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Joe Nelson - Blogs

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BETWEEN THE LINES 10/27

By Joe Nelson
Posted 10/27/2008 at 06:52 PM

The worst nightmare for Big Ten haters is playing out as Penn State knocked off Ohio State to remain unbeaten. If Alabama and Texas win out Penn State will be left out if they also run the table but consider the remaining schedules. Penn State plays at Iowa, and then hosts Indiana and Michigan State.

Alabama must still play at LSU and face Auburn and then likely the winner of the Georgia/Florida game this weekend for the SEC title. Alabama also plays Arkansas State and Mississippi State and given the recent narrow escapes the upset risk should not be discounted. Texas has another tough game this week at Texas Tech and then also must play at Kansas while also hosting Baylor and Texas A&M. Should the Longhorns keep winning they will have to face the North division champion which is still to be determined.

If Penn State had to play this week they might fall into a tough letdown spot coming off the big game, especially with some injuries last week but a timely bye week is waiting. Before assuming that Penn State would be another Big Ten title game blowout victim consider that Penn State is 16-6 S/U and 15-7 ATS in bowl games since 1980. The Lions have gone 6-2 against the current SEC, and 3-1 against both the current Big 12 and Pac-10 in that span of bowl games. The teams likely to have the biggest gripe against Penn State, USC and Florida, are both .500 postseason teams since 1980. The championship game will be in Miami this season and as always the Big Ten will have tremendous location disadvantages in just about every bowl match-up.

In the NFL the Giants moved back into the spotlight with a big win over Pittsburgh but the Super Bowl champs will close with an incredibly difficult schedule. Each of the next eight opponents currently has a winning record and since the Giants had an early bye week they will face a grueling final stretch. While the NFC East teams are likely to beat up on each other the teams with the best records in the NFC could be the Panthers, Buccaneers, and the Cardinals by the end of November. Carolina’s next three opponents have combined to win just six games, Tampa Bay’s next three opponent’s have combined to win four games and both teams will have bye weeks coming up as well. The Cardinals face the three NFC West foes the next three weeks and each of those teams has just two wins.

In the AFC the Titans are in great shape even if they slip in a few games. Given the schedule ahead it is hard to envision the Titans not earning one of the top two seeds in the conference. Pittsburgh is considered a strong contender but the Steelers face a brutal stretch of games in the next eight weeks. The AFC East is likely to produce a wild card team as the division draws the NFC West teams but consider that the Bills have already played three of those four games. The Jets and Dolphins both have three of those games remaining with the toughest, Arizona, already out of the way. Miami also gets to play the three weakest teams in the AFC West so the Dolphins can be a serious playoff threat.

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