Hope everybody enjoyed their turkey! Let's get right to it on this holiday weekend edition of the LOCKS & KEYS!
A QUICK LOOK BACK
- Oklahoma State -27 over Iowa State. All the Cowboys do is cover, and if you're a regular reader of the L&K, you know I've out-thunk [not a word] myself the past few weeks on OSU. Now, they're favored by a huge margin over a pretty decent team with their game of the year facing them next week. I know everything is pointing against taking them this week, but I don't care. I promised myself last week after their 66-6 win that I'd take them this week regardless of line, so I am. I will now light myself on fire. [Burn baby burn. 0-1.]
- Clemson -7.5 over North Carolina State. The Tigers haven't been nearly as dynamic as they were at the start of the season, but they're still 9-1 and playing a very mediocre NCST team that just lost to an embarrassing Boston College team in a game where they only scored 10 points. I like the high-octane Tigers in this one. [High-Octane? More like 87 octane! 0-2.]
- Tennessee +1.5 over Vanderbilt. I'm worried about this one, and I probably shouldn't even pick it, but I haven't got to take the Vols much this year because of how many injuries we've had. I really think that VU is the better team right now, but not by much. Also, there's the probability of Bray playing, the fact that it's in Neyland Stadium and that it's just hard not to pick UT to win a game that looks pretty close to even against a Commodores team that finds ways to lose. I'm taking the Vols. [You had me at Tyler Bray. 1-2.]
- Kansas State +8.5 covers against Texas. We must be playing the name game here. Surely, the Longhorns are favored by more than a touchdown because they're TEXAS, right? Not because they really have earned it. This is a Texas team that just lost 17-5 to Mizzou. I'll go with the Wildcats, thank you. They'll win as dogs for the second week in a row. [Yes, the name TEXAS certainly had something to do with the spread, but please don't call me surely. 2-2.]
- Houston -20 over SMU. Giving Case Keenum fewer than three touchdowns against an opponent like SMU looks attractive to me right now. The Cougars are trying to play the Boise-TCU no-name role this year. While I don't think they're on that level, they can score some points and will do enough to cover against the Mustangs. [You can cover spreads with scoring points. I like this logic. 3-2.]
- Oregon -14.5 over USC. Well, it was between this one and Oklahoma -15.5 over Baylor, and since I like pulling against Lane Kiffin more, we'll go with this one. It's the same reason the Ducks beat Stanford -- too much speed all over the field. DeAnthony Thomas is in the zone right now and just gives them another dimension along with all their other burners. It'll be fun watching him run all over the team he originally committed to. [Well, at least both your alternatives lost outright. 3-3.]
- Clemson-7.5 @ N.C. State: if you saw this game and talked yourself out of it on "situational" grounds, then congratulations, smart guy, you just outsmarted yourself. NC State is a bad football team. A real bad football team. Clemson is by no means a juggernaut. Heck, I was one of the people speaking reality when they were 8-0. And I'm still speaking reality when I say that they are appreciably better than NC State and should cover this spread easily. This might just be my favorite play of the weekend. [Clemson is atrocious and does not belong on the RTT blogpoll. And now they'll surely beat South Carolina. #fact 0-1.]
- Wiscy-14.5 @ Illinois: I smell trouble a brewin' in Fighting Zookerville. One of two things could happen: (1) the Zookers could continue their downward tailspin towards an epic crash, or (2) the Zooker himself getting perturbed at a press conference when asked about his job security is not an indication that the man is unraveling and his team following suit, but rather a calculated maneuver done with the intent of rallying his players and focusing their efforts on the singular purpose of unfettered domination of all opponents forthcoming. I'm going with the former. [Close, but no cigar. 0-2.]
- La.Tech+7.5 @ Nevada: La. Tech is no joke this year. All they do is cover spreads. [La freaking Tech! 1-2.]
- Georgia Tech-11 @ Duke: Should be a bounce-back game for the Ramblin' Wreck against an inferior opponent that they really should be able to beat by two scores. [Close, but no cigar. 1-3.]
- THE U +1 @ USF: Honestly, I really can't get much of a read on the Canes this year, and so this is not necessarily my favorite pick of the bunch. Boise, SMU, Utah State, and a couple others were taken into consideration. The reason I ended up going with this one is because Kellen Winslow went to the U...and he's a $%#&*^ soldier...and he doesn't give a "you know what about a Vol, man....IT'S ABOUT THIS U!!" Also, I think if I can win 3 games out of the ACC in a given week, that will be a record and I may get some sort of medal or something. [The Kid wins his picks when thinks they suck. 2-3.]
- New Mexico St.+22.5 @ BYU: BYU's starting QB is out and New Mexico State was a team I was getting behind before Georgia brought them back down a level for me. But I shouldn't let an ass whuppin by an SEC team negatively affect my opinion of a team. I mean, come one, we're the ESS EEE SEE! [The Kid is probably done backing NMSU. 2-4.]
- Iowa State +27 vs Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State has been covering like it's their job, but when they won 66-6 last week, I promised myself that I'd go against them no matter what the spread. Yeah, I think differently from Shep. But OSU dominated last week, they're looking ahead to a national title play-in game against their arch-rival, and they're going on the road on a weeknight. EVERYTHING points against them, except that they're Oklahoma State. [I_S should have gone Moneyline. 1-0.]
- Ole Miss +30 vs LSU. When a popular coach is fired, pick them to absolutely choke in their next game. They did. A week later, when a popular coach is playing his last home game, pick them to rally. LSU is vastly superior, but they may be looking ahead to Arkansas, and this is probably more of a rivalry to Ole Miss anyways. Kentucky was able to keep it within 30, and I think the Rebs do too. But like OSU, the sheer talent disparity scares me. [Where situational picking goes bad. 1-1.]
- Mississippi State +13 @Arkansas. Arkansas has an outside shot at a national championship with a win over LSU next week. Or at least that's what they tell themselves. The Bulldogs can stay close to you if you don't pay attention to them. [Where situational picking goes bad, pt. 2. 1-2.]
- UTEP +14 vs Tulsa. Similar situation to MSU. Tulsa plays Houston next week, with the winner capping off an undefeated CUSA season and gaining a berth in the championship game. But UTEP can sneak up on you if you're not careful. Heck, they almost beat Houston earlier this year. [Where situational picking goes bad, pt. 3. 1-3.]
- Oregon -14.5 vs Southern Cal. Too many times this year, I've seen a pretty decent team get so many points that it looked too good to be true. It usually ends with the favorite opening up a can on them. That's an awful big line to cover against a good Trojan squad, but I can believe in Oregon and their can of Autzen second halves. [No can opener on this day. 1-4.]
- New Mexico State +23 @BYU. I hate agreeing with the Kid on underdogs. It creeps me out. Because it usually ends badly. But I was between NMSU and Louisiana Tech for this last one, and he agrees on both. Like I said against Georgia, this is too many points against an Aggie squad that can put a few on the board themselves. But that was before we knew about 45-7, and BYU doesn't have 45-7 in their future. What will probably happen is we'll find that I should've picked Ohio State or San Jose State (the other two that made my final list) and avoided a Kid-friendly dog. [Should have gone with La. Tech. 1-5.]
FIVE KEYS FOR TENNESSEE
- Start Fast. The fact of the matter is Kentucky is averaging 16.4 points per game and has converted just 29 percent of its third-down conversions. The Wildcats were beat up against Georgia, and they've found no consistent offensive weapons all season. If the Vols get ahead by a couple of touchdowns, they'll cruise to a win because UK just doesn't have the firepower to keep up. The Vols need Tyler Bray to look a bit more like Bray and to make some plays early against UK's pretty good pass defense. Letting this team hang around doesn't need to happen. The Vols are better than the Cats -- as always -- so they need to jump ahead. UGA didn't and had a battle on its hands.
- Do The Impossible -- Run Away From Danny Trevathan. Wow, what a player that kid is. He is a tackling machine. It would be easy to think "well, that's because he plays for Kentucky and they have nobody else so he gets all the tackles" but that's just not true. The kid is a bit undersized for a LB at 6-foot-1, 225, and he ran just a 4.68 at the combine last year, which projected him to be a sixth-round pick, so he came back. But he just makes plays. And he'll make and stick on an NFL roster after this season, of this I have no doubts. Trevathan leads the SEC with 135 tackles this year after leading the league last year. Against a good Georgia team last week, he registered 17 tackles including three for a loss, picked up one sack and even forced two fumbles. We've got to find ways to not let him kill us. The Vols need to run the football some, and Trevathan just gobbles you up.
- Pressure Maxwell Smith. Both Smith and Morgan Newton have gotten reps this week, though Smith is expected to start. Personally, I hope they play Newton more because he's not very good. Smith has a good future, but he's a freshman who gets some happy feet if you can pressure him. The Vols dialed up the heat against Jordan Rodgers and the Commodores last week, and I expect them to do the same thing this week. Smith can make mistakes, and UT showed the ability to actually get to the quarterback recently, so that needs to keep happening.
- Watch Vanderbilt Game; Repeat. This goes for the UT offensive line. For once, they hit low, stayed through their blocks through the whistle and opened holes. Running from the Pistol -- which will be the running formation of choice this week, too -- Tauren Poole found those holes and rushed for more than 100 yards. But it all starts with the O-line. Maybe they've found some things that work. Maybe they just got better. Maybe playing Vanderbilt and Kentucky always helps. But the bottom line is UT has got to open those holes to get yards, and that's where it all starts. UK has struggled against the run all season. We need to take advantage.
- Protect the Football. Last time in Lexington, Tennessee opened with a Crompton pick six on the opening drive. Last week, Tennessee gave Vanderbilt 14 points immediately following interceptions, and all 21 'Dores points came on very short fields. Kentucky's offense isn't good enough to consistently drive the field. Make them.
ONTO THE LOCKS
- Houston -3 over Tulsa. Is Houston the new Oklahoma State -- at least on a slightly lesser level? I think so. I know the Golden Hurricane is scoring points at an alarming rate this year, nearly 36 ppg, but I think the Cougars are on a different level. I'm going to roll with Case Keenum again, and I expect them to win by 10 or more. But we'll take the three and be happy.
- Missouri -23.5 over Kansas. I know it's a rivalry game. But I also know Kansas is one of the worst major conference teams in all of football -- if not the worst. This year, the Tigers will dominate them, and this spread is small for what I think it's going to be.
- Purdue -7.5 over Indiana. Speaking of horrible major conference teams, the Hoosiers would really give Kansas a run for its money. The Boilermakers are trying to get bowl-eligible, and I think they will over the Hoosiers, who need Gunner Kiel to reconsider in a big way -- and bring 84 of his closest blue-chip friends with him.
- Tennessee -7 over Kentucky. Another line that flabbergasts me. The Vols have Tyler Bray back. Doesn't Vegas know this? And we're STILL just 7.5 better than Kentucky, which played the game of its life against Georgia, got banged up and still lost by nine? Nah. The Vols will take care of business in this one. I like us by a couple of scores.
- Florida State -1.5 over Florida. This is probably the worst Gators team of my lifetime ... or at least the worst one I can remember. FSU laid an egg against Virginia last week, but the disappointing Seminoles are still better than Will Muschamp's boys.
- Wake Forest +1.5 over Vanderbilt. I know that I'm taking two ACC teams over SEC teams this week, but I really think losing to UT in a year when VU really believed it could beat the Vols will take a lot out of them. That was an emotional roller-coaster last week, and now they have to face a pretty stellar Demon Deacons team. I don't think the Commodores go to a bowl game again this year. And I'll giggle all through the offseason.
- Bowling Green+2.5 @ Buffalo: Dave Clawson. Best. Coach. Ever. No, seriously, I like the road doggy dogs when the road team is the better team. Here, the road team is the better team.
- Wake Forest+1.5 vs. Vanderbilt: Wake Forest is the better team and is playing at home. Maybe Vandy can get themselves bowl eligible next year.
- Virginia+4 @ Virginia Tech: Say hello mr. second loss, Hokies. You are a fraud. Your exposure is forthcoming.
- Iowa State+28.5 @ Oklahoma: You don't stop Iowa State. You hope to contain them. Okay, I don't think Iowa State will win outright (I did actually *strongly* suspect that Baylor would beat Oklahoma outright, but I'd be lying if I said I saw the Iowa State upset coming), but I do think they'll cover.
- Duke+13 @ UNC: Duke is actually pretty good at covering spreads. Believe me, I know. I took Georgia Tech last week.
- Wyoming+32.5 @ Boise State: Boise State is sooooo 2009. Wyoming is realer than real deal holyfield.
- Clemson +4 @South Carolina. I still think Clemson is half decent. They've beaten some good things. They got crushed last week, but they're Clemson, they do that sometimes. Also had a lookahead. And South Carolina isn't built to blow people out.
- Texas Tech +12.5 vs Baylor. I can't not fade Baylor after last week's win, I don't care how bad Tech is.
- Northwestern +6.5 vs Michigan State. Sparty is looking ahead to the B36 championship game, and Northwestern often gives them a game.
- Tennessee -7 @Kentucky. Usually when a favorite drops like this, I'm scared. I'm scared here, but. . . it's Tennessee/Kentucky. The secret knowledge of Vegas insiders can't overrule Tennessee/Kentucky, can it?
- UNLV +16 vs San Diego State. UNLV covers at home. Nine teams have visited in the last two years, and one has covered. I'm convinced that either visiting teams spend too much time partying or visiting teams get talked into point shaving. But whichever it is, I'm rolling with it.
- Minnesota +10.5 vs Illinois. I considered going with Shep on Wake Forest (and for the same reasons), but I decided to go against the Zookers instead. Minnesota usually plays them close at home, and I'm not sure Illinois hasn't given up on ol' Ron.