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

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Inasmuch as I have predicted incorrectly this Saturday’s S.E.C. games---and, yes, FSUncensored, skigator93 is right: I’m bad enough straight up; I wouldn’t dare pick against the spread---I suppose it is high time I got down to the business of picking erroneously this week’s national games. (By the way, "high time" is just an expression. I’m not nearly as medication-addled as I was when casting the BlogPoll ballot that caused me to finish fourth in the running for Mr. Bold and third in the running for Mr. Manic-Depressive.)

An improbable 5-2 run through last week’s Confucian (Confucian, not confusing, although they may have been that, too) forecasts bumped my nationwide ledger for the fall up to a marginally less disreputable 29-20, which means a total collapse is imminent and I, unlike Wall Street, cannot count on a multibillion-dollar bailout. (Honestly, MaconDawg and I would take a paltry $197,072.) My standard disclaimer therefore applies: Don’t Bet On It!

Here are my prognostications for the upcoming slate of national outings, each of which will be played on Saturday, November 1, unless otherwise noted:

South Florida at Cincinnati (Thursday, October 30): I don’t know how you feel about it, but Thursday night Big East football has sort of lost it for me. Yeah, it was pretty cool for a while there, when Rutgers and Louisville and West Virginia were knocking each other off in exciting showdowns, but the whole thing has lost a lot of its luster at this point. If this were a Thursday night network sitcom or drama instead of a Thursday night college football broadcast, it would be time for the show to be retooled by adding a cute kid or killing off one of the characters or bringing back one of the original stars for "a very special episode." Since neither the Bearcats nor the Bulls held up as well as I had expected, this game is basically whatever garbage N.B.C. used to slap into that 9:30 time slot between "Seinfeld" and "E.R." just to keep folks from changing the channel. This is the "Veronica’s Closet" of sports. I’m going with U.S.F. to register the road win, incidentally.

(Author’s Note: If you’re my age, you may substitute "Cheers" for "Seinfeld" and "Hill Street Blues" for "E.R.," and you’ll have the same joke. No, I’m not ripping on "Night Court"; I’m ripping on the idea of casting Jim Carrey as the straight man in "The Duck Factory.")

Florida State at Georgia Tech: Oddly enough, I’m probably going to talk about the Yellow Jackets more when making my next pick than I am while making this one, but we’ll get to that in a minute. Right now, I want to talk about the Seminoles, who have gotten to 6-1 by playing their weakest opponents first, and whose road to the A.C.C. championship game is about to get a good deal more rocky during the stretch run. I’m not sure I will ever again trust F.S.U. to be the team we all remember them being, but I repose even less faith in the ability of the Engineers to overcome the psychological disadvantage at which they will find themselves the minute they step onto historic Grant Field to face a Florida State team that has dominated them since joining the league. I don’t look for the ’Noles to roll, but I expect the home team to ramble early and wreck late in the City That’s Never Too Busy to Choke.

Kansas State at Kansas: You know, I know, and the American people know why I’m including this game, and it isn’t because I particularly care about this Sunflower State showdown. It simply provides me with an opportunity to climb up on my soapbox once again and argue that Georgia Tech has no business being the Bulldogs’ season-ending rival! The Yellow Jackets are no longer conference opponents of ours and the practice of playing them in the season’s final outing arrived in Athens relatively late. In the first 33 seasons in which the Red and Black fielded a football team, Georgia never once closed out the campaign against the Ramblin’ Wreck, and the ‘Dawgs were arranging to end the regular season against someone other than the Golden Tornado as late as 1952. The first Bulldog coach to end the season against the Engineers in each year of his tenure was Johnny Griffith in the early ‘60s. Meanwhile, Auburn is the rival Georgia has played the longest and faced the most often, and the game against the Plainsmen remains a key conference contest every autumn. Since Georgia ended its season against Auburn in 18 of the first 23 seasons of Red and Black football, it is safe to say as an historical matter that the Tigers, not the Yellow Jackets, are our traditional season-ending rivals. Consequently, I like to remind people whenever other in-state rivalry games are played prior to Thanksgiving, in order to remind Bulldog Nation that it can be done. Georgia Tech does not deserve pride of place at the end of our annual slate. Oh, by the way, I guess I’m picking Kansas. If I get this one wrong, I’ll pretend later that a computer glitch ate the part where I put "State."

West Virginia at Connecticut: I know the Mountaineers and the Huskies are conference opponents and all, but is there a weirder matchup from a cultural standpoint than West Virginia at Connecticut? It’s like "Coal Miner’s Daughter" at "Newhart." (Yes, I know "Coal Miner’s Daughter" began in Kentucky and "Newhart" was set in Vermont, but it’s coal miners and New Englanders. Work with me, people!) The only way I can make "West Virginia at Connecticut" add up in my head is to imagine Clarice Starling from "The Silence of the Lambs" going off to Yale. (Yes, I know Clarice Starling went to the University of Virginia, but Jodie Foster went to Yale, so it’s close enough.) Anyway, Bill Stewart appears to have righted the ship in Morgantown. Bill Stewart also appears to be the type of coach who comes into the locker room like an affable bachelor uncle pretending to find quarters in the quarterbacks’ ears and asking linebackers to come here and pull his finger, so I’m not counting on this guy to keep it rolling, and Rentschler Field is as likely a place as any for his squad to stumble, so I’m taking U.Conn. in a Big East upset.

Incidentally, if the foregoing "Silence of the Lambs" reference didn’t make you think of Buffalo Bill, this will.

Oregon at California: Say, does anyone remember last year’s game between the Ducks and the Golden Bears? Oregon was 4-0 (with a big win at Michigan) and ranked eleventh, Cal was 4-0 (with a big win over Tennessee) and ranked sixth, and the battle in Eugene was as close as close could be, coming down to a goal line fumble by the Ducks as they went for what would have been a game-tying touchdown. Since then, Oregon has gone 11-5, California has gone 7-8, and Dave has announced his resignation from SB Nation. Well, here’s my going away gift to Dave: I’m predicting a Ducks victory. Wait . . . actually, with my track record, that may doom Oregon. O.K., then . . . sorry, Dave.

Texas at Texas Tech: Last week’s scoreboard-riddling exhibition in Lawrence gave me pause. I mean, I know the Big 12 is good on offense and all, but the ‘Horns have given up some serious yards, and the Burnt Orange came darned close to getting beaten in Austin, so I don’t know. I’m really going back and forth on this decision. On the one hand, I . . . "PUT THAT KEYBOARD DOWN, T. KYLE KING. WHAT DO YOU DO?!?" Sir, yes, sir! O.K., decision made. William Hurt used to say that he was a character actor trapped in a leading man’s body. As I alluded to when revising my BlogPoll ballot (and as SG Standard affirmed), Mike Leach’s Red Raider program is an up-and-coming mid-major trapped in a B.C.S. conference. If the Big 12 and the Mountain West were to trade Texas Tech for Texas Christian in a straight swap (all right, maybe there’d be a Baylor to be named later), everyone would go home a winner. Speaking of going home a winner, Texas will---the man’s name isn’t Will Musloser!---after the Longhorns beat the Red Raiders and confirm that Mac Davis was right: happiness is Lubbock, Tex., in your rear view mirror.

In looking back over those picks, I realize that even I don’t believe I’m doing better than .500 with that set of predictions. Still, there is a silver lining to my complete inability to forecast correctly the outcomes of college football games; hopefully, I won’t have to say it too much more to get it through your head: Don’t Bet On It!

Coming Soon: National Game of Disinterest.

Go ‘Dawgs!