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By UltimateCapper.com Contributing Writer, Mike Ivcic
While the NFL finally begins this week, there’s already one week in the books for the college teams, and already the BCS picture has shifted dramatically. The Mountain West is riding high after BYU’s upset of Oklahoma, and the conference is praying both the Cougars and Utah remain undefeated prior to their year-end meeting on November 28. If so, that would be a guaranteed BCS berth, regardless of how any other team fairs. For the Big 12, it’s a tough blow to their hopes of getting both the Sooners and Texas into the BCS, though if Oklahoma can run the table they would likely make it, especially considering the injury to Sam Bradford.
Meanwhile Alabama fought off a game Virginia Tech team and Boise State knocked off Oregon (before LeGarrette Blount knocked out Boise State), meaning there’s a good chance that if the Broncos can win the WAC with a minimum of one loss, they will likely finish higher in the BCS standings than the ACC or Big East champion. Speaking of that ACC, it was not a good week for them, as teams posted a 4-6 non-conference mark. Miami reasserted itself, however, with a thrilling 38-34 win over Florida State, positioning the Coastal Division as far superior to the Atlantic Division.
Finally, the stage is set for a big-time BCS matchup in Columbus, Ohio this week, but only because of poor play-calling from Navy. The Midshipmen absolutely pounded Ohio State in the second half, staging a valiant comeback to get within a two-point conversion of the Buckeyes. But, after success on the ground, Navy tried to go to the air to earn the tie, and instead watched as Ohio State put two points on the board the other way and held on for the 31-27 win. Don’t expect the Trojans to gift wrap the game this week like Navy did last week.
Now, on to the five games of the week:
1. Clemson @ #15 Georgia Tech
Thursday 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)
The ACC loves early season matchups for primetime television, and the conference is hoping this one will live up to last week’s Miami-FSU clash. Georgia Tech might wind up being the best team in the conference at season’s end, but they’ll find out quickly if they are truly as good as their projection. Head Coach Paul Johnson has brought his old Navy-style offense to a more talented Yellow Jackets squad, who should be able to handle their first conference opponent at home. Clemson, meanwhile, is going through a transition after underachieving the final years of the Bowden era. With FSU’s loss to Miami, the Atlantic is suddenly wide open, and the Tigers certainly have enough talent on the roster to win a weak division, but they’ll have to come away with a big road win at some point, something they were unable to do in years past. Expect GT’s offense to give Clemson fits and score plenty enough to win.
Line: Georgia Tech by 5
Pick: Georgia Tech 35, Clemson 17
2. Brigham Young @ Tulane
Saturday 3:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
As I mentioned last week, we won’t always take the five biggest games based upon rankings. This game is huge for the Cougars, who escaped Arlington with a 14-13 win over Oklahoma but have to right back down South for a matchup with Tulane. This time, it’ll be a true road game for BYU against a team that got embarrassed in its opener, a 37-13 defeat at the hands of Tulsa. Even in the NFL, this would be considered a classic let-down game, so just imagine the emotions that will run through the veins of 18-to-23-year-old kids from week one to week two. BYU will have to make sure their heads are on straight and they don’t get caught looking ahead to anyone but Tulane, or they might wind up blowing the great win from last week. Even a close win might put some doubt into the minds of voters. Tulane, meanwhile, just needs some sort of positive event to change the course of the program, which hasn’t been the same since Hurricane Katrina. There won’t be a better chance for the Green Wave this season than this game.
Line: Brigham Young by 17.5
Pick: Brigham Young 31, Tulane 7
3. #18 Notre Dame @ Michigan
Saturday 3:30 p.m. (ABC)
The clash of the two winningest football programs in the country hasn’t meant much since 2006, when the Wolverines stomped the Irish in South Bend, 48-21. This time, the Irish are considered by some to be overrated, while Michigan is considered by some to be underrated. After last week, there is no way Notre Dame can feel comfortable about an at-large bid to a BCS bowl with two losses, and there’s that pesky team from Southern Cal that’s hanging around in the middle of the schedule, so this is a must-win. For Michigan, a win here puts a program that suffered its worst season in… well, maybe ever, back on the map as a legitimate football team with hopes of a bowl game. Both head coaches have faced extreme scrutiny in the past couple of months, but for different reasons. Charlie Weis continues to have good recruiting classes, but the results on the field haven’t backed it up for Notre Dame. In Ann Arbor, Rich Rodriguez has discovered what it’s like to join one of the most storied programs in the country as opposed to toiling in Morgantown, WV (no offense to Mountaineer fans – I like WVU) and it hasn’t all been pretty. Either way, one coach will see a much brighter future after this one, and the other will find the pressure ratcheted right back up.
Line: Notre Dame by 3
Pick: Michigan 27, Notre Dame 24
4. South Carolina @ #21 Georgia
Saturday 7:00 p.m. ESPN2
Another conference that loves early season matchups, the SEC sees two east foes go head-to-head with vastly different issues. For South Carolina, they enter another road contest coming off a big road win at NC State, hoping for the first time in Steve Spurrier’s tenure to be a factor in the SEC race down the stretch. They would love nothing more than to go “Between the Hedges” and whip up on a Georgia team that marched right down the field on Oklahoma State to score on its first possession and never looked even half that good after that. The Bulldogs are clearly rebuilding, having lost QB Matt Stafford and RB Knowshon Moreno in the draft, but Mark Richt knows what he’s doing, and he’ll have his team ready to play. The SEC East is known as being a bit more flashy and a bit less hard-hitting than their West counterparts, but this could look a lot more like two bulls ramming heads than swans gracefully roaming the field.
Line: Georgia by 7
Pick: South Carolina 20, Georgia 16
5. #3 Southern California @ #8 Ohio State
Saturday 8:00 p.m. (ABC)
The last time these two titans clashed, it wasn’t close, and this one might not be either if last week is any indication. USC didn’t have the world’s toughest opponent in week one, smoking San Jose State 56-3 as a tune up for the Buckeyes. The problem is, Ohio State didn’t have a very tough foe in their opener either, but needed that aforementioned two-point conversion return to stave off a game Navy squad. If Tyrelle Prior plays the same game this Saturday as he did last Saturday, USC will cruise. Despite what most Buckeye fans would like to think, the Trojans are deeper, faster, and more aggressive than OSU. Ohio State does have two advantages, however. First, they are home, and that’s one of the most intimidating places to play as a visitor. Second, believe it or not, they have a better-coached and more disciplined team. Pete Carroll’s teams have occasionally been known to beat themselves – more so with the Jets and Patriots than at USC, but it’s still a trend. That will never happen to Jim Tressell. The Buckeyes will certainly be ready, the question is whether that will be enough to overcome what is, in reality, a huge talent gap.
Line: Southern California by 7
Pick: Southern California 34, Ohio State 20
Straight Up: 3-2
Versus Line: 4-1
Straight Up: 3-2
Versus Line: 4-1
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