College Football: Texas A&M @ #2 Texas Preview
First off, Happy Thanksgiving to you all and I hope you're spending time with the ones you love and care about. Just one game on the slate for tonight, with Texas A&M heading to Austin to take on the rival Longhorns (8 PM EST on ESPN). Texas needs a win to have any shot at representing the South Division in next Saturday's Big 12 Championship Game, and the result (along with margin of victory) could very well have an impact on who goes should there be a three-way tie. For those of you thinking that this game will be a cakewalk for the Horns, remember this fact: the Aggies have won the last two meetings in this series. Jerrod Johnson and Mike Goodson lead the way on offense for Mike Sherman, but the question will be whether or not the defense can slow down Colt McCoy and that high-powered Longhorn offense. The answer here is no, along with the fact that there should be no problem getting up for this game, meaning that Texas wins this one big.
Here's the schedule for Friday, which features two ranked teams, with one looking to complete an undefeated season.
12:00 PM ET West Virginia at No. 25 Pittsburgh on ABC
The "Backyard Brawl" takes center stage, and last year's wounds should still be fresh for the Mountaineers, who saw the program change dramatically in the aftermath of that 13-9 loss in Morgantown. If you saw Rich Rodriguez's press conference the following day then you knew that he was ready to go, but even though they haven't lived up to the preseason Top 10 hype the Mountaineers still find themselves with a shot at a share of the Big East. They've got the best rushing quarterback in the history of college football in Pat White and a running back in Noel Devine that possesses explosive playmaking ability. Pittsburgh will counter with a heavy dose of LeSean McCoy, and on defense they've got one of the better linebackers in the nation in Scott McKillop. Look for WVU to win a close game and keep alive slim hopes of the conference's automatic BCS berth (Cincinnati hosts Syracuse, so those hopes are indeed slim).
12:00 PM ET Central Michigan at Eastern Michigan
Two "directional" schools meet in this one, but there's really isn't much doubt in regards to the direction of the two programs. Butch Jones has the Chippewas on their way to another bowl game, while Jeff Genyk has been let go once the season ends due to the Eagles' inept play. CMU wins this one.
12:30 PM ET Mississippi State at Mississippi on ESPN GamePlan
You've got to love rivalry games with the following history: introducing a trophy in hopes of calming down violence between the two fan bases. Not to give something tangible to the winner of the game, but to make sure fans don't engage in fisticuffs over the game. That's the reason behind the trophy of a football that resembled an egg, hence the "Egg Bowl". Ole Miss was well on their way to winning last season's game, but a late collapse gave the trophy to Sylvester Croom's Bulldogs. Now the roles are reversed, with first-year head coach Houston Nutt on his way to a bowl game while State will be home for the holidays. Go with the Rebels due to their ability to move the football with some form of consistency.
12:30 PM ET Ohio at Miami (OH) on ESPNU
The season didn't go as planned for either team, with hopes of contending in the MAC East falling by the wayside. Now the Bobcats and Redhawks enter this game hoping to salvage something, and look for that team to be Miami.
1:00 PM ET UTEP at East Carolina on CBS College Sports
ECU knows that they'll be playing in the Conference USA Championship Game next weekend; they just don't know who their opponent will be. UTEP, on the other hand, needs a win to reach six wins and although that won't guarantee a bowl berth it at least gives them a shot. The Pirates won't tell you that they'll look to keep guys healthy for a far more important game next week, but it would probably be in their best interest to do just that. Look for the Pirates to win a close one anyway. The Miners have had their fair share of difficulties on defense, which makes their fives wins all the more incredible.
1:00 PM ET Akron at Temple
The Zips need a win to reach six on the year, and they get it here against the MAC's worst offense.
2:00 PM ET Kent State at Buffalo on ESPN GamePlan
Turner Gill finds himself in the same position as ECU's Skip Holtz: just how long do you leave your guys in the game when you'll be playing for a title next week? Drew Willy and company get enough action to stay sharp heading into preparation for the MAC Championship Game against Ball State, and that should be enough to take care of the Golden Flashes.
2:40 PM ET LSU at Arkansas on CBS
They'll be playing this one in Little Rock, and there are two reasons why this game will have its fair share of drama: Arkansas won last year's classic in overtime, and you never know who's going to catch a pass thrown by LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee. He suffered a leg injury in last week's loss to Ole Miss, meaning that true freshman Jordan Jefferson becomes the first to do so since Herb Tyler did in 1995. LSU actually holds the series lead in games in Little Rock, winning eight of the previous thirteen. Look for the Tigers to take "The Boot" (the trophy with outlines of both states) back to Baton Rouge.
3:30 PM ET Colorado at Nebraska on ABC
There was a time when this rivalry had a lot riding on it. This year, Colorado needs to win in Lincoln in order to reach six wins on the season. They came into this game last year needing the same result, and hung sixty-five on the Huskers in Boulder. But that Nebraska team was pretty bad on the defensive side of the football, and Bo Pelini has made significant strides on that side of the ball in his first year as Nebraska head coach. The unit has even earned back their "Blackshirts" moniker, and this game will be the ultimate sign of their improvement. Rest assured that they've been reminded about those sixty-five points all week long, and that'll be enough motivation to win this game.
3:30 PM ET Bowling Green at Toledo on ESPN Classic
Bowling Green needs a win to reach six wins, but Toledo will be looking to send Tom Amstutz out in style. The Rockets won last week, and look for them to pull off the upset in this one as well.
6:00 PM ET Fresno State at No. 9 Boise State on ESPN2
The Broncos will most likely miss out on the BCS thanks to Utah's higher ranking in the BCS standings, but there's still the matter of closing out their undefeated campaign. As for the Bulldogs, another year without a WAC title will pass and you have to wonder if they're placing too much emphasis on winning non-conference games to make a run at the BCS. Whether it be their loss to Wisconsin this year or falling victim to the "Reggie Bush Show" a few years back, it's as if that one loss in a high-profile game causes the negative momentum to have a snowball-like effect. Fresno State doesn't perform well on the smurf turf (three losses by an average of 29 points), and don't look for that trend to change in this one. Boise State wins.
9:30 PM ET UCLA at Arizona State on ESPN2
Both teams need to win their final two games to become bowl eligible and bail out the Pac-10, which has a very good chance to fail in fulfilling their bowl obligations this season. Rudy Carpenter plays his final home game under center for the Sun Devils, and UCLA has been dealing with turmoil at the quarterback position all year. Kevin Craft was essentially the starter by default due to injuries to both Ben Olson and Patrick Cowan, and he's had a roller coaster campaign to say the least. Chris Forcier could also see action in this one, but one bright spot for the Bruins has been wide receiver Terrence Austin. He's made plays on both offense and special teams and is a guy to keep an eye on next year when picking your all-conference team. But the Sun Devils win this one and head into their "Duel in the Desert" next week needing one win to become bowl eligible.