Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
09 Sep 2004
By Vinny Gauri and Russell Levine
Welcome to Week 2 of Seventh Day Adventure, our light-hearted look at this week's college football lines.
Vinny: Russ, can the Beavers rebound from that heartbreaking loss in Baton Rouge on Saturday night?
Russell: Is OSU employing the buddy system to keep an eye on kicker Alexis Serna this week? I hope all the shoelaces and neckties have been removed from his dorm room after he missed all three extra points against LSU.
Vinny: Seriously, you've got to feel for the kid -- he's only a walk-on. I haven't seen anything that painful since NBC cancelled Emeril! Efficiency in the kicking game might be the biggest difference between college and pro ball. I think Mike Riley's team bounces back against the Broncos. The Beavers win this one outright.
Russell: Not so fast my friend! Lines like this one look too good to be true for a reason -- because they are. Nobody protects its house like Boise State protects the blue turf. BSU has won 19 straight on that stuff. I think they make it 20 -- and cover -- against a deflated Oregon State.
Vinny: You do realize that going against me didn't work out too well for you last week, right?
Russell: Do you really need to point out that in the games we differed, you were 3-0 and I was 0-3? Is that some sort of Pete Axthelm indicator for this weekend? Hey, at least I won my best bet, Mr. Oklahoma.
Vinny: There are some impressive running backs in this one -- Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown for the Tigers and Jerious Norwood for the Bulldogs.
Russell: : Beware the home underdog, one of the cardinal rules of gambling. Tell me, has Auburn won a big game since Bo was toting the mail? I'm not sold on the Tigers at all. I think they're a second-tier SEC team, and Mississippi State looked pretty good in Sylvester Croom's debut last week. Croom's bunch will cover the number.
Vinny: Tommy Tuberville's crew comes in after handling the vaunted Louisiana-Monroe Indians 31-0 last week. That's one way to keep your bosses from flying into Salt Lake City to interview Urban Meyer behind your back. The Tigers also managed to schedule The Citadel as a breather between LSU (September 18) and Tennessee (October 2). I agree with you on this one Russ -- Croom keeps the momentum going at home and the Bulldogs cover.
Russell: I really want to believe that Penn State's performance against Akron means something. Ninth-year starting QB Zach Mills looked good last week -- I think he and the Nits make it 2-0 against a Boston College squad that struggled to beat Ball State. Penn State wins outright.
Vinny: The Eagles have some holes to fill on offense, especially on their offensive line, but Mathias Kiwanuka (13 sacks last season) and the rest of the defense should keep them in most games. On the Penn State side, will the addition of Galen Hall to the coaching staff make a difference with the Lions' offense this year? They certainly have the weapons with Mills, Michael Robinson, Tony Hunt and Austin Scott. I think Joe Pa takes this one as well, let's say 23-14.
Russell: Speaking of offenses with some more imagination, how about Nebraska and its "Midwest Coast" attack?
Vinny: Bill Callahan wore out his welcome with the Raiders after taking them to the Super Bowl. Will he find the success in the college ranks that Pete Carroll has cultivated at Southern Cal? I don't think so, especially not this quickly, as he doesn't have the talent on his roster to suit his offense.
Russell: But they've still got the Black Shirts on D, and that's good enough for me. Unless Brett Favre is starting for Southern Miss, I'm going with the 'Huskers at home, lay the 14.
Vinny: This is the opener for Southern Miss, and you've got to tip your hat to the Golden Eagles with their aggressive non-conference scheduling. After the trip to Lincoln, they host Cal and later travel to Alabama (October 16). I think they keep this one close enough: I'll take Southern Miss and the points.
Russell: Marshall is coming off a home loss to Troy, which apparently sold the "State" in its name back to Kent. Regardless, that's not a good outcome for your favorite nickname of all college teams, the Thundering Herd. I can't imagine they're in for an enjoyable Saturday at the horseshoe, can you?
Vinny: Yep, this is another tune up game for the Buckeyes before they visit Raleigh next week to take on N.C. State. Justin Zwick can continue to learn on the job as long as Lydell Ross and Antonio Pittman rack up the rushing yardage. Meanwhile, is Jim Tressell a slave to his image or what? The guy still wears his patented sweater vest on the sidelines when the Columbus temperatures climb into the mid-80's. Ohio State takes care of business, 31-13.
Russell: No argument from me. Buckeyes, 28-7.
Russell: This is an interesting matchup. Washington State has very quietly put together back-to-back excellent seasons, and even though it was hit hard by graduation this year, the Cougars still have linebacker Will Derting, who was all over the field in their opener against New Mexico. Colorado looked pretty good against a decent Colorado State team, getting a huge offseason monkey off its back. I'm tempted by Colorado, but I'll take Wazzu to cover the number by a field goal, 23-20.
Vinny: Bill Doba's Wazzu crew is one of the more entertaining teams around. They led the nation in takeaways (48) last year, and sophomore QB Josh Swogger is developing into something special. Meaningless Factoid of the Week: the number to call for Wazzu tickets is 1-800-GO-COUGS. I think the Buffs are outmatched also. Give the points and take the Cougs.
Russell: There are lots of home underdogs this week, which is normally something that tempts me. But I just can't do it with South Carolina. Lou Holtz can cry poor all he wants, break out the magic tricks, whatever. It still can't hide the fact that he's becoming the coaching version of Willie Mays stumbling around in the outfield in a Mets uniform. David Greene and the boys are going to roll all over the Gamecocks. Georgia will have no trouble with the spread.
Vinny: The word out of Columbia is that Holtz is actually Mr. Positive this year, having finally eschewed his normal "woe is me" routine. Hard to believe. Freshman tailback sensation Danny Ware adds some balance to the Bulldog attack, which relied too much on Greene last year. Georgia covers on the road, 24-14.
Vinny: Can anyone stop the Trojan Express?
Russell: It's amazing how much talent Carroll has assembled in SoCal in such a short period of time. It reminds me of the late 90s rise of the St. Louis Rams, where an also-ran team suddenly emerged with speed and talent at every position.
Vinny: Norm Chow has been the mastermind on offense -- maybe he'll listen to offers for a head coaching job after this season. He certainly deserves it, as it seems both college and pro teams are stealing from his playbook every week. It's always nice to have a Reggie Bush on your squad though. Meanwhile, if I watch another airing of ESPN's puff piece on Matt Leinart, I'm going to puke. Like he was the only one who wore glasses in grade school! Cry me a river. The Rams have to be down after losing in the final seconds at Boulder last week, and now they take on the USC juggernaut. If CSU could only amass 44 rushing yards against the Buffs, I don't like their chances in Southern California. Trojans roll, 45-17.
Russell: Todd Marinovich -- now there's a USC QB that had it tough growing up. As for Colorado State, I wonder if Sunny Lubick will go for the TD this week if he finds himself trailing by three in the closing seconds? I don't think he'll get the chance. USC will not have to sweat this one at all. The Men of Troy cover easily.
Russell: Yet another home underdog. My how times have changed when a Mountain West school is a two-touchdown favorite on the road against a Pac-10 team. Then again, Utah pretty much destroyed Texas A&M last week. Mike Stoops will have the Wildcats in conference contention soon enough, and might just be able to sneak out a cover against Utah, which should be on letdown alert this week. I'm taking Arizona and the points.
Vinny: Stoops has been welcomed with open arms in Tucson after John Mackovic's Captain Blye imitation the last couple years, but Stoops doesn't have enough talent returning on defense to stop an exciting Ute attack. I don't know if Alex Smith will roll up another 435 yards of total offense this week, but he'll be too much for Arizona to handle. Utah covers in a 35-20 victory.
Russell: Anybody know the last time ND was a two-TD 'dog at home? Has that ever happened? As a Michigan fan, I'm terrified of this line and this game. Notre Dame was awful last week, losing to a BYU team that frankly, is not very good. Michigan had a deceptive blowout win against Miami of Ohio, despite the final margin, the game was in doubt with 10 minutes to go.
Vinny: Ty Willingham has his back against the wall, and that's bad news for the Wolverines, who have lost in excruciating fashion in their last two visits to South Bend. Meanwhile, Lloyd Carr has another quarterback controversy on his hands. Will he stick with true freshman Chad Henne, who looked impressive after some early jitters last week? Will he turn over the reins to Matt Gutierrez, assuming his shoulder has recovered from the soreness that kept him out of last week's game against Miami? Or is another quarterback rotation in the offing for Michigan? None of the Wolverine running backs distinguished themselves last week.
Russell: Well since Carr is so forthcoming, I'm sure we'll all know his plans well in advance of kickoff. You just know ND is going to play better and get some bounces at home this week, but I'm still going with the Wolverines. They scored enough points last week that I was able to teach my kids half the words to "The Victors," although it came out sounding like "Hail to the victors giant." This week, I finish the job. Michigan, 31-13.
Vinny: : Early indications out of Fort Schembechler are that Henne will start but, as you note, nobody runs a better disinformation campaign than Carr. The Irish ran their offseason drills in repetitions of 38 after their 38-0 shellacking in Ann Arbor last season. They will certainly be primed, and last week's embarrassing performance in Provo (11 rushing yards?) will only fuel their fires. This might be too much to ask of a true freshman at QB, even one as talented as Henne. The Michigan defense will have to be as good as advertised in this environment. I think the Irish exact revenge, and upset Michigan 22-17. But then I also keep a six-month supply of Munchos in my basement in case of nuclear disaster
Russell: Nothing says preparation like Munchos. Except maybe Funyuns. I may have to curl up with a bag of the latter if my best bet, Georgia, fails to hit.
Vinny: I'm taking Washington State as my best bet.
(Best bet in bold)
|Game||Vinny says||Russell says|
|*Florida State (+1.5) at Miami||FSU||Miami|
|Oregon State (+7.5) at Boise State||Oregon State||Boise State|
|Auburn (-12.5) at Mississippi State||Mississippi State||Mississippi State|
|Penn State (+2.5) at Boston College||Penn State||Penn State|
|Southern Miss (+14) at Nebraska||Southern Miss||Nebraska|
|Marshall (+16) at Ohio State||Ohio State||Ohio State|
|Colorado (+2.5) at Washington State||Washington State||Washington State|
|Georgia (-8) at South Carolina||Georgia||Georgia|
|Colorado State (+24) at Southern California||USC||USC|
|Utah (-13) at Arizona||Utah||Arizona|
|Michigan (-13.5) at Notre Dame||Notre Dame||Michigan|
|* FSU-Miami picks made last week before game was postponed to Friday, Sept. 10.|
(Best bet record in parentheses)
|Last Week||Season Total|
|Vinny||6-3 (0-1)||6-3 (0-1)|
|Russell||4-5 (1-0)||4-5 (1-0)|