October 27, 2011
Perusing the weekly lines for a straight-up shocker or two — for entertainment only, of course.
• GRAHAM WATSON: Georgia Tech +4 against Clemson.
Clemson is ripe for an upset. The Tigers and quarterback Tajh Boyd just spent a week being showered with praise and linked to national championship scenarios, all of which will be a distraction heading to Georgia Tech.
Yes, the Yellow Jackets have looked terrible in their last two games against Virginia and Miami on the heels of a 6-0 start of their own, but this is an easy game to get motivated for and a game that could get the Jackets' season right back on track. They're still in the hunt for the Coastal Division title and need a lot of confidence heading into next week's pivotal battle against Virginia Tech. Clemson's run defense has been suspect this year and ranks 76th nationally, allowing nearly 170 yards per game. Georgia Tech's rushing prowess, coupled with a few passes to keep the Tigers off balance, will be the difference.
• MATT HINTON: Navy (+21) over Notre Dame.
This has felt a little like "Pile on Notre Dame Week," which tends to happen when you've just turned in a double-digit flop against your biggest rival in primetime. (A game I picked the Irish to win, by the way, in accordance with the Vegas line.) But it also happens when people start to get the feeling they've seen this movie before, because they have seen this movie before: The Fighting Irish have watched early optimism fade into deflating losing streaks involving the Midshipmen in three of the last four seasons, including last year's loss in Baltimore, where the defense looked lost against the triple option and the offense wasn't even competitive.
Navy comes in riding a five game losing streak of its own. But four of those losses came by a field goal or less, two of them following controversial calls at the end of regulation, and none of them against a team starting two true freshman defensive ends against the slipperiest offense in football. With a little of Notre Dame's trademark generosity, it's looking like another long November in South Bend.
Bonus Pick: Indiana (+9) over Northwestern. Northwestern appears to be far ahead of Indiana, program-wise (which isn't saying much), but these two teams play each other close: Six straight in the series have been decided by a touchdown or less, the last four by a field goal or less, including the Hoosiers' 21-19 upset in Bloomington in 2008. Indiana is a terrible, terrible team, but the Wildcats have dropped five in a row themselves and are still crossing their fingers on whether quarterback Dan Persa will make it through four quarters. Indiana gets one conference win per year, and this is it.
• CHRIS BROWN, Smart Football and Grantland: Michigan State (+4) over Nebraska.
One always has to give the Vegas gurus the benefit of the doubt, but you have to wonder what games they've been watching to favor Nebraska over Michigan State. Obviously the transitive property of football would make Michigan State a 37-point favorite over the Huskers, given that Wisconsin beat Nebraska by 31 and lost to MSU by six. But even setting that aside, although Nebraska appears to have the more explosive offense, the Cornhuskers haven't faced a defense like the Spartans' and are a bad second half against Ohio State away from having been shut down by all the worthy defenses they've faced.
On the other side, Spartan quarterback Kirk Cousins continues to look solid, and Bo Pelini's D continues to look shaky. Nebraska may move the ball a bit, but Michigan State will easily outscore them — aided by some Taylor Martinez interceptions. I pick the Spartans.