Thu Sep 10 11:08am EDT
The Doc Saturday crew peruses the weekly lines and pulls out a few shockers.
Doug Gillett: Iowa State (+6.5) over Iowa.
The Hawkeyes had to block not one but two game-winning field-goal attempts in the final seconds against Northern Iowa at home. What on earth are they doing as a touchdown favorite to a Big 12 team -- a bad Big 12 team, yes, but a Big 12 team nonetheless -- on the road? Particularly since Kirk Ferentz, for all the money he's getting paid (remember when he was a lock for an NFL job? Ah, innocence), is only 4-6 against ISU. The Cyclones have knocked off much stronger Hawkeye teams than this one appeared to be its first time out; don't be the least bit surprised to see Paul Rhoads sitting at 2-0 Sunday morning (which would put him a third of the way toward his predecessor's wins total.)
Also: Would not put it past Dave Wannstedt to gack one up to Buffalo with Pitt as a 10.5-point favorite. Pitt was only 1 point in front of Buffalo going into the fourth quarter last year, and that was at home. Turner Gill's going to get hired at a bigger program sooner or later; the only thing missing from his resume at this point is an out-of-nowhere upset over a BCS-conference team, and this seems like as good a place to get one as any.
Matt Hinton: South Carolina (+7) over Georgia
I look at this game as a very lo-fi toss-up, so I suppose the combination of preseason expectations and the home field accounts for the touchdown spread after a couple dreadful offensive debuts last week. In a defensive game with teams that mirror one another as closely as these two, the difference can come down to some randomness -- a pass interference penalty, a missed field goal, who gets the ball last -- but if there was one thing about either of these outfits that impressed me last week, it was South Carolina's defense ability to slowly choke the life out of N.C. State on the road. Seeing as neither USC nor UGA has the ability to, like, score, that will have to suffice.
(UPDATE, 11:34 a.m. ET: And now that it appears Bulldog quarterback Joe Cox may not be starting thanks to a shoulder injury, expect that line to fall a bit, although backup Logan Gray is probably not that significant of a downgrade. ... FURTHER UPDATE, 1:44 p.m. ET: So Cox will play. That means ... well, as far as the upset pick, nothing; Cox's presence was crucial in its original logic. As you were.)
Holly Anderson: Louisiana-Lafayette (+7) over Kansas State.
Yes, the Cajuns are projected as one of the worst teams in the country, are a bottom-rung Sun Belt squad and lost fan and stat-line favorite Michael Desormeaux at quaterback. They're also facing Kansas State, which last weekend came within breaths of losing to freaking UMass thanks to a trifecta of turnovers. Ron Prince left all kinds of tangled webs behind when he parachuted away from the K-State den, but I wasn't aware he filled every pair of cleats with lead on his way out. Despite the personnel Hail Mary that returned them to the surly embrace of Bill Snyder, the Wildcats are fuh-loundering.
Also like: Toledo over Colorado, Iowa State over Iowa, and Fresno State over Wisconsin.
Chris Brown: Vanderbilt (+14.5) over LSU.
I think it will be far closer than the two-touchdown spread, and maybe Vanderbilt can even steal the game. This past offseason, Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson visited Tulsa to learn their high-octane, power-spread offense. And in the opener (against hapless Western Carolina), it appeared to work: the 'Dores accumulated over 600 yards of offense, including over 400 rushing. And if last week was a possible breakout game for Vandy, LSU largely sleepwalked through its victory over Washington, where the Tigers allowed a Washington team that had lost 14 straight games (now 15) to rack up over 470 yards of offense, and were outgained by over 150 yards. Remember, Auburn hired Gus Malzahn, who coordinated Tulsa's nation-leading attack the last two years, to revamp its offense. The question coming into this year was whether Malzahn's offense can work in the SEC. We might get an early answer this week, via Vandy's new look attack.