The Diner Football Picks, Week #2

Diner Prognosticators were feeling pretty smug coming off last season’s impressive picks. Strong regular season. Strong bowl season. Big pick in the championship game.

And then we were reminded that Vegas ain’t building those hotels and casinos because it’s easy for folks to win.

Oh, man. Dismal start to 2009’s season. Last week, 3 wins against 7 losses. Ugh. And, really, looking back on it, I still like most of my picks.

But, we learned a few things: That OU’s offense (even in the first half before Bradford got hurt) depends a LOT more on offensive linemen than we might’ve been led to believe. That there’s no question the Big 12 and the SEC are virtually the same talent level in the top half of their respective leagues (but it’s the bottom half of the conferences, re: Big 12 North, where the SEC appears a little stronger). That the Big 10 is as far from the Big 12 and SEC as the Big 12 North is from the Big 12 South–which is miles away. That the ACC is bad, too. And, that the Gators have everyone else chasing them.

Undaunted by last week’s disaster out of the starting blocks, on to this week’s picks.

Mississippi State (+14) at Auburn: Question marks still remain at Auburn, but there’s a quiet optimism with an offense that put 556 balanced yards against a team that went to a bowl game last year. However, that bowl team was in the game late in the 3rd quarter until a 93-yard 3rd down TD took the wind out of opposition sails. State beat a SWAC team handily, which any SEC team should do. The question is whether or not they have the personnel to run the Florida offense the new coaching staff installed this season. No matter what, this game will have to be better than last year’s 3-2 final score. I think Auburn has better players and playing at home will be the difference. Diner Prediction: Auburn 27, Mississippi State 17.

U.S.C. at Ohio State (+7): The only danger in my mind is the freshman U.S.C. quarterback starting in the Horseshoe. Granted Ohio State struggled in their opener but I think they intentionally had a conservative game plan and some fluke plays kept it closer than it might’ve been. Still, I think the only Pac-10 team that could compete in the Big 12 or SEC is more than 7 points better than the 2nd best Big-10 team, even with youth at quarterback on the road. Diner Prediction: U.S.C. 35, Ohio State 20.

U.C.L.A. (+10) at Tennessee: Every year U.C.L.A. goes against quality opposition in their pre-conference schedule, so you gotta admire them for that. And, they pulled off the upset at home against Tennessee last year. However, going into Knoxville, with over 100,000 fans and Lane Kiffin bringing a mouthy swagger back to the Vols should be enough to keep another upset from happening. It’ll be close at the half, but I’m guessing the Vols pull away late. Diner Prediction: Tennessee 24, U.C.L.A. 13.

South Carolina (+7) at Georgia: South Carolina only scored one TD last week and it was a 20-yard drive after a fumble. They played GREAT defense and only gave up 3 points. Georgia had to travel to Stillwater and didn’t have the horses to overcome turnovers and youth on the road. The Dawgs are at home. They’re inexperienced at quarterback. Spurrier’s Gamecocks have struggled on the road his entire tenure at South Carolina. I think this’ll be low scoring, and in a low scoring game I’ll take the 7 points. Diner Prediction: Georgia 17, South Carolina 13.

Vanderbilt (+14) at L.S.U.: I think L.S.U. took their road trip to Washington lightly. They gave up 23 points to a team that won 1 game last season, and let them hang around all night…escaping with an 8-point win. Vanderbilt is still an unknown with last year’s stars graduating, but something tells me that Vandy doesn’t replace graduating players as quickly as other teams. L.S.U. at home with something to prove? I think Les Miles will do everything he can to squelch any questions the Tiger faithful might have. Diner Prediction: L.S.U. 31, Vanderbilt 13

Notre Dame at Michigan (+3): The hot-seat bowl. Both coaches have something to prove, and Michigan’s Rodriguez certainly has the most to having lost 9 games last season. AT MICHIGAN. Notre Dame has quietly been rebuilding after having dropped from relevance of the college football landscape the last couple of years. Simply put, I think Notre Dame has better players and positive momentum, and I think Rich Rodriguez may have lost his football team with former players making accusations of NCAA rules violations. In effect, the oddsmakers say the game is even, but gives Michigan the advantage playing at home. I think Notre Dame gets the win in a game that will have dramatic effects on the future of both teams. Diner Prediction: Notre Dame 21, Michigan 17.

Purdue (+12) at Oregon: What a disaster the Ducks were against Boise State. New coach. Poor chemistry because of bad sportsmanship. They’ve had a week to get it together. Purdue, on the other hand, beat a good Toledo team that throttled Colorado last night. I like a team getting 12 points on the road against a team that may have some internal problems (even if that team might be better talent-wise). Diner Prediction: Oregon 24, Purdue 20.

Syracuse (+28.5) at Penn State: People seem to be concerned that Penn State’s offense didn’t get any points in the 2nd half against Akron last week as some sort of evidence that they’re struggling. Folks, you think they might’ve called off the dogs so as not to get folks hurt or show anything once the game was well in-hand? Syracuse has a young quarterback having to stroll into Happy Valley. Penn State has Darryl Clarke. Enough said. But I’d feel better if the line was 3 points smaller. Diner Prediction: Penn State 41, Syracuse 10.

T.C.U. at Virginia (+11): Virginia struggled against William & Mary. Not even kidding. T.C.U. has been on the cusp of getting a B.C.S. bid for 3 years. The Frogs have an All-American defensive end that will likely be the first defensive player taken in the NFL draft next spring. Give me the Horned Frogs even on the road against a BCS conference opponent. Diner Prediction: T.C.U. 27, Virginia 14.

Texas Tech at Rice (+27.5): Leach’s Red Raiders are a question mark. They always play a VERY soft pre-conference schedule and they roll up points against ’em like crazy. Last week they took it easy and still scored 38. However, they had some turnovers with a new quarterback getting used to new receivers. It happens. And, I think the Rice running the option has the potential to do what the service academies do: shorten the game and keep it close. So, the question is whether or not the Red Raiders will correct the mistakes. They will, but I think Rice will BARELY cover the spread. Diner Prediction: Texas Tech 41, Rice 14.

There ya go…a day late, but still ahead of ESPN’s GameDay!