Here are the lines as I try to improve from a whopping 4-3 start to the season:
Ohio State (-7) vs. Iowa - The last time I took the Buckeyes, I looked good for the first 50 minutes or so until Jim Tressel's scorching hot romance with the field goal cost his team the game. (In his defense, he probably didn't coach Ryan Hamby to drop a wide open touchdown that would have put the Horns behind the eight-ball, nor did he coach Buckeye fans to then show their class by sending Hamby hate mail. That story never gets old for me, nor does the apology issued by Ohio State's President for the way that Texas fans were treated in Columbus, but I digress.) This sounds like the Bucks' bounce-back game. Last year, Iowa came into the season highly thought of, got embarrassed in a road non-conference game, then got beaten up by the Big Ten favorite on the road. In the interests of everything remaining consistent, we'll take Ohio State to cover, although I'm already pondering the wisdom of picking the Bucks to cover a touchdown when their M.O. under Tressel has been to win every game in overtime.
Virginia Tech (-10.5) vs. Georgia Tech - I'm not a big fan of the Hokie offense, but they play like gangbusters at home and the M.O. of Georgia Tech under Gailey has been that they can't sustain solid performances. Only six teams have stayed within single digits of Virginia Tech at Lane Stadium in the past six seasons. If they get a lead on Georgia Tech and force a quarterback coming back from viral meningitis to rally, then this game will be ugly. By the way, if Marcus Vick had herpes instead of Michael, then there would be all sorts of tasteless one-liners to be had about this game...and I'm just the kind of guy to make them.
Notre Dame (-13) at Washington - Washington is probably worse than Pitt and ND covered this number in Pittsburgh, plus the Irish probably had a great week of practice after losing at home to Michigan State. The media have hyped this game up because of the coaching match-up, but if they paid attention to the two teams that will actually line up against one another (a rare occurrence in today's personality-obsessed media and this comes from the guy who got a "PLANNING TO MARRY!!!" US Weekly headline in his mailbox this week), then there wouldn't be much reason to pay attention to this one.
Michigan (-3) at Wisconsin - After picking the two arch rivals of my alma mater and the arch rival of my law school alma mater, I might as well do something for my self-esteem and take the ol' winged helmets for once. Everyone is obsessed with Michigan's terrible record in road openers this century, but the main reason for that bad record is that Michigan still takes Bo's view of non-conference games as warm ups for the real season: the eight game march in the Big Ten. How else do we explain that Lloyd Carr loses just about every non-conference game on the road, but is a perfect 10-0 in Big Ten openers? Or that Michigan is a ridiculous 35-1 in Big Ten openers since Schembechler became the coach in 1969? This Wisconsin team is overrated right now because they're 3-0 against a bunch of patsies, but they have injuries on the defensive line that will negate their ability to exploit Michigan's banged up offensive line and backfield. UM played last week without its top two right tackles, its right guard, its starting tight end, and its 1,500 yard tailback from last year. This week, it's allegedly getting its right guard and back-up right tackle back, which will mean time to Chad Henne to pick on Wisconsin's bad secondary. (Admittedly, relying on Michigan injury information is like relying on economic statistics from the Communist-era Kremlin.) If Mike Kolodziej and Matt Lentz play at anything close to 100%, then Michigan wins comfortably, i.e. by seven.
One problem with my pick: my youngest brother is currently a freshman at Michigan and, as I warned him, his freshman football season is going exactly as my 1993 freshman year went: easy non-conference win to start the year, followed by upset loss at home to Notre Dame in which the quarterback implodes, followed by easy non-conference win. 1993 was also the year that Michigan lost at Camp Randall Stadium, punctuated by a Heysel-esque riot (minus the projectiles, large death count, and five-year European ban) by always level-headed Badger students. Are we about to have a George Santayana moment?