So Iowa laid an egg against Northwestern? And so what if Vegas has installed the Buckeyes as prohibitive 17 point favorites? While one epic victory over a ranked opponent may have the remainder of the regular season feeling like an after thought (newsflash: it really, really isn't), it doesn't mean the rest of the college football weekend will be as well.
With just 4 more weekends of college football's regular season to go around, we're approaching the point where the diminishing marginal returns of your satisfaction are beginning to move in the opposite direction where by the scarcity of it all has you eye balling how to fit Wyoming/San Diego State into your weekend itinerary. A few gems stand out above the rest, as critical games in the Big East, Pac 10, and MWC could shape the BCS fates of the elites of those respective conferences. The Big Ten's lack of depth top to bottom becomes more and more apparent in a bit of a snoozer of a weekend, but Michigan has a chance to move further towards missing a bowl for the second straight season, and how can you not root for an Indiana upset that could leave the Wolverines finishing last in the conference?
As for these week's picks and last week's results, it's a getting slightly down right frightening. Whatever deal I made with the devil that's gave me a 6-2 showing last weekend and a beyond unreasonable 37-10-1 (77%!) mark on the year, I'd gladly be inclined to renegotiate any minute, so that instead of no-money-on-the-line-for-funzies wagering luck, I'm instead blessed with a surplus of win-significant-sums-of-actual-money luck (I'm willing to settle for Woot swag). This week's games look particular ambiguous to me, so if ever there was a weekend to assume my best days faux-gambling were behind me, this would be it.
Friday - West Virginia at #5 Cincinnati (-10) - 8:00 p.m. - ESPN2
Brian Kelly's been pretty vocal that Tony Pike is not getting Pipped, but rather Zach Collaros' hot play coupled with Pike still not being right physically will result in one more precursory start for the redshirt sophomore from Steubenville. This could bode big things for the Bearcats, who square off with a Mountaineer squad that aside from flashes from Jarrett Brown and Noel Devine, has struggled to find an identity much of this season. While Cincinnati played it rather close to the vest and struggled late with UConn a week back, expect UC to hit it on all strides to impress those without Friday evening plans and the pollsters looking at the box scores the next morning alike, 44-31.
Stanford at #11 USC (-12.5) - 3:30 p.m. - FSN
A week back, Stanford looked like sitting ducks (no pun intended) matching up with arguably the hottest team in America. 60 minutes of whacky, unpredictable long scoring strikes later, the Cardinal found themselves victorious over Oregon 51-42. After doing what the Trojans failed to do (put any kind of dent in the Ducks' D), Stanford now finds themselves even larger dogs than last week, looking at a 12.5 point projected deficit against SC. Pete Carroll's bunch looked stagnant, to say the least, in a 14-9 uninspiring road winner over Arizona State a week back, but should they get back to early season form, look for USC to get a little payback for 2 season's ago upset of the decade, winning comfortably 35-21.
#16 Utah at #4 TCU (-17.5) - 7:30 p.m. - CBS College Spots
The surprising game of the weekend, 4th (not a typo, seriously) ranked TCU plays host to last year's BCS darling, the Utes of Utah. TCU not only has a $19 million dollar BCS payday on the line, but still has a conference title at stake. Jerry Hughes and the ferocious Horned Frog D look to make things tough on second start freshman quarterback Jordan Wynn. Despite the mounting pressure and the attention of a nation (or the small fraction of a nation that actually has CBS College Sports), TCU pulls this one out con gusto, 40-21.
Notre Dame at #8 Pittsburgh (-6.5) - 8:00 p.m. - ABC (Regional)
There's something inherently wrong about putting "#8" and/or "one-loss Pitt" anywhere near the name of a team coached by the Wannstache, but credit where credit's due. This plucky Pitt bunch has strung together a number of sizable wins after dropping one to NC State, and still has much to play for with a possible de facto Big East title game on the horizon against Cincy. Notre Dame, on the other hand, is playing for pride, a possible Gator Bowl both, and the chance to show anywhere near enough promise to try and talk the combination rich, impatient, and hungry Irish boosters out of potentially ousting Charlie Weis (I for one strongly encourage giving the man a life contract). Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate have become the most elite pass throwing-catching combination this side of McCoy-Shipley, and while every molecule in me would love to give Bill Stull and co. the credit to think they'd out a Notre Dame team they're arguably better than, I expect the Irish to win one of those maddening games the slightly inferior team has no business stealing, 31-28.
BIG TEN GAMES
Indiana at #19 Penn State (-21) - 12:00 p.m. - BTN
Set your phasers on underwhelmed: the Big Ten slate leaves much to be desired outside of the still suddenly non-thrilling Iowa-tOSU matchup, but as mentioned above (and previously), root, root, root for Bill Lynch's unfortunate bunch to further humiliate the pride fallen Nittany Lions. While realistically it's probably not gonna work out in IU's favor, the 21 point spread should be one they can cover again for the wager hungry, falling just short yet again, 21-38.
Michigan at #21 Wisconsin (-9) - 12:00 p.m. - BTN
The real question at this point is how can you NOT watch the train wreck the '09 Michigan Wolverines have become? From promising agents of change with a Heisman worthy true freshman, to an embarrassing reminder of past success with a sub optimal signal caller, the Wolverines have to steal one of their last two remaining or risk missing the post season for the second time in as many years under Rich Rod. While it may be asking too much for UM to head into Madison and come away victorious, it's certainly not asking a ton for them to lose in a margin close than 9. Expect the Badgers to put the first nail in the coffin to the maddening to the Wolverine faithful tune of 30-24 (though UM departs with the consolation cover).
Michigan State at Purdue (-1) - 12:00 p.m. - ESPN
Two teams whose season arcs have differed greatly, though the end results aren't dramatically different at this stage. Danny Hope and defending Big Ten player of the week Joey Elliot play host to Greg Jones' Spartans. Coach D's bunch still have post season aspirations alive with a win in West Lafayette or to close the season against PSU. While Purdue's been every bit better than their 4-6 record's indicated, Sparty's often times been even more underwhelming than their 5-5 mark would lead you to believe. Despite being just one point favorites, expect the Boilermakers to get theirs offensively 35-24.
Northwestern at Illinois (-3) - 12:00 p.m. - ESPN Classic
A rivalry so classic it merited instant ESPN Classic status (not really). Northwestern visits Champaign-Urbana to determine the Illinois state championship. After recent hot play by Zook's crew, the Illini find their lost season suddenly withs something to play for (and a nod as 3 point favorites). The Wildcats's upset victory over Iowa was evidently not worth much in Vegas's minds, though they find themselves with bowl matchup positioning to play for. Even in lieu of the Illini offense clicking lately, the Fighting Fitz will be a collective district Illinois can't contain. NU takes it 27-21.