SEC growing weaker

September 10, 2002 8:13 AM
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   As we move deeper into the season, we notice emerging trends. First, some conferences appear “down” from previous season’s standards. The SEC, for instance, was an uncharacteristic 1-7 against non-league foes this past weekend.

   In addition, we find college teams that either aren’t living up to past successes, or have turned around programs that were wallowing in a quagmire of losses.

   We will use both factors in evaluating this week’s match-ups.

   Wake Forest at N.C. State —13: Wake Forest pulled out a nice win over East Carolina last week, but tends to give up yardage and points in clumps (64 points in two games). N.C. State hasn’t been challenged in three easy victories, but quarterback Philip Rivers is the real deal and should have little trouble leading the Wolfpack to a three touchdown win over the Demon Deacons.

   BYU —15 at Nevada: BYU’s game with Hawaii exposed some weaknesses in the Cougar defense and passing attack. Moreover, there will probably be a letdown after the hard-fought, revenge-fueled victory. Nevada should be able to move the ball effectively against BYU, and while we aren’t predicting an outright win, the Wolf Pack should be able to keep the score close.

   Washington State at Ohio State —7 1/2: Mike Price’s Cougars haven’t been impressive in wins over Nevada and Idaho, but expect a big effort this week against the Buckeyes. QB Jason Gesser and speedy RB Jonathan Smith should combine for a big day in Columbus, perhaps even enough to pull off the upset.

   Michigan —3 1/2 at Notre Dame: Okay, so Notre Dame hasn’t scored an offensive touchdown in two games. And, quarterback Carlyle Holiday can’t pass the ball more than 6 yards downfield (he was 7-of-22 for 50 yards against Purdue). But Notre Dame has done what it needed to do to win through stellar defense and special teams play. This week the offense wakes up against an overrated Michigan squad that actually should have lost at home to Washington.

   UNLV at Oregon State —14 1/2: Even though UNLV handled Kansas last week, they looked less than impressive. Oregon State has had two easy tune-ups, the most recent against Temple last week, and appear poised to rumble. Quarterback Derek Anderson is one of the best in the Pac 10, and coach Dennis Erickson isn’t opposed to running up the score—the Ducks threw a TD pass against the Owls with 97 seconds left in the game. The Beavers should have little trouble putting the Rebels away.

   Indiana at Kentucky —17: Indiana is in the midst of a horrible start. They were shellacked 40-13 last week by Utah, which overran the Hoosiers for 386 yards on the ground. And, while Kentucky is best known for Jared Lorenzen’s passing (he lit up the scoreboard for five touchdown passes against UTEP), the Wildcats have unleashed a ground attack of its own, 364 yards in a 77-17 win over the Miners. Kentucky should cover this number by halftime.

   San Jose State at Stanford —20: Stanford is coming off a tough, season opening loss at Boston College last week. San Jose State was up by 10 points at Washington last week before the wheels came off. Nevertheless, the Spartans have a long history of playing the Cardinal very tough in this battle for peninsula supremacy: San Jose State is 6-1-1 ATS in Palo Alto since 1992. They should be able to add another win to that total.

(Last week’s selections were 6-3-2 ATS.)