Thursday, November 17, 2016

College Football Playoff Berths Are Still Up for Grabs

There were quite a few upsets in college football last week. I even managed to pick a couple of them.

But, like most people, I failed to pick the big ones. Top–ranked Alabama stayed unbeaten, but the next three teams in the rankings — Clemson, Michigan and Washington — all went down to defeat.

All three stayed in the top 10, though. In fact, Michigan remained in the top four so the Wolverines will remain in the hunt for a college football playoff spot — at least until they face the Ohio State Buckeyes a week from Saturday.

The four–team college football field is not yet set in stone — well, except for Alabama. The next few weeks will go a long way in deciding which teams play for the national championship.

Looks like another great weekend in the Top 25. I will be watching. Will you?

  • #3 Louisville at Houston, 7 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: After 14 matchups over the years, this series is tied 7–7.

    It ought to be a good game, with Louisville (9–1) ranked third in the nation and Houston having fallen from some pretty lofty heights but still in possession of a pretty good record (8–2). Houston won last year and might have been favored to win this year if the Cougars had not lost to SMU a few weeks ago.

    Nevertheless Louisville enters the game a 13½–point favorite. I think it will be closer than that, but I still think Louisville will win.
  • Arkansas State at #25 Troy, 8:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPNU: Arkansas State beat Troy the last two times they met.

    This is a big game. Both teams are 5–0 in Sun Belt Conference play, and the winner will most likely be the conference champion — although two games still remain on each team's schedule.

    I'm going to go with the home team and pick Troy.
  • Nevada–Las Vegas at #22 Boise State, 8 p.m. (Central) on ESPN2: These teams have met three times before, and Boise State won every time.

    UNLV has played reasonably well this season and could become bowl eligible by winning its last two regular season games.

    But I just can't see Boise losing this game at home. I choose Boise State.
  • Chattanooga at #1 Alabama, 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPN2: At this point in the season, I am not sure anyone can beat Alabama, least of all Chattanooga.

    I pick Alabama.
  • #2 Ohio State at Michigan State, 11 a.m. (Central) on ESPN: Ohio State has won more than two–thirds of its games with Michigan State, but the Spartans have beaten the Buckeyes in three of their last five meetings. That includes the 2013 Big Ten Championship.

    But Ohio State beats Michigan State 75% of the time when the game is played in East Lansing. Oddsmakers think Ohio State will win by more than three touchdowns. I agree. My pick is Ohio State.
  • Indiana at #4 Michigan, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Indiana hasn't beaten Michigan since 1987. The Wolverines have won 20 in a row against the Hoosiers since that time.

    Make that 21 in a row. I pick Michigan.
  • #5 Clemson at Wake Forest, 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Clemson has beaten Wake Forest more than 78% of the time since they first met in 1933.

    The Tigers have won the last seven in a row, and oddsmakers pick them to make it eight in a row. I concur. The pick is Clemson.
  • #6 Wisconsin at Purdue, 11 a.m. (Central) on ABC: Wisconsin has beaten Purdue 10 straight times.

    The 8–2 Badgers seem likely to play in the Big Ten title game. The 3–7 Boilermakers probably just want the season to be over.

    I choose Wisconsin.
  • Arizona State at #7 Washington, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on Fox: Arizona State comes into this game on a 10–game winning streak against Washington. In fact, the Sun Devils haven't lost at Washington since 1997.

    But the 9–1 Huskies are emerging as a force in the Pac–12, and oddsmakers pick them to beat 5–5 Arizona State by nearly four touchdown.

    I agree. I pick Washington.
  • #8 Oklahoma at #10 West Virginia, 7 p.m. (Central) on ABC: This is sure to be the game of the week in the Big 12. Oklahoma is 8–2 and unbeaten in league play. West Virginia is 8–1 with that one loss being to Oklahoma State last month.

    West Virginia could win the conference by winning out. Oklahoma still has the Bedlam battle with Oklahoma State. Any one of the three could still win the conference.

    I pick Oklahoma to remain unbeaten in the Big 12.
  • #9 Penn State at Rutgers, 7 p.m. (Central) on Big Ten Network: Penn State lost its first game against Rutgers nearly 100 years ago and has gone 24–1 in the series since.

    The Nittany Lions have beaten Rutgers the last nine times they have played, and Penn State has never lost at Rutgers. Granted, the teams have faced each other at Rutgers four times, but oddsmakers seem certain that Penn State will win there again. I am, too. I pick Penn State.
  • Oregon at #11 Utah: Historically, Oregon has dominated this series 20–9, and the Ducks have won six of the last eight meetings.

    But Utah won last year by six touchdowns and is favored to win this time by 14½ points. I think it might be more lopsided than that. The pick is Utah.
  • #20 Washington State at #12 Colorado: Why isn't anyone televising this game? This is probably the game of the week in the Pac–12, which is quite an accomplishment when you consider that one of the games on this week's schedule is Southern Cal vs. UCLA.

    It's been a competitive series. Colorado holds a 5–4 edge all time, and the teams have taken turns winning in the last six games. If that trend continues, it is Colorado's turn to win.

    But Washington State has a winning record at Colorado and hasn't lost there in 20 years. Oddsmakers favor Colorado to halt its skid at home by 4½ points. I'm going to make Washington State an upset special.
  • #13 Oklahoma State at TCU, 11 a.m. (Central) on FS1: Oklahoma State leads the series (narrowly) and has beaten TCU four of the last five times they have played.

    I figured the Cowboys would be the favorites, but I figured wrong. TCU is the oddsmakers' choice by 4½ points.

    I'll have to make Oklahoma State an upset special.
  • Buffalo at #14 Western Michigan, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPNU: Western Michigan leads this series 5–2. Trouble is, those two losses came in the last two meetings between the schools.

    But 2–8 Buffalo is all but sure to lose to 10–0 Western Michigan on the road. I pick Western Michigan.
  • #15 Southern Cal at UCLA, 9:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: After a 12–year stretch in which USC pounded UCLA nearly every year, UCLA has the upper hand in this series with wins in three of the last four meetings.

    That single exception came last year when Southern Cal won 40–21. It was almost like old times — except neither team is near its old dominant self. Oddsmakers have made Southern Cal an 11½–point pick. I'll go along with that. My choice is Southern Cal.
  • #21 Florida at #16 LSU, noon (Central) on SEC Network: Florida leads the all–time series, but LSU has won five of the last six meetings, including the last three in a row.

    What's more, Florida has managed to win at Baton Rouge only once in the last 12 years.

    Still the games are usually competitive. The historical momentum is with the Tigers, though, so I will pick LSU to prevail at home.
  • #17 Florida State at Syracuse, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ABC or ESPN2: These teams met for the first time just about 50 years ago, on Nov. 12, 1966, and Syracuse won.

    They have met eight times since, and Florida State has won each time. I expect Florida State to win again.
  • Alabama A&M at #18 Auburn, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on SEC Network: This is only a tuneup for next week's Iron Bowl against Alabama.

    I pick Auburn.
  • Maryland at #19 Nebraska, 11 a.m. (Central) on ESPNNews: These schools have never met, but Nebraska needs to win to stay in contention for a berth in the Big Ten title game. Nebraska lost to Wisconsin and will lose the West Division if the teams end up in a tie for the division title when the regular season ends. Wisconsin will probably beat cellar dweller Purdue this weekend and would then only need to beat Minnesota next week to secure a spot in the title game.

    It's an uphill climb for Nebraska, but it is still possible so the Cornhuskers need to win this game. And I believe Nebraska will win this game.
  • Texas–San Antonio at #23 Texas A&M, 11 a.m. (Central) on ESPNU: These teams have never met before. When the final whistle blows, UTSA is likely to wish it was still that way.

    The pick is Texas A&M.
  • #24 San Diego State at Wyoming, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on CBSSN: This is the 36th time these schools have faced each other on the gridiron. If San Diego State wins, the series will be tied at 18–18.

    The momentum appears to be with San Diego State, having won three of the last four meetings and being ranked and all that.

    It's possible these teams could meet in the Mountain West Conference championship game on Dec. 3. For that to happen, though, Wyoming must beat San Diego State. I'll take Wyoming in an upset special.
Last week: 18–6

Overall: 160–53

Postponed: 1

Last week's upset specials: 2–1

Overall upset specials: 9–19

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