Finally, the page can be turned on a September littered with non-conference cupcakes and we can really dig into where the meat of the schedule begins — October conference games.
While Florida-Alabama talk dominates the landscape, there are several key league games in both the SEC and Big Ten that will ring the bell on the true start to the 2010 season.
We’ll get to the predictions in just a second, but first allow me to point out the fact that I went 4-1 last week both straight-up and against the spread. I don’t point that out to be boastful, either; rather, it’s mentioned in order to brag about my selections as it so rarely happens that I’m on the right side of the W/L ledger in any type of gambling endeavor.
And, yes, I will be listed as questionable (shoulder) for tomorrow’s game due to the attempt to pat myself on the back.
Anyway, off to the predictions…
No. 2 Ohio State at Illinois (12:00 ET)
THE LINE: Ohio State -17
THE PLOT: Back in 2007, Ohio State was unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in the country before losing to the Illini 28-21. This season, the Buckeyes are unbeaten and ranked No. 2 in the country. So, you’re telling me there’s a chance of history repeating itself? Uhhh, yeah. No. Not with this Zookley crew taking the field.
THE PICK: About the only question is whether or not the Buckeyes can cover the spread on the road in their Big Ten opener. Of course, the answer will all depend on how long The Vest goes before calling off the dogs.
THE SCORE: Ohio State 48, Illinois 13
No. 11 Wisconsin at No. 24 Michigan State (3:30 ET)
THE LINE: Wisconsin -2
THE PLOT: The Badgers have faced one “real” opponent this season, and barely came away with a one-point win at home against Arizona State. Mark Dantonio makes a triumphant return to the Spartans — albeit from the press box — after suffering a heart attack, and they get Wisconsin at home. I’m not liking how this is setting up for one of the preseason picks to possibly knock the Buckeyes off their Big Ten perch.
THE PICK: Emotion — and shutting down John Clay, relatively speaking — carries the day for the Spartans as they win this one outright.
THE SCORE: Michigan State 24, Wisconsin 20
Tennessee at No. 12 LSU (3:30 ET)
THE LINE: LSU -16.5
THE PLOT: LSU is 113th in the country in passing efficiency, 115th in passing offense, and 65th in scoring offense. On the flip side, the Tigers are 9th in total defense and 5th in scoring defense. Tennessee will upset someone in the SEC this year; what better time — even with it being on the road and against a very good defense — to pick up that upset than against a Jordan Jefferson-quarterbacked team?
THE PICK: 16.5 points LSU is giving up? I understand Tennessee is in full rebuilding mode, but the Tigers’ QB play screams taking the points. Which I will. As well as the Vols to win outright.
THE SCORE: Tennessee 19, LSU 17
No. 22 Penn State at No 17 Iowa (8:00 ET)
THE LINE: Iowa -7
THE PLOT: In the run-up to the Alabama-Penn State game, I was very comfortable in proclaiming that the Nittany Lions will be a better team at the end of the year than they were then. It’s not the end of the year quite yet, and the Hawkeyes will never be confused with the Owls, who came thiiis close to upsetting PSU last weekend. Too much Hawkeye defense — and too much conference road pressure — for young quarterback Rob “Robert” Bolden, who will be a star in this league. Just not this week.
THE PICK: To be perfectly honest, I’m very surprised the spread is this low. Thus, I’m jumping all over the home team and gladly giving up the points.
THE SCORE: Iowa 27, Penn State 10
No. 7 Florida at No. 1 Alabama (8:00 ET)
THE LINE: Alabama -8
THE PLOT: Justifiably so, this is the most hyped game of the week, the GameDay crew squatting at the Stanford-Oregon game notwithstanding. The thing is, though, this is almost “just another” conference game for both schools as far as the standings are concerned. Sure, there’s the revenge factor for the Gators, but this game is not the be-all, end-all the past two SEC championship games have been. Regardless of which team comes out with a win, the other will still have the opportunity — and the talent — to run the table and setup a third straight title game between the two schools.
Meh, who I am I kidding. These two schools will be out to exact their own version of a pound of Southern flesh, one for revenge and the other in an attempt to prove that theirs is still the biggest, regardless of what implications are on the table. I honestly couldn’t be more excited for a regular season game than I am for this one. It may not technically mean a whole lot for the conference standings or — barring a blowout either way — the national landscape this early in the season, but you will not be able to tell that by the play on the field.
THE PICK: I see the Gators hanging… hanging… hanging… and ultimately falling to the Tide in Tuscaloosa. Alabama is just too damn good in all facets of the game right now; the young Gators will use this loss as a springboard for a season-long run and a rematch come December.
THE SCORE: Alabama 30, Florida 24
LAST WEEKStraight up: 4-1Vs. spread: 4-1
OVERALLStraight up: 14-4Vs. spread: 9-8-1
(Odds courtesy of SportsBook.com by way of our friends at NBC Sports.com)