Last week, another respectable round of conference predictions was completely overshadowed by my absolutely atrocious national prognostications. We went 3-6 against the spread. That brings our ledger for the season to 20-41. There's a reason we begin every week's column with an extremely important disclaimer. If you haven't taken our advice to heart and have actually been wagering on these picks, well, you can't say we didn't warn you: Don't Bet On It!
Cincinnati (+4) at No. 16 Louisville
Cincinnait and Louisville are first and second respectively in their conference in scoring offense, rushing yards per play, and total offense. Cardinal QB Teddy Bridgewater is leading a slightly more explosive passing attack, but the Bearcats' D ranks 10th nationally in points allowed and boasts the best pass defense in the conference. On paper, you'd think that Cincy has this one in the bag... but they're 5-1 after last week's loss to Toledo, while Louisville is still undefeated. However, it looks like extraordinary special teams play made the difference in the Bearcats' lone loss, and the Cardinals haven't shown that they're equipped to make those types of plays. So let's take Cincy to cover on the road.
UCLA (+7) at Arizona State
By now everyone knows that Bruin running back Johnathan Franklin is a stud. He's averaging more than 125 yards per game, including an average of 142 per game on the road. What people don't know is that UCLA's redshirt freshman QB Brett Hundley is having a heck of a year too. Outside of a disastrous 4 INT outing at Cal (in which he also threw for 253 yards and 2 TDs), he hasn't posted a QB rating lower than 130, and even including the Cal game he has never failed to complete fewer than 63% of his passes. Let's take UCLA to keep it close or even win outright.
No. 9 USC at Arizona (+6.5)
We're taking Arizona. USC just looks beatable, particularly by a team like the Wildcats. Arizona leads the PAC-12 in yards per game, and only Oregon scores more points. The Trojans have also struggled with the Wildcats under Lane Kiffin, winning by just 3 on the road in 2010 and 7 in 2011. Moreover, Monty Kiffin's defenses have tended to struggle with spread attacks like Rodriguez's. Plus, the guys at the Solid Verbal have been playing the Mister Softee jingle when discussing the Trojans, and that can't be good. I'd take the 'Cats straight up, so the points are gravy.
TCU (+9) at Oklahoma State
The Big XII boasts three of the top five scoring offenses in the country and seven of the top fifteen. Oklahoma State's 45.7 points per game is only good enough for second in the conference. TCU's 36 puts them at eighth. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, their offense is a sieve. They gave up 59 points to Arizona in Tucson and 41 to Texas in Stillwater. I'm not sure who will win, but it should be a close game. Let's take the Horny Toads plus the points.
Michigan State at No. 25 Wisconsin (-6)
After a slow start, Badger runningback Montee Ball finally hit his stride over the last three weeks, breaking the century mark in each contest, including a 247 yard, 3 TD day on the road against Purdue. Michigan State's defense has been stout, yielding just over 15 points per contest, but their offense has been absolutely anemic. They're in the bottom third of the B1G in every statistical category on offense, and they rank 109th in the country in scoring offense. Let's take the Badgers to cover in Madison.
No. 14 Texas Tech at No. 3 Kansas State (-7)
Led by new Heisman-frontrunner Optimus Klein, the Wildcats are undefeated and in control of the race for a Big XII championship, which they could parlay into a trip to Miami. Now they run up against a Red Raider team that lost to Oklahoma but beat West Virginia and TCU in back-to-back weeks. Despite facing three top thirty offenses, Texas Tech still leads the conference in total defense, allowing just 4.25 yards per play, which is also good enough for 7th nationally. But there's the problem: Texas Tech's defense has been working overtime in October (quite literally overtime last week in a narrow 56-53 victory over TCU). I'm not sure they'll be able to keep it up for the fourth consecutive week, especially not on the road. Let's take Kansas State to cover at home.
No. 22 Michigan at Nebraska (-3)
Nebraska's defense has been surprisingly questionable this year, but they lead the B1G in every major offensive category. Michigan's defense has only been slightly better than the Cornhuskers', and their coaching staff continues to try to shoehorn Denard Robinson into a West Coast system that doesn't fit his skill set. Let's take Nebraska at home.
No. 5 Notre Dame at No. 8 Oklahoma (-10)
Pop quiz: what's the best offense the Irish have faced so far? Hint: it's not Michigan. Stumped? The answer is Purdue. Yes, mighty Purdue, which ranks 48th nationally in scoring offense with 31.3 points per game. In fact, the average scoring offense faced by the Irish so far this year is putting up 25.9 points per game, which is good enough to be tied for 77th nationally with... Notre Dame. By way of contrast, the Sooners are scoring 44.7 points per game. They did lose a night game at home earlier this season to Kansas State, but the Wildcats are currently undefeated, came up third in this week's polls, and boast a top 20 scoring offense and defense. I like the Sooners to reassert themselves with a huge home win.