If I were going to try and give Week 2 of the college football season a nickname, I’m thinking it’d either be “Overreaction Week” or “Revisionist History Saturday.” Frankly, either seems to fit, and I’m having trouble deciding between the two.
On the hand, there’s no doubt that people are getting way too excited, anxious and over reactionary to what happened in Week 1 of the season. Teams like Wisconsin, Georgia, and even LSU struggled, and now they’re all being pegged as trendy upset picks this weekend. Ok, whatever. Meanwhile everyone else seems to have been stricken with amnesia when it comes to other teams like Missouri, who weren’t all that good last year, weren’t great in their openers, yet are somehow trendy this weekend as well. Again, that whole “revisionist history” thing.
The point is, folks, let’s all just relax, take a deep breath, and remember that the college football season is a marathon and not a sprint. We spent all off-season breaking down these teams, analyzing them, thinking about them, following the police blotters, whatever. So let’s not let one good or game skew all that hard work, ok? As Tom Hanks once said in the movie, A League of Their Own:
“Use your head. It’s that lump three feet above your ass.”
Let’s use that head folks.
And let’s get to the Week 2 picks.
As always, home teams are in CAPS and point spreads are provided by BetUS.com. Most importantly remember that I’m picking these games against the spread, and just because I like a team to cover, doesn’t mean they’ll win outright.
MISSISSIPPI STATE (-3) over Auburn: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ESPN
Want to know my favorite stat in all of college football (well, my favorite stat besides the one that claims “Will Muschamp uses 3.8 swears in his average spoken sentence,” anyway)?
That stat is that in his four years in Starkville, America’s favorite dimpled, visor-wearing, mouth-running head coach Dan Mullen, is a combined 0-16 against Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn and LSU. How you like them apples? That’s right, Mullen is batting .000 against the big boys of the SEC West.
Thankfully, mercifully I think it ends this weekend.
Really, this has nothing to do with State, and everything to do with Auburn. To be blunt, I don’t like what I saw from Auburn at all last week, and don’t think there’s much to be optimistic about with this team. If anything, I may only tune in to Auburn games the rest of the year to make the bad Brian VanGorder mustache jokes that you’ve all come to expect from me.
As for the specifics, against Clemson, I saw an Auburn team that is strong on the defensive front, and solid in the back seven… but also looks like a lost kid in a grocery store on offense. Other than Tre Mason I saw no dynamic playmakers, and the quarterback play seems somehow, inexplicably worse than it was this year. If Kiehl Frazier’s parents are reading, I apologize. But it’s true. Your boy has a lot of work to do.
Mississippi State gets the win Saturday. And mercifully, “The streak” for Dan Mullen comes to an end.
Kansas State (-7) over Miami: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. FX
Maybe it’s the white hair. Maybe it’s the purple windbreaker. Maybe it’s the fact that at an age where most men are wearing Depends and playing shuffleboard until dinnertime at 3:30 p.m., Bill Snyder still scares the living hell out of me. Whatever the case, I believe in Snyder.
And I believe in K-State.
Going up against a Miami team that struggled against maybe the worst “big six” team in college football last week (Boston College), look for the Wildcats to strap up the Depends, go to work, and win big.
Air Force (+20 ½) over Michigan: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ABC
During my appearance on the TV show UNITE earlier this week, host Marianela Pereyra asked me point blank, “Can Air Force upset Michigan?”
Short answer, Marianela: Sorry, not a chance in hell.
But, can they keep it close? Given that Michigan is coming off an epic beat down on national TV, against the closest thing to an NFL team that we have in college football, and only had one week to prepare for an Air Force offense that’s quirkier than the typical cast of the Real World, yes, I do believe the Falcons can keep it close.
I’m positive of it actually. So positive, that if I could bet on imaginary things like “Air Force inexplicably tying the game up at 21 in the third quarter, as Brady Hoke gets a look on his face that could be described as “Oh, goodness. I just ate a bad taco,” I’d have already wagered my life savings on it.
Unfortunately, bets like that don’t exist in real life.
So I’ll have to settle on taking the Falcons and the points, and the Wolverines with the win.
USC (-26) over Syracuse: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ABC (at Meadowlands, East Rutherford, NJ)
Like you, my one, big picture takeaway from USC’s beat down of Hawaii last weekend was as follows: “Good God, how the heck do you slow down that offense?” Unless you have 14 guys on defense, or your middle linebacker is allowed to take the field carrying baseball bat and brass knuckles, frankly, I don’t think there’s an answer.
Seriously, let’s break this down logically. Say you’re an opposing defensive coordinator. Say you’ve spent the last week up until 3 a.m. breaking down film, getting gray hair and wondering things like, “If I resign right now, would that look fishy?” What would you do going up against USC?
If you try and take away the passing game, Silas Redd will just gash you with the run. If you clog the middle, Matt Barkley has a couple guys named Robert Woods and Marquise Lee on the outside. If you try to double either or Lee, Woods or both, that leaves the middle wide open for the tight end. And oh by the way, even when you do get any kind of pressure on the pass, Matt Barkley is better than anyone at getting rid of the ball quickly, and avoiding a sack.
So in essence, I guess what I’m trying to say is that my hard-hitting, expert analysis on this game is as follows: Doug Marrone, I hope you went to church last weekend. Because you’re going to need a prayer and miracle just to keep this one close.
Purdue (+14) over NOTRE DAME: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. NBC
I like Notre Dame to win here, but there are too many weird factors for me to pick them to win big. After all, it’s not like there’s a crazy track record to prove or disprove the effects of taking two transcontinental flights in the matter of a week, only to return home to play an underrated Big Ten team that was missing their quarterback in Week 1.
The Irish will win, and the scoreboard will probably make things look way closer than they actually are.
But if I were actually wagering on this game, give me Purdue and the points.
Wisconsin (-7) over Oregon State: Saturday, 4:00 p.m. FX
Like Washington-LSU (which we’ll get to in a minute), this seems to be everyone’s “upset du jour” pick of the weekend. Which makes perfect sense, at least until you remember… wait a second… THAT PICK MAKES NO SENSE AT ALL!!!!!
I mean, seriously, you all remember that Oregon State was 3-9 last year, right? That they lost their season opener to that college football super-power Sacramento State, right? That even when they did win a game and beat Arizona in October, the loss was seen so catastrophic that Arizona actually FIRED THEIR COACH TWO DAYS LATER, right? And that even when the Beavers had it rolling, and were competing for Rose Bowls every year, they were still a notoriously slow starting team, right?
No, I’m the only one that remembers that? Ok, at least we got that established then.
Regardless, I don’t care whether Wisconsin is traveling cross-country, whether they struggled against Northern Iowa last weekend, or whether they’re starting Danny O’Brien, Davey O’Brien or Pat O’Brien at quarterback. The Badgers will win big.
Like, 45-20, big.
LSU (-24) over Washington: Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ESPN
Easily, my favorite moment of this past week came on Tuesday, when I got a text from my friend which simply read, “So, can Washington beat LSU?” When I opened it up, I nearly spit out my cheerios. And the crazy part was that I wasn’t even eating cheerios at the time.
I mean look, is Washington a nice enough team? Sure. But they also lost their two leading wide receivers and leading rusher from last year, have a defense that needs a lot of work going forward (to put it nicely) and have one offensive player (Keith Price) who I trust in a big game. Not to mention, it’s not exactly like they looked like world-beaters against a totally average San Diego State team last week either.
So can Washington upset LSU? In Death Valley? At night? In football? No, no, no.
Instead, LSU is going to what they always do Saturday night against the Huskies. They’re going to play killer defense, they’re going to going to overwhelm the ‘Dawgs the entire second half with the run game, and they’re going to win big.
Like they always do.
UCLA (+5) over Nebraska: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. EST Fox
Frankly, I have no feel for this game at all.
On the one hand, as most of you know by now, I don’t care much for Nebraska. It’s a beautiful state, and I had a chance to tour Memorial Field this summer, but to me, Cornhuskers football is a lot like an old episode of Everybody Loves Raymond right now. Every season starts the same (the team ranked in the Top 15) and every season ends the same (9-3) with the same predictable story lines in between. They take care of business against who they’re supposed to, rarely beat anyone they’re better than, and finish every year in a forgettable New Year’s Day bowl game. That’s not bad per se. It just doesn’t do much for me, personally.
As for UCLA, well, to quote Dennis Green, are we really ready to “Crown their ass” after one game? Frankly, I’m not sure. But you better believe that any time I can reference Dennis Green in any of my columns, I’m going to do it.
Regardless, I guess I’ll take UCLA to cover, but Nebraska to win a tight game. The Bruins have the talent to keep things close, but Nebraska has the big game moxie to pull out the win.
Georgia (-2) over Missouri: Saturday, 7:45 p.m. ESPN
Again, I hate to keep bringing up the themes of “revisionist history” and “wait, did anyone watch these guys last year?” but when I keep hearing things like “Missouri will upset Georgia” and it literally makes my head hurt.
I mean can Missouri win Saturday? Of course. At the same time, the Tigers were a totally average 8-5 last year, and really didn’t look as good in their opener as most people realize. Yes, they put up 62 points. They also got two defensive touchdowns and two special teams touchdowns, meaning that all of a sudden that 62 doesn’t look quite so good, huh?
Point being, even on the road I like Georgia here.
Sure there was plenty to be concerned about last week, and sure, it doesn’t help that Mark Richt is playing suspension roulette and not sharing with us exactly who will be playing or in what capacity Saturday.
At the same time, this is still football and this is still the SEC, where talent wins out more Saturdays than not.
Georgia has more talent. And Georgia will get the win.
Game of the Week:
Texas A&M (+1) over Florida: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ESPN
First off, if you haven’t listened to my podcast with TexAgs.com’s Brandon Leone from earlier this week, do it. Like right now. Nobody covers this team, and nobody knows A&M like he does.
And after talking with him, the biggest takeaway I couldn’t help but gather was that the cancellation of last week’s opener actually helped A&M more than it hurt them. As Brandon put it, “If you think A&M is going to run Kevin Sumlin’s offense from Houston last year and throw the ball 40 times a game, well, they’re in for a surprise.”
In other words, Florida has no idea what’s coming to them. Even worse, that takes away the one true advantage (their defense) the Gators had entering this one.
Factor that in with the Gators already shaky offense, as well as the fact that I’m not quite sure Will Muschamp is actually a decent coach (as Brandon put it, “Did anyone notice the total lack of energy Muschamp had on the sidelines last week?”) and I think the Aggies get the win.
To be blunt, I’m not sure it’s really that close.
Some other quick picks:
NC State (3 ½) over UCONN, Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ESPN3: Either nobody watched UConn play last weekend (a sloppy win) or NC State has come down with a team-wide case of ebola that no one knows about yet. Those are the only reasons I can think of that NC State is a field goal and change favorite.
Penn State (+7) over VIRGINIA, Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ABC: Too much backlash from last week’s loss plus too much pride for the Penn State defense means this one is close. Still, I like Virginia to win by a field goal though.
Iowa State (+3 ½) over IOWA, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. Big Ten Network: I AM SO PROUD OF YOUUUUUUUUUU… Iowa State, for pulling the upset over your cross-state rivals.
Vanderbilt (-3) over NORTHWESTERN, Saturday, 8:00 p.m. Big Ten Network: My man-crush on James Franklin > My man-crush on Pat Fitzgerald
Oklahoma State (-10 ½) over ARIZONA: Sorry, Rich Rod, but Oklahoma State is gonna teach you how to Gundy this weekend. HARD.
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