And it all comes down to this. After picking 170 games (For Entertainment Purposes Only, we hasten to remind you), Ahearn and Jon are separated by only two games. Jon's record sits at 92-72-7; Ahearn heads into the backstretch at 90-74-7.
Yes, we've had another push, and it was the craziest way to get a push ever. LSU scored a late touchdown to go up 14 on Iowa, then allowed the Hawkeyes to return the kickoff to the four yard line. But then, an Iowa turnover! Oh, wait, no. Play nullified by a penalty against LSU. Iowa scores to make it 21-14. Oh, no, onside kick time... but LSU covers! Yay! But... wait, they can't run out the clock. They'll have to punt. Iowa's going to try and lateral their way 92 yards. Iowa ran back into the end zone! Ball batted out of the end zone! THAT SHOULD BE A SAFETY!
And, indeed, the refs did call the penalty against Iowa for illegal touching. And the infraction did, in fact, occur in the end zone. And that should, in fact, have been a safety, which would have resulted in an LSU cover. But they ruled the game over, and we got an unsatisfying and improper push.
Anywho, on to the last rack of picks for the 2013-14 season. When we're done with this week, one of us will have won this thing for the season. Alas, dear readers, we cannot end in a tie, because Ahearn picked three games differently than Jon... and all three of those games have half-point spreads, thus preventing any of them from being pushes. Had one of them had a whole integer spread, the possibilities would have been interesting, but it just isn't to be.
ALLSTATE SUGAR BOWL, Thursday, 7:30pm, ESPN
Oklahoma (+15.5) over ALABAMA
Mercedez-Benz Superdome, New Orleans LA
JM: Let's not get confused here: Alabama is going to win this game. However, the line is outrageous. It's important to remember that while the Tide were a dominant team yet again this year, they actually played a lot of close games against relatively mortal teams, and the offense has been at times somewhat dysfunctional. Sure, Oklahoma has had issues this year, but they've overcome them. If you can't beat Mississippi State by more than 13, how can you be favored by two touchdowns and half a field goal over Oklahoma? Bama wins, but Sooners cover.
AA: Those are some good points about Bama, and I agree, but really all we need to know is Bama expects to play in national championships and they were headed there until the Iron Bowl. That was the last time they were on a football field, and it just seems like this is a game where the Crimson Tide won't be all that interested. Expect Oklahoma to come out strong and have a halftime lead. The Sooners probably won't hold on, but they'll definitely cover.
AT&T COTTON BOWL, Friday, 6:30pm, FOX
MISSOURI (-1) over Oklahoma State
AT&T Stadium, Arlington TX
JM: Well, I'll be damned if I let Ahearn pick Missouri, be right, and gain a game on me. No, I'm kidding. I'm still just not sold on Oklahoma State being the juggernaut some people seem to think they are, and Missouri's most obvious weakness has not been Oklahoma State's strength this year. Put another way, Tre Mason ain't suiting up for the Pokes. Missouri's got the tools to squeak this one out, and with the line only being a point that's all they need to do. Tigers cover.
AA: I'm really excited about this game. it's going to be a lot of fun, and I just don't think OSU can cover Missouri's wide receivers. Meanwhile, the Tigers defense has a lot to prove after that SEC championship disaster, so look for them to come out fired up. Mizzou might not win as big as they did that last time they made the Cotton Bowl (35-7 over Arkansas), but they should be able to cover.
DISCOVER ORANGE BOWL, Friday, 7:30pm, ESPN
Clemson (+2.5) over OHIO STATE
Sun Life Stadium, Miami FL
JM: Ohio State is good; they aren't godlike. Clemson is good, too, and after what happened in The Game... okay, look. Maybe I'm underselling the impact of Devin Gardner's absence, but if K-State can hold Michigan to two field goals and a garbage-time touchdown but Ohio State gave up over 40, I think Tajh Boyd can put points on the board. The question before the court here is "Can Clemson stop Ohio State?" Clemson hasn't been great on defense, but they've shown flashes here and there. Ultimately, this is just a gut feeling on my part, which may or may not be influenced by the fact that I really hate Ohio State. I'm taking Clemson to cover.
AA: It's kind of hard to get a good read on Clemson this season, since they breezed through most of the ACC, but got absolutely drilled by Florida State. Other than a poor fourth quarter against South Carolina, the Tigers also held their own against a pair of good SEC teams and even beat Georgia in the season opener. Typically, that would be enough to make me take them over any B1G team, but Ohio State is different. Plus, it's just not smart to bet against Urban Meyer (7-1 all-time) in bowl games. Buckeyes win and cover.
BBVA COMPASS BOWL, Saturday, 12pm, ESPN
Vanderbilt (-2.5) over
Legion Field, Birmingham AL
JM: The population of Birmingham will be sad and lonely without all their friends from Pittsburgh coming for their annual holiday visit. This has the potential to be a really entertaining game, as Houston's not a bad team at all. They're not a great one this year, though, and while Vanderbilt's had some ups and downs this year I'm pretty sure they've got the talent to come out on top of this one. Anchor down, Dores cover.
AA:If this spread were just a couple points bigger, I might be tempted to take Houston, especially since Vandy may not be at its best after a somewhat disappointing season and all the talk of their coach possibly being a candidate for Texas and maybe even Penn State. But at the end of the day, Houston isn't very good and Vandy finished the season strong, finally looking like the team they were supposed to be before losses to Ole Miss and South Carolina in September. I'm predicting a big day for Jordan Mathews in his last game before the NFL draft and a Vandy cover.
NCAA DIVISION I FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, Saturday, 1pm, ESPN2
Towson (+13.5) over NORTH DAKOTA STATE
Pizza Hut Park, Frisco TX
JM: Oh, you didn't think we'd forget this one, did you? I don't think there's anything we need to say about the Bison here. Towson, on the other hand, is a bit of a surprise participant. The program's been on a rocket-like rise since finishing a dismal 1-10 as recently as 2010. But in 2011, Rob Ambrose recruited a running back by the name of Terrance West, who's done nothing for the last three years except run roughshod over everyone. They're now a legitimate national contender, and they've posted some impressive wins in the post-season already, dispatching both #2 Eastern Illinois and #3 Eastern Washington to get here. If we were just picking winners, I'd go with North Dakota State without hesitation; they're almost certainly going to three-peat. But Towson is good enough to keep this game very interesting, and two touchdowns is just too much on which to risk even non-existent cash. Tigers cover.
AA: You would. I'm still sad we're not getting the North Dakota State vs. Eastern Illinois matchup, which would have essentially been the FCS version of Alabama vs. Baylor. Instead, as so often happens, the explosive offenses of EIU and Eastern Washington fell flat in the playoffs against the more balanced team. Good for Towson. But here's the thing about NDSU: They've won 9 straight by at least 15 points and 23 straight overall, including a 39-13 demolition of Sam Houston State in last year's championship. NDSU has the best rush defense in the country (just ask KSU) and will offer a much more powerful, run-focused attack than Towson has seen recently. They gave up 269 yards and 4 TDs on the ground in a loss to Villanova. Expect the Bison to put up similar numbers and cover the spread.
GODADDY BOWL, Sunday, 8pm, ESPN
BALL STATE (-8.5) over Arkansas State
Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile AL
JM: It's funny; two years in a row Arkansas State lost their head coach to higher-profile programs on the back of an extremely impressive campaign. This year, they lost their head coach again -- but it had everything to do with Bryan Harsin being a Boise State guy and almost nothing to do with Arkansas State rolling their schedule. Ball State is a really good football team, and they're going to cover.
AA: Clearly you and I have different definitions for "really good football team." Ball State lost by 21 to Northern Illinois, lost at North Texas (an OK team), and beat seven teams who finished 5-3 or worse in the MAC. Am I missing something? I'll give QB Keith Wenning some credit for throwing for nearly 4,000 yards and 34 touchdowns to 6 INTS, but Ball State is merely "not terrible" in my eyes. Lucky for them, Arkansas State is terrible, as evidenced by a 24-point loss to Memphis (!) and no wins against teams that finished the year above .500. Ball State will cover, but you really should ignore this game.
Which brings us to the finale:
VIZIO BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, Monday, 7:30pm, ESPN
Auburn (+8.5) over Florida State
Rose Bowl, Pasadena CA
JM: I could go into paragraphs of trenchant analysis. I could compare offenses and defenses. I could drone on and on about Jameis Winston and Tre Mason. Or I could just point out that every game Auburn's played in has been batshit crazy, and while I have no freakin' idea who's going to actually win this game, I have every confidence that it's going to come down to some ridiculous nonsense like a blocked game-winning PAT getting returned with 2 seconds left on the clock. Auburn covers.
AA: I know it happened a long time ago, but LSU beat Auburn by 2 touchdowns. It can be done. Florida State has completely outclassed every opponent this season, but Auburn will be the best team the Seminoles have seen all year by a considerable margin (sorry, Clemson), which makes this a very hard game to pick. It's mildly concerning that Andre Williams ran for 149 yards when Florida State played Boston College, but at least he didn't score a touchdown, I guess. At the end of the day, I can't make up ground on Jon by replicating his picks, so against my better judgment I'm picking FSU to emphatically end the SEC's streak with a cover here.
NEXT: The FEPO trophy presentation will air, tape-delayed, on The Ocho at 3am next Tuesday morning. If you don't get The Ocho, contact your Ben Stiller provide. After that, though: Auburn-Arkansas, Alabama-West Virginia, Florida State-Oklahoma State, Baylor-SMU, North Dakota State-Iowa State... lots of games. We'll be back on August 26!