We have some real blockbusters to cover this week in both College Football and the NFL. College Football offers Iowa at Ohio State, Utah at TCU, and a few potential upsets all look promising. The NFL counters with the Midseason Classic (Pats @ Colts), Cincinnati vs. Pittsburgh and New Orleans going to St. Louis. All kidding aside, there are some fantastic games this weekend, and it is my distinct honor to pick them for you.
(10) Iowa @ (11) Ohio State
Usually I pick these games against the spread, but on this one I am going to buck(eye) the trend. Ohio State dominated Penn State last week and Iowa had been living on the edge, to put it lightly, before finally falling to Northwestern. Ohio State, despite many predicting a down year, is right back in position to win the Big Ten and ride comfortably to the Rose Bowl where they will meet Arizona or Oregon barring collapse by either. Say what you want about the Big Ten in bowl games, but Senator Tressel will not let the Buckeyes falter now, and especially not at the horseshoe to a team without its starting QB. I barely even mentioned Iowa in this article, and if you watch the game, you will barely notice them, so it is fitting. Ohio State 23, Iowa 10.
(16) Utah at (4) TCU
This game is really all that separates TCU from a MWC crown and a shot at the big boys on a big stage. I don’t know if the Horned Frogs will jump out in front early, but if you try to convince me they will not be absolutely juiced heading into this game, you are sorely mistaken. It is far more likely that they will fall next week in a docile state than this week when they are ready. Utah is not bad and I am not calling a blowout, but TCU will win this game and will not have to sweat it out despite playing a quality opponent. TCU 30, Utah 17.
Miami (FL) at UNC (+3)
I am not picking the cover, I am picking the win. This seems like one of those games Miami should win on talent, but will not because they are so mentally weak. The Tar Heels are more than capable of bringing down the big boys in their house (VT), and Miami just does not show up every game. Expect the Tar Heels to jump out to a lead and just barely hold the Canes off. UNC 31, Miami 27.
Stanford (+10.5) @ (9) USC
I want to pick the win for the Cardinal here, but I cannot do it while maintaining some aspect of legitimacy. Stanford can play with USC and has a similarly talented freshman QB but the home-field advantage the Men of Troy bring is substantial. It might end up being more than 10, but it will be because of momentum, not talent on the field. Stanford 24, USC 34.
Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh
Great matchup, and on almost any other week it would be the game of the week. Even when you list info about each team they seem even. The Steelers are coming off a big win against the Broncos on Monday Night Football and the Bengals are coming off a thumping of the Ravens. The Pittsburgh defense has been rejuvenated since Polamalu returned, and Big Ben has been outstanding so far. The Bengals held a very potent Baltimore offense to 7 late points last Sunday and the offense has been both efficient and, at times, explosive. Palmer v. Roethlisberger? You can’t go too wrong picking either one. So what makes the difference in this game? Will it be the Bengals pass rush vs. Big Ben, who has an affinity for holding the ball, or the Steelers Defense against yardage machine Cedric Benson? I am taking the Bengals, even if it is for a somewhat cheesy reason. Pittsburgh had the Monday night game last week and thus has one fewer day rest than the Bengals. Yeah, I know it is unsatisfying, but that is how closely matched the two teams are. It has playoff matchup written all over it, but we get to watch it Week 10. I love it. Bengals 20, Steelers 17.
Patriots @ Colts
Oh my, here it is. The best regular season game of the year. As a Colts fan, I love it. As a football fan, I love it. This game never fails to entertain. Ever since 2003, they have been among the best teams in the league and have given us some of the best games in the league. The best part? The game is always playoff relevant, or in some cases, Super Bowl relevant. Each team has had to beat the other in order to win their Super Bowls. You could ask for no more from a football game.
As a Colts fan, some bad news arrived in the mail today. It was Sports Illustrated and gracing the cover was Peyton Manning. I could not have been angrier. The SI Cover Jinx is a well documented phenomenon and you could want nothing more for your team than to avoid the cover before an important game. Ask Iowa. They were on the cover with the caption “Still Perfect”. Not for long. Iowa lost the next week. Nothing would make me happier than for the Colts to avoid the cover, but now that they are there they have one more thing to overcome.
The Colts defense has been a story worth covering this year. They lead the league in least points allowed and has been unusually solid against the run. However, I am a little nervous after watching Matt Schaub, a QB or far lesser proficiency than Brady, burn the Colts through the air at times. They were still held to 17 points, but it could not have been much more uncomfortable. Opposing the Colts defense will be a Pats unit that has looked both incredible and mediocre this year. They struggled against Miami for a good part of the game, but before that had been torching opponents (think Tennessee). The Colts offense has been somewhat similar. Even though Manning is killing everyone, they have scored 18 and 20 points respectively in their last two games and have looked off at times. I would never bet against Manning, but they certainly have not built up much confidence the last few weeks. The Pats defense is nothing to brag about either, but I always assume Belichick will come up with ways to befuddle the Colts. This is going to be a great game; you can quote me on it. Hell, put it on billboards with my name on it. I guarantee excitement. But who will win?
Colts 31, Patriots 28.
Should be a great one.