Archive for Friday, December 3, 2004

Final week filled with big games, BCS implications

December 3, 2004


Going into the final week of the regular season, only one team is set for a specific spot in the Bowl Championship Series.

Michigan will play in the Rose Bowl. Everything else will be put in place Saturday in six games involving eight ranked teams.

First up will be Pittsburgh trying to wrap up the Big East's automatic bid to the BCS against South Florida in a game rescheduled because of a hurricane.

About two hours later the former beasts of the Big East, Miami and Virginia, play for the Atlantic Coast Conference crown and its BCS bid.

Then the national-championship contenders begin their final push toward the Orange Bowl to play for the BCS title.

Southern California (11-0) plays crosstown rival UCLA at 3:30 Central time. The Trojans are in first place in the BCS standings and have locked up a BCS berth as Pac-10 champs. With a win they'll earn a trip to Miami and a chance to make it back-to-back national titles. A slip sends them to the Rose Bowl.

"There is a lot at stake regarding where we'll end up. The elements that add up are good for us," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "It would be a great game even if there were no wins on either side. But the fact that we have to deal with all this pressure is good for us."

Just about when the Trojans and Bruins are heading to halftime, Auburn and Tennessee kick off the Southeastern Conference title game in Atlanta.

The unbeaten Tigers (11-0) are third in the BCS standings and probably need a loss by USC or Oklahoma to get the Orange Bowl. They beat the Volunteers, 34-10, in October in Knoxville, Tenn.

"We played them early in the season, but you can throw that out, and they will have a grudge on their shoulder, and they will come out with more enthusiasm," Auburn running back Ronnie Brown said.

About an hour and a half after the Tigers-Volunteers start their rematch in Atlanta, California, fourth in the BCS standings, tries to secure its spot in the BCS at Southern Mississippi.

The odd cross-sectional regular-season finale also was caused by a September hurricane. Texas will be watching closely, hoping the Golden Eagles can spring the upset -- or at least make the Bears look bad -- and put the Longhorns in the BCS.

Shortly after that, Oklahoma and Colorado get going in the Big 12 Conference title game in Kansas City, Mo. The Sooners appear to control their destiny -- win and they're off to Miami to play for a national title for the second straight season.

"We won't sit around and watch other games on television Saturday; we will keep focused on the Colorado game," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said.

But remember, the Big 12 title game has a history of surprises, including Kansas State knocking off the Sooners to spark last season's BCS controversy.

"There is more a sense of alertness and the need to finish well for us this week," Stoops said.

Oddly, now an upset is needed to avoid having three unbeaten teams from the major conferences and another BCS controversy.

The picks:

Army (plus 13) vs. Navy

Middies have won two straight by combined 92-18 ... ARMY 30-29.

No. 1 USC (minus 22) at UCLA

Southern Cal has won five straight against Bruins, last three by average of 27 ... USC 48-21.

No. 2 Oklahoma (minus 211/2) vs. Colorado

No Sooner slip-up this year ... OKLAHOMA 40-17.

No. 3 Auburn (minus 13) vs. No. 15 Tennessee

Much like first meeting ... AUBURN 30-13.

No. 4 California (minus 23) at Southern Miss

Roses are red, but the Rose Bowl will be mostly blue this year ... CAL 48-20.

No. 7 Louisville (minus 28) at Tulane

Cards go for fifth straight game with at least 55 points ... LOUISVILLE 58-24.

No. 10 Virginia Tech (plus 7) at No. 9 Miami

Hokies' Frank Beamer could be national coach of the year ... VIRGINIA TECH 24-21.

No. 19 Pittsburgh (minus 7) at South Florida

Pitt saves possible embarrassment of league sending Syracuse to BCS ... PITTSBURGH 24-14.


Last week: 8-5 (straight); 3-10 (vs. points). Season: 189-50 (straight); 121-105-5 (vs. points).

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