Conference play begins, and the games get bigger

Ah, conference play is finally under way. Oh, sure, there have been a smattering of conference games already, but most leagues are fully into the conference schedule this week.  That means some big games with not just national championship implications, but conference championship ones as well. Also, familiarity doesn't just breed contempt, it breeds upsets.  We're not likely to have another week like last week.

Speaking of last week, I was 4-0 straight up, but 2-2 vs the spread.  For the season, I'm now 15-4 straight up and 12-7 against the spread.

LSU Tigers at Georgia Bulldogs (-3): The thing that has been holding LSU back the last few years has been inconsistent QB play.  If Zach Mettenberger plays well, the Tigers could win the whole thing.  This is their biggest test yet, but you could make the case that LSU has played the best football of anyone in the SEC so far.  LSU wins, covers.

Wisconsin Badgers at Ohio State Buckeyes (-7):   Braxton Miller returns for the Buckeyes, and that's a good thing, right?  Right??  Kenny Guiton has been terrific in his place, but there's no Wally Pipp-ing Miller.  Melvin Gordon is the stud RB du jour for the Badgers, who leads the nation in rushing.  His running mate, James White , is 10th.  Wisconsin won't make it easy on Ohio State.  Buckeyes win, Badgers cover.

Oklahoma Sooners at Notre Dame Fighting Irish (+3.5): The Irish defense hasn't been as good as expected, but they looked better against Michigan State's woeful offense than they did the week before against Purdue Boilermakers 's woeful offense.  Tommy Rees and the Irish offense has also been hit and miss.  Blake Bell took over for Trevor Knight at QB for Oklahoma and lit up Tulsa Golden Hurricane in his first start two weeks ago.  Oklahoma wins, ND covers.

Ole Miss Rebels at Alabama Crimson Tide (-14.5):  Ole Miss was impressive winning at Texas Longhorns two weeks ago, and has also won at Vanderbilt Commodores .  Winning at Tuscaloosa is a little different task.  Alabama hasn't been dominant in any sense.  Last week's 31-6 win over Colorado Buffaloes State was closer than the score would indicate.  Ole Miss will have have their moments, but their youth will do them in.  Alabama wins, covers.

Southern California Trojans at Arizona State Sun Devils (-4):  This game is important because the loser is surely done in the Pac-12 South.  The Sun Devils are coming off a whipping at Stanford Cardinal , while USC has righted things at least a little bit since the Trojans loss to Washington State.  I don't buy that, though.  I picked ASU to win the division, and this will be a step in that direction.  Arizona State Sun Devils wins, covers.

Northern Illinois Huskies at Purdue Boilermakers (+3.5): The Huskies were in the BCS last year with one loss.  However, their performance in that game likely means that they (or anyone else) will have to go undefeated to get that right this season.  This week's game may be the toughest one left before the MAC title game.  Northern has already won at Iowa Hawkeyes , but has struggled, especially defensively, in all three of their wins, including last week's victory over FCS Eastern Illinois.  Purdue's offense is third worst in the country in yards per game, primarily because of a wildly inaccurate quarterback, so something has to give.  Purdue wins, covers.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Jerry Palm started writing about sports on the Internet right after Al Gore invented it. He was the first to bring RPI out in the open and is one of the pioneers of predicting the March Madness bracket.... Full Bio

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