Courtesy of Bobby Smith
CEO, Sports Reporter
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 22
* NEBRASKA over MINNESOTA by 8
Run-happy Minnesota sees what Wisconsin did to Nebraska's run defense last week - yet again - and says, 'Give us many carries against that Nebraska defense!' For Nebraska's offense, a banged-up workhorse Ameer Abdullah just lost his Heisman Trophy chance watching Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon turn him into an afterthought. Every few years, Nebraska's run defense turns in a non-effort that gets everyone to write, "Blackshirts! Embarrassment! All of proud history is ruined!", and they usually don't recover quickly from it, but when things look too easy and obvious, they often are. NEBRASKA, 27-19.
* COLORADO STATE over NEW MEXICO by 27
Colorado State has the nation's #13-ranked pass offense (319 yards per game), supported by a serviceable rushing attack at 166 yards per game (with a nice, 18 rushing TDs). Shooting for win #10 overall, and to hang with fellow 5-1 Mountain West foes Boise State and Utah State, and given that the fewest amount of points that Colorado State scored in a quarter vs. New Mexico last season was 14 (in a 66-42 win), it's hard see the Rams coming out flatski off the byeski. COLORADO STATE, 48-21.
* NOTRE DAME over LOUISVILLE by 7
Fear the resumption of his Team Killer role for turnover-prone Irish quarterback Everett Golson. This pick-hungry Louisville defense ranks #1 in the nation in interceptions with 22. But there isn't much that Louisville could have done during its bye week to tweak its own offense. Sub quarterback Reggie Bonnafon is still wet behind the ears. While the headlines blare, "Notre Dame, allowed 30+ points five straight games!', Louisville won't force them to play (reluctantly) in space like Northwestern, Arizona State, Navy, Florida State and North Carolina did. NOTRE DAME, 17-10.
USC over *UCLA by 1
A win would put the Trojans in the Pac 12 Championship Game vs. Oregon after they host Notre Dame next Saturday. They had a bye prior to Cal last Thursday, and now a few extra days prior to this. Gotta feel that Mr. Vanilla D, defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, will show many different looks that UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley hasn't seen from these particular athletes. Double-revenge motivation is on the Trojans' side, for what it may be worth, which is always questionable, following 35-14 home loss last season and 38-28 the year before. In this particular emotional angle package is the image of UCLA doing a shield-stomp in the Coliseum following last season's win. USC, 27-26.
* MICHIGAN STATE over RUTGERS by 31
If Rutgers' three straight defeats by 39, 18 and 37 points vs. Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin didn't signal that they're unfit for this particular assignment, then we'll be sorry, won't we? Michigan State could have put their tails between their legs at Maryland last Saturday night, but they weathered Maryland's off-bye energy and tweaks, dominated statistically early although the scoreboard didn't show it, then did their usual job of tilting the field against the underdog with defensive dominance against outclassed offense. Michigan State's two losses have been against Oregon and Ohio State, run-based, up-tempo spread offenses with quick, elite playmakers. Rutgers runs a pro-style offense that Sparty practices against every day, an offense which, in this match-up, won't gain much on the ground and should turn QB Gary Nova into a pick-throwing, sack dummy. MICHIGAN STATE, 41-10.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 23
* HOUSTON over CINCINNATI by 3
Second straight roadie for the Bengals. T'aint easy to win two straight on the road in the NFL. Houston got the expected bump-up from switching quarterbacks from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Ryan Mallett. But what to do with this match-up, which comes at a time when Houston is 5-5, only one game behind Indianapolis in the AFC South, and Cincinnati is 6-3-1 in an AFC North where the last-place team is 6-4? The Bengals' offense gained only 198 yards the last time they faced the Houston defense, which was in this stadium in a 2012 Wild Card game. The Bengals' defense is giving up more rushing yards per game than any other NFL defense except the Giants. Houston just controlled the line of scrimmage very nicely against Cleveland, whose run defense has been only slightly better than the Bengals', ranking #28 to Cincinnati's #31. Cincinnati has some defensive injuries, not as many as the Cleveland team Houston exploited, but enough to be concerned about in a strength vs. weakness match-up. HOUSTON, 20-17.
NY JETS over *BUFFALO by 1
Primary question here is whether Jets have kept their heads straight after benefiting from extreme Steeler generosity in MetLife Stadium two weeks ago. Jets more than doubled their previous seasonal turnover-coaxing total in that one, and their early alert play in the face of extreme Steeler ennui facilitated an early 17-0 Jet advantage, which they rode home, handily. Though he only threw for a mere 125 yards, Mike Vick played a clean game, and the Jet defensive enthusiasm was infectious. The earlier Jet meeting with Buffalo a month ago marked the essential near-term end of QB Geno Smith's reign as the New York starter. The relative quick opportunity for divisional revenge is one Jet edge. Buffalo's apparent crisis of confidence involving their own game of QB Roulette (Manuel or Orton? Orton or Manuel?) is not a plus for Bills-lovers, right now. It's up to HC Doug Marone and the Bills' brass to settle that hash, pronto. Outside of the last two seasons, Jets have consistently shown up (or better!) against the Bills in upstate New York. Given their sustained attributes, see no reason why they give this their best shot, once more. NY JETS, 20-19.
TAMPA BAY over * CHICAGO by 3
The "Lovie Smith returns to Soldier Field" scenario pops up. Broad hilarity's likely to ensue. Ex-Viking Jared Allen finally racked up his initial lakefront win as a Bear after nine earlier failures when Chicago managed to take down Minnesota. We thought there was a decent chance they'd finally get there, but weren't sold on the idea of any margin -- but once Jay Cutler settled down, the broad recent Bear home superiority over the Purple Gang continued. This assignment presents a different psychological problem for the Bears, in their own lair. Heaven knows, Smith knows this foe's capabilities, but an offensive force like Mike Evans essentially destroyed the Redskins at FedEx, and given the scheduling house of horrors the Bears face in the wake of this week's entertainment, the pressure's going to be on to rebuild the self-respect level diminished by the slaughters at the hands of the Patriots and the Pack. It remains an astonishment that at 2-8, but Buccaneers are only two games out of first place in the NFC South. Bucs' overall stat sheet against the Redskins was horrific, but Mike Evans continues to be a revelation at receiver, making Josh McCown - a Bear, as you're aware, for three seasons prior to 2014 -- a more effective quarterback in the process. Bear confidence in this building remains marginal, and it won't take much to upset the equilibrium. TAMPA BAY, 24-21.
Bobby Smith is Editor of Sports Reporter and sportsreporter.com, and author
of "How to Beat the Pro Football Pointspread," currently the nation's #1 best-
selling sports betting book. Check that fact, and order it, at www.amazon.com.