Before getting to the picks, I want to talk about this year’s BCS busters. Boise State and TCU head the field with Cincinnati, who gets an asterisk for being from a BCS conference but an inferior one at that. The Big East really should not have an automatic BCS bid. There needs to be some kind of way to relegate inferior BCS conferences so when you get an inferior one, like the Big East of late, you can replace them with the Mountain West, where outstanding football routinely happens. For the last few years, West Virginia has propped up the Big East and Cincinnati is doing it this year. TCU and Utah, and BYU have been outstanding teams over the last few years and would make excellent additions to the BCS conference list. I understand it is a business and that is why the Big East is included, but including the Mountain West would satiate the public appetite for “smaller” teams in the BCS and the football would be of a higher quality. This all transitions nicely to our first game this week, TCU’s trip to Provo to take on BYU.
Mormon-ey, Mo Problems for TCU
TCU has looked less that stellar over the last few weeks and a trip to BYU is not the cure for that. I have been pounding this point harder than Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis pound the buffet: Road games in conference are the hardest tests. TCU is really good, but I do not think they have enough to take the high-powered Cougars at home. I like TCU’s defense better than BYU’s offense generally, but not in a game that BYU has got to be salivating about. I will take BYU to not only over their +2.5 spread, but to win it. TCU 20, BYU 26.
Ok, so while I am not picking the full out upset, Oregon is getting put on upset alert. Granted, it is different for Oregon to travel to Washington than LSU, but the #11 team in the country had better watch out. Jake Locker is one of the top QBs in the country and if the Huskies can jump out in front early, do not be surprised to see Oregon falter. I think that Oregon will falter early, but not by an irreversible margin. Oregon is giving 10 points this week, so I am taking Washington to cover, but not win. Oregon 33, Washington 28.
Chicago v. Cincinnati: The Battle of Benson
Can you imagine how pumped Cedric Benson is to get on the field against the team and city that labelled him “Bust”? I think it ranks somewhere between how much Philip Rivers looks forward to getting a taunting penalty and Mr. Chi City having floor seats. The Chicago Defense mostly shut down Michael Turner and has been pretty stout and I think they should be able to slow down the rolling Benson, but I thinkt he Bengals will bounce back after a beating against Houston. I will take Cincy to cover their -1.5 spread and get a win at home. Chicago 21, Cincinnati 23.
San Francisco v. Houston: The Battle of No Big Storylines Between Even, Yet Completely Different, Teams
Frank Gore is back and Michael Crabtree will make his NFL debut, but where is the big drama? No former team revenge (Benson), no Tomlin vs. Old defense, no Zorn vs. Snyder vs. Bingo. Slaton vs. Gore and Johnson vs. Crabtree and San Francisco vs. Early Game are the best storylines and none of those are especialy exciting. Houston is net really east coast, but San Francisco (a West Coast team) on teh road in the central time zone just smells like trouble. East coast is even worse, but this could be trouble. San Fran is coming off the bye and is cleary the more physical and tough team but some of that edge will probably be neutralized by that early game. Houston is pretty soft, but clearly has more talented offensive players who should be able to find a little bit of space. I do not think Houston is a better team, but I think that Houston is better this week. SF 21, Houston 31.
Vikings vs. Steelers: The Battle of Dying Professions
I am a little perplexed by Pittsburgh being 5 point favorites in this game. I agree with most in thinking that Minnesota is not quite as good as their record, but Pittsburgh is exactly as good as their record (4-2). The Steelers most impressive win thus far has been against perenially underperforming San Diego at home and their other wins came agaisnt winless Tennessee, and one-win Cleveland and Detroit. Ben Roethlisberger has been Pittsburgh’s best plaer by far and the defense and running game has been anything but impressive against less than stellar competition. The Vikings were no doubt lucky to escape against Baltimore and should realisticlaly have a loss, but they are better than 5 point dogs in Pittsburgh. Adrian Peterson will romp and Ben Roethlisberger will get sacked at least 4 times as the Vikings roll to 7-0. Steelers 24, Vikings 31.