Brad's working 'til midnight all week and my department has a conference starting this evening, so Locks & Keys are short and sweet this week. Which, let's face it, still means this baby will probably be 3,000 words. We're loquacious, verbose, and even wordy. It's our lot in life. Without further
adieu Adu ado, LOCKS & KEYS.
A LOOK BACK
- 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. [Western Bulldogs cruise past Kentucky. Who doesn't? 1-0]
- 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. [We believe that we've somehow turned back into Clemson. Midnight happens. 1-1]
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. [Prayers are answered in the negative. And it's not really a good football game. 1-2]
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. [Bad time to bet on late-season fades: South Carolina didn't start theirs either. Arkansas probably lucky to even win. 1-3]
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. [Cal still can't play road games, and the country's hottest seat gets cooler. Bruins roll. 1-4]
- 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. [Okie State covers with ease, and the Clawfence doesn't even win. Begin to hate, but don't let it ruin the Clawdenfreude. 1-5]
- 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. [Don't start playing extra hard, but make up late to win by 10. 1-0]
- 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. [Comfortable. Because it's Kentucky. 2-0]
- Arkansas-10 @ Vanderbilt: I don't think this game will be close. Vandy can't put points on the board, and Arkansas can. [What the Vandy offense? 2-1]
- 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. [Hail Mary goes the wrong way for Wisky two weeks straight. 2-2]
- 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. [Fixed again. 2-3]
- South Carolina-3.5 @ Tennessee: Sorry guys. I'll believe it when I see it. [Don't believe it yet. 3-3]
- Indiana +9 vs Northwestern. Northwestern is a terrible road favorite. Indiana is an underrated home underdog. Put 'em together. . . [Forgot about this dude that plays for Northwestern and HIS NAME IS DAN PERSA! 0-1]
- 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? [If you did, you were wrong. ISU wins 41-7. That has to be extra credit, right? 1-1]
- 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. [Strong's bunch hold Louisville to 10, and the cover and under both come through with ease. 2-1]
- UNLV +3 vs Colorado State. UNLV's home/road splits are among the most extreme in college football. So are Colorado State's. [Rebs ride home field to a narrow upset. 3-1]
- 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. [Apparently, Dantonio didn't ask Michigan State to play anybody. All Huskers. 4-1]
- 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. [Nice set of choices. ND, ASU, and UCF win by an average score of 45-9. Irish do their part, shutting down the option and putting up 56 of their own. 5-1]
Shep drops to 28-23-1, a respectable 55%. Kid moves to 19-32-1, improving slightly to 37%. I_S finally moves above the coin flip, at 26-25-1, 51%.
FIVE KEYS FOR TENNESSEE
- Treatin' With A Beatin'. Even though the Vols have had a rough season, one thing -- at least -- that we can look at and feel good about is the fact that we've dominated the teams we're supposed to dominate. That's a small, insignificant consolation prize, sure, but it sure beats losing to Wyoming or barely playing with UAB. Middle Tennessee is not a good football team, nowhere near what it has been the past couple of years. This should not be a game UT has any trouble winning. It would be nice to have a confidence game for Worley and a game where the team can search for some new playmakers in the second half. Just stay focused and take care of business.
- Put Training Wheels on the Playcalling: We all loved watching the precision and aggressive moxie that was a Tyler Bray aerial show. And we all hope to see that again very soon. . . from Tyler Bray. We don't, however, want to see Justin Worley trying to do his best impression of Tyler Bray. An ambitious playcalling itinerary does nobody any favors. . . except perhaps MTSU. Keep things simple. Vanilla. Short passes. Dump-offs to Lane. Screens to Young. Short tosses to Rivera. We DO want to see Justin Worley throwing some passes, but let's make sure he masters Algebra II before diving in to Differential Equations.
- Support the
MunicipalityJustin Worley. Watch the first half last week, and you'll see Justin Worley looking extremely jittery early but settling in with some nice throws in the second quarter. In the third quarter, it went south quickly. With the Vols trailing, he forced a couple throws and was rewarded with a couple interceptions. My question: how does it affect his confidence (and need to force throws) if Da'Rick Rogers doesn't drop a perfect throw that should've given the Vols a touchdown and a halftime lead? When you have a freshman quarterback, the guys around him need to make plays, make him look good, keep him confident. That means Tauren Poole and Marlin Lane need to hit holes hard, Da'Rick Rogers, Zach Rogers, and DeAnthony Arnett need to run good routes and catch passes, and the offensive line needs to protect. Don't give Worley a reason to lose his mojo.
- Speaking of Playmakers... I'll keep writing this until it happens: We absolutely need to find a way to get Devrin Young touches on offense. The entire stadium holds its breath when he receives a kick or a punt. He's dynamic, and how long has it been since we had somebody like him? LaMarcus "The Toker" Coker? Why don't we have a Dynamo Devrin package? Why can't we run him in the Wildcat or fling a bubble screen out to him? It's time to get him involved. He's too good to stand on the sideline.
- Keep The Defensive Pedal Down. That was a pretty good team the Vols ripped two turnovers away from last weekend. Sure, UT didn't convert Prentiss Waggner's interception and 50-plus yard return or Brian Randolph's strip into points, but that was an element we've not seen all year from this group. The Vols are entering a do-or-die stretch that isn't necessarily a given that will result in bowl eligibility. They desperately need some takeaways and big plays defensively. That starts here. Whether it be a pick-six, a game-changing interception or a big fumble recovery or two, it's time we saw this team make its own breaks.
- Mississippi -2 over Kentucky. There is one thing I really, REALLY like about Houston Nutt's Rebels this season: They aren't Kentucky. Last week, the Wildcats played against the other Mississippi SEC team, and it happened to be the only game I won. I'll stay with the only hot hand I have.
- Alabama -5 over LSU. It's the biggest game of the weekend -- maybe of the season -- and therefore I cannot get myself to shy away from it. I probably have no business picking this game, but I really believe that the Crimson Tide are at least a touchdown better than Lesticle's boys. Matter of fact, two weeks ago, I picked UA by double-digits. Not so sure about that now -- and it's hard to pick against Miles' guts in a big game -- but I think this Bama team is going to win the national championship. I'll be happy to be wrong.
- Oregon -16.5 over Washington. The last time the Huskies played a high-scoring Pac-12 team, I figured they would hang closer than three touchdowns against Stanford. The Cardinal promptly scored 59 points and ran UDub out of the stadium. The Ducks are healthier than they've been in a long time, and while Sark is doing well in the Pacific Northwest, he doesn't have the horses yet to keep this one close.
- Stanford -21 over Oregon State. Speaking of Andrew Luck and the boys, I am stunned this line is only three touchdowns. Maybe I'm wrong -- and I know this is prime territory for an off week after such an emotional win over USC last week -- but I think the Cardinal sleepwalks to this line.
- Oklahoma State -21 over Kansas State. Bill Snyder's Wildcats are for REAL, right? Right? Well, in a 41-point slaughtering by the Sooners last week, they sure didn't look like it. I was scared off by the three-touchdown favorite Cowboys over Baylor last week, and it's one reason why I had such a horrible week. I hope I didn't break my streak by taking a week off. This is my third big-line gamble.
- Oklahoma -13.5 over Texas A&M. The wheels may be about ready to come off the Aggies after their third loss of the season last weekend against Missouri. The Sooners had their one big letdown two weeks ago, and they've got their offense re-clicking against a defense that has struggled all year. I like Oklahoma to cover and round out the favorites sweep of the week.
- USC-21.5 @ Colorado: If USC's offense even loosely resembles what I saw against Stanford last weekend, they should roll the Buffs without a great deal of difficulty. Colorado is getting some guys back on offense who were out with injuries, and I think this is what is keeping the line from being even higher. But (a) it isn't clear that these guys (a receiver and a RB) are going to be at full strength, and (b) they weren't much better when they had them in the lineup
- New Mexico State +33 at Georgia: This one came down from 34.5 after a trio of Dawgs -- a key trio, to be fair -- were suspended for the game for hanging out with Janzen Jackson. I like the bigger number better, but I also like hearing that a walk-on will be getting the carries. Last year this wouldn't have mattered -- New Mexico State and New Mexico were both as dreadful as New Mexico remains -- but this year's version of the Aggies is like a full standard deviation better than last year's outfit, and can actually score points. They'll put about 14-17 on the board against the Dawgs, and this will be plenty enough for the cover.
- Notre Dame-13.5 at Wake Forest: I have this sneaking suspicion that Notre Dame is actually pretty good at football.
- Stanford-21 @ Oregon State: There is really no reasonable basis for believing that Stanford puts fewer than 45 on the board against the Beavs. There is, on the other hand, a substantially reasonable basis for believing that Oregon State puts less than 20 on the board against the Cardinal. Doing the math...
- MTSU+20.5 @ Tennessee: Deep down in places I don't talk about at parties, I worry about us winning this game straight up.
- Houston-28 @ UAB: The best defense is scoring again. Especially when the team you're playing isn't so good at scoring. And this Houston team, to put it mildly, is on a roll.
- Colorado +21.5 vs Southern Cal. So Southern Cal loses a huge upset bid in the third overtime, and now you expect them to stay focused for a Friday night game against an abysmal Colorado team? Let alone keep their legs for 60 minutes at altitude? I don't.
- Oregon State +21 vs Stanford. Mike Riley is usually good for an o.O win late in the season. I don't think this is it. But Stanford just game off a triple-overtime win, and their whole season rides on next week's game against Oregon. If they can stay focused this week, they are truly special.
- New Mexico State +33 @Georgia. The Aggies have scored fewer than 24 just once this year, and Georgia is coming off an emotional win over a hated rival and looking forward to a revenge game against another hated rival. It makes me a little nervous when I agree with a chalk guy like the Kid on an underdog selection (see: Washington/Stanford, Tennessee/Florida. . . ), but the situational player in me can't ignore this spot.
- Iowa +4 vs Michigan. Michigan struggled mightily against the only competent defense they've played this year. Iowa's defense, I think, is competent. And on "buy low" principles, is there a better time to hop on the Hawkeye bandwagon?
- Kansas +14 vs Iowa State. Kansas is soooooooooo bad. But so are Oregon State and Colorado, so I'll just plug my nose and make the pick. Iowa State won by 34 last week. As a 14 point underdog. Yes, this is where I continue to gloat about picking them. And then ask exactly where there heads are, and if it's somewhere conducive to winning by two touchdowns on the road, even against the worst defense in FBS.
- Northwestern +17.5 @Nebraska. Seriously, there are so many short favorites that I kinda like this week, and I considered Hawai'i, Navy, Arizona, Arkansas, and Baylor. But I'm a dog guy and a situational guy, and I just couldn't ignore the letdown possibility for Nebraska playing a team with a pretty decent quarterback.