Welcome to Fact or Fanatic, where each week we bust the myths of college athletics and take a look at the weekend ahead.
Unfortunately, the only myth busted this week is the myth of our own immortality, thanks to a few days in the hospital and a very stubborn orthopedic surgeon. So this week, in an abbreviated version of Fact or Fanatic, we’ll try to improve upon our right-smooth 80% picks record from last week.
It’s a strange week of football, with normally big rivalry games like Michigan-Michigan State and Florida-Georgia unable to muster up their usual intensity. But there’s still a healthy slate of ranked games to evaluate. Then too, this is the last week before the College Football Playoff rankings begin, which is a great thing considering that some teams dropped nine places in the polls for a win, while other ranked teams lost to unranked opponents and didn’t fall out of the top 10. *coughOhioStatecough* With that being said, let’s take a look.
#9 Baylor versus Texas
How the mighty have fallen, and how the unworthy thrive. If ever a program deserved to be 0-8 at this point, it’s the one in Waco. As for Texas, what looked like a promising start has disintegrated, and the only real question in Austin is who’s going to succeed Charlie Strong. Keep in mind, also, that Baylor’s CFP run last year was derailed when the Longhorns upset them. We’d expect to see a fairly nasty bit of revenge and score-running-up when the Bears show up on Saturday.
Baylor 48 Texas 10
#10 West Virginia versus Oklahoma State
The Cowboys haven’t had the season they expected, but they’re still a very dangerous team lying in wait for an undefeated West Virginia squad in Stillwater. OKST’s two losses have come against Baylor and against the officials in that crazy (and illegal) finish against Central Michigan.
The Mountaineers haven’t had the season everyone else expected, having pulled off an at-the-time surprising win over TCU and cruising through the rest of their games. The problem with that cruise is that it’s occurred over unranked and generally not-that-good teams. Not a single one of WVU’s opponents is ranked. With OKST’s run game absolutely obliterating the competition, and their offense scoring a healthy 41.1 average per game, something’s got to give here. We’re banking on it being the Mountaineer defense.
Oklahoma State 42 West Virginia 35
#15 Auburn versus Ole Miss
Okay, this is a tough game to pick. Ole Miss is about two plays away from beating both Florida State and Alabama, while Auburn still struggles to find a quarterback who’s able to actually locate the field once he comes stumbling out of the locker room.
And while the Rebels have been reeling from an unexpected 3-4 start to their season, the Tigers have been running over people. Literally. Their 543 yards rushing against Arkansas last week is the most rushing yards ever from an SEC team against an SEC opponent.
But the hallmark of this Auburn team is actually its defense – a strange thing to imagine on a Gus Malzahn-coached team. At some point, the Auburn train is going to derail. Without a viable passing game, success is impossible to sustain in the SEC. Conventional wisdom says we should take the Tigers, but we are neither wise nor conventional.
Ole Miss 24 Auburn 21
#7 Nebraska versus #11 Wisconsin
Sometimes when we look at a game, we look at the provenance of the teams. Nebraska is unbeaten and ranked in the top 10, having beaten only one ranked foe, an anemic Oregon team. Wisconsin, on the other hand, is playing its fifth ranked opponent in eight weeks, having lost to Ohio State and Michigan by only one score each, while beating LSU and Michigan State. So this isn’t your typical 7-0 versus 5-2 team matchup.
Considering that the Badgers get the advantages of a fired-up Camp Randall and a home game, it’s hard to predict that the Cornhuskers will come out with a win. Nebraska is trending in the right direction (and is one of our favorite teams) but may still be a year away. Still, expect this game to be close and hard-fought, and whoever comes out alive has that inside track to a rematch and the B1G championship game.
Wisconsin 35 Nebraska 31
#3 Clemson versus #12 Florida State
Much of the shine got rubbed off this game when Louisville obliterated the Seminoles a few weeks back, and then the North Carolina special teams unit brought back memories of nightmares past to Florida State fans. Clemson, on the other hand, has stumbled and stutter-stepped its way through its season so far, only seeming to dominate teams the Tigers shouldn’t even be on the same field with.
Only in its shootout with Louisville did Clemson look like it even wanted to be ranked in the top five. But one thing’s for certain: Florida State wants to be ranked in the top five, and with its defeat of #10 Miami, it has started to demonstrate that its missing element against Louisville (defense) is starting to get resurrected in Tallahassee. Yet do they have the guns to go toe to toe with Clemson?
And if they do, will Clemson even remember to stick its foot out? Clemson reminds me of the Florida State team two years ago that was destined to be the national champion, went undefeated through a series of near misses in the regular season, and then got exposed in the playoff. Clemson is heading down that same path, and needs a big showing this week right before the first playoff committee polls come out. This is a gut-check weekend.
We are going with our gut.
Florida State 42 Clemson 38
Chaos, you say? Why, yes – we’re going with chaos this weekend. It’s the only viable option for this last weekend of meaningless polls. Besides, we’re playing with house money on our picks. With a 28-12 record for the season and a healthy 70% average, we’re entitled to go a little loose and free this weekend. But yes – you heard it here first.
Three undefeated teams will lose this weekend.
In our opinion.
Be sure to drop us a line when we learn that the odds were never in our favor.