Mitchell: Now let’s focus on the coming week of action in college football. Notre Dame and Navy renew their rivalry on Saturday. Navy has had the upper hand the last couple of years as Brian Kelly looks to reverse the trend. Will Notre Dame be able to end the two year losing streak to the Midshipmen?
Strobl: I don’t know what to make of the Irish this year. They look great one minute and terrible the next, so who could possibly predict which team will show up in week 8? They shot themselves in the foot repeatedly in their win over Pitt but still walked away victors…will it be a similar story against Navy? Or will they once again fail to capitalize on opportunities and lose as a result? This year’s Navy squad isn’t quite as good as it has been of late. Yes, the defense did impress me by limited Air Force to 14 points, and yes the Midshipmen did knock off a scrappy SMU team last week. But I think Notre Dame comes in as the better team. When in doubt, I’ll go with Kelly’s offensive genius…though I never enjoy watching the Irish win. PICK: Notre Dame
Mitchell: It’s a toss up in my opinion. Both teams have been inconsistent this season. Notre Dame has looked much better since their 1-3 start to the season and have put together three straight wins over Boston College, Pittsburgh, and Western Michigan. Navy has looked good in spurts this season, but not so good in other games. Their season opening loss to Maryland still sticks out in my head and their other loss to Air Force isn’t that bad. We have yet to see which Navy team is which. Is it the team that lost to Maryland in the season opener or is it the team that beat SMU last week? I think this will be a turning point for both teams this season for better or worse. It could go either way, but I like the Irish in a close one. PICK: Notre Dame
Bigalke: I’m not convinced. Sure, Navy is nowhere near the potential BCS Buster that I predicted they’d be this season. But they are still coming off two straight wins over the Irish, they still have their leader on offense there to help guide them to victory, and while Charlie Weis no longer waddles the Notre Dame sideline the team still has yet to completely buy into the Brian Kelly ethos. It really comes down to a question of quarterbacks in this contest. Who do you like more, Dayne Crist or Ricky Dobbs? While Crist is the more highly-touted passer, that’s not how the Middies run their offense. Dobbs is a consummate leader, and he’s going to have his team fired up to deal Notre Dame their first two-loss streak in this long-running matchup since the Midshipmen knocked off the Irish in both 1960 and 1961. PICK: Navy
Kansas State and Baylor both have a shot at bowl eligibility on Saturday in Waco, but only one will achieve it. Which team comes out on top and gains bowl eligibility?
Mitchell: I said last year that Baylor would get to a bowl game. Little did I know that Robert Griffin would blow out his knee and it would put their bowl hopes on hold for a season. But, Griffin has returned and looks just as good if not better than ever. He’s lead Baylor to the brink of bowl eligibility and they need only one win to get there. They have a great shot at doing so on Saturday at home against a Kansas State team that has looked less than impressive lately. The Wildcats were 4-0 until they were beaten soundly by Nebraska on a Thursday night 48-13. They did, however rebound nicely with a 59-7 win over rival Kansas on Saturday. But, I still don’t think Kansas State is as good as their 5-1 record shows and I think Baylor is a better team than anybody wants to give them credit for. I like Baylor to edge out Kansas State and gain bowl eligibility. PICK: Baylor
Bigalke: Ah, Baylor. How you’ve got everyone so excited about your first bowl bid in ages. And it really can happen this weekend against a Wildcats team that has won the field position battle, shut down opponents’ passing games and relied largely on RB Daniel Thomas to generate their offense. Why? Well, Baylor (believe it or not) has the 8th best offense in the nation and scores over 33 points a game. And they can beat you either through the air or on the ground, which will be valuable against a K-State team that is fearsome against the pass but among the six worst teams in the nation in rushing defense. Baylor doesn’t exactly bring a lockdown D to the table either, as they allow just 3 fewer yards a game to opponents than the Wildcats. But they do have Griffin to test Kansas State’s defense both ways, and that should make the difference. PICK: Baylor
Strobl: Oh man, this is a toss-up. And I didn’t expect to be saying that with Baylor involved. All of a sudden, it’s very difficult to bet against the Bears. Even in last week’s loss they looked good, taking Texas Tech down to the wire before falling 45-38. Kansas State comes in at 5-1 but got slammed by the only “good” team it’s played—a 48-13 beatdown by Nebraska. The Wildcats scraped by UCLA, UCF, and Iowa State, but Baylor is better than that trio and has the benefit of the home field. I love what Bill Snyder is doing this season, and frankly, this game could go either way without surprising me. But I give the edge to the Bears in what I think will be a high-scoring affair. PICK: Baylor
TCU looks to keep their BCS bowl hopes and National Title hopes alive as they host a pretty good Air Force team that took Oklahoma to the brink of an upset. Will TCU stay unbeaten?
Bigalke: Look, I like Air Force’s offense — a lot. And there’ s a lot to like about it. But losing Jared Tew for the season really hurts the look of their triple option. And their defense is decent, but it is hardly the one TCU will field. I thought the Falcons would come into this game with momentum, the thing they needed most to have a chance against the Horned Frogs. Instead, they lost last weekend to San Diego State and dealt themselves a second blow. Air Force will get at least two more wins before the season is out and earn bowl eligibility yet again, but they’re not going to get it this week when they travel to Texas. PICK: TCU
Strobl: Don’t sleep on the Air Force offense. The Falcons are a strong team despite last week’s upset loss. But TCU is in an entirely different class. The Horned Frogs are good enough to compete with any team in the nation. I’m confident that you could throw that team into any of the AQ conference and it would acquit itself quite well. TCU’s defense is the stingiest in the nation, allowing only 9.3 points per game, and while Air Force may surpass that total I don’t see them escaping with a win here. Andy Dalton and company continue to roll towards a matchup of unbeatens—mark the November 6th matchup at Utah on your calendars. PICK: TCU
Mitchell: I like Air Force, but I think the only real threat to TCU in the Mountain West is Utah. I think the Falcons can and will keep this game close, but in the end they just don’t have enough to knock off the Horned Frogs. Of course, the Air Force triple-option offense always poses a different kind of challenge, because it’s something you don’t see very often, but there isn’t a better prepared defense in the nation than Gary Patterson’s crew. As long as Patterson has been at TCU, he’s had defenses that could stack up against any other in the nation. I think TCU’s defense will be too much for Air Force to overcome and Andy Dalton and the Horned Frogs offense will be able to do enough to earn a win. PICK: TCU
Washington is fresh off a win over Oregon State and will now head to Tucson for a game with Arizona. I know, we’ve been hard on Jake Locker here, but he looked really impressive against Oregon State. Can he piece together another strong performance and lead Washington past Arizona?
Strobl: Arizona hasn’t impressed me, and given that Locker and his mates just beat the team that so recently beat the Wildcats would argue for a Huskies victory. But I don’t think it’ll happen. Remember that OSU was without James Rodgers, and it took a pair of overtime periods for Washington to emerge with the win. Locker looked good in week 7 but his overall numbers are still mediocre, and I have to believe that Mike Stoops will be looking to make a statement after falling to the Beavers two weeks ago. Beating Wazzu in week 7 was all fine and good, but Arizona wants to reset its reputation, and that will require a living, breathing opponent. Jake Locker gets a ton of media attention (which, frankly, still confuses me) but Nick Foles is by far the better passer in this matchup. He’ll be playing in front of his Tucson crowd. I don’t expect it to be an easy win for ‘Zona, but I do think the home team prevails. PICK: Arizona
Mitchell: Sticking with my upset selection, I’m going with Washington to knock off Arizona. I just don’t think Arizona will have enough offensive firepower without Nick Foles in there and that will ultimately prove costly for the Wildcats. Washington’s offense can and will put up points on Arizona led by Jake Locker at QB and Chris Polk at RB. I think if Foles were playing, I would most likely take Arizona to defend their home turf, but in his absence, I like Washington and I think Jake Locker will put together his second consecutive strong performance and put Washington squarely in the middle of the Pac 10 Title race. PICK: Washington
Bigalke: Looks like I’ve got the tiebreaker here. And I’d like to take a look at a couple of statements each of you guys hit on. Matt’s picking Arizona, it seems, largely based on the presence of a quarterback who likely won’t play in this game unless his knee miraculously gets 100% before kickoff. And while, as Matt says, Washington’s offense can score points, they’re also contending with a defense that I have rated amongst the best FIVE in college football. Remember what the Wildcats were able to do to the Hawkeyes; that wasn’t all Nick Foles. So this all comes down to luck. Washington had it in droves last week, beating a Beavers squad in double overtime that knocked off Arizona. If you go by the associative property, Washington should win this one. But they haven’t faced a defense like this since Nebraska, and we all saw how that one turned out. PICK: Arizona
Oklahoma State is undefeated, but they haven’t gotten much respect. They will get the chance to gain respect as they welcome Nebraska into Stillwater. Will Oklahoma State stay undefeated or will Nebraska rebound from their loss to Texas?
Mitchell: I still don’t really know what to make of Oklahoma State. The one thing I do know is that they are much better than anybody expected this season. There is not a person out there that predicted the Cowboys to start this season 6-0. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Oklahoma State and the popular pick was them finishing 5th in the Big XII South. Instead, we are late in October and the Cowboys still have an unblemished record. But, to be honest, they haven’t exactly played the top level competition either. They have yet to play a nationally ranked opponent, but that will change on Saturday as they welcome Nebraska into Stillwater. Oklahoma State had the easy part of their schedule early on in the season and will now get ready for a tough slate of games to finish the season. I just think, even after Nebraska’s loss to Texas last Saturday in Lincoln, they are by far a more talented team than Oklahoma State. Mike Gundy’s team has been able to have a lot of success offensively, but they will be facing the best defense they have seen all season long by a considerable margin. I don’t think the Oklahoma State offense will have its way against the Nebraska offense like they have with others in the past and I like Taylor Martinez to rebound nicely with a strong performance against Oklahoma State. PICK: Nebraska
Bigalke: The undefeated teams just keep falling, and the Huskers would love nothing more than to do to a Big XII South school what Texas did to them last week. They have to go on the road to try to pull it off against an Oklahoma State team that has surprised its way to an undefeated first half. The Cowboys are one of those teams that is hard to get a real draw on, though — are they as good as their record, or are they merely a product of a weak early schedule that saw them face off against such non-conference powerhouses as Washington State, Troy, Tulsa and the Ragin’ Cajuns of Louisiana-Lafayette? The X-factor in this game will be Cowboys RB Kendall Hunter. Nebraska might have the best defense in the country against the pass, but apparently the run defense is missing Ndamukong Suh more than they’d like to admit — the Huskers are just 74th in the nation against the run, allowing over 150 yards a game. Hunter, averaging 138 a game, can gash Nebraska if they don’t tighten up quick. Could Mike Gundy’s squad be #1 in the Big XII South by the end of this contest? PICK: Nebraska
Strobl: This is another in a long list of pick ‘em games this week. I would have said Nebraska, hands down…but then I saw week 7 unfold. Okie State looked great in Lubbock and the Huskers flopped against two-loss Texas. It could very well be that we’ve all been underestimating Mike “I’m a MAN” Gundy and his Cowboys. On the other hand, I think Bo Pelini will be running his guys extra hard this week, forcing them to atone for all the mistakes made on Saturday. The receiving corps will be a focus for his anger, and I have to think that the offense will be better this week. Nebraska has the better D, so assuming the wideouts can hang onto Martinez’s throws this time, I think Nebraska wins a tough one. PICK: Nebraska
Wisconsin is fresh off of their win over #1 Ohio State, but it doesn’t get any easier as they go on the road to play Iowa. Will Wisconsin get another big win, or will Iowa defend their home field?
Bigalke: It all comes down to one thing: Can the Badgers sustain the momentum they brought into their home matchup against the Buckeyes? Bret Bielema got his squad incredibly fired up to play OSU, and usually that level of energy is hard to sustain through two straight games against strong opposition. It also doesn’t help Wisconsin that this game is being played on the road in Iowa City. But call me a homer, call me what you will, I think the Badgers can pull out a second straight victory in this contest. We saw what happened the only time so far this year when Iowa played a strong defense, and that was Arizona’s “upset” victory. Wisconsin can stop Adam Robinson, so this one is going to come down to Stanzi’s arm. If Ricky can find his receivers and carve out the holes in the Badger secondary, Iowa wins. Despite his top-3 passer efficiency nationally, though, I still am befuddled by decisions he makes at times. Tolzein also makes his blunders, but with Clay and White to back him up they’ll show better balance. So homer I may be, but I’ve got to go this direction with my pick. PICK: Wisconsin
Strobl: As I discussed earlier, Wisconsin’s offense, as good as it is on the ground, plays right into Iowa’s hands. The Hawkeyes are built to control the line of scrimmage. Michigan found some weaknesses last week by throwing the ball all over the yard, but the Badgers can’t really do that. Wisconsin passes to set up the run, but I don’t expect Iowa to bite. I think the Hawkeyes will stay focused on stopping John Clay and James White, and if they can, Wisconsin will lose. Of course, having beaten OSU, the Badgers have clearly demonstrated what they’re capable of. A win by either team wouldn’t surprise me. I’ll take Iowa, with the home field and the superior D. PICK: Iowa
Mitchell: Wisconsin was impressive last week against Ohio State, but things just don’t get any easier as they take to the road to play Iowa this week. Unfortunately for Wisconsin, their style of play will play right into the hands of the Hawkeyes. Iowa loves the kind of game they will get with Wisconsin as the Badgers will try to show the ball down Iowa’s throats and you just can’t do that. Iowa dominates teams at the line of scrimmage and I think that trend will continue on Saturday. It’s going to Big Ten football on Saturday. Iowa should be able to get the better of Wisconsin and I like that pick mainly because I have a little more faith in Ricky Stanzi then I do Scott Tolzein. It should be close, but Iowa should come away with a victory and move another step toward the Big Ten Title and a berth in the Rose Bowl. PICK: Iowa
We have two big undefeated vs. undefeated matchups on Saturday. First, the #1 team in the BCS, Oklahoma goes on the road to face off with Missouri. Will Oklahoma strengthen their hold on the #1 spot in the BCS, or will Missouri pull off the upset?
Strobl: Oklahoma is the better team. But sticking with my upset alert, I’ll Mizzou here. The Sooners have been inconsistent—will we see the team that dismantled Florida State, or the team that should have suffered its first defeat in Cincinnati? Missouri has put itself in excellent position to earn a BCS berth, but there are a number of obstacles between the Tigers and that goal. This is first major test the team will face. The good news is that they get to face it at home. The bad news is that Oklahoma is clearly one of the nation’s best teams. #1? Probably not. But certainly Top 10. Missouri will have to play mistake-free football. But if they do, the Tigers have a real shot at staying unbeaten. PICK: Missouri
Mitchell: Missouri is another team that is quite a bit better than what we thought coming into this season. They were a popular pick to finish second in the Big XII North during the preseason, but just like Oklahoma State, they haven’t really played anybody either. Their biggest wins to date were over Illinois and Texas A&M. Missouri’s defense seems legit, but they will face their stiffest challenge to date when they host Oklahoma on Saturday. The Sooners are the #1 team in the BCS, but they haven’t looked that impressive either so far this season. I like their wins over Florida State and the 52-0 win over Iowa State last Saturday, but they have been really inconsistent thus far. They had serious trouble in games against Utah State, Air Force, and Cincinnati. They always found a way to win, but you have to think this team is prime to be knocked off at some point. I just don’t see it being this week. I think Landry Jones and DeMarco Murray will both have good games and it will be enough to lead them past Mizzou. PICK: Oklahoma
Bigalke: I’m more likely to ascribe to the notion that Missouri is a better team than we credit them with being. Why? Because while all the focus starts around Blaine Gabbert and the offense, the defense is far better than the one Oklahoma brings to town. They’ll get pressure on Landry Jones all day long, tying up his receivers in the secondary and giving him no chance to find outlets for his passes in time. So it will fall almost entirely on DeMarco Murray to see what he can do against the Tigers. As long as they keep the tailback from having a big game, Gabbert and company can carve up a Sooners defense that is quite frankly mediocre at best this season. I’m still astounded that the computers are so high on this team, but then imagine if margin of victory were still in the BCS equation — they’d instantly be sitting down outside the top-five, I’m guessing. Here’s guessing they end up outside of that mark once this game is over. PICK: Missouri
The other matchup will see LSU travel to the Plains and play Auburn with major SEC West implications on the line. Will LSU take control of the SEC West and get a big road win, or will Auburn stay undefeated and seize control of the division?
Mitchell: Both of these teams have had some really good fortune this season. They have both won games that they probably shouldn’t have, but that doesn’t matter, because both are still undefeated. It’s a contrast of styles as Auburn brings in one of the most high powered offenses in the nation to try and attack one of the nation’s stingiest defenses. Usually, when a great offense meets a great defense, the defense prevails, but this is an unusual case. LSU just doesn’t have anything that you can call an offense, regardless of if it is Jordan Jefferson or Jarrett Lee at QB. I think if LSU is going to win this game, then they are going to need big plays in the special teams. I think they are going to need a punt or kick return for a touchdown from Patrick Peterson or they are going to have to force Auburn into turnovers and get a short field for their offense to work with. Auburn struggled earlier in the season against a formidable defense in Mississippi State and they will face an even tougher one when LSU comes to town. I think LSU can win if they are able to contain Cameron Newton and hold Auburn to around 21 points and possibly get a couple of turnovers, they will beat Auburn. But, I’ve picked against Auburn too many times and been wrong this season. It’s time for some reverse psychology. PICK: Auburn
Bigalke: I’m still waiting for Les Miles to pull the rabbit’s foot out of his backside. This guy must open his Cracker Jack box and find gold doubloons. He’s the kind of guy who would be fooled by a Rolexxx hawker on the street corner… and then get home to find he’d actually bought a rare version of a real Rolex that’s worth more than if he’d gone to buy one new. I really don’t know any other way to describe him. Really, though, do you want to bet against Les Miles? He thrives on the doubt, it seems, and honestly I’m still convinced at this point that he’s a far better coach than Gene Chizik. How Miles has milked win after win out of this season so far despite having an offense that is downright offensive is beyond me, truly the mark of a great coach. Right? After all, if Chizik had anyone else under center besides Cameron Newton, do you think he’d be undefeated at this point? Miles’ success has been predicated on punishing defense and opportunity striking at the right time. Auburn’s success is easier to define. They’ve employed Newton to bowl over defenses left and right. He hasn’t faced one as good as LSU’s, though, and maybe I’m just crazy this week but I like the Tigers’ chances — the visiting Tigers, that is. PICK: LSU
Strobl: Ah yes, the Luck Bowl. Both of these teams sicken me—Auburn should have lost to Clemson but got extremely fortunate on a re-kicked field goal that followed a very strategic timeout. Then the team barely beat South Carolina…after Stephen Garcia was forced out of the game with an injury. And it took “official” intervention for Auburn to pull away from Arkansas in week 7. But LSU has been even worse, needing a miraculous penalty to escape Knoxville. The Bayou Bengals could have easily fallen to West Virginia if not for a couple of breaks on special teams. And let’s not forget the week 1 win they very nearly choked away…a win over a UNC team that was missing half its roster. Both of these teams are paper Tigers. Auburn has no defense and LSU has no offense. At least the run of luck has to end for one of them. The difference will be Auburn’s ability to score, the home field advantage, and Cam Newton. PICK: Auburn