I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. There is no tougher sport to handicap on a week-to-week basis than college football.
Example. Last week I picked Florida to cover 8-points at Kentucky mostly due to the edge at quarterback and a swarming defense, and a tiny bit due to the revenge factor. Well, the quarterback I liked (Feleipe Franks) didn’t look great early, then suffered a season ending ankle injury.
The Wildcats proceeded build a 21-10 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Then, a funny thing happened. Backup Kyle Trask got in a groove. He went 9-13 for 126 yards in leading two touchdown drives to give the Gators a 22-21 lead.
But after Kentucky missed a potential go-ahead field goal with less than a minute to go, it seemed that our bet was sunk. Then thanks to some Kentucky timeouts, Josh Hammond busted lose for 76 yards, as I busted off my couch, screaming at my television for the Gators back to take it to the house. All for a push.
College football, man. It’s hard to cap.
So, a losing week every now and then shouldn’t be a surprise. But that doesn’t mean we have to like it. So, we try to get back on track this week starting with an old favorite – the UCF Knights.
Hey everyone! If you haven’t heard, UCF is a legit college football power, not just a Group of 5 one. The Knights have outscored their opponents 155-41 on their way to a 3-0 SU/ATS record and looked super impressive in their beatdown of Stanford last week as they head into this weekend’s matchup at Pitt.
Oh, and the Hawaiian pipeline to UCF is a real thing. Dillon Gabriel has thrown for 716 yards and nine touchdowns with no picks. He goes up against a Pitt defense, that while ranks well, hasn’t faced an attacking UCF offense like this.
What always been overlooked aspect of this UCF squad, has been its defense. The Knights rank 13th in total defense and 12th in opponent yards per play at just 4.0. They face a struggling Pitt offense that hasn’t put up more than 20 points in a game since last November.
Simply put, UCF hasn’t scored less than 30 points since the 2016 Cure Bowl. And they’re looking for a second victory over a Power 5 team to boost their resume. If the Knights can get up early, the Panthers, who are in a bit of a letdown spot after a close loss to rival Penn State, won’t be able to keep up.
Pick: UCF -11
COLORADO BUFFALOES AT ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS (-8.5, 49)
It’s a trap!
But as I cram two movie references into two sentences, my boy Tony Stark would say, “Yeah, I don’t much care.” That’s right cause we’re taking down Thanos, I mean, this spread no matter what!
Sometimes you just look at a line and wonder what the books know that you don’t. Yes, the Sun Devils come into this matchup undefeated and off a big win at Michigan State as 15.5 underdogs. However, they scored just 10 points in that game and are averaging just 19.7 per contest this season. The Buffs have struggled on defense so far this year, but it’s been good enough to keep them in games. And this Sun Devils’ offense is not the toughest they’ve faced.
And yes, the Arizona State defense is good. But they’ve played Kent State, which ranks 125th in total offense, an offensively challenged Sparty team, and FCS Sacramento.
While Colorado is coming off its first loss of the season against a scrappy and well coached Air Force team, getting 8.5-points here seems like a bit of an overreaction. The Buffs still had a chance to win that game and are that close to being undefeated themselves.
If Colorado can give Steven Montez time in the pocket, he should be able to make some plays in the air, particularly to star wideout Laviska Shenault Jr. Kind of like they did last year, in the Buffs 28-21 win over the Sun Devils in Boulder. Montez threw for 328 yards and two touchdowns with no picks while Shenault hauled in 13 receptions for 127 yards and a score in that one.
Admittedly, the Sun Devils defense has improved since then, but I think it’s asking a lot of a team that has this much trouble scoring to cover a number this large. Especially considering that Colorado has a chance to win this outright.
Pick: Colorado +8.5
CAL GOLDEN BEARS AT OLE MISS REBELS (-2.5, 41.5)
Cal legitimately has one of the premier defenses in the country and is more than capable of handling the Ole Miss offense. While some might say the Rebels’ offense has found its grove, the last time they ran up against a defense close to this calibre, it was in Week 1 in Memphis when the Tigers held them to just 10 points.
While that game was on the road, the Golden Bears defense is on another level. They are allowing just 4.4 yards per play and have already snagged six turnovers, one year removed from ranking sixth in the country in takeaways.
Cal’s front seven will be able to shut down Jerrion Ealy and Scottie Phillips in the run game and will force Matt Corral into some bad decisions against what is arguably the nation’s best secondary. Corral only has one interception this season, but Memphis limited him to 9-19 passing and dropped a few catchable picks.
The early start time for a west coast team traveling east is always concerning, but if Chase Garbers can take care of the ball and Christopher Brown Jr. can do just enough damage on the ground, then Cal can lean on its defense to not only cover this spread, but win outright.
Pick: Cal +2.5
Last week’s picks: 0-2-1
Season to date: 4-4-2