Even as the Irish were exiting the locker room after Saturday’s win over Wake Forest, I’m sure they were wondering what Lane Kiffin had in store for them when they travel to USC for the season finale.
Kiffin’s Trojans dealt Notre Dame its only loss during an 8-1 mid-season run in 2011, and USC has muddled through a controversial 7-5 (3-8 ATS) season that includes a loss to city rival UCLA on Saturday night. Still, if developments in Eugene and Waco on Saturday night show us anything, it’s that – this year anyway – the improbable has become the possible.
ND is 11-0 (6-5 ATS) and undefeated SU for the first time since 1989. After beating Wake Forest on Saturday, the Irish needed either K-State or Oregon to go down to be virtually assured of a spot in the BCS title game. They hit the inside straight, and now even a loss at USC might not be a deal-breaker.
Pete Korner, founder and president of the Las Vegas-based oddsmaking firm, The Sports Club, has not recommended a line for this game because of the uncertain availability of USC QB Matt Barkley (right shoulder injury).
“With him we’d be looking at about USC -2.5; without him Notre Dame probably -3,” says Korner.
Oregon (-13) at Oregon State
Twenty-four hours ago Oregon had the inside track on a berth in the BCS title game; now the Ducks have to take care of business just to win the Pac-12 North title. And the 8-2 Beavers are hardly pushovers – they pinned 62 on Cal on Saturday.
“Bear in mind that this is the biggest game of the year for Oregon State,” says Korner. “There will be some money on OSU, so I don’t see this line going any higher.”
Florida (+8) at Florida State
Both teams are paying the price for mid-season indiscretions – the Gators lost to Georgia and Seminoles to North Carolina State. Neither has been decent against the number. Florida State is 3-7 ATS and Florida hasn’t covered since the memorable 33-point shellacking of South Carolina.
“We looked at this as a touchdown game,” says Korner. “Either team capable of winning.”
Michigan (+6.5) at Ohio State
All the attention on Ohio in the presidential election is a small bite of cheese compared to Michigan Week. Thanks to the Tressell sanctions the Buckeyes can’t go beyond the regular season, but a top-3 ranking, unbeaten season and win over the Wolverines would help drain some kegs at parties in Columbus.
“We had this anywhere from 4 to 8.5,” notes Korner, “so we landed on 6.5.”
Oklahoma State (+8.5) at Oklahoma
The Cowboys have put up more points (all games) than any Big 12 team, but the points are fool’s gold because 149 of their 454 came against Savannah State and UL-Lafayette. The Sooners still have a shot at the league title and an at-large BCS bowl game, but need help. Korner admits that up-and-down play by both teams makes this a tough number.
“We just thought a touchdown was a bit weak on this one, so we raised it a bit.”