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By UltimateCapper.com Contributing Writer, Mike Ivcic
Pittsburgh and Stanford are celebrating this week, but for different reasons. The Panthers are currently the latest “last team in” after USC got drubbed by the Cardinal. Meanwhile, those West Coast upstarts are doing a jig of their own, knowing that only a win over Oregon separates them from a Pac-10 title and a BCS berth.
On the bright side, a 4-1 week both straight up and against the line has gotten me ever closer to that .500 mark for the spread picks. With the beginning of a slate of rivalry games this week, some of the games will have a lot more riding on them than just the basic W and L, making the picks even tougher. But we’ll slog through them anyway and see what happens.
A reminder about the BCS projections – this is NOT a “current” projection, rather what I think the bowls will ultimately be based upon wins and losses of games still left to be played. That would explain why I have Oklahoma State as the last BCS team as opposed to Pittsburgh, who would be the final inclusion if the season ended today.
BCS Bowl Projections:
Championship: Florida vs Texas
Rose: Ohio State vs Oregon
Sugar: Alabama vs TCU
Orange: Georgia Tech vs Cincinnati
Fiesta: Oklahoma State vs Boise State
And now the weekly list of remaining undefeated teams:
Alabama – SEC
Boise State – WAC
Cincinnati – Big East
Florida – SEC
Texas – Big 12
TCU – Mountain West
1. #10 Ohio State @ Michigan
Saturday, 12:00 p.m. (ABC)
Despite not having a lot of buzz as far as Big Ten title implications, this is still a big game for both sides. The Buckeyes can avoid having a “share” of the title and can win it outright with a win, becoming the only 1-loss Big Ten team. The Wolverines, meanwhile, have been suffering through a miserable conference season, losers of six straight Big Ten games and only a win over Delaware State since the beginning of October. Combine that with a vicious backlash beginning to brew against Rich Rodriguez, and it’s not a stretch to think that this game could become the defining moment of his coaching tenure in Ann Arbor. Win, and the Maize and Blue qualify for a bowl, snap a losing streak against the Buckeyes that dates back to 2003, and puts to rest questions of his legitimacy as a Big Ten coach. Lose, and Michigan won’t play again until September of 2010 – possibly with a different head coach.
Line: Ohio State by 12
Pick: Ohio State 28, Michigan 20
2. #14 Penn State @ Michigan State
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)
Believe it or not, this game actually does have BCS implications. With the cannibalism in the Pac-10, Pitt’s looming matchups with West Virginia and Cincinnati, and LSU’s inability to be selected as the third team from the SEC, it’s not totally out of the question to see Penn State earn the tenth BCS bid. All that’s needed for them to be next in the pecking order is a loss by Pittsburgh and Oklahoma State and the Nittany Lions are in. They do, however, still have to take care of their own business by beating the Spartans in East Lansing. Michigan State has continued to be an enigma this season, losing a nail-biter to Notre Dame, snapping Michigan’s undefeated season and beginning their downward spiral, nearly doing the same to Iowa, and then dropping a winnable game on the road to Minnesota. The Spartans can score, Penn State can play defense, so something has to give. We’ll see if the chance at giving Paterno another shot at the national spotlight is enough to overcome the partisan Spartan crowd.
Line: Penn State by 3
Pick: Penn State 24, Michigan State 17
3. #8 LSU @ Mississippi
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. (CBS)
Once upon a time, long, long ago, in a land called “September,” Ole Miss was ranked. In the top 5, no less. Now, they’re simply trying to ruin the season for LSU by handing them a loss to someone not named “Alabama” or “Florida.” The Tigers, though, are still holding out hope that they can earn a BCS bid by leapfrogging either the Gators or Crimson Tide. That only happens if either Florida State beats Florida or Auburn beats Alabama, and then whichever team loses their final regular season game ALSO loses the SEC Championship game. It’s a long shot, but it’s a shot that means absolutely nothing if the Rebels win this weekend. They’re at home and still a talented team, but they haven’t been able to avoid the big mistakes against good teams. The best Ole Miss win was last week’s 42-17 drubbing of Tennessee, and even that isn’t exactly “stellar.”
Line: Mississippi by 3.5
Pick: LSU 20, Mississippi 13
4. #25 California @ #17 Stanford
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. (Versus)
Having both of these teams ranked coming into the game is a huge boost for college football, especially on the west coast. For years now, the Pac-10 has really been the Pac-9 and USC, but no more. Oregon leads the conference at 6-1, while Stanford, USC, Cal, and Oregon State all have 2 losses, meaning one stumble by the Ducks opens the door for someone else – and a huge tiebreaking mess. The one team that won’t have a chance is the loser of this game, who would pick up a third loss. Given the performance by Stanford on the road last week in the demolition of the Trojans, the bet here is that Jim Harbaugh’s crew will prevail. But don’t discount a wacky ending that helps Cal to a victory. It’s not like it would be the first time…
Line: Stanford by 8
Pick: Stanford 38, California 31
5. #11 Oregon @ Arizona
Saturday, 8:00 p.m. (ABC)
The lack of premier matchups this weekend has led College GameDay to Tucson, where Oregon is trying to remain one game ahead of everyone else in the Pac-10. This matchup had more juice prior to Arizona’s 24-16 loss to Cal last weekend. The kicker for the Wildcats is still the 36-33 loss to Washington, otherwise this game would likely decide the Pac-10 champion. With the full round-robin schedule and the lack of a championship game, the conference actually has a number of key late-season, marquee matchups that extend past Thanksgiving, beginning last week with the Stanford and California victories. The Ducks still have the rivalry game with Oregon State to go, and Stanford holds the tiebreaker, so they cannot afford to stumble in the desert. With all of the hoopla surrounding a suddenly-relevant football program, though, they’ll have their work cut out for them, and in the crazy Pac-10, anything can happen.
Line: Oregon by 6
Pick: Arizona 35, Oregon 34
Straight Up: 4-1
Versus Line: 4-1
Straight Up: 41-17
Versus Line: 26-31-1
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