The picks column: Root for (gulp) Kiffin?

semerson@macon.comNovember 2, 2012 

We know Lane Kiffin comes off as a spoiled brat. But can he actually play a spoiler?

Whether he can may decide whether we have a nice, clean, undisputed BCS championship game - or another mess, leading to the early installation of the four-team playoff for 2013. That's not a bad thing. So there's your out if you really don't want to root for Kiffin, and many of you don't.

However, if you're a Georgia fan and still cling to national title game hopes, then sadly you must swallow hard and root for the Trojan men.

Here's the deal: Right now there are four unbeaten teams with a shot at the BCS championship game. (Sorry Louisville, you're a great story and your coach is a rising star, but your conference is still the Big East). If the season ended today, Alabama, Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame would all have a claim at playing in Miami. Waiting in the wings are LSU and Georgia, who are fifth and sixth in the BCS standings.

USC - the one out West, the one people in 49 states consider to be USC - plays Oregon on Saturday, and Notre Dame in two weeks. And if it doesn't knock off Oregon this time, it may get another shot in the Pac-12 championship game. So there you go, Kiffin and his gang (which opened the year No. 2) could still figure into the national title picture, just not the way they expected when the season began.

Yes, there's also the Alabama-LSU on Saturday, but for Georgia's purposes that's immaterial. In fact, it may prefer Alabama win, even though it would mean a tougher foe in the SEC championship game. (Ahem, assuming the Bulldogs get there.) When this week began, my sense was that Georgia would still get a trip to Miami if it won out. But the more I listen and speak to people I respect, including CBSsports.com's Bruce Feldman, my belief is a one-loss SEC champion would not get in if two of Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame are unbeaten. Perhaps the computers would bolster Georgia, but SEC fatigue/backlash would push voters (two thirds of the formula) to go with the unbeaten team.

Georgia isn't really getting much mention for the BCS title game. But if it did rise up in the Georgia Dome and knock off Alabama (or perhaps even LSU), then it would help to cancel out the memory of the loss to South Carolina. It would be enough to send the Bulldogs to play for a national title ... unless two quality unbeaten teams are still out there.

Root for the spoiled brat, Georgia fans, as hard as that is to do.

OLE MISS at GEORGIA (-14): This is yet another week that during the week the betting line moved in favor of Georgia's opponent, proving that the Georgia fans who populate my Twitter feed are also gamblers. Pick: Georgia covers.

ALABAMA (-8) at LSU: This game will be close, simply because of the home factor, and the stakes involved. But since this season began A.J. McCarron has proven he is an elite quarterback, and Zach Mettenberger has proven he is not, at least not yet. And that's the difference. Pick: LSU covers, Alabama wins.

TEXAS A&M (-7) at MiSSISSIPPI STATE: This is the truly sneaky interesting game, with the winner probably finishing third in the SEC West. Kevin Sumlin vs. Dan Mullen is also a good coach of the year discussion, or at least the one that doesn't involve Nick Saban. It's pretty surprising to see the Aggies favored by so much, but ... I'll roll with it. Pick: Texas A&M covers.

MISSOURI at FLORIDA (-17): The big shortcomings of the Gators (lack of pass rush, inconsistent passing) were finally exposed last week. But Mizzou's entire season has exposed its shortcomings (not having SEC-level talent). Pick: Florida covers.

OREGON (-8) at SOUTHERN CAL: You have to divest your preseason expectations of USC and pick based on the reality of this team. It doesn't rank in the top 25 nationally in any offensive or defensive category, and hasn't blown out any quality teams. Oregon, meanwhile, is the one team most like Alabama in that it seems capable of just turning the switch on whenever it wants and running over teams. Maybe this is the game where Kiffin's bunch finally puts it together, but without having seen it this year, you've gotta go with the Ducks. Pick: Oregon covers.

OKLAHOMA STATE at KANSAS STATE (-9.5): The next four games for K-State: at TCU, at Baylor (no RGIII anymore), home against Texas (no defense), and then ... that's it. No Big 12 championship game this year. These are four games the Wildcats could slip, but Bill Snyder isn't the type of coach to let that happen. He's a man. He's 73. Pick: Kansas State covers.

PITTSBURGH at NOTRE DAME (-17): The prospect of Notre Dame in the national title game is making Brent Musberger, Lou Holtz and everyone over the age of 70 party like it's 1949. Everyone else ... eh. Pick: Notre Dame covers.

CLEMSON (-13) at DUKE: Hey, remember that great, sentimental Duke story came crashing down last week at Florida State? Oh well. Pick: Duke covers, Clemson wins.

GEORGIA TECH (-8) at MARYLAND: Thanks to the transfer of last year's opening-day starter, and the subsequent season-ending injuries to four starters, Maryland now has no available scholarship quarterbacks, and will start a guy who was the backup middle linebacker. Maryland football, new motto: "Where you WILL tear your ACL, but look really spiffy doing it!" Pick: Georgia Tech covers.

TULSA at ARKANSAS (-9): Too big a line for the Razorbacks. Tulsa is good enough to win Conference USA, which may not be anything much, but it's good enough to give the Hogs a game. Pick: Tulsa covers, Arkansas wins.

NEW MEXICO STATE at AUBURN (-22.5): You're Brian VanGorder. You left a defensive coordinator job a level up, and the pro team you left is 7-0, while the college team you joined is 1-7. Do you feel: a) ridiculous, b) snakebit, c) Chiziked, or d) like calling your agent, who you have on speed dial anyway? (Correct answer is d, obviously). Pick: Auburn covers.

The rest:

Iowa State covers, Oklahoma (12) wins
Kentucky beats Vanderbilt (-7)
Louisville (-16) covers Temple
Tennessee (-18.5) covers Troy

Last week: 8-7 vs. spread, 12-3 overall.

Season: 55-65 vs. spread, 86-34 overall.

Follow Seth Emerson at @sethemerson.

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