The first week in conference play gave us a solid upset in East Lansing. Will the Spartans keep rolling in Ann Arbor? Get your picks in by tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. EST. It's still anyone's game.
1. ILLINOIS at PENN STATE, 12:00 p.m. ESPN 2 (10/9)
GRAHAM predicts PENN STATE
Don't you just want to pick this upset? A battle tested and scrappy Illini team knocks off the offensively impaired Nittany Lions...what a story. I just can't imagine Scheelhaase making any headway against the physically impressive PSU defenders. PSU may not have the experience or cohesive O-Line to score a lot of points, but all they have to do is score more than the Illini, something history and everything else hints they'll be able to do. This game is STILL Penn State v. Illinois.
JON predicts PENN STATE
It's weird to be picking an unranked Penn State team but the Lions have had little to no offense to speak of. Meanwhile, Illinois played a terrific first half last week at Ohio State before spinning its wheels down the stretch. Although I think the Illini could pull the upset, I'm picking the Nittany Lions for three reasons: 1. They're playing at home, 2. Despite offensive woes, their defense is elite, and 3. There are no upset points to be had.
2. No. 1 ALABAMA at No. 19 SOUTH CAROLINA, 3:30 p.m. CBS (10/9)
GRAHAM predicts ALABAMA
Alabama looked weak on the road versus Arkansas and tremendous at home versus Florida. South Carolina is talented, but this is a game they just haven't won in a long time under Spurrier, or any other coach, which is why Bama wins. History, go with history.
JON predicts ALABAMA
Last weeks' win over Florida cemented the Crimson Tide as the top team in the nation. Their reward for beating two Top 15 teams in a row? Six consecutive games against opponents coming off a bye week, including the ranked Gamecocks. Andy Hutchins said it best, "Nick Saban's the sort of coach that doesn't permit preparedness deficits, so I worry less about scheme and more about freshness. The Tide weren't overly taxed in rolling Florida, so that freshness should be less of an issue at South Carolina." Steve Spurrier continues his love hate relationship with Stephen Garcia, and the tide drop their third ranked opponent in as many games.
Big Ten Portal says "Alabama is 4-1 on the UNDER in 2010 (this week's OU is 48, and last year's Bama-SC final was 20-6). The Crimson Tide are 7-2 ATS as a road underdog since 2008, while South Carolina is 3-3 ATS as an underdog of 3.5-10 points."
3. No. 17 MICHIGAN STATE at No. 18 MICHIGAN, 3:30 p.m. ABC (10/9)
GRAHAM predicts MICHIGAN STATE
All week long I've been telling people MSU by 10, MSU by 7. But now that my weekly picks arrive, It's hard to imagine picking against the Maize and Blue. That killed me last year, as I predicted a 10 point Michigan win. I see this as a win-win situation: If the Spartans clean up, I get points in the OPC. If Michigan wins, I celebrate and take some negatives in the OPC. Spartans by a touchdown.
JON predicts MICHIGAN STATE
Look I don't make the rules (actually I do), but the Wolverines are technically an upset pick in this game, even if the line favors them. So why in my right mind am I taking the Spartans? I think the reasons have been pretty well spelled out, so let me add a new logical wrinkle. Everyone knows that Indiana is in the bottom quartile of the Big Ten. Michigan needed a miraculous touchdown drive last Saturday to beat them. Similarly, everyone knows that Wisconsin is at least in the top half of the conference. Michigan State dominated them for three quarters last Saturday, despite being -3 in turnovers. Which team do you think is better? Everyone knows the maize and blue are going to drop a game somewhere because of their defensive ineptitude. What better place than here, what better time than now?
4. No. 12 LSU at No. 14 FLORIDA, 7:30 p.m. ESPN 2 (10/9)
GRAHAM predicts LSU
LSU has no offense or head coaching strategy. Florida isn't Tebow's team anymore; there's no offensive punch and the backup running back was kicked off the team for texting a girl "time to die" during one of their disagreements. How romantic. The Swamp will be the scene of a nice defensive showdown aka offensive shitshow. I'll pick the Tigers - it's been awhile since we saw a good ol' fashioned Florida beatdown. Wait, nope, that was last week.
JON predicts FLORIDA
John Brantley's bruised ribs or Les Miles' bruised ego? Who ya got? Although it won't be pretty, I like the Gators to get back on the wagon in Gainesville. Their defense will be hands down the best the Tigers have seen this season, and LSU is making way too many mistakes to get to 6-0. Plus the SEC West can't totally own the East. Can it?
Big Ten Portal says "Since 2008, Les Miles' crew is only 7-11 ATS coming off of 2+ consecutive wins, and they're a weak 5-11 ATS against teams with winning records. Meanwhile, Florida is 6-1 ATS as a favorite of 3.5-10 points, and they're 13-4 ATS against teams with winning records."
5. No. 23 FLORIDA STATE at No. 13 MIAMI, 8:00 p.m. ESPN (10/9)
GRAHAM predicts MIAMI
This is an awesome game. You're going to get flashbacks from high school / middle school / college (or wherever you were when those Seminole kickers kept hitting the damn post). I say the Canes win - They've got some seasoned playmakers and they can run the ball a bit better than the banged up Seminoles.
JON predicts MIAMI
As far as I'm concerned the Hurricanes exist only for the purpose of making Ohio State's resume look better and that's why I've been more than pleased to see them taking care of business. Enter the Seminoles who have cleaned up their act after getting blown out in Norman in mid-September. Both teams feature solid defenses, and quarterbacks who received early Heisman hype before throwing away their chances on the big stage. Miami has won eight of the last eleven meetings, although the last nine matchups have been decided by an average of 4.1 points. Jacory Harris will throw another couple of interceptions, but I say Miami wins on the strength of their pass rush and linebacker play.
Big Ten Portal says "Since 2008, The Seminoles are just 2-8 ATS when they're coming off a conference win, while Miami is 5-4 ATS in the same scenario. Both teams struggle ATS when coming off of 2+ consecutive wins (Florida State is 2-6, Miami is 3-6)."
* 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.