Don't Bet On It: National Games of Interest

Having already provided you with this week's S.E.C. forecasts, I now turn to the national games of interest. You should bear in mind that, last weekend, I went 6-1 in my non-S.E.C. predictions, which was way better than my ordinarily atrocious average.

You should consider that early success to be a warning shot, as a broken clock is only right twice a day, so I'm not due to be correct again for another little while yet. In other words, steer clear of this week's prognostications as though they carried bubonic plague. Stated more succinctly, the usual rule still applies: Don't Bet On It!

The Kate Walsh good luck photo is getting some play and I picked Addison to serve as Georgia in my "Grey's Anatomy"/S.E.C. comparison, so I figured I'd stick with what worked. This week, I'm going to need some luck, believe me.

The following games all will be played on Saturday, September 8, unless otherwise indicated:

Oregon State at Cincinnati (Thursday, September 6): I warned you already that this one would be close. The Beavers are coming off of a 10-win season and they looked sharp in their opener against Utah, but Oregon State tends to struggle far from the friendly confines of Corvallis. In their last 11 road games, the Beavers are just 6-5, with five of those victories coming by a single-digit margin. The Bearcats beat Southeast Missouri State by a larger margin (59-3) than that by which Florida defeated Western Kentucky (49-3), yet the Gators are ranked fifth and the Bearcats are overshadowed by a team they beat 23-6 last year. You know what? This is a big game not just for Cincinnati, but for a Big East whose reputation recently has been on the rise, and I've talked myself into believing the Bearcats will make the most of their date with the Beavers. Baby, if you ever wondered whatever became of O.S.U., they're gonna lose a game at Cincinnati, and their uniforms are ugly, too.

Navy at Rutgers (Friday, September 7): If you're not looking forward to this one, you're just a danged dirty communist. The United States Naval Academy takes on the State University of New Jersey in a clash of two of the top "feel good" stories in college football in the 21st century. The Midshipmen are a well-coached bunch and they will win some games---maybe even breaking their string of futility against the Fighting Irish?---but they will have better luck against the Black Knights of the Hudson than against the Scarlet Knights of the Raritan, as Rutgers will get the better of Navy.

I know, I know, I know. A game between the Midshipmen and the Scarlet Knights provided the perfect opportunity to include a screenshot of Rutgers alumna Kristin Davis from the "Sex and the City" episode "Anchors Away," but this is a family weblog.

Brigham Young at U.C.L.A.: At the end of last season, I found myself wondering how good the Mountain West really was. Before the start of this season, I found myself proselytizing on behalf of Arizona. I obviously was wrong about the latter, which may have changed the question mark concerning the former into an exclamation point. I am a big believer in U.C.L.A.'s talent, but I am an even bigger believer in Karl Dorrell's incompetence. This is a game the Bruins should win . . . but, after Appalachian State's stunner in Ann Arbor, would it really be so shocking if a Cougar program that has won 10 or more games in 12 of the last 28 seasons beat a Bruin program that has cracked the double-digit victory ceiling just half a dozen times in the last 60 years? I hope Nestor will forgive me for saying so, but, unless the student-athletes from a university at which caffeine is considered sinful are distracted by the scenery, I believe B.Y.U. will W-I-N.

Notre Dame at Penn State: You don't bring a knife to a gunfight and you don't start a Clausen in place of a quarterback. The best-case scenario for Charlie Weis's decision to start Jimmy Clausen in what is apt to be a most unhappy valley for the Fighting Irish is for the freshman arthroscopic surgery patient phenom to turn out to be Matthew Stafford . . . that is, he may go through intense and public growing pains during his on-the-job training and guide the team through seven worrisome weeks of gut-wrenching losses and unsettling victories before his comfort level catches up to his natural abilities. That's about as good as it is liable to get for the Golden Domers against an early-season schedule that includes dates at Penn State, at Michigan, against Michigan State (winner of five straight at Notre Dame), at Purdue, at U.C.L.A., against Boston College, and against U.S.C., but, hey, there's every reason to trust a Clausen to handle the inevitable struggles with class and maturity, right? Uh-oh . . . this looks like a golden opportunity for the Nittany Lions to avenge last year's 41-17 thumping.

I'm confident Jimmy Clausen could lose this game with one arm tied behind his back.

Boise State at Washington: The Huskies head into this showdown in Seattle after having found a quarterback, impressed attentive fans, taken another step in the direction of restoring this historically powerful program, and generally gotten themselves ready to force B.S.U. to bow down to mighty Washington in U-Dub's home opener. For their part, after registering double-digit win tallies in four of their previous five seasons, the Broncos broke through with their first win over a Pac-10 team in 2004, hanging 53 points on Oregon State en route to an undefeated regular season and laying the groundwork for a 13-0 campaign in 2006 that featured wins over the Beavers in Boise and over the Sooners in Glendale. The fact remains, though, that, since moving up to Division I-A in 1996, Boise State has gone 0-11 in away games against B.C.S. conference opponents, including an 0-6 ledger when visiting Pac-10 stadiums. Is a W.A.C. squad that has come up short against the Sun Devils in Tempe, the Cougars in Pullman, the Bruins in Pasadena, and the Beavers in Corvallis ready to face a resurgent Husky squad in front of a U.W. home crowd? Well, actually, I'd say so: Boise State lost on the road to Pac-10 teams by scores of 38-7, 56-7, and 58-0 from 1996 to 1999, but, from 2000 forward, the Broncos have come up short on the home fields of the West Coast B.C.S. conference's member institutions by narrow margins of 42-35, 30-27, and 26-24. As BCSBusters regularly reminds us, the gap has closed and there's a first time for everything. Mark Saturday down as the first time for this thing: Boise State will get its first road win over a B.C.S. conference opponent.

Miami (Florida) at Oklahoma: The Sooners had the best opening weekend of any team in the Big 12 and now they turn their attention to an out-of-conference in-state rival. O.U.'s clash with the Golden Hurricane presents an interesting matchup, given the way Gus Malzahn's offense reeled off 21 unanswered second-half points last weekend. Consequently, I believe . . . I'm sorry, what's that? The Miami Hurricanes? Oh, totally my bad. This ought to be a great matchup . . . just as soon as 1985 rolls around again. Assuming this game is going to be played in 2007, however, I don't think it will be close and I like Oklahoma to put this one away sooner rather than later.

As soon as the Miami-Oklahoma game is over, Jerry Jones plans to hire the head coach of the winning team to take over the Cowboys. Then he plans to fire him. Then he plans to hire Billy Martin. Wait, I'm confusing my monomaniacal owners of professional franchises I despise, aren't I?

Oregon at Michigan: With all the poor-mouthing going on around here, I'm starting to think this game will be coached by Lispin' Lou Holtz and Weepin' Wally Butts. Honestly, I'm inclined to go with the Wolverines here, but, since I've already picked against the Beavers, the Bruins, and the Huskies, I don't want to predict that the Pac-10 will go 0-4 in big games this weekend and open myself up to charges of an East Coast bias, so, against my better judgment, I'm going with Oregon to treat the Maize and Blue to a game of Duck, Duck, Duck, lose.

Texas Christian at Texas: Did I really just pick Cincinnati to beat Oregon State, B.Y.U. to beat U.C.L.A., and Boise State to beat Washington? Well, heck, then, let's go all in on this week's sanity fire sale. Honestly, though, this one isn't much of a stretch, as the Longhorns lost last week's game everywhere except on the scoreboard: Arkansas State outperformed Texas in first downs (26-23), rushing yards (125-117), passing yards (272-223), and return yards (104-103) while matching the Burnt Orange in plays run (71 apiece). The Horned Frogs, meanwhile, hung 386 yards of total offense and 27 points on Baylor, giving T.C.U. its fifth win over a Big 12 team since September 3, 2005. In for a buck, in for a bundle: Texas Christian will earn the victory in Austin. Hook 'em, Horned Frogs!

If you weren't convinced by my weekly disclaimer before now, surely you have been persuaded by my off-the-chart insane upset picks, three of which are almost certain to be wrong . . . but, boy, oh, boy, am I going to be dining out for weeks on whichever one it is that I randomly get right. Since there's no way of knowing which of these indefensible picks is liable to come true, there is only one sensible approach to take; namely . . . Don't Bet On It!

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

Go 'Dawgs!

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