We sure hope you have a great sports package or ESPN3, because there's a lot of great and important games this week which aren't on your basic cable networks. We'll be talking about two of those today, as well as some other key games for conference races... and a real turkey which we're only picking because it's Thanksgiving.
In his half of this week's FEPO, Luke informed you of our records -- 63-57 for him, 64-56 for me. In case you were wondering, if we were doing this for real and you were following our advice, you wouldn't be losing any money. Luke would be breaking even at the window, while I would be the value of one bet ahead. Of course, we're not doing this for real, and we certainly don't condone you doing it. This is For Entertainment Purposes Only, and don't you forget it, law enforcement.
|Friday, 7:00 p.m.
Lane Stadium, Blacksburg VA
JM: A lot of ink has been spent on Virginia Tech's downfall this year, including calls from some quarter for Frank Beamer to be fired. 21 years ago, the same year Bill Snyder took K-State to only its second bowl game in history, Beamer took Virginia Tech to its first bowl in seven years (and only their seventh ever). The Hokies have not missed the postseason since. And yet here they are, a team whose mascot is a turkey, playing on Thanksgiving weekend against their most hated-rival with that streak on the line. The winner becomes bowl-eligible. The loser goes home.
The thing is, Virginia Tech is not really a bad team; they're just a mediocre one. They've beaten Ohio State. They've beaten Duke. They lost by a field goal to Georgia Tech. They can get out there and play when there seem to be stakes involved. Their problem all year has been games against roadkill, which may well hint at a problem with the culture in the locker room, but I don't think it's a relevant point when it comes to their main rivalry game, at home. It's Thanksgiving. Gotta pick the turkeys, don't you?
LT: I'm actually eating chicken for Thanksgiving this year, since I've got to stay in Missouri for tomorrow's big game in Columbia. But seriously, Jon, why would you pick this game? Everyone but Ohio State apologists knows both of these teams are terrible. You may be right that the Hokies are the better team here, but a week ago they failed to score in four quarters at Wake Forest. Meanwhile, Virginia pulled off a big upset of Miami, in convincing fashion. Based almost entirely on those results, I'm saying the Cavaliers win.
|Saturday, 11:00 a.m.
Sanford Stadium, Athens GA
JM: Todd Gurley's out, but that hasn't exactly been a critical point of failure for the Dawgs this year. Georgia is playing to remain in the New Year's Bowl conversation; Tech has literally nothing to play for here. They're not getting into the playoff, and if they beat Florida State next week they're going to get the exact same bowl bid they'd get if they lose - the Orange. So your question then becomes whether or not you think Georgia's a 13-point favorite even if this game had no meaning at all.
Georgia Tech's two losses this year haven't been by 13 points... combined. Granted, they've hardly played anyone of substance, but they're scoring 37.8 points a game and Georgia's only wins where they held a functional offense to under 21 points were two games which absolutely do not fit into the remainder of their season narrative; that is to say, Missouri and Auburn assisted in their own prosecutions. Georgia probably wins. But the Ramblin' Wreck covers.
LT: Yeah, let's not talk about what happened the first game Todd Gurley missed this season. Georgia Tech's running game obviously helps them generally avoid getting blown out, as Jon noted. The Bulldogs are really coming into their own and are almost certainly the best team GT has seen all season, but they've had their lapses as well. In the end, there's just not enough evidence to lead me to believe Georgia wins by two touchdowns. Yellow Jackets cover.
|Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
Arizona Stadium, Tucson AZ
JM: This is a bit dicey. The game opened with Arizona at -4, then Anu Solomon's presence became questionable. It fell to a pick'em, and is now off the board. We're going to stick with that final line here, because we'd have picked this game there early in the week if we were sitting in Las Vegas anyway. (That's how you play the game, playa. Not that it would help you any now. I mean, if you were in Vegas. Of course.)
Here's the thing: I don't care what the line is. I'd have rolled with the Sun Devils even at Arizona -4. Throw out the losses, which on balance aren't particularly instructive -- no, not even Arizona State's thrashing at the hands of UCLA, which we'll remind you happened with a turnover-prone backup quarterback. Arizona has had several games where they barely squeaked by (UTSA, Nevada, Cal, Washington). Arizona State has had two: USC, who beat Arizona, and Utah. I think the Sun Devils are the better team here, and they're going to win outright.
LT: This is the week of pick 'ems, isn't it? If we look at recent results again, Arizona looked really good last week in a 42-10 rout of Utah, and Arizona State stumbled against Oregon State two weeks ago, then managed to hold off a Washington State team that doesn't really play defense because Mike Leach. Luckily for them, these Wildcats aren't very good at defense either. Jon's right. Arizona State's the better team here and earns the win.
|Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
Camp Randall Stadium, Madison WI
JM: We give 00 a lot of hell for that fervent and weird Gopherism she asserts, but the fact remains that a Minnesota win Saturday would be pretty awesome and I don't mean that just because we can all then point and laugh at the Big Ten some more. Always nice to see the downtrodden arise; after all, most of us are Royals fans. I don't know that Minnesota will win. I do know that both teams allowed exactly 24 points to Nebraska, which speaks to their defenses being relatively equal.
The same comparison doesn't apply to their offenses, which is a theory I'm still working on trying to elucidate clearly; the thrust here is that Wisconsin's not going to score 59 on Minnesota because Minnesota's defense is better than Nebraska's. So is Wisconsin's, of course, which won't be incredibly helpful to the Gophers. Still, the 31-point difference in victory margin is going to shrink, and I'm pretty damned sure Minnesota won't lose by two touchdowns. After all, they didn't even do that against Ohio State. (And let's not forget, Minnesota crushed Iowa, who almost beat Wisconsin last week.) Gophers cover.
LT: Ugh. Let's also not forget Minnesota lost to Illinois. Last week, yes, the Gophers beat Nebraska, but they still gave up 171 rushing yards. Wisconsin runs the ball a lot better than Nebraska. Minnesota gonna Minnesota. Wisconsin covers.
|Saturday, 9:15 p.m.
Albertsons Stadium, Boise ID
JM: Utah State has won five games in a row with their fourth-string quarterback. They are averaging almost 32 points a game in the process. Of course, those five teams are a combined 16-41, too. Against Colorado State, however, on the road no less, the Aggies only lost by a field goal. And Boise is scoring 40 a game... and allowing 28. That's a 12-point difference. I don't think it's a stretch to suggest that Utah State is more than a field goal better than Boise's average opponent this year. Utah State covers, Colorado State sneaks off with the Mountain Division title, and Panjandrum's head explodes.
LT: Yes, Utah State has won five straight games. They also haven't played a team with close to a winning record during that stretch, In the Mountain West. The win over Air Force is kind of nice, but really, this is not a good football team. Boise State is going to score a lot. We know this. It's what they do. The question is whether Utah State can score enough to cover and considering they're 73rd in the country with 28 points per game, I don't think they can. Boise covers.