Don't Bet On It!: National Games of Interest

Needless to say, it has been a busy week in Bulldog Nation, which is why I’m a bit behind schedule in bringing you this week’s special dual SEC/national edition of "Don’t Bet On It!" Reversing the typical trends, I went 4-2 in last week’s national games of interest and 2-4 in last week’s conference picks, bringing me to 68-16 for the season in SEC contests and 32-30 in other outings. In other words, I’m now utterly unreliable in every category, which is all the more reason why you should believe me when I tell you . . . Don’t Bet On It!

Here are this week’s important outings, which will be played on Saturday, December 5, unless indicated otherwise:

East Carolina Pirates v. Houston Cougars: Obviously, I am using the broadest possible definition of "national games of interest" here, but there is a conference title on the line. All right, fine, it’s just the Conference USA title, but, still, that’s something. (Quick question . . . at the end of the Conference USA championship game, do fans of the winning team begin chanting "U-S-A" the way Southeastern Conference fans chant "S-E-C"? Because I think that would be rather presumptuous of them.) I know better than to side with any coach named Holtz unless it’s flagrantly obvious that he’s cheating his hindquarters off, and, since Skip seems to be going about his duties with honesty and integrity, there’s no way I’m taking his team over Houston.

Central Michigan Chippewas v. Ohio Bobcats (Friday, Dec. 4): Central Michigan (Michigan) faces Ohio (Ohio) to settle the MAC championship. This probably only matters to you if you live in Michigan or Ohio, follow college football, and aren’t a fan of the Big Ten. There can’t be more than twenty people who fit that description, can there? Assuming that the quality of football in the two states is roughly equal, it is worth noting that the Bobcats are not the best college football team in Ohio but the Chippewas are the best college football team in Michigan. Therefore, I’m picking Central Michigan.

West Virginia Mountaineers at Rutgers Scarlet Knights: I once asked whether Les Miles was the new Danny Ford, but now I’m wondering whether Bill Stewart is the new Les Miles . . . namely, the head coach everyone is just sure is an ignorant bozo promoted beyond his level of competence, who somehow manages to win in spite of what we all perceive to be his shortcomings. I thought about that for a while and I came to the following conclusion: naaaaaaah. I’m going with Greg Schiano’s Scarlet Knights at home.

(Obligatory photograph of Rutgers alumna Kristin Davis.)

Cincinnati Bearcats at Pittsburgh Panthers: The power vacuum created by the departures of Miami (Florida), Virginia Tech, and, later, Rich Rodriguez made the Big East an intriguing league in which almost every team had a shot at contending. This has made for some wild and wacky upsets, and I expect this to be one of them. Pitt is hopping mad after wetting the bed in the Backyard Brawl, Cincy is distracted by the increasingly credible speculation about Brian Kelly becoming the next head coach at Notre Dame, and the Panthers have both home field advantage and a history of knocking conference rivals out of potential national championship contention. I’m sticking with Pittsburgh this week.

Oregon State Beavers at Oregon Ducks (Thursday, Dec. 3): I’m sorry, did you just say the Battle of the Webbed Feet will settle the Pac-10’s Rose Bowl berth? When did that happen? Oh, right . . . somewhere between the time Pete Carroll whined that Jim Harbaugh went for a cheap late score against him and the time Pete Carroll went for a cheap late score against Rick Neuheisel. With everything on the line in Eugene, the Civil War will be much more akin to warfare than to civility, but I’m not betting against Autzen Stadium when the chips are down, particularly when such other orange-clad contenders as Clemson and Oklahoma State have been getting embarrassed in season-ending in-state rivalry games. Oregon State will come up short in a game of Duck, Duck, Duck, lose.

Nebraska Cornhuskers v. Texas Longhorns: There was a time when the Big 12 title tilt was good for at least one epochal upset every couple of years. One of those came in 1996, when James Brown delivered on his pregame prediction that the ‘Horns would beat the ‘Huskers and announced afterwards, "Get on up! Hit me! Ow!" (All right, not that James Brown. Sorry.) Lately, though, it’s been all South Division, all the time. That won’t change this weekend, as Texas will take care of business.

Alabama Crimson Tide v. Florida Gators: I don’t know which image I find more revolting . . . Urban Meyer hoisting another crystal football while rocking his natty Members Only jacket or Tim Tebow weeping openly after a Gator loss while ESPN films him through the same gauzy lens typically reserved for Doris Day movies or Barbara Walters specials and Thom Brenneman somberly intones, "Every time Tim Tebow sheds a tear, an angel gets its wings." Actually, as sick at my stomach as I get whenever the sports media get all starry-eyed over His Royal Tebowness, I just can’t stand the idea of Florida winning another . . . well, anything, really: national title, conference championship, game, whatever. I’m going with my heart instead of my head and picking ’Bama.

There you have them, ladies and gentlemen . . . the last slate of picks for the 2009 regular season! If you haven’t figured out by now that I’m bad at this, you probably never will, but, just in case, I’m going to warn you one more time: Don’t Bet On It!

Coming Soon: National Championship Game of Disinterest.

Go ‘Dawgs!

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