Through no intention of my own, my quest for an above-.500 NCAA season has entered ultra-conservative "run out the clock" mode where all I do is teeter around .500 every week just to protect my early-season cushion. Anyway, this week features five meetings between ranked teams, so finding five games to take a stance on was fairly easy. Home teams in CAPS.
OKLAHOMA STATE (-8.5) over Baylor
If you looked at this game back in September and tried to guess the line (although I can't begin to imagine how much of a degenerate you'd have to be to do so), this game would have looked like a 10.5-12 point job. All of a sudden, Baylor has crept into the Top 25 with consecutive wins over Kansas State and a napping Texas team. Oklahoma State gets receiver Justin Blackmon back, needs this game to keep their Big 12 chances alive, and is coming off maybe their best defensive effort of the year. Not that they exactly value defense in the Big 12, but I say the Cowboys make the few stops that the Bears don't and win it by 10-13 points, maybe 38-27.
LSU (+6.5) over Alabama
I'm going to eat my words about LSU from earlier this year and say they have a pretty good chance to end Alabama's repeat hopes this Saturday. Both teams are coming off a bye so the matchup will pretty much be at full strength, and if LSU's secondary can keep Julio Jones & Co. in front of them they should find that Greg McElroy isn't quite as tough to defend as Cameron Newton. Alabama figures to earn its keep by running the ball in this game, and 6.5 points in a run-heavy game at home is enough to make me go with my first instinct. Despite the game being in Death Valley, LSU is going to have to make the ticking clock its 12th man, as their chances of winning go down mightily if it becomes necessary to score more than 21 points.
Texas Christian (-5) over UTAH
Call this the battle of the non-Boises. I'm looking forward to seeing these teams play each other and the winner make their case as the non-AQ that deserves to go to the dance. Each team has taken turns pounding the hell out of their conference up to this point, with the exception being Utah's 28-23 squeaker where they were outgained by Air Force last week. The points at home for Utah are tempting here, but TCU rushes for 270 yards a game - I don't care who you play, that is impressive. The Horned Frogs should be able to hold the ball and take the Utah crowd out of the game as time goes by. The Utes have a very good defense in their own right (267 ypg), but as long as football has been played, a team that can run the ball can do almost anything it wants. I think TCU puts it away with a late, clock-eating TD drive.
Arkansas (+4.5) over SOUTH CAROLINA
Not sure why this line is more than 3, unless people are comparing these teams to each other by looking at how each team played Auburn (a 65-43 loss for Arkansas and a 35-27 loss for South Carolina). However, they're not playing Auburn, they're playing each other. In that case, the fact that the Gamecocks give up 260 yards passing a game (286 ypg at home to boot) while Arkansas throws for 360 a game (#2 in the country) is more than enough to convince me to take the 4.5 here.
Arizona (+9.5) over STANFORD
The winner of this game emerges as a Rose Bowl frontrunner, assuming Oregon stays on track. The Wildcats enter this game giving up only 88 yards rushing per game and 2.6 yards per carry, and if that isn't enough to make you think they can stay within 9 of Stanford, then consider that this line opened at 7, so a bet for Arizona is a bet against the public.
Last Week: 2-3-0