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Don't Bet On It: National Games of Interest

Having already provided you with my S.E.C. forecasts for this weekend, I now turn to contests taking place elsewhere in the country.

In the season's extended opening weekend, I posted a sparkling 7-0 record nationally and cobbled together a 9-1 ledger in my Southeastern Conference picks, giving me 16-1 mark that could not be more utterly deceptive.

I'll be right once more before the end of the day. (Photograph from Physical Review Focus.)

Trust me when I tell you that I'm bad at predicting the outcomes of football games. The only reason I ever do well at all is that I pick them straight up instead of against the spread and I pick every game involving an S.E.C. team, even if the other team is a patsy opponent.

In other words, you shouldn't let that 16-1 ledger fool you into thinking that I know what I'm doing. When it comes to relying upon my skills as a prognosticator, I cannot stress this strongly enough: Don't Bet On It!

With that warning, I turn now to games of note around the nation. All games are scheduled to be played on Saturday, September 9, unless otherwise indicated.

New Mexico at New Mexico State---As most of you are aware, I believe Georgia should end its regular season against Auburn rather than against Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs and the Plainsmen take part in the Deep South's oldest rivalry and the Tigers were the final opponent on the Red and Black's slate in 18 of the first 23 seasons of Georgia football. The Yellow Jackets, by contrast, would not appear as the last team on the Classic City Canines' fall slate for the first time until 1927, more than a third of a century after the 'Dawgs fielded their first team, and the Ramblin' Wreck would not occupy that spot permanently until 1953, after the Red and Black had ended their autumn against the Miami Hurricanes five times in the previous 16 years. Since I don't believe Georgia Tech is Georgia's biggest rival, I believe the annual showdown for Peach State bragging rights should be played earlier in the year; consequently, I take every opportunity to call attention to other in-state rivalry games that are played prior to late November, in order to demonstrate that it can be done. The clash between the Lobos and the Aggies for the top spot in the Land of Enchantment is one such example . . . and, oh, yeah, by the way, Hal Mumme coaches New Mexico State, so New Mexico will win.

I'm pretty sure he spells it with an "e" rather than a "y," but his return is working out poorly, just the same.

Colorado v. Colorado State---After opening the season with an embarrassing loss to Division I-AA Montana State at home, Dan Hawkins's squad faces a daunting slate that includes road games at Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska, as well as home dates against Arizona State, Baylor, Texas Tech, Kansas State, and Iowa State. In short, the Buffs' schedule is Ram tough . . . which brings me to Colorado's next opponent: Colorado State, whom the Buffaloes will face at a neutral site in Denver. The quirky thing about this rivalry is that the better team seems to lose a good three-fourths of the time . . . but this will be the fourth time, as C.S.U. drops the Buffs to 0-2.

Oregon State at Boise State (Thursday, September 7)---The opening round of this weekend's Beaver State-W.A.C. double-header commences tomorrow night with O.S.U.'s trek to the Gem State to take on the Broncos. Both Boise State and Oregon State beat overmatched opponents on Labor Day weekend, but B.S.U. gets the benefit of playing on the "Smurf turf" of its home field. The Broncos barely missed out on the upset in Corvallis a year ago, when Boise State was still hung over from its season-opening 48-13 thrashing in the Classic City . . . yet B.S.U. fell only a field goal short on the road. Haven't we seen this movie before? In 2003, a Boise State squad that would go 13-1 lost at Oregon State by a 26-24 final score. A year later, the Beavers visited B.S.U. and fell to the home team, 53-34. While I doubt that the score will be that lopsided this time, I expect Boise State to win again this weekend.

Great career move there, Dan. (Photograph from E.S.P.N.)

Oregon at Fresno State---Could the key to this game be the preposition? The Ducks have struggled of late when playing away from Autzen Stadium; in their last three outings outside Eugene, Oregon has lost to Oklahoma in the Holiday Bowl and survived scares against overmatched Arizona and Washington State by margins of a touchdown and a field goal, respectively. Meanwhile, under Pat Hill, the Bulldogs are 3-0 against Pac-10 teams at home and Fresno State has dropped three straight heartbreakers to Oregon on the road, falling at Eugene by final scores of 43-40 in 1997, 28-24 in 2002, and 37-34 in 2005. Could this be the year F.S.U. gets its redemption? I'm afraid not; the last time the West Coast Bulldogs hosted the Ducks in the Raisin Capital of the World, the result was a 30-27 Oregon victory to open the 1996 season. A decade later, history will repeat itself as the mighty Ducks prevail over Fresno State.

Minnesota at California---Fresh from a win over the Golden Flashes, the Golden Gophers head to the Golden State to take on the Golden Bears. Boy, would King Midas have loved that last sentence or what? In light of the two conferences' traditional Rose Bowl affiliation, regular season meetings between Big Ten and Pac-10 teams always have an extra dash of intrigue and this outing is no exception. Minnesota runs the ball as well as anyone, but Cal has something to prove after being exposed by Tennessee last weekend. For that reason, I like the Bears to rebound and beat the Gophers.

So they've got that going for them.

Clemson at Boston College---There may be few intra-conference cultural divides broader than the one that separates Fort Hill from Chestnut Hill. Tussles between fire-eating Carolinians and Bay State Brahmins have been generating sparks since the U.S. Senate debate over the Force Bill in 1833 and this weekend's early A.C.C. showdown will continue that tradition. The Seminoles' Labor Day victory over Miami makes this a must-win game for both combatants, as a loss for either could dash all hopes for an Atlantic Division championship. B.C. beat the Tigers by a field goal in Death Valley last season; this year, Clemson will return the favor by claiming a close victory on the road.

Penn State at Notre Dame---This game has a lot going for it. For one thing, it helps to expose the rank hypocrisy of E.S.P.N.'s most atrocious analyst. For another, it gives Joe Paterno the opportunity to cut Charlie Weis down to size . . . so to speak. For those of you keeping score at home, Coach Weis is 10-3 in his first 13 games as the head coach of the Fighting Irish, giving him exactly the same record that Tyrone Willingham had at the same point in Coach Willingham's career in South Bend. (Coach Willingham ran his record to 11-3, then proceeded to go 10-12 the rest of the way. Could history repeat itself?) I'm not ready to say that the Nittany Lions are all the way back, but I believe their roar has been at least somewhat restored. I'm picking Penn State to upend the Irish on their home turf.

Ohio State at Texas---I still have room for one more prediction, so what the heck . . . I'll give this game a whirl, as well, despite its questionable importance. Both teams answered lingering questions against suspect competition in the season's first week and now they square off with the No. 1 ranking and the inside track to the national title at stake. The Buckeyes will find the eyes of Texas are upon them when they arrive in Austin for just their second regular-season road game in the South since 1987 and I'm not sure the scarlet-sweatervested visitors are entirely aware of what awaits them. I know Ohio State is good and all, but let's face it: we're talking about a team whose greatest game day tradition is writing in cursive going on the road to tangle with a team that brings cattle to the stadium on Saturdays. I like Texas to win by 10.

You think dotting the I is cool? Try getting branded! (Photograph from Gone To Texas Tours.)

Those are my forecasts for this weekend's action, but, of course, I have no idea what in the world I'm talking about, so I must exhort you most forcefully: please, whatever you do . . . Don't Bet On It!

Go 'Dawgs!