If you're a regular reader of Locks & Keys, you know these top few paragraphs are mine. In these, you're liable to read about anything from cow piles to football to family happenings.
This week, I just want to talk about the most difficult thing I face on a weekly basis -- feeding my child. I'm seriously the most impatient person in the world, so I leave that little task to my gorgeous wife more often than not, but I have to ask the masses: Is there anything more frustrating than trying to feed a picky 2-year-old?
I remember like it was yesterday the first time we put baby food in Jackson's mouth. We even took pictures. In popped the sweet potatoes, and the look of sheer disgust that spread across that infant's face should have told me all I need to know about how hard it was going to be to feed him. Instead, it got worse. While he'd eat basically anything once he got going on baby food, as a toddler, he won't eat anything.
Here are his basic food groups: Pinto beans, potatoes, pizza, pork [i.e., hot dogs, bologna, bacon, sausage], deli turkey and ham, bread, chocolate and occasionally chicken. That's it. We sometimes have luck getting him to eat baby food green beans and rice, but that in itself is a rarity.
A few weeks ago, a good friend -- a good, single, childless friend -- decided he wanted to suggest to me that he was "concerned" with how we fed Jackson. After I calmed from turning 14 shades of red and told him [at a couple decibels higher than I probably should] that Jackson was in the 90th percentile in height and 50th percentile in weight and doing just perfectly fine, thank you very much, I suggested the next time he comes to the house, he could witness us feeding this little bundle of joy. Or, better yet, he could feed Jackson himself.
After he arrived at our home one weekend and witnessed the nightly two-hour battle of wills, he realized that we are champion parents of the year to simply get anything down our child at all. When it comes to medicine, we basically have put him in a headlock and pry open his screaming mouth with a jaws-of-life grip while coughing and gag reflexes battle against us to get the medicine down.
I totally understand how somebody can look at Jackson's squat, round father and be concerned about his potential eating habits. But the kid is so picky that the only liquid intake he gets on a daily basis is water and milk. He runs around so non-stop [and violently into things] that the caloric burning has to far out-weigh the input of calories.
Do we want him to eat more fruits and vegetables? Boy, wouldn't that make life easier. But after countless nightly minutes of being at wit's end, the fact that he eats anything at all is a minor victory we experience every night.
Picking games, consequently hasn't been nearly as difficult lately. The last thing in the world I want to do is jinx it, but the past three weeks, I'm 15-3 ATS. It's the kind of stretch I've never really enjoyed in my entire life, and I don't recall ever going undefeated in a six-pack [that actually translated into 11-1 in real life **Thanks, Georgia!**] I'm in another stratosphere right now, and all that means is DO NOT DO ANYTHING RASH WITH MY PICKS BELOW!!! I AM BOUND TO COME BACK DOWN TO EARTH SOME TIME. THIS WEEK IS PROBABLY IT!
Seriously, though, in college football this year, I've stuck to what I know. If the line seems too good to be true, it just simply hasn't been in NCAA games. If it seems too good to be true in the NFL, it consistently has been. I've stuck with the "obvious" picks, and it has paid off so far. Now, I'll promptly go 0-6.
Onto the L&K! Where dominance happens.
FIRST, A QUICK LOOK BACK
SHEP'S "There's no way he keeps this up" PICKS
- West Virginia -4 over Texas Tech. So, the ENTIRE NATION is being scared off this game by Vegas, huh? Well played, Vegas. Well played. I don't buy it. In Dana Holgerson I trust, and this number is far, far too low. The Mountaineers don't take weeks off offensively, and Geno Smith is the real deal Holyfield. Now that they've found Andrew Buie [who begged Tennessee for an offer, by the way] this offense has no holes. Tommy Tuberville's Red Raiders led the nation in total defense after playing The Blind Institute of South Dakota, a few guys in a backyard somewhere and an Upward flag football team. Then, they were trounced 41-20 by Oklahoma. Now, suddenly everybody believes they're going to be close with WVU? I don't buy it.
- Kansas State -6.5 over Iowa State. Easily the game I'm most concerned about. This boils down to the fact that I simply believe in Collin Klein. I realize that the Wildcats have narrowly beaten teams with a pulse, but I'm not sure the Cyclones are good. I think they're OK, but I don't think they've got an answer for Klein. If the Wildcats hang onto the football, they'll cover.
- Alabama -21 over Missouri. I totally buy into the "ride-the-juggernaut" philosophy. Bama is fresh coming off a bye week, and the Tigers will be playing a freshman quarterback instead of James Franklin. As well as the Tide disguise coverages, I think this is going to be a LOOOONG day for Mizzou, as they realize 'old man football' is really big-boy-pants football. Bama will win this something like 35-9.
- Florida -8.5 over Vanderbilt. The classic trap game. The numbers are against me. Vandy is 8-0 ATS in its last eight home games. The Gators are coming off an emotional win over LSU last week and have the Battle for the East coming up next week against South Carolina. They are going to be on the road, blah, blah, blah. There are a bunch of reasons why I shouldn't pick them. Now, the reason why I did? The Gators are good. Vanderbilt is not. James Franklin is the Commodores' coach. 'Nuff said.
- Baylor -7 over TCU. First of all, I want to give a kudos to a kid who put himself in a really tough situation. Horned Frogs quarterback Casey Pachall was suspended because of a DWI last week. This week, we hear that he's withdrawn from school to enter a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. I think we all should say a prayer that he gets things straightened out. But where does that put the Toads? Simply put: Not in a good position. Iowa State handled them last week, and without Pachall, that offense is turnover-prone. Baylor can score with the best of them, and they'll put up plenty points to cover.
- Duke +10 over Virginia Tech. There comes a point in every picker's life where you really sit back, take a deep breath and utter, "My gosh, I'm actually picking _______." That happened here. And I'm actually comfortable with it. The Blue Devils are 5-1 with wins over Florida International, NC Central, Memphis, Wake Forest and Virginia. They were blown out by Stanford. But I just think the Hokies are bad. Will Duke win outright? That would be tough to pick. But give me 10 points and I'll run with it.
- Louisville-3 over Pittsburgh: Louisville was off last week and so they'll roll into Pittsburgh with fresh legs to play a football game on a field that isn't three inches deep in standing water. Pittsburgh is coming off a game where they managed a mere 13 points against a Syracuse team that nobody is comparing to the 2001 Miami Hurricanes. Louisville still hasn't played a complete game, which is why they are presently undervalued. This is my favorite play of the week.
- Kansas State-6.5 over Iowa State: The Fighting Collin Kleins are 5-0 against their opponents and 4-1 against the spread. Not too shabby. Ames is a tough road environment, but I think this K-State team is built for success on the road. They are fundamentally sound, well coached, and methodical on offense. And Collin Klein is impervious to hostile road crowds. Fact.
- New Mexico-3 over Hawaii: Flying to the middle of the Pacific Ocean to play a football game is never easy, and I suspect this why the line isn't any higher than it is. But what trumps travel consideration is the fact that Hawaii is just unspeakably bad at the game of football. New Mexico, on the other hand, is vastly improved from last year. They lost by 3 to a Boise State team that would beat Hawaii by four touchdowns without breaking a sweat.
- Duke+10 over Virginia Tech: I seriously think Duke may win this game outright.
- UAB+14 over Houston: I don't think UAB will win this game outright, but this is just way too many points. There are a handful of teams that Houston should be giving 14 points to, but UAB is not one of those teams.
- Central Michigan-1.5 over Navy: This is sort of a situational play, which is rarity for me. Navy flew to Utah; got an emotional overtime victory over Air Force; flew back to Annapolis; and had a short week of practice before flying to Michigan for a Friday night game. I think the Midshipmen will be spent.
- Akron +20.5 over Ohio. Let me preface this by saying that there's nothing I like this week, and you get a who's who of teams I hate least. Akron, as we saw a couple weeks ago, is a live dog with a strong passing attack. Ohio, as you might've noticed the past two weeks, loves playing closer-than-necessary games against bad teams.
- Colorado State +23 over San Diego State. These teams have played unreasonably tight the past few years. Here I'm banking on Colorado State not being nearly as bad as Hawai'i, who lost by 38 here last week, inflating the line a bit. And San Diego State not being better than Fresno State (beat CSU by 21), Utah State (beat CSU by 12), or San Jose State (beat CSU by 20).
- Washington State +7 over Cal. If you don't know what to do, fading Cal off a big win is a good strategy.
- Washington +13 over Southern Cal. The Trogans often struggle in Pacific Northwest road games. That's about all I've got. That and that I still think Wilcox is a good defensive coach.
- Central Michigan -1.5 over Navy. Look, Navy isn't good this year. They managed to play over their heads and win a rivalry game. Then travel cross-country. Then go to Michigan on a Friday night. So they're bad and spent. Give me the team that's just bad. And at home.
- Boise State -7 over Fresno State. Boise is down this year, but they show no mercy to Fresno. Ever. If they can get on top, they'll run all day. Also considered: Alabama, TCU, Iowa State, Louisville, BYU/OSU under.
- Attack the Middle. The Vols have had success this season with crossing patterns to Justin Hunter and throws in the flats to Zach Rogers. With stud cornerbacks Johnathan Banks and Darius Slay, the Bulldogs will probably try to man up with our receivers some, but Tennessee can have success across the middle and in mismatches. One place the Bulldogs really struggle at on defense is defending the middle of the field. Their linebackers are not good in coverage, either, so it would be a nice game for Mychal Rivera to break out. If UT is going to have passing success, they need the quick-strikes in front of the safeties.
- Back to Basics. There is perhaps no better place the bye week helped than on the defensive side of the ball. UT is going to sacrifice three superior athletes for [hopefully] guys who can get lined up correctly and stay at home. Willie Bohannon is going to play over Jacques Smith at Jack LB, though both will play. Freshman LaDarrell McNeil supplants Brent Brewer at strong safety. Former walk-on JaRon Toney will take Eric Gordon's place at the Star corner as Gordon has struggled in man coverage with the quick stuff this year. Do I agree with all the moves? Tough to say. But the Vols are determined to not get gashed, and hopefully this will help. Maybe just going vanilla and inserting what they hope are better base defenders will keep a UT defense that has been pretty good play-in, play-out from giving up the huge, back-breaking play.
- Run, Rajion, Run. In his past two games, Rajion Neal has 255 rushing yards and a couple touchdowns. He is slowing turning into the workhorse the Vols wanted him to be. Though the junior from Fayetteville isn't flashy, he is doing a lot of nice things right now to balance Tennessee's offensive attack. Jim Chaney really called a fantastic game in Athens, and now he has to go into another tough place and keep his play-calling composure with his boss sitting right by his side. Hopefully, we'll try to control this game on the ground and have success doing it.
- Defeat the Heat. It's essential for Tennessee to get off to a good start against a ranked opponent in a hostile, cowbell-clanging environment. If the Bulldogs jump out early, it could get rough. The Vols need to assert that they are the better team early and keep the pressure on all night. If not, I don't think anybody is really confident these Vols can win a close one. However, overcoming and coming out with a road win in this situation is exactly what UT needs to get it going.
- Win the Turnover Battle. This is the toughest bullet of all. With LaDarius Perkins running the ball, Mississippi State has been tough and sound fundamentally. Tyler Russell has done a phenomenal job so far through their cupcake schedule of not doing anything stupid. Thus far, he had 10 touchdowns and just one interception. In two SEC games, Tyler Bray has four touchdowns and five interceptions [four not counting the heave-and-hope at the end of the UGA game]. The Bulldogs are too good a team to give gifts. The Vols really need to shore things up there.