Dr. Saturday

The week’s five best picks: Don’t get caught looking ahead

Frank Schwab
Dr. Saturday

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Mississippi State TE Malcolm Johnson (US Presswire)

Dan Mullen likely had no idea that everyone who decided to wager on Mississippi State-Tennessee last week was affected by his play call at the end of last week's game.

Mississippi State was favored by 3 points, or some folks had the Bulldogs minus-3.5 depending on when they got it, and the Bulldogs led 34-31 with 14 seconds left. When Mullen sent his offense out on fourth and goal, it seemed he was content to run up the middle, or have someone run around for a while, and give Tennessee the ball back with 10 seconds or less and about 90 yards to go. Ah, but Mullen was not thinking that.

Here's his thought process from SEC Illustrated:

"Fourth down, my thought was, I trust Tyler (Russell, Mississippi State's quarterback) a lot," Mullen said. "As long as we don't throw an interception. We were coming off the timeout, so I told Tyler, I said, 'Hey, you know what, instead of just handing the ball up the middle, let's take a shot at the end zone. Just put it where our guy or nobody's going to catch it, and I think that'll take up as much time as running the ball up the middle. If it's incomplete, then they've got the ball with nine seconds, 91 yards away from our end zone.'"

So Russell started to drop back. By the time those who had Tennessee plus-3 could finish the sentence that started "What the ... " this happened:

Malcolm Johnson's ridiculous catch in the end zone gave the Bulldogs the cover. Just like Jim Harbaugh last night, Mullen probably had no idea that a lot of money changed hands on his decision. But it did.

So with that, here's this week's picks:

Toledo (+5.5) over Cincinnati: It will be hard for the Bearcats to get too excited for this game, especially with Louisville coming up next week in a game that could end up deciding the Big East. Toledo is a talented team that can score in bunches, and this home night game will be a big deal for the Rockets. Cincinnati, odd as it sounds, still hasn't played a game away from home. This is a tough spot for Cincinnati as a road favorite.

Middle Tennessee (+19) over Mississippi State: Speaking of tough spots, here are the Bulldogs again. Last week's win over Tennessee was a big deal, and they have to have an eye on next week's game against Alabama, right? Random non-conference games in the middle of a conference schedule have to be a coach's nightmare, especially one against a capable Blue Raiders team that already went to Georgia Tech this season and won. Mississippi State probably wins, but that's a lot of points.

BYU (+13.5) over Notre Dame: Yep, another look-ahead game. Notre Dame plays at Oklahoma next week in a game that could leave no doubt the Irish are back - if Notre Dame beats the Sooners, it will likely be 11-0 going into its Nov. 24 game at USC. BYU plays great defense, and last week's 42-24 loss looked a lot worse when the Beavers exploded in the fourth quarter (the game was tied after three quarters). Notre Dame should win, but again, that's a lot of points against a defense that doesn't give up many.The Irish will be happy with a small win to lead into that big tilt against Oklahoma.

Florida (-3.5) over South Carolina: As this point, we have no reason to doubt Florida. They've won big games on the road, and already beat a LSU team that beat South Carolina last week. The defense is very good, and South Carolina either won't have banged-up running back Marcus Lattimore or he will be less than 100 percent. South Carolina is also on the road for the second straight week, and the LSU defense is very physical. It'll be hard for the Gamecocks to bounce right back.

Alabama (-20) at Tennessee: The Volunteers have allowed 37 points to Florida, 51 to Georgia and 41 to Mississippi State. Alabama is capable on offense (the Crimson Tide's lowest output this year has been 33 points, and they've cracked 40 points four times in six games). Tennessee's offense is pretty good too, but we're figuring Alabama's defense will have something to prove this week. And if Alabama's defense is motivated, Tennessee won't score all that many points.

Last week: 2-2-1
Season: 11-12-2

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