As a reminder, this is a weekly feature, publishing every Thursday during the season. Matt, Bob and I pick five games each week: the games from each of our schools (Illinois, Northwestern and Miami, respectively) and a couple national games. Anyone is invited to pick with us in the comments and we’ll throw the standings of the peanut gallery up each week. Surprise! This week we have a new face (and someone who is actually over .500 with his picks this season) writing the intro! Take it away, Matt.
To say that last week was frustrating for the Illini is a pretty big understatement. As I mentioned in week 12’s DCIAPC, the third ranked high school basketball player in the country (Cliff Alexander) was pretty likely to announce a verbal commitment to Illinois last Friday. Illinois football has been anything but exciting for the last couple years, but Illinois basketball has provided something of a fallback for diehard fans of the school. A highly-rated football player from Illinois once again chooses an SEC school? Oh well, at least the basketball team made the tournament last year. The school is stuck with head coach Tim Beckman because they’re already paying four head coaches between football and basketball? Well at least John Groce is tearing it up on the recruiting trail and securing quality players left and right. Last week was set up to be a classic example of this, with football playing Ohio State and Cliff announcing. Excitement for Cliff’s announcement exponentially grew among the fan base as the week went on, as everyone awaited something great happening for Illini sports for the first time in a while…and then the world exploded.
Quentin Snider, a four star point guard committed to Illinois and arguably the most important member of the class, was expected to sign his Letter of Intent during the early signing period. Early Friday morning, there were rumblings across the recruiting-obsessed internet that Snider hadn’t signed his LOI as expected. Around midday, the official news broke. Snider, John Groce’s biggest catch, had decommitted from Illinois and instead immediately signed for Louisville. Three hours of suffocating coverage later, Cliff twisted the knife:
Picking up the Illinois hat and faking out a nation of fans got Alexander plenty of criticism, but at the end of the day Kansas still gets the last laugh. Illini supporters went into complete panic mode, with idiotic fans criticizing Cliff directly on Twitter and hoping he “tears both ACLs on his first dunk”. Illinois basketball became the laughingstock of the day amongst sportswriters and fans on Twitter as well, a role normally reserved for the football team. Even after missing on the two biggest Illini basketball prospects in some time, there was one way to make up for everything that was lost:
Unfortunately, Ohio State started the game with four straight touchdowns, opening up a 28 point lead early in the second quarter. Half of the students left to go drink at this point, for which I cannot blame them. The wind in Memorial Stadium was extremely strong, repeatedly whipping the faces of tens of thousands of already-beaten Illinois fans. While some fans were proud of the fight Illinois showed in coming all the way back from that deficit to cover the spread and perform admirably, I’ve never really been one to cheer for mediocrity. What could’ve potentially been the greatest weekend in recent Illinois sports history turned into just another massive disappointment in what seems to be a never-ending series. Next year, Illinois will have some great basketball recruits. They’ll probably get a top 15 player in the country, somebody talented enough to enter the draft after a couple years. There’s reason for plenty of excitement with that program. This week the Illinois football team takes on Purdue, favored in a Big Ten game for the first time in far too long. If they lose, the second-longest conference losing streak in Big Ten history continues. Please, please don’t lose. And yet, even if they win, all I’ll be able to think about is what could’ve happened last week, and how greatness seems so much further away when it ends up just outside your reach.
Wow…that was dark, man. And I thought I had a rough sports weekend. Hang in there, buddy. Last week, as Matt covered, Illinois (+32.5) went on a 35-12 run against the “mighty” Buckeyes after falling behind 28-0, and that was enough to cover the spread despite the Buckeyes desperate attempts to look like a BCS-worthy team by running up the score at the end. Last week Bob asked why I dismiss the Buckeyes blowout wins over the likes of Purdue and company. What more do you need to convince you that Ohio State is simply a solid team not worthy of BCS Championship Game consideration? They struggled to win respectably against Buffalo, Northwestern, Iowa and now Illinois. Especially considering what Baylor continues to do to solid teams, this is just stupid. And oh by the way, Baylor actually took a knee in the red zone to finish the game against Texas Tech instead of running up the score. The fact that Ohio State is still ranked ahead of Baylor in both the Coaches’ and Harris polls (the two human polls that factor into the BCS Standings) makes me seriously question if those voters have even watched either of these teams play this season. I wish I were kidding. Does anyone disagree that it’s absurd to have OSU ranked third and Baylor fourth? Anyone? Bueller? [Bob: As I mentioned last week, I have never once said anything to indicate that they are as good or better than Baylor. As you talked about previously with the Oregon/FSU at #2 controversy, this will sort itself out. Quite likely, it will not matter at all, but you never know.]
In other games, Duke (+3) handily beat Miami in football. Yes, that Miami. Yes, that football. I REPEAT: DUKE HANDILY BEAT MIAMI IN FOOTBALL. If UM defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio still has a job in Coral Gables after this season, I’m grabbing my pitchfork and heading over to the athletic offices. Michigan (+2.5) executed the most impressive end of game field goal drill I’ve ever seen in my life and continued the season of never-ending pain for Northwestern in overtime. Oklahoma State (-3) rolled Texas to set up a Top 10 showdown against mighty Baylor this Saturday night. Auburn (-3.5) apparently spent all of Friday night and Saturday morning in church.
I know the standings look bad right now, but give up on me at your own risk! There are a lot of bowl games to be picked. (Can someone please pass the tissues?)
- Bob 35-24-1
- Matt 33-26-1
- Harry 26-33-1
And the peanut gallery! As always, standings are listed by total wins, not winning percentage.
- Thomas Bechtel 25-19-1
- Michael W 24-24-1
- Creed Tucker 23-32
- Arnim “USC Tourette’s Guy″ Whisler 20-19-1
- Katy Weeks 19-24-1
- Ben Greene 16-23-1
- Andrew Kelley 13-16-1
- Bobby 9-11
- mdrose16 6-15
- Nik Valdiserri 5-10
Here are the five games for this week. The lines come from Vegas Insider, all game times are eastern and rankings reflect the BCS Standings.
Virginia at Miami (-20), Noon, ESPNU
Sigh. I booked my flight to return home for Thanksgiving break a day late so I could attend this game in the hopes of the ‘Canes performing a victory lap around Sun Life Stadium on their way to Charlotte for the ACC Championship Game. How naive I was.
#13 Michigan State (-7.5) at Northwestern, Noon, ESPN
The Wildcats are now 0-6 in conference play. Let’s run down those losses:
- Nail-biting loss to undefeated and third-ranked (ARGGGG) Ohio State
- Understandable blowout loss at Wisconsin with the inevitable emotional letdown after the OSU game
- Three-point home loss to 8-2 Minnesota (8-2 MINNESOTA?!?!) [Bob: First game without Colter or Mark = No offense]
- Overtime loss at Iowa
- Loss via a successful Hail Mary from cereal-enthusiast Ron Kellogg III
- Triple overtime loss to Michigan featuring 17,586 dropped Devin Gardner interceptions (all numbers approximate) [Bob: Pretty sure there were two] and the most impressive fire drill end of game field goal of all time
Bob and Bobby, I’m truly so sorry. Thankfully, the ‘Cats likely get a reprieve from the heartbreaking losses this week as stingy Michigan State looks to deliver an Evanston beatdown.
Illinois (-6.5) at Purdue, Noon, Big Ten Network
Avert. Your. Eyes. Matt excluded, this is actually a pretty delicious win-win for college football fans. If Illinois wins, BoilerQuest is alive and well! If Purdue can pull the upset, in all likelihood Northwestern and Illinois will both head into their annual rivalry game at 0-7! [Bob: That would actually make that game pretty high-stakes within the Land of Lincoln.] FEEL THE EXCITEMENT!
#17 Arizona State (-2) at #14 UCLA, 7, FOX
A very meaningful contest looms in Pasadena this week, as the winner of this game—unless some crazy stuff happens—will represent the South in the Pac-12 Championship game and get the pleasure of losing to Oregon in it! (This is the part of the column where I acknowledge Arnim’s screaming cries of “BUT USC!” and mention that USC can indeed represent the South if UCLA wins this game, Arizona State loses to Arizona next week and USC beats UCLA next week. This is not very likely, but consider yourself indulged, Arnim.)
#4 Baylor (-9.5) at #10 Oklahoma State, 8, ABC
ALL ABOARD THE BAYLOR BANDWAGON! If you’ve read the column all season, you know I’ve been riding this thing since September. Who wants to join me??
Well, another 2-3 week last week. I haven’t been over .500 since Miami was relevant in the BCS picture (*rim shot*). I’m going to continue to try to climb back into this thing—and I’ll have a lot of bowl games to do so—but the comeback train needs to leave the station pretty soon.
UVA vs MIA It’s extremely hard to have any confidence in a Miami team with a defense that seemed to just give up against Duke last week. (Read that sentence again.) The offense continues to be perfectly adequate and even pretty good at times, but that spread is very high. On the flip side, Virginia has been the worst team in the ACC all season, so this SHOULD be a line that Miami covers. Will they? Hell if I know. Miami -20
MSU vs NU Michigan State is quietly rounding into form as a strong Rose Bowl contender with a good chance to end Ohio State’s two-year unbeaten streak. (As a side note, I’m not sure which would make me happier: this exact scenario happening, or Ohio State winning and Michigan State’s streak of never playing in a single BCS bowl continuing. Either would be just terrific.) We know what Northwestern is at this point. MSU should definitely reach at least 20 points in this game and I can’t see the ‘Cats getting any more than 10. Sparty -7.5
ILL vs PUR I know Illinois sucks, but Purdue getting less than a touchdown against just about anyone is a gift line. Illinois -6.5
ASU vs UCLA Wait, UCLA is a home underdog in this game? Really? UCLA +2
BAY vs OKST I’M ONLY GIVING UP 9.5 POINTS WITH BAYLOR?! The oddsmakers must feel bad for me with my recent poor run. Those last four picks were as easy as I’ve seen all season. (Now watch me go 0-4 in them.) BRYCE PETTY FOR PRESIDENT! -9.5
Last Week: 2-3
UVA vs MIA It’s pretty tough betting on a team that has yet to win a game in a conference with a plethora of beatable opponents, but Virginia has managed to keep it close in many of their conference affairs. Combine that with the fact that the Cavaliers are coming off a bye week during which Mike London fired the boys up to try to end the season respectably. Miami is reeling, but I am very confident in a win for the Hurricanes — just not a cover. Virginia [Gotta Make Sure I Spell That Correctly] +20
MSU vs NU Harry did a good job with his notes here. Michigan State has shaped up to be a formidable opponent, so it looks like the Wildcats have a minimal chance this Saturday. The nation’s #3 scoring defense (after top-ranked Alabama and other national title-favorite Florida State) should hold the struggling Northwestern offense to no more than two touchdowns. I was shocked to see the line so low. Where can I bet my Northwestern tuition against Northwestern? Michigan State -7.5
ILL vs PUR Illinois has been pretty poor this year, but Purdue has been an embarrassment. While Illinois is winless in the Big Ten, they have put out some respectable performances. Purdue’s most respectable conference feat has been losing 45-21 to a 6-4 Penn State team that needed overtime to beat Illinois. How about common opponents? Cincinnati, 8-2 and playing in the not-awful American conference, beat Purdue 42-7 during week one. The next week? The Bearcats got trounced 45-17 to the Fighting Illini. I don’t think I need to say anymore here. Illinois -6.5
ASU vs UCLA I’ve been saying for a while here at DCIAB that Arizona State has been underrated this season. Now at 8-2 overall and 6-1 in the Pac-12, with the lone loss at the hands of Stanford, the Sun Devils have a great chance to prove themselves in Pasadena with an opportunity to clinch the Pac-12 South. When I first looked at this game, I would have told you that UCLA is the better team and should get the win at home. However, if you look at UCLA’s results this season, does a single one of them really impress you? Coach Graham will have the Sun Devils prepared and determined this Saturday, and I like them to go in to the Rose Bowl and give themselves a shot at a Rose Bowl appearance. Arizona State -2
BAY vs OSU At some point this season, Oklahoma State decided to stop being overrated and actually play some good football. Unfortunately for them, they are not at Baylor’s level. A primetime matchup at Boone Pickens Stadium will be a huge test for Art Briles’ squad, but, in my opinion, they are too superior a team to not win this by double digits in the end. Baylor -9.5
Last Week: 3-2
Last week was pretty mellow for me, as I knew I couldn’t make any significant moves in the standings. My goal each week is just to go 3-2 or better, so I suppose my picks were somewhat successful. This week I once again don’t have any picks that differ from Bob’s, so it’ll remain slightly unexciting. Let’s do it up.
UVA vs MIA I am not excited to pick this game. Picking this game reminds me of the lame early-season non-conference games, where a team that is somewhat of an unknown faces off against a pretty bad opponent. The lines are usually stuck in the high teens or twenties, and bettors just have to suck it up and pick a side. A couple examples would be Ohio State and Cal earlier this year or any game that involves Fresno State. I just don’t know. When the line is this high in favor of a struggling-ish team in Miami, I’m just gonna take the puntos. Virginia +20 (Miami 34, Virginia 16)
MSU vs NU In stark contrast to Harry, who was thrilled about some easy picks this week, these lines just make me extremely worried. Michigan State couldn’t be much hotter right now. While they could have lost to Nebraska without a plethora of Cornhusker turnovers, their defense is almost impossible to bet against right now. If we were still talking about teams that are underrated in the polls and in the national media, I’d be plugging Wisconsin and Michigan State nonstop [Bob: Totally agreed, especially with Wisconsin]. The Big Ten isn’t the best conference, but these teams are incredibly experienced and skilled in nearly every facet of the game (the only unknown quantity remains MSU’s offense). That being said, this is why a 7.5-point line worries me so much. What do the guys in Vegas know that the general public doesn’t? [Bob: Not sure why people always think line-setters are psychic or something.] This line is weird and it scares me, a common theme in this week’s games. I’m just going to pick the better team because that’s what dumb people always do: Michigan State -7.5 (Michigan State 24, Northwestern 6)
ILL vs PUR Just win. Illinois -6.5 (Illinois 44, Purdue 24)
ASU vs UCLA For the second week in a row, Bob took the words straight out of my mouth. While I’m not sure I like ASU quite as much as Bob does, I’ve been skeptical of UCLA all year and that’s enough for me to trust in the Sun Devils to cover…barely. Arizona State -2 (Arizona State 27, UCLA 24)
BAY vs OSU I just spent fifteen minutes reading through as many articles about these two teams as I could find, desperately searching for any good reasoning to pick Oklahoma State and the points. I found none. I’m going to stick to my improvised rule: trust the elite teams until they betray you (but, ugh, doesn’t this just feel like a heartbreaking game that Baylor will lose?!?! UGHHHH). Baylor -9.5 (Baylor 52, Oklahoma State 35)
Last Week: 3-2