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Per The Big Lead, there are 14 people who made an offseason bet at the Las Vegas Hilton sports book that Auburn would win the BCS Championship.
The odds: 1,000 to 1. Seemed like a safe bet -- for the sports book.
After all, Auburn went 3-9 overall and 0-8 in the SEC. Who could have seen their turnaround?
Now, if Auburn wins the SEC title game over Missouri while either Ohio State or Florida State is tripped up in their conference title games (Ohio State is the better bet for that to happen), the Tigers could very easily be playing for a national title.
And 14 bettors could be in for the wildest three hours of their lives.
Game of the weekend: 2:30pm today, ESPN: #19 Wisconsin at #25 Minnesota
Most people already consider this year of Gopher football, broadly speaking, a success. Four Big Ten wins, including one over traditional power Nebraska, have seen to that; even if the Gophers lose their final three games of the year, it has been a positive year for Minnesota.
Today, though, the Gophers have a chance to make 2013 the most memorable year of Gopher football for a generation - to not only get to five conference wins, but to get a truly memorable win. ("Remember the year we beat Wisconsin, the year it was like zero degrees?")
Minnesota has had a handful of five-win conference seasons in the past forty years, but perhaps only 1986, when the Gophers beat Michigan at the Big House, can truly compare - and even that year, Minnesota lost to Pacific in the non-conference schedule. 2003 was marred by the Michigan debacle in the Dome (and the nearly-as-craptacular Michigan State loss at home the following week.) 1999 had the epic upset at Penn State, but also had the frustration of four losses of five points or less. 1990 had a 56-0 loss to Nebraska, and a Pacific-style loss to Utah to open the year.
A win over Wisconsin would give Minnesota those five Big Ten wins, plus the fond memory of beating the Badgers in the below-zero wind chill. The Gophers probably aren't going to the Big Ten championship game, let's be honest; Michigan State can end that hope before things even kick off on the East Bank today. But regardless of what might happen next week against the Spartans, the Gophers can seal 2013 this week as one of the team's best years ever. All they have to do: bring the Axe home.
What else to watch this weekend
11:00am today, ESPN: #13 Michigan State at Northwestern. All of that said, just keep an eye on how things are going in Evanston... you know, just in case.
7:25am Sunday, NBC Sports: Tottenham at Manchester City. It's the best of the weekend English soccer slate, according to Dana Wessel. Can City continue their run of playing well at home? Can Spurs score a goal this season, pretty much ever? Can you find anything else to watch if you happen to be up early tomorrow morning? (Probable answers, in order: Yes. No. No.)
4:00pm Sunday, FSN: Minnesota-Duluth at Minnesota. When the kickoff for the Gophers and Wisconsin was announced for the late afternoon, this game was moved from Saturday night to Sunday, in order to minimize the difficulty of getting football fans out of Stadium Village and hockey fans in. A lot of Gopher hockey fans were mad about that one - Saturday night is hockey night! - but here's the weird thing: Sunday afternoon Gopher hockey games are always raucous. I don't have an explanation for that, but some of the loudest crowds I've ever heard at Mariucci were Sunday afternoon crowds.
7:20pm Sunday, ESPN: Denver at New England. Sunday afternoon is inviolable for a lot of NFL fans. I've talked to at least one person, and I'm sure there are others, who have negotiated a truce of sorts with their families: just let me have from noon to 6:30 on Sunday to watch football, and I'll go anywhere and do anything the rest of the week. It is to those people I speak here: The afternoon games (Indy at Arizona, Dallas at the Giants) are terrible, and you probably don't want to watch the Vikings/Packers game anyway. Move it back. Give up the afternoon so you can take the evening; you'd much rather watch this game instead. You have a day to pull this off. Go.
What to read this weekend
With Thanksgiving coming up, you probably haven't been thinking much about the Twins' starting rotation. I'd like to offer you the chance to correct that, thanks to the TwinsCentric / TwinsDaily crew. Last week, Parker Hageman looked at Ricky Nolasco, one of the guys the Twins are rumored to be high on; this week, John Bonnes did the same for Bronson Arroyo.
Game of the Week: #5 Florida State at #3 Clemson, 7pm tonight, ABC
Gather 'round, children, and let me tell you about a time - really not so long ago - when there were college football games that mattered on a national scale that were not between two SEC teams.
That's right! They weren't even in the Pac-10, after everybody had gone to bed! They were played in the South, just like SEC games, between some of the most famous football schools in the country, with national title implications - and most of them involved Florida State.
For those of us who are reaching middle age, it's tough to understand that Florida State hasn't been exceptionally good in a very long time. From 1987 to 2000, FSU finished the season in the top 5 every single year. They started competing for the ACC football championship in 1992, and promptly won nine straight titles, along with national championships in 1993 and 1999.
It's not like the Seminoles have fallen off the map since - they've won the ACC four times, and ended the season in the top 25 almost every year - but this dip happened to coincide with the rise of SEC, a rise that's reached a point where college football now feels kind of like it has a major league and a bunch of minor leagues.
Tonight, though - undefeated FSU visits undefeated Clemson, in the stadium they call Death Valley. It's the biggest game in college football so far this year. And it's a reminder of a time that the SEC championship wasn't the de facto national championship game.
What else to watch this weekend
Today, 11:30am: Manchester City at West Ham, NBC. City needs a win to keep pace at the top of the Premier League standings - so if you like an underdog, tune in and root on West Ham.
Tonight, 7pm: Detroit at Boston, ALCS Game 6, FOX. It's hard not to love playoff baseball - though it's easier when the St. Louis Cardinals and their horribly smug fans are involved. This could be the last baseball game of the year that doesn't involve the Cardinals.
Sunday, noon: NFL coverage, NFL Red Zone Channel. The Vikings play on Monday night, so that will give you a chance to watch the Red Zone network - which I remind you again is the best possible way to watch the NFL. If you don't get that channel - and I feel for you if you don't - you've got the Bengals and Lions on CBS, or the Bears and the Redskins on FOX.
Sunday, 5:00: Celtics at Timberwolves, NBA TV. We're all pretty optimistic about the Wolves, given that it's still the offseason. This might be a good time to watch them; that's usually a pretty good way to temper your expectations.
What to read this weekend
The tradition of letting every Stanley Cup-winning player have the Cup for a day wasn't started until 1995, so former greats like Ken Dryden never got a chance to take the Cup home with them as a player. In an excerpt from a new chapter that Dryden wrote for the 30th-anniversary edition of his book "The Game", though, he finally gets the chance to do what we all would have liked to have done - take the Cup home, and hoist it after a game in the backyard.
You can't really make this up, can you? Here's LSU coach Les Miles, on Columbus Day:
We just came from Gophers football media access, which was the first opportunity to ask players about last week's development with head coach Jerry Kill taking an indefinite leave of absence as he works to get his epilepsy under control.
The universal message from kicker Chris Hawthorne, offensive lineman Jon Christenson, tight end Maxx Williams and defensive back Brock Vereen: They are fully prepared to move on with business as usual and are hoping to draw on Kill for inspiration in their game against Northwestern on Saturday.
How that all comes together, of course, remains to be seen. It has been far from a normal season for the Gophers, with Kill missing part of their victory over Western Illinois and all of their loss to Michigan two Saturdays ago. They have also been in the midst of a QB shuffle, though acting head coach Tracy Claeys said Tuesday that Mitch Leidner will start against the Wildcats, saying Leidner "deserves the opportunity" after showing some progress against Michigan.
Perhaps Kill's leave of absence will even bring a sense of normalcy to the program in an odd way. Stability is huge, Vereen said, and not knowing the status of your head coach from week to week cannot be easy.
Claeys said he does not anticipate Kill will return for the Northwestern game -- hardly surprising since this is the first game since Kill took his leave of absence.
The only certainty is that the Gophers will have a ton of work to do in order to beat the Wildcats -- or, frankly, any Big Ten team left on their schedule at this point.
We'll have a video from Gophers access posted shortly. For now, your thoughts on the Gophers in the comments, please.