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Thursday, 04 December 2008 15:25
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Friday
Mid-American Conference championship
No. 12 Ball State (12-0, 8-0) vs. Buffalo (7-5, 5-3) at Detroit, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)
Line: Ball State by 14 1/2.
Series record: Ball State leads 6-0.
Last meeting: 2007, Ball State won 49-14 at home.
What's at Stake
The Mid-American Conference championship is on the line, but the result won't do much to change the bowl picture for both teams. Even if the Cardinals - 12th in the AP poll and Bowl Championship Series standings - finish undefeated, they have no shot at playing in a BCS bowl. Win or lose, the Bulls are likely making a short trip to Toronto for the International Bowl.
Key Matchup
Ball State's high-powered offense, led by QB Nate Davis, whose passer rating is among the nation's best, is averaging nearly 38 points per game. The Bulls are giving up just 16.7 points with a stingy defense led by LB Justin Winters, SS Davonte Shannon and DT Ronald Hilaire.
Players to watch
TDs and just six interceptions. RB MiQuale Lewis has scored a school-record 20 TDs and leads the MAC with 1,570 yards rushing - 49 from setting a school record.
Buffalo: QB Drew Willy, one of 10 finalists for the Unitas Golden Arm award, has thrown 33 TDs and just five interceptions over the last 18 games. RB James Starks is 12 attempts, 71 yards rushing and seven points from setting single-season school records.
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The Cardinals finished undefeated in the regular season for the first time since 1949, but they can't bust up the BCS because of Utah. ... The Bulls are eligible for a bowl for the first time since moving up to compete with college football's top-tiered teams in 1999. ... Ball State hasn't won a MAC title since 1996. ... Buffalo can guarantee its first winning season since going 8-3 in 1996. ... Ball State coach Brady Hoke might be tempted to leave his alma mater to take an opening at a school such as Syracuse. ... The Bulls won just 10 games in seven seasons before coach Turner Gill took over the program in 2006. ... Buffalo lost its last game by three points to Kent State, ending a five-game winning streak. ... The Cardinals have won 11 of their last 12 games by double digits. ... Since playing in the top tier of college football, the Bulls are 0-8 against ranked teams and have scored just 70 points in those losses.
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Saturday
SEC championship
No. 1 Alabama (12-0, 8-0) vs. No. 2 Florida (11-1, 7-1) at Atlanta, 4 p.m. (CBS)
Line: Florida 9 1/2.
Series Record: Alabama leads 20-13.
Last Meeting: 2006, Florida won 28-13.
What's at Stake
The Southeastern Conference title and likely a berth in the Bowl Championship Series national title game, Jan. 8 in Miami.
Key Matchup
Florida's offense, which leads the conference and ranks third in the nation in scoring (46.3 points per game), vs. Alabama's defense, which leads the league and ranks third in the nation in scoring (11.5 points per game).
Players to watch
Alabama: CB Javier Arenas could play a big role in two phases of the game: defending Florida's receivers and returning kickoffs and punts. Arenas averages 14.7 yards on punts and 22.6 yards on kickoffs, and Florida State burned the Gators on nearly every kickoff last week.
Florida: Do-it-all receiver Percy Harvin, the most valuable player of Florida's last game in Atlanta, hopes to play despite spraining his right ankle last week at Florida State. Harvin has 1,133 yards rushing and receiving and 16 touchdowns this season.
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lse. ... Florida needs four points to break the school record of 559 set in 1996. ... Gators are 5-2 in the Georgia Dome, including two wins against the Crimson Tide in the SEC title game. ... Alabama is 2-3 in the title game, with both wins coming against the Gators. ... Tide has trailed just 23 minutes, 11 seconds this season.
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Big 12 championship
No. 4 Oklahoma (11-1, 7-1) vs. No. 19 Missouri (9-3, 5-3) at Kansas City, Mo., 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Line: Oklahoma by 16 1/2.
Series Record: Oklahoma leads 65-23-5.
Last Meeting: 2007, Oklahoma won 38-17 in the Big 12 championship game.
What's at Stake
A chance to play in the national championship game - again. Missouri went into last year's Big 12 title game No. 1 in the BCS, only to have its national title hopes dashed by the Sooners. This time, Oklahoma is No. 2 in the BCS and hoping to get into the national championship game.
Key Matchup
Missouri's secondary vs. Oklahoma's receiving corps. The Tigers can put up some points - fourth in the NCAA at 45 per game - but will have to find some way to slow down the Sooners' passing attack to have a chance. Oklahoma has averaged 63.5 points over the past four games, and Missouri let Kansas QB Todd Reesing throw all over the field in last week's 40-37 loss.
Players to watch
s season, throwing for more than 4,000 yards with 46 TDs and just 6 INTs. The key on Saturday will be his left (non-throwing) hand; Bradford tore ligaments against Oklahoma State and will wear a soft cast against the Tigers.
Missouri: WR-KR Jeremy Maclin. The sophomore could be playing one of his last games for Mizzou. An All-American last year, Maclin leads the nation in total yards this season, averaging 205.5 per game. It wouldn't be out of the question for the Biletnikoff Award finalist to be playing in the NFL next year.
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Oklahoma has won five Big 12 championships, including the past two. ... A win would give Missouri 10 wins in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history. ... The Sooners outscored Missouri 24-3 in the second half of last year's Big 12 title game. ... Missouri's Jeff Wolfert is on pace to become the most accurate kicker in NCAA history, hitting 95.5 percent of his kicks in three seasons, including all 179 PAT attempts.
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No. 5 Southern California (10-1, 7-1 Pac-10) at UCLA (4-7, 3-5 Pac-10), 4:30 p.m. (ABC)
Line: USC by 33.
Series Record: USC leads 42-28-7.
Last Meeting: 2007, USC won 24-7.
What's at Stake
season under first-year coach Rick Neuheisel, is playing strictly for pride.
Key Matchup
The struggling UCLA offense against the dominating USC defense. The Bruins rank last in the Pac-10 in rushing (86.0 yards), ninth in sacks allowed (35), and eighth in scoring (18.6 points) and total offense (294.7 yards). The Trojans lead the country in total defense (210.55 yards), scoring defense (7.8 points) and passing defense (124.0 yards).
Players to watch
USC: QB Mark Sanchez has passed for 2,525 yards and 28 touchdowns with only nine interceptions, but he'll be facing a defense that has allowed an average of just 158.45 yards per game to rank second in the country, behind USC. LBs Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing and FS Taylor Mays lead the way for a defense Pete Carroll has called the best since he became the Trojans' coach in 2001.
UCLA: QB Kevin Craft has passed for 2,252 yards and seven touchdowns, but has thrown 19 interceptions, three of which were returned for touchdowns in a 34-9 loss at Arizona State last week. Kai Forbath leads the Pac-10 with 19 field goals in 22 attempts, and Aaron Perez is averaging a conference-leading 44.5 yards per punt.
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ship game. ... USC has a 30-18 record at the Rose Bowl including 23-9 in Rose Bowl games, 5-8 against the Bruins in regular-season games and 2-1 in the 1922 regular season. ... If UCLA upsets USC for the second straight time at the Rose Bowl, the Trojans would finish in a tie for the conference title with Oregon and Oregon State. The Beavers would win the tiebreaker and play in their first Rose Bowl in 44 years, with USC relegated to the Holiday Bowl. ... Carroll and Neuheisel are 1-1 against each other while Neuheisel coached at Washington. The Huskies won 27-24 in 2001 in Seattle and the Trojans won 41-21 the following year in Los Angeles.
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No. 13 Cincinnati (10-2, 6-1 Big East) at Hawaii (7-5, 5-3 WAC), 11:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Line: Cincinnati by 7.
Series Record: Tied 1-1.
Last Meeting: 2002, Hawaii won 20-19.
What's at Stake
After winning the Big East, Cincinnati is hoping to cap its season with a school record 11th victory before heading off to either the Orange Bowl or Sugar Bowl. A good showing at Aloha Stadium, a tough place for visitors to win, could help bump the 13th-ranked Bearcats into Top 10 for the first time in school history. ... Still stinging from blowout losses at Florida and Oregon State to open the season, the Hawaii Bowl-bound Warriors want to prove they can compete with the big boys and not just teams in the Western Athletic Conference.
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Hawaii's revived offense, which has averaged 38 points a game during the Warriors' three-game winning streak, versus Cincinnati's stingy defense that held Syracuse to 59 yards passing. The Bearcats lead the Big East with 31 sacks and hold opponents to a 29.3 percent success rate on third down. They'll try to slow down Warriors QB Greg Alexander, who has thrown for 867 yards and seven touchdowns with one interception in the past three games. He has also rushed for 89 yards and two TDs during that span.
Players to watch
Cincinnati: QB Tony Pike, WR Dominick Goodman, DE Conner Barwin.
Hawaii: QB Greg Alexander, WR-KR Malcolm Lane, LB Solomon Elimimian.
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The Bearcats have won six straight games. ... The Warriors are 4-2 against current members of the Big East. ... Hawaii is 7-0 when scoring 20 points or more. ... Hawaii is 5-1 at Aloha Stadium this year and 22-3 in the last 25 games. ... Cincinnati has its second straight 10-win season under second-year coach Brian Kelly. ... The Bearcats lead the Big East in passing offense with 260 yards per game and have used five quarterbacks this season. The Warriors used four QBs before settling on Alexander.
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ACC championship
No. 18 Boston College (9-3, 5-3) vs. Virginia Tech (8-4, 5-3) at Tampa, Fla., 1 p.m. (ABC)
Line: Pick 'em.
Series Record: Virginia Tech leads 10-6.
t Meeting: 2008, Boston College won 28-23.
What's At Stake
The ACC championship and the league's automatic BCS bowl berth. Defending champ Virginia Tech is trying to become the first team to win the championship game twice. The title would be its third since moving from the Big East to the ACC in 2004. Boston College, which left the Big East for the ACC in 2005, is in the title game for the second straight year and hoping to avenge a 30-16 loss to Tech in the 2007 game in Jacksonville, Fla.
Key Matchup
With both teams boasting stingy, opportunistic defenses that have a knack for scoring points as well as shutting down the opposition, it will be imperative for quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor and Dominique Davis to take good care of the football. Taylor rushed for 110 yards but was limited to 90 yards passing and intercepted once when BC beat Tech 28-23 on Oct. 18. Davis made his first college start, filling in for the injured Chris Crane, and helped BC beat Maryland last week to clinch its title-game berth. Tech's improved defense will look to exploit his inexperience. The Hokies intercepted Crane three times in the regular-season meeting.
Players to Watch
rd games and has gained 798 yards on 155 carries to set a school rushing record for a true freshman. LB Mark Herzlich and SS Paul Anderson lead a defense that has 25 interceptions and eight touchdowns. Herzlich, the ACC defensive player of the year, has six interceptions and Anderson has five.
Virginia Tech: Taylor has been much more effective as a runner than a passer, but BC can't take his arm for granted. The sophomore threw for 812 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 661 yards and four TDs. RB Darren Evans just missed rushing for 1,000 yards during the regular season, finishing with 998 and nine TDs. CBs Victor Harris and Stephan Virgil have combined for 10 interceptions. DE Orion Martin has 7 1/2 sacks and DE Jason Worilds has seven.
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Boston College has never won an outright ACC or Big East title. ... The Eagles have held each of their last five opponents to less than 100 yards rushing. ... This is the fourth meeting between the teams in the past 14 months. ... Both of Virginia Tech's touchdowns during a 28-23 loss to BC on Oct. 18 came on interception returns.
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No. 23 Pittsburgh (8-3, 4-2 Big East) at Connecticut (7-4, 3-3 Big East), Noon (ESPN)
Line: Connecticut by 3.
Series record: Connecticut leads 3-1.
Last meeting: 2007, Connecticut won 34-14.
What's at Stake
icials from the Sun Bowl, who will be at the game.
Key Matchup
Connecticut's kicking game against Pitt's kick defense. The Huskies' freshman kicker, Dave Teggart, has made his first 11 field-goal attempts, but UConn has had five punts blocked this season. Pittsburgh has blocked nine kicks this season - three punts, three field goals and three extra points.
Players to watch
Pittsburgh: Pitt tailback LeSean McCoy leads the nation in scoring, averaging almost 11 points per game, and is eighth in rushing at just under 119 yards per game.
Connecticut: TB Donald Brown leads the nation in rushing at more than 148 yards per game. The junior is the Huskies' career rushing leader with 3,350 yards.
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Both teams play a ball-control style of offense, with the Huskies averaging 32:05 of possession time and Pittsburgh averaging 31:54. Since the 2002 season, UConn has 64 drives of 80 yards or more, while holding opponents to just 34 such drives. A Pittsburgh win would give the Panthers nine victories for the first time since 2002. Ten of Pitt's 12 opponents this year are bowl eligible.
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Conference USA championship
East Carolina (8-4, 6-2) at Tulsa (10-2, 7-1), Noon (ESPN)
Line: Tulsa by 13.
Series Record: Tulsa leads 5-2.
Last Meeting: 2006, Tulsa won 31-10.
What's at Stake
first Conference USA title, while Tulsa is going for its second since joining the league in 2005. The Golden Hurricane can also set a school record with 11 wins.
Key Matchup
Tulsa leads the nation in total offense with 579 yards per game, while the Pirates allowed the fewest points and yards of any Conference USA team.
Players to watch
East Carolina: RB Brandon Simmons scored a career-best four touchdowns - three rushing and one receiving - as the Pirates scored on their first seven possessions against UTEP their last time out.
Tulsa: QB David Johnson gets most of the attention as the nation's top-rated passer, but RB Tarrion Adams has been the star the past two games. He ran for a school-record 323 yards against Tulane and came back with a career-high three touchdowns against Marshall.
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Tulsa is playing in the Conference USA championship for the third time in four years, but hosting it for the first time. The Golden Hurricane beat Central Florida for the 2005 title and lost to UCF last year. ... East Carolina's last league title was the 1976 Southern Conference championship. ... Tulsa needs 20 points to set a season record. The high is 621, set in an 11-game season in 1920.
 

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