Rusty: 6-5-1 (Last Week); 37-50-2 (Overall)
Rusty's Hits: Texas +14.5, TCU +10, Arizona +3, Georgia -3, Louisville +11.5, Arkansas +10.5
Rusty's Misses: UCLA +3.5, Georgia Tech -4.5, Auburn -3, Cal -3, Texas A&M -3.5
Rusty's Push: Stanford -17
Sean: 8-3-1 (Last Week); 47-40-2 (Overall)
Sean's Hits: Oregon -3.5, Texas +14.5, TCU +10, Mississippi State +3, Arizona +3, Washington +3, Georgia -3, Arkansas +10.5
Sean's Misses: Georgia Tech -4.5, Clemson -11.5, Texas A&M,
Sean's Push: Washington State +17
More of a normal week last weekend, though the Mississippi schools both looked fantastic. Some takeaways from last week:
(i) The Pac-12 is still a mess.
(ii) The Mississippi schools are both walking on water right now. (Biblical reference, Southern fans!)
(iii) I know next to nothing about the ACC. Everyone's kinda sorta good (except for Wake Forest).
(iv) Big 12 race starting to take shape.
This Week's Picks
We are officially into the second half of the season, which is nuts. A nice, but not necessarily deep, slate of games in Week Ocho. Let's get after it.
Home Teams in CAPS
Sean Says: washington (+21) at OREGON
I really liked what I saw from Oregon last week and its improvement along the O-Line (Captial Obvious reporting). However, my rule will be to take big points spreads in Pac-12 games until proven wrong. As I said last week, only one (one!) touchdown-plus favorite in the Pac-12 has covered (USC over Oregon State, Week 5) and one other has pushed (Stanford -17 over Washington State). I like the Ducks and their improvement, but not enough to lay three touchdowns against a Washington team that can really play defense and has at least a pulse on offense. Ducks win, but don't cover against a stingy Washington defense.
Rusty Says: OREGON (-21) over washington
I can't pick this game objectively.
Sean Says: Utah (-2.5) over OREGON STATE
Don't like laying points on road favorites, but I think Utah is the better team here. Utah has been phenomenal on the road, winning at Michigan and UCLA. (Granted, that would have been a much bigger deal in 1998, but I digress.) Oregon State so far has been spectacularly average and lacks talent at the skill positions. I think Utah is more talented across the board and brings a new element with unknown-quantity Kendal Thompson at quarterback. The Utes continue their road warrior prowess and get a W in Corvallis.
Rusty Says: Utah (-2.5) over OREGON STATE
Things get crazy at Reser on Thursday nights, right USC? But not crazy enough for the Utes. I’m trying very hard to not let their huge collapse to Washington State paint too broad of strokes about this Utah team. This is a team that beat UCLA and dominated Michigan in the Big House in a torrential downpour. Their quarterback play seems solid no matter who is at the position.
Oregon State has been struggling to find weapons around Sean Mannion. This was most evident in their loss against USC. They didn’t do well in a win over Colorado but they’ll keep it close in this game until the end.
Sean Says: WEST VIRGINIA (+8.5) over Baylor
Both teams come off emotional, improbable, comeback wins: Baylor over TCU at home, West Virginia over Texas Tech on the road. Not really sure how to feel about Baylor at this point, except that they can basically score whenever they want to.
I think West Virginia faces a huge opportunity here. They face a still-not-quite-healthy Bryce Petty in their hostile home stadium, and can score themselves. I think West Virginia has played a tougher schedule so far and has looked pretty decent in the process.
I'm going to continue my streak of skepticism and take WVU here. I think they've got a good enough squad defensively to get some stops and keep it close. This game should have at least one crazy weird thing happen and I think Bryce Petty is primed to throw a couple picks. Take the points.
Rusty Says: Baylor (-8.5) over WEST VIRGINIA
West Virginia is finally looking like the Dana Holgersen squad we all thought we’d see when he was hired as head coach of the Mountaineers. They’ve kept it close with Alabama and Oklahoma but haven’t been able to shock anyone yet. Receiver Kelvin White is an absolute baller and quarterback Trickett is looking solid with over 2200 yards through the air.
However, Baylor is a team that takes no prisoners. They cover most of the time and are so dangerous rushing and throwing. They’re the highest scoring team in the country with the 25th-ranked scoring defense. Bears cover.
Sean Says: DUKE (-3) over Virginia
Virginia's been a nice story and they are improbably 5-1 against the spread this year. But don't count out Duke. They are 5-1 overall and 4-2 against the spread, and are coming off of a nice win over previously-unbeaten Georgia Tech. I think I'm betting on coaching, experience, and the home team here, and taking Duke. They were really good in the second half of last season, and I expect that trend will continue. Lay the 3 on the home team.
Rusty Says: DUKE (-3) over Virginia
The Blue Devils topped undefeated Georgia Tech last weekend. They rush the ball well and have a solid defense. Virginia is trending down a little and have struggled against teams that rush the ball well.
Sean Says: ARKANSAS (+3.5) over Georgia
I'm taking the Hogs. I think they can win this game with their methodical style. About time for Beilema to get a big SEC win. I think they do so at home.
Rusty Says: ARKANSAS (+3.5) over Georgia
Arkansas is an absolute bruiser of a team. They matchup well against Georgia on both sides of the ball. Think about this, the Razorbacks were a blocked extra point away from taking the Tide to overtime.
Todd Gurley is still not playing on Saturdays even though he is practicing during the week. Georgia will have to throw to be competitive. This game will say a lot about the depth of the SEC West.
Sean Says: Stanford (-3) over ARIZONA STATE
Read a stat that Pac-12 road teams are 14-4 in conference this year. That's insane.
This is the kind of game where we're tempted to count Stanford out. However, if the past 5 seasons can teach us anything, it's that as soon as we want to count Stanford out, they get it figured out. They showed the ability to defend in the secondary against Wazzu last week, and showed some offensive promise in scoring 34 points. I'll grudgingly lay points on Stanford.
Rusty Says: ARIZONA STATE (+3) over Stanford
It’s going down in the desert. It’s strength against strength and weakness against weakness.
Stanford’s offense has been awful to watch and Arizona State has been the little engine that could on defense, but really just can’t. Arizona State’s offense hasn’t missed anything with their backup quarterback taking the reins and their passing attack meets its match when it takes on one of the best defensive secondaries in the country.
With the game in the desert I like Arizona State to win and cover by finding a way to win and Stanford shooting itself in the foot…again.
Sean Says: CAL (+7) over Ucla
UCLA is in free-fall. Cal can score (except against Washington). Take the points when you don't trust a defense to hold a lead. I'm doing that here.
Rusty Says: CAL (+7) over Ucla
I think UCLA gives up in this game after their loss to Oregon. Their playoff hopes are gone, coaches were fighting on the sideline, and showed signs of life only in the first and last quarter, when it’s easiest to play hard.
David Piper thinks that UCLA has been overrated all season but I think this is really a team that has underperformed. They have not played up to the sum of their parts.
Cal is going to surprise someone this year and at home against a team coming off a loss that meant so much is a great time to do it.
Sean Says: Texas A&M (+12.5) over ALABAMA
Over the last 9 games, stretching to last season, Alabama is 2-7 against the spread. Now it gets another big, double-digit spread against an A&M team that can score. I just don't see it. The body blow theory applies: Bama just got beat to hell by Arkansas (and the week before by Mississippi) and probably should have lost to the Razorbacks. Texas A&M doesn't look great lately, but Alabama looks worse. And A&M has covered the spread both of the last two matchups. Take the points.
Rusty Says: Texas A&M (+12.5) over ALABAMA
The body blow theory is in play here as Alabama played Arkansas last week and escaped with a win.
The Aggie secondary is going to have a field day against the Alabama secondary. The Tide defensive back four have struggled this year, which must keep Saban up at night since he’s that unit’s position coach.
Sean Says: Colorado (+19.5) over USC
See "Don't Take Big Pac-12 Favorites" Rule, applied supra.
USC is in let-down mode after an emotional win at Arizona. They face a Colorado team that has given teams fits and is eager to make some noise in the South. I don't trust anyone with a 20-point spread in the Pac-12. Take all the points.
Rusty Says: USC (-19.5) over Colorado
USC has the talent to blow this game out of the water. Their offense is going to be too dangerous in the Coliseum and too hot for Colorado to slow. Also, Colorado is going to be limited passing the football against the Trojan secondary.
Sean Says: INDIANA (+14.5) over Michigan State
Granted, Indiana isn't great, but they can score. The Spartans have let their three quality opponents (Oregon, Nebraska, Purdue) back into the game in the 4th quarter. Until Michigan State can show me that they can close teams out, I'm not laying points on Sparty.
Rusty Says: Michigan State (-14.5) over INDIANA
Statistically, one of the best rushing teams in the country takes on one of the highest scoring offenses. That’s right. Indiana is the 7th-ranked team in the country in rushing yards per game eclipsing 300 yards per game.
Michigan State is going to score points as the Hoosiers really struggle against any opposing offense and Sparty is going to be able to focus on the run as Indiana is 100th nationally passing.
Sean Says: Kansas State (+8) over OKLAHOMA
Kansas State has looked real good this year. Their almost-win against Auburn looks better and better as we go along. I don't think Bill Snyder is in the least bit concerned about taking his team on the road in Norman, and so I'm not either. This is a winnable game for the Wildcats.
Rusty Says: Kansas State (+8) over OKLAHOMA
Kansas State plays everyone close. Bill Snyder plays boring but effective football. It won’t be enough to win, but it’ll be enough to cover. Besides, Oklahoma got dominated by Texas everywhere except the scoreboard, which in all fairness is the only place that really matters.
Sean Says: OHIO STATE (-19.5) over Rutgers
So you readers (if there are any(?)) may be saying: "Sean, you're a real pansy not taking any favorites." And you know what, you're right. My wife tells me the same thing. So I'll lay the points on the Buckeyes here. They look completely different than when they lost to Virginia Tech, and come off a bye after dismantling Maryland on the road. I think Rutgers is in real trouble here. Lay the points on the Buckeyes, who are improving week by week.
And sorry in advance, New York City, for picking against the official college team of NYC.
Rusty Says: Rutgers (+19.5) over OHIO STATE
The Scarlet Knights, somehow, are in contention for a Big-10 division title. Their lone loss is to Penn state in Week 3, but they were competitive.
The truth is that Ohio State has been just fine with Barrett at quarterback but the entire offense seems to be just out of sync. They scored 66 against Kent State, 50 against Cincinnati, and scored 52 against Maryland. They host Rutgers at the Horseshoe and Rutgers is going to do just enough to cover while the Buckeyes cruise to a win.
Sean Says: Oklahoma State (+8.5) at TCU
Give me the points. This is a Big-12 shootout wating to happen. Oklahoma State meets a vulnerable team in Fort Worth that doesn't have great home field advantage. Okie State is better than anyone gives them credit for, and Mike Gundy knows how to coach in this conference.
Rusty Says: Oklahoma State (+8.5) over TCU
The Cowboys are a bad first quarter against Florida State away from probably knocking off the defending champion and being undefeated right now. Oklahoma State might be the best team that no one is talking about.
TCU might be dealing a letdown after their loss to Baylor last week that proved once and again that no one is safe this year. I just think that 8.5 points is too much to be giving away.
Sean Says: FLORIDA STATE (-12) over Notre Dame
Florida State has been awful against the spread this year (1-5). The only way Jameis Winston could be more of a distraction would be if he was trying to start a side career as a birthday party clown. Despite this, FSU keeps on winning.
Not really sure what to make of Notre Dame. They've looked standard Notre Dame. Good, but not mind-blowingly good. I just think it's high time for Florida State to blow the doors off somebody, and this may be the time. Wouldn't be surprised if the Irish keep it close, but I think it's more likely that Florida State wins by two touchdowns.
Rusty Says: Notre Dame (+12) over FLORIDA STATE
Jameis Winston is almost sociopathic with how he doesn’t let outside influences bother him. He is able to smile and be charismatic while having the worst off field incidences that would distract even the strongest of mortal men.
The Notre Dame defense is going to cause some mayhem. They’re going to get in the backfield and Everett Golson is going to rebound against the Seminole defense. If Notre Dame wants to make the playoffs they need to win this game.
Sean Says: OLE MISS (-16.5) over Tennessee
Very unsure of how to feel about this game. One one side, that's a ton of points to lay. On the other side, Ole Miss is a perfect 5-0-1 against the spread (in other words, they keep out-performing expectations). Everyone keeps expecting Dr. Bo Wallace to have a big letdown spot, but I feel pretty confident that he's past that. Give me the Rebs, as apparently the state of Mississippi is floating on pure emotion right now.
Rusty Says: OLE MISS (-16.5) over Tennessee
I have a hard time with this game. The key number of 17 was a huge factor. If the spread was 17.5, I probably would have taken Tennessee. Ole Miss is surging, and even though this is a prime letdown spot, this really seems like a team of destiny.