Your new No.1 team in the human polls and National Championship favorite is Oregon (+120 on Sportsbook.ag) in the wake of Alabama’s stunning home loss on Saturday to “Johnny Football” and Texas A&M – a loss that could leave the SEC out of the national title game altogether.
The Ducks are still behind Kansas State in the BCS standings but it’s only a matter of time before Oregon overtakes KSU there. Oregon got a bit of an early scare at Cal before then blowing the doors off, 59-17, in setting an NCAA record with its 13th straight game with at least 40 points. Redshirt freshman QB Marcus Mariota is a joke: He threw four touchdowns in a less than 10-minute span vs. Cal and is now 47-of-57 for 681 yards, 10 touchdowns and no interceptions in his past two games. Mariota leads the country in rating, and his 71.7 completion percentage would set an NCAA freshman record.
Oregon likely will be challenged this week at home vs. Stanford – a game I will preview here at Doc’s – as well as in the regular-season finale in the Civil War at Oregon State. Presuming the Ducks take care of business, they will face the winner of Saturday’s USC-UCLA game in the Pac-12 Championship Game in Eugene.
The Bruins (8-2, 5-2) have a better 10-game record than USC (7-3, 5-3) for the first time in 11 years. UCLA is No. 17 in the BCS standings, one spot ahead of USC, and No. 17 in the AP Poll, four positions in front of the Trojans. It will thus be the first time also in 11 years since the teams will meet with UCLA ranked higher than USC. UCLA has reached eight wins for the first time since 2005 and only the third time since 1998, which is the last time it went to the Rose Bowl. Last year the Trojans trashed UCLA 50-0, but the Bruins went to the conference title game regardless because USC was ineligible. The Trojans have won five straight and 12 of 13 in the series, but you get the sense that it’s possible the Bruins could steal back the city with a victory because scholarship restrictions will start to hammer USC.
Alabama (+600) still has a realistic shot of defending its national title as the Tide are fourth in the BCS standings. I don’t see Oregon losing, but Kansas State could lose this week as an 11.5-point favorite at Baylor or more realistically to close the season at home vs. Texas. I totally expect BCS No. 3 Notre Dame to lose its regular-season finale at Southern Cal. So the Bama-Georgia SEC Championship Game winner could definitely find itself playing for it all opposite Oregon.
Certain Openings At Tennessee, Auburn
Bovada had a prop entering the weekend on whether Derek Dooley would be the coach at Tennessee next season (“yes” +300, “no” -500) and whether Gene Chizik would last at Auburn (yes -200, no +150). Well, you can now expect both to be looking for work here in a few weeks. Dooley certainly had to at least finish with a winning record this season and get to a bowl, but the Vols fell to 4-6 overall and 0-6 in the SEC with a 51-48 home overtime loss to Missouri. The Tigers had 64 total yards at halftime yet still finished with 51 points. Tennessee became the first team in SEC history to allow 38 or more points in six consecutive games.
Auburn (2-8, 0-7) wasn’t even in the same class with Georgia in the Tigers’ 38-0 loss to the Dawgs on Saturday. Georgia scored touchdowns on each of its first four possessions, and Mark Richt could have really piled on if he had wanted but the coach pulled QB Aaron Murray by the end of the third quarter. Auburn is now one loss away from finishing with its first winless season in the SEC since 1980, and that’s a lock considering the Tigers finish their conference schedule vs. Alabama. Auburn has dropped nine straight SEC games dating to last season and seven of those defeats have been by 17 points or more. Don’t feel too bad for Chizik as he is due a $7.5 million buyout. The Bobby Petrino-to-Auburn rumors already have started.
Kansas State’s Collin Klein didn’t do anything to lose his Heisman lead Saturday, but he didn’t set the world on fire. The senior was 12-of-21 for 145 yards in the win over TCU and rushed for 50 yards and two scores. He is the -300 favorite on Sportsbook.ag. But the new No. 2 is A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel (+175), who was 24-of-31 for 253 yards and two touchdowns, and he ran for another 92 yards vs. the nation’s top defense. You know what’s scary? Manziel originally had committed to Oregon – can you imagine that? The freshman has certainly earned himself a trip to New York. But it’s tough to see him overtaking Klein only because A&M finishes with two dud games vs. Sam Houston State and Missouri.
Former Heisman favorite Geno Smith isn’t even a betting option any longer. He threw for 364 yards and two scores Saturday vs. Oklahoma State, but the freefalling Mountaineers dropped their fourth game in a row.
Week 12 Trap Games?
Well, I certainly thought Alabama was due a bit of a letdown vs. A&M but still was shocked it lost at home. LSU managed to avoid a similar letdown with a 20-point win over Mississippi State. I also very much expected an ugly game from Florida vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, and the Gators were incredibly lucky to win there. How do you get a punt blocked for the game-winning TD in the final seconds!?
I do look for a questionable effort from Clemson this week as it hosts NC State. The Tigers will know by the time they take the field whether they can return to the ACC Championship Game with a win. Florida State plays at Maryland at noon, and a FSU win earns the Noles the Atlantic Division. A loss opens the door for Clemson should it win. I highly doubt FSU loses. Clemson is a 17.5-point opening favorite. I also expect a letdown from Oregon State after its loss to Stanford ended the Beavers’ Pac-12 North hopes. OSU will be looking big-time toward next week’s game with Oregon. There is no line as of yet for Oregon State’s game at Cal.
Last week, I hit on Virginia Tech covering vs. Florida State and Oregon State covering vs. Stanford but missed on Nevada doing so vs. Fresno State (I over-thought that one – I had picked FSU but changed my mind when I saw the weather forecast). This week, I will preview North Carolina at Virginia (Thursday ESPN game), Stanford at Oregon (game of week) and BYU at San Jose State (final kickoff of night).