I’ve put this off as long as I can because I don’t particularly enjoy picking games on championship weekend whenever the ‘Dawgs are sitting at home watching it on T.V. just like I am. Nevertheless, a regular weekly bit is a regular weekly bit, so I’m going to go ahead and offer you a set of prognostications.
Be forewarned, however: I’m bad at this. All right, I went 6-1 in last week’s S.E.C. forecasts to run my league ledger to 68-17, but a middling 3-2 record in my national prognostications stranded me at 43-33 in non-S.E.C. predictions. Bear that in mind and, whatever you do . . . Don’t Bet On It!
Here are this weekend’s picks, Southern and otherwise:
Ball State v. Buffalo (Friday, November 5): And Brady Hoke and Turner Gill aren’t the head coaches at Michigan and Nebraska, respectively, because . . . ? I am convinced that some college football games exist solely for the purpose of annoying me, and this is one of them. Yes, the Cardinals are going to win to cement an undefeated season, and I’m going to be forced to rank B.S.U. as though it were a legitimate team.
East Carolina v. Tulsa: Remember, back in the days before Boise State and Utah, when the "B.C.S. buster" was a predictable storyline? You know, a Fresno State would go knock off a couple of overrated teams from major conferences and start making some noise, only to stumble down the stretch and not even win its conference championship? Yeah, that. Remember when the Pirates were going undefeated? Sure you do. Think about that while Tulsa beats them.
Boston College v. Virginia Tech: Remind me again why the Big East conference championship is being settled in Tampa? Oh, wait, these teams play in the A.C.C. now, don’t they? O.K., scratch that last question and answer another one. Remind me again why the A.C.C. championship game is being played in Tampa? When choosing up sides in a battle between birds, I make it my policy always to go with the breed that actually exists, so I’m going with the Eagles to defeat the Hokies.
Army v. Navy: If you’re not planning on watching the Army-Navy game, I have a question for you. Why do you hate America, comrade? This is one of the great examples of the pageantry and tradition that set college football apart from all other sports, and, for that reason alone, this game deserves your attention. Unfortunately, the desire to see a competitive football game is not among the reasons why you ought to be watching, because the Midshipmen are going to pile-drive the Black Knights of (and possibly into) the Hudson.
Missouri v. Oklahoma: To all the playoff advocates out there who are hoping the Tigers will win in order to create the maximum amount of chaos and thereby hasten the day when college football settles its national championship by way of a postseason tournament, I have a word of warning: be careful for what you wish. Paul Westerdawg is right that the only playoff you will ever get is one that the six major conferences approve, which means six of the slots in the eight-team playoff the president-elect prefers will go automatically to the A.C.C., Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, and S.E.C. champions. Without those ironclad guarantees, a playoff simply will not happen. A seventh spot will go to the best mid-major, or else litigation will ensue. That leaves one at-large spot in the playoffs. Between Texas, Texas Tech, and the loser of the S.E.C. championship game, at least two would not make the field under any playoff format it is conceivable could be implemented in the real world. Ohio State and either Boise State or Utah would be left out in the cold, as well. Chaos is not the friend of the playoff proponent because any possible playoff would pose precisely the same problems and offer exactly identical inequities. Trust me, you’re better off preserving the perfection of your playoff fantasy than allowing it to be ruined by a harsh reality that is bound to leave you disappointed. So go ahead and root for the Sooners, especially since they’re going to win, anyway.
Alabama v. Florida: It must be admitted from the outset that no team in the country is playing better football right now than the Gators. By rights, this ought to be a thumping. If the Western Division were represented by an Auburn or even an L.S.U. team with exactly the same resume of achievement as the Crimson Tide, I would state without reservation that the Saurians were going to light it up in the Georgia Dome. This, however, is ‘Bama, and ‘Bama has been winning this way for as long as I can remember. Because they play fundamentally sound, rock-ribbed football in the old school mode, the Tide often receive less than their due because they lack pizzazz. They also lack losses, so they must be doing something right . . . and this game has "1993 Sugar Bowl" written all over it. Also, for what it’s worth, Urban Meyer’s Florida teams have gone 0-4 in their last four games decided by a touchdown or less. Blowouts carry style points, but they don’t prepare a team for how to handle a street fight, which is exactly what Alabama will give the Gators. The Tide---who are 4-0 in their last four games settled by seven or fewer points, by the way---will gut out a close contest.
Those are my predictions, but, then, what the heck do I know? Feel free to take those for whatever they might be worth, but please don’t forget to heed my weekly disclaimer, which I assure you is sound advice: Don’t Bet On It!