Hey gang. Sorry about the delay on this week's installment. My internet has been down. As you've probably noticed I still haven't gotten around to grading last week's competition -- so we're putting the cart before the horse. Because we're only picking afternoon games, you have until 2:30 p.m. EST tomorrow to get your picks in.
I'll have the scoreboard updated with Week 4's results in the next day or so. Thanks for your patience.
There are major upset points to be had this week. If you're brave enough to go for the glory...
1. No. 21 TEXAS vs. No. 8 OKLAHOMA, 3:30 p.m. ABC (10/2)
GRAHAM predicts OKLAHOMA
The RRS hinges on whether Texas can manufacture offense. If the Longhorns can channel some of the explosiveness and precision that used to signify their offensive attack, this is a close game. Unfortunately, Mack Brown's squad has shown no cohesiveness or guts. A 2nd Texas loss this early? I guess so. Oklahoma wins by a touchdown.
JON predicts OKLAHOMA
Who you got? The team with no offense, or the team with no defense? A Texas team that's coming off of one of the worst losses of the Mack Brown era, or a Sooner squad that barely escaped against Utah State and Cincinnati? It's almost crazy not to go for the upset points here, but I like Bob Stoop's team to win this year's diluted installment of the Red River Rivalry. They're the only one of these two teams that has played a complete game this season, and Stoops isn't about to drop 4 of his last 5 to his chief rival.
Big Ten Portal* says "In the last two years, Texas is 1-0-1 ATS v Oklahoma. The teams are 1-1 on the OVER. Both teams are just 1-3 ATS thus far. Oklahoma is 1-4 ATS on neutral fields since 2008, Texas is just 1-3. Since 2008, in weeks 5-9, Texas is 6-2 ATS while Oklahoma is just 4-5. Oklahoma's key to the game: In the past two meetings, the Sooners have run for a combined total of 32 yards."
2. No. 11 WISCONSIN at No. 24 MICHIGAN STATE, 3:30 p.m. ABC (10/2)
GRAHAM predicts WISCONSIN
I swear to you, I want to pick Michigan State so badly in this game. Three factors swing the Spartans' way: 1) Home field advantage. 2) No Chris Borland (UW's super motor linebacker) to slow all an of a sudden powerful MSU run game. 3) MSU's strongest defensive trait is their ability to slow the run, any kind of run, from any kind of formation. They have the speed to chase down end runs and the veteran toughness to slow dives. So why don't I just run on the Sparty bandwagon? Two reasons. 1) Scott Tolzien. His effectiveness takes pressure off the tremendous power run game. So if you do slow John Clay...you get more play action, an accurate QB, and an NFL level tight end in Lance Kendricks. 2) History. Lots of history. In the last 40 years, Michigan State has started 5-0 only twice. Chances are, they're going to lose this week and continue to not show up in big games. And don't tell me about how college football exists in a vacuum. In East Lansing, everyone remembers. I'm picking on the side of history...and the Badgers.
JON predicts WISCONSIN
The last time I picked against Michigan State (versus Notre Dame) it bit me in the ass. Nevertheless, old habits die hard. Sure, the Spartans have the home field advantage and they'll come out fired up to play for Mark Dantonio, but Wisconsin has the advantage of being able to control the clock by churning out 7 minute drives. Obviously, the premiere matchup here is Wisconsin's John Clay versus Michigan State's Greg Jones, but keep your eye on Scott Tolzien and Nick Toon against the Spartan secondary. The Badgers win a big road test, setting up their October 16th showdown against Ohio State.
Big Ten Portal says "In the last two years, Wisco is 2-0 ATS v. MSU. The teams are 1-0-1 on the OVER. MSU is 1-7 ATS as an underdog since 2008. Wisco is 6-1 on the OVER in last seven games as a road favorite. MSU is 7-1 on the OVER in last eight games as an underdog. Since 2008, both teams are strong on the OVER on grass fields (Wisco 6-3, MSU 12-4)."
3. No. 7 FLORIDA at No. 1 ALABAMA, 8:00 p.m. CBS (10/2)
GRAHAM predicts ALABAMA
Bama is locked and loaded with its ducks in a row. Florida is feeling itself out, struggling early on in games and featuring a battered running back squadron. Do you really expect the powerful and fast Crimson Tide defenders to be fooled by an offensive system they face yearly? That aside, I want to talk about last weeks game, which had all the makings of an early season upset. On the road...defending champ gets dethroned...yada yada. But it didn't happen. Alabama hung on miraculously and with that trap game out of the way, the Tide will roll a Florida team that has made first quarter struggles part of their gameplan.
JON predicts ALABAMA
Arkansas jumped out to a big lead against Alabama because Ryan Mallett had the ability to pick apart an inexperienced secondary. John Brantley can't do that. Neither can Trey Burten. Unlike the Razorbacks, Florida's strengths just don't match up with Bama's weaknesses. Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson have a field day at home against the greatly overrated Gators.
Big Ten Portal says "Bama won the money line at home last year (32-13, Fla was 5-pt fave, OU was 41). Florida won the year before 31-20 (line was Fla -10, OU was 54). Florida is 13-3 ATS vs teams with winning records since 2008 (Bama is just 8-6)."
4. No. 9 STANFORD at No. 4 OREGON, 8:00 p.m. ABC (10/2)
GRAHAM predicts OREGON
Two Top 10 Pac-10 teams. Weird. Real weird. I want to pick Stanford because they look like a solid 1990's Big Ten team. Vegas loves Oregon because they're (per usual) loaded on offense. Has Stanford ever won a game this big? Has Stanford ever played a game this big? I love these early season matchups where it feels like the world might fall over depending on the result of this game. Stanford is going to smash Oregon in the mouth and then Oregon will show the resiliency that got them by Arizona State. I'm in favorite mode tonight and since we cut out spreads, I'll take the Ducks at home.
JON predicts OREGON
This is another upset I'm mad at myself for not jumping all over. After all, Arizona State turned the ball over seven times against Oregon last week, and the Ducks only managed to win the game by two points. Two points! Stanford is the most physical team Chip Kelly has faced since the Rose Bowl. Unfortunately, the Cardinal doesn't have the lateral speed that the Buckeyes used to smother Oregon's patented run-spread. I think Andrew Luck has a strong game against an improved Oregon defense, but the Ducks simply put too many points on the board for Jim Harbaugh's group to keep up.
Big Ten Portal says "Stanford has covered the past two years (they won the money line last year) and both games hit OVER. Stanford is 12-2 on the OVER in last 14 games as underdog. Oregon is 17-5 on the OVER in last 22 games as favorite. Stanford is 10-6 ATS since 2008 vs teams with winning records (Oregon 6-8). Oregon is 14-3 on the OVER since 2008 in games played on turf (Stanford 4-1). Oregon is 10-5 ATS since 2008 in home games (while Stanford is 6-8 in road games)."
5. No. 22 PENN STATE at No. 17 IOWA, 8:05 p.m. ESPN (9/25)
GRAHAM predicts IOWA
Iowa is under performing, but it's a matter of prodding. They just need some inspiration....oh what's that? A slightly wounded PSU team with a young signalcaller? Awesome. Iowa's defense brings the pain and gets their third win in a row over JoePa.
JON predicts IOWA
For the fifth and final time today I'm going against the team with the psychological edge, because I just don't think the Lions -- who have suffered back-to-back Top 5 upsets to the Hawks -- have the talent on offense to win a game like this on the road. Sure, Evan Royster had a breakout performance last week against Temple, but his offensive line will face a far more capable Hawkeye defensive front. And while Iowa's offensive line was Jell-O against Arizona, I think they turn it around against Penn State. Iowa's national championship hopes already evaporated in the desert. There's no way the Hawks take a back seat in the Big Ten race on opening night.
Big Ten Portal says "In the last two years, Iowa has won both games straight up as underdogs; teams are 1-1 on the OVER. Penn State is 7-1 ATS the past two years in weeks 5-9 (Iowa 6-3). Penn State is 7-2 ATS the past two years in road games (Iowa 7-7 at home). Iowa is 10-18 on the OVER since 2008 (Penn St is 10-16). Penn St is 7-0 ATS past two years in October (Iowa 6-2).
* Big Ten Portal is a website devoted to the culture and trends associated with following and betting Big Ten football. Each week their team provides recent and historic analysis so you have all the data you need to make your picks.