Heading into the final weekend of the college football season, the Take it to the Bank record against the spread is 108-97. (You could look it up.) Although these picks are always for entertainment purposes only, anyone who had been foolish enough to take them seriously and wagered the same amount on every game all season would have won 52.6%--just above the break even point, taking into account the normal 5% vigorish charged by most sports books.
Because of the dearth of games on this week’s schedule, we have to employ Thursday night and high handicap contests to manage a full slate of games.
1. Louisville +10.5 at Rutgers
Two trends tend to favor the Scarlet Knights: Their five game winning streak and Louisville’s four game losing streak. With the Home Field as added motivation, I’ll take:
2. Buffalo +15 vs. Ball St (Detroit)
Buffalo is one of the most improved teams in the NCAA this season. MAC Eastern Division Champions. Rumor has it that Baylor is seeking a move to that conference and division as early as next year.
No, Buffalo can’t pull the outright upset. But can they stay within 15 of David Letterman’s undefeated alma mater?
Dave has ten reasons why they can’t.
3. Navy -10.5 vs. Army (Philadelphia)
The Midshipmen sail to another big victory in this recently uneven series.
4. Pitt +3 at. UConn
Two inconsistent teams. How in the world did UConn beat BCS-Bound Cincinnati by 24, then turn around and lose to West Virginia by 22—both at Home? I like UConn at Home. But I also like the three points Pitt is getting.
Not much to choose between these teams. I look to Pitt to suffer a slight letdown after their big win last week vs. WVU.
5. South Florida +7 vs. West Virginia
It seems like a long time ago that USF vs. KU was a battle of ranked teams, both thinking BCS Bowls were in their future. They kind of exposed each other that fateful Friday night.
The Mountaineers come out with a vengeance to wash away the bad taste of the Pitt game. West Virginia’s #5 makes his last game in Morgantown a memorable one.
6. Washington +35 at Cal
Washington wins or goes winless. Is there anyone left who even cares?
7. Southern Cal -32.5 at UCLA
UCLA traditionally plays their arch-rivals tough in this series. Not this year, as USC makes its case for the opportunity to play Bama or FU on January 8. Think UT vs. A&M—if A&M had been even worse than they were.
8. Arizona +10.5 at Arizona St
It is a little known fact that, before man migrated to what we now call Arizona—before even those we refer to as Native Americans—the animals of the area governed themselves. The primary law enforcement creatures were Grizzlies—which is why policemen, even today, are referred to as Bears. Anyway, not all of the animals were good and honorable. Otherwise there would have been no need for the Grizzlies. On one fateful day, a gang of wolves (what some would call a pack) teamed up and attacked one of the Grizzlies making his appointed rounds. The Grizzly put up a valiant fight, but there were simply too many bad guys to fend off. When he finally fell, the wolves ran off, feeling free to wreak havoc wherever they wished. The Grizzly, freed from fending off his attackers, reached for his two way radio and called his dispatcher. “Bear Down!” he said, weakly. Then again: “Bear Down.”
History does not record whether or to what extent the Grizzly recovered. But Arizona’s Wildcats have adopted his words as its unofficial motto to this day.
And that is exactly what they will do this weekend: Bear Down!
9. Cincinnati -7 at Hawaii
As noted earlier, Cincinnati is not your typical BCS Bowl team, having been routed by a fair to middlin’ UConn team. And a lot of teams lose their focus in post-conference jaunts to paradise. Not to mention that Hawaii has appeared to be improving as the season has progressed.
But Cincy is good. And they do not want to be a laughingstock heading into their first ever BCS appearance.
10. Arkansas St +11 at Troy
Arkansas St beat A&M, for what it’s worth. Troy did everything but beat LSU in Baton Rouge, for what that’s worth.
What might be worth something is that, in their last nine games against the spread, ASU is 2-9, and Troy is 6-3.
11. Western Kentucky +7 at Florida International
The Hilltoppers are on a seven game losing streak. FIU only two—and they are at Home.
12. East Carolina +13.5 at Tulsa
The Pirates started the season like they intended to be a BCS party-crasher, taking out both Va Tech and West Virginia. They since have gone 6-4. But they know how to play big games. They might win this one outright. Even if they don’t, they should be able to stay within two TD’s.
13. Boston College vs. Va Tech (Pick) (Tampa)
This game is for all the marble. The ACC is not good enough to have more than one this year. In fact, consider this: Cincinnati and one of these teams will be in a BCS Bowl, while Texas Tech is playing in a second tier bowl game. Please, someone stop the insanity. You would think with all of UT’s spare change and T. Boone Pickens’ windmill money, someone could buy off the college presidents who put their own personal agendas ahead of the kids who play the game.
Still, one of these teams is going to play in a big money but big meaningless Bowl Game. Although not a Christian attitude, BC has revenge on its mind.
14. Alabama +9.5 vs. Florida (Atlanta)
When was the last time the undefeated No. 1 ranked team in the country was a 9 and ½ point underdog to a team that lost to Ole Miss at Home? Ever?
I think not.
FU might be the better team. But this is the “I can’t believe it’s not butter” game. I am not buying this spread.
15. Mizzou +17 vs. Oklahoma (Kansas City)
This game will be closer than most people think. After last week’s loss to KU in Arrowhead, Mizzou has nothing to lose. They will play free and loose, and, as a result, are likely to just make plays. Their defense is inferior to OU’s, but not by much. Likewise, their offense is inferior, but not by much. And their special teams are much better.
Nor will MU be intimidated by the atmosphere in KC as they were last year in San Antonio. They will feel right at Home. And, having played OU reasonably close twice last year (despite the final margins, both games were within reach in the fourth quarter), they will not be intimidated by the mere sight of the OU uniforms. They also have the revenge factor. Not to mention the self-respect factor: if they limp into their bowl game with four losses and on a two game losing streak, everything the program has accomplished the last two years will be suspect.
The pressure is all on OU. If they don’t get off to a fast start, it could be a long night. If Mizzou scores first, a la KU last weekend, and can control the rhythm of the game, they will make OU more uncomfortable than the Sooners would like—and give UT reason to dream of Miami, much as Baylor did last Saturday in Lubbock. Except that Mizzou is less likely to stop scoring than Baylor.
The Sooners certainly have the ability to cover this spread if they are on top of their game. But if they feel the pressure or are just a little out of synch, an outright win by Mizzou is not out of the question in Chase Daniels’ last chance to demonstrate that he can play big time football in a big time game.