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Don't Bet On It: National Games of Interest

After baffling everyone with the complete insanity of my S.E.C. picks, I am somewhat hesitant to dive into this week's national predictions.

We all go a little mad sometimes. (Photograph from Yahoo! Movies.)

I posted a 4-2 record in last week's nationwide forecasts, bringing my ledger for the season in non-S.E.C. games to 60-18. Together with my 54-8 conference mark, this brings my overall record for the season to 114-26. Take care, however, that you do not lend credence to my prognostications based upon the mistaken belief that I have some idea what I am talking about; instead, heed my weekly warning: Don't Bet On It!

Here are this week's national games of interest, which are to be played on Saturday, November 4, unless otherwise indicated:

U.A.B. at Southern Methodist (Tuesday, October 31)---Although Doug Gillett and I agree that Georgia's future is bright, he and I find ourselves on opposite sides of this latest Tuesday night Conference U.S.A. thrillfest, as Doug, a Birmingham resident, has ties to U.A.B. and I feel compelled to root for S.M.U. because the Mustangs are the only Division I-A team whose school name ("Southern Methodist") describes something that I am. The Blazers' 2-2 ledger in league play has them in a three-way tie for second place in the C.-U.S.A. East, but Alabama-Birmingham has lost two in a row and U.A.B. is 0-3 away from Legion Field. The 'Stangs also are 2-2 in the conference and are tied with two other teams for third place in the West Division, but S.M.U. is 3-0 at home this season. I'm going to be true to my denomination and pick Southern Methodist to claim victory in Dallas.

Nobody ever made a T.V. show about Birmingham, did they? Well, all right, then. (Photograph from Ultimate Dallas.)

Fresno State at Boise State (Wednesday, November 1)---2006 has been a tough year to be a Bulldog. Georgia has three losses before Halloween for the first time since 1996, Mississippi State hasn't yet been able to turn it around under Sylvester Croom, and Fresno State has hit rock bottom. The West Coast Canines won their opener over Nevada before dropping competitive contests against Oregon, Washington, Colorado State, and Utah State in succession. The wheels came off in back-to-back losses to Hawaii and L.S.U., in which the squad from the Raisin Capital of the World was outscored by a combined margin of 106-43. Pat Hill's Fresno State squads struggled against W.A.C. rival Boise State even when F.S.U. was good, so there's no way the Bulldogs are going to go on the road and beat the undefeated Broncos when Fresno State is bad.

West Virginia at Louisville (Thursday, November 2)---Many fans around the country may not appreciate the schedule the Cardinals have faced or the pedigree U. of L. brings to the table, but you may rest assured that the Louisville faithful know how big a game this is. Before the season started, I thought the Cardinals would get the better of the Mountaineers, but the dominant manner in which West Virginia has acquitted itself has impressed me and I am sold on the Mountain Men. In a shootout, I like W.V.U. to touch the ball last and take home the victory.

If I'm wrong and Louisville wins, though, I hope the Cardinals' play-by-play man has the wherewithal to shout, "Oh, man, is there gonna be some pizza delivered tonight!" (Photograph from Ball State University.)

Air Force at Army (Friday, November 3)---As a Constitutional strict constructionist, I find "Air Force at Army" redundant . . . sort of like "West Virginia at Virginia." The race for second place in the battle for the Commander in Chief's Trophy will be settled at West Point on Friday night, as the Black Knights of the Hudson host the Falcons. This clash pits pilots who favor the ground game against infantrymen who have amassed the majority of their yards through the air; go figure. The Cadets have been very balanced this season, tallying 1,240 rushing yards to complement their 1,242 passing yards. They also will have the benefit of playing on their home field, so I'm taking Army to get the better of their winged military brethren.

Much to the relief of the news media, the U.S. Military Academy has announced that Mushmouth will be seated next to head football coach Bobby Ross at the postgame press conference, so that he will be able to translate Coach Ross's remarks from mumble into English.

Maryland at Clemson---For a while there, Ralph Friedgen was the Flavor of the Month among offensive gurus who looked like they'd partaken of one too many Flavors of the Month. Then Fridge lost a few pounds, the Terps lost a few games, and Charlie Weis became the lovable hefty offensive mastermind du jour, at which point we all pretty much just forgot about Maryland. Maybe that was a mistake. The Terrapins didn't exactly light it up against William & Mary, Middle Tennessee State, or Florida International, but, since a near-miss against Georgia Tech at historic Grant Field, Maryland has pulled out back-to-back-to-back victories in close contests against Virginia, N.C. State, and Florida State. Oh, wait, none of those teams are any good, are they? Fine, then, I'm going with Clemson.

Missouri at Nebraska---Whatever possessed me to pick this game between two teams I booted from my BlogPoll ballot, I have no idea, yet here it is. The Tigers have been the victims of some truly freaky-deaky championship-salvaging oddities at home over the years---from the "fifth down" play against Colorado in 1990 to the kicked ball in the end zone against the Cornhuskers in 1997---so Mizzou probably is better off playing this game on the road . . . except for the fact that the flagship university of the Show Me State has not won a football game in Lincoln since 1978. The Big Red Machine has taken a giant step backwards in recent seasons, but I just don't see the Cornhuskers falling to Missouri at home.

With this goombah on the job, though, anything is possible.

Virginia Tech at Miami---This showdown pits a Beamer who isn't from the Bavarian Motor Works against a Coker who had nothing to do with John DeLorean and, oh, how the mighty have fallen. It's beginning to look like the Hokies' and the Hurricanes' decision to bolt the Big East for the A.C.C. amounted to trading down and these once-proud programs rather clearly have taken a step back. Typically, V.P.I. has been prone to late-season swoons, but it appears as though the squad from Blacksburg decided to beat the Christmas rush and get the losing out of the way early. The 'Canes stink; they're so bad, they lost to Florida State. This is Virginia Tech's chance to exact a little revenge for last year's embarrassing loss in the Old Dominion.

Oklahoma at Texas A&M---I'm really excited about this weekend's game between the Sooners and the Aggies, because it means that I will get to drop the loser from my BlogPoll ballot. Neither of these teams appears to me to be as good as its record but Texas A&M seems to be the bigger pretender. I made the mistake of picking against O.U. in a conference road game against a parvenu program last weekend; I won't make the same mistake twice. I'm going with Oklahoma.

Never side with a football coach who shares the same nickname as the title character in "The Nanny."

Boston College at Wake Forest---Honestly, really, seriously, no kidding . . . this is one of the year's biggest battles in the Awfully Crummy Conference. If Maryland falls to Clemson, the victor in this clash of 7-1 teams likely will win the North Division and go to Jacksonville to face the South Division champion . . . no, wait . . . the winner will finish first in the East Division and go to Jacksonville to play the Even Easter Division champion . . . hold on . . . the team that wins on Saturday will claim the Northsouthern Division crown and get the opportunity to square off with the Eastwestern Division champs, perhaps? Ah, I can't keep this foolishness straight. Anyway, Boston College is the better team and, when the visitors return home to Chestnut Hill, the Demon Deacons' hometown will be called "Ston-Salem," because the Eagles will be taking the win back with them.

Those, as I see them, are the national games of interest. You are free to take or leave my predictions, but, whatever you do . . . Don't Bet On It!

Go 'Dawgs!