It happens every time and I don't know why I don't see it coming.
Just a week ago I was certain of the national championship match-up, as was most of the country. It was to be Oregon vs. Kansas State and there was little anyone could do about it. At least, that's what we thought.
One week later and we are back in a familiar spot. Scrambling to figure out what the final match-up will be.
As I write this, Notre Dame looks to have secured a spot, but the Irish still have one thing left to do - oh right, they have to win another football game.
Sounds easy enough, but considering Oregon couldn't win as a 21-point favorite and Kansas State couldn't beat a lowly Baylor team, nothing - and I mean, nothing - can be taken for granted.
This script is nothing new. It happens almost every college football season, yet for some reason, it's so hard to believe that these upsets will happen. Perhaps it's the pressure of the moment. How else can you explain Oregon and Kansas State both losing a week after it was decided that these two teams had locked up a spot if they won out?
Whatever the reason, it seems more than likely now that we will again have an SEC champion, and, no, I'm not afraid to go out on a limb there.
As for the picks last week, well it wasn't a great week. I had a feeling once a couple games went pear-shaped early on that it might be a long day. It wasn't a horrible day, but certainly not the Saturdays I've been used to the last month.
Let's look at the card this week.
Cream of the Crop (Week: 1-3/Season: 17-28)
South Florida at Cincinnati: Without the services of its starting quarterback B.J. Daniels, South Florida could only manage nine points last week against a brutal Miami Hurricanes defense. I have a hard time imagining the Bulls will have much more luck against Cincinnati this week. The Bearcats also struggled last week, but at least they had an excuse; they were up against a quality defense in Rutgers. This week, the Bearcats will find it much easier to move the ball as they cruise to victory.
Side: Cincinnati -13.5
Ohio at Kent State: Two teams heading in different directions meet up in the MAC battle on Friday. Although Ohio has dropped its last two games, the Bobcats are still in the midst of a good season. The problem is the defense is severely flawed. Early in the season, the offense covered up these flaws, but once the offense began to sputter, the warts were there for everyone to see. Kent State has one of, if not the, best offenses in the MAC this season, and the Golden Flashes are more than capable of taking advantage of the situation. Kent State's rushing attack will simply be too much to handle and this one could get out of hand early.
Side: Kent State -9.5
Michigan at Ohio State: No bowl game for the Buckeyes this season, so this is it. An undefeated season on the line against their hated rivals. I've witnessed a lot of crazy outcomes in this rivalry over the years, but I would be very surprised to see the Wolverines pull off the upset here. I haven't been overly impressed with Michigan this season, and this spot looks to be too much for it in its current form.
Side: Ohio State -3.5
Illinois at Northwestern: This might finally be the week the Wildcats hold a double-digit lead. Northwestern has had little trouble getting out to big leads this season, the problem has been holding those leads. Considering the competition this week, that shouldn't be an issue. Illinois' disastrous season is about to end, and I don't think we'll see much fight from the "Fighting Illini" this week.
Side: Northwestern -19.5
Best of the Rest (Week: 3-2/Season: 32-24)
Central Michigan at Massachusetts: I can imagine a banner hanging in the Massachusetts locker room reading "Mission Accomplished" after the monumental win last week, and as such, I doubt there will be much fight left in the players. Central Michigan has won three of its last four and needs this game to have any chance at a bowl this year.
Side: CMU -11
Arizona State at Arizona: Arizona has won four of its last five, and the Cats have been very good at home this year. ASU broke a four-game losing streak last week against WSU, but come on, that was WSU. Considering the small line here, I'll lay the points with Arizona as the Cats seem to have more momentum heading into this match-up.
Side: Arizona -3
Georgia Tech at Georgia: The Yellow Jackets seemed to have figured something out the last few weeks, and even though it's a stiff challenge this week I expect them to put up a fight. Georgia is back in the national championship picture once again, but the Bulldogs have never been a team that handles the spotlight well and the extra attention this week may come back to haunt them.
Side: Georgia Tech +14.5
Indiana at Purdue: Purdue did what it needed to do last week at Illinois, but the fact that the Boilermakers couldn't hold a big lead against Illinois makes me wonder if they can do the same this week against a better opponent. Indiana's season has fallen apart the last couple weeks, but the Hoosiers will get up for their in-state rival this week.
Side: Indiana +5.5
Texas Tech at Baylor: Baylor's defense played lights out last week, but that was out of character for a unit that has struggled all year. I have to imagine Baylor's defense will revert back to its old form after hearing about how well it played all week. Texas Tech is no slouch and should not be taken lightly this week. Baylor's offense should have no problem picking up where it left off last week, though as they've shown the consistency throughout the year.
Total: Over 78.5
PASSing thoughts (Week: 1-4/Season: 24-36)
Nebraska at Iowa: I don't know what it is about the Cornhuskers, but I just can't get on board. Iowa is not a good team, but I expect the Hawkeyes to put up a fight in this spot.
Side: Iowa +14.5
LSU at Arkansas: LSU received a scare last week against Mississippi and had it not, I might be worried about this spot for the Tigers. Arkansas is going to put up a fight here, there's nothing to lose, the season is over. But the Hogs can still spoil their rivals season with an upset. The problem is Tyler Wilson is a mess right now and LSU is going to eat him alive.
Side: LSU -12.5
Washington at Washington State: WSU is having an awful season, but the Cougars have played pretty well at home this season, including a slim loss to UCLA a couple weeks ago. Considering the in-state rivalry, I expect maximum effort from the Cougars this week, and along with it a cover.
Side: WSU +13.5
Michigan State at Minnesota: MSU needs this game to become bowl eligible, while the Gophers have already accomplished that goal. That is the story line entering the week, and that's also why MSU is favored by 8.5 on the road even though the Spartans have only won two conference games this season. The Spartans conference games have all been within four points this season, and I see no reason why that changes this week.
Side: Minnesota +8.5
Wisconsin at Penn State: These teams have been mirror images of each other this season. Both teams have beaten up on the bottom half of the Big Ten, while neither team has been able to beat an upper echelon team within the conference. Wisconsin has a couple games after this one, and I don't think the urgency will be there this week, not like it is for the Nittany Lions who will be playing their final game of the season this week.
Side: Penn State -2.5
Notre Dame at USC: I liked this line a lot more when it opened at seven, but five and half points is still pretty hefty. USC's season has been a complete letdown, but if the Trojans can spoil Notre Dame's season, then they can get a little satisfaction out of this season. Notre Dame will be in the unfamiliar spot of having everything to lose this week. Until this week, the Irish were never in a spot to play for the National Championship, they always needed help. Well, they got the help they needed, now the pressure is squarely on their shoulders. Better teams have already cracked under that same pressure this season, and I think it's Notre Dame's turn this week.
Side: USC +5.5