9/15/14 3:27:56 PM -- Washington, DC, U.S.A -- Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., meets with USA TODAY Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page for a Capital Download segment. Photo by H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY Staff ORG XMIT: HB 131630 CAPDOWN SANDERS 9/15/2014 [Via MerlinFTP Drop]

Welcome back to Don’t Call It A Picks Competition, our weekly column where Matt, Bob and I pick five college football games against the spread and make appalling jokes at pretty much everyone’s expense. As always, you’re invited to pick with us in the comment section and we’ll post the standings each week.

No column this week because Bernie Sanders swiped it from us and redistributed it to a poor blog. (Surprisingly, this is Bob, not Harry.)

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In games we picked last week:

  • Middle Tennessee (+6) covered against Illinois, but lost due to some curious clock management leading to a missed field goal at the buzzer.
  • Texas Tech (+7) lost on an insane tip drill play to TCU that I thought was hilarious until my fraternity’s flag football team lost a double-overtime contest the exact same way two nights later. Phooey.
  • Ball State (+20.5) kept things close at Ryan Field against Northwestern, though it never really felt like they had a serious chance of winning that game.
  • UCLA (-3.5) went on the road and beat the tar out of Arizona in what was billed as a colossal Pac-12 showdown. It wasn’t.
  • Utah (+11.5) hungrily ogled the quacks in Oregon’s facade and blew them wide open in an astonishing beatdown at Autzen Stadium.

After Week 4, we’re once again tied at the top. Matt is also partaking in the picks.

Season Last Week
Harry 11-9 1-4
Bob 11-9 2-3
Matt 9-11 2-3

Here’s a look at the splits:

We All Agree  6-4
Bob Alone  2-0
Harry Alone  3-1
Matt Alone  2-2

Like with us, it was a rough week for the peanut gallery as well. Congratulations if you even got two picks right this week.

Winning Percentage Season Record Last Week
Jeff .600 9-6 2-3
Andrew Kelley .550 11-9 1-4
Creed Tucker .550 11-9 1-4
Drew .550 11-9 2-3
Mike .533 8-7 2-3
Bobby .450 9-11 2-3
Julian .400 6-9 1-4
Jacob Altstadt .300 3-7 1-4

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This week, we have what feels like our first HUGE week of games this season. There’s a lot to choose from and we’ll get three national games this week because Miami plays Cincinnati tonight. As always, game times are eastern and on Saturday. Here’s the slate:

Minnesota at #16 Northwestern (-5), Noon, BTN

The Wildcats open conference play with a very winnable game, but a classic TRAP GAME with a trip to the Big House against the surging Wolverines coming next week.

Harry: I struggle every week to decide what I think of Northwestern and whether I buy them as a legitimately good team or not. However, I do at least buy them as a team that can beat Minnesota by more than five points at home. Northwestern -5

Bob: As I have been endlessly saying for a few weeks, Northwestern fans need to carefully manage expectations heading into Big Ten season, as play-by-play performance falls far behind early results. On the other hand, Minnesota does not even have impressive early results, winning each of its last three games by three points against weak opponents. Yet, S&P+ actually puts Minnesota as six points ahead of Northwestern on a neutral field. Regardless, I think Northwestern is overrated but Minnesota is bad, so I think the Wildcats will improve to 5-0 this weekend. Still, there is a big chance that 1) Minnesota wins and 2) the game finishes close, as it has in recent matchups and likely will this year with both defenses ranking in the top 11. Minnesota +5 

Matt: Not one year ago, we were all witness to one of the greatest physical achievements in the history of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. A line was drawn in the sand of athletic competition on that day– henceforth this game of football would become a gold standard exemplifying the core values of collegiate sport. Sportsmanship, integrity, and the universal pursuit of excellence were observed in awe by the eyes of the world as two football teams achieved peak excellence in competition. Behold:

#M00N. And part two will be this Saturday when Minnesota takes on Northwestern in a 9-6 thriller. Minnesota +5

#23 West Virginia at #15 Oklahoma (-7), Noon, FS1

We check in with the Big 12 for another round of POINTSPLOSION, with a pair of undefeated teams doing battle in Normon.

Harry: West Virginia is a team that the advanced stats absolutely love and the eye test on their recent performances backs that up. Couple that with the fact that I’m far from sold on the Sooners and I’m getting a full touchdown and I’ll happily take the underdog. For the record, I like the Mountaineers outright. WVU +7

Bob: I agree with everything Harry said. Three really impressive results from the Mountaineers coupled with Oklahoma’s big win over Tennessee getting somewhat tainted by last week’s Tennessee loss to Florida makes me confident in this one. West Virginia +7

Matt: Oklahoma hasn’t proven much of anything yet and West Virginia is methodically kicking the crap out of every team in its wake. By the way, how incredibly strange is it for a West Virginia team to have an all-world defense and a somewhat questionable offense? We’ve entered the Holgorson twilight zone, y’all. West Virginia +7

Nebraska (-7) at Illinois, 3:30, BTN

The Huskers come calling in Champaign this weekend. Last year, the game between these two resulted in Matt writing this. What could possibly go wrong here?

Harry: I can’t believe this line isn’t higher. I would need AT LEAST 10.5 points to consider taking Illinois here. Nebraska -7

Bob: Yeah, Illinois has had some horrible results the last couple weeks, and Nebraska is not horrible. Nebraska -7

Matt: These jokesters seem to be forgetting that Illinois is ranked THIRTY-FOURTH IN S&P! WHAT KIND OF NUMERICAL CATASTROPHE HAS BEFALLEN MY FAVORITE ANALYTICAL RANKINGS METHOD. The performance last week was disappointing for Illinois, but they would have blown out MTSU if not for an inability to finish drives. The offense has moved well enough to the opponent’s side of the field, but when that halfway line is crossed it seems the receivers lose their ability to catch footballs and Wes Lunt’s eyes are replaced with those stick-on googley eyes that rattle around randomly. If Illinois can figure out its red zone and wide receiver issues a bit this week, then I think this is a winnable game. That said, I can’t possibly trust Illinois to do anything it is supposed to and so I’m picking the Huskers. Still– just keep an eye on this game. Do it for me. Maybe Illinois can keep it close. Not really, but please just keep an eye on it for me. Nebraska -7

#13 Alabama at #7 Georgia (-2.5), 3:30, CBS

Hey guys, did you know that Alabama is an underdog for the first time since the 2009 SEC Championship game. Just making sure in case you haven’t heard, but Alabama is an underdog for the first time since the 2009 SEC Championship game. I don’t think that the media has dedicated enough time to letting us all know that Alabama is an underdog for the first time since the 2009 SEC Championship game. I’m glad we all know now that Alabama is an underdog for the first time since the 2009 SEC Championship game.

Harry: Getting to bet on Nick Saban as an underdog is a gift from the gambling gods. Alabama +2.5 (Wow, considering we started doing this in 2013, that is the first time in two and a half years of doing this that I typed “Alabama” and then “+”.)

Bob: Despite their being at home, picking a seemingly cursed Georgia here against the best team of the last decade is taking a big leap of faith. Also, Alabama is not just #1 in F/+ and S&P+, but its F/+ percentile above second-place Ohio State is greater than the gap between Ohio State and Michigan. That is stunning. Alabama +2.5

Matt: 

R O L L

T I D E

Alabama +2.5

#6 Notre Dame at #12 Clemson (EVEN), 8, ABC

Oh goodie, it’s this year’s first nationally hyped Are Either of These Undefeated And Highly Ranked Teams Actually Good? Bowl. Check in next week for the new installment when Miami heads to Tallahassee and ESPN cranks up the hype machine because there are no other compelling games! 

Harry: DeShawn Watson is legitimately good, but so is this Notre Dame defense and they’re far more proven. In a game where we’re not sure if we can trust either of these teams, I trust Notre Dame a little more. Notre Dame

Bob: I’ll take the team getting more advanced statistics love, is healthier, has played more consistently quality football, is coming off a bye week, and is at home. Clemson

Matt: I’m tempted to protest this game because Gameday absolutely should have gone to Indiana for the first time. If you don’t know of the #iufb4gameday movement that swept across twitter this past week, then I highly highly suggest you get to edumacatin’ yaself. It may be too late for it to happen this week, but the work put in by Indiana-centric SB Nation blog Crimson Quarry was both impressive and hilarious. Go click that link I posted. Now. And also watch these.

Notre Dame is my pick, but screw this game.

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