I'm going to get my final revenge on Ahearn by selecting a bunch of NAIA playoff games that you can only watch in grainy 360Vision.
Okay, no I'm not. Ahearn's put up a great fight this year, and that just wouldn't be fair at all. He actually left four really interesting games on the table for me, and I'm going to do the decent thing and pick them up. It's rivalry weekend, and it's time to talk about where you should absolute not invest your hypothetical money... For Entertainment Purposes Only.
Mississippi (-3) over MISSISSIPPI STATE, 6:30 p.m. Thursday, ESPN
Davis Wade Stadium, Starkville MS
JM: Ah, the Egg Bowl. That annual contest which routinely pits two hapless also-rans against one another, or two surprisingly rising teams against one another, or... this year's edition, which pits a team with all the promise in the world against one whose promise has utterly failed. I cannot for the life of me imagine why Ole Miss, with that ridiculous roster of stud freshmen, is only favored by a field goal. CLANGA has completely wasted away the energy that accompanied its admittedly empty top-15 run of just one year ago. Take Colonel Reb and the points.
AA: Since we're picking this game, I feel obligated to mention that it just so happens I'll be spending my Thanksgiving in Mississippi this year for the first (and ideally last) time ever. To be honest, though, this still probably isn't a game I'll watch. Jon summed this one up pretty well. Ole Miss has an incredible talent advantage in this one, and Mississippi State's Senior Day boost won't be nearly enough of an edge. Ole Miss wins and covers.
East Carolina (+3) over MARSHALL, 11 a.m. Friday, CBS Sports Network
Joan C. Edwards Stadium, Huntington WV
JM: Usually, when I pick a game like this, I'm pretty confident I'm right. I may not be, but that's beside the point; I have a solid gut feeling and I just roll with it (and it usually serves me well; I think you probably even notice that a lot of my WTF losses this year have been ones where I might just have over-analyzed things a tetch). But here... I have no gut feeling whatsoever, and that's probably the perfect way to describe this game. These two teams have quietly -- because they're in Conference USA and aren't surprising stories like their league-mates at Tulane, Rice, and North Texas -- had very nice seasons, combining to go 17-5 thus far. This is precisely as expected; they were supposed to be the contenders for the east division title and sure enough, the winner gets it.
This is just a great little rivalry, too. Obviously, the shadow of the Marshall plane crash hangs over this game forever, and last year the two teams played an absolutely insane 65-59 double overtime title won by the Pirates. I think East Carolina's the better team this year, so we'll go with them; mostly, this game's on here to suggest that if you're figuratively twirling the dial Friday morning it might be worth stopping here for a bit.
AA: They played a 65-59 game? Count me in. I could try to pretend I know anything about these two teams and then pick one of them based off that, but there's no need for me to waste your time doing that this week. Let's go with Marshall, because....home field advantage?
BUFFALO (+1) over Bowling Green, 12:30 p.m. Friday, ESPNU
UB Stadium, Amherst NY
JM: Here's another quiet clash of teams gunning for a banner. The winner earns the right to be Northern Illinois' final victim before bowl invites are handed out, but they're both perfectly capable of not being victims at all. That said, while the teams have identical records you'd have to say that Buffalo's toughened themselves up on a much stronger schedule (losing a relatively competitive game with Ohio State and living through the Baylor threshing device). With the line this close and Buffalo actually the underdog, may as well take the Bulls outright here.
AA: Bowling Green lost to Indiana earlier this season by 32 points. Indiana. Case closed. Buffalo will win.
Duke (+6.5) over NORTH CAROLINA, 11 a.m. ESPN2
Kenan Memorial Stadium, Chapel Hill NC
JM: Frankly, I am shocked. North Carolina's been mostly blah all year, while Duke wins the division with a win on Saturday. And while Duke hasn't piled up a stunningly brilliant resume, they've got some quality wins sprinkled into the mix. That the Blue Devils are actually underdogs by a touchdown is silly. They may not win, but I'm pretty sure this is a cover.
AA: This game's going to be fantastic. Jabari Parker might be the most exciting player in America, and Carolina proved it could play Sunday with.....wait, we're talking about the football game? Well, that's not very exciting. To call UNC 'blah' all year seems to me to be selling short what has to be one of the streakiest teams in America. They lost 4 in a row, and have since won 5 in a row in somewhat impressive fashion. The bad news for the Tar Heels is that most of that is a function of the schedule and Duke will be the best team UNC has seen since
Miami Virginia Tech South Carolina in the season opener. Take the Blue Devils to win.
Ohio State (-14.5) over MICHIGAN, 11 a.m., ABC
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor MI
JM: Ohio State's really good. Michigan is maddeningly mediocre. And yet, this is Ohio State vs Michigan, so a two touchdown spread is just patently silly. Yeah, the Buckeyes could blow the Wolverines halfway to Canada and I don't mean across the Ambassador Bridge. But these games always tend to be battles. Michigan may not win, but I'm going to take them to cover.
AA: Jon makes some good points about this matchup I have to work extremely hard to try to avoid every year. After all, the last time this game was decided by two touchdowns was 2010, when 10-1 Ohio State smoked 7-4 Michigan 37-7. What's that you say? Ohio State is 11-0 and Michigan is 7-4 this year? So much for historical reasoning. The Buckeyes are going to roll in this one and cover the spread, perhaps easily.