The College Football Notebook

November 27, 2010 8:18 AM

Can Saturday Possibly Top Friday?

JustinBlackmon.jpgIt's hard to imagine that Saturday's college football slate can possibly stop yesterday, with stunning comebacks by Auburn and Nevada solidifying the national championship race a little more and Arizona hanging with Oregon for the better part of three quarters. Even if today doesn't measure up though, there are still plenty of good games with serious implications for BCS bowls. From Stillwater to Little Rock to Palo Alto to throughout the Midwest, games that will clear up the bowl picture go down. Let's dive in...

Oklahoma-Oklahoma State (8 ET, ABC): The biggest game of the day as these two rivals play for what will likely determine the Big 12 South opponent for Nebraska in the conference championship game. If the Cowboys win, they're in. If the Sooners win it comes down to BCS ranking among these two teams, a circumstance that probably favors Oklahoma, although it's possible OSU could still sneak in through the backdoor. On the field, perhaps the two best receivers in the country will be on display, with Justin Blackmon for Oklahoma State and Ryan Broyles for Oklahoma. Both quarterbacks, Brandon Weeden and Landry Jones are having very good years, although both tend to lock in on these primary targets. Who can spread the ball out and who can get support from the running game will determine who wins. On the surface, this favors the Cowboys, where Kendall Hunter is surging down the stretch, while OU's Demarco Murray has never really gotten unleashed. But Oklahoma has had a way of always spoiling their archrival's dreams. Last year at this time Okie State was playing for a Fiesta Bowl bid and were shut out by the Sooners. Two years ago it was Oklahoma coming here and winning a wild 61-41 shootout. A team that has to break through this type of psychological block never has it as logical as it looks on the surface, so I look for a great game, but for the Cowboys to finally get it done in the Bedlam rivalry.

LSU-Arkansas (3:30 ET, CBS): Alabama's loss only heightens the drama for this game because there is now no question that as long as Auburn wins the SEC title this is the game that will almost surely settle a Sugar Bowl bid. Ryan Mallett gets all the ink for the Razorbacks, but they are at their best when Knile Davis is running the ball and setting up the passing game. LSU's offense has improved demonstrably the last few weeks and Stevan Ridley offers them a sound running game. So you have roughly equivalent running games, with Arkansas still meriting an edge in the passing game, plus having homefield, while LSU has the defensive advantage. Very tough call, but I'm going to stick with defense and Les Miles over Bobby Petrino in a truly big game and lean the Tigers in a close one.

Oregon State-Stanford (7:30 ET): The Boise State loss may open the door for Stanford to get into the BCS and replace Oregon in the Rose Bowl if the Ducks close out a perfect season next week against the same Oregon State team the Cardinal faces tonight. Oregon State is a scary team because you never know exactly what you're going to get, and Quizz Rodgers is a game-changer both running the ball and catching it out of the backfield. I just don't believe their defense can slow down Stanford, with Andrew Luck throwing and Stephan Taylor running and you must have defense to win on the road. Stanford closes an 11-1 season with a big win tonight.

The Big Ten Trifecta: (Michigan-Ohio State, Noon ABC), (Michigan State-Penn State, Noon ESPN), Northwestern-Wisconsin (3:30 ET, ABC): All three teams are tied for first and if all three win the Rose Bowl bid comes down to BCS ranking. Wisconsin hold the lead right now, but Ohio State is in close pursuit. Michigan State can get the bid if Ohio State loses and it creates a two-way tie where Sparty's win over the Badgers would then settle the tie. The problem with that scenario is Michigan State is the only one playing in a real danger spot. Michigan will get some exciting plays from Denard Robinson, but they can't stop anybody and aren't going to win in Columbus. Northwestern might have been competitive with Wisconsin, but the loss of Dan Persa at quarterback, both throwing and running, is too much to overcome in Madison. It's Michigan State who goes on the road to a tough place to win at. Penn State's getting improved play at quarterback from Matt McGloin and Michigan State, while not bad defensively is not truly championship-caliber on this side of the ball. I look for Penn State to expose this, for McGloin to have a big day and Penn State to win 35-24. A two-way tie between Wisconsin and Ohio State goes the Badgers by virtue of a head-to-head win in October.

Dan Flaherty is the editor of the Sports Notebook Family, published through the Real Clear Sports Blog Network, offering daily commentary in college football ,game analysis in the NFL. and coverage of college basketball. He is the author of The Last New Year's, a book that revisits the historic high points of college football's New Year's Day bowl games.

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