Howell Peiser picks the SEC and top national games.
PiRate Picks for October 15
This weekend in college football is chock full of important games; almost two dozen of these more-important-than-average tilts will be played. By late Saturday night, the ranking of teams vying for bowl eligibility should be much more clear than today. Let's take a snapshot look at them.
Thursday Night: Clemson at North Carolina St.: By the time this article appears on the Internet, we will know the outcome of this game. Can Tommy Bowden save his tush yet again? Another loss drops them to 2-4.
Nebraska at Baylor: Is it possible that Guy Morriss has turned the Bears around? A win in this game would put them at 5-1 and all but guarantee BU a bowl trip. Nebraska knows a win here would almost assuredly move them into a first place tie in the North, after Texas beats Colorado.
Indiana at Iowa: A Hoosier upset would give Indiana a good chance at going 6-5. Iowa, on the other hand, still has life in the Big 10 race. The Hawkeyes have played better in the second half of the season in the Kirk Ferentz gravy years.
Oklahoma at Kansas: The loser of this game more than likely is headed to a losing record. The winner stays in contention for the Independence, Ft. Worth, and Houston Bowls.
Florida at LSU: Both teams are still alive in the SEC regular season race, but the loser will be on the outside looking in. The winner stays in contention for the Capital One Bowl should Alabama and Georgia keep winning.
Akron at Miami (O): Neither team appears to be headed to the MAC title game, but the winner of this game has a good chance to go 8-3. That puts them high up on the at-large bubble come bowl time.
Penn State at Michigan: Still the Nittany Lions find it hard getting respect. Penn State is an underdog to 3-3 Michigan at the "Big House." A win gives Joe Pa's troops a clear path to a 10-0 record before a road finale at Michigan State. A loss throws the Big 10 race
wide open once again. A Michigan loss virtually guarantees a maximum record of 6-5. The heat may rise high enough for Lloyd Carr to sweat in Ann Arbor in November if Michigan loses again.
Wisconsin at Minnesota: The winner stays in the Big 10 race, while the loser will be relegated to a lower-tier bowl. Quarterback Brian Cupito and star tailback Laurence Maroney are both ailing and may not be 100%. This game has been taken off in Vegas.
Alabama at Ole Miss: The Crimson Tide enjoyed a week off, while Ole Miss struggled for a half with The Citadel. Alabama should win with ease, but coming off a big win and with Tennessee on the schedule next week, this could be one of those games. How much the loss of Tyrone Prothro affects the Tide offense and Brodie Croyle's pass efficiency will become evident. A Rebel upset could propel them to a 6-5 record with Kentucky, Arkansas, and
Mississippi State still on the schedule.
Iowa State at Missouri: Call this game a bowl eligibility eliminator. The loser falls to 3-3 and will find it hard to win three more games. The winner may still find it hard winning two more games.
Louisiana Tech at Nevada: This one is just like the Akron and Miami game. The winner will emerge as a strong at-large contender with an excellent shot at going 7-4. This game should be as exciting as any played this week.
Eastern Michigan at Northern Illinois: Ditto the Akron-Miami game, except the loser of this one can make other holiday plans.
Southern California at Notre Dame: Is this the most important game of the regular season? Maybe not, but it is the most important game of this week. A convincing Trojan victory will silence the critics that USC is overrated and further place this team amongst the top elites of all-time. A Notre Dame upset will wake up more echoes and secure a BCS bowl for the Irish.
Michigan State at Ohio State: The winner stays in the Bog 10 race, while the loser drops to Alamo Bowl territory. Ohio State's two losses were to currently undefeated, top 10 teams.
South Florida at Pittsburgh: Can the Bulls continue to surprise the experts and stay atop the Big East standings? How did this squad blow out Louisville? Will Dave Wannstedt figure out how to make this talented Panther squad operate efficiently, or will that dark cloud continue to follow him? If USF wins, they will host West Virginia the following week on homecoming for the game of the year in the Big East. Connecticut is hiding in the
Northwestern at Purdue: Both teams need this game if they are going to finish 6-5 or better. Purdue just isn't clicking right now, even though they have the talent to win every game left on their schedule.
Central Florida at Southern Mississippi: UCF went 0-11 last year and wasn't expected to win more than two or three games this year. All of a sudden, they find themselves leading the pack in C-USA East. Southern Miss lost to Tulsa last week. The winner is in the driver's seat in this division.
Rutgers at Syracuse: A loss by Rutgers in this game more than likely spells the end of the road for Coach Greg Schiano. A win gives the Scarlet Knights an excellent shot at a winning record. The University of New Jersey hasn't fielded a winning team since 1992.
Oklahoma State at Texas A&M: The Aggies have to rank among the tops in the most disappointing team rankings this year. They were expected to contend with Texas and Texas Tech in the North. A loss here puts them on target for a 5-6 record or worse. The Cowboys are mired in a major rebuilding cycle, and they are not expected to win this game or six total games. A&M cannot play lackadaisical and win this one though. The loser is out of the bowl picture.
UCLA at Washington State: The Bruins have been here before. As recently as 2001, they began the season 6-0, then collapsed on the road against weaker competition. Can they continue winning and make the season finale at the Coliseum a huge game? Don't discount the Cougars. They don't have the same talent they had at the end of the Mike Price era, but they aren't chopped liver. They could win this game and stay in the 6-5 neighborhood.
Louisville at West Virginia: This is a must win for the Cardinals. A second Big East loss would mean South Florida would have to lose three times to give U of L the automatic BCS bowl bid. That's not in the cards. West Virginia is the titular Big East holdover power. This team is far weaker than any of the last three contingents in Morgantown. With a diluted conference,
WVU could still win eight games. The winner stays as a co-favorite in the league, while the loser has to start making plans for the Insight Bowl.
New Mexico at Wyoming: The winner of this game should finish with a record above .500. If TCU, Utah and Colorado State win enough games, this game will decide the top at-large team in the West. If any of the top three lose a few more, then the winner of this game might smell Poinsettia's in December.
A PiRate Look at the SEC
Auburn @ Arkansas: From 2001 to 2003, Houston Nutt's Razorbacks finished with a rush to earn bowl bids. Last year, the Hogs closed 2-5 to finish at 5-6. Nutt's future employment status is on the line here. A win evens their record at 3-3 with three winnable games left. So, this is the most important game of the year for them. Auburn will put eight in the box and beg Arkansas to throw the ball. They had an extra week to prepare as
well. It adds up to a closer than expected win for the Tigers. The game should be close for a long time.
PiRate Prediction: Auburn 24 Arkansas 16
Florida @ LSU: The Tigers still haven't put it altogether for four quarters. They overcame their possible secondary weaknesses last week by pressuring the quarterback. Tennessee legendary coach General Bob Neyland always believed the best pass defense was a brutal pass rush. Will Chris Leak wither against the pass rush like Jay Cutler? Not likely, but he won't be effective enough to pull off the
PiRate Prediction: LSU 24 Florida 17
Alabama @ Ole Miss: I smell something here. I cannot put it to words but something subconsciously tells me to expect shocking results in this game. Can Ole Miss right their Rebel ship and upset a top 10 team at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium? The numbers say no possible way, but they don't include emotional data. My ratings show Alabama to be a two touchdown favorite, but my gut feeling is this game will go down to the wire.
Let's split the difference and leave this game alone unless you play the teasers.
PiRate Prediction: Alabama 19 Ole Miss 10
Georgia @ Vanderbilt: Two years ago, a 1-6 group of Commodores faced a 5-1 Georgia team and played them to a standoff for one half before losing 27-8. Vanderbilt is much improved since then, while Georgia is somewhat improved. The Junkyard Dog defense has reemerged, as Georgia has given up an average of only 57 rushing
yards and 275 total yards the last four games. Vandy had to pull off a meaningless 40-yard run to get into positive rushing territory and triple digit total yardage against LSU. Georgia's offense made numerous mistakes against Tennessee's defense and will more than likely play close to error free this week. That spells trouble for the black and gold. Homecoming should be sad, as the Commodores continue to mimic the 1984 squad.
PiRate Prediction: Georgia 27 Vanderbilt 9
Other Games of Interest
Southern Cal @ Notre Dame: Is this USC team in the class of 1971 and 1995 Nebraska, 2001 Miami, and 1944/45 Army? They may be great, but I don't even think they are the best USC team in modern history. I'd give that nod to the 1972 squad that never was threatened the entire season. This group of Trojans may be the gridiron equivalent of Adolph Rupp's Fiddling Five of 1958. In the last three weeks, USC has let the opponent stay in the game and even enjoy the lead before coming from
behind like Whirlaway to leave them in the dust. Notre Dame is no Dispose (the leader for much of the 1941 Kentucky Derby). They won't falter in the final three-sixteenths of this race. With that said, I expect Southern Cal to fire out of the gate and win from the front.
PiRate Prediction: Southern Cal 45 Notre Dame 31
Penn State @ Michigan: the proverbial statement that "this one could go either way" certainly applies here. My ratings say Penn State will win the game, but the old way I used to figure games say Michigan will win by a touchdown. Watch this one and enjoy without any
monetary investments either way.
PiRate Prediction: Penn State 27 Michigan 24
Old Way Prediction: Michigan 28 Penn State 21
Wisconsin @ Minnesota: The Battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe has switched hands yearly for quite some time. The Badgers currently own possession, so it's time for the Gophers to reclaim it. If that's going to happen Bryan Cupito and Laurence Maroney must be able to play. Without them, UW should retain possession. The Culver's Frozen Custard should be selling like hotcakes in the Northwoods and Lakes regions this week, as these teams play an exciting game.
Pirate Predictions: If the two UM stars play, Minnesota 38 Wisconsin 31
If the two UM stars sit, Wisconsin 35 Minnesota 28
Miami (Fla) @ Temple: Temple has as much chance of winning this game as Lyndon LaRouche has of being elected President in 2008. The Owls are anxiously awaiting a chance to face Buffalo in MAC play when they officially join that conference. Until then, they will have to settle for getting their hats
handed to them week after week. Miami could win this game 100-0, but Larry Coker will substitute freely. 42 to 50 points should be enough.
PiRate Prediction: Miami 49 Temple 0
Colorado @ Texas: The Longhorns would normally be due for a letdown following a big win over Oklahoma. However, they beat the Sooners in a way they usually reserve for Baylor and Rice. They will not overlook the team they will probably have to play again in December. The Buffs clobbered Texas A&M, but it's beginning to look like that was no big deal. The difference in the interior lines is vast, so the Longhorns will win with
relative ease. My PiRate ratings show UT passing USC this week for number one status.
PiRate Prediction: Texas 31 Colorado 13
UCLA @ Washington State: The Bruins have an excellent shot of running the table to the season finale against USC if they can get by the Cougars this week. They should suffer a minor letdown this week, but it shouldn't be enough to allow Washington State to win the game. Look for UCLA to pass for 300+ yards and top 35 points once again.
PiRate Prediction: UCLA 38 Washington State 28
Air Force 33 UNLV 21
Arizona 28 Stanford 27
Arkansas State 34 Louisiana Laf. 24
Colorado St. 35 BYU 27
Toledo 45 Ball State 21
Nebraska 21 Baylor 16
Boise St. 52 San Jose St. 17
Boston College 31 Wake Forest 16
Bowling Green 35 Buffalo 7
California 35 Oregon State 21
Central Michigan 28 Ohio U 26
Connecticut 27 Cincinnati 21
Georgia Tech 35 Duke 14
Florida Atlantic 17 MTSU 16
North Texas 28 Fla. Int'l. 20
Fresno St. 42 Utah St. 13
Hawaii 49 New Mexico St. 31
Houston 24 Memphis 20
Iowa 35 Indiana 17
Oklahoma 21 Kansas 13
Troy 27 UL-Monroe 24
Marshall 26 UAB 24
Miami (O) 31 Akron 17
Missouri 35 Iowa St. 27
Navy 35 Kent St. 20
Louisiana Tech 31 Nevada 28
Northern Ill. 38 Eastern Michigan 21
Ohio St. 31 Michigan St. 24
Oregon 42 Washington 20
Pittsburgh 28 South Florida 25
Purdue 41 Northwestern 34
Tulsa 34 Rice 24
SMU 27 ECU 26
Southern Miss. 28 Central Fla. 14
Syracuse 20 Rutgers 16
TCU 41 Army 14
Texas A&M 34 Oklahoma State 26
Texas Tech 34 Kansas State 21
UTEP 27 Tulane 23
Utah 28 San Diego St. 21
Florida State 27 Virginia 17
Louisville 35 West Virginia 31
Wyoming 28 New Mexico 21