December 3, 2009

Primer: Expect fireworks on final weekend

It's sad but true: This is the final weekend of the regular season.

Still, in a season that hasn't exactly been all that exciting, the final weekend looks as it will provide some fireworks.

It starts Thursday night, with one of the biggest "Civil War" matchups ever. A Rose Bowl berth will be on the line when Oregon welcomes Oregon State to what promises to be a raucous Autzen Stadium.

Friday night has the MAC championship game, matching quarterback Dan LeFevour and Central Michigan against surprising Ohio University.

Saturday should be a glorious day, from start to finish. To start the day, there is the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh showdown in the Steel City for the Big East title, and the Conference USA championship game in which national passing leader Case Keenum leads his Houston team against East Carolina - which is one of the few teams in the league built around its defense.

Later in the afternoon, it's the game of the year - Alabama and Florida in the SEC championship game, with the winner becoming the favorite to win the SEC's fourth consecutive national title.

At night, there are the ACC and Big 12 championship games, with a berth in the national title game on the line for Texas in the Big 12 finale. Plus, as an added bonus, there's the late-night Hawaii-Wisconsin game from Honolulu, with a bowl berth on the line for the Warriors.

Here's a look at each game involving a FBS team this weekend, plus a quick peek at the Dec. 12 Army-Navy showdown.

SATURDAY'S GAMES

Cincinnati (11-0) at Pittsburgh (9-2), noon, ABC
THE BUZZ: This one is for the Big East title and the resultant BCS berth. Cincinnati has won 17 consecutive regular-season games. Pitt is 7-1 in the series, though Cincy's victory came last season.
THE LINE: Cincinnati by 2. THE PICK: Cincinnati 31-27.

West Virginia (8-3) at Rutgers (8-3), noon, ESPN
THE BUZZ: WVU leads the series 30-4-2 and has won 14 in a row over the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers averages 145.1 rushing yards per game, but in its four games against foes that currently boast winning records, that number drops to 83.5 yards per game (and Rutgers lost three of those games). WVU has allowed a Big East-low six rushing touchdowns this season.
THE LINE: Rutgers by 1.5. THE PICK: West Virginia 24-20.

Houston (10-2) at East Carolina (8-4), noon, ESPN2
C-USA championship
THE BUZZ: Houston's offense is one of the best in the nation, and ECU might have the best all-around defense in Conference USA. But it's the Houston defense that is the key. Frankly, it has been pitiful this season. Can an inconsistent ECU offense take advantage?
THE LINE: Houston by 2.5. THE PICK: Houston 31-30.

Fresno State (7-4) at Illinois (3-8), 12:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
THE BUZZ: A win would give Fresno State coach Pat Hill the 100th victory of his career. Both teams want to run the ball, but neither is that good at stopping the run. Fresno, indeed, is egregiously bad. Bulldogs RB Ryan Mathews leads the nation in rushing at 149.1 yards per game.
THE LINE: Illinois by 3. THE PICK: Fresno State 37-33.

San Jose State (2-9) at Louisiana Tech (3-8), 2 p.m., Mid-Atlantic Sports Network/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: This is the final game for San Jose State coach Dick Tomey, 71, who already has announced his retirement. Louisiana Tech has won nine of its past 11 home games, and SJSU has lost six in a row on the road.
THE LINE: Louisiana Tech by 23. THE PICK: Louisiana Tech 38-16.

New Mexico State (3-9) at Boise State (12-0), 3 p.m., ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: A victory over the woeful Aggies appears to be all that's between Boise State and its second BCS bid. Boise is 35-0 at home all-time in the WAC and has won the past two over the Aggies by a combined 107-0.
THE LINE: Boise State by 47.5. THE PICK: Boise State 54-3.

Arizona (7-4) at USC (8-3), 3:30 p.m., ABC
THE BUZZ: USC has won 48 of its past 50 home games, with both losses coming to Stanford. The Trojans' run defense has had some issues this season; can Arizona take advantage? A loss by USC could mean the Trojans finish as low as sixth in the Pac-10; a victory ensures them of at least a third-place finish.
THE LINE: USC by 7. THE PICK: USC 27-16.

Alabama (12-0) vs. Florida (12-0), 4 p.m., CBS
SEC championship, Georgia Dome/Atlanta
THE BUZZ: Going into the season, the assumption was these teams would meet in Atlanta with the SEC title and a berth in the national title game on the line. Well, what do you know - that assumption proved correct. Can either offense muster any consistency against the other team's defense.
THE LINE: Florida by 5.5. THE PICK: Florida 17-13.

California (8-3) at Washington (4-7), 6:30 p.m., Comcast SportsNet California/Fox Sports Net Northwest
THE BUZZ: Cal is 4-1 on the road this season and has won five of its past six overall. Washington has shown progress after last season's 0-12 debacle. A victory over the Golden Bears would be a huge boost heading into the offseason.
THE LINE: California by 7. THE PICK: California 30-21.

Florida Atlantic (4-7) at Florida International (3-8), 7 p.m., Sun Belt syndication/Comcast-Charter Sports Southeast/ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Both these teams have been at least mildly disappointing. But FAU can finish third in the Sun Belt with a win, while FIU can finish fourth if it beats its archrival.
THE LINE: FIU by 2. THE PICK: FAU 27-23.

Clemson (8-4) vs. Georgia Tech (10-2), 8 p.m., ESPN
ACC championship, Raymond James Stadium/Tampa, Fla.
THE BUZZ: This game lost a lot of luster once both lost to 6-5 in-state rivals last weekend. These teams met on the second Thursday night of the season, and it was a highly entertaining game. Let's hope the encore is just as entertaining. It looks as if it will be.
THE LINE: Georgia Tech by 1. THE PICK: Georgia Tech 28-24.

Nebraska (9-3) vs. Texas (12-0), 8 p.m., ABC
Big 12 championship, Cowboys Stadium/Arlington, Texas
THE BUZZ: Texas is one win away from playing for the national title, and QB Colt McCoy's Heisman Trophy hopes also are on the line. Nebraska's defense is championship-caliber, but not its offense.
THE LINE: Texas by 14. THE PICK: Texas 24-13.

USF (7-4) at Connecticut (6-5), 8 p.m., ESPN2
THE BUZZ: USF often struggles in cold-weather games, and the temperature at kickoff should be right around freezing. Watch the USF offense: The Bulls are 7-1 when scoring at least 17 points this season, and UConn has held just three foes to 17 or fewer points this season. The Huskies have scored a special-teams touchdown in each of the past four games.
THE LINE: UConn by 7.5. THE PICK: UConn 24-20.

Wisconsin (8-3) at Hawaii (6-6), 11:30 p.m., ESPN2
THE BUZZ: If Hawaii wins, it becomes bowl eligible; the Warriors would play in the Hawaii Bowl, which is in their home stadium. Wisconsin loves to run behind its big, physical offensive line, and Hawaii is 104th in the nation in rush defense. But Hawaii's pass offense is going to pose some problems for Wisconsin's secondary.
THE LINE: Wisconsin by 12. THE PICK: Wisconsin 38-28.

SATURDAY, DEC. 12

Army (5-6) vs. Navy (8-4) at Philadelphia, 2:30 p.m., CBS
THE BUZZ: The teams have the day all to themselves, so everyone can enjoy all the pomp and pageantry. An Army win puts the Black Knights in the EagleBank Bowl. Navy already is set for the Texas Bowl.
THE LINE: TBA. THE PICK: Navy 36-17.

LAST WEEK

39-9 straight up, 19-27-2 against the spread.

YEAR TO DATE

581-174 straight up, 319-332-8 against the spread.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.




 

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