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 naïve. 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
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
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
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.