Last week, I picked very poorly, but I won’t take it personally. Lots of good teams had rough weeks too. It was already obvious that the national championship spots are Texas’ and the SEC champion’s to lose, but now that’s basically all we’ve got. I mean, Boise State is fifth right now. They’re nice, but top 5? Already?
In a season like this, the only thing to do is keep it simple. So the three games we’ll pick this week are the only three games between Top 25 teams.
#4 LSU at #18 Georgia. Not only is Boise State fifth right now, but LSU is fourth, which might be even worse. So far, the Tigers have been outgained by both Washington and Mississippi State. Not that those teams are awful—Washington beat USC, after all—but we should be able to find at least four more convincing teams than that. Georgia’s been in their share of entertaining games too, with the opener at Oklahoma State, two wins that came down to the wire and a third 52-41 over Arkansas. It’s hard to say which team needs this win more. Georgia has a loss already, but LSU has Florida next week and then the full West gauntlet, including Alabama and Ole Miss on the road. Wicked conference.
#7 USC at #24 California. This game looked a lot cooler before the 42-3 beatdown Oregon put on Cal last week, but it’s still one of the biggest games on the Pac 10 schedule. A Cal win would revive their season and possibly bury USC in the process—that would be two conference losses. USC has pressure to win and win impressively. If there’s going to be a one-loss team in the national title, the Trojans are always going to be in the discussion. The loss was early and came with the starting QB and All-American safety out, two factors that could give voters some sympathy. But they need to get some style points in their remaining chances, which mostly come down to this game, Notre Dame and Oregon, all on the road. Last year, USC crushed Cal with defense, holding them to 27 yards rushing and 165 overall, which is even rougher than the Golden Bears got last week in Oregon.
#8 Oklahoma at #17 Miami. Except for the conference implications, this game is sort of a clone of the last one. Oklahoma is the national title contender who lost a game without their QB, and is trying to get back in the national title discussion. Miami is the trendy team who got wrecked last week on the road, and is trying to salvage respectability. The differences favor Miami’s having a shot, though. Bradford still isn’t back for the Sooners, and Miami’s loss was more reasonable than California’s. Virginia Tech is good, and Miami’s pass attack was grounded in part by the fact that it was pouring in Blacksburg. Better conditions, and that game might have been different. That said, the Sooners are awfully good, winning their last two games 109-0, including one over a pretty decent Tulsa team.
LSU (39/61). Neither team has been totally convincing, but Georgia’s been squeezing by less talented teams than the Tigers regularly. While their offense has been really good, it sputtered against Oklahoma State.
USC (64/36). Again, keep it simple. USC always beats Cal, USC would probably still be undefeated if Barkley could have played against Washington, and USC’s giving up ten points a game, while Cal put up three last week.
Oklahoma (73/27). Sure, Miami could keep it close, and the counter to how impressive Oklahoma’s looked is that they’ve only played one serious game so far this year, and they lost it. But, again, keep it simple. They’ve been preparing, they know they’ve used up their margin for error, they have Baylor between this and Texas, so it’s not a trap game. Miami’s rep came from beating a Jekyll-and-Hyde Florida State team, which now has been done twice by teams from southern Florida, and Georgia Tech, who is a smart team with limited talent. There’s nothing in there that says they can play with the Sooners.
Last Week: 0-175
Year to Date: 171-377, .312