It is about this time each year, on the eve of the initial BCS rankings that we start to look ahead to possible national championship matchups.
The last five years or so, the most intriguing matchup appeared to be Alabama and Oregon, but as fate would have it, we were never treated to that game.
Could this finally be the year that we get to see what happens when the immovable object meets the unstoppable force? It sure looks like there's a good chance, but then again, I'm sure we said the same thing the last five years at this time.
The only thing we can be certain of is that there are plenty of changes ahead. Last season Oregon appeared destined for a title shot until a loss very late in the season. It simply doesn't matter how good a team looks now, or even five weeks from now, a potential upset is always just around the corner, so while it's certainly fun to look ahead to what could be, I'll save my thoughts on the potential Tide vs. Ducks matchup for later down the road. I'll also save any griping about the BCS rankings until then as well, because as we all know, these initial rankings are likely to have little effect on the eventual outcome.
Now, let's talk about what happened last week. If you are just tuning in, last week, well, last week really sucked. As it turns out, it was a tough week for most of those on our side, though, as reportedly the books cleaned up last weekend. Fortunately, my top selections, the "Cream of the Crop" picks weren't awful; they were merely average at a .500 clip for the week. The other two groups, not so good, but the season numbers are still strong and hopefully a bounce-back week is coming.
One last note, you can follow me on Twitter at @gregvara where I'll often have updated insight to matchups on the weekend.
Cream of the Crop (Week: 2-2/Season: 13-7)
Texas Tech at West Virginia: In one week, WVU went from a laughing stock to a real team with the upset of Oklahoma State. The problem is, we don't know exactly which the real WVU is. To figure that out I think we need to look at the two games that have defined the Mountaineers this season. WVU was embarrassed against Maryland, a team that has since proven a bit fraudulent. The following week, WVU topped Oklahoma State, a team that seemed to be overrated from the get-go. The biggest problem for WVU is it no longer has the element of surprise. Texas Tech looks to be a complete team this year, and this is just another test I expect the Red Raiders to pass.
Side: Texas Tech -6
Florida at Missouri: Tough break for Missouri last week when in the midst of a great upset, the Tigers lost QB James Franklin. Two of my wins last week involved these teams, so I feel like I have a good feel for both. I bring that up because I want to point out that I don't have an over-inflated view of Florida. I'm not a huge fan of the Gators this season, but Missouri is in a tough spot this week a spot which I doubt it can get out of. Not only did the Tigers lose their best player, but they're also coming off a huge win. Just a bad timing this week as they face a team that's probably ticked about losing at LSU last week.
Side: Florida -3.5
UCLA at Stanford: This seems like one of those seasons in the Pac-12 that as soon as you think you've got something figured out, it changes. Case in point, Stanford looked pretty bad last week, while UCLA continued its roll. The problem is, I think Stanford simply let up last week, and that's not going to happen again. Is there a chance the Cardinal feel a sense that their season is lost because their national championship aspirations are gone? Sure, but this team is too well coached to feel sorry for itself. I expect a huge bounce-back from Stanford this week.
Side: Stanford -6
Best of the Rest (Week: 0-3/Season: 19-12)
Florida State at Clemson: This is the game of the week, and I wish I had a strong opinion on which side will win, but I just can't find an edge. Instead, I'll focus on the total, and while it's a little bit higher than I'd like to see, I think the over is still the play. FSU supposedly has a defense, but it hasn't faced anything like it will see this week. There's simply too much skill on the offensive side of the ball in this game.
Total: Over 64
Minnesota at Northwestern: This is a tough spot for the Cats this week. They are coming off a bad loss to Wisconsin and might be starting to question themselves. I'm sure the Cats will come out strong in this game, but there's also a chance that they'll overlook a Gophers team that looks pretty bad. The Gophers are nowhere near a complete team, but it looks like the offense is starting to improve a little, and it should have some success this week. This number leaves the possibility for a back-door cover open, and I expect the Gophers to walk through it.
Side: Minnesota +12.5
LSU at Ole Miss: LSU finally showed some teeth on defense last week against Florida, but that was at home, and this is on the road. Add to that, the Rebels have a better offense than the Gators and I think the LSU defense reverts to its early-season form. The Tiger offense is just fine though and this game could end up being a good old-fashioned, ah, new-fashioned SEC shoot-out.
Total: Over 60
Iowa State at Baylor: Baylor came back down to Earth last week, and though the Bears are back at home this week, which is bound to provide a boost, I think the reality of facing real teams is going to set in. ISU hasn't been blown out by anyone this season, and while this is bound to be its toughest test, I think the Cyclones can manage to stay within 40.
Side: ISU +39.5
UNLV at Fresno State: Still not sold on Fresno State's defense, but its offense is a machine. Fresno State is capable of going over the total by itself this week, but it won't need to as the Runnin' Rebels will contribute a few scores.
Total: Over 72.5
PASSing Thoughts (Week: 1-5/Season: 15-16-2)
Miami at North Carolina: Miami has been surprisingly consistent this year and that consistency is about to pay off in this spot. North Carolina's record is bad, but the Tar Heels have played well in spots this season, so this won't be a walk-over, but I expect the Canes to flex some muscle in this game.
Side: Miami -9.5
Central Florida at Louisville: This is a reverse-logic pick. UCF is a better team than Rutgers and should give Louisville a better game, but things don't always make sense in this game, and I have a feeling that by the end of the night Louisville will create more separation than it did last week. The Cardinals have heard all week about how they blew a chance to impress the nation last week, so expect a better, cleaner effort this week and a tight cover.
Side: Louisville -13
Washington State at Oregon: In case you haven't heard, Oregon is perfect against the spread this season. In years past, the Ducks would have already let up at some point and failed to cover, but this team seems a little different. The problem is, the line is just too damn high this week. Is Oregon capable of covering a 40-point line? Of course, but we are dealing with human beings here, and at some point, they have to let their collective guard down.
Side: Washington State +39.5
USC at Notre Dame: I'm not buying into the Trojan resurgence just yet. Nice win last week, yes, but this is an entirely different beast. Instead of a cupcake at home, they've got a good team on the road to deal with.
Side: Notre Dame -3