Picks Trying Not to Suck: Week 11

Homerism isn’t going to complain about how The Skinny’s miscount last week cost me a win (Arkansas straight up). Skinny, however, has an axe to grind, albeit about something completely unrelated to the Race for the Chocolate Martini. The Skin wants to weighs in on the BCS. All I can say is that great minds think alike.

WEEK 11–The Skinny
(Last Week: 2-3; Overall: 35-24)

Every year at this time, the haters come out of the woodwork clamoring for a playoff system. But, in Skin’s opinion, the current system is what makes college football the best game in the world.

Every game in college football means something. You get great matchups like Texas and Texas Tech in which seasons are on the line, not to mention the fate of every contender nationally. Sure, Eagles-Giants can be entertaining enough, but who really cares unless it is a playoff game? Yeah, sure… You were all on the edge of your seats for every G-Men 1 p.m. kickoff last season. In sports or leagues with playoffs, fans don’t even seem to care if their team loses a game. I should be committed the week after OU loses a game.

I know critics are going to point out the inevitable brutal Army-Temple matchup each week, but at least there are still 10 other meaningful contests to treat yourself to each fall Saturday. The critics also are going to complain about the unfair nature of deciding a national championship. It seems pretty fair to me, with a few exceptions. If your team wins all its games, it will most likely be in the championship game. The system may not bring together the two best teams, but neither does a playoff necessarily. Can we shut up about a playoff system and enjoy the excitement we have in getting to the title game?

The four best teams in college football are still Texas, Florida, OU, and USC… Notice I didn’t say most deserving teams.

Advice of the Week: Unlike the Skin, I understand many of my readers may not have much luck with the opposite sex. Let me offer you an example of what to do and what not to do.

Do: Eye contact is of the utmost importance. The eyes are the key to the soul. A passionate glare says it all!

Don’t: Scott Van Pelt, you’re Skin’s boy, but this is brutal!

Cal at USC (-17)
USC is right up there with OU for best offense in the country. The Trojan O is on a roll, putting up 460 yards and close to 40 points per game. Maybe it’s just Skin, but it seems like SC could roll up as many points as they want against these pathetic Pac-10 defenses. The Trojans’ offense is just too talented and too deep for Cal to stop with any consistency. Other than the Stanford debacle last year, the Trjoans have been unstoppable at home. I haven’t even mentioned USC’s defense, which is the best in the country behind Florida.

Cal has had a respectable season, but its record is a bit inflated playing in the Pac-10. SC seems to stumble when they can’t get up for an inferior opponent. No chance of that this week, though. The Trojans will view this contest as their only obstacle to the Rose Bowl and their slim chances at the national championship game.

USC will look great against bad opponents down the stretch, and certain ESPN pundits will proclaim the Trojans should be in the title game. Don’t buy into this. The Trojan have a bad loss and not nearly the number of quality wins as the other contenders.

The Skin Says: USC by 30.

Arkansas at South Carolina (-10)
South Carolina treated Skin well last week, and I see no need to go away from the Gamecocks in a favorable matchup this week. The Cocks are 65-1 in their last six games, primarily against the lower echelon of the SEC. Spurrier has assembled one of the better defenses in the SEC, and Smelley at least gives the Ole Ball Coach a serviceable QB with which to work his magic. In Skin’s opinion Spurrier’s offense lacks the mystical quality it had at Florida because it was novel then. Now every team in college football runs it.

A skin informant who has been to a number of Arkansas games this season rails about how bad this team is. I know this game isn’t at Arkansas, but my informant also tells me the Arkansas fans have lost their fire this year; the Nutt House this isn’t.

The Skinny Says: SC covers, but barely.

Baylor at Texas (-26.5)
It seems like Baylor is involved in Skin’s picks every week. This week is no exception, as Baylor is catching UT at a bad time. Texas is really good, and the Longhorns will be focused and out for blood. Texas knows it still has a chance at the Big 12 and BCS title games and style points count this time of year. Look for Mack and Co. to run up the score in this one. Griffin III is a future star, but he will be running for his life against the Longhorns’ D-line.

Skinny Says: Texas wins at home by 40.

Purdue at Michigan State (-10)
Like many athletes and coaches, Joe Tiller waited too long to leave West Lafayette. Tilller’s 2008 Boilermakers are bad. Even the normally reliable offense has been inept this season. Purdue has won three games this year against Northern Colorado, Central Michigan and Michigan, and they have been equally bad against the spread.

Michigan State, on the other hand, has exceeded expectations with an 8-2 record, with their only loses coming at Cal and Ohio State. Michigan State is one of those teams that doesn’t seem to do anything really well, but still wins. The fact that the Spartans play in a JV league has inflated their record a bit. Man, The Skin hates watching the Big 10. I would rather watch John McCain give a town hall rally than watch a Big 10 matchup.

The Skinny Says: Michigan State wins this one easily by 3 touchdowns at home.

Kansas at Nebraska (-1.5)
Skin has seen a lot of these teams recently, as both have lost to my beloved Sooners. In looking at those games, Kansas is clearly the better team. The Jayhawks went blow-to-blow with the Sooners for a half, while it took the OU all of five minutes to go up 28-0 against the Cornhuskers.

To Skin, this game is pretty easy. The better team is a slight underdog. Kansas will win with offense. Bo Pelini’s blackshirt defense is still bad; he simply doesn’t have the athletes. KU’s offense is solid with Reessing running the show. Dezmond Briscoe and Kerry Meier provide Reesing with a nice combination of receivers. The Jayhawk defense scares me a bit against a decent Nebraska’s offense, but I think they have just enough to win this one. Anytime two evenly matched teams get together, coaching becomes a huge factor. Advantage: Mangino and the Jayhawks.

Skin Says: KU.

Lee Greenwood Special: Colorado State at Air Force (-10)
It is now officially a streak! Two straight wins in the LGS. Skin thinks he has found a matchup to keep the streak hotter than “The Girls Next Door.” The Air Force offense is your standard Air Force offense, led by its wishbone attack. That poses a plethora of problems for defenses. Ironically, however, it is the Air Force defense that has made the difference for the Falcons. In nine games, the Falcons have given up a mere 156 points.

Colorado State is bad. I watched the entire Colorado-Colorado State game, and Colorado was by far the better team. In contrast to Air Force, the Rams have given up 294 points this season. Air Force wins this game with a far superior offense and defense.

Skinny Says: Air Force by 24.

WEEK 11–Blatant Homerism
(Last Week: 3-2; Overall: 38-21)

Don’t look now, but college basketball tips off on Monday. Get ready for a plethora of Duke home games and bizarre matchups played in high school multipurpose centers with no air conditioning. Nothing says Thanksgiving like Iona-Wisconsin, coming to you live from the Virgin Islands!

Check out Riding the Pine, coming soon. Homerism’s sister site will feature witty commentary and insight on from a network of college basketball die-hards around the country.

Penn State at Iowa (+7.5)
What in the world is going on with this game? We are talking about JoePa’s undefeated Nittany Lions and the underachieving Iowa Hawkeyes, right? On top of that, PSU had a bye last week, while Iowa lost a heartbreaker at Illinois.

This one looks like it should be at least double digits in favor of Penn State, at least to Homerism. If Wagerline is to be believed, the betting public think so, too, hopping on Penn State to the tune of roughly three to one.

The only explanation I can come up with is that Iowa has been relatively tough at home this season, having blasted Wisconsin a few weeks ago. Or maybe the oddsmakers think Penn St is distracted by the BCS talk. Anyway, this just seems too fishy to ignore.

Homerism Says: Go with Iowa, but be gentle with it.

Illinois at Western Michigan (+7.5)

Here’s another odd one. Why is Illinois playing this game this late in the season?

The Illini are coming off a hard-fought overtime win over Iowa last week. On the horizon are games with conference rivals Ohio State and Northwestern. On top of all that, Illinois has to contend with an early kickoff in this Lions’ den.

WMU is actually pretty solid, which makes Homerism feel a lot better about this pick. Handicapping games just based on trends isn’t always comforting.

Homerism Says: Western Michigan covers.

Nevada (-1.5) at Fresno State
Wow, remember when everyone was talking up Fresno State-Wisconsin as such a great non-conference clash of BCS power versus plucky mid-major? Maybe we should have taken the crappiness of that game as an early sign of how far off we were about the quality of those two teams.

Sure, Fresno State currently sits at 5-3 and can claim road wins over BCS conference foes UCLA and Rutgers. Look at the Bulldogs’ last four games, though: home loss to Hawaii, closer-than-expected home win against miserable Idaho, last-second field goal to beat pitiful Utah State, loss to Louisiana Tech.

Pat Hill has had a short week to prepare his team for the Wolf Pack, which travels to the San Joaquin Valley coming off a bye week. Chris Ault has no doubt used the two weeks since his team’s last second loss at Hawaii to regroup. One area of Nevada’s play that needs no tinkering is the run game, which should provide a big advantage in this game. The Wolf Pack is second nationally to Navy in rushing offense, chewing up 305 yards per game, good for an average of almost seven yards per carry.

Fresno, on the other hand, is one of the worst teams in the country at stopping the run, allowing more than five yards per attempt and 208 yards per game. That puts the Bulldogs in the company of teams like the Washingtons and San Diego State. That’s not good company to be in.

Homerism Says: Nevada is probably my favorite play on the board.

LGS: Army at Rice (-10)
This line posted at at 8.5 and moved up to 10.5 quickly before settling here. Not a huge move, but Homerism suspects the books realized they initially posted an artificially low number, focusing on Army’s solid road play and Rice’s tough game last week against in-state rival UTEP.

The Owls are beating the teams they’re supposed to beat and losing the games they’re supposed to lose. Similarly, stronger defenses like Texas and Vanderbilt have been able to hold Rice’s high-powered offense down, but few Conference USA foes have been up to the task.

Of course, it also appears that the Rice D is pretty awful. Won’t matter this week, as Army may be the most offensively challenged team in D-I. The Black Knights will make a game effort until halftime, but it’s tough to see them hanging in for the whole game.

Homerism Says: Vegas takes a bath, as Rice covers easily.

Kansas State at Missouri (-27)
What a disaster in Manhattan. Funny–haven’t heard much of an outcry in the last couple days about KSU head coach Ron Prince’s dismissal. That may be a pretty solid indication of why Prince got canned. Rumor has it that Prince’s personality rubbed just about everyone at K-State the wrong way. This from a group that worshipped Mr. Anti-Charisma, Bill Snyder. Expect the opposite of fired up from the Wildcats this weekend.

Aside from losing to clearly superior Oklahoma State earlier in the season, Mizzou has put a hurtin’ on opponents this year in Columbia. Previously, the Tigers bounced back from a loss to Texas by whitewashing Colorado, another team that appears to have quit on the season, 58-0. Mizzou needs another statement game after almost losing at Baylor last week. Wake up, Tigers!

Homerism Says: Homerism hates huge favorites, but adaptability has perpetuated our species. Take Mizzou, begrudgingly.

Kansas at Nebraska (-1.5)
76-39. That kind of thrashing hurts a proud program like the Big Red Machine, and that’s exactly what KU did to Nebraska last year. The Sooners embarrassed the Cornhuskers almost as badly last week, 62-38. That’s a lot of humiliation to contend with, and count on Husker head honcho Bo Pelini to let his team know about it.

This is a perfect opportunity for NU to do some season salvaging, as the Jayhawks are respected, but may be a little overrated. The Men of Mangino aren’t playing the same kind of defense that got them into the BCS last year. Also, KU has struggled on the road this season, going 1-2, with the lone win coming in a two-point victory against conference doormat Iowa State. Also, this game is sandwiched between last week’s game with in-state rival Kansas State and next week’s clash with Texas.

A win here would make NU bowl eligible, which is probably seen as a step back toward respectability in Lincoln. Begin the healing, Husker Nation.

Homerism Says: Nebraska by 11.

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