Everywhere I've been this week I've been asked, "what's with the goofy grin on your face?" Some assume I was given a raise at work, others I've taken a new romantic interest. But when it comes down to it, I just can't keep the reason to myself any longer. You see, I have hate in my heart, and my cup overfloweth. If you too have the sort of hate in your heart that makes senior citizens get sentimental and grown men from coast to coast weep, you've come to the right place. You see y'all, we're having a hate revival today. We're going to take your good feelings and well wishes towards your fellow man (man is heavily debatable in this context), force you to dig deep, and find that hate. You see, I knew you had it in you all along.
With the hate impacting lives in ways we never before thought possible, we take our collective negative energies and move them toward's the twelfth week of college football. This week, unlike those that preceded it, we're not going to even beat around the bush and suggest multiple tv setups are appropriate for the most hatetastic day of the year. No games taking place during The Game will even be paid lip service. Consider the listing below the official background noise of your victory rally (and sorry, during absolute hate week, we refuse to even acknowledge so much as the existence of an alternate outcome). These games may strike you as a bit pedantic in lieu of all the emotional energy you have invested in the noon-to-3:30 stretch of your Saturday, but let's humor ourselves and pretend there are other games of varying consequence being played in the hours that follow.
As I'd predicted for the previous 3 weeks, my completely improbable 77% run at picking games regressed to the mean with a vengeance (can that at least count as one correct prediction?). I suffered a season worse 4-4 break even weekend, and now find myself for the season staring 74% in the eye (41-14-1, and don't even get me started on what the first 2/3 of that record looks like). I put a great deal of thought towards turning this weekend's honors over to a four legged animal of some kind. However, due to the steep pet deposit at the residence I rent, I elected to reduce our collective losses to just those of you true Buckeyes bold enough to risk your hard earned duckets on my uneducated guesses. Without further adieu, your weekend:
#11 LSU at Ole Miss (-3) - 3:30 p.m. - ESPN
While the prospects of a both unranked and simultaneously one of the most disappointing teams in FBS ball this year being 3 point favorites over the #11 team in the country would raise flags for many, I'm honestly feeling lucky Mississippi's giving up just 3. After the systematic destruction of a Tennessee Volunteers team that played both Florida and Alabama tough a week back, Ole Miss seems to finally be clicking in the way many thought they'd be potentially all season long. Should Jevon Snead get in gear even the tiniest of bit, with Dexter McCluster running early and often, LSU's 107th ranked offense won't be able to keep pace as Ole Miss forces the Bayou Bengals to start thinking Cotton Bowl 24-13.
California at #13 Stanford (-6.5) - 7:30 p.m. - Versus (-18 million potential viewers)
"The Big Game" kicks off the 112th edition of the nation's tenth longest running rivalry as the Golden Bears travel to Palo Alto to take on the sudden "it" team in the Pac-10. This also actively marks the first time I've recommended a Versus aired game all season, in lieu of their pissing contest with DirecTV limiting some of our viewers from access (ahem, yours truly). The prospects of the afternoon's second best rivalry game are such that I'm mulling considering moving a Slingbox to a friend or colleague with cable's just to not miss out. The completely worth of Heisman consideration tailback Toby Gerhart looks for his 3rd 200 yard rushing game of the season, while Cal will be forced to make due without their stud back Jahvid Best (still recovering from that brutal end zone dive). While Jeff Tedford almost always manages to find a strategy to keep conference rivals on the heels, the absence of Best will prove too much against the red hot Cardinal as Stanford cruises to a 41-30 victory.
#9 Oregon at Arizona (+5) - 8:00 p.m. - ABC (Regional)
The Pac 10's two teams that control their own Rose Bowl destinies (and subsequently potential Ohio State Rose Bowling partners) Oregon and Stanford clash in a critical conference matchup. It's no surprise a second Pac 10 game gets the nod with the overall quality the conference has shown just about top to bottom all season, but this one has true "game of the weekend that isn't The Game" potential. While you'd probably be inclined to give Oregon a pretty reasonable offensive advantage in breaking the game down, it's actually the Wildcats who have the nation's 24th best total offense, where as the Ducks bring in just the 32nd. Chip Kelly also seems hell bent on keeping us guessing as to whether or not we'll see the re-instated LeGarrette Blount anytime soon. Despite the home field advantage, look for the Ducks to keep their eyes on Pasadena in a 34-26 road victory over the 'Cats.
Big Ten Games
#15 Penn State at Michigan State (+3) - 3:30 p.m. - ESPN/ABC (Regional)
Joe Pa's Nittany Lions look to try and play their way into a possible Capital One Bowl berth as they travel north to East Lansing to take on Coach D's Spartans. While Sparty made themselves officially bowl eligible after beating Purdue (and killing the Boilermakers' bowl hopes), they want to leave no doubt by ending an already disappointing season for the Nittany Lions with a third loss. Daryl Clarke's final Big Ten game as starter is one a number of story lines for a game that could also be all-universe Sparty linebacker Greg Jones' final regular season contest. Despite the disrespectful line, expect PSU to win rather definitively, taking this one 34-14.
Purdue at Indiana (+3.5) - 3:30 p.m. - Big Ten Network (Regional)
If Bill Lynch's bunch getting the short end of a cruddy deal time and time again weren't motivating factors enough for you to root for the Hoosiers (I imagine many of you can think of an even more sizable one), the chance to help cement the Wolverines place at the bottom of the Big Ten standings sure is a solid one. Danny Hope's group will miss out on post season play in his first season at the helm, but they too have pride and a potential rival W at stake as the two Indiana schools clash. Assuming you can make it through this one without dying of Ro-tel/Velveeta queso deprivation (you know you've seen the ads), expect to witness the Boilermakers escape Bloomington victorious to the tune of 31-24.
#17 Wisconsin at Northwestern (+6.5) - 3:30 p.m. - Big Ten Network (Regional)
Perhaps a game you'd be prone to sleep on until you realize that these are two pretty quality bowl teams squaring off. Bucky Badger look for both a chance to win their 9th and jostle for the Outback Bowl while Pat Fitzgerald's group could find themselves in San Antonio for the Big Ten's last year affiliated with that game should they pull the upset. John Clay should continue to plow down all in his wake, as he enters this one with a 5.2 yard per carry average and over 1100 yards on the season. Northwestern senior Andrew Brewer is quietly having a fairly stout senior season to boot, averaging 16 yards per reception with 690 yards and 6 TDs (including one passing!) for the year. Despite Wisconsin clearly getting the nod as the prohibitive favorite, expect the Wildcats to surprise many by winning their 8th by the count of 34-31.