Last week: 8-1
It’s a light week in the Big 12 with only 3 games to pick. Despite a blazing hot 8-1 last week, I don’t expect to maintain my 88% winning percentage throughout the season. Don’t go nuts and put a mortgage payment on this week’s picks. The spreads used are from Thursday morning, due to the K-State Auburn match up on Thursday night.
#20 Kansas State vs. #5 Auburn
I’ve rarely been this excited for a Thursday night game. But anytime you can get a Big 12 vs. SEC match up, and all the smack talk it entails, count me in. Kansas State ifsone of the few teams well-equipped to slow down the Auburn offense. The Tigers use different alignments, motions and shifts, but the Wildcats play in a conference that is defined by alignments, motions and shifts. Auburn’s offensive line is talented, but young, losing LT Greg Robinson to the NFL, and LG Alex Kozan to injury. The Tigers front will be facing the best defensive line they’ve seen to date led by Wildcat DE Ryan Mueller.
The Wildcats offense, led by QB Jake Waters and WR Tyler Lockett, should have a field day against an Auburn secondary that is questionable to begin with, and is missing senior safety Jermaine Whitehead. Reports are Whitehead did not travel with the team Wednesday night, following a verbal altercation with a coach. QB Jake Waters continues to look more and more like a mirror image of his predecessor, and Heisman finalist, Collin Klein; smart decision making, strong runs, and a “good enough” arm. Give me the senior quarterback at home, in front of a fan base that welcomes in their highest ranked non-league opponent since 1969… at least to cover.
Kansas State +7
Kansas vs. Central Michigan
The Jayhawks come off an embarrassing performance in Durham against Duke. The Blue Devils were superior to the Jayhawks in every aspect of the game, but Duke still isn’t getting the credit they deserve as a solid team who played in last season’s ACC Championship game. Kansas gets some breaks this week, as CMU starting WR Andrew Flory was dismissed from the team Monday after being charged with retail fraud. Also, CMU star running back Thomas Rawls has been suspended indefinitely. Mt Pleasant Morning Sun CMU beat writer Nate Schneider reports Rawls is being charged with three felonies involving theft. CMU struggled without Rawls last week rushing for just 34 yards on 23 carries in a 40-3 loss to Syracuse. This bodes well for a Kansas run defense that could use all the help they could get. KU was gashed on the ground by Duke for 331 yards last week.
Meantime, the Chippewas don’t get any pressure on the QB, with a sack rate of under 3%, which ranks 107th in the nation. CMU defense strength is in the secondary, and it has shown, by giving up 5 YPC. If there is ever a time for Montell Cozart to get a “feel good” game under his belt, it’s this Saturday. This game comes at the perfect time for the Jayhawks. And reality is, if Charlie Weis can’t win this one, he can start dusting off the resume.
The Pick: Kansas -3.5
#4 Oklahoma @ West Virginia
There’s no doubt that West Virginia is drastically improved, and healthier, than the team that went 2-7 in Big 12 play last season. Clint Trickett has settled in at quarterback, and he has, arguably, the best WR duo in the conference with Kevin White and Mario Alford. But, the Sooners bring in the best secondary in the Conference. During their seven-game winning streak dating back to last season, the Sooners have forced 13 interceptions. Trickett will have his toughest test to date navigating around OU CB’s Julian Wilson and Zack Sanchez. The Mountaineer pace will be no surprise to a Sooner defense, since they face a similar tempo every day in practice.
The Sooners offense will be missing top running back Keith Ford, but Alex Ross and and Samaje Perine should be able to gash a run defense that has allowed nearly 5 YPC so far this season. It’s imperative for the Sooners to run the ball well to limit snaps for Dana Holgerson’s offense and avoid a shootout on the road. A solid run game would then open things up between Trevor Knight and Sterling Shepard. There’s no doubt that Morgantown is a tough place for any opponent to play, but I cancel out the home field advantage by giving Bob Stoops a significant coaching edge over Dana Holgerson, who continues to make some head scratching in-game decisions.
The Pick: Oklahoma -7.5