Archive for September, 2008

The Narcissist

September 30, 2008

Survey college football’s most prominent pundits about the best head coach in the country, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say the consensus choice would be Pete Carroll.

USC’s head man orchestrated an impressive turnaround at the fabled Los Angeles football factory in the early half of the decade, following years of mediocrity near the end of John Robinson’s second tour of duty and continuing into the Paul Hackett era. Year in and year out under Carroll the Trojans boast ungodly amounts of talent all over the field. NFL franchises have taken notice, routinely making Carroll disciples top draft picks. On top of all that, Carroll’s teams have rung up blowout wins over respected competition on the biggest stages, during both the regular and bowl seasons.
You’d think the Trojans would need to move up to the NFC East to find a decent game. Yet, all that dominance and talent only serve to make USC’s penchant for dropping games to the Stanfords and Oregon States of the Pac-10 all the more befuddling. How can a team look so unbeatable while rolling to a 30-point win over the Buckeyes one week and then get manhandled by the Beavers the next?
Now, Homerism has never met Carroll. I’ve never attended one of the Trojans’ practices, which are supposedly more competitive than the action on Saturdays. My knowledge of the Carroll way consists almost entirely of what the casual fan has seen or read. But I’ve developed my own theory, and last week’s upset loss in Corvallis only served to reinforce it.
Carroll’s humanistic coaching philosophy revolves around an intense drive to put his players in position to flourish. He views his team’s success as a function of getting the most talented players on the field–the ones who offer the potential not to win, but to thrive. Carroll’s practices and workouts are famous for being intensely competitive, as mega-recruits and future bonus babies constantly vie for touches and playing time.
When it comes to game planning, Carroll counts on his team and players being better than yours. And he plans to show you how great they are, utilizing aggressive offensive and defensive schemes to showcase the boatloads of talent that dot the USC roster.
Considering just how talented the Trojans usually are, that sounds like a great plan. Judging by Carroll’s winning percentage, it has served him well. So what’s missing? How about the opponent.
Watching Oregon State victimize the middle of the Trojans’ defense time and again last weekend with draw plays and cutback runs, I kept wondering if USC had even bothered to study the Beavers’ game film. Offensively, with all the success OSU’s defense had pressuring Trojan quarterback Mark Sanchez and stuffing USC’s run game, did the staff take any measures to change up blocking schemes and protections in the second half? Sure didn’t look like it.
When your players are constantly told that the name of the game is competing with each other, what’s the point in concentrating on a scouting report? When your coaching staff becomes so wrapped up in who you’re recruiting and what your team is doing, how much thought are you giving to the schemes and personnel you’ll see in the next game? Can your coaches adjust to what the other team is doing, instead of just relying on your guys to be better and make plays?
Carroll’s high-octane, star-centric coaching philosophy clearly breeds sustained success. What’s more, the Trojans are built and mentally conditioned for the kind of big games in which USC has made its mark under Carroll. But, until Carroll learns to respect his opponents and realizes that the play of both teams determines a game’s outcome, expect Southern Cal to continue to lose games they shouldn’t.

New World Order

September 29, 2008
Here’s what Homerism wrote last week regarding USC:

“Homerism submits for your consideration that we don’t know nearly as much about USC as we think. Sure, USC has looked awesome in both games, but let’s not crown them national champs just yet. Unfortunately, the Pac-10’s struggles suggest the Trojans may not be tested until the BCS championship game.”

I’d be looking pretty smart right now if I had stopped before that final sentence.

Anyway, the results of the past week had to remind college football fans of the weekly chaos we witnessed last season. Are the days of pitting two undefeated teams in the national championship game over and done with? Are we destined for another two-loss national champ? Will we be subjected to more of the obnoxious politicking and bellyaching at the end of the regular season that have become so prevalent in the past few years? If so, I have two requests:
1.) No more talk of “so-and-so deserves to be in the BCS championship because they are playing the best football right now.” USC apologists latched on to this rallying cry last year. It doesn’t matter. The real question in college football is, Who played the best football all year? If you lose to teams like Stanford or Oregon State, you probably don’t qualify.
2.) Homerism begs the major poll voters to set aside their lazy approach to evaluating teams. Take the long view and consider a team’s total body of work. It’s not good enough to hold teams in their spots in the rankings until they lose. Be willing to shake your ballot up.

In the spirit of responsible voting, Homerism can’t rank OU number one this week. The Sooners continue to impress, but Alabama absolutely deserves the top spot. In fact, Homerism isn’t even going to rank OU in the top three. It really doesn’t matter in week five.

Blatant Homerism Power Poll Week Five
1. Alabama
2. LSU
3. South Florida
4. Oklahoma
5. Texas
6. Missouri

7. Penn State
8. BYU
9. Utah
10. Texas Tech

OU in Review: TCU

September 28, 2008
As a Sooner fan, I know I’m supposed to feel good about Saturday’s 35-10 win over TCU.
I mean, quarterback Sam Bradford threw for a career-best 411 yards. The offense torched the Horned Frogs’ vaunted defense for 35 points. Holding the 24th-ranked team in the country to just 10 points is impressive as well. To top all that off, OU avenged one of the worst losses in team history under coach Bob Stoops. So why did it feel so unsatisfying?
Offensively, the lack of a consistent running game was troubling. Gary Patterson clearly decided to sell out to stop the run all night, which led to all of the Sooners’ success through the air. Given OU’s physical advantage, that certainly makes sense. Still, as good as OU’s offensive line is supposed to be, 25 rushing yards is troubling. Also, was it just me, or did it seem like the Sooners’ passing game took advantage of multiple blown assignments on the part of TCU’s defensive backs?
The OU defense gave up more than 300 yards to TCU’s decidedly mediocre offensive attack. The big reason for the 25-point margin was really the four turnovers caused by OU defenders. I just don’t feel comfortable relying on forced fumbles and intercepting tipped passes all year. 
Lastly, the kickoff coverage remains terrible, reflecting the poor tackling that has plagued the Sooners for the last few years.
Granted, this may seem like nitpicking. If you need evidence of what makes those kinds of things important, look at Oregon State’s upset of USC on Thursday night. The Beavers capitalized on the Trojans’ tendency to overrun ball carriers, gashing the USC D’s interior with cutback runs all night. There’s no doubt USC is a superior team to OSU from a talent standpoint, but that one fatal flaw turned out to be the Trojans’ undoing.
OU has the players to line up and beat any team in the country. At some point this season, though, that’s not going to be enough if opponents (see: Texas) have the personnel to put pressure on Bradford or stuff OU’s run game without loading the box.

Saturday Ramblings

September 28, 2008

*Is there a worse color commentator in college football than Fox’s Dave Lapham? Ask Knox… “Hey Knox, How does Dave Lapham have a job?”

*It still seems like OU’s defense is benefiting from lots of fortunate strips and fumble recoveries. Teams are still hitting big pass plays on the secondary. They just can’t hold onto the ball afterwards.
*OU’s terrible kick coverage is completely mystifying.
*The way the Sooners have played since the first seven or so minutes of this game is just not impressing me. The lack of a running game is particularly distressing. Also, I just don’t understand these long stretches of games where OU goes to sleep. (OK, I might be overreacting.)
*Good to see Adron Tennell get a catch.
*Where would Virginia finish in the Sun Belt? I’d say fifth or sixth.
*Ever since the Texas Tech game last year, Manuel Johnson has been OU’s best receiver, in my opinion.

Guest Column: Wang in High Def

September 27, 2008

Welcome back, faithful readers, to this week’s version of Buffalo Wild Wang’s weekly Big XII picks. Safe to say it has been a good week for the Wanger. The Bills sit alone atop the AFC East after starting the season 3-0. The birth of little Wangette, Version 2.0, is quickly approaching. And finally, television watching is reaching a peak as college football, the NFL, new episodes of “The Office,” new seasons of both “The Amazing Race” and “Survivor,” and the new MTV Real World/Road Rules challenge all fight for a spot on the Wang’s Tivo.

Glad to see Abe back on the challenge. Unfortunately, Abe has vowed NOT to fight anyone this year, ruining the only reason he should be on a challenge in the first place. Also good to see Derrick back for more fun. I like to compare Derrick to Brett Favre. Every time you think you have seen him on his last challenge, he shows up again a year later. The new “Survivor”-type rules for this challenge are sure to offer some can’t-miss television moments.

Luckily for the Wang, there was no OU game last week–urologically saving lives would have prevented me from watching the action. Without a game to review, on to the picks…

TCU at Oklahoma (-17.5)
I think Mario Puzo said it best when he wrote in his best selling 1969 novel, The Godfather, that “revenge is a dish best served cold.” No need to rehash that fateful September day in 2005, but that’s not to say it has been forgotten. TCU comes into Norman looking to repeat its major upset of the then seventh-ranked Sooners. Stoop’s Troops have had an extra week to prepare for this game, and I think its safe to say that Bob has reminded these guys a few times what happened in the last visit.

While “power” conferences such as the Big East and the Pac-10 continue to limp through the season, the Mountain West has quickly started to make some noise on the college football landscape. Three teams have started the season 4-0 and find themselves ranked in the top 25 of both major polls. TCU was able to sneak in at #24 this week after dismantling SMU 48-7 last week. Quarterback Andy Dalton has yet to throw a touchdown pass this year, but he has managed to avoid big mistakes, throwing only one interception. His damage comes mainly on the ground as he has rushed for five touchdowns while averaging more than five yards per carry. Leading rusher Ryan Christian also carries an impressive 4.6 yards per carry average to complement Dalton.

What may be most impressive about this TCU squad, though, is the defense. This game promises to be a classic battle of the immovable object vs. the irresistible force. This year’s OU squad leads D-I football averaging 54.7 points per game (side note: three of the top five scoring teams in the country reside in the state of Oklahoma), while TCU boasts one of the nation’s top defenses, giving up only 7.8 points per game. Last week against SMU, the Horned Frogs allowed only 210 total yards for the entire game, 218 of them coming through the air. Yes, that means the defense held SMU to a total of negative eight yards rushing for the game. Let’s not forget this team held Adrian Peterson to a measly 63 yards with a 2.8 yards per carry average in the upset.

I like Oklahoma coming off the bye week here, and I like the fact that the team has had a week to rest and prepare for this game. A blowout here against a solid top 25 team could really send a message to the rest of the country. While I am sure there was some game-planning for upcoming games against Baylor and Texas this week, the majority of the time was spent on TCU, because this is a solid team that has the capability of pulling off another upset. The problem is this year’s Oklahoma team is better than the 2005 version. Most importantly, the quarterback position isn’t a question mark, with Sam Bradford playing again this year at an unbelievable level. There are few, if any, holes and weaknesses in this year’s team on either side of the ball, and the Wang likes what he has seen thus far…

The Pick: Revenge will be the theme of the weekend and OU gets it here, 38-10.
Blatant Homerism: Sooners.

Army at Texas A&M (-28)
Do I have to do this? Really?

Quick quiz: What team can we find to play Texas A&M to ensure the Aggies are four touchdown favorites? Got it–Army.

Yes, Army has started the season 0-3 by losing each game at home by an average margin of 21.7 points per game. The three losses have come against the likes of Temple, Akron, and New Hampshire. The offense has managed to score a total of 20 points so far this season. The passing game is nonexistent, and the running game barely averages 3 yards a carry.

But it’s not like the Aggies are much better. Texas A&M has fallen to 0-2 at home after a blowout loss last week to Miami. QB Jerrod Johnson’s stats don’t look terrible after throwing for 275 yards and three touchdowns, but his team was playing catch-up the entire day. Running back Mike Goodson has been about the only bright spot this year, as he leads the team in both rushing and receiving. I have to think Mike Sherman is beginning to second guess his decision to take this job. The pressure in College Station will only get worse.

A&M is bad, but Army is worse. The Aggies need someone to beat up on, and I think this is the team to do it…

The Pick: The Wang says, “Gig ‘Em.”
BH: A&M.

Colorado at Florida State (-5.5)
After two blowout victories to start the season, there was talk that Bobby Bowden’s Florida State Seminoles might be on the comeback trail to college football dominance. That all went away after last week’s game against Wake Forest. Nothing went right for FSU, as they were only able to manage three points while turning the ball over an astounding seven times. The quarterback combo of D’Vontrey Richardson and Christian Ponder completed a whopping 33 percent of their passes for 118 yards. The running game could only muster 108 yards. The defense did keep Riley Skinner and the Wake offense out of the end zone, and something can be said for that. Nonetheless, the overall performance was putrid.

Colorado, on the other hand, is coming off a nice win against an obviously overrated West Virginia team last week in overtime. It was a freshman running back who did a lot of the damage for the Buffaloes again, but not highly rated Darrell Scott. Rodney Stewart put up 166 yards on the ground last week. The defense did give up over 300 yards rushing against the Mountaineers, but held Pat White to just 43 yards passing. ho here thinks White will soon become the next Brad Smith of the NFL? his is a tough game to call considering it is being played in Jacksonville.

I am not yet sold on FSU, who has proved playing at home doesn’t necessarily translate into playing better football…

The Pick: Wang likes the Buffaloes.
BH: ‘Noles.

Arkansas at Texas (-27.5)
The Wang does not like Bobby Petrino. The Wang also does not like Texas. The Hogs have not exactly looked like world beaters so far this year after squeaking out victories over Western Illinois and Louisiana-Monroe. Then, they were blown out last week by Alabama. Arkansas has a tough stretch of games after traveling to Austin, including match-ups against Florida and Auburn. The Bobby Petrino magic hasn’t rubbed off on an offense that is averaging just 23 points per game. Casey Dick was harassed all day and threw three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. Alabama was also able to gain over 300 yards on the ground against a suspect Arkansas defense.

Texas made a loser out of the Wanger last week, demolishing Rice 52-10. Colt McCoy continues to impress with both his arm and his legs after throwing for 329 yards and four touchdowns and adding 83 yards and another score on the ground. The Texas defense also answered the bell, holding Rice to just 17 yards rushing. The pass defense still has to work out some kinks before going up against OU after allowing 300 yards through the air.

The Wang isn’t going to be fooled twice. This is a rivalry game against an inferior opponent; an opportunity Texas won’t let slip away…

The Pick: I got the ‘Horns.

Troy at Oklahoma State (-17)
The Sooners will not be the only team from Oklahoma looking to exact some revenge this week as Troy makes its way to Stillwater. It was last year when the Trojans laid a beating on the Pokes, 41-23, in a game that was never close. Troy was coming off two blowout losses of its own at the time, and OSU fans were SURE last year was the year of the much talked about Poke turnaround.

This year, Troy comes in at 2-1 after losing last week to Ohio State 28-10. Troy was able to hang with the Buckeyes and went into the fourth quarter down only four points. The offense wasn’t able to put up much of a fight against Ohio State, accumulating only 318 total yards on offense and converting on 33 percent of their third downs. Sophomore quarterback Jamie Hampton has proven to be a duel threat so far this season, running for about 40 yards per game. The defense was able to hold Ohio St. to 309 yards of total offense, but Terrelle Pryor was able to make the throws when they counted. I don’t think I am going out on a limb here by saying that a Beanie Wells-less Ohio State team doesn’t have the offensive firepower of Oklahoma State.

The Pokes continue to put up big numbers, albeit against teams such as Missouri State. Nonetheless, Zac Robinson currently sports a robust 179 passing efficiency rating, and Kendall Hunter leads the Big XII in rushing by a healthy margin. The Pokes have the kind of team this year that has to worry Sooner fans as a potential stumbling block on the road to the BCS championship game…

The Pick: I like the Pokes to continue putting up big numbers here and cover.
BH: Pokes.

Virginia Tech at Nebraska (-7)
An intriguing match up this weekend in Lincoln as the Hokies invade Nebraska. The Huskers sport an impressive 23-6 record in night games at Memorial Stadium. The Virginia Tech passing game has been horrendous this year and doesn’t figure to get any better this week, as Nebraska returns Anthony West and Rickey Thenarse to the starting secondary from injury. Add that to the fact that the quarterback play has been woefully inconsistent ,and starter Tyrod Taylor is dealing with an injured ankle. We may be looking at a long day for Tech. The Nebraska run defense is allowing just 77 yards per game on the ground thus far, but the competition hasn’t quit measured up to what they will see Saturday night.

Look for Virginia Tech to force QB Joe Ganz to throw the ball in order to put points on the board, as the run defense seems particularly strong this year. If Tech is able to slow the Nebraska run attack and get some good pressure on Ganz, as I suspect they can, Nebraska will have problems.

The Wang expects a good tight game here with the Huskers pulling out a close one thanks to home-field advantage…

The Pick: Hokies are the pick.
BH: Huskers.

Louisiana-Lafayette at Kansas State (-20.5)
The Kansas Sate running game hit a wall last week in their loss to Louisville, when they were only able to rush for 30 total yards. The rush defense didn’t help the cause either by surrendering an astonishing 303 rushing yards. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, the Ragin’ Cajuns rank second in the Sun Belt Conference in team rushing, averaging just over 250 yards per game. Lafayette is coming off an impressive win over Kent State in which they gained almost 700 yards total offense, thanks in large part to dual-threat quarterback Michael Desormeaux.

This game does not interest the Wang… 

The Pick: My pick here is Lafayette to cover.


September 26, 2008

A Delightful First Half

September 26, 2008

Maybe this “idiotic jerkhead” was on to something?

A tipped pass for a touchdown? This could be destiny. Keep in mind that the refs likely blew that call in which receiver Vidal Hazelton appeared to fumble after a catch. It would have led to a swoop-and-score for the Beavers.
Let’s say Pete Carroll makes all the right moves here at halftime and USC rallies to a win. Oregon State appears to have exposed a serious flaw in the heretofore dominant USC defense. The Beavers have downright worked the Trojans up front. The OSU o-line is pushing SC’s front four all over the place. On top of that, the Beavers’ maligned d-line is putting some serious heat on Mark Sanchez.
I’d feel a lot better about this if Sammie Stroughter was out on the field.

Leach’s Love Potion

September 26, 2008

The most annoying subplot behind Texas Tech’s ascent in the national rankings has to be the relentless deluge of stories about how kooky Mike Leach is. (As if anyone could match Michael Lewis’ brilliant profile in The New York Times three years ago.)

That doesn’t make this segment from Leach’s weekly show any less awesome:

Saturday Viewing Guide: Sept. 27

September 26, 2008

Plenty of good non-Sooner appetizers to load up on prior to the OU evening kickoff, including an afternoon triple header. (All times EST.) 

Before Noon: ESPN GameDay (ESPN)
Coming to you live from Athens! Wonder who pushed for this venue? I bet his last name rhymes with “curb meat.” Tune in this week for a special feature on OU quarterback Sam Bradford, who played a little golf in Norman with Desmond Howard this week.
-Alternative: Rounders (Encore 4, 9:45 am to 11:50 am)
Matt Damon and Edward Norton star in this 1998 classic. The release of his debt-ridden pal from jail spurs a law student to resume high-stakes gambling. Easily one of Homerism’s top 10 favorite films.

12 pm to 3:30 pm: North Carolina at Miami (ESPN2)
Among an intriguing collection of early kicks, check out this battle of programs bursting at the seams with young talent. It’s tough to see UNC knocking off The U, given the Tar Heels’ injury issues at QB. Still, taking in games like this one help die-hard fans get a handle on who to watch for in the coming years. (Speaking of which, Beano Cook says next season’s national championship game is Alabama-Penn State.)
-Alternative: Michigan State at Indiana (ESPN)
Homerism considers the Spartans to be possibly the most underrated team in the country. Luring Mark Dantonio to East Lansing to replace notorious choke artist John L. Smith eventually may prove to be on par with Sparty’s brilliant hire of Nick Saban in the mid-’90s. All that being said, MSU will need to watch out for a letdown on the road after easily handling Notre Dame last week. Homerism suggests a simple offensive gameplan: Give the ball to Javon Ringer and let him create.

3:30 pm to 4:15 pm: Arkansas at Texas (ABC/ESPN GamePlan)
Just two weeks left until the Red River Shootout–THE premier rivalry game in college football. How good is the Texas defense under Will Muschamp? It will be tough to find out here, as the Hogs are unbelievably bad. Quarterback Casey Dick threw probably the worst pick-six Homerism has remember seeing in a long time. Forty-five minutes of this romp should be enough and will entail listening to plenty “Eyes of Texas.” Escape while there’s still time to…

4:15 pm to 5 pm: Wisconsin at Michigan (ESPN)
This makes for an interesting kickoff to the Big Ten season for both of these traditional conference powers. Wisconsin seems set for a potential run to the BCS title game, whether the rest of the country can stomach it or not. With both Ohio State and Penn State coming to Madison in the next two weeks, the Badgers could put themselves firmly in the Big Ten driver’s seat by mid-October. Bret Bielema’s team needs to get through the Wolverines first, though, and Homerism has officially put UW on upset alert. There could be some ugly football going down in this game, however, so be ready to make the jump to…

5 pm to 7 pm: Colorado at Florida State (ABC/ESPN GamePlan)
Colorado’s Florida vacation certainly provides for one of the most intriguing games of the day. The Buffs are laying a great young foundation under Dan Hawkins, but the “young” part is what makes this one interesting. Even more than last week’s upset of West Virginia, a win here would put the Big XII North on notice that CU is ready to compete for the division title right now.
-Alternative: Toggle between all of these games, depending on which one is most interesting.

7 pm to 10:30 pm: Oklahoma at TCU (FSN)
Homerism remembers the last time these two teams met in Norman like it was yesterday. I spent most of the day holed up in a Dewey Beach bar, ignoring the bright sunshine outside and growing increasingly disheartened as the game wore on. Whenever I taste Jagermeister now, it takes me back to that dark day. It’s time to exorcise some demons.
-Alternative: N/A

10:30 pm to 11:15 pm: Alabama at Georgia (ESPN)
This has all the makings of a classic game. In the SEC, though, that usually means a drawn-out, every-possession-counts-more-than-the-last slugfest. Chances of the winning margin being more than eight points are slim. That means best action tends to come late in the fourth quarter, which should be fine for Sooner fans.
-Alternative: Virginia Tech at Nebraska (ABC/ESPN GamePlan)
The Cornhuskers still remain somewhat of an unknown under first-year head coach Bo Pelini. Even with the Hokies in the midst of a down season, this one still should provide some insight into the state of NU. Keep in mind that Pelini was the architect of an LSU defense that absolutely throttled Va. Tech last year.

Picks Trying Not to Suck: Week Five

September 25, 2008

A strong week four helped pull Homerism into a tie on the season. We’re moving into conference play, so expect things to start getting dicey.

WEEK FIVE–The Skinny

(Last Week: 3-3; Overall: 16-8)

Last week’s 3-3 record was not Skinny’s best performance, but, at 16-8 on the season, if you have been betting with The Skin, you should have made money. This seems to be one of those weeks in which there are a lot of good plays on the board, and I really like my choices this week. If you have been playing conservative so far this season, this is the week to step it up and cash in.

Advice of the Week: Nothing breaks up your work day like a nice, long trip to the can. If you are like me, no trip to “the office” is complete without a little reading material. Which raises the age old dilemma of how to get your reading material in and out of the can without being caught red-handed with tainted reading material. This is especially important when you have to walk by that hot blonde you have been laying game on for six months. Skinny’s suggestion: Print off an article from your favorite website and transport it in your pocket.

Bonus Advice: Hitting on a coworker in the office is a bad idea. Lay the ground work in the office and wait to capitalize at a work function involving a lot of alcohol. For example, wait for that summer outing to Wrigley Field and feed your target lots of booze. Then tell her to meet you under the bleachers. It works every time!

Arkansas at Texas (-27.5)

Mack Brown and his Texas Longhorns are in the best position since Vince Young left school. All the pressure seems to be off Texas this year, as the experts have concluded UT is not an elite team. Have you ever seen a major college program ranked in the top 10 receive less publicity? This is a good thing for Mack Brown, as he seems to wither under the pressure of high expectations. This is not one of Texas’ more talented teams, but it’s still Texas, and they seem to be playing well this year. Arkansas is bad after losing a ton of talent to the NFL last season. In Arkansas’ first three games, the Razorbacks beat Western Illinois and UL-Monroe by a combined 5 points and were crushed by Alabama at home. This one is pretty simple. Arkansas is awful and Texas is good. 
The Skin Says: It pains me to say it, but Texas wins this one big and covers.

Wisconsin (-6.5) at Michigan

Skinny is going to put his anti-Wisconsin bias aside in the spirit of picking a winner here. Wisconsin has a nice formula for winning games in conference: ball control, don’t beat yourself, play good defense. While they won’t beat USC or Florida this way, it’s the perfect strategy to beat a bad Michigan squad. I know I am not breaking any new ground here, but Rodriguez doesn’t have the personnel to run his spread offense–or any offense–for that matter. The Wolverines’ D is equally bad. Michigan’s defense made Notre Dame look like the Indianapolis Colts. Skinny doesn’t give Big Blue any points for being at home this week. The Big House lacks any intimidation factor, and the Wolverines have not been great at home lately. 
Skinny Says: Wisconsin, 17-3.

Pittsburgh (-15.5) at Syracuse

Skinny is going back to the well. Betting against the Orange has treated Skinny well this season. Greg Robinson’s days at Syracuse are numbered. The Orange have only managed two conference victories in the past four seasons. The ‘Cuse have the worst defense in the country, giving up 148 points in three games this season. No need to analyze Pittsburgh. LeSean McCoy could beat the Cuse by himself. Skinny never advises picking a Dave Wannstedt-coached team, but even Wanny couldn’t mess this one up. 
The Skin Says: Pitt wins big.

USC (-25) at Oregon State

Twenty-five points for SC is like seven for any other team. The Trojans are that good, but how painful is it to listen to ESPN “fluff” these guys up? No doubt, the Trojans are a clear number one at this point, but there is a lot of football left to be played. Before ESPN crowns USC, Skinny has one word for them, Stanford. Expectations were high in Corvallis this past offseason, but the Beavers have struggled thus far, losing to Stanford and Penn State. If Stanford can put up 38 on the Beavers, Skinny can only imagine what SC will do this weekend. Don’t expect OSU to put up many points on USC’s stingy defense. 
The Skinny Says: SC wins this one 60-3.

Tennessee at Auburn (-6)  

As I said in week one, when will Tennessee finally decide to fire Phil Fulmer? Tennessee is no longer an elite program in the SEC, and they are going nowhere fast. The Vols didn’t even look like they belonged on the same field as Florida last week, and the UCLA loss looks more embarrassing every week. College football pundits seem to agree that Tennessee is loaded with talent, but after watching their first two games, I disagree. The Vols have some nice players here and there, but they don’t compare to college football’s elite teams. Auburn has struggled with its transition to the spread offense, but the defense is outstanding. Auburn has the second-best defense Skinny has seen this year behind SC. Watching these two teams last week, how could the spread be this tight? Skinny cant figure that one out, but I advise you to load up on Auburn this week. 
Skinny Says: Auburn. (Bold prediction of the week: Tennessee wont see the end zone on Saturday.) 

Lee Greenwood Special: Navy at Wake Forest (-16) 

Skinny isn’t sure how his bro came up with the idea of picking a service academy game each week, but it’s quickly becoming the lowlight of my week. Try coming up with something to write about Navy football every week? It’s not easy–or fun. Alright enough bitching, let’s pick a winner here. Unfortunately, I have followed Navy football pretty closely this year, and the Midshipmen have a nice team. Navy isn’t the most talented squad, but they play hard, and they play well as a team. Navy is the best of the service academy teams, but that’s like being the prudest girl in the sorority house. Skinny has liked the Demon Deacons from the beginning of the season. Wake is by far the more talented team here, and it has the one ingredient needed to avoid an upset by Navy: discipline. Jim Grobe won’t let the Deamon Deacons overlook Navy. 
The Skin Says: Take Wake laying the points.

WEEK FIVE–Blatant Homerism
(Last Week: 5-1; Overall: 16-8)

Homerism has seen his fair share of disappointment in his handicapping career, but last week’s finish to the Iowa State-UNLV game has to be among the toughest. Unfortunately, Comcast doesn’t carry The Mountain, so I was reduced to following the online gamecast. The Cyclones sloughed off a slow start to tie the game late. When the result of ISU’s first OT possession popped up—a field goal—Homerism knew his dream of a 6-0 week was finished. The Runnin’ Rebels immediately snapped the neck with a 25-yard TD pass, giving UNLV the straight up win and a cover of the spread of 2.5.

Oh well, 5-1 is the kind week Jim Feist would sacrifice his firstborn for. Plus, this is all for free. When you speak of me, speak kindly.

Troy at Oklahoma State (-17)
For people who aren’t familiar with college football in the state of Oklahoma, it’s hard to understand just how embarrassing last season’s blowout loss to Troy truly was for the Pokes. Also, don’t forget that the whole “I’m a man!” debacle actually started with this game last season, when head coach Mike Gundy decided to go with Zac Robinson over Bobby Reid at quarterback. It was the right move, and yet Gundy has been killed for it ever since thanks to the classless way he handled the switch. Wouldn’t Gundy like to prove he was right? Somewhere in the back of his mind, don’t you think Gundy’s insecurities could be calling the shots in this one? Watch for a late TD pass to push the Pokes to a cover.

Homerism Says: OSU, 41-20.

Colorado at Florida State (-6)

Homerism loves the direction of the Buffs under coach Dan Hawkins. Ceterus paribus, Colorado should win this game. There’s a lot going against CU here, though.

Let’s take a quick look back at last week’s upset over West Virginia in Boulder. The Buffs did all of their damage within the first five minutes of the game, scoring two quick touchdowns and putting the Mountaineers in position of playing catch-up all night. CU won, but that’s still troubling.

(Have I told you lately about forever-young Hawkins’ infatuation with running back Rod Stewart’s hot legs? Stewart wore the burden of carrying a somewhat dormant Buff offense well, as the redshirt freshman toted the rock 28 times in the game. Once the Buffs got out to an early lead, Stewart’s love touch was just enough to help CU eke out the win and make last Thursday night the Buffs’ night. Some guys have all the luck.)

The emotional factors in this game seem to be pointing the Seminoles’ way. If Bobby Bowden or whoever now handles game preparation is worth a dadgum lick, they’ll have FSU puh-lenty fired up for this one. That was a horrendous showing last week against Wake Forest. Not to mention, the ‘Noles should be at full strength this week, as the players involved in last season’s stunning academic scandal take the field.

Even more importantly, Colorado takes to the road this week for the first time this season. That’s bad. Worse? The forecast in Jacksonville for Saturday is a high of 90 degrees. It’s gonna be a steamy afternoon, the kind of heat the Seminoles are accustomed to. Not so much for CU. Look for the Buffs to wilt late.

Homerism Says: FSU by 8.

LGS: Navy (+16) at Wake Forest
Wake’s win over Florida St. last week was a classic Jim Grobe-style victory. The Demon Deacons out-fundamentaled the ‘Noles, capitalizing on seven sloppy FSU turnovers. Wake-FSU actually has turned into somewhat of an ACC rivalry game during the Deacs’ recent surge. Of course, that means this is a letdown candidate, especially when book-ended by a matchup with Clemson. What are the Deacs paying for here? Wake will be looking to keep everyone healthy and get ready for a battle for conference supremacy. Also, Grobe doesn’t seem like the kind to pick on our servicemen.

Homerism Says: Navy.

Wisconsin at Michigan (+6.5)
Handicappers have to remember to recalibrate their thinking when teams start conference play. Lines get a little tighter. History runs a little deeper. Teams are a little bit more familiar with opponents’ schemes.

When Homerism saw the early lines this week, this game immediately jumped out. Based on what we’ve seen so far this year, the Badgers looked like a great play here. I mean, Michigan has looked pretty unimpressive. But, then I remembered that both teams were starting in-conference games. That changes things.

Looking back to the Notre Dame game, I thought it was clear that Michigan basically gave it away with all those turnovers in the bad conditions. Michigan outgained the Irish by nearly 120 yards. Maybe Vegas has a better handle on the Wolverines do?

The public is hammering the Badgers. Just seems fishy to me. I love Wisky this year, but there’s something odd going on with this game. I hope I’m not over-thinking this one.

Homerism: Big Blue covers, but the Badgers pull it out.

Houston (+10.5) at East Carolina
All that smoke being blown about the Pirates busting the BCS went out the window last week in a disappointing loss to North Carolina State. Now, the Pirates’ endgame is a Conference USA crown. Expect a hangover here for ECU coupled with an unimpressive win over the Cougars.

Homerism Says: Houston covers. (Look for a slow start by ECU, especially.)

Marshall at West Virginia (-14)
Poor Pat White. The guy should go down as one of the top option quarterbacks in college football history. Now he’s forced to carry a coach who appears to be in way over his head.

The Mountaineers have had to hear about coach Bill Stewart’s bumbling all week. It’s true that their coach is unbelievably ill-suited to be coaching a team that used to have national championship aspirations. The future looks pretty grim for WVU football.

But this group still bears some of Rich Rodriguez’s stamp, so maybe we shouldn’t leave this 2008 team for dead yet. After all, White can still do what he does best, and Noel Devine is still the same explosive threat he was before. And don’t forget what kind of effort Stewart was able to coax out of his embattled squad in last year’s Fiesta Bowl blowout of OU.

This one shouldn’t involve any late-game strategery or clock management, so WVU should be OK there. Marshall isn’t bad, but White et al will take out their frustrations on the Thundering Herd with a focused, methodical performance.

Homerism Says: Vegas gets “middled.” WVU by 16.