Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 10/25/13
College football picks week 9 Last week turned out rough for the crew; nobody finished with a winning record. As it was, the chaos that swept through college football also wreaked havoc on our records picking against the spread, although we did manage to hang near .500. Zach Bigalke: 5-5 Matt Strobl: 5-5 John Mitchell: 4-6 Zach and I remain tied and as we get into November and the heart of the regular season, the title of top Tailgater is still anybody’s to snatch. After more chaos shuffled the top 25 again in Week 8, will there be more upsets this weekend? Let’s fire up the grill, crack open a cold one, and get down to business before games start tonight. Who do we like this week?   Boise State Broncos at BYU Cougars (-7) Mitchell: Boise State is improving, but their body of work to this point isn’t all that impressive. Their best win is a road one over Utah State, which would be impressive if Chuckie Keeton had been under center for the Aggies. BYU has had a Jekyll and Hyde season to this point, and you never know which Cougars team is going to show up. Seven points is a little high, but BYU has been unstoppable at home this season, winning every game by at least 18 points. I don’t think the margin will be that wide against Boise State, but I do figure they cover the touchdown spread. PICK: BYU Strobl: Even now, more than halfway through the season, I have no idea what to make of BYU. This team is confounding, playing great one week and barely surviving the next. At Reliant Stadium against Houston, BYU won the battle of Cougars by one point, and we all know that even this 2013 edition of Boise State, a shadow of its former self, can be a threat. The Cougars giving seven makes this a tricky pick. My suspicion is that BYU will win behind the talented Taysom Hill and I think we’re unlikely to see a repeat of last year’s 7-6 Boise State win. The Cougars have averaged better than 38 points per game over the past four, and I’m not convinced Boise can post such numbers. PICK: BYU Bigalke: Joe Southwick is gone, likely for the year, after breaking his ankle early in last week’s win over Nevada. That leaves the Broncos’ quarterbacking situation up to Grant Hedrick, a run-first type of player that plays a little like the guy on the opposite sideline. Taysom Hill has spent the season being lauded for his 259-yard rushing effort against Texas, but he also proved last week that he can look like a LaVell Edwards quarterback as well by putting up over 400 through the air. With the game in Provo, Chris Petersen’s team reeling, and Hill looking better by the week, I’m going to have to side with the home team. PICK: BYU   Texas Tech Red Raiders at Oklahoma Sooners (-6.5) Mitchell: This is a tough pick. Texas Tech is a bit overrated, and they have benefited more from the chaos around them to jump into the Top 10 than by anything else. Credit to Kingsbury’s crew for being undefeated, but the real season starts this week against the Sooners after they feasted on cupcakes and some cellar dwellers from the Big 12. Oklahoma, on the other hand, is nowhere near as good as recent Stoops teams as we have seen the last two weeks. After getting thumped by Texas in the Red River Rivalry, the Sooners struggled to beat lowly Kansas last week. Much like Boise/BYU, homefield plays the biggest role here. It’s always a huge challenge to knock off the Sooners in Norman, and I don’t see Baker Mayfield or Davis Webb being able to pull off that feat as freshmen. This is where the Red Raiders suffer their first loss. PICK: Oklahoma Strobl: With the way Oklahoma has played, it’s easy to understand why the underdog Red Raiders are being picked by 60 percent of the bettors according to Yahoo’s distribution. This is a popular upset selection; Tech is undefeated and, aside from a close call against Iowa State, has looked like the far superior team in each of its matchups. Oklahoma bumbled to ugly wins over West Virginia and TCU earlier this year and was torched by Texas in the Red River Shootout; why would OU be giving nearly a touchdown, even in Norman? I can’t believe I’m doing this when I promised myself I was done with Big Game Bob and Boomer Sooner, but… PICK: Oklahoma Bigalke: Yeah, Matt, I certainly can’t bring myself to do that. Texas Tech brings a top-30 defense to Norman this weekend to try to stop what has been a largely disappointing Sooner offense this year. The prolific Red Raider passing attack will be challenged by an Oklahoma defense that gives up the least amount of aerial yardage in the country to this point in the season. Here’s guessing a couple of freshman can handle the atmosphere south of Oklahoma City and dish another upset to Big Game Bob. PICK: Texas Tech   South Carolina Gamecocks at Missouri Tigers (-3) Mitchell: I got burned last week when I picked against Missouri in their matchup with Florida. I didn’t think Maty Mauk would fair well against the vaunted Gators defense, and I was wrong. He performed admirably, and the Tigers took a stranglehold lead in the SEC East. They could essentially clinch a spot in Atlanta with a win over South Carolina at home. This spread feels a little bit low, with Missouri only getting the requesite three points for being the home team, even with the status of South Carolina’s Connor Shaw in doubt for the game. Dylan Thompson has proven to be a steady replacement, but he is a bit of a step down. For the purpose of an interesting Eastern Division race, I’m going to take South Carolina. The Gamecocks are desperate after last week’s loss to Tennessee, and know they have to win to keep their hopes alive of making it to Atlanta for the first time since 2010. PICK: South Carolina Strobl: South Carolina is really struggling, coming off of a surprising loss in Knoxville. The defense is having difficulties and Connor Shaw is expected to sit after tweaking his knee last week. Backup QB Dylan Thompson isn’t such a downgrade, but this is the third straight road game for a beleaguered SC team. Missouri, meanwhile, is on a roll. Henry Josey’s injury scare is just that — a scare. The tailback looked to be hurt in the lopsided win over Florida, but all signs point to him being good to go this Saturday. I expect South Carolina to rebound at some point, but with the Tigers giving only three points, I can’t go against them. PICK: Missouri Bigalke: Maty Mauk answered a few questions last weekend against what we thought was one of the strongest defenses in the country. He’ll get another tough test this weekend, but he’s also playing with house money after putting the Tigers up two games over everyone else in the SEC East standings. South Carolina needs a win or they’re effectively eliminated from the conference race. Missouri’s stout defense and skilled offense aren’t going to allow that to happen. PICK: Missouri   Duke Blue Devils at Virginia Tech Hokies (-13.5) Mitchell: Will Duke’s offense be able to put up points against the stingy Virginia Tech defense? That’s the question of the game, and it will likely decide it. We all know how much Logan Thomas and the Hokies struggle to move the ball offensively, regardless of opponent, so we can make an educated guess that they will score around 20-24 points at best. I trust Duke’s offense, which is averaging nearly 36 points per game this season, to put up a couple of touchdowns in this one to cover the spread. I don’t think they’ll be able to pull the upset in Blacksburg, but the Blue Devils will keep this one closer than you might think. PICK: Duke Strobl: This is the toughest selection of the week for me. Duke has been playing extremely well, with three consecutive wins including a comeback smackdown at Virginia. Granted, there’s a considerable difference between the Cavs and the Hokies, but is a nearly two touchdown spread really warranted here? Over its past five games, Virginia Tech has won by an average of eight points, and never by more than 10. Is Duke hampered by its reputation as an ACC doormat, or do oddsmakers legitimately believe that the Hokies will bust out this week? My first reaction was Hokies by 10. Then doubt started to creep in because VT is certainly the better team, and has a stingy defense. But the Blue Devils stood up for me as my Upset of the Week Pick last week, so I’ll return the favor here. PICK: Duke Bigalke: Hmmmm… this certainly is a line that makes you wonder what’s up Vegas’s sleeves. Duke has a competent offense, something we can’t necessarily say about Logan Thomas and the Hokies. Then again, the Blue Devils have a marginal defense, while VT fields an otherworldly unit when they don’t have the ball. The real question is why the Gobblers are playing the Bluebloods in the sunshine… Tech hasn’t played a night game yet in Blacksburg, which has significantly thinned the home-field advantage of Lane Stadium. That’s got to be worth at least three points Duke’s direction. So I concur, this should be around ten rather than two touchdowns; but, then again, don’t be surprised if the Devils win outright. PICK: Duke   UCLA Bruins at Oregon Ducks (-23) Mitchell: This is a huge spread, and shows how much respect Vegas has for the Ducks. Marcus Mariota is putting together an unbelievable season and Oregon is bludgeoning everything in sight so far. Brett Hundley and UCLA had done much of the same, until they ran into the Stanford buzz saw last week as the Cardinal defense suffocated the Bruins in a 24-10 win. UCLA’s offense should get back on track a bit this week, but it likely won’t matter, because they aren’t stopping the Ducks, who look to be on a mission to get to Pasadena for the BCS title game. PICK: Oregon Strobl: As I’ve said numerous times this year, I’m done picking against Alabama and Oregon until either proves to me that it can’t handle itself. The betting public seems genuinely torn on this matchup; the distribution is a nearly perfect 50/50 split between the two teams. And for the Bruins, this is essentially a must-win game after they lost to Stanford. Obviously that’s a terrible position to be in. I don’t see how UCLA is going to keep things close on the road, much less pull the stunner. PICK: Oregon Bigalke: What can the Ducks not do well? (Well, other than being magnanimous in victory and allowing the opposition a moment to celebrate an obscure though relevant record?) Don’t let the final score of that Washington State game fool you… Oregon is going to be ready for UCLA this weekend. Brett Hundley and the Bruins don’t rate quite as well offensively either in the air or on the ground, while Anthony Barr and the UCLA defense are good but not statistically as stout as the Ducks. Add the fact that this game is in Autzen, and a 24-point victory suddenly sounds quite manageable. PICK: Oregon   Stanford Cardinal at Oregon State Beavers (+4) Mitchell: Even with Oregon State at home, you would figure Stanford would be favored by more than four points. The Cardinal are fresh off an impressive win over UCLA as they got back on track following their upset loss at the hands of Utah. Oregon State is sporting a six game winning streak behind the no. 1 passing offense in the country. The inexplicable loss to Eastern Washington aside, the Beavers have a really good team. There aren’t many quarterbacks in the country who have played better than Sean Mannion, and I think he continues putting up big numbers this week in Corvallis. The four point spread is enough wiggle room to take Oregon State and feel comfortable. PICK: Oregon State Strobl: This is odd. Stanford, coming off of a 10-point win over a UCLA team that most would consider superior to Oregon State, is giving only four. Having to go to Corvallis impacts the Cardinal’s fortunes, but should the venue really result in such a small spread? More importantly, Yahoo’s line has dwindled by Stanford -5 to -4.5 to the final of -4 despite 84 percent of bettors taking the favorite. This looks like another Vegas Special. I fully expect Stanford to win, but I can’t ignore the line movement. it’s a lesson I’ve learned the hard way. PICK: Oregon State Bigalke: Stanford definitely has talent, there’s no denying that. But after the Beavers lost to a tough Eastern Washington squad in overtime in the opener, everyone quickly decided to deny what OSU could do. But Sean Mannion and Brandin Cooks are making sure the country knows about the air show in Corvallis, and they should be able to take advantage of a secondary ranked 85th in the nation in passing yards allowed. The Cardinal are still a strong Pac-12 team, but we’ve been sleeping too long on Mike Riley’s crew and what they also bring to the conference. PICK: Oregon State   Penn State Nittany Lions at Ohio State Buckeyes (-15) Mitchell: It’ll be tough sledding for Penn State freshman QB Christian Hackenberg as he leads the Nittany Lions on the road in front of a raucous crowd in Columbus. The struggles of Ohio State’s defense, however, will make it easier for him to settle in to the tough road environment. This game will likely be relatively high scoring, like a lot of games this season, and I think Penn State is good enough to keep it within two touchdowns. I don’t think they’ll win though, as Braxton Miller and company will be too much in the end. PICK: Penn State Strobl: I hate to keep picking against my Buckeyes, and that the line rose from 14.5 to 15 even with OSU as heavy favorites should be encouraging for fans of the Scarlet and Grey. However, the Bucks’ defense has really struggled this season. The secondary was exposed by Iowa last week after Bradley Roby got tossed for targeting. And while the All-American corner will be back in action, fellow DB and senior captain Christian Bryant is done for the year with an ankle injury. If Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg has been paying attention, he’ll try to leverage his passing attack, which could have the Buckeyes back on their heels in Columbus for a second consecutive week. Obviously OSU is more talented and should win fairly easily (think double digits), but Penn State can ride the high its on after upsetting Michigan and keep this within two touchdowns. PICK: Penn State Bigalke: I have no qualms whatsoever about picking against Matt’s Buckeyes. We’ve seen what Penn State can do to Michigan… and while the Nittany Lions probably won’t stop Ohio State in Columbus, they’re bound to make life far more interesting for Urban Meyer’s crew. A two-touchdown victory is not out of the question for the home side, but that still gives the flexibility of that extra point Vegas tacked on to the spread. Look for Bill O’Brien’s crew to at least exploit that banged-up Buckeye secondary to keep this one well inside that 15-point buffer. Gimme the points… PICK: Penn State   Houston Cougars at Rutgers Scarlet Knights (-7) Mitchell: Seven points is a lot, but I think it’s relatively fair with Rutgers being at home and being the far more battle tested team. Houston was undefeated coming into last week, but lost their first game of the season at home to BYU. That also happened to be the first legitimate opponent the Cougars had faced this season. It was a bit of a deflating loss, as Houston lost by a single point, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see them a bit down this week. Rutgers, on the other hand, is a fresh off a bye week and ready to go. Look for the Scarlet Knights to win by two scores. PICK: Rutgers Strobl: It’s a bit surprising to see Rutgers getting this much love from Vegas. Houston is a talented team that matched BYU nearly point-for-point last week, falling 47-46 in a tight one. Granted, the Cougars have to travel, but even with homefield advantage I would have expected Rutgers to be giving four or five, not a touchdown. After nearly knocking off what has become a very good Fresno State team, the Scarlet Knights have topped a couple of respectable opponents. But those wins have featured small margins of victory, even at home, and I see no reason for that to change. If the Knights do indeed beat Houston, I expect the final to reflect a close game. PICK: Houston Bigalke: This one is fairly inexplicable. Don’t question it too much, though… just thank Vegas and happinly take the points. Houston has recovered admirably from last year’s post-Sumlin, post-Keenum adjustment period and made some serious waves in its first year as a member of the AAC. If not for a legitimate BCS contender in BYU, the Cougars would still be undefeated halfway through their season. And, as Matt mentioned, they were two points away from a reversed result. Rutgers has played decently itself, but the Piscataway crowd ain’t going to see a blowout on Saturday. PICK: Houston   Tennessee Volunteers at Alabama Crimson Tide (-28.5) Mitchell: If this game was being played in Knoxville, there is no question the spread would be significantly lower as the Vols have been a different team in front of their home crowd. Instead, Tennessee has to travel to Tuscaloosa, and take on an Alabama team that is playing their best football to date. How will Justin Worley and the Tennessee offense move the ball against this Crimson Tide defense that has allowed 16 points in their last five games? Tennessee has a strong offensive line with several future NFL players on it, so they’ll likely bring the beef and try to pound the rock with Rajion Neal. But, Alabama will load the box to stop the run, and force Worley to make plays down the field, and I don’t think he’s capable of doing much of that. Alabama will make short work of Tennessee leading into their bye week before LSU. PICK: Alabama Strobl: See my entry regarding Oregon. While Tennessee has been playing much better of late, and while I have a lot of confidence in Butch Jones’ ability to rebuild the program in Knoxville, the Vols have benefited from playing questionable defenses. Nearly upsetting Georgia and knocking of South Carolina is a far cry from hanging with the Tide in Tuscaloosa. PICK: Alabama Bigalke: Alabama is justifiably the juggernaut, the Hegemon of Southeastern Football if you will. We saw Oregon, the Hegemon of Northwestern Football, hang 59 on these Vols. But is this the same Tennessee team that got trounced at Autzen? Butch Jones has built this team up quite a bit, and while surprising the Tide at Bryant-Denny is highly unlikely, they can at least keep this score within four touchdowns. (Whether they could actually pull off the upset outright is another question, but it isn’t like Bama is unbeatable… just look at their past two championship seasons.) PICK: Tennessee   Upsets of the Week Mitchell: Iowa State Cyclones (+13) over Oklahoma State Cowboys I’m going all-in with trusting Vegas in this pick. Even with Iowa State being at home, there’s no reason the spread should be only 13 points after the beating they took last week at the hands of Baylor. They lost by 64 points, but somehow are less than two touchdown underdogs against the ‘Pokes. The blowout loss to Baylor notwithstanding, the Cyclones are usually competitive every Saturday. In their previous two games before the Bears, they lost by a single point to Texas and by a touchdown to undefeated Texas Tech. Iowa State always seems good for a big upset every year, and this could very well be the one. In the very least, I think   Strobl: Utah Utes (+6.5) over USC Trojans USC returns home after a hideous matchup at Notre Dame. Honestly, we’d all be better off burning that game film; in the third quarter the Trojans and Irish combined for a grand total of 32 net yards on nine possessions. Just stop for a moment and consider how awful that is. When you’re done musing, head over to USC’s injury report. While the Utes are dealing with a hand injury to starting QB Travis Wilson (he’s expected to play), the Trojans are saddled with more wounds than I’ll bother listing here. The most damaging might be Marqise Lee’s knee, which has him listed as questionable. Utah failed to show up against Arizona last week, and has been unusually inconsistent for a Kyle Whittingham team. But with USC at less than full strength and not all that good to begin with, I like the Utes to keep this within a touchdown.   Bigalke: West Virginia Mountaineers (+11) over Kansas State Wildcats West Virginia has to take to the road and play in Manhattan, it is true. But given how both of these teams have been playing so far this season, it almost feels like Vegas was too busy looking at tapes of K-State’s 2012 season to set a logical line here. The Mountaineers only lost by nine to Oklahoma in Norman, and by only 10 last weekend against a much-tougher Texas Tech team, so why Vegas thinks the Wildcats are going to spring a double-digit victory here is beyond me. While this feels like it could be a trap, do you really think Bill Snyder’s team has it in them to make a serious second-half push in the Big 12?   THIS SEASON: Bigalke: 45-33-2 Strobl: 45-33-2 Mitchell: 35-43-2

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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