Nebraska @ Missouri
Line: Nebraska favored by 4 (opened as a pick’em)
Thursday 8 CDT on ESPN
All the attention has been focused on the Big 12 South this decade and here we get a great rivalry game between a former powerhouse school and an emerging power in Missouri. This has been a nasty one over the years, see this, and especially this. Mizzou fans have always hated Nebraska but to Husker fans the Tigers were bottom dwellers that they routinely beat. Missouri has risen to power and has embarrassed Nebraska in the last two meetings (52-17 in Lincoln and 41-6 in Columbia) and won three of the last four. Husker fans are in an unfamiliar spot, looking up at Missouri in the standings. Nebraska lost a game they should have won at Virginia Tech and would be 3-0 and No. 1 in the Sun Belt standings beating FAU, Arkansas State, and U La La. I thought Mizzou would plummet after Chase Daniel left, but QB Blaine Gabbert has looked very impressive this year. He’s passing for 290 yards a game and has a QB rating of 168.57 (4th best) – and he doesn’t even get to throw to Jeremy Maclin! The Tigers started the season with a trouncing of an Illinois team (who we though at the time was a decent one) and then walked through a slate of Bowling Green, Furman and Nevada (those teams are 6-12 on the year). Both teams are coming off a bye week and are coming into this game ranked in the Top 25. This is the first real defense that Missouri has faced, and Nebraska is already battle tested on the road: I think the Huskers control the game with their defense and pound the ball with Roy Helu Jr. and keep Gabbert off the field. Huskers win 24-14 in Columbia.
La Tech @ Nevada
Line: Nevada favored by 11 (opened at 7)
Friday 8 CDT on ESPN
Another Friday night snoozefest… or is it? Nevada has a powerful offense with QB Colin Kaepernick and a trio of running backs that have all proven that they can play. The La Tech Bulldogs have gone 2-1 since their trip to Jordan-Hare, and they are doing it mostly with defense. They hosted a Hawaii team last week that always has a potent offense and beat them 27-6. Nevada stumbled out of the gates but got on track in the second half against Mizzou and then blew out UNLV 63-28. If you have got nothing better to do, this could be a fun game to watch. Look out for Phillip Livas for La Tech. If you don’t remember him, he was the midget wide receiver wearing #6. Yeah, that guy. I’ll go with Nevada in a close one, 28-24.
Auburn @ Arkansas
Line: Auburn favored by 3 (started at Arkie by 1)
Saturday 11 CDT on ESPN
The dreaded morning game is upon us again. It is a conspiracy cooked up by Frank Broyles and funded by Jerry Jones. Auburn has not fared well against Arkansas in the a.m. – this happened and so did this. But the Tigers lost to Arkansas last year and that was at night, so curse broken right? Right? Fred Talley just ran by my window carrying a voodoo doll. But in all seriousness, Auburn’s offense has been hitting on all cylinders this year (#1 in total yards), and the Razorbacks’ defense has been porous (last in the SEC in pass defense). The real question mark here is if Auburn can get pressure on the QB and stop the Arkansas offense. Ryan Mallett has been impressive throwing for 287 yards a game and has 11 TDs and 2 picks. And don’t forget Michael Smith who ran for 176 against the Tigers last year. If Auburn can’t pressure Hammer into bad throws, like they couldn’t against turnover-prone Crompton, the Tigers are in for a shootout. I think the defense continues their slump and allows the Hogs to score, but the Arkansas defense won’t be able to stop Auburn. Tigers win 52-39.
Alabama @ Ole Mrs
Line: Bama favored by 6 (up from 4)
Saturday 2:30 CDT on CBS
Ole Miss is a middle-of-the-road team that pretended to be a big boy early in the season and got beat by a good South Carolina team in Columbia. Alabama is a heavyweight on their way to back-to-back good seasons for the first time in more than a decade. If Jevan Snead gets a call from his agent this week telling him how much money he has lost since the season started, he may show up to play Saturday. Ole Miss has them at home and strange things can always happen in the SEC. If the Rebels and Nutt can get some lucky breaks early, they might have a shot in this one. We don’t know if the Tide can function down 14-0 since the only way their passing game works is if you are afraid of the run. These games are always close, and Alabama hasn’t covered the spread in four years. I think Ole Miss keeps it close in a low scoring game but Bama wins, 21-17.
Between the afternoon games why not run out to the beer tasting from 4-6 p.m.? Mmmmm beer.
Michigan @ Iowa
Line: Iowa favored by 7
Saturday 7 CDT on ABC
Michigan got off to a nice 4-0 start before losing in heartbreaking OT fashion last week to Michigan State. Tate Forcier’s shoulder is fine, and he only threw one INT last week. Unfortunately that INT was in overtime and cost Michigan the game. Iowa has been plodding along this season out-uglying everyone. The Hawkeyes have the most impressive win of the two teams when they went up to Penn State and beat the Nittany Lions, 21-10, by playing strong defense and kicking field goals until Penn State fans cried themselves to sleep. Then Iowa followed up the win over a top 5 team with a stinker of a 24-21 win over Arkansas State. Looking ahead to Michigan maybe? They should have been since Michigan has won 10 of the last 12 against the Hawkeyes and Tate Forcier is made of legendary stuff. I like the Wolverines to score on big plays and keep Iowa out of the end zone: Michigan 17 Iowa 9
Florida @ LSU
Line: Florida by 7.5
Saturday 7 CDT on CBS
Will Tim Tebow play? His concussion meter is at Matthew McConaughey so we think so. If I’m Urban Meyer, I hold Tim Terrific out. It’s a brilliant plan: play Brantley and lose to the only threat on your schedule. Then when Tebow comes back and you win out, you have a built-in excuse for your only loss of the year and you media hype your way into the national championship game. If you play Tebow, you risk further injury in a game you very well could lose anyway, so take the cowards route Urban and let the Tigers have this one. LSU has the talent to play with and beat any team in the country, but their coach is a crazy person. If LSU can score early and get Charles Scott and that drunken crowd going, it does not matter what heroics Tim Tebow pulls off. Scott is the best back in the SEC, but he sure hasn’t played like it with 274 yards and 2 TDs this season. But the kid is a horse and if Florida lets him get to “controlled rage mode,” lookout! Florida should be the better team and they are obviously better coached, but crazy things happen in the Bayou on Saturday night, especially starting at 7 p.m. That crowd will be primed, and I’m going way out on a limb with this one and take the underachieving Tigers, 24-17, over the Gators.
Photo via, of course.