RTT's Locks & Keys Week 5

Jackson_medium 
Jackson showing his game face and Build-A-Bear "Dooley."  He is a cold-blooded gunslinger with a ball in-hand

**

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm back after a one-week hiatus from everybody's favorite feature. Muchos gracias to childwhiskey for filling in for the Fat Kid last week and doing a bang-up job with the Locks & Keys.

Well, what did I miss in a week? [Actually, not much since I was around, only ridiculously busy ...] But you guys missed a lot. Oh yes. Yes you did. Why, you say? Well, you haven't been down in my living room floor with my 13-month-old son, Jackson, have you? Didn't think so. And, boy, let me tell you what you're missing:

In the past week, my child has emerged as easily the best quarterback in the house. The kid's a beast. Just a flat-out monster with the Spongebob ball in-hand. Not only does he stand a menacing height for a 1-year-old, he also packs a punch. Kid goes 32 inches and weighs 26 bills. When he gets pissed, the county knows. But when he flings a ball ... son. I'm telling you what -- I believe in Derek Dooley, and I don't think Tyler Bray will be the last superstar quarterback in Knoxville for the next 17 years, but remember the name, guys. Remember the name --

Jackson Shepard.

Named for Andrew, not Janzen. [Forget about the whole Trail of Tears and give me a break here...] They'll call him Hickory by the time he has grown into the monster he'll be. Mommy knows -- breakables, beware the laser-rocket arm on the toddler.

I'm sure the Vols will have to wrestle him from in-state powers Alabama and Auburn in 2028 -- and he'll take his visits -- but in the end, he'll be a Vol. He'll be about 6-foot-4, 235 and be able to sling it. Mother's height, Daddy's weight, Mother's movie star good looks, Daddy's brains and hand-eye coordination, not to mention love for the sport. Mother's athletic ability.

It's just a matter of time, folks. Remember the name. File it away -- Jackson Shepard -- and we'll get on with the L&Ks. Let's get it on!

Jackanddad_medium

Jackson didn't cry about the Braves like his Da-Da did


First off, let's Take a Gander Backward ...

SHEP'S PICKS

  • I’m stunned to see that the Florida-Kentucky line is only 17 points right now, especially given how nasty the Gators’ defensive front seven looked against the Vols last week coupled with the fact that UK continues to be putrid. Whether that line keeps shrinking or swells to as much as 19, I’d go Gators here. Anything after 20 is getting a bit dicey, though. [Editor's Note: You're "locked in" at 19.5.  That pun was intended]. This game wound up 48-10 and could have been worse. 1-0.
  • The Fire Mark Richt crowd got an off-week with Coastal Carolina, and they’ll be able to save their voices again against Ole Miss, too. We’ll call this one the Lame Duck Bowl because there’s almost no way Houston Nutt’s career deserves salvaging anymore. The Rebel Black Bears are pinning their hopes on Zack Stoudt and his wonderfully hilarious eyebrows, and that’s not going to end well. Dawgs cover 10. The final wound up 27-13, but it would have been worse had Blair Walsh been able to kick himself out of a Grove girl's Dixie cup. 2-0.
  • Maybe I should, but I just can’t completely buy into the Texas A&M-is-a-top-10-team hype. The Aggies can convince me this weekend when they host Oklahoma State in College Station, where they’re a three-point favorite over the visiting Cowboys. I’m completely sold on Mike Gundy’s air-raid offense, though. And I don’t think the Aggies can slow it enough to win the game, much less by three. Okie State wins straight up. Instant Classic and a 30-29 win for the Pokes. 3-0.
  • There’s a considerable buzz around the ACC after Clemson stopped Auburn’s 17-game winning streak last week. Tahj Boyd was awesome against the Tigers from the Plains, and Dabo’s Tigers finally looked a little bit like the fast, frenetic team it has been recruiting to the past three years. But Florida State looked really good, too, against what I believe is the best team in the nation in Oklahoma. Auburn is a far cry from that level. Now, the Noles are only three-point favorites? I don’t get that at all. FSU walks. The surprising Tigers won this one 35-30. This is where you HAVE to do better research. I had no idea EJ Manuel wasn't playing. 3-1.
  • Oregon hasn’t yet looked like the team that played for the national championship in 2010, but almost all those guys are back. Now, they immerse themselves in a Pac-12 schedule where they can truly look dominant again. That starts with an Arizona team that is getting 14 points. I still don’t think that’s enough. The Ducks will cover. For a while, things looked dicey as Zona made an early second-half run, but it didn't matter. Ducks covered, winning 56-31. 4-1.
  • Finally, I’m staying in the SEC because it’s what I know best. One of the most intriguing, under-the-radar games of the weekend pits Vanderbilt against homestanding South Carolina in a game that is shaping up to be a little scary for Steve Spurrier. USCe hasn’t looked like a world-beater this year, and while Vandy hasn’t played a terrific schedule, the Commodores did dispose of last year’s Big East BCS representative UCONN and Ole Miss fairly easily. Now, they get 16 ½ points against Carolina. I don’t think VU wins, but I think it’s much closer than that. Vandy lost 21-3. My Lord. This is what I get for picking Vandy. Embarrassing. Finish 4-2.

    **

    KID B'S PICKS
  • SMU-21.5 @ Memphis:  This is quite obviously a vote of no-confidence tossed in the direction of the Tigers, as opposed to a vote of confidence for the Alma Mater of The Great Great Craig James.  Six in one.  Half dozen the other.  Memphis is bad.  If Memphis played Akron this year in football, there is a decent possibly that this would result in across-the-board cancellation of the entire sport. By now, if you're not picking against Memphis every single week, I cannot help you. They're just Fredi Gonzalez awful. Mustangs won 42-0. 1-0.
  • Arky+12 @ Bama: See, KidB will go on record for important games too (only because he was publicly shamed into doing so).  Arkansas didn't hold up so well for me last week, but I think this is going to be a close game.  Arkansas can score and Petrino has this Magic that he took some classes in (he sees David Blaine and he's like "what's up man, what's happenin'?").  Nick Saban got an A in "defense against the offensive arts" class last year, and even he has trouble with this counter-spell.  Rumor has it that Saban contacted Tyler Bray to get Emma Watson's number for her tips and tricks.  Turns out Tyler is still working on that himself. Eddie Lacy ate Knile Davis. Then he spit him out and roared. Bama looked stinkin awesome in a 38-14 win. Glad I didn't pick this one cuz I thought about it. 1-1.
  • Florida-19.5 @ Kentucky: Sure, I Iiked this game a lot better when it was -17.  Who didn't?  I still like it now, and I would probably still like it if it were -24.  Rationale: Kentucky is abjectly terrible at the game of football.  Next! We've been over this cakewalk for the Gators. 2-1.
  • FSU+2.5 @ Clemson:  So this organization of questionable repute known as the "H2H police" -- which has been known to roam around these parts -- may or may not have unlawfully coerced alleged persons into ranking Auburn at #5 (is that right?) in our SEC power poll, even after Auburn lost to Clemson by 14.  Yes yes, even after Auburn lost to the same Clemson team that barely eeked out a victory against Wofford.  Let the record reflect, ladies and gentlemen, that I don't even know where Wofford is, and indeed that I only know where Clemson is because the answer was inadvertently inserted into the blank space on the answer sheet.  Seminoles prevail with or without starting QB. So, Dabo Swinney got us both, eh. You win, Dabo. You always do. Well, except all those times you didn't. 2-2.
  • tOSU-15 vs. Colorado: I may or may not be talking myself out of this one even as I type the words.  Oh well, such line of reasoning would have served me well last weekend. How bad are the Buffs when the The beat them by 20? That's just gross. 3-2.
  • Notre Dame-6.5 @ Pitt:  When I look over at Pitt's sideline and I don't see that substantially furry 'stache, I see hopelessness.  Utter hopelessness and darkness and despair.  Oh yeah, I also see a 6-point MOV over Maine.  I have no idea what conference Maine is in, I have no idea what Maine's mascot is, and if you would have told me 3 weeks ago that Maine did not have a football team, I would not have even argued that point.  And these are the factors that matter.  Yep, KidB's picks is the only spot where you're gonna get this type of hard-hitting analysis.  Once it hits your lips it's so gooood.  Fill it up again! Remember when Brian Kelly was thought of as an offensive genius? Good times. 15-12 wins over Pitt don't necessarily go far in aiding that reputation. But this win looks a lot better after Pitt did something ND couldn't do on Thursday -- beat South Florida. 3-3.

    **

    I_S's PICKS
  • Auburn -32 vs FAU. Tigers ready to get last week's taste out of their mouths, and FAU is the perfect opponent. We all know Auburn will score, and against Michigan State, FAU had one first down. One. Might get their first TD of the year, but it won't matter. The Tigers only won 30-14, and it felt like a loss to a lot of folks down here. One of the worst offensive teams in the country put up 400 yards of total offense. Gross. 0-1.
  • Florida -17 @Kentucky. Or whatever it is now. Kentucky is awful this year. Florida always comes to Lexington in a sandwich spot, and it never matters. Betting it won't again this year. [Editor's Note: for uniformity, and because this line moved pretty early, we're all going to take it at 19.5] We all loved this line. 1-1.
  • Troy -12.5 @MTSU. Like UF/UK, this one is like clockwork. Troy is always sky-high for the MTSU game, and Stockstill doesn't know how to handle a bye week. Troy barely won this one -- 38-35 -- and the Blue Raiders look pretty good. They may not be a UT-pushover come November. 1-2.
  • Maryland -9 vs Temple. Rough finish for the Owls last week. Hard to imagine them having a lot left against an improving Terps squad. Temple just flat-out destroyed the turtles. 38-7. I really hope Buffalo is much, much worse than its MAC brother. 1-3.
  • Western Michigan +12 @Illinois. The Zookers had a nice win over a ranked team last week, and they have a rivalry game next week. Sandwich special! Helluva pick here. The Illini sputtered to its best record in 50 years at 4-0, but it had to settle for a 23-20 win over the Broncos in the process. 2-3.
  • Texas A&M -4 vs Oklahoma State. If KidB will go out on an important limb, so will I. After all, it was Texas A&M or Kansas State. Last year's game looked pretty dominant by the Aggies, except for the part where they turned it over roughly 23 times for a three point loss. This year, it's at home and they have revenge on their minds. Also, S-E-C! S-E-C! S-E-C! Na-na-nah-boo-boo, stick your head in doo-doo. 2-4.


    ***

  • TOTALS: I had more picks than both these guys two weeks ago, but we'll still count em. In three weeks, I'm now 13-9. Kid is 9-9. And I_S is now 7-11.

    **
FIVE KEYS FOR TENNESSEE [To have a successful showing, since I think we're definitely going to win regardless...]
  • Replace the Irreplaceable. Nobody expects the Vols to be able to produce another super talent like Justin Hunter from its crop of second-teamers. After all, Hunter is the most talented receiver in UT history [yes, I said it.] But the Vols need to find somebody [somebodies] to pick up some slack. Bray is still UT's top weapon, and he needs folks to throw it to. Buffalo is a confidence-builder for a brutal October, and secondary weapons must emerge.
  • Get Serious About the Run Game. I know the argument can be made that "Why would we care whether we dominate on the ground when we're probably not going to beat any October opponents on the ground, anyway." That doesn't matter. What matters is this team getting some swagger back, and nothing would make the linemen smile bigger than a big day on the ground. UT will likely play more Devrin Young and maybe Tom Smith, so we may get to see just who cares enough to make this broken thing work.
  • Settle On a Secondary Rotation. I believe that Terry Joseph and UT are playing too many players in the secondary. When you have THAT many guys who can play, nobody can really get in a rhythm. I expect there to be a lot of different faces out there again when the Bulls come to town, but Joseph needs to find the guys with which he's comfortable. Izueau Lanier and Justin Coleman expect to get a lot of playing time. Brian Randolph and Byron Moore should see more. The coaches need to settle on 6-7 and roll with them in October.
  • Unleash the Dynamo. I'll admit, I'm a little giddy. It was painfully obvious against Florida that UT doesn't have many quick, speedy weapons. Local product Devrin Young will be on the field for the first time this weekend, and he'll bring with him the hopes of being a difference-maker in space. Whether he is active in the return game, run game, catching passes or gunning on kick and punt teams, Young will be out there. You can tell how much Dooley loves him. We'll see if he lives up to the hype. He has to provide a wrinkle.
  • Stay Healthy. Mo Couch is banged up. Hunter is gone. Lathers likely won't be back for UGA. So, it's essential that UT makes it through this game major injury free. With UGA, LSU, Bama and USCe looming, the Vols need to be as full-speed as possible, especially without Hunter. Play this game in bubble wrap if need be. Just preserve the chief guys in the rotation. Vols roll 34-10.

    **

    NOW, ONTO THE LOCKS

    SHEP'S PICKS

    Had a pretty good week picking games, finishing at 4-2, and I'm going to ride the Manuel excuse that I'd have stayed away from that FSU game had I known he was out. Alas, that's why you've got to do research, so we'll go with this week's educated guesses. Tough lines this week.
  • Alabama -4.5 at Florida. In my heart, I want to believe that Florida is just really good and we played them almost punch-for-punch without our best player. Really, I think they're a flawed team in the secondary and in the running game. Bama, well, the Tide are just unfortunately awesome. It'll be a hostile environment, but I think UA wins by 7-10.
  • Baylor -4 at Kansas State. Saw a statistic last week that Robert Griffin III has more touchdown passes than incompletions this season. That's just insane. Whatever the Bears are selling down there [and it's probably plenty with Lache Seastrunk ready to come in, if you know what I mean...] I'm buying. Take the Bears.
  • Clemson +7 at Virginia Tech. They burned me last week, and every fiber of me is saying "THEY'RE STILL CLEMSON. STAY AWAY" but I just can't. I know it's at night at Lane, but I love this Sammy Watkins kid, and I think Tahj Boyd is playing terrific football this year. This game will be real close, but I think the Tigers cover.
  • SMU +13 at TCU. I've said it and said it, and it has been fruitful for me so far this season -- the Horned Frogs are still a good football team. I like June Jones' offense, and I know the Mustangs can make some things happen there, but this game just feels like a frog walk.
  • Utah State +8 at BYU. After a stunning 54-10 thumping at the hands of Utah, the Mormons got a lot better last week in a 24-17 win over a pretty good Central Florida team. Eventually, Jake Heaps has to start living up to the hype, so I like the Cougars here.
  • Cincinnati -15 at Miami Ohio. Stunningly, a normally pretty good Red Hawks team is 0-3 after losses to Missouri, Bowling Green and Minnesota. And they're only getting 15 against a dynamic Cincy offensive team? While I believe Miami is a pretty good team with a tough schedule, I don't think they stay that close. Bearcats cover.

    KID B'S PICKS

    It appears that I went 3-3 last week.  2-4 + 4-2 + 3-3 == 9-9 == .500.  Which does not equal bragging rights.  If I go undefeated this week I'll be at 15-9, which is a much more respectable 62.5%.  Unfortunately, two of my favorite games of the week were last night (tonight...Thursday night), but this is a Friday post and so those are the breaks.  No worries, I think can still find a path to 6-0.
  • LA-Lafayette-9 @ FAU:  Hey guys, I like Howard Schnellenberger too. The pipe.  That booming voice.  Coolness epitomized.  Plus my parents are Louisville grads, and so I even have a bit of a Schnellenberger connection.  So this isn't personal; it's business. FAU sucks, and this spread should be about 21.
  • Notre Dame-12 @ Purdue: The Domers didn't cover for me last week, but I'm going back to them because the bottom four teams in the B1G are dreadful dreadful dreadful and dreadful....and Purdue is one of those teams.  Notre Dame should open this one up against a Purdue team that no longer has Drew Brees playing the quarterback position.
  • Arkansas State -13.5 at Western Kentucky: Hugh Freeze is my homeboy. 
  • Team-that-plays-memphis-22.5 vs. Memphis:  I'm not just gonna voluntarily step off this gravy train.  
  • Northern Illinois-9 at Central Michigan:  For those of you aren't familiar with the Michigan directional schools, the quick summary this year is that they get worse as they move closer to the Atlantic Ocean.   The slightly more nuanced answer is that Central Michigan is just a little bit better than Eastern Michigan, who is still just impeccably bad at the game of football.  Northern Illinois has taken a slight step back from last year when they were juggernautin' all over the miggadda miggadda MAC, but do notice that word 'slight'.  The Huskies win this one comfortably.
  • Fighting Zookers-8 vs. the team quarterbacked by the Legendary Dan "droplets of his perspiration cured 7 uncurable diseases" Persa: My goal is to go 6-0 this week, and I indicated that I would be choosing games solely for the purpose of achieving that end.  Well, perhaps that statement was only 83% true.  This game I am choosing because, after Illinois covers, I will proceed to subject my esteemed lock-picking colleague I_S to a seemingly endless stream of Dan Persa jokes. I already have several jotted down. 


    I_S's PICKS



    Yeah, 2-4 last week. Don't rub it in. But remember how I said it was either Texas A&M or Kansas State for my last pick? Can we just pretend it was Kansas State? Pretty please. Anyways, on to digging out of holes.
  • Florida Atlantic +10 @ULL. Florida Atlantic rolls over for BCS teams and then is sometimes almost decent in Sun Belt play. Also, sandwich special for ULL (FIU last week, Troy next week)! Yes, I also picked Oregon State and Kentucky this week. Don't judge.  
  • Rutgers +3 @Syracuse. Rutgers is improved this year, and Syracuse isn't. I'll take the better team catching points. 
  • New Mexico State -1.5 @New Mexico. New Mexico State is better anyways, and New Mexico just fired their coach. Good timing, that. For me at least.  
  • Virginia Tech -7 vs Clemson. Clemson has had big, emotional wins over big-name teams two weeks in a row. Now they have to play a third tough game in a row? At night in Blacksburg? Give me the Hokies, please.  
  • Boise State -15 vs Nevada (1H). They've been a little banged up, and they might pull players out early if they get a big lead. But this is Boise's Super Bowl this year, after what happened at the end of last year. Broncos score early and often. 
  • Georgia Tech -10 @NC State. As KidB said, NIU should destroy Central on the road. Just not as bad as Georgia Tech destroys NC State on the road. You realize how many defensive linemen and linebackers the 'Pack are missing to injury? Against an option team.
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