Really, after getting Stanford-Oregon, Florida-Alabama, Penn State-Iowa and a handful of others last Saturday, this week’s slate of games of games is a little underwhelming. Almost like waking up the day after a killer house party, only to find your place wrecked and two naked people you don’t know on your futon. Kind of just makes you want to go back to be right?
Looking at the schedule, there really do appear to be a handful of good games. At least until you break them down. Georgia-Tennessee, LSU-Florida and FSU-Miami, would all be headliners…if this were 2002. Texas A&M-Arkansas could be a classic, you know, if Mike Sherman were still alive to see it. Even the Pac-10 doesn’t really have a marquee matchup this weekend, and there are nine fun teams to watch in that conference. How does that even happen?
Still, much like Dan Hawkins’ career at Colorado, the show must go on (despite the objection from some). Here are the Week 6 College Football Picks.
You all know the drill, but for those who’ve never read the picks column before, here it is: Home team in CAPS. Point spreads provided by our pals at BetUS.com. And remember (and there’s still confusion about this one for some reason), my picks are against the spread, not straight up. So just because I’m not picking your team to cover, doesn’t mean I’m not picking them to win outright.
Also, if you haven’t entered yet to win a free Kirk Herbstreit autographed football courtesy of AaronTorres-Sports.com and Cooper Tires, go ahead and enter, it'll take two seconds. It's so easy a Caveman could do it. Or even Dave Wannstedt.
Let’s get to the picks.
GEORGIA (-11) over Tennessee: Saturday, 12:21 p.m. ESPN3.com
This really is the headliner of, “Should Be Better Saturday,” huh? Two SEC powers. Two proud programs. Two below average football teams in 2010. I think I might just put on a few re-runs of Jersey Shore rather than sit through this one. Seriously.
At the same time, I’m sure many of you regular readers are surprised by this pick. Really, I am too. Especially considering I spent the better part of late September updating Mark Richt’s resume for him, and interviewing candidates for the Georgia coaching job in my head. What can I say, I’m a friend like that.
But after looking at the numbers here, I’ve got to be honest, I’m a bit more of a believer than I was before. This defense still ranks in the top third in college football, and after watching last weekend’s game, I might have to reconsider if A.J. Green’s presence alone could’ve swung one or two of those early season losses.
Also, I just don’t see how Tennessee comes back from their loss last week. Look, I really like Derek Dooley as a coach, but even Vince Lombardi would have trouble firing up his troops after last Saturday.
As long as Aaron Murray plays somewhere between “semi-competent,” and “barely watchable,” I think the Dawgs win by two touchdowns.
Arkansas (-5) over Texas A&M (Game at Cowboys Stadium): Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ABC
With a week off since the Alabama debacle, it’s not if Arkansas wins this one, but by how much. Pick your number.
Here’s the real question though. At the end of this game, which of the following numbers will be the highest?
1. Total number of Ryan Mallett touchdown passes?
2. Total number of Jerrod Johnson interceptions?
3. Total number of times the ABC camera's pan to the A&M sideline, and see Mike Sherman staring blankly at his play chart, like a lost tourist looking at a road map?
I’ll go with No. 3.
NOTRE DAME (-6 ½) over Pitt: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ABC
I contended all off-season that Pitt’s 10-3 record last year was a fluke, and for once in my life feel vindicated for it. Dave Wannstedt didn’t figure out how to coach overnight, and I figured the Panthers would come back crashing down to Earth this year. Of course I had no idea that they’d re-write the rules of football ineptitude as we knew them. Then again, with Wanny, I should've known better.
On the flip side of things, I think Brian Kelly is starting to turn the corner at Notre Dame. Yes I’m a Kelly homer, I know. Still, think about it. Notre Dame is 2-3 right now, but they’ve also lost those three games to teams which are a combined 14-1 right now. Two of those the losses (Michigan and Michigan State) were by a combined seven points. The Irish may be 2-3, but they could just as easily be 4-1.
To me, this is the easiest money on the board.
Michigan State (+4 ½) over MICHIGAN: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ABC
Speaking of Michigan State, I’ve got to admit, I was pretty impressed with their win last weekend. The Spartans were methodical, efficient, and at times, downright boring. Basically, they out-Wisconsin’ed Wisconsin. Which isn't easy to do.
Either way, I like Sparty here. I know all the talk is on Shoelace Robinson, and it should be. But as exciting as Robinson is on offense, Greg Robinson’s defense is just as exciting for completely different reasons. Mainly, that they could give up 80 yards on any given play. Or more likely in this game, 600 yards of total offense.
Having seen Robinson work his black magic at Syracuse for five years at Syracuse, I know what this guy is capable of, and believe me, it’s not pretty. Michigan is due to lose at some point. And this looks like the place it'll happen.
Alabama (-7) over SOUTH CAROLINA: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. CBS
There are a lot of reasons to like South Carolina here. First, I know it’s never easy to win on the road in the SEC, but this line is almost suspiciously low, like Vegas is begging you to take the Tide. Also, Julio Jones and Greg McElroy are a little banged up after last week. Thinking back to last year, South Carolina actually played Alabama pretty tough, and No. 1 Florida even tougher when they got them at home. Finally, there's that whole "Alabama let down after playing two Top 10 teams," thing.
But at the end of the day, sometimes you’ve got to throw out all the numbers and trends, and just ask yourself this: If someone was holding a gun to your head, and your life depended on this pick, could you really go with the Gamecocks? I couldn’t.
I mean honestly, haven’t we been down this road with them before? Highly ranked, highly touted, fizzled like a cheap firecracker down the stretch? More importantly, when the lights are bright, and it’s the fourth quarter and the game is on the line, can we really trust Stephen Garcia to make plays?
Don’t get me wrong, I think the guy is as tough as nails, and believe me, I don’t particularly feel good about calling out a college kid like I am right now. But, at some point all these fourth quarter meltdowns (like Auburn two weeks ago), have to stop being a coincidence and start being a trend.
Until South Carolina proves to me they can close these games, and ‘Bama proves they can’t, I’ll stick with the Tide.
Auburn (- 6 ½) over KENTUCKY: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ESPN2
It’s official. I’m a believer in Cam Newton. Sign me up for the fan club, put me on the mailing list, and send me the free t-shirt. I’m all in.
As for this game, I know that Newton’s first SEC road game didn’t go all that well a few weeks ago. I get it. But since then, he and Auburn have been absolutely outstanding. I’ve seen their run game wear down opponents in the fourth quarter three weeks in a row now, and I’ve got to wonder, if Kentucky struggled so much with Jeremiah Masoli last week, what are they going to do with a bigger, stronger, more physical version of him?
(Random side note that has nothing to do with anything: My mom and step-dad have two dogs. There’s Oscar, the wily old pooch of my childhood, who knows how to perfectly position himself for table-scraps, and limps around like Brett Favre after last year’s NFC Championship Game. Then there’s Cam, the young pup, who runs into walls, chases his own tail, and barks at inanimate objects. While Oscar is like an old reliable blanket you can count on to keep you warm in the winter, Cam is there strictly for comedic effect. He’s our own personal Carrot Top. Only he's actually funny.
So what does this have to do with college football? Nothing really. Except that with Cam Newton playing quarterback at Auburn, my mom now has a new favorite college football team. She laughs every time she hears his name, and really, sometimes I can’t help myself too. The dog is really that goofy.
That’s all really. I told you that little side story had nothing to do with anything, but why does it always have to be about football? Huh?)
LSU (+6 ½) over FLORIDA: Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Is it possible that 2010 will turn into, “The Year of the Failed Jump Pass,” at Florida? I’ve contended all week that the Gators offense was never the same after that play call against Alabama last weekend, and I stand by it. From then on in, their offensive line went into sulk mode, which in turn sent poor John Brantley into “run for your life,” mode. I’m really worried about this Florida team for the rest of the year.
And really, this LSU team might be the worst one Florida could be playing Saturday. Because for all the fiasco around “Miles-Gate 2010,” everyone just assumes they’re a lousy team, but really that’s the farthest thing from the truth. Yes the offense needs some work (Ok, that’s a bit of an understatement. Really, they need Ty and the Extreme Makeover Home Edition staff to come in and save them). But as many of my readers, including my pal Brandon H., have been telling me all season, their defense is actually really good. Did you know that the Tennessee game was the third time in four weeks they’ve held an opponent under 220 yards of total offense? Damn.
Honestly at this point, I don’t know if the LSU guys are playing for Les Miles, or to spite him, but he’ll be vindicated with a win this week. At least until he does something dumb next Saturday that is.
Florida State (+6) over MIAMI (FL): Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ABC
Go ahead, and say it. I already know what you’re thinking: “Aaron, you’re picking against Miami? Really? Didn’t you just go on the record earlier this week and label them as your ACC favorites? Geez, you’re more indecisive than a girl trying to pick out a dinner meal on a first date.”
Ok, you got me. I did say all that, although I’m highly offended by the dinner table comment. With that said, I still like Florida State to keep this one close, even if I like Miami to win outright.
For starters, I’m not ready to give up on Florida State just because of that one disastrous showing against Oklahoma a few weeks ago. They’ve actually played really well since, and I think of every team that Miami plays this year, the Florida State offense matches up with them the best.
But beyond that, what this game really comes down to is that I’m waiting to see how the Miami coaching staff uses Jacory Harris going forward.
Honestly, the game-plan should’ve been established last week: Pound the ball with Damien Berry and Lamar Miller. Unleash the dogs on defense. And whatever you do, for the love of God, don’t let Jacory do anything stupid. Coach the game like that, and Miami should win Saturday night 24-10.
The problem is, I don’t trust Miami offensive coordinator Mark Whipple to do that.
The best analogy to Whipple’s situation is this: He’s like a high-powered CEO who goes out and decides to spend his Christmas bonus on a $50,000 sports car. The first time he takes the car on the highway, he knows he shouldn’t take go over the speed limit, but what the hell, he didn’t buy the thing to keep it in third gear, right? So the CEO gets on the highway, hits 100, and just a few minutes later gets pulled over by the cop for speeding. Obviously he should’ve known better, but in his defense, he just couldn’t help himself. He bought a new, expensive sports car. He wanted to have some fun.
Well, Harris is that car. Whipple knows he shouldn’t do anything stupid, play it safe, and keep Harris in third gear. But come on, it’s Jacory freakin’ Harris! How can you not let him loose!
Unless Whipple realizes that this team is at best when Harris is handing off the ball instead of throwing into triple coverage, I think the final score ends up being closer than it should be.
STANFORD (-10) over USC: Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ABC
Even though Stanford is the ranked team here, this game isn’t about them. We already know who they are. They run the ball. They’re physical. A loss last weekend didn’t change that.
But USC? What do we make of them?
Before the season I was unequivocally a believer in this team. But by Week 2 the warning signs were already there, that maybe these guys just weren’t that good. And after last week, not only am I off the USC bandwagon, I’m fleeing it like the scene of a bad college hook-up.
Would you believe me if I told you that USC gave up almost eight yards per play last weekend to Washington? Boy is that embarrassing. Don’t blame Monte Kiffin, or even Lane Kiffin though. You really can't. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who your coaches are when the talent just isn't there. As far as I'm concerned, that's the real reason why Pete Carroll left USC after last year. He saw the writing on the wall. Things weren't getting any better than last year's 9-4 finish.
Stanford will win this game, and win it big. And not for any other reason than they’re the deeper, more experienced, more talented team. It’s really that simple.
Earlier this week Lane Kiffin said, “This isn’t your typical ‘SC team.” He wasn’t kidding.
Last Week: 6-4
Also for his continued take on all things sports, as well as updates on his articles, podcasts and giveaways, feel free to add Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres, Facebook.com/AaronTorresSports or by downloading the AaronTorres-Sports App for FREE for your iPhone or Android phones!)