RTT's Locks & Keys Week 3

It's everybody's favorite weekend primer, and it's FLORIDA WEEK!! We all know ours the only game on the schedule this weekend, so it's going to be very tough to even take a sneak peek around the country, but here at the L&K, we're going to try.

Also this week, we've got kidbourbon and I_S along with us to make their locks for the week, you know, if we were actually condoning putting actual money on games. Along that same vein, once you see where we wound up last week, you wouldn't do that anyway.

Before we get to UT's keys to victory, several of which Will hit on this morning, let's take a look back at how we did on the locks last week. Also from this week forward, we'll limit the locks to six a piece this week. So, we'll start counting against each other beginning this week. Not because I lost more, but because we'll all have the same numbers beginning this week. [OK, it's my column, and part of it is because I lost more...]

A NOT-SO QUICK LOOK BACK

Shep's locks:

  • That seat Mark Richt is sitting on? It'll be bright red and steaming after this week. Georgia lost, and that seat is toasty. Win.
  • All the white-out in the world won't be able to erase what Alabama is going to do in Happy Valley. Doesn't matter how hostile that environment is, it won't will the Nittany Lions to a win. Alabama ran away with it, though it wasn't pretty. Win.
  • If you're not taking Iowa only favored by 6.5 over Iowa State, you're missing a stone-cold opportunity. This Iowa team is going to battle with Wiscy for the Big T1en2. Let's pretend this didn't happen. ISU won straight-up. Loss.
  • This entire week, I've had to hear Auburn fans talk about how good a season Utah State is going to have. This week starts a reality check on the Plains. There's just too much youth for this to be a very good team this year, but AU has a bright future. Somehow, Auburn continues to be lucky. Loss.
  • Texas is going to struggle with BYU, but I don't think Jake Heaps and his crew have enough offense to pull an upset. Was dead-on here. Texas won in a squeaker. Win.
  • If a game is played in the Big House at night and nobody cares, does it make a blip on the college football radar? I'm so sick of having to hear about Notre Dame week after week after week no matter how bad they are. But they're still going to win in Ann Arbor. Thank you, epic debacle. Maybe ND needs to erect a Prevent Jesus. Loss.
  • Maybe Hawaii doesn't belong in the Pac 12. But the Warriors will be 2-0 in that conference after this weekend's upset win over 6-point favorite Washington. This isn't shaking out so well. 3 and 4 on the first seven picks.
  • Kentucky barely survived against Western Kentucky last week, but the Cats won't have as much trouble against Central Michigan.  UK kind of regained its mojo against bad opponents. Win.
  • Mizzou is ranked 21st in the country. Arizona State is unranked. And favored over the Tigers by 7.5 points. I don't trust that at all.  Lost this one, too. Can we finish even ...?
  • TCU is only a 1.5 point favorite over Air Force this week, and the Falcons are all of a sudden a trendy upset pick? I don't get it.  Whew. At least we broke even. TCU walked with this one, 35-19.

    5-5 finish.

Kidbourbon's locks:

  • Houston is playing a High School team named North Texas this week. They are favored by a mere 22 at last glance, but will have no difficulty covering that spread. Heck they could cover it in the first half. The Cougars won this one 48-23, thus covering the 22. But KB's halftime score didn't work out so well [20-17 Houston at the break] Ah well, the end result is what matters. Win.
  • Penn State won’t be able to score on Bama. Bama’s offense may not be as good as last year, but it’s certainly good enough to get 30 on the board, which will triple the spread. Not that I"m calling for a triple covered spread. Mere coverage will do, and Bama will provide not just mere coverage by Verizon 4G coverage. You talk too much Kid! Bama didn't get 30, winning 27-11. But it did cover. Win.
  • TCU isn’t losing twice in a row, and Air Force isn’t in the same league athletically as Baylor. TCU covers with room to spare. See above. Win.
  • Mississippi State is going to give Auburn their proper whuppins. Ahhh, caught us both. Loss blemishes perfection.
  • Stanford-20.5 against Duke, a team that lost last week to Richmond, former home of Dave Clawson. This spread should probably be 30. I see now this means war. If we're going by the craziest spreads, I shouldn't just pick the big games but the easy ones : ) Win.
  • Iowa-6.5 just because Iowa St. is horrendous. Tripped on another one that got me. Loss.

    KB finished 4-2. Not shabby.

I_S's locks:

  • Washington State is getting better. But they don’t have to be better to ground UNLV into dust away from Las Vegas. Starting their backup quarterback? No problem. They’ll cover the 14. This was a breeze and a 59-7 win.
  • Ball State may not get a second consecutive BCS scalp, but USF is vulnerable coming off a big win, and BSU keeps it much closer than the Bulls would like. Stays inside 21.5. Maybe Skip Holtz's Bulls are for real. USF walked 37-7. Loss.
  • Houston will have no trouble scoring on North Texas, but their defense will let anybody get their points. Whether or not they cover the number, this game is soaring over the 64 total. Teams combined for 71, so that's another V for I_S.
  • Boston College and Charleston Southern are different teams. BC will remind UCF about defense this week as they take this one down to the wire as an underdog of 7.5. The Knights obliterated BC 30-3. Remember when we lamented Chase Rettig spurning UT for BC? Yeah, good times. 2-2.
  • Florida Atlantic is the cure for what ails an offense, but Michigan State is focusing on Notre Dame and won’t notice all the free points laying on the field. They may win by 4 TDs, but they won’t cover 32.5. Not only did MSU destroy FAU 44-0, they held the Owls to less than 50 yards.
  • Jerry Kill will provide a second week of evidence that he was a good hire, as the Gophers blow by New Mexico State and cruise past the 18.5 number. Not only did New Mexico State pull a 28-21 stunner, Kill went to the hospital after a sideline seizure. [Nervous about the reverse jinx of the Locks & Keys now...]


    I_S went 2-4. Shepardian numbers.

Onto the keys ...

FIVE KEYS FOR UT

  • Apply Offensive Pressure. If the Vols win the toss, they should take the ball. And score a touchdown. And keep it up, carrying the fight by ramping up tempo. UT does not need to try to establish the run in this game but keep the pedal to the metal, because I don't believe Florida can hang in a shootout with John Brantley back there. Sure, running some successfully would be nice, but not necessary. If the game bogs down, the Vols are vulnerable. Let Florida feel like if they punt, they're sacrificing a score. It's easier said than done, but this is a game for the Vols to make names for themselves. Let Tyler Bray and his receivers dictate tempo, and they should be able to if the next key occurs ...
  • Pick Up the Blitz. I'm firmly in the camp that if the Gators allow Bray time to throw the ball, Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers will be picking peanuts off the heads of UF's inexperienced and undersized cornerbacks. Those guys are talented and fast, but so are our receivers -- to go along with being big. This UT offensive line has been excellent in pass blocking this year, and Bray was hardly touched against Cincinnati. But we haven't faced the Gators. So much talent. So much speed. You know Will Muschamp is going to run a bunch of different stems and stunts against UT, trying to confuse the line and get to Bray. With all the talent on that defensive line, that could cause problems for the Vols. The line has to be up to the formidable challenge.
  • Big Orange Amnesia.  Once this young edition of the Vols goes out there, they need to completely forget where they are. Jacques Smith told the media this week that playing at Neyland Stadium is more nerve-wracking than playing on the road, but he's never been to the Swamp. Bray and crew don't seem concerned about playing in this environment at all -- and that's a good thing. But there WILL be times when they get rattled, when the crowd gets deafening, when they have to audible, etc. UT has to play this game like the Vols are at home. But they have to adjust on the fly when they can't hear themselves think. This is where I think youth is an advantage going in. But once the game starts, it's the coaching that has to shine through and be followed through on.
  • Secure the Ball. This cannot be stressed enough. The Vols laid the ball on the ground six times against Montana, and it didn't hurt them. Against a better team like Cincinnati, they lost both fumbles they had. Against Florida, that will probably be even worse. So, UT must hang onto the football. I figure Bray is going to make a mistake or two in this one, so it's essential that our ball carriers, returners, etc., not put the ball on the ground. Florida is too good to give additional opportunities.
  • Dump Demps and Tell Rainey 'Time to Die.' Isaiah Pead is a more complete runner than either of these guys, but that doesn't mean they can't hurt you. They can. Bigtime. This is probably the two fastest running backs the Vols will face all year. It's essential that the linebackers stay in their gaps, the ends contain the edges and the cornerbacks get off their blocks and make tackles on sweeps and swing passes. One miss -- like Daryl Vereen did with Pead last week -- and these guys can house it. It's almost a foregone conclusion that UT will give up a big play or two. Really, really need to minimize those to win. I don't think Brantley can beat us.

FINALLY, HERE ARE THIS WEEK'S SIX LOCKS FROM SHEP, KIDBOURBON AND I_S

Shep's Picks:

  • I know that the Vols have historically stunk and sunk in the Swamp, but getting nearly 10 points against a team I don't think is that good is too good to be true for an explosive offense. Call me a homer if you will, but I'm taking UT and the points. I think we win outright, but just for column purposes, I'll keep the 9.5 cushion.
  • In the most colorful battle of the weekend, Texas and UCLA, ahem, "clash," in a game that would have been awesome back in 1998. Now, it's about as meh as you get. Why the Horns are ranked, I'll never know, but they're only 3 1/2 point favorites over a Bruins team that is simply atrocious. Texas covers.
  • Arkansas has scored 50-plus points in consecutive games for the first time since 1928. Now, all of a sudden, they're only expected to win by 23 against Troy? Nuh-uh. Arkansas is much better than Clemson, and the Tigers whipped Troy 43-19 to start the season. Easy [monopoly] money on the Hogs here.
  • Listen, I'm completely bought-in to Jimbo Fisher and what he's building at Florida State. The Noles are tough and young and deep and good. But they are a year away from being in the title picture. Meanwhile, Oklahoma is probably one of the three best teams in the country. I think the Sooners will cruise to cover the 3.5 point spread, and people will start calling the Noles overrated at No. 5. You know what? They are. But that doesn't change the soaring direction of the program.
  • We don't have to go far from the pick above to find probably the biggest lock of the week. Oklahoma State is ranked ninth in the nation and is an offensive juggernaut. Yet for some reason, the Golden Hurricanes are only a 13.5 point dog. Guz Malzahn ain't there anymore, people. This Tulsa team lost 47-14 in the opening week to Oklahoma, and there's no reason to believe this score vs. the Cowboys won't be much the same.
  • Notre Dame is not a good football team. We all know this now as the Irish stands at 0-2. Michigan State, meanwhile is ranked 17th and has been a defensive stalwart all season. So, why do I think the Irish is going to not only win but cover the 5.5 points? Honestly, I have no idea. But I do. Call it a gut feeling, which I guess isn't exactly a "lock" but we'll gamble a little just to juice things up. That's the name of the game, after all.

KidB's Picks:

  • Tennessee is getting 9.5 points handed to them by the Fighting Muschamps.  Now, I knew this line would be really high.  In fact, I predicted -- to one of my fellow contestants, in fact -- that the line would be double digits.  So I'm not shocked that this line is that high.  I just think I understand the reason (public perception fueled solely by past success of a particular fabric color), and it is not a reason that I myself put a whole lot of stock into.  Vols to the wall, baby.  #nohomer
  • The mighty mighty Fighting Case Keenums -- fighting out of the hometown of the man who won a gold medal in 1968 in The Sweet Science's heaviest division and is now most commonly identified with fat-reducing grilling machines -- are playing against Louisiana Tech.  Houston can score, and score a lot.  They are favored by a mere 7 points against a team that I actually can't tell you a single thing about.  And this isn't because I'm being secretive.  Okay, I actually do know one thing: Louisiana Tech was formerly coached by a fella named Derek Dooley.  So they got that going for them, which is nice.  But I'm still going with Houston here.
  • Alabama is presently favored by 47 points against North Texas, a team that I described last week as "a high school team".  Well, that description hasn't changed, but I'm going with the high school team here just because 47 points is a lot of gosh darn points.  And whenever I'm picking games against the spread for entertainment purposes only, I try to keep in mind that great teams aren't always great at covering spreads.  For instance, if Bama were playing Boise State tomorrow, I think Bama would beat Boise State.  And if Boise State were playing North Texas tomorrow and the spread was 47, I am quite confident Boise State would cover that spread.  I do not, however, think Bama will cover this spread.  And that's my final answer.
  • Oklahoma State is giving 13.5 points to Tulsa.  RTT locals have likely surmised by now that I am a big big fan of teams that can score.  It's true.  I am.  And Oklahoma State, ladies and gentlemen, these cats can scooooooooore.  Indeed, this team shares some similarities with our beloved Vols.  And, believe you me, if our beloved Vols were playing Tulsa tomorrow and were favored by a mere 13.5 points, I would trust in the magic wand that sometimes also referred to as Tyler Bray's right arm.  By extension, I have faith in the Fighting Boone Pickens' ability to cover this spread against this in-state quasi-rival.  (hold on, Tulsa is from the state of Oklahoma...right?).
  • Hawaii-18 @ UNLV.  UNLV is bad, ladies and gentlemen.  They aren't quite as bad as Memphis, but they're still pretty much horrendous.   
  • Arkansas-23 vs. some guy named Troy.  Certainly Arkansas can cover a 23 point spread against one guy.  I mean, how good could this Troy fella be on defense all by himself?
I_S's Picks:

  • Tennessee getting 9.5 from Florida? I sound like the Kid, but it's gonna be all Vols. Or at least Tennessee will keep it within a touchdown. Tyler Bray is going to get his, and this won't be the blowout that we've seen the last couple years. The Vols will have a chance to win in the 4th quarter. 
  • Virginia always manages to play great games in Chapel Hill. Last time here, they won 16-3 as a double digit underdog. I can't explain this, but it keeps happening. Also, Mike London is a good coach, and they're in the mythical year two. UVA comes to my campus and stays within 10.5. I won't be there, because it kicks off at the same time as another game in which I'm a bit more interested. Hint: it involves orange pants. 
  • Do first half lines count? Because Boise State will be beating Toledo by more than 10.5 at halftime. They get early jumps on the road. That's what they do. Even when they lost to Nevada last year, they led 24-7 at half.
  • Arizona State just beat Missouri on national TV. They rushed the field. Next week, they go to Los Angeles to face the mighty Trogans of Southern California. So they can be forgiven for not paying full attention to a cross-country road trip to take on the Fighting Zookers. This is the kind of game Ron Zook wins. And win he will, as a 1 point favorite. 
  • Yeah, I know, I'm betting against a streak. But when you have one team that struggled in a lookahead game and another that won a huge, emotional victory as a home underdog, it's clear where the value lies. And that's in Clemson as a three point favorite against Auburn. Seriously, people were offering offseason lines closer to 10. All Purple Tigers. *ducks*.
  • Yeah, Syracuse barely beat Rhode Island last week. But you know who's the king of barely beating teams? Lane Kiffin. Also, Syracuse plays better on the road. Or they did last year. Look it up. And Southern Cal faces a tough division game with Sparky next week. So I'll take 'Cuse and 17 points, thank you very much.
Got all that? Me neither. If you've read all this, go shave. It's been a couple days.

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