Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 11:00 AM EST.
TENNESSEE+13½ over Texas A&M
Neyland Stadium – Knoxville, TN
12:00 PM EST. Though this is not a conference championship or a college football playoff game, it has the feel of it given what is at stake potentially for the present #5 ranked Aggies. Texas A&M at the moment is on the outside looking in, as it sits one spot removed from the College Football Playoff final four and should the Aggies get some help this weekend, they can find themselves backing into the postseason with their first-ever appearance.
We say that the Aggies need help because the College Football Playoff rankings have more or less played itself into a corner. Top-ranked Alabama sit atop the list undefeated and own a 28-point head-to-head win against Texas A&M when the two met in October, so win or lose for ‘Bama in the SEC Championship will have no profound effect on A&M’s avenue into the CFP, as the Tide are ahead of them in the pecking order. Notre Dame and Clemson sit second and third and are facing off in a rematch from earlier this year that Notre Dame won in South Bend. The two sides don’t meet until after the Aggies are done playing but Notre Dame is already a shoe-in (barring an ugly loss) and should Clemson win, this will only send both sides to the big dance, and not abdicate one of them. However, if Ohio State should lose in the B1G Championship or perhaps even suffer a scare, there is a strong case for the Aggies to get the go-ahead into the CFP. Ohio State is playing Northwestern at the same time that Texas A&M is squaring off with Tennessee. This is significant, as the Aggies could find themselves scoreboard watching and that makes them a very daunting side to be laying this kind of lumber on the road in an environment notoriously as animated as Rocky Top.
Though Tennessee will only be boding 25% attendance for this contest, the Volunteer faithful will be fired up and so will the Vols for that matter, as they have a chance to play the role of spoiler and close out their season with a triumph that could somewhat salvage what has been a very disappointing season. We cited UT’s propensity to potentially play up to their competition two weeks ago when they lost to Florida but came in under the number and were by no means an easy out.
The Volunteers almost certainly are not going to a bowl game, thus, in essence, this is their bowl game and we anticipate the Vols will be throwing the kitchen sink at the Aggies. Underdogs of this nature are especially dangerous to fade, as they will approach this contest with a nothing to lose, everything to gain mentality.
Scoreboard-watching is a tradition among contending teams. Know who controls their own destiny. Know who needs help. Know who might be keeping an eye on that help and what effect that might have. Needing just one other team to win or lose paints a simple picture that impacted teams can easily grasp, but for more complicated scenarios you need both an understanding of the league and division tiebreakers, as well as a read on the degree to which the players themselves are aware of the myriad implications that come with a wide range of "in play" games. This one is not complicated at all. A&M needs a 20-point favorite to lose. The power of one game's final score being able to impact a different game being played hundreds of miles away is part of a larger reality that's central to the sport. External stimuli constantly cause stark changes in performance. If OSU is winning big at any point or is up a couple of TD’s late in the game, the wind can come out of A&M’s sail at any time. Furthermore, if Northwestern is in it, Tennessee is still going to be a tough out.
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TENNESSEE +13½ -102 (Risking 2.04 units - To Win: 2.00)