A 30-second media time out for a little back patting here. It's six straight winning weeks vs. the spread to start the season for the Locksmith and yet ... why does last week's 4-2 showing have such a hollow feel to it?
The first is that the Locksmith ignored the flashing neon warning signs almost every week about how mediocre Alabama's defense is and how the abundantly talented Bryce Young needs time to transition into his role and the college game along with the rest of the re-built offense. Alabama is a very good team. But Texas A&M exposed the Tide as far short of greatness last week (a lost pick I never saw coming).
It's a case of falling for the Alabama mystique over what the Alabama results of 2021 were telling us.
Second, how ridiculous a beat was the Texas-Oklahoma game?
I'm not talking about the 28-7 lead Texas squandered. I'm talking about getting 3 1/2 with the Longhorns, being in a tie game in the waning seconds with Oklahoma looking to set up for the game-winning field goal -- a cover for Texas -- and instead ripping off a 33-yard touchdown run as 11 Longhorns stood there watching as if they were rubbernecking a car accident.
Anyway, on to this week's games.
Nebraska over MINNESOTA, giving 4
We know the Cornhuskers have been creative in finding ways to lose, with their four losses by a combined 21 points. Last week's loss to Michigan was especially painful, since Scott Frost's children of the corn led 29-26 with three minutes left until veteran QB Adrian Martinez committed the umpteenth costly turnover of his turnover-plagued career. But this team has yet to quit, it does have talent and it is showing some grit. Golden Gophers have lost their top two running backs for the year and may have to turn to a freshman here, which would normally mean relying more on senior QB Tanner Morgan. But he has not been good this year, which explains the meager 20 points scored against Purdue last time out. Can't get over that this team lost to 2-4 Bowling Green, either.
Fresno over WYOMING, giving 3 1/2
Not sure how to explain the aberration at Hawaii, when the Bulldogs squandered a 14-point fourth quarter lead in a 27-24 loss, or the play of QB Jake Haener, who was having a great season until going 18 of 50 with four INTs on the island. Banking on Haener and Fresno to bounce back because both are much better than what happened in Hawaii. This is an offense still averaging 520 yards per game. Cowboys are 4-1 because they've played a glorified high school schedule until being exposed by Air Force last week, with QB Sean Chambers going 11-for-28. This is a mediocre offense that will struggle to keep pace with Fresno and Haener.
Pittsburgh over VIRGINIA TECH, giving 4 1/2
Here's why QB Kenny Pickett has emerged as a legitimate Heisman candidate: He is completing 72 percent of his passes for 1,731 yards with 19 TDs to one INT for an offense averaging 52.4 ppg. Pitt has scored at least 40 in every game and comes off a bye here. So we know the Panthers can and will score even against a (supposedly) good Virginia Tech defense. Not sure what type of homefield advantage the Hokies will have here after fans went all out last week, only to see Tech waste a 29-21 lead with four minutes left in a gut-wrenching last-second loss to Notre Dame. There has to be an emotional toll from that. And no one ever knows which Braxton Burmeister will show up at QB -- a real problem since the offense is so reliant on him (he also leads the team in rushing). There's a letdown looming here for Tech.
IOWA over Purdue, giving 11 1/2
It's a lot of points to give for a plodding offense whose triggerman (QB Spencer Petras) has the mobility of a fire hydrant. But a couple of variables come into play here. It's a home game, great defenses rarely have bad games -- and this appears to be one of the best defenses in the country -- and we can pretty much count on Purdue scoring 13 points, since the Boilermakers have done exactly that in three straight games. A punch-less offense like Purdue's against an opportunistic defense like Iowa's seems like a recipe for a one-sided affair. Hawkeyes have shown they can manhandle mediocre teams with a business-like approach, routing both Indiana and Maryland already. Jack Plummer was so ineffective at QB for Purdue despite seven TD passes and no interceptions that he was replaced last week by Aidan O'Connell, who has four TD passes and five INTs. Wasn't Jeff Brohm supposed to bring offense to Purdue?
Mississippi over TENNESSEE, giving 3
We know Ole Miss and QB Matt Corral are going to score here. A lot, too. But can the Rebels and their funky defensive alignment stop anyone? That's the concern, especially since the Vols are much improved now that Hendon Hooker is established as their QB. The feeling is Ole Miss has been tested much more so far (Alabama and Arkansas) and Corral has played at an elite level throughout the year, with 12 TD passes and no INTs. Rebels are averaging 46.2 ppg, Tennessee 41.5. And these offenses run plays at a faster pace than any other teams in the country. So here's the thinking: Corral gets the ball last and throws a TD pass to win (and cover). Still have to see Tennessee beat a quality opponent to be convinced the Vols are all the way back from the doldrums of recent years.
Auburn over ARKANSAS, taking 4 1/2
Where has Arkansas' defense disappeared to? Razorbacks have allowed 87 points the past two games, leading to speculation that some of the early success of the unit was a byproduct of a weak schedule (or one where they caught a team without their starting QB). QB KJ Jefferson continues to be Arkansas' offense, since he also leads the Hogs in rushing), and that worked against a no-defense Mississippi last week but not at all (zero points) against Georgia's vaunted defense. Put Auburn somewhere in between those two defensively, with the Tigers having played Penn State tough while putting up a fight against No. 1 Georgia. Bo Nix is having a solid year but has not had much help, with Auburn guilty of an SEC-leading 23 drops this year. The difference maker here could be Jarquez Hunter, who is averaging 9.9 yards per carry. Auburn looks to be a more solid overall team with a better offense. Tigers have also faced tougher tests so far.
Last week vs. spread: 4-2
Season to date vs. spread: 26-10
Home team in CAPs