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The College Football Notebook


December 3, 2010 7:41 AM

High Noon On Saturday

CentralFlorida.jpgThe biggest games on Saturday come in mid-afternoon, starting at 3:30 EST, but don't overlook what's going on in the noon window. The Big East & Conference USA will each settle their championships. C-USA plays the first of the four formal league title games, when SMU visits Central Florida in Orlando, a game played with homefield advantage for UCF. The teams play different offensive styles. SMU is a pure passing attack led by quarterback Kyle Padron, a name that makes him sound like he's straight out of The Godfather ("He says you're his padrone, and he only wants a moment", one can see Al Neri telling Michael Corleone). Padron works primarily to his two receivers, Aldrick Robinson and Cole Beasley and he's supported by a good running game with Zach Line. Central Florida relies more heavily on the run/pass combo of Jeffrey Godfrey behind center.

If you look at the description it makes it sound like SMU is the better, more multi-faceted team, but that's not what the results on the field tell us. Central Florida is 9-3, while SMU is 7-5. Central Florida's losses have all been very competitive against good teams, with N.C. State, Kansas State and Southern Miss all bowl-bound. SMU has coughed it up, notably in a loss to Houston who's played all year with their third-string quarterback following Case Keenum's injury in September. In truth, the Mustangs are probably not the best team in C-USA's Western Division, that honor belonging to 9-3 Tulsa. But SMU nipped the Golden Hurricane 21-18 back on October 9 in Dallas, and thus hold the tiebreaker in the division. For this game, Central Florida plays better defense, is more consistent and has shown the ability to win both shootouts and lower-scoring games. They take this one 38-24 and complete the rebuilding process George O'Leary began here after the resume falsification scandal ruined his five-day tenure as Notre Dame's head coach in 2001.

Three games could impact the Big East race. UConn controls their own destiny as they go to South Florida. If the Huskies stumble, the door opens for West Virginia, who plays Rutgers and then for Pitt, who matches up with Cincinnati. If all three lose, it reverts back to UConn. This is not a good matchup for the Huskies, as South Florida plays good defense and is flying high off last week's win over Miami. They are playing with a freshman quarterback in Bobby Eveld, who stepped in for the injured B.J. Daniels and engineered most of the scoring against Miami. UConn is playing well right now, having won four straight and Jordan Todman being really locked in running the ball. All week long I've had South Florida winning this game, but the more I look at it, I think Randy Edsall's program is ready to finish the job and beat the rookie quarterback on the road.

If UConn should falter, there won't be any help coming. Rutgers is collapsing, can't score and can't protect its quarterback. There's no way they win in West Virginia. By rights Pitt should beat Cincinnati, but after last week's tank job against the Mountaineers that likely moved them out of the BCS, I wonder what the mental state of the Panthers is. Playing at home, I like the Bearcats to end a tough season with a win. By all rights, the most appropriate finish to this Big East race would be all three contenders losing and UConn backing into a major bowl game at 7-5. But I think the conference will be spared this final ignominy.

Image from orlandosentinel.com

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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