Week 12 preview
Another week, another great slate of action. And for the second week in a row, the schedule kicks off on Tuesday night with a key MAC matchup.
Ohio at Temple: Both teams sit at 5-1 in the MAC East, making this the biggest game of the season in that division. Miami (OH) is also 5-1 in the East and will visit Akron on Wednesday night, but the winner of this game controls its destiny. The Bobcats began the year 0-3 but have rebounded with six straight wins behind an offense that has scored at least 30 points in each of those victories. Their ground game paces the offense, as the unit averages 177 yards per game to rank 38th in the nation. Meanwhile, Temple’s defense has allowed just 10 points over its last three games, pitching a pair of shutouts in that span. The Owls rank 18th in the country in total defense, and sit among the top 30 in passing, rushing, and scoring defense.
ICONDoug Martin and the Broncos hope to move past TCU in the BCS standings.
Fresno State at Boise State: If you enjoy watching the Friday night showdowns, I hope you like Boise State because this is the second of three consecutive Friday games for the Broncos. Will Chris Petersen’s bunch be looking past the Bulldogs and ahead to the road tilt at Nevada the next week? Unlikely, as Boise knows that it likely can overtake TCU in the BCS standings with continued strong performances. And if Oregon or Auburn slips up…
Nebraska at Texas A&M: Texas A&M tries to stay alive in the Big 12 South race after rebounding from a tough start against Baylor to snag a victory over the Bears last week after being down by 16 points. College Station will be rocking with the Blackshirts in town, as quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Cyrus Gray have paced a red-hot offense. The Aggies must win out and hope Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State to force a three-way tiebreaker. They also need the Cowboys to lose to both Kansas and Oklahoma to advance via a head-to-head tiebreaker against the Sooners.
The Big Ten race: Ohio State at Iowa, Wisconsin at Michigan and Purdue at Michigan State are all extremely important games to watch Saturday, as the Big Ten title race is nearing a conclusion. If all three finish at 7-1 in the conference, the automatic bid goes to the team highest in the BCS. If the Buckeyes fall in Iowa City, then the Spartans could grab that BCS bid if they win out. And those are the only scenarios I’ll throw out there right now because this column would be never-ending.
Illinois vs. Northwestern (at Wrigley Field): I was lucky enough to go to the Winter Classic a few years back between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings. And I’ll be lucky enough to be in attendance for this game between state rivals. It will be the first football game at Wrigley since 1970 and the first college game at the Friendly Confines since 1938. It’s just a shame that Wildcats starting quarterback Dan Persa will not be able to participate, as the dual-threat signal caller ruptured his Achilles in the comeback win over Iowa. The Illini still need a win to become bowl-eligible after the horrid loss to Minnesota.
The Big East (aka BCS busters): Forget TCU and Boise State. The real BCS buster this year will come from the Big East, as the winner of the conference could cost one of those non-AQ’s, Stanford or potentially another one-loss team a spot in the BCS party. But the rules are the rules, and the winner of the league will indeed be getting a nice paycheck. These are the conference games to watch this week: Pittsburgh at South Florida, West Virginia at Louisville and Connecticut at Syracuse.
Arkansas at Mississippi State: While the SEC West is wrapped up, this one should be a good watch. Ryan Mallett and the Razorbacks bring their high-powered offense into Starkville against a Bulldogs team that will be looking to play much better than they did last week at Alabama. Hogs running back Knile Davis will need to continue his productive ways to make Mallett and the passing game effective against Manny Diaz’s defense.
ICONTyrod Taylor and the Hokies are one of the hottest teams in the nation.
Virginia Tech at Miami: The Hurricanes need to win out and hope the Hokies trip up against Virginia the following week if they want to capture the ACC Coastal division. Stephen Morris likely will make his third straight start for the ‘Canes, who are 2-0 with Morris under center. The Hokies, meanwhile, are one of the hottest teams in the nation and continue to help out Boise State with every win they accumulate. They will be facing a Hurricanes team seeking revenge after losing in Blacksburg last season.
ACC Atlantic: Two big matchups occur this week in the ACC Atlantic division. NC State travels to North Carolina while Maryland hosts Florida State. The Wolfpack own the tiebreaker over FSU and they finish with Maryland, so they’re still alive in the division race. Meanwhile, Ralph Friedgen may be on the verge of a contract extension. The Terps’ offensive line was able to hold their own in the loss to Miami. Can they withstand the pressure from the ‘Noles?
Army vs. Notre Dame (at Yankee Stadium): After watching the historic contest between Illinois and NU at Wrigley Field, I’ll be heading home to catch another fantastic rivalry at a baseball stadium. The Black Knights and the Fighting Irish meet at the home of the Yankees. Can ND fare better against Army than it did against the Midshipmen of Navy?
Houston at Southern Miss: Gotta give some love to C-USA, although UCF’s loss to Southern Miss last week hurt the perception of the league nationally. The Cougars and Golden Eagles are still alive in their division races, so this is a must-win game. Kudos to Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin for keeping his team together after losing star quarterback Case Keenum for the season, as well as his backup. It’s not easy winning with a freshman under center.
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