Skinner's Winners: Week seven picks
Happy Friday to all of you! We are in the dead middle of football season. The weather has shifted, the sweatshirts have come out and it’s officially early enough to eat Halloween candy without feeling completely guilty about it.
This weekend couldn’t come soon enough, since it is filled with three days of riveting action that I cannot wait to waste my entire free time watching, seeing as I have long since punted away any semblance of a social life. Going 3-2 last week was nice, and I look to string a couple more winning weeks together so that I can keep writing this thing without feeling like I am talking nonsense. (If you were wondering, I am always talking nonsense.) But I love my picks this week, though that could all change by Saturday night. Here is who I’m rolling with. (P.S. These lines are as of Thursday).
Arizona @ Utah (-13) - Friday 7 p.m. MST - ESPN
What is undoubtedly Arizona’s toughest road game of the season comes at the worst possible time for the Wildcats. Utah is coming into this matchup brimming with confidence, having thumped Stanford in Palo Alto, winning 40-21. Teams rarely go to the Farm these days and walk out with a win, and to do so in blowout fashion shouldn’t be minimized or overlooked.
Luckily for Arizona, history is somewhat on their side. Arizona as a program has fared relatively well in Salt Lake City, going 2-1 since the Pac-12 merger that saw Utah join the conference from the Mountain West Conference. Even with Utah coming into this game the past four years with a top-25 ranking, the Wildcats have given the Utes fits and have fared well as the underdogs, going 2-2 in those games.
That’s why I’m taking Arizona and the almost two-touchdown spread that Vegas has set. I think Utah is a touchdown better, and possibly ten points, but I think Arizona has enough firepower to be able to hang in this game and keep it somewhat respectable. With the defense all of sudden forcing turnovers and converting those into points, Arizona is in a good position to give the Utes a tough challenge on a short week, especially after Utah’s battle with Stanford, an opponent who is always taxing physically. I’m taking the Cats, but not with a whole bunch of confidence.
LSU @ Georgia (-7) - Saturday 12:30 p.m. MST - CBS *LOCK OF THE WEEK*
What could have been one of the best matchups of the entire college football season lost a little luster with LSU’s heartbreaking road loss to Florida last week. Now the Tigers have to pick up their broken dreams and get ready for another brutal road test against the nationally-ranked, top-3 Georgia team. The good news for LSU is that Coach Orgeron is as good of a motivator as there is in sports, and he will only use last week's stumble as fuel for a bounce-back-statement win. I still expect this matchup to live up to the colossal heavyweight billing that was on the cards just a few days ago.
The last time LSU came into Athens, some kids named Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, who combined for 16 catches and 274 yards, and Jeremy Hill went up against Todd Gurley II, Leonard Floyd and Aaron Murray in a 44-41 barn burner that saw Georgia come out on top in the matchup of top ten teams. I expect much of the same fireworks and the same amount of star power, as there will once again be multiple players on both sidelines that will likely be playing on Sundays for years to come.
In what should come as a surprise to many, I am taking Georgia and the seven points. I think it will be close early, but I think the 'Dawgs have too much firepower for LSU to keep contained for four quarters. LSU was dealt a brutal hand with their conference schedule and I think we will see that the consecutive road games have taken a toll on Saturday.
Washington (-3.5) @ Oregon - Saturday 12:30 p.m. MST - ABC
A rivalry game that, for just over a decade, was looked at as a guaranteed win on the Ducks's schedule has completely been turned on its head, since Washington’s hiring of Chris Petersen for the 2014 season. With the Huskies winning the last two matchups by a combined score of 108-24, the team took advantage of the lifeless last days of the Helfrich-era Ducks and feasted on Willie Taggart's young team that was clearly in transition.
Petersen has clearly made this game personal and important for his program, not letting up on the gas pedal the last two years in a not-so-veiled attempt at healing the deep wounds the Ducks have inflicted since the Bush administration. Washington football used to dominate the Pacific Northwest. In fact, it was the face of the region's football identity throughout the 80s and 90s, while the Seahawks were floundering among the other wildlife in the Puget Sound. Petersen is desperate to pry it from the Ducks's Nike-gloved hands.
Mario Cristobal has been impressive in his first year in Eugene, but I think Washington has been preparing for this game for two weeks, as their putrid effort against UCLA last week suggested. They won’t be sleepwalking for this one. I’m taking the Huskies on the road.
Wisconsin @ Michigan (-7) - 4:30 p.m. MST - ABC
I picked Michigan for their opening game against Notre Dame, and since I went 0-5 that week, it has scared me from betting on Michigan ever since. This week is no different. As much as I love Jim Harbaugh the character on one hand, Jim Harbaugh the coach has me worried on the other hand. Ever since he moved out of the Pacific Time Zone, he has made a consistent habit of losing in the biggest games, especially to conference foes, and this matchup against Wisconsin has Harbaugh-disappointment written all over it.
Wisconsin threw everybody off of its scent, and rightly so, by losing at home to BYU in what many thought had eliminated the Badgers from any significant football in the coming months. Yet the Badgers come into this game with a top-20 ranking and a real chance of pushing for a spot in the top-10 with an impressive road win in front of a national audience in prime time. National perception matters and national perceptionof Wisconsin is that they are the DirecTV version of Iowa.
They run the ball behind 6-foot-6 white men whose 300-plus pound bodies are made up entirely of cheese curds and bratwursts. They have a chance to show the nation that they belong among the nation's elite and I think they will do just that. I am taking the Badgers to win by more than a touchdown.
Kansas City @ New England (-3.5) - Sunday 5:20 p.m. MST - NBC
What is thankfully the primetime game of the weekend - as a sane person, I, consider Sunday Night Football to be a superior product to Monday Night Football - should not disappoint neutral viewers as the NFL’s brightest young quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, faces off against the greatest quarterback to ever buckle a chinstrap: Tom Brady.
For me, a lifelong fan of "the Evil Empire" and lifelong fan of Mahomes, this game will be one that will have me glued to the television like your grandmother in Florida who can’t stop ordering infomercial products.
Kansas City comes off of waxing one of the NFL’s best defenses in Jacksonville and is hotter than ever. The stink of the Patriots's loss to the Lions still has me less than convinced of the Patriots team. The defense looked good against Miami, but Bill Belichick could coach Saint Aquinas High School and face the Dolphins and still win by three touchdowns in Foxboro. He’s always had their number. But the Chiefs have always given the Pats trouble within the first two months of the season, as a couple early-season losses to the Chiefs spurred media chatter of Brady being finished. I think the Chiefs get it done, or at least cover in Foxboro. (Grandma, I’m sorry. Please don’t be mad.)
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