It is now time to get down to business. Conference play. Where REAL championships-not this bogus BCS crap-are won. With the exception, of course, of those conferences that don't play a round robin (e.g. the Big 11) or have a championship game (e.g., the Big 11). Or that choose their championship game contestants from divisions where the teams have different schedules of varying strength (e.g., the ACC, SEC, and Big 12). In other words, there's the PAC 10. But even in the other conferences, at least the champions are decided on the field of play, rather than in some bozos' heads or by some computer program that artificially eliminates the teams in the toughest conferences, with the most difficult schedules, by valuing, say, a Texas win over Baylor in Austin on a Freeman Johns, III type screw job more highly than an LSU double OT loss to Florida in Gainesville as the result of a PAC-10 officiating type rip-off. So let the REAL games begin. Week 5's games are all conference affairs with the exception of the one involving the team with its own TV network (i.e., the Notredame Broadcasting Company): 1. KU +21 @ Nebraska Anything is possible, of course-especially if KU continues what is probably a record-setting turnover pace-but I find it hard to believe that the fortunes of these two teams has changed by 46 points since last November. Yes, KU has less experience, but the conventional wisdom is that the Hawks are more athletic. Yes, NU has more experience, but their talent level has not improved by leaps and bounds. They played USC no tougher than Arizona, and AU would not beat KU by 21 anywhere, anytime. What this spread comes down to is: (a) the Nebraska mystique, which some are buying into well in advance of any actual accomplishments on the field (not that KU hasn't benefited from the same effect in basketball from time to time); (b) the home field advantage; and (c) NU's trouncing of a respectable Troy team last Saturday. The first and third factors are of little consequence. KU is not going to buy into the mystique, having taken this team apart by 25 points last season. NU is not likely to repeat its nearly flawless effort vs. Troy a second consecutive week. The fly in the ointment, though, could be the home field. The Hawks play notoriously poorly on the road-at least in terms of W's and L's. And there is no question that a more experienced group of Jayhawks was intimidated by a comparable bigger than life atmosphere in Austin last year. So there is a chance that KU will give away so many points on a Big Red platter that the Huskers could cover this spread. More likely, the Huskers will find a way to win-or the Hawks will find a way to lose-but by somewhat less than 21.
2. k-state +2.5 @ Baylor k-state at last takes to the road. Baylor is not going to beat anyone by a margin much greater than 3.5. But they will eke out a 4-6 point win here, and the students can carry the goal posts down the road to the Elite Café, where the Elite Meet to Eat. (Including, legend has it, some guy named Elvis.)
3. Texas Tech +1.5 @ Texas A&M: Home team or halfway decent team. Although Tech considers A&M to be one of its two major rivals, the feeling isn't mutual.
4. Colorado +14 @ Mizzou CU will not be great this year. But they are playing people tough. Well, if you don't count losing to the team that lost to Chadron St. Mizzou appears to have its most competent team of the Pinkel era (which is called damning with faint praise), but the Tigers would be hard pressed to play Georgia on the road any better than CU did last Saturday.
5. Northwestern +18 @ Penn St Penn St has shown it can play a little D. Northwestern is just two games removed from losing by 17 at home to something called New Hampshire. Easy call, right? Not exactly. Covering an 18 point spread requires Penn St to score 18. But New Hampshire scored 34. . .
6. Ohio St -7 @ Iowa Could be the year's first major upset. I keep trying to pick it, but my fingers won't type the letters.
7. Michigan -10 @ Minnesota Masonota will jump out to a 14 point lead, be up by three with four minutes remaining-and lose by 11.
8. Houston +15.5 @ Miami Houston can score points. Miami can allow them.
9. Purdue +14 @ Notre Dame Notre Dame's friends must all drive Porsches: After stealing a W in East Lansing last Saturday, they must make a-mends.
10. Alabama +13 @ Florida Florida would be favored by 3 if Vegas did not expect Bama to miss three field goals and an extra point.
11. Georgia -17.5 @ Ole Miss Was Georgia looking ahead to this game last week when it eked out a one point victory over Colorado? Of course not. That would be like looking ahead to Curly while playing Moe.
12. USC -17 @ Washington St USC suddenly seems like something less than a juggernaut, with back to back wins of 18 and 17 points over Nebraska and Arizona. The question is: Can Wazzou score enough to stay within 17?
13. Cal -9 @ Oregon St Call Cal "Butter" because the Bears are on corn on the cob and covered with salt.
14. Washington +4 @ Arizona Bob Stoops' Bro gets an ordinary team at home.
15. Oregon -1.5 @ Arizona St Oregon can't take their PAC 10 officials with them on the road. Wait a minute. Of course they can. Won't matter. ASU rebounds in the desert from the spanking they received last week in the Bay area.
Ding dong, the witch is dead. Which old witch? The Big Red Witch. Ding dong, the Big Red witch is dead.
Remember: These picks are for entertainment purposes only. You get what you pay for. There are no refunds.