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Dr. Saturday

Upset Bait: Buckeyes bounce back behind new offensive order

Matt Hinton
Dr. Saturday

Perusing the weekly lines for a straight-up shocker or two — for entertainment only, of course.

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MATT HINTON: Ohio State (+3½) over Illinois.
The Buckeyes' Jekyll-and-Hyde routine at Nebraska may have left them reeling with most of their usual goals — a Big Ten championship, a BCS bid, a 10-win season — effectively off the table, but it also left them with an opportunity: Before freshman quarterback Braxton Miller's exit in the third quarter, the offense seemed to have found an identity it can live with for the rest of the season, and maybe win a few games with. Miller is expected to start in Champaign, sore ankle notwithstanding, and with the Wisconsin death machine steamrolling into Columbus next week, this looks like a drop-dead point for OSU to salvage anything resembling a successful season.

Besides, how comfortable are we really with the idea of the Illini matching their best start since the early days of the Eisenhower administration with Ron Zook on the sideline? I whiffed on Illinois as my upset victim a few weeks back, by the slimmest of margins, but at some point the time has to be right.

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Bonus pick! Mississippi State (+3) over South Carolina. Mississippi State is a dramatically better team at home, South Carolina may be distracted this week by inner turmoil and the SEC West still owns the East. The Bulldogs need this kind of win to restore some of the preseason luster that's been missing since opening night.

CHRIS BROWN, Smart Football and Grantland: Wake Forest (+7) over Virginia Tech.
The Hokies' 38-35 win over Miami last week was one of the most entertaining games of the season, but it revealed some disturbing trends: Virginia Tech's "Lunch Pail" defense gave up over 500 yards of total offense, and mistake-prone 'Cane quarterback Jacory Harris looked stunningly efficient, throwing for 267 and three scores and no picks, while Miami tailback Lamar Miller churned out 166 yards on 9.2 per carry. This a week after being throttled at home by Clemson — and Virginia Tech is a few timely Logan Thomas miracles away from losing both games.

While Wake was significantly aided in its victory over Florida State by five FSU turnovers, the Demon Deacons still handled business and this game is in Winston-Salem. Every few seasons Jim Grobe seems to put together a team that can shock some people, and this season looks to be it.{YSP:MORE}

GRAHAM WATSON: Baylor (+9.5) over Texas A&M.
The Aggies' terrible secondary, currently allowing an NCAA-worst 336.8 yards per game, welcomes Robert Griffin III, owner of the nation's best completion and touchdown percentages, and Kendall Wright, the national leader in touchdown receptions, in what has the makings of a major, extremely high-scoring upset by the Bears. Even though Baylor has only beaten the Aggies twice since 1985, this is a potent offense that has more than enough firepower ability to create one of those second-half comebacks that have plagued A&M all season.

This week's guest…
STEWART MANDEL, Sports Illustrated: Virginia (+7) over Georgia Tech.

It may be crazy to put faith in a Virginia team last seen squeaking by Idaho at home, 21-20. But it seems like the Yellow Jackets' off-the-charts offense has been regressing back toward more normal outputs since they entered conference play. They've played just two road games, at 1-4 Middle Tennessee State, the other a closer-than-it-should-have-been win at N.C. State. Two key elements work in the Cavaliers' favor: a) The all-important bye week to prepare for the triple option, statistically proven to be Paul Johnson's kryptonite. And b) It's Al Groh's return to Charlottesville. Enough said.

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Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.
Follow Stewart Mandel @slmandel.
Follow Chris Brown @smartfootball.
• Follow Graham Watson @Yahoo_Graham.

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