I've been thinking a lot recently about Utah Senator Orrin Hatch and some of his latest outbursts. He doesn't think government should get involved in protecting the health care of its citizens but he does think the feds should interfere in deciding college football's national champion and inflating the population of his home state.
Although the federal census is supposed to be a tally of how many folks we have living in this land of ours, Hatch has submitted a stupid amendment to the legislation calling for next year's population count that would force census takers to include all those Mormons off on missionary duties in far-flung lands. He's obviously hoping there's enough overseas Mormons out there to land Utah at least one more representative in Congress. But what he's actually doing is nullifying the purpose of the census.
He also thinks the Justice Department should file antitrust actions against the BCS. He's upset because Utah wasn't named National Champions last year and he blames it on the BCS which, he claims, limits competition by excluding teams from non BCS conferences from consideration. Look. Utah should have been named National Champions last year. The Utes were the only undefeated team in the upper division in 2008. Not only that, in its final game of the season, Utah handed Alabama, which had been No. 1 for most the year, its worst loss of the year.
The problem is not the BCS alone, however. The final AP Poll, which has no connection to the BCS, also failed to name Utah No. 1. And no amount of federal intervention is going to alter the prejudices of those out-of-touch sportswriters who vote in that poll.
I bring all this up right now because this year there are two teams, Boise State and TCU, who are challenging to be the Utah of 2009 and one of them, TCU, plays BYU, home to all those current and future Mormon missionaries, in what is unquestionably the spotlight game of this weekend's college football schedule.
TCU needs this win badly to remain BCS-bowl eligible with a possible shot at a national title (although if Boise State goes undefeated, TCU probably will be denied that shot). The game will pit TCU's superb defense, led by defensive ends Jerry Hughes (who sacked BYU quarterback Max Hall four times in last year's game and already has eight sacks this season) and Wayne Daniels. If BYU hopes to come away with a win, its offensive line must give Hall more time to find his receivers. I don't think it will and that's why I'm picking TCU to barely squeak by. TCU by 2 points.
Iowa's game at Michigan State has all the signs of an upset (Iowa has never--ever--been 8-0 in a college football season) but the Hawkeyes seemed to be focused this year and quarterback Ricky Stanzi is 15-3 as a starter. Iowa by 5.
LSU knows it still has a shot at the national title and if it defeats Alabama in two weeks and Florida in the SEC championship game, it has a shot for playing for one again. That's just one of the reasons I don't think it will be derailed Saturday by Auburn. LSU by 6.
Penn State hasn't defeated Michigan in Ann Arbor since 1996, but Penn State wants to play in the Rose Bowl and its defense usually does well against offenses as poor as Michigan's. It will be a nail-biter, but I'm going with Penn State by 1.
In this week's other games of note, I'm picking (no real upsets):
Kansas State over Colorado by 3
Georgia Tech over Virginia by 5
Miami over Clemson by 5
West Virginia over Connecticut by 5
Pittsburgh over South Florida by 6
Utah over Air Force by 6
Oklahoma over Kansas by 7
Oregon over Washington by 8
Oklahoma State over Baylor by 10
Texas over Missouri by 11
Houston over SMU by 12
Florida over Mississippi State by 16
Alabama over Tennessee by 17
Ohio State over Minnesota by 17
Southern California over Oregon State by 19
Nebraska over Iowa State by 21
South Carolina over Vanderbilt by 21
Boise State over Hawaii by 22
Texas Tech over Texas A&M by 23
Cincinnati over Louisville by 25