Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Week 6 College Football Picks: The BCS Doomsday Scenario

In all fairness, we already witnessed the BCS Doomsday Scenario. It happened in 2011 when LSU and Alabama were the two best teams in the country. The problem was that the two best teams happened to reside in the same division of the same conference and already played. When the rematch took place, no one watched. Okay, some people watched but not enough. And that was the end of the BCS.

But in true BCS-ian fashion, nothing is ever easy. Even though there is a 4-team playoff looming, we have this lame duck season to trudge through. Why? Who knows? Who cares? I may believe the college football playoff won’t work, but it’s certainly better than the current system*.

*College football needs a 16-team playoff with 10 conference champions as automatic bids and 6 wild cards. Period, end of story. Play the semifinals on New Year’s Day in the Rose Bowl and the Orange or Sugar Bowl. Championship game is the same as it will be next year. And everyone cashes checks with lots of zeros. The only reason this hasn’t happened is due to the ridiculous notion that the regular season would mean nothing. The NFL is possibly going to a 14-team playoff tournament, with the thoughts of its own 16-team playoff. Yes, 16 teams in a 32-team league. Anyone saying the NFL’s regular season doesn’t matter? But I digress…

alabama wins 25-0
Last year, the national title contenders were pretty clearly defined, pretty early in the season. It was Alabama, Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame. Those were the four, with Georgia and Florida creeping in late due to upsets. But for most of October and November, we locked in on those four – Louisville was undefeated for a while too but not treated as a contender as they are this year. And people started discussing the possibility of four undefeated teams in a year without a four-team playoff. It never happened.

This year, however, could prove to be a whole different ball of wax. For the first time in BCS history, there is a legit chance that each of the six BCS conferences could have a national title contender when the calendar turns to November. That has never happened. Look at the ACC, they haven’t had a national title contender in November since 2005. The Big Ten hasn’t had one in several years.

But this year? Every conference has a top 10 team. The SEC has Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Texas A&M that could finish 12-1 or better – sorry Florida and South Carolina. The Pac-12 has two legit contenders in Stanford and Oregon as well as a feisty UCLA team that has look frighteningly good so far. The Big Ten has Ohio State. The ACC will have the Clemson/Florida State winner. The American has Louisville. And the Big 12 could very likely have Baylor and Oklahoma undefeated through October.

The doomsday scenario is looming. Six potential national title contenders, one from each conference? The SEC and Pac-12 are far better than the other 4 conferences – so far – so does a 12-1 Oregon leap over a 12-0 Oklahoma? Could a 13-0 Ohio State team, even in a down Big Ten, really be left out of a title game for a 1-loss SEC team?

College football was supposedly on track toward NFL-style parity. While that may play out in the SEC and the Pac-12, the other four conferences appear to have teams that are clearly superior to everyone they will be play. Who in the ACC can beat Florida State or Clemson other than each other? Can Rutgers really beat Louisville? If Ohio State beats Northwestern, who else in the league can touch them?

To be fair, we went through the motions last year about multiple undefeated teams and it didn’t play out. College football always has a way of proving the experts – and people like me – wrong on a weekly basis. But it is also very rare to make it through a whole month without a big upset, and Oklahoma State losing is not what I’m talking about. Every preseason national contender, with the possible exception of Florida, is still in it.

College football, never change.

Picks to Date: 33-20-2
Best Bet: 1-4
Upset Special: 5-0

No, that’s not a misprint. Overall, I have picked 60% winners so far. My upset special is covering 100% of the time. Yet my Best Bet, the one I am most confident about…is hitting at 20%. The math does not add up. Consider this your weekly reminder that I’m an idiot.

Texas (-8) over IOWA STATE
Texas isn’t losing this game. Not with Oklahoma looming next weekend as the “Mack Brown Survival Game.” Also, Iowa State stinks. Yes, they beat Tulsa last week but Tulsa is also terrible. Texas is too good to lose this game. Sure, you could’ve said that about the duel BYU/Ole Miss debacles. But this is different.

Look, everyone wants to run Mack Brown out of town. And that may end up happening. The laws of ESPN, however, dictate that the buildup to calamity is pressed to its limit. Texas beats Iowa State, likely by 3 touchdowns. That gives ESPN a full week to build to the Red River Rivalry – on a weak slate, it would not surprise me if College Gameday made a visit – and the eyes of the college football world focus on the Cotton Bowl. And when Oklahoma drops 60, then it’s over for Mack Brown. Not this week.

UTAH (+5) over Ucla
Utah is by far the most underrated team in the country. They beat Utah State in a thriller to open the season. They beat BYU in a slugfest. They should’ve beat Oregon State, which would have had them firmly in the Top 25 and not underrated. Instead, they lost a heartbreaker, stand at 3-1 and received a grand total of 1 vote in the AP and Coaches’ Poll last week. By comparison, Nebraska hasn’t beaten a team with a pulse yet and they are ranked. Oh polls, never change.

The home field advantage – Utah is going with a blackout theme – and the Thursday night showcase should provide a huge wave of momentum. UCLA has looked really, really good so far but they are about to play a team that is a lot better than Nebraska. Are they ready for it? I don’t think they are.

FLORIDA STATE (-15) over Maryland
I saw Maryland and Michigan in person during back-to-back wins over UConn. Maryland was the better team. But Maryland could have been so much better. Despite easily dispatching a UConn team that had clearly thrown in the towel on the Coach Gramps era, the final score indicated a close game. Why? Maryland had way too many turnovers, way too many mistakes and did not exploit huge weaknesses as much as they should have. As an example, Stefon Diggs spent most of the game running around uncovered but did not end up with the 300 yards receiving he should have.

The one knock on Edsall during his time at UConn was his inability to win the games he wasn’t supposed to win. UConn won a lot of home games under him. They beat decent teams on the road. They never came up with a huge upset. Most of the time, the road trips to powerhouses like the Pat White-led West Virginia teams ended in colossal failures.

Florida State is really, really good. They played maybe two quarters against Boston College and won with ease. The #25 next to Maryland this week means the Seminoles will play all four this week. That’s not good for Maryland.

North Carolina (+7.5) over VIRGINIA TECH
Virginia Tech can’t score. Virginia Tech doesn’t let other teams score. I really, really don’t know what to make of them other than I’m still not convinced they are any good. They should’ve lost to East Carolina. They definitely should’ve lost to Marshall. And anyone could’ve beaten Georgia Tech last week.

North Carolina just got their proverbial (or literal I guess) asses handed to them last week by East Carolina. UNC has been bandied about the most disappointing team so far. You know what that means. You really think the ACC Wheel of Destiny would just go away? UNC beats Virginia Tech. Not my Upset Special though…

Georgia (-10.5) over TENNESSEE *Best Bet*
Last week, Georgia won a thrilling game over LSU. Last week, Tennessee almost blew a huge lead at home to South Alabama. Yikes. The only possible angle you could take is Georgia is primed for a letdown. I think the opposite is the case – Georgia has made it through the gauntlet and, with the exception of Florida, may not face another good team until the SEC Championship Game. That sort of clarity gives Georgia the kiss of death in the form of my Best Bet.

Minnesota (+19) over MICHIGAN
Michigan fans don’t want to hear this but this year’s version reminds me a lot of the Rich Rod versions. You know, the teams that went through September undefeated, ranked and respect, buoyed by a win over what turned out to be a crappy Notre Dame team? Well, that’s this year’s Michigan team. Notre Dame stinks. Akron is worse. Any other team on the planet other than UConn would’ve beaten them last time out.

Minnesota is coming off a stinger of loss to Iowa but I think they’re better than that. They ran into the big problem of scheduling cupcakes before conference season – the team is unprepared when the going gets tough. Michigan can talk all they want about being focused because they said it after the Akron game and laid a bigger egg against UConn. They may beat Minnesota. They ain’t beating them by three scores.

alex collins florida
Arkansas (+10.5) over FLORIDA *Upset Special*
What did I take away from last week’s SEC night action? Ole Miss should kick field goals. Alabama is nasty. Johnny Football is too good. Florida is decidedly mediocre. And Arkansas is a lot better than people think. Sometimes a close loss to a top 10 team is not a moral victory, but a deflator. Look at UConn’s response to almost beating Michigan – they quit on their coach. But for Arkansas, after blowing a game against Rutgers, the effort against Texas A&M showed that they’re on the right track, that RB Alex Collins can get 100 yards on anybody and they have the talent to compete in the SEC.

As for Florida – I just don’t see it. Granted, I didn’t see it last year and they went to the Sugar Bowl. I don’t believe they’re any good. This line is about 5 points too high and I’m jumping all over it.

Lsu (-9.5) over MISSISSIPPI STATE
LSU falls in the same category as Georgia – the only way they lose is if they have a hangover from last week. Now while Georgia has smooth sailing, LSU most certainly does not with Florida, Texas A&M and Alabama still on the schedule. On the flip side, nothing really changed for LSU. If they win out, they will win the SEC West, they will play in the SEC Championship Game and will almost certainly be in the National Championship discussion. If Les Miles gets that across to his team – and I think he will – then they will be properly motivated to deliver a statement Saturday night.

PS – Mississippi State is a future 6-6 team. 6-6 teams don’t beat LSU.

OKLAHOMA (-10.5) over Tcu
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – TCU is not a good football team. They should not have been ranked before the season. They weren’t in the same class as LSU. They couldn’t move the ball against Texas Tech. And they looked downright disgusting against a really bad SMU last week for three quarters.

Oklahoma, on the other hand, has started to look like Oklahoma again. Why Bob Stoops didn’t start Blake Bell to begin the season is a great question that will go largely unanswered because Oklahoma squeaked by West Virginia. The defense looks miles better than it did at any point in the past few years and the offense seems to be humming. Sure, it may be a mirage considering Tulsa and Notre Dame don’t look very good. But guess what? TCU isn’t good either. Throw in a home crowd that will be delighted by the turn of events and Oklahoma rolls.

Ohio State (-7) over NORTHWESTERN
Northwestern has its hopes up. That’s not a good thing. Ohio State thoroughly dominated Wisconsin but took its foot off the gas pedal late, which probably just infuriated Urban Meyer and gave him a nice talking point all week. Ohio State is good enough without talking points.

At the beginning of the year, I thought the Big Ten title game was going to be an Ohio State/Michigan rematch. It will still be a rematch – of this game. That doesn’t mean Northwestern is going to win. It just means it’s the second-best team in the conference, which is a still mile behind Ohio State.

STANFORD (-7) over Washington
What Stanford did last week to Washington State should probably be illegal. I compared it on Twitter to the “football equivalent of a snuff film” and I stand by that. It was demoralizing and destructive. It was glorious and painful to watch. It was scary. Throw in the revenge factor from Washington winning last year and Washington’s top weapon being a running back trying to run through Stanford’s brick wall and, well, I don’t see it going well for the Huskies.

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