Week 4 Picks  

Posted by Walter

@ East Carolina +19 over West Virginia

I was talking to Frazier the other day and I said that this game just feels like one of those games that is going to be a lot closer than it should be. First and foremost, this will be the Moutaineers first road game of the season. After three dominating performances at home, it is fair to expect somewhat of a slower start away from Morgantown. Second, the Moutaineer defense showed some vulnerability last week against Maryland. In the second half, the Maryland offense really took it to the West Virginia front seven, exposing them somewhat as a less than physical group. East Carolina, surprisingly, has the best and most balanced offense West Virginia has faced thus far. QB James Pinkey was impressive in the victory over Memphis last week, and he has a stable of skill position players to help him. Believe me, the Mountaineer defense is going to have its hands full trying to keep track of wideouts Aundra Allison and Phillip Henry, not to mention tailback Chris Johnson. One more thing to consider: the Mountaineer defense has yet to register a sack this season. Their offensive dominance has somewhat masked these defensive shortcomings, but expect a better offensive performance from East Carolina than you might think. The bottom line, though, is that West Virginia should still win this game. In watching them dominate Maryland last week I commented that this offense, while ingenious, is not indefensible. A team that is fast and can tackle in the open field could give this offense fits. I don't think East Carolina has the talent to do it, but I do think this game will be close for 3 quarters before the Moutaineers pull away. Call it WVU 35-21.

Boston College -7.5 over @ NC State

NC State has been a terrible underachiever under Coach Chuck Amato. Now that they don't have all that NFL talent, they are just terrible. Conversely, Boston College is an overachieving bunch, thanks to Coach Tom O'Brien (who became the winningest BC coach ever last week-contratulations!). After two hard fought double OT victories against tough opponents (Clemson and BYU) BC is in the driver's seat in the ACC and primed to keep their momentum rolling right into a thursday date with Virginia Tech in a couple of weeks. So far this season, the Eagles have scored points with their passing game. Expect Offensive Coordinator Dana Bible to lean heavily on the running game this week, against an NC State team that was shredded on the ground by Southern Miss. in the season opener. With LV Whitworth, Andre Callender, and super Freshman Jeff Smith, the Eagles have the groud firepower to make it a very long day for NC State. On the other side, I will say that the Eagles were exposed somewhat on defense by BYU. The Cougars used a short passing attack in lieu of a running game to dink and dunk their way down the field. This strategy minimized the effect of the massive BC interior defensive line (BJ Raji and Ron Brace), and slowed down the Eagles' athletic linebackers (Toal and Dunbar) by forcing them to react from coverage rather than simply scraping on handoffs. That is the way that you are going to have to beat this BC team and NC State simple does not have the offensive personnel to execute this gameplan, especially with a new QB. The NC State running backs run hard, but the BC front 7 is very strong against the run. The Eagles should have no problem, let's call it 32-17.

@ Arizona +17 over USC

This may seem like a crazy pick after the Wildcats were destroyed at LSU, but Arizona has always been a different, and much better, team when playing on the Left Coast. Let's not forget that this Arizona team stayed with the Trojans for three quarters at USC last season. With nearly everyone returning, the Wildcats are a year older and a year wiser, and are one of the few teams that won't be intimidated by the USC mystique. Though the Trojans won against Nebraska, it was not the type of offensively explosive win we are used to seeing from the men of Troy. The reason for this is that the USC offensive gameplan has become somewhat one-dimensional, relying too much on the passing game. This could present somewhat of a problem for the Trojans this week, as Arizona boasts the best secondary they will face all season. Cornerback Antoine Cason (a 323 favorite) is perhaps the only corner in America that is fast enough, and more importantly physical enough, to slow down Dwayne Jarrett. And make no mistake about it, Jarrett is the most important player in the USC offense. If the Arizona secondary can make some plays early, they may be able to force the Trojans to win the game by relying on their talented, yet inexperienced, running backs. At the very least this should keep the game relatively close. On the other side of the ball, everyone wants to talk about how great the USC defense was last week. While they are a talented bunch, the Nebraska offensive gameplan played right into their hands. The strength of the USC defense is speed. I am still left wondering why Nebraska coach Bill Callahan ran the ball nearly twice as many times as he threw it, with most of those runs going to the outside. Expect Arizona and QB Willie Tuitama to give USC severa different looks, and to try and make big plays against a still untested Trojan secondary. USC wins, but it should be relatively close for a while. Let's call it 27-14.

@ Michigan State +3.5 over Notre Dame

Perhaps it's piling on, but perhaps it's that we've been right about Notre Dame all along. After the debacle against Michigan last week, one has to wonder the state of the Irish confidence right now, especially on defense. The task doesn't get any easier against an explosive Michigan State offense this week, and QB Drew Stanton who has played as well as any player in America thus far. But the name to remember in this one is Matt Trannon. Trannon, the massive (6'6'') Spartan WR is just as talented as any pass catcher the Irish have faced this season. Though he isn't as polished as Calvin Johnson, or as explosive as Mario Manningham, he has a rapport with Stanton and should make big plays all over the field on Saturday. In fact, with Stanton, Trannon, and RB Javon Ringer, the Spartans may be the most talented offense the Irish have faced all year. The same cannot be said for the defense, however. Brady Quinn and company should have no problem putting some points on the board in this game, although I expect Michigan State to blitz, blitz, blitz. The Irish offensive line has done a poor job protecting Quinn this season, and the Spartans know that their secondary cannot keep up with the likes of Jeff Samardzjia and Rhema Mcknight. Expect some big sacks and some big pass plays from the Irish offense. Under John L. Smith, the Spartans have been a Jeckyll and Hyde team, although they always seem to play up to (and down to) the level of their opponents. Expect a very competitive, high scoring game, with the Irish just barely edging the Spartans on the heels of an outstanding performance by Brady Quinn. Call it Notre Dame 35-34.

Penn State +15.5 over @ Ohio State

I am going agains the cardial rule of gambling here, "never bet on a road team unless you think they can win the game outright." Well I don't think Penn State can win this game outright, but I do think they can keep it close for 4 quarters, and possibly score a late garbage time touchdown to cover the spread. Offensively, Penn State has some weapons. With Tony Hunt they have a solid running back, but they have been inconsistent with the running game all season. QB Anthony Morrelli has the arm and savvy to develop into a potential NFL passer, but he has done nothing but show flashes thus far in 2006. Still, Penn State has the talent to pressure the Buckeyes with a the verical passing game. The Nittany Lions represent the most talented passing game that the young Buckeye secondary has faced this season, sporting Morrelli and super talented wideouts Derrick Johnson and Jordan Norwood. Penn State will need to open up the playbook and take some shots down the field to stay in this game. On the other side of the ball, the story is the same. Penn State looks like they have enough defensive talent to keep the game close, but not to win. The linebackers are still outstanding and the defensive line has been solid. Ohio State has a great offensive line, but I still don't think they are going to have much success running the ball. The game will turn on whether the Lions can get any pressure on Troy Smith. Against Notre Dame, the Nittany Lions consistently rushed 4 men and got torched by Brady Quinn. They shouldn't make the same mistake twice. The secondary is young and talented, but they have no shot at sticking with Ted Ginn and Anthony Gonzalez (another the323 favorite). Penn State is going to have to take some chances and blitz Troy Smith to throw him off his rythm. The name of the game is going to be big plays and I believe Ohio State will make more. Call it OSU 29-14 (Penn State just barely covers).

Arizona State +7 over @ California

Now this line I just don't understand. It's true that California has played a whole lot better since their opening night disaster at TN, and that this game is played on Cal's home turf, and that the Arizona State offense has struggled at times this season, blah blah blah. Seven points just looks like way too many points to lay on California, even at home. Anyone who watched the Bears' debacle in Knoxville has to still be concerned about the inconsistent play of the Cal secondary. Against TN, the Cal secondary made Erik Ainge and Robert Meachum look like All-Americans (they're not) by not reacting to the ball in the air and missing tackles. Not to pile on Ainge and Meachum, but Arizona State boasts superior players at both positions. Sophomore Rudy Carpenter has been a far more consistent quarterback in his career thus far than Ainge has, and he is far less prone to making mistakes. Further he has converted RB Rudy Burgess to throw to on the outside (as I have said, his tailback quickness makes him uncoverable) and super TE Zach Miller to work the seams. Expect the Arizona State passing game to put up monster yards and a ton of points. On the other side of the ball, California is going to have to run the ball to win this game. Perhaps the biggest surprise in the Pac-10 this season has been the resurgence of the Sun Devils defense. Not since the late Pat Tillman played for ASU has their defense been so fearsome. They currently lead the nation in sacks and have been getting tremendous pressure on the QB. This is bad news for a Cal team whose O-Line is still breaking in many new starters, and whose QB is prone to mistakes. Jeff Tedford traditionally likes to come out throwing in big games but he'd be wise to try and slow this game down and keep the ASU offense off the field by relying on RB's Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett. Expect Arizona State to put on an aerial show and get points on the board early, forcing the Bears from this game plan. Let's call it ASU 38-35 in an absolute shootout.

Last Week: 5-2
Season: 16-10


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