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November 21, 2005

SCS.comThanksgiving weekend is upon us, and college football will share the spotlight all week with pro football showdowns. Rivalry week brought us many memorable moments, not the least of which being Joe Paterno capping off his Big Ten title with a win over Michigan State. Nittany Lion fans can start asking all the what if questions now as they were literally one second in Ann Arbor from an undefeated season. They did share the conference title with Ohio State, as the Buckeyes showed a lot of heart in coming back from a nine-point deficit in Michigan with seven minutes remaining. If it had not been for all the uncharacteristic Buckeye mistakes (which lost them games against national powers Texas and Penn State earlier this year), OSU would have made Michigan look bad. As it ended up, we had a classic closing weekend of Big Ten football.

Of course I do not want to lose sight of another couple games which made the weekend enjoyable. Reggie Bush forced USC past Fresno State in an exciting overnight shootout, while Auburn trampled all over Alabama. Georgia Tech ended any hope for Miami making the title game and probably knocked them out of the ACC title race as well. The Gator Bowl will be little consolation to the Hurricanes this season. One more rivalry game of note had Oregon stomping all over Oregon State, as the Ducks make one last claim at the final at-large BCS berth. The statements have been made, and the debate will rage on for a couple more weeks as college football wraps up the loose ends of this exciting season. Of course, there is still some football to preview for this weekend, so let's get into it now.

My first game of the week is Tuesday night's MAC battle between Toledo and Bowling Green. The crazy MAC race cleared up with four critical games last week, and this game is crucial to both team's hopes to make the MAC title game. Bowling Green would like nothing better than clinching a title game appearance against their hated rivals from half an hour up Interstate 75, while knocking Toledo out of the MAC race and probably out of a bowl game as well. Toledo had trouble defending Northern Illinois's rushing attack last weekend, and I think BGSU will run all over Toledo again this week. If Bowling Green gets an early lead, the Rockets will probably collapse, ending a disappointing November for Toledo. Falcons wins by 10 in this one.

A couple of southern ACC-SEC state bragging rights rivalries comprise the other two games of the week, the first being Georgia at Georgia Tech. All of a sudden after a trip to Miami, Georgia Tech ends Miami's ACC hopes and makes this game all the more interesting. This is just a tune-up for the SEC title game for Georgia, and the Bulldogs must not let the Yellow Jackets capitalize on mistakes like they did against Miami. Georgia is still recovering from their loss to Auburn, and I suspect they get back on top of things with a seven point win against their state rivals.

In some seasons, Florida and Florida State are playing for national title hopes at this point in the year. This year the Gators and the Seminoles bring identical records of 7-3 into this season-ending showdown, practically unacceptable for these two schools. Florida State has backed into the ACC title game, while Florida is also reeling from a loss to their old coach at South Carolina, which cost them the SEC title game. When faced with playing for just pride, Florida State has not come out swinging this season. The Swamp is no place to start slow, and I expect FSU to continue sliding in this one. Florida takes this battle by one, as I see it is too close to call!

Game of the Week Record to Date: 23-13 (3-0 last week)

Conference Race Breakdowns

Florida State has locked up the Atlantic and will probably now play Virginia Tech for the ACC title. If VT defeats North Carolina this week, the Hokies will win their division. If UNC wins this game and Miami defeats Virginia, then Miami will reclaim the division and play FSU.

Texas has won the South and will play Colorado if the Buffaloes defeat Nebraska this weekend. If Colorado slips up, then Iowa State will go to play Texas assuming ISU wins against Kansas.

Big East
West Virginia's annual Backyard Brawl with Pittsburgh usually has title implications, but this year the game has no bearing at all on the conference race. Even if WVU loses to Pittsburgh, they can clinch the BCS berth with a win over South Florida next weekend. We must wait until next weekend to determine this title.

Big Ten
Conference play is over, and Penn State wins the BCS berth while sharing the title with Ohio State.

UTEP seemed to have the division title wrapped up, but an upset loss at home against UAB puts them one loss away from losing the title. Should they lose at SMU this weekend, then Tulsa will play against Central Florida in the C-USA title game.

Both divisions are still up for grabs, but the race is clear now. Bowling Green can win the East with a win over Toledo or an Akron loss against Kent State. If Akron and Toledo win, then Akron goes to the MAC title game. In the Western division, Northern Illinois can win against Western Michigan to get into the title game. If Northern Illinois loses, then Toledo can get into the title game with a win over BGSU. If both lose, then Western Michigan will make the MAC title game.

TCU has won the conference by three games with their undefeated 8-0 conference record.

USC and UCLA will play for the conference title next weekend (which means we have the equivalent of seven conference title games next weekend), and they have an extra week to prepare for this battle with no conference games this weekend.

Georgia beat Kentucky this past weekend to clinch the East. LSU must defeat Arkansas at home this week to lock up a West title, as Auburn wins the West if LSU loses.

Sun Belt
Louisiana-Monroe can lock up the conference crown with a win against Louisiana-Lafayette this weekend. If Lafayette wins, then Arkansas State can win the conference title with a win at North Texas. If Lafayette and North Texas win, then Lafayette wins the conference title.

Fresno State will win the conference with a win against Nevada this weekend. If Nevada knocks off the Bulldogs, then a three-way split for the title is possible depending on how Fresno State and Boise State finish.

BCS Bowl Projections

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

The only change this week was replacing Miami with Virginia Tech as ACC champion. Miami and Alabama's losses have removed them from all BCS possibilities, leaving a race for the last at-large between Ohio State, Oregon, and Auburn, who have all finished their seasons. Although Oregon only lost to USC, and Auburn has been playing like a top-five team the past few weeks, I still think Ohio State is a more appealing matchup for Notre Dame, and the Buckeyes have good history with Tempe, winning two of the last three Fiesta Bowls. Let the debate begin this week and conclude in two weeks when the bowl matchups are set, but I highly doubt anybody will know for sure which of these three will take the berth. The only thing which could ruin this scenario is a loss by Texas or USC in their last games, thereby knocking out these three for the last at-large.

Fitzy's Top 10 - Week 13

1. Texas (10-0)
2. USC (11-0)
3. Penn State (10-1)
4. LSU (9-1)
5. Virginia Tech (10-1)
6. Ohio State (9-2)
7. Notre Dame (8-2)
8. Oregon (10-1)
9. Auburn (9-2)
10. UCLA (9-1)
Dropped Out: #3 Miami (8-2), #9 Alabama (9-2)

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