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

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I have already provided you with my SEC predictions, which were offered in the wake of a 7-0 week that brought my overall conference ledger to 29-2. That’s pretty impressive, right? If you think so, how about if you just skip over the next paragraph and remain impressed with me?

It seems I was less than dominant in last week’s national picks. More specifically, I went 1-5 in non-SEC prognostications to drop my record to 9-15. If this keeps up, I’m going to call all "gimme" games like Stanford at Southern California or Appalachian State at Michigan. Oh, wait . . . yeah, it’d be better for us just to stick with the usual disclaimer: Don’t Bet On It!

I may not be able to win for losing, but here are the teams across the country that won’t be able to lose for winning. Each of the following games will be played on October 3 unless otherwise stated:

Pittsburgh Panthers at Louisville Cardinals (Oct. 2): At first, this seemed like an intriguing, if somewhat odd, out-of-conference matchup between two teams struggling to get their programs back to respectability . . . then I realized it was a league game. Somehow, that made it even weirder. U. of L. isn’t just bad, it’s Kragtastic, and Pitt is merely mediocre. Home field advantage counts for quite a bit, but not enough to overcome absolute metaphysical suckitude, so I’m going with the Panthers. (That, by the way, is the sort of trenchant college football analysis seldom seen since the halcyon days when Loran Smith reported that Charles Grant liked boiled peanuts. That may also be why I have a .375 winning percentage in national picks.)

Colorado Buffaloes at West Virginia Mountaineers (Oct. 1): The loser of this contest officially will be asked to go play intramurals, brother. Believe it or not, the Big East has compiled a pretty decent non-conference record, albeit against competition of questionable quality such as Baylor, Florida State, Fresno State, Maryland, Northwestern, and Oregon State. Fortunately for the Mountain Men, the Buffs are just such an opponent, featuring a Q rating higher than their AP ranking. While Bill Stewart’s statement that Cody Hawkins "has winner written all over him" does not inspire confidence, I’m taking West Virginia and hoping that Coach Stewart literally meant that someone had taken a magic marker and written "winner" all over Dan Hawkins’s son. Surely that has to have been what he meant, right? Or maybe Coach Stewart thinks Cody is at his best-dressed when wearing dark solids and "winter" was misspelled? Either way, that line can’t mean what it seems to mean.

Michigan Wolverines at Michigan St. Spartans: As a Georgia fan, I have no affinity whatsoever for Michigan State. For one thing, occasions on which the Bulldogs play MSU invariably are sad, whether denoting the final game before the retirement of our winningest head coach or capping off one of the most disappointing seasons in school history. Moreover, we Athenians have despised the Spartans since the Peloponnesian War. Finally, on a more personal note, I’m mad at every team that let me down after I believed in that team in the preseason . . . in other words, every team I believed in during the preseason. Accordingly, it is with some degree of genuine enjoyment that I state the following: Michigan, while not in any meaningful sense "back," nevertheless is better, which will be quite good enough to allow the Wolverines to defeat hapless Sparty.

Oklahoma Sooners at Miami Hurricanes: Will the real parvenu please stand? Please please please please please tell me Jim Donnan will be in the broadcast booth for this game so we can hear many stirring stories of how he didn’t stink in the mid-1980s, when this matchup last had national relevance and (not coincidentally) both programs were neck-and-neck for the No. 1 ranking in lawless thuggery. This year, OU and The U are trying to climb back into the picture after losing to teams---Brigham Young and Virginia Tech, respectively---that otherwise are noteworthy principally because of games they lost in convincing fashion (against Florida State and Alabama, respectively). Although the ‘Canes beat the team that beat the team that beat the Sooners, I put less stock in Miami’s ACC pedigree and rented field advantage than in the championship chops of Bob Stoops’s troops, who regularly bring home Big 12 titles irrespective of who is lining up at quarterback. I’m choosing Oklahoma, OK?

USC Trojans at California Golden Bears: I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Cal did not exactly indicate that it was ready for prime time in last weekend’s pratfall against Oregon. That actually may help the Berkeley Bears against the Men of Troy, since Southern California invariably wins marquee games (at least as long as the opposition is not led by Vince Young) while stumbling, when Pete Carroll’s club stumbles, against lesser competition. If Jeff Tedford was trying to lull USC into a false sense of security by recasting California as a lesser opponent, tanking against the Ducks was a great way to sell the visitors on the deceptive decrepitude of their ursine hosts. I don’t think it’s going to work, though. Even with Stafon Johnson’s frightening weight room injury, the reigning Pac-10 champs in perpetuity know their margin for error was removed when they came up short in Seattle, so they’ll be focused against a team that has to be reeling right now. Despite the compelling case made in Avinash’s "Too Much Information"-like exegesis, I’m taking Southern California until I’m given sufficient reason for taking anyone else.

Permit me to reemphasize that I am 9-15 this season in games not involving SEC teams, which means that, if I am correct in just two of the foregoing five predictions, I will have raised my year-long winning percentage in national forecasts. That datum ought to make this disclaimer superfluous, but, just to be on the safe side, I will stress the cardinal rule of my prognostications: Don’t Bet On It!

Coming Soon: National Game of Disinterest.

Go ‘Dawgs!