December 02, 2011

Weis Roundtable Week 14 Picks: BCS Last Call Edition

Clemson (+7.5) vs. Virginia Tech 
Dan: Clemson (+7.5)
This game feels like a game between two teams headed in opposite directions at first blush. VA tech has won 7 straight, Clemson dropped 3 of the last 4 badly. However, Va Tech has been miserable against the spread all year, even in that 7 game win stretch. I think Sammy Watkins gets back up to game speed this week and Clemson at least keeps it close.
VT 24 Clemson 20
Jeremy: Virginia Tech (-7.5)
The Fighting Beamers just keep chugging along, getting stronger by the week, while Clemson is limping into the ACC title game, licking their wounds off a thumping at the hands of the Gamecocks.  The Hokies roll on and Clemson makes their reservations for Orlando, and a date with the Irish in the Champs Sports Bowl.
Virginia Tech 31  Clemson 21
Jimmy: Virginia Tech (-7.5)
Lots of factors pointing VT’s way in the ACC (Anti-Climactic Championship) title game.  Back when Clemson surprised everyone by reeling off 3 straight over quality competition (upon further review, said “quality competition” of Auburn and Florida State lost 9 games between them), the Dabonites stymied and embarrassed Beamer Ball on his own turf, 23-3.  Since then, Clemson reverted back to their lovable losing-when-least-expect-except-you-kind-of-do-expect ways that we’ve grown accustomed to.  A snowball of reverse momentum picked up steam with 3 blowout losses in their last four games.  Clemson’s ass backwards collapse into near BCS bliss is more a product of underwhelming seasons by FSU and Wake Forest.  And yes, those are the only other teams in the Atlantic Division with winning records.  Blech.
Meanwhile, Va. Tech has won impressively and won ugly finishing on a 7 win streak.  Operative word being WIN.  They’re familiar with and will embrace the big stage in Charlotte.  Plus, the Hokies have the biggest motivating factor behind them, revenge.
Virginia Tech 33  Clemson 13
Mike: Virginia Tech (-7.5)
These are two teams that are moving in completely opposite directions.  Clemson defeated Virginia Tech 23-3 in Blacksburg earlier this year, but the wheels are coming off the Tiger bandwagon and the Hokies are rounding into championship form.  This has all the makings of another ACC Championship snoozefest in Charlotte.
Virginia Tech 44 Clemson 14
Phil: Virginia Tech (-7.5)
Clemson was trucking on all cylinders but has seemed to fall apart. Watkins and Boyd are beat up and they aren't sneaking up on anyone anymore. OC Chad Morris wants the season to hurry up and end before his stock plummets a la Malzahn. Va Tech again has amazingly shaken off a slow start to quietly be a BCS team and a surprising "only 1 loss team!" 
Va Tech 30 Clemson 14
Michigan State (+10) vs. Wisconsin
Dan: Michigan State (+10)
Rumors are flying that the Big 10 is paying people to attend this game. Shows them right. These artificial conference championship games are starting to really grate on my nerves. If Georgia beats LSU – it belongs in a BCS game? What about UCLA? And the Big East? Well, that’s a lose-lose I guess. Give me a break. Rant over – I don’t get this spread. Wisconsin has struggle against teams that have the ability to line up and go head to head in the trenches with them. And while granted, it was on a last minute Hail Mary, let’s not forget MSU won the first time around. I’ll take the points.
Wisconsin 31 MSU 24
Jeremy: Wisconsin (-10)
MSU is a pretty different team away from Spartan Stadium, though from the sounds of it, this certainly won't be a "home" game for either team given the immense number of tickets available.  Sparty hangs tough for 3 quarters, but a late Cousins INT kills their momentum and the Badgers get the cover and book their tickets for Pasadena.
Wisconsin 34  MSU 21
Jimmy: Michigan State (+10)
Last time they played on the same field, an instant classic resulted.  People, Vegas specifically, have little faith that a repeat will occur this go round.  My question – why not?  Pat Narduzzi (I dare someone to offer a better coordinator name) will have his defense dialed up to slow Montee Ball’s ascent into Barry Sanders territory.  
TANGENT ALERT: I remember catching some of Barry’s few televised games in 1988 as an adolescent / aspiring blogger and assuming that’s what good RBs do.  How na├»ve.  That’s what the best ever do.  Wish I had been a little older to better appreciate the splendor of that season.  
The media desperately needs to slow their roll in comparisons to legendary #21.  Let’s be honest, Montee Ball doesn’t belong in the same sentence as that illustrious Cowboy.  All veiled comparisons should require their own statements, like: Montee Ball has enjoyed an incredible season, benefiting from a high-scoring, efficient offense to score 34 TDs through 12 games.  Barry Sanders holds the single season record with 39 TDs in 11 regular season games.  Bump the total to 44 if you count bowl games.  Just because the NCAA added games to the schedule and now counts 2 postseason games towards the final record book ledger doesn’t mean that someone’s season merits comparable status.  Apples and pork chops.  There’s a whiff of Babe Ruth/Roger Maris asterisked record book association, but this is a far more egregious rule change favoring the present.  
If you want to take it a step further (you’re probably shaking your head no, but I’m on a role, so it’s time to go solo), the man, the myth, the video-version-didn’t-even-do-him-justice Barry Sanders averaged a gaudy 7.6 yards per carry.  That’s one full yard more than Montee’s 6.5 ypc.  Kinda like how the difference between 3.5 ypc is above average and 4.5 is pretty damn good, except with bigger numbers.  Barry broke the 300+ yard mark four times, and topped 200+ three other times.  Montee snuck by the 200+ mark twice.  Barry’s worst yardage game of the season was a 154 yard effort vs. Missouri.  Such a pedestrian day would have ranked as Montee’s 5th highest total this year, a mere dozen yards behind Ball’s 3rd best Saturday output.  
Want some more wind blown out of the sails of the Montee Ball hype machine?  Of his 34 touchdowns, 24 have been within 10 yards or less.  In fact, 22 TDs have been within 5 yards of paydirt.  In the ultimate padding for padding sake, Montee has 12 TDs strolling in from the 1 or 2 yard line.  Grandmothers could follow Wisconsin’s big uglies in from that proximity.  Since the Internet didn’t keep a record of his every play from scrimmage, I cobbled together rough estimates that no fewer than 7 of Barry’s 39 TDs traveled between 45 and 100 yards of the field, the epitome of gamebreaker.  Here’s guessing Barry didn’t have double digit strolls from the one foot line because Barry wouldn’t have been tackled so close without scoring in the first place.  
Not taking away from Ball’s remarkable achievements this season at all.  But he doesn’t meet either of two requirements for transcendent players.  The Berlin Doctrine (by which a player possesses the ability to take your breath away every time he touches the ball); and The Houdini Theory (by which a player regularly makes viewers, announcers, opposing teams, and even teammates wonder how they did something).  If Barry had played a 12th game and included bowl stats in his season total, the record would be in the neighborhood of 50 and this discussion would be moot.  Barry Sanders was God's gift to football.  
Back to the inaugural Big 10 Championship game, held at the venerable college football bastion, Lucas Oil Field.  My gut says 10 is too many points.  Would it surprise me if the Badgers drummed Sparty to a pulp?  Not at all.  But playing a hunch...and trying to claw back ahead of Jeremy and Dan in the pick standings and assuming they’ll ride Wisky here.  This looks like the safest play for the underdogs.  
Wisconsin 32  Michigan State 27
Mike: Michigan State (+10)
Michigan State beat Wisconsin already this year, but the game was in East Lansing and the Spartans required a Hail Mary to stave off a Badger comeback.  Given the change in venue and its slight talent edge, Wisconsin should be able to win this game and secure a place in the Rose Bowl.  Having said that, Michigan State is equipped to slow Wisconsin’s running game to a degree and to run the ball effectively against the Badger defense, thereby keeping this game close.  Russell Wilson will be the difference, however, in an entertaining inaugural Big Ten Championship.
Wisconsin 30 Michigan State 23
Phil: Wisconsin (-10)
A rematch of the heartbreak finish that essentially made whisky lose 2 games. Don't think they will allow MSU to be that close this time. War Damn Russell Wilson and Montee Ball.
Wisconsin 34 MSU 21
Georgia (+12.5) vs. LSU
Dan: LSU (-12.5)
LSU has been getting it done all year. They are 9-3 against the spread (and the three “losses” are close against big spreads) and have been a dominant force. Georgia is just ecstatic to be back in the SEC title game with by winning the mediocre East division. LSU doesn’t even want a chance that a loss might put them in a position to miss out on the Alabama rematch. LSU rolls.
LSU 31 UGA 10
Jeremy: LSU (-12.5)
Another week, another chance for the Bayou Bengals to make a dominating statement.  Anyone want to bet against them doing it?  Not this guy.
LSU 27  Georgia 10
Jimmy: LSU (-12.5)
Good for Georgia to reel off 10 wins against teams they should have beat, duck the 3 best teams in their own conference and make it to this stage.  Now feel the wrath of Les Miles’ wrecking crew.  Come the 3rd quarter, Aaron Murray will be hiding under a bench in the fetal position hoping Mark Richt puts someone else in.
LSU 26  Georgia 7
Mike: LSU (-12.5)
Georgia deserves some credit for a nice season and Mark Richt’s job is clearly secure for at least another year, but the Bulldogs have been the beneficiary of the weakest schedule (by opponent winning percentage) of any SEC division winner since the league was separated into divisions.  Moreover, while LSU might not need to win this game to secure a spot in the BCS title game, the Tigers will not be inclined to leave anything to chance this week in Atlanta.   Look for UGA to keep this game close for a while before LSU pulls away in the fourth quarter to punch its ticket to New Orleans.
LSU 31 Georgia 14
Phil: LSU (-12.5)
Anticlimactic SEC title game, as this is a 1 vs 4 matchup in the SEC and has little bearing on the BCS NC game. UGA has been playing well of late, but has had some players injured and Erin Murray's struggles with a physical DL are well documented. Just glancing at this line makes me think that the game will be closer, but Les Miles has a way of getting his players ready and LSU has been dominant this year. Bring on bama.
LSU 37 UGA 21
Oklahoma (+3.5) @ Oklahoma State
Dan: Oklahoma State (-3.5)
Bedlam! Of course, this is the game of national picture irrelevance. I don’t think OU has it this year. I guess they may have more to play for – revenge for OSU ruining OU’s season in the past, but I don’t see it. OSU, that Friday night debacle aside, have been dominant. Maybe they come out flat, but I trust Gundy to get them fired up.

OSU 41 OU 34
Jeremy: Oklahoma (+3.5)
The Sooners are a little beat up, but they'd love nothing better than a chance to ruin the Pokes chances to play in the title game.  Boomer Sooner pulls away late.
Oklahoma 41  Oklahoma St. 34
Jimmy: Oklahoma State (-3.5)
Bedlam is just fun to say, especially really loud.  Freaks people out on elevators.  I've read the stories about Okie State always coming up short (and Iowa State was certainly this year's annual contribution).  But there's some voodoo black magic keeping this intense rivalry so one-sides in the Sooners' favor.  While 1 game doesn't exactly tip the see-saw back in the Cowboys' direction, it certainly offers hope for years to come.  I believe in Mike Gundy and his ability to harness the scary potential of his offense.  This is as good a year as any for Oklahoma State to puff their chest proudly and feel like they have the upper hand, at least for a year.

Oklahoma State 48  Oklahoma 42
Mike: Oklahoma (+3.5)
I obviously understand why Oklahoma State is favored in this game, but the superior talent still resides on the Sooner sideline.  Although the Pokes have played the spoiler role quite well in the Bedlam series, they have not been able to rise to the occasion when both teams have been highly ranked.  Until proven otherwise, Oklahoma, injuries and all, is still the better program and they will prove their superiority this weekend in Stillwater.
Oklahoma 42 Oklahoma State 38
Phil: Oklahoma (+3.5)
After carrying me all season, Weeden gave me the ultimate "eff u" by losing to Iowa St and allowing bama to play for the title. What a jerk. I hope OU waxes his ass this game.
OU 40 OSU 21
Bonus Picks
Dan: New Mexico @ Boise State -48.5
Hell, one last time, for old time’s sake. It’s just not going to be the same with Davie there. Besides, their old coach is gone and their new coach is too busy doing multiple Thanksgiving weekend games.

Boise 69 New Mexico 10
Jeremy: 
Jimmy: Southern Miss vs. Houston (-14)
Case Keenum goes out in style with a final feel-good big win over mid-major competition.  Soak it up Case.  The fairy tale ends with whoever you’re matched up with in the BCS (unless that happens to be the Big East “Champ”).
Houston 59  Southern Miss 40
Mike: Oregon (-30) vs. UCLA
Do you think Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott is pleased with the matchup in the first ever Pac-12 matchup?  Me either.  Oregon will drub UCLA in Rick Neuheisel’s final game before joining his conference counterparts, Mike Stoops, Dennis Erickson and Paul Wulff, in the unemployment line.
Oregon 62 UCLA 10
Phil: Texas @ Baylor (-2.5)
Seriously?!? This is almost too easy. RG3 and co should mollywhop the hornless horns. I am not fooled by Texas surprising the underachieving Aggies over Thanksgiving. This is about too much Ganaway, RG3 (who is apparently fine) and Wright.
Baylor 34 Texas 20
Last Week
Dan: 5-1 (+ Lock of the Week)
Jeremy: 5-1 (+)
Jimmy: 4-2 (+)
Mike: 2-4 (+) –6-6 in his Bonus Bonanza picks, which I mercilessly equated to an L
Phil: 2-3 (+)
Season to Date
Dan: 47-28 (9-4)  .627 pct.
Jeremy: 48-27-1 (8-5)  .632 pct.
Jimmy: 44-29-3 (10-3)  .618 pct.
Mike: 35-40-1 (8-4-1)  .474 pct.
Phil: 42-31-1 (9-3-1)  .581 pct.

November 25, 2011

Notre Dame vs. Stanford - Saving the Best for Last

Dan: Stanford


Stanford 31 Notre Dame 20

Jeremy: Stanford
First time I'm picking against the Irish this year.  Must mean they're going to find a way to get the W, right?  Stanford was very successful in dropping the 8 or 9 guys into coverage last year, and that same strategy has proved effective this year in games against Pitt, Wake and last week against the Eagles.  Could be another long day of checkdowns and throw-aways.  

For the Irish to stay around in this game, they're going to need a monstrous effort from Cierre Wood and the offensive line.  Stanford hasn't faced too many great running teams this year, particularly early on, and ND should be able to find some holes on the ground.  Both Michael Floyd and Tyler Eifert should attract plenty of attention and will force guys like TJ Jones and Robby Toma to find holes in the zone.  

Andrew Luck doesn't need much discussion, and if he's watched any tape at all on the ND team, he knows that the middle of the field will be wide open for him, particularly if he can get his TEs matched up against any one of Te'o, Fox or Calabrese.  Those drags and crossing routes are going to absolutely murder the Irish defense.  

I expect the play of the ND offensive and defensive lines to keep the Irish in the game, though the likely loss of Stephon Tuitt for another week is going to make it tough to keep the Cardinal running game in check.  Luck makes enough plays in the 4th quarter, and the Irish lose another chance for a marquee win.

Stanford 27 ND 20

Jimmy: Stanford
While Stanford is a very good team, ND probably matches up better with the Cardinal better than any other Top 10 team.  Prior to the BC game, I was sold the Irish would be clicking on all cylinders and ready to blow it up in Palo Alto. After yet another shaky effort from Tommy Rees, compounded by Jonas Gray's injury and Steph Tuitt's lingering health problems, my confidence in a victory is wavering.  The 1-2 combo in the backfield has been a delight.  If Theo "Yo-Yo" Riddick returns to the RB position, that would get a valuable playmaker more touches, but he's certainly not the same bulldozer, between the tackles weapon as Gray.  I'm loving the new found revelation that is Robby Toma in the slot.  Robby's size, speed, and glue hands are ideal to thrive in that position. 

ND has a proud history of producing Heisman Trophy winners within the program, and a not-so-proud history of allowing signature moments for other program's eventual Heisman awards (see Desmond Howard, Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush).  Now Andrew Luck gets one final turn to impress the voters.  A big performance on the national spotlight might be all that's left to stamp his ticket to NCAA immortality.  The Irish secondary may be all to obliging. 

I hope a different scenario plays out and Brian Kelly earns his first true signature win.

Stanford 30  ND 23

Mike: Stanford
 As seen over the past two weeks, Stanford is quite vulnerable.  The Cardinal were pasted at home by Oregon and they struggled to beat Cal in Palo Alto.  Injuries have taken their toll for Stanford as well, so this week is a golden opportunity for Notre Dame to notch its first legitimate “signature” win under Brian Kelly.

Unfortunately for the Irish, Stanford has Andrew Luck at starting quarterback and Notre Dame has Tommy Rees, which is the football equivalent of bringing a butter knife to a missile fight.  Stanford will likely borrow from the blueprint on slowing the Irish offense that was authored by Boston College last week.  In other words, the Cardinal will drop plenty of men into coverage and dare the statuesque Rees to run or force the ball into tight windows with his weak arm.  For whatever reason, Brian Kelly has refused to play dual threat QB Andrew Hendrix, who performed quite well in limited action earlier this season, despite Rees’s obvious limitations.  This stubbornness will again hurt the Irish, as Rees will continue his penchant for turnovers, thereby undermining any chance at a Notre Dame offense.  On defense, Notre Dame will slow down Luck to a degree, but the senior signal caller is too good to be denied all evening.  Another opportunity lost for the Irish, who will close the regular season at a disappointing 8-4.

Stanford 34 Notre Dame 20 

Phil: Notre Dame
Notre Dame @ Stanford
Great debate between James and Mazza on if a W is a W in the college game. Lots of levels of discussion here. My 2 cents:

In this BCS world, it is obviously paramount to win every week (unless the media slobs your knob like bama) and to have a perfect season, you need to win the 1-2 games each year where the ball is not bouncing your way. You need to "win ugly." In that case, a W is a W.

Where I agree with James, is that this Irish team has already laid 3 eggs this year. We have come out flat, turned the ball over and been flat beaten.  For us, at this stage in the game, we need to show signs of improvement, signs that we are headed in the direction of being a championship caliber team. To watch the uninspired, pathetic showing against BC on senior day was awful.  It is a reminder that we are NOT elite yet, and may still have a ways to go...

Stanford is a good team, but they do not superior athleticism. Nor do they have Harbaugh this year, who can somehow motivate his players to just pummel the life out of their opponent. I am scared to think what someone like Luck can do to our secondary after watching Denard light us up, but my love for the Irish leads me to beleive we can win this game on the road, springboarding our campaign for BCS champs 2012!

Notre Dame 31 Stanford 30

November 23, 2011

Mike's 2nd Helping Picks, Rivalry Edition


My love for rivalries has been well documented on this blog, so it should be rather obvious that this is my favorite weekend of college football.  On top of the rivalry angle, the pieces to the BCS puzzle will be taking shape this weekend, which just adds another layer of entertainment to an already riveting menu of games.  Toss in copious amounts of food, beer and wine and you’ve got the recipe for an incredible stretch of days.  In honor of rivalries, I will wax prognostic about a bunch of games this week (HOME team in caps).

Lone Star Showdown:  TEXAS A&M (-8.5) over Texas
Emotions will be sky high in College Station this week.  Texas A&M is licking its chops at the opportunity to claim victory against an undermanned Texas team in the final, and perhaps the most vitriolic, edition of the Lone Star Showdown.

Texas A&M 34 Texas 14

Backyard Brawl:  WEST VIRGINIA (-7.5) over Pittsburgh
Another fine rivalry that might be ending.  Ain’t conference realignment grand?

West Virginia 30 Pittsburgh 20

Clean, Old Fashioned Hate:  GEORGIA TECH (+5.5) over Georgia
Georgia has taken care of business against an incredibly weak slate of opponents, but they will be facing a sharp step up in class this week.  With the SEC Championship on the horizon and the difficulties in preparing for Georgia Tech’s offense, this is a bad matchup for the Dawgs.

Georgia Tech 35 Georgia 28

The “Can’t They Both Lose?™” Bowl Ohio State (+7.5) over MICHIGAN
Can Michigan finally beat Ohio State after 7 straight losses?  Until I see it, I refuse to believe it.

Ohio State 24 Michigan 21

Old Oaken Bucket:  Purdue (-7.5) over INDIANA
Anyone viewing this game will likely need a replica version of the Old Oaken Bucket as a vomit receptacle.

Purdue 28 Indiana 14

Border War:  KANSAS (+24) over Missouri
Too many points for this rivalry (all time series record:  55-55-9, which is awesome), even though Kansas is beyond putrid.  Will this be Turner Gill’s final game?  Will Gary Pinkel be able to circumvent his ignition interlock after the post game party?  Questions abound on the Plains.

Missouri 42 Kansas 20

Civil War:  Oregon State (+28) over OREGON
This is Oregon State’s Super Bowl, while Oregon is still smarting from last week’s blown opportunity against USC.  That, folks, is a recipe for an underdog play.

Oregon 38 Oregon State 21

Apple Cup:  Washington State (+6.5) over WASHINGTON
Will an upset save Paul Wulff’s job?  Stay tuned, as Wazzu will reclaim the Apple Cup at the venerable CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

Washington State 35 Washington 34

Egg Bowl:  MISSISSIPPI STATE (-18) over Mississippi
The Rebels have mailed it in since Houston Nutt’s firing, but will a trip to their Magnolia State rivals serve as inspiration?  I’m guessing that it won’t.

Mississippi State 36 Mississippi 14

Sunshine Showdown:  Florida State (-2.5) over FLORIDA
Forget about the Noles’ loss last week against Virginia.  Florida State’s defense will overwhelm Florida’s offense at the Swamp.

Florida State 20 Florida 10

Crosstown Showdown:  UCLA (+14.5) over USC
In a testament to how awful the Pac-12 South has been, UCLA leads the division and can secure a berth in the conference title game with a win against the Trojans.  USC, of course, would be the division winner if not for its probation and they should be able to handle their rivals at home this week.  The edge in motivation should reside with the Bruins, however, which will be enough for the cover.

USC 35 UCLA 24

Victory Bell:  Duke (+13.5) over NORTH CAROLINA
Surprisingly, a recent study in the Wall Street Journal revealed that this game is actually the second most heated rivalry in college football in terms of total average penalties per game (behind Auburn-Georgia; http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204479504576639093283303646.html).  Apparently, the mutual disdain is not only reserved for the hardwood.

North Carolina 28 Duke 21

WeIs Roundtable Week 13 Picks: Giving Thanks for Football Edition


To get in the holiday spirit, I tried to find the stellar SNLskit of Ferrell and Kattan as Air Supply: "It's Thanksgiving time, it's so good to see you.  You're in that red dress.  That looks pretty awesome."  Or something like that.  Kudos to NBC for burying the clip in its treasure trove of copyright material not to be shared or viewed again, save for a glimmer of hope it pops up on a holiday special.  Anywho, we've got plenty of football to digest this weekend.

The BCS picture at this point is a Rorshach test - screwy interpretations with no distinguishable answers, except for a big menacing Bengal tiger in the middle.  The outbreak of upset-itis last weekend gives some schools hope where hope had previously left the bar.  Even ND isn't mathematically eliminated from an "adults table" bowl game.  With a little more help from their friends, Mt. Upset can be scaled to #14 in the BCS rankings.  Without further ado, let's tackle some picks...

Virginia Tech (-5.5) @ Virginia

Dan: Virginia Tech (-5.5)
Traveling abroad last week has left Dan an utter mess, so just picks from the man.

Virginia Tech 24 Virginia 17

Jeremy: Virginia Tech (-5.5)
Great to see the Hoos looking frisky again.  Can't understand how UVA's football and basketball programs have languished for so long.  BUT, the Hokies have the BCS in their sights and Frank Beamer isn't going to have his squad suffer any let-down here.  Va Tech rolls on although there are some frightening moments.

Va Tech 28  Virginia 20

Jimmy: Virginia (+5.5)
Good for Virginia and Coach Mike London for returning to relevance in Charlottesville.  Not sure which is the bigger incentive: winning the ACC Coastal Division or grabbing the belt as undisputed king of the Commonwealth of Virginia.  While I like Va. Tech to hold on, think this will come down to the wire.

Trash-talking sidenote: Muchos gracias to the players making up my college fantasy roster that's squaring off against Phil in the championship this week.  Represented on my optimistic turned ironic team name The 2nd Coming of Crist are players from each of this week's highlighted matchups: Logan Thomas, Sammy Watkins, Trent Richardson and Tyler Wilson.  Speaking of the electric Sammy Watkins (sounds like a legendary session bassist for a 70s funk group), gotta give thanks to league Public Enemy #1 Bama Pete for trading Watkins straight up for a soon-to-shred his ACL Dominique Whaley.  A one-sided deal made in fantasy heaven. 

Virginia Tech 27  Virginia 24

Mike: Virginia (+5.5)
It is hard not to be impressed with the job that Mike London has done in Charlottesville.  In less than two years, London has transformed the Hoos from also-ran status to knocking on the door of the ACC title game.  As with most of its conference opponents, Virginia Tech has dominated this rivalry in recent years, but the Hokies are limping into this matchup with a bevy of injury concerns.  Virginia will play inspired football with a chance to unseat its in-state rival atop the ACC Coastal Division and reclaim the Commonwealth Cup for the first time since 2003.  As usual, however, Virginia Tech will find a way to win and punch its ticket to Charlotte.

Virginia Tech 26 Virginia 23

Phil: Virginia Tech (-5.5)
Great pick by me last week to pick UVA to at least cover against FSU. This is a very intriguing matchup, in that upstart UVA is at home and playing solid football. The Fighting Beamers always seem to lose a game early in the year only to find themselves in a BCS bowl after quiet reeling off 10 straight wins. Same thing this year. I think that Logan Thomas and David Wilson will provide enough fireworks to stave off the fiesty, homestanding Cavaliers. Hope I am right.

Va Tech 28 UVA 21

Clemson (+4) @ South Carolina

Dan: South Carolina (-4)

South Carolina 27 Clemson 13

Jeremy: Clemson (+4)
Really hate this pick, but I can't see the Gamecocks pulling away in this game.  Provided Sammy Watkins is somewhere near 100%, the Tigers should keep this one close.

South Carolina 23  Clemson 20

Jimmy: South Carolina (-4)
Not gonna try to understand or guess which Clemson team shows up for teh annual intra-conference Palmetto State classic.  Last week epitomized laying an egg.  Spurrier has one heckuva D-Line that's sure to give Tahj Boyd fits.  Going with the more consistent Gamecocks, who have trademarked "ugly win" this season.

USC 22 Clemson 17

Mike: Clemson (+4)
The wheels have come off the Clemson bandwagon rather quickly, as the Tigers were pounded into submission against a mediocre NC State team last week.  Clemson adds Sammy Watkins back to the lineup, however, which should benefit Tajh Boyd and the rest of their offense immensely.  South Carolina, on the other hand, has struggled enormously on offense, particularly since Marcus Lattimore’s injury, and they will likely struggle to move the ball again this week.   Look for a major bounce back for Clemson this week in the always contentious Battle of the Palmetto State.

Clemson 37 South Carolina 24

Phil: Clemson (+4)
Not sure if I understand this line. Dabo got his bammer butt kicked last week, but South Carolina is not a great team and the home field advantage is marginal at best in this rivalry game. No Lattimore for the Cocks and hoping to see a whole lotta Andre Ellington to lead both Clemson and my fantasy team to victory!

Clemson 31 USC 21

Alabama (-21) @ Auburn

Dan: Alabama (-21)

Alabama 38 Auburn 10

Jeremy: Alabama (-21)
Sorry Phil.  Saban's on a mission to get a little more respect after the computers revealed that the Tide will be going to the title game without having to win their own conference (not to mention their own division).  Statement time for Bama.

Alabama 38  Auburn 10

Jimmy: Alabama (-21)  Lock of the Week
Bama gave up 21 points to Georgia Southern!  Nick Saban’s impenetrable defense now very penetrable (on second thought, a word I probably shouldn’t be using these days in college football circles).  Rein it in media jumping at any kind of angle on a boring sub-par FCS opponent in November (why the SEC allows these matchups to be scheduled now is beyond me).  The Tide are still the 2nd best team in America and were caught looking ahead to this redemptive Iron Bowl.  Sorry Philip, but Auburn is about to pay the reaper for last year's epic victory.  Hide your kids, hide your wife.  This will get ugly.

Bama 48  Auburn 10

Mike: Alabama (-21)  Lock of the Week
Forget the drama this year.  Alabama has the BCS title game in its crosshairs and you can bet that Nick Saban will have his team primed for revenge after last year’s meltdown in Tuscaloosa.  Much like having the pitcher strike out purposefully to avoid hitting into a double play in RBI Baseball for Nintendo, Auburn’s offense would be well served to punt on second or third down to avoid turning the bowl over.  My prediction? Pain.

Alabama 28 Auburn 3

Phil: Abstaining
A greatly different feel to this years' Iron Bowl than the past 2 years. Auburn no longer has the upstart, "trick up your sleeve" surprise factor as they did in 2009 and  they no longer have the greatest college football player ever like they did in 2010.

Auburn is truly a poor team this year. The OL is awful. The DL, although improved, is no match for the Bama D Line. Moseley has tried his best at QB, but I suspect the Bama front 7 might kill his fragile self. All we have to go on this year is passion, hatred for our rival and home field advantage (which I pray stays our home field as some alums shamefully will sell their tix).
Alabama is a great team. Richardson is the great (2nd best back in the state!), and the defense is 2nd to none. They are weak at QB and weak at WR. They struggle to score points at times against a good defense, which sadly, Auburn does NOT have. Plus, they realize what is at stake and the revenge factor will be high after last years gut wrenching stomach punch loss.

Although I started the year off slow in my picks, I have made a resurgence and am no longer lagging way behind. Had I not picked for Auburn and against Alabama every time, I would probably be winning the pick race. No prediction from me for this game as I am holding a glimmer of hope that the mighty War Eagles can muster one game's worth of moxie, energy and fight to beat the #2 outta the tide. WAR DAMN EAGLE!!!

Arkansas (+13) @ LSU

Dan: LSU (-13)

LSU 31 Arkansas 10

Jeremy: LSU (-13)
Speaking of statement games, this one's a big one for both teams.  Arkansas is trying to prove that they belong in the national title discussion, while LSU realizes that their big win over Bama is almost meaningless.  Mathieu is due for another defensive TD, and Tyler Wilson will be more than accommodating, as he'll be forced to chuck it about 50 times on Friday.  Looking forward to this one, even if the Bayou Bengals pull away comfortably in the 2nd half.

LSU 31  Arkansas 13

Jimmy: LSU (-13)
Have to imagine this is the first time in BCS history where a #1 vs. #3 BCS ranks matchup mirrors a conference's division standings.  While I'm grateful for Tyler Wilson's steady contributions to my fantasy squad, he gets the bench this week.  LSU's suffocating secondary will likely cause his performance to register somewhere between woefully inept and a Brad Johnson-esque game manager mediocre.  As talented as Jarius Wright & Co. are, I just don't see Wilson picking the Tigers apart. With the Death Valley denizens hungry for a compelling finish to this unblemished season, the Mad Hatter will orchestrate at least a two score margin.

LSU 36  Arkansas 17

Mike: Arkansas (+13)
Once again, the SEC delivers with high drama on the day after Thanksgiving.  The Battle for the Golden Boot has produced plenty of incredible games in the past 10 years irrespective of each team’s record and, with BCS title game implications on the line for both teams, there’s every reason to believe that this year’s edition will be hotly contested.  As with the Alabama-Arkansas game earlier this year, I believe that LSU’s dominant defense will ultimately be too much for the Hogs to handle.  Nonetheless, Bobby Petrino should be able to coax enough production out of his team to keep this game close to the very end.

As an aside, Jack Swarbrick would do extremely well to keep Petrino on his short list of replacement coaches in the likely event that Brian Kelly fails at Notre Dame.  Petrino inherited a roster at Arkansas that was bereft of talent and he has turned them into a legitimate SEC contender despite lacking the same rich in-state talent base that his rivals at Florida, Georgia, Alabama and LSU have.  In addition, while character is always a major issue at Notre Dame, Petrino has never run afoul of the NCAA authorities at any of his prior stops.  Although there will be those who continue to express outrage over Petrino’s exit from Atlanta, it was clear that the NFL was not working out, so he made the best move for himself and his family.  Admittedly, his departure was abrupt and clumsy, but, while that may offend the sensibilities of the NFL-obsessed talking heads in Bristol, CT, it doesn’t bother me at all.

LSU 24 Arkansas 17

Phil: Arkansas (+13)
Lotta points being given here for a game that means so much against 2 teams who have played each other tough the last few years. Arky is a much better team than they were in September after losing to Bama. The BCS implications of an LSU loss are potentially catastrophic. One good thing for the Tigers is that Arky's strength is their passing game and LSU can cover and rush the QB. I like LSU in a closely fought game.

LSU 27 Arky 24

Bonus Picks

Dan: Boston College @ Miami (-14)

Miami 31 Boston College 13

Jeremy: Akron @ Western Michigan (-28)
Wouldn't even think of hopping off my horse here.  Take a look at that Akron schedule and tell me there's a worse team in the NCAA.  Bet you can't do it. 

Western Michigan 48  Akron 3

Jimmy: Georgia @ Georgia Tech (+5.5)
Sign me up for the home under dog getting decent points in a rivalry game with the favored Bulldogs having already wrapped up their conference priorities. As long as the Yellow Jackets don't get behind by more than 2 scores, this should be a doozy.

Georgia Tech 31  Georgia 30

Mike: See follow up post with Mike’s bounty of Thanksgiving picks. 

Phil: Penn St @ Wisconsin (-12)
Not much to say here, except that I wish Russell Wilson had went to Auburn and I hope Wisconsin beats the hell outta Penn St.

Wisconsin 70 Penn St 3

Last Week
Dan: 3-3 (-)
Jeremy: 5-1 (-)
Jimmy: 4-2 (+)
Mike: 5-1 (+)
Phil: 5-1 (+)

Season to Date
Dan: 42-27 (8-4)
Jeremy: 43-26-1 (7-5)
Jimmy: 40-27-3 (9-3)
Mike: 33-36-1 (7-4-1)
Phil: 40-28-1 (8-3-1)