Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The College Football Blog: 2010 Week 14 Betting Lines

Last Week’s Record

Biggest 20 Games
(Straight up: 12-8; Vs. Spread: 8-12)

Overall (Straight up: 34-20; Vs. Spread: 24-30; Moneyline Upsets: 1-4)

Season Record

Biggest 10 Games (Straight up: 98-42; Vs. Spread: 65-69-6)

Overall (Straight up: 496-167; Vs. Spread: 327-326-10; Moneyline Upsets: 16-28)

Week 13 Review: An awful week for me; perhaps the worst of the entire season. I may have succeeded in avoiding catastrophe the last few weeks, but the succession of poor weeks I’ve had has produced the same result. My overall record against the spread is now essentially at .500, which means I could have flipped a coin and expected to get about the same result. Thanks to my poor record against the spread in the biggest games last week, I’m now back under .500 ATS in the biggest games for the year. And my attempt to make a big push in the moneyline upset category backfired, as I’m now hopelessly well under .500 in that regard. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of last week was the fact that I missed on 20 games straight up. That’s awful.

Week 14 Preview: This is basically the final week of the regular season, as only Army and Navy play in week 15. And this is really a mini-week, as there are just 19 games on the slate. However, it’s still a huge week because it is championship week for the MAC, Conference-USA, the ACC, the Big XII, and the SEC. It’s also another “rivalry week.” Rivalry week seems to come in four segments nowadays, beginning two weeks ago and ending the week after this. Plus, the Big East championship will be determined this week, and several teams are looking to get bowl eligible, finish with a winning record, or reach other milestones. Even the WAC is technically still up for grabs.

One other observation I have about this week is that I don’t recall this many teams scheduling 13 regular season games before. The teams playing in conference championship games are always playing an extra game, but this year Nevada, San Jose State, Idaho, UNLV, Hawaii, and USC all scheduled an extra 13th game. I could be wrong about this. Maybe there were just as many teams doing this last season or the year before and I just didn’t notice. Either way, the argument made by college presidents that a playoff would make the season too long and include too many games looks utterly ridiculous at this point. I mean, it was always a ludicrous argument, but when the majority of teams are playing 13 games or more (bowls included) I think it’s time to make using that argument a crime punishable by death.

I had some trouble deciding how many of this week’s games to designate as “big games” because there are definitely more than 10. It seemed a bit daft to designate all 19 games as big games just because they happened to be scheduled on this unusual week. Also, I wasn’t sure how I could sell the Middle Tennessee State-Florida International matchup as a big game. All this being said, I will admit that if Navy and Army were playing this week I probably would have gone with the biggest 20 games, simply because it’s a nice round number. In the end, I decided to go with the biggest 15 games. This is a huge week for me, as I’m running out of time to make this a successful season. After this week (and the Army-Navy game next week) only the bowls will be left, and those games are never easy to pick.


Game 1: Arizona State (+6) @ Arizona
Pick: Arizona State beats the spread
Comment: They call this one “The Duel in the Desert.” That’s okay, but it kind of has that “Lone Star Showdown” feel to it. In fact, I’m pretty sure that at least one of the NFL Films Super Bowl highlight videos is called “The Duel in the Desert.” I mean, what if you just called it “The Feud.” See, that took me like 15 seconds to come up with, and it’s a thousand times better than “The Duel in the Desert.” At least they play for a trophy with a cool name: “The Territorial Cup.” Some claim that it is the oldest traveling trophy in college football, which seems hard to believe.

If there is a traditional favorite in this series I guess it would be the Wildcats, as Arizona was the major university in the state during the first half of the 20th century, while ASU was a “normal school” for prospective teachers for many years. It wasn’t until 1958 that the school in Tempe was renamed Arizona State University. Today ASU is a much bigger school, spread out across several campuses. Arizona also holds the lead in the all-time series 46-36-1. However, most of that damage was done prior to 1950. The Wildcats were 20-2 against the Sun Devils (called “the Normals” during those years) through 1948. Since then Arizona State has had the edge, going 34-26-1. Arizona has won the last 2 in the series for the first time since 1997-1998.

The Sun Devils are 5-6 but they will not be bowl eligible even if they win on Thursday because 2 of their wins have come against FCS opponents. They will, however, be trying to avoid finishing with a losing record for a 3rd straight season for the first time since they had losing records in 4 straight years from 1935-1938. Arizona, on the other hand, will be looking to win at least 8 games in 3 straight seasons for the first time since 1973-1975.

Strangely, ASU is 7-2-2 ATS on the season, but they are just 1-4 on the road (3-1-1 ATS on the road). Arizona is 4-2 at home (3-3 ATS) but they have lost their last 3 games. Once again the Cats will have to go with Nick Foles at QB this week, who has thrown a pick in 7 of the 8 games he has started and finished this season.


Game 2: Northern Illinois (-15) vs. Miami (Ohio) (Detroit)
Pick: Northern Illinois covers
Comment: This is the 14th MAC Championship Game and the 7th straight played in Detroit (in the first 7 years the game was played at the campus of one of the division winners). The history of this conference title game is somewhat unique, because the first half of that history was dominated by a team that is no longer a member of the league. Marshall went to the first 6 MAC Championship Games and won 5 of them. The Herd then moved on to Conference-USA and they’ve never been the same since. To some extent, the MAC has never really gotten over Marshall’s exit either. The East division is 8-5 in the title game, but they were 6-1 through the game’s first 7 years, and have gone just 2-4 since. And again, 5 of those 6 wins came from Marshall, who is no longer in the conference.

This one lost a lot of juice (it ever had any) when Temple’s running backs got hurt late in the year again and the Owls stumbled down the stretch. Then Ohio gagged against Kent State, and when the dust settled the East division had a stunning outright winner: the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks (yes, along with having an annoyingly awkward school name, Miami of Ohio has a nickname that is every bit as awkward looking: RedHawks, one word, with a capital letter in the middle of it). Coming off of 2-10 and 1-11 seasons (going 1-7 in the MAC in each year), the RedHawks were expected to be stronger this year, but not to the extent that they would be bowl eligible. An East division title was out of the question, but the RedHawks reversed their conference record this season, going 7-1 in the MAC to best favorites Temple, Ohio, and Kent State. Miami (Ohio) snapped a skid of 4 straight losing seasons and will be going to a bowl game for the first time since 2004. They have won their last 4 games (3-1 ATS) to finish the season 8-4 (7-5 ATS), despite being outscored by opponents on the year (23.6 to 20.1 average score).

The other half of this year’s MAC title game matchup is exactly the opposite of Miami of Ohio. With Dan LeFevour gone from Central Michigan, Northern Illinois was the clear favorite to win the West this season, and the Huskies delivered, steamrolling through conference play with an 8-0 record. They went 10-2 (9-2-1 ATS) and outscored opponents by an average score of 39.2 to 18.5. NIU has won 9 straight and they are 9-0-1 ATS in their last 10. Northern Illinois was competitive out of the conference, beating Minnesota by 11 and losing by just 6 at Illinois. They dominated some of the best competition within the conference, beating Temple by 14 and rolling Toledo by 35.

The RedHawks, on the other hand, were not able to hang outside the conference, losing 34-12 against Florida, 51-13 against Missouri, and 45-3 against a Cincinnati team which has won only 4 games to this point. The RedHawks won the East with a 7-1 conference record, but they compiled that record in about as unimpressive a fashion as possible. They got whipped by Ohio, 34-13. They eked out wins over miserable Akron (19-14), Bowling Green (24-21), Eastern Michigan (28-21), Central Michigan (27-20), and Buffalo (21-9), teams with a combined record of 10-50. Their most impressive win—a 23-3 victory over Temple—came in the last week of the season when the Owls were without both of their talented running backs.

Northern Illinois has been one of the more successful MAC teams of the last decade or so, putting up 10 win seasons and knocking off teams from the Big Ten. Strangely, the Huskies have yet to win the MAC Championship Game. They have made only one appearance, losing to Akron in 2005, 31-30. The RedHawks will be playing in the title game for the 4th time, having gone 1-2 in 3 previous MAC Championship Games. In 2003 the RedHawks won the conference title, beating Bowling Green 49-27. They got back to the title game the next season but lost to Toledo, 35-27. In 2007 they won the East again but got hammered by Central Michigan, 35-10.

These two teams have met just 14 times before, with each side winning 7 times. However, since 2002 NIU has won all 5 meetings with the RedHawks. The Huskies will be looking to win 11 games for the first time in their history. Miami (Ohio) will be looking to win 9 games for the first time since they went 13-1 and won the conference in 2003. The RedHawks will be playing the game without the QB who led them for most of the season. Zac Dysert has some sort of severe stomach ailment and won’t be able to play again until perhaps their bowl game. However, Austin Boucher played the last 2 games, and so far so good.

Game 3: Illinois (-6) @ Fresno State
Pick: Fresno State beats the spread
Comment: The first ever meeting between these two in last year’s season finale was a thriller and one of the more entertaining games of the year. There were 8 lead changes, and Fresno State erased a double digit lead at Illinois, scoring a TD with 2 seconds left to get within a point. With nothing to lose, Pat Hill gambled and went for 2, and the pass was tipped and caught in the end zone by a Bulldog offensive lineman for the conversion to give Fresno State a 53-52 win.

This year the game will be played at Fresno State, where the Bulldogs will be looking to win 8 games in consecutive seasons for the first time since they did it 5 years straight from 2001-2005. Illinois will be coming off of a bye and trying to finish the regular season with a winning record for the first time since 2007. It would also be their first 7 win season since 2007. The Illini surprised some people this season and they are 8-3 ATS. They are 4-1 ATS in their last 5. Fresno State is 4-2 at home (2-3-1 ATS), while this will be just the 4th true road game of the year for Illinois (they are 1-2 on the road so far).


Game 4: Rutgers (+20.5) @ West Virginia
Pick: West Virginia covers
Comment: There’s no denying that the Mountaineers are far from the program they were a few years ago, before Rich Rodriguez ditched them like a starlet dumping her high school sweetheart in favor of a producer who showed interest. Yet somehow West Virginia may very well find themselves playing in another BCS game this season. The Mountaineers are 8-3 (7-4 ATS) and 5-1 at home (4-2 ATS). They have won 3 straight (3-0 ATS), including last week’s beat down of Pitt in the Backyard Brawl. They have now won at least 8 games in 9 straight seasons and will go to a 9th straight bowl game. This week they will be looking to win at least 9 games for a 6th straight year.

More importantly, West Virginia needs to win this Saturday to stay alive in the Big East title race. If they lose they are out. If they win and UConn loses at South Florida (which is highly possible), the Mountaineers will win the Big East and go to a BCS bowl. If Connecticut wins it doesn’t matter what WV does, the Huskies will be the champs.

It shouldn’t be too hard for the Mountaineers to take care of business on their end. Rutgers comes into the game having lost 5 straight and they are just 1-3 on the road this season. The Knights are 2-9 ATS on the season and 1-5 ATS in their last 6. The Scarlet Knights were going to struggle this season no matter what, but they should have at least been able to get bowl eligible, with a schedule that included home games against Norfolk State, Tulane, Syracuse, Louisville, and Army, plus a road game against FIU. They were 4-2 after 6 games, but the injury to teammate Eric LeGrand against Army seemed to pull Rutgers down rather than galvanize the team. They haven’t won since, and last week at home against Louisville it looked like they might have quit, as they fell 40-13 to the Cardinals. They are just 1-5 in Big East play. The Scarlet Knights had their winning season streak snapped at 5 this season, and they’ll have to win on Saturday to avoid losing 8 games in a season for the first time since 2002.

West Virginia has owned Rutgers. They hold a 31-4-2 lead in the all-time series and they have defeated the Scarlet Knights 15 straight times (with only 5 of those 15 games being decided by 7 points or less). The Mountaineers are 15-0 against the Knights in Morgantown. Things have been a bit more competitive lately. In 2006, the Knights went on the road and forced the Mountaineers into 3 OT before falling 41-39. In 2008, West Virginia hung on for a 24-17 win in Morgantown. Last year at Rutgers the Mountaineers eked out a 24-21 win.

Game 5: Pittsburgh (+2) @ Cincinnati
Pick: Pittsburgh pulls off the upset
Comment: This is a strange spread. Pitt did look awful at home against WV last week, but the Bearcats are just 4-7 this season (4-7 ATS), 3-3 at home, and 1-4 in their last 5 (1-4 ATS). Everyone expected the Bearcats to take a step back in Butch Jones’ first season, but they have slipped farther than most people thought they would. The Panthers have been a disappointment again this season, as they are just 6-5 (2-3 on the road). Amazingly, the Panthers are still alive for the Big East championship and a BCS bowl. If Pitt wins and both UConn and West Virginia lose, the Panthers would be conference champs. It’s a major long shot, but just the fact that they still have a chance is pretty ridiculous.

Pitt won the first 7 in this series, but they have lost to the Bearcats in each of the last two seasons. Last year the two teams played a de facto Big East championship game, and the Panthers had a 31-10 lead at home, but Cinci stormed back to win 45-44 and go to the Sugar Bowl. The last 3 years, this game has been decided by 7 points or less. Since 2000, Pitt is 3-2 against the Bearcats and 1-1 in Cincinnati.

Even if they don’t end up winning the conference, with a win the Panthers can clinch a 3rd straight winning record for the first time since doing it 4 straight years from 2000-2004. Pitt will again be without the services of their stud defensive end Greg Romeus, who is done for the year with an injury. For the Bearcats, another loss this week will give them an 8-loss season for the first time since 1999.

Game 6: SMU (+9.5) @ Central Florida
Pick: Central Florida covers
Comment: This is the 6th Conference-USA Championship Game. As always, the game will be played at the home site of the team with the better record. The West won the first two C-USA title games, but the East has won the last 3. This year the game will be played in Orlando at the home of the Knights. Central Florida has been in the title game twice before, and they hosted both of those games as well. In 2005, the Knights lost at home to Tulsa, 44-27. In 2007, the Knights got revenge, beating Tulsa 44-25 to win their first conference championship. This is the first appearance for SMU. Central Florida is 2-0 all-time against the Mustangs, having won at SMU in 2007 (49-20) and beating them at home in 2008 (31-17).

SMU is just 7-5 this season (6-5-1 ATS) overall but 6-2 in the conference. They have won 3 of their last 4 (3-1 ATS) and they are 3-3 on the road this season. The Mustangs won the West division thanks to a 3-point home win over Tulsa (also 6-2) back in week 6. Also, Tulsa’s loss to East Carolina on a Hail Mary pass in week 1 ended up having a major impact on the season. The Golden Hurricane finished the season 9-3 and riding a 6 game win streak, but it was SMU that held the tie-breaker and thus gets a shot at the conference title.

Central Florida was the favorite to win the East division and they did not disappoint, going 7-1 in conference play, 9-3 overall (9-3 ATS). They made things interesting by losing at home to Southern Miss, but in the end they finished 2 games ahead of both the Golden Eagles and East Carolina. The Knights won 7 of their final 8 games. They are 4-2 at home (4-2 ATS) and they outscored opponents by an average score of 35.2 to 18.9 this season. By comparison, SMU’s average score was 28.2 to 27.2.

June Jones has done a magnificent job at SMU. They have now had back to back winning regular seasons for the first time since they put together 7 straight winning years from 1980-1986 (just before receiving the death penalty). A win this week would give them at least 8 wins in back to back years for the first time since they did it 5 years in a row from 1980-1984. They will be going to a bowl game for a second straight season; the first time they’ve done that since going 3 years in a row from 1982-1984.

Game 7: Utah State (+39.5) @ Boise State
Pick: Boise State covers
Comment: I know, maybe not that big of a game, but in a way it is. For one thing, it’s going to be interesting to see how the Broncos react to last week’s devastating loss at Nevada. I suspect that the possibility of a major letdown is the reason that the spread is only 39.5. Utah State is awful, and the Broncos are an unstoppable force at home. If Boise State had won last week I bet this spread would be 50.

The heartbreaking overtime loss in Nevada snapped Boise State’s 24 game win streak that dated back to the first game of last season. It also snapped their 35 game regular season win streak that dated back to the first game of the 2008 season. They have won 31 straight games on the blue turf. They have won 61 straight regular season home games.

Boise State is now 10-1 (8-3 ATS) and 5-0 at home (3-2 ATS). They are 6-1 in the WAC and they need a win to grab a share of the conference title. If the Broncos win and Nevada somehow losses to Louisiana Tech, Boise State would finish tied with Hawaii for the WAC title, but since they beat the Warriors this season they would hold the tie breaker. If Boise State and Nevada both win they will finish in a 3-way tie with Hawaii, with each team having gone 1-1 against the other two.

The Broncos are 12-4 all-time against Utah State (6-2 at home), but they have beaten the Aggies 9 straight times (5 at home) since 1998. The teams have met 5 times as WAC foes, and the Broncos have won all 5 games, scoring at least 45 points each time, outgaining the Aggies by an average of 254 yards per game over the last 4 meetings. In the last 8 meetings between these two, the Broncos have outgained the Aggies by an average of 185 yards.

Utah State has quietly been one of the worst programs in all of college football over the last decade. They have now finished with a losing record in 12 consecutive years. A loss on Saturday would give them at least 8 losses for an 8th straight year. If they were to pull off one of the most stunning upsets in college football history it would give them 5 wins in a season for the first time since 2000. They are 4-7 (4-7 ATS) and 1-4 on the road (3-2 ATS). The Aggies are 2-5 in the conference.

Game 8: Nevada (-12) @ Louisiana Tech
Pick: Nevada covers
Comment: It will also be interesting to see how the Wolf Pack respond to the biggest win in their program’s history. They need a win to claim a share of the WAC title. If Boise State also wins they will finish in a 3-way tie with Hawaii. If the Broncos lose and Nevada wins, the Wolf Pack would finish tied with Hawaii, but the Warriors would have the tie-breaker, having defeated Nevada earlier this season. As for Louisiana Tech, the Bulldogs need a win to get bowl eligible and avoid a second straight losing season.

Nevada is now 11-1 (6-6 ATS) and 4-1 on the road (2-3 ATS). They have won their last 5 (3-2 ATS). LT is 5-6 (5-6 ATS) and just 2-3 at home (3-2 ATS), but the Bulldogs have won their last 2 games. Nevada is just 6-4 all-time against Louisiana Tech, but they have won the last 5 in this series, outgaining the Bulldogs in each game, by an average of 206 yards per game.

Game 9: Oregon (-16) @ Oregon State
Pick: Oregon covers
Comment: This one is called “The Civil War.” That’s definitely one of the best rivalry names of all-time. This will be the 114th edition. If you were going to label one of the teams as the traditional favorite it would probably be Oregon. The Ducks hold the edge in the all-time series, 57-46-10. However, Oregon has only really taken control of the rivalry over the last 30 years or so. They are 25-9-1 against OSU since 1975. Prior to that the Beavers were 37-32-9 against Oregon. The Ducks have won the last 2, but the teams have split the last 12 in the series going back to 1998. Neither side has won 3 straight since Oregon won 4 in a row from 1994-1997. In each of the last 2 years Oregon State needed to beat the Ducks in order to go to the Rose Bowl, but they haven’t been able to do it. In 2008, the Ducks snapped a 5 game losing skid in Corvallis, getting 5 touchdowns of at least 40 yards on their way to a 65-38 win. Things have been very close in 3 of the last 4 years. In 2006, Oregon State won at home, 30-28. In 2007, the Beavers went to Eugene and knocked off the Ducks, 38-31 in double overtime. Last year the Ducks hung on for a 37-33 win at home.

This season there is more than ever at stake. With a win, the Ducks will lock up a spot in the National Championship Game. They have never won 12 games in a season. They have not finished the season undefeated since 1916 when they went 7-0-1. Their last undefeated and untied season was in 1895 when they went 4-0. Aside from crushing the dreams of their arch rivals, the Beavers will be trying to get bowl eligible and avoid their first losing season since 2005.

The Ducks are 11-0 (6-4-1 ATS) and 5-0 on the road (2-3 ATS), but they are just 0-2-1 ATS in their last 3. They have outscored opponents by an average score of 50.5 to 18.3 this season. The Beavers are just 5-6 (5-6 ATS) but they are 4-1 at home (2-2-1 ATS). Still, Oregon State’s recent play has not given us any reason to think they can compete with the Ducks. They lost James Rogers early in the year and that was a tremendous blow. Lately the wheels have started to fall off. They have lost 3 of their last 4 (1-3 ATS), including a humiliating 31-14 loss to Wazu at home, as well as a 38-0 spanking at the hands of Stanford. True, they did manage to beat USC again, this time winning 36-7, but the performances before and after that game (the loss to Wazu and the loss to Stanford) were probably more telling. The Beavers have a negative scoring differential this season (outscored 25.9 to 24.8 on average).

Game 10: Auburn (-5) vs. South Carolina (Atlanta)
Pick: Auburn covers
Comment: The 19th edition of the original conference championship game. Both teams have been ranked in the AP top 25 in every single SEC Championship Game. This will also be the 19th time in 19 years that at least 1 of the 2 teams is ranked in the top 10. This will be the 17th time in 19 years that at least 1 of the teams is in the top 5. This is the 12th time in 19 years that at least 1 of the teams is ranked in the top 3. And this is the 7th time in 19 years that at least 1 of the teams is ranked either #1 or #2. The winners of the last 4 SEC Championship Games have gone on to win the BCS National Championship. The East is 11-7 against the West.

Auburn will be making their 4th appearance in the SEC title game. In 1997, the Tigers lost 30-29 to Tennessee. In 2000, Auburn lost to Florida, 28-6. In 2004, Auburn beat Tennessee, 38-28, to win the conference and finish the season undefeated. If the Tigers do win on Saturday is will be the 2nd time since 2004 that they reach the 13-0 mark.

This is South Carolina’s first ever appearance in the conference title game. A win for the Gamecocks would mean their first SEC Championship and their first trip to a BCS bowl. It would also give South Carolina 10 wins for the first time since 1984 and just the second time in the program’s history.

While South Carolina is new to the SEC Championship Game, Steve Spurrier is not. In fact, when Spurrier retires, his record in the SEC Championship Game will be included in the first paragraph of the press report. It will be in the first paragraph of his obituary. As coach of the Florida Gators, Spurrier took his teams to 7 SEC title games, winning 5 of them. In his final SEC Championship Game as the head ball coach at Florida (2000), Spurrier’s Gators defeated Auburn, 28-6.

While Spurrier’s record in the SEC title game is impressive, Auburn’s record against South Carolina is also noteworthy. The Tigers are 7-1-1 all-time against the Cocks. Auburn is 5-0 against South Carolina since 1996 (last meeting before 1996 was in 1933). This year’s SEC Championship matchup is a bit of a rarity, as it will be a rematch from the regular season. The two teams met in week 4 at Auburn, with the Tigers winning a very competitive game, 35-27.

Auburn is 12-0 (8-4 ATS) and they are 5-1 ATS in their last 6. South Carolina is 9-3 (7-5 ATS) and the Cocks have won their last 3 (3-0 ATS). Both teams are coming off of huge wins over instate rivals. It will be interesting to see if the Tigers can get back up for this game, after their dramatic come from behind win at Alabama last Friday. It will also be interesting to see how this South Carolina team handles the pressure of the conference title game and the challenge of trying to knock off the #1 team in the BCS.

Game 11: Washington (-7) @ Washington State
Pick: Washington State beats the spread
Comment: They call this one the Apple Cup. I usually don’t like the names that are based off some aspect of the local area, but for some reason this name really seems to fit the rivalry. This will be the 103rd meeting. Washington is clearly the traditional favorite. The Huskies are 65-31-6 all-time against the Cougars. Last year Washington shutout the Cougs, 30-0, but Wazu has won 4 of the last 6, including 2 of the last 3 in Pullman.

Wazu has been more competitive than expected this season. They are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games. In their last game, the Cougars got over a major hump, snapping a 16 game losing skid in conference play with a convincing win over Oregon State on the road. That should give them plenty of confidence heading into the Apple Cup. The problem is that by the time this game starts, it will have been 21 days since the Cougars last played. The Huskies, on the other hand, will come into this game with plenty of momentum, having won 2 straight, including a gutsy road win over Cal last week when they scored from a yard out on the final play of the game to win 16-13.

The Huskies are 5-6 and 2-3 on the road. They are 4-4 in Pac-10 play. They need a win to avoid a 7th straight losing season and get bowl eligible for the first time since they were 6-6 in 2003. With a win they would go to their first bowl since 2002.

Wazu is 2-9 overall but 7-4 ATS. They are just 1-4 at home, but 3-2 ATS at home. They are 1-7 in Pac-10 play. The Cougars need a win to avoid losing at least 10 games for a 3rd straight year. A victory would give Washington State 3 wins in a season for the first time since 2007.

Game 12: Florida State (+4) vs. Virginia Tech (Charlotte)
Pick: Virginia Tech covers
Comment: This is the 6th ACC Championship Game and a rematch of the first one in 2005. This is Florida State’s first appearance since then. That year the Seminoles beat Virginia Tech 27-22 to win the conference title. VT will be making a 4th appearance in 6 years. In 2007 they defeated Boston College 30-16 to win the title. They went back a year later and beat BC again, this time winning 30-12, to win their second straight title. The Atlantic division won the first 2 ACC title games, but the Coastal has won the last 3.

These two teams have actually met 34 times. FSU has a firm grasp on the all-time series with a 22-11-1 record against the Hokies, and the Noles have won 13 of the last 14 meetings between the two teams since 1976. They are 4-1 against VT since 2000. That was the year that the two teams met in the BCS National Championship Game, with FSU defeating Michael Vick and the Hokies, 46-29. In 2002, the teams squared off in the Gator Bowl, with the Noles winning 30-17. In 2005 Florida State beat VT 27-22 in the ACC Championship Game. In 2007, the Hokies ended the losing streak against FSU at 12, beating the Noles 41-20 in Blacksburg. But in 2008, FSU started another streak, winning 30-20 over the Hokies at home.

Virginia Tech’s season couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start, as they lost a heartbreaker to Boise State in the opener, and then got shocked by James Madison in week 2. They have won 10 straight since then, going 9-1 ATS. FSU won their last 3 to finish the year 9-3 (7-5 ATS). If the Noles win this weekend they will get to the 10 win mark for the first time since 2003. While I don’t think you can say that the Noles are “back,” because that would imply that they are back to being what they were from 1985-2000, and that simply isn’t the case. However, Jimbo Fisher is on the verge of having one of the all-time great first seasons as a head coach. If the Noles win on Saturday they will win the conference title and go to a BCS bowl game. They will have 10 wins, and they will have defeated Miami, Florida, Clemson, and Virginia Tech along the way. That’s a lot to accomplish in your first season replacing a legend.

I’m annoyed that the ACC Championship Game ended up with this great of a matchup. I really thought NC State was going to get to this game. If they somehow choked I was hoping that Maryland would make it. Then I would be rooting for NC State or Maryland to win the conference title game so that they would earn a BCS bid and all the bowl people would be pissed off. I was rooting for Syracuse to win the Big East for the same reason.

Game 13: Nebraska (+4) vs. Oklahoma (Arlington)
Pick: Oklahoma covers
Comment: The Big XII was the first conference to follow the SEC’s lead and create 2 divisions and a conference title game. But this game has produced a surprising result much more often than the SEC title game. Regrettably, this will be the 15th and final Big XII Championship Game.

Fittingly, the final edition will feature one of the all-time great rivalries. Oklahoma vs. Nebraska. That’s college football. Unfortunately, this will likely be the last game between these two for a long time. Thankfully we will get to see it one more time, on a big stage, with much at stake for both teams.

You don’t think of either of these teams as the traditional favorite. Oklahoma leads the all-time series, 44-38-3, however, since 1943 the Sooners are 41-22 against Big Red. The Sooners have won 5 of the last 7 meetings, but last year the Cornhuskers won 10-3 at home to snap a 4 game losing streak against Oklahoma.

This will be the 12th time in 15 years that both teams in the title game are ranked in the AP top 25. It’s the 9th time that both teams are ranked in the top 15. It’s the 15th straight year that at least one of the teams in the Big XII Championship Game is ranked in the top 10. The South division has won 10 of the 14 games, including the last 6.

Both of these teams have plenty of experience in the conference title game. Nebraska will be making their 6th appearance, while the Sooners will be here for an 8th time. Nebraska is 2-3 in the game, while Oklahoma has gone 6-1. Nebraska made it to the first ever Big XII title game in 1996, but they were stunned by underdog Texas, 37-27. The Cornhuskers went back the next season and demolished A&M, 54-15. In 1999, Nebraska got revenge on Texas, winning 22-6 for their 2nd conference title in 3 years. They did not get back to the title game until 2006, when they squared off with old rival Oklahoma. The Sooners won 21-7. Then last year Nebraska nearly pulled off a shocking win over Texas, falling 13-12 thanks to the clock being stopped early when Colt McCoy launched the ball out of bounds with just seconds remaining.

Oklahoma beat Kansas State in the 2000 title game, 27-24. In 2002, the Sooners beat Colorado, 29-7. In 2003, KSU pulled off one of the stunners of the decade, hammering Oklahoma 35-7. The Sooners came back the next year and took out some frustration on the Buffs, winning 42-3. In 2006 the Sooners beat the Cornhuskers 21-7. They beat Mizzu 38-17 the next year. Then in 2008 the Sooners whipped Missouri 62-21 for their 3rd consecutive conference title.

The Cornhuskers are 10-2 (5-6-1 ATS), but they are just 1-3 ATS in their last 4, and the quarterback situation is a bit of a mess. Oklahoma is 10-2 (7-5 ATS) and the Sooners have won 3 straight (3-0 ATS).

Game 14: Connecticut (+1.5) @ South Florida
Pick: Connecticut pulls off the upset
Comment: It’s really simple for UConn. If they beat South Florida they are the Big East champs and they will go to a BCS bowl. If they lose they will need help. These two teams have played 7 times (all since 2000), with the Bulls holding a 4-3 lead. South Florida is 3-0 against the Huskies at home. Last year’s game was a thriller, with 7 lead changes, including 4 in the 4th quarter alone. The Huskies ended up winning 29-27 at home. The last 3 meetings have been decided by 7 points or less.

Both teams are 7-4 overall. The Huskies are 7-4 ATS as well, but they are just 1-4 on the road (1-4 ATS), while the Bulls are 4-2 at home (2-4 ATS). The Huskies have won 4 straight (4-0 ATS), while the Bulls have won 4 of 5 (3-2 ATS).

A win for the Huskies in this game will give them at least 8 wins for a 4th straight season. Similarly, a win for the Bulls will give them at least 8 wins for a 5th straight season.

South Florida is 3-3 in the conference, while Connecticut is 4-2. The possibility exists for a 5-way tie in the Big East between West Virginia, Pitt, South Florida, Syracuse, and Connecticut, with each team finishing at 4-3. But honestly, I don’t really even want to think about that, or how it would be settled.

Game 15: USC (-7) @ UCLA
Pick: USC covers
Comment: No title has ever really stuck to this rivalry, even though there is the obvious “Battle for Los Angeles” title. I think that’s why it hasn’t stuck: it’s too obvious. I think a better name would be a word or a phrase, similar to “Bedlam” or “Clean Old Fashioned Hate.” I like “Only Room for One,” meaning “this town ain't big enough for the both of us.” It’s ironic because Los Angeles is one of the biggest cities in the country, and yet it’s true because the two teams have rarely existed as equals over any substantial length of time. I also like “Turf War,” because the two teams used to share the Coliseum and because of the tradition of both teams wearing home jerseys.

Anyway, USC is the traditional favorite in this rivalry. They are 44-28-7 all-time against the Bruins. The Trojans have won 10 of 11 in the series, including 4 of the last 5 at UCLA. USC has held UCLA to an average of 11 points per game over the last 5 meetings.

A lot of people thought USC would be one of the best teams in the country this season in spite of the departure of Pete Carroll and the sanctions handed down by the NCAA. But USC is 7-5 (5-7 ATS) and they are more ordinary than they have been since 2000. They are 4-2 on the road (4-2 ATS) but they’ve lost their last 2 games, and they are 1-4 ATS in their last 5. Troy needs a win to finish with at least 8 wins for a 9th straight year. UCLA is just 4-7 (3-8 ATS) and 3-2 at home (2-3 ATS). The Bruins have lost 5 of their last 6, and they are 1-6 ATS in their last 7 games.

There has been talk that Mitch Mustain will get the start at QB this week, but I have a feeling that Matt Barkley will play. This is a big game for the head coaches of both teams. If the Trojans lose they will finish 7-6, but I think the fact that they lost to Notre Dame and UCLA would be much worse than the record. Rick Neuheisel needs a big win in a bad way. He came in with a lot of big talk but he has yet to produce. A win over the cross-town rivals would help.

Other Games


Middle Tennessee State (+6.5) @ Florida International (Florida International covers)

Troy (-4.5) @ Florida Atlantic (Troy covers)

San Jose State (+14) @ Idaho (San Jose State beats the spread)

UNLV (+34.5) @ Hawaii (Hawaii covers)

Monday, November 29, 2010

The College Football Blog: 2010 Season Résumé Rankings (After Week 13)

Season Résumé Rankings after Week 13

1. Auburn 12-0 (1st)
2. Oregon 11-0 (2nd)
3. TCU 12-0 (3rd)
4. Ohio State 11-1 (5th)
5. Stanford 11-1 (7th)
6. Michigan State 11-1 (9th)
7. Wisconsin 11-1 (10th)
8. Oklahoma 10-2 (NR)
9. Arkansas 10-2 (NR)
10. LSU 10-2 (8th)

Out: Boise State (4th), Oklahoma State (6th).

Explanation: In this week’s addition of my power rankings I wrote that I had come to the realization that the rankings were pointless because it was impossible to completely follow the guidelines at all times. Unfortunately, I reached similar conclusions concerning my season résumé rankings.

The biggest problem is trying to determine the importance of a loss. Is Boise State or TCU going undefeated more impressive than Ohio State or Stanford going 11-1? What about a team from Conference-USA? If a team from the Big East goes 11-1, is that more impressive than an SEC team that goes 10-2?

Another problem comes in trying to determine the value of certain wins. How do you differentiate between wins over middling teams in the Big XII and wins over middling teams in the Big Ten? Trying to compare teams from different conferences is a real challenge. If a Big Ten team destroys the competition in conference, is that more impressive than a Pac-10 team that wins a number of close games in conference?

And then there’s the problem of determining how much emphasis to put on the results of head to head competition. If one team has a bad loss and doesn’t have many big wins, should they be ranked ahead of a team that they beat even if that team has a slew of big wins and has otherwise blown away the competition? How much importance should be placed on where the game was played?

These are just some of the many problems inherent in trying to rank teams based on their body of work throughout the season. It’s almost impossible to do this without contradictions.

Despite the hopelessness of the task, I’m going to continue doing these rankings.

I probably had more trouble with this week’s rankings than any previous edition. Only the top 3 spots remained the same. Auburn beat Alabama to go to 12-0 and strengthen their hold on the top spot. Oregon whipped Arizona to get to 11-0 and strengthen their hold on the #2 ranking. TCU crushed New Mexico as expected to finish the season 12-0. The Horned Frogs remained 3rd in the rankings, well back of the top 2 teams.

The number of undefeated teams was cut by 1 this week from 4 to 3, as Boise State fell to Nevada, ending their 35 game regular season win streak. For the Broncos, the difference between 0 losses and 1 loss is dramatic, as they do not have many big wins and have played a light schedule. The Broncos fell from 4th all the way out of the top 10 this week, even though they are one of only 9 teams in the country with fewer than 2 defeats.

I had to laugh at myself when I went back and read last week’s edition and realized that I had left Nevada out when I stated that only 10 teams remained with less than 2 losses. Despite the huge win over Boise State, Nevada still hasn’t played a tough enough schedule to rank them ahead of some of the 2-loss teams.

The other team to fall out of the rankings this week was Oklahoma State, who fell out of the top 10 from 6th following their loss at home to Oklahoma. That gave the Cowboys 2 losses, both of which have come at home. They don’t have as many good wins as some of the other 2-loss teams, and they have to be ranked behind the Sooners, as Oklahoma has an identical record and beat the Cowboys on their home field.

The only other team to drop in the rankings this week was LSU. The Tigers lost their 2nd game of the year on Saturday night, falling to Arkansas, 31-23. However, LSU did not fall out of the rankings, as they are still one of the top 2-loss teams. The Tigers fell 2 spots in the rankings this week from 8th to 10th.

The losses by Oklahoma State, Boise State, and LSU meant some of the teams behind them would move up. Ohio State beat Michigan on Saturday to finish 11-1 and they moved up a spot in my rankings from 5th to 4th. Stanford finished 11-1 as well, ending the regular season with a total crushing of Oregon State. Stanford moved up 2 spots in my rankings from 7th to 5th.

Michigan State and Wisconsin each won on Saturday to finish 11-1 and they both moved up 3 spots in my rankings. Michigan State won at Penn State, while the Badgers blew away Northwestern. The Spartans moved up 3 spots from 9th to 6th, while Wisconsin climbed 3 spots from 10th to 7th.

There were two new teams in the top 10 this week. Oklahoma entered these rankings at #8 following their win over Oklahoma State in Stillwater. Arkansas beat LSU on Saturday night and jumped into these rankings at #9.

The College Football Blog: 2010 Power Rankings (After Week 13)

Power Rankings after Week 13

1. Oregon 11-0 (1st)
2. Ohio State 11-1 (2nd)
3. Auburn 12-0 (3rd)
4. Arkansas 10-2 (9th)
5. Wisconsin 11-1 (8th)
6. Stanford 11-1 (10th)
7. Alabama 9-3 (5th)
8. TCU 12-0 (6th)
9. LSU 10-2 (4th)
10. Boise State 10-1 (7th)
11. South Carolina 9-3 (13th)
12. Nebraska 10-2 (12th)
13. Texas A&M 9-3 (14th)
14. Michigan State 11-1 (15th)
15. Oklahoma 10-2 (NR)

Out: Oklahoma State (11th).

Explanation: These rankings are pointless for many reasons, but perhaps the biggest reason is that the guidelines are just about impossible to follow. I’m sure I’d learned this lesson before, but I realized it again this week.

To begin with, while I think I do a very good job of factoring in non-season ending injuries, sometimes it just doesn’t make any sense. For example, Mark Ingram had knee surgery just before the start of the season and there’s no question that he hasn’t been 100% all season. But when would he be 100%? 6 months from now? Maybe, but the hypothetical national championship game I picture when doing these rankings would not be 6 months from now, so even though it wasn’t anything like a season ending injury, I still have to consider that type of injury.

Another problem is that at times it can be a little tricky to determine how a team would play in a hypothetical national championship game. Sometimes when a team loses I chalk it up to the grind of the schedule or a lack of focus. But a lot of times I’m only guessing.

Another issue is that it’s so hard not to be effected by the final outcome of a game. Again, I think I do a good job in this area, but there’s no way to be completely unaffected by whether a team ultimately wins or loses a game. Take Boise State for example. They lost at Nevada last week and I moved them down in my rankings. But shouldn’t I have moved them down anyway even if they had made the chip shot field goal at the end of regulation? I probably should have, but I can’t say for sure whether I would have or not.

And then there’s the problem with not putting extra weight into what’s happened recently. This is also something that I think I do a really good job dealing with, but it’s impossible to be completely immune to recent events. I went into the season thinking that Alabama would beat Arkansas in a hypothetical national championship game on a neutral field. Then I saw Alabama beat Arkansas at Arkansas. However, since then I’ve seen Alabama lose to South Carolina and LSU, and I’ve seen Arkansas whip both of those teams. Naturally my views on the two teams have changed, but what would happen in that hypothetical game? That’s where it gets tricky. I have finally realized that there’s no need to do a “hottest team” ranking like I thought of doing in the past, because whether I like it or not, that “hotness factor” works its way into these rankings.

Finally, perhaps the whole endeavor is ultimately based on a misconception: the idea that one can rank teams from 1 to 120 based on who would win a head to head matchup. The reason for this is simple but it’s hard for me to admit: matchups do matter. I’ve always been loath to give credence to the belief often repeated by analysts that any game is all about matchups. I don’t like this concept. I’ve always held the belief that if a team is “better” than another team then the “better” team will win most of the time, regardless of the specific strengths and weaknesses of each team. However, I’ve recently been forced to come to grips with the fact that this isn’t always true.

For example, say there is a team that has such a powerful rushing game that almost nobody can stop them. That team may be able to beat almost everyone, but perhaps there is a decent team that is absolutely dominant against the run. They may be average in every other aspect of the game, and maybe they lose 4 games, while the other team goes undefeated. But if these two met in a hypothetical championship game, maybe the 4-loss team would be favored because they would be able to shutdown the undefeated team’s running game.

Having said all of this, I’m going to keep doing these rankings even if it is a fruitless endeavor. After all, unlike the polls and the computers in the BCS, these rankings don’t matter.

Anyway, it was difficult to do these rankings this week. Teams can look completely different from week to week. And it’s just a difficult task to rank the teams around college football because of the conferences. This is particularly true in the case of the non-BCS conferences.

The top 3 teams in my rankings stayed the same this week. Oregon ran over Arizona in the 2nd half on Friday night, winning 48-29 to stay undefeated at 11-0. The Ducks remained the top team in my rankings this week. I doubt many people have Ohio State ranked #2 at this point, but the Buckeyes were again ranked 2nd in my rankings this week after they dominated Michigan 37-7 to finish 12-0. The Wolverines had scored at least 17 points in every game this season and had scored at least 27 points in 10 of their 11 games prior to Saturday. Auburn remained #3 in my rankings despite their enormous comeback win over Bama on the road. While the Tigers certainly erased a lot of doubts with their stunning comeback from a 24-7 deficit, the truth of the matter is that Auburn could easily have been down 42-7.

While my rankings stayed the same at the very top, there was plenty of change throughout the rest of my top 15. 11 of the 12 spots between #4 and #15 experienced change this week. The team making the biggest rise in my rankings this week was Arkansas, who climbed 5 spots from 9th to 4th after beating LSU 31-23 to finish 10-2. Once again the Hogs got little help from the officials and the final score was much closer than it should have been, but they won their 6th straight game, beating an LSU team that had lost only 1 game all year.

Wisconsin also made a big jump in my rankings this week, climbing 3 spots from 8th to 5th following their 70-23 win over Northwestern. Over the last 4 weeks, the Badgers have outscored opponents by an average of 59-21. Their only loss this season was on the road to Michigan State.
Stanford also made a major move up the rankings this week, rising 4 spots from 10th to 6th. Stanford has been a high scoring team all season, putting up at least 31 points in 11 of 12 games. There have been two major questions about Stanford. How would they play on the road and how tough was their defense. They have answered both questions positively. They are 5-1 on the road (only loss at Oregon when they had a huge lead but wound up losing by 21) and they have held opponents to 17 points or less in 8 of 12 games, including 3 shutouts over Pac-10 teams.

Maybe the most controversial aspect of my rankings this week is that Alabama fell only 2 spots from 5th to 7th. Bama lost for a 3rd time on Friday, this time falling at home to Auburn, 28-27. Alabama has underachieved this season, and to some extent they are only as good as their record says they are. On the other hand, I still think that Bama would be one of the toughest teams to play. Last week they played the team ranked 3rd in these rankings and lost to them by a point, after having them down 24-7 at one point. And remember that QB Greg McElroy suffered a head injury late in the game and was knocked out for the final drive.

Another thing that many people would likely disagree with is TCU’s position in this week’s rankings, as I moved them down 2 spots from 6th to 8th. The Horned Frogs obliterated New Mexico on Saturday to finish the season 12-0. They have been totally dominant this year and have been great for the last 3 years. Still, I would not favor them against the top teams in the biggest conferences. They have not played a great team all season and they have played only a few teams which could even be considered good.

When LSU lost to Arkansas on Saturday night it was just their 2nd loss of the season, but the Tigers dropped 5 spots in my rankings from 4th to 9th. LSU has been very fortunate this season. They have had clear weaknesses and consistently made mistakes, but you had to give them credit for winning games. Last week they could not overcome their problems, despite several breaks. LSU’s defense has been their strength this season, but they have looked downright ordinary on that side of the ball in the last two weeks, allowing 36 points to a bad Mississippi team, and getting gashed over and over by Arkansas on Saturday.

Boise State also took a fall in my rankings this week, though they probably fell much farther in most people’s rankings after they choked at Nevada late Friday night. The Broncos lost for the first time on the season, losing 34-31 in OT, and they dropped 3 spots in my rankings from 7th to 10th. They could easily have won, and I don’t think it’s overdoing it to say that they should have won. Kyle Brotzman missed a chip shot field goal that would have given the Broncos the win in regulation, and then missed another short field goal in overtime that allowed Nevada to win it with a short field goal of their own. In addition, the Broncos jumped out to a big lead and dominated the early part of the game. Also, they were playing on the road in the cold against a good Nevada team.

However, Boise State had been a virtual lock to win their previous 7 games and this was going to be their only road test of the year. They virtually had two months to prepare for this game, and they were well rested and healthy, having blown out every opponent following their 37-24 win over Oregon State on September 25th. Everything was at stake. Considering all of these things, it really doesn’t look good for them that they allowed this game to be close. We can talk about this being a hostile environment, but the fact of the matter is that the attendance at the game in Reno on Friday night was 30,712. That’s 71,109 fewer people than there were at Bryant-Denny earlier that day. Not to mention the fact that many of those in attendance were Boise State fans, and many of the Nevada supporters had left the game and the cold by the time the Wolf Pack began their comeback from down 24-7 late in the 3rd.

The Broncos allowed Nevada to erase a 17 point deficit in about 10 minutes. Then after retaking the lead, 31-24 with less than 5 minutes to go, they allowed the Pack to march the field and tie the score again. Nevada outgained the Broncos, putting up 528 yards of offense. So even before the kicker got involved they had done much to lose the game.

I have never had Boise State ranked as high as most people out there, so they don’t take as big of a tumble in my rankings. I still think they are a great team that could compete with the top teams in the country and wouldn’t be intimidated by anyone.

South Carolina beat Clemson on Saturday night to finish the regular season at 9-3, and the Gamecocks moved up 2 spots in my rankings from 13th to 11th. I’ve been impressed by South Carolina since their ugly loss to Arkansas in week 10. They came out the next week and won in Gainesville for the first time in their history, beating Florida 36-14 to win the SEC East. They had a trap game against Troy the next week, but they came out looking focused, putting up 69 points on the Trojans. Then last week they went on the road and spanked instate rival Clemson, 29-7. This is easily Steve Spurrier’s best South Carolina team.

Nebraska was the only team ranked outside the top 3 that stayed in place this week, remaining at 12th following their easy win over Colorado. It was impressive for them to put up 45 points without starting QB Taylor Martinez, but they are still very unpredictable and inconsistent.

Texas A&M got a rare win over archrival Texas on the road on Thanksgiving night to finish the regular season 9-3, having won 6 straight. I moved the Aggies up a spot from 14th to 13th. Similarly, Michigan State got a rare win over Penn State at Happy Valley. The Spartans also moved up 1 spot in my rankings from 15th to 14th.

The only team to fall out of my rankings this week was Oklahoma State, who fell from 11th to out of the top 15 following yet another loss to the Sooners. Oklahoma beat the red hot Cowboys 47-41 in Stillwater, and the Sooners jumped into my rankings this week at #15. Oklahoma was the only new team in my top 15 this week.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Falcons Blog: Week 12 Preview

Getting our Hopes Up

It’s good to be a Falcons fan these days. Enthusiasm is picking up around the city and state. People are starting to talk about the team in ways that they never have before. Sure, there have been good times in the past, but we’ve rarely had teams that were respected, that were stable, that people really trusted.

On local sports talk radio the difference in how the team is talked about these days is remarkable. There is so much confidence expressed. The sense that the team is being underappreciated and disrespected nationally has been a constant theme over the past month or so. It’s amazing to me.

It’s not that it bothers me. On the contrary, I’m thrilled that the franchise has reached this point. It’s just hard for me to follow suit. Some of this might just be my nature. But I also think it’s because I’m truly a devoted fan, and I have been since I started following sports as a child. The guys on the radio are sports fans, and they’ve naturally come to be fans of the Falcons over the years, but in most cases it’s a little different for them. I’ve experienced the history of this franchise as a fan. And if you’re a Falcons fan, you’re conditioned differently than a Steelers fan or a Giants fan.

The emotions people are expressing these days are all positive, but the most common and strongly expressed emotion is of confidence. People are confident, looking ahead at the schedule and liking the looks of the future. People are confidently talking about playoff seeding, getting the home field advantage, and making a run at winning the whole thing. People are anxiously looking forward to the next couple of months and feeling confident that this will be the year.

You know the strongest emotion I’m feeling in regards to the rest of the season?


It’s hard to explain, other than to say that I’m excited about the next couple of months, but an equally powerful feeling of apprehension accompanies the excitement. It’s not like Christmas Eve. Nobody actually gets coal in their stocking. It’s more like the day that grades are due. I think I did well. I hope the news will be good. But I’m a little scared because there have been bad outcomes in the past.


We’ve all dealt with sleep deprivation at one time or another in our lives. Maybe you stayed up all night cramming for final exams (This was the only way I ever learned how to study. I don’t think I ever “woke up” the morning of a final exam in my entire college career, which was rather lengthy to be right frank with you). Maybe you went through pledge ship in a fraternity (I joined two, got kicked out of both) and were made to stay awake for long periods of time. Maybe you actually have insomnia and deal with this on a regular basis. Whatever the case, we all know what it’s like when you’ve been awake for a long time and your senses begin to have a hard time functioning.

I’ve had trouble sleeping all my life, and as mentioned before, the only way I ever figured out how to get decent grades in college was by having epic study sessions, so I’ve experienced these things a lot. For me, the thing that sleep deprivation always hampered the most was my night vision. By night vision, I mean the ability to see when the lighting is dim. After my last test, I’d go home and relax for a while, and then eventually the tiredness would come, and I’d shut all the lights off. I still had to find my way into my room and into bed—something that would usually take about 3 seconds and could be done without any thought—and this would be the moment when I’d realize how much the lack of sleep was effecting me.

I would be completely blind. My sense of balance was also affected, and so I would slowly creep in the direction I thought was correct, tottering as I went, with a hand out in front for protection and my face grimacing in anticipation of banging into a wall, a table, a cat, a door, or some other obstacle that might be a foot in front of my face but impossible to see. I knew from experience that there were likely to be some missteps and surprises along the way. Frail and timid, it might take 5 minutes before I managed to reach the bed and begin the journey back to normalcy.

This is basically how I feel during the NFL season. Things are going so well, and the excitement is building every day, but I can’t help but keep a hand out for protection. The things to come are going to come. I hope it’s going to be special. But I’m a bit timid about the whole thing to be honest. While the guys on the radio are looking at the schedule and checking off wins, I’m waiting, and hoping, and worrying, and flinching from time to time along the way.

Part of it is just my nature. Part of it is just being a Falcons fan. We’ve got scars, us Falcons fans. We’re loving the way things are now. We’re excited. But we’ve been conditioned to be apprehensive. It will take time and it will take positive experiences to change this. These guys have put together the best 2 and a half year stretch in team history, but that’s only a short time compared to all of the history that came before Mike Smith and Matt Ryan. And of course, most of that prehistory wasn’t good.

Week 12 Preview

The Falcons have had a number of tough games already this season (at Pittsburgh, at New Orleans, at Philly, against the Ravens on a short week, etc.), but they will face arguably their toughest test this week. It seems odd to say that the toughest test would come at home, where the Falcons have been hard to beat over the last few years. However, the Green Bay Packers are one of the better teams in the NFL, and they are heading to town on a serious roll.

The Packers were among the teams expected to contend for a championship this season. But earlier in the year they were hit with a ton of injuries and they went through a rough spell, losing 3 of 4 games at one point, with all the losses coming by just 3 points, 2 of them in overtime. At that point they were sitting at 3-3, but they have since won 4 straight games. Over their last 3 games they have been simply dominant.

In their last 3 games (at the Jets, against the Cowboys, and at the Vikings), the Packers outscored their opponents by a combined score of 85-10. The Packers are 7-3 on the season, and they have outscored their opponents by 106 points, the best scoring differential in the NFL by a wide margin. Pittsburgh has the next best scoring differential at +70. They are 3-2 on the road, having won their last 2 away games.

Green Bay Offense

Everyone knows that the Falcons are a bit vulnerable against the pass. On Sunday the Falcons will face one of the better QB’s in the NFL (Aaron Rodgers) and a number of solid pass catchers. Green Bay is 13th in total offense and 8th in scoring offense at 25.2 points per game. Rodgers ranks in the top 10 in the NFL in completion percentage, touchdowns, and QB rating. The Packers are 11th in passing yards per game. The go-to guy for Rodgers is Greg Jennings, who averages over 70 yards receiving per game and has caught 9 TD passes.

While Green Bay’s offensive numbers don’t blow you away, they just don’t do many things to hurt themselves. They have the 3rd fewest offensive penalty yards in the league, a +8 turnover margin (5th best), and they are 10th in 3rd down conversion percentage. The Falcons have had a lot of trouble getting off the field on 3rd down this season and they have relied on interceptions, but Rodgers doesn’t turn it over much. Green Bay is 13th in time of possession.

The Falcons have solid numbers against the rush this season, but it’s hard to know how much of that is a result of teams preferring to attack the Falcons through the air. With that said, the Falcons are obviously stronger against the run than the pass. Brandon Jackson is currently Green Bay’s starting running back. He is a decent runner but only averages 4.0 yards per carry. The Falcons should be able to handle Green Bay on the ground. The Packers are just 19th in rushing yards and tied for 14th in yards per attempt.

Some of the problems the Falcons have had defending the pass are due to an inability to get pressure on the QB. They haven’t gotten a lot of sacks this season. John Abraham is Atlanta’s biggest weapon on defense, but The Predator is dealing with a groin injury and he missed last week’s game. Green Bay’s offensive line is healthy and has been playing very well over the last few weeks. With Abraham ailing, the Falcons could struggle to get pressure, and that will make it much harder to slow down the Green Bay passing game.

Green Bay Defense

Green Bay’s defense has been bent this season but rarely broken. The Packers are 12th in the NFL in total defense, but they are tied with the Bears for 1st in the NFL in scoring defense, allowing just 14.6 points per game. They are 11th in passing yards allowed but they’ve only surrendered 9 passing TD’s on the year (tied for 3rd). They Packers are a big play defense. They have 15 picks (tied for 2nd), 29 sacks (tied for 4th), and have scored 4 defensive touchdowns. QB’s have had a hard time against the Green Bay defense, as they are 3rd in opponent’s completion percentage and 2nd in opponent’s QB rating.

The Packers have several stars on defense. Clay Matthews is the front runner for this year’s Defensive Player of the Year Award. Matthews leads the NFL with 11.5 sacks. He also has a forced fumble and has returned a pick for a TD. Green Bay’s defense includes one of the better pairs of cornerbacks in all of pro football. Charles Woodson is having a tremendous year. He has 2 picks, 1 returned for a TD, and 4 forced fumbles. Tramon Williams has picked off 4 passes, forced a fumble, and recovered a pair of fumbles.

Most of Atlanta’s opponents come into the game focused on stopping the ground game. In the past when Michael Turner was slowed down the Falcons were in trouble. This season it has not been a problem because of the improvements in the passing game. This week, however, it might not be a great idea to throw the ball 40 times.

Along with Matthews, the Packers can also get pressure from DE Cullen Jenkins (4 sacks) and tackle BJ Raji (2.5 sacks). The corners are smart, tough, and opportunistic. They have a 3rd excellent DB in safety Nick Collins, who has a pick and a fumble returned for a TD this season. The Green Bay linebackers are some of the best in the NFL and they can play pass defense. AJ Hawk leads the team with 71 tackles and also has 2 interceptions and a fumble recovery. Desmond Bishop has stepped up with Nick Barnett out. Bishop has a forced fumble and a pick-6 on the season.

If the Falcons are going to win this game Michael Turner may have to carry the offense. The Packers are not nearly as tough against the run as they are against the pass. They are 18th in rush defense and 26th in yards per attempt. On the other hand, they have allowed only 4 rushing TD’s all year. The Falcons will just have to grind it out on the ground, avoid turnovers, and control the clock.

One final note about Green Bay’s defense. They have been easily the best on 4th downs this season. Opponents are just 2 for 14 on 4th down against the Pack this year (14%).

Green Bay Special Teams

This is not really a strength for the Packers. They have just 1 touchback on kickoffs all season (worst in the league) and they are tied for 22nd in net punting. They are 26th in FG%, tied for 26th in kick return average, and tied for 23rd in punt return average. Green Bay has only given up 1 special teams TD this season, but the Falcons should have the edge in this area of the game.

A Big Game

The Falcons are 8-2, tied for the best record in the NFL, but they don’t have much room for error. Tampa and New Orleans are both just 1 game behind the Falcons in the NFC South. Following this game the Falcons will be on the road for 3 straight weeks, beginning with a rematch against the Bucs in Tampa. They should be able to get a win in Carolina but a trip to Seattle the next week will be tricky. They finish the season at home against the Panthers, but the week before that they will have a Monday night contest against the Saints at home. This is far from the toughest remaining schedule, but it’s not as easy as some are making it out to be. If the Falcons do win this Sunday it will be a historic victory, as they will clinch a 3rd consecutive winning season for the first time in franchise history.

The NFL Blog: 2010 Week 12 Betting Lines

Last Week: Vs. Spread (9-6-1); Straight Up: (11-5)

Season: Vs. Spread (68-87-5); Straight Up: (92-68)

Week 11 Review: Finally a solid week. It could have been better, but at this point I’ll take it.

Week 12 Preview: Hard to believe it’s already Thanksgiving. I’ve got a long way to go to get back to respectability as far as my record ATS this season. There’s still time, but this is a huge week for me, as I need to get some momentum going as we head into December.

Thursday’s Early Game

New England (-6.5) @ Detroit
Pick: Patriots cover
Comment: The Patriots are 8-2; the Lions are 2-8. And yet, Detroit has only been outscored by 3 points on the season. The Lions are 7-3 ATS and 4-0 ATS at home, though they have lost 2 straight ATS. The Lions have lost 6 in a row on Thanksgiving. However, the Pats are still just 5-8 in their last 13 road games going back to last season.

I was pretty high on the Lions going into last week, as they had been competitive in just about every game so far. But last week they lost 35-19 to the Cowboys. They will again be without Matthew Stafford this week. New England should roll, but while they are perhaps the best team in the NFL right now, they are not dominant.

Thursday’s Late Game

New Orleans (-3.5) @ Dallas
Pick: Saints win but Cowboys beat the spread
Comment: So I guess this game is a little bit more interesting than it looked like it would be a couple of weeks ago. The Boys are 2-0 so far since Wade Phillips got axed. They are still just 1-4 at home (1-4 ATS). The Saints are 3-1 on the road. New Orleans has won 3 straight and 4 of 5 (4-1 ATS). Last year the Saints where 13-0 when the Boys went into the Big Easy and ended the perfect season bid. The Cowboys have won 4 in a row on Thanksgiving. The Saints are banged up but they could get healthier this week, with Reggie Bush, Jeremy Shockey, Darren Sharper, Malcolm Jenkins, and Pierre Thomas all possibilities to play. Felix Jones is a question mark for Dallas at this point.

Thursday Night’s Game

Cincinnati (+9) @ New York Jets
Pick: Jets win but Bengals beat the spread
Comment: How fun was that to watch the Bengals melt down at home against the Bills last week? They have now lost 7 straight (1-6 ATS over that stretch). The Bungles are 1-4 on the road. The Jets are just 3-2 at home and they are 1-3 ATS in their last 4. New York’s last 4 wins have come by an average of 4 points, with 2 of the wins coming in OT. The Jets are 3-0 against the Bengals since 2008, winning in week 17 and in the Wild Card round last year.

One issue for the Jets this week could be the health of tackle Damien Woody, who is doubtful at this moment. It will be interesting to see how the Bengals play this week following last week’s disaster. On one hand it wouldn’t be surprising to see them quit. On the other hand, the Jets just don’t seem to put anybody away.

Sunday’s Early Games

Minnesota (+3) @ Washington
Pick: Vikings pull off the upset
Comment: An embarrassing loss to Green Bay for the 7th defeat of the season is followed by the coach getting axed. Well, it’s worked for Dallas so far, maybe it will work for the Vikings. Maybe somebody can break Favre’s collarbone too. The Vikings are 1-4 in their last 5 games (0-5 ATS) and they are 0-5 on the road this season (0-5 ATS). Going back to last season the Vikings have lost 9 straight on the road. Minnesota is just 2-8 ATS on the season. The Skins are 2-3 at home. The secondary is banged up, and Washington could very well be without both Clinton Portis and Ryan Torain again this week.

Pittsburgh (-6) @ Buffalo
Pick: Steelers win but Bills beat the spread
Comment: The Steelers are 4-1 on the road, but they are really banged up on both lines. That’s never a good thing. The Bills are just 1-3 at home, but they have won 2 straight, and they are 4-0-1 ATS in their last 5. Prior to winning their last 2 games, the Bills had lost 3 straight games by 3 points apiece, 2 of them in OT.

Carolina (+11) @ Cleveland
Pick: Browns cover
Comment: The Panthers are lowly. They are 1-9 (2-8 ATS) and 0-4 on the road (1-3 ATS). They have lost 4 straight (0-4 ATS) and they have a total nobody at quarterback. The Browns are 2-3 at home. They have lost their last 2, one of those losses came in OT, and the other was by 4 points. Prior to that the Browns had won 2 in a row. The problem for the Browns this week is that Colt McCoy is doubtful. If he can’t go it will be up to Seneca Wallace. Or perhaps Jake Delhomme will get a chance to play against his former team.

Tennessee (Pick) @ Houston
Pick: Texans cover
Comment: I don’t care about the 30-17 record as a starter. To this point Vince Young has been a total bust. If Kerry Collins isn’t healthy enough to go this week the Titans will be in trouble. They will be without Kenny Britt once again. The Texans are in a freefall thanks to their horrid defense. They have lost 4 straight and 5 of 6 (1-5 ATS over that stretch). The Texans are just 2-3 at home this season. The Titans are also on a slippery slope, having lost their last 3 (0-3 ATS). The Titans have won 8 of their last 10 against the Texans, and they are 6-2 all-time at Houston. The Titans won here last season on a 53 yarder on Monday Night Football.

Jacksonville (+7.5) @ New York Giants
Pick: Giants win but Jags beat the spread
Comment: I don’t know what to make of either of these teams. The Giants have now lost 2 straight (0-2 ATS) and they will be playing this week without Dominique Hixon, Steve Smith, and Hakeem Nicks. The Jags will be without Mike Sims-Walker, as well as Aaron Kampman. But Jax has won 3 straight (3-0 ATS), and while they may be lucky, they have still stayed in games long enough to benefit from those good breaks.

Green Bay (+1.5) @ Atlanta
Pick: Falcons cover
Comment: Another big test for the Falcons. I was definitely relieved that we got through that trap game last week. If the Falcons win this Sunday they will clinch their 3rd consecutive winning season. That’s a big deal for a franchise that had never had back to back winning seasons prior to the last 2 years.

Atlanta has won 4 straight (3-1 ATS) and they are 5-0 at home this season. The Packers are still really banged up, but they are starting to round into form anyway. They have won 4 straight (4-0 ATS) and they may end up finishing this season the way they did last year: on fire. A concern for the Falcons is the health of big John Abraham. He missed last week with a groin problem and he’s a question mark for this Sunday.

Sunday’s Late Games

Kansas City (-1) @ Seattle
Pick: Chiefs cover
Comment: I want to believe in the Chiefs, and I don’t want to believe in Seattle. However, KC is 1-4 on the road this season, while the Seahawks are 3-1 at home (3-1 ATS). The Chiefs are 1-3 ATS in their last 4 games. The Seahawks have lost 3 of their last 4 games overall (1-3 ATS).

Miami (+2.5) @ Oakland
Pick: Raiders cover
Comment: I know Oakland did not look good last Sunday against the Steelers. But they still looked a hell of a lot better than the Dolphins did against the Bears last Thursday. That was one of the most pathetic offensive performances I’ve ever seen. And their QB situation has not changed.

The Phins will have an extra long week to prepare for this one. Brandon Marshall’s health is obviously a big issue. For Oakland, Nnamdi Asomugha’s health is a concern. Oakland had won 3 straight (and 5 straight ATS) prior to last week. The Raiders are 4-1 at home this season. However, the Dolphins are 4-1 on the road (4-1 ATS).

St. Louis (+4) @ Denver
Pick: Broncos win but Rams beat the spread
Comment: The Broncos were again exposed on Monday night, and they are now 3-7 on the year, having lost 5 of 6 (1-5 ATS). They are just 2-3 at home this season. It will be a short week for the Broncos. The Rams are 1-3 in their last 4, but they had won 4 straight ATS prior to last week. They are 0-4 on the road so far, but 3-1 ATS on the road.

Tampa Bay (+9) @ Baltimore
Pick: Ravens win but Bucs beat the spread
Comment: I did not see the Bucs having the same record as Baltimore this deep into the season. Tampa has won 4 of their last 5, and they have won 4 straight ATS. They are 4-1 on the road this season (5-0 ATS). The Ravens have won 3 of their last 4, and they are 4-0 at home this season.

Philadelphia (-3.5) @ Chicago
Pick: Eagles win but Bears beat the spread
Comment: It will be interesting to see how Mike Vick plays against Chicago’s defense if it’s cold and windy or cold and rainy in Chi-town. Mike did not do so well at Chicago as a Falcon. The Bears will have also had an extra long week to prepare.

Both teams are 7-3. The Bears are 3-2 at home, while the Eagles are 4-1 on the road. This is the 4th year in a row that these two teams have faced off. The Bears won in 2007 and 2008, the Eagles won last year. Each game has been decided by 4 points or less. The Bears have won 3 straight (2-0-1 ATS). The Eagles have also won 3 in a row (2-1 ATS). Philly’s secondary is banged up, but the skill position players on offense are healthy.

Sunday Night’s Game

San Diego (+3) @ Indianapolis
Pick: Colts cover
Comment: This is always a great matchup. It just doesn’t stop for these two teams. The Chargers will be playing on a short week and they have no margin for error. The Colts have lost 2 of 3 and they seem to play a big time opponent every week. Both teams are very banged up, and Rivers and Manning will both likely be missing several of their best weapons. The Chargers look to be starting another midseason turnaround, as they have won 3 straight (3-0 ATS), but they are 1-4 on the road this season (1-4 ATS). The Colts are 4-0 at home (3-1 ATS).

This will be the 7th meeting between these two teams since 2004. That season the Colts won at home over the Chargers in week 16, 34-31 in OT. The next year the Chargers went to Indy and ended the Colts’ perfect season in week 15, winning 26-17. In 2007 The Chargers hung on for a 23-21 win at home in week 10. Then in the divisional playoffs the Chargers limped into Indy and stunned the Colts, 28-24. The next season the Colts won the regular season matchup, 23-20 in San Diego in week 12. But they had to go back to San Diego in the Wild Card round and the Chargers stung them again, 23-17 in overtime.

Monday Night’s Game

San Francisco (-1) @ Arizona
Pick: Niners cover
Comment: I’m not sure why the Cards vs. Niners is always on Monday Night Football. Maybe there are specific guidelines that they have to follow, or maybe they just want to have a certain number of truly west coast games each year and this one just fits with what they are trying to do. But this will be the 4th straight season that the Niners and Cards will appear on MNF.

This matchup has been entertaining at times, but mostly due to ineptitude. In 2007, the Niners and Cards opened the season on MNF, and the Niners won 20-17 at home. In 2008, the game was in Arizona and the Cards hung on for a 29-24 win when the Niners fucked the duck at the goal line. That was the famous, “You gotta be kiddin me! I can’t believe they gave it to Michael Robinson! On a dive! On 4th and goal! From the 2 and a half!” Still one of the greatest calls in history. Last season it was in San Fran and the Niners won 24-9.

This season both teams are dreadful. The Cards have lost 5 straight (1-4 ATS). It was starting to look like the Niners might be able to save their season, but they went off the rails again last week, getting shutout at home by Tampa. They are 0-4 on the road (1-3 ATS). Arizona is just 1-3 ATS at home this season. Last season the Niners swept the Cards. One team has swept the season series from the other in each of the last 6 seasons.

The College Football Blog: 2010 Week 13 Betting Lines

Last Week’s Record

Biggest 10 Games (Straight up: 8-2; Vs. Spread: 6-3-1)

Overall (Straight up: 43-10; Vs. Spread: 24-28-1; Moneyline Upsets: 1-2)

Season Record

Biggest 10 Games (Straight up: 86-34; Vs. Spread: 57-57-6)

Overall (Straight up: 462-147; Vs. Spread: 303-296-10; Moneyline Upsets: 15-24)

Week 12 Review: A disappointing result overall. My total record vs. the spread is becoming more and more pedestrian. The one positive from last week was my record in the biggest 10 games. That got me back to .500 in the biggest 10 games for the year.

Week 13 Preview: This is a ridiculously huge week. There are a ton of big games. Plus, it’s rivalry week. Therefore, instead of the biggest 10 games, we will have the biggest 20 games.


Game 1: Texas A&M (-3) @ Texas
Pick: Texas A&M covers
Comment: This will be the 117th meeting. I think this one carries the tag of “The Lone Star Showdown,” but I really don’t think that’s fitting. It’s more personal than that. It’s way deeper than that. No offense to anyone that likes that nickname, but “The Lone Star Showdown” sounds like something that one of Steve Sabol’s minions will come up with as a name for this year’s Super Bowl highlight video during the first 3 minutes of the brain storming session. This one doesn’t need any extra name, but since we like to name rivalry games, the nickname at least needs to express the passion and intensity of this one. How about this one: “Ill Will.” I like it.

Anyway, this is one of my favorite rivalries. Both teams have their special traditions that they do each year for this game. And this one is always played at the same time, and it’s always the final regular season game for both teams. This one is bigger than a lot of other rivalries because it isn’t only a rivalry between the two teams or the fans of the two football teams. This is a rivalry that means something to everyone associated with these programs.

For an example, my buddy Driver once explained to me how this game is different for his family. They’re from Texas, but they’ve lived in Atlanta for 30-plus years and they’re only casual fans 364 days out of the year. But the A&M game is different. Mrs. Driver has the toddler grandkid decked out completely in Texas Longhorns attire, and as soon as the ball is snapped she’s yelling “Get ‘em! Get ‘em!” at the TV. It doesn’t get all that much better.

That’s what it’s all about, people. I think these rivalries are what separates college football from our other games. I mean, I’m generally annoyed with all of the importance that is placed on attracting non-sports fans, because it’s always based around some gay special interest story. But when casual sports fans are attracted to an event because of the game itself, those are the greatest times. Those are the ones that mean the most.

In many of the great rivalries there is one team that is the traditional favorite and one that is the traditional underdog. The Longhorns are of course the traditional favorite in this one, as UT is the flagship school of the biggest state in the country. Texas holds a sizeable edge in the all-time series with a 75-36-5 record against the Aggies. By comparison, Texas is 59-40-5 against Oklahoma.

Texas has been the dominant team in this rivalry in recent times as well. They have won 8 of the last 10, all by double digits and by an average of 22 points per game. The 2 losses were by 5 points and by 8 points. Texas has won the last 2, but the Aggies won 2 in a row before that. The Horns have won 6 of the last 7 in Austin.

There is certainly a different feel to the matchup heading into the game this year. A&M comes into the game ranked higher than the Longhorns for the first time since 1998. The Aggies will be trying for their first 9-win season since 2006 (just the 2nd since 1998). If they win this one and their bowl game it will be their first 10-win season since 1998.

Texas had won at least 10 games in an incredible 9 straight years prior to this season, and had won at least 9 games in each of Mack Brown’s 12 seasons at UT. Obviously those streaks are over. The Horns actually need to win this game to finish 6-6 and avoid their first losing season since they went 4-7 in 1997 (the year before Brown arrived).

Texas is 16-1 since 1993 in their home finale (only loss to A&M in 2006). They are just 3-8 ATS this season. Last week they beat FAU to snap a 4 game losing streak (0-4 ATS during that stretch). They are just 2-4 at home this season (1-5 ATS). A&M has won 5 in a row (5-0 ATS) and they are 7-4 ATS this season.

Technically, Texas A&M is still alive for the Big XII South title. If they win on Thursday and Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State this weekend the teams will finish in a 3-way tie at 6-2 in the conference. However, the South’s representative in the Big XII Championship Game would then be determined by ranking in the BCS, in which case Oklahoma would almost certainly be the winner.


Game 2: West Virginia (+2.5) @ Pittsburgh
Pick: Pittsburgh covers
Comment: The Backyard Brawl. An underrated rivalry. This will be the 103rd edition. Pittsburgh is the traditional favorite, and the Panthers hold a 61-38-3 edge all-time in the series. 3 of the last 4 in this series have been decided by 4 points or less. The game has been decided in the final minute in each of the last 2 years, and last year it was decided on the final play. Home field has not mattered much lately in this series.

While neither team is having a terrific season, this game will have an impact on the BCS, as the winner of the Big East will (regrettably) have an automatic bid. Pitt is 4-1 in conference, while the Mountaineers are 3-2. However, both teams lost to UConn who is 3-2, and each team has another Big East game to go after this one, so it won’t be decided this week unless Pitt wins and the Huskies lose at home to Cincinnati.

The Mountaineers come into this one having won their last 2 games and they are 6-2 ATS in their last 8. The Panthers have won 4 of their last 5 (4-1 ATS) and they are 4-1 at home this season. However, Pitt’s stud defensive end Greg Romeus will not play, as he is out for the year due to injury.

Game 3: Auburn (+4.5) @ Alabama
Pick: Auburn pulls off the upset
Comment: This one is known as the Iron Bowl, even though it’s now played at each team’s home site like a regular conference game. But like the A&M-Texas rivalry, this one is bigger than any title you can place on it. This is the 75th edition of the Iron Bowl, and that may seem like a surprisingly low number for people my age. Ever since I have been aware of sports and college football this grudge match has been the gold standard for what a rivalry is.

Alabama is the traditional favorite, but they have only recently regained the upper hand following an extended period of dominance by the Tigers. The Tide has won the last 2, but prior to that Auburn had won 6 straight. That period of dominance by Auburn helped close the gap in the all-time series, but Alabama still holds a 40-33-1 edge. The last time here Auburn was crushed, 36-0, but the Tigers had won 3 straight at Bama prior to that.

Going into this season it looked like Bama would be the team with conference and national title hopes on the line for this game. Cameron Newton and Bama’s first 2 regular season losses since 2007 have changed that. Auburn has the SEC West wrapped up, but they are trying to go 12-0 in the regular season for the 2nd time in the last 7 years. With a win, the Tigers will finish the regular season undefeated for the 3rd time since 1993. Bama will by trying to win at least 10 games in 3 consecutive seasons for the first time since they did it 4 years straight from 1977-1980.

Auburn is 6-2 ATS in their last 8, and they are 3-0 on the road this season. Bama is 6-0 at home (5-1 ATS) and they have won 3 of their last 4 games (3-1 ATS). Last season Auburn very nearly spoiled Bama’s perfect season, holding the Tide to just 73 yards on the ground, and outgaining them overall. Bama will be playing this game on 8 days rest, and their last game was really more of a scrimmage against Georgia State. Auburn will play on 13 days rest.

Game 4: Arizona (+19.5) @ Oregon
Pick: Oregon covers
Comment: This isn’t a rivalry but it’s a big game, as the Ducks are trying for a national championship. Oregon will wrap up the Pac-10 title with a win. The Ducks are trying for their first 11-win season since 2001 and just their 2nd all-time. Arizona will be looking to win at least 8 games for a 3rd straight year. It would be the first time the Wildcats have done it since 1973-75. The Ducks have a 21-14 edge in the all-time series, but they have won 9 of the last 11 and 13 of the last 15. The Ducks have won the last 2, with both teams scoring over 40 in each of the last 2 meetings.

Both teams come into the game on 13 days of rest. Arizona needed the time off to try and get QB Nick Foles going, as they have lost 2 straight and they are 2-5 ATS in their last 7. Oregon needed the time off to regroup after their biggest test of the season, a 15-13 win at Cal. Oregon is 4-0-1 ATS at home this season. Arizona is just 5-5 ATS overall this season.

Game 5: Boise State (-14) @ Nevada
Pick: Boise State covers
Comment: I don’t know if you’d call this a rivalry game, but Nevada has given Boise State more trouble than any other WAC team in recent years. Trouble, however, is a relative term, as the Broncos have beaten the Wolfpack 10 straight times. Boise State leads the all-time series 24-12, but clearly the Broncos have had the upper hand lately. Boise State has won 4 straight in Reno.

Still, Nevada has been a peskier foe than most of the other WAC teams over the last few years. In 2007, the Pack came as close as any WAC team has to winning on the blue turf, taking the Broncos into OT-IV as a 26.5 point dog before falling 69-67. Nevada was a 6.5 point underdog at home the next season, and they gave the Broncos a scare, but eventually lost 41-34. Last season in Boise, the Broncos were favored by 13.5 but they let Nevada get back into the game late before winning it 44-33.

So what kind of fight can Nevada put up this season? Maybe we should look at the other two (relatively) good teams in the WAC and see how each team has fared against them this season. Nevada got tripped up by Hawaii, losing to the Warriors 27-21. The Broncos beat Hawaii 42-7. Nevada just barely got by Fresno State, winning 35-34. The Broncos beat Fresno State 51-0. The only thing to keep in mind is that Nevada played both of those teams on the road, while the Broncos hosted both teams. And this one will be in Reno.

Still, it will be a shocker if the Broncos don’t win this one. With a win they will clinch yet another WAC title. The Broncos are 8-2 ATS this season and they are 4-0 on the road (4-0 ATS). Nevada is just 5-6 ATS this season. However, the Wolfpack has won 4 straight and they are 6-0 at home. Nevada will be looking to win 10 games in a season for the first time. Certainly if they win this game it will be the biggest win in their program’s history, and it will take what is already probably the greatest season in their program’s history to another level.


Game 6: Michigan (+17) @ Ohio State
Pick: Ohio State covers
Comment: The Game. Now that is a fitting title. This will be the 107th meeting. This one is in that upper echelon along with Texas-Texas A&M and Auburn-Alabama. It could be said that there really isn’t a true “traditional favorite” in this rivalry, as both programs have had great success, great coaches, great stars, and great traditions/fans. But if you had to choose one team to claim as the “traditional favorite” it would be Michigan.

The Wolverines still hold the all-time series lead (57-43-6), but Ohio State has owned them for some time now. The Buckeyes have won the last 6 (the longest streak for either team) by an average of 13 points per game, outgaining UM by an average of 122 yards per game over that stretch. They have won 8 of the last 9 over Michigan, including 4 straight at home. The last time here Ohio State hammered the Wolverines 42-7.

Michigan is just 3-8 ATS this season and they are 0-7 ATS in their last 7 games. They are 3-1 on the road, but just 1-3 ATS on the road. The Buckeyes have won their last 4 and they are 7-0 at home (7-0 ATS). They are 8-2-1 ATS this season. Ohio State will be trying for at least a share of yet another conference title.

Game 7: Michigan State (-2) @ Penn State
Pick: Michigan State covers
Comment: This is the Battle for the Land Grant Trophy. It’s only been played 27 times, with PSU leading the all-time series 14-12-1. Recently, however, Penn State has dominated, winning 8 of the last 10. They have become the traditional favorite. The Spartans have lost 8 straight at Happy Valley by an average of 23 points per game. They haven’t won at Penn State since 1965.
Usually it is MSU that is trying to spoil things for Penn State in the final game. This season it’s the other way around. Michigan State will be trying for at least a share of the conference title and their first ever 11-win season. Penn State will be trying to win at least 8 games for a 6th straight year.

Penn State is 5-1 at home this season and they are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games. Michigan State is 0-3 ATS in their last 3 games. Last week the Spartans barley survived at home against a crippled Purdue team.

Game 8: Virginia (+23.5) @ Virginia Tech
Pick: Virginia Tech covers
Comment: There is some name for this one like the “Battle for the Commonwealth” or something like that. This isn’t on a level with some of the other instate rivalries. It’s not that there isn’t plenty of animosity between the two, but the programs don’t have the history. Virginia Tech leads the all-time series 49-37-5, but I don’t think there is really a traditional favorite in this rivalry.

Lately this rivalry has been dominated by the Hokies. They have won 6 straight (by an average of 19 points per game) and 10 of the last 11. They’ve outgained Virginia in 6 straight and 10 of 11 by an average of 168 yards a game. VT has won 5 in a row at home over UVA by an average of 13 points per game. The last win in Blacksburg for the Cavaliers was in 1998.

The Hokies have already wrapped up the ACC Coastal Division. They will be trying to notch their 7th straight 10-win season. Since a disappointing 0-2 start, the Hokies have won 9 in a row (8-1 ATS over that stretch). UVA has lost their last 3 games and they are 0-4 on the road this season.

Game 9: Indiana (+3) @ Purdue
Pick: Purdue covers
Comment: These two battle for the Old Oaken Bucket. There are a lot of “trophy games” in the Big Ten. This one matters a lot to the parties involved, but it rarely matters much to anybody else. The Boilermakers are the traditional favorite, and they hold a 70-36-6 lead in the series all-time. They have dominated recently, winning 11 of the last 13, including 6 straight at home. This season both teams are struggling. They both come into this game having lost their last 5.

Game 10: Kentucky (+3) @ Tennessee
Pick: Kentucky pulls off the upset
Comment: The Kentucky program has taken some major strides towards credibility and respectability in recent years, while the Tennessee program has fallen off of a cliff. But this is one remaining wall that the Wildcats have yet to break down. The Vols have been reluctant to release their hold over the Cats. This is like Great Britain refusing to give up the Falklands in ’82. UT may be down, their great run of power long over with, but they are still masters over their dirt eating neighbors from the north. The Vols have won 25 straight over UK; the longest such streak in the country. Tennessee has won 12 straight over Kentucky at home. They are obviously the traditional favorites, and they hold a 73-23-9 lead in the series all-time.

Kentucky has come tantalizingly close to snapping the streak in recent years. In 2001 they fell 38-35. In 2004 they lost 37-31. In 2006 they came up short in a 17-12 game. In 2007 they should have won. It ended up going 4 OT’s, and they wound up losing 52-50. Last year they lost in OT 30-24. This may be the year they get it done, but it will be harder to pull off at Neyland.

The interesting thing about Kentucky is that there was a time when they were not simply a basketball school. This week they will be shooting for a 5th straight winning season, a feat they haven’t accomplished since they put together 11 consecutive winning seasons from 1946-1956. The Vols will be trying to get bowl eligible at 6-6.

The Cats are coming off of a bye. UT played Vandy last week. Kentucky is just 1-3 ATS on the road this season. The Vols have won their last 3 games and they are 4-0 ATS in their last 4. They are just 2-4 ATS in Knoxville this year.

Game 11: Kansas (+24) vs. Missouri (Kansas City)
Pick: Missouri wins but Kansas beats the spread
Comment: The 119th edition of the Border War. A very heated rivalry, it has had more national importance in recent years. One of the reasons that this one burns so hot is that it’s so competitive. Mizzu holds the edge all-time in the series, at least until this weekend. The Tigers have a 55-54-9 advantage all-time. That’s pretty neat. Both programs have witnessed a resurgence in recent years, but the Tigers have won 3 of the last 4. This one has been as close as always the last 2 years, with Kansas winning 40-37 in 2008, and Mizzu winning 41-39 last season.

This season Kansas has gone back into rebuilding mode, while the Tigers have been a surprise contender. Missouri needs a win and a Nebraska loss to Colorado in order to win the Big XII North and get to the conference title game. A win for the Tigers would also give them 10 wins for the 3rd time in 4 years. Kansas is 0-4 on the road this season, while the Tigers are 5-0 at home.

Game 12: BYU (+9) @ Utah
Pick: Utah wins but BYU beats the spread
Comment: The Holy War. And they mean it. In all other matters I am strongly in favor of sending all of the Mormons to live on a space station in another galaxy, but this game is always entertaining. 11 of the last 13 meetings have been decided by 7 points or less. BYU was a more high profile program for many years, but the Utes have been the traditional favorites in this rivalry. Utah owns a 50-31-4 edge in the series all-time. The Cougars have won 3 of the last 4. As you might expect, home field advantage isn’t always key in this one, as the visitor has won 12 of the last 21.

BYU has had a bit of a down year this season (the last before they again become an independent for some unknown reason), but they have won 4 straight (3-1 ATS) and they would love to end the regular season with a win over Utah. Utah was hanging in with TCU neck and neck before the Horned Frogs steamrolled them in a battle of unbeatens back in week 10.

The Utes have lost 2 of their last 3, and they are 1-3 ATS in their last 4. The Cougars are 1-4 on the road this season, while the Utes are 4-1 at home. Utah will be trying to reach the 10-win mark for a 3rd consecutive season, something they have never before accomplished.

Game 13: LSU (+3.5) @ Arkansas
Pick: LSU pulls off the upset
Comment: These neighbors fight for the Golden Boot. This game has been memorable in recent years for both fantastic finishes and surprising outcomes. The last 5 meetings have been decided by 5 points or less. 2 of the last 3 have gone to overtime. LSU is the traditional favorite. The Tigers have a 34-19-2 edge in the all-time series, and they have gone 23-7-1 against the Hogs since 1930. While the Tigers continue to survive by hook or crook, the Hogs have really been coming on strong lately. They have won 5 straight (5-0 ATS) and they are 8-1 ATS in their last 9 games.

Game 14: Florida (+2.5) @ Florida State
Pick: Florida pulls off the upset
Comment: This in-state rivalry is interesting because its esteem and prestige has really depended on the period in time. Florida holds the all-time series edge at 33-19-2. The Gators have had a great rivalry with Georgia for many, many years, so the instate rivalry was secondary for a long time. Also, Florida really dominated the Seminoles early on. Bobby Bowden’s arrival in Tallahassee changed things, however, and since 1976 the Gators’ edge is just 18-17-1. Of course Florida fell off for a while soon after Bowden took over at FSU, and the Noles took control of the rivalry for the first time. The Gators rebounded, and regained control of the series in the first half of the 80’s, but then Florida ran into trouble with the NCAA. Not only did Florida’s ensuing punishment allow the Noles to turn the tables in the rivalry for the next few years, the sanctions against the Gators helped Bowden transform FSU into a powerhouse. As Florida fell off, Miami and Florida State forged a heated rivalry.

It really wasn’t until Steve Spurrier returned to his Alma Mater in the early 90’s that the Florida-Florida State rivalry became huge, but during its heyday it was often the biggest game of the year in college football.

This rivalry is notable for its “streakiness.” The last 30-plus years have mostly been a series of streaks in this rivalry. Currently the Gators are streaking, although that may change this season.

The Gators have won the last 6 meetings between the two (first time since 1981-86), including 3 straight at FSU. This year the Gators are trying to rebuild after the end of the Tebow era, while the Noles are playing their first season without Bobby Bowden as head coach in 35 years. The Noles are just 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games, but they are 5-1 at home this season.

Game 15: North Carolina (-9.5) @ Duke
Pick: North Carolina covers
Comment: This is without a doubt, by far and away, the greatest rivalry in all of college basketball. It’s essentially the only rivalry that means anything nationally. In football, on the other hand, it’s perhaps the most meaningless rivalry game nationally. I’m surprised that Tar Heel fans don’t care more than they seem to, because they absolutely own this thing. Duke should really be embarrassed. It used to be about as competitive (at least in terms of balance) as the basketball rivalry, but it’s not like that at all anymore. UNC has won 6 straight and 19 of the last 20. They have won 10 straight in Durham. The last 2 decades of dominance have given the Heels a commanding 57-35-4 edge in the all-time series.

North Carolina had high hopes for this season but it was all ruined by NCAA infractions before it could even begin. They need a win to clinch a winning record for a 3rd straight year. They are just 1-4 ATS in their last 5. The Heels are 3-1 on the road this season (3-1 ATS). Duke is 5-2 ATS in their last 7.

Game 16: Mississippi State (-2.5) @ Mississippi
Pick: Mississippi State covers
Comment: The Egg Bowl. You never know what you’re gonna get. Except for recently when you knew you were going to get at least 1 and perhaps 2 shitty teams playing football in a shitty state. One fan base got its cowbells taken away to keep them from having an unfair advantage. The other fan base got its rebel flag taken away to keep them from looking like complete morons and embarrassing the entire country. Yet despite this, home teams have dominated this series in recent years. The visitor has lost 6 straight and 10 of the last 11.

Mississippi is the traditional favorite. They own a 60-40-6 edge in the all-time series. This year the Maroon Dogs will be trying to beat Mississippi in back to back years for the first time since 1995-96. MSU has lost their last 2 games, including last week’s heartbreaker against Arkansas. Mississippi is just 1-5 in their last 6 (2-4 ATS), but Houston Nutt is 10-2 in his career against Miss State. The Maroon Dogs are 2-2 on the road this season, while the Traitors are 3-3 at home (2-4 ATS).

Game 17: South Carolina (-3) @ Clemson
Pick: South Carolina covers
Comment: This one is sometimes called “The Battle of the Palmetto State.” This is actually quite fitting, since these two schools really have been battling for supremacy in the state since Reconstruction. This is sort of like two hillbillies diving into a compost pile and fighting over a scrap of salt pork, but that’s besides the point. I don’t really like the title of this game because the title of “The Palmetto State” is just kind of gay. But I guess there weren’t many better options when it came to giving the blight of the south a nickname.

Clemson is the traditional favorite. The Tigers have basically dominated the Gamecocks for over a century now. They hold a 65-38-4 edge in the all-time series. In recent times Clemson has fallen off a bit as a program, while South Carolina has risen as a program, yet the Tigers have still maintained superiority over “Cocky” and his/her friends from Columbia. Clemson has won 10 of the last 13, including the last 6 at Death Valley. South Carolina has been an underdog in the last 8 matchups, and has pulled off an upset just twice.

This year the Cocks will be favored. South Carolina won last season and this year they will try and win back to back games over the Tigers for the first time since 1969-1970. They will also be trying for their first 9-win season under Steve Spurrier (last 9-win season was in 2001) and just their 2nd 9-win season since 1984. The Tigers will be trying to avoid their first 6-6 regular season since 1999. South Carolina is 2-2 on the road this season, while Clemson is 5-1 at home (2-4 ATS).

Game 18: Georgia Tech (+12) @ Georgia
Pick: Georgia covers
Comment: Obviously this one is near and dear to my heart. Clean Old Fashioned Hate. You gotta admit it’s a good name. I mean, I get super pumped up for all of my favorite teams’ games, whether it’s the Braves, Falcons, Hawks, or the Dawgs. But for me this is the biggest. This one can ruin my mood for untold days to come. It can also satisfy me even when there is little else to feel good about. Kill Tech.

The Dawgs are the traditional favorite. They hold a 60-39-5 edge in the all-time series. There was a time when Tech was the better program, but since the mid-60’s Georgia has basically owned this grudge match. The Dawgs are 34-12 against the Jackets since 1964. They have won 15 of 19 since 1991. Tech won the last game in Athens in 2008, and the Dawgs are just 3-3 in their last 6 at home against the Techies.

This is a huge game for Georgia and Mark Richt. The Dawgs need a win to avoid their first losing season since 1996. They will be coming off of a bye, and it is always good to have extra time to prepare against an unusual offensive scheme like the one Tech uses. Also, Aaron Murray is the key to everything Georgia does offensively, and the week off has given him time to heal after the beating he took against Auburn. Also, Josh Nesbitt is out for the season due to injury, so Tech will be without one of their biggest weapons and will have an inexperienced man running their quirky offense. UGA is 4-2 in their last 6 (4-2 ATS) and 4-1 at home this season (4-1 ATS). The Jackets are just 1-3 in their last 4 (1-3 ATS) and 4-7 ATS on the season. They are 2-3 on the road (2-3 ATS). Kill Tech.

Kill Tech.

Kill Tech.

Kill Tech.

Game 19: Oklahoma (+3) @ Oklahoma State
Pick: Oklahoma State covers
Comment: Bedlam. I actually like the name. My only problem with it is that there’s almost never bedlam or even anything out of the ordinary happening in this series. To say that Oklahoma is the traditional favorite in this series would be like saying that Terrell Owens is traditionally the biggest douche on his team. It’s not that the statement is incorrect; it’s that it doesn’t come anywhere close to explaining the situation. Terrell Owens is quite possibly the biggest douche to ever participate in organized team athletics, and Oklahoma has had the Red Heads biting a pillow for over a century.

The Sooners are 80-17-7 all-time against Okie State. That’s the most lopsided tally between instate rivals in all of college football. They have won the last 7 meetings between these 2, including 3 straight in Stillwater. Oklahoma State has defeated Oklahoma 17 times in 104 meetings; last season the Sooners defeated the Cowboys 27-0, shutting Oklahoma State out for the 31st time in 104 meetings. Even in this one-sided rivalry, last year’s domination was ridiculous. The Sooners held Oklahoma State’s offense to 109 total yards. They held the Cowboys to 4 yards in the 2nd half. Yes, 4 yards.

When the Cowboys have beaten the Sooners it has almost always been a significant upset, but this season Oklahoma State may actually be the better team. The Cowboys are 9-2 ATS this season. They are 5-1 at home (4-2 ATS). Oklahoma is just 6-5 ATS. They are 2-2 on the road (1-3 ATS). If the Cowboys win they will head to the Big XII Championship Game for the first time. They would also have the first 11-win season in their history. If the Sooners win and Texas A&M losses, Oklahoma would go to the conference title game. Even if A&M wins, if Oklahoma wins this game to finish in a 3-way tie with Oklahoma State and the Aggies, they would likely go to the conference title game anyway, as they would almost certainly win the tie-breaker as the team ranked highest in the BCS.

Game 20: Notre Dame (+3) @ USC
Pick: USC covers
Comment: It’s debatable whether or not this actually is a rivalry game. Unlike most rivalry games, this one did not naturally occur due to close proximity or being in the same conference. At one time these were two of the premier programs in the sport, as well as two of the most popular. Quite often the outcome of the game had national implications, and the rosters often included some of the brightest stars in college football. They were also teams with fan bases on opposite ends of the country, at a time when teams tended to stay close to home, and that added to the feeling that it was sort of a special game.

But all of that was in the past. USC was arguably the #1 team in the decade of the 2000’s, but Notre Dame hasn’t been a national power since the early 90’s, and they haven’t been relevant on any level for the last 15 years. Now USC has fallen hard due to the exit of Pete Carroll and the sanctions handed down by the great and terrible NCAA this summer. Still, this is somewhat of a unique rivalry. Aside from a few years during WWII when the series was understandably halted, these two teams have faced each other every season since 1926, with the location alternating between Los Angeles and South Bend.

You could say that Notre Dame has been the traditional favorite. They hold a 42-33-5 lead in the all-time series. But over the last 40 years the two teams have alternated streaks of dominance. USC rose to great heights in the 1970’s, and for the first time they took control of this series. But then the Trojans virtually disappeared for 15 years, during which time Notre Dame returned to glory and retook control of the rivalry with USC. Then as Notre Dame’s program eroded into mediocrity, Pete Carroll came to LA and turned USC into a dynasty. The Trojans once again took firm control of the series with the Irish.

USC has won the last 8 meetings by an average score of 40-15. They have won the last 4 meetings in LA. The last time here was a total humiliation for Charlie Weiss and the Irish, as USC held ND to 91 yards and 4 first downs in the game. This season the Irish have struggled on and off the field. They are 4-5-2 ATS. They have played only 2 true road games, going 1-1 (2-0 ATS). The Trojans are just 5-6 ATS. They are just 3-2 at home (1-4 ATS). ND needs a win to avoid a 3rd straight 6-6 regular season.

Other Games


Temple (-6.5) @ Miami (Ohio) (Temple covers)


Louisville (-3.5) @ Rutgers (Louisville covers)

Ohio (-3.5) @ Kent State (Ohio covers)

Northern Illinois (-24) @ Eastern Michigan (NIU covers)

Buffalo (Pick) @ Akron (Buffalo covers)

Western Michigan (-7) @ Bowling Green (BG beats the spread)

Central Michigan (+3.5) @ Toledo (Toledo covers)

SMU (Pick) @ East Carolina (SMU covers)

UCLA (+12.5) @ Arizona State (ASU covers)

Colorado (+17.5) @ Nebraska (Nebraska covers)

Southern Mississippi (+3.5) @ Tulsa (Southern Miss beats the spread)


Cincinnati (+1.5) @ Connecticut (UConn covers)

Boston College (+3) @ Syracuse (Cuse covers)

Central Florida (-25) @ Memphis (CF covers)

Tulane (+9.5) @ Marshall (Marshall covers)

South Florida (+11.5) @ Miami (Miami covers)

Hawaii (-26) @ New Mexico State (Hawaii covers)

Washington (+7.5) @ California (Cal covers)

Florida Atlantic (+4.5) @ Middle Tennessee (FAU pulls off the upset)

Louisiana-Lafayette (+7) @ Louisiana-Monroe (ULL beats the spread)

Western Kentucky (+13) @ Troy (WK beats the spread)

Arkansas State (+5) @ Florida International (Arkansas State beats the spread)

Northwestern (+23) @ Wisconsin (Wisconsin covers)

UAB (-3) @ Rice (UAB covers)

NC State (-2.5) @ Maryland (NC State covers)

Iowa (-15.5) @ Minnesota (Iowa covers)

Kansas State (-14.5) @ North Texas (KSU covers)

TCU (-43.5) @ New Mexico (TCU covers)

Wake Forest (+6) @ Vanderbilt (WF beats the spread)

Oregon State (+14) @ Stanford (Stanford covers)

Houston (+9) @ Texas Tech (Texas Tech covers)

UNLV (+24) @ San Diego State (SD State covers)

Louisiana Tech (-11.5) @ San Jose State (LT covers)

Idaho (+11) @ Fresno State (Fresno State covers)