NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Southern California

We got Iowa'd last week, boys and girls. The Hawkeyes and their black magic proved to be the difference between a 4-2 week and the 3-3 record we posted. Not that I absolve myself of all the blame here. My Lock of the Week on Arkansas State quickly proved to be a mistake. I can't believe I put myself in a position to depend on a Butch Jones-led team on the road.

Still, while I'll own up to that mistake, I will go to my grave convinced taking Purdue was the right play. We basically lost due to one play: Iowa's Kaleb Johnson broke loose for a 67-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, which was the difference.

How big of a difference? Aside from that 67-yard run, Iowa had 224 yards of offense on its other 55 plays. Quarterback Deacon Hill completed only 6 of 21 passes for 110 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Hill also fumbled, but the Hawkeyes got it back.

Purdue was the better overall team outside of one play, but it didn't matter. Iowa won because long ago it made a deal with some evil entity that agreed to let it win games but only in the ugliest manner possible.

It's time to shake that one off and get back to work on this week's games. Hopefully, we'll find ourselves on the right side of luck this week.

Odds via SportsLine consensus

Games of the Week

No. 8 Oregon at No. 7 Washington: I love Washington. I declared it a Wagon weeks ago (you can't spell Washington without W-A-G-O-N!), and it remains a Wagon no matter the result this weekend. The problem for the Huskies is that of all the teams they'll play this season, Oregon is their most difficult matchup. It's no secret that Washington's defense is its weakness, but that's because its offense is so potent. In truth, the defense isn't great, but it's not terrible, either. Its weakest spot is up front along the interior and defending the run.

The Huskies allow only 3.8 yards per carry, but their success rate ranks 97th from a down-to-down perspective. This will be a problem against an Oregon offensive line that is one of the best in the country and especially strong along the interior. The best way to stop Washington's offense is to keep it off the field, and the Ducks will lean on their ground game to do so. That should keep things close if nothing else, so I will take the points with the underdog. The Pick: Oregon +3 (-105)

No. 10 USC at No. 21 Notre Dame: Notre Dame looks exhausted, which should be expected considering its last three games (Ohio State, Duke and Louisville) have been tough. It's a good thing it can rest easy this weekend trying to stop Caleb Williams and the Trojans! I have no idea who will win this game. Both teams are good but have obvious flaws. After scoring 46 points per game in their first four, the Fighting Irish have averaged 18.3 points in their last three. USC's defense is better compared to last season but still isn't what anybody would consider "good."

What stands out about this matchup is the weather forecast. Temperatures in the mid-40s with rain and high winds are predicted for Saturday evening in South Bend, Indiana. If you're looking for a weather forecast capable of slowing down the USC offense, that's what we'll get Saturday. That, combined with Notre Dame's conservative offensive approach in big games, leads me to believe this won't be a high-scoring affair. The Pick: Under 60.5 (-110)

Lock of the Week

Florida at South Carolina: I know how dumb this sounds, but I'd pick South Carolina if this game was being played in the evening. You see, the South Carolina State Fair is going on this weekend, and the atmosphere at Williams-Brice can get a bit cuckoo this time of year, particularly when the game starts late and fans have had plenty of time to "prepare." With the afternoon start, however, things will be a little less raucous.

That makes it a lot easier to take the Gators. I don't think Florida is incredible, but it's better than South Carolina. The key matchup is a Florida pass rush that ranks No. 21 nationally in pressure rate and No. 2 in my Chaos Rate statistic. It'll face off against a South Carolina offensive line that's been a disaster all year. The Gamecocks rank No. 121 in pressure rate against and No. 127 in sack rate allowed. Quarterback Spencer Rattler has been an absolute warrior all season as he's constantly under fire, but it is so hard to win that way and I don't expect the Gamecocks to this weekend. The Pick: Florida +2.5 (-106)

Under of the Week

Texas A&M at No. 19 Tennessee: While it'll be warmer in Knoxville than South Bend, the same weather system impacting the Notre Dame game will be felt at Neyland Stadium. This game will likely be wet, but more important to our interests are the 15 mph winds expected. No weather factor has a more significant impact on scoring in football than wind. Still, I'd like the under in this one even if it was 75 and sunny with a slight breeze.

Why? Neither team can finish drives. With Tennessee, it's a situation in which quarterback Joe Milton is better at taking deep shots than short to intermediate throws, which handicaps the Volunteers' offense a bit on shorter fields. Texas A&M's red zone efficiency ranks No. 91 nationally, meanwhile. I'm not entirely sure there's exactly one thing on which to pin the blame, but my theory is the Aggies are so bad on first and second down that they leave themselves in too many third-and-long situations. Of Texas A&M's 78 third-down attempts this year, 50% have been 7 yards or more. It's hard to finish drives when you're routinely in those spots. The Pick: Under 55.5

Big 12 Newcomer of the Week

BYU at TCU: The BYU offense has struggled mightily in its first Big 12 season, which is why it's such a large underdog in this spot. Still, I see plenty of opportunity for the Cougars. TCU quarterback Chandler Morris suffered a sprained MCL in last week's loss to Iowa State and won't play in this game. Instead, it'll be redshirt freshman Josh Hoover making his first career start.

Hoover threw for 119 yards in relief of Morris last week, but he also tossed an interception and averaged only 6.3 yards per attempt. Odds are, the Frogs will keep things somewhat conservative with the inexperienced QB against a stingy BYU defense, so it'll be hard for the Frogs to pull away. If Hoover has any freshman moments, the Cougars could get this one outright. The Pick: BYU +6 (-110)

Silver State Battle of the Week

UNLV at Nevada: I don't know if you've noticed, but UNLV is fun and pretty good, too. I cannot say the same about Nevada. There's a strong argument to be made that the Wolf Pack are the worst team in the country. All you have to do is point to any statistic you want. Pick one randomly, and there's a strong chance that the Wolf Pack will rank 100th or worse nationally. 

The Rebels aren't juggernauts, but they should be able to run the ball at will against this Nevada defense. It's not always pretty from down to down, but the Rebels rank No. 19 nationally with an explosive run rate of 13.6%; Nevada ranks No. 111 in success rate against the run, No. 132 in yards allowed before contact and No. 128 in explosive rush rate against. I get there's a rivalry aspect to this game which can sometimes gum up the works, but anything less than 10 points with the Rebels feels like stealing. The Pick: UNLV -9.5

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