Any progress that we made with our SEC picks has been completely erased by regression with our national picks. We laid our second goose egg of the last three weeks with last week's selections, which brings our record for the season to an abysmal 9-28. Please believe me when I tell you that I take my own advice when it comes to these national picks and Don't Bet On It!
No. 13 USC (-13.5) at Utah
Please take a moment to thank whatever higher power you believe in for eliminating the possibility that Lane Kiffin might win a national championship, barring some 2007-level insanity in the PAC-12, Big XII, and SEC. (Yes, that happened three weeks ago, but, seriously, Kiffykins winning a national title before Coach Richt would be Exhibit A in any rational person's argument against the existence of a benevolent deity.) Anyway, the Trojans haven't exactly been the offensive juggernaut that we all expected, but describing Utah's offense as anemic would be an insult to people with anemia everywhere. The Utes are in the bottom quartile nationally in terms of passing yards, rushing yards, and points scored... and their starting QB retired from football altogether in week 2 after re-injuring his throwing shoulder. Defensively, the Utes are average at best, and Utah fans should be concerned that they're giving up the fourth most receiving yards per catch in their conference given USC's threats at wide receiver. The Men of Troy are simply a better team on both sides of the ball. I'd pick USC to win by 3 TDs at home, so I'll take the Trojans to win by at least two TDs on the road.
No. 23 Washington at No. 2 Oregon (-24)
Everything about this game screams for a big Oregon win... but everything about the Huskies' meeting with Stanford last week called for a Cardinal win, too. More troublesome, perhaps, is the fact that Oregon has only covered its generous spreads twice this season, and Washington has managed to keep Oregon in check for at least a half in their last two meetings. However, Sarkisian's squad only appears to work its black magic at home: They lost 41-3 to the Bayou Bengals on the road, and they held Oregon to a 17-point victory in Seattle last year but were blown out 53-16 last time they visited Autzen. The Huskies haven't faced anyone with Oregon's offensive firepower this season, so let's take the Ducks to cover at home.
No. 8 West Virginia at No. 11 Texas (-7)
Baylor proved that a decent offense can score at will against the Mountaineers. The Longhorns also proved that they can hold an air raid offense in check by holding Oklahoma State to 20 points below their season average. Texas should be able to stop WVU more often than WVU stops Texas, so let's take the 'Horns to cover at home.
No. 21 Nebraska at No. 12 Ohio State (-3.5)
Nebraska's defense is bad. Urban Meyer is a good coach. The Buckeyes should be able to win by at least a TD at home, if only because it would be perfect if the only decent team in the Big 10 turned out to be the only one who can't make it to the postseason. (For the record, this was almost the National Game of Disinterest, but I need to pick some low-hanging fruit to get this season's win % back up to respectable levels.)
Georgia Tech at No. 15 Clemson (-10)
Clemson has faced a harder schedule and emerged with a better record. This would be a no-brainer if the Jackets hadn't won 4 of the last 5 against the Jungaleers. Still, Clemson hung 37 points on Florida State, which fields one of the best defenses on the country. The Country Gentlemen should be able to do better against Al Groh's squad. I'd take Clemson at home by two TDs, so Clemson minus 10 seems like the easy pick.
Arizona (+9) at No. 18 Stanford
Stanford's offense is not very good. Arizona's is. Stanford's defense is very good. Arizona's is not. Normally, I'd go with the team with the better defense, but I'm not buying Stanford this year. Neither is Vegas. The line opened with Stanford as an 11.5 point favorite and has already moved down to 9. That's enough for me. Let's take Arizona to keep it close.
Louisia-Monroe (-3) at Middle Tennessee State
Sun Belt showdowns aren't usually national games of interest, but this one features the would-be-giant-killer Warhawks against the fly-swatting Blue Raiders. ULM managed to take two (mediocre) SEC squads to the brink, and MTSU dropped 49 in a win over Georgia Tech. They're incredibly evenly matched, but the Warhawks have the edge on defense so we'll take them to cover.