The penultimate week of the season carries with it a huge series of important and interesting games. Here's to hoping your long holiday weekend is filled with family, friends, good food, and football.
On to the games, which kick off on Thursday night this week. As always, my picks are for entertainment purposes only. I wouldn't touch with real money the vast majority of the games I'm taking a stab at. Scores are predicted before looking at the lines.
For this week's full TV lineup, click here.
1For TV coverage map, click here.
USC at Arizona State This looks like trouble for Arizona State - even at home. The Sun Devils have at time struggled to run the ball consistently this season, but have supplemented weak rushing efforts with outstanding quarterback play. On Thursday, a banged up Rudy Carpenter (who was shaky last week against UCLA) will face one of the nation's top pass defenses in Southern Cal. The Trojans allow a paltry 5.0 yards per attempt and for the season have ceded just 6 aerial touchdowns, while picking off 9 opponent attempts. Though USC continues merely to get by on offense, I like the defense to be more than enough to carry them to victory.
Nebraska at Colorado: Joe Ganz, folk hero, comes off a 7 touchdown, 0 interception performance two weeks ago against Kansas State, leading the left-for-dead Cornhuskers to an astonishing 73 points. They travel to Boulder to face a reeling Colorado team which has lost four of five, including to Iowa State two weeks ago. I see one more win for Callahan before he's fired.
Arkansas at LSU: The Tigers allowed Ole Miss to rush for 7.2 yards per carry last week. Was LSU just saving its energy for this week? Hopefully so, because Darren McFadden and Felix Jones gave the Tigers fits last year, and will happily do so again. LSU probably ought to win this game by two touchdowns, but I have a sneaking suspicion they're going to be in for a ride.
Texas at Texas A&M: We've gone over this game in great detail, and today my pick - Texas by double-digits. The 'Horns enjoy the talent edge and have plenty to play for; it's difficult to imagine this team coming out flat again this year. We can hope, anyway...
Boise State at Hawaii: The Broncos are actually a respectable team against the pass; when the defense has struggled, it's most often been with a team which can run, like Nevada. Bad news for Hawaii? Perhaps, though their defense has put up respectable numbers this season, as well. The truth of the matter is that neither team has played any great competition, so it's quite the crapshoot to guess how this one will go. My head says Hawaii wins this at home, but my gut says Boise State's the better team. I'm going with my gut.
Virginia Tech at Virginia: The Cavaliers just don't do anything especially well on offense, which is going to be problematic against a team like the Hokies. Conversely, VT has steadily improved offensively and now resemble the more complete team that's deserving of a top 10-15 ranking.
Tennessee at Kentucky: The Wildcats get one more chance to play spoiler as they host a Tennessee team which can win the SEC East with a victory. The Vols have squeaked by at times, rarely playing a complete game of strong football. Kentucky appears to be limping down the finish line a bit, though, with several key injuries hampering them as they close out what's been a brutal schedule. I'm taking the Vols in a close one.
Connecticut at West Virginia: West Virginia has the far superior offense, and, this year, a defense that won't lose them games. Playing at home, with the Big East title on the line (and a reasonable chance at a BCS Title Game apperance), the Mountaineers have so much to play for. So does Connecticut, but this is new territory for them. Can they win this kind of game on the road? I'm betting not.
Oklahoma State at Oklahoma: Demarco Murray is out. Sam Bradford is a game-time decision. Even playing at home, that spells trouble for the Sooners, who find themselves in an eerily similar position to Texas last year. Should the 'Horns beat A&M on Friday, Oklahoma will have to close out their in-state rival with key players injured just to make the Big 12 championship game. Go Cowboys!
Kansas vs Missouri: The weekend's best game is, appropriately, last. Even more exciting, it's being played at a neutral field - Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium. If you're not excited about this game, you probably don't love college football very much. This has exciting players, amazing storylines, and the highest possible stakes. The game itself sets up to be interesting, as well. Kansas has largely smothered every offense its faced, but the Jayhawks have yet to encounter anything like what Missouri will be bringing. In particular, the explosion of freshman Jeremy Maclin has helped elevate Missouri from a very good offensive team, to a great one. The Tigers still struggle to play consistent defense, though, and Kansas is as efficient an offensive team as there's been in college football this year. The big worry for KU fans, of course, is that the team has yet to face a top 30 team. Can they do what they do against explosive competition? I think they can. Kansas to 12-0.