RTT's Locks & Keys Week 9

Here's a little story for you that tells you a bit about my sheer idiocy leading up to a Tennessee football game. After reading this, you'll probably request my phone number so you can find ways to take advantage of me in the final moments before kickoff.

Need to borrow a couple grand?  Want me to give you my firstborn child? Mortgage the house and entire year's salary on Tennessee winning? Call me during those last 10 minutes before a UT game.

Why I say this is my cousin -- we'll call him "Darrin" -- calls me up a few minutes before kickoff and tells me that he just laid 10 [hypothetical] dollars on Tennessee to beat Alabama straight-up. If he lost, he pays out $10. If he wins, he gets $370. So, what do I do? Of course, the equivalent of lighting a $10 bill on fire. "Shoot, get me in on that action!" I say. Sigh. Buh-bye Monday lunch money.

Oh well, I'm full of piss and vinegar before games. Plus, that sure would have been a nice little payout, wouldn't it? Anyway, that was a quick & dirty story, and I'll try to always give you one of those before everybody's favorite feature.

With those quick paragraphs ... it's onto the LOCKS & KEYS!!

A QUICK LOOK BACK

SHEP'S PICKS

  • Rutgers +2 over Louisville. The Scarlet Knights are off to a 5-1 start and playing some pretty good football. On the other hand, the Cardinals are 2-4 and just fired its offensive coordinator this week. Still, UL is favored by a couple of points in a line that has already moved 3.5 points this week. I don't get it. Take Rutgers. [Push.  I hate the push. Make 'em all half numbers. 0-0-1]
  • Illinois -3.5 over Purdue. There will likely be somewhat of a letdown for the Illini after they saw their undefeated start snap with a loss to Ohio State last week. But Illinois is still a pretty good football team by Big Ten standards. Purdue, well, isn't. Wins over Minnesota don't get points from me, and a paltry Penn State team outscored them last week. Illinois covers and cruises. [A wise man once said "thou shalt not bet on the Fighting Zookers".  0-1-1]
  • Oklahoma State -6.5 over Missouri. When will you guys learn? Oklahoma State is going to keep getting picked by me until they lose one. The Tigers have played a difficult schedule so far in their 3-3 start, losing to Arizona State (by seven), Oklahoma (by 10) and Kansas State (by seven). Those are close ones. But the Cowboys continue to roll along offensively, and I think this is a double-digit win. [Can't argue with this.  Keep riding 'em.  1-1-1]
  • Kansas State -11 over Kansas. It's time to start believing Bill Snyder's Wildcats are a pretty good team. After beating Mizzou last week, it's clear that KSU just beats whoever is in front of them. Now, they've got a rivalry game, but it's against an awful Jayhawks team. Turner Gill's boys were competitive last week for a bit against Oklahoma before losing 47-17. OSU beat them 70-28. This won't be that bad, but it will be more than 12. [This game just looks so blatantly obvious in hindsight.  This was Free Money all the way. 2-1-1]
  • Washington +20 covers against Stanford. This is a tough one. I really, really like Stanford and Andrew Luck, but the Huskies are 5-1 and playing well, too. They won't beat the Cardinal probably, but three touchdowns seem a bit high here. I think Steve Sarkisian is doing a really good job rebuilding that program, and it'll be evident on the field Saturday. [Shep didn't have a great deal of "Luck" on this one.  See what I did there?  2-2-1].
  • Cincinnati +3 over South Florida. What happened to the Bulls? This is a team that upset Notre Dame earlier this season but since going into Big East play, they've gotten destroyed by Pitt and was embarrassed by a bad UConn team last week. The Bearcats' only loss was to Tennessee back when the Vols had a pulse, and I think UC is the best team in the conference this year. They'll win outright, but I'll take the three just in case. [I have fond memories of those days when Tennessee had a pulse.  Pleasant days, they were. 3-2-1].
KIDB'S PICKS

 

  • WVU-14 @ Syracuse:  I have a mancrush on WVU and their mancrushable coach with his receding hairline and lengthy flowing locks that scream "I am oblivious to my receding hairline".  [The result of this game boggles my mind.  Does. Not Compute. 0-1]
  • Ohio-14.5 @ Akron: Ohio let me down last weekend.  But Akron is almost as bad as Memphis.  This should be an easy cover.  They're always easy, right? [Yes, KidB, they are always always easy.  As we'll soon see.  1-1]
  • Texas Tech+29 @ Oklahoma:  Was the Texas Tech team that stayed within 5 points of Texas A&M involved in a tragic bus crash and I somehow didn't get the memo?  If not, then methinks this line is giving the Sooners a touch too much credit.  [Does KidB get extra credit for this one?  2-1]
  • Boise St. -31 vs. Air Force: Boise State doesn’t play to win games.  They play to cover spreads.  #fact. [Bad Boise.  You don't just gotta win you gotta cover too.  These are the rules. 2-2]
  • Lafayette-3 @ WKU: I will acknowledge that WKU has steadily improved over the last two years.  But they’re still not any good.  And Lafayette has easily been the strongest team in the conference this year.  This line is a head-scratcher. [Yes, many readers were scratching their heads at the sheer atrociousness of KidB's picks. 2-3]
  • Wisconsin -7 @ Michigan State: Michigan state is an okay football team.  So is Nebraska.  Wisconsin is a really good football team this year, and – like they did against Nebraska – they should cover this one without too much difficulty. [KidB doesn't wanna talk about this one. It will not put him in a happy place. 2-4]
I_S'S PICKS
  • North Carolina State +5.5 @Virginia. Seriously, Virginia stormed the field after beating Georgia Tech? And now they're the dreaded -5.5 favorite? [Hold on...UVA was FAVORED in this game?  By 5.5 points?  Easy money. 1-0]
  • North Texas +6 vs Louisiana-Monroe. North Texas is a different team at home. And, while I really, really love ULM this year, it's tough to be a road favorite after winning 38-10 (!) as an underdog the previous week.  [A wise man once said "if you can't figure out what games to go with, give some thought to the Mean Green at home. #fact. 2-0]
  • Notre Dame -8.5 vs Southern Cal. See BlogPoll discussion. I'm on Notre Dame before it's cool to be on Notre Dame. Irish roll. [Yes indeed.  Stop, drop, and roll. 2-1].
  • Florida State -17 vs Maryland. Remember last time Maryland lost a heart-breaker against a ranked team? Remember what happened the next week? It involved Addazios. This involves Jimbos. [Hold on, so you're saying that Maryland has a football team?  For how long?  3-1]
  • Washington +20 @Stanford. Stanford has looked the machine this year. But, in five games against BCS conference teams, their toughest has been at Washington State. Seriously, let that sink in. And the Huskies are getting better when nobody's looking. [Insert horrible joke from before. 3-2]
  • Hipster Miami +17.5 @Toledo. I've tried (and failed) in the Toledo sandwich spot once before, but there's a difference this time: their opponent (don't ask, you haven't heard of them) plays a semblance of defense. [Toledo is realer than real deal Holyfield, y'all. They don't mess around, and they certainly don't condone ironic t-shirts, skinny jeans, or music snobbery. Sorry hipsters.  3-3.]

***

Totals

  • KidB drops to an abysmal 16-29-1, which is 35%.  At this point, we're fairly certain that The Kid has been playing an elaborate reverse-pick joke on everybody this entire time.  Because you'd have to TRY to be this bad. Keep a lookout for Ashton Kutcher and his camera crew.  They might be involved as well.  We haven't ruled it out.
  • Shep climbs to 27-18-1. Very negligible change in in percentage from last week.  Still at 60%. The casino is still monitoring Shep. 
  • I_S stays just a touch below water, but still fighting the good fight.  21-24-1.  46.7%

 

***

FIVE KEYS FOR TENNESSEE

  • Get Worley Into a Rhythm. This is easier said than done, but the Vols have got a true freshman quarterback [Justin Worley] who has never thrown a pass about to start against the SEC's fourth-ranked defense. It is essential they somehow buffer the nerves/excitement/lack of schematic grasp with some sort of figurative pillow. This is a complex bullet point that has many different components -- First, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney needs to call several high-percentage plays to get him completions and get him believing this is not so hard after all. The receivers have to catch the passes and help him out. The offensive linemen, receivers, running backs, etc., have to keep South Carolina's talented pass rushers off Worley and the runners have to have some success running to develop a balance. If Worley gets comfortable, we may be able to win this game.
  • Strive For More Defensive Balance. The past three weeks, UT kind of had to "pick its poison" against Georgia, LSU and Alabama, three teams that can absolutely embarrass you running the football. So, the Vols stacked the box. What happened? They were beat deep on multiple occasions for big, back-breaking plays. Now with Marcus Lattimore out for the season, the Gamecocks don't have that menacing running game the other three teams did. So, the Vols can sit back a little bit and try to keep better tabs on all-world WR Alshon Jeffery and his USCe downfield brethren. Quarterback Connor Shaw can beat you with his feet the way Aaron Murray did in the game against UGA, so the Vols will have to guard against it, but they can play a little more straight-up.
  • Involve the Speedsters. Gone are the two games that were unwinnable. In those, you can understand UT maybe not having freshman Devrin Young and sophomore Rajion Neal as a big part of the gameplan on offense because A) The Vols didn't have anybody who could get them the ball and B) They just don't have the size to fit into a game of that physicality yet. They've both been brought along long enough now, and it's time to put them into the game. With UT devoid of a downfield presence anyway and certainly focusing on the short stuff with Worley in the game, why not use Neal more in the slot over Zach Rogers? Why not throw some bubble screens to the hiccup-quick Young or give him the ball on an end around? They are difference-makers with their legs, and UT simply doesn't have many of those guys. It's time to draw up some plays for them and let them sink or swim.
  • Keep Up the Kicking Game. Michael Palardy emerged as a big weapon in that Alabama game, and that was a big stage. There's reason to believe that could be the performance that catapults him from inconsistent kicker to the player who was the nation's top-ranked prep kicker. In a game that looks like it could be really ugly offensively on paper -- what with Lattimore and his near 40 percent of Carolina's offense gone and the Cocks still breaking in a young quarterback ... and the Vols starting a true freshman signal-caller -- the kicking game could be HUGE. And Palardy did it all against the Tide -- six punts for a 40-yard average, 2-for-2 on field goals, including a 52-yarder, and better consistency on his kickoffs. This will be a game we really need the sophomore to step it up.
  • Play 60 [Redacting] Minutes. Come on, Vols. Play like you can win this one, because you can. Regardless of the Gamecocks being decimated by injuries as we are, this would be a big, big win on paper against a top-15 ranked team with one loss. This is Derek Dooley's chance to get that elusive first quality win. But you can't curl up in a fetal position when something goes wrong. They've got to develop some resolve.

NOW, ONTO THIS WEEK'S LOCKS

SHEP'S PICKS

  • Mississippi State -10 over Kentucky. The Wildcats didn't all of a sudden get a lot better because they beat Jacksonville State 38-14. MSU was way overrated at the beginning of the season and currently sits at 3-4, but those losses were close ones to Auburn, LSU, Georgia and South Carolina. They will handle this one with ease in Lexington.
  • Clemson -4 over Georgia Tech. The oddsmakers must believe the Tigers are going to have a letdown game SOMEDAY, right? Right? Well, I've ridden Clemson's coattails all year along with Oklahoma State, and Dabo's boys don't let me down. Tech has lost its last two games -- to Virginia and then an embarrassing 24-7 setback to Miami last week. If anything, they'll be bummed. And Clemson has that "we believe" vibe I got from Auburn about this time last year. Take the Tigers.
  • Michigan State +4 over Nebraska. Just three weeks ago, Wisconsin was spanking the Huskers 48-17, and we all saw the Sparty strike that beat the Badgers last week. This is going to be a really, really good football game, but I just can't believe that Nebraska is favored. It's going to be tight, but I like MSU to win outright. That said, I'll take the four points I'm given and pray Dantonio's boys don't have a letdown.
  • Arkansas -10 over Vanderbilt. I know the Razorbacks struggled against Ole Miss in building a 17-point deficit last weekend. I know James Franklin has the Dores playing much better and a defense that is turning heads. That said, this just doesn't look like enough to me. I think Arkansas wins this one going away, and Vandy will start its regular late-season fade.
  • California -5 over UCLA. Rick Neuheisel is in trouble. After a 48-12 loss to an Arizona team that just fired its coach last week, another lopsided L could end his tenure before the season is over. Cal is playing much better, waxing Utah last week. Keenan Allen alone is worth five points.
  • Bowling Green -3.5 over Kent State. Well, I did it. I went with a game I really don't know anything about instead of taking my Oklahoma State horses this week. The Pokes were favored by 14 over Baylor and RGIII. While I think they cover, I also think that line is about right. Don't worry; I won't quit picking them, but I also can't bet against the RGIII Magic, even with two losses. I agonized over this, but I think Dave Clawson's boys giving up just 3.5 against one of the worst teams in the country -- a 1-6 Golden Flashes team -- was too good to pass up. Now, of course, Okie State will cover and the Clawfense won't. Then, maybe I'll hate Dave as much as Will does.
KIDB'S PICKS

  • WVU-7 @ The State University of The Garden State: WVU burned me last week and burned me bad. And I mean real bad.  I may even have a colorable claim against the University for violating my 8th Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution ("...cruel and unusual punishments [shall not be] inflicted."). I'll look into that later.  But in the meantime, I'm going right back to the Mounties.  The 'Cuse game was an outlier, and the Mounties will bounce back.  Plus, they're auditioning for the Big 12, so they'll be playing extra hard.
  • Mississippi State-10 @ Kentucky: Mississippi State has continued to fall short of preseason expectations.  They were supposed to be legit; they're mediocre.  I am aware of all this.  But I am also aware of another undeniable fact.  It's a little known fact and so you may not have even heard.  But The University of Kentucky is TERRIBLE at football.  Not mediocre.  Not below average. No no. Abjectly freaking terrible.  MSU should win this comfortably.
  • Arkansas-10 @ Vanderbilt: I don't think this game will be close.  Vandy can't put points on the board, and Arkansas can.
  • Wisconsin-7 @ tOSU: What do y'all think this spread would be if that hail mary wasn't caught last Saturday?  Like WVU, Wisconsin is a team that I got burned on last week.  Like WVU, I see them bouncing back with authority.
  • Hawaii-7 @ Idaho:  Idaho is terrible.  Hawaii lost badly to a team, UNLV, that is actually even worse than Idaho.  But that game was OBVIOUSLY fixed.  So hopefully this one isn't fixed.
  • South Carolina-3.5 @ Tennessee: Sorry guys.  I'll believe it when I see it.
I_S'S PICKS

  • Indiana +9 vs Northwestern. Northwestern is a terrible road favorite. Indiana is an underrated home underdog. Put 'em together. . . 
  • Iowa State +15 @Texas Tech. Seriously, my favorite play on the board. Who thinks the Red Raiders are going to be ready to play after last week in Norman?
  • Louisville -3 vs Syracuse. For similar reasons. Syracuse will have a hard time coming off last week, and Strong's bunch is steadily improving, especially on D. The under 44 might be worth a look as well. 
  • UNLV +3 vs Colorado State. UNLV's home/road splits are among the most extreme in college football. So are Colorado State's. 
  • Nebraska -4 vs Michigan State. Now you've seen three plays with similar reasoning. Hard to ask Michigan State to play another strong team (on the road) after a rivalry win and a hail mary to beat a top five team at home with Gameday in town. 
  • Notre Dame -20.5 vs Navy. Three games this week in which I'm inclined to lay big chalk: Notre Dame, Arkansas State, and UCF. They're all fairly even, but I'm hoping the Irish redeem themselves after losing for me last week. They've seen the option twice since the last Navy game and shut it down both times.

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