Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Week 14 College Football Primer (With Picks): Rivalry Week!

This year's Iron Bowl will be hard-pressed to match last year's Kick-Six, but a playoff spot is still on the line for Alabama.
Ed. Note- Editor Joe Parello went a perfect 6-0 with his picks last week. There's no real reason to put that here at the top, he (I) just wanted to brag. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

 By Andy Dougherty (@AndyDougherty10) with a cameo by Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

The last weekend of college football’s regular season features a number of rivalry games with significant implications. Arizona and Mississippi will host two of the biggest intra-state rivalry games in their histories. But an even bigger rivalry will be renewed in Alabama.

Game of the Week

Alabama has waited all year for this one. No. 15 Auburn visits Tuscaloosa to take on the top ranked Crimson Tide in the Iron Bowl. Last year in a 28-28 game, Alabama lined up for a game-winning field goal only to see it returned the other way for an Auburn touchdown as time expired. That result propelled Auburn to the national championship game and relegated Alabama to the Sugar Bowl, which the Tide lost to Oklahoma.

Things have changed this year. Alabama has been the nation’s best team while Auburn has struggled in recent weeks. The Tigers showed some of last year’s magic in close wins over Kansas State, South Carolina and Ole Miss, but they faltered in a game they should have won against unranked Texas A&M before getting blown out by Georgia.

Auburn can still be dangerous with Nick Marshall under center, but Alabama has much more to play for. It will be exciting to see how much of a fight Auburn can put up with nothing to lose.

Picks Against the Spread With Editor Joe Parello

Here Are The Picks We Agree On (Home Teams In CAPS)

No. 4 Mississippi State (-2) over NO. 18 OLE MISS

At one point this year, both of these teams undefeated and ranked in the top 3. In early October, people were already pointing to this game as potentially the most important game for football in the state of Mississippi. Unfortunately, both teams have slipped up since then, though Mississippi State has stayed firmly in the playoff picture. Ole Miss fell off the map after being crushed by unranked Arkansas last week.

The Rebels will find some motivation for this big rivalry game at home, but their confidence has suffered a major blow. Mississippi State needs this win to remain in the top four, and Dak Prescott should be able to make it happen against a stumbling Ole Miss squad.

JP: Ole Miss is just coming apart at the seams. The Rebels have a tremendously talented sophomore class, but they're very thin and beaten up at this point. Mississippi State has everything to play for and I think they'll take care of business in the first significant Egg Bowl I can remember.

NO. 8 GEORGIA (-13) over No. 16 Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech’s triple option offense is arguably the best in the country. Georgia has shown signs of vulnerability at times this year with two conference losses to unranked teams. But for the rest of the season, the Bulldogs have been utterly dominant. They trounced first place SEC East rival Missouri 34-0. They beat Auburn 34-7. Nick Chubb has gone from backup running back to a potential Heisman nominee.

Because of the two slipups, Georgia will need to continue pummeling its remaining opponents to impress the committee enough for a playoff bid. The Yellow Jackets will be tough to pummel, but Georgia has stifled prolific offenses before. If the Dawgs play their game, they’ll win big.

JP: I don't trust Georgia, but I really don't trust the ACC, so I don't know if I can put any faith into GT's big win over Clemson (where Clemson may as well have been playing with a mannequin at quarterback). I'll go with the Dawgs, who seem to have an endless supply of stud RBs.

No. 13 Arizona State (PK) over NO. 12 ARIZONA

This year’s Duel in the Desert will be the biggest college football game contested between two teams from Arizona in forty years. Wildcat quarterback Anu Solomon will be a game-time decision, and Arizona has shielded the media from practices to keep ASU in the dark about his status. The situation’s lack of clarity has prompted Las Vegas to pull this game from the betting books.

With two evenly matched rivals, the quarterback situation should make the difference. Solomon’s backup, Jesse Scroggins, is a senior who has never thrown a touchdown pass. Even if Solomon plays, his injured ankle will likely hamper him. Arizona State should be able to come in on Friday and win the Territorial Cup.

JP: I'll be honest, the only games I've watched of these two teams are A. Arizona upsetting Oregon and B. Arizona State blowing out Notre Dame. Based on those two results, I can only conclude that this is the national championship game. After watching him choke away the Backyard Brawl against an awful Pitt team back in 2007, I'll bet against coach Rich Rodriguez in anything resembling a game with title implications.

NO. 6 OHIO STATE (-20.5) over Michigan

Remember when this used to be a huge rivalry? Now the Buckeyes are more than 20-point favorites against the Wolverines. That spread is generous to a miserable Michigan squad that has lost to three unranked opponents and failed to beat a top-25 team.

Ohio State transitioned early in the season when quarterback Braxton Miller went down. After a bad loss to Virginia Tech, replacement J.T. Barrett has settled into the offense and led the Buckeyes to a dominant nine-game winning streak. The Buckeyes should keep on rolling at home.

JP: OSU is good at beating terrible teams, and that's just what Michigan is this year. The Bucks get back to owning "that school up north" and the Big Blue begins its search for a new coach.

Notre Dame (+7) over USC

Once a championship contender, Notre Dame is now a touchdown underdog against an unranked team. The Irish deserve to be underdogs on the road after their pathetic three-game losing streak, but they have to beat the spread eventually, don’t they?

They have stayed within four points in all but one of their losses. Their porous defense and turnover-prone offense will hand some points to the Trojans, but their resilience and firepower should keep them in the game.

They may crumble late once again, but they should stay within a score. If Everett Golson can hold onto the ball, they might even win. That might be asking too much of a player who has committed more turnovers than 73 FBS teams, but even with his loose play, Golson’s playmaking ability has nearly offset his carelessness.

JP: I actually think this will be a pretty entertaining game, and I don't think either team should be giving more than a touchdown against anybody with a pulse. For that reason I'm back on the ND bus.

Here Are The Picks We Don't (Home Teams Still In CAPS)

AD: NO. 1 ALABAMA (-9.5) Over No. 15 Auburn

Nick Marshall should make some big plays to keep the game interesting, but he will likely struggle to maintain a high level of play for sixty minutes. The Texas A&M team that beat Auburn lost to Alabama 59-0. The transitive property doesn’t always hold up in sports, so don’t expect that kind of a beat down.

But it shows that Alabama is capable of beating Auburn by 10 points. With revenge and a national championship on their minds, Nick Saban and his team will be ready to play on Saturday.

JP: No. 15 Auburn (+9.5) over NO.1 ALABAMA

I know Auburn has nothing to play for, but when the Tigers aren't terrible, they usually keep this thing close. Plus, wouldn't it just be the sweetest thing ever for Auburn to pull off the upset in Tuscaloosa and keep Nick Saban out of the inaugural College Football Playoff? We already have a villain in FSU, we don't need Alabama this year.

AD: NO. 14 WISCONSIN (-14) over No. 18 Minnesota

Wisconsin can be a brutal place to play, as the Badgers showed in their record-breaking rout of Nebraska. Minnesota has played tough against good teams this year, and the Gophers are used to playing in bad conditions.

But they have not faced a player like Melvin Gordon or an atmosphere quite like the one they’ll face on Saturday. Gordon, who must be annoyed that his incredible rushing record only stood for a week, should give his fans plenty of reasons to jump around.

JP: No. 18 Minnesota (+14) over NO. 14 WISCONSIN

I'm torn here because I've had success betting on both these teams, but if I'm getting two touchdowns, I've gotta stick with my feel-good story from the Big Ten. Go Gophers!

AD: Florida (+7) over NO. 3 FLORIDA STATE

Florida State has made a habit of pulling games out at the last minute. The Noles have shown no ability to blow decent teams out. The Gators have had a disappointing year, but they did win comfortably against Georgia. They have more talent than plenty of teams that have hung around with Florida State this year, so they should be able to do the same.

JP: NO. 3 FLORIDA STATE (-7) over Florida

It would just suit Florida's season (and the Will Muschamp era in general) if this were the only game where Florida State just crushes somebody. Still, if UF can run the ball and not turn it over (aka, Treon Harris throws 10 times or less), the Gators have a puncher's chance.

But I'm going with the most devastating and fitting result for Florida, considering the last two years:

FSU by 50, Jameis Winston reveals after the game that he's dating Erin Andrews, Tim Tebow falls out of his chair on the set of whatever stupid SEC Network show he's on, Jeremy Foley inadvertently extends Will Muschamp's contract for life, Jeff Driskel is granted another year of eligibility, John Brantley is hired as quarterbacks coach, Urban Meyer leads the Buckeyes to a national title and Aaron Hernandez breaks out of prison to hit up Grog after the game.

Andy's Record:
Last Week: 4-2
Season: 7-11
Last Week's Disagreements: 0-2
Season's Disagreements: 0-5

Joe's Record:
Last Week: 6-0
Season: 12-6
Last Week's Disagreements: 2-0
Season's Disagreements: 5-0 

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