It's been difficult for me to pick up the pieces and move on from Saturday night's game all week. Just the thought of college football season turns my stomach, and I've been drowning my sorrows in bad television and MLB playoffs all week to try to avoid thinking about what's facing the Vols.
When you're 3-2, just lost a winnable game, lost your star quarterback for basically the entire season and are facing LSU and Alabama in consecutive weeks, it's tough to muster up any hope. Alas, The Next Weekend is upon us, and we're still fans, we've still got a football team out there that's going to try to win a football game, and we're all certainly going to watch them try.
So, it's time to pick it up, shake it off and move on. What better way to do that than fire up the ol' Locks & Keys?
Let's look back at how we all did last week.
- Tennessee +2 covers against Georgia. I normally stay away from the Vols in these types of things, but there is nothing that even remotely worries me about the Bulldogs. I also think this has the opportunity to be the most electric atmosphere in Neyland since South Carolina in 2009 being a night home game in front of a sold-out crowd. I just like the Vols here. Even if I were not a UT fan, I'd think it was a solid pick. [Let’s not talk further about this. 0-1].
- Boise State -21 over Fresno State. The Bulldogs are coming off a loss to a bad Ole Miss team that lost to a mediocre Georgia team that was blown out by Boise. I hate playing that association game, but it's just a round-about way of saying I think the Broncos are much, much better than Pat Hill's team, and that equates to more than three touchdowns. Take Boise. [The obvious picks are sometimes the best picks 1-1]
- Air Force +15 covers against Notre Dame. I know that the Domers are playing some pretty good football, but this just has all the makings of one of those close struggles the Irish have grown accustomed to the past couple of years. I really think the Falcons are a good football team, and they'll come ready to play. They won't win, but I like the spread. [The Domers have been rolling. 1-2.]
- LSU -14 over Florida. I'm not sure that Les Miles' Tigers are on the same planet as Alabama, but I'm almost certain that the Gators will find the same tough sledding against that Bayou Bengals' defense without John Brantley in the game. Not sure why the spread is only a couple of touchdowns here, but I like LSU to roll much the way the Tide did last weekend. [Florida looked even worse than I expected. 2-2].
- Arizona State -4.5 over Utah. You know how sometimes you have to look twice at a line you think is too good to be true? This Utes team is 2-2 and just not very good, as evidenced by a 31-14 thumping at the hands of a mediocre Washington team last week. The Sun Devils, meanwhile, and 4-1 and look like a quality squad. I don't get this. Which means it'll probably be one I'll lose. [Big time cover. 3-2.]
- Oklahoma -10 over Texas. I simply cannot buy into Texas. I know they're undefeated, but the Longhorns haven't looked very good this season. This game has been close recently, but I just think the Sooners have too much firepower this year. I'm nervous about this pick, but I'm pulling the trigger. [Nothing to be nervous about, right? 4-2].
- Oklahoma-10.5 @ Texas: I know that this is a home game for Texas. But I just don't think Texas has ability to score like Oklahoma. And I don't think they can stop them from scoring. [Good start. 1-0].
- Mississippi State-19 @ UAB: UAB is bad, and I realize that MSU aren't exactly juggernauts this year, but I think they cover this. [Lost by one point. Those burn. 1-1.]
- Iowa+3.5 @ Penn State: Upset Special! Penn State can't score to save themselves. Hawkeyes win this one outright. [Not a terrible play. Penn State got lucky. Still a loss for ya. 1-2]
- Virginia Tech-7 vs. The U: I don't trust Va. Tech with big spreads, but I do trust them to pick off Jacory Harris about 8 times after a conference loss. [We have no idea why the Kid took this game. Two mediocre ACC teams screams stay away. 1-3]
- Ohio-8 @ Buffalo: I simply think Ohio is better at football than Buffalo. That's all. [At the very least, this one helps UT’s SOS. 1-4]
- Arizona-2 @ Oregon State: For my 5th road pick, I will pick against the team that has difficulty tackling grown men carrying a pigskin. [It does not appear that KidB appropriately analyzed Arizona’s ability to tackle. 1-5 for the week. Wow, it is tough to go 2-10 ATS over the past two weeks even if you were actively trying for that. Impressively poor performance by The Kid]
- Bowling Green +11 @Western Michigan. WMU comes off an upset win on the road, goes to NIU next week. Sandwich special! And the Fightin' Clawsons are actually not half bad as road dogs. [Bowling Green has a pretty sweet coach, right? 0-1.]
- Wyoming +11 @Utah State. Seriously, Utah State plays close games. Usually lose, but they play close games. That's what they do. How are they planning on beating somebody by 11? Also, I like how Christensen gets the 'Pokes ready for road games. [Utah St is showing that the Auburn game wasn’t a fluke. 0-2.]
- Eastern Michigan +21 @Toledo. This is a huge mismatch. EMU has no business being on the field with Toledo. But Toledo won as a road dog last week and plays a rivalry game next week. If this isn't a letdown spot, what is? [Don’t worry, I_S, nobody thinks that taking the second worst team in the conference to cover against the second best on the road was a bad pick. ::heavy sarcasm:: 0-3]
- Minnesota +10.5 @Purdue. I believe two things. First, Minnesota is not as bad as they showed last week. Second, Purdue is terrible and has no right laying double digits to anybody. Just ask MTSU. [I can’t say I saw this coming. Boilermakers ROLLED. 0-4].
- Hipster Miami +2 vs Army. Remember what happened last time Army came off a big win and laid points on a MAC road trip? Yeah, Ball State happened. Well I think that team you probably haven't heard of actually isn't that bad, and they'll net a win here. [Three cheers for Hipster Miami. 1-4.]
Missouri -3 @K-State. I feel like I need to choose at least one favorite, and it's down to Mizzou or West Virginia. Guess I'll go with the current SEC candidate over the wannabe SEC candidate. Missouri lost respect for a too close win over a team you probably haven't heard of and an overtime loss to a good Sun Devil squad. They get it back by ending K-State's streak of upset victories. [Decent analysis. Bad result. It happens. 1-5.]
Shep is at a quite respectable 20-14 (59%). Kid is at a dreadful 11-19 (37%). I_S is at a not-so-delightful 12-17-1 (41%). It's major catch-up time this week, though.
FIVE KEYS FOR TENNESSEE
- Block Tyrann Matthieu Coming Off the Edge. I thought of coming up with something snarky here like saying, "One of the keys the next two weeks is just not getting somebody injured against these two juggernauts, blah, blah, blah" but screw that. I'm a Tennessee fan, and there's no excuse for Tennessee to ever suck in my mind. Ever. So, we're rolling with five keys to WINNING THE DANG FOOTBALL GAME. If you don't like it, quit reading. [Well, I feel better...] So, here's the first key. Matthieu came and worked out for Lane and Monte Kiffin at a Tennessee camp, and Monte LOVED him. Lane didn't want to offer him yet because he didn't have any major offers. The next week, he camped at LSU, earned an offer and is now the first legitimate Heisman candidate since Charles Woodson. I hate Kiffin, though I am not sure it would have mattered. He's a Louisiana kid who loved Tennessee, but that LSU offer probably would have meant something, anyway. Still, there are people who say Matthieu -- who is Devrin Young's cousin -- had family in Knoxville and would have committed to UT on the spot. Matt Simms hangs onto the football too long, and Matthieu is remarkable coming off the edge in the Mustang package. That's a dreadful combo. The Vols have to do something about that to have ANY chance.
Get A Friggin' Interception Or Two. I'll keep saying this every week -- the Vols absolutely need to start generating some game-changing plays on defense. They are last -- L-A-S-T -- in the NCAA with one interception this year, and that came against FCS opponent Montana. Pathetic. That's not an SEC number right there. The fact is the defense has played fairly well this year, but it just cannot make the big play. Jarrett Lee used to be an interception machine. This year, he has done a good job of managing the game, but the Vols have to put an end to that. Also, who knows what role Jordan Jefferson will play? Hopefully one where neither QB is able to get into a rhythm.
- Keep the Same Game Plan Defensively As You Had Against the Dawgs. I know UGA burned the Vols for two big plays, and LSU has the talent to do the same thing with their speedy wideouts, but the Tigers' game on offense is running the football. Isaiah Crowell had a difficult time finding space against UT other than the 17-yard touchdown run. LSU just wears teams down running the football, and its offensive line is much better than the Dawgs'. So, this is a tall order, but it's one the Vols will have to convert if the game's going to be close.
- Make A Big Play [Or Two] in the Return Game. There, I said it. I believe it has to happen for us to win the football game. Devrin Young has got to make a huge return either for a touchdown or to set up a touchdown. UT has to steal points any way it can against one of the two best teams in the nation. This is probably the best chance to do it.
- Find A Way. Last year, the odds were stacked against Tennessee in this game, and UT did every single thing but win the game. On the road. With Simms as the quarterback. Though we're all down this week, it's not out of the realm of possibility for an upset. But one thing that is overlooked from last year is Tauren Poole ran for more than 100 yards. The Vols have to -- they just MUST -- find a way to run the football. You know the numbers. They're embarrassing. It just has to change. Right now. In order to loosen up anything downfield, UT needs some plays in the run game. I truly believe it.
NOW, IT'S ONTO THE LOCKS FOR THE WEEK
Just a little background -- that first week before I_S and KidB came on, I picked 10 games. I was mostly just riffing and joking around, but the L&K became an animal of its own in the comments section, and a beast was birthed. That week, KidB and I_S had a six-pack in the comments section, and we all decided it would be neat for a little competition.
What has transpired since is complete and utter domination by yours truly. : ) But there's still that four-game gulf. So, with that in mind, we've decided to let KidB and I_S pick 10 games this week, for the opportunity to catch up and to get on an even game-by-game field. I don't have a problem with it. I'll just continue making my picks and hope they hit. But that's the reason why those guys have more games than me this week. With that said, onto the picks:
There's really no way I can keep this up. I've really been picking better than I ever have in my life, and it's going to catch up with me. The funny thing is in my hypothetical world of gambling for real [cough] I'm really not up that much this year. It's almost like I'm Tyler Bray, when the bright lights come up on RTT, I perform. I just wish I could rise to the occasion when my real [hypothetical, of course] money was on the line.
- Oklahoma State -7.5 over Texas. I love the Cowboys. I do. They've been a gold mine for me in this picks column, and while I think Oklahoma is a better team than them, I certainly wouldn't say the Sooners have a better offense. And we all see what that offense did to the Longhorns last weekend. I expect much the same this week. Oky State. By a lot.
- East Carolina -14 over Memphis. We've been over this time and time again. Tiger High is baaaaaad. Like epically, historically bad. Like, worse than Minnesota and Kentucky bad. The Pirates aren't pitiful. They'll win this game by more than two touchdowns.
Alabama -26.5 over Ole Miss. All Bama does is cover. [Well, unless it's a 47-point spread against North Texas, but who would?] It's a cyborg factory in Tuscaloosa, and I don't think the Rebs will score any points. This will be one of those 38-3 games or something like that.
- Clemson -9 over Maryland. I don't get this one. I know that Vegas is probably thinking given Dabo Swinney's past, there has to be a let-down game somewhere in here, but I don't see it being against Maryland. The Terps played GT close, but I don't think they've got the horses to hang with the athletic Tigers.
- South Carolina -3 over Mississippi State. We're going to stay in the state of South Carolina and go with the Tigers' rivals here, too. I believe in addition by subtraction, and the Gamecocks will be better without that cancer Stephen Garcia. I'm not saying Connor Shaw is the second coming or anything, but I also don't think the Bulldogs are very good. I'm taking the Cocks here, and I feel pretty comfortable with it.
- Georgia Tech -7 over Virginia. This is another one where I must just be missing something. The Cavs have lost to North Carolina and Southern Miss, and they barely squeaked by IDAHO in overtime last week. Meanwhile, the Yellow Jackets are 6-0, and teams are again having trouble with their option attack. I feel very confident about my picks this week.
- Michigan+2.5 @ Michigan State: Upset special! Michigan wins outright. I thought Michigan would be favored, even on the road. Michigan has been covering spreads like it was their job, and most of that can be attributed to the fact that Denard Robinson is faster than you. And Denard Robinson is still faster than you.
- Baylor+9.5 @ TAMU: You don't just hand Robert Griffiin III 9.5 points to play around with. That's just poor policy.
- Georgia Tech-7 @ Virginia: There is a pretty decent chance that this line is actually a misprint that nobody caught. We haven't yet ruled this out as a possibility.
- Oregon-14.5 vs. Arizona State: For a couple of weeks I have been accusing Arizona State and their backers with fraud and complicity in general fraudulence*, respectively. This weekend I will be revealed as either (a) an overzealous prosecutor or (b) the bringer of justice to the people**. We'll check back.[ *Pretty sure this is an actual word. **Is there a word that means, roughly, "bringer of justice to the people"?]
- USF-8 @ UConn: UConn is atrocious at football. Next!
- Toledo-7 @ Bowling Green: Toledo is quite the juggernaut this year in the miggadda miggadda MAC. I'm quite a fan of the rocketmen. I doubt Dave Clawson is quite as smitten.
- Oklahoma State-7.5 @ Texas: Make an argument for Texas that doesn't involve historical performance of like-colored uniforms. Go ahead. Give it a shot.
- ECU-14 @ Memphis: ECU should be insulted by this line.
- Boise-32 @ Colorado State: The final score will be 49-7 Boise. Boise is a machine. They don't play to win games; they play to cover spreads.
- Indiana+40 @ Wisconsin: I batted around a couple different games for my last pick here. I decided to go with this one simply because this spread looks ridiculous. 40 points in a conference game? What's the spread going to be when they play Minnesota? Like 59.5? All that being said, I'm not terribly confident in this pick. Let's go Hoosiers!
Well, last week was terrible, and Kid and I apparently get 10 picks this week in a vain attempt to try to catch up. Once we get to numbers like this, they aren't exactly "locks" anymore, but let's face it, mine have been as far from locks as you can get. I can see this ending badly, but here goes nothing:
- Navy +4. Possibly my favorite play on the board. Rutgers beat Pitt badly because of turnovers, Navy didn't even show up against USM after a tough loss to Air Force, and what should've been a pick'em is now +4.
- GT/UVA under 55.5. The enemy of the option is time, and UVA had a bye week to prepare. On the other side, Georgia Tech's defense is improving, and UVA's offense is mediocre at best. Tech wins a close, low-scoring affair.
- Arizona State +(8ish?) 1H @Oregon. Best team to come into Autzen this year, and while I'm not sure how many can hang with the Ducks for a game, the Sun Devils can hang for a half.
- Michigan State -1.5 vs Michigan. Does this remind anybody else of last year?
- North Texas +9 @Louisiana-Lafayette. Fading ULL as a home favorite off a SU win as an underdog sounds good. Also, the Sun Belt can be wacky.
- San Jose State +6 vs Hawai'i. Spartans are improving, and Hawaii is off the Islands. Friday night, big game from SJSU.
- USF -7 @UConn. UConn is terrible, USF has an offense and a week to prepare.
- Pitt -6.5 vs Utah. Panthers bounce back, Utah doesn't playing a 10 AM game after a pair of bad losses.
- Central Florida +3.5 @SMU. Think this one looks a lot like their 17-7 win over SMU last year.
- Temple -20.5 vs Buffalo. Unlike at Florida, Addazio has shown the ability to roll inferior opponents at Temple.