Game of the Week: #7 Miami (7-0) at #3 Florida State (7-0). The nation’s premier matchup of the week features a Miami team who has survived upset attempts the last two weeks to stay undefeated against a Florida State team that had been overly impressive about every step of the way. The Seminoles are 22-point home favorites, which shows how much the oddsmakers like them (it’s probably been a while since a #3 vs. #7 game had such a large spread). This is the first time these two teams in this classic rivalry have met as top-10 opponents since 2004. Miami will have a chip on their shoulder, because they haven’t won a game in this series since 2009, and have only won twice since their last home win in the series since 2004. They have probably also been reading analysts and experts picking Florida State all week long. However, Florida State appears impressive enough to overpower the Hurricanes. Florida State has been blowing out all their opponents, with their closest game all year being decided by 14 points. Miami struggled against North Carolina and Wake Forest, having to score in the final minute to win each contest. Florida State simply has the stronger team here, and I think the game will be close at halftime, but the Seminoles will pull away in the 2nd half. Florida State 45, Miami 21.
Big Game Guarantee: #18 Oklahoma State (6-1) at #15 Texas Tech (7-1). Texas Tech comes back home to Lubbock off their loss at Oklahoma last week, and they will be 2-point favorites in this important Big 12 game. Five teams are in the Big 12 race, with these 2 racing Texas, Oklahoma, and Baylor to the wire for a BCS bid. The Red Raiders, as I mentioned, lost their first game of the season last week in Norman, 38-30, after turning the ball over 3 times. Turnovers have been Texas Tech’s weakness throughout the season, and after getting away with the turnovers against lesser competition, they paid the price against the Sooners. Oklahoma State’s loss is to West Virginia, coming back in September. Since then, the scores they have posted have gotten gradually more impressive, leading up to a 58-27 win last week at Iowa State. However, Cowboys QB Clint Chelf is just 20 for his last 51 with 2 interceptions in that span. A struggling QB on the road in a big game, coupled with the fact that Texas Tech will be fired up, coming off the loss to Oklahoma and a pair of embarrassments the last two years against the Cowboys (59-21 in 2012, 66-6 in 2011), should give the Red Raiders an advantage and eventually a victory. Texas Tech 38, Oklahoma State 31.
Another Big Game Guarantee: Georgia (4-3) vs Florida (4-3). Georgia is a 3-point favorite at a neutral site in Jacksonville, as these two teams renew their annual rivalry, “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.” Both teams come in struggling (by their high standards, anyway), with both at 4-3 overall and 3-2 in SEC play. However, with the exception of Georgia’s loss to Vanderbilt, all of the losses were to teams either ranked at the time of the game or currently. Both sides, after consecutive losses, have had an extra week to prepare, to rest, and to get healthy, although there are injuries for both sides that have key players out for the year. A big matchup will be strength-on-strength between Georgia’s offense and Florida’s defense. People keep forgetting this is a good Georgia team, they’ve just had injury issues that have cost them in their last 2 games. The key will be a running back; Georgia’s Todd Gurley returns from injury this week, while Florida is forced to turn to freshman Kelvin Taylor. Although Taylor was a highly touted recruit, the RB matchup clearly favors Georgia. Georgia 21, Florida 14.
Upset of the Week: #21 Michigan (6-1) at #22 Michigan State (7-1). This in-state clash will put one team in the driver’s seat in the Big Ten’s Legends division race. The winner will only have to beat Nebraska (and Michigan would also have to beat Ohio State) and take care of business elsewhere to win the division. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The Spartans are 5-point home favorites, and have a 4-game winning streak, with their lone loss coming at Notre Dame. The Wolverines are “undefeated in regulation” as they say, with their only loss coming in a 4OT classic 3 weeks ago at Penn State. These teams are pretty even overall, although if you break down the game, Michigan has the better offense, but Michigan State has the better defense. I expect Wolverines QB Devin Gardner to play well, as he seems to rise to the occasion in big games. While Michigan won last year’s meeting, 12-10, the Spartans had won the previous four. I’m going to do a first here, and predict an overtime game. That being said, Michigan had a bye last week, and will be a little more fresh. That will be the difference, in a game that stamina will be a factor. Michigan 27, Michigan State 20, in overtime.
Another Upset of the Week: Minnesota (6-2) at Indiana (3-4). This is one of my upset picks because this game has a spread that I simply don’t understand. Indiana is an 8-point favorite in this game, as they host the Golden Gophers. Since Minnesota lost at Michigan 3 weeks ago, all they’ve done is upset Northwestern and Nebraska, with the Nebraska win being a pretty convincing one. This is team that has been inspired since coach Jerry Kill took a leave of absence to seek treatment for his epilepsy. Indiana, although they have this game at home, has lost 3 out of 4 and earlier in the year lost to Navy. They do have a 20-point win over Penn State, but that is the lone high point of a season in which they are currently under .500, and one that will not likely end in a bowl bid. This is not a hard pick to make. Minnesota 28, Indiana 20.
Another Upset of the Week: North Carolina (2-5) at NC State (3-4). While this may not be a big game on the national stage, this is a big game in the state of North Carolina. NC State is a 5-point home underdog in their biggest rivalry game all year, as the Tar Heels will ride the buses over to Raleigh in one of their 2 biggest rivalries, with the other being Duke. North Carolina won last year’s meeting on a punt return touchdown in the closing seconds, but before that the Pack had won 5 straight in the series. Also, State has only lost once at home in the series since 2001. While UNC leads the all-time series 64-32-6, in the ACC era, their lead is just 33-27. I understand why State is an underdog, as they are winless in the ACC and QB Brandon Mitchell is in just his 2nd game back from injury, and the Heels are not a bad team, contrary to their record. That being said, I expect the Wolfpack to come out firing here and pull off a mild upset. NC State 27, North Carolina 24.
Closer Than the Experts Think (NFL Edition): Chicago Bears (4-3) at Green Bay Packers (5-2). The Packers come in as one of the best teams in the NFC, and have won 6 straight in the series, including the 2010-11 NFC Championship Game. Not only has Green Bay won 6 straight in this series, but they’ve also won 11 straight home games (regular season and playoff) against the NFC North, and 20 out of 22. However, this game is on Monday Night Football, and the last time this series was played on Monday night was the Bears last victory, in September 2010. The Bears are 1-5 against the spread (4-3 in actual wins and losses), but the 1 win was on the road. The Packers are 3-0 against the spread at home (and 3-0 at home in wins-losses). I feel confident Green Bay will win the game, but I also feel like the Bears are due to beat the spread (and the Packers are due to lose to one) and make the game interesting. Packers 31, Bears 24.