College Edition: Searching for Mo'

Handicapping end-of-regular-season games is largely a function of figuring out which team has the greater mo' -- as in motivation.
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We were 5-4

last week, bringing our season record to 49-40, or 55%. This week, we have a somewhat shortened schedule and the games are being played on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Because we are submitting these picks on Monday for posting Wednesday, we will not have a handicapping lesson this week. Here are the picks for the Thanksgiving weekend:

Thursday: Mississippi (plus 2) over Mississippi State


has waited for this revenge game for one year. In 1998, the Bulldogs defeated the Rebels 28-6, the week after Ole Miss starting quarterback Romaro Miller suffered a regular-season-ending shoulder injury. Running back Deuce McAllister played in the game but was not at full strength. The visitor in this series is 5-0 both straight up and against the spread (ATS) in the battle for the Golden Egg. While

Mississippi State

has a great defense, it has a poor offense. Mississippi has a very versatile offense and has the best two offensive players on the field in Miller and McAllister. We will take the points available. Miller was injured in last week's game against


and his status should be checked before making a play on this game.

Friday: Colorado (plus 15) over Nebraska

The question we ask is whether


is more like



Kansas State

. Buffalo QB Mike Moschetti has thrown the ball well this season, so we conclude that the Buffs are more like Texas. Of course, its defense is not as good as Texas'. We think Colorado will score enough points in this game to stay within the generous point spread.


merely wants to get through this game with a win and stay healthy for its revenge rematch with Texas in the

Big 12

championship game next week. Last year, the Cornhuskers beat the Buffs 16-14, failing to cover as a 20-point favorite. Nebraska is only 6-9 ATS on the road in its last 15 games. Gary Barnett-coached teams are 13-4 ATS as home underdogs since 1994. We'll take the double-digit points and hope for a big special teams play by Colorado's future All-American, Ben Kelly.

Friday: Virginia Tech (minus 23) over Boston College

Boston College

has to be emotionally spent after beating

West Virginia

to become eligible for a bowl two weeks ago and going to South Bend and beating

Notre Dame

in a nail-biter last Saturday. Now, the Eagles must go back on the road off a short week to play the second-ranked team in the country.

Virginia Tech

is vulnerable to good passing teams, but the Eagles do not fit that bill as QB Tim Hasselback is erratic, and BC only averages 209 yards passing per game. The Hokies have allowed the Eagles to score only 14 total points in the last three games these teams have played, although BC has managed to cover the spread in its last two visits to Blacksburg -- but that was before QB Michael Vick took over the controls for the Hokies. Virginia Tech needs to run up the score to make sure Nebraska doesn't pass it in the


ratings. We think the Eagles' victory over Notre Dame (and their 8-2 record) has kept this point spread manageable. Virginia Tech is a different team at home than it is on the road. (File that tidbit away for Virginia Tech's bowl game.) Expect the Hokies to show no mercy and roll over an emotionally spent Boston College team.

Friday: Louisiana Tech (plus 2 1/2) over Southern Cal

Why would


schedule this game? The team is coming off a victory over bitter rival


, and that was its bowl game. This is a very dangerous

Louisiana Tech

team with its outstanding QB Tim Rattay. This game is far more important to the Bulldogs than to the Trojans. It may surprise you, but Louisiana Tech has the second-rated offense in Division I, gaining more than 475 yards per game. USC, on the other hand, has the 38th-rated offense, averaging 396 yards per game (before last week's game against UCLA). Louisiana Tech is also the better defensive team, rated 57th in the country to USC's 70th. While Louisiana Tech has played some cream puffs, it has also played difficult teams, losing to

Florida State


Texas A&M

, and beating


. USC is 1-4 ATS at home this season. Louisiana Tech is 5-0 ATS on the road this year. We will go out on a limb and predict a straight-up victory for Louisiana Tech and will take the points for our "official" bet.

Saturday: Hawaii (minus 4 1/2) over Washington State

readers in Hawaii have educated us on the strengths and weaknesses of the Rainbows. Hawaii's blitzing defense works well against immobile quarterbacks, but not so well against option offenses and mobile QBs. Fortunately for Hawaii, the Cougars' Steve Birnbaum is an immobile QB.

Washington State

is also in the unenviable position of playing the week after its rivalry game at the close of a disappointing season. Hawaii is still playing hard and will relish the opportunity to show what it can do against a


team. As


readers can see from this pick, handicapping end-of-regular-season games is largely a function of figuring out which team has the greater motivation. In this game, it will clearly be the Rainbows.

Saturday: Georgia-Georgia Tech (over 70)

As we write this, we don't know what the "total" for this game will be. What we do know is that this game matches two teams with horrible defenses, and one good offense (


) with the top-rated offense in the country (

Georgia Tech

). Georgia has the 76th-rated defense while the Engineers were rated 95th before last week's loss at

Wake Forest

. There will probably be four or fewer punts by both teams combined in this game and, in the absence of horrible weather, we can't see this game staying under 70 points. If the total is less than 70 when the line opens, we will have an official play on the over.

Saturday: San Diego State (plus 1 1/2) over Wyoming


is playing for a share of the

Mountain West Conference

title (in a four-way tie). While Wyoming has been impressive in its last two victories over



Brigham Young University

, we think

San Diego State

has enough talent to win this game, in what is its "bowl game" in an otherwise disappointing season. The Aztecs have two excellent running backs in Larry Ned and Jonas Lewis, and a good QB in Jack Hawley. We think San Diego State will be insulted by its underdog status in its final home game, and will produce a spirited effort in its season finale. Although San Diego State is only 3-7 ATS in its last 10 games at Qualcomm Stadium, the Aztecs usually have been in the role of favorite, not underdog.

Barry Lieberman is the general counsel for a Las Vegas gaming company and an associate of James Padinha. He's been an amateur gambler for more than 20 years, and welcomes your feedback at