The last week of the regular season has arrived, and there remains plenty of positioning to be decided before heading into post-season action. This past weekend Missouri put themselves into the national championship driverís seat with a decisive win over Kansas, while West Virginia also made a major statement of their own with a 66-21 win over UConn. Still lurking are the Ohio State Buckeyes and with their season complete last weekend, the Bucks must wait and hope for a loss by either Mizzou or WVU this weekend to have a shot at the title. Although not a player in the national championship race, Hawaii made a huge statement with their 39-27 win over Boise State, clinching a WAC championship, and setting up the Warriors for a potential BCS bowl bid with a win over Washington this Saturday.
This week's highlight game remains in the Big 12 as newly crowned #1 Missouri takes on Oklahoma for the 2nd time this season in a battle for the Big 12 championship. Four additional conference champions will be crowned in title games with LSU tackling Tennessee in the SEC, Virginia Tech earning a rematch with Boston College in the ACC, Central Florida and Tulsa colliding in Conference USA, and finally Central Michigan and Miami of Ohio set to clash for the MAC trophy. Two additional conference championships will also be decided with a round robin of games still remaining in Pac-10 play while Troy and Florida Atlantic vie for the Sun Belt title. Letís breakdown the top games that highlight the final weekend of action in the 2007 college football season.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Missouri vs Oklahoma at San Antonio
This is week #2 of the Big 12 championship series as Missouri survived the 1st week by knocking off Kansas with an impressive performance while Oklahoma got back on track by thumping rival Oklahoma State to earn their 2nd consecutive bid to the conference title game. With the win over Kansas, Missouri jumped into 1st place in the BCS standings as the Tigers now control their own destiny in the national championship race. In a season of firsts, Missouri will be making its 1st ever appearance in the Big 12 championship game and will do so on a 6-game winning streak in which the Tigers have looked dominant. For Oklahoma, they will be looking for a repeat performance of their 1st meeting with the Tigers, a 41-31 win, as Missouri was unable to stop the Sooner offensive attack after the Tigers took a 24-23 lead in the 4th quarter. Time to breakdown the critical match-ups that will decide which one of these two teams claim the Big 12 trophy and head to a BCS bowl.
Missouriís offensive fortunes rest in the hands of their Heisman trophy candidate quarterback Chase Daniel. Chase ranks 4th in the nation in total offense and he has been playing at another level since his Tigers only loss to Oklahoma as he has tossed 17 touchdowns compared to only 3 interceptions in the last 6 games. In the 1st meeting with the Sooners, the offensive output was not the problem as Missouri rolled up 418 yards in the loss against a very good Oklahoma defense. The one area that Oklahoma has become susceptible is their pass defense with the loss of star defensive end Auston English having a major impact in this area. In the 1st nine games of the season English had 10 sacks and was a fixture in the oppositionís backfield, becoming a disruptive force that had to be accounted for on every single down. If Daniel gets time to throw he is one of the most accurate passers in the nation and capable of picking apart Oklahoma in combination with his great receivers, led by tight end Martin Rucker and wide out Jeremy Maclin.
Although the Missouri offense receives the majority of the national attention, the Sooners actually rank higher in scoring, averaging 44 points per game to Missouriís 42. Oklahomaís field general is freshman quarterback Sam Bradford, who set a freshman record this season by tossing 32 touchdown passes as he leads the nation in passing efficiency. Helping Bradford to reach new heights is his main pass catching combination of Juaquin Iglesias and Malcolm Kelly who have combined for 102 receptions on the season and who both had strong outings in these teams 1st meeting. One thing that has been proven is that Missouri will yield yardage through the air and with the recent loss to injury of running back DeMarco Murray expect Oklahoma to air out the football all evening long. Oklahoma knows that Missouri will put points on the scoreboard and their best chance to beat the Tigers for a 2nd time will be to ride the arm of their young star Bradford and to race Mizzou up and down the field.
The Sooners have owned Missouri in recent years, winning 5 straight in the series and 17 of the past 18 with the last Tiger win coming in 1998 at Columbia, so the Tigers have a huge mountain to climb. For Missouri the target is now squarely on their back as they hold the top ranking in the AP poll for only the 2nd week in school history and the 1st time since 1960, so this is unfamiliar territory for Coach Pinkelís team. The outcome of this game is simple, a win over OU and Missouri heads to New Orleans for a shot at the national championship in what has been an amazing run since entering the season unranked. While for the Sooners, a win captures their 2nd consecutive conference championship and sends OU back to the Fiesta Bowl as their reward. In the end, expect the Missouri offense to move the ball efficiently and effectively against a depleted Oklahoma defense and although the Sooners will keep pace for a while with their potent offense, this time Missouri wins out and completes the most successful season in Tiger football history with a berth in the national title game.
OTHER MUST-SEE MATCHUPS
LSU vs Tennessee at Atlanta
The Tigers enter the SEC championship game off a stunning 3 overtime loss to Arkansas, a loss which ended LSUís national championship hopes. Meanwhile, Tennessee needed 4 overtimes of their own before finally earning a 52-50 win over Kentucky to earn their place in the conference title game. Expect plenty of points to be scored in this one as both the Tennessee and LSU offensive units are playing at a high level as they end their season. Tennesseeís Erik Ainge is coming off a 7 touchdown effort versus Kentucky and now he takes aim at a LSU defense that is banged up and is playing nowhere near the dominant level that they were at in the beginning of the season. LSU will continue to rely on their strong running game which generates 220 yards per game and will go straight at a Volunteer front wall that has been susceptible to power running games all season long. With a berth in the Sugar Bowl on the line, keep an eye on how LSU responds in this game after the disappointment of losing their title shot, while Tennessee enters this game red hot and on a 5 game winning streak.
Virginia Tech vs Boston College at Jacksonville
On tap is a re-match of these teams thrilling October 25th battle, won by Boston College with a last minute touchdown pass after the Hokies dominated the first 58 minutes of action before BC took over to stun the hometown crowd in Blacksburg. Expect a very similar game this time around with the defenses maintaining an edge, with the Hokies ranking 2nd in the nation in points allowed, while Boston College stands at 19th. For BC to repeat the same result from the prior meeting Matt Ryan will need to take the Eagles on his throwing arm as the running game has just not been there all season long. The good news for Hokie fans is that Ryan has struggled towards the end of the season as he has thrown 8 interceptions in BCís final 4 games and he now must face a brutal Tech pass rush, which ranks 4th in the country and is generating 3.5 sacks per game. The Tech game plan on offense is centered on their two-headed quarterback combination of Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor, with Glennon playing much better towards the end of the season and Taylor providing the added dimension of his mobility, forcing opposing defensive coordinators to prepare for a varied offensive attack. The winner of this game takes home the ACC trophy and likely is headed towards the Orange Bowl as their prize.
Washington at Hawaii
Hawaii kept their BCS hopes in-tact with a 39-27 win over Boise State that clinched the WAC championship and gave the Warriors their 12th consecutive win. Washington is looking to end their season on a high note and build towards next season as the Huskies stand at 4-8 and will miss the post-season for a 5th consecutive season. Expect this game to feature passing, passing, and more passing from Hawaii as the Warriors and their quarterback Colt Brennan put up 450 yards per game in the air. With the Huskies ranking 85th in the nation in pass defense it will be a long night for the Washington secondary with Hawaii having 3 receivers ranked in the top 20 in the nation in receptions per game. In order to have a chance at the upset, Washington will rely heavily on the rushing of Louis Rankin who has taken over the leadership role on offense with quarterback Jake Locker struggling in recent games as the Husky signal caller is feeling the pain of a long season. A win for Hawaii likely earns the WAC a 2nd consecutive BCS bid with many experts projecting a Sugar Bowl bid for the Warriors while Washington looks to end another long winning streak after snapping Boise Stateís 14 game winning streak in week #2.
UCLA at USC
Coming off their dominating win over Arizona State, USC is now in control of their destiny in the Pac-10 title chase, needing a win over UCLA to head back to the Rose Bowl for a 3rd straight season. Even with their season termed a disappointment, UCLA can still make the Rose Bowl, needing a win here and an Arizona victory over Arizona State to take home the conference trophy. USC is on a 3 game winning streak and is coming off one of their best performances of the season in their 44-24 thumping of former league leader Arizona State. With quarterback John David Booty healthy and playing well, USC is now looking like the team that everyone predicted at the beginning of the season and with UCLAís pass defense struggling expect to see plenty of Booty working with his favorite targets in Patrick Turner and Fred Davis. If UCLA is going to have any chance to record a 2nd straight upset over USC, the Bruins will need quarterback Ben Olson to step in and play his best game of the season as he returned from injury last week. Last yearís win by UCLA was a stunner, a repeat performance this year would be even more stunning and would be a huge boost to UCLAís coach Karl Dorrellís future in Los Angeles.
Pittsburgh at West Virginia
West Virginia enters this game on fire as the Mountaineers have now won 6 straight since their loss to South Florida and are in position to play for the national championship while on the other hand Pittsburgh is looking for a bright spot in a disappointing 4-7 season. For West Virginia, the combination of Pat White and Steve Slaton in the spread offense has proven to be unstoppable in their late season surge, churning out 310 yards per game on the ground. Pittsburgh will have to try and keep pace with the West Virginia offense and to do that expect their star running back LeSean McCoy to get plenty of carries although he has been slowed in recent weeks after a great start. McCoy will attack a West Virginia defense that has not been given enough credit in the ĎNeers run to the top of the rankings as the stop troops rank 8th in the nation in points allowed per game at 17.6. With the close race in the BCS expect West Virginia to pile up as many points as possible just as they did this past weekend against a good Connecticut defense. This is the 100th version of the Backyard Brawl with West Virginia dominating the last 2 games and if they can extend their win streak to 3, the Mountaineers could very well be making reservations for New Orleans on January 7th.
GAMES OF INTEREST
Rutgers at Louisville - Thursday 6:45 PM CDT
Louisville needs a win in the finale to earn a 6th win on the season and to have a chance at a bowl bid. Rutgers is looking for a repeat of last seasonís thrilling victory against the Cardinals and to win their 3rd straight game as the Knights gear up for a 3rd straight bowl bid.
Central Michigan vs Miami, Ohio at Detroit - Saturday 11:00 AM CDT
Central Michigan is looking for its 2nd consecutive MAC championship after winning last yearís title with a 31-10 win over Ohio. Miami rebounded from a 2 win season to win the East division to earn their shot at the title.
Tulsa at Central Florida - Saturday 11:00 AM CDT
The battle for the Conference USA championship and a bid to the Liberty Bowl is on the line in this one. This is a rematch of an October game, a contest won by Central Florida 44-23 as the Knights were led by the nationís leading rusher in Kevin Smith.
Navy vs Army - Saturday 11:00 AM CDT
Navy has already accepted a bid to the Poinsettia Bowl, earning their 5th consecutive bowl bid. Army is looking to end a 5 game losing streak against their rivals, which tied the longest steak in the history of this rivalry.
Florida Atlantic at Troy - Saturday 1:00 PM CDT
Troy is looking for a 2nd consecutive conference championship and a win over FAU sends the Trojans to the New Orleans bowl. Florida Atlantic can earn their 1st ever Sun Belt championship with a win over Troy and earn the schools 1st bowl bid in its short history.
Oregon State at Oregon - Saturday 3:30 PM CDT
Oregon is in need of a win to salvage their season as their late season collapse continued last weekend with a shutout loss to UCLA. The home team has won 10 straight in the Civil War which is good news for the Ducks as they need all the help they can find as they limp into the season finale.
Arizona at Arizona State - Saturday 7:00 PM CDT
Arizona State still has an outside shot at earning the Pac-10 title, needing a win over their rival and a USC loss to accomplish their goal. Arizona is one win shy of becoming bowl eligible and the Wildcats would love nothing more than getting their win by knocking ASU out of the conference championship race.