Fearless Friday picks and pans

Gerald Anthony takes a look at the weekend's action

Here we are at Week 12 of the 2002 season and the pressure gauges on about 15 campuses are getting close to pegging out! As the ranked teams slug it out to win and gain the best Bowl possible, those residing at the top of the Polls are fighting for BCS slots and hoping those ahead of them fall.
Yes indeed, it is ALL about winning now, losing isn't a part of any of the thought processes of the top teams. For all of their efforts to date, for all the pain and agony of a grueling campaign, a loss now renders them moot as the Pollsters tend to punish those who lose late more severely than those who loose early. In some respects, the Pollsters can't be judged too harshly since the final weeks of play will feature the much anticipated intra-Conference showdowns which will determine the respective Champions, but with so few games remaining, losing bad carries with it a hefty financial penalty for those on the cusp of being one of the elites, far more so than the razor thin defeat. It may not seem fair, but such is the way it is.
Two noteworthy things have occurred since last Friday, with the most stunning being the Hail Mary pass by LSU to save themselves in Lexington. I was watching this game and reached behind me for an adult beverage when the pass was completed, so I missed it live. But the instant replay I saw and it was simply amazing, for as the referee signaled the score, the looks on the faces of the prematurely exuberant Wildcat fans were forever burned into my memory. The shock was total, the devastating realization all too real, the heartbreak for the UK players no doubt leaving a permanent scar.
On the flip side though, we have the reprehensible end game antics of a Miami of Ohio Coach who allowed his emotions to override his better judgment, resulting quite appropriately in his arrest. We then learn later that this lack of self-control extended to the skybox where yet another Miami assistant took out his frustrations on various furnishings and the walls, which most appropriately led to his suspension. Sure, the penalties at the end of the game were controversial and sure, nobody likes to lose under those circumstances, but for a school making its first appearance on National TV and that is known Nationally as the Cradle of Coaching, this was the worst thing that could have happened. Sadly, these antics may have cost Miami a scheduled appearance next week in a game against Central Florida that was slated for telecast, but I've not confirmed this to be fact. If true, this can only be viewed as a complete disaster for a mid-major trying to break through into the National spotlight, for not only has their reputation been trashed, they stand to lose a significant payday as well.
Now for this week's guestimations, having gone the ostrich route last week with some of my guesses, my season's totals took a heavy hit in recent weeks:
Last week: 6-6 SU (66-44) and 4-8 ATS (53-60) :/
Back to chicken bones and handfuls of sand this week! :)
Noon on ESPN
Iowa (-11) @ Minnesota: The Hawkeyes finish their season at the Dome against the Golden Gophers. An Iowa win gives them a perfect Big 10 record as well as perfect positioning should the Buckeyes fall, as their #5 ranking (#8 BCS) has them sipping hot chocolate for the next two weeks while watching the drama unfold. Glen Mason's team has done surprisingly well this year but couldn't handle the Michigan Offense last week, which means that they will not fare any better this week against the best Offense in the Conference. Hawkeyes roll and cover.
Noon on ESPN2
Wisconsin @ Michigan (-11): The Winged Helmets stand at 8-2 and well positioned to go bowling again, while the Battling Badgers have returned to form and faltered as the season has progressed. Barry Alvarez's teams generally play the big boys tough regardless of how their season has gone and with two games left, needing one win to be bowl eligible, a Wisky win would sure do wonders for them. Alas, it will not happen tomorrow in the Big House, Wolverines roll and cover.
Noon on Jefferson-Pilot
N.C. State (-7) @ Virginia: The previously high flying, MNC dreaming Wolfpack of Chuck Amato have been digging for bones, the magic ones, as they've dropped two in a row to GT and the Terps. Now faced with the Cavs and the Noles on the road to finish the season, positioning for a bowl is the primary concern. The young Cavs shouldn't complain as they've exceeded my expectations already and at home they are playing tough, standing at 6-4. This is a must win game for both, perhaps more so for Virginia, since they still have Maryland at home next week and a trip to Blacksburg, so at least one more victory is needed for a Bowl trip. With injuries to T.A. McLendon and leading receiver Jerrico Cotchery and their status uncertain, I'm smelling that ripe old UPSET smell, so gimme the Cavaliers.
12:30 pm on Fox (regional only)
Nebraska @ Kansas State (-12): A must win game for the Wildcats as they do not control their own destiny in the B12 North race with Colorado. As I figured, the Huskers have kinda sorta gotten things back together and are playing more like the beasts we all know them to be and at 7-4, their Bowling prospects hang in the balance with Colorado looming next week. Bill Snyder has his Cats firing on all cylinders right now but this is a very bitter foe they face in Nebraska, let's call it Mutually Assured Hate. I like KSU but I'm scared of the spread.
3:30pm on ABC
Ohio State (-8.5) @ Illinois: The undefeated Buckeyes needed a clutch pass to overcome the upset minded Boilers last week, finding life on the road to be harsh. The Illini rose from the ashes on the road to whip faltering Wisconsin last week and found themselves some confidence. This is the most dangerous game of the year for Jim Tressel's team, for we all know that deep down their minds are on Michigan and the Big 10 Title, as well as a Fiesta Bowl trip. I've maintained all year that Defense wins Championships, so I'll pick the Buckeyes to win a closely fought game within the spread.
3:30 on ABC
Texas (-6) @ Texas Tech: Guess who has the most pressure on them to win? Guess who must go to Norman next week? Can the Red Raiders pull off the most improbable of all scenarios and throw the BCS into absolute chaos? Mike Leach's team has gotten their Offense into gear and can shoot it out with anyone but they still aren't keeping the other guys outta their endzone enough. But there is a reason why the most dreaded road trip in the Conference is the one to Lubbock, it being a tough place to play notwithstanding...;). I'd bet Mack Brown has been pouring over the film this week as his Longhorns got part of what they needed when the Sooners lost last week and they face that very same Aggie team on Thanksgiving Day. With the over/under in jeopardy (59), I think the Horns will survive this trip and cover the spread.
3:30pm on ABC
Washington @ Oregon (-7): While both are out of the Pac10 race, these two just hate each other! Nothing like a neighborly fist fight to ready both for their in-state rivals to end the year. The Quack Attack has been slowed by the injury to star TB Onterrio Smith and a growingly pathetic pass D (last in the Conference) but a healthier Smith is better than no Smith at all. Rick Neuheisel's Huskies have had a rough year to date and stand at 5-5, a win desperately needed to get Bowl consideration and have a trip to Pullman remaining. All things considered, I like Oregon in a squeaker, say 38-35.
6pm on ESPN
South Carolina @ Florida (-14.5): If not for the slim possibility that exists in all games, I would state something like why should Lou even show up with his team. And when you're Offense resides at the bottom of the SEC, it is generally assured that your chances of victory are dependent upon the ineptitude of your opponent. Now the Gators have at times shown this trait and if anybody can divine a way to pull off the improbable, it would be Holtz. But since I have chosen to live in reality and have learned that Miss Cleo was a fraud, I will go with my program's prediction, which is that there is a 95% probability of a Florida win, with the spread. 
7pm on Fox
Iowa State @ Colorado (-9): Both teams will know if KSU is still alive before this one starts but it only matters to the Buffaloes. While the Buff's D isn't all that, it is the relentless running attack that Colorado has ridden, powered by the NCAA's leading rusher Chris Brown. The Clones have failed their test to join the big boys of the Conference as they've been blasted by OU, TX, and KSU by a combined 128-20. Former Heisman hopeful Seneca Wallace hasn't been able to carry the team by himself and as such, their trip to Boulder will not be a fun one. Buffs cover.
7pm on TBS
Arizona State @ Southern Cal (-15): The Trojans are still alive in the Pac 10 race so losing isn't an option. The Pac 10's best defense has been bolstered by a steadily improving Offense guided by Senior Carson Palmer. The Sun Devils can play light up the scoreboard with anybody but haven't learned to keep the other team out of their own endzone. This should be an entertaining game for about a half with the Men of Troy winning handily.
9pm on ESPN
Alabama @ LSU (-2): Anybody who doesn't think this will be a war needs therapy! Nick Saban's Tigers have the inside track to Atlanta and the defense of their SEC Title and are coming off an improbable win against UK. Coach Fran's Tide are going to Hawaii at the end of the season but have some notion about proving something or another to their SECW brethren. The Tigers will know the UGA-AU result but I seriously doubt it will either help or harm them since this may be the best team they'll face until Atlanta. Even though LSU is 5-0 at home, the Tigers won't generate enough scores to overcome the Tide and their balance.
3:30 pm on CBS
Georgia (-2.5) @ Auburn: This is it for Georgia, do or die. The win over Ole Miss sets up this classic showdown of the Oldest Rivalry in the South. The Tigers need the win just as much, for they are still alive in the SECW race. Now that we have established the fact that both teams have a lot riding on the outcome I will simply state that Auburn isn't a good enough team to win by lining it up, but Georgia is. Georgia is better in every catagory than Auburn and has played a tougher schedule, but this is the tenth game in a row for the Dawgs and injuries have become a factor, thus blurring the aforementioned advantages. At this juncture of the season, these two teams are all but evenly matched.
Auburn has won three in a row and is in better shape going into the game, but the sting of last year's loss still haunts the Dawgs, as well as the motivating factor of being the first Georgia team to have a clear route to the SECC game since its inception. Intangibles always factor into this one and the team who makes the fewest mistakes will win it. I like GEORGIA, 31-17.
Have a great weekend and enjoy the games!

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