Christopher Smith

Picks Column: Don't Overcorrect

Created on Oct. 17, 2013 7:26 PM EST

The interstate was supposed to peak in the middle so the sometimes-torrential summer rains would pool off the side of the road.

Instead, this particular spot formed a bowl, collecting water like an oversized bathtub.

Our green minivan skidded the instant the front tires hit the spot, hydroplaning across water a few inches deep. We veered left, and just as I was about to ask my mom why we made a sudden turn, the front windshield became a kaleidoscope. We flipped numerous times, landing upside down on a busy interstate.

My brother's hands dangled in front of me, dripping blood and indicating they belonged to someone unconscious. My mom suffered a serious concussion, and my sister later picked glass out of her eye. We were all OK, but it was one of the scariest moments of my life.

I don't blame her, but my mom had overcorrected once we lost traction and started to skim the surface of the water, and we survived a brutal car accident.

Though I could dunk a basketball in college and my athleticism in high school was good to great, my jump shot ranged to about eight feet. I had no confidence, needed time for my slow release and tended to let my left thumb interfere. I was a strong junk player, a Dennis Rodman of sorts. Occasionally I even got in people's heads.

But line me up for two free throws, and inevitably the first would fall short and right, clanking off the rim. The second often went left and long. I overcorrected.

Miley Cyrus has made a spectacle of herself in 2013, but she's not the first Disney darling to become hypersexual and deviant on and off stage, joining the likes of Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan. Cyrus recently attributed some of her bizarre behavior to distancing herself from the pure, wholesome character she played on the show Hannah Montana.

Can you say overcorrection?

While applying the same mistake to college football picks won't put your life in jeopardy or make you a prime candidate for a morbid death pool, it's a common sand trap for what those in Vegas refer to as "squares."

Don't overreact, for instance, to USC's win against Arizona in Ed Orgeron's first game as interim coach. The Trojans face a tougher opponent this week.

Don't overreact to Florida State's dominant start, which rivals the way Oregon has set fire to its opponents. The Seminoles suddenly are road favorites against Clemson, which is the nation's No. 3 team.

Don't overreact to Stanford's loss or Miami's emergence as a Top 10 team (a bit by default due to losses by other programs).

Let's take a closer look at four games capable of tricking you into an overreaction.

Thursday Special

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Chapel Hill, N.C.)

No. 10 Miami 34, North Carolina 26

Miami is a notch higher and North Carolina is a notch lower than the preseason consensus for the two teams, which in college often indicates the level of talent.

The Tar Heels' defense has been terrible, allowing an ACC-worst 436.0 yards per game, and seems ill-prepared to slow down the tandem of running back Duke Johnson and quarterback Stephen Morris.

Part of North Carolina's struggles are related to a down season for NFL prospect and quarterback Bryn Renner, who is expected to start after missing the last outing against Virginia Tech on Oct. 5 due to an ankle injury. Renner is by far the most talented quarterback the Hurricanes have faced this season, and the Tar Heels are desperate. Miami's pass rush has done well, and expect the Hurricanes to go after Renner, but UNC will play just well enough at home to keep the game close.


Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Clemson, S.C.)

No. 3 Clemson 31, No. 5 Florida State 28

The Seminoles slaughtered Maryland. Jameis Winston is the revelation of the year. Florida State is a three-point favorite. Clemson's offense has been relatively inconsistent, while FSU's 41 points in the season opener are its fewest in five games.

Now let's pump the breaks. If an advance line existed before the season, you can bet the Tigers would've been favored. Clemson already has beaten a Top-5 team. Florida State's best win is against a miscast and mismatched Terps team that didn't belong in the Top 25. Going back to a bowl win against highly-regarded LSU last season, senior Tajh Boyd has five touchdowns against no interceptions in his most recent pair of games against Top 10 opponents.

The Seminoles' defense probably is more talented, but I like Boyd and Clemson's experience and recent history in big games over Winston and Florida State's history of scuffling in at least one big game every year. The winner becomes the third wheel in the final BCS national championship game and likely will earn a slot in the national championship by winning out and waiting for Alabama or Oregon to lose.


Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Stanford, Calif.)

No. 12 Stanford 31, No. 9 UCLA 24

The Cardinal have proved to be an elite football program even after the departure of coach Jim Harbaugh. The defense remains tough, and though Oregon may have twice as many, Stanford has a few special skill players. Quarterback Kevin Hogan isn't bad, and he still has time to develop, but we've seen he must rely on the talent around him at this point and can't beat good teams by himself.

UCLA's rush defense is solid, allowing 141 yards per game on just 3.5 yards per carry. They'll be able to put a good deal of attention toward stopping the run, but I believe Stanford will be able to run the ball at a decent clip. Brett Hundley isn't far off from Johnny Manziel as a multifaceted, slippery college quarterback.

Still, the Cardinal have Top 10 or better talent, not UCLA, which I expect to fall back to around No. 20 after consecutive losses to Stanford and Oregon this month. Don't expect the Cardinal to lose consecutive games. They get a lead and cruise late, as they have in five other wins this year.

Under The Radar

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Notre Dame, Ind.)

Notre Dame 24, USC 21

The Fighting Irish, last year's BCS championship loser, isn't ranked in 2013. Last year's big dud, USC continued to disappoint during the early portion of this season.

Notre Dame, though, is a decent football team with a stud defensive line and a solid rush defense. The Trojans rush for a fraction more than 200 yards per game, and though they're getting back Marqise Lee and have seen quarterback Cody Kessler improve, they need to run the ball against good defenses to have success.

USC's players seem relieved to play for the loose, gregarious Ed Orgeron, who led the team to a win in his first game as interim coach. In my opinion, Orgeron needs to upset Notre Dame for his name to be part of a legitimate discussion of candidates to replace Kiffin next season.

If the Fighting Irish win, however, they should reach 8-2 before facing BYU and Stanford and could work their way toward the Top 15 with games against Air Force, Navy and Pitt. I expect a close, physical, defensive game.

The Rest

Louisville 31, UCF 20
Florida 24, Missouri 23
No. 6 LSU 35, Ole Miss 24
Washington 31, Arizona State 30
No. 7 Texas A&M 38, Auburn 24
Wyoming 42, Colorado State 21
Oklahoma State 28, TCU 21
No. 11 South Carolina 31, Tennessee 21
Cincinnati 27, Connecticut 13
Wisconsin 35, Illinois 17
Oregon State 31, Cal 28

Last Week: 8-7
Season: 81-23

All rankings refer to's Power Dozen.

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