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

Now that we have gone around the SEC, it is time to turn to the noteworthy games taking place around the country this weekend. I was an abysmal 2-4 in last week’s nationwide predictions, which means I have plenty of ground to make up and which ought to remind you why I offer my weekly disclaimer: Don’t Bet On It!

These are the games of interest this weekend, each of which will be played on Saturday, September 12, unless otherwise noted:

Iowa Hawkeyes at Iowa St. Cyclones: Much like Monday night’s geriatric pillow fight between the decrepit husks of what used to be the Florida St. Seminoles and the Miami Hurricanes, this one ought to be a competitive game because neither team is very good. This is one of those early-season in-state rivalry games (much like the annual affray between the Colorado Buffaloes and the Colorado St. Rams, as demonstrated just this past weekend) in which the better team loses at least as often as not. Iowa is the better team, so Iowa State will win the game.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Michigan Wolverines: The Golden Domers beat Nevada by five touchdowns, while the Maize and Blue leapt out to a 31-0 halftime lead on Western Michigan, but now is the time for both teams to take a step up in weight class. No, wait, I’m sorry . . . next week is the time for both teams to take a step up in weight class. This week, they’re just playing each other. I got confused for a second there. My bad. Due to the Coulter/Kos Award curse, Michigan will win, and only condescending Midwesterners who are overly impressed with their overpriced educations will care.

Clemson Tigers at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (Sept. 10): It was a rough opening weekend for the ACC, which went 5-7 overall, 0-4 against other BCS conferences, and 3-2 against Division I-AA. The Ramblin’ Wreck began with a bang when Jonathan Dwyer broke off a 74-yard touchdown run on the Engineers’ opening possession and the Golden Tornado tacked on a 68-yard punt return late in the first half to make it 31-7 at the break, but Georgia Tech lost the turnover battle, picked up fewer first downs, and trailed in time of possession . . . admittedly, all by narrow margins, but, even so, against Jacksonville State. The Country Gentlemen also started their season with an electrifying run when C.J. Spiller returned the kickoff 96 yards for a score and the Jungaleers led their guests by a nearly identical 30-7 margin at intermission, but the Fort Hill Felines were even with Middle Tennessee State in first downs and were edged slightly in time of possession. These two teams have a history of close games---each one of the six series meetings from 1996 to 2001 was decided by a field goal---and I expect this one to be no different, but, in the end, the underrated Tigers will prevail against the overrated Yellow Jackets.

USC Trojans at Ohio St. Buckeyes: I went back and forth over whether to make this one the national game of disinterest, but I kept it on the board against my better judgment. What, precisely, has convinced us either that Ohio State has improved enough, or Southern California has declined enough, to enable the Buckeyes to prevail? Granted, Terrelle Pryor is more experienced and Matt Barkley is inexperienced, but, even if those factors are sufficient to account for a four-touchdown swing (in addition to the three-point edge generally conceded to home field advantage), that still won’t be enough to carry the Buckeyes from a 35-3 beatdown last year to victory this year. Ground-based Navy threw for over 150 yards against the Ohio State defense, converted eight of twelve third downs, and matched the Buckeyes’ 19 first downs. Even though the Big Ten frontrunners outgained the Midshipmen, led in time of possession, and were +2 in turnover margin, OSU still needed a two-point conversion return going the other way (which, inexplicably, missed being highlighted in Life on the Margins) to dodge probable overtime against a service academy. The Trojans will win and it probably won’t be close.

Some of that almost bordered on actual football analysis, for which I profusely apologize. Next week, I’ll be sure to rely strictly on knee-jerk reactions and glib asides, but, irrespective of whether I’m trying to examine these outings seriously, the cardinal rule still applies; viz.: whatever you do . . . Don’t Bet On It!

Coming Soon: National Game of Disinterest.

Go ‘Dawgs!