Tuesday, October 20, 2009

NCAA '09 Football: Week 8

NCAA Week 8

In the years we’ve predicted football, never have we had a worse week than what we posted with our picks versus the spread but managed to go 4-3 straight up. We got a little carried away on wishing for upsets as in picking South Florida to knock off Cincinnati. Picking Maryland is lethal but we’re good Marylanders even if Virginia is the other Chesapeake state. At least we had lots of company in Virginia Tech losing to Georgia Tech. Oh those pesky Yellow Jackets. Who wouldn’t have expected the Hokies to win?

Week 8 appears devoid of classic matchups and there’s not much to chose from with top 25 teams going against one another, but the top teams need to stay the course and keep winning because one loss (or one more for some very elite teams as in USC) and it’s over for top honors when the National Championship is the goal. While the picks might be too obvious, we’ve found seven games that should be fun to follow for a number of reasons.

Florida State at North Carolina (-2 ½)
Both teams were rated in the Top 25 at the start of the season, Florida State, 18th and North Carolina, 21st. While such rankings are not the makings of BCS contenders, they do indicate substantial respectability. North Carolina’s program has been mired in mediocrity for years until Coach Butch Davis came along. Since his arrival, the Tar Heels moved toward respectability growing each year. While marching through some non-conference games including an impressive squeaker over Connecticut, when North Carolina hit ACC competition, they hit the wall against Georgia Tech, their 4th game, losing 24-7 looking sloppier than the rainy weather in Atlanta. Next it was hosting Virginia, a team they should have handled with ease but their 16-3 loss made them look feeble and confused. Now after a breather against Georgia Sothern they host Florida State and somehow manage to be a slight favorite, 2 ½ points, largely a concession for home field advantage.

Florida State’s turmoil is a national not just an ACC story. Things are so bad that a Florida State director publicly stated it was time for coaching legend, Bobby Bowden, to retire and perhaps that time has come. Florida State was the dominant program going into the new millennium and things looked lined up for a team that has not lived up to its reputation recently to be back on the move for 2009; however, after a tightly contested battle in their traditional opener against Miami losing 38-34, the season has been a full-fledged disaster apart from an impressive 54-28 win against top 10, Brigham Young at their house. Nobody’s going to give them any credit for a 19-9 win against Jacksonville State. Their losses have been embarrassing beyond belief perhaps best noted by a 17-7 loss to South Florida, a game no one would expect them to lose. They were surely supposed to top Boston College but lost 28-21 in Boston, but then came Georgia Tech, a 49-44 loss at home last week. Tallahassee is not a happy place as their proud Seminole legacy is in disarray.

What a game these two hapless teams face Saturday. A victory for either team could be the boost needed to salvage respectability for the remaining season. Losing will wreak havoc for the vanquished. Florida State would probably face a 2-3 record, four straight against ACC teams assuming they’d beat NC State and Maryland but lose to Clemson, Wake Forest, and then go down miserably against Florida who could be Championship Bowl bound by then.

North Carolina could go 2-3 also assuming wins versus Duke and NC State, though Duke is not the Duke of old. Virginia Tech, Miami, and Boston College should thump them.

Picking a winner in this game is murder. Florida State has performed better against tougher competition than Carolina, so this pick has to go to the Seminoles.

South Florida at Pittsburgh #20 (-6 ½)
South Florida is a team ready for its next upset. They’re a team hell bent on establishing their place in the Big East and a state with the big guys, Florida, Miami, and Florida State. Pittsburgh was picked to be the top team in the Big East this year but so far Cincinnati has trashed those plans. Still, playing at home at Heinz Field, Pitt’s going to win this one.

Maryland at Duke (-5 ½)
Talk about no respect, Duke is favored over Maryland? Considering how many times the Terps have shown up exhibiting lackadaisical play, it’s little wonder. There’s talent on the team for sure, but they don’t play effectively as a team. One has to wonder when a team appoints a “head coach in waiting” how that affects the team. With James Franklin serving yet another year in that roll with no retirement date established for Ralph Friedgen, how does that affect a college team? Where does that put the other coordinators, perhaps some of whom might have coveted that position? How do players perform towards the team’s authority knowing they could be answering to Franklin in the future? They were good enough to beat Clemson but not good enough to win against Virginia with so many turnovers. Duke is thankful just to win a game, but this year’s a little more intense probably just enough for the Blue Devils to beat Maryland.

Penn State #13 (-4 ½) at Michigan
Since Penn State is a fairly recent addition to the Big Ten in 1993, Penn State and Michigan have yet to be established as big time rivalry despite the tremendous history of both programs. Nothing could make this season look on the right track better than Michigan beating the legendary Penn State in their “big house.” While both teams have historic rivalries against Ohio State, this year they’re both cursing Iowa who for the second year in a row upset Penn State and then created agony for Michigan. Penn State will win this game. They’re too deep, the organized, and too talented. Michigan would have to get off to a hot start and keep it going for four quarters to pull the upstart.

Wake Forest at Navy (-3)
Wake Forest is no longer an ACC doormat becoming a respectable program capable of tangling with the big guys. Navy has shown some of its best teams in years recently pulling upsets and fighting powerhouses to the bitter end in other games. Navy has the edge in this one in Annapolis. It’s hard not to root for Navy unless your team is their adversary.

TCU #8 (-2 ½) at Brigham Young #16
Here’s a proud game for the Mountain West Conference that gets them notice back east. This is the only matchup between two top 25 teams and it’s a good one. The TCU Horned Frogs fight for recognition in the BCS rankings but surely will get ripped for not having the strength of schedule other contenders do. Brigham Young has one more conference win but one loss to Florida State. The game will surely be a hard fought battle with TCU having the slight edge over Brigham Young. This would make a great upset pick, but we’ve been so bad at that this year, we’ll go with the favorite.

Boise State #6 (-25) at Hawaii
Just how good can life get for the team that plays on that funky looking blue phony turf when they play at home? Having gone undefeated so far and making it to number four in the first BCS rankings now they get a weekend in Hawaii where they are a massive favorite to beat Hawaii even if those Hawaiians do that demonic dance before their games. A 25 point spread is hard to maintain but they’re good enough to do so. If they miss the spread, well that drives Vegas crazy, and that’s a good thing. When they arrive back in Idaho, the folks in Boise will see some blearied-eyed fellows with great big smiles.

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