The college football season is winding down very quickly. There are only a few weeks left for teams to take care of unsettled business and make their way to the promised land.
This is also Thanksgiving week, which is a special time to enjoy your families and all of that. It also means there are tons of big rivalry games getting ready to go down. So this week’s edition of our College Football Pick’em will focus on the rivalry games.
Once again our big game of the week will take place in the Big 12, and for the third time this season, it will feature the Oklahoma Sooners as they take on in-state rival Oklahoma State.
The Oklahoma Sooners looked like gangbusters last weekend in Norman against Texas Tech. The Sooners exposed the holes in the Texas Tech defense and ran the score up. This was really the first time the nation got to see just how high-powered the Sooners' attack can be.
Sam Bradford is one of the best quarterbacks in the country and has largely flown under the radar thanks to the efforts of Tim Tebow and Graham Harrell. However, Bradford has put up Heisman-like numbers, throwing for over 3,700 yards and 42 touchdowns. In addition, the Sooners have a fantastic running attack that has chewed up over 1,000 yards on the ground.
Plainly put, the Oklahoma Sooners are juggernauts on the offensive side of the ball. Their lowest point total on the season has been 35 points (in a win over TCU and a loss to Texas).
On the defensive side of the ball, the Sooners have shown improvement as the year has gone along. They currently rank fourth in the Big 12 on total defense. However, any defensive stat on OU tends to be a little skewed because of their tendency to give up last-minute touchdowns in blowout games. Nonetheless, this is a very talented defensive group that will get after the quarterback.
Last week’s game in Norman was huge for the Sooners, and even head coach Bob Stoops said it was the best atmosphere he had seen in Memorial stadium since arriving in Norman. However, this week’s game against rival Oklahoma State is far more important. Oklahoma must win and win big if they want to leap Texas in the polls and go to the Big 12 Championship game.
The NCAA may not have playoffs, but for Oklahoma they are in the middle of a four-week playoff run where a loss means the end of the season for all intents and purposes.
Oklahoma State is very familiar with their role as spoiler in this series. The locals call this game Bedlam, and it has been exactly that for the last decade. No team has been more responsible for crushing the national title hopes of the Oklahoma Sooners than Oklahoma State.
In 2001 and 2002 the Cowboys knocked off Oklahoma, not to mention several other heartbreakers in 2006 and 2004. Long story short, the players at Oklahoma State get what this game is all about, and Mike Gundy knows how to get his boys fired up to play in the big game.
However, there is more to this game than the Cowboys being the lowly stepbrother of the Oklahoma Sooners. The Oklahoma State Cowboys are loaded and very good. A win on Saturday will lift the Cowboys to the 10-win mark for the first time in 20 years, and they have the players to get them there.
The Cowboys will have to rely on their potent passing attack that is led by Zac Robinson at quarterback and Dez White at the receiver position, the two forgotten souls when people do a roll call of the Big 12 elite.
Zac Robinson will need to manage his emotions and manage the game on Saturday to guide the Cowboys through. The Oklahoma defense has stiffened up, and they held pass-happy Texas Tech to just 21 points.
Robinson will need to keep his team in short yardage situations and avoid getting into third and long and having to force passes. The home crowd will be behind him—there is no doubt about that. Now the Cowboys just need to go out and perform.
The spread has the Oklahoma Sooners favored by seven-and-a-half points. This is a rivalry that while historically lopsided has become very close in the last decade.
Typically I get very nervous for the Sooners around this time of year. In addition, I become nervous when Bob Stoops has to get his guys fired up for a big game. But I am still riding the high of last week and believe the Sooners are peaking at the right time.
Oklahoma will win the game and cover the spread. But don’t expect it to resemble the blowout we saw last week in Norman.
Now onto some other big games on tap for the weekend.
Despite the disappointing season the Georgia Bulldogs have had, this game still has plenty of implications for both teams. To begin with, Georgia Tech is still fighting for a shot at the ACC title game. In addition, Georgia can still improve on what bowl game they are eligible for with a win.
The spread has Georgia favored by eight-and-a-half points. I think they can handle that and win the game. The Georgia Tech option attack is not quick enough to fool the Bulldogs.
The Florida Gators may be the hottest team in college football. They showed that by dropping 70 points on lowly Citadel last week. Florida State is in the midst of an ugly season that could still yield a trip to the ACC Championship and a BCS game—kind of impressive actually, considering how bad this team is.
The spread has the Gators favored by 17 points on Saturday, but I’m going to throw a random fact at you. The home team in this rivalry is 15-5 against the spread in the last 20 meetings. Saturday’s game is at Doak Campbell Stadium, home of the Seminoles.
I know it’s a long shot, but I like Florida State to cover the 17 points. However, Florida wins the game.
A classic Southern rivalry. Really this is the only thing worth looking at in the state of Alabama, but that is another story. Alabama is the top-ranked team in the country and is eyeballing a big showdown with Florida in a couple weeks for the SEC championship.
Auburn has limped its way through the season, and more than likely Tommy Tuberville already has his bags packed for Clemson, South Carolina.
Auburn has won six straight in this series, and that streak comes to a crashing halt on Saturday. The spread has Alabama favored by 14 points. They will win the game and cover that spread.
The Backyard Brawl: Last year Pittsburgh came up with what may have been the upset of the season when they knocked off then second-ranked West Virginia and cost them a shot at the national title.
Not many people know or care about this game, but it is a great one to watch. Two schools separated by two hours, and a mountain, and they really do hate each other.
The spread has West Virginia favored by three-and-a-half points. I like the way Pat White is playing right now, and he will be able to carry WVU over the hump and beat Pitt.
The Civil War: Again another rivalry game that not many get a chance to see, mainly because typically this game takes place when most of the country is asleep or wrapped up in FSU vs. Florida.
However, this year it is a huge deal. Oregon State has a chance to go to the Rose Bowl. I know that just sounds strange. Oregon State came out of nowhere and has the opportunity to steal a Pac-10 title from big bad USC, but they need to handle business one last time at home on Saturday night to complete the magical season.
The spread has Oregon State favored by three points. From what I have seen of Oregon this season, they are just too inconsistent for me to rely on. That is why I am picking Oregon State to win the game and the Pac-10. Too bad no one wants to watch a rematch of Penn State vs. Oregon State in the Rose Bowl.