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After a fairly disappointing 14-6 record last week, I'm hoping to rebound with an equally compelling slate of games. I'm not 45-15 overall, which is just OK for picking straight up and not against the line. For a second straight week, the No. 8 team in the nation is visiting the No. 7-ranked squad. No matchup is more highly anticipated than Nebraska at Wisconsin this week as well all anxiously await to see how the Huskers really matchup in the Big Ten.
This weekend is one of the busiest of the year for sports, though. There is obviously plenty of college football to watch with Nebraska-Wisconsin coming on TV at the same time as Alabama-Florida. But there's the MLB playoffs to go with it. In other words, do some some thumb exercises to prepare for plenty of channel surfing all day Saturday.
Oh, and as for my MLB playoffs predictions: ALDS -- Rangers over Rays, Tigers over Yankees; NLDS -- Phillies over Cardinals, Brewers over Diamondbacks; ALCS -- Rangers over Tigers; NLCS -- Brewers over Phillies; World Series -- Rangers over Brewers (Just a slight homer pick).
1. No. 8 Nebraska (4-0) at No. 7 Wisconsin (4-0)
Time/TV: 8 p.m., ABC
Last game: Nebraska 38, Wyoming 14; Wisconsin 49, South Dakota 10.
Last meeting/series: Wisconsin 21, Nebraska 20 (1974); Nebraska leads all-time series 3-2.
Analysis: This is the first marquee matchup of the new-look Big Ten. Everyone is going in expecting an old-school battle, featuring strong running games. Last season, that might have been the case. This year, Russell Wilson has made Wisconsin a more diverse team and the Badgers are frankly scary and a legit BCS Championship contender, although they aren't really getting that type of love on a national level yet. This is also Nebraska's first test of the season. The Huskers haven't played a great opponent this season, but now open with back-to-back games against Wisconsin and Ohio State. The same question surrounding Nebraska last season persists in 2011. Can Taylor Martinez become a capable enough passer? The answer so far is no. But Martinez and Rex Burkhead make for a nasty combination in the ground game. However, a new question has formed around the Huskers. Where is the always high touted Black Shirts defense? The Huskers aren't playing dominating defense. They will be getting All-American-caliber DT Jared Crick back, but is he enough to turn everything around? The answer is no and Wisconsin will take a major step in its quest for a BCS title.
Prediction: Wisconsin 27, Nebraska 17
2. No. 3 Alabama (4-0) at No. 12 Florida (4-0)
Time/TV: 8 p.m, CBS
Last game: Alabama 38, Arkansas 14; Florida 48, Kentucky 10.
Last meeting/series: Alabama 31, Florida 6 (2010); Alabama leads all-time series 23-14.
Analysis: These are the two most dominant programs of the last five years. Florida is finally coming back from the departure of Tim Tebow and has looked impresive in ways. The Gators begin a big two-week test, though, with Alabama this week and LSU next week. For anyone who thought Bama might be tested last week against Arkansas, guess again. While LSU's defense is rightfully getting a lot of love right now, the Tide deserve plenty of props for the way they dominated Arkansas' vaunted passing attack. Florida will be a different challenge with its speed-based running game, but not one Alabama can't handle.
Prediction: Alabama 28, Florida 14
3. No. 13 Clemson (4-0) at No. 11 Virginia Tech (4-0)
Time/TV: 6 p.m., ESPN2
Last game: Clemson 35, Florida State 30; Virginia Tech 30, Marshall 10.
Last meeting/series: Virginia Tech 41, Clemson 23 (2007); Clemson leads all-time series 16-11-1.
Analysis: Is there a team in the country hotter than Clemson? After back-to-back wins against Auburn and Florida State, the Tigers are riding high. Personally, I'll make the argument Auburn was overrated and waiting to be knocked off. Let's not forget Auburn barely survived Utah State in Week 1. Florida State is decimated by injury and not nearly the team it was supposed to be this season. Virginia Tech is certainly Clemson's toughest challenge to date. The Tigers struggle to stop the run, which is bad news up against a nasty Hokies ground game led by David Wilson. Clemson might lead the all-time series, but Virginia Tech has won five straight games against the Tigers, although they have not played each other since 2007.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 24, Clemson 14
4. Auburn (3-1) at No. 10 South Carolina (4-0)
Time/TV: 3:30 p.m., CBS
Last game: Auburn 30, Florida Atlantic 14; South Carolina 21, Vanderbilt 3.
Last meeting/series: Auburn 56, South Carolina 17 (2010); Auburn leads all-time series 8-1-1.
Analysis: South Carolina is not without its issues. The Gamecocks are having to overcome shoddy QB play on a weekly basis, but so far, a dominant defense and great performances by sophomore RB Marcus Lattimore have been enough. Auburn has the type of ground game that can hurt South Carolina as we saw Navy do a couple weeks ago. But Auburn can't stop anyone outside of Florida Atlantic.
Prediction: South Carolina 26, Auburn 17
5. No. 14 Texas A&M (2-1) at No. 18 Arkansas (3-1)
Time/TV: Noon, ESPN
Last game: Oklahoma State 30, Texas A&M 29; Alabama 38, Arkansas 14.
Last meeting/series: Arkansas 24, Texas A&M 17 (2010); Arkansas leads all-time series 40-23-3.
Analysis: Both teams are coming off disappointing performances, but in much different styles. The Aggies saw a 20-3 halftime lead dissipate into a 30-29 loss to Oklahoma State. Arkansas never had a chance in a 38-14 shellacking from Alabama. In seasons past, this meant the beginning of the end for Texas A&M. However, I have some faith in the leadership the Aggies are currently under, and the level-headed Ryan Tannehill, who took much of the blame for Oklahoma State's comeback, should have the Aggies ready to bounce back.
Prediction: Texas A&M 42, Arkansas 32
6. Mississippi State (2-2) at Georgia (2-2)
Time/TV: Noon, ESPN GamePlan
Last game: Mississippi State 26, Louisiana Tech 20; Georgia 27, Ole Miss 13.
Last meeting/series: Mississippi State 24, Georgia 12 (2010); Georgia leads all-time series 16-6.
Analysis: Mississippi State's win against Georgia last season was its first since 1974. Georgia had won nine straight before last year. Both teams are now in desperate need of a win. Another loss here and Mark Richt might not be Georgia's coach next week. Mississippi State, on the other hand, has had its own disappointments -- back-to-back losses to Auburn and LSU followed by a near letdown against Louisiana Tech. But Dan Mullens has a great mind for football, and at this point, he's easier to trust than Richt.
Prediction: Mississippi State 22, Georgia 19
7. Michigan State (3-1) at Ohio State (3-1)
Time/TV: 3:30 p.m., ABC or ESPN
Last game: Michigan State 45, Central Michigan 7; Ohio State 37, Colorado 17.
Last meeting/series: Ohio State 45, Michigan State 7 (2008); Ohio State leads all-time series 27-11.
Analysis: Ohio State has won seven straight against Michigan State and 12 of the last 14. This is Michigan State's best chance to change that trend, though. The Spartans are playing great defense right now and are currently ranked No. 1 in total defense so far this season. But Notre Dame definitely exploited a few things. But to go into The Horseshoe and get a victory? That might be asking too much.
Prediction: Ohio State 17, Michigan State 13
8. No. 15 Baylor (3-0) at Kansas State (3-0)
Time/TV: 3:30 p.m., ABC or ESPN
Last game: Baylor 56, Rice 31; Kansas State 28, Miami, Fla. 24.
Last meeting/series: Baylor 47, Kansas State 42 (2010); Kansas State leads all-time series 6-2.
Analysis: Baylor only has two victories ever against Kansas State, but have accounted for those wins in two of the last three meetings with the Wildcats. Robert Griffin's unbelievable stat line of 13 TDs and 12 incompletions has been getting a lot of publicity the past week. He's No. 1 on my personal Heisman list at this juncture, but Baylor must keep winning for him to remain there and the media has to stop paying so much attention to Andrew Luck. Kansas State is coming off an impressive victory against Miami and is playing the best defense of any team Baylor has faced this season. The Wildcats might finally force Griffin to throw more incompletions than TDs, but I don't think they hand Baylor its first defeat.
Prediction: Baylor 34, Kansas State 20
9. No. 17 Texas (3-0) at Iowa State (3-0)
Time/TV: 7 p.m., FX
Last game: Texas 49, UCLA 20; Iowa State 24, UConn 20.
Last meeting/series: Iowa State 28, Texas 21 (2010); Texas leads all-time series 7-1.
Analysis: Last season's 28-21 victory was Iowa State's first ever against the Longhorns. The Cyclones now have the ability to make it two in a row. Paul Rhoads has earned my respect for being one of the finest coaches in the country. He's done a wonderful job at Iowa State and has that team playing with a lot of confidence. This is not going to be an easy test for Texas and Rhoads will likely have some slick defensive schemes up his sleeve to confuse Texas' young QBs. Likewise, it's a big test for Iowa State QB Steele Jantz, but at least the Cyclones have decided on one QB and aren't going with a platoon at the position.
Prediction: Iowa State 21, Texas 17
10. Washington (3-1) at Utah (2-1)
Time/TV: 7 p.m., Not televised
Last game: Washington 31, Cal 23; Utah 54, BYU 10.
Last meeting/series: Washington 41, Utah 7 (1979); Washington leads all-time series 6-0.
Analysis: This is a separation game early in the Pac-12 season. Utah is still searching for its first Pac-12 victory, while Washington has been surprisingly efficient on offense. This is a great showdown between two of the conference's better RBs with Washington's Chris Polk and Utah's John White III. After seeing White dominate BYU last week, I'm going with the Utes.
Prediction: Utah 38, Washinton 34
11. SMU (3-1) at No. 20 TCU (3-1)
Time/TV: 3:30 p.m., Not televised
Last game: SMU 42, Memphis 0; TCU 55, Portland State 13.
Last meeting/series: TCU 41, SMU 24 (2010); TCU leads all-time series 44-38-7.
Analysis: TCU has won 10 of the last 11 games with rival SMU, including the last four. SMU's last win came in 2005, 21-10. The Frogs obviously aren't what they were a year ago, but the offense is coming along fine. They do have some key injuries on defense, namely LB Tanner Brock, that could allow SMU coach June Jones an opportunity to exploit with his highly touted passing attack. While I expect the Mustangs to give TCU some problems, I still expect the Frogs to leave with the Iron Skillet in hand.
Prediction: TCU 41, SMU 34
12. North Carolina (3-1) at East Carolina (1-2)
Time/TV: 8 p.m., Not televised
Last game: Georgia Tech 35, North Carolina 28; ECU 28, UAB 23.
Last meeting/series: North Carolina 42, ECU 17 (2010); North Carolina leads all-time series 10-2-1.
Analysis: The series dates back to 1972 and the Tarheels have only lost to ECU twice since then. The Pirates last win against UNC came in 2007, 34-31. ECU always seems to have one upset a season against an opponent from a major conference. The Pirates missed their chance against South Carolina and Virginia Tech. North Carolina is their final hope for one.
Prediction: ECU 25, North Carolina 20
13. UCLA (2-2) at No. 6 Stanford (3-0)
Time/TV: 10:30 p.m., Not televised
Last game: UCLA 27, Oregon State 19; Stanford 37, Arizona 10.
Last meeting/series: Stanford 35, UCLA 0 (2010); UCLA leads all-time series 45-32-3.
Analysis: At least UCLA established its not the worst team in the Pac-12 with a narrow win against pitiful Oregon State last week. Andrew Luck is great. Stanford's No. 1 run defense might be better. The Cardinal roll here.
Prediction: Stanford 48, UCLA 10
14. Toledo (1-3) at Temple (3-1)
Time/TV: Noon, ESPN GamePlan
Last game: Syracuse 33, Toledo 30; Temple 38, Maryland 7.
Last meeting/series: Temple 40, Toledo 24 (2009); Toledo leads all-time series 5-3.
Analysis: This is a very important MAC matchup featuring two of the more impressive non-AQ schools in recent weeks. Toledo had near wins against Ohio State and Syracuse. Temple came very close to knocking off Penn State and then throttled Maryland. The Owls made a very good QB in Maryland's Danny O'Brien look very mediocre. Temple ended a four-game losing streak to Toledo in 2009 with a 40-24 victory. Let's make it two straight.
Prediction: Temple 40, Toledo 21
15. Air Force (2-1) at Navy (2-1)
Time/TV: Noon, CBS
Last game: Air Force 63, Tennessee State 24; South Carolina 24, Navy 21.
Last meeting/series: Air Force 14, Navy 6 (2010); Air Force leads all-time series 26-17.
Analysis: Air Force snapped a seven-game losing streak against Navy with a 14-6 victory last season. Anytime two of the armed services academies get together, it's fun to watch. I personally always have a great appreciation for these rivalries and the old-school style of football they play. One would be hard-pressed to find two better coached teams in the country. Navy's near-upset of South Carolina really sticks out right now.
Prediction: Navy 28, Air Force 26
16. Rutgers (2-1) at Syracuse (3-1)
Time/TV: Noon, ESPN GamePlan
Last game: Rutgers 38, Ohio 26; Syracuse 33, Toledo 30.
Last meeting/series: Syracuse 13, Rutgers 10 (2010); Syracuse leads the all-time series 27-10-1.
Analysis: Syracuse might be starting its farewell tour through the Big East. The Orange got a real scare from Toledo last week, while Rutgers got the same from Ohio. Rutgers is playing better defense and also has this game's biggest playmaker in WR Mohamed Sanu.
Prediction: Rutgers 38, Syracuse 33
17. Texas Tech (3-0) at Kansas (2-1)
Time/TV: Noon, Not televised
Last game: Texas Tech 35, Nevada 34; Georgia Tech 66, Kansas 24.
Last meeting/series: Texas Tech 42, Kansas 21 (2009); Texas Tech leads all-time series 11-1.
Analysis: Texas Tech had quite the letdown against Nevada and narrowly avoided an upset. The Red Raiders have found a strong QB in junior Seth Doege,though, who brought them back from the clutches of defeat. Kansas surrendered 768 yards of offense to Georgia Tech, including 604 on the ground. Tech could throw for that total this week.
Prediction: Texas Tech 52, Kansas 30
18. Nevada (1-2) at No. 4 Boise State (3-0)
Time/TV: 2:30 p.m., Versus
Last game: Texas Tech 35, Nevada 34; Boise State 41, Tulsa 21.
Last meeting/series: Nevada 34, Boise State 31 (2010); Boise State leads all-time series 10-4.
Analysis: Nevada spoiled Boise State's bid at the BCS with a 34-31 victory last season, ending the Broncos 11-game win streak in the series in the process. It was one of the bigger upsets of 2010. Boise State is going to have revenge on its mind and with Nevada playing without Colin Kaepernick, it could be a long day for the Pack.
Prediction: Boise State 48, Nevada 13
19. Kentucky (2-2) at No. 1 LSU (4-0)
Time/TV: 12:21, ESPN, GamePlan
Last game: Florida 48, Kentucky 10; LSU 47, West Virginia 21.
Last meeting/series: Kentucky 43, LSU 37 (2007); LSU leads all-time series 38-16-1.
Analysis: Florida was overly dominant defensively against Kentucky. LSU should be even more so. There's a long road facing the Wildcats from here on out.
Prediction: LSU 47, Kentucky 6
20. Notre Dame (2-2) at Purdue (2-1)
Time/TV: 8 p.m., ESPN
Last game: Notre Dame 15, Pitt 12; Purdue 59, SE Missouri State 0.
Last meeting/series: Notre Dame 23, Purdue 12 (2010); Notre Dame leads all-time series 52-25-2.
Analysis: It's fair to say Purdue is down. Notre Dame was fortunate to win against Pitt and is still turning the ball over at an alarming rate. But Purdue is no Pitt. The Boilermakers aren't much of anything actually and the Irish should keep the Shillelagh Trophy.
Prediction: Notre Dame 32, Purdue 13