Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Weekend That Things Changed

And just like that ... everything changed.

Well, not everything. But nearly everything.

In the aftermath of Auburn's thrashing of Georgia and Miami's whipping of Notre Dame, the entire Final Four is up for grabs, it seems.

Well, not entirely.

Unless Auburn or Georgia can beat Alabama, I'm pretty sure the Crimson Tide will be in the college football playoff. And defending national champion Clemson will probably be there, too, although the path does not seem so straight or so clear for the Tigers.

But Georgia and Notre Dame probably won't be, which opens a couple of doors for the likes of Oklahoma, Wisconsin and, perhaps, Miami and/or Auburn, although the latter two would need to knock off the two apparent locks for the playoffs in their conference championship games.

In short, nothing seems quite as certain as it did last week.

Idle: #15 Washington State

  • Tulsa at #23 South Florida, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: This is only the second time these teams have met. The first time was three years ago at Tulsa, and South Florida prevailed by eight points.

    South Florida is favored to do it again this time by 23 points. My choice is South Florida.
  • Mercer at #1 Alabama, 11 a.m. (Central) on SEC Network: You know, there really isn't any point in discussing this one much.

    It exists to fill the week before the Iron Bowl. That's all. If Alabama loses, the Crimson Tide will have no hope of being in college football's playoffs.

    Alabama will win.
  • Virginia at #2 Miami (Fla.), 11 a.m. (Central) on ABC: Miami has built a two–game lead in this series with wins in the last two seasons.

    It is a lot more competitive than you probably ever thought.

    But the oddsmakers don't think this edition will be too competitive. They have made Miami a 19½–point pick.

    It would certainly be dramatic if Virginia could pull off the upset, but I don't think that will happen. I choose Miami.
  • #3 Oklahoma at Kansas, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Oklahoma has won 12 in a row against Kansas — last year the Sooners won 56–3 — and OU is picked by 37 points this time.

    It seems to be beyond dispute. Oklahoma should win handily.
  • The Citadel at #4 Clemson, 11:20 a.m. (Central) on ACCNE: You know, by this point in the season, you really hope that this kind of nonconference game is gone, but I guess you could see this one coming from a long way away.

    Clemson is the clear choice.
  • #19 Michigan at #5 Wisconsin, 11 a.m. (Central) on Fox: This is the only game between two ranked teams this week, and it ought to be a good one.

    Michigan leads the all–time series by a wide margin, but Wisconsin has been competitive in their most recent meetings.

    However, it is worth noting that, until last year, the teams had not met since 2010. When the series was renewed last year, Michigan won by a touchdown.

    This time Wisconsin is the favorite by 7½ points.

    I take Wisconsin.
  • Louisiana–Monroe at #6 Auburn, 11 a.m. (Central) on ESPN2: This is like the Mercer–Alabama game. It is there to take up schedule space.

    Auburn will win.
  • Kentucky at #7 Georgia, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on CBS: Georgia has won more than 80% of its meetings with Kentucky over the years. Currently Georgia has won nine of the last 10.

    The Bulldogs are favored by 21½ in this one. OK. I take Georgia.
  • Illinois at #8 Ohio State, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ABC: This will be the 103rd meeting of these schools, and Ohio State leads by better than 2 to 1.

    The Buckeyes hold an eight–game winning streak, and they're favored by a whopping 41 points to make that nine.

    I pick Ohio State.
  • Navy at #9 Notre Dame, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on NBC: For some reason, it still surprises people when you mention that Navy has a pretty good football team.

    I guess they get the Midshipmen confused with the other service academies, which have struggled in recent years. But Navy is 6–3 (incidentally Army is playing pretty well this year, but Air Force has to win its last two to qualify for a bowl).

    The 8–2 Irish appeared headed for college football's playoffs until they lost to Miami last week. They're apt to be a bit feisty after last week's game.

    Plus there is some decisive history working against Navy. The Midshipmen have won only twice at South Bend in the last 50 years.

    I pick Notre Dame.
  • Kansas State at #10 Oklahoma State, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN2: Oklahoma State has won three of its last four against Kansas State, but Oklahoma State really needs to win this one to be in the conversation for the Big 12 championship.

    At 5–5 Kansas State needs a win in its last two games to qualify for a bowl, but the Wildcats have Iowa State waiting next week. Fortunately for K–State, that game will be played in Manhattan, Kansas. The Wildcats can afford to lose this one.

    I think they will, too. The choice is Oklahoma State.
  • #11 TCU at Texas Tech, 11 a.m. (Central) on FS1: Tech leads this series, but most of those wins came during Tech's 3½ decades in the old Southwest Conference.

    TCU jumped out to an early lead in the series, winning the first five encounters, but Tech, as I say, made up for a lot after the Red Raiders joined the SWC. The teams met only twice from the time the SWC folded until TCU joined Tech in the Big 12 a few years ago. Now they meet regularly.

    Tech beat TCU by a field goal last year, but TCU comes into this year's game favored by 6½. If TCU does win, it would be only the third victory at Lubbock for the Frogs in more than 40 years.

    Make Texas Tech an upset special.
  • UCLA at #12 Southern Cal, 7 p.m. (Central) on ABC: This was a rivalry game that I always enjoyed watching when I was a kid. There was always so much color on both sides. And the games were usually competitive, too.

    But Southern Cal usually won, and the Trojans are favored this time by 16 points. I have to take Southern Cal. But it's still worth watching.
  • Nebraska at #13 Penn State, 4 p.m. (Central) on FS1: There was a time when this would have been a marquee game, whenever it was played. It would have made a great bowl game some years, but they have never met in the postseason.

    Nebraska has fallen on hard times, but, believe it or not, the Cornhuskers have won their last four encounters with the Nittany Lions.

    It is hard to see how that streak can continue. Nebraska is 4–6 and needs to win its last two to qualify for a bowl. Penn State is 8–2, already assured of a bowl but looking to beef up its record and improve its postseason destination. The oddsmakers favor Penn State by nearly four touchdowns. I have to take Penn State.
  • #14 Central Florida at Temple, 11 a.m. (Central) on ESPNU: The historical record in this series is brief and does not really provide much guidance.

    They have played four games, two on each team's home field. Both teams are 1–1 at home.

    But Central Florida is 9–0 and Temple is 5–5. The oddsmakers have made UCF a 13½–point favorite. Good enough for me. I choose Central Florida.
  • Utah at #16 Washington, 9:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Utah has only beaten Washington once, but that came on Washington's home field, where they will play this weekend.

    The series predates Utah joining the Pac–12, but all the games prior to that were played in Seattle. The one and only time that Utah hosted Washington was after Utah joined the conference.

    Didn't really matter. Washington won that game in Salt Lake City and has won nearly all the games played in Seattle. The oddsmakers think the Huskies will win this one, too, and so do I. Washington is the pick.
  • #17 Mississippi State at Arkansas, 11 a.m. (Central) on CBS: Arkansas snapped a four–game losing streak against Mississippi State last year, but the oddsmakers think the Bulldogs will get back on the winning track this weekend.

    They're favored by 11½ points.

    Naturally, I would like to see my alma mater win, but I have to be realistic. The Hogs haven't been good this year, and they're likely to lose by a wider margin than 11½ points. I must choose Mississippi State.
  • SMU at #18 Memphis, 11 a.m. (Central) on ESPNews: This is the 10th game between these teams. The series has gone in threes — Memphis won the first three, SMU won the second three, and Memphis won the most recent three. The logical progression would mean that SMU will win this time, but the oddsmakers don't think so. They made Memphis an 11½–point favorite.

    I think it will be closer than that, but I agree that Memphis will win.
  • California at #20 Stanford, 7 p.m. (Central) on Fox: Stanford has beaten Cal seven straight times and leads the all–time series by 10 games.

    But as lopsided as the series record is, the games have tended to be surprisingly close. When Stanford won by two touchdowns last season, that was actually a closer margin than the teams have produced in recent years, but more typical of the series is the famous finish of the 1982 Big Game.
    OK, they aren't always so dramatic, but the final margin (in this case, five points) has a lot in common with most games.

    The oddsmakers favor Stanford to extend the streak. I agree. I pick Stanford.
  • #21 LSU at Tennessee, 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Tennessee already has enough distractions with the dismissal of head coach Butch Jones last weekend.

    And now LSU comes to town.

    These teams haven't faced each other since 2011, and Tennessee leads the all–time series, but LSU has won the last four encounters and six of the last eight. On top of that, LSU is clearly on an upward trajectory while Tennessee is tumbling into the abyss.

    LSU is a 15½–point favorite. It would be hard to justify picking the Volunteers, and I don't. LSU is my choice.
  • Maryland at #22 Michigan State, 3 p.m. (Central) on Fox: This will be the ninth meeting between these teams, and Maryland won last year for only the second time.

    I don't think Maryland can pull it off again. My pick is Michigan State.
  • Texas at #24 West Virginia, 11 a.m. (Central) on ESPN: These teams have met six times, all but the first one coming since 2012.

    And the pattern is that one team wins back–to–back encounters, then the other team wins two, then the first team wins two.

    By that pattern, it should be Texas' turn. The Mountaineers have won the last two games.

    But West Virginia is favored by 11 points. I think West Virginia will win at home.
  • #25 North Carolina State at Wake Forest, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPNU: N.C. State has won three in a row against Wake Forest and six of the last nine.

    The Wolfpack have a significant lead in the all–time series, but the Deacons won six in a row at home before the Wolfpack halted the skid with a 35–17 win at Winston–Salem in 2015. It's been more than 20 years since the Wolfpack won back–to–back games at Winston–Salem. Can they do it again?

    The oddsmakers don't think so. They have made Wake Forest a 1–point favorite. I disagree. North Carolina State is an upset special.
Last week: 13–3

Overall: 171–40

Postponed by Hurricane Irma: 4

Last week's upset specials: 3–1

Overall upset specials: 11–20

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Keep an Eye on the SEC Collision Course

Alabama and Georgia still appear to be on a collision course in the SEC Championship on Dec. 2. They occupy the top two spots in the college football playoff rankings, and they are 1–2 in the AP poll.

And if they win out, they will meet for the SEC title.

Personally, I still think a loss in that game will disqualify the loser from the four–team playoff field — but I have heard more and more people lately who think they will both be in the playoff regardless of who wins on Dec. 2.

And that may well turn out to be true. If they are both unbeaten going into that game, the loser will only have one loss. And there won't be many one–loss teams left when the dust settles so perhaps Alabama and Georgia will already have qualified before their game begins.

On the other hand, there are still three weeks left in the season, and both teams still must face Auburn. That's going to be a tough assignment.

If the season ended today, Alabama, Georgia, Notre Dame and Clemson would be in the playoff.

But the season doesn't end today.

Idle: #20 Memphis, #22 South Florida

  • #9 Washington at Stanford, 9:30 p.m. (Central) on FS1: Washington beat Stanford last year, the Huskies' third win over Stanford in the last 12 meetings.

    Historically, though, Washington still holds the edge in the series, and the Huskies are favored to win this time, too — by 6½ points. But Washington has only won once at Stanford since the dawn of the 21st century and hasn't won two in a row in the series in 14 years.

    I'm taking Stanford as an upset special.
  • #1 Alabama at #18 Mississippi State, 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Alabama has won nine in a row against Mississippi State and hasn't lost in Starkville since 2007.

    Alabama is favored by 14 points, which might be about right on the road. At home, the margin would almost certainly be higher. The pick is Alabama.
  • #2 Georgia at #10 Auburn, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on CBS: This is the 113th meeting between these schools, and Georgia holds a 55–51–6 lead.

    Both teams aren't always in the Top 10. Sometimes neither team has been in the Top 10. But both are there this time — and it is even possible that they will meet again in the SEC Championship game in December.

    Judging from the point spread the oddsmakers have assigned this game, it should be a good one. Georgia is favored by 2½ points. I'll take Georgia.
  • #3 Notre Dame at #7 Miami (Fla.), 7 p.m. (Central) on ABC: If you don't like Notre Dame, this may be your last chance to see the Irish get knocked out of this season's college football playoffs.

    The 8–1 Irish face Navy (currently on a three–game losing streak) and Stanford in their last two games — and most likely will be favored to win both.

    Two losses probably will keep most teams out of the playoffs, but history doesn't suggest that Notre Dame is going to lose to Miami. The Irish lead the series with Miami 18–7–1 and have won four in a row. Miami hasn't beaten Notre Dame since 1989.

    But while Notre Dame has dominated at home and at neutral sites, it has been another story in Miami. The oddsmakers think it will be another struggle as the Irish are favored by a field goal.

    I'm going to take Miami as an upset special.
  • Florida State at #4 Clemson, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Back when the season began this was expected to be one of the big games of the year, but the Seminoles haven't held up their end of the deal.

    Florida State has dominated this series by winning 80% of the time at home. The Seminoles are 8–6 at Clemson but have lost six of the last seven games played there.

    Clemson is favored to win this time, too. The point spread is 16 points.

    My pick is Clemson.
  • #8 TCU at #5 Oklahoma, 7 p.m. (Central) on Fox: This has to be the game of the week. We know Alabama and Georgia are probably on a collision course, and I think that is likely to knock the loser out of the running for the four–team playoff field.

    The Big 12 seems likely to send someone to the championship field, and the winner of this game will probably be in the driver's seat for that.

    And if that is the case, then history says OU will prevail. So do the oddsmakers. They have made the Sooners 7–point favorites.

    I expect Oklahoma to win.
  • #25 Iowa at #6 Wisconsin, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ABC: Wisconsin grabbed the lead in this longstanding series with a 17–9 victory last season. Now the scene shifts to Wisconsin, where Iowa has won four of the last five encounters.

    Iowa is a recent entry in the Top 25 whereas Wisconsin has been in the rankings all season and really needs to stay unbeaten to have a shot at the playoffs, now that both Penn State and Ohio State has been beaten for the second time — which apparently will prevent the Badgers from facing a team in the conference championship gae with a record impressive enough to propel Wisconsin into the Top Four.

    But that is farther down the road.

    Wisconsin is favored to win this game by 12. I take Wisconsin.
  • #13 Michigan State at #11 Ohio State, 11 a.m. (Central) on Fox: The clear pattern in this series in the last seven games has been that whichever team won the previous meeting has lost the next one. Ohio State won last season by a single point — even though Michigan State was struggling through a 3–9 capaign and Ohio State went on to play in the college football playoffs.

    The Buckeyes are favored to buck the recent trend as they go into this game favored by 16 points. That seems a little excessive to me, but I still think Ohio State will win.
  • #12 Oklahoma State at #24 Iowa State, 11 a.m. (Central) on ABC or ESPN2: Oklahoma State has won eight of the last 10 meetings with Iowa State — but the Cowboys ought to be wary of the Cyclones. They may be coming off a loss, but they have engineered some pretty impressive upsets this season.

    The oddsmakers favor Oklahoma State by a touchdown. Both teams are coming off losses that may well prevent them from playing in the conference title game. I pick Iowa State to produce another upset.
  • Connecticut at #14 Central Florida, 11 a.m. (Central) on ESPNU: This is a young series, but it has been competitive.

    The teams have split their first four meetings, with both teams going 1–1 at home, and Connecticut won the last time it played at Central Florida.

    Central Florida is favored by more than five touchdowns. The choice is clear — Central Florida.
  • #15 Southern Cal at Colorado, 3 p.m. (Central) on Fox: This will be the 12th meeting between these schools, and Southern Cal has won all 11 of the previous games.

    Southern Cal is favored by nearly two touchdowns to make its record against Colorado 12–0.

    I pick Southern Cal.
  • Rutgers at #16 Penn State, 11 a.m. (Central) on Big Ten Network: Rutgers beat Penn State the first time they met — back in 1918. Since then the teams have faced each other 26 times, and Rutgers has won only once — in 1988.

    Since this year doesn't end in an 8 — and the Nittany Lions are favored by 30 points — I choose Penn State.
  • #17 Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech, 11:20 a.m. (Central) on ACCNE: Georgia Tech beat Virginia Tech last year. It was the Yellow Jackets' fourth win over the Hokies since they became conference rivals in 2003.

    Georgia Tech has never beaten Virginia Tech in back–to–back meetings, but the Yellow Jackets might have a chance this time. The Hokies are only favored by a field goal. It's tempting to predict an upset special, but I think Virginia Tech will win.
  • #19 Washington State at Utah, 4:30 p.m. (Central) on Pac–12 Network: This series is tied at 7–7.

    Washington State has won the last two meetings, but neither team has ever beaten the other three straight times.

    Nevertheless the oddsmakers apparently think Washington State will do precisely that — but the Cougars are only favored by a single point. That's OK. I take Washington State.
  • #21 Michigan at Maryland, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on Big Ten Network: Maryland is a relative newcomer to the Big Ten so the series with Michigan isn't very old, but in the last two seasons, Michigan has outscored Maryland 87–3.

    The oddsmakers favor the Wolverines by 15½ points. If I placed a bet on this game, I would give the points because I believe Michigan will win by a lot more.
  • #23 West Virginia at Kansas State, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN2: West Virginia beat Kansas State last year for the first time since 1930. It was a struggle, but the Mountaineers prevailed by a single point.

    The teams haven't met every year since 1930. They faced each other in 1931, then not again for more than 80 years.

    This time Kansas State is favored by a single point. I expect it to be a good one, but I am inclined to favor West Virginia as an upset special.
Last week: 14–4

Overall: 158–37

Postponed by Hurricane Irma: 4

Last week's upset specials: 2–2

Overall upset specials: 8–19

Friday, November 3, 2017

Nothing Is Written in Stone Yet

If you watched the broadcast of the first–of–the–season college football rankings, it would appear that Georgia, Alabama, Notre Dame and Clemson are headed for the national playoffs in January.

And perhaps they are.

But it isn't likely that all four will be in the playoffs because Georgia and Alabama are all but sure to have to face each other for the SEC championship in early December. Since one is certain to lose, the likelihood of both teams still being in the top four is very slim after they face off. It isn't impossible, just very unlikely.

Notre Dame and Clemson are not scheduled to face each other this season and so both teams could be in the Final Four.

But Oklahoma is #5 and has a game coming up against #8 TCU. The winner of that game almost certainly will be in the mix. So, too, could be #6 Ohio State, fresh off a victory over #7 Penn State. And don't forget undefeated Wisconsin. The Badgers are #9 in the rankings but could zoom into the Top Four by beating Ohio State for the Big Ten title.

There is still a month's worth of football to be played. Nothing is settled yet. Stay tuned.

  • #22 Memphis at Tulsa, 7 p.m. (Central) on ESPN2: Based on the rankings, you would think that Memphis leads its series with Tulsa.

    And the truth is that it does.

    But Tulsa has won five of the last seven meetings.

    Memphis is favored by 12½ points to win this one. I agree. My pick is Memphis.
  • #19 LSU at #1 Alabama, 7 p.m. (Central) on ABC: Since Alabama beat LSU for the national championship in January 2012, the Crimson Tide have won five of six meetings.

    But the Tigers' only victory during that stretch came where the teams will face each other on Saturday — in Tuscaloosa.

    That's a tough place for a visitor. Alabama has only lost there four times in the last 10 years, and the Crimson Tide is favored to win this one by three touchdowns.

    I have to take Alabama.
  • South Carolina at #2 Georgia, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on CBS: These teams first played each other when Teddy Roosevelt was president.

    Georgia has so dominated the series that South Carolina has claimed nearly one–third of its victories over the Bulldogs in the last decade.

    The oddsmakers have made Georgia a heavy favorite in this one. I, too, pick Georgia to win.
  • #3 Ohio State at Iowa, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Ohio State has won 15 of the last 17 meetings with Iowa and currently owns a five–game winning streak against the Hawkeyes.

    The oddsmakers favor Ohio State by 18 points. Good enough. I pick Ohio State.
  • #4 Wisconsin at Indiana, 11 a.m. (Central) on ABC: Wisconsin has beaten Indiana nine times in a row, but the Hoosiers' last win in the series came at Indiana.

    Will it happen again? The oddsmakers don't think so, and neither do I. Wisconsin is the choice.
  • Wake Forest at #5 Notre Dame, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on NBC: Notre Dame has won all three of the previous meetings with Wake Forest.

    The oddsmakers think Notre Dame will make it four in a row. I think so, too. I pick Notre Dame.
  • #6 Clemson at #20 North Carolina State, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ABC: Outside of the ACC, I suppose this clash between ranked teams is getting little attention.

    And, even though North Carolina State is ranked this year, it is still probably regarded as a foregone conclusion that Clemson will win. After all the Tigers have beaten the Wolfpack in 12 of the last 13 meetings.

    But that sole exception was played where this year's game is being played — at N.C. State. And the 8–point spread doesn't suggest invincibility for Clemson. In fact, I am going to take North Carolina State in an upset special.
  • #7 Penn State at #24 Michigan State, 11 a.m. (Central) on Fox: Penn State knotted this series at 15–15–1 with last year's 45–12 victory.

    Penn State is favored by 9 points in this one. I think the Nittany Lions will win, but I think it might be closer than that. My pick is Penn State.
  • #8 Oklahoma at #11 Oklahoma State, 3 p.m. (Central) on FS1: In Oklahoma they call this game Bedlam, and I can assure you, from having lived in Norman and been on the OU faculty for four years, that is exactly what it is.

    Oh, sure, it isn't the Texas game. But what is?

    Oklahoma has won nearly 80% of the games that have been played, including 12 of the last 14. What's more, Oklahoma State has struggled more at home than on the road; the Cowboys have beaten the Sooners only seven times in 48 previous meetings in Stillwater.

    And yet Oklahoma State is favored by 2½ points. Oklahoma is an upset special for me.
  • #13 Virginia Tech at #9 Miami (Fla.), 7 p.m. (Central) on ABC: For about the last 20 years, this series has gone back and forth, with neither team winning more than three in a row.

    Overall, Miami leads the series and has dominated at home — but not lately. Virginia Tech has won six of the last 11 games played in Miami.

    And Virginia Tech is favored to win this one, too — by 2½ points. Miami is an upset special at home.
  • Texas at #10 TCU, 6:15 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: How much has Texas dominated TCU over the years?

    Well, the Longhorns won 24 meetings in a row from 1968 to 1991 — and even if you took all those games out of the equation, Texas would still lead the series by a comfortable margin.

    But times have changed. TCU has won the last three in a row, but the Frogs have always struggled against the Longhorns at home.

    The Frogs are favored by a touchdown in this one, and I pick TCU to make it four straight wins against Texas.
  • Oregon at #12 Washington, 9 p.m. (Central) on FS1: In life the pendulum is constantly moving. What is old truly does become new again.

    The Oregon–Washington football series is a good example. This will be their 98th meeting, and Washington dominated in the early years, building up a series advantage that it has held since the 1950s.

    But in recent years Oregon was the dominant one, winning 12 in a row before losing — in a big way — to the Huskies last year.

    The Huskies are 17–point favorites this time; I have to take Washington.
  • #14 Iowa State at West Virginia, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN2: Iowa State has to be the surprise team of the year so far — certainly the surprise of the Big 12.

    The Cyclones have beaten long–time nemesis Oklahoma this season and just bumped off TCU last weekend. The West Virginia series is not as old as either of those other two, but the Mountaineers have been just as dominant. West Virginia is 4–1 against Iowa State.

    West Virginia is favored by 2½ points. I'm tempted to take Iowa State as an upset special, but I keep thinking the Cyclones' bubble has burst. My pick is West Virginia.
  • #15 Central Florida at SMU, 6:15 p.m. (Central) on ESPN2: Central Florida leads the all–time series 6–1 — but UCF's only loss came at SMU in 2011.

    The undefeated Knights have a good team — the only team to beat Memphis thus far.

    I think Central Florida will win.
  • #16 Auburn at Texas A&M, 11 a.m. (Central) on ESPN: The Aggies lead the all–time series 5–2, but Auburn won the only other two times that the teams met in College Station.

    And Auburn is favored by 15 points this time. Seems pretty clear. My pick is Auburn.
  • #23 Arizona at #17 Southern Cal, 9:45 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Southern Cal has won 13 of the last 15 meetings with Arizona.

    This should be a slam dunk, right? Well ... Southern Cal is only favored by 7½ points.

    There is a lot on the line — primarily, the driver's seat in the Pac–12 South.

    I'll go with the home team, Southern Cal.
  • #18 Stanford at #25 Washington State, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on Fox: Washington State snapped an eight–year losing streak against Stanford last year, but Stanford hasn't lost at Washington State since 2007. Historically Stanford has won nearly 70% of the time in Pullman.

    But Washington State is a narrow favorite. Can the Cougars pull it off?

    I make Stanford an upset special.
  • UMass at #21 Mississippi State, 11 a.m. (Central) on SEC Network: These schools met for the first time ever last year, and Mississippi State prevailed 47–35.

    The Bulldogs are huge favorites — by 32 points — to win again. Mississippi State is my pick.
Last week: 13–5

Overall: 144–33

Postponed by Hurricane Irma: 4

Last week's upset specials: 1–3

Overall upset specials: 6–17

Thursday, October 26, 2017

An Early Peek at the Prospective Playoff Field

The college football playoff rankings haven't started coming out yet — the first one is slated to be released on Halloween — so the only clues as to who we may see playing in early January come from the polls.

And current polls are suggesting that Alabama (of course) will be one of the four teams in the New Year's Day semifinals. Probably the top seed. The third–ranked Georgia Bulldogs, who are the presumptive champs of the SEC East, could shake things up by beating Alabama in the SEC championship game. They don't figure to be in the national Final Four unless they manage to do that.

There will probably be a representative from the Big Ten, and Penn State, Ohio State and Wisconsin are the leading candidates for that. Penn State and Ohio State face each other this weekend, and the winner will likely be in the driver's seat in the Big Ten East (although #16 Michigan State will face both in the first couple of weeks of November and may grab the top spot on the field).

Wisconsin leads the Big Ten West and is not scheduled to play any of the Big Ten East contenders in the regular season. Logic says that whoever survives the conference championship game between Wisconsin and one of those other three teams will be in the playoff field.

It seems likely that the Big 12 will be represented in the Final Four, too, and right now that slot would have to go undefeated and fourth–ranked TCU. The Frogs are 4–0 in the Big 12, and there are a whole bunch of teams who are a single game back at 3–1 — #10 Oklahoma, #11 Oklahoma State, #22 West Virginia and #25 Iowa State. TCU plays Iowa State on Saturday, then Oklahoma on Nov. 11. The Frogs have already beaten Oklahoma State.

The fourth and final slot should go to the conference in which the defending national champion resides — the Atlantic Coast Conference. The champions, the Clemson Tigers, are in a battle with #14 North Carolina State for the lead in the ACC's Atlantic Conference. If they survive that, they probably will face the currently eighth–ranked team, Miami (Florida), in the ACC's title tilt.

In the ACC's other division, Miami could have problems of its own with its leading challenger, unranked Georgia Tech, who faces Clemson this weekend. Tech already lost to Miami (by a single point) and needs Miami to lose at least twice for Tech to sneak in and grab the Coastal Division crown. A win over Clemson would give Tech momentum and national prestige, but Tech will need help from Miami if it is to compete for the national title.

Idle: #1 Alabama, #19 Auburn, #23 LSU

  • #20 Stanford at Oregon State, 8 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Stanford holds a seven–game winning streak against Oregon State and has won more than two–thirds of the games these schools have played against each other since 1919.

    What's more Stanford is a three–touchdown favorite to win this time.

    Good enough for me. I pick Stanford.
  • Tulane at #24 Memphis, 7 p.m. (Central) on CBSSN: Memphis has won 10 in a row against Tulane and hasn't lost at home to Tulane since 1998.

    The oddsmakers have established Memphis as a 10½–point favorite.

    I think the choice is clear. I pick Memphis.
  • #2 Penn State at #6 Ohio State, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on Fox: This is probably the game of the week.

    Penn State beat Ohio State last year, but now the Nittany Lions face the challenge of doing something they haven't done in nearly 40 years — beat Ohio State in consecutive seasons.

    Can they do it? The oddsmakers don't think so. They made Ohio State a 6½–point favorite. But I do think they can do it. I make Penn State an upset special.
  • #3 Georgia at Florida, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on CBS: When the season began, this looked as if it might be the game of the year in the SEC East.

    But in advance of this year's game, the speculation has been about the future of Florida's football coach. Of all the hot seats in college football, his may be the hottest right now.

    Florida has beaten Georgia three straight times, but I suspect that the Bulldogs have the momentum. My choice is Georgia.
  • #4 TCU at #25 Iowa State, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ABC or ESPN2: Few people would have picked Iowa State to be ranked at this point in the season. In fact, few people probably would have picked Iowa State to be ranked at any point in the season.

    And yet here they are.

    The Cyclones had better enjoy it while they can, though. TCU leads the series 7–1, and the Frogs have looked pretty good. But the Cyclones haven't been too shabby, either, upsetting Oklahoma a week before the Sooners were to play their rivals from the University of Texas.

    TCU is only favored by 6½ points.

    So I'm going to do what few people are probably doing. I pick Iowa State in an upset special.
  • #5 Wisconsin at Illinois, 11 a.m. (Central) on ESPN: Historically this has been a tight series with Wisconsin holding a 40–36–7 advantage.

    But the Badgers have seized the lead in recent years, winning the last seven in a row and 11 of the last 12 meetings.

    Wisconsin is favored by more than three touchdowns. I have to pick Wisconsin.
  • Georgia Tech at #7 Clemson, 7 p.m. (Central) on ABC or ESPN2: Over the years, these schools have faced each other 80 times, and Tech holds nearly a 2–to–1 advantage in the series.

    But most of Tech's wins came before the teams became conference rivals. In recent years Clemson has won four of the last five over Tech, and the Tigers are favored to win this one by more than two touchdowns.

    I have to take Clemson.
  • #8 Miami (Fla.) at North Carolina, 11 a.m. (Central) on ESPN2: This is a pretty competitive series.

    Miami had a chance to even things up last year but lost at home. Now the Hurricanes travel to North Carolina, where they have struggled in the past but have won the last two times they played there.

    Oddsmakers say that Miami will win by 20 points, and I think Miami will win as well — but that does not mean they should take the Tar Heels lightly.
  • #14 North Carolina State at #9 Notre Dame, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on NBC: North Carolina State probably enjoys a unique status — the Wolfpack may be the only team that has played Notre Dame more than once and has not lost to the Irish yet.

    They first met in the Gator Bowl on New Year's Day in 2003, which N.C. State won 28–6. Then the Wolfpack won at home last year 10–3.

    The oddsmakers think that will change. They have made Notre Dame a 7½–point favorite this time.

    As the rankings suggest, this ought to be a good game. I give the edge to the home team, Notre Dame.
  • Texas Tech at #10 Oklahoma, 7 p.m. (Central) on ABC or ESPN2: You can always expect a lot of scoring when these two teams meet.

    Last year was the wildest yet, with OU surviving by 66–59.

    The oddsmakers clearly expect the Sooners to do some scoring. They made OU a 20–point pick at home, where they have lost to Tech only twice in a dozen previous meetings.

    I think it will be closer than that, but I agree that Oklahoma will win.
  • #11 Oklahoma State at #22 West Virginia, 11 a.m. (Central) on ABC: Oklahoma State evened up this series at four wins apiece with the Cowboys' 37–20 victory in Stillwater last year.

    But now the scene shifts to Morgantown, which is a tough place for visitors to play.

    Oddsmakers have made OSU a 7½–point pick to win for the third straight time against West Virginia.

    But I'm going to take West Virginia in an upset special.
  • UCLA at #12 Washington, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ABC or ESPN2: Washington has had its moments in this series that dates to 1932, but the Bruins have tended to hold the upper hand.

    The latest trend has the Bruins winning 13 of the last 16 meetings — but all three of the Huskies' wins came when they were playing at home, as they are this year.

    And the Huskies are favored to win this time by 17 points.

    UCLA has been questionable at times this season, and I have to think that Washington will win this one.
  • Duke at #13 Virginia Tech, 6:20 p.m. (Central) on ACCNE: It should come as no surprise that Tech leads this series, but it might surprise you to know that Duke was the dominant one in the first half of the 20th century.

    But between 1982 and 2012, Tech seized control of the series with 12 straight wins.

    The teams have met four times since with both teams winning twice. While Tech won last year's meeting, the margin was only three points.

    And that was the widest margin of victory in those four games. That suggests that this year's game might be close, too — but the oddsmakers don't think so. They pick Tech by 15½ points.

    I'm inclined to pick Virginia Tech as well.
  • #15 Washington State at Arizona, 8:30 p.m. (Central): Arizona has dominated this series, but Washington State has won three of the last four meetings. And last year's outcome was the worst for Arizona fans — a 69–7 drubbing.

    Washington State has a two–game winning streak at Arizona, and Washington State is a three–point pick to make it a three–game winning streak. This will be the 43rd meeting between these schools, and Washington State has only won three in a row against Arizona once.

    I pick Washington State.
  • #16 Michigan State at Northwestern, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Historically Michigan State has beaten Northwestern nearly 75% of the time, but Northwestern has been competitive in recent years. In fact, the Wildcats won 54–40 at East Lansing last year.

    But that leads me to one of the quirks of this series. The Wildcats actually fared better in East Lansing than they have at home. Michigan State has won five in a row at Northwestern, and the oddsmakers have made the Spartans 2½–point favorites to make that six in a row.

    I'm inclined to look at last season's 3–9 campaign as an anomaly for the Spartans, who have been much more likely to log 10 wins or more in a season in recent years.

    So while it is tempting to take Northwestern as an upset special, I have to go with Michigan State in this one.
  • Houston at #17 South Florida, 2:45 p.m. (Central) on ESPNU: Both teams are 1–1 at each other's home field.

    South Florida is a 10½–point favorite. I can go along with that. South Florida is the pick.
  • Austin Peay at #18 Central Florida, 4 p.m. (Central): There really isn't much to say about this one.

    Except ...

    Central Florida should win.
  • #21 Southern Cal at Arizona State, 9:45 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Southern Cal leads this series 21–12, but the Trojans largely built their lead by sweeping the annual showdowns between 2000 and 2010.

    The series was competitive between 1978 and 1999, just as it has been since 2011, a period in which each team has beaten the other three times.

    It is hard to get a reading on Southern Cal. Some weeks the Trojans look invincible, but then there are weeks when they look incapable of almost anything.

    The oddsmakers favor Southern Cal by 2½ points, but I'm going to take Arizona State in an upset special.
Last week: 15–2

Overall: 131–28

Postponed by Hurricane Irma: 4

Last week's upset specials: 1–2

Overall upset specials: 5–14

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

There Were Upsets A-Plenty Last Week; What Does This Week Hold?

I got both of my upset specials last week, but I could hardly miss. There were upsets galore in the Top 25, starting with the two games played on Friday night — both defending national champion Clemson and Washington State bit the dust, and there were even more upsets the following day.

As you would expect, that led to a considerable shakeup in the rankings. Alabama remained on top, of course, but everything was shuffled after that. Yes, sir, there was a major makeover in the rankings this week, and it is quite possible we will see even more of a shakeup this week.

It might be a good week for a team to have off — and, as it turns out, six of the Top 25 teams are idle this week — including a couple of teams that fell victim to upsets last week.

Idle: #3 Georgia, #6 Ohio State, #7 Clemson, #12 Washington, #16 North Carolina State, #22 Stanford

  • #25 Memphis at Houston, 7 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: I advise the student newspaper at one of the local community colleges. A fellow who advises with me is a native of Memphis, and he's proud of the Tigers' performance in football so far this year.

    Remarkably, Memphis comes into this game a 2½–point underdog, but that's OK. I'll go with Memphis as an upset special.
  • Tennessee at #1 Alabama, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on CBS: Tennessee has lost 10 in a row to Alabama and hasn't won at Tuscaloosa since 2003.

    The oddsmakers don't think the Vols are likely to win this one, either. They have made Tennessee a 36–point underdog.

    Yep. I pick Alabama.
  • #19 Michigan at #2 Penn State, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on ABC: This has to be the marquee matchup of the week.

    Common sense tells you that the winner of the Big Ten is likely to end up in the national championship playoff in January — unless that champion has two losses. The Wolverines already have one loss (to Michigan State) with confrontations with Wisconsin and Ohio State still on the schedule. Penn State is undefeated, but the Nittany Lions must face Michigan State and Ohio State in the weeks immediately after their game with the Wolverines.

    Clearly, neither team can afford to lose this one — but just as clearly someone will.

    Penn State is favored by 10, but I'm thinking that Michigan will win this one in an upset special.
  • Kansas at #4 TCU, 7 p.m. (Central) on Fox: It shouldn't come as a surprise that the Horned Frogs are favored by 37½ points in this game.

    And it shouldn't be a surprise when TCU wins this game handily.
  • Maryland at #5 Wisconsin, 11 a.m. (Central) on Fox: This is only the third time these schools have faced each other. Wisconsin won the first two meetings by impressive margins.

    The oddsmakers think the same thing will happen this time. They have made Wisconsin a 24½–point favorite. Sounds right. I pick Wisconsin.
  • Syracuse at #8 Miami (Fla.), 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Miami has won 13 of 15 meetings with Syracuse since 1990, and the oddsmakers expect Miami to win again.

    Now, Syracuse did defeat the defending national champion Clemson Tigers last week, but I just don't think the Orange can beat two Top 10 teams in a row. My choice is Miami.
  • #9 Oklahoma at Kansas State, 3 p.m. (Central) on Fox: Since Kansas State beat Oklahoma 35–7 in the 2003 Big 12 championship game, the Sooners have beaten Kansas State in eight of 10 meetings.

    They're favored to win this time by two touchdowns. OK. I take Oklahoma.
  • #10 Oklahoma State at Texas, 11 a.m. (Central) on ABC: Until fairly recently Texas dominated this series.

    But the Cowboys have won five of the last seven meetings, and they have won four in a row in Austin.

    Oklahoma State is favored to win this one, too — by 6½ points. I think that is being generous. I expect Oklahoma State to win by a wider margin.
  • #11 Southern Cal at #13 Notre Dame, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on NBC: There are many rivalries in college football, but only a handful stand as the elite rivalries, the ones that define what a Saturday in the autumn months is all about.

    The Southern Cal–Notre Dame rivalry is one of those rivalries — with roots in the Knute Rockne era.

    Historically the home field favors the home team. Southern Cal was at home last year and beat Notre Dame by nearly three touchdowns. But Notre Dame has won the last two at South Bend and is favored to win again, this time by 3½ points. I hope that means it will be a good game.

    I expect Notre Dame to win.
  • North Carolina at #14 Virginia Tech, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN2: I expect this to be a good game.

    Virginia Tech has roughly a 2–to–1 advantage in the all–time series, but they're knotted at 4–4 in games played at Virginia Tech.

    The oddsmakers don't think it will be so good. They pick Tech by 21 points. And I have to admit that, even though their all–time record in Blacksburg isn't bad, I don't think the Tar Heels have the horses to stay with Tech for 60 minutes.

    My pick is Virginia Tech.
  • Colorado at #15 Washington State, 9:45 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: The pattern of the last six games in this series has been that the teams alternate as the winner.

    Colorado won last season's meeting so that should mean that Washington State will win this time, right? The oddsmakers think so, too. They have established Washington State as a 10–point favorite.

    I also think Washington State will win.
  • #16 South Florida at Tulane, 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPN2: These schools have never faced each other before, but I have the feeling it could be a bit one–sided.

    So do the oddsmakers. They have made South Florida an 11½–point favorite. Good enough for me. I take South Florida.
  • Indiana at #18 Michigan State, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ABC: Until last year, Indiana had lost 11 of the last 12 meetings with Michigan State. But the Hoosiers won, 24–21.

    That game, though, was played at home. This game will be played in East Lansing, where Indiana hasn't won since Nov. 10, 2001.

    The oddsmakers don't think the Hoosiers will win this time, either. The Spartans are favored by 6½ points. While it is tempting to pick the Hoosiers to beat the Spartans for the second straight time, which they haven't done since the late '60s, my choice is Michigan State.
  • #20 Central Florida at Navy, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on CBSSN: This is the first–ever meeting between these schools.

    Central Florida is favored by a touchdown, but Navy was in the Top 25 before losing to Memphis last week.

    I like Navy as an upset special.
  • #21 Auburn at Arkansas, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on SEC Network: Auburn is favored by 15½ points.

    As much as I would like to see the Razorbacks turn things around, they won't do it this week. My pick is Auburn.
  • #23 West Virginia at Baylor, 7 p.m. (Central): These teams have met five times since becoming conference rivals, and each time they have played, the home team has been the winner.

    But winless Baylor really doesn't seem likely to beat West Virginia — unless the Mountaineers get caught looking ahead to Oklahoma State next week. West Virginia is favored by 9 points. I'll take West Virginia.
  • #24 LSU at Ole Miss, 6:15 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: LSU has the upper hand in the all–time series, and the Tigers are favored to win this one by 6½ points.

    But the Rebels have beaten the Tigers three of the last four times LSU has visited Ole Miss.

    I think it could be close — maybe even closer than the spread — but I think LSU will prevail.
Last week: 18–3

Overall: 116–26

Postponed by Hurricane Irma: 4

Last week's upset specials: 2–0

Overall upset specials: 4–12

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Sooners and 'Horns Are Back in Town

I've never been a football coach, but I would guess that the last thing you would want your team to do the week before the game with probably your school's biggest rival would be to lose a game.

Yet that is exactly what the Oklahoma Sooners did last week. Ranked third in the nation at the time, the Sooners lost to Iowa State, a perennial doormat in the old Big Eight and now the Big 12. The Cyclones won in Norman for the first time since 1990 and beat the Sooners for only the second time since the Kennedy administration.

The now 12th–ranked Sooners are in Dallas this weekend for the annual grudge match with the University of Texas. And, as I say, I wouldn't want to go into that game on the heels of a loss.

But that ain't necessarily so. The last six times that OU came into the Texas game following a loss, the Sooners wound up the winners. You have to go back to 1999 to find the last time OU lost the game before the Texas game and then went on to lose the Texas game as well. (By the way, 1999 was Bob Stoops' first season as OU's head coach. He retired earlier this year as one of four OU head coaches with at least 100 career victories.)

Still, I don't think any coach would recommend losing before a big rivalry game — or at any other time, for that matter.

Idle: #3 Penn State, #17 Virginia Tech, #19 Notre Dame

  • #2 Clemson at Syracuse, 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: The oddsmakers established Clemson as a three–touchdown favorite shortly after the most recent rankings were revealed.

    If the Tigers win, it would be their fifth straight win over Syracuse. A Clemson win isn't hard to accept — nor is the possibility of Clemson winning by 21 points. After all, the Tigers beat Syracuse last year 54–0.

    I pick Clemson to win.
  • #9 Washington State at California, 9:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: California has dominated this series, especially lately, winning 10 of the last 12.

    But Washington State turned the tables on Cal last year, winning at home by four touchdowns. Now the challenge is to win in a place where, historically, WSU wins only 30% of the time.

    The oddsmakers think WSU can do it. They have made the Cougars 14–point favorites. I think Washington State will win.
  • Arkansas at #1 Alabama, 6:15 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: I got my bachelor's degree at the University of Arkansas, and I have been a Razorback fan all my life.

    There is nothing I would like more than to see the Hogs beat Alabama. But I have to be realistic. Arkansas has lost 10 in a row to Alabama and hasn't won at Tuscaloosa since 2003 — and Alabama was established as a 30½–point favorite last weekend.

    It only makes sense to pick Alabama.
  • #4 Washington at Arizona State, 9:45 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Washington snapped a 10–game losing streak against Arizona State with its 44–18 win at home last year.

    But this game is at Arizona State, and the Sun Devils haven't lost to the Huskies there since October 2001.

    The Huskies are heavily favored this time, though, and I will go along with that. Washington will win.
  • Missouri at #5 Georgia, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on SEC Network: Georgia is 5–1 all time against Missouri, but Mizzou's only win in the series came at Georgia.

    Could it happen again? Nah. The pick is Georgia.
  • Purdue at #6 Wisconsin, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on Big Ten Network: The Boilermakers have lost 11 in a row to the Badgers, and Wisconsin is a 17–point pick to win again.

    I'll go with the favorite. Wisconsin is the pick.
  • #7 TCU at Kansas State, 11 a.m. (Central) on FS1: Not so long ago, this would have been a great game, but K–State hasn't held up its end of the deal, losing to Vanderbilt and Texas.

    TCU is a 6½–point pick to avenge last year's 30–6 loss at home, which knotted the all–time series at 5–5. The Frogs are better this year than they were last year, and they won the last time they played at Kansas State so I will pick TCU in this one.
  • #8 Ohio State at Nebraska, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on FS1: This would have been a great game if it had been played when both these teams were at the top of the polls.

    But the prime time for that probably would have been in the 1970s. The first two meetings between these schools were played in the '50s, and the other three have been played since 2011.

    Ohio State won by 59 points in their meeting at Columbus last year, and the Buckeyes just might win by that many this year. They are favored by 24½ points.

    That is good enough for me. My pick is Ohio State.
  • Georgia Tech at #10 Miami (Fla.), 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ABC: It may surprise you to know that this series is all knotted up at 11–11 — until you realize that more than half of Tech's victories came before Miami won its first national championship in 1983.

    Miami has won seven of the last eight against Tech, though, and is favored to win this one by 6½ points. I, too, expect Miami to win.
  • #11 Auburn at LSU, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on CBS: LSU has won nearly 60% of the time these schools have faced each other, but Auburn won last year.

    In fact, Auburn has won two of the last three meetings, but both were played at Auburn. LSU has beaten Auburn eight straight times in Baton Rouge, though.

    Auburn is favored by a touchdown, but I'm going to take LSU in an upset special (even though, historically speaking, it really wouldn't be an upset).
  • #12 Oklahoma vs. Texas at Dallas, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Well, not much to add to what I have already said except that OU is favored by nine points.

    I expect Oklahoma to prevail.
  • #23 Utah at #13 Southern Cal, 7 p.m. (Central) on ABC: This is an intriguing series.

    Southern Cal has won two–thirds of the meetings all time, but Utah has won two of the last three encounters.

    The Trojans are favored by 13 points — and they usually beat Utah at home. Utah hasn't come away from Southern Cal with a win in more than 100 years, and it sure would be a big story if the Utes did so this time.

    But I don't think that will happen. I pick Southern Cal.
  • Baylor at #14 Oklahoma State, 2:30 p.m. (Central): These programs are going in opposite directions.

    A couple of years ago Baylor appeared positioned to threaten college football's elite, but today the Bears are back to their winless ways and are 25½–point picks to lose. It's hard for visitors to win in Stillwater, anyway.

    I pick Oklahoma State.
  • Cincinnati at #15 South Florida, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPNU: Cincinnati leads the all–time series but has lost three of the last four meetings including the last two that were played at South Florida.

    The oddsmakers are convinced that South Florida will make that four of the last five. They've made USF a 24½–point favorite. Good enough for me. I pick South Florida.
  • #16 Michigan at Indiana, 11 a.m. (Central) on ABC: The Wolverines have beaten the Hoosiers 21 straight times, but Indiana's last win over Michigan came at home almost to the day — on Oct. 24 — in 1987.

    Could lightning strike twice? Well, not really, since it has been 30 years since that last strike, but the oddsmakers anticipate a much closer score than you might expect. They have made the Wolverines 6½–point favorites.

    It is tempting to go for an upset special on this one, but I will take Michigan to extend its winning streak.
  • Boise State at #18 San Diego State, 9:30 p.m. (Central) on CBSSN: This series is knotted at 2–2, and, with the exception of their first meeting in 2011, the games have been decided by single–digit margins.

    The oddsmakers apparently think it will be that way again as they have made San Diego State a 7–point favorite.

    I also think it will be close, but I am inclined to pick Boise State as an upset special.
  • #20 North Carolina State at Pittsburgh, 11 a.m. (Central) on ACCNE: History favors Pitt in this one, but the oddsmakers like State.

    The Panthers lead the series 5–3–1 and have never lost at home to North Carolina State. The Wolfpack gets the nod from the oddsmakers by 12 points.

    I will take North Carolina State.
  • East Carolina at #21 Central Florida, 6 p.m. (Central) on CBSSN: East Carolina dominated this series until the two schools ended up in the same conference. Since then, East Carolina holds only a 6–4 edge.

    Central Florida is favored — by 34 points — to narrow that gap even more, and I see no reason to go against that. Central Florida is my pick.
  • #22 Michigan State at Minnesota, 7 p.m. (Central) on Big Ten Network: The Spartans leaped into the Top 25 with their win over their in–state rivals, the Michigan Wolverines. Michigan State has won four in a row against Minnesota, and the Spartans are 10½–point favorites to do it again.

    But the series has been tight when Minnesota has been the home team. The Gophers have beaten MSU in two of the last three games played at Minnesota.

    Michigan State can't afford to overlook this one — although the 3–2 Gophers have been giving out mixed signals this year. They started out 3–0 (including a win at Oregon State) but lost the last two.

    I'm not sold on the Spartans yet, but there are greater challenges farther up the trail. I will pick Michigan State to win this one.
  • #24 Navy at Memphis, 2:45 p.m. (Central) on ESPNU: Navy has won both of the previous encounters, including last year's 42–28 decision.

    But Memphis has been playing quite well so far and was established as a 4½–point favorite last weekend. I was prepared to pick the Tigers, anyway, whether they were favored or not. As it is, they are favored, and I pick Memphis to win.
  • Oregon at #25 Stanford, 10 p.m. (Central): Since 2010, the pattern in this series has been for one team to win back–to–back games, then the other team would win two games back to back.

    Stanford won last year and, in keeping with that pattern, should be due another victory this time before turning it over to Oregon. OK. I'll go with that. My pick is Stanford.
Last week: 16–5

Overall: 98–23

Postponed by Hurricane Irma: 4

Last week's upset specials: 1–3

Overall upset specials: 2–12

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Conference Clashes Are Underway

We have entered the part of the college football season that will be mostly made up of conference games.

And, since every conference has a few top–tier programs and a few bottom feeders, there will be mismatches — and possible upsets — every week for the rest of the season.

Last week was a good example.

Typically the Southern Cal–Washington State game means little. The Trojans usually win, sometimes by wide margins.

But not this year. Washington State pulled off a 30–27 upset last week and zipped past the Trojans in the rankings. Both are still in the poll this week, but that might not last. We will have to see what the rest of the season has in store.

Idle: #15 Oklahoma State, #18 South Florida

  • #17 Louisville at #24 North Carolina State, 7 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Louisville has won five of six meetings with North Carolina State, including three in a row since Louisville joined the ACC in 2014.

    The oddsmakers think it will be a close one; Louisville is favored by four points. But I've seen the Wolfpack play, and I am impressed. Make North Carolina State an upset special.
  • #1 Alabama at Texas A&M, 6:15 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: It is a given that Alabama is always one of the best college football teams around.

    The Aggies, though, have had a particularly difficult time with the Crimson Tide, losing seven of nine meetings.

    But what is especially galling for Aggie fans is that Alabama is unbeaten at College Station.

    The oddsmakers seem to think this encounter will be brutal. The Tide is favored by 26½ points. I don't think an upset is in the cards. My pick is Alabama.
  • Wake Forest at #2 Clemson, 11 a.m. (Central) on ESPN2: After facing down mostly ranked opponents in the first month of the season, this should seem like a breather for Clemson.

    The Tigers have dominated the series with Wake Forest. In recent times, the Tigers have won 10 of the last 11 meetings; currently they are favored by more than three touchdowns.

    I have to pick Clemson.
  • Iowa State at #3 Oklahoma, 11 a.m. (Central) on Fox: It's been more than a quarter of a century since Iowa State beat Oklahoma.

    That last victory came at Norman, but I don't expect a repeat this Saturday. Neither do the oddsmakers, who have established OU as a four–touchdown favorite. Oklahoma should prevail easily.
  • #4 Penn State at Northwestern, 11 a.m. (Central) on ABC: Northwestern has only beaten Penn State five times in 18 encounters, but the Wildcats won the last two meetings.

    The oddsmakers think the streak ends here. They've made the Nittany Lions 15–point picks, and I agree. My choice is Penn State.
  • #5 Georgia at Vanderbilt, 11 a.m. on ESPN: Georgia almost always wins this game.

    The Bulldogs have won eight of the last 10, and they have won more than 75% of the games that have been played all time.

    But Vandy won when they met last year — so beware.

    Georgia is an 18–point pick in this game. While this could be a trap I expect Georgia to win.
  • California at #6 Washington, 9:45 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Washington has a solid lead in the all–time series and has won eight of the last 10 meetings — pretty decisively most of the time, too.

    Last year, for example, the Huskies won 66–27 on the road. Now the scene shifts to Washington, but the oddsmakers don't think there will be much change. Washington is favored by 27½ points. I have to take Washington.
  • Michigan State at #7 Michigan, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on ABC: This is a good rivalry on the field. It is frequently competitive, but Michigan usually wins.

    Not always but most of the time, especially in Ann Arbor.

    The Wolverines are favored to win again, and I see no reason to expect otherwise. My pick is Michigan.
  • #23 West Virginia at #8 TCU, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on FS1: Based on the rankings and the point spread, TCU should be an easy winner in this game.

    But West Virginia has been underestimated before, and that seldom ends well for the other guys.

    I expect this to be closer than the 13½ points the oddsmakers have established as the point spread, and West Virginia might even win this game, but I will pick TCU to prevail.
  • #9 Wisconsin at Nebraska, 7 p.m. (Central) on Big Ten Network: It wasn't so long ago that a road trip to Nebraska would be regarded as a certain loss.

    But times have changed. Don't misunderstand; Nebraska is still competitive at home, but wins are not automatic. Less than a month ago, Northern Illinois beat the Cornhuskers on their own turf, 21–17.

    And Wisconsin won the last time the Badgers traveled to Lincoln, 23–21. The oddsmakers have made Wisconsin a 12½–point favorite to do it again. I agree. I like Wisconsin in this one.
  • Maryland at #10 Ohio State, 3 p.m. (Central) on Fox: If this wasn't a conference game, I doubt that these schools would ever face each other. And, in fact, they never did face each other until Maryland joined the Big Ten a few years ago.

    The Buckeyes won 62–3 last year. The oddsmakers made OSU a 39–point favorite. I have to go with Ohio State.
  • #11 Washington State at Oregon, 7 p.m. (Central) on Fox: Between 1998 and 2014, these schools met 17 times, and Oregon won all but three.

    But the tide has turned in this series. Washington State won by a touchdown in 2015 and by 18 points last year.

    Now the Cougars are trying to win their third in a row against the Ducks for the first time since the early '80s. The oddsmakers have made them narrow favorites — by 1½ points — to do so.

    But I'm thinking that WSU might have something of a hangover after upending Southern Cal last week, and I like Oregon in an upset special.
  • Ole Miss at #12 Auburn, 11 a.m. (Central) on SEC Network: There are several reasons to think that Auburn will win.

    The Tigers have won nearly three–quarters of the meetings between the two schools and typically only lose to the Rebels in clearly down years. This doesn't appear to be one of those.

    The oddsmakers have made Auburn a 21½–point favorite, and I am inclined to go along with that. I expect Auburn to win.
  • #13 Miami (Fla.) at Florida State, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Florida State has been a thorn in Miami's side.

    Miami leads the all–time series, 31–30, but Florida State has narrowed the gap with seven consecutive wins.

    The oddsmakers think Miami will turn that around. They've made the 'Canes favorites by a field goal. But I'm going to pick Florida State in an upset special.
  • Oregon State at #14 Southern Cal, 3 p.m. (Central) on Pac–12 Network: You have to go all the way back to 1960 to find the last time Oregon State won a game at Southern Cal. Since that day the Trojans have beaten the Beavers 23 times when they have come to call.

    In fact, Oregon State has won less than 10% of the road meetings with USC. The oddsmakers don't think that will change. They have made the Trojans 34–point favorites. I like Southern Cal.
  • #16 Virginia Tech at Boston College, 6:15 p.m. (Central) on ESPN2: Virginia Tech has won more than two–thirds of the meetings between these schools — including two showdowns for the ACC title.

    The Hokies are favored by 16½ points. That's good enough for me. I take Virginia Tech.
  • #19 San Diego State at Nevada–Las Vegas, 9:45 p.m. (Central) on ESPN2: This has been a conference clash for more than 20 years — and one that San Diego State has dominated of late, winning nine of the last 11 meetings.

    That isn't surprising, given that UNLV has only had one winning season since 2000.

    If the Rebs win this one, it will be a shock. My pick is San Diego State.
  • Stanford at #20 Utah, 9:15 p.m. (Central) on FS1: Don't let the rankings fool you. Stanford was ranked before falling victim to Southern Cal and San Diego State, both of whom are ranked.

    But Stanford still has a good football team.

    So does Utah, and the Utes have won their last three meetings with Stanford. The oddsmakers think Stanford will snap that skid this weekend; they have made Stanford a 5½–point pick.

    While this probably seems contradictory to what I said a few paragraphs ago, I'm going to take Utah in an upset special.
  • LSU at #21 Florida, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on CBS: This is a competitive series and should be entertaining to watch.

    LSU has had the hot hand lately, winning six of the last seven meetings, but the Gators lead the all–time series.

    The Tigers are looking for their fourth straight win over Florida, but the Gators are favored by a field goal. I can come up with lots of reasons why either team will lose, but I can't seem to come up with a single reason why either team will win.

    Although neither team is intimidated by the other's home field, I'll go with the home team, Florida, in this one.
  • #21 Notre Dame at North Carolina, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ABC: This will be the 20th meeting between these schools.

    It was a series that lay dormant for more than a quarter of a century, then was revived in 2006. They haven't played every year — and if the game was being played in South Bend, I would have no trouble picking the Irish. Notre Dame is 12–0 there against the Tar Heels. But when Carolina is at home, the Tar Heels have actually won a couple of times including the last time they met there (in 2008).

    So that makes me pause — but only for a second or two. The Irish are two–touchdown favorites. My pick is Notre Dame.
  • #25 Central Florida at Cincinnati, 7 p.m. (Central) on ESPNU: This marks the third meeting between these schools. The home team won the previous two contests, which should mean that Cincinnati will win this game. But I have some serious doubts about that.

    Central Florida is favored by 17 points. I will go along with that. Central Florida is the pick.
Last week: 15–2

Overall: 82–18

Postponed by Hurricane Irma: 4

Last week's upset specials: 0–1

Overall upset specials: 1–9

Thursday, September 28, 2017

In Search of Upsets

In my mind, I guess September is a little too early for conference clashes.

It was always that way when I was growing up — and it is still that way for many teams.

But some conference schedules do get underway in September. My alma mater, Arkansas, opened its 2017 conference schedule last weekend, losing in overtime to Texas A&M.

So, too, did TCU and Oklahoma State in the Big XII.

They've been in the same conference for five years now, but they played each other quite a few times before that. TCU hadn't won at Stillwater since 1991 (when Oklahoma State went 0–10–1).

I'm sure no one in their right mind picked the Horned Frogs to win that game — and yet they did, pretty convincingly.

It would have been great if I had made TCU one of my upset specials. I've really been struggling in that department — and I have only picked one upset special this week.

The way things have been going, there will be several upsets in the Top 25 — but the one I picked won't be one of them.

Idle: #3 Oklahoma, #8 Michigan, #9 TCU, #20 Utah, #23 West Virginia

  • #5 Southern Cal at #16 Washington State, 9:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Southern Cal has won nine of the last 10 meetings with Washington State — which is just a little better than the Trojans' all–time winning percentage in the series.

    Nevertheless the oddsmakers only favor USC by four points. What do they know that I don't?

    The Trojans have won five straight at Washington State. Make that six in a row for Southern Cal.
  • #14 Miami (Fla.) at Duke, 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: This is a comparatively young series. Most of the games have been played in the 21st century.

    Of the 14 games that have been played, Miami has won 12 — and is 7–1 at Duke. Oddsmakers favor the Hurricanes by six points.

    Seems like this could be a trap game, but I will pick Miami, anyway.
  • Ole Miss at #1 Alabama, 8 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: It was very dramatic in recent years when the Rebels beat the Tide — twice — but Alabama got the upper hand back last season.

    Historically Alabama has dominated the series. This will be the 61st meeting and the Tide will be looking for its 50th win over Ole Miss.

    I have to pick Alabama.
  • #2 Clemson at #12 Virginia Tech, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on ABC: This must be the marquee game of the weekend.

    And it is one more challenge for a Clemson team that keeps rising to the occasion.

    This is a conference rivalry but not a divisional one, which means these teams do not face each other every year. Nevertheless they have faced off 32 times before, and the clear trend — at least in the last 30 years — has been for one team to win several in a row before yielding to the other.

    The team that is currently on a winning streak is Clemson, but the Tigers, who have won four in a row from the Hokies, haven't five in a row since the 1980s.

    Thus the Tigers are battling history in this one. Can they do it? I believe they can. Clemson is the choice.
  • Indiana at #4 Penn State, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on Big Ten Network: These teams have played 20 times, and Indiana has been the winner only once.

    But that was at Penn State.

    Will lightning strike twice? No. I pick Penn State.
  • #6 Washington at Oregon State, 7 p.m. (Central) on Pac–12 Network: Washington has won six of the last seven meetings with Oregon State.

    On paper this looks like a sure thing. I pick Washington.
  • #7 Georgia at Tennessee, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on CBS: With last year's 34–31 victory, the Volunteers slipped ahead of Georgia in the all–time series.

    They had just pulled even in the series with a 38–31 victory in Knoxville the year before. So the Vols are looking to make it three in a row against the Bulldogs. Tennessee hasn't beaten Georgia that many times in a row since the '90s, when the Vols won nine in a row — and Peyton Manning was in the lineup for awhile.

    Knoxville is a tough place to play, which Georgia fans know all too well, but I think Georgia will pull this one out.
  • Northwestern at #10 Wisconsin, 11 a.m. (Central) on ABC: Wisconsin leads the all–time series with Northwestern by more than 20 games.

    But the schools have split the last 12 meetings right down the middle — and in those 12 games, the home team has been the winner two–thirds of the time.

    So I guess history is saying that Wisconsin will probably win. The oddsmakers are saying so, too. They make the Badgers 14–point favorites.

    I will go with Wisconsin as well.
  • #11 Ohio State at Rutgers, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on Big Ten Network: These schools have played three times, and the Buckeyes have won by lopsided margins every time.

    I expect nothing to change this time. Ohio State will win.
  • #24 Mississippi State at #13 Auburn, 5 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Historically speaking, Auburn has Mississippi State's number. The Tigers have won about two–thirds of the time, including 12 of the last 16 meetings.

    And the oddsmakers think they will do so again — but the SEC is so balanced that year that it seems anyone can beat anyone (unless that second anyone is Alabama) on any given Saturday.

    This one seems to be a good candidate for an upset so I make Mississippi State my upset special choice — and given my record in upset specials so far this year, that means Auburn should be a lock to win the game. Place your bets!
  • #15 Oklahoma State at Texas Tech, 7 p.m. (Central) on Fox: Oklahoma State has won eight in a row against Texas Tech, but the Red Raiders' last win over the Cowboys came at Lubbock.

    Oklahoma State needs to reassert itself in the wake of its surprising loss to TCU last week — and the Cowboys are 9½–point picks to do just that.

    The Cowboys have won eight in a row against the Red Raiders, but the games are always entertaining. Last year OSU won by a single point, 45–44. The year before that, in the most recent game between the two in Lubbock, the teams combined for more than 120 points.

    I pick Oklahoma State.
  • Murray State at #17 Louisville, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ACCNE: I can't see Murray State hanging with Louisville for four quarters. This one should be lopsided.

    I pick Louisville.
  • #18 South Florida at East Carolina, 11 a.m. (Central) on CBSSN: This is a young series. The teams have only met seven times, but South Florida has dominated, winning six of those contests.

    And East Carolina's only win came at South Florida in 2014. The Pirates are 0–3 at home against South Florida.

    The oddsmakers favor South Florida to make ECU's home record in the series 0–4. They have established the Bulls as 23½–point favorites. I have to take South Florida.
  • Northern Illinois at #19 San Diego State, 9:30 p.m. (Central) on CBSSN: In their four previous meetings, San Diego State emerged victorious every time.

    The oddsmakers make SDSU an 11–point pick this time. If Northern Illinois beats the spread, it will be the closest game the teams have ever played.

    I take San Diego State.
  • Vanderbilt at #21 Florida, 11 a.m. (Central) on ESPN: Talk about a lopsided series.

    Florida has won all but one of the last 26 meetings — but the good news for Vandy is that that single victory came at Florida in 2013, which happens to be the Gators' worst season since 1979.

    It doesn't seem likely that this season will be worse than that one was — nor does it seem likely that the Commodores will win this one. My pick is Florida.
  • Miami (Ohio) at #22 Notre Dame, 4 p.m. (Central) on NBCSN: This is the first–ever meeting between these schools.

    The oddsmakers don't think it will be much of a game. The Irish are favored by 21½ points.

    OK. I'll take Notre Dame.
  • Troy at #25 LSU, 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPNU: These two teams have played each other twice, both times at LSU, and the Tigers won both times.

    LSU doesn't seem to be as good as it often is, but I think LSU has enough in the tank to win this one.
Last week: 16–6

Overall: 67–16

Postponed by Hurricane Irma: 4

Last week's upset specials: 0–3

Overall upset specials: 1–8

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The First Lady of Thoroughbred Racing

Secretariat is a name that has been known by hundreds of millions of people for more than 40 years — but most probably never heard of Penny Chenery until the Walt Disney Co. made a movie about Secretariat.

Chenery, who died last Saturday at the age of 95, was Secretariat's owner — but she was more than that, really. She was a tough old bird.

If you didn't grow up in the South, you may not know that is about the highest compliment one can pay. To be a tough old bird suggests that you have lived a long life and fielded everything life threw at you. Penny Chenery was a pioneer, and pioneers always have to be tough old birds.

They rarely win popularity contests.

In Penny Chenery's case she took over her father's once–successful horse breeding business when he became disabled and, applying what she had learned in business school, revived it and pursued her father's dream of winning the Kentucky Derby.

She had her father's love of horses, but she knew that horse breeding was not the kind of business she had studied in school. She encountered plenty of resistance along the way, but she achieved her father's goal with Riva Ridge in 1972.

In fact, with Secretariat, she went beyond her father's dream. She won all three of the Triple Crown races the following year, and Secretariat became the first Triple Crown winner in a quarter of a century.

Even now when I watch the footage of Secretariat's astonishing victory in the third and final jewel of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, I feel that same sense of awe and excitement that I felt on that Saturday afternoon in June of 1973.

A decade after that accomplishment, Chenery became one of the first three women to be admitted as members of The Jockey Club, which is the breed registry for thoroughbred horses in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. A few years earlier she became a member of the Executive Committee of the American Horse Council, the horse industry trade association.

When the Disney movie was in the theaters seven years ago, some complained that it was more about Penny Chenery than it was about Secretariat, and there is some truth in that.

But the greater truth is that no movie could fully tell the story of Penny Chenery's remarkable life.

Rest in peace.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Separating the Pretenders From the Contenders

It may seem early in the season for college football to be drawing the dividing line between its pretenders and contenders, but that is how it looked last week with several teams falling to what seemed like upsets on the surface but may really have been symptoms that things are not what they may have appeared to be.

UCLA, for example, lost to Memphis, which was pretty highly regarded when the season started but still belongs to a lower–echelon conference, one that certainly shouldn't be mentioned in the same breath with the Pac–12. Memphis had to prove itself — and it did.

Similarly San Diego State upset another ranked team from the Pac–12, slipping past Stanford by a single point. And Southern Cal needed two overtimes to subdue Texas, the same team that lost to Maryland two weeks earlier.

Suddenly the Pac–12 isn't looking so strong.

But all wins by teams from lower–tier conferences over teams from the power conferences are not treated equally. The pollsters didn't reward Memphis with a spot in the rankings — unlike San Diego State.

LSU lost to Mississippi State. The Tigers have dominated the series over the years — but they have been particularly dominant in Starkville, where they have won nearly 75% of the time — and had not lost since 1999. But the Bulldogs partied like it was 1999, winning by 30 points.

There were surprises among the unranked as well. I'm sure no one expected Northern Illinois to prevail at Nebraska. Nevertheless ...

Idle: #9 Wisconsin

  • Temple at #21 South Florida, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: South Florida's last loss was at Temple on Oct. 21, 2016.

    The Bulls have won eight in a row since then (it probably would have been nine in a row if Hurricane Irma hadn't postponed South Florida's game with UConn), but my guess is that everyone on that squad wants to even the score — as well as the all–time series (which Temple leads 2–1).

    I pick South Florida.
  • #23 Utah at Arizona, 9:30 p.m. (Central) on FS1: Utah had lost four straight to Arizona before winning their Pac–12 matchup last year.

    This will be the teams' 43rd meeting, and Arizona holds a narrow edge at home against Utah. In fact, Utah has won at Arizona only once in more than 20 years.

    I think the tide is turning in this series. My pick is Utah.
  • #1 Alabama at Vanderbilt, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on CBS: Until Vanderbilt knocked off Kansas State last week, this game got little, if any, attention.

    After all, Alabama hasn't lost to Vanderbilt since 1984 — and hasn't lost at Vanderbilt since 1969.

    There really isn't a reason to expect anything different this time. I pick Alabama to win.
  • Boston College at #2 Clemson, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN2: After facing down ranked teams the last couple of weeks, I imagine that Clemson will enjoy this one. This series dates back to the 1940 Cotton Bowl, but it has only been an annual meeting since the teams became conference rivals in 2005.

    Since then Clemson has won two–thirds of its meetings with Boston College and has only lost at home twice in that stretch — both times by a field goal.

    The choice is Clemson.
  • #3 Oklahoma at Baylor, 5:30 p.m. (Central): The Sooners won by 10 the last time they visited Waco, but the Bears won the previous two meetings.

    That's a pretty big deal, considering that Baylor had never beaten Oklahoma until 2011.

    The previous order seems to be in the process of being restored. I think Oklahoma will win this one.
  • #4 Penn State at Iowa, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on ABC: Last week Iowa hammered the school where I got my master's, North Texas. This week the Hawkeyes face the fourth–ranked team in the land.

    In the words of Dire Straits, sometimes you're the windshield. Sometimes you're the bug.

    I pick Penn State.
  • #5 Southern Cal at California, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ABC: Southern Cal has beaten California 13 straight times and has won more than 72% of the games in what is now a 97–game series.

    I expect nothing to change this week. The pick is Southern Cal.
  • #16 TCU at #6 Oklahoma State, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: This has always been a competitive series.

    OSU seized control by winning five of the last six meetings, and it will be tough for TCU to narrow the gap this weekend. Stillwater is a tough place for visiting teams.

    Oklahoma State is favored by 11½ points, and that sounds about right to me.

    My pick is Oklahoma State.
  • #7 Washington at Colorado, 9 p.m. (Central): After eight straight losing seasons, not much was expected from Colorado last year. But the Buffaloes went 10–2 before losing the Pac–12 championship game to Washington.

    Can Colorado win the rematch? Colorado hasn't beaten Washington since the 1996 Holiday Bowl and hasn't beaten Washington at home since 1990. And Washington is favored by 10 points.

    But something tells me it isn't quite as certain as it may seem. I will take Colorado in an upset special.
  • #8 Michigan at Purdue, 3 p.m. (Central): Talk about your one–sided series.

    These teams have played 57 times, and Michigan has won 43. In fact, Purdue has beaten Michigan only five times since 1980.

    But they're playing at Purdue, which may be the saving grace for the Boilermakers. They've been more successful there than Ann Arbor, where Purdue has won only once since 1966.

    Well, I suppose it might be close for awhile. But the oddsmakers make Michigan a 10–point favorite. I agree. Michigan will win.
  • Nevada–Las Vegas at #10 Ohio State, 11 a.m. (Central): What can I say

    Ohio State is favored by nearly 40 points. No wonder it isn't being televised.

    My choice is Ohio State.
  • #17 Mississippi State at #11 Georgia, 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: I expect this one to be an interesting game.

    I probably wouldn't have said that when the season began, but Mississippi State's victory over LSU last week opened my eyes.

    Apparently it opened the oddsmakers' eyes, too. They made Georgia a 4½–point favorite at home.

    Make Mississippi State an upset special.
  • North Carolina State at #12 Florida State, 11 a.m. (Central) on ABC or ESPN2: Sometimes North Carolina State can pull off the upset, but Florida State has won about 70% of their meetings over the years, and I am just not inclined to pick North Carolina State in this one.

    The Wolfpack has won only twice at Florida State in the last 50 years.

    The pick is Florida State.
  • Old Dominion at #13 Virginia Tech, 1 p.m. (Central) on ACCNE: The oddsmakers have made Tech a 26½–point favorite at home. Good enough for me.

    I pick Virginia Tech.
  • Toledo at #14 Miami (Fla.), 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ACCNE: These teams have played only once before — in November of 1987.

    Miami went undefeated that season, and Toledo was 3–7–1, but Toledo only lost by 10 points in a game that was played at Miami. Only three schools — Florida State on the road, South Carolina and Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl — came closer to beating the Hurricanes that year.

    Miami is favored to win by nearly two touchdowns. And even though Toledo has been better in recent years, I expect Miami to win.
  • #15 Auburn at Missouri, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPNU: These teams have met twice before, but this will be the first time they have played in a month other than December.

    Missouri is a relative newcomer to the SEC and doesn't compete in Auburn's division. This will be the first time they have met in the regular season.

    But they faced each other in the 2013 SEC Championship in Atlanta, and Auburn won by 59–42. Forty years earlier, Missouri won the first meeting in the Sun Bowl, 34–17.

    Auburn is favored by nearly three touchdowns. I take Auburn.
  • Nevada at #18 Washington State, 5 p.m. (Central): These schools have met three teams before, each time at Washington State.

    Washington State won the first two, but Nevada claimed their most recent meeting — on Sept. 5, 2014.

    Will lightning strike twice? I don't think so. Washington State is my choice.
  • Kent at #19 Louisville, 11 a.m. (Central) on ACCNE: These schools were regular rivals in the '60s, but they haven't met since 1973.

    Kent went 3–9 last year. I expect Louisville to romp.
  • #20 Florida at Kentucky, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on SEC Network: You could probably expect a pretty good game from these two if the sport was basketball.

    But in football the Gators have thoroughly dominated the series. They lead it 50–17 and haven't lost at Kentucky since 1986.

    I expect the dominance to continue. The pick is Florida.
  • #22 San Diego State at Air Force, 6 p.m. (Central) on CBSSN: History leans heavily toward San Diego State in this series. The Aztecs have won the last six meetings (frequently by wide margins) and haven't lost at Air Force since 2009.

    But the oddsmakers have made San Diego State a mere 3½–point favorite. Could the Aztecs be suffering from something of a hangover following the win over Stanford?

    I will take Air Force in an upset special.
  • #24 Oregon at Arizona State, 9 p.m. (Central): Arizona State once dominated this series, but Oregon has won 10 in a row to take the lead in the series, 19–16.

    The oddsmakers think Oregon will make it 11 in a row, having established the Ducks as 15½–point favorites.

    I agree. I pick Oregon.
  • Syracuse at #25 LSU, 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPN2: These schools have met three times before.

    The first two times were bowl games — the 1965 Sugar Bowl and the 1989 Hall of Fame Bowl. Two years ago, they finally faced other in a non–bowl setting, and LSU won on the road.

    Now Syracuse has a chance to even the score and the series. But the oddsmakers don't think Syracuse has much of a chance to win in Death Valley. They made LSU a 23½–point favorite.

    I expect LSU to win.
Last week: 16–5

Overall: 51–10

Postponed by Hurricane Irma: 4

Last week's upset specials: 0–1

Overall upset specials: 1–5