— The Cornhuskers were truly fortunate to escape Ames last Saturday with a 31-30 overtime victory. Iowa State provided a solid wake-up call to any Nebraska player or fan who thought that next week’s trip to Texas A&M was their only hurdle in November.
On the other hand, Kansas (3-6, 1-4 in Big 12) was fortunate to catch Colorado last week with Dan Hawkins still at the helm. Several of his fourth-quarter decisions, which led to five Jayhawk touchdowns and his firing on Tuesday, were truly inexplicable.
No matter which quarterback plays for Nebraska (8-1, 4-1), the Kansas defense, which ranks last in the league and 107th nationally, allowing 34.4 points per game, is in for a long evening.
Opening point spread: Nebraska by 34.5
Pick: Nebraska 49-9
This year’s Battle of the Brazos could end up being the Battle for the Texas Bowl, with the winner headed for Reliant Stadium and the loser being shipped out to the “House that George Built” for the Pinstripe Bowl.
Baylor (7-3, 4-2 in Big 12), one of nation’s most surprising teams, fell flat on its face last week in Stillwater, losing to Oklahoma State with the top spot in the Big 12 South on the line.
Texas A&M (6-3, 3-2), on the other hand, rose to the occasion and beat Oklahoma for the first time since 2002.
Last season the Aggies whipped the Bears, 38-3. But that was one of the nine games that Baylor played without star quarterback Robert Griffin, after he injured his knee early in what is now considered his redshirt season.
A year after that dud, Griffin will out-duel A&M’s Ryan Tannehill in a thriller.
Opening point spread: Texas A&M by 3
Pick: Baylor 37-34
By their standards, the Gators have had a dreadful season. But they’re still just 60 minutes of football away from earning a trip to Atlanta for another SEC championship game.
All that’s required is a victory over the Gamecocks, which is something that Florida (6-3, 4-3 in SEC) has accomplished in all but one of the previous 19 series meetings.
South Carolina (6-3, 4-3) laid down last Saturday against Arkansas as if that game didn’t matter. In essence it didn’t, since the path to the school’s first SEC title game goes through Gainesville. But the fact that the Gamecocks didn’t seem to buy in mentally or physically is alarming.
With that as a lead-in, we can’t go against the Gators, who appear to have gotten their offense in gear, scoring a total of 89 points in their recent victories over Georgia and Vanderbilt.
Opening point spread: Florida by 4.5
Pick: Florida 27-24
The Bulldogs bring a six-game winning streak to Tuscaloosa, which represents far more momentum than the Crimson Tide have.
Alabama (7-2, 4-2 in SEC) is coming off a poor second half in last Saturday’s 24-21 loss at LSU. Nick Saban’s defense uncharacteristically allowed the Tigers to gain 338 total yards in the final 30 minutes. The defending BCS champs had won their previous 28 games after leading at halftime.
We’re not sure that Mississippi State (7-2, 3-2) will be able to take full advantage of Alabama’s struggles in the trenches on both sides of the football, but one can be absolutely certain that the Bulldogs will play with a ton of fight in their first game since teammate Nick Bell lost his short battle with cancer on Nov. 2.
Opening point spread: Alabama by 13
Pick: Alabama 26-19
Until last week, the Golden Bears had won all their home games and lost everything on the road.
Since last week’s 20-13 “victory” at Washington State broke the pattern, California (5-4, 3-3 in Pac-10) is now free to get walloped by Oregon (9-0, 6-0) in “Berserkely.”
Opening point spread: Oregon by 20.5
Pick: Oregon 49-16
Cardinal fans are watching the out-of-town scoreboard and BCS standings intently, dreaming of a scenario (which looks rather likely) that would send Stanford (8-1, 5-1 in Pac-10) to the Rose Bowl for the first time since Ty Willingham (remember him?) led the way to Pasadena in 1999.
Meanwhile, Sun Devils fans are still scratching their heads, trying to figure out why Dennis Erickson didn’t go for two points after Arizona State (4-5, 2-4) scored a touchdown last Saturday at USC to go up 33-29 with 6:59 remaining. ASU’s illogical PAT attempt was blocked by the Trojans and returned for a deuce in what ended up being a 34-33 loss.
After absorbing this loss, the Sun Devils will be happy to know that they won’t have to face the Cardinal again until 2013 in the reconfigured Pac-12.
Opening point spread: Stanford by 7
Pick: Stanford 34-21
Talk about opposites.
Oklahoma State (8-1, 4-1 in Big 12) has won all of its games except for a 51-41 loss at home to Nebraska.
Since opening the season with three consecutive victories, Texas (4-5, 2-4) has lost every game expect for a 20-13 victory at Nebraska.
In yet another Big 12 oddity, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Baylor are all rooting for the Longhorns in mid-November. But we don’t see them bringing the high-ridin’ Cowboys back to the pack.
Opening point spread: Oklahoma State by 7
Pick: Oklahoma State 31-27
Even before beating the Trojans at the Coliseum last season, the Wildcats stayed within a touchdown (and well within Vegas’ expectations) in the previous two series meetings.
Apparently, Mike Stoops knows something about USC (6-3, 3-3 in Pac-10) that a lot of other folks don’t.
If Arizona (7-2, 4-2) can shake off the affects of last week’s disappointing 42-17 loss at Stanford and get quarterbacks Nick Foles and Matt Scott healed up, the Wildcats will make it two in a row against the Trojans, who are still seeking defensive stability.
Opening point spread: Arizona by 5.5
Pick: Arizona 32-31
In last year’s 40-24 loss to the Tigers, Seminoles quarterback Christian Ponder sustained a shoulder injury that wiped out the rest of his junior season.
Even if that weren’t the case and he wasn’t currently nursing a sore elbow on his throwing arm, Ponder would still have one eye on Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers (12.5 sacks this season) at all times.
Florida State (6-3, 4-2) got stung by yet another “wide right” last week at home versus North Carolina, but the ‘Noles should be able to put that behind them and concentrate on solving Clemson (5-4, 3-3), which has taken five of the last seven in the series.
Although quarterback Kyle Parker has played well, we still don’t have much confidence in the Tigers offense (89th in total offense), especially when facing off against a Seminole defense that leads the nation in sacks.
Opening point spread: Florida State by 7.5
Pick: Florida State 26-24