Don't bother me with details …and Smith's Picks by Wann Smith 11/09/2005 I realize that it sounds like rank rationalization for laziness, but when you go to the trouble to take factual information… details… into consideration before picking a college football game, you can be led seriously astray. It's true. Cases in point…
• September 3rd: TCU, a triple-digit underdog, has no chance of competing against Oklahoma in Norman. The best that can be hoped for is for the Horned Frogs to avoid humiliation. Score? TCU 17, Oklahoma 10.
• September 10th: Texas has a history of choking in big games and Ohio State rarely loses in Columbus. Score? Texas 25, Ohio State 22.
• October 1st: Upstart Alabama entertains Florida. Struggling young coach Mike Shula is in way over his head in the matchup with Urban Meyer. The Tide is better this year but the Gators have more talent and are coached by a master. Result? Alabama 31, Florida 3.
• November 5th: UCLA, on the hottest streak it's seen since Terry Donahue paced the sidelines, was scheduled to make a whistle-stop appearance in Tucson. The Arizona Wildcats, led by second year coach Mike Stoops, was on life support and given no chance to be competitive. Result? Arizona 52, UCLA 14.
• As 2005 got underway, Penn State, after playing like a ladie's canasta team for the past three years, has no chance of being competitive in the Big 10 race. Result? Going into its game on November 12th, the Nittany Lions are 9-1 and leading the pack in the race for Pasadena.
• November 12th: Texas hosts Baylor in Austin. The Bears, although greatly improved, enter the game as 34 point underdogs and, in spite of having played competitively in every game this season, are given little hope of keeping the score respectable. Result? Texas 62, Baylor 0.
Okay, so there are exceptions.
Friday, November 11th
Rutgers at Louisville (-21) The Scarlett Knights of Rutgers have been having a very good year by Scarlet Knight standards. They've only lost one road game (at Kentucky) and they're far more solid than they've been at any time since James Gandolfini matriculated. But unfortunately for Rutgers, they'll be playing in Louisville at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium…and silly though the name of the field may be, the Red Birds are sinister at home.
Louisville by 28
Saturday, November 12th
UConn at Pittsburgh (-11 ½) As painfully average as the Huskies have been this season, UConn isn't that far removed from their 2004 8-4 team. Slamming Dave Wannstadt is becoming tiresome I'll admit, but the simple fact of the matter is that if you take the Wannstadt factor out of this game Pitt might win by 24. But since we can't do that, we'll take Pitt anyway, but just barely.
Pitt by 4
Northwestern at Ohio State (-17) The Buckeyes, coming off a 40-2 victory over the Hapless Illini (that's right, Illinois has officially changed its team name to the ‘Hapless Illini'), could be suffering from delusions of grandeur. There's a very good chance that Northwestern will bring them back down to earth this coming Saturday. Home Horseshoe notwithstanding, two-and-a-half touchdowns is a lot of points to be giving this Wildcat team.
Ohio State by 14
Baylor at Missouri (-7 ½) Baylor has proven in 2005 that they are effective in stopping (or at least slowing) the run. Only three backs have gone over the century mark against the Bears this year (Oklahoma's Jacob Gutierrez, Texas' Ramonce Taylor, and Tech's Taurean Henderson) and more importantly, the two quarterbacks comparable to Brad Smith that Baylor has faced this year – Reggie McNeal and Vince Young – gained 83 and 53 yards, respectively. You have to think that Missouri would stand a better chance of putting a ‘W' in the bank if they were to give a true passer like Chase Daniel the nod behind center. But that probably won't happen.
Missouri by 3
Kansas State at Nebraska (-6) Everyone in the state of Nebraska who isn't in a wheat germ-induced stupor knows that Bill Callahan is on the hot seat. Callahan's bold new experiment – attempting to implement the West Coast offense without the benefit of experienced players or competent coaches – has gone over like a kosher deli in Cairo. And yet it's difficult to conceive of a way for Bill's team to choke against KSU this weekend as the Mildcats are limping into Lincoln on the heels of a four game slide.
Nebraska by 9
Kansas at Texas (-34) Last year in Lawrence, Mack had to rely on some creative officiating to pull his team's chestnuts out of the fire. Don't think Mangino doesn't remember and don't think he won't use it to pump his Jayhawks up to a frenzy in preparation for this game. And don't think for a moment that it'll make a nickel's worth of difference.
U of T by 35
USC (-19) at California This game has ambush written all over it. The 19 point cut looks a little too pat. Tedford's Golden Teddy Grahams have had a rough go of it this year as they've lost to a menagerie of Bruins, Ducks and Beavers. But you can be fairly certain of one thing: California will be pumped and capable of playing the Trojans with as much enthusiasm, ability and emotion as did Notre Dame.
USC by 13
Colorado (-2) at Iowa State These teams represent the two biggest fish in the Big 12 North small pond. If Colorado wins they'll earn another opportunity to play Texas the first week in December. If Iowa State wins and a combination of other events occur (ISU must also beat Kansas on November 19th while Colorado must lose to Nebraska over the Thanksgiving weekend), the ‘Clones will go to Houston's Reliant Stadium on December 3rd to try and solve the Texas equation. However Colorado, due largely to the maturation of Joel Klatt, should put the issue to rest this weekend.
Beefaloes by 4
Texas Tech (-23 ½) at Oklahoma State Allow me to open this pick with a personal comment: to all of the erstwhile, well-meaning OSU fans who've figured out how to use email, please show some restraint. Yes, I know I've been rough on you, but I'm only calling ‘em as I see ‘em. Mother nature has a way of weeding out the weak (it's called natural selection) and Oklahoma State has simply been naturally selected in 2005 to go 3-8. It isn't my fault, so please don't shoot the messenger. Now, shifting from the natural sciences to history… if history has shown us anything it's that Mike Leach will run it up if he can. And this weekend, he can.
Red Raiders by 42
LSU (-2 ½) at Alabama One of the truisms of betting is to never go against a streak, and ‘Bama is on a streak. They've won impressively and they've won ugly this season but the bottom line is that they've won every time they've taken the field. Shula appears to be coming into his own in Tuscaloosa and that, combined with an absolutely incredible defense, will keep the Tide clean.
Bama by their usual margin of victory…the last second field goal
Florida (-4 ½) at South Carolina Now that little Lou-Lou and Skippy Holtz have left the building the Gamecocks have started to mesh, showing signs of strength in their first season under the old ball grouch. After getting buggy whipped by Auburn on October 1st, Spurrier and company have been gaining momentum with each week (the Cock-and-Shoot offense has rolled off four straight wins…the last two on the road against Tennessee and Arkansas). And then comes Florida. Unquestionably, the Gators have the edge in talent and player experience. But Spurrier has the edge in coaching experience and he's also carrying one heck of a thinly-veiled grudge. Steve resented the way Florida went about trying to rehire him after they ran Zook out of town (the Gators actually expected Spurrier to submit to a job interview). So, this coming Saturday, every trick Spurrier has ever learned will be tossed onto the field in a wild attempt to send Florida's new Urban Renewal program home with it's tail twixt its legs.
Florida by 2
Texas A&M at Oklahoma (-13) How would you like to be in Dennis Franchione's shoes this week? All he has to do is convince his team that the last three trips to Norman were a fluke…just one of those things that sometimes happens in college football. I mean, when you look at it, being beaten all three games by a total combined score of 159-16 isn't that bad. Oh, and he'll also have to somehow try to explain away how his Aggies managed to lose to Iowa State and Texas Tech the past two weeks by a combined tally of 98-31. He could probably put a positive spin on the season by pointing out how badly A&M whipped Oklahoma State…but wait, wouldn't that be sort of like the sideshow fat man at the state fair boasting about how he can almost touch his toes and ride a bicycle? Somehow, someway, Dennis is going to have to come up with a silver lining for his team. The silver lining for Dennis is, of course, that if things just don't work out, he can always move on to another campus in a season or two.
Sooners by 24
Wann Smith has served two years as national columnist for the Pigskin Post, contributed to the College Football News (a contributor to Fox Sports and the Sporting News) and is currently the editor of the College Football Gazette. Smith lives in St. Louis with his family.
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Smith's Picks: Week 12
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