The USC Trojans made a huge statement on Saturday as they hammered Notre Dame 44-24 and set themselves up for the position opposite Ohio State in the national title game. USC still must take care of one more piece of business this weekend in arch-rival and cross town-foe UCLA to cement their position. Also of note from this past weekend, Boise State secured themselves a position in the school's first ever BCS game as the Broncos completed an undefeated season by pounding Nevada 38-7. The upcoming weekend of action will settle the entire bowl picture as there are five conference championship games on the schedule in addition to a couple of Big East battles that will decide that conference's BCS entry. Letís take a look at the final regular season week of action.
GAME OF THE WEEK
#4-Florida vs #7-Arkansas at Atlanta, GA
The game of the week features two top ten teams battling for a position in the January 3rd Sugar Bowl. Even if Florida wins this game and USC stumbles against UCLA, it is extremely unlikely that UF would be able to overtake Michigan in the BCS standings to earn a shot at the national title, as their October loss to Auburn looks to be too much to overcome. Florida had a tough battle last week against in-state rival Florida State but came away with the 21-14 win, securing their 3rd straight victory against the Seminoles. Arkansas had its 10-game winning streak snapped by LSU in a close contest as the Tigers wore down the Razorbacks on their way to a 31-26 win. These teams last played in 2004 as Florida overwhelmed Arkansas by a score of 45-30, and the Gators have won all 5 of the contests between these two programs since UA joined the SEC. Letís break down the keys to victory in this championship tilt.
The Gators have relied heavily on their defense this season, and the unit has responded, ranking 10th in the nation in yards per game. On the season, the Gator stop troops are yielding just 12.3 points per game and are the main reason that Florida earned a spot in the SEC championship game. Challenging the Gator defensive front will be the devastating Arkansas rushing game that ranks 4th in the nation and generates 236 yards per game on the ground. Leading the Hog charge is RB Darren McFadden, one of the top 5 all-around running backs in the nation who averages 124 yards per game rushing and has over 1,500 yards on the season. What also makes Arkansas so dangerous is that in addition to McFadden, the Razorbacks have RB Felix Jones who also has over 1,000 yards on the season. The two combined are almost impossible to stop. Like most teams have tried with Arkansas, the Gators are likely to stack the line of scrimmage to force Arkansas to win the game with the pass, an area that they have struggled with the entire year, ranking 105th in the nation.
Arkansas has been solid on the defensive side of the football, but they have been susceptible to the opposition's ground game. The question is will the Gators be able to take advantage of the Hog rush defense, as they have not established a great ground game of their own for the entire season. Floridaís leading rusher on the year is Deshawn Wynn with only 52.7 yards per game on the ground, and in actuality, back-up QB Tim Tebow may be their most dangerous weapon in the rushing attack. If Florida is going to win an SEC title, QB Chris Leak is going to be relied on to carry the team on his arm, and Tim Tebow will be utilized for a change of pace and to give Arkansas another weapon to be concerned about on defense. One key area for Florida is a kicking game that has been inept all season long, as Chris Hetland has made only 3 out of 12 attempts and cannot be relied on to win this game for the Gators. This should be a great game, and with Florida still maintaining an outside shot to play for the national championship, the stakes are high in Atlanta as the SEC champion will be crowned.
OTHER MUST-SEE MATCHUPS
#10-Rutgers at West Virginia
This game lost a bit of steam after West Virginia stumbled at home to South Florida, losing 24-19 and being eliminated from BCS bowl contention. The Mountaineers were limited to 179 yards on the ground and were held under 40 points for the first time this season at home by a stubborn USF defensive unit. Rutgers responded in a big way after their loss to Cincinnati, jumping out early and then cruising over Syracuse 38-7. The stakes for the Scarlet Knights are huge because if Rutgers can win this game, they will claim the Big East title and a BCS bowl berth by virtue of their November win over Louisville. This game presents an interesting battle as the West Virginia offense, still ranked 3rd in the nation with 2 of the countryís top 20 rushers, runs into the Rutgers stout defense that yields 243 total yards a game and ranks 3rd in the country. Rutgers has never won a game at West Virginia in their history, and they have their best shot this weekend to end the streak and complete a historic season for this program.
#3-Southern Cal at UCLA
The Trojans have one more obstacle to overcome before they can begin preparations for a national title clash with Ohio State. USC looked powerful over the weekend in their dominating 44-24 win over Notre Dame, a win that propelled them ahead of Michigan in the BCS standings. Meanwhile, UCLA had the week off in preparation for the big game, and the Bruins are focused on smashing USCís national title dreams and ending their 7 game losing streak to the Trojans. The Bruins have had a rebuilding season, but with their two consecutive wins over Oregon State and Arizona State, they are now bowl eligible at 6-5, earning their 5th straight postseason invite. To win this game, the UCLA defense, ranked 32nd in the nation, will need to somehow slow down a USC attack that is peaking right now, as QB John David Booty is finding his talented wide receiver corps open all over the field. A win by USC and the Trojans establish themselves as a college football dynasty, as they will be playing for their 4th consecutive shot at the national championship.
Nebraska vs #9-Oklahoma at Kansas City, MO
The Oklahoma defense held off a late Oklahoma State drive as the Sooners captured a 27-21 win, which combined with the Texas loss to rival A&M the day before, propelled the Sooners into the Big 12 championship game. Oklahoma has now won 7 straight games since their loss to Texas, and the Sooners have been impressive in recent weeks in overtaking Texas in the South division. Nebraska completed their regular season by pounding Colorado 37-14, and they can now focus on earning their 1st conference title since 1999. The Huskers have not been to a BCS game since the 2001 Rose Bowl, and the program looks to have turned the corner on its way back to the national spotlight. These two Big 12 perennial powers met last season with Oklahoma emerging as the victor by a 31-24 score, and this yearís game should be just as close as these teams look to be evenly matched on paper. The winner of this one will head to the Fiesta Bowl and a likely matchup with undefeated Boise State.
Georgia Tech vs #14-Wake Forest at Jacksonville, FL
The ACC title is on the line in a matchup that would have drawn strange looks if predicted back in August. Wake came up big this past weekend in knocking off Maryland 38-24 to claim their spot opposite Georgia Tech this weekend, while the Yellow Jackets stumbled for the 6th consecutive time to rival Georgia. Wake Forest has developed a tough ground attack in recent weeks, and they pounded out 311 yards on the ground versus Maryland as QB Riley Skinner only attempted 13 passes on the evening. The Deacons will need to continue to pound away if they hope to claim an ACC title, but this week they will have to do so against the nationís 11th ranked rushing defense. Techís WR Calvin Johnson has been quiet in recent weeks and will need to re-connect with QB Reggie Ball if the Jackets hope to claim an ACC title. The winner of this one is off to the Orange Bowl to play on January 2nd.
Army vs Navy at Philadelphia
One of the great collegiate rivalries is on the schedule this weekend as the classic Army/Navy battle takes place in Philadelphia. Navy has already accepted a bid to the Meineke Car Care Bowl, their 4th consecutive bowl bid as the Midshipmen stand at 8-3 on the season. Army entered their season with bowl expectations but has come up short, winning just 3 games on the year and again facing the role of the spoiler versus Navy. In what has become a yearly trend, Navy yet again leads the nation in rushing as the Midshipmen churn out 333 yards per game on the ground while controlling the clock and time of possession. Navy will be looking for their 5th consecutive win in the series, as they have won the last 4 battles by an average score of 44-13. Army is looking to salvage a tough season and end the year on a high note by knocking of their arch-rivals, a win that will highlight their season no matter what their final record says.
GAMES OF INTEREST
Oregon State at Hawaii - Saturday 11:00 PM CDT
Oregon State is sky high after knocking off rival Oregon over the weekend, while Hawaii won its 10th game on the season, knocking off Purdue 42-35. Oregon State will have its hands full on the island as Hawaii averages 48.6 points per game and leads the nation in total offense.
Southern Miss at Houston - Friday 7:00 PM CDT
The battle for the Conference USA title and trip to the Liberty Bowl is at stake in this contest. Both these teams are red hot with Houston entering this game on a 5 game winning streak while Southern Miss has captured 4 straight.
Central Michigan vs Ohio - Thursday 6:30 PM CDT
Both teams have put together surprising seasons as they notched 7-1 MAC conference records and won their divisions outright. The winner of this championship game heads to the Motor City Bowl as their reward.
Connecticut at #8-Louisville - Saturday 11:00 AM CDT
Louisville becomes West Virginiaís biggest fan this weekend because if the Mountaineers can beat Rutgers and Louisville can defeat UConn, the Cardinals will head to a BCS game. UL has rebounded nicely from their loss to Rutgers by soundly defeating both South Florida and Pittsburgh.
Stanford at California - Saturday 2:00 PM CDT
California has dominated the series in recent years, winning 4 straight by an average score of 32-8, and the Bears look to be heavily favored yet again. Stanford is looking to salvage its season as the Cardinal head into the rivalry game with just 1 win on the year.