In years past, I refused to buy into the ďlittle manĒ argument concerning Boise State, Utah or TCU, this year however, itís different. With only two weeks remaining in the regular season (otherwise known as the playoff), both Boise State and TCU have staked a claim to one of the top two spots in the BCS standings and for once, thereís a case to be made.
While the teams mentioned above have all survived the regular season unscathed at one point or another throughout the past decade, never has the case in favor of their inclusion been more sound than this season. In years past there was always a blemish on the resume, be it Utahís extremely fortunate victory over TCU two years ago in which the TCU kicker missed multiple chip shot FGs that would have ended the game, or Boise Stateís inability to dismantle every team on its weak schedule. This year, thatís not the case. The only thing close to a blemish is TCUís near miss against San Diego State a couple weeks ago, but San Diego State isnít exactly a slouch. Boise State has left no room for doubt with its play on the field. Each and every week this team shows up with one goal Ė dominate, and each and every week the Broncos have. One more dominating performance this week at Nevada and yet more critics will be quieted.
I turned the corner somewhere in the middle of the season, but by the end of the season, there will be more of us. Of course, Boise State still has to hold up its end of the bargain, on the field.
The avoid list:
Minnesota: The Gophers have gone from a good underdog, to a horrible play, to an outright mystery. The win two weeks ago at Illinois is absolutely dumbfounding and now theyíve got Iowa coming into town this week. I have no idea where this team is at right now.
On the radar:
USC: I should move them up to the avoid list after last weekís inexplicable loss, but chalk it up to the rigors of the Pac-10 I guess. For some reason, outside of Oregon, there has been little consistency among the teams in the Pac-10 this season.
Record YTD: 79-72-1
Units YTD: -1.1
Best Win: Texas A&M under: No touchdowns in this game, Iím not sure I can remember such an outcome and I certainly canít remember having an under in such a contest.
Worst Loss: Indiana: The Hoosiers hung tough all day long, but eventually fell apart late in this contest. A critical miss on a 4th and six at midfield turned the tide in this game. At that point, the Hoosiers were only down three points and another scoring drive would have all but sealed a cover.
Thereís nothing more maddening than an announcer or color commentator that just doesnít get it. Be it a misunderstanding about what is going on, on the field or just mass confusion about what a coach or a team is trying to accomplish.
I understand thereís more to the job than simply watching the game. People are in their ears all day with that or that stat and theyíve got to find time to get all their quotes and stats into the broadcast, but sometimes I get the feeling that they arenít actually paying attention to the action on the field.
I could go into a list of examples here, but in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am going to refrain and to add another twist, I am actually going to throw out a complement here.
I am not sure if youíve had a chance to catch any Notre Dame games this season on NBC, but if you havenít, you should tune into hear the new color commentator, Mike Mayock. To put it simply, he getís it. By it, I mean everything. Unlike his predecessor, Mayock is not afraid to call out the Irish coaches or players and if thereís a situation on the field, you better believe that Mayock is right on top of it. His insights are spot on and his delivery is top notch. In a world of frustrating commentary from the booth, Mayock give us reason to keep the volume up when watching college football.
Its rivalry week and you are going to get bombarded with the following phrase this week, ďthrow out the record book when these two teams get togetherĒ.
While there is some legitimacy to that phrase, I wouldn't advise getting too caught up in the hype. Certain teams that are down and out will get up for one special opponent, but remember, thereís a reason that team was down and out. A new found motivation during rivalry week might affect the effort, but it wonít affect the talent level.
Motivation is undoubtedly a huge influence on the outcome of every college football game, but just because itís a rivalry game, doesnít mean motivation will be at an all-time high. Need evidence, check out Californiaís effort last week against arch rival Stanford. A quick glance at the match-up would have lead one to believe that both teams would come out firing, but a closer look showed that Cal was still reeling from its near miss against Oregon the week prior.
I bring this up because as a youth I once took every dog on rivalry weekend with the thought that the public had inflated the chalk, because, well, thatís what they do. That weekend I learned a great lesson. Itís not wise to make grand assertions, i.e. all dogs play hard against their rivals, no matter the situation.
This week offers a variety or rivalry games and no two are alike.
Texas at Texas A&M: If the Longhorns are ever going to show up this season, it will be in this spot. The problem is, I donít trust them. The ĎHorns proved long ago that motivation is not the problem here, talent and cohesiveness are at the forefront of their issues this season. As such, I canít take them here, nor can I lay the points in this spot, but what I can do is stick with the under. Texas is in the midst of a horrible season, but defense has not been the major issue. The Aggies have played a bit of defense over the past month also and while I expect at least one touchdown in this game, there wonít be many points to be had on Thanksgiving night.
Side: Under 47.5 (2)
West Virginia at Pittsburgh: I feel obligated to take the over here out of shear principle. The total in any college game should start at 45 and only go up from there. Sure, both of these teams bring in solid defenses, but come on, 40 points?
Side: Over 40 (1)
SMU at East Carolina: Defense optional in this game. East Carolina is a scoring machine Ė for the opposition that is. In its last four games, East Carolina has surrendered no less than 42 points to the opposition. The lowest combined point total in that span was 84 points. SMU hasnít exactly partaken in many shootouts this season, but thatís only because the Mustangs have yet to play the Pirates.
Total: Over 70 (2)
Auburn at Alabama: Here are the facts about this game. One - Cam Newton cannot be stopped. He can be slowed, but not stopped. Two Ė Auburn does not have much of a defense. Am I missing something here? Why is this total in the 50ís? Sure, both teams will play hard on defense and it might be a struggle to score early on, but itís only a matter of time before the floodgates open.
Total: Over 58 (2)
Colorado at Nebraska: Taylor Martinez is expected to miss this game and if he does, thereís only one way that Nebraska covers this number Ė turnovers. Unfortunately for the Huskers, Colorado comes in with a new found sense of confidence. Sure the ĎBuffs havenít exactly faced the cream of the crop over the past two weeks, but I dare say without Martinez, that Nebraska is not the cream of the Big-12 crop.
Side: Colorado +17.5 (1)
Arizona at Oregon: Blueprint schmoo-print. Iíve heard talk all week about how Cal showed the nation a blueprint for stopping the Duck offense. Hereís the problem, Cal was at home and extremely jacked-up for that game. While Arizona will likely be jacked-up this week, the Catís wonít have the crowd to sustain their energy and once the energy goes, this game getís out of hand. Stanford dominated the Wildcats a few weeks ago, why in the world would the Ducks struggle to do so?
Side: Oregon -19.5 (3)
Boise State at Nevada: This game can go one of two ways in my eyes. One, Boise dominates from the outset and shows the nation that it is head and shoulders above any non-BCS competition or two, it becomes a back and forth struggle in which the Broncos eventually come out on top. Either way, the Broncos will get their points this week, itís just a matter of whether or not the defense can hold Nevadaís offense in check.
Side: Boise State -14 (1)
Total: Over 68 (1)
Michigan at Ohio State: Iíve witnessed much better Ohio State teams lose to much worse Michigan teams in my time, but most of those OSU teams had John Cooper at the helm. Still, this is the biggest rivalry in college football and each team is guaranteed to show up. The problem for the Wolverines however is their defenseís inability to show up at all this year. Effort will be at an all-time high, but after getting beat down time after time, itís only a matter of time before the white flag goes up. Michigan should get theirs on offense, to a point, but after a while, the floodgates will open.
Side: Ohio State -17 (1)
Total: Over 63 (1)
Mississippi State at Mississippi: Both of these teams are coming of heartbreaking losses last week, but the Bulldogs will likely have a more difficult team rebounding. Mississippi tried to play spoiler last week and fell just short at LSU, but the Rebels should be back and ready to play that same role again this week as their own season has been a loss for a while now. The Bulldogs on the other hand had a chance to move up a notch on the SEC ladder last week, but could not seal the deal against Arkansas. I expect Mississippi to play its best game of the season this week.
Side: Mississippi +3 (1)
Cincinnati at Connecticut: The Huskies have come too far back to drop this game against a mediocre Bearcat team. The Huskies were picked by many as the preseason favorite in the Big East, but expectations proved to be too much as they faltered out of the gate. Left for dead after the first month of the season though, they fought back and beat a couple quality opponents in Pittsburgh and West Virginia. Now itís time to play with expectations once again.
Side: UConn -1.5 (1)
Northwestern at Wisconsin: there is only one thing that can stop the Badgers this week Ė overconfidence. Northwestern provided absolutely no resistance last week against Illinois and the Badgers should, I repeat should run all over them this week. With the Big Ten championship on the line, I canít imagine the Badgers slipping up here.
Side: Wisconsin -23 (3)
Virginia at Virginia Tech: The Cavaliers have played well in the underdog role over the past month or so, but they are stepping way up in class this week when they head to Blacksburg. The Hokies continue to roll through the ACC and thereís no way they are tripping up in this spot.
Side: Virginia Tech -23.5 (1)
Michigan State at Penn State: I really hope my opinion on this game is not tainted by MSUís performance last week against Purdue, but I have to factor that in somewhat, right? MSU did not look like the team it was earlier in the year last week and if the Spartans play anywhere near that level again this week, theyíll be blown out of the building. Penn State has looked like a different team since the QB switch a few weeks back and a win this week would be a nice notch in the belt.
Side: Penn State +2 (1)
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State: The Sooners appeared to have solved their road woes last week at Baylor, but letís not forget, thatís Baylor, and this is Oklahoma State. The Cowboys are on the verge of one of their best seasons ever and I expect them to close out the regular season in style with a victory this wee.
Side: OSU -3 (1)
Total: Over 67 (1)
TCU at New Mexico: The Horned Frogsí bed has been made. There is nothing they can do to impress the pollsters this week, but there is plenty they can do to tarnish their season by letting this game stay close for too long.
Side: TCU -43.5 (1)