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TF Saturday Preview: Everything's Still To Be Decided

Posted: Nov 10, 2007

Patrick Snow has it right.  This year's season of college football has shown that it is one of the most compelling sports to follow as a fan, especially in the Footprint.

Let's get things started with Patrick hosting Athlon's Week 11 Preview.  This video clip has great insights into the OSU-Kansas game as well as Georgia-Auburn.



In an SEC season marked by upsets, this Saturday begins the end of the season march.  Usually, teams are on cruise control waiting for the Thanksgiving matchups against their in state rival.  This week's and next week's games are usually marked by obvious winners that can be picked by a blind man.

Not this year.

(18) Auburn (7-3, 4-2 SEC)
(10) Georgia (7-2, 4-2 SEC)

This game should be a head knocker.  Georgia appears headed toward its most satisfying season under Mark Richt.  Yes, Richt might have led the Dogs to better seasons from a win-loss perspective, but this year's Georgia team beat Florida and Alabama and are on their way towards an SEC East crown.

Auburn is playing with a chip on their shoulder as usual.  Their chances at an SEC West title are slim, but Auburn is as tough of an out in the SEC as they come.  Coach Tommy Tuberville has had Texas A&M rumors swirling around him this season.  Winning at Georgia will only help his hand in any negotiation whether it is a re-up at Auburn or a new contract in College Station.

(15) Florida (6-3, 4-3 SEC)
South Carolina (6-4, 3-4 SEC)

Steve Spurrier has to be hurting inside about this season.  The Gamecocks appeared to be heading towards a new level of success but got caught in the SEC meatgrinder.  There are no weeks off.  Carolina has little to play for since all of Spurrier's goals are sadly off the table - SEC East title and potential New Year's Day game.

Still, the Ole' Ball Coach would like nothing better than to beat Urban Meyer and the program he built.  Meyer needs this win as well. Florida still has an outside shot at the SEC East title.

For a game with seemingly little meaning, expect a barn burner.

(22) Alabama (6-3, 4-2 SEC)
Mississippi St (5-4, 2-3 SEC)

Miss State deserve kudos.  Sly Croom has built this team into a solid and competitive squad.  The Bulldogs seem assured of bowl eligibility with Ole Miss still left on their schedule, but 6 wins might not be enough to get a bowl berth.

Alabama will quickly have to shake off last week's tough loss to LSU.  The Tide can't fall asleep against Miss St.

Arkansas (6-3, 2-3 SEC)
(24) Tennessee (6-3, 3-2 SEC)

Houston Nutt has a little cockroach in him.  He just won't die.  With Darren McFadden back on track, nobody wants to play the Hogs.  South Carolina found out how good they can be.

Meanwhile, Tennessee's Phil Fulmer has been under the microscope all season.  His squad still has an SEC East crown in site.

(25) Kentucky (6-3, 2-3 SEC)
Vanderbilt (5-4, 2-4 SEC)

Kentucky dropped a game they should not have before their week off.  Now, the Wildcats need to win in Nashville to finish out what should be their best season in years.

Vandy sits on the verge of bowl eligibility just like Miss St.  They need only one more win toqualify, but they really need two more to assure a bowl berth.  With Kentucky, Wake, and Tennessee remaining, Vandy would like to win this week so that it doesn't come down to beating the Vols.

Louisiana Tech (4-5, 3-3 WAC)
(2) LSU (8-1, 5-1 SEC)

Don't sleep Tigers.  La Tech might put a scare in you.  The season might feel over, but there are still a few battles looming.


TF has been on the ACC all year, but the conference is finally starting to right itself.  In a couple of years, the ACC could be fielding several strong teams just like their SEC brethren.  The ACC title game has several potential teams still hoping to go to Jacksonville.  Today's slate will provide some clarity.

(19) Virginia (8-2, 5-1 ACC)
Miami (FL) (5-4, 2-3 ACC)

The Orange Bowl hosts its final Miami Hurricane home game tonight.  There are many memories to be found inside this stadium.  Hurricane football feels like it is moving into a different era, but they would love to send the Orange Bowl out with a win.

Has any team felt less viable than UVa?  The Cavs are 8-2 with solid wins on their schedule.  They also only have to win their next two to play in the ACC title game.  Maybe it is the fact that they have lost both of their games to two mediocre teams (Wyoming and NC State), and most of their wins are only by one or two points.

We shall see how deep Al Groh's magic runs after this game.  Can he really close out the Orange Bowl with a Hurricane defeat?

Florida St (6-3, 3-3 ACC)
(11) Virginia Tech (7-2, 4-1 ACC)

Just when we thought Bobby Bowden was done, the Noles won their most important game in years.  Going on the road and beating an undefeated BC team was the best thing that could have happened for the ACC.  It does a conference no good to have an undefeated pretender embarrass its conference with a lopsided BCS defeat.  The ACC needs to see a solid two loss team (Clemson,UVa, Va Tech) going to Jax instead.  This conference also needs FSU to be strong again. 

TF has no idea who will win, but we do hope that this is a classic game that goes down to the wire.  Tech needs this one to stay in contention for an ACC title.  They let one slip away against BC and can't afford another stumble.

Wake Forest (6-3, 4-2 ACC)
(21) Clemson (7-2, 4-2 ACC)

This week could start a run towards a re-evaluation of Tommy Bowden's coaching career.  The Tigers finish the season with Wake, BC, and in state rival South Carolina.  A sweep of those game will land Clemson in the ACC title game with a BCS shot on the line.  Bowden has been here before and usually has stumbled.

Wake won't lie down for anyone.  You have to beat this team because they don't beat themselves.  They still have a shot to defend their ACC title so expect them to let it all hang out.

(8) Boston College (8-1, 4-1 ACC)
Maryland (4-5, 1-4 ACC)

BC didn't deserve their #2 ranking, and everyone knew it.  Now Maryland has a chance to nail another loss on the Eagles.  With Maryland, Clemson, and Miami remaining on BC's schedule, would anyone be surprised to see them end the season with a four loss streak?  TF calls an upset in this game.

North Carolina (3-6, 2-3 ACC)
North Carolina St (4-5, 2-3 ACC)

Both of these schools went out and hired two coaches that have the ability to win national titles replacing coaches that, at best, could only win conference titles in their best years.

Their respective efforts are starting to bear fruit in year one which bodes extremely well for the ACC.  The state of North Carolina is the heart and soul of the ACC.  It fields four of the conference's 12 teams.  UNC and NC State are the biggest schools in the state.

In a game with only pride on the line, this is as important as any for bragging rights and in state recruiting for next year and beyond.

Georgia Tech (5-4, 2-4 ACC)
Duke (1-8, 0-6 ACC)

What a sad state these two programs are in.  Maybe Georgia Tech has some nice recruits on the way, but Chan Gailey just doesn't seem to have that "thing" necessary to build a year in/year out quality squad.  Georgia Tech used to be a traditional power in the Footprint, but hasn't come close to that outside a few years under George O'Leary.  It might be time to consider another coaching change.  The conference will soon pass the Yellow Jackets by.

Duke should be ashamed.  They are running from Louisville.  When any ACC team runs from a Big East team, it an embarrassment to the conference.  If Vandy can get up off the mat, then so can the Blue Devils.  They won't get there taking good teams off their schedule.

Big 12

Just as the ACC has undergone a change for the positive, so has the Big 12.  The Big 12 North now sports a potentially great matchup when Kansas meets Mizzou in KC to end the season.  Those two teams have shown that the usually dormant North can field a potential BCS team.

The Big 12 was a merger of two historic college football regions - Texas college football and the Missouri Valley.  In a way, the Big 12 was a merger made in hope.  Neither region had been able to live up to its past glory.  The Southwest Conference died a quiet death while the Big 8 had become the Big 1 with only Nebraska having much meaning.

Like the ACC, TF can see a future in this conference now.  There is depth.  Rivalries are being revived.  For the most part, the good has been separated from the bad.  Only a few ill-timed stumbles by either Kansas or Mizzou can prevent the Big 12 from one of its most satisfying years since the conference was founded.

Texas A&M (6-4, 3-3 Big 12)
(6) Missouri (8-1, 4-1 Big 12)

Despite his denials, Coach Fran is on his way out.  The only question is whether that will spur the Aggies to any late season upsets.  TF hopes not.  Dennis Franchione will likely resurface again in a lower echelon conference, but his sad track record since leaving TCU speaks volumes about him.  He might be the ultimate "bad karma" coach.

Mizzou has finally seemed to have made its slow climb back to legitimacy under Gary Pinkel.  The Tigers play strong, disciplined football.  They should win easily.  They must win.

(4) Kansas (9-0, 5-0 Big 12)
Oklahoma St (5-4, 3-2 Big 12)

No one saw this year's Jayhawks team coming.  They deserve a lot of credit.  In a year where success has been hard to sustain (see USF, Kentucky, South Carolina, etc), Kansas has stepped up each week.

Oklahoma State seems on the verge of something good.  Their loss to Texas was a killer though.  The Cowboys had a real shot for a Big 12 South title and watched it slip away.  Coach Mike Gundy has a fire in his gut that is contagious. 

This might be the Jayhawks toughest opponent yet.

Texas Tech (7-3, 3-3 Big 12)
(14) Texas (8-2, 4-2 Big 12)

Mack Brown might be doing his best coaching this season.  Yes, Texas lost to Oklahoma and lost to Kansas State in lopsided fashion, but the Longhorns have been resilient as their come from behind win against Oklahoma State proved.

Texas Tech has been the same as they always have been in recent years - a tough out.  The Red Raiders put up lots of points and make teams play at break neck speeds.

With both teams fighting for bowl position, this matchup should have a solid level of fireworks.

Baylor (3-7, 0-6 Big 12)
(5) Oklahoma (8-1, 4-1 Big 12)

Reports are in that Baylor coach Guy Morriss is out.  Like Duke, Baylor needs to find an answer.  Their program has been a disaster for too long.  They were a close political call when the school made the Big 12 cut.  Now, there are more than a few former SWC teams that have had better records since the Big 12's formation (TCU and Houston to name two).

Oklahoma is cruising towards a Big 12 South title.  This week should be a nice tune up for the Sooners who face two high-powered offenses to end the season (Ok State and Texas Tech).

Kansas St (5-4, 3-3 Big 12)
Nebraska (4-6, 1-5 Big 12)

The worst kept secret in college football is Bill Callahan's buyout.  His hiring might go down as one of the most head-scratching in college football history beating out Notre Dame's Gerry Faust.  Callahan's only time as a head coach was two years with the Oakland Raiders where he proved himself to be incompetent.  Somehow, he parlayed that into the Nebraska job.

Kansas State is fighting for a bowl berth.  They will tag another loss on Callahann on his way out the door.

Colorado (5-5, 3-3 Big 12)
Iowa St (2-8, 1-5 Big 12)

This is a battle of two programs on the way up.  Both teams will look towards creating momentum for next year.

Big East

West Virginia seems to have shaken off their early season loss to USF and fully righted themselves.  Proving that it is far better to lose early than late in the season, the Mountaineers have an outside chance to play in the BCS title game.  Winning against Louisville Thursday night begins their end of the season stretch that could prove tougher than some might think.

(Oh yeah, Rutgers beat Army last night.  Whoopee.)

(13) Connecticut (8-1, 4-0 Big East)
Cincinnati (7-2, 2-2 Big East)

It starts with these two teams.  Both have been the big surprises in the Big East.  Both still play WVa.  Unlike USF, Cincy righted their ship to stay in contention for the conference crown.  Despite their perfect conference record, UConn feels untested.  This game will go a long way towards answering those questions.

South Florida (6-3, 1-3 Big East)
Syracuse (2-7, 1-3 Big East)

No team has done more to squander its season in the Footprint than USF.  The Bulls seemed to leave everything on the field before entering Big East play.  TF's opinion is that the Bulls struggles show the problem with the Big East as a conference.  This team beat old guard Footprint teams like Auburn, UNC, and WVa as well as trouncing up and comer UCF.  When it came time for their Florida-bred roster to play Rutgers and UConn, they just didn't play with the same sense of urgency.

Proximity creates rivalry.  Let's not pretend to expect that Rutgers-USF will be a rivalry.  USF-WVa already is one based on the Bulls two game winning streak.  To show how ridiculous the Big East is, this conference has an automatic berth to the International Bowl in Toronto.  TF is sure the expectation is that one of the Big East's northern teams would qualify.  Unfortunately for the conference and the bowl, USF might go.  TF doubts that many Tampa residents will be planning on a trip to Canada during the winter.

The Bulls have a lot to prove over the next three weeks.  A good Louisville team is sandwiched between two dogs, Syracuse and Pittsburgh.  USF should go 3-0.  If they lose to any of the three, coach Jim Leavitt needs to take a close look at how he prepares his formidible team because this year's squad burned out too early.

Conference USA

Houston (6-3, 5-1 C-USA)
Tulsa (6-3, 4-2 C-USA)

The winner of this game has the inside track on C-USA's West Division.  Tulsa has stayed strong after losing coach Steve Kragthorpe to Louisville.  Houston has also built a solid record since joining C-USA.

Let the scoring begin!

Memphis (4-5, 3-2 C-USA)
Southern Miss (5-4, 4-2 C-USA)

This is a great and growing rivalry game for C-USA's Mississippi bragging rights.  Recruiting is on the line.  Neither team is a likely bowl candidate, but it still should be a great matchup.

UCF (6-3, 4-1 C-USA)
UAB (2-7, 1-4 C-USA)

Ouch!  How tough is that collapse to ECU looking now?  The Knights had ECU on the ropes, and then fell apart in the second half.  A likely 9-3 team with a quality road win against NC State will be scraping the bottom of the bowl barrel.  UCF proves how important it is for C-USA teams to win the games they should.

East Carolina (6-4, 5-1 C-USA)
Marshall (1-8, 1-4 C-USA)

The Pirates have been cruising since some early season losses out of conference.  Barring a major upset, ECU will be playing in the C-USA championship game.

UTEP (4-5, 2-3 C-USA)
Tulane (2-7, 1-4 C-USA)

UTEP has been dissapointing after two strong years under Mike Price.  However, the Miners should be back strong again next year.

It will be interesting to see how Tulane does at home.  Their rushing attack is one of the nation's best led by Matt Forte.

Rice (2-7, 2-3 C-USA)
Southern Methodist (1-8, 0-5 C-USA)

SMU will be looking for a new coach in the off season.  AD Steve Orsini built UCF's strong programs that are on the rise.  He will likely do the same for SMU which has never recovered from its death penalty punishment decades ago.

Rice has a lowly record, but they have been a tough conference win.  This could get ugly.

Sun Belt

The Sun Belt is an evolving conference.  There are not enough teams, and there aren't enough rivalries... yet.

Troy (6-3, 5-0 S. Belt)
Western Kentucky (6-3, 3-0 home)

Troy is the best thing that the Sun Belt has going for them.  This team beat Oklahoma State, gave Georgia a run for their money, and only sports losses to bowl-bound SEC teams.  Western Kentucky will be joining the Sun Belt in football in a couple of years.  Troy would love to put them in their place before their conference days begin.

Louisiana-Lafayette (1-8, 1-3 S. Belt)
Middle Tennessee (5-5, 4-1 S. Belt)

MTSU has been a nice surprise this year.  They still have Troy to play so technically they could win the conference.

Arkansas St (4-5, 2-3 S. Belt)
Florida Atlantic (4-4, 3-1 S. Belt)

FAU stumbled against La-Monroe which cheapened their anticipated season-ending game against Troy.  The Owls need to get the home cooking going again to keep any chance of a Sun Belt title in reach.

Grambling St (8-1, 8-0 SWAC)
Louisiana-Monroe (3-6, 3-3 S. Belt)

The Warhawks have been playing much better of late.  Expect a win here.

Navy (5-4, 3-1 away)
North Texas (1-7, 1-4 S. Belt)

If North Texas beats Navy, can we downgrade Notre Dame even more?

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