Philadelphia, PA – Despite being ranked four spots ahead of 12 Conference Championship Game. rival Oregon State at home this weekend.
Meanwhile, the Cardinal hosts Notre Dame this Saturday without a realistic chance to reach its own conference title matchup as well as the BCS Championship Game. In addition, the Cardinal is coming off its two most important games of the season in back-to-back weeks so one has to wonder how much David Shaw���s squad has left in the tank with not much left on the line.
Andrew Luck has put up top-notch numbers this year but after starting the season with 20 touchdown passes against just three interceptions, the expected No. 1 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft has thrown 11 TDs with five picks in his last four games. Moreover, he hasn't had the same type of protection in those four outings having been sacked seven times compared to just two in the first seven games.
On the other side of the ball, Stanford's defense has been torched for 142 points over the last four weeks. That's an average of 35.5 points per game. In contrast, the unit allowed just 88 total points in its first seven games for an average of 12.5 points per game. Look for Notre Dame to take full advantage of Stanford's porous defense even without running back Jonas Gray who will miss the rest of the season with an injured knee.
The Irish put forth a lackluster offensive effort against Boston College last week but still came out with the two-point win. They are now 8-3, and a victory at Stanford will cap off a solid nine-win regular season, their first in five years. They have played great ball away from home this season compiling a 4-1 mark with the only defeat coming by four points at Michigan in week two, a game the Irish led for much of the contest.
There's also payback in mind for Notre Dame after Stanford won 37-14 in South Bend last year. Don't forget, field position played a huge role in that loss as eight of the Irish's 11 drives began at or inside their own 20-yard line. Conversely, only three of Stanford's 10 drives started inside its own 20.
Two years ago, Notre Dame came into Stanford Stadium as 10-point underdogs after the Cardinal had played three tough opponents in a row - Oregon, USC, and California - and the Irish lost by only a touchdown, a game they led by eight points in the fourth quarter. Look for another hotly contested matchup in 2011 with the Irish covering the touchdown spread.
Take Notre Dame plus the points in the first of four, three-star selections.
Northwestern has been one of the better teams in the country the last month with four consecutive victories, including a huge upset of then ninth-ranked Nebraska. Since then, the Wildcats have picked up back-to-back home wins over Rice and Minnesota to run their record to 6-5.
Michigan State comes into this contest having already clinched a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game. However, the Spartans are just 2-2 on the road with just one victory by more than three points. The Wildcats will not only cover the spread but upset the Legends Division leader, 27-24.
Take Northwestern plus the points.
Utah State hosts Nevada in a game Nevada must win to have any hopes of winning the WAC. Not only does the Wolf Pack need a victory, Louisiana Tech also must lose at home to New Mexico State and that's not likely to happen.
Nevada got caught thinking about a conference championship when the Bulldogs scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter last week to win 24-20. It will be extremely tough to bounce back off that type of loss a week later and defeat Utah State on the road.
The Aggies, who won at Idaho in double overtime last Saturday to move to 5-5, are just one win shy of becoming bowl-eligible for the first time since 1997 when they lost to Cincinnati in the Humanitarian Bowl.
Utah State has played a lot of close games this year (five decided by four points or less), but for the first time in ages the club actually has more talent on offense than Nevada.
This one has all the makings of a high-scoring game with the home team walking off with the victory by at least a field goal.
Take Utah State minus the points.
Two 4-1 MWC teams hook up in Boise this Saturday when Wyoming takes on Boise State. It's not often a game features two teams with the same conference record and one of the clubs is favored by over 30 points, but that's the story in this one as Boise is favored by 32.5 points despite only winning two of its 10 games by more than 27 points.
On the other side, Wyoming has lost only one game by more than 24 points. In addition, the Cowboys have won four of their last five matchups, including two road victories over San Diego State and Air Force. They also have last year's 51-6 home loss to Boise State to motivate them as they try to take over second place in the MWC.
Take Wyoming plus the points.
Go with Michigan (versus Ohio State), Louisiana Tech (against New Mexico State), and UAB (at FAU).
Take Auburn (versus Alabama) and the under in Virginia Tech-Virginia.
AFTER 12 WEEKS
The overall 12-week total now stands at 58-80-1 (5-5 in week 12), including a .500 record (44-44-1) over the last seven weeks. My Five-Star plays are 5-3, the Three-Star selections are 21-28-1, the Two-Star plays are 18-30, and the One-Star picks are 14-19.
As a reminder, the Five-Star plays are when my Power Plays and Key Plays coincide. The Three-Star choices are my personal picks, the Two-Star plays are the "power number" picks (games with at least a five-point differential between my line and the actual line), and the One-Star plays are my personal secondary selections.
THIS WEEK'S JEFF FRANK'S "DIRTY DOZEN"
1) LSU, 112.5; 2) Alabama, 109.5; 3) Wisconsin, 105; 4) Oregon, 104.5; 5-T) Stanford and Oklahoma State, 104; 7) Oklahoma, 103.5; 8-T) Arkansas and Houston, 101; 10-T) Boise State and USC, 100; 12) Texas A&M, 98.5
(The Top 12 is not a reflection of a given team's won-loss record. It's based purely on power rankings used to predict spreads for the upcoming week. At the beginning of the season, all 120 FBS teams are assigned a power number, which then changes on a week-to-week basis depending on how each team played.)