NCAA Football Predictions: Week 7 Opening Line Report and Picks
by Alan Matthews - 10/6/2014
Has there ever been a college football week like we just saw? I don't think so as it was utter chaos with five of the Top 8 in the Associated Press poll falling. This is why it's smart that the College Football Committee won't release its first Top 25 until Oct. 28. We need to see how things shake out for a while longer first. Speaking of the playoff, now there is zero wiggle room for powerhouses like Oregon (lost at home to Arizona on Thursday), Texas A&M (blasted at Mississippi State), Alabama (lost at Ole Miss), Oklahoma (lost at TCU) and UCLA (lost at home to Utah). In fact, you can eliminate either the Bruins or Ducks after this Saturday as they face off at the Rose Bowl. The loser might not even win its Pac-12 division.
BYU at Central Florida (3.5): This is the Thursday night offering this week, and it lost just about all luster with last week's loss by BYU to Utah State. The Cougars, who were No. 18 but fell out of the Top 25, had an outside shot of crashing the playoff and a great chance of being the non-Power 5 team to make a major bowl game (the highest-ranked non-Power 5 in the committee's Top 25 is guaranteed a spot in a major bowl). This was to be the toughest test left for BYU. To make matters worse, star Cougars QB Taysom Hill absolutely shredded his knee in the loss, and he's done for the season. Now I love this line. The pick: UCF.
Penn State at Michigan (-1): Believe it or not, this will be just the third home night game ever for Michigan. That seems hard to believe. I really don't understand why Brady Hoke is still coaching in the wake of the Shane Morris concussion issue and then Saturday's 26-24 loss at Rutgers, which is supposed to be the worst team in the Big Ten's East Division. The news gets worse for Michigan in that star sophomore running back Derrick Henry, a rare bright spot, is done for the season. He broke his clavicle against the Scarlet Knights. The sophomore and former five-star prospect had 471 yards and three touchdowns on 82 carries prior to his injury. Devin Gardner will start at QB again for Michigan. The pick: Penn State had last week off to prepare, so go Lions.
No. 2 Auburn at No. 3 Mississippi State (+2.5): This is the clear game of the day, and the winner will be in the driver's seat for the SEC West along with Ole Miss (it it beats Texas A&M this week). The Tigers and Bulldogs still have to play the Rebels and Alabama. The SEC West is the best conference in football. Not best division but conference. This could be a Heisman elimination type of game as MSU's Dak Prescott has become a major contender after totaling five touchdowns in last week's blowout of Texas A&M. Auburn QB Nick Marshall also is among the betting favorites. I am very curious to see how Auburn plays here. In its four home games, it has been dominant, including Saturday's 41-7 blowout of LSU. However, in the lone road game, Auburn should have lost at Kansas State. The pick: Mississippi State.
LSU at Florida (+2.5): Clearly this is Les Miles' worst LSU team, although it's more that the Tigers are very young. They have a ton of talent and should be loaded in 2015. Perhaps that keeps Miles from leaving for the Michigan job. I'm touching on this one because Florida presumably was going to make a change at quarterback. Freshman Treon Harris replaced an ineffective Jeff Driskel on Saturday against Tennessee and led a fourth-quarter come-from-behind win. He would have surely started here. However, Harris has been suspended indefinitely after he was accused of sexually assaulting a female student early Sunday on the UF campus. Driskel has thrown five interceptions in his last seven quarters and completed just 39.2 percent of his passes (20-of-51) for 152 yards in his last two games. The LSU defense, as young as it is, could eat him alive. The pick: LSU.
No. 1 Florida State at Syracuse (+22.5): I targeted this as a major trap game for the Seminoles because they host Notre Dame in a huge one next week. Now I don't think it is because Syracuse has lost starting quarterback Terrel Hunt for six weeks after breaking his leg in Friday's 28-6 loss to Louisville. The Orange are a mess as in addition to that, coach Scott Shafer stripped offensive coordinator George McDonald of his duties. Quarterbacks coach Tim Lester will now serve as offensive coordinator. The pick: FSU.
North Carolina at No. 6 Notre Dame (-16.5): Now this is a trap game! You don't think the Irish will be peeking ahead to the Seminoles? True, the Heels have been a massive disappointment, and their defense is terrible. But the Irish aren't really the type of team to offensively steamroll people. Heels coach Larry Fedora also needs to ditch his two-QB system of Mitch Trubisky and Marquise Williams. The pick: UNC to cover.
No. 9 TCU at No. 5 Baylor (-10): I all but called TCU's win over Oklahoma last week, and should the Frogs pull this upset as well they could easily run the table and earn a very unexpected spot in the College Football Playoff. TCU has two more ranked opponents after this in Oklahoma State and Kansas State, but they both have to travel to Fort Worth. No reason the Frogs can't win at West Virginia and Texas. I will be fascinated to see this total. Baylor is No. 1 nationally in points, but the offense struggled in Saturday's 28-7 win over Texas. The Bears are No. 5 in points against and TCU is No. 7. The pick: Baylor.
USC at No. 10 Arizona (+2.5): Thanks to its 31-24 win at Oregon, the Wildcats are the only unbeaten left in the Pac-12 and became the first team since the AP poll went to 25 teams in 1989 to move from unranked to the Top 10 in one week. Rich Rodriguez has to be in the conversation for national Coach of the Year. The Trojans can't afford a second conference loss in the wake of Saturday's 38-34 defeat to Arizona State. The pick: The Cats also upset Oregon last year and then were crushed the next week by Arizona State. This team will handle success better, and I can't believe Arizona is a home dog. A Top 10 club a home underdog to an unranked team?? Take the Cats.
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