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Welcome to the final week of the regular season, or as we like to call it at The College Football Report: Contingency Weekend.
Exhibit A: Should #1 Alabama lose to #15 Auburn in the Iron Bowl on Saturday and #4 Mississippi State beat #19 Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl, MSU goes to the SEC Championship game to play the Eastern Division winner, which will probably be #17 Missouri, unless the Tigers lose in which case it will be #9 Georgia and should Missouri or Georgia win, the SEC may not send a team to the playoff, especially if Mizzou wins the SEC over Mississippi State and the Pac-12, Big 12, Big Ten, and ACC favorites win out, which will result in disastrous of Biblical proportions. Real wrath-of-God-type stuff. Fire and brimstone, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, or, in short, mass hysteria.
Although Kirk Herbstreit would probably show up for work on Sunday slathered in buckeye butter and rolled in scarlet and grey glitter.
You know which way we're leaning: All the above and an Ohio State (#6) loss to Michigan.
Kentucky vs. #22 Louisville (-13), 11 a.m.
One of the least storied interconference (that may or may not be a word, but we're going with it) rivalries in college football, the 27th Kentucky-Louisville game moves to the last weekend of the season so as to compete with the likes of Western Kentucky-Marshall, Utah-Colorado, and Utah State-Boise State. At least the two exchange an inoffensive trophy (the Governor's Cup) and don't further embarrass themselves by swapping some figurine-laden monstrosity.
Our pick: Unless you live in the Bluegrass State, the only reason to pay attention is the very attractive point spread. Take the Cards.
South Carolina vs. #21 Clemson (-4.5), 11 a.m.
Our pick: In another unremarkable match-up for anyone outside the state, the failure-to-launch Gamecocks (once ranked #9) square off against the good-but-not-great Tigers. We'll take the points.
#16 Georgia Tech vs. #9 Georgia (-12), 11 a.m.
Michigan vs. #6 Ohio State (-20.5), 11 a.m.
#25 Utah vs. Colorado (+9), Noon
Why not go for a three-team parlay here? You won't watch the first, you probably hate both in the second, and know nothing about the third. The parlay makes for perfect television: You aren't obligated to pay attention to any one game for longer than a few minutes, leaving you free to flip channels, avoiding commercials except for the few times all three fall into sync, forcing you to watch the latest Ford truck ad, until you remember ESPN is airing the SC-Clemson game and . . . the latest Toyota Tundra commercial. Someone needs to name this phenomenon, because it's emotionally scarring.
Florida vs. #3 Florida State (-7.5), 2:30 p.m.
Another game we don't want to watch but if forced, while we'd never admit it, could only root for injuries. Nothing career-ending, mind. Just enough of a tweak to knock a star player, say one of the two starting quarterbacks, off his game. Like a "stinger" or a "burner." No one knows what either means, anyway.
Our pick: No such luck, we fear. Seminoles, by a mile.
#10 Michigan State vs. Penn State (+13.5), 2:30 p.m.
Neither team has much to win. Ohio State's win over Indiana last weekend eliminated the Spartans from the Big Ten championship game and Penn State can only hope for a marginally better bowl after dropping its fifth loss last Saturday at lowly Illinois. Oh, wait . . . we forgot about the Land-Grant Trophy. Yes, the two schools exchange a trophy. You're right, almost no one knows about it and the few who do don't understand what the Land-Grant represents. Suffice it to say, the trophy involves a miniature mountain lion.
The Big Ten assigned Michigan State as Penn State's permanent rival when the Nittany Lions joined the conference in 1993 - because nothing stirs up passion like a made-up rivalry. PSU vacated nine wins following the sex abuse scandal, leaving Michigan State as the overwhelming leader in the series, at 13-5-1. . . as if anyone cares. Whatever bitter enmity 18 years of designated distaste faded in 2011 when Nebraska joined the Big Ten, prompting whichever committee decides these things to award Indiana and Nebraska as the rivals for Michigan State and Penn State, respectively. After the latest realignment in 2014, both teams find themselves in the same division (the Eastern) of the 14-team Big Ten, meaning that the two will once again face off every year on the last Saturday of the regular season, reigniting the sputtering flame that was once an invented inferno.
Our pick: It's the holidays, which is the make-or-break season for tchotchkes, trinkets, and gewgaws, so it's only fitting that we take Penn State.
#4 Mississippi State (-2.5) vs. #19 Mississippi, 2:30 p.m.
Ah, the Egg Bowl. Finally, a legitimate rivalry, although with a less-than-awe-inspiring name. (Hard to compete with the Iron Bowl.)
Our pick: Iron.
#7 Baylor (-26.5) vs. Texas Tech, 2:30 p.m.
#18 Minnesota (+14.5) vs. #14 Wisconsin, 2:30 p.m.
Kansas vs. #12 Kansas State (-27.5), 3 p.m.
Another parlay opportunity. A classic Big Ten match-up that will feature running, rushing, rumbling, and the occasional scamper is bookended by Big 12 games hugely significant to the playoff picture but pretty uninteresting in reality. We would love to see Minnesota win, but the Badgers field a legit Heisman candidate in Melvin Gordon and play ornery in Camp Randall. That said, we'll take the two touchdowns and the hook.
#15 Auburn vs. #1 Alabama (-9), 6:45 p.m.
According to the ESPN Football Power Index (or FPI, should you need another acronym in your lexicon for rankings, standings, and statistics), the spoilers on Saturday - Auburn, Florida, Oregon State, and Michigan - have about a 60 percent chance of pulling an upset. Auburn stands the best chance of any and has recent history in its favor: As a ranked team, the Tigers are 6-0 over Alabama in the past 10 seasons. There's a lot of other stuff going on in this game. Someone helpfully produced an infographic, because reading is too hard.
Our pick: The Tide will roll.
#2 Oregon vs. Oregon State (+20), 7 p.m.
Queue the dead, rising from the grave; frogs, raining from the sky; rivers, boiling, and darkness, forty years of. Fade out: Marcus Mariota, Heisman Candidate.
Our pick: Anarchy, Beavers, Mariota! Tonight, on ABC!
Utah State vs. #23 Boise State (over 55.5), 9:15 p.m.
Our pick: The Broncos once could be counted on to rout lesser teams by double digits but as the spread (-9.5) suggests, those days are long gone. But Boise can still score, and still doesn't play defense, so we like taking over the total.
Mike Luce is our man on campus. He welcomes your comments.
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