There is this guy named Paul Bessire who runs this computer sports service called PredictionMachine.com that uses mathematical modeling to analyze and handicap sports events. What that means is that wizard Paul blends a ton of factors into a computer and plays a football game 50,000 times before the real game is actually played.
The “hook” is that you subscribe to his “Predictalator” and – yes – you buy the results of games upon which you might care to make a wager before the live event takes place. Lest you laugh, consider the fact he’s accurately picked nine-out-of-nine Super Bowl winners. Earlier this week Clay Travis, whose website “OutKickThe Coverage.com” is a favorite of mine, asked Paul to figure the chances that the six remaining unbeaten teams in college football could wind up unbeaten at the end of the regular season.
Those still unbeaten are Alabama, Oregon, Kansas State, Notre Dame, Louisville and Ohio State. Since Ohio State is ineligible and Louisville doesn’t have much of a chance of getting into the BCS, that leaves the four possibilities. Quick to oblige, Bessire ramped up his “Predictalator” and the chances all four will remain undefeated are 1.22 percent.
Worse, the chance all will lose at least once is 15 times greater than if they will all win. So in the spirit of science, mathematics and probability, here’s what the “Predictalator” revealed about the four remaining titans of college football:
* * *
ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (8-0)
Games Remaining: 5 (with conference championship, though one of those games is against FCS Western Carolina)
Undefeated Chances: 54.7%
Closest Remaining Game: at LSU (November 2)
NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (8-0)
Games Remaining: 4
Undefeated Chances: 39.8%
Closest Remaining Game: at USC (November 24)
KANSAS STATE WILDCATS (8-0)
Games Remaining: 4
Undefeated Chances: 27.7%
Closest Remaining Game: at TCU (November 10)
OREGON DUCKS (7-0)
Games Remaining: 5 (including conference championship game)
Undefeated Chances: 20.2%
Closest Remaining Game: at USC (November 2 – at Oregon State is close)
* * *
With that said, here is how I am picking my Top Ten Games this week:
No. 16 TEXAS A&M (6-2, 3-2 SEC) at No. 17 MISSISSIPPI STATE (7-1, 3-1 SEC), 12 Noon (ESPN) – State will wear all-white uniforms, hoping to commemorate the “Snow Bowl” win over the Aggies back in 2000 when the Bulldogs won 43-31 over A&M in a rare blizzard in Shreveport’s Independence Bowl. The view here is that it ain’t gonna’ work. A&M is a 6 ½ point favorite and, after State got creamed by Alabama (38-7) last weekend, the Bulldogs can’t stop “Johnny Football” Manzell and Co. A&M’s defense is allowing only 28 percent of third-down conversions and already has 26 sacks this season. MY PICK? Texas A&M, 35-21.
MISSOURI (4-4, 1-4 SEC) at No. 8 FLORIDA (7-1, 6-1 SEC), 12 Noon (ESPN2) – Florida is still stinging from the 17-9 loss to Georgia so look for a long trip back to Missouri. The last time the Gators played Mizzou was in the 1966 Sugar Bowl when, with Steve Spurrier at quarterback, UF won in a 20-18 comeback. Florida is a solid 16-point pick but with Will Muschamp’s boiling-point peaking all week long in practice, look for a romp in The Swamp. MY PICK? Florida, 37-14.
OLE MISS (5-3, 2-2 SEC) at No. 7 GEORGIA (7-1, 5-1 SEC), 3:30 p.m. (CBS) – Georgia QB Aaron Murray has climbed to ninth on the SEC list for career TD passes with 76 and, while he’ll never catch Florida’s Danny Wuerffel (114 between 1993-96), look for him to scoot up the ladder against the Ole Miss secondary. The Rebs have shown miraculous improvement but Georgia, a 14-point favorite, is really on a roll. Yes, Ole Miss has scored 26 times in 28 trips to the “red zone” but they’ll have a fit getting there against a ‘Dawg defense that ranks ninth in the nation against third-down conversions (4.8 per game). MY PICK? Georgia, 38-20.
PITTSBURGH (4-4) at No. 4 NOTRE DAME (8-0), 3:30 p.m. (NBC) – Love ‘em or hate ‘em, everybody will admit Notre Dame was divine in the 30-13 whipping at Oklahoma so now comes the month they’ve been hoping for. While Pitt has always been a good rival, ND is favored by a whopping 16 ½ before the Irish will face, in order, Boston College (2-6), Wake Forest (4-4) and Southern Cal (6-2). Irish coach Brian Kelly is playing down the excited talk, saying, "We really don't think about that. We really don't care what other people think of us. We really just care about each other, Notre Dame, and winning football games. They'll let everybody else decide who we are." Oh, and Notre Dame is allowing 9.9 points per game, if you haven’t noticed. MY PICK? Notre Dame, 31-10.
No. 20 TEXAS TECH (6-2) at TEXAS (6-2), 3:30 p.m. (ABC) – Do you see which Texas team is ranked and which isn’t? Then you will realize that there is discomfort in Austin because when Tech is a 7 ½ point favorite over “The University,” something is badly amiss. Tommy Tuberville, who is rumored to be returning to “The Big League,” wasn’t foiled by the 55-24 whipping at KSU last week and knows this one is for far bigger chips. UT has won two games by an average of 5 points since the horrible Oklahoma loss (63-21) so Mack Brown needs a solid win here to stop the wolves from howling. How dare Tech be favored? MY PICK? Texas Tech, 42-21.
No. 21 NEBRASKA (6-2) at MICHIGAN STATE (5-4), 3:30 p.m. (ABC) – The Huskers are a squeaky two-point favorite over the Spartans but the fact MSU has won by more than four points in the last four games is more telling. Nebraska scored 38 in the Ohio State loss while State only scored 16 in the one-point loss to the Buckeyes so the feeling is UN has a bigger punch. The trouble is, State held a good Wisconsin to 19 yards rushing last week and Nebraska boss Bo Pellini knows it. "It's not anything fancy. They line up and they do what they do," he said. "They play aggressive, they play hard, and they are physical up front." MY PICK? Nebraska, 24-17.
No. 2 OREGON (8-0) at No. 18 SOUTHERN CAL (6-2), 7:00 p.m. (FOX) – USC’s Lane Kiffin made an interesting point. “If you look at the old Oregon teams, they were still winning games, but they were winning a lot of games in the second half. This is a different Oregon team. They've taken care of almost everyone in the first half." It’s true; Oregon has outscored opponents 290-56 in the first half this season. "The quarterback is the difference. Two things really - the quarterback's speed, faster than the other guys who've been there, and then the defense is playing so well," said Kiffin, whose team leads the country in penalties, yielding 89 yards a game. Southern Cal is an 8-point underdog and this one will be worse than that. MY PICK? Oregon, 41-24.
No. 10 CLEMSON (7-1) at DUKE (6-3), 7:00 p.m. (ESPN2) – Clemson has averaged over 40 points in the four games the Tigers have played since losing to Florida State (49-37) so you know the Duke defense can’t deal with anything like that. David Cutcliff’s Devils were overwhelmed by FSU last week (48-7) so the hunch is the Tigers will have the attack at full throttle. Clemson QB Tajh Boyd threw 5 TDs – to five different receivers, last Thursday night in the Tigers’ 42-13 rout over Wake while Duke QB Sean Renfree is still doubtful after a head injury in Tallahassee. Duke is a 13 ½ underdog but to hold Clemson to that will take a miracle. MY PICK? Clemson, 42-14.
No. 1 ALABAMA (8-0, 5-0 SEC) at No. 5 LSU (7-1, 3-1 SEC), 8:00 p.m. (CBS) – Alright, LSU has won 22 straight in Baton Rouge but – at the same time – Alabama has won 21 of 22 games where the Tide has won each by 16 points or more. Bama is favored by 9 ½ but factor in these figures: In the SEC, Alabama ranks #2 in rushing offense, LSU #3. Alabama ranks #1 in scoring defense, LSU #3. Alabama is #1 in rushing defense, LSU is #2. Alabama is #1 in passing defense, LSU #2. Bama is #1 in total defense with LSU again #2. Which team ranks higher? Now, one more to help your thinking: In the “red zone, Alabama has scored a TD 74 percent of the time while LSU scores a TD 47 percent of the time. This ain’t the time for stinkin’ thinkin.’ MY PICK? Alabama, 37-12.
OKLAHOMA STATE (5-2) at No. 3 KANSAS STATE (8-0), 8:00 p.m. (ABC) – KSU is on the outside-looking-in at the BCS standings and with the Wildcats sniffing at the first undefeated season in school history, the tension is a strain. "It's tough not to, knowing you're so close, but man, you just have to focus in on next week, focus in on next game," wide receiver Chris Harper told reporters this week. "It's really hard not to look ahead, but the position that we're in, you can't do it." No, the Wildcats – favored by 9 ½ -- can only scratch and claw and hope either Alabama or Notre Dame trips down the home stretch. MY PICK? Kansas State, 35-24.
IN OTHER SEC GAMES
VANDERBILT (4-4, 2-3 SEC) at KENTUCKY (1-8, 0-6 SEC), 12 p.m. Noon (ESPNU) – Somebody asked UK coach Joker Phillips how hard it was to recruit with such a record and the embattled coach didn’t hesitate: “I’ve done it all my life.” Vandy is a 7 ½ point pick to get within one game of being bowl eligible so the Commodores will spare no horses tomorrow. VU runner Zac Stacy needs one TD to become the school’s career leader and he’ll get a lot of opportunities. MY PICK? Vanderbilt, 28-14.
TROY (4-4) at TENNESSEE (3-5, 0-5 SEC), 12 Noon (FSN) – Thank goodness for November – the Vols are 39-11 in games this month since 2000. UT has already scored more TDs this season (33) compared to all of last year (31) so this game should be a typical Homecoming breather. The bigger question, outside of Derek Dooley’s future, is can UT win the last three and become “bowl grateful?” The Vols host Missouri next week, and then travel to Vandy, before hosting Kentucky Nov. 24. Look for a welcome win tomorrow but, with UT’s defense stumbling, be leery of giving Troy the 18 ½ point spread. MY PICK? Tennessee, 36-27.
TULSA (7-1) at ARKANSAS (3-5, 2-3 SEC), 12:21 p.m. (SEC Network) – Whoa, Tulsa has won seven straight, which is hardly a team you invite for Homecoming, but nary a victory has been anything like what they’ll find in Fayetteville. Arkansas, a 7 ½ point favorite, is 17th in the nation with an average of 309 yards passing per game so you can look for Tyler Wilson (16 TDs) to throw the ball all over the field. The Razorback defense is shabby and Tulsa is scoring 39.5 points per game but look for things to level out. MY PICK? Arkansas, 37-27.
NEW MEXICO STATE (1-7) at AUBURN (1-7, 0-6 SEC), 12:30 p.m. (CSS) – Auburn, starting frosh QB Jonathan Wallace in his debut, gets a big Homecoming break here but a win tomorrow won’t quell the fires now being built for harried coach Gene Chizik. With Georgia, Alabama A&M, and “that other state school” waiting in the wings, a projected 3-9 season will be hard to swallow on The Plains. This week there were added cries for the head of AD Jay Jacobs so the Aggies are the least of Auburn’s worries. The Tigers are a 22 ½ point choice but you better be bold about it. MY PICK? Auburn, 31-10.
SEC TEAM IDLE THIS WEEK
South Carolina (7-2, 5-2 SEC) will play Arkansas in Columbia, S.C. on Nov. 10 at 12 Noon.
AND ONE MORE …
CHATTANOOGA (4-4, 3-2 SouCon) at WESTERN CAROLINA (1-8, 0-7 SouCon), 3:30 p.m. – The Mocs, 3-1 in the last four games, should breeze in Cullowhee but the Catamounts are due to ruin somebody’s perfect Saturday. Sure, WCU has lost 17 straight Southern Conference games but these Cats are averaging around 30 points in the last three games and can strike if UTC starts getting cocky. Last Saturday’s triple overtime loss to Georgia Southern (39-31) was an encouraging sign that Russ Huesman’s team continues to get better but with Wofford and Elon yet to come, a strong finish is a must. MY PICK? Chattanooga, 41-21.