Wow, that went fast.
College football’s regular season, for all intents and purposes, draws to a close with rivalry week. The conference championship games follow next week and then 39 bowl games.
We love rivalry week. Give us The Game (Ohio State vs. Michigan); the Civil War (Oregon State vs. Oregon); The War on I-4 (South Florida vs. Central Florida); Clean, Old Fashioned Hate (Georgia vs. Georgia Tech); Farmageddon (Iowa State vs. Kansas State); Paul Bunyon’s Axe (Wisconsin vs. Minnesota); Apple Cup (Washington State vs. Washington); the Egg Bowl (Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State) and all the rest.
Above all, bring us the Iron Bowl, by far the most important game this weekend. Just think how an Auburn victory over Alabama will confuse the national championship race.
That scenario would set up an Auburn vs. Georgia SEC title match with the winner advancing to the playoffs. But Alabama would be far from dead, especially if the Crimson Tide loses a tight game Saturday. A narrow Tide defeat sets up the SEC for sending two teams to the four-team playoff.
Look only as far back as last year to find a team that didn’t advance to its conference title game making the playoffs. Hello, Ohio State.
Auburn is a 4½-point underdog. The Tigers have a pretty good chance because they’ve hit their stride while injuries continue to mount up front on both sides of the ball for the Tide. Auburn might be the rare team that has an edge in the trenches over Bama. The Tigers also own the more explosive offense. And the home field.
CBS Sports produced some interesting stats on this one. Nick Saban is 0-6 straight up against Auburn teams that have won at least nine games. Under Saban, the Tide are just 18-20-1 against the spread when playing ranked SEC West teams. Against every other ranked team, they are 19-6-1 ATS.
The Tide are 2-4 vs. the line in their last six road games against the Tigers.
Bucking doesn’t like to buck Bama straight up, but the points are worth taking in what should be a hotly contested game that could go either way.
Longhorn look: Fast-closing Texas is a 10-point favorite over reeling Texas Tech. We’re surprised it’s not more. The Horns have been one of the best teams in the country against the spread with an 8-3 record. The Red Faders are 1-5 ATS and SU in their last six games.
Want more? Texas is 8-1 straight up and 7-1-1 vs. the line in its last nine home games against Tech, and this version of Raiders has curled up and gone to bed after a 4-1 start. Our pick: Texas 38, Tech 17.
BUCKING THE LINE
I’ve been given an imaginary $1,000 bankroll for the college football season. Will I turn a profit — or need a loan by bowl season?
Update: A beautiful bounceback week — 6-3 against the point spread and a net gain of $71 — puts us back in the black for the season. The record is 32-30-3. Wise money management has us in the profit zone.
New bankroll: $1,027
UNLV (+3) over Nevada: Since an ignominious opening loss to Howard, the Rebels are 7-3 vs. the number. $44
Virginia (+7½) over Va. Tech: Cavaliers have been at their best against the top teams on their schedule. $33
Boston College (-3) over Syracuse: The Eagles’ crunching ground game will gobble up the Orange. $33
New Mexico State (-9) over Idaho: Aggies still have decent shot to make bowl game. $33
Auburn (+4½) over Alabama: Yeah, we’re taking the cheese, but at a low level. $22
Texas (-10) over Texas Tech: Two teams hurtling in opposite directions. $22
Baylor (+24½) over TCU: Both Frogs QBs are hurt, and their offense isn’t built to cover big numbers. $22
Navy (+4½) over Houston: Not impressed with Major Applewhite’s debut season as a head coach. $22
North Carolina (+17) over N.C. State: Generally speaking, we like double-digit dogs in big rivalry games. $22
Minnesota (+17) over Wisconsin: See above, part II. $22
Oregon State (+25) over Oregon: See above, part III. $22
Kansas (+41) over Oklahoma State: Begging for a back-door cover. $22