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Waiting For The Reesurrection: Week Two Picks

Tommy Rees fumbles. Image by Neon Tommy / Flickr

Reason No. 475 Why I Love The Internet: ESPN Insider’s “Heisman Predictor” in which Notre Dame’s Tommy Rees was listed ahead of Georgia’s Todd Gurley and South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney, and tied with Oregon’s Marcus Mariota after Week One.  Articles like this are only possible on a weirdish Venn diagram at the intersection of “Manufactured Metrics”, “Search Engine Optimization”, and “Embarrassing Overreactions”.  Even Rees had to be appalled.

To Rees’ credit, his 346-yard, three touchdown performance in a 28-6 win over Temple was certainly worthy of something.  If the Irish repeat on any or all of last year’s success, Rees will be a big part of the reason why.  On the flip side… the game was against Temple.  And this is still Tommy Rees.  Can we pump the brakes a bit?  ESPN’s formula can’t award bonus points for Braxton Miller’s part in last year’s Heisman race without deducting them for the wrath of Tommy Turnover in 2011, the deer-in-headlightedness of Tommy Zombie against BYU in 2012, or the reality of Tommy Backup throughout the majority of last season.  It’s a two-way street.

I’m not here, in Week Two, to debate whether Tommy Heisman will or won’t happen.  And, to be fair, neither is Rees.  All he’s done is be a loyal zealot to the Notre Dame program for the last three seasons, doing whatever Brian Kelly has asked.  Instead of bickering or threatening a transfer in the face of dwindling playing time, Rees quietly learned to command Notre Dame’s offense while earning the respect of his teammates.  He embodies everything a team player should be and deserves to be starting quarterback.

But it is worth wondering how far he can take Notre Dame.  The question Kelly must ask is not whether Rees can, single-handedly, beat Michigan on the road this weekend, but whether he can avoid beating his own team.  Time and time again, costly turnovers and limited physical tools have led Rees down the path of being respected but not taken seriously.  This year, he’ll have one last chance to set the record straight.  So far, so good.

For the record, I’m not anti-Tommy Rees, I’m just justifiably apprehensive.  There’s nothing wrong with being an effective game manager, provided he’s actually effective.  The real nerves will kick in on Saturday night.  Here’s hoping the “Reesurrection” doesn’t kill me in the process.

Onto a few quick picks…

Michigan -3.5 over Notre Dame

I just can’t get the voices out of my head.  TOMMY REES ON THE ROAD!  TOMMY REES ON THE ROAD!  TOMMY REES ON THE ROAD!  Say it with me now: TOMMY.  REES.  ON THE ROAD.

This might be my most elaborate attempt at a Reverse Jinx yet.  Since 2009, Michigan has beaten Notre Dame three times by exactly four points.  In a game where both coaches will, presumably, do as much as they can to prevent against stupid mistakes by their quarterbacks, is there any reason to think this game won’t be close again?  If I could bet on 75 total rushing attempts in this game, I’d consider it.  And that’s even with the knowledge that Michigan’s interior offensive line is a giant question mark.

I still think Notre Dame is the better team here, but I have no faith in the Irish kicking game or in Rees’ ability to play a flawless game in a hostile stadium.  Plus, at some point, the college football gods will eventually strike back at Notre Dame for all the good fortune it had last season.

With all that said…

Notre Dame +4 over Michigan

For all the reasons above, if this line jumps by a half point, as it did earlier in the week, I’d switch my pick in a second.  Four points is just too much in a game that will be decided by a touchdown or less.

USF +23 over Michigan State

This line assumes two statements as fact:

1)    South Florida is as bad as it looked last week in a 52-31 drubbing against McNeese State

2)    Michigan State is capable of scoring 23 offensive points

If you believe either one of these to be false, then the only option here is to take the points.  I’m not sold on anything after one week of football, and teams are never as bad as their worst loss.

USC -14 over Washington State

You just know there’s some guy out there saying “Hey, Washington State almost beat AUBURN last week!” as he banks the Cougars +14.  Ironically, my logic for picking USC -14 is exactly the same.

Reality check:  Auburn isn’t a bowl team in 2013 and neither is Washington State.

The Cougars should be better this season, though, and last week’s showing was a positive sign that things are moving in the right direction.  But let’s not overreact and think they can do the same thing on the road against more talented USC squad.  We love to pick on Lane Kiffin, but there’s a good chance that last week’s first half stinker against Hawaii was the worst USC will look all season.  Even so, the Trojans held the Warriors to just 208 total yards and would’ve covered a 24-point spread if it weren’t for a garbage time touchdown.

USC has major questions at quarterback, and neither Cody Kessler nor Max Wittek left anyone feeling too confident after last week, but I don’t think it will really matter.  Washington State’s “improved” defensive line still surrendered close to 300 yards rushing last week, even when it knew it was coming.  There’s no reason to think the Trojans can’t grind out a solid win on the ground with its defense keeping the Cougars in check.

Ty Hildenbrandt co-hosts The Solid Verbal college football podcast. Follow him on Twitter.