My picks in Week 6 were much improved at 8-2, thank you very much. Although I still have a BYU problem. Picking against the Cougars did not work, either. My upset special panned out, so at least there is that. With a 41-23 overall record, I am ready for Week 7.
On to the picks!
NC State 40, East Carolina 27. As much as I want to believe in the Pirates, I do not know if they have the defense to be able to slow down Russell Wilson. But I think I have a pretty good idea. I will give credit to them for one thing -- making all their games quite entertaining to watch. One area to note, East Carolina will be without safety Derek Blacknall, who has been suspended for a helmet-to-helmet hit he delivered last week against Southern Miss.
UPSET SPECIAL: Army 30, Rutgers 20. Army is coming off a big win at Tulane. Rutgers lost to Tulane earlier this year. That is not the reason I am picking the upset special. The Scarlet Knights have struggled all season, nearly losing to FIU, losing to an undermanned North Carolina, and losing to Tulane. Yes, Rutgers looked much better last week with Chas Dodd at quarterback, but Army has an experienced, opportunistic defense that will present him problems. Army leads the nation in turnover margin, and the Black Knights have scored 86 points off 16 takeaways while allowing only 10 points on four giveaways.
Ball State 24, Eastern Michigan 20. The Cardinals had one of their worst games under coach Stan Parrish last week in a loss to Western Michigan, and now they get winless Eastern Michigan to ease the suffering. This game is not going to be a walkover. The Eagles have come close in a few of their conference games this season, and will keep this one close, too.
Houston 31, Rice 24. The Cougars are not going to blow anybody out with a freshman playing quarterback. Will I regret those words? Maybe. David Piland did throw for 300 yards last week, but he had no help. The running game was totally stymied. I think Houston will have an easier time rushing the ball Saturday, but this one is going to be a fight until the end.
SMU 33, Navy 23. Call this upset special No. 2 since the Midshipmen are 1.5 point favorites to win the game. Though the Midshipmen are coming off a big win against Wake Forest and Ricky Dobbs looked more like himself, SMU is really looking solid on offense behind Kyle Padron. The defense has stepped up, too, behind Ja’Gared Davis, who will wreak Havoc for Dobbs.
No. 4 TCU 34, BYU 14. I know BYU is 2-4, but am still surprised the Cougars are 29-point underdogs. Perhaps they found a spark on defense now that Bronco Mendenhall is in charge, but this team is not anywhere near improved enough to win this game. TCU has too much talent on offense and defense. Andy Dalton is completing 82 percent of his passes at home this season, and the TCU defense will be able to slow down JJ Di Luigi and force true freshman Jake Heaps into mistakes.
No. 23 Air Force 24, San Diego State 20. The Aztecs have been on the losing end of two heartbreakers, and both games featured bad calls that cost them. They have a very real chance at upsetting the Falcons if they can get their run game going. Air Force coach Troy Calhoun has made it a point to stress to his defense it must improve against the run. In the end, Tim Jefferson and that triple offense are going to be too much for a defense that is still learning and improving.
No. 19 Nevada 45, Hawaii 44. A shootout, island style. Nevada has not beaten Hawaii in Honolulu since 1948, and it is a difficult task for any team to make the long trip out to the islands. But Nevada is playing well on offense, behind Colin Kaepernick and Vai Taua, and on defense, where Dontay Moch continues to bust through double teams and chip blocks for tackles behind the line. Moch will be able to pressure high-flying Bryant Moniz enough to rattle him and take him out of rhythm.
UAB 30, UTEP 27. I got some e-mail into the mailbag yelling at me for not noticing UTEP, which is off to a 5-1 start. I have noticed all right. It has played just one team with a winning record. The other FBS teams it has beaten have a combined three victories. That includes a last-second win over Memphis. So I am not quite ready to declare UTEP for real, though I will say Trevor Vittatoe is a joy to watch. UAB is coming off an embarrassing loss to UCF, but this as close to a must-win as you can get. The Blazers find a way to pull it out.
North Texas 28, FIU 27. This has been a disastrous season for the Mean Green as injuries have taken a serious toll throughout the team. They are down to their fourth quarterback in Chase Baine, but having Lance Dunbar in the backfield gives them a chance. They have lost their two conference games by a combined six points. FIU is improved, but the Panthers have had problems against the run. Dunbar is in line for a big game.