touchdowns.
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