Ugly sweater (ahem, not vest mind you) season is in full effect, and with it comes the last (tear) quasi-traditional week of sport's best regular season. While many of the games in particular we look at are as prefabricated and contrived as the material used to sew that only-wear-once conversation piece you'll be rocking as Egg Nog becomes seasonal, who the hell cares? Extra college football including 5 games involving multiple ranked teams playing each other? Please and thank you.
Two months back, reader Wil recommended we reawaken the tradition from Weekend Update's predecessor that was listing the games we featured's spreads as well as throwing up some random guestimates at how those puppies would actually play themselves out. Incomprehensibly to all, the results have been frighteningly not awful. Following last week's results, your honorary 11W gambling enabler is now 52-17-1 (~75%) for an abbreviated 2009 slate. After the first 8-0 week against the spread of the entire season, all that's left to wrap up this season is a perfectly symmetrical 0-8. Feast your eyes on championship weekend:
Thursday - #14 Oregon State at #7 Oregon (-10.5) - 9:00 p.m. (ESPN)
The game imploring Buckeyes everywhere to call in sick Friday morning takes Oregon and Oregon State's traditional end of season "Civil War", and turns it into the opposite side of the Ohio State-Iowa Rose Bowl play-in bracket. In turning Oregon from laugh riot to laudable, Chip Kelly's turned the Ducks into quite the late season buzz team, leaving many tOSU faithful keeping their fingers crossed for a Ducks v. Bucks New Year's Day treat. The Beavers are no slouches in their own right, though certainly considerably more under the radar so to speak. Despite an impressive showing against the BCS' most consistent (and arguably best) conference this season, the Beavers are still virtual unknowns in many Buckeye fans' minds. The brothers Rodgers and venerable head coach Mike Riley lead a team into Eugene that despite being unranked, have finished each of the last 4 regular seasons in both Top 25s. While Oregon State will reward those bold enough to stake their children's college funds on their covering, expect the Ducks to emerge Rose Bowl parade bown, 34-29.
Friday - MAC Championship Game: Ohio vs. Central Michigan (-10.5) - 8:00 p.m. (ESPN2)
Our loyal readership of OU students and alum can finally feel the love; Frank Solich's Bobcats' trip to Ford Field garners our modest viewing recommendation and gets them their first play on this site since the 2008 too close for comfort contest. Standing between them and, well, a return trip to the very same venue for the Motor City Bowl as MAC Champions are Butch jones' 10-2 Chips. LeFevour is no stranger to these parts, as the senior gun slinger's accrued 2788 yards, 25 TDs to just 5 picks and a 71% completion percentage to boot to go along with 650 yards and 14 more TDs on the ground in the closing sonnet of a brilliant MAC career. The future pro-bound Tebow of the state that shall not be named should find a worthy adversary in Ohio's big play defense. The 'Cats forced 35 turnovers this season and enter the MAC Championship Game with a +14 turnover ratio. Despite a tremendous season from CMU, the Bobcats find a way to bring a title back to Athens, taking the MAC 35-31.
#5 Cincinnati at #13 Pittsburgh (-1.5) - 12:00 p.m. (ABC)
Depending upon who you ask, this is either UC head man Brian Kelly's last, or far from last game as the head coca of the Bearcats. A rather distraction heavy week for Cincinnati lead them to Pittsburgh, where the 2-loss Fightin' Wandstaches wait eagerly. Much like the Thursday night Pac 10 contest, this one is a defacto conference championship and will determine the league's BCS representative. Vegas too clearly has inside information the most of us aren't privy to (or just really love them some well groomed mustaches) as Pitt inexplicably enters this one as one and a half point favorites. While this one has all the makings of the classic makings of an underwhelming Wandstet let down game, Bill Stull's had far too great of a season for the Panthers to let his season end with the kind of performance he put up in Morgantown last weekend. As per usual, Vegas is onto something: Pitt (you read that right) wins this bad boy 35-25.
SEC Championship Game: #1 Florida vs. #2 Alabama (+5) - 4:00 p.m. (CBS)
It takes a real man of inspiration to be able to make fun of two teams in a single statement, but Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin did just that earlier in the week simply stating "Florida has better players, but Alabama has better coaches." Duly noted, sir. While an unwatchable 6-3 win by either team would arguably be the Pareto optimal outcome for this one, any result where by which the Tebow child is uninspired will be a win for selfish Buckeye fans everywhere hoping the keep Archie's stature as two time Heisman trophy hoister as an individual historic occurrence. I went the entirety of the season thinking this game was Alabama's to lose, though given the way the Gators looked the last 2 weekends, I'll be awfully hard pressed to concede they drop this one. That being said I'm going against all instinct and assuming the last 3 Gator opponents were conveniently their 3 worst defensively, and giving Bama this one, 16-10. Steve Addazio, eat your heart out.
ACC Championship Game: #10 Georgia Tech vs. #25 Clemson (EVEN) - 8:00 p.m. (ESPN)
If the above doesn't clear up exactly what Coach Paul Johnson brings to the table, tune in for his awesome off with Clemson young gun Dabo Swinney. Georgia Tech won a zany come from behind affair earlier in the season, and before being completely out physicaled for the entirety of an evening by Georgia last weekend, were the hands down favorites in this one. After Clemson also did us no favors laying an egg to the Gamecocks (even after a C.J. Spiller opening kickoff return for a touchdown), we're looking at just the second pick 'em of the games we've profiled all season (and the second in as many weeks). In situations of uncertainty and relative parity, there's no other choice except to default to the oracle that is Phil Steele. His outcome : 1010110101010101011011000001010101010101. Or in our language: Clemson 31 - GT 24.
Big XII Championship Game: #3 Texas vs. #23 Nebraska (+13) - 8:00 p.m. (ABC)
The most lopsided on paper prompts us to remind you of Big XII Championship Games past: unranked Texas shocked then #3 ranked 2-time defending champion Nebraska 37-27 in the inaugural Big XII Championship Game in 2003. 1998 saw 10th ranked Texas A&M keep upstart #2 Kansas State from their first ever title game berth, winning 36-33 in 2 OT in a truly all-time classic. 2001 brought more high drama as championship bound with a win #3 Texas couldn't overcome 4 Chris Simms turnovers losing to #9 Colorado 39-37, also in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. And who can forget 2003's completely illogical 35-7 dismantling of season long #1 Oklahoma by #15 K-State. So factoring in all the dumb small sample size superstitions again we have no AP #3 ranked teams having ever won a Big 12 Championship Game, the Longhorns 0-1 in DFW Big XII title games, and the Horns just 1-3 in Big XII title games all-time. Easy Nebraska victory? If only Zac Lee and the Huskers weren't rolling into town with the 92nd ranked offense in the FBS. Colt McCoy's final in-state game as Texas' quarterback ends the way so many of his NCAA leading 44 wins do, with another Texas W. Horns take it 24-13.
Big Ten Games:
Fresno State at Illinois (EVEN) - 12:30 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
The Big Ten's still playing games? I'm as shocked as you are, and it can't bode well for Zooksters to be facing A PICK 'EM game against 3rd place in the WAC Fresno State. Pat Hill's 7-4 Bulldogs roll into Champagne with Illinois desperately seeking to end the season 4-8. The Bulldogs did go into Madison and take Wisconsin to OT earlier in the year, plus played Cincinnati tough falling just 28-20 in the nasty 'Nati. In fact, it's difficult not to like the Bulldogs given their only other losses were to Boise State and WAC 2nd place Nevada. Despite every fiber in my being wanting the Big Ten to represent in this one, it's hard not to take the (gulp) better team. Fresno ends the Illini's season rocket launcher style: 34-13.
Wisconsin at Hawaii (+11.5) - 11:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
The Badgers get a jump start on bowling, playing a 13th game (and all intents and purposes pre-bowl) against Greg McMacklin's Warriors. In a potentially must win to save his job game for McMacklin, the Rainbows' still potent offensive attack will have to jump out to an early advantage if they want to hang with the superior athleticism the Badgers bring to the table. With superstud sophomore running back John Clay already announcing he'll be back next season, the Badgers go into this one with few questions other than what will the final margin of victory be. Hawaii goes down (though no word whether or not Wisconsin does any kind of pre-game dance) as the Badgers crush all in sight, 45-21.