Rusty Last Week: 4-2
Sean Last Week: 4-2
Rusty Overall: 7-5
Sean Overall: 6-6
This week, we get a little more variance between Sean and Rusty’s picks. I say that because last week we PICKED EVERY GAME THE DANG SAME WAY.
A weaker slate of games this week after a marvelous Week 2, but there are still some good matchups to peruse and [mis]predict.
(And a really good subplot in this year’s DTO is how I am currently one game behind Rusty, but will absolutely trounce him his week to take the lead.)
To the picks!
Games of the Week
S: Texas (+14) at USC
I’ve seen USC perform wildly different in two consecutive weeks against two good teams. I’ve seen Texas perform wildly different in two consecutive weeks against one OK team and one bad team. Not sure what to do here.
I just think this is a letdown spot (in some ways) for USC. I think Texas can move the ball quickly and has speed comparable to USC’s. USC is definitely the better team. But something in my gut tells me the Longhorns give them a run for their money here. Take the points in this likely shootout.
R: Texas at USC (-14)
Last time the nation saw Texas they were being embarrassed by Maryland at home. Herman’s post-game comments started a small beef with Urban Meyer this past week. They’re coming off a 56-0 win over San Jose State, but that really doesn’t matter too much. Against Maryland they were outplayed in most facets of the game and just looked unprepared at times. If the Longhorns couldn’t sprinkle on some fairy dust to get over Maryland at home, do they have a realistic shot at coming near this spread on the road?
I don’t think there is a let down by the Trojans. They are fresh off beating a very tough Stanford team 42-24 where they put up over 600 yards of offense. Sam Darnold threw a couple picks but that still wasn’t enough for the Cardinal to keep it close. Running back Ronald Jones II is one of the few players who I think can transcend the ability of some of his blocking with his acceleration. Within two steps Jones is at full speed.
I think the Trojans are going to be able to handle the opposition at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and that the talent and coaching is going turn this into a blowout in the latter half of the second quarter.
S: Clemson (-2.5) at Louisville
Louisville is a weird combination. Solid offense with superfreak Lamar Jackson. Really solid rushing defense (1.55 yards per rush). Pretty bad passing defense.
What to do here? Last year, Clemson’s crazy good defense gave up 568 yards to Lamar Jackson’s offense. Despite Clemson’s reloaded defense, I don’t know how much better they can do this time. So we have to expect that it’s going to be a shootout.
If this line were any higher, I’d be tempted to take Louisville and the points. But I feel pretty confident the Clemson offense will do enough to hang with Louisville, and that Clemson’s front four will do enough down the stretch to hold the lead. I’ll cautiously lay the 2.5 on Clemson here. But this is kind of a stay-away game.
R: Clemson (-2.5) at Louisville
For a second season, Lamar Jackson has been putting up video game numbers to start off the year. Over the course of the 47-35 win over North Carolina, Jackson went 25/39, 3 touchdowns, and 393 yards through the air and another 132 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground. In the season opener the Cardinals struggled against the Purdue Boilermakers in Indianapolis but pulled out a close one.
Louisville only has four starters back on offense, including Heisman-winner Lamar Jackson. The other starters are both tackles on the offensive line and a receiver. On defense the Cardinals have 7 starters back, having to replace two players on both the defensive line and linebacker unit. I think the Clemson offensive and defensive lines have strong advantages over the two. Clemson held Auburn to 0.9 yards per carry and just 117 yards of total offense in their 14-6 win in Death Valley.
First-year starter Kelly Bryant is not DeShaun Watson at quarterback but so far he has been an above average passer and runner. Bryant scored both touchdowns for Clemson in their win over Auburn on the ground. I think the Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins combo in the interior will cause a lot of problems, letting the linebackers make plays and edge rushers get after the quarterback pushing him back towards the line of scrimmage. Louisville will have their big plays but it will be between a lot of low-yardage plays.
S: Oregon (-14) at Wyoming
A week ago, I would have taken the points. But, call me a convert: the Ducks defense only gave up 109 rushing yards and allowed a sub-.500 completion percentage against a balanced Power Five offense. I have seen exactly zero special things out of this Wyoming team, who has Josh Allen, but nary much other talent to speak of on offense.
The Cowboy defense is pretty bad too. I have a feeling that the Ducks offense is pretty - let’s say - cheesed off about its awful second half performance last week. I don’t expect that to happen again. I think the Ducks score at least 50 points. I don’t think Wyoming scores 30. Lay those 14. Ducks roll.
R: Oregon (-14) at Wyoming
Wyoming, like Texas, was last seen having a bad showing on national television. They came away with a 27-0 win over Gardner-Webb after scoring 14 points in the first quarter and 10 points in the second quarter. There is a lot of hype about Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen. Some say he could be a top first round draft pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Josh Allen looks a lot like Blake Bortles and Tanner Lee. They are/were great group of five quarterbacks who play group of five competition every week. What’s noticeable is that they look excellent against teams with losing records but average at best against teams with winning records. Quarterbacks will always have worse statistics when playing better defenses but the drop is pretty significant. Allen has a lot of multi-pick games and was largely ineffective on the road at Iowa in the season opener.
Ultimately, I don’t think the Wyoming defense is going to be able to keep Oregon out of the end zone at all and if Wyoming wants to try to pick on cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. the way Nebraska tried to, then good luck with that. Last year Wyoming’s defense was 96th in S&P+ and prone to explosion plays. (Oregon was 119th.) This year 8 starters return for the defense. Teams with comparable defenses to Wyoming were Northern Illinois, North Texas, Marshall, and Idaho.
Before the season this game looked like a typical trap game. A lot like fantasy football sleepers, the more people talk about them the more normal they become. I think the team actually has a lot of motivation to play well after the terrible second half they had against Nebraska. The power running is going to be there, unlike against Nebraska. The only real question is how Oregon handles the altitude.
Sean’s Wild Card Picks
S: Oklahoma State (-13) at Pittsburgh
Pitt’s an ok team, I guess. I just really love (like, “love” love) QB Mason Rudolph and his insanely talented wide receiver corps at Okie State. Pitt’s just not built to defend on the back end against that kind of onslaught. I think Oklahoma State’s offense is better than almost anyone realizes, Vegas included. They’ve covered big spreads twice in a row with almost no difficulty, and I see that continuing here.
S: Wisconsin (-13) at BYU
I think BYU is bad. Like, real bad. They’ve been physically dominated by every team they’ve played: Portland State included. Not a good thing when you’ve got Wisconsin’s brutally effective O-Line coming to town, together with the two-headed running back duo of Chris James and Jonathan Taylor
Thomas. Lay the 13. I think this line is 6 points too low. Wisconsin rolls.
S: Ole Miss (-3.5) at Cal
I have to mirror Rusty’s comments below. I think Ole Miss is just way more talented than Cal. The Rebels have a pretty good secondary, and a stout defensive front. They should at least contain Cal defensively. The Rebs’ offense is kind of a mystery, but they have at least some ability: they’ve scored over 30 twice.
This is a weird matchup. I trust Ole Miss’s defense more than any other unit on the field. I’m going to put my faith in that crew.
Rusty’s Wild Card Picks
R: Oregon State at Washington State (-15.5)
Oregon State is just absolutely terrible right now. They lost to Minnesota 48-14 after needing a late touchdown to top FCS Portland State, who still managed to put up 32 on the Beavers. The offense will turn the ball over and I’m not sure they’re going to be able to get a strong enough pass rush or be able to cover well enough.
Washington State is going to put up a lot of points. Backup quarterback Tyler Hilinski replaced Luke Falk during the game and led Washington State to a 21-point comeback over the challenging Boise State Broncos. The Cougars needed triple overtime but Boise State would probably beat this Oregon State team by multiple scores.
R: Ole Miss (-3.5) at Cal
Cal probably played up to their ceiling against North Carolina but looked like what most people expected when they squeaked past Weber State. The Golden Bears were down most of the game and it wasn’t until there were two minutes left in the fourth quarter for them to ice the game. The Bears are very pass heavy and have troubles stopping the ball on the ground, which could make for a long day against the Rebels.
Ole Miss is still an unknown. In classic SEC fashion, the Rebels have played Southern Alabama for a 20-point win and UT-Martin to a 22-point win. In their games against weak opponents the Rebels have less than 200 yards on the ground combined but have huge passing numbers to make up for it. Overall, I think the talent gap is just too wide for this matchup.
R: Baylor at Duke (-12)
Baylor is maybe the worst FBS team. They lost by one score to Liberty to open the season on a Hail Mary and lost by a touchdown to UT-San Antonio. UTSA only had 5 wins last year and they were against really bad teams. This pick is as much against Baylor as it is for Duke. They would have to play uncharacteristically well for them to be able to keep this game close.
Last week Duke beat Northwestern by 34 points and beat some quality teams last year. They have 7 starters back on offense and three of them are on the offensive line and another is starting quarterback Daniel Jones who is a strong runner and a slightly above average passer. With the home advantage and the terrible competition their playing I think they’ll be able to win comfortably by at least two scores.