Gamblin’ with Garret: Week 7
WE ARE DANGEROUSLY CLOSE TO .500 ON THE SEASON THIS IS NOT A DRILL. Can the comeback continue with these Week 7 picks?
I should have known college football was turning upside down.
You folks have been reading this for a while now (at least six weeks, one would hope). You’ve come to expect a certain level of ineptitude from these picks. We could write off a winning Week 5as an aberration — the proverbial blind squirrel finding an acorn, if you will. Surely, a return to mediocrity was in store for Week 6, right?
(Ed. note: Very wrong!)
I almost want to stop right here and go out on a high note.
But due to OVERWHELMING POPULAR DEMAND from you, the people, we’ll keep going.
YOUR BOY WENT 13–8 LAST WEEK!
(Take a moment, let it settle…)
And we’re back.
That should have been a harbinger of things to come for this week, but we didn’t listen. What came was a week of firings, resignations and ‘roids. First, USC coach Steve Sarkisian was granted a leave of absence on Sunday afternoon as details of his drinking began to surface. Then, on Monday, Florida’s Redshirt Freshman QB1, Will Grier, was suspended for a year following a positive PED test. Later that same day, USC terminated Sarkisian. All that would have been good for a batshit-crazy week in college football…
Then Steve Spurrier retired (or resigned, I guess).
It wouldn’t have been surprising for Spurrier to call it quits at the end of the season. Obviously, his South Carolina program had slipped in the years since the Jadeveon Clowney era. What was stunning about the Head Ball Coach’s departure was its suddenness. Then again, a man as blunt as Spurrier was likely never going to give a year’s notice to his retirement. He wasn’t going to collect commemorative visors from rival SEC programs. He wasn’t going to answer questions about retirement any longer than he had to. He was going to go out on his terms.
Hopefully Spurrier goes into media. (Ed. note: This is inevitable.) A man with so many opinions and so little regard for consequences belongs in either media or politics. HBC could make plenty of golf money working 14 Saturday mornings a year on College Gameday or adding a little cache to whatever the hell Fox Sports’ college football pregame show is.
The only way to round out a week like this is with a brilliant slate of Saturday games.
And with me going, like, 4–13. That’s definitely happening.
WHAT TO WATCH
This weekend is truly an embarrassment of college football riches — a weekend so good that I’m debuting a new (possibly weekly) segment of this piece helping you plan your college football viewing.
Let’s assume, for the sake of the next few paragraphs, that your football watching is limited to one TV. Your remote hand is going to be in for some work on Saturday. Might be time to go to your local sporting goods store and get one of those grip-strengthening clamps. You’re going to need your click hand strong starting with the early slate of games.
NOON (EASTERN) GAMES
West Virginia brings the first legitimate defense Baylor will see this season into Waco to lead off Saturday. The Mountaineers dealt Baylor its only conference loss last season, a 41–27 decision in Morgantown, and have recently matched up pretty well with the Bears. You’ll want to start your day on Fox to catch this one, at least until halftime.
Let’s say that Baylor does Baylor things and this game is actually over at halftime, flip over to ABC or ESPN2 (depending on your local market), where Iowa and Northwestern will almost certainly be locked into a 6–3 rock fight. On the alternate channel, keep an eye on Ole Miss making a trip to Memphis — a sneaky good lower-conference team that could get less than the Rebels’ best shot.
3:30 P.M. (EASTERN) GAMES
Get to ESPN by 3:29 p.m. (Eastern), as Michigan and Michigan State kick off the 3:30 window. (Hey, look at that, two potentially really good Big Ten games in one day!) Jim Harbaugh and Mark Dantonio attempt to out-crazy each other in the Big House, and as Magic Johnson will tell you, Wolverine fans are excited to be relevant in this matchup again.
The “previous channel” or “jump” button on the remote is going to be your friend here, as Alabama visits Texas A&M on CBS. The Aggies’ improved defense will be looking to hold ‘Bama under half a hundred this year, as what appears to be a competent A&M offense will simultaneously try to improve their scoring output from last year’s effort in Tuscaloosa (they didn’t score, so it’ll be like trying to clear those “hurdles” they set up in elementary school track meets). If A&M is worthy of its No. 9 ranking, we’re going to find out in this game.
Now, this final instruction is important. Set a couple alarms. Program your stove. Set your TV to change the channel if you can. But by all means get to ESPN2 by 6:30 (Eastern) (that’s 5:30 Central, 4:30 Mountain, and 3:30 Pacific — that’s how important this is). Nebraska should be winding down its trip to Minnesota by this point in the evening, and you know you need to see if the Huskers can continue to lose in devastating fashion. I’m not saying watch any of the game before this point, becausei t’s going to be terrible, but once that game clock hits 5:00 in the 4th, you need to see if Mike Riley starts his bedtime routine and once again forgets he’s coaching a football game.
THE NIGHT SLATE (7 p.m. Eastern)
Florida heads into Baton Rouge without its QB1, but with the best defense LSU will have seen to date. Death Valley after dark is always a spectacle, and the Cajuns should be riled up for this one kicking off on ESPN.
TCU is at Iowa State on ESPN2. I mean, if you want to watch Paul Rhoads coach his last game for the Cyclones or otherwise enjoy blood and gore.
You’ll likely spend most of your night on ESPN, and rightfully so, but peek into NBC a couple times to see how USC, on an interim coach, fares at Notre Dame. Anything is in play here. Perhaps a still IMMENSELY talented USC team comes out firing, or perhaps the whirlwind of this week culminates with a destruction at the hands of the Irish. Just check in to see if it’s close in the second half.
Phew! That’s a good slate of games. Now that you know what to watch, it’s time to find out where to make your skrilla.
HOME TEAM IN CAPS
#1 OHIO STATE (-17) over Penn State
The only thing I remember about Penn State is the Nittany Lions giving up — and this is an estimate — 37 sacks to Temple in Week 1.
West Virginia (+21.5) over #2 BAYLOR
Mountaineers hunt Bears. What do you think that rifle is for?
#3 TCU (-21) over IOWA STATE
I AM. SO. PROUD. TO MAKE YOUR FOOTBALL PICKS. You had a good run, Paul Rhoads; we’ll see if the Iowa State administration lets you play out the string.
#4 UTAH (-6.5) over Arizona State
Utes lead the nation in turnover margin. ASU is 87th. I’ll give the touchdown on the assumption that I’ll get a couple extra possessions over the course of the game.
#5 CLEMSON (-16) over Boston College
These teams actually play for a trophy (bet you didn’t know that). Clemson coach Dabo Swinney got a little bummed out last week over the whole “Clemsoning” narrative, so I’m going to give him a chance to put my money where his mouth is. And yes, that is an awfully weird place for me to put my money.
#8 Florida (+9) over #6 LSU
Yeah, Florida is going into Death Valley without Will Grier, but backup quarterback Treon Harris has a good amount of experience and the Gators’ secondary is good enough to play man on the outside and stack the box against LSU’s man-beast (and perhaps 32-year-old college sophomore) Leonard Fournette.
#12 MICHIGAN (-7) over #12 Michigan State
I will continue to pick Jim Harbaugh until Jim Harbaugh lets me down.
#9 TEXAS A&M (+4) over #10 Alabama
Perhaps we should retire all “is Alabama’s run over?” conversations until Nick Saban either retires, is kidnapped by a drunk Auburn fan, or otherwise leaves Tuscaloosa. Yeah, losing to Ole Miss in back-to-back years is bad, but Ole Miss is designed to beat Alabama.
Look at it this way: Alabama is Bowser from the 1990s Super Nintendo game “Super Mario World” — very powerful, but lumbering and pretty predictable. You know they’re going to run right at you on offense and try to overwhelm you physically on defense. The way to beat ‘Bama, much like defeating Bowser, is to use the entire field and force the Tide to make plays in space.
Most teams don’t play Alabama this way. Most teams, especially in the SEC, line up and try to “out ‘Bama” ‘Bama. Ole Miss doesn’t do that. Texas A&M won’t do that on Saturday. The Aggies will attack the Crimson Tide on offense the same way Ole Miss did, but also come equipped with a better defense than the Rebels had to offer.
#11 FLORIDA STATE (-7) over Louisville
Because it makes more sense than the alternative. [Ed. note: Wait, aren’t all of your picks made this way? If not, haven’t we reached the root of the (former) problem here?]
MEMPHIS (+10.5) over #13 Ole Miss
This is where you might give credit to Ole Miss for scheduling a tough lower-conference opponent in the middle of SEC play. Then again, the Rebels probably scheduled this one when Memphis was in the midst of going 2–10 in 2011. Sometimes timing is a bitch.
#14 NOTRE DAME (-6.5) over USC
My only cause for concern here is that it isn’t like losing Steve Sarkisian as head coach is that much of a disadvantage for the Trojans. That said, USC has basically been understaffed for a week leading up to a rivalry game. If Notre Dame can run it up, they will.
#15 STANFORD (-7) over #18 UCLA
Nailed it! It’s amazing what happens when you stop punishing a team for a Week 1 loss to a team that might not have been that bad.
#19 Oklahoma (-4) over KANSAS STATE
Oddly enough, Bill Snyder hasn’t beaten the Sooners at home since returning for his second stint as Kansas State head coach.
#20 NORTHWESTERN (+2.5) over #17 Iowa
Wildcats got a Harbomb dropped on them last week by Michigan, but I like their defense at home against the Hawkeyes.
#21 Boise State (-9) over UTAH STATE
#22 TOLEDO (-29) over Eastern Michigan
#24 Houston (-19) over TULANE
Anything I write about these games is a bunch of BS, so I’m lumping them together and just saying take the ranked mid-majors over less skilled conference opponents.
Last Week: 13–8