ATHENS - Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney essentially threw his conference on the mercy of the court this week.
Delaney's conference is just, well, terrible this year. It's already out of the national title chase, unless you think Northwestern or Minnesota will go unbeaten or by some miracle the pack comes back to a one-loss Nebraska or Michigan State. The Big Ten is 6-9 against BCS teams this year, and in some high-profile games (ahem, Michigan-Alabama) its teams have been obliterated.
"The narrative is we've under-performed, and I can't argue with that," Delaney said this week, according to ESPN.com. "We haven't won big games. The narrative is about right. When you have big brands, expectations are high. I can't discount the facts, and I can't discount the critics."
Delaney went on to say that while the SEC is having its day, the Big Ten will someday have its day. It's pretty much all Delaney can say right now.
This is also why Delaney, once the most intransigent force in the way of a playoff, relented after last year. Now, his conference would also probably be out of it if the four-team playoff were in effect this year. But the Big Ten won't be this bad forever. The SEC's stranglehold on college football, however, doesn't seem to have any end in sight.
Delaney also inferred that there was a cultural difference at this point, with an increased emphasis on the sport in SEC country, manifesting itself in coaches salaries, stadium sizes and donations.
Well ... yeah.
Michael Wilbon, the ESPN commentator whom I grew up reading and respect very much, stated on Thursday that the SEC "is overrated this year," and that by the end of the year the Pac-12 would have more top 10 teams.
A few hours later, unbeaten Stanford was knocked off by Washington.
America, it is pointless to resist!
Here are the picks - mostly culled from SEC teams. As always, the lines are drawn from Vegasinsider.com, the comments are occasionally for humor, sometimes for analysis, and always mine.
TENNESSEE at GEORGIA (-14): There are some trap-game elements in this one for the Bulldogs, and with the Volunteers' passing game this will not be a blowout. But let's not out-smart ourselves here. Georgia is just better. Its offense, balanced with the pass and run, should put a lot of points on the board. Its defense should be able to stuff the run. If the Bulldogs avoid turnovers and special-teams errors, they should be fine. Pick: Georgia covers.
SOUTH CAROLINA (-21) at KENTUCKY: You gotta think that Mark Richt and Will Muschamp are very happy that Steve Spurrier is spending so much time and energy worrying about what the local columnist has to say. Pick: Kentucky covers, South Carolina wins.
OLE MISS at ALABAMA (-30): If Nick Saban were President of the United States, our lives would not be all that much fun, Presidential press conferences would be even worse. But damnit, I'd vote for him just to see him match up with Putin. Pick: Alabama covers.
ARKANSAS at TEXAS A&M (-11.5): Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel is quietly emerging as one of the nation's top freshmen. Also, Johnny Manziel sounds like the name of a 1950s one-hit wonder. "Next up on the countdown, he's a kid from New Jersey with a voice like magic ... Johnny ... Manziel! Pick: Texas A&M covers.
MISSOURI at CENTRAL FLORIDA (-2.5): If Missouri wins, this is yet another statement as to the strength of the SEC, as a lower-level team can still go on the road and beat a solid team. But if Missouri loses ... eh, still not really an SEC team. Pick: UCF wins.
MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE at GEORGIA TECH (-26.5): I'm pretty glad I don't cover Middle Tennessee State, not because I'd have to live in MUrfreesboro, Tenn., but because I'd always have to write "Middle Tennessee State" or "MTSU." This is also the reason I have encouraged Georgia coaches not to play Josh Harvey-Clemons, and I curse the day the basketball team signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Pick:Georgia Tech covers.
CLEMSON (-7) at BOSTON COLLEGE: A policeman in Clemson became a former policeman after giving Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney a speeding ticket, then bragging about it on a message board, and now he's protesting his firing by saying he was only axed because he had the audacity to give Swinney the ticket. How many times do I have to tell you people: Clemson is an SEC school! Pick: Clemson covers.
OHIO STATE at MICHIGAN STATE (-3): The Buckeyes' perfect record is deceiving because all four wins are at home, and some close wins over "bleh" teams. Michigan State's 4-0 record is deceiving because the Spartans are actually 3-1. Pick: Michigan State covers.
LOUISIANA TECH (-3) at VIRGINIA: Louisiana Tech, which Derek Dooley left three years ago, is doing better in its third year than Dooley's current team is. Discuss. Pick: Virginia wins.
LOUISVILLE (-10) at SOUTHERN MISS: Charlie Strong to Arkansas seems like such an obvious match, it surely won't happen. Pick: Louisville covers.
DUKE at WAKE FOREST (-3): You know it's a slow week for games when this one makes its way to the picks. Pick: Wake Forest covers.
TEXAS (-2.5) at OKLAHOMA STATE: The line on this game started with the Cowboys favored by 5, then it moved once people realized Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weedon were in the NFL. Pick: Texas covers.
OREGON (-30.5) at WASHINGTON STATE: Someday Mike Leach will turn this program around, but in the meantime ... Oy. Pick: Oregon covers.
BAYLOR at WEST VIRGINIA (-11): A matchup of the team with last year's Heisman trophy winner and the team that will have this year's winner? Pick: West Virginia covers.
FLORIDA STATE (-17) at SOUTH FLORIDA: Well, I guess somebody has to play Alabama in the national championship game, right? Pick: Florida State covers.
Last week: 6-9 vs. spread, 14-1 overall.
Season: 26-34 vs. spread*, 46-14 overall.
*-In lieu of treats, I've been letting my dog Archie make picks this year, and so far the results are mixed.