LSU at Florida -- It is hard for me to evaluate Florida in the Urban Meyer-era. On the one hand, they have a number of meaningful victories over quality teams and you cannot take that away from them. On the other hand, I have seen them play several times this year and, frankly, do not see them as a top-5 team. They always seem to get the "W," but I go away thinking that they are doing it with smoke-and-mirrors. LSU on the other hand, has a loss this season, which precludes them from being a top-5 team, but when I watch them, I feel like they are among the nation's elite, much like Ohio State was in 2005, even though they lost twice to two very good teams. If the game was not in the Swamp, I would feel better about picking this one, but, as it is, I will take LSU 24, Florida 14.
Tennessee at Georgia -- Again, I hate taking the road dog, but I like Tennessee in this game. I believe it was Joe Paterno (at this point, every old football saying or story can fairly be attributed Paterno or Bobby Bowden) that said, "If you have two quarterbacks, you have no quarterback." For those of you with a dazed look on your face, that means that if a coach is screwing around and cannot decide between two quarterbacks, that means that neither has distinguished themselves. To me, that is Georgia this season--which is unfortunate, because I believe Mark Richt is one of the best coaches in the nation, but none of his three QBs seems to have won him over five games into the season. I like Tennessee's playmaking combination of Erik Ainge and Robert Meachem to break this game open and provide the Vols with a win. UT 27, UGA 21.
Oregon at California -- This is an important game for these two Pac-10 teams. It will be televised at 8:00 PM EST on ABC across most of the nation, so it will be an opportunity for these squads to showcase their talent and prove that the Pac-10 is not just Southern Cal and the 9 Dwarves. Cal's Marshawn Lynch and Oregon's Jonathan Stewart are two running backs that will be playing on Sundays, so that should be enough to keep the interest of the casual fan, but it will be each teams' quarterbacking that determines the game. Although I think Dennis Dixon is in store for a fine career, I think the fact that the game is at Memorial Stadium throws the tilt in favor of Nate Longshore and the Bears. Cal 38, Oregon 34.
Maryland at Georgia Tech -- Some folks may point to the fact that the ACC has just one undefeated team, Wake Forest(!!!) after five weeks as parity within a great conference. I look at the ACC and still think they have a fine future ahead, but it is unfortunate that in a season in which Miami and Florida State both seem to be on cruise control, two teams that could have really stepped forward, Clemson (with horrible special teams play) and Virginia Tech (who could have been starting a battle-tested, experienced Marcus Vick at quarterback this year) both seemed to have missed their opportunities. Enter Georgia Tech, with the nation's best wide receiver that does not play on Sundays in Calvin Johnson and the much maligned, but resiliant Reggie Ball at quarterback giving the Yellow Jackets just enough offense to support their Grade-A defense, and you can see the makings of, perhaps, the only 2006 feel-good story in the ACC. With a win here, the Ramblin' Wreck would move to 3-0 in conference play and have an inside track for a spot in the prestigious ACC Championship game. Maryland, on the other hand, really has not looked like a good college football team at any point during this season and I do not see any reason to believe that their offense will be able to come alive, playing in Bobby Dodd Stadium against GT's defense. GT 31, Maryland 17.
Purdue at Iowa -- Fans of ITB (if such a creature exists) know that I think Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz is vastly overrated. It is not that I think he is a bad coach, just that I don't see him as a top-10 or -15 coach. The way I see things, Iowa beats the teams that they should beat and, over the past season-and-a-half, rarely plays tough against teams that are expected to beat them. Fortunately for the Hawkeyes, they should beat Purdue at home. Purdue is a decent football team that should win 7-8 games this season, but this will not be one of them. Iowa 34, Purdue 20.
Texas vs Oklahoma -- This has grown into one of my favorite games each season. I do not have a great feel for this game, but I feel like it will, almost certainly be a defensive battle with a few big plays sprinkled in. Adrian Peterson will have to earn his yards to make any kind of major impact in this game, as I expect the Texas run defense to be keyed in on him. In the end, I suspect that neither teams' ground game will provide much offense, so I think the game will be won (or lost) by two aspects: One, which quarterback manages the ball the best in regards to limiting turnovers and converting downs and, two, which team can open up the game via their special teams units. I think Paul Thompson, with his experience, will be more confident than Colt McCoy in this big game atmosphere, so I like the Sooners in a close one. OU 24, Texas 21.
Since I missed the podcast last night...