BOZICH & CRAWFORD: U of L, UK, IU, WKU football picks
Rick Bozich and Eric Crawford makes their picks on the Louisville, Kentucky, Indiana, Western Kentucky and Notre Dame games for this weekend -- against the spread.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- I do not wager on college football (or basketball). I have not picked the last 10 Kentucky Derby winners. Hey, I didn’t have American Pharoah (although I did select California Chrome without betting on him.)
Not a gambler. I struggle to predict which line will move fastest at the grocery.
But I do enjoy looking at point spreads because they're a terrific reflection of public sentiment on games and there are countless examples of the fine work the folks do in Las Vegas of picking a number that is remarkably accurate (discounting Purdue-Louisville last week, of course).
With that in mind, my sidekick Eric Crawford and I audibled this season. For several years we have picked five college football games every weekend – and tallied the results simply by correctly predicting the winner.
No king-size challenge in that. Benny The Barber can ring up good weeks because a handful of games are no-brainers.
But against the number?
Not so easy. The only consistent winner doing it that way are the books in Las Vegas. A good oddsmaker always wins.
That said, Eric and I are taking it up a notch this season. We’ll pick five games every weekend against the spread, always focusing on local teams. Join the fun and pick the games with us -- against the number, of course. Feel free to send your pick to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Louisville at North Carolina, noon, ESPN.
You know issues the Cardinals had with fumbling and penalties against Purdue in Indianapolis, but North Carolina was a bigger mess and lost its home opener as a 13-point favorite against California, one of the worst teams in the Pac-12.
The Tar Heels have a mystery at quarterback. Brandon Harris couldn't win at LSU. Larry Fedora thought he was going to turn into Cam Newton at North Carolina?
The biggest reason I like Louisville to win easy at Kenan Stadium: Ross Bowers threw for 363 yards and four touchdowns against the Tar Heels last Saturday -- and those were the first 38 passes of Bowers' career at Cal.
Bowers might blossom into the best quarterback in the Pac-12. But he's not Lamar Jackson. And UNC has made the mistake of questioning Jackson.
According to the Raleigh News & Observer, UNC linebacker Andre Smith said this about Saturday's game:
"We definitely don't want it to be the Lamar Jackson show. So if he's able to beat us with his arm, then -- well, he's not going to beat us at all. I take that back. He's not going to beat us. We're just going to stop anything that he tries to do.
"He's not going to be able to run on us, we have everything solidified with that, and we'll cover downfield and if the receiver's going to make a good play, like they did on Saturday here, Cal, then, I mean, it is what it is. We've got to come back next play and do the same thing."
Clip and save.
The Line: Louisville opened 5 ½ point favorite. Cards by 10.
Eric's Pick: U of L 31, UNC 24.
Rick's Pick: U of L 42, UNC 24.
EKU at Kentucky, noon, SEC Network
Kentucky played OK and won at Southern Miss. No reason to high five but it's certainly better than scoring a boatload of points and losing.
There's reason to be annoyed that the Wildcats ran for only 78 yards, making them one of four SEC teams that failed to rush for 100 yards in the season opener. By November, it won't matter. All that matters is Kentucky failed to lose.
Josh Allen, Denzil Ware and the rest of the defense looked like a group that can keep the Wildcats in most game. The offense is still adjusting to replacing two starters during camp.
WKU put up only 100 yards rushing, 264 passing and 31 points on the Colonels. Those are reasonable markers for the Wildcats to reach Saturday.
The Line: No line against FCS opponent. My line is Wildcats by 33.
Eric's Pick: UK 49, EKU 14.
Rick's Pick: UK 31, EKU 10
Indiana at Virginia, 3:30 p.m., ESPNU
This isn't a Must Win for the Hoosiers, but it's in the neighborhood. With the Big Ten requiring nine league games, this is Indiana's toughest non-conference game -- against a program that defeated IU twice in the last decade. It becomes a tough road to six victories without a victory over the Cavaliers.
It's only Year Two for coach Bronco Mendenhall, who has tried to coach toughness into the Cavaliers. They won their opener against William & Mary and were pleased by the grit they showed.
But Virginia lost its best cornerback to a season-ending injury and was already down one starter in the secondary. IU quarterback Richard Lagow needs play a clean game and exploit holes in the UVa secondary by getting the football to Simmie Cobbs and Ian Thomas. I expect freshman Morgan Ellison to get a longer look at halfback.
The Line: Indiana opened as 2 ½-point favorite. Hoosiers by 3.
Eric's Pick: IU 24, Virginia 21
Rick's Pick: Virginia 24, Indiana 21
WKU at Illinois, 8 p.m., Big Ten Network
Yes, the Hilltoppers defeated Eastern Kentucky but the offense did not crackle the way it did when Jeff Brohm put the scoreboard on TILT in Conference USA.
Only one touchdown pass by Mike White, just the second time in 11 games that White failed to throw for at least two scores. The Hilltoppers averaged 2.5 yards per carry rushing. Even if you subtract the negative yards pinned on White, neither WKU tailback averaged 4 yards per carry.
Illinois ranks 120th in the nation in total offense -- and that was after playing Ball State at home. The Illini can’t score. Dreadful. But their defense is competitive because defense is Lovie Smith's calling card. Mike Sanford vs. Lovie Smith should be a fun chess match.
The Line: WKU opened as 7-point favorite. Hilltoppers by 7 ½.
Eric's Pick: WKU 28, Illinois 21
Rick's Pick: Illinois 20, WKU 18
Georgia at Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m., NBC
The Irish lost a quarterback who will be starting for the Cleveland Browns this week from a team that lost eight of 12 games last season. No wonder ND coach Brian Kelly had a front row seat with Kevin Sumlin of Texas A&M and Butch Jones of Tennessee as the guys who had the most to prove early this season.
I'm not prepared to call the Irish fixed because new quarterback Brandon Wimbush led them to 606 yards and 49 points against Temple. But three ND players delivered 100 yards or more on the ground, and my friend Pat Forde said that when he visited a Notre Dame practice last month the Irish looked the part of an improved team.
Works for me, especially with Georgia starting a freshman quarterback (Jake Fromm) with 15 career passing attempts on the road, under the lights in South Bend.
The Line: Notre Dame opened as 6 ½ points favorite. Irish by 5.
Eric's Pick: Notre Dame 31, Georgia 28
Rick's Pick: Notre Dame 27, Georgia 20.
Record against the spread:
Last Week: Eric 2-3; Rick 4-1.
Season: Eric 2-3; Rick 4-1.
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