Just in case you were wondering, no one is particularly good at football this year. That has made it very difficult us to do better than coin flipping, which we did again with last week's national picks, going 1-1. In our defense, though, Nebraska scoring 19 unanswered points to pull within a TD of Michigan State is a textbook backdoor cover. If the Spartans could actually play four full quarters of football, we'd be doing better than 5-4 on the season.
We might do better with this week's National Game of Interest (No.9 TCU at No. 5 Baylor (-9)), but don't bet on it.
The pick: TCU +9
Why you should care: Chances are that the Big XII champion will make it into the inaugural playoff, and these two teams are in control of their own destinies.
Rationale: Baylor opened as an 11-point favorite, but the line quickly dropped to 9. There are a lot of good reasons for that. The Horned Frogs' best win is over No. 11 Oklahoma (37-33). The Bears' best win is over unranked Iowa State (49-28). Baylor may have the nation's best scoring offense (against a weak schedule so far), but TCU is a respectable 12th. The two teams' scoring defenses are practically indistinguishable (TCU 13.5 ppg, Baylor 12.4 ppg), but, again, one of them (TCU) has played a much tougher schedule. Against their single common opponent so far (SMU), TCU's win (56-0) was slightly more impressive than Baylor's win (45-0).
In other words, these teams look an awful lot alike, and yet the Horned Frogs are getting more than a touchdown in a shoot-out. You almost have to take the points here.
Bonus Pick: USC +3 at No. 10 Arizona. This pick is kind of a Hail Mary, but it's not as crazy as it may seem. It's true that Arizona is coming off of a big win over Oregon, but they beat the Ducks last year too... about a month and a half after they lost to the Trojans in L.A. That loss came two weeks after another loss to a Washington team whose Head Coach (Steve Sarkisian) now coaches at... Southern California. So, Arizona lost to USC and USC's current coach last year, a year in which they also beat the Ducks. We feel confident enough about this rationale that it's almost certainly wrong.