As I stated before, it is my norm to struggle at the start of the year. Last year I was almost 10 games under .500 before storming back and finishing the season right around 50%. If I could figure things out earlier, maybe I'd make a better showing.
It would also help if I stopped excluding games, tried to get cute with trends (All road favorites, as I did last week) and went back to picking the way I know how to pick games, based solely on numbers. With that in mind, I'm needing a bounce-back here in the worst way, which means my season goal is probably as dead as my fantasy football teams.
Still, nothing beats dogged determination to prove a point that (probably) no one cares about.
1. Southern Miss @ Nebraska (-22) - Southern Miss is 2-1. They hung pretty tight for a half with Mississippi State before fading (they ultimately lost by 18) before beating FCS member Austin Peay by a bunch and then outscoring Texas State on the road. This week they draw a Nebraska team that's 1-2, has had to live through two horrible beats and who is angry. Because of this I think the Cornhuskers are going to be in a fighting mood and cover the 22. I realize this is a tough number, but I think this one gets ugly early.
2. Northern Illinois @ Boston College (-4) - From a power ranking perspective, these teams are actually pretty close. I think the line is so favoring BC because they're playing at home. I like the Eagles defense, but am not enamored with their offense at all. Boston College is 2-1, with wins over lesser opponents and a close (14-0) loss to Florida State, in a game where they never seriously had a chance to win. Northern Illinois has a similar record at 2-1 with 2 wins over lesser opponents and a tough loss to Ohio State (13-7) the difference being you had a feeling NIU had a chance to pull off the upset. I think NIU is the better team, and I like them to cover against Boston College. If you're brave, take a shot at the ML. (I'm having a terrible start to the year, I'm not brave....yet)
3. Oklahoma State (-2.5) @ Texas - There's a lot of love for Texas right now because they stormed back late into contention at Cal. How quickly we forget that they looked awful against Notre Dame. New QB Heard is much better than Swoopes and the Longhorns do have some talent on defense. Oklahoma State has looked better and better each week. Beating two Group of Five schools and one FCS member. Points to Texas for a tougher schedule, more points to Okie State for talent. I think OSU covers on the road here.
4. Tennessee @ Florida (-1.5) - Florida has beaten New Mexico State, East Carolina and Kentucky. Hardly three teams that are going to set the world on fire this year. Of the three teams they only beat NMSU handily. Meanwhile Tennessee beat Bowling Green (MAC) and Western Carolina (FCS) handily before falling by a touchdown and extra point to OU at home. I'm still not convinced Tennessee is for real. Florida is a step up in competition, and I think they get them here . Tennessee to cover.
5. Texas State @ Houston (-16.5) - What's happened in the regular season, so far, for these teams doesn't matter. What matters is that the last time these two teams played (2012) The Bobcats upset the Cougars at home in what many are now pointing to as the beginning of the end for then Head Coordinator Tony Levine. Here are the facts. Houston has more talent, better coaching (now) and an axe to grind. Plus, Texas State holds the series advantage over the Cougars 4-1. I expect this to change in a BIG way Saturday evening. I pick the Houston Cougars to cover.
Other games of note:
Navy (-6.5) @ UConn - Maybe no team looked worse last week than UConn. I don't think the Huskies are very good, they're certainly not good stopping the run and the Midshipmen are going to run. Navy to cover.
TCU (-7.5) @ Tech - A big part of me wants to lean Tech here, but a bigger part of me thinks this is the week that TCU rights the ship. Besides, at the end of the season I don't think that Arkansas win is going to look as good as it does now. TCU to cover on the road.
California (-4.5) @ Washington - Last week I kept the Bears out of my Five and I'm doing it again. I'm not sure why things fell apart against Texas but they did. Because of this I don't think they can beat a Washington team that feels more composed. Washington on the ML is my lean.
Texas aTm (-7.5) vs. Arkansas (Neutral site) - I said before that I don't think Tech's win over the Razorbacks is going to look that good at the end of the season. This game will start to show why. As is custom, I should point out that this game is "Six". One that would have been in my Five had I not liked the others just a little better. aTm to cover and then some.
Missouri @ Kentucky (-2.5) - At some point this season the Missouri Tigers will break off the shackles and make their SEC division run. I think it's this week. Missouri to win on the ML.
UCLA (-4) @ Arizona - I don't have a strong feeling about this game, but what I do have says UCLA to cover. How's that for confidence?
USC (-5.5) @ Arizona State - Call this the "Desperation Bowl" as both teams with serious pre-season hopes are struggling to keep themselves in the conversation. Still, I think USC has much more talent on both sides of the football. Then again, it's Sarkesian. Now you see why this game didn't make my Five. USC to cover. But tread lightly.
BYU @ Michigan (-5.5) - The last time Michigan faced a good team (Utah) they looked horrible. They rebounded against two bad teams (Oregon State and UNLV) but still haven't looked all that great. BYU on the other hand beat Nebraska and Boise State in dramatic fashion before losing a heartbreaker to UCLA. Here's the rub. I think all three of those teams are better than Michigan right now. Therefore, with a heavy heart and a nod to the hope that I'm 100% wrong. BYU on the ML. This would be in my five but Michigan will never be included. Nor will I ever bet on them when I visit Vegas. I know my blind spot.
Good luck this weekend (after last weekend, according to all sources, we need it)