Already, I have begun to win friends and influence people with my first week’s worth of S.E.C. predictions, so it is with much boldness that I press forward and offer this weekend’s national games of interest.
Ere I offer this second set of forecasts, however, I must repeat my customary caution, for I absolutely stink at this endeavor. Accordingly, you should not, under any circumstances, emergency or otherwise, rely upon my prognostications to provide anything even vaguely resembling actual gridiron insight. (What am I, Dr. Saturday?) In short . . . Don’t Bet On It!
Here are the prominent games taking place elsewhere around the country, all of which are scheduled to be played on Saturday, August 30, unless otherwise indicated:
Colorado v. Colorado State at Denver (Sun., Aug. 31): Pride of place is given to the Centennial State showdown because I am of the firm conviction that Georgia Tech has absolutely no business being the final game on the Bulldogs’ schedule, so I like to call attention to other in-state rivalry games that are played early in the season in order to prove that it can be done. Look, I understand about "The Drought" and Bobby Dodd and all the years that this was an S.E.C. rivalry, but facts are facts: Georgia Tech left the conference before I was born, the Yellow Jackets have been only intermittently good in the last four decades (during which other major rivals of ours have been ascendant), and, at this moment, I have been alive on the planet for 39 years yet I have seen Georgia beat Georgia Tech 29 times. The most I can muster for these guys is clean old-fashioned annoyance and we have bigger fish to fry, such as Florida, Tennessee, and Auburn. (The Plainsmen, by the way, are our traditional season-ending rival: Georgia was in its 34th season of intercollegiate competition before the Red and Black concluded the campaign against the Ramblin’ Wreck for the first time and the Golden Tornado did not become a fixture in the final game on the Classic City Canines’ schedule until the early 1940s. Meanwhile, 18 of the first 23 seasons of Georgia football saw the Red and Black ending the autumn against the War Eagle. I hate Auburn.) The moral of the story is that we should dispense with Georgia Tech early and get on with the business of playing Southeastern Conference football. Oh, by the way, Colorado is going to win this football game.
Utah at Michigan: This one is intriguing, and not just for the reason that the image of a Ute taking on a Wolverine is like something straight out of James Fenimore Cooper, or maybe the Dave Cockrum/Chris Claremont-era "X-Men." This is one of those games that I’m picking differently from the way I otherwise would have because of when it occurs. Does anybody else remember Jim Donnan’s debut game against Southern Miss in 1996, when the Bulldogs appeared utterly bewildered about what they were trying to do offensively? I think you’re looking at a replay of that game in Ann Arbor on Saturday. Utah will carry a winged scalp back to the Beehive State.
Oklahoma State at Washington State: C.W. already called this one and he called it correctly; in fact, he even used the appropriate YouTube clip. In sum: Mike Gundy’s a man! The Cowboys will win by 40!
Washington at Oregon: One way or the other, this is going to be the game that gets Tyrone Willingham off of the hot seat in Seattle. Coach Willingham guaranteed a victory, which was either (a) a brilliant motivational ploy to fire up his players in an intense rivalry game, (b) an act of desperation that confirms the axiom that a drowning man will reach even for the tip of a sword, or (c) both. If the Huskies pull it off, he’ll have made it virtually impossible for U.W. to fire him short of an utter collapse to 1-11. If the Ducks defeat Washington, Jim Mora will be in the Husky athletic offices on Monday picking out new drapes and figuring out how to rearrange the furniture. It’s win or lose for Ty and I think the four quarters of this game are going to follow a familiar pattern for U.W.: Duck, Duck, Duck, lose.
East Carolina v. Virginia Tech at Charlotte: How far have the mighty fallen? Far enough for the Hokies to lose to the Pirates. There, I said it. It’s not just that E.C.U. has gotten back on track after spending four and a half seasons wandering in the wilderness trying vainly to recover from the Pirates’ epic meltdown against Marshall in the 2001 GMAC Bowl, although East Carolina most certainly has shown something in winning 13 of its last 19 outings, including victories at N.C. State in 2006, against North Carolina last season, and over Boise State in last year’s Hawaii Bowl. It’s just that the thought of the Pirates taking on a Big East refugee at a neutral site in their home state is giving me flashbacks to the Hurricane Floyd-relocated E.C.U. win over Miami (Florida) in Raleigh in 1999. I expect a repeat.
Illinois v. Missouri at St. Louis and Fresno State at Rutgers (Mon., Sept. 1): I’m picking these games together because I picked these games already. The Tigers and the Bulldogs each will win big.
Michigan State at California: It’s the flag-planters versus the tree-sitters! Here’s an interesting and mostly meaningless side note, if only because "interesting and mostly meaningless" is my natural medium, in which I work as another artist might work in oil or clay: Cal has faced seven different opponents in the Rose Bowl (Alabama, Georgia Tech, Iowa, Michigan, Northwestern, Ohio State, and Washington & Jefferson), none of whom were the Spartans, while all of M.S.U.’s postseason appearances in Pasadena have been against U.C.L.A. and U.S.C. The home team is looking to rebound from a promising season that fell apart down the stretch; the visitors would find an early collapse a welcome reprieve from their longstanding tradition of falling apart down the stretch. There’s a Trojan rival Michigan State has shown a propensity for beating on the road, but the Bears ain’t them and Jeff Tedford’s crew will earn a victory in which Cal proves conclusively that Southern teams aren’t especially fast; it’s just that Midwestern teams are so terribly slow. (I kid, I kid.)
Seriously, the Big Ten is the only conference good enough to have its own network. Well, unless you count CBS and ESPN.
Those are my picks, which I freely admit will be mostly wrong. Rather than berate me for my admitted lack of insight, just chalk it up to overwhelming ignorance and, please, whatever you do . . . Don’t Bet On It!
Coming soon: The National Game of Disinterest. (It’s not Syracuse at Northwestern, believe it or not!)