One week after “MONSTER SATURDAY THAT’S MONSTROUSLY MONSTROUS!!!“, this weekend’s slate of games is a bit more subdued. So much so, in fact, that a network source told CFT earlier today that ESPN is tossing around the possibility of using the descriptor “Kinda Creepy Garden Gnome Saturday” throughout their day of coverage*.
While there may not be the same level of games with national implications as last weekend, there are still some quality contests on tap as some teams begin/continue conference play, while others gear up for it.
Of course, and as is usually the case, more than a handful of those games involve SEC and Big Ten schools. Here is a quick-hit look at just a few of those contests as I go out on a little limb with a couple of underdogs in tow.
(*Not really. We don’t think.)
No. 12 Arkansas at Georgia (Noon ET)
THE LINE:Georgia -2
THE PLOT: The Bulldogs were extremely vulnerable to the run — re: they got their necks stomped on repeatedly by a true freshman back — in a loss to South Carolina last Saturday. Fortunately and unfortunately at the same time, the Razorbacks’ success or failure in the SEC this season will ride on the right arm of quarterback Ryan Mallett. The Razorbacks will get theirs against a defense that still seems to be adjusting to Todd Grantham‘s new 3-4-base scheme. UGA getting theirs and keeping up with the high-scoring Hawgs will be made even more difficult by the absence of star wide receiver A.J. Green yet again.
THE PICK: UGA had no answer for Marcus Lattimore last week; they’ll have no answer for Mallett this week as the junior takes his first giant step into the heart of the Heisman race with huge numbers in a conference game. And UGA will be staring the possibility of a 0-3 start in the SEC square in the face.
THE SCORE: Arkansas 41, Georgia 24
No. 10 Florida at Tennessee (3:30 ET)
THE LINE: Florida -14
THE PLOT: The defense has been and will continue to be fine. Same with the special teams. The salient question then becomes: Is this the week the Gators’ offense starts to consistently hit on most of their available eight cylinders as opposed to the three or four they’ve been running through two weeks? That unit will dictate the the final margin as, no offense to first-year head coach Derek Dooley, the Vols simply don’t have the talent or the depth this season to do anything but hope they can keep it close.
THE PICK: Given the way Florida’s offense has sputtered throughout most of the first two games, two touchdowns is just too much to be giving up on the road to a conference rival. I like the Gators to win with relative ease, but a late Vols score will keep them from covering.
THE SCORE: Florida 34, Tennessee 21
Arizona State at No. 11 Wisconsin (3:30 ET)
THE LINE: Wisconsin -13
THE PLOT: Two of Wisconsin’s top receivers will miss this game due to injury. What does that mean for Arizona State? An even healthier dose of massive running back John Clay, which is neither good nor healthy for any defense. Memo to Scott Tolzien: you won’t be able to get away with a couple of ugly picks against this level of competition, and you can bet the Sun Devils’ coaching staff has seen how you’ve been rather lose and free with the football thus far.
THE PICK: On the road, the Sun Devils have no answer for Clay. None.
THE SCORE: Wisconsin 36, Arizona State 17
Mississippi State at No. 15 LSU (7:00 ET)
THE LINE: LSU -7.5
THE PLOT: This is an easy one, and likely the key to the game for both teams: can Jordan Jefferson bounce back from an utterly abysmal performance last weekend and exactly how short is his leash now? Certainly there are other factors that will come into play — MSU’s own quarterbacks; LSU’s defense: closer to Week One or Week Two?; Les Miles anti-rope-a-doping the game clock; etc. — but Jefferson and, if he’s yanked, Jarrett Lee will be the overriding factor in any success on the Bayou. Of course, the Tigers have run the ball relatively well thus far, although the Bulldogs should be relatively stout defending the run all season long. So, yeah, we could very well be back to the signal callers wearing purple & gold.
THE PICK: If LSU were to lose at home, as Toby Keith is wont to say, the fit would hit the shan. Well… feces, meet oscillating blades. And Mr. Miles, plop at least one cheek down on the Coaching Hot Seat v2010, por favor.
THE SCORE: Mississippi State 27, LSU 24
No. 9 Iowa at No. 24 Arizona (10:30 ET)
THE LINE: Arizona -1
THE PLOT: Arizona’s defense has not allowed a touchdown through the first two games of the season. Iowa is neither Toledo nor The Citadel, and the Hawkeyes’ running game will provide the first true measuring stick for how improved the stout-in-2009 Wildcats’ defense really is in 2010. Then again, the Hawkeyes’ nationally-ranked defense has yet to face a quarterback like Nick Foles or a running back like Nic Grigsby, so this game is taking on the look of both a proving ground and litmus test for several facets of both squads. Translation? Nobody knows just yet what either of these two schools bring to the field in 2010; very early eastern time Sunday morning, we might be able to wrap our collective heads around where these two schools might be headed.
THE PICK: A lengthy flight, late starting time and the desert heat? The Hawkeyes scoff in the general direction of those negatives being focused upon by the media heading into this non-conference game. And, in a game that’s closer than what I’m predicting, come away with an impressive road win that sets the table for a serious run at unseating Ohio State as Big Ten champions. I think, because Grigsby’s scaring the hell out of me as I’m making this pick.
THE SCORE: Iowa 31, Arizona 20
LAST WEEKStraight up: 3-1Vs. spread: 3-1
OVERALLStraight up: 7-1Vs. spread: 4-4
(Odds courtesy of SportsBook.com by way of our friends at NBC Sports.com)