Conference races take center stage

The teams at the top of the BCS standings shouldn't have too big of a challenge this week, so the focus shifts to the conference races.  And because it's basketball season also, we start with Duke leading the ACC.

Last week, I was 5-4 straight up, 3-6 vs. the spread.  For the season, I'm 49-19 overall, 33-33-2 vs the spread.

Miami at Duke (+3.5):  Duke is a big story this year, sitting at 7-2, one of three teams tied for first in the loss column of the Coastal division of the ACC, and in control of its own destiny for a spot in the ACC title game.  Miami also has a big story named "Duke."  Hurricanes RB Duke Johnson is done for the year, and Miami has to find a way to cope.  They will, but it won't be easy.  Miami wins, but Duke covers.

Michigan State at Nebraska (+6):  The Cornhuskers remain without the services of QB Taylor MartinezTommy Armstrong, Jr. takes over and will face the top rated defense in the country.  Michigan State has never beaten Nebraska, and they will need good production from QB Connor Cook if that's going to change.  Michigan State wins, Nebraska covers.

Baylor vs Texas Tech (-27.5): Three weeks ago, this looked like a much bigger game than it does now.  At that time, the Red Raiders were undefeated headed into Oklahoma.  The Sooners beat Texas Tech then and the Red Raiders haven't won since.  Baylor showed it's for real against those same Sooners last week.  This game is at Jerry World in Dallas.  Baylor wins, Texas Tech covers.

Oklahoma State at Texas (+3): Texas got some very bad news this week with the loss of RB Johnathan Gray and DT Chris Whaley for the season with injuries.  The Longhorns have turned things around after a rough start, but the Cowboys will provide a very strong test.  Oklahoma State really knows how to light up a scoreboard.  Texas will be hard pressed to keep up.  Cowboys win and cover.

Stanford at USC (+4): USC has won four out of five since replacing Lane Kiffin with Ed Orgeron.  Orgeron has brought a lot of energy and excitement to the Trojans squad, which clearly loves playing for him.  More importantly, he also has USC playing much closer to the level of its talent.  Stanford is still better on both sides of the ball (especially defense), but they will have to avoid a letdown to hold on to the division lead.  Stanford wins and covers.

Georgia over Auburn (-3.5): Auburn has been on an incredible roll this season, currently sitting 9-1 and 7th in the latest BCS standings.  One thing the Tigers haven't seen much of to this point is quality athletes on the opposing defense.  Georgia will bring that.  They have been getting better of late, and are a top 20 rushing defense nationally.

The Bulldogs are also finally getting healthy on offense.  RB Todd Gurley came back last week, and this week could bring the return of top receiver Chris Conley and TE Arthur Lynch may return this week.  Given the kind of season Auburn has had, I'm surprised this line isn't bigger.  It's basically the equivalent of home field advantage.  Georgia has won six of the last seven, including the last two by a combined score of 83-7.  Georgia isn't going to put up numbers like that, but they will pull off the upset.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Jerry Palm started writing about sports on the Internet right after Al Gore invented it. He was the first to bring RPI out in the open and is one of the pioneers of predicting the March Madness bracket.... Full Bio

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