A very interesting college football weekend is ahead! Lots of questions will be answered by the end of the weekend and we will see some serious changes in the top 10.
As is the usual, I'll start with the SEC games (in order of kickoff time) and then get to the other conference matchups that you guys picked.
Special Thanks to Norka for the title suggestion!
SOUTH CAROLINA at KENTUCKY. If you had asked me about this game a week or so ago, I would have easily said that SC gets the win. I am not so sure now. Spurrier had Smelley playing much more to his liking last week, but he has yet to show a 2-game hot streak. Kentucky on the other hand actually has a good defense going this year. Their numbers were impressive in the early part of the season and they seem to be for-real. Kentucky looked very good in playing Bama tough. I think that UK's defense is the difference and they pick up an SEC win at home.
VANDERBILT at MISS STATE. The Bulldogs played a tough game against LSU last week, showing real improvements at QB and finding some rushing success against the LSU defense. Vanderbilt only managed to post a major win on national TV and this team has got to be sky-high. I don't care how the season end for the 'Dores, right now I nominate Bobby Johnson for SEC coach of the year. He now has two QB's that can give teams lots of headaches. And the defense has been tough.The best thing to happen for Vandy might be to get behind early, as that seems to bring out the best in them. I think Vandy finds a way to win this one and continues the winning streak. Will this Geek Squad invade Atlanta in December?
TENNESSEE at GEORGIA. Tennessee is bad. Really bad. Last week, they even managed to look terrible in a win. Georgia is pissed-off and no doubt still smarting from Bama invading their space knocking out the black-out. Tennessee coming to town is just what the Dawgs need to get some confidence back. I look for a beat-down of UGA-ly proportions.
ARKANSAS at AUBURN. This might be the hardest game to pick. Had the firing of Franklin not happened this week, I would have easily picked Auburn to win this one at home. However, this is a team and coaching staff that is in disarray. To top that off, it is a generally restless and unhappy group of fans. Does any one want to bet that if the offense starts out slowly, the boos will start early? I am genuinely curious as to how the heck are they going to continue to run the spread (as Tuberville said they would) having just fired the only spread offense coach on the staff. If Arkansas can come out and put points on the board early, this battered Auburn team might be in trouble. Keep in mind, the Auburn defense has been their saving grace this season, but now that defense is starting to feel the effects of being on the field so much and the injuries are mounting. I'm sorry to say it my Auburn friends, but I think this team has had a very bad 7 days and I believe that Arkansas is going to catch them ripe for the upset. I am going to have to go with my gut and pick the Hogs. The good news is that Petrino will be close enough that the Auburn alums won't have to fire up the jet. (Sorry AU fans, I just couldn't resist that one)
LSU at FLORIDA. A HUGE game in the SEC. If Florida takes another loss, their chances of winning the SEC East are very slim. A loss by LSU is not going to be as damaging, but it is going to put them in a tough spot in the SEC and in the national picture.
Looking at the matchups. First, on the defensive side, both teams have shown some weaknesses. While LSU has looked pretty strong in the front 7, I think their secondary is a little suspect. Of course the same can be said of Florida's DBs as well. In addition, the Gators front 7 has has shown that they can be hammered with a strong running game. LSU has a strong running game with Scott. So I think the defensive edge has to go to LSU.
On the offensive side of the ball, I don't care how good Lee has looked lately, he is not Tim Tebow. Like him or not, he is one of the best QBs in the college game. That is the good. The bad is that he and Harvin are the ONLY offense Florida has. Outside of Harvin, they have not had a receiver step to make the big plays. In addition, the Gators are still in the quest for a good running back. I don't care who you have at QB, or how good he is, if you don't have a strong, consistent running game you are not going to win the tough games in the SEC.
I think that the Tigers are going to have to come out and hit the Gators in the snout. Run the ball right between the guards. And I would assign at least one LB to hit on Tebow every play. I think LSU will come to the Swamp and leave with a win.
Now for the other games. These are the ones that were the most nominated by the readers, so I will attempt to rise to the challenge.
A note about the picks though: One of the rules was no doubling-up in any one conference. Most have chosen Texas/Oklahoma and OK State/Mizzou. Also receiving votes were PSU/Wisconsin and Notre Dame/North Carolina. In keeping with the original intent of the choose 'em, I will narrow it down to:
TEXAS vs OKLAHOMA. The Red River Shootout. This will be the first big test for both teams. And both teams have looked like offensive steamrollers against some less-than-notable opponents. THE deciding question in this game will be the defenses. Texas has what might be the best front 7 they have had in a long time. But, even against some lightweight opponents, their pass defense has been a dismal 96th in the nation. This does not bode well against a pass-happy Sooner team. Offensively, Colt McCoy has been sensational with his arm and his legs. However, going into a game this big, you do not want your QB to be your leading rusher. Bradford has also looked sensational throwing the ball and he has a running back in Murray that can churn out the tough yards. In this game, the challenge is squarely on the defenses being able to stop either one of these offenses. I think that the Sooner will outgun the Longhorns in the Shootout.
PENN STATE at WISCONSIN. The Spread HD invades Camp Randle. I fear that it is not going to be a group of happy campers after the game. While PSU has looked great on offense so far this season, having finally found a reliable QB, to me the real difference this year is that the Nittany Lions have a defense that is playing like PSU defenses of old. No big standouts, mostly unheralded players that are playing hard-hitting defense that used to be the Penn State trademark. This combination of effective offense and vicious defense is going to be too much for the reeling Badgers. BTW, did anyone notice how the Badgers coach Bilema seemed to lose it last week? I think Wisconsin is in trouble.
Trivia note: for all that have wondered what the hell is a "Nittany Lion"? I give you the following:
The mascot was the creation of Penn State senior H. D. "Joe" Mason in 1907. While on a 1904 trip to Princeton University, Mason had been embarrassed that Penn State did not have a mascot. Mason did not let that deter him: he fabricated the Nittany Lion on the spot and proclaimed that it would easily defeat the Princeton Bengal tiger. Upon returning to campus, though, he set about making his invention a reality. Mountain lions had roamed on nearby Mount Nittany until the 1880s. The origin of the name "Mount Nittany" is obscure, the most commonly accepted explanation being that it is derived of Native American words (loosely pronounced as "neet-a-nee") meaning either "single mountain" or a protective barrier against the elements. Now you know!
NOTRE DAME at NORTH CAROLINA. The golden domers leave comfortable confines to travel to North Carolina. It is unfortunate that they can't bring Touchdown Jesus with them, because they are surely going to need divine intervention to win this one. If you have not had a chance to watch NC play, be sure to catch this one. Last week they handily whipped the previously unbeaten Huskies (as I predicted!). In the past two games their backup QB Sexton has been outstanding. (its a pity Yates is injured. He must have been a helluva player to have been the starter ahead of Sexton). In addition, their defense is also playing very strong. OK, yes, the Irish are 4-1 so far, but it has hardly been against challenging opponents. Their toughest foe to date was Michigan State and the Spartans slapped them around pretty good. I look for the Tar Heels to do much of the same.
And there you have it. A little something for everyone: SEC, Big 12, ACC, Big 10 and an Independent. Can't scatter it around much more than that.
Ok guys, now it is your turn to take your shots. But remember the rule of no cheap smack with out something to back it up. Bring some facts. Bring some substance to your position. SEC fans are supposed to be the most knowledgeable fans in country so lets show it.
To all fans, of all teams: Enjoy the weekend. I wish your teams good luck. And let's all show some class and sportsmanship.