Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Week 14 College Football Picks: The Potential for Greatness

Last year, Thanksgiving weekend lacked…well, something. The eyes of college football were focused on Los Angeles as #1 Notre Dame prepared to take on weakened rival USC in an effort to finish 12-0 and book a trip to the BCS title game.

auburn alabama 2013
Everything else….well, it lacked intrigue.

The Heisman Trophy was pretty much already sent to Johnny Football, though Manti T’eo held out slim hopes, it was doubtful that anyone but Manziel was taking home the honor.

The chances for chaos seemed remote, at best. Alabama and Georgia were taking on overmatched rivals – Auburn and Georgia Tech, respectively – as they prepared for their national semifinal a week later in Atlanta. Florida and Florida State were playing in the game prior to the Notre Dame that might be significant, but only if Notre Dame lost.

Ohio State was chasing perfection, but it didn’t matter since they were on probation. UCLA was playing Stanford – and they would play again a week later for the Pac-12 title game.

This year? Well this year, everything is different.

This week’s schedule is loaded with huge games. Ohio State and Florida State battle down rivals, but must do so on the road. Alabama and Auburn will play the Iron Bowls of all Iron Bowls. Duke attempts to make history. So does Fresno State. Likewise, Missouri.

The BCS bowl picture is as cloudy as ever, the Heisman race has devolved into chaos and absolutely nothing is settled.

The best part? This week is surely nothing more than an appetizer to what could potentially be the best Championship Saturday in the sport’s recent history of championship games. While it would lack last year’s true semifinal of Alabama/Georgia, it could give us at least 3, maybe even 4 games, with national championship implications and could decide the Heisman.

The college kids of today never got to experience a true New Year’s Day, with every top team playing in big games at neutral sites for one glorious day. Next Saturday may be the closest thing we’ve had since.

But first…I need to keep my record above .500.

Picks to Date: 76-65-2
Best Bet: 6-7
Upset Special: 8-5

TEXAS (-4.5) over Texas Tech
Lost in the hubbub surrounding Oklahoma State’s beatdown of Baylor – that I predicted! – is the fact the Big 12 is still wide open, because the Cowboys blew a game to 4-7 West Virginia early in the season. While Oklahoma State still holds the advantage, Texas and Baylor are very much still in play. The scenario for both is the same – Oklahoma State has to lose next week to Oklahoma. If they do, the Baylor/Texas game later the day could turn into a de facto Big 12 title game. But to get there, Baylor has to beat TCU (they will) and Texas has to beat Texas Tech.

They will. I’ve made my feelings clear on Texas Tech and they haven’t changed – they are a 7-5 team that had a backloaded schedule that ratcheted up expectations. They probably shouldn’t have gotten blown out by Kansas State but they are clearly a notch below Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor. I also think they’re a notch below Texas.

I just can’t imagine a scenario where Mack Brown, still fighting to keep his job, loses this game and prevents his team from having a chance for the Fiesta Bowl and a BCS berth going into the last week of the season.

Iowa (+3) over NEBRASKA
I thought Iowa was a good team when they gave Ohio State a game for three quarters in Columbus. I thought they were undervalued since they have only lost to really, really good teams (Wisconsin, Michigan State and Northern Illinois). But the weak middle of the Big Ten hadn’t given them any opportunities to really beat anyone good – or even decent. Then, last week, they beat Michigan. It had huge BCS ramifications by helping to boost Northern Illinois’ computer rankings.

So this game takes place Friday and means more to NIU, Fresno State and the BCS than the two teams playing. Iowa isn’t pretty to watch. They frustrate their own fans to no end. But they win more than they lose and a win here could set Iowa up for a trip to New Year’s Day in Florida, likely in the Outback Bowl.

Meanwhile, Nebraska is pretty terrible and it’s time to just admit that. Yeah, they beat Penn State last week but it was another in a string of awful performances. Yes, Taylor Martinez has been hurt most of the year and that doesn’t help, but Nebraska is just a very, very mediocre football team. Thanks to the Big Ten’s excellent bowl tie-ins, they could be setting up for another postseason beatdown – maybe at the hands of Oklahoma?

East Carolina (+3) over MARSHALL
This game is why I wish we had a 16-team playoff instead of the four-team college football playoff. I want every conference to get an automatic bid. Sure, the Conference USA winner would be a #16 or #15 seed and forced to travel to play Alabama or Florida State on the road, acting as a pseudo-bye. But, dammit, it’d be worth it. And people would care about this game! As the winner advances to the Conference USA title game – a division title game.

As for the pick, Vegas clearly has no idea as evidence by the “home field is worth 3 points” line. Both teams have been on fire lately, with ECU winning five in a row and Marshall winning four in a row. It should be a high-scoring shootout that could be one of those “last team with the ball wins” games. I like East Carolina because they beat UNC and NC State in the same season for the first time ever. When you have nothing else to go on, sometimes you have to go on instinct and this feels like a special season for East Carolina.

BUFFALO (+1) over Bowling Green
Another division title game! The winner here plays Northern Illinois next week in the MAC Title Game and will be in the ESPN spotlight big time for the next week. In a twist, this game is being played in Ralph Wilson Stadium and is the biggest game either program has played in a while – and for the winner, will quickly be eclipsed in 7 days.

Since opening with road games at Ohio State and Baylor (OUCH!), Buffalo lost only once, when they were run over by Toledo. Meanwhile, Bowling Green’s only conference loss also came against Toledo – shows you why NIU’s road win over Toledo helped their computer rankings so much – and they have reeled off three straight. The line is odd, which is usually a red flag. But screw it, I’m going with the best player on the field (Khalil Mack) and I want to see him match-up against Jordan Lynch next week.

SAN JOSE STATE (+9) over Fresno State *Upset Special*
Is this the most important college football game that the CBS Sports Network has ever aired? Undoubtedly, it’s the first time the cable outfit is airing a better game than the mothership, which is stuck with LSU against putrid Arkansas.

So why do I like San Jose State here? First, it’s a home game. Second, Fresno State has no defense, whatsoever. They gave up 40+ points to Rutgers. To Rutgers! And San Jose State can score, thanks to its big time, NFL-potential QB in David Fales. Thirdly, San Jose State is desperate for a win to get bowl eligible after losing in heartbreaking fashion to Navy around 2am ET Friday night.

Lastly – I don’t think Fresno State is that good. They have benefitted from a Charmin-soft schedule and its two toughest games (Boise and Rutgers) being played at home. They have played one road game against a bowl-bound team and nearly lost to San Diego State. San Jose State can be just as good as San Diego State.

Ohio State (-14.5) over MICHIGAN
Dreadful. Michigan doesn’t have a chance. I want to pick Michigan just to be contrarian and the line is suspiciously low but Michigan is done for. I know in the 1990s, Michigan used to ruin Ohio State’s season every year but those Michigan team were still Top 25-material, if not Top 15. This Michigan team is garbage.

Duke (+5) over NORTH CAROLINA
I’m a sucker for a good story. And there will be few stories more compelling than a ranked Duke team playing for an Orange Bowl berth next Saturday night (in Charlotte!) against big, bad Florida State. Also, UNC has beaten up on a bunch of bad teams in a row, including dropping an absurd 80 on Old Dominion. This is still a team that hasn’t beaten anyone good. Duke is good.

UCONN (+3) over Rutgers
HAHAHAHA!!! I just wanted to put this here to show that Rutgers is a mere 3-point favorite against a 1-9 UConn team barely playing out the string while Rutgers is playing for a bowl berth. At this point, wouldn’t you rather be a UConn fan? A new coach is coming in next year. For Rutgers, there is no indication Kyle Flood is going anywhere and you’re about to get your brains bashed in for the next 20 years by Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State. Yeesh.

I’m picking UConn just because I’m going to be there. Don’t make this bet with real money, okay? Bet on literally anything else in the world.

Alabama (-10.5) over AUBURN *Best Bet*
Look, I understand hyperbole. But this isn’t the biggest Iron Bowl ever, because that happened. Like, just 3 years ago. Do we all forget how big the 2010 Auburn/Alabama game was? It was the most-watched game of the year. It was played on Black Friday, which meant there was little competition. It featured future Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton and former Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram. Newton’s name as big as college football gets – possibly surpassing Johnny Football levels in 2012 – due to the scandal around his recruitment. I mean, damn, the game was so big that ESPN did a 30 for 30 documentary about the rivalry with the 2010 game as the focus!

Also, those two teams were great – only one team is great this year. Auburn doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning this game. Alabama may win by 40. Auburn played one team that even closely resembles Alabama – and LSU smashed Auburn while running over them all day. T.J. Yeldon could gain 200 yards. This is going to be a blowout. Just saying.

SOUTH CAROLINA (-5) over Clemson
I think Clemson is a fraud. There, I said it, and I feel better about it. They played one great team and got destroyed, at home, by Florida State. I know every Clemson fan in the world will counter, “We beat Georgia when they were healthy and good!” To which I counter…was Georgia actually good?

South Carolina’s season was about run off the rails but the Miracle at Missouri (seriously, how amazing is that game in retrospect) changed everything. They still need a Missouri loss to get their shot at Alabama but they’ll settle for beating Clemson for a fifth year in a row.

Georgia is an SEC team without an SEC defense. Florida State is an ACC team with an SEC defense. Clemson succeeded against the former, was embarrassed by the latter. South Carolina is an SEC team with an SEC defense. It’s going to be a long night for the Tigers.

tj jones ndNotre Dame (+14) over STANFORD
My Dad, Notre Dame graduate, is the atypical Domer. While most Domers assume Notre Dame is going to be everybody by three touchdowns, my Dad is quite aware that Notre Dame has been more average than great for 20 years. So when I got the following email from him on Monday morning, I had to take notice:
“ND is going to beat Stanford.”

That’s good enough for me. Other factors in play include Brian Kelly lighting a fire under his team’s ass after the pathetic choke against Pittsburgh and the fact this is Notre Dame’s bowl game. The team’s real bowl game will likely come in Yankee Stadium against a terrible Rutgers team – blergh – though rumors of a Boston College/Notre Dame Independence Bowl are suddenly far more intriguing thanks to Andre Williams if still highly improbably.

In short, this is Notre Dame’s last meaningful game of the season. Stanford has a Pac-12 title game and then a possible Rose Bowl. Suddenly, this game doesn’t mean as much. Even if Stanford wins, I could see them slogging to a tight win.

Texas A&M (+4.5) over MISSOURI
Johnny Football for Heisman! Look, whether Jameis Winston is charged or not, it’s becoming increasingly clear a majority of voters are looking for an alternative. Andre Williams from Boston College is gaining momentum based on numbers but lacks a showcase. A.J. McCarron is, likewise, gaining momentum but also detractors – how can you win the Heisman if you’re not even the best player in your backfield?

The answer is Johnny Manziel. Forget the performance against LSU – it’s a toss out if Manziel can do the unthinkable and lead A&M to a stunning road victory to keep Missouri out of the SEC Title Game.

The fact remains that this year’s Heisman moment likely came in September when Manziel somehow put up 42 on Alabama. This point will be hammered home on Saturday afternoon when Alabama smothers Auburn. That performance will continue to gain stature and if Manziel comes through – in primetime, on ESPN – he will become the favorite again.

And wouldn’t that be a fitting (likely) end to Johnny Football’s college career?

Also, the worst thing for Missouri is that this is a home game. The fans remember the South Carolina fiasco. They remember the 2007 meltdown against Oklahoma. It will be nothing but nervous energy in that stadium Saturday night and that’s not a good thing.

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11 comments:

  1. Ummmm Clemson beat a damn good Georgia team. Maybe you forgot, but they kind of lost their number one wide receiver, and two star runningbacks. It gets kind of tough. Remember, this is the team that beat South Carolina and LSU. This is the team that beat Auburn (had it not been for a lucky catch). They're a damn good team and had way too many bad breaks. Get real.

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    1. Pete, stop crying. You're at work. Act like a man

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    2. Yea Clemson beat Auburn when Auburn was at the beggining of their downfall and South Carolina lost to Auburn and STILL beat Clemson... cant believe your bringing that one up....

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    3. You could say the Georgia win is quite similar

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    4. Im fer the Big12, go Cowboys. Talkin bout major BCS screwjobs. Damn, every team in the top 25 got screwed over. Alabama loses to Auburn in their final regular season game & only drop 3 spots. There are more 1 loss teams that have had to fight fer their rank. Alabama shouldnt even be in the top 25 after that debacle. Auburn didnt get lucky, they came prepared to play. What pisses me off bout the BCS is the voters and their sorry ass lack of sight. Pull Sabin's cock out of yer mouths, turn yer head to the left, then right. Take a look at all the teams youve screwed, because yall were waitin fer an Alabama load. Piss off BCS

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  2. It's certainly interesting to see you talk down Clemson by saying they beat a bad Georgia team when Georgia beat South Carolina by more than a touchdown. Where was that SEC defense when Georgia dropped 41 on them (which is 6 more than clemson allowed when they beat Georgia, FWIW)?

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    1. UGA was playing a different Defense. Between the fact that 90% of the starters' only had one game under their belts (Most of our d is Soph/Fresh), all the drama with Clowney and him getting ragged on after ESPN made him seem like a God (although no clemson fan should ever talk bad about a guy who owns the sack record in THEIR stadium), and dealing with a then awake UGA team, SC stood no chance. I was expecting a much worse season but this D has stepped up and gone beyond. ESPN hyped us up way too much over the summer but those guys have come in to the back half of this season a much better team. However, I certainly hope Clemson shares your attitude :) If they do, there will be a lot of orange tears in Columbia that day... SHOULD be a close game though and it will go to whichever team that makes the least amount of mistakes. Go Cocks!

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  3. You're wrong about the past haunting Mizzou and the "nervous energy." This is a great time to be a tiger fan; win, lose, or draw, the players (and fans) are just having fun. After all, they were 5-7 last year. They are not even supposed to be in this position. M-I-Z!!!

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    1. Thanks. I knew Fresno's defense was going to implode at some point.

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  5. They're a damn good team and had way too many bad breaks. Get real.
    Tank addicting games

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