Commentary

Look for Longhorns, Gators to survive Saturday scares

Updated: August 6, 2009, 5:17 PM ET
By Bruce Feldman | ESPN.com

I had a shaky week, going two games under .500 against the line to put me nine over for the season. The good of last week's picks: picking West Virginia to beat Auburn. The bad: picking Texas to thump Oklahoma State. The ugly: picking Ohio State to beat Penn State. This week's guesses:

[+] EnlargeMatt Grothe
Jim Owens/Icon SMIIf Cincy can get to South Florida's Matt Grothe, it has a chance for a W.
South Florida 21, Cincinnati 14: The big question is, can the Bearcats put a lot of heat on quarterback Matt Grothe? In USF's two losses, Grothe was sacked nine times; in USF's six wins, he was sacked only seven times. My hunch is that the Bulls' O-line will come up with a strong effort against a Cincy D that was gashed last week by UConn, although neutralizing Terrill Byrd, Cincy's standout DT, won't be easy.

Alabama 31, Arkansas State 13: Don't expect another Louisiana-Monroe, Nick Saban-Sun Belt November clunker. The Tide know better than to think far ahead to next week's big trip to LSU. The Red Wolves are decent. They won at Texas A&M and run the ball very well. Trouble is, Bama is great against the run. Expect Arkansas State to do a little damage before getting worn down in the second half.

Florida 38, Georgia 30: Expect Knowshon Moreno to get his yards and Matthew Stafford to stay hot, but that still won't be enough to keep up with the potent Gators attack. The Dawgs have good speed on defense, but the Gators have too many weapons to keep bottled up. Tim Tebow comes into this game healthier than he entered last year's meeting, and he'll be a much tougher puzzle to solve than redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee was last week. Plus, I just don't think UGA could beat Tebow twice in a row.

Oklahoma 48, Nebraska 28: The Sooners are still struggling defensively without LB Ryan Reynolds working in the middle of their D. Joe Ganz, one of the country's most underrated QBs, can exploit that void. But Nebraska just doesn't have the athletes to keep up with the slick crew of receivers whom Sam Bradford showcases.

Texas 45, Texas Tech 44: It's not easy going into Lubbock, and Tech will be sky-high for a crack at UT. Tech has a quick passing attack and runs the ball better than it ever has under Mike Leach. The Red Raiders will be a handful for the Texas D, especially that young secondary. Still, Colt McCoy, his sure-handed receiving crew and a better special-teams unit will have enough magic left to send the Horns out of there with a win.

Utah 20, New Mexico 17: This is a tricky spot for the Utes before the huge game Nov. 6 against TCU. Plus, the Lobos can pound you with the talented Rodney Ferguson. Still, expect the Utes to connect on a few big pass plays to stay undefeated.

USC 66, Washington 0: The Trojans' defense has been devastating since the second half of the Oregon State game last month. It doesn't give up any big plays, and it will swarm Ronnie Fouch a lot worse than Notre Dame did. USC's young O-line will have its way with an overmatched U-Dub D that has gotten picked apart all season. Expect Mark Sanchez to get back on track against a woeful pass defense.

[+] EnlargeRodney Ferguson
Stan Liu/Icon SMIRodney Ferguson and New Mexico will put up a good fight against Utah.

Oklahoma State 54, Iowa State 13: The Cowboys are playing with so much confidence on both sides of the ball. I expect their ground game to roll over the Cyclones, who are 87th in the country against the run.

Boise State 45, New Mexico State 28: The Aggies have played Boise State tough at home. The Aggies do enough offensively that they could take advantage of the young Broncos D, but expect Kellen Lewis to come through with another big night as Boise pulls away in a shootout.

TCU 17, UNLV 14: The Rebels have played better than their record indicates, and they've held leads late into the second half. They're physical but still make too many mistakes. Look for semidistracted TCU (the Horned Frogs play Utah next Thursday night) to struggle with UNLV all night.

Mizzou 52, Baylor 17: Chase Daniel and the Tigers are still in a very ornery mood after their consecutive L's. They will pick apart the country's 87th-ranked pass defense.

Georgia Tech 17, Florida State 13: The Yellow Jackets are coming off a tough loss against Virginia, but look for Jon Dwyer and their shifty offensive scheme to be a big headache for the fast, attacking Noles D that will struggle to stay disciplined. Tech's athletic D-line also will cause too many problems for FSU's inexperienced offensive front.

Minnesota 24, Northwestern 13: Losing running back Tyrell Sutton is huge for the Wildcats, who come into this game beaten up. Northwestern's pass defense isn't good, so Gophers quarterback Adam Weber should have a strong game while Minnesota develops other weapons to take some pressure off wide receiver Eric Decker.

Tulsa 42, Arkansas 34: History isn't on Tulsa's side when it comes to facing BCS conference foes. Even a young, depleted Razorbacks squad is a big upgrade from what Tulsa has faced most of the year. Expect the Hogs' little running back, Mike Smith, to run wild, but Arkansas' suspect defense won't have enough answers for the frenetic Golden Hurricane offense.

[+] EnlargeAdam Weber
Scott Boehm/Getty ImagesLook for Minnesota's Adam Weber to do well against a weak Northwestern pass defense.

LSU 44, Tulane 13: Not having RB Andre Anderson healthy is one of the last things Tulane needs facing an angry bunch of Tigers who have been shellacked in two of their past three games. Look for LSU's D-line to dominate this game and for the Tigers to pound Tulane physically on both sides of the ball.

BYU 49, Colorado State 14: The Rams have some talented receivers, but they'll face a BYU defense that has gotten healthy this week. Max Hall has even better receivers and a huge physical offensive line that won't be tested by Colorado State as it was at TCU. The Rams rank 117th in sacks.

Michigan State 27, Wisconsin 20: Javon Ringer proved last week at Michigan that he still has plenty left in the tank. Wisconsin's run defense is OK, but I expect the Spartans to respond well to coming home after the way they were drilled by Ohio State in their previous game in East Lansing, especially now that their passing game has opened up a little.

Cal 38, Oregon 35: The Golden Bears' run defense has improved a lot with its 3-4 scheme and has forced a bunch of turnovers. Oregon can be sloppy at times, and QB Jeremiah Masoli can be very streaky. Cal has to be worried about the Ducks' pass rush, which is why I think quarterback Kevin Riley can be the answer and lead Cal to a nice win at home.

West Virginia 31, UConn 24: An exciting matchup of two teams with very talented running backs, although Noel Devine and Donald Brown have very different styles. The Huskies had fits with Mountaineers QB Pat White last year. I expect him to be a huge factor again this week, although Brown will get his yards, too. UConn will keep the game much closer this time.

Bruce Feldman is a senior writer with ESPN The Magazine. His new book, "Meat Market: Inside the Smash-Mouth World of College Football Recruiting," is on sale now.