West Virginia sits at #13, four spots ahead of the team that took it behind the woodshed last week. How Texas Tech, with an identical record to that of WVU, can rank lower than the Mountaineers is a mystery. Looking at their respective bodies of work (rankings reflect BCS Standings), Tech’s big wins (#13 WVU, @ #24 Iowa State) are as good as or better than WVU’s best victories (Baylor, @ #25 Texas). Both the Bears and Longhorns were ranked when they played the Mountaineers, but both have also been exposed since those meetings. Interestingly enough, those two play each other in week 8. Texas Tech’s lone loss to Oklahoma certainly wasn’t worse than WVU’s loss to Tech. Both are in the same conference and played comparable schedules outside of these matchups.
So what exactly, other than reputation, is propelling the Mountaineers over the team that destroyed them?
Finally, the BCS Standings include three two-loss teams and leave out a number of one-loss teams. Stanford sits at #20 thanks to its upset win over over USC. Iowa State and Texas are the final two in. Of these three, the Cyclones have the best argument for inclusion, having lost relatively narrowly to Kansas State and Texas Tech. Texas was taken apart by Oklahoma, and it’s hard to see how the ‘Horns deserve to be ranked after the way they played. Stanford isn’t all that good, although the Cardinal might well have won at Notre Dame had the officiating been more accurate.
As for the picks, we survived week 7 and got a push in the ND game.
Zach Bigalke: 29-30-1 (4-4-1)
John Mitchell: 28-31-1 (3-5-1)
Matt Strobl: 28-31-1 (4-4-1)
Week 7 Picks
We’re getting an early start this week because of the Thursday night matchup between Oregon and Arizona State. The Sundevils have quietly amassed a 5-1 record to start the year and have cracked the rankings in the Coaches Poll at #24. They remain unranked in the AP Poll and BCS Standings.
Note that for this early game, we’re using the average spread as determined by vegasinsider.com which is Oregon -8. For the rest of the picks this week, we’re using the Yahoo! spreads as of Thursday morning. These lines might move before they go final, but we’re going with what we know at the time of posting.
Here’s what the Tailgater crew is predicting. Rankings are according to the AP Top 25 poll. All times are eastern. All picks are against the spread as defined by Yahoo! Sports’ lines.
Thursday, 9:00pm. Tempe, AZ
Oregon Ducks @ Arizona State Sundevils (+8)
Strobl: This spread could be double what it is and I’d still pick Oregon. I’d seriously consider the Ducks at triple the current line. With all due respect to ASU (which isn’t much, because I don’t have any respect for Todd Graham), the Ducks are far superior. They’ve crushed Pac 12 teams comparable to the Devils (Arizona, Washington) and are averaging 52 points per game. PICK: Oregon
Mitchell: Some people are putting Oregon on upset alert, but I’m not buying it. If the Ducks are among the nation’s elite, then they shouldn’t have much of a problem dispatching an Arizona State team that lost to Missouri, who is 0-4 in the SEC. The Sun Devils have been better than most thought in Todd Graham’s first year, but they haven’t exactly played what you would call a tough schedule to this point. Strange things can happen to highly ranked teams on the road on Thursday nights, but Oregon is the superior team and they should win this game by double digits. PICK: Oregon
Bigalke: Arizona State, not that OTHER team from the PAC-12 South in red and gold, could very well be the Ducks’ biggest challenger this season. They have a dangerously-stout defense, a competent offense, and they already look comfortable in Todd Graham’s system. Of course, Vegas also made Oregon just an eight-point favorite. And even against a good team like the Sun Devils, the Ducks will cover a spread of just a touchdown and a “swinging gate” unless they defeat themselves. PICK: Oregon
Saturday, 12:00pm. Clemson, SC
Virginia Tech Hokies @ Clemson Tigers (-8.5)
Strobl: Virginia Tech hasn’t had a typical season. The Hokies are an uncharacteristic 55th in total defense and 37th in points allowed. This despite playing such luminaries as Austin Peay, Pitt, and Bowling Green. Even the trio of Georgia Tech, Cincinnati, and Duke doesn’t exactly represent a difficult schedule, although the Bearcats and Blue Devils are putting togethe rnice seasons. UNC is probably the best team VT has faced, and the Tarheels won easily, scorching the Hokies for 48 points. Clemson has more talent than any of these teams and shouldn’t have an issue covering at home. PICK: Clemson
Mitchell: Despite Frank Beamer’s boys beating Duke 41-20 last week, I still don’t think Virginia Tech is a very good football team. The Hokies fell behind 20-0 in that game before rallying and scoring 41 consecutive points to get the win. This is a major step up in competition as the Hokies go to Death Valley to take on Clemson. The Tigers are an enigma of sorts as the only real competition they have faced this season has been Florida State, and the Seminoles got the 49-37 victory in that contest. Surprisingly, Bud Foster’s defense has struggled this season, and that’s bad news against Clemson’s high-powered offense. PICK: Clemson
Bigalke: Dare I say it? Is Virginia Tech the new “Clemson” and Clemson the new “Virginia Tech” of the ACC? The Hokies continue to underachieve, while the Tigers are putting together another strong season. An 8.5-point favorite at home, this is the type of game where Clemson used to wilt under the pressure. Not this time; unlike Duke last week, the Tigers will grab a lead and hold on for the win. PICK: Clemson
Saturday, 12:00pm. College Station, TX
LSU Tigers @ Texas A&M Aggies (+3.5)
Strobl: Their three-point home loss to Florida is looking strong by the week, and Aggies’ QB Johnny Manziel is the real deal as far as dual threats go. But I don’t buy A&M as a serious contender in the SEC. After barely surviving Louisiana Tech on the road, the Aggies return home only to find the Cajun State’s flagship team staring them down. And LSU can’t afford any more conference losses in advance of its head-to-head with Alabama. The Bayou Bengals were pretty good against a tough South Carolina team; for LSU it all comes down to quarterback play. The defense and ground game are solid enough, so if Zach Mettenberger can be merely bad instead of horrendous, the Tigers should take this. PICK: LSU
Mitchell: This is an intriguing matchup. Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel has been spectacular in his debut season in College Station. His talent will be put to the test against one of the premier defenses in the nation. LSU reasserted itself as a National Championship contender by knocking off South Carolina last week, and if they want a shot to play in Atlanta for the SEC Championship, they have to go on the road and beat the Aggies. With due respect to Manziel, LSU’s defense will be the best he has seen this year, and while I think he performs admirably, I see the Bayou Bengals coming out on top by more than a field goal. PICK: LSU
Bigalke: I’m still not sold on LSU as an elite team. They had a huge home victory last weekend… which leaves me thinking this is the inevitable road letdown for the Tigers. Texas A&M continues to win shootouts, and QB Johnny Manziel is about to show himself to be as comfortable against LSU as he was against Louisiana Tech. The real question: Will the Mad Hatter take a test-graze of Kyle Field. PICK: Texas A&M
Saturday, 3:30pm. Ann Arbor, MI
Michigan State Spartans @ Michigan Wolverines (-10)
Strobl: This line has held steady at 10 all week, though I expected it to come down a bit. Sure, the Spartans have looked awful in their last few games, losing to Ohio State and Iowa and barely beating Indiana in Bloomington. Now they hit the road for a rivalry game against a Michigan team that is starting to look better and better. I don’t doubt that the Wolverines will win this, as Michigan State has been out of rhythm for much of the year. However, Sparty typically plays tight games. With a ball control offense (i.e. Le’Veon Bell) and a defense that is better than the Indiana game indicated, I like the Spartans’ chance of keeping this within single-digits. PICK: Michigan State
Mitchell: Michigan State has dominated this series over the last few years, but this isn’t the same Sparty team we’ve seen in the recent past. After starting 2-0, Michigan State has lost three of their last five games with a blowout loss to Notre Dame, and close losses at the hands of Ohio State and Iowa. Michigan has rebounded nicely after their blowout loss to Alabama in Dallas with their only other blemish coming in South Bend against undefeated Notre Dame. I think Denard Robinson will play well and the Wolverines will snap their four game losing streak against Michigan State. But, I think it will be by single digits. PICK: Michigan State
Bigalke: The Wolverines are receiving a lot of love as a 10-point favorite at home. But we’ve seen what happens when Michigan is pitted against an elite defense… look no further than their losses to Alabama and Notre Dame earlier this season. And make no mistake, the Spartans — for all their offensive woes — are still fielding an elite D. Michigan may still win, but it won’t be double-digit comfortable. PICK: Michigan State
Saturday, 3:30pm. Evanston, IL
Nebraska Cornhuskers @ Northwestern Wildcats (+6.5)
Strobl: This line just jumped by two full points heading into Wednesday, and that gave me pause. This is already a difficult game to pick given how inconsistent Nebraska has been. The ‘Huskers are probably the better team all things considered, but it’s tough to have any confidence in them. Remember that they lost on the road against UCLA, needed a complete breakdown by the Badgers to earn a three-point home win over Wisconsin, and were dominated in the final three quarters at Columbus. Now, on the road yet again, am I to believe that they’ll somehow eliminate the mistakes and erratic play to take this one by a touchdown? To do so would be going on faith that Nebraska will play up to its potential. Also factoring in is Northwestern’s talent. This is a legitimately good Wildcats team, and if not for a late-game stumble at Penn State, they would have been the only eligible undefeated Big Ten team left standing. Nebraska should win. But Northwestern could easily keep this a three-point game or even emerge with the big home win. PICK: Northwestern
Mitchell: I think Northwestern is a tough matchup for Nebraska with their spread offensive attack and a running quarterback when Kain Colter is actually playing that position. Nebraska’s defense had no answer for Ohio State’s attack, and while Ohio State’s offense is more dynamic than Northwestern’s, I think the Wildcats should perform well at home against the Huskers. Nebraska ranks 91st in the nation against the run, while Northwestern is 18th in the country in rushing offense. Venric Mark should have a strong game, and while Nebraska may get the win, I think it will be a field goal game either way. It’s about time Northwestern won a game like this, though. PICK: Northwestern
Bigalke: Nebraska is spotting more and more points as the week advances. At +4.5 Northwestern was already a good bet; at +6.5, Pat Fitzgerald’s crew is damn near a lock. The Huskers have gone 4-2 largely by reverting to Big XII football; Nebraska has yet to be held to less than 30 points in any game yet. The Wildcat D is going to be the one that finally cracks Taylor Martinez and the Husker offense. PICK: Northwestern
Saturday, 3:30pm. Gainesville, FL
South Carolina Gamecocks @ Florida Gators (-3)
Strobl: This isn’t technically a do-or-die for either team, but it is a crucial game for the Gamecocks. With The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail party still remaining, it would be possible for South Carolina to lose to Florida, have Georgia beat Florida, and all three teams end up tied in the SEC East. But that would also require that the Gamecocks get some additional help due to their loss at LSU. If Florida wins here, SC would need the Gators to lose their only remaining SEC games (@ Georgia in Jacksonville and vs. Missouri). The odds of Florida falling to Mizzou in the Swamp are low, so for all intents and purposes, Steve Spurrier has to win on Saturday. It will be a very tough task, but Florida tends to play close games. The longer SC stays in this one, the more the pressure will shift to the home team. PICK: South Carolina
Mitchell: I was all set to pick South Carolina in this one until the news broke about Marcus Lattimore likely not being able to play on Saturday. It’s tough enough sledding to come out of the Swamp with a victory, but the Gamecocks now have to try and do it without their best offensive weapon. Expect the typical SEC slugfest with neither defense giving an inch, but I think Florida’s offense will eventually wear down the Gamecocks’ defense in the fourth quarter. I think Jeff Driskel will make a few more plays than Connor Shaw and Florida gets the win and inches closer to Atlanta . PICK: Florida
Bigalke: Maybe I’m just feeling contrarian this week, or maybe Vegas is just smarter than me. (They DO have the money… I have decidedly less.) But, like the line on LSU-A&M, I have a feeling the three points are in the wrong direction. Florida has played well, but they’re doing it without any offensive balance. The Gamecocks are balanced and should rebound from last week’s anemic outing. PICK: South Carolina
Saturday, 3:30pm. Ft. Worth, TX
Texas Tech Red Raiders @ TCU Horned Frogs (+2)
Strobl: TCU looked strong against Baylor last week, but I suspect that have more to do with the Bears’ weaknesses than with the Frogs’ strengths. Still recovering from the loss of Casey Pachall, TCU now faces a more complete team in Texas Tech; the Red Raiders not only have an offense to match any in the Big 12, they also boast one of the nation’s top defenses. This could, in theory, be a letdown game for TTU after its big home win against West Virginia. But on the other hand, Tommy Tuberville could smell blood in the conference waters. Tech has a murderous schedule the rest of the way, but if they could somehow win out, the Raiders would have an excellent shot at the BCS. PICK: Texas Tech
Mitchell: Color me impressed with how freshman Trevone Boykin played for TCU against Baylor last week, but Texas Tech’s defense presents a much greater challenge than Baylor’s. Of course, so does several high schools. Tommy Tuberville has done a masterful job in Lubbock changing the culture and building a strong defense. Texas Tech flat out obliterated West Virginia last week, and this spread should probably be a little higher despite the fact that it is in Forth Worth. The Red Raiders are the real deal, and I think they come out on top over the Horned Frogs. PICK: Texas Tech
Bigalke: Get ready for an old SWC showdown when the Red Raiders arrive in Fort Worth. Texas Tech has one of the best defenses in the country, as West Virginia found out the hard way last week. TCU has survived the departure of QB Casey Pachall to rehab, but Trevone Boykin hasn’t been a world-beater and he’s about to face the toughest defense he’ll see all season. Spotting just 2, the Red Raiders roll. PICK: Texas Tech
Saturday, 7:00pm. Morgantown, WV
Kansas State Wildcats @ West Virginia Mountaineers (-2.5)
Strobl: The spread renders this game a pick ‘em scenario, and it’s interesting that West Virginia didn’t get the full three points that’s often given to the home team in fairly even contests. Though there’s still a long way to go in Big 12 play, this game is extremely important for the Wildcats, now the only undefeated team left in the league. With games against WVU, Texas Tech, TCU, and Texas still ahead, KSU can’t afford any letdowns. A road win here would essentially eliminate the Mountaineers from the conversation. However, that’s easier said than done. Geno Smith, coming off one of the worst showings of his career, will have plenty of motivation. The hometown crowd will be rabid for a rebound win. And while K-State has the better defense, its offense has been limited in tougher games. Can the Wildcats hang with WVU in a shootout? They have a ball-control style led by Collin Klein, and could try to keep Smith off the field. But since it doesn’t take long for WVU to find the endzone, that approach could backfire if KSU’s drives eat up too much time. PICK: West Virginia
Mitchell: West Virginia was humbled by Texas Tech last week, but I haven’t completely soured on the Mountaineers after that terrible performance on the road. I still think West Virginia is one of the top teams in the Big 12, and Morgantown is a long trek for undefeated Kansas State. The Wildcats present a great challenge for Heisman candidate Geno Smith. It’s unlikely that West Virginia will amass many rushing yards in this contest, but Kansas State only ranks 74th in the nation against the pass, and they happen to be going up against the top passer in the nation. I think West Virginia will rebound from their ugly loss in Lubbock and keep their hopes alive of a Big 12 championship in their inaugural season in the league. PICK: West Virginia
Bigalke: Vegas favors the Mountaineers, but Vegas also looks uncomfortable about its line. I would too if I were them. Kansas State employs an underrated offense that can trade punches with WVU… but they won’t need to do that, because the Wildcats have a defense that can do this week what Texas Tech did last week. Geno Smith’s number may fall; this is the week of Collin Klein’s ascension. PICK: Kansas State
Picks of the Week: Our Favorite Point Spreads
Strobl: Washington (+7.5) over Arizona
When the Wildcats topped Oklahoma State, it appeared that they might be bound for big things this year. Then reality settled in. While the Arizona offense is prolific, the team as a whole has struggled against quality competition. Washington has been steadily improving; after beating Stanford, the Huskies played USC tough. Fumbles were their ultimate undoing, and rest assured that Keith Price has been working on hanging onto the ball this week in practice. Arizona could well win this at home, but I’m having a hard time seeing the sense in a spread bigger than a touchdown. Washington covered against the Trojans and should be able to do so here as well.
Mitchell: Temple (+5.5) over Rutgers
This spread is small, don’t you think? Shouldn’t undefeated Rutgers be favored by more against 3-2 Temple? You would think. This is a classic Vegas line with 90% of the people picking Rutgers in this one. Vegas is begging you to jump on board and bet on the Scarlet Knights, and Vegas wins a lot more than it loses. That’s how it builds the big casinos. Temple has looked much improved over the last two weeks after starting the season 1-2. The Owls are off to a 2-0 start in the Big East with wins over South Florida and Connecticut. Don’t be surprised at all if the Owls knock Rutgers from the ranks of the unbeaten.
Bigalke: Stanford (-2.5) over Cal
Stanford lost a heartbreaker last weekend in South Bend. The Cardinal remain nearly as strong as the squads that went to back-to-back BCS bowls the past two seasons. Yet against a 3-4 Cal team, they’re favored by just 2.5 points. I know that this is the Big Game, but the Bears only come that close to victory if they suddenly unearth a Manti Te’o on their bench. Look for Josh Nunes to show his good side in this Bay Area rivalry. .
Join us in the coming weeks as Tailgater continues to present its weekly picks and previews along with reactions to the best and worst of what college football has to offer.
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