Last week, our voters picked Alabama to cover the ten point spread against Wisconsin, and that happened. I picked Alabama, MSU, and LA Monroe to cover. Alabama did, even though the game was a little more high scoring than I thought. We've had a few articles recapping the game and why MSU didn't play well, and I still think MSU should have covered the spread. I have to admit I was wrong about LA Monroe covering against Georgia. LA Monroe's defense wasn't as good as expected, and LA Monroe's play calling, especially the massive amount of screen passes, was ineffective early. However, the spread was voided due to a lightening delay, so I got lucky on that one.
Lock of the Week: 1-0
Overall Votes: 6-1
Our voters missed Auburn. Auburn received 11 votes to Louisville's 10. Georgia's was voided, and the voters tied on the ULL and Kentucky game.
As usual, I'm not doing any FCS spreads.
Jacksonville State at Auburn (FCS)
Auburn's defense looked improved, especially when Carl Lawson and Tray Matthews were healthy. Jeremy Johnson's stats looked bad. He actually threw the ball very well, but made some horrible decisions which led to three interceptions. Jacksonville State is a very good FCS program, but this won't be close.
Fresno State at Mississippi (UM -28.5)
After winning the Mountain West in 2013, Fresno State went 6-8. Their QB Zack Greenlee actually visited MSU if I remember correctly. Mullen asked their second string QB, Chason Virgil, to greyshirt, and his high school coach expressed his displeasure with Mullen on Twitter. They have a good runningback, but several inexperienced receivers. On defense, their defense line is going to be inexperienced, but they should have good linebackers and a good secondary. Fresno State will be competitive in the Mountain West Conference, but the four touchdown spread is about right.
Georgia at Vanderbilt (UGA -20.5)
It is easy to overreact to how a team plays in their first game. If you watched both teams play last week, it would seem like Georgia would cover easily. However, Western Kentucky is a very good team by Conference USA standards (their game against LA Tech on Thursday should a good alternative while the NFL game is showing commercials), and Vanderbilt's defense played very well against them. Vanderbilt is going to have problems throwing the ball, but they should have a decent rushing attack with Ralph Webb. Johnny McCrary is very quick for a QB. Georgia is much better than Vanderbilt, but Vanderbilt's defense and the fact that the game is at home makes this spread interesting.
Middle Tennessee State at Alabama (UA -34.5)
Alabama's game against Wisconsin wasn't that competitive. Coker passed the ball exceptionally well considering he was in a QB battle this offseason. After a big game last week, it would be understandable if Alabama came out flat against MTSU. Alabama could also be looking ahead to their shot at revenge against Mississippi next week. MTSU isn't a threat to beat Alabama, but they are a decent team that is very experienced. They return almost all of their defense from last season. Their defense had poor stats last season, but that was partially due to a turnover prone offense. If MTSU only has one or two turnovers, they should cover. That admittedly is a big assumption.
Toledo at Arkansas (Little Rock) ARK -21.5
Toledo could win the MAC, but the MAC is not very good. They have good runningbacks, but only return three career starts on their offensive line. Tennessee made a similar situation work last year, but that was an exception. Arkansas ran the ball well last week, which is not surprising, but they threw four touchdown passes in the first half, which was surprising. Brandon Allen has improved each season, and if Arkansas has an above average passing attack, they are a dangerous team. I'm slightly leaning towards Arkansas on this one.
Oklahoma at Tennessee (0)
Some websites favor Oklahoma, and some favor Tennessee. Tennessee's running attack is insane, with two runningbacks that would start for most teams and one of the most mobile QB's in the nation. Oklahoma's QB, Baker Mayfield, was the starter at Texas Tech and lost a year of eligibility when he transferred to Oklahoma. Oklahoma's run game is outstanding with Samaje Perine (6.5 yards per carry) and Alex Ross (6.8 yards per carry), and they have a great receiver in Sterling Shepard. Oklahoma doesn't have much proven depth at receiver, and has to replace three all Big 12 offensive linemen. Like MSU last year, they gave up a lot of passing yards, but it was more because of how often teams threw the ball against them than than actually being bad against the pass. This game comes down to who has the better run defense, and I'm leaning towards Tennessee despite the fact that Oklahoma beat them easily last year.
Ball State at Texas A&M (TAMU -30)
Ball State has experience at most positions, but this is a bad matchup for them. They pass the ball a lot, and Texas A&M put a lot of pressure on the QB against Arizona State. Texas A&M's defense looks much better, and Ball State doesn't run the ball well. If Texas A&M doesn't come out flat after a big win against Arizona State, they should cover the spread.
Missouri at Arkansas State (MIZZ -11)
Arkansas State has been good the last few years, and since they host this one, it looks like a favorable spread for Arkansas State at a glance. This is the first year Arkansas State has kept their coach since Malzahn went to Auburn, Freeze went to Mississippi, and Harsin went to Boise State. From reading a couple of season previews, they sound like they have balanced offense, and a defense that struggles against the run, but could be decent. However, they got destroyed by USC 55-6. I mentioned not overreacting to one game earlier, but 55-6 is really bad against anyone. Missouri had problems running the ball against their FCS opponent last week when Russell Hansbrough went out, and they don't have experience at receiver. Hansborough is supposed to play, but if he isn't healthy, Missouri could have a close game against Arkansas State. I'm leaning towards Arkansas State to cover the spread.
East Carolina at Florida (UF -20)
Treon Harris started last week, but freshman QB Will Grier looked impressive, so that QB battle isn't over. East Carolina isn't supposed to be good, but they are much better than New Mexico State. They should be able to run the ball well, and stop the run, but their pass defense wasn't good last year and lost a couple of starters in the secondary. As long as Florida passes the ball well, they can cover the spread.
Kentucky at USC (USC -7.5)
This is the game I'm picking this week, and I'm picking Kentucky to cover, even though South Carolina should win. Kentucky has a few different runningbacks they should be comfortable with, and they are a decent, but admittedly inconsistent, passing team. Their receivers were constantly wide open last week. Of course, South Carolina has a better defense than ULL. Kentucky also played outstanding run defense against the Sun Belt player of the year. They did struggle with the read option. Connor Mitch looked quick enough to scramble when necessary last week, but when USC runs the ball with their QB, it is typically going to be receiver Pharoh Cooper running the ball out of the wildcat. USC should run the ball well this season, but Pharoh Cooper was the only receiver that really stood out last week. If USC struggles to pass the ball like they did last week, and Kentucky continues to play good run defense, Kentucky's offense should give them enough points to keep this a one possession game. The most important task for Kentucky's offense is to avoid short drives where Towles throws a few incomplete passes and their defense doesn't get much a rest.
LSU at MSU (LSU -4)
I'll leave most of this to our other writers. The key to winning this game is to force bad QB play from LSU, like last year. If they do throw the ball well, winning this one is going to be difficult.