While this weekend's Ohio State – Michigan game should be a close, thrilling one, it has lost much of the luster it once possessed. The Big 10 (the Big 11 with the addition of Penn State in 1993) has been a little down on its luck. Ohio State won a national title in 2002 and Michigan split the title with Nebraska in 1997, but prior to that the Big 10 has been a disinterested observer on the national championship scene for the previous twenty-nine years. Before Michigan's split laurels in 2007, the two most dominating conference teams (Ohio State and Michigan) in particular and the Big 10 in general had not grabbed the brass ring since 1968 when Woody Hayes' Buckeyes went 10-0-0.
And these two one-time giants have also relinquished their headlock on the conference title. For twenty-six years, from 1968 through 1993, Ohio State and Michigan owned the Big 10 title with three exceptions: Illinois in 1983, Iowa in 1985 and Michigan State in 1987. But since 1994, the big two have given up the title four times to Penn State in 1994, Northwestern in 1995, Wisconsin in 1999 and Illinois in 2001.
With ABC broadcasting the annual affair, the atmosphere will be electric and the game will resound with excitement. Michigan stadium in Ann Arbor hosts 107,501 fans (about 105,000 of which will be wearing blue and gold) and even though the game won't be for a shot at the national championship or even for the conference title, those of us who have no affiliation with either school will still recognize it as one of the preeminent games in the college football and will be watching with tremendous interest. This game has meant so much to so many for so long that, like Oklahoma – Texas, it has become a permanent part of the college football mosaic.
Saturday, November 19th
Missouri at Kansas State (-1) As down as the Wildcats were after their last loss, it would have been difficult to have imagined a set of circumstances which could have motivated this team to a kamikaze effort against the tres-average Missouri Tigers. And then Snyder resigned and all bets this weekend were off.
Kansas State by 7
Minnesota at Iowa (-4 ½) Interesting game matching up two teams who could have and should have done better in '05. Iowa was, by some polls, picked to take the Big 10 and Minnesota was picked to stand directly in their path. With Laurence Mulroney questionable (translation: even if he plays with that ankle he isn't going to be a factor), we have to go with Ferentz in this one.
Iowa by 3
Alabama at Auburn (-7) In spite of the great year Shula's Tide is having, their ineffective offense will cost them this Saturday.
Auburn by 10
Penn State (-7 ½) at Michigan State After starting the season on a four-game tear while outscoring all opponents (including Notre Dame) 196-83, the Spartans found their slump and stuck with it. Since those first four games MSU has gone 1-5 and looked pretty awful doing it. In fact, it seems like since coach John Smith's (who does he think he's fooling with that name?) nuclear meltdown against his own team before halftime of the Ohio State game, nothing has gone right for the Spartans. Penn State, on the other hand…well, I don't need to recap their year here do I?
Penn State by 6
Tulsa (-14) at Tulane Say hello to Tulane coach Chris Scelfo. Now, say goodbye to Tulane coach Chris Scelfo. After posting a tentative 5-6 record in 2005 the Green Wave are turning their fans green from nausea with their 2-7 record and the future, at least in Nawlins, doesn't look particularly bright for Scelfo. On the other side of the line-of-scrimmage, the Tulsa Golden Hurricane are actually playing well this season, and head coach Steve Kragthorpe is considered to be the next John Cooper; whether that's good or bad remains to be seen.
TU by 24
Clemson (-1 ½) at South Carolina Although Clemson is coming down from an emotional high after beating Florida State, head coach Tommy Bowden is still experiencing ambivalence over winning and beating up his daddy. Be that as it may, South Carolina is smokin' and will be tough to beat this Saturday.
South Carolina and the old ball grouch by 4
Ohio State (-3) at Michigan The Ohio State offense is playing well but the Ohio State defense is world class. Even though Michigan has been playing mediocre football since last year no one in Ann Arbor has noticed that emperor Lloyd Carr's new clothes are non-existent. I'd love to pick the Wolverines here but with Hawk and that Buckeye defense, I simply can't.
Ohio State by 8
Oklahoma State at Baylor (-2 ½) Based on the barrage of email messages I've received since OSU bushwached Tech, you'd think the Cowboys were just a good team that's been in a mild slump of late. But the fact is that Oklahoma State, for whatever reason (and there are several valid ones), is not a good team this year and their record accurately reflects that. Baylor has emerged in 2005, despite their record, as a team that can play with most good teams. If the Bears can shake off the doldrums accumulated from the pole-axing they've received from Texas and Missouri over the last two weeks, they'll handle OSU in stride. If they do not, all things being equal and the game being in Waco, they should win anyway.
Baylor by 3
Oklahoma at Texas Tech (-7 ½) The college football world has been eagerly anticipating this game since late September when Tech began to show they were a bit more special than the teams normally playing in Jones SBC stadium and when Oklahoma began to look vulnerable. Oklahoma haters have been emerging from their dark, concealed places and displaying an open, reckless bravado that comes either from those so certain of their convictions that they feel they have nothing to risk by their brazen behavior or from those who don't have enough sense to realize that they're making fools of themselves. Since last weekend's massacre in Stillwater, Mike Leach has been doing some soul-searching in an attempt to figure out what he did wrong while the answer has always has been right underneath his nose: he simply didn't motivate and inspire his team to perform. (note: see this week's College Football Gazette for the Montessori Award coming out on Friday…).
This weekend, Texas Tech will be playing for pride, record, and a better bowl invitation. Oklahoma will be playing for the same things. Tech will be taking the field unencumbered by serious injuries while the Sooners will be hamstrung by Dusty Dvoracek's injured right foot, and Rhett Bomar and Adrian Peterson's ankles. Peterson, according to Bob Stoops, is close to 100% but that must be taken with a grain of salt if you consider that Stoops said the same thing about Peterson's ankle the week after the TCU game. And Bomar is favoring his heavily-taped ankle in practice. But the entire game still boils down to the same confrontation everyone has been anticipating all season: the Tech passing offense versus the Oklahoma secondary. And with a hampered pass-rush due to Dusty's injury, the prospect is not a pretty one.
I'll refrain from picking this game
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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College Football Gazette
You can also contact Wann Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org
Smith's Picks: Week 13
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