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November 15, 2005

SCS.comThis past week of college football was a great one as all the top SEC games turned into real classics, and the top six teams in that league are now pretty indistinguishable. This week brings us more rivalries than any other week of the season, but there is more riding on some of these games than usual. National title hopes may be lost, but conference races will conclude in the Pac-10 and Big Ten this week with a full slate of rivalries (except for the critical UCLA v. USC battle in December). There's lots to cover this week as I take on each conference and cover the race for its title, as well as my normal material, so let's jump in!

My first game of the week is Fresno State at USC. The Trojans have everything to lose, and the Bulldogs fear nothing and nobody. If Fresno State can keep it close like Notre Dame did, don't be surprised if there is a huge upset. USC has too many weapons however, and I do not expect the Bulldog defense to stop them. USC rolls to a 14 point win which is closer than it looks but good enough to keep USC at the top going into the UCLA game.

The Iron Bowl is certainly one of the best five rivalries in college football. This year Auburn and Alabama have lost to LSU, and this game is an elimination game in the conference race. Even the winner of this game still needs an unlikely LSU slip-up to make the SEC title game, but Alabama could be playing for the BCS after dropping from the national title picture last weekend. Auburn has shown a lot of heart in losses to LSU in overtime and last week against Georgia, so I would expect no different at home against their hated Crimson Tide rival. I'll take Auburn by 3 in OT!

Finally, we have one of the best rivalries in college football and perhaps all of sports: Ohio State at Michigan. Lloyd Carr has done well against the Buckeyes, but not in the past four years as Jim Tressel holds a 3-1 lead since 2001. Both teams looked very shaky at 3-3 and 3-2 early on, but both have won every game since then in pretty convincing fashion. Of course the Buckeyes are probably playing for a BCS at-large berth, but the team with more to lose has traditionally lost in this series. For the first time in recent memory, the Buckeyes come into Ann Arbor and look like they should roll over their rivals. This game will reveal the true character of both of these teams, and I expect Ohio State's offense to carry the team in an unexpected twist of fate. I'll take OSU by 17 in the game of the week.

Top 3 Games of the Week Record to Date: 20-13 (2-1 last week)

Conference Race Breakdown

Florida State has wrapped up the Atlantic division and has the week off to prepare for the Gators and their eventual ACC title game. The Coastal division is still up for grabs between Miami, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, and Virginia. Virginia grabbed bowl eligibility against Georgia Tech last week, but the waters only get rougher as they take on Virginia Tech this week and Miami next week. Miami hosts Georgia Tech this week and could lock up the division with a win and a Virginia Tech loss. Virginia Tech needs Miami to lose this weekend or next weekend against North Carolina while winning out to win the division. It looks like Miami vs. Florida State for the title, but the games remaining will be tough.

Only seven games remain over the next two weeks, and this conference is much like the ACC. In this case, the South division title has already been wrapped up by Texas, while Oklahoma and Texas Tech play for second place in the South this weekend. Missouri and Iowa State are a game behind Colorado in the North, and each team has one more game to play. Iowa State has the overall record tiebreaker if Colorado loses to Nebraska next weekend, but Colorado has the division in their hands.

Big East
West Virginia and South Florida control their own destiny, as they play each other on the last weekend of the season for the BCS berth in all likelihood. WVU has tough tests against the Bulls and Pittsburgh remaining, but the Mountaineers look like a good bet for the BCS at this point.

Big Ten
Penn State holds their own destiny with a trip to Michigan State remaining on the schedule. Win that game and they win the BCS berth, likely earning a trip to the Orange Bowl, if not the Rose Bowl with some upsets of teams in front of them. If Penn State loses, the winner of Michigan and Ohio State will go to the BCS as conference champion.

Conference USA
In the East division, Central Florida is one win over Rice away from a division title and a great turnaround from a 17-game losing streak which ended early this season. If they slip up unexpectedly, Southern Miss can take the division with wins over Memphis and Tulane in the next two weeks as they beat the Golden Knights head-to-head a few weeks ago. The West division is UTEP's to lose as they have a one-game lead and hold the tiebreaker with SMU and UAB remaining on the schedule. Tulsa is not mathematically eliminated, but they need to win their final game and hope UTEP loses twice to make the first ever CUSA title game.

This conference will have games on TV most nights over the next two weeks, and the drama is high as the races in both divisions are close. Bowling Green and Miami hold a one game lead on Akron and Ohio in the East, but the schedule is open for anyone to win the division. Miami still has Bowling Green and Ohio to play while BGSU plays Toledo as well. Ohio plays Akron this week in an elimination game. Here's what needs to happen for each team to win the division since it is complicated:

Bowling Green: defeat Miami and Toledo
Miami: defeat Bowling Green and Ohio (or defeat BGSU and have Akron defeat Ohio)
Ohio: defeat Akron and Miami AND have BGSU lose to Miami and Toledo
Akron: defeat Ohio and Kent State AND have Miami lose to BGSU and Ohio

Well if any of that makes sense, then here comes the West. Toledo holds a one game advantage over Northern Illinois and Western Michigan, but the Rockets still have tough games against NIU and BGSU left. Northern Illinois holds their own destiny as they play Western Michigan as well next week. Who knows which two of these seven teams will play in the MAC title game, but there should be plenty of drama in the remaining couple of weeks.

Mountain West
TCU has finished conference play and will sit around contemplating what might have been had they not lost to SMU after the big Oklahoma win.

USC only needs to defeat UCLA in three weeks to lock up the conference title and a BCS berth. If UCLA wins and Oregon defeats Oregon State, then a three-way title will cause UCLA to get the automatic berth into the BCS while Oregon gets left out in the cold. Oregon is still hoping for the at-large BCS berth.

In the East, Georgia can lock up the division title with a win over Kentucky this week. If they collapse against the Wildcats, then South Carolina and Florida would split the title with them, and Spurrier's Gamecocks would go to the SEC title game. In the West, LSU must defeat Mississippi and Arkansas to make the title game, while the winner of the Iron Bowl will be winning the West if the Tigers slip up.

Sun Belt
Louisiana-Monroe is 4-1 in conference play, while Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette are 4-2 going into the final two weeks of conference play. ULM can win the division if they defeat North Texas and ULL. Arkansas State also plays against North Texas and will hope for Monroe to lose twice for them to win the conference title.

Fresno State holds a 6-0 record after knocking Boise State into a 5-1 tie with Nevada and Louisiana Tech, but FSU still has Nevada and LA Tech left on their schedule after USC this week. Boise State hosts Idaho this week and then has to travel to Louisiana Tech in a conference elimination game next weekend. Nevada has a quick test against Utah State before FSU. Louisiana Tech holds their own destiny against FSU and BSU, so an interesting couple of weeks in this conference race as well.

BCS Bowl Projections

Rose: USC v. Texas
Orange: Miami v. Penn State
Fiesta: Notre Dame v. Ohio State
Sugar: LSU v. West Virginia

Only change from last week was replacing Virginia Tech with Ohio State. The Buckeyes look better than all their one-loss competitors (Alabama, Virginia Tech, and Oregon), and a win in Ann Arbor should help lock up a BCS at-large assuming no upsets of Texas or USC in the late weeks. Of course an Auburn win over Alabama would also make the Buckeyes more comfortable, but this debate will rage on as the final weeks of the season wind down.

Fitzy's Top 10 - Week 12

1. USC (10-0)
2. Texas (10-0)
3. Miami (8-1)
4. Penn State (9-1)
5. LSU (8-1)
6. Ohio State (8-2)
7. Notre Dame (7-2)
8. Virginia Tech (9-1)
9. Oregon (9-1)
10. Alabama (9-1)
Dropped Out: #9 Georgia (7-2)

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