Henry Huber: Welcome back to our Weekly Pick ‘Em series, where we try our best to predict college football games during one of its craziest seasons in recent memory. I also want to welcome Jared and his air conditioning back as well. It’s good to have you back, and thankfully you didn’t miss too much. Just a few top teams almost losing, Penn State losing in 9 overtimes to Illinois and Iowa State jumping back into Big 12 relevancy. Just your average weekend if you ask me.
Jared Brodtmann: Apologies for missing last week people, but I lost my air conditioning in the forsaken weather that is Louisiana in early October. It should never be that hot in the best sports month of the year! Let’s get back to work on a slate of all slates this weekend, with fierce rivalries looking to shape the playoff picture!
Jared’s Last Week (Week 7): 2-3
Jared’s Season: 14-16
Pittsburgh vs. Miami, 11:00 AM CT, ACCN
The Pick: Pitt -9.0
Look at Pitt go. They rank 5th in the country in total offense, and it’s been in large part due to Kenny Pickett.
Wait, Kenny Pickett of “Pitt Special” fame, you ask? Yes, that Kenny Pickett!
The guy is a legitimate Heisman candidate, ranking 9th in passing yards and 4th in passing touchdowns, and he has the Panthers in a great position to contest for an ACC championship. The offense is stunningly good, with an impact receiver in Jordan Addison being Pickett’s favorite target. Miami is not the easiest out; they just beat a good NC State team last week, and credit to Manny Diaz for keeping his guys motivated enough to compete in a sneaky good ACC. However, I think this will be the game where Pitt shows they can separate themselves. If things shake out the right way for them, don’t be surprised to see them involved in Charlotte and beyond.
Score: Pitt 41, Miami 24
Liberty vs. UMass, 11:00 AM CT, ESPN3
The Pick: Liberty -35.5
Another impact quarterback is in the spotlight in this one: Malik Willis. He is widely regarded as the best quarterback prospect in this draft class and has been a delight to watch both in the air and on the ground. Liberty’s offense is just too potent for a team like UMass to have much of a chance. It’s a lot of points, but I like Liberty to cover them all. If you can buy it down to -34.5, it might be a worthwhile investment as well.
Much more importantly, to hear what has been happening at Liberty with regards to the ongoing sexual assault investigations has been chilling, but to get it out to the light is a good first step. Sports are a great escape from the real world, and picking games is no different, but it would be foolish and tone-deaf of us to not recognize what happened at Liberty and publicly condemn the individuals responsible. Let’s be the change we want to see.
Score: Liberty 49, UMass 10
West Virginia vs. Iowa State, 1:00 PM CT, BIG12/ESPN+
The Pick: West Virginia +7.5
Iowa State is coming off their biggest win of the season after knocking off Oklahoma State at home in Ames. They’re ranked 22nd in the country, and they seem to be back on track to compete at the top of the Big 12 like everyone expected at the beginning of the year. Brock Purdy and Breece Hall are some of the best QB/RB duos in the country.
So why West Virginia? For one, the Mountaineers are a solid defensive team, but they make their money stopping the run. Ranking 19th in rushing defense, neutralizing Hall will be the priority for West Virginia to start. If that can happen, Purdy, who isn’t known for being the most accurate (he sports an 11:4 TD: INT ratio this year), will have to make the plays with his arm. Just a handful of turnovers will be all West Virginia needs to get a sure-to-be rowdy Morgantown up and going. +7.5 is enough for me to feel comfortable that West Virginia can at least stay in it, and maybe even take Iowa State off the picking order.
Score: West Virginia 24, Iowa State 23
FAU vs. UTEP, 5:00 PM CT, ESPN+
The Pick: UTEP +11.0
I’m highlighting this game over some other bigger games this weekend (UGA-UF, MICH-MSU) because the Miners deserve their shine (no pun intended). The little CUSA team that could is just one win away from a huge interstate showdown with UTSA, with the winner getting put in the conference’s driver’s seat. The 9th best defensive team in the country, UTEP is actually very similar to their San Antonio counterparts. With that in mind, it’s important for them not to overlook FAU this week. It is a surprise to me the Owls are so heavily favored, which is a testament to how good of a game this might be, but I think UTEP will be too motivated by the promise of a massive game against UTSA. Who knows, maybe we’ll get College GameDay out to El Paso for the 9:15 PM kickoff!
Score: UTEP 27, FAU 24
Mississippi State vs. Kentucky, 6:00 PM CT, SECN
The Pick: Kentucky +1.0
Would it really be a Jared Pick ‘Em article if I didn’t pick Kentucky? My college football darlings suffered a bad loss to Georgia but are still sitting pretty at 6-1 and at 12th in the country. I can understand why they are not favored in this game, and I believe it has something to do with defending Mississippi State’s Air Raid. Will Rogers leads the NCAA in attempts and completions, so it is no mystery what the Bulldogs are going to try to do.
However, I disagree that they will find success. The best way to defend a high-powered offense is with a run game of your own. If you can control the ball, you can control how they want to operate, and keeping Rogers and Mississippi State off the field will be the best defense they can play. If you’ve been reading past weeks, you’ll understand how I feel about Kentucky’s offensive line and the bowling ball that is Chris Rodriguez Jr. I think the Wildcats execute their game plan to perfection and pick up an SEC road win.
Score: Kentucky 28, Mississippi State 20
Henry’s Last Week: 4-1
Henry’s Season: 14-10-1
So close to perfection! Since the week in which I almost posted a fat zero in the win column, a lot more of my picks have gone my way. Hopefully, I’m not jinxing myself, but anyways. let‘s get into what went right last week.
Northwestern vs. Michigan -23.5 W
I was sweating this one out, especially early on. Michigan likely needed to score more than thirty points for me to get it right and it did not look like they were going to do that at the end of the first half, especially after they fumbled away a chance to score right before the half ended. They had only managed to elapse 10 points by the end of it and Northwestern was in prime position to make this a game. But the Wolverines showed up a completely different team in the second half and came through for me in the end.
I talked a lot about Michigan’s run offense facing off against a subpar Northwestern run defense. I figured Michigan would end up having a field day as a result and be able to control the pace of the game, and that turned out to be correct. Corum and Haskins each rushed for over 100 yards and two touchdowns, and the Wolverines dominated time of possession as well. Their defense shut Northwestern down just enough to beat the spread, surpassing a 24-point lead with 13 minutes left and shutting Northwestern down for the rest of the game.
Wake Forest -3 vs. Army W
This was a very fun game to watch. Neither defense could do much of anything, and it ultimately came down to which team’s offense slowed down or made a mistake first. Unfortunately for Army, they were the first offense to falter.
Army played an amazing game, rushing for over 400 yards on an absurd 6 yards per carry. They were playing perfectly, keeping up with the Demon Deacons despite Wake Forest’s Sam Hartman being red hot (he finished with 450+ yards and 5 touchdowns). Their downfall occurred on a single play. With Army down 35-28 in the third quarter, a rarity in this game occurred: a 4th down situation. Army lined up to punt but faked it. Army’s punter threw the ball to a receiver that appeared to be wide open, but he threw it too high. Wake Forest’s Traveon Redd had more than enough time to track the ball down and when he caught it, he had accelerated enough to where no one could stop him on his way to an 83-yard pick-six.
Wake Forest has one of the best turnover ratios in the country and that ended up playing a role in the end, with Wake Forest winning the turnover battle 2-0. How many scores did they win by?
Wisconsin vs. Purdue +3.5 L
Wisconsin did to Purdue what Purdue had done to Iowa in the previous week. Coming off their biggest win by far, the Boilermakers imploded against a great defensive effort by Wisconsin, finishing with a total of just 206 yards and 5 turnovers.
With Purdue’s lack of success in running the ball, they desperately Aidan O’Connell to not make mistakes and unfortunately, he didn’t come through for them, throwing three interceptions and just a single touchdown. He had a solid game against Iowa’s defense in the previous week, which made this performance a bit of a surprise for me, considering how strong Iowa’s secondary is.
I expected this game to come down to turnovers, but I didn’t expect the team with one of the worst turnover ratios in the country to be the one to dominate that category. But here we are.
The span that turned the tide of the game took place in two drives in the middle of the second half. Down 20-13, Purdue was driving down the field and had gotten all the way within field goal range when O’Connell threw an interception. Wisconsin would score on the next drive and Purdue wasn’t able to do anything after that.
Oklahoma State +7 vs. Iowa State W
This was an amazing game. Both teams had leads in the fourth quarter. Both teams shut down their opponents’ star running backs. And both teams played to win until the very end.
The game ultimately came down to two drives in the fourth quarter. After Oklahoma State took a lead midway through the fourth quarter, Iowa State needed to respond. And they did. Brock Purdy had multiple passes go for 30+ yards before Breece Hall punched it in from four yards out. The next drive was Oklahoma State’s last chance to win. They got all the way into Iowa State’s territory before being faced with a 4th down and short. Spencer Sanders completed a pass that appeared to just barely pick up the fourth down but when officials came out to measure, they turned out to be just inches short. Upon further review, the spot stood and the game was over.
Sanders played one of his best games of the season, minimizing his mistakes and throwing multiple touchdowns. Iowa State just made the plays they needed to, reestablishing themselves as contenders within the Big-12.
San Diego State +3 vs. Air Force W
This one was a doozy, and I honestly believed it could go either way based on each team’s statistics. The key things to keep an eye on going into this game were how San Diego State’s quarterback(s) performed and the matchup of Air Force’s No. 1 rushing offense against San Diego State’s No. 1 rushing defense. San Diego State managed to check both boxes.
Luke Johnson didn’t make a huge impact, throwing the ball for just 73 yards, but he completed most of his passes and didn’t make mistakes, and that’s all they needed him to do. But the biggest thing San Diego State did right was mitigating Air Force’s success running the ball and getting out to an early lead. Air Force nearly eclipsed 200 yards rushing, but they averaged just four yards per carry and for a team that relies heavily on the run, that was not enough. San Diego State also shut out the Falcons and capitalized on multiple turnovers in the first half, and a second half score to start putting them in a great position, having a 20-0 lead. All they needed to do after that was to hold on, and they did.
Best week so far, let’s see what I can do this week.
Michigan vs. Michigan State, 11:00 AM CT, FOX
The Pick: Michigan -4
While both teams have had close calls, with both teams almost losing to Nebraska and Michigan State struggling against Indiana in their most recent game. The difference is that Michigan State was thoroughly outplayed statistically. Sure, statistics are certainly not everything, but Nebraska outpaced the Spartans by 200 yards and 14 first downs, which is a bit eye opening if you ask me. The Indiana game wasn’t quite as bad but the difference in yardage was still a notable 80 yards. What has kept Michigan State afloat in these games has been their success with turnovers, but that isn’t notable enough for me to go with them.
Kenneth Walker III is a great running back, but when he gets slowed down, the offense struggles. This occurred in both aforementioned games and I expect it to happen against Michigan as well, with the Wolverines having a better defense than both those teams.
Score: Michigan 27 Michigan State 21
Washington State vs. Arizona State, 2:00 PM CT, FS1
The Pick: Washington State +16
I don’t understand this spread. Sure, Arizona State is a statistically better team than Washington State, but 16 points? Are you sure about that?
Washington State hasn’t had an easy slate lately, with their last three games coming against Oregon State, Stanford and BYU. You wouldn’t expect that their record in those games would be 2-1, but that’s what it is. They defeated Oregon State who has had a great start to the season and looks like a PAC-12 contender at the moment. Stanford has fallen off a bit, but they're not as bad as their record indicates, and the Cougars defeated them too. Their only loss in those games was to BYU and it was a close one.
Washington State’s stats are negative but they are skewed by a slow start to the season. Despite going through coaching changes, with Rolovich being fired before their game against BYU, they’ve maintained the level of play they’ve achieved over the past few weeks and I believe they are going to give Arizona State a rough time.
Score: Arizona State 31 Washington State 27
SMU vs. Houston, 6:00 PM CT, ESPN2
The Pick: Houston (EVEN)
These teams are incredibly even, and in leagues of their own in the American conference. Each team’s point differential eclipses 19 and on top of that, neither team has lost a conference game. When teams are as even as these, I like to look into similar matchups and turnover ratios. There isn’t much to gain when analyzing their schedules though because each team has been dominant. But turnover ratio? There’s actually a strong difference.
Houston’s defense causes enough mistakes to be a problem for SMU, along with having a great secondary. Their offense also does a great job of managing the game while also scoring 36 points a game. If Houston causes a few mistakes, they should be able to slow down the Broncos enough to take this one. If not, it will get ugly.
Score: Houston 35 SMU 28
North Carolina vs. Notre Dame, 6:30 PM CT, NBC
The Pick: Notre Dame -3.5
North Carolina has a horrendous, exploitable defense that has given up 35+ points in four of the last five games, including a terrible 45-22 loss against Georgia Tech. Their offense almost makes up for it, but they rely too heavily on Sam Howell and lack the rushing ability they had last season. I don’t feel confident picking them in most situations this season, but picking against them? I like those odds.
Notre Dame hasn’t been noteworthy, but they find ways to win in tough games. They may not be deserving of the No. 11 spot in the polls but I believe they are being underrated in this one. They have beaten USC, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin and Purdue in the last five weeks, while North Carolina has lost to Florida State and Georgia Tech in that same span. They have impressive wins, but noteworthy losses as well, and I don’t expect them to get back on track just because they are coming off a bye.
Score: Notre Dame 31 North Carolina 24
Virginia vs. BYU, 9:15 PM CT, ESPN2
The Pick: Virginia -2.5
I initially wanted to go with BYU for this one, but I changed my mind after seeing how each team has performed over the past few weeks. Virginia got off to a slow start, but after losing to Wake Forest in September, they haven’t lost. They have scored an average of 40 points in their last four games, and though their defense hasn’t been amazing, I don’t see BYU keeping up with Virginia well enough for it to matter.
BYU’s offense isn’t bad or even subpar, but it doesn’t score nearly enough points. They have averaged 20 points in their last three games. Though their start was impressive, getting all the way to the top-10 before stumbling, it doesn’t seem like they are the same team that was beating PAC-12 teams left and right. Algeier is a dominant running back, but he can’t carry them through everything. I expect Virginia will be making their top-25 debut very soon, it’s unfortunate that they already played Wake Forest.