The final actual week of the regular season is here!
As usual, all times Eastern and all predictions wrong.
8:00: Arizona State @ Arizona (ESPN): Even with a win, ASU won’t be granted an exception to count both of their wins against DI-AA teams, meaning they would finish with a 5-6 record for bowl purposes. So all that’s left to play for is pride. That’s a pretty good motivator, but the Bearcats should still take the Territorial Cup.
7:00: Northern Illinois vs. Miami (MAC Championship @ Detroit, MI; ESPN2): FRIDAY NIGHT MEGA-MACTION. Yes, that’s right kids, it’s some heavy duty MACtion up in the land of Michigan. Honestly, on paper this isn’t really even close. NIU rampaged through MAC competition, scoring 382 points while only allowing 127 on their way to an 8-0 MAC record. The only MAC team that even came within one score of beating the Huskies was Western Michigan, the second most prolific offense in the conference. Miami University, meanwhile, needed an inexplicable Ohio loss for them to even get into the title game, though their only conference loss was to that same Ohio team. Suffice it to say, though, I’ll take NIU here.
10:15: Illinois @ Fresno State (ESPN2): You’re 5-3 and 3-2 overall in the Big Ten after destroying the two Indiana teams, and you’re feeling pretty good. Okay, you just lost to Michigan in a barn burner triple overtime game. Fine, but life is still good. And then you go and lose to Minnesota, at home. Whoops. But then you recover by beating your rival in a baseball stadium and you don’t really know what to make of yourself. So you take a break to eat some turkey and prepare for a roadtrip to the nothingness of the Central Valley and Fresno, CA, home of the team that beat you in Champaign last year. All that said, this year hasn’t really gone that great for Fresno, with a major conference scalp (a first-week win over Cincy) but a lackluster WAC showing, with a loss to all the teams above you in the standings and barely speaking by teams like Louisiana Tech and Idaho. I guess what I’m getting at here is that this game could probably still go either way, mostly depending on which Illinois team shows up. If it’s the one that showed up at Wrigley Field, they’ll probably win. If it’s the one that lost to the Golden Gophers, they probably won’t. But that said, tradition says I have to make a pick here, so I’ll take the safe way out and take the Illini.
Stay tuned for bowl predictions and this weekend’s forecast…