Friday, September 17, 2010

College Picks Live from Knoxville

This college edition of The Hammer Speaks is coming at you from Knoxville, Tennessee. I'll be attending my maiden SEC game tomorrow as the Florida Gators come into Knoxville to take on the Vols. Tennessee is coming of an embarrassing showing against Oregon last week at home, giving up 45 straight points in a 48-13 loss. I imagine the Volunteers' faithful will be happy if they keep this one close, with Florida a 14-point favorite. Tennessee couldn't handle Oregon's team speed last week and I don't think they'll have any more success containing Florida this week. I'd lean with the Gators but am going to pass because I'd like to hear the locals sing Rocky Top at least a couple of times.

I've waited to get involved in the college action because I wanted to see teams play a game or two to get a feel for them. The NFL has much greater continuity and the preseason is of some value so I felt more comfortable jumping right in on Week 1. I've only made one college pick so far and that was for Alabama to blow out Penn St. last week. Bingo. I'm not sure there will be an easier game to pick all year. I hit small with NC St. last night but didn't post it, so the blog is 1-0 coming into this week. Last week I took the points in the NFL. In the college games this week I like the chalk. Here are my thoughts:

Alabama -23.5 at Duke
In 2008 former Tennessee offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe took over a Duke program that had won ten games in its previous eight seasons. He has put up a 10-16 record in his brief tenure and made teams pay attention when the Blue Devils are on the schedule. The biggest transformation has been on offense, where Duke put up 41 points in their season opening win against Elon and followed that up with 48 last week against Wake Forest. The problem is Elon scored 27 and Wake scored 54, so Duke stands at 1-1 coming into this SEC/ACC mismatch. Alabama will be bolstered by the return of Heisman Trophy winning running back Mark Ingram who missed the first two games due to injury and BCS championship game defensive MVP defensive end Marcell Dareus who was suspended by the NCAA. Alabama easily handled Penn St. last week and I don't think they'll have any trouble on the road in this one. Duke will find points much more difficult to generate and 'Bama can pretty much name their score. Roll Tide.

Stanford -17.5 vs. Wake Forest
Both teams come into this game 2-0 and each opened their conference schedule with a win last week. As mentioned above Wake beat Duke 54-48 in the second-highest scoring game in ACC history while Stanford absolutely dominated UCLA 35-0 on the road in the Rose Bowl. Stanford's sophomore quarterback Andrew Luck has thrown six TDs and zero INTs so far and many think he is best qb in the country. Freshman Tanner Price will get his first start at quarterback for Wake after taking over for the injured Ted Satchitas last week. Wake has scored more than 50 points in each of its first two games, but Stanford is seventh nationally in total defense. They are gonna feast on the frosh. This game starts after 11pm EST Saturday night. That is probably good because that means a lot of people back east and particularly in Winston-Salem won't see the Demon Deacons get taken to the woodshed. The Cardinal, big.

Oklahoma St. -6.5 vs. Tulsa
The Cowboys are again an offensive juggernaut scoring 106 points in their first two games. They blew out Washington St. in week 1, but failed to cover in their 41-38 win over Troy last week due to five turnovers. Tulsa is solid against the run but has allowed over three hundred yards passing on average in their first two games against East Carolina (51-49L) and Bowling Green (33-20W). I look for the Cowboys to win by double digits at home.

Oklahoma -16.5 vs. Air Force
Oklahoma has had a tough task defensively opening with Utah St., Florida St. and Air Force. All three run completely different offenses and cause different match-up problems for the defense. Air Force comes into Norman this week averaging 423 yards rushing in its first two games, over 90 more yards than any other team in the country. The question for Bob Stoops and his staff is how to prepare for the triple option when they know they won't see it again for at least two years. The Falcons run it to precision and have year-in and year-out shown they can compete with more physically-gifted teams. For the Sooners, they are getting the benefit this year of having to throw QB Landry Jones into the fire last year as a result of Sam Bradford's injury. Jones was great last week going 30-40, for 380 yards and four TDs as he carved up FSU. I see more of the same this week and expect the Sooners to fill the box with nine, daring Air Force to throw. It won't be a blowout, but I like OU to cover.

Other games I like, but not as strongly are Wisconsin -12.5 vs. Arizona St. and USC -11.5 at Minnesota.


Athurstone said...

Did you have NU over Vandy last week? Are they for real? Nice pick of Stanford.

Hammerspeaks said...

Stanford is tough.