Trojans safe bet as title contender

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:20 AM ET

Okay, so it's only September, and there's still plenty of mighty significant football yet to be played.

But that hardly means it's too soon to cast our eyes toward January and the big game for all the marbles.

After all -- to borrow from a favourite saying around our office -- everybody's doing it. Why not us, too?

With that in mind, we offer up a quick ranking of our favourites to line up at Cardinals' Stadium on Jan. 8 in the BCS championship game:

- USC: The Trojans are still damned good -- who needs Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush, right? -- but more importantly, they've got the ideal schedule to ride unbeaten all the way to Glendale, Ariz. Sure, Top 25 powers Oregon, California and Notre Dame still lie ahead, but every one of them must face the Trojans at the L.A. Coliseum. Where USC, we hasten to add, has won 28 in a row. Can you say 12-0?

- Ohio State: The Buckeyes have the nation's most explosive schedule and the right ranking -- No. 1. In other words, everyone else is in catch-up mode. But Ohio State has a rather tricky road trip to Iowa on the docket Saturday. Pass that test and it's likely clean sailing all the way to a season-ending showdown with Michigan, which is looking like national championship game material itself.

- West Virginia: Nobody has a softer schedule than the Mountaineers, who surely have the talent to run the table. But that's the rub against this crew. Other than a nationally televised Nov. 2 showdown at Louisville, the Mounties have no major chance to impress the pollsters and the computers. Meaning 12-0 might not even be enough.

After those three, the hill gets a little steeper to climb.

Auburn, Florida and LSU are all dynamite teams, but this SEC trio might take turns knocking each other out of the race (for what it's worth, Auburn's toughest tests are all at home).

Notre Dame? The Irish should have a pretty smooth ride until USC, but that game's in the Trojans' crib. And we all know what that means ...

But first things first: Our picks for Week 5 (odds supplied by Sportsbook.com):

GAME OF THE WEEK

No. 1 Ohio State (-7) at No. 13 Iowa (Saturday, 8 p.m., ABC) -- The Buckeyes' biggest hurdle until Michigan comes right here, and they'll need more than they showed against Penn State last week to get it done. Hawkeyes quarterback Drew Tate is by far the best Ohio State's rapidly improving defence has seen so far. He'll keep it close, but OSU marches on. PICK: IOWA.

NEXT BEST THINGS

Alabama (+131/2) at No. 5 Florida (Saturday, 3:30 p.m., CBS) -- The Gators have been lying in wait for a year to avenge a 31-3 pummelling at the hands of the Crimson Tide. While the Red Elephants' opportunistic defence will keep it interesting, Florida quarterback Chris Leak and Co. get their payback. PICK: ALABAMA.

No. 24 Georgia Tech (+9) at No. 11 Virginia Tech (Saturday, 3:30 p.m., ABC regional) -- Finally, a real test for the Hokies in a game that should go a long way toward deciding who wins the ACC's Coastal Division. The Yellow Jackets' defence and wide receiver Calvin Johnson will be a handful, but the home side squeaks one out. PICK: GEORGIA TECH.

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QUICK PICKS

(STRAIGHT-UP SELECTIONS IN BOLD)

TONIGHT

No. 2 Auburn (-14) over South Carolina

No. 17 TCU (-51/2) over Brigham Young

TOMORROW

South Florida (+4) over No. 23 Rutgers (-4)

SATURDAY

No. 3 USC (-17) over Washington State

Minnesota (+10) over No. 6 Michigan

No. 7 Texas (NL) over Sam Houston State

No. 9 LSU (-321/2) over Mississippi State

No. 10 Georgia (-18) over Mississippi

No. 12 Notre Dame (-14) over Purdue

No. 14 Oregon (-11/2) over Arizona State

No. 15 Tennessee (-131/2) over Memphis

No. 18 Clemson (-34) over Louisiana Tech

No. 20 California (-91/2) over Oregon State

No. 21 Nebraska (-211/2) over Kansas

No. 22 Boise State (+4) over Utah

Colorado (+141/2) over No. 25 Missouri

Last week -- 20-1 straight up; 9-11-1 ATS.

Season record -- 78-6 straight up; 45-35-1 ATS.

Best bet -- Oregon (3-1).


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