College Football: Weekend Preview

December 4th, 2008

The final weekend of the regular season is finally here, with a few teams still looking to lock up bowl berths while others are playing for either improved bowl standing or a conference title. For those who won't be going bowling this season, the games this weekend offer a chance to finish the year on a good note and build positive momentum heading into 2009. Here's the schedule for this weekend.

Thursday 7:30 PM ET Louisville at Rutgers on ESPN

Neither team is threatening for any kind of championship, but this is a big game in regards to the Big East bowl pecking order. A Rutgers win gives them seven and officially seals the Big East's bowl agreements. A Louisville win and both sit on pins and needles with six wins, alongside Notre Dame. And if those two are up against the Irish in the bowl selection process, they'll be sitting right at home grousing about the fact that Notre Dame's playing while they're not. A fact of life in collge football, where branding is extremely important. But the Cardinals haven't won in their three previous trips to Rutgers, and tonight will make it four as the hot Scarlet Knights finish an improbable run from 1-5 to 7-5.  

Friday 8:00 PM ET No. 12 Ball State vs. Buffalo on ESPN2 

The MAC champion will be crowned at Ford Field in this one, and both teams boast quarterbacks who may have to ability to outperform any signal-caller that's trotted onto the field for the Lions this year. But this one is all about Ball State QB Nate Davis and RB Miquale Lewis, two of the best at their positions in the conference. Brady Hoke's team completes their undefeated run with a solid win over the Bulls. But give Buffalo head coach Turner Gill credit for this quick turnaround.

12:00 PM ET No. 23 Pittsburgh at Connecticut on ESPN 

Overall there's more star power in this series when the two schools meet in MSG in March, but the football games between the Huskies and Panthers have been wild affairs as well. Two seasons ago UConn finished off a miraculous comeback with a D.J. Hernandez run in overtime. But D.J. is a wide receiver now, and the focus will be on backs LeSean McCoy (Pitt) and Donald Brown (UConn). The key here will be how effective the Huskies are running the ball with Brown and Jordan Todman, because their passing game has been virtually non-existent this season. Pittsburgh wins on the road and punches a likely ticket to the Brut Sun Bowl.

12:00 PM ET East Carolina at Tulsa on ESPN2 

Conference USA title game here, and it's hard to think that the Pirates have enough firepower to go score for score with the Golden Hurricane. ECU must win the turnover battle in order to have a shot at this one, but David Johnson and the Tulsa offense will be too much, especially playing on their home field.

12:00 PM ET Navy vs. Army on CBS 

I absolutely love this game, for no matter what the records are heading in you know that both teams will give maximum effort. And after sixty minutes of butting heads, they stand at attention for both alma maters, a realization that they'll be teammates in far more important field once they graduate. Look for Navy to win this one, but it will be a much closer game than in recent years. QB Carson Williams has played better as the season's progressed for the Black Knights, who are now comfortable after struggling early with the return to the option attack.

1:00 PM ET No. 17 Boston College vs. No. 25 Virginia Tech on ABC

See "Three Games, Two Views" for more information.

3:00 PM ET Washington at California on Fox Sports Net

Washington's shot at a win fell by the wayside two weeks ago in Pullman. Golden Bears roll.

4:00 PM ET No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Florida on CBS

See "Three Games, Two Views" for more information.

4:30 PM ET No. 5 USC at UCLA on ABC 

The NCAA hasn't issued a word as to whether or not they won't penalize USC for wearing their home jerseys in this one, but for the sake of tradition (like the streamers in the Philadelphia Big 5 that you refused to allow) please loosen up. But just like Penn and St. Joseph's did in that game over a decade ago (Penn's Fran Dunphy and St. Joe's John Griffin had their players step over the line on purpose while shooting the technicals), the schools have decided to "police" themselves with UCLA to call a timeout when the game begins. USC wins big because unlike the young quarterback who led the Bruins to the huge upset a few years ago (Patrick Cowan), Kevin Craft turns the ball over far too much to keep UCLA in this one.

7:00 PM ET Western Kentucky at Florida International

Even with their loss to rival FAU last week, look for the Golden Panthers to close out their season on a good note and win this one.

7:00 PM ET Arkansas State at Troy on ESPN GamePlan 

The Sun Belt title and a trip to the New Orleans Bowl is on the line in this one, and on paper this looks to be a good game. Good enough to turn away from the Miami/Kentucky basketball game? I don't know, but look for the Trojans to take their second consecutive Sun Belt crown in this one.

8:00 PM ET No. 20 Missouri vs. No. 2 Oklahoma on ABC

See "Three Games, Two Views" for more information.

8:00 PM ET Arizona State at Arizona on ESPN 

This one of the more underrated rivalries in college football, made good by the simple fact that neither school cares much for the other. Expected to contend for the Pac-10 title, the Sun Devils head south needing a win to reach six on the year. Arizona, on the other hand, would assure themselves of a bowl game with a seventh win. Look for the Wildcats to get over that hump of not winning close games with freshman RB Keola Antolin having a big day.

8:00 PM ET USF at West Virginia on ESPN2 

These two were supposed to be playing for a BCS berth in this one. Instead, they play for pride and bowl placement. The regular season career of Pat White, the best rushing quarterback in NCAA history, comes to an end here in what should be an emotionally charged atmosphere. Can the Bulls hang onto the football is the concern for head coach Jim Leavitt in this one, something that they've done in the last two meetings between the schools with USF winning both. But it's hard to see the Mountaineers losing on what should be Pat White's night. Mountaineers by three.

11:30 PM ET No. 13 Cincinnati at Hawaii on ESPN2

Cincinnati head coach Brian Kelly admitted earlier this week that when this game was scheduled a couple of years ago he didn't foresee the Bearcats playing in a BCS bowl game this season. Well, they will be headed somewhere special in January and the secondary goal to grabbing that eleventh win is to keep their key players healthy heading into the month before their BCS bowl. The last time these two met in Hawaii there was a brawl after the game, but that was all the way back in 2002, and no current players were on those squads. Look for Cincy to weather the early Hawaii storm and fly back with another win.