And then there were three.
The BCS National Championship is all down to three teams, just as the Heisman Trophy race has been narrowed down to three players. Manti Te’o is still in the hunt for both pieces of hardware, but he’ll have to take down the SEC Champion for one and surpass a stud SEC quarterback for the other.
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Alabama (-175) – ‘Bama is two wins away from its second straight title, third in the last four years, and the SEC’s seventh consecutive BCS triumph. Moreover, the Tide are or would be favored by at least a touchdown in both games (they are 7.5-point favorites over Georgia on Saturday in Atlanta). Keep in mind, though, that in Alabama’s last two dates with legitimate opponents (Western Carolina and Auburn not included), it has a nail-biting win over LSU and a home loss to Texas A&M.
Notre Dame (+250) – The Irish won’t be favored in Miami; they are expected to be seven-point underdogs against Alabama and three-point ‘dogs vs. Georgia. But ND does have one thing going for it, and it’s not exactly a minor detail: it is in the game. The Golden Domers can sit back and relax on Saturday while watching ‘Bama and UGA slug it out inside the Georgia Dome.
Georgia (+450) – Things have worked out pretty well for the Dawgs since their lone loss in early October. It’s not often that a team can get blown out 35-7 by a conference rival and still control its own destiny for the national title. Of course, things could always be a bit better, right? To win it all, Georgia has to upset the most talented team in the nation just to go to the ‘ship and then it must hand the No. 1 team in the nation its first loss of the season. Furthermore, how’s this for pressure? If UGA loses on Saturday, it likely won’t go to any BCS bowl game.
Johnny Manziel (-450) – “Johnny Football’s” Heisman resume is complete, and the last impression was another impressive one. Despite suffering a knee injury midway through the game, he accounted for five total touchdowns — several of which came in typically jaw-dropping fashion — in a 59-29 blowout of Missouri. Manziel has 3,419 passing yards, 24 touchdowns, and eight interceptions, plus 1,181 rushing yards and 19 more scores.
Manti Te’o (+250) – If the Heisman was more like an MVP award, Te’o would have a better chance because he means more than any other player on the undefeated No. 1 team. But the Heisman goes to the best player, not the most valuable. Still, Te’o has a chance after wrapping up his regular-season campaign in style. He snagged his seventh interception and Notre Dame’s defense delivered a memorable goal-line stand to clinch a victory at USC and book its spot in the BCS National Championship.
Collin Klein (+450) – Klein went from Heisman afterthought to near-lock winner and back again to huge underdog. The good news for Kansas State’s signal-caller is that he has one more chance to take the roller-coaster ride up the slope one more time. Klein (14 touchdowns, six INTs, 20 rushing touchdowns) will go up against 18th-ranked Texas on Sunday, but even an other-worldly performance may not be enough to overcome the disaster against Baylor.
New England Patriots (+170) – New England has surged to the top of the AFC odds thanks to a flurry of blowouts and a scoring average of 47.5 points in its last four games. But Week 12 could have been even better for the Pats. They are still on the outside looking in for a first-round bye because both Houston and Baltimore prevailed in overtime, both in borderline miracle fashion.
Houston Texans (+200) – Houston is like a rich man’s Atlanta (the other 10-1 team in the NFL). It simply finds ways to win games even when nowhere near its best. The Texans have won two in a row in overtime, first vs. Jacksonville and then at Detroit on Thanksgiving. They are closing in on a first-round bye and will be considerable favorites in four of their last five (other than at New England in Week 14).
Denver Broncos (+250) – The Broncos have won six straight and — based on the upcoming schedule — should end the season having won at least 10 of 11. Their magic number to clinch the AFC West is 1, and we haven’t even started Week 13 yet! It looks like the road to New Orleans may go through Denver….
Baltimore Ravens (+500) – In what would be an even more surprising development, Baltimore could also clinch its division title in Week 13. That’s almost unheard of in the AFC North, but the Steelers are going south almost as fast as the Ravens are flying north. Ray Rice picking up a game-saving fourth-and-29 (with a little help from the refs) basically redefines that “impossible is nothing” saying.
NBA Central Division
Chicago Bulls (-150) – What happens when Derrick Rose is out? You get one of the most competitive divisions in the league, both in the standings and according to the odds. At 6-7, Chicago is 1.5 games behind first-place Milwaukee.
Indiana Pacers (+175) – The Pacers are the No. 1 rebounding team in the NBA, but they cannot score (29th in the league) without Danny Granger, who could miss three more months. Indiana is 6-8 and starting a tough four-game road trip at the Lakers on Tuesday (L.A. is a -7.5 favorite). It’s ugly and may get uglier….
Milwaukee Bucks (+300) – Monday’s Bucks-Bulls showdown was overshadowed by Brooklyn vs. New York, but it won’t soon be forgotten in Chicago. Visiting Milwaukee stormed back from a 27-point third-quarter deficit to pull off a shocking victory and stay atop the division.
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