Hello to newcomers and those who have been reading this column since its conception a few weeks ago. Last week was the first week where I found myself below the coveted .500 mark, only going two for five. One of my two correct calls came in the University of Connecticut game, where the Huskies covered the spread for the third straight game in a heartbreaking loss to Vanderbilt. I totally misjudged Georgia, who covered and more in their demolition of Arkansas, which I mispicked. My only other correct pick came with Alabama in a game that ended up seeing the Crimson Tide cover by a decent margin in a 21-point beating of Ole Miss. My record now stands at 8-7, which is still over .500, but could use some improvement this week with a few matchups that should be very exciting.
Stratton’s Record: 8-7 (.533); 2-3 last week
No. 6 Oklahoma (-3.5) at No. 21 Texas (Saturday at 12:00 p.m. on ABC):
One thing that college football has taught us this season is that there are no guarantees past No. 1 Alabama or No. 2 Georgia. In the Red River Rivalry that will host ESPN’s College Gameday this Saturday, two surprisingly underwhelming teams will play. In the beginning of the season, most looked at Oklahoma QB Spencer Rattler and said “this guy will win the Heisman Trophy.” Not anymore. Rattler has been underwhelming up to this point, barely leading the Sooners to an undefeated record against ranked competition. Texas had an unimpressive performance against Arkansas earlier this year and has done reasonably well against their other competition. Rattler is capable of better than the results have demonstrated up to this point and he will have a breakout game.
The pick: Oklahoma
No. 13 Arkansas at No. 17 Ole Miss (-5.5) (Saturday at 12:00 p.m. on ESPN):
This will be a fun matchup between the two teams that got slaughtered by the nation’s top two teams in their respective games last week. Prior to that game, Arkansas looked impressive with multiple ranked wins over Texas schools but failed to score against Georgia’s impressive defense. Ole Miss has just been less proven overall, but at least scored against Alabama, which is an achievement within itself. The Rebels’ QB Matt Corral has lit up the stat sheet so far this year, with 1,210 passing yards and 10 touchdowns, while the team hasn’t had much of a run game to speak of. Despite this, I like the Razorbacks here just because they have a more proven ability to win ranked games, or cover at the very least.
The pick: Arkansas
No. 2 Georgia (-15.5) at No. 18 Auburn (Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on CBS):
This one doesn’t need to be too long. Simply put, the spread here is too small for a Georgia team that looks head and shoulders better than everyone else they’ve played to this point. The defense is incredible and regardless of how good Auburn may be, they haven’t beat a ranked team. The Bulldogs have two such wins and have allowed a combined three points in those games. The offense hasn’t been incredible, but it’ll be plenty to cover with the arm of QB JT Daniels.
The pick: Georgia
No. 4 Penn State at No. 3 Iowa (-1.5) (Saturday at 4:00 p.m. on FOX):
This contest is without a doubt the most exciting of the week. Two top five teams don’t play each other all too often, so let’s make the most of it. Iowa is led by RB Tyler Goodson, who has been sensational this season with 430 yards and five touchdowns. The Hawkeyes have played a fraudulent Indiana team, but, otherwise, their only ranked win is a solid one over Iowa State. The team has generally looked impressive, but so has Penn State. QB Sean Clifford has been great so far this year for the Nittany Lions, passing for 1,336 yards and 11 touchdowns just five games in. The team has two ranked wins and one against Indiana too, making for an impressive resume. The spread here is as good as even and the roaring Hawkeye crowd will bring Iowa victory.
The Pick: Iowa
UConn (-3.5) at UMass (Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on FloSports):
This is the main event. Think Yankees-Red Sox, Celtics-Lakers, Alabama-Auburn, UConn-UCF (ConFLiCT time!) or any major rivalry in sports. This is better. This is historic. In yesterday’s ESPN Bottom 10 rankings, Ryan McGee dubbed the game the “Pillow Fight of the Week of the Year of the Century of the Millennium,” a statement that I 100% endorse. In our Point/Counterpoint, yesterday, fellow Campus Correspondent Evan Rodriguez and I labeled the game the “Toilet Bowl.” It does not get bigger than this, with two winless teams facing off for what will likely be either team’s lone win of the year. UConn is on their third QB of the year in Stephen Krajewski, who actually had a nice game against Vanderbilt, although the defense broke down late. The Huskies have also covered in three straight games. As unimpressive as UConn has been, UMass has been worse. Expect this one to get ugly.
The pick: UConn