Let's see if the bigger games are any easier to pick. Remember, like always, your predictions are due an hour before kickoff.
1. IOWA STATE at No. 9 IOWA, 3:30 p.m. EST ABC (9/11)
GRAHAM predicts IOWA
In week one, Iowa’s defense was definitely having fun, jumping unnecessarily (not maliciously) onto piles and pushing around opposing wide receivers. I don’t see how you score copious amounts of points against AC and co…And neither does Vegas, with their two touchdown spread. Iowa wins at home in front of a drunk and semi-rowdy Hawkeye crowd…in other words just a typical day in Iowa City.
JON predicts IOWA
Yes, Adrian Clayborn gave the Cyclones some bulletin board material this summer. And true, the Big Ten conference did almost indirectly relegate Iowa State to a non-BCS conference. But that's not going to magically erase the destructive effect of Iowa's monster front four, or the fact that the Cyclones haven't scored a touchdown against the Hawkeyes since 2006 The only real question in this game, how many interceptions does Austen Arnaud throw?
2. No. 17 FLORIDA STATE at No. 10 OKLAHOMA, 3:30 p.m. EST (9/11), ABC
GRAHAM predicts OKLAHOMA
Apparently Vegas just took the rankings differential (7 or 8, depending on the poll) and turned that into the spread. Oddness, as FSU is extremely dangerous with a healthy Christian Ponder leading the team. Oklahoma’s offense will give FSU hell, but hell, the Sooners give everyone hell with that Shotgun setup. I am hedging, I am hedging, I hate betting against FSU because of all those damn athletes. Remember last year when I picked Miami FL to beat Oklahoma…and got it right? Me too. But Landry Jones isn’t a deer in the headlights anymore. I’ll take Vegas’s advice and play it safe.
JON predicts FLORIDA STATE
Being Phil Steele's phantom preseason No. 1 can only get you so far. In Oklahoma's case that means escaping with a win in Week 1 against Utah State. It's the first time the Sooners and Seminoles have met since Oklahoma defeated FSU in the 2000 BCS National Championship Game. I think Christian Ponder takes advantage of a struggling Sooner secondary, and the Seminoles get the upset in Norman.
3. MICHIGAN at NOTRE DAME, 3:30 p.m. EST (9/11), NBC
GRAHAM predicts MICHIGAN
This game is sure to split people’s choices…toughest game of the week. However, this is a simple "A leads to B which leads to C" situation. Michigan’s offense is vastly improved from last year, which (most likely) will lead to a less weary defense and better game score scenarios. These improved playing circumstances should make the horrendously young and inexperienced secondary less susceptible to give up 300 yards through the air. I’ll continue to bet on a healthy Denard Robinson until he’s not healthy. Michigan survives Notre Dame in the "We’re Back, hey no, WE’RE Back" bowl. Plus, what kind of person would I be if I chose ND? No way.
JON predicts MICHIGAN
This is the toughest game of the week for me. On one hand, there's a suddenly efficient Wolverine offense, catapulted by the efforts of Denard Robinson, who seems capable of running the entire scheme by himself. On the other, there's a stout Notre Dame defense that kept the Boilermakers in check. Although I like Brian Kelly's no huddle offense, he struggles against teams that put up points. It's no guarantee, but I think Michigan has the speed to succeed in South Bend.
4. No. 12 MIAMI at No. 2 OHIO STATE, 3:40 p.m. EST (9/11), ESPN
GRAHAM predicts OHIO STATE
No one is scoring on the Buckeyes this year. The starting 11 defenders for the Bucks make up the best defense in the nation and it’s too early in the season for lack of depth to hurt Jimmy T’s squad. Maybe in Miami I would hedge, but not in C-Bus. That OSU offense may never be pretty, but it’s not the offense that wins 80% of the games. Ohio State wins an ugly one.
JON predicts OHIO STATE
No one doubts that revenge is a factor in this high stakes reunion of the 2003 BCS National Championship Game. Neither does anyone dispute that Jacory Harris is scary good when he gets hot, or that the Hurricane defensive line is one of the best in college football. But I submit that only a single thing matters in this game: Ohio State's supernatural ability to smother sexy offenses. Did anyone think that Colt McCoy and Texas would put up just 3 points in the first half of the 2009 Fiesta Bowl, or that Oregon would manage just 17 in the Rose Bowl?
This Miami offense isn't half as good as either of those attacks, so to win the Canes need to count on one thing: Ohio State's tendency to struggle in major early season games. Could Ohio State show up flat? Sure. But I don't think it happens this time. The offensive line is finally protecting the quarterback, Terrelle Pryor is finally reading defenses, and the Buckeyes are finally ready to exorcise their out of conference demons.
Don't let the "U's" histrionics distract you, this game is Ohio State's to win or lose.
5. No. 19 PENN STATE at No. 1 ALABAMA, 7:00 p.m. EST (9/11), ESPN
GRAHAM predicts ALABAMA
Bama. Loaded. Ingram or not. The story is how PSU will attempt to make their way down the field…and how they avoid interceptions, three and outs, etc.
This week is all about faith. Do you have faith that any of the road dogs can generate the guts and gameplan to pull an upset? I don’t, especially with a 10 point spread in Tuscaloosa.
JON predicts ALABAMA
It worries me a bit when a team's own coach admits they're "a bit outmanned." When that coach is Joe Paterno, you know he's telling the truth. I'll be pulling hard for the Nittany Lions just like everyone else in the Midwest, but they're playing a freshman on a road against the top ranked defending national champions and they're running an offense that struggled early against Youngstown State. Penn State's best bet is to sustain drives against a defense with nine new faces, and hope that Alabama is still working out a few kinks on the other side of the ball.
If this game is still competitive at the beginning of the fourth quarter it's a win in my book. Keep it close gentlemen, play your hearts out, and you'll be a better team whatever the result.