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College Football Week 12:
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18 November 2010

Biggest Game of the Week:

Stanford v. Cal (3:30 ET, Regional Fox Sports). Most of the top-ranked schools are off this week, leaving a few rivalry games as the top games of the weekend.  #6 Stanford takes on bitter rival Cal in Berkley on Cal’s turf.  This is not one of those rivalries where they “respect” each other.  These two teams (and especially their fans) do not like each other in the least.  Stanford brings highly touted sophomore quarterback Andrew Luck who did not throw a touchdown for the first time all season last week.

Luck is probably the best passing quarterback in the country and could benefit from the Auburn Cam Newton scandal.  Luck stands to slide in as Heisman favorite if Newton is deemed ineligible. 
Stanford’s presence at the top of the rankings is not a common occurrence and Cal will be looking forward to trying to knock them from their perch.  Stanford has not won in Berkley since 2000 and has only won one of the last eight meetings overall.  Vegas says the line is about 6.5 in Stanford’s favor (to sound smart, it’s said aloud “Stanford minus six and a half”).

Cal will look to pull off the upset behind their leading rusher, junior Shane Vereen.  Vereen is the second leading rusher in the PAC-10.  He led the team last year over Stanford, rushing for 193 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Good one-liner: "On paper, this one should be a no-brainer, but it’s Cal-Stanford, so you just never know."

Biggest game affecting conference championships:

Virginia Tech at Miami (3:30 ET, ESPN). Virginia Tech travels to Miami and hopes to clinch a spot in the ACC title game.  Virginia Tech is unbeaten in conference play and has rebounded nicely after losing their first two games, to Boise State (understandable) and James Madison (mind boggling).

The player to watch is Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor.  If he plays well, the Hokies (V.T.) will likely clinch their spot in the title game with a win this Saturday.

Good one-liner:  "A win at Miami will officially put the James Madison debacle behind them." 

Biggest game that shouldn’t be very interesting to watch:

Fresno State at Boise State (Friday, 9:30 ET, ESPN).   No one in the country (other than perhaps the 75 or so players on Fresno State) expect FSU to derail the Boise State Broncos(#4 in the BCS).  Boise State knows that in order to move up in the computer rankings, they need to blow Fresno State out.  Last week Boise did just that to Idaho, 52-14, and no one expects them to call off the dogs if they get up big against Fresno.

The game is at Boise on the blue field (“Smurf Turf”) where Boise has been impressive of late.  As a matter of fact, Boise State has been impressive wherever they’ve played in the last few years.   Fresno State has lost their last 12 meetings against ranked teams, dating back to 2004, in a bowl game against Georgia Tech, which happened to be played on Boise State’s blue field.  Fresno State also dealt Boise State one of their 2 conference losses out of their last 71 conference games.

A blowout and a chance to gain ground on idle TCU (#4 in the BCS) are huge for Boise State.  If they end up #3 in the BCS, they will make it to a BCS Bowl game and put themselves in position to play in the national championship game if one of the top two teams falters in the final few weeks.

Good one-liner: "The only suspense in this game is how long it takes Boise State to score 50 points."

Biggest game that is being played on a baseball field:

Army “at” Notre Dame, Yankee Stadium (7:30 ET, NBC).  One of the most historic rivalries in college football would barely get a mention this week if it weren’t for the venue: Yankee Stadium.  Army and Notre Dame will square off in Yankee stadium as if they’re reenacting historic battles.  This rivalry had some of the biggest games in college football.  The 1946 game was billed as the “Game of the Century” and many experts still view it as the biggest game in college football history.  The 0-0 tie was intense and boasted FOUR Heisman Trophy winners playing in the game: Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis for Army, winners in 1945 and 1946, and Johnny Lujack and Leon Hart for Notre Dame, winners in 1948 and 1949.

As for the game this year, Army (6-4) is “Bowl Eligible” for the first time since 1996, but it hurts me to say that they are no national powerhouse.  Notre Dame (5-5), my second-favorite team (behind only Army) is not as far as Army is from being a national powerhouse, but they are still a ways off.  The Irish are 8.5 point favorites over Army, but in this type of game there is no telling what will happen.  The triple option offense that Army runs is unique to only a handful of schools in the country and it can give even the best defenses fits.  In fact, Navy, who runs a very similar offense, ran all over Notre Dame in October and won that game going away 35-17.

Army’s offense starts with sophomore quarterback Trent Steelman, who is asked to make reads on almost every play while he runs the option offense.  The team has gotten a huge lift from red-shirt sophomore Jared Hassin, aka the Beast.  Hassin has run for 858 yards, good enough for 39th in the nation.  He also has 9 touchdowns.  Hassin is a transfer from the Air Force Academy.  The rules make him go through his plebe year all over again when he transferred to West Point.

Notre Dame’s strength this year has been their defense.  Last week they held #14 Utah to 3 points in Notre Dame Stadium.  They’ve rolled out a freshman quarterback after trying a few others earlier in the season.  Tommy Rees looked very comfortable in there against Utah, throwing for a very modest 129 years, but three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Oh yeah, Notre Dame is supposed to wear green jerseys, which has been a recipe for disaster in recent years.

Good one-liner: "This is worth watching just for all the pageantry and history that will be shown during breaks in play." 

Second biggest game that is being played on a baseball field:

Illinois “at” Northwestern at Wrigley Field in Chicago (3:30 ET, ESPNU).  This rivalry doesn’t have the history of Army-Notre Dame, but Wrigley Field has all kinds of history, including some football.  The Bears used to play at Wrigley back in the 1960s.  Illinois and Northwestern last played at Wrigley Field in 1923, 29-0 Illini win during the Red Grange National Championship season.  This game will not mean a whole lot.  Northwestern has had some flashes of relevance this season, but both of these teams are buried way down in the Big Ten standings. 
The setup for this field is pretty interesting.  They opted to put the field parallel with the right field foul line, which runs the sideline dangerously close to the stands as the field gets close to the endzone and right field foul pole. 

Good one-liner: "Completely meaningless game, but ESPN sent the Gameday crew there in order to hype a game on one of their networks.  Must be a slow week."

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The Basics

College Football is absolutely American.  It is essentially a combination of rugby and soccer that was conceived by several universities in the 1870’s.  More...

BCS: Bowl Championship Series, the post season system developed to pit the #1 and #2 teams in the nation against each other in a national championship game.  It determines this through a ranking system that is a combination of two polls where individuals vote on the rankings and a third set of rankings comprised of a number of computer generated polls.  The BCS as a system for college football has been very controversial. 
FBS: Football Bowl Subdivision – a subset of Division I football where the largest football colleges are grouped.  These are the ones you traditionally see on TV.  It is named the Bowl Subdivision because the post season for these teams are the bowl games.
FCS: Football Championship Subdivision – the next level down from FBS where the teams play a play-off to determine their national champion

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