November 26, 2008

Week 14 picks

Apologies for getting the picks up early this week, but the holidays have cut us short. Look for Dan's picks later in the week.

Not much to say here other than hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving.

Go Irish. Bring home a Maui title tonight over the Heels.

Thursday November 27, 2008:

Texas A&M (+35) at Texas (flip-flopped from its usual Friday spot with the Backyard Brawl) (ESPN 8pm)

Dan: Texas -35

Going to have to apologize in advance for the abbreviated analysis this week. I am enjoying balmy Florida and my mind is on college basketball these days rather than college football. Texas A&M is still not good and Texas needs style points if it at all hopes make the BCS championship.

Texas 55 Texas A&M 17

Matt: Texas -35

I could do without all of the campaigning that is going to be taking place the next two weeks between Bob Stoops and Mack Brown. Texas is going to be looking to be make a huge statement against a hapless Aggie team that sports the 100th ranked pass defense in the country. Colt McCoy will be padding his Heisman stats.

And for all of the ND fans that are clamoring for Mike Shanahan or Jon Gruden or Tom Coughlin (HAHAHA…Tom Coughlin is going to leave the New York Giants for South Bend. Right), take a good hard look at what is going on in College Station under Mike Sherman. Those pro guys are just not cut out for teaching 18 year old kids. There are the rare exceptions like Pete Carroll, but I would argue that Pete was never cut out for the pros and his personality is perfect for dealing with college players.

Texas 52 A&M 13

Mike: Texas A&M +35

This game will now be played on Thanksgiving, as opposed to its usual spot on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Since I am a creature of habit and a fervent fan of tradition, I am not pleased about this change. After all, Thanksgiving evening has always been a time for digesting and reflecting upon one’s eating habits while enjoying the Backyard Brawl, whereas Friday afternoon has always been a time for pairing leftovers with some good old fashioned Texas football. Oh well.

Texas 45 Texas A&M 14

Doug: Texas -35

Texas has no choice but to run up the score here. If they can somehow get themselves into the national title game (it is looking more and more unlikely), check out this 2009 football schedule.

09/05 Louisiana Monroe
09/12 at Wyoming
09/19 Central Florida
09/26 Texas El Paso
10/10 Colorado
10/17 Oklahoma (at The Cotton Bowl)
10/24 at Missouri
10/31 at Oklahoma State
11/07 Texas Tech
11/14 at Baylor
11/21 Kansas
11/26 7:00p ESPN at Texas A&M

That is an absolute abomination. It is essentially a 1-2 game season. How can any Texas fan look themselves in the mirror when they are playing a nonconference schedule of Louisiana-Monroe, Wyoming, UCF, and UTEP?? Completely pathetic, and I will be rooting against Texas with a passion next year simply for the reason that they don’t deserve to be playing for a title when they deliberately set up a garbage schedule like that. Texas is a young team, so I expect them to be very good. It is unfortunate that they have decided to take on the path of least resistance instead of pursuing a championship-level nonconference schedule. There is NO EXCUSE for not playing at least one BCS school in your nonconference.

How is that Mike Sherman hire working out?? 4-7 with a blowout loss to Baylor. Obviously way too early to get a read on his career, but he has not been a home run by any means so far.

Might as well throw in my opinion that I want nothing to do with these pro coaches that are be discussed by ND fans as a replacement for Charlie Weis. First of all, chasing after a current pro head coach is fool’s gold. There is no chance that a pro coach is going to leave an NFL head coaching job for ND. NO CHANCE. The NFL is the pinnacle for these guys. If they get fired, I can understand why they might have some interest in going to college if they have some history in college football. But a guy like Gruden who has won a Super Bowl and is currently a head man in Tampa?? Or a guy like Cowher who is going to have his pick of jobs in Cleveland and others?? Or a guy like Shanahan who has been in the NFL for 25 years?? Does anyone really think those guys are going to freaking Notre Dame?? Cmon, what a load of nonsense.

Secondly, I would only want an NFL head coach if the guy has been a head coach in college or has some major assistant experience. No name really jumps out to me from the NFL. Maybe somebody like Mike Nolan who was an assistant at Stanford and Oregon a long time ago?? Maybe somebody like Steve Mariucci?? Maybe somebody like Jim Mora, Jr.?? Those are the types of guys we’d be looking at from the NFL. Guys who didn’t succeed in the NFL but still know how to lead and might be more suited for the college game.

So I’d be willing to listen to some NFL names, but we need to be realistic and need to find the right fit. I’d still prefer a college coach though.

Texas 42 Texas A&M 7

Friday November 28, 2008:

West Virginia (-1.5) at Pitt (ABC 12pm)

Dan: -1.5

I still have trouble having much faith in this Pitt team despite my reluctance to pick Bill Stewart. Talk about someone who just is not capable of handling the responsibility of being a head coach. The guys always looks so clueless. However, WVU still has Noel Devine and Pat White, and that is enough offensive talent to win this game.

WVU 23 Pitt 21

Matt: West Virginia -.5

I love the Backyard Brawl. You know that West Virginia is going to be looking for revenge against Pitt this year. On a side note, having watched Pat White for what seems like 10 years, I’m curious as to how he translates into the NFL. I’ve thought he’s always been a little underrated and for some reason I’ve often found myself rooting for him. I know he’s not going to get a chance to play QB, but I have to think that he could be a decent kick / punt returner and/or running back or wide receiver. I would definitely take a flyer on him – you can never have enough athletes on your team.

West Virginia 27 Pitt 23

Mike: West Virginia -1.5

See above for my disdain regarding the date change for this game. In any event, look for the rejuvenated Pat White to exact revenge on the host Panthers after last year’s stunning loss in this game. My pick assumes, of course, that Bill Stewart will actually hand the ball to Noel Devine, who has been badly underutilized this season. Needless to say, I am not particularly confident in this selection.

West Virginia 28 Pittsburgh 21

Doug: Pitt +1.5

The Backyard Brawl!! Glad to see this game is on a Friday because I’ll be interested to watch.

LeSean McCoy is coming back to college?? Why?? I don’t see the point. He’s already proven that he is a great player. Coming back another year is too much risk, especially if Pitt underachieves next year. Needless to say, that game at Pitt next year could be pretty tough for the Irish.

Big game for the Big East conference. I know everyone on NDNation loves to laugh it up about the Big East conference, but how is the Big East any worse than the Big 10 this year??? Pitt and Iowa are in similar positions in the Big East, and Pitt beat Iowa. While the Big East doesn’t have the quality at the top like the Big Ten, you could make a strong case that the Big East is a little deeper this year. How are teams like Rutgers, UConn, Pitt, and South Florida any worse than teams like Northwestern, Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois??

While we’re here, my bonus Big East pick: Cincinnati 27 Syracuse 13. The Cuse will cover, but there is no way Cincy is losing that game at home with the Big East title and likely Orange Bowl bid on the line. Great atmosphere down at Nippert Stadium last weekend. Biggest crowd I’ve ever seen at a UC game, and the campus was rocking. It was great to see. Probably the most excited I’ve seen the UC campus since the Nick Van Exel era.

For all you clowns on NDNation who think Brian Kelly hasn’t proven anything as a head coach, I implore you to look at UC’s recruiting rankings. He is working with recruiting classes in the 80-100 rankings. UC has the worst overall talent in the Big East, and yet they are on the verge of winning the league. It would be one thing if Kelly was winning the Big East at a school like West Virginia, but he has done it at UC. His performance as the head coach at UC is nothing short of remarkable. When we miss our shot to get him and he wins at Tennessee or somewhere else, don’t come back crying in five years that we need to go get Brian Kelly. We will have missed our chance just like we missed our shot at Urban Meyer. The same people on NDNation who were railing against Urban Meyer in 2004 because he “doesn’t have big school experience” are the same folks who are bashing Brian Kelly today.

Finally, I wanted to address this absolutely ludicrous assertion from some posters on NDNation that they would prefer Mark Dantonio over Brian Kelly. Are you kidding me??? How could anyone in their right mind say that??? They both coached at the exact same school. Dantonio was decent (better than Minter), but Kelly has been incredible and is winning big game after big game. I like Dantonio. Believe me, I think he’s doing a good job at Michigan State and I liked him at UC and liked him at Ohio State, but he’s not as good as Brian Kelly. Cincinnati would beat Michigan State on a neutral field this year with half the talent. Mark it down.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am a YUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE Brian Kelly fan and am admittedly biased, but I’m tired of seeing him get slammed on NDNation as somehow unworthy. I think he’d be a great hire who would work wonders with Clausen and Floyd and our offense, and he’d actually put some teeth and heart into our defense and special teams. We would win with Brian Kelly. That much I know. There might be better candidates out there, but I think dismissing Kelly as a candidate is a joke. I want ND to win big as much as anyone, and that’s why I have been pushing hard for Brian Kelly to South Bend. I don’t want to see him leave UC, but he’d be a great fit up at ND.

The majority of people who post on NDNation are a bunch of band geeks who don’t know squat about football. Unfortunately, these same folks wield an unusually large amount of power in coaching "searches" and probably swayed the school away from pursuing Urban Meyer with more fervor back in 2004. Go back to your trombones and susiephones. Leave the football to the people who actually watch it.

Pitt 24 WVU 21

Mississippi State (+13.5) at Mississippi (Raycom 12:30pm)

Dan: -13.5

Love all the rivalry games this week. A lot of people are probably thinking let down game for Ole Miss. And that would definitely be reasonable for Ole Miss and for Houston Nutt especially (beat the good ones and lose to the bad ones). However, this Ole Miss team has some spunk that I really like. I know two touchdowns is a lot in any rivalry game, but then throw in the SEC factor, and it seems ridiculous. But I'll trust in Snead to win this one by 2 TDs.

Ole Miss 31 Mississippi State 17

Matt: Mississippi State +13.5

Houston Nutt seems to me like a Southern guy through and through. But I find it at least mildly curious that there really hasn’t been as much as a whisper about the possibility of him coming to South Bend. He was run out of town at Arkansas despite success at an impossible place to win, and in his first year in Oxford he has knocked off Florida and LSU. Pretty impressive. Anyway, in the Egg Bowl, I like Mississippi State to at least keep it respectable in what could turn out being Sly Croom’s last game.

Ole Miss 28 Miss State 17

Mike: Mississippi -13.5

Houston Nutt’s talented team is trending upward at the right time of the year and they will enter the Egg Bowl with loads of confidence. They should be able to fry, poach or scramble the inept Rebels into oblivion. But don’t despair Mississippi State fans…with about 7 more years, Sly Croom should have your program ready to contend for 3rd place in the SEC West.

Mississippi 28 Mississippi State 14

Doug: Ole Miss -13.5

The Egg Bowl. Another Thanksgiving tradition. This game usually reminds me of one of those big high school football games. All you hear are those milk cartons with the pennies in them, air horns, and cow bells. It’s fitting that this game is usually on a Friday.

Houston Nutt is a name that has been associated with the ND job in the past, and I actually think he would be a name to consider. Unfortunately, ND has absolutely terrible timing, and he’s another guy who is just starting a new job. While I would love to talk to him and think he would be a winner at ND, I can’t see him leaving Ole Miss after one year.

Ole Miss 21 MSU 3

LSU (NL) at Arkansas (CBS Sports 2:30pm)

Dan: LSU

Ugh. What an ugly game. I have been picking against LSU fairly often this year (except that damn Georgia game), but Arkansas is terrible. I know they beat Auburn and Tulsa, but I don't think they have improved that much throughout the year. Crazy Les can get this one on the road. But it won't be pretty.

LSU 13 Arkansas 10

Matt: Arkansas

I want to give myself a little pat on the back for predicting LSU’s downward spiral. They just aren’t that good this year without a competent QB. Color me crazy, but I think Arkansas kicks them when they’re down at home for a big win for Bobby Petrino and the Razorback program

Arkansas 22 LSU 20

Mike: Arkansas +4.5

With the emergence of Nathan Dick, it appears that the Dick era will continue in perpetuity for the Hogs. LSU has all sorts of quarterback issues, as true freshman Jordan Jefferson will likely take the helm in the Battle for the Golden Boot. Arkansas’ defense is not exactly a wrecking crew, as evidenced by their struggles in Starkville last week, but they should be able to handle a rookie signal caller who is making his first start in a short week of preparation. Moreover, motivation will be a question for the reeling Tigers.

Arkansas 31 LSU 21

Doug: LSU

This game was probably the game of the year last year in the college football world. Darren McFadden threw the Arkansas team on his back in this game. One of the best performances I’ve seen in the college game.

LSU has completely fallen apart lately. Too early to be concerned?? It is now Les Miles’ fourth year, so the program is entirely his. I’m not ready to say they are in decline, but it’s something to keep an eye on headed to next year. If LSU suddenly falls behind Ole Miss and Arkansas, the folks down there will not be pleased.

LSU 24 Arkansas 17

Colorado (+16) at Nebraska (ABC Sports 3:30pm)

Dan: Colorado +16

As I said earlier, two TDs is a lot in a rivalray game. And this one will be closer than the Ole Miss game. Nebraska has been closing the year well. Its only loss in the last 5 games was against Oklahoma. At home, I think they will win this game easily, but Colorado will keep it close enough to get the the cover barely.

Nebraska 31 Colorado 17

Matt: Colorado +16

This seems like a lot of points to me in a rivalry game. Bo Pelini has done a nice job in his first year, but let’s take a look at those 7 wins: Western Michigan, San Jose State, New Mexico State, Iowa State, Baylor, Kansas and Kansas State. Not exactly murderers row. They lost at home to a mediocre Virginia Tech team. So forgive me if I’m not convinced that they are going to blow out Colorado.

By the way, this is one of the nastier rivalries that kind of flies under the radar. I remember a friend of mine who is from Lincoln telling me that when Nebraska fans road trip to Boulder, they have to stop outside of the city and rent cars because the Colorado fans would break windows and slash tires on any cars with Nebraska license plates.

Nebraska 35 Colorado 27

Mike: Nebraska -16

Both teams have enjoyed a week to rest up for another spirited rivalry game. When I think about the Friday after Thanksgiving, Colorado-Nebraska immediately springs to mind. Unfortunately for those who would like to see a competitive matchup, Nebraska is on the rise and the Buffaloes are merely playing out the spring.

Nebraska 38 Colorado 21

Doug: Nebraska -16

All I can think of when I see this game are Brent Musberger and "Bobbbbbbby Purifyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy."

Are the Blackshirts on the rise?? We haven’t had a chance to preview them in a couple months. They are suddenly sitting at 7-4 with a great shot at a Gator Bowl game against an ACC team. I’m expecting a Sea of Red down there in Jacksonville. I know the Gator Bowl wanted ND, but they will be pleased to get Nebraska. Bo Pelini is quietly rebuilding things in Lincoln. I couldn’t be happier for them.

Check out this Nebraska 2009 schedule:

Sep 5 - Florida Atlantic
Sep 12 – Arkansas St
Sep 19 – at Virginia Tech
Sep 26 – Louisiana-Lafayette
Oct 3 – at Missouri
Oct 17 – Texas Tech
Oct 24 – Iowa State
Oct 31 – at Baylor
Nov 7 – Oklahoma
Nov 14 – at Kansas
Nov 21- Kansas State
Nov 27 – at Colorado

I know I lost my credibility with Nebraska by saying they were winning the Big 12 North this year, but I think that schedule could be interesting. We could be talking about a 7-1 Nebraska team next year or something like that with Oklahoma (and College Gameday) coming to town on November 7.

Nebraska 37 Colorado 17

Saturday November 29, 2008:

Kansas (+13) at Missouri (in Kansas City) (FSN 12:30pm)

Dan: Missouri -13

I remember seeing this shoot-out last year. It was quite the game. Unfortunately, Kansas has not really been the same team since. Missouri could potentially get caught looking ahead to the Big 12 title game, but I doubt it. While Chase Daniel has fallen off most people's Heisman list, he will be plenty productive to knock off the Jayhawks in high flying fashion in Kansas City. Besides, Kansas fans may still be lamenting their early season lost in Kansas City early this week, where they fell to the revived Syracuse Orange.

Missouri 49 Kansas 24

Matt: Missouri -13

Should be a shootout between Chase Daniel and Todd Reesing. I think Missouri gives up a lot of points but wins fairly easily. But I did want to address the Gary Pinkel name that I’ve heard come up fairly recently. He was a middling coach that was continually on the bubble before Chase Daniel showed up. Sure, it’s possible that he was just growing into the job and has developed into a good coach. But I would like to see where the Missouri program goes after Daniel and Maclin leave for the NFL.

Missouri 45 Kansas 31

Mike: Missouri -13

In the Plains version of the “Border War,” one shouldn’t expect to see much defense barring a miraculous intervention from Mother Nature. Missouri has responded nicely from its midseason swoon, while Kansas has done well to prove that 2007 was a schedule-aided anomaly.

Missouri 52 Kansas 28

Doug: Kansas +13

I know Missouri is playing well, but that’s a lot of points between two relatively similar teams on a neutral field.

I heard Kirk Herbstreit on the local radio throwing out his take on the Big 12 scene, and he thinks Missouri might shock the Big 12 South champion in the Big 12 championship game. He was saying that Missouri is flying under the radar and might come into that Big 12 championship game with a chip on their shoulder. They could salvage their season with a win in that game. Something to keep an eye out for next weekend.

Missouri 37 Kansas 28

Georgia Tech (+11) at Georgia (CBS Sports 12pm)

Dan: Georgia Tech +11

Eleven points seems like a lot of points to me in this game. Other than the debacle in Carolina, GT's 2 losses have been by an average of 5 points. Their only 2 conference wins by more than 11 points were LSU and UT and those were 14 and 12 respectively. GT is better than both those teams and the way they play football lends itself to close games. In fact, I think GT can even pull off the upset. Paul Johnson! Go crazy in Hotlanta!

Georgia Tech 21 Georgia 17

Matt: Georgia Tech +11

If this game was in Atlanta I would probably be picking the Jackets for a straight up win. That display they put on against what seemed like improving Miami team was incredible. They absolutely SHREDDED the Hurricanes. I think that this game will be the game of the day, and wouldn’t be surprised at all if GT came out on top.

Georgia 21 GT 20

Mike: Georgia Tech +11

What can Paul Johnson’s offense do an encore? Georgia Tech certainly taught the young Hurricanes a sobering lesson in option football last week and now they must be salivating at the sights of an underachieving Georgia defense. In this rivalry dubbed “Clean Old Fashioned Hate,” I expect the Jackets to pressure Matt Stafford into his usual complement of mistakes and thereby notch an upset road victory.

Georgia Tech 21 Georgia 20

Doug: Georgia Tech +11

Man, I think Georgia Tech has a legitimate shot to win this game straight up, so I might as well take the points here.

This projected Georgia-Ohio State game in the Citrus Bowl would be outstanding. It will feel like the old John Cooper days when the Buckeyes would end up playing Tennessee and Georgia every year in the Citrus Bowl after losing to Michigan. The Buckeyes NEED to win that game to restore some credibility nationally. I think Georgia would be a perfect matchup for them.

Georgia Tech 21 Georgia 20

Virginia (+10) at Virginia Tech (ESPN 12pm)

Dan: Virginia Tech -10

VT may not be as good as they have been in the past. But they are undefeated in Blacksburg this year. Meanwhile, after a mid-season revivale, UVA has lost 3 straight. Beamer's boys carry the day witha couple big special teams plays.

VT 24 UVA 10

Matt: Virginia Tech -10

UVA really needs to just pull the plug on the Al Groh era. It seems like he’s always on the hot seat, but somehow manages to win a game late to save his job. At this point, I think it’s safe to say that he is not the answer in Charlottesville.

Virginia Tech 21 UVA 10

Mike: Virginia +10

Hide the women, children and lovers of offensive football.

Virginia Tech 13 Virginia 9

Doug: Virginia +10

Virginia Tech hasn’t blown anyone out this year, and Virginia is fighting for bowl eligibility. I’m expecting a competitive game.

Improbably, Virginia Tech is in position to win the Coastal Division of the ACC if they win this game. The legend of Frank Beamer continues to grow. All the guy does is win.

As for the Atlantic, I gotta hand it to BC for what they have done in the last month or so. I thought they were done after that Clemson loss, but the big wins over Florida State and Wake Forest have them in position to win that division and play for the ACC title.

BC-VT would be an interesting game although probably a nightmare for the folks down in Jacksonville.

Virginia Tech 17 Virginia 9

Auburn (+17) at Alabama

Dan: Auburn +17

I was really really torn by this game. Auburn is terrible this year. They are awful. But they haven't blown that many teams out and have had a tendency to play flat in the second half. The realy question is if Auburn will lay down and die if Bama comes out hot early and takes a 14 - 0 lead. I don't think they will and I think they'll end up pulling within two TDs late, but never much closer.

Alabama 28 Auburn 14

Matt: Auburn +17
Throw out the records in the Iron Bowl! Could Tommy Tuperville save his job with a miraculous win over the Tide? Even though everyone seems to want to see Tubs gone, there is no way it can be justified if he manages to win his 7th straight against Bama. To be honest, I don’t see it happening. And I think that Auburn is horrible this year and has no business hanging with Alabama. But crazy things happen in rivalry games, and I think that Auburn somehow hangs around late into the 4th quarter. There will be plenty of sweaty palms this week in Tuscaloosa.

Alabama 20 Auburn 13

Mike: Alabama -17

Pundits love to proclaim that a coach’s worth can be measured by his record in a fierce rivalry game. As evidenced by the growing calls for Tommy Tuberville to be fired despite his 6 consecutive Iron Bowl wins, this statement is obviously untrue. In any event, Tuberville’s impressive streak is about to come crashing down against a well rested Crimson Tide team that should be fully motivated to reclaim its rightful place as the dominant team in the Yellowhammer State.

Alabama 31 Auburn 6

Doug: Auburn +17

Cmon Tigers, show some heart. 17 points as an underdog in the Iron Bowl is a disgrace, and I expect Auburn to come out fighting and cover the spread.

Mark your calendars folks: Alabama-Florida on December 6 at 4 pm on CBS Sports!! Verne Lundquist will be in tip top form.

Speaking of announcers, the best hire of the offseason??? The Big Ten Network hiring Gus Johnson to do college hoops games!! What a moment! I watched some of the Ohio State-Bowling Green game with Gus Johnson calling the shots. Great stuff. What a treat it is to have him on board for Big 10 hoops.

Alabama 17 Auburn 6

South Carolina (+2.5) at Clemson (ESPN2 12pm)

Dan: South Carolina +2.5

Throw out the game against Florida and SC has won 7 of its last 8. Clemson has lost 4 of its last 7. Yet Clemson finds itself as the favorites at home in this in-state rivalry game. While the SEC may be a bit overrated this year, I think you still have to favor it over the ACC. Take the points.

South Carolina 20 Clemson 17

Matt: Clemson -2.5

You’ve got to hand it to this Dabo Swinney guy. Clemson could easily have mailed it in after Bowden was fired, but amazingly they are a win away against their archrivals from bowl eligibility. I think they get it.

BTW, if Clemson gets their next coaching hire right, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be a perennial BCS contender. They have an SEC stadium, SEC fan base and great location to get the athletes from the south. And they get to do it all in the mediocre ACC. I see big things in the future for the Clemson program.

Clemson 24 USC 13

Mike: Clemson +2.5

My favorite memory from the Battle of the Palmetto State is the massive brawl that caused South Carolina to forfeit its bowl berth. In this year’s edition, there will be no such concerns, insofar as the Gamecocks are utterly punchless. Meanwhile, Clemson may have found their quarterback of the future and his name is not Willy Korn. Will it be enough for Dabo Swinney to be retained? I hope so, since it will be one less team against which Notre Dame (hopefully) must compete for a new coach.

Clemson 21 South Carolina 10

Doug: Clemson -2.5

Clemson has won three out of their last four and appear to be playing hard. Is this interim coach going to be considered for the long term job?? That might be a huge mistake if he is.

Clemson 23 South Carolina 17

North Carolina (-7.5) at Duke (ESPNU 3:30pm)

Dan: UNC -7.5

Is this game takingp lace at Cameron Indoor Stadium? No? Then I'm not interested.

UNC 24 Duke 14

Matt: UNC -7.5

UNC got run over by the NC State freight train that has been picking up some serious momentum. However, I don’t see any reason why they won’t be able to beat a feisty Duke team. If this was hoops, I’d offer a little more analysis, but let’s be honest – this is a lousy game. It’s still frustrating to me that ND lost that game at UNC. Would the season have turned out any differently had we hung on for the W in that game? Who knows…

UNC 30 Duke 17

Mike: North Carolina -7.5

The Tar Heels have fallen on hard times in the past few weeks, but my faith in Butch Davis remains intact (please take note, Mr. Swarbrick). Regardless of Davis’s long term future at Chapel Hill, he should have no problem preparing Carolina to retain the Victory Bell against a Duke squad that has floundered without their starting quarterback, Thaddeus Lewis. Words cannot describe how bad Lewis’s replacement, Zack Asack, performed last week against Virginia Tech, but numbers can paint a clear picture: 2 of 9 passing for 20 yards and 4 interceptions. In other words, four passes completed to the Hokies (for one TD) and 2 completed to his own team. Given the Heels’ penchant for forcing interceptions, this could get very ugly for Asack.

North Carolina 38 Duke 7

Doug: UNC -7.5

North Carolina has been fading down the stretch, but Duke hasn’t exactly been a juggernaut lately. UNC has lost back to back games, so I expect to see them fired up this week.

I would be interested in talking to Butch Davis about the ND job, but has he expressed any interest in leaving UNC or in coming to ND?? Again, timing is an issue. He just started a job at UNC. He’s got things going in the right direction down there, and he’s 57 years old. And he has absolutely no connection to ND. Does that sound like someone who is inclined to be interested in the ND job?? I guess I don’t see it. People act like coaches who have left jobs are these serial job jumpers. That’s simply not the case. Butch Davis made a move from Miami to the NFL, and then came back to college when he got fired. How is he a job jumper?? Because he went to the NFL?? The only reason he left Miami is because he wanted a crack at the NFL. That’s not some sort of restless move out of boredom. He’s now back in college at UNC, and I don’t see any reason why he’s going to be looking to move around any time soon.

NDNation…there isn’t a more delusional message board on the planet. People talk about these coaches like they can’t wait to leave their jobs for ND. It’s just not true. The longer we talk about guys like Butch Davis and Nick Saban and Bob Stoops, the less work we are doing looking for a realistic and great young candidate who actually wants the job. Would I call all those guys?? Absolutely. Are they the type of people that we should be pinning our hopes on?? No way.

UNC 31 Duke 17

Oregon (+3.5) at Oregon State

Dan: Oregon State -3.5

People have been doubting Oregon State all year. But they keep winning ball games. This game is for the Pac 10 championship. All they have to do is win this game and they are going to the Rose Bowl. Oregon has played pretty well lately, but I don't think they can pull off the upset on the road. Oregon State barely gets the cover.

Oregon State 17 Oregon 13

Matt: Oregon +3.5

This is more me hoping that Oregon wins than actually believing it’s going to happen. Although with Quizz out for Oregon State, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Beavers get upset. I just really don’t want to see a Penn State – Oregon State rematch in the Rose Bowl. No thanks.

Oregon 31 Oregon State 28

Mike: Oregon State -3.5

The Beavers only have one more hurdle to clear before they can punch their ticket to Pasadena for a matchup with Penn State. Oregon State excels against the run, which is Oregon’s forte, and Sean Canfield is finally playing to his ability. Furthermore, the game is in Corvallis and, as a cynic, I find it hard to believe that the Pac-10 officials, whose integrity has been questioned in the past, will be inclined to make any calls that could jeopardize the conference’s hope to field two BCS bowl teams. Even without Jacquizz Rodgers, the Beavers will be heading to the Rose Bowl.

Oregon State 34 Oregon 24

Doug: Oregon State -3.5

Well, I gotta hand it to Oregon State for pulling out that win in Tucson last weekend. They are a Civil War win over Oregon away from the Rose Bowl. Penn State and Oregon State in a rematch. Ugh. Not exactly a glamorous game for the Rose Bowl.

Yet another candidate on the list is Mike Riley. Would I talk to Mike Riley?? No doubt about it. He’s a good football coach, and he would definitely be an upgrade over Charlie Weis.

However, Mike Riley is from Corvallis, Oregon!! He actually went to high school there. Does anyone really think he is leaving his hometown for the ND job?? Cmon, he’s 56 years old and probably only has another 5-10 years as a head coach left in him. He’s got a good thing going at Oregon State. He turned down the Alabama job 5 years ago. Is he really going to leave all that for the pressure cooker of Notre Dame?? Gotta be realistic here.

Same goes for Mike Bellotti. It seems like he is rumored for every major job that opens, and he has shown no desire to even interview anywhere else. He’s not leaving Oregon. He’s been there as a head coach or as an assistant for almost 20 years. Does anyone really think he’s going to just pack it up now and head to South Bend??

I don’t see it with any of these west coast Pac 10 guys at ND.

Oregon State 27 Oregon 21

Florida (-14) at Florida State (ABC 3:30pm)

Dan: Florida -14

Second easiest pick of the week. Florida is playing on another level. There isn't a team in the southeast that can come within 3 touchdowns of them right now. Forget about it.

Florida 42 Florida State 17

Matt: Florida -14

I know that FSU has been showing improvement, and they have a decent defense, but it’s Florida, not some crappy ACC team on the other side of the field this weekend. Florida has been destroying everyone in their path for two months, and I don’t think the Seminoles put up much of a fight. We can only hope that this is Bobby Bowden’s last home game and this silly “Joe Pa – Bobby” who’s going to coach longer can finally be put to rest.

Florida 51 FSU 14

Mike: Florida -14

There are a number of elements that favor Florida State: the game is in Tallahassee, Florida may be looking ahead to Alabama and the Seminoles should be fired up to beat their Sunshine State rivals. Given these factors, I expect Florida State to keep this game more respectable than the talent gap would suggest. In other words, the Seminoles have a good, but not great, opportunity to hang within 40 points of the Gators.

Florida 49 Florida State 10

Doug: Florida -14

It will probably be fitting that Florida doesn’t cover this week after I’ve picked them to not cover every week before, but I’m tired of picking against them and then watching them win by 40 every week.

My feelings on Urban Meyer are well-documented. I think he is the best coach in all of college football. If he is interested in the ND job, ND should offer to make him the highest paid coach in college football and make whatever concessions to him that he wants. We don’t dictate any terms to Urban Meyer. If he tells us what he wants, we say one word: DONE. If we have a chance to get Urban Meyer, we have to go full throttle to get him. With that said, I think there’s about a 1% chance that it happens, especially if Tebow comes back next year.

Florida 41 FSU 20

Oklahoma (-8.5) at Oklahoma State (ABC 8pm)

Dan: Oklahoma State +8.5

I was tempted to go with the boomin' Sooners for this one, but I think the fighting Gundy's can keep this one close. This rivalry has a history of close games and upsets. I don't think that the Cowboys can pull it off this time, but in Stillwater, no way this game is more than a Touchdown.

Oklahoma 42 Oklahoma State 35

Matt: Oklahoma State +8.5

I love the Bedlam game. Just a great name, and it sounds like it would be a blast to spend a Bedlam weekend in Stillwater or Norman. I know that Oklahoma has been playing great, but I just have a feeling that Mike Gundy is cooking up a gameplan to keep OSU in it. Both offenses are explosive, and I could see this one turning into a shootout, although that’s what I said last week and OU’s defense completely dominated Texas Tech.

I know that OU is playing great, but how can anyone vote them ahead of Texas? Texas beat them on a neutral field! What more needs to be proven. It sets a dangerous precedent in voting when two teams have identical records and voters blatantly ignore head to head results. While I’m at it, here’s my Top 7 for this week:

1. Florida
2. Alabama
3. USC
4. Texas
5. Oklahoma
6. Utah
7. Boise State

51. Wake Forest – the locals are not happy with the job that Jim Grobe has done this year in the Dash. He had a veteran team returning, including two first round picks on defense and veteran QB Riley Skinner, and they have flat out been bad. Grobe made the infamous decision to switch from the spread to the Power I for one game to disastrous results. It will be interesting to see if Wake’s success in past years was just a fluke or if they can circle the wagons and get some recruits in to push them back into the upper echelon of the ACC.

70. Notre Dame

119. Washington – I happened to catch the last bit of the pillow fight in Pullman and couldn’t help but laugh as the Wazzu kicker drilled the winning field goal. That was just classic.

Oklahoma 45 OSU 38

Mike: Oklahoma -8.5

The Pokes have traditionally played the Sooners very tough in the Bedlam game through the years and this could be another trap game for Oklahoma with a big win under their belt and the Big 12 Championship looming on the Horizon. Nonetheless, like Texas Tech, Oklahoma State lacks the athletes to run with Oklahoma, provided that Bob Stoops has his team playing at, or near, its full ability. This game is in Stillwater but, unless T. Boone Pickens field contains a set of hidden land mines or booby traps, the vastly superior Sooners should roll.

Oklahoma 48 Oklahoma State 30

Doug: Oklahoma State +8.5

Go crazy Stillwater!! There isn’t a place I’d rather be this weekend than Stillwater, Oklahoma for this “Bedlam” rivalry between the Sooners and the Cowboys. Eskimo Joes should be rocking all weekend long.

And you know what, I think Oklahoma State pulls the shocker and straight up wins this game. We are due for a major shocker, and I think it happens this weekend in Stillwater.

How crazy would it be that Texas Tech would then be in the Big 12 South title game under that scenario?? Who would go to the BCS title game at that point?? Could Texas go even though they wouldn’t be in their own conference title game?? Would Texas Tech go if they win the Big 12 even though they got destroyed in November at OU?? Would it be USC?? Would there be talk of a Florida-Alabama rematch in the title game if the game was close??

It could get wacky. For that reason alone, I’m rooting for Oklahoma State and BCS chaos. Anything to get people mad at the BCS and on board for a new postseason system is fine with me.

Oklahoma State 31 Oklahoma 30

Notre Dame (+29) at USC (ESPN 8pm)

Dan: USC -29 (even -32 based on the updated line)

Easiest pick of the week. Ugh. I will watch this game. I don't know why, but I will. I view it as some sort of punishment for supporting Weis the entire way up until last week's debacle. But USC has a point to prove. Their offense is not all that great, but it should not have much problem scoring on ND. And I just don't see how we can score without Michael Floyd. So let's be reminiscent:

USC 38 Notre Dame 0

Matt: USC
I’m obviously picking USC here, and I really see no possible way that ND can get the W. I really haven’t felt this lack of optimism going into a game in a long time. But there are a few things that I will be looking for:

Does ND come out fired up? It will be apparent early on if Charlie was able to get the team fired up for this one. While they aren’t going to win, I’d at least like to see that the team hasn’t mailed it in for the final game of the season.

Can we do anything on offense? With Mike Haywood unceremoniously being kicked out of the press box to possibly fill water bottles on the sideline, can Charlie establish any semblance of a gameplan against a monster defense. I have serious doubts. USC will just drop 8 into coverage and easily stop the run with their defensive line. That spells trouble for Jimmy Clausen. I don’t think the Hail Mary to Golden is going to work against USC.

Can the defense slow USC down? The USC defense is dominant, but USC’s offense has been rather pedestrian this year. Will the Irish D be able to keep it respectable, or does USC have their way.

I don’t know what the future of ND football is right now. I think the talent is continuing to improve, but it doesn’t seem to be developing. I really don’t think that the ND administration has the stomach to fire Charlie, but I think it is the right move at this point. With the schedule set up nicely and a solid returning nucleus, a good coach could have ND right back to being relevant again next year.

Of all the things that have been annoying about the Syracuse loss (2nd and 47, the actual fact we lost to Syracuse, students throwing snow balls that hit the players whether intentional or not), the most annoying has been the idiotic posts on NDNation about potential coaching replacements. People actually expect that “Tier 1” coaches are going to drop their successful programs in Tuscaloosa or Gainesville or Norman and head on over to South Bend. IT’S NOT HAPPENING! And yet, Brian Kelly, who Doug and Jeremy have already talked about and recommended, gets dismissed like he’s not worthy of even speaking the words Notre Dame let alone being head coach. Notre Dame would be lucky to have a guy like Brian Kelly on the sideline as the head coach.

And the people who have said that Kelly needs to go somewhere else like Tennessee and prove himself before consideration for ND are absolutely freaking delusional. NEWS FLASH: When someone goes to a program like Tennessee and succeeds, they don’t leave and come to Notre Dame. Most of the stuff I’ve been reading on NDNation has been absolute garbage and I’m embarrassed to be affiliated with some of those people as ND fans.

And if I read one more post about Jon Gruden or Tom Coughlin or Mike Shanahan, I’m going to lose it. Hasn’t it been proven that pro coaches just don’t really work when teaching 18 year old kids? How do you think the folks in College Station are enjoying the Mike Sherman era? It’s laughable at the idea that Tom Coughlin would walk away from a dominant Giants team to come coach Notre Dame. I really find that idea hilarious.

I know that everyone has their own opinions about a potential coaching change, but it would do everyone some good to step back and really think before they talk about it. Sure, we would love Bob Stoops on the sideline, but it ain’t happening. We would love Urban Meyer, but that ship has sailed. ND should be identifying the NEXT Urban Meyer. And I’m pretty confident that that guy is currently the head coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats.

Whether or not Charlie comes back next year, I’ll still support the team. But this week’s game gives us one last glimpse at what this team is capable of. If we see the team that was on the field in the first half of the UNC game or against Michigan, that will at least show that the team hasn’t totally thrown in the towel for Weis.

Mike: USC -29

I can’t even bring myself to discuss this game in any detail. All I can say is that I hope Pete Carroll will keep his foot on the gas pedal when given the opportunity. Of course, Carroll did not hesitate from running up the score against Ty in 2004 (I believe that the Trojans fake a punt with a large lead in the fourth), so there is no reason to expect him to refrain from delivering the potential death blow to Charlie Weis’s career. Besides, sportsmanship has never really been Carroll’s modus operandi.

USC 52 Notre Dame 10

Doug: USC

I'm not going to waste my time breaking down this game because there is nothing to break down. If anyone wants my ten second stream-of-consciousness thoughts, I think USC is going to dominate the field position and special teams battles, I think the Irish will be lucky to even be in positive territory in rushing yards, and I think USC's linebackers will be in Clausen's grill all day long. They'll double Golden Tate, and it will be turnover city. Probably a defensive touchdown for USC, and our defense will get worn down in the second half. I could see a scenario where we come out inspired for Weis to try to save his job and hang around with them for a half. But I don't see this game being very competitive.

I'm more interested in discussing the state of the ND program. The latest thing I am seeing on NDNation is that ND needs a home run hire or the program is DEAD. HUH?? Exaggerate much?? I actually don't think the ND program is in that bad shape. I think we're fine as a program. We have facilities, tons of money, second largest recruiting budget in the country, nationwide fanbase, NBC tv contract, the greatest stadium in the game, and a great school/campus that still is attractive to recruits. In many ways, we've never had so much to offer to players, and it is obvious that we are still attractive to players based on our recruiting classes.

What ND now needs to do is go find a head coach who can motivate young men to live and breathe football. We need a coach who can produce tough, fundamentally sound teams that execute and go into every game looking to blow the other team out. Weis' problem is that he doesn't know how to get that out of his players. Weis loves to talk tough, but he's obviously not a disciplinarian and players have given up on him.

ND fans act like we need to hire Nick Saban or Bob Stoops or we have no hope as a program. It's simply not true. There are plenty of coaches who could win big at ND. Unfortunately, ND fans are so shellshocked by the last three hires (none of whom had any level of success as a head coach anywhere) that they think the only way to glory is to hire Nick Saban away from Alabama. And they couldn't be more wrong. There are probably 20-30 coaches out there who I would look at who could probably be great head coaches at ND. We just need to be creative to go out and find the best guy who happens to also be available. We should be interviewing everyone, watching film, and doing our homework. As we have seen so many times before, schools like Oklahoma and Georgia took risks on "unproven" guys with great upside and those hires turned out great.

While I am fond of Brian Kelly and think he would be an outstanding hire, he is hardly the only guy I would have on my list. I would talk to EVERYONE and then make a decision from there. If it's a young guy from a mid-major conference, do it. If it's a coach from a mid-level BCS program, do it. Heck, it might be an assistant like Will Muschamp who is chomping at the bit to take the reins at a major program. I can get behind that if I know the guy is going to implement a program of success at ND.

I don't care what the offense is that we run. I just care that we can execute it. I've watched Brian Kelly's team play. The reason their spread offense actually works is that they actually practice the plays that they run and have worked hard to master that offense. They don't grab bag the spread offense in the 3rd series of the 2nd quarter when the first two schemes didn't work. You can't grab bag your offense. Weis still doesn't understand that. Heck, I would be fine with hiring Paul Johnson and running the spread option if it was something that we ran really really well. Georgia Tech runs that offense to perfection, and teams don't know how to react to it when they face it.

Believe me, I would love nothing more than to see Bob Stoops tell tomorrow that he wants the ND job and that he is looking to move on. I would love for Urban Meyer to have a sitdown with Lou Holtz on College Gameday on Saturday and reveal that he is interested in the ND job. If we have a real chance to get those guys, let's move heaven and earth to get them. I am all for it, and I have no doubt that the law firm of Stoops, Meyer & Saban would win big at ND and become legends. However, there is almost a 0.0% chance that any of those guys are coming to ND. I don't see it. They are rumored for every job out there, and they have never expressed a serious interest in leaving. If you are at Florida and have entrenched yourself down there with the recruits you have brought in and coaches you have hired, why would you suddenly pack it up to go to ND?? There are so many logistical moves to changing a job that people seem to forget. It's not like Urban can just pack up and head to South Bend. His whole crew of assistants and family would be coming with him. He can win a national title at Florida (he already did and probably will win again this year), so going to ND is not really a step up for him at all.

I'm not going to freak out if Weis sticks around after this year and boycott the team or call him Front Butt or Pear Bryant or any of that stuff, but I do think the offseason will be filled with discontent if we get plowed by USC and lose/decline a lousy bowl game. There are so many people openly talking about Weis being gone or his replacements that I feel like the weight on the administration is going to be too much for them to ignore. The Syracuse game has created a sense of inevitability to Weis getting fired, so I think it will be hard to turn that around. I really will be surprised if Weis is back. Again, I will root for ND to go 12-0 next year if Weis is back and go to as many games as I can, but I think it's probably just better to sever this relationship now.

It is certainly going to be an interesting offseason. I think the alumni and fans are doing Swarbrick no favors by drawing up coaching wish lists like this one and acting like the program is dead if we don't get one of them:

1) Gruden
2) Saban
3) Meyer
4) Stoops
5) Cowher
6) Coughlin

That's a load of nonsense. I don't think we should be dismissing anyone, and there are many coaches out there who I could get behind.

Stay tuned for more stuff on WEISND throughout the offseason if a coaching change is made.

USC 34 ND 10


Last Week:

Dan 6-8
Matt 8-6
Mike 11-4
Doug 5-10


Dan 79-82 (.491)
Matt 103-89-3 (.537)
Mike 102-90-3 (.531)
Doug 95-98-3 (.495)

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