This is the game everyone is talking about, with two top ten teams facing each other in a key early season matchup. Ohio St comes in looking for payback after USC demolished them in the Coliseum last year, and they might have the ability to get it. The Buckeyes have a veteran defense, a solid offensive line, and most importantly of all, they have Terrelle Pryor, a truly gifted quarterback who is only getting better and better.
Meanwhile, USC is still rebuilding on defense, and brings in a freshman quarterback who has never played a college road game, much less one in a place as intimidating and difficult to win in as the Horseshoe. Matt Barkley certainly has talent, but he has also made a number of mistakes during training camp, and if he has a bad game here, Ohio St will most likely pull off the upset.
On the Other Hand:
Pretty much everyone seems to like USC, not just to win but also to cover, and it's easy to see why. Until they prove themselves vulnerable in big games more than once in a while (the only big regular season game they've lost in the last SIX YEARS was 2007 at Oregon; the rest were upsets that were big surprises rather than games expected to be challenges), it's almost impossible to justify picking against USC.
And lest we forget, Ohio St really did not look good last week against Navy, needing to stop a late 2-point conversion to prevent overtime against a supposedly much inferior team. Maybe that was a fluke, maybe it was just lack of preparation against Navy's option attack, but if it wasn't, this game is going to get really ugly really quickly.
Ohio St has a reasonable shot at this game; they simply have too much talent not to have a chance. However, USC should still win the game, though it'll be much closer than it was last year. It feels like everyone loves the Trojans to win fairly easily, which always makes me a bit nervous, another reason why I like the points here.
USC 24, @ Ohio St 20
Stanford (+3) @ Wake Forest
This is definitely one of the more interesting games of the weekend. Stanford comes into this game coming off of a dominating road win at Pullman, while Wake is reeling after a tough home loss to Baylor. Based on how they looked last week, Stanford looks to have a slight edge. They have a strong power running offense, a defense that is strong against the run, and finally a quarterback who's not bad. And they're up against a defense that clearly is no longer strong against the run after Baylor ran over them, and an offense that remains without the ability to light up the scoreboard (not to mention a QB who just threw three picks). That's a nice recipe for success.
On the Other Hand:
This is a cross-country road trip and a 9AM kickoff. As Cal found out last year, that's a really bad combination. Moreover, Wake will be desperate for a win after dropping one to Baylor. And the Cardinal's secondary remains bad, which is a big problem against a senior quarterback in Riley Skinner.
The early kickoff worries me, but I still think Stanford is a sufficiently better team to pull out the minor upset. Unless Skinner pulls out a really great offensive game (rare for him), or Andrew Luck turns it over multiple times (possible for a freshman QB, though somewhat less likely given Wake's secondary), I struggle to see Wake winning this one.
Stanford 31, @ Wake 27
Oregon St (-7) @ UNLV
As we saw last week, Oregon St still has a hell of a lot of weapons. They can run the ball, they can pass the ball, and they even were able to get some nice production from backup QB Katz in their rout over Portland St. They also showed some good run defense, a good sign from a largely untested defense. And UNLV is still a program that hasn't gone .500 since 2003 and had a winning record since 2000. And without UNLV having much of a home-field advantage to boot, this is a very winnable road game for the Beavers.
On the Other Hand:
It's Oregon St in an early-season road team against a team that isn't horrible. Even with a senior quarterback, there's a lot of reason to worry. UNLV is a better team than people realize, with a decent, experience quarterback in Omar Clayton, and experienced defense, and a pretty good receiving corps. And with the Beavers bringing in a defense that is still very untested (almost 300 yards given up through the air to Portland St is not a good sign, especially since plenty of those yards didn't come in garbage time), there's no question that this could turn into a shootout and an upset.
Backing Oregon St on the road early in the year is always, always worrisome. Still, they are the better team and they should pull it out. I wouldn't lay the seven, though. They'll have to fight and claw to overcome history in this one.
Oregon St 35, @ UNLV 31
UCLA (+10) @ Tennessee
Last week, Maryland found out how unpleasant cross-country revenge games can be when facing a superior, motivated opponent. UCLA might find that out as well, but the fact remains that they're better than Maryland, and Tennessee is nowhere near as good as Cal. Even cross-country in a hostile environment, 10 points seems a bit too much. Tennessee is no more than slightly better than UCLA, and unless the Bruins get a mistake-fest from freshman QB Kevin Prince, it's hard to see the Vols blowing them out; the Bruins' defense just looks too strong to get hammered like Tennessee wants to do. UCLA is starting to improve a bit on the road, and they'll continue that trend by making a game of it.
@ Tennessee 28, UCLA 21
Hawaii @ Washington St (+2.5)
This looks like a tossup-type game that'll go down to the wire. Hawaii is slightly better, but away from the Islands I think the Cougars will have a slight edge.
@ Washington St 28, Hawaii 27
Purdue @ Oregon (-12)
Oregon is a much better team than Purdue, and they'll be completely desperate to save anything they can from their season. If they had just lost the game in Boise, Purdue might catch them napping and make a game of it, but after the post-game mess, there's no way Oregon will fail to go all out. They bounce back in a big way.
@ Oregon 35, Purdue 17
Idaho @ Washington (-20.5)
This line looks reasonable. Idaho looks improved, but not by enough to hang with the Huskies. U-Dub finally ends the losing streak, and in style no less.
@ Washington 34, Idaho 10
NAU @ Arizona (NL)
@ Arizona 45, NAU 3
E Wash @ Cal (NL)
@ Cal 45, E Wash 3
National Games of the Week:
Notre Dame (-3) @ Michigan
Until I see something positive from Michigan against a team with a pulse, I like Notre Dame here. They have the offense to blast apart most secondaries, probably including this one, and the defense looks much improved. Michigan gives them something of a game but falls in the end.
Notre Dame 34, @ Michigan 24
South Carolina @ Georgia (-7)
Based on week one, South Carolina is tempting. However, I think Georgia bounces back nicely in this game.
@ Georgia 24, South Carolina 14
UNC -4 @ UConn
The Tar Heels are simply a better team than UConn. I expect the Huskies to make a a game of it, but even at home, 4 points is just a really small line.
Minnesota -3.5 vs Air Force
This line essentially says that Air Force is as good or maybe even a touch better, considering that this isn't just a home game, but the first game in Minny's new stadium. I'm just not buying it.
Auburn -14 vs Miss St
I don't see Miss St as being much if any better than LA Tech. Auburn rolled last week and should have an even easier time this week.
Questions, comments or suggestions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org