Championship Weekend is here, and with it, probably the last edition of our weekly NCAA entries for 2010. After digging a huge midseason deficit, Kevin has made things a virtual tie and is threatening to make me look like the Mets of 2007 and 2008. If we end up tied we'll break it either with Army-Navy next week or during the Bowl season. In any event, home teams in CAPS.
WEST VIRGINIA (-20) over Rutgers
Ordinarily I'd be petrified of laying this many points with the Mountaineers, a team who has played down to its competition several times this year and is not nearly well-coached enough for me to be sure that they're going to come down from the high of smacking Pitt around last week. However, this game means everything for West Virginia as they would grab the least deserving BCS bowl bid of all time with a win and a UConn loss. Here's hoping the Morgantown faithful can find a way to put off all that studying this Saturday (tall task, I know) and keep the place rocking to the point that Rutgers maintains the form that has seen them lose 5 straight and give up 109 points in their last two. Cheers, beers, and the Mountaineers.
Oregon (-16.5) over OREGON STATE
The Ducks' offensive sputtering lasted all of six quarters, put promptly to an end by a 34-point second half last week against Arizona. A win in this latest installment of the Civil War puts Oregon in the BCS Championship, while Oregon State has lost 3 of 4 in increasingly ugly fashion. Many times you'd love the 16.5 with a home team in a rivalry game, but as long as Oregon can play its game, nobody can score with them over the course of 60 minutes.
Auburn (-5.5) over South Carolina (SEC Championship - neutral site)
I originally had a strong feeling to take South Carolina, but that was when I thought the spread was going to come out at something like 8 or 8.5. If Auburn was going to be denied on their way to the title game this year, I think it would have happened already, with the cloud of the Cam Newton case following them, in addition to the 24 points they spotted Alabama in Tuscaloosa last week. Something you have to like about the Tigers is that they are more than their Heisman-candidate quarterback. They got contributions from all phases last week (especially their defense in the second half) and took big advantage of Alabama's mistakes (a dropped pass at the goal line, shanked punts, a substitution penalty on Nick Saban). South Carolina has had a great year and is deserving of their #16 ranking, but they're still only the fourth best team in the SEC. I have no problem with Auburn giving less than six in the Georgia Dome.
Nebraska (+4.5) over Oklahoma (Big 12 Championship - neutral site)
If defense wins championships, it's going to win this one. Oklahoma has been scoring like the Bob Stoops teams of old the past 3 weeks (145 points), but they give up yards almost as easily as they gain them, giving their games the potential to reach higher point totals than most womens' college basketball games that don't involve Tennesee or UConn. Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez and head coach Bo Pelini are said to have buried the hatchet after Pelini's embarrassing sideline tirade two weeks ago, but the win last week over sleep-walking Colorado isn't a conclusive indication. To win this game the Huskers will need to control the ball with the multitalented Martinez and force Oklahoma into a mistake or two on the other side of the ball, but Nebraska came devastatingly close to pulling the upset at Cowboys Stadium in this spot last year and my gut says their chances now are just as good, if not better.
Florida State (+4) over Virginia Tech (ACC Championship - neutral site)
I'm going head-to-head against Kevin here in the game that could end up deciding our friendly competition, and I may end up kicking myself for going against VT in an ACC game, especially the ACC Championship. However, for everything I hear about Florida State's supposedly terrible defense, it's the Hokies who are the ones giving up over 150 yards per game on the ground. Not to mention, I am tired of Tyrod Taylor and his broken play, "two steps back, oh shit there's no one wide open, let me run" style of play. It's part of the reason ACC football has been unwatchable for at least 3 years. I said back in September that Fisher, Ponder & Co. may be able to draw on their early-season tests when the games got big, and they did so in crushing Florida last week. It has been a season of conquests for the Seminoles, so maybe they can take it a step farther and at least give Virginia Tech a run for their money at Bank of America Stadium, where the football has been so pitiful this year that I hear they give you 5 free shares of BAC stock just for buying a ticket these days.
Last Week: 2-3-0