Two weeks into the college football season isn’t enough time to formulate hard-and-fast opinions on teams, but it’s enough of a sample size to know that the talent gap between the Big Ten and other major conferences is growing.
The Big Ten as a whole has long struggled to keep pace with the Southeastern Conference, but this season even the Big Ten’s cornerstone teams seem a step below above-average teams from other conferences.
For example, an argument could be made that Pittsburgh of the newly realized Atlantic Coast Conference, which plays at Florida International this Saturday, is better than any team in the Big Ten. Pittsburgh received three votes in the AP Top 25 poll this week.
Always a step above in this weekly feature we call Joe vs. the Pro, college-football expert Lee Sterling of ParamountSports.com went a very un-Big Ten-like 7-1 against the spread last week. The Pro is now 10-5 against the spread overall and 13-2 straight up. Joe Goodman, the Herald’s college football writer, went a respectable 5-3 against the spread last week. He’s 9-6 against the spread overall and 12-3 straight up. To the picks!
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Central Florida at Missouri, Mizzou by 10
Mizzou sophomore quarterback Maty Mauk gets his first real test of the season. UCF has the talent to keep it close, and potentially pull a road shocker. Mizzou 35, UCF 31
Knights have more offensive weapons as they make QB change to sophomore gunslinger Justin Holman. RB William Stanback and WR Ronell Hall also return from preseason injuries. Missouri 31, Central Florida 24
North Carolina State at South Florida, N.C. State by 1.5
USF squandered so many chances last week against Maryland that it made me slightly nauseous. I highly suggest not watching the Bulls this week on a full stomach. N.C. State 28, USF 20
The Bulls are so bad they had a 6-1 turnover advantage and still couldn't beat Maryland. QB Mike White is also sidelined and backups look like they couldn't start for most Tampa high schools. North Carolina State 23, USF 20
East Carolina at Virginia Tech, Va.Tech by 11
The Pirates’ defense ran out of gas last week against South Carolina, and Virginia Tech appears to be a fourth-quarter team. Virginia Tech 35, East Carolina 23
You can't load the box against Pirates’ QB Shane Carden who completed over 70 percent of his passes and had 33 TD tosses last season. Virginia Tech 27, East Carolina 21
Pittsburgh at Florida International, Pitt by 26.5
Pitt has some serious offensive weapons. With a few breaks, this Panthers’ team could be a playoff darkhorse. Pitt 52, FIU 14
Both Golden Panther QBs McGough and Hilliard are playing at a high level. Humid temps and a look ahead vs Iowa might keep Panthers distracted enough to stay under a four TD spread. Pittsburgh 35, FIU 13
Georgia at South Carolina, UGA by 5.5
Tune in to watch Georgia running back Todd Gurley further humble Steve Spurrier. Gamecocks came into the season highly overrated. Georgia 35, South Carolina 20
When you have a defense allowing 150 rushing YPG and Bulldog RB Todd Gurley and three backups who would start for almost any Div I school in the country you have some big problems. Georgia 45, South Carolina 31
Arkansas State at Miami, UM by 16
Arkansas State didn’t look too bad last week against Tennessee. With a decent pass rush, the Red Wolves could make this interesting. Miami 28, Arkansas State 18
With a new school president due to take over next year, the heat is on Al Golden to win and win big. Red Wolves are competitive, but top three players are banged up and may not be effective even if they do play. Miami 38, Arkansas State 13
Tulsa at Florida Atlantic, Tulsa by 1
Tulsa’s offense regains its form after a pain-for-pay game against Oklahoma. Tulsa 28, FAU 25
Owls banked $2 million for two non-conference blowout losses, but played vanilla on offense and only allowed 277 YPG in conference play last year. Can't trust Tulsa "D" against anyone this year. FAU 27, Tulsa 20
Kentucky at Florida, UF by 18
The Gators are wearing orange, which is always fun. Also fun: actually having healthy players for a game against an SEC opponent. UF 42, Kentucky 20
Two strong recruiting classes and a QB, Patrick Towles, that can sling it finally gives some hope to ending Gators’ 27-game winning streak against SEC East semi-rival. I'm not actually predicting an upset but a cover by a TD is a moral victory. Florida 30, Kentucky 20