Pigskin Punditry No. 12: Handicapping The Unbeatens and Week Ten Picks

David SingletonCorrespondent IOctober 30, 2008

Yet another calendar page flips, and we begin to head down the home stretch. November brings games to remember, and we certainly appear to be heading in that direction.

Currently there are only eight remaining unbeaten teams in Division I Football Bowl Subdivision. This Saturday, two of them face off as Texas heads to Lubbock to face the Red Raiders of Texas Tech.

So, it’s time to play Pigskin Punditry Oddsmaker, where I attempt to handicap the chances of the unbeaten teams to stay that way.

Rankings reflect the current BCS Standings. Home games in CAPS

Texas Longhorns (1)

Remaining Schedule: @ Texas Tech, BAYLOR, @ Kansas, TEXAS A&M, possible Big 12 Championship game in Kansas City

Odds: 7-1.

Longhorns are red hot right now, especially on offense. The rough part of the schedule ends this weekend, but neither road game nor the Texas A&M game are a gimme. Big 12 title game looks like it would be from the pool of Nebraska, Kansas or Missouri.

Alabama Crimson Tide (#2)

Remaining Schedule: ARKANSAS STATE, @ LSU, MISSISSIPPI STATE, AUBURN, possible SEC Championship game in Atlanta

Odds: 8-1.

I think Alabama’s chance at staying undefeated is only slightly worse than Texas’s for the simple reason that the possible Championship game opponent for Alabama (Florida or Georgia) will be a better team than any of the troika that would represent the Big 12 North against Texas. Considering the recent damage done to LSU by Florida and Alabama, Saban Bowl I has lost a little bit of its luster.

Penn StateNittany Lions (3)

Remaining Schedule: @ Iowa, INDIANA, MICHIGAN STATE

Odds: 3-1.

I think, right now, Nittany Lions have the best chance to remain unbeaten. Iowa on the road will be a test, and the Michigan State game to close the season could look an awful lot like last Saturday’s Ohio State game. But the Lions seem to be graced with good fortune this season and will probably make it through unscathed. And then the hand-wringing about a Big Ten team playing for the national title can begin.

Texas Tech Red Raiders (7)

Remaining Schedule: TEXAS, OKLAHOMA STATE, @ Oklahoma, BAYLOR, possible Big 12 Championship game in Kansas City

Odds: 14-1.

You know that gauntlet of ranked opponents that Texas is finishing up this week? Well, the Red Raiders began their similar run last week by crushing Kansas 63-21 in Lawrence on homecoming. However, this task might be asking too much of the Red Raiders.

If they continue to play with the defensive intensity they displayed during much of the game last week, they have a great shot. But three top ten South Division foes? I don’t trust Tech’s special teams to make a difference for them.

Utah Utes (10)

Remaining Schedule: @ New Mexico, TCU, @ San Diego State, BYU

Odds: 20-1.

The schedule may be too much for the Utes. They are a very talented team. But the Utes are going to be playing two very physical games in the span of five days when they face the Lobos on Saturday and then have to do a quick turn around to face TCU on Thursday, November 6. Those games that close together might be too much of a challenge for the original BCS buster.

Boise State Broncos (11)

Remaining Schedule: @ New Mexico State, UTAH STATE, @ Idaho, @ Nevada, FRESNO STATE

Odds: 17-1.

This Broncos team is young, even with Ian Johnson and Vinny Peretta still on the roster. Five straight games this late in the season is a tough road to hoe. Three road games don’t help, either. The most likely stumbling spot appears to be @ Nevada, a talented team that can cause fits with the Pistol offense.

Ball State Cardinals (16)

Remaining Schedule: NORTHERN ILLINOIS, @ Miami (OH), @ Central Michigan, WESTERN MICHIGAN, possible MAC Championship game in Detroit

Odds: 25-1.

This isn’t meant as an insult to Ball State, but rather speaks volumes for the depth of the Mid-American Conference’s Western Division. I’m not saying that the MAC West is on par talent wise with the Big 12 South, but if Ball State can beat the other three West Division teams, they will have truly earned the right to play for the MAC crown.

Tulsa Golden Hurricane (17)

Remaining Schedule: @ Arkansas, @ Houston, TULANE, @ Marshall, possible Conference USA Title game at the site of the division winner with the best record

Odds: 15-1.

Three road games, including a non-conference tilt with a down (but improving) Arkansas team. The Golden Hurricane can score with anyone. But stopping people can be problematic at times. Houston could be the team to exploit this deficiency.

It’ll be fun seeing how this plays out.

Last week, I went 8-2 in picking winners, raising my season record to 22-11 (.667). My SEC chops were a bit off in calling for the upset in Knoxville, and I just didn’t foresee LSU getting hammered the way that they did.

Hey, even pundits aren’t perfect.

Now, it’s on to the picks.

Florida 37, Georgia 34

If Florida scores the game’s first touchdown, do you think Urban Meyer will have his guys run out to midfield and re-enact the dance sequence from Thriller in response to last year’s celebration by Georgia? Nah, me neither.

Look for a hard fought game by offenses that may have gotten healthy in the last couple of weeks, but one huge defensive stop late by Florida will be the difference.

Texas 42, Texas Tech 30

Graham Harrell will play well. But he will be under intense pressure by the Texas defensive front most of the game. He and Michael Crabtree will make plays. But those Tech special teams will cost the Red Raiders the game one way or another.

USC 59, Washington 0

USC’s offense looked pedestrian against a good, but not great Arizona defense. The same USC hung 69 on Washington’s equally beleaguered rival, Washington State. Washington isn’t much better, but they might be able to hold USC under 60. Maybe.

Florida State 30, Georgia Tech 17

Could Florida State be rising from the dead? Have they found the quarterback they’ve been looking for in Christian Ponder? It appears that way. Georgia Tech is a good team, but Florida State seems to finally be clicking.

TCU 27, UNLV 21

TCU is quietly making the case to be the team that actually breaks into the BCS conversation. The Horned Frogs only loss this season was Oklahoma. UNLV has been feisty this season, knocking off an overrated Arizona State team and generally playing good football on offense.

However, the UNLV defense can’t get stops when they really need to, and TCU has a great defense. UNLV will come to play on both sides of the ball, but TCU will win. UNLV’s best shot would be to catch TCU looking ahead, the way Arizona State was looking ahead to Georgia back in September.

Somehow, I don’t see that happening.

Utah 40, New Mexico 20

Utah’s opponent next Thursday is TCU. Like UNLV, New Mexico’s best shot is to catch Utah peeking ahead. I doubt that will happen. This Utah squad seems focused on the task of getting back to the BCS. I don’t see the Lobos having enough offense to keep up with the Utes.

One final note this week: Saturday is National College Football Day. This holiday was created by the Cotton Bowl Classic five years ago to commemorate the anniversary of the first intercollegiate football game played (November 6, 1869: Rutgers defeated Princeton, 6-4).

A couple of years ago, National College Football Day teamed up with The V Foundation for Cancer Research to use the day as a way to promote cancer awareness. Coaches, officials and media members will be wearing specially designed lapel pins to recognize the holiday.

For more information about National College Football Day, you can see the press release from the Cotton Bowl Classic here. For more information about The V Foundation, or to make a donation to cancer research, you can visit their website at www.jimmyv.org.

E-mail the Pigskin Pundit at  pigskinpundit@gmail.com


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