Last round. It's been memorable.
CHAMPIONSHIP WEEK--The Skinny
(Last Week: 3-3; Overall: 46-37)
I am not sure what is worse about this time of the year: Christmas music or all the whining coming out of the college football world. We have heard it all before: “we beat them head to head,” “their loss is worse than our loss,”or my personal favorite, “the BCS is so unfair and subjective.” No doubt the BCS system has its flaws, but for the most part, it is fair and very simple. Take care of your business and win games--all of them. With one exception, the BCS system has shown that if you play in a major conference and you win all your games, you will play for the national championship. If you, lose blame yourself, not the BCS!
Advice of the Week: This holiday season, rather than making purchases on your Visa card, buy some Visa (NYSE: V) stock. Visa is a great buy during buy during this recession, so long as you don’t mind holding it until the slump ends. Any company that generates enough cash to need zero debt is a good bet in The Skinny's book. Plus, Visa has brand advantages and high barriers to entry to keep the competition away. Remember that Visa doesn’t actually hold the debt. It simply facilitates the transactions.
Lee Greenwood Special: Navy (-11) vs. Army
Fitting that the last LGS of the season would feature the annual Army-Navy “shootout.” This is a tough game to call. I have been impressed with Navy’s play this season. Army does seem to be playing its best ball of the season in its last three games, though. But Army’s best game is not good enough to beat the Midshipmen. The teams are pretty even defensively, but Navy has the better offensive attack.
The Skinny Says: No sneak attempt for the Cadets. Navy covers, barely.
Buffalo vs. Ball State (-15)
The Bulls and Cardinals face off in the championship game of the MAC Conference. Go ahead, insert your joke here: tallest midget, smartest Oklahoma State grad, etc. College football is typically a game played on Saturday, unless your Ball State. The Cardinals have played games on everyday of the week this year except Sunday and Monday. The good news is this means Skin has seen a lot of the Cardinals this season. They are a really good mid-major team. Nate Davis is one of the better QBs outside of the Big 12 South. The Cardinal defense is no slouch either. Ball State gives up an average of 16 points per game. Buffalo’s defense has been very average against MAC competition, and the Bulls lost last week to a bad Kent State team. Letterman will be happy this weekend despite the fact no one watches his show anymore.
The Skin Says: Ball me, baby!
Cincinnati (-7.5) at Hawaii
I like the Bearcats in this game. I know what you are thinking. What is Skin doing taking the Bearcats in a trap game? Cincy has to go across the world without Mickens to play Hawaii at 2 a.m. It does not matter. The Bearcats' edge in talent will overcome the obstacles to beat Hawaii fairly easily.
The key matchup will be Hawaii’s run and gun offense versus the Bearcats' stingy D. I give the edge to Cincy. I saw the Bearcats defend the Sooners offense as well as anyone this year, including Texas and TCU.
Skinny Says: Cincy.
Alabama vs. Florida (-10)
Going into this game, you would think Florida was the undefeated team and Alabama had lost to Ole Miss at home. No one seems to be giving Alabama a chance, because they don’t win with style points. The Tide does play great defense and runs the ball down opponents' throats, though. Not flashy, but it has proven to be successful recipe for Ws.
Florida is extremely talented on offense and defense, but so is Alabama. The status of Percy Harvin’s ankle will play a big factor in this game. Harvin is the Gator’s leading receiver and second-leading rusher. Florida’s other skill players are still talented, but they're not as dynamic.
I think 'Bama has a decisive edge in coaching. I hate to admit it, but very few coaches are going to get one over on Nick Satan.
Skinny Says: I like 'Bama straight up.
East Carolina at Tulsa (-11.5)
I loved Tulsa early in the season, but the Golden Hurricane has peaked. Tulsa lost to Houston by 40 and barely pulled out a victory last week at Marshall. As always, Skin and his Skinformants scour the country to bring you the inside information. A Skinformant close to the TU program told me over Thanksgiving the Golden Hurricane are playing unmotivated football right now. Conversely, this insider claims East Carolina, although not quite as good as TU personnel wise, is a “scrappy” team.
The Skinny Says: Take East Carolina getting the points.
Arizona State at Arizona (-10.5)
I like Arizona in this game because The Skin is forever in Mike Stoops' debt for his role in turning around the OU program. Not to mention there aren’t many other plays on the board this week.
Skin Says: 'Zona.
CHAMPIONSHIP WEEK--Blatant Homerism
(Last Week: 3-3; Overall: 52-31)
Chasing the fabled .400 batting average in 1941, legendary slugger Ted Williams faced what would seem to many to be a difficult decision. With a doubleheader looming on the final day of season, he was offered the opportunity to take a day off, which would ensure he'd finish the year above .400. Playing, on the other hand, meant risking that a poor day at the plate could push his average below the magical mark.
Homerism faced a similar dilemma when looking at this week's half-schedule of games. With the holiday chocotini pretty much wrapped up, there was no reason for me to face off with The Skinny one last time in the regular season and risk ruining a solid year of handicapping.
Teddy Ballgame told the nancies suggesting he sit to stick it. Then, he went out and tore it up, actually pushing his average up to .406. This week, Homerism proves he's "The Splended Splinter" of handicapping.
Alabama (+10) vs. Florida
Let's see: the Crimson Tide is undefeated, ranked number one in the country and has played an equally mediocre schedule when compared to that of Florida. Yet, 'Bama is a 10-point underdog, expected to crumble this week once the Tide take the field against the Tebow-ites. (Oh yeah, UF's star all-purpose bad-ass Percy Harvin is really dinged up, too.) Is there any way that Nick Saban and his crew aren't going to be walking around without massive chips on their shoulders this week?
With the exception of a bad blood game against LSU, 'Bama has been phenomenal in its biggest tests this year. In particular, the Tide finished off Georgia and Clemson seemingly within the first few series of each game. Saban is a brilliant tactician who can figure out a way to flummox Florida's high-powered offense. Offensively, the Tide's offensive line is strong enough to hold off Florida's fearsome pass rush.
This 'Bama team reminds me so much of Saban's 2003 national championship team at LSU. That Tiger team rode a dominant defense and steady offense to the most unflashy title season in recent memory. Even the comparisons across personnel are eerily similar (John Parker Wilson-Matt Mauck, Terrence Cody-Chad Lavalais, etc.). Everyone kept expecting that team to go away late in the year--never happenened.
Homerism Says: I kinda think the Tide will win this game, but I'm pretty confident 'Bama won't lose by double digits.
Arkansas State (+11) at Troy
This game will decide the Sun Belt Conference this year, and it looks surprisingly easy to predict. Maybe a little too easy?
Besides blowing a huge lead to LSU earlier this year, Troy's only real slip-up came in a 31-30 loss at Louisiana-Monroe. Otherwise, the Trojans have blown through conference opponents. Coach Larry Blakeney has had an extra week to prepare for this game, and Homerism is sure his team is rested and refreshed the way only a Thanksgiving break can provide. Arkansas State reached a respectable six wins this season, but the Red Wolves have struggled on the road. They're a miserable 1-5 against the spread away from Jonesboro.
Anyway, hopefully you've figured out why this line looks weird to me. Yes, it's late in the season. Still, the idea that ASU can stay within two touchdowns just seems so unlikely. Why is this number so low, and why hasn't it moved up? Vegas must be pretty confident in ASU, so I'm going to ignore all common sense here.
Homerism Says: Arkansas State.
South Florida at West Virginia (-7)
Yet another game where it seems like the line should be higher. Am I missing something this week?
This pick is all about Pat White. He should go down as the best player in Mountaineer football history, and he'll be playing his final game in Morgantown. His team has had a disappointing senior season, including last week's Backyard Brawl loss, so WVU should be looking to put a little cherry on top of his season. USF has really stumbled down the stretch, and last year's primetime win over WVU should come back to bite the Bulls this year.
Homerism Says: White-out in Morgantown.
LGS: Navy at Army (+11)
Navy certainly appears to be the better team in this year's version of this storied rivalry. During the latter half of the season, however, the Black Knights played better ball than their 1-4 record would indicate. Army's D should keep it in the game, with Navy scoring late to get the win, but not the cover.
Homerism Says: Army.
Pittsburgh at UConn (-2.5)
We're late in the year, so the idea of a letdown game seems like a stretch. Last weekend, however, the Panthers squeezed out a win in the Backyard Brawl, giving them two straight over their border rivals. UConn, on the other hand, spent the bye weekend eating leftovers and relaxing. I like where the Huskies' heads should be for this one. In the seniors' last home game, UConn's blue-collar defense should be amped up enough to keep LeSean McCoy somewhat in check.
Homerism Says: Huskies pull out a tight, low-scoring affair by 4.
Washington at California (-36)
I hate backing favorites that are this high late in the year, because they usually have no motivation to cover. In this one, however, the underdog probably has even less motivation to take the field. Besides being bad in terms of wins and losses, the Huskies have been horrible against the number, losing nine straight. Make it 10.
Homerism Says: Cal, 42-3.