Steve Spurrier

Big game for the Ol' Ball Coach. (October 5, 2012)

After five weeks, I finally think I’m getting a feel for this crazy college football season. Unfortunately, it seems like Las Vegas is getting a feel for it as well. The lines keep getting tougher and tougher to pick.

Luckily, I’m not the kind of guy who gives up easily. I’m not comfortable with the word “hero,” but there may not be a better term to describe what it is I do. I’ve scoured through the lines and found six games that I like. No over/unders, no “if this happens…” scenarios, no longshot picks. Just six instances where I like one team to outplay their opponent.

Here are my very straightforward week 6 picks:

Rutgers -7 over UConn

So much for the Big East being the worst conference in America. Listen, they’re far behind the other major conferences, but they’ve proven themselves better than mid-level conferences like Conference USA or the MAC. High praise, I know. But at least the Big East has put forth two pretty good teams (Louisville and Rutgers), one decent team (Cincinnati) and a few teams capable of upsets if they’re clicking (Syracuse, the maddeningly frustrating Pitt Panthers and South Florida). They might be able to field a BCS team that doesn’t totally embarrass themselves. I know, I know, I’m really laying the praise on thick. As for my preseason pick of the Temple Owls to win the conference, let’s just say I could use a Mitt Romney-style “reboot” on that one.

Notice how I didn’t include UConn above. Given that I work for a website called CT.com, I think it’s probably in poor taste to say anything negative about the Huskies. So let me say something positive about them instead: I’ve made a lot of money betting on their games over the past few years! Also, I love Spring Weekend!

Oklahoma -5 over Texas Tech

Oklahoma was an overrated top ten team, but are they really bad enough to be favored by just 5 against an untested Texas Tech team? We’re in week 6 of the season, and Texas Tech hasn’t played anyone. Let’s not forget that this is the Sooners’ first game since that crushing defeat against Kansas State. Oklahoma’s talent has never been the issue; it’s their mental toughness and ability to bring it each and every week. With that loss fresh in their memory, I expect Oklahoma to play hard and get their revenge against Texas Tech. Think of Oklahoma as a girl who recently got dumped. She’s hitting the gym, she’s going out to clubs, she’s slamming Red Bull & vodkas, she’s got a new haircut and she’s seeing a club promoter with a neck tattoo. In other words, she’s trying to show everyone that she’s still got some life in her. Except in this case, the haircut is a new offensive gameplan, the Red Bull vodkas are Texas Tech, and the guy with the neck tat is… umm, I don’t know, backup quarterback Blake Bell? Alright, so this analogy doesn’t really work, but the point is, watch out for Oklahoma.

Florida +2.5 over LSU

Every so often we have one of those Presidential races where nobody likes either candidate, like for example Kerry-Bush in 2004 or Carter-Ford in ’76. That’s basically what LSU had last year with the Jefferson/Lee combo. To quote PCU, “doesn’t matter who wins, ‘cause they’re all losers.” Thanks to the Tigers’ woeful inadequacies at QB, Zach Mettenberg came into campus with high hopes. After all, if they could make the National Championship Game with Jordan Jefferson slinging the ball, Metternberg would HAVE to lead them to the promised land, right? Turns out Mettenberg is an average QB at best. Maybe it’s due to his lack of experience, but he looks downright shaky in the pocket. His footwork is bad, he’s made lousy decisions, the coaches don’t trust him and he hasn’t been able to string together touchdown drives against good opponents. (In fairness, the rest of the offense hasn’t looked great, either.) Now a team that struggled at home against Auburn has to go play in one of the toughest stadiums in the country, with a string of injuries to boot. The Swamp will be rocking on Saturday and millions will be watching on TV. Florida is a good team who now finds themselves in the top ten as of this week. The atmosphere favors the Gators, yet all the pressure is on LSU.

There’s a big upset in college football almost every week. I like Florida as this week’s upset. If you’re feeling ambitious, take Florida at +115 for the straight-up win. Otherwise, take the points.

West Virginia +7 over Texas

I like both of these teams. But Texas’s defense showed its flaws for the first time all season against Oklahoma State last week. They were worn down by the Cowboys’ hurry-up style, and proved insufficient against quick, short passes and the read-option run game. Unfortunately West Virginia runs the same style of offense as Oklahoma State, only they’re much better at it. It’s like if you won a very close race against a high school sprinter, and then the following week you had to run against Usain Bolt. Now, the Longhorns will certainly put up points against West Virginia. The WVU defense is, shall we say, suspect. This game will come down to whether or not the Longhorns can stop the Mountaineers. I don’t mean stop them consistently. I mean, stop them ever. I don’t think West Virginia punted once last week. To win this game, Texas needs to create turnovers. They should blitz Geno Smith repeatedly and hope they can get lucky with a couple INTs or a fumble. Sure, Geno might pick you apart, but he was probably going to do that anyway. Take a chance, Texas.

For gambling purposes, I see this as a 3-point game. Take the points and you should be OK regardless of who wins.

By the way, if I had a brother in high school, I would tell him to go be a punter at West Virginia. You can use the “I’m on the football team” card to bang sorority girls, and you’ll never have to step on the field. It’s a win-win.

Notre Dame -13 over Miami

“Notre Dame is undefeated and ranked in the top ten in October, and Green Day just released a highly-anticipated new album. Name the year.”

Even though I just wrote that question myself, and I’m reading an article about Notre Dame right now, and I’m listening to the new Green Day album as I write this, I’m still gonna go with 1994, just to be safe.

Despite their success, I’m not huge on this Notre Dame team yet. I am low on Miami though. ND has the defense to hold Miami in check, and just enough offensive firepower to get the job done. I think they beat the Canes by 17 (with a 20% possibility of a total blowout).

South Carolina -1 over Georgia

Well, that brings us to our game of the week. There’s no outcome that would surprise me here. A 1-point win, overtime, a Georgia blowout, South Carolina domination; nothing is off the table. A smart man would probably stay away from this game. Of course, if I was smart, I’d wager my money on stocks and bonds, not college football games.

I like South Carolina for the following reasons:

1) They’re at home – The home field advantage is massive in college football. With two evenly matched teams, the crowd can be the deciding factor.

2) South Carolina’s defense – Both teams can score. But can Georgia stop anybody? It sure didn’t seem that way last week against Tennessee. South Carolina on the other hand has looked solid defensively throughout the season.

3) Steve Spurrier vs. Mark Richt – I’ve said many times, but I don’t trust Mark Richt. The Ol’ Ball Coach on the other hand has shown an impressive willingness to build around his team’s strengths. If these coaches were Transformers, Mark Richt would be Optimus Prime and Steve Spurrier would be a guy who was too smart to watch Transformers.

4) Michael Bennett – Georgia’s leading receiver is out for the rest of the season after tearing his knee ligament in practice. I’m sure their back-ups will develop into respectable players, but I doubt it will happen immediately. By the way, is there anything worse than getting a season-ending injury in practice? It’s like getting an STD from making out.

5) Marcus Lattimore – And this is the key, the reason I’m picking the Gamecocks over the Bulldogs. Georgia’s strength so far has been their ability to put up points. Nothing against their defense, but this is Aaron Murray’s team. South Carolina can neutralize the Georgia offense, however, by keeping them off the field. This can be done with a healthy dose of Marcus Lattimore and some efficient short passes.

So, the key to success for South Carolina: Keep Aaron Murray off the field, don’t give the Georgia offense a chance to get into a rhythm, force a couple turnovers or 3-and-outs, and that’s your ballgame. Do that and it’s game, Spurrier.

The keys to success for Georgia: Get off to a hot start, make Spurrier say “what the hell just happened?,” force him into Crazy Spurrier Mode where his hair sticks out sideways and he starts calling double-reverse halfback passes, and hope that Connor Shaw throws a bunch of interceptions while trying to play catch-up.

Either scenario is possible. I’m betting on the former.

South Carolina 27, Georgia 24

 

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