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12 Nov 2009

7th Day Adventure: Bring On the Crazy

by Bill Connelly, Brian Fremeau, and Rob Weintraub

This week is all about the new-school rivalry. After dealing with Nebraska-Oklahoma, Navy-Notre Dame, and LSU-Alabama a week ago, we're looking at some games this week that are equally intriguing but not nearly as historically grounded. West Virginia represents one of Cincinnati's last two major challenges (the other being Pittsburgh), a confident Stanford squad tries to knock off USC in The Coliseum once again, Utah and TCU welcome ESPN "College GameDay" to Fort Worth, and The Wannstache's Panthers attempt to officially stick the dagger into the Charlie Weis Era.

This Week's Games

(Teams are listed according to BCS ranking.)

No. 24 South Florida (-1) at Rutgers (Thursday, 7:30 p.m. EST, ESPN)

Do you remember at the beginning of the season when no Big East teams were ranked? There are four Big East teams in the current BCS standings, and more than half the league is receiving votes in the current Associated Press poll. Rutgers is the quietest 6-2 team ever -- their road to bowl eligibility has been paved by five teams that have six FBS wins combined: Howard, Texas Southern, Army, Maryland and Florida International. South Florida has knocked off Florida State and West Virginia but is still seeking some consistency, especially with quarterback B.J. Daniels, who has completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes against FBS opposition. The Scarlet Knights don't do much particularly well, though their defense and special teams have chipped in five non-garbage touchdowns on the season, tied for fourth most nationally.

The Picks -- Rob: USF | FEI: USF | S&P+: USF (LOCK)

No. 25 West Virginia (+8.5) at No. 5 Cincinnati (Friday, 8:00 p.m. EST, ESPN2)

Whoever is in charge of scheduling in the Big East deserves a raise. For several years now, it seems the end of the Big East conference season features several of its most marquee games, and this year is no different. Over the final month, the top three teams in the Big East -- Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and West Virginia will play a round robin for the conference crown while most of the other conference's top games are in their rearview mirror. The Mountaineers are probably the weakest of the three. WVU running back Noel Devine (1,010 yards, 10 touchdowns) may be the most explosive player in the conference, although Bearcats receiver Mardy Gilyard shows up more consistently. Zach Collaros will get the start at quarterback for Cincinnati, and Tony Pike will likely see action as well. Each has been fantastic leading the most efficient attack in the country.

The Picks -- Rob: WVU | FEI: Cincy (LOCK) | S&P+: Cincy

No. 3 Texas (-23.5) at Baylor (Saturday, 12:00 p.m. EST, FSN)

Congratulations, Nick Florence. You are a redshirt freshman tasked with replacing the electric (and injured) Robert Griffin as Baylor's starting quarterback, and you were flawless against Missouri Saturday. You threaded the needle on the short passes, you hit receivers in stride on the deep balls. You were magnificent. Your reward? Taking on the Texas defense.

How good is the Longhorns' defense? Only first in rushing defense and total defense, third in scoring, and fifth in passing efficiency defense. While Texas quarterback Colt McCoy may have taken a while to get into a rhythm this year (and even now, Texas' offense isn't quite as fluid as last year, looking great one week and only above average the next), the defense has been outstanding. McCoy will probably lead Texas to at least 28-38 points on Saturday. Can you do the same, Mr. Florence?

The Picks -- Rob: Texas | FEI: Texas | S&P+: Baylor

Stanford (+11) at No. 9 USC (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. EST, FSN)

So USC has been the king of the Pac-10 since roughly the Woodrow Wilson administration, but when Oregon whipped them in Eugene two weeks ago, it was the succession of the throne, right? Oregon was ready to rule ... and then they got tripped up by a dominant, physical Stanford offense. With a 51-42 win over the Ducks, the Cardinal have caused an awesome logjam in the Pac-10. Five teams have lost either one or two games in conference, and we could be in for quite the entertaining final month of play. This is Stanford's first trip back to L.A. Coliseum since their historic upset of the Trojans in 2007 (they are not 40-point underdogs this time around), and an upset here would all but eliminate USC (again) from the title race, meaning either Oregon, Arizona, Oregon State, or Stanford would be the favorites. With Andrew Luck averaging almost 10 yards per pass and unlikely Heisman contender (hey, why not?) Toby Gerhart averaging an old-school, Jerome Bettis-like 26 carries and 135 yards per game, the Stanford offense is both unique and dangerous, and they could present yet another unique challenge for the Trojans' defense.

The Picks -- Rob: Stanford | FEI: Stanford | S&P+: Stanford

No. 10 Iowa (+17) at No. 11 Ohio State (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. EST, ABC)

Things can change in a flash in college football. Six days ago, Iowa was supposed to be knocking on the door of the BCS title game, and the Buckeyes were bracing for a second-rate December bowl bid. By Saturday afternoon, Ricky Stanzi was out for the season, Terrelle Pryor helped take care of business on the road against Penn State, and Ohio State found itself in the driver's seat for the Big Ten crown. And they'll be big favorites in each of their final games of the season, to boot. This one will have to be all about the defenses if Iowa wants to keep it within reach. The two teams reside in the top 15 in scoring and total defense, and each is among the top six in Defensive FEI. Get the place kickers warmed up -- both teams are in the top 15 in attempts per game already and will likely be called on often in the ‘Shoe.

The Picks -- Rob: Ohio St. | FEI: Iowa | S&P+: Iowa

No. 1 Florida (-16) at South Carolina (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. EST, CBS)

Seldom will you see a team that has won 19 consecutive games be as picked apart by its own supporters as Florida. While the Tim Tebow-led offense has been something short of inspirational, the defense continues to inspire awe, giving up the fewest points in the nation (10.1 per game), and there's little reason to think South Carolina will be the team to unlock the Gators, even with Steve Spurrier vowing to call more plays. The Gamecocks were horrid at Arkansas Saturday, and assuming freshman sensation Alshon Jeffrey gets extra attention from Florida's superb secondary, USC will have few options left in the arsenal. Urban Meyer, in defending his team after the lackluster win over Vandy last week, actually said, "I don't ever want to take anything away from what those cats have done." If he works really hard, Meyer should have his hip-hop patois sharpened by the time the Gators play for another BCS championship in January.

The Picks -- Rob: Florida | FEI: Florida | S&P+: Florida

Idaho (+31) at No. 6 Boise State (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. EST, ESPNU)

What is this? Boise State has to take a timeout from the national title hunt to defend their home-state superiority? Do we have an honest-to-God Potato State rivalry on our hands? Idaho is 7-3 and in possession of the best stable of awesomely-named running backs you didn't know existed (DeMaundray Woolridge, Princeton McCarty, and Deonte' Jackson have combined for 1,536 yards and 18 touchdowns). They will be going bowling for the first time since 1998 and the second time ever. Can they hang with the big boys from the blue field in Boise? Probably not. Sorry. Since reaching bowl eligibility, the Vandals' defense has regressed, to say the very least, giving up 135 points and 1,549 yards in three games against Nevada (who accounted for 70 of those points), Louisiana Tech and Fresno State. Boise State, meanwhile, has scored at least 45 points in six of nine games this season. The Broncos should comfortably move to 10-0 on the season, but you never know what may happen with those crazy in-state rivalries.

The Picks -- Rob: Idaho | FEI: BSU | S&P+: BSU

Auburn (+4) at Georgia (Saturday, 7:00 p.m. EST, ESPN2)

Aggravated with his undisciplined bunch, Bulldogs coach Mark Richt says he will bench any player who commits a penalty Saturday. That should be interesting if, say, A.J. Green (who says he is over his bruised lung), pushes off to get open on the first play of the game. Richt has to do something urgent -- he needs to win two of the last three to become bowl eligible. With rampaging rival Georgia Tech as the season finale, it would behoove the Dawgs to win against another bitter rival, Auburn, this week. Unfortunately for UGA, the road team has been quite successful in the series of late, winning nine of the last 14. Both schools plastered overmatched foes last week, allowing some ill tidings from see-saw campaigns to subside slightly. Auburn's offense is the best of the units, UGA's defense the worst, so the 113th meeting between the schools should be decided when the Tigers have the ball.

The Picks -- Rob: Auburn | FEI: Auburn | S&P+: Georgia

No. 16 Utah (+19.5) at No. 4 TCU (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. EST, CBS College)

Last season, the Frogs came ever so close to ruining Utah's dream season, dominating the game in Salt Lake but failing to salt the game away. Utah scored with less than a minute to play to win 13-10. Now the shoe is on the other (webbed) foot. The Utes are an extremely quiet 8-1, with a sole loss to Oregon. But there are qyarterback issues -- struggling starter Terrance Cain was replaced two weeks ago by freshman Jordan Wynn. Wynn has looked good, but now steps up considerably in class -- TCU's defense is ranked third in the nation in yards allowed, and has given up only 25 points in the last four games. Unlike previous seasons, TCU's offense is matching the defense in production. They've rolled up nearly 460 yards per game under the direction of quarterback Andy Dalton, whose touchdown-to-interception ratio is a sterling 16-3. This shapes up as the final hurdle for another unbeaten Mountain West team, and even the fickle Ft. Worth fans have taken notice -- this will be the first sellout at Amon Carter Stadium since 2006.

The Picks -- Rob: TCU | FEI: TCU | S&P+: TCU

Notre Dame (+7) at No. 12 Pittsburgh (Saturday, 8:00 p.m. EST, ABC)

The words "hot seat" get thrown around a lot in college football circles, and in South Bend the burner knobs go to 11. You know things are bad when the ABC promotional campaign for the game is completely centered on not missing a second of the inevitable carnage. The Fighting Irish offense rolled between the 20s against Navy last week, but five cataclysmic red zone failures doomed the effort (three turnovers and a turnover on downs inside the 5-yard line) and set the stage for Charlie Weis' last stand. Navy romped for nearly 350 yards on the ground against the Irish, and Pittsburgh's rushing attack must be licking their chops. They are led by freshman Dion Lewis who ranks in the top 10 nationally in yards (1139), touchdowns (12) and attempts per game (22.6).

The Picks -- Rob: Pitt (LOCK) | FEI: Pitt | S&P+: ND

Storylines of the Week

Rob Weintraub: Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, it's the annual Can-Charlie-Weis moment in South Bend. This time, on the heels of a second consecutive home loss to Navy (if only Weis was sacked on Veteran's Day -- alas), Weis may not survive. But loathe as I am to defend the arrogant Sir Charles, there is a reality the Irish and their mouthy alumni need to accept -- the days of yearly dominance by ND are likely gone. And that's not a sop to the "rigid academic standards" that Irish apologists like to toss out -- Stanford doesn't seem to be having much difficulty this season. But we are in the midst of a generation-long migration of power southward. A small, religious-based campus in a frigid locale is behind the eight-ball in recruiting against the "sunshine schools." Once, the national reach and unlimited TV access of Notre Dame outweighed that, but now Southern Mississippi is on TV as often as the Irish. Charlie can blame ESPN on the way out the door if he likes, and he won't be wrong. But hiring Paul Johnson or John Harbaugh or Ara Parseghian's ghost won't change the basics of weather. Notre Dame's era of uniqueness is gone, and it ain't coming back.

Brian Fremeau: Ouch, Rob. As a Notre Dame fan, things are feeling a bit ... calamitous right now, so I'm going to try and focus on other, happier thoughts in college football. Maybe your team isn't having the season you were hoping for either, and you're looking for hope elsewhere. Well look no further than the potentially bowl-bound Duke, Idaho, and Temple. They held three of the four worst records in college football over the previous six seasons, but all that's ancient history as far as their fan bases are concerned. Idaho (at Boise State) and Duke (at Georgia Tech) are big underdogs this week, but regardless of the outcome, I'll be tuning in for the stretch run. With the right coach in the right moment, turnarounds are possible at even the most unlikely places.

Bill Connelly: Did you know that Duke can still win the ACC, Kansas State the Big 12, Oregon State the Pac-10, Wisconsin the Big Ten, and Pittsburgh the Big East? Not that any of those things are actually going to happen, but this season has been the strangest mix of ridiculously predictable (we're still looking at the Texas vs. Florida/Alabama national title game that many predicted when the season started) and insane (injuries and slumps have derailed what was seemingly a cut-and-dried Tebow vs. McCoy vs. Bradford Heisman race, plus ... hello? Cincinnati and Iowa took undefeated records into November!), and while things could still go according to plan in the most boring way possible, there is this undercurrent of crazy lingering. As a fan of a team other than Florida, Alabama, and Texas, I say ... Bring on the crazy. Let South Carolina beat Florida, Auburn beat Alabama, and Texas A&M (and Kansas State) beat Texas. Let Duke strike up the most unlikely November streak of all-time. Give me a Boise-TCU national title game! Or let's at least let one crazy scenario play out.

The Picks
(* - "Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week")
Visitor Spread Home Rob FEI S&P+
South Florida -1 Rutgers USF USF USF*
West Virginia +8.5 Cincinnati WVU Cincy* Cincy
Texas -23.5 Baylor Texas Texas Baylor
Stanford +11 USC Stanford Stanford Stanford
Iowa +17 Ohio State Ohio St. Iowa Iowa
Florida -16 South Carolina Florida Florida Florida
Idaho +31 Boise State Idaho BSU BSU
Auburn +4 Georgia Georgia Auburn Auburn
Utah +19.5 TCU TCU TCU TCU
Notre Dame +7 Pittsburgh Pitt* Pitt ND
Season-long Results
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" record in parentheses)
  Last Week Season Total
S&P+: 5-4-1 (1-0) 57-40-3 (6-4-0)
FEI: 4-5-1 (1-0) 46-51-3 (4-6-0)
Rob: 3-6-1 (0-1) 40-57-3 (1-9-0)

Remember to discuss games all weekend long on our new college football discussion board.

Posted by: Bill Connelly on 12 Nov 2009

22 comments, Last at 14 Nov 2009, 3:12pm by CuseFanInSoCal


by Kurt (a different one) (not verified) :: Thu, 11/12/2009 - 5:40pm

Oh noes! Rob picked Pitt as his lock. The Panthers are doomed!

by DaninPhilly (not verified) :: Thu, 11/12/2009 - 5:52pm

Seriously, Rob, your streak is almost unprecidented. You can't get those kinds of results on purpose no matter how hard you try! This is a streak which will go down as the greatest in history! Think of the odds! To correctly pick just 1 out of 10, you have 1,024 possible chances, and only 10 of them result in a 1-9 record. There is only a 0.9766% chance of that happening! Absolutely amazing!

by AnonymousA (not verified) :: Thu, 11/12/2009 - 7:43pm

Indeed. Rob's information content is now *tied* with S&P, and he crushes it on the lock tiebreaker. I'll be rooting for him to take it home down the stretch!

by BroncosGuy (not verified) :: Thu, 11/12/2009 - 10:00pm

Bear in mind, a system that is wrong 90% of the time is just as valuable as one which is correct 90% of the time. If he could do that consistently, I'd make some real money with him.

by Kevin from Philly :: Thu, 11/12/2009 - 6:09pm

Has anybody done an analysis of how often Robs (non-lock) losses coincide with S&P+ wins? If we can figure out a pattern, I'm gonna book a flight to Vegas!

by Brendan Scolari :: Thu, 11/12/2009 - 6:23pm

I went 4-5-1 (9-10-1 on the season and 0-2 on the ED) last week and dropped the ED. My predictions this week:

USF, Cincy, Texas, Stanford, Iowa, Florida, Idaho, Auburn, Utah, and Notre Dame with my Edelstein Lock being Florida.

by Kevin from Philly :: Thu, 11/12/2009 - 6:32pm

Dropped the ED? Congrats! Bet the wife is happy now.

by peachy (not verified) :: Thu, 11/12/2009 - 7:31pm

Is "cats" really a hip-hop thing? Sounds a generation or two further back to me - I mean, this is the coach who had Jimmy Buffett as a sideline guest at the last South Carolina game. If he were mentioned in a Lil' Wayne song, it'd be even odds if he even knew the genre of the performer without asking a player.

by Will :: Thu, 11/12/2009 - 7:35pm

Wisconsin can only win the Big Ten if you count a "co-Big Ten winner who doesn't go to the Rose Bowl" as a winner. Iowa/Ohio State winner goes to the Rose Bowl - there's no other possibility.


by CuseFanInSoCal :: Fri, 11/13/2009 - 12:34pm

Well, it's technically possible that a myriad of collapses by every BCS conference team with one loss or less at the moment and every currently undefeated mid-major, save for one team, would put the Buckeyes or Hawkeyes in the BCS title game. Not very likely, though.

I mean, lets see...

Florida and Alabama take the next few weeks off just to annoy me and other playoff advocates who think the regular season will be just fine with playoffs, and stumble into the SEC title game at 10-2. Alabama wins 9-7.

Texas lays an egg against A&M or Kansas and then follows it up with a loss in the SEC title game to Kansas State.

Cinci loses to WVU and Pitt. Pitt loses to WVU. Rutgers wins out, creating a 3-way tie for the Big East title... which I think Pitt wins because both beat Rutgers and Pitt has the head to head win.

Duke wins out to win the ACC.

Utah beats TCU, Idaho beats Boise.

USC and Oregon win out.

Result: Ohio State - USC rematch for that national title! :)

by Will :: Fri, 11/13/2009 - 4:27pm

That would still require Wisconsin to be in the top 12 though :)


by CuseFanInSoCal :: Sat, 11/14/2009 - 3:12pm

Well, the top 14, but yes. Still a 10-2 Wiscy would probably be in the top 14 after that trainwreck. Of course, part of my trainwreck scenario has already been rendered invalid by virtue of Cinci winning last night.

by jayinalaska :: Thu, 11/12/2009 - 8:00pm

The Wannstache's Panthers attempt to officially stick the dagger into the Charlie Weis Era.

The dagger better be salt water tested and depth rated because I think the Charlie Weis era was officially impaled by the Midshipman's anchor last week and is wafting with the current at the bottom of the sea.

by Tom Gower :: Thu, 11/12/2009 - 8:47pm

Wrong counter-consensus Edelstein lock for me, going with Notre Dame instead of Ohio State. 2-8 (0-1) is a dreadful week, and one perfectly countered by the 8-2 in the other pick 'em I do. This week I'll take Rutgers, Cincinnati, Texas, USC, Ohio State, South Carolina, Idaho, Auburn, TCU, and Notre Dame, with the Gamecocks the counter-consensus Edelstein lock.

by Bill Connelly :: Thu, 11/12/2009 - 11:23pm

Hmm...looks like my lock isn't looking so hot this week...

by Jon :: Fri, 11/13/2009 - 7:34pm

I'm not sure why the computers loved USF so much up until yesterday. They hadn't impressed at all, against an awful schedule.

Didn't see the blowout coming, but Rutgers was a lock last night based on recent history. They own USF, and Rutgers has a rep for peaking late, while USF usually peaks early.

by Jetspete :: Fri, 11/13/2009 - 12:17pm

The craziness might be at the bottom of the BCS, not at the top. Which teams will be selected as the two at-large (assuming TCU and the SEC loser get the other two at large spots)? Will an undefeated Boise be passed over in favor of a two loss USC AND 2-loss penn state? Where does Miami fit into the equation, and can a deal be worked out like last year that gives Boise a worth Bowl opponent if it does not go to the BCS?

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Fri, 11/13/2009 - 12:43pm

Miami fits nowhere in the equation. They have almost no chance of winning the ACC (the tiebreakers might fall their way in some scenarios, but they cannot win the ACC outright or in a tie with only Virginia Tech, and Georgia Tech is a game ahead of them with only Duke left). And they have no fans. The Orange picks early enough in the selection order that they should be able to get a Big Ten team or USC, and only the Orange would be remotely interested in Miami.

Undefeated Boise most certainly will be passed by two-loss USC and Penn State. The BCS bowls have a long history of ignoring chances for good matchups to sell tickets... and of screwing each other over by taking the best possible team at their spot in the selection order even though it makes things much worse for another bowl (taking Utah isn't as good as Ohio State for the Fiesta Bowl, but it's okay; it's not that far from Utah. But for the Sugar Bowl, it's a lot worse).

by Eddo :: Fri, 11/13/2009 - 1:33pm

I agree with your second paragraph, but why do you think the Orange Bowl wouldn't be more interested in a young, up-and-coming, local Miami team than USC and Penn State? Do Miami fans have a history of traveling poorly, even to bowl games to which they don't have to travel?

by Rocco :: Fri, 11/13/2009 - 10:42pm

That's the problem- they don't have to travel. The hotels don't sell as many rooms, and tourist attractions lose out because Miami's fanbase is local and doesn't need that sort of stuff.

by Eddo :: Sat, 11/14/2009 - 10:53am

That makes sense. I guess I never thought of the pressure bowl committees feel from local businesses before.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Sat, 11/14/2009 - 3:10pm

Miami does not draw all that well in their home games.