Thursday, October 20, 2016

Big 12 Opts Against Expansion

The big news around here and elsewhere in the college football world this week was the Big 12's decision not to expand.

The idea behind expansion, of course, was that there would be enough members for the conference to qualify for a season–ending conference championship game, which is widely seen as a prerequisite for participation in the four–team championship playoff.

But that theory was pretty much disproven last year when Big 12 member Oklahoma qualified for the four–team field — even without the benefit of a conference championship game.

The Sooners lost the chance to play for the national title on the field — to Clemson.

Anyway, the Big 12 has decided not to expand in the near future. I think it was probably the right decision — although one of the expansion schools might have been Houston, currently ranked #11 and a former Southwest Conference rival of Big 12 members Texas, Texas Tech, TCU and Baylor. Houston could have renewed some old rivalries.

Idle: #3 Clemson, #8 Baylor, #12 Florida, #15 Florida State, #19 Tennessee

  • Brigham Young at #14 Boise State, 9:15 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: This is a young series, as these things go. The teams have played six times, and Boise State has won four, including all three of the previous contests played in Idaho.

    History says Boise is better. The 2016 records (Boise is 6–0, BYU is 4–3) concur. I pick Boise State.
  • #6 Texas A&M at #1 Alabama, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on CBS: The Aggies have beaten the Crimson Tide only once since joining the SEC — but that game was played at Alabama.

    Other than a Cotton Bowl win on Jan. 1, 1968, it is the only time the Aggies have beaten the Crimson Tide.

    Can they do it again this week?

    If A&M is to live up to the reputation it has been building this season, it must. But I am skeptical. I choose Alabama.
  • #2 Ohio State at Penn State, 7 p.m. (Central) on ABC: Ohio State has beaten Penn State more than two–thirds of the time since the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten more than two decades ago, but five of Penn State's seven wins over Ohio State in that time have come when Penn State was the home team.

    I really don't think that will help much this time. I choose Ohio State.
  • Illinois at #4 Michigan: This series goes back to the late 19th century, and Michigan has won about three–quarters of the time.

    In the last 11 games, Michigan is 9–2 against Illinois and almost never loses to the Illini when the Wolverines are having a good season.

    Consequently, I choose Michigan.
  • Oregon State at #5 Washington, 5:30 p.m. (Central) on Pac–12 Network: Washington controls this series, although there was a time not so long ago when Oregon State had all the momentum.

    But the Huskies are back on track now, holding down a Top 5 ranking and entertaining thoughts of being in the college football playoffs.

    Winner of the last four meetings, I expect Washington to extend that streak to five.
  • North Carolina State at #7 Louisville, 11 a.m. (Central) on ABC: Louisville has only lost once to North Carolina State and never at home.

    But beware this N.C. State team. It played #3 Clemson close on the road and might just do it again.

    Close or not, though, I pick Louisville to prevail.
  • Purdue at #9 Nebraska, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN2 or ABC: Nebraska beat Purdue by three touchdowns the only other time the Cornhuskers hosted the Boilermakers.

    That was two years ago. Purdue returned the favor last season.

    Undefeated Nebraska leads the Big Ten's Western Division while Purdue languishes at the bottom. This is a no–brainer. Nebraska should win handily at home.
  • #10 Wisconsin at Iowa, 11 a.m. (Central) on ESPN: This series is 89 games old, and it has gone back and forth.

    Iowa snapped a three–game losing streak last season and, if the Hawkeyes can win this one at home, the series will be tied at 44–44–2.

    That could happen. Iowa beats Wisconsin 57% of the time when they play at Iowa, and oddsmakers currently only have Wisconsin as a three–point favorite. Still, I can't see Iowa winning this one. I'll take Wisconsin.
  • #11 Houston at SMU, 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPN2: Since SMU came off the NCAA's death penalty nearly 30 years ago, Houston is 15–3–1 against SMU. The Mustangs were 5–1 against the Cougars in the years just before the death penalty was imposed — when rules violations propelled SMU to the top of the national rankings.

    But now Houston is the ranked team and SMU is at the bottom, which is where the Mustangs have been most of the time since 1989.

    I see no reason to expect an SMU victory. Instead, I expect Houston to win handily.
  • TCU at #13 West Virginia, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ABC or ESPN2: When the season began, few if any college football fans expected TCU to be unranked and West Virginia to be ranked 13th when they met in late October. Yet that is the situation.

    TCU has won three out of four since West Virginia joined the Big 12. In some circles, TCU is probably the favorite in this game because of history and lingering expectations. But I will pick West Virginia at home.
  • #16 Oklahoma at Texas Tech, 7 p.m. (Central) on FOX: The Red Raiders are fortunate that this game will be played in Lubbock. At least there they have a chance to win — historically. In Norman, the Sooners are 10–2 against Tech, but they only lead 6–4 in Lubbock.

    Tech comes in on a two–game losing streak following losses to Kansas State and West Virginia. OU appears to have rallied after early losses to Houston and Ohio State.

    I pick Oklahoma.
  • #17 Arkansas at #24 Auburn, 5 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: This series has been almost exclusively the product of Arkansas' decision to join the Southeastern Conference in the early '90s, and it has been pretty close.

    For the most part, it has gone back and forth. This will be the teams' 26th meeting, and only once has a team beaten the other three straight times.

    Nothing like that will happen this time. Arkansas beat Auburn last year, but Auburn won the year before that.

    I&aapos;m expecting a close game, but oddsmakers are making Auburn a 10–point favorite. Perhaps that is because of Auburn's defense, which has been playing well. But I'm going to take Arkansas in an upset special.
  • #18 Utah at UCLA, 3 p.m. (Central) on FOX: UCLA has dominated this series — and had never lost to Utah at home until two years ago.

    Utah won on that occasion. In fact, the Utes have been playing the Bruins close in recent years.

    I expect a spirited game, and I pick Utah to win its second straight at UCLA.
  • Eastern Michigan at #20 Western Michigan, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN3: Western Michigan has won more than two–thirds of its games with Eastern Michigan, but Western Michigan is especially tough at home.

    Eastern Michigan is not a bad team at 5–2. but undefeated Western Michigan has two road wins over Big Ten schools.

    I pick Western Michigan.
  • #21 North Carolina at Virginia, 2 p.m. (Central) on ACC Network: These teams have played each other almost every year since 1902.

    North Carolina has won 57% of the time, and the Tar Heels have won the last six meetings.

    I'd like to predict that the underdog Cavaliers will win this one at home — but I can't. I've seen the Tar Heels play.

    I pick North Carolina.
  • #22 Ole Miss at #23 LSU, 8 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: This is the 100th meeting between these schools. Not surprisingly, LSU has won nearly 60% of the time and has won four of the last six.

    LSU has also won six of the last seven played in Baton Rouge.

    I just have a feeling. I pick Ole Miss in an upset special.
  • Memphis at #25 Navy, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on CBSSN: When they met for the first time last year, Navy whipped Memphis 45–20.

    Memphis wasn't a bad team last year and isn't a bad team now, but Navy was and is a pretty good team. And I pick Navy to prevail at home.
Last week: 14–3

Overall: 102–31

Postponed: 1

Last week's upset specials: 1–1

Overall upset specials: 6–9

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