NCF Nation: Central Floirda Knights
Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson
I'm going to pick fewer games from now on to match up with the number of games picked in the other conferences. Basically, I'm randomly grabbing two games from each of the conference I cover and the Independents. I'm trying to pick games with some sort of competitive value.
Ball State 31, Indiana 24: This will be the biggest test for both teams so far this season, but I think Ball State has had a better schedule to prepare for it. The Cardinals have never beaten the Hoosiers, but in the words of Rick Neuheisel, the monopoly is over.
Purdue 34, Central Michigan 21: The third time is not the charm for Central Michigan, who will fall to beat Purdue for the third time in just over a season. Initially, I thought the Chippewas had a chance in this game, but after seeing both teams play last weekend, I'm not so sure. Central Michigan just doesn't look like the team it was a year ago.
Southern Miss 30, Marshall 17: Both of these teams are 2-1, but only Southern Miss has shown dominance -- at times -- against quality opponents. I called the Golden Eagles sleepers at the start of the season and I hold firm to that. If they don't have another defensive meltdown, they should handle the Thundering Herd with ease.
UCF 24, Boston College 17: I went back and forth on this game, but decided that Central Florida is the better team here. I don't buy into home-field advantage here because BC lost at home last weekend. And I think UCF showed that it has the capability to beat some of the big boys. With the USF loss out of their system, I think the Knights go back to work in Boston.
Navy 31, Rutgers 28: I haven't been impressed with either of these teams, but someone has to win. Rutgers hasn't exactly been a defensive juggernaut and if Navy can get it's triple option running again, I think this game will go back and forth. I'm giving Navy the edge with a few Mike Teel interceptions.
Michigan State 35, Notre Dame 24: I'm sorry guys, I'm still not a believer. Jimmy Clausen has been too inconsistent for me to think he'll have success against a Michigan State team -- at home -- that has played pretty well this season. This is a better Notre Dame team than before, but not beating-an-upper-echelon-Big-Ten-team-on-the-road better.
Utah 35, Air Force 21: It's time for one of the Mountain West's undefeateds to fall and it's going to be Air Force. I take nothing away from the Falcons, but Utah has a strong front seven that can control the running game. And without the threat of the pass (AFA had no passing yards last week) it's going to be tough to get past a Utah team that's looking for revenge from last year.
UNLV 21, Iowa State 17: This was a tough call because you can never really predict emotion and momentum and UNLV definitely has both. Also, Iowa State hasn't won a road game under head coach Gene Chizik. A week ago I wouldn't have called this game in the Rebels favor or even this close, so call this a knee-jerk pick.
Arkansas State 27, Middle Tennessee 18: This game will probably be closer than I'm calling it, but I'm giving Arkansas State the advantage because of the home field. Arkansas State also has the No. 6 rushing offense in the country and Middle Tennessee has been susceptible to the run.
Florida Atlantic 32, Minnesota 25: Is it possible that Florida Atlantic could beat the Gophers two years in a row? Absolutely. Florida Atlantic has not had luck with BCS teams this season, but this is a foe with which they can play. Northern Illinois was four points from victory over the Gophers and the Owls are a much better team.
Oregon 34, Boise State 28: I know, I know. I'm always down on the Broncos, but come on, there are way too many variables in this game to like the Broncos' chances. First, the Broncos are young and they're going into a hostile environment. Second, they're going against two quarterbacks who have played sparingly and bring two different styles to the table. Third, the Broncos have never won a true road game against a BCS team. I think they play with Oregon, but I think the variables are too much to overcome.
Fresno State 28, Toledo 20: I thought about putting the Bulldogs on upset alert after last week's loss to Wisconsin knocked them out of the BCS, but I think the core of that team has been around long enough to keep the season in perspective. The Glass Bowl is not an easy place to play, but Toledo isn't what it used to be. This is the Bulldogs' rebound game.