I posted a 6-2 record in last week's non-S.E.C. picks. I was horribly wrong to go with Arizona State, I narrowly missed appearing prescient when I trusted Michigan State to shut up the echoes, and I boldly predicted that Washington would beat U.C.L.A.
Tape the names of college football teams to a dartboard and this guy could do my job. (Photograph from All Posters.)
Nevertheless, my season-long record in national games is 24-7, giving me an overall 2006 ledger of 53-12. Of course, I'm calling the games straight up and there are some turkey S.E.C. non-conference contests thrown in there, so, really, you shouldn't put much stock in my .815 prediction percentage; rather, you should recognize that even a broken clock is right twice a day and heed my advice: Don't Bet On It!
Now that you have been given proper warning, these are the national games that got my attention this week, all of which are scheduled to be played on Saturday, September 30, unless indicated otherwise:
Nevada at U.N.L.V.---The leaves haven't even turned, yet already the Silver State showdown appears on the schedule, so, naturally, I had to call it to your attention. Don't let the Wolf Pack's 2-2 record fool you; Nevada can play some football. The good news is that the squad from the Biggest Little City in the World will return home with a win over its in-state rival, but the bad news is that the victors will be consigned to Reno while the losers get to stay in Las Vegas. Still, Nevada should be content with the win.
On the other hand, no one ever made a movie called "Viva Reno!"
Brigham Young at Texas Christian (Thursday, September 28)---The student-athletes from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) play host to the squad from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a gridiron battle to determine which denomination has the less cumbersome and self-effacing nomenclature. These former W.A.C. combatants now square off under the auspices of the Mountain West and times have changed since B.Y.U. dominated the old neighborhood. I look for the Horned Frogs to claim victory at home.
Colorado at Missouri---What happens when the best 0-4 team in America meets the weakest 4-0 squad in the land? As I witnessed firsthand last Saturday, the Buffaloes have gotten better each week and the Tigers remain untested heading into Big 12 play. In the 22 seasons since 1984, Colorado has leapt out to an 0-4 start three times. In two of those campaigns (1986 and 2000), the Buffs stopped their skid in the autumn's fifth outing . . . and I'm betting Colorado does it again in 2006.
Rutgers at South Florida (Friday, September 29)---Since falling at Illinois to open the 2005 campaign, the Scarlet Knights have gone 4-1 on the road, losing only in Louisville. Where the State University of New Jersey stumbled was at home, giving up 45 points to the Bulls in New Brunswick. Now Greg Schiano's squad must travel to Tampa to face a 3-1 U.S.F. squad with a penchant for comeback victories and designs on making back-to-back bowl appearances. Jim Leavitt's team finishes the regular season with consecutive road games against Big East heavyweights Louisville and West Virginia, so the Bulls need five wins in their next six games to have a good shot at a postseason invitation. South Florida may get those victories, but the Bulls' winning streak doesn't start this weekend, as Rutgers wins on the road.
Rutgers alumna Kristin Davis has high hopes for the Scarlet Knights' 2006 season. (Photograph from Marie Claire.)
Texas Tech at Texas A&M---The never-weres travel to take on the has-beens in a Lone Star State battle that ought to determine which team gets to stay in the conference and which team gets booted from the Big 12 in favor of T.C.U. The Aggies like to think of themselves as an all-time top 25 program, but, frankly, they just aren't. The school in College Station is rich in tradition but light in actual football prowess, as attested to by Texas A&M's regular struggles with the Red Raiders' parvenu program. Texas Tech has beaten the Aggies eight times in the last 11 series meetings and the latest evidence that Dennis Franchione knows a thing in the world about coaching football in the Southwest came while he was living in Fort Worth. Mike Leach's weather report calls for a downpour of Red Raider touchdown passes as Texas Tech wins at the Home of the Illegal Participation Penalty.
Boise State at Utah---In the year's marquee matchup between non-B.C.S. teams, the W.A.C.'s Broncos take on the Mountain West's Utes. Over at Block U, you can find qualitative and quantitative breakdowns of the game, but what you need to know is pretty straightforward. Even though I booted B.S.U. from my BlogPoll ballot after a lackluster win last weekend, the Broncos boast perhaps the best running back in college football. It's going to be a bad weekend for the Beehive State as Boise State wins in Salt Lake City.
Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech---I definitely think Tech is going to win this one. The A.C.C.'s most erratic team visits the league's most enigmatic team in a showdown that ought to---but, knowing this conference, probably won't---settle the championship of the Coastal Division. The Hokies and the Yellow Jackets are hard teams to figure, but this much I know: Frank Beamer is coaching at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Chan Gailey is coaching at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and the game is being played in Blacksburg. That's a formula for a Virginia Tech victory if ever there was one.
Stare at these two pictures for a few seconds. Notice how your confidence in a Virginia Tech victory grows with each passing moment.
Oregon at Arizona State---This contest lost a bit of its luster when the Sun Devils left the desert to bite the dust in the People's Republic of Berkeley, but crazy things can happen in the Pac-10, particularly when frontrunners are playing on the road. A.S.U. has won 21 of its last 28 home games, which inclines me to side with Dirk Koetter's crew . . . until I pause to consider that Mike Bellotti's bunch is coming off of an open date and the Ducks are 10-0 after a regular-season bye week since their loss to Washington in October 1996. A decade-long winning streak in games played after taking a Saturday off seems pretty convincing to me, so I'm taking Oregon.
Ohio State at Iowa---The weekend's most significant showdown seems likely to be a dud. It was one thing back before the season started when everyone was whispering, "The Buckeyes had better watch out for the Hawkeyes. . . ." Now that what was uttered in mumbles and murmurs has begun being broadcast with a megaphone, though, what could have been a potential trap overlooked by O.S.U. has become the date the No. 1 team in the land has circled on the calendar. Iowa now has Ohio State's undivided attention . . . and that is not good news for the home team.
That's how this weekend's action shakes out, at least as I see it. Take those predictions for what they're worth, but, by all means, bear in mind, as always: Don't Bet On It!