Fourth Down and Inches
By Doc of Doc's Sports Picks
Our College Game of the Year was Michigan (-14) over Wisconsin and that was exactly how it ended, with Michigan winning by a score of 27-13. I'm sure some of you found a line of 13.5 or bought the half point. And for those you who did, you earned the victory. We are certainly happy about that. But pushing a selection of this magnitude reminds me of the old saying, "A tie is like kissing your sister." But with a long season ahead, we will come back in the future with another Game of the Year selection.
For those of you that played the over 54 in Iowa State at Texas, it probably would have been easier to be taken out behind the woodshed for a good flogging. A total of 44 points were scored in the first half of this game and going over the posted total looked to be a formality. The Cyclones have an electric offense, but a terrible defense, and the Longhorns feasted on this favorable situation. However, the second half was delayed because of a severe thunderstorm warning and neither team seemed excited about finishing the game. Only seven points were scored and that loss was hard to shallow.
One game that I find very interesting in this week's slate is a battle of the Techs, with Georgia Tech heading to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech. The Hokies are No. 11 in the nation, but it's this writer's opinion that they are overrated.
I like head coach Frank Beamer and feel he's done a great job with this program. However, this team is not as strong as they have been in past campaigns. They have played an easy schedule thus far but things are getting stormier on the horizon. They still have road games remaining with Boston College, Miami and Wake Forest. My feeling is that they will lose two of those contests. This week they are favored by nine, but may be without the service of a couple of suspended defensive players.
Last season, the Jackets were riding high after a three-game winning streak - including a victory over Auburn - before the Hokies smoked them. Georgia Tech managed only three first downs and committed three turnovers. Look for coach Chan Gailey to have the Jackets ready to play in a situation where they could pull an upset.
Another interesting game this Saturday is Purdue against Notre Dame. The Boilers are 4-0 on the season with three wins coming against mid-major programs. The Purdue defense has been disappointing thus far. They basically can't stop anybody - just like the 2005 unit that featured 11 returning starters.
Purdue is coming off an emotional victory over visiting Minnesota last week. On the other side, the Irish have played four emotional games in a row. Unless the Irish have a serious letdown they should hang 45 points on the porous Purdue defense. It's hard to lay 16 points to an in-state rival, but that's really the only play here.
Indiana should get a real boost this week against Wisconsin with the return of head coach Terry Hoeppner. He missed the last two games after undergoing his second round of brain surgery. The season has certainly been disappointing thus far for the Hoosiers, especially during the last two weeks with home losses to Southern Illinois and Connecticut.
Under former coach Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin always had a tough time with Indiana. Who can forget the 2001 meeting when the Hoosiers invaded Wisconsin as 14.5-point underdogs and stole a 63-32 outright victory? Antwaan Randle El was quarterbacking that Indiana team and ran all over the Badgers that day. Could Saturday's game be a rerun? It's hard to say, but I certainly wouldn't take the Badgers laying 11.
For those of you who enjoy following the Big Ten, you will have access to a Saturday night full of great action with Ohio State visiting Iowa and Michigan heading to the Twin Cities. I would bet the general public would be sending their money with both home underdogs. "Not so fast my friend," as the old Hoosier coach would say. Personally, I think the top of the Big Ten will show its true colors this week.
A lot of us who handicap games spend time looking at the powerhouse programs. But what about teams that have little exposure and find themselves playing in hostile environments to gain notoriety and boost their program?
One team that fits this profile is Central Michigan, which travels to face Kentucky on Saturday. The Wildcats are 2-2 on the season, with losses coming against Florida and Louisville. They returned 16 starters from last season and coach Rich Brooks needs this win to solidify the program. The Chippewas are 4-0 ATS this season, but I feel last week's overtime win over Eastern Michigan could have a carry-over effect. It simply looks like a game more important for the home team, and I would lay the 7.5 points without hesitation.
On another note, I was sad to hear that golf legend Bryon Nelson died at the age of 94. Nelson's long, fluid swing was the model for golf. He was probably well known more for his kind and caring style then he was for his golf achievements. Byron Nelson was one of the most liked people in sports and he will surely be missed.
A great weekend is in store with the Big Ten taking center stage. Will one of the top teams go down? I think I know who will suffer defeat and will be very interested to see how everyone fares.
That's it for this week, Doc