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

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(Author’s Note: I apologize for not getting word to everyone in a timely manner, but I guess you figured by now that I wasn’t on the radio this week. John Frary contacted me ahead of time and I failed to notify all of you, which I regret. I’m slated to be back on at my regular time at 7:15 next Monday. We now return you to your regularly scheduled weblog, which is already in progress.)

Having provided you with this week’s slate of SEC picks, I now turn to the national games of interest. Last week, I was 3-2 in games played outside the Southeast, leaving me with a 23-20 record for the season. Accordingly, I shouldn’t have to warn you, but I will anyway: Don’t Bet On It!

The following games will be played on Saturday, October 31, except where noted otherwise:

North Carolina Tar Heels at Virginia Tech Hokies (Thurs., Oct. 29): This matchup lacks much of the luster it was expected to possess when the weeknight tilt was scheduled. This interdivisional showdown and/or key intra-division clash was rendered mostly moot by UNC’s and VPI’s trips to Atlanta to face an offense run by Paul Johnson and endorsed by the 70’s Preservation Society. These ACC also-rans are now jockeying for postseason position, and I like the Gobblers to get it done in Blacksburg.

West Virginia Mountaineers at South Florida Bulls (Fri., Oct. 30): All right, "Mountaineers," I get. West Virginia is located entirely within the Appalachian Mountain range, so the mascot fits. "Bulls," though? Because, when you think of bulls, you think of . . . Tampa? (I’m sure there’s an explanation for that nickname choice. I’m equally sure that there’s an accurate description of that explanation that’s eight letters long . . . and, come to think of it, the first five letters of that eight-letter description spell out the USF mascot!) This is the week that one of these teams says so long to any hope of ending the autumn in the top 25. I’m taking West Virginia to be the team that solidifies its poll position.

Southern Miss. Golden Eagles at Houston Cougars: Before Urban Meyer led the Utah Utes to the mid-major promised land in 2004, the course charted by the putative "BCS buster" was a familiar one. The plucky young upstart would score an early eyebrow-raising upset or two, usually over a team from a major conference with more historic name recognition than actual current value, then reach the cusp of the top ten after a fast start before losing a couple of head-scratchers in conference play. In that respect, Houston, you have a problem: the Cougars already have stumbled against the inscrutable UTEP Miners, and this looks like the losable game that will boot the Conference USA darling from the top 25 for good. I’m going with Southern Miss to register the upset.

Texas Longhorns at Oklahoma St. Cowboys: In the past, this foregone conclusion has qualified as the national game of disinterest, but the Pokes have made great strides as a program in the interim, and Mack Brown’s club has yet to play a truly challenging game on the opponent’s home field. Is this the game in which Bevo’s soft underbelly is exposed? Probably not, but I expect Oklahoma State to make a game of it before falling to Texas.

USC Trojans at Oregon Ducks: As a battle of mascots, this one is a complete mismatch. On one side, we have an ancient warrior immortalized in epic poetry; on the other side, we have a cartoon waterfowl with anger management issues. No contest. However, the Men of Troy could have their hands full in Autzen Stadium against an Oregon team that has improved dramatically since its season-opening swoon. The problem is that this isn’t the kind of game Pete Carroll’s clubs drop; when the Trojans know they’re going on the road to face a daunting conference opponent that could swipe the Pac-10 title from them, they’re always ready to play. It will be a battle, but, in the end, Southern California will emerge victorious.

I’m 100 per cent confident that those predictions will be at least 40 per cent wrong, but I have no idea where the error lies, which is why I go out of my way to offer a weekly disclaimer and emphasize it repeatedly until you internalize the vitally important message that you must remember, no matter what: Don’t Bet On It!

Coming Soon: National Game of Disinterest.

Go ‘Dawgs!