NCAA Football Predictions: Week 10 Opening Line Report and Picks
by Alan Matthews - 10/28/2014
The new college football playoff committee's Top 25 will be released on Tuesday evening to great fanfare. Just think how angry most of the country will be if the SEC has three of the coveted Top-4 spots. It's quite possible. I think Mississippi State and Florida State are locks to be two of the Top 4 as they are the only Power 5 teams to remain unbeaten. After that your guess is as good as mine. I think it's safe to say that there will be one other SEC team at least in the Top 4, either Alabama, Auburn or Ole Miss. The Rebels should be ahead of the Tide because they won the head-to-head matchup. Auburn's only loss was to Mississippi State. Do you realize we could finish with a five-way tie between the four teams listed above and LSU atop the SEC West by the end of the season? How do you sort that mess out? I do think Oregon has a right to be in the Top 4. So my best guess: 1. Mississippi State, 2. Florida State, No. 3 Ole Miss, No. 4 Oregon.
Here are some Week 10 games and opening lines from BetOnline that caught my eye. Alabama is the site's +550 National Championship favorite.
No. 2 Florida State at Louisville (+3.5): The ACC is the showcase league on ESPN's Thursday night telecast again this week, and this should be a great one. The line opened at 6.5 on Monday. I wonder if it's dropping due to the possibility that FSU top running back, Karlos Williams, will be suspended. He is being investigated for an alleged domestic battery incident. The way the school has babied Jameis Winston, I doubt Williams is suspended. This is easily FSU's toughest game remaining in the regular season, although the trip to Miami on Nov. 15 now looks more challenging after the Hurricanes trashed Virginia Tech in the Hokies' house last Thursday. Louisville is unbeaten at home (each win by double digits), has a tremendous defense (No. 1 in yards per game) and it's going to be a madhouse there for this game. It's nights like this why you need two TVs in your living room with LeBron James' first game back with the Cavs, also on Thursday night, in the TNT opener. The pick: FSU.
Illinois at No. 13 Ohio State (-28): I liked Penn State to cover last week against the Buckeyes, and not only did the Nittany Lions do that, they could have won the game. Ohio State won 31-24 in double overtime, ending a string of four straight games scoring at least 50 points. Buckeyes QB J.T. Barrett looked like a freshman against that good defense, throwing for only 74 yards. Barrett has a sprained knee but will play here. I guarantee you that Urban Meyer just wants to get a big lead and get his starters out. Ohio State plays at Michigan State next week, with the winner likely in the Big Ten title game. Thus this is potentially a huge trap game. The Buckeyes will attempt to tie a Big Ten record set by Ohio State in 2005-2007 with their 20th straight regular-season win. Illinois is no good but did upset Minnesota last week. The pick: Illinois, but hoping for a half-point bump.
Stanford at No. 5 Oregon (-9): The Cardinal have provided the blueprint for teams to beat Oregon: pound them on both lines of scrimmage. The Ducks have had more talent the past two years in losses but have been bludgeoned by Stanford's massive lines. The Cardinal have totally shut down that Oregon up-tempo attack by controlling the ball. However, I think it's good that Oregon faced Michigan State earlier this year, because the Spartans are the same type of team as Stanford. MSU was pushing Oregon around for a while until the Ducks exploded in the second half and pulled away. Oregon QB Marcus Mariota is the -180 Heisman favorite at BetOnline, and I think it's his trophy if the Ducks can avoid a loss here. The pick: Stanford should be able to stay within a touchdown.
No. 6 Notre Dame at Navy (+14): Is it possible to have a letdown game two weeks later? That's the question I have about the Irish as this is their first time taking the field since that epic loss at Florida State -- the Irish still say they didn't do anything wrong on that last-second offensive pass interference call. Navy is always a tough team to deal with because of the triple option, so that bye week probably was at the perfect time for Notre Dame. Sometimes facing Navy does mess you up the next week. In the seven games these teams have played since coach Ken Niumatalolo took over Navy before the 2007 season, the Irish have a 4-3 record against the Midshipmen, including a current three-game winning streak. In the seven games immediately following their games with Navy, the Irish are 2-5. Notre Dame has a big one at No. 15 Arizona State next week. The pick: Navy to cover, although hoping for a half-point bump here as well.
No. 10 TCU at No. 20 West Virginia (+5.5): How shocking has the TCU offense been this year? In 2013, the Frogs ranked 88th nationally in scoring and were boring. Last week TCU put up an incredible 82 points on Texas Tech. The team scored so often it used up its entire fireworks supply for the season at the stadium. TCU ranks No. 1 in scoring at 50.4 points per game. The Frogs have 353 points already after just 301 all last season. TCU is the only school in the nation to score at least 24 points in the first half of every game. If only the Frogs hadn't blown that huge fourth-quarter lead to Baylor a few weeks ago. They would probably be in the Top 4 of the playoff committee's poll. The winner of this controls its destiny to win the Big 12. Both still play conference leader Kansas State. The pick: TCU.
Florida vs. No. 9 Georgia (-13): It's the annual Cocktail Party in Jacksonville, and I'm moderately surprised that Will Muschamp is still Florida's coach. Somehow the Gators lost 42-13 at home to Missouri on Oct. 18 despite holding the Tigers to 119 total yards. Missouri forced six Florida turnovers and had four return touchdowns. Muschamp has made a QB change as Treon Harris will start against Georgia. The freshman has appeared in three games, throwing for 263 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, and he has rushed for 51 yards on 15 attempts for one touchdown. The Dawgs still don't know if they will get Todd Gurley back for this game from suspension. As usual, the NCAA is taking a ridiculous amount of time. Freshman Nick Chubb has been fabulous in Gurley's place, so the line might not move even if Gurley is cleared. The pick: The pick: Florida. The Gators do have a solid defense, so they can stay within 10 without QB Jeff Driskel in there turning the ball over.
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