Don't Bet On It: National Games of Interest

I've been telling you not to bet on it, and now you know why. Last week's national picks were disastrous, as I posted an abysmal 6-3 mark, totally tanking on my Colorado, T.C.U., and Virginia Tech predictions.

Thanks for nothing, 0-5 boy.

This drops me to 30-10 in national predictions for the year, which ought to render my usual caveat superfluous, but, just in case, I will reiterate my typical disclaimer: Don't Bet On It!

Because there are non-S.E.C. contests scheduled to take place earlier in the week than ordinarily is the case---for each of which I will offer a forecast---I have elected to begin with the national games of (sometimes nominal) interest, all of which will take place on Saturday, October 7, unless otherwise noted.

Southern Miss at Tulsa (Tuesday, October 3)---In a gilded Conference U.S.A. clash, the Golden Eagles travel to take on the Golden Hurricane. After slipping off the radar screen a bit over the course of the last couple or three seasons, U.S.M. very quietly has been playing good football and winning some games. While the Eagles' "giant-killer" days may be behind them, they remain a respectable squad and I expect Southern Mississippi to carry a win back from Oklahoma.

Central Florida at Marshall (Wednesday, October 4)---The notion of the Golden Knights taking on the Thundering Herd sounds more like a Monty Python sketch than a college football game, but there's nothing quite like a Conference U.S.A. Eastern Division battle royal in the middle of the week, now, is there? On the theory that a team that's halfway decent right now beats a team that used to be pretty good a while ago, I'm picking U.C.F.

A road win in Huntington could be a real resume-builder for George O'Leary.

Florida State at N.C. State (Thursday, October 5)---Chuck Amato's saving grace in Raleigh has been his ability to hang tough against his old team, beating the 'Noles three times in the last five years and losing the other two outings by a touchdown or less. Can Bobby Bowden's old assistant coach pull off a fourth upset in a six-year span? That's tough to figure, inasmuch as these are two of the most erratic teams in college football's quirkiest conference, but I'm not inclined to pick the Wolfpack to win two big games in a row. Although I'm only semi-certain, I'm taking the Seminoles.

Texas Christian at Utah (Thursday, October 5)---Much of the luster has been taken off of this one, although both teams still have a lot left for which to play. The Utes are looking to salvage a season that began with lofty expectations and the Horned Frogs are hoping to bounce back from an 0-1 start in conference play. Visions of B.C.S. bowl games may no longer be dancing in these squads' heads, but a Mountain West title remains within reach for each of these combatants. I'm not ready to jump completely off of the T.C.U. bandwagon just yet, so I'm taking what may be my last chance to say, "How 'bout them Frogs!"

Louisville v. Middle Tennessee (Friday, October 6)---When I tried to give the Cardinals some credit for scheduling this game, I received some (probably justified) criticism, but U. of L. will have a chance to shine under the Friday night lights in this Music City showdown. Louisville will take full advantage of its opportunity to impress the pollsters, much to the Blue Raiders' chagrin.

Sorry, Lightning.

Navy at Air Force---This year's race for the Commander in Chief's Trophy should be one of the most competitive in recent memory, as the Midshipmen of Annapolis are solid and both the Falcons from Colorado Springs and the Black Knights of the Hudson appear to be on the upswing again after lengthy downcycles. Although the student-athletes of the U.S. Naval Academy must travel from the Chesapeake Bay to the Rocky Mountains to play this game, I have faith that the Middies will close the deal and return home with a victory. Of course, that could just be my East Coast bias talking. . . .

Missouri at Texas Tech---Will the real parvenus please sit down? The Red Raiders pulled one out against a Texas A&M team with dubious credentials and the Tigers have cruised to a 5-0 start without really offering much of an indication as to just how good they are. This game is a big deal, insofar as the winner will be ranked and the loser will be consigned to the Island of Misfit Others Receiving Votes for the foreseeable future. Personally, I'd like to see them both lose, but I'm not convinced that Texas Tech is up to the task of putting us out of our Missouri, so I'm going with the Tigers to beat the Red Raiders in Lubbock.

Michigan State at Michigan---The thrill of victory hosts the agony of defeat in the latest in-state rivalry game to be played prior to the end of November. Although he is by no means a disinterested observer, Michael has provided a useful historical synopsis of the extent to which the Spartans are the poster boys for post-heartbreak collapses and last week's M.S.U. loss to Illinois---a team deemed less worthy of inclusion in the Midwestern Conference than Miami (Ohio) or Northwestern---confirms that 2006 will be no exception. The Wolverines may stumble this season, but it won't be against Sparty.

Purdue at Iowa---After last weekend's results against Notre Dame and Ohio State, respectively, it's not surprising that these two teams have been consigned to relative obscurity as Midwestern also-rans. Nevertheless, both squads played well prior to Saturday and there is no shame in losing to a superior opponent. In what ought to be a competitive contest, I like the home team to come out on top as Iowa outduels Purdue.

I watched enough "M*A*S*H" episodes as a teenager to know what happens when a Hawkeye takes on a Boilermaker.

Washington at Southern California---People forget this on account of the Huskies' recent struggles and the Trojans' recent dominance, but Washington had a pretty firm handle on this series in the recent past; between 1990 and 2001, U.W. went 6-3-1 against U.S.C. For all the grief he gets over three straight 31-point setbacks against the Men of Troy during his tumultuous tenure in South Bend, Tyrone Willingham fared pretty well against Southern California during his stint as a Pac-10 coach at Stanford; while at the Farm, Coach Willingham was 4-3 over the Trojans, with one of his losses coming by a single point in his first season with the Cardinal. If this game were being played in Seattle, I'd call for the upset, but, in the City of Angels, Southern California will prevail . . . however, it'll be a close one.

Clemson at Wake Forest---Of all the inexplicable ups and downs of the seven-and-a-half-year roller coaster ride of Tommy Bowden's tenure at Fort Hill, perhaps the most stunning is the fact that the Tigers routinely struggle with the Demon Deacons, losing at Winston-Salem in 2003 and 2005 while eking out close victories in 1999 (12-3), 2001 (21-14), 2002 (31-23), and 2004 (37-30). Surely Wake Forest's fast start has gotten the attention of the high-flying Tigers . . . right? I'm going with Clemson, but my confidence level in that pick is shaky at best.

Believe it or not, this "Friends" character is relevant to my Red River Rivalry prediction.

Oklahoma v. Texas---In theory, this is the marquee matchup of the day, but, as Joey Tribbiani observed, a lot of theories didn't work out: lone gunman, communism, geometry. . . . Aside from Adrian Peterson, the Sooners simply haven't impressed me this season and the Longhorns appear to be hitting on all cylinders. I like Texas to win another Red River Shootout . . . and not by a narrow margin, either.

Oregon at California---This will be the best big game of the day. Since being embarrassed in Knoxville to open the season, the Golden Bears have reeled off four straight wins by scores of 42-17, 42-16, 49-21, and 41-13, respectively. The underrated Ducks have been even better, shellacking a pair of conference opponents by 48-10 and 48-13 final margins while gutting out wins over Oklahoma and a pesky Fresno State team. Let's face it . . . if U.S.C. had Oregon's resume, the Trojans would be the No. 2 team in every poll. I really like what the Ducks are doing in every phase of the game except wardrobe and Cal provides Oregon with what probably will be its last real test before the Ducks' November 11 trip to Los Angeles. I look for Oregon to prevail in a close, hard-fought contest.

That's how this week's national college football action appears from my vantage point here at Dawg Sports, but, as we have established, I haven't the faintest idea what I'm talking about, so, please, whatever you do . . . Don't Bet On It!

Go 'Dawgs!

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