Take it to the Bank: Week 11's Picks

Second weekend of November. The wheat is beginning to get separated from the chaff.

Or, in some cases, from the corn.

The games of Week 11:

1. KU + 1 at Nebraska

Piece of cake. Easy as pie. No problemo. Can of cornhusker. The Hawks win again in Lincoln, as they are wont to do in years ending in 8 whose first three digits add up to 2 or some higher power of 2.

KU

2. Baylor +28 at Texas

As if Mack Brown is not going to take out last week’s frustrations on the Bears.

3. Iowa St +9 at Colorado

First team to 9 wins.

CU

4. Oklahoma -27 at Texas A&M

OU. The gift that keeps on giving. . .

OKLAHOMA

5. k-state +26.5 at Mizzou

There is a reason k-state is looking for a new coach.

Mizzou

6. Okie St +3 at Texas Tech

Paging Dr. Phil.

Is Tech riding a high for another 60 minutes, or suffering a letdown? Okie St is the better team. But, then, so was Texas. And, as with Texas, Tech is at Home. I’ll take the Raiders by a two point conversion in the fourth OT. Which means, for point spread purposes:

Okie St

7. Ohio St -11.5 at Northwestern

About 3 points too many for my blood. The team with the big Z at midfield covers.

Zorthwestern.

8. Penn St -7.5 at Iowa

Which is more likely to leave money under your pillow: Joe Pa or the Tooth Fairy? This year, anyway, it is:

Penn St

9. Notre Dame +3 at Boston College

Notre Dame is making a habit of losing to those darn Catholics.

BC

10. Georgia -10.5 at Kentucky

Kentucky plays well when I expect them to suck, and vice-versa. I expect them to play Georgia tough this week at Home: ergo, it is now officially basketball season in the Bluegrass State.

GEORGIA

11. Alabama -3.5 at LSU

Jambalaya, Crimson Tide, and filet gumbo. Son of a gun, they’re gonna have big fun on the bayou.

LSU

12. Florida -24 at Vanderbilt

Florida: Southern for Oklahoma.

FU

13. Oregon St -8 at UCLA

If USC can’t stop the Beavers, what chance does UCLA have? Even at Home:

OREGON ST

14. Arizona St -14.5 at Washington

Here’s a hypothetical play-off scenario: Washington vs. Washington St for the right to play Idaho (loser against Utah St) for the BCS Chumpionship.

Arizona St

15. Cal +20.5 at USC

No way Cal wins this game. The Trojans won’t lose again unless they sneak back into the Pretend National Championship picture. But 20+ points?

CAL

--Mark

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Take it to the Bank: The Games of week 10

Before the season, I thought the Big Blue had a good chance of winning 9-10 games following this formula: Beat the seven teams they were clearly better than, and 2-3 of their five quality opponents. Didn’t seem unreasonable, what with two of the five being at Home, one at Arrowhead, and one against a good but lesser foe. To this point, the Hawks are 5-0 vs. the teams they were expected to beat. Unfortunately, they are 0-3 vs. the good teams, having lost to South Florida on the game’s final play, to OU in Norman (which was no surprise), and to a Tech team that proved to be vastly improved over last year—while KU appears to be substantially inferior to the Orange Bowl championship squad.

The question is, exactly how far have the Jayhawks fallen?

We may find out this week.

1. k-state +11 at KU

Until last Saturday, I had considered this game as safe. All of a sudden, it has become an at-risk game. KU has been no more impressive vs. common opponents Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech than k-state has been. Yes, KU has beaten Colorado, while k-state lost to the Buffaloes by 1, but the Hawks played CU at Home, whereas k-state played the Buffs in Boulder.

The Jayhawks have the Home field in this contest, which, along with their quest for redemption, should be enough to carry the day for a W. But by more than eleven points? K-state’s offense will keep the game within a TD and a field goal.

k-state

2. Texas -6 at Texas Tech

Texas proved it was vulnerable vs. Okie St., doing everything but losing at Home to the Cowboys. In fact, the key play of the game was an interception thrown by Colt McCoy that appeared to end a UT drive inside the 10. But noooooooo. An Okie St defender was a bit rough with McCoy, and the INT was nullified. Instead of taking possession, Okie St watched as the officials moved the ball closer to the OSU goal line, from where UT scored a TD post haste. Turned out to be a seven point gift by Okie St. They ultimately lost by four.

Unless you count UTEP, this is UT’s first REAL Road challenge of the year. Tech will score against the Longhorns’ suspect pass defense. Whether Tech can slow down McCoy and Co. is another matter.

The REAL key? How Tech handles the pressure of playing in a game of this magnitude. This is the first time in its history that it has had to prepare for a game between two undefeated teams ten weeks into the season, vs. the No. 1 ranked team in all the land, with College Game Day in town, and a slot in the Pretend National Championship game potentially at stake.

I have a REAL tough time envisioning Tech winning this game under these circumstances—unless it gets off to a REAL fast start, such as a long TD pass on its second offensive play of the game.

I also have a tough time seeing UT running away and hiding from a Home team that will put 35 or more points on the board.

TECH

3. Mizzou -20 at Baylor

Baylor has shown it can score. So can Mizzou, of course. But they will need to score 49 to cover this spread. Is that REALly a problem?

MIZZOU

4. Colorado +3 at Texas A&M

A&M is starting to come alive—at least against mediocre teams. Colorado is a mediocre team without even a mediocre offense.

A&M

5. Nebraska +21.5 at Oklahoma

I remember the day when College Game Day—had it existed—would have been in Norman for this game, the biggest game of the year nationally, and it would have been played on Thanksgiving Day or that weekend. No longer.

OKLAHOMA

6. Northwestern + 6 at Minnesota

A big time game looking at the records. Northwestern at 6-2 vs. Minnesota at 7-1. Minnesota at Home and Northwestern without the services of its best running back, as well as a questionable QB is a prescription for an easy cover by:

MINNESOTA

7. Wisconsin +5 at Michigan St

Wisconsin has not been too kind to me this season. They cover when I pick against them. They fail to cover when I take them. Meaning they will cover this week, because my pick is:

Michigan St

8. Duke +7.5 at Wake Forest

Duke is fading weakly as the season progresses. What the heck: it’s basketball season.

WAKE

9. Pitt +5.5 at Notre Dame

The Fighting Irish will be in the hunt for all the Pretend Marbles next year.

NOTRE DAME

10. Tulsa -7 at Arkansas

There was a time when a Tulsa victory over Arkansas would have constituted an upset of major proportions. This year, not so much.

TULSA

11. Tennessee +6 at South Carolina

The Gamecocks don’t beat anyone by much. The Vols don’t beat anyone. . .

SOUTH CAROLINA

12. Florida -5.5 at Georgia

The one team no one wants to play for the PNC.

FLORIDA

13. Oregon +3 at Cal

Cal at Home is a Bear.

CALIFORNIA

14. Arizona St +14 at Oregon St

Two teams headed in the opposite direction. Like ships passing in the night. To the extent there are ships in the desert. And except for the Beaver Ship ramming the Sun Devil Ship, sending it to its watery or sandy grave.

OREGON ST

15. Utah -7.5 at New Mexico

Last week’s Gimme of the Week didn’t go so well. Utah St gave Fresno everything it wanted, beating a 16.5 point spread by 14.5 points. Nor would it have been better to have played the other Usual Suspect, as Idaho not only came within the 14 points they were allotted vs. New Mexico St, they actually won the game outright, 20-14. So what is there to believe in anymore? Washington St? Maybe. But can Stanford beat ANYONE by thirty points—even what might be the worst team in the FBS? Let’s try the other route; i.e., playing a mismatch because one of the teams is a juggernaut rather than a patsy. I’ll take the juggernaut.

UTAH

--Mark

Take it to the Bank: Week No. 9, No. 9, No.9. . .

This weekend marks the halfway point of the Big 12 conference season. And whereas the Jayhawks had a nothing to lose situation last week in the only game on this season’s schedule that they had virtually no chance to win, every game from here on in is both important and winnable. Each loss in the next five weeks likely drops KU one full tier in the Bowl pecking order. The ultimate achievement, of course, would be a second consecutive trip to a BCS bowl—which is in the proverbial bag if the Hawks win out, including the Big 12 championship game.

Not likely? Not the way the defense has looked this season. But there are other bowl games worthy of attaining. Especially if the Big 12 sends two teams to the BCS, which is a distinct possibility. Making this week’s game vs. Texas Tech, a peer Bowl competitor, huge.

The games of Week 9:

1. Texas Tech +1.5 at KU

Two fantastic offenses. Two less than fantastic defenses. Two unspecial special teams. KU’s D appears to have a slight edge, but the REAL edge is the Home field, where the Hawks have won their last 13 games. Tech would have the edge in Lubbock. But they will have to wait a year for it.

KU

2. Oklahoma -19 at k-state

What goofball set this line? OU should cover this spread by halftime.

OU

3. Baylor +11 at Nebraska

This is a tough one. So that I must resort to Rule No. 23 of college football prognosticating: When in doubt, doubt Baylor.

NU

4. Okie St +13 at Texas

Texas might be the most improved team in the country. And they are on a roll.

TEXAS

5. Colorado +22 at Mizzou

If I were not committed to picking all big 12 games, I wouldn’t touch this one. Mizzou has been exposed and is in free fall. A loss here sets the program back 20 years. Fortunately for them, they get to regain their swagger at Home. Might be a slow first quarter. But once they taste a little success, don’t expect Pinkel to call off the dogs before the separation is well past the point spread.

MIZZOU

6. Texas A&M +3 at Iowa St

A&M is bad, but they are a little less bad each week. Iowa St, on the other hand, appears to have peaked three weeks ago—when it led KU by 20 at the half. It hasn’t had much go right since then.

A&M

7. Penn St -2.5 at Ohio St

Same song, umpteenth verse: I will ride Penn St until they give me a reason not to. Ohio St in Columbus is tempting, but they aren’t going to get in the way of JoePa’s last stand.

PENN ST

8. Illinois -2.5 at Wisconsin

Wisconsin can’t sink any lower, can they? Or will they?

ILLINOIS

9. Notre Dame -11 at Washington

How bad is Washington? We might not REALly know until they play their truly dreadful in-state rival for the Apple Cup.

NOTRE DAME

10. Kentucky +24.5 at Florida

Florida is a far superior team, and the game is in The Swamp. But Kentucky can put points on the board. If they score 24, the Gators have to score 49 to cover.

UK

11. Georgia +2 at LSU

Georgia is the better team, but LSU in Baton Rouge is a tall order. If this game were one of those crazy magical night parties in the bayou, I would have to go with the Bengals. With a mid-afternoon start, the air will hold just a little less magic.

GEORGIA

12. Alabama -6.5 at Tennessee

The Crimson Tide has the best win of the college football season in its romp at Georgia. Its season opener at Clemson wasn’t too shabby, either, notwithstanding the fact that Clemson was vastly overrated. Still, Bama, has been anything but a juggernaut against lesser teams—like Tennessee.

TENNESSEE

13. Virginia Tech +5 at Florida St

Speaking of teams that are not juggernauts: I give you Florida St.

VT

14. Southern Cal -16 at Arizona

USC is the best team in the country when they pay attention. Which they have since the Oregon St debacle.

USC

15. Fresno St -16.5 at Utah St

Couldn’t decide whether to pick against Utah St in this game or against Idaho (+14 vs. New Mexico St) as the freebie of the week. Both teams are at Home. Idaho gives fewer points. But Fresno is the better opponent. Idaho might actually compete into the fourth quarter. Utah St might compete into the second.

FRESNO ST

Hey, Wreck, Texas Tech!

--Mark

Take it to the Bank: The Games of Week 8

1. KU +20 at Oklahoma

The early line on this game was 14. That was a tough line, what with OU looking for redemption AND playing at Home. OU has lost but two Home games during Stoops’ tenure. This Saturday is not likely to be No. 3. However, at 20 points, this should be an easy cover for a team with the Big 12’s best QB and a running game and D that are both improving weekly. The Hawks can score 28 on the Sooners’ D—meaning OU will need 49 to beat the spread.

KU

2. k-state +3 at Colorado

Will Colorado allow k-state to stretch the Buffs’ losing streak to four? In Boulder? With all the talk about the QB rich Big 12, CU is not sharing the wealth. Cody Hawkins is a Big Sky QB in Big 12 clothing. With the points, I will take:

k-state

3. Mizzou +6 at Texas

Texas has two advantages in this game: Superior athletes and the Home Field. Mizzou has the edge in motivation, being a desperate team after losing for the first time in two years to a team not named the Sooners. With the inevitable let down by UT after its epic struggle with Oklahoma last weekend, Mizzou will not go down quietly. To win, Daniel will have to perform well in the clutch. Not likely. However, staying close does not require poise under pressure.

MIZZOU

4. Texas Tech -21 at Texas A&M

How dismal is A&M?

TEXAS TECH

5. Baylor +17 at Okie St

Okay, so Baylor isn’t the worst team in the Big 12. And Okie St will have a let down. Could be a close game into the third quarter. However, until Baylor shows it can take its newfound prowess on the road:

OKIE ST

6. Nebraska -7 at Iowa St

Nebraska has finally reached the status of a truly mediocre program: i.e., one that can play over its head for sixty minutes one week and ALMOST beat a better team, then fold against a bad team the next. Long-time KU fans are familiar with this syndrome. ISU wins this game outright.

IOWA ST

7. Wisconsin +3.5 at Iowa

Wisconsin is shell shocked after two flukey losses and a royal butt-kicking by Penn St. If the Badgers have any character at all, the bleeding will stop in Iowa City.

WISCONSIN

8. Ohio St -3.5 at Michigan St

The Buckeyes are not a great team. They are, however, a resourceful one. Perhaps the most resourceful college football team of the modern era. If this game is close in the final minutes, they will find a way to win. Whether by 3 or 4 is the question.

OHIO ST

9. Michigan +23 at Penn St

Penn St is on a roll that could lead to Miami in January. Michigan seems to get worse every week. The game is in State College. What’s not to like?

PENN ST

10. Arkansas +10 at Kentucky

Pay no attention to that win over Auburn. That game revealed more about Auburn than Arkansas.

KENTUCKY

11. Ole Miss +13 at Alabama

The Tide is a legitimate threat to play for the pretend national championship. But they are not a juggernaut.

OLE MISS

12. Idaho +20 at La-Tech

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Picking against Idaho has been a reliable way of scoring against Vegas thus far this season. The Vandals have shown no measure of improvement with the passing weeks. I’ll go to this well one more time.

IDAHO

13. Utah St +21 at Nevada

Speaking of reliability, I offer Exhibit 2: Utah St.

NEVADA

14. Oregon St -14 at Washington

Washington is the Michigan of the PAC-10. Oregon St is not the West Coast’s version of Penn St, but they don’t have to be to cover 14 points.

OREGON ST

15. Colorado St +21 at Utah

Utah is taking no prisoners. If they score to go up 35 in the final minute, don't be surprised to see an on-side kick.

Boom the Sooners!

--Mark

Take it to the Bank: Week 7

1. Colorado +14 at KU

I readily took ISU +13 points last week. And ISU is probably a step below Colorado in the Big 12 hierarchy.

However, KU played Iowa St on the Road. It was the Cyclones’ conference opener. CU has neither of those edges. Oh, you might consider being on a humbling two game losing skid a motivational edge, that it might lead to the Buffs being focused on redemption.

However, CU is not known as a great Road team. And the Jayhawks may have had their Davidson moment in Ames. If they are not ready to play 60 minutes this week and hit their stride in their conference Home opener, this is not a Mangino team. From henceforth refer to the Hawks by the initials PBA, because, behind the Big 12’s best QB, they are starting to roll.

KU

2. Texas +7 at Oklahoma

This could be a butt whipping of Biblical proportions. UT will only go so far without a running attack and a porous pass defense. Not to mention the Stoops vs. Brown thing. Where is Vince Young when you need him?

OU

3. Iowa St +4.5 at Baylor

The Home team wins this game. ISU would win if it were in Ames. The question is whether Baylor wins by a field goal or a TD. Although I have a good friend who says he never takes Baylor—ever--I say they win this game by a field goal and a safety.

BAYLOR

4. k-state -3.5 at Texas A&M

Imagine losing at Home 58-28, then being favored the following week in Texas. You would assume you were playing in Denton, right? Wrong. You are in College Station playing what is historically the Lone Star State’s No. 2 team. This year, perhaps, its No. 7 team. Still, a W on the Road for this k-state team led by Prince and Freeman? By more than a FG? As bad as A&M is, it could happen. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

A&M

5. Okie St +14 at Mizzou

Okie St could catch Mizzou looking ahead to next week when the Tigers get their first chance of 2008 to make a statement—a statement that they can play with the big boys away from Home. This week, they have to settle for playing a team of smaller boys coached by a man. I might like Okie St and its high powered offense to win this game outright in Stillwater. But when has Gundy-man ever have his boys ready to play a big Road game? Fourteen is a lot of points, but The cowBOYS will make just enough big game and Road-induced mistakes to avoid staying in that range.

MIZZOU

6. Nebraska +21 at Texas Tech

Bo knows blow-outs. If the Huskers can’t slow down Mizzou at Home, what are they going to do against Harrell, Crabtree and Co. on the Road?

TEXAS TECH

7. Minnesota +12 at Illinois

Why would Minnesota have more success vs. Illinois in Champagne than Michigan had in Ann Arbor?

ILLINOIS

8. South Carolina at Kentucky (Pick)

Who woulda thunk that the two best Big Blues in college football would be the two pre-eminent basketball programs of all time?

UK

9. Vanderbilt -2.5 at Miss St

Vandy is dandy. And quicker.

VANDERBILT

10. Arizona St +27.5 at Southern Cal

USC has had its last hiccup before January—barring re-entry into the pretend national championship race.

USC

11. Notre Dame +7 at UNC

Yet another blue clad member of the basketball elite leap-frogging over a traditional football power. Heck, THE traditional football power.

UNC

12. New Mexico +23.5 at BYU

I am trying to make a case for New Mexico St to cover this Vegas spread. I’m having no more success than O.J.’s attorneys had with a Vegas jury. . .

BYU

13. Penn St -5 at Wisconsin

Wisconsin will defend its turf like a pack of rabid Badgers to keep from losing its third straight game and facing the prospect of being relegated to a third tier bowl game. Still, I will remain on Mr. Joe’s Wild Ride until given a reason to get off.

PENN ST

14. LSU +6 at Florida

If Ole Miss can win in the Swamp, should be easy for the defending pretending national champions. Right?

Uh, no. The two time losers from last year take it on the chin for the first time this year—and it will not even require overtime.

LSU

15. Tulsa -25 at SMU

Twenty five points on the Road is almost unheard of. Unheard FROM is SMU’s Defense.

TULSA

--Mark

Take it to the Bank: Week 6 Forecast

The Big 12 is going to the dogs.

Home dogs, that is.

The only Home favorite in the six Big 12 games this first week of conference play is Okie St, giving 24 ½ points to Texas A&M. In four other games, the Home team is a double digit underdog.

Evidently, Vegas has noted that taking the favored tem has been a winning proposition thus far this year, both in the Big 12 and elsewhere, and has adjusted accordingly. The big question, time and again this week, is whether it has over adjusted in the opposite direction.

The games of Week 6:

1. Kansas –13 at Iowa St

A major obstacle in making the transformation from being a traditionally mediocre or bad program to becoming a strong program in any sport is separating from your peers. Whereas your historical mediocrities like Iowa St, k-state, Colorado, Mizzou, and Baylor readily accept their inherent inferiority to the Oklahomas, Texases and Nebraskas of the world , they will clutch and scratch and claw and scrape to their final breath to avoid being left behind by a member of their peer group—as KU is threatening to do.

This game opened at KU -14. Thirteen is better. Still, this is a Road game vs. a team that is becoming more cohesive on a weekly basis. In its last outing, the Cyclones roared back from a 21 point deficit on the Road to send its game at UNLV into overtime, capped by a clutch 90+ yard drive in the final two minutes.

The Jayhawks are better than UNLV, no doubt. Good enough that they should beat Iowa St in Ames. But by 14 points?

Not likely, as sky-high as ISU will be, playing a Top 20 team at Home in its conference opener. Not unless the Hawks have greatly improved their pass rush and running game, probably not. It is certainly possible, what with two weeks to prepare for this game. But that is not the way to bet. I mean, as great as last year’s team was, who did they beat on the Road by 14? Well, there was Okie St 43-28. That’s it.

ISU

2. Texas Tech -7.5 at k-state

At first blush, this game looks like easy money. Tech is 14-17 points better than Prince’s Purple people on a neutral field. Right?

Right. Still, the Red Raiders had a tough time with Eastern Washington in Lubbock. Not to mention their propensity for pulling a cropper on the road. Or that k-state has handled a bigger name from the Lone Star State two years running.

Vegas is about two points off with this line. Should be Tech -9.5. Meaning that giving only 7.5 is value.

TEXAS TECH

3. Mizzou -11 at Nebraska

Ganz put up 70 last year vs. k-state. He could lead the Huskers to 40+ against Mizzou’s defense. And, playing a Top 5 team coming off a loss to Virginia Tech, the Huskers will be focused. Plus, if there is one thing tougher than separating from a peer, it is separating from a better, which is Mizzou’s task Still, Mizzou has the upper hand this year and two weeks to prepare. This will be a single digit game late in the fourth quarter. Last team to score covers the spread.

NEBRASKA

4. Oklahoma -27.5 at Baylor

Until the Sooners give me a reason to doubt them, I won’t.

OU

5. Texas A&M +24.5 at Okie St

A is for Atrocious. M for Miserable.

OKIE ST

6. Texas -14 at Colorado

Another Home team on a mission, following the Buffs’ loss in Tallahassee last Saturday. Not to mention playing a Top 5 team. You can ask OU about being a Top 5 team playing in Boulder.

COLORADO

7. Penn St-13 at Purdue

See Oklahoma at Baylor.

PENN ST

8. UConn +7 at UNC

A Tar Heel let down, perhaps, after their big win in Miami? Or are they on a roll?

UNC

9. Stanford +7.5 at Notre Dame

Would you believe these two teams used to be good? Great even?

The Fighting Irish are closer to being there again. And at Home.

NOTRE DAME

10. Illinois +2.5 at Michigan

Despite their fluke win last week vs. Wisconsin, Michigan has a long way to go to stop sucking.

ILLINOIS

11. Florida -24.5 at Arkansas

Not that Michigan sucks as much as Arkansas.

FLORIDA

12. Washington St +17 at UCLA

Why would I expect UCLA to beat anyone by more than 17 points anywhere?

13. Ohio St -2.5 at Wisconsin

Two straight losses for Wisconsin? This one in Madison? In another day, when Ohio St was good.

WISCONSIN

14. Oregon +16.5 at USC

Hell hath no fury like a Trojan scorned.

USC

15. Hawaii +22.5 at Fresno St

There is trouble in paradise.

--Mark

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