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Don't Bet On It: National Games of Interest

On Monday morning, I gave you my S.E.C. picks. After posting a 9-4 record in last week's national picks, I am almost ashamed to try my hand at predicting any additional games around the country, but I will give it a whirl, nevertheless.

Last week's misplaced faith in Florida State and Oregon dropped my non-S.E.C. ledger to 39-14, giving me an overall tally of 77-22 for the 2006 campaign. It should go without saying, therefore, that my skills as a prognosticator are not to be taken seriously, so, whatever you do . . . Don't Bet On It!

Don't get me wrong, though; I make more sense than this guy!

Here are this week's prominent national contests, each of which will be played on Saturday, October 14, unless otherwise indicated:

Clemson v. Temple (Thursday, October 12)---There's a Jeff Foxworthy joke in here somewhere: "If you pronounce the first syllable of 'Clemson' so that it rhymes with the first syllable of 'Temple,' you might be a redneck!" As for the contest itself, the Owls will arrive in Charlotte, N.C., trailing an 18-game losing streak, while the Tigers are off to their best start since 2000 and trying to claim the championship of the more rugged division of the A.C.C. Even if Tommy Bowden's squad gets caught looking ahead to its October 21 date with Georgia Tech in Death Valley, there's no way Clemson is losing to what may be the worst program in Division I-A in the Carolinas.

Colorado State at Air Force (Thursday, October 12)---First place in the Centennial State will be settled in Colorado Springs later this week as the Rams battle the Falcons for Rocky Mountain supremacy. C.S.U. very quietly has compiled a 4-1 ledger and the home team has been more noteworthy in defeat than in victory this season. Not to Ram the point home or anything, but I like the visitors in this one.

Virginia Tech at Boston College (Thursday, October 12)---The Hokies and the Eagles head into this game at Chestnut Hill knowing that the loser is all but out of the race for the Big East crown. . . . Wait, hold on, that's not right. . . . Oh, yeah, this is an A.C.C. game! My bad. Anyway, this one could go a long way towards deciding the winner of the Atlantic Division . . . or is it the Coastal? Just a second . . . they're in different divisions? Oh, the heck with it, then . . . I'm taking Boston College to beat V.P.I. at home.


I think of this game as the "What the Heck Are Either of These Guys Still Doing Coaching There?" Bowl.

Pitt at Central Florida (Friday, October 13)---All right, this one is a Big East game, right? Oh, never mind! I've been hearing a lot about how the 5-1 Panthers are much improved and how Tyler Palko is playing well, but I'll believe Pittsburgh is back among the elite when Dave Wannstedt's team no longer has to play road games on Friday nights against U.C.F. Pitt will win, but I hope the Panthers' trip to Epcot is worth the shame and ignominy of playing this game in the first place. For shame.

U.C.L.A. at Oregon---This is a critical game for both teams. Will the Ducks be able to rebound from their loss to Cal? Will the Bruins be able to recover from the loss of Ben Olson? Although each team is 4-1, there are questions whether Duck fans should be in panic mode or Karl Dorrell can beat a winning team on the road. The Ducks were manhandled by Cal, but I still think they're a good team and I'm taking Oregon to win at home.

Wake Forest at N.C. State---There may be no more quirky conference in all of college football than the A.C.C. and there certainly is no more difficult Atlantic Coast Conference squad to figure than the Wolfpack, which lost to Akron and Southern Mississippi before knocking off Boston College and Florida State in succession to claim first place in the Atlantic Division. Between the Demon Deacons' second-half collapse against Clemson and the fact that N.C. State hasn't beaten a regular-season opponent from a B.C.S. conference by more than 10 points since 2003, we should expect a barn-burner, but I have a tough time believing the 'Pack can pull another rabbit out of the hat. Jim Grobe is building a winner in Winston-Salem and I like Wake Forest to get back on track.

"Coach, what is it about your team that allows these kids to win?" "Character. Character. Character." "Coach, what do you have to say about your quarterback?" "Ice. Ice. Ice." "Coach, how would you describe your answers in postgame interviews?" "Redundant. Redundant. Redundant."

Michigan at Penn State---The crucial question, of course, is: "How important will the loss of Mario Manningham be?" My best guess at an answer is, "Not very." Manningham's loss may matter to Michigan down the road, but the Nittany Lions have been a shadow of their 2005 selves, losing to Notre Dame and Ohio State by lopsided margins and escaping the Metrodome with a 28-27 win over the Golden Gophers. Even without their star receiver, the Wolverines should have more than enough firepower to claw their way to victory in Happy Valley.

Rutgers at Navy---Perhaps in preparation for their season-ending showdown with the Black Knights of the Hudson, the Midshipmen will be hosting the Scarlet Knights of Piscataway in a legitimate battle of teams worthy of a top 25 ranking. If you're a fan of the fullback (as I am), you're going to enjoy this game. I have gone back and forth over this pick, trying to decide which advantage will matter most. Will it be the Scarlet Knights' open date last week or the Naval Academy's home field advantage this week? In a close, hard-hitting game of football, I'm taking Rutgers to come out on top.

Rutgers alumna Kristin Davis will be keeping a close eye on Annapolis as the Scarlet Knights square off with the Midshipmen, despite her having been scandalized by the coarse language employed by the State University of New Jersey in a recent interview. (Photograph from Star Pulse.)

Boise State at New Mexico State (Sunday, October 15)---I'm just glad this contest is taking place in Las Cruces, because I'm pretty sure that playing a college football game on a Sunday on that abomination of a field in Boise would bring down some serious Old Testament wrath on the Gem State. In their first season of W.A.C. play in 2005, the Aggies went 0-12 and the worst of their many drubbings---worse even than the 39-0 skunking they absorbed from the Colorado Buffaloes---was a 56-6 thrashing by the Broncos. I'm thinking Boise State gets it done while many of the B.S.U. players enjoy their first and last shot at "playing on Sundays."

Well, I have incorrectly predicted the outcomes of enough college football games for one evening, so I will let it go at that . . . but not before issuing my usual disclaimer, reminding you, as always, that, when it comes to my prognostications, whatever you do, Don't Bet On It!

Go 'Dawgs!