I don’t want to hate on Notre Dame, as it’s rather cliché. In fact, I used to like the Irish back in the day. But they are so freaking lucky.
Notre Dame is atop the polls after stunning losses by Kansas State and Oregon on Saturday, and all the Irish have to do is win at Southern Cal this Saturday to guarantee themselves a spot in the National Championship Game. And it’s pretty clear the fates are smiling on Notre Dame as the Trojans will be without starting quarterback and preseason Heisman favorite Matt Barkley. He injured his shoulder late in Saturday’s loss to UCLA and already has been ruled out versus the Irish. Freshman Max Wittek will make his first career start. He has played in six games this year, mostly in mop-up duty. Wittek is 8-of-9 passing for 95 yards and a touchdown.
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Barkley clearly shouldn’t have returned to school; he probably would have gone in the Top 10 of this year’s draft but now his stock his slipped big time. And the Trojans, preseason national title favorites, are headed to some second-tier bowl. So one wonders how motivated they will be against Notre Dame. There is no line as of this writing.
Meanwhile, the other big beneficiary of the Oregon and Kansas State losses was Alabama. Now the Tide will get a chance to repeat if they beat Auburn this week in the Iron Bowl – and Bama is a 31.5-point favorite – and then Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. Alabama again is the title favorite at Sportsbook.ag at -140, with Notre Dame at +300. And the scary thing is that if the Irish should lose this week, we might have another all-SEC National Championship Game.
The Florida Gators are sitting there at No. 4 in the BCS standings, and the computers love them (No. 2 in all but one). UF will only get a boost if it can beat Florida State this week and it can sit back and watch Bama and Georgia maul each other in the SEC title game. However, the Gators still don’t know how much starting QB Jeff Driskel will play this week. He sat out Saturday’s game against Jacksonville State with an ankle injury.
Florida coach Will Muschamp said Monday that Driskel was cleared to practice and would play against the Seminoles, but there won't be a determination on whether he'll start or how much he'll play until later in the week. Jacoby Brissett would start again if Driskel can’t. And that’s not likely to make Gators fans feel too comfortable. In last year’s 21-7 loss to the Noles, Brissett was forced into action when John Brantley was injured. Brissett looked overmatched, finishing 4-of-13 for 27 yards with one touchdown and one interception, which was returned for a touchdown. He also was sacked twice. There is no opening line yet on UF-FSU. Florida is +2000 to win the national title, whiles the Noles are at +10000.
Quandary For UCLA?
If you are UCLA head coach Jim Mora Jr., whom would you rather play in the Pac-12 title game, Stanford or Oregon? Yes, I know the Cardinal just upset the Ducks, but they are much easier to game-plan for. And UCLA can make sure it faces the Cardinal by, um, lying down this week against Stanford. The Cardinal will take the Pac-12 North with a victory over the Bruins, while a Stanford loss re-opens the door for Oregon if it beats Oregon State. Stanford is a 1.5-point opening favorite over UCLA, which really has no reason to give a full effort or show any potential strategy. The Bruins are in the Pac-12 title game win or lose.
The Ducks are No. 5 in the BCS standings following their loss and must pray that Notre Dame loses at USC, Florida falls at Florida State and Georgia loses against Georgia Tech this week – certainly all possibilities (Georgia Tech will now represent the Coastal Division in the ACC title game with the news that Miami has imposed a second straight postseason ban). And Oregon will be a big UCLA fan against Stanford as it would get a nice computer boost should the Ducks then get the chance to play the ranked Bruins in the Pac-12 title game. Oregon is now +1000 to win the national title.
Week 13 Best Bets
I don’t really see any “trap” games this week, so I want to give a few recommendations on other games that I won’t be previewing later this week. I love Ohio State at -4.5 against Michigan as this is the Buckeyes’ bowl game with their postseason ban. You don’t think Urban Meyer will have his guys jacked up for this one? OSU really blew it by not self-imposing a bowl ban on last year’s mediocre team. Otherwise, the Nuts would be looking at a shot at a national title. Instead, they will just have to play for an unbeaten season. I will say this, however: Should Nebraska lose on Friday at Iowa, I take all this back. If that happens, Michigan would win the Legends Division with an upset of the Buckeyes. But I don’t see the Huskers losing (Iowa to miss a bowl for first time in five years).
I do also love Stanford this week as UCLA will go 100 percent vanilla and save its “ammo” for the Pac-12 title game. Also like Duke (+5) at home against Miami as the Canes players no doubt are going to be mentally on empty now that they know there’s no ACC title game as a carrot for winning. Oregon (-10) will take out its frustration on Oregon State in what could well be the final Pac-12 game for Ducks coach Chip Kelly. It’s nearly a foregone conclusion these days the Kelly will head to the NFL sooner rather than later; reports are the Eagles will go very hard after Kelly, who almost took the Tampa Bay job last year.
Last week, I hit on North Carolina to cover against Virginia, Stanford to cover vs. Oregon and San Jose State to do the same vs. BYU (totally loved the under there as well, which also hit). This week, I will preview TCU-Texas (Thursday night ESPN game), Florida-Florida State (game of the week) and Notre Dame-USC (one of last kickoffs of Saturday).
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