Normally I try to come up with a fun or interesting topic to lead this piece off each week. Some weeks it works well. Other weeks, my pregame writing falls flat.
But I don’t really feel the need to comment on too much this time of year. It’s time for a big batch of rivalry games.
These are the games that matter even if the teams facing each other are 1-10 and 0-10. Like two state rivals would ever be that bad at the same time.
What’s that? There is a game like that on the upcoming schedule this week? Yes, even the Apple Cup (or the “Crapple Cup” as ESPN.com’s Ted Miller dubbed the game this week) could have some drama. Because someone has to win it; there are no ties in college football.
But I guess Donovan McNabb already knew that.
On to the picks:
Ohio State 31, Michigan 13
Rich Rodriguez’s long season comes to a whimpering conclusion, as he stares in envy at Terrelle Pryor and wonders what could have been. At least Rich can take solace in the fact that he will be kept warm all winter long thanks to the extremely hot seat that an historic 3-9 record at Michigan will bring him.
Vanderbilt 17, Tennessee 10
Vandy has played Tennessee close the last few years. And Tennessee's uninspiring 13-7 loss to Wyoming (!) tells me all I need to know.
Florida __, The Citadel 3
Name the score for this one. Although I really think it should be against the law for a BCS squad to be playing nothing more than a glorified scrimmage this late in the season. Might as well have taken a bye this week instead.
Notre Dame 24, Syracuse 6
Well, things turned out okay for the Irish last week – until the final two minutes. Syracuse has already ousted Gregg Robinson and might sleepwalk through this game. I don’t see the Irish losing to Syracuse at this point. If they do, though, Charlie’s bottom is going to get toasted.
Washington State 7, Washington 6
See above comment about ties not existing anymore.
Penn State 24, Michigan State 20
Senior day in Happy Valley. It could be Joe Paterno’s final home game as head coach (then again, we say that every year). Michigan State has had two weeks to get ready for this game, and are in the somewhat untenable situation (for them) of rooting for Michigan to beat Ohio State so they have a chance to go to the Rose Bowl.
But I think the Penn State senior wide receivers will want to go out with a bang, and will pull out a late touchdown to beat Michigan State and head off to Pasadena.
Stanford 24, Cal 20
Both teams are good at rushing the ball. Cal is a bit better at getting stops in their 3-4 alignment. But even USC had trouble stopping the Stanford running game, and they knew it was coming.
Stanford will regain the axe and achieve bowl eligibility, though, because their high risk, high reward defense will make a big play against Kevin Riley.
Utah 30, BYU 23
Utah completes their second undefeated season this decade by beating their arch rivals. I just like Utah’s defense a bit better in the end, although BYU will give Brian Johnson some fits early on.
But Johnson leads a late touchdown drive to lead Utah to the Fiesta Bowl (possibly) for the second time in four seasons.
Oklahoma 45, Texas Tech 42
So I doubted Texas Tech against Texas. I doubted Texas Tech against Oklahoma State. I was wrong both times.
My basic refrain, though, remains the same: That kicking game should make me nervous if I am a Red Raider fan. At some point, it will come back to bite them, and Oklahoma is not a team that you want to face on the road in that scenario.
A lot of offensive talent will be on the field for this game, and containing Sam Bradford and the no-huddle offense will be a tough task for the Red Raider defense.
But Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree and company will be able to hang with the Sooners. In the end, though, a missed field goal that would have sent the game into overtime will cause some major BCS upheaval.