By Tom Z
10:38 AM EDT, September 21, 2012
There’s so much talk about college football needing a playoff system. Fans are overjoyed that the NCAA is adapting a 4-team playoff in a couple years. Let us not forget that college football already has a playoff system, and it’s called the season. You want to win a championship? Win this week. Then win next week, then the week after that, and the week after that.
Only one team has gone undefeated and failed to make the National Championship Game. That’s an anomaly, not a problem. Listen, I’m down with the 4-team playoff – anything to make the game more exciting – but let’s enjoy the current season-long playoff as it unfolds around us for yet another year.
This week is a prime example of what I’m saying. The first three weeks of the season have been a little lackluster, but this is what we’ve been waiting for. There are some seriously good college football match-ups this Saturday. Make no mistake, Florida State and Clemson are playing for a championship on Saturday night. This is their first-round playoff game. Likewise, if Oklahoma wants to hoist the trophy in January, first they need to win this week’s match-up against Kansas State. If you win, you control your destiny. If you lose, well, ask USC how that works out.
One last note before we get into the picks: Is it me or is Texas the third best team in the country? I know polls are irrelevant at this point of the season, but I think the Longhorns have been seriously underrated. Bama is clearly #1 and LSU certainly deserves #2. Looking at the rest of the top 10, I think I’d bet on Texas over any of them, with the exception of possibly Florida State (depending on how the Seminoles play tomorrow). Texas' powerful defense and run-heavy offensive attack is exactly what you need to beat spread option teams like Oregon, Oklahoma and West Virginia. Texas is off this week, but keep an eye on the Longhorns as Big 12 conference play begins.
On to the picks…
LSU -20.5 over Auburn
Remember last season, when LSU went 13-0 and looked unstoppable before losing to Alabama in the National Championship Game? Of course you don’t. Because all anyone remembers is that embarrassing performance against the Crimson Tide in January. Let us not forget that the Tigers beat the crap out of many good teams last year, including a flawless SEC conference run and their domination of the BCS-worthy Oregon and West Virginia. That was a great team. This year’s team has a chance to be just as good. Meanwhile, Auburn is pretty atrocious. The SEC is the best conference in the nation hands down, but there’s this myth that every team in the league is great. There are a couple really bad teams in that conference and Auburn is one of them. 41-10, LSU.
By the way… who are these two people who voted LSU #1 in this week’s AP Poll? They should lose their votes immediately. Alabama is the best team in the country and everyone knows it. These guys are just trying to be different. They’re the same guys who say The Beatles were overrated, or that The Sopranos was a terrible TV show. They always have to stand out from the crowd, even when it makes them look stupid. At least the guy who picked Michigan as the preseason #1 can plead insanity. There’s no defense for these two.
Florida -24 over Kentucky
Speaking of bad SEC teams, there’s none worse than Kentucky. They lost to WESTERN KENTUCKY last week. You couldn’t tell me where Western Kentucky is located, even though the name of the school narrows it down to a 40-mile radius for you. (It’s in Bowling Green, bitches, and yes of course I had to Google it.) The Florida Gators made a good decision ditching their rotating quarterbacks, which has never worked in the history of mankind. Communism has a better track record than rotating quarterbacks. As they say, if you have 2 quarterbacks, you really have no quarterback. Jeff Driscoll looks promising, and he’s improved with each week. I don’t want to overreact but I think Gators fans have reason to be optimistic about the future. Florida 47, Kentucky 12.
West Virginia -26 over Maryland
West Virginia / Maryland OVER 62
On ESPN this week, I heard some analysts talking about how Geno Smith was now the favorite to win the Heisman following Matt Barkley’s poor performance at Stanford. Settle down there, champs. You want to know who’s leading the Heisman race right now? No one. Matt Barkley hurt his chances with that loss, but nobody in the country has done anything to separate themselves in the race. Hell, Barkley could easily get back into it. If I was asked to pick a frontrunner at gun point, I’d go with Alabama’s A.J. McCarron. He is the spark plug that keeps that dominant Bama team running. But most people with guns don’t ask you for your Heisman picks. They usually want money. So let’s chill and see what happens over the next two months.
About the game: Heisman or not, Geno Smith is a force to be reckoned with. West Virginia is the second-best offense in the country. Maryland is a joke. Look for an Orange Bowl-esque blowout in this game. 56-20, Mountaineers.
UTEP +18 over Wisconsin
Wisconsin sucks. That’s all I got.
Temple / Penn State UNDER 43.5
I don’t care what your program has overcome, or who’s just coached their first collegiate victory. You DO NOT dump water over your coach’s head after beating Navy. Celebrating the fact that you won’t go 0-12 does not inspire faith in those who root for you. Anyway, I’m 3 for 3 with Penn State UNDER bets on the season. I see no reason to turn away now. WE ARE… not very good at scoring.
Kansas State +14.5 over Oklahoma
I like K. State not only to cover, but to win this game outright. Oklahoma is the most overrated team in the top ten and the Wildcats are very good at what they do (i.e., the read option).
This would be a good time to direct you to my team’s picks. That’s right, each week I work with my team of non-experts to come up with these picks. The team – two of my friends and my brother – sends me their picks, and I cull together this column by combining their advice and my own wisdom. This week I decided to feature all of their picks in their entirety on my own website. The commentary alone makes it worth reading. Plus, as an added bonus, I’ve included a special 10-team teaser pick for all of you hardcore betters. Or, if nothing else, it’s ten more minutes you can avoid working. Go here to read the team’s picks.
UCLA -7 over Oregon State
Jim Mora’s done a great job with UCLA. When you see this kind of turnaround, it makes you wonder why schools don’t shell out more money to get high-profile coaches. For example, Georgia is trying to make the leap from perennial top 15 finisher to championship contender. Why not fire the inconsistent Mark Richt and offer big money to a big-name coach? Hell, offer Nick Saban $10 million a year to jump ship from Alabama. It couldn’t hurt to try. Maybe you can get Tom Coughlin from the Giants. After all, it’s been 8 months since he won a Super Bowl, I’m sure he’ll be on the hot seat again by November. The point is, get a quality coach. It’s critical to your success, and you’ll easily make your money back if you start consistently making BCS bowls.
This game comes down to talent. Oregon State is overmatched. Bet on the Bruins and prepare for a run-heavy, 27-10 finish.
Louisville -13.5 over Florida International
Somebody has to do something about the number of Florida football teams. I was trying to figure out whether Florida International was the team with the evil marching band, or the team with the Notre Dame coach who lied on his resume. Turns out they’re just some other team with nothing interesting going on. How about this… we leave Florida, Florida State and Miami alone, and we combine the teams from every other Florida college into one uber-team. We’ll call them Florida United. Central Florida, South Florida, Florida Atlantic, Florida A&M, Florida International, Jacksonville State; that’s all one team now. That squad would challenge in the ACC, I promise you. Instead we have a bunch of boring teams that are varying degrees of underdogs each week. Trust me on this one.
I like Louisville’s team this year. Let me clarify that I said “like,” not “love.” Say what you want about the Big East, but they have at least one solid team in the Cardinals. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is a winner. Plus his name makes him sound like a 90s R&B singer. I’m pretty sure he was in Blackstreet. Or maybe he was the guy in Boyz II Men who did the spoken word breakdown. Either way, he’ll win games for you. Like you want him to. And he’ll hold you tight. Baby, all through the night.
Clemson +14.5 over Florida State
Our game of the week.
Once this line jumped from 14 to 14.5, I was sold. That half a point means the Seminoles need to beat a very good Tigers team by three scores. A Tigers team that finally has Sammy Watkins back in full force. By the way, Taj Boyd,Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins get a ton of hype, and it’s mostly deserved. But my favorite player on Clemson is Andre Ellington. That guy is a good college running back. He’s tough, with occasional flashes of C.J. Spiller in him. What I’m trying to say is, I would definitely have Andre Ellington’s baby. As far as Florida State, there’s no evidence to suggest the Seminoles would win big against a top 15 opponent. Of course, there’s no evidence to suggest they wouldn’t. That’s what happens when you schedule Wake Forest and two middle schools teams as your first three games. Luckily, as I mentioned before, the college football season is one long playoff, and Florida State has their first real playoff game this weekend. I think Florida State will win this game, but I think Clemson keeps it close. Either way, we should all be excited. This is where the season kicks into high gear.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @thefaketomz
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