I came to a stunning realization this week. While The Six Pack was profitable in Week 8 thanks to hitting on our Boise State upset -- we made a whole 0.1 units! -- it's still a down season overall as we're down 5.69 units. I'm also down on the season in the Cover 3 Podcast's Locks competition.
Yet, somehow, some way, I have the best record among my CBS colleagues in our Expert Picks. Those are games in which we're forced (they hold us at gunpoint) to pick every game involving a top-25 team, whether we want to or not. So I've concluded that I'm a genius at picking games in the Top 25, and I'm the dumbest person on Earth when picking games from outside it.
This week, I'm only picking Top 25 games. The comeback begins now! All odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.
Games of the Week
No. 2 Ohio State at No. 13 Penn State: The Penn State offense recovered nicely last week against Minnesota following a poor performance against Michigan, but I don't think it has fixed anything. It's more a situation in which the Penn State offense is better when it can run the ball, and it ran the ball well against the Gophers. I don't think it'll run the ball as effectively against an Ohio State defense that ranks fourth nationally in success rate against the run and 15th in yards before contact per rush.
That said, while I like Ohio State to cover, Penn State has played the Buckeyes better than most in recent seasons and could make a game of this one again. Plus, while they put up 54 points last week, Ohio State's offense wasn't as sharp against Iowa as you'd think. No secondary can match up with Ohio State's receivers, but Penn State's can do a better job than most, so we may see the Buckeyes lean more on the run game than usual in this one. Ohio State 37, Penn State 21 | Under 62
No. 19 Kentucky at No. 3 Tennessee: Kentucky has one of the best defenses Tennessee will face this season, but my biggest concern here is whether the Wildcats can score enough points to keep up. I've seen it too many times in matchups like this. Yes, good defenses can slow a great offense down, but they can't outright stop them, and you need an offense that can keep up. I'm highly skeptical that Kentucky can.
The Wildcats rank 71st nationally in success rate, 62nd in explosive play rate, 62nd in expected points added (EPA) per play and 94th in red zone efficiency. That's not good enough. Not against the Vols. On the other side, while the Vols' offense is the show, its defense has been solid. Tennessee ranks 10th nationally in success rate against the run, meaning Kentucky may not be able to lean on its offensive specialty. Furthermore, Tennessee ranks 17th in pressure rate defensively, while Kentucky's offensive line ranks 116th in pressure rate allowed. It's hard to find the area Kentucky can exploit in this matchup, and that makes taking them to cover the spread difficult. Tennessee 38, Kentucky 24 | Tennessee -12
Lock of the Week
No. 10 Wake Forest at Louisville: I don't know if you heard the comments from Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson after last week's win over Boston College, but when he wasn't heaping praise upon QB Sam Hartman he was taking shots at the haters for always doubting his Demon Deacons. That's a great sign for this week against Louisville because the Deacs are playing with a chip on their shoulder and want to prove they aren't in the top 10 by accident.
Meanwhile, Louisville beat Pitt last week, but it was an awful performance from the Cardinals offense. This is still a flawed Louisville team, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, and I don't see how it keeps pace with Wake. Also, don't for a moment think that Clawson and the Deacs are over 2016's "WakeyLeaks" scandal. Even if those involved are no longer around, there's always an added incentive to stick it to Louisville when they can. Wake Forest 37, Louisville 27 | Wake Forest -3.5
Under of the Week
No. 10 USC at Arizona: I understand why the total is so high. From a success rate vantage point, these are two good offenses. The Trojans rank eighth nationally, while the Wildcats are 16th. They're also bad defensively; the Trojans rank 124th in success rate and Arizona is dead last at 131st. Combine those elements and it should be a points bonanza, but I have plenty of reason to believe this one will be slightly lower scoring than expected.
While Arizona's offense has been strong, it struggles in the red zone. The Wildcats have scored touchdowns on 55.9% of their red zone possessions, ranking 96th nationally. USC's defense ranks 65th nationally in red zone defense -- not great, but it's far better there than anywhere else on the field. Arizona will likely have to rely on explosive plays to score touchdowns, and while that's certainly possible, it's hard to count on it consistently. Finally, USC's been the same team all year long, but only two of its seven games have seen 77 points or more scored: the season opener against Rice and the loss to Utah. USC's other five games have averaged 54.6 points per game. USC 41, Arizona 24 | Under 76.5
Over of the Week
No. 7 TCU at West Virginia: I don't foresee a lot of stops in this game. While I'm wary of TCU suffering a letdown in a tricky spot on the road after so many huge wins, the West Virginia defense has been awful overall. It's decent against the run but hasn't shown an ability to stop opposing passing attacks yet, and that's not great with Max Duggan and Quentin Johnston coming to town. The Mountaineers defense has also done a terrible job of getting offenses off schedule, and TCU is one of the best early-down offenses in the country.
On the flip side, TCU's defense is better than West Virginia's overall, but it's also struggled against the pass. The Mountaineers have shown the ability to move the ball that way. This is when the last month catches up to the Horned Frogs, and this game becomes a shootout. TCU 41, West Virginia 35 | Over 69
Upset of the Week
Notre Dame at No. 16 Syracuse: Imagine if somebody told you before the season began that Notre Dame would be the underdog in this game and Syracuse would be the ranked team. Here's my question: have things changed that much, or have these teams just run into some unexpected results?
Notre Dame's offense has serious issues, but the Irish are still sound defensively and present matchup problems for Syracuse. While it's far from a sure thing, this could be the week for Notre Dame to finally find success on the ground because Syracuse's defense has been bad in that area. Also, the Irish defense does a good job pressuring QBs, and that's an area in which Syracuse has struggled. This game is nearly a coin flip. Notre Dame 24, Syracuse 21 | Notre Dame (+118)
Games of the Week
Lock of the Week
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