Week 13 PiRate Picks

There are only 17 games left to be played in the regular season's final week. Eleven of those games' outcomes will affect the bowls. Of the other six games, four of those will have a bowl participant playing.

Top 25 For Thursday, November, 30, 2006

 #	Team		Won	Loss	Rating
 1	Ohio State	12	 0	128.2
 2	Southern Cal	10	 1	125.1
 3	Michigan		11	 1	124.4
 4	Louisville	10	 1	119.8
 5	Oklahoma		10	 2	119.2
 6	Boise St.		12	 0	117.9
 7	Brigham Young	10	 2	117.8
 8	Hawaii		 9	 2	117.6
 9	California	 8	 3	116.8
10	L S U		10	 2	116.3
11	Va. Tech		10	 2	116.2
12	Florida		10	 1	115.2
13	Wisconsin		11	 1	114.9
14	Arkansas		10	 2	114.8
14	T C U		 9	 2	114.8
16	Texas		 9	 3	114.6
16	Notre Dame	10	 2	114.6
18	South Carolina	 7	 5	114.5
19	Nebraska		 9	 3	114.4
20	West Virginia	 9	 2	114.0
21	Texas A&M		 9	 3	113.8
22	Tennessee		 9	 3	112.2
23	Texas Tech	 7	 5	112.1
24	Arizona St.	 7	 5	111.9
25	Penn State	 8	 4	111.1

	Southeastern Conference 		
	Florida		 11	 1	115.2
	South Carolina	  7	 5 	114.5
	Tennessee	  	  8 	 3	112.2
	Georgia		  7	 5	106.4
	Kentucky		  7	 5	101.0
	Vanderbilt	  4	 8	 95.7

	L S U		10	2	116.3
	Arkansas		10	2	114.8
	Auburn		10	2	110.3
	Alabama		 6	6	102.8
	Ole Miss		 4	8	 98.9
	Miss. State	 3	9	 98.0

The week kicks off with conference championship games on Thursday and Friday nights.  On Thursday, Ohio University and Central Michigan hook up at Ford Field in Detroit for the Mid American Conference Championship.  Friday night gives us the Conference USA Championship game; Southern Mississippi must venture to Robertson Stadium in Houston to take on the Houston Cougars.  This is the only league title game not played on a neutral field.



The Conference Championship Games


Mid-American Conference Championship

Thursday, November 30 @ Ford Field Detroit 7:30 PM EST

Central Michigan Chippewas (8-4) vs. Ohio Bobcats (9-3)

PiRate Predicts: Central Michigan 26  Ohio 23

Peiser Predicts: The first game of the week should be well worth watching Thursday night.  Central Michigan has a better offense, while Ohio has a better defense and more of a ball-control offense.  In games like this, I like the team with quick strike capabilities.  I'm going with CMU but not by much.  The Chippewas get a sliver of home field advantage, as this game will be played less than 125 miles from home, while Ohio must travel more than 275 miles.

P6TR *:  None (Split 3-3)


* P6TR is the new experimental Pick 6 Technical Rating.  When 6 particular computer rankings agree on the winning team, these computers have been correct 94% of the time, 85% when the spread is less than 10 points.  None of the six individually pick the winner more than 78% of the time.


Conference USA Championship

Friday, December 1, 7:00 PM EST

Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (8-4) @ Houston Cougars (9-3)

PiRate Predicts: Southern Miss. 24  Houston 22

Peiser Predicts: Southern Mississippi closed the season on a huge upturn, while Houston started with a flurry, fell apart in midseason, and finished like they started.  If not for a one point win over intra-city rival Rice in the first game, Rice would be playing for this title.


This game should be just as exciting as the MAC Title.  The teams are very evenly matched, and Houston's home field advantage isn't that powerful.  The difference in this game should be Houston's inability to stop the Eagles' running game.  Give Southern Miss a slight advantage on the road.

P6TR: None (Houston picked in 5 of the 6)



Atlantic Coast Conference Championship

Saturday, December 2, 1:00 pm EST @ Alltel Stadium Jacksonville

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (9-3) vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (10-2)

PiRate Predicts: Wake Forest 20  Georgia Tech 19

Peiser Predicts: Jim Grobe will finish in the top five nationally in the balloting for National Coach of the Year.  I've seen his name mentioned with the Miami opening, but I don't see that happening.  He'd be a better fit at Alabama.


Grobe's Wake Forest Demon Deacons began the season minus some key players and were not expected to finish above .500.  The Deacs have won with timely defense and opportune offense.


Georgia Tech is one player short of being a top 10 team.  Unfortunately, that player is the most important position on the team.  Quarterback Reggie Ball disappears against tough defenses.  Even with super All-American Calvin Johnson at wide receiver, the Techsters cannot move the ball against defenses that are better than the norm.


Wake Forest's defense is well above the norm, and I don't think Georgia Tech will score enough points in this game.  Wake Forest might make a mistake in the game and give Tech points (remember the Clemson game), but in the end, I think the black and gold will be holding oranges after 60 minutes of play.

P6TR: None (Wake Forest picked in 5 of the 6)


Southeastern Conference Championship

December 2, 6:00 PM EST @ Georgia Dome Atlanta

Florida Gators (11-1) vs. Arkansas Razorbacks (10-2)

PiRate Predicts: Florida less than a half-point favorite/This game rated a toss-up and picked to go to overtime

Peiser Predicts: Everything old is new again.  The two teams that regularly use the closest thing to the old single wing formations of General Robert Neyland and Henry "Red" Sanders face off in Atlanta Saturday evening.  Florida has "single wing tailback" Tim Tebow who runs line bucks off tackle and inside tackle.  He occasionally pulls up and throws the jump pass.  He will fill in for Chris Leak to give the Gators a change of pace.


Arkansas has true triple threat Darren McFadden who can run, pass, and probably kick the ball if needed.  The Hogs runs something very similar to Pop Warner's Double Wing offense.  When McFadden is in the game taking a direct snap and Felix Jones is in the backfield too, this gives the Hogs the best one-two backfield in the nation.  Not since Auburn had James Brooks, Joe Cribbs, and William Andrews on the field in the late 1970's has one SEC team had so much diverse explosiveness in the backfield at the same time.


Today's defenses are poorly equipped to stop this type of offense.  With today's concentration on spreading the field and throwing the ball all over the place, defenses can ill afford to put eight and nine in the box and stop the freight train power schemes with the threat of the quick perimeter attack.


This game should be the most interesting and possibly the closest battle.  If I had to choose one team, I'd go with Arkansas due to the difficulty Florida has with their field goal team.  The Gators have dodged the bullet several times, and they are overdue to lose a game as a result of missed field goals.

P6TR: None (Florida picked in 4 of the 6)



Big Twelve Conference Championship Game

Saturday, December 2 @ Arrowhead Stadium Kansas City 8:00 PM EST

Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-3) vs. Oklahoma Sooners (10-2)

PiRate Predicts: Oklahoma 21  Nebraska 16

Peiser Predicts: Wow, look who's playing for the Fiesta Bowl berth?  It's the best rivalry in the Plains.  It may not be 1971 with the national title on the line, but this is still a first-rate game. 


Since Adrian Peterson will not be ready to return for this game, the biggest factor will be the Oklahoma pass rush against the Nebraska offensive line. 


This should be a game with both defenses dominating their offensive counterparts for most of the evening.  Both teams' offenses should have a couple of big plays, and that will produce 30+ total points.  Oklahoma has a slight advantage on both sides of the ball, and the Sooners should pull off one more big play than the ‘Huskers—maybe a crucial sack on NU quarterback Zack Taylor.

P6TR: Oklahoma


Other Key Games


Rutgers @ West Virginia

PiRate Predicts: West Virginia 28  Rutgers 19

Peiser Predicts: Rutgers is playing for a BCS at-large bowl bid, but the Scarlet Knights are facing a mad group of Mountaineers who don't want to be sent to El Paso for the holidays.  There is also the tiny blister of news coming out that Rutgers coach Greg Schiano is the top candidate for the Miami job. 


If West Virginia was to win this game and somehow Connecticut beats Louisville, then the Big East would finish in a three-way dead heat for first place.  The BCS vote would determine the BCS Bowl representative.


The Mountaineers will do their part and win this game, but they still are likely headed southwest for bowl season.

P6TR: None (West Virginia picked in 4 of the 6)


Navy vs. Army @ Philadelphia

PiRate Predicts: Navy 45  Army 20

Peiser Predicts: Navy has won four consecutive games in this series, and Army will be fired up sky high to end this streak.  If Navy wins this game, the senior class will become the first ever to go 8-0 against the other two service academies.


Army will come out firing and score points in the first half.  At the break, I expect it to be something like 21-20 in Navy's favor.  In the second half, the more talented team will take control and run the ball up and down the field.  Look for the Midshipmen to run away from the Cadets in the final 30 minutes and cruise to the win.

P6TR: Navy



Southern California @ U C L A

PiRate Predicts: Southern Cal 26  UCLA 17

Peiser Predicts: This game affects bowl games on both sides.  If USC wins by anything more than a field goal, the Trojans are headed to Glendale to face Ohio State for all the marbles.  That would put UCLA on the bubble for the sixth and final Pac-10 bowl allotment, but the Bruins would still be favored over 6-6 Arizona and 6-6 Washington State for the final bid.


If UCLA were to pull off the monumental upset, then Michigan is headed to Glendale while the Trojans play in the Rose Bowl.  At 7-5, UCLA would be guaranteed a bowl berth.


If the Trojans come out flat or overlook their cross-town rival, this could be an interesting game.  Bruin quarterback Ben Olson, returning from injury, should play in this game; whether he starts is still to be determined.


The last time these two teams hooked up in the Rose Bowl (2004), UCLA almost pulled off the upset of the year, falling just 29-24.  Last year at the Coliseum, USC destroyed the Bruins 66-19.  UCLA will be ready to spoil the Trojans' season and should give them a tough battle.  Team speed is just a little too much to overcome.  Give the edge to USC and expect them to head to Glendale to face Ohio State.

P6TR: Southern California



Connecticut @ Louisville

PiRate Predicts: Louisville 42  Connecticut 13

Peiser Predicts: Louisville will wrap up a BCS bowl bid with a win Saturday.  If Rutgers upsets West Virginia, the Cardinals could steal a BCS at-large bid meant for the second best SEC team.  If West Virginia wins that game, then Louisville will take the automatic bid with a win here.  Should West Virginia win and Louisville get upset, then Rutgers, West Virginia, and Louisville will finish in a dead heat.  West Virginia would probably sneak through with the highest BCS rating.


What are the chances the Huskies will upset Louisville at Papa John's Stadium?  I'd say less than Joe Lieberman being elected President in 2008.  Louisville will take this one by four touchdowns if the weather is okay.

P6TR: Louisville




And The Rest 		
Winner			Loser		Margin
New Mexico St.		La.Tech		12
California		Stanford		37
T C U			Air Force		24
San Jose St.		Fresno St.	 5
Colorado State		San Diego St.	 3
UL-Monroe			UL-Lafayette	 1
Troy			Fla. Int'l	15

Bowl Projecting


This is now a mix of bowl projections, confirmed bowl bids, and unofficial bowl bids.  Where the team is listed in bold, that team has already accepted a bid to that bowl.   All others are speculation.


Poinsettia: T C U  vs.  Northern Illinois


Las Vegas: Brigham Young  vs.  Oregon


New Orleans: Troy  vs.  Rice

If Troy beats winless Florida International Saturday, they win the Sunbelt Conference Championship and automatically earn this bid.  If Troy loses, then MTSU gets this bid and the Motor City Bowl.  If that happens, then Louisiana-Lafayette will have a chance to earn the Motor City Bowl with a win over Louisiana Monroe.  If ULL loses, then one lucky 6-6 team will get the last bid.


New Mexico: New Mexico  vs.  San Jose State


Papajohns.com Birmingham: East Carolina vs. South Florida


Armed Forces: Utah  vs.  Tulsa


Hawaii: Hawaii  vs.  Arizona State


Motor City: Central Michigan  vs.  M T S U

The Blue Raiders, by virtue of a 7-5 record, will beat out Kansas, Arizona, Washington State, and Pittsburgh who finished 6-6. The Blue Raiders are assured of a bowl; it will be either this one or New Orleans.   If Troy should lose to 0-11 FIU, then UL-Lafayette will get this bid with a win over ULM while MTSU goes to the New Orleans Bowl.  Should both Troy and ULL lose, expect to see Pittsburgh filling in this spot (assuming the Big East gets only one BCS bid).


Emerald: Florida State  vs.  U C L A

Even with a very strong possibility of finishing at 6-6, UCLA jumped over 7-5 Arizona State.


Independence: Alabama  vs. Oklahoma State

Alabama will be the odd team out if the SEC fails to place two teams in the BCS stakes.  If The Big East, or possibly the ACC, takes that final at-large bid, the Tide could be forced to stay home.  If Louisville and Rutgers win Saturday, both should get BCS bids.  Then, Pittsburgh would get a bowl bid instead of Alabama.  If Virginia Tech should sneak in as the final BCS at-large bowl winner, then the MPC Computers Bowl will need to find an at-large team.  Washington State, Arizona, and Wyoming would be considered before the Tide.


Texas: Kansas State  vs.  Rutgers

The Texas Bowl is not where Rutgers belongs, but if they lose to West Virginia, the 10-2 Scarlet Knights would probably be forced this low in the pecking order.  It all depends on which way the Gator Bowl goes. 


Holiday: California  vs.  Texas A&M

Texas A&M could wind up in the Cotton, Gator, Holiday, or Alamo.  The Gator Bowl holds the key to many other bowls.  For now, leave the Aggies here.  There is a slim glimmer of hope that California could be selected to replace USC in the Rose Bowl.  If all goes according to normal, the Bears will not steal this spot from LSU, Auburn, Louisville, or Florida.


Champs Sports: Purdue  vs.  Georgia Tech

Technically, Georgia Tech isn't supposed to be able to fall this far if they lose to Wake Forest in the ACC Championship Game.  However, as you will see below, the Gator Bowl is quite a pickle.  I think when all is said and done, if the Yellow Jackets lose to the Demon Deacons, they will end up here.


Music City: South Carolina  vs.  Boston College

Sources tell me the Gamecocks are at the top of the Music City Bowl wish list.  Kentucky might be closer and could sell more seats, but Steve Spurrier will increase television ratings.  Should Georgia fall this far, there is a remote chance that a renewal rivalry with Clemson could take place. 


Sun: Oregon State  vs.  West Virginia

West Virginia figures highly among the Gator Bowl possibilities if they beat Rutgers, but the Gator Bowl just may be looking elsewhere this year.


Insight.com: Minnesota  vs.  Missouri


Liberty: Southern Mississippi  vs.  Kentucky

The winner of the C-USA title game automatically gets this bid.  If USM loses to Houston, the Eagles will fall to the GMAC Bowl, pushing ECU to the Papajohns.com Birmingham Bowl.


Alamo: Iowa  vs.  Texas Tech

This is another bowl game that must wait for the Gator Bowl to decide which direction it is heading.  These two teams have played each other twice before in the Alamo Bowl, but the last time was 2001.  Kansas State could sneak in here, but Missouri is likely not in consideration here.


Meineke Car Care: Navy  vs.  Maryland

This intrastate rivalry would give this bowl game a nice theme.  Maryland could wind up in Nashville or Orlando as well.


Chick-fil-a: Georgia  vs.  Virginia Tech

Clemson would also make an interesting opponent here, but the Hokies travel well and should get this bid unless they sneak into the BCS at-large group. 


MPC Computers:  Nevada  vs.  Miami (Fl)


Gator:  Texas  vs.  Clemson

This is the big first domino in the bowl season.  Once it falls, several other bowls will fall into place as well.  Both sides of this equation are yet to be determined.  The Gator Bowl gets the third best team in the ACC against either the runner-up in the Big East or the #2 or #3 team in the Big 12.


In the ACC, the Gator Bowl struck a deal to allow the Chick-fil-a Bowl to choose the number two ACC team as long as the Gator Bowl didn't have to take the loser of the ACC Championship Game (also played at Jacksonville's Alltel Stadium).  However, there is a rule that states that any ACC team that finishes two conference games ahead of another team must be invited to the higher preference bowl.  Technically, if Georgia Tech loses the ACC title game, the Yellow Jackets must be chosen before Clemson, as they went 7-1 to Clemson's 5-3.  However, the Gator Bowl Association believes their agreement with the ACC allows them to pass on the ACC title game loser.  One more fly in the ointment here is that it appears the Gator Bowl and the ACC do not have a signed contract; it's all a verbal agreement.  I'm guessing the Gator Bowl will get its way, or the ACC will lose this bowl to the SEC when the agreement ends.


On the other side of the equation, the Gator Bowl has an agreement with the Big East and Big 12 for four seasons.  They will invite two Big East teams and two Big 12 teams over those four years.  In one of the two seasons in which a Big 12 team will be invited, the Gator Bowl has the right to choose a team before the Cotton Bowl chooses, but only if the Big 12 has just one BCS Bowl representative.


Obviously, no Big 12 team will get an invitation to a BCS Bowl, so the Gator will definitely call in their marker this year.  They will choose the best available Big 12 team after the Big 12 title is decided Saturday.  If Nebraska beats Oklahoma, the Sooners will be chosen.  If Oklahoma wins, I expect the Gator Bowl to take Texas.  Texas A&M and Nebraska could be in the mix here as well. 


If the Gator Bowl wants to choose a Big East team, a 10-2 West Virginia team would look enticing.  The conference losing out on the Gator Bowl stakes will get a bid to the Sun Bowl.


Cotton:  Nebraska  vs.  Auburn

There are rumors coming out of the Big D that Cotton Bowl officials would love a Texas-Arkansas game.  If the Gator Bowl leaves Texas alone, and Arkansas is not selected by the Capital One Bowl, this could happen. 


Outback: Penn State  vs.  Tennessee

Tennessee could also wind up in Orlando or Dallas, but this is the most likely scenario.


Capital One: Wisconsin  vs.  Arkansas

If Arkansas loses to Florida Saturday, they would have a 10-3 record, while Auburn would have a better record at 10-2.  However, Wisconsin and Auburn played here last year and also faced off in the 2003 Music City Bowl.  The folks in Orlando would not want a stale game.  Look for the loser of Saturday's SEC Championship Game to wind up here.  Of course, if Arkansas loses Saturday, they will have ended the season on a two-game losing streak.  Tennessee could jump above them, with Arkansas dropping to the Outback or heading west to the Cotton.  If Tennessee gets this bid and Arkansas goes to the Cotton, then Auburn will play in the Outback.


Fiesta:  Oklahoma  vs.  Boise State

The winner of the Big 12 title game will end up in Tempe, so it will be either Oklahoma or Nebraska.  Boise State should be the opponent, as the Rose Bowl is not looking at the Broncos.  For the Sooners, the only thing separating them from having a shot at the BCS title game is a referee's mistake.


Rose: Michigan  vs.  L S U

The Rose Bowl will take either Southern California or Michigan as its host team.  LSU's win over Arkansas has given them the heads-up on all other challengers for the final BCS at-large bid.  If Rutgers and Louisville win Saturday, that could change, but for now, the Tigers are the leader for the final at-large bid. 


Orange: Wake Forest  vs.  Louisville

The ACC champion is headed to Miami, so it will be either Wake Forest or Georgia Tech.  Louisville could still go to the Rose or Sugar Bowls, but this looks like where they will end up if they win the Big East.


Sugar: Florida  vs.  Notre Dame

The SEC champion is headed here, so it will be either Florida or Arkansas.  Notre Dame figures to be the opponent unless the Rose Bowl decides the tradition of the Irish outweigh the rematch of a blowout. 


International:  Western Michigan  vs.  Cincinnati


GMAC: Ohio U  vs. Houston

If Houston beats Southern Mississippi Friday, then USM will wind up here and Houston will play in the Liberty Bowl.


BCS Championship Game:  Ohio State  vs.  Southern California

Shouldn't this game be the Rose Bowl?  It just doesn't seem right to move it out of Pasadena.  Then again, who's to say that Michigan, Florida, Louisville, or Oklahoma (or LSU, Auburn, West Virginia, or Virginia Tech) isn't just as deserving.  If you believe Ohio State's home field advantage is worth more than three points, then you must believe Michigan is actually better than Ohio State.


I'll tell you what should be happening next week after the bowl bids have been finalized.


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