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Don't Bet On It!: Week Five College Football Forecasts for the National Games of Interest

Once I’ve gone around the SEC and predicted incorrectly the outcomes of the various games taking place in the Southeastern Conference, I next turn my attention to the outings of significance occurring in the rest of the country, with respect to which my prognosticating skills are even worse. Please note that my 5-1 ledger in last week’s national picks boosted my season-long record to 16-9, so you should trust me when I tell you: Don’t Bet On It!

The following games all will be played on Saturday, October 2, unless otherwise indicated:

Nevada Wolf Pack at UNLV Rebels: The team from the quickie divorce capital of the world travels to take on the team from the quickie marriage capital of the world. Yes, this pick is just another excuse to repeat my usual diatribe in favor of playing in-state rivalry games earlier in the season, but where else did you expect me to come up with a sixth game? Air Force-Navy? Clemson-Miami? N.C. State-Virginia Tech? Please! Anyway, Nevada will pistol-whip the Pack’s Sin City brethren.

Texas A&M Aggies at Oklahoma St. Cowboys (Thursday, Sept. 30): Think of this as the undercard for Saturday’s Red River Shootout, although, as shootouts go, this one probably has the better claim to that title: Oklahoma State and Texas A&M are ranked first and second, respectively, in scoring offense and in total offense among Big 12 teams. However, the Aggies trail only the Longhorns in total defense in the league, while the Cowboys have outperformed only the Sooners in that same category, and Oklahoma State sports the conference’s most porous scoring defense. I expect the improved Aggies to slow down the Pokes just enough to head home with a win.

Penn St. Nittany Lions at Iowa Hawkeyes: As I am reminded by certain of our Midwestern brethren whenever I display the temerity to suggest that perhaps the Ohio St. Buckeyes are not overly taxing themselves by playing Ohio (Ohio), my knowledge of Big Ten football is limited. (Ere anyone comes along to criticize, yes, I am aware that Georgia and Oregon just agreed to cancel their upcoming series, but I’ve read Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion, and it sounds like the weather up there can get particularly nasty, so cut us some slack already!) Anyway, in order to get up to speed date on this one, I visited Off Tackle Empire, which recently changed its name yet still displays a picture of the general who burned my hometown to the ground, which I find hilarious every single time I visit (not!). From there, I was referred to the Big Ten Digest (which I initially misread as "Big Ten Disgust," which we seem to get our share of around here), where I learned from Hilary Lee that Iowa is expected to beat Penn State. Accordingly, I’m siding with Hilary, the infamous South Korean girl band, and the Eagles, who warned us that there ain’t no way to hide the Lions from the ’Eyes.

Wisconsin Badgers at Michigan St. Spartans: Will the real parvenu please stand? One of these teams isn’t as good as its record---all right, maybe both of these teams, but one more so than the other, at any rate---and someone is about to get exposed. With the Spartans’ head coach sidelined by a heart attack, I’m inclined to think the Badgers have the upper hand . . . but, wait! Mark Dantonio will be in the booth on Saturday? Oh, yeah, Michigan State is winning at home.

Oklahoma Sooners v. Texas Longhorns: Neither of these teams turned in a performance last weekend that anyone would characterize as "impressive," but this showdown still should settle the championship of the Big 12 South, and, with it, likely the right to contend for a larger prize than the conference crown. Both teams know this, and Mack Brown also is aware that, after the ‘Horns were humbled by UCLA in 1997, they went on to beat the Sooners by a field goal in Dallas. Last Saturday’s setback was nowhere near as humiliating as "Rout 66," so I trust Texas to recover and continue its dominance of Oklahoma.

Stanford Cardinal at Oregon Ducks: Jim Harbaugh’s club ranks fourth in the nation in scoring offense, yet the Cardinal feature the less prolific offense in this game, trailing the top-rated Ducks. If this one ends with a final score of 38-35, it will qualify as a defensive struggle; there ought to be enough points scored in this one to make a WAC offensive coordinator say, "Dang!" While you have to respect how well Stanford is playing, I can’t go against high-flying Oregon in Eugene. (By that, I mean I can’t pick against the Ducks in Eugene, not that we can’t play against them there, although, as noted above, we’re not, which I regret.)

Take those predictions for what they’re worth, and rest assured that they’re not worth very much. No matter how much sense the foregoing prognostications may make to you (and, honestly, they shouldn’t make much sense to you, because I’m pretty sure I had a stressed-out, sleep-deprived, I-can’t-believe-we’re-0-and-3-in-SEC-play Gary Busey moment somewhere back there in all that Big Ten meandering), you should not take them to heart, and you should heed my weekly advice: Don’t Bet On It!

Coming Soon: National Game of Disinterest.

Go ‘Dawgs!