I’m officially declaring this “take the points week” here on… umm… Take the Points. A lot of teams have huge games coming up next week. Others are matched up against teams that always play them tough. Whatever the reasons, I like many of the underdogs to cover. Here are my week 5 picks.
North Carolina State +19 over Florida State
Florida State showed resolved winning over Clemson without Jameis Winston. Watching Sean Maguire take the reigns was rough; it was like seeing a kid take drivers’ ed for the first time, except in football you don’t have a 65-year old chain smoker who can hit the brake pedal from the passenger side. Let’s not kid ourselves, though: this team has issues that reach beyond a nervous backup QB. The offense isn’t nearly as dynamic as in 2013. I think the loss of Kelvin Benjamin to the NFL has played a much bigger role than we could’ve imagined. Although the Noles have a couple decent receivers, Benjamin was always Winston’s go-to guy last year, as evidenced by the final drive of the National Championship Game. The O-line has also struggled somewhat, and the defense appears to have taken a slight step backward this season. If this was a night game, I’d say look out for an upset — NC State always causes trouble for FSU at night — but since it’s a 3:30 game, I’ll only go as far as to say take the points. And no, NC State is not good, but that’s never stopped them from surprising FSU before.
Minnesota +12 over Michigan
Tough loss for Michigan last week against Utah. I felt so bad for Brady Hoke, I found his LinkedIn page and gave him a recommendation. (I recommended him for “marketing” because I didn’t think it was fair to give him credit for anything football-related.) He’s gonna need it very soon. I don’t believe Hoke will be the coach of UM come January 2015, and if they keep losing games like last week, he might not even make it that far. Minnesota is nothing special, but they are 3-1 with their sole loss coming to the solid TCU. Michigan shouldn’t be favored by 12 over anyone right now. Take the points, and if you’re feeling generous, email Brady Hoke the contact information for your favorite local HR recruiter.
Washington +8 over Stanford
This is a potential look-ahead game for Stanford, with Notre Dame looming on the horizon. I hope they pay attention, because Washington has an excellent opportunity to knock them off. The Huskies get the home crowd advantage in a late afternoon game, and what’s more, UW is looking like a decent team. It’ll take Chris Petersen a few years before he can compete for a PAC-12 title, but I do think he’s got the Huskies ready to play the role of spoiler. Washington is 4-0, yet undervalued because two of their wins were unimpressive on paper. (They beat Hawaii by 1 point, but remember, they had to travel to Hawaii for that game, and Eastern Washington 59-52, but EWU is not your average FCS team.) Stanford is in a down year, by Stanford standards. Take the points, and don’t be shocked if Washington wins straight-up.
Cincinnati +14 over Ohio State
I keep seeing these ESPN segments where “analysts” (aka loud guys who were hit in the head too many times) scream about how the Big 10 is terrible. First off, Michigan State is already back in the top ten, after a hard-fought loss to one of the nation’s best teams. Watch for these same analysts to anoint the Spartans as a playoff team in late October. Secondly, Wisconsin, while not incredible, has a strong chance of finishing 10-2 and ranked in the top ten. And Ohio State, if you recall, lost their All-American quarterback just two weeks before the season, yet they’ll still probably win 9 games. So let’s all relax and all stop treating the Big 10 as if it were the Sun Belt conference, when it fact it might be just as good as the ACC. Now that said, I’m going to take the point with Cincinnati in this game. Cincy has an up-and-coming quarterback named Gunner Kiel, who beat out Munchie Legaux for the starting spot even though Munchie has been impressive throughout his career. Cincinnati only recruits quarterbacks who have comical names, FYI. The Bearcats also have a smart coach in Tommy Tuberville. They should be able to hang with the Braxton-less Buckeyes. You like how I flipped this paragraph around, starting off by defending the Big 10 and then saying that the conference’s premier program might lose to an AAC school? I’m like a rapper who purposely mispronounces a word in order to change the rhyme scheme. At first you’re like, “wait, did Jay-Z just pronounce ‘scenario’ two different ways in five seconds?,” but then you’re like, “whatever, I like that guy’s flow.”
Iowa State +22 over Baylor
Baylor is light years ahead of Iowa State in terms of talent. It’s like comparing Jupiter and Mercury. One’s a massive planet with dozens of moons and the capability to sustain aquatic life, and one is a glorified asteroid. That’s right, I said it. Screw Mercury. They’ve been coasting off the Sun’s energy for years, barely even bothering to put out their own gravitational pull. They’re the “takers” of the solar system. Get a job, losers, stop revolving off of interplanetary welfare! Anyway, where were we? Ah, yes. Every year, Iowa State has a couple games where they challenge teams that are clearly superior. I believe this will be one of those games. It’s a home game for the Cyclones, it’s a night game, Bryce Petty and some other members of Baylor are coming off injuries, Baylor will be looking ahead to Texas next week, and if that’s not enough, the 22-point spread offers a good chance of a shady backdoor cover in garbage time. With all of those elements working in your favor, I think it’s best to take Iowa State and the points. And when Baylor wins 80-3, well, you should have known better than to trust the guy with the crazy theories about the solar system.
Nevada -5 over San Jose State
Lock of the week. San Jose State lost 24-7 to Minnesota last week, and Nevada is every bit as good as Minnesota. They have a solid QB in Cody Fajardo and some playmakers at the skill positions. The Wolf Pack lost by only a touchdown to Arizona and looked better against Washington State than Oregon did. It’s not a perfect comparison, but whatever. The important thing is this: San Jose State’s defensive coordinator is Greg Robinson. That’s THE Greg Robinson, of Texas and Michigan fame. After being a part of two Super Bowl champion teams in the 90s, Robinson went on to what is inarguably one of the worst college football careers of all-time. In 2005 he was hired as head coach of Syracuse after the firing of Paul Pasqualoni. He took a team that was running the option in 2005 and somehow made them worse, becoming the first and only coach in Syracuse history to produce a double-digit losing season. (He did it twice!) Robinson was then, for some unknown reason, hired as defensive coordinator at Michigan. He took the once-mighty Wolverine defense and transformed them into the 110th ranked defense in the nation (out of 120). He was fired in 2011 and went on to become assistant coach at a California high school. (That’s right – assistant coach.) This was apparently enough for Texas to hire him, where he became defensive coordinator during the final year of Mack Brown’s career. Ask any Texas fan about the end of Mack Brown’s career and enjoy the 45-minute rant. Athlon Sports named Robinson the 6th worst head coach of the past 50 years in 2012, and that only considers his work as a head coach, totally excluding his tenure at Michigan. And now Robinson works at SJSU, where the defense couldn’t stop a computer engineer on a Segway. (Sorry, I couldn’t think of a better San Jose stereotype.) The point is, they’re not going to stop anyone. My original plan was to bet the over on every single San Jose State game, but as we learned last week, they can’t score, either. So, new plan: when SJSU plays a good Mountain West team, and the spread is only -5, lay it.
Notre Dame -13 over Syracuse
This is a “home” game for Syracuse at the Meadowlands, where 50% of the crowd will be wearing Notre Dame navy and gold. Oh, and also, Notre Dame is back to being competitive nationally, and Syracuse is a garbage plate of bad players. (That’s a little Rochester reference for all of my fellow Upstate New Yorkers.) No question who to take here. Betting on Syracuse is like betting green on a roulette wheel. You may win occasionally, but it’s still a stupid move.