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MANY THINGS TO BE THANKFUL FOR THIS THANKSGIVING
November 25, 2009

SCS.com A long and winding regular season comes to a close for most teams in college football this weekend. This weekend also marks the Thanksgiving holidays, which is a time to feast and enjoy the company of family and friends. Whether on Thanksgiving Day itself or on the Friday and Saturday following, there's a lot of football this weekend to keep us all entertained. Before we pass the turkey and cranberries, here's a list of ten things I am most thankful for in the 2009 college football season.

10. BCS Turnover - Only four teams came into 2009 with two consecutive BCS Bowl appearances: Virginia Tech (2), Oklahoma (3), Ohio State (4), and USC (7). With Oklahoma and USC each falling off the bandwagon and Virginia Tech already sustaining three losses that put them out of the ACC Championship, it appears that the only streak above 2 after this season will be Ohio State. Turnover and parity is good for conference strength and for seeing something different every January. While dynasties are also nice, it is great so finally see some turnover in the BCS chase at least for this season.

9. Yes Virginia, even dynasties have rebuilding years - On that note, kudos to 2009 for teaching the world Pete Carroll and Bob Stoops must rebuild from time to time. Each was supposed to compete for a national title, but USC could not overcome starting a freshman quarterback and will likely not be in the BCS for the first time in 8 seasons. Oklahoma has a shocking 5 losses and has played most of the season without Heisman winner Sam Bradford. For two of the three-five teams who have dominated the decade, a return to prominence will allow these coaches to build their legends more than staying on top all the time.

8. Rivalry Week(s) - Now that college football's regular season ends over 4 weeks, not all rivalries come on the same week. However, this is the primary go week for rivalries and there should be a lot of close games and passionate football. From Michigan-Ohio State last Saturday to Army-Navy December 12, the rivalries will continue. This is the best part of the season thanks in large part to rivalries.

7. How Much is it worth to say goodbye? - The signs are on the wall around South Bend, and the vultures have been swooping in around Charlie Weis for two years now. A 6-5 record in a crucial year and now a slight controversy surrounding QB Jimmy clausen may be the last straw. However, it would cost Notre Dame $18 million to buy out the last five years of the contract thanks to a ridiculous extension added after Notre Dame lost competitively to USC four years ago. $18 million dollars could go a long way in scholarship money or other activities at the university, but perhaps this is better than what the university will lose in 5 more years of suffering football. It's a tough calculus and fun to watch.

6. The Rise of Iowa and Cincinnati - While Iowa sometimes competes for Big Ten titles and Cincinnati made the BCS last year, neither is a regular to the national title scene. And yet, three weeks ago, each was undefeated and staring up only at the Big Three powers Florida, Alabama, and Texas. Iowa had the biggest roller coaster week-to-week and had two of the most memorable games in a win at Michigan State and a loss at Ohio State. Meanwhile, Cincinnati keeps on chugging into late November despite losing their own starting quarterback. However, the Bearcats found they really have two quarterbacks who could start, but you have to wonder if UC will feel the pressure in the last two games to close the deal.

5. Top Teams Not Invincible - The aforementioned Big Three have been running the show most of the season, but not necessarily because of the results on the field. In a year where the number of undefeated teams shrank below ten very quickly, the Gators, Crimson Tide, and Longhorns have held the spotlight for so long. However, Florida has struggled against Arkansas and South Carolina, Alabama squeaked by Tennessee, and Texas had issue with a weak Oklahoma squad. Each team that could be playing for the national championship has a lot of flaws, and that makes for a very entertaining matchup no matter who makes it to Pasadena.

4. Redemption For LaGarrette Blount - This was covered in detail a couple weeks ago, but Blount is the comeback player of the year by my ballot even if he doesn't play many snaps even at the Rose Bowl or wherever Oregon ends up. The Ducks running back sold the Pac-10, Chip Kelly, his teammates, and the NCAA on his turning around from the incident of sucker punching a Boise State player in the first game of the season. Whether or not Blount seriously hurt his draft status, he will at least have a future in the pros which is better than it seemed a few months ago.

3. A Heisman Race Worth Watching - Yes Colt McCoy might win the Heisman based on not winning it the past two seasons, and Tim Tebow might win his second for being a gutty MVP of a national-championship calbier team. But in all reality, this Heisman race is full of nobody who was on the radar seriously at season's beginning. And the race changes week to week, making this the most interesting Heisman race in some time.

2. All Conferences having a Championship Game - Although only three of the BCS conferences have an official Championship Game, the other three BCS conferences have lucked into a backloaded schedule that formed de facto championship games where the winner gets the automatic BCS berth. The Big Ten had theirs two weeks ago as Ohio State knocked off Iowa, but we have five more to look forward to next week: ACC (Clemson vs. Georgia Tech), Big East (Cincinnati at Pittsburgh), Big XII (Texas vs. Nebraska), Pac-10 (Oregon State at Oregon), and SEC (Florida vs. Alabama). Considering this lucky circumstance, we will likely have five games of the week next week to celebrate.

1. BCS Chaos at the Doorstep - Six undefeated teams, only two of which play each other. Only three one-loss teams remain behind them, but the debate rages as to whether both non-BCS schools will get into the BCS picture and whether Cincinnati has a chance of busting the party. If this perfect storm cannot get two non-BCS schools in, nothing ever will and that is not good for the BCS credibility. Furthermore, leaving undefeated teams out of the national title picture from BCS conferences never makes the BCS look good, but the circumstance becomes more real every week. The BCS never has it easy, and this season there has been even more spicy debate growing than usual. So thanks to the BCS debate, as usual!

2010 BCS Bowl Projections, 2 Weeks To Go
BCS Championship - Florida vs. Texas
Orange - Georgia Tech vs. TCU
Fiesta - Iowa vs. Boise State
Sugar - Alabama vs. Pittsburgh
Rose - Ohio State vs. Oregon

The first game of the week is Utah at Brigham Young. Usually a battle for MWC supremacy, each of these teams has had the rug swept out from under them by the TCU Horned Frogs this season. Still, both the Cougars and the Utes come into this battle at 6-1 in conference play and lots of bragging rights on the line. The Utes won last year by forcing turnovers, but the script might be flipped this year with experienced QB Max Hall piloting the Cougars while rookie QB Terrence Cain leads the Utes. One cannot discount the better defense in a battle like this, and Utah's defense has become a very solid unit in the back seven. If they can contain receivers long enough to frustrate Max Hall, the Utes have a serious chance. Still, BYU will win this by 4.

The second game of the week is Nevada visiting the blue turf at Boise State with the MWC title on the line. This is literally the Broncos' last chance to impress voters before the end of the season, and while beating an undefeated TCU is likely off the table now, a second BCS at large berth is still there for the taking. The Wolfpack come in on a eight game winning streak, and they also bring the nation's best rushing game to Boise with 373 yards per game. The Broncos defense will be sorely tested by all three of the Wolfpack's 1000-yard rushers: RB Vai Taua, QB Colin Kaepernick, and RB Luke Lippincott. On the other side of the ball, Broncos QB Kellen Moore will be looking to get back on track after an off week in a rout. If Nevada can keep Moore and company off the field and stay two-dimensional on offense, Nevada could shock the world. However, Boise should pull through with so much on the line at home, BSU by 10.

The third and top game of the week is the Backyard Brawl, Pittsburgh at West Virginia. Now while this game has no bearing on the Big East championship, which will be decided next weekend when Cincinnati visits the Panthers, WVU still has a chance to better their conference standing by knocking down Pitt. Plus there's a little extra spice on the line as the Mountaineers want to knock Pittsburgh out of the national title picture (albeit a longshot) like Pitt did in Morgantown by shocking the Mountaineers 13-9. Look for the Panthers to establish the run early and often with freshman RB Dion Lewis to try and keep the game at the pace they desire. Meanwhile, West Virginia will look to their two stars to keep Pittsburgh's offense off the field in QB Jarrett Brown and RB Noel Devine. This should be a fast-paced game but do not expect much scoring as both defenses will be up to the task of stopping their rival. In a close battle, you have to like the home field advantage and the intangibles favoring WVU. Mountaineers by 2.

2009 GOTW Record: 22-14
Last Week: 2-1

Fitz Top 10 - Week 12
1. Texas
2. Florida
3. Alabama
4. TCU
5. Cincinnati
6. Boise State
7. Georgia Tech
8. Pittsburgh
9. Ohio State
10. Oregon

Just Missed: Oklahoma State, Iowa, Penn State, Clemson, BYU

Don't forget to pass the gravy! As I mentioned earlier, this week is full of rivalries but next week will bring the five remaining BCS conference championship games. Lots to look forward to in the last two weeks of the season and before you know it, the bowls will be here! Have a fantastic holiday weekend.

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