Only 22 games this weekend, with 19 of them on Saturday. Of the 22 games this weekend, six are conference championship games; so I guess we’ll call this championship weekend? For six teams, it’s a last ditch effort to become bowl eligible (right now 70 teams are bowl eligible; there are 70 bowl spots); so if you are a Ball State, Toledo, or Western Michigan fan, you want these teams to lose (although the winner of Syracuse and Pittsburgh will be bowl eligible for sure).
Army/Navy is December 10th, while this is a game where we honor our servicemen and servicewomen, there will be no Upset Watch, as there is only one game played. Upset Watch will return for the bowl season.
As typical with the Watch, we’ll review the picks from last week, noting the bad picks, and point out a few games to give the underdog some credit in, even if it is only in Vegas. We’ll also look at two sure-fire favorites (since Michigan’s regular season is over). Be sure to check out my website, Before Visiting the Sportsbook, throughout the week, for more content.
Florida State (8-4) -2.0 @ Florida (6-6). Result: Florida State 21 Florida 7.
@ Northwestern (6-6) +7.0 Michigan State (10-2). Result: Michigan State 31 Northwestern 17 [Props to Trebor for correctly predicting Michigan State would cover].
*@ Michigan (10-2) -7.5 Ohio (6-6). Result: Michigan 40 Ohio 34 [Props to One Inch Woody for correctly predicting Ohio would cover].
@ Wake Forest (6-5) +1.0 Vanderbilt (5-6). Result: Vanderbilt 41 Wake Forest 7 [Props to One Inch Woody for correctly predicting Wake Forest would cover].
Nevada (6-4) +1.5 @ Utah State (5-5). Result: Utah State 21 Nevada 17.
@ Auburn (7-5) +21.0 Alabama (11-1). Result: Alabama 42 Auburn 14.
UCLA (6-6) +14.5 @ USC (10-2). Result: USC 50 UCLA 0 [Props to One Inch Woody for correctly predicting USC would cover].
*I’m counting this as a loss despite the fact Toussaint was clearly in the end zone, despite the officials “better” judgment.
Besides the Michigan State game, Trebor added a pair of wins with Purdue (-7.5; 33-25) and Virginia Tech (-4; 38-0).
Gulo_Gulo added a pair, as well, with Texas (+7.5; 27-25) and Wisconsin (-17; 45-7).
Logan88 rode Stanford (-7; 28-14) and Minnesota (+10; 27-7) to victory.
Number 7, following the trend of twos, picked up wins with Georgia (-5.5; 31-17) and Kentucky (+6; 10-7).
Championship Week begins on Thursday with (#23) West Virginia visiting South Florida (8:00 PM EST/ESPN/ESPN 3D(!)/ESPN3); the Mountaineers need a win to keep their BCS bowl hopes alive. On Friday, there are a pair of championship games, with Ohio University and Northern Illinois meeting at Ford Field (7:00 PM EST/ESPN2/ESPN3); Northern Illinois returns to the championship game after coming up short last year and Ohio University returns for the second time in three years. UCLA visits (#9) Oregon in the PAC-12 Championship Game (8:00 PM EST/FOX); Oregon has won three straight against UCLA, dating back to 2007.
Six games match top 25 opponents on Saturday. Saturday kicks off with (#24) Southern Miss visiting (#6) Houston in the Conference USA Championship Game (12:00 PM EST/ABC); a BCS bowl is on the line for Houston. (#22) Texas visits (#17) Baylor (3:30 PM EST/ABC); Texas had won 12 straight against Baylor until last year’s 30-22 loss in Austin. The SEC Championship Game is another with BCS bowl implications, matching (#14) Georgia and (#1) LSU in the Georgia Dome (4:00 PM EST/CBS); a Georgia win likely knocks Alabama out of a BCS bowl game. (#10) Oklahoma visits (#3) Oklahoma State in the Bedlam Game, a de facto Big 12 Championship Game (8:00 PM EST/ABC); an Oklahoma State win gives them a BCS bowl bid with a shot at the national title, while an Oklahoma win would likely create a three-way tie for first, with Oklahoma winning by virtue of their 2-0 record against Kansas State and Oklahoma State. In the ACC Championship Game, a rematch occurs between (#5) Virginia Tech and (#20) Clemson, this time, in Charlotte (8:00 PM EST/ESPN/ESPN3); Clemson beat Virginia Tech 23-3 in Blacksburg on October 1st. After starting 8-0, Clemson is 1-3 in their last four games, the lone win coming by three. In another game involving a rematch, (#15) Wisconsin meets (#13) Michigan State in Indianapolis in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game (8:17 PM EST/FOX); since 2000, the teams have split their ten meetings – Michigan State won on October 22 on a desperation heave by QB Kirk Cousins, 37-31, in East Lansing.
@ New Mexico State (4-8) +14.0 Utah State (6-5). The (NM St) Aggies are 48th in total offense (92nd rushing, 24th passing); Utah State is 24th (6th rushing, 92nd passing). New Mexico State is 109th in total defense (105th rushing, 96th passing); the (Utah State) Aggies are 48th (30th rushing, 74th passing). Since 1997, New Mexico State is 4-9 SU against Utah State (5-8 ATS); 9 of the last 13 meetings have been decided by 14 points or less. New Mexico State Coach DeWayne Walker is 9-28 (16-19-1 ATS, 15-16-1 ATS as an underdog); Utah State Coach Gary Andersen is 14-21 (19-15 ATS, 5-10 ATS as a favorite). Utah State is 4-2 in Las Cruces since 1997. Utah State is 2-5 ATS as a favorite this year; New Mexico State is 6-4 ATS as an underdog this year. New Mexico State should keep this closer than 14, provided the defense shows up. Take New Mexico State with the points, at home.
Troy (3-8) +17.5 @ Arkansas State (9-2).The Trojans are 65th in total offense (116th rushing, 16th passing); Arkansas State is 26th (21st rushing, 18th passing). Troy is 113th in total defense (108th rushing, 95th passing); the Red Wolves are 36th (18th rushing, 47th passing). Since 2004, Troy is 4-3 SU against Arkansas State (3-4 ATS); Troy has won four straight (3-1 ATS over that span). Arkansas State Coach Hugh Freeze is 9-2 (9-2 ATS, 7-2 ATS as a favorite); Troy Coach Larry Blakeney is 72-61 since 2001 (60-57-2 ATS, 31-24-1 ATS as an underdog). Troy is in the midst of a surprisingly bad season, as they were picked to win the Sun Belt; by contrast, Arkansas State was picked in the middle and will finish first, regardless of the outcome of the game. Arkansas State, until this year, has only made one bowl game. Despite Troy’s struggles on defense, they have the potential to keep this game close due to QB Corey Robinson’s (3100 passing yards, 62.3% completion, 19 passing TDs, but 13 INTs) success through the air. Take Troy with the points.
@ Florida Atlantic (1-10) +11.5 Louisiana-Monroe (3-8). The Owls are 119th in total offense (106th rushing, 110th passing); Louisiana-Monroe is 61st (73rd rushing, 49th passing). Florida Atlantic is 69th in total defense (73rd rushing, 60th passing); the Warhawks are 29th (12th rushing, 76th passing). Florida Atlantic is 2-5 SU against Louisiana-Monroe since 2004 (1-5-1 ATS). Louisiana-Monroe Coach Todd Berry is 12-47 since 2003 (24-32-2 ATS, 3-7-1 ATS as a favorite); Florida Atlantic Coach Howard Schnellenberger is 58-73 since 2001 (36-52-2 ATS, 23-36-2 ATS as an underdog). Florida Atlantic got their first win of the season last week, at home, 38-35 over UAB. Neither team is making a bowl game. This is Coach Schnellenberger’s last game, as he is retiring. A career that started in 1979 with Miami (FL) now comes to a close in Boca Raton. Take Florida Atlantic with the points, and to win.
Michigan State (10-2) +9.5 Wisconsin (10-2) (@ Indianapolis, IN).The Spartans are 64th in total offense (78th rushing, 46th passing); Wisconsin is 12th (10th rushing, 63rd passing). Michigan State is 3rd in total defense (11th rushing, 8th passing); the Badgers are 7th (44th rushing, 3rd passing). Wisconsin Coach Bret Bielema is 49-16 (72-61-2 ATS, 46-45-2 ATS as a favorite); Michigan State Coach Mark Dantonio is 61-38 (48-44-5 ATS, 33-34-5 ATS as an underdog). Since 1999, Michigan State is 5-6 SU against Wisconsin (5-6 ATS, but 4-2 since 2004), including 1-0 this year (+7.5; 37-31 in East Lansing). If you read the Upset Watch: Week 8, I noted the home team dominance; the home team has now won seven straight, but this one is on a neutral site. Since their meeting, Michigan State is 4-1 SU (3-2 ATS); Wisconsin is 4-1 SU (2-3 ATS). Wisconsin should win, but winning by ten seems a bit much. Take Michigan State with the points.
Syracuse (5-6) +13.0 @ Pittsburgh (5-6).The Orange are 89th in total offense (96th rushing, 64th passing); Pittsburgh is 83rd (61st rushing, 78th passing). Syracuse is 71st in total defense (43rd rushing, 99th passing); the Panthers are 41st (22nd rushing, 69th passing). Since 1997, Syracuse is 6-8 SU against Pittsburgh (0-6 since 2005) (5-9 ATS). Pittsburgh Coach Todd Graham is 48-29 (41-33-1 ATS, 18-23-1 ATS as a favorite); Syracuse Coach Doug Marrone is 17-19 (16-18-1 ATS, 9-11 ATS as an underdog). I normally stay away from Big East games; the conference is just too unpredictable (who would have thought Louisville would be in the running for a BCS bowl?). Winner of this game is bowl eligible. Syracuse was picked, by most, to finish at the bottom of the Big East. Many experts had Pittsburgh finishing near the top of the Big East. Syracuse, under Marrone, has been an overachieving team. Pittsburgh should win the game, but Syracuse should keep it within two touchdowns. Take Syracuse with the points.
West Virginia (8-3) -1.0 @ South Florida (5-6) (THURS). The Mountaineers are 16th in total offense (101st rushing, 6th passing); South Florida is 30th (32nd rushing, 39th passing). West Virginia is 25th in total defense (49th rushing, 30th passing); the Bulls are 34th (14th rushing, 83rd passing). Since 2005, West Virginia is 3-3 SU against South Florida (2-4 ATS). West Virginia Coach Dana Holgorsen is 8-3 (5-6 ATS, 3-5 ATS as a favorite); South Florida Coach Skip Holtz is 51-38 (48-39-1 ATS, 24-11-1 ATS as an underdog). Holtz’s gaudy numbers come from his days at East Carolina; he is 13-11 at South Florida (10-14 ATS, 4-3 as an underdog). I have yet to offer a pick for a game that is not on Saturday, but I couldn’t resist this one. Both teams have a lot to play for: A South Florida win makes them bowl eligible; a West Virginia win coupled with a Cincinnati win gives West Virginia the Big East title. Consider that South Florida’s record in the Big East is mediocre (21-27); West Virginia is 32-10 in the Big East since 2005 (when South Florida entered the conference). The last time West Virginia lost more than two conference games, it was 2001, Rich Rodriguez’s first year. South Florida QB BJ Daniels’s (2378 passing yards, 60.4% completion 12 passing TDs, but 6 INTs) status for the game is in doubt; he did not play in a losing effort to Louisville, last week. Take note of West Virginia’s pass offense against South Florida’s pass defense. Take West Virginia to cover.
Wyoming (7-4) -5.0 @ Colorado State (3-8).The Cowboys are 50th in total offense (35th rushing, 72nd passing); Colorado State is 91st (62nd rushing, 90th passing). Wyoming is 100th in total defense (114th rushing, 42nd passing); the Rams are 85th (116th rushing, 14th passing). Since 1997, Wyoming is 5-9 SU against Colorado State (7-7 ATS). Wyoming Coach Dave Christensen is 17-19 (21-13-1 ATS, 4-5 ATS as a favorite); Colorado State Coach Steve Fairchild is 16-32 (19-27 ATS, 14-16 ATS as an underdog). Wyoming is 2-5 in their last seven trips to Ft. Collins, winning the last time there, in 2009, 17-16. These teams meet for the Bronze Boot; the “Border War” had had over 100 meetings since 1899; the teams have meet every year since 1946. Take note of Wyoming’s rushing offense against Colorado State’s run defense. Wyoming is bowl eligible for only the third time since 2000 (Las Vegas Bowl in 2004 and New Mexico Bowl in 2009; Wyoming won both of those bowl games). I would be remiss if I didn’t point out Wyoming is 7-4 ATS this year (2-2 ATS favorite) and Colorado State is 3-8 ATS (3-4 ATS underdog); Coach Fairchild is 9-4 (1-2 this year) as a home underdog, though. Take Wyoming to cover.
Who ya got?