Michigan's gain is Notre Dame's loss

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:28 AM ET

Separation Saturday didn't exactly set the final stage for the national championship game. At least not yet.

But it's fair to suggest that some of last weekend's winners put themselves squarely into a picture that might not have included them at the season's outset. And others, who were expected to lead this chase right to the finish line, had serious dents kicked into those plans.

Who were the biggest winners and losers?

Here's one man's opinion.

WINNERS

- Michigan: The Wolverines weren't on anybody's radar screen when all the title talk began to build during the summer. Funny what a nationally televised demolition of Notre Dame will do for you. Suddenly, the Maize and Blue's annual grudge match with Ohio State appears to have more than a Big 10 title on the line. Much more.

- Auburn: The Tigers' toughest tests are all right at home on the Plains. But Tommy Tuberville's boys probably cleared their biggest hurdle by surviving last weekend's fierce defensive battle with LSU. Over to you, now, Florida and Georgia.

- West Virginia: Not for anything the Mountaineers did, but rather Big East rival Louisville's mashing of Miami (Fla). Suddenly, West Virginia's soft schedule has the marquee date it desperately needs. A nation figures to pay attention when the Cards and Mountaineers collide Nov. 2.

- Florida: Any questions now about the Gators' ability to win in a hostile environment?

LOSERS

- Notre Dame: It's not that the Irish lost, but how they did it. Michigan exposed the Notre Dame defence big time, shredding it on the ground and through the air, while turning Irish QB Brady Quinn into a mere mortal. While Notre Dame's title hopes aren't dead, consider this fact: Only two national champs since 1991 earned that honour with one loss. And USC still awaits in La-La Land.

- Nebraska: Big 12 contender? Absolutely. National force? Bill Callahan's still got some work to do.

- The men in stripes: They hosed Oklahoma, plain and simple.

- Miami, Florida State, Tennessee: See y'all next year.

On with Week 4's selections (odds supplied by Sportsbook.com):

GAME OF THE WEEK

No. 24 Penn State (+161/2) at No. 1 Ohio State (Saturday, 3:30 p.m., ABC) -- Nittany Lions are 0-6 in Columbus since joining the Big 10. And don't think for a minute that the Buckeyes have forgotten last year's 17-10 loss in Happy Valley. Huge edge for OSU at quarterback, where Troy Smith figures to gain more Heisman votes. Joe Pa's crew will make the Buckeyes earn it, but ... PICK: OHIO STATE.

NEXT BEST THINGS

No. 12 Notre Dame (-31/2) at Michigan State (Saturday, 8 p.m., ABC) -- Irish can't afford to stumble again in East Lansing or it's really over. Spartans have been nation's biggest tease the past few seasons. Beating Pitt was impressive, but here's the real test for QB Drew Stanton and Co. Watch for a big Irish rebound against a team that's been a recent nemesis. PICK: NOTRE DAME.

No. 22 Arizona State (+71/2) at No. 21 California (Saturday, 3:30 p.m.) -- Golden Bears star RB Marshawn Lynch is on the limp heading into a game with major Pac-10 implications. Sun Devils' defence appears vastly improved, but can QB Rudy Carpenter get the job done on offence? They'll keep it close, but Cal gets the win. PICK: ARIZONA STATE.

QUICK PICKS

(STRAIGHT-UP SELECTIONS IN BOLD)

SATURDAY

No. 2 Auburn (-421/2) over Buffalo

No. 3 USC (-211/2) over Arizona

No. 4 West Virginia (-21) over East Carolina

No. 5 Florida (-231/2) over Kentucky

Wisconsin (+14) over No. 6 Michigan

Iowa State (+25) over No. 7 Texas

No. 8 Louisville (-14) over Kansas State

Colorado (+27) over No. 9 Georgia

No. 10 LSU (-361/2) over Tulane

Cincinnati (+27) over No. 11 Virginia Tech

No. 14 Iowa (-21) over Illinois

No. 15 Tennessee (-22) over Marshall

Middle Tennessee State (+29) over No. 17 Oklahoma

Rice (+301/2) over No. 18 Florida State

No. 19 Clemson (-161/2) over North Carolina

N.C. State (+7) over No. 20 Boston College

Troy (+23) over No. 23 Nebraska

No. 25 Boise State (-15) over Hawaii

Last week -- 15-3 straight up; 8-8 ATS.

Season record -- 58-5 straight up; 36-24-1 ATS.

Best bet -- Arizona State (3-0).


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