Posted by Walter
@ Notre Dame -7.5 over Michigan
What's that famous saying, losers bet against streaks, winners bet with them? Michigan hasn't won a road opener in six seasons and has dropped 3 of it's last 4 games to the Irish. Still, the Wolverines present the biggest test to Notre Dame this season until they travel to USC. As my pick may indicate, count me as a one who has been converted by the new and improved Irish defense that probably still isn't getting the credit it deserves. Particularly the Irish secondary has shown marked improvement in 2006. True Georgia Tech's Calvin Johnson (who is utterly uncoverable) made plays against them, but they completey erased every other Yellow Jacket reciever (the next highest Tech reciever had 2 catches for 10 yards). Against Penn State, the Irish secondary held Derrick Williams to 3 catches for 12 yards. Michigan doesn't have any reciever as good as either of those two, nor do they have anyone tough enough to go over the middle and pick up first downs against the terrifying safety duo of Tom Zbikowski and Chinedum Ndukwe. With Charlie Weis and Brady Quinn leading the Irish offensive attack they are going to put points on the board. They torched Penn State for 41, and Michigan has yet to prove they have the type of playmakers on defense that can slow the Irish down. With the Irish running up and down the field, Michigan won't be able to rely on their best offensive player, RB Mike Hart, and will have to rely on a passing game that is inconsistent at best, turnover prone at worst. If the Irish get a lead early this could become a laugher. Let's call it Notre Dame 30-17.
@ Louisville -6 over Miami
While losing Michael Bush is devestating for this game, Brian Brohm and the Cardinals are just the better team right now even without Bush. To be honest, as good as Michael Bush was, he wasn't going to win this game for Lousiville. Miami has proven time and time again that they can shut down anybody's running game (just ask Florida State). But Lousiville presents an incredibly intriguing matchup that pits Bobby Petrino's "spread west coast offense" against the top secondary in college football. This matchup is where the game will be won and lost and there are two reasons it favors Lousiville: (1) Bobby Petrino is the top offensive passing game coach in the world right now, and (2) Brian Brohm has absolute mastery of this offense. The way you beat this Miami secondary is to take what they give you (you listening Drew Weatherford?). Hurricane corners and safeties have always been ball hawks, and love to capitalize on mistaken reads. Expect Petrino to stretch the Miami defense by sending receivers deep, but run a lot of crossing patterns and option routes underneath. Brohm is smart enough to take what Miami will give him so expect a high completion percentage, and lots of short throws. In essence, Petrino will use these underneath routes as a defacto running game, because he has enough faith in Brohm throwing these balls that they are just as safe as a handoff. Louisville won't put up 50 points or anything, but they will put up more than enough to win. The Miami offense has yet to show any consistency, and even the return of top tailback Tyone Moss is not going to provide enough big plays. The Cardinals defense is actually very stout agains the run. Where they struggle is in the secondary, and the Canes loss of top WR Ryan Moore is really going to hurt them in this game. Expect Kyle Wright to put up decent numbers, but without his top wideout he will be fighting an uphill battle. Louisville wins and covers at home, but just barely at 27-20.
Oklahoma +3.5 over @ Oregon
Okay, this could be it for me and Oregon. If they are able to knock off the Sooners I might be forced to admit defeat. But I don't think it's gonna happen. Look for lots and lots of points to be scored in this one. Oregon's defense has been inconsistent this season and now has lost starting corner Jackie Bates for the rest of the year. Oklahoma's offense revolves around Adrian Peterson (duh!) and this is a bad thing for Oregon. Against Fresno State, the Bulldogs pounded on the Oregon front 7 all night, with Dwayne Wright ripping through them time and again. It's hard to imagine the Ducks coming up with an answer for the best back in the nation. At the back end, the very young Oregon secondary had been playing outstanding football for most of the season despite losing both starting corners to graduation. Even when healthy, the Oklahoma passing game was supposed to provide the unit with its first real test. Paul Thompson took a big step forward against Washington, completing 21 of 33 passes and 2 TD. Perhaps more importantly, though, the Sooners found their big play wideout in Malcolm Kelly who caught 6 passes for 121 yards and both of Thompson's touchdowns. Look for the Sooners to run the ball and force Oregon to bring stud safet Patrick Chung into the box. Even with 8 in the box I am not convinced the Ducks can stop Adrian Peterson, but it will at least provide Thompson and Kelly with more opportunities to make plays in the passing game. On the other side of the ball it is hard to say what is going to happen. The Sooner defense is probably more talented than the Ducks offense, but Mike Bellotti's spread formations traditionally give nonconference teams fits. Duck tailback Jonathan Stewart was outstanding in his first game, but he probably won't be 100% for this one. The Ducks have a veteran O-Line and the Sooners a veteran front 7, Oregon will make some plays on the ground but this game could come down to Dennis Dixon's arm, something Bellotti does not want. There will be a lot of points scored and this should be a close game. This will be Paul Thompson's statement game for Oklahoma as the Sooners vault back into the national title picture with a 35-34 win.
Clemson +5 over @ Florida State
I think one thing is for certain in this game, it won't be decided by the running games. Florida State boasts the uncommon combination of top run defense in the nation, and second to worst run offense in the nation. However, I may be getting ahead of myself somewhat by saying that. In Clemson, the Seminoles face the strongest running game they have seen this year led by James Davis and dynamic freshman CJ Spiller. Conversely, due to a rash of injuries to the linebacking corpse, Florida State should be seeing the weakest front 7 they have faced yet (don't hate on Troy, they traditionally play excellent front 7 defene as evidenced by the number of players they have in the NFL). Still, expect very few big plays from either running game. Thus, the game will be in the hands of the two quarterbacks, Will Proctor and Drew Weatherford. All summer we heard how Weatherford looked so great, had worked so hard, had mastered the ofense, blah blah blah. In two games this season Weatherford has looked like the second coming of Chris Rix, even with as talented a stable of wideouts this side of USC. On the other hand, maligned Clemson quarterback Will Proctor has played very well thus far, and nearly carried his team to victory against BC last week. Chanci Stuckey is the best wideout you've never heard of and both Davis and Spiller catch the ball very well out of the backfield. The bottom line is this, if not for the fluke play by BC wideout Kevin Challenger last week that turned an interception into a 30 yard gain leading to the tying touchdown, Clemson is 2-0 and probably only 1 or 2 point underdogs in this game. I expect a low scoring affair (which always favors taking the points) but its too close to call. Oh hell, give me Clemson 13-10.
Nebraska +18.5 over @ USC
This is perhaps the most ridiculous line of the entire weekend. Let's make one thing clear, Nebraska is NOT winning this game. BUT, to expect USC to blow them out by 18+ points is absurd. I think the media perception is that Nebraska is still running the option 30 times a game, because I just cannot understand this line. When Bill Callahan installed the west coast offense in Lincoln there were growing pains as one would expect. However, since October 8 of last season the Cornhuskers have averaged over 30 points per game including 30 spots against Michigan and at Colorado. The bottom line is that this offense has a ton of talent (and speed!) and is finally grasping Callahan's scheme. At the same time, USC has lost their starting safety and best secondary player (Pinkard) for the year. That is not a good thing when you are about to face a team that will throw the ball 30+ times a game. Make no mistake, Nebraska is fired up for this game and they view it as an opportunity to retake the nation spotlight. I wouldn't be suprised to see 30,000 or more Nebraska fans in the Coliseum on Sat night, something that will help dispell some of the Trojan mystique. Now, all that said, USC will still win the game, and rather handily. The Nebraska defense is led by ends Adam Carriker and Jay Moore. They will need to create consistent pressure on John David Booty for the Cornhuskers to have a chance. The Nebraska linebacking corpse is deep and very adept at stopping the run. However, their linebackers are traditional farmboys who are good at two things: plowing the fields, and tacking. They struggle in coverage and in space, two things that spell death against a Pac-10 team. USC's offense just has too much talent and speed to be stopped. Nebraska will keep it close for some of the game, but Pete Carroll is an outstanding defensive coach and in the end his defense will make more plays in this shootout. Call it USC 35-21.
@ Auburn -2.5 over LSU
In my mind, this is by far the most intriguing matchup of the weekend, which, given the absurd college football slate, is saying something special. While this matchup may not have the same cachet as the #1 vs. #2 contest of last week, it could have as big of an impact on the national title picture and promises to be a more competitive game.
Both teams have played extremely well in the firs two weeks of the season. LSU has dominated inferior competition to the tune of a 90-6 combined score, and Auburn is coming off of a 35-0 shellacking of a physical, if nothing else, Mississippi State team. The key to this game is going to be the LSU offense. As well as the Bayou Bengal defense has played, it appears unlikely that they are going to slow down the Auburn running attack. Auburn and Kenny Irons have been flat out mauling opponents for over a year now. Tommy Tubberville loves the power running game and has recruited monster offensive lineman to pave the way for Irons. Any questions of the Auburn offensive line struggling without Tiger legend Marcus McNeil have been put to rest, thanks to the emergence of King Dunlap. Last year Irons ran wild at LSU to the tune of 218 yards. Expect more of the same, and lots of points from the Auburn offense. Which brings us to the LSU offense. To win this game they will need to score often, but more importantly they will need to score early. Jamarcus Russell has been outstanding thus far, but he faces his stiffest test against a staunch Auburn defense that boasts as much speed as anyone in the nation. Cornerback David Irons is the type of physical, shut down corner that can take Russell's top target, Dwayne Bowe, completely out of the game. Another reason Russell's numbers are so good through the first two weeks of the season is that he has had all day to throw the football. Auburn's defensive line is relentless, with both Quentin Groves and Marquis Gunn, so expect Russell to have to get rid of the ball quicker than he will want to. This is exactly what happened in last year's game, with LSU only winning because they cranked out over 200 yards on the ground. Well their workhors from 2005, Joseph Addai, is gone, and their key back now, Alley Broussard and Justin Vincent, both look like players still recovering from major injuries (which they are). LSU's offense just doesn't have the firepower to stay with Auburn. Call it Auburn 24-17.
Florida -4 over @ Tennessee
I have to say that I have been more impressed with Florida than any other team in America through the first two weeks of this season. Many will credit Chris Leak (who deserves praise in his own right) for mastering Urban Meyer's spread offense, but the real credit should go to Meyer himself for tailoring his offense to Leak's skills.....namely throwing. Last year Leak looked like a square peg in a round hole. With his 2006 results, it appears as though Meyer spent all summer sanding and reshaping that round hole until it was square. Florida has way too much talent on offense for the TN defense to handle. The Volunteer defense played exceptional against California in the opener, but struggled giving up 31 points to Air Force last week. Couple that inconsistency with two injured starters and you have a recipe for a long day for the Volunteers. Defensive tackle Justin Harrell, by far the Vols best defensive lineman, is expected to play depsite rupturing his bicep last week, but one has to wonder how effective he can be. The same cannot be said for starting corner Inky Johnson, who was lost for the season against Air Force. Breaking in a new corner against Florida will be a Herculean task. On the other side of the ball, everyone is talking about Erik Ainge's renaissance. True he has been playing better, but was I the only one who noticed that the vast majority of his numbers against California came because of poor tackling by the Bears? Ainge and top wideout Robert Meachum will need to be huge this week for TN to have a chance, especially since their explosive tailback Arian Foster appears unlikely to play because of injury. If both teams were fully healthy I would still pick Florida to win the game, but not by much. With these injuries I have no problem picking Florida to win and cover. Call it Florida 30-17.
Last week: 5-3