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College Football Season

Rivalry Week Spices-Up Thanksgiving Holiday

Notre Dame-USC, Michigan-Ohio State and more

by Dave Congrove
November 20, 2012

Newly anointed as the No. 1 team in the land, Notre Dame heads to Los Angeles for its rivalry game with USC. The beleaguered Trojans are just 7-4 and must face the stingy Irish defense with a freshman quarterback after Matt Barkley incurred a significant throwing shoulder injury in the waning minutes of last week's loss at UCLA.

My Congrove Computer Rankings project this game to be a virtual tie with USC actually favored by a mere 0.02 points, but the computer doesn't take weekly injury reports into consideration. Max Wittek, a true freshman who played for the same team as Barkley in high school, gets the starting nod and brings all the experience that 9 college game passes can provide. Wittek was 8-of-9 for 95 yards and a TD in late-game action against Hawaii, Colorado and UCLA with the TD coming against the Buffaloes.

In all, 57 games take place over the Thanksgiving Holiday, beginning with a MAC matchup on Tuesday and a solo Thanksgiving Day game.

The MAC Championship game is set with Kent State and Northern Illinois, but Tuesday night's Akron-Toledo game is still of great importance to both teams. For Toledo, it's matter of bowl positioning because the 8-3 Rockets are one of five teams in the MAC with at least 8 wins and Bowling Green would become the sixth with a win over Buffalo this Friday at Columbus Crew Stadium. For Akron, it's matter of trying to NOT finish the season without a conference win or a victory over an FBS team.

The lone Turkey Day affair, set for a 7:30 EST kickoff, is TCU at Texas. Normally, this would have been a Texas A&M-Texas game but realignment screwed that up and last year's 118th meeting became the last, for now. Texas Tech is lined up as the opponent next year as the Longhorns look to stage the game in Austin every year against a rotation of Big 12 teams.

Texas won 61 of the previous 82 meetings (61-20-1) in the TCU series that has only been renewed once (2007) since their 1995 meeting. The computer favors the 'Horns by 6.06 and they must win to stay in the Big 12 title hunt.

2nd-ranked Alabama gets lowly Auburn at home on Saturday as a 24.16-point computer choice. A 3-9, 0-8 finish seems inevitable for the Tigers who are expected to fire head coach Gene Chizik, despite the fact that he is just two years removed from a BCS Championship. There just wasn't much left in the cupboard after the 2010 team left school. Alabama clinches the SEC West with a win and a date with Georgia in the conference championship game.

BCS No. 3 Georgia (No. 8, CCR) is a projected 12.95-point winner at home versus Georgia Tech on Saturday. The Yellow Jackets became the ACC Coastal champions by default on Monday when Miami opted out of the postseason for the second consecutive year in hopes that the NCAA will show mercy when it doles out its punishment.

BCS No. 4 Florida (No. 9, CCR) is an 8.74-point computer underdog at BCS No. 9 Florida State (No. 5, CRR) on Saturday. The 'Noles have already clinched the ACC Atlantic and could capture the conference title to finish 12-1, but would still likely be trailing teams in the BCS Standings that couldn't claim either of those feats.

BCS No. 5 Oregon (No. 3, CCR) visits BCS No. 15 Oregon State (No. 26, CCR) as an 11.70-point computer choice. The Ducks need a win and a Stanford loss at UCLA to set up a second consecutive UCLA-Oregon PAC-12 championship game and keep the Ducks alive for a fourth straight conference title. The computer doesn't see that scenario taking shape as it forecasts Stanford to beat the Bruins by 3.36. These games follow each other on Saturday with a 3:00 EST kick-off for the Civil War and a 6:30 start at Rose Bowl Stadium.

BCS No. 6 Ohio State (No. 6, CCR) hosts BCS No. 19 (No. 24, CCR) Michigan on Saturday as 2.03-point computer underdog. NCAA probation makes this the final game of the season for the Buckeyes who are looking to finish the season undefeated. Michigan needs a win and a Nebraska loss to secure a meeting with Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship. However, the computer expects Nebraska to clinch the Legends Division on Friday with a huge 15.42-point win at Iowa. Despite its probation, the conference recognizes Ohio State as the Leaders Division champ.

Rutgers can claim an outright Big East title this week if it wins and Louisville loses. Otherwise, there will bea de facto championship game next Thursday when Rutgers visits Louisville. A pair of Saturday games this week have the 9-1, 5-0 Scarlet Knights picked to win by 3.19 at Pitt while the 9-1, 4-1 Cardinals are a 13.72-point choice at home against UConn. The Big East hasn't produced an outright champion since Cincinnati won back-to-back titles in 2008 and 2009.

Kansas State may have been rudely kicked out of the national top spot last week at Baylor, but the Wildcats can still secure the Big 12 title by defeating Texas at home on December 1 after sitting this week out. The conference title door is still open for the Longhorns and Oklahoma.

Oklahoma is favored by 3.12 over Oklahoma State when Bedlam takes place in Norman on Saturday. The Cowboys are out of the conference title equation with two losses, one of which was to Kansas State. The Sooners also lost to Kansas State and need the Wildcats to lose to Texas next week.

UCF is favored by 25.87 over visiting UAB for a win that would clinch the CUSA East division and send the Golden Knights back to Tulsa for the Conference USA Championship game. Tulsa beat UCF 23-21 this past Saturday to clinch the CUSA West title for the first time since 2008.

The Mountain West is a 3-way battle between Boise State, Fresno State and San Diego State which are all 6-1 in the conference and 1-1 vs. each other. The Broncos are idle this week while the Bulldogs are favored by 16.16 versus Air Force and the Aztecs are forecasted to win by 7.73 at Wyoming.

Arkansas State and MTSU are the top two teams in the Sun Belt and will collide in Jonesboro on December 1. The Red Wolves are idle this week while the Blue Raiders are 1.40-point underdogs at home to Troy this Saturday.

Utah State has already secured the WAC's top bowl slot with its win at Louisiana Tech this past Saturday. The Aggies are favored by 35.36 points at home over lowly Idaho this Saturday to make it an outright and undefeated (in conference) title.

Of the 41 games on Saturday, the computer forecasts a whopping 11 outright upsets. To put that number in perspective, it forecasted a total of 75 outright upsets in the first 12 weeks of the season for an average of 6.25 a week. Last week, it forecasted just 2.

Of these 11 upsets that it forecasts, 7 have margins of under 3 points and all but 1 are under 4 points. The lone exception? The computer favors Mississippi State by 5.26 at Mississippi in the annual Egg Bowl while the oddsmakers set the line at 1-1/2 on Ole Miss.

Maryland announced on Monday that it was joining the Big Ten in the 2014 academic year. Rutgers made the same announcement Tuesday. Get a refresher course on 2013 Conference Realignment and beyond.

The Big 12 could place 9 of its 10 teams in bowl games. 7 have already qualified while Baylor and West Virginia each need one more win in the final two weeks of the season. Baylor plays Texas Tech in Arlington and hosts Oklahoma State while WVU visits Iowa State and hosts Kansas.

Will Virginia Tech make it 20 bowl appearances in-a-row? The Hokies are a 15.42-point computer pick at home over Virginia on Saturday to notch a necessary 6th win. Only once have the Hokies entered a bowl game with less than 8 wins on their resume and that came in 1997.

The ACC needs wins this week by Wake Forest (vs. Vanderbilt) and Virginia Tech to give the conference 7 bowl eligible teams because of North Carolina's probation and Miami's self-imposed bowl restriction. Wake is a 15.72-point underdog.

The Big Ten needs wins this week by Michigan State (at Minnesota) and Purdue (vs. Indiana) to give the conference 7 bowl eligible teams because of NCAA probation barring Ohio State and Michigan from the postseason. The computer does favor the Spartans and Boilermakers to each win their games this week by more than 12 points.

Conference USA has just 3 bowl eligible teams and needs wins by Marshall (at East Carolina), SMU (at Tulsa) and Rice (at UTEP) to qualify half of its membership. The computer has losing margins of less than 1 point for Marshall and Rice, and 5.91 for SMU.

The Sun Belt has a conference record 5 bowl eligible teams and would add a sixth if Troy wins at MTSU on Saturday. The computer picks the Trojans by 1.40.

FBS vs. FCS:
Seven FBS teams - all from the SEC - went 7-0 vs. FCS schools last week. FBS teams are 97-10 (.907) on the year in such matchups and 735-65 (.919) in such games since 2003.

The last such game of the year will take place next week when Nicholls State heads to Oregon State to make up a game that was forced to be postponed on Labor Day weekend by Hurricane Isaac.

When all is said and done for this year, 101 FBS teams will have played a total of 108 games against FCS foes. UTSA played 4 such schools in its first year of transitioning from the FCS. Cincinnati, Florida State, Pittsburgh and Texas A&M each played two such games.

Here are the results of the FBS losses to FCS schools this season:
9/29: Stony Brook 23, Army 3
9/15: Cal Poly 24, Wyoming 22
9/8: Sacramento State 30, Colorado 28
9/8: North Dakota State 22, Colorado State 7
9/8: Illinois State 31, Eastern Michigan 17
9/8: Northern Arizona 17, UNLV 14
9/1: Youngstown State 31, Pittsburgh 17
9/1: Tennessee-Martin 20, Memphis 17
8/30: McNeese State 27, Middle Tennessee 21
8/30: Eastern Washington 20, Idaho 3

Notre Dame - Won 11 straight overall. Visits USC on Saturday.

Ohio State - Won 11 straight overall. Hosts Michigan on Saturday.

Northern Illinois - Won 15 straight conference games (MAC), 21 straight home games and 10 straight overall. Visits Eastern Michigan on Friday.

LSU - Won 41 straight nonconference games. Visits Arkansas on Friday.

Michigan - won 14 straight home games. Visits Ohio State on Saturday.

Oregon - Won 15 straight road games. Visits Oregon State on Saturday.

Southern Miss - Lost 11 straight overall. Visits Memphis on Saturday.

Akron - Lost 25 straight road games, 21 straight FBS games and 15 straight conference games (MAC). Visits Toledo on Tuesday.

Kansas - Lost 20 straight FBS games, 20 straight conference games and 18 straight road games. Idle this week. Visits West Virginia on Saturday, 12/1.

UNLV - Lost 21 straight road games. Visits Hawaii on Saturday.

28 teams have a new college football coach in the FBS ranks this season. See how they are faring versus their predecessor.

Here are this week's games for each new head coach:

Team Coach Game
Akron Terry Bowden (1-10) Tuesday at Toledo
Arizona Rich Rodriguez (7-4) Friday vs. Arizona State
Arizona State Todd Graham (6-5) Friday at Arizona
Arkansas John L. Smith (4-7) Friday vs. LSU
Arkansas State Gus Malzahn (8-3) Idle this week. Saturday, 12/1 vs. MTSU
Colorado State Jim McElwain (3-8) Saturday vs. New Mexico
FAU Carl Pellini (3-8) Idle this week. Saturday, 12/1 vs. UL-Lafayette
Fresno State Tim DeRuyter (8-3) Saturday vs. Air Force
Hawaii Norm Chow (1-9) Saturday vs. UNLV
Houston Tony Levine (4-7) Saturday vs. Tulane
Illinois Tim Beckman (2-9) Saturday at Northwestern
Kansas Charlie Weis (1-10) Idle this week. Saturday, 12/1 at West Virginia
Massachusetts Charley Molnar (1-10) Friday vs. Central Michigan
Memphis Justin Fuente (3-8) Saturday vs. Southern Miss
Mississippi Hugh Freeze (5-6) Saturday vs. Mississippi State
New Mexico Bob Davie (4-8) Saturday at Colorado State
North Carolina Larry Fedora (7-4) Saturday vs. Maryland
Ohio State Urban Meyer (11-0) Saturday vs. Michigan
Penn State Bill O'Brien (7-4) Saturday vs. Wisconsin
Pittsburgh Paul Chryst (4-6) Saturday vs. Rutgers
Rutgers Kyle Flood (9-1) Saturday at Pittsburgh
Southern Miss Ellis Johnson (0-11) Saturday at Memphis
Texas A&M Kevin Sumlin (9-2) Saturday vs. Missouri
Toledo Matt Campbell (8-3) Tuesday vs. Akron
Tulane Curtis Johnson (2-9) Saturday at Houston
UAB Garrick McGee (3-8) Saturday at UCF
UCLA Jim Mora (9-2) Saturday vs. Stanford
Washington State Mike Leach (2-9) Friday vs. Washington


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