The old saying is that “close only counts in horseshoes & hand grenades”, and I am not a big believer in moral victories anyway. However, I must say that I came oh so close to going 4-3 last week but instead ended up 2-5. Usually I get myself in trouble when I pick with my heart instead of my head, but as it turns out picking the hated Hokies of Virginia Tech over the Cincinnati Bearcats was a bad idea. I was also very disappointed in the effort of Michigan St. RB La’veon Bell, a potential Heisman candidate who I thought would do some damage to Ohio St. but was instead held to a paltry 45 yards in a loss. And maybe it’s time to jump on board the Minnesota Vikings bandwagon. Of course as soon as I do that they’ll start to look like…well…the Minnesota Vikings. At any rate, for the season I am at 13-24, a deficit that cannot be made up in one week. In other words, I am like a football team that is down atleast two scores. But since I am more of a ground & pound guy instead of a run & shoot aficionado I’ll just hunker down, grind it out, and dig out of the hole one week at a time.
Arizona at Stanford (-9.5)
Stanford wasn’t even on my radar at the beginning of the season. I just figured that they’d fade a bit after losing QB Andrew Luck and a few other pieces to the NFL. Instead they have gone 3-1, complete with a victory over media darling USC. They stumbled last week at Washington, but I will assume that was just a hangover loss after the high of defeating the Trojans in the previous game. I also looked over Arizona from the outset because it usually takes Fraudriguez a couple of years to install his offensive scheme. However, the Wildcats have looked more than decent thus far in compiling a 3-2 record. This game marks the halfway point of a murderer’s row of 6 straight ranked opponents for Arizona, and I think maybe now we’ll see what we usually see in inaugural Fraudriguez seasons. Stanford may possibly be looking ahead to a matchup at Notre Dame next week, but otherwise they hold all the cards here so I am picking them to win and cover.
Navy at Air Force (-8.5)
I really like watching the service academies play football. Maybe it’s the fact that they aren’t the big, athletic NFL prospects that we see on so many other teams. They are legitimate student athletes who retain the essence of what amateur sports should be. Or maybe it is the knowledge that these young men truly have a higher purpose and will all go on to do something meaningful and, to varying degrees, heroic with their lives. And I suppose it has a lot to do with the old-fashioned style of football played. Navy is 1-3 and among the top 25 rushing teams in the nation. Of course they rank near the bottom in passing yards & points scored, so I guess they need to mix it up a little more. Air Force leads the nation in rushing and is near the bottom of the barrel in passing yards, but they are averaging 37 points per game. Their defense has really let them down though, so they are only 2-2. I expect to see lots of running here, and probably a high score. I’ll take the Falcons to get the victory and cover the spread.
LSU (-2.5) at Florida
I have picked two favorites thus far. Will the trend continue??
In my pre-season Top 25 I put the Bayou Bengals at #17 with the logic that they have a target on their backs and opponents will be especially psyched to take them down. That has been true so far…kind of. LSU is 5-0 and ranked 4th in the polls, but they have slipped a spot each of the past two weeks after lackluster victories over Auburn and Towson. A subpar effort won’t cut it this week though against the 10th ranked 4-0 Gators, who have been impressive in wins over Texas A&M, Tennessee, & Kentucky. So this looks like a contest of two undefeated & highly ranked teams that are going in opposite directions…one on the rise, and the other on the verge of being knocked down a peg or two. The boys in Vegas apparently didn’t get that memo since they have made LSU slight favorites even though they are venturing into decidedly unfriendly territory at The Swap. I think that is the difference here. I just can’t have much faith in a team that struggles to beat Towson and is now faced with the daunting task of playing a Top 10 team in one of the most…spirited…venues in college football. Florida gets the upset.
Georgia at South Carolina (-1.5)
I suppose it isn’t all that shocking that we get the pleasure of seeing two SEC teams face one other who happen to be 2 of the top 6 teams in the country. The ESPN Gameday crew will be in Columbia slobbering all over themselves and fellatiating the SEC, but as much as I hate to say it the praise has been earned. Both teams come into this game undefeated and in the hunt for a national championship, but at the end of the day one of them will pretty much out of the running. The Gamecocks are slim favorites only because of the home field advantage. I picked South Carolina #3 in my preseason rankings, while I left the Bulldogs off the board entirely. The latter may have been a mistake, and this game will decide if the former was an egregious error as well. I don’t think it was. I stand behind my choice and will go with South Carolina here.
Denver at New England (-6.5)
Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady. That’s enough to sell this matchup. Brady leads the rivalry 8-4, and unfortunately I think he’ll extend the lead this week. I picked both of these teams to make the playoffs and the Patriots to make The Super Bowl. At this point I am not ready to back off of either prediction, but will say that both teams have looked much more…ordinary…than I thought they would. That being said, I think right now New England is a more complete team and Manning is still knocking off some rust. It makes me physically ill to pick the Patriots, but I think they’ll win and cover.
Buffalo at San Francisco (-9.5)
Who would have thought at this stage that the 49ers would NOT be in 1st place in their division?? Though they are 3-1 they are behind the undefeated Arizona Cardinals (although as I write this it looks like the Cardinals are going to lose their game). A stunning defeat at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings left the football world abuzz, but I think it is much ado about nothing. If anything it just means that the Vikings are a lot better than we thought, but it almost certainly doesn’t indicate that San Francisco won’t be as awesome the remainder of the season as most of us believed they would. Buffalo currently sits in a 2-2 logjam in the AFC East and needs to do anything possibly to keep pace with the aforementioned Patriots, who are undoubtedly better than their record. I think this will be a defensive struggle, and the spread makes me a little nervous. San Francisco should win, but by how much?? Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is inconsistent at best, but has occasional flashes of being an actual NFL quarterback. Will he have a good week?? Word on the street is that both of Buffalo’s banged up running backs…Fred Jackson & CJ Spiller…will be ready to go for this game, but I’m not sure how much that’ll help against San Francisco’s stout run defense. I guess it can’t hurt, right?? But I really think it comes down to the play of Fitzpatrick. My vibes are telling me that Buffalo will study the SF/Minnesota game film and figure out a way to atleast keep this close, so I am picking the Bills.
San Diego at New Orleans (-4)
Anyone who read my NFL Preview might recall that I said “I do not believe that a team can go through the turmoil that the Saints have experienced this offseason and not be affected.” That might be the wisest prognostication I’ve made all season. But not even I thought they’d start the year 0-4. Will they drop to 0-5?? I also predicted that the Chargers would go 6-10 and said that “the party is over in San Diego and head coach Norv Turner will soon be enjoying an early retirement”. That hasn’t been so accurate thus far, as the Chargers are 3-1 and in 1st place. Are these trends solid or just a mirage?? I’ll go with the latter. I don’t think New Orleans is THIS bad, nor do I believe San Diego is that good. I think the Saints win & cover here, and I still think they can make it to the playoffs.
- Power Rankings Round-Up: Onward And Upward For Minnesota (dailynorseman.com)
- Minnesota Vikings: Are the Vikings Playoff Contenders or Overachievers in 2012? (bleacherreport.com)
- NFL First Quarter Report Card: Minnesota Vikings (thepigskinreport.com)
- Fantasy Football: Week 5 – Survivor Pool and Thursday Night Injury Preview (districtsportspage.com)
- Percy Harvin Named NFC Special Teams Player of the Month (thevikingage.com)
- College Football Rankings: LSU and Teams that Don’t Deserve Current Rankings (bleacherreport.com)
- LSU vs. Florida: Latest Spread Info, BCS Impact and Predictions (bleacherreport.com)
- 2012 NCAA Football Rankings: LSU ranks 4th, Texas rises to 10th in BlogPoll (houston.sbnation.com)
- Taylor’s Tuesday Top 25, College and Pro Picks (charlotte.cbslocal.com)