Now that we have surveyed this week's SEC contests, it's time to turn our attention to this week's national games of interest. My record in last week's national picks was identical to my record in SEC picks (3-4), but only because Lane Kiffin mercilessly trolled wagerers everywhere by carding a 39-point victory on a 40-point spread and Oregon's 3rd and 4th stringers started coming in before the half to give up 31 meaningless points.
Now that we have a week's worth of information with which to work, my picks should improve. Is that kind of optimism warranted? Don't Bet On It!
Miami (+6.5) at No. 21 Kansas State
Last Week: The Hurricanes somehow pulled out a win over Boston College (41-32), despite giving up 441 yards through the air, being penalized 9 times for 78 yards, and being outgained by 122 total yards. The Wildcats rushed for 325 yards and scored 35 fourth quarter points to close out a 51-9 win over Missouri State.
The Lean: Miami's real weakness is in the secondary, but Bill Snyder's squad is too devoted to the run to take advantage of it. I'm taking the Hurricanes and the points.
No. 2 USC at Syracuse (+26)
Last Week: USC began a 49-10 shellacking of Hawai'i with a 75 yard pitch-and-catch TD from Heisman front-runner Matt Barkley to Marqise Lee (who also returned a kickoff 100 yards for another TD). Syracuse scored 28 unanswered points in the second half to take a 41-35 lead over Northwestern but gave up a TD with less than a minute left to lose by 1 at home.
The Lean: Hawai'i is a much worse team than Syracuse, who also has a tendency to play opponents close at home. Plus, USC is due for a bit of a let-down after their big opening week win. I'm taking the Trojans outright but the Orangemen to keep it within 26.
No. 13 Wisconsin (-8) at Oregon State
Last Week: Wisconsin built up a 26-7 lead early in the fourth quarter but gave up 2 unanswered TDs and had to break-up a pass on 4th-and-1 to preserve the W. Oregon State postponed their season opener against Nicholls State due to Hurricane Isaac.
The Lean: Oregon State should improve from the 3-9 record last year, but they still have to deal with the first-week jitters that seemed to plague everyone else in the country. My heart says Wisconsin, but my head says take the under (52) given both teams' commitment to the ground game.
Fresno State (+34.5) at No. 4 Oregon
Last Week: Fresno State dominated in every phase of a 37-10 win over Weber State. Oregon built a 50-3 lead over Arkansas State with more than 7 minutes to go in the first half before subbing in your grandmother's bridge club, who made the final score seem a lot closer than the game ever actually was (57-34).
The Lean: The Ducks seem committed to giving their younger defensive players time on the field this season, so I'm not picking them to cover the spread until they actually need to keep their starters in through the entire first half. I'm taking Fresno State plus the points.
No. 16 Nebraska (-5.5) at UCLA
Last Week: Nebraska cruised to a 49-20 victory over Southern Miss that featured 5 TD passes from Taylor Martinez. (No, really.) New Head Coach Jim L. Mora (Jr.) guided UCLA to a 49-24 victory over Rice on the legs of RB Johnathan Franklin, who rushed for 214 yards and 3 TDs.
The Lean: The Bruins might ultimately be a good team under Jim L. Mora (Jr.), but I'm not buying it this year. No one else seems to be, either, and the line has moved from 4.5 to 5.5 since it opened. The Cornhuskers still look like the right pick, though.
No. 18 Oklahoma State (-10.5) at Arizona
Last Week: Oklahoma State scored 84 points in a shutout victory over hapless FCS cupcake Savannah State. Despite racking up more than 600 yards of total offense under new Head Coach Rich Rodriguez, Arizona needed a touchdown in overtime to pull out the win over Toledo.
The Lean: The line opened at 13.5 but has gone down to 10.5, so I must be missing something, but I can't think of any good reason not to take the Cowboys here. Please help me out in the comments if you've got anything good.
Purdue at No. 22 Notre Dame (-14.5)
Last Week: Purdue turned the ball over 5 times but still creamed Eastern Kentucky 48-6. Notre Dame demolished Navy 50-10 in Ireland. (Echoes! Horsemen! Back!!!)
The Lean: This just screams let-down game, but Purdue is not a particularly good football team. The Irish will cover now to ensure a full, Clemson-level melt-down later this season.