Fourth Down and Inches
by Doc - 10/08/2008
Our six-unit play last Saturday was a real nail bitter, as Ohio State edged Wisconsin, 20-17, as a 1.5-point favorite. I had a chance to be at that game and was not totally impressed with the Buckeyes. I did think QB Terrelle Pryor looked good at times but still has some problems when it comes to throwing the football. That being said, he is a tremendous athlete and I expect him to improve during his tenure in Columbus and have them challenging for a national title before long. RB Beanie Wells is the player that makes this team go and he had 168 yards against the Badgers. The Buckeyes are home this week against Purdue. Since 1968, Ohio State has dominated this series, winning 13 of the 14 games in Columbus. They have won the last six in Columbus and beat Purdue, 23-7, in 2007. Purdue had just four yards rushing and had to punt 12 times. Even though I don't believe the Buckeyes are running on all cylinders I do believe they are improving each week. I expect this to be a long day for QB Painter and company in Columbus this coming Saturday.
One of the intriguing games in the Big Ten this week will be Michigan State at Northwestern. Both teams are undefeated in conference but one may look at this game and feel that they are a steal laying only 3.5 points in Evanston. Not so fast! The Spartans are coming off a very physical game with Iowa and Northwestern beat them in 2007, 48-41. The last time these teams met in Evanston, Michigan State rallied from a 38-3 deficit in the second half to win, 41-38. Can history repeat itself? I would not bet on it and if the Cats can win they can a chance to do some damage in the Big Ten since they do not play Wisconsin or Penn State. They will be on the road the following two weeks and the game on Nov. 1 is one that I have a special interest in.
The surprise team in college football this year has to be Vanderbilt. The Commodores were predicted to struggle in 2008, returning just nine total starters from offense and defense. They already have a couple of quality wins this season and will enter Starkville with a perfect 5-0 mark. The Bulldogs have struggled this season but have played a brutal schedule thus far. They will enter this game off of a bye and I would not be surprised if they end Vandy's streak at five games. The have won five-straight meetings against Vandy at Davis Wade Stadium and I would not be surprised if they make it six in a row.
The marquee game this week in college football takes place in the Swamp with LSU coming into Gainesville to play Florida. The Gators will have revenge on their minds, as they led 24-14 early in the fourth quarter before falling, 28-24. Looks like the public action is on Florida, as they opened as a four-point favorite, but the line is now up to six. If you can get the homer at under a touchdown, I would agree that is the proper side to consider, as the Florida offense will be too much for LSU to overcome.
Moving back to the Big Ten, one has to wonder if Penn State is for real and if this is the best team in the conference? I believe their first true road test will come this week when they travel to Camp Randall to face Wisconsin, a team hosting their second-straight night game. Penn State did pick-up some points in the computer rankings when Oregon State beat USC, as PSU pounded the Beavers, 45-14. The Badgers are reeling, having lost two straight including Coach Bielema's first home loss last week against Ohio State. That being said, it's always tough to beat Bucky in Madison, as I have been burned a few times over the years going against Wisconsin. The running attack is still there, as RB John Clay is probably doing more damage then RB P.J. Hill at the moment and expect him to see more and more action as the season goes on. That being said, it's still tough to run against the Lions, as they have one of the best front fours in the nation on defense. If they can shut down the Badgers running attack, they will win this game since QB Allan Evridge has trouble making plays in the passing game. The Badgers will likely have the band back to support them, but I don't believe they have the talent to matchup with the Lions for 60 minutes. State won this game, 38-7, in 2007 and this is a better Lions team then the one that beat Wisconsin in 2007.
The play-for-pay league continues to bunch up in a big way and at the moment there are only two undefeated teams in the NFL. Both of them have major question marks and would be underdogs against other teams in the league on the road or in a neutral site. Tennessee escaped Baltimore last week, winning 13-10 and scoring late on a questionable roughing-the-passer call on DE Terrell Suggs of the Ravens. That is another black eye for the officials in 2008 as they seem to be the main focus thus far into the season. The NFL is becoming overly protective on the quarterback and any contact whatsoever is seeing a hankie fall. This is truly hurting the integrity of the game and the league office needs to put an end to it immediately or the quality of play will diminish. That being said, Kerry Collins will not be leading the Titans to a Super Bowl in 2008 and, much like you saw in baseball with the Angles, winning numerous close games eventually catches up to you. Dominating teams have the ablity to blow out teams and that is something the Titans are lacking on a consistent basis.
The marquee game this week in the NFL is New England traveling to the West Coast to play San Diego. The Chargers are in another must-win situation, as they are 2-3 on the season. This will be the Patriots second-straight week playing on the West Coast and I would not be surprised if that jet lag catches up with them. They have major holes on offense and the oddsmakers also feel that as San Diego is a six-point favorite. I feel the homer is the only side to consider.
I really like this card this week in college football. Last week we used four games in the Big Ten and won three of them. Yes, Iowa did me in yet again but this week I have a hot trifecta going in the Big Ten and I fully expect to cash in this ticket and might even consider laying a few tokens on a three-team parlay. Overall we have seven total plays going in college football and for the first time in 2008, I love the pro card as well.
Best of luck