After starting off 20-3 over the past few weeks, these score projections I do had a more modest 7-3 mark last week after missing on Ole Miss-Auburn, Mississippi State-Kentucky, and West Virginia-USF. They're now 27-6 on the season, and half the misses have come in Auburn games. I need to have a talk with Gene Chizik and Gus Malzahn about making their team not produce so much variance.
Anyway, here's this week's picks and here's an explanation of how these work. It was a chore finding decent games to pick, which doesn't bode well for finding them on TV tomorrow.
SOUTH CAROLINA at ARKANSAS
Absolute Projection: Arkansas 29 - South Carolina 23
Percentage Projection: Arkansas 27 - South Carolina 23
I am a bit skeptical of this one. For one thing, Arkansas' numbers are influenced by the 63 points they dropped on hapless Eastern Michigan (who just lost to Northern Illinois 50-6) last week. Even more than that, Arkansas is averaging just 14.6 points a game against the good defenses they've faced (Alabama, Florida, Ole Miss) while putting up 40+ on everyone else. South Carolina's defense is fairly good, so I'm not so sure the Hogs will get almost 30 in this one.
LSU at ALABAMA
Absolute Projection: Alabama 20 - LSU 10
Percentage Projection: Alabama 16 - LSU 11
This one on the other hand, I'm feeling a bit better about. Alabama has only torched one good defense all year (Virginia Tech on opening weekend), and against the good defenses they've faced in the last three games (Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee) they've averaged 18 a game. LSU, meanwhile, only managed 3 points against Florida's defense, the only one of Alabama's caliber they've faced so far. LSU's offense seems to have gotten better lately, so a few extra points on top of that sounds right.
VANDERBILT at FLORIDA
Absolute Projection: Florida 34 - Vanderbilt 0
Percentage Projection: Florida 35 - Vanderbilt 7
I don't hold out much hope for Vandy scoring too many points in this one, despite triumphant return of Mackenzi Adams. The Commodores only mustered 10 against Georgia for goodness' sake. The absolute projection sees Vandy getting just 0.38 points, with one of the two predictors for that signaling a -1.26. It could be ugly for Vandy as Florida appears to be hitting a stride.
NON-SEC GAMES OF INTEREST
OHIO STATE at PENN STATE
Absolute Projection: Ohio State 16 - Penn State 15
Percentage Projection: Penn State 13.37 - Ohio State 12.86
This looks to be a similar game to last year's contest, with the winner scoring somewhere in the teens. Penn State quietly has built one of the best defenses in the country, though playing a whole lot of nobodies helps with that. When the two disagree, the percentage wins (because that tends to win out in such cases, for some reason), so the Lions are the official pick here. I'll take it, because I think their defense will hassle Terrelle Pryor enough to take this one at home.
OREGON STATE at CAL
Absolute Projection: Cal 31 - OSU 29
Percentage Projection: Cal 32 - OSU 30
Cal is still clawing its way back up the polls after its back to back thrashings, but last week's close scrape with Arizona State doesn't inspire that much confidence. It looks like it'll be another close one this week as the Bears are projected to win by two, one way or another.
OKLAHOMA at NEBRASKA
Absolute Projection: Oklahoma 16 - Nebraska 15
Percentage Projection: Nebraska 15 - Oklahoma 13
This was once the marquee rivalry of the Big 8, but since the Big 12 doesn't have designated rivals like the SEC does, it has become relegated to being an only every so often affair. I am inclined to pick Oklahoma, but the numbers ever so slightly favor the home team in this one. I am a bit puzzled by Nebraska's recent collapse-like status because the Huskers have been one of the top teams in team efficiency. Then again, so has Oklahoma and they're both sitting on 5-3.
KANSAS at KANSAS STATE
Absolute Projection: Kansas 32 - KSU 26
Percentage Projection: Kansas 33 - KSU 26
If you took the Kansas State from the first half of this decade and matched it up with the Kansas from the second half of it, you'd have a darn good rivalry. As it stands today, we've got two teams whose resumes come straight from the nuthouse. If Kansas wins, the Jayhawks become bowl eligible despite not having a more impressive win to date than Duke. K-State is in the same boat despite losing to Louisiana-Lafayette. The Wildcats' run of lose-to-Texas Tech 66-14 then beat Texas A&M 62-14 in consecutive weeks is one of the stranger fortnights in recent memory.
DUKE at NORTH CAROLINA
Both Projections: Duke 20 - UNC 18
This is where you can insert your own jokes about basketball, March, and Dick Vitale. What's on the line though is Duke becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 1994 and keeping pace in the division where at 3-1, the Blue Devils are very much in the race for their first ACC title since Steve Spurrier roamed the sidelines. The Tar Heels also hit six wins with a victory, but thanks to having two I-AA wins on their slate so far, UNC has to get to seven total wins to secure a bowl.
FLORIDA STATE at CLEMSON
Absolute Projection: Clemson 36 - FSU 26
Percentage Projection: Clemson 37 - FSU 23
This is the game formerly known as the Bowden Bowl, but this year I have a feeling it'll be more about Mickey Andrews. Can his guys come up with a good performance for him after he announced his retirement? It is for that reason, and the fact that Clemson is an old Native American word for "disappointment," that I am afraid of this one not just being wrong, but very wrong.