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

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