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

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