Don't Bet On It: National Games of Every Variety

Time is short and I've already taken you around the S.E.C., so we're going to lump all the national games, of whatever kind or character, intriguing or otherwise, into a single posting in order to get them out of the way and get on with our weekend.

An abysmal 2-4 ledger in last week's national picks dropped me to 45-35 in predictions of games not involving Southeastern Conference competition, but, of course, that was before I forecast Arizona's upset win over Oregon, which . . . um . . . I knew all along, but . . . er . . . just didn't get posted in time, that's all, really, I swear. (Hey, at least I thought the Wildcats might be good at one point, but, really, Dave is right: 'Zona is not a good team.)

As someone who grew up during the '80s, I am obligated to follow up the foregoing obvious lie with the words, "Yeah . . . that's the ticket!"

Anyway, you know the drill: Don't Bet On It! Here are the national games of interest being played tomorrow, such as they are:

Oklahoma at Texas Tech: The lack of quality contests around the country is attested to by the fact that I had to go with this pre-Thanksgiving turkey of a game as one of the national matchups worth selecting. The Ducks owed the Sooners one after last year's officiating gaffes in Eugene, and, boy, did they ever deliver. By becoming the latest second-ranked squad to go down to defeat against an unranked opponent, Oregon opened the door for Oklahoma and Bob Stoops will make the most of the opportunity gift-wrapped for him by his much dumber and angrier brother, Mike. The Texas Tech Parvenu Pirates Red Raiders will suffer the consequences as the Sooners begin their revived run to the national championship game.

Bob Stoops kisses his brother, Mike, to thank him for knocking off the Ducks.

West Virginia at Cincinnati: Oregon's loss was a bigger boon for the Sooners than for the Mountaineers, but Rich Rodriguez's squad nevertheless has new life in the hunt for the top spot. Of course, a lot of things have to happen first, foremost among them being a win over the surging Bearcats. Cincy has been off the radar screen since joining the Big East, which is undeserved; although the 'Cats would seem to be the closest thing to the Mid-American Conference poster children that a team can be after having competed outside the M.A.C. since the end of the Korean War, they have proven themselves on the B.C.S. conference stage, beating Connecticut, Oregon State, Rutgers (twice), South Florida (twice), and a January bowl opponent during a 13-3 run through their last 16 games. Are they up to the challenge of bumping off W.V.U. at home? You know what? I'm going to go out on a limb and say they are; Cincinnati will pull off the latest upset in a season chock-full of them.

Boston College at Clemson: Wait a minute . . . it's November and Tommy Bowden's job isn't in jeopardy? What gives? Could it be that the Tiger faithful finally are willing to embrace their perennially embattled head coach, focusing less on the "Tommy" (as in West) and more on the "Bowden" (as in Bobby)? It could be if Clemson is on the verge of winning its first A.C.C. title since the year before George Bush ran for re-election . . . the first George Bush, that is. (You know, the one whose popularity went up as a result of a war in the Persian Gulf.) The Eagles' run was fun while it lasted but I'm not sure the New England Brahmins of Chestnut Hill truly are ready for the challenge of playing in Death Valley. It's one thing to be safely ensconced in Boston, playing a distant fourth fiddle or worse to the Patriots, the Red Sox, and the city's various other distractions, athletic and otherwise; it's quite another to head down to South Carolina and see those orange paws painted on the thoroughfares, to behold so many visible reminders of the career John C. Calhoun spent thundering against Massachusettsians such as themselves, to see that lake and that hill and that rock and that stadium with the steeply sloping sides and all that orange and think, "Oh, my. This really is something altogether different, isn't it?" Boston College is about to find out the hard way that not all conference contests are created equal. Duking it out with, well, Duke and the rest of the basketball schools and research universities in North Carolina is all well and good, but facing a championship-caliber Tiger team at Clemson will prove to be more than the Eagles are prepared to handle.

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, instead of, you know, traveling to an ag school in the South to get the crap kicked out of you.

Ohio State at Michigan: Brian is resigned to the loss he knows, and the numbers say, is coming, but the best writer in the sports blogosphere still holds out hope as only Johnny can. The Buckeyes are coming to the Big House, icy in their ruthlessness and brutal in their relentlessness, mechanistic in their movements under the smoothly efficient guidance of the sweatervested tactician, none of them seeming human---that is both a compliment offered in awe and a condemnation delivered with disdain---and most especially not in this onetime rivalry that has become so one-sided that, with the lone unwavering exception of Johnny, the partisans of the Maize and Blue are able only to await their fate numbly, anesthetized against the inevitable. The key to this game, though, will not be Lloyd or Chad or Mario or Jake or Mike; it will be Doug, en route to Ann Arbor for his first Michigan-Ohio State game while still fresh from his blackout experience in Athens. Doug knows a thing or two about onetime rivalries that have devolved into one-sided affairs, but, when that hex was broken in the not too distant past, and three other curses were lifted when higher-ranked Georgia beat Auburn at home in the same season in which the Bulldogs also had bested the Gators, this wildly unpredictable and constantly surprising season went from bewildering to beatific. Like Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield bearing a briefcase filled with the warm glow widely presumed to be Marsellus Wallace's immortal soul, Doug brings good mojo to the Wolverines from deep in the heart of Bulldog Nation. Wrapped inside the recycled gift box in which Doug's sister presented him with a new toaster oven to replace the one he famously hurled from his balcony in frustration during a game his team won is a fake goatee made from hairs taken from Evil Richt, which Lloyd Carr will wear when taking the field for his final home game. Just do me a favor, though, O.K.? When, thanks to Doug Gillett's good graces, Michigan wins this game, write your dadgum athletic director and tell him that, when he hires Les Miles, he needs to heed his new head coach's respect for the S.E.C. and schedule a doggone home-and-home series with the 'Dawgs already! (Honestly, it's the last time I'm asking this before I start pushing a write-in campaign to set something up with Texas, all right?)

Those are the national games of interest, leaving us with one final task ere the weekend arrives; namely, designating the national game of disinterest, the one contest that has distinguished itself above all others as the least consequential in all of college football that weekend.

Truly, there could be only one choice. This week's national game of disinterest is . . .

Duke at Notre Dame

A 1-9 team that got shelled by Georgia Tech and lost a narrow one to Navy meets a 1-9 team that got shelled by Georgia Tech and lost a narrow one to Navy. That, by definition, is your national game of disinterest.

Go 'Dawgs!

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