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Don't Bet On It: National Games of Interest

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I'll own up to it right from the get-go: I tanked in last week's national picks, not just missing the boat entirely on this past Saturday's big game but going 4-2 over the course of the weekend to drop my season-long ledger to 73-25 in national games of note and 142-35 in all predictions.

Maybe now you'll understand why I make such a concerted effort to dissuade you from giving even a scant degree of credence to any of my forecasts. In this Thanksgiving season, you should be grateful that you heeded my advice: Don't Bet On It!

Some picks work out better than others.

Each of this week's national games of interest will take place on Saturday, November 25, except for the three of them that won't. These are they:

Boston College at Miami (Thursday, November 23)---What's the over/under on the number of times E.S.P.N. replays the Doug Flutie Hail Mary pass on the 22nd anniversary of the Eagles' classic win over the Hurricanes? Whatever it is, I'm sure it's significantly higher than the over/under on the number of hours---minutes, perhaps?---that will elapse between the end of the game and the firing of Larry Coker. Since Boston College is one of a trio of teams with 5-2 conference records snarled in a three-way logjam atop the Atlantic Division standings, I'm guessing Tom O'Brien's club still has a shot at making the trek to Jacksonville, although, honestly, confirming that for certain would involve looking up more stuff than I'm prepared to stomach just to find out what the heck is going on in the A.C.C. Here's what you need to know: Boston College is good, Miami is bad, the Eagles will win, and you're guaranteed to hear Doug Flutie being asked to describe the play one more time. (Here's hoping the Worldwide Leader has the wherewithal to break out the Rich Hall "Saturday Night Live" sketch.)

It is often forgotten, but, just moments after his amazing touchdown pass to beat Miami in 1984, Doug Flutie followed up that stunning achievement with the less memorable yet still extremely impressive feat of cloning himself at midfield in order to give himself a celebratory hug. (Photograph from U.S.A. Today.)

Texas A&M at Texas (Friday, November 24)---I have an entertaining story about this game that involves a family friend who is a Texas alumnus but whose daughter and son-in-law attended Texas A&M . . . he is, as they say, a Texas grad but an Aggie dad. (I will not use his name, lest the fine fellows at Burnt Orange Nation hunt him down and set him straight. Don't get me wrong . . . he could use some setting straight, but it's not my place to arrange for it to be given to him.) One year, after his daughter had become a student in College Station, he attended the post-Thanksgiving showdown in the Lone Star State, wearing a rain slicker for the obvious reason that a Texas-Texas A&M game ranks right up there with a N.A.S.C.A.R. race at the Atlanta Motor Speedway on the list of sporting events which cannot take place without the intervention of inclement weather. As a devoted father, he wore his Texas A&M cap and rooted for his daughter's team at the outset, when things were going the Aggies' way. As soon as the Longhorns' inevitable superiority began to manifest itself, though, he removed his Texas A&M cap, stuck it in one pocket of his rain slicker, reached into the other pocket of his rain slicker, pulled out his weathered old Texas cap, stuck it on his head, and began cheering for his alma mater. I have a sneaking suspicion that most football fans in Austin are a bit more singleminded in their dedication to their team than that and, if superior talent and coaching didn't make the difference for Texas, home field advantage surely would.

Colorado at Nebraska (Friday, November 24)---This game has become a great Friday football tradition, but can this year's edition really be competitive? The Buffs are 2-9, after all . . . although, in case you hadn't noticed, they've been getting better since their disastrous 0-6 start, winning two of their last five outings. After failing to score more than 13 points in any of their first five games, the Buffaloes have exceeded that tally five times in the past six contests, scoring 30 or more in three of them. Ah, who am I kidding? After appearing in the Big 12 championship game four times in the last five years, Colorado is staring a 10-loss season in the face for the first time since 1984. The Buffs won at Nebraska in 2002 and in 2004, marking C.U.'s first back-to-back wins in Lincoln since the early 1950s. Winning on three straight trips into Cornhusker territory is too tall an order for this poor a team.


If it's any consolation, though, Colorado's mascot could eat Nebraska's mascot for breakfast . . . and, given half a chance, probably would. (Photograph of Ralphie from E.S.P.N. and photograph of Herbie Husker from Sports Illustrated.)

Wake Forest at Maryland---We've been waiting all year for this showdown to determine which is the most overrated team in the A.C.C. Both of these squads were fairly well exposed as parvenus last Saturday, but that doesn't mean these pretenders aren't contenders in the diluted Atlantic Coast Conference. Neither the Winston-Salem lay leaders possessed by evil spirits nor the College Park tortoises of unusual size have made anything even vaguely resembling a believer out of me, but my disbelief in the home team, while pronounced, is less profound than my lack of faith in their opposition. The Demon Deacons' 15 minutes of fame will expire as the clock strikes midnight, Cinderella's carriage turns back into a pumpkin, and the Terrapins win.

Purdue at Hawaii---Why in the world am I paying attention to this odd intersectional matchup? This game largely is superfluous for both teams, as, win or lose, the Boilermakers are Champs Sports Bowl-bound and Hawaii will be home for the holidays . . . in a good way. Nevertheless, this contest will allow us to evaluate the Warriors, a 9-2 ball club with an outstanding offense and a No. 21 ranking on my latest BlogPoll ballot. Will Hawaii prove itself worthy against a B.C.S. conference opponent? Seeing as how Purdue has beaten no one of consequence, I'm going with the Warriors to get the victory.

Warriors, come out to play-y-ay! (Photograph from GameShop.)

Boise State at Nevada---Wait, hold on, hear me out, people: the Broncos are 11-0 and on the verge not only of at least a share of the W.A.C. championship for the fifth straight season, but also of their first B.C.S. bowl game . . . if they can get by the Wolf Pack on the road. Chris Ault's Nevada squad is 8-3 and potentially dangerous after rebounding from an 0-2 start. The Pack has gone 5-0 at home, beating even visiting Big Ten opponent Northwestern in Reno. Since falling to Hawaii by a touchdown in Honolulu, Nevada has scored 42 or more points in each of its last four games while giving up just seven total points in the team's last 12 quarters of play. The Wolf Pack is hitting its stride and B.S.U. has struggled on the road this season, claiming lackluster wins over Wyoming in Laramie, New Mexico State in Las Cruces, Idaho in Moscow, and San Jose State in San Jose. With visions of a major bowl berth dancing in their heads, the Broncos have to be distracted just a bit, so I like Nevada to pull off the upset.

Notre Dame at Southern California---I know this is the one for which you've all been waiting, but, frankly, I don't think this is quite the marquee showdown it's being hyped to be. The Trojans began the campaign on a tear, beating an outstanding Arkansas team on the road, a good Nebraska team at home, and a pesky Arizona team in Tucson by a combined margin of 98-27. The midseason doldrums then set in, as the supremely talented Pac-10 champions allowed their boredom with their own unsurpassed excellence to produce a string of lackluster wins over Washington State, Washington, and Arizona State before a stunning loss to Oregon State awoke the Men of Troy out of their month-long stupor . . . at which point Pete Carroll's charges began playing up to their considerable potential once more, dismantling Stanford, Oregon, and California in succession by a cumulative score of 100-19 to put U.S.C. squarely back into the thick of the national title hunt. Meanwhile, Charlie Weis's legendary sideline acumen was pushed to the limit by the unparalleled genius of such elite coaches as Georgia Tech's maligned Chan Gailey, Michigan State's since-fired John L. Smith, and U.C.L.A.'s embattled Karl Dorrell. The Fighting Irish have played defense in sporadic fits and starts, surrendering 47 points to the Wolverines, 37 points to the Spartans, and, perhaps most impressively, 26 points to John Bunting's Tar Heels in South Bend. I'm sorry, but I'm just not buying Notre Dame. It won't take a push from Reggie Bush to put this game away as Southern California wins in convincing fashion to stake its claim to a spot in the national championship game.

Please hurt this culturally insensitive little dweeb.

Those are my takes on this weekend's national games of interest. Keep your eye out for the national game of disinterest, which will be coming your way forthwith. In the meantime, though, remember . . . Don't Bet On It!

Go 'Dawgs!