With the regular season over for just about everyone but the Pac-10 and some non-BCS stragglers, I’m trimming the Ten Pack down to just the games that actually mean something. Without further ado, here are the match ups that should be fun to keep an eye on Saturday:
No. 12 Ball State (12-0, 8-0) vs. Buffalo (7-5, 5-3)
Line: Ball State -14.5
This game really doesn’t mean much as the MAC conference this year was even more weak than normal, but I wanted to highlight the successful season of one of these team. I’m not talking about undefeated Ball State either. The 2000s have not been very kind to the University of Buffalo. Since 2000 up through the 2006 season the Bulls win totals have gone like this: 2, 3, 1, 1, 2, 1, 2. Turner Gill took over before the 2006 season and lead the program to that last ‘2’ in the yearly win total and started the turnaround at Buffalo. In his second season he lead the Bulls to a 5-7 record, a vast improvement over the last decade. This year he surpassed all expectations and lead the team to a 5-3 record in the MAC, winning the East division and clinching a Bowl game for the first time since Buffalo joined Division 1-A in 1999. Buffalo may not have a great chance to win this game, but the season was a success and Turner Gill has the Bulls headed in the right direction.
No. 17 Boston College (9-3, 5-3) vs. No. 25 Virginia Tech (8-4, 5-3)
Line: Boston College -1
For the second straight year the ACC Championship will be decided between Boston College and Virginia Tech. B.C. was predicted to finish in the middle of the pack of the ACC and toward the bottom of the Atlantic division. Coach Jeff Jagodzinski found a suitable replacement for departed QB Matt Ryan and the defense improved from a year ago to win their second ACC Atlantic title in a row. Virginia Tech suffered an embarrassing opening day loss to East Carolina but righted the ship and beat Georgia Tech in Week 3 to win the eventual tiebreaker in the Coastal division. The two teams met previously in week 8 with Boston College storming to a 28-17 haltime lead and holding on for the 28-23 win. The two defenses rank No. 2 and No. 3 in the conference and both offenses have struggled with quarterback play the entire year. This game should be a defensive battle with a spot in the Orange Bowl on the line.
No. 5 USC (10-1, 7-1) at UCLA (4-7, 3-5)
Line: USC -30
The rest of the Pac-10 is still playing, but this is the de facto Pac-10 Championship. UCLA has nothing to play for but a win for USC means a seventh straight Pac-10 title and a date with Penn State in the Rose Bowl. The Trojans were dominant in a win over Notre Dame that almost showed Charlie Weis the door. For UCLA just staying competitive with Southern Cal would be a minor miracle. Bruins QB Kevin Kraft threw seven touchdown passes and seven interceptions in his first seven games. Not great results but far better than his last four games. The Junior QB has thrown twelve picks and no touchdowns in a very cold stretch. USC may hold consecutive opponents to under 100 yards if Kraft continues his awful play.
No. 1 Alabama (12-0, 8-0) vs. No. 4 Florida (11-1, 7-1)
Line: Florida -10
Expectations were raised in Tuscaloosa after The Tide went 7-6 in Nick Saban’s first year as head coach. Twelve games into his second season as coach Alabama is ranked No. 1 in the nation and is a win away from a perfect regular season and a spot in the National Championship game. The offense has been good but the defense has led the way, ranking third in the nation allowing just 11.5 points per game. They will face their toughest challenge of the year against Florida in the Georgia Dome. Tim Tebow and the Florida offense have been on fire since a 31-30 home loss to Ole Miss, scoring 53.7 points per game in seven straight blowout wins. Gator wide receiver Percy Harvin, who has scored 9 rushing and 7 receiving touchdowns, sat out the second half in last weeks win over Florida State with an ankle sprain and is questionable for the game.
BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP:
No. 20 Missouri (9-3, 5-3) vs. No. 2 Oklahoma (11-1, 7-1)
Line: Oklahoma -16.5
Oklahoma jumped Texas in the BCS rankings with a convincing win over Oklahoma State in Stillwater giving the Sooners the Big 12 South title and a spot in the Big 12 Championship game. BCS supporters champion the claim that the BCS system makes every game in the regular season a playoff, but that went out the window when Texas’ win over Oklahoma in the Red River Shootout was ignored. Despite the head to head loss, Oklahoma has been unstoppable in recent weeks and looks like the prohibitive favorite to grab the second spot in the BCS National Championship game. Missouri suffered back to back losses to Oklahoma State and Texas in weeks 7 and 8 but rattled off four straight wins before a heartbreaking loss to Kansas in the last minute of the game. Last year Oklahoma beat Missouri in the Big 12 title game knocking the Tigers out of the National Championship game. This year Missouri hopes to upset Oklahoma and knock the Sooners out of the title game. The defense needs to step up big time as the Sooners have scored 60-plus in back to back wins over ranked opponents.
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