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Duck the Odds, Week 3: Not So Fresh

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Pinstripe Bowl : Bowl Games :: Week 3's Games : College Football 2014

Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Last Week's Results:

Rusty: 3-7 (Last Week); 8-16 (Overall)

Rusty's Hits: USC +2.5, Hawai'i +10.5, Ole Miss -20

Rusty's Misses: Washington State -4, Fresno State +10.5, Michigan State +12.5, Michigan +3.5, Texas -1.5, Ohio State -11, UCLA -24

Sean: 4-6 (Last Week); 10-14 (Overall)

Sean's Hits: USC +2.5, Virginia Tech +11, Memphis +24, Hawai'i +10.5

Sean's Misses: Washington State -4, Fresno State +10.5, Michigan State +12.5, Michigan +3.5, Texas -1.5, Vanderbilt +20


After a rough Week 1.......another pretty rough Week 2. Some takeaways from this weekend's games and their destruction of our picks:

(i) Washington State is not good at "the footballing." Not sure what the pirate word is for "hot seat," but is it possible Captain Leach is on said pirate hot seat?

(ii) Fresno State is not actually good. Utah can score some damn points.

(iii) Michigan and Texas are the 1st and 3rd winning-est programs in college football history, respectively. On Saturday, they were not the 1st or 3rd winning-est programs.

(iv) What would you say - you do here, UCLA?

(v) The Big Ten Conference is artfully encapsulated in this video.

Sort of a gross slate of games coming up. But if we HAVE to pick them, then by George we will!

This Week's Picks

Sort of a gross slate of games coming up. Bound to happen. Nothing like the tasty matchups of the last two weeks. But if we have to pick them, then by George we will! (Also, stay tuned for Rusty's discussion of Christian Hackenburg's physique!)

Home Teams in CAPS

Sean: Wyoming (+43.5) over OREGON

Welp, I'm 0-2 picking Oregon so far.  Maybe I'll get it right this time. Maybe I'll never get another game wrong for the rest of my life. You don't know.

I'm looking at this week as a potential let-down spot after an emotional and program-defining win over Michigan State.  With the Wyoming Cowboys/Frackers/Frackboys coming to town, not sure the team still has the killer instinct, especially looking ahead to a potentially tricky matchup with Washington State. This all depends on how well the defense plays.  If the Ducks give up 20 points to Wyoming, they probably don't cover this spread.  I'll cautiously take all those points, realizing that a 63-20 Ducks win is a win against the spread.

Rusty: Wyoming (+43.5) over OREGON

If it wasn’t for a last minute Royce Freeman run Oregon wouldn’t have covered last week, which would have made two straight weeks not covering the spread.  I don’t see this game being close at all but Craig Bohl is in his first year after being a national champion at North Dakota State, a team now famous for upsetting FBS teams.  I think his coaching will keep Wyoming just close enough for a backdoor cover. 

Sean: MISSOURI (-10) over Central Florida

Mizzou has looked very good in 2 games so far, including a nice win over a decent Toledo squad.  UCF lost courtesy of a buzzer-beater field goal by Penn State in the opener in Ireland two weeks ago, and had a bye in week 2.  Tough sample size to make any sense of.

While UCF's defense was its strength during its remarkable run last year (along with BORTLES, obvs), the Knights gave up 454 yards of passing to Christian Hackenberg in the Penn State opener. Yes, that's 454 yards. To a B1G QB.  I loved Mizzou over all of last season. And I loved what the backup Maty Mauk was able to do when he subbed for injured QB James Franklin last season. I think Mauk, who may be in the conversation for best quarterback in the SEC at season's end, can carve up UCF. Mizzou gets a double-digit win at home. Lay the points.

Rusty: MISSOURI (-10) over Central Florida

Central Florida is coming off a bye week after narrowly losing to Penn State in Dublin, Ireland the first week of the season.  They only totaled 24 yards on the ground against the Nittany Lions and gave up over 500 yards of offense.

Missouri on the other hand has beaten South Dakota State and Toledo in "meh" games and wins so this is the biggest challenge they’ll have faced this year.  Quarterback Maty Mauk has thrown for 503 yards and 8 touchdowns already this year and they’ll take care of UCF through the air.

Sean: East Carolina (+11) over VIRGINIA TECH

I'm riding the Pirates 'til they let me down. They are a well-coached squad that doesn't care where they play or who they play against. They always show up and play well.  Virginia Tech looked very, very good (obviously) beating Ohio State on Saturday, but I think they're in for a letdown after one of the biggest wins of the past five seasons. Take those points and keep an eye on ECU.

Rusty: VIRGINIA TECH (-11) over East Carolina

The East Carolina Pirates lost by 10 to South Carolina last week and put together 321 yards on the ground.  Many experts picked the Pirates to be a surprise team this year but they face a Hokie squad fresh off a win over Ohio State in the Horseshoe.

I’d normally pick for a small letdown but Virginia Tech won so convincingly I don’t think that level of play was the exception but actually the rule.  They held Ohio State to just over 100 yards rushing and were incredibly balanced on offense.  Expect to see some Beamer Ball take over in this game.

Sean: West Virginia (+3.5) over MARYLAND

I really don't know much about either of these teams, other than that Maryland destroyed WVU last year 37-0 in Baltimore.  I know Maryland has an NFL-caliber wide receiver in Stefon Diggs, and I know that WVU played very well against 'Bama, and followed it up with a 52-0 blanking of Towson. So I don't know much.

We know that West Virginia's offense is legit every year. So really, the question is whether Dana Holgorsen can get his team to play the defense this year. Based on a sample size of 2 games, I'd say yes.  I'm taking the points here and looking for WVU to keep it tight.

Rusty: West Virginia (+3.5) over MARYLAND

Last we saw West Virginia in the limelight they were giving Alabama a real scare.  Receiver Kevin White has been unstoppable thus far this season and will probably torch the Terrapin secondary Saturday. Maryland needed a strong fourth quarter against the Bulls to win and gave up 174 passing yards.  I like the Big-10’s woes to continue. 

Sean: Louisville (-7) over VIRGINIA

I'm laying points on Louisville until they fold. They have the right pieces to challenge for the ACC Atlantic. And yes I'm talking about the division that Florida State is in. Petrino has these guys coached up, they have good recruits from the Strong era, and I think UVA's defense isn't quite as great as UCLA made them look in Week 1. Lay the 7.

Rusty: Louisville (-7) over VIRGINIA

Louisville has a dynamic offense under Bobby Petrino that has rolled up 97 points in two games while the defense has only allowed 34 points.  Virginia hasn’t been great on either side of the ball but the Cardinals will make them one-dimensional and force them to pass constantly.  Virginia didn’t look great against UCLA as that game was more of a tale of the Bruins just performing terribly. 

Sean: Georgia (-5.5) over SOUTH CAROLINA

Neither Texas A&M's firebombing offense, nor an undersized but tough ECU squad, were scared of South Carolina in their own stadium.  Why would Georgia, a sudden frontrunner for a playoff spot, be scared of the Gamecocks?  I think Georgia knows exactly what it is and how it will play.  South Carolina's defense is untrustworthy.  It was noted that Todd Gurley ran for 130+ last season against a fully Jadeveon-ed 'SC defense.  I don't always lay points on road favorites in SEC games, but when I do it's because I actually don't give a F about the "home in the SEC" mystique. Dawgs by 10.

Rusty: Georgia (-5.5) over SOUTH CAROLINA

The Bulldogs had a bye week before taking on the Gamecocks this week.  They clobbered Clemson 45-21 in the second half and Todd Gurley is forever unstoppable.

The South Carolina defensive secondary caused a lot of problems for the Bulldogs in their last matchups but the lack of a passing attack will be the undoing of the ‘Cocks this weekend.  Todd Gurley will get Georgia out to an early lead and South Carolina won’t be able to claw themselves back into the game. 

Sean: Illinois (+14.5) over WASHINGTON

Can't think of a single reason to lay so many points on a clearly struggling Washington team.  And Illinois, by all accounts, is actually sorta okay. Just beat a deceptively good Western Kentucky team. Washingon's defense has some obvious weaknesses, and not sure if Cyler Myles is ready for his closeup.  At some point, Washington is going to have a breakout game where they look great. But I'm holding off until I see the goods.

Rusty: Illinois (+14.5) over WASHINGTON

The Illini haven’t been anything special this year.  They beat Youngstown State 28-17 the opening weekend and last weekend topped Western Kentucky 42-34.  But that doesn’t necessarily matter, because Washington has been terrible.

A week after barely beating a sneaky good Hawai’i team the Huskies gave up 52 points to Eastern Washington.  Their pass defense is god awful and that’s a bad matchup when you realize that Illinois averages 370 yards of offense through the air.  The opening games for Chris Petersen have been a disaster and it’ll only get worse when they just scrape by Illinois for a win.

Sean: Tennessee (+20.5) over OKLAHOMA

Said it before, I'll say it again: not laying huge points on favorites this early in the year til they show me something. And since I really believe that there exists a mere slight chance that the Vols can actually go to Norman and WIN this thing, that must mean that there's a pretty good chance that they keep it within 20.  That's a lot of points to lay on a team

Rusty:Tennessee (+20.5) over OKLAHOMA

The Volunteers have taken great strides.  Despite having all new starters on both sides of the line they took it to Utah State and the Fighting Chuckie Keetons before dispatching Arkansas State.  Next year this team will be dangerous.

This year Oklahoma is overrated but not as badly as UCLA is.  The Sooners will go as far as Trevor Knight will take them.  The Sooners are very balanced with 286 yards per game through the air and 222 on the ground.  They’ve only played Louisiana Tech and Tulsa but did what good teams are supposed to do against inferior opponents.  I think Oklahoma will win but Tennesee will have their moments that keep it close. 

Sean: Ucla (-7.5) over TEXAS

Great. Two of the biggest enigmas in the country are playing. I think the way to measure this one is to figure out what the worst unit on the field is, and bet against it. There are plenty of qualified candidates in this case. Let's meet the contestants!

-The UCLA offense sputtered against the Virginia Cavaliers on the road, scoring only 7 offensive points. It had a rebound against Memphis last week, scoring 42, but....Memphis.

-The Texas defense has single-handedly made Taysom Hill famous over the past two seasons.  Last week not excepted.

-The UCLA defense, hailed as a top-5 unit preseason, certainly did not look great against the mighty Memphis Tigers last week.

All that is great, but the clear winner (read: loser) is the Texas offense. Obviously, Texas only put up 7 points against BYU in an embarrassing shellacking over the weekend, but remember that Texas only put up 24 offensive points the week before hosting North Texas, and benefited from 4 interceptions. I think a big reason that the Texas D was exposed by BYU is that the offense could not do literally anything positive in the game.

So what do you do with that? You bet against Texas. I do hate to bet on a road favorite, especially an unsteady one giving 7.5 points, but what's the alternative? Texas is going to have to score 28 points to cover that spread. Do you see that happening? Cautiously lay the points.

Rusty: Ucla (-7.5) over TEXAS

Both of these teams look awful when compared to pre-season perceptions.  UCLA became a trendy pick to make the playoffs and win the national title but have struggled embarrassingly against inferior opponents.  Texas on the other hand is seemingly kicking someone off the team every week and is starting Tyrone Swoopes at quarterback in place of season starter David Ash.

The Longhorns are the 100th best passing team and the 105th best rushing team.  I use the word best loosely.  They have the running backs but not the line.  Last week they were absolutely embarrassed by BYU losing 41-7 and giving up 248 yards on the ground while committing four turnovers.  This game will be close for the first half and UCLA will pull away late.

Sean: Penn State (-3.5) over RUTGERS

Any temptation I had to pick Rutgers went out the window when news came out that the NCAA has vacated all meaningful sanctions against Penn State. This buoys an already-buoyed Penn State program, which is off to a 2-0 start in 2014 under new coach James Franklin. You have to wonder how good of a coach Franklin really is after seeing how atrocious Vanderbilt has been early this season without him.  Now, you don't just waltz into Piscataway and get a win, but I think Christian Hackenberg is the real deal and Penn State's defense is good enough to cause problems for Gary Nova and company. Nittany Lions win by a touchdown in the Jerz.

Rusty: Penn State (-3.5) over RUTGERS

The Nittany Lions are fresh off of having their sanctions removed and that means they are on a roll.  Quarterback Christian Hackenberg has the physique of a top quarterback and has played like it at times.  He threw for 454 yards against UCF and 319 yards against Akron.  His biggest weakness is his knack for throwing interceptions.

Rutgers had a late surge to beat Washington State and beat Howard by a couple touchdowns last weekend.  Rutgers doesn’t do anything that well.  They are average at almost everything and have played weak competition.  With a spread so small I like Penn State to win by a touchdown.

Sean: Arizona State (-15.5) over COLORADO

I am loathe to bet a road favorite in what could be a shootout, but why would I bet on CU at this point? Grudgingly laying the 15.5 on ASU because the Colorado defense is the worst unit on the field here.  That's my default decision-making if I don't know what else to make of things.

Rusty: Arizona State (-15.5) over COLORADO

Colorado is awful.  They might be the worst team in college football and Arizona State can’t stop scoring points.  D.J. Foster has been amazing for the Sun Devils now that he’s the featured back.  He averages 10.7 yards per carry and has 4 touchdowns on the season.  This is going to get ugly.

Sean: Nevada (+15.5) over ARIZONA

Nevada just looked real good beating Wazzu by 11, and has a four-year starter at QB in Cody Fajardo. Arizona just looked very pedestrian beating a strong but still member-of-Conference-USA UTSA by 3. Vegas puts the over/under at 63.5.  You know that that means: TAKE THE POINTS IN A SHOOTOUT. Nevada is confident and knows what it is.  Arizona is still seeking an identity. I think you bet the 'dog in that situation.

Rusty: Nevada (+15.5) over ARIZONA

Arizona, led by freshman quarterback Anu Solomon who has yet to throw an interception, just narrowly got past a team on the rise in UTSA.  Nevada is still dynamic on offense rushing the football and running back Don Jackson has a nose for the endzone.  He’s rushed for 179 yards and 3 touchdowns so far this year, quickly approaching his numbers he recorded in the 2013 season.  I like Arizona to win but the spread is too big to lay the points.

Sean: Nebraska (-10) over FRESNO STATE

Hate to again lay points on a road favorite (especially one that just BARELY beat McNeese State), but I have no choice here. Why would I trust anything about Fresno State at this point? If you think Nebraska and Utah are roughly equivalent (not a bad equation), then you have to bet against the Bulldogs here.

Rusty: Nebraska (-10) over FRESNO STATE

The Bulldogs have been manhandled in back-to-back weeks.  They lost by 39 to USC and then lost by 32 to Utah.  Both games were on the road but this time the Cornhuskers make the journey to Bulldog Stadium.  Fresno State can’t really run the football and are going to have to solely rely on their passing attack.

Nebraska needed a heroic play by Abdullah in order to squeak past McNeese State.  They are the sixth best team running the football.  Even in the game they struggled the Huskers rushed for almost 200 yards and had 437 yards of offense on the day.  Lines are so important in college football and I think Nebraska is going to win both sides of the war in the trenches. 

Sean: Usc (-17) over BOSTON COLLEGE

This line was as high as 20 earlier in the week, so I think bettors are throwing their support behind the Eagles.  Not really sure why.  An uninspired effort against UMass, and then a loss to Pittsburgh where they really never threatened, and gave up 30 points.  I'm tempted to bet on the fact that USC might let down, I think USC's young talent runs wild here.  Not even close to enough speed at B.C. to cover or keep up with USC's perimeter talent. Don't feel great either way here, but I think B.C.'s defense is tied with B.C.'s offense as the worst unit on the field.  USC is way above the spread so far in its two games, and so I'll ride that momentum and bet the road favorite here.

Rusty: Usc (-17) over BOSTON COLLEGE

Boston College lost to a Pitt squad on the rise and beat UMass by 23 on the road.  They seem only capable of running the football as they are 112th nationally passing, which doesn’t bode well for when they fall behind.

USC uses tempo so well and is so dynamic on offense and defense that they are going to cruise to a victory.  The game is at 5 pm PST so time change won’t be an issue.  The Trojans are going to score early and often. 

Sean: Purdue (+28.5) over NOTRE DAME

I know, I know. Notre Dame is so hot right now. Last week I had written out "Notre Dame (-3.5)" along with an explanation for this column, but literally changed it to "Michigan (+3.5)" 5 minutes before the article published. Oh boy howdy should I have trusted my instinct. But I think Notre Dame may be a little too proud of itself, and is primed to fall victim to the let-down-spot virus. Winning a game by 29 points is very hard for even a consistent team. Notre Dame has to prove its consistency before I'll throw my weight behind a line that big.  When you're not sure, take the points. This is especially true when I know basically nothing about Purdue.

Rusty: NOTRE DAME (-28.5) over Purdue

Much like Colorado, Purdue is really bad.  Their coach is on the hot seat and the team seems totally dysfunctional.  They are almost the polar opposite of Notre Dame who is on fire after shutting out Michigan.  Everett Golson looks totally different this year throwing the football; in a good way.