I finally got off the
last week, going 7-2 and bringing my season record to 15 wins, 16 losses and one tie. This week, we have the biggest college game of the season so far --
. For those of you who are under 30 years old, you probably do not remember how great a rivalry existed between these teams. In the days before
and other cable channels, the Nebraska-Oklahoma game was
highlight of the college football season and was annually televised by
. While Nebraska has continued to be a contender for the national title on an annual basis, the Sooners have fallen on hard times since they won the mythical national championship in 1985.
This Week's Picks
Nebraska (minus 2 1/2) over Oklahoma
The betting line on this game has fluctuated between 2 1/2 points and 3 points all week. Nebraska is the better-known commodity because it has been on TV several times this season and has looked phenomenal the last two weeks against
. Oklahoma had last week off, but handily defeated
two weeks ago as an eight-point underdog. Surprisingly, Oklahoma has not trailed yet this season, and has scored 29 out of the 30 times it has had the ball inside its opponents' 20-yard line. The Sooners average 473 yards a game, while the Cornhuskers average 499. Both teams average 46 points a game.
Now, let us discuss the factors that have led me to wager on Nebraska:
The Cornhuskers are 11-3 against the spread as single-digit favorites.
The Nebraska seniors have been playing in pressure-packed games for four years while the Sooners have only recently been playing important games.
The coach of Texas Tech, Mike Leach, is the former offensive coordinator for the Sooners, and the Red Raiders run a similar offense to Oklahoma's.
Last week, Kansas State only beat Texas Tech by 5 points, suggesting that the Wildcats may not be as good as the oddsmakers and I originally thought.
Nebraska's massive offensive line (averaging 306 pounds) and its superior depth should take a toll on the Sooners in the fourth quarter
. Oklahoma has an edge in the coaching department and is 9-0 in its last nine games at home. Still, it is tough for the new kid on the block to sustain an effort for four quarters when the bully is focused. The low betting line on this game has taken away any value on betting on Oklahoma. In what promises to be a high-scoring game, I will go with the Cornhuskers.
That's my pick. But what about you?
Sooners , or See You Later?
I believe Oklahoma will rout Nebraska.
I believe Nebraska will whip Oklahoma.
I believe Oklahoma will win, but in a squeaker.
I believe Nebraska will win, but barely.
East Carolina (minus 13 1/2) over Alabama-Birmingham
Although I have wagered on UAB this season, I have been unimpressed with its pedestrian offense. Last week, the Blazers switched quarterbacks, benching
in favor of junior college transfer
. The Blazers could only score 14 points at home against
Middle Tennessee State
. UAB was pounded by
three weeks ago, while East Carolina went on the road and beat Louisville last Thursday. The Pirates have been lethargic in their last few games and seem to loaf until the fourth quarter. East Carolina quarterback
has regressed from his 1999 form, but there does not appear to be anything physically wrong. The Pirates have won their last three home games by at least 17 points and a victory here makes the team eligible for a bowl. One caution on this game: UAB is 7-1-1 against the point spread in its last nine road games.
Northwestern (plus 5 1/2) over Minnesota
Northwestern had a bye last week, while Minnesota was upset by
, 51-43. The Gophers are 10-4 against the spread as a favorite in the Metrodome and are 16-3 against the spread in games following a loss under head coach
But I am drawn to Northwestern this week because I sense fatigue is starting to set in on this Minnesota team, which is playing for the eighth week in a row. It suffered key injuries on defense last week, and I think the Wildcats' hurry-up offense should be effective. Minnesota might win, but I believe Northwestern will take this game to the wire.
Texas A & M (plus 5 1/2) over Kansas State
It appears that these teams are going in opposite directions. Kansas State was soundly thrashed by Oklahoma two weeks ago and barely got by Texas Tech last week. Meanwhile, Texas A&M went on the road to soundly defeat a well-balanced
team last week. The Aggies are extremely tough in College Station (4-1 against the spread as a home underdog), and I believe head coach
finally has a team that is solid on defense and at least decent on offense with 25-year-old
at the controls. I think Texas A&M will win straight up against a team whose national title hopes appear to have been dashed by Oklahoma. The last time these teams met was in the 1998 Big 12 title game, in which the Aggies upset Kansas State as a 17-point underdog.
Air Force (plus 14) over Notre Dame
Air Force is an enigma. It finally has a couple of decent receivers and a quarterback who can pass in
, which should make the Falcons' running game all the more effective. Yet Air Force is only 5-2 after losing at home last week as an 11-point favorite to
. Notre Dame has a good team, but I can't get enthusiastic about laying 14 points on a team with a quarterback who started the season in the third slot on the depth chart. The Fighting Irish are only 6-13 against the spread at home under head coach
. Since both teams are familiar with one another's offense, I anticipate a low-scoring game in which the 14 points may be the equalizer.
Central Florida (plus 19) over Alabama
I have not been impressed with Alabama this season, and the loss to
last week left the Tide with a 3-4 record, although the team still remains in the hunt for the best record in its division of the
. But this game means a lot more to Central Florida than the Crimson Tide. Alabama is only 2-7 against the spread against non-SEC teams in games played during the SEC regular season, while Central Florida is 0-9 straight up against SEC teams but has lost by 7 points or less in five of those nine. The Knights are coming off a 55-0 victory over
and should be brimming with confidence, while Alabama may be looking ahead to its battle with
Washington (minus 7) over Stanford
Washington was lucky to beat
last week, barely surviving with a victory as a 16-point favorite. Stanford pulled off a last-second miracle to beat USC. The Cardinal may have been celebrating that victory all week while Washington has been doing some soul searching to determine why it can't put inferior teams away. The key to my selection is the fact that Washington started freshman running back
for the first time last week. I believe Alexis will turn into one of the premier runners in the country before he leaves the program. The Cardinal showed a disturbing weakness against the run last week, permitting the Trojans to gain 230 yards on only 29 carries. The Huskies will pound away at the Cardinal defense, control the clock and eventually wear down the Stanford defenders in the fourth quarter and expand the margin of victory to more than seven points.
North Carolina State (plus 19) over Florida State
North Carolina State has one of the most exciting freshman quarterbacks in the nation in
, and he will be on his own field with a sellout crowd. The team's first-year head coach,
, was an assistant to Florida State's
for many years and should know the strengths and weaknesses of the Seminole players. Florida State quarterback
is banged up and may not play the whole game. The Seminoles may also be looking ahead to next week's Bowden vs. Bowden (
) match-up in Tallahassee, so I will take the 19 points and hope for the best.
San Diego Chargers (plus 7) over Oakland Raiders
We see underdogs covering the spread more often in the middle of the season as injuries mount for the good teams and letdowns occur. The
upset of the
victory over the
illustrates the fact that any team can win on any given Sunday in the NFL. The Chargers (0-7) have been disappointing, however they still have
, one of the most intense competitors in the NFL, leading the team. Because the players like head coach
, the Chargers will play hard for the remainder of the season. The Raiders are ripe for a letdown, and I believe this is the perfect spot.
Dallas Cowboys (minus 4) over Jacksonville
In contrast to the situation with the Chargers, the Jacksonville players hate
who is a yeller and screamer and blames the players for the team's poor performance. Why would a team put out the kind of effort needed to win for such a jerk? The answer is it won't. The Cowboys have finally gotten their team chemistry together and it looks like
is finding the rapport he needs with his receivers. The Cowboys are 11-5-1 against the spread at home in their last 16 games and can get back to .500 with a victory this week. If Dallas gets ahead early, it is sayonara for Jacksonville and, if I were the owner of the Jaguars, for Coughlin also.
Barry Lieberman was a litigator with the U.S. Department of Justice for nine years and is currently the general counsel for a company that operates four hotel/casinos in Las Vegas. He has been an amateur gambler for more than 20 years and successfully concluded last football season by winning on 55% of his college and pro selections posted on TheStreet.com. He welcomes your feedback at