Since Texas Tech’s last win in this series in 2002, Texas has won by an average score of 48 to 30. These games haven’t been as close as you might think from all the “it’s always tough up there in Lubbock” talk. It’s just Drunk Vince Gill’s clownish offense clouding your memory. Texas is on a roll and the talk of a Texas Tech upset this weekend is just the fuel they need to take the field with a chip on their shoulder in Lubbock. On the field the Longhorns will get it done by actually playing a little defense. Much like the game plan Will Muschamp put together to stifle Missouri’s potent offense, he’ll turn his imposing D-Line loose, send blitzers after Graham Harrell, and hit the quarterback repeatedly until Tech is forced to narrow those wide offensive line splits they are known for. Don’t think for a second Tech’s line will be able to handle Brian Orakpo and Roy Miller – nobody has contained those two all season. The Red Raiders have run the ball a little bit more this year, and that is the X-Factor here. But I haven’t seen enough from Leach’s track record to indicate he’ll actually stick with the run in a big game. Look for Texas to win easily in a relatively low scoring game. Well, low scoring compared to what some are expecting anyway.
J.Pike’s Pick: Texas 42, Texas Tech 28
Arkansas State @ #2 Alabama
(Saturday, 2 pm, ESPN360.com)
Bama had better be careful here. And no, I’m not joking. Arkansas State has a respectable 4-3 record that includes a win over Texas A&M. Quarterback Corey Leonard and running backs Reggie Arnold and Derek Lawson form an unsung trio in the backfield – all three could make a name for themselves with big games against Alabama. Let’s also not forget this is the same Crimson Tide team that lost a game to Louisiana-Monroe late last season. Nick Saban has an extremely physical football team, but he also has an offense that is limited, especially if you can manage to slow down Glen Coffee and the running game. Arkansas State will show up ready to play, and they WILL give Alabama a game. How long will the Red Wolves hang in there? We’ll find out Saturday.
J.Pike’s Pick: Alabama 20, Arkansas State 17
#3 Penn State is IDLE
#7 Florida vs #4 Georgia (@ Jacksonville, FL)
(Saturday, 2:30 pm, CBS)
There’s no shortage of motivation in this rivalry. By now I’m sure everyone has re-lived the moment last year when the entire Georgia team ran on the field to celebrate after scoring their first touchdown. I know Urban Meyer and the Florida Gators remember it, so this might be one of those games where the team that can manage their emotions the best and make fewer stupid mistakes in the heat of battle will win. Georgia has committed their fair share of stupid penalties this year, and that could be what does them in if they lose. Florida is known for their speed and explosive offense, and a lot of prognosticators are expecting the Gators to run Georgia off the field in a blowout. But did you know Georgia is actually averaging 20 more yards per game offensively than Florida this year? Keep in mind that is against a much more challenging schedule too. Meyer’s offense seems to be based more around speed than actual Xs & Os. Georgia’s defense can match Florida’s speed, so will Meyer be able to counter the attacking Bulldog defense with a play more creative than “Hey Tim Tebow, fake like you are going to run then throw a jump pass to the tight end”? We’ll see. Georgia also has not-so-secret weapon Knowshon Moreno in the backfield. The sophomore tailback is easily one of the best players in the nation and he runs with a determination that you have to see to fully appreciate him. He’ll be the key to getting Georgia off to a fast start, and he’ll poke and prod the Florida defenders until they start committing stupid penalties. Georgia gets back in the national title discussion with an impressive win.
J.Pike’s Pick: Georgia 32, Florida 20
Nebraska @ #5 Oklahoma
(Saturday, 7 pm, ESPN)
With Bo Pelini in the fold this rivalry will eventually pick up steam again. The problem is, with the Big XII scheduling the way it is, it will never be the event it once was. Nebraska will play Oklahoma this year and next year during the rebuilding process, but the two won’t be scheduled to play in the regular season in 2010 or 2011. So Pelini will have to squeeze some magic out of this series with an inferior roster for the next two years. Don’t think he can’t do it either. Oklahoma is talented, and I’m sure Sam Bradford is licking his chops to go up against one of the more error-prone secondaries in the nation, but the Sooners are prone to mental breakdowns defensively too. They are also gaining a reputation for not showing up in big games late in the season. Bradford might have his way with the secondary early, but I expect Nebraska to adjust and scratch and claw their way into making this a game in the second half.
J.Pike’s Pick: Oklahoma 34, Nebraska 21
Washington @ #6 USC
(Saturday, 5:30 pm, FSN)
Here’s another opportunity for USC to put up an impressive score against a bad team. All the national pundits will see the big score and gush about how great the Trojans are and how they are “the most dangerous team in the nation right now.” Go ahead and keep inflating their egos – I can’t wait to see them lose to Stanford again.
J.Pike’s Pick: USC 43, Washington 10
#9 Utah @ New Mexico
(Saturday, 8:30 pm, The Mtn.)
See Mountain West Upset Alert [LINK]
J.Pike’s Pick: New Mexico 24, Utah 23
Iowa State @ #10 Oklahoma State
(Saturday, 2:30 pm, ABC)
How will the Cowboys respond to the loss to Texas? Some might say the strong showing against the #1 team in the country gave them confidence, that it confirmed their belief they belong in the top ten. But don’t forget the possibility that the Cowboys put their season on the line in that game and got their hearts ripped out with a close loss. Sometimes that’s the recipe for a huge letdown the following week. Judging by the way Oklahoma State handled their big win over Missouri (no big celebration, they simply walked off the field like a team that just did what they were supposed to do), I think Mike Gundy has his team on an even keel - they won’t get too ‘down’ because they never got too ‘up’. So I expect Kendall Hunter and Brandon Pettigrew to get back to rolling up points against the struggling Cyclones.
J.Pike’s Pick: Oklahoma State 40, Iowa State 17
#11 Boise State @ New Mexico State
(Saturday, 6 pm, ESPN360.com)
Almost four years ago New Mexico State fired their successful head coach Tony Samuel so they could bring in that clown Hal Mumme. Well, a mere 11 wins later that move is looking even more ridiculous than it looked at the time. The Aggies are coming off a loss to lifeless Idaho for goodness sake! I can only imagine how easily Boise State will roll over Mumme and his towel in Las Cruces this weekend.
J.Pike’s Pick: Boise State 34, New Mexico State 13
#12 Ohio State is IDLE
#13 TCU @ UNLV
(Saturday, 7 pm, CBS College Sports)
See Mountain West Upset Alert [LINK]
J.Pike’s Pick: TCU 33, UNLV 16
#14 Tulsa @ Arkansas
(Saturday, 1 pm, ESPN360.com)
This won’t be a pretty football game. Gus Malzahn’s Tulsa offense is averaging 605.6 yards and 55.6 points per game this year. Malzahn happens to be the former offensive coordinator at Arkansas and he played a role in the firestorm that eventually led to the ousting of Houston Nutt. He’ll be looking to show the fans in Fayetteville what his offense can do. But Arkansas still has SEC athletes and with home field advantage and running back Michael Smith they are capable of pulling the upset. I’m not sure the Hog defense, which appears to be frightened by the prospect of tackling at times, is up to the challenge of slowing down the Golden Hurricane attack.
J.Pike’s Pick: Tulsa 38, Arkansas 34
#15 Missouri @ Baylor
(Saturday, 2 pm)
I like the job Art Briles has done at Baylor so far. He has the Bears playing with more fire than I have seen out of that program in quite a while. A big reason for that has been the play of their hugely talented quarterback Robert Griffin. With Griffin at the helm, I guarantee you Baylor makes a bowl game in the near future. But this year is year one on the learning curve. Missouri and Chase Daniel are way ahead of that, and they won’t hesitate to run it up on the upstart Bears. Jeremy Maclin flat out has too much speed to not reach the end zone at least three times on Saturday.
J.Pike’s Pick: Missouri 51, Baylor 21
Wisconsin @ #16 Michigan State
(Saturday, 11 am, ESPN)
The season is quickly getting away from Wisconsin. Not only are the Badgers struggling to get decent play out of the quarterback spot, they just lost their best offensive weapon, tight end Travis Beckum, for the season thanks to a knee injury. And now they have to travel to face one of the best running backs in the nation. Michigan State’s Javon Ringer is the definition of a workhorse: he averages over 33 carries per game and has piled up 1,373 yards and 16 touchdowns so far this season. Even if Wisconsin manages to slow him down, I’m not sure they’ll be able to put many points on the board.
J.Pike’s Pick: Michigan State 23, Wisconsin 17
#17 Florida State @ Georgia Tech
(Saturday, 2:30 pm, ABC/ESPN)
Florida State has rallied around freshman quarterback Christian Ponder and quietly climbed to a 6-1 record. I’m not sure about Ponder though. He’s the kind of quarterback that makes stupid plays for the majority of the game and then stumbles his way into a big play in a key situation. I’m not sure how much of it is skill and how much of it is luck, but my impression from watching him is that these clutch plays aren’t going to be there for him against better competition. Georgia Tech has a pretty good defense and they are led up front by end Michael Johnson and tackle Vance Walker. Those two will make it difficult for Ponder to get in a rhythm. Offensively, Georgia Tech will lull a talented Seminole defense to sleep with their triple option, and eventually bust a long run late to set up the game winning score.
J.Pike’s Pick: Georgia Tech 18, Florida State 16
Tulane @ #18 LSU
(Saturday, 7 pm, ESPN360.com)
It’s time for the annual battle for Louisiana. It’s also time for LSU to take out some frustrations after giving up 50 points for the second time this season a week ago.
J.Pike’s Pick: LSU 34, Tulane 7
Northwestern @ #19 Minnesota
(Saturday, 11 am, ESPN 2)
A season that started out so promising for Northwestern is now falling apart. The Wildcats lost two of their last three games, and must now face top 25 teams Minnesota and Ohio State. Injuries have been the main factor in the sudden dropoff, with quarterback C.J. Bacher and running back Tyrell Sutton each suffering season ending injuries in October. If you tune in to this game, check out Minnesota’s speedy freshman wideout Brandon Green. He broke out with 5 catches for 100 yards a week ago, and showed some excellent speed on a 71-yard reception. He could be a big time player in the Big Ten in the near future.
J.Pike’s Pick: Minnesota 23, Northwestern 16
#20 BYU @ Colorado State
(Saturday, 5 pm, The Mtn.)
See Mountain West Upset Alert [LINK]
J.Pike’s Pick: BYU 34, Colorado State 24
#21 North Carolina is IDLE
#22 Ball State is IDLE
#23 Oregon @ California
(Saturday, 2:30 pm, ABC)
Jeff Tedford is his own worst enemy. After a strong start to the season with Kevin Riley at quarterback, Tedford decided to give Nate Life-long Spare the job. Once again, Longshore proved he has no mettle and can’t hold up under pressure. His awful play was instrumental in the Bears getting destroyed by Arizona. Tedford went back to Riley at QB and the team responded with an easy win over UCLA. With Riley in the fold, Cal has an excellent shot to beat Oregon, whose pass defense is surprisingly shoddy. This game also features the three best running backs in the Pac-10. Sorry USC – five stars next to your name in high school doesn’t make you a good college running back. Oregon’s LeGarrette Blount has been pounding opponents this season with his physical running style (12 tds), and Jeremiah Johnson has one of the best stiff arms you’ll find. But Cal’s Jahvid Best will be the difference maker. His speed and agility is off the charts, and he’s finally healthy again.
J.Pike’s Pick: California 30, Oregon 28
#24 Maryland is IDLE
Kansas State @ #25 Kansas
(Saturday, 11:30 am, FSN)
Here’s a game with shootout potential. Both teams feature potent passing attacks: Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing has Dezmon Briscoe (760 yards, 9 td) and Kerry Meier (63 receptions, 4 td) at his disposal, and Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman likes to find speedy JC transfer Brandon Banks (813 yards, 20.8 yards per reception). Additionally, both defenses were burned repeatedly through the air a week ago: Kansas State gave up 58 points to Oklahoma and Kansas gave up 63 to Texas Tech. Mark Mangino gets the best of Ron Prince in the coaching matchup though.
J.Pike’s Pick: Kansas 38, Kansas State 32