Guys, I can’t lie: It feels good to be on a roll again.
Yup, two weeks ago was tough one for us. It was our first losing week of the season. And it put a damper on what had been a hot start to the season.
That was until last week when we bounced back in a BIG way, with our fourth winning week out of five this season (including Week 0). I feel like Matthew McConaughey in “Two for the Money.” All that guy does it pick winners, baby!
Yes, I just referred to myself in the third person. And yes, it might have been a slight exaggeration. But I am feeling good. And with that, let’s get to this week’s picks.
By now you know this whole thing works. Every week, I make my favorite picks against the spread, and share them here. To be clear, I don’t pick all the big games, but instead, the ones with the most value. So for example, while Virginia-Notre Dame is one of the bigger games on the docket this week, I’m staying away. In others, like Ohio State-Nebraska I’m not picking a winner against the spread, but instead the over/under. Again, it’s where the value is.
A quick reminder that once again, all these picks are presented by our friends at MyBookie – and if you’re planning on gambling this week, go to MyBookie.AG and use promo code “TORRES” at checkout. Do that, and you will receive a 100 percent sign-up bonus, doubling your money the second you put in that promo code!
Alright, enough talk. Let’s get to this week’s picks!
No. 12 Penn State at Maryland (+6 ½): Friday, 8:00 p.m. ET, FS1
Last week we started out the weekend with a win in Friday night’s Utah-USC game (I hope you took the UNDER!) and this week, we’re about to do the same.
Fear the Freakin’ Turtle! It’ll be a great night to be a Maryland Terp!
Looking at this game, I’m just not all that sure how good Penn State is. If you take out their opener against FCS team Idaho, the Nittany Lions are 2-0, but were outgained by both Buffalo and Pitt in their other two wins. We all know that they just barely survived against the Panthers (thanks to some truly awful coaching by Pat Narduzzi) and there were a couple of broken plays and a defensive touchdown that made the Buffalo game seem more one-sided than it was. Penn State’s defense is good. Their offense not so much. My guess is that is a relatively low-scoring game.
So now, if we all agree that Penn State is a little overrated (and we should, because I said it), and remember that this is their first road game of the season, that should cause even bigger concern. Especially when you factor in that this might, legitimately be the most anticipated Maryland home game in years.
That’s right, Maryland has football fever, and on a Friday night, the place will be wild. Maryland has called for a blackout that night, and student ticket demand is the highest it’s been since 2002. Which is just insane.
Again, the Maryland fans will be rowdy, and frankly they might have the better team to begin with.
Take Maryland and the points and open your weekend with a bang.
Arkansas (+23 ½, now +23) vs. No. 23 Texas A&M (in Dallas): Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
I have three thoughts, and three thoughts only on this game:
1. This line feels like a slight, yet justifiable overreaction to Arkansas losing at San Jose State last week. Look, I know the loss was terrible. And it was inexcusable. But the Hogs literally had to do everything possible wrong to lose that game… and still almost won. Heading into this one, Nick Starkel can’t possibly play worse than he did last week (because, well, how does it get worse than five interceptions?). That performance also overshadowed the fact that in six quarters since taking over the offense prior to the San Jose State game, Starkel had actually played pretty well.
2. Not to sound like a jerk, but Arkansas or not, I don’t think that Texas A&M should be favored by four possessions against any Power 5 team. The Aggies can’t run the ball, and I’m still never sure exactly what I’m getting from Kellen Mond week to week.
3. History tells us this one will be close. These two teams renewed this rivalry back in 2009, and in the last 10 years, only once has this game been decided by more than 21 points. It came in 2012, when Johnny Manziel was at Texas A&M, and Arkansas was in their one, awful, John L. Smith season. Other than that, it’s been a hotly-contested series. Three of the last five have gone to overtime. And last year, when Arkansas was arguably worse than they are this year, it ended up as a 24-17 final score.
Add in the fact that Texas A&M is heading into a bye after this game, and then face Alabama after that, and they will be simply trying to survive this game and get to the off-week as fast as they can.
Take Arkansas and the points.
Texas Tech at No. 3 Oklahoma (UNDER 71): Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, FOX
I’ll tell ya what: These aren’t your father’s Texas Tech Red Raiders. Both in good ways and bad.
On the positive side, well, they actually play real defense this year. While Kliff Kingsbury is doing his Kliff Kingsbury thing in the NFL, the Red Raiders currently rank in the Top 25 nationally in both total defense and yards per play allowed. Now admittedly, they haven’t exactly played a murder’s row of competition (Montana State, UTEP and Arizona) but progress is progress, baby!
There is of course the negative to it: Tech just isn’t the same team offensively either. Statistically they haven’t necessarily been terrible, but in their one game against Power 5 competition, they put up a putrid 14 points at Arizona. And it’s not like something bizarre happened to end up on that point total – no weird turnovers, not a slew of missed field goals. They just couldn’t move the ball. Did I mention that Arizona is currently ranks 107th nationally in total defense? Yikes!
Add it up, and Oklahoma is going to win, because they’re Oklahoma. But Tech should make just enough stops, and play just poorly enough on offense for the final score to be something like 42-21, and an UNDER hit.
No. 21 USC at No. 17 Washington (-10): Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Listen, I don’t wish ill-will on anyone. And it was awesome to see USC pick up a monster win against Utah at home last weekend.
But if we’re being totally honest, every metric in that game said that USC should have lost that game. They scored 14 points in the first two possessions of that game, then were largely held in check from there. Utah finished with significantly more yardage than USC (457 yards to 381) yet only converted it into just two touchdowns. They fumbled on the goal line, resulting in zero points on a drive where they should have had at least three. And the Utes committed 16 penalties for 120 yards, a very un-Utah thing to do. Utah
Again, everything that could go wrong for Utah did. It took a loooooooooot for USC to win that game.
As for the Huskies, as I’ve said for two weeks, I think Washington is completely undervalued. Their only loss was to a 4-0 Cal team, on the final 10 seconds of the game, in a weird game that didn’t end until 1:30 a.m. after a long lightning delay.
Ultimately, Washington is much better than folks realize and USC a bit worse. Take the Dawgs here.
Ole Miss at No. 2 Alabama (OVER 61 ½): Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
This number feels insanely, preposterously low to me, to the point that I feel like I’m missing something.
On the one hand, Alabama’s offense is as potent as it’s ever been. So far this season they have scored at least 42 points in all four of their games, including an average of 44 ½ against the two Power 5 teams they’ve faced this season. That included 47 on the road a few weeks ago at South Carolina, and another 42 against Duke, when they didn’t score a single point in the first quarter.
At minimum, Bama is putting up 40 here. And it feels like 49 or more is in play.
On the flip side, I’m still not sure I’m buying Alabama’s defense. They looked incredibly suspectable against South Carolina, especially through the air. And to Ole Miss’s credit, they aren’t quite as bad on offense as you might think. Even in a loss to Cal last week they put up over 500 yards of total offense and had nearly 500 against Arkansas a few weeks before that.
In the end, I think Alabama wins and wins convincingly. But I also think they give up enough points where the OVER hits here.
No. 1 Clemson at North Carolina (UNDER 61, now 60): Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Of all the bets this weekend, this is my favorite, for a few different reasons.
First off, Clemson has an elite defense. Not good. Not great. Elite. They haven’t given up more than 14 points all season and haven’t given up more than 10 in the last three weeks. Call me crazy, but I don’t expect a North Carolina team which ranks 96th in scoring this season and coming off losses to Wake Forest and Appalachian State to move the ball up and down the field against them.
Then there is the flip side: I just don’t trust Clemson’s offense.
Now look, by normal metrics, Clemson’s offense is awesome. But they aren’t being measured by normal metrics. They have a future No. 1 overall pick at quarterback and three first rounders at wide receiver, yet it just feels like something isn’t clicking. They have already turned the ball over eight times this season, including six interceptions by Lawrence alone.
Like Texas A&M, Clemson is going into a bye week.
And like Texas A&M, I think they’re going to dominate early, take their foot off the gas late, and try to get out of town as fast as possible. A 27-3 or 31-10 final feels like its in play here, for the easy UNDER.
No. 5 Ohio State at Nebraska (UNDER 67): Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ABC
This is what you need to know about this game. Ohio State’s defense is unreal. I know, I know, they haven’t played anyone. But still, just look at these stats. They currently rank No. 2 nationally in total defense, No. 2 in yards per play allowed, No. 7 in rushing defense, No. 2 in rushing touchdowns allowed and No. 2 in yards per rush.
I don’t care if Ohio State had only played Sister’s of the Poor and UConn to this point in the season. Those stats are still insane.
(And yes, I just had to take a shot at my own alma mater, the Huskies, there. I couldn’t help myself)
So really what this game boils down to is this: Nebraska’s defense is juuuuuuuuuust good enough to keep Ohio State’s offense in check. But that Nebraska offense isn’t moving the ball against Ohio State. For all of the numbers that the Cornhuskers have put up, keep in mind that in Week 1 against South Alabama, they needed three non-offensive touchdowns to win, and in Week 2 against Colorado, they scored three points in the second half. The Cornhuskers’ run game is alright, but Adrian Martinez – for all the hype – is completing just 61 percent of his passes right now.
We will learn a lot about Ohio State in this game.
But one thing I already know: Their defense is legit.
The Buckeyes win convincingly here.
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