The final Saturday in October should be a pivotal one in college football, especially for teams that have dreams of playing in the Rose Bowl for the national championship. Two teams with such dreams square off in Lincoln, Nebraska when the No. 2-ranked Oklahoma Sooners (and the defending national champions) face off against No. 3-ranked Nebraska in a game whose outcome will be for much more than bragging rights in Big 12 country.
The winner of this game joins Miami as the odds-on-favorites to play in the BCS title game on Jan. 4, although with seven weeks left in the season, nothing is a given (dont forget about UCLA and Virginia Tech!).
Before we take a look at the renewed rivalry between OU and Nebraska, lets check last weeks results. A 10-2 week (the best to date) brought the season record to 43-17 (71 percent) and unlike the Astros, I plan on continuing my winning ways the remainder of the season.
While the college season is getting into high gear, high school teams are beginning to position themselves for post season play and with three weeks left in the regular season, Aldine ISDs four varsity programs are all in the playoff hunt in District 21-SA. Lets take a look at whats on tap in 21-5A this week.
Spring Woods vs. Aldine: The Mustangs dropped a 37-21 decision to state-ranked Eisenhower two weeks ago, but proved they could move the ball and score against one of the states best defenses. Expect Aldine to put the hammer down this week at Bill Smiths team gears up for its final two games of the season against arch rival MacArthur and a dangerous Nimitz team. My pick, Aldine 42, Spring Woods 7
MacArthur vs. Stratford: The Generals have gotten back into the 21 -5A race with back-to-back wins and theyll need to continue on that track this week against a Stratford team which was the surprise squad of the league a year ago. The Generals exploded for a season-high 51 points two weeks ago in their win over Northbrook. MacArthur head coach Terry Forga knows the sledding gets tougher in the last two weeks of the season when the Generals close with Eisenhower and Aldine. He knows his team cant afford any slip ups at this point of the season. My pick, MacArthur 26, Stratford 13
Eisenhower vs. Memorial: This could be a dangerous game for the Eagles. Along with the AISD schools, Memorial is also in the thick of the 21 -5A race and playing at home should help the Mustangs, but the Eagles have proven they have the talent to play with anyone, anywhere in the state. Two years ago, the Eagles were upset by Memorial in Spring Branch, so you can be sure head coach Richard Carson will not let his team forget that fact as they prepare for the game this weekend. My pick, Eisenhower 21, Memorial 16
Northbrook vs. Nimitz: The Nimitz running game has been getting better every week, so dont be surprised if the Cougars run wild over the out manned Raiders this weekend. Nimitz head coach Randy Rowe knows no team can be taken lightly in this league, so expect the Cougars to be focused when they travel to Tulley Stadium this Saturday. My pick, Nimitz 41, Northbrook 3
Now its on to the college action, where a number of key games, including OU-Nebraska, are on tap this weekend.
Mississippi at LSU: This should be a good one in the SEC. Mississippi is riding high after a last-second victory over Alabama two weeks ago. Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning is making folks forget about his father and brother, Archie and Peyton, with the way he is playing in his first year as a starter. Those who have seen him play say he may be the most talented QB in the family, and thats saying alot considering what his father and brother have accomplished. This week Eli and his mates face a tough road challenge in Death Valley. LSU narrowly escaped an upset bid by lowly Kentucky two weeks ago and the competition is definitely tougher this week. Rohan Davie and the rest of the Tigers had better bring their A game with them this week. My pick, LSU 31, Mississippi 28
Maryland at Florida State: Another tough road test for this years Cinderella team, the Maryland Terrapins. Two weeks ago, the Terps won at Georgia Tech in overtime, but this week, the task gets a little tougher. Even though Florida State is down this year, they are still Florida State and theyve owned Maryland over the years. The Seminoles need to let the rest of the ACC know that they may be down, but they arent out. Look for FSU to put it all together this week as they send the Terps home with their first loss of the year. My pick, Florida State 36, Maryland 20
South Carolina at Tennessee: Another key game in the SEC. Lou Holtz s Gamecocks were upset two weeks ago at Arkansas when their offense was stifled by the Razorback defense. Theyd better work out the kinks on that side of the ball this week when they play the fast and talented Volunteers in Neyland Stadium. Due to the events of Sept. 11, Tennessee is just getting into the meat of its schedule, which means they should be ready to peak. South Carolina will make things tough on them because of their solid play on defense, but Vols quarterback Casey Clausen has plenty of weapons on hand. Look for the Vols to rev it up against a game but undermanned South Carolina squad. My pick, Tennessee 31, South Carolina 17
Oklahoma at Nebraska: Its too bad these teams dont play every year as they did when they were in the Big 8 because it appears the Sooners are every bit as good as the Cornhuskers, just like it used to be in the 70s and 80s. Last year the Sooners spotted the Cornhuskers a 14-0 lead before scoring the games next 31 points en route to a 17-point thumping of the stunned Huskers. Nebraska wont let the Sooners sneak up on them this year, but then again, OU has answered every test to date en route to a 19-game winning streak. Nebraska has the edge on offense in this one, but they will face perhaps the best defense in the country when the Sooners come calling on Saturday. The Sooners stifled a high-powered Texas offense and have one of the best big-play performers in the country in safety Roy Williams. The key to an OU victory will be how well the OU offense performs and it appears handing the quarterback job to Jason White has been just what the Sooner offense has needed. The Sooners have the speed on defense to slow down the vaunted Nebraska running attack, so dont be surprised is Husker QB Tim Crouch comes out throwing. This should be another classic. My pick, OU 23, Nebraska 20
The NFL also has a number of intriguing matchups this weekend at the Saints travel to St. Louis to take on the division-leading Rams.
New Orleans at St. Louis: The Rams will want to send a message to the defending NFC West champs when they host the Saints on Sunday. St. Louis proved it could slug it out with one of the best defenses in the league when it eeked out a 15-14 win over the Giants two weeks ago. Although all-everything running back Marshall Faulk injured his knee in that game, it wasnt expected to be serious. Thats a good thing because Faulk is the heart and soul of the team. The Saints have been going about their business in a very business-like manner this year. The also have one of the leagues best defenses. Expect them to put a lot of pressure on St. Louis QB Kurt Warner as they try and disrupt his rhythm with is cast of talented and speedy wide receivers. New Orleans best chances for a win on the road is to give the ball to Ricky Williams early and often. If he can control the clock and keep the Rams offense off the field, the Saints just might walk away tied for first in the division. My pick, St. Louis 23, New Orleans 21
Oakland at Philadelphia: The Oakland Raiders are proving they are not afraid to play on the road. Theyve earned road victories at Kansas City, Indianapolis and suffered a two-point loss at Miami. Not too bad. The Eagles should provide another stern test for the Silver and Black this Sunday. This should be a game controlled by two excellent defenses, so dont expect a lot of scoring. The field goal kickers could be the key players in this one, although Donovan McNabbs escape ability provides the Eagles with a weapon who can score from anywhere on the field. My pick, Oakland 16, Philadelphia 13
Minnesota at Tampa Bay: Its payback time for the Bucs as they host the Vikings in a classic NFC Central battle. The Vikes defeated Tampa Bay earlier this season when they drove 96 yards in the closing minutes of the game to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, but beating the Bucs in Tampa has been a difficult task for the Vikes over the past few seasons. Minnesotas lack of a running game is going to cost them this week. The Bucs know they dont have to respect the run, so expect them to tee off on Daunte Cullpepper as the Bucs extract a measure of revenge from their Week 2 loss. My pick, Tampa Bay 24, Minnesota 14
Tennessee at Pittsburgh: Dont look now, but the Pittsburgh Steelers are leading the AFC Central. The Steelers are doing it the old fashioned way, with a ball hawking, swarming defense and strong running game. Quarterback Kordell Stewart has been steady, but you never know when hes going to make a crucial mistake that will cost his team a victory. The Titans are hoping the old Kordell shows up on Monday night in Pittsburgh. For the Titans to win, they must get Eddie George untracked. Hes been bothered by a bad ankle, which does not bode well for a running back whose success depends on cutting back against the grain. If George cant get going, thats going to make things awfully tough on quarterback Steve McNair, and the Steelers are one of the best teams at smelling blood and attacking. My pick, Pittsburgh 26, Tennessee 13.