By Tom Z
10:55 AM EDT, November 2, 2012
In a week like this, with so many people still reeling from Hurricane Sandy, it's apparent that college football isn't important in the grand scheme of things. Sure, a Florida game may sometimes seem like life-or-death to a die-hard Gators fan, but then you turn on the TV and see someone on the roof of their house holding a baby while the streets are flooding, and you realize, "oh yeah, that's what a life-or-death situation looks like." It's tough to argue about the Heisman when people are without electricity or food. It's hard to cheer for Rutgers when there's 3 feet of water in the PATH station. OK, so it's hard to root for Rutgers under any circumstances. Seriously, you're going to lose by 12 to Kent State? Pathetic.
The point is, this disaster gave us all a little perspective. College football isn't a life-or-death situation, it's just entertainment.
But, that doesn't make it meaningless. If the hurricane taught us anything, it's about the power of human relationships. Nothing feels better than when we're helping others, lending a hand to someone in need, or just hanging out in the dark with a good friend. That sounds dirty but you know what I mean. In this age of BCS computers, nothing will ever replace human interaction. So this Saturday, grab a bunch of friends, go to the one person's house that actually has electricity, and watch some great college football match-ups. And while you're doing that, try to appreciate the fact that your street isn't flooded.
That's my advice for 99% of the population. If you live in Manhattan or New Jersey, my advice to you is this: RUN. Run away now. You are two days away from realizing a Hunger Games-style, every-man-for-themselves wasteland where people murder each other for bread and double-A batteries are considered a precious commodity. There's no time to worry about your family. Get out and save yourself before things turn into a real-life Waterworld. Loot a sporting goods store, steal a kayak, and paddle yourself to safety! This is your last chance! Dry land is not a myth!
On to the picks…
Pitt +17 over Notre Dame
Major letdown game for the Irish. They just played their game of the century -- no, literally, that was their biggest game this century -- against Oklahoma last week. Not only did they win but they won decisively. There's nowhere to go but down. The Irish are like Brian Austin Green after he breaks up with Megan Fox. Sure, he'll find someone good-looking, but it will never be the same. And remember, just two weeks ago, Notre Dame could barely hang on against BYU at home. They remind me of the New York Giants; they're physical, they have a great defense, and they only try hard when it really counts. This could be a serious trap game for the Irish if they show up with anything less than full effort. I'll take Pittsburgh and the points.
Texas / Texas Tech OVER 67
Two teams in desperate need of a win. To quote my friend Spills, “Texas has an overrated everything.” Texas Tech, on the other hand, has a great offense and suspect D. This should be a high-powered, last-team-with-the-ball-wins affair. Plus, Texas Tech is a great team to bet the OVER on. They play hurry-up the whole game. I swear Seth Doege sprints to the line of scrimmage when the play is over. You know how teams hustle to get a play off after a questionable call, in order to avoid a challenge? Texas Tech plays as if every single play is about to be challenged. It's reassuring to know you've bet on a team that will run 25% more plays than the national average.
South Florida -8 over UConn
My friend (and frequent advisor to this column) Dan P is a UConn grad. I'm going to let him take this one:
Dan says: "UConn is terrible and can't score points. Unlike most Big East schools, UConn doesn't have players from Florida, so they wont have any motivation. USF struggles against teams who have players from Florida because those players are so jacked up to play in front of friends and family. BJ Daniels wins by double digits."
I agree, however, be on the watch for any Hurricane Sandy-related talk out of UConn. UConn has a bunch of players from southern Connecticut, New York City and New Jersey, all of which were devastated by the hurricane. College football players for the most part are idiots, so they'll psych themselves up using any tangential reason they can find. A lot of the time, a psychological edge can be all the advantage a team needs. The point is, if you hear any UConn players say something like, "We're dedicating our performance this weekend to all the victims…" then hedge your bet immediately.
Clemson -13.5 over Duke
After seeing him make picks on College Gameday a couple weeks ago, I've invited Olympic star Ryan Lochte to be a guest-picker for this game.
"Umm, yeah, it's like, I like Clemson a lot, Tom Boyd is a great quarterback, and he's like, good and stuff, and they're like, great, and I like tigers. But, umm, Duke is, umm, also good, and like, they have a great school, and like, they're in North Carolina, so you know, they don't like Clemson. And also they're the devils, so you don't mess with the devil. And so, I guess, like, I gotta go with Clemson, because they're going to win by a bunch, because, umm, you know, football."
Thanks, Ryan Lochte!
USC +8.5 over Oregon
Oregon has a sizzling ground game and is the most exciting team in the country to watch. They don't just destroy bad teams, they destroy mediocre teams. And after you see them win 63-20 for eight straight weeks, it's easy to believe that they can't be beaten. That's not the case, though. When Oregon plays top-notch, physical teams, those games are more evenly matched. Let's not forget that the Ducks were on a tear last year before losing to USC in Eugene.
I don't know what to think of this year's USC team. They have all the pieces, but they haven't looked impressive against any decent competition and they've put together two bad performances Stanford and Arizona. USC might not be good. I don't know. I do know that they'll be amped for this game, they'll be playing at home in front of a raucous crowd, and Matt Barkley, if he's truly the #1 QB prospect he's made out to be, won't let the Trojans go down without a fight. I like the Trojans to give an energized performances and possibly even win. This game is 50/50 in my mind. Take the points.
Now, a quick prediction. I love Oregon's freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota. He's athletic, he makes good decisions, and he's a winner. With time I believe he could develop into a very accurate pocket passer as well. The running game has never been a problem for the Ducks, but if Mariota develops, he'll give them an added element they've never had before. At the same time, the Ducks' defense continues to improve. I predict that, before his career at Oregon ends, Marcus Mariota will hoist the AFCA Trophy.* Yes, I like the Ducks to win a National Championship in the next four years. Probably not this season, but any year from 2013-2015 is in play. By the way, can we come up with a better name for the championship trophy? I know all of college football's most famous names (Camp, Bryant, etc.) are already being used for other awards. So how about we just name something that has no meaning but sounds awesome? The Supernova Trophy, or the Magnificence Trophy, or the Conquerers Trophy, or something like that? AFCA sounds like an insurance company. We can do better, dammit!
[*This is of course assuming that Mariota doesn't get a DUI, sexually assault a girl, fail out of school, get caught with weed, kill a drifter, or do anything else that causes his career to be cut short.]
USC / Oregon OVER 70
Screw it, why not? The way things have been going for these teams, they should combine for 100 points.
Vandy / Kentucky UNDER 46
If USC/Oregon is a battle between two high-octane sports cars, Vandy/Kentucky is a race between a Galapagos turtle and a tree sloth. Vandy has a stout defense and is thus consistently involved in low-scoring games. I don’t have any analysis of Kentucky, they’re just bad. Bet the under and prepare for a 17-13 barnburner.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Alabama @ LSU
Rule #1 of college football gambling: Never bet against Alabama.
Rule #2 of college football gambling: Never bet against Alabama.
Rule #3 of college football gambling: Stop making Fight Club references, it's been like 15 years since that movie came out, it's not cool anymore.
Rule #4 of college football gambling: LSU never loses in night games at home.
This is where the unstoppable force meets the immovable object. And no, I'm not just referring to both teams' legions of morbidly obese fans. I think it's safe to say that these teams are the two biggest powerhouses in college football today, and this game means more than your average match-up. We all remember how Bama stomped LSU in the title game, but don't forget about the Tigers' nail-biting regular season win in Tuscaloosa. Alabama is great, but not invincible. This game marks the best chance for the Crimson Tide to lose this season. LSU's defense has the size and speed to match up with Bama's offense. It's highly doubtful that the Tide will cruise through this game like they have all year. If they do, we should bypass the regular season and send them to the National Championship Game now. (The other undefeated teams can flip a coin to see who gets to lose to the Tide.)
With all of that said, only a fool would bet against the 2012 Alabama Crimson Tide. Check out the picture of my Heisman favorite, A.J. McCarron, below. Are you going to bet against that guy? Considering the way the Tide has performed this year, you're basically playing Russian Roulette by going against them. I would poke a bull with a stick or have unprotected sex with the Octomom before I bet against Bama. Both are lesser gambles. I like Alabama to win a hard-fought game this Saturday night, but an 8.5 point line is too high for such a high-stakes match-up between perennial powerhouses. Put the wallet away and enjoy some of the best entertainment that college football has to offer.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @thefaketomz
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