Some thoughts, observations and revelations on the heels of a chaotic opening weekend of the U.S. college football season:
- Bet the good folks at Oklahoma and Auburn wouldn't mind seeing a classic Jason sequel about right now. No, not the horror flick series -- though it might be preferable to the scary sights fans of both schools saw in shocking upsets last Saturday. Jason White (Oklahoma) and Jason Campbell (Auburn) each directed their squads to perfect regular seasons in 2004. But those seasoned seniors are gone, and their replacements were nothing short of abysmal in stunning losses to TCU (Oklahoma) and Georgia Tech (Auburn). Without a serious turn in fortunes under the centre, it's hard to see either getting back into the championship race.
- Texas coach Mack Brown says he wishes there were more early-season matchups like his Longhorns' dandy against Ohio State on Saturday. So do fans, naturally. But don't count on it. Five teams ran the table last season and only two (USC and Oklahoma) got to play for all the marbles. Meaning any loss, no matter how early in the season, can be lethal to your title chances. In other words, get used to seeing plenty of 'blowout of the week' candidates each week.
- Two teams to fear outside the top 10: Boston College and Georgia Tech. While Virginia Tech is a solid Atlantic Coast Conference favourite, the Eagles and Yellow Jackets figure to be right in the mix to play in the ACC's first championship game Dec. 3 in Jacksonville. Yes, right there with Miami and Florida State, who looked like anything but monsters in their error-filled opener on Monday night.
On with this week's picks:
GAME OF THE WEEK
No. 2 Texas (Even) at No. 4 Ohio State (Saturday, 8 p.m., ABC) -- Good news, Longhorn fans. This looks like the year Texas finally breaks the Oklahoma hex. Now the bad: You've got electrifying WR/KR Ted Ginn Jr., a rugged Buckeye defence and 101,000 red-clad rowdies waiting for you at Ohio Stadium on Saturday night. Texas needs QB Vince Young to be more than just the best running back on the field. The Buckeyes have never lost a night game in Columbus. They'll party at the Horseshoe again. Pick: OHIO STATE.
NEXT BEST THING
No. 20 Notre Dame (+7) at No. 3 Michigan (Saturday, Noon, ABC) --The Irish bandwagon is already filling up after last week's demolition of Pittsburgh. Charlie Weis' coaching debut was impressive, and his offence figures to give the Wolverines fits. The Irish stymied Michigan's attack in an upset in South Bend a year ago, but QB Chad Henne and RB Michael Hart aren't raw freshmen anymore. The home side prevails in a tight one at the Big House. Pick: NOTRE DAME.
No. 5 LSU (-11/2)) at No. 15 Arizona State (Saturday, 8:45 p.m., Rogers NCAA) -- The Bayou Bengals have national championship talent, but Hurricane Katrina's impact can't be ignored. Maybe their belated season opener provides a welcome, necessary escape from the horrors back home in Louisiana. But when Katrina forced this game's move from Baton Rouge to Tempe, it tipped the scales in the Sun Devils' favour. ASU hotshot QB Sam Keller and his mates could start a magical run with a win here. Pick: ARIZONA STATE.
BLOWOUT OF THE WEEK
Florida International (+341/2) at No. 21 Texas Tech -- Golden Panthers coach Don Strock might long for the Miami Dolphins' glory days after this one. It's just a matter of how high the Red Raiders' high-octane offence wants to run it up. Pick: TEXAS TECH.
(Straight-up selections in bold)
No. 7 Virginia Tech (-201/2)) over Duke.
Iowa State (+9) over No. 8 Iowa.
No. 9 Georgia (-181/2) over South Carolina.
No. 10 Florida (-30) over Louisiana Tech.
No. 11 Florida State (NL) over The Citadel.
No. 13 Purdue (-351/2) over Akron.
Washington (+8) over No. 16 California.
No. 17 Georgia Tech (-121/2) over North Carolina.
Tulsa (+301/2) over No. 18 Oklahoma.
Army (+271/2) over No. 19 Boston College.
No. 22 TCU (-151/2) over SMU.
No. 24 Fresno State (NL) over Weber State.
No. 25 Clemson (+2) over Maryland.
Last Week -- 13-6 straight up; 10-8-1 ATS.
Season record -- 13-6 straight up; 10-8-1 ATS.
Best bet -- Iowa State (0-1).
Upset special -- Arizona State (0-1).