The College Football Notebook

November 26, 2009 6:30 AM

Thanksgiving Weekend Previews

We’ve got three days of college football ahead. Here’s some brief comments about the major games of the weekend…

Texas-Texas A&M (8,ESPN)

Remember all the talk during the World Series about Yankee starting pitchers going on short rest? The Longhorns and Aggies both played Saturday and are unlikely to be too sympathetic to the plight of C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettite. As far as analyzing the game, I’m not going to pretend I think the Aggies have a chance. Their only hope is for a big game from their talented quarterback, Jerrod Johnson. But Texas’ defense is extraordinarily good, and Johnson can’t beat them by himself. Furthermore, Colt McCoy is playing his best football of the season.

But how’s this for a storyline—Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman was run out of his job as head coach of the Packers after new GM Ted Thompson came to town. Thompson’s worst nightmare for Thanksgiving is that his Packers are upset in Detroit to start the day, Sherman’s Aggies pull off an upset at night and then Brett Favre and the Vikings beat up the Bears on Sunday to continue their Super Bowl push. But for this prime-time game, Ted can probably just relax and enjoy some post-turkey cheesecake.

Auburn-Alabama (2:30,CBS)
Nebraska-Colorado (3:30, ABC)
Pitt-West Virginia (7,ESPN2)
Nevada-Boise State (10, ESPN2)

I see a couple upsets here, but not in the juicy spots everyone’s looking for. Nebraska is on the road in Boulder. They clinched the Big 12 North last week and have the conference title game with Texas next week. What are the odds they’re really ready to go against the Buffs? And for all of Colorado’s problems, they’ve sprung some surprises, including against Kansas & Texas A&M. Nebraska’s not so good that they can play subpar and win here on the road. I like Colorado to get some turnovers and win this one 24-17. And Pitt is another team in a tough schedule spot. Cincinnati is ahead of them, and regardless of what happens tonight, the Panthers will be playing for a BCS slot in that game. West Virginia has homefield and hasn’t forgotten that the Panthers have beaten them two straight times, including a devastating 2007 loss here in Morgantown that knocked WVA out of the national championship game. They get their revenge on Black Friday.

Alabama-Auburn features the two best running backs in the SEC, in Mark Ingram and Ben Tate. You know the stakes for Alabama. But this is a big game for Auburn too, and not just because it’s always a big one for these two schools against each other. An Auburn win can get them a New Year’s Day bid in the Cotton Bowl. I look for them to play well and stay in the game, but I think ‘Bama’s too well-coached to lose this one.

At the start of the season, the Boise-Nevada game was one I had circled (a sure sign that I am desperately in need of a life). I thought the Wolfpack would be undefeated and that Boise would have no more than one loss. Nevada hasn’t met those expectations, but they are unbeaten in WAC play. This game is winner-take-all for a conference title. Consider the stakes for the Broncos. If they win this game and get some realistic breaks (either on the field or from BCS bowl selectors), they could be bound for the Fiesta or Sugar Bowls. Lose this game and they get the spot reserved for WAC runner-ups…the New Mexico Bowl, against the fourth of fifth place team from the Mountain West, possibly Air Force. How’s that for a game with consequence?

Another game to keep one eye on is Illinois-Cincinnati. The Bearcats have come off two grinding wins in their league, against UConn and West Virginia and have Pitt ahead next week. The Illini could catch them napping. I don’t know that Illinois is well-coached enough to win this on the road,

Florida-Florida State (3:30,CBS)
Clemson-South Carolina (Noon,ESPN)
Georgia-Georgia Tech
LSU-Arkansas (7,ESPN)
Oklahoma-Oklahoma State
Stanford-Notre Dame (8,ABC)

From the standpoint of conference strength, the three SEC-ACC showdowns that head this list will be good test points. Although at this point, it appears to be an issue of academic, rather than practical interest, as I can’t imagine what effect it will have on anyone’s bowl or national title positioning.

There’s no shortage of practical effect on the three games involving four bowl-bound SEC East teams. The Tennessee-Kentucky game is likely winner-take-all for a January 1 Outback Bowl spot. Unless, of course, Georgia can upset Georgia Tech and make their own case for that spot. South Carolina is also looking to move up the bowl ladder and win a rivalry game with Clemson.

Oklahoma State’s visit to Oklahoma will be watched with great interest in Boise, presuming Boise State wins on Friday. A BCS bowl game likely comes down to the Cowboys & Broncos, with Okie State holding the inside track. Should Boise be frozen out, they get the loser of BYU-Utah. Finally, Stanford can make a case for the Pac-10’s Holiday Bowl bid (the top non-BCS prize) by beating Notre Dame. And if the Irish collapse to 6-6, will they even accept a bowl bid? Better ND teams than this one have turned down invites.

Have a happy Thanksgiving! We’ll see you again on Saturday morning to sort out the results of the weekend’s first two days.

A Member Of