Ohio State, Stanford will survive tough conference tests

There is a reasonably full slate of important early games in major conference races, led again this week by Ohio State, which travels to NorthwesternStanford and Florida State face undefeated opponents as well.

Last week, I was 4-2 straight up, but just 1-3-2 against the spread.  For the season, I'm 19-6 straight up and 13-10-2 against the spread.

Ohio State at Northwestern (+7):  I like Northwestern.  It's good, and better with the return of Venric Mark.  But I'm not on the purple bandwagon to the extent of many of my media brethren.  The Buckeyes will probably have with withstand an early surge of energy from the Wildcats, but Ohio State's physical defense will eventually beat NU down and the Wildcats will have no answer for Braxton Miller.  Ohio State wins and covers.

Washington at Stanford (-7.5): Washington is clearly an up-and-coming program.  They made that statement on opening night, when they throttled Boise State.  But Stanford is at a different level.  The Huskies won in Seattle last year, but this Cardinal offense is vastly improved over the one Washington beat then.  Stanford wins and covers.

Maryland at Florida State (-16):  The Terrapins are in the Top 25 after a 4-0 start, but three of the teams they beat have yet to notch a win over FBS competition, and the other came against hit-and-miss West Virginia, which missed badly that day.  If Maryland is as good as its record, we'll see a competitive game here.  I'm not expecting that.  Florida State wins and covers.

Georgia Tech at Miami (-5.5): Georgia Tech is coming off a tough home loss to Virginia Tech, so the Yellow Jackets need this one or any hope of winning the Coastal division is gone.  Miami is off to a 4-0 start, but the only team they beat with a pulse is Florida.  The Yellow Jackets are tough to prepare for, but Miami's defense should be up to the task.  Hurricanes win and cover.

Illinois at Nebraska (-8.5): Offensive coordinator Bill Cubit has breathed life into the Illini offense.  Nebraska's offense will be without QB Taylor Martinez.  Two backups split time in the Huskers' last game vs. South Dakota State, but Tommy Armstrong Jr. will start against the Illini.  I don't have enough faith in the Illini defense to pick the upset, so Nebraska wins, but Illinois covers.

TCU at Oklahoma (-10.5): This could be a trap game for OU.  They're coming off a big win at Notre Dame and the Red River Shootout is next week against Texas.  Right now, TCU is better than Texas, but not much.  If the Sooners don't get caught looking ahead, they should win comfortably.  Oklahoma wins, TCU 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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