Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Week 14 College Football Picks: The Annual Feast of College Football

This is the part where I rant about something related to the sport – but who cares? It’s Thanksgiving! We can save the talk about the confusing selection committee or impending realignment when there are no games going on.

Starting Thursday night and running through the wee hours of Sunday night, division titles will be decided, rivalries will be renewed, hearts will be broken, seasons will be ruined and so much food will be consumed.

If you love college football as much as I do – or even if you just merely like the sport – this is what the whole season has been building to. After Saturday, it’s conference championships and bowl games.

This weekend is about the essence of the sport. They can move the non-conference games to neutral sites. They can prevent conference foes from playing every year. But the powers at be cannot destroy Ohio State/Michigan, Notre Dame/USC or the Iron Bowl. Well, at least they haven’t yet – and for that, we should be thankful.

Overall Record: 70-75-1
Best Bet: 6-7
Upset Special: 6-6-1

It is becoming readily apparent I will not be hitting .500 in the regular season as I dug myself way too big a hole early in the season and a string of 6-5 weeks have not helped. Thankfully, there are enough bowls that I can turn it around by January. Right?

Tcu (-6.5) over TEXAS
I think Texas is a vastly improved team from the beginning of the season. I think Charlie Strong’s defense will make life miserable for TCU. I think the stadium will be packed and rocking as the faithful show up for a Longhorn revival.

But I also think TCU – despite being so, so wrong earlier this year – is going to make the playoff. I doubted them all year but there are one horrific stretch of football against Baylor from being undefeated and a clear #1 in the country. I wish the spread was a little lower, but this is TCU’s conference championship. Texas is simply a year away from winning a game like this.

IOWA (Pk) over Nebraska
Going against Nebraska has been such a good angle, as their last two losses haven’t come within three scores of covering the spread. This week, the Cornhuskers – in what has to be the end of Bo Pelini’s reign of indifference – finish out schedule against Iowa, where they will surely pick up their pre-ordained fourth loss.

Iowa has been up and down this year but you get the feeling they’ll have plenty of motivation after a heartbreaking loss to Wisconsin last week. Also, Nebraska sucks this year and their only good wide receiver (Kenny Bell) is very questionable.

UCLA (-4.5) over Stanford
This line gives me great pause. UCLA is one of the hottest teams in the country playing at home for a Pac-12 South title while Stanford is barely bowl-eligible and hasn’t beat a team with a pulse all year. I actually would have given Stanford a better chance if they had lost to Cal and needed this game for a bowl. Instead, they have their bowl and UCLA appears to finally have figured out how to keep Brett Hundley protected.

GEORGIA (-13) over Georgia Tech
With a Missouri loss, Georgia is in the SEC Title Game. With a Missouri win, they’re not. So this game, technically, means nothing. It also means everything. Georgia needs a win to secure a New Year’s Six bowl. If they win out, including a win over Alabama, they could be in the playoff mix. For the season Georgia has had, that’s a pretty remarkable statement.

As for Georgia Tech, they haven’t played a team as good as Georgia all year, much less beaten one. Despite this game’s stature as a rivalry game, the more important game for the Yellow Jackets comes a week from Saturday in Charlotte.

LOUISVILLE (-12.5) over Kentucky *Best Bet*
To say things have run off the rails for Kentucky during an ugly five-game losing streak is being kind. They have been non-competitive in four of those five games and really, really non-competitive in road games against LSU and Georgia.

Louisville has reeled off two huge road wins – at Boston College and at Notre Dame – since they ran out of steam against Florida State. Depending on how Georgia Tech finishes, the Cardinals are in a very legitimate spot to play in the Orange Bowl as the ACC’s replacement for playoff-bound Florida State. Bobby Petrino is not one to take the foot of the gas pedal. This could get real, real ugly for the Wildcats.

Michigan State (-13) over PENN STATE
Last week, Michigan State was running end-arounds for offensive linemen in a 45-3 thrashing of Rutgers while Penn State was losing to Illinois. In the past two months, Penn State has only beaten Indiana and Rutgers. Michigan State is looking to make one last statement to the selection committee for a New Year’s trip to Dallas or Atlanta. You think they are about to screw that up by messing around with Penn State?

Minnesota (+13.5) over WISCONSIN *Upset Special*
This has to be a first for me – Minnesota was my upset special a week ago against Nebraska and they’re my upset pick again this week.

I could not have been more impressed with Minnesota a week ago. Regardless of how bad I think Nebraska is, the Golden Gophers had every reason to call it a day. They gave up a touchdown on a field goal return. Their best player, RB David Cobb, was knocked out of the game. It was Senior Day in Lincoln. Yet, they keep pounded Nebraska on the ground and eventually wore them down.

Should Wisconsin win this game? Yes. But despite the exploits of Melvin Gordon, I simply do not trust coach Gary Andersen in a close game. The Badgers blew their opener to LSU and gagged one away at Northwestern. Last week, they did everything in their power to give away the Iowa game, but were saved by Gordon.

On the other sideline, Jerry Kill has proven to be a miracle worker whose teams tend to excel and execute in tight games – only Illinois this year proved to be an exception. This line is way too high.

FLORIDA STATE (-7.5) over Florida
I am so stupid. Florida State has covered small spreads and failed for big spreads. Last week, with a giant line against Boston College, I tried to outsmart myself and picked Florida State. They nearly lost.

I will not make that mistake twice in a row! The parallels to Ron Zook winning his last game as Florida coach in Tallahassee is cute but this Seminole team is the best team in the country. Yes, I said it. They don’t deserve to be #1 but they are the best. They take everyone’s best shot and rope-a-dope like Ali before winning. They may take the first half off again but the smallish spread means it won’t matter.

OLE MISS (-2) over Mississippi State
Vegas has to know something I don’t, right? We just saw Ole Miss get creamed by Arkansas. Mississippi State is still in the SEC West and playoff hunts. Why the heck is this line only two?

The line is begging you to pick Mississippi State. If the house wants you to do something, do the opposite. That’s it. That’s my reasoning. Because there’s nothing football-wise that suggests Ole Miss has a chance here.

Tennessee (-17) over VANDERBILT
They couldn’t make this line high enough. Tennessee is playing for its first bowl berth since 2010 while Vanderbilt just lost 51-0 to Mississippi State. If Vandy even covers, it’s further proof that college football makes zero sense.

ALABAMA (-9.5) over Auburn
Last year, Alabama was a 10.5-point favorite on the road and I took them. This year, they’re a 9.5-point favorite at home against an Auburn team that just got thumped by Georgia. Alabama is playing for a playoff berth, an SEC West title and revenge for its most painful loss ever.

If Auburn proves me wrong again, I will humbly admit that Gus Malzahn is the best coach in college football. Until then, I still think Alabama has the best one.

Follow me on Twitter

1 comment:

  1. Stupid quotes from oleary who understands nothing of college football......."The reality is that the Big Ten, already in a public relations battle over its football prowess, is saddled with another Minnesota."

    ReplyDelete