It’s a special week. Family and friends gather. Food aplenty to gorge oneself, with just as much quality football games (and tournament basketball!) spread over the course of 4 days. A slew of big rivalries wage battle. And feast we all will. Enjoy the rest of the week and thanks for stopping by and sharing in the love of sport. On to the picks...
Dan: Oklahoma (+2.5)
The Sooner offense has been sharp lately, but I still can’t shake the feeling that something is not quite right with OU this year. The Cowboys offense has been unstoppable, and you know they’re going to get theirs. However, the winner of this games goes to the Big 12 title game for a shot at a BCS bowl. Am I going to bet against Bobby Stoops with that on the line? I think not.
Oklahoma 49 Oklahoma State 48
Jimmy: Oklahoma State (-2.5)
Jimmy: Oklahoma State (-2.5)
Bedlam is going to be bonkers. Never have the Cowboys had so much vested in the outcome of this in-state showdown. Conversely, never has there been so much pressure to beat the Sooners. Heck, a Biletnikoff Award hangs in the balance. Stoops' squad has been perplexingly underwhelming this year, despite his wealth of offensive weapons. I'm hitching my conestoga wagon on this memorable Mike Gundy ride, despite OU's dominance in this series. Since 1966, Oklahoma State has emerged victorious only 6 times, the last being in 2002. The Sooners have outscored the Cowboys 137-58 in the last three years.
Can't we as a sports nation hope and pray that somehow, some day we are gifted with another comedic gold press conference from Gundy. Would an improbable win and trip to the Big XII title game, with a potential BCS trip increase those odds exponentially? Quite possibly, yes. It could just as easily happen with a crash and burn collapse. But I'm an optimist. On Weeden! On Blackmon! On Hunter and Cooper! (Oops, wrong holiday). Go Pokes.
Oklahoma State 46 Oklahoma 41
Matt: Oklahoma State (-2.5)
My sources tell me that this is a big game in the Big 12. College Gameday will be in Stillwater and a trip to the Big 12 Championship is on the line in this winner-take-all South matchup, but I have to admit that the Big 12 has been a little out of sight / out of mind for me this year. I’ve seen a few Nebraska games, but Texas has been awful, Oklahoma has been quietly winning, and up and coming programs like Okie State and Baylor aren’t reputable enough to make it onto TV.
Oklahoma State is incredibly 108th in the country in passing defense, so expect this one to be a shootout. When push comes to shove, I’ll take Weeden, Hunter and Blackmon over Jones, Murray and Broyles. Mike Gundy truly does become a man by winning the South, T.Boone Pickens offers Gundy a lifetime contract, and the beer flows like wine at Eskimo Joes.
Oklahoma State 38 Oklahoma 34
Oklahoma State 38 Oklahoma 34
Prior to last week’s win at Baylor, the Sooners had been dominant at home and shaky on the road. It appears, however, that Bob Stoops’ team is rounding into championship form at the right time of year. While Oklahoma State has played exceptionally well this season, the Cowboys are far more dangerous in an underdog role, particularly in the Bedlam game. Look for the more talented Sooners to emerge victorious in Stillwater.
Oklahoma 45 Oklahoma State 31
LSU (+4.5) at Arkansas (Little Rock)
Dan: LSU (+4.5)
I am going with the Tigers for two reasons: 1) I have been getting them wrong all year and 2) I hope they lose this game because of it. When I look at this game I see a team in LSU that just has not looked impressive (even when winning big games) all year and a team in Arkansas that has looked solid (even when losing big games). But it’s the SEC and it will likely be close. I’ll take the points.
Arkansas 31 LSU 27
Jimmy: LSU (+4.5)
Jimmy: LSU (+4.5)
Quite a surprising line. Arkansas has put together a fine season and is clicking on offense with Knile Davis the perfect complement to Ryan Mallett. But is Vegas reading into the Ole Miss game a little too much? LSU has played down to their competition all season. Les Miles couldn't sleep at night if he won games comfortably. The Tigers can absolutely win this game, so I'm taking the points and expecting another wacky finish.
LSU 23 Arkansas 20
Matt: LSU (+4.5)
I don’t know how he does it, but the Mad Hatter just wins games. They had no business even letting Ole Miss be competitive, but was anyone surprised that the game went down to the wire? Everything is telling me to pick Arkansas, especially in Little Rock, but how can you go against the Hat this year? I won’t.
LSU 23 Arkansas 21
Mike: Arkansas (-4.5) Lock of the Week
Gutty win in Starkville for the Hogs, who have put together a tremendous regular season under coach Bobby Petrino. LSU has the athletes to slow down Arkansas’ offense to some degree, but the Razorbacks will still score their share of points. In addition, the Tigers are not good enough offensively to move the ball consistently against an underrated Arkansas defense.
Arkansas 27 LSU 14
Florida (+2.5) at Florida State
Dan: Florida State (-2.5)
Urban may have dominated the Seminoles in recent memory, but I think this is the year FSU gets some revenge. The game is in Tallahassee and the Gators just aren’t very good this year. Even with those factors, this is very difficult for me to do – I hate picking the ACC over the SEC, but I’ll make an exception here for FSU.
FSU 31 Florida 20
Jimmy: Florida (+2.5)
Jimmy: Florida (+2.5)
I'm sure Urban will have some kind, encouraging words for Jimbo Fisher in his first Sunshine State rivalry contest. Can't remember this matchup having less buzz in my lifetime. The Seminoles have been getting by in a weak ACC. Ten years ago, Bowden would've dad-gummed his ACC foes by 30. Now, they squeak by. Don't get me wrong, wins are wins and it's better than the alternative for a first year coach in the shadow of a legend. But there's still work to do to restore the program. A lopsided Gators victory wouldn't surprise me.
Florida 25 FSU 23
This is more me not believing in the Gators than truly believing in the Noles. I think they realize that this is a chance to assert themselves back into the talk for best program in the state, and with the game in Tallahassee there really are no excuses for not beating this down UF team. If not now, when?
Christian Ponder has a big day against the Gators secondary as his career winds down. Urban continues his QB roulette, and even having the explosive Chris Rainey back the past few weeks has not sparked the Gators offense. Good to see that Jimbo Fisher has injected some life back into the FSU program. It would be kind of fun if NC State lost this weekend (don’t bank on it), and there was a Virginia Tech-Florida State ACC Championship game. That one might be worth tuning in and might actually fill the stadium.
Florida State 27 Florida 24
Mike: Florida (+2.5)
Neither team has been especially inspiring, but there is still a talent gap in favor of the visiting Gators. Florida State hasn’t belonged on the same field as Florida for several years, so, until proven otherwise, I am forced to side with Florida.
Florida 31 Florida State 21
Boise State (-14.5) at Nevada
Dan: Nevada (+14.5)
Boise State is fantastic, but this is just too many points. I think Nevada’s offense, led by 7th year senior Colin Kaepernick, is strong enough to score points and hang with Boise.
Boise 48 Nevada 35
Jimmy: Boise State (-14.5) Lock of the Week
Jimmy: Boise State (-14.5) Lock of the Week
The last glaring obstacle on the fairy tale season unfolding in the Potato State. Chris Peterson has had blinders on his stallion of a team as they stomp through their schedule. There is simply no reason to think the Broncos won't treat Nevada like the rest of the mangled heap of competition they've disposed of. It's a shame Kellen Moore won't be seriously considered for the Heisman, but as long as his team gets a fair shake at a championship (should Auburn or Oregon falter), pretty sure he could care less.
Boise State 52 Nevada 24
I know that Nevada has played Boise close the last few years. But when Boise takes the field on Friday night, there is the strong possibility that they may know they are playing for a spot in the national championship game. We all saw Nevada last year with our own eyes – they’re not a great program. Good WAC team, but not really relevant in the national picture, save for that unexpected beatdown they put on Cal a few months ago. Boise will be fired up, and I think they win big (again.) Style points count…
Boise State 58 Nevada 34
Mike: Nevada (+14)
Although Boise has run roughshod through the WAC this year as usual, I suspect that they are in for a strong test against Nevada. The Wolf Pack has been circling this game all season and the crowd should be quite boisterous in the “Biggest Little City in the World” on Friday. Boise will escape from Colin Kaepernick and company, but barely.
Boise State 34 Nevada 33
Dan: Auburn (+4) Lock of the Week
I had a really hard time with lock of the week this week. Is Alabama a touchdown better on a neutral field? I would have thought so 2 months ago. But now, I am not so sure. I think the Bama defense is good enough to slow Auburn down, but not good enough for the cover.
Alabama 31 Auburn 28
The stakes couldn't be higher for this Iron Bowl. The national guard should be on standby in case an impromptu Civil War re-enactment breaks out in Tuscaloosa. Cameron Montgomery Newton is the difference in this game. I've made the mistake more than once picking against Auburn despite a growing allegiance to Bo Jackson's alma mater (does Bo know what his degree is in?). Mistakes no more. War Eagle.
As a courtesy to our readers and anyone who loves the passion college football inspires, our good friend Madonia was asked to describe his fragile state on the cusp of the Iron Bowl. Much thanks for the first 500 words off the top of his head.
"So here we are, a mere 38 hours from the biggest Iron Bowl in 2 decades for Auburn, possibly the biggest of all time in regards to championship implications, and honestly, I have no idea what to think. Prior to the rest of our games, a nervous feeling prevailed – would we be able to get defensive stops, can we avoid turnovers, can we keep it close enough for Cam to take over at the end, etc….???
With each passing week, Newton, Dyer, Adams, and our big O-Line seem to get more comfortable and more dominant. Against both UGA and Ole Miss, it could be argued that our non-scoring drives were due to our own miscues….Our offense is to the point where they are confident they can score every possession. Defense, on the other hand, seems to use the first few possessions to feel out what the other team is doing, and then adjust enough to make 1 or 2 stops, knowing our offense can outscore almost anyone. We live with a few scores by the opponent, knowing our D does not need to pitch a perfect game.
I look for us to sell out to stop their run game, putting them in passing situations, and allowing Fairley to tee off on McElroy. I look for the offense to rely on power running, same as all year, with a few Malzahn special plays sprinkled in. I am always worried he outthinks himself sometimes, so I hope he doesn’t go to these trick plays when we are averaging 8 yards a carry and running it down their throats. Our punt return team needs to AVOID FUMBLES, and we need excellent kickoff coverage. Julio Jones will get his stats like every other good receiver we have seen, but even the greatest WR fantasy day – 12 catches, 241 yards, 3 TDs per say, might not be enough to compete with Newton.
My prediction - The most important point to be made is that we are playing in Tuscaloosa. The new Bryant Denny whorehouse seats north of 101K people, or more than the COMBINED capacity of our other 3 road games (Miss St, Ole Miss, UK). An exaggeration, but you get the point…The next most important point is that Bama is the best team we have played this year, by far. Combine those 2 points, and I think the allowance of a few scores by the other team while the defense gets settled is a recipe for disaster. Getting down 2 scores a la South Carolina, UGA, and Clemson while we are on the road against a good team will be crippling. I am not saying we have to pitch a shutout, but our offense needs to start fast, accelerate midgame, and finish with a bang. No opportunity to allow them to breathe. If Malzahn and Chizik keep the pedal to the metal, and waste no drives, then we will be in good shape. If not, our dream season is over. So my prediction – NO JINX here by predicting a score, but I have faith abound in the best college football player EVER. (If Vince Dooley and Pat Dye say it, so can I….)
WAR CAM EAGLE!!!"
Matt: Auburn (+4) Lock of the Week
Game of the Year! Wow, I’m excited for this one, and I don’t even live within 1,000 miles of the Alabama border. The upstarts who weren’t supposed to be in this position vs. the Goliath of the coaching world and the team that everyone predicted in the preseason would be cruising to the championship game.
The past few weeks have shown that Auburn has successfully blocked out any drama swirling around the program because of Cam Newton. And they have answered every test that has been put in front of them this year.
So why am I picking Alabama to win? One, the game is in Tuscaloosa, so the crowd is going to be out of their mind insane. Can’t even begin to imagine what the scene will be like down there. Two, it is incredibly difficult to win a championship without an at least average defense. Most championship teams field Top 20 defenses. It puts an inordinate amount of pressure on the offense (Cam Newton) to have to keep scoring, knowing that the other team may well be headed right back down the field for six. Saban has had two weeks to gameplan for the Auburn offense, and you can be sure that he will do everything in his power not to let Cam beat them by himself. If that means that Michael Dyer and Onterrio McCalebb have big games, I think Saban will live with that.
I believe that this game will live up to the hype. I can already envision Verne Lundquist shattering his personal single game record for “Oh My’s!”, maybe even by the end of the third quarter. Gary Danielson probably hasn’t slept all week, just poring over game tape from both teams. I’ve been proudly supporting the Auburn team all year, and I hope that I am wrong with this prediction. Nothing will make me happier than seeing Auburn walk out of Bryant-Denny with an undefeated regular season, one win away from a ticket to Glendale.
Alabama 31 Auburn 30
Auburn has found a way to win every week, but they are not talented enough to win in Tuscaloosa. Nick Saban will find a way to slow Cameron Newton and the Alabama offense will encounter little resistance from the weak Auburn defense. The door to the championship game will open for Boise and TCU (ugh) as the Tigers’ dream season will come crashing down at the hands of their archrivals.
Alabama 34 Auburn 27
Dan: Mississippi State at Ole Miss (+2.5)
I could go with the old standbys here – Wake, New Mexico, or New Mexico State (all of which I will likely bet against this weekend), but I wanted to go a slightly different directly. While, Mississippi State struggles a bit more away from home, (1-2 in the SEC), Ole Miss has dropped 5 of the last 6, with their lone win coming against Louisiana Lafayette. Yet, the line is only 2.5 points. It’s like the boys in Vegas know something. I’m going to go with the Ole Miss home dogs to cover and win.
Ole Miss 20 Mississippi State 17
Jeremy: Michigan at
Jimmy: Wake Forest at Vanderbilt (-5.5)
Jimmy: Wake Forest at Vanderbilt (-5.5)
Man, a smorgasbord of appealing lines, like the leftover pickings for the next week. While I would feel comfortable picking the home teams in Knoxville and Happy Valley (is a 7-4 Penn State team really a dog at home vs. Michigan State?), I'll opt for the charitable pick that's been an old reliable all season for this band of merry prognosticators. Wake Forest - where everyone gets a taste of the action. Let's see how hard it is to talk myself into Wake's opponent this week...
Home team -- CHECK
SEC team -- CHECK
Wake's lack of a pulse in the last month -- CHECK
That's sufficient. Who cares that it's Vandy that I'm siding with. Wake hasn't scored more than 14 points in the last four games, all battles in a lackluster ACC. When your season peaks with a 54-48 win over Duke the 2nd week of the season, that is one looooong ass season in The Dash.
Vandy 24 Wake 13
Matt: South Carolina at Clemson (+3)
If I wanted to give an easy one, I would just go with TCU (-43.5 vs. New Mexico), Oregon (-19.5 vs. Arizona) or Ohio State (-17 vs. Michigan). I don’t think Vegas could set those lines high enough. But for my last bonus pick of the year, I wanted to sniff out an upset, so I’ll go down to the rivalry game in the Palmetto State. South Carolina has already shown their true colors in late season meaningless games with their no-show two weeks ago at home against Arkansas. Clemson meanwhile is potentially fighting for Dabo Swinney’s job, and they are coming off a rout of Wake Forest (Wake is a six point dog at Vandy – tough one to call.) South Carolina will no doubt be looking ahead to their first SEC Championship game next week in Atlanta, and I think Clemson pulls off the home upset.
Clemson 27 South Carolina 20
Matt Extra Bonus Pick: Kentucky at Tennessee (-3)
In case you haven’t noticed, UT is a totally different team under freshman QB Tyler Bray, reeling off three straight blowout wins (albeit against shaky competition.) This game is in Knoxville and is for bowl eligibility. Vols roll. Something is brewing down there on Rocky Top under Derek Dooley.
Tennessee 30 UK 20
Mike’s Bonus (Rivalry) Picks
West Virginia at Pittsburgh (-2.5)
Either one of these teams is prone to a clunker, but I expect a strong performance from both squads in this rivalry game. As such, I’ll side with the better team at home.
Pittsburgh 23 West Virginia 19
Virginia (+23.3) at Virginia Tech
I think the Hokies are due for a bit of a letdown after nine straight wins. The Commonwealth Cup will remain in Blacksburg, but the Hokies will have to work a bit for this one.
Virginia Tech 31 Virginia 17
South Carolina at Clemson (+3)
Letdown alert! The hate runs deep for these two fan bases, though I’m not convinced that the Gamecocks will be focused in this game with Auburn on the horizon. Clemson will treat this game as their bowl game and Death Valley will be rocking.
Clemson 28 South Carolina 24
Georgia Tech (+13.5) at Georgia
I’ve been robbed blind by the Wreck all year. Why stop now?
Georgia 27 Georgia Tech 20
Michigan at Ohio State (-17)
Farewell, RichRod. Wish you could stay longer.
Ohio State 52 Michigan 17
Indiana (+3) at Purdue
The Old Oaken Bucket will return to Bloomington after a road win over the punchless Boilers. Will it be enough to save Bill Lynch’s job?
Indiana 31 Purdue 21
Dan: 4-2-1 (+)
Jeremy: 5-1-1 (+)
Jimmy: 4-2-1 (+)
Mike: 3-3-1 (+)
Dan: 44-37-2 (5-6-1)
Jeremy: 50-31-2 (9-3)
Jimmy: 46-34-3 (8-4)
Matt: 42-38-3 (5-5-1)
Mike: 49-32-2 (9-2-1)