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BIG XII NORTH TITLE TO BE DECIDED IN WEEK 13
November 22, 2007

SCS.comAs quickly as Oregon entered the national championship picture, just as quickly they exited the title race with a loss to Arizona on Thursday evening. The Ducks lost quarterback and Heisman candidate Dennis Dixon in the 1st quarter, and could not overcome his loss against an inspired Arizona team. Also eliminated this past weekend were the Sooners of Oklahoma, who like Oregon lost their quarterback early on and could not make a comeback against Texas Tech. The good news for Oklahoma is that they still retain destiny in their hands in the South division so the Sooners can still be heard from in the Big 12 championship game. The two unbeaten teams remained that way as Hawaii needed a last minute field goal to overcome Nevada, while Kansas continued their roll by dominating Iowa State. Both Hawaii and Kansas have marquee matchups this weekend as they continue their march towards what they hope will be a BCS bowl bid.

As mentioned, the highlight matchup of this weekend is a championship battle in the Big 12 North division as Missouri and Kansas head to Kansas City to determine a berth in the league’s championship game. Other top games on this holiday weekend are in-state rivals Virginia and Virginia Tech going head to head for a spot in the ACC title game, while UConn and West Virginia are set to decide who will take home the Big East championship trophy. The WAC is in the national news again as Boise State heads to the islands to see if they can defend their conference championship or if the magical season for Hawaii will continue. Time to review the key games on the schedule as the season winds down with rivalry week.

Check out the staff's picks for all of this week's top games!

GAME OF THE WEEK

Missouri vs Kansas at Kansas City
Saturday 7:00 PM CDT ABC

A great way to cap off the Big 12 regular season as these two top five teams will go toe-to-toe to earn the right to play for the conference championship the following Saturday. Kansas continues to roll along as they enter this weekend at 11-0 and in position to play for the national title if they win their final 2 games. The Jayhawks are the surprise of the nation, projected as a mid-tier Big 12 team before the season began to potentially playing for a national championship. Meanwhile, Missouri stands at 10-1 and also maintains national title aspirations with the potential to jump into the BCS title game depending on how the final few weeks of the season play out. One interesting note in this one is that before the season Kansas gave up a home game in Lawrence to move this one to Kansas City, wonder if the Jayhawks would change their mind seeing how the season has played out to this point. Time to breakdown the key players and match-ups that will likely decide who will emerge victorious in this week’s best game.

The Jayhawks are led by the nation’s #2 scoring offense as Kansas is putting up 46 points per game on the season, and 55 points per contest in their last 3 games. Quarterback Todd Reesing is the leader of the unit, throwing for 30 touchdowns while only being intercepted on 4 occassions as he spreads the ball evenly to his top wide-outs in Marcus Henry and Dexton Fields. Missouri has struggled this season against the pass, as the Tigers give up 258 yards per game through the air so expect to see Reesing dropping back and throwing all game long. With Reesing getting all the publicity, it is easy to miss how balanced the Kansas offense is as the Jayhawks churn out 211 yards on the ground with the two-headed rushing attack of Brandon McAnderson and Jake Sharp. The Tiger defense has given up a lot of yardage but has found away to minimize the damage on the scoreboard, through opportune play making and forcing their opponents into mistakes. That same formula will be needed on Saturday as Kansas will get their yardage but Missouri will need to force key mistakes to keep the Jayhawks out of the end zone.

The Missouri offense is built around the talents of heir quarterback Chase Daniel, who currently ranks 4th in the nation in total offense. Daniel has developed into a tremendous signal caller and he is red hot with 12 touchdowns in his last 3 games as he attacks a Kansas defense that gives up 214 yards per game through the air. In addition to Chase, a new weapon has emerged for the Tigers in receiver Jeremy Maclin, who has already set the freshman record for single season all-purpose yardage with 1,937. Jeremy comes in off his best performance of the year as he recorded 3 touchdowns including a kick-off return in the win over Kansas State. One of the main reasons that Kansas stands at 11-0 is a defense that will force the opposition into mistakes and is currently the top ranked team in the country at +1.91 turnovers per game. An area of concern for Kansas is a pass rush that has not been able to get the quarterback on a consistent basis and if Chase Daniel gets time he can pick apart any defense with the weapons that he has at his disposal.

This is the 2nd most played rivalry in college football and there have not been too many as big as this one with both teams still focused and capable of reaching the national championship game. In a year of firsts between these two there will be more to come this weekend as Missouri is looking to win an 11th regular season game for the 1st time in school history while Kansas is off to an 11-0 start for the 1st time in its long football history as both these teams battle for the 1st North Division championship in the Big 12 for either school. Expect to see a lot of points on the scoreboard as both of these offenses are playing at their highest level down the home stretch. When the final gun sounds, the experience of Chase Daniel will shine through as he combines with his talented receiving corps to outscore a game Kansas team. The Jayhawks will be right there but in the end Missouri takes home the North Division title and heads to the Big 12 championship game.

OTHER MUST-SEE MATCHUPS

Virginia Tech at Virginia
Saturday 11:00 AM CDT ESPN2

A great way to complete the regular season for these two in-state rivals, a game to decide who wins the Coastal Division and heads to the ACC championship game. Both teams currently stand at 6-1 in the division and 9-2 overall, with Boston College awaiting the winner next Saturday. The Hokies have been on a tear since their devastating loss to Boston College, demolishing Georgia Tech, Florida State, and Miami in successive weeks. As is normally the case for Va Tech, they rely on a punishing defense that gives up only 15 points per game and is tremendous at harassing the opposing quarterback. That will be the main concern for Virginia as the Cavaliers rank 99th in the nation in total offense so the ‘Hoos will need to continue their offensive play from two weeks ago when they rang up 48 points on Miami. Keep an eye on Cavalier All-American defensive end Chris Long, who leads the team with 12 sacks, ranking 5th in the nation in that category, as he works to rattle Hokie quarterback Sean Glennon. Tech is looking for their 4th straight win in this series after dominating wins the past 3 seasons, while Virginia looks to cap a great turnaround season.

USC at Arizona State
Thursday 7:00 CDT ESPN

With Oregon’s loss last weekend, the Sun Devils now control their own destiny in the chase for the Pac-10 championship trophy with 2 games remaining. Although the USC season has been a disappointment so far with such high expectations, the Trojans are not yet out of the conference race as they sit in a tie for 2nd with Oregon. For ASU, quarterback Rudy Carpenter has led the way, especially with loss of star running back Ryan Torain early in the season, as Rudy ranks 11th in the nation in passing efficiency. A concern for Carpenter entering this game is that the offensive line has had trouble protecting him this season and USC excels at attacking the quarterback, so he will need to be ready to scramble. A big reason for the Trojan struggles this season is an offense that has not nearly been as effective as expected, mainly due to a great deal of injuries that have disrupted the offensive game plan all season long. Expect USC to attack a susceptible ASU secondary through the air with Booty looking for his top targets in tight end Fred Davis and wide out Patrick Turner. USC has won 7 straight games in this series, but the set-up is usually reversed with the Trojans in control of the Pac-10 race so it will be interesting to see how ASU handles the pressure on Thanksgiving night.

Connecticut at West Virginia
Saturday 2:30 PM CDT ABC

The Mountaineers enter this contest red-hot as they secured their 5th straight win this past weekend over Cincinnati and continue to be a major player in the national championship chase. UConn is in the midst of their best season since moving to Division 1-A, standing a 9-2 overall and like West Virginia, the Huskies hold the Big East title hopes in their own hands. Like every team that plays WVU, the challenge for UConn will be to find a way to slow down the Mountaineer ground game which comes off a 295 yard performance in their last outing against a very good Cincinnati defensive unit. Pat White has been almost impossible to stop in the past few games, rushing for 458 yards in the last 3 contests, as he is now the equal of Steve Slaton in the rushing offense. UConn will need to continue their opportune play on defense and methodical play on offense as they look to control the ball and the clock. Also, the Huskies will need to continue the trend that has them ranked 5th in the nation in turnover margin, a team strength that has overcome the play of a solid but unspectacular offensive unit. West Virginia is 3-0 versus UConn in Big East play and they have dominated all the games, winning by an average of 23 points, but none have been bigger than this one as a BCS bowl bid hangs in the balance.

Tennessee at Kentucky
Saturday 12:30 PM CBS

Tennessee needs a win in their finale to clinch a berth in the SEC championship game versus LSU with a Volunteer defeat sending Georgia to the title tilt. After a great start Kentucky is stumbling towards the finish as the Wildcats have lost 3 of their last 4 to fall into 4th place in the East division. Tennessee does nothing great on offense except to score as the Vols are putting up 33 points per game led by their veteran quarterback Erik Ainge and his 20 touchdown passes. In this game expect to see more of running back Arian Foster as Kentucky has really struggled all season long in stopping the rush, yielding 196 yards per game. For Kentucky to put an end to Tennessee’s 4 game winning streak their quarterback Andre Woodson will have to carry the team on his back and take advantage of a mediocre Volunteer secondary and simply outscore the division leaders. This series has been extremely one sided, with Tennessee winning 22 in a row, a 23rd consecutive triumph would cap an excellent season as the Vols return to the conference title game after a 2 year absence.

Boise State at Hawaii
Friday 8:00 PM CDT ESPN2

The WAC championship is on the line as both these teams enter this game red hot with Boise State on a 9 game winning streak, while Hawaii has been victorious in 11 consecutive games as the Warriors still maintain BCS bowl hopes. This game will feature 2 of the nation’s top 3 scoring offenses with Hawaii putting up 48 points per game while Boise scores 44 per contest. The big question for the Warriors is around the status of their star quarterback Colt Brennan, who only saw action in 2 plays versus Nevada as he continues to suffer from the concussion sustained in the win over Fresno State. Even without Brennan the Hawaii offense is potent with Tyler Graunke at the helm, as he has passed for over 1,000 yards this season in a back-up role, and he has at his disposal 2 of the nation’s top receivers in Ryan Grice-Mullen and Davone Bess. Boise State employs a more balanced offense and they will look to exploit the Hawaii run defense with their star back Ian Johnson and the precision passing of Taylor Tharp who rates 7th in the country in passing efficiency. Overall, this game will be a great deal of fun to watch as fans should expect a ton of scoring as these two teams have averaged 79 total points in their last 5 games, all of them Boise wins.

GAMES OF INTEREST

Georgia at Georgia Tech - Saturday 2:30 PM CDT

The Bulldogs are playing as well as any team in the country right now, but Georgia still needs a Tennessee loss to reach the SEC championship game. Georgia Tech is focused on ending a 6 game losing streak in this series and finishing their season on a bright note.

Clemson at South Carolina - Saturday 6:00 PM CDT

Clemson has to regroup after a tough 20-17 loss to Boston College that ended their ACC championship hopes. Meanwhile, Carolina is on a 4 game losing streak and the Gamecocks need this win over their arch-rival to save a season that started great but has come crashing down.

Florida State at Florida - Saturday 4:00 PM CDT

Florida is on an offensive roll, crushing their last 3 opponents since the loss to Georgia as Tim Tebow is on fire. Florida State is looking to end a 3 game losing skid to their rivals and win their 8th game on the season.

Arkansas at LSU - Friday 1:30 PM CDT

LSU is already set to play in the SEC championship game, but the Tigers better remain focused as top ranked teams are falling on a weekly basis. Arkansas has lost 4 straight to LSU and the Hogs would like nothing better than to crush the Tigers national title hopes.

Oklahoma State at Oklahoma - Saturday 2:30 PM CDT

Oklahoma’s national title hopes were smashed on Saturday night at Texas Tech, but the Sooners can still win the Big 12 South division title with a win over their in-state rival. Oklahoma State will finish in 2nd place in the division if they can upset the Sooners.

Oregon at UCLA - Saturday 2:30 PM CDT

Even with the loss to Arizona, the Ducks still remain in the Pac-10 title chase, but they will have to perform without the services of their star quarterback Dennis Dixon who is done for the season. UCLA has lost 5 of the last 6 in this series and the Bruins need a win to salvage a disappointing season.

Alabama at Auburn - Saturday 7:00 PM CDT

Heading into the Iron Bowl, Alabama is looking to rebound, having lost 3 straight including last weekends stunning loss to Louisiana-Monroe. Auburn has won 5 straight in this series, with the winner of this game claiming 2nd place in the SEC West.

Wake Forest at Vanderbilt - Saturday 1:00 PM CDT

Vanderbilt is still looking for that elusive 6th win on the season to earn bowl eligibility as the Commodores have now lost 3 straight. Wake is looking to end a 4 game skid versus the Commodores to cap off an excellent 8 win campaign.

Utah at Brigham Young - Saturday 1:00 PM CDT

BYU clinched a tie for the Mountain West championship on Saturday with their 7th consecutive win on the season. Utah is on a 7 game win streak of their own as these two red hot rivals get set to do battle in the “Holy War”.

Miami, Ohio at Ohio - Saturday 1:00 PM CDT

Miami of Ohio is looking to clinch a berth in the MAC championship game and earn their 1st bowl bid since 2004. Ohio would like nothing more than to spoil their rivals season finale and to end their season at .500

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