We're closing in on Rivalry Week (or some semblance of what used to be Rivalry Week), and this Saturday's matchups provide a decent mix of games that have meaning for the present and inspire some nice looks to the past. Home teams in CAPS.
Stanford (-6.5) over CALIFORNIA
Call this a bit of an overreaction to Cal's tempering of Oregon last week, especially considering that this line opened at 8.5 and enough Cal money has come in to bring it down two points. I just think Stanford is flat-out better and when you can lay less than a touchdown with a 9-1 team against a 5-5 team, you take that chance. Andrew Luck is going to have to do much of the work for the Cardinal, as Cal allows only 67 rushing yards per game at home. And I'd be remiss not to link to The Play, especially on its 28-year anniversary.
Ohio State (-3) over IOWA
Iowa is coming off two straight clunkers and Ohio State is on a tear. Is either one of these teams all that good? I'm not sure, considering how many Penn State mistakes were needed by Ohio State to put last week's game to bed. A win here likely puts the Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl, and while I don't necessarily want to see it, I just don't think they come up lame against a team whose best football this year is quite possibly behind it.
NORTHWESTERN (+7.5) over Illinois (@ Wrigley Field)
By now you've heard that this tilt will take place at the Friendly Confines, and that the one end zone encroaches so closely upon Wrigley's right field wall that it has been deemed unsafe to run offensive plays or field goal attempts in its direction (here's a look). All offensive possessions will be run in the direction of the end zone on the third base line, no matter the quarter or the possessing team. Some people call it an abomination but I find it pretty interesting. What really disappoints me is that they didn't orient the gridiron from the first base line toward left field as they did at Wrigley in the old days, but the seating configuration doesn't allow for it. As far as the game goes, this is a battle of Big Ten teams that have made a living sneaking up on people this year, with Northwestern breaking through against Iowa last week to show for it. The Wildcats are without QB Dan Persa, but I still think they have enough as a team to at least be close here. I find it funny that Illinois fans are chirping mightily about this game even though they lost to sad-sack Minnesota last week.
CINCINNATI (-13.5) over Rutgers
This is for no other reason than I haven't picked a Rutgers game yet this year, and I really don't like their bogus fandom and program that wants to be treated like it matters but plays a JV schedule. I must be out of my mind laying two touchdowns with a 3-6 Cincy team, but Rutgers does have a big injury list so what the heck.
Army (+8.5) over NOTRE DAME (@ Yankee Stadium)
"Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Yankee Stadium." It would have been nice to have Bob Sheppard doing the PA for this game, but I like to think he'll be at the mic on high with Mel Allen and Phil Rizzuto. I kind of wish I could have experienced the era during which the Army-Notre Dame matchup was the biggest game of the year, but at least we have the new Yankee Stadium all decked out for football, complete with the diagonal lines in the end zones to simulate a Notre Dame home field. Both teams are playing to seal their bowl bids, but Army has a lot more to gain in this game than Notre Dame does. A win for the Black Knights would be a watershed moment on a big stage, and since their only double-digit loss this year was to a legit 8-4 Air Force team, I'll give them a puncher's chance here. Notre Dame is still likely to win, but 8.5 is a bit too many to cover. Longtime blog follower Tony is attending this game, so if you're reading this, don't forget to send me a picture from your seat.
Last Week: 2-3-0