I finally moved above the .500 mark last week with an 8-4 record, bringing my season record to 28-25. Now, let's try to build on that this week.
Listed below are my top 10 teams. My rankings are not based upon a team's record. They are based solely on power ratings, which, as I
explained in a previous column, can be used to determine a hypothetical point spread between any two teams at a neutral site. For example, while Oklahoma is the No. 1-rated team in all the polls because it is undefeated, I would make Oklahoma a 4-point underdog to Florida State on a neutral field.
Here are my top 10 teams:
This week, a snowstorm is likely to affect games in Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Nebraska and South Dakota on Saturday. In addition, there will be frigid weather in the Pacific Northwest. The potential for frigid weather and snow has kept me away from one of the plays I would have made, Boise State, giving 16 points, to Utah State. If the weather forecast turns out to be wrong, I will play Boise State on Saturday although it will not count for purposes of keeping my "official" record.
This Week's Picks
Missouri (minus 12) over Baylor (Double Play)
I usually do not like to bet on poor teams when they are favored by 10 points or more on the road, but in this case, Baylor has simply been noncompetitive this season because of injuries and poor coaching. Missouri, on the other hand, has been killed by turnovers.
Last week's game against Colorado is a case in point. Colorado won the game, 28-18, but Missouri outrushed the Buffaloes by 159-54 and outpassed Colorado by a 246-147 margin. But three interceptions and two lost fumbles doomed the Tigers. And the same thing happened to Missouri against Iowa State.
Baylor cannot score and I am confident that if the Tigers can take care of the ball a little bit better than they have, they will hold Baylor to fewer than 10 points. The Tigers also get their starting quarterback,
, back this week to assist redshirt freshman
, who has been responsible for many of the turnovers. I am confident Missouri can score at least 30 points on this banged-up Bear defense and am willing to give 12 points under these circumstances. This will be a double play for purposes of keeping my win-loss record.
Bowling Green (plus 9) over Ohio
I won with Bowling Green last week when it covered the 8 1/2-point spread against Marshall. Bowling Green blew a lead in the fourth quarter, but lost only by seven points. This is the final game for Bowling Green head coach
, and the Falcons will give it their all to send Blackney out a winner. Ohio is a one-dimensional running team and Bowling Green has had success in stopping the Bobcats' rushing attack over the last few years. I will also be playing the Falcons on the money line, getting 3-1 odds to win the game straight up.
Western Michigan (minus 34) over Central Michigan
Believe it or not, Western Michigan is the best team in the country -- against the point spread. The Broncos have a perfect 8-0 record against the spread. Central Michigan is one of the five worst teams in the country, with a 1-8 record overall and a 2-7 mark against the spread record. I don't think Central Michigan can stop the Broncos' offense and I can't see Central Michigan getting more than 10 points against a solid Western Michigan defense. Western Michigan is looking to gain national respect and will not hesitate to run up the score.
Texas A&M (plus 10 1/2) over Oklahoma
As indicated by power ratings, I have great respect for Oklahoma. I also know that Texas A&M has one of the great home-field advantages in college football, including a 3-0 record against the spread as a home underdog over the last three years. It is obvious that the Aggies have been preparing for this game for two weeks, since they sleepwalked through their 21-16 victory last week over Oklahoma State, failing to cover as a 16-point favorite. The Sooners' quarterback,
, is my leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy, but I think the Aggies quarterback
will show the nation that he deserves to be considered among the elite in the country.
Statistically, the Oklahoma offense has a passing edge of 100 yards per game, while A&M rushes for 20 yards more per game than the Sooners. The defenses are similar, with Oklahoma giving up 273 yards per game and Texas A&M allowing 298 yards per contest.
One concern I have is that receiver
is questionable for the Aggies, and that may restrict Farris' ability to trade points with the Sooners if Oklahoma gets ahead. Another concern is that Oklahoma beat Texas A&M by 51-6 last year, which may mean that Aggie coach
could not figure out how to defend the Sooner passing attack, which gained 387 yards. Despite these concerns, I will take the 10 1/2 points in a major revenge game.
Boston College (plus 9 1/2) over Notre Dame
Early in the week I took Boston College as an underdog, getting 10 points. Boston College lost its starting quarterback,
, in last week's game against Temple. But I believe the oddsmakers over-reacted to that injury, since back-up quarterback
Brian St. Pierre
While Notre Dame had a bye last week, I still don't like the Fighting Irish as more than a touchdown favorite. The Eagles have a very good rushing attack, led by
6.4 yards per carry, and will move the chains and allow St. Pierre to throw play-action passes. Boston College has a solid defense that has held four of its last opponents to fewer than 14 points. I foresee a low-scoring game and will take the 9 1/2 points.
Alabama-Birmingham (plus 10) over Southern Mississippi
The long season is taking its toll on Southern Mississippi. Last week, the Golden Eagles gave up 49 points to Louisville in a loss that knocked them out of the lead in Conference USA. The previous week, Southern Mississippi barely eked out a 6-3 victory over Houston. While we are not enamored with the UAB offense, its defense has been solid. I will take the 10 points in what should be a low-scoring game on the Blazers' home field.
Pittsburgh (plus 21) over Miami
I have conflicting concerns in this game. Miami has to be mad that it is rated behind Florida State in the BCS poll, despite having beaten the Seminoles. The only way it can overcome Florida State in the polls is by routing its opponents while hoping that the Seminoles stumble and play an unexpectedly close game, or lose to Florida.
predicted in this column last week, Pittsburgh had a letdown against North Carolina and ended up losing straight up. There were two reasons for that loss, starting quarterback
had the flu and was ineffective, and the Panthers were looking ahead to this game. Turman should be over the flu by Saturday and will be able to put points on the board by passing to receivers
(who is from the Miami area) and
. I believe the game will be competitive and Miami will not be able to run up the score.
Washington-UCLA (over 59 points)
This is my first over-under play in this column this season. Despite being ranked in the top 10 in most polls, Washington has sleepwalked through much of the season, compiling a straight-up record of 8-1 and an arecord of 3-5. The Huskies invariably fall behind and then have a scoring flurry in the fourth quarter to win the game.
At some point, Washington head coach
has to convince his team that it has to play hard for four quarters. Washington's two most recent opponents, Stanford and Arizona scored 28 and 32 points against the Huskies' defense. Because UCLA has a better offense (averaging 36 points per game in its last five games) than either Stanford or Arizona, Washington will have to respond early and often. I think the over/under should be in the mid-60s and the 60th point may be scored before the start of the fourth quarter.
San Francisco (plus 3 1/2) over Kansas City
Kansas City makes its third trip in a row to the West Coast. Last week, Oakland scored at will against the Chiefs, and I think the same thing will happen this week. The Chiefs are using rookies in their secondary and the 49ers' quarterback,
, has shown an ability to put up lots of points. Last week, San Francisco was shut down by the Saints, who have one of the top three defenses in the NFL. This week, both teams will score (the over/under is 53), but I like taking more than a field goal with a home underdog -- particularly against a team that has to be weary from traveling.
Cincinnati (plus 8 1/2) over Dallas
Dallas has had key injuries to its defensive line.
are out this week. On offense,
is out for this game and
is questionable. The Cowboys are not a strong enough team to be favored by more than a touchdown over any team with all of these injuries.
will have success running against the revamped Dallas defensive line, and this will result in the success of play-action passes from
. Cowboy coach
always has a conservative game plan and will be satisfied with a straight-up win in this game -- which makes the 8 1/2 points very attractive.
Jacksonville (minus 1 1/2) over Seattle and Buffalo (minus 1) over Chicago
Once again, I have the ability to tease home favorites down to a level where they merely need to win the game to cover the point spread. Jacksonville's victory over Dallas two weeks ago was huge for lifting the spirits of the Jaguars. A bye last week enabled them to get their ailing players healthy again.
Seattle is not a good team, and I don't believe the Seahawks have much chance of winning the game straight up. Ditto for Buffalo, which plays extremely well at home. I am not willing to go against the Bears laying seven points because I like the change they have made with
at quarterback, but Buffalo is in a must-win situation if it hopes to make the playoffs. I think the Bills will be able to get the straight-up victory.
Who Is Most Likely to Win the Super Bowl?
St. Louis Rams
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