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Much like the arrival of fall color and migratory birds taking to the wing, the seasonal pasting of hapless FCS (Div I-AA) teams begins each September.
While birders can park themselves in one spot and be guaranteed - more or less - a good view of passing flocks (or gaggles? bouquets? congresses?) of migratory birds, college football fans must monitor dozens of games across the country to spot a shocking upset.
But the overwhelming majority of these games are boring for all but gamblers, who wager on enormous point spreads posted by the LSUs (-43) of the world over the likes of Towson. (Towson covered by 27 in a 38-22 loss in Week Five, a huge upset in itself.)
Several years ago, the NCAA allowed FBS (Div-IA) teams to "count" one victory against a Div-IAA team toward the seasonal win total for purposes of bowl qualification. While scheduling cupcakes is nothing new, every FBS team suddenly had a substantial incentive to bring in (often to the tune of six figures) some woefully overmatched opponent in a tune-up game, typically scheduled prior to the start of conference play.
But for some reason this season, a number of top flight (if you will) teams will face off against cupcakes in Week 12. Why? We don't know.
We can imagine a number of reasons, including the convenient notion that a cupcake matchup would amount, more or less, to a week off and give contenders a breather prior to conference championship games and the BCS.
Alabama's game against Western Carolina is Exhibit A of the ideal scenario for top-ranked teams. The Tide play Western Carolina on Saturday, allowing Nick Saban to rest the troops for Auburn in the so-called Iron Bowl in Week 13.
In this case, the Catamounts (1-9, 0-8 in the Southern conference) should prove the perfect opponent. (Oddsmakers predict such a lopsided game that Vegas hasn't posted a point spread.) But many teams facing a I-AA team this week could suffer a letdown by "looking ahead" to the final game of the season.
Will this happen? Probably not. But the histrionics among college football commentators produced by such an event would be worth it alone. Admittedly, we would quickly tire of the "David over Goliath" storyline. Even so, watching a team like Georgia melt down would be immensely satisfying; we would put it at an 8 of 10 on the Sports Seal Schadenfreude Scale.
Wofford (8-2, 6-2 Southern Conference) at #9 South Carolina (8-2, 6-2 SEC), 1:00 p.m.
Comment: The Terriers run a variant of the triple option offense known as the "wingbone," which tends to drive Div I teams crazy. No one runs the wingbone in big conferences. South Carolina could scheme for the funny bone, charley horse, or bread basket. But the wingbone? Forget it.
Georgia Southern (8-2, 6-2 Southern Conference) at #5 Georgia (9-1, 7-1 SEC), 1:30 p.m.
Comment: From Savannah Now: "With perfect execution, the Eagles can make it tough on Goliath - or in Saturday's case, the fifth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium."
Sam Houston State (8-2, 6-1 Southland Conference) at #8 Texas A&M (8-2, 5-2 SEC), 3:30 p.m.
Comment: If Vegas posted a spread on this game, we would take the Bearkats. (That's right. The Bearkats are so ornery that the letter "c" couldn't hang.) SHS finished last season as the runner-up in the FCS national championship and is riding a hot streak of seven consecutive wins. Meanwhile, A&M may be drinking the Kool-Aid.
Utah State (8-2, 4-0 WAC) at #20 Louisiana Tech (9-1, 4-0 WAC), 4:00 p.m.
Comment: Wait, our bad. This isn't a cupcake game, it's actually somewhat relevant. So much so, in fact, that The Free Range Chicken is making the Aggies and the points (-3) his only pick this weekend.
The Beachwood Sports Seal
The Colorado Buffaloes (1-9, 1-6 Pac-12) are the new Kentucky Wildcats for our favorite sea mammal. Picking against UK just doesn't seem fair now that head coach Joker Philips is officially a lame duck. Vegas hasn't posted a number for the 'Cats game against Samford this weekend anyway, thereby relieving the Seal of any guilt by default.
Besides, wagering against the Buffs looks just as attractive. Washington is a heavy favorite (-20.5) on Saturday, and rightly so - the Buffs have posted a meager 2-8 record ATS to date. The Seal won't even have to stay up late for this West Coast matchup - kickoff is at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, assuming someone will broadcast the game.
Mike Luce is our man on campus. He welcomes your comments.