OU will hold off Texas D, Irish will edge out win
I'm coming off a decent week, going two over .500 against the line, which puts me 4-over on the season. The good: picking Texas Tech to blow out K-State; the bad: picking BYU to rout Utah State; the ugly: picking WVU to thump Rutgers. Here are this week's guesses:
Wake Forest 17, Clemson 14: If Wake doesn't have star punter-kicker Sam Swank (strained quad), that's a big blow, but I still think the Deacons will be able to boost their struggling running game after a week off. The Tigers also have a bad history in Thursday night games, going 1-7.
Oklahoma 38, Texas 28: Just how improved is the UT defense? I think it's better, but the key in this game will be if the experienced Sooner O-line keeps heat off Sam Bradford and opens holes for OU's talented trio of tailbacks.
Kansas 30, CU 21: I was tempted to go with the Buffs, but I think their soft run defense (89th in the country) will allow Mark Mangino's offense some balance for Todd Reesing and the KU passing attack. CU also is 2-8 on the road under Dan Hawkins as the Buffs play their first true road game of the season.
Utah 41, Wyoming 7: The Utes can pound the ball with anyone, and Wyoming doesn't have a good run defense at all. Supposedly the drama between these two coaches has been quashed, but don't think Kyle Whittingham won't mind flexing his team's muscle this week for the Cowboys' homecoming game.
Vanderbilt 10, Mississippi State 7: The Commodores have the potential to come out flat after last week, but MSU's run defense hasn't been very tough thus far and whatever shifts in the secondary the Bulldogs have made probably won't be enough as Vandy's slick defense forces a few more mistakes this week.
USC 35, Arizona State 7: The Trojans' D is in an ornery mood, and that should spell all kinds of trouble for the still suspect ASU O-line (99th in the country in sacks allowed). Worse still, the Sun Devils don't run the ball well enough to keep the Trojans on their heels. The backslide for ASU continues.
Georgia 23, Tennessee 14: The Dawgs have been hit hard by injury but the Vols are a mess right now. Plus, UGA has that revenge factor from getting pounded last year in Knoxville to work with.
Ohio State 45, Purdue 17: Beanie Wells probably won't win the Heisman but he and Terrelle Pryor figure to pile up the rushing yards against one of the nation's softest defenses (104th against the run). Purdue's 16-game losing streak against ranked teams continues.
Notre Dame 21, UNC 20: Good test for Jimmy Clausen facing an opportunistic Tar Heel secondary on the road (12 INTs, tops in the nation.) This will be the best team ND has faced thus far, and in the second half, my hunch is the Irish D makes a few big plays and proves to be the difference.
Northwestern 17, Michigan State 16: Is Javon Ringer starting to wear down? You have to wonder after Iowa holds him to 91 yards on 25 carries after he averaged 42 carries in the previous three games. The Wildcats are decent against the run and I think they have enough weapons to test a Spartan secondary hit by injury. Also, the week off should've helped Northwestern's shaky O-line get ready for this one.
Florida 24, LSU 13: The Gators have been challenged, and even though Jarrett Lee handled himself well on the road at Auburn, the Gators are a much tougher test because they have a lot more weapons on offense and a proven leader at quarterback.
Penn State 24, Wisconsin 17: The Nittany Lions have been outstanding on both sides of the ball, excelling in all phases of the game. Wisconsin's shaky passing game I don't think is productive enough to rattle Penn State. I do think the Badgers D will slow the Nittany Lions down some, but I don't think they have enough speed to win.
Auburn 20, Arkansas 7: The Tigers didn't have the receivers to get the spread offense cranked up, but they still have a lot more experience and toughness to handle Arkansas as they move forward with a new, more physical approach in the post-Tony Franklin Era. The Hogs have some promising young talent, but I think this road trip will be a lot for a program that has struggled to get many of its upper classmen to buy into Bobby Petrino.
BYU 35, New Mexico 13: The Cougars know New Mexico's attacking scheme very well since Bronco Mendenhall used to work at UNM. BYU has averaged more than 33 points per game in its three-game win streak over the Lobos, who come into this game as one of the worst-rated pass defenses in the country (99th). I think that translates into a big game for QB Max Hall.
Ball State 38, Western Kentucky 13: BSU QB Nate Davis is putting together another great season and the Cardinals have a dangerous running attack that averages more than five yards a pop. I'd give WKU a little more of a shot if they ran the ball better, which could target Ball State's biggest weakness. But that's not the case, so I think BSU cruises here.
Missouri 48, Oklahoma State 27: With all the talk about the explosive offenses of Mizzou, OU, Texas and Texas Tech, few people are talking about the firepower OSU has. The Cowboys are very physical and run it as well as anyone, but Mizzou has been pretty underrated dealing with the ground game (15th in the country). Ultimately, I think the Tigers' offense blows the game open in the second half. State is only 5-12 on the road under Mike Gundy.
Boise State 35, Southern Miss. 34: USM has some dangerous weapons in RB Damion Fletcher and receivers Shawn Nelson and DeAndre Brown, and they should put a big scare in the Broncos secondary.
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.
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