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'Bama, Florida St take break, while Baylor bows up

Posted: November 21, 2013 - 1:05am
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Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron (10) evades a tackle by Mississippi State linebacker Benardrick McKinney (50) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, in Starkville, Miss. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)  Butch Dill
Butch Dill
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron (10) evades a tackle by Mississippi State linebacker Benardrick McKinney (50) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, in Starkville, Miss. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Chattanooga. Idaho. The Citadel. Coastal Carolina.

These are the opponents for some of the nation’s best teams in November. Really?

Unfortunately for college football fans, this type of scheduling is nothing new. It stands out more this season because No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Florida State are both taking a break to tune up as the national championship race reaches a fever pitch.

Southeastern Conference teams have been working in a late-season patsy with greater frequency since the 12-game regular season became standard almost 10 years ago. This season, Atlantic Coast Conference powers Florida State and Clemson, with SEC rivals on the horizon, have decided to go that route, too.

They have that luxury because their conferences start league play in September and play only eight conference games instead of nine, as the Pac-12 and Big 12 do. So why not let AJ McCarron and Jameis Winston recharge their batteries and get ready for big games?

Chattanooga, which is ranked 21st in the FCS coaches’ poll, visits Alabama on Saturday, giving the Crimson Tide a chance to iron some things out before the Iron Bowl against No. 6 Auburn next week. The Tigers are taking this week off after playing three straight SEC opponents.

Idaho makes the long journey (about 2,600 miles) to Tallahassee, Fla., to play Florida State. The good news is the school gets a $900,000 payday — $346 per mile, give or take. The bad news is the Vandals (1-9) are 57-point underdogs.

According to the Sagarin computer ratings that rank all Division I teams and do not separate FCS from FBS, Chattanooga is 142nd in the country. Idaho is 189th. So kudos to Alabama for scheduling up, relatively speaking.

Florida, which is next up for Florida State, plays FCS Georgia Southern, which checks in at 171st.

No. 7 Clemson hosts The Citadel and Palmetto State rival South Carolina brings in Coastal Carolina, a week before they square off. The Gamecocks get the tougher test. The Chanticleers are seventh in the FCS coaches’ poll and ranked 108th by Sagarin, four spots ahead of Kansas of the Big 12.

Speaking of the Big 12, a Dallas-based marketing firm that does some media relations for the conference sent an email Wednesday pointing out that while contenders in other conferences will be kicking back this weekend, it’ll be rise and grind for No. 3 Baylor and most of its Big 12 rivals.

The reason for the spin? The past two seasons an unbeaten Big 12 team with national title hopes lost during the third weekend of November — Kansas State at Baylor last season and Oklahoma State at Iowa State the year before — and got beaten out for a spot in the BCS title game by a one-loss Alabama team.

“Heading up against (BCS) 10th-ranked Oklahoma State on the road doesn’t make it any easier on the Bears. This weekend will be a true test of strength and stamina,” the email reads.

The picks:

MAIN EVENT

No. 3 Baylor (minus 9½) at No. 11 Oklahoma State

Another Big 12 contender bites the dust ... OKLAHOMA STATE 38-35.

MARQUEE MATCHUPS

No. 8 Missouri (minus 2½) at No. 24 Mississippi

Tigers need to win out to earn trip to SEC title game ... MISSOURI 31-21.

No. 9 Texas A&M (plus 4½) at No. 18 LSU

Heisman showcase for Johnny Football, and chance for Aggies to bolster BCS resume ... LSU 48-45.

No. 19 Arizona State (minus 2½) at No. 14 UCLA

Sun Devils can lock up Pac-12 South ... UCLA 28-27.

UPSET SPECIAL

No. 20 Northern Illinois (minus 3) at Toledo, Wednesday

Rockets can not only burst Huskies’ BCS hopes, but also potentially keep them out of the MAC title game ... TOLEDO 35-34.

BEST BET

No. 25 Duke (minus 5½) at Wake Forest

Blue Devils are two victories from ACC title game ... DUKE 28-16.

PLUCKY UNDERDOGS

Rutgers (plus 17) at No. 17 UCF, Thursday ... UCF 42-24.

No. 5 Oregon (minus 20½) at Arizona ... OREGON 45-21.

No. 13 Michigan State (minus 7) at Northwestern ... MICHIGAN STATE 28-14.

No. 16 Wisconsin (minus 15½) at Minnesota ... WISCONSIN 35-17.

No. 22 Oklahoma (plus 3½) at Kansas State ... KANSAS STATE 27-21.

UCF has had some close calls against big underdogs (Memphis, Temple). Important road games for Ducks, Spartans and Badgers, all with BCS hopes. Sooners haven’t lost two straight to Kansas State since the mid-1990s dark days.

MISMATCHES

Chattanooga (no line) at No. 1 Alabama ... ALABAMA 52-0.

Idaho (plus 57) at No. 2 Florida State ... FLORIDA STATE 65-3.

Indiana (plus 34½) at No. 4 Ohio State ... OHIO STATE 52-21.

The Citadel (no line) at No. 7 Clemson ... CLEMSON 55-7.

California (plus 32) at No. 10 Stanford ... STANFORD 42-7.

Coastal Carolina (no line) at No. 12 South Carolina ... SOUTH CAROLINA 45-10

New Mexico (plus 31½) at No. 15 Fresno State ... FRESNO STATE 42-21

Memphis (plus 24½) at No. 21 Louisville ... LOUISVILLE 31-10

No. 23 Southern California (minus 22) at Colorado ... USC 43-17.

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