Rough week for college football.
Two players from Florida State have been implicated in an academic scandal. Ohio State backup Antonio Henton was arrested for soliciting a prostitute, who turned out to be an undercover police officer. And your eyeballs are probably getting sore from watching Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy proclaim to a reporter that he’s a man after beating Texas Tech.
The good news in all of this is we can safely say Ohio State boosters can no longer be accused of providing inappropriate benefits to its players. Henton is alleged to have tried to receive $20 worth of satisfaction from said undercover prostitute with only $19 in his pocket.
But I feel for Henton. I didn’t have the greatest week either after another 2-2 performance. It won’t land me in handcuffs, but it’s not as fulfilling as the 4-0 effort I posted the week before. I’m now 10-6 on the season with my CFP picks heading into this Saturday.
Now is when things really start to get tough. It’s usually this time of year that I try to forget everything I thought I knew about college football and start to look for the potential in teams. It usually takes about three or four weeks for a lot of teams to jell together, adjust to new schemes, get used to road trips and settle into class schedules.
This year it also seems like an unusually high number of squads are adjusting to new quarterbacks. Overall, the quarterback play has been some of the sloppiest in recent memory and consequently there are a lot of teams having trouble executing on the offensive side of the ball.
Once again this year the ACC is the probably the worst culprit for underachieving QB play. Boston College, Clemson and N.C. State are the only three teams with records above .500 when it comes to the over.
I’d argue the Pac-10 has seen the best QB play so far and when you look at the standings, you’ll see that seven teams have above .500 over records. Dennis Dixon has yet to throw an interception for Oregon and John David Booty has USC’s offense rolling. It’s tough to find any seriously spotty QB play right down the line in the Pac-10 including freshman Jake Locker for Washington.
All that said, there are some teams I think are going to get better in a hurry based on the quarterback play and others that are going to run into some struggles and decreased value against the spread in a hurry. I’ll quickly run down some of them.
Illinois – Juice Williams is an exciting player, but he’s staring down his intended receivers like they’re bikini-clad women on a beach. Last week he threw an ugly interception at the 11-minute mark of the third quarter deep in Indiana territory on a pass that was easier to read than a book. The Illini get into the meat of their Big Ten schedule now and I see some dropped cash coming up.
Virginia – Al Groh is changing QBs like Paris Hilton changes boyfriends. Neither Jameel Sewell nor Peter Lalich is looking competent in there right now but the Cavs’ strong defensive play has propelled them to two straight wins. Lalich looks more comfortable in the pocket to me but it’s going to take some time before either one of these guys steps up as the clear-cut starter.
Georgia Tech – A big reason why Virginia was able to win last week was because junior Taylor Bennett was awful. He has a 50 percent completion rate this season and you kind of get the impression the Jackets have no chance on third down if they have to pass. Still, everything looks good with him except when he releases the ball. He just can’t seem to find the target. I think that’s just a confidence thing and we could see a quick turnaround with him now that it looks like running back Tashard Choice is healthy.
Notre Dame – I thought Jimmy Clausen improved last game even though the Irish couldn’t cover against Michigan State. The O-line looked a little stronger despite giving up four sacks the Spartans, who are tops in the nation in that category. I think we’ll see the Irish start to earn some covered spreads very quickly.
South Carolina – I was very impressed with Blake Mitchell last week against a nasty LSU defense. He helped the Gamecocks go 8-for-16 on third downs last and several of them came on third-and-longs. With this defense, USC will continue to hold some strong value.
North Carolina – These guys are bad. The faults of freshman T.J. Yates have been covered up to this point thanks to a weak schedule, but he threw four interceptions and no touchdowns last week against a tough South Florida team and UNC continues to be the worst team in the nation in time of possession. Yates and UNC are in for a tough year and they have a brutal stretch of schedule coming up with games against Virginia Tech, Miami and South Carolina. Ouch.
UCLA – Same old story for the Bruins: inconsistency. Fortunately for coach Karl Dorrell his choice has been made easy by the fact he’s just been going with the guy who’s healthy. This week Ben Olson gets the nod because Cowan smashed up his knee last week in the win over Washington. I think Olson has more talent but Cowan is a little scrappier and UCLA plays tougher for him. Olson and the Bruins must have learned their lesson against Utah and we’ll see them improve if Olson can stay healthy. Take the Bruins as an underdog while you can.
OK, enough analysis for now. On to this week’s picks.
UCLA at Oregon State (-2, 52 ½)
I’ll put my money where my words are.
Pick: UCLA +2
UNC vs. Virginia Tech ( -18, 42 ½)
You know how I feel about the Tar Heels now. If not, go back and read. I’ll wait.
Like the Heels, the Hokies are also going with a freshman QB these days. Tyrod Taylor has two wins to his credit so far but he also has way more talent to work with than Yates and a much better defense. Taylor will improve slowly but surely as the season wears on and he’ll be helped on Saturday by a defense that won’t allow many points.
Pick: Virginia Tech -18
Pittsburgh at Virginia (-5 ½, 40)
Just like Virginia, Pitt has been forced to bounce around at quarterback but the Panthers’ problems are even worse. A pair of freshmen have struggled equally, Kevan Smith and Pat Bosick, following a thumb injury to season-opening starter Bill Stull. Stull won’t be back until mid-October and Pitt is in for a rough road until then.
Pick: under 40
UNLV at Nevada (-3 ½, 51 ½)
Can’t skip out on making a play on the Gambler’s Bowl. The Rebs had a better performance last week against Utah than they’d shown before that and they should be motivated by a pair of losses in the past two meetings with Nevada.
Pick: +3 ½
Jon Campbell is the senior editor for Covers.com and he watches and wagers on enough college football to make any degenerate proud. You can reach him at email@example.com.