College Football Weekly Predictions: Week 7
by Alan Matthews - 10/15/2009
Stupid Wisconsin! I'm not sure I've seen a team dominate a game so thoroughly on offense and defense but lose by 18 points. The Badgers, who were +16.5, outgained Ohio State last Saturday by nearly 200 yards, and had 22 first downs to the Buckeyes' eight. But OSU had two interception returns for touchdowns as well as a kick-return TD. So that's what cost me my first 3-0 week of the season. But we did hit on Houston +2.5 at Mississippi State as well as Alabama -4.5 at Ole Miss. That moves us to 10-8 on the season.
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Let's keep the two-week winning streak going this weekend:
Current line: Mississippi State -4.5. It has moved a half-point toward the visitors since its open.
Who the public likes: Approximately 79 percent favor Mississippi State. It has been slowly moving toward MTSU, however.
When was the last time an SEC team was such a small favorite against a Sun Belt team? That's the case Saturday, although I am not sure why. MTSU lost by 23 earlier this season at Clemson but did upset Maryland. The Blue Raiders come in off an ugly loss at Troy. However. Mississippi State might well be the worst team in the SEC. But look at the Bulldogs' last three results: They have lost to ranked teams LSU, Georgia Tech and Houston (the Cougars weren't ranked at the time but are now) by a total of 22 points. Plus, MSU's strength is running the ball behind Anthony Dixon, who has 561 rushing yards and five TDs in only five games. Last season, he had 126 yards and three TDs in the Bulldogs' 31-22 win over MTSU. This year's Blue Raiders squad isn't very good at stopping the run, ranking No. 100 in the nation. Last week, Troy gutted them for 264 on the ground. Yes, I know that MSU is 0-6 ATS in its past six as a favorite, but that streak ends Saturday.
Take Mississippi State and the points.
Illinois at Indiana, Saturday, 7 p.m.
Current line: Illinois -2. This has moved a point toward Indiana since its open.
Who the public likes: Indiana had more than 60 percent when the line was at three, but now it's at about 50-50.
This is the dog game of the week in the Big Ten, and I don't mean underdog - I mean mangy mutt game between two teams who have each lost three games in a row. Illinois is easily the most disappointing team in the conference this season. The Illini really haven't been close in their conference games, losing to Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State by 30, 18 and 10, respectively. Coach Ron Zook, in an effort to save his job, benched one-time star QB Juice Williams last week against the Spartans, but Williams was back playing by the third quarter. Still no word on whether he or Eddie McGee will start Saturday. It shouldn't matter, because Illinois simply has way more talent all over the field than the Hoosiers. Indiana was looking like a bowl team just a few games ago after nearly winning at Michigan. But it has been blown out the past two weeks by Ohio State and, worse, Virginia. Look no farther than the run defense, which has allowed the past three opponents to run for 592 yards on 142 carries with nine TDs. Of course, Illinois is last in the Big Ten in defense and hasn't even led a game against an FBS foe since last November. That changes this week by a field goal.
Take Illinois and give the points.
Southern Cal at Notre Dame, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
Current line: Southern Cal -10. This has dropped almost two points from its open.
Who the public likes: Approximately 56 percent are on the Trojans, but that number was around 72 percent when the line opened at 12.
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I will say right off that I like this game much better if the line climbs to Notre Dame +10.5 or higher, but all the late money appears to be coming in on the Irish. But the Irish already are the smallest underdogs they have been in this series since Charlie Weis came to South Bend. Obviously history says USC will win in a rout, as they have beaten Notre Dame seven straight times and six of those were by at least 20 points. But Jimmy Clausen is the best pure passer in college football right now. When is the last time you could say Notre Dame had the better QB in this rivalry? Nothing against Matt Barkley, but that is easily the case Saturday. Last year in a 38-3 loss to USC, Clausen was just as 11-of-22 for 41 yards with two interceptions for a passing efficiency rating of 47.47. This year, Clausen leads the country in rating. USC ranks first in the nation in sacks and hasn't allowed a touchdown pass all season. Neither team has seen a team as good as the opponent will be Saturday. I expect only a touchdown difference in this one.
Take Notre Dame and the points.