Thursday, November 24, 2011

Week Thirteen – Rivalry Week

So much for the light schedule last week.  The BCS was turned upside down with upsets by Iowa State, USC, and Baylor.  So we are sitting at week 13 with 3 SEC West teams on top in the BCS rankings.  So what happens if the Hogs beat LSU this Friday?  It would seem to common folks like myself that Alabama and Arkansas would move up and drop LSU to #3, which would mean Alabama goes to the SEC Championship Game, and the Hogs are in standby mode at #2 and likely headed to the title game   In the end though, would pollsters want to see a Alabama-Arkansas rematch that wasn’t much of a game the first time around?  There is some talk that LSU is so far ahead in the computer polls, which makes up 1/3 of the BCS formula, that LSU would not even drop from #1 in the rankings.  If that happens, would the Hogs jump Alabama?  Not likely due to the head-to-head win by Bama and with an impressive win over Auburn by the Tide this week.  Whatever happens, someone (or several teams) is gonna get screwed.  It’s unfortunate that this thing could be determined by computers. 

This is rivalry week, which is always a crazy week, because you can throw the records out the window in a lot of these (sorry for using a cliché but it’s true).  Some teams have a lot to play for, and some have nothing to play for except for their pride.  There are division/conference titles on the line in about every conference this week or at least some games that will significantly affect the races.  “If I Were a Bettin’ Man…” portion of the blog went 2-1 last week for a 15-9 record for the season.  I went 8-0 in SEC games straight up last week for a 71-12 record on the season.  Last week was a struggle for national games again (3-6 last week, 54-34 on the season).  Now on to a very exciting, long weekend of college football.

Thursday: 7:00: #25 Texas @ Texas A&M (ESPN) – Sadly, this will probably be the last game of this series for a long time due to Texas A&M bolting for the SEC and Texas pouting about it afterwards.  It should be a great game with lots of intensity.  Both teams have struggled more than they expected this year.  Texas has lost two straight and the Aggies have lost three in a row.  Aggie fans are starting to question the direction of the program with current coach Mike Sherman since such a promising season has turned into a huge disappointment.  I’m thinking the Longhorns will have more intensity going into this game and pull off the upset.  Longhorns 31-30.
Friday: Great slate of games today.  It gets started early, so you better be ready.  Send the wife or significant other out shopping all day.  Oh wait, she’s gonna do that anyway.
10:00 AM: Louisville @ South Florida (ESPN2) – The Big East is a mess.  Louisville right now is in the driver’s seat to be the Big East champ and BCS representative.  That is ridiculous folks!  They lost to Florida International this year.  Bulls 24-17.
11:00 AM: #8 Houston @ Tulsa (Fox Sports Affiliates) – This one is for the C-USA West division title but might as well be for the conference title as these two are the only undefeated teams in the conference.  Houston is playing for way more than that – a BCS bowl that seemed unlikely until recently when all of the higher ranked teams started losing.  This may be in Tulsa but give me Case and the boys.  Fireworks galore in this one.  Houston 48-42. 
Iowa @ #21 Nebraska (ABC) – This is the obvious conference rivalry for the Big Ten rookies Nebraska.  They have a lot in common – neighboring states, hard-nosed football and they like to eat a lot of corn.  Both teams need a win here to improve their bowl, but that’s about it riding on this one.  Iowa has been too up and down for me this year.  Huskers 24-20.
1:30: #3 Arkansas @ #1 LSU (CBS) – It's The Big One Part III in the SEC West.  This time the Hogs are ranked #3 and going to Baton Rouge to play some ball.  We can talk about championship scenarios all we want, but we will wait for another day on that.  Before any scenarios play out, the Hogs have to win here.  LSU has dominated their opponents every week this year except for the tough OT win in Tuscaloosa, which they only needed to win and not dominate.  The defense is deep on the line and in the backfield.  Both units are probably the deepest and most talented, athletic and violent in the nation.  The offense doesn't get near as much respect as it deserves.  Miles has been rotating QBs the last few games without missing a beat.  The running game is a bruising one, and they are very deep with Ware, Ford, Blue, and Hilliard.  The receivers are talented with Shepard, Randle, and Beckham.  The Hogs passing game is incredible and has been even better lately.  Wilson has been connecting a ton recently with Wright (tied for leading receiver in SEC), Adams, Hamilton, and the list goes on and on.  Recently, kind of like last year's Sugar Bowl run, the Hogs have started to get the running game going with Dennis Johnson.  The Hogs have to be balanced to beat the Tigers; they can't give up on the run game and become one-dimensional like Geno Smith and West Virginia did against this Tiger defense.  In that one, the passing stats looked good at the end of the game, but the Mountaineers were out of it the minute they started passing every down.  The Razorback defense has stepped it up recently against South Carolina, Tennessee, and Mississippi State since the likes of Bequette and Wright got healthy.
Going into Tiger Stadium and getting the win is going to be a monumental task for the Hogs.  I know the Hogs have recently played LSU close every year.  But I also can't get out of my mind the fact that the Hogs have been outscored 90-74 in true road games this season giving up 30 points per game.  The defense has not been championship caliber for the most part all season.  Ultimately, that will be what fails the Hogs again in this one.  LSU has not come this far and played that tough of a schedule to relinquish #1 now.  Speaking of schedule, what is the Hogs best win this year? South Carolina minus Garcia and Lattimore, soon to be 5 loss Auburn, or 5 loss Texas A&M?  I realize the Hogs can't control their schedule at this point, but none of those victories give me any confidence they can get it done at Tiger Stadium with everything on the line.  I do give the Hogs lots of credit for taking care of business and getting to this spot – a spot that 117 other D1 programs would love to be in at this point in the season.  Geaux Tigers 31-17.
6:00: Pittsburgh @ West Virginia (ESPN) – In the terrible, muddled Big East, this is an elimination game for the conference championship and automatic BCS bid (what a joke).  While Pitt is already likely eliminated, West Virginia would have the upper hand on the BCS bid with a win here (just trust me on this if you even care) but would still have to win at South Florida next week.  They call this one the Backyard Brawl, and these teams really dislike each other.  The fans burn mattresses and furniture after a big win in this game, which even one-ups anything the SEC fans do after games.  Pitt has been decimated by injuries this year, but their QB Tino Sunseri has been lighting it up lately as a dual-threat QB.  West Virginia has been just as inconsistent as any other Big East team this year.  They are nothing special at all.  They are just 4-3 their last 7 games, but I like them in this spot at home.  I do think they will blow their chance at the BCS bid next week at South Florida though.  Mountaineers 28-23.
9:15: California @ Arizona State (ESPN) – ASU has gotten worse with every game lately, but they somehow still have a shot to represent the South in the inaugural PAC 12 title game.  They need to win this one and have UCLA lose to USC (remember USC would win the South if they weren’t on probation, but they are so too bad).  This may be a tricky one for ASU because Cal has improved throughout the year, but I’ll take the Sun Devils in coach Dennis Erickson’s last home game (retirement).  ASU 31-28.
Saturday:
11:00 AM:  #13 Georgia @ #23 Georgia Tech (ESPN) – Georgia won the SEC East by default last week and is now only one week away from getting put in their place by an SEC West team in the SEC Championship Game.  Georgia Tech has been really hard to figure out this year losing 3 of their last 4 with the only win being against a top 10 (at the time) Clemson squad.  I wonder how much Georgia really cares about this one this year with the SEC Championship on the line next week.  Since Paul Johnson has been at Tech, they have played Georgia really close every year.  But I have to go with a trend where Georgia is 3-0 against Tech the years that Georgia is the East representative in the SEC Championship Game.  UGA in a close one 30-24.    
Ohio State @ #15 Michigan (ABC National – KARZ Local in LR) – The game that the Midwesterners think is a bigger rivalry than Alabama/Auburn.  While it is a good one, it can’t touch the Bama/Auburn rivalry.  Ohio State has been distracted this week by news that Urban Meyer is looking over Luke Fickell’s shoulder waiting to take over as head coach.  If there were ever a coach and a university that deserve each other more, I do not know of it.  Anyway, Michigan is going for win number 10 on the season – this is not a misprint.  Although the Buckeyes have owned Michigan for 7 straight years now, Michigan is more than a touchdown favorite.  I’m riding the Wolverines momentum and the home crowd in this one.  Go Blue 31-28.
11:21 AM: Tennessee @ Kentucky (ABC – SEC Network) – See “If I Were a Bettin’ Man…” below.
2:30: #2 Alabama @ #24 Auburn (CBS) – The Iron Bowl is finally getting the recognition it has always deserved as the fiercest rivalry in college football.  Alabama has everything in the world to play for here, and Auburn not much but their hate for Alabama.  I can’t believe a spread in a rivalry game like this would ever be 3 TDs in favor of the road team.  I’ll take Bama straight up though.  Bama 24-10.
Oregon State @ #10 Oregon (ABC/ESPN2) – The Civil War – a unique rivalry but not much of a game this year as the Ducks clinch the Pac 12 North and a home game for the title.  Ducks 45-20.
#19 Penn State @ #16 Wisconsin (ESPN) – This one is for the Leaders Division title.  Winner plays Michigan State next week in the Big Ten Championship Game.  I’m still a huge fan of Wisconsin and love them at home with everything on the line.  Badgers 24-14.
Vanderbilt @ Wake Forest (ESPNU) – Bless Vandy’s heart.  They were so close to beating the Vols last week and clinching a bowl berth.  Now they have to clinch it on the road at another tough place.  They are still worried about the Vols too based on this week’s discussions.  You gotta give Wake some credit for finishing 2nd in the ACC Atlantic this year.  Who saw that coming?  Wake 28-17.
#5 Virginia Tech @ Virginia (ABC/ESPN2) – Virginia has come out of nowhere this year and won 4 straight and 6 out of 7 under 2nd year coach Mike London.  Virginia Tech has dominated their weak schedule and is overrated as usual.  This game is now for the Coastal Division title.  I like the upset here.  Wahoos of Virginia 21-17.
6:00: Florida State @ Florida (ESPN2) – See “If I Were a Bettin’ Man…” below.
Mississippi @ Mississippi State (ESPNU) – Who really cares about this other than the two obnoxious coaches leading the teams in this one?  In a desperate attempt to get some attention this week, Mississippi State is using its Twitter hashtag in the endzones this week.  See it here (http://kegsneggsblog.com/2011/11/21/mississippi-state-embraces-the-hashtag-for-the-egg-bowl/).  #wtf #really? #nobodycares.  Give me #Hailstate in this one 35-14 as Houston takes one more arse whoopin for the road.   
6:45: #17 Clemson @ #12 South Carolina (ESPN) – Clemson has been Clemson as of late providing some head scratcher games, such as getting blown out at NC State last week.  South Carolina has the defense to keep up with the Clemson offense.  Did I mention that these two teams hate each other?  Gamecocks 27-24.
7:00: #22 Notre Dame @ #6 Stanford (ABC) – See “If I Were a Bettin’ Man…” below.
9:00: UCLA @ USC (Fox Sports Net Affiliates) – This will possibly be Matt Barkley’s last game as a USC Trojan since they cannot go to a bowl game this year and he is likely going pro.  UCLA is playing for a division title because USC is banned from postseason play.  It’s simple for UCLA – win and play next Friday for the PAC 12 title.  These teams already hated each other and now the game all of sudden means something.  USC can ruin the division for the Bruins although there will always be an asterisk beside it anyway.  Trojans 38-20. 
10:00: Tulane @ Hawaii (espn3.com) – Just because it’s the last game of the last full week of the regular season.   
If I Were a Bettin’ Man… - Three games for you this week.  
Tennessee (-7) @ Kentucky – The Vols take the nation's longest winning streak against a single opponent into Lexington today.  The Vols have defeated Kentucky every year since 1984 - 26 straight if you're keeping score at home.  In addition to the huge mental edge from this, they also have a much needed renewed sense of confidence with the return of Tyler Bray and the win over Vanderbilt last week in which the Vols were a home underdog.  The Vols’ defense has been progressively getting better throughout the season minus the Arkansas game debacle.  Da'Rick Rogers continues to pace the offense.  He is now tied for the lead in the SEC in receiving yards with Arkansas' Jarius Wright, which is quite an accomplishment considering he played 4 games with a true freshman QB and most of the season being double-teamed after fellow WR Justin Hunter went down with a torn ACL in game 3.  Bray has continued to get healthier, and the Vols need this win for a bowl game.  Kentucky is playing for pride and maybe for their coach's job, but they've done nothing this year to show that they can win or cover in this one.  Vols 27-13.
Florida State (-2.5) @ Florida – Which team is in more dire need of a big win here?  Florida State went from preseason top 5 to 4 losses on the season.  Florida had an 0 for October followed by a narrow win over Vandy and a no show loss to South Carolina.  They were even down by more than 2 TDs against Furman last week.  The Gators have no offensive identity 11 games into the season, and the defense is bailing now that the going has gotten tough.  I think the Seminoles will be more inspired in this game and have a better offense and defense.  Take the Seminoles in this one.  FSU 30-20.
Notre Dame @ Stanford (-7) – This will be Andrew Luck’s final home game, and Stanford still has an outside shot at making the national title game if enough voters determine they do not want to see an all-SEC BCS title game.  Notre Dame is only jockeying for bowl position, and they struggle with a balanced offense like Stanford’s.  Stanford is a physical team on both sides of the ball that will have the Irish begging for mercy by the 4th quarter.  Stanford 35-20.        
Enjoy your weekend!
-Ernie

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