This past weekend, we witnessed one of the most shocking football-related things I've ever seen. No, I'm not talking about Alabama-Auburn, I'm talking about the death of Paul Walker. Lance Harbor is dead, man! Between that and the possibility of seeing Ohio State get blown out in yet another title game, I've barely had the strength to go on. But if I've learned anything from the guy who made 7 Fast and Furious movies, it's that you must go on, even if you're going on to do something exactly the same as what you did before. And that brings us to this week's picks. Yeah, Alabama lost and our dream championship match-up is gone, but there are still plenty of great games to watch this Saturday. So here are my Championship Weekend picks, in a column that will be totally dedicated to the late, great Paul Walker.
Intriguing Non-Championship Games
Oklahoma State -10 over Oklahoma
There are so many thing you could say about this game, just like there are so many things Paul Walker said during Varsity Blues. Check out his IMDB quote archive. It's just a blank page. You know why? Cause he said so much great shit, they didn't even know where to start.
That's basically how I feel about this game. It's a rivalry game, so it doesn't seem right to have the historically better OU as a 10 point dog. But Oklahoma State is better than Oklahoma THIS YEAR, and the Cowboy defense is much improved from seasons past. I'm unsure about this game, and wouldn't advise betting heavily either way, but if I have to pick, I'm going with the Cowboys. This is for a spot in the BCS. If they can’t get motivated and dominate a down Oklahoma team, maybe they don’t belong in the top ten after all.
Texas +14 over Baylor
It's been a rough week for Texas football, between the Art Briles-Gary Patterson feud and the death of West Canaan's star quarterback. Now things get even weirder, when a beleaguered Mack Brown faces off against the guy who everyone wants to take his job. It’s like when the new Pope first took over, and the old Pope was still hanging around. You haven’t even left the building and already you’ve got some new hotshot handing out martyrdom and messing around with the holy water. Everyone’s enthralled with the new Pope’s spread offense, so you try to remind everyone that your pro-style blessings helped win a championship back in ’06, but it’s already too late. What I’m basically saying here is, Art Briles is God. Oh, and get ready Baylor fans, cause he is leaving you. “But he just signed a 10-year contract!” Hahahahaha.
I think Mack has one last "screw you" in him. By which I mean Texas will lose, but cover the spread. So maybe it's not so much a "screw you" as a "please please please don't fire me!!" Either way, take the points. Baylor hasn’t looked great lately. I can't tell if injuries have caught up with them or if we had them slightly overrated based on a mediocre schedule. Maybe a little of each. Whatever. Let's just get the Bears through this one and hopefully the Gods will bless us with a Baylor-Oregon Cotton Bowl.
The CT.com Obligatory UConn Pick of the Week
UConn over Memphis (pick 'em)
Ah, the final obligatory UConn pick of 2013. The Huskies’ season has been a bigger disappointment than The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, but lately they've been making a comeback. Like The Rock in Fast Five, new UConn QB Casey Cochran has infused energy into the franchise. UConn's going to win this game, and the Connecticut football fans are going to go nuts. All 3 of them.
(Everyone else in CT has already switched into basketball mode. Why watch horrible AAC football when you can watch Shabazz "Naughty By" Napier draining last-second shots?)
The Championship Games
[Click here for Championship Game times, locations and other information]
Auburn -2.5 over Missouri
Sometimes I don't know what to think. Like for example, when I see hundreds of Fast and Furious fans showing up during a work day for a Paul Walker memorial, I don't know whether that's touching, or pathetic. Or another example is the SEC Championship Game. Auburn certainly seems like a team of destiny after the past two weeks. The miracle catch against Georgia and the 108-yard field goal return against Alabama are both incredible on their own, but for those to both happen in back-to-back weeks makes me think there are cosmic forces at work. Just as Vin Diesel lives his life a quarter mile at a time, the 2013 Auburn team lives its life one second of gameclock at a time.
That’s not why I’m picking them, though. I think Missouri is a really good squad that matches up well against the Tigers... I mean... against Auburn... damn you teams and your uncreative nicknames! James Franklin is an excellent QB, one who never quite got his due thanks to injuries and Missouri being off most fans’ radar. Michael Sam is a beast who should become known by NFL fans soon (though he’ll probably have to shift to a new position). He’s surrounded by a bunch of other skilled defenders. And there’s RB Henry Josey, who’s having a tremendous season. This is a talented, upperclassman-laden team that has done a good job of taking their Big 12-style offense and merging it with the toughness of the SEC. What a great addition to the conference, which of course was already far and away the best in the nation.
So... I’m going with Auburn. Why? Because they’re from the SEC West. And the SEC West is the Cadillac of leagues. They’ve won the past 4 National Championships and 5 of the last 6. (In fairness, the ’07 and ’09 titles were won by Florida out of the SEC East.) The SEC West is the ruling class of the nation. They play difficult games all year long, and when they face off in a top ten match-up, they’re ready. On paper Auburn looks like they might have difficulty against this Missouri team, but you could have said that about half of Auburn’s games this season. They keep winning. Much like the 2013 Florida team is cursed, the 2013 Auburn team is blessed. It’s their year, it’s their time, it’s their shot at the title. War Eagle!
PS – If this line jumps to -3 I take back everything and I’ll be betting on Missouri.
Arizona State -3 over Stanford
This is the forgotten conference championship game. This game is similar to Paul Walker's guest appearance on "Charles in Charge," meaningless in the grand scheme of things but still entertaining. This game does have implications for the conference however; the winner gets an automatic BCS bid and the loser most likely finds themselves outside the BCS bubble. So it's a big game, at least for PAC-12 fans. Arizona State has been playing off the charts lately. Plus, they’re at home. So I’m taking them. You thought there would be more analysis, right? Nope. Like Paul Walker I’m a man of few words.
Florida State -29.5 over Duke
I’ve been cashing in on Duke all year. Not this time. The Blue Devils are a nice Cinderella story, but the clock’s about to strike midnight when they face this semi-pro Florida State team. This line is much higher than I like, but you can’t pick Duke. Jameis Winston will play and play well*. That guy is like Lance Harbor, he’s been taught to “fire that fuckin’ pigskin” since birth. But it will be the FSU defense that dominates this game. They’re too fast and athletic for Duke’s quarterbacks and skill players. They’re going to stuff Duke’s rushing attack, and then the Devils will have nothing left. If this were basketball or the SATs, Duke would double Florida State’s score, but it’s football, so this time, the blowout will be in favor of FSU.
I'll certainly miss the BCS. What other system shuts out the best conference in America in order to reward two teams that played online colleges all year? We all realize that Ohio State and Florida State have beaten two ranked teams, combined, right? I know Winston and Braxton Miller have looked amazing. That's partially because they're racking up yards against Bryant & Stratton and the Electoral College. Take a look at this blind analysis of the top 5 teams. It proves just how much better the SEC is than anyone else. (And this gives FSU & OSU credit for Duke and Michigan State, two games they haven’t even played yet!)
Listen, I know that Florida State is a super-talented team. They’ve earned their spot at the top of the polls through impressive victories and a little bit of luck (a down year for the ACC, Clemson showing up stoned for that game, the Auburn miracle, etc.). Now that Alabama’s out of the picture, they’re the odds-on favorite for the National Championship. But I would love to see them face a good team for once. Somebody who wouldn’t back down from a physical game. Somebody with pro-level talent on both ends of the ball. Somebody who played tough games week in and week out and wasn’t intimidated by anyone. Somebody who would truly make the ‘Nole earn their title.
Somebody like Auburn or Missouri.
*The Florida State Seminoles: Avoiding criminal prosecution since 1992!
Michigan State +5.5 over Ohio State
And that brings us to our final game of the week. I’ll just come out and say it: Michigan State is going to win this game. Outright. There’s not much value in the money line, so I’m taking the points.
Ohio State is a very good team, but they’ve showed cracks in the armor over the past few weeks. Meanwhile, Michigan State has been playing lights-out defense. The Spartans D is ranked #1 in the nation, and that’s no accident. They’ve been shutting teams down, winning ugly games over semi-respectable teams like Nebraska and Minnesota. They just need to find a way to stop Carlos Hyde at the line of scrimmage and suddenly Ohio State isn’t nearly the powerhouse they are when Hyde is running over people. Yeah, Dane Cook (or whatever their QB’s name is) sucks, but a heavy dose of RB Jeremy Langford and a couple well-timed turnovers could turn this into a very tight game. If anyone in the Big Ten can stop the Buckeyes’ attack, it’s the Spartans, so it’s nice that they ended up in the championship game together.
Now, Ohio State is still the better team, and probably the safer bet. But I just have a feeling about this one. Karma shouldn’t allow this OSU team to make the National Championship Game. They don’t deserve it based on their soft schedule and the way they’ve looked recently. I kind of hope they make it, because that would be the second straight easy-money National Championship Game, but I think I’d rather see a competitive game between Florida State and an SEC opponent.
The last few weeks have reinforced the idea that college football in November is crazy. Something exciting happens every week. I see no reason why this week should be any different. Go Sparty. Oh and Paul Walker something something.
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