As expected we came crashing back down to Earth last week after hitting a trifecta two weeks ago. We went 0-4 in our national picks. It's time to switch our strategy up. In this week's National Games of Interest we'll be sticking with the underdog: Arizona at USC (-5.5) and Michigan (-3) at Penn State.
The picks: Arizona +5, Penn State +3
Why you should care: You love watching the underdog win, and these are legitimately good options late-night Thursday (Arizona at USC at 10:30) and after Oregon opens up a big first-half lead over Washington (Oregon at Washington at 4:00, Michigan at Penn State at 5:00).
Rationale: Let's start with the easy one, Arizona over USC. Arizona upset USC at home last year when the Trojans still had Matt Barkley, Marqise Lee (who was injured in the loss to ASU), and a head coach. Now, firing Lane Kiffin will obviously mean good things in L.A. in the future, but Da Coach O has always done better as a recruiter than a head coach. There's no reason to expect that this time will be any different given the toxic situation he's taking over. We have to take the Wildcats to get their second in a row over the Men of Troy.
The Penn State pick is a little trickier. Michigan is undefeated. The Nittany Lions are 3-2 and coming off a tough loss to Indiana. But Penn State's quarterback Christian Hackenberg has looked good in the losses, throwing for 602 yards, 4 TDs, and no interceptions. And Michigan's pass defense hasn't been great. In fact, despite being undefeated, the Maize and Blue haven't done anything to impress. Their best win is over an inconsistent Notre Dame team. They nearly lost to the 1-5 Akron Zips and the same Connecticut team that just fired its head coach. Michigan is due for a loss, and Happy Valley is a tough place for visitors.
Games we'll watch but won't pick for obvious reasons: The Red River Rivalry and No. 2 Oregon and No. 16 Washington have clear favorites, but they should be be competitive and entertaining. I wouldn't be surpised if either (or both) of them came down to whoever has the ball last. Are you willing to lay two TDs in either match-up?