Week 14 Picks

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Last week was another good week.  We went 7-3 straight up.  Our record this year has been way ahead of what we did last year when we were barely above .500.  We also had a good week against the spread going 5-4.

It is a sad, sad day in the college football universe.  For the first time since August we will have a Saturday that isn’t full of 70ish football games.  No more Game Day starting early in the morning with games finishing into Sunday morning with #PAC12AfterDark.  But on the bright side, the games this weekend have a lot of high stakes.  Then during the holiday break all the bowl games start to kick off where there is a game just about every day of the week.  So there is still some time left to relish with the 2015 season that went by too quickly.  This New Year’s Eve will be so awesome… No!!!  Make it stop!  Who came up with that awful, annoying commercial?  Couldn’t they have come up with a better and less frequent way to advertise the Playoff games are on New Year’s Eve this year?

And guess what?  If you have some teams that are 5-7, they are still in the running to make a bowl!  It has finally happened.  There are now so many bowl games that there are not enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all the spots.  The number of 5-7 teams that will have to fill those spots depends on how some of the results go this weekend.  So don’t lose hope yet Illini and ‘Husker fans.

So what did we learn this year?

Expectations for coaches in the SEC are bonkers.  All the reports pointed to Les Miles getting fired but he ended up staying while Georgia’s Mark Richt got let go.  I can’t even recap where we are with job openings and jobs filled.  It will be out of date in the next 5 minutes.  It’s too crazy to keep up with.  Might as well just wait until the offseason to finally figure out who went where.

The ACC is still looked at as the weakest of the five Power 5 conferences.  No respect.  But part of it is their own doing.  Boston College and Georgia Tech both started out on fire but both ended up with only 3 wins.  Georgia Tech plummeting to the bottom of the ACC was pretty shocking.  They have been a very good program over the years.

It’s best not to have knee-jerk reactions to one year of the playoff committee’s rankings.  When the Big 12 was left out of the playoffs last year, many said they had to go to a conference championship game.  Well, not having a championship game worked fine for them this year.  And whatever knee-jerk reaction people come up with this year after the final rankings, it will probably be best not to move forward with it.

Boise St. might be the most disappointing team in the country.  They seemed so vastly superior to the rest of the Mountain West this year that a conference title game appearance was all but a foregone conclusion.  Not only did they not make the conference championship, it wasn’t even close.  They finished 4th in their division!  Is this a sign of things to come for the once dominant program, or is it just a blip on the radar.  Maybe we all underestimated the importance of Chris Petersen.

The PAC 12 is a very good conference, but they aren’t ready to overtake the SEC as best in the land.  It’s funny how when the SEC beats up on each other it’s because of the depth of the conference.  When the PAC 12 beats up on each other it’s because of parity and no one is really that good.  The 2 conferences were similar this year.  They are still pretty close in overall depth, but Alabama is still the trump card for the SEC.

This is an amazing stat.  Who was the lowest scoring team in the nation this year?  Kent State at 13.1 ppg.  That’s not amazing but the team that was 2nd to last is:  Missouri at 13.6 ppg.  I don’t think many people expected them to win the SEC east for the 3rd straight year, but the falloff from the previous 2 seasons was astounding.  Only 1 conference win this year and only 73 points scored in 8 conference games.  Their defense was very, very good this year, but a historically bad offense dragged them down.

We also learned that teams from the Group of 5 conferences might not be as far away in quality as it seems.  While there is no argument that those conferences are not near the same in quality from top to bottom as the Power 5 conferences, they top tier of those teams are very good.  The AAC currently has 3 teams ranked in the top 25.  The Big 12 has four.  Those conferences showed they can compete with results like Houston over Louisville, Toledo over Arkansas, Bowling Green over Maryland, Temple over Penn St., Memphis over Ole Miss, East Carolina over Virginia Tech, Western Kentucky over Vanderbilt, Marshall over Purdue, and many near misses.  People always throw out the argument that if they played in one of those Power 5 conferences they wouldn’t be able to compete week in and week out.  You know what?  Who cares?  They don’t have to.  They show that they aren’t pushovers and the quality and passion of those players results in just as many entertaining games as the big boys.  Just enjoy all the college football.

That’s just a few of the things from this past season.  There are many, many more but I can’t write about them all.  I’m not a columnist and I have a day job.

Enjoy conference championship week!

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Teams on bye:  Just about everyone

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Northern Illinois (+12)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″ css=”.vc_custom_1432672269878{border-right-width: 1px !important;}”][vc_column_text]

MACtion did not disappoint this year.  There were many entertaining mid-week MAC games this year.  It feels weird to flip the channels on Tuesday and not see a couple MAC games.  Toledo kept sneaking into the bottom of the rankings, and would promptly lose to drop back out.  Bowling Green did well in its non-conference schedule and then cruised to the MAC east title.  Bowling Green is #3 in the nation in total offense and scores 44 ppg.  Bowling Green does not have a good defense, but they dare you to outscore you.  Northern Illinois had a little bit more perilous road to the MAC west title.  They were upset by Ohio early in the week and looked to be out, but then Toledo went out and lost to Western Michigan.  There were 4 teams with 6-2 conference records in the west and after all the tiebreakers the Huskies are in.  They are middle of the pack in the major statistical categories and I don’t think they have enough to keep pace with Bowling Green.  PICK: Bowling Green 41, Northern Illinois 31

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#12 Baylor (-20.5)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″][vc_column_text]

There really isn’t too much at stake in this game.  Baylor needs a solid showing so they can stay high enough in the rankings to make it to one of the New Year’s Six bowls as an at-large team.  Texas needs to use this game to build some momentum for next year.  As bad as Texas has looked at times, they also have shown flashes of potential.  They have a 4-7 record right now but they are basically 10 points away from flipping that record to 7-4.  But you are what your record is.  We know about these two teams by now.  Baylor is really good even with their 3rd string QB.  You can’t really take too much away from last week’s game against TCU is a frozen monsoon.  Texas is not anywhere near the level of Baylor right now.  Who would have thought a decade ago we would ever be writing something like this.  Baylor rolls.   PICK:  Baylor 54, Texas 23

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#19 Houston (-6.5)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″ css=”.vc_custom_1432672269878{border-right-width: 1px !important;}”][vc_column_text]

I don’t think anyone anticipated a match up of ranked teams in the inaugural AAC championship game.  This is a very good match up.  These two teams couldn’t have more polar opposite identities.  Temple is a tough, grinding defensive team.  Houston is a high flying offensive team.  Greg Ward, Jr. ended up playing for Houston last week against Navy.  The offense is totally different when he plays.  They had one hiccup this year against UConn when he was injured.  Houston rolls up nearly 500 ypg on offense.  Temple likes to out-tough you and grind away your will to live.  Heck, they have a system where only the toughest players as voted by the team get to wear single digit numbers.  Temple is 18th nationally in yards per game against and only give up 4.85 yards per play.  Clearly, Temple’s game plan will be to play solid defense and keep Houston’s offense off the field.  Temple has to take care of the ball because Houston is one of the top teams in the nation at creating turnovers.  This should be a good game and what makes college football so great.  The systems of these 2 teams are so different, but both are successful.  I think Houston wins a close one.  PICK:  Houston 28, Temple 24

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Western Kentucky (-7.5)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″ css=”.vc_custom_1432672269878{border-right-width: 1px !important;}”][vc_column_text]

This has been quite the turnaround season for Southern Miss.  They were coming off a stretch where they won 4 games in 3 years including zero winds in 2012.  Prior to the past 3 years Southern Miss had always been a pretty solid program.  But it looks like they are trending back to that level.  They beat everyone’s preseason projections and overtook LA Tech for the Conference USA west crown.  Western Kentucky did just about what everyone expected.  They won the east in Conference USA and did it with a prolific offense.  They averaged 44 points per game.  What many people probably don’t realize is that Southern Miss did it with a high scoring offense this year too.  They averaged 42 points per game.  So this should be a high scoring affair.  There are some entertaining games in the first time slot of the day.  Let’s go with the upset in this one as Southern Miss completes a remarkable season.  PICK:  Southern Miss 45, Western Kentucky 42

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 #2 Alabama (-17)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″ css=”.vc_custom_1432672269878{border-right-width: 1px !important;}”][vc_column_text]

This seems like the mother of all mismatches.  Have you seen Florida’s offense lately?  What was your favorite Florida touchdown last week against  Florida State?  (Shout out to the Solid Verbal.)  They haven’t been very inspiring the past month.  They clinched the SEC east by beating Vanderbilt 9-7.  Then they needed OT to beat Florida Atlantic.  Alabama on the other hand has been rolling.  They look to have gotten stronger as the season has gone along.  That loss to Ole Miss might as well happened last year at this point.  Derrick Henry is steamrolling his way to the Heisman and they have the #2 defense in the nation.  I don’t see any way that Florida wins this or even keeps it close.  Give me Alabama minus infinity in this one.  Famous last words.  On a side note, I think people are getting bored with Alabama in the Jacknife league.  People are getting sick of their dominance.  They usually are a very popular pick even though they are one of the most expensive every year.  But this year, only a few people took them.  Guess what?  They are one of the highest scoring teams again currently sitting at #2 behind Oklahoma.  They probably will vault to #1 after rolling Florida.  It’s sort of like when people got bored of voting Michael Jordan the MVP and decided to throw Charles Barkley or Karl Malone a bone every now and then.  If you were to pick the Playoff based on our scoring system, it currently would be Oklahoma, Alabama, Clemson, and Houston.  The rest of our top 10 is North Carolina, Ole Miss, Ohio State, Iowa, Baylor, and TCU.  Kind of interesting.  This preview has really digressed.  PICK:  Alabama 35, Florida 7

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AT

Kansas St. (+6.5)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″ css=”.vc_custom_1432672269878{border-right-width: 1px !important;}”][vc_column_text]

Really hurting for games on Championship Weekend, thus I present to you K-State vs West Virginia.  K-State needs a win to be guaranteed a bowl game, and WVU is trying to salvage a season in which they were shown to still be second rate in the Big 12.  K-State has not been very good on defense – uncharacteristic of them.  They’ve been getting killed through the air….having a bad secondary does wonders in the Big 12.  West Virginia will be sure to throw the ball a ton and try to go up a few scores early and force K-State to throw the ball against their strength, the WVU secondary.  The Wildcats have their backs to the wall, so expect everything to be thrown at the Mountaineers to try and win this game.  I thought I would really like WVU in this game but the more I look at it, I see K-State keeping it close at home and covering the spread.  WVU wins but it ain’t pretty.  PICK: WVU 31, K-State 28

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San Diego St. (-4.5)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″ css=”.vc_custom_1432672269878{border-right-width: 1px !important;}”][vc_column_text]

The Mountain West Championship Game: Air Force is running into a bulldozer playing against San Diego State.  SDSU has reeled off 8 straight wins after starting 1-4.  Air Force is coming off of a loss to New Mexico after beating Boise in a shocker….I would have had Air Force all the way here until that happened.  San Diego State has been great and everything, but they haven’t played anyone that great in their 8-game win streak.  Looking over the numbers it’s clear that these teams are playing against each other’s strengths.  Air Force runs the ball a ton averaging 5.4 ypc while SDSU only allows 2.8ypc…pretty impressive on both sides.  SDSU is at home and will have that crowd noise to play off of on defense.  I think SDSU with the home crowd wins the battle on the ground and wins by 10.  PICK: SDSU 34, Air Force 24

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#4 Iowa (+3.5)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″ css=”.vc_custom_1432672269878{border-right-width: 1px !important;}”][vc_column_text]

The Big Ten Championship game is front and center this weekend…..winner goes to the Playoff!!  I’m sure Iowa fans are sick to their stomach just thinking about this game.  Iowa was not supposed to be here.  I’m having a hard time still believing that this is real.  At the beginning of the season Michigan St. was supposed to kind of be here, as long as OSU screwed up.  After all the injuries to MSU I’m just as much in awe that they are here as I am with Iowa.  This game is promised to not be pretty, it will be a hard nosed, field position type of game.  At the same time you can also expect a close game in the 4th quarter.  It looks like Connor Cook is back for the Spartans, which is huge and is the main reason why I’m going with MSU to win this game and go on to play in the Playoff.  I think the big issue that Iowa will have is protecting the O-Line from getting run over by the MSU D-Line.  Most of MSU’s opponents O-Line’s have been manhandled.  Iowa needs that line to hold up to keep that balanced offense rolling.  I think that MSU has a better chance to win a game in the Playoff than Iowa, but it would still be kind of cool to see the Hawkeyes make it with a perfect record.  MSU wins and covers.  PICK: Michigan St 27, Iowa 21

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#1 Clemson (-5)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″ css=”.vc_custom_1432672269878{border-right-width: 1px !important;}”][vc_column_text]

The ACC Championship is going to be a good one.  Two high scoring teams and revamped defenses.  Clemson comes in with maybe the best QB in the land.  The defense had a ton of guys depart last year and yet they reload to compliment a steady offense.  UNC fixed its defense after bringing in Gene Chizik and kept the ball rolling from last year on offense.  I think that UNC will give Clemson a run for the money for awhile…in the end I believe the Clemson’s defense will be the difference maker.  Unless UNC forces a few turnovers to flip the script, Clemson will pull away late.  The big question here is if UNC wins and they happen to win by 10 or so, do they get into the Playoff?  I am rooting for absolute chaos this weekend just to watch the debate on who gets in and who gets screwed over.  If UNC is going to win this game they will be sure to run the ball all night to keep Watson off the field and control the clock.  I just think that Watson will lead the Tigers without much trouble in the 2nd half and stay #1.  Clemson wins by 10 points…maybe more.  PICK: Clemson 41, UNC 31

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UPSET OF THE WEEK!

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#20 USC (+4.5)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″ css=”.vc_custom_1432672269878{border-right-width: 1px !important;}”][vc_column_text]

The PAC 12 Championship that had so much potential and almost fell on its face.  Stanford needs a lot to happen to maybe get in the Playoff.  First they need to beat USC, then they’ll need Clemson and Bama to lose and have a lopsided win either way in the Big Ten Championship.  But it’s the upset pick of the week, so I just wasted everyone’s time.  USC is coming in pumped up after rolling over UCLA at home, plus their interim coach was just given the job permanently.  The players are going to be jacked up to take down Stanford.  Stanford just played a physical game against Notre Dame with a lot of ups and downs, so they have to be tired….or at least that’s what I’m thinking.  The ol’ Week After Letdown Game rears its ugly head and brings the PAC12 completely out of the top 10, thus completing the devouring of each other.  I know that Stanford is probably the better team right now, but I just get the feeling here that USC is primed to take this thing home to finish up a very strange and confusing season.  Trojans win straight up!!  PICK: USC 30, Stanford 24

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Season Record – Straight Up: 81-49

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Season Record – Versus Spread: 52-72-4

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Upset of the Week: 4-9

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