For weeks, we've presented the BALLS Index and there has been a notable omission. The No. 1 team in the nation, the LSU Tigers, has been nowhere to be found.
That changes this week, as the Tigers make their first appearance in our weekly look at which teams are the biggest favorites on average each week. (Data from Sal Selvaggio at MadduxSports.com.)
It wasn't a reflection on the quality of LSU (7-2 ATS, 9.94 margin of cover). If anything, it makes LSU's rise to the top of the BCS all the more impressive. The Tigers have done it playing an absolutely brutal schedule, which hasn't lent itself to enormous point spreads.
LSU has beaten, among others, Oregon, Mississippi State, West Virginia, Florida, Auburn and of course most recently, a road win over Alabama. This week's laugher just got even easier with the news that Ole Miss starting quarterback Randall Mackey and leading rusher Jeff Scott have been suspended for this week's game. LSU's BCS ranking can't get any higher, but it only stands at No. 9 on our chart.
As for other games this week, keep an eye on Oklahoma at Baylor. Oklahoma (6-3 ATS, 4.33 MOC) likely still has thoughts about playing for a BCS title, and with a matchup looming against Oklahoma State, it's not altogether inconceivable. The Sooners will likely be motivated to crush Baylor. Last year, Oklahoma went into Waco and won 53-24. The final score looked somewhat cosmetic only because of 14 fourth-quarter points by Baylor.
Throughout the year, we've looked at how teams respond the game after an undefeated season ends. Historically, it hasn't been pretty. There are two such examples this week.
Boise State (4-5 ATS, minus-0.33 MOC) goes to San Diego State and Stanford (8-1-1 ATS, 8.05 MOC) hosts Cal. If one of these teams is going to be motivated, it would figure to be Stanford. Andrew Luck still has the inside track to the Heisman and Cal is Stanford's archrival.
Finally, an intriguing game this week is the Houston-SMU matchup, if only because it represents only the second time all year that Houston has played a team with a winning record. The only other time Houston (7-2 ATS, 10.67 MOC) played such an opponent, the Cougars barely escaped with a 35-34 win over Louisiana Tech. Houston's opponents are a combined 37-62 on the season.
With that, here's this week's BALLS Index: