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'Tis the bowl-projection season as top teams vie for spots in premier postseason bowls and a national championship playoff berth.
While all eyes will be on Mississippi State-Alabama (the #5 Tide favored by a whopping 9.5 at home over the #1 team in the country?) and Florida State-Miami (a conflicted national audience must balance rooting against the 'Noles with lingering distaste for the 'Canes), we feel the hapless, the down-on-their-luck, and generally woeful need some attention.
Why? Because these kids work hard and even though the record may not . . . well, you know. Besides, it's more fun. You can read about the rest everywhere else.
Army (3-6) vs. Western Kentucky (4-5; -8), 11 a.m.
A perennial Football Report favorite, WKU enters the game with the 2nd-ranked passing attack in the country and the 8th-most fearsome (and 10th-weirdest) mascot: Big Red. This is the mascot that brought you The Evolution of Dance, and stuff.
How can a Black Knight compete with that? We need more Big Red. At two wins from bowl eligibility, we've got WKU to win and cover.
Pittsburgh (4-5) vs. North Carolina (4-5; -2.5), 11:30 a.m.
Identical 4-5 records, two teams coming off bye weeks, a match-up of desperate, must-win squads . . . in a game that may be decided by . . . kicking. (At least if the point spread is any indication.) If so, the Tarheels are in trouble. UNC has a combined 5-of-10 mark on field goals this season and has missed two extra points. The longest field goal of the season for the 'Heels? 23 yards. Given that North Carolina's average margin of victory in 3 of 4 wins has been 3.3 points, we'll take the decidedly mediocre but accurate (!) Panthers. Kicker Chris Blewitt (an inauspicious last name if we've ever heard one) is 33-of-34 in PATs and 11-of-13 in FGs. His longest? 49 yards. Now that is a scholarship kicker. Way to go, Blewitt.
Hawaii (2-8) vs. San Jose State (3-6; -9.5) 3:30 p.m.
We can't blame either team for not taking football too seriously. As a college-aged kid, if you lived in Hawaii or San Jose your first priority might not be on the gridiron. For example, SJSU fans need to rest up on Saturday for the Judas Priest show on Sunday at the City National Civic Center, guest starring Steel Panther.
Not familiar with Steel Panther? Read up on the band and vote for "their new bitchin' Doritos commercial:" Steel Panther x Doritos = BOLD.
We'll take the "Hot Rockin'" Spartans. If the Warriors think they've got a chance, well, they've got another thing comin'.
Troy (2-8) vs. Idaho (1-8; -5)
In Moscow, Idaho, football plays you. Go Vandals.
South Florida (-11; 3-6) vs. Southern Methodist (0-8)
The ultimate in futility, woebegone SMU continues to suffer fallout from the departure of offensive (in all the means of the word) genius June Jones. The Mustangs flirted with the Big 12 back in 2011 but were spurned in favor of TCU and West Virginia. The 'Stangs had to settle for Conference USA (now reconstituted as The American) where the program experienced a rebirth, winning conference titles in 2009 and 2010 and back-to-back bowl games in 2011 and 2012. And now? Following the abrupt departure of Jones, the team has tanked under interim head coach Tom Mason. Too bad. We liked Jones' "run and shoot" offense.
As for USF? Former WKU head coach Willie Taggart has but one dubious mark of distinction in his two years at South Florida: In his first game last season, the Bulls lost to McNeese State by the widest margin of any FBS/Division I team to a member of the lower division (FCS/Division IAA) since 1978.
Not the most inspiring match-up. We feel the SMU players will continue to send a message. That message being: We aren't going to play for this Mason dude.
Need a rundown of the popular games on Saturday? Our resident fowl has your picks:
#8 Ohio State vs. #25 Minnesota (+14), 11 a.m.
There's no trophy at stake, which seems wrong. We need a weird piece of hardware to change hands. The Rusted Rice Thresher? Something. Go Gophers.
#16 Nebraska (+6.5) vs. #20 Wisconsin 2:30 p.m.
#1 Mississippi State (+9.5) vs. #5 Alabama, 2:30 p.m.
The ultimate "no one respects us" play. The Tide might win, but who wants to root for Saban and how is the nation's top team somehow the little guy?
#9 Auburn vs. #15 Georgia (-6.5), 6:15 p.m.
This is exactly the sort of game the Bulldogs win. Every season, the 'Dogs fade down the stretch but play spoiler, defeat a top team (usually in Athens), and end up in a top-flight New Year's Day bowl. Pretty much the recipe for keeping a multimillion-dollar head coaching job in the SEC: Do just well enough to always leave potential for next season.
#3 Florida State (-2.5) vs. Miami, 7 p.m.
This game should be branded as the Alleged vs. the Former Convicts. In contrast to the classic Catholics vs. Convicts clash, no one really wants either team to win. FSU will cover, but a Miami win would be far more satisfying. Maybe lay off this one.
Mike Luce is our man on campus - every Friday and Monday. He welcomes your comments.