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The Picker: As a kid, making my list and checking it twice was a holiday tradition
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The Picker: As a kid, making my list and checking it twice was a holiday tradition

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Ah, the day after Thanksgiving. For many adults it is the official beginning of the holiday period, when the decorations come out of the closet and “All I Want for Christmas” goes on repeat on their favorite music source.

Others have visions of packages, boxes, bags and bows going through their heads, as we enter the start of a month-long shopping spree when some people develop calluses on the fingers that pull credit cards out of their wallets.

My favorite memories of the day after Thanksgiving far predate the term Black Friday, however. As soon as we were done with breakfast, my brothers and I would break out the Sears catalog and create our Christmas lists. It was serious business and often took most of the day.

While some parents might have sat down with their children and talked about the joy of giving and how we should think less about ourselves and more about others, our mom was smart enough to realize that a day of quiet where we didn’t hammer on each other was worth far more than a lesson on generosity.

Inside the Sears book, we had some favorites that we returned to every year — and no, not a Red Ryder BB gun (I shudder to think what we would have done with an actual weapon).

We were sure our gridiron futures were based on getting a youth football helmet and set of shoulder pads — representing all 26 NFL teams! None of us ever got one, which I see as the sole reason I write about football instead of having my bust in the Hall of Fame.

Many other things were scribbled down every year only to be ignored, including anything sticky; anything that fired projectiles; anything with bright, flashing lights; and anything that created a lot of noise. While we often included nearly every toy in the book, Santa somehow was able to resist putting the elves on overtime to make all our dreams come true.

We never wrote down pajamas, shirts or socks, but they found their way under the tree or in our stockings every year.

I do remember one toy that we put on our list that Santa actually delivered on: an electric football game. Even to a group of pre-teens, it was a massive disappointment once we got it out of the box and played with it, watching the little plastic players buzz around in circles, none of them actually going in the right direction.

Maybe Kris Kringle knew what he was doing all along.

On to this week’s big games.

College

Oklahoma at Oklahoma State: Not sure what else to add. OSU has a great defense and a chip on its shoulder in this rivalry; OU the pressure of being the dominant big brother trying to keep his sibling at arm’s length, and at the same time needing a win to force a rematch next week. I think the forgotten quarterback in this game makes the difference. Spencer Sanders leads the Cowboys’ offense to a win that will resonate for years. Or at least until next week. OSU victorious, 24-17.

Tulsa at SMU: With eight wins already in hand, SMU honestly has nothing but pride to play for here, while TU must win to become bowl-eligible. It’s just hard to pick TU, which seems to have more heart than anything else. The Ponies will sink TU’s hopes here, 33-28.

Texas Tech at Baylor: The Bears may feel a little left out with all the attention given to Bedlam, but Baylor can shift all the pressure to OU in their race for a spot in the Big 12 championship game by winning this morning matchup. If QB Gerry Bohanon can’t play due to a leg injury, the Bears’ running game figures to be enough the carry the load. We’ll say Bohanon plays, and the Bears win at home: 28-14.

Alabama at Auburn: One thing about rivalries: Sometimes the better team takes advantage of its edge to punish the other team. Auburn seems to be fading late, having dropped three straight games. The Tide is trying to build momentum for next week’s showdown with Georgia. Let’s say Bama leaves Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium with a 45-21 victory.

Oregon State at Oregon: These teams played their first game against each other on Nov. 3, 1894, and this will be their 125th meeting. The Ducks are coming off a crushing loss to Utah last week, and need a win here to get a rematch with the Utes in the Pac-12 title game. The Beavers obviously would love to add to the Ducks’ pain from last week. Oregon adds to its all-time advantage in this series with a 35-28 win.

Cincinnati at East Carolina: Everyone knows what’s on the line here for the Bearcats, who are coming off a dominating win over SMU’s Little Ponies (leaving them not so pretty anymore). The Pirates have won four in a row since suffering an overtime loss to Houston. The Bearcats won’t lose this game, but it may be more interesting than they would like before they pull away late. Cincy remains undefeated, 35-21.

Missouri at Arkansas: The Hogs have dropped four games, but three of those losses have come against the top teams in the SEC. Mizzou’s performances have not reached that level. I expect Arkansas to close out its best season in a decade; let’s say, call the Hogs after a 38-24 victory.

Wisconsin at Minnesota: “Wisky” looks to win Paul Bunyan’s Axe on its way to the Big Ten title game. The Golden Gophers’ season has been a mixed bag (win over Purdue, loss to Bowling Green). The Badgers’ defense won’t let this one get away. Wisconsin wins, 24-13.

NFL

Tampa Bay at Indianapolis: The Colts have managed to dig themselves out of a 1-4 hole to become one of the hottest teams in the AFC. Running back Jonathan Taylor is rolling for Indy, while the Tampa Bay rushing attack has not reached the level of last year’s stretch drive. Colts trump Tom Brady here, 27-24.

Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay: Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford has plenty of bad memories of Lambeau. His new team is much more talented, but he also has never played the weekend after Thanksgiving and may have a turkey hangover. Give Green Bay the edge, 31-28.

Cleveland at Baltimore: Browns have been in a bad dream on offense the past few weeks, with injuries seemingly sending everyone to the sidelines at one point or another. The defense has stepped up, but asking them to do it again may be too much. Baltimore still rules the AFC North with a 30-17 victory.

Tie-breaker

Ohio State at Michigan: To be straight, I really don’t see a path for Michigan to win this game. The only thing going for the Wolverines is motivation for past failures. Buckeyes QB C.J. Stroud probably clinches the Heisman with a good performance here as OSU wins, 34-24.

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