Friday, November 19, 2010

College Football Preview

A quick quiz to start off this week's college football preview:

How many end zones does it take to play a college football game?

If you guess two, should should be horribly embarrassed and ashamed and know that you're wrong. Obviously, it only takes one. Saturday's football matchup at Wrigley Field features the Northwestern Wildcats battling the Illinois Illini for in-state supremacy. It is the first time Wrigley Field has hosted a football game since 1970, and evidently game officials don't recall how to properly set up the stadium for a football game. Due to the unique dimensions of the park, Big Ten officials have announced that only one end zone will be used due to safety concerns. To get a better understanding, you can read the article linked above, or just take note of these bullet points:

• All offensive plays will head toward the west end zone, including all extra points and all overtime possessions.

• All kickoffs will be kicked toward the east end zone.
• After every change of possession, the ball will be repositioned for the offense to head toward the west end zone.

It will be very interesting to watch the teams play towards only one end zone. I feel just horrible for the fans sitting in the opposite end of the "one endzone," who thought they'd see endzone action right in front of them but instead might only get to witness a defensive touchdown at their end. I'm also excited for this scenario:
Northwestern has the ball with under one minute to play in the first quarter; handoff to the running back goes for six yards, tackled at their own 27. The time in the first quarter expires, and the teams head to the other end of the field because normally they would switch directions. Then they all realize they don't get to move at all and trudge back.
Also, choosing which end you want to defend during the coin toss is completely irrelevant, since now you don't get to pick which end you defend at.

Northwestern is the "home" team in this matchup (3:30pm ET kickoff on Saturday), despite being played at a neutral site. Their campus is significantly closer to Chicago, so it can be assumed this is only fair. Nonetheless, Northwestern (7-3) is 7.5 point underdogs against Illinois (5-5). Our pick is indeed for the Illini to cover the spread (and win 31-16); but only because Northwestern lost stud quarterback Dan Persa last weekend to an injury and he will not play for the remainder of the season. However, one stat that I was intrigued by (courtesy of Rivals) is that Northwestern has either been winning or tied in every single one of its past 26 games, dating back to November 2008.

Other important games this weekend:

Fresno State (6-3) at Boise State (9-0), Friday 9:30pm ET

Important just because Boise State is still undefeated, and is watched every week to make sure they stay that way. The Broncos have never lost a WAC home game, and this one should be no different (30.5 point favorites). Nonetheless, Boise State is in the spotlight every week.

The pick: Boise State 48, Fresno State 24

Appalachian State (9-1) at Florida (6-4), Saturday 12:30pm ET

Anytime Appalachian State plays a relevant team from the FBS, it has to be mentioned. Ever since 2007 when Appalachian State beat Michigan in the Big House, we've kept an eye on them in big games. Now, Florida is easily favored in this game, but now nobody can count out Appalachian State.

The pick: Florida 34, Appalachian State 20

Ohio State (9-1) at Iowa (7-3), Saturday 3:30pm ET

Ohio State has won 11 of the past 12 against the Hawkeyes, and needs this win to stay tied atop the Big 10. But Iowa has a gritty habit of getting upsets, and they are in particularly good shape because they are playing at home. Fortunately for Terrell Pryor, even if he and the Buckeyes lose this one, he can try again next year. (Ohio State is 3-point favorites)

The pick: Iowa 30, Ohio State 21

Stanford (9-1) at Cal (5-5), Saturday 3:30pm ET

It's the "Big Game," so it is definitely a "Big Deal." Stanford comes in with BCS hopes still fully intact, while Cal dreams of spoiling the Cardinal season in Berkeley. Cal left it all out on the field last weekend, barely losing to #1 Oregon 15-13; their defense and how it responds after last week will dictate whether the Bears can pull the upset over favored Stanford (-6.5). Also, the weather forecast

The pick: Stanford 26, Cal 13

Army (6-4) at Notre Dame (5-5), Saturday 7:00pm ET

This one is exciting because it is one of two games being played this weekend in a professional baseball stadium. Fans will pack Yankee Stadium for this one, the first time these two will meet in the new Yankee Stadium (22 meetings in old Yankee Stadium). Notre Dame has won 13 in a row in this series, and lead the series overall 37-8-4. The Fighting Irish are 8-point favorites on Saturday.

The pick: Notre Dame 24, Army 19

These games also have importance this weekend:
Virginia Tech at Miami, Saturday 3:30pm ET
Nebraska at Texas A&M, Saturday 8:00pm ET
Wisconsin at Michigan, Saturday 12:00pm ET

And don't forget the Causeway Classic! Sacramento State at UC Davis, Saturday at 4:07pm locally. Go Ags!

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