Florida needs win over Tennessee to throw its hat into BCS ring

The Big 12 Conference thinks it has a lock on landing its champion in the Rose Bowl opposite Miami (let’s face it folks, the Hurricanes are good, very good) in the BCS Championship Game, but don’t count out the Florida Gators.

Florida looked impressive again two weeks ago, disposing of the once powerful Florida State Seminoles, 37-13. Should the Gators win this week against Tennessee, which will put them in the SEC title game, and then win that game, it might be hard for the BCS computer to deny them a shot at cross state rival Miami. But then again, it would be hard to deny a 13-0 Nebraska team a shot at the national title, should the Huskers defeat Oklahoma for a second time in the Big 12 title game.

Before we take a look at that key SEC game, let’s review last week record. A 7-5 week brought the season record to a very respectable 84-36 97 percent).

Now let’s take a look at this week’s abbreviated, but pivotal college schedule.

Tennessee at Florida: This game was supposed to be played Sept. 15, but the game was moved to Dec. 1 after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Almost three months later, this is still a huge game in the SEC and in the BCS standings. The winner moves on to the SEC title game, where it should take care of business against a possible three-loss team from the SEC West. Florida is playing as well as any team in the country and quarterback Rex Grossman is a viable candidate to win the Heismann Trophy. If Grossman is on, and he’s been on all season, the Vols will be in for a long afternoon. Look for the Gators to strike early and keep applying pressure on both sides of the ball all day long. A convincing win over one of the country’s top teams could sway a lot of BCS votes their way. My pick, Florida 33, Tennessee 16

Miami at Virginia Tech: As the season has wound down, Miami has turned it up as evidenced by its 59-0 thumping of an 8-2 Syracuse team two weeks ago and not even a trip to Blacksburg, VA will keep Miami from its appointed date in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 4. Virginia Tech is not the team it was two years ago when it faced Florida State in the Sugar Bowl for the national title, but Hokie fans would certainly like to see their team give Miami a game this weekend. Sorry, but Hokie fans are going to be in for a very long afternoon as Ken Dorsey and his mates chalk up another big win. My pick, Miami 34, Virginia Tech 10

Notre Dame at Purdue: This will probably be Bob Davie’s last game as head coach at Notre Dame. Rumors and have been circulating for weeks that he’s out in South Bend, but Davie isn’t buying them. Maybe when it’s official, he’ll start believing that it’s true. Davie is loyal to his players and one would hope that loyalty would be returned with an all out effort against in-state rival Purdue. The Boilermakers have slipped the last few weeks, having dropped two of their last three games, but expect them to put forth one of their better efforts of the year in this one, but it won’t be enough to stop a determined ND team. My pick, Notre Dame 23, Purdue 20

Auburn at LSU: The winner of this game gets the pleasure of being fodder for the Florida-Tennessee winner in the SEC title game the following week. Auburn is still smarting after the 31-7 pasting arch rival Alabama put on it two weeks ago at home, but if the Tigers are still feeling sorry for themselves, they could be in for another long evening when they travel to Baton Rogue. LSU has been inconsistent this season, but playing for the SEC West crown should be enough to motivate quarterback Rohan Davie and the rest of the team. Look for Davie to come out throwing all over the place as second-year head coach Nick Saban gets his team to the league’s championship game. My pick, LSU 27, Auburn 18

Now let’s see what the NFL has to offer this weekend.

Indianapolis at Baltimore: Indianapolis’ injury-riddled offense takes on a Baltimore team that is beginning to realize that it can’t take any opponent lightly. The Ravens were swept by the Cleveland Browns this year, a team that won two games a year ago. Baltimore’s defense is still one of the best in the business, but quarterback Elvis Grbac has been prone to turnovers and the offense has not gotten untracked this season. Maybe they miss super back Jamal Lewis more than they are leading on. Still, the Ravens should be able to handle the Colts, who are simply playing out the string. With Edgrin James gone for the year, teams will be able to unload on quarterback Peyton Manning and when it comes to applying pressure, the Ravens are the best. Manning may have to be put back together again after this one. My pick, Baltimore 26, Indianapolis 12

Denver at Miami: Both of these teams played poorly two weeks ago in losses to the Redskins and Jets, respectively. The Denver offense could not get untracked against a so-so Washington defense, while the Dolphins offense was inept all afternoon as quarterback Jay Fiedler had two interceptions returned for touchdowns by the Jets. Something has to give this week. Denver is playing for its playoff life, and a loss to the Fish could all but settle their fate for the rest of the season. There are three teams ahead of them in the AFC West and at this late juncture of the season, that’s not a good thing. Miami is in better shape in its division (they are thankful they don’t have to play the Jets again), but they need to beat a quality opponent to renew some confidence in their camp. Look for the Miami defense to be the difference in this one as they pressure Denver QB Brian Griese into some crucial mistakes. My pick, Miami 20, Denver 13

New England at New York Jets: The Patriots played hard in their 24-17 loss to St. Louis two weeks ago and even though they lost, they proved they can play with the NFL’s best team. This should be a competitive game and there is no love lost among these two AFC East rivals. The Jets may not look pretty, but they get the job done and that’s all that matters in the NFL. This should be a game dominated by the defenses. Give the Jets the advantage because they can run the ball better and in a tight game, that is a huge advantage. My pick, NY Jets 16, New England 13

Minnesota at Pittsburgh: The Vikings could be in for a long day when they take on the Steelers and their sack-happy defense. The lack of a running game has hurt Minnesota all year and that point will be driven home this week when they take on the league’s best defense. Viking quarterback Daunte Cullpepper will be harassed all day long, which will result in a key turnover or two. When the Steelers have the ball, look for them to pound running back Jerome Bettis at the Vikes’ suspect front seven. This one could be over by half-time. My pick, Pittsburgh 27, Minnesota 10

Dallas at Washington: Since the Redskins lost to the Cowboys on Monday night they’ve been on a roll, while the Cowboys have regressed. It’s obvious that the Dallas offense has no clue and it doesn’t help matters that they’ve gone through more quarterbacks than Liz Taylor has husbands. The Redskins are in the hunt for a playoff spot (not bad for a team that lost its first five games) and they will be out to end Dallas’ eight-game winning streak. ‘Skins’ running back Stephen Davis is starting to hit the holes with authority, so look for plenty of him this Sunday. My pick, Washington 26, Dallas 13

Green Bay at Jacksonville: The Packers will have had 11 days to get ready for this one after their Thanksgiving Day game at Detroit, so look for them to be rested and ready to make their push for the playoffs. They need to be wary of a Jacksonville team that plays hard on defense and plays well at home and with the glare of the Monday Night lights, the Jags could be a dangerous team to face. If Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre is on, and he has been most of the season, the Packers should be able to handle Jacksonville, even with Fred Taylor back in the lineup. My pick, Green Bay 27, Jacksonville 20.