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By UltimateCapper.com Contributing Writer, Mike Ivcic
The list of teams with a chance at a national title continues to dwindle as the season rolls along. Say goodbye to Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, Ohio State, South Florida, Kansas, and Notre Dame as teams having any shot whatsoever at playing for a national title. In reality, the list only includes about ten teams with a realistic chance at playing in Pasadena for the big crystal ball – the seven undefeated teams below, along with Miami FL, Southern Cal, Oregon, LSU, and maybe – under the right circumstances – Georgia Tech and Penn State. That’s about it. So for all those people out there campaigning against the idea of a playoff system by saying, “The season is a playoff,” this is what you get. Over 100 teams with no shot at playing for a championship halfway through the season. Remind me again how this is a good thing?
Anyway, here again is the list of the remaining undefeated teams, as well as their conference affiliation:
Alabama – SEC
Boise State – WAC
Cincinnati – Big East
Florida – SEC
Iowa – Big Ten
Texas – Big 12
TCU – Mountain West
And with that, on to the picks:
1. #12 Georgia Tech @ Virginia
Saturday, 12:00 p.m. (ESPN Game Plan)
Once again, the annual “Save Al Groh’s Job” campaign has kicked off in Charlottesville – the WaHoos were 0-3, including a loss to DI-AA (or the politically correct FCS) William & Mary to open the season, but have since gone 3-0 and are, to the surprise of many, the only remaining team unbeaten in ACC play. With games still coming against Miami and Virginia Tech, no one really expects Virginia to win the ACC Coastal, but the importance here is for Georgia Tech. They have the win over VT, so running the table coupled with a Hurricanes loss would put the Yellow Jackets into the ACC title game at 11-1. It might not be national championship worthy, but a BCS bid is certainly in play for GT with a win here.
Line: Georgia Tech by 5.5
Pick: Georgia Tech 31, Virginia 17
2. Tennessee @ #2 Alabama
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. (CBS)
Another difficult game for the Crimson Tide, but they get the Vols in Tuscaloosa, so it lessens the degree of difficulty slightly. Expect Lane Kiffin’s crew to be up and ready for this game, though – they expected to take down (at least) one quality opponent this season, but came up short against Florida at home. Now they get a chance to ruin the SEC’s dreams of two unbeatens meeting in Atlanta for the SEC championship, but expect Alabama’s defense to be up to the task. Saban’s crew hasn’t been winning pretty, but when you play in the SEC, it doesn’t really matter how you win – if you win 13 games and don’t lose any, you’ll always play for a national title… well, unless you’re Jason Campbell, Cadillac Williams, Ronny Brown, Tommy Tuberville, and the 2003 Auburn Tigers. Then… well, let’s just say it proves my earlier point that the season is not a playoff.
Line: Alabama by 14.5
Pick: Alabama 28, Tennessee 10
3. #13 Penn State @ Michigan
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)
The last time Penn State came into the Big House they lost an ugly 14-9 game, and the time before that they lost on a last-second TD from Chad Henne to Mario Manningham in the infamous “extra 2-seconds” game. This year, the Lions won’t have any excuses. Both of these teams are fighting an uphill battle – Penn State trying to win the Big Ten by running the table and hoping Iowa loses twice, Michigan trying to make a statement that they belong back in the discussion of one of the top teams in the conference. This game will almost surely come down to how well Tate Forcier plays and how well Penn State responds to him. If he’s healthy and can get the Wolverines ahead early, it’ll put too much pressure on an anemic PSU offense. If Penn State can get a lead and make Forcier have to rally the troops, they can rely on their stifling “D” and escape Ann Arbor with a win for the first time since the discovery of aviation – which I believe coincided with JoePa’s first year at State College.
Line: Penn State by 4.5
Pick: Michigan 24, Penn State 16
4. Auburn @ #9 LSU
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
A little luster was lost from this game after Florida beat LSU and Auburn was upset by Arkansas, but this game still means a good deal, especially to Tigers fans… which would be both schools. The Louisiana portion of the Tiger-faithful still hold out hope of playing for a national title, and beating Alabama to win the West and Florida in the championship game would almost certainly get them there. Auburn can still win the West too, though the chances of them managing to beat LSU, Alabama, and Florida all in a 7 week stretch might be too much to ask. If this game was in Auburn, I might consider taking the blue-and-orange Tigers, but instead this looks more like another step towards the much-anticipated showdown between once-beaten LSU and unbeaten Alabama.
Line: LSU by 7.5
Pick: LSU 20, Auburn 7
5. #8 TCU @ #16 BYU
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. (Versus)
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this entire matchup is the fact that this game will be televised by Versus, meaning the only people who will even know what channel to turn to will be fans of ultimate fighter, hockey, and professional bull riding. That said, this is easily the game of the week – the Cougars were the early-season favorites to go BCS busting after taking down Oklahoma, but their subsequent smack-down at the hands of mediocre Florida State has them out of that hunt. They can still win the Mountain West, however, and to do so they’ll have to beat the conference’s newest flavor-of-the-month, TCU. Experts of the BCS say that if TCU can run the table, which would include winning here and against Utah down the line, they can leapfrog Boise State for the automatic bid into the BCS for the highest-ranked conference champ from a non-BCS school that finishes in the top 12. It’s a sick, twisted, messed-up system that should be changed, but until then, everyone in the Mountain West will be rooting for TCU, and everyone in the WAC will be rooting for BYU. Don’t you just love college football?
Line: TCU by 2.5
Pick: BYU 38, TCU 35
Straight Up: 4-1
Versus Line: 2-2-1
Straight Up: 24-11
Versus Line: 18-16-1
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