Things begin to get very interesting this week, as the national championship elimination starts in earnest, with Clemson hosting Florida State, along with a number of other tough match-ups for other BCS contenders.
Season: 120 - 31
UCF (4-1) 27 @ (8) Louisville (6-0) 26: I would like to see Louisville play a quality opponent, but this is as close as I'll get this season. If the Cardinals get by the Golden Knights, they'll most likely run the table and complete the season undefeated, perhaps one of only a couple to do so. They weren't impressive last week against Rutgers, and UCF gave South Carolina all they could handle. I'm picking the big upset here.
Arkansas (3-4) 14 @ (1) Alabama (6-0) 35: The Razorbacks were embarrassed in their own building by South Carolina last week and head to Tuscaloosa needing to regroup to avoid getting shellacked by the nation's top team. Since a spirited effort against Texas A&M, Arkansas has played uninspired football for first year coach Bret Bielema. I don't usually believe in moral victories, but playing Alabama tough would be one for the Hogs.
Washington St. (4-3) 20 @ (2) Oregon (6-0) 54: Washington St. was exposed at home last week by Oregon St. Now they travel to face the impressive Ducks, not an easy task. Oregon might be the best team in the country and the Cougars are far from it. Look for the home team to run it up in this one. Fans on the east coast might want to stay up late to get a look at a terrific team against a quality opponent before handing the number one ranking to Alabama.
(5) Florida State (5-0) 24 @ (3) Clemson (6-0) 30: This is obviously the game of the week in college football, with the winner becoming a key contender for a shot at a place in the national championship game. With a win, the road is probably much easier for Clemson than for Florida State, with the Seminoles still having to play Miami and Florida while the Tigers' toughest games are at Maryland and against Georgia Tech at home. I'm taking Clemson because Florida State's Jamies Winston has yet to face the speed that Clemson has and I think he'll have some difficulty adjusting early.
Iowa (4-2) 20 @ (4) Ohio State (6-0) 31: The Buckeyes need to win impressively to make up for a weak schedule, one that was hurt even further by Northwestern's lopsided loss to Wisconsin last week. Iowa can be tough, but Ohio State should be able to find a way to win.
(6) LSU (6-1) 23 @ Ole Miss (3-3) 17: Ole Miss is a pretty good football team with the unfortunate fate to be in the SEC West. LSU is trying to stay alive for the SEC West title and maybe more. The Tigers are solid and should have more than the Rebels, especially defensively.
(7) Texas A&M 37 (5-1) @ (24) Auburn (5-1) 38: I've said all season that I don't think Texas A&M can continue to let other teams hang around with chances to win games because its defense can't consistently stop it opponents. At Arkansas, the Aggies were pressed by a team that is still trying to find its way and without a pick six in the opening minutes of the third quarter, might have left Fayetteville with a loss. The Tigers are starting to hit stride under new coach Gus Malzahn and should give Texas A&M a great battle. I'll pick the upset here.
(9) UCLA (5-0) 34 @ (13) Stanford (5-1) 30: Stanford's loss at Utah was a little surprising last week, but it's a great example of why so few teams are able to navigate the regular season without a blemish on their record. The Bruins have won at Nebraska and Utah, so it's difficult to dismiss their chances of upsetting the Cardinal in Palo Alto. If Stanford's really as physical as everyone says, they shouldn't have
been able to be beaten by Utah. I'm going with the Bruins.
(11) South Carolina (5-1) 27 @ Tennessee (3-3) 28: This one is a lot harder to pick than you might think. Until last week, the Gamecocks hadn't been particularly impressive and Tennessee's losses are all to ranked teams. This is the second of five straight games the Vols have against teams that are currently ranked, so it's reasonable to assume that beginning with their overtime loss to Georgia, they'll give one or more of those a scare. I'll say that continues this week.
Iowa St. (1-4) 20 @ (12) Baylor (5-0) 45: Baylor was slowed down a little bit last week by Kansas State on the road, but this week in Waco they'll have the track shoes back on.
(22) Florida (4-2) 19 @ (14) Missouri (6-0) 27: Okay, either Missouri's for real or Georgia isn't. Maybe it's a little of both. It's unfortunate that the Tigers are without their starting quarterback, James Franklin, who was hurt in last week's game. I haven't been a Florida believer this season, and after Arkansas mailed it in against South Carolina, Florida's offensive performance against the Razorbacks really doesn't mean anything. Missouri's serving notice that the new kid in town needs to be reckoned with, even with a backup at QB.
(15) Georgia (4-2) 34 @ Vanderbilt (3-3) 24: The Bulldogs got a surprise from Missouri last week, so they hope to recover against Vanderbilt, whose last game was also a loss to the Tigers. I wouldn't have wanted to be in Mark Richt's practices this week at Georgia. They should come out hot against the Commodores.
(16) Texas Tech (6-0) 38 @ West Virginia (3-3) 28: I have no idea which Mountaineer team will show up: the 30 - 21 winner against Oklahoma St. or the 73 - 42 and 37 - 0 loser at Baylor and Maryland, respectively. Texas Tech can light it up as well and I think West Virginia's win over the Cowboys was a fluke.
UNLV (4-2) 37 @ (17) Fresno St. (5-0) 35: My heart is going to make what is probably a bad pick here, but I cannot go with Fresno St. because I want so badly for them to lose. Their ranking is entirely unjustified by the numbers and the eye test. They give up a ridiculous amount of points to bad teams. It's about time for the gig to be up and UNLV has won four games in a row.
(18) Oklahoma (5-1) 27 @ Kansas (2-3) 16: This couldn't have been a great week in Norman for the Sooners. They got shellacked by a team that most analysts have criticized all season. While the loss to Texas was surprising, it didn't shock me because Oklahoma's offense hasn't been very consistent all season. They'll head on the road and make a statement this week.
(20) Washington (4-2) 27 @ Arizona St. (4-2) 32 : I have no idea why I'm picking the Sun Devils, probably because they're at home. Washington's coming off two tough losses to Oregon and Stanford. It's easy to say, well, Arizona St. isn't in that class. But going on the road after that two game gauntlet is tough and while the Sun Devils aren't a top five team, they're pretty good.
TCU (3-3) 24 @ (21) Oklahoma St. (4-1) 30 : I like TCU but I don't think they can score enough to top the Cowboys in Stillwater. Oklahoma St. stumbled at West Virginia, but they still control their own destiny in the Big 12 even though there's a long way to go in the season. Look for OSU to take care of business.
(23) Northern Illinois (6-0) 27 @ Central Michigan (3-4) 21: Central Michigan has played some big time teams, but hasn't really competed well. They don't have a lot of chance this week against the class of their conference.
(25) Wisconsin (4-2) 27 @ Illinois (3-2) 23 : Illinois will pose a tough test for the Badgers. I thought they would upset Nebraska last week, but fell short. Wisconsin is just a little better and can really run the football. This one could be close, but I'll go with the Badgers.
Syracuse (3-3) 27 @ Ga. Tech (3-3) 24: Ga. Tech has been disappointing this season and Syracuse is coming off an impressive win at NC State. The Yellow Jackets are reeling and the Orangemen are starting to play better football. This is a close all, but I'll go with the visitors in a mild upset.
Minnesota (4-2) 27 @ Northwestern (4-2) 34 : Both teams are coming off two consecutive defeats and lopsided losses last week. Northwestern is probably better and they're playing at home, so they get the nod.
USC (4-2) 27 @ Notre Dame (4-2) 30: As much as I hate to do it, I have to predict an Irish win. Both teams have played Arizona St. The Trojans got blown out, resulting in the firing of their coach and Notre Dame beat won their matchup on a neutral field. USC rebounded with a big win over Arizona last week, but there are still problems with that team that one win won't solve.
Utah (4-2) 26 @ Arizona (3-2) 21: Utah's record is a lot better than it seems, considering their two losses are to unbeaten UCLA and a one-loss Oregon St. Utah has a good defense and can score enough points to beat Arizona.