McD’s Week 13 Picks: Rivalry Week Part One

November 22, 2008 – 9:48 am by McD

It’s McD’s week 13 picks extravaganza!

This week is positively loaded down with fantastic games to the point that I may not shower until 11pm eastern Saturday night.

My record isn’t what it should be (read: shitty) against the spread, so I’m going for broke. The sheer number of picks I’m making this week is either going to save my record or rest all my hopes on bowl season to salvage my dignity. Okay, so it’s going to come down to the bowl games, but I do this for the love. The love of being correct about half the time.

It’s also the first of several rivalry weeks in college football. Some of the most storied rivalries in the game’s history, plus some invented ones, are being played in the next couple of weeks. I’ve done my best to compile a list of the rivalry games for this weekend and the various random trophies involved therein. It’s by no means a complete list, and frankly I could give a crap about some of these games, but I tried. And if that “participant” trophy I got in Little League taught me anything, it’s that trying matters. Even when you’re afraid of the ball.

Record through Week 12: 130-53, 87-93-5 ATS

12pm ET

The Battle for the Old Oaken Bucket

Indiana (3-8) at Purdue (3-8) (-11)

Trophy: The Old Oaken Bucket, Series Record: 68-36-6 (Purdue)

Greetings and salutations to The Baker who’s in West Lafayette tailgating and generally spreading “goodwill” amongst Purdue fans. Apparently, it’s a Purdue tradition to have the “breakfast club” in which the bars open at 6am on gameday. Being the moral, upstanding Indiana grad I am, I have nothing but distaste for such frovolity. But what can one expect from that cow-college? Hmm? When I heard the news, my monacle fell out of my eye and I nearly spilled my brandy. To think, all those people doing nothing but imbibing alcohol and socializing in a vain attempt to exchange bodily fluids with another fan they barely know! Terrible, I say. Harrumph! Shows you what type of characters they produce up there at Purdue. They even let people in whose parents didn’t graduate from there! Unacceptable!

This is Indiana’s last chance to kick Purdue’s ass in a sport that counts until next football season because there’s no way in hell Purdue’s basketball team is losing to IU this year. I love Tom Crean and I really believe this is an IU team worth supporting, but damn we’re getting our asses kicked once conference play starts. Penn State better watch the fuck out, though.

It’s also Joe Tiller’s last game as the head coach of the Boilermakers. He’s been there for a hell of a long time (I’m not going to bother to look up how long) and has been largely successful. I’m sure Bears fans all want to thank him personally for making Kyle Orton the man he is today. This does mean Indiana is going to have another uphill fight, from which they usually have shrank in 2008. But this is the Bucket Game. There’s no way in hell they’ll take it lightly.

Pick: Indiana

Update: Purdue 62 Indiana 10.

I don’t know exactly what to say. This loss embodies everything about Indiana’s 2008 season. They played an eminently beatable team, failed to show up, quit early, showed no heart, were totally injured, and generally looked exactly like they did in Gerry DiNardo’s last year. This was a pathetic end to a pathetic season, and this shit should no longer be acceptable to Indiana football fans. This is a program that’s trying very hard to become legit, and this is such a step back it’s hard to believe we ever took a step forward only a year ago. I accept the fact there were injuries and this was a young team, and that’s the only reason Bill Lynch deserves another chance in 2009. However, this was a failure from top to bottom and the entire program needs to take stock of itself. Have those young players we’ve been playing showed any promise? Is the coaching staff on par with the rest of the conference? Are we serious about becoming a major football program? These are questions that need asking. I wish I could say I was shocked by this game, but I’m not. This same type of blowout happened in 2005 and DiNardo was fired very shortly thereafter. That represented the nadir (thanks Baker) of IU football. One last question: have we come back up yet?

Record: 130-54, 87-94-5 ATS

West Virginia (6-3) at Louisville (5-5) (+7)

Kinda sucks to be these two teams. This used to be a very important Big East matchup from year to year with a couple of high-powered offenses coming together. Usually this game had a big hand in determining who the Big East champion was going to be. Ah, the days of only two years ago. Now West Virginia just lost to first-place Cincinnati, despite an insane comeback and Louisville is 1-4 in the conference and in the throes of the Petrino-to-Kragthorpe change. Neither school can be particularly happy with this season, though WVU does have a shot at a decent bowl game if they can win their seventh game.

I truly dread taking West Virginia on the road. Two of their three losses are road games at Colorado and East Carolina, two decidedly weak teams the Mountaineers should have beaten in hindsight. I’m willing to forgive one of the losses, since anyone who’s watched WVU this year knows there’s no chance in hell for them to be undefeated, but both of those are pretty pathetic. Thus, I don’t really like taking West Virginia on the road against another mediocre team.

So, the question is: just how bad is Louisville? They’ve lost three straight games, two of which were to ranked teams (Pitt and Cincinnati), but the first of the three was to hapless Syracuse. More accurately, every one of Louisville’s wins in 2008 is against a mediocre or bad team. West Virginia is just not bad enough for Louisville to seriously threaten them. I bet Cardinals fans are just going to love not making a bowl game this year.

Pick: West Virginia

Update: West Virginia 35 Louisville 21.

Once again, we’ve learned Pat White doesn’t suck and Louisville does. Once again, we’ve learned Louisville has fallen very, very far from the team that threatened to go undefeated a couple of years ago. They just aren’t any good at all. They make tons of mistakes and generally look crappy in all facets. Not that WVU is so great, but they did a good job beating a team they should beat. I was worried initially about them on the road, but they obviously came through. The real question: win or lose next week, is Steve Kragthorpe keeping his job?

Record: 131-54, 88-94-5 ATS

North Carolina State (4-6) at (22) North Carolina (7-3) (-11)

Trophy: The Victory Bell

TJ Yates or Cameron Sexton? I hope I never have to ask myself that question, which is one of many reasons I’m not a head football coach anywhere. Neither of those guys is a particularly appealing choice to lead UNC’s mediocre offense. This is, however, the kind of game the Tar Heels need to win because it’s basketball season now and they’re going to lose the fans’ attention quickly if they start dropping random games at the end of a resurgent season. 9-3 looks a hell of a lot better than 7-5.

The good news is the Tar Heels have two shitty teams to end the season (NC State and Duke), so they have a pretty good shot at nine wins. And while UNC’s offense is mediocre at best, NC State’s offense is just gawd-awful. Like, Tennessee-type bad. That’s right, I said it.

And that has to be a weird position for North Carolina’s football program to be in. They’re actually playing games they should win easily even though they aren’t playing all that well. Even though the NC State and Duke games are rivalry games, it’s not supposed to be a challenge for the Tar Heels. Teams like that tend to make at least one of those games interesting, and that makes me nervous.

Pick: North Carolina

Update: NC State 41 North Carolina 10.

T.J. Yates started for the Tar Heels…and looked like shit, as did the rest of the team. It’s a loss I should have seen coming, since I talked about it in the preview. I was hoping Butch Davis would be able to get his kids in the right frame of mind, but they just couldn’t handle Russell Wilson and NC State who were playing their biggest game of the season. Guess UNC isn’t there yet, especially with that crap offense. Fail.

Record: 131-55, 88-95-5 ATS

The Game

Michigan (3-8) at (10) Ohio State (9-2) (-20.5)

Trophy: Military and economic control of Toledo, Gold Pants charm for winning Ohio State players, Series Record: 57-41-6 (Michigan)

This is THE rivalry game for the states of Ohio and Michigan, but because of their over-inflated sense of importance to the country, people think this is the greatest rivalry in college football. Army-Navy is clearly superior at every level, as is Indiana-Purdue, but because these teams have won a lot of games, this matchup gets more hype.

Good news, Buckeyes! Michigan is horrible and looks to be for a couple of years to come. The reaction to their first eight loss season by Michigan fan is fascinating to me. It’s as though no one had any idea the team would need to be completely rebuilt. They were so used to Lloyd Carr throwing something together and winning at least eight games that they had no idea of the transition they were undertaking. This is a total team overhaul, people. A shit-ton of players left with Carr and the ones who stayed, along with the new ones, aren’t exactly Rich Rodriguez’s type of players. This is a sea change, not a small transition.

Ohio State is too good for Michigan this year, though Rodriguez will find out shortly losing to the Buckeyes is not a good plan for longevity.

Pick: Ohio State

Update: Ohio State 42 Michigan 7.

The real result of Michigan’s worst season ever is every loss only raises the expectations for next season. Michigan fan won’t stand for anything less than at least 6-6 and a bowl next year. They’re not Indiana fan which means they aren’t used to nine-loss seasons and powerful disappointment. I’ve been saying all season that they weren’t realistic about what this Wolverines team would produce from the beginning, but that doesn’t mean Rich-Rod is off the hook in ’09 too. He’s got to get his guys into the system and that team has to be way better next year or the Rodriguez Experiment may be cut short.

Record: 132-55, 89-95-5 ATS

12:30pm ET

Tennessee (3-7) at Vanderbilt (6-4) (-3)

Trophy: None. The Vanderbilt alumni wives are the real trophies

Take a picture, kids. You aren’t going to see a spread like this in a Tennessee/Vandy game again for quite a while. Looks like the front runners for the Tennessee job are currently Jim Leavitt and Brian Kelly from Cincinnati. Nice, big splash hiring those guys would make. Leavitt is nearing the end of his career, and it’ll be a bitch to get him out of USF anyway, since he’s been the only coach that team has ever had. Kelly is a good coach, but he’s a young guy who hasn’t truly established himself yet, though he’s made Cincinnati into a winner. Where are the big names? Where is the interest from coaches? Where are the rumors? Maybe they’ll come soon.

To salvage its dignity, Vandy HAS to win this game. Though they sit at 6-4, that record is on the precipice of being .500 if they lose to the Volunteers because they have a game against Wake Forest left on the schedule. A .500 record after the start the Commodores had would be very disappointing indeed. Happily, the Vols are way down and have quit on their lame-duck coach. I worry about teams that don’t usually win very much but are playing games they should win. Very often games like that are the sites of epic collapses and much wailing and gnashing of teeth among the fans. Plus, Vandy isn’t really that good anyway.

Pick: Vanderbilt

Update: Tennessee 20 Vanderbilt 10.

That’s two times today in which I took a team I knew was going to have issues winning a game they were supposed to win. Both North Carolina and Vanderbilt let me down, and you can tell by the names of the schools I took that I wasn’t betting on a couple of football powers. I guess it’s nice Phil Fulmer could get one more win before he’s done, but this is an especially painful loss for Vanderbilt, since it’s not like they get a shot to beat Tennessee every year. And once again their offense wasn’t very good. Neither was UNC’s for that matter. Maybe I should pick up the trend, no?

Record: 132-56, 89-96-5 ATS

1:30pm ET

Citadel (4-7) at (4) Florida (9-1) (off)

Really, Florida? The Citadel? Really? Pat Conroy isn’t going to be happy about this. This is such an egregious game, I pray for the souls of whoever was in charge of scheduling it. I really, really hope the Gators had a legit game drop off the schedule at the last minute and were forced to take any team they could find on short notice. This is just pathetic. Not only is the Citadel not a 1-A school, they aren’t even a good 1-AA school. I don’t want to hear the words “style points” for the BCS. The only thing this game can be called is a sham or a travesty. That’s it. Florida cannot possibly look good enough winning this game to help them get closer to the BCS championship game. That would be the biggest travesty of all.

Pick: Florida

Update: Florida 70 Citadel 19.

This shameful game ended the only way it could. Florida shouldn’t feel good for padding their stats and blowing out a much, much weaker opponent. I know for a fact the football Gods don’t look kindly on games like this.

Record: 133-56, 90-96-5 ATS

2pm ET

The Border War

Colorado State (5-6) at Wyoming (4-7) (+2)

Trophy: The Bronze Boot, Series Record: 54-40-5  (Colorado State)

I had no idea this was a rivalry game until I was looking at a long list of rivalries, but I guess this conference matchup has more at stake than if Wyoming were playing Colorado. It does look like this game has some history, so I guess it’s a real rivalry. I never really considered whether these teams hate each other or not, but it’s not like Colorado State football is on many people’s minds usually.  I’m not exactly sure what it is either team does, but I can tell they aren’t particularly good, Wyoming’s win over Tennessee notwithstanding.

Pick: Colorado State

Update: Colorado State 31 Wyoming 20.

So Colorado State beat a terrible team, and I have no doubt the transitive property applies here and CSU would beat Tennessee too. Other than that, whatever.

Record: 134-56, 91-96-5 ATS

2:30pm ET

Syracuse (2-8) at Notre Dame (6-4) (-19.5)

Another easy opponent at home for the Irish. I’m shocked they’d play teams from the Big Ten, Pac-10 and Big East, yet manage to play only two or three good teams. The Irish scheduling weak opponents? It’s inconceivable! And yet this team has had more distractions and more issues in 2008 than most of their opponents. It’s a wonder they won six games despite how pathetically easy their schedule was this year. They just aren’t a good football team, though Syracuse is way, way worse, and this will be proven when they get demolished by USC in a couple of weeks.

Pick: Notre Dame

Update: Syracuse 24 Notre Dame 23.

Ahem. BWAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA. Ahem.

Record: 134-57, 91-97-5 ATS

3pm ET

The Apple Cup/The Worst Rivalry in College Football

Washington (0-10) at Washington State (1-10) (+7)

Trophy: The Apple Cup, Series Record: 64-30-6 (Washington)

Final Score: USC 125 State of Washington 0. And that’s actually a cover for the Trojans.

You bet your ass I’m watching this game. I might even watch it in its entirety. These two teams are playing for dead last in the Pac-10 as well as possibly dead last in division 1-A. They’ve got one win between them, and none against division 1-A teams. They’ve lost by a ton of points to pretty much everyone they’ve played, though Washington is still the superior team. They’ve got more talent, but their problem is they don’t play particularly hard for Ty Willingham, especially since he’s a lame-duck coach now.

Wazzu is just plain awful, and with reason. They’ve had terrible head coaches since Mike Price left and who the hell would want to live in Pullman, WA anyway? They didn’t even try to compete with USC. They just ran the ball on every play so the clock wouldn’t stop.

Yes, this game is truly fascinating, and I will absolutely be pulling for Washington State so Washington can keep their perfect season intact. You just don’t see major-conference teams threaten us with perfection all that often, so we have to embrace it. I haven’t seen this many entertaining subplots in games featuring ranked teams.

Pick: Washington State. Phillips and I both want Washington to fulfill their dream of a perfect season.

Update: Washington State 16 Washington 13 (2OT).

Victory! State fans stormed the field like they’d just beaten USC to go to the Rose Bowl. The only lame thing about this game is it has no finality. Both teams play games after this week, Wazzu at Hawaii, and Washington against Cal. Still, great win for Wazzu, and for all the shittiness that team has been through, that win has to feel good. Washington, on the other hand, has nothing but rebuilding to look forward to. Ty Willingham’s tenure ends after one more game, and that team will still suck next year.

Record: 135-57, 92-97-5 ATS

3:30pm ET

The Big Game

Stanford (5-6) at California (6-4) (-8.5)

Trophy: The Stanford Axe, Series Record: 55-44-11 (Stanford)

How many times will the Stanford Band Play be shown this weekend? 1,000? 10,000? Anything’s possible. It’s nice to see rivalries with this kind of history, since it’s one of the oldest in college football. But then you look again at the two teams’ records and realize this game isn’t all that exciting. Stanford managed to cheat me out of a win against the spread last week against USC, so I have an Italian-style vendetta against Jim Harbaugh and his squad. Thus, though it pains me to do it, I’m taking Cal.

Pick: Cal. And I hope they win by 50.

Update: Cal 37 Stanford 16.

Stanford screwed with the football Gods last week and they got burned for it a week later. They are not nearly that much worse than Cal, but they got blown out and I couldn’t be happier. Yes, I’m THAT petty about a team randomly beating the spread on the last play of the game when they have no hope of winning. Especially when it was the quarterback who convinced the coach to go for it. Fuck Stanford.

Record: 136-57, 93-97-5 ATS

Illinois (5-6) at Northwestern (8-3) (+3)

Trophy: The Sweet Sioux Tomahawk, Series Record: 33-28-3 (Illinois)

So the Illini were essentially forced to get rid of their mascot, who was in no way offensive and was even respectful of Native American culture, but they can still be called the Illini and have a rivalry trophy called “the sweet sioux tomahawk”? The NCAA is a fucking embarrassment.

In the past decade or so, Illinois and Northwestern were both doormats for the Big Ten, but Ron Zook took over and look at the Illini now! 5-6! One year after backing into the Rose Bowl, Illinois may not make any bowl at all. They’re just that good. Northwestern, on the other hand, is having its best season in years and, as long as CJ Bacher plays, should win this game. The Illini are tough and athletic, so they can and should play close, but Northwestern really should win this game, making them the third team in my picks that isn’t used to playing games they should win against more powerful opponents. By the end of this game Saturday, I may already be screwed.

Pick: Northwestern

Update: Northwestern 27 Illinois 10.

Well, I’m not screwed, and this is a great, great win for Northwestern. Bacher played great and Ron Zook’s team has pulled an Indiana (on a smaller scale, though the fall has come from a greater height). Hell, Indiana only made the Insight Bowl last year. It’s getting harder and harder for me to be gracious towards teams I can’t stand. Illinois is a crap team this year, and while Indiana is too, we’re Indiana. So what’s Illinois’ excuse?

Record: 137-57, 94-97-5

Mississippi (6-4) at (18) Louisiana State (7-3) (-3.5)

This is a rivalry game, but there’s no trophy and it’s not being played close to Halloween like usual. Frankly, it’s not much of a rivalry anyway, since Ole Miss is fucking horrible most years. This year, however, might be different. LSU’s defense is unusually porous and their offense is just bad. Ole Miss has shown quite a bit of spunk, if not talent, including their upset of Florida. Houston Nutt is officially the king of throwing a bunch of random parts together and making it work while simultaneously killing his quarterback’s draft chances.

This game is at LSU, which usually spells doom for mediocre teams coming into Baton Rouge, but I just don’t trust the Tigers anymore. That doesn’t mean I’m putting my hopes with a crap team like Ole Miss, but it does make this game a bit more intriguing.

Pick: Mississippi

Update: Mississippi 31 LSU 13.

Told you LSU is way worse this year. Ohio State would actually win a game between these two schools this year, if you can believe it. It’s hard to overstate how big a win this is for Ole Miss. I hate calling them “Ole Miss” by the way. It’ sounds so stupid, like it’s not a college so much as a Civil War regiment. Then again, that may be the idea. You never know with these Southerners. They just don’t let stuff go.

Record: 138-57, 95-97-5 ATS

Boston College (7-3) at Wake Forest (6-4) (-2)

I have no idea what happened to my Demon Deacons. I adopted Georgia Tech, North Carolina, and Wake Forest before the season because I knew these were teams ready to produce despite lowered expectations, but Wake is the only one of those teams to fail to be any good at all. 6-4 is just plain unacceptable for that program now, which must be a somewhat refreshing thing for the fans, though their depression over the team’s record is warranted.

Boston College isn’t a very good team. In fact, Wake Forest is better than they are, but the Demon Deacons are on a cold streak while BC is hot. I think this game means more to Wake Forest because it can save their season. If they lose, they’re looking at .500 and possible exclusion from the bowls. If they win, they’ve beaten a team they should beat and gotten that all-important seventh win.

Pick: Wake Forest

Update: BC 24 Wake Forest 21.

That BC/Maryland game next week just got huge. But what a shitty season from Wake Forest. Nothing really changed for them, since they’re always the less talented team. But now they’ve started making mistakes and they’ve lost any semblance of balance on offense. The D used to be stifling, but it’s getting beaten at key points now. I don’t know what to believe anymore. I’m at a loss. And so is Wake Forest.

Record: 138-58, 95-98-5 ATS

The Battle of the Land Grants

(15) Michigan State (9-2) at (8) Penn State (10-1) (-15.5)

Trophy: The Land Grant Trophy, Series Record: 11-4 (Penn State)

After all, these are the redneck, land-grant brothers to their more blue-blooded in-state counterparts. Let’s face it, Michigan and Penn are WAY better schools than these two. But it’s not their fault and we respect their right to exist and play football while we make “cow-college” jokes.

This is also an extremely important game in the Big Ten. If Ohio State beats Michigan and Penn State loses to Michigan State, the Buckeyes are the Big Ten champs. Should Michigan State somehow win the game and Ohio State loses, the Spartans are your conference champions. It will all be decided Saturday.

Though Michigan State has Javon Ringer, my Halfway Heisman Trophy winner, Penn State is clearly the better team and has the home-field advantage. This game is simply a question as to whether the Nittany Lions have recovered from losing their shot at the national title or not. That game against Indiana didn’t count as a recovery game because they never were in real danger of losing. Michigan State is just hoping they don’t repeat the performance they had against Ohio State. If the Spartans are going to become a power team in the Big Ten, they can’t keep losing to the other power teams. They’re going to need an upset sooner or later that defines who they are now. This just doesn’t feel like it.

Pick: Penn State

Update: Penn State 49 Michigan State 18.

JoePa will be back and Penn State is heading to the Rose Bowl after kicking the shit out of Michigan State on senior day. For some reason, I forgot it would be senior day for a whole bunch of teams, but I don’t really watch college football, so I don’t understand all the “traditions.”  I prefer dog shows, wine tastings, and the novels of Gustave Flaubert on a Saturday afternoon.

Record: 139-58, 96-98-5 ATS

Air Force (8-3) at (16) Texas Christian (9-2) (-19.5)

This is basically the battle for third place in the Mountain West since BYU and Utah play later Saturday. Every time I watch TCU, I wonder why they aren’t better. They seem to have good players at virtually every position, but they never seem to take the next step. I guess being ranked 16th isn’t the worst thing ever, but I just always expect more. I do like Air Force for remaining a running team even though they don’t run the triple option exclusively anymore. The winner of this game is basically going to grind better than the loser, and that’s pretty much what it comes down to.

Pick: TCU wins but Air Force beats the spread.

Update: TCU 44 Air Force 10.

TCU’s quarterback is a ginger! Well, technically, he’s a day-walker since he has a tan, but still. Andy Dalton also has that great Texas accent and even says “y’all”. I don’t know how else I’d be able to make fun of regional dialects without college football. It’s like a whole new world of linguistics humor. I also had no idea TCU was as good as they are, even though I watched them beat BYU. There wasn’t very much impressive about them, but that could also mean they’re just good at everything. If TCU were a major-conference team, their coach would be receiving all kinds of honors and they’d be fighting for a BCS bid every year, but instead they’re stuck in the Mountain West. I wonder if the Big XII would trade the MWC Baylor for TCU. Kind of a lopsided trade, but there’s a lopsided difference between the two conferences too, isn’t there?

Record: 140-58, 96-99-5 ATS

4:05pm ET

(9) Boise State (10-0) at Nevada (6-4) (+7)

This is the exact kind of game non-BCS teams lose heading into the final weeks of the season. A road game against a mediocre conference opponent playing their biggest game of the season is not easiest win ever. If Boise wins, they clinch the WAC title outright as well as continue their shot at a BCS game. Plus, Nevada is one of the best running teams in the country and have both a quarterback and running back over 1,000 yards rushing this season. I don’t know when Chris Ault turned his pistol-formation team into a running team, but there you go. If Nevada gets what they usually get offensively, Boise could be in some trouble. Especially if the Wolfpack can manage to kill some clock.  Maybe the Broncos will win and keep their BCS hopes alive, but I’m just saying…

Pick: Boise State

Update: Boise State 41 Nevada 34.

Push! This game was a Boise blowout, then Nevada came back and was three or four badly errant passes at the end of the game away from tying this bad boy up. For no reason at all Boise/Nevada is crazy every time. I don’t totally understand it, though I do know Chris Ault’s pistol offense has been befuddling defensive coordinators since Marshall Faulk was still on San Diego State. At least I think Chris Ault is his name. Whatever. But in the end, Boise State is still undefeated and headed for a BCS birth. We might have two teams in the BCS from non-BCS conferences, and that would make my damn day.

Record: 141-58, 96-99-6 ATS

6pm ET

The Holy War

(14) Brigham Young (10-1) at (7) Utah (11-0) (-7)

Trophy: The Beehive Boot, Series Record: 55-33-4 (Utah)

It’s going to be close. It’s going to be tense. It’s going to be Mormon. And I love these two teams for totally opposite reasons. BYU is running the old-school BYU offense to perfection, although they’re out of the shotgun more than LaVell Edwards and Norm Chow would have liked. Max Hall throws the ball all over the field and the Cougars even have a power-running game to match their fantastic throwing offense. Utah, on the other hand, is running Urban Meyer’s pre-Tebow system to perfection. They’re giving the ball to quite a few different people and Brian Johnson, the dual-threat quarterback, is more of a distributor than a star.

Naturally, this game is going to be determined by the team whose defense shows up. This game has a history of being close and some one is going to have to make a play. Here’s where I go with Utah. Their D has won a couple of close games this year against New Mexico and TCU, and I think they can make one more play than the BYU offense.

Pick: Utah wins but BYU beats the spread.

Update: Utah 48 BYU 24.

I guess it’s fitting the Holy War gave me my hundredth loss against the spread. It’s really not fitting, but that seems like something I should say at this point.

Utah is really, really good. And when they play the Big East or ACC champion, they’re going to kick their ass. Maybe we’ll get lucky and they’ll play Oregon State or USC in the Rose Bowl and give them a game. I’m not going to call it “interesting” since the BCS is rigged, but unless they’re trying to screw the Utes, Utah is going to play some one they can beat.

Record: 142-58, 96-100-6 ATS

7pm ET

(21) Oregon State (7-3) at Arizona (6-4) (-2.5)

And now we come to it. A Mike Riley team has to win two more games to secure its place in the Rose Bowl and get all that BCS money. Plus, they get to screw USC, which is just fun. Historically speaking, it’s really the only way anyone is going to care about them beating the Trojans earlier this season. If USC manages to maintain the status quo, Oregon State might as well have lost that game. But this is a Mike Riley team, and as a Chargers fan, I’m positively resplendent with the chance of making money of this two-game season they have left.

What I’m saying is this: Oregon State is going to lose one of these games. Either this week at Arizona or next week against Oregon in the Civil War. It’s going to happen. It’s done. Put it on your bulletin board, Beavers. You can’t stop history.

Pick: Arizona

Update: Oregon State 19 Arizona 17.

Damn, I was THIS close. The Beavers still have to play a very game Oregon team and it’s going to be a bloodbath. I have faith in the curse of Mike Riley, though I very much respect him as a person. Plus, we don’t know what kind of injury Jacquizz Rodgers has. They still managed a win against Arizona because the Wildcats can’t score, but Oregon can score and it’s going to be a shit ton harder. By the way, what happened to that offense Arizona was supposedly bringing in? They hardly throw the ball deep, and are ultra conservative most of the time. No wonder they never score.

Record: 142-59, 97-100-6 ATS

Iowa (7-4) at Minnesota (7-4) (+6)

Trophy: The Floyd of Rosedale, Series Record: 39-32-2 (Minnesota)

There’s just something unseemly yet great about a pig trophy for winning a college football game. It’s like an homage to all the pork products consumed by these two states. This isn’t really a game that counts in any big picture anywhere, it’s just an old-fashioned Big-Ten game with quite a few mustaches and hunting jackets in the crowd. Like many other games this week, there’s some dignity and bowl-seeding on the line in this game, so I guess it kind of matters. Each team has exceeded expectations, to say the least, in 2008 and 8-4 seems kind of impossible even though some one has to win this thing. It’s really hard to imagine Iowa or Minnesota with eight wins. Really hard. In fact, I’m reasonably sure this game is an illusion.

Pick: Iowa

Update: Iowa 55 Minnesota 0.

Damn, that’s a severe beating. And this was Minnesota’s last home game at the Metrodome too. I was actually planning on watching this too, but now I’m kind of glad I got sidetracked. Shonn Greene is really, really good too, by the way. Gotta love that gray-shirt system for kids that can’t keep their grades right. I’m expecting a phone call from Kirk Ferentz any time now since I predicted Iowa would be awful this year and he’d get fired. I think their rapid turnaround is all me and my powers of reverse-hexing teams.

Record: 143-59, 98-100-6 ATS

The River City Rivalry

(20) Pittsburgh (7-2) at (19) Cincinnati (8-2) (-6)

Trophy: The River City Rivalry Trophy, Series Record: 7-0 (Pitt)

Hooray for totally fake rivalries! These teams have absolutely no animus toward each other, but just happen to both be on rivers. This isn’t even an interesting National League game. In any case, Cincinnati is going to be in a BCS game, should they win tonight and against West Virginia. Cincinnati in a BCS game. Love that Big East. I like LeSean McCoy, but I just can’t take Wannstedt on the road, despite their record.

Pick: Cincinnati

Update: Cincinnati 28 Pitt 21.

The Bearcats did what they do and beat a vulnerable Pitt team. It’s still weird that they’re going to be in the BCS. It’s not like anyone associates Cincinnati football with major conference success. Plus, if they keep it up, Brian Kelly is going to get a bigger job and that’ll be that. That game was way closer against the spread than I would have liked but a win’s a win.

Record: 144-59, 99-100-6 ATS

7:45 pm ET

Florida State (7-3) at (25) Maryland (7-3) (+1)

If Florida State were ranked, there would be no doubt Maryland would be winning, but they aren’t, so Maryland is back to being Maryland. In situations like this, I’d be taking Florida State a.k.a. the more athletic, stronger team. But this is Florida State on the road against a ranked team with that sketchy offense. Antone Smith is good, but it leaves the Terrapins to focus on one facet of the offense instead of trying to figure out how Christian Ponder. Not that stopping Christian Ponder is worrisome.

Pick: Maryland

Update: Florida State 37 Maryland 3.

This is what I get for thinking Maryland was going to keep it together. All the signs pointed to a meltdown, but I didn’t listen, you know, because I’m smart. That’s what these picks are really all about: my demons. I like to pretend I learn from trends and know all about curses and stuff like that. But the truth is I make it all up. Thought you should know that.

Record: 144-60, 99-101-6 ATS

8pm ET

(2) Texas Tech (10-0) at (5) Oklahoma (9-1) (-7)

Phillips and I are rooting for utter chaos in the BCS, which means we need Texas Tech to lose this game. The fewer undefeated teams there are (ideally zero), the better to create a huge fucking controversy about who should be playing in the national title game. Then public sentiment turns against the BCS further and, by some miracle, we get a better system. Yeah, that’s a pipe dream, but still.

And yet I can’t stop rooting for Texas Tech. I want them to win this game, and I can’t help it. There’s just something great about a coach obsessed with pirates and the best offense in the country. It’s the kind of team you can root for. It’s like a football insurgency.

Pick: Texas Tech

Update: Oklahoma 65 Texas Tech 21.

Well, there’s the chaos I was looking for! It came at the sacrifice at my favorite contender to the BCS throne, but I’ll take it. Now we just need Florida to take Alabama down and there will be a 15-round fight to see who will play for the national title that doesn’t really exist. Oklahoma is one of those teams, and they’re really good, though beating a house of cards in Texas Tech isn’t as big an accomplishment as they’re going to make it out to be.

Record through week 13: 144-61, 99-102-6 ATS

Sunday, 8:15pm

Colts (6-4) at Chargers (4-6) (-2.5)

I have a bet on this game with a die-hard Colts fan that I really don’t mind losing. Worse, it doesn’t really matter if we win or lose because Norv Turner is coming back next year anyway. It’s a very depressing time to be a Chargers fan.

Pick: Chargers

Some final thoughts about the weekend:

Ricky Hatton fustigated Paulie Malignaggi in Vegas Saturday night, meaning he gets the winner of De La Hoya/Pacquiao. I very much love this idea, though tonight is the official kickoff of this site’s obsession with the upcoming mega-fight. Love it. Love. It.

Myron Rolle won a Rhodes Scholarship Saturday and then flew to Baltimore to play Maryland. Yeah, that Myron Rolle. The one who could be a first-round pick from FSU next Spring. That’s nuts. Congratulations to Rolle and his family, and if I may insert my opinion into what is a very personal decision for Rolle: he should take the scholarship and be a doctor. To hell with the NFL. Sure, the money is nice, but clearly Rolle has a world-class brain that can give more to society than being a safety in the NFL. If there’s some way to do both, great, but if there’s not, go to school.

Speaking of fights, I want to start the hype on this site for BJ Penn vs. George St. Pierre, which will happen on January 31. That’s going to be a fantastic fucking fight and I love me some fighting. Thank God there are still some good fights out there in the UFC because this one is going to be great.

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