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November 25, 2008

SCS.comRivalry Saturday? Showdown Saturday? Last weekend would have been more appropriately titled, Blowout Saturday. What's left in the rubble of blowouts all across the country is a little more clarity on the ten BCS participants, and a whole lot of fogginess near the top 2. The most important blowout on Saturday was Oklahoma beating Texas Tech 65-21. The Red Raiders drop into a three-way tie with Oklahoma and Texas atop the most competitive division in Division I-A football, and now it appears the BCS will determine who will play in the Big XII title game as well as the BCS Championship. Before looking at the rest of the weekend that was, now is a great time to make the case for all three Big XII South teams vying for the spot that leads to a conference championship and a date in Miami for the national championship.

First off we have current BCS #2 Texas. The Longhorns will boast of their tough stretch of schedule that saw them face Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Missouri, and Texas Tech in consecutive weeks. Texas came out of that murderer's row 3-1 and missed 4-0 by the narrowest of margins, one second in Lubbock. Texas has the narrowest loss of games between the three, and missed playing the two terrible North teams K-State and Iowa State. Texas is probably only competing with Oklahoma, so they will no doubt keep pointing to the 45-35 win in Dallas back in October. The Longhorns have a good argument for the South Division title.

Second on the docket is Oklahoma, the trendy team after dismantling Texas Tech. Now Oklahoma will have a hard time getting past the head-to-head with Texas, but that was a long time ago on a neutral field. This is a three-way tie, and Oklahoma would point out that they handily took care of the Red Raiders that Texas could not beat. Oklahoma will have the Oklahoma State game next week to help them have a great two week bump in the computer rankings, and maybe in the minds of voters as well. Oklahoma also pounded real teams out-of-conference, such as future Big East champion Cincinnati and MWC runner-up TCU. Oklahoma has been consistent all season and has never failed to put up 35 points, usually more than 50. Oklahoma probably has the better argument thanks to a stronger schedule than the Longhorns in a 3-way tie.

Lastly come the Red Raiders. Texas Tech faced their own murderer's row of Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma. Just like the Longhorns, they came up short only in the last game which was on the road. Texas Tech will not want to look at point spreads or time of losses, but instead will focus on their win over Texas. Will that be enough in a three-way tie to convince anybody? No! However, Texas Tech does have a trump card, that being Oklahoma State. In the games amongst the top 4 teams in the South, no road team has won yet. The last of those battles takes place on OSU's home field, and Oklahoma cannot just assume that's a win just yet. If the Cowboys win, Texas Tech is in the Big XII Championship thanks to beating Texas head-to-head. Make no mistake, the Red Raiders would jump back to #2 in the BCS if this plays out and they beat Missouri.

Conclusion: Still too foggy. I'll put my pick on the OSU-OU showdown below and my BCS Projections, but there's really no counting out anyone. Even if Oklahoma wins, they must get some style points to overcome Texas in the BCS thanks to the head-to-head bias against the Sooners. Hard to believe with one week to go in the regular season for the conference, so much is left to be decided.

As for the rest of college football world, you could've slept through some games on Saturday thanks to blowout city. In games that were supposed to be competitive, Utah crushed BYU 48-24, Penn State mauled Michigan State 49-18, Ohio State made a statement with a 42-7 win over Michigan, TCU crunched Air Force 44-10, North Carolina State shocked UNC 41-10, Florida State knocked over Maryland 37-3, and in the crusher of all crushers, Iowa shut the lights out in the Metrodome permanently with a 55-0 embarrassment of Minnesota. Where did the competitive balance and heated rivalries go? I suppose bright spots include Cincinnati and Oregon State blazing their trails to the BCS with narrow wins, but outside of those two, let's hope the next two weeks pay us back for the lack of November drama outside the ACC.

The coaching carousel had a very interesting development this week, and that is the re-hiring of Bill Snyder as Kansas State coach. Snyder coached the Wildcats to more wins in 17 seasons than they had the previous 54, and will be taking the reins from Ron Prince, who did not make it 3 seasons at KSU. This hire screams desperation, even if Snyder has the itch to coach again. Time will tell, but I cannot imagine Snyder becoming the next Bowden or Paterno, which means K-State just put off the inevitable growing pains that they should have rode out with Prince.

The BCS Projections this week changed a little. Penn State is your Big Ten champion, and thus gets slotted into the Rose Bowl. Ohio State gets bumped from the BCS, as does Miami after they dropped the slippery ACC ball. I see Oklahoma and Florida winning their respective conferences, and Utah will be the only at-large from a non-BCS conference thanks to Oregon State winning the Pac-10. Sorry Boise State, that's how it breaks this year. Of course I guess it's better to lose your spot to an 11-1 USC team than a 10-2 Ohio State, but still no Fiesta this year.

BCS Projections October 27, 2008 BCS Championship in Miami - Florida vs. Oklahoma Fiesta Bowl - Alabama vs. USC Sugar Bowl - Texas vs. Utah Orange Bowl - Boston College vs. Cincinnati Rose Bowl - Oregon State vs. Penn State

Just when I get back into the writer's pick-em race, I go and pick teams like Michigan State and Texas Tech, leading me to fall close to .500 on the season. Oh well, there's always bowl season. The third best game of the week was a tough choice, but assuming Florida continues to play well, I'll go with Maryland at Boston College. This ACC showdown will determine who steps up to join Florida State atop the division, and only Boston College will win the tiebreaker with the Seminoles for the championship game berth. Still, Maryland has played exactly the opposite of expected this season, crushing the hopes of great teams and losing to bad ones. Senior QB Chris Crane leads the Eagles in this year of growth and transition, and the underclassmen are starting to play like champions in November. Maryland has scored fewer points than it's given up despite a 7-4 record, but the offense has good athletes in QB Chris Turner and RB Da'Rel Scott. Maryland will probably win, but I think BC will make up for the disappointments of last season by protecting the home field and winning by 14.

In a week when Guns and Roses brought out an album for the first time in 15 years, it is fitting that we have "The Civil War" as the second-best game of the week, Oregon at Oregon State. With a win, Oregon State will benefit from that upset of USC and go to the Rose Bowl as champions of the Pac-10. Oregon can claim second place in the Pac-10 and drop their bitter rivals to third place with a win. For the Ducks, it will be all about controlling the clock with RBs Jeremiah Johnson and LeGarrette Blount. The headlines for Oregon State may go to Jacquizz Rodgers, but do not underestimate the passing game of OSU or the Beaver defense. Oregon State was battle-tested by BCS bound Penn State and Utah, and the team has come a long way from the 0-2 start. At Corvallis the Beavers have been dominant, and lately they just find ways to win games. OSU is a team of destiny, and while a rematch with Penn State may not be great for the Rose Bowl, it is what they will get after the Beavers cruise to a 3 point win.

Game of the week is clear, Oklahoma at Oklahoma State. Bedlam! Each team has a blistering offense, an underrated defense, and enough playmakers to make this a must-see. Don't even mention the fact that Oklahoma is playing for a national and conference title, while Oklahoma State would love to spoil OU's season and jump ahead of them in the Big XII bowl pecking order. The Oklahoma State defense contained Colt McCoy, but not Graham Harrell. For Oklahoma it was vice versa. Unfortunately for Cowboy fans, Sam Bradford and company are on such a roll right now that it seems unfair to put anybody but them and Florida in the BCS Championship until proven otherwise. OSU puts up a good struggle for a half, but Oklahoma rolls on to a much-needed 28 point win.

2008 GOTW Record: 20-19
Last Week: 1-2

Fitz Top 10 - Week 13
1. Alabama (11-0)
2. Florida (10-1)
3. Texas (10-1)
4. Oklahoma (10-1)
5. Utah (12-0)
6. Boise State (11-0)
7. USC (9-1)
8. Texas Tech (10-1)
9. Penn State (11-1)
10. Ohio State (10-2)

Just Missed: Missouri, Ball State, Georgia, Cincinnati, Oklahoma State

Who could've guessed that this season, one week would have two OSU teams in the top two games of the week, neither involving Ohio State. Just how quirky 2008 has been! Although the Big Ten has shut down for the season, we've still got two weeks to go! We'll see you next week for my final regular season article, previewing the conference championships and taking our best guess at the BCS. Have a good weekend!

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