Don't Bet On It: National Games of Interest

I apologize for my radio silence yesterday, but I was traveling to the Jekyll Island Club Hotel in order to teach a seminar on Georgia probate law to the members of the Henry County Bar Association. Since the weekend now is only a day away, I'm going to give you the short version of tomorrow's national picks.

Much like the Bandit, we have a long way to go and a short time to get there.

I was an exceedingly mediocre 4-3 in last week's national games of interest, bringing my record for the season in non-S.E.C. outings to 15-7. Accordingly, it scarcely has to be said that, when contemplating my prognostications, you should take what you can from them, but, no matter what you do . . . Don't Bet On It!

You have been forewarned. Here are this week's picks:

Texas Tech at Oklahoma State: It'll be interesting to learn which is the bigger pretender of the Big 12 parvenu programs. The Red Raiders have worked their way through a non-conference schedule comprised of the weak sisters of Lone Star State football: Southern Methodist, U.T.E.P., and Rice. How Mike Leach's crew missed North Texas, I'll never know. In any case, Texas Tech begins Big 12 play with a trip to Stillwater and the venue provides us with some hint of the Raiders' probability of success, as Coach Leach's squads have found that happiness is not Lubbock, Texas, in their rear view mirror. The last two seasons have seen Texas Tech road losses at Colorado, Oklahoma, T.C.U., Texas, and, yes, Oklahoma State. I make it a point never to buy into the Red Raiders until they actually get around to playing someone and I believe the Cowboys (who, by the way, use saddles with pommels, in case you didn't know) will bounce back to get the win at home.

The foregoing Mac Davis reference was brought to you by my limited awareness of popular culture after the late 1980s.

North Carolina at South Florida: Quick . . . Butch Davis is a better football coach than Jim Leavitt because . . . ? Yeah, I couldn't come up with anything, either. Anyway, the Tar Heels lost to East Carolina and the Bulls beat Auburn. Yeah, not a tough call. U.S.F. defeats U.N.C.

Washington at U.C.L.A.: Devoted Husky fans like Jason "The Purple Nightmare" Richardson doubtless were reeling from Ohio State's decisive demolition of ostensibly resurgent U.W. almost all the way until brunch on Sunday morning . . . but the situation in Seattle is nothing like what we find in Westwood, where Karl Dorrell deservedly is taking considerable heat for the Bruins' gruesome loss to the Utes. Which team will regroup and which one will see the wheels come off altogether? I'm going with the better-coached team to prevail and that team rather clearly is Washington.

The foregoing photograph of Tyrone Willingham is included as a segue from my pro-Washington pick to my anti-Notre Dame pick.

Michigan State at Notre Dame: Of which inevitable collapse are you more certain . . . Sparty's or Jimmy Clausen's? Oh, wait . . . Jimmy's has already begun, hasn't it? The Struggling Irish have yet to score an offensive touchdown. M.S.U. has won five in a row in South Bend. A Spartan implosion is a safe bet, but, with a trip to Wisconsin coming up next week, I like Michigan State to run its record to 4-0 before beginning the downward spiral to 5-7 in Madison eight days hence.

Air Force at Brigham Young: This could prove to be the decisive game in the Western Athletic Conference race. Hang on . . . even though the Falcons and the Cougars settled the league title in Las Vegas in 1998, it was the last W.A.C. game for either team, as both began competing in the Mountain West the following fall. Well, whatever conference these teams play in, Air Force has put itself firmly in the driver's seat in the league and I like the Falcons to register the victory here. (As an Atlanta area native, by the way, I find it strange to type the words "I like the Falcons to register the victory here.")

If, on the other hand, the Falcons lose, we may get to hear former Air Force head coach Fisher DeBerry explain that Mormon kids can run very, very well.

Iowa at Wisconsin: In all likelihood, this is a battle for an Outback Bowl bid at best, but don't underestimate the significance of this rivalry. The series record between the Hawkeyes and the Badgers is knotted at 40-40-2, with Wiscy having won five in a row from 1997 to 2001 and Iowa having taken four of the last five from the Badgers. The loser likely is out of the Big Ten race and this has turned into a perennial competitive battle between teams trying to break through into the league's elite on a full-time basis. Wisconsin simply has not played well and the Hawkeyes are smarting from their loss to the Cyclones, so I'm taking Iowa to rebound and declare, "Badgers? We don't need no stinking Badgers!"

Oregon State at Arizona State: There is no better quick-fix artist in all of college football than Dennis Erickson, as the Beavers know all too well. Before the former Miami Hurricanes head coach arrived in Corvallis in 1999 and immediately led the squad to a seven-win season and an Oahu Bowl berth, O.S.U. had not produced a winning season since 1970 and had not made it into postseason play since 1964. Lax disciplinary standards and a high tolerance for thuggery cultivated in Coral Gables enabled Coach Erickson to put the Beavers in a B.C.S. bowl game in his second season, but Oregon State lost at least five games in each of the next five seasons before going 10-4 in 2006. Coach Erickson, who has coached at every Pac-10 school with "State" in its nomenclature, is looking to take the Sun Devils to 4-0 for just the second time since 1996, but his efforts are hampered by the reality that A.S.U. has dropped its Pac-10 opener in six of the last nine years. Will that trend continue in 2007? Not if this trend also continues: Oregon State is 11-16 in its last 27 road games. I'm not quite ready to buy into Arizona State, but I'm giving the Sun Devils the benefit of the doubt at home against the Beavers.

Also, Oregon State loses points because of the Beavers' heinous uniforms.

Penn State at Michigan: Suddenly, this one seems relevant again, doesn't it? The Wolverines are susceptible to mobile quarterbacks. The Nittany Lions have Anthony Morelli. Uh, yeah. I'm going with Michigan to make it nine in a row over P.S.U.

Those are my completely harebrained and utterly unreliable picks, in which you repose trust strictly at your own risk. In other words, I hope you were entertained by the foregoing predictions, but you should not consider yourself edified by them, and, no matter what the circumstances, the applicable rule is crystal-clear: Don't Bet On It!

Coming Soon: The National Game of Disinterest. . . .

Go 'Dawgs!

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