Clemson (+14.5 -120) over Florida State **
When I look at these two teams I don’t really see 14 points difference. They both have about the identical amount of starters back from last season in which Clemson went 10-4 and FSU went 9-4. But it should be noted that Clemson went 10-4 in playing 5 ranked teams. FSU went 9-4 in playing 2 ranked teams. It’s true that FSU’s victory over WF was pretty impressive. But when you think about it, the Noles basically had 3 weeks to prepare for WF since all they had was glorified scrimmages against two FCS teams to start the season.
They won’t get that kind of prep time against a dangerous Clemson team who is much better on both sides of the ball than WF. On the other side, Clemson has basically had two weeks to prep for FSU since all they had was Furman last week. And if it’s somebody who knows this FSU offense it’s Clemson DC Brent Venables, who faced the Noles twice when he was DC at Oklahoma. This should be a knock down drag out fight because both teams know that it’s basically for all the marbles in the Atlantic Division. I think FSU wins it. But I look for a closer game than expected from the two most talented teams in the ACC.
Illinois (-2.5) over La Tech **
It looks like Ilinois will get QB Scheelhaase back this week. And I think this is the key to Illinois having success in this game. His experience was sorely missed when they went to ASU a couple weeks ago. That was a bad spot anyway for IL having to travel a couple time zones for a late night game without their QB. This week will be a different story. Illinois will be playing in their second straight game at home while La Tech travels for the second time in three weeks. The problem I have with LT this year is that up to this point they aren’t showing near the defense that they showed last season that helped them to cover 10 games. But I think it is a completely different situation with this LT team this year. So far through two games they are giving up nearly 600 ypg on defense. And this was against AQ teams. What is just as troubling is they’ve had to endure 204 plays in the last two weeks! And now they have to go on the road again and face a more physical BCS team in almost a pickem game. I don’t see it. If Illinois has any life at all on offense, they should win this game.
Michigan (+6) over Notre Dame ***
Many are calling this a letdown spot for Notre Dame. I’m not sure I can depend on that angle. But I do think this is a more challenging matchup for the Irish than people think. Unlike last week, they’ll be facing a better rushing offense with the most dangerous mobile QB than anybody they have faced to date. Last week ND didn’t have a mismatch at QB. This week they will. I still think Brady Hoke has one of the very best coaching staffs in the country. And with just playing UMASS last week, have basically had two weeks to prepare for ND. Many are expecting the same type of game we had with Michigan/Bama. I’m not. ND isn’t near the explosive offense that Bama is. And they don’t have the the experienced national championship winning QB McCarron. I think the QB is the big issue here. Unlike Michigan State, i think Michigan has the offense to put up some points on this ND defense and force them to stay up. It may not be an easy thing to do for a rookie QB who I’m sure Hoke has been gameplanning for the last 2 weeks. It should be a good typical close primetime game like it usually is when these teams get together.
Utah (+7) over Arizona State **
I expect a close game in the desert between a new program with a new coach vs an established program that knows a thing or two about playing defense. I admit this could be a bad spot for Utah after playing a tough game with their state rivals. But I’m going on the premise that Utah can get up for two games in a row being this early in the season and this being the important first conference game. I see no real advantages here for Arizona State except the home field advantage. Everything else looks about even with these two teams. ASU has the better offense, and Utah has the better defense. I usually lean with the points and the better D.