There have been games played since Tuesday, and even though those picks are included in this list, they were published in blogs earlier in the week. It's rivalry weekend, and there have already been plenty of fireworks. But the big game today pits number one Alabama travelling to Auburn in the Iron Bowl with national championship hopes hanging in the balance. Second-ranked Florida State heads to the Swamp to play Florida in what is usually a competitive game. However, the Gators have lost six in a row and the 'Noles are looking ahead to a date with Alabama in January. And on the outside looking in right now are the Ohio State Buckeyes, who will enter the Big House in Ann Arbor with their hopes of playing for a national championship still intact.
Last week: 17 - 7
Overall: 190 - 59
(1) Alabama (11 - 0) 30 @ (4) Auburn (10 - 1) 24: While it would be refreshing to see Auburn end the Tide's run toward another national championship, Alabama's offense has too much for the Auburn defense. Three years ago, Cam Newton led the Tigers to a huge second half comeback on the way to their SEC and national title. But Newton's now leading the NFL Panthers on a run of their own and AJ McCarron is hitting on all cylinders for Alabama.
(2) Florida State (11 - 0) 37 @ Florida (4 - 7) 16: The Seminoles travel to the Swamp to take on a Gator team that is struggling to score points. Their defense is very good, but unless Florida State comes in flat, it doesn't look good for the home team. Jameis Winston is playing QB at a very high level for the 'Noles, despite his off the field issues. It's going to be impossible for Ohio State to pass Florida State in the BCS unless the Seminoles drop a game, which probable won't happen at Florida.
(3) Ohio State (11 - 0) 31 @ Michigan (7 - 4) 23: The Buckeyes are still very much in the hunt for a national championship berth. There's a lot of football left and in the past, upsets have frequently occurred on the last weekend of the season. This is a big rivalry, perhaps the biggest in the nation. Ohio State has to travel to Ann Arbor to take on an inconsistent Wolverine team that has had flashes of brilliance combined with periods of very poor play. The Buckeyes have rarely been challenged, so I like them to continue their dominance.
(21) Texas A&M (8 - 3) 35 @ (5) Missouri (10 -1) 30: Texas A&M's high flying offense was grounded by LSU last week, managing just 10 points behind Johnny Football. Missouri needs a win to clinch the SEC East. LSU matches up well against the Aggies, as they've been the only team to really stop A&M the last two years. Missouri isn't nearly as athletic on defense as LSU, so I'm predicting we'll see South Carolina playing against Alabama in the SEC title game. Call me crazy.
(6) Clemson (10 - 1) 34 @ (10) South Carolina (9 - 2) 31: This is one of many great matchups this weekend. Clemson, since it's loss to Florida State, has been flying a little bit under the radar. The Gamecocks have won the last four meetings between these in-state rivals, which one year produced a brawl so violent that it compelled Lou Holtz at South Carolina to turn down a bowl bid. When I was in college I got pulled over in South Carolina for a speeding ticket and a more serious offense, but was let off by the state trooper, whose son played baseball for Gamecocks, because I was on my way back to Virginia Tech after our baseball team took two of three from Clemson. Now that's a rivalry! But getting back to the game on the field, I'll take the Tigers to break the losing streak, even in Columbia, possibly securing a BCS bowl bid in the process.
(25) Notre Dame (8 - 3) 23 @ (8) Stanford (9 -2) 27: Stanford's win over Oregon has lost some luster with the Ducks' performances the last couple of weeks, including last night's nail biter against Oregon State. This doesn't appear to be a good match for Notre Dame, as I see Stanford as a faster and more physical version of the Irish. The home field may be the difference in this game. I'll take the Cardinal in a good football game.
(9) Baylor (9 - 1) 31 @ TCU (4 -7) 20: TCU is nearing the end of a disappointing season and Baylor wants to bounce back from their trouncing at the hands of Oklahoma State. The Horned Frogs traditionally have a strong defense under coach Gary Patterson, but this year they're having difficulty scoring. So even if they slow down the Bears, I'm not sure they can put enough points on the board to win.
Minnesota (8 - 3) 13 @ (11) Michigan State (10 -1) 24: The Spartans, as I've said the last few weeks, are one of the big surprises and maybe the most underrated team this season. Minnesota has a pretty good defense of its own, but hasn't been able to produce points against tough opponents. Michigan State will tune up for next week's Big Ten championship game against Ohio State with a tough, grind it out win over the
Arizona (7 - 4) 26 @ (12) Arizona State (9 - 2) 35 : Arizona, until last week's huge upset of Oregon, had lost to the top four teams on their schedule. Arizona State is on a roll, and even in a big rivalry game, they should be able to handle the Wildcats in Tempe. With a win today, the Sun Devils will also host Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game.
Penn State (6 -5) 17 @ (15) Wisconsin (9 - 2) 27: Penn State has played very well at home, but struggles on the road, where they've failed to win this season in three tries. It won't improve any today, with the Badgers bringing a six game win streak and a tough defense into the game at Camp Randall. I give the Nittany Lions a lot of credit for a good season following the controversy of the last two years, but they won't have enough today.
(22) UCLA (8 - 3) 24 @ (23) USC (9 - 3) 28: At one point, it looked like this game might help to decide the Pac-12 South title, but the Bruins' loss to Arizona State last week eliminated that possibility. But this is still a big cross-town rivalry game with bowl positioning repercussions and a chance for interim USC coach Ed Orgeron to continue to stay in the race to officially take over from Lane Kiffen, who was fired in midseason. I'm going to take the Trojans, giving them the edge defensively.
(24) Duke (9 - 2) 27 @ UNC (6 - 4) 30: Duke needs a win to clinch the ACC Coastal and secure a date against Florida State in the league championship game in Charlotte next week. North Carolina, after a rough start, has won five in a row and is playing like the team many thought would contend for the ACC Coastal title. They put up 80 points against Old Dominion last week and will pose a lot of problems for the surprising Blue Devils today, who come in with a seven game winning streak of their own. Duke's defense is playing at a high level and their offense is scoring enough to win game. But I like the Heels to pull it out at home.
Virginia Tech (7 - 4) 27 @ Virginia (2 - 9) 14: The Hokies will probably know by game time whether they still have a shot at a spot in the ACC championship game. If UNC prevails over Duke, a Tech win pits them against Florida State next week in Charlotte. The Hokies have won nine in a row and 13 out of 14, the longest period of dominance for either team in a rivalry that began in 1895 with eight consecutive Virginia wins. On the field, this has been a very difficult season for the Cavaliers, coming into the game sporting an eight game losing streak, during which they have rarely been competitive with the exception of a one-point loss to Maryland. While the Hokies have struggled on offense at times, I think their defense will be the difference today.
Georgia (7 - 4) 31 @ Georgia Tech (7 - 4) 26: Georgia came into the season with national championship aspirations, but after losing to Clemson, has suffered through an injury riddled season. Georgia Tech has played well since losing three games in a row early in the season and with a Duke loss, will tie for the ACC Coastal title. I think the talent level on Georgia is better than at Georgia Tech and its shown as the Bulldogs have beaten the Yellow Jackets in eleven of the last twelve games between these long time in-state rivals. Georgia has figured out how to stop Paul Johnson's option running game and should continue the streak today.
Games Played Earlier in the Week:
Texas Tech (7 - 4) 27 @ Texas (7 - 3) 35: Texas Tech had the wheels come off an undefeated season when they hit the meat of their schedule. They haven't won a game since beating West Virginia way back on October 19. In those four losses, they gave up an average of over 50 points per game. Texas saw their six game win streak ended by what we now know is a very talented Oklahoma State team in their last game. The Red Raiders will go to Austin down, and the Longhorns should take them out tonight. Texas is still in contention in the Big 12 and have a lot more to play for, potentially including their coach's job, than Texas Tech. The conference is still a race, primarily because of Oklahoma's unexpected loss to West Virginia earlier in the season. For the Cowboys to win the Big 12, they will need to get by Oklahoma next week. If they don't, it opens up a number of scenarios for three other teams to win the league title. In some cases, I think the lack of a conference championship game is terrific. This is one of those cases. Look for Texas to bring it big and enter next week's big showdown with Baylor with something significant to play for.
Western Michigan (1 - 10) 13 @ (14) Northern Illinois (11-0) 34: (This pick was in a previous blog that was posted prior to the game.) Northern Illinois has already clinched the MAC West and is now trying to win their last two to have another shot at another BCS bowl game. This shouldn't pose much of problem for Huskies. Western Michigan is one of the worst teams in the FBS and in last place in their division. Northern Illinois is scheduled to play either Bowling Green or Buffalo next week in the MAC championship game, with neither team being a pushover. The Huskies' QB Jordan Lynch is starting to get significant attention as a top NFL prospect. He should be able to make more strides tonight.
Oregon State (6 - 4) 21@ (13) Oregon (9 - 2) 40: This is not a particularly good week to be playing Oregon, who suffered an embarrassing loss to Arizona and any chance at winning the Pac-12 North last week. The Beavers were similarly embarrassed by Washington on their home field, so I look for the Ducks to smack their rivals around in blowout this afternoon.
(16) Fresno State (10 - 0) 37 @ San Diego State (5 - 6) 26: Fresno State faces one of the tougher tests it has had in the last few games, but after three consecutive losses, San Diego State doesn't appear to have enough to defeat the 16th ranked Bulldogs, who are still in contention for a BCS bowl berth.
Arkansas (3 - 8) 17 @ (17) LSU (8 - 3) 27: I just don't see how the Razorbacks can compete in this one. It's been a long season and what's apparent is that coach Bret Bielema just doesn't have the athletes yet on defense to support his preferred style of play. LSU has matured greatly, especially on defense, as the season has progressed. The Golden Boot should stay in Louisiana for another year.
South Florida (2 - 8) 14 @ (19) UCF (9 - 1) 34: No contest here, as UCF is trying to clinch the American Athletic Conference title with a win over the hapless Bulls. The Knights are physical, playing more like an SEC or ACC team. South Florida has no answer for UCF QB Blake Bortles, who should be able to lead his team to a big win today.
Washington State (6 - 5) 27 @ Washington (7 - 4) 31: Washington came alive last week, overwhelming Oregon State on the road. If they continue that kind of play, they should be able to take care of Washington State at home. Between the tough environment for visitors and their potent offense, I like the Huskies to be able to hold off their intrastate rival.
Ole Miss (7 - 4) 30 @ Mississippi State (5 - 6) 21: Mississippi State is playing for a bowl berth and Ole Miss will be playing to get a big rivalry win in the SEC West and grab a victory in the Egg Bowl. My question: What does the winning team get? A dozen eggs? Are they scrambled, over easy or even hard boiled? I mean really, the Egg Bowl? Anyway, back to the game. Ole Miss has had a very good season, losing only to the elite teams in the SEC while pulling off upsets of Texas and LSU. They have a ton of talent and are maybe a year or two away from contending in the conference. Mississippi State, against a very similar schedule, has not fared as well. Missouri was able to stop Ole Miss last week, but Mississippi State isn't close to the Tigers on either side of the ball. I'll put all of my eggs in the Ole Miss basket today.
Miami (8 - 3) 24 @ Pittsburgh (6-5) 21: The ACC Coastal race is very tight and the tiebreaker is complicated, but the only way Miami stays in contention is with a win and losses by Duke and Virginia Tech. This is a chance for the previously ranked Hurricanes to redeem themselves to end the season, but travelling to Pittsburgh is a tough task. I think Miami got its mojo back by drilling Virginia last week, so I'll go with them to beat a pesky Pitt team.