Thursday, September 22, 2016

My Battle With Homerism

It can be tempting, when one tries to predict the outcomes of sports events, to yield to the temptation to be a "homer" — to pick teams to which one may have some sort of connection — whether doing so makes sense or not.

I do generally try to resist such a temptation, but this week has presented me with a real test. My alma mater, the University of Arkansas, is playing Texas A&M on Saturday. Both teams are ranked so picking Arkansas is not regarded as much of an upset, I suppose.

As members of the Southwest Conference, they played each other regularly when I was growing up. Arkansas won most of the time, too, so beating the Aggies didn't seem like much of a big deal to me. But Arkansas has struggled against A&M since both have been members of the Southeastern Conference. Lately, it has been a very big deal.

I'm afraid I'm slipping into homerism this week. Read on.

Idle: #2 Ohio State, #15 Miami (Fla.), #21 Texas, #22 San Diego State, #25 Oklahoma

  • #5 Clemson at Georgia Tech, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Clemson wins nearly two–thirds of the time against Georgia Tech and has won four of the last six.

    However, Georgia Tech has won the last five home games against the Tigers.

    Still, Clemson played for the national championship last year and may well do so again this year. I'll pick Clemson.
  • Southern Cal at #24 Utah, 8 p.m. (Central) on FS1: Southern Cal is 8–2 against Utah, but the Trojans lost the last time they played at Salt Lake City.

    I think lightning will strike twice. Utah should win.
  • Kent State at #1 Alabama, 11 a.m. (Central) on SEC Network: Alabama hammered Kent the last time they played. No reason to expect anything different this time. Alabama should win easily.
  • #3 Louisville at Marshall, 7 p.m. (Central) on CBSSN: Marshall has beaten Louisville four straight times, but their last meeting was in 2011, and Louisville leads the all–time series 10–5.

    I'm guessing Louisville will end its skid. I pick Louisville.
  • Penn State at #4 Michigan, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ABC: Michigan leads the series 12–7 and has won the last two meetings.

    The rankings say Michigan is the better team, and I am inclined to agree. Besides, they're playing in the Big House. I pick Michigan.
  • #6 Houston at Texas State, 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPNU: The Cougars are 27–1 in the series.

    Texas State was undefeated before losing to Arkansas last week. The losing streak will grow to two after this. Houston is the pick.
  • #7 Stanford at UCLA, 7 p.m. (Central) on ABC: UCLA leads the series, but Stanford has won the last eight meetings.

    UCLA was punished by the polls for losing the opener to Texas A&M. Upsets always seem to happen in the Pac–12 in September. In an upset special I will take UCLA.
  • #11 Wisconsin at #8 Michigan State, 11 a.m. (Central) on Big Ten Network: Michigan State leads the series and has won four of the last six meetings.

    I think this could be one of the better games of the weekend. Too bad it won't be available to most of the nation.

    I pick Michigan State at home.
  • #9 Washington at Arizona: Washington wins 64% of the time and has won three of the last five encounters with Arizona.

    I've seen nothing to suggest that Arizona can win this game, but stranger things have happened. I pick Washington.
  • #17 Arkansas at #10 Texas A&M, 8 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Arkansas has won nearly 60% of the meetings between the two teams, but the Aggies have won the last four.

    As a proud Arkansas graduate, I would love to see the Razorbacks snap their losing skid against the Aggies and improve to 4–0. As I say, I'm going with my heart and not my head on this one. In what will probably be an upset special (the Hogs already have one of those this season, having beaten TCU in Fort Worth two weeks ago), I pick Arkansas to prevail.
  • #12 Georgia at #23 Ole Miss, 11 a.m. (Central) on ESPN: Georgia has dominated the series and won the last 10 meetings.

    Ole Miss has played well in losing causes against Florida State and Alabama. Home field is so often the deciding factor in a football game, and I will take the home team, Ole Miss, to win in yet another upset special.
  • #13 Florida State at South Florida, 11 a.m. (Central) on ABC: Florida State is 2–1 in the series and won the only previous meeting in Tampa.

    Florida State should win this time, too.
  • #19 Florida at #14 Tennessee, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on CBS: As of 2005, the Volunteers led the all–time series, but the Gators beat the Vols in all 11 games played since then to seize control of the series.

    The historical momentum is with the Gators. I'm not sold on Tennessee. My choice is Florida.
  • Oklahoma State at #16 Baylor, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on Fox: OSU leads the series, but Baylor has won three of the last four, including the last two meetings in Waco.

    This should be a pretty good game. Oklahoma State has been paying the price for losing a game the Cowboys never should have lost, and the Bears are unbeaten after facing a creampuff schedule.

    I think the Cowboys will be ready. It should be good. But I will pick Baylor at home.
  • #18 LSU at Auburn, 5 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: LSU leads the series and has won seven of the last nine, including the last time the game was played at Auburn.

    Auburn has had some good teams in recent years. Not so much this year. I have to go with LSU.
  • #20 Nebraska at Northwestern, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on Big Ten Network: Nebraska is 6–3 against Northwestern.

    Nebraska is one of those schools that just seems like it should be ranked every year. Northwestern has gained a reputation for being a giant killer of sorts. The Wildcats are at home.

    Still I will take Nebraska.
Last week: 15–6

Overall: 51–14

Last week's upset specials: 0–2

Overall upset specials: 1–5

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