I was 6-6 in my football predictions last week to bring my season record to 34-31. I won with my "double-play" choice, the
, but lost with
, which was beaten as a 34 1/2-point favorite by
in one of the biggest upsets in college football history.
The Gold Sheet
, a publication for sports bettors, this week listed the all-time greatest upsets in college football based on point spreads. According to the publication, Central Michigan's 21-17 victory ranked as the fifth-biggest surprise.
Here is how
The Gold Sheet
ranks the Top 10 upsets:
(plus 36) over
, 21-20, at Washington
(plus 36) over
, 23-16, at El Paso
(plus 35 1/2 ) over
, 28-24, at Virginia Tech
: Missouri (plus 35) over
, 30-26, at Notre Dame
: Central Michigan (plus 34 1/2) over Western Michigan at Central
(plus 34) over Notre Dame, 31-20, at Notre Dame
(plus 32) over
, 31-21, at Northwestern
(plus 32) over
, 30-27, at Texas Tech
: North Texas (plus 31 1/2) over Texas Tech, 21-14, at Texas Tech
(plus 31) over
, 30-7, at Louisville
This week is Rivalry Week, where teams that have had disappointing seasons can gain redemption by beating a hated rival. Many of these games even have special names.
are playing in the Iron Bowl.
are playing for the Old Oaken Bucket.
are playing for the Apple Cup.
Because of political correctness,
no longer play for the Beer Barrel, but their border war is still intense.
play in the Big Game. In Southern California,
collide for the bragging rights of Los Angeles.
In the three biggest games of the week,
in the 100-Yard War, Oregon plays
in the Civil War and
play in the only rivalry with national championship implications. Other rivalry games this week include
, Northwestern and
The rivalry games often produce inspired performances by underdogs, so if you are going to take the favorite, have a very good reason for doing so.
This Week's Picks
Michigan (plus 3) over Ohio State
To put it bluntly, I don't trust Ohio State Coach
in a big game. Michigan is 13-5 against the spread in its last 18 games as an underdog, although the home team is 13-5 against the spread in this rivalry game. I like Wolverine quarterback
a little better than the Buckeyes'
. Michigan has a better rushing attack than Ohio State with running back
averaging more than 100 yards per game. I admit it is largely the three points that is attracting me to Michigan in this game, which I believe will go down to the wire.
Buffalo (plus 22) over Miami of Ohio
Late in the season, when slots in bowl games are not at issue, I examine the motivation of teams that are going to play in cold weather. In this game, Buffalo has little talent -- and its coach was told he would not be back next season. A number of the Buffalo players were in tears at the press conference where it was announced that Coach
would not be returning.
Miami of Ohio has had a very disappointing season. It started off with two victories but has fallen on hard times, including being blown out by Marshall last week. I can't see this team getting up for this meaningless game on the road. Buffalo, on the other hand, will play hard to give its coach a victory in his final game. Taking more than three touchdowns is nice insurance in case the Bulls fall short of an actual triumph.
Iowa State (minus 8 1/2) over Kansas
This is a classic game between teams moving in opposite directions. Iowa State went on the road last week and beat Colorado, while Kansas had its bowl hopes shattered when it was pummeled by Texas Tech. The Cyclones are trying to win eight games for the first time in more than 20 years, and are trying to improve their lot for a bowl game.
Kansas is simply playing out the string. Iowa State has a balanced attack with a good quarterback in
, and a very good running back in
. If this game was a home game for the Jayhawks, I might have stayed away. But in Ames, Iowa, where the Cyclones are 7-2 against the spread in their last nine home finales, I will go with Iowa State over a demoralized Kansas team.
Northern Illinois (minus 23) over Central Michigan
Last week's results are the basis of this pick. Northern Illinois had a 20-point lead against Eastern Michigan and let up in the fourth quarter to end up losing in the last minute. As chronicled earlier, Central Michigan pulled off a big upset when it beat archrival Western Michigan. I believe the team will still be celebrating that victory and will not really care about this game any more.
I believe Northern Illinois will steamroll a satisfied Central Michigan team. Because the Huskies do not rely on the pass, I am not as concerned about potentially bad weather that may invade DeKalb, Ill., on Saturday. No letup this week as the Huskies roll.
Auburn (minus 1 1/2) over Alabama
This is a dangerous game for Auburn, which came out flat last week and had to eke out an overtime victory over Georgia. Both teams will play hard because it is a rivalry, but the point spread of less than a field goal seems a little too small when Auburn is 8-2 and Alabama is 3-7, even if the Crimson Tide is at home. Auburn can get a New Year's Day bowl bid with a victory here, and I am betting that it will do so. Auburn has a huge coaching edge, and while the Tide will give it their all for departing Coach
, I think they will come up short.
Tennessee (minus 19) over Kentucky
Don't look now, but Tennessee is on its way to becoming a juggernaut. The Vols started the season as a very young team and those youngsters are starting to play like they are no longer freshmen. Tennessee beat Arkansas last week, 63-20, and the Vols have scored 56, 59, 59 and 56 against Kentucky in the last four years. I expect Tennessee to score a similar number of points against the Wildcats in this game.
has announced that he is going with younger players for the rest of the season. Mumme also takes chances such as faking punts and going for a first down on fourth-and-two situations. This tends to add to lopsided scores. The Tennessee defense has been strong all season, and I think the Vols can put enough points on the board to get the cover.
Oregon (plus 4 1/2) over Oregon State
This game is a great example of value in point spreads. I thought this game was going to open at an even spread because Oregon is rated higher in the polls and the public is more familiar with it than Oregon State. I was all set to jump on the Oregon State side of the bet. However, the number opened at 3 1/2 and has increased. I now perceive the value to be on the Oregon side.
Oregon has won the last few weeks, but has had to play all-out to beat the likes of
, Washington State and California. Oregon State, meanwhile, handily defeated Arizona on the road last week in a nationally televised game, and UCLA the previous week.
Because the Beavers' game against Arizona was televised, Oregon State's performance resulted in the line being elevated about two points higher than it should have been. Money is now pouring in on Oregon State, but this game is equally important to each team. Many Oregon fans have already purchased tickets, so the home-field advantage may not be as significant for Oregon State.
Both teams have excellent quarterbacks,
for Oregon State and
for Oregon. Both teams have excellent running backs,
for Oregon State and
for Oregon. Both teams have great wide receivers. I will take the 4 1/2 points in a contest that should be nip-and-tuck all the way.
Ohio (minus 2) over Marshall
Marshall has already clinched a spot in the
championship game against Western Michigan, so it has no incentive in this one. Its main goal will be to stay healthy for the championship game. My power ratings made Ohio a one-point favorite. Ohio will try to make its last home game a winning one, and I will lay the two points on the team with the most incentive.
Baltimore (minus 7) over Dallas
Last week's last-minute victory had to boost Raven quarterback
confidence. I have never been a fan of Dilfer, but last week I was impressed that he marched the Ravens up the field for a winning score despite having thrown earlier what could have been a game-losing interception.
The Cowboys are hurting at all positions. Dallas will not score more than 10 points, and its defense yields a league-high 159 yards per game on the ground, and an average of 4.8 yards per carry. In three of the four Dallas victories this year,
has run for more than 100 yards. But
runs for 100 against the Ravens. Last week, Tennessee's
could gain only 28 yards, and two weeks ago the Ravens held the Bengals'
Baltimore has allowed only 8.3 points per game over the last eight weeks. The final element of this pick is the fact that the Cowboys have lost their last five road games against AFC opponents. I think the Ravens will score enough to get the cover.
6 Point Teaser
New England (minus 1) over Cincinnati, and Philadelphia (minus 1) over Arizona
I lost my teaser bet last week when Jacksonville was beaten by a poor Seattle team. But this week, I'll go back to the well and take two teams that are seven-point favorites and tease them down so that they must merely win. Cincinnati has no quarterback. Neither
are competent at this stage of their careers. The Patriots will stack the line of scrimmage to stop Dillon, and will get enough turnovers from either Smith or Mitchell to win without requiring their banged-up quarterback,
, to put a lot of points on the board.
Philadelphia is playing extremely well and Arizona is one of the weaker teams in the league. Each week,
gains confidence and Philadelphia's rock-ribbed defense can stop almost any team. Stopping the Cardinals at home should be an easy task. The Eagles dominated the Cardinals one month ago in Phoenix. And the Cardinals are 9-19 against the spread on the road since 1996.
Who Is the Best Coach in the National Football Conference?
Mike Martz of the St.Louis Rams
Tony Dungy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Dennis Green of the Minnesota Vikings
Jim Haslett of the New Orleans Saints
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