Tom Layberger

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Football Feast

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Many great rivalries and other critical games will play out on the college grid this Thanksgiving weekend, and more than one game has major BCS implications. So make room on the side of your ample plate for some key games.


No. 25 Texas (6-4, 3-4 Big 12) at Texas A&M (6-5, 4-4 Big 12)
Unless it’s a team from the SEC West, it makes you wonder how a team with a losing conference record this deep into the season can still be ranked. Speaking of the SEC, with the Aggies departing the Big 12, this is sadly the last scheduled meeting (for now) between the Lone Star State rivals. Both the ‘Horns and Aggies have struggled with injuries at RB, so if the QBs are going to be the difference, the easy choice is A&M’s Ryan Tannehill.
Pick: Texas A&M 34-16
No. 3 Arkansas (10-1, 6-1 SEC) at No. 1 LSU (11-0, 7-0 SEC)
It’s really something what is happening in Fayetteville. The Hogs lost Ryan Mallett to the NFL and star running back Knile Davis to a knee injury in the pre-season. And here they are No. 3 in the BCS. Taking on the Bayou Bengals in Baton Rouge is a very tall order, but don’t put anything past Bobby Petrino’s group.
Pick: LSU 23-17

No. 8 Houston (11-0, 7-0 CUSA) at Tulsa (8-3, 7-0 CUSA)
True, the Cougars and QB Case Keenum are on another level. But note that Tulsa, one removed from the CUSA record of 13 straight conference wins, is also undefeated in conference play. Houston is averaging 618 yards and 53.1 points. The Golden Hurricane is top-20 in both with 465/35.7 and G.J. Kinne’s rating is second in CUSA to Kennum’s.
Pick: Houston 40-31

Pitt (5-5, 3-2 Big East) at West Virginia (7-3, 3-2 Big East)
Both still have a shot at the Big East title. Okay, that’s not too exciting. But this is the Backyard Brawl, which often is exciting.
Pick: West Virginia 33-20

No. 2 Alabama (10-1, 6-1 SEC) at No. 24 Auburn (7-4, 4-3 SEC)
For the third straight year this game could produce the national champion. It sure did not look like Auburn was title bound last year when the Tigers fell behind the Tide 24-0 before staging their scintillating comeback. Hence, Bama would love nothing more than to put this one away without doubt – and early. Alabama leads the series 40-34-1.
Pick: Alabama 41-17

No. 19 Penn State (9-2, 6-1 Big Ten) at No. 16 Wisconsin (9-2, 5-2)
You have to hand it to the Penn State players and coach Tom Bradley for how they kept everything together. The Nittany Lions find themselves fighting for first in the Leaders Division and a chance to play in the inaugural Big Ten title game. The Badgers, meanwhile, lost both their games in the final minute. They need another big game out of Montee Ball.
Pick: Wisconsin 27-16

No. 22 Notre Dame (8-3) at No. 6 Stanford (10-1, 8-1 Pac-12)
The Cardinal is still in the national title hunt, though it’s an outside shot. Andew Luck and Stanford rebounded from a loss to Oregon with a win against Cal last week while the Irish have won eight of nine. ND will be trying to win five in a row for the first time since 2006.
Pick: Stanford 31-20

Oregon State (3-8, 3-5 Pac-12) at No. 10 Oregon (9-2, 7-1 Pac-12)
It appeared as though the Beavers might have an attempt at knocking the Ducks out of the national championship picture. USC took care of that last week. Oregon State, however, can prevent their Civil War (Oregon leads 58-46-10) rival from representing the North in the inaugural Pac-12 title game and ease the disappointment of a second straight season without a bowl. The Ducks are eager to rebound and get to the Rose Bowl.
Pick: Oregon 45-17

No. 13 Georgia (9-2, 7-1 SEC) at No. 23 Georgia Tech (8-3, 5-3 ACC)
With the SEC East clinched, it’s all about staying healthy for the Dawgs. That’s been much easier said than done this season. The Yellow Jackets have been eliminated from ACC title contention, but would love to run UGA ragged with an option attack that is churning out 324 yards rushing per game to rank second nationally.
Pick: Georgia Tech 37-31

Ohio State (6-5, 3-4 Big Ten) at No. 15 Michigan (9-2, 5-2 Big Ten)
There’s not exactly a conference title on the line. Rather, snapping a seven-game drought in this series would enable the Wolverines to finish with 10 regular-season wins and put themselves in line for a solid bowl. That’s exactly what will happen as Brady Hoke comes out of his rivalry debut with a win as Michigan ups its all-time series lead to 58-44-6.
Pick: Michigan 34-13

No. 5 Virginia Tech (10-1, 6-1 ACC) at Virginia (8-3, 5-2 ACC)
With last week’s shocking finishes and surprising outcomes, the Hokies find themselves in the running  not only for an ACC title but, with a little help, a shot at playing for the BCS championship. First things first and that is a very tough Virginia squad that is looking to win nine games for only the second time since 2002. The winner takes first place in the Coastal Division. Tech leads the series 50-37-5.
Pick: Virginia Tech 27-23

No. 17 Clemson (9-2, 6-2 ACC) at No. 12 South Carolina (9-2, 6-2 SEC)
This is the first time both teams come in ranked since 2000. Wouldn’t the Tigers love to take out some frustration against their in-state rival after last week’s stunning loss to NC State? A healthy Sammy Watkins would help and the freshman receiver should play. Steve Spurrier has had off-field issues and injuries take a huge toll on the offense, but the defense has been outstanding and is the reason why the Gamecocks are ranked where they are.
Pick: Clemson 24-16

UCLA (6-5, 5-3 Pac-12) at USC (9-2, 6-2 Pac-12)
Believe it or not, the Bruins have a shot at winning the Pac-12 South. Win and they go on to the inaugural Pac-12 championship game. That is thanks to sanctions against the Trojans that prevent them from playing beyond Saturday. After beating Oregon last week, USC is red hot and would love to foil the championship hopes of their city rival. USC leads the series 45-28-7.
Pick: USC 37-17

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