USC, Texas then everyone else

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:18 AM ET

It's November, when the crisp autumn air starts to feel a little more damp and raw with each passing day.

Meaning it's time to get down to the nitty gritty in another college football season.

A few thoughts as the title picture starts to get more clear:

- You see previously unbeaten Virginia Tech and UCLA both go down -- and hard -- on the same Saturday night, and you can't help but ask ... these were national title contenders? If anything, the startling results offered further proof that it's USC, Texas and then everyone else.

- Yes, Alabama remains perfect, but can you really imagine a team that can't score an offensive touchdown against lowly Mississippi State challenging either of the aforementioned Big Two? Didn't think so.

- Reggie Bush or Vince Young? Take your pick, but it says here the Heisman Trophy will go to one of these dynamic talents in early December. Longhorn lovers, by the way, had to be grinning ear to ear when Young said this week he's coming back for his senior year. Bush, meanwhile, could go No. 1 in the 2006 NFL draft.

- It won't affect the national title race, but the most amusing matchup of the week has to be in Columbia, S.C., where Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks welcome his former school, Florida. The Ol' Ball Coach is playing down all the hype, but you know he'd dearly love to give upstart South Carolina its biggest win yet in a surprising season.

On with this week's picks:

GAME OF THE WEEK

No. 5 LSU (-3) at No. 4 Alabama (Saturday, 3:30 p.m., CBS) -- The offensively challenged Crimson Tide has somehow managed to stay perfect until now. But many believe the dream season ends against the Bayou Bengals, who've won two straight in Tuscaloosa and can seize control of the SEC West with a win. Call it a hunch, but there seems to be something magical (mystical?) about this 'Bama team, which will keep it going one more time in a dandy defensive duel. Pick: ALABAMA.

NEXT BEST THINGS

No. 1 USC (-19) at California (Saturday, 3:30 p.m., ABC regional) -- QB Aaron Rodgers had a brilliant day a year ago and the Golden Bears still couldn't slay the mighty Trojans. No way inconsistent Joe Ayoob gets it done this time, though Marshawn Lynch and the Cal ground game could make it interesting. Still, Matt Leinart and Co. march one step closer to the Rose Bowl. Pick: CALIFORNIA.

No. 25 Northwestern (+17) at No. 10 Ohio State (Saturday, Noon, ABC regional) -- The Brett Basanez-led Wildcats can score on just about anyone, but they haven't yet crossed paths with the kind of defence the Buckeyes possess. And with QB Troy Smith on a major roll, Ohio State will post enough points of its own to pull away for a convincing win. PICK: OHIO STATE.

UPSET SPECIAL

No. 15 Auburn (+3) at No. 9 Georgia (Saturday, 7:45 p.m., Rogers NCAA)

-- Despite losing three first-round NFL draft picks out of its backfield, Auburn can get back to the SEC championship game with a win here and next week vs. Alabama. QB D.J. Shockley returns for the Bulldogs, who are zeroing in on SEC East crown. It's never easy winning 'between the hedges' in Athens, but the Kenny Irons-led Tiger ground game will get it done. Pick: AUBURN.

BLOWOUT OF THE WEEK

UNLV (+29) at No. 18 TCU (Saturday, 7 p.m.) -- It's LaDainian Tomlinson day in Fort Worth, and the Horned Frogs will celebrate in style by hammering the lowly Rebels to seal a perfect Mountain West Conference season. Pick: TCU.

QUICK PICKS

(Straight-up selections in bold)

Tonight

Boise State (+71/2) over No. 20 Fresno State

Tomorrow

No. 23 Louisville (-211/2) over Rutgers

Saturday

No. 2 Texas (-34) over Kansas

Wake Forest (+17) over No. 3 Miami (Fla.)

No. 7 Notre Dame (-231/2) over Navy

Washington State (+4) over No. 11 Oregon

South Carolina (+4) over No. 12 Florida

No. 13 Texas Tech (-23) over Oklahoma State

Arizona State (+31/2) over No. 14 UCLA

No. 17 Florida State (-11/2) over Clemson

No. 19 Wisconsin (-3) over Iowa

No. 21 Michigan (-24) over Indiana

No. 22 Colorado (-2) over Iowa State

No. 24 Georgia Tech (+5) over Virginia

(NOTE: No. 16 West Virginia played Cincinnati last night).

Last week -- 14-5 straight up; 10-9 ATS.

Season record -- 140-43 straight up; 88-91-4 ATS.

Best bet -- Wisconsin (3-7).

Upset special -- Auburn (2-8).


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