Don't Bet On It: National Games of Interest

Since I have already posted my S.E.C. predictions, it is only right that I should offer my forecasts in the national games of interest, as well.

In last week's nationwide prognostications, I managed a 6-2 record on the strength of my decision to pick the Wolverines to beat the Fighting Irish. This gives me a season-long ledger of 18-5 in national games and 40-8 in all contests.

Look for this headline in your Sunday morning paper if I manage to get all of my predictions right on Saturday.

It virtually goes without saying, therefore, that my picks should be regarded as entertaining rather than enlightening and, in any event, you must remember this one thing: Don't Bet On It!

These are the national games of interest, all of which are slated to be played on Saturday, September 23, unless otherwise indicated:

Air Force at Wyoming---All right, I admit it . . . I'm only picking this game because it features the two teams that appear first and last in an alphabetical listing of all 119 Division I-A college football programs. While I was impressed with the way the Falcons' triple-option attack allowed them to play toe to toe with Tennessee, I also know that the Cowboys are more familiar with the squad from the service academy in Colorado Springs, so I expect the Wyoming defense to be able to slow Air Force down a bit. However, I have it on good authority that the Pokes aren't very good on offense, so I'm taking the Falcons to wing their way to a win.

Virginia at Georgia Tech (Thursday, September 21)---The Yellow Jackets can't afford to be Cavalier about the Wahoos. Virginia has played poorly this season, but the student-athletes from Mr. Jefferson's academical village have a history of giving Georgia Tech fits and this is exactly the sort of game the Ramblin' Wreck is prone to lose. I'm going with the Golden Tornado, but I'm not at all confident in that prediction.

Somehow, some way, that clown Reggie Ball will find a way to foul up my pick.

U.C.L.A. at Washington---I truly am torn over which way to go in this contest. Since the A.A.W.U. became the Pac-10 in 1968, the Bruins have gone 19-14-1 against the Huskies . . . although, in the four seasons in which the two teams did not meet, U.W. posted a cumulative 41-7 record, attended three Rose Bowls and one Orange Bowl, won one national championship in 1991, and had a compelling argument for another in 1984. The squad from Los Angeles has beaten the squad from Seattle eight times in the last nine years, including each of the last five seasons, but four of the last seven series meetings have been settled by seven or fewer points. In fact, although U.C.L.A. has defeated Washington 19 times in the last 38 years, the contest has been decided by a single-digit margin 17 times in the last 34 meetings. On the other hand, in another 11 of those 34 clashes, the winner outscored the loser by more than three touchdowns, with the victor winning by 30 or more points on half a dozen occasions. So far this season, the Huskies have played Oklahoma close on the road and beaten Fresno State at home, whereas the Bruins looked good against Utah but looked sluggish against Rice. U.C.L.A. is coming off of an open date, but U.W. has the advantage of playing at home. I honestly don't know which way to go, so I'm going to get a little daring and go with Washington. Now watch the Huskies go and lose by four touchdowns. . . .

Iowa State at Texas---What happens when a Cyclone runs up against a Longhorn? A decade ago, in "Twister," the result was a cow being carried back and forth across a bridge by a tornado. I'm expecting the opposite result this Saturday as Texas wins comfortably.

Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton wait nervously to learn whether the Longhorns will cover the spread. (Photograph from Yahoo! Movies.)

Penn State at Ohio State---How badly do the Buckeyes want revenge? O.S.U. was so busy looking ahead to this week's showdown with the Nittany Lions that the No. 1 team in the land let Cincinnati hang around past halftime last weekend. Typically, this is a close game---four of the last five series meetings have been decided by a touchdown or less---but I'm not so sure about that this time. I expect the Buckeyes to win big.

Notre Dame at Michigan State---As noted at Schembechler Hall, Charlie Weis, the savior of Notre Dame football, is 15 games into his career in South Bend and he has a record of 11-4, whereas Tyrone Willingham, the destroyer of Notre Dame football, got 15 games into his career in South Bend with a record of . . . 11-4. In Coach Willingham's 16th game at the Fighting Irish helm, the Golden Domers fell to the Spartans by a final margin of 22-16. Yeah, that sounds about right to me . . . history repeats itself as Michigan State completes the sweep for the Great Lake State.

Sorry, Charlie. (Photograph from Sports Illustrated.)

Wisconsin at Michigan---In 1990, the Georgia Bulldogs went 4-7, marking the worst season of football between the hedges since the year before Vince Dooley's arrival in the Classic City. The following year, Ray Goff declared "Operation Turnaround" . . . and the Red and Black proceeded to beat six of the seven teams to which they had lost the year before. I'm beginning to believe that 2006 will be the year of the Maize and Blue's "Operation Turnaround." The Badgers beat the Wolverines in 2005, which leads me to conclude that Michigan will win this year.

Arizona State at Cal---The Devils went down to Berkeley; they were looking for a game to win so they could keep pace to capture first place and be the champions of the Pac-10. When Jeff Tedford bows his head because he knows that he's been beat, the Golden Bears will kneel on the ground at A.S.U.'s feet. Dirk Koetter'll say, "Come on back, now, hippies, if you ever want to try again. I read it on a weblog that Arizona State would win!"

Sorry, Charlie.

It should be perfectly clear by now that I haven't the foggiest idea what I'm doing. Heck, there are two or three of those picks that even I think are wrong, so you should place no stock whatsoever in my forecasts. In other words . . . Don't Bet On It!

Go 'Dawgs!

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