Friday, Dec. 5
Buffalo vs. Ball State -14 ½
(MAC championship game)
Ball State owns a perfect 12-0 regular season mark that includes wins over Indiana and Navy outside the conference. The Cardinals breezed through conference play in which their average margin of victory was 22 points and the smallest margin, 15 points. They closed out the season with 23 and 17 point wins over Western Michigan and Central Michigan respectively. They should handle Buffalo in this spot as they’ve beaten the Bulls in all four match-ups. Ball State -14 ½
Saturday, Dec. 6
Navy -11 vs. Army
Navy has owned this series over the past decade, winning six straight and nine of 11 meetings. The average margin of victory in the last six contests is 28 points; the closest Army has come was 12 points two years ago. Coming off a shut-out of Northern Illinois (16-0), Navy is primed for another dominating effort here, which will result in their sixth straight Commander-in-Chief trophy. Navy -11.
Pittsburgh vs. Connecticut -3
Connecticut has won two straight in the series, which must be why the odds-maker has made them a slight favorite. Pittsburgh is enjoying its best campaign in years – it’s the first time since 2004 that they’ve beaten South Florida and West Virginia in the same season. Conversely, Connecticut lost to both schools this season, thus the points for Pitt in this spot is a gift. Pittsburgh +3.
South Florida vs. West Virginia -7
After a nice start to the season, including wins over Kansas and North Carolina State, South Florida stumbled in conference play, losing to Pittsburgh, Louisville, Cincinnati and Rutgers. West Virginia was fortunate in catching Rutgers early (24-17), although they subsequently suffered close losses to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, the Big East champion. With Pat White moving the offense, West Virginia is poised to avenge two straight losses to the Bulls. West Virginia -7.
Washington vs. California -35½
Washington last year broke a string of five straight losses to Cal, but their winning streak appears doomed to one game. With their overtime loss to Washington State, the Huskies are poised to end the season 0-12 and become the only winless Division 1A team. For that reason, expect Washington to contest every play, every down, which should at least keep them inside the number. Washington +35½
USC -33 vs. UCLA
With a win, the Trojans waltz into the Rose Bowl for the fourth straight year. The Bruins don’t figure to put up much resistance; their offense is ranked 110th out of 119 schools and they own only three league wins, two against the dismal Washington teams. The Trojans own the nation’s top defensive squad and should smother the Bruins’ anemic attack all afternoon. Nonetheless, this is UCLA’s "bowl game" and they have some decent athletes on defense who could do enough to keep this game within the number. UCLA +33.
Arizona State vs. Arizona -10½
The Sun Devils have won three straight in the series, although last year Arizona lost by a field goal as a touchdown favorite. Neither team challenged for the Pac-10 title as they both lost to USC, Oregon and Oregon State. The talent level is still relatively even between these two and the game should be close into the fourth quarter. Arizona State +10½
Cincinnati -7 vs. Hawaii
This is a strange scheduling spot for Cincinnati, who last week wrapped up the Big East title. They obviously travel well with wins over Louisville and West Virginia on the road, and this Rainbow squad isn’t up to the level of previous, June Jones-coached teams. Nonetheless, Hawaii is tough in the islands (there’s something distracting about Waikiki and all those hula girls), so give the "local boys" a shot at keeping it close. Hawaii +7.
Arkansas State vs. Troy -11
Troy has won two straight in the series, but last year’s game went down to the wire with Troy pulling it out with a field goal. This one figures to be competitive as Arkansas State has played well at times, including wins over Florida Atlantic and Middle Tennessee. Arkansas State +11.
Western Kentucky vs. Florida International -8
Western Kentucky has one of the nation’s poorest offenses – they’ve been held to 13 points or less in seven of their nine games against Division 1A opponents. FIU is coming off a tough OT loss to rival Florida Atlantic last week, but they should have enough left in the tank to dispense with the Panthers. Florida International -8.
East Carolina vs. Tulsa -12 ½
(Conference USA title game)
East Carolina never lived up to the expectations generated by its of its season opening wins over Virginia Tech and West Virginia. They fell especially hard when favored, losing three games outright and failing to cover the spread in three of five spots. Tulsa is a scoring machine, much like Houston, which easily handled the Pirates. Expect plenty of points in this one with Tulsa extending late. Tulsa -12½.
Boston College vs. Virginia Tech Pk
(ACC championship game)
This should be a highly competitive game as both teams are playing their best now after slow starts. They met earlier (mid October) with BC winning that contest at home, 28-23. They also met in last year’s championship game, with the Hokies winning 30-16. With its better defense, Virginia Tech has a slight advantage and should win, but it won’t be by more than a field goal. Virginia Tech Pk.
Alabama vs. Florida -10
(SEC championship game)
This is by far the game of the season, pitting Florida’s high octane attack and Heisman Trophy-winning QB Tim Tebow against Nick Saban’s No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide. Alabama has dominated opponents with a stifling defense and capable offense, the same recipe for success Saban used when winning a national championship at LSU. Lost in the discussion is the Florida defense, which allowed only 17 touchdowns all season – the same number allowed by Alabama. The difference here could be Florida’s team speed, even if their star player, Percy Harvin, is out of the lineup. Alabama has already played in the Georgia Dome (a 34-10 win over Clemson), while this will be Florida’s first game on artificial turf. The fast track, however, could make it even more difficult to keep up with Florida playmakers. Which translates to a 20-point win here and a birth in the BCS national title game. Florida -10.
Sunday, Dec. 7
Cincinnati at Indianapolis -13½
The Colts have won five straight, but not one by more than 5 points. Moreover, Peyton Manning is coming off a lackluster effort in which the Colts failed to score an offensive touchdown (against Cleveland). But Cincinnati may offer a remedy with its league-worst offense and lackluster defense. Expect the Colts to find the end zone early and often in a needed blowout. Colts -13½.
Jacksonville at Chicago -6½
The Bears return home after three straight road contests, which culminated in a convincing loss to the Vikings. The Jaguars appear done for the season as they were outplayed by Houston last Monday night. The Jags need a running game to jump start their offense, but Chicago’s fifth ranked rush defense should keep them at bay. Chicago -6½.
Houston at Green Bay -6
The Texans, as they usually do, played well at home in their win over Jacksonville. But traveling to Green Bay at this time of year won’t be as climate controlled. The Packers made a furious comeback last week against Carolina, only to fall short. Nonetheless, they should be able to score enough against Houston to get the win and cover here. Green Bay -6.
Cleveland at Tennessee -13½
Cleveland’s defense still appears to be playing hard as they’ve held the Colts and Texans in check the last two weeks. But now that their down to their third string quarterback, Ken Dorsey, they’ll have trouble keeping their defense off the field. Tennessee -13 ½.
Vikings -10 at Lions
Detroit, despite being 0-12, did battle Minnesota to a 12-10 result in the earlier meeting, though the Vikings were sloppy and turned the ball over. The Vikes have fared well at Detroit over the years, going 5-1 most recently. Even though the Vikes don’t often win by margin they should be focused here to retain their lead in the NFC North. Vikings.
Redskins +5 at Ravens
This game has been changed to the Sunday night NBC contest. Baltimore has been outstanding at home this season, losing only to 11-1 Tennessee by a FG. Their four home wins have been by at least a TD. Washington has not played well of late and seem to have trouble scoring. Ravens.
Eagles +8 at Giants
Wagering against the Giants has been risky all season as their 11-1 straight up mark is almost matched by their 10-2 ATS record. At some point the line has to catch up with the Giants. Still it might be best to look for another high scoring game like the 36-31 battle the Giants won in Philly. Over.
Falcons +3 at Saints
The four NFC South teams are an amazing 21-2 straight up at home with 13 of the wins by double digits, including Atlanta’s 34-20 win over the Saints last month. It’s hard to knock anything the Falcons have accomplished, but the Saints have won the last four meetings on this field. Saints.
Jets -4 at 49ers
You wonder how the Bills lost to the 49ers after holding a 350 to 195 total yards edge. After their decisive win at Tennessee, a Jets’ letdown last week was expected but an outright loss to Denver was not. Look for things to return to form here. Jets.
Dolphins +1 vs. Bills
Bills’ QB Trent Edwards was banged up last week but there’s not a huge drop off to former starter JP Losman. The offense has been unable to finish drives over the past month. Miami won the earlier meeting 25-16 and overall has won 5-of-6. Playing in Toronto gives Buffalo less of a home field edge. Miami.
Chiefs +9 at Broncos
The Chiefs won the earlier meeting at home against Denver, 33-19, but were out-gained 446 to 370. The Chiefs have just two wins in their last 21 games. The Broncos are 7-1 against KC in the last eight match-ups in Denver with four of the last five decided by double digits. Denver.
Rams +13 at Cards
The Cards are a perfect 4-0 in divisional play, having outscored their foes by 42 points. St. Louis has scored more than 19 points just once this season while allowing 30 per game. The hot start by double-digit dogs has slowed to 0-3 the past three weeks. Arizona.
Cowboys +3 at Steelers
Pittsburgh’s top-ranked defense has yet to allow an opponent to gain 300 yards in a game. The Cowboys continue to be plagued by injuries with the latest being key defender DeMarcus Ware and starting RB Marion Barber. Dallas is rested but steps way up in class after San Francisco and Seattle. Steelers.
Monday, Dec. 8
Bucs +3 at Panthers
These teams are tied atop the NFC South at 9-3 records as Carolina seeks to avenge a 27-3 loss at Tampa Bay. Carolina has a solid two pronged running attack that has been more productive than Tampa’s. It’s hard to ignore the dominance of the home field in this division. Carolina is 6-0 at home. Carolina.